Tag Archives: humour

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.

Running Start

Here’s an article I wrote for The Majellan last year (I think it appeared in the Autumn 2020 issue). In case you’re wondering: yes. Majellan, Champion of the Family, is the same A5 magazine your mum used to read when you were five! If you’d like to subscribe, it’s quite reasonable. Let them know I sent you!

Running Start

Thunk, thunk, thunk. I hate this. I hate this so much. Thunk, thunk, thunk. Surely it’d be easier to shift a huge bag of potatoes. Thunk, thunk, thunk. I can’t breathe. I need to stop. Thunk, thunk, thunk. This is the worst. Thunk, thunk, thunk. OK. Just to the next tree.

I’m not sure how, but I’ve become a Person Who Runs. I mean, obviously it didn’t just happen. I got one of those Couch to 5k apps and obeyed the little robot voice that told me to “RUN-for-ONE-minute”; I obeyed when “ONE-minute” became “FIFteen-minutes”; and then, when I finally managed to run five kilometres without dying, I joined the local parkrun with my friend Jacinta.

Have you heard about parkrun? It’s a free timed 5k run that’s held every Saturday at parks all over Australia. The one near me is a real community event for people of all ages and abilities, plus their dogs and their babies. I’m a fan, even when I’m not enjoying the running part.

It’s weird that I’ve taken up running. I don’t look like a runner. If I’m honest, I look like a lady who has been pregnant so many times, her body has forgotten how to look not pregnant. And I don’t enjoy running, though I do enjoy the smug feelings that come at the end of it.

I’ve come a long way from when I first started out. For one thing, I figured out how to settle into a rhythm, and breathe so I’m not gasping like a fish all the time. I also worked out that I need to firmly strap down all of the parts of me that jiggle. This was a game-changer. When I get dressed for a run, I’m like a sailor preparing for a storm on a ship. A large, unwieldy, overly bouncy ship. Batten down the hatches, folks.

There’s a boy up ahead of me running with his mother. He’s over it. “This is stupid! I don’t want to do this! I want to stop! My legs hurt!” For a moment, I stare at him. It’s as if my subconscious has come out of my body and manifested itself as a small child. Has the voice in my head taken human form? 

At primary school, I wasn’t one of the sporty kids. When the class needed to be divided into teams, the teacher would appoint two captains to take turns choosing classmates for their side. As their teams grew, their teammates would whisper suggestions. I can still remember the disappointed, reluctant shrug my captain would give at the end, when he realised every other child had been chosen and he would have to assign me to his team. I tripped over, dropped balls, and was oh-so-slow. I was a liability.

The thought of having to run scared me. Like, properly scared me. Behind my eyelids, I can still see my classmates waiting for me at the opposite end of the oval. They finished the cross-country course ages ago. They are bored. As I flounder along, they seem to get even further away. I am never going to get there. Those tiny specks at the end of the oval, they’re annoyed with my freakish incompetence. It’s never going to end. I will be stumbling across this oval for the rest of my life.

I don’t want to sound disturbed, but when I run, I need to fight a chorus of voices in my head. Along with my entire Grade Four PE class, I studiously ignore the judgey voices telling me that taking time out to run is selfish, that I’m a Bad Mother. And it would seem I’m not alone here. Many mums put their own health last when sorting out priorities. We would rather be unfit, than be seen as an unfit mother. It’s hard to convince myself that exercise will help me to be a better parent in the long term, but I know I must.

And so I plod on. I’m not going to be the fastest, or the strongest, and I’m definitely not going to be the one who looks cute in running clothes. My super power is that I turn up, no matter what. In winter, I splash through puddles, rain streaming down my face. In summer, I plough through the dust and the heat. Jacinta finishes a full fifteen minutes ahead of me and waits to cheer me on at the finish line. 

There is something wonderful about running in a group of encouraging people. That man who always finishes in the top ten per cent doesn’t know it, but his gruff nod and “well done, keep it up” means the world to me. Somehow, acknowledgement from the fast runners gives me permission to be there.

