Thursday, 24 October 2013

"WebMD. It's not for me."

Along with a similar hair colour and fondness for 90s television, my oldest sister and I were both born with generous slices of imagination-pie. For many years we have flapped around in its crapness, particularly when it comes to medical matters.

Over this time, our shared imaginitis has proved itself to be synergistically stressful, to the point where issues of health have been banned from all sisterly conversations and tête-à-têtes. Sans sister, we have both discovered The Internet to be a particularly willing and available partner in stress.

Internet medical diagnosis is like pancakes. It’s easy to accomplish without much know-how, it doesn’t take a lot of forethought or preparation, it’s achievable with things you have lying around the house, and it’s incredibly satisfying until you overdo it. 

In the last ten or so years I have personally diagnosed myself with a myriad of both real and fictional medical issues, and so have now banned myself from surfing the net in a medical sense. 

My 60-something year old father seems to have recently discovered the joys of The Internet. Later than the rest of the world for sure, but possibly with more enthusiasm than is reasonable for someone who refused to own a mobile phone for the first 10 years of their popularity - and who still answers ‘hello’ in a surprised tone reminiscent of someone who picked up a seashell on the beach and heard voices. His excitement is less about diagnosis in a medical sense and more, I believe, about the newfound ability to always be right.

When I was little my dad seemed always to be right right. And by this I mean he said things with the kind of inflection that did not invite conversation or critique.

“Dad, do dogs get their period?” (Most of my questions were about this kind of thing; my favourite book at the time being ‘Where Do I Come From?’, which I loaned from the Geelong Regional Library almost every week).

“Yes. Yes they do”.

At the time, there was no way of knowing whether the information he spouted was fact or fiction. It certainly seemed unlikely that Scallywag had had her period without us all knowing, but add to that the fact he’d told me that he’d written Anamalia, and I had good reason to be suspect (you can imagine my surprise at school the next day after I boasted about my literary genius of a dad).

Years later, a Sex & the City episode confirmed that what dad had said about dogs menstrual cycles had been true. This I believed it without question. Television would never lie to me - it has no reason to. I believed it without question, simply because Charlotte’s hair was shiny and so was the television screen.

So what exactly does this say about where I source my information? Not my sister because it’s too stressful. Not The Internet because it (and I) can’t be trusted. Not my dad because he’s suspicious.  

Apparently, TV is my main and most trusted source of information. Oh dear. I best find a good doctor. Or start watching better shows.

As soon as this season of Geordie Shore is finished.

Instagram is my new favourite baking tool! These portuguese tarts looked much less impressive before I filtered the crap out of them...

Friday, 12 April 2013

Why not?

Today I found out that a documentary is being made about one of my favourite childhood books. This book was given to me for Christmas when I was in Grade 4 and I have read it multiple times both as a child and as an adult.

After looking through some quotes I found this one, which I quite like:

“Ah, this is fine," he cried triumphantly, holding up a small medallion on a chain. He dusted it off, and engraved on one side were the words "WHY NOT?" "That's a good reason for almost anything - a bit used perhaps, but still quite serviceable.”

Almost two years ago one of my best friends had a son. This little guy is pretty much my only experience of someone tiny. Before him, little kids were to be watched with disconnected amusement at family functions, and intermittently (and accidentally) knocked over through absent-mindedness. But they weren’t actually ‘people’. More like ‘people-potential’.

The best thing about your loved-ones having offspring is that you get to love them too. Not like ‘they’re pretty cute and say funny things’ -  No, I mean that if anyone does anything mean to this kid at school I’ll be GOING DOWN THERE.

The thing about little Harlow is that he accepts all of the information that is dished to him with absolute trust. …Which is a lot of pressure for someone who is reasonably absent minded (I promise I’ve only knocked him over a couple of times).

It’s also a lot of fun. Never have I been cooler, had better ideas, or been more interesting. If I say a sentence to him, he says the sentence to me. If I make an unrealistic zebra sound when reading to him, he doesn’t complain (or give me the funny looks that his parents do). He doesn’t judge me for my poor reading-out-loud technique or even my absent-minded knocking-over. If I swear, he swears.

Sorry about that, Rochelle.

Apparently, first rule of improv comedy is that you must always say ‘yes, and’ when offered an idea in a scene.  The purpose of ‘yes, and’ is to build a shared story with your partner or team-mates, quickly and collaboratively. For example, if you and I were in a scene together, I might say “my name is Kathryn and I make excellent zebra sounds, such as [Kathryn makes very unrealistic Zebra sounds]”. Then you would have to respond by accepting and adding. For example you might say “Hi Kathryn – wow those ARE realistic. Let me join you, and can you teach me how?”. And all of a sudden we have a shared story to play out (obviously I will leave improv to the professionals).

