Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Novel Perseverance

In November last year, I contemplated the possibility of writing 30,000 words of a Novel in a month. Beforehand, there were many things that I used to try to talk myself out of it.  I was too tired, there were more important things I should be doing, etc.  But my biggest concern was the kids.  I believed at the time that the biggest barrier this task, and the greater task of finally completing my Novel was the three under three who fill my house, my time and my heart.

But 25,000 words later (yes, spoiler alert, I didn't quite make it!), I realised that my kids weren't the biggest barrier to getting a Novel written.

Turns out the biggest barrier is me.

For the last nine years I have been writing a Fantasy Novel.  What started as a fun excuse to get me writing again, slowly became a world, three books, and over 150,000 words.  And I designated 2016 as the year that I would finally finish a first draft of my first Novel.

In some ways you would say it is going well.  I am a few pages away from reaching my 6 month goal of having the story, in a very rough form, complete and coherent.  I have the final six months of the year will have three goals: rewriting one particularly bitsy section, fixing some major stylistic problems (reducing/improving exposition and language), and finally writing a short Novella which covers an "out of the main story" character.

The Novel is also one of a three book series.  I spent last November working on Novel Two, and I found dipping my toe into this really helped refine some details in Novel One.  So I'm going to do the same November challenge with Novel Three, leaving December for any final Novel One tweaks.

But despite the positive steps and plans, this last six months has been an ongoing battle with myself.

Sometimes I will read a section and think yeah this is actually pretty good.  But most of the time I am cringing.

The secret to writing with three gorgeous distractions in the background is to just write.  You don't have time to sit around and wait for the perfect words or ideas.  You write, and then you edit, and edit some more.  But editing is painful!  It means spending lots of time re-reading bad writing, and that at times cripples my writing confidence.

And as I started taking writing more seriously, I also began to read more things online about writing. Sometimes they were really helpful tips about language that I can't wait to apply in my "refining" period.  But at other times I read things about how you are suppose to plan and structure your novel scrupulously (I haven't), that you can't expect to be a quality writer without courses and writing groups (which I don't have time for!), and that a writer's first novel will never be good enough to be published.

So my doubts grow.

I tell myself that getting this Novel finished is a worthwhile exercise, regardless of if it get's publish.  That the learning and experience will make me a better writer.  

But sometimes I just want to drop my hard-drive in the bin and quit.

There are two things that keep me going.

My whole life I have been someone who has stuck to my strength.  I'm uncoordinated so I avoided sport, even though I enjoyed it when I played.  I was strong academically and so stuck to that, worked hard and did well.  And if I'm honest with myself, I gave up playing the flute after finishing school because I had two friends who were brilliant flutists and it seemed pointless to continue when comparatively I would only ever be just okay. Perseverance is not my strength.

But I don't want to give up on things just because they are hard.  I don't want to be that way, and I don't want to model that attitude to my kids.  I want them to try and experiment and fail and experience and grow.  I may not be the best writer in the world.  But there are such precious nuggets of joy hidden within the hard work; it is worth the effort. 

So I will stick to it and work hard and get better.  And I suspect the perseverance I am learning this year will bear fruit well beyond my Fantasy world.

The other things that keeps me going? Trusting myself. And doubting myself.

Several years into this novel, I went to a Sydney Writers festival session with Isabel Carmody and Garth Nix.  When Garth was asked what advice he would give young writers, he said to not worry if you find yourself doubting your writing, because that is just a part of writing.  He said even as a published writer, part-way through every book he finds himself thinking "I can't believe someone was willing to publish my work.  I'm awful!"

So since then I have decided to back myself.  When a little voice says "you can't write" or "this is never going to be published" I do my best to ignore it.  If I read a sentence and it makes me cringe I think "How can I make this better?"  When a scene doesn't work or a plot hole gapes on the page I don't give up.

In fact, some of my favourite moments this year have been in front of the keyboard, fixing this novel.  Wooden characters coming to life.  Scene's fit together.  And plot holes are filled to form twists and details that feel like they were always meant to be.

And so I plod along.  

Will it be published?  I don't know.

But it will be finished.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Boys arrival Part 2

(I started writing this post over a year ago but am posting it now just to finish the story- hoping to blog more in the coming weeks!)

