Sunday, May 30, 2010

It's true - cows do moo

Farmers Farm…and Cows Do Moo. It sounds like a children’s picture book title, but is, in fact, the name of a handbook put out by Byron Bay council to introduce Seachangers to the realities of life in the North Coast NSW town.

Byron is a beautiful place, with perfect beaches, a chic-bohemian vibe, and a serious ‘culture shock’ problem thanks to its popularity with refugees from the Big Smoke. According to an article by Carolyn Boyd in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald (Domain), Seachangers complain to council that farmers are starting their tractors at 5am and their cows moo too loudly.


People move there thinking it will be just like the city, only smaller and with more opportunities to wear a bikini to dinner. They build enormous houses next to the neighbours’ simple fibros and wonder why they don’t get invited around for barbies. And, according to the article they don’t volunteer.

Small towns run on volunteers. Simple economics show that the fewer people you have paying rates, the fewer services you have. Leaving gaps that need to be filled. The streets of Fibrotown, for instance, are full of cars marked ‘volunteer driver’, ferrying members of the ageing population to their various appointments around town – and making up for the fact that there is little public transport in the area.

Currently filling page after page of the Fibrotown local paper is the ongoing debate about whether or not we should have two bins (waste, recycling) or three (waste, recycling, green waste). When I say ongoing, I mean about three months ongoing. Never in the history of the world has so much been said about litter. The trouble is that much of our area is given over to holiday houses, which sit empty most days of the year. Garbage trucks are still required to visit them weekly, however, covering a huge area. It’s a big expense. Do they really need to go three times a week? (Feel free to express your thoughts in the comments sections and I’ll pass them on to Council – or write a letter to the paper, to make it even more fun.)

Moving out of a big city is a big change. You can’t underestimate how much you will miss fresh Lebanese bread, or prosciutto from Norton Street Deli, or lamb souvlaki from Victoria Yeeros, or … must stop or I’ll be here all night. But there are other pleasures.

Last night The Builder and I frocked up (he looked ravishing) and attended a black tie event at the local Literary Institute Hall. Which sounds much posher than it is. To set the scene, one of my friends arrived in wellie boots so as not to sink knee deep in mud. It’s a little old hall, chock full of history (and, last night, inexplicably, pumpkins) and the event was a fundraiser to help with its upkeep. It was a rollicking good night, put on by a bunch of – wait for it – volunteers. Like a genteel B&S.

We moved here knowing that we were leaving our comfort zone and would need to actively search out new friends, new groups, new experiences. It’s not always easy – cleaning the house for every new person who visits, for instance, is tedious – but it keeps things interesting.

Fortunately, we’re just far enough away from the fields that those pesky cows don’t bother us.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What did you talk about this week?

It’s that time of the week when I share some of the wide variety of topics of conversation that came up through work or play in the course of life in a pink fibro.

Sparkling eyes, cheeky smiles, wonky stitches, Rioja, car insurance, new cars, Alla Hoo Hoo (yes, she's back), Sam Moran, scrapbooking, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Lovely Bones, guitar practice, physiotherapy, The World's Biggest Morning Tea, grant applications, pay TV, The Fantastic Mr Fox, chocolate slice, proposals, manuscripts, revisions, waiting, kicking, punching, jumping on the sofa, fundraising, Steiner, home schooling, slow cookers, garbage removal, celebrity profiles, dentistry, birthday presents, accessories, jobs of the future, blogging, firemen, and the importance of sticking with the footy tipping competition even if things look bleak.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sam's the man to take Julie's crown

Sam Moran is the man. When I saw him singing the National Anthem at tonight’s State of Origin, I thought ‘finally, a contender’. To the crown. Julie Anthony’s crown, that is.

When I was growing up, Julie Anthony was Australia’s anthem singer. No matter what the occasion, no matter what the crowd, she’d be there. She knew the rules – you sing it straight, you sing it loud, you allow enough time between notes for the people in the cheap seats to catch up.

Somewhere around about the time that Gen X realised that the idea of ‘jobs for life’ was no longer viable, singing the anthem went from being an honour to being a ‘marketing opportunity’. And so began a long and varied parade of ‘personalities’ giving us their version of what is, essentially, a not very exciting song. Important, but not that exciting.

The ones I particularly dislike are the vocal gymnasts, more interested in showing us what they ‘got’ than delivering the song. And you often get the impression that they couldn’t launch into the second verse if, by some strange twist of fate, an encore was demanded.

Julie wasn’t like that. She could have sung that song backwards, sideways and upside down, through as many choruses as there are (only two officially now, though it began life with four). She knew the original version (‘Australian sons etc’) as well as the current, more inclusive version (‘Australians all etc’).

And now we have Sam. As the lead singer of The Wiggles, Sam knows how to deliver a tune to a packed, squirming stadium. He knows that his audience wants to sing along, not be sung at. He knows that a fast game is a good game, and his audience suffers from the modern syndrome known as ‘Short Attention Span’.

