Friendship and ‘A Time to Talk’ with Robert Frost

As we all know,

Christmas is fast approaching,

the silly season has begun,

in gift shops,

in department stores,

kids unable to settle in the classroom,

grass is brown and dry,

barbecue grills are being checked,

sunscreen is stockpiled,

food is flying off the supermarket shelves,

chlorine levels are dosed,

wrapping paper is being unfurled,

groups are having break-up parties,

bells jingle in the hands of Santa as he strolls through the mall,

queues in to the carpark,

queues out of the carpark,

tempers rise,

decisions have to be made about Christmas lunch,

European or Australian,

the temperature is predicted to be in the high 30°s Celsius,

the air-conditioning struggles at midday,

birds welcome the water in birdbaths,

dog water bowls appear outside cafés,

hats and beach umbrellas are selling fast,

flashy new decorations for an old tree,

family car washed and waxed ready to collect grandparents,

music is Christmas themed,

commercials blare out what we need for a happy fun festive season,

there is more than one man behind Christmas,

the wealth in the world prefers to use a generic symbol,

An old lady sits alone on the edge of her bed,

tears in her eyes,

sad for what is lost,

sad for who has gone,

that t-shirt-stained boy who sits on a park bench,

heatwaves shimmering off the concrete path,

wondering if he will see his Dad,

wondering if he will get a present,

put it under the tree he created from twigs,

we need each other,

we need our friends,

text a lunch date,

money spent at Christmastime isn’t going to mean much,

if there’s nobody to reminisce with in the new year,

friends share your life whether it seems like it or not,

they are part of you.

© Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

“A Time to Talk”

 

WHEN a friend calls to me from the road    

And slows his horse to a meaning walk,       

I don’t stand still and look around    

On all the hills I haven’t hoed,          

And shout from where I am, What is it?             

No, not as there is a time to talk.      

I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,          

Blade-end up and five feet tall,         

And plod: I go up to the stone wall   

For a friendly visit.

 

Robert Frost (1874–1963)

Poetry Collection “Mountain Interval” 1920

 

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Review ‘Too Much Lip’ by Melissa Lucashenko

The incessant fights in the Salter family are too real, their plight is real, every word is real and that’s what damaged me the most.  I took long walks due to the serious and unrelenting nature of the content.  Loaded with the troubles of the Salter family, cruel sarcasm, too much drink, too many smokes, I was getting worn down right along with them.  It took me a month to read this book in fits and starts but I’m glad I did.

Abrasive characters are well portrayed which makes them doubly annoying, they need to be accepted warts and all, like ‘mouthy’ Kerry Salter and her unlikable brother Ken who argue every minute of the day.  I’m sure I’d have put Ken in hospital at about Chapter Three.

Maybe take the pressure off young Donny.

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Bad things are happening, but as long as Kerry’s Harley Softail is safe.

Early on, Bundjalung woman Kerry has returned to her home town of Durrongo, and grieves the loss of her girlfriend Allie, her Pop and her stolen blue backpack.  She does a B&E, part retribution, part spirit world, and the universe turns a notch.  Fair move, but repercussions come later.  Then there’s romance in the form of her hot eye-candy boyfriend Steve Abarco who’s the flagship for level-headed, rock-solid men.

Kerry’s tarot card-reading mother Pretty Mary celebrates a birthday and those volatile chapters are my favourites.  At the party is another brother, gay Black Superman, maybe long-dead sister Donna, plus assorted Aunts (called Mary) Uncles and children who gust through the pages like eucalyptus smoke.  But forget about opening old family wounds, I’d say a lump the size of police headquarters sits in the pit of their stomachs, continually irritating their every move.

The battle against a new prison, to be built on sacred ground where Salter ancestors are laid to rest, ramps up with a land rights campaign.  Enter cops like Senior Sergeant Trevor Nunne and money-hungry Mayor Jim Buckley.  Ken’s flamboyant gesture on a piece of Buckley’s property was not appreciated and leads to disastrous retaliation.

You will have noticed that I am not giving too much away.

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Two Aboriginal kingplates I photographed in a display cabinet at Ipswich Art Galley, Queensland.

Writing style-wise, I did wondered why Kerry wasn’t written in first person.  Some events are seeded in advance while others appear to be inserted later to up-the-ante.  Every so often the voice changes, doubt creeps in, there’s a lull.  Or a change in atmosphere with The Doctor.  Occasionally things become omnipotent and POVs jump in and out of people’s heads but that can be overlooked for scary brave writing.

If you are not Australian, you WILL become lost in the slang and cultural references.

Try anyway.

Read this rude, gutsy book if you ARE offended by swearing, truisms close to the bone, and the struggles of Indigenous people.  As Ken says in Chapter 15 ‘How to invade other people’s countries and murder ‘em, and call it civilisation’.

It’s a strong insight into the modern world and an ancient culture, one which doesn’t need skyscrapers because Country is a place of belonging and a way of believing.

Good onya, Melissa, for audaciously holding your nerve*

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


* REFERENCE : Sydney Morning Herald interview insights into the writing of ‘Too Much Lip’
https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/melissa-lucashenko-too-much-lip-was-a-frightening-book-to-write-20180724-h1326h.html

AUTHOR PROFILE : Melissa Lucashenko is an acclaimed Aboriginal writer of Goorie and European heritage.  Since 1997 Melissa has been widely published as an award-winning novelist, essayist and short story writer.