The opposite of the magical ‘yes, and’ is the tedious ‘no, but’. In the presence of ‘no, but’ the scene stops, things get awkward, people feel judged and the fun is over. I’m sure we all know someone who is all about the ‘no, but’. A colleague? A sibling? A parent? I’m sure those interactions make everyone feel accepted and great.

To me, ‘yes, and’ seems to be the life-equivalent of ‘why not?’. If there’s nothing particularly wrong with an idea, why not indeed? Who knows where it will lead?

Very little kids seem to use ‘yes, and’ every day without thinking. “Great Zebra sounds, Kathryn. You are certainly an excellent out-loud-reader. Sh*t, it’d be fun to make those Zebra sounds together”.

I’m not saying that questioning things is bad. Questioning things is important. I guess it’s about questioning why we’re questioning the things at all, and thinking about the implications of  your next ‘no, but’.

“There are no wrong roads to anywhere.”
- Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Thank goodness.

I'm pretty inefficient.
And I’m cool with it.
Thank goodness.

At university I made attempts to rectify what seemed at the time like an issue. Like any self-improvement attempt, this involved many trips to Officeworks. All I found was that I like to buy folders but not to use them, and that printing in the evening makes me feel like a grown-up.

My first job out of uni was as an administrative assistant for a fancy-ish kind of office where on casual days the women wore polo-shirts and the men wore boat-shoes, as though the whole office was going sailing after work (which to the best of my knowledge they didn’t - unless they just didn’t invite me). I completed my administrative tasks with no small amount of ‘hoo-ha’, and for the six months of my employment genuinely wondered why, as a functioning adult, I couldn’t manage to put the stickers onto folders in a way that was satisfactory.

It wasn’t until I left the job that I realised it why.
Because I don’t care.
Thank goodness.

Sure, sometimes being efficient would be nice. I’d probably put cds back into their covers and hang towels up straight away. I’d have matching sets of bras and underwear, and an air of superiority that comes with the knowledge that you’re matching under your clothes. But alas, I remain mismatched.

I’d like instead to assume that that area of my brain that others dedicate to folder-stickering and underwear-matching is taken up with lovelier things. Like creativity. Or kindness. Or the ability to make pancakes without a recipe.

Truth be known I am suspicious it is filled with Hanson lyrics.
So I have a plan.
Thank goodness.

Lists are my game. Lists, lists, lists.  My lovely lists are written in a lovely black book filled with lovely paper, which makes writing them quite a lovely experience. Each list includes the ever-encouraging item ‘make list’ at the top, to promote fuzzy feelings of achievement and faux-efficiency - and I am happily fooled.

The friend of my black book is my red diary, which is pocket-sized and satisfyingly weighted and tells me when to do the things that my list remembers for me. And no I don’t use my iPhone for this.

Because I don’t like over-using my phone in public.
And because it is held together by sticky tape.
And thank goodness.

So all this listing and diarising basically means I never have to remember anything ever again. Which is lovely and freeing and gives me time to think about other, more interesting things. Like lyrics to Hanson songs, presumably.

I must say though, it is all becoming increasingly problematic. Because in effect, I have trained myself not to remember anything ever. And this is particularly worrysome because I don’t just restrict the losing of things to my brain. No, no - I like to lose things in real life too; Sunglasses, jewelry, shoes, cardigans, cds... I’ll lose them all!

When I was in high-school I lost my school diary several times a term. And because it had important things in it like ‘Go to Double Helix Club’ and ‘make food pyramid’, you can see how this was all kinds of upsetting. It would usually turn up unannounced and uninvited in my dad’s pigeon-hole (who was an English teacher at my school) for him to return to me. This would have no doubt appeared convenient to my teachers (who presumably couldn’t be bothered tracking me down at lunchtime at in the science rooms during Double Helix Club) but happened so frequently that eventually my dad started refusing to return it to me. (How this complied with Sacred Heart College’s 'Personal Respect and Dignity Policy' I’ll never know).

So what happens if I lose my red and black support team?

Recently I asked my anonymous and wonderfully idealistic friend Anna what she thought the answer to all of this was; searching for the kind of poetic symmetry that would feed my own idealism and ease my growing inefficiency.

