Day One-Hundred-and-Twenty: Full-time badass/writer

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“So I want the monogram to read M-A-X P-O-W…”

 

I am happy to announce that an actual real-life company has deemed me employable. Yeah! Not that any of you ever doubted that, right? (Right?)

So, I have a full-time job.

This is both awesome and scary.

It’s a big tick in the ‘Growing up and getting my shit together’ box, and a big step further into the adult world–which, let’s face it, still makes me feel like Will Ferrell in Elf.

I spent my first day as a technical writer being shown around the building, having stuff explained to me in a “we’re not trying to overwhelm you, but you probably need to know this” kind of way, and double-checking that they had hired the right person and I was not part of some switched-at-interview mix-up.

It’s not that I’m super surprised that someone would give me a job–I do have a degree now, and a not-useless set of skills–but a lot of writers only dream of being paid (in a full-time position) to just, well, write.

When I get a census form whenever the fuck those things come out (every five years, apparently, so I’ll be waiting until 2016), or am filling out any other form that asks for my occupation, I can actually put the word ‘writer’ in my job title. Not a vague ‘Administration’ or ‘Hospitality’ (because KFC totally counted) or ‘Sales’, but a studied-to-get-a-freaking-degree-in-this writer.

This is a serious win.

 

“I thought you studied journalism,” some of my more observant friends will point out.

This is true. I did study journalism. I also had a second major in Creative and Professional Writing.

“But didn’t you want to be a journalist?” the same friends will tactlessly push.

While it is true–though, admittedly, shocking–that a student of journalism would be considering a career as a journalist, asking the above is a bit like asking a science student, “But didn’t you want to be a scientist?” It’s kind of reductive to assume that the broad set of skills one obtains in each of those degrees would only be useful and desireable in one single job. (Besides, ‘scientist’ is about as vague as you can get. Some of those guys don’t even wear lab coats and swirl beakers. I know!)

I did consider getting a job as ‘a journalist’, and even applied for a few, but at the end of the day, my most basic desire is to work as a writer. I want to have a job where the skills that I paid a painful amount of money (that I don’t yet earn enough to pay back–writing jobs, eh?) to get are being used. If that job is as a journalist: great. I love journalistic writing; I’ll probably do it on the side anyway. If it turns out, as it has, that a job as a technical writer ticks those boxes, then I am happy to broaden my horizons beyond the expected, and get some new skills to boot. Someone actually wants to pay me to do what I love? Show me to my desk.

So, here’s to Monday to Friday, bussing to the city, budgeting with an actual income, challenges and new experiences, and the impending appearance of some kick-ass business cards.

 

TB

Technical Writer/Bad-Ass M.C.

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Day One-Hundred-and-Twelve: A mole, a doctor, and an inconvenient discovery

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WARNING: Squeamish readers beware. It gets pretty descriptive further down.

 

“I would prefer to take that out,” the doctor said a month ago, squinting through the skin-scope-thingy. “I mean, you don’t have to do it today, or this week or anything, but I would do it within the month.”

She looked at me hard before I left, and repeated: “Within a month. If we don’t hear from you, I’ll be calling you myself. I’ve even set a reminder.”

Cue reluctant phone call to medical centre just inside a month later. If there’s one thing I can’t take, it’s a scolding from a medical professional.

Plus, I’m super brave, right? This is for my health. That mole might be a ticking time bomb. (Or, as I’ve suspected for a while now, it might be a cute little brown spot that’s called my back home for the most part of my life. It might be called Steve.)

If you’ve read me before, you know that I have an intense and all-encompassing fear of needles. I hate those pointy bastards. So it stands to reason that submitting to a series of needles and then having some of my flesh cut out is not something I’m entirely comfortable with.

Mum endured the same procedure only a few weeks ago: two incisions on her back, one on her neck.

“The neck was fine,” she told me, gesturing towards the dressing. “It was the back that was the most trouble.”

Had I told her at that stage that I was going to get a mole removed from my back? I’m not sure. If so, she had pulled a real dick move.

