Search This Blog

Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010!

There’s only another few hours left in 2010. Is it just me, or has this year whipped by at the speed of light? It seems the older I get, the faster time goes, which is obviously some sort of joke that Father Time plays on us.

I find it difficult to look back on this year and find anything that I am absolutely proud of. Sure I passed another four subjects, sure I did a good job at work, sure I was a good parent, but ho hum… I feel slightly despondent that I didn’t complete any of my major goals. But there’s always next year… or is there?

We really don’t know when our time is up on this earth. The usual spate of fatalities, a few murders, some assaults and a sudden and unexpected death have all been in the news since Christmas. I’m sure none of those people knew they wouldn’t be around to see the New Year in. It must be devastating for their families to have such a sad reminder year after year when others are celebrating. Not to mention the devastating floods in Queensland where whole townships are under water. I bet the residents aren’t celebrating the New Year either.

So, what to do? What sort of goals to set? What resolutions to make?

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, however this year I might just make one. I think my resolution for 2011 will be to live in the moment. There’s nothing I can do about the past or the mistakes I’ve made. It’s useless to dwell on what might have been, or what I should have done. Similarly, there’s not much I can do about the future. No matter how much planning I set out to do, there are always natural disasters or financial disasters or other upsets that can undo all the planning.

But there is something about this one moment that is special. Even sitting here, tapping on the keyboard and sipping a very good champagne, is all part of a singular moment, one that will never happen again in quite this way. Our dinner tonight, plates of mixed sushi and sashimi that I shared with my youngest son, our last meal for 2010, was another particular moment that will never be repeated. I’ve cherished every moment of today, the last day of this year. I’ve even cherished the extraordinary heat that nature threw at us with fistfuls of stinging wind.

Every moment of the rest of my life will be special in some way and I mean to live fully in each instant, appreciating whatever each moment brings with it. In that way I will savour each moment, sort of like lingering on the aroma of a fine wine which promises intense flavour and joy.

Happy New Year everyone! May 2011 be prosperous and full of moments to savour for each of you.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

And so that was Christmas...

It was a quiet one, just the three of us – me and my youngest two sons. I’d bought far too much food, we watched too much TV and too many DVDs and we finished the day by playing cards. The boys liked their presents, I was impressed with mine. We made phone calls to their grandmother, their father, my father and my eldest son. I sent text messages to friends and posted my Christmas message on Facebook.

This year was so different from the Christmases of my past. The Christmas Eve of my past was focussed on putting the final decorations on our Christmas tree, reading from a Christmas book and listening to carols. This year our Christmas tree was small, artificial and didn’t have decorations. There were no stockings to hang out for my boys – they are all adults now! We didn’t read Christmas stories or sing carols. On Christmas morning we didn’t have the structured day of my childhood when I would have to wait until my parents and grandmother were dressed and had had breakfast before I could open my presents. Yesterday the boys and I were all still in our pjs and breakfastless when we ripped open the wrapping paper. After all the presents were unwrapped I put the croissants in the oven to heat and we had breakfast while watching a DVD I had bought my middle son.

The Christmases of my childhood consisted of family meals where we sat around the table and ate mostly in silence. Yesterday I made platters of dips, crackers, cheeses, ham, olives and assorted vegetables. We put them on the coffee table in the living room and stuffed ourselves while watching “The Grinch” on TV. I helped myself to a glass or two of bubbly, while the boys were satisfied with water. We completed our late meal by having a bowl of hot Christmas pudding with home made custard. In the evening we picked at leftovers and felt bloated.

My childhood Christmases were quiet affairs. After lunch I would usually disappear to my bedroom to read one of the books I would always get as a present. I spent many hours in my bedroom reading, as an only child I didn’t have brothers or sisters to disturb my fascination with words and I’m sure my parents were happy that I was keeping myself quietly occupied. I think we were all a bit bored yesterday with too much food and TV, so my middle son taught us a card game which we played for quite awhile. It was fun to play cards; we haven’t done that for a long time.

Today is Boxing Day. My eldest son is driving across Australia with his girlfriend; I spoke to him briefly after he landed in Adelaide to meet up with her. My middle son has gone out to visit his friends and my youngest son is firmly glued to the TV again. I’ve done the laundry, spent some time on the computer and even had a ride on the exercise bike! I have one more week of holidays and feel as if I should try to achieve something productive!

Hopefully all of you had a wonderful Christmas with family and friends. It might have been a quiet one, or a rowdy one or simply a day to spend with those closest to you. It might have been religious or not so, but whatever it was and however you spent it, I hope it was special for you.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Where has the time gone?

I cannot believe it has been over a week since I last wrote something here. The time has flown by with little productivity to show for it.

Last Friday I finished work for two weeks – I’m half way through the first week and it still doesn’t feel like I’ve had any time off. Although it has been lovely not getting up early for work, I’m still getting up early for other things.

I got most of my Christmas shopping done last week, but I’m still running around and fighting the crowds for a few small things I forgot to get. My eldest son’s girlfriend leaves on Boxing Day to move to the West with my son and anything I want to send with her really has to be given to her in the next day or so. I haven’t done the food shopping yet, but will attempt to get to the food market early tomorrow to do that.

It should be sunny and warm for Christmas Day and, as my youngest son has his arm in a sling, we have decided on an antipasto platter for our Christmas meal. So I will be buying cheeses, ham, cabana, smoked salmon, olives, dips and other nibbly bits to put on it. I’ve bought a Christmas pudding and will make some custard. There should be enough food to last all day long and maybe even longer! I’ve already got a bottle of bubbly chilling in the fridge and that’s all I need to make it a great Christmas.

Last Monday my youngest son had his shoulder stabilisation surgery. We booked into the hospital at 11.30 in the morning and he finally went into surgery at 2pm. He was starving after having fasted since 7.30am and I was too after unintentionally fasting with him. I had totally forgotten to bring food with me and there was no cafeteria at the hospital. As we didn’t know exactly what time the surgery was scheduled for, I couldn’t run down the street to buy anything, even though I did have to run out a few times to move my car as there were only 2 hour parking spots available.

