Category Archives: General Nattering

These Four Walls

On Friday, we were all so excited. My two teenagers were going on a weekend venturer scout camp. My four youngest were staying with my parents at the beach. And me and my husband? Why, we were going to have a romantic anniversary weekend away at the beach (but not the same beach as my parents, because running into your kids at the local shops can really kill the mood,) I was going to lie on the sand and read any number of books and not have to supervise ANYONE.

The only thing left for us to do was to take our RATs. 

And one of us is positive.

Bleurgh. It would have been better if ALL of us had the spicy cough at the SAME TIME. Now we don’t know how long we will be in isolation. What if someone tests positive on Day 6? What if someone else tests positive on the FOLLOWING Day 6? There are a lot of us – what if this goes on forever?

The kids are great. After a few hours of loud raging in bitter disappointment, they’ve decided to Make The Best Of It. I really think this generation is better trained in dealing with disappointment. We’ve dusted off the Jar of Lockdown Fun and have been playing lots of board games and baking and eating way too much sugar and watching way too much Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir.

As for me, I walked three laps around the outside of the house this morning. There was a man in a big truck across the road, outside our renovating neighbour’s house. He was looking at his phone, but I’m sure he was secretly concerned at the woman who kept walking purposefully into the front yard of the house, stepping along the perimeter of the fence line and disappearing behind the house again.

Then I made a coffee and got inside my car with my phone and keyboard. And that’s where I am now. Nobody is awake yet. I might make this a regular thing. Except tomorrow, I will open the second garage door so I can watch the sunrise.

I had exciting things planned for next weekend. I’m guessing I won’t get to do them, but I don’t know FOR SURE. That is, by far, the worst part. I’d rather just know.

There are always joys, if you look for them. My sister sent us fancy donuts almost immediately after she heard the news. My son has started painting again. The Coles Online man called out “Get well soon!” as he stepped back into his delivery truck (I don’t know why I loved this so much, but I REALLY DID).

I can hear some waking up noises from inside the house. I’m not sure how much longer I can get away with this. This was going to be a socials update, but I think it needs to be a blog post. Think of me, on my special staycation!

Adventures at the Book Shop Signing

Or “Deodorant Fail.”

So I’ve discovered that it is possible to stalk your favourite writers on social media. I never knew it could be so easy! Recently, Monica McInerney posted on Facebook that she would be doing a book signing near me. I’ve never been to a book signing before. Did you know that you can just turn up to these things? You don’t need to be a special sort of person or anything. You can just go. It’s allowed.

Of course, it would take a bit of family logistics. We would need to rush back from swimming lessons, I would need to sweet-talk Christopher to march straight back from school so he could babysit his siblings for me. I would need to clamber into my lucky alpaca-print dress and scribble on some last-minute make-up (at least I didn’t need lipstick). I would need to do battle with all things Chadstone. But then I would be there, standing in line clutching my copies of the pretty new book and listening to the people ahead of me tell their story. I didn’t want the queue to move too fast. Once my copy was signed, I wouldn’t have a reason to be there any more.

The lady ahead of me tells me she likes my earrings. As well as the new book, she’s holding a battered old copy of The Alphabet Sisters and a photo of her three daughters who have the initials A, B and C. One of the books on the shelf out the front is from Affirm Press, my wonderful shiny new publisher. Would I see my own book here next year?

The lady in front of me asks if I would take a photo of her when she meets Monica. I agree readily, then bite my lip.

“YOU MIGHT LIKE TO READ MY BOOK NEXT YEAR. IT’S BY KATE SOLLY BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE A TITLE YET.” I blurt out. The lady looks startled, but then it’s her turn with Monica McInerney. 

There is something wonderful about the way Ms McInerney connects with each person in the line. For the time she is signing their book, it’s as if they are the only people in the room. Everybody has come with a story and Monica McInerney wants to hear every detail. I am enchanted. The people behind me seem to shift impatiently.

It’s my turn and the lady in front of me takes a photo. As she hands me back my phone she tells MM that I’ve written a book. I gulp and nod and breathlessly fill in the details, vaguely gesturing towards Christian White’s bestseller as I do. 

