Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Not quite a sleeping beauty

Three things I have learnt in the past 24 hours:

1. Sleep apnea is not just for 'overweight truck drivers'*

2. It is not possible to have a good night's sleep on a fold-out bed.

3. The only place open in town, any town, at 6.30am is likely to have Golden Arches out the front.

*direct quote from accredited sleep specialist

Mr6 has been for a sleep test. It has been decided that he, the world's skinniest six year old, has very mild sleep apnea. He snores like a truck driver, but this is the only thing he has in common with that profession, despite a recent visit to a truck show. He also grinds his teeth, throws himself about, talks, moans, dreams wildly - and occasionally forgets to breathe. His is the mild version, though, so it's only very occasionally. Much better.

Apparently, the problem is with the size of his tonsils and adenoids (large), in comparison with that of his airways (small). This is hereditary, though being overweight does exacerbate the problem, which is why, according to our sleep specialist, people think it is a disease of larger, sedentary people. It's certainly not something I ever associated with the under-seven brigade.

The specialist thinks he will grow into his tonsils. I suspect that, if this is true, he will end up about 200 cm tall and built like a ... Mack Truck. Which is okay by me (although feeding him may be a problem), though looks highly unlikely at this stage.

The interesting thing about sleep tests is that they put you in a tiny little room, wire you up with about 87 long leads, including five or six stuck to your head with dissolvable glue, stick prongs up your nose and then say 'okay, go to sleep now'. Of course.

Suffice to say, Mr6 had the worst night sleep he has had in, well, ages. And so did his Mum. Oh, yes I did. (You only put guests on a fold-out bed if you really don't want them to stay.) All the way through to 5.30am, when we were evicted (they need to clean the room for the day surgery people) into an unknown town where we had to amuse ourselves for five hours before our next appointment. It is moments like this that McDonald's really comes into its own.

I am writing this post at 3.55pm. This is unlike me. Usually I knock them out at 10.25pm. But I think I'll be asleep by about 4pm today, so I'm getting in early. I go to bed knowing that Mr6 is fine, which is a huge relief. I also go to bed knowing there is a Pillow Top mattress awaiting me. Also a huge relief.

I'll be back, bright-eyed and bushy tailed tomorrow.

{image: moviegoods.com}

(A word about spelling. My instinct was to go with 'apnoea', but research into various Australian sleep associations revealed that they tend to go with the simpler 'apnea' spelling, so I've followed suit.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Making nice at birthday parties

Remember when you were a kid and your parents took you along to barbecues and parties with other families? You would be expected to make nice with the other kids. Whether you knew them or not. Whether you had anything in common or not. Whether you liked them or not. And, somehow, it all worked out.

Then you grow up and, for the most part, you choose your own friends. Right up until the point when you have children. Suddenly, you're going along to birthday parties and you're expected to make nice with the other adults. Whether you know them or not. Whether you have anything in common or not. Whether you like them or not doesn't even enter the equation.

With both boys in full end-of-year socialising mode, I find myself in this position on a regular basis. Mr3 went to a party at an indoor play centre recently. Not only did I not know the parents but I have my doubts as to whether or not Mr3 actually knew the birthday girl.

"Whose party is it, Mum?"


Pause. "Oh. From my preschool?"

"That's right."


I'm not sure how other parents feel about these occasions, but I feel obliged to pull out my smiley face, and prepare a Charm Offensive. (I should mention that this is only after I discuss the option of taking a book along with The Builder. He never thinks this is a good idea. This is only because he's not the family representative at these occasions.)

On the downside, all that charm can be exhausting. On the plus side, you do learn a lot about the school system in Fibrotown. I'm always particularly excited to meet parents with high-school-age children. They may not be as excited to meet me, particularly after I spend an hour or two peppering them with questions about their child's high school. But, then, one thing I have discovered in my years as a journalist is that people do like to talk to people who are genuinely interested in what they have to say. It also helps to be a good listener.

So I go along, I smile, I ask questions and I listen, while the boys eat themselves silly on cake and run themselves ragged. And somehow, it all works out.

{image: JaimeMancilla/etsy}

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's not easy being funny

A little while ago, I wrote about words that bring fear to a parent's heart, and introduced to the world the 'Concert Face'. This is an addendum to that post, mostly because I realised that I forgot the one sentence designed to horrify any parent. Or just me. Particularly at the end of a long day. Particularly spoken by a child who probably hasn't stopped talking since dawn. It is this sentence:

"Mum, I've got a joke..."

In other households, this may merely herald the latest in a long line of Knock Knock jokes. In the Fibro, it means that Mr3 has been busily dreaming up punchlines. Make that lack-of-punchlines. To whit, they are not funny. To even more whit, they do not make sense. To the most whit, there is no wit.

An example:

"Mum, I've got a joke!"

Pause. Sigh. Summon enthusiastic face. "Okay, hit me with it."

"O-kay. Ready? What do bulldozers do on the weekend?"

Pause. "I'm not sure, what do bulldozers do on the weekend?"

"THEY GO TO THE SHOPS! AH-HA HA HA! Do you get it?"

Pause. Summon fake laugh. "Tee hee. Not really. Okay, let's get ready to vacuum the floor now."

I try, I really do (though the example above may not capture the essence of that effort), but jokes without punchlines are just not funny. And Mr3 has so many of them. Mr6 went through this phase, so I know it's just a phase and, soon enough, Mr3 will get the point that there needs to be a point to the joke. But in the meantime we are here, in this wasteland of wit, wondering when the main act is coming on.

If only he realised how incredibly funny he is when he doesn't try. Today he asked me, peering deep into my eyes, what those little glasses in my eyes were for. It took me a few minutes to work out he was talking about the iris/pupil arrangement which, if you look closely, does resemble a pair of specs. See - funny.

It's an excellent example of the importance of voice. Jerry Seinfeld was funny when he talked about nothing because he talked about nothing in his own special way. Mr3 manufacturing jokes about bulldozers = not funny. Mr3 sharing his own particular view of the world = funny.

All he needs now is a link between intention and humour and he'll be a headline act.

That, and a punchline or two.

