Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Filing through the old stuff!

It's been one of those nights when my bests laid plans of productivity have floated away, but what has entered in their place was both unexpected and valuable. 

As we ate our dinner of chewy steak, home baked potato chips and crunchy garden salad, my daughter started to talk about how much she is missing her boyfriend, who is currently 'chilling out' in New York, a long way from our home town of Frankston, Australia.
Sympathising briefly, I stated 'Imagine what it would have been like for the wives and girlfriends of the men who were sent to fight overseas for years in the 2nd World War'. It probably came out just as pompous as that too, in the way only an annoying mother can do, no doubt rubbing salt into the wound.

Suddenly inspired, I pulled out from my filing cabinet an old assignment I'd completed when I finished Year 12 in 1990, it was an interview I'd done with my Grandmother, Lona Birrell. I read it out to a captivated (at least they pretended to be interested!) audience of two, and in doing so, my Grandma's voice came back to me in some of its character and cheeky charm. What a treasure! I'm determined to scan the docs tomorrow night or on the weekend and make sure they never get lost. 

My Grandparents' experience helped shape my views of the world, as I grew up with Grandma's stories about her own experience and some of my Grandfather's experience, from her perspective. He himself never spoke of war. 

My novel, A Justified Desire, has a war theme which has been inspired by their stories and of my fascination and interest in how the Australian war experience may have contributed to our current societal dilemma of family violence.

In my next blog post I will share my Grandma's interview so you can experience it yourself and here her story told in her own words, transcribed as accurately as I could way back in 1990. What sort of written treasures or photos do you have tucked away?

I'd love to hear about them! Here is a link to an education site which talks about some of the Australian history of women during war-time. CLICK HERE

You can also purchase A Justified Desire and some of my other works here!  

Sue :-)

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Junk and Creativity - is there a link?

It’s the time of year in my neighbourhood when nature-strips in every suburb begin to look like the local rubbish depot, or ‘tip’, as we know them. Some people think it looks disgusting, to see these piles of personal belongings, garden tools, broken play equipment and fish tanks, lying around in the public eye.

There are strict rules, too, according to the council. Piles can only be a maximum of two metres in length and one metre in height right across the pile (big red arrows clearly demarcate these dimensions on the brochure that was distributed to residents a few weeks ago). But don’t let those rules fool you, the community have devised their own and no good council could keep up with the not so secret scavenging tours that are happening night and day. I have to admit I have joined forces with my partner and taken a few choice pickings, much to the disgust of my boss who told me I was a complete Bogan for doing so!

It has made me ponder why I get such joy out of this time of year. After all, I have a home to live in, a full time job and enough furniture to sit and sleep on. Admittedly, most of my stuff is second hand, but it does the job just fine. I don’t really need to pick up items from the nature-strip that my neighbours are throwing away. But something in me sees the opportunity and has to seize it. And my mind is full of ideas of what it all could be used for!

So perhaps it comes from being a creative person, I wonder. Thomas Edison once admitted, ‘To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk’. ( As a child, I was just as happy in the corner of my grandmother’s lounge room making things out of discarded match-boxes and meat-trays and a roll of masking tape as I was riding my bike on our bush property, creating treasure maps and burying treasure down near the dam. I didn’t need expensive toys to have fun and often got a lot more joy out of making something myself, like the doll house I made out of cardboard boxes and the detective kit I carried full of little notes and ‘clue lists’ I had created.

Or perhaps, I wonder, my love of collecting things comes from my Grandma and Grandpa, who lived through the depression years. Grandma was thrifty, she didn’t throw things out and she didn’t live with excess. Their home was simple and I only realised how small it was when I returned to it as an adult years later – as a child it felt huge.

Whatever it is, I think I’m always going to be living in a house that’s a little bit eclectic – full of items I’ve found which make me feel happy, whether that’s a piece of artwork I found at the op-shop that has moved me, a little blue-green glass vase that was for sale on Facebook or my piano, a beautiful and useful creation on which I can express myself through my music. And I’ll enjoy these things just as I enjoy other parts of my life, like my children, my partner, my pets and my writing … simply as something to enhance this life I’ve been given. I guess that’s the key, too. The realisation that material things can enhance your life, but once their ability to enhance it is gone, they can be moved on to someone else. Otherwise your surroundings become static, and a hoarding problem results.

