​MAKE THEM SUFFER (AUSTRALIAN REGIONAL TOUR 2019) w/ Windwaker & Diamond Construct @ Pelly Bar, September 2019

Whenever I write one of these gig reviews, I often think to myself “Why am I still doing this?” For me, it’s become harder to find the answers to that question the older I get. The core answer still remains the same…because I love and appreciate music. I think in the past I got myself swept up in the recognition from others and it become more and more difficult to top my previous efforts. The difference now is that I no longer have any external pressures to worry about. I don’t have anyone to please. I write these on my own terms rather than based on the expectations of others.

Of course when it comes to going out these days, my brain seems to have an endless tape loop of excuses why I shouldn’t bother: It’s raining outside. I hate driving in the rain. I’ll probably be bored. What if nobody talks to me? What if I end up being ignored? But this is just my anxiety and self doubt trying to put me off. Sometimes I do need to nudge myself out the door.

I’ve had a pretty long history when it comes to the Pelly Bar in Frankston. I’ve seen many different bands over the years there including Belle HavenDriven To The VergeDream on DreamerClosure In MoscowHollow World and Off By Heart (RIP!). So it’s a very familiar venue to me. These days it can bring a few rough nuts out and the crowd can get quite rowdy at times but I’ve generally always felt comfortable here.

Such was the case tonight. I did have my doubts in coming out tonight initially, finding it really difficult to put myself out there socially and make small talk. Plus the venue did start to fill up as the night went on. I’ve always been the kind of person who needs their personal space so I was in “wallflower” mode at times, especially during the half-hour band change overs, but I got through it. And I did end up chatting to a few people which was nice and lifted my mood up a lot.

DIAMOND CONSTRUCT…I’ve been meaning to see this Melodic Metalcore band from Taree, New South Wales for a little while now. Being the opening band of any bill is always a challenge, to “get the party started” but the DC boys managed to deliver and impress with their set. After putting the feelers out with many monumental breakdowns, electronic synths and heartfelt vocals, the band eventually won the crowd over in the end.                                                         Set List: Paradox, Dreamcatcher, Hypno, Night Terrors, Submerged. https://music.apple.com/us/artist/diamond-construct/1107829736

WINDWAKER…It’s truly been exciting and inspiring watching the journey that this Melbourne-based Alternative Metalcore band have been on. They’ve had some noteworthy and well-deserved opportunities this year including being added as a support act for the Good Things festival in December. Tonight they put on another crowd-pleasing performance with plenty of engagement from the crowd and lots of fierce energy on stage. The highlight came towards the end of their set with everyone grabbing out lighters and illuminated phone screens.   Set List: New Infinity, The Sitch, Castaway, Grey World, My Empire. https://music.apple.com/au/album/empire-ep/1448666181

MAKE THEM SUFFER…I’ve actually seen this Melodic Deathcore band from Perth, Western Australia play at the Pelly Bar once before so I knew I’d be in for a treat. The band certainly didn’t hold back tonight, delivering an hour-long set of bone-crushing breakdowns, ethereal synths, sweeping melodies and intense screams. It didn’t take long for the crowd to respond with several circle pits and many throw downs on display. A very tight and entertaining set.                       Set List: Save Yourself, Let Me In, Ether, Fireworks, Hollowed Heart, Widower, 27, Blood Moon, Vortex.                                                                 https://music.apple.com/us/artist/make-them-suffer/421186855

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MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 165, August 2019

On Tuesday afternoon, Mum and I attended an information session called Making The Connection held at Balla Balla Community Centre in Cranbourne East. As we were walking toward the entrance of the venue, we bumped into an old friend of ours, Julie. She used to attend the weekly ADAVIC Anxiety Support Group with us a few years ago. She is also a qualified meditation teacher and runs workshops on mental health issues. It was an unexpected surprise but a very pleasant one as she is a warm and empathetic person. https://www.ballaballa.com.au/programs-activities/health-and-wellbeing/

Today’s workshop facilitated by Troy Macris (City of Casey’s Mental Health Team Leader) explored several discussion points including: Why relationships are important? What makes a good relationship? How to manage conflict in relationships? According to research, healthy relationships can improve our immune system, reduce risk of mental health issues and lengthen our lifespan. After doing some brainstorming on the white board, Troy discussed the 3 essential elements needed for a good relationship: Genuineness, Acceptance and Empathy.