{image: wopc.co.uk/cappellano}

Friday, November 26, 2010

Weekend Rewind

Oh, how I love Saturdays. The birds sing, the cartoons are on, the boys sleep in (kind of) and we don't actually have to go anywhere. Bliss. But best of all, it's time for Weekend Rewind, that mixed tape of classic loveliness that has now been at home in the Fibro for a whole month!

The excitement.

Thanks to Maxabella, you can now grab the exquisite Weekend Rewind button for your sidebar. I'm very grateful to Maxabella. Without her, this would be the most boring blog in the Blogosphere. Now look at me - I have a button!

Of course, you don't need the button to join in. All you have to do is become a Friend of Fibro if you're not already, link up one of your favourite old posts,  and then share some comment love amongst your fellow linkiers. I can't tell you how much I enjoy sifting through your contributions each week. So much fun!

What are you waiting for? Dust off a post, kick back and rewind. The world's easiest linky, open all weekend.

PS: Don't forget, for cross-hemisphere linky love, check out Blog Gems with Jen at The King and Eye. It's another chance to air your archives and meet new bloggers.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Jacaranda blue

It is Jacaranda time in Fibrotown. The town is dotted with delicious swathes of blue-purple flowers, tarting up its streets with all the assurance of a touch of blue eyeshadow on an ABBA covers band. I love Jacaranda trees: huge and stringy when covered in green; beguiling when in flower. They remind me a little of Meryl Streep's portrayal of Julia Child in Julia & Julia - still a little awkward when all decked out in their finery but charismatic nonetheless.

Mr3 is entranced by them. He calls them the 'Boy Trees', liking that his team gets such a spectacular showing. He, much more than Mr6, is very aware of the 'pink is for girls, blue is for boys' rule. I think this is just because he has an older brother, as The Builder and I have never been known to spout that rule. Mr6 was never as fixed in his thoughts at three. Though his teddy bear, Bronte, a definite girl, has always had pink as her favourite colour, while his has always been green.

When I was growing up in Fibrotown (we moved here when I was in fifth grade), we had a massive Jacaranda out the front of our house. It was one of many on our street, creating an avenue effect to lead people out of the town centre and up towards the local showground. In November, our street looked beautiful. Right up until the Jacaranda trees began to interfere with the electricity lines and ended up trimmed into that bizarre reverse mohawk that this seems to entail.

Our Jacaranda survived a lot of years. Its huge roots spread and pushed up the pavement right from our driveway down to the next door's fence. The little ridges created quite an obstacle course for those of us roller-skating down the hill. In December, as the flowers began to fall, our front path became an exercise in risk management as hundreds of flowers formed a beautiful blue-purple carpet across our front lawn. A beautiful, slippery carpet. Add in a dash of summer thunderstorm and a pair of thongs and you pretty much had to skate across the top at break-neck speed, seeking the safety of the gate.

Some years ago, the council cut down our Jacaranda. Termites. They replaced it with a strippy little sapling that sat there for a long time, doing nothing, going nowhere, lucky to survive the attention of bored teenagers wandering the streets on Friday and Saturday night.

Today, I parked my car in the shade of that little tree to visit my Dad (Mum is still in hospital, but doing well - thanks everyone for your good wishes). It's still only about a quarter of the size of the old one, but it's getting there. The flowers are appearing, only this time, they're dropping on the footpath, which is as far as the spread reaches so far.

Here's hoping my boys have fond memories of that tree in years to come.

{image: freeimageslive.com}

PS: I'm flogging my blog with Lori at RRSAHM this fine Friday. Why not pop over and discover some fab new blogs?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The (tardy) Tooth Fairy

I'm going to have to have a chat with the Tooth Fairy. Who didn't come last night. Again. She will now be known in this house as Tardy Fairy.

As I explained to Mr6 this morning, it's not that she forgot him. Oh no. It's just that our last name is towards the end of the alphabet. Maybe she just didn't get to him yet.

He thought about that for a moment. "But what about Santa? He does the WHOLE WORLD in one night."


"Yes," said I. "But he has eight reindeers and a few elves to help. The Tooth Fairy is small. She has only herself. She probably gets tired. And lost - there may be GPS on a sleigh, but not on her wings."

He thought about that for a moment. "You're probably right. She took a few days to get here last time as well."

Tooth Fairy fail.

I was relating this tale to my Mum and Dad a few hours later. They laughed. "It always took her at least four or five days to get to our house." Funny, I don't remember that. Probably because it was TICH who bore the brunt of Tooth Fairy fatigue.

Anyhoo, I put in a call to the Tardy Fairy. She assures me she'll be there tonight, unless there's a problem with the air currents. We also had a little chat about rates. When she began her tenure at the Fibro, she started out with 20c. Then, a change in Tooth Fairy personnel took the rates up to $2 for the next tooth. Talk about inflation. But we've agreed that $1 a tooth is a fair rate, though she did niggle a little over conditions. She's not happy with the espresso cup in which Mr6 leaves his tooth. She'd prefer a tooth fairy pillow (such as the one pictured by Hannalah on etsy.com). I didn't think I'd cope with having to find the pillow, let alone remember to use it.

I asked Mr6 how many more teeth he thought he had to lose. "Hopefully lots Mum," he answered, cheerfully. "I'm saving for a Lego Death Star." Given they're about $300, he'll need to start stealing other people's teeth to afford it purely on ill-gotten Fairy gains.

Either that, or he's in secret negotiations himself with the Tardy Fairy and I can expect a strike for higher rates any tooth now.

Is the Tooth Fairy on time at your place? What's the going rate?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Crinkles on the road to happiness

Last night, The Builder and I watched part two of The Happiness Project on the ABC. While the positive psychology is all very nice, what we love most about it is the trip it takes us on. Right through our old stomping ground in The Big Smoke.

It stirs up all kinds of feelings. The fact that our old suburb made it onto some kind of 'top 10 most depressed' list is disconcerting. It always seemed a pretty happy place to us. Maybe because we were happy there. But it's more the trip down memory lane it takes us on.

We keep spotting landmarks, cafes, parks and shops. All 'our' places. Only they're not any more.

Part of me felt sad about that. I still miss it in a way. It's a vibrant, multicultural area with a lot of colour and movement. What I reminded myself last night was that all that colour and movement was beginning to exhaust me. Along with the parking situation. Now that I think about it, the parking situation may well be why our old suburb made the 'most depressed' list.

