Popsugar 2017 Reading Challenge

A book recommended by a librarian:The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster)

This was given to me ages ago by a mate who lives in America. It took me way too long to read it, however it was right up my alley. English jokes, puns and a huge dog.

A book that’s been on your TBR list for way too long: One Day (David Nicholls)

It had Anne Hathaway in the movie, although I never saw it, so I bought the book a while back. Unfortunately, I was really disappointed by the ending- you’ve just made your way through a huge story and gotten attached to everyone.

A book of letters: The Documents In The Case (Dorothy Sayers)

Utterly predictable outcome. I don’t know if my mind is just trained by the brilliant works of Agatha Christie, or if it’s really difficult to write a book that is just made up of letters, but I was frustrated to know that whodunnit was exactly who I thought had. Apparently this author is a good crime writer, so I’ll have to investigate further.

An audiobook: What Keeps You Up At Night (Pete Wilson)

My dad bought this for me because I was having trouble sleeping. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really address insomnia but rather a wider scope of where our fears come from and how to overcome them by trusting God in all situations. Still enjoyed, however I dislike audiobooks in general because of the gadget struggle [he had an epic accent though.]

A book by a person of colour: Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi)

Recommended by Emma Watson, who drops good books for people to find in subways, I thought it would be well worth my time. What I didn’t know was that it is a comic strip, hand drawn by the author about her life as an immigrant. It was one of the most interesting formats of autobiography I’ve ever read.

A book with one of the four seasons in the title: Europe in Autumn. (David Hutchison)

I like to consider myself an intelligent person, or at least an adequate reader. However, I ended this book still with no idea what was going on. Firstly, it’s about a spy. Secondly, it’s apparently science fiction which I completely missed. Thirdly, it’s set in various parts of Europe so, although he’s apparently an American author, I still got to struggle to pronounce words like Wesoly Ptek [two such consonants together?!] I really disliked it if only that it was almost impossible to follow.

A book that is a story within a story: Truly, Madly, Guilty (Liane Moriarty)

Set in Australia, it’s just about an event that happens between two families and what that sparks, how they interact with eachother afterwards. It was a good portrayal of Australian suburban life, but a bit slow.

A book with multiple authors: Closed Casket (Sophie Hannah// Agatha Christie)

It is a pet peeve of mine when people think they can eminate the writing of a famous author, otherwise known as fan fiction. It was written adequately and the mystery was there but it was three times as long as a classic Christie and I constantly felt she was trying too hard to weave the classic elements in.

An espionage thriller: The 7 Dials Mystery (Agatha Christie)

An actual Christie, it was pretty good. A bit hard to follow but really did have all the perfect elements of surprise, intrigue and a touch of romance.

A book with a cat on the cover: The Complete “Chi’s Sweet Home” (Konami Kanata)

I was panicking to my uni bible study group that I hadn’t found a book for this cat-egory and a friend brought me a book her sister owns- I haven’t read a manga since early high school, so this was quite a throw back. It was an adorable story about a stray kitten getting adopted by a young boy and his parents. Simple, cute.

A book by an author who uses a pseudonym: Cuckoo’s Calling (Robert Galbraith, a.k.a. J.K. Rowling)

I can see why J.K. Rowling wouldn’t want this book to crop up on Google searches made by her younger fans. A murder mystery with all the gory bits thrown in, it was written with the detail and eloquence her other works have but a hard dash of reality. I’m always curious as to why females choose male names to write under- I found myself searching for female touches, which were in the detail of the clothes and the qualities of the characters, as well the relationships they had with each other and their significant others. My only complaint is that, while the murderer was ultimately someone you wouldn’t have expected, he had no reason to do what he did [a bit hard to explain without giving it away, but if you’ve read it, let me know if you understand].

A bestseller from a genre you don’t usually read: Cell (Stephen King)

There’s a very good reason I never read this horror, and especially avoid Stephen King. I could stomach “Under the Dome” out of curiosity [after the show was a complete flop] but although I flew through this book, it gave me nightmares. For anyone who knows me well, I’ll put it as such: in the first chapter, a man walking his dog rips its ear off with his teeth.

A book by or about a person who has a disability: Wonder (R.J. Palacio)

I actually read this book as part of a uni project- it’s one of the greatest perks of studying education, getting to read really good books. I was touched by it, and related to some of the parts having a mother who was bullied at school for her disability. I have to admit, I thought it would be written with a sense of bitterness or naïveté but it avoided both with grace, resulting in a great read.

A book involving travel: Anna and the French Kiss (Stephanie Perkins)

Recommended by some friends of mine, this book has everything I hate about young adult fiction. Predictable romance plot line, tortured mysterious boy with dark past, stupid girl who’s into the arts [in this case cinema] and moves to another country resenting her parents and not bothering to learn anything about the culture.

A book with a subtitle: Jesus Is [Find a New Way To Be Human] (Judah Smith)

This was such a good simple round up of Christianity. I gave it to a Muslim co-worker and she actually read it through. Addressing people’s assumptions of Jesus, which were submitted on a website over a couple of years, I think it’s a good introduction for youth or people who really are wondering who Christ was and what he means for the individual.

A book that’s published in 2017: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (Kathleen Rooney)

This I think, was the best novel I read this year. I laughed and I cried and I’m giving it to my Nan. To put it simply, I have a famous impatience with the elderly, and so to read a novel from the perspective of one and fall in love with her was something I wasn’t expecting.

