Sunday, 30 November 2014

Sonixx 2400 Vacuum Cleaner Product Review



Figure shown not actual size*


Recently we acquired a vacuum cleaner and perhaps it wasn't the best purchase ever. Please enjoy the results. 

Once in a while comes a product so refreshing and revolutionary that it makes the common chores of housework a breeze- with it's functionality, user-friendliness and intuitive technology.

Or, contrariwise, you will spit chips at at something so grossly ineffective that you will write an acid-tongued, negative review before running to throw said vacuum cleaner off a cliff. I therefore present to you: 

The Sonixx 2400 Watts! 

The Sonixx 2400 watt Vacuum cleaner takes 'sucking' to a brand new level! Rather than the traditional features of vacuum cleaners, which dutifully and efficiently remove dust and grime, this one has the novel function of turning the user into a linguist, swearing more frequently and in more different languages than ever thought possible! It's handy bagless functionality, designed by the most dedicated of Chinese sadists and masochists comes apart in only six ways; so simple that anyone with an undergraduate degree in engineering could use it, without using the manual! This clever and intuitive piece of... erm... technology also has the function of training the user to pay more attention to detail - since, despite its powerful 2400 watt motor fails to pick a damnable thing up. The only downside, potentially to this incredible vacuum cleaner is the attachable wheel which breaks easily- a problem easily counteracted by the fact the wheel doesn't enhance movement anyway! Those designers really thought of everything! 

Here are some reviews from some satisfied customers: 

"Worst f%&*ing $120 I ever spent" 

- Sister Claridge, Sisters of Mercy Convent 



"I Never thought I'd have to read an instruction manual for a vacuum cleaner! I'm a freaking astrophysicist for goodness sake! " 

- Lance Lamnex, PhD. 



"I've always struggled with ideas about what to buy for my mother in law who I hate. Thanks Sonixx!" 

- Jerry Masterson 



"I should have listened to my wife and just bought a bloody Dyson like she said" 

- Bob Kattendel 



The Sonixx 2400 Watt. Get One today! 
- Or don't. Whatever.


Sunday, 26 October 2014

Keep Writing - Writing exercise



Well, today I just want to apologise for not posting much, but this morning I woke up with a feeling that I should write something. Inspired by a snippet of the movie "Finding Forrester", I knew precisely how I should start...

Tap the keyboard until the words find you. That’s right, writers. Tap, tap, tap. Don’t censor, correct. Let the words flow. If they are nonsense, perhaps they will make some sense later, like some obscure jigsaw puzzle that takes shape over time, and only patience will see its end.

Tap, tap, tap.

I once watched a movie on a foreign channel about a man with a violin. As far as I remember he had lots of difficulties. He had to fight to be able to play to audiences. He had to fight in a brawling world around him to be heard,but it was what he imparted with his mouth, and not his violin that was most haunting:

“Most people die with their music still inside of them”

Made me think of every penniless busker on the side of the street corners, pouring out their souls into their guitars, and yet these buskers were closer to singing their song than I, yet can you somehow hear the rhythm of this typing as my own music?

Tap, tap, tap.

I also heard a wise lady, saying that what we say is only 15% of what we feel and think comes to the surface in our actions and words. 85% of what is within lies, like a huge ice cap, under the surface, never to emerge. Makes me wonder how much turmoil there is underneath, or how much potential resides there, dormant, and waiting for its activation. Makes me wonder, as I write- tapping away, waiting for some inspiration to type. Makes me wonder about that 85% in me.

Tap. tap, tap.

So when does the story come, and from where? What ideas are waiting for fruition? What lies dormant within? Or is it from somewhere without? Is this the story of a farm or city? Here, far away or only the attic of the imagination? A review of the worlds best sneakers or mp3 player? Is it merely enough to type empty words and feelings, without some final defined destination, and If I meander does that mean I am lost? Or does it just mean I am not making any progress?
John Mayer is right. His song says:

“Take all of your wasted honour,
every little past frustration,
take all of your so-called problems,
better put them in quotations...
say what you need to say”

Is that not the anthem of every writer who ever had something to say? Chronicle feelings, ascertain meanings, be specific about your character’s or your reality; Quantify, qualify each emotion, allow your heart to feel it once more, even if only once for the painfulness of it.

Tap. tap. tap.

Keep tapping, writer until it all makes sense- with each punctuation mark and full stop, each comma and carefully worded inflection. Change direction, pause for effect and reflection. Craft or paint bold brush strokes with each word, or weave with a smaller brush a more intimate and intricate tale.

Point out, Pontificate, Educate,
Politicise or Fable-tell,
Intrigue, Entice or demonstrate,
speak truth or lies as well.

Tap hard writer, tap intentionally! Speak the whirlwind into a story. Within each character, find the 85% below the surface. Dare to dream that their lives will be like the violinist- That their dreams will drown out the drunken stupor and the prevailing sadness of the lives around them. Paint the tragic figure, writer! The seductress and the shadowy figure lost in pain in the rain at the end of that dreary dock! Write the happy and naive friend, the open hearted stranger that seems to fill the page alone with his spirit. Write about things that matter, and people that matter, and the million steps that walk them to their manifest destiny. Or speak of the sombreness of their failure, the stark, broken depths of their despair. Keep writing. Or maybe you should write about the bread and butter, the putty of life that fills the cracks. The boredom and the visionless, the restless nature of life, and the longing for a vision that fulfills.

Write about the current state of the currency in Guatemala,
or about Kings and Queens  and the life cycle of a koala
Or about the chances of getting struck by lightning
Whatever you do, writer, don’t stop writing.

Tap. tap. tap.

Don’t.
Stop.
Writing.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Living the irrational dream

Today I've decided to share a few of my musings with you. Although, undoubtedly, this story belongs on another website, I have decided to share it here as a writing exercise in journaling my thoughts. 
The journey of a thousand miles...

Have you ever wanted something very deeply, despite knowing full well the unpleasantness of reality? Have you ever dreamed of something that is so far out of your grasp that only the eyes of faith can see it? Perhaps you, like me, have reached out towards something which, in the corner of your mind is a ill-considered idea- destined not to work, and designed only to frustrate and vex,  and yet the seed of the dream is there and you can’t shake it, like some errant irritating splinter unshakable from your mind. My thoughts are like that lately, please allow me to explain...

