Facebook B&W Challenge

It’s been quiet around here.

Truth be told, I’ve been dealing with issues which I won’t bore you with but it involves my hair… Yes, still falling out. Yes, thin patches are becoming bald patches. No, there doesn’t seem to be any explanation for it. And I’ve been priced for a human hair topper at $900 which is money I simply don’t have anymore.

Long gone are the days where I could make a $1000 purchase and still have $1000 to last me for a fortnight.

I am looking into a good quality synthetic topper (which comes at just under a third of the price of a real human hair wig) – there are many that look quite real. Until then, hats and bandannas are going to become my best friends.

Anyway… I was tagged to do the current challenge that’s trending on Facebook at the moment. A 5-day black and white endeavour.

I figured I could commit to five days. The original rules were to take and post a new photo every day for five days, but since I really couldn’t be bothered doing that, I decided to publish some never-before-seen images from my collection over the years.

And now I share them with you.

Renlish.com - Facebook B&W Challenge

Serenity. Yi Yuan Gardens, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia

Renlish.com - Facebook B&W Challenge

Embrace. Bruno’s Sculpture Garden, Marysville, Victoria, Australia

Renlish.com - Facebook B&W Challenge

Solitude. Healesville, Victoria, Australia

Renlish.com - Facebook B&W Challenge

Sleeping Beauty. Boudoir shoot, 2013

Renlish.com - Facebook B&W Challenge

Challenge. Torndirrup National Park, Western Australia

I encourage everyone to do this, whether it’s take a new photo every day and post it to your blog or your Facebook wall. It’s a little bit of fun and it can be a nice walk down Memory Lane.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Prepare yourself – this is an old school Ren rant the likes you haven’t seen in a long while on this blog.  Grab a coffee and settle in.

If you know me, then you know I like watching Youtube.

Actually, Youtube has pretty much taken over my entertainment viewing.  But apart from watching excessively cute videos about kittens or crazy pugs, Ghost Adventures or serials about feasts in Tudor times, I also watch those folks who have something to say to the world in the hopes that it might make one person out there in the big blue yonder feel better or stronger or just happier within themselves.

One such person is Emma Blackery.  She’s a little British powerhouse of attitude and snarky English humour but one of her recent videos really struck chords with me. Even though it’s aimed towards people at least 15-20 years my junior, I found it fascinating.

Watch it:

I could only applaud her comments on the topic. She said things that I probably needed to hear back in the day when I was stressing over study guides, trying to pick the classes that would lead me into the designated career I might have been destined to have. Nevermind that at the grand age of 16 I was still swinging between wanting to be a palaeontologist, vet, kindergarten teacher, or speech pathologist – all in one year.

(Hint: I achieved none of these things.)

The thing that absolutely gives me the shits about high school is that at the age of 15 or 16, a young person is expected to know what they want to do with their lives.  If they’re “lucky” they’re sat down with a some sort of guidance counsellor and are told what their best options are given their results in their studies to date and their own personal interests.  If they’re not lucky, they will have to figure it all out on their own.

Outside of school, the REALLY unlucky ones will be having their futures decided for them by their parents who will insist they need good grades to get into the good universities to become doctors, lawyers, and similarly well-paid professionals. Because money means a good life, does it not?  Everyone wants that for their kids, right? I knew so many girls in my school who were so stressed out by the need to do well in maths and sciences, all because they didn’t want to disappoint their parents.

It’s shit.

Here’s why it’s shit:

It’s not fair to expect a child, someone who isn’t even old enough to vote yet, to know what they want to be doing five, ten, or twenty years into the future – to know what they want to base their whole existence on.

I’ve spent my whole adult life wondering what my purpose is and I’ve never, ever figured that out. Most people are just not that lucky.

At age 33 I had a breakthrough moment after working several years in an industry that was useful and respectful, and climbing my way up the corporate ladder and into an executive pay packet.  That breakthrough moment was being called “made redundant”.  I was being forced out of my safe, well-paid but unhappy little world by big business.