He and Julie have a lot in common. The same ringing, bell-like tone to the voice (though his is admittedly considerably deeper). The dark hair. The serious expression softened with a smile. He’s even promoting a grown-up album of love songs, a genre which Julie made her own.

The decisive point, however, is the fact that both work/ed with large, green faux animals, albeit one a dragon and one a dinosaur. (I just don’t know that Julie married hers.)

I fully expect to see him wheeled out again in the near future to claim his crown.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

One for the scrapbook

Would it trouble you to know that I once attempted scrapbooking? I was trawling the internet this evening, researching a story and all, when I came across a scrapbooking site (it was relevant, I promise). And it all came back.

I have a secret stash of scrapbooking materials, shoved into the back of a dark corner of the garage. I even completed two pages. Two. Whole. Pages.

To set the scene, my foray into this decorative world began not long after the birth of Mr6 (I can feel you nodding now, muttering about hormones). I was so enamoured of the beauty of my creation (being Mr6 himself) and the 4672 photographs that I had taken of him (in the first three months) that I wanted to do something with them. Digital photography has a lot to answer for if you ask me.

A girl in my Mothers’ Group introduced me to the notion of scrapbooking. What can I say? It seemed like a good idea at the time. So I went out – and a time when getting out the door was a major feat – and bought the stuff. Pages and pages of pretty paper. Stickers. Cut-out thingies. Ruler thingies. Badges that said stuff like ‘baby’. Tags that spelt out ‘little man’. Decals.

I know. What exactly did I think I was going to do with it all?

To be fair, I began. I made the aforementioned two pages. Between breastfeeding, not sleeping, working (oh yes, I forgot to mention that, as a freelancer, I just kept on writing), changing nappies. Etc. And I realised something that my hormone-drenched mind would have known pre-hormones. I have no patience for that sort of thing.


Not only that, but visually-speaking, I’m, um, in need of guidance. The only subject I ever well-and-truly failed at school was Art. F. Not even maths came close to that. My major work in year 10 (my last Art class ever) was a half-finished painting of some rocks that looked like Medusa’s hair (I was supposed to ‘shade it in’ but, you know, was expressing my creative right, um, not to) and some pencil drawings of ‘surreal’ stuff, in the Dali style, which were really just 'so awful'.

On the other hand, I did very well in the Art Essay section. Which says it all.

I confess that the sight of the finished pages on the scrapbooking site did bring on a pang. It looks great when done well. But I didn’t linger long and didn’t dash to the cupboard to pull out my own ‘stuff’.

Some sleeping hormones are best left undisturbed.

{image: MummyScraps}

Monday, May 24, 2010

Trigger points and therapy

Today was my first physio session after the car accident. Can I just say ‘ouch’? I would say more than that, but then my blog would find itself slapped with an R rating for violence (of swearing), language and adult concepts (I should put it where?).

In short, while I am fine, I am hurting. Muscles that are supposed to just quietly go about their business holding me upright and allowing me to type (and be appalling at tennis) were rudely flung into a parallel universe – and they are protesting.

This is not a pity party (though feel free to share your concern about my wellbeing in the comments section). I repeat, I am fine, and I’m well aware that there are many people in the world much worse off than me. But being in pain has focussed my thoughts. With pin point accuracy.

My physio used ‘trigger point’ therapy on me today. What that showed me was that a muscle hurting down around my ribs can refer pain to my ears. Yes, my ears. The outside of my ears.

Ears don’t hurt. They just sit on the side of your head – never considered unless they’re too big and you spend your entire life making sure your hair covers them. Until today. When something hurts, it’s incredibly difficult to think about anything else but how much it hurts.

I know that there are people who live with chronic pain every day. They get through their lives with their ears (or equivalent) hurting. I never realised how much that underlying soreness drains your energy. It’s not just that you hurt, it’s that you hurt and you want to be lying in a darkened room. Eyes closed. In peace.

As opposed to playing Lego in a room full of people with the TV on.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve hurt before. But you know how it is with pain – as soon as it’s over, you can’t remember what it felt like. And while you’ve got it, you think it will never end. Just ask any mum to describe childbirth. She can’t. Not really.

The good news is that this too shall pass. I have more physio (aka torture) sessions to endure, but at some point my neck muscles will stop feeling that they gave to grip as tightly as a baby koala. At which point, I shall resume my tennis career.

You have been warned.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

All about books: Going cuckoo with the Classics

If I were at school right now, I’d be failing English. I set myself a goal this year to read more classics. I started well with Cold Comfort Farm, but have gone steadily downhill since then. I got two chapters in with Love In a Cold Climate, before being distracted by a Scandinavian crime novel.

Then I watched The Wire and decided that The Great Gatsby might be the go. D’Angelo Barksdale had very good things to say about it during his brief time in prison. I managed half of that. Before being distracted by a cheap American thriller.

So far I’d have one A and two Fs for not finishing the book. (Mind you, I could probably still write you a pass essay on both of those novels, without ever finishing the book. I am sure I am not the first person to have done that during their academic career. A handful of quotes, some decent notes in class and, hey presto, move on to the next one. Though if my mother is reading this, I never actually tested this premise.)