AUTHOR WEBSITE : https://www.melissa-lucashenko.com/

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Shopping – Bombeck and Kinsella say…

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“The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one.” ― Erma Bombeck (February 1927 – April 1996) ― American writer and humourist Erma Bombeck achieved great popularity for her newspaper column which described suburban home life from mid-1960s until late 1990s. She published 15 books, appeared on television shows, and wrote over 4,000 newspaper columns, all featuring her entertaining and eloquent humour. Irma Bombeck wrote before social media, achieving world-wide fame through her books, and in 1970s her columns were read twice-weekly by 30 million readers of the 900 newspapers in US and Canada.  Interestingly her work featured domesticity during the women’s liberation movement. She hid a life-long illness which was disclosed three years prior to her death. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erma_Bombeck

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Three Things #7

THING ONE  Reading—The Chain by Adrian McKinty
THING TWO  Looking—A Lemon in Disguise
THING THREE  Thinking—Don’t Rush the Little Wild Ramblers


THING ONE—READING—The Chain by Adrian McKinty—

The Chain took me by surprise.  I had no idea what the title referred to until nice normal cancer patient Rachel O’Neill turns into a desperate, frenzied, tigress of a woman ready to kill to protect her cub Kylie.

Adrian McKinty has written 14 books and I’ve read them all, so I know he can write ‘other stuff’.  Guns, cops, drugs and tricky, desperate situations.  But never with the strong emotion which The Chain evoked in me.

The sequence of events is based on real bandits who kidnap people and hold them to ransom until their families pay to have them released.  Not very nice, and neither is what happens to Rachel and Kylie.  This sophisticated version of The Chain involves snatching a child and holding them prisoner to save your own child who has been captured and the next person snatches a child and holds them prisoner until their child is released, etc…with brutal consequences for broken links.

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Hachette Australia bookcover 2019

The winners in all of this are The Chain initiators who demand that huge sums of money be paid into their off-shore account otherwise they will force the family to kill your child.  The fear, panic and high stress levels are well realised and the pressure applied to Rachel and her ex-army drug addicted brother-in-law Pete (he goes into Bruce Willis mode) never lets up.

Half way through the plot, things take a sharp u-turn (Australian version is chuck-a-youie) but the reader has to trust the writer to follow-through.  Trust him I did.  And the result was definitely worth it.  As always, McKinty writes in his own unique style.  There are warnings of social media over-exposure which ring true and even though this suspense thriller is set well and truly on American soil, it holds a universal truth ‘Watch over your children’.

A poetic excerpt from The Chain, Chapter 40, Sunday 11.59 p.m.
“She merges with the traffic.
The highway hums.  The highway sings.  The highway luminesces.
It is an adder moving south.
Diesel and gasoline.
Water and light.
Sodium filament and neon.
Interstate 95 at midnight. America’s spinal cord, splicing lifelines and destinies and unrelated narratives.
The highway drifts.  The highway dreams.  The highway examines itself.
All those threads of fate weaving together on this cold midnight.”
Author Adrian McKinty 2019

WordPress link to my previous post reviewing McKinty’s Rain Dogs.
I am wrestling with my new Goodreads account.


THING TWOLOOKING—A Lemon in Disguise—

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Saw this lemon doing undercover surveillance in an abandoned fruit bowl. He looked a bit out of place with his onion skin hair.

THING THREETHINKING—Don’t Rush the Little Wild Ramblers—

This beautiful quote from Wilder Child Nicolette Gowder struck a cord with me.  I thought about young family members who were forever picking up small objects and bringing them home after school.  Everything was of interest when out walking, items had to be investigated for smoothness, brightness, weight or lightness.  The best treasures were those which once were alive, like a crab claw, rat skull or insect exoskeleton.

I thought about my mother who used to point out the delicate things in nature, things which tend to get overlooked.  I inherited her spy-eye for detail especially seed pods.  She was more of a beachcomber…but always putting those glistening seashells back where she found them Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Wilder Child The Dawdlers The Inquisitive Ones
Nicolette Gowder nature-connected parenting https://wilderchild.com/ and blog Sweet Breathing https://sweetbreathing.com/blog/

Wales Readathon Dewithon 2019 08One post in three parts, Reading Looking Thinking, a neat idea started by blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley. Check out Book Jotter her informative, interesting and book-related website!

Review ‘The Chicken Soup Murder’ by Maria Donovan

The plot twists and turns over many months as I follow the lives of three families jolted sideways after two untimely deaths.

Michael’s friend Janey has lost her dad to cancer and Michael understands this, but the other person who died?  Nextdoor neighbour and dear friend Irma.  Was it a heart condition, an accident or murder?

The safe, cosy world of young Michael and his Nan changes dramatically.  Michael also has to cope with George, a bully, who moves into Irma’s house with his father Shawn prior to her death.

IMG_20190427_151647The sudden loss of Irma is deeply felt by Michael.  As the saying goes he has “an old head on young shoulders” but is confused over what actually happened and gets no help from the adults.  Strong opinions and conflicting advice are tossed his way.