Running is a great way for me to sort out the chatter in my head, and is well suited to prayer. When my friend’s baby was in the NICU, I managed to pray a full rosary while running. I counted decades on my fingers and huffed out prayers to fit the rhythm of my pace “Our FA-ther, who art in HEAV-en, hallowed be thy NAME…” I offered my pain up for the tiny little fighter all covered in tubes. It felt good to be actually doing something, instead of feeling powerless.  

It can feel, sometimes, like taking time out to run is selfish, that I’m cheating my family by doing something for myself. I know this isn’t true. My kids need a healthy mum. Lately, my fourteen-year-old daughter has joined me on a Saturday morning. Matilda is a natural runner, very fast and completely unselfconscious. I love sharing this time with her, even if I’m running miles behind!

At the turn-around point, I’m really struggling. The anguish is written so plainly on my face, when I pass Complaining Boy, his mum points to me. “See, Timmy,” she says in an encouraging voice, “you’re not the only one who’s struggling!”.  In my gasping and spluttering, I have become a Teachable Moment. Happy to help, lady.

But here’s the funny thing.  After eighteen months of lumbering along with no improvement, I’m starting to see some changes. While my body hasn’t yet remembered how to look not-pregnant, I’ve lost a lot of weight. These days, I rock more of a first-trimester physique. And my times are getting faster. I’ve almost caught up to Jacinta. Last Saturday, one of the parkrunners approached me.

“Hello,” she said, “I’m just a random stranger.”

“Hello, Random Stranger,” I said.

“I wanted to say I’ve noticed how much you’ve improved over the past month. You’re running so fast!”  

As I smile, and thank the random lady, I catch Jacinta’s eye. My pragmatic, no-nonsense friend is crying. “I’m just so proud of you,” she sniffles.

Well, that’s the end for me. I didn’t mean to get emotional, but tears immediately spring to my eyes and Jacinta and I become a sobbing, hugging mess as Random Stranger carefully backs away. It’s silly. It’s just sport. 

Except that it’s not. It’s friendship and community and health and discipline. It’s a clear head and a place to pray. It’s being a Good Mum. It’s self-care. It’s telling my Grade Four captain that I do deserve to be on his team. It’s refusing to be afraid. It’s the reason why, when I go on holidays, I look up the local Mass times and the local parkrun. It’s finally reaching the other end of that oval.

I wipe my face, smile and shrug. “See you next Saturday!”

(Kate Moriarty)

A carpark of one’s own


I need to find a new place to write. My glorious writer’s retreat, the empty house of my parents-in-law, is no more. They had the audacity to come back from Adelaide and actually want to live in their own house. Did you ever! Libraries aren’t open when I want them to be and I don’t want to take up a table for too long in a cafe that’s struggling to get back on its feet. And I can’t work at home. If I’m at home, everyone automatically assumes I’m in charge. And there’s no space. My eldest daughter sleeps in an ACTUAL CUPBOARD. Last week, I did some work on my novel in the car with a drive-thru coffee, parked next to the local community gardens. I prop my phone on the steering wheel and get it to talk to my bluetooth keyboard, on my lap.

There was this grey noisy miner that kept attacking my side mirror. It wanted to show that other bird in there who’s boss. It wouldn’t have done that if it were a raven or a magpie. Ravens and magpies are smart enough to recognise their own reflection. But noisy miners are stupid, stupid birds.

I tried to ignore it and work on my novel. I did a lot more frowning than I did typing. After a bit, a police car crawled slowly past me. When it got to the end of the street, it did a u-turn and crawled slowly back. Both policemen were watching me as they approached. I hastily pulled up my face-mask. Was I doing something illegal? I don’t need the four reasons to be out of the house anymore, do I?

The car pulled alongside mine and the driver motioned for me to wind down my window. He peered at me “Is everything OK?”

Everything was not OK. My manuscript was a mess and I was starting to doubt my ability to ever make it into a coherent whole. Every scene was missing beginnings or endings and peppered all over with [SHOUTY NOTES]. I was ridiculous for ever thinking I had the skills to take this on. A flock of kamikaze birds kept hurtling themselves into the mirror next to me, making me jump. And I needed to find a way to make Harper’s story work. How was I ever going to make Harper’s story work?