The surgery went well. My son was discharged from hospital the next afternoon, a day earlier than we had thought. He recovered very well from the anaesthetic and woke up chirpy, chatty and wanting to send text messages on his phone before he fell asleep again. He’s on some pretty strong pain killers and tends to be a bit sleepy and vague which is annoying him. But it looks like we can cut back on them soon as the pain isn’t as bad as he thought it would be.

I’ve hired an exercise bike for six months so that my son can start working on his fitness again at home. He wants to play football next season, which starts around April, and really has to regain a lot of fitness in order to do that. He won’t be able to get on the bike for a few weeks yet, but I’ll be able to use it too. After getting on the scales this morning I really need to get on the bike!

Tonight I have a couple of friends coming over for dinner. I’m cooking Mexican – guacamole dip for starters, chilli con carne with a cornbread topping and salad for mains and I’ve already made a margarita icecream for dessert. I’ve cleaned the house, started the loads of laundry and I’m ready for the rest of the day!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ten Days till Christmas

I’ve discovered that since my boys have grown up into adults, Christmas just doesn’t have the same meaning and sense of fun about it. Most of my Christmas spirit came from hiding presents, trying to wrap them when the boys were in bed and playing Santa on Christmas Eve. I still hide the presents and wrap them in private – its no use waiting till the boys go to bed because they are usually up far later than I am! But the days of playing Santa have long gone.

Strangely enough I still believe in Santa and, whenever I state that fact to the boys they tease me. But I do. I believe in the spirit of Santa, in the thought of Santa, in all the things and feelings and emotions he stands for. I believe that even if each of us can find one small way to play Santa every year, he will continue to exist.

Most years I try to play Santa by donating food or money or both to the Salvation Army, but I have to admit I’ve struck a few lean years and the donations haven’t been quite so large lately. One year the boys and I picked some gifts to give to anonymous children. It’s getting very close to Christmas and I haven’t decided how to play Santa this year.

We have much simpler Christmas celebrations nowadays. This year my eldest son will be on the other side of the country (first Christmas away from home), my middle son will be nursing a hangover (friend’s birthday party on Christmas Eve) and my youngest son will have his arm in a sling (shoulder surgery next Monday). So I’m planning a simple platter of yummy meats, cheeses, olives, crackers, etc and some sort of easy to eat desserts all served with a bottle of bubbly I was given on my birthday. No doubt we will open presents first (maybe I will get one this year?) and eat late, munching through the rest of the day. Christmas and food just seem to go together!

Perhaps when my boys start having their own children – and I hope this will be quite a few years away – the fun of Christmas will return again. For me, Christmas is just not the same without the surprise and delight in a child’s eyes.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

On Oprah and Girlfriends

I caught a few minutes of the recent interview where Oprah denied she was a lesbian and reiterated that her best friend Gayle was just that – her best friend.

I can empathise. I bet most of us can. I have a best friend who also happens to be female. We have known each other for years. She is like the sister I never had and her family has become my extended family. She lives in a different part of Australia but we keep up with phone calls and emails. If I could pick anyone in the world to spend time with, she would be that person.

Awhile ago I was talking to a man I know. He is gay and happily partnered. I mentioned I was going to see my friend the following weekend and he winked at me and intimated that my friend and I obviously had a long running sexual relationship. I was totally taken aback. I didn’t realise that having a close female friend would automatically make people think I was gay – it kind of soured my friendship with her in my mind for awhile. Perhaps I should be thicker skinned, perhaps I shouldn’t care what others think, but I’m not and I do.

So I empathise with Oprah. It must be extremely difficult to want to be with your best friend, but at the same time have to watch your every move just in case the media are watching. I empathise with everyone who has a best friend of the same sex who is now cautious about getting too physically close to them in case their closeness is misconstrued.

It all reminds me of just how influenced we are by first impressions and stereotypes. If we see two women or two men together, perhaps hugging or holding hands, they are automatically gay. If we see someone who is poorly dressed or groomed we probably think they are from a low socio economic background. If we see a blonde we might assume they are stupid. If we see someone young with a baby we perhaps think of them as irresponsible. We don’t stop to think of what each of their back stories might be.

As for me, I now try to ignore first impressions and stereotypes. I now make it a game to think of what each person’s real back story might be.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Oprah Effect

So Oprah and her “army” have landed in Australia and the media have gone mad. As the people Oprah brought with her to Australia got off the planes, they were bombarded by waiting media waving microphones in their faces and flashing cameras at them. They were instant celebrities. It doesn’t end there. Everywhere they go they are tailed by the media, all desperate to discover their itineraries which are apparently a closely guarded secret, not even they know where they are going. It is impossible to watch the news or read the papers without seeing a story about Oprah and her visit to Australia.

Australia itself seems to be divided about Oprah’s visit. On the one hand our governments are forking out millions of dollars in a seemingly inspired marketing campaign. However, there are many Australians who believe the country has been sold out to the highest bidder. Many Australians are fiercely protective of Australia and its culture and see any American invasion as threatening. They claim not to watch the talk shows or follow the gossip. I wonder if they also refuse to drink Coke, eat MacDonald’s or wear jeans. Those same Australians most probably make a dollar or two either directly or indirectly from the tourism market. One can’t have it both ways.

I actually think the publicity generated by Oprah’s visit is a good thing. One of the best marketing tools is word of mouth and there are now 300 American mouths travelling around Australia, hopefully enjoying their experiences and getting ready to tell the folks back home all about how wonderful this country is. Let us just hope that all their experiences are positive as there is a premise in marketing that someone having a negative experience will tell more people about it than if they have a positive experience.

90 of Oprah’s “army” arrived in Melbourne today. I doubt I will get to bump into any of them as I am nowhere near the city, but I trust someone will provide them with umbrellas to go with their itineraries. Melbourne and the whole of Victoria have had an awful lot of rain in the past few days. There are country towns nearly under water and people swimming and boating in the streets. The city itself has been drenched. The gutters are flooded and the lawns are soaked. I’ve had to put a towel across my back door to keep the rain from getting under it. With more rain predicted in the next few days there are sure to be a few soggy sights for the tourists to see.

