Thursday, 21 August 2014

CDMC: Being a Resourceful Woman

The tomb of St Mary MacKillop can be found inside this chapel.

Do you have a daughter who organises you? I have four of them. (I did have five but one left home.) I really don’t have to think for myself. I just do as I’m told and everything works out perfectly. And so it was Imogen who battled with the automatic ticket machines, found the right railway platforms for all the right trains, and then led me through the streets of North Sydney until we arrived at Mary MacKillop Place, for this week's Catholic Digital Media Conference. All I had to do was follow in her wake, clutching my luggage.

 I was really proud of how little luggage I took. Usually I can’t go anywhere without packing the kitchen sink, ‘just in case’. But this time I travelled light: Just the essentials and nothing else. And I did it all by myself, no daughters’ help required. 

When bedtime rolled around at the end of the first very full and enjoyable conference day, I pulled on my pyjamas, and grabbed a towel and my toothbrush, before heading to Imogen’s room.  I poked my head around her door and said, “I’ve come for some toothpaste.”

“You didn’t pack toothpaste?”

“No, I thought I’d use yours. I’m travelling light.”

“But I haven’t got any. I thought I’d share yours."

We had not even a tiny squeeze of toothpaste between us.

“Well, that serves me right,” I grinned.

Immy raised her eyebrows: “Huh?”

“I stole the electric toothbrush out of our bathroom without telling Dad. He has the toothpaste and I have the toothbrush!” (Of course Andy had his own toothbrush head but it was useless without the electric base.)

So what did Imogen and I do? Did we just suffer dirty teeth for two days? Oh no, we couldn’t do that. Being the resourceful woman I am, I considered our options. I looked at our available resources. What else was in my toiletries bag? There was soap and shampoo and foaming face wash.

“Foaming face wash!” I said. “That'll do.” 

I squeezed a little of the gel onto my brush, pressed the button and soon I was foaming at the mouth. Just for a few seconds I wondered if the face wash was one of those 'do not take internally' products. But I continued foaming away and  hoped for the best. And as I'm still here to write this post, I feel it's safe to conclude it's perfectly okay to use face wash to clean one's teeth. (If you can stand the taste.)

Last night Imogen and I arrived back from a thoroughly inspiring conference. After we’d eaten dinner, we unpacked our bags. I reunited the electric toothbrush with the tube of toothpaste. I looked at them sitting next to each other on the edge of the ensuite sink. Somehow they looked so right together. I guess some things aren’t meant to be separated. And that's why I'm taking my husband Andy with me, next time I visit Mary MacKillop Place.

So what did I learn from this year's conference? Over the course of the two day event, I heard these words quite a few times: use what you have. I've already done that: I used foaming face wash to clean my teeth. Am I resourceful? Can I be a resourceful blogger? There are a lot of ideas circulating in my head. Would you like to hear them? Perhaps I can share more about the CDMC another day.

Alma Cottage where St Mary MacKillop died, 8th August 1909

PS: If you get a chance to stay at Mary MacKillop Place, do go! It’s the best place I’ve ever stayed. I was treated so royally, I felt like the Queen. (Hey, do you remember that story?) Just don’t forget to take your toothpaste. 

I did post a few CDMC things on my Sue Elvis Writes Facebook page. If you haven't visited my page recently, why don't you hop on over and take a look? I'd love to see you there!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Feet Flying, Arms Pumping

Gina, at Someday (hopefully) They'll Be Saints, included one of my stories in her current fitness post series. I wrote about how exercise is helping me deal with the 'trauma' of getting older.

My story begins...
I woke up one morning with an urge to run like the wind. I wanted to put my body into top gear and feel it come alive.
Many years ago, my husband Andy and I ran kilometre after kilometre, every evening after work. I remember rhythmically pounding along the footpaths, my feet flying, my arms pumping, my hair lifting in the breeze, thinking I could run forever.  It was a wonderful, exhilarating feeling.
And I wanted to feel that way again. But it had been years since those running days. Of course I was a lot older. Could I still run?....  Read More
 You might like to check out the other guest fitness posts too. They are all so different and very interesting!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Now Available: The Angels of Abbey Creek!

This morning when I opened my mail I found this message from a friend in the USA:

Sue, your book just arrived in the mail today. It looks really good!