I’m not sure why I’m struggling so much with this challenge. These are Good Books. They have been Good Books by Great Writers for many years and will no doubt remain so. Penguin thinks they’re good enough to warrant the orange-and-white cover.

And yet I’d rather read crime fiction.

I know why I’m so addicted to crime. I love a good conclusion. All the loose ends tied, the questions answered, the problem solved and wrapped in a bow. Even the gore doesn’t bother me. Me, who closes her eyes during RPA to avoid any sight of a knee operation, reads lengthy descriptions of decaying bodies and insect activity (crucial to the time line) without batting an eye. Because I can be certain that it will all work out in the end. If only life were so accommodating.

The Great Gatsby offers no such promise. This is the third or fourth time I have started this book and not so much given up, but faded away. I know Gatsby wants something he can’t have. So do I. I want to finish the book.

Demoralised by my inability to read Good Books, I have come up with a cunning plan for my next foray. My lovely guitar teacher B is doing One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at school (year 11) and has asked me to help her with her assignments. I said yes (despite misgivings about just how much help I will be), and in a show of leadership and grown-up-edness, I have begun to read the book.

I am four pages in. Last time I tried this book I got halfway through. I’m aiming higher this time. I need to be able to talk knowledgeably about the nature of the individual and the beauty of Nurse Ratched’s name in two weeks time.

Now all we have to hope is that a must-read Scandinavian crime novel doesn’t hit the shelves in the meantime.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What did you talk about this week?

It’s that time of the week when I share some of the wide variety of topics of conversation that came up through work or play in the course of life in a pink fibro.

Life, death, The Rolling Stones, how a song can conjure up a memory in an instant, car insurance, Camry drivers vs the rest of the world, Kerry O'Brien, why driving a Ministerial Car can be a trap for young players, The Lovely Bones, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, O magazine, guitar practice, physiotherapy, pocket money, party plan, Intimo, Robin Hood, Bear Grylls, acupuncture, waiting, push-ups (how to do them), community grants, playgrounds, an extra day at preschool, waiting, Irish stew, Lego missions, feistiness, Me & Bobby McGee, regrets, birthday presents, DVDs, firemen, policemen, paramedics... and how lovely it is when the leaves on the trees move in the wind (thank you Mr3).

What came up at your place this week?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Waiting + Writing = same/same

I have decided that I will no longer refer to myself as a writer. I am now a waiter. Not in the sense of delivering dishes to your table, hot and without finger marks in the gravy. Rather in the sense of waiting by the mailbox. Or the inbox, as is mostly the case.

I know that waiting time is writing time. All good writers send off submissions – manuscripts, proposals, pitches, library membership application forms – and then promptly forget about them, throwing themselves immediately into their next project.

I try. I really do.

But I’m an impatient kind of a girl. I can’t help checking my inbox daily – okay, several thousand times a day. I can’t help wondering – aloud and ad nauseum. And I find it really, really hard to concentrate on other things. Like… well, anything really.

It’s bad enough when you’re waiting for one thing. When your knickers are in a knot over several things at once – as mine are at present – it makes it really hard to walk. Not with any elegance, anyway.

I’m lucky. I have good friends who are excellent writers and they talk me down from the ceiling on a regular basis. Be patient, they advise. Keep busy, they suggest. Don’t call, they insist.

So I don’t. Instead, I spend my time devising the writer’s rules for waiting.

  1. That all-important email is not stuck in cyberspace. So it does not matter how many times you click ‘get mail’. Desist. You do not need RSI at this point in your career.
  2. Everything will happen at once. So be ready.

That’s it. Waiting is very debilitating. See how it’s draining my inspiration. When you can’t even write a 10-point list, you know you’re in trouble.

I’m not alone, I know. Everyone is waiting for something. Godot, for example. But waiting, like writing, is a lonely business, full of self-doubt and insecurity.

On the other hand, it’s a whole lot better than rejection.

But that’s a subject for another day. Probably the day my waiting ends.

Which is, apparently, never. Sigh.

{image: Daphne Brissonet}

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Searching for Truly Comprehensive Insurance

A short post today. The adrenaline has finally worn off from Friday and I’ve run out of puff. Good stuff that adrenaline. Has some kick to it.

The Builder and I are searching for a new car. We are both thinking that it’s time that insurance companies offered Truly Comprehensive Insurance (TCI). Under a TCI policy, the company would find you another car, to your specifications, and have it delivered to your door. With a driver. Without TCI, you’re left dazed and confused, with no car, no clear idea of what you’re going to buy and no real time in which to do it.

The trouble is that one car looks much like another. Strip away the advertising and you’re left with a basically grey interior, steering wheel, gear stick, brake and accelerator. Even the exterior colours seem to come down to white, silver or that weird goldy brown colour that looks faded by the sun.

The World’s Most Boring Car is starting to look good by comparison. May it rest in peace.