I guess we won’t know the result of Oprah’s visit for many months yet. By the time the tour is over and the tourists return home it will be Christmas. I would imagine a lot of people would have to start saving again after the holiday season or pay off their credit cards before venturing into overseas travel. However, maybe a few of them will want to come back, perhaps with their friends or relatives? Maybe those watching the Australian shows will want to see this country for themselves? There aren’t an awful lot of definites in marketing, so we just have to wait and see.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

Susan Jeffers is the author of one of my favorite books “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”. It was initially recommended to me by a friend who raved about it and I bought it shortly afterwards. However, it took me awhile to sit down and read it.

This book is firstly about finding your fear or fears and uncovering what is behind them, which the author suggests is a fear of being able to handle a situation. In the author’s words “At the bottom of every one of your fears is simply the fear that you can’t handle whatever life may bring you.” For example, a fear of aging translates into “I can’t handle getting old.”

This is not as simple or silly as it sounds on first reading. In fact the fear of aging if you think about it can include not being able to handle being dependent or being alone or being financially worse off than before or being ill. It can include the fear of losing your looks, gaining wrinkles and being rejected as “too old”.

I like this book because it doesn’t promise to give you miracle cures. Jeffers acknowledges it takes some work to travel beyond the fear or learn to deal with it. She gives plenty of examples along the way and suggests exercises to help the reader understand and change the way you feel. I also like this book because it’s basically about taking responsibility for your actions and not playing the blame game. It’s easy to read, easy to use and good to have on hand.

This morning I walked by my book shelf and the book almost jumped out at me. I realised I’m facing some fears at the moment that I need to deal with. I would like to pursue a career in writing, but I’m scared I won’t have the security or income that my full time job gives me. I am fearful about being alone in old age. I am fearful that I will never have enough money saved for those “just in case” moments that always appear in later life.

So, I’m off to re read “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”, I suggest if you have any fears of your own, that you join me!

Friday, November 26, 2010

No prizes, no awards...

Yesterday I received the dreaded letter from the organisers of the short story competition I entered a few months ago. They thanked me for entering, advised me I hadn't won anything and encouraged me to develop my writing. It was just your standard rejection letter.

I promised I would post the story here once I knew the results, so here it is:


“I don’t think there were violins,” she said “but there were definitely sparks. The sexual chemistry was quite strong between us, do you remember?” Her head tilted to one side as the recollection of that initial shock between them took hold.

She continued to fold his clothes. His suit had been dry cleaned the previous day. She took it out of the plastic wrapping and examined it for any oddities. Sometimes the cleaners left marks but today it was perfect. She removed the little bits of paper they had left pinned to the waistband and the collar.

“It was all in the eyes. I think I drowned in your eyes that day. They were so deep and so brown.” She paused to look in his eyes again then turned her attention back to his clothes. She had just ironed his shirt and proceeded to fold it in exactly the way he liked it. He was so fussy about his shirts. She hated folding his tops that way, sleeves to the back, the sides brought in and then the whole garment halved. It was the way his ex girlfriend had folded his clothes so many years ago and the process always brought back bad memories. She turned to the wardrobe and took a clean, white singlet off the top of the pile on his shelf and rested it on his shirt.

“You know, I still get shaky when I think of the day we met. It was in that tavern, what was the name? The one on the corner of the highway, it looked almost Spanish in design. We had just started going there every Sunday session. Never mind, the name will come to me. I had gone there with Bill. You were with what’s her name, the blonde one? I never got to know her really; probably because you and I ended up leaving together. That caused a fuss, didn’t it? Anyway, I was sitting on the table and I had on my favourite skirt. It was summer and very warm. I think I had a singlet top on. I usually did wear a singlet top with that skirt. The table was made of long wooden planks with unsanded ends and when I kicked my leg back against the edge it scraped against my calf. You saw me jump and came over. Do you remember?” she didn’t look up and her hand stroked the lapel of the jacket she was about to lie out.

His silence was becoming familiar and it didn’t seem to distract her or stop her telling the tale, although she paused to turn to the wardrobe where she found his favourite black belt and a matching tie.

“I knew we would end up in bed as soon as our hands touched.” A longer pause followed. She held her hands out in front of her. For a moment she saw them as they had once been smooth, brown and unwrinkled. She wondered at them now, loose skin, wrinkles and prominent veins. The transition had gone unnoticed for so long that she couldn’t remember when they had changed. But they were the same hands that had felt his electric touch that day, so many years ago. A shiver went down her spine as she thought of it. She let her hands fall slowly down her body, caressing the hips, once so slim her hip bones had jutted out. She had been so proud of those bones. Now they were nowhere to be seen or felt.

She thought about the skirt she had worn that day. It was her favourite skirt, made of soft free flowing blue cotton cut on the bias so the full skirt moved around her calves as she walked. It was floral, tight waisted and fitted from the waist to her hips, with a cream lace inset that ran unevenly about a foot above the hem, giving glimpses of her honey brown legs. She sighed. The days of tanning her body were long gone, as were the days when she had been proud of it. Old age was not fun.

“You know” she said, sitting down on the chair next to the window “the kids would be horrified if they knew how much we enjoyed sex and how often we ‘did it’.” It became difficult for her to keep a straight face. Her smile widened until it cracked the lines around her eyes. She laughed out loud and covered her mouth with her hand, an action remaining from her teenage years. The kids might be adults now with children of their own but to her they would always remain kids.

“It seems pretty amazing the two of us would bring such prudes into the world. My God we weren’t prudish at all, were we?” Her head slipped a fraction to one side as her memories took her on a journey in time. “Once they stopped being babies we had to be so quiet. I think I was forever sticking my head in the pillow!” She chuckled. “I miss those days.”

For a moment she forgot her age and tried to curl one leg under her as she had done so many times in the past. But something cracked and something else refused to move and she had to get up instead and pace a bit to get the blood flowing again. Maybe she would take up yoga or Pilates? She missed the flexibility of her youth. She had practically never sat properly in a chair; perhaps only around her parents. Her sitting place of choice had always been the floor but she often had to make do with curling herself unconventionally on a chair or perching on a table.

