Out There…

P Princess

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I had one New Year’s resolution this year. On the 2nd of July, I will be officially half way to goal. My resolution was no television for a year. I can only assume this statement forms the collective gasp among some of you the same way it did when I shared the news with colleagues at work. At first there was disbelief closely followed by a million justifications why people have to watch <insert favourite show here>.

The culling of television from my life hasn’t really been that big of a deal. Every Christmas holiday season for the past several years, free to air has cranked out worse garbage than normal. It was easy to not even engage. Over the years, Tele and I have become a bit codependent. I’ve used it as an escape, believing the lies about chilling out, switching off, winding down, tuning out, even to the point of believing that it was good for me.

In past years, I have been seduced by the ads, the promise of new seasons, new series and multiple month lead ups to old favourites returning. I’ve fallen for them all. Except for this year. By the time any New Year’s Eve rolls around, my Tele is already on its seasonal sabbatical. At the end of last January, Tele and I had to have words.

“ I think we need to break up,” I said , late one night.

“It’s not you, it’s me…” I explained.

And that was it. I haven’t pushed its buttons since. It still sits in the corner, blankly staring at me from its ancient and out of date frame. I’ve been secretly wishing it would stop working for years but it just won’t quit, and, as with most dysfunctional relationships, it forced my hand. I quit for both of us.

So want to do at the end of a long hard day, I hear you all ask?

Since Tele and I broke up, I’ve filled the space with creative pursuits. Suddenly there are hours to fill. It’s blissful. It’s amazing how quickly end of the day fatigue dries up when you  engage creatively in a project you love.

I invite the muse over each night and more often than not she shows. Mostly she brings pencils, brushes, paints and paper. Sometime she offers poetry. On other nights, prose. And sometimes she just tells me to go to bed early and read just for the love of it. So wise for someone so flighty at times.

This year, so far, I’ve filled journals with writing, painted over 70 pieces of art, filled numerous sketchbooks, ventured into the world of online creativity with courses and workshops. And I have shared a lot of this. In sharing came the encouragement I needed to submit. To trust in what I was doing.

I wasn’t sure I was ready to put myself “out there” but sometimes you just have to do it and grow from the experience. About two months ago, many of you know that I submitted eight pieces of my work to The Style File. For those who aren’t familiar with them, The Style File showcases the work of different book illustrators through portfolio pages, displaying illustrative style and technique. This was a big step for me. A month or so after submission, I received the reply that my submission was successful.

If I’d never created some space in my life, I’m not sure this would’ve happened. Devoting my evenings to improving my craft and practicing daily has shown me that diligence does pay off.

Technically, I still have six months to go and so much in my head that I want to get down on paper, in word and in watercolour. My old mind numbing nightly ritual has been replaced with a new habit. A productive new habit. It’s been the best New Year’s resolution  and the only one I’ve ever kept, which tells me it’s here to stay. I’m grateful for all the encouragement everyone offered. It changed everything.

 

 

The light at the end of the tunnel…

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It’s been almost a year since I’ve been here. In reading my last post, I  feel the grief of losing my little mate surface again. It never seems to go, and I’m still learning to navigate around it. Some think grieving is good for creativity. Or is creativity meant to be good for grieving? Either way, when I lost that little dog on a blue moon, almost a year ago – something drained my creativity tanks and I was left running on empty.

For the past year, I wrote to save my life. I found a journalling course on line and for six weeks that course flushed many a demon from inside me. By the end of it, I wasn’t whole but I was healing. There’s much to be said for spilling your guts on paper. I’m still doing it and it’s still having the same cathartic effect. It frees up the real estate inside me and makes room for the good stuff to flow in.

It’s like finding a safe zone where no one else may enter. A place where I can say and be whoever I please and judgement is checked at the door, unwelcome and uninvited. I’ve journaled for most of the  year. It’s become part of my life. Something I crave, now  I know of its medicinal value.

But it wasn’t just words that patched my heart. A while back I was invited to a five day illustration challenge on Facebook. I accepted. By the end of the five days, something had shifted. The more I painted, the brighter the world looked. At the end of the five days, I couldn’t stop.

