Even in a little thing
22nd July, 2016. 3:23 pm.
I have just one hour of work to do today and I'm all caught up with myself. And I have so much food!
Someone dropped in carrying what she said was a small box of things. It was so much wonderful stuff. Fresh cherries, lamb shanks, a cantelope, gold kiwi fruit, mushrooms, a loaf of bread, potatoes, a couple of baby muffins, some rissoles and a whole pumpkin. I will top up at the market tomorrow and then I'm fine for a week or longer. Given I just had that rather nasty little reaction to doing too much, this box takes a load off my mind. I can cook over the weekend and eat delicious home made leftovers on the busier days. Since I was otherwise going to rely on freezer food (which I'm a bit tired of, just now - I reached my limit a couple of weeks ago) this is perfect.
My plans include Spanish-style lambshanks on a bed of mashed vegetables (for Sunday and Monday, which will be cold in the evenings), pasta with chicken-mushroom sauce, guacamole and tomato sandwiches, and salads with eggs and pecans. Breakfast will be oats with chia. Thanks to this very nice person, I feel as if I've fully returned. Before my life went awry I used to do all my shopping and cooking over a couple of days and then choose what I wanted from the splendid prepared food and eat luxuriously all week.
I'm a very happy vegemite.
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21st July, 2016. 11:38 pm.
I definitely overdid things yesterday. It wasn't the teaching: it was travelling in busses for well over an hour. Why is a bus harder than a car? Seatbelts. This means I'll be flying to Melbourne in September. What will I be doing in Melbourne in September? Book related stuff. Watch this space, Melbourne friends. It's the first weekend in September and it's shaping up to be very interesting.
Was the extra teaching last night worth the pain and the worry about healing and the discovery that I'm taking a bit longer to instantly get better than I expected? Absolutely.
If students get that much out of a short class when I'm off-colour, it's all going to be magic in a month. And both those comments and the feedback from the Saturday workshop really demonstrate why I need to teach in a regular full-time job.
I'm doing good work in my one regular teaching gig, I think. My Wednesday class and I celebrated my tenth anniversary yesterday (did I say?) and we ate chocolate. They wrote some lovely reflections on their writing and how it has developed. They decided that the reflections they did on how their writing has grown should be compiled into a little booklet. One of the students said "Leave this with me." So I get a celebratory booklet by my students to celebrate ten years, and it's going to consist of their reflections on learning. Most of these students begin the class without even the confidence to read aloud, much less to analyse their own achievements with any level of comfort. What more could one ask?
I decided that this term my Wednesday group will write science fiction and science fantasy and our final excursion for the term will be all about Dr Who. This means I can wear SF t-shirts all term. It also means I can reinforce their story-telling skills without them being too aware or embarrassed that I'm working on stuff they might not have processed fully the first time round.
Possibly most importantly, I announced the term's theme by demonstrating clearly that none of the class are either vampires or werewolves. Even adults can be disappointed at such discoveries, it seems, and I've ruined at least one student's dreams.
The main danger this term is to my TARDIS backpack. Two students are eyeing it off...
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20th July, 2016. 9:57 pm.
My good news is that, once I finish three more bits of scheduled work and everything's paid for, I'll be financial right through til the end of September. Possibly even October. This is good, because the ANU hasn't yet advertised any teaching by me. We have a staff meeting next week and all will be clear then (ie it will be clear to them that I'm a lot more alive than last time they saw me).
The bad news is that getting to this desirable financial state meant doing too much teaching, twice. The first day I dealt with it. Today, my teaching was merely moderate for 2 hours in the evening. I was fine for the morning's teaching. This evening, while I taught everything my students needed, I felt that I've done better at getting them engaged. Good but not inspirational, I think. Although for this group I solved some really important basic issues for research for writers and we covered it with hardly any effort whatsoever (they took it in as if it was common knowledge, which is perfect for new stuff), so they got good material, even if it wasn't taught with any brilliance.
This is like the week I went back to work. This week I have done just a bit too much. Given that it will add up to over 25 hours, this is not nearly as worrying as it sounds. I need to do what I did when I first went back to work and be very measured and controlled with the new amount of work. And I need to sleep in for two days running.
