Get Ready for Art in August!

artwork

 

It’s almost here!  Art in August – an excuse for those of us who don’t think we’re very artistic but like the idea of nurturing our creative side to crack out the paints and pencils and spend some time doing art for art’s sake.  We do this without apology or explanation.  We do not listen to the voice that says we have more important things to do, we don’t deserve this time, and, what’s more, that picture looks like rubbish.  We produce and we post!

If you’d like to join in, here’s what you have to do:

  1.  Get creative (and don’t apologise about it)
  2. Take a photo of your creation (unless you’ve created a photograph, in which case you can skip this step)
  3. Post this photo on your blog
  4. Link back to this post and mention somewhere that you’re joining in Art in August

I will link to you in my blog as well.  If you don’t have a blog, there are two ways you can join in:

  1. Post your work on the blog’s Facebook page
  2. Email the photo to me at laptopontheironingboard-AT-gmail.com  (I’ve written it out that way to stop robots spamming me; when you email me, write it out the regular way)
  3. I will post it on my blog for you.  You can even use a pseudonym, if you like…

I really should have put this post up months ago.  I haven’t given you much notice, I’m afraid.  But no fear – it seems to be the tradition for Art in August to post well into September and October!

 

PM Essay

I’d like to start with a small apology to all the gentlemen who might be reading this (yes: both of you!)  This post will touch on the topic of – ahem! – hormones…

Most times of the month, I’m a fairly patient, laid-back, easygoing sort of person.  But, twelve times a year, I transform into a short-tempered, moody, destructive maelstrom.  Like a werewolf, but the sort that gets weepy watching superannuation commercials.

I’m a bit that way at the moment.  I’m feeling rather down on myself at the state of my house.  Two weeks of school holidays have taken their toll and the house is dysfunctional with mess.  It’s all dishes and clutter and Lego and loom bands and crumbs and random artefacts that look important yet seem to belong nowhere.

And clothes.  I think Strega Nona must have broken into my laundry and stirred my washing basket with her magic spoon.  Now I have so many dirty clothes, they’re spilling out the door.  It won’t be long before they take over the village…

Strega Nona with her pasta pot

I’ve been going a little nuts about it all.  Mr Knightley’s delightful-but-Type-A friend came over today and while I knew I couldn’t get the house to the level that Type A would consider ‘tidy’, I wanted at least to lift it out of the state of embarrassing neglect that made us look like the victims of a sock-and-duplo explosion.  As a result, I spent the morning venting and vacuuming and shouting and sweeping.  I bit everybody’s head off several times and, internally, I was biting my own head off (“What is WRONG with me?  WHY can’t I keep a tidy house?  How is it POSSIBLE that this many items can fit in the space under one couch?”) . I barked at Matilda for leaving her hardly-worn clothes on the school-room floor (she’d changed her mind on what to wear today, it would seem), roared at Christopher Robin for leaving his shoes all over the house, snapped at Harry for singing an inane song ad infinitum , wailed at Annie as she painted the table with cornflakes-and-milk, and ranted at the house in general about how hard it is to be me.

Mr Knightley, who had quietly wiped down the kitchen stove and benchtops, convinced me to stop for a minute and then swiftly administered coffee and chocolate.  It worked for a short time, but, really, I was beyond help.  It wasn’t long before I was again storming about the place, sometimes muttering darkly, sometimes screeching like a car alarm.  At lunch time, I snapped peevishly at Matilda, “that’s my seat!  Can’t you see my soup’s there already?”, but then I realised she was putting a note in my place.  Here it is:

Note from Matilda

If you can’t make out her handwriting, this is what it says:

“1 FREE NIGHT AT THE SPA

To Mum,

When you said “I was going to have a nice relaxing bath tonight but it’s too messy”  (I did say that last night, in another PMS-fuelled rant) I thought I’d give you this to say thanks for letting me have nice relaxing baths when I’m tired and worn out.  So I’ll clean the bathroom and you can borrow one of my Pippi soaps.

