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

Friday, 10 May 2013

This is for you Mum, on Mother's Day!

When I think of Mum, I first think of her smile, the gentle way she moves, her grace and her deep intelligence.

I remember the way she would light up in a group of children and the way she would pour hours of time preparing amazing lessons for them to learn with passion and commitment to the task. It was clear how this paid off in the way many students thought she was the world, which to me, of course, she was.

Dressed in tracksuit pants or a pair of old jeans, she would bring in a tray of veggies from the garden and look amazingly beautiful, without a trace of make-up to be seen on her skin.

Bedtimes were heaven. Mum always tucked me in and my bedclothes were crispy clean, washed and dried and tucked in tight around the mattress.  

I was a sooky child at times, but Mum understood me. She even let me suck my thumb for as long as I needed, despite it being a terrible habit. She knew I had an ear for music and bought me a piano. Heaven! Then she paid for lessons and found the best piano teacher in the world, letting me learn for as long as I wanted. She even encouraged me to join the brass band and put up with the early learning noises as well as following the band for years.

Mum encouraged to explore my creative side, letting me play how I wanted to play, making cubbies and emus in the bush, acting out competitions on the trampoline, creating games and stories and role-plays, mixing endless potions and making mud-pies and pasting magazine pictures all over my walls as a teenager, never mind the endless paper-maiche models, journals and notes and the sewing of numerous scraps of fabric, they were just the tip of the ice-berg!

Surrounded by books and interesting conversation, Mum inspired me to be successful academically, always celebrating my achievements at school. She’s a great cook, too, my Mum. Especially memorable were the zucchini cakes she made one year from the masses of zucchinis she grew in her garden. They were sweet, moist and never-ending, it seemed, like the magic pudding. My mouth still waters at the thought.

She is a patient woman, proven by her endurance of my whinging as a child and her ability to encourage me to get my head out of a book occasionally and ride my bike, one of the few exercises I enjoyed. I went from the back of my sister’s three wheeler trike as a toddler to my own trike, to decorated bikes in the Dahlia and Arts Festival, to riding from Sydney to Wollongong as a family on my yellow beast to eventually completing the Great Victoria Bike Ride when I was 19, riding from Stawell to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road. I still love my bike!

Mum didn’t push me to be anything I wasn’t, but quietly encouraged me in what I was.

She even taught me what it meant to love a pet. She showed me how much she loved our dog, Happy, when he died after being bitten by a snake in the bush and she was grief-stricken. I was sad too but her depth of grief taught me a lot and prepared me for what I might experience when my own pets would die, years later. She taught me about forgiveness when she allowed our Labrador, Bill, to avoid a death-sentence after he attacked me, trusting me when I begged her not to have him put down. He ended up being the best dog ever, too.

Studying primary teaching as an adult, Mum trusted me to read her uni notes even though I had no idea what they meant, giving me confidence that I could read big words … really big words!

I had the freedom to be friends with whoever I wanted and she always made them welcome. Later, she accepted and loved the men I chose to share my life and she still treats both of them with respect. She adjusted to being a Grandmother (quite a young one too) with grace, always expressing her love to her three grandchildren who love her like crazy in return.

What an amazing woman you are Mum. I love you so much. Happy Mother’s Day!

 

Sue xxx


For a great Mother's Day Present, you can download 'Short Stories on Motherhood' for free this weekend only on Amazon kindle!


 

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Build your life around what you love!


'Building your life around what you love is something you’ll never regret' says Marie Forleo on the Positively Positive blog and she goes on to expand, 'It’s your passion for what you do that will give you the drive, commitment, and energy necessary to create any amount of success and fulfilment you desire, and you’ll have an extraordinary time while you do it.' (see link for reference)  This is a great article and worth a read and it really got me thinking about what I am doing right at this moment in my life, in my lead up to turning forty.

Looking back over some of my older posts I remembered writing about my daughter and her star-fish hairstyle. Boy it's been a crazy journey since then, a journey which has changed me in so many ways and made me realise how much I really judged people by their appearance. The battle with school continued as she found many more ways to rebel against the expected dress code. I'm talking hair in as many shades of red as can be dyed, hair shaved and shaped, piercings in the side of the nose, the inside of the nose, the lip and a stretcher in the ear. Not just a little stretcher either, but a giant, plate sized stretcher, not something that is easily missed. The complaints from other parents, the looks from passers-by, because she really was starting to look, how do i say it, 'different!'

