Sunday, December 23, 2007
It's a funny old world, isn't it? Yesterday I debuted on local radio as a 'guest' as opposed to my previous guise as a hopeful teenager back in 1982 ringing 5MU to get a free 'Eye of the Tiger' prize single, or Mix-FM to win my best mate Jill a $1000 shopping voucher.
Tim Noonan was discussing the tendency for Aussies to use 'seafood extender' - a rather hideous-sounding mixed paste of various seafoods, rinsed several times to get rid of the pong, normally painted in a bright red 'crab colour' on one side and quickly frozen.
A quick search on the 'net reveals that it originated in Japan many hundreds of years ago, but is often nowadays made in China from their local catfish. These poor creatures feed on the bottoms of ponds and rivers and it is perhaps their pale flesh that best lends itself to the fluoro-whiteness that is expected of fresh-frozen seafood extender.
Anyhow, I have obviously mentioned my love of seafood extender in a past blog article and was invited on to the Saturday morning show to discuss. Oh and plug my book, 'Work/Life Balance for Dummies'.
There I was, sitting in the spare room clutching the phone, Dogadoo discreetly letting a few furry farts rip from her beanbag at my feet whilst I was sweating like a pig. How on earth was I going to do an Anna Coren and segue my way from seafood extender to the ultimate self-help book that would potentially change peoples' lives? And why did I state that sake is the only reason that the Japanese people invented - and continued to eat - seafood extender? My face is still flushing with embarrassment as I type this.
I really should apologise to my father for shamelessly using him - and his love of the now-defunct all-you-can-eat restaurant chain Sizzler - for getting me through. Yes, it is true: he did say that he'd like to die with his mouth open under their chocolate mousse tap, but he might not have wanted me to tell the local population that. Thankfully, he wasn't too fussed when he phoned me a bit later.
He was more concerned that I'd got his seafood extender salad recipe wrong. "You forgot the apple. In addition to the seafood extender, celery and poppy seeds, you've got to add some chopped apple."
"OK Dad, sorry about that."
"And one more thing-"
(Me, blushing and cringeing, expecting the worst): "Yes Dad?"
"It's thousand island dressing, not mayonnaise."
"Right. I'll clarify that in my next blog article."
We then chatted about the arrangements for who was bringing what to the Christmas day lunch at my brother and sister-in-law's on Tuesday and again the radio show was brought up.
"MillyMoo, you know how you said you hate turkey?"
"Sonia's cooking a 5kg monster for us for lunch."
Therefore, my second apology is to Sonia. I'm sure your turkey will be much much better than the drumstick I used to be given as a child which had about as much attraction and taste as a mallee root (but with extra dark tendons). I'll be your best friend forever if you fling me some breast meat instead.
And apologies to any listeners out there. The book does contains some life-changing tips that possibly might be more useful to you than trying to spend ten extra minutes in the toilet. *sigh*
Friday, December 21, 2007
Don't have, borrow, babysit or even think about making an eight year old.
If you ever thought that a three year old was a dodgy choice to take with you on public transport, with literal questions such as, 'Why does that man only have one leg?' or 'It smells in here. Who pooed their pants?', it doesn't seem to get any better when that child is now old enough to be more aware of the social conventions we live by.
Sapphire may no longer get the 'front bottom' and 'back bottom' confused, nor announce in front of the Coles dairy case that "My Mum has hair on her bottom" in a voice only slightly less ear-piercing than the Mr Bankrupt advertisements, but it doesn't end at eight.
On Tuesday night, I was asked by my (now ex) workmates to go out for dinner and drinks. After a particularly hectic and hellish year at the coalface, they were very kindly showing their support for my situation and wanted to catch up and celebrate our mutual survival without the presence of my ex-bosses 'Bulldog' and 'Skeletor'.
Love Chunks was away in Melbourne doing head office weather bureau meterological stuff, so I asked my mates Jill and Kent if they'd mind looking after Sapphire for the evening. Seeing as they already have three kids, an extra one would hardly be noticed. "Sure," they said, "No worries at all. Why don't you make a night of it and let her sleep over?"
I accepted gladly. Realistically, these days 'making a night of it' means going crazy on three glasses of sparkling shiraz over an eight hour period, so I was in no danger of waking up with my head resting on Sapphire's scooter handles and leaves blowing in my mouth.
Since being a parent (and therefore having forty weeks of total abstinence from alcohol) I've lost my drinking stamina and never regained it. All that hard-won spirit-sipping and cider-sampling over two years of back-packing in the UK is now laid to waste. These days, one sniff of a beer mat and I'm flushing redder than a babboon's butt.
Anyhow, it was a nice opportunity to have a late night and a sleep in the next morning without being tapped on the forehead at 7am with 'Mum? M-u-m? I've set up the Trouble game for us - you said you'd play it with me todaaaaay,' greeting I am accustomed to.
The night was great. Fantastic, even. It's been a real honour and pleasure to call those intellectual icons and academics my friends as well as colleagues. I miss them already and know that we'll all stay in touch somehow, even if via some lame email jokes. We have too much in common and too much passion about social justice, bad clothing and even worse management techniques to NOT remain mates. I got to bed, tired but relatively sober, by a little after midnight and was around at JnK's by 9am to pick up Sapph the next morning.
As I walked through the door, two Maccas cappuccinos in hand (one for the parent-in-charge, Kent and one for moi), I hear 'ol Foghorn Leghorn, unaware that her mother had arrived, call out, "Hey Kent, do you think I should stay here today and again tonight, because Mum might still be REALLY DRUNK."
Charming. She'll be getting a homemade cardigan and a jigsaw puzzle for Christmas this year.
Sapphire's nativity scene for 2007. It's amazing how Barbie and Ken can be transformed with a wad of sticky tape and some clean hankies!
Monday, December 17, 2007
It's time to stand up and say NO! That's right, it's time. For far too many years we've been forced by huge corporations, our own consumerist society and the invisible strength of peer pressure to do it.