This morning, I did the school run and came home and ironed the shirt I was wearing. I was going for a walk 'up the street'. I confess that I would not have worried too much about this if I were still living in our old suburb. I would have carried on regardless. But here, somehow, it matters more that I not be caught out in a completely crinkled state.

Part of me found this a little bit sad. It's taken me two years to become someone who cares about this?

Twenty minutes later, though, I was glad I'd made the effort. In the space of one block, I ran into five people I knew. They're not people who would judge me for an unironed shirt, but I was still pleased to be presentable.

I knew a reasonable number of people in my old suburb. But the chances of me running into five of them in one block were small. More likely, it would have been me and 1000 people I'd never seen before. Hence the lack of ironing that occurred in our house.

Five different friendly conversations in one block. I guess this is what they call 'community'. And it's worth the ironing.

{image: Nasoupo/Etsy}

Monday, November 22, 2010

A sweeping saga of excuses

So you may have noticed that I've gone very quiet on the NaNoWriMo front? After a barn-storming 10,000 words in the first week, happily announced, not so much as a peep. The truth is that there's not been that much more to add. In two weeks, I've put on about 5,000 words, which leaves me 35,000 to write this week. Hmmm. Not bloody likely.

I've been thinking about how I feel about this. On one hand, I tend to like to achieve goals, particularly public goals. I thought that by announcing to all and sundry that I'd taken on the NaNoWriMo challenge, I'd be more likely to actually get there. But life got in the way. As it does.

I've got excuses. Wonderful, creative, imaginative excuses. If I'd put as much effort into my word count as I have into my excuses, I'd have written Gone With The Wind by now. A sweeping saga of excuses. But it's not a bad analogy now that I think about it. Because I have come to the conclusion that I can think about it tomorrow.

According to my NaNoWriMo (or NaNoWriMeh as I've begun referring to it) stats, if I continue at my current pace I'll have my 50,000 words done by January 13. I've found that even doing an extra 500 words a day knocks about three days off that estimate. It's a great exercise in visualising the difference that it makes to write every day.

Right now, I have a whole lot of work that needs to be done (see, there's an excuse right there). People are waiting for it. People will pay me for it. At the end of the day, nobody is waiting for my novel. Well, no-one except me. But if I just keep chipping away at it, in the down times, it will happen. I'm okay with that.

In the meantime, I am whipping myself into a frenzy, promising myself a big last week. I'm aiming for 5000 words this week. Not 35,000, true. But respectable. I think I'll start tomorrow.

So NaNo friends, how are you faring? Is that 50,000 in sight?

{image: Kirby McDaniel Movieart

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Getting trucking emotional

One of the things I love about motherhood are the new experiences that it brings to your life. I could talk here about love, laughter and the hilarious things that kids do... Instead, I'd like to talk about trucks.

I've never been what you'd call a 'girly' girl. I love my footy (if not, always, football players). I love my beer (oh yes, it's true). I only wear heels under sufferance. But I've never been a tomboy either. I drive a car because I have to, not because I love the beautiful sound of its V8 engine (or however many Vs my engine has). I don't put up shelves, because I am lucky enough to have The Builder to do that for me. And I've never, in my entire existence, been to a Truck Show.

Until today.

Mothers of boys find themselves doing all kinds of stuff outside the realms of previous experience. Like stopping in the main street to admire a Harley Davidson as it drives away (Mr3 is motorbike-mad - something I'll be trying hard to dissuade in the next 14 years or so). Like going to Light Rail museums. And Air Shows. And all manner of other machinery-related events.

Today's, the i98FM Camp Quality Convoy for Kids, held in a sport and recreation field about 40 minutes up the highway, featured hundreds of trucks. Enormous, gleaming vehicles with deep, loud horns. Lots of horns. When we arrived at the venue, shepherded through the gates by an army of SES volunteers, the convoy was just pulling in and the horns blew solidly for the next hour. Thirty minutes in, Mr6 turned to me and shouted, hands over ears, "We've probably had enough of the horns now Mum, don't you think?"

Probably. But I don't think anyone else was listening. Or could hear him over the horns.

Mr3 was in heaven. Not only was he surrounded by the aforementioned trucks, but we turned a corner and discovered several hundred motorbikes parked in the shadow of the sports centre. Then, oh joy of joys, a police helicopter arrived and, once it was opened up to visitors, he was able to, gasp, sit inside it. Throw in a jumping castle and his life was complete.

For a debut experience, the Truck Show was a good one. I am in awe of anyone who can reverse anything larger than a Range Rover in a straight line. My Dad and I were just talking in hushed tones the other morning about the impressive skill of the man who drives the local supermarket delivery truck and can back it into a narrow delivery dock, in a narrow street with cars parked on both sides of the road. All in under two minutes. Given that I've been known to have four attempts to get out of our driveway, I can only be impressed.

Reverse-parking aside, the sun was shining on row upon row of these behemoths of the road, which had been polished to perfection. The crowd was happy and taking part in something that was fun - and important. To understand that importance, I only had to look at the banners hung across many of the trucks. Memorial banners, featuring bright, young faces. Camp Quality is a charity for children with cancer and their families. These bright, young faces had lost their battles.

I've never, in my entire existence, felt emotional whilst staring at a truck.

Until today.

{image: Ryan's District}

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekend Rewind (ta da!)

So, how do you like me so far? After toying with 'oldie but goodie', 'second-chance saturday' and, even, 'play it again Sam' (though this did not make it to the blogsophere), I've settled on Weekend Rewind, and (thanks to Maxabella) have an image to match.

I'm particularly happy with the cassette. The Inner City Hipster (my brother) tells me that cassettes are very cool right now. Perhaps even sohotrightnow. Something to do with the tangible effort required to find a song, which is, apparently, a big hit with the download generation. For this reason, he siphoned off all of my compilation tapes from the 1980s during the latest clear-out of Dad's shed. Choose 1985, anyone? Thru the Roof '83? These and many other classics have now found new, appreciative homes.

None of which has anything to do with the fact that this is the new, improved version of the world's easiest linky. All you have to do is to join Team Fibro if you're not already following, dust off a favourite old post, link it up and then lay some comment love on other posts on the list. The linky will remain open until 9pm Sunday (AEST), hence the weekend bit in the title.