“How was it trouble?” I asked, stupidly.

“Well,” she said. “For one, it’s been the more painful of the two sites in healing. I can’t really sleep on my back. And then there was the thing with the anaesthetic…”

“The thing with the… what?” Is she serious with this shit?

“Well,” she said again. “She’d put the anaesthetic in and was all good to go. Then she started cutting and I could feel it.

I gaped at her. “Did you scream?”

“No,” she said, waving her hand. “I just told her and she put some more in and then it was fine. Actually it was lovely having the extra, because it was numb for about eight hours afterwards.”

Lovely is not the word I would use, but surely my mother was just one of those weird people who doesn’t react properly to certain medicines. Like those poor souls who go in for surgery and somehow remain conscious (and aware of every sensation) for the entire thing, but have no way to communicate this to the surgical team.

Well, not quite that dramatic. But close.

“I think it was just because she was working so close to my spine,” Mum reassured me. “Nervy area, you know?”

 

Oh, I know.

 

I left the house and drove the three minutes down the road to the medical centre.

“You’re getting it out at the GP?” my boyfriend had asked a week before.

“Yeah,” I said, wondering if he was about to tell me some horror story. “She said I could go to a dermatologist, but that would cost more, and it’s only on my back, so I don’t care as much about the scar.”

“Did you ask her if she’s done this kind of thing before?”

I hadn’t. But she’d spent a good deal of time prodding the area and describing the size of the potential scar, so I figured she knew her shit.

I pulled into the car park and wondered for a good moment whether I would be in a fit state to drive myself home after the procedure. I could always call someone, I figured. A year ago, my dentist’s receptionist hadn’t wanted me to drive home after I had a tooth pulled, but this was different. That had been traumatic.

I walked in and announced myself at the front desk. A large sign asked me whether I’d had my shingles vaccination. (I haven’t, if you’re wondering, but weirdly enough my brother came down with shingles two weeks ago.)

I took a seat against the wall and waited. The waiting is the worst part. Any time to think about the impending procedure is not welcome. They should just stick with the needle as you walk through the door.

When my name was called, I smiled woodenly and followed the doctor down the hallway to a room that housed two beds surrounded by curtains.

“Have a seat there,” the doctor said, indicating the closest bed.

I hoped that she wasn’t expecting me to maintain a seated position through this. I was already in danger of passing out.

I removed my shirt and she greeted my mole with an “ah”. After some more prodding, she bid me lie down and elevated the bed.

“I’m going to mark out where to make the incision,” she told me. (I’d already asked her as we walked in not to say ‘cut’.)

When she was happy with her lines, she walked to the head of the bed and explained the risks.

Bleeding. Infection. Scarring. Further incisions if the mole proved to be sinister. (She didn’t think it would be.)

“So, is that all good?” she asked.

“No,” I laughed. “But go on.”

 

“We’ll put the anaesthetic in to numb it,” she told me. “That’s the worst part. It does sting.”

‘Sting’ is what a bee gives you. Don’t get me wrong; bee stings hurt like a sack-whack (I assume from the similar facial expressions), but this I would describe as something deeper. Sure, if ten bees pooled their resources into a long metal needle and poked their way under your skin to deliver a shot of painful venom in a very small area, then yeah, it stings.

“Ok,” the doctor said after the ‘sting’. “And now I’ll do the other side.”

I was left alone for what I imagine was five minutes, and the doctor spent a further few minutes making sure the equipment was prepped, and washing her hands.

“That should have done the trick by now,” she announced upon her return.

I could only agree with her. I’d never had local before, and it was such a small spot that I wasn’t entirely sure whether it was numb or I was just unaware of it. I was still suffering the after-shock of the ‘stings’.

“Sharp or dull?” the doctor asked, lightly pressing some metal object against my mole.

“Dull,” I answered after a moment.

 

If you’ve ever had nightmares about being cut, then you will sympathise with me here. You also might want to stop reading. (As if, though; you’ll be right.)