I nodded like a maniac and garbled something about writing. I waved my bluetooth keyboard at them, “I have kids at home!” I exclaimed.

The policeman frowned and drove off. I forgot to mention that my kids at home were being adequately supervised. Oh well.

Today I’m going deep water running with a friend. I have no idea what ‘deep water running’ is, but I’m doing it in person with a friend, so that’s all I really need to know. I’m in the carpark of the council pool right now. I’m an hour early on purpose. And here’s the thing: Nobody looks at you funny if you’re doing work in your car at a pool carpark. Everybody is doing work in their car at a pool carpark. I’m now googling the carparks of all of the local sporting complexes to compare their varying benefits as writer’s retreats. It’s very possible the rest of this novel will be written outside of a place with “SAC” somewhere in its name.

Watch this (car) space.

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.

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!”

Bloop

Two children’s backpacks, each with a corresponding lunchbox and drink bottle

 

Time for my March blog post! What should we talk about? This month, I worked on the romantic subplot in my novel. It wasn’t easy, but I finally convinced my lovers to kiss each other. Then I went back in time and made them fight. I don’t think romance is my strong suit.

I’ve started writing for The Majellan magazine. My latest article has been published, but the only way you can read it is by buying the magazine (boo!).

The twins are going to kinder this year. You’d think I’d have got the hang of it by now, but kinder mornings are a mess! It takes so much brainpower to get two often uncooperative young ladies fed, cleaned, dressed, shod, and out the door, with an appropriately stocked lunchbox and hair neatly tied back and a water bottle each and the show-and-tell bag and that form we were supposed to fill out and return last Friday. And a sun hat and a rain jacket, because Melbourne. I’m that mum who sidles in fifteen minutes late after the doors are locked.

No. Scratch that. I was That Mum last week, but this week will be different. This week I’ll be on top of mornings. Well, not counting Monday. That was a practice day.

My sister is doing a course in life coaching and I’ve volunteered as a coachable guinea pig. This means I talk regularly with one of the student life coaches (not my sister, but her lovely classmate) and work on strategies to make my life easier. This week, I’m going after mornings. Here are my plans:

1. Prepare everything the night before. Clothes, shoes, lunches, bags, drink bottles. Yes, know I always say I’m going to do this, but this time I mean it!

2. No checking Facebook before morning-tea time, after the kinder run.

3. Tell myself that kinder starts at 8:50am, not 9:00am.

4. Remember my iron and zinc tablets. This has nothing at all to do with the kinder run, but I figure I might as well do this if I’m remembering things.

Maybe if I get really good at this life coaching, I’ll become Super Capable. This could be the end of my endless blog post material! Or perhaps I could start a new, Aspirational Lifestyle Blog. Be like me! From Blooper to Gooper! I could design my own skincare range and everything.

Watch this space.



Post Script: So I took that wonderfully stylised picture at 9:05 this morning (don’t judge). We got to kinder late, and after I stood in the rain giving the twins hasty up-dos with hair-ties scavenged from the floor of the car, I realised in dismay that we had only one of the required two backpacks. The Star Wars backpack was neatly packed, with lunchbox, drink bottle, and a change of clothes. The only problem was, it was still inside my house. By the time we’d settled the twins, smiled apologetically at the kinder teacher, driven home, grabbed the errant bag, delivered it to kinder, and driven back home, it was 9:45am. I promise I’m not making this up.

I might have to wait until next week to be Super Capable. In the meantime, I need to take my iron tablet. I forgot yesterday.

Mass With the Bare Essentials

Hi everyone! I’ve decided to republish some of my old Home Truths columns here. I’ve set up a Facebook page for “Kate Moriarty – Writer” and I’m trying to gather all my writing to the one place.

This column was first published in Australian Catholics Easter 2016

25-clarks-1

I long to see the day where I sail into 9am Mass with six children all clean and combed in their Sunday bests. I’ve always yearned for people to describe my children as ‘well turned out’. Especially church people.