It was the 17th of April, 2013.  Two days after my birthday and 31 weeks and 4 days.  At this stage I was having the boys heart beats monitored every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, as well as a low key u/s (this was the one where they checked to make sure that the placenta's were working and that there was no oxygen loss to the brain).  Every two weeks there was a growth scan.  It was Wednesday morning and I was due to go in for my scan soon, but first we were having breakfast with a friend.  I was feeling rotten.  A terrible head-ache and very blah, but I decided I was try breakfast.  At the cafe I was looking at the menu but I couldn't read it, my vision was so blurry.  I knew this was either a migrain or blood pressure related but as it only lasted a minute I tried not to panic.  Afterall, I was going to be in hospital in a matter of hours anyway.

Scan was fine and I lay down for the heart-beat test.  This was probably my 8th time hooked up to the machine that would pretty soon become my bestfriend/worst enemy.  I told the nurse who was monitoring that I was a little worried about my health and could I have a blood pressure check.  She went and got the machine.  After she checked it, she said it was a little high, and called up the registrar who was in charge of my cohort (at the Mercy hospital you are assigned to a team depending on which day you come into clinic).  They decided to do a urine check.  I was told I had to stay in hospital for four hours to get the results.

So that's what I did.  Tim got me some lunch and then headed off to some afternoon meetings, ready to pick me up later that afternoon.  It was not a fun afternoon, at that stage of the pregnancy I was sleeping every arvo and it was tough.  In the end they put me on the couch in the waiting room for the perinatal testing room, and I managed a half an hour (and amused everyone with my snoring).  After 4 hours, with Tim by my side, they told me that my protein levels were high, and they would need to do a 24 hour urine test.  Basically everything I peed for 24 hours would be tested, and they would get a better sense of the protein levels from that.  But they didn't want to take any chances so I was being admitted.

What were they worried about?  Pre-eclampsia.  Basically a condition which involves the placenta leaking nasties into Mummy's blood stream.  In the "Pre" stage it is picked up by protein in the urine and by blood tests.  In the "eclampsia" stage it can be fatal to Mother and baby.  The only cure is delivery.

So, I went in that Wednesday for a routine check and didn't even get to go home.  The moral of the story.  PACK YOUR HOSPITAL BAG EARLY.  We had a very amusing time the next day when Tim brought in my requested items, including none of the clothes I would have picked and bringing a night-light instead of a nightie ("I did think it was a weird request").  I sent my Mum the next day to do a more thorough job.

The next 24 hours, besides having to awkwardly pee into a jug, where not to bad.  It was nice to put my feet up, watch TV, and get visited.  They gave me steriod shots to help the boys lungs develope quickly. My blood pressure remained steady and I began to think I could go home.

But Friday afternoon, at exactly 32 weeks, the doctor came to tell me the bad news.  I officially had pre-eclampsia, and I wasn't going home.  I wouldn't be home until the boys were born, and given how fast moving pre-eclampsia could be, that could be any day now.

I burst into tears.  I didn't really care about being in the hospital, but I was worried about my boys.  32 weeks was early, but at this stage Sebastian was only 1.3 kg.  Too early to deliver.  The doctor was lovely, explaining things as best she could.  They would monitor my blood pressure four hourly, do blood tests every second day, and would do a 24 hour urine test once a week.  They would check the boys heart beats every day, and continue to scan Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If there were any red flags, they would deliver the next day.

They then sent up a pediatrician from the NICU and Special Care Nursery.  It was the best thing they could do.  Not only was she lovely, but she was very confident about the boys.  I believe her words were "32 weeks?  That's nothing".  She also explained that while Sebastian was small, he was mature.  He might be the size of a 28 week old baby but his lungs and brain were that of a 32 week old.  There was no reason to panic, 32 week old babies had slow starts but rarely had any developmental differences from their peers.

But praise God, I did not deliver at 32 weeks.

I was in hospital for 3 weeks.  It was a strange three weeks.  There was so much uncertainty- everyday I would wake up wondering if the boys would come.  Being stuck in hospital was terrible but at the same time I knew everyday was another day of my boys getting bigger and healthier.

Finally, at 34 weeks and 4 days, we had another growth scan.  Our littliest boy had stopped growing, and the next day, the 9th of May, 2013 was going to be their birthday.