As my soon-to-be-former employer wanted to keep their appearance of giving a shit about their employees alive, they arranged careers counseling and job seeking seminars for us in the hopes that we wouldn’t bomb the place in the 18 months between being told of the company changes and eventually being kicked out. It was a nice gesture and some made full use of it. I didn’t make enough use of it, however the one session I had with the counselor was extremely enlightening. One of the first questions she asked me and the way she responded to my answer had a resounding effect on my psyche.

“How old are you?”

“I’m 33.”

“Goodness! You’re just a baby! You haven’t even had a chance to consider what you want to be when you grow up!”

I was like… “WHAT? I said I was 33, not 23!”

Like I said, all these years in Corporateria thinking that I was a failure because I hadn’t figured out my place in life had left me depressed and unhappy and completely unfulfilled. I was supposed to be a successful business woman. And I was! I was textbook. I’d worked my way up through the ranks, became a senior to assist running a large team of people, had an awesome pay packet, people looked up to me, I had responsibilities… all for what?

I wasn’t happy. I was fucking miserable. This was not where I wanted to be but I was doing it because that’s what was expected of me. I didn’t stay in uni to become a speech pathologist so this was the next best thing.

No kid, at the age of 16, 17 or 18, knows where their life is going to lead them unless they ABSOLUTELY WANT TO BE OR DO SOMETHING. No one should be forced onto a certain path because it’s the one their parents approve of, or a school adviser said that you were too dumb for anything else, or because money “for a good life” is important.

While the 12 months of unemployment which followed my redundancy absolutely sucked, it gave me the chance to consider what I wanted to do – and you know what? I think that opportunity to change my future to the way I want it to be has actually passed me by. But I am ok with that. I have a job I enjoy, it’s close to home, it’s simple routine. The money ain’t that great but I can budget and learn to either make do or deal with occasionally dipping into the red for things like holidays and or big purchases. I’m happy with picking at my life and choosing things to do along the way. It allows me to be brave occasionally.

At the grand old age of nearly-36, I have the bittersweet pleasure of hindsight. If I could have my time back again, I probably would have stayed in uni. But I would have also change courses.

If I could do it all again – I’d be digging up old/dead things for a living and loving it.

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Letters to My Younger Selves

Dear 12 year-old Ren,

Two important things.

First, don’t be wagging school. You will get caught. And you will be stupid and get caught twice.

And not only will you get caught twice but the risks you take in going all over the western suburbs of Melbourne by yourself are just stupid. No one knows where you are (they all assume you’re at school), anything could happen to you. You’ll also put yourself in a position of being dangerously behind in school after being away for almost an entire term and live for months under the threat of having to repeat Year 7. I know you’re very unhappy there but I promise it will get better. Hang in there. Good stuff will happen by the end of the year.

Secondly, Mum and Dad’s separation had nothing to do with you and absolutely had nothing to do with your sister’s issues. You will bear this grudge for a very long time. Please don’t. It’s not worth it. You’ll come to understand why Dad did what he did. Be patient. Love your sister, she needs it.

Love, 35 year-old Ren.

Renlish.com - Family

Walk like an Egyptian… homie!


Dear 13 year-old Ren,

Being utterly unable to learn Spanish or Italian will have no effect on your life in any way, no matter what your Italian or Spanish teachers tell you. You have no real interest in visiting Italy or Spain at any time of your life anyway.

Love, 35 year-old Ren.

(PS – It wouldn’t hurt if you practiced some key Japanese and Chinese phrases. You’ll be going to Japan and China. It’ll be your first trip out of Australia.)


Dear 14 year-old Ren,

Me again! Just a quick note… PAY ATTENTION IN TEXTILES CLASS!

You will discover cosplay at the age of 35, and that you actually do need those “stupid sewing skills” and you will have to rely on your poor mother instead. And she’s retired. She needs a break.

Cluelessly, your 35 year-old self.

(PS – Seriously girl. You’re going to DragonCon. You need this shit.)

Renlish.com - Steampunk Costume

Costumey glory that your mother will sew for you!


Dear 15 year-old Ren,
They shouldn’t have done that. You were not “asking for it”. You were taken advantage of. Don’t be scared. Please, tell someone.

Love and many hugs, 35 year-old Ren.

(PS – You will eventually learn that not all men are horrible, scary creatures. Most are perfectly nice. You will also learn that you like girls too.)