Lastly we explored the area of conflicts in relationships and ways to manage them. People approach conflict in either a “tug of war” fashion (wanting to win or prove that they’re right) or “burying their heads in the sand” (hoping the problem will go away). Both of these approaches don’t work because there’s no resolution and people end up dissatisfied. It’s often something I get stuck on myself because of my lack of confidence and social skills.

The best strategies to use when managing conflict includes:

  • Trying to stay focused on the issue, not the person involved
  • Taking a break and returning to discussing the problem when things have settled down
  • Reflecting on what needs we aren’t getting. What needs to happen to order for your needs to be met and have the conflict resolved?
  • Communicate to the other people using “I” statements such as “I feel…”, “When…” and “I would like…”
  • Trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes (practicing empathy)

On Thursday night, Mum and I went to see The Australian Beatlez play at Mulgrave Country Club in Wheelers Hill. If only I were able to defy the laws of physics (sorry Brian Cox) and invent a time machine to transport me back to June 1964 and see the actual Beatles play at Festival Hall in Melbourne. However, this tribute band was able to provide a very decent substitute. I happened to be tuned into the radio station 3AW when this show was advertised and I was determined to book myself a ticket. https://beatlez.com.au/

I’ve been a fan of The Beatles since I was very young, first hearing about them from their 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine. I was instantly transfixed both by their music and the members themselves. It’s only been quite recently that I’ve decided to thoroughly rediscover their entire back-catalogue of music as well as their solo releases. It’s difficult to pinpoint a reason why I love The Beatles so much.

They were the pioneers of modern rock music, constantly pushing the envelope and experimenting with their sound. They somehow juxtaposed catchy songs with often deep lyrical content based on social and political issues, personal experiences, spiritual beliefs, romantic relationships and the like. They could be simultaneously serious and silly. And releasing 13 studio albums in the span of 8 years was a monumental feat especially back in the 1960’s.

Being my first time seeing The Australian Beatlez play, I really had no idea what to expect save for a handful of Facebook posts and photos. The first half of the show saw the boys rocking those dorky bowl-shaped hairstyles that the Liverpool lads were famous for as well as black vests and ties. Even more impressive was the fact that they imitated the original Beatles accents, mannerisms and names (John, Paul, George and Ringo). The jokes and banter in between songs was very entertaining, making references to their performance on the Ed Sullivan show and feature films A Hard Day’s Night and Help!

As for the songs themselves, they covered a very wide spectrum of tracks from The Beatles discography from Please Please Me to Abbey Road. Obviously, being a two hour show, they could only play so many songs but the selections were varied and enjoyable. I was pleasing to see how well they were able to harmonise together, including familiar ad-libs and screams plus the guitar solos and samples sounded very authentic.

During the second half, the guys changed into their brightly coloured Sargent Peppers costumes and focused mostly on tracks from the Revolver album onwards. Overall, this was a fantastic show. They don’t sound exactly like their original counterparts but to expect them to would be highly unrealistic. Hence why they’re a tribute band but one that has clearly done their research to deliver an enjoyable and memorable Beatles experience.

Set List: A Hard Day’s Night, Please Please Me, She Loves You, Roll Over Beethoven, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Please Mister Postman, All My Loving, Twist and Shout, Do You Want to Know a Secret?, Help!, Day Tripper, We Can Work It Out, Nowhere Man, Drive my Car, In My Life, Sargent Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, A Little Help From My Friends, Yellow Submarine, All You Need Is Love, Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da, Here Comes The Sun, Taxman, Birthday, Back in the U.S.S.R., Come Together, Revolution, Hey Jude.