Deep down Michael believes Irma was murdered and is determined to convince Nan and the gatekeepers.  There are complexities to face and he over-reaches in the hope of finding justice.  Anxiety joins his grief, he challenges his homelife and raises old questions.  Why does he live with his grandmother?  Where are his parents?

During a bad night, Michael’s old teddy bear comes down off the shelf for support as he works on his theory of Irma’s demise.  He thinks she may have been poisoned.  The chicken soup in question was homemade by Irma and well loved by Michael, his favourite panacea for cold symptoms.  In fact, he is sniffling when she goes off to make him chicken soup and disaster strikes.

At one stage, Michael suspects his Nan – she’s my favourite character! – and while out walking he dashes away and hides.  Quote “Michael?” calls Nan.  I don’t move.  “Michael”.  “He’s fallen in the bloody moat,” says the man who isn’t Grandad.  “Good job there’s no water in it.”  “Feeder canal,” says Nan.  “This is no time to be right about everything,” he growls.  I’ve never heard anyone tell Nan off like that before. Unquote.

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Real clue? Fake clue?

Author Maria Donovan portrays well-rounded, believable characters and each brings small yet highly significant details to the story.  Bully and his father are thorns in Michael’s side but nothing distracts him from the hunt for clues.  Janey has her own family problems.  To relieve her frustration she gets a box of golf balls and stands in The Middle, a green opposite the houses, and slogs each white ball as hard as she can…

Being of a nosey disposition myself, I empathise with Michael’s underlying emotions and the need for resolution.  Unfortunately this drive consumes him to the point of performing an ill-advised concert song.  Tension escalates and stoic Nan marches towards a showdown.  Maria Donovan’s tightly written finale comes at a penultimate time of year for everyone.

IMG_20190427_152828Skillfully woven through the story are school holidays, the seaside, and events on telly like Wimbledon, Test Cricket and 2012 Paralympics.  Halloween high jinks are followed by a traditional Guy Fawkes bonfire night.  Occasionally the zeitgeist side-tracks Michael’s quest yet adds a kaleidoscope of nostalgia for me.

Michael’s journey isn’t for children although young adult readers would identify with the youthful side.  Part mystery, part coming-of-age, I think adults will enjoy the unique elements of the plot, and appreciate less gore than currently found in mystery novels.

Maria Donovan’s book walks a fine line between innocence and adult behaviour and succeeds in capturing the mood beautifully.  It demands to be read again.  Seek out those clever clues!

My star rating star twinkle twinkle 03star twinkle twinkle 03star twinkle twinkle 03star twinkle twinkle 03star twinkle twinkle 03

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY:

Maria Donovan Book Launch

‘The Chicken Soup Murder’ is Maria Donovan’s debut novel and was a finalist for the Dundee International Book Prize.  Apart from this book, Maria has many literary credits to her name including her flash fiction story ‘Chess’ which won the Dorset Award in the Bridport Prize 2015.

Maria is a native of Dorset UK and has strong connections with Wales (also in the book) and Holland.  Her past careers include training as a nurse in the Netherlands, busking with music and fire around Europe and nine years lecturing in Creative Writing at the University of Glamorgan, South Wales.

Visit Maria Donovan online www.mariadonovan.com
Twitter https://twitter.com/mariadonovanwri
Facebook http://facebook.com/mariadonovanauthor

I can highly recommend the informative Chicken Soup Murder Q&A with Maria Donovan and Shauna Gilligan.

A Dragon Delivered My Parcel

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I was waiting for the delivery of a book written by UK author Maria Donovan.  The title and synopsis of ‘The Chicken Soup Murder’ hint at a delicious yet deadly coming-of-age mystery.

There was scratching at the front door and our well-trained pet dragon stood there with a grin on his face.  He had collected the parcel from the letterbox in anticipation of a treat.  I patted him on the head and said ‘Good boy’ then picked up the parcel.  He whined.  I laughed.  ‘Okay, I’ll get a couple of nuts’.

Inside the door, I placed the parcel on the sideboard.  Underneath was an old rusty toolkit containing old rusty bits and pieces.  I selected a couple of flange nuts and one bolt, gave them a squirt with WD40, and went back outside.

Part of the game was a quick toss-and-gulp and if you weren’t ready you’d miss it.  I closed the front door on the slobbering noises and went to find a pair of scissors.  The Booktopia cardboard was tough but I wrested it open.

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And there was the pristine book I had so eagerly awaited!  At the moment, I’ve only read up to Page 20 so I am sorry to disappoint you but my book review will be in another blog post further down the track.  As my auntie used to say ‘Keep you in suspenders.’

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

‘Door Knocking’ Short Story

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Door Knocking

It’s a bright, breezy Saturday morning and I’m doing light housework when I hear a knock on the front door.  On the weekend nobody knocks at the front door at this time of day.  Nobody except salespeople touting a product, charity or religion.  I go to the window and look down at the doorstep, which doesn’t have a porch covering, and I see two people.  A fair-haired woman who is thumbing through an iPad and a man in a jaunty hat.  The window is open so I lean out, say a loud hello and they look up.  Predictably, they respond with surprise, the man uttering the usual “A voice from above” and I give a weak smile.  The woman swallows and clears her throat.  She launches straight into her patter which goes something like this “We are currently in your neighbourhood discussing death and dying and what this means to families, your family…etc, death cropping up several times…and what are your thoughts on this subject?”  My first reaction is annoyance, she hasn’t said who she represents.  The invisible signs are as obvious as the outward message.  My second reaction is one of astonishment.  Do they really expect me to talk over such a matter with them, total strangers, door-knocking my street, making dogs bark, trying to look deep and meaningful on a topic which is universally devastating no matter what the circumstances?  My third and final reaction is to look her in the eyes and say “I’m sorry, I do not wish to participate.”  She smiles, he smiles, I offer them a polite good-bye and they wish me a happy weekend.  As I’m drawing back, I catch a momentary look of relief on the woman’s face.  Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

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What is Dads Read?