It's expensive, boring and annoyingly time consuming. It contributes absolutely nothing of worth to the world or our lives as we know them and is worthless in a very short time.
This activity does not feed us, pleasure us or entertain us; nor does it bring families together, further our knowledge or encourage us to be better human beings. It contributes to the waste of environmental resources, landfill and wastes precious fuel and funds on transportation and delivery.
Perhaps most annoyingly, it is something that women invariably end up doing without any interest or offers of help by our men. Most of us wonder, at some stage in our long term relationships, just what our fellas did about this tradition before they met us because they sure as hell haven't bothered to do anything about it since then. And I'm not talking about the ironing, prompt nose hair trimming or the provision of 5-star quality rumpy-pumpy.
Have you guessed what I'm standing up for yet? CHRISTMAS CARDS. Those pesky little folded squares of cardboard that have been filling up letterboxes since mid-November. Most of them come from the cheap 30-packs for $4.99, so your bookshelf or mantelpiece is festooned with dodgy 1960s photos of baubles, or worse still, those god-awful paintings of Christmas trees in the snow with the three wise men puzzlingly standing alongside.
As for the message inside, if it just has "To The MillyMoo Family" and their scrawled signature inside, I don't know whether to be relieved or offended. Despite the brevity, I tend to feel relieved that it doesn't contain those horrible photocopied chain letters of "What the Side Bottom-Johanssens did this year" because nothing says 'I personally care about you' more than a mass printout, does it? On the other hand, should I be offended because we weren't even worth the fifteen seconds required to scrawl out an additional hand-written sentence along the lines of "Must catch up soon - have a great 2008” ?
No matter where you display the damn things, they always end up on the floor when someone opens the door. If they're slung over a ribbon across the window the force of gravity eventually lures them to the lowest point so that it looks like you've only got one friend who sent you a card because all the others are hiding underneath.
And there's the real truth: we only bother to buy, write and post Christmas cards because we want some back. We yearn for these tacky little rectangles so that we can reassure ourselves that we are indeed popular, that everyone loves us and we're running out of space to display these symbols of respect and admiration. That’s the real truth and I know it because that's why I've been doing it. Up until now.
If we're all honest with ourselves, most of our closest mates are either living in the same town or have email, so the traditional Christmas card is obsolete. It has instead been replaced by emailed jokes or those 'Please DO NOT DELETE - eight-year old limbless Cletus from Idaho will die from cancer without having met his retarded birth mother and jailed father and only eat a dry corn cob for his Christmas dinner (by sucking it of course, seeing as he has no limbs) if you do not pass this on within twenty four hours.' By sending these without any other text of your own, it's cyber shorthand for 'Hey, you're still my friend but I'm too busy/can't be shagged to write to you right now, but enjoy the joke.'
That's the real truth too, isn't it? Perhaps I should make a stand on two issues - a) no sending Christmas cards and b) no sending on silly jokes unless I genuinely have a laugh when I first read it. Who wants to join me on this political stance?
Thursday, December 13, 2007
My darling husband of nearly thirteen years has a lot to put up with. As the 'Engine Room' to my 'Front of House' he has patiently endured the burden of my ups and downs; energy and exhaustion; joy and gloom.
For those who know only part of my story, you may have already worked out that I’ve had a pretty bad year this year. Work has been the major cause because I had a boss whose ego skewed her powers of fairness and reason and her behaviour towards me affected my self esteem and left me feeling as though I was powerless and worthless.
Love Chunks’ t-shirts were regularly soaked with my tears as I cried out all of my confusion and hurt. During the very worst of it he arranged to take time off work, dealt with phone calls, visits and queries from family and friends, made sure that he was home with me and just took care of things. He walked Sapphire to school and picked her up when I felt too overwhelmed and embarrassed to be seen by anyone. He cooked, cleaned, ran errands and often simply sat with me, holding my hand. What on earth was he getting from this deal?
He made me laugh many times and the encircling of his strong arms reminded me of what was important and worth hanging around for. There’s no nicer warmth and smell in my world than a deep hug from my lovely LC.
This was the same man who, nearly nine years earlier, sat slumped on a plastic desk chair in exhaustion with his face pressed against the drawers next to my bed during the 29 hours it took for Sapphire to enter the world. The man who, for countless occasions, has patiently stroked my forehead and emptied sick buckets during migraine attacks and who has willingly taken Sapphire out to the park or zoo for the afternoon to give me time to recuperate afterwards. Not once have I ever heard him utter the phrase: "You owe me."
On cold nights when I’m hopping back into bed after a middle-of-the-night loo stop he rolls over to let me hog the warmth from his body until I’m taken care of. Then I gently push him back when I’m comfortable again. Love Chunks is also the kind of bloke who is not bothered in the slightest about buying tampons from the supermarket or letting our daughter Sapphire paint his face like a lion during a Crows’ game on television. He has read all of the Harry Potter books in their entirety to Sapphire; both of their heads close together in concentration as he reads out loud clearly and patiently answers all of Sapphire’s questions.
He’ll gently scold me for kissing the dog on the head, when later he’s found outside with her little furry body cradled in his arms.
When nagged (by me of course) to list what annoys him about me, his gripes are surprisingly few:
"1) A complete inability to pack things in a sensible and efficient manner (Anti-Tardis Syndrome) – we bought a new cupboard recently that was meant to solve our storage problems – have a little critical look in the spare room!
2) Navigation – need I say more?
3) The toilet – it’s obviously a genetic thing to be tolerant of a filthy toilet.
4) Ripping holes (that are bound to grow bigger by the day) in perfectly good towels
5) Inability to even consider changing a light bulb or fixing even the simplest of devices.
6) Allergy to weeding, gardening and lawn-mowing.
7) Would rather throw out the food that’s left over or eat more than you need to in order to start on the new food item or product.
8) Putting on a load of washing or using the taps whilst I’m in the shower.