So kick back, unwind and rewind with some classic old posts. Can't wait to see what you have for me.

This week, I'm offering up a post that's all about the delights of the Fibrotown newspaper.

PS: A community service announcement. I was introduced last week to Jen at The King and Eye - she runs the also relatively new Blog Gems, a linky that encourages you to air your archives. Jen is based in Ireland, so we're working some cross-hemisphere classic post love. Her latest linky is up on Sunday. Go visit and share your awesome classics with a whole different section of the blogosphere!

PPS: I'm joining in Maxabella's Grateful Saturday. I'm extremely grateful to Maxabella for making me such a cute image for my linky. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Three top tips for would-be freelance writers

I had such a good time with my Q&A with Gillian Martin and Emma Kaufmann, authors of Cocktails at Naptime, last month that I've decided to do it all over again. If there's one thing I love, it's asking questions. This time around, my victim target is my former colleague Valerie Khoo, now director of The Sydney Writers' Centre in Milsons Point.

Valerie and I shared cupboard office space together at CLEO and I've watched in awe as she's gone on to broaden her career from editor to entrepreneur, writing five books and countless articles along the way. I shouldn't be surprised. She's the poster girl for career change, having been an accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers before finally giving in to her passion for writing - and finding a way to make it work.

Why have I chosen Valerie for this Q&A? Because I'm often asked how to break into freelance writing. And while I'm qualified to offer a few pointers, Valerie has gone out of her way to devise entire, affordable courses based around that very subject. She knows her stuff. You can read more about the centre, its wide range of courses (including magazine writing, travel writing, business writing, screen writing and more) and Valerie, here.

It's about here that I should point out that this is not a sponsored post. No ethics or integrity were injured in the creation of this post. And nothing changed hands either, unless you include *waves* via Twitter. I'm looking for interesting people to talk to about writing, and Valerie is about as interesting as they come. Particularly if you want to do what she's done and jump from your current career into writing.

What do you think are the key attributes of a professional writer across any genre?
Valerie Khoo: "Discipline, discipline, and a little bit more discipline. If you want to make a living from writing, you need to... write! And you need commitment to hone your craft, improve your work and learn from your mistakes. It's not about waiting for inspiration to hit. It's about making yourself put your fingers to the keyboard or pen to paper. Which is not to say that creativity is not important. But I believe that we are all inherently creative beings - but not all of us have the discipline needed to channel that creative energy into a full-time income-producing career."

Why did you set up Sydney Writers' Centre?
VK: "Basically, I created the kind of writers' centre I wished had existed when I was first dipping my toes into the world of writing. When I was transitioning careers from accounting to writing, I was desperate for resources and guidance to help me make it happen. SWC is the dynamic, inspiring place I would have loved to attend.

"We have a huge range of courses, but our most popular courses are creative writing and magazine writing. We offer both of those online so that students can learn from anywhere in the world - as well as in our Harbourside training rooms here at the Centre."

How do you choose your course presenters?
VK: "Our presenters need to talk the talk and walk the walk, so to speak. They have to be currently working in the industry and they need to be dealing with the subject they teach day to day. We're committed to offering courses that are very practical so that students leave with new skills that they can use immediately. Our presenters share their inside knowledge and give students a realistic insight into what they need to do to get published or write with confidence."

Do you think writing for blogs differs from writing for other publications? How?
VK: "I think blogs are wonderful. They offer a creative outlet and an opportunity for your writing to be read by an interested audience. Blogs are similar to other publications in that they need to attract and sustain an audience. But they're different in that you receive instant feedback. That can be very satisfying."

What are your three top tips for would-be freelance writers?
VK: "1. Know your market. You can be the best writer in the whole world but that's a moot point if you don't know how to write for a specific market. You need the ability to analyse a magazine and, from there, be able to work out the tone and style of writing that you need to employ, the angles the magazine would be interested in, and the case studies or interviews you'd need to use. We teach that in our course 'Feature Writing for Magazines and Newspapers', and students constantly tells us how valuable it is. Without it, you can't build a viable career as a freelance writer."

"2. Get over the fear of pitching to editors. This can be debilitating when you are starting out. I always think it's a shame when I see someone who's just too scared to pick up the phone and pitch their story idea to an editor. The reality is that if you've done step 1 (above) and analysed the magazine to ensure that your idea is a good 'fit', then you significantly increase your chances of your article being accepted. I know it can seem daunting, but you have to get over it. The good news is that it gets easier every time you do it!

"3. You can make very good money as a freelance writer. "Some people think that, as a writer, you need to live like an artist starving in a garrett. I don't agree with that. There's nothing romantic about that in my books - not with Sydney property prices the way they are! I think that you can make a very healthy income from your freelance writing if you treat it like a business and make sure you're professional in everything that you do. It can be useful to try to get a mix of higher-paying corporate projects and the editorial projects that feed your soul (but which may not make you rich)."

{image: magazinedoctor.co.uk}

I'm guest posting today over with Diminishing Lucy, all about the joys (and otherwise) of being a WAHM. Come on over and say hi!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Another occasion to talk about meme

I get called many things, but stylish does not come up often. This may be due to my abhorrence of shopping, my love of basics, and the fact that I would rather buy clothes for my boys than for myself - it's so much easier, you see. Everything looks good on you when you're three and six.

However, Michele at Bodacious Boomer has thrown the S-word my way, in the form of the Stylish Blogger Award. I don't always respond to such glory, but she also calls me 'kiddo', so how can I resist?

The theory is that I'm supposed to share seven things about me that you don't know. But I came up with seven not too long ago, so I'm hoping that will suffice. Feel free to refresh your memory.

I also have to come up with 15 recently discovered bloggers. Fifteen! I'm good at lists of 10. Any journalist who's ever worked in women's mags can whip out lists of 10 in their sleep: 10 ways to tell if he's really into you, 10 to-die-for party looks, 10 super foods, 10 ways to ask your boss for a raise, 10 new moves that will drive him wild... But I digress.

How about this? I'll start, and see how we go. Without further ado, here are XX fab new(ish) bloggers on my Reader.