The worst part is that we’ll have another car to name. Just last week we had to confess to Mr6 that he has the kind of parents who name their cars. Mr3 thought it perfectly normal – he still inhabits a world where vehicles are called Scoop, Muck, Dizzy and Roary. Mr6 was less sure. Already he’s crossing over into the real world, where the stuff his parents do is bound and destined to embarrass him at some point.

Cars named Victor, Harry and Kit fall into this category. Kit, with its KnightRider overtones, is particularly good, I think.

But I reckon we can do even better with the next one. We'll dig deep to that place from whence celebrities draw their children's names and come up with a cracker. I don't see The Builder going for Apple (the [insert boring family sedan of your choice]) but Suri might work. Cruising, Suri... Oh dear. Maybe not. Mr6 is right to be very, very afraid.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The letter of the day: V

Today I did something I haven’t done in a very long time. And, no, it wasn’t housework (though this could have been a contender). It wasn’t even writing fiction – though it should have been. No, this was all together more outrageous.

I read Vogue Australia.

Once upon a time, I read Vogue for a living. As Chief Sub, it was my job to read every word, every month, three or four times. To caption each picture, from the outside in, top to bottom. To know that Cameron Diaz was a girl (it was early in her career), that Lycra needed a TM symbol, that Collette Dinnigan was a 2-Ls, 2-Ts, 3-Ns kind of girl.

Those who know me well still wonder aloud how I ever found myself at Vogue. I wonder it myself. For a person whose sense of fashion stretches to basics and not much else, it was an education. Getting dressed every day was, I confess, a chore. Until I realised that everyone in the place had their own signature style. American Prep, Upmarket Goth, Chanel, 1960s Racer Girl, et al. Mine would be Basic. I took it, I owned it, I rocked it as best I could – not easy when you’re 25 with no cash and you’re getting dressed hungover most mornings.

I loved working at Vogue. We worked long hours but it was a lot of fun. How could it be anything else?

My focus was all on the words. The Fashion Office was a hallowed hall of gorgeousness, where I’d venture only occasionally to find someone to please give me caption information for the 10-page shoot due to go to press that night. It takes only five minutes on a magazine like that for some of the ‘glamour’ of working in fashion to fall away. Fashion assistants put in longer hours than CEOs and get out of bed for a lot less than $10,000 a day.

That said, working at Vogue puts you in a strange headspace. You think nothing of spending $500 on a pair of shoes when you earn half of that each week. You find yourself talking in the singular – The Pant, The Shoe, The Eye. The only place you really run into problems with that kind of thing is when you come to The Jean. It just doesn’t work. Jeans work only in pairs.

Flicking through today, I notice that some things have changed. Even shoes comes in pairs now. But much hasn’t. It’s still a magazine full of improbable clothes (of incredible expense) modelled by amazing looking women. The ‘real-life’ pages still feature tousled, honey-skinned beauties with immaculate pedigrees who do fabulous things and buy lots of shoes. Between lavish spreads of full-page photographs are type-heavy pages of well-written features, as well as those itsy-bitsy pages so beloved of designers the world over.

The Builder bought me the Vogue to take my mind off last Friday. It worked. For pure escapism, you can’t beat it. As a memory trip, it brought a smile to my face. And I’m left with a genuine desire to buy something that is not a black, long-sleeved T-shirt.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Emergencies: more fun in cartoons

Ever found yourself the centre of attention and wondered how you got there? On Friday, I had the surreal experience of being the (uninvited) guest of not one, not two, not three, but four of our stupendous emergency services teams. The most flashing lights I’ve seen since my last Blue Light Disco in 1986 – and enough to last me the rest of my life, thank you very much.

My out-of-body experience began with a bang – literally – when a simple trip to take Mr3 to gymnastics ended suddenly about one block from home. On my own street. Another driver failed to give way at the Give Way and drove into the side of the Camry. The world’s most boring car now has serious personality, courtesy of a custom body rework.

People say that when you are in a car accident time slows down. I didn’t find this to be the case. Instead, I felt like I did when I was 15 and got on to the Cha Cha at the local show – horribly out of control and wondering when it was going to end. My life didn’t flash before my eyes. Possibly because I was too busy screaming and swearing to take any notice. I felt the car hit the gutter, heard Mr3 cry out in alarm, found myself facing back the way I’d come, hands gripping the steering wheel (like that was going to help).

Then it was silent. I calmly reached forward to turn off the engine, reached backward to grip Mr3’s little striped gumboot, and breathed in and out to make sure I still could. I’d bumped my head, my neck was aching, I was crying without emotion and shaking all over.

“Are you all right, Mummy?” came a small voice from the back.

Deep breath. Stay calm. If you are calm, he will be calm. Funny how your thoughts work.

“I’m okay, sweetie. Are you okay?” I found it difficult to twist around to see him, but needed to see him. He was all tucked up in his Australian Safety Standard car seat, unruffled and bemused. Thank God for those car seats, is all I have to say. Car seats and seatbelts.

“I’m all right, Mummy,” he said. “That was a big bang, wasn’t it?”

What could I do but laugh?