Love from

Tilly”

I felt rather small.  I had been awful to everyone all morning and my nine-year-old daughter still had the grace to treat me with generosity and understanding.  I gave her a fierce hug and cried copiously and surreptitiously into my soup.  But I’m fine, really I am.

Just don’t show me any superannuation commercials any time soon…

 

10 Short Takes … on Annie

10ShortTakes”

  1. Annie is my youngest daughter.  She is a sturdy two-year-old with hair like corn silk and deep brown eyes fringed with long dark lashes.
  2. I named Annie after Anne of Green Gables because she is utterly charming.  In real life, Annie is named after Mr Knightley’s Nan (do you remember me mentioning her buttons?) who was also utterly charming.
  3. Annie is the self-appointed Boss of the Family.  When she enters a room, she flings her arms wide and announces “I’m HERE ev’rybuddy!”
  4. Annie’s couture of choice is a tattered fairy dress paired with gumboots.  Today we’re going out to see friends. I dressed Annie in a sweet embroidered denim dress with a red top and tights underneath (every now and then I like to play dress-up dolls).  Annie protested stoutly as I dressed her up, but I kept distracting her and we got through it.  But just now, Annie’s come out of her room wearing only the red top and tights and brandishing one of her fairy dresses.  “I want to dress like a PRINCESS, Mummy!”.  I asked her what happened to the cute little denim number: “It in da wash.”  Sigh.
    fairy dresses on washing line
  5. Sometimes I try to apply some Mighty Girl philosophy to Annie’s regal aspirations.  “Princesses are wise leaders who make important decisions for their country”, I state solemly as I pull yet another tulle confection over her head.  “I so pitty!”  Annie replies with equal solemnity.
  6. As well as a junior monarch, Annie loves to be a ballerina, a mermaid, a rock star, a Wiggle and a superhero of her own devising, unaccountably called “Super Love Heart”.  Matilda will rig her up with a small blanket pegged around her shoulders and Annie will jump around the place and announce “SU-per Wubbart IN da rescue!”
  7. Sometimes, Annie and Harry play a game together called “Jack and Jill”.  I can’t quite understand the game itself, it seems to only involve them calling each other “Jack” and “Jill” and treating each other with exaggerated politeness.  There’s no bucket or anything.  I love this game.
  8. Yesterday, at breakfast time, a cranky Annie had a go at Christopher Robin: “want the milk, you idiot!” she proclaimed with gusto. “We don’t call each other ‘idiot’ in this family” I admonished.  “But they are idiots!”  Annie protested, with a stubborn toss of her golden head.
  9. When Harry has been naughty and is in trouble, he will go to Annie for consolation.  Annie will always stop what she is doing to give him a cuddle.  It’s very hard to stay cross at him when this happens…
  10. Annie’s favourite game is when she pretends she is Mummy and I am Annie.  Harry, however, finds this altered reality highly disturbing and will climb into my lap and insist on calling me “Mummy” despite his sister’s protests.  Cute.  Very cute.

Continue reading

So, I’ve been thinking…

10 Short Takes

I get stuck sometimes with blogging.  I write these long, rambling posts with far too much detail and then nothing for weeks on end.  Then, it’s like I’ve set a standard for myself to write another overly-long post.  Well, no more!  I’ve had an idea for another sort of post for those times when I don’t have an epic fail to write about and I haven’t constructed something out of wool to boast about.  I’m calling it “10 Short Takes”, a list of 10 comments or pictures on a given theme.  It will combine my love of numbered lists with the discipline of brevity.  It will also be a nice way to keep in touch without the pressure of a long post.

This doesn’t mean I won’t be writing any more painfully long posts full of tangents and asides.  I’m pretty sure I couldn’t stop that if I tried.  That’s the way I talk as well, incidentally.  I prefer not to get straight to the point.  I can spend more time in the centre of attention that way.  These short takes will be in addition to the rambly ones and (hopefully) will help to fill up the long breaks between boasts and fails and miscellaneous God-bothering.

