Monday, 9 May 2016

Broken bickies

It’s a universally accepted fact that should circumstance necessitate a hasty and preferably unseen raid on the biscuit barrel, you should always pick the broken one … or ones… 
Calorie leakage.
That’s a thing, right?
Like the way the debris at the bottom of a bag of chips doesn’t count as food. And the obvious truism that any of the edible matter you absentmindedly pop into your mouth while making school lunches or preparing dinner, or indeed, when preparing any sort of foodstuff to be consumed by anyone other than yourself, doesn’t count as something worthy of recording in a daily food diary. 
Of course not.
Surely even those food-tasters for Hitler and the ones allegedly employed by various alleged American presidents still ate proper meals. Gosh darn it, as far as I’m concerned, nobody deserves better quality poison-free meals than MY family and friends.
Anyway, over the years I’ve garnered a few other interesting diet-related verities:
  • if it’s green, it counts as vegetable
  • if it’s a vegetable it doesn’t count as carb
  • if it’s liquid and doesn’t contain Coke or milk, it counts as water.

And just this past weekend, my significant other introduced me to another such food fact. 
He was, as he so frequently does, consuming his brunch – which in this case was a hearty chunk of sourdough toast lavishly heaped with avocado, tomato and fresh basil – while standing looking out the kitchen window.

I have always, foolishly I now discover, assumed that the motivation for this manner of eating was his deep-seated desire to conserve energy. Eliminate the need to fetch and then wash a plate by allowing the crumbs and debris to fall directly into the sink.
But no.
Apparently, the calories go right down the sink with the fall-out.
Who knew?

Oh, plus apparently if you don’t put salt on the tomato, it increases the nutritional value.

So help me out.
What amazing diet-related facts have you discovered?

Thursday, 5 May 2016

My son has left home...

Nobody prepared me for this. How could they? So much about being a mother is impossible to understand until it happens.

There’s a pulsating hole in my being that keeps morphing into tears. 

There’s no right way to do it: mothering. 
Despite all the books and discussions and studies and predecessors and worry, we all just make it up as we go along. 
I know that. 
But I still wasn’t prepared for this.

My manchild, the beautiful creature whose existence became connected with mine eighteen years ago and changed everything forever, has left home to go to university. His room is empty. And a previously unknown kind of heartache occupies my soul. It’s unfamiliar and frightening, because it’s so vast. It feels interminable.

My son is a man in the world and I am an absent part of his history. His story. I’m an absence that stretches to the end of his life. 
And mine.

But somehow, alongside this absence dwells a new joy.   
A fresh delight washes through me each time I hear his voice. A never-before-experienced contentment settles into that throbbing emptiness when we are together and I can feel how happy he is in his freedom and independence.

It’s not pride.

It’s not relief.

It’s just warmth. 

A whole new kind of mother love.

My son is a man in the world and I am forever present in his history. His story. My mothering is a presence that stretches to the end of my life.
And his.  

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Could you please not...

I recently discovered that I am not the only woman in the universe who has had an argument inside her head with Uppity Cricket, Jiminy Cricket’s annoying older sister.
More than once.
A lot more than once.

Me: Seriously Dude, I’m gonna bust. I gotta say something…
Uppity: No. It’s OK. Let it go.
Me: But this is, like, the fifty-squillionth time.
Uppity: All the more reason to let it go. You don’t want to sound like a nag.
Me: No. You’re right. I DON’T. But I’m about to…

What follows is an oft-repeated not-altogether-totally-unreasonable request like:
Please don’t wipe your hands on the couch.
Would you mind not leaving your surfboard in the hallway?
Could you please refrain from sitting on your sister’s head?

A few times a week, my neighbour and I walk our dogs the five-kilometre roundtrip to the main road.  Naturally, we chat.
Yes, I fully understand that unless we’re walking fast enough for our conversations to be little more than random grunts and huffing noises we’re not doing our hearts any good.

Or losing any of the weight you both piss and moan about.
Put a cork in it, Uppity.

