The things we really want for Christmas

what-we-really-want-for-christmas

One of the perks of being someone who loves creating lists, is that when people ask me in December for present ideas, I already have a completed list ready to offer up. This year’s list was a year in the making. It was extensive, varied, and had something for every budget.

If I’m honest, I feel really disappointed when I ask people what they want for Christmas and they pull that I don’t know, it’s so hard to think of something face. Are we that spoiled that it has become a chore to think of something that we need or want? Then it occurred to me. It’s possible that our material needs are being met, and people don’t know how to ask for the other things – the things they really want. The things that cannot be bought.

When I revisited my own Christmas list, I realised that my wish-list was actually a page of clues that required translating. They were lies in a tidy format that wouldn’t challenge the modern notion of ‘gift’. To explain, here are seven things from this year’s list, translated.

  1. An above ground vegetable garden.

What I actually want is to get what I need for dinner from the backyard without dragging three kids to the shops. I want to feel less guilty about not feeding my kids organic food because it’s crazy expensive and hard to source where we live. I want to catch my children eating snow peas straight from the vine, so that when they refuse the vegetables on their dinner plate that night, I don’t have to fret about their health.

  1. A Kill Your Darlings subscription

This translates to ‘I want to be in the same league of writer as Hannah Kent and Rebecca Starford’. Here’s hoping that by reading a journal born of their brilliance, my IQ climbs, and their talent sticks.

  1. An electric bread knife.

I really just want my kids to not eat so much bread. Their bread consumption triggers a gluten-guilt response. I then decide to go gluten-free for a while. Then I feel guilty about giving them gluten-free products from the supermarket which are full of nasties. This triggers a processed-foods-guilt response, which leads to gluten-free bread making binges that ease the guilt but consume way too much of my time. And what happens when I spend too much time in the kitchen? It triggers a you’re-not-spending-enough-time-with-the-children-guilt response. Somehow an electric bread knife will help.

  1. A planner.

I spend my entire day planning in my head. And I have enough lists. I don’t need a planner – I need time to execute my plans. Someone take the kids out of the house for a few hours to do something fun, that does not involve an iPad, and return them to me fed. You can call it a combined Christmas/Birthday present. Call it whatever you like – just take the kids.

  1. An additional Thermomix bowl.

I acknowledge how lucky I am to have a Thermomix at all, I do. But I am a chronic multitasker, so doing one thing at a time in the kitchen is a slow death for me. Having two recipes on the go means less time spent in the kitchen with a whining two-year-old on my hip, which means less time and money spent at the chiropractor, and a higher chance of my sanity being intact at the end of the day. Translation: I want to cook from scratch without it leeching my soul.

  1. Yet another writing course.

What I actually want is to finish my novel. Give me time to write. Give me a deadline. Give me confidence. Remind me that a two percent chance of publication is reason enough to continue. Give me a kick up the arse – because I’ve got this.

  1. A clothes voucher.

I don’t need a clothes voucher. What I actually need is to be able to try clothes on – alone. For those that haven’t been clothes shopping with a six-year-old, four-year-old and two-year-old in tow, be warned – nothing looks good on you when you are crying.

What did you really want for Christmas?

Me: On being a ‘serious’ writer

serious-writer-blog

My hubby is not just my number one fan – he is also my only fan. It’s natural then that he wants me to succeed at this writing caper. After last week’s blog post (which you can read here), he turned his pensive face to me and said, ‘you know I love your blog, and your Snapchats, but (uh-oh), do you worry about people taking you seriously as a writer?’

It’s a valid question. Can someone who publicly shares Snapchat videos of themselves, wearing virtual cat ears and talking about their experience of taking a poo in a litter tray, be trusted with a client brief? I hope there is a resounding ‘yes’ right now, because I am also entrusted with the care of three children while hubby is at work, and I don’t want people thinking that I am not serious about keeping them alive.

