One of my children is about to have a birthday and I can’t help but think of how different the celebration would normally be. We would have friends or family over. Or both. And there would be cake for everyone to enjoy. Not to mention we’d all sing ‘Happy Birthday’ really badly while the birthday person blew out their candles and cut the cake. There will still be cake and those of us who live he will of course sing ‘Happy Birthday’ terribly, but there won’t be anyone visiting. There will be phone calls and messages and birthday greetings, but those people who would normally visit in person won’t be able to do that. So it will be a day of mixed emotions. The joy of celebrating the day my child arrived in this world mixed in with the sorrow that some family members won’t be here to help celebrate the occasion.
It makes me think back over other birthdays and other events where my family has come together to celebrate something. It can be nice to share milestones and special events with those you care about. But as sad as it makes me that there won’t be extra family members here on the day, I’m also grateful that there have been previous celebrations where family members have come together and there will be more of them in the future. And no matter what else is going on, and how terrible some things might be, we aren’t about to let them overshadow what joys there are in life and we’ll make the most of those joys when they do occur.
It’s amazing how quickly life can change. I’m accustomed to life becoming completely different in the space of a short time, but not on a world level, so this has certainly been strange. Once upon a time, I could go to the grocery shops and buy a week or two worth of groceries, which I often did since I live out of town. Now, it’s a matter of going to four grocery shops, which is all we have in the town closest to where I live, as well as a handful of corner stores, and if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to buy enough groceries to feed my family for two or three days. Which, considering we’re told to go out as little as possible, makes it difficult to comply. So I spend hours hunting down the food we need, gathering bits from here and there, the task made more difficult because of how many food allergies we all have. At each shop I’m greeted with empty shelves and quiet aisles, the few people also out searching for food looking like they expect to be stabbed if they even glance at another person.
That’s the part I find the most difficult. As someone accustomed to smiling and greeting my fellow shoppers, and occasionally stopping to chat to random strangers or compliment them on something I like such as a stunning piece of jewellery or an amazing hairstyle, the tendency to treat those around you as the enemy is saddening. I get keeping your distance and I know everyone is worried, but we also have to remember that those around us aren’t the enemy, that they aren’t necessarily going to take the last roll of toilet paper or bar of soap. We’re all in the same boat. All facing the uncertainty of going out in public and not knowing what we might encounter when we go hunting for essential items.
Although there are people who take more than their fair share at the shops, it isn’t everyone. Another part of the problem is that those people who until now have shopped every day or two are trying to buy enough items for a week or more. If you’ve never done this before, it can be difficult to judge what you’ll need to cover that period of time. If you’ve always been able to pop down to the shop for whatever you need and never had to worry about what you’ll do when you run out, then this must be like being thrown in the deep end of the pool with no ability to swim.
Unlike some, we’re lucky in that we have our ‘flood supplies’. Since we sometimes get cut off from town by excessive rain, which we haven’t had in a while, we always make sure we have a few weeks of groceries stocked up. But that is slowly dwindling and eventually we’ll be looking at an empty pantry and eyeing the kangaroos that come visit of an afternoon, our mouths watering at the thought of roo stew and wondering what other recipes they’d go well in. Hopefully though, it won’t come to that and the shelves at the grocery stores will again be filled and our place will remain a haven for the local wildlife.
When it comes to traditions, they can be good or bad, depending on the person experiencing them, and of course the type of tradition they are. But the good ones, I find, are important as they can create ties between people over generations, throughout the years and into the future. They evoke a sense of permanency, create memories to cherish and can be something to look forward to. Nor do traditions need to have been around forever. They can be something you choose to start and continue with over the years, creating a tradition amongst the people you care about.
One of my favourite traditions is one I started when my children were young. Many people do advent calendars throughout the month of December, but I didn’t like my children having chocolates or lollies to start off each day in the lead up to Christmas such as were in the commercial advent calendars. So I made little cloth bags in which to put small items that were hung on a board numbered with the days of the month. Each morning my children would open one of the cloth bags to discover what was inside.
I always have so much fun choosing items to put into the advent calendar bags, finding little gifts for each of them as we count down the days to Christmas. It’s a tradition I’ve continued over the years and one I look forward to each year. What are some of your favourite traditions that you look forward to each year?
I’ve been fascinated by mazes since a child. The first time I discovered what they were was at a botanical garden and I wandered through the maze, unable to see over the hedges as I found my way through it, discovering hidden areas along the way. A section with interesting paving and another with a seat at a dead end. I spent hours exploring it and would have spent hours more if I’d been allowed to. I was able to revisit that particular maze as an adult and was extremely sad to find that the hedges were only tall enough for a child. Luckily, over the years I found other mazes, ones with hedges that were tall enough I could wander through them without seeing over the top.