A book involving a mythical creature: The Call (Peadar O’Guilin)

Another book with a disabled protagonist- the same one as my mum this time, polio- the storyline was sort of corny but the premise was pretty fresh and clever. I think it’s worth a read for young adults, particularly if you enjoyed the Hunger Games or Divergent, etc. What made it unique from those was its inclusion of a class of kids who haven’t been around in our mainstream books before, certainly not as heroes.

A book you’ve read before that’s never failed to make you smile: Betram’s Hotel (Agatha Christie)

An Agatha Christie again, yea. It was short and simple and smart.

A book about food: The Little Book of Hygge [The Danish Way to LIve Well] (Meir Wilkins)

My friend gave me a book for Christmas about the Danish philosophy of being happy. My takeaways were to burn more candles, eat more comfortable food and try mulled things (I did).

A book with career advice: Almost Adulting (Arden Rose)

I bought a book by a Youtuber and, perhaps predictably, regretted it. It was way too personal for me, in the weirdest ways and the advice really jarred me. This isn’t to say other people won’t enjoy it but for me it was definitely a mistake.

A book from a nonhuman perspective: A Dog’s Purpose (W.Bruce Cameron)

First up, yes I wept at the end of every part. Moving on, a huge commendation to the movie for sticking almost exclusively to the storyline. The book was of such brilliant writing and storyline that I think to have diverged from it would have been a stupid injustice. It was great.

A steampunk novel: Android Karenina (Leo Tolstoy// Ben Winters)

I got through Year 10 English by reading “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”. I was so proud to discuss Russian literature with friends by referring exclusively to a book where the protagonist was a robot. There is really no downside to reading these books.

A book with a red spine:The Other Hand (Chris Cleave)

The only book I’ve ever read whose blurb said it wouldn’t tell me anything and I should just read it. My advice to you is the same. I wasn’t disappointed and did not expect about half of what happened.

A book set in the wilderness: Wildwood (Colin Meloy)

Apart from being a good story, it would make a brilliant gift, illustrated with hand painted watercolours of what is happening in the story. Really good, although slightly nostalgic of stories such as Hans Christen Anderson’s “Snow Queen”.

A book you loved as a child: Airy Fairy, Magic Mix-up! (Margaret Ryan)

This was given to me by a girl who was in my dad’s scripture class when I was really young and still bears her inscription on the inside. It was definitely enjoyable as a child, whereas as an adult I can’t help but question how Scary Fairy could have become anything other than an awful, bullying brat.

A book by an author from a country you’ve never visited: Leaving Time (Jodi Piccoult)

Apart from being a great exploration of the relationship between mother and daughter, and including elephants, this book had the greatest plot twist I’ve ever read. I did not see it coming, and I had to sit there for a good ten minutes afterwards processing. Ignore whatever preconceptions you have of Jodi Piccoult [if, indeed, you have any] and go and buy it. Underrated as it is, I found my copy for $2.

A book with a title that’s a character’s name: Eleanor & Park (Rainbow Rowell)

Okay, so this is another book I feel it’s not fair to slam on the premise of it’s predictability. It’s a teen read, and just had so many stereotypical roles to fill (she’s from the wrong side of the tracks and a little odd, he’s struggling with the cultural traditions of being half Asian, breaking free etc.) I would like to say it lead me to read more of Rainbow Rowell and I really enjoyed those.

A novel set during wartime:And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie)

In case you have read this and would like to complain it’s not set on a battlefield, I’m using a little bit of artistic license. It was published during the war and has a General in it.

As for the book, I think it’s possibly her greatest, and I have read around three quarters of everything she’s written, including the play adaption of this very novel. I was still surprised when I got to the end.

A book with an unreliable narrator: We Were Liars (E. Lockhart)

This is another book that had an intriguing blurb. Really enjoyed it and wasn’t really expecting what happened. The writing frustrated me- I can’t stand narrators or protagonists who are spoiled and feeling sorry for themselves. On one hand, it turns out she’s not really like that. On the other hand, you suffer 90% of the story believing she is, so you’re still left with the feeling she needed a good slap around the head.

A book with pictures: A Monster Calls (Patrick Ness)

A good read and a great reflection of grief, I think especially for younger kids. Another book I read for uni and so I really had to pick it apart and delve deeply into it, but it really is rich enough that you can just float along to where it intends you to be.

A book where the main character is a different ethnicity to you: Death Comes As the End. (Agatha Christie)

A really weird idea by Christie to set a novel in ancient Egypt. I figure it wasn’t super historically accurate, and was really stretched to be one of her usual mysteries, but props to her for exploring a world she was interested in and trying to write about it. Perhaps my least favourite book she’s written but definitely not my least favourite book on this list.

A book about an interesting woman: Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell)

Now here’s a Rowell book I appreciated. This was really interesting and had unexpected characters in it, who I came to really love. Good, easy read.

A book set in two different time periods: The Perfectionists (Sara Shepherd)

I was a big fan of “Pretty Little Liars” for it’s duration of 7 years, so I thought I’d read something by it’s author. Regrets. Very predictable, kind of gross (I’m pretty touchy about when male teachers are portrayed as creeps seeing as true are about two guys in my education course) and wasn’t resolved- frustratingly, it was meant to be part of a series that she only got around to writing two of, so I will never even know what was meant to happen. Stay away.