9) Putting dirty objects (like Dogadoo's lead or your running shoes) onto the food preparation areas."
How on earth do I repay such a wonderful person? What should I buy him for Christmas? A couple of books and DVDs seems an insulting tribute for all that he’s done for me. If Lotto does the right thing by us, he'd ideally like a fishing boat, European holiday and a new car, but I’m wondering whether a hand-made card, some dark Lindt balls and a hug will do the trick.
I hope he shares the Lindt with me........
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
At 7.15am one morning I found myself sitting on the throne, ready to divest myself of a few milligrams of excess weight when an insistent rustling dragged my attention from whether to scrunch or fold and instead forced my gaze further down to the bottom of the toilet door.
The door was designed (by the house's former owners) to resemble a barn door with a significant gap above the floor and below the doorframe. This doesn't so much remind me of the long-drop dunnies outside of church halls in the sticks where I'd play tennis, but of public toilet doors where toddlers would stick their grotty little faces underneath and blow a raspberry before their mother screamed out, "Tyson! TYSON where are you?"
The rustling this particular morning was a flat inflatable purple baseball bat, a treasure that Sapphire had got from the showbag she'd scored from the Strathalbyn Rural Agricultural Show at, yes you guessed it, Strathalbyn. In her mind, it was extremely important that I find the time (whilst my mouth was unoccupied) to blow up this baseball bat right then and there. My exasperated outburst of, "Oh for goodness' sake Sapphire, I'm on the toilet. Will you please give me two minutes of privacy" was one that genuinely surprised her. Why on earth was Mum being so grumpy?
As any parent or caregiver of anyone aged under 21 will know, said youngsters have no concept of what other responsibilities or tasks their 'owner' has on their plate at any given time. Their focus is solely on what they have, what they want to do and what they need you to do, for them, right that instant.
Love Chunks and I have lost count of how many times we've felt a warm breath on our cheeks, only to open up our eyes and see an eager little face looming directly in front of us as if on superzoom until the pixels become too fuzzy to see clearly . At age three/four/five, she'd regularly ask us, "Hey Dad, you said we were going to to the zoo to see the baby meerkats today," or "Muuum? Are you awake yet Mum? ** tap tap, on my forehead ** Muuuum? It's time to make muffins for breakfast like you said."
"Sapphire," I croak, hoping that just once she'd notice the exhaustion in my voice, the cornflake sleepies in my eyes and the newly-formed wrinkles on my face and listen. "Please, please, please go back to bed, for the love of all things sacred and innocent, or so help me, I'll live up to my maiden name (Read) and turn into Chopper! It's 5.45am!"
It is with great thankfulness that we note that she very rarely wakes up earlier than 7am these days, but as soon as those baby blues are open, the mouth is in top gear, the smell of burning rubber indicates that the brain is firing on all synapses and the questions, reminders and nags are being uttered a million miles an hour.
Sadly, Sapphire's elephantine capacity to remember every little "Um, we'll see," or "Maybe tomorrow if we get time", vague promise rarely works in reverse. If she's asked to go clean her teeth, brush her hair and pack her school bag, she applies the Meatloaf theory of success - Two Outta Three Aint Bad.
The other day, when Love Chunks was telling her that the matter between my (now ex) evil boss and myself had ended with a fair amount of vindication, she nodded and responded with, "Oh so Mum won her argument against Bulldog then."
Monday, December 10, 2007
1) Eight things I am passionate about:
Play it as it Lays, Joan Didion (striking)
Mr Pip, Lloyd Jones (original)
5) Eight songs I could listen to over and over:
Bittersweet Symphony -The Verve
I useta love her - The Saw Doctors
Annie Waits - Ben Folds
Drive all night - Bruce Springsteen
Tenderness - General Public
Echo Beach, Martha and the Muffins (best song to dance to when drunk ever)
7) 8 things that attract me to my friends:
They are all Smart
Believe in me.
8) 8 movies I've watched at least into double figures
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
The past few months of work, health and renovation struggles have been ones I'll be more than eager to wave goodbye when the 'Better Be Great 2008' new year rolls around. It can start right-bloody-now for all I care - let's bypass all of the absurdities and waste of Christmas, Boxing Day return queues, stale mince pies, greasy legs of ham hogging up fridge space and desperate-to-be-seen-to-be-partying New Years Eve celebrations that go on far longer than my preferred 10:00pm bedtime.
One thing I have learned this year however, throughout all of the trials and tribulations, is that I veer more wildly than Britney Spears on the road to Starbucks when it comes to being brave.
When forced to deal with relatively minor things, I've got less backbone than a rubber chicken. For instance, the very generous and talented Redcap invited me to come over and meet her in person when visiting her workplace to pick up some CDs for reviewing. And yet, when I got there, the reception area was unattended and the distant sounds of a busy bunch of people working behind the partition was clearly evident. The desk had that standard little bell thingy to summon up the receptionist but I have never, ever dinged a reception bell. I'm always afraid that when the person arrives and realises that it is merely me, their annoyance and disappointment in my assumption that I thought I was important enough to ding a bell for service would be too crushing to bear.
On the other hand, I can fight like a taunted Tasmanian devil if my job/career path/ability to pay a share of the mortgage/reputation is unfairly threatened. To be able to confidently yell down a phone, "I don't give a FAT RAT'S CLACKER what your boss is going to think about the inconvenience of setting things right!" immediately transcends any fear one might have had when warily picking up the receiver with a squeaked-out "hellooooo?"
Catch me walking in front of a busker down the mall however, and I'm a blushing, snivelling, cringeing piece of human driftwood. For some reason the thought of stepping out of the safety of a large crowd of people towards a hat to flip in a gold coin is more agonising than agreeing to let 15 med students in on my final pelvic examination during childbirth.
And these self-realisations lead me to where I am today. Over the weekend, Love Chunks and I swapped our bedroom with Sapphire's purely on the advice of our sister-in-Law, Dr B.
