Thursday, January 3, 2019

2019: Counting my blessings

Most of my plans for 2018 fell apart when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. 

I had to be still, be patient, be a patient, and just rest. This meant a lot of my plans and ideas were left unattended. I spent a lot of time couching it. I had to. 

So my main goals for 2018 of better health and consolidating my finances, were thrown completely out the window. Being sick is expensive...sigh...although thanks to Mr Whitlam and medicare not as expensive as it could have been!

Obviously I am hoping for a more healthy 2019 and I would say I am 80% there. I am feeling really great, but my legs and kidneys are still infected, my lungs are still so so, and I still get tired...although nowhere near as much.

And sadly sitting on my arse all year meant a little weight gain. But I am not going to be one of those douchbags talking about that 'journey'. I will do the best I can, when I can. One thing at a time.

It's funny having survived last year I keep thinking I should be tackling big things and throwing every second at life in a big way, but I don't think going down that path is right for me just now. 

So really I am just hoping for a simple year. Nothing too taxing, or out of the ordinary. No dramas, just basic and simple.

I am going to strive for a balance of Be Still/Flaneur.

Which means I need to ensure I get my rest and relax, that is to say, Be Still. This can be at home, under a tree looking at the clouds, at a cafe. Flaneur is a French word for wandering/exploring and observing the world. So heading to cities or suburbs, going for a walk, getting some exercise, and seeing what there is to be seen. I love doing that. Usually camera in hand.

More music is a given, this was my savior last year. Choir and singing for sure. Spending more time on my instruments, especially now I have a keyboard. And going to more live gigs.

So 2019 will be about the little things, and counting my blessings. I have been so lucky to have dodged the cancer bullet, I just want peace and happiness. I want to be there for everyone, like they were for me. I just want to potter around as I wish, with no stress and problems.

I will be keeping things simple, whilst taking any opportunity afforded to me, and staying still and zen.

The only big thing I wish for is a nice little holiday somewhere lovely, when I feel 100%, when I know things are back on track healthwise and with work, and when I can afford it. 


Of course, there is always my love life...huge sigh. I will be back dating at some point this year. I am a very strong, and independent feminist, but if this past year has taught me anything, it has taught me whilst I can do stuff solo and get through it a-ok, it would be really really nice to have someone there who always has your back. Without a doubt last year would have been infinitely easier if I had that. But no point looking back at disappointment, poor romantic choices and weak 'men', as I am all for looking forward to what may come.

So I am hoping 2019 will be all of this, but it may not work out that way. And that is ok too, last year has taught me more patience than I ever had and to realise that sometimes you just need to take the ride, take it a day at a time, and try not to overthink everything. You will get there!

So whatever happens, I am here to experience it, good, bad or otherwise. And that is such a magnificent thing, I can only smile.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

2018: THE LISTS

These are my top 10 lists of favourites for the year of 2018. I always wait until the last minute cause you never know and this year was no exception with The Marvelous Mrs Maisel jumping right to the Number 1 slot at the very last minute. Some categories are not 10, TV was difficult to keep to the 20 + extras as there is so much great tele out there. Live Music was difficult as I didn't get out that much due to being sick, and podcasts is only 5 cause if I was listening to more than that I'd have no time to watch, listen, and read the others. I always split movies into Film (those watched on the big screen) and DVDs (a mix of new and old) and Documentaries.

I'd love to hear what you loved this year.


Books

1. Insomniac City by Bill Hayes - New York, Oliver Sacks, love, being in the moment, self help, memoir, funny, sad, and everything in between. I read this when I was at my lowest whilst sick, it perked me up in ways I cannot begin to explain and it still sits with me and I even had a lovely little chat online with Bill about it.

2. Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - one of 2 fiction titles. It's a biggie and a few years old but the most extraordinary saga of a stolen painting, a young abandoned boy and his journey looking for love. Set in New York and Las Vegas, this spans decades and is beautifully written and a page turner at over 600 pages!

3. A Letter From Paris by Louisa Deasey - an unexpected gem about an Australian finding out more about her deceased father, the life he led in Paris and at home, family she didn't know about and his art.

4. Danger Music by Eddie Ayres - teaching children classical music in Afghanistan. Remarkable and moving.

5. Walk Through Walls by Marina Abramovich - An insight into the famous artist. If you were ever unsure about performance art, this will get you on the right path. Her life is nothing short of remarkable, she is enigmatic and charismatic and the most fascinating person.

6. Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales - beautifully written book on what happens on the worst day of your life and more importantly the day after the worst day of your life. More than self help, this is a life changing book.