Well, now, look at that. Fifteen. It seems I'm expanding my skills-base all the time. Oh, and my definition of stylish? People with their own thing going on. Go say hello! Tell them to start thinking up their own list of 15. Best they start now...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wishing and hoping

No post today. My beloved mum is in hospital, recovering from an operation to replace a well-worn hip. I'm saving all my energy to wish her a speedy recovery and hope she's back on her feet and acting the spring chicken very, very soon.

Monday, November 15, 2010

There's maintenance - and then there's renovating

There are certain things in life that you put off. That you ignore. That you sometimes actively avoid. Then you go and do them and you remember why it was that you should do them more often. One of these things is going to the dentist (mind you, the biggest plus of that is the fact that once it's over you don't need to go again for a while). For me, getting to the hairdresser is another.

I know that a haircut is something that I should be writing in my diary every six weeks, and anticipating with glee. But, to be perfectly honest, I'm not much good at maintenance. I tend to wait until everything goes to rack and ruin and then try to rebuild from the ground up, so to speak. My brand new (and fabulous) eyebrow queen has taken this matter in hand and scheduled me in for appointments for the next six months. She assures me that it is not necessary to allow my brows to fade to nothingness before retinting them. There will be no Mr Potato Head shock if I take her advice. So she says.

The hairdressing sorority has not been so proactive. I thought I was managing quarterly appointments. My stylist today informed me that it was more like every five months. Not a great average.

Part of the problem is the sameness of my hair. There is only so much you can do with boofy redness. Too short and it's Raggedy Anne. Too long and it's Beyonce - only redder.

The sudden (and profuse) proliferation of greys, however, suggests that I need to step up my game. I made the switch to permanent colour about a year ago - no more fading of the semi, with no roots to speak of. Now I get a stripe. Subtle, but stripey. People ask me if I'm tired. They ask me if I've 'gone blonde'. No, I say, just washed out and grey. Thanks for asking.

This morning I went to get myself seen to. Waiting for my stylist, I sat and contemplated my face and hair under very bright lights. Hmmm. My stylist and I chatted about this and that - body image, air-brushing in magazines, holidays in Europe - as she applied the colour that she promised would lift my appearance from haggard to radiant. She shepherded me under the steamer, where I read a September issue of New Idea (nothing better than dated gossip, don't you find?), and then directed me to the basin. Otherwise known as the Pay Off.

Every time I get my hair washed - with complimentary scalp massage - I find myself wondering if I could manage to fit it in three times a week. Snuggled under my enormous plastic bib, feet up, eyes closed, goosebumpy chills running from head to foot. Too good.

During my haircut, my stylist revealed to me - and the rest of the salon - that she and 15 of her friends had 'made over' someone's house while they were off on their honeymoon. Repainted. Remodelled ('We decided to lose a wall'). Renovated. Stunned silence followed this statement.

"They don't know?" asked the woman in the seat next to me.

"Nope, it'll be such a thrill!" trilled my stylist. "They'll love it."

"You hope," said the woman.

The stylist didn't even bat an eyelid, all the confidence of youth personified. "Of course they will," she said. "It's been like one of those home renovation shows. Everywhere you look, someone is knocking down a wall or painting or replastering. I wish I could be there when they got home."

The woman next to me and I shared a look. "So do I!" we said, in harmony.

Apparently, they're coming back on Sunday. I'm almost tempted to book myself in for another haircut next week just to find out what happened. Or maybe just a hairwash...

PS: I love this image by esan01, on etsy - my kind of princess!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

All hail the Sultan

On Friday night, The Builder and I dropped our kids off with Gran and Pops for a sleepover, picked up our friend S, filled the tank with petrol and headed north. While it sounds a bit Thelma and Louise (with The Builder playing the Brad Pitt role), it wasn't as dramatic as all that. We were off to a gig. To see the newly crowned ARIA Best Male Artist. Dan Sultan to be precise.

When we booked our tickets weeks ago, after humming and ha-ing about driving an hour up the highway for a gig, he was not ARIA Best Male Artist. Though he was the winner of the Deadly Award for Single of the Year ('Letter'). We had also seen him in a stellar line-up of indigenous artists who supported Al Green when he performed in The Domain last year. The Builder had heard good things. We were going.

The venue was The Heritage Hotel, Bulli. We entered through the public bar, which is never the most auspicious of beginnings at an Australian pub. But the room in which the gig was to be held was worth the price of admission. High pressed-metal ceilings, broad, weathered floor boards. Proportions. You know what I mean?

Propping ourselves up on a bar stool, we sat back to wait for Dan. Watching the crowd, as it ebbed and flowed around us. Meeting people as they stretched over us to pour a glass of water. All of us waiting, expectant.

He didn't disappoint. Playing with his mate (and musical collaborator) Scott Wilson, he chatted and strummed his acoustic guitar and sang. Good grief, the man can sing. There was a bit of banter about how they'd found themselves in INXS for five minutes at the ARIAs, and a lot of discussion about how they'd found each other in a pub in Williamstown.

Meanwhile, back in the crowd, S was distracted by a couple in front of us. "Oh my God, they're practising Tantra," she said, shoving me in the back and almost off my stool.

"Are you serious?" I said, leaning forward for a better look. I'm not sure what I was expecting - something from the Kama Sutra, perhaps? - but the guy massaging his girlfriend's neck while she zoned out on the sofa was not it.

"That's it," she said, pointing at them in an obvious fashion. "See where his fingers are? Pressure points."

I watched more closely. The girlfriend did appear to be in a blissful state, but could this not simply be the joy of loving fingers on aching, computer-strained muscles. "Can't see it," I said.

"You're not supposed to," she said, "but trust me."

 We left it at that, eyes and ears drawn back to the stage by the voice of the Sultan. Me with a host of questions as to why my friend S knows so much about this...

The gig was all over by 11pm. One last strum of the guitar, a quick high-five through the crowd, and Dan Sultan was out the door and roaring off into the night. Soon, we were doing the same. Only without the ringing applause of the enthusiastic crowd fading in our ears.

Back down the highway. Home.

{image: dansultan.com}

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Second-Chance Saturday #2

As I have had no brilliant brainwaves during the week, Second-Chance Saturday gets another run as the title of my fabulous new linky. Not so new now. Three weeks in. But new enough to have a certain thrill, don't you think?

In other news, the linky will stay open longer. I'm still tweaking the format here, but it's been suggested it be open for the week. So we'll give that a go and see what happens.