I had a c-section.  I remember being a weird combination of scared and ridiculously excited.  The few seconds after they were both born I held my breath.  And then I heard the cry.  Their cries, particularly the cries of my tiniest boy was the most beautiful thing.

Our eldest and biggest boy we named Connor and he was 2.2 kg and needed a little oxygen.  Our littlest boy Sebastian was only 1.4, but didn't need oxygen so I got to give him a little kiss.

The next 24 hours were some of the best and worst of my life.  I was wheeled into the Nursery and gave my boys a little kiss.  Relatives came to see them and we got to reveal their beautiful names.  But my pre-eclampsia was not as dormant as it seemed and my blood pressure took off.  I ended up in high dependency care, unable to see my boys for nearly 24 hours.  I don't think I even realised what danger I was in.  But it was terrible to be away from them.

I recovered eventually, and was able to go to the nursery and have my first beautiful cuddles.

Connor was in hospital for 4 weeks, Sebastian for 6 (he had some complications with feeding that were quite worrying, but which resolved themselves eventually with no problems).

It is strange to look back.  I can't even remember when I started writing this post, but the boys are now 2.5 and have a beautiful baby sister Estelle (who also had a complicated pregnancy but that's a story for a different time).  I love them so much, they are such happy energetic boys, it is crazy to think they had such a rocky start.  I thank God the gift of my precious twins.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Boys arrival- Part 1

As it's been a long time since I wrote on this blog, I wasn't particularly worried about "updating" my life, because to be perfectly honest I didn't think anyone was still reading anyway!  But Kate (who was wondering what on earth happened to me) was curious for an update and the more I thought about it the more I realised that many of my friends don't necessarily know the details of the exciting first half of last year.

So I thought I would record it, not just for those who are curious but also so that I have a permanent record of that time.  Not that I am likely to forget!

It all began with our twenty week scan.

Leading into the twenty week scan there were two questions.  The first was of course "Are they healthy?" This was less of a concern for us, because two weeks previously I had a slight bleed and had gone in for an emergency scan.  Both boys were alive and kicking.  So the second question was much more the centre of our minds: What was the gender of the babies?

The U/S tech would go down in the history of our family as "The horrible one".  She had limited social skills and was very brash.  She did lots of scanning and commented that one of the babies (the higher baby) was smaller than the other.  "Is that something to worry about?" we asked.  I don't remember how she answered but it was very vague, and gave us the impression that while it wasn't ideal it wasn't something to worry about.  Near the end of the scan we asked "What's the gender?"  We expected her to get her wand back out but she said briskly "Oh, you want to know the Gender?  Two boys".  "You don't need to check?" I asked and she laughed and said "I knew within five seconds".  She then left the room and Tim and I just stared at each other.  I don't know why but we were in shock.  Two boys?

She came back in and asked "When are you seeing your doctor?"  Two days time we told her.  She said okay and we left, excited to tell friends our surprising news.

So two days later when we came in to see our doctor, we did not think for a second that we would have bad news.

He asked if we knew that Baby B was small.  We said yes, but said that we knew it wasn't a problem.  He gave us a look you never want to see a doctor give you and said, yes, it's a problem.  Baby B was 2 weeks smaller than he should be.  That was a pretty serious size discrepancy and suggested he could be sick.  The doctor told us his blood flow and heart-beat were good, so it was unlikely he was going to die in the next week or so, but there was a good chance that he wouldn't make it.

Even now as I write this I can still see that room.  The bed, the blood pressure machine, Dr T with his round glasses and sad face.

Tim asked what were the chances that he wouldn't make it.  The Doc resisted giving a number until Tim insisted and he said there was a 30-50% chance that we would loose baby B.  We would come in for an ultra-sound two weeks later and we would know more then.

How do you process that?

I left the room in tears.  We both couldn't believe it.  We loved these babies so much. We were so excited for them, everyone was so excited.  And we might loose one.  We couldn't bare the thought.

We told a few people our news (as well as our family) but decided to keep the news fairly private.  This was hard, because everyone still talked about the boys in an excited fashion.  But in the end that was good.  Because I found after the initial shock wore off, I didn't want to dwell on what might happen. I couldn't face the thought of loosing my precious little boy, and so I just didn't.  He had to be okay, he just had to make it. So I just held onto that thought, and told him every day that he had to keep growing.  And I prayed like I'd never prayed before.