7. The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein - a book about a woman who cleans up the worst messes; hoarders, murders etc which is fascinating in and of itself, but the really story lies within, about the woman herself. Completely unexpected and brilliant.

8. Calypso by David Sedaris - Sedaris just gets better with age, this is his funniest and his most dramatic book yet, as he writes about aging.

9. Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward - second fiction title, set in the South like all her books, this deals with an African American family on the brink, death, drugs, and jail, but ultimately uplifting. Her writing is outstanding.

10. Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris - This is also fiction but based so tightly on the truth I don't think of it as that. About a Jewish man who becomes the number tattooist for each prisoner at Auschwitz, and his remarkable life there and beyond.

Special Mention: The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose - This was my book of the year a couple of years ago when it first came out. Set around Marina Abramovich's The Artist is Present, it is about love, life, loss, art, and that crazy ole thing, The Muse. I re-read this for my book club this year and loved it even more the second time around. This book is perfect!

TV


1. The Marvelous Mrs Maisel - the first episode is the most perfect piece of television I have ever seen. From the writer/directors of The Gilmore Girls, this is a quick witted, sassy piece of period tele. Set in the 50s about a separated housewife who tries her hand at stand-up comedy and is a natural. The set design, costumes, scripts are perfection, the music and the acting also. I love everything about this show, it is uplifting, funny, bawdy, sublime and swoonworthy. Cannot wait for S3.

1. Fleabag - this is an equal no.1 as it is an older program I discovered. One series (but a new one coming this year) about a charismatic gal in London, grieving the loss of her best friend, and navigating her love life and family life, quite dark in parts, but hilarious mostly. You will fall in love with Fleabag, I sure did!

2. Dectectorists - this is the best underrated show on tele. Very dry comedy about to hapless metal dectectorists. At first it seems like nothing is happening, but as you move along the scripts are so highly layered that their lives unfold before you. Masterful writing, hilarious acting, great cast. Includes Toby Jones, Mackenzie Crook (The British Office), and Diana Rigg. 

3. The Durrells - I grew up with these delightful books about the very real and eccentric Durrell family. Written by an older Gerald, he was a young boy when they lived on the idyllic island of Corfu. They move their after the death of their father. 4 fabulously outrageous children and a gorgeous English rose mother (perfectly played by the delightful Keeley Hawes). This is just one of those nice shows that isn't twee. Every shot is a postcard, it is hilarious and sweet. A true feel good show, that makes you want to pack up and live in a run down old mansion in Corfu!

4. Doctor Who -  I was very much done with The Doctor after such disappointment when my beloved Peter Capaldi quit. His time was awful, the writing was awful, it had jumped the shark big time. But the new female doctor is divine, funny, quirky, great sidekicks, great stories, powerful writing. I am hooked and in love...as it should be!

5. Better Things - I love this funny and dramatic underrated show about a single Mum and her 3 girls. Nothing much happens, but everything happens, much like life and Pamela Adlon is everything.


6. Upstart Crow - Ben Elton writing Shakespeare gags...what more do you want!! David Mitchell is a hoot as The Bard and it's a genuinely funny show.

7. Counterpart - I've loved J.K. Simmons since Oz, he's a great actor and in this modern cold war drama he plays 2 characters. He plays Howard Silk, and works in Berlin at the UN. He finds out back in the 80s an experiment went wrong and an alternate world was made, the crossover is beneath the UN building and it appears both worlds are having a cold war. He meets his 'other' and they are completely different men, and his world is turned upside down. This is a great thriller, superb stories, whilst ultimately sci-fi light it works for reals, and his nuanced acting is brilliant! I'm busting for S2!!

8. Kidding - this went fairly unnoticed, it is niche, but brilliant. A Jim Carrey comedy, and whilst there are some great big laughs within, it is mostly a melancholy drama. The kind Carrey is a master at. He plays a beloved children's show host who has undergone great tragedy and is falling apart at the seams, but must hang on to his act. It gets a little bamboozled towards the end, but is just masterful and a delight.

9. Atlanta - This year was better than last year, and that is saying something. This edgy comedy/drama by the brilliant Donald Glover is mesmerising. So many great episodes, so much diversity in each episode. 

10. Insecure - Based on Issa Rae's stand up, she writes, directs, and stars, and is fabulous as the hapless but absolutely joyful Issa, navigating her life with loves, and jobs, and where to live. I love this show so much, she is the bomb!