When we lived in Queensland we had four children- Sophie, Faith, Elijah and Lily. We had lived in Queensland, in what turned out  to be a working holiday adventure that lasted for about two years.  We lived on the Gold Coast which was great for the children for a time- the beaches, the theme parks  and the glorious sunshine; and while it was hard to make friends, it was certainly a new experience, one which we eagerly lapped up together. We left, feeling that we longed for home in Launceston- to the familiar parks and people that we loved. It had been hard to find work on the Gold Coast, and I had worked a few jobs before staying as a receptionist for a Christian school for 8 months. Sadly because of the terribly stressful nature of that job (which I don’t want to go into here)   I felt I needed to resign. Not long after I did, we began the arduous task of packing up our family, buying a trailer, loading it up, and returning home to Tasmania.
On the way home we travelled down the coast of Queensland, with every few hours stopping at a toilet break or a free wifi break at McDonalds. We were travelling at the time of the Global Financial Crisis and at that time, thankfully our government had helped finance our trip in the form of a stimulus package for all families. With our budget such as it was, we had enough money to get to Tasmania, and we surmised with not terribly much to spare after various motels, food, fuel and tickets on board the Spirit of Tasmania (a cruise going from mainland Melbourne  to Tasmania). When we finally arrived in Tasmania, we had a total of $46 in the bank, but at least somewhere to stay. We planned a short holiday afterwards  in Launceston, where we enjoyed the hospitality there, and the adventure of camping. Because my wife was heavily pregnant at the time, we had to find some more permanent accommodation, which we thankfully did in the form of a rental in Launceston.

Fast forward 5 years, and I have never forgot the adventure of that trip. The open road, the camping spots, learning more of the geography of my incredible country, and most importantly, the beautiful people in the motels we met. I also remember arguing about money, being annoyed at the constant requests for food from the children and the infighting that commonly happens in all families, but especially in ones where there is friction caused by the uncertainty of moving and irregular routines! We now have 7 children, raging from 11 to 1 year old. They are smart, beautiful, inquisitive little children and are reasonably settled in their routine. Our last baby was a miracle, with mum being on life support having her, so to put it mildly, we’ve had quite a few massive changes in our family over the years.  So why am I telling you this?

Because of my deluded dream. I want to buy a school bus, strip it and convert it into a Camper van and go all across Australia- this time for a very long holiday. There are several reasons I  know this dream is insane, and I’ll tell you why:

Firstly the money- Just to buy the camper itself will cost $5000 at least, without even paying for the things we need to put in it, money we don’t have, failing some kind of financial miracle! Secondly, my own failings.  I struggle with any technical skills required to do anything practical... Heck, it takes me ten minutes to figure out how to unfold a pram, let alone anything plumbing or mechanical, or electrical related! Thirdly, what do we do with our house? This imaginary holiday only works if we have somewhere to return to! I really want a long holiday, but my children will need some stability after a time to return to. In addition to this, the Fourth problem will be personalities -   I have two children at least, who long for the wide open spaces! Activities WILL be planned on each step of the way, but we will need lots to do to keep these little ones from being bored. Fifthly, money again. If we choose to occasionally stay at a motel or go to a zoo or a museum here or there, we will need money on the way! I currently don’t have a job, and that is something even harder to find on the road, between places, and finally, I have no licence, let alone a Bus licence, so the driving would be up to Christina, placing an enormous amount of energy on her.

These are pretty big obstacles, so why do I find myself looking on websites for buses? I don’t even know. Perhaps there is something wrong with me, but I can’t shake the dream. Maybe I’m stuck in a rut and need a change? I don’t know, but I look at buses like some kind of a freak still wanting to find some way of doing it! Some way of making a change.  As I look at the latest 1985 Volvo , let me ask you?

Am I completely insane to want something I can’t have? And If I can have it, will it be anything like the way I imagined it? And how is it that a dream can deny me of sleep? Does anyone else know how I feel or am I living the irrational dream on my own?

begins with a single step?
Thanks for reading! Don't forget to comment or subscribe.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Guest Post #3 Mark Angus

I am pleased to announce Guest Post #3!


Mark Angus is a freelance copywriter, travel writer and speech writer based in Adelaide, South Australia. He currently runs the Cadogan and Hall copywriting service, as well as Adelaide Wedding Speeches, and clients include both small and medium enterprises in South Australia and throughout Australia.

The Company Mark works with: Cadogan and Hall Australia

Given the nature of his very varied and detailed position as a copywriter, I asked him "How do you get the details right in a freelance copywriting situation?" This is his response: 

Writers in the commercial and business world often face some fairly unique challenges. As a freelance copywriter, the subjects that I have been asked to write about over the years have been rather diverseI never thought that I would become an expert on wheel loaders, or offshore drilling, or chiropractic treatment. Nor for that matter did I ever envisage the need to become well acquainted with how solar panels work, how online casinos operate, or the implementation of sustainable farming practices.

But these are just some of the many topics that Ive been called upon to write about as a freelanceall of which, I should point out, I knew absolutely nothing about beforehand. But the essence of being a professional copywriter is the ability to create copy that sounds convincing, both to the layman and aficionado alike, about industries, products and professions that are not necessarily your areas of expertise, while at the same time being informative, engaging and even sometimesentertaining.

All of which means you need to be able to learn quickly. Its sometimes necessary to absorb a great deal of technical information in a very short space of time, and then get a significant enough grasp of the details that youre able to write about the subject with some confidence. Solid research skills are therefore just as important for a copywriter as writing abilityyou need to know where to find good trade intel that is useful and intelligible, and then to be able to extract information that is appropriate and relevant to the task at hand. A good eye for detail is crucial.

Asking questionsor perhaps not being afraid of asking themis something that a copywriter needs to learn to do. When youre being briefed on a job, its important not to leave the meeting or end the phone call without having a crystal clear understanding of what your client is looking for. If you need to ask a lot of questions, go right ahead. Its sometimes tempting, especially with a new client, to exude an air of supreme confidence, to give them the impression that youre completely across the brief when in actual fact, if its an industry or profession that youre not experienced in, you may not have grasped what theyre looking for at all. I know that this is a mistake that I have made in the past. The thinking goes along the lines of: If I ask too many questions, theyll rumble that I really dont know anything about how dog food is made and Ill lose the job. Better keep quiet, take some notes, and try to look interested.In the end, this does no-one any favours.