On Friday afternoon, I had my NDIS Plan Review meeting held at the NDIS office in Narre Warren. I was generally feeling pretty organised for this and yet there was still an under-current of nervous tension lurking inside of me. I think it’s because I really don’t like being put in the “hot seat”. The office has now been permanently moved into 68 Victor Crescent so this time it felt more official and proper.

Today Mum and I were met by an NDIS worker named Alana Sattler inside a small meeting room. As expected, I was asked many questions about my first plan: How was the process for you? What service providers did you use? What worked? What didn’t work? Have your goals changed since last year? Luckily I came prepared with handwritten notes, service agreements and emails. It was still tough having to explain myself to her but I think I did a reasonable job.

There’s always that concern lingering in my brain, all the uncertainties and unknowns (What if I forget to ask something? What if I don’t know the answer?) but for the most part, Alana made the process very straight forward for me. I guess the biggest thing for me is being able to continue to make progress: become more independent, increase my confidence, health and well-being, fitness, community participation, employment opportunities, making friends and personal development to create a better future for myself. https://www.endeavour.com.au/media-news/blog/ndis-plan-review

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CIRCLES – WINTER PROGMANIA TOUR w/ Ebonivory, Transience, M0DAL1TY & Red Lotus @ Sooki Lounge, August 2019

It’s been approximately four months since I last wrote up a gig review. I’ve legitimately had moments where I’ve felt like throwing in the towel for good including not attending local shows anymore. The last six months have been rocky to say the least. My sense of connection and importance to the local music scene has significantly diminished plus I haven’t been enjoying the last few gigs I’ve attended this year. My poor mental health, lack of motivation and low energy levels have all contributed to this. And so sadly I haven’t been out as much.

I’ve also become a lot more selective about which bands I decide to support and which venues I feel comfortable going to. The last time I attended Stay Gold in June, things really blew up in my face. For some reason, the loud and crowded club atmosphere of the venue was really making me feel uncomfortable and I didn’t stick around that long at all. Plus I felt really invisible, even with the few band members who recognised me, it wasn’t enough to leave on a positive note. I just didn’t have a good night overall.

So why do I keep doing this? Knowing that there’s a decent chance that I’m going to walk away feeling like crap again? Especially if I don’t manage to find some sort of enjoyment, social connection or feeling of appreciation? Simply because I love music and I love supporting local bands. I can’t allow my weaknesses, conditions and limitations to get in the way from living my life which includes attending local shows. Plus the Sooki Lounge is relatively close to home for me and a much more chilled out venue for me.

It felt humbling to know that people were pleased to see me even after a lengthy hibernation away from the local music scene. In a lot of ways, I don’t believe that I’ve truly left as supporting bands will always be a part of my life. And it felt good to be in a mostly positive state of mind tonight even when the venue did start to get crowded. I also didn’t feel much internal pressure to strike up conversations with every person in the room that I knew. Sometimes you just want to be left alone, to enjoy your own company and focus on watching the bands play.

RED LOTUS are a band I’ve seen a couple of times before. Some of the samples had a distinct Middle Eastern flavouring to them with heavy prog-rock riffs and breakdowns thrown into the mix.  Lead vocalist Steph shined throughout their set, showing off her wide, emotion-filled vocal range. Despite some brief technical issues with the samples, this was easily one of their strongest performances to date. Set List: Illuminate, The Furthest Shore, Symbiosis. https://music.apple.com/au/album/illuminate/1264901265

M0DAL1TY are a five-piece progressive rock/metal band from Melbourne. When I first listened to them, I could detect some strong influences from bands such as Karnivool, The Mars Volta and Closure in Moscow. I thought that the lead vocalist Nigel harmonised really well with backing vocalist and bassist Alicia throughout their set, balancing melodic cleans with harsh screams. Check out their latest single “Redemption” here: https://www.triplejunearthed.com/artist/m0dal1ty