My book? What book? I rubbed my sleepy eyes for a moment, trying to make sense of the words. Surely my friend hadn’t bought a copy of my children’s novel, The Angels of Abbey Creek. As far as I was aware this book hadn’t yet been released for sale.

Over the past month, we’ve been fine-tuning the formatting of the book. The fourth proof version arrived last Wednesday and finally we are happy with the way it looks. But I hadn’t clicked that final button which sends the book out into the public arena where it can be purchased. Or so I thought.

It turns out my friend does indeed have a copy of my book. My heart skipped a beat when I realised that. Does she have the final version? I hope she didn’t buy one with the wrong blurb on the cover or one with the misaligned image or one with the poor quality printing… No, I am hoping she got the good version.

So I sold one copy of my children’s story The Angels of Abbey Creek without even realising it was available for sale. I guess now there's no reason not to tell everyone about my book. It’s there in the Lulu shop waiting to be ordered. It will soon also be available through Amazon, and we’re hoping to produce an ebook version too.

Will you like it? It depends! Shall I tell you something about it? How did I come to write it?

Several years ago, a friend suggested I try writing a children’s story. “Oh no, I can’t write fiction,” I protested. But the idea stayed with me, and one day I thought it wouldn’t hurt to attempt a little story, an experiment perhaps.

What do children like to read about? Other children? And what did I know about children? Well, I have a few of my own, so I used them for inspiration. It wasn’t long before I had a completed story called Sunday. I faxed it off to Father James Tierney, friend and author of the Bush Boys books, to see what he thought. Now Father and I often share our writings. We like reading each other's stories and swapping ideas and suggestions. It wasn’t long before the phone rang. It was Father: “I liked your story. Write some more!”

Six weeks later I had written the first draft copy of the book. I sent it to a few friends who said nice things about it and made me feel good. Then the manuscript sat on my computer for a long time while I wondered what to do next.

Then one day I decided to ask award-winning Catholic author and editor, Ellen Gable, to edit it for me. Ellen was very encouraging. She suggested a few minor changes to several stories and told me she thought it was worthy of being published. You can imagine my smile when I received her feedback. Ariana M. Krause drew some illustrations. My husband Andy and daughter Imogen formatted the book for me. And now the book has been published.

Here’s the official book description:

In Australia, where Christmas is in summer and dads like to play cricket, is a small town. Not far from this town, along a narrow, winding road, is the village of Abbey Creek. And on the edge of this village, nestled among the shady gum trees, is a sprawling brick house. This is the home of the Angel family: Mum, Dad, Edward, Kate, Joe, Celeste, Lizzie and Annie.

And this is the story of their very adventurous year!

It’s a year full of happy days and magic moments, of camping in the bush and perfect beach holidays, of feast days and birthdays and even a First Holy Communion. The year has exciting days and disastrous moments, with racing bushfires, naughty birds and scurrying mice. And it’s full of surprises. The biggest surprise of all happens on Christmas Day!

The Angels of Abbey Creek contains 22 individual adventurous stories which fit together to tell the tale of one exciting year!

A First Holy Communion? Oh yes! Catholic children know all about First Holy Communion Days. Catholic? Is it a Catholic book?

The Angels of Abbey Creek isn’t a religious book but it does contain all those Catholic details that form part of any Catholic child’s life. I was tempted to leave all those details out. I bet you know why. A more mainstream book would certainly appeal to more people. I might sell more copies. But that isn’t really the point, is it? Sometimes we have to do what we feel is right, rather than what is popular.

And so I have written a Catholic story for Catholic children and I’m glad about that. I hope my young readers enjoy finding out the Angels go to Mass just like they do. Maybe they will smile when they hear about Annie’s misadventures at the Passion Play. Will they say, “We like to earn straws during Advent too!”? No doubt they will all have Godparents who are joined to them forever by invisible bonds.

Of course Catholic children do regular things too like go on perfect beach holidays, prepare for bushfires (regular if you live in Australia!), have accidents, cry over pets, lose teeth, have all kinds of adventures…

I have tried to write with gentle humour. If you share my sense of fun, you might smile when you're reading the stories out aloud. Reading out aloud? Oh yes, I think the stories are perfect for sharing. But a fluent reader should enjoy my book too. I have kept the language fairly simple. We chose the 6-8 age group for the book description, though I think children a little younger and a little older will enjoy it too. I'm old and I enjoyed it. Of course, I'm the author so I suppose that doesn't count!

