Friday, June 26, 2015

Celebrate the Small Things: Hugs

This may cause some discussion amongst readers. Is a hug a small thing? Some would say even a small hug is a big thing. Others might suggest that some hugs aren't as meaningful or poignant as others, and that can't be contested. Although one might think that all hugs are nice, some would disagree: unwanted hugs, for example, are certainly not nice. Anyway, I'm not here to debate the merits or significance of hugs. I'm here to tell you about a recent hug which meant a huge amount to me personally.

Last Sunday night we had a family farewell dinner for my son who was heading off to Europe for a six week holiday. After dinner we hugged, and I wished him well, thinking that would be the last time I saw him before he left. Four days later, the day before departure, I was at his house to pick up my daughter and my son was unexpectedly there: washing clothes and packing. We talked for a bit, and then we hugged again before I said goodbye. It was such a lovely bonus to be able to hug him once more.

I don't see much of my son these days. He's busy with work and uni, and his girlfriend, and that's all okay. He's 19. He has his own life now. I've been letting go of him slowly every since he started school, but I am thankful for the fact that we have a good, close relationship. Despite some dramatic turbulence over the last 12 months or so, due to the break down of my marriage, we are still friends and of course I am very grateful for that. That last hug was serendipity: a small thing and a huge thing simultaneously.

Have you had a nice hug lately?

Photo sources:

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Growth or Decay

Image result for as good as it gets imagesThe film As Good As It Gets is an urban fairy tale about unlikely relationships which speaks volumes about how people relate to each other.

In one scene Melvin (Jack Nicholson) and Carol (Helen Hunt) are in a fancy seafood restaurant in Baltimore. Having just a made a mad dash to buy a jacket and tie so he would be allowed in, Melvin makes a comment about how he was forced to dress formally, but she was allowed to wear a house dress. Carol takes great offence, naturally, even though Melvin did not intend to insult her. She then insists that Melvin pay her a compliment or else she will leave. Eventually Melvin comes up with what is the best line in the movie, "You make me want to be a better man."

Image result for as good as it gets imagesMelvin thus indicates his willingness to change for Carol. Given his mental problems (OCD and perhaps mild autism), this is a big thing for him, but instead of leaving well enough alone, Carol pushes him for more. She wants to know why he brought her on the trip, and under pressure, he says enough to make her angry and she takes off. Carol's neediness insists on more intimacy than Melvin is ready for.

Two quick points. Firstly, if you don't want to hear the answer, then don't ask the question. If you aren't prepared for the pain of an honest answer, don't ask.Carol pushed Melvin for the truth and then became angry at him when he tried to be honest with her.

Secondly, do not expect or demand change from your partner. Hope for it by all means, but nagging and threatening does not make a good relationship. Melvin told Carol he was willing to change, and he demonstrated that with baby steps. Towards the end of the film when Melvin is avoiding the cracks and lines on the sidewalk, Carol tells him not to or 'this' (meaning their fledging relationship) is not going to work. Another demand. Another threat. 

Change is inevitable. "Nothing stays the same,"  screams the As I Lay Dying track, 'there is only growth or decay'. In personal relationships acceptance is important - in fact for some people, that is all they want: to be loved for who they are - but where does one draw the line. Where do you draw the line?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Celebrate the Small Things: In Praise of Beanies

It's winter in Australia, and that means beanie time. I have very little hair, in fact I appear totally bald from the front, so cold air and my naked cranium do not mix well.

I'm not sure I look very good in a beanie, but I do know that I love the warmth they provide. I have a nice selection: a black one for work, a green one for play, a Bulldogs one to show my support for my favourite NRL team, and a heavy duty Holden Racing Team one for Canberra, and the snow.

So today, I am giving thanks for beanies and the great job they do to protect heads, both hairy and hairless, all over the world, from the unfriendly, occasionally hostile cold air.

Three cheers for beanies. Do you have a favourite one?

Saturday, June 13, 2015


The serious business has resumed and I feel good about it. I submitted eleven stories submitted to publishers yesterday, (and had one rejected already. Would that I could receive responses that quickly from all editors.)

Chapter 35 of my W.I.P., Lovesick, is under way, and during a thoughtful, restful period, I decided on the ending. Of course that doesn't mean I won't change the ending, but it's good to have a strong sense of where I am heading with this great story. It could be my finest work.

All this activity happened yesterday, when I sat for most of the day with my laptop, listening to heavy metal on Youtube, and dreaming of great success, while doing something concrete to help achieve it. Devolution will be released with its new cover in just seven days.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Celebrate the Small Things: bank accounts and credit cards

I recently made a payment to one of my credit cards (yes I have several unfortunately) which I later found out, via a call from the bank, had not been received. The sending bank then notified me that the transfer had failed due to incorrect account details. Blah, blah, blah. Has anyone been here before? Can anybody here me?

I made a new arrangement with the bank which did not receive its gouge, I mean money, and they said I would have to pay a late fee. I said, "I'm telling you in advance to avoid the late fee." They said, "No can do Mr Cairns. However, after you make the payment, you can contact us again and we will then reverse the late fee." I said Grrrrr!!!"(but not out loud)

Wait a second. Wake up call! First world problems, am I right? I have a job. I have money to easily cover all my needs, and to allow me to live comfortably with some of the things I want. I can borrow money. I have a car which I can drive wherever I want to. I have a home. I have more food than I can eat. I may have some debt, but I'm not Robinson Crusoe there. I'm rich.

I am grateful for what I have. I thank God for my credit cards and my debt. And I love that I can chat to bank staff on line, so they can't hear the inevitable exasperation in my voice. Actually, I no longer feel frustrated. So thank God for this blog, and for those who read it.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Celebrate the Small Things: just a book cover

Everyone knows that you can't judge a book by its cover, but my first novel, my debut work, Devolution, was judged by its cover. It was originally published only as an e-book by Eloquent Press, but I wanted it in paperback so I self published with Createspace. It was exciting at the time although I was unhappy with the cover. Choices were limited, and I have always felt that the cover did not do the novel justice. People have commented on its drabness.

Like my other titles, Devolution hasn't sold well, but I had this idea that it might sell well in India given the setting and characters. I said to myself, as I continued writing, and being published with successive contracts with small press publishers Artema Press and Rogue Phoenix Press, that one day if I could afford it I would re cover and re release Devolution.

Having found a joint venture publisher in India who was interested, I took the risk and dived in. Devolution (reborn) will be released on June 21.

Yesterday I received the final cover from my publisher, Dream House. It's only a cover. A cosmetic change, but I am hopeful that it will make a big difference. So today I am grateful for a new cover on Devolution and the chance it offers me to reach new readers.