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This post will bore anyone without children in their lives.

Dads Read recognises that fathers reading to their children strengthens literacy, models positive reading behaviour and builds children’s self-esteem around reading, especially for boys.

Dads Read is an early childhood literacy initiative, developed by State Library of Queensland in 2010 and launched statewide in 2012 as part of the National Year of Reading, to promote family literacy.  The program continues to expand and is now being delivered throughout Queensland and South Australia and plans are underway in Tasmania.

You can host your own event with their resources.  I’ve seen this program in action with a dedicated group.  Children choose a book, a slice of pizza and sit with their fathers to read.

Discrimination doesn’t apply, the Dads Read message is based on the simple but true premise that reading 10 minutes a day to your children is not only quick but also essential.

Dads Read aims to:
  • Raise awareness of the important role fathers play in their children’s development.
  • Inform fathers of the importance and benefits of reading to children from their early years, even before they start school.
  • Promote reading as a family.
  • Encourage fathers to read to their children and promote the value of reading.
  • Provide fathers with the tools to give them the confidence to read with their children.

My father was my reading mentor, instilling interest in books, and Dads Read program follows research which highlights the importance of dads reading to their children during their early developmental years.  As little as 10 minutes a day improves children’s literacy levels and stimulates creative and critical thinking.

‘Investment in early childhood is the most powerful investment a country can make’.
World Health Organization, 2007.

The Dads Read program has helped:
  • Address a real and significant issue which is at the core of our wellbeing as individuals, families, employers and communities: the need to be literate.
  • Support literacy development and help to develop the skills of Australia’s future workforce by building everyday skills for sustainable communities.
  • Build literacy levels among our younger generation while promoting family literacy and boosting the ability of reading in adults.
  • Connect families and communities in a cost effective and invaluable way.

Visit the SLQ website for some great book ideas and age-appropriate reading:
http://dadsread.org.au/reading-to-your-child/must-reads/

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Grandfathers can read too…

Exquisite Corpse Parlour Game

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Test your memory and see if you can name any poets from the lines I picked randomly during a timed exercise (see below) “Like gold to airy thinness beat” is from Valediction, Forbidding Mourning by John Donne (1573–1631)

This game can be adapted for writers, artists, poets and movie fans!

 

  • There are two versions.  The version attributed to the Surrealist Movement is when the weirdest possible head, torso, legs of the Exquisite Corpse are drawn by three different players, each folding over the paper so the next person can’t see the results until it is unfolded at the end of the game.

 

  • “Consequences” is the original name of this literary pen and paper parlour game which has been played since the 1800s Victorian Era.  A random sentence is written near the top of the page.  The paper is folded over then passed to several other participants who add to it and fold until it reaches the last person, or the bottom of the page.  The paper is unfolded and the whole “story” is revealed––often with hilarious results.

 

  • Alternatively, photocopied lines from classic poems (see above) can be cut into strips and jumbled into a bowl.  Each player blindly chooses nine strips but uses only seven to form a poem.  The mind takes over, sorting and assembling into a reasonably cohesive format.  The verse pictured above is what I put together in a recent Masterclass during a timed exercise.  My Exquisite Corpse earned the comment “feels Gothic and dark”.

 

  • To quote Academy of American Poets: “The only hard and fast rule of Exquisite Corpse is that each participant is unaware of what the others have written, thus producing a surprising—sometimes absurd—yet often beautiful poem. Exquisite Corpse is a great way to collaborate with other poets, and to free oneself from imaginative constraints or habits.”

 

  • Minor changes have been added to Exquisite Corpse over time, from using a single word to including famous lines from books and movies.  For example, you can jot down your favourite movie quote, fold over the paper then pass it on.  See what you can pitch with Arnold Schwarzenegger or Hugh Jackman.  In book mode, an amalgamation of Germaine Greer and Nora Roberts could prove interesting.

 

  • The following formula for fun was kindly supplied by WordPress blogger Life After Sixty-Five who wrote––“Here is my favourite version of Exquisite Corpse, though I have played the version where a human body is drawn”–– 

    He (male name, fold) – someone we all knew, or someone famous
    met She (female name, fold) – could be someone famous, or someone playing the game etc.
    at (place, fold)
    He wore (description of clothes, fold)
    She wore (description of clothes, fold)
    He asked, (question, fold)
    She replied, (answers question, fold)
    And along came (person, fold)
    And so they decided to (decision, fold)
    And in the end…(finish, fold)
    “…the gales of laughter at the silly stories…”


Language Is A Virus
website has the history of Exquisite Corpse and suggested books on the subject.  They started a poem which has been running since 2000 and you can add to the silliness.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Exquisite Corpse Quill and Inkpot

 

Burning Cauldron of Summer

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Maud Fitch lives in a subtropical climate and 2018 summer has been extremely hot.

