Holding up my family –

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I have been the ‘young mum’, the ‘stay at home mum’, the ‘working mum’, the ‘trying to hold my shit together mum’ and now I am a ‘student mum’! I feel like I have many hats to my experienced shelf but that does not stop me feeling a little lost sometimes.

Trying to be the best I can be 24/7 is a tremendously hard task. I shouldn’t beat myself up the one time I forget to send in that optional £2 book shop donation to my daughter’s school. Or the time I had to drive back to the school last minute after realizing the swimming bags were still on the back seat. Or the time I bought the kids a McDonald’s tea when I was too tired to cook. Or the nights the washing up gets forgotten until the morning as I have fallen asleep on the couch.

I cannot be the ‘best’ all the time, I will burn out! I found this out the hard way, a few years ago; every time we went on holiday (to unwind), as soon as I switched off ‘mummy mode’ I would fall ill. My body would rebel! I guess I was pushing it too far. I was trying to be the ‘American mum’ who bakes the best cookies, volunteers at the school, while holding down a job, keeping the house spotless, cooking nutritious/healthy meals and still finding the time to bath the children every night, read them a bed time story and mind my Ps and Qs. Letting go of this image that I had in my head of the ‘perfect mum’ was hard but I don’t think I would have survived if I hadn’t given myself a break. Forgiving myself was the first step.

When I ask the children if they sometimes wish they had a different mum, they always answer no – so I must be doing something right! Since starting my further education at university (and being the person that I am, wanting to be over-prepared for every lesson), I have had less time for the children. This was hard during the first two months and I experienced some extreme ‘mum guilt’, however I kept reminding myself that I am not only completing this course for myself, but for them too. I am showing them the rewards for hard work and preparation. I am being a role model! Nowadays I feel less guilty and more proud of myself.

Luckily there are tasks that I can do to enhance my academic journey while also spending time with the children. It helps that they both have a love for literature and are happy to be my audience/guinea-pigs. I have also started bringing them with me to (age appropriate) literary event and libraries.

To all mums out there – you are doing fine! All you can do is be the best you can be without burning yourselves out. Learn to put your sanity first from time to time; and enjoy parenthood before the children grow up – they don’t care whether the dishes are done or not!!!

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Murakami – After Dark

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Murakami depicted ‘After Dark’ in a first-person plural narrative, something we found most effective; connecting the reader to Murakami himself as we took this journey with him. We read this novel during the early hours of the night from our safe, warm beds as our minds wonder off after a long day. We found that reading this piece during the dark hours gave a sense of realism and connection to the plot and almost transports us to Tokyo; the setting of the secret world within the darkness of busy cafes, offices and love hotels.

The main plot is focused around two sisters, Mari and Eri Asai. We follow Mari around the city throughout the night and trace her story as she meets a handsome musician – Takahashi, an old wrestler and the new manager of a love hotel – Kaoru, and an unfortunate Chinese prostitute – Gue. We also witness Eri tranced in a deep unwakeable sleep, watched by a mysterious masked man and transported through a static, unplugged television set.

The essence of this novel seems to be that the structure takes place during only one night; commencing at 11.56pm and ending abruptly at 6.52am.  We, the readers, are left unsatisfied as the answers to many questions we form during the reading are withheld from us. Although this is frustrating, the reality of most mysteries being left unsolved and puzzles taking longer to answer than just one night, create a realism to this magical piece.

Murakami cleverly uses the viewpoint of a portable camera to show the reader the images he wishes us to focus upon within the silent room of Eri’s bedroom. The meta-fiction used is extremely effective and almost creates a film feel to the actions depicted. This also immerses the reader into that very room with Eri.

We feel this novel should only be read at night, preferably in one sitting; maybe during a long flight or a bout of insomnia. We found ourselves reading enthusiastically from chapter to chapter at speed in an attempt to discover the motives and explanations for this strange world, only to be left needing more with a feeling of bemusement and un-satisfaction. Had we understood prior to reading his work, that Murakami specializes in eluding his readers, we may have accepted the abrupt ending. We therefore, pre-warn all readers to take in each situation and plot twist with an open mind and to be ready to build your own profiles for each character during the reading to only be continued after you have finished.