Today was not that day. My husband had taken Matilda early so that she couldn’t be an altar server, and it was up to me to get the remaining children clothed and in the car and to Mass on time. Harry was dressed and ready like a champion. Unfortunately, his outfit was the same one he’d been wearing obstinately for the past three days. Christopher was performing a slow tai-chi dance with his breakfast, but was dressed at least. Annie was barefoot in her pyjamas staring blankly at her toast like it was the last clue in the cryptic crossword. The twins were fast asleep. And it was five-to-nine.

So I started gathering bags and babies, shepherding everyone into the car. The pyjamas Annie had been wearing looked enough like regular clothes to get away with. It was only later I noticed the vegemite stains all down the front.

Annie and Harry were putting their seatbelts on in the back of our van as Christopher and I organised the twins. “Annie, are you wearing shoes?” I call back whilst grappling with a four-month-old in a five-point-harness. “Yes, Mummy”, Annie responds in her sweetest voice.

And we were on our way, but we were oh-so-late.

We arrived. Annie grinned broadly, “Actually, I forgot my shoes!”, she announced triumphantly, like the punchline to some wonderful joke.

In all of the shouting and searching that followed, Annie alone was calm and unruffled. We found one shoe. There was only one. I think this was a million times worse than if there’d been no shoes at all.
The homily had just started as I sidled into Mass with my rag-tag posse of children. Annie remained unshod. If we kept a low profile, we might get away with it. In a quick exchange of sign language (I believe I employed the international sign for ‘I wish to strangle my child’), I brought my husband up to speed with the situation. His response was devastating, his expression deadpan:
“We’re on Offertory.”

In theory, being invited to bring the gifts to the altar is a wonderful privilege, I should have felt honoured that my husband was asked to participate with his family in this special way. Unfortunately, the idea of parading my dirty, barefoot, misbehaving children down the aisle for all to see was not altogether a tempting one.

When it came time for the Offertory Procession, I assumed a confident expression. Perhaps, if I smiled bravely and walked tall, nobody would notice my three-year-old was sans footwear. That aisle seemed much longer than usual. Father Jacob, flanked by Matilda and another server were miles away. After traipsing barefoot through the gauntlet of parishioners, Annie imperiously insisted on delivering her bowl to Matilda and not the priest. Father Jacob swallowed a snort of laughter.

I spent the remainder of Mass alternatively blushing and shushing. As we prepared for a swift exit, a lady grasped my elbow.
“It gave my heart so much joy to see your family bringing up the gifts,” she said with genuine warmth. My heart melted a bit. Mrs Thomas is almost old enough to be my grandmother. She has raised six children herself and was recently widowed. Mrs Thomas chose not to see the unwashed clothes or exposed feet or complete lack of liturgical style. She saw a family trying their best despite their imperfections, and loved us. In that moment, Mrs Thomas was God to me.

I opened my mouth to respond, but was interrupted by a loud yowling. Annie, it would seem, had stubbed her little toe on the kneeler.

And that, my dear, is why you should always wear shoes to church.

Pitch Fail

Monkey (well, technically a chimp) on a typewriter

You’ll never guess what just happened.

So I’ve been trying to drum up a bit more business writing freelance.  I feel like I could probably take on one more monthly gig while still managing to keep track of which of my children is which (the non-identical ones, at least).  And then the Archdiocese of Melbourne went and got itself a new Archbishop, which meant a special edition for the magazine I write for, which meant they wouldn’t be needing ME to write for them this month, which left me feeling a little bereft and unwanted and resentful of the Archbishop elect (how DARE he?), especially when an extra bill came in for exactly the amount I would have been paid if it had been business as usual.

So, I had some time to sell myself to editors.  But I didn’t really know how to go about it.  I hunted around on websites, but couldn’t find any email addresses.  Then I made myself a profile on LinkedIn, but it seemed all the editors had private accounts.  When I told people about my hunt, they invariably would tell me about a newsletter of magazine they knew about that was “always looking for writers”, but which only offered the joy of seeing your name in print as payment.  Thank you: no thank you.