And two weeks later we went in for another scan.  A specialist came in to talk to us, and she had good news.  Baby B had caught up a little.  He was now just 8 days behind.  He still was very small, and there was a good chance this pregnancy would end early but the chances of his survival had improved drastically. It was such an answer to prayer.  We were so happy, and declared that lovely specialist our new favourite person!

We were now on fortnightly scans and doctors appointments.  Time ticked by and every week was another victory, every scan a wonderful reason to celebrate.  Because every healthy week in the womb meant a greater chance of healthy babies.  24 weeks, 25, 26, 27, 28 (this was the point that the doctor said he would be happy to deliver if Baby B was in trouble, so this was a huge week for us), 29, 30 (we started 3 weekly scans at this point because Baby B was still so small), 31.

And at 31 weeks, and 4 days, the drama started again...


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Lie of a Productive Day

Yesterday was a very different day for me.  Spending the day with my Dad meant that I was spared the bulk of my usual child-minding duties.

I did some thinking about some ministry things I needed to organise.

I wrote and sent an email to someone at church.

I started collating photos together for a photo book I'm creating.

I organised some things for the boys first birthday party.

Hey, I even started a blog post ;)

And all day I kept thinking:  "Wow, what productive days I have when I don't have to look after the boys as much"

But at some stage during the day I began to realise that these thoughts were wrapped up in a lie.

The lie that a day of looking after twin baby boys is somehow unproductive.

You see, a normal day for me does not involve important emails, or organising, or getting through tasks on my to do list.  If I can get one thing done each day then that is pretty great.

But the lie is that the time with the boys is not productive.

As I feed and change and dress I am keeping them alive and healthy.  As I play and talk and laugh I am helping their emotional development.  As I speak I am teaching them language.  As I read to them I am sharing a love of literature.  As I walk them though the neighbourhood I am helping them to see and understand the world.  Through it all I am showing them that they are very love.

And that doesn't even include the more deliberate instruction that are through the day.  The prayers that I pray, the stories that I read,  the general words about God and his role in this world that they are so enthusiastically taking in. True, at ten months they are not necessarily understanding what I say or mean but it's all practice, practice for me and practice for them.  Practice at letting God be talked of in everyday life (Deut 11).

What a productive time it is!

It reminds me of the lie I used to find myself caught up in when I worked in ministry.  Organising a meeting, finishing a roster, writing a Bible study.  I felt very productive as I did them, and of course they were important.  Yet sitting down with someone and reading the Bible often did not.  It wasn't urgent, it wasn't measurable.  But I knew from my own experience and from watching others who I had the privilege to teach that it made the world of difference.  One hour with someone one to one was as significant and important as standing up before a crowd to speak.

Time given to fostering relationships doesn't always seem productive.

But the truth is that relationship time is often the most productive of all.


Monday, December 31, 2012

2013- the year of surviving and enjoying (and some news!)

Happy New Year!

2012 has been a massive year.  Tim and I got together for a coffee and a year's "debrief" yesterday and were laughing at just how big it's been.  Changing cities, moving house, starting a new church, me starting a new job.  It has been massive.  It's hard to sum up the year, it has had many very tough moments.  But we ended up declaring it "the year of answered prayer".  The church, despite a very slow start, is going really well, and we have been astonded by the many answered prayers about church that we have had in the last term of the year.

And probably the biggest answered prayer is that we are pregnant.  With Twins.

It was so overwhelming how we found out.  We had a very early scan because of our history at 6 weeks.  There is it, on the screen, a very obvious baby and a very clear heart beat.  Tim and I couldn't stop grinning at each other...until the doctor said "That's unusual?"

"What!" we both cried in a panic at his thoughtless comment.  He apologised saying "Sorry, not bad, just surprising.  There is something else there".  And then he moved the wand and there was another, tiny, tiny sack with a shape in it.  I knew, from my obsessive googling, that it was the shape of a 5 week old baby.  There was no heart beat.  Our doctor said the most likely situation was that our second baby had died and that was why it was so small.  But he also said there was a very slight chance that we had two babies and one was just a week behind and would catch up.