Hot nights, boiling days
Anger bites, temper frays.

Clothes stick, sweat drips
Fans click, weekend trips.

Seaside splashes, kids squeal
Sand rashes, sunburn peel.

Straw hats, ice-cream soothes
Cricket bats, sluggish moves.

Lush green, drooping leaves
Magpies preen, beetle weaves.

Shimmering heat, mown grass
Barbecued meat, chilled glass.

Family spats, neighbour snoops
Buzzing gnats, endless loops.

Afternoon heat, swaying palm
Tired feet, wanting calm.

Soft breeze, cooler places
Air-con freeze, calmer faces.

Car toots, dog greets
Unlace boots, cotton sheets.

Dissolving day, warm rain
Moonlight ray, night again.

Maud Fitch – Guest blogger

Assassin and the Actress ‘Reckoning: A Memoir’

A highly charged and deeply honest memoir, ‘Reckoning’ combines research into the life of assassin and Polish World War II survivor Zbigniew Szubanski , father of Australian actress Magda Szubanski, and Magda herself as she struggles to come to terms with her father’s legacy and forge her own career within the world of television and movies.  This absorbing, eloquently written book contains remarkable revelations of wartime espionage, emotional family ties and facing the truth, and I was enthralled to the very last page.

First published in 2016, ‘Reckoning’ is Magda’s debut novel, and courageously written.  I must admit my initial thoughts were ‘Wow, she’s brave putting that in writing’ but it made me love this book even more.  Definitely a five-star read!  Magda relates one of those true stories from childhood to adulthood which hits the right cord with just about everyone.  We’ve had similar feelings and domestic issues and career changes and sexuality debates and, yes, sadly, the father we got to understand a little too late.

‘Reckoning’ has gone on to bigger things but here’s the first results:
Winner Nielsen BookData Booksellers Choice Award, 2016
Winner Book of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards, 2016
Winner Biography of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards, 2016
Winner Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, 2016
Winner Indie Award for Non-Fiction, 2016
Winner Victorian Community History Award Judges’ Special Prize, 2016
Shortlisted Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards, 2016
Shortlisted Dobbie Literary Award, 2016
Shortlisted National Biography Award, 2016

Website https://www.textpublishing.com.au/books/reckoning
Twitter https://twitter.com/magdaszubanski

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Magda Szubanski is one of Australia’s best known comedy performers.  She lives in Melbourne and began her career in university revues before writing and appearing in a number of comedy shows.  Magda created the iconic character of Sharon Strzelecki in ABC-TV series ‘Kath and Kim’.  She performs in theatre productions and has acted in movies – notably ‘Babe’ and ‘Babe Pig in the City’ – and currently ‘Three Summers’ directed by Ben Elton and ‘The BBQ’ directed by Stephen Amis.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Coffee Shop Wisdom

Platitudes, rather hippy dippy and old hat, short sugar-coated sentences designed to bolster the ‘feels’ of a younger generation.  Look again.  Each line creates an emotion, a memory jog, that tingle of happiness to the down-surge of sadness.  Regret is there, the wince for things done wrong, then the smile for laughing out loud when you get it right.  Basic universal rules for living.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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‘Work-Life Balance is a Myth’ Review

Integrate by John Drury
Whole-of-life plan

Traditional work-life balance means separate compartments in our lives, but lines can become blurred, pressure can build and conflicts emerge.  Instead of working against each other, integration means all parts can work together to achieve a positive outcome for our lifestyle expectations.  Then realisation that your work-life balance is “out of kilter” will no longer apply.  I wish I had read this book before my divorce!

John Drury is a presenter, trainer, facilitator, and author of new book “Integrate” which challenges busy people to rethink their approach to life and work.  “The demands of work have never been greater.  A balancing act is not the answer.  Work-life integration is the only way forward in a 24/7 world” says Drury, whose painful personal experience with burnout, and subsequent recovery while in a senior leadership role, motivated him to start helping other high achievers create and maintain a realistic lifestyle.

In his book, Drury outlines a way to align all the parts of your life so they work in unison.  He says “This takes effort, but it’s well worth it and the end result will give you a schedule far easier to work with than just a big juggling act which no-one ever seems to make work.”  He believes that you must look after yourself at your very core; respect your health, your wellness, your relationships and your work commitments.

In John Burfitt’s interview, Drury explains that self-care and implementing achievable self-management strategies are essential.  Drury goes on to say that once important areas are defined and outlined, it becomes a matter of making decisions and planning goals “And you must do that, as a goal without a plan is just a wish.”

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Image is an edited extract from Chapter 3 of “Integrate: Why work-life balance is a myth and what you need to create a fulfilling lifestyle” by John Drury  John Drury.biz

Further reading: “Integrate” by John Drury

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Love Food Hate Waste Campaign

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Brisbane Queensland Australia

Maybe it’s because I was brought up by post-war parents that I am shocked at the staggering amount of food waste in Brisbane.  I could not understand why our local Government has joined the world-wide campaign Love Food Hate Waste.  Surely you only buy, cook and eat what you need and freeze leftovers?

Apparently for millions of households, it’s not that simple!