I find that most people in business actually like to talk about their work, and enjoy sharing their knowledge and expertise. Ive never known a client to be put off by answering questions about their business. And getting as much information as you can before you start a job will make it easier, more enjoyable, and will ultimately help you to produce better copy. Good copy equates to a happy client, which in turn may well lead to further work, and so theres nothing to lose by engaging in a discussion, asking questions and getting as much information as you can directly from the source. The ability to ask questions is an essential part of the copywriters skill set.

A professional writer needs to be able to create copy that is right for the intended audience, and so really understanding who that audience is, and what their expectations are, is crucial. In commercial writing, the audiences you need to engage with will vary widely. A piece for a companys in-house journal, for instance, will have a very different audience to that of a press release about a retailers end of year sale. A blog for a small manufacturing company will be read by different people and in a different way to the website content of a health professional. Being a copywriter is all about matching tone and content to the audience.

This involves being engaged with the wider industry on a number of levels. Look at what successful companies, both large and small, are doing with their written content. Subscribe to some trade journals to see how technical and manufacturing industries write about what they do (youll be amazed to find that there are trade magazines for just about every kind of industry or business imaginable). Read business-related blogs and social media posts, check out film and theatre reviews, keep up to date with whats successful and popular on online content curation sites. Understanding how to shape your copy to suit different types of audience is one of the copywriters key skills, as is understanding who will read your copy and how they will read it. Get a feel for how different types of texts are expected to work in different kinds of scenarios.

One of the most challenging aspects of being a copywriter is writing about products, or businesses, or even people, that are sometimes, quite frankly, rather dull. It can be a real struggle to come up with lively and engaging copy on a subject in which you have no personal interest. In this scenario, a useful approach is to read and research widely, well beyond the immediate areas that youre covering. If, for instance, the brief is to write about a new piece of machinery there may not at first glance be a lot you can say about it. Its new, it works, it costs this much. However, it can be helpful to look beyond the nuts and bolts into areas such as why this new and improved piece of machinery was developed, who will it be used by and where, what will be its benefits out in the wider world, and the other potential applications of the technology. If you can put the product youre writing about into a wider context and perhaps bring in a human element or unusual angle, that can sometimes help to enliven your copy even when that product itself is not inherently interesting.

Commercial writing is certainly not everyones cup of tea, and not every writer can do it. But it's a competitive field and if you want to become a professional at it, you will need to know what works and what doesnt, and how to ensure that you are writing what it is your client wants to say. In the end, you are writing for someone else, and they need to be satisfied that what you write is accurate, relevant and does the job for which its intended- not always easy and sometimes frustrating, but on the other hand it can also be very rewardingplus, you can learn a whole bunch of stuff about a whole bunch of things you never imagined youd ever need or want to know about along the way! 

If you are more interested in Mark's freelance services, his Google + profile is here:


Or his work in custom Wedding Speeches here: 


Thanks for reading, and a special thanks to Mark for contributing this article! Why not check out his work?

Ben Mathewson. 



Friday, 8 August 2014

In This Neighborhood - A creative writing exercise

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very pleased to showcase another writing exercise for you- This time courtesy of the 20Lines.com website, where they asked their writing community to write a short piece that included in it the concept of 7 Happy Days. I hope you enjoy this piece.


In this Neighbourhood.

There is quiet on the outskirts of town as dusk comes, and along with it the rising of the ill midwinter wind. Quietly I trudge through the clumpy dry grass, towards the hill with the walking track, past the lone eucalyptus tree on my right that overlooks the field with muddy tyre marks encircling it. Behind me is the grey cul-de sac, with little driveways without houses, and large metal structures, designed to be streetlights without the lights fitted. Unusual as that is, they don’t seem out of place, here on the outskirts of this town.

So onward I trudge past another soaring eucalypt, taking an unknown path to a side of the hill, that I have never been to. There is an entrance here- a path made clear through the dominating backberries- a path of rocks and a slightly muddy hollow that connects to the main path. Looking southeast up the hill, I see the water tower- a symmetrical grey monolith contrasting the array of yellows, browns and greens. The path going towards that way winds upwards to where the the tank itself stands, surrounded by security gates- the giant grey structure stands alone with only the huge steel ladder at the top and side of the structure protruding from it, but I am not going to that side of the path today.

As it is midwinter, the shadows are starting to creep in already, reminding me of the need to be home. The sharp pebbles squelch under my feet as I walk on the cleared path, under the tree arches and avoiding the blackberry tendrils, growing in oddly similar lengths alongside the pathway, jutting out noticeably in the grey and dark yellow long grass and bending in their prickly array in metre high arches. At eye level are the trees, dispersed among the path- the one with the splendrous and spindly leaves which name always escapes my mind and the rough barked and bold she oak which stands out above the blackberries and long grasses.

I descend the lightly sloping hill, finding myself enjoying the last stretch before I reach the road- past the roughly cut down tree and the lonely disused swing set to the neatly council mown grass, past the woodchip playground to beyond where the canopy of big trees ends and the townscape begins. As I emerge past the last of those trees there is only suburban townscape - little homes and units punctuated by the green lawns and little frontyard trees and above them the skyline of turquoise and pink- a sunset made even more brilliant by the soft long grey clouds that seem to sit in between the bicolour skyline.

As I head home on these streets, past a sparsely littered field, walking parallel past the little units and under the big streetlights, I think about the residents of the little houses. The pensioners and single mums as their lights turn on as they retire to their kitchens and loungerooms. Families will have their dinners on the table, men will probably be home if they are part of the picture. As the chill wind blows my ears this time I think about this little suburb- and how it is defined by what it is not. It is the outskirts of the small city on a small island- a place known for violence, yet a violence restrained, now only one that stretches to a few streets and a few families, but no-one really knows what goes on behind closed doors. It is no longer the Bronx of Launceston, but it is not the ‘nice place’ middle class people want to live either.

Perhaps the outskirts suits them- My neighbours are a mixture of people- some richer, most poorer- and most on a government benefit. Marginalised, stigmatised, and stereotyped, there is a sense of wandering amongst those who live here- wandering from place to place- without really knowing the destination, and a rough and tumble courage and closer knit community not seen in the nicer suburbs. There is the frustration of powerlessness here- one of having a voice, yet one that no-one wants to hear. There s a bitterness for the cops and politicians here, and a suspicion too, over all who live in this area in this slightly uneasy place.