A book with a month or day of the week in the title: A Week Without Tuesday (Angelica Banks)

Two initial surprises: Tuesday is the name of the female protagonist [wrestled with whether I could include it in my challenge, but couldn’t find any other books I hadn’t read that were within my local libraries with such a specific requirement], and it’s smack bang in the middle of what seems a very complicated series of children’s books. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it and could follow it. Don’t think I’ll be searching out the other books though.

A book set in a hotel: Hickory Dickory Dock (Agatha Christie)

Cheated slightly, as it’s set in a hostel. And yea, it’s another Christie. It was a good idea, but set on the sad and incorrect premise that someone will be mentally if if their parents were. I guess that’s the hardest part of reading older novels, is they don’t fit my modern “political correctness”. (If you think you’ll struggle with this, stay away from “And Then There Were None”.)

A book written by someone you admire:Death In the Clouds (Agatha Christie)

SHE WAS ONE OF THE GREATEST AUTHORS IN A MALE DOMINATED FIELD AND SUCCESSFUL DURING A PATRIARCHAL PERIOD OF HISTORY!!! You know, I didn’t even try and fit all of the Christie’s I read this year on the list. Anyway, it was a good book which was pretty cleverly written. There was a little bit of dodginess in the solution, but sure. I’ll take it.

A book that’s becoming a movie in 2017: The Case For Christ (Lee Strobel)

A pretty chunky book, but definitely up my alley. Full of facts and figures and history- I keep recommending it to people and if you have a friend who is caught up on the science of the reality of Christ- the likelihood of the resurrection, the authenticity of the gospels- I would recommend getting them this. Plus, each expert he talks to, he also asks about their personal conviction about their faith. He himself was an atheist who turned to Christianity- even if you’re a Christian already, there is no reason to not get to know more about what you profess to believe.

A book set around a holiday other than Christmas: Something Wicked This Way Comes (Ray Bradbury)

Flipping flapjacks, this was a children’s book, and was adapted to film by Disney. Set around Halloween, I was on the edge of my seat. Scary.

The first book in a series you haven’t read before: Curious Minds (Janet Evanovich// Pheof Sutton)

Although their names are corny [Knight and Moon], the book was really clever and easy to read. Different from the mysteries I usually read in that it was set in modern times, the protagonists were I’d want to be friends with and the way people related with eachother was very different to 1940s Britain; very similar in that it was surprising and kept me thinking. [Speaking of interesting names, try saying hers five times fast.]

A book you bought on a trip: The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion)

Picked it up at a book stall in Katoomba, although weirdly it’s set in the area where I live. Read it in a day. Loved it. Written by an Australian, it’s funny and sweet. A quirky romance, something a little different.

ADVANCED

A book recommended by an author you love: Travels With My Aunt (Grahame Green)

Started this journey by reading the wrong “Invisible Man” [one is a quirky story written about one hundred years ago about a literal invisible man. One is a commentary on racism in America, written in the 50’s.] Then, frustrated, I googled Christie’s favourite author and read some of him. It was really weird to think she had probably read what I was reading almost a century ago, but the book was really enjoyable. It was sort of like sitting down to dinner with a really crazy family around a bottle of wine and hearing their stories.

A bestseller from 2016: When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi)

Written by a doctor who had terminal cancer. I didn’t really know what to expect- it was sort of a collection of his philosophy and what he found out on his journey, as well as his medical knowledge and personal story. This is non fiction, so prepare your heart to have to deal with a really intimate look into a dying man’s world. However, it’s ultimately worth it I think.

A book with a family member term in the title: Just Another Manic Mum Day (Mink Elliott)

Regrets. So many regrets. Definitely my least favourite book on this list that I finished.

Written by a Brit who moves to Australia, it’s already cringe worthy- moves to Bondi, everyone’s attractive, lives on Didgeridoo Road and has a friend who’s a mystic at the markets on Sunday. Let’s display every stereotype Australia hides in their closet, and whip out “Good on you mum” [from the Tip Top bread ad]. Then she’s middle aged and pregnant, so let’s whip out all the stereotypes middle aged mums don’t talk about- weight gain, sex life, kids in cafes, only having other mums as friends. I just wanted it to stop.

A book that takes place over a character’s life span: Elephants Can Remember (Agatha Christie)

In the television adaption of this, Zoe Wanamaker plays Ariadne Oliver and it is just perfect. [This probably seems really random, it’s just me being happy at so many of my favourite things coming together.] I enjoyed having a clever woman come to the forefront and add a bit of humour to what are usually stoic novels. This was a good read, and I actually spent about two weeks reading it out loud to someone over the phone so it has some funny memories attached.

A book about an immigrant or refugee: The Island (Armin Greder)

After I’d read this for one class at uni it came up in another class where the lecturer pointed out that not all picture books are for kids. This is definitely one of them. I would probably recommend it for senior high school students if anyone school aged. Really harrowing and gripping, on one hand it’s just pictures. On the other hand, a picture can tell a thousand words.