The next hour was full of flashing lights. The lovely people who came to our aid in the first place were unable to open my car door. When they rang Triple O, they reported this fact. Hence the incredible response we got. Our quiet little street became a sea of flashing lights and concerned faces.

The police were there. The fire department rolled in. The emergency rescue crew arrived with their jaws of life. The ambulance turned up. Even the tow truck had orange flashing lights. It was little boy heaven and Mr3 was thrilled when a kind policeman took him on a tour of all the vehicles while he waited for his mummy to be broken free of the car.

I went to hospital in a neck collar. A precaution. I spent a few hours there in the neck collar. Very uncomfortable. They cut my favourite jacket up so they could xray me whilst wearing the neck collar. Very disappointing.

But I’m fine. Sore and sorry, but fine. I knew I was fine. When a nice lady came out of her house to keep me company while we awaited the emergency services, I said “Hello, nice to meet you.” If you still have manners, you can’t imagine there can be too much wrong.

I have ‘what if?’ moments. What if I’d been going faster? What if he’d been going faster? What if something had happened to my precious little boy? But I push those way down.

As my mum says, it is what it is.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bloggers without Make-up...and other conversations

It’s that time of the week when I share some of the wide variety of topics of conversation that came up through work or play in the course of life in a pink fibro.

Bloggers Without Make-up (hence pic, which is more Bloggers With Large Noses, but there you have it), UK election, KRudd vs Kerry O'Brien, why people who have been in politics five minutes get stupendous pensions for ever and ever (I'd really like an answer to this), The Great Gatsby, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, moving cupboards, growing seedlings, guitar practice, lady toys, blog layouts, doing business in the bush, Enjo, Avon, party plan, Robin Hood, agency agreements, marketing, waiting, Little Ninjas uniforms, community grants, National Walk to School Day (last week), National Families Week (next week), Julia Gillard, vegetable soup, Lego minifigures, discipline, feistiness, starting a small business, SEO, birthday presents, moisturising cream, Huggies... and when I'm going to get back to work on my 'next' book.

What came up at your place this week?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Staying inside The Wire

It’s rare for me to become obsessed by a television show. Mostly because I work at night so I don’t watch a lot of television. I had a brief flirtation with Survivor (I know!) last season because I was fascinated by the machinations of Evil Russell, and I became hooked on the last MasterChef as well, drawn in by that impossible croquembouche and then unable to leave.

It usually takes a while to get me in. I’ve tried this season of MasterChef but there are simply too many names and faces to care about any of them. I’ll wait til they’re down to a manageable eight or so.

With Grey’s Anatomy, I managed a few episodes before Meredith’s whining drove me screaming from the room. Not even McDreamy was enough to keep me there. Ditto on Desperate Housewives after one season. They drove me nuts.

But all that’s over now. I have found TV nirvana. In fact, I just spent a considerable part of my evening online searching for series four on DVD. Series four. We haven’t even finished series three yet. Now is that commitment or what?

But HBO's The Wire deserves commitment. I know I’m late to this, but…I was busy. Then I watched the first episode (on DVD) and was hooked, even though I could have done with subtitles for the street slang, and found all the low, rumbly male voices a bit hard to hear. My ear is now tuned. I’ve got the street talk down pat, the names straight and the storyline ensconced in my head. The Builder and I have ‘dates’ on the couch, rationing our allowance of episodes per week to two or three, just to make it last.

Part of me wants to send the kids to my parents for the weekend and watch all five series back to back in a marathon session. But then it will be over. They only made five series. I’m dreading getting to the end. So I’m happy to ration.

I seriously haven’t been this excited by television since I watched The Kids from 47A with my sisters in our house in Alice Springs in the 1970s. We only got the ABC, so there was nothing else to watch. But we loved it anyway, bouncing up and down in excitement when we heard the opening bars of the theme song.

These days, I only bounce on the inside, but I have that same sense of anticipation with The Wire. It’s smart, satisfying television, with amazing scripts and actors who look like actual people, not ‘actors’.

It will be a sad day in the Fibro when we get to the end. You feel me?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A blog about Not Much

Not much happened today. It was one of Those Days. Which made me think about how many Not Much Days we have in our lives. You know the ones. You get up, you get dressed, you go out, you come home, you go out (if you have kids), you come home, you eat dinner, you watch TV, you go to bed.

People who jump out of planes would say that this was not living. That the only thing that makes you realised how alive you are is to try to kill yourself. I don’t agree. The living is in the detail. The daily stuff is life. The Not Much days.

Mr6 has a lot of Not Much Days at school. Every time I ask him what he did that day, he says Not Much. If he doesn’t say that, he says Nothing. Which makes me wonder why I bother sending him to school. He could do that stuff at home.

I don’t mind Not Much Days. Particularly when they follow busy weekends and busy Mondays. Mr3 loves them. He lolls about on the sofa, occasionally rousing himself to go for a quick zoom around the deck in his Little Tykes police car.