TRANSIENCE are a heavy progressive rock outfit from Melbourne. The band have been established for seven years now but tonight was my first time seeing them play live. They had a relentless energy about them combining intense bass lines with passionate vocals. For some reason, they reminded me of an English based band, maybe something like Radiohead minus all the electronic stuff. Their songs were also quite lengthy and epic in scope. I enjoyed them a lot. Check out their latest single “Words” here: http://www.transienceband.com/

EBONIVORY was the band I was most keen to see play tonight. In only four short years, the band has continued to grow and evolve from their modest beginnings in Ballarat. They combine perplexing guitar solos, vibrant electronics and jaw-dropping vocals with deeply introspective lyrics. After several lineup changes and a handful of singles dropped, they always manage to put on a live performance which is both entertaining and awe-inspiring. Tonight was no exception as the crowd seemed very impressed by their performance. Set List: Hanmer Street, A Colour I’m Blind To, Patting The Black Dog, Light The Fires. https://music.apple.com/us/album/patting-the-black-dog/1468986778?i=1468986781

CIRCLES are a four-piece progressive rock outfit from Melbourne. Unfortunately I didn’t stick around for their set tonight. However, you should check out their new album called “The Last One” which is available here: http://hyperurl.co/circlestlo

“Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter. Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here. Here comes the sun, here comes the sun. And I say it’s all right.” George Harrison – Here Comes The Sun (1969)

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MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 164, July 2019

On Thursday morning, I had my first appointment for the Power Posing research study at La Trobe University in Bundoora. Today was challenging for several reasons: having to fast four hours before my appointment, and that means no breakfast, no coffee, no water, no nothing! Adjusting to my new medication. Having a restless night’s sleep. And having to confront the hour long drive to Bundoora.

The good news was that at least I had the directions down pat. But there was still plenty of obstacles along the way, particularly when I got to Bulleen Road. There is always a build up of traffic leading towards Heidelberg as well as roadworks, cars changing lanes and pulling out from every side street. It’s a very stressful drive getting to the university campus but once I’m there, I’m fine.

I was a little confused as to where inside the George Singer building I was meant to meet Maddy, the researcher conducting this study. Thankfully one of the psychology clinic staff members steered me in the right direction, as I walked right past the OTARC lab. It’s always a little nerve racking for me, even though I’ve done a couple of research studies before. Just the whole experience of meeting something new and doing unfamiliar body tests.

The first task was to count my heartbeat during four random time intervals. Maddy attached three electrodes to my body as well as an elastic band around my waist to detect heart rate and breathing. It was quite hard having to “tune into” my heart and feel internal body sensations. Plus I had to fill out some online questionaires as I went along which asked things such as my anxiety levels, how confident I felt, if I was feeling calm or tense.

Next was the water loading task. There were two bottles of water on the table and I basically I had drink them until my bladder was full of water. This wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be but again I just did my best. The final task was the respiratory resistance task. I had to breath into this device that was similar to a snorkel mask for 7 different resistance levels. It was tricky getting the hang of it because I’m so used to breathing through my nose. It was a weird sensation but eventually I did get it.

The last part involved doing the Power Posing training. I had to hold and assume three different poses including Chair and Table, Superwoman / Superman and The Forward Lean. I had to really focus on correct posture such as pushing the sternum outwards, tilting the head upwards, maintaining a stable stance with feet hip-width apart. Maddy filmed these poses on my phone so that I could look back on them. My homework is now to practice these Power Poses twice a day for the next week and then come back to the lab. http://otarc.blogs.latrobe.edu.au/power-posing-to-increase-social-confidence-power-and-emotional-control/

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​MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 163, July 2019

On Wednesday morning, I had an appointment to see my psychiatrist Dr. Ricardo Peralta at Vita Healthcare in Mount Eliza. Even though it’s been two months since I last saw my psych, I still get myself nervous in anticipation to see him. And of course I remind myself that I’m spending  $200 for this appointment (less Medicare rebate) so I need to make the most of it and not waste my time. He could be charging up to $500 so in that sense it’s really bugger all.