A book from a genre/sub genre you’ve never heard of: If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller (Italo Calvino)

So, antinovels are a thing. And the worst part is, I didn’t even know this book would fit the category when I read it so that was really trippy. It’s like being on one of those things at the theme park where they lock you in and it turns you in heaps of different directions really fast- you take a second to grip on and you finally think you understand what you’re seeing, right in front of you, before it’s torn away and you have to get used to something completely different. If you’re looking for a challenge, this is probably a good book but make sure you’ve got distraction free time on your hands or you’ll have to reread a page a couple of times [this happened to me on the bus].

A book with an eccentric character: The Rosie Effect (Graeme Simsion)

Nowhere near as good as the first book, and it was actually kind of sad. The first novel was an easy and romantic read, and perhaps he was criticised for that because sure, this one was more realistic. But damn, we don’t always want to read to recognise reality, sometimes we need to read to escape it. Still has a happy ending, it’s just tough getting there.

A book that’s more than 800 pages: The Bible (multiple authors)

This was a really rewarding challenge for me. I followed a plan, and did it with a friend. I think it was good, as last year I had so much Christianity pumped into my week that it taught me if I want to find God, I need to seek him.

If you are not a Christian, you should read the entirety of the Bible before you challenge it or you don’t really know what you’re challenging. If you are a Christian, you should read the entirety of the Bible to know what you’re defending and proclaiming to believe. It is not easy, and there will be a lot of soul searching [and internet searching] either way.

A book you got from a used book sale:Landline (Rainbow Rowell)

I picked this book up from Vinnies on my way to watching my friend perform in a pole dancing exhibition- thinking about all the books on this list, I realise what a crazy year it’s been. The book was really funny and it wasn’t easy to guess the next move, although it still had a happy ending. I was really pleased with this book.

A book that’s been mentioned in another book: The Sittaford Mystery (Agatha Christie)

Christie has been mentioned in two books I’ve read, so I took the liberty of choosing one to read myself. This plot was kind of scraping the barrel, but still enjoyable.

A book about a difficult topic: I’ll Give You The Sun (Jandy Nelson)

This was recommended to me by a friend, and I was excited as soon as I saw how beautiful the cover was. Thank you to that friend, because I think that was one of the best stories I read this year. It covers a couple of difficult topics, but with a kindness and carefulness that doesn’t seem like the author is being brash. Rather, I felt like I was being led through the story by someone gently holding my hand and showing me all of these beautiful and precious things.

A book based on mythology: The Hobbit

If the guy who finally introduced me to J.R.R. Tolkien reads my blog, thanks. I have been avoiding him for many years [perhaps due to the rivalry between Harry Potter fans and the Lord of The Rings Club]. It was really sweet and mystical. I did try starting the LOTR but it got a bit too serious. I missed my frolicking hobbits.

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Lighthouse

By Danielle Bennett

April ran me down,
left me looking at the backside of a pig herd.

At the end of the month, mud thick as thighs
was smeared across my eyelids and lip corners,
and all over my spirit.

So tired, this voice I am losing is both a red and white flag
that tells a more honest story than my mouth does.

I’m tired of the discipline it takes to say no.
Of the daily quits and the daily asks.
Each message a jagged skip and whatever groove I had finally slid into.

Tired of being a thread always pulling through.
Of showing up to a keyboard, unimpressed by anything I have to offer.
I, too, am unimpressed by my own biography.

Tired of wanting to claw my way through skin until I am an indistinct skeleton,
slinking out unnoticed.

Perhaps then I wouldn’t be held by the fire of my own splintered dreamboards.

Shrink me tiny enough to escape failure by any on of my hundred definitions.
Help me believe that this art was only ever an experiment

I’m tired of doing my best.
Of telling the sugar to let me go.
Of being looked at like the next shiny trophy.
A feeling like a ladder rung, like an empty promised land.

I’m tired of what it takes to get clear,
of how heavy the fighting heart weighs in.
Of the “not quite, almost, just wait here”.
Of the questioning of my own aloneness, of my own enoughness, of my own too-muchness.
April reminds me that I am a six-figure grave and whoever taught me what that would mean.

Where is the triangle of blame that promise me relief one day?

Where is the relief in any of this one day?

 

The truth is, I am only bothered when I think or I know I have completely lost control.

My reputation, the feels, the knowing.
I have chased and begged them home, but I never learned to lasso.
So I’m doing my best for the thousandth time to actually let it go.

And everyone who’s actually nailed crow pose or hit five miles
know that repetition expecting a different result isn’t always insanity.
Sometimes it’s just a way of growth.

I am flaking mud.
Really I am left in no one’s dust.
I am miles behind and I am still winning.
I will never forget my own name.

I am letting us all off my hooks.
I am showing up, even when other people don’t.

I am not forcing resolve,
because I’m not sure that’s the way life folds.

But I’m reconciling versions of myself,
because I want them to meet one day and laugh at how right we swore we were.

I am not made of formulas, so I can no longer respond on your cue.
I’m gonna start asking questions that may make me seem slow,
but I am labeling that a good four letter word

And I figured out that two pieces of dark chocolate a day are not adding more inches to my waist,
than nearly three decades of stress I asked this body to stomach.

The manna has come enough to know that I will not be buried alive.
And I’ve never watched, but I can tell I am beautiful when I’m writing
and I know there is a humble man saving the rest of his fourth of July’s for my firework giddy applause.
And I don’t know where he is, but I know he doesn’t play hide-and-seek.
And I know I want to tell him that I haven’t been waiting.
I’ve been creating a hotel of stories he can thank for the shameless, crooked smile I’ve become.