Dr B may be a world-authority in her field of medical research and all that intellectual sciencey stuff, but she's also right into Feng Shui. She's been utterly convinced that my crap year is attributed to being in the wrong room in a 'coffin position'. Something about my karma or BO or chakras literally flying out of the door quicker than a pensioner at a half price hosiery sale. Either that or having our fuse box on the other side of the wall by my head might be posing a bit of a threat to rest-and-recreation as well.
Anyhow, we lifted, shifted, vacuumed away grey lint balls (the belly button kind, not the Lindor versions, alas), wiped down every piece of furniture, shifted armfuls of clothes, socks, jocks, shoes, lamps, pictures, toys, nasal sprays, inflatable Adelaide Crows mascots, ducks made out of wicker, unused lipsticks, ill-advised handbag purchases and pre-millennium copies of 'Choice' magazine - the sum total of seven years of living in a room with wall-to-wall storage space.
In deference to Dr B, straight after fiddling with the Feng Shui my work issue was resolved with a 'win' in my corner. It may have left me bloody and bruised, but I was the one standing at the end and I also enjoyed three totally solid nights of decent, non-nightmarish, restful sleep. But last night, at an end-of-year celebration at my meditation class (yes, har har, not a wild party of course, being meditators), I mentioned the rearrangement of rooms but was afraid to say why. "Oh, er, we think Sapphire needs more space to call her own and I want to be near a window," I muttered, not really understanding why I was worried about raising Feng Shui with a dozen people who had, just minutes earlier, been sending out soft pink lights of "Love and acceptance to everyone in our suburb, in Adelaide, South Australia, the Southern Hemisphere, the entire globe."
Hmmm. To continue my inconsistency just a few minutes ago I rang and cancelled my appearance at a fairly hefty job interview (with a panel of four, no less) with this venerable crowd. Good job, best university in town by a mile, great pay, good career options, gorgeous old building full of history, my old studying ground and that of my father and grandfather....
.....to trying my luck as a 'Happy Hack for Hire' with this little beast as my able office assistant.
Am I afraid?
Nah, not really.
Ask me tomorrow and it'll be an entirely different story. I'll be placing our much-fought-for Feng Shui stability into jeopardy when I take nervous residence in the toilet and forget to close the door which is in direct line with our front door.....
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
... because he'll either burst into tears and dribble mucus all over his computer or grab the meteorological nerd nearest him and rip him a second - or even third - poo pipe.
In a series of renovations that have been going for (checks diary) FOUR months now, we are - or were - looking at the home (see what I did there?) stretch. Our renos have moved slower than honey on a sponge, leaving us to live, eat and entertain in our bedrooms and occasionally streak outside to use the porta-shower.
I was moaning to Love Chunks the other day about how, in times of stress, the home is normally a 'haven' but ours is full of tradies with blaring radios, cigarette butts strewn all over the garden, dust, gravel, wood shavings, BO, Maccas wrappers and badly painted walls that need to be redone (when the stupid, slack clown has time to come back of course). No inviting lounge room, 'come to me' kitchen, 'divine' dining room or 'total spa experience' bathroom to sulk in.
This coming weekend was to be the end of it. Full use of all of the rooms in our home, the end of dust and no more miniskips clogging up the garden. Today, Gary (7 cups of strong black coffee every day) and Sean (just water, thanks and do you mind if I have SAFM playing at over 100 decibels for at least eight hours so that you get to hear Good Charlotte, Deltra Goodrem, Kylie Minogue and Silverchair at least 10 times each) are out there working their little hearts out on the pavers which are looking great.
Some delivery dude turned up (whilst I was in the midst of an argument with someone from the cruel castle of Hellfire and Recrimination) with a huge cork noticeboard for Sapphire's room. He checked out our wrought iron screen door and remarked, "Nice, very nice door. Did ya get that from 'Iron Curtain'?" That we did and it cost about as much as the contents of one of Britney Spears' nostrils thank you very much.
The third character in my Tradie-Trifecta turned up at 10:30am. Affable Steve set to putting the floating floorboards together in the living room, and I silently jumped for joy at the thought of no longer having ground-cement-dust trod through the house. Steve admired our newly-polished old wooden floorboards in the original part of the house. "Yeah, they were the only time we actually had to move out of here during the renovations," I said, prouder than the eco-conscious owner of a dead front lawn. "We spent a salubrious week in a cabin in the Levi Caravan Park for these babies."
Steve set to work, cutting boards on the front verandah, dodging the licky affections of Dogadoo (she loves a quick lick of a tradie, especially if they're crouching and reveal a bit of builders' smile) and, in between coffee runs, I could see what wonderfully quick progress he was making.
I phoned Love Chunks. "The floorboards look GREAT. Maybe we can go and look for that plasma telly you've been yearning for this weekend seeing as the living room will be ready to go by tonight."
(Smacking forehead in a literary sense): Stupid Stupid Stupid! I should have known NOT to get over-confident and assume that all interior renovations will be finished by the weekend! Predictably, Steve tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to come and look at the floorboards. He explained, to my sinking expression, that he had been given one third of an older shipment of boards and two thirds of a new shipment and, despite being the same company, range, colour and width, they didn't, erm, match. He'd also been told by his boss that the next shipment of the newer batch was still on shipping container out on the sea somewhere and not expected to turn up to the world's largest island until a fortnight or so.
By this stage my bottom lip had drooped so far that Dogadoo was sitting on it. I nodded, said the expected phrases of, "I know it's not your fault Steve", "Thanks for telling me, I can see how this must be frustrating for you, too," and "I appreciate that you weren't just going to shove two ill-fitting types together and hope like hell we wouldn't notice" etc, but inside I was thinking, 'What the hell is Love Chunks going to say?' This renovation process has, for him, been more time-consuming and frustrating than a 3000-piece jigsaw puzzle being knocked off a card table with only one piece left to insert.
I left it to him to rant and rave at our builder to coordinate an alternative floor board colour or layer or company or whatever, and decided to take a more passive and grounded approach.