11. Broad City - these gals, such love and friendship, hilarious and brilliant. Ilana and Abbi play Ilana and Abbi, 2 friends making their way in New York. They are scrappy and real, feminists, and so very funny. This season took them to new heights of brilliance. A must see show.

12. Halt and Catch Fire - I binged the entire 4 seasons of this drama very quickly. Commencing in the 70s, about two guys and the computer biz in San Francisco, their ups and downs over the years. Compelling and wonderful.

13. The Americans - only half way through S2 and I can why all the buzz, two KGB agents posing as an American family infiltrating America in the 80s. This just sucks you in immediately, and you love these guys, even though they are the baddies and you know it cannot end well!

14. Mr Inbetween - great little Aussie comedy about  gun for hire and his softer side. Scott Ryan as the lead is great, charismatic and moves skillfully from comedy to drama in the flick of a wrist!

15. Wellington Paranormal - this is another great laugh out loud show from NZ. Plays like a doco where the camera follows Wellington's 2 best police - playing it straight - and their investigations which lead them into paranormal territory more times than not. Great special effects, and many laughs!

16. The Assassination of Gianni Versace - this was not really about Versace but the young guy that killed him, and many others. It was a fascinating exploration into a very deranged man and I was spellbound.

17. Pose - another interesting show, set in the 80s against the Pose scene of drag queens and such in New York. Showy and fun out front, but a seedy underbelly or crime and aids underneath. Great writing and acting.

18. A Very English Scandal - Hugh Grant just gets better with age! This 3 parter based on true story. Hugh plays a minister who tries to kill off his gay lover when the truth looks likely to get out. Bizarre, funny, and dramatic. 

19. Mystery Road - great aussie outback drama, with a superb cast.

20. Patrick Melrose - based on the popular books, Benedict Cumberbatch is wonderful as the nutjob Patrick, and as the series unravels you find out why he is such a nutjob. Great performance and superb cast.

Special Mentions:

1. Nanette - you've all seen it, you all know how brilliant it is, not a TV show but a one off thing, and the best I have seen. Really makes you think, and incredibly moving. Hannah Gadsby is a goddess, but I knew that anyway!

2. Bruce Springsteen on Broadway - same kind of thing, Bruce telling stories and singing his songs, utter brilliance, also incredibly moving.

3. Escape to the Chateau - my favourite reality series (I don't really do reality series), about an English couple doing up a French Chateau. I love them both, they are eccentric and amazing. The Chateau is sublime, I cannot get enough!

4. Travel Man - Richard Ayeode and another comedian spend 48 hours in a big city. Jon Hamm and Richard in Hong Kong was sheer brilliance, funny, swoon worthy, and interesting.

5. Gogglebox - OK, I will admit I got hooked on this guilty pleasure this year. I cannot explain it, people watching telly, I pooh poohed it for a long time, but caught an episode by accident and was hooked. I love these guys!!!

Film

1. The Shape of Water - stunning fantasy about a mute woman who falls in love with an aquatic man/fish. Beautiful, romantic, stunning set design and music.

1. Intouchables - equal first but a few years old. Fabulous French comedy/drama about a rough around the edges dude who ends up with the job of looking after a rich paraplegic. Heart warming but not overly sentimental, hilarious and just an all round stunning film. You can see why it was voted France's favourite film ever!

2. Bohemian Rhapsody - yes, there are huge flaws, but ultimately this was just such a joyous film, how could it not be near the top of everyone's list!

3. Get Out - I STILL think about this crazy thriller, billed as horror, but not really. It is the story of a well to do white family and their daughter's black boyfriend. Totally unexpected storyline, totally jaw dropping, incredibly thought provoking. I was utterly blown away by this.

4. Three Billboards - Frances McDormand, doing what she does best, being a curmudgeonly crack pot, but with reason and you love her for it. Her character is mourning the disappearance of her daughter and annoyed with the seemingly lack of care by the local police she takes matters into her own hands.

5. Black Panther - this was great fun, and also an incredibly important film. An almost all black cast, with kick arse storylines, the usual marvel amazing, but up a notch or five. 

6. Lady Bird - such a beautiful whimsical coming of age story with a great script, and stunning performances. 

7. The Big Sick - an unexpected hit, a comedy about a young man who falls in love and then out of love with a woman, just before she succombs to a life threatening illness. Doesn't sound funny, but it is. You will laugh and cry and never for a minute feel manipulated!

8. Fantastic Beasts - This was magical and brilliant, and Jude Law as a young Dumbledore (HELLO!!). The story takes you way back in the beginning of Harry Potter. Written by the great JK Rowling herself, I look forward to more of these great films!