As I walk the final street to the wide cul-de-sac on which my house stands, I think about the beauty, the chill wind and the enormity of the frustrations of the people who inhabit this place live with. I think about my other friends in other suburbs who believe in a hope, are driven about something and are perhaps not hogtied to this generational feeling of poverty, and hardly understand the subculture of frustration and hopelessness. A few of my neighbours might take their kids on their trailbikes down to the track on the weekend, watch the football or the racing and maybe have 2 days of happiness, surmising wrongly or rightly people with more money are likely to be having 7 days of happiness. Mostly, my neighbours are like me, and value their families more than trudging to their 9 to 5's.

As I stand now, at my front door I think about how I felt happier on the top of that hill, and I thought about how happiness exists amongst trees and fields. These things create a joy in my soul as I looked out along the panorama of bushland, reminding me of an adolescence walking through the scrub or ascending the small mountain outside my home that was surrounded by the huge trees. Here though here, at my front door, 4 metres away from the bill on my table, I realise the best things in life are indeed free, but everything else someone’s got to pay for.

Thank you for reading,
Ben Mathewson.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Monthly Round up



Well, Ladies and Gentleman,

as you may know if you are a regular reader, this blog site was started on the 24th of May, and there has already been a lot of changes! May saw this site's birth, and June saw a few scattered posts, and a heartening increasing  interest in my website.

In July I tried to add more content more frequently which saw a big spike in my readership. So for those interested, I have decided to do a huge "Round Up" post, featuring the top 10 of our loyal readers favourite webposts 


#10 Angry Birds Writing Exercise

Written on the 25th of June, this exercise was an attempt at what could have turned into a much larger piece of work (had I have wanted it to). It's a bit of harmless fun, and uses one of my favourite exercise writing techniques (of having to use specific words in a story) You can read this post right here:



#9 What's on locally

Written on 25th May, and centering around the Launceston Creative Arts Community, I spoke of the Society of Women's Writers Short Story competition, which has now closed, but the society itself is a great resource (and although it is a 'women's writers' group, it is open to men too, and a great resource for all). You can find a link for these ladies here



#8 What inspires you?

Also written on the 25th of May, I talk about Blood, Sweat and Tears- whom I regard as the greatest band in the Universe- (You can find the link here) and I ask the question: 
What Inspires You?


#7 Guest Post Number One: Zainab Abbass

Once in a while you find an exceptional writer. In this instance an exceptional young writer that made me consider starting a "Guest Post" section allowing guests time to discuss their work and in this instance what inspires them (I'm starting to see a pattern!). Zainab's post is here.

and her portfolio of free work is here

Do yourself a solid favour and read her work!


#6 Free Poetry E-book

I have written a book of Spiritual / Inspirational Poetry,  called Old Treasures and New for those who subscribe to my blog! The link is here 


#5 Welcome to my Blog 

This was obviously an Introduction, where friends and interested visitors came alike. A bit self explanatory, so you probably won't need the link.


#4 No Free Lunches

My first full free short story offered on this website about a tradesman buying a computer was received incredibly well! I had a larger than average readership taking the time to read it, and it is a story I am particularly proud of, and one that I am putting in my book "Nice Shorts" If I ever get the thing finished! I also get on a soapbox rant about the value of free things. The link to the page is here 
What my book will eventually look like


# 3 Coffee Break Writing Exercises 

Using the same methods as I have previously used (the discipline of using set words to create a story) I created a short story using some words that are a little unusual in sequence. In this instance I used the words Cappuccino, spoil, fat, pipe, exploit, fluffy, burial and aid. For a post based on a writing exercise, it received a surprising amount of attention. Hopefully you will like it too! The link is here

Maybe it's because people all over the Googleverse were searching for Coffee that day?


# 2 Guest Post 2: Mishka Gora 

My Second guest post was the incredible Mishka, who I know personally, has written a book called "Fragments of War" and is a lady has been through a lot of interesting and harrowing experiences in eastern Europe. Her guest post, where she was asked about the importance of writing about things that matter recieved a big spike in readers, and thankfully too, as there is much that can be gleaned from it. You can enjoy her post here

Mishka Gora's Blog
Mishka Gora's book



...and of course my Number One Post was, suprisingly...
#1 Marcella's story!
Written on the 9th of July, Marcella's story has been the most post story on my blog so far. It is a writing piece I am very proud of too. Marcella is my now 15 month old baby and the latest addition to the Mathewson family. She is a beautiful, vibrant little character who paints a lot of joy into our lives! The birth of "chellie", as we like to call her, was not without some life threatening trials for her mum, and serious implications for her dad, too, and something I felt the need to write a short story about. You can 

Marcella's story received by far the greatest number of readers, and this is partly to do with friends of Joy of The Home, my wife's website, which can be found here


well, Ladies and Gentlemen, That's it! at least for July! Look forward to more writing exercises, guest posts, tips on writing and creativity, reviews and loads more great writing resources in the pipeline for August. I am going to hopefully continue these Round Ups at the end of each month. Have a great day and...

Keep on Writing! 

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Writing Exercise: '5 Seconds of Summer'


Hey readers, it's me again.

Perhaps to make up for all of the posts I haven't written in the last week I have decided to start another writing exercise. The theme was to write something including the idea of 5 seconds of summer. Being someone who loves the beach, this particular exercise was not that hard for me. I hope you like it!


5 Seconds of Summer 
(Or "One Last Summer). 

When you are young like I am, you don’t think of dying much. Despite the frustrations and the obstacles- the crying babies, the job that is a hassle; even the occasional marriage argument propel you in the direction of pursuing through life. The days of youth are a passing summer- containing a heat and warmth, even through the struggles. Children along the way bring with them the capacity to lighten and enlighten, enlivening each day with a new vigour and remind us that life is temporal, and the summer is not eternal.

Some years seem terrible though- serving more to remind young people about death. The remembrance of that exact time you heard of your relative, in the final throes of a degenerative disease, found dead next to a bottle of prescription pills, the crusty grandfather you misunderstood that you were asked in awkwardness to pray for before he was sent on his way, or watching the men solemnly push his coffin into the hearse and drive off to the gravesite. “He was old” the mourners thought “He’s had a good innings”. Perhaps you thought that to yourself too, yet it made no difference to what was lost. Maybe it reminded you to enjoy every minute with someone else you know? Maybe it's not so bad to think about death if it reminds you about life...