What are the all important rules of renovations? I present you with the Tradies' Testament:
1) Your renos will be completed in the fullness of time, or as per the will of Allah. Or, when we can fit it in between larger, and more money-making jobs such as entire housing estates or even just one house from scratch.
2) We tradies reserve the right and will to arrive at *any time of our choosing* between midnight and noon if we say 'morning'. Alternatively, we are entitled to turn up at one minute past noon right up to midnight if we tell you it will be 'some time in the arvo'.
3) Despite our somewhat elastic appointment times, we tradies won't wait for anyone. If you are on the bog, trying to wipe onion juice off your hands before answering the door or two blocks away coming back from walking your daughter to school we may not deign to step out of our utes before deciding that the house is empty and bugger off again.
4) We will all carry enormous mobiles with incredibly groovy ring tones that we will continually interrupt our conversation with you to answer. That doesn't mean, however, that we will feel compelled to answer our phones when it is you ringing them.
5) Near Enough Is Good Enough. If you don't notice the fly we've permanently lacquered to your floorboards then neither will we. If the toilet door is varnished with about as much care and cover as a Jordan mini-dress you should be grateful: we're in demand, after all. If a kitchen cabinet is installed upside down and in direct opposition to the ten other doors alongside them, we will feign cupboard blindness (this appears to be like colour blindness - the inability to notice any workman faults that are apparent to even the imbecilic home-owners among you).
6) If you don't like it, you can shove your poncy degrees up your arses and go get an apprenticeship yourself. At least then you'll be able to send a fifteen year old off to the post office to ask for a 'verbal agreement'. Har Har.
July - our underground rainwater tanks!
Since then - bugger all rain
August - Sapphire playing 'Queen of the Castle' on the topsoil removed for the tanks
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I've been going to meditation classes for about a year now and am now able to experience the odd - or very occasional - moment of 'being in the now.'
Relaxing my body to make it at least loose enough to stop sitting up as rigidly as a fighter pilot on a 'Maximum Collateral Damage' mission has been a huge challenge but I'm getting there. I can now at least focus on my breathing for about four seconds before racing back to thoughts such as "What will they put on TV during the 'off ratings' season when there was already such crap on during the 'ratings' season", and "Remember to let out the chooks, let in the floor sanding guy, take your CV to the interview tomorrow, don't inhale chocolate again and see if you can find out why Mark Holden is considered an expert in anything."
John, the teacher, is as calm and collected as you'd expect a meditator to be, but somehow he's managed to work in an IT Help Desk environment and manage to keep sane, smiling and out of any murder trials. "If thoughts arise in your mind, just notice them and let them go. Let go of these thoughts and shift from thinking to sensing: return back to your breathing and keep listening to your body."
I've since learned that by 'listening to your body' John does not mean fantasing about introducing a dark 'Kit Kat Chunky' chocolate to Australia's corner shops or a decent decaffeinated iced coffee but to remove all distractions and really check out how your body is reacting.
Despite having a nose I could rent out as a warehouse, thighs about as firm as cling-wrapped cottage cheese and an arse dwarves could seek shelter under, he urges us to see how hard our bodies work, 24/7. "You may rarely notice how your heart never stops beating, your food is digesting and replenishing all parts of your body (mostly the butt in my own particular case) and how it transports you to wherever you need to go."
All flippancies about fatness and flaccidity aside, I noticed that I was finally starting to get it. "Stay still. Stay in the now. Don't feel guilty about not doing anything, you are doing something, something incredibly worthwhile. You are deciding to listen to your body instead of overriding it or ignoring it to push through working longer at the computer, eat crap it doesn't want or stay up later than it requires. Be still, be silent and listen: this is just as important for your body as the most strenuous exercise."
My breathing was steady, strong and refreshing and I could easily watch those pesky and inane musings like "What would happen if I gave one of our chooks a chicken-flavoured rice cracker to eat?" or "Did Joe Dulce earn enough money from 'Shaddup You Face' for life or is he now eking out a living busking outside of Cunninghams' Warehouse" or even "How could I train my dog to weed the garden when I'm at work?" were easy to note, dismiss and ignore.
John continued the exercise. "Imagine a dark red rose bud at your heart, so dark it's nearly black at the edges, lightly covered in dew. It slowly opens and fills you with kindness, acceptance and warmth..." Oooooh yeah John I was feeling it, seeing it, smelling it.
"Picture someone you love right in front of you, someone you admire and treasure..." Easy - there was Love Chunks, looking as self-conscious in my imagination as he would have if he'd actually forced to stand in front of the group as a stripped-off study for life-drawing class. "Feel your light emerge from your chest and fill this person..." Yep, it's all happening, can do, rightyo, this is all good stuff so far....
Not an errant, "Don't forget to write up that article you promised Charlotte tomorrow and keep it serious, not stupid" or "I'll bet my month's wage that Bryce Courtenay has a novel out for Christmas" type of thoughts were entering my now rose-coloured brain and chest.
Then John said, "Now picture someone you dislike, standing in front of you. Fill them with your light of loving kindness......"
Oh. Bugger. "No," I told myself sternly. "You are making amazing progress tonight. Don't let your searing, boiling hatred that's stronger than the heat blasted from one thousand new suns distract you from the forgiving and letting-go nature of this exercise. Move on from this unproductive anger and distress - Share your rose light."
I bloody shared it all right. My rose light instantly changed from a misty, free-range cloud into a sharp column of red-hot rays, not unlike a light sabre. She got it full-on in the chest before toppling face-down in agony, body spasming like a horizontal Peter Garrett as she writhed and foamed her way to a painful death. My breathing sounded strangely "Mooorfth Moooorfth" like a certain bloke with a fondness for black and building Death Stars.
I was at peace with the world.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Life for me lately - workwise, home-renovations wise and health-wise has been rather hectic and frustrating to say the least.