I created my own alphabet challenge. 26 letters, 26 illustrations.  One a day. A discipline. Today, I am half way through my second alphabet challenge, and it’s still addictive. It’s a safe place for me to experiment – try new techniques and if nothing else – to practise like a mad thing. And it’s creating a new body of work with each challenge.

The more art I make, the better I feel. It’s like coming up for air,  knowing all is well in my world. There’s so many challenges ahead. I’m taking a deep, deep breath and chasing them down. I’ll share it all here…

There’s a big beautiful light at the end of the tunnel…I’m ready to explore. Continue reading

R.I.P – My Beautiful Blue Moon Girl

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Moo on bedI first held her on a Thursday. It was the 25th March, 2004. She was a tiny ball of grey and white fluff, curled in the pet shop window. I didn’t know the evils of pet shop windows back then, and I am glad. If I had, I would never have found her.

I’d seen her twice that week. The first time I passed her by as she played with her siblings. I was still traumatised by the home break ins. I’d been recently robbed, and was still mulling over the psychologist’s suggestion, “Why don’t you get a dog?”

The second time I saw Moo, she was sleeping. Stretched out the way I came to love. She lifted her little head and opened sleepy eyes and we looked at each other through the window. Did she know then? That soon I’d be back to take her away?

They say third time is a charm. And it was. I was early for a haircut. She was still in the window. I had a spare fifteen minutes or so. I walked into the pet shop and asked if I could hold her. It took less then a second of her in my arms before I knew that she was the one.

She came home with me that day. It was the anniversary of my mother’s death. She died when I eleven and I wanted a way to sweeten the date. So instead of a day of sadness, it became our “Gotcha” day. It became the happiest day in my life.

As I sit here now, the house is so strangely quiet. Sammy looks for her everywhere. He’s taken to sleeping in her favourite spot. Even when I straightened my legs in bed last night, my feet searched for her so as not to disturb her. It’s so hard to believe she is gone. I used to tell her often “You are perfect in every way.” And she was. She was that once in a blue moon dog.

Reminders of her are everywhere and the grief inside me, it’s so unpredictable, so intolerable. Things that were once routine are now missing. They form gaping cracks in my day. I stumble across them and find myself tripping into that roiling sea of grief- over and over. And at times, I wish I could drown so I no longer have to feel this pain.

The vastness of it measures the love I have for this little dog. And there aren’t words to describe just how much she means to me, even in death. She taught me so many lessons. She gave me endless love. She never judged. She never failed me. She never turned away when things got too hard. She loved me for who I was, without ever wanting me to change. She really was and still is my closest friend.

In March this year, she went on medication for a failing heart that was enlarged but determined to keep on beating. Despite the four rounds of meds every day, her tail kept wagging, she kept on smiling, and she danced with joy at the prospect of going for a walk. Even up until the day before she died. She was the happiest little being I’ve ever known. I would tell her that her heart had become big because it was so full of love, she’d almost run out of room and that soon she’d have to go home and share all that love she found here on Earth. And she was so loved. It’s no surprise her heart grew so big.

The decision to end her life summoned pain beyond my wildest imaginings. And I struggled. Every day. For months. Trying to make that call. I questioned myself over and over. Was it too soon? Should she die on her own clock? Who was I to take away what was left of her life? Was I betraying her after all she had given me over the years? I tortured myself daily trying to find some kind of peace amid the torment I was feeling. I resented every moment away from her.

There were a few times when I thought it was time, but she’d rally by afternoon and her old self would return, tail wagging, little legs propelling her out the doggy flap, barking her face off at the dogs up and down the street.She still had so much life in her, even up until the end.

Almost convinced it was time, I took her down to the vet. She’d had a horrid weekend, her breathing was laboured, her cough was worsening. I had a little bit of wriggle room left with her meds. So I took it. I tweaked her meds the day before I took her in, hoping that might buy her a bit more time. But that next morning, I thought we had lost the battle. And I will always be grateful for Rod, my vet, saying he thought we could give her a little more time – to see if the increased dose kicked in. And it did. It bought us a little bit more precious time together. That in itself changed everything.

