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The things I’ve learned 

I often look to the new year lamenting the things I didn’t get around to, the resolutions I failed to keep.  That fun run never registered for, the volunteer work that never eventualised, that novel draft still an incomplete hodge podge of scribbles shoved in a bottom drawer.

Last year I told myself I would write this year; write well and write often.  With just three blog posts to my 2015 name you can see how that promise to myself went.

So I’ve decided to reflect on the things I have learned, experienced and observed this year, rather than dwelling on my terrible commitment to unrealistic goals set during the drunken summer evenings of 2014.

In no particular order, here are my key takeaways from 2015:

  • Sweat rash is a debilitating condition.
  • I should take a break from Facebook.
  • Blondes do have more fun.
  • Boxing is gross regardless of gender.
  • Medicine balls are most springy when ricocheting off ones nose.
  • The smaller the world gets, the less we love each other.
  • Magic Mike XXL is a cinematic masterpiece.
  • Effective leaders seldom care what others think of them.  They concern themselves with good strategy and doing right by their people.
  • Toilet training is expensive.
  • Frankfurt book fair is the Disneyland of word nerds.
  • I heart Justin Trudeau.
  • Being de-commissioned = boned.
  • Shopkins everywhere!
  • Three year old kinder = participation obligation.
  • Diets will be the death of me.
  • Thermomix is a cult.
  • It matters how you explain world events to your kids.
  • Music can be medicine.
  • I will always snore while having beauty treatment, resistance is futile.
  • Kale chip are not chips.
  • Time hurts all wounds.
  • Blogging on an iPad is shit.
  • Jon Snow lives… Please… Doesn’t he? 

The lesson that sticks with me most from this year is something a dear friend told me as she considered some of life’s tough stuff. I’ve thought of it often throughout the year, and reckon it makes sense of things that are often too complex to understand.

Some people go through life like a swim in the ocean. It’s exhilarating, refreshing and enjoyable. To surf above the waves, salt drying on your eyelashes, sun on your shoulders, laughs in the breeze. Every so often, a big wave comes through, a bit darker than the others, and it pulls you under the water.  You bob up for air, sometimes frightened and effected.  Each new swim will remind you of that moment but, for the most part, you carry on splashing around in the surf.

Look under the surface though, and there is someone near you being dumped over and over again. Each wave is dark and pounding on them.  They may look like they’re swimming along with everyone else, but listen for their gasps between each wave. Your friend may not be swimming strong. Are they smiling or struggling? Reach down and give them a lift above the waves – they might not be showing it but they’re about to slip under.

And if you’re under the water with a lung full of salt put your hand up – even just for a second… Someone who loves you will notice and try to pull you to safety.

In short: look out for your mates and avoid Kale chips at all costs.


Tween Flashback – Last Days of Summer

As an aspiring young adult writer, I am so often drawn to the genre. Occasionally it reminds me that my scrappy notebooks and storyboard ideas are like soooo not going to cut in in this space.

I mean there are some seriously wonderful authors out there who just speak ‘young people.’

So as I delve into my latest book, I am at the same time thinking of my own tween years.

*Cue dreamlike harp flashback*

It’s 1989, and the Warrandyte blue light disco is in full swing. I’m 10 years old and totally rocking it in a black and gold satin bubble skirt, complete with sleeveless denim jacket, bandana wrapped around my knee and superbly crimped ponytail. My fringe is teased with so much hairspray it looks as though a funnel web might emerge. And my Ma made me a scrunchie from the same material as the black and gold bubble skirt. Eat your heart out Joey Jerimiah!

Kids are hugging the walls of the community hall, a sad looking DJ stands behind a couple of lights that are actually torches covered in red and blue cellophane, and my best friend leans beside me in her layered denim skirt, with slap bands on her arm.

Kelly and I look at each other. There is a very good chance we will become famous tonight. Probably The Bangles will phone our parents to see if we can come on tour with them. You see, we have perfected our dance routine to Eternal Flame. When everyone sees it… well… you know…

We scope out the canteen (I have enough money for a Fanta and two Redskins) then we rush to the DJ and request our song. After two hours, and Kelly’s 14 visits to the DJ to demand our song (she has always been persistent) my tongue is furry and orange, and the boys are still standing as far away as possible from the dancefloor.

And then we hear that familiar twang of a soft pop anthem. We grab our third wheel, a girl who we forced to rehearse with us every lunchtime in the library, and we take to the ‘stage.’

We’ve done jazz hands in the air, drawn our fingers across our eyes rhythmically and about to launch into the best part; ‘Say my name, sun shines through the rain…’ when our audience is distracted by some new arrivals. Let’s call them the Minogue sisters. Everyone rushes to say hi, to ask what they are doing there, and Kelly growls ‘keep going,’ as her back-up singers attempt to abandon the routine.