Ironically, it has come at a good time for me with my mood and energy levels at an all time low. My current medication of 20mg Escitalopram (Lexapro) tablets hasn’t been as effective as when I first started taking them over six months ago. Part of me is scared of changing medications due to the side effects yet the other part is desperate to try something else. I haven’t been truly happy in myself for weeks. I spent more time in my bed due to feeling exhausted. I haven’t been motivated to go to the gym as often. And my confidence has also plummeted.

Ricardo suggested that I slowly come off the Lexapro and start taking Duloxetine at 3omg. He also recommended trying out Zopiclone 7.5mg to help with my sleep problems. I don’t know anything about either of these medications besides doing some Google searches online so I’m pretty much placing my trust in Dr. Ricardo with this. I feel confident that he knows what he’s talking about and isn’t simply giving me a quick fix solution to my problems. He’s a “no bullshit” doctor, he gets straight to the point which I appreciate and it’s the reason why I keep seeing him.

Recently, I’ve been having episodes of snacking on junk food such as Tim Tams, Arnott’s family assorted biscuits, Cadbury dairy milk chocolate, chips, lollies and crackers. The fact that I know that consuming these foods will increase my weight hasn’t seemed to stop me. Of course I still try to keep eating healthy foods like rolled oats, yoghurt, nuts, fruit, vegetables and lean meats. I just need to be more consistent with what I eat. It hasn’t been easy.

I think my shift in mood, onset of depression symptoms, hibernation inside my bedroom and the cold, wind and rainy weather conditions have contributed to my poor eating habits and lack of motivation to go out of the house. Somehow I managed to go to YMCA Casey RACE and do a half hour session on the exercise bike. I always feel better after I’ve been to the gym, it’s just getting there that’s the hard part!

On Friday afternoon, I had my second appointment with new speech pathologist Natasha from Everyday Independence. Thankfully today’s session was less rocky than last time even though I was anxious in anticipating her arrival. I always am when it comes to inviting people into the house plus the social awkwardness at the dining table. But it was a very production session.

We worked with ways to feel more confident in stressful situations, verbal vs. non-verbal communication, what to say when answering the phone, how to prepare myself for phone calls. Writing things out on the whiteboard and getting me to brainstorm ideas proved to be a helpful strategy for me. Plus we had a few laughs which eased the awkward tension a bit. I’m still getting to know her after all.

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MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 162, June 2019

On Monday afternoon, I had my final creative writing class for the term at @Balla Balla Community Centre in Cranbourne East. Last week we had the option of starting to write a story or book that we’ve been working on and at first I wasn’t going to bother doing it. But in the early hours of Sunday morning, I had this random moment of inspiration and decided to start writing. It wasn’t much but I felt glad that I at least made an attempt at beginning this story I was working on.

It was a busy July morning inside Tullamarine airport in Melbourne. Ryan was eagerly anticipating his well deserved holiday away to Fiji. He worked as a corporate lawyer and lately the endless deadlines and stress was taking its toll on him. He desperately needed a break. The voice of a female announcer suddenly interrupted his thoughts. “Attention customers for flight JQ286. We regret to inform you that your flight to Fiji has been delayed for 4 hours.”

An audible groan erupted through the departure lounge emanating from the nearby passengers. They were clearly disgruntled and annoyed that they’d have to wait even longer to board their plane. Ryan however was far from worried and casually slumped back further into his seat, returning his attention to the latest edition of the Herald Sun newspaper.

During today’s class, we discussed the topics of creating characters, choosing a title for your book or memoir, overcoming writing struggles, how to publish your story and writing resources. When creating characters, it is important to make them likable, interesting, charismatic, both ordinary and extraordinary, realistic, well-motivated, dynamic, good at what they do and a little unhappy. Fictional characters often take on a life of their own and it’s often tempting to become attached to them.