Same rules apply: dust off one of your amazing early posts. One that you love but that you feel didn't get the attention it deserved the first time around. Follow the Fibro if you're not already a friend, link up and share some comment love with other linkyers. The last bit is important. No free rides around here.

So what are you waiting for? It's the world's easiest linky. And don't we love that on a weekend!

PS: I'm also linking up to Maxabella's Grateful Saturday. I'm grateful that she has a linky and you should be grateful too and head over there for double-action linkys today.

{image: favecrafts.com}

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The things you do to get out of the Fibro #3: Getting social

Last night, I went to see The Social Network with a group of friends. Very social for a person who generally sees her movies alone and unencumbered. Margaret and David (At The Movies) loved it, and so did I. An absorbing, disquieting flick that stayed with me all of today.

One of the other mums I went with admitted (at school pick-up) to have spent considerable time today Googling Mark Zuckerberg. We all agreed that Justin Timberlake was a revelation (who knew that Sean Parker was such a fakeozoid? And so pasty?). Jesse Eisenberg, who plays Zuckerberg, was so good he made my skin crawl and my mind explode at the same time. I don't know what Zuckerberg is like in real life, but I suspect we would not be friends. Not even on Facebook.

I admit that, much as when watching The Wire, it took me a while to get my 'ear in', so to speak. The opening scene - which Margaret and David have labelled an 'instant classic' - initially felt like it was being acted out in code. They talked fast, they talked quietly, they spoke in apparent non-sequiturs, and the bar was loud. It's worth hanging in for Aaron Sorkin's writing, though.

It also took me a while to get my eye in once the Winkelvoss twins (both played by Armie Hammer) appeared. At first, the thought that there could possibly be two such ridiculously good-looking men in the world scattered my thought processes. Once I worked out there was probably just one, I spent a lot of time trying to work out how 'it' was done, and trying to count the shots where they were on screen together. I know. I need to get out more.

As a person who has spent a lot of time on social networks this year - more time than ever before, thanks to this blog - one moment stayed with me. As Zuckerberg wrote his drunken blog post, calling his ex-girlfriend a bitch and comparing her to a farm animal, my friend K, sitting next to me, leaned across and whispered: "Do you think it will be this bad when our kids are older, or do you think it will get better?"

"Worse," I whispered back, fiercely. "Much worse."

I thought about what that ex-girlfriend's mum thought when she saw that blog post (I'm assuming she did). I thought about the wide, broad and many avenues for misadventure on the internet that await the unwary, the unknowing and the plain unlucky. Facebook may connect the world in a big, cool hug, but it also lays open lives.

Mark Zuckerberg is often quoted as saying 'the Age of Privacy is dead'. He said, in an interview with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington (January 2010), that Facebook's raft of security changes (which essentially made every user's information public unless they chose to follow a long list of instructions on how to make it private) were in response to what the company perceived as 'changing social norms'. In other words, we're all so comfortable sharing our lives online that we're happy to leave privacy behind for an open, public future.

I'm wondering if he feels the same now that an unauthorised, dramatised version of his own life has been played out on screen?

Don't you love a movie that makes you think?

Just to be social, I'm flogging my blog with Lori at RRSAHM this fine Friday. Pop over and join in!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Slashies are so hot right now

My boys have aspirations to be Slashies. Not in the Zoolander model-slash-actor-slash-DJ sense. More in the 'I want to be everything when I grow up' sense. Mr6 wants to be a "police guy and a scientist and a writer". I'm thinking Patricia Cornwall, you? Mr3 wants to be a police guy and a fire guy and an SES guy." A hero in other words.

When I was growing up, back in my Alice In Wonderland days, I wanted to be an actress. (They weren't cool 'actors' in those days, they still had that pesky 'tress' ending.) I had it all planned. I would be rich (naturally), famous (naturally) and beautiful (probably unnaturally given what I'm working with here). I wrote a memorable year 7 project that was all about a famous child actress who was accused in the tabloids of, gasp, forgetting her friends when her name went up in lights. I worked hard on that project. There was a message in a bottle in it, for God's sake.

The dream ended somewhere around about the end of high school, when I realised that actors spent a lot of time waiting tables. And that Nicole Kidman had kind of sewed up the 'redhead Australian superstar' market.

It never occurred to me that I might be a writer. Apart from that one brush with journalism work experience that saw me fleeing the industry, I never imagined myself making a living from words. I don't think that even my Dad's magical shed will ever unearth the full-length novel I wrote when I was eight. Probably because there isn't one.

I was listening to my boys discussing their career plans in the car this afternoon. They will work their police shifts together, in a car with a siren. Mr6 will drive, because he's the oldest. There was some consternation as to how Mr3 would fit in his fire guy duties, but Mr6 was confident that the writing/science aspect of his life would be easily accommodated at night.

"You write at night, don't you Mum? So I can too."

I looked at them in the backseat, skinny little arms and legs, eager expressions, big, hopeful eyes. "You can do anything you want," I replied.

Standard Mum answer, but the best answer, don't you think? It's what my Mum always told me.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Are you doing it?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

About that writing thing...

Technically, I should have written 15,000 words since I signed up to NaNoWriMo last Monday. However (you knew there was a however, didn't you?), I'm sitting at around 10,000. I was trucking along well until Friday night. Then, the weekend stole my NaNo mojo.

So how do I view this? Practically, I know I should be stoked that I have gone from being one-third of the way through my manuscript (remembering that I cheated a little and am not starting from scratch) to nearly halfway through. When you're talking about 90,000 words, anything from 40,000 upwards is 'nearly half' if you ask me. So that's a win.

On the other hand, I'm not at 15,000 words - which would take me from 'nearly halfway' to halfway-for-real. On Sunday night, I was feeling stressed about my lack of progress. Ironing my way through a pile of uniforms, I could feel the tension rising as I tried to work out how I could make up the shortfall. It had been a long day (the fete and all), I was tired and the prospect of sitting down to knock out 3000 words was not appealing. So there's a loss.

It was then that it hit me.  I'd written nearly 10,000 words in a week. My manuscript, which had been rolling around in my bottom drawer (metaphorically speaking) for months, is back in focus. I'm making progress. Another win.