I am flaking mud.
I am waking up.
Praise!

April is gone and I think May was a new sun and I’ve never loved the sound of crumble as I do now.
Under all that earth, I got soft, somehow.

I got a second draft biography.
It says: I’m not much of a sailor but I’ve built some sort of boat.
If you judge me by my crew, I am thoroughly good.
If you judge me by results, I am a two-time world champion of facing what I feared the most.

I have been published by several renowned atlases, for my work repairing lighthouses using only sound.
You’ll know they’re mine when you see them.
How the lights loop haphazardly like they’re completely out of control.

 

lighthouse
“My Guiding Light”; by Caitlin Robinson

I Miss You

Friend, relative, lover, almost lover, stranger.

No matter how far apart and how long it’s been, I miss you.

Every time someone walks down the street and they have the curl of your hair or the scent of your cologne and I remember the last time you held me in your embrace – truly held me, unhindered by tension or anger or the weight of goodbye – I miss you.

 

I remember the conversations we used to have, late into the night.

The dreams I would dream you would catch and save for later. I remember the curve of your smile and the sound of your laugh – the gasping giggle, the impolite guffaw. Every moment went slow enough for time to take a break from ticking and yet impossibly way too fast. I can’t forget the way your eyes crinkled because my heart wrinkles in the same pattern every gasp as I realise I miss you.

 

And there’s a hole you forgot to fill.

Although I see you all the time – your bright eyed life on my screen, and the stories other people tell, the wind whistles as it whirls around the cracks around the hole you left, inconsiderately. When you left. You left and I never got to say… Well, it’s too late now. But I wonder if you’ll ever realise in your quiet moments that I’m still here and I miss you.

I’m sorry for that time I yelled.

I’m sorry for that thing I spilled.

I’m sorry for that gift I missed.

I’m sorry for that time you tripped.

I’m sorry for the times gone by.

I’m sorry I never got to ask you why.

And I’m just so sorry, but you need to know I miss you.

I miss you so badly.

And maybe I’ll never see you again. Or maybe I’ll see you in a crowd and not approach you because you look so happy. Perhaps I’ll see you sitting alone and not encroach because you look so sad. Dare I wonder whether you miss me? But oh my love, know this. I miss you.

For Arguments Sake

An open letter to those of an argumentative nature.
There are very few types of people on this planet whom I cannot stand. Those who resort to arguments because they cannot or will not express their opinion in a civilised manner are of that class. 

There is a certain type of person in this world who finds it difficult to converse with someone whose opinion they disagree without resorting to insults, degradation or raising their voice. I assure you, it is not that you are not being heard, but that no one is listening. If you are of this class of society, let me address you personally- it confounds me that you cannot grasp the English language well enough to manipulate it to communicate your message respectfully. 
In case you are not completely sure whether you are being spoken to, observe the following examples.
(Upon receiving a Gideon Bible): “what is this piece of shit?” 

(Upon understanding one is a Christian): “you disgust me; I thought you were smart.”

(Upon hearing one is an atheist): “you will burn in hell.”
I was the recipient of the first two comments, and a witness of the third as I watched the moment one of my dearest friends was to perhaps permanently decide to never return to church. I did not blame her.
When you decide to disregard someone’s feelings and your own humanity for a cause you believe passionately in, you immediately lead them to one of two actions, neither of which is listening to you as you are essentially presenting an offence which people are hardwired to ignore. You either lead them to complete shut down (flight) or violent retaliation (fight). Neither aid your cause, or your relationship. Thence, all you who are slowly realising you can be forceful, insistent (love persistently, do not present insistently) or just plain rude, heed my words- no one will heed yours. You cannot win someone to or against religion, politics, or on their opinion of a movie by fear. There is a civility in being able to present an argument without creating one. The question is whether or not the recipient will be affronted or what you perceive as reason will filter through by how you say what you say. 
At the end of the day, everyone is entitled to their opinion, which includes the person whose mind you are attempting to change. Pick your battles and do not constantly go for the low blow. Your opinion can be tolerated without being accepted. 
To conclude, understand this- no one will listen to you if you’re being a jerk.

Journaling

It’s something a lot of people want to try but have no idea how to get around to. We’ve all got a spare notebook lying around somewhere- sometimes it’s a beautiful one we don’t want to somehow screw up. Well, as someone who has been journaling for about 7 years now, I figured it’s something I know a little bit about.

Here are some things I wish I had known before I started journaling.

