Category Archives: A Simplified Life

How reducing the complexity of our lives, is working for the family and me!

Lost Girls

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I’m back from Thailand, my life is slowly returning to some semblance of order and I HAVE blogged.  Today though, I’m talking about the ‘lost girls’ for whom I write.  Because that’s a blog primarily about writing, I’ve left it over at my new ‘strictly writing’ blog, which is here:  www.rebbloomer.wordpress.com

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Do What You Love

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I’ve heard it said, that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.  In essence this is true; but when it comes to the particulars of doing what you love, people (especially young people) often run into trouble.  The reason for this, is that doing what you love and therefore never working implies two things:

  1. You must, automatically, naturally, inherently, know what you love.
  2. Work is a bad/unhappy thing.

Let’s deal with the first problem first.  Knowing what you love. It’s easy to identify what you love when you’ve lived a bit; when life has involved more than school and an adolescent boyfriend.  When you know yourself choosing a love is easier.  But what of the young who’ve had their heads filled with the passionate words of tree-changers and change-your-lifers?  How are they to know what they love at eighteen years of age?  And will it be an eternal love, or just a short-lived passion?  At eighteen, life is still the great unknown. Of all that’s out there, how do you choose what you love?

When asked to determine what they love, or when told to only work at what they love, many young adults fall into a state of terminal indecision which, on occasion, leads to terrible feelings of inadequacy and sometimes depression.  Why?  Because they’ve yet to identify true loves and real passions. How, they wonder, can I not know what I love? The answer is simple; they just don’t.  Generally teens and young adults haven’t done or tried enough to know what they love.

Of late, this has been a hot topic of conversation between myself and my young people.  Finally, a solution occurred to me.  “You just have to try stuff,” I explained.  “Jeez, I didn’t know I hated being a secretary until I tried being one.  Sometimes you  have to get in and mess around a bit.  You have to know what you don’t like in order to home in on what you do like.”  That’s the thing, sometimes finding what we love doing, is simply a process of elimination.

Naturally, there are exceptions to this rule.  I have a very talented artist friend.  Her parents  (both of them) were artists and her grandparents, if not artists, were artistic.  She’s known all of her life, where her talents lay and I am inordinately jealous of the kind of security that must have given her as she grew and explored the world.

For the rest of us, we just have to figure it out.

Now, about work.  Work is not an innately bad concept.  It’s just something you have to do sometimes.  Sometimes, even what you love, can be hard work.  Parents know I’m I’m telling the truth.  We love our kids with an abiding passion, but there are days when we’d swap them for ten minutes of quiet and an instant coffee.

For me, writing is this way.  I love certain stages of the writing process.  In fact, I go so far as to compare the early stages of writing with the act of falling in love (you can read that particular rave here).  There are other stages though, that I would happily delegate.  The query/submission process is one.  The editing is another.  I realise these are important processes and I know they make the final product so much better and more valuable, but  honestly, there’s nothing fun about it.  It’s work; straight-out, flat-out, no-doubt-about-it, hard, grinding work. I live through the work so I can get back to the good bits, to the things I love about my job. I do the work necessary to make the final product perfect; to make it something I can love.

So here’s the lowdown on the whole ‘do what you love’ conundrum.

  1. You must actively seek what you love.  This is generally a process of elimination.
  2. All work requires that you actually work. If it didn’t, it would be called play.
  3. Parents: STOP telling your kids to do what they love.  Encourage them instead to do something.  When they hate doing that something, then encourage them to do something else.  This is what I like to call ‘failing forward’.  Eventually they’ll stumble upon what they do love then…Viola, the cliche becomes a truth!

In short, I think the cliche should say Find what you love and the work will be fulfilling…

Can I get a little support on that?

Agave – Succulent In Every Way

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So, it would seem there is life off the Strip.  The Strip in Las Vegas I mean, a name which may actually relate more to the fact that people wear little clothing, than to the ‘strip mall’ nature of the place.  Whatever, two days ago we ventured into real world Las Vegas, where people have jobs, raise kids and occasionally eat out.