So far today, I've managed only 500 words. I reckon I can eke out another 1000 before bed. It's not going to make me a NaNo Star. But it's 1500 words that I didn't have this morning.

It's a long and painful process, this novel-writing business. You have to take the wins where you can get them.

How are my NaNo friends travelling? Share your wins!

Monday, November 8, 2010

An arresting experience

Another day, another preschool excursion. Following on from our marathon trip to the art gallery last term, today Mr3 and I attended the local police station. He was there to see a police motorbike. I was there to see him.

You would think I might have learned from our last adventure together. But no. He looked at me with his big blue eyes and his most endearing expression (I admit, he does endearing very well) and said, 'You are coming with me, aren't you mama?'. Is there a person in the world who could say no to that? Not in the Fibro there isn't.

Also, the art gallery trip wasn't the total wash I'd expected. Despite my worst fears that I'd lost four hours of my life to an experience that he would forget within five minutes, there has been arty progress. Within weeks, he'd decided he wanted an 'art gallery' in his bedroom, and so an array of his works was artfully blue-tacked to the wall, alongside some special commissions by Mr6. "I can't draw fire engines yet," Mr3 reported. "So my brother is going to do them for me."

He takes great pride in calling Mr6 his 'bruvver', and even greater pride in the triptych of 'Fire Engines in Red and Blue' that Mr6 created.

But I digress. Today was about sirens of a different kind. Once again there were 20 preschoolers and a long, arduous walk involved. This time, we had perky Officer Gina to escort us. The boys were all very admiring of her belt, with its gun/radio/handcuffs accessories.

We all Stopped, Looked and Listened at every corner, practising our road safety. We got two blocks into the walk before both my little charges - Mr3 and his friend The King - started wondering if they could just stop thanks. By the time we got there, nobody was ready to look or listen. They just wanted to lie down in the shade.

But there was business to be done. We checked out a couple of offices, watching policemen in uniform complete paper work and looking like they'd much rather be elsewhere. We saw the safe where the guns go at night - but not the actual guns. We couldn't see the jail, because, as Officer Gina explained, there was a baddie in there. I'll be calling Officer Gina tonight at 2am when Mr3 wakes up with a 'scary dream'.

The highlight of the visit, apart from a showbag full of stickers, tattoos and a colouring book, was an inspection of a police car, complete with flashing lights and very loud siren. Mr3 would not get in. He was still looking for the motorbike.

We walked back the six blocks in the hot sun (the only hot sun we've seen for a week, I might add). Actually, I walked back carrying Mr3, who insisted there was something in his shoe, despite several checks that proved the only thing in there was his foot. When I left him to go to work, he was lying on the rug, shoes off, under a fan, with a damp cloth on his face. Do we call that a successful outing?

Tonight as I tucked him in, he suddenly threw his little arms around my neck. "Thanks for sharing my scursion," he said, with a sigh and that endearing expression.

It was my pleasure.

{image: toys1.co.uk}

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fete accompli

Today was School Fete Day.

(Thank you for your kind wishes, I'm fine.)

Among the many notes that come home from school, cunningly disguised on different coloured pieces of paper in an effort to make them Stand Out! and Look Fun!, the one that announces the impending fete could well be the most shocking. For you know that soon there will be raffle tickets to sell, trash'n'treasure to sort, baskets to fill, hampers to contribute to, and a deluge of rainbow-coloured notes to be endured.

But it's all over now.

Being the good P&F member that I am, I was helping to man a stall today. The book stall. My natural habitat. I was not in charge. I made sure of that. But I was there, sorting the books into $5, $2 and $1 sections. Doing the mental arithmetic (I've still got it!). Wondering about the kinds of books that people offload...

There was a lot of Maeve Binchy this year. Has she gone out of fashion? I love a bit of Maeve. Soft, gentle stories well told. There was what looked like someone's entire Andy McNab collection. Surely the SAS never goes out of fashion? Jeffrey Deaver's shiny byline was blinding in its prevalence, as was Lee Childs's Jack Reacher novels. Someone else decided it was finally time to offload the Virginia Andrews back catalogue.

"I haven't seen these since I was 15," I remarked to my co-worker.

"Looks like these have been in someone's cupboard since then," she said, picking up the tattered copy of Flowers in the Attic, which immediately fell open to a well-worn section. We looked at each other and hurriedly returned it to the display.

I had taken the opportunity to clear out a few shelves in the Fibro. Which led to the bizarre situation where my Mum came past, picked up a book that had been on my shelf, and then had to pay $2 to buy it. I know. I can't quite believe I charged my own mother to buy my recently-owned book either. But I felt trapped - it was on the table, it had been donated, there was an audience and, besides, it's a fund-raiser, right?

No, I won't be living it down in a hurry.

Of course, it was the books that didn't make the table that were the subject of much discussion. It's a Catholic primary school, so you'd expect the three or four copies of the New Testament, as well as the slew of school readers that mysteriously find their way back to school as 'donations'. But a copy of 365 ways to drive a man wild in bed? It's not so much that someone would have it - there's many a spicy, diverse sex life happening behind closed doors. But to donate it to the school fete? What exactly are you saying with that gesture? You've given up? You don't need it any more? There's plenty more where that came from? You're happy with just the one wild way, thanks?

All in all, the volunteer team agreed later over a beer at the pub, it was a good day. Teachers got dunked, there was the usual melee at the jumping castle, the kids all came home with other kids' cast-off toys (Mr3 is now the proud owner of a large, plastic motorcycle of indeterminate use, bought for a bargain price), and there were enough trestle tables to go around (unheard of in the history of fetes in general). I even picked up some cool, handmade bunting for $5 - perhaps not as cute as the cake bunting from KikiLaRu in the image, but still...

We can all breathe a sigh of relief and stop ducking the coloured notes. Til next year.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Second-chance Saturday

Sister B (Maxabella to those who have met her) tells me that my linky idea is a good one, but I have no idea about marketing. Oldie-but-goodie - as last week's debut linky was named - is, apparently, old hat. Not cute. So I need to come up with something that will look good on a button.

Any suggestions gratefully accepted.

In the meantime, I suggest we press on. The idea is that you dust off one of your fabulous early posts. One that you love but that didn't get the attention it deserved due to the relative unknown-ness (new word, I just invented it) of your stellar blog. The rules are simple: follow the Fibro if you're not already a friend, link up and share some comment love with your fellow linkyers (also a new word - how do you like it so far?).

