Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Inspire Collective

Emma Stevens, used with permission

I went somewhere wonderful last night.

I almost didn't make it. I had planned for the last couple of months to get there. Looked forward to it fervently for the last couple of weeks. Set things in place to ensure I would get there. I left home early enough that I knew I should arrive just as the doors were opening. What I didn't factor in was the insane parking situation in Northbridge. Though I arrived in the vicinity of the event with 10 minutes to spare, after driving around hopelessly (and considering turning around and going home!), parking blocks away and taking a creepy, lonesome walk in the dark with my handbag clutched tightly to my side, then walking all the way up Lake Street in the wrong direction, I ended up walking in the door 15 minutes late.

Finally, I was at the Inspire Collective event. I was greeted warmly as I walked in, my face red, my heart hammering from the stress of it all, my non-walking-shoes-clad feet sore.
"I saw you coming up the street there," the lady smiled at me, and she pointed out the bathroom, the infused bottles of water on the tables, and the line for complimentary barista-made coffees.
Everywhere I turned there were beautiful, excited, creative women. All here for the same reason I was - to connect, to be inspired. Meeting each other, dining on stunning little cakes, sipping on complimentary cups of delicious tea. Spotting my friend Kirstin across the room, I unwound, and sank into the atmosphere.

Amanda and Cate

The Inspire Collective is simply a collective of women who want to encourage, motivate, and yes, inspire other women in their creative ventures. They want to foster a mindset of support where there could have been competition, vulnerability where there could have been bravado. And they want us to be brave and confident in who we are. Call ourselves writers, if we love to write. Call ourselves artists, if we love to draw and paint. Call ourselves photographers, if we have a passion for taking photos.

Steph Rayner and Em Hazeldean

We heard from so many awesome guest speakers. Steph Rayner and Em Hazeldean, two amazing photographers, talked about their craft and also about how they support each other rather than view each other as competition, and how this has helped their separate ventures blossom so much more. The completely gorgeous Anoushka Marie shared her journey, and talked about how we are always capable of growth and change - not to get stuck into the idea that you are just one thing, but realize that you are still forming, and anything is possible. Elaine Fraser talked about finding you, and the feeling you experience when you, and others, actually see you. And Amanda Viviers and Cate Williams played hosts for the evening, pouring out their hearts and vision for us all in such a beautiful, honest way. I loved seeing so many beautiful hearts on display. Ugh, so inspired.

Steph Rayner's "Capture Project" display

As I met people throughout the night, a common question that we would ask each other was "What is your creative venture?" And for the first time, I didn't say "I just like writing" or "I have a blog". I said "I am a writer". It sort of felt like I was tricking them, but I think I could get used to referring to myself as a writer. I do write, after all. I write constantly. When I'm not writing here, I'm working on a novel, and another couple of bits and pieces here and there.

Elaine Fraser

I braved up and went to meet a couple of the speakers after the event, and was blown away by their loveliness. Anoushka made a point of remembering my name, and in between me gushing all over her, we talked a bit about our kids and the craziness of life. And when I introduced myself by my first name to Cate Williams, she asked "Klara Donovan?" because she had come across me on Facebook recently. That was kind of awesome, and in my mind it just further secured my connection and involvement with the Collective.

Me and Anoushka

The Inspire Collective meets on a 3-monthly basis and I am already completely pumped for the next one!

Also, I totally got a lift back to my car from my friend Grace and her husband Jonathan. No creepy late-night walks through a poorly lit Northbridge for me!

Monday, February 22, 2016


We're enjoying a late-Summer surprise rainy day today. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. These gloomy days are my heartbeat. I cannot wrap my head around the concept that this isn't everyone's favourite kind of day. Madness.

These are the things that I love about today:
- A morning nap, listening to the rain outside
- Freshly washed towels that make our musty old bathroom smell warm and clean
- Warming Jackson's bottles before feeding them to him
- A living room bathed in easy grey light
- Leaving Jackson in his snuggly PJs all day, instead of his usual Summer attire of a T-shirt and a cloth nappy
- Jackson's warm little breath on my neck as we cuddle
- Curry for lunch
- Wind in the trees
- Cozy cups of tea

Happy Tuesday.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Special Things

I did something funny today.

I collect tea cups. Over the last couple of years I've slowly curated a nice little collection of them and have dedicated a whole shelf in my kitchen to them. I catch myself gazing at my teacups, stacked in pairs, no two alike, and it makes me happy. Each one was purchased because I loved it.

So why, then, when I make myself a cup of tea in the morning, do I gravitate not toward the pretty array of cups that give me great joy, but the cupboard of mugs and common-use cups we keep above the coffee machine? I use the same two, tired-looking mugs every day for a week (washed in-between of course!), even staring at my pretty collection while I wait for the kettle to boil.

Why? Because my every-day morning cup of tea isn't special. And my pretty teacups are special and therefore should only be used for special occasions. So once in a while we have friends over, and on occasion one of them might want a cup of tea. Then and only then do I pull open my cupboard of special tea cups, select one carefully, and actually use it. Meanwhile the rest of the cups just sit there, having missed their one opportunity to be used in months,

That's crazy!

Today I made myself a cup of tea in *gasp* one of my beloved tea cups. Just for the sake of it. And the sky did not fall down! In fact, it was lovely taking each sip from a cup that I completely adore.