9. I Tonya - we all remember this crazy piece of history, here is Tonya Harding's version of things. Quite a remarkable biopic. Both female leads are astonishing. Quite funny, although unintentionally you would think. Bonus, Ice skating and 80s soundtrack!

10. Oceans 8 - a sleep fun filled chick film. Highly stylised, set around The MEt Gala, great costumes, and jewels. Loads of fun, amazing cast.

DVDs

1. Call Me By Your Name - divine, beautifully shot, and just a beautiful film. Timothee Chalamet should have won Best Actor.

2. Lucky - Harry Dean Stanton's last film, a beautiful film about a man in his 90s and how he lives his life.

3. Isle of Dogs - Fabulous animated Dog film from Wes Anderson. Say no more!

4. Paddington 2 - this was just a delight, hilarious, cute, and fun. Plus Hugh Grant overacting and being very funny.

5. Ideal Home - Steve Coogan and Paul Judd as a couple who take in Coogan's grandson when he has nowhere else to go. Hilarious and poignant.

6. Love Simon - cute teen romance.

7. Avengers: Infinity War - just loads of fun, but a shocker of an ending.

8. The Mountain Between Us - Kate Winslet and Idris Elba left high and dry on a snowy mountain. Brilliant thriller.

9. Battle of the Sexes - fun biopic about Billie-Jean King.

10. The Greatest Showman - I love a good musical and this is one, Hugh Jackman, circuses, music.

Documentaries

1. The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling - stunning and over 4 hours. So very funny, and also really touching. I loved Garry so anything like this is gold to me, but this was really well done.

2. Wrecking Crew - about the session musicians in the 50s to 70s. Amazing!

3. Mavis - all about Mavis Staples, what a woman, what a singer!

4. Marina Abramovich, the artist is present - brilliant documentary about Marina, her life, and the exhibit in New York.

5. Faces Places - an elderly French photographer and artist, Agnes Varda teams up with young hip artist JR to put together some art and also trace Agnes' history. Inspiring.

6. Jane Fonda in 5 Acts - great doco about the great lady!

7. Gurrumul - stunning and moving doco about the late musician.

8. Come Inside My Mind - wonderful and sad insight into Robin Williams

9. Batman and Bill - remarkable film about the real name behind Batman, and the fight to see him recognised.

10. Tea with the Dames - Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins, Joan Plowright, and Maggie Smith meet regularly for tea, this films some of their meetings. Great and interesting conversations about their lives, loves, and work.

Art/Exhibitions

1. Lady and the unicorn (NSW Art Gallery) - a handful of large tapestries from 14th Century Paris. Hours of delight taking it all in. Mesmerising.

2. MONA (NGV) - whilst I had seen much of these in the actual MOMA, it was still a great exhibit to see.

3. Robert Mapplethorpe (NSW Art Gallery) - huge collection of his photos. The Master!

4. Australian Music Vault (VIC Arts Centre) -loads of great memorabilia from Australian Music, costumes, instruments, clips, pics, loads of Countdown. 

5. Olsen/Ormandy: a creative force (Newcastle Art Gallery) - such a great use of colour and size from the the creative force behind Dinosaur Designs. Absolutely loved this!

6. Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age (NSW ART Gallery) - not my favourite era of art, but some very impressive paintings within.

7. Alice in Wonderland (ACMI) - such fun! Loads of pieces and clips of Alice over the ears, interactivity.

8. Rosemary Valadon: Textures of Desire (Maitland Art Gallery) Stunning canvases of lush dinner settings full of food and flowers and 30s style dames, what a collection! 

9. Judy Sharpe (Maitland Art Gallery) Love Judy's collection of small prints and large self portraits, a wink of the eye and great use of colour.

10. Sculptures at Warners Bay - I really love the sculptures added to the foreshore at Warners Bay. A mix of quirky and poignant.

Live Music

1. Bob Dylan (Newcastle Entertainment Centre) - what can I say, the master, my hero, a second time, it was brilliant, he sang my favourite song.

2. John Paul Young (Toronto Hotel) - such joy, JPY is the consummate performer and just delivers. His Vanda Young show is perfection, full of hits, no misses, and that cute smile.

3. The White Album Concert (Civic Theatre) - I had my doubts but this delivered beautifully. Tim Rogers, Josh Pyke, Chris Cheney, and Phil Jamison performed the entire White Album (and then some) in order and it was magnificent!

4. Belle and Sebastian (Sydney Opera House) - After years of missing them, I finally saw my favourite pop group, and they did not disappoint.  The addition of Robert Forster for a few songs, added to the excitement.