Calls from school, an unhappy daughter, family dysfunction, you name it, it was all going on. Then finally, I had enough of the calls from teachers to come and discuss the appearance issues once again and I decided it was time to pull the plug. 'You're just going to keep challenging the school with your appearance because you don't want to be there, aren't you?' I asked and the answer was a resounding 'yes'. This was going to require some big changes of my own life, too. She was going to need me home more. It was time to talk about going part time ... which would also free up a couple of days for me to concentrate on my writing. It was time to give her space to do what she was being called to do, and it was going to go against every brain cell inside my skull that was lecturing 'she should finish school in the traditional manner'. Once I let go of those little self-righteous voices, suddenly the tides of circumstance appeared to have been released. There were a few leads and following these up led to my daughter being offered a place in a certificate of visual arts at the local TAFE college.


On the first day there, I watched her reaction, the expression in her eyes behind the mask of make-up and the strands of rainbow coloured extensions. It was like a fire had suddenly entered her soul. From the moment we walked past the red-brick walls, past the sculptures in the middle of the buildings and into the classrooms, where student desks were set up with easels and sketches and art materials, I knew beyond doubt that my daughter was where she was meant to be . As I signed the papers I felt the excitement emanating from her and as I drove away, leaving her happily ensconced in her new class I was actually crying tears of happiness. I felt I had been part of something momentous, part of something so much bigger than me. Watching and feeling my daughter being freed to follow her passion. Now that is a moment to treasure.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

To me, aged sixteen:

  1. You are neither fat nor ugly, you are yourself and you can always enhance whatever you've been given if you just take time to learn some skills!
  2. Surrounded by critics you are holding back your inner fire. Forget them. Embrace your passions and show the world your talents.
  3. Don't listen when they say you can't laugh and be happy. Laughter is what the world is made of. Treasure your ability to see the funny side of things because it will be your armour throughout your life.
  4. You are a lover. You have so much empathy and so much love to give the world. Just don't forget to love yourself as well.
  5. It doesn't matter if you make a mistake or even if you make lots of them. Truly, if you got up on stage and played that piano without worrying about every note not being perfect you could enjoy it and express yourself that way, give it a go and don't give up when the going gets tough!
  6. Treasure your grandparents, they are your main support now and you won't have them forever. Treat them with respect and shower them with hugs and kisses.
  7. Aim big. Don't listen to the teachers who tell you you'll be barefoot and pregnant before you're seventeen and if you want to be a writer just go and do it, you know what you need to do.
  8. Your sexuality is developing. Treasure it, enjoy it and take care who you share your body and soul with. It is precious and so are you. Enjoy with caution.
  9. Don't waste time worrying about what your step-father says. He isn't mentally well and most of his angst is being aimed at you. It is not about you at all but about his own insecurities.
  10. Write more poetry! It's great! You can express yourself well through words, you just need to do it more and don't hold back. Find ways to share it with the world.
  11. There is more to the world than that small country town you are living in! The city awaits and a whole new life for you is just around the corner. Hang in there and soon you will have the world within your reach.
  12. Go for it! You have guardian angels looking out for you who will protect you. Trust yourself and your intuitions. Enjoy your life, it is filled with blessings.


Saturday, 20 April 2013

Pre-teen blues and the Princess Diana hairstyle!

At the hairdresser this morning, enjoying being pampered by Michael, my skilled and personable stylist, I recalled my nightmare years as an awkward pre-teen when the hairdressers' chair may as well have been a torture device.

Having endured my mum's bowl cuts for most of my childhood I had been introduced to the local hairdresser, 'Amelia's Hair Care'. Unfortunately, they didn't have much of a clue how to manage an awkward, self-conscious pre-teen girl, particularly when I brought in a photo of Princess Diana and asked them to make me look like her! Of course, the Princess Diana style was very short and very layered, a style which will not suit your average person and with my square jaw, a style which was going to end in the inevitable buckets of tears and a distressed hairdresser looking rather lost for words.