1. No one is going to read what you write. If you have to show some things to people, then you can make them as rigid and boring as you want. However, for the majority of what you write, no one is ever going to have the privilege of seeing it. So if you only ever pick up a journal when you’re angry and it’s pages of scrawled expletives, let it be. If you write crap poetry, that doesn’t matter. When you write, be real and honest, feel free to express every little part of yourself and record every fear, because you’re doing this for you. A journal is a mirror, not a window.
2. Be honest and real. Following on from the first point, there is nothing worse than reading something you wrote a few years ago and knowing that you were lying. When I was younger, I would find myself writing a boring point by point account of my day, afraid to actually look into myself and express what I felt. As I’ve gotten older, that has definitely changed. I used to buy day to a page diaries so I’d feel accountable, but I’ve come to realise that some days are just boring. Now I’ve got a blank one which I can pick up on any given day and really let rip to. A journal is like a best friend who won’t judge you for gossiping. Write your true emotions so that if and when you look back on it, you can get the most out of it.
3. You never have to read it again. Journals are super helpful if you’re a reflective type. How have I changed, what was I feeling, how did I grow through that experience? But sometimes you can admit you will never read what you have written again. I have two journals that are just pages and pages of over thinking. Angry scrawls written in the heat of the moment and anxious scribbles analysing every detail of an issue, just so I could squeeze my thoughts out of my head. I’ll never go back and read those things- it would be pointless to- but at that time, I needed an outlet, and writing was really helpful.
4. You can’t screw up. I think the scariest thing about a beautiful journal is that we’ll write something and it will be “stupid”. A cliché teacher thing to say is that there are “no silly questions” because you dared to ask. A similar cliché is that you can’t write anything stupid because at least you actually wrote something. The first diary I was ever given [I’ve still got all of these, a good excuse for why my room is so messy] was a glittery, spiral bound notebook with daisies on it. In it, I wrote [in blue pen, an absolute travesty and my first mistake as a writer] the details of my day. My first ever diary entry was about a day trip to my Uncle’s place. The thing is, I don’t regret this. I was eleven! It’s what I was thinking in my eleven year old mind, and it’s what was important to me. I can see how I’ve evolved in my writing since then, because I just kept going, and growing. Your writing may seem silly now, but it’ll be precious to you when you read it again in twenty years.
5. Lastly, just keep going. If you don’t journal for two months, that doesn’t disqualify you from starting again. If you make a spelling mistake, DO NOT USE WHITE OUT [a weird little ism I picked up from an English teacher of mine- let everything in your journal be raw and imperfect, like it is in your mind. Also, he just didn’t like white out because it takes time and interrupts the flow]. If your hand writing is atrocious, you’re not being marked. As long as you can read it, or even if you can’t, the worth is in the writing itself.

How My Guitars Got Their Names 

 haven’t added anything to the White Elephant section of this blog in a while and today I got a new guitar which, in accordance to tradition, got a name bestowed upon it. So I figured I would narrate to you, dear reader, how exactly my guitars got their names, as each are equally interesting stories – then again, I make it my duty to make any story I tell interesting. 
Bindi 

When I started high school it was mandatory to learn an instrument for the first few years. Year 7 was the piano, which I had incidentally spent the last six years of my life learning at the insistence of my parents, and so I spent those lessons carelessly mucking about with their simple melodies. Year 8, however, ushered in the introduction of the guitar and I was fascinated. I think there is still the idea floating around that cool people play the guitar and as my year 8 teacher had been “warned” about me by my year 7 teacher (who was blonde, religiously wore pink and called me Book Club) I was anxious to prove myself. The sound of the strings as I brushed against them sent shivers down my spine and I had a feeling akin to Van Gogh picking up a paintbrush for the first time- this, I knew, was home. So, after I had learned four chords (that’s all we were offered and that’s all one really needs in the beginning), I went to the local music store with Dad and we bought a guitar. My dad is a drummer but I’m as good at drumming as I am at dancing (not very), so when I showed interest in guitar, he was all for it. (Since then we have played shows together and recorded a cd.) Despite his “strong suggestions” I walked out of there with a cheap, 3/4, blue guitar. 

Owning a guitar for the first time is like bringing home a new baby. It doesn’t come with a manual, everyone wants to give you advice and you don’t know what it needs to stop it from making that horrible noise. So when I was sitting with the chart I’d bought from a bookstore and figuring out how to play more than one string chords, it was tough but I loved it. The name came about when I was watching ‘the Amazing Race’ one night. The loveable Australian larrikins end up with an old bomb of a car that they need to fix and push but in the end gets them across the finish line, and that’s how I felt about my guitar. They named their car Bindi. 

  
Renwick

I would have to say my spirit animal is the acoustic. However, my dad likes to pick up odds and ends as he drives around and one day he came home with an electric, so I figured I’d do what has gotten me this far in life and give it a go. It originally had an eyeball on it- it took a lot of scrubbing to get it off the guitar but it’s forever stuck in my mind. The strings left my fingers white and I got to change my first ever string when one snapped and cut me in the middle of a church service. I wanted to bring it to church because Bindi doesn’t have a pick up, buts it’s dusty and a bit chipped and super heavy to lug around. It was a lot of work to get it presentable and to serve me. 

Well, at this time it just so happens I had recently read Dracula (there is a story everywhere and in everything) and my new guitar reminded me of his servant. Smelly, found on the street and rough around the edges, Renfeild was eager but used to eat cockroaches. Plus, I was attending school in Randwick and so, my new guitar was christened Renwick. 