5. Kate Miller-Heidke (Speilgeltent, Civic Park) - Another singer I kept missing, and what a thrill to finally see her. What a talent, what a voice, those songs of hers cut through you to the heart and bone. Outstanding.

6. Tex Perkins (Lizottes) Tex solo on the intimate stage at Lizottes, swoon worthy and brilliant.

7. Steve Smyth (48 Watt Street) At the height of my recovery from surgery Jayne busted me out to see this great show. Front row and as always mesmerising. This guy just has it, anyone who has seen him live will concur.

8. Fish Fry (Wicko Hotel) - always a blast, their jazz/blues/swing standards area great fun and always uplifting!

Music

1. The Capitol Studio Session by Jeff Goldblu, and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra - fabulous light and breezy reworks of jazz classics, along with some great humour.

2. Remain in Light - Angelique Kidjo - this was an unexpected joy. I love Angelique's voice and she reinterprets Talking Heads seminal album. And it is magnificent, the original album had a lovely African undertone but she takes it all the way. So funky.

3. Uptopia by Bjork - more of Bjork and her beats, she is remarkable and I always love her stuff!

4. The Architect by Paloma Faith - such a personality, and what a voice, this is probably her best album.

5. Egypt Station by Paul McCartney  - he just continues to rejuvenate, this is his best album for a long while, full of catchy titles.

6. Depth of Field by Sarah Blasko - Like Bjork, Blasko never disappoints. Blasko's voice is that of angels, and this is just lovely.

7. Versatile by Van Morrison  - Van continues to pump them out and his albums are always great. But this album of jazz really shines.

8. Muriel's Wedding Soundtrack by Kate Miller-Heidke - quirky and heart wrenching, sad and funny, Muriel and KMH are a perfect match, the ST is divine.

9. Between You and Me by Lior - lovely, lilting Irish music, swoonworthy.

10. Mass Education by St Vincent - I love Annie and her pop, championed early on by Byrne, she needs to such help these days. Great fun.

Additional Shout Out - to the fabulous music store, The Mosh Pit and their exceptional collection of vinyl, where I spent a LOT of money this year, got some great titles, too many to mention.

Podcasts

1. Conversations with Richard Fidler* - I cannot see how any other podcast can top Fidler. I am currently going way back and catching up on older ones, I listen to them in the car. Although now I am working closer to home I am not getting through them as quickly! Fidler is without a doubt the best interviewer in Australia, and so incredibly intelligent and yet it is always about the interviewee. 

* I drove him in my car once!!!!

2. Chat 10 Looks 3- this fab podcast with Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales does come very close to Conversations. These great intelligent women have the best friendship and chat about the books, movies, tv, music etc they have consumed, along with fragments of their day job, politics. Always entertaining and intellectual, and freaking hilarious!

3. Unspooled - this is a new fave. Paul Scheer is a film buff and Amy Nicholson is a film critic. Together they are going through the AFI Top 100 films and dissecting them. At over an hour, it could do with a little edit, but fascinating.

4. Here's the Thing - Alec Baldwin continues to interview fascinating people, his golden smooth voice ups the ante in presentation.

5. Broadcasts from The Wheeler Centre - technically not a podcast, but videos of talks from the great Wheeler Centre in VIC. Some really great stuff there. I tend to play it in the background like a podcast.

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 - an unexpected year!

2018 was quite the year!!!!

It did not go according to plan but what years ever do!?!

Well this one was quite the ride and, depending on how you look at it, 2018 was the worst year of my life or the best.


I had a lot of shit go down this year, there is no pleasant way to put it. But hey, it is December 31 and I am here writing about it all, so to survive all the shit is rather extraordinary. Hence despite it all, it is probably the best year of my life!!!

And I guess it all depends on whether you are a glass half full or half empty person. Don't you just hate those phrases? I do. I am a how much more can I fit in my glass gal, always have been. Just call me Veruca Salt, I want it all and I want it now...in a nice way of course!! But there have been many moments of half empty and half full this year depending on my mood and my health, which I guess is understandable! But I am getting ahead of myself...let's start at the beginning, cause it was a really, really good beginning. Possibly the best NYE of my life. Maybe when you start that high, the only way is down.


I started the year in Hawaii, with my sisters, brother-in-law, nephew, and niece. It was glorious, we shopped, swam, rested, ate, drank, saw sights, walked, and just soaked up the brilliance that is Hawaii. I have never really been a resorty/beach kind of holiday person but it was perfect and just what I needed. I came home feeling more relaxed and zen than I ever had in my life. I will return.