After the hassles of a soul-suckingly shiteful working day, it would be nice to head to my home as a haven of love, support and rest. However due to the current renovations that have gone on longer than a heavy metal guitar solo my 'haven' is literally three bedrooms to cook, eat, sleep and watch TV and use the computer in. The only other option of having somewhere to sit apart from the bed is by venturing outside to the tarpaulin-covered (and bird-poo dotted) sofas being stored under the back verandah. All with a fetching view of a dust bowl garden artistically patterned with Dogadoo's arse offerings.
No grass is left thanks to the total removal of top soil after our two underground rainwater tanks were installed, so we are either treated to a mouthful of dust when the gully winds blow or track slimy wet chook droppings and clay through the house.
It has therefore been a huge consolation that the editing and proof-reading process on my book (due out in January 2008; fingers crossed) has been a very cooperative and smooth one. Well for me anyway: maybe I shouldn't assume the same on the part of the editor.
Anyhow, it was with a great sense of indignation, anger and entitlement that I wrote a butt-kickingly stern account of my view regarding a situation that has gone from bad to worse in my day job. The time for feeling nervous and tearful had long since passed and my written missive was a first step in showing the heavies that sometimes we, pond-scum level plebs:
a) know our rights;
b) have a fair point to make;
c) deserve a right of reply;
d) are 'innocent' and should be treated as such; and
e) aren't going to shrink and disappear into the distance without getting resolution to all of the above.
Before submitting my 'Why I deserve to live' statement to the Head Honcho Hangman, I read through it a few times. A few more examples were added, some searing pieces of factual evidence to support my assertions were included and I threw in some choice descriptors (that were in fact true) that I knew would force the reader(s) to sit up and take notice.
Now for those of you regulars who 'know' my Dad* - a retired high school teacher with a mischievous streak and a fetish for good spelling - will also know that he's always been a supporter of workers' rights and the entitlement of every person to state their case. I asked him to check through my electrified email to see if I'd properly, professionally and maturely got my points across.
Dad confirmed that I had. "Go for it, Kiddo. You've exposed their contradictions and unfairnesses. Geez, this could be the SA Education Department Cardigans from the early 1970s!"
Off it went - in person, to a meeting, where I asked not to be interrupted as I read from it. Also via email, so that the hard copies I presented could not be 'lost' in the long 11 metre journey from my hand to the Head Honcho's office.
I sat back, feeling anxious, annoyed, outraged, hopeful of a fair resolution, nervous, shaking. Even chocolate lacked it's normal appeal (I never thought I'd ever had to write that in a sentence!) All I could do was wait for their response (I'm still waiting, in fact).
The phone rang - Brrrrrr- I was on it quicker than Britney on a bucket of frappuccino - Finally, the issue will be resolved, my name will be cleared and my reputation restored......! Aw bugger, it was only Dad.
"Er Kiddo, I just have to tell you. It's about your ~~long, delicate pause~~ um, that email. You've made a typo."
"Oh geez, where? Where Dad, where?" My heart was pounding harder than John Holmes at his celluloid peak.
"Er you mis-spelled the word 'foreword'."
"But I added the 'e' after the 'fore' bit and before the 'ward'."
"Nah sorry mate, it's fore WORD, as in 'before the words of the book', not 'foreward' as in goin forward but with an 'e' thrown in. I just had to point that out to you."
"Ohhh god, I feel so very blonde now Dad," I said, stifling a laugh but blushing at the same time. "I've used that word throughout my statement - it's the central bloody theme for hecks' sake - boy oh boy, that sure takes a fair bit of the sting out of my tail."
Dad chuckled. "Ah well, at least you can laugh about it. We're still with you kiddo."
"Yeah I know. I'm still a good speller you know Dad - even Love Chunks can't spell diarrhoea and I hold the crown for best speller in the Grad. Dip. Ed. course at Adelaide Uni in 1993-----"
"True. But I'm better."
And he is too.* I never seem to be able to get that hyperlink dooverlacky thingo to work, so you can read about my Dad here: http://blurbfromtheburbs.blogspot.com/2006/08/eat-your-veges-theyll-make-your-teeth.html
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
We blokes and sheilas here in Australia don't celebrate Halloween. Never have, and - if I had my way - never will.
Admittedly, thanks to a force-fed diet of Yank sitcoms from Bewitched, Happy Days, Family Ties, Home Improvement and Friends, most of us can name more US presidents than we can our own Prime Ministers (me included. No, not as a Prime Minister, but one of the telly-tards).As such, we know rather a lot about Halloween and the tradition of little kids wandering around the neighbourhood trick-or-treating. Bless their sweet hearts: it's all fun when the candy is good, but if some psycho inserts razor blades or wipes the lollies on his arse an hour before handing them out then I'm sure some kiddies will regret not trying a 'trick' instead of the 'treat' they received.
We also know about Thanksgiving, and most of us are under the impression that Americans will virtually risk their savings, relationships, sanity and lives in order to make it home for turkey (surely the worst roast 'bird' in the civilised world) and some kind of pumpkin pie thing that doesn't sound too appetising to me. It seems to be more revered than Christmas which, as someone who is rather fond of presents I don't have to buy, wrap or pay for - seems rather odd.
Until last year, our proudly Australian doorstep has never been darkened by any Australian ankle-biters asking us for free sweets or threatening to play a 'trick' on us. This has been a great relief considering that we may not have yet gone shopping that week or are on diets and could only offer them sun-dried mango slices or cucumber that's starting to turn slimy at the bottom of the vege crisper.
Not so last year - about a dozen of the little beggars hammered away on the door and I was too taken aback to reply with 'Eat S**t and Die You Bastards,' but instead muttered something about seeing what we had and venturing out with the flavoured Chup-a-chups from old party bags in flavours that my daughter Sapphire clearly didn't enjoy. There the piss-weakly-clad mites stood, accompanied by their parents, who, being around my age, wouldn't have ever participated in such an American event in their own bloody childhoods. The nerve....