“And dance,” she paused “do you remember how we danced? There was one time in the nightclub at that place along the coast. They were playing techno and they had one of those dance floors with the coloured squares. We had just stopped in for a few drinks and we ended up on the dance floor showing the locals how to move. God we could move in those days. I loved techno then. It was so wild.” She thought for a second about jumping up and down to illustrate her point but decided it was probably safer to reminisce about the moves she used to make rather than demonstrate them. “Of course it was disco when we first met.” Her favourite disco music from the time began to jumble in her head and she felt disorientated for a second. “I wore black ‘Grease’ pants.” The past appeared to be punctuated with fashion statements and music but that made sense to her. “We had records then, vinyl they call them now. I wonder where we put our old ones.” Again she looked at him without expecting an answer. She was not disappointed.

She stooped slowly, picked up his shoes and put them near the pile of clothes on the bed. Then she opened his sock drawer and stood for a moment deciding which pair he should wear. “You never did have any fashion sense did you?” she tossed the rhetorical question at him. “If it wasn’t for me you would have worn odd socks and strange shirts.” She smiled again thankful that today’s memories were all happy ones. “Remember that awful shirt you had on when we first met? It was bright red with white buttons. Lord only knows where you had bought it, some Op shop probably. It didn’t take me long to get rid of it.” She picked up a pair of black socks with white diamond shapes down the sides and threw them onto the pile of clothes. They landed, rolled and stayed. She grinned.

The hollow sound of footsteps coming down the hallway seized her attention. They stopped for a brief but lonely moment outside the bedroom door. She caught her breath, steadied herself by looking into his eyes and waited. There was a soft knock at the door.

“Mum? Are you alright?”

It was her eldest son. She could picture his lofty frame leaning in toward the door. It must be difficult for someone so tall to be so quiet. The other two would probably be downstairs with their wives and the grandchildren. She had vaguely heard ‘shushing’ sounds as the women had tried to silence their offspring.

“Mum, the men from the funeral place are here. They’ve come for the clothes.”

She touched his cheek for the last time through the cold glass of the photo frame. She placed the photo on the pile of his clothes. The last clothes he would ever wear. His eyes looked as if they were following her movements. She lifted the photo to her face and searched his eyes for something, perhaps one last spark. Then she kissed his lips, rubbed her lipstick off the glass and set the photo down again. She was ready.

“You can come in sweetheart.” She said and then realised her words hadn’t made a sound. She cleared her throat. “Come in.”

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Spring Cleaning

Now that spring has finally sprung and I’ve finished study until next year, I can get stuck into spring cleaning. I’m not sure if anyone has ever researched this urge some of us get while we are also fighting off hay fever, but it certainly grips me every year at about the same time the pollen attacks.

I started in my bedroom. Out came the clothes I haven’t worn in more than a year. Then I sorted the jewellery, some of it dating back to my high school days. In the process I found the precious first teeth my sons had lost so many years ago. Shame I didn’t sort them into which teeth belonged to which son! I had some issues when it came to hats. I rarely wear hats, but I do like the ones I have. I even have a black beret that used to be my mothers. The hats went back into my wardrobe.

By the end of the day I had a garbage bag full of clothes to give away, a stack of jewellery and handbags to sell on eBay and I’d torn my favorite jeans. I’d also discovered a pair of brand new court shoes that I have had for over a year but never worn because they suddenly shrunk a size when I got them home. So as I’m sitting here typing, I’m also wearing the court shoes over a pair of tennis socks after spraying them with leather stretcher in the hope they might become comfortable.

Today I will go through the various study books, papers and odd bits and pieces that get thrown in a corner of my room. I really need another bookcase to stack things in. I also plan to tackle the hall and bathroom cupboards. I’m sure there are things in there I simply don’t need any more.

There is something very satisfying about spring cleaning. It can be a spiritual affair. I love the end of a day of cleaning when you can sit back, exhausted, and admire your work.

Speaking of spring cleaning, our old boss left last week and our new one starts this week. In the few meetings we have had with him it looks like he will be a vast improvement for our department. We are keeping our fingers crossed that this isn’t just the “honeymoon period”, but the light at the end of the tunnel is certainly burning a hell of a lot brighter than it did before. In fact, I’m actually looking forward to work tomorrow.

I’ve just found a new favorite quote:

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Maria Robinson

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The week that was

Our family achieved a few milestones this week; there were also some memories and some announcements at work.

On Tuesday my youngest son had his final exam for the year and his final school day for life. We have one more function to attend – the annual Awards Night, and he is finished. On the same day and practically at the same time, I sat my final exam for this semester. Tuesday would have been my mother’s birthday if she were alive. That same afternoon the head of our department emailed us with the details of the person who had been appointed as our new Executive Director.

On Friday our Manager resigned.

Today my eldest son graduates. I will be attending his graduation dinner together with my other two sons, my ex husband and his girlfriend. Today is also my father’s 91st birthday.

After I finished my exam on Tuesday, I picked my son up from school. There he was, sitting on the grassy bank near the street, enjoying the sun. It was the last time I would ever pick up any of my children from school again. It was the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. Apart from my first day at school, and after that my first day at the different schools I attended (we moved a lot); I can’t remember my mother either taking me to school or picking me up. Perhaps she did, I just can’t remember.

I remember walking to school, I remember riding my bike to school and I remember catching the bus to school. I remember melting in the heat of summer, running through the rain and struggling through the snow. Sometimes I was with friends on my way to and from school, sometimes on my own.

I didn’t always take my boys to school or pick them up. They would often walk or catch buses or trams. Sometimes they met up with their friends before or after school, going for coffee or a kick of the football. I was often working and couldn’t do the school run as well. But the times they needed me, I was there. I think I will miss that more than anything else – being needed. And yes, I know they will still need me, but it will be in different ways. Like I said – it’s the end of an era and the beginning of the next.

In the words of Fall Out Boy – “thanks for the memories”!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Weighty Issue - Part 2

So how did I manage to lose 3 kilos (6 pounds) you ask? Well, first you have to know that I love food. I love healthy, tasty food. I love crisp salads, I love spicy food, I love chilli, I love cheeses and I love sweet food. I have no intention of giving up food for some sort of shake or replacement. I also enjoy wine and have no intention of giving that up either. The other thing you have to know is that, while I have nothing against exercise, it bores me to tears.

Faced with those realities and the fact that I’m very stubborn and determined to do things my way, I had to devise a plan that would include good food, wine and exercise that wasn’t boring.