This afternoon I was thinking about the message I received at the beginning of today.

“I’ve sold one copy of my book,” I said to my daughters. “Does that make me an author?”

“You already were an author, Mum.”

I guess I was. But I’ve never been the author of a children’s book before. That’s very exciting. At least it is for me.

The Angels of Abbey Creek is currently available from Lulu. Please stay tuned for an update about Amazon and an ebook version!

Friday, 8 August 2014

Bob Blogosphere Rolls His Eyes

Do you remember what happened in my last Bob story, The Finger of God Points at Bob Blogosphere? Bob has been invited to a Catholic wedding. He wants me to give him lessons on the Catholic Faith to make sure his 'performance' at the wedding is perfect...

The door opens revealing the most famous man in the Blogosphere. He looks up and down the corridor, but the only person he can see is his secretary. He pulls me into his office while the coast is clear, and as I sail over the threshold, I hear Bob Blogosphere say, “Strictly no interruptions, Miss Bell… an important interview.”

 “You’re going to interview me?” I smile.

“Of course not,” says Bob, settling himself into his leather swivel chair. “Why would I want to do that?”

“So you can write an article about my blog for the Blogosphere News. You said something about an interview to Miss Bell…”

Bob waves my words away. “I had to say something. I don’t want Miss Bell knowing I‘m having a lesson about the Catholic Faith. What if she told someone?” He shudders. “What would people say?”

“Why would they say anything? Lots of people want to know about the Catholic Faith.”

“They do?” Bob sits back and scratches his perfectly buzz cut head. “Why would they want to do that? Surely they’re not all going to Catholic weddings?”

“They’re searching for the Truth, Bob.”

The Truth? He frowns. Is that important?

“Perhaps we’d better get started. Your cousin’s (or was that your niece’s) wedding isn’t far away. If you want to look like you know what you’re doing, you’ll have to listen carefully. It's a bit complicated.”

“How hard can it be?”

I don’t answer. Bob is about to find out.  “Now the first thing you’ll notice as you come into the church is the holy water font near the door. Stop and dip the fingers of your right hand into this water, and then make the sign of the cross… like this.”

“I can’t do that,” protests Bob folding his arms in front of him. “What will people think?”

“I suppose they’ll think you belong to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

“Oh I don’t belong to them.” Bob shakes his head firmly. “I belong to the Blogosphere News… or rather, it belongs to me. I don’t belong to anyone.”

I sigh. “As you’re walking down the aisle to the front of the church, look for the tabernacle. It should be directly behind the altar.” I reach into my bag and pull out a few photos. “This is what it might look like.”

Bob peers at the photos I have placed on the desk in front of him. He brings them close to his eyes and then moves them far away. Does Bob need glasses? Should I ask him? Perhaps not.

“Then when you’ve located the tabernacle, genuflect towards it.”


“Yes, bend your knee. It’s a sign of reverence.”

“Reverence? What’s so special about the tabernacle?”

“It’s where Jesus is.”

“No! Everyone knows if Jesus is anywhere, He's in Heaven. How can He be in the church at the same time? How could He even fit into the tabernacle?”

I sigh again. This is going to be a very long lesson.

“Transubstantiation, Bob,” I begin. “During a special part of the Mass, the priest turns bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus. They still look like bread and wine. But they’re not.  At Communion time the people receive the Body, and maybe the Blood too. And then afterwards the extra consecrated bread or hosts are placed in the tabernacle... They’re still Jesus … So Jesus is in the tabernacle.”

Bob rolls his eyes. “Do you expect me to believe a priest can turn a piece of bread into God?”

“Well, the priest can’t do it on his own,” I admit. “But he has a special power given to him by God.”

"A piece of bread cannot become God, ” repeats Bob.

“You don’t think God could do that?”


“But God can do anything He wants, Bob. He’s not like you or me.”

“Not like me? I can do anything I want."

“You can’t change bread into the Body of Jesus, Bob.”

“I wouldn’t want to. That’s a ridiculous thing to do.” Bob taps his paperweight against his desk a few times and then he says, ”Even if God could do it, why would He want to? It doesn’t make sense.”