When you are young, you are told to enjoy every minute. “How am I supposed to do that?” You, and so many other people say ...“I’m stuck at school”, and you are right, too. School may teach you some of the things you need to know, and fill your mind with knowledge, but your soul remains empty. Explain again do I enjoy every minute? As I get older I see the children I taught- they are adolescents now. Navigating an adulthood that frightens them as much as it frightens their parents. Soon my children will be going through the same things. My own parents are graying, and speak in worried tones, occasionally venturing towards safe adventures, imparting the seeming-wisdom of caution, causing me to ask “How am I to live, continually looking behind my back? How is that enjoying every minute?”

Even though you might be young, you can still feel like you are riddled with regrets- Things you never said, things you ought to have done- The silences that should have been filled with kind words, or the words you said that you wish you could take back. The choices you made that have defined you- or even the inability to live again in those moments of rare and true victory- where your soul swelled in feelings of exhileration. Being an adult can be frustrating, but even those hardships propel you forward- ever seeking to fill your life and your children’s life with victorious moments like the ones you keenly remember. No, when you are young you don’t think about death and why should you? Although they provided you with no solutions of their own, your teachers were right. You should be enjoying every minute. Right?

I don’t know much about death. I’ve never died before, but I have heard that sometimes- especially in emergency situations that your whole life flashes before your eyes. I imagine, hopefully when I am old and ready, that this will be true for me. I imagine that as I lay on my deathbed, my tired wrinkled face staring into the darkness of the starry sky, that I will reflect on the summers long past- the warm sheaths of sunlight that warmed my body as I splashed in the shimmering ocean. I will remember the feeling my through my toes as I walked on the radiant beachside, making squelching noises on the white sand. I will remember my brother, who hated getting splashed almost as much as I delighted in splashing him- his skinny body bearing the brunt of a friendly wave- a smile hidden beneath the customary sulk.I suppose if I must think of death, and if I am forced to think on my mortality, even now as I consider the obstacles I have yet to face, I would ask you but one thing God, as I close my eyes on the temporal veil I exist on and my life flashes before my eyes...

Give me my 5 seconds of summer back, and this time, could you make it for eternity?

I hope you enjoyed reading this.

Ben.
​​

Monday, 28 July 2014

'Maybe', a Reflection on Illness

Sorry loyal readers! I would have posted before, but I have not been well.

In fact, I have what you might call an 'undefined' illness. I've recently written a short, stream-of-consciousness style piece on my struggle so far. Hopefully you enjoy it! Again, my profoundest apologies for not posting lately, and hopefully there will be some big guest posts coming up soon! 



'Maybe', a Reflection on Illness

Imagine a pain starting innocently,
The small-feeling awkward adolescent going to the sick room at school.
Yes. Imagine a normal kid, with maybe some slightly-more-than-average anxieties,
And add a bit of stomach pain.
Now imagine how a pain could grow.
Maybe he stayed up too late worrying too much?
Did he sometimes eat the wrong things?
Maybe.

Could the pain have started with his mother- That overbearing and manipulative shadow, stalking him with a type of love so genuine- yet not; or was it perhaps his father- that cold, emotionally unavailable one; The one he could not please no matter how he would contort himself emotionally into something that would be pleasing to him. Or maybe the boy didn’t bend at all- Maybe he carried some gnawing resentment towards the fact his own personality was never enough. Inwardly, maybe he shunned his gifts- obscenely pleased to feel different, yet a walking volcano, spewing out shame and self hatred, exerting damage to the rocks and precipice, right down to its foundations, yet leaving other structures intact- this lonely volcano far away from the city. Maybe it was the inward self loathing that was his problem. 

Maybe?

Maybe as he grew he noticed more and more the enormous power of being different. This sensitivity to pain could be wordsmithed- cobbled into profound stories- imprinted into powerful memories- helping others to laugh and heal and to feel inside their own existences; yet continually with that struggle, an incredible weakness in running, or sport, or even sometimes normal thinking. Maybe it was depressing always feeling the odd one out, the black sheep, or the square peg in a round hole. Maybe just like the prevailing headaches and mental fog that he wandered through most of his adolescence, he struggled to find a place of love for himself, or others. 

Maybe?

Maybe he got married and had a bunch of kids like people do- Maybe, feeling like a child- alone and unprepared for the world, his power and vulnerabilities became worse- A penchant for words that could strip darkness of its power, with the everyday vulnerability of struggling to find a job or a lack of drivers licence.Maybe there were some times when the bags under his eyes seemed etched into the back of his skull that merely existing with civility became a difficult- This tired meandering and achieving what must be achieved through the day would carry a great toll on him over time, yet maybe some days he coped, finding a rhythm that surprised even himself? Maybe. Maybe this resentment- a continual background simmering in his life, raged into a boiling froth spewing over when he saw others 

thinking clearly, 
loving more, 
unimpeded and unhampered 
by the phantom of some vague indefinable illness that he carried. 
Maybe those things were factors to the pain too.

Maybe.

Maybe the sheer power of ‘otherness’ powered his existence. Knowing pain, and the bloody hard fought battles that brought joy over time fueled him. Maybe not growing up, or not feeling able to grow up helped him with his children- To teach them to cherish their childlikeness, to stand in wonder at the world around them- and perhaps to occasionally count their blessings. Maybe the power he had was a paradox. Those who freely sailed life’s incredible ocean could be struck down at any moment by the whims of the storms- at least he knew what it was to be struck. Maybe he knew what is was like to drown a bit? or a lot, at several points in his life? Maybe some of his anxieties were heightened by judgement by the people that ‘in their own way’ loved him? Perhaps they asked the same questions of him he asked so frequently of himself 

and why is this young man not working, 
or not working harder, 
or failing miserably to find his place? 
Why is he so awkward? 
Why hasn't he changed? 

Perhaps they never spoke a word of their thoughts to him. Maybe he just sensed that’s what they were thinking?

Maybe. 

Maybe the food he ate still hurt him, and things small and great conspired to keep him sick and tired- The teething baby after midnight, or just the selfish restlessness of a stomach that refuses to rest- or even his own foolishness at staying up too late? Maybe. Maybe he went to so many doctors and specialists that had no concrete answers that he eventually turned around and threw his hands up in the air in a final resignation, like some strange acceptance stage of grief that still contains the anger. Maybe. Who knows? 