I was expecting pressure. I was expecting a tugging sensation. I was not expecting another ‘sting’.

“Sharp!” I gasped as she started to slice. (Gross. Sorry.)

She stopped. I could hear doubt in her voice when she asked, “What does it feel like?”

“Like you’re dragging a needle across my skin,” I answered.

The only answer was more anaesthetic. The ‘worst part’ again. Fantastic.

Two more jabs of searing sting-fluid would do it.

It didn’t.

 

I should clarify that the anaesthetic wasn’t totally ineffectual, and I didn’t scream through a procedure where I could feel each cut intensely. But it was not completely numb. Some spots were worse than others. Some I truly couldn’t feel.

“Can you manage it?” the doctor eventually asked, after I’d whimpered in pain at another cut. (Even after what I can only assume was a double dose of local.)

“Yes,” I replied, gritting my teeth.

I was already there, already brave, already cut. I couldn’t quit and come back to face it another day.

And so it continued until the mole was off. If you’ve had a tattoo (I haven’t), you’ve probably experienced a similar (or worse, let’s be honest; you guys are tough) sensation of stinging and dragging. But you’re expecting it. You don’t get a tattoo if you’re not.

I had nine stitches in total. I felt all of them. The pain was vague, but it was enough. And it was not supposed to be there at all.

By the last stitch, I’d nailed my deep breathing, and I joked to the doctor that I thought the anaesthetic might finally be working.

 

I walked out of there a mess. I’ve only just stopped shaking. I shouldn’t have driven, but here I am, alive.

“Next time you’re having something cut off, let them know that they need to leave quite a bit of time for the anaesthetic to kick in,” the doctor told me on my way out.

Next time I’m having something cut off, they will have to knock me out and tie me down. Nuh uh, sister.

 

TB

(The irony is that now I can’t feel it at all. Just like Mum said!)

Day One-Hundred-and-Seven: I’ve made my peace with Valentines Day

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Nothing says romance like a teddy riding a Hummer

My drive to the spice shop today (because you know, nothing says ‘I love you’ like chilli) took me past a florist. It was the usual thing. Nobody really notices there’s a florist there until it’s Valentines Day. Then you can’t get at that place for love or money (or love and money, as it were). And these guys were theming it hard. Apart from the fantastic signage pictured above, they had red streamers hanging from the awnings, teddy bears in the window, balloons-a-plenty, and a big sign reminding everyone who hadn’t yet realised that it is ‘Valentines Day! Roses $40208325805 a dozen!’

Ok, so maybe the roses weren’t that expensive, but when you can use hyperbole if not on V-Day? I love you so much I wanna punch a kitten in the face!

It’s one of those occasions where ordinarily-carefree men scramble in desperation to find a gift that says, “I love you. Like, more than usual. But this ain’t no birthday/anniversary”, and ordinarily-tough women turn to mush over a pink stuffed animal.

Yeah, I’ve always had a problem with Valentines Day.

When I was sixteen, I formed a club with one of my best friends. We called it ‘Fuck Love’. Pretty succinct. It had its own Myspace and everything. I don’t think either of us had really given up on the idea of love, but we were the two singletons in our group of four, and it made days like V-Day a bit more bearable. We’d listen to our friends describe their (what I realise now were totally juvenile, high-school) relationships and roll our eyes at each other over the table. “Fuck love,” we’d chant when the stories got too much.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the idea of celebrating love. I love love. It’s the best. Now that I’m in it, I can’t imagine life without it (lame lame lame). It’s just the expectations and pressure that this one day seems to put on people.

It’s a make-or-break day for relationships new and old. First V-Day together? Be afraid. You wanna get this right. But not go so far that your partner expects similar or grander things every year. Don’t use the diamond ring card, for example, unless you have a shit-ton of money and your girl/guy doesn’t feel that bending her/his fingers is particularly necessary (if you’re really that rich, it probably isn’t).