I didn't mean to double my working hours. The trouble with the teaching side is that it's at the behest of others and I really don't have that much control over it. And I've gone from frighteningly near the edge financially to not having to worry about groceries for over two months. And I'd like to make that final leap back to normal workload, but I think I need to do it in two stages and neither of them should be this week. Possibly not next week, either. Twenty-five hours isn't bad, after all.
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17th July, 2016. 1:24 pm.
My morning was market and DS9 with C, which means it was terrific. We had fruit toast and I am supplied with wonderful fresh produce for the week. My fruit is oranges and persimmons. My vegetables are capsicums, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, fennel,spring onions and broccolini. My herbs are parsley, coriander and garlic chives. I lashed out and bought some sour dough bread, so that I can have all this lovely fresh stuff with the various flavours of chicken that are already in my fridge. Two slices of bread with much topping makes an excellent meal, with no work at all. They're not winter dishes. I have rice if I want to turn the same flavours back into winter, but I don't think I do, I think I'm preparing for Spring...
I spent a bit more than I should, but this means I have absolutely no shopping to do until next Saturday, which is good, given that the week looks busy. I'm up to the next level of recuperation and each level takes more time an more energy. And I have just 2 weeks to finish all my July work.
July is normally such a bad month in Canberra. I've had two very nice weeks (if one discounts the bad nights and the fact that I am convalescent and still feel it) which is two more than usual. And I have persimmons. Life is always better with fresh, ripe persimmons.
Last night was actually worse than the night before, but at this moment, I couldn't care less.
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16th July, 2016. 10:44 pm.
The pharmacist gave me loads of useful advice yesterday. Alas, it will be another 12 hours before the problem starts to be sorted. That's the bad news.
The good news is that my workshop is booked out. Two workshops in a row, booked out! I still don't know what teaching I'm doing for the ANU this semester, so the rest of my teaching year is a bit of a mystery due to being ill at the precise moment everyone needed me for planning. And there's no teaching interstate this semester because I haven't been scheduled anywhere. Last year I did 3-4 interstate workshops and this year there are none. Such is life.
The weather is still impossibly wintry here. We had a nice day, but it's only three degrees outside right now, so it'll be a chilly night and chilly for the market in the morning. This is relevant to my post, because I need to work out if I need anything from the market for my class. I don't think so. I think I've decided on geology rather than food for tangibles this time round. I used food last time I did a 2 hour workshop in Canberra on a similar subject and I can't rely on there not being anyone from the other workshop. Students tend to like revisiting me, so, in fact, I have to assume that a different approach for that side of things is sensible. The theory remains the same, but it means everyone gets something new.
No other news, there is none. Except that I'm really very tired of nasty symptoms. I'm getting better (and it's obvious that I am when, on a bad day, I still do all my stretching and weights and gentle walking) but I want wellness now, not wellness in 9 months. This means I have officially entered the frustrating stage of getting better. I'd hoped to be able to do a lot more local walking in parks now, but my ankle and my asthma limit me to indoors most days. I get a small walk tomorrow, and a 40 minute one on Monday and 2 20 minute ones on Tuesday, but that's the most outdoors I will experience until the weather and my ankle adjust. I'm working on the ankle, but it's very slow in getting strength (and we don't yet know what's causing it).
I think the theme of my day is whingeing...
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15th July, 2016. 11:08 am.
Life's revenge on me for boasting is a really bad night. Not bad enough to go back to hospital, and I will going to the chemist later to sort it out. I keep forgetting that bodies have different side-effects from the operation and that they can loop back and cause trouble. Anyhow, I got midnight advice over the phone from a doctor and I'll be fine, but grumbly.
Apart from this, I'm quite happy. I'm seeing a bunch of friends today, and my Wednesday workshop has only one place left. The tickets only went up two days ago and they're already almost gone. This is exceptionally unusual for Canberra in the middle of the coldest winter on record (or maybe just one of the coldest) for it's an evening course and people will freeze. And yet they're coming. In numbers. And, of the two workshops I'm doing this winter, both will have sold out. And all my Wednesday students are turning up, too, despite the cold. For some of the other winter workshops, discounts are being offered to get people along for, not only is it cold, everyone's scared about their futures under this government. It's a bad time economically. And I still have students. I think this means the students need a special treat as part of the workshop. I'm thinking something related to my actual teaching, rather than random chocolates, but I'll see. I have stuff at home (for teaching) that will give my students a real buzz of excitement and will be spot on for the subject.