The Council brochure states “Love Food Hate Waste was launched in 2007 by Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP) in the United Kingdom followed by New Zealand, Canada and Australia.  With food waste making up 37% of the average Brisbane rubbish bin, 1 in 5 shopping bags of food ends up in the bin.  That’s 97,000 tonnes of food thrown away every year.   There are simple and practical changes which residents can make in the kitchen to reduce food waste; planning, preparation and storage of food will make a big difference to your wallet and keep Brisbane clean, green and sustainable.”

Scramble over the mat, don’t trip on the dog, here’s a tasty listicle of Council wisdom prepared earlier:

  • Plan meals ahead – create a meal plan based on what is already in your fridge, freezer and pantry.
  • Shop mindfully – stick to your shopping list!
  • Store food correctly – Learn how to store food to ensure it lasts as long as possible and check your refrigerator is functioning at maximum efficiency.
  • Cook with care – Without controlling portions, we tend to waste food when we prepare or cook too much.  Remember fruit and vegetables ripen quickly and are best consumed daily.
  • Love your leftovers – Freeze leftovers to use for lunches, keep for snacks, or add to another main meal.
  • Consider composting – Turn your kitchen scraps into rich nutrients for your garden, get a Bokashi bucket, consider owning pets like chickens or guinea pigs.
  • Join a community garden – Composting hubs operate in selected community gardens.
  • Six-week food waste challenge – Every week the Council will provide step-by-step information on how you can reduce food waste in your home.  Seriously.

Bokashi Bucket Diagram 01

We are over-stocked, over-fed and over-indulgent of our taste buds.  Or as my dear mother would say “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Love Food Hate Waste BCC Campaign

Run Rabbit Run

The yellow rabbit picked his front teeth with a twig and contemplated what it would be like baked in a rabbit pie. He remembered a tune the tone-deaf gardener used to sing “Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run, something, something, he’ll get by without his rabbit pie…” Stupid song but with a happy ending for the bunny. The yellow rabbit didn’t have to worry about ending up in a pie because he crept among the marrows and hid in the sunflower patch or in buttery dandelion clumps and the gardener couldn’t see him. There were so many things to hide in, or on, or against when you were yellow. He remembered the nerve-wracking time he stopped on a double yellow line so a council truck wouldn’t run over him. The driver wasn’t going fast but that’s beside the point. The yellow rabbit nearly hopped out in front of the vehicle. Of course, stopping still on the yellow line made him invisible. His paws were a bit shaky once the truck had driven passed and he’d vowed then and there never to cross a road again. He looked up at the back verandah of the old homestead and continued his contemplation. There was a big yellow tablecloth fluttering on the railing which meant plans were afoot to eat outside. He had already spied the plump yellow cushions on the cane chairs. The big glass jug was frosting over, filled with ice and lemon nectar. Rabbit 09The yellow rabbit always thought it strange how the humans ate with tools. They doled out piles of food and delicious salads with forks and scoops and ladles. Then they sliced succulent pineapples with large knives and chopped it into chunks. The strangest thing he’d ever seen was when they would cut the sides off mangoes and grid the luscious inner flesh before turning the skin inside out. At least the young human consumed large portions of her meals with her fingers. This meant that the female of the warren would continually wipe the fingers and face of the little fluffle. The yellow rabbit was now watching for this small fluffle, a young girl who always wore a yellow and white striped dress. She strolled outside holding a glass bowl, spooning egg custard into her mouth without watching the spillage. Her bright eyes were scanning for him. It didn’t take long for her to see him crouched down in a tray full of marigold seedlings. He twitched his long ears. She brushed a curl out of her eyes. He wiggled his nose. She gave a wiggle of her fingers then turned away, disappearing back inside.  Out came the male and hung a wire cage on a fancy hook. The canary inside the cage started singing. The male started to set the table with yellow spotted plates and serviettes with sunbeams on them but seemed more interested in taking long swigs from a bottle of amber liquid he had left on the open window sill. The little girl reappeared and behind her trailed several yellow balloons on long shiny strings. She was wearing a cardboard hat decorated with sprigs of wattle which tangled in her blonde hair. The female emerged from the kitchen door with a bunch of daffodils in one hand and an empty honey jar in the other. She put the flowers in the jar and placed it in the middle of the table while talking to the male.Scribbles The Yellow Rabbit 02 The yellow rabbit shuddered and averted his eyes from the hot metal plate where the male had just thrown raw meat. Even the smell of fresh lettuce couldn’t stop him feeling slightly nauseated. After a few minutes, the little girl looped the balloon strings around the handrail and skipped down the verandah steps. She was coming straight towards him. Instinctively he shrunk low into the cool earth and tensed his muscles. She was swinging her arms casually and appeared to be looking over his head at a light catcher made from shimmering pieces of tinfoil clipped to a branch. The yellow rabbit blinked in surprise. She walked right by. However, quick as a wink, she flipped something out of her pocket and into the seedling tray. It was a carrot! Joy swelled in the yellow rabbit’s heart. He snatched up the fresh carrot in his big front teeth and leapt out of the seedling tray. He landed on the grass and bounded for the back fence. He knew it was ungracious of him, but he didn’t turn around to acknowledge the young girl. Biting hard on the carrot, and with a bit of pulling and tugging, he managed to crawl under the fence without getting stuck. He hopped off across the paddock with his tasty prize. The young girl trailed slowly back to her parents. They had soft smiles on their faces. With a happy nod, the young girl sat down at the table where a chunk of pineapple was waiting. As the sticky juice ran down her hands, she listened to her parents tell the familiar story of how they had been shown the nearby rabbit colony when they were her age. The yellow rabbits were a family tradition but nobody knew why they were yellow. Strangely, most of the bits and pieces in the homestead were the same colour, a shade her grandmother called sunshine. Legend says the yellow rabbit always appears on bright sunny days.