Those in longer-term partnerships might be starting to get into the comfortable stage (which I don’t subscribe to really – yes, I’m comfortable, but I also still want to jump your bones), and will see V-Day as some kind of chance to reinvigorate their passion. Or something. Either you both forget (we did until yesterday), one of you goes to more effort than the other, or the pressure to be romantic is so great you give yourself stomach ulcers.

There’s another option, of course: Use the day as a reminder to do romantic things, catch up with friends/family, and just appreciate your relationships a little more. Don’t put your partner in the doghouse if they don’t tell you they love you on Valentines Day; put them there if they don’t tell you every day. If you want to take your partner out to dinner, and send roses to them at work, that’s also fine. But do it because you want to, not because you have to. Put some thought into what little thing will say, “Hey, you there! I love you.”

For me, the little thing will be having a special meal ready for my boyfriend when he gets home from work (hence the trip to the spice shop). It’s picking up some things we need and grabbing a treat to share with him later. It’s spending time chatting and giggling and kissing. (Not to gross you out, but we’re that kissing couple. One of my friends timed us once, and said in a social situation it was roughly every thirty seconds that our faces drifted towards one another.)

So, to the guy I saw walking out of the florist carrying a bunch of roses and a look of sheer panic, chill out dude. Give her the roses, tell her you love her, and then bust out that copy of season four of Game of Thrones that you somehow managed to illegally obtain and had to kill, like, six armed guards to get (hint hint).

 

All my love,

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TB

Day One-Hundred-and-Two: We all need therapy (a post involving brownies)

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What’s this about bacon?

I had a stress dream last night. The finer details elude me, but I know that I was trying to escape from something/somewhere/someone. This may be attributable to all the Walking Dead I’ve been watching lately, or the impending job interviews on the horizon. Either way, it’s not a great way to get your nightly rest.

Breakfast and a shower are sometimes all it takes to set things right. Not today. Today called for more intense therapy.

Enter baking.

Baking for me is kind of a double-edged sword. I should mention that I have zero natural flair for cooking. I have no sense of how long to cook things, which flavours will go together (although this is improving with time), and the combination/ratio of ingredients required to ‘just wing’ a dish. I like recipes. No, that’s not true. I love recipes. I love that recipes are freely available on the internet. I love that I can type ‘paleo desserts’ (the diet name that covers all of my intolerances, despite my not actually being paleo) into Google, and get pages upon pages of delicious and bizarre creations to drool over.

I really enjoy baking. When it works. When it doesn’t work, and I have rock-hard pancakes, soggy brownies, or wrong-tasting raw chocolate, it’s not good to be around me. There are knives in the kitchen, and you know…

The funny thing is that my failures never put me off. I just resolve to find a better recipe, to trust my gut (taste-buds) more, and get back on that horse.

The real therapy comes in the final stages, where your ingredients have met in the bowl, and you pour that delicious goop into a tray/tin/mould and watch it become something else in the oven (or fridge – the raw stuff inspires the same kind of awe despite the lack of viewing window). It’s out of my hands at that stage, and all I can do is trust that the recipe is a winner, that my oven is consistent, and that I remember to set the timer.

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This is where the magic happens.

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Damn, baby, you look goooood.

 

Part two of the baking therapy (and this is the part that actually kind of feeds into my obsessive nature and probably isn’t therapy at all) is the clean-up. This is what oven time is for, people. Sure, you’re going to want to spend at least five minutes staring into the oven, enjoying/hating the waves of heat, and wondering if it’s possible to speed this shit up in any way. What you should be doing instead is putting away all the ingredients, washing up the mixing bowl and measuring equipment, and wiping the benches until they sparkle. There’s something satisfying about a clean kitchen. Especially when you pull that baked treat out of the oven. You do not want to place that beauty to cool next to an explosion of flour and a pile of dishes, do you? (If yes, you’re a monster, and you don’t deserve baked-goods-babies.)

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Can you feel the zen? Can you?

 

Part three is the hardest part: waiting for that sucker to cool. Since you’ve already cleaned the kitchen, you deserve some relaxing time. Of course, there’s nothing relaxing about resisting the scent of baked goods wafting through your house. You’ll be telling yourself that third degree burns are worth it to experience the flavour just five minutes earlier.