Lovely M had some contacts, so I armed her with some material to chase them up with.  But I haven’t heard back, and I didn’t want to bug her.  Plus I didn’t want to face up to the idea that my writing was NO GOOD and not worth a second look.   I’m going to my high-school reunion in a month and all of the publications I write for have the word ‘Catholic’ in the title somewhere.  This needs to change.  So I pressed on.

Then, as I was digging about on LinkedIn (“you have almost reached your browsing limit”), I found the details of the editor of the Woman’s Weekly!  Perfect!

So I spent a whole day crafting a breezy-chatty-yet-professional introductory letter and chose three of my best pieces to share.  I wrote about how I’d grown up reading the Weekly and how it’s still close to my heart.  I showed it to my family and asked their advice.  I pitched ideas for future articles that I said I was already working on.  I fantasised about being Pat McDermott’s understudy (she writes “Patter” – perhaps I could write “Scatter”?).  And then I waited.

Here was my plan:  I figured the editor would most likely begin her day by going through her emails.  She would start early – Maybe 8? Maybe 8:30? – because she might have a meeting at 9.  So if I sent my masterpiece at, say, 8:45am, it would come floating in to the top of the pile right when she’s in email-reading mode.  I was all set.  The PDFs were attached and all of the publications I mentioned were also hyperlinks to articles I had written for said publications.  Any minute now and I would press send.

But that’s not really a true picture of events.  It wasn’t like I was sitting there with my finger hovering over the send button, watching the clock.  I had set the laptop open with everything cued up on the kitchen table, that is true.  And I got in perhaps thirty seconds worth of finger-hovering.  But then Annie needed help making porridge and Poppy wanted milk poured and Christopher needed me to shout at him to stop teasing Harry, and Daisy wanted me to find the Thomas the Tank Engine spoon.  And then the doorbell rang and it was my mum and I hadn’t seen her in WEEKS and she’d brought food over and we needed to talk lots as we reorganised the fridge to fit it.

Mum looked across to the kitchen table.  “Uh-oh.  Daisy’s on your laptop.”

“Oh, isn’t that cute!”  I said.  It was cute.  Daisy was working away with the same intensity she must have seen her mother display countless times before.  Then I froze.  “Get off Mummy’s laptop, Daisy!”  I exclaimed, and rushed to the table.  My email page was open, as it had been before.  Now, however, a line of bold text ran across the top of the screen “Your email has been sent”.  Wait: what?

But surely this wasn’t such a bad thing.  I was going to send the email anyway – maybe Daisy had done me a favour dispatching it in such a timely manner?  It was like she was my adorable little personal assistant.  I frantically scanned the sent message.  It was such a bad thing.

There, in the middle of one the opening sentences, Daisy had added her own input: a string of random letters and punctuation marks.  In a mad panic, I dashed off the following message:

“Oh my goodness!

With regards to my previous email, my two-year-old jumped on my laptop as I was answering the door.  She made her own amendments and sent the email off before I was ready!  With the exception of “wor/.,.,,,,,,,mbfczsk”, the email is what I meant to send. Please excuse young Daisy’s input and be assured that I am usually a scrupulous proofreader and never short of anecdotal material!

If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go crawl into a nice dark hole now…

Regards,

Kate”

Except I used Daisy’s actual name, not her blog pseudonym, because I figured I should be honest and it’s a nice name, which shows good judgement on my part.

So that was yesterday.  The time in between has been spent clicking the ‘refresh’ button on my email and jumping at loud noises.  But she hasn’t written back.  She hasn’t written back AT ALL.  I’ve taken to wringing my hands together and muttering at strangers.

I blame the new Archbishop.

 

PS.  I just went back to look at the email I sent and discovered, on top of everything else, I wrote the name of the magazine wrong.  I wrote “Women’s Weekly” – not “Woman’s Weekly”.  And I did it MORE THAN ONCE.  What is WRONG with me??  No wonder she hasn’t written back!  She probably didn’t even read as far as “wor/.,.,,,,,,,mbfczsk”, she probably threw her computer aside in disgust when she saw I didn’t even bother getting the name of her publication right.