The above story was written as a free-write, a freefall stream of consciousness, and I had no idea where it was going or how it would end.  It’s a fun technique!  To find out more, click  Jen Storer Girl and Duck Scribbles

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Bullying

Bullying 02
Behaviour

To quote Families Magazine “This poster will help your kids to differentiate and identify the difference between being RUDE, being MEAN and BULLYING.”

The self-explanatory poster is one of several free downloads on the website of Families Magazine, an A4 glossy magazine printed every two months and distributed in public libraries and places where families are in Brisbane, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast, Australia.

Families Magazine says “Interactions with others can be confusing.  Sometimes what is considered bullying, may in fact be something else?  Bullying is a repetitive behaviour that is designed to intentionally hurt or belittle another person.”

All three behaviours are upsetting to a child, but bullying is the most destructive.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

The Comfy Couch

 

Friends Couch 07
Comfy

(Rewriting metaphor)  The paddocks of writing are strewn with rough drafts.  You kick, trip, fall, get up and struggle your way across rugged terrain until you see a smooth pebble ahead.  The closer you get, the more polished it becomes.  Eventually you walk over golden sand and reach out; that pebble has become a jewel.  The following children’s picture book story is still a pebble.

(Living room)
Everyone in Neil’s family wants to sit on the soft cosy comfy couch.
Because the soft cosy comfy couch is the best place to sit.
But sometimes it’s just not big enough.

(Takeover)
Sometimes Neil can’t sit down to read his book because his two brothers and Tiny the dog sit down first.  And they spread out.

(Solid cushion)
So Neil tries to sit on a hard red cushion but slides off – bump!

(Kitchen chair)
Just when Neil goes to sit down on the front doorstep with his book, it is time for lunch.
The cushion on the kitchen chair is very thin.  Neil wriggles to get comfortable.
The thin cushion slips down and lands in the cat’s food.

(Various seats)
Neil’s mother watches a movie with Tiny the dog and Rat the cat snoozing on either side.
No room to squeeze in there.
So Neil drags in
a cardboard box – squash!
a wooden stool – crack!
a blue highchair – topple!
Everyone ends up grumpy so Neil goes outside to find a relaxing place to read.

(Outdoors)
In the garden the washing flaps across the wooden seat like a ghost – wooooo!
When the hammock swings back and forth too much it makes Neil feel dizzy.
He falls out – plop!

(Tree)
His leafy perch on a branch in the tree is swooped by noisy magpies – ouch!
Neil tucks his book inside his t-shirt and scrambles down.

(Various places)
The chicken roost, the guinea pig hutch and the vegetable patch are no good.

(Swimming pool)
Neil likes the idea of floating and reading.
It’s difficult to balance and read a book on the floating pool mat – splash!
Tiny the dog jumps into the swimming pool and rescues the book.

(Rainy day)
Next day a headcold makes Neil sneeze and sneeze and sneeze.
But he has a new book to read.
And he snuggles up, warm and happy on the soft cosy comfy couch.

(Family)
Then everyone decides to keep him company.
On the SQUASHY soft cosy comfy couch.Menagerie 01

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

 

Saving Grandpa’s Tree

Tree Without Leaves 09
Tree Rescue

Grey clouds raced across the sky and cold wind ruffled Paul’s hair.
He gazed with sadness at Grandpa’s new tree.
It looked sick.
Its leaves were brown and crispy and some had fallen on the grass.
Paul grabbed the garden hose and watered the earth around the tree.
A large puddle circled the trunk but nothing happened.
Paul thought it needed some food.  “What do trees eat?”
In the garden shed, Paul foraged among lots of interesting containers.
On the bench he saw Grandpa’s half eaten sandwich and took it to the tree.
Crunch!  He picked up the dog’s smelly bone and gave that to the tree.
Cackle!  The hens followed a trail of grain as it trickled along behind him.
Meow!  Paul was sure the cat wouldn’t miss her bowl of fish-flavoured treats.
From the kitchen, vegetable scraps joined a plate of leftover breakfast bits.
Icky!  He pulled a fuzzy lollipop out of his pocket and tossed it on the pile.
Gloop!  He found a jar of honey and poured that around the base.
Woof, cluck, meow, buzz!  Everyone enjoyed the food except the tree.
“You still don’t look right,” said Paul.
A leaf fluttered down, then another and another until the branches were bare.
Paul felt a tiny ache inside.
He walked slowly into the house – then thought of an idea! © GBW

………………..to be continued…………………

AUTHOR NOTE
This children’s picture book story is temporarily withdrawn.
It has been rewritten and submitted to a writing competition.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Tree Without Leaves 06

