An important message…
Everyone, please have a very safe and happy Christmas (however you celebrate it) and a glorious, fun new year.
I will be back for 2015 with plans to get back into the business of blogging regularly with interesting things to show and say.
And for those who are still waiting for a review on the Lumosity thing, it is still being tested. I am brain training every other day or so – trying to remember to do it is a hassle and I have to set reminders on my phone, but in the short term I do feel more alert and able after doing the brief training sessions. Some of the games that I have encountered are fun, whereas others are harder and frustrating. Anything with numbers and/or timed is my nemesis. My only beef with the system is that you only get to play five short games per session with no option for any “free play”.
Over and out.
So, I have this Thing. It’s a Thing that causes me lots of trouble. It’s a Brain Thing.
And this will probably be the first time in my blogging history that I have admitted this “out loud” at all in any serious way.
Sometimes this Thing apparently makes my brain not want to work properly.
It started with a slight stutter that began in high school. Don’t ask me why it started then. It was early on, probably in Year 7 (that’s junior year of high school, I guess, for those of you who may not understand the Australian grading system). I was sad, lonely, friendless, depressed, being bullied by a particular girl who made my life a living misery for twelve solid months. I wagged almost a full term of my first year. How I passed I really don’t know. I think I was also overcompensating for a mouth full of metal – metal which I had for SEVEN. FUCKING. YEARS. For all the good it did me. I didn’t want to talk, I still couldn’t get my lips to move around the braces properly but then I would get so stressed about it that even when I could speak, the wrong words came out.
It was something which became more noticeable to me as I got older and as a result I simply got quieter.
It’s something that continued to the present day.
It was a few years ago now that I was hit with a scenario that will probably stay with me forever – because it made me realise that this wasn’t just a little inconvenience. This was an actual, serious Thing. I was stuck at home because my car – my lovely old 1978 Datsun 120Y Coupe (mustard yellow, if you please, with all leather interior) wouldn’t start. The battery was fine (because I’d only bought a new one the month before) so it wasn’t just an issue of jump-starting it and heading off. In my despair, I called the RACV for help.
I mean, seriously. This how ridiculous it gets – and I can laugh now but when it happened it was painfully embarrassing.
I was reciting my registration number and I said “G for Dad”.
G for Dad.
There was a brief yet intensely uncomfortable pause and then a snortgiggle at the other end of the line. I joined in, even though I was cringing and then said I was having a right shit of a morning and I was late for work and I really needed someone to come out and get my car started for me SO STOP LAUGHING AND PLEASE HELP.
So there’s that.
And now there’s the memory thing. I have been having trouble remembering things. Short term, long term, it doesn’t matter. There have been days where I have arrived at work and I don’t remember certain parts of my journey. For a twenty-minute ride, that’s impressive. A little bit scary. I have trouble remembering things at work that I should be remembering after 18 months being there. The list continues.
And numbers. Seriously, I hate it when someone calls with a problem with their account. It takes me forever to work it out – if I can even work it out. I don’t see numbers right. I cannot work things out in my head. I would be in serious trouble without a calculator.
I’m not smart. I would really like to consider myself intelligent but I know that I am not. I have a basic knowledge of many things so I can carry on a conversation well enough. But I am not smart. I have many friends who may disagree with me on this and while it would be sweet of them to say so, I know that what they perceive as intelligence may just very well be the fact that I am more perceptive than intelligent – when you spend a lot of time not talking because you can’t physically and mentally form the right words, you tend to observe and take in a fuckload of information. But at age 35 (almost 36) I would expect my brain to be working at it’s peak, not heading in the opposite direction. Intelligence I can improve on with practice but ye olde grey matter needs to be in working order for that to happen.
So with that in mind, I joined up with Lumosity. I’ve been doing some brain training which, if nothing else, makes me a little more alert afterwards. It’s basically playing a set number of games each day to improve brain function. Activities include things like memory, speed, reaction time, complex recognition, spatial memory and all that fun stuff. There’s a whole lot of science-y stuff around it but I figure that anything which will help my poor little neurons to pick up their game a bit is a good thing. I’ve also got mum and the manbeast into it as well seeing as how a family subscription was only $30 more than a single.
I guess I’ll report back in a few weeks and let you know if there’s been any marked improvement.
Another one of those “This made me laugh way more than it should have” moments.
Dad just posted this ripper on Facebook:
So, they have landed a washing machine size hunk of junk on a comet.
I am so impressed… Not.
Why would you want to?
To study the origins of the universe?
There was this big mother-fucking bang, all the shit went everywhere… and here we all are.
(His words, I just corrected the grammar.)
It’s made me laugh far more than it was supposed to, really.
So Friday, the 29th of August (bloody hell that seems like a long time ago now) was the first official day of DragonCon 2014. I was all a-twitterpated and excited to get started on my first real con experience. However there was one minor problem…
I was fighting a losing battle against the dreaded Travel Lurgy. The cold which had remained hidden until the moment I sat my arse down in that first plane out of Melbourne, reared it’s ugly, snotty head in a proper manner. I had gone from a tickly throat and a bit of a cough to starting to feel claggy and unwell. Really unwell.