Although I thought I was the centre of the universe at that age, the Princess Diana hairstyle was apparently not an uncommon request during the 1980s. 'When she was alive, many women had imitated her hairstyles, so you could see women at the 1980s wearing any Diana’s hairstyle. Women had wanted to look on the same simple, sexy and elegant way like Princess Diana.'  'Feathering was one of the popular famous short hairstyles during the 1980s; it was basically a hair cutting technique used for short layers to make it look like feathers and this was once a renown for late Diana's famous short hairstyles'. I was fascinated to read that some women in the world are still asking for Princess Diana styles today!



Well, I'm glad the days of me being ruled by adults are over and I can choose to wear my hair any way I please. I no longer tremble in the hairdressers seat, but relax and enjoy the pampering that goes on, mixed with some interesting conversation. I wonder what fads other people have followed in hairstyles, discovering too late that they didn't suit them at all?

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Images

Images held tenderly
Of the kind of mother I wanted to be,
Of the kind of mother I thought I should be,
Are shattered.
 
I try and pick up the pieces
Blending them together with a mix of porridge and glue
But the picture they make has a shape of its own
Like someone has photo-shopped it until it resembles
A Salvador Dali Painting.

So I go for a walk Listening to my Ipod
A funny mix of music from the past and the present
Becomes a soundtrack to my thoughts
As I pine for the past while celebrating the present
Planning for the future which may never be.

How come they never told me
I would have to let my children go
On their own paths?
Paths that don’t fit with my hopes and dreams
Paths that will be rocky and paths that only lead to crossroads
Where decisions must be made
Decisions which might lead to broken bones
And broken hearts?

What if we could change things and choose a time to go back to,
Working with the wisdom of hindsight,
If we could wipe out the bad bits and start again?
 
We can’t, though.
We can only start here and now, and still with no guarantees
We can only set them free and
Barrack from the sidelines
With all our might.

 
Sue Oaks 2013



Saturday, 6 April 2013

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

There are the books everyone has heard about: Twilight, Hunger Games, and Fifty Shades of Gray. But what about all those books written by people you’ve never heard of? Some of them are treasures, just waiting to be found, and that’s what this blog hop is all about: the books you might not have heard about, but that you might end up loving.


The Next Big Thing Blog Hop interviews authors and shares their books and coming attractions.

It is like a game of tag. One author posts and tags other authors who link back to their website the next week and tag new authors. If you follow the blog hop long enough, you’re bound to find some books you’ll love! Maybe you’ll even discover a book that ends up being the next big thing.

I was tagged by my editor/publisher Fiona Gatt.

Besides tagging people, The Next Big Thing Blog Hop includes ten questions to help you learn more about an author’s present work or work in progress. Here is my interview with a little info about my work in progress:



1. What is the working title of your new book?

A Justified Desire

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Working with many mothers who are in the painful position of having their children removed from their care and getting to know the complexity of their situations, including domestic violence, mental illness, substance addiction and generational poverty has inspired this book.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Suspense with a dash of romance.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Tess, the protaganist, would be played by Scarlett Johannson, while
Tess's mother Trina would be played by Julianne Moore. The main love lead would be played by a yet unknown young and hot Aboriginal actor with plenty of Charisma while the bad-boy would be played by Sterling Beaumon.

5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

When Tess, a talented botanical artist has her daughter removed by Child Protection she must find her way out of a complex maze to get her back.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I hope to have my novel published by one of the major publishing houses in Australia.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The manuscript is still in progress but the first 50,000 words have taken about four months, working between one to two hours per day.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Perhaps No place to Run by Maya Banks, or Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks.

9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?

A mixture of working with mothers who are in complex situations and my own experience of parenting has inspired me.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

References to botanical drawing, outback Australia, family tensions and dynamics and that everlasting element of suspense should keep the reader's interest throughout the story.

Now, on to tagging other people for The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. I will tag: Hannah Downing

 

Sorry darling, Mummy has to write! Sue Oaks

With today’s push for Super-Mum status, including having to have the best equipment, the latest styles of children’s clothing, enrolments in every co-curricular activity you could think of and of course, ensuring the children have their names on the list at your choice of school … do any mothers actually remember what they enjoy doing themselves?