Dear 16 year-old Ren,

Remember the hard work you put in in Year 8 that impressed your English teacher so much that she insisted you go to that workshop with John Marsden and made that happen? Remember that? Your story was poignant and touching and just plain well written. You did extremely good work in the years that followed that. Until Year 11.

IGNORE MRS BELL.

She is a haggard old bitch who is so unsatisfied with her own life that she will bring other people down for her own amusement – unfortunately those people were her students. Even more unfortunate is that she specifically targeted creatively minded students like you. She will tell you that your work is awful and average and kill any enthusiasm you ever had for creative writing. It will take many years for you to get that back. It’s not worth it.

Love, 35 year-old Ren.

(PS – You will get that desire to write back while writing X-Men fanfiction with a friend in your mid 20s. You’ll also write a 50,000 word romance novel that involves time travel. And pirates.  You dag.)


Dear 17 year-old Ren,

Maths is not your greatest subject, accept it.  Move on.

Love, your 35 year-old self who knows you’ll end up working in finance anyway.


Dear 18 year-old Ren,

Yay! You finished highschool!

Yay! You got into uni!

Here’s a tip – GO TO YOUR CLASSES.  Get your degree. Finish what you start.

But you’re 18 now so you’re not going to listen to anyone anymore because you’re an “adult”.  So here’s what you’re going to do instead:

You’re going to waste days and days in the computer lab playing in chatrooms for eighteen hour stretches. You will fall for an American guy who is *cough*eighteen*cough* years your senior.  You’re going to ignore your lectures and start hanging out with your friends in the Student Union.  You’re going to support a friend who ends up working in a brothel. You’re going to drop out and start the long, arduous search for employment.

The next ten years are going to be pretty crap.

You’ll wish you listened to me!

Sincerely, your 35 year-old self.

(PS – Actually, it’s not all that bad. Lots of good stuff happens too.  Like you’ll meet a whole bunch of new people through blogging who become some of your best friends in the world. You’ll get into photography. You’ll become an aunty. You’ll rediscover your artistic talents. You’ll travel to places you never thought you’d go.)

Renlish.com - Ren and the Peanut

Peanut (aka the nephew) and me.


Dear 19 year-old Ren,

You know that really nice guy from WA you were introduced to?

Yeah, him.  You’ll marry him one day.  Just sayin’.

Love your 35 year-old-and-still-married self.

Renlish.com - Ren and the Manbeast

True love, several years later.


Dear 29 year-old Ren,

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

You know how you’re getting married and you want to get married in THAT RED DRESS?

Do it.

Don’t give a fuck about what anyone else thinks.

That dress will look awesome on you.

Cheers, 35 year-old Ren.

(PS – The dress you get will be gorgeous anyway, but definitely get your first choice. Regrets suck.)

Renlish.com - Wedding Dress - Trash the Dress

Trashing the dress, medieval style.

Polymer Clay Adventures – Feathers and Dragons and Tentacle-y-things…

I’ve decided to dive back into the madness that is polymer clay. It’s been fun having a fiddle and a play with the squishy stuff again. I used to enjoy sculpting though it’s been almost two decades since I picked up any sort of clay. As a teenager I used to make cake toppers for my mother’s Christmas cakes and it was something that I always enjoyed in school, but 20 years means that there’s been a huge lapse in the skill set and polymer clay isn’t exactly like working with sugar past or mud clay. Polymer clay has a bit of a rebounding rubbery type texture when sculpting it which takes a little getting use to. Not to mention my fingers are all thumbs and shakiness which makes fine detail somewhat tricky.

I was inspired again by a challenge in the Australian Beading Forum group on Facebook, posted by my friend, the insanely talented Neva of Nifty Creations. What was it? Dungeons and Dragons, of course. Even though I’ve never really played the game except to steal a few ideas for some fantasy fiction I occasionally write, I was all over this.

The chance to make some fantasy themed jewellery? HELL YES! I had been wanting to do something like this for ages and it was just the push that I needed to get started.

The challenge came in the form of the requirement of using two different mediums with which to create a piece that went with the theme. Oh well, nothing like a challenge to inspire new learning! Since I am neither a wire-worker or a clayer, so naturally I decided that those two mediums would be the most fun to use!