I was also thinking this might be a nice chance to have a bit of a link-up.  If you’d like to have a go at a ’10 short takes’ post, link to me and I’ll link to you.  All you need to do is write 10 comments (or photos) on any theme of your choosing.  I’ve even been playing around learning how to make a button:

10ShortTakes

 

Ohhh!  I can’t believe that worked (after the fourteenth try, I mean)!  So if you’d like to use the button in your post, copy the text in the above grab box and paste it in your post when it’s in “Text” mode (not Visual – see those two tabs at the top?)

I’ll follow this post up with some “10 Short Takes” posts.  The ironic thing is, this whole idea got me stuck for a while (I’d written most of this post beforeSlump‘) because I wanted the first “Short Takes” to be perfect and thus I froze.  These posts will not be perfect.  But an imperfect post that’s actually published is better than a long absence whilst I chase unrealistic ideals.  It would be really strange if you were sitting at my virtual kitchen table and I only spoke when I had something profound and well-edited to say.   Blogging is not a performance, it’s a conversation.

Blogging is not a performance.   It’s a conversation.

Stay tuned.

Slump

I’m stuck.  I want to write you a great post, a pithy post, a post that really says something, but I’ve hit a bit of a slump.  I’m all blocked up.

I say it’s all because I have no time to write, and in a way that’s true.  Small people tend to crowd my headspace these days and (while I love them and my vocation fiercely – I’m living the dream, I truly am), I crave an hour or two alone to write as much as a twelve-year-old girl craves a One-Direction poster signed by Harry or Corey or whatever his name is.

But in another way, that’s completely not true.  When I’m stung by a good writing idea, I’ll write when I have no time at all, furiously scribbling on old receipts and the backs of envelopes whilst the house falls into disrepair all around me.

"The Frenzy": a cartoon depicting chaos surrounding an oblivious Kate who is writing furiously.  Annie empties cornflakes onto the table, Harry is watering the television and the other two have kindled a small fire on the table and are roasting marshmallows

Good times.  But I’ve no idea what to do to get stung.  It just happens.

I was talking to my friend Strider today.  He’d brought Merri and Pippin over for a play (Arwen was working and Samwise was at a sleepover).  As we sipped hot beverages and gazed at our children rolling about on the trampoline (“Simon says: take off your pants!”), Strider asked me about my blog: did I have any posts in the works?  And was he ever going to get mentioned? (I promised him a Tolkein-themed pseudonym months ago).

So I told him, here’s what I’m working on at the moment (except that I’m not working on any of them):

  • two short stories for a local competition
  • two articles for Seton Magazine
  • A new whole series of blog posts that I want to make into a linky
  • Another Art in August linky
  • this post

Strider nodded wisely.  “Just pick one, Kate.  You’ve made it too hard for yourself.  Don’t worry about the others until the first one is done.”

He’s right.  I’ve allowed everything to pile up and bottleneck and have become all overwhelmed.  And the more time passes from my last post the greater the pressure to write something really epic to compensate for the long wait.  I get paralysed by perfection.  And this makes me avoid writing even more.

Amidst all this confusion, my Inner Critic saunters in and takes advantage of the situation and insists loudly that none of these ideas are any good anyway and I’m kidding myself if I think I am any sort of writer.  I think guiltily of all the readers I must be losing because they think I don’t write here any more, that Laptop on the Ironing Board is the cyber-equivalent of a ghost town, not worth visiting.  And then my mind crowds with images of creepy abandoned amusement parks and rusty swing sets and tumbleweeds and I feel so sad for my poor neglected blog and I think I should really write ten very special posts to make up for it and then I remember that’s what got me into this mess in the first place.

So, here is a post that’s not so epic but which I hope will act as a sort of brain-Metamucil and get things moving again.

There’s nothing like being regular, after all.

Fangirl Fail.

It was 4:30pm when I saw it.

One of my favourite social commentators was visiting Melbourne (for one night only) to deliver a talk at a prestigious girls’ college in Melbourne.  I follow her on Facebook, and this is where I saw the last-minute invitation to come along and see her.  It was at 7pm that night.

