#8 of 32 My first writing competition

Entering a writing competition is on my list of New Things to do this year. I have been looking for the past few months for a competition that interested me.  I was looking for something that would either suit a piece I had already written or would be a topic that I would like to write something new about, but I couldn’t find anything.

On one Sunday afternoon, I was checking my twitter feed and came across a tweet about The Shortest Short Story Competition this side of Australia http://www.writerscentre.com.au/shortstorycomp/enter.html#enterhere

The competition was up to its third and final round and was due to close that day, 21 July 2013 at 11.49pm.  The competition required the submission of a short story, less than 49 words and must contain the signature word ‘Apple’.

The competition sparked my interest, but I had other plans, so I went about the rest of my day.  It wasn’t unit 11.30pm that night, that I thought maybe I should enter the competition, it’s only 49 words. After a brief hesitation, I entered.

My piece wasn’t special. I didn’t win, which was no surprise. I’m not a brilliant creative writer and I need to work on my grammar, but it was enough for me to enter.  It made me feel inspired. This is my little piece.

I dream of something more, I can’t wait anymore. 
My bag is packed, an apple in my hand, I’m on my way.
I journey into the unknown.
I can’t see where I am going and that is okay. 
Life is an adventure and I’m going for it.

If I had my time again, my story would be different. I had fun entering and I enjoyed reading some of the finalist’s pieces.  I learnt a lot by reading other entries and the judge’s comments. I will enter another short story competition at some stage. Hopefully I will give myself more time to respond and perhaps create a story that is a little longer.

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#7 of 32 It’s Yoga time!!

Yoga is something I thought would be good for me.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned that relaxing is not part of my usual routine.  I realised recently, that if I am at a loose end and have nothing to do, I can be a real grumpy pants. So maybe I should learn to relax.

For years yoga had been recommended to me to assist with back and neck tension. I have many friends who love yoga and for about 6 years I avoided going to a class.   I always avoided yoga because I thought that it’s just not my thing.  I don’t know how I came to this conclusion because I knew nothing about it. So I added it to my list of new things for 2013.

I should probably mention that part of my reluctance in going to yoga was my perceived lack of flexibility.  Once upon a time (more than 10 years ago), I did a fitness test.  The results showed that my level of flexibility was so poor it did not even appear on the scale for females, my flexibility was considered to be very poor for a male. My flexibility was probably never helped by my defiance against having to stretch.

With age and my level of activity increasing, stretching in the last few years has become no longer a choice, but a necessity.

With the help of social media, I sourced some local yoga classes.  I ended up in a class where a friend is the instructor.  She gave me an easy out, telling me to come along and try it and if I didn’t like it, she wouldn’t be offended if I didn’t come back.  I took another friend with me for moral support, but in reality I would have gone on my own, but I thought she would enjoy it.

It wasn’t what I had expected, it was so much more. I really enjoyed it. The lights were dimmed and the room and was warm.  I started off a little shaky. It was so quiet, my breathing was all over the place and I struggled to balance.  I wanted to laugh out loud at myself, I had to calm down and relax.

By the end of the class I had felt a release.  The tension and stress of the day had gone.  I was relaxed and feeling sleepy.  The next day I didn’t feel like myself, the tension through my shoulders and jaw wasn’t there.  It was a strange feeling.

I have since been to a second class. I’m getting a lot out of the class and seeing improvement in myself, but I still have a long way to go to get the most out of yoga.  It takes me a while to get into the class, to get centred, to calm my breathing and to focus.  It’s hard to switch off my mind and forget the million things I need to do. I think yoga is good for me, so I’m going to continue trying.

#6 of 32 the romance novel

On a normal day, I am far too restless to sit quietly and let the world pass me by.  But when I am in the mood, I really like to read. When I get absorbed into a good story, I cannot be disturbed; this is when I feel truly relaxed.

I do not read literary masterpieces. I find it hard to get my lips around the language and I like to speed read. Even when I’m relaxing, I need to get the book over and done with quickly.

This time in order to achieve another new thing, I decided to leave my comfort zone and leapt into the imaginary romance world of a Mills and Boon novel. I read The Captain and the Wallflower. I didn’t search for hours looking for a gripping synopsis that I could not pass by, but instead made my decision based on cost. The Captain and the Wallflower was the cheapest book in the romance genre I could find.

I would not describe myself as a romantic. I don’t need a man to take care of me, I would not describe myself as a damsel in need of rescuing or have ever dreamt of being swept off my feet by a handsome prince (although I do have my very own prince). I’m more comfortable with action in my life and on the page.

What I enjoyed about the book is that it was an easy read.  I read it in an evening.  There was a story, some romance and a few steamy scenes, but nothing in the league of 50 shades. I became sucked into the book.  The more I read, the more I wanted the lead characters to fall in love.  This made me frustrated. Of course they would fall in love and live happily ever after.

So it’s done.  I read a Mills and Boon romance novel.  I didn’t find it painful to read and I have no grand plans to read another, but I discovered that maybe I am a little bit of a softy at heart.