Anyway, as I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself, we were enjoying one of our walking/chatting/therapy sessions when my neighbour purged herself of some teen-induced incredulity by sharing with me her most recent ‘ Could you please not…’ conversation.

‘I couldn’t believe I had to say it,’ she bemoaned as her little fluffy-slipper dog daintily munched on a lump of wallaby poo. ‘ I hate being the policewoman. And I just knew I was going to get the eye-rolling response. But honestly… Where’s the common sense? I shouldn’t even have to mention it …Would you please not use the white silk cushion as the stable-table for your bowl of tomato soup? is a sentence that should never have to be uttered.’

I think she felt better just for having put it on external speaker to a sympathetic listener. 

I think my mentioning that I’d had to utter Would you mind not picking your nose and wiping the boogers on the dashboard of my car?  and Could you please not cut your toenails in the kitchen?  in the not-so-distant past helped pick up her mood a little too.

Screw you Uppity Cricket.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Word Wankery

Miss 15 informed me that her Humanities teacher had set the creation of an AVD for homework this week.
A what?
Audio…Visual… something?
Alternative Virtual Doodad?
Altered Voice Description?
You know what it was she had to create? On paper—paper that was stipulated must be larger than A3 size. 
Yep… you’ve guessed it.
A poster.
A common All-classroom Very-old-fashioned Device for presenting information, now apparently referred to by the pretentious acronym AVD : Annotated Visual Display.
Call it whatever highfaluting truth-obscuring name you like, it’s still a damn poster.

I hate word wankery.

Dr Dad, the international roaming guru of Accounting Standards also known to immediate family members as Lawnmower Man, has recently participated in a workplace pilot programme for ‘ the Agile Workspace’. No kidding. That’s what they call it.
WTF is an ‘agile workspace’?  I hear you oh-so-sensibly ask.

Well, basically, it’s a super-expensive funkily-decorated open-plan office where nobody has a walled off area to call home, and, on a daily basis, only the exceptionally fleet-of-foot and sharp-of-elbows get to have a desk.
Sorry. That’s wrong.
Not a desk.
A workstation within the workspace.

In the name of increased efficiency and reduced rent, every morning the members of his team have to set up their computers, connect up their phones and portable headsets, put all their other stuff in a locker — not a designated locker of course, just whichever locker real estate is currently available — and settle down to begin the day in the focus zone of the agile workspace.

Unless, of course, they need to indulge in some idea collaboration. Then they have to ensure that they have pre-booked a collaboration zone.
This photograph is real.
Or perhaps they might discuss the latest troublesome audit over a game of ping-pong. Or better yet, in the environs perfectly suited to creative problem solving: the LEGO corner.
I shit you not. 

And if they have an extremely sensitive phone conversation to have with a top-secret client …well…  perhaps they could pop into the sleep pod? It may be a just a little like Max Smart’s Cone of Silence, but at least they can be sure nobody else will be using it. Who’s going to let anyone know they sleep on the job?

in recognition of the latest universal understanding that sitting down causes cancer, the agile workspace is, of course, equipped with both standing workstations and treadmill workstations, which, of course, are a very popular choice with women in heels and men in ties. (Margin note: me trying to  type and treadmill would be akin to me simultaneously patting my head and rubbing my tummy.)

Professionals comfortably collaborating in agile workspace (Photo:Sydney Morning Herald)
The firm has gone beyond mere wankery with words in creating the agile workspace. It's taken highfaluting truth-obscuring to a whole new level and crossed over into WTFsville.

Why does a spade have to be an individual void manipulating device?

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

The gratitude vase

Instead of making a new year’s resolution, I started a gratitude jar. Well, it’s more like a bowl than a jar. Actually, to be utterly accurate, it’s a vase — a gratitude vase. I knew there was no point in promising to give up vino, or cut down on food, or step-up in the exercise stakes… all of which would have been wise choices, but I know me. All of those things were also predetermined not to succeed. Willpower is not my middle name. So, in a moment of foolhardy enthusiasm, I opted to celebrate 2016 with a gratitude jar.