When it comes to choosing a title for your book, you can use the PINC method which stands for Promise, Intrigue, Need and Content. It is important to make the book title original and memorable in order to make it compelling and draw the reader in. For memoirs, you can use short action words, short character descriptions, lines from literature, themes, settings, sayings, quotes or character names for the title.

There are many ways in which a book can be published. The most common approach is using a traditional publishing house such as Random House or Penguin. The alternative is a the more DIY approach of Self Publishing. This has several advantages such as having more creative freedom, receiving a greater portion of the royalties and having 100% ownership of the rights. You can also publish in print (Print on Demand) or publish online (eBooks).

On Thursday night, I attended the Aspergers Victoria Young Adults Hub BBQ and casual dinner social event held at Power Neighbourhood House in Ashwood. What started as a group of Aspies huddling around the small brazier fire with logs of firewood quickly turned into a standard board games night. I for one wasn’t protesting about this. I see playing board games as a great social buffer in order to eliminate any need for awkward small talk. It’s still social in the sense that it does require players to speak out aloud.

I ended up playing several rounds of Cards Against Humanity. At least this was a game that I’ve played a few times so I didn’t need to familiarize myself with the rules. It was quite casual and free-flowing with people joining and leaving at their pleased. We did have up to 7 players at one point which was comfortable enough for me. Reading in front of people has been something I’ve been self conscious about since primary school and yet I handled it pretty well in this group. I think it’s because when you’re around other Aspies, judgement leaves the building.

We also had guest speakers Madeline Russell-Maynard and Dr. Tania Pietrzak from La Trobe University talking about a research study called Power Posing To Increase Confidence, Power and Emotional Control. They went through a short powerpoint presentation and explained what would be involved if we were to participate in the study. Basically the aim of these poses is to increase social confidence and learn how to tune into your body signals and feelings better. They showed examples of this with the “Wonder woman” hands on the hips stance, leaning forward over a table top and putting your feet up onto a table whilst sitting down.

I actually participated in a different study at La Trobe University last year and had a pretty positive experience in completing it. And so I am considering participating in this study as well. http://otarc.blogs.latrobe.edu.au/power-posing-to-increase-social-confidence-power-and-emotional-control/

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​MIKEY’S PERSONAL BLOG 161, June 2019

Last Saturday night, I celebrated my cousin Nathan Dunkling’s 21st birthday at The Comic’s Lounge in North Melbourne. Social gatherings like birthday parties can often be huge anxiety triggers for me but somehow my anxiety was under control tonight even being in a large group of people and inside a crowded live comedy venue. Yes it filled up very quickly which meant that the volume levels of conversation gradually rose up and it was very difficult to hear what was going on even at my own table.

Some of Nathan’s friends were sitting at my table and so it was hard for me to engage in conversation with them. Thankfully I had a solution to this, pulling out my phone and playing Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery to curb my boredom levels before the show actually began. Some people might pull out the “anti-social” card but I really don’t care as I see it as a coping mechanism and way of feeling comfortable when I can’t connect with the people around me. Plus waiting for our meals did take a long time so I didn’t have much else to do.

Finally around 8.15pm, the MC for the evening Josh Earl began his comedy routine whilst I began chowing away at my entree, salt and pepper calarami. I also ordered an Atlantic salmon for mains which was really delicious. There were four comedians in total including an American lady named Eve, an Australian named Claire and the main headliner Dave Thornton. Honestly it was a very hit and miss affair for me.  Plus I felt like there were too many breaks in between and it seemed to stretch the night out a bit too late for me (We were there for over 4 hours).

Admittedly, some jokes simply soared over my head perhaps because I missed the context of what they were talking about. Others I basically didn’t find funny at all. It’s not to say that I don’t have a sense of humour, more I can only stomach so many jokes related to Sex – poo, dicks, vaginas, masturbation, circumcision, vasectomies. Religion – Jewish people. Christian people, believing in God. Children – dealing with being a parent, being able to handle kids, changing nappies. I’ve pretty much heard it all. I think a lot of it depends on the delivery of the joke too. If it’s too forced, I’m most likely not going to laugh at it. Still it was an enjoyable night out and good value for money.