There have also been the mazes I created. When my children were younger, I let the grass in the front paddock grow so it towered over my kids and was well past my waist. I then planned out a maze and used the ride-on mower to create the paths. After making sure there were no snakes hidden in the long grass, I showed my kids the maze and we spent hours running through it, our laughter ringing out in the late afternoon, shadows from the mountains deepening as we played.
There are some things in life that we remain fascinated by them no matter our age or the amount of years that have passed. I doubt I’ll ever lose my fascination with mazes. They encompass some of my favourite things. Puzzles, exploring and discovering. And it’s very rare I can bring myself to go past one. I always have to enter so I can wander the many paths and see what I can discover.
Here in Australia, it is Father’s Day tomorrow. For some of us, who have lost their father, it can be very easy to let it become a day of sadness. There are so many times throughout the year that something reminds me of my dad or something happens that I would have loved to share with him. But that is no longer possible and hasn’t been for years. All I have is my memories and I’m grateful there are so very many of them. Ones that make me smile and even cause me to laugh.
Quite a lot of years ago, I was visiting my dad, staying with him for a few weeks where he lived at one of the beaches north of Townsville, Queensland. I told him I was going into town, asking him if he needed anything.
“What are you going in for?” Dad asked.
There was a moment of stunned silence before dad demanded, “Who are you calling fat prick?”
I burst out laughing, trying to say the word ‘material’, tears streaming down my cheeks before I finally managed to get it out. My partner, who was also there, laughed just as hard as me.
Dad laughed when he realised what I’d said and over the years we regularly called him ‘fabric’, resulting in more chuckles as we remembered the moment. It still brings a smile, even though my dad passed away years ago, and is a memory that reminds us of the many wonderful moments we had with him.
To all those celebrating Father’s Day, happy Father’s Day. And to those who are missing their father, I hope that this Father’s Day you can focus on the good times. The ones that bring a smile to your lips and a warmth to your heart.
There is a myth that authors live on coffee and can’t resist chocolate. Well, I don’t drink coffee, or even tea for that matter, but I can’t resist chocolate. So for those of you who love both, here’s a great way to combine them.
You will need:
A block of chocolate (I’ve used white to make it easier to see)
A handful of coffee beans (depends on how much coffee you want to add)
A tray/mould (I’ve used a water bottle ice tray)
Melt the chocolate either over low heat or put boiling water in a large bowl and place chocolate in a smaller bowl that you sit in the large bowl.
Scatter coffee beans across the bottom of a tray.
When chocolate is melted pour it over coffee beans.
If you want the beans more covered, use something such as a cocktail fork to mix the chocolate around them thoroughly. For less covered beans, just pour in the chocolate.
Put in the fridge and when set turn out of the tray or mould.
Growing up, my family had a variety of pets, mostly only one or two at a time. When I was in primary school, my dad had a blue cattle dog that he gave the highly original name of Bluey. My brother and I spent so much time playing with Bluey who had a special bark when he heard Dad’s vehicle in the distance. Which always gave us at least a good five minutes warning that Dad was nearly home. Dad was his favourite and he was always excited to see him.
On warm summer evenings, the year I was ten, my brother and I would play hide and seek outside. To make things a little more interesting, Bluey would help the one searching. He was good at hide and seek. You would tell him who to find and he would sniff around until he’d located them. So I not only had to outsmart my brother when choosing a hiding location, I had to outsmart Bluey too.
We lived in a high set house, a tall timber cupboard under the stairs where Dad kept his tools. There was a small gap between the landing of the stairs and the cupboard. Just enough of a gap for me to hide in. I would clamber up the side of the solid timber cupboard and squeeze into the small gap and stay perfectly still. Bluey would lead my brother straight to the location, pacing back and forth in front of the cupboard. Sometimes he’d go up the stairs and sit on the landing, waiting for me to come out of hiding. But until my brother found me, I wasn’t moving.
It was the best hiding spot. Each time my brother gave up, I’d wait until he’d left the area before I came out of hiding. There was no way I was going to give up the location. It helped that I was extremely skinny or I wouldn’t have fit in the space.
Some of my favourite childhood memories involved our pets. The four-legged and feathered members of our family. My childhood wouldn’t have been anywhere near as much fun without them. What are some of your favourite memories that involve a pet?