And by “fun” I actually mean frustrating swear-word-inducing and almost-marriage-ending tantrums as a result of using…

Anyway…

I knew I needed some practice before I started, and of course I had to buy ALL THE THINGS that go with claying, so I marched on down to Spotlight and bought a week’s wages worth of stuff to add to the collection of bits and pieces that another friend had kindly donated for me to use.

And then I jumped in and started making stuff.

This was the first project I’d done a couple months ago:

Renlish.com - Clay Play - Feathers

Feathery, pearly goodness!

These feathers are based off a tutorial by Mandarin Ducky which you can find here on Youtube and they were lots of fun to make. Unfortunately that same day the manbeast was helping me open a packet of blades (for cutting clay) and ended up gashing the tops of his fingers quite badly. On his painting hand. He still hasn’t forgiven me.

After that successful first step, I wanted to try something a little more sculptural and opportunity came knocking when another friend posted a picture of a polymer clay and dicro cabochon pendant that she’d fallen in love with on Facebook. So I made her one…

Renlish.com - Polymer Clay - Tentacle-y Thing!

A rip-off of someone else’s idea.

I make absolutely no allusions to the fact that I am the original creator of this style of pendant. This is an exact copy (mostly) of the picture I saw on Facebook. I just happened to have the right sort of cabochon and the clay on hand to make it.

So all of that leads us to this, the Dragon Shade.

“The Dragon Shade is a powerful amulet said to be carved from the scale of a slain black shadow dragon. Its jewel holds the spirit of the beast which can be unleashed upon unwary heroes with an arcane spell.

(Which means if you come across anyone wearing this amulet, run. Run far, far away. Run very quickly.)”

Renlish.com - Polymer Clay - Dragon Shade Amulet

As evil as it is pretty.

Technical: Blood, sweat, tears, and many swear words. Also polymer clay sculpting and Viking weave as well as a bit of beaded chain and some coiled and oxidized copper end caps.

All by hand.

I need a freakin’ drink.

The Short-but-Epic Trip to USA for DragonCon 2014! (Part 3 – A Large Coke)

Thursday was the first official day in Atlanta and first task of the day was to grab our passes for the convention.  This was a relatively painless process of lining up, presenting our blue passes and exchanging them for the bit of plastic that would provide safe passage through all the hotels during the con.  Without those passes on (at all times), you were seriously rooted if you wanted to get anywhere.

Then we headed out to the Georgia Aquarium for a bit of a sight-see, however, upon getting there we discovered that the cost of a couple tickets (PLUS TAX!) was insanely expensive.  $40+ per ticket was just a little much for everyone involved and we were reluctant to spend that much.  Fortunately we were planning on going to the party being held at the aquarium on Saturday evening.  Not only would we be there in the evening but the aquarium would be open to the party goers for the bargain price of $30 even.  With that in mind, we turned towards the Coke Museum.

For my readers who are not familiar with Coca-Cola history, Coke was born in Atlanta and as a result, there’s a big-assed museum with all sorts of Coke-themed paraphernalia housed within.

Rather than bore you with talking about it, here’s a collection of my favourite pictures from the day.  It was actually more interesting than I thought it was going to be.  There was some very, very cool retro stuff to be found…

Renlish.com - Coke Museum

Wise words.

Renlish.com - Coke Museum

A collection of Coca-Cola signage spanning decades.

Renlish.com - Coke Museum

Toothy purple frogman in a hat that looks like a boob… I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to know.

Renlish.com - Coke Museum

The original Cola!

Renlish.com - Coke Museum

Pretty colours!

Renlish.com - Coke Museum

Vintage Cola!

Renlish.com - Coke Museum

Fast cars and even faster women. Maybe.

Renlish.com - Coke Museum

I don’t know, I just thought the sign was funny.

Renlish.com - Coke Museum

Possibly the fabled Machine That Goes PING!? No? Oh well.

Renlish.com - Coke Museum

Contemporary Cola.

Renlish.com - Coke Museum

I fell in love with these bottles, the one made from computer boards in particular. They were huge!

Renlish.com - Coke Museum

Ah, the room where you could taste all the flavours of all the Coca-Cola softdrinks of the world… Whatever you do, do NOT drink the Beverley. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.