When it comes to eating out, let me recommend Agave.  We’ve eaten there twice now, and tonight I read that it’s one of America’s top 25 tequila bars.  The food is amazing, everything from the warm corn chips and trio of fresh dips, to the black bean and cheese soup will leave you making pleasured faces and begging to compliment the chef.  The prawn ceviche is nothing less than amazing and truly, the margaritas will knock you fair off your chair.  If it should happen that the margaritas don’t cheer you right up, ask the hostess to do her Steve Irwin impression.  It’s hilarious and fun.  I love a restaurant where the staff enjoy themselves and Agave is one of those.  At the top of Agave’s drinks list is the Millionaire Margarita.  I’ve yet to taste it but the ingredients include platino platinum cuervo, lime juice, grand marnier 150 and instead of a salt rim, your glass will be dipped in silver dust.  That’s right, silver dust, platinum tequila and gold grand marnier.  Bless me father for I intend on sinning.

Life and food, are better out here and I have to say that Sin City has been well and truly outstripped.

From Castles to Chilli – An Emerging American Affection

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It’s time for me to make a confession; I’ve always had ‘issues’ with America. I’ve been here twice before and never really liked it.  The first time I was appalled by the poverty, the noise and the lack of manners that seemed to proliferate.  The second time I was yelled at by a ticket woman and got to watch a bit of t.v., where I was told that if I thought I was healthy, I was probably deranged.  You can imagine then, my trepidation when I saddled up for another slice of American pie.

This time I landed in Washington DC, which felt like a different country altogether. Perhaps because it’s not a very big city, DC’s population is about 600 000 and most of them are public servants; but whatever the reason, DC is friendly.  People smile there and hold doors open for you.  They welcome you to their establishment and seem to mean it when they say ‘have a nice day’.

It didn’t start well.  After seventeen hours of flight, I landed in a room with no hot water.  Well, that’s not entirely true. There was hot water sometimes, just not the times I wanted a bath.  I wanted a bath right after a seventeen hour flight, when I felt grimy and smelled faintly of pre-packaged food and other people’s sick bags.  I settled for a tepid shower.

But the next morning I walked through Arlington Cemetary where the U.S servicemen and their families are buried.  It’s a beautiful peaceful place.  People who live in Arlington use it for a walking/jogging track.  Somehow, while working up a sweat, they also manage to smile, wave and wish you a ‘good morning’.  I was most impressed.

My walk continued across the Memorial Bridge to the Lincoln Memorial, where Honest Abe sat, surrounded by his own words for all eternity.  I don’t know if this is a fate I would wish to share.  A little walk beyond him, stands the Washington monument.  A giant, well-lit phallic symbol, but an interesting and thoughtful place to sit nonetheless.

I wasn't lying, it really is a castle.

On that walk, I met a very nice woman who wanted to tell me all about her city.  When we arrived together at the Smithsonian’s Castle of information, she discovered some new things about her own town and made sure to collect brochures for us as well.  That doesn’t happen everywhere.  For those less inclined to walk, there are happy peddy cab people willing to take you all around the centre of DC, but you probably won’t meet as many ‘friendlies’ this way.

The Smithsonian would take weeks to see properly and I only had two days.  My family and I began with the newest of the museums added to the Smithsonian collection, The Museum of the American Indian.  That’s right, a single museum that enables you to discover all American Indian cultures and to explore their various similarities and differences.  At the bottom of the museum, there’s a great cafe called Mitisam where foods from various regions are available for tasting.  The salmon with wild rice salad was a welcome surprise.

Belly’s full, we attacked the Natural History Museum.  Yes the dinosaurs thrilled my eleven-year-old daughter but they’re not as engaging as those who reside the Museum of Natural History in New York.  My favourite part of this museum, was the mineral,

Chilli and jug drinks at Red Hot and Blue on Wilson Blvd, DC

rock and crystal display where visitors can view the Hope Diamond, learn about all your best loved gems, develop some new favourites and line up with buddhist monks to touch a piece of rock from Mars.  I was a very happy nerd indeed.

The American History museum was more of a fly-by than an actual visit.  I saw Abe Lincoln’s hat, the First Lady’s dresses and Julia Child’s kitchen.  I’ll let you guess which I enjoyed most.

That night we sought food because exploring, learning and walking, all require energy.  We landed at Red Hot and Blue, a ‘joint’ that sold delicious chilli, fabulous ribs and drinks by the jug.  That’s right, home-made lemonade, delivered in a jug, with a straw.  Oh happy day!