Sadly, my own daughter Sapphire is about to be indoctrinated into the suckiest culture of them all as well, having been invited to a Halloween Party by one of her school mates. She's being excitedly planning her costume - 'Zelda the Zombie' and we've found $2 eye liner and black lipstick to complement the white and red face paint I still have from my ill-fated (and tragic) efforts at face-painting at the school fete a couple of years ago. I've also taken her to K-Mart and willingly shelled out cash to buy an oversized black t-shirt and shorts that we will rip and tear up into shreds to support the concept of just having clambered out of a five year old gravesite.
*Sigh*, who am I to pour my cynical lemon juice on her innocent anticipation? That's right, she's even got me to buy a few extra bags of lolly pops, fruit tingles and redskins for her fellow Halloweenie horrors who will undoubtedly be calling around tomorrow night.
Perhaps I should accept this newish trend as one which is overdue. No, not our celebration of everything American but that we've had our Guy Fawkes' Fireworks Night banned for nearly thirty years now, and desperately need a pointless, celebratory replacement. The subsequent declaration of 'Fireworks Night' as being illegal was thanks to scores of stupid Aussie bogans and boganelles who were drunk on Summerwine and Southwark tinnies and ended up blasting off their faces and fingertips as they flung Catherine Wheels and Roman Candles into the middle of their BBQ salad table or inside the rocking Sandman of their best mate.*
At least Halloween is less dangerous - in a life-threatening sense, if not a calorific one.
Courtesy of Dave at
http://stumblor.blogspot.com/ - good blogger, too, go pay him a visit.
* Whilst shopping in Norwood the other day, I saw a lovingly restored Sandman with the following bumper sticker on it. No, it was next to the one that said "Don't laugh, your daughter might be in here.' It read: If You Don't Own A Sandman, You Ain't Shit. This was a red rag to an ex-high school English teacher, so I wrote in the dust on the window - 'This means, grammatically, that we non-Sandman owners are NOT shit, and you, in fact ARE shit.' Oh well, it cheered me up at the time.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Lord knows my parents did their best to ensure that as a family we got to travel and see as much of Australia and Europe as possible.
As I get older and learn that the average Aussie family has two incomes and is buying a house more than nine times their annual earnings; compared to a generation ago of families living on income in a house worth three times their income, I am even more grateful for the opportunities that Mum and Dad - a high school teacher and stay-at-home Mum respectively - gave us three kids.
Many many hours were spent jostling for a fair third of the back seat in the car with my older brother Robert and younger brother David. Most of our trips were from Murray Bridge to Adelaide for school holiday shopping and visits to Grandparents and all involved at least two-out-of-three of us kids throwing up.
Before getting in the car, Dad would collar us and somehow ensure that we each swallowed a pink motion sickness tablet. Sometimes it was hidden in a spoonful of ice-cream or honey, but the unmistakeably acrid chemical taste was impossible to disguise. In the car itself, Mum's wise organisation skills made it clear that she had little faith in the medications Dad enforced. She kept three clean ice-cream cartons, some paper serviettes and a cordial bottle filled with water for the inevitable stop at the Information Bay just before the toll gate. The winding road through the hills would eventually have claimed all of us kids by then, and she'd sigh wearily and set to emptying and rinsing out the cartons in front of the boomerang-shaped sign welcoming all travellers to the capital of South Australia.
Longer trips were fortunate only in that the possibility of vomiting was unlikely. I'm not sure of the reason why, but a chuck-up would almost have been preferable to the boredom, frustration and violence that always erupted. At least in the back seat.
The long hauls to Barmera for the summer holidays via the least scenic route in the state - Karoonda, Alawoona and limitless vistas of scungy, dusty Mallee scrub - were made even more unbearable by it always being over 40C when we set off. In the late 1970s, car air conditioning was unheard of, and in addition to having a sopping wet t-shirt slicked to your back you also had to lay beach towels on the vinyl seats and steering wheel in order to avoid having your sizzling skin stick to the surface.
These days, if I'm bored - normally when accompanying Love Chunks and Sapphire to a footy game - food is my saviour. Chips, ice-cream, coffee, chocolate, pies etc can all be spaced out enough to ensure that my mouth and stomach are being well entertained. Unfortunately whilst growing up, my parents were not loaded with much spare cash, and the concept of stopping off at a service station for anything other than to fill up the car with petrol was not negotiable. No shop-bought ice-blocks or packets of chips for us.
"Come on now, if you're hungry you can have a YoYo biscuit," Mum would say, brandishing a much-dented, tartan-patterned shortbread tin packed with the least tasty biscuits known to children-kind at that time. They were like eating a bathroom tile and just as interesting. I'd wistfully move my gaze from the rich kids in the next car slurping their Razzes and Sunnyboys to the tin, whining, "I don't feel like a yo-yo. Is there anything else to eat?"
"Yes, I've cut up some apples and there's some bananas if you're hungry."
Great. Sensible fruit as a snack was about as appealing as being given a live squid and asked to fashion it into a wearable balaklava.
"Anything else, Mum?"
This was the time that out would come the sentence that every kid expects - and knows - will emerge from their mother's mouth, but hopes it will not be so in this particular instance: "If you don't want a biscuit or some fruit, you can't be hungry then."
"If you're thirsty, we've got some orange cordial." Warm, sticky and served in the anodised cups in a zip-edged holder that every self-respecting Australian glovebox contained.
"Oh. I'm OK, thanks." No such luck scoring a Farmers Union Iced Coffee either.
Seeing that food was never likely to provide much of a diversion during the drive, we siblings would instead concentrate on seat territory. WHACK went Robert's arm onto my leg if it even dared stray a centimetre into his designated area. I'd very early on accepted that his two year age difference meant that I'd never beat him in a physical contest, so I took out my revenge on David instead. WHACK! "Move over you hog!"