And two weeks later, when we again sat in that same room, there they both were, but this time there were two heart-beats.  We were so very happy and grateful.

I am currently 16 and a half weeks pregnant.  Our 12 week scan was fantastic, with both babies looking well.  I'm definately feeling what I assume is movement, though its not yet reached a stage of proper kicks.  Our families are over the top excited, as are many of our friends.   We are so very thrilled, though still getting our heads around our family expanding so rapidly.

I have been well, though I have Gestational Diabetes.  It's actually been incredible stressful, particularly as the diet and exercise plan they have given me doesn't seem to be sorting our my blood sugar levels.  I've got a doctors appointment this week and am hoping to get things figured out.  All in all, it has made cooking and eating (two of my favourite passtimes), very stress-ridden and frustrating.  But of course I am very grateful for the little ones, and willing to do whatever it takes to sort things out for them.

So 2013?

My big aim is to survive and keep bar low.  Not exactly an inspirational NY reso is it?  But everything anyone tells me about multiples is that life at the start is hard.  And my tendency is to promise too much.  So, for the last months and the first year, I'm not promising anyone anything, except that I will look after the babies and Tim.  If I'm up to more, great!  If I can't do more, then that's not surprising.

But I also want to enjoy this.  I am so grateful every day for these little treasures.  I won't to enjoy them, enjoy the pregnancy (as much as I can, I hear the last 10 weeks with two is pretty awful), and enjoy them when they arrive.  It will be tiring and overwhelming, but I want to enjoy it as much as possible.

 So, 2013?  Bring it on :)
Love BG

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The benefits of a four monthly catch up

Last Saturday, I went out to dinner with my sister Sandy and our second cousin Anna.  We did this for the first time in June, and we had such a lovely time that we decided to do it again.

This post is not about food, but I can't talk about Sandy and Anna without telling you about my new favourite restaurant.  Mamasita's in Colin's St Melbourne is just the most amazing place.  I am a Mexican lover from way back, a somewhat frustrated Mexican lover as my beloved is not that much of a fan, and is even less of a fan now than when I married him because I used to subject him to at least one Mexican dish per week, until caving under protests.  Mamasita's is a Tapasish place, and it highlights the very best of Mexican, not the processed Old Elpaso stuff (which I don't mind anyway), but the fresh lime and coriander and corn, the slow cooked meat, the lovely spices that aren't too overwhelming.  I went there first with Sandy and Anna.  It is usually packed out, we arrived at 5:30, and were told to come back in a hour.  It is expensive- it's the kind of place I'll go for my birthday or a special occasion.  But I love, love, love it!  I'm getting hungry and excited just thinking about it.

Anyway, end of rant.

Sandy and Anna and I grew up together.  Along with several other couples and their kids, we used to go away and spend Easter together at my Grandparents farm.  We all got on well, but despite many years of little contact, Anna is the one that we are the closest too.  Our Dad's were great buddies growing up, and if something had happened to my parents, it would have been Anna's parents who would have been our guardians.  I often wonder if the reason we enjoy each other company is because our parents are so similar.

Anyway, on Saturday we went to another great restaurant Mamak's (a Malaysian restaurant that is famous in Sydney and has just made its way onto Lonsdale st).  It was lovely to catch up and see what we had all been up to.  But I realised what a help it can be to have a 4 month catch up.  It reminds you of what you were thinking and planning and dreaming 4 months ago, and how life has ended up.

Anna asked how my book was going.

Oh dear...

Of course, in June, it was all about my novel, as I desperately tried to get it finished before starting work.

But the last four months...

Well, the biggest problem was what happened several weeks after our last catch up.

I lots my notebook.

I don't know if other people who aren't writers quite understand how heart-breaking this is (though I guess Anna and Sandy were pretty horrified).  But for me, it was one of the most debilitating, horrible moments of the novel writing process.

The not so frantic search "It must be somewhere".  The somewhat more urgent "I need to find it, where could it be".  Retracing my steps.  Searching under the car seat.  Madly cleaning the house.  Looking in places I know it can't be but wanting to find it so bad that I look there anyway.


And I can't find it.  I suspect, maybe next year I will find it.  But by then, it will be too late.