I’d always wanted her to die at home. Not at the vet surgery. I had so many ideals about how I wanted it to end. I put so much pressure on myself trying to get it right for her and for me, I was so stressed but in the end, I had to let go of it all. I had to accept that it would play out however it would play out. I didn’t want to end her life but I certainly didn’t want her to get to the point where she was so distressed and suffering because of my fear of losing her.

When I made the decision, it was surreal. We spent the morning together. By then,  we’d had many many midnight talks about afterlife journeys for little dogs. I kept looking at her that morning, wondering if she knew. In a quiet moment on the couch, I tried to explain. She just looked at me with love and trust. In the moment. Like every other day.

My friend came over to share with me the final couple of hours of my little one’s life. She has a gift with animals. An energy that calms them. I am so grateful she was there. I am also grateful for Rod and Kelly from Anvet. They came to my home to help my little one on to her next great adventure. It was very much in my thoughts how difficult this part of their job must be. They brought to the room a beautiful energy of respect and kindness. I will never forget it.

I held my baby and we gave her something to make her sleepy. I cradled her, thanked her and told her how much I loved her. She opened her eyes and we gazed at each other for a final moment, and I patted her gently until she took her final breath. It all panned out. My little dog died in my arms in our favourite chair. It was peaceful and calm. I believe it was the best death I could have offered her. She made her final journey by the light of a blue moon.

Rest in peace, my beautiful, beautiful girl. You will stay with me every day. I will never stop loving you.

The Last Day of Autumn 2015

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This week I enrolled in the Australian Writers Centre online Anatomy of a Crime – How to Write About Murder e-course and I completed the first module last night. I have to say, crime isn’t usually my thing and it’s been interesting even with the little research I did last night for the course, just how uncomfortable I am delving into the whole murder thing.  As I read through some of the examples and watched some of the You Tube footage on serial killing, I had one of those “I don’t want to watch but I can’t look away” reactions. What draws me in is not the end product, as in the crime but more so the psychology behind why the perpetrator commits the offence.

I’m about to embark on the first writing exercise and I think my discomfort is a good thing.I’m reaching beyond my comfort zone. It’s a complete polar swing from writing children’s stories but I’m curious to see what comes out of me. I’m keen to explore other writing spaces I’ve never dabbled in before. Who knows what will transpire? It’s part of the never ending learning curve.

Here’s the link to the course – see what you think…I have to say – I’m more than intrigued already…

http://www.writerscentre.com.au/all-courses/anatomy-of-a-crime/


It’s  been a big “Lists” weekend. I had a four page list to chew through and managed to get about three quarters done. I LOVE lists. I get so much more done with a list opposed to having it all rattling around in my brain.

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There’s been lots of reading and hanging out with the “kids” and a little bit of dabbling with some paints – enter Lovely Fox posed up above. I do believe her name could be Fifi. Dabbled in some herb planting ready for winter cooking and generally had an all round great weekend.

 

 

9780143572381(1)On the reading front – I started reading Fiona McIntosh’s new book ‘How to Write Your Block Buster’. It’s such an interesting read and I’m learning so much and changing my ways already. Discipline Rules! My Books to Read pile is ever expanding, so I am grateful for the colder nights we are beginning to have that beg me to head to bed earlier to settle in for a good read. Winter is upon us and I am happy.

May 24th, 2015

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Finally, there is a chill in the Brisbane air. It seems an eternity of steamy hot days and uncomfortable nights have plagued us into the beginnings of Autumn. But now, nearing the end of May, the real Autumn has just stood up. I love Autumn in Brisbane. The big blue clean sky, the nip in the air, the syrupy warmth the sun pours out in the middle of the day. And the doonah is finally on the bed. It’s the perfect weather for creating.

The knitting needles have reappeared after a year long sabbatical in the cupboard, the deck is ablaze with beautiful potted colour, and the urge to write and read great books has curled in my lap like a favourite pet that has returned home after a long trip away. 

It has been a week of giving and receiving. I had the pleasure of gifting a painting to one of our lovely vet nurses, who has looked after my babies so well over the years. With a bit of secret squirrelling, I painted her beautiful animals into a nursery scene and made her a bunting and softie to go with it. I also received some beautiful hand made candles from a lovely friend and they smell divine! I am so grateful.