I need to go mutter at some strangers (“Comensoli…ComenSOLI!”)

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!

Interview Fail

cassette tape recorder. Label on tape reads 'VERY IMPORTANT"

 

So I’ve been doing a bit of writing lately. Apart from my Very Own Column at Australian Catholics magazine, I’ve also started to write features, as a freelancer, for Melbourne Catholic magazine. I often get confused looks when I try to explain this to people (and I often try to explain this to people, even if we weren’t, in fact, talking about it). Melbourne Catholic is a separate magazine, despite the similar name. It comes from the Archdiocese, rather than the Jesuits.

Features writing is fun and interesting, but my great love will always be in trying to make people laugh (which is why that first paragraph is such a side-splitter).  I’m not the greatest at interviewing people (you actually have to stop and let them talk, I’m told), but I do like the feeling of having yet another Important Writing Job and more opportunities to talk loudly about expecting an email from MY EDITOR and looking around impressively whenever I’m in a crowded place.  I think the staff at Aldi are a little over it, to be honest.

So far, I’ve written a feature on crochet and another one on grief.  I’ll share them with you when they get published (the crochet feature is out, just not electronically yet).  The most recent one I’ve been writing has been about the refugees in Eltham.  It’s a topic I care about, but it’s been a real pain to write.  I’ve had to interview no fewer than eight people.  I don’t mind the talking-to-people part of interviewing; I can even do the listening-without-interrupting part if I concentrate hard enough.  It’s the finding-ten-minutes-of-peace-to-make-a-phone-call that I’ve struggled with the most.

Now there was a particular person I’d been especially keen to talk to.  Many of the other interviews had left me with important questions that this woman could answer for me.   But I’d had a bit of trouble, first with tracking her down, then with finding a time I could talk with her.   Many a time I’d put the TV on for the kids, locked myself in the bathroom with recording equipment all set up and made the all-important call, only to find that she was in a meeting or off-site.  Getting information wrong on a crochet article would be one thing.  I didn’t want to get it wrong on such an important topic.  The deadline was looming and still we hadn’t spoken.

On Mondays, the kids and I go to a homeschooling co-op, held in one of those amazing mega-churches.  It’s the best.  On this particular Monday, I was upstairs in the cafe, sitting at a table and trying to get this article written.  Christopher, Harry and Annie were in their various classes, run by the mums and dads.  Daisy and Poppy (who are now two-and-a-half-can-you-believe-it) were in a cute little play area with a pool fence around it.  I scratched my head as I looked at what I’d written so far.  If I didn’t speak to this woman, there would be a lot of holes in the article.

Then my phone rang.  It was her!  It was totally her!

I knew these weren’t ideal interview conditions.  The cafe was noisy and the twins were unpredictable.  But I also knew if I let it go to voicemail and tried to call back later, I would find she was off working hard doing her actual job and not at her desk.  This was my one window.  I answered the phone smoothly, set it to speaker and set my iPad to record.

“So tell me, what is the history of this project?”

Of course I knew the history of the project.  I’d done my homework.  But I wanted a neat little ‘expert’ quote from her to put at the start of the article.  It would frame things nicely.  Interview Lady launched into a description of the situation in Eltham, sounding a little perplexed at my apparent ignorance (she later would recommend a series of fact sheets she had written) just as Daisy started to shriek piteously.

I looked across to the play area.  Daisy stood wretchedly beside the toy oven as Poppy did a victory lap, holding several golden strands of her sister’s hair aloft as she strode along.  I bustled silently into the pen, admonished Poppy with only my eyebrows and a very pointy finger, scooped up the whimpering Daisy with the arm that wasn’t holding my phone and iPad and brought her back to the table with me.   “Mmm.” “Yes.”  “Really?”  I said calmly, taking the sugar and placing it on a different table.

Foiled in her sugar-eating attempt, Daisy picked up the pepper and began shaking it liberally onto the table.  I took it from her.  She let out an unearthly howl.  I put it back.  She continued in her redecorating.