You know how they work. Every day I note down something for which I’m thankful or that makes me smile. I put the date on it and then drop the little coloured billet-doux to life in the vase with its predecessors. I know gratitude jars have been around for centuries. They’re no doubt generally regarded as utterly twee, possibly even totally passé by now. But I’m a slow learner. It takes me a while to catch on to things. Especially if they are new habits.

And that’s where I seem to be falling down. It’s not noticing the good stuff. That’s the easy bit. It’s the regular, do-it-every-day, make-it-a-new-part-of-the-routine bit that’s doing me in.  

You know how when you take antibiotics, the doctor and the chemist and the person at the cash register and your mother and your bestie and your neighbour’s second-cousin all remind you that you have to take every single one of the 10 or 12 or 14 or however many are in the prescription or they won’t work? Well, I never do. I never manage to take every single tablet and the last few rattle around somewhere unnoticed until their use-by date is a distant memory.

Other things I regularly fail to make a part of my daily schedule include:
  •  30 minutes of exercise
  • making the bed
  • sweeping the floors
  • meditation
  • being nice to my husband.

The great and ubiquitous ‘they all’ tell me that just doing something every day for thirty days ensures that it becomes as natural as cleaning your teeth.  To be honest, I don’t know if this theory holds true. I never make it to thirty days.

What’s happening with my gratitude vase is that I seem to be stockpiling my expressions of approbation into clumps of half-baked thanks instead of neatly sautéing one each day. 

I’m a little worried that my gratitude vase is judging me.

I have a list of dates and reminder words scribbled on a tatty envelope next to the bed. There’s another one on my phone. And I’m wondering whether a pen and paper in the drawer in the upstairs loo mightn’t be a good idea too. 

The comments all make it into the vase eventually. 
Every day is acknowledged. 
It’s just that I tend to complete and deposit several days’ worth of notes at a time… a week's worth even… 
I guess, on the upside, I should be glad that I haven’t given up on my gratitude vase.
I’m not a total fail at gratefulness yet.

My gratitude vase in its natural habitat

Friday, 26 February 2016

Guilty pleasure

‘It’s not very glamorous,' she said. ‘In fact, it’s not glamorous at all. You’ll either love it or you’ll hate it. I’m just hoping you don’t think I’m being rude.’

I’m totally used to my mother understating the likeability factor of any gift she buys for me. I’m not sure if that’s because of her tendency to be overly- circumspect or because of my proclivity for being a picky bitch. Probably a bit of both. Anyway, when she foreshadowed my Christmas parcel, I was intrigued.

Beneath the festive wrapping, enshrined in its all-but-impregnable blister pack, was my new guilty pleasure. I’d seen them advertised by silky-soft-skinned nymphettes in impossibly high-heeled strappy sandals, and I'd secretly hankered for one. 

And here it was, complete with its sparkling diamond crystals and ergonomically-designed soft-touch handle… my very own electronic foot file… the most god-damn glamorous gift I’ve received since those ancient times before I started wearing industrial strength bras and no-nonsense nanna-knickers.

That little gadget is pure bliss with rechargeable batteries.

Miss 15 thinks it’s kind of gross to grind away the gnarly grunge that accumulates around the periphery of my over-worked heavy-load bearing heels. Oh the blessed ignorance of youth. 

She knows not to interrupt, however, when I retire to my bedroom and she hears the purring begin.

Earlier today, as I was effortlessly silky-smoothening my sensuously rounded heels, I had an epiphany. I know how to make the entire female population — plus not an inconsiderable number of those XY chromosome carrying human beings who, let's face it, are only mutated XX carriers — I know how to make the vast percentage of the western world happy.

Right after I finish writing this blog entry, I'm sending off a special request to Santa Claus, which I'll cc. to Dr Scholl. 

This year, I want a total-body-shaping version of this little beauty.How good would that be? Just roll that spinning-sucker over the lumpy bits and watch them effortlessly turn to dust. 

Are you with me? 