Maybe there is hope yet for this young man to live a normal life, whatever that is. That much is uncertain, but there is one thing I know for a fact- 

I need a damned good sleep . 
  
Enjoy your day, 
Ben

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Creativity Prompts

Only a short post today for potential writers and lovers of creativity

Buzzfeed is a popular site which seems to be mainly marketed to Gen Y and Gen X readers and viewers. The more you look into the site, the more you realise there is a lot to offer though. There are some serious articles and videos and discussion of politics, religion and philosophy. Because it is a surprisingly broad website, it's little wonder that they have some videos and articles on creativity.

The following is one such video. Despite not having a huge amount of depth and breadth it offers a few good, practical solutions to get your creative juices flowing again! Hopefully you enjoy this video and learn something new, or it might remind you of some tips you might have forgotten!


Thanks again for Reading,

Ben.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Scribophile!

Often it is difficult to get an honest feedback from your work, and even when you do get feedback, it is perhaps not gained from the person you want the feedback from. (Your 10 year old cousin likes your story, but it needs more trucks in it, for example). If you are a writer, you may want a feedback from another writer- hopefully with the same amount, or, preferably more talent than you have yourself. Thinking about this conundrum, I recently decided to join the site Scribophile.

Scribophile is an online community where writers of all different levels can gather. Whilst accepting anyone who can use email and a computer keyboard, the calibre of the writing on this site is of a very high standard. Writers of all genres will find something of interest to them.


The way the site works is similar to a few other popular writers groups, inasmuch as the writers are given credits (Karma points) for each detailed review. Writers that love to write, yet have never written a review before, are catered for too, with a tutorial-style template that allows them to review the major themes of the poetry or prose, helping writers to create excellent reviews for other writers. After approximately 2- 3 reviews that are of or over 300 words, there is usually enough Karma points for the reviewer's work to be posted for critique. Each word is assigned an amount of Karma points and bigger reviews get more points.

New work is usually assessed, and within a few hours is put into the spotlight, which simply means reviewers can review your work for full points - After some time, and a few reviews the piece will disappear out of the spotlight and can be reviewed for less points (presumably so that each writer has a chance to be fairly reviewed, without one singular writer gaining all of the attention. 

I would say that the cons side of this site is that it is very 'busy', with lots of features, each with its own link, and that after joining up, there is a learning curve to climb, as with any other website in an unfamiliar theme. Knowing where to start was a little difficult, but as with most things, was quite easy once understood. The other potential downside is that the writers may not give the detailed, specific information you need. This makes it a bit of a grab- bag of sorts for writers. Once you are familiar with the site there are a great deal of interesting features: You can join separate writers groups for people of the same genre, interests, or even country or vicinity, You can 'favourite' your favourite authors, write on their public profile (Called a Scratchpad on Scribophile) or send them a private message. If you are interested in improving your craft, there are forums you can write in and articles written on many helpful aspects of writing for any and every genre. To put it succinctly, the good on this site far outweighs the bad. Users who love Scribophile can subscribe for a year for $65 (U.S.), and have access to more options around posting multiple works, access to reviewer details, statistics, further Inbox options, social media profiles and much more, an option which would be very helpful, dependant on how much work you wanted to review and how much you loved the site.

I chose the free account through Scribophile and had one of my own short stories reviewed and I found the advice to be predominantly very helpful. Other websites that I have tried have not been specific enough. This one, however, is set aside entirely for the purpose of writing and reviewing. Well worth a look if you want to improve your craft as a writer. 

Ben. 

P.S. subscribe or comment!


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

FREE Poetry E-Book!



Hey loyal readers,

As an incentive for more readers to get involved in my blog, I am offering my e-book for free for brand new subscribers! 

While this is a bit of a sacrifice for me, as I was at one stage selling this online, I think its important to reward loyal readers. So, If you like this site and If you sign up by email, I will send you my e-book Old Treasures and New


Old Treasures and New is an eclectic mixture of humorous and inspirational poetry which showcases the development of my own unique style as a poet. It also features poetry made for the purpose of personal tributes.


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By the way, I also write personalised poetry and prose for special occasions. You can find my business here. If not, Please enjoy my free e-book!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Book Review - The First 20 Hours



The First 20 Hours - How to learn anything fast, as the above graphic suggests, is a book by Josh Kaufman, the bestselling Author of The Personal MBA. The point, obviously of this book is around the theory of rapid skill acquisition. In the introductory area of the book, Josh Kaufman outlines his desire to learn things fast, given the birth of his new daughter Lela, and also was written around a time of his life where He had far too many ideas, and too little time to carry them all out to fruition. Josh Kaufman notes in his first chapter that the seminal book on the topic of expertise, was authored by Malcolm Gladwell, who stated that in order to become an expert in any field, from Golf to Chess, you will need approximately 10,000 hours. While this seemed daunting to Kaufman, he noted that his intention was not to become the next Gary Kasparov or Tiger Woods, he did want to acquire skills to a level of competency- the give the example of Golf, he didn't want to win the PGA tour, but he did want to be able, for example, to play golf competently enough to not embarrass himself.

Without being overly specific, Kaufman delineates the major principles behind rapid skill acquisition, being Deconstructing skills into sub-skills, Learning sub-skills, removing learning barriers and practicing in a set way for at least 20 hours. In chapter one, he also speaks of the importance of practicing in a real world context, the importance of having instantaneous feedback, the difference between training and skill aquisition, and the difference between education and skill acquisition, briefly touching on the concept of neuroplasticity, which is garnering much more interest and popularity recently.



Josh Kaufman also gives practical, real life examples of learning these skills- expanding on his experience in applying these skills to six fairly eclectic things he has learned in recent years, being Yoga, Programming, Touch Typing, The ancient chinese board game "Go", the Ukelele, and windsurfing. At the end of the book, the reader may probably wonders if this is just the tip of the iceberg for Mr Kaufman! Specifically I found the chapter on playing the Ukelele interesting, as I play Guitar personally. Mr Kaufman, in this chapter outlines how to play, with diagrams of the Ukelele for the rank beginner, the process he takes for choosing which skills to practice, the equipment he uses, the musical skills he chooses to learn, and having a target of performing to a small audience at the end of the twenty hours.