I wasn’t in the financial position to provide all those things for my children when they were young. We were helped along a bit by family but mainly made do with op-shop clothing and second-hand furniture and being accommodated in low cost (and low quality) rentals. My husband and I were young when we got married and it took a while for us both to get established in our careers. Eventually we got going but in between were many moves from city to country, eventually settling on the Mornington Peninsula.
Now I have a full time social work career and I’m nearly forty. With my studies finished (two bachelor degrees and two post-graduate diplomas in teaching, social work and writing) I’m faced with an unquenchable desire to … write my novel!!!!!!!! So why do I feel guilty? I won’t start to talk about the many times I have felt guilty in pursuing my studies, in the knowledge of how much it involved both a loss of income to the family and a loss of time available to give to my kids. Now, with studies finished, I just need to do what I think I might have been born to, write.
I wonder if anyone else feels the same? What are your passions and your interests and have you put them aside because you think being a mum means you can’t have any of that in your life anymore? I bet there are a few of you out there. Being Super-Mum is heavily pushed in our society but really, even if we tried, could we ever meet those unrealistic expectations?

If we let it the world will zap our talents and creativity and turn us into guilty cardboard cut-outs whose attempts to keep up with the Joneses merely leave us exhausted and bereft of a soul.
Mother’s Day is coming up soon in Australia. Why not use this day to celebrate who you are and re-evaluate your approach to life. Have you found a balance? Can you see the person behind the label of mother anymore? Motherhood can be wonderful, rewarding, challenging and amazing. But it can also be stressful, expensive, time-consuming and daunting. Do you feel guilty even thinking those things? Don’t worry, you’re human. If you’d like to read about mothers who don’t fit the stereotype of Super-Mum and who go through a colourful emotional journey, you might enjoy my book, ‘Short Stories on Motherhood’, available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ADSEDNO

 


Monday, 4 February 2013

The difficulty of letting go

With the Australian school year having just begun, many parents will have that often emotional experience of letting go of their child fresh in their minds. For many, letting go of your child’s hand as he or she starts kindergarten, prep or even the first year of high school can be heart-wrenching, to say the least. Watching as your precious child leaves the safe haven of your arms to enter the big battle-ground of the school-yard can almost break your heart! I remember sitting in a crowd of preppie parents when my oldest daughter started school, feeling every second of her rather disgruntled expression and  hoping beyond hope that she would have a good day, make friends straight away and be happy.



The term ‘helicopter parent’ has recently made headlines, with researchers arguing that many parents now do too much for their children, hovering around them and not allowing them the freedom to fight their own battles. Andrew fuller advises parents to be careful not to do this, because one day your child may need to stand on their own two feet. Many parenting experts advise that it is wise to let your child do what he or she is capable of as much as possible and be brave enough to allow them a certain amount of freedom, including the freedom to learn from their own mistakes. In my short story, ‘Excess Baggage’, Tamara finds herself in a dilemma at the train station, where her two girls, in that tricky stage of pre-adolescence, are required to travel to Sydney in a bus while she takes the train. It is an unavoidable and confusing situation and the emotions involved cause Tamara to reflect on her experiences as a mother. I hope you enjoy the story.

Excerpt from ‘Excess Baggage’ by Sue Oaks

‘The girls, Bec and Sam, were nine and ten. Were they old enough to go by themselves? What if the bus arrived first and they were stranded alone in Sydney? Tamara glanced at the other travelers who were giving last quick embraces or standing on the platform ready to wave goodbye. The train’s engine started with a noisy shiver and the conductor tapped his foot, looking behind him and at his watch.
‘Oh, okay then’, she sighed, giving the girls a quick kiss. ‘I’ll see you at Sydney. Be good, okay?’
‘Of course’. Then they were gone. It was only a second before they disappeared in the crowd.

Tamara stepped on the train. The girls’ bags were quite heavy, she’d stuffed them with extras before they left; shoes, socks, school reports. Pushing the bags into the overhead compartment was a trial and other passengers were squeezing past awkwardly. She breathed out apologies and sat down. In the sudden lack of busyness, her mind filled with new concerns. What if the conductor takes them to some hidden corner and…What if they get lost? What if they sit next to some sleazebag who…She tried to push the thoughts away but they only became more vivid.
This trip would be the longest she’d been away from the girls. She’d never left them with Byron, never taken a week off. Friends used to tell her to go on a holiday, come away with them and spend some time having fun. Get to know herself again. She’d let herself go, they said, entered the gates of motherhood and never returned. But she hated the thought of not being there, not being available when they needed her, so she didn’t listen.