 I give the names of my three youngest children for the first book and MM carefully copies their names down. “And how are ‘Annie, Pippi, and Penny’ related to you?” MM asks. 

My eyes bulge. I don’t know. I DON’T KNOW. “Oh! Um! They are my sisters. Wait! No! They are my daughters! Daughters!”

At this stage I am more perspiration than person. Then MM asks me what my book is about. 

Here’s the thing. Even when someone ordinary asks me this question, I freeze. The elevator pitch! Quick! Roll out the elevator pitch! Ack! Why can’t you get this right? How can you condense 80,000 words and five years of your life into two sentences when a minute ago you couldn’t even remember you had kids?

I gaze back imploringly, give a little whimper then finally garble out something about “crochet!” and “refugees!” and “yarnbombing!” How does anyone talk when their mouth is so chock-full of tongue and teeth? It’s a physical impossibility.

MM gave me the warmest of smiles. “I can see why Affirm snapped it up,” she says, giving me a sound bite memory I will use to light myself up from the inside for years to come.

And THEN! Then she insisted I let her know when my book is coming out so she could put a ‘Happy Publication Day” post on her formidable socials. I’m not sure how I remained standing at this point.

When it was time to go, I wanted to tell her how much her books have meant to me. How before I read Those Faraday Girls I didn’t know that there were books out there that were chatty and humorous and had endearing characters and absorbing plots. How I had since read all of her books, even the novellas and short stories. How they brought me joy and comfort at a time when I had babies that wouldn’t go to sleep and a house that wouldn’t get built. How much I hope to emulate her.

Instead, I carefully manoeuvred my mouth around my oversized tongue and teeth and said “Thank you for writing!” Then I stumbled away in glee and triumph.

When I shared the photo on my family message thread, my sister (Cindy Brady) responded with this edit, highlighting the manic gleam in my eye. What are siblings for?

PS. It struck me that I should promote Monica McInerney’s new book to MY one hundred followers, so then it’s like the same as her promoting me to her 11,000 followers. Favour repaid in full. Monica’s latest book is The Godmothers. She has also written her first junior fiction novel Marcie Gill and the Caravan Park Cat. They are both lovely (Well The Godmothers is – I haven’t read Marcie yet but it looks delicious). Having said that, if you haven’t read anything of Monica’s (we’re on first-name terms now, you see, she’s my BFF) I would also recommend Those Faraday Girls  and The Alphabet Sisters. Family Baggage is pure delight as well, even though I’m not sure how that family travel agency would work as a business model in real life.

Save The Madonna – Update

A promotional graphic showing the cover of a recent Madonna magazine and text “Love Madonna? Share it with others”

 

Good news! The Madonna has been saved – for now at least. Thank you so much, especially to those of you who subscribed to the magazine. The magazine is still in need of subscriptions, so if you’ve been meaning to subscribe, but haven’t got around to it yet, can I ask you a huge favour? Please tell them I sent you! I’d like to get some more gigs with this magazine, so it would be great if they knew that my writing is worth it. Also, I have an enormous ego that needs feeding.

For those of you who missed it on the socials, I’ve finished the first draft of my novel! Watch this space!

And now, here’s another taste of the sort of writing I do for Madonna magazine. This piece was first published in their Autumn edition, 2017.

 

First Steps


“So, children, today’s Gospel is about prayer. When do you pray to Jesus?”
“When we say Grace?”
“Very good, Therese! What’s another time we pray?”
“My Daddy has a shed and it has a lawnmower in it.”
“That’s interesting, Patrick, but we’re talking about…”
“We have a lawnmower in our garage!”
“Thank you, Annie. Now, back to…”
“On TV, there’s a lawnmower and his name is Larry.”
“OK, thanks Harry. Can anybody tell me when they pray?”
“Yes,”
“Harry, is this about lawnmowers?”
“No”
“Is this about prayer?”
“Yes: you can pray on the TOILET!”