Eventually, the seat space negotiations would degenerate into random acts of violence; namely slaps, dead legs, chinese burns, poking and pushing. Larry, Curly and Moe would have been impressed by our ability to give and receive all sorts of fisticuffs in such a confined space.
"Stop it you kids," Mum would tiredly call from the front.
Dad used to get madder, but he was far less potent because he had to keep at least one hand on the wheel and preferably both eyes on the road. He would try and keep his right hand busy steering and his left would vaguely swing around behind him in the vain hope he'd make contact with at least one of his three fighting children. Again, he'd utter those immortal, fatherly words heard on many a long journey: "If you kids don't stop fighting, I'll give you something to fight about."
Mostly we ignored him, because we were expert at leaning into each other and dodging his 'smack hand.' The squealing, accusations, yelling and slapping sounds would normally wind up a few minutes later anyway. David would be crying, I'd be sulking and Robert would be told to sit in the front and swap seats with Mum.
One particularly searingly hot day however, the fight continued, even when Dad threatened to "Stop the car and you'll all be WALKING to Barmera!" Yeah right, we three clearly communicated to each other via rolled eyes - it's only 200km away and it's 43C, so, like, we can really see that you'll be doing that to us, old man. So, we continued our stress-release strategy of pinching, punching and squabbling away, getting louder and louder by the second when all of a sudden -- WHOOSH -- Mum hurled three cups of warm orange cordial over her right shoulder into our faces.
She got the result she wanted immediately: total silence. We sat the remaining two hours in the backseat, all speechless, indignant and getting uncomfortably stickier by the second. I can't, with any honesty, write that her technique cured us off backseat argy-bargying forever, but it sure as hell meant that the stint along the Hay Plain was a very relaxing one from the vantage point of the front seats.
In sunny Scotland, 1981
Thursday, October 25, 2007
“Um, can you drag a chair into the laundry and use the tap in the trough?”
Thursday, October 18, 2007
There, amongst the post-nightclub puke, squashed chewing gum wrappers and a selection of other greasy, unmentionable attractions at a city bus stop was this lone, blue, peanut M&M.
It represents how I feel at the moment: once a object of glory, now infested by crap and disease of every kind.
Is it just me or have coughs and colds become more virulent, lengthy and painful in the past few years?
Sure sure, we get given antibiotics if a cold lingers on for too long and it's clear that a throat or chest infection has kicked in or there is too much chunky, lime-green snot on tap, but I honestly don't remember colds being this harsh when I was growing up.
If dealing with hayfever isn't already hard enough.....! A couple of nights ago as I was power walking my way home, I was attacked with a fit of sneezes so powerful I was in danger of peeing myself. Then, a gust of dry northern wind (as only Adelaide can do so well) blasted a fistful of dirt into my face, so I ended up staggering around blindly down the footpath wildly gouging at my eyes, sneezing like a stuck Acid House CD and doing my best to cross my legs and hope that no wee was coming out. One old lady who was bravely thumbing her nose up at the water restrictions stopped watering her roses and called out nervously, "Are you alright over there, love?"
The continual itchiness of hay-fever is made worse when a cold is thrown into the mix as well. We all know about the old saying 'We can send a man to the moon but we can't cure the common cold', and it rang true this week as I sat in a meeting with some academics who simply couldn't understand why they now had 'prove' how their research has made a difference outside of their institutional walls.
The pesky government bureaucrats (called 'clerks' by a guy who clearly started uni when Noah was in woodworking class 101) are now insisting that the brainiacs clearly show how their egg-head exertions have had a positive impact on society, community, government policy or merely improved life for even just one individual. Yes, these old bookish brainiacs have all been cited in other respected journals many times, but a lot were struggling with the concept that Joe Average needed to be convinced that their unique field of expertise and continued study was of some merit.
Shouldn't these Super Synapses be focussing their energies on curing colds, or eliminating them right from the outset? Apart from rage-excused-by-religion and Celine Dion's entire musical output, what has annoyed the human race more?
In the past five years or so, I've seen strong, fit and healthy people deteriorate into stooped and exhausted shells who can barely be understood behind the head full of mucus they're having to lug around from place to place. This snotty and coughy state is no longer able to shaken off with a hot honey and lemon drink and a day under the doona, but carries on for weeks and weeks and weeks.
The suffering person has, by this stage, completely given up on common social courtesies and will simply trumpet their nose into a tissue with a noise not unlike that of a distressed elephant lost from its herd in a vain effort to rid themselves of a mugful of mucus. I'm sure I'm not the only person who has seen these poor bastards blow holes in their tissues due to the volume of phlegm that's been flung out of their facial flutes. And the coughing....!
I was convinced that I was about to hawk up a lung on my desk today. I felt like the Marlboro Man's Mistress in her retirement years with a puffy red and sweaty face from the effort of it all. And there's been no rest for me, or my loving family at night either. Once the sweats and shakes had subsided, my throat was revving up for its turn in the spotlight. Or should I say soundscape. With my snot-filled noggin, stuffed-up chest and wheezy breaths, I spent the night sitting propped up on even our fancy little 'just for show' pillows that normally adorn our bed, looking for all the world like a nocturnal nanna about to 'receive' visitors.
Apparently, when I did fall asleep, my snot-logged snores sounded like an outboard motor that had been stuck in a swamp. It was so loud I woke myself up, only to find Love Chunks staring down at me and wondering aloud, "Geez no wonder you were about to divorce me until I got my punching bag thingy in my throat surgically removed."
It's so easy when you're not the one with the cold to think "Ah, it's just a cold, stop being a wimp," but when it is you with the cold, all you want to do is shove two test-tubes into your nostrils to let them drip freely and save you the bother of wearing away your face with continued tissue wipes.
So to all you university Egg Heads - sweetie darling honey suckle piggy wiggy poo poos - would you please please PLEASE consider putting aside your ground-breaking examination of Pam Ayre's early poems for subliminal, pro-terrorism propaganda and instead find a way to eliminate this dreadful affliction for good. I'll even attend your lectures and buy the textbook....