To continue reading, please purchase a copy of Short Stories on Motherhood by Sue Oaks, thank-you!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Help me, please, I hate housework!

Writing in desperation, a woman boasting the screen name of 'Angel Eyes' wrote to Yahoo Answers, 'I really hate housework. I mean, I really am grateful that I have my home but the cleaning is horrid and a losing battle. I don't feel it's laziness but rather dread that keeps me from doing it. I keep the area where the baby stays clean but I hate laundry and dishes and every other aspect of cleaning. Any suggestions or help you can give me will be much appreciated.'

Angel Eyes received a number of responses, some empathatic, some rather judgmental in tone. My favourite was from S.K. who started their response with 'OMG, I have this problem to. Maybe it's a disorder we can get meds for.'

What these women probably don't realise is that they probably do have meds for this already, as historically a lack of interest and motivation in housework has been linked with women's dissatisfaction with their societally imposed roles of housemaker and a likely connection with the experience of post-natal depression. Dorothy Wright, in 1961, wrote home to her mother with the description of herself as 'not a good mother', explaining that although she loves her two children, she 'loathes the continual, hampered feeling'. (Alistair Thompson)

Dorothy lived through what is now known as the Second Wave of Feminism, where women pushed for the right to equality in marriage and for the right to work. It is possible that now women have been pushed into the 'triple burden' position where they are expected to be efficient home-makers, living mothers and fathers as well as holding down jobs and careers.

 
Women are indeed living in a complex world where expectations are pushed on them from every direction, including values which have been passed down from their families and an array of messages from the media. My short story, Deuce, touches on this quandary, as Billy's Mum leaves the kitchen after slaving away at a hot stove on a typically steamy Aussie Christmas day and takes up camp in the back-yard at the new Totem Tennis set. Beneath the jacaranda tree she loses herself in a tennis championship of her imagination, her only escape from the endless domestic toil which had been her thankless task for many years. To read more of this story, simply purchase a copy of Short Stories on Motherhood, available for Kindle, E-reader or in print.

Sue  Oaks
 

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Create Your own fairy Garden - guest post

You may be reading this and thinking to yourself, “what the heck is a fairy garden?!”  Well, a fairy garden is a place that you can build to give fairies a wonderful place to live.  The most important part in making your own fairy garden is to make your garden inviting and pleasant for the fairies to live in.

A great way to attract fairies to your garden is through wind chimes.  Once they are attracted to your garden, you need to make certain that they have a nice place to live.  Fairies are very small so it is necessary to make sure that the plants that you use in your garden are not too overwhelming for the fairies.  I highly recommend using small plants such as bonsai trees to make your fairy guests feel at home. 
Many small plants are delicate so it is a good idea to find a space in your yard where the plants along with the fairies are protected.  For example, good spots for the gardens are against hills, under trees as well as along the side of your house.  All of these spots will give the fairies a sense of protection as well as protect them from being stepped on by humans.
Fairies also need a house to stay in.  You can make one on your own or you can search the web to buy one. I encourage making your own so you can add your own creativity to the house.  Fairy gardening is all about your creativity, honestly.  The more creative you are, the happier the fairy will be.
There is no straightforward way to make a fairy garden which in my opinion is a good thing.  This allows you to have fun and do what you feel is best to make your garden look beautiful as well as inviting for the fairies. To generate some fairy garden ideas, visit http://www.fairyinagarden.com/

 

 

How to best handle a car accident and the aftermath - guest post by Mark Harris

 
Hopefully you are reading this in preparing for a car accident that might happen…or better yet, never happen. It’s best to have some prior knowledge on how to handle a car accident both at the scene and after the dust has settled.

Fortunately, I have only been in a couple minor car accidents. But, it was enough to make me want to learn more about what should be done when and if one happens again. It’s a stressful time, and completely unexpected. So, to say that we should be prepared seems rather odd, right? But, we should be, as best we can for the unknown.

I am going to break the information down to what you can do before anything ever happens, when it happens, and also when everything is cleaned up and everyone has left the scene.