I’ve made four major changes to my eating and exercise patterns:

1) Firstly I’ve limited the amount of wheat I eat. I know wheat is in practically everything, so I’m not paranoid about it, but I’ve cut a major amount of it out of my diet. Instead of the 4-5 pasta meals we used to have per week, we are now having 1-2 and the other meals are based around rice or potatoes. I buy bread made from spelt, kamut or oat flours. Spelt and kamut flours are ancient grains which are gluten free. The breads all taste very good. I have wheat free cereal in the mornings – it’s made from oat clusters with cranberries and almonds – I add dried blueberries, flaked almonds, fat reduced Greek yoghurt and fat reduced milk. I would buy gluten free pasta, but it’s very expensive (the bread isn’t cheap either) and the boys eat such big helpings, I just wouldn’t keep up.

If I go to a friends place or out for dinner somewhere, I eat wheat if it’s being served. But I do notice the difference the next day. Since minimising my wheat content I’ve been less bloated and have no wind problems at all.

2) I’ve limited the size of my meals. I cook pretty much the same meals as I always have but I take much smaller portions for myself and I don’t go back for seconds! I have also stopped snacking between meals. I make sure I always have breakfast, during the week its cereal and on weekends it can also be eggs on toast. I rarely buy lunch; instead I take leftovers from the previous evening’s meal. If I do buy lunch it will be a piece of salmon because I don’t often get to cook fish at home.

I cook on non stick pans without any fat. I don’t use butter. I use an olive oil spread and olive oil for cooking if I need. I usually buy fat reduced or fat free dairy items and I check labels for fat content, etc. We eat a lot of stir fry dishes, pasta dishes like spaghetti bolognaise or gnocchi with a simple sauce, or steak or chicken with salads and home made oven baked chips (both potato and sweet potato). I don’t often make desserts. If I do they are usually fruit based.

3) I drink far more water than I ever did before – just plain tap water. I guess I’m lucky as I don’t like soft drinks at all. I used to drink a lot of coffee, but I’ve limited myself to one large cup in the morning and sometimes one in the afternoon.

4) Now here’s the bit that might make you laugh, or at least smile slightly. I knew I had to increase the amount of exercise I did, but I also knew I hated walking around the block and my knees hate me if I run anywhere. I get bored very easily with walking, even with my youngest encouraging me to plod around the local oval. I also don’t have much time in my day for exercise. On the other hand, there are a few TV shows that I enjoy watching and I realise that the time spent in front of the TV is very unproductive. The outcome is that for at least 30 minutes a day of my TV viewing time I walk and jog on the spot while watching! OK, go ahead and laugh – I’m used to it because that’s exactly what my boys do! One day I’d like to get an exercise bike, but that’s definitely in the future.

Three times a week I also do some exercises when I get out of bed. I use a resistance band to do some tricep exercises, and then I do some sit-ups and a few leg exercises. It takes about 10 minutes.

I do make a conscious effort to move more on a daily basis. At work I will print things out on the farthest printer from my desk. At home I will get up and get whatever I want instead of asking the boys to bring it to me. It all helps!

That’s really all I’ve done but it seems to have worked. I don’t have to lose a huge amount of weight. All I’m trying to do is get to 69 kilos and have a waist measurement of less than 31 inches.

I will let you know if I make it!

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Weighty Issue - Part 1

My mother’s late onset diabetes haunts my life continually. Not to mention my parent’s high blood pressure and my father’s heart problems. My mother freely admitted that all their conditions could have been controlled and even cured if they had stayed a healthy weight and exercised frequently. She struggled daily with her weight but often lost enthusiasm for healthy food and walking the dog. When I visited she would conceal her eating – a nibble here, a morsel there, just a tiny piece of cake or a smidge of cheese – but it all added up and her daily calorie count would soar. By late afternoon she would be too tired to walk the dog and could barely summon the energy to put dinner on the table and clean up afterwards.

My mother was not always overweight. She was a skinny child, a slim teenager and young woman. Although she never spoke of it I guess she put weight on with pregnancy, just like millions of other women across the world. My mother’s aunt also acquired late onset diabetes, I believe also due to her weight increasing in middle age.

On the other hand my father has never seemed to care about his gradually growing girth. His excess weight settled mostly around his waist and belly and he often makes a grand show of pulling in his stomach and showing everyone how slim he still is. I wish it was so.

With all this family history of overweight and disease, it is any wonder I am constantly conscious of my own weight? I too was always a skinny child and teenager and, until my first pregnancy, it was never difficult to keep my figure. However, as a stay at home mother of one, two and then three boys, I found myself constantly snacking with the boys or neighbours or friends and my slim figure disappeared.

When I separated from my husband I lost 14 kilos (about 28 pounds) seemingly overnight. They fell off me. I stopped eating the leftover food from my boys’ plates, I started walking and I eventually got a gym membership. I felt fantastic. Until about five years later, the fat started creeping back on. And its not easy to keep those extra pounds at bay once you hit middle age.

Apparently I’m not the only one. I have read in the news that Australia is now the most obese country in the world. Our schools are making oversize chairs for our children to sit on. Hospitals are having to supply oversize beds for the sick and injured. Funeral parlours are building oversize coffins. Where is it going to end?

About three weeks ago, after my daily climb onto the bathroom scales, I discovered I had gained 5 kilos (about 10 pounds). I was horrified. The last thing I want to acquire is diabetes or any other unnecessary illness. I decided then and there to lose the weight and keep it off.

I know what has caused my weight gain. I’ve put more calories into my body than it is capable of burning off in my sedentary, computer based work. As we get older our body simply doesn’t need excess energy if we aren’t going to do any exercise to get rid of it.

Willpower is the key; willpower and a belief in eating healthy, moderate meals and exercising regularly. We have lost the ability to say “no” to that extra piece of cake, or the sugar laden soft drink. We have lost the ability to put together a delicious meal from healthy ingredients because it’s far too easy to buy ready made food full of fat, salt and sugar. I was determined to find that willpower again.

Since I climbed on the scales about three weeks ago I’ve lost 3 kilos (about 6 pounds). I would ideally like to lose another 4 kilos. I’ll let you know how I did it in my next post and I’ll let you know if I manage to reach my goal.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Another milestone passed

So, last Tuesday evening my youngest son and I attended his Valedictory Dinner. As I sat there and listened to what sounded very much like the same speech delivered at my other two sons’ dinners, I realised this would be the last Valedictory Dinner I would attend as a parent.