Running towards another new thing

Over the weekend I ran 5km for the first time. This probably doesn’t seem far to some people, but I’m not a runner and never have been. I like the idea of being a runner and I have tried to run a few times over the last ten years, but I could never seem to push past the barriers.

I decided to put a running goal on my list of 32 new things to challenge myself. I decided that it wasn’t enough to run 5km. I had to do it in a good time. So although running 5km is a new thing in itself, that alone is not on my list. What will hopefully become one of my new things is running 5km in under 30 minutes.

Turning up on Saturday for the run was a battle in itself, being up and eating breakfast before 7am is not what I would call weekend fun. I’m sure that if I wasn’t going with my sister, I would never have made it at all. My sister is a runner and I tagged along to one of her run meets.

It was cold, I was nervous and had no idea how far I could run. Up until this day I had only run a maximum of 3 km.

For my first 5km run I am pretty happy I ran the whole way. That’s probably largely due to my sister pushing me along. I found that it helped knowing how far I had run and how far I had left to go. My time was 33 mins 21 secs. I have a little bit of work to do to bring my time under 30 minutes, but at least I now know what I have to work with.

At this stage my focus is on crossing off another one of my new things and don’t intend of taking running up permanently. Although I’ve heard that it can be addictive.

#5 of 32 Blood donation

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I had a friend tell me that I was being boring for counting blood donation as one of my 32 new things. The person thought that there are more exciting things I could be doing, but what could be more exciting then saving lives.

I have been walking past the Australian Red Cross Blood Service in Bendigo for years; I didn’t even know they were there. I arrived early, because I wasn’t entirely sure where I was going. I found the staff at the service to be awesome! Everyone was very friendly, chatty and reassuring.

After the boring but important paperwork was completed, I got to sit in one of the big chairs. It was almost like a theme park ride. The chair lifted and reclined seamlessly, my adrenaline was pumping and I was being given instructions on what to do if I felt unwell during the donation.

I don’t love needles, but who does. I didn’t think it was necessary to watch the needle go into my arm. I could feel it pierce my skin, so I knew it was there. My blood was a little shy to begin with and the slow flow rate set off the alarm on the machine. It didn’t faze me, but the staff were quick to reassure me that everything was ok.

The donation itself took about 10 mins. I would have taken a photo of the process, but the staff set me a challenge of spending 10 mins without my phone. I had to laugh when part way through the donation my phone started to ring. It gave me the opportunity to say: see, I told you I needed my phone 😉

I thought I was very calm about the donation process. I’m not sure whether it was because it was my first time or whether on the exterior I looked like I was freaking out, but the staff kept checking in on me to make sure I was okay. It could also be because the newbie before me had fainted.

The nurse described to me that you never know how your body will react to donating blood for the first time. Your body may think that you are hurt because you are bleeding and its natural reaction might be that you need to rest, so you faint.

Overall I had a fab time donating blood. I got to chat to some really nice people, I tuned out from the world for 10 mins and I had some juice and snacks afterwards. Before I left I schedule my next donation.

A couple of days after the donation I received a phone call seeking feedback on my experience at the blood service. The first thing out of my mouth was: ‘it was awesome, I had fun.’ The caller was a little shocked and said she had never heard blood donation being described as fun before, but it was true. I think the staff made the difference in my experience. They were all up beat, chatty and efficient which passed the time quickly.

I’m really happy that I chose blood donation as one of my new things. I have now set myself a new challenge of donating blood when I can for the rest of my life. It feels good to do something that will help someone else.

Numbers 3 & 4 of 32: Fun in the Barossa Valley

3. Scarecrow Hunting: It started with a map, a car and a camera and ended after an awesome journey around the Barossa Valley.

The scarecrows appear as part of the biannual event, the Barossa Vintage Festival, which is the longest running wine festival in Australia.  The scarecrows are made by the community, school groups, families and businesses. They can be found in shop windows, farm paddocks, along the streetscape and household front gardens. Here are a couple of my favourites.

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Check out the event website for more photos. http://barossavintagefestival.com.au/barossa-scarecrows

I left the scarecrow hunt with grand plans to make my own scarecrow to watch over my vegetable garden. Stay tuned for photos.

4. Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop: I love food. I enjoy growing my own produce and making delicious food using whatever is in season.  Maggie Beer is one of my inspirations.  I didn’t know what to expect from my visit, but from the moment we arrived I was overwhelmed by the warmth and hospitality.  My visit to Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop can only be described as magical.

We strolled around the gardens, doing the nature walk and the farm walk and enjoyed watching the birds. We stayed for lunch and selected from the picnic style menu while enjoying a delicious wine.

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Porcini Mushroom & Verjuice Pate Picnic Basket & the Seasonal Cheese Picnic Basket

It was a wonderful relaxed concept.  Our food arrived in actual baskets and we ate with our hands.  If the weather was better, it would have been perfect to sit on the lawn areas outside.

After picking up a few of Maggie’s goodies for the pantry we departed. If you are ever in the vicinity, I would highly recommend a visit.

http://www.maggiebeer.com.au