Filled up with sugar and ideas, we walked back to our hotel completely unmolested by beggars or swaggering teens.  Truly, day one was grand from beginning to end.  Thus begins the emergence of my new affection for America.

Something Different

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The ladies at my writers group today, pointed out that it’s been a long time since last I blogged.  My apologies, I’ve been a bit busy.  In the last few weeks, I’ve done a number of workshops for Logan City Libraries, where I had a great time and learned a few things.

Getting to express my love of books at Logan Central Libray

I’m learning new things everywhere lately, whether it’s from my son who is a walking encyclopedia, new aspects of my daughter or interesting tidbits from my writers group.

At my writers group recently, one of the members explained the process of accessing different ideas,perhaps from a different hemisphere of the brain.  The process for doing this is really simple and I encourage you to try it out, just for something different.

First- Write your name at the top of a page and

Second- Number two columns on the page from one to ten

Third – Using your dominant hand, write a list of personal characteristics in the first column.

Fourth – Cover that column of writing

Fifth – Using your non-dominant hand (in my case my left hand), write a list of personal attributes in the next column

Sixth – Compare the columns

At first I thought this was one of those self-fulfilling things.  People are convinced the columns will be different, therefore they are.  Today, I sat down and tried it out myself.  The column from my left hand was completely different from the column my right hand produced (and I’m not just talking about the handwriting either).

I’m thinking now, that this activity will be particularly useful on Saturday when I present my workshop on Characterisation for the Queensland Writers Centre.  Imagine doing this with a character’s name rather than your own, or even answering character interview questions with both hands.  You could end up with a much more well-rounded character.  I like it.  I think I’ll try it 🙂

By the way, if you’re looking for a workshop on characterisation, I’ll be in the State Library, upstairs at the Writers Centre from ten am on Saturday morning.  Look forward to seeing you there!

Kids & Cafes

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I watched a program last night wherein it was reported that a local council had banned children from drawing in chalk on the footpath outside a local cafe.  The cafe had been providing the kids with chalk in an effort to keep them busy and happy while their parents got their cafe experience.  After the report, a presenter commented, “Would they rather kids happily drawing with chalk or whingeing and whining in the cafe because they don’t want to be there?”

Frankly, I think the council is being ludicrous but that’s not the point.  The point is kids don’t like cafes (hell, in general I don’t like cafes, they’re pretentious, boring and overpriced). You can tell kids don’t like cafes because of the frikkin’ whingeing and whining.  Sooo, here’s an idea; instead of treating your kids like they’re accidental attachments to your formerly kid-free, cafe-hopping existence, consider them beings you brought into the world because you were ready for a change in lifestyle.  Get your coffee to go, walk your kids to the local park (take your friends with you if you like)and set them loose on the playground while you get your caffeine fix.

There will be three advantages to doing this. Firstly,  your kids will get some running around and exercise into their day which will wear them out a little, thus making your life easier when you get home.   Second, the childless people in the cafe will dislike you less.   Lastly, you’ll get brownie points for being a good parent.

Try it out, see how it goes.

So, Oprah Has A Half-Sister

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Well, me too.  It didn’t take me fifty years to meet my sister though, only twenty-one.  Because I have had the chance to meet my sister this way, I’m always fascinated by how other people deal with this kind of information.  I noticed that Oprah had questions for her mother.  Questions that revolved around how the baby came to be and why she was adopted out.  Questions with fairly obvious answers if you consider the times during which the adoption happened.

I never had those questions.  Maybe I never had them because my mum volunteered information.  Maybe I never had them because I don’t care.  How my sister came to be adopted is not the best part of the story.  How she came back, is the bit I like.  The fact that she remains, is my favourite thing yet.

I visited my sister recently, and, typical of us, we spent the entire time laughing, joking and telling stories.  For me, being around Jules is like taking a giant big lungful of laughing gas.  Not because she’s a clown (although she is pretty funny), mostly because just being around her makes me inordinately happy, joyous even.    I’m thrilled, every time, that I get to be around her. Is it some kind of hero worship that I would have gotten over had we grown up together?  Maybe, she is pretty heroic.  Is it that I now have a possible genetic match should I ever need a bone graft or a kidney transplant?  Hmmm.  Is it because when I’m with her, I get to be the younger sibling?  It is kinda nice.

Whatever the reason, I love it and I have no further questions.