On Sunday morning, we checked out of our hotel room at Best Western Melbourne City Hotel – Formerly Pensione Hotel and had breakfast downstairs at Oliver’s. Then we drove down to St. Kilda to visit the Esplanade Market and walked along the pier. Even though the air was fairly cold, eventually the sun broke through the overcast clouds and it become a lovely morning to check out the scenic views. I do get a little nervous when it comes to passing by stalls in a market which some sellers trying really hard to get my to buy something but it’s nice just having a browse and watching the people walking their dogs along the footpath.

On Monday morning, I had an appointment with my support worker Seb at Jamaica Blue Cranbourne. A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling pretty conflicted and disheartened about the service Mentis Assist was providing to me. There was a lot of being messed around with lack of communication and no confirmations being made over the past few weeks besides having one fill in support worker. Everything felt like it was in limbo. I sent a text message to Seb yesterday but I had no idea if he would even turn up today.

Eventually he did reply and things got back on track again today. What was alarming to me though was the fact that he wasn’t informed about what was happening with me over the past few weeks. Nobody at Mentis Assist told him that a replacement support worker would be organised for me or that my appointment would be switched to Tuesday afternoon. It was almost enough for me to pull the plug but honestly none of this is Seb’s fault, just the broken system that had left me hanging.

On Monday afternoon, I had my second last Creative Writing class at Balla Balla Community Centre in Cranbourne East. I have to admit that I was stuck in a rut of sorts after the last class and really struggled on the previous homework task of coming up with five different endings to a short story I began in Week 3. I was feeling a little uncertain about what I’d come up with but at least I gave it a go.

ENDINGS HOMEWORK EXERCISE

Ryan is determined to escape the trappings of his old life and even in these dire circumstances, he will make it to Fiji one way or another.

Ryan decides to build friendships with the locals in New Caledonia and eventually settles there.

Ryan sends a distress call back home to Australia in order to be saved from the ordeal he has been through. He managed to escape the plane crash with only minor injuries, however it has had a major impact on him psychologically. He makes contact with a counselor to find strategies to overcome his trauma.

Ryan ends up in a local hospital wired up to machines – life support, oxygen, heart rate monitor. The experience of the plane crash was too much for him and has taken a tool on him physically as well as mentally and emotionally.

Upon landing in New Caledonia, Ryan ends up getting himself captured by a tribe of warriors, clad with wooden spears and shields, deep inside the bushland. Will he manage to survive?

During today’s class, we looked into scenes vs. chapters, improving your draft, killing off your darlings and the habits of successful authors. Scenes are more complicated and more important than chapters. They are very specific building blocks within your story. They also need tension and conflict. Each scene can be divided into two parts: ACTION (Goal, conflict, disaster) and REACTION (Reaction, dilemma, decision).

Chapters are arbitrary divisions within a book. They impose order and create a certain sense of structure. Chapter breaks are more about pacing and must be placed strategically. They leave readers with a question or a reason to know more. Scene structure has nothing to do with chapter breaks.

Improving your draft. Your first draft is the writing equivalent of running a marathon. You need to take a step back, question the structure and the characters, ask whether all the characters want the same thing, does the story contain enough conflict. After draft two and beyond, you need to be a little more critical with your work. Hire a professional editor and get your manuscript copy edited. Then finally have the manuscript proof read.

Killing off your darlings. Cut out any elements that doesn’t serve to further the work as a whole, in order to enhance the story. Darlings can be words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs or characters. The main benefits of killing off your darlings are: it strengthens your characters and plot, improves the overall quality of your writing and refines your self discipline. Things to cut: weak characters, extraneous plot lines, backstory and prologues.

The habits of successful authors include write everyday, finish your stories, learn the rules, break the rules, create their own inspiration, don’t slack off on the hard stuff, follow their hearts and not the market, develop a thick skin, set their stories free, love what they do, write with joy and embrace fragments of writing.