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Hint: use the exhaust fan to speed up the cooling. Or just to make yourself think you’re speeding up the cooling.

 

Part four is bittersweet. Sometimes your baked goods are also bittersweet; this is a success. Mmmm bittersweet. But I digress. The final stage of the therapy is the most nerve-wracking. You’re finally going to taste the thing that occupied the last hour (usually more) of your time. Will it be worth it? Will your baking dreams be validated? Did you use enough sweetener? The first cut is the deepest. Or, like, the most important. This usually determines the inner texture of a baked good, and whether it cooked all the way through. It’s like on Masterchef, except there’s no irritating ad break, and the only fat judge in your kitchen is you. (Not that you’re fat, but when it comes to food it’s surprising that you’re not enormous.) A failure is disappointing. It leaves you wondering where you went wrong, and who the hell is going to want to eat weird-tasting chocolate sludge. (If you have a brother, that one’s not so hard to answer.) A failure makes you hungry, not only for better-tasting goods, but also for redemption. You will try this again, and you will succeed! Yeah, cook power!

A success? Well… Have you ever made love to an angel on top of a mountain while Elton John plays Your Song on a chocolate-coated piano? I haven’t either. But I imagine the two are similar. Baking successes are those therapy sessions where you walk out smiling and fist pump the air like you’re in a romantic comedy. “I think I’m gonna be alllllll right, Doc,” you tell your bemused therapist through a mouthful of molten chocolate (your therapist in this case being your oven).

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The dampest cake I’ve had all year!

 

Today’s therapy was sweet potato brownies from Eat Drink Paleo (http://eatdrinkpaleo.com.au/chocolate-brownies-that-blew-me-away/). And they are good. See? I already took a bite. (Excuse the terrible photography. Not so pro at food blogging. I was going to stack them on a plate all artistic-like, but I don’t want to wash a plate.)

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Pull focus from gnarly chewed-on brownie. Good call, auto-focus.

 

If you now feel like some baking therapy, I would encourage you to get onto this. Brownies have double therapy points because, well, brownies. And these ones are healthy, too.

(If you’re interested, I subbed coconut oil for the olive oil, only used a tsp of baking powder and half a tsp of baking soda, and just over half a cup of raw cacao – tasting after each quarter cup. Cue bittersweet, fluffy brownies. Look at me, trusting my gut over here.)

Therapy: success!

 

Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to go “clean” the brownie pan.

 

TB

Day Ninety-Eight: The first step to healthier eating? Reduce your barcodes

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Good luck weighing this trolley-load, son.

 

Sometimes people ask me for tips on cleaning up their diet. It’s usually because they’ve watched me pull out a packed lunch of nuts, fruit, and salad (or more likely, because they’ve seen me turn down chocolate and cake at a party). I have no nutritional qualifications, mind you, only a basic grasp of what’s good and what’s not so good. But I noticed something today that I think sums up what a healthier lifestyle is all about.

I was watching the nice lad (yes, I’m 80) at the supermarket scanning my groceries. Or should I say, weighing and entering my groceries.

You see, this poor guy (check-out whizz though he was) only got about 10 easy scans out of the 50 items we bought. The rest he had to stop and locate in his database, and weigh, before handing them over to be bagged. That’s the key difference between our trolley and the ones of most other shoppers: 80 per cent of what we buy is in its original form. And if it has a barcode on it, it’s probably not in its original form.

When my boyfriend and I go shopping, we race down the packaged food aisle (the first one you encounter when you walk into Aldi, in contrast to the immediate fruit and veg onslaught in Coles and Woolworths–different marketing technique?), stopping only for some canned tomatoes, rice milk, and bags of sunflower seeds. The real fun happens in the fruit and veg section. (If you’re wondering, yes we do buy most of our fruit and vegetables from Aldi. Not organic, not all Australian-grown, but one battle at a time, hey? We also hit up the farmers’ markets when we can. But the Aldi stuff is well-priced and tasty, and we modestly-employed youngsters love a delicious bargain.)