I’m on Children’s Liturgy today. Twice a term, I take a group of kids to the church gathering area and try to teach them about God. It’s a fearsome task. The deepest desire of my heart is for my children to carry their faith into their adult lives. But at the moment, it’s hard just to get them to Mass on Sunday.

I would love to just sail into church with four children and two babies all clean and combed and beautifully turned out in their Sunday bests. Most of the time, I seem to turn up late with a rag-tag posse of tangle-haired urchins, some still wearing articles of sleepwear and others with evidence of breakfast on their faces. I do my best, quickly fashioning a messy ‘up do’ for my daughter with a hair-tie I found on the car floor, or buttoning a clean coat over pyjamas. One Sunday, I managed to corner my youngest son halfway through Mass and surreptitiously cleaned his face. Accordingly, the quiet solemnity of the Eucharist was punctuated by a loud shout: “No! That’s MY VEGEMITE, Mummy!”

There are times when I draw on all the power of my teachers’ college theology. Once I took it upon myself to explain the nature of the Easter Triduum to my then-five-year-old daughter, Matilda.

“So Good Friday is not a Mass, you see, even though we have Communion, because there is no Consecration. The Communion we have on Good Friday was consecrated at Holy Thursday Mass.”

I raise my eyebrows impressively at my daughter. I used to get ‘A’s in theology. Matilda wrinkles her small forehead.

“So you’re getting leftovers?”

Still, there are times when you know you’re doing something right. When my eldest boy Christopher was a toddler, he was fascinated with our church’s statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The statue itself is fairly standard-issue. Plaster Jesus stands in floor-length robes looking glum with his hands outstretched. Christopher pointed at Jesus’ arms. “Jesus wants a cuddle, Mummy?”

On another occasion, my mum mentioned that the wooden baby Jesus was missing from their nativity set. Indeed, the young Messiah went AWOL directly after our last visit and Christopher had been playing with the figurines. You can do without a shepherd, perhaps, but a nativity scene really doesn’t work without Jesus. He is one of the key players. Perhaps Christopher might know of his whereabouts?

Accordingly, after Christopher came in from playing in the backyard, Grandma asks “Christopher, do you know where baby Jesus is?”
Christopher says “yes” tremulously. Everyone catches their breath.
“Where’s Jesus, Christopher?”
Christopher pats his breast solemnly, “In my heart, Grandma”

Christopher and Matilda are older now. Both have made their First Communion and are proud altar servers. Once a month, I take them individually to an early weekday Mass (6:45am!) and then we have a cafe breakfast together. It’s a bit sneaky really. I want them to associate warm feelings and special attention from Mum with going to Mass. Isn’t that some form of classical conditioning? But surely nothing but goodness can come from bacon.

It’s time for my Children’s Liturgy group to form the Offertory Procession. There’s whispered squabbling at the back of the church over who gets to carry the cruets and then we’re off. I follow like a mother hen as the children traipse down the aisle, the choir sings “Hosea”, and the children deliver gifts to Father. It is as they are bowing to the altar (one sideways, one backwards and one of them fell over), that it struck me: this is what it’s all about.

In the end, for all my strategies and theologising and indoctrination by bacon, I don’t have the power to bestow faith on these children. That’s not my job. I am but walking beside them at the beginning of their faith life. All I can do is guide them to the altar and try not to get in the way as they meet Jesus. The rest is His job. And perhaps if I am humble enough, I might learn something. After all, someone very wise once taught me, Jesus is waiting for a hug.

We all just need to learn to hug back.

Pod Person

 

Meme: "You should put that in a podcast/so I can unsubscribe"

 

I’m on a podcast!


The Majellan is one of the magazines I write for. I can’t share the articles here because it’s only print and app-based (but do feel free to subscribe and tell them I sent you!)

I wonder if you can hear the gentle struggle as I try unsuccessfully to steer the conversation towards “Kate Moriarty: Serious Writer” when it instead barrels along the path of “Kate Moriarty: Professional Mother”.

I shouldn’t nitpick. We did spend an entire half-hour on the glorious topic of ME, after all!