“Love…  He does it because He loves us…”

“I know all about love,” says Bob, dropping the paperweight and glancing at the dozens of awards on his office wall. “Everyone loves me. I have millions of fans. I don’t need God to do something crazy like change bread into Himself for me.”

I look deep into Bob’s eyes. “I know it’s a lot to take in.” I reach out and touch his arm.  “I understand just how you feel.”

He leans forward. “You do? You don’t believe either?”

“No, Bob, I do believe but I didn’t believe for a long time. I thought it was crazy too. But faith grows… with time.”

Bob yanks his arm free of my fingers. “Talking of time, will this take much longer?” He’s looking at his watch. “I have to get to the gym.” He runs his fingers over his tight right bicep and smiles.

I quickly dive into my bag again and then thrust a booklet under Bob’s nose: The Mass Explained. “Why don’t you read this, Bob and if you have any questions, give me a call.” Then I add, “Oh and don’t sit in the front pew. If you sit further back in the church you can copy what everyone else is doing.”

“Not sit in the front pew?” Bob shoots to his feet. “Of course I have to sit in the front pew. I’m Bob Blogosphere. That’s where I belong.”

The most famous man in the blogosphere is striding towards the door, so I rise to my feet. “One last thing, Bob… about that interview…”

Like usual Bob turns a deaf ear towards my words. He pushes me over the threshold of his office saying, “Watch out for the wedding photos. I’m going to look magnificent!”

Before I know it, I’m back outside the Blogosphere News Building. As I stroll back to my blog, I wonder…

  • Will Bob ignore my advice and sit in the front pew at the wedding?
  • Will he remember what to do?
  • Will he appear cool and collected?
  • Will he ever be interested in the Truth?
  • And will he ever believe a priest is able to turn bread into Jesus?

Please stay tuned to find out!

Monday, 28 July 2014

The Red Horse Hair Sofa

Horse by Feliciano Guimaraes(CC by 2.0)

In my grandmother’s spare bedroom, there was a red horse hair sofa.
Red horse hair sofa…For some reason, these words fascinate me. As I toss them over and over in my mind, I can actually see that sofa. I can feel it. It’s hard and rough and overstuffed.

But was there really a horse hair sofa in my grandmother's second bedroom? Are sofas even made from horse hair? Perhaps my memory is playing tricks.

The other day when the words ‘red horse hair sofa’ popped into my head yet again, I decided to do some googling. Horse hair sofas do exist. Perhaps my grandmother did indeed have one. But I am not really sure.

When I was about 6 years old, I had a day’s holiday from school. I spent that free day at home with my mother and 2 younger sisters. We watched the horse racing on TV. Before each race my mother and I chose the horse we thought would win. Our choices were based solely on name. “Angel Eyes, that’s my horse,” I said, with a dreamy look in my own eye. My mother and I would sit side-by-side, cheering our horses towards the finish line. It didn’t matter if they lost. There was always another race. We could try again.

On that same day, I remember my mother giving me some money. I walked up to the local shop all by myself. I felt very grown up. What did I buy? I don’t recall.

But I do remember what happened when I went back to school the next day.

“Where were you yesterday?” my teacher asked.

My eyebrows shot downwards. A frown appeared on my face. I didn't understand. Wasn’t yesterday a holiday? Weren’t all the school children at home? They weren't. My mother and I had got into a muddle. The holiday was still a week away. Not that I told my teacher about our mistake. It seems, even at that young age, I knew how to get myself out of an awkward situation. I lied: “I was sick.” The teacher never found out I’d enjoyed a wonderful day horse racing with my mother.

I look back in time and wonder how accurate my memory is. My mother doesn’t like horse racing. Would she have let a 6 year old girl walk up to the shops alone? It seems highly unlikely. But I can picture everything so clearly. I suppose I could ask my mother but have you ever noticed how memories can differ from person to person?

“That’s not how it happened!” she might say, shaking her head firmly.

“But I'm certain I'm right,” I could reply.

Horse hair sofas, horse racing… wonderful stories dancing inside my head. I don’t know if they are true or not, but somehow they are part of me. They must fit into the story of my life somewhere.

I could make them fit in a fictional way. Don’t you think a red horse hair sofa and a day of horse racing belong in one of my stories?

Auntie Jenny and Celeste are sitting side-by-side on the sofa, in front of the TV. It's a red overstuffed sofa. Celeste runs her fingers over it. It feels hard and scratchy.