The System

Allora Queensland
Allora Township

Angus shuffled through a pile of bills and sent one fluttering to the floor.  His son Steve stood beside the dining room table, arms folded, watching him.  Every week Angus misplaced an important piece of paperwork.
“Told you it wasn’t far away.”  Angus held up an electricity account.
“You should have a proper filing system, Dad,” Steve said.  “One day the electricity will be cut off and you’ll wonder why you’re in the dark.”
“It’s you who’s in the dark, my lad.”  Angus tapped his nose, an obscure family joke.
Steve gave a brief smile.  “Let me buy you a three-drawer filing cabinet with suspension files and alphabetical tabs.”
“My manila folder is just fine,” said Angus, holding up a battered cream folder with various names crossed out and a succession of dates which finished at 1998.
“You’re damn lucky I haven’t forced you into owning a computer,” said Steve, stacking old invoices, “otherwise I’d make you pay bills online.”
“The only line I like is a fishing one,” said Angus, his mouth twitching at the corners.  He couldn’t resist adding “Just ‘cos you program computers doesn’t mean I have to like ‘em.”
Steve gave a good-natured harrumph and went in search of his mobile phone.  He gave a whistle and his dog Fancy raced in from the garden with her tongue lolling and eyes gleaming.  “Come on, girl, it’s time to take the old bloke shopping.”
Angus knew that Fancy had been foraging in the garden by the dirt clinging to her paws.  “Glad someone likes my little courtyard,” he said.  She placed a paw on his bony knee and he ruffled her ears.  “No treats yet.”
Before they left, Angus surreptitiously swallowed a blood pressure tablet.
They took Steve’s car and drove into town, parking on a broken two-hour meter.  At the shopping centre, Angus went straight to the rawhide-smelling pet store and bought a packet of dog treats.
“One hundred percent pure beef,” he read.
“You spoil the dog,” said Steve.
Angus jutted his jaw but said nothing.
At the next stop, Angus purchased postage stamps and talked with the postmaster.
“Steve’s going to make me a grandfather in a couple of week’s time.”  His thoughts strayed and he said quietly, “That will certainly change things.”
Steve tapped his watch and mouthed the word “Coffee”.  Angus knew he had just two minutes to pay the electricity bill.  He said to the postmaster, “Can’t miss out on my Café Bijou treat.”
Leaving the post office, they walked a short distance to the café, pausing once for Angus to catch his breath.
“When can we eat at a healthy place?”  Steve sounded like a five year old child.
“When I’m gone,” said Angus, taking off his sweaty Akubra and fanning himself.  The steps going into the café were uneven and he tripped.
“Steady.”  Steve offered his arm but Angus shook his head.
Café Bijou served a wide range of high fat, carb-loaded meals and well sweetened desserts.   Angus enjoyed the never-ending cups of coffee served by the eighty year old waitress Dita.  Her hands had started to shake but she didn’t spill their coffees.
“Dita, you’re a living treasure,” said Angus.  He took a swipe at her apron bow as she ambled away.
“Ah, ha,” Dita crowed, “you never could hit me backside.”
“Don’t know why––it’s broad enough,” said Angus in an aside to Steve, who hung his head and started tapping on his phone.  Angus handed the menu to him.  “I bet you’ll check which sandwiches have the least amount of red meat.”
“Do you have the slightest idea what cholesterol is?” asked Steve.
Angus ignored him and leaned over to take a newspaper off the top of a bundle.  “Same stories, just a different way of writing ‘em.  If sporting heroes stopped screwing up their lives, the media would be stumped for ideas.  Look, one of them died from a health-nut overdose.”  Steve rolled his eyes.
As they were leaving, the treasurer of the bowls club halted Angus in the doorway, asking for a donation for their sponsored charity.  Angus obliged but the chitchat got to him.  Shifting his weight from foot to foot, he said “I’m going shopping with my boy Steve.  He’s pretty busy these days.  Every moment counts.”  With apologies, he pursued Steve’s figure down the street, heading in the direction of the supermarket, his least favourite place.
Fancy had been asleep in the car but woke when she heard their voices returning.  They loaded the grocery bags into the boot.
“We’ve got time to look at a new filing system,” said Steve.
“Let’s do it another time.”
“It would help keep your records more organised, Dad.”
“It’s just how I like it,” said Angus and slipped a dried treat to Fancy.
Once on the road, they travelled in silence until Angus saw Steve glance at him in a melancholy way.
“The doc said my new pills are working just fine,” said Angus, aware that his illness hung between them, an unseen yet active enemy.  “I don’t have another appointment until next month.”
Steve nodded. “Good.”
Angus didn’t add that the surgeon had said he may not be allowed to drive again.
He watched Steve negotiate a corner.  “You’re a good driver, Steve.  Shame I never taught you how to drive a ute across a furrowed paddock.”
“I was too young.  Then the farm was sold.”  Steve toyed with the digital controls on the dashboard.  “You did more for me in other ways.”
After awhile, Angus said, “Can we take a different route home?”
“That sounds ominous,” said Steve but obliged by turning off the main highway.
The rural landscape was sparsely treed with very few farm buildings.
Without warning, Angus said “Stop!”  He asked Steve to pull over outside an old barn-like warehouse with an adjoining timber yard.
“I reckon we could make our own filing cabinet, don’t you?” said Angus.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Bright Cherry Walk Cafe 01
Cosy