I have 3 small deadlines today. Not big ones. Probably achievable. I would rather have the day off. If I get ready for everything else immediately, then maybe I can squiggle my work in between the fun things and get it done anyway.
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12th July, 2016. 11:39 am. Teaching writers
I have some feedback on Saturday's teaching and it's given me a lot to chew on. I was using my own research and translating it to meet writers' needs. And it did. I have a letter that has some lovely, lovely praise from a student who not only 'got' what I did, but why precisely I was doing it. I m apparently "a gifted teacher, intense and demanding, inspiring and engaged" and have an incandescent intelligence. I said that some things would change post-operation, and this is one of them. And that's the good news.
The not-so-good news is that, no matter how intense I was and how much the students kept up (and they all did, 13 writers at various stages in their careers and with various stages of intellectual development, in a small room in mid-winter) I need to teach the subject at university-level. Ideally it would be a 3rd or 4th year subject (although a modified version, focussing on narrative choices and structure of story and genre markers, could be 1st or 2nd and I suspect I could develop a more advanced version for postgrads) and, ideally, take the whole year. It meets so many of the professional needs of writers from so many directions, even in the 6 hour version I gave on Saturday. These last few days, however, I've been assessing that 6 hour version and realising how much more students could get out of it with research exercises and writing exercises and class presentations. It could be one of those foundation courses that ground a student for life.
I've not had this feeling of "writers need this" to nearly the same extent with any of my other material. I've worked out courses for specific needs, but this one is for all long-form writing. It's about narrative and story and culture and how these things are part of us and require certain skills and how to develop those skills and make choices within the framework of one's own needs and capacity. I've translated some of my courses into university-suitable material because it's a fun exercise (I enjoy designing curricula) and because it's handy to do, to discover the limits and depths of a topic, but I've not been faced with something new and based on my own research that's so perfect for a broad-spectrum of writers.
I'm glad I could give my class on Saturday so much, but I really wish that there were somewhere that would let me give students the rest of it.
What this means is that I've finally sorted out what my teaching can mean and can do. I moved into the writing side of things rather than the history because I felt I could make a bigger difference there, but it wasn't until now that I could see so precisely what kind of a difference I could make.
I wonder what other parts of myself will re-emerge in the next few months. Could be interesting.
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11th July, 2016. 11:09 am. Dreaming
Last night I slept and I slept and I slept some more. It was healing sleep. Each time I add to the amount of exercise I do or the amount of weight I carry, I sleep like this. Last night, however, my brain got fully back into gear while I slept. It was healing from an unexpected direction.
I don't talk about it often, but one of the reasons I'm so very effective at completing things and at problem-solving is because I'm a lucid dreamer and my dreaming self does a lot of the big work at sorting out plot holes or at planning projects. It's still heavy work, and I was very upset at a friend once who marvelled at how magically everything fell into place, but it means that I can (when my dreams get enthusiastic about a task) effectively work for 24 hours. I generally know when a dream is lucid, for it's in colour and, three times out of four, I can read text. Last night's text was world-building lists in a reassuring font.
Being aware of oneself asleep and being able to change what happens while asleep is not always good, to be honest. When I was near death in April and May, I and my dreams spiralled downwards into despair night after night. Vast dark wings fluttered just behind my vision and no amount of telling my dreams that this was not what I wanted could change that. I knew the moment I was safe from death, because my dreams told me. I went to the medical experts that day, for a regular appointment, and their body language informed me of the same thing. I was still hardly capable of moving, but my dreams knew how to interpret the difference between the day before and that magic day when I knew I'd be OK. I started making bad jokes at Naomi (who was taking care of me at that point), at the cat, and at the visiting nurse.