Today’s mums are expected to fulfil many roles on any given day (stay with me – there is a point coming). A typical day for me begins somewhere between five and six am. I wake cranky from lack of sleep, which is why the kids are all daddy’s boys in the morning. Hubby will stroll into the bedroom, light-footed, after a one-hour workout at the gym. He’ll glance over at me, half-dead against the pillow, with either one or three children piled around me. The kids flee from me then, to the safety of their father who can answer their unnecessary questions and fulfil their immediate needs. After a shower I return to human form and actually tolerate the presence of others quite well. By school drop off time I am rocking the ‘capable mum’ look. Other parents would have no idea that a few hours earlier I was mustering the strength to begin.

Now I’m not one to toot my own horn, but from 8:40am I am extraordinary (toot-toot). I clean, bake, wash, fold, build Lego, find Lego, re-build Lego, play Lego, mediate fights over Lego, make playdough from scratch, cook, dress-up, wrestle children in and out of cars, carry them around when they lose the ability to use their legs, dance to music I hate, and sing in a range of voices belonging to various personalities. At 2:50pm I pack up the crazy and slip into something a little more socially appropriate, just in time for school pick up. In the evenings, when the kids are finally tucked up in bed, and the sane mums are drinking wine, I work/study/write.

Remember the old saying, there is a time and a place for everything? I’m all over it. During the six years that I worked in media/advertising, not once did I break into song during a meeting. I never challenged a client to a dance-off. I didn’t rap the advertising strategy during presentations (though a few clients would have loved that). Nowadays, I don’t do school drop offs dressed as Darth Vader, swinging my son’s lightsaber at unsuspecting parents. I don’t rush up to other mums and ask if they want to hear me beatbox (can’t promise I never will). Time and place, right?

Writing is the same. Sometimes I write romance and experimental pieces, other times I write hard news, web copy, and essays from a critical political economy perspective. True story. My blog is a safe space for creative output – and sometimes it isn’t pretty. But you can be assured that my lame attempts at snapchat humour, and my ability to write convincing romance, do not inhibit my skills as a copywriter.

To emphasise this point to hubby, this week I used Snapchat to demonstrate my versatility. I wanted to reassure him that I am serious about being taken seriously as a serious writer. He was thrilled.

Nine ways to procrastinate more efficiently

procrastination-image

I am an incredibly motivated individual, unless my novel needs re-drafting, then I drag my feet around the house, whining like an excited whippet. The literary beast that is my novel, doesn’t just need taming, it needs to be slaughtered and resurrected. Hence my reluctance to engage. I can’t be the only person putting off something painful, so I thought I would share nine proven procrastination techniques in hope that it helps others on their way to becoming more efficient procrastinators.

  1. Read Facebook arguments.

I’m not just talking about pages that you follow and topics that interest you. Click on some random, sponsored pages, that are advertising products you would never buy, discussing celebrities you have never heard of, or pushing political views you could not care less about. Then all you need to do is expand the comments with the most spelling mistakes and read away until you are depleted of all intelligent thoughts.

  1. Plan a holiday that you can’t afford and won’t take.

Is Hawaii on sale again? Click on the link, select some dates, think about how much baggage allowance you would need and which pram you would take for those long hikes up to the open mouths of volcanos. Check the weather information for that time of year. Calculate the age your children will be by then. Imagine wearing leis, drinking pineapple cocktails, and reading entire books in one sitting. Then close every window so that you can start afresh next time.

  1. Write down a list of tasks in order of importance.

Writing them in order is essential. That way, when you start doing random jobs that are not on the list, you will still have a well-thought-out strategy for the following day. Or the next day. You can extend this technique by rewriting the list into a daily planner that you never check.

  1. Open the cupboards in your child’s room.

Stand with one door handle in each hand and take in the sight of chaos before you. Observe every unused item, messy pile of bassinet linen from the bassinet you no longer own, toy part, instruction manual, and random collection of hand-me-down clothes that you have forgotten about. Then just let your instincts take over.