  
Enfys 

Spellcheck refuses to even accept this as a name. So we’re a few years down the track and Bindi is starting to fall apart. Her soul is purely Australian- hardworking, deep and unique- but her body is very much Chinese and the glue and plastic are letting go. Her strings began to wear thin, and I tried to restring her with some beautiful rainbow strings I had found at a second hand shop but alas, as her bridge fell off and her pegs began to wobble, I felt the end was nigh. The strings refused to calibrate (or maybe she just missed the comfort of the strings she had known for years) and in the end I restrung her, fishing her slightly sticky strings out of my bin. (Not kidding. Wish I were.) Then I had rainbow strings and nothing but the internet so I googled second hand guitars. I called up a man who had over 900 ads online, selling everything from 95 acoustic guitars to the gates on his house (seriously), and scrolled past a strawberry mandolin- novel but not easy to fit in a case. Eventually I stopped across a man selling a good quality guitar with two strings missing who would throw in a free DVD player (“shred and watch movies at the same time- winning combo” said the ad). I polished him up- the guitar, not the man- and put in my new rainbow strings. He tuned to a t and I sang to my hearts content. And so I named Enfys, a welsh name meaning “rainbow”. 

  

Five Easy Ways To Help The World

While we all try here and there to make the world a better place, it can often seem an overwhelming task. However, there are simple ways one can incorporate into their every day that will benefit the planet without breaking the pocket.
1) Take stock of your every day.

Every time you peruse the supermarket, you are faced with a choice of a dozen brands for everything. The thing is, even if it’s hidden in a corner or easier to get online, most things these days have a “green” option and it’s not always more expensive. Leading the market for cleaning products are brands like “Earth“, concentrating on making working products that won’t harm the environment your drains flow to, but there are always nifty recipes online for ways to solve every day mess with homemade ingredients instead of harsh chemicals. It’s amazing what lemons and vinegar can do. There’s a new idea for every room of the house, as well, such as wooden toothbrushes which break down faster than plastic ones, or recycled toilet paper with longer rolls so less cardboard is wasted. If you’ve got the right mindset, shopping doesn’t change more than picking something with the right symbols on it.

  

2) Eat less meat. 

Increasingly covered in the media, the animals that are made into our meat products aren’t treated well due to a strong demand. When Australia eats enough pork for three pigs per person (!), it’s much easier to cram them into a tiny pen than to adhere to standards set by animal rights groups such as the RSPCA. Furthermore, so many animals bred isn’t great for the environment, increasing methane levels (a greenhouse gas), ruining natural vegetation and fauna populations and often bred unnaturally to keep up with demand using hormones which isn’t great for you or the animal. Plus, eating so much meat isn’t good for you anyway, leading to cholesterol, weight and heart problems. So, if going vegetarian doesn’t seem the right fit for you or your family, just eat a little less. Try “meatless Monday” for a while. I recently went vegetarian cold turkey (haha) and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I wasn’t hard on myself for accidentally eating a panacotta with some gelatin in it, but just started picking the vegetarian option when eating out and staying away from the butcher. When you next go shopping, don’t buy meat. Be creative with a new recipe, or try a new restaurant.

  

 
3) Be creative with gift giving.

What do you get the person who has everything? Easy. Something for someone else. With organisations such as World Vision, Oxfam and WWF offering things like sponsorship for a child or endangered animal, or to supply someone overseas with something and providing a gift card to give instead, it’s easy. When you sponsor an animal, you get a gift pack as well, so you don’t have to go to the empty handed. It’s a great way to ensure your present doesn’t gather dust in a drawer, and it flatters the person to know you considered a cause they treasure. 

  
Alternatively, get them a physical gift that doesn’t badly affect anyone. Make sure the clothes you’re buying aren’t made unethically, which is usually easily accomplished with a quick search on Google. Some jewellery or chocolate that profits a fair trade organisation, or beauty products that aren’t tested on animals. “Lush” hand makes their beauty items and offer gift packs. Same price, guilt free. 

  
4) Feel good when you look good.

Retail therapy is often given a bad wrap, but there are two simple ways to make sure the next time you go online or in store, you can have no regrets.

If you’re willing to spend big, make sure it’s on something that will last. Fight the growing mentality that things can be thrown away as easily as they’re bought. There is a great new blog starting out called “Buy Me Once“, which suggests things that can just be bought once such as Doc Martins or good quality jeans that have life time warrantees. If you’re going to splurge, do it on one thing that you’ll still be wearing in twenty years. Buy one thing you love and stick to it!

  
However, if you’re counting your pennies, you can still do something to help out. Go to a second hand store, such as Vinnies or the Salvos, and get yourself a whole new wardrobe that you can afford. Second hand means it’s helping the environment because you’re reusing, you’re helping to support a charity, what you’re buying is often unique (and vintage is very hipster), and there is always something there for everyone. You save money, and your money goes towards helping save people. 

  

5) Remember that every little bit helps.

If you can’t do everything, don’t do nothing. Turn off the lights in a room you’re not using, time your showers, buy eco-friendly things when they’re on special. Be vegan for one day, treat yourself to one “lifetime” thing. Don’t worry and don’t be overwhelmed if it seems like you can’t support every cause, and help every person because the very fact you are worrying about it means your heart is in the right place. Just don’t give up, and keep trying. 

Dreams and Visions

Joel 2:28 and the again in acts 2:17, it says “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” I was encouraged by a pastor at my church once to define my vision and to never let it go. What is my vision for every area of my life? 
On the topic of relationships, I think that often we lose our vision for who we want to date. For some reason, it appears that in one of the most important areas in our lives, we can compromise. Perhaps it’s because there’s so much at stake- would I give up a part of my dream man to not spend every night alone, with no one to talk to? I let the answer, for a long time, be yes. I have come to realise, it must be no. 