Prepare for the Unexpected

Having a few items in the car before you even start it up will help you in the chance you get into a car accident… or the car breaks down. We should be considering that as well, because people driving by a broken down car can often cause an accident simply by watching you instead of the road.

A set of cones and reflective warning triangles will help to warn traffic to move over and avoid hitting you, or any other cars involved. Emergency flares will work better at night so they can see you better. Keep these in the trunk and out of the way. Hopefully you will never need them. Also, keep an emergency card in your wallet… and another one in your glove compartment in the vehicle. On it, list your doctor, emergency contact name and number, and all important medical history and information for anyone treating you medically. 

Immediately Following the Accident

First thing you should do is take a deep breath, and then find your phone. Call the police and report the accident and any injuries you are aware of for everyone involved. If you have any doubt of how severe the injuries are, call an ambulance immediately. People have died from injuries, when they walked away thinking they were fine. Next, turn on your hazard lights and place the cones out on the road to warn traffic coming your way. If you are unable to get out of the car, sit and wait for emergency crews to come to you. Keep yourself and your passengers calm. With a minor accident and no injuries, move the vehicles out of traffic to avoid another accident. However, make sure you still call the police, no matter how minor it seems. You never know if the person you were in the accident with will call when they leave, or not. It’s best that it doesn’t appear as though you left the scene of an accident.

When the police and ambulance arrive, be cooperative with them, and follow their advice, especially if they recommend going to the hospital. If you are not with your family, call someone to let them know what happened, where you are, and where you will be going.

Finally, take photos of the damage to the car, position of the cars, and any visible injuries. A friend of mine, who lives out west, was recently in an accident. I gave her the same advice, because you never know if you will find yourself in court as a result of the accident…no matter who was at fault. So, she did all this, and then looked into contacting a reputable Sacramento personal injury lawyer. In the end, she was glad she did.

After You Leave the Scene

After the cars are towed…or you can (luckily) drive off, there are several things to do after you leave the scene as well;

  • Take a look
  • Call your insurance agent,
  • Get estimates for damage
  • Follow up with your doctor if you have injuries
  • Contact the police department for a full report
  • Watch for depression to set in

You might be surprised to see depression mentioned. However, if there is a major loss of income, or major expenses incurred as a result of the accident, it could affect you emotionally. If you find that happening, do something to counter it such as counseling before it spirals out of control. Finally, try not to discuss the accident too much with anyone except the legal and medical experts involved in your ‘case’. This will help protect you in court, should you find yourself in a battle with the other driver, or drivers.

In Closing, I sincerely hope you will never have to use any of this information I just shared. But, in case you do…or you know of someone to share it with, then you are further ahead with this knowledge.

Mark Harris is a successful Internet marketer and freelance writer, working out of the comfort of his own home. He loves research and it often inspires him for future projects. In fact, when looking up information for a friend on personal injury cases, he used many online resources including  www.travisblacklaw.com and then got the idea to write a series on auto accidents and how they can affect a person’s life. Mark is married and lives in White Rock, B.C. He enjoys spending time on the local beaches, hiking, kayaking, and touring Vancouver.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Pubes with Attitude



What is it with the social pressure to shave every hair on a woman’s body, bar her head these days? Is it to sell hair removal products? Does it come from the rise in media representations of photo-shopped, flawless women's bodies and the growing sales of porn on the Internet?

Does it come from men’s fear that women might be hiding something … akin to the myths which surrounded the alleged witch hunts in the Medieval and early modern periods, where women were chased down and shaved in search of so-called witches marks?

It’s interesting how the mere presence or absence of hair on one’s body can indicate so much more than whether or not one owns a shaver or a bottle of wax. In past times, men with unshaven faces were considered lower class, and even today it can be construed as a sign of power to have a fresh, clean shaven jaw-line.

Western women thought nothing of a hairy under-arm or leg until about 1915 when advertisements for hair removal products began to appear in magazines and newspapers. Men were encouraged to have hairy bodies while women were punished for the presence of hair in ‘unsightly’ places.

Today the trend for a totally hairless woman’s body seems to be growing and hair-loss industries and reaping the benefits. Brazilian butterflies apparently have been let loose in flocks of thousands. Of course women are ‘free’ to choose whether to be adorned with body hair or ‘relieved’ of it via their choice of device. What is worrying is the social expectation that this is the norm, particularly in young girls, who reportedly fear that their boyfriends will be horrified at the sight of their natural body hair.