According to a recent study, hoarding is twice as common as OCD, and four times as common as bipolar or schizophrenic disorders, and it is said that hoarding impulses come more from emotion than creativity, with those afflicted more likely to be experiencing feelings of depression and anxiety than other people. 

As a social worker, I often come across people who hoard. It can be difficult for them to recognise how the hoarding is affecting their life, and the life of their children, negatively. I find the disorder fascinating and I do wonder if sometimes I’m only a car-load of neighbourhood hard rubbish away to suffering it myself.

In my novel, 'A Justified Desire', Tess’s mother is a hoarder and creatong this character allowed me to explore my feelings about hoarding and to gain a stronger understanding of the psychology which lies beneath the piles. If you’d like to read A Justified Desire it is just a click away to download it onto your Kindle or reading device (the Kindle app is free for phones and I-pads!) and here is the link:   I'd also love to hear your thoughts on collecting junk so please comment below! 

Sue Oaks 

Sunday, 18 October 2015

What makes you happy?

A Facebook post I liked today suggested writing a list of what I enjoy and comparing it to what I do each day, then adjust my days accordingly. I love that idea. So here's my list, or at least the beginning of it! What would your list look like? 

(Not in order)

1. Cycling 
2. Piano 
3. Gardening 
4. Walks in nature 
5. Listening to music 
6. Roller blading 
7. Writing 
8. Swimming 
9. Rock n roll dancing 
10. Eating delicious food 
11. Drawing 
12. Petting animals 
13. Making things 
14. Intimacy 
15. Art 
16. Friendship 
17. Time with my kids 
18. Time with family 
19. Baking
20. Massage 

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Room to Move ... Reflections on rental house hunting in Frankston

'Large 4 bedroom home allows ample room to move for the larger family'. 
As you enter this home, you will be greeted by stressed tenants making excuses as to why they haven't finished cleaning. You will also be bowled over by the pungent stench of cat piss and dirty socks which is inadequately masked by a sea of discount store detergents.
'Dwelling offers L shaped lounge, dining, breakfast bar overlooking family room.'
If you can tolerate the stench to get as far as the kitchen, you will be horrified to discover the half emptied, grotty looking pantry overflowing with a mangle of discarded packets and household garbage, and when looking over to the family room, you will be unable to see past the mountains of newspapers, dirty clothes and unpaid bills.
'Master bedroom with ensuite and other bedrooms with built in robes'. 
It is highly unlikely you'll make it this far, but if you do you will be entertained by the tenants arguing with the agent about the mould on the walls of the living area; 'it was definitely there when we first moved in!'.
'Enquiries to our rental department'.
Dear agent, 
What the hell were you thinking?

Save me. Just save me. 

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Riding the trail

Feeling happy today, my day off and I'm on my bike. I'm celebrating a weight loss of 4.6kg over the last month and feeling fitter! Lots of positive energy around me at the moment which is giving me the strength to take stands and face challenges to allow me to grow at work and at home. Life feels good!!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The Great Cycle Challenge Begins!

It's the first of October and I have made a start on the Great Cycle Challenge, an event which runs over the month of October to raise money to fight kids' cancer. The first ride I did was on the stationary bicycle at the gym, because last night we had a whopper of a storm and the weather was atrocious all morning. But the sun is shining now so I am about to get on my bike and hit the road. Very excited! I will update everyone as I embark on the journey - one which aims to help me become fitter as well as help children become healthier - can't really lose on that one, can we?

To make a donation, simply view my page by clicking on the link below:

Monday, 10 June 2013

Dirty tea-towels

I’ve got some dirty tea-towels

That I put in the wash to soak
I only use them to wipe a few wet dishes
Then back in the tub they go

But I can’t get the stains out
No matter how hard I try
I can soak them forever
I can rub them with SARD
I can brush them with bristles
Stiff and pointed to the touch  

They are the stains of your old life
The remnants of your marriage
The reminders that you had a life apart from me
Not too long ago 

They soak and soak and soak
But the stains won’t go away
Maybe one day
The stains won’t bother me

Maybe one day
We’ll have enough dirty tea-towels of our own.
Sue Oaks 2013