Of course, when you think about them closely, Not Much Days still involve quite a lot. Walking to and from school, a bit of shopping, a chat here, some cleaning there, reading a magazine, watering the garden, writing a blog post, planning a story, pitching a story, cheering when pitch is accepted, checking emails, writing two parties on the calendar, taping a $20 note back together (don’t ask)…and that was all before lunch.

Like I said, the living's in the details.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Starting afresh

While autumn is not generally a time associated with new life, I’m focussed on green. Leaves from the Liquid Amber next door are falling softly, blanketing the ground in next season’s compost. The Japanese Maple, also next door though I try to pretend it’s on my side of the fence, is a dome of fiery red. My Japanese Maple, about knee-high to a grasshopper and looking as though it wished it lived next door, is shrivelling quietly, the edges of its tiny leaves crisping up to brown.

But I’m not looking at all that show-off stuff.

Mr3 and I spent a day in the garden last week. We ripped out the last of the summer basil, carefully stripping off every useable leaf to make into pesto. We uprooted the capsicum shrubs, so leafy, so green, so fruitless for so long. The two shallots that survived were dispatched to the compost bin. We dug and weeded, weeded and dug.

We had seedlings to plant.

When you’re planting seedlings with a three-year-old you need two things: a good supply of little tools (because he’ll want whatever you’re using) and a sharp eye. Two rows of spinach went in without incident. Two rows of cauliflower – at the other end of the bed – were also planted with no fuss. Once we got to the middle, however…well, that was a different story.

When you’re three, the best place to be when you’re gardening is in the garden bed. And while you’re okay with keeping a weather eye on the plants in front of you, you’re not so on the ball with the ones under your feet. Or your bottom, as the case may be.

A row of lettuces, a row of shallots, a row of celery – all flattened twice by a person who looks small on the outside of the garden bed, and like Ian Thorpe, all size 14 feet, on the inside of it.

But we did it. One garden bed, all neatly planted out. We go out and check them every day, and he’s practising watering them softly – “like rain, Mummy”. He removes the snails, placing them carefully on the other side of the garden (from where I hope it will take them at least a week to return). And we both watch, anxiously, to see if they’ll survive the slug onslaught that’s bound to occur any day now.

If all goes to plan, we have the makings of a fine vegetable soup in that garden. If it doesn’t, there’s always rhubarb.

{image: Burgon and Ball}

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mothers’ Day – much like motherhood

How was your Mothers’ Day? I’m in a reflective mood about mine, mostly because it didn’t quite go as I’d imagined. Then I realised that I shouldn’t expect anything else. Motherhood never quite goes as you’d imagine.

It started well. We woke too early, in a strange place, after listening to screaming and yelling for much of the night. So far, so labour. It was hugs and kisses all round, we got dressed, and headed down for breakfast. Or would have done, had Misters 6 and 3 not decided to have a fight over who was going to push the buttons in the lift. Cue: tantrums all round. Toddler stage, anyone?

The following six hours were Hallmark. We had stayed in a hotel in The Big Smoke (hence strange place, yelling was revellers out on the street doing what I used to do pre-children), and spent the morning wandering around the markets before hopping a ferry and heading to Luna Park. It was exactly like that six months between the ages of three and four when children are so delicious you can’t imagine why didn’t have seven of them.

After sliding down some large slides, eating fairy floss (which Mr6 handed back because it was too ‘sugary’) and wondering how in the world they came up with their ridiculous pricing structure, we left Luna Park and walked back over the Harbour Bridge. The sun was shining, the seagulls were squawking, the kids were excited. It was a good-to-be-alive moment – much like the first day of Big School.

It wasn’t until we got home, admittedly after a long drive, that things went pear-shaped. Everyone was tired. Including me. (You see, how I’m setting up my excuse here.) So when Mr6 began on a litany of refusal and obstruction, I got to the point where I actually had to follow through on my usual threat to send him to bed without dinner.

I’m sure you’ve been there. I tried threats and warnings. I tried taking away things he loved – Famous Five reading sessions, for one. No go. It got to the point where I had to make good on my threat or forever have to deal with a child who said ‘go on then’ to every disciplinary measure I tried.

So I despatched him. At 6.15pm. With no dinner.

He was outraged. Angry, sweaty, tear-stained.

I was much the same. But add disappointed to the list. At myself, for not finding a way to manage the whole mess better. At him for not toeing the Hallmark line and being a cherub on Mum’s Special Day. I didn’t even get to open my presents.

But that’s the thing about mothering, isn’t it? It never quite goes to plan and you have to find a way to make it work. I did my job tonight. I set a boundary and I made it firm.

Tomorrow I’ll do my job again. By smiling sweetly and forgetting the whole thing ever happened. Because I was in at school on Thursday and had a sneak preview of my Mothers’ Day gift. A picture of me, drawn with a smile to equal the Luna Park face. Which is pretty much how I feel about being his mum.

In the meantime, I’d like to thank my mother from the bottom of my heart for the boundaries she set and the disappointments she’s forgiven. It was a lesson in mothering I haven’t forgotten and will do my best to emulate. Even if things don't always go to plan.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

What did you talk about this week?