Friday, 19 February 2016

Santa doesn't eat tapas

book man 

There are some authors who make me want to read forever.

There are some who inspire and haunt me so that I want to write myself into oblivion. And then there are those who make me feel like I should never ever ever presume to give permanence to any string of words ever…

Not ever…

Recently, a dear word-loving friend and I headed off to spend an evening engaged by just such a writer. We went to listen to the splendiferous David Sedaris reading his own work.

Like a couple of book-moles, or should that be authories? I’m not sure what the appropriate term is… book-skanks? Anyway, like a couple of stalker-chick fangirls we had snagged seats close enough to see the details of the pattern of his voluminous plaid culottes and his perky genuine tie-it-yourself bow tie — close enough even to run the possibility of accidental annointage by flecks of his oh-so urbane spittle.

We got there early.

We took selfies inside the theatre.

Indeed, an indecorous amount of giggling may or may not have been involved. Nervous tension. Excited apprehension.

And perhaps just a glass or two of champagne.

A sweet young thing of an usher politely reminded us that the taking of photos during the show was strictly forbidden. We pondered asking her to take a photo of the two of us that didn’t show up extra chins, or over-sized honkers or lack-of-decent-sleep dark circles, but we didn’t want to scar the poor love for life. Besides, she didn’t have time to take the hundred-or-so shots that our requests would have necessitated.

It was a magic night. David was sublime.

At several points, I thought my companion was going to swallow her own lungs. Stopping the laughter in time not to miss the next peerless observation about life and family can be tricky. Occasional snorts were unavoidable.

David Sedaris is one of those authors who puts words together in such perfect order that he shuts me up entirely. He sees the immensity of minutiae and magnifies it even more notably through his wit and lexicon.

It takes true genius to observe that Santa doesn't eat tapas.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

A Teaspoon of Dragon

I fell into a hole.
Which is not to say that I’ve been buried.
Or living under a rock.
More that I’ve sort of been making my way clumsily through summer, stubbing my toes on awkwardly rocky conversations and bruising myself mightily by thudding into me-made walls and barriers as I try to navigate the generally normal social interactions that dominate the holiday period... especially when you live in a big-mother of a house by the beach like I do.

The universe has been trying to throw me a rope to haul myself out. A human rope. So maybe it was more of a life-sized 3D paper doll chain than a rope. I think I saw it there. I did try not to ignore it. But I lacked the courage to grasp it. In truth, I was frightened I might tear it by tugging too desperately, damage its integrity by dangling my substantial frame from its fragile fabric.

Luckily for me, there was magic about : the sort of magic Roald Dahl knew how to find, and make, and spread.
It all started when a little dragon rode a pewter friendship spoon all the way from the other side of the world to land in a sheltered corner of my dining room. He settled happily there amidst other small treasures that remind me of the beauty and wonder outside my hole. And he quietly set about reminding me of something very important.

Never underestimate the power of a dragon.

Soon after his arrival, week by week, message by message, visit by visit began a parade from my past. People I thought lost to me came calling. Friends from earlier times and other places dropped by bringing memories and smiles, champagne and deliciously gooey French cheeses to share.

The evil bitch at the bottom of the hole, the one who holds fast to my ankles and laughs at my attempts to free myself, filled my head with her malicious whispers:   
these people knew you when you were someone worth knowing… you used to be successful… what are you now?
she remembers you as a strong competent woman… you used to be worthy of her respect… what happened?
he hasn’t aged a bit: can’t say the same for you… look at yourself…be ashamed... be embarrassed

But the small dragon was there. Tangible. Textured with truths. Weighted with veracity.

These people had sought me out.  All of them had thought of me, for whatever reason, and followed that thought with action. They had come to spend time with me. Not the person I used to be. Not the person I think I should be. Not even the person the whispering bitch wants me to be. Just me.

Y Ddraig Goch is his name: the Red Dragon of Wales. To me, he will forever be Y Ddraig Goch: Slayer of the Whispers

It wasn't a rope I needed, or a chain of hands to drag me out of my hole, it was the wings of a small dragon.