John was doing his best for me, as per usual – loading me up with medication we thought would help but what we thought might have just been a coughy thing turned out to be an actual cold thing. It wasn’t bad at that stage, I could deal with it. If it didn’t get any worse, I would be just fine with that.
When it came to costumes for the day, it was decided that Friday would be Firefly Day. Unfortunately, in my forgetful and somewhat panicky blondeness, I had left my costume neatly folded on top of my dresser – IN MELBOURNE. Not much help to me there, was it? I’d gotten dressed in civvies at that point, quite prepared to be the tagalong friend who carries everyone’s stuff (aka The Handler) and just enjoy the sights. Well, my mate Tracy wasn’t having any of that and in her preparedness, offered me a choice of Indian saris to wear so I could play Inara. Watching everyone else get dressed up made me maybe a tiny bit jealous (and foolish) over having no costume so I let Tracy wrap me up in a gorgeous black and gold number.
I’d like to note at this point that neither of us knew what the hell we were doing. Thanks to the Font of All Wisdom on Random Shit, aka Google, we managed to figure out how to put on a sari. So we wrapped and folded and wrapped and folded and pinned, pinned, pinned, and wrapped and folded some more until I looked like… well, me. In a sari. I was the blondest Inara you could imagine. I was also buggered if I needed to go to the toilet at any stage. There were pins everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. They connected the sari to my pants, my tank top, to itself. It was almost scary sitting down for fear of popping one and ending up with a pin ending up somewhere it ought not be.
So, I was Inara (chubby blonde version), then we had John who was Wash and Tracy and Grant who were Kayley and Jayne respectively. Naturally Kayley and Jayne have the biggest following in that show so Tracy and Grant got a load of attention. A couple people asked to take their pictures and then belatedly realised John and I were part of the group and called us in for a group shot when they recognised who we were playing.
Yeah, we don’t fit the mold – but it’s still loads of fun.
And thus began my first foray into cosplay and conventions.
The first panel of the day was this guy:
That’s THE Sir Patrick Stewart there, folks. Sorry for the fuzziness. My camera couldn’t quite handle the lighting situation but… I was in the same room as one of my favourite classic actors. I was a little bit in awe. (Actually, a lot in awe. And it wouldn’t be the first time that’d happen too.) He is such a great speaker. So engaging and witty and absolutely adorable. Of course he was peppered with the usual questions about X-Men and Star Trek and it was great listening to him tell his stories. The hour-long panel went by so quickly.
Speaking of panels – there is one common thing that links them all.
God in Heaven. I’ve never experienced anything like that before. Lines for panels went around the block and double-backed on themselves to head back around the other way. Queues snaked up the middle of buildings for several floors. People were milling everywhere.
Lining up to get into Sir Pat’s (we’re totally on casual name basis now) panel was an exercise in patience and sheer force of will. We had lucked out when we arrived and joined the line when it was just a few hundred strong. From where we stood, we watched what seemed like thousands walk past us to find the end of the line and it was like that for a good hour. I won’t mention the incident where one of the volunteers tried to get the small group of us in our area to move off because we weren’t standing in the right spot – even though we’d been told to stay there. Pigs would fly if we were going to join the end of the line at that point, not with the several hundreds/thousands who had tacked themselves on in all the time we’d been waiting. Needless to say, we scared the poor lass who, to be honest, was only doing what she was told as well. But she came through and made arrangements for us to stay where we were.
Oy. So, lesson learned. Turn up at least 90 minutes early to have a better chance of securing a place in the queue.
With that panel done, our next appointment was in another hotel to see a Firefly panel. This was pretty much the whole reason we dressed up.
We saw this guy:
Adam Baldwin of Jayne Cobb, Firefly fame.
He’s a funny bugger too. He really took over that panel. Sadly Ron Glass (who was Shepherd Book in the show) was a late-comer to the panel, having been “caught in traffic” (I can imagine) and much quieter than Adam, though he had his moments as well. Grant was totally geeking out at this point. Adam is his hero from that particular show.
There was an amusing moment before the panel started where an Indian couple actually asked if I was in costume or not. Tracy confirmed that I was and they were impressed at the good job we’d done. We laughed and said there were pins everywhere and there would have been no chance of me putting it on by myself, to which they replied that Idian women grow up dressing in saris and still need the help of many hands and many pins to make it work. We felt rather proud of ourselves after that.
The last event of the day before we were totally wrecked and needed to eat was the Doctor Horrible Sing-a-long. John is a massive fan of Dr Horrible. I’d only ever seen a couple of episodes as they were being posted up online years ago. It was fun seeing the whole thing together in that environment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
“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.
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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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?
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.)
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…
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:
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…
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.)”
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.