In a sense, some of this book is common sense- a few of his Amazon reviews have even said so, and even Kaufman himself says "It's not rocket science". However, as a How-To book it holds a good deal of weight for beginners at all ages at anything, and especially for readers that take more attention to the theories this book is based on. One key thing mentioned in the book that struck a chord with me, is the idea that people who believe themselves not naturally good at something can actually learn, because the brain is not hard-wired into something, but rather, flexible and able to make allowances, given the attitude of the learner. Whilst I don't believe this is an earth shattering or life-changing book as some people tout that it will, it is certainly an interesting and sufficiently researched book that will make learning a new skill as painless as it can be, and certainly gives hope that there is a way to learn quickly. Good, factual, relevant and easy to understand reading.

4 out of 5 Stars.




P.s. I am currently in the process of setting up a blog called www.only20hours.blogspot.com.au to test this theory. It is not currently up and running yet, but I will be blogging to test the theories outlined in this book!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Welcome AGAIN!

Hey readers,

As you may have noticed, there's been some changes around here. I have revamped my blog after thinking and recieving comments that it might not be the easiest thing to read! In an attempt to rectify this situation, I've decided to go with a plain White background, with hopefully still enough colour to make it interesting! If you like the layout, please make a positive comment. If you don't, keep it to yourself, I don't need that kind of negativity. (Just kidding, all comments welcome!)

Ben.


P.s. Subscribe to my blog, and I will be your friend (maybe).

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Guest Post #2 Mishka Gora

Today is my second foray into Guest posts. My guest today is Mishka Gora, a writer of some note, who predominantly blogs and writes about political and cultural aspects of eastern Europe. The question I have asked her, given her unique background is "Why is it important to write about things that matter?", but first, a bit of her bio: 

Mishka Gora is the author of Fragments of War, an autobiographical novel about aid work in the former Yugoslavia, and the forthcoming fantasy The First Realm.She writes frequently about conscience, war, international justice, and the former Yugoslavia in publications such as 'Quadrant Magazine', 'Connor Court Quarterly', 'MercatorNet', and 'Online Opinion', as well as at her blog Eyes of the Mind. Her articles criticising the ICTY have drawn international attention, and this campaign for justice is featured in the 2012 Croatian documentary film Udruzena Nepravda (Joint Injustice). She worked as a humanitarian aid worker in the former Yugoslavia in 1993, holds degrees in American Studies, Philosophy, and History from Monash and Brown universities, and her doctoral work on conscience won the 2007 George Yule Essay Prize.  You can follow Mishka and her work on Facebook.


You can buy the book "Fragments of War" here


Mishka's current blog is at:  


without much further ado, please listen to how Mishka responds to the question  "Why is it important to write about things that matter?"



Actions may speak louder than words, but sometimes the action we need to take is to say something, and this is when words really do matter.

Three years ago, I saw a news headline that was all wrong. It announced that two Croatian generals had been found guilty of war crimes. I had considerable knowledge and experience of the war in question, a unique understanding for an outsider, but there wasn’t much I could do. The overwhelming evidence of their innocence had been ignored. I was just a stay-at-home mother in far-off Tasmania, and I thought I had put the war behind me. I didn’t want to return to a life plagued by nightmares and flashbacks. I didn’t want to disturb the tranquillity of family life in rural Tasmania.

I had my freedom, though. It was a basic freedom that had been denied to the generals incarcerated in a UN gaol. They weren’t just two innocent men either. They were two innocent men who had led the fight for freedom from Serb occupation, broken the Serb stranglehold on Bosnia to allow humanitarian relief to hundreds of thousands of starving civilians, and thwarted plans for further genocide in the wake of Srebrenica. My freedom taunted and ridiculed me. I could not remain silent.

But who would listen to me? What use was freedom of expression or the ability to craft words if no one would read what I wrote? What difference could I make?

But the whole point of doing the right thing is that you do it because it’s right, not in order to attain some goal or receive some reward, but simply because it is right. Those of us who remain free to do so have an obligation to speak out against injustice, no matter how futile it seems. So many are silent because everyone else is.

Ultimately, writing about things that matter is as simple as writing the truth. The truth always matters, especially if you are a believer, because God is the Truth. The object of faith is truth. Hope makes us wayfarers in search of truth. Love (or charity) is the “extraordinary force” that brings our faith and hope to life. “To defend the truth, to articulate it with humility and conviction, and to bear witness to it in life are therefore exacting and indispensable forms of charity.” Without the truth, any writing I might do would be at best “interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments”. (Caritas in Veritate)

So I wrote my article, knowing that even if no one read it, that even if I were pilloried for it, it still mattered.

The day after it was published, one of the defence lawyers working on the generals’ appeal wrote to me. He told me my article had reached thousands of people in the international justice community, including “virtually everyone” at the Hague tribunal. It was a “bright ray of encouragement”. Then there were articles in a major Croatian daily newspaper, and a documentary film in which I featured alongside notables such as the actor Goran Visnjic and Margaret Thatcher’s adviser Robin Harris. The rest is history. I take no credit for the generals’ freedom, but I am glad to have provided encouragement and taken a stand, to have spoken the truth in love.

You may ask what love has to do with it, but the relationship between truth and love isn’t one way. They illuminate each other. Love, by which I mean the will for the highest good, the sort of love we are commanded to bear for neighbours and enemies alike, ignites our passion for the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It sees the big picture and does not allow selective facts to represent the whole person or situation. It was true that General Gotovina ordered the shelling of the town of Knin, but those who consequently judged him guilty of a war crime ignored the prudence and temperance he exercised in what was a just military action in defence of his country and people. Love does not allow truth to be manipulated.

Just as the absence of love distorts truth, the absence of truth perverts love, turning it into mere sentimentality. Our assessments of men like General Gotovina become subjective and arbitrary, and our duty to be charitable cannot be lived out. Any compassion we might bear for an ‘enemy’ is an abuse of the very concept of love if we can only do so by sweeping the truth about them under the carpet. General Gotovina did not deserve freedom because hundreds of thousands of Croats adored him as their hero. He deserved freedom because he was innocent.