After that life continued one, busy at work, busy socially, the usual until I was stopped - dare I say - dead in my tracks.

It was only 7 weeks into the year when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Boom! What a shock! So that has been my focus this year sadly. However it was not all bad, I was operated on and cancer free within a month exactly! So incredibly lucky. But the treatment was worse than the cure, and it laid me up for some months. Then due to the radiation and my immunity being compromised I had a throat infection which led to a bad leg infection and then a kidney infection, all of which delayed any recovery significantly. 

Given the early resolution, I barely got my head around the fact I had cancer and then it was gone. But the fact death - albeit fleetingly - passed me by has not gone by unnoticed. It has been a factor in a lot of my life this year. I had some moments of extreme lowness, mentally and physically. Because despite not having cancer anymore, the radiation made me really very very sick. But as the year ends I am feeling better than I have in a long time, not quite at pre-cancer health but very close. You can read all about it here, here, and here

I wrote a lot about the experience, because it really helped me process what was happening, because I was lucky and it felt important to document everything, and mostly because I wanted to educate those around me. I am sure it irritated a lot of people, although that certainly was not my intent. People do not want to hear about other's bad shit. They want to stay in their bubble of goodness, and I don't blame them one bit. But shit happens to all of us at some point, directly or indirectly. Best to wise up and then it won't such a shock. Sounds, harsh I guess, but life can be harsh. But that doesn't mean it has to be dour. I really tried to keep a positive approach to the ups and downs, and I think this helped me a lot. I also kept it real. It was a weird balance, but it worked and it helped.

So it you didn't get the message, please check your breasts, or those of your partner, this is why I kept going on about it all this year, to educate that these things can be easily fixed, if you catch them early, you should be as lucky as me!

The experience or journey (aren't both those words just awful in relation to bad shit) taught me a lot. I would not say I am a changed person, but internally there has been a shift. Most of what I learnt I already knew, but did not really do so well.


  • Patience - I have never had patience, but I had no option but to be patient with this, could not change a thing. I had to go at the pace of the illness and I managed ok. I wouldn't say I am now super patient, but I sure have more patience than I used to.
  • Let It Be - I have learned to let things be. There is a lot in life you cannot change and there if not point getting worked up over it. I was never really that person, now I am still not that person, but I am much much better at just letting things go.
  • Don't Overthink it - much the same as let it be, but as a Librarian, research and knowing stuff is my thing. I realised early on, knowing too much about my situation was not worth it. I decided, especially when it seemed this would have a good outcome, that I would just listen to what the Doctor's told me and believe them and go with it. I knew just enough to get me through each step. It saved a lot of additional anxiety and stress.
  • Ask for Help - I am a very very independent person, I always have been. I rarely ask for help. But it came a point I had to ask for help and I did. Reflecting back, I should have asked for even more. Please never feel bad about asking for help. If you need help, ask away. People are kinder than you imagine. This also means seeing a therapist, something I encourage everyone to do, and something that helped me with a lot of these things listed here.
  • Get over FOMO - I never really had the Fear of Missing Out until this year. SO much I wanted to do that I did not have the energy to do, so much I missed out on. At first I was really upset and cranky about this, over time I just let it go and things felt better. You cannot do it all, even if you are well. Just do what works for you at the time and makes you happy.
  • Everyone is different - loads of family and friends came to the party, and were outstanding  and helpful and wonderful. Others not so much, and that's ok. It didn't mean they didn't care or didn't want to, it was more they were stuck. As mentioned above, some people do not cope with bad shit. And I totally get it. I never judged those that held back. Leigh Sales' has just written a book about this called Any Ordinary Day, where she investigates people who have been through really horrible shit (worse than me, far worse than me) and how they coped and how those around them coped. Every single one of them had stories of those that avoided them or they didn't hear from. Every single one of them said it was ok. But the collective advice, is you will not make things worse, you will not make things better, but just be there. Even if you turn up and say and do nothing and just sit by my side. That is all. Or bring food, that always helps. Or as I said to a few of my friends who were struggling, pretend like nothing is wrong, just talk to me or message me as you normally would, tell me what is going on in your life. I needed the distraction. Having people ghost or ignore you is actually worse, so don't do that!
  • Love - There is so much love in people. It shone through, it made me cry and made me smile. It still does, the love of everyone I know got me through this as much as amazing medicine. It brings me to my knees thinking of it, it always will and it will never ever be forgotten. 
  • Emotions ( an aside)  - my emotions have been severely heightened since all of this. If I am sad, it feels sadder than normal, crankier, happier, more chilled etc. How long this will last I have no idea, but I do not consider it a bad thing.
  • Love and live my life - I spent a lot of this year on hold. It needed to be that way. It got me there in the long run. I am slowly getting back into regular life and once I am properly mended and healed look out!! I have a lot of living to do. I have always lived my life fully, I have always been about experiences and learning. I want to experience more and learn more. I want to fully explore this wonderful world, close to home and over seas. I am not wasting this renewed opportunity, believe me.
  • Be Still and Dream - I had no choice but to be still a lot of this year and it gave me a lot of time to contemplate life and all the things I have written here. I dreamed and day dreamed and thought. I have always done this to a certain degree and hope I will always continue to do so. It helps me relax, it helps me create, it helps me continue on to the next thing, it helps me with ideas, it clears my very full brain, and it helps me be me.
I know this is a lot but you cannot go through a year like I have without learning a lot. I hope some of it helps some of you. At the very least get yourself checked out (or felt up if you will!) and know it is ok not to know what to do or say when someone is going through something shitty, just please don't ignore them, now that makes them feel bad!!!