Well, shave away, wax away or be proud of your pubes, I say, but keep in mind that whatever you choose to do is probably bringing a profit to someone and may not make you happy. Be aware and be yourself, however you choose to fly. 

Sue Oaks 2013

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Things you can make with edible paper (guest post)

Many of the same crafts done in real paper can be created in edible paper to decorate cakes, cookies, cupcakes and other desserts. Edible paper is a thin sheet of icing that can be cut, stamped, embossed, quilled or even printed on to create a wide variety of decorations. Unlike many other cake decorating techniques, working with edible paper is time saving and easy enough for most people to do without any prior cake decorating experience. Here are just a few ways you can use it:
  1. Create a book cake, as shown in the photo. The pages are printed using edible ink cartridges (filled with food color). They are then applied to the fondant by applying a light coat of piping gel to the back of the icing sheet.
  2. Punching designs: You can buy a wide variety of punches at your local craft store. You can punch out single decorations to place around a cake, top a cupcake or lay on top of a cookie. You can also find longer punch designs that make really decorative borders.
  3. Create funky flowers: A wide variety of designs can be printed on the icing sheets. To make your flowers, roll out the gum paste to 1/8” thick. Apply piping gel to the back of the printed icing sheet. Lay the icing sheet on top of the gum paste. Cut out flowers using a 5 petal cutter. Create a center for the flower by adding a ball of gum paste in the center, attaching it with gum glue. You can make the center yellow or just add a complimentary color. Allow the flowers to dry at least overnight. Attach the flowers to your cake with piping gel or place one on top of each cupcake before the frosting sets.
  4. Print out photos on the icing sheets and use them to create a photo gallery on a cake. You can layer photos printed out in different shapes and sizes to create a collage.
  5. Completely cover a cake in a printed design.  Trace the cake pan on to the plastic backing of the edible paper and cut out with scissors. Apply to the top of the cake with a light coat of piping gel. Wrap the print around the cake by matching the print up from end to end and trimming the excess.
Edible paper comes in white, chocolate and a variety of solid colors. White is best for printing designs and images. Any color can be cut either by hand or by using an electronic cutting machine, which can create a wide variety of designs or cut out complete messages in print, script or other font types.  The only skills you really need to work with icing sheets are cutting and a good imagination. You can create works of art with very little effort.
Featured images:
  •  License: Image author owned 
Theresa Happe from Icing Images.

Learn from the greats, writing tips from R.R.Martin (guest post)