On Monday night, I went to my Boxing small group fitness class with CinFull Fitness. Tonight was a very small group with just myself, Rodney Sack and Ben Milton. We each got our measurements taken before we actually started. It’s been something of a fleeting thought for me, particularly the scales and weighing myself. It’s not longer been an unhealthy obsession. In fact, I hardly ever weigh myself at all these days. I used to get really fixated on THE NUMBER but now I’m able to let it go more easily considering it’s not a true representation of how “fat” or “overweight” I am. There are so many other factors that go into it like muscle mass and water weight.

Tonight’s class consisted of drills and partner work, push ups, plank holds, ground and pounds, sit up punches, V-ups, Russian twists, star jumps, walking lunges and squat holds.

Being paired up with a hard-hitter like Rodney certainly got me out of my comfort zone. I was a little nervous about not being able to handle it (and be accidentally punched in the face) but I wasn’t going to let that fear stop me. I needed to release all of those negative labels that have been given to me in the past (weak, slow, incapable, incompetent, useless, a loser). I’m not any of those things. Sometimes I really do surprise myself in being able to overcome a struggle such as physical fatigue or being out of breath. I know that I’m not as fit as some of the others but that fact shouldn’t stop me from participating in the class.

On Wednesday morning, I attended the funeral of Rita Hartney at Tobin Brothers in Berwick. I knew Rita from a few years ago when she began hosting her radio program Hot Topics With Rita at Casey Radio – 97.7FM as well as her motivational talks and appearances at places such as Balla Balla Community Centre and U3A Cranbourne. She also ran a short course called Speaking Before The Public which helped me work on self confidence and oral presentation skills. It was only a few weeks ago that I learned of her decline in health and subsequent passing on Facebook.

After signing the guest book and taking a copy of Rita’s book It’s Time For Women to Take Control, Mum and I made our way into the main service room which was packed with Rita’s family, friends and other guests. We were really lucky to find a couple of spare seats to sit down in. It was a really beautiful service which highlighted the many strengths and achievements that Rita had gained over the years. She really had a significant impact on many people’s lives.

The speeches were both funny and moving, painting Rita as a strong, determined woman trying to make her mark in a male dominated world. The music selection was very fitting as well, reflecting Rita’s colourful and flamboyant personality. Songs included Elvis Presley’s Devil in Disguise and Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman.

Attending someone’s funeral seems to give me a gentle reminder about how precious life truly is. That you really do need to be grateful for what you have and make every moment count. It also forces me to think about my own funeral. Not just the kinds of arrangements that I will have but questions like: Who will be attending? What will I be remembered for? What kind of mark will I leave behind? I never used to be this philosophical about funerals until more recently when I realised how important it is not to let my life go to waste.

On Thursday morning, I decided to take myself off to Casey Smiles Dental Clinic after experiencing more annoying dental pain, this time on the right hand side of my mouth. I was really hoping that the pain would subside with some simply remedies but after having a restless night with this agonizing toothache, it was time to face the music and the dentist once more.

The good news was that I didn’t have to get my x-rays done like last time as they were already on my patient record. It was also easier to explain to Dr. Mohamed where abouts the pain was coming from and not simply guess which tooth it was. He gave me two options: first would be to exact it like last time, which would be easier and more cost effective. The second option was to have a root canal done in order to potentially save the tooth. However, he warned me that he could cost me up to $1500. So obviously I went with option one.

Thankfully the process was a lot quicker this time around. There was a young female dental assistant doing some training and learning about all the different surgical instruments and how to use the suction hose. It provided a nice distraction for me. Dr. Mohamed reminded me to keep breathing as he applied pressure to the decayed tooth. It was over and done with within a few minutes. The anesthesia needle probably hurt more than the actual tooth removal did. Plus it only cost me $160 as it was a basic tooth removal and it didn’t need to be surgically removed like last time.

https://caseysmiles.com.au/dr-mohamed-massaud

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