So yes. Coca-Cola Land was certainly an adventure. Funniest moment of the day was awarded to my friend Grant who declared (as he fairly buzzed from a massive sugar overload), “I’ve only tried 87 of the 60 flavours!”

The Short-but-Epic Trip to USA for DragonCon 2014! (Part 2 – Hello Atlanta!)

After a very comfortable night asleep in a bed that I could actually lay down in (plane seats are not comfy and not made for sleeping) I awoke to something warm and furry vibrating against my hand. I would have thought that my friend John was up to things nefarious and kinky but our relationship is not like that at all. Then I remembered… he has cats.

Three of them, to be precise, and one of them had decided she liked me enough to wake me up in the morning and demand cuddles.

Renlish.com - Jeanne

The beautiful face of Jeanne. (Photo stolen from John.)

Ugh. Impossibly cute. I thought I would miss my two spewkitties at home, and I did, but these kitten cuddles went a long way to starting my day off with a smile.

So after a shower and a repacking all my stuffs, John and I collected the rental car, our other two friends; Tracy and Grant, and then headed out on our four hour trip across a couple of states from North Carolina to Georgia.

And what can you really say about a four hour drive apart from it was long and boring with a few moments of humour interspersed throughout…

That became our theme song for the trip.

Anyway, by early evening we finally made it into Atlanta and the Peachtree area where DragonCon was taking place.

The Atlanta Marriott Marquis, where we were staying, is also one of the five hotels that hosts DragonCon and all of it’s visitors. And it was huge. Really huge.  BIGLY huge.

Renlish.com - Atlanta Marriott Marquis

Looking up into the belly of the beast!

I thought I had been in some big hotels before but the Marriott was something else entirely. It just seemed to keep going. And the hive was already buzzing.

While John was checking us in, I made a quiet remark that the hotel was fairly busy. My friends just looked at me and smiled in that kindly, “You poor, naive thing, you” way.

It was only Wednesday evening, the Con didn’t officially start until Friday…

Renlish.com - Atlanta, Georgia

Goodnight, Atlanta. See you in the morning!

The Short-but-Epic Trip to USA for DragonCon 2014! (Part 1 – LAX SUCKS!)

I’m back!

Actually, I’ve been back a week already but I’ve needed all that time to simply get over the delayed jetlag that has claimed my soul upon my return to be able to even think straight about what I did last week, let alone write about it.

So.

The USA.

It’s fun. Different, but fun. There’s lots of similarities between Us and Them (Us being Aussies and Them being Amurrikans) but on the whole, they a nice – if interesting and slightly strange – bunch.

My trip started with an early morning run to the airport. I was stressed. I’d never had a flight with so many stop-overs before and I could think of nothing else but horror scenarios with my connections. Usually when I’d booked my own flights, I made sure there was no more than one connection to make or I was flying direct. However, that’s simply not possible when one is flying into North Carolina. And after all the horror stories I’d heard about the big and awful LAX, I was in panic mode.

Unfortunately the Manbeast had to get to work so couldn’t stay to keep me company (and calm me down) so after a quick hug and “love you” we went our separate ways.

As I checked in, the guy at the desk seemed to sense my unease (and by “sense” and “unease” I mean was he was watching me pretty much fall apart in front of him) and talked me through the whole damned thing as well gave me a little map of LAX and described exactly where I would need to go to meet my connections. That settled me somewhat. I had a good three hours between flights at LAX. I would have enough time to get lost and find my way at least once…

AND THEN THE FLIGHT WAS DELAYED BY AN HOUR AND A HALF.

It was the last thing I needed. My anxiety took over sometime during the flight and I had a cry because I am a big baby.

Renlish.com - Up and Away!

Calm. What my flights should have been like – but weren’t. (Photo from RGBSTOCK).

When we arrived in LAX (that horrible, HORRIBLE airport!) nearly 15 hours later, I was ushered into the express line into immigration and, after a lengthy conversation with a typically surly customs officer regarding internet friendships and how cool they are, I was officially let into the country!