George R.R Martin – The Master of Gritty Political Fantasy
At the recent World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago, George R.R Martin mentioned reading about a king in Ancient Jerusalem who went mad and began executing courtiers and ordering the hands cut off all the women at court. “Why doesn't the captain of the guard say to the sergeant, ‘This guy is [expletive] nuts’?” Martin pointed out. They should say, “We have swords! Why don't we kill him instead?'”
His fascination with power structures and the shifting sands on which they are built is a theme running strong through his epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire and its massively popular HBO adaption Game of Thrones. Martin’s gritty take on fantasy undercuts conventions of the genre, and creates a fictional world embroiled in war and political intrigue, bringing to mind periods from our history such as the civil wars of Ancient Rome, or the War of the Roses.
Martin was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, so it’s no surprise that his novels look at the brutality of war, the powers behind it and its moral ambiguity. He enjoys creating characters who are constantly forced to make a choice when all the choices are bad; who are constantly caught between the requirements of family and clan loyalties, social and political standards and their own personal desires.
He is famous for being unafraid to kill off major characters, as well as for taking a notoriously long time to write. Fans frequently bemoan the long delays between each new installment, only to be reminded by Neil Gaiman that “George R.R Martin is not your b**ch”.
Tips from the Man Himself
The books are beloved, and the TV series has become a cultural phenomenon. George R.R Martin is a big name right now, and he has always been willing to give advice to budding writers hoping to emulate his success.
  • Fans often ask Martin for advice on writing fan fiction, to which his response is that they shouldn't write fan fiction. He believes writers should get used to creating their own characters and worlds. Whether it’s the universe of Game of Thrones, Tolkien or Star Wars, he believes that writers take the lazy option when they copy someone else’s world. The only way to develop literary talent it to exercise “literary muscles”.
  • Don't hoard your silver bullet: Martin gave this advice to his friend Melinda Snodgrass, who was unsure whether to submit her script for a Star Trek episode entitled “Measure of a Man”. The script had the android Data put on trial to determine whether he is man or property, and she felt the subject matter might be too weighty due to its parallels with the Dred Scott vs. Sandford case of 1857. Martin encouraged Melinda to submit the episode, which would become one of the most memorable in Star Trek history (io9.com).
  • Start small: Martin says he's been approached by fans asking for advice on writing their own epic sagas. To him that's tantamount to someone who's just started rock-climbing requesting advice on climbing Mount Everest. Martin believes new writers should hone their craft by writing short stories first. Something like A Song of Ice and Fire is the product of years of experience and research.
  • Trimming sentences and such can often significantly reduce the length of a work. This is a technique picked up during his years writing for television, where executives would tell him to cut scenes in order to reduce a script's length. Loath to part with important character development or action-sequences, he'd go through the script trimming words off sentences and dialogue instead, to make it appear shorter in length.
  • On writing scenes: Just as writers should have a clear idea of the characters’ goals throughout the story, they should also have a clear idea of their goals within each scene. The intentions of each participant are important to build the dynamic of the scene, and to ensure the reader feels something significant has occurred by the end of it, whether it’s a character change or resolution of some kind. This scene-by-scene approach results in stronger work overall.
  • Read and write a lot: This advice often given to budding writers, but Martin goes further and insists they should experience writing in every genre and on every medium, and should write as much as possible, even if it's just a page or two a day.
George R.R Martin is well known for regularly participating in fan conventions and the like, where he readily interacts with fans eager to seek advice from one of the masters of the fantasy and science fiction genres.
Featured images:
Written by Matthew Flax on behalf of House of Publishers, a directory of publishing resources and advice portal for aspiring writers.

The new Ice Drumming Craze, Guest Post by Vida Denning

They’ve been accused of fooling the public with their ice drumming on the oldest lake in the world. The massive frozen waves that cover Lake Baikal have become the latest percussion instruments for a group of Siberian percussionists. The sounds are quite remarkable and so much so that the group have been told that the sounds cannot possibly be natural sounds; but they are.

Drum Drum Druuuuum

Discovered quite by mistake when a woman tripped over a piece of ice and landed with a resounding boom on the ground, the sounds emitted when drumming on the frozen waves of the 25 million year-old lake, are quite haunting and most distinctive. This ice drumming phenomenon has become an internet sensation and been reported about across the globe.
The oldest and deepest lake in the world is now the musical ice drumming studio for a group who enjoy sitting in the -20C weather drumming away on the ice and producing some extraordinary sounds. Natalya Vlasevskaya decided to organise a group of percussionists to see what they could come up on the musical front and their efforts have shown the world that even Mother Nature has some vibe and rhythm left in her.
The lake, which freezes over every winter, is used now to evoke some haunting melodies which have stirred the creativity of many producers thanks to the musical potential on offer. The ice drumming percussionists are still sometimes knocked for a six when they hear the sounds that emanate from their simple drumming skills.
Ice drumming is not anything new as drummers from many international music bands have used their talents on actual drum sets made out of ice, but this ice drumming on the oldest lake in the world brings something different to the equation. The natural drumming comes from the deepest belly of the deepest lake in the world. Each wave emits a different sound that even those with a musical education are baffled at. Different parts of the lake allow for different sounds so no two sounds are ever the same.
The ice drumming group called it the ‘Bakail Ice live sound’ and started drumming in March. Naturally their musical sessions are seasonal and they will have to wait for the next winter to get their next ice drumming session off the ground. Or they could plan their songs and lyrics, and get the planning sessions going. Who knows, we could be looking at an ice drumming record by the Siberian percussionists, for this year’s Christmas presents.
As a prolific freelance writer, Vida Denning enjoys writing on interesting topics. Her most recent research into waterproof overalls brought this topic to her attention.

To listen to the ice drumming, follow this link! http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2255943/Listen-Siberian-ice-drummers-use-frozen-Lake-Baikal-incredible-musical-instrument.html