“This sofa used to belong to Nanna,” says Auntie Jenny. “It’s stuffed with real horse hair.”

Celeste’s eyes open wide. “A red horse hair sofa,” she says, rolling the words around her tongue. She frowns. “Not real horse hair?”

Auntie Jenny doesn’t answer. She doesn't even hear Celeste’s question. She is looking at the TV screen. “Celeste! They’re bringing out the horses for the next race. Which one do you think’s going to win? Choose your horse!”

“Angel Eyes,” says Celeste quickly. “Isn’t that a beautiful name? Which horse do you want?”

Auntie Jenny doesn’t hesitate either. “Slippery Dip! Isn’t that a fun name?”

The horses are racing. Auntie Jenny and Celeste cling to the edge of the red horse hair sofa. They hardly dare breathe. Which horse will win?...

 Do you have childhood memories you sometimes ponder, wondering how true they really are?

Talking of Auntie Jenny and Celeste, if you are interested in my children's novel, The Angels of Angel Creek, it should be available for purchase in a few days' time!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

My Secret Identity

B'elton John by SuperFantastic 

Most people think I’m just ‘Andy’s wife’ or ‘Imogen’s mother’ or the woman with lots of kids. When I go out, I don’t attract much attention. Perhaps everyone thinks I have a very ordinary life. But they're wrong. I don't.
I close my front door on the world. I look right and then I look left. Is anyone looking? I whip out my computer. I slam my glasses onto my nose. I toss back my superhero cape. I flex my fingers. Then I start typing.

I’m Sue the Blogger and Sue the Writer. I have a secret identity. And nobody knows.

Except for Mr G who lives down the road.

One day my son Callum says, “I saw Mr G today. He’s going to leave a DVD about quitting sugar in our mailbox, next time he walks by.”

I think about this for a moment. “How does Mr G know we’ve given up eating sugar?”

Callum shrugs his shoulders. “Does he read your blog? Did he read your post about the Christmas pudding collection?”

Did Mr G read the following words in my post Another Christmas Pudding Collection?

Then one day as I was standing at the check-out at Big W I glanced to my left, and there was this book staring at me: I Quit Sugar. It was shouting, “Read me! Read me!” I didn’t want to read it. I was doing my best to ignore it, but then I noticed it was on special. I can’t resist a bargain. I bought the book and took it home. But I didn’t read it. I said to my daughters, “Have a look at this book. Find out if sugar is bad for us.” That was a mistake.

I know all my words are floating out there in public where anyone can read them. My blogs are very easy to find. All you have to do is google my name. But Mr G wouldn’t have had any reason to do that, would he? So how did he find out my secret?

The DVD lands in my mailbox: Sugar v Fat, a BBC documentary. It looks interesting. I must remember to thank Mr G the next time I see him.

My opportunity soon arrives. I’m walking along our road, on my way to the village store, when Mr G drives past. He winds down his window and I say, “Thank you for the DVD.”

“I read your post about the Christmas pudding.”

“You did? How did you find my blog?” I ask.

“Oh, I was googling something to do with cars, and one of your posts turned up in the search results. It was one of your posts about Callum and his cars.”

My secret life isn’t as secret as I thought. Oh my! I shall have to be more careful about what I write. What if I write something I shouldn’t? What if the wrong person reads it?

Do you remember my dead body story, There’s a Dead Body near Our Running Track?  I was going to write a sequel to that story. I was going to mention the name of a notorious criminal. Oh! It’s just as well I didn’t. What if he had read my post? I might have ended up as a dead body. I could have become a bad smell. I might have prevented my family from enjoying their runs down the bush tracks. I shudder. This blogging business is more dangerous than I thought.

It could also be dangerous writing about my neighbours. I must remember never to do that. Oh my! Too late. I’ve just remembered something. I did write about someone living close to me. I wrote about Mr G! I put him into one of my children’s stories. He’s been published. Mr G is in my new book The Angels of Abbey Creek. Should I think about moving house? Quickly?

Perhaps Mr G won’t mind being in my book. His character is rather nice, and he's not really him. I just borrowed a trait or two. Or maybe Mr G will never find out. Perhaps he doesn’t read my blog any more. He might not even know I’ve just published my first children’s novel..