She suggested ‘iCloud’.
I was unsatisfied.
Thank goodness.

Two donkeys I saw on Gertrude Street last Friday while I was walking home from work.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

All the small things.

Yesterday I saw ‘The Hobbit’ and without ruining it for anyone, let me just say that it was great. At the end I felt empowered and whimsical and happy - some of my favourite feelings to feel.

Somewhere towards the end of my choc-top but before my Twisties (long movies are the best!), Gandalf gave a monologue that stuck. It was all about the small-things being the things that make life nice and lovely and chocolate-filled.

If you’ve read this blog before (or met me, which no doubt you have Mum) you’ll know that I am well into things that are nice, lovely, and particularly chocolate-filled. WELL into.  And as I get older, I am losing will and ability to hide it. Basically, I’m getting dorkier and I’m ok with it. (In an effort to prove this point, I took a look back at my original Facebook profile from 2008. Five years later I’m still quoting Frente! in my status updates... so apparently I was always dorky, and now I’m just ok with it.)

I’ll admit, there are lots of small-things out there that are less than chocolate-centered. I’ll reflect, just quickly, on a few of these things and then I’ll get to the point. Or at least a point (maybe).

Small-things that get, or have gotten, my goat:
  1. Shop-keepers who talk to me when I’m having a bad day
  2. People who let their dogs off the leash in areas where you aren’t supposed to
  3. Seaweed when it’s in the shape of scary things in the water
  4. Cappuccinos that don’t come with chocolate on top
  5. Anything doesn’t come with chocolate on top, when I think it will (or should)
  6. Pants that fit perfectly except for that annoying ‘gap’ at the back
  7. People who swear at other people in traffic
I both resent and worry about people who swear at other people in traffic (PWSAOPIT). Do they go through their whole lives yelling at other people who make small-mistakes? How much of their existence do they spend unwinding windows and thinking up things to say that are both hurtful and swift? Seems like a waste of time and arm-energy to me. And surely it can’t make them happy (It certainly doesn’t make me happy when I’m the one being sworn at).

But maybe PWSAOPIT are really just the same as me with my poor attitude towards shop-keepers. Aren’t I just winding down my brain-window and swearing at them from my mind-car? (wow, Kathryn). They probably wonder why I spend so much energy moving coat-hangers so aggressively.

Perhaps the world would be a better place if I just assume PWSAOPIT are the result of small-things that have gotten their goat. Maybe they’d had a run in with some seaweed. Maybe they’d tried on some ill-fitting pants. Maybe their cappuccino came with no chocolate on it.

Or maybe they work in a shop where I’d got aggressive with some coat-hangers.

Imagine if Gandalf had decided Bilbo wasn’t worth any energy because of his initial attitude and wariness of adventure (uh oh, this could get dorky). There’d be no adventure at all, and certainly no reason to eat both a choc-top and Twisties (long movies are the best!).

I figure if Gandalf can give Hobbits a chance, then I can give people a chance. Even if they give me small-reasons not to.

That guy is a wizard, after all. So probably smart.

Me and my anonymous friend Rochelle. It's worth noting that I forced her into this.

Thursday, 13 December 2012


I’m sitting in a café in Fitzroy, and a beautiful song has just come onto the sound-system. I'm jealous I didn’t write it, but also happy someone else did (see previous post ‘I hate you, Regina Spector').  I don’t know who it is, but if there was a soundtrack to my life, I’d like for it to be in the mix.

I write music and play it. I also sing it, dance to it and generally enjoy it’s being around.  Like most people, I associate bands, songs and albums with the people and events that have populated my life. Like any good soundtrack, they have enhanced these experiences and relationships.

And they are mostly folk-pop (kidding… maybe).

Since I was very little, the soundtrack to my life has been quite nice.  I can remember watching my anonymous mother Susan dancing around our lounge-room to Paul Kelly’s ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’ (there were many large and repetitive arm movements involved). I knew dinner was ready when ‘Passionate Kisses’ by Mary Chapin Carpenter came on the stereo (a great dinner song, I swear).

To me, home sounds like Paul Kelly, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys and The Indigo Girls. Family holidays sound like Crowded House and Things of Stone & Wood. Holidays with friends sound like Paul Simon, Flight of the Concords, and the Big M ad (“Amy was a girl on the side of the road, I picked her up and away we go, I 'm leaving home without you I know…”). Trips overseas sound like Bon Iver. Ex-boyfriends sounded like Ball Park Music, Laura Marling and Vince Jones.  High school sounded like Harvey Danger, Blink 182 and Something for Kate (maybe just a smidge of cheeky Hanson for good measure).