Now the evening itself is not so spectacular that I’m going to miss it for its own sake, but to me it was significant that another milestone has passed on our journey to the end of my son’s school days and the end of me having any children at school. I almost felt sad. But perhaps it was the lack of alcohol that brought on the sadness? After all, a $70 dinner without a decent glass of wine is like dancing with your brother at the prom.

We did get to partake of one glass of bubbly at the end of the night, to toast the students with. By that time I was almost too tired to enjoy it, but I toasted away and clinked glasses with my son and the rest of our table.

The end of the Valedictory dinner marked the beginning of exams for Year 12 students across Victoria. It’s a period of time that has been known to tear families apart and send even the mildest of parents hurtling toward their first nervous breakdown. As thousands of 17-18 year olds hit the books in an effort to gain a coveted place in University, their parents pander to their every desire, running themselves ragged in the meantime.

Not this little black duck. Of course it helps to have a son who is, let us say, more than casual in his attitude to studying. The lack of pressure in this house is almost embarrassing. But my son has no intention of going to University and I’m not at all concerned with his decision.

I chose not to go to University when I left school. I only enrolled in my first University course when I was 37 and had three young children. I’m now halfway through my second University course. I enjoy what I’m studying so it is not a burden to me.

I work at a University and I’m well aware of the often low retention rates for first year University students. Many of them have been pressured into study by their parents who find it difficult to see the other pathways available to their children. I’ve seen first hand the misery these students go through, burdened not only by their parents’ expectations, but also by neither studies they like nor are good at.

Last weekend a student committed suicide on campus. I don’t know the reasons for his tragic act, but I know he wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last.

None of my boys have gone or want to go onto University studies. At times I have found this difficult to reconcile. However, I’m working on accepting their choices in life. I know I’d rather have my sons with no degrees but still with me than the other alternative.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Home Alone...

So there I was last night, a Friday night, home alone with no one to pick up or take anywhere, no one to cook for and a bottle of bubbly in the fridge! Heaven! I must admit it was fairly odd though, I waited for that text message asking me to come to some address or the other, but then realised it wouldn’t come, so set out to enjoy myself.

The bubbly went down really well. I got some Thai noodles to go with it and sat down to watch some of the shows I had taped from the week before. I was onto my second glass of bubbly when the cleaning craze hit me. Now I don’t second guess a cleaning craze when it comes on. I know that I have to grab the moment and go with the flow. I ran down the hallway and got out the vacuum cleaner.

It was a beautiful spring evening and my front door was open. As I walked past it with the vacuum I noticed the front porch needed sweeping. Down went the vacuum and I was off to get the broom. Front porch accomplished and I picked up the vacuum again. It didn’t seem to take too long before I’d finished the floors. I poured another glass of bubbly to celebrate before I tackled the bathroom.

A clean house always makes me feel fabulous. A clean house that was going to stay clean for at least the night and the next morning – until the boys came home – made me feel doubly fabulous. Or perhaps that was the bubbly!

I washed the floors just before I went to bed. What a wonderful evening. OK, I know I’m sounding a bit weird here and I wouldn’t have stayed home if I’d had a better invitation, but I got so much done in so short a time. Not to mention cleaning on a Friday night leaves me the whole weekend free of household chores - except the laundry of course. But that’s a whole different story.

Following up from my last blog – I must have jinxed myself by writing it. On Wednesday afternoon my youngest son dislocated his shoulder yet again (third time in seven months) and I had to leave work hurriedly to get to his school and take him to hospital. Why the school didn’t call an ambulance I don’t know. He is booked in for surgery in December and I just hope he takes it easy till then. I don’t want him to go through it all again!

So here I am, on a Saturday night, and things have returned to normal. My eldest son is visiting for the weekend and he and my youngest son are on the Playstation yelling and screaming at the game and each other. The third load of washing is in the machine. My middle son is at a friend’s place, where he usually is on the weekends. There are crumbs on the floor from the biscuits and cheese my son bought today. I’m out of bubbly. The sun is going down and all is well with the world.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Once a parent, always a parent

In conversation with a friend last night, over a particularly nice dinner complemented by a couple of glasses of very drinkable wine, the discussion turned to parenting. The two of us, both mothers of three boys each, wondered why our mothers hadn’t told us about the joys of sleepless nights, cracked nipples and fretful babies. In fact, not only had our mothers not told us, but there wasn’t a female we knew who had imparted these facts to us before we had our first child. Afterwards, plenty of them came out of the woodwork to regale us with their tales of sleep deprivation, knotted breasts, swollen nipples, babies unable to feed or sleep and husbands that wondered what they had been doing all day.

Why did all these sorry tales only come out after we had already taken that step too far? I don’t have the answer. If a younger woman was ever to ask me what it’s like being a parent, I would certainly tell her warts and all. There will be no sugar coating from me. However, I’ll make it clear that all my children have been vastly different, from when they started in the womb, to their births, to their stages in life, not one of the three has progressed along the same route as his brothers.

What I have realised over time is that parenting never ends. My youngest might have turned 18 and is now recognised as an adult, but he still needs me at times. My eldest might have moved out of home, but he still asks me for advice and help, which I freely give. My middle son is very independent, but even he needs me now and again. As others have commented before on this blog, once a parent, always a parent.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s a comforting thought that you can still turn to your parents for help and advice. I discovered this the other day when I reluctantly called my father and asked for his financial help. My youngest son has to have shoulder surgery and it is going to cost more than I can afford. Now my father and I haven’t had the most congenial relationship, although the past few years have seen both of us mellow, but he had no hesitation in helping me out. In fact his words were “what are fathers for?”

It’s the other thing no one told me before becoming pregnant. Once you have children they are yours for life. You can never finish giving them your help or advice, a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen with. The sleepless nights and cracked nipples might disappear, but the claims on you never will. I kind of like it that way.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Writer's block

Yes, it has hit me with a vengeance. Writer’s block.

That’s why I haven’t been here for awhile. I couldn’t think of anything to write about. So I spent my evenings lying on the sofa watching bad television and trying to think of what to write.