We spend the bulk of our shopping trip skipping around the fruit and veg like small children who’ve been given free reign in the confectionery aisle, asking each other with shining eyes if we might get some pears this week. Discovering watermelon on special elicits squeals of excitement. Don’t even ask how many bananas we bought. That should last a few days, we told each other, before grabbing an extra bunch just to be safe.

The point is that healthy eating for beginners can be simplified into this: fill your trolley with 80 per cent barcode- and ingredient list-free products. If it comes in a box or a bag, it’s very likely been processed, pumped full of of excess sugar and preservatives, and too far from its natural state to be any good for you.

 

To break it down, here are food items we buy in packages:

Nuts (raw and unsalted)

Rice milk

Tinned tomatoes (because non-perishables are just so handy)

Rice

Dates

Gluten-free pasta

Gluten-free bread

Tuna (protein-rich lunch on the run)

Meat (this one makes it in here on a technicality, since it is in a packet and does have a barcode)

 

With the exception of the gluten-free bread, which has all sorted of crazy gums and stuff to hold it together in the absence of gluten, even the packaged stuff we buy has only a couple of ingredients.

The downside is that we have to stock up on fresh goodies more than once a week. The upside is happy tummies, clear minds, and an appreciation for how food is supposed to be eaten (i.e. fresh and whole).

I’m no expert, just a girl with hyper-sensitive guts trying to keep her body from rage-quitting–and, hey, it’s working out pretty well so far. To the ones who ask, I’ll tell them it’s all about taking the first step, making changes that are manageable for you, and learning to look at food differently. If I had it my way, we’d live on an acreage, grow our own fruit and vegetables, and start a co-op with like-minded neighbours, but we’re a way off that yet. For now, it’s enough to make better choices in the supermarket (enjoy our patronage while you can, you greedy bastards) and pat ourselves on the back when we crave bananas instead of cake.

 

(Of course, we do enjoy our modified treats too, because resisting chocolate will always be a challenge. Today was caramel slice aka Sweet Happiness.)

TB

 

Related articles:

7 Tips to Help You Make Healthy Choices at the Supermarket (http://dellaterrawellness.com/make-healthy-choices-at-the-supermarket/)

The Benefits of Healthy Whole Foods (http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-benefits-of-healthy-whole-foods)

Why Eat Wholefoods? (http://www.bodyandsoul.com.au/nutrition/nutrition+tips/why+eat+wholefoodsr,14993)

Survey: Processed Foods vs Whole Foods (http://www.sarahcalandro.com/thesisblog_2/?p=727)

Day Ninety-Five: Dumping in the Great Barrier Reef is like eating white rhino steaks (and other offensive activities)

We used to be into the Tasmanian Tiger cutlets, but, well, you know…

Today’s post is brought to you by Morbo.

ImageEven so, it doesn’t hurt to, you know, not deliberately wreak havoc on our one-off natural wonders.

 

Dumping dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef marine park is a bit like:

Wiping your arse with the Shroud of Turin

ImageSorry, the nearest paper was like twenty metres away. We have more of these though, right?

 

Building a McDonald’s in the Great Pyramid of Giza

ImageWell, have you heard about the rent prices in the Sphinx lately? Phew.

 

Filling the Grand Canyon to facilitate a new highway

ImageWell, we had to sacrifice LA and forge a new coastline to provide enough dirt, but the 15 minutes this cuts off the drive is so worth it.

 

Housing a sewage plant in the Colosseum

ImageWe like to play Gladiators, except instead of lions we run from walls of gushing effluent.

 

Testing rocket launchers at Stonehenge

ImageOK, guys, this one definitely works. We, uh, need a new range now though. How about the Great Wall of China? Bigger surface area.

 

Wanton destruction annoys me. Wanton destruction of super amazing one-of-a-kind things makes me want to invite the dime-a-dozen idiots who make these decisions to a ropeless bungee from the Empire State Building.

 

TB