It's not just tea cups, you know. We all have those special-occasion items. The immaculate white dinner set. The expensive purse. The gold plated cutlery. The $30 vegan soy candle that smells like lemon meringue pie. The crystal vase. These are some of our favourite things, and a lot of them are gathering dust, waiting for their bi-annual shining moment.

But maybe we're looking at it the wrong way. Maybe instead of waiting for an occasion to be deemed 'special' enough to employ our favourite things, we should be bringing them out and using them in a bid to make our everyday moments special. I'm a firm believer that our greatest joy comes from the little things, and if drinking from my favourite tea cup enriches my morning, why wouldn't I pursue that easy little buzz every single day?

So... eat your steamed peas with the glimmering golden fork you keep buried in the buffet drawer. Burn that $30 candle while you scrapbook, heck, while you binge-watch Netflix. Cut some flowers from the garden and set them in that crystal vase. And for goodness sake, make yourself that cup of tea in the prettiest damn tea cup you own.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Chaos and Small Changes

Because I’m not a great house keeper (read: basically the worst) my house is chaotic (read: like a tornado hit it. Scrach that – several tornadoes). I know everyone says they're the worst house keeper, but I actually am. I keep up with the dishes and the laundry, and that’s about it. There are pockets of trouble everywhere – corners filled with stacks of unhung photo frames and utility bills, exercise equipment gathering dust behind the gas heater, unread magazines and books piled up on top of each other, broken blinds that I need Chris to open for me if I want to experience sunshine in my cavernous living room, burnt-out light fittings that have needed replacing for months, and DO NOT GET ME STARTED ON THE MISCELLANEOUS CABLES THAT ARE EVERYWHERE. We could open a cable shop. Well, we actually couldn’t because we wouldn’t be able to tell you what all the cables belong to and what they do. I swear those things freaking breed.
A lot of the time, these trouble pockets fade into the background. They are invisible to me, quietly keeping to themselves, right up until the moment when we have guests coming over and they’re 20 minutes from arriving and I suddenly get the pressing need to attack ALL THE THINGS and try to find a place to put them. Amazingly, that never goes very well. Plus when you move the things, they unleash terrific clouds of dust and dog hair and then nobody should be entering the premises without a hazmat suit and a breathing mask.

Every now and then, I’ll be minding my own business, with no impending guests on the horizon, and something will catch my eye, and I will feel crazy. Crawling out of my skin crazy. Maybe it’s because I’m a stay-at-home Mum now and trapped inside it all more often than not, but it hurts my soul. It doesn’t matter that for a solid two weeks I have been perfectly satisfied with my not-so-beautiful mess. Suddenly the chaos of it all has hit me and I can literally feel my brain creasing under the pressure of it all.
Last week it was dirty formula bottles, and the meltdown was epic. We have a bottle sterilizer and I am pretty stellar at keeping on top of this particular chore (because #hungrybaby) – we use four bottles, I wash them, then I sterilize them. Voila, clean bottles. But something happened last week and I think there were six bottles on my bench in various stages of unclean. Logically, I could just wash them, sterilize four of them, then load the other two up in the sterilizer. But I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. I shut down. I just stared at them, my heart hammering, and thought “HOW CAN I LIVE LIKE THIS.” Of course I wasn’t just freaking out over the bottles. My eyes were fixed on them, but as I stared, every cable, every magazine, every dust bunny was popping up in my peripheral vision. I wandered around my house, avoiding the bottles, my brain exploding. I don’t think I’ve felt quite so highly strung since about a week before I found out I was pregnant with Jackson and the smell of a toasted sandwich in the office kitchen hit me so hard in the face that I cried and had to go hide in the bathroom (I wish there was more to that story to make it seem more normal but that is literally how it happened. Thanks hormones).
So it’s fair to say, the chaos got me that day. But I’m not known to be a negative person. I don’t like to dwell on difficulties. I seek out peacefulness and simple joy like they’re precious diamonds. So I didn’t just ignore the chaos and wait for it to hit me again. I also didn’t resolve to immediately fix everything because past experience has taught me that won’t work. For me, small and gradual changes are the only way that I can tackle big things. I started by setting myself two goals for this new month – I planned to make our bed every day (unheard of in my house!) and making sure the kitchen is clean and wiped down before bedtime each night. These are probably things that pretty much every adult human is already doing, but I wasn’t and I needed a very basic starting point if I was going to start feeling in control of my chaos. Now it doesn’t matter so much to me that there are piles of clothes on the bedroom floor and teetering towers of junk on the bedside tables – because our bed is cozy and inviting and peaceful. The scrapbooking supplies strewn across the dining room table, and the boxes of yet-to-be-used laminate floorboards against the meals area wall hurt a little less, because my white kitchen bench is clear and hygienic, and although we have ants they are just wandering around aimlessly now because there isn’t so much as a speck or a crumb for them to go to town on.

Like I said, they’re small changes, but they’re working for me and it’s a starting point. Next month, on top of these tasks, perhaps I will wipe down the bathroom every Sunday, or get into the habit of daily tidying. And maybe next time the chaos catches up with me, it won’t seem quite so insurmountable as it did last week.

Small changes. Easy and life changing. We all have some form of chaos, whether it’s in our homes, our workplaces, our relationships, our habits, our finances… What small changes can you make to ease your chaos?