After all my days are fairly monotonous and bordering on being boring. I get up; I wake up my boys, make coffee, make lunches, get dressed and go to work. The bulk of my day is spent at a computer, I then leave for home, usually stopping at the supermarket on the way. I get home, get changed, make dinner, and put some laundry on and end up lying on the sofa watching bad television.

Oh – and this past week I varied the routine slightly. I added in helping my youngest son revise for his exams. Mind you I don’t think I helped at all because his responses weren’t as enthusiastic as I’d like them to be. After all I kind of liked “A Streetcar Named Desire” and the film he had to watch was pretty good. Then again, I like English.

I took my son to the surgeon too and he definitely needs surgery on his shoulder. It will be rather expensive, but we will cope. I find that the only way to face these situations is head on with determination. Well, it’s the only way I know anyway. Head on like a bull at a gate.

So there you go. And here I go, back to the sofa to watch some more bad television. Isn’t life wonderful!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Women who have influenced me - Florence Scovel Shinn

I can’t remember how I first found the writings of Florence Scovel Shinn, but I’m so glad I did. It was during one of the blackest times in my life that I found her and she has helped me through many a time since.

Florence was born in 1871 in New Jersey. She was educated in Philadelphia and studied to be an artist at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where she met her husband who was also an artist. They moved to New York City where she practised her art and was also an actress and, after fourteen years of marriage, her husband asked for a divorce. It was after this that Florence “got” religion and became a teacher in metaphysics. She wrote four books – “The Game of Life and How to Play it”, “Your Word is Your Wand”, “The Secret Door to Success” and “The Power of the Spoken Word”. I have them all in one book – The Complete Writings of Florence Scovel Shinn”.

Florence wrote specifically for women – her first book has the following on its first page:

“All power is given to each woman to bring ‘her heaven’ upon ‘her earth’ through right thinking. This is the goal of the Game of Life.”

Florence was a Christian and her writings reflect this. She uses quotes from the Old and New Testaments to illustrate her beliefs. But she mainly believes that what you think is what you get, or as she puts it “this means that what a woman images, sooner or later externalizes in her affairs.”

I’ve always believed in the power of one’s mind. I believe one can think oneself into certain illnesses and certain situations. Florence’s books provide many examples of this happening. I’ve read her books several times and often use her affirmations, but I also use them when I’m feeling down. I pick up my copy of her complete writings, turn to a random page and read what is there. It always helps.

These last couple of weeks I’ve been feeling very worried about my financial situation, to the point where all I felt was fear. Fear of not having any savings. Fear of not being able to afford the next bill. Fear of failure. I picked up Florence’s book, opened it randomly and found this affirmation: “The unexpected happens. My seemingly impossible good now comes to pass.” It felt right. I began to say it over and over and over to myself.

The next morning I stripped the beds to wash the sheets and, quite out of the blue, decided to turn my mattress. I usually don’t do this unless one of the boys is around to help, but I felt like doing something physical so attacked it on my own. Imagine my surprise when I found $150 under the mattress!

Now, for all you doubters out there, yes, I did put some money under my mattress a few months ago, it was about $400 that I can’t remember now where I got it. But I had spent it and a few weeks ago when I went looking to see if there was any left, there wasn’t.

Last night I was in the middle of my weekly chat to my father, who lives on the other side of the country. My father is very mindful of money and likes to keep his close to him, but out of the blue – and quite unexpectedly – he offered to pay for my next semester’s fees. Put the $150 and my father’s offer together and my faith in metaphysics and the power of the mind has been restored and I will try not to be fearful any more. In Florence’s words “Fear is a woman’s only adversary.”

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I feel a bit redundant

Last Thursday my youngest son turned 18 and became an adult. All of a sudden I have no children any more, only adult children. It’s a strange feeling.

I don’t feel any older than I did the week before last and I certainly don’t feel old enough to have adult children. But there you go. These things sneak up on you and pounce when you are least prepared.

Not that I wasn’t prepared. The way my son counted down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until his birthday would have left anyone prepared. I guess what I wasn’t prepared for is that I’m no longer required in the same way as I used to be.

Oh, I still put a roof over their heads and make sure they are fed and their clothes are clean. But I’m not needed as a chauffeur or a guardian or even a companion any more. They turn 18, get their driver’s licence and the right to enter licensed venues and off they go. My job description has changed. Mind you, it might have just improved, I’m not sure yet. I will have to see how it goes and let you know later.

It was easier when my eldest two sons turned 18. With the first I had my other two sons to look after, then the middle one became an adult, but I still had my youngest, now… well, there’s no one left in line! And no, I have absolutely no desire to be a grandparent just yet.

Anyway, to celebrate we went to Melbourne’s Crown Casino complex for dinner followed by a wander through the Casino itself. There was me, my three sons and my eldest son’s girlfriend. It was very satisfying to have my family all together in one place for a change. The meal was good, although the champagne could have been colder, and I think that overall more money was won than lost on the games. I didn’t play any of the games; they don’t interest me that much. But it was fun watching. And it was fun people watching. There are some weird types that frequent the Casino!

I left early. The others stayed for a bit longer, although my youngest son only made it home at 2am! He is definitely enjoying his new independence.

So, my new challenge is to embrace the loss of some of my parental responsibilities and move on. There’s a whole new phase of life out there waiting for me. In the meantime I’ll concentrate on getting my youngest son through to the end of his last year of school.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My world of distance education

I haven’t disappeared. I’m still here and, more often than not, typing frantically on the keyboard, except I’m not typing my blog. I’ve been spending most of my spare time trying to complete a 2000 word assignment that’s due on Friday. It’s done now – apart from a final grammar and spelling check, so I can once again concentrate on my blog.

At the end of this year I will be three and a half years through a BA Communications. I still can’t quite believe I signed up for something that would take six years to complete! I have the attention span of a gnat and normally boredom would strike within the first six months. I won’t lie. There have been times that I’ve seriously thought of tossing it in. I have been known to scream at the computer. But so far I’ve managed to stick to it.