Of course that triumph was short-lived. I had to run-run-run, collect my luggage, transfer it and then make it to the next gate to make my connection all within an hour. No small feat in such a big airport. Thankfully, I made it with about ten minutes to spare – though not without an x-ray scan AND a pat-down by a lovely TSA officer. Yeah, wearing my most comfy but metal-studded t-shirt for the trip? Not the brightest idea I’d ever had.

I will say here and now that whilst I know that people who work at airports are usually the grumpy sort because they’re dealing with Average Joe (and Decidedly-Below-Average Joe) en masse on a daily basis, the folks in American airports take grumpiness to a whole new level. I don’t ask for much but I don’t suffer fools or rudeness gladly, so when I ask for help I expect a civil reply. The grunts and glares and “this is shit you should know, lady” attitude I got were disheartening and infuriating. Anyway.

Fortunately the last connection I had to make in Detroit was much easier and, after a total of 27 hours traversing the globe – but still managing to arrive the evening of the same day and only seeing about seven hours of daylight (talk about a mind fuck) – I was in North Carolina.

And it was deliciously warm! I hadn’t noticed when I first hit fresh air on the continent. I was rushing so much in LA that the warmer temperature didn’t really even register for much of it until I realised that I was feeling a little warm in my cardigan while I was jogging to my terminal. I looked at the sky and thought “Oh, that’s right, it’s Summer here.”

The Weekly Bindi – Week 14 to 18, Cheater’s Edition

Ok, so I lost count with my Weekly Bindis.

In my defence, I had a lot going on. I went on a whimsical weekend with my husband and I was busily preparing for my epic-but-very-short trip to the USofA – from which I am still recovering after getting back a couple days ago already.

But for now, here is a collection edition of The Weekly Bindi. And by collection I mean cheating with one session when my cat was being ultra cute shortly before I left on my adventure.

Renlish.com - The Weekly Bindi

“Zzzzzzzzz…”

Renlish.com - The Weekly Bindi

“You, again with the camera?”

Renlish.com - The Weekly Bindi

“Can’t you just pet me? Here – here’s my tummy… Rub it. You know you want to.”

Renlish.com - The Weekly Bindi

“No belly rubs?”

Renlish.com - The Weekly Bindi

“Fine… Then prepare for…”

Renlish.com - The Weekly Bindi

“THE FUZZY CHIN!”

Renlish.com - The Weekly Bindi

“She resisted the fuzzy chin. She is more powerful than I thought…”

Renlish.com - The Weekly Bindi

“Fuck it, goin’ back to sleep.”

Renlish.com - The Weekly Bindi

“Ooohh, NOW you finally pet me!”

Renlish.com - The Weekly Bindi

“Wait… where you go?”

The Weekly Bindi – Week 13 – Of Bindis and Bald Spots

I know that I have fallen behind with my Weekly Bindi.  Pictures have been taken, I just haven’t been able to get on to post them.

See, I am going bald.

Slowly.

Painfully slowly.

But steadily.

It’s a slow-burn sort of agony in the same way that orgasms are a slow-burn sort of agony, only NOWHERE near as much fun.

But it’s that sort of loss where I can see it and very few other people can.  Those who see me every day can see it.

And a few days ago I actually discovered a bald patch that’s appeared.  It’s not completely bald as such, but only the ultra-fine baby hairs that never grow are there. Cue breakdown.

Yep. Very little hair there.

Yep. Very little hair there. But don’t my cheekbones look awesome?

I am not a vain person. I try not to be. But in my life, my one redeeming feature was my hair. Long, naturally honey-blonde, and dense. It’s always been fine but very dense. Not anymore, sadly.

For the past ten or so years, I’ve had a handful bouts of what is called Telogen Effluvium. It’s the natural process of hair-loss but it’s dialed up to eleven. Sadly, each time this has happened, my hair has never fully recovered even though, technically, it’s supposed to grow back as it normally would as hair follicles move out of the resting phase. What has prompted these bouts of effluvium has always been a mystery to me. I know the first time was a reaction to some medication and massive stress. These subsequent times… I am clueless.

And I’m stressing over it.

And of course, the vicious cycle continues apace.

Needless to say, it’s been a distraction.

Anyway, here’s a picture of Bindi and I, cuddling on the couch while watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

"I know you're taking pictures again, Mum."

“I know you’re taking pictures again, Mum.”