The Minogues are impeccably dressed in matching fluro, fingerless gloves, LIPSTICK, and of course they can sing and dance too. So when everyone is on the dancefloor, following their lead and being ‘sisters doing it for themselves’, my dreams are shattered. They are so so good. And like, so much better than me. But I just want to be near them, to absorb some of their radness, and learn from their wisdom.

*dreamlike harp chords return us to reality*

So this was actually meant to be a book review, but here I am reflecting on a pretty significant core memory. Where I was reminded that despite my best intentions, there was someone more talented and popular and worthy of my childish envy.

last days of summerAnd as my little YA novel struggles away in a half scribbled notebook, with vague chapter outlines and more research to undertake, I open Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger. My dreams are shattered again. There is no way I can ever write a story like this, not even almost as good.

Together with Green, Zusak, Marsden and Rowling, Kluger becomes the Minogue to my dance routine. I’m so jealous of how rad he is, and want to absorb his talent through his words. But I know, in my heart of hearts, that a colour coordinated scrunchie and heaps of practice to perform probably won’t make me famous.

In short: what just happened? This was supposed to be a book review.

And the year rolls on

out of frameThere’s this song I’ve heard occasionally over the past year, and it makes me think of you every time. I’m not sure what it is and why it conjures your face, but it definitely has a general Lu Lu vibe about it. Don’t worry, we all still want to shag Matt Corby, but he makes us cry now as well.

I can’t believe it’s been a year since you left us. We weren’t ready. We’re still not.

The funny thing about a whole year is that sometimes it seems like such a long time, but then it’s all so fast as well. It seems like I have blinked and woken up to a day that I don’t want to be reminded of. It has crept up on us all with speed and menace.

So much has happened in the last 365 days.

Day one without you, and I ran. It was a cold morning – the air was sharp and I ran to try and push the grief away, until my body and my lungs ached. To feel alive and to feel sore. I ran until I puked. And then I cried till I was dry.

Your funeral was beautiful and terrible. A procession of firies honoured you by laying an evergreen branch on your casket. Handsome uniformed folk, paying tribute to your memory. The bagpipes played, and along the racecourse straight a guard of honour formed for you and your family. If only you knew what an effect you had on all those people sniffling in the autumn sun.

I quit my job after you died. Gave up bossiness, and business-class and books to find something that meant more and gave me more time with my little family. I even had an interview for a CFA job with District 13. But I fucked it up… to much riding on it I suppose. I eventually found something else, and even though payday can’t come quick enough, I now get to share chicken nuggets and spaghetti Bolognese and bedtime and kinder duty and quiet moments on the couch with the ones I love the most.

Gav and Sally organised a fundraiser for Ella. It was monumental. There was trivia and an auction and donations and games. I walked out on stage dancing with Gav, grabbed a microphone and hosted part of the evening in what was the most exhilarating and heartbreaking experience I’ve come to know. There were 400 guests and a waiting list, all contributing to Ella’s future. Because we all needed a reason to carry on, a project to manage the grief, and an opportunity to remember the good you gave to us. I wish you could’ve been there. But on some level I suspect you were, because Gav and Sal and I all dreamt vividly of you that night.

You won a National Emergency Medal for your work on Black Saturday. Gav and Ella graciously accepted the accolade on your behalf in the most bittersweet of circumstances. And they glowed with pride.

On New Year’s Eve I stood alone in the front yard, gulping champagne and watching fireworks from a distance. Each bang and crackle hurt my eyes, and I sought comfort in a woman who has known the pain of loss herself – too often. And it helped, a tiny bit, resting in her arms.

Ella turned 12, graduated primary school, started high school, and moved to the country with your Mum. She is extraordinary your daughter. Together she, your Mum and a funny little brown poodle have formed a new team, and they are a force to be reckoned with.

Your nieces started primary school, Eva perfected her hula-hooping, your nephew Hudson was born, and a song was dedicated to you in front of a sell-out crowd at a folk festival. Three nights in a row. The drummer cried each time.

The thing is Lu, there have been ordinary and remarkable days over this past year. But no matter what sort of day it is, there are these moment that sneak up on you. Like a kick to the crotch they get you quick and hard. Get you breathless and gasping. Missing you.

I miss your smell of soft perfume, and cigarettes and lollies.

I miss your vague text messages that always came a day too late.

I miss fighting for mirror space between all of us girls, trying to put on our makeup.

I miss touching toes with you on the couch.

I miss our cheeks sticking together during a hug.

I miss seeing you and Gavin hold hands.

I miss watching you stroke Ella’s hair absentmindedly.

It’s unbearable not knowing where you are. Or knowing that you are nowhere. It’s like you’re just out of focus on the edge of a picture, I keep looking expecting it to become clearer.

And yet the year rolls on…