You may notice, I’ve updated the aliases I’ve given my kids (is this even allowed?) I never really liked “Daisy and Poppy”. Now that I know my twins better, I call my little girl who loves Batman and has her hair cut with a fringe “Penny” (after Penny Pollard) and my girl who is full of energy and a miniature megalomaniac “Pippi” (after Pippi Longstocking). I sputter this out in a garbled mess at the beginning. I was a little nervous.

Have a listen:

https://majellan.media/figuring-out-families/

Love in the Time of Corona

 

A poster of fun things to do at home, entitled "LOCKDOWN FUN!". Coloured textas on butcher's paper. Includes "Baking", "Treasure hunts", and "Pillow blanket forts"

So tomorrow’s our first day of full-Corona-Lockdown. Matilda and Christopher will be on break from high school, Harry and Annie will be home as usual, but unlikely to want to do any lessons when their siblings are on holidays, and there’ll be no kinder for Daisy and Poppy.

Somehow, this whole Corona crisis has thrown me into a sort of adrenaline-fuelled Pollyanna persona. Why, this is a blessing in disguise! Clear schedules! Family togetherness! Let’s go make some wonderful memories!

It’s weird, really. I should be suffering more. My extrovert heart should be crushed from social deprivation. My Catholic soul should ache with hunger for the Eucharist. My writer’s mind should itch for a chance to work on my novel (note to all you Facebook writers who are raving about how many words you’re going to get down while you’re under house arrest. I’m happy for you. Really I am. Meanwhile, I do all my writing in cafes and libraries, so…)

But I’m not suffering. Pollyanna mode won’t let me feel these things. At least, not yet. Did you know we have two birthdays at home this week? Tomorrow, Annie turns eight (!), then on Thursday it’s my husband’s birthday. I was talking to my sister Jan about this today, going on about cake decorating and presents and bonfires and glow sticks and s’mores and party games. She got a hefty dose of my Pollyanna spirit.

”You’re right,” she said, “It’s important to keep your spirits up. Did you know there are some people who don’t call it ‘self isolation’, they call it ‘self retreat’?”

”Oh yeah?” I said, “Perhaps they should try sharing a house with two relentlessly hyperactive four-year-olds. Happy fucking retreat, guys!”

With many apologies:

https://laptopontheironingboard.wordpress.com/2020/03/23/love-in-the-time-of-corona/

OK, so it was a brief lapse, but it wasn’t long before Pollyanna was back in full force. I sat down with my kids and a packet of textas and we wrote down as many fun things as we could think of that we could still do while in lockdown.

A second poster of fun things to do at home, entitled "LOCKDOWN FUN!". Coloured textas on butcher's paper. Includes "Make bath bombs", "Kids cook dinner", "record audiobook", "stop motion lego" and "Make crabapple jelly"

 

I’m trying really hard to ignore the fact that most of these things are not so much fun for ME.

 

Here’s what MY fun list would look like

1. Endless Jane Austen screen adaptations featuring dishy men with smouldering scowls.

2. A quiet room with NOBODY TOUCHING ME.

3. Gin. 

 

I’ll keep you all updated. Please let me apologise for swearing. I haven’t used bad language on the blog before and I don’t plan to do it again, but I think we can all agree, we are living in strange and unusual times which warrant an errant f-bomb.

Jan says “I love pandemic Kate!”

The Year of the Novel

An empty coffee cup beside a tablet and bluetooth keyboard

The coffee was so delicious, I drank it before I remembered to take a photo…

Hi everyone. It’s 2020 and I’m full of all the optimism a new year brings.  On every day of my summer holiday, I got up early and ran to the cafe to write.  It was kind of blissful. Here’s what I’ve decided: 2020 is The Year of the Novel. I’m going to limit the number of magazine jobs I take on and instead focus on writing my book. By December, hopefully earlier, I plan to have a full manuscript to badger my friends with. I realise, this is one of those things that’s much more exciting for me than it is for the rest of the world, but it’s still VERY EXCITING. I’ve also decided to dust off my poor, neglected blog and write posts once a month. Publishers like it if you have an active online presence. A platform. See? I know all the industry-speak.