Last night, I did the opposite. Now that I'm emerging from a very interesting year, I can see that the world is going to get harder rather than easier. I've checked out the status of antisemitism (which definitely affects my chances of getting employed, for it lost me a whole career last time people were this bad) and looked at the state of various economies. In short, my conscious mind, last night, applied all that public service policy and political stuff from my past and came out with a "It's not impossible for me to get a job, because I have so much of theoretical interest to employers, but it's unlikely because I am middle aged, female and Jewish" ie other people are likely to still be given job preferences, whether it's for local university tutoring or whether it's for that fulltime job I so desire. The age and the religion are less of a problem in the UK, so I've more hope of one there. Since everyone in the university system is battling so much, I can't assume that I'll get any breaks. My dream admitted this, when I wasn't quite ready. My dream and I worked together from then on, and I woke up with a possible solution.
Quite a few friends have asked "What about Patreon?" (because I only need $200 more a week to have enough for food and utilities and the occasional cup of coffee with friends) but I've been stumped as to how to approach it. I was unable to address all the aspects of me that people follow in public. One potential patreon might want one thing from me and another, something entirely different. I needed a way of setting things up so that my supporters have choices and can determine whether they want stories, teaching, history, essays or recipes, but so that the things I want to achieve with my life and in terms of helping others are also achieved.
My dream last night gave me that. I can't do anything for a few more weeks, because immediate money has to take precedence, but I can gradually put together what I need and then... we'll see. I'd still rather have a proper university job, for I could do everything I enjoy as part of that job, but I do need enough to live on, whatever happens. This may well be how I get it.
I hated my lucid dreaming all the way through hospital. Twenty days of lucid nightmare. Ghosts roaming the corridors and me joining them. Paths that went back to doom no matter what happened. When solutions are outside me, my dreaming is a burden. Last night, however, for the first time since April, it was the opposite of a burden.
Why April and not March? Because I rang the ambulance thanks to a dream carefully explaining that if I needed help I should not rely on family precedent (my family doesn't ring for ambulances, no matter what), two nights before everything went awry. If I refuse to admit something, then my subconscious will inform me, very clearly, in my sleep.
When I was a child I kept telling my dreams "I want to fly" and so I flew. Now that I'm older, my dreams do a lot more than simply letting me fly.
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10th July, 2016. 1:07 pm.
Market day today and I carried my shopping myself for all but the last 30 metres. For $5, I bought 9 extremely ripe persimmons (and am at home to anyone who wants a cuppa and some persimmon today and tomorrow, for they do need eating), I bought a few oranges and a lemon and was given two of the blood orange/navel cross (because every now and again stall holders are lovely and generous and remember me as the food hsitory person who likes the things that aren't on show always - what this means is that I've definitively sorted my friends' tree as Seville/blood orange cross which explains a lot about their marmalade), 2 really big and crunchy fennel bulbs (for when I need crunchy snacks, obviously), 2 panninis (for the lemon and my nearly-ripe avoes from last week) and a goodly-sized bag of fresh lettuce.
I've got a few weeks before the new vegies and fruit are in for Spring, which give some time to train up to carrying more. And it's two weeks before I go to the bigger market, which gives me time to train for carrying things for longer distances.
Why this sudden change of capacity? As of today, my sternum is sufficiently healed. My bone is no longer broken. I can start getting strong again. I've been building my weight exercises carefully (and under supervision for the first 6 weeks) so that the moment the healing was done I could do things like marketing. It's rather wonderful that all this work paid such instant dividends. I can't carry a lot and I can't carry it further than a kilometre, but still, I carried it. With no aches or pains. And I have eaten a persimmon to celebrate, so there are only 8 in urgent need of being finished. It was spectacularly delicious. I don't think I've had one as good since my childhood.
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8th July, 2016. 7:33 pm.
Back A Page
My new Aurealis article has been released. I wrote this after the operation. It's what convinced me that maybe I would be OK, after all. I was working, and felt very incompetent. I still do, far too much of the time, for serious illness is debilitation, and I'm someone who likes to do things. So it's an important article for me, and worth reading for I am possibly not as serious about literature as I should be. Also, there's a recipe, by popular request.
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