I never wanted to go to University after high school. Twelve years of education was more than enough for me. For twenty years I kept the same attitude. Then twenty years ago my then manager suggested I get some official qualifications. So I applied for and was accepted into a postgraduate course. I still find it amazing that I got a postgraduate diploma before I got an undergraduate degree.

So I discovered the world of distance education. It suits me perfectly. I can study at whatever hour of the day or night, in my pjs sipping a coffee or a glass of wine. I can watch TV while I’m studying, or cook the evening meal while listening to a recorded lecture. If I want to join in the online message board for each subject I can. If I want to ignore some of the idiotic postings I do. Distance education has been perfectly tailored for me.

I love researching. I could spend all day either on the Internet or with my nose in a book looking up facts. I do get led astray though and find myself looking up the most weird and wonderful things that have absolutely nothing to do with the subject I’m studying. But I’m enjoying the research and writing assignments, while tedious and difficult to start, aren’t that bad once I get into them.

I’m doing well at it too. My grades are good; my lecturers give me useful comments on my assignments. I have to admit I can’t remember a thing about the subjects once I’ve completed them – maybe that’s not such a good thing. I suck at exams, but I make sure to do my best on the assignments and they pull me through. At high school I did much better at exams, but my brain was younger then and I could retain more information for longer. Nowadays I have to check my facts, then recheck them and then recheck them again, and that’s just to write another sentence! It’s the same when I try out new recipes. I’m forever going back to the recipe to check what the next step or ingredient is.

With just over two and a half years to go I’m already planning what my next step in the fascinating world of education will be. I’m leaning toward a Masters in Creative Writing, but I’d also like to learn a language. I think I’d also like to learn to teach English as a second language. There is just so much information out there; I just want to jump in the middle and roll in it, absorbing what I can. So if I go missing now and again, I’m probably churning out another assignment or trying to study for an exam.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Forms, forms and more forms!

At the moment I seem to be inundated with forms to complete and send off. There are insurance forms for my youngest son’s injured shoulder, forms to apply for Medicare cards for my two youngest sons so they can go to the doctor without me, forms to apply for a casual tutoring job I’m interested in and a form to complete if I want to enter a local competition. Oh and an electronic form I have to help my son complete so he can put in his preferences for any tertiary courses he might want to do next year.

I never thought life would be this complicated! Too many people want too much information from me! No wonder many of today’s youth refuse to take on responsibility, preferring to simply enjoy life. I would do the same if I had known back in my younger days what I know now.

People from my parents’ generation complain the youth of today are always on the go and never take time to relax. Well, I bet they are far too busy filling out forms to take the time to relax.

Gathering information seems to be a highlight of businesses and organisations these days. Information about clients and, even more importantly, potential clients is extremely valuable. Once they have your details businesses and organisations can market their products to you more efficiently, or produce products that better meet your needs, or predict which products and services you are most likely to need.

Sometimes requiring forms to be completed can be a stalling technique and one that I use myself at work. It is easier to ask prospective clients to fill in a form and submit it than it is to deal with them directly at the time they contact you.

What I can’t understand is why, in today’s technological age, I’m still required to fill in paper forms and submit them by post? Why can’t I just log on to the relevant website, type in my details and hit “send”? This, by the way, is exactly what happens at my work if I ask potential clients to fill in forms. What’s with the truckloads of trees cut down in order to allow us to fill in paper forms?

Take, for example, Medicare. In order to get their own cards you would think it would be easy enough for my sons to go to a Medicare office, present photo ID and wait while the customer service officer typed a few details into the computer. But no, first they have to fill in a paper form and then they go to a Medicare office with the form and their photo ID and wait while the customer service officer types their details into the computer. Go figure.

But I must go now. I still have those forms to complete…

Monday, September 6, 2010

Melbourne Writers Festival - Part 2

So, last Friday evening I headed into the city to attend two events at the Melbourne Writers Festival. Both were being held at the same venue, with a one hour break between them, so I thought I would head to the bar during the break as I was on my own and didn’t feel like wandering through the city streets at night.

Arriving at the Capitol Theatre a bit early I did a circuit of the foyer before the reality sunk in that there was no bar! There wasn’t even a cafĂ©. There were no refreshments at all. So much for Plan A. Plan B presented itself as a table full of books for sale and I spent my time perusing them.

The first event was an oration on privacy entitled “Privacy, do we need it?” by Frank Moorhouse, the author I had seen the night before. I was eager to hear what he had to say as his writing was very frank and often graphic, and he was seemingly unconcerned with what his family or friends would think. I was to be disappointed. His oration gave the impression of skirting the issues at best and being fairly wishy washy at worst. His speaking had lost the punch of the night before and before the end of it people started leaving. The only thing I liked about his speech was the fact it went overtime, leaving me less time to sit in the foyer looking lost before the next oration.

The second event was an oration given by Noel Pearson, entitled “Nights when I dream of a better world: An argument for the Labor Party to move from the centre left to the radical centre of Australian politics”. Noel Pearson is one of Australia’s best known Aboriginal leaders and activists. He is a lawyer and the founder of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership. He is a fantastic speaker and we, the audience, hung on every word and he received a standing ovation at the end of it. I can tell you right now, if he ever decides to run for Prime Minister or form his own political party, he will have my vote!

One point Pearson made has stuck in my head. He told us that when he and the other people at the Cape York Institute had attempted to define capability, they came up with the equation that “personal responsibility + opportunity = capability”. Think about that for a minute. We don’t often factor in personal responsibility when we are looking at what we are capable of. Too often we look at what others are offering us and forget that we also have the responsibility of helping ourselves. I thought it a noteworthy point!

I’m glad I made the effort to attend the events I did. Every year I tell myself I should go and every year I procrastinate until the Festival is over. I look forward to next year’s program and maybe attending even more events!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Melbourne Writers Festival - Part 1

The Melbourne Writers Festival is nearing the end and this year I was fortunate enough to attend a few events.

My old university had programmed a writer’s talk for alumni, so I thought I’d go and see what it was like. I had only heard of one of the authors and had not read any of their books, but that didn’t deter me. I must admit, driving there I thought I should have been a bit better prepared, maybe googled them at least, but I hadn’t.

I had been an off campus student, so it took me more than a few minutes to navigate myself to a parking spot. The teeny tiny map they had emailed was not a huge help. Likewise I had to ask the