And of course my whole year wasn't about Cancer, even thought it might seem that way!

Work was quite incredible this year, I had more sick leave than I had ever had and had all up quite a few months off. But to assist with my recovery I moved into a special project position at Library HQ at Speers Point, near to where I live. I would not have gotten through any of this had I been in the more physical job of working in a branch. Of course, after managing Swansea Library for 12 years I missed it and my lovely team there terribly. However the pressure of managing people (which as lovely as people can be, can also be stressful) and a branch and such was one less thing to worry about. My projects were important, but I was all over them, and whilst there were a lot of meetings with management, I had time to do them well, and mostly just me to worry about. So it was a really good move. However, all this means I am in a temporary position while we are being restructured and it looks highly likely I will not return to Swansea, and therefore my future is uncertain. I am hoping that my good working track record will hold me in good stead, but mostly trying not to think about it for the sake of my mental health. Much like Cancer, I cannot change anything, but go with it and hope for the best!

Whilst I spent most of the year on the couch resting and recovering and pretty much sleeping my life away, but I did manage to get a few lovely things in.

I had a great time at Newcastle Writers Festival this year, I always do. But there were some extra super sessions, and I was just starting to heal from my surgery and ran into loads of people who I knew and felt the love and it all felt wonderful. I headed to Melbourne for a holiday in August, my sister had just moved there, and had a weekend in Sydney with my bestie. I might have been sick, but i timed these kind of things well, in times I was feeling a bit better.

I didn't get to many gigs, but the ones I did see were high quality.

Bob Dylan

Belle and Sebastian

John Paul Young

The White Album Concert

Kate Miller-Heidke

I saw some great art at Sydney Art Gallery, NGV, ACMI, Newcastle Art Gallery, and Maitland Art Gallery.

I even managed to participate in Kate Bush Day, which is always a joy.

I kept up my fortnightly routine of visiting the Lake Macquarie Farmers Markets, the odd dinner out, plenty of family love, and some photography. These little routines helped me move through some of the rougher periods.

While I was off sick I spent a fair bit of time at Nobbys, sitting in the sun, having brunch, looking for whales. This was all part of my recovery. Water, book, sunshine, whales, and the best strawberry milkshakes!!!

Whilst I had many many months away, the times I spent at Choir and in the later part of the year, One Song Sing, were indeed the most fruitful and important in terms of my recovery mentally. I don't know where I would have been this year without my music. It is the only thing in my life at present that feels exactly right. The joy it brings me leaves me wordless. The people I sing with are gorgeous friends, the songs are a sheer delight, the endorphins it releases cannot be denied. When everything felt like shit, I always had my music.

So I can look at this year of being the worst of my life because at times it was. But I am a tough old broad, and I'd rather look at it as one of my best. Because I got through it all, I am here to write about it, whine about it, and smile about it. Because as much as there was so much to whine about, there was much more to smile about.