But Mr G, if you are reading…

I watched the DVD. It was very interesting. And yes, I know I haven’t yet returned it. Next time one of the girls takes our puppy Nora for a walk, I’ll get her to pop it into your mailbox. Thank you for lending it to me. You are very kind!

Do you lead a secret life behind closed doors? Have you ever been found out? And do you like Christmas pudding? I do!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Clean Amina and the Brand New Washing Up Brush

Amina was clean. There is no better word to describe her. Her children were clean too. I am sure her husband was also in immaculate order. Not a hair out of place. Not a button unbuttoned. Not a shoe unshined. Of course, Amina’s house was perfectly clean as well.

I met Amina at a mothers’ and children’s group many years ago. She had two little girls with tightly braided hair, and scrubbed clean faces. One was called Allison and the other was Nicki, though according to Amina, she should have had another name altogether. “I wanted to call her Sage but my husband wouldn’t agree.”

Amina and I used to see quite a lot of each other. I don’t know why. I am not like Amina at all. I'm surprised she liked me. I probably frustrated her immensely. Why did she risk her health eating at my house? At the end of each day, I didn’t hoist all the chairs upon the kitchen table and mop the floors. I never wore disposable gloves when handling food. Disinfectant? Amina might have bought bottles and bottles of it. I never did.

One day Amina gave me a little present: a new washing up brush. I hadn’t noticed how dirty and worn my old brush was until she handed me the new one, with its full complement of white, straight, stiff bristles.  “How thoughtful, Amina,” I said, turning slightly red. “No one has ever given me a washing up brush as a gift before.”

Amina had a passion for cooking. For religious reasons she was a vegetarian. I decided to become a vegetarian too. I don’t know why. But Amina must have approved of my change of diet. She kindly shared all her recipes with me. I learnt how to make vegetarian chicken nuggets and vegetarian meatballs and best of all, deep-fried creamed corn balls. Oh yes, these were delicious. We made lots of them.

When my eldest two children were baptised, I invited a number of friends and family to join us for a post-baptismal celebration. Amina volunteered to help me with the cooking. Not only did she mould mountains of corn balls with her gloved fingers, she also lent me a pile of decorative serving dishes to display them on. I hadn’t invited Amina and her family to the baptism. They didn’t share our faith. They didn’t believe in infant baptism. But did that matter? They could still come along to the ceremony, couldn’t they? As Amina was mopping my kitchen floor, at the end of our cooking session, I said, “Would you like to join us on Sunday?” Amina smiled and accepted my invitation. But she didn’t turn up. I thought she’d changed her mind. She just forgot to come.

One evening, Amina invited my husband Andy and me to dinner. She invited a few of her church friends too. We arrived on time. We had a box of chocolates for our hostess and a bottle of wine to share. We didn’t at first understand the odd looks everyone gave us. Then Amina’s husband handed the wine back to us, saying in a low voice, “You might like to drink that at home.” We turned a little red. No meat and no alcohol. We had a lot to learn.

Despite our differences, Amina and I were close friends for four years. We even kept in contact for a few months after we moved house. One day I received a letter from her:  “Sage has started school.” Sage? I thought her daughters were called Allison and Nicki. (I'd forgotten the disagreement-over-names conversation.)

Apparently, one day Amina had said, "Your father wouldn't let me call you Sage," and her eldest daughter had replied, “I like the name Sage. I don't want to be called Nicki any more." Two against one.  So Nicki became Sage. I wonder what her father called her.

It’s been years since I last saw or even thought about Amina. Her name only popped into my head because of a new washing up brush. I was washing the breakfast dishes yesterday morning and noticed a brand new brush rubbing shoulders with our three old and worn ones. “Who bought this new brush?” I asked, as I tossed one of the old ones into the garbage bin. (I couldn’t bear to part with all three.) No one shouted, “It was me!” so I haven’t yet solved that mystery. Well, it wasn't Amina this time.

The more I think about Amina, the more I want to put her into a novel. Don’t you think she’d make a great character in a story? But would Amina recognise herself from my description? I wonder. We never see ourselves as others see us. Now I’m wondering… How would Amina describe me?

Have you ever put a friend into a novel? Perhaps you've also been given a washing up brush as a gift. And is it okay to change a child's name? I wonder what you think.

Virgil gets a Bath, by Justin Baeder(CC by 2.0)

Amina didn't have a cat. But if she had one, I bet she would have bathed it every day.