I love birthdays. And I don’t just mean my birthday or love them for the presents. To me it’s not about celebrating another year, it’s celebrating the fact a person was born. That the world is a richer place for having them in it. Choosing presents for friends and family can be a fun part of birthdays, as well as receiving them, but it’s not all that it’s about for me.
I’ve always been enthusiastic about them. Even as a child. As I grew older, friends and family kept telling me I’d eventually grow out of it. Well, it appears that they will be waiting a long time for that to happen as I still look forward to each and every birthday.
This year, my oldest son made me a chocolate choc-chip cake. After all, cake and birthdays go hand in hand and I absolutely love cake. You can also never have enough chocolate so that is one of my favourite types of cake. Now on my birthday, I don’t work. Or at least, I don’t do anything that isn’t fun and enjoyable. So my kids spend the day running around after me for a change and I laze about and read, watch movies, play games and eat cake. I also sometimes scribble a handful of words if the next line of one of the stories I’m working on comes to mind. But I don’t actually sit down and plan to do any writing.
Surprisingly, considering I only spent a few minutes here and there adding another line or two in the story I’ve been working on recently, as it came to me, I wrote one thousand four hundred and twenty-three words. It didn’t seem anywhere like that many words when I was doing them since I was only spending a few minutes at a time on it. Which just goes to show that you don’t need large amounts of time to write. Just little bits and pieces of time here and there.
We have a few traditions when it comes to celebrating birthdays. The person who is having the birthday chooses what happens for the day. They decide what food is cooked and someone else does the cooking. There is also cake and candles and the birthday song, which is sung very badly because there are few of us who can actually sing and we tend to be a little out of sync with each other. Or at lot at some times. But most of all, it’s about having fun and enjoying the day we came into this world however many years ago that might have been.
I’d love to hear how all of you celebrate your birthdays. Post a comment or email me. I truly love to hear about the various ways people spend the day and what they think about the day on which they arrived in this world.
I don’t like spiders. I really, really don’t like spiders. So when I had to research some information about them for Crystal Mine, I thought I’d be clever and specify drawings. I mean, they can’t be as bad as actual pictures now, can they? I was wrong. So very wrong. Some of those pictures are worse than actual photos. They point out fangs and all the other little details that glancing at a picture can allow you to ignore. But somehow, I managed to survive the trauma and found the information that would help and we continued to write the story.
If only I’d stopped there and we’d found some other creature less creepy to add to the story. Do not search up details about spiders that carry their young. I repeat, this is a public service announcement, do not search details about spiders that carry their young around with them. If you think one spider is bad enough, you don’t want to see images of spiders carrying their young. That is the type of image horror movies are made from.
Thankfully, the story isn’t all about spiders and terrifying baby spiders riding around on them and we did get to research other things as well. And do nicer worldbuilding. Although the rest of the research didn’t entertain my co-writers anywhere near as much as my reactions to our spider research did.
On a lighter note, when trying to come up with a quest title involving finding The Nelly, Storm had a suggestion.
Me: What’s your suggestion?
Storm: Do you want the sarcastic answer?
Me: Sure, why not.
Storm: Whoa Nelly.
Me: How about the non-sarcastic answer?
Storm: I don’t have one of them.
Me: Of course you don’t.
Guardians Of The Round Table 5: Crystal Mine is now available. We hope you enjoy it and also have fun discovering more about Inadon in Lost And Powerful: Myths Of Misplaced Staves.
There are some things in life that I have mixed feelings about and rain is one of those things. I love the sound of it on the roof, especially the sound of it on a tin roof. It brings back so many great childhood memories of being curled up in bed with a book, cosy inside while it’s cold and rainy outside. I still love to curl up with a book while the rain is falling and spend the day reading. And obviously the yard loves it when it rains and I like it when the grass is green and the countryside isn’t dried out with everything seeming to be a shade of brown or yellow and there’s more dust than vegetation.
There are of course times when it’s frustrating. When I want to do things outside and the rain is preventing me from getting those tasks done. And there are of course times when the rain can be scary. Like when floodwaters are rising around you and the rain just won’t stop. When rivers are flooding and water has risen high enough to cover bridges and food is running low and there’s no way to access a store due to how many roads have been cut from flooding.
At the moment, the rain is at that frustrating stage. There are things to be done outside and the rain is interrupting. It’s nice to see the area so lovely and green, but a few days for the mud to dry up would be perfect. And a couple more days so we can finish up all the tasks needing to be done outside, which currently includes an area behind the house that could do with some pavers to make it more usable. I know the rain will eventually end and the paving will be finished, but for now, every morning I check the skies and sigh heavily when I see the dark clouds. The rain continues and my backyard is slowly beginning to resemble a swimming pool.