What are you waiting for? World's easiest linky. You've already written the post, so simply dust it off and let that senior citizen shine.

My post this week is all about Cruising. Yep, Fam Fibro went on a cruise, almost a year to this day. How did it go? Read on to find out. And then link up below.

{image: photoxpress}

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wild about Harry

Mr6 and I are reading Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone together. Last year, I read it to him. He loved it. Could recount every detail. Then someone from school lent him the DVD. I warned him he wouldn't like it. This is a kid who has nightmares at the slightest provocation. Somehow I felt that Voldemort was large provocation. But he was not to be dissuaded.

So I let him watch it. With these words ringing in his ears: "I will let you watch this so that next time I tell you that you are too young for a movie you will believe me."

Five nights of waking up screaming later, he believed me. "I thought Fluffy was soft and purple," he said of the three-headed doberman depicted in the film.

"I wish you still did," I answered.

The unfortunate side-effect was that he wouldn't even read the second book with me. We'd begun it, he was enjoying it. Post-movie, it was pushed so far to the back of the book shelf that we have yet to find it again.

No-one was more surprised than me when he bought out the first book again last week. "Let's read this," he said. "I've forgotten what happens."

This time, we're taking it in turns to read. I love Harry Potter. I do. I read them all before I even had children. They're just fun. A rollicking good read. Say what you like about J.K Rowling's literary prowess, the woman knows how to write a great story.

So far, so good. No sign of nightmares or even unsettled dreams. Then again, no sign of Fluffy yet, and only the slightest mention of He Who Shall Not Be Named. I have my fingers crossed we'll get to the end and he'll want to go on to Book Two.

Then we'll just have to find it...

Speaking of reading, don't miss your weekly dose of quality blogs at Lori's Flog Yo Blog Friday.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Don't bother me, I'm bathing

If you believe the media, the bath is the last retreat for mothers. Tired? Have a bath. Stressed? Have a bath. Kids driving you mad? Have a bath. Housework getting you down? Have a bath. Having trouble juggling work/home/family/life? Have a bath. There is nothing, it seems, that cannot be cured by closing the door and pouring an essential oil upon troubled waters.

Bath humbug.

I like a bath. I do. I'm just out of one right now. No essential oils - the best we stretch to in the Fibro at present is the one-litre economy-sized Space Bubbles mix. Lots of bubbles. Kid friendly. Smells like bath water. Still, it's not like I didn't make an effort. But I do have one bone to pick with the 'a bath will solve all your troubles' brigade.

Bath toys.

How is a mother supposed to relax in her bathing sanctuary when she is sharing head-room with a small flotilla of dank boats? How is she supposed to light a candle and lie back and think of nothing (and we all know I'm not that great at that bit anyway), when there is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figure poised to leap down on her from the tap? How, oh how, is she supposed to get into the whole relaxation mode when she has to clear four aeroplanes, a Batman figure, three cups of assorted sizes, a couple of bubble blowers, a water pistol or two, Ben 10's skateboard and a plastic syringe from the bath before she can fill it?

Everything but the duck.

We have tried many methods of corralling the bath toys. We have strung them up in a net affixed with suction cups. Not enough suction. We have stashed them in plastic boxes, from which they quickly escape. We have culled and re-culled and culled again. Still they breed.

So, yes, here I am, fresh from my bath. Am I relaxed? Am I feeling ready to juggle the work/home/family/life conundrum? No. I am too tired from juggling bath toys.

PS: How cute is this image? It's from barkingbirdart's etsy store, a limited-edition print. Love it!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Decisions, decisions, decisions

Driving home from the dentist yesterday, it struck me how many decisions we have to make every day. Think about it. Actually, don't, it will do your head in, as I discovered driving home from the dentist yesterday.

Anyway, I made a late decision yesterday to sign up for NaNoWriMo. If you don't know about it, it's National Novel Writing Month, a US-based initiative that encourages would-be writers to put their words where their mouths are and crank out a 50,000-word manuscript in 30 days. As of today, 156,415 people had signed up.

It's not easy. I tried it about three years ago and failed miserably. However, I got down 15,000 words of what became my first full-length novel (future of which still to be decided).

This time, I'm breaking the rules a little and using it to break the back of my current work in progress. I just love the daily counting. Watching the total go up. The little graph that charts your progress. I promise not to claim a prize if I actually get to 50,000 new words this time. The prize will be finishing the damn book (we've talked about this before).

So far I'm on target. Then again, it's only day two... With any luck, I'll have a complete first draft (or thereabouts) by November 30. Then the real work can begin.

Are you doing NaNo this year? Excited? Have you made any big decisions lately?

{image: cuffcraft/etsy}

Monday, November 1, 2010

Suburban nightmare

What is it about dentists that strike fear into the hearts of ordinary folk? For the most part, those dentists I've met seem nice enough people. Clean living. Smiley. A little buttoned-up in their neat white shirts, but who'd want a dentist with sloppy personal style?

And yet, the very sight of their hygienically decorated rooms is enough to make us quake in our boots. Or maybe it's just me?

I spent the morning in the dentist's chair. Toes clenched. Arms folded tightly across my chest as he instructed me to move my jaw in the opposite direction to my face. Mouth held in the 'Scream' position. Jaw aching. Skull reverberating with the high whine of that eerily pitched drill.

Two broken fillings. Not one. But two. Somebody doesn't like me.

But, you know what, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Either dentistry has moved on substantially in the 15 years since my last filling, or I have. I used to have my fillings done without needles because I was more afraid of the needle than the drill. Now I wonder what the hell I was thinking.

Perhaps it's because I have to set a good example these days. The boys attended my last check-up with me. Mr3 excited by the up-and-down chair. Mr6 with anxiety set of screechingly High. For them I had to pretend that having two fillings replaced was a breeze. Somehow it's easier to be brave for someone else.

They didn't attend today's event. A good thing, too. I wouldn't have wanted to keep smiling in the face of that drill. It would be hard to hold the 'scream' position and smile at the same time.

Imagine it.

I'd never get them back there. When, really, it's not so bad.

Although, everything's always better when it's over, now isn't it?

{image: graphicspaces/etsy}
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