Please ask me how I’m going with this throughout the year. I need your help to keep me accountable!

More Excitement!

So I haven’t got around to telling you yet (unless I know you in real life, in which case I’ve probably told you far too many times!), but I won an AWARD.  My editor at Australian Catholics entered one of my columns in the Australasian Religious Press Association awards and it won GOLD for ‘Best Humorous Article’.   I’m so super stoked!  Apparently, the other entrants weren’t particularly humorous, so I wasn’t so much the funniest as the only funny one, but I’m still going to see this as a win.  It was AUSTRALASIAN, not just Australian, and it was RELIGIOUS, not just Catholic.  I’m mega smug.

So I’m going to reprint the winning article here.  Enjoy!

Minimum Wage Barbie in McDonalds uniform

What a Girl Wants

If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s anxious research.  Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I read. Information soothes me.

When my eldest daughter was born, I devoured every book I could get my hands on, from What to Expect When You Expect to be Expecting, to Embryo Einsteins, to Have a New Newborn by Friday.  Imagine my dismay when I discovered that simple toys could reinforce oppressive gender stereotypes and cripple the cognitive development of my wee girl-child.  So, from the very start, I endorsed train sets, puzzles and every variety of Danish plastic construction system. Now, at almost twelve, Matilda is assertive and articulate and wants to be a mechanical engineer when she grows up (when she’s not busy being the Prime Minister of Australia).  This, of course, is all due to my wise parenting methods. So I knew exactly which approach to take when my next daughter was born.

Annie, however, in all her four years of life, has politely declined Thomas and His Friends in favour of all things pink, sparkly and monarchical.  

“Mummy, I want to be a princess!”

“That’s a good idea, Annie.  Did you know that princesses are wise rulers and important decision makers?  Let’s pretend your kingdom is a constitutional monarchy and implement free and fair elections for all of your subjects!”

“Do I get to wear a shiny dress?”

“OK, sure…”

The real challenge came for me last Christmas.  Annie’s wish list had only one item on it. Her large brown eyes shone and she spoke in hushed tones of finally owning . . . a Barbie doll.

Oh, Lord.

I know the marketing executives would tell me that this tiny mannequin is actually an empowering role model, a true feminist.  Didn’t I know there is even a Doctor Barbie?  Girls can be doctors too!  I try to swallow this, but it sticks in my throat.  Barbie is, above all things, pretty. Literally, she is an object to be dressed and admired.  I want more than this for my daughter.

“What else do you want for Christmas, Annie?”

“Just Barbie.  If I tell Santa something else, he might not get me the Barbie.”

“What would you do if you got a Barbie?”

“Play Barbies.”

“OK.  But you know Barbie’s not all that great.  What does she do? Wear clothes? Sit around her dream house bemoaning the lack of space her vital organs have to function within that tiny tiny waist?  There are better toys than Barbie!”

“Oh, I know you don’t like Barbie, Mummy,”  Annie says composedly.

“You do?”

“Yes.  That’s why I’m asking Santa to get me one”

But for all that, Santa, in all his wisdom, did not get Annie a Barbie doll.  I imagine he couldn’t bring himself to turn into the lurid pink aisle at the toy section of Target and fork out thirty dollars for an 11-and-a-half-inch eating disorder just waiting to happen.  I’m sure he tried. I’m sure he went back again and looked and scratched his beard and called one of his best elves for advice. But it was not to be. On Christmas morning, Annie ran downstairs and opened her pillowcase to discover a Lego set for a pink princess castle, complete with flowers, princess and pony.  I held my breath. Annie looked up at me – and beamed.

“Look, Mummy!  Look what Santa got me!  It’s just what I wanted! It’s just what I asked him for!”

Wait, what?  Had she completely forgotten our conversation?  And how could she have asked Santa for this Lego set?  She’d never seen one before!

Shut up, Kate!  Just shut up! You’ve almost got away with it!  Smile! Nod!

“Oh, yes, Annie.  Gosh, Santa is very clever.  You know, I think he’s even smart enough to be a princess!”