I had been following this writer and commentator for a while now.  In a clumsy way, I have always felt strong concerns about our hyper-sexualised culture and the effects this has on young people, especially girls.  I want my daughters to be valued for their brains and their souls and not for how they look.  I want my sons to have healthy attitudes towards women and girls.  I don’t want my children to ever view another person as a means to an end.  I want them to build healthy relationships and have friends without creepy benefits.  I don’t think our culture supports me in the way I want to raise my kids.  So often, I feel like I’m alone in thinking this.  It’s not that I’m prudish, or anti-sex.  Sex is truly one of my favourite rainy-day activities.  But a pornified culture is toxic (and, in my opinion, anti-sex).  I’m just not that good at talking about it.

That’s why it’s a relief to find a social commentator who is good at talking about it.  In my tradition of giving pseudonyms, I will refer to her as Athena, not because it’s any great secret who she is, but because I’m rather prone to exaggeration in my writing (I would much rather be entertaining than accurate) and thought it would be a little unfair to use her real name because of this.  If you’re curious and want a clue, her organisation’s website is here.

So I called up Mr Knightley and breathlessly filled him in.

“I think you should go.”  he said firmly.  His calm, decisive nature is one of the many reasons I’m glad I married him.  “We have nothing else on tonight.  I’ll make sure I’m home on time.  If we have a quick dinner, you can just make it there by seven.”

Thus began my frenzy to get ready.

I hate to admit it, but there was a small but very vocal part of me that felt a bit intimidated at the thought of spending an evening at an exclusive private school with wealthy people (I can hear my mother’s voice scolding me for even thinking this.  If I were to be invited to dine with the Royal Family, my mum would exclaim over how lucky Her Majesty The Queen would be to meet me).  My vanity was working overtime.  What was I going to wear?  What was I going to wear?

The jeans-and-shirt combo I had on didn’t look too bad, but it felt a little worn and shabby. Pippi always complimented me on this particular top, “Charcoal suits you”, she would enthuse. The only problem was, the top used to be black.

I needed something nicer than my usual school-gate gear, but nothing that made me look like I dressed up for the occasion.  It took a lot of time to find something that looked suitably effortless.  Dress.  Tights.  Jewellery.  Make up.  Sensible Shoes (essential for feminist discussions).

As soon as my husband got home, I served up dinner and attempted to speed-feed myself whilst scrutinising a map of South Yarra on my phone screen.  Then I kissed everybody and fled the house.  I was barely going to make it on time.

As I battled a confusion of trams and inner-city traffic in the rain, I imagined how it was going to be.  I would nod and smile and look intelligent throughout the presentation.  When it came time for questions and comments I would astound everybody with my pithy observations.  Athena would approach me afterwards, keen to continue the discussion, and I would be all articulate and witty.  I might even casually mention my blog and Athena would clamour to whip out her notebook and pen to scribble down the address.

“We really should collaborate,” Athena would confide with a warm smile, “we need a brain like yours on our team!”, and she would nod and I would blush and she would braid my hair and I would paint her nails an empowering shade of pink.

I was twenty minutes (TWENTY MINUTES!) late when I tentatively pushed open the door to the conference room.  This was after I accidentally pulled in to the wrong campus of the school, then executed a wonky parallel park on the street and traipsed through a dark and bewildering labyrinth of buildings to reach the secret seminar room.  I was too scared to ask directions.  I didn’t want anyone to know I didn’t belong there.

There were no obvious seats for me to slink into un-noticed.  Everybody seemed to be sitting next to the door and the only way for me to reach a vacant seat was by climbing over a whole row of people.  Thankfully, the kindly man near me who was operating the slide-show pulled a chair from beneath his laptop table and beckoned me over.  Burning red, I shot him a grateful look and stumbled into my seat.

Athena spoke well, but even so, the talk was hard to listen to.  It was very hard-hitting and by the end of it I was reeling a little and feeling a bit depressed by the state of the world and the state of our advertising industry.

I really wanted to talk to Athena afterwards, but so, it seemed, did everyone.  So I did that thing where you hover expectantly.  I stood there with an eager look on my face that said I’m waiting to talk to Athena.  Unfortunately, I didn’t perform this ritual within Athena’s line of sight, so after the man who butted in ahead of me had finished talking, Athena swept away without noticing me.  I was left standing by myself in the middle of a room, the pleasantly expectant expression slowly fading from my face whilst Athena busied herself in a suitcase of equipment behind a screen.