So my Top Ten Moments of this year are:

1. Cancer is gone/I don't have serious kidney disease - I cannot begin to explain the joy of both of those Specialist appointments!!!!
2. My beautiful family and friends and the support and love given to me during the entire year - this could fill out the top ten in and of itself!
3. Performing with my choir at Town Hall for the Ukulele Festival AND One Song Sing at the Ukulele Festival, Somebody to Love - I was moved to tears on more than one occasion that glorious afternoon.
4. Seeing Whales on the final day of my sick leave after so many visits to Nobbys without seeing any.
5. Hawaii - what a beautiful place with beautiful people.
6. Bob Dylan live - the master.
7. White Album Concert - unexpectedly perfect
8. Receiving my Jeff Goldblum towel - sometimes it's the little things, the silly things and the love and intent behind the gift!
9. Reading Insomniac City - the most beautiful book read right when I needed to read it, during a harrowing period of my life.
10. Watching The Marvelous Mrs Maisel - Never have I felt such joy watching something than that first episode (and the rest of course) of television!

So NYE is here, and I will spend time with myself, much like most of the year. I am pretty good company, I have my favourite champagne from Peterson's Champagne House, Nachos and Eton Mess to wine and dine on. I have my music, a good jigsaw, and the last few episodes of Mrs Maisel to watch. I might be by myself, which does make me a little melancholy, but I am here to do whatever pleases me. I am trying not to reflect on what I do not have  but what I do have. Sure the love of a decent man would be lovely, but I guess I have been lucky enough this year, maybe save that for next year. And I have so very much it seems churlish to even feel remotely melancholy.

Whatever you are up to, please embrace your loved ones, be grateful for your good health and all the beauty in your life. And know that I am so very blessed to know you, to be loved by you, and that love is returned in abundance.

See ya next year!!!!!!!








DECEMBER ROUND UP

The month started beautifully with a trip to Maitland Art Gallery. It is my favourite gallery to visit and always has amazing exhibitions. The main exhibit by Rosemary Valadon, Textures of Desire featured lush tables of fruit and vege and flowers. There was also a great exhibit of Aboriginal Art called Finding Country. Such beauty and colour. Also a great display of JFK photos, from childhood to assassination and beyond.








I then met Jenny for lunch at Morpeth Pub, we always have a great meal there, but they had changed the menu and really upped the ante.



The following day I had lunch with the gals at Foghorn and then farewelled The Towers by seeing Bohemian Rhapsody again. It was a bittersweet day. You can read about The Towers here.

The following week was incredibly stressful and all about my health...again. I had a small procedure to biopsy my kidney. Not painful but uncomfortable, but things ended up ok. I only had a secondary infection, my kidneys were a-ok, and the infection would disappear in time! What a relief!!

The family celebrated Dad's birthday at the local pub and had a lovely meal and time as always.



I finally returned to choir and we celebrated Christmas with yummy food and drinks, and sang Happy Christmas by John Lennon.


Work finished on a high, with one project finished and highly praised, and another well on the go.  We had Christmas drinks at LM Art Gallery which was most enjoyable.




I celebrated Christmas and birthdays with Vince, Nole, and Kathy. We had a lovely long afternoon tea of laughter and chatter.

I bought an electric keyboard, and whilst I really cannot play properly, I can fiddle a little and it will be fun to play with. Maybe I will get some lessons in the new year!



The first week of my holidays had a lot of rest and napping. I ate out at the Mary Ellen, went to the beauticians, finished my Christmas shopping, visited the Newcastle Art Gallery, drove around the beach, and saw Fantastic Beasts at the movies.











Mary dropped by for drinks, and Cathy and I had brunch at Awaba House, followed by a trip to LM Art Gallery.





My lovely sister returned home for Christmas and we had a BBQ to celebrate.



Jayne and I caught up with Mark for drinks at The Wicko and we enjoyed the joy and charm of Fish Fry and our company and chatter of course.


Christmas Eve and Day were spent on my sister's property with my family. We had a great time. My brother in law's Christmas present was a proper pool table so a lot of challenges were had. We ate, drank, laughed, and just chilled out. My sister Amanda came home with me for Christmas night and we sat and watched The Bruce Springsteen on Broadway show. 





Boxing Day is my birthday so she took me to Espresso 1 to brunch after a lovely sleep in, and we spent the afternoon chilling and watching The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, easily my favourite show of the year. In the evening we went for a drive into the beach before meeting the family at The Mary Ellen for dinner.




Between my birthday and New Years I was pretty chilled, I slept, watched tele, worked on my end of year blogs, caught up with friends for my birthday, worked on the Saturday, and had a farewell dinner for Amanda at Newcastle Yacht Club before she headed back to Melbourne.



New Years isn't as fabulous as last year, on the beach in Hawaii, it is much more low key. I have a lot to be grateful for, a lot to reflect on, and I am keen to get this year behind me. I'll stay at home and potter about, it is just another night. I am still not 100% recovered and I will celebrate accordingly when that happens.

Here are my reviews for the month.


And some extra pics...