 

Ripping off CS Lewis

Illustration of Demon

 

Have a look at my latest article. If you turn to page thirty of the May edition, you can see my modern take on The Screwtape Letters.  Then, flip to page 42 to see an excellent article written by my very talented sister.  While you’re there, have a look at page 24 of the April edition, you can see my article on the Welcome to Eltham movement, which my twins tried so earnestly to sabotage.

I’m really happy with the Screwtape article, though, so read that one first!

My First Feature!

1950s advertisement illustration where a pigtailed little girl looks alarmingly enthusiastic at the prospect of imminent jam sandwich.  Caption reads 'OH YES"

 

Here’s my first attempt at a feature article. Turn to page 16 for “Hooking Up” by Kate Moriarty!

http://melbournecatholic.org.au/Melbourne-Catholic-magazine

Red Hairring

So I figure I should probably write the sequel to my previous post. The only problem is, it’s not very interesting. So I’m going to just give it to you in point form. That way you can have a story which is not to interesting to begin with, plus the added bonus of lazy writing. Enjoy.

  • After I wrote my last post, many of you took the trouble to let me know you have a lovely friend/neighbour/sister-in-law who cuts hair in her garage/shed/living room and who is totally nice and easy to talk to.  No.  Just, no.  This would add a whole other layer of awkwardness to the situation.  What if they do a bad job and you want to break up with them but you can’t because they’re friends with your friend?  Ugh.  No.
    But thank you for thinking of me.
  • Still more people told me about some other super lady who comes to your house to cut your hair.  Noooooooooo!  No!  I would have to clean the house thoroughly or risk the hairdresser silently judging me.  Then if it all goes pear-shaped the hairdresser knows where I live.  No thank you.
  • Then, Lovely M suggested I get Pippi to cut my hair.  Apparently Pippi is quite handy with a pair of scissors, even though she isn’t a professional hairdresser.  But I had to say no.  It’s not that I didn’t trust Pippi’s ability, it’s just that I have an irrational fear that if I turn my friend into my hairdresser, all friendship will cease and I will henceforth only be able to have stilted conversations with her about a reality tv show I do not watch.  Plus I wanted to get it dyed too, and even though M was suggesting all manner of solutions to this problem involving a bottle of peroxide and a toothbrush, I ultimately decided to go with a professional.
  • So, as it turns out, my visit to the hairdresser was fairly uneventful.  I brought with me a small stack of Mollie Makes magazines which I borrowed from the library to save money (except that one of the magazines went missing, so now I have to pay a big library fine instead).  The hairdresser was older than me and happy to keep conversation to a companionable minimum.  It was kind of nice.
  • Here is the photo I showed her at the start of our session:

 

  • Cameron Diaz with nice hair

 

  • It was such a long time since I’d been to a salon that I was a little out of practice.  I was so grateful that somebody was finally doing my hair that I didn’t boss the hairdresser too much about what I wanted.  As a result, the dye job was a little odd and streaky and the colour was much more ashy than what I asked for.  And the layering didn’t frame my face well.  
  • After this, the hairdresser gave me a blow wave, which made me look like a late-night televangelist’s wife named Robyn.  Or Hope.  Or maybe Candice.
  • The next morning I scrutinised the colour in the full light of day.  Had she given me grey streaks?
  • So here is my ‘before’ photo.  Incidentally, I thought this was my ‘sexy’ face.  All these years, when I thought I was giving my husband a smouldering look, my face actually looked like this.   Ugh.   I think I need to practice raising my eyebrow suggestively at the mirror repeatedly until I get it right.

Kate with long hair looking dopey

  • I think I sprained my eyebrow.
  • And this is me now:
  • The mom from 'Seventh Heaven'
  • Just kidding, here I am:

 

  • Michael Landon (from 'Highway to Heaven')
  • I could do this all day:

Macgyver

  • So here I am, really:

My laptop selfie with new hair

It’s several weeks since I got my hair done and it’s settled in a lot better now.  I even had a go fixing the layers myself with a pair of nail scissors.  The next time I go to the hairdressers, I’ll be more specific about what I want.

The very thought is making me sweat icicles.