My liking of nice music (please ignore earlier Hanson reference) (…actually stuff it, they were awesome - you know it and I know it) was largely influenced by my anonymous father (my mother’s only record being the Beaches soundtrack). He regularly sang to my two sisters and I at bedtime, in a vocal style that I thought was purely ‘Dad’ until I released it was mostly ‘Neil Young’. Our favourite lullabies were James Taylor’s ‘Sweet Baby James’, Jefferson Starship’s ‘The Baby Tree’, Donavan’s ‘Circus of Sour’. And strangely enough, ‘Big Ted’s Dead’ by The Incredible String Band. It wasn’t until I got a little older that I realised that these were interesting choices of lullaby. My sister even had a Big Ted. Must’ve been tough to sleep after that…

He also played guitar (though mostly this was limited to The Beatles’ ‘Rocky Raccoon’), which I thought was pretty darned-freakin’ cool until the 'my-dad’s-a-rock-hero' illusion was recently damaged when, while “jamming” (and I use this term so so loosely), he shared with me his theory that all songs are made up of just two chords: G and C.

They are not.

But apparently Rocky Raccoon is.

I was surprised, in 2005, to find out that my father was a music-bully (MB). I was visiting his brothers and sisters in the US when they decided it was the perfect time to tell me about this  One story (told with not-just-trace amounts of real bitterness) involved him chasing his younger sibling with a chair, threatening her safety should she attempt touch any of his records, with particular emphasis on his Bob Dylan collection.

I can relate.

My relationship with music, particularly CDs (I know I know… ‘streaming’, ‘internet’, whatever)  is quite emotionally charged (though perhaps not ‘chair-wielding’ charged). Many of the bands and CDs that I have mentioned throughout this post are ones that I now own, simply because home doesn’t seem like home without them. And so I feel pretty lucky that home was filled with such great music. 

But then again, quality is in the eye of the be-listener.

…because no matter how hard I try not to, I freakin’ love Taylor Swift.  Freakin’ love her. 

She can be in my soundtrack for sure.

Passionate Kisses, Mary Chapin Carpenter

Private Helicopter, Harvey Danger

Circus of Sour, Donavan

Rocky Raccoon, The Beatles

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Signed, sealed, delivered.

Yesterday I received a little piece of cardboard in my mailbox, which told me that the postman had visited while I was out. It told me that I had a package waiting for me at the nearby Australia Post, and that at my convenience I could go and collect it. 

What fun! A Surprise Present (SP), to be received at my leisure! Maybe a love letter from a secret admirer!? Maybe I’d won a prize!? All that was certain was that it was bigger than would fit into my postbox.  A lengthy love letter, perhaps? Perfect!

Thanks to the wonders of modern email and online banking, the only reasons I would ever go to the post-office these days is to either collect something, or to send something else. Both activities, in my opinion, are exciting - and provoke similar feelings to Christmas.

Current financial challenges aside, I really like giving gifts. My anonymous mother tells me that when I was little, I used to wrap up little objects (gum-nuts, twigs, dried flowers) in paper, and leave them around the house (in my parents bed) for them to find and enjoy (to stick in their backs while they slept). The joy that I got out of this activity was very real, as was my anonymous father’s resulting hay-fever. Presumably this behaviour continued until I got me some cash (although maybe now is the right time for me to re-discover the art of twig-giving).

My family has a certain system of gifting at Christmas. It lasts a very, very long time, and generally ends with us all sitting around in a lethargic fashion as though we have participated in some kind of endurance-based sport. 

It starts with one person collecting a gift from under the tree (a real tree, mind you... don’t try and fool me with any fake tree b*llsh*t), who gives it to another family member/hanger-on-er-er, who opens it while others keenly observe. After an appropriate amount of admiring/holding/trying-out/on, the open-er goes and collects a gift for someone else. The whole process is peppered with comments from my anonymous mother, such as “Oh, did that say ‘Bridget’? Actually that one was for Meghan/Kathryn/Oscar (the dog).”

Let me tell you: parting with a gift that you’ve opened is emotionally difficult.

Anyway…  so I have just received a slip-de-joy and off I go, slip in hand as though I’d found it inside a chocolate bar. 