Speaking of gratitude, this past week, I have returned to the meditation cushion. I have been doing Vishen Lakhiani’s Envisioning Method. Vishen is the founder of Mind Valley and I love his technique. You can find more about it here:

http://mindvalleyacademy.com/featured/how-to-meditate

This week I finished Holly Goldberg Sloan’s ‘I’ll Be There’. I adored this book and will be following it up with the sequel, ‘Just Call My Name’. In the meantime, I have started reading her ‘Counting by 7s’. This book received great reviews so I am looking forward to sinking my teeth into it this weekend.

I also started Murray Middleton’s short story collection, ‘When There’s Nowhere Else To Run’. This book was the winner of The Australian/ Vogel’s Literary Award. His writing is so engaging. I come out of each story feeling like I have met new friends. His stories linger, and I often find myself thinking back and wondering about the characters I have left behind. 

Another reading highlight this week was the arrival of Magpies Magazine, which is full of reviews on books for children. It comes out five times a year and it’s lovely to bury myself in the childrens book world and discover all the latest gems.

As for my own book, it’s been languishing a little as the paints and ink pens have hit the desk and I am illustrating again. With plans to redo my website soon, I am conjuring new illustrations to decorate all that white space. I have a plan and once the artwork is done, my story will be back on the front boiler again and come next week, I should see the story simmering away nicely again. I’ve just rolled over the 15,000 word mark, so onward and upward. 

Among the books and mags and snippets of writing, there has been autumn flowers and hearty food liberally sprinkled throughout the past week or so. My favourite recipe this week was a chicken and zucchini soup I made. My recipe is here:

Chicken and Zucchini Soup

3 chicken thigh fillets – chopped but not too small

Celery chopped to braise

Carrot chopped to braise

1 onion chopped to braise

2 cloves of garlic minced

1 green chilli

1 litre of chicken stock

4-5 zucchinis chopped

(You can add any veggies you like)

Sprinkle of salt

Teaspoon of curry powder

Butter

Method

On a mid heat in a large pot – braise chopped celery, onion and carrot in butter until onion is translucent. Add in garlic and stir for a minute.

Add in chicken and cook 1-2 minutes.

Add stock, chopped zucchini, curry powder and salt and  mix well. Cook on mid heat for 5 minutes or so and then turn heat down a little. Continue to cook until chicken is cooked through and zucchinis are soft then simmer. Add some corn or maize flour to thicken. 

To serve: I don’t puree this soup. I prefer it chunky and so mix it all together well once I have added the maize flour. 

Add a dollop of sour cream to serve. 

Enjoy!

Why Bother?

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I sat down this morning to write and this nagging voice whispered to me Why bother?  I pushed it away and picked up my pen. I started journalling. I asked myself why is it I am so compelled to write and why do I make it so hard for myself to achieve the one thing that I love. I pondered the question for a while and came to the conclusion that I love to write because I love the feeling of having written. And this conclusion gave me the permission I needed to get on with the draft – to write and allow whatever to hit the page because I can always clean it up later. And that’s a whole lot better than having nothing there at all.

The whole writing thing speaks to me of discipline, creativity, and the possibility of laying down words that may move someone on some deeper level. I don’t know why I think it is so hard to sit and write. I can belt out a stream of consciousness garbled random word vomit with not an ounce of trouble. It is cathartic. There is no one to judge it – not even me because once it is out, it need never be referenced again. But when I am working on my novel, suddenly the rules change. I get antsy and nervous and feel like a fraud- like nothing I write will ever be good enough. Today, I just pushed through my monkey mind. I kept going, writing word after word – like a journal entry – not judging, just letting it hit the page and settle. I spat out 2000 words.  I love the feeling of having written.  That’s why I bother. Because at the end of the day – I love to write.

Easter Baking

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This week I discovered the best flat bread recipe ever. It’s from Julie Goodwin’s website and it is delicious, and easy and very cost effective. Here is the link to the page.

http://www.juliegoodwin.com.au/recipe-flatbread.html

I paired my bread with home made chicken and vegetable soup. The perfect duo for a cool autumn day down under. 

Enjoy!