It’s that time of the week when I share some of the wide variety of topics of conversation that came up through work or play in the course of life in a pink fibro.

Star Wars, UK election, whether neon is an Inert or Rare gas (quizmaster says Inert, Dad says Rare, I stopped listening around 'neon'), The Outsiders, The Great Gatsby, Eat Pray Love, sore backs, growing teeth, guitar practice, school funding, origami, birth 'experiences', Enjo, Avon, subtraction, Omar, working mothers, agency agreements, marketing, the speed of the publishing process (or lack thereof), Little Ninjas, stamps worth $millions (maybe these new UK design ones will be an investment?), hide-and-seek, retrenchment, Twitter, Julia Gillard, Galore (NSW), vegetable seedlings, cauliflower soup, The Road, Monopoly, Lego minifigures, winking, negative gearing, Edward Degas, my new boots, packing, feeding fish, Mothers' Day presents (and where the apostrophe goes on the card)... and makeovers.

What came up at your place this week?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Women's Conference: boots and all.

Today I found myself at the Fibrotown Women’s Conference. The location: the auditorium of one of the area’s many Bowling Clubs, complete with requisite swirly-patterned, muck-hiding carpet. The theme: Inspired. The point: well, as I sat there this morning, drinking my instant coffee, I wasn’t entirely sure.

A friend had invited me to along and I’d accepted with gusto. Six hours with grown women, drinking coffee, eating cake? What’s not to love? Then my mum asked me this morning what exactly it was all about. I couldn’t answer.

“It’s a Women’s Conference,” I said, admiring my reflection in my brand-new, shiny black knee-length boots. I mention these because I am so damned pleased with their purchase. It’s rare for me to have a shoe love-in, but these are a dark, dangerous affair. They are, it must be said, a whisker too elongated through the toe. Which is why they were on sale – big sale, huge sale, the kind of sale that makes you feel a million bucks every time you wear them because you know what a bargain they were. The sales assistant in Fibrotown’s one – I repeat, one – shoe store (which is fortunately a good one) told me blithely that they’d marked them down because they were ‘last season’.

I took a good look up and down the main street, festooned as it was by Crocs, thongs and runners, and said ‘I’ll take them’. Last season is the height of fashion round these parts.

But I digress.

I was dragged back from the examination of my glorious (cheap) new boots when my Mum continued: “Yes, but what will you do?”

I was stumped. “We’ll, er, confer about stuff, I guess,” I said, slinking out the door before she changed her mind about babysitting.

I went with no expectations – the best way to go to anything – and came home with this report. Firstly, we did confer about ‘stuff’. Women’s stuff. We learned that $2 can buy a birthing kit to be sent overseas to help save the one woman who dies every minute in childbirth. We learned that unimaginable tragedy need not kill us, it may make us stronger. We learned that seaweed can become a passion, that origami can capture a heart (hence the crane pic), that inspiration comes in many guises.

As a roomful of women, we did not hold back. We cried. We laughed. One of us even sang – a heartfelt rendition of Happy Birthday to win a prize.

Being a roomful of women, we also queued. For entry, for lunch but, mostly, for loos. I ran into my neighbour, a beautiful young woman who seems to spend her life on a horse. I ran into one of the mums from school. I ran into R, promoting her PASH business. My hairdresser was there. The local paper was there. The elegant women representing Dairy Farming were there.

That was the point. An excuse to get together, to network, to learn. To inspire and to be inspired.

I left with a smile. In my new boots. Which I’d like to point out were supremely comfortable over the course of a long day. In the way that only a true bargain can be.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Karate Kid (meets Luke Skywalker)

Mr6 has never been a joiner. It used to bother me. I took him to Gymbaroo when he was, um, one, and he didn’t want to get involved. He didn’t mind throwing balls around and climbing over stuff, but sitting on the mat singing nursery rhymes with everyone else was not his thing. (Now that I think about it, he was one. It’s nobody’s thing at one.)

Anyway. In his short life, I have suggested many things for him to try. Not because I want to overschedule his life, but because I have been brainwashed into thinking it’s ‘best’ for kids to be involved. And there were also the echoes of my own childhood to deal with – the one in which I was never much good at, you know, ball sports and stuff. If he didn’t start soccer at two, would he ever make a team?

“Don’t push it,” my mum would say. “He’ll work it out.”

Around him, kids picked up rugby, soccer, ballet, baseball, hip-hop, drama, circus, gymnastics… I’d ask him if he wanted to go along. He always answered the same way: “No, thank you.” It’s hard to argue with such exquisite politeness.

I was thinking about all this yesterday as I cooled my heels at the local Martial Arts gym. Where I sat among the hanging punching bags, watching Mr6 earnestly attempt to get up off his back without using his hands. I watched him get picked as a team leader for sitting the straightest. I watched him stand, head cocked to one side, trying to memorise the complicated series of moves that gets a three-metre belt wrapped around his 15cm waist without too much left over.