  1. Stand in front of a wall with a wet wall-eraser.

You’ll soon spot a dirty mark. And then another. Once you start you will not stop until every wall in the house is spotless. This technique is perfect for long days.

  1. Call your partner and tell them how you don’t have enough time to get everything done.

Make sure you have your list on hand. This technique works best if you talk them through every small, painful detail. Don’t be afraid to use a sore-throat-sick-voice to better communicate your stress.

  1. Tell your kids that you want to do something that doesn’t centre around them.

If you are stupid enough to try and work with kids at home, then this one is a must. You won’t even need a big announcement. Simply divert your gaze to an electronic device/book/important document, and they will arrive with a suspicious liquid/leaky pen/sticky hands.

  1. Allow yourself ONE video on YouTube and then don’t touch the keyboard.

According to YouTube, the autoplay feature ‘makes it easier to decide what to watch next. After you watch a YouTube video, we’ll automatically play another related video based on your viewing history’. Hours of procrastination without lifting a finger.

  1. Pretend you are fifteen-years-old and get on Snapchat.

When the walls are clean and I am struggling to find a reason to not write. I engage Snapchat. Hubby is the main victim of my musings (and my niece – we’re both gen Y which makes us basically the same age). If you are wondering how one goes about implementing this tool for procrastination purposes, take a look at some of the ‘messages’ my adult husband, the one with the grown-up job and responsibility of staying employed so that we can eat, receives at his place of employment…

A children’s book review for grown-ups: Tabby McTat

tabby-mctat-book-cover

Tabby McTat

Written by Julia Donaldson

Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

Published in 2009 by Alison Green Books

Tabby McTat is a busker’s cat who lives in a city where people stop to watch street performers, instead of casting their eyes to the ground and giving them a wide-birth. It is a place where gargoyles abound and cats have claws like Wolverine. McTat’s owner, Fred, a guitar extraordinaire and lyrical genius, lives the simple life of a struggling artist, surviving on bacon, bread, and the exploitation of his pet.

One day the pair’s world is turned upside down when a smiling criminal, wearing a hot-pink jacket, steals the old checked hat that is filled with their bacon-sandwich money. While giving chase, Fred trips on an undone lace and disappears in an ambulance that is too small for the stretcher he is on. McTat, who had been off having a cat-to-cat chat with Sock, a glossy, green-eyed cat, returns to find the busker gone. He roams the streets in search of Fred until one-day Sock convinces him to abandon his life on the streets and come and live with her tartan wearing spinsters who let stray cats lick their feet.

The next morning Fred is released from hospital. Covered in bandages and with only one crutch, he returns to their spot beneath the gargoyle. He is surprised to discover that his cat, an animal renowned for its loyal and selfless nature, has not remained there waiting for him. McTat, who has also had trouble letting go of the bachelor life, finds himself returning the square in search of Fred. All he finds is a brass band, a singing dog, and lots of men wearing pinstripe.

Sensing McTat’s restlessness, Sock conveniently falls pregnant. She chooses to tell McTat about their Wolverine kittens after the birth, casually breaking the news with ‘look under the bed…’. Luckily for Sock, one of the kittens looks exactly like McTat. However, this works against them, as when it comes time for the happy couple to give their offspring away, no one wants the ugly tabby with the deafening miaow. McTat, unable to cope with the disappointment of family life, sets off in search of Fred once again. Spoiler alert – McTat finds Fred and hands over his unwanted son to live on the streets with the busker who now sings about his depression. The pair work on some new material, wait, no they don’t. The enthralled audience doesn’t care.

I highly recommend Tabby McTat. It’s a story you can re-read in one sitting without fantasizing about setting it alight the third time through. It offers important life lessons about tying your shoe laces, hospital cover, spaying your pets, and dealing with kids who disappoint you. It is written in a style that will appeal to young children and simple-minded adults who are not ready for poetry.

I give it five stars.