One of the major things I think I find so appealing about the Post Office Experience (POE) is that the whole idea so straightforward.  Something needs to get from Point A to Point B. How often are problems as simple as this? If it’s big, you put it in a big box. If it’s small, you put it into a small box, or perhaps an envelope. If it’s breakable, there are a plethora of cushy-options to choose from; from bubble wrap to shredded newspaper, to those little peanut shaped beans that seem like a good idea until you spill them everywhere by accident and then have to pick them up while they make a sound that you feel in your stomach. Either way, the problem can be solved, and generally is solved by way of stationary.

Just imagine if all issues could be solved through delightful and satisfying foldy bits of cardboard! As someone who’s head generally thinks about things all at once and not ‘through’, finding the right box/envelope for the right occasion makes me feel like I have really achieved something. A small success to tick of my lengthy life-list.


I waited in line. I showed my ID. And in the end I did receive my package. Turns out it was something I’d bought for myself on eBay. 

And I couldn’t care less.

Maybe I’ll start posting myself love letters.

The Docklands Market. A nice (if not slightly obscenely warm) way to spend a Sunday. 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Yes, that’s a lot of dresses. No, I am not ashamed.

When I was quite little, my anonymous sister Bridget told me that I had no sense of style.

It hurt. Not only because it was delivered with the kind of purposeful flippancy that only an older sibling can bestow, but because, in my opinion, it was not entirely true.

I’ll elaborate.

When I was about six, my anonymous mother Susan bought me what can only be described as a purple clown suit. Onesy. It was a fiesta of spots and stripes, had smart black buttons down the front, and a comically large pointy collar.  I loved it. Not only was it stylish, but it also had the practical element of disenabling me to wear my usual tracksuit pants backwards; a scenario that, at that time, happened more often than not. Perfect!

I wore my purple clown suit (PCS) around the house and to school, and the love affair continued until one day my friend’s pet mouse ran up the sleeve and could not be extracted.

Throughout much of my early adolescence, my wardrobe choices revolved around a pair of overalls (a similar idea to the PCS, but with greater access for removing unwelcome rodents), a skivvy, and a pink and white striped hat that my anonymous Aunt Sara had bought for me at a local Geelong market. I thought I looked great. Hell, I did look great.  I was Alex Mac. 

I wore my ‘ovies’ most days, apart from school days when I was forced to turn into a blue school uniform.

My school uniform was a prison in clothing-form. It consisted of a blue boxy dress, blue jumper, blue socks, blue shirt, blue tie, blue kilt, blue socks and - the bane of my adolescence - a blue blazer. Sports days were for blue tracksuits (at this point generally worn the right way around). I still struggle with ‘blue’ as a general concept.

So, with all this blue to deal with five days a week, high school clothing decisions were mostly restricted to ‘boxer shorts or bike shorts’ under my school-dress, whether my ‘royal blue’ scrunchie was close enough to the ‘sky blue’ outlined in the school’s dress policy, and what to wear on casual dress days (overalls, of course!). For one glorious month in 2001, (to my seemingly easily evoked delight) the school trialed a ‘no tie’ policy, which led to such an immediate flurry of wild behavior among the ‘ladies’ that ties were swiftly re-instated. And just in time, no doubt.

It was when I started university that I decided that I would become a dress wearer. In those days (the olden days of 2003), dresses had not yet come back into fashion (though my mother’s LL Bean catalogue would say that tracksuit dresses, and skorts, had never left!). So I decided that if I was going to wear dresses to uni, I would have to do it from day one, so that people who didn’t know me (and my overall inclined behaviour) would just assume I did that kind of thing all the time. “No big deal guys, that’s Kathryn Kelly - she wears dresses”. Totes.

Like they cared.

My first dress was a pink floral number. I wore it on my first day (and by that I mean second day… I forgot to turn up on the first day.), with my carefully practiced guise of confidence. I felt summery and pretty and special and I loved it. I wrote songs about it. I never looked back.

Luckily, the rest of the world was watching (as I had evidently assumed they would), and so dresses came back into fashion quite soon after.

So it comes to the point where I reveal I spent the next nine years accumulating enough dresses to be able to quite comfortably wear a different one every day for one month, and still have quite a few left over to keep my wardrobe satiated. 

Yes, that’s a lot of dresses. No, I am not ashamed. (Note that I am slightly ashamed.) I love them all. And if you go back through the ‘Coming Up Kathryn’ archives to October last year, you will find dorky and sentimental dedications to 31 of these dresses. 

If only there was some kind of month-long celebration of overalls.

 My first dress. And some chickens.