May I encourage you to write down who you are seeking? Figure out what job you want, what you expect from God, what sort of partner you have on your heart, and pray about it. To challenge you to do this, I here post my plan. As you might write out the church you want to see, or the family you want to build, here is the guy I see myself being with, and who I refuse to compromise on. (Feel free to take the message and stop reading from around here.)
The husband I see
He loves God. I didn’t realise how important that was to me for a long time, and it was what spurred me to write about dating non Christians, because I tried it and it didn’t work. I was surprisingly surprised by that. I probably shouldn’t have been. Not half saved, or goes to church on Sunday’s saved, but someone who can challenge me. The bible says I need to find someone equally yoked, and I intend to. Someone who loves Jesus more than me, and can accept that I love Jesus more than him. 

Secondly, somebody with respect. While he needs to make me laugh and smile, not at the expense of someone else. He needs to respect others and me for who I am. Respect my friends, my choices, children, adults, parents, elderly, his neighbours. Respect runs deeper than physical attraction, and that’s what I see in the man I envision.
Honest, loyal, sincere. Spontaneous, and prepared to love me for better or worse. 

That’s the man that I see. 

Perhaps yours is different. That’s fine. But do not settle. You are worth much, much more than second best. 
😛

Home

Home is where the heart is, and as I look around, I see my heart reflected.I think my home has become more to my family than my parents ever expected.

My heart is written in the clothes on the floor and the shelves that are filled with books

In every little cranny that one has curled into, and in every little nook. 

  
My heart is thrown across the back of chairs and in the sound of joy

In every tinkling of music, the instruments, and the squeak of every toy

Our hearts are bared on the mantelpiece in every single photograph

Our memories printed on paper and put in glass cases bursting with each laugh

  
My heart is in the living room, where advice has been given as hearts break

My heart is in the kitchen, where my mother has cooked as I have tried to bake

My heart is in the bathroom, hours spent looking pretty as dad shaved

My heart is in the spare change jar where all our coins are saved

  
My heart is in the eyes of mum and in the smile of my dad

Our joy is spread through the most happy times and the saddest of the sad

My love is shown by my hugs and giggles and sometimes by my words

My spirit is displayed on my sleeve, even when it hurts

  
Yes, home is where the heart is because as I look around I see my heart

In this building, under this roof and in every piece that plays a part 

It’s somewhere to come back to, and somewhere to get old

My heart will be here long after every part is gone, in every story that is told.

Graffiti

I ask for a lot of guest writers all the time, and suddenly another one reached out to me with a piece. It’s written carefully and thoughtfully, and gives you good food for thought which is what I’m all about, so give it a read. Thanks for writing it, man. 

————————————————

Graffiti.
 What is graffiti, you may ask yourself at some point in your life? Well, let’s put this question into perspective. 
Imagine a room full of people and all these people are calling their names out, but their voices are very distant and hard to hear. Meanwhile, there is a different looking person that is calling their name out loud and it is coming out different to all the others. This name is being loud and clear, with vibrant colours and different sounds. 

 This image is represented in modern society, although it may seem hard to picture. Now let’s expand on this. You see, the people that are calling their names out but not being heard represent everybody that do nothing about their names. They just use them as their name. A name is far more than just a name, however- a name is who you are and what people will remember you for. When people use names they don’t respect them, but use them just like any ordinary word. A name is more than that. 
A name is you and what you stand for.  
Now, the person that is different from all the others represents a graffiti writer (we are called graffiti writers or simply writers.) This person uses more than just the simple English language to express their name- they use many tools such as colour, appearance, angles, shapes, locations, and style. A graffiti writer understands what a name is and uses it to get respect- when graffiti writers speak about other writers they do it out of respect, unlike normal people who just uses names as names. A graffiti writer goes the one step further which other people don’t. 
Now, using the English language is fine and I hold nothing against it. The thing is, with graffiti, it goes to a different level that then gets received at a different level. It can describe what words cannot. Different types of feelings and thoughts can be portrayed through graffiti, like all art forms. 
I’ll explain all the tools that were mentioned above. 

Colour can represent what kind of emotional state the writer is in, if they are looking for attention or just trying to get up in the outside world. It also can show how much the writer understands colours and how they mix, which also shows how experienced a writer is and how long they have been on the streets for.  

    Appearance is another major part of graffiti- this is a hard to learn technique that shows how skilled a writer is. If a letter is out of proportion it can lead to disaster which then makes the writer have a failure to his name. Generally writers get good at letter positioning and proportion size before they go out into the real world. If they don’t, it can show they are cocky or don’t know what is good for them. 

    Angles are a hard to learn technique also. This involves shadow, 3D, line structure and the points where lines connect. This is a more advanced technique that is rarely present in a writer that has just started doing graffiti. Fair enough, though, because if you fail while out on location it is very hard to fix without ruining the whole thing- all for a small mistake. 

    Shapes are a hard to grasp idea that involve implementing shapes into the format of the piece. If a writer tries to put a harder shape into his piece it can go lopsided quickly and not look right, but if the gamble pays off it can look a lot better than the original idea, therefore making it a risky technique to involve.

    Location is more for illegal graffiti where the harder, or higher places get more respect than the easier spots. 

    Style is the biggest part of graffiti. This shows what kind of personality a writer has and how they act. I used to use wildstyle but now I have changed to a different style altogether. 
That is enough from me now. 

Till we meet again.

SCZ

2015