What was I going to do?  What was the correct etiquette here?  Athena had placed herself in a confined space.  I didn’t really want to go in there and climb on top of her and gush everywhere when I quietly suspected she had positioned herself strategically to get away from people.  Meanwhile, I was starting to feel more and more awkward.  When Athena had been visible in the room, I could stand by myself without looking strange because I was obviously waiting to talk to her.  Now that Athena had disappeared from sight, I was just some lost person in the middle of the room.  Would she never emerge?

I tried to hover by the book stand and feign interest despite the fact that I already owned half the books for sale there already and had no interest in purchasing the other half.  Unfortunately, there is a limit to the amount of time you can hover at a book stand without actually making a purchase, and, once you do, there’s no longer a reason to hover.  What on earth was she doing back there?

I suppose I could have wandered over to the food table (they served wine), but I felt I’d already done enough freeloading by turning up to another school’s information night without nicking their food as well.  I was becoming increasingly aware of my interloper status.  Why would she not come out?

So I struck up a conversation with the nice man who had been operating the laptop.  He was taking photos as well.  I figured he must be part of Athena’s entourage and. like a naïve groupie, I thought that conversation with him might lead to conversation with my elusive idol.  I was pretty sure by now she was avoiding me on purpose.

It was with horror that I realised that this man was not with Athena but with the school.  I shamefacedly confessed that I was a gatecrasher to this event and he gallantly exclaimed “Good!  You are most welcome!”.  We chatted about Athena’s talk for a bit until Athena herself finally emerged and I launched myself upon her.

But my tongue had swollen to twice its size in my mouth.  It would seem I used up all my clever conversation on the kindly camera man.  I realised I wasn’t going to astound Athena with my intellect, which must have gone down for a nanna-nap, so I decided instead to try for a gold-star-for-effort.

“I’m so happy to be here!  I force-fed my family fish fingers and rushed right over!”  Oh cringe.  Why did I have to go for the alliterative and – you know – honest description of events?  I could have said I fed them ethically-sourced, free-range quinoa in an organic kale jus – how would she have known the difference?

Athena distractedly handed me a brochure for her organisation.  I handed it back and breathlessly assured her that I was already a member.  I am one of your people, I wanted to shriek,  I am your disciple.

I could smell my own nervous sweat.

As I jabbered on, and Athena nodded politely (I heard myself exclaiming “I homeschool my daughter!”  and “I boycott Spotlight because of you!”), a small thought cloud appeared above her head.  Inside it, I could see a cup of tea and a soft, warm bed.  Athena tried hard not to look longingly at her thought cloud, but I could tell it was a heroic struggle.  Instead, she smiled and thanked me and went to talk to the lady selling the books.  It was over.

It was only after I had left the building and was driving home that my brain decided to wake up and helpfully started providing me with suggestions of what I should have said.  I told my brain that it was too late now, but it would seem that once it had started, it couldn’t stop, so I continued to be regaled by these suggestions the whole way home.

Cartoon - "Kate's Big Chance"

Here is a picture to commemorate this event.  Note the tights and the three-dimensional bed.  That’s as impressive as my drawing skills get.

When I logged onto Facebook yesterday, there was an update from Athena.  She was sharing a video from an American speaker whom she greatly admired.  Athena commented that she’d had the privilege of hearing this woman speak when she (the speaker) visited Australia a few years ago and that she (Athena) “was like one of those pathetic groupie girls who makes fools of themselves”.

My heart gave a little dance in my chest.  Even Athena had fangirl moments.  It’s true: I was awkward and eager and gushing.  But at least I was in good company.

 

Oh Me! Oh My!

Yesssssssssss!

 

Look look look! I wrote an article for Seton Magazine, an American Catholic Homeschool Magazine, and it got published! And I’m getting paid for it! I am now a paid writer (or, as Mr Knightley puts it, “internationally acclaimed author”!). You can read all about it here:

http://www.setonmagazine.com/topics/general-homeschooling/5-great-reasons-start-homeschool-blog