Feeling revulsion for someone, as is inevitable if we know the truth about our enemies, does not preclude loving them. If we desire the best outcome for a criminal, we desire justice here and now, so that they have the greatest opportunity to repent of their crimes. The pursuit of truth and justice in an atmosphere of lies and deception is an act of love, sometimes a sacrificial one. Writing the truth can lead to gaol or execution in many places, and yet it continues to be proclaimed. Love is the impetus behind this – nothing less than the love of God or man could inspire the laying down of one’s life for truth. There would be no point in dying for the truth if it could be disconnected from faith, hope, and love.

Yet so much of today’s entertainment, including what we read, is nihilistic. There are no moral principles and the absolute nature of truth is denied. We defend this entertainment as “realistic”, but this is just a euphemism for what used to be termed “shock value”. Even those who seek the highest good are not immune to the decay of truth in our society. While they do not deny truth, they constrain it with self-absorbed ramblings and attempts to mimic the pretentious ‘style’ of what’s popular with the literati. When we write staccato and disjointed prose, our attempt to write about the things that matter is unintelligible. There is little beauty, and what truth there may be is lost on the reader.

If we desire to write about the things that matter, we need not worry about the topic. Everything matters. The issue is how we write, whether we inspire and enlighten and do not leave our readers discouraged and confused. If we are to write about what matters, we must constantly ask ourselves what good we can do:

“For even as it is better to enlighten than merely to shine, so is it better to give to others the fruits of one's contemplation than merely to contemplate.”


(St Thomas Aquinas, Summa IIª-IIae q. 188 a. 6 co.)
Please Subscribe, Visit Mishka's blog, or buy her book! :)

Ben Mathewson.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Marcella's story

Hi Again! For those of you who don't know, My wife had a pretty difficult pregnancy with our last child Marcella. My wife and I wrote the full story, here:

http://www.thejoyofthehome.blogspot.com.au/2014/05/my-full-story-of-surviving-percreta.html

I wanted to share with you though, a smaller, more prose-ey piece of writing with you first though, based on my experiences of what I went through, during the emergency pregnancy. I hope you like it!



Born unbeknownst to the swirling storms around her. Her mummy is on the operating table, Her father in the throes of anxiety and tension. Her siblings, sensing the anxiety of something different, eagerly await news from Daddy, and settle into the new and unfamiliar babysitter's rules. Marcella's world, however, born in the hospital far away from their house is a blur of alien sounds and smudgy visions.

Will she see her mother?

Words fall on daddy’s ears, confusing and meaningless, as the squirmy beautiful pink flesh is handed to him. He jolts himself out of the mental fog to attune to what’s happening now.

“You need to be there for the baby’s first times- Her first bath, her first cuddle with daddy, cuddles with brothers and sisters”, the nurses words, a mixture of compassion and professionalism, are only heard as a numb metallic sound. “...So that when she wakes up, Her mother will have a record...”
“...When?” , thinks Daddy.” “...more like If?” It’s been four hours since she went into surgery and daddy’s heard nothing from the doctors - Nurses have come and offered cups of tea, and eagerly set a bed up for Daddy, calling the complications "a special case" and looked at him in compassion. The question, burning in his heart always being how she is, and the response, always: “We don’t know... We will let you know when we do”

“It’s been so long since I’ve bathed a baby” Daddy says, his hands and arms trying to remember the motions, struggling awkwardly. “My other children are so big now. She’s so small”. He says to the nurse with the kind, steady look on her face.

As Marcella is lowered into the green plastic tub with the lukewarm water, the uncomfortable squawking of not wanting to be disrobed stops. The warm safety of the bath covers little arms and legs and her chubby tummy. Maybe some remembrance is returning of that safe place of covering? Her eyes are wide open now, staring at the world with a slowly gathering comprehension. Just as Daddy has loved the other children instantly, this one he loves too- yet with a cloud of apprehension- This baby is a token of the dawn- borne from deep darkness, a token of the dawn to our family. The nurse takes a photo with her digital camera.

‘Marcella’s first bath’.

The squawking begins again as Daddy dresses her for the first time, since seeing her. Little Pink Dress. Stockings. Her face squishes up as the little limbs slide clumsily through the cotton. Daddy gives Marcella her first bottle, prepared carefully by the nurses. She fusses impatiently, then settles into daddy’s arms. Briefly he forgets about the maelstrom as he focuses on that tiny head adorned with sparse hair, and the beauty of her repose. It’s the first time Marcella has fallen asleep in Daddy’s arms.

Upstairs the bleeding refuses to stop, as the medical staff work together quickly, quelling the rising tension in the room with steely determination and knowledge of procedure. Blood infuses her almost as quickly as it gushes out. The room is filled with a rising urgency tempered by a strong urge not to lose be overwelmed. The clock watches on. Downstairs, Daddy is crying tears of anxiety in a parents room bathroom. It is the first time Daddy has cried in a long time.

It has been two days, as Daddy eats the overly salted chips, finding a quiet corner away from others in hospital cafeteria. Mummy is still sick, but she is alive. Today is the first time Marcella has been placed on Mummy’s chest. The doctors have moved the wires, as she was placed, naked against mummy’s bare chest. One of the lady doctors stops her vigil over the other patients to watch the two. There is a type of recognition without stroking, a type of acceptance without words, as the two share their first bond.

It is a Wednesday. Mummy is no longer grey. The wires and machines are gone, and her feeble body can assist itself. She has moved now, from the ward on the top floor to the maternity ward, surrounded by cards and baby toys, still close to the nurses in case a “situation” develops. She will be home soon, It will be the first time she has returned in four weeks.

Nothing has changed. Yet in other ways, everything has, and nothing will ever be the same.

The Head surgeon visited mummy for the first time since the operation. He speaks as a man incredibly relieved at helping to save this mummy, and gives mummy’s oldest child a little gift. The children want mummy to come home. They have had their first visit, some now have had their second. Xavier, the youngest is frightened. He’s forgotten the cuddles with mummy as he has slept somewhat coldly in the bed next to Daddy. It might take a while until he will snuggle with her again. Perhaps his first time might be the hardest.

It’s now been a year. There is no vortex of anguish left beyond the normal fluctuations of fortune mummy and daddy face in normal life. Mummy missed much of Marcella’s first things, but this last year she hasn’t missed many of the others. She’s seen her first real smile, and the first time she started crawling, she also helped her with her first taste of solid food, and felt the pain with her of the first teeth as they were painfully bursting through her soft gums.

Daddy loves Marcella, and loves that he has mummy’s love too, and they both hope they are present for every other "first" in Marcella’s life.