And I realised that he’s growing up. He’s now a Little Ninja, twice a week (surely a program dreamed up by a non-parent). He has four notes and three chords on the guitar. He does swimming lessons.

He’s choosing his own path, and it does not, at this point, include soccer. Or, disappointingly, hip-hop.

I suspect his love affair with Little Ninjas is more to do with the ‘costume’, as he calls it, which owes much to the Luke Skywalker school of fashion, but I have to say it suits him. It’s routine-based, discipline-based, requires concentration and patience, and there’s a lot of high-fiving involved (instant reward). For as long as he’s not actually hitting anyone – or being hit – I’m happy with it.

Mr3 wants to know why he can’t join Ninjapoops (as he calls it). But, watching him tear in and out of the hanging punching bags on the sidelines, I’m wondering if he might prefer soccer…

Monday, May 3, 2010

Time waits for no Muse

Just a short post today because I’m supposed to be writing something else. I’ve been dwelling a lot on the concept of time lately. Mostly because I never seem to have enough of it. Today, especially, because having a birthday tends to amplify the tick-tick-tick of the clock running down.

As a work-at-home-mum, I fit a fair amount into each day. Fulltime mum, part-time job, some-of-the-time domestic goddess, all-of-the-time partner. What I learned early in the piece was the importance of prioritising what was important and letting go of everything else. Only I’ve never been real good at letting go of anything except the housework. That, I sent out to sea on a raft a long time ago. Everything else, I try to fit in.

When I started blogging, I didn’t stop to consider where I was going to put it in the schedule. I just figured I’d do like I always did and fit it in. I joke about procrastination, but the truth is that I’ve always been very serious about deadlines. If you want to make a living as a freelancer, you have to be. So when the baby/toddler/preschooler went to sleep, I sat down to write. There was no waiting for the Muse. The Muse, I find, is often held up in traffic so it’s excellent policy to begin without her. If she's good, she'll just pick it up as she goes along.

That’s how the paid work got done. Also how I fitted in the writing of the fiction. The proposals and pitches for new work. The volunteer bits for the school. You know.

Then I started blogging. And it’s a lot of fun. So when I sit down, my head doesn’t immediately go to ‘GO’. It goes to blog. Which means everything else is, well, waiting for the Muse.

Which is why I’m writing this, instead of the other thing I’m supposed to write.

I’m not complaining. Just putting together some notes for when I begin to lobby seriously for the 25th hour in the day.

Anyone with me?

{image: PhotoExpress}

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Teetering on the precipice...and knickerbockers

In 50 minutes, it will be my birthday. Again. I’m teetering around on the top of the hill, just waiting for the chance to slide another year toward the finish line.

As you may have gathered, I’m not particularly cheerful about birthdays. I don’t necessarily fret about them, but I don’t embrace them with open arms either. It’s not a Big One this year. But the Big Ones don’t bother me. Generally, I can take an impartial look at them and be reasonably happy with the way life is going at that point.

Nope, it’s the ones either side of the Big Ones that seem to cause the most trouble. Take 29, for instance. There was some serious angst around that one. Mostly because I was in a great job with a terrible boss and was experiencing some, er, dissatisfaction with that dichotomy.

As a rule, my birthdays aren’t particularly memorable (those acquainted with this blog will know that this is because my memory has holes in it). My 21st is memorable because I spent half of it in a phone box (before mobiles, people…), crying over some boy who was not worth it.

My 30th was a huge affair in a dingy pub in the middle of The Big Smoke. A Sparkle party, with lots of people, lots of drinks, and a DJ in an orange shirt playing lots of ABBA. What can I say? I know how to attract the right crowd.

My 12th birthday was memorable too. Mostly because I was wearing knickerbockers (thank you Princess Diana). Khaki-green velvet knickerbockers with shiny gold buttons at the knee, worked back with a khaki-green, tiny-checked shirt. My memory fails at the shoes, but I remember owning a pair of gold flats at some point and it makes sense that this would have been the era. I went to Pizza Hut in my Princess-inspired finery.

When I was eight or nine, we lived in Alice Springs. Molly Malone, an American girl whose father had something to do with the secret US bases out there, came to my sleepover birthday party. That girl could put away a lot of pizza. Somewhere in our vast home-movie collection there is footage of her pretending to eat icecream. There is probably footage of me blowing out the candles or something, but I remember her, eating invisible icecream.

My 17th birthday involved pizza (are you sensing a theme here?) and Nutrimetics. The party plan saleslady told me, very seriously, never to line my top lashes. It would make me look mean-eyed and squinty. I took this advice very seriously, until my friend A (who has the same name as me and has earned the right to be brutal through sheer longevity) told me that I looked as though I’d put my make-up on upside down.

Which brings me to tomorrow. A Monday. A Monday after a wonderful weekend with my boys and some good friends. I'm in a good place. And this birthday, on a Monday, this birthday is a continuation and a new beginning. This could be the year it all happens. What? I’m not sure. But, you know, ‘it’.

And if it doesn’t? Well, there’s always pizza.

{image: Philippe Leridon}

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...