And what was in my notebook that was so important?  In the late days of June I sat down and read through my entire novel, and wrote down in my novel exactly what I needed to do to get it up to scratch.  It was not a fun process but it was necessary and satisfying to get it done.

And now, all that work is lost.  I could be thankful there was little original words in my notebook lost.  But even so...

It took about a month before I would even look at my novel, I was so distraught.  Eventually I started writing a little bit, but I was busy and discouraged and it didn't happen very often.  And finally, about 1.5 months ago, I printed out my novel and started again.  Painstakingly writing down what needed to change.  I was no where near as through as I could have been, I just don't have the heart for it.

Anyway, back to dinner.  So I began to talk to Anna and Sandy about my book.  And they were great.  Because they still remembered the enthusiastic Belinda who felt so close to finishing.  They were still keen to read it, they still believed in it.  And slowly, as they talked about, so did I.

As I looked through it after the discussion, I didn't feel like it was very good.  But that's not the point.  I don't have the perspective to know if its good or bad, and I often end up changing my mind as I read.  But it needs to be finished.

And I'm going to do it.  Sans notebook.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Spring! A Seasonal update

Once again time has flown with very little obvious changes on this blog.  I always have high hopes for blogging and they never end in anything.  Oh well, it's time for my regular 3 monthly update.

I love spring.  I'll say it again.  I love Spring.  I know for many (Hubby included) Spring is an evil time of allergies, but for those of us unaffected by pollen, it is the most beautiful season.  I love Spring particularly in this house.  I have a theory that the most beautiful rosebush in the world just happens to live outside our front window.  I don't have any proof of it yet (having not quite managed to see all the rose bushes in all the world), but out of all the ones I've seen, ours is the best.  It is a deep red rose, full, with the most intoxicating blossom.  It's just started to go crazy, and I love bringing roses to friends.  It makes me smile every time I go past it.  This picture below is from another rose bush, not quite as beautiful as ours.  Just imagine a richer fuller bud, and a smell that is not too sweet and yet somehow still intoxicatingly strong.

http://www.mzephotos.com/gallery/roses/red-rose.html ]">© MzePhotos.com, Some Rights Reserved

And while Spring hasn't quite got to the steady, lovely temperatures I'm used to in Sydney, Melbourne's Spring is definitely moving from one warm day a week to a few more.

Life has been busy.  Ministry (both Church and Uni) has been a joy.  It was funny, I was at a wedding and catching up with an old friend.  This old friend is a psychologist, and we were discussing life and how often at our age and older- people start to be really dissatisfied with life.  They had all these dreams, these goals about life, and even when they achieve them, life never seems and glamorous and meaningful as they expected.  And this often leads to real disappointment with life.

In discussing this, I was thinking about my life.  I don't think my life is easy, and definitely this year, with church planting and moving and death of loved ones and the like, it has not been easy.  Often my life is difficult. But it is not empty or meaningless.  My life is rich and full of purpose.  And this is something I have been trying to appreciate more and more, realising this is a gift that not everyone shares.  It's not that every ones life doesn't have purpose, I believe under God we all do.  And its not that people who don't do ministry don't have meaningful jobs and lives- they definitely do!!!  But I get to see my life impacting others.  I get to see the Gospel go out.  My life's meaning is in my face.  And that is a gift.

Two weeks ago, my beloved Pa died.  It's a strange time.  Happy that he is with Jesus.  Sad that he is not with us and Nan.  Remembering and appreciating him.  Sad that what has happened to Tim (loosing all his Grandparents) will happen to me, and this is the start.  Thankful for Heaven.

So, I guess that is a brief update on my life.  I am hoping to blog more, and I have a plan!  The Geneva Push, a church planting network of which Tim and I are apart, are signing me on as a regular blogger.  The idea is that I will blog from the point of view of a church planters wife.  I'm really excited about this and hope it will be an encouragement to others who are either in my situation or planning to be.  It also might help me to blog more regularly.  For the purposes of that, I will be starting a new blog (I'll link it to here eventually), and my plan is to also post those posts on both our church website and on threeworlds.  That way I can still use this site for personal/silly/writing/non church planting related posts, but will also include a bit of church planting in the mix.

So, theoretically, you should be hearing more of me in the next few months :)

But I have said that before!
love B