Multi-tasking Mum

Since starting my Creative Writing Undergraduate Degree in September (18), I have struggled with time management. Not in the ‘normal’ sense of leaving work/reading until the last minute or forgetting to complete a task; more that I have found myself not stopping from my 6am wake up call, until I hit my pillow at 10pm. My social life was almost non-existent and my children felt that I wasn’t paying them enough attention.

Half the time I felt dead on my feet and my husband only seemed to get half a conversation from me. One thing I am extremely thankful for is just how supportive my family are. My husband took over a lot of the house job, walking the dog and even completes the food shop every Saturday morning so that I have now more time to read, write and research.

Giving up control with regards to the running of the house was hard and I found myself getting jealous when hearing him reading to our youngest child at bed time. I didn’t want to spend the next three years face deep in books and miss the children growing up.

To combat this, I have had to work hard on my multi-tasking skills to free up more spare time to ‘be mum’. If you had met me a year ago, I could have burnt the tea if the phone rang or lose my handbag on a dog walk if I was distracted. I was terrible at completing two tasks at once.

Nowadays you can find me stood in the kitchen while I cook tea, read my book and listen to my daughter’s times tables. Walking the dog, while dictating a plot idea into my phone and listening to the latest ‘script notes’ podcast. Reading my little girl her bedtime story as I fold the laundry.

Don’t get me wrong, I put aside time during my day to complete tasks by themselves too, as to not risk a ‘half hearted’ attempt. Family dinner times are one part of the day that all technology is put away, no books at the table and phones off the hook, so we can have conversations about our days and catch up on what everyone is doing.

I plan the day ahead each morning and love my ‘to do lists’ to keep me on track. I am also teaching my children the benefits of hard work, being prepared and ‘knowing my topic’ (even at my age). My goal is to end the next three years with a degree, happy family and my sanity in tact. It’s not easy but worth it. I wouldn’t have my life any other way.

My Manifesto

In life all we can do is make promises and plans for ourselves. Setting goals and planning our futures gives clear outlines to our life/writing journeys. To grow and mature, we must put ourselves in positions and situation that push our boundaries. We learn by listening to/observing others, research, preparation, trial and error.

To ensure I am pushed to be the best that I can be, I have written myself a manifesto. Something I can refer to and use to keep myself motivated…

  • I aim to take part in as many literary events and opportunities as possible/available.
  • I aim to surround myself with great minds.
  • I aim to write everyday (even if it’s just in my journal).
  • I aim to read often and widely in all genres.
    I aim to be prepared and research where possible for events and the opportunities I am fortunate to be a part of.

These simple steps can aid my future and help build the writing experience I wish for. Life is what you make of it!

Bjork – All is Full of Love

Bjork’s music video ‘All is full of Love’ is an outstanding piece of visual art. Thinking outside the box, to convey a message of love and lust, Bjork catches the attention of her viewers with her unusual masterpiece. The assembly of a female robot with the face of Bjork, brought to life, is then seduced by a second female robot also wearing Bjork’s face.

If Bjork’s intentions for this video are to ensure that her viewers watch the full feature from beginning to end while soaking in the vocals to attempt to piece together meaning and thought; then she succeeds. while the video is ephemeral, the idea of robotic life and a metallic passion lingers. the use of metal and white light gives the impression of a cold, mechanical and unfeeling world. Shortly into the video we are shown sparks of light as the robot is assembled and brought to being.

The use of sparks, I feel, represent not just the beginning of life, but also the sparks of passion ignited between the two robots. Giving a human emotion to the building of a machine: the ultimate pathetic fallacy. The use of a creamy liquid within some of the scenes, running over the metallic shell gives the impression of bodily fluids and therefore triggering an image of sexual joy within the viewer.

Deciding to depict both robots as herself gives further depth into this message she wishes to convey. One of self-love; learning to love yourself, find yourself beautiful and letting yourself enjoy pleasure. To humanize two robots within her message of love is a stroke of genius. What better way to depict the emotion of love than to give this feeling to an inanimate object, letting the emotion bring metal to life.

Bjork ensures that with the use of a bizarre and unusual video plot, her music video not only shocks, entertains and stuns her viewers, but also gives a topic of discussion and one to remember. I cannot say that I will forget the ‘robot sex scene’ any time soon, or the message behind it.

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