“What would you say are the challenges facing refugees, given our current housing situation?” my voice didn’t waver.  I don’t think Interview Lady could tell I was trying to wrestle my iPad out of Daisy’s grasp.  But then that stupid free U2 song started playing at full volume.  She must have bumped something.

Daisy lay down on the ground in (thankfully) mute protest as I desperately jabbed at buttons to make Bono shut up.  “Tell me more about that,” I said (to Interview Lady, not Bono), as one of the security guards waved to get my attention.

I looked to where he was pointing.  Poppy had pushed the toy washing machine up against the side of the play pen and had used it to clamber onto the quite-high fence.  “Hi Mummy!” she cackled as I solemnly hoisted her onto my shoulder and brought her back to my table.  Interview Lady was on a roll, telling me all sorts of things without pausing for breath.  This allowed me to go into a silent panic without having to think up another question.  Daisy was gone.

“Is there anything about the Eltham project you would consider applying to future projects?” I pulled Daisy out from under the table.  She had run around the corner and was lying at the feet of some other cafe patron.  I now held a twin under each arm and was balancing my phone and iPad under – actually, I’ve no idea how I did it.  All I know is, when I put them down to try to organise myself, they ran for the stairs, shouting “SLIDE!”

I should explain.  This particular very-large-church has a tunnel slide that children can take downstairs to their well-resourced kids’ ministries because of-course-they-do.  I mean, I’ve tried suggesting to my parish that perhaps we could set up a small box of toys and a play rug for children to use after Mass when the grown ups are drinking (instant) coffee and it’s been all too hard to think about.  Noooope we wouldn’t want to encourage children to come to Mass or anything.  Heaven forbid.

What was I talking about?  Oh yes, the dratted slide.  A couple of little girls and their mums were  already having a play on this contraption.  One of the girls is a four-year-old I’m going to call Buttercup who is friends with the twins.

So Daisy makes a dash for the slide, pushes past Buttercup and dives straight down it.  “MRS KATE!  MRS KATE!  IT WASN’T HER TURN!  MRS KATE!”  I know Buttercup said this because it’s right there on the recording, drowning out whatever salient point Interview Lady was making.  I nodded expressively and sympathetically (and silently) at Buttercup and said “do go on” to Interview Lady.

“MRS KAAAAAAATE!”  Poppy was jubilantly sitting at the top of the slide.  This was her position of power.  If she sat at the top of the slide, without actually going anywhere, all the children around her would go berserk.  Poppy loved this.  Buttercup gave Poppy a shove.

“What do you see as your plans for the future?” Poppy made it halfway down the slide tunnel, stopped herself, and began climbing back up (“THAT’S NOT ALLOWED!  THAT’S NOT ALLOWED!!”).  Daisy, meanwhile, was climbing back up the stairs for another turn.  I gave the other mothers an apologetic smile.  I was that mother: nattering away on her mobile phone whilst her children cause havoc.

“Do you have any final thoughts?”

“I HAVE A STINKY NAPPY MUMMY!”  Daisy did have a stinky nappy.  A real eye waterer.  And Poppy had come out at the bottom of the slide and was not coming upstairs.  I walked down the stairs with Daisy (“NO!  NO!  SLIDE!  SLIDE!”) to fetch Poppy before she went running off down the corridor and out of sight.  The interview was wrapping up.  I thanked Interview Lady, saved the recording and emailed it to myself seven times.  Then I apologised to the other mums and trudged upstairs with the twins to clean the peppered table.

While I might have relived the trauma of the afternoon when i transcribed the interview later, it did provide me with some very useful information and quotes.  I’ve since written the article and am waiting to hear from MY EDITOR to see if she thinks its any good.  I expect to hear from MY EDITOR any minute now and am checking my phone rather agitatedly.  Of course, she’d need time to actually read it and then to formulate a response.  Plus MY EDITOR would have other articles to read as well.  I really mustn’t worry about it.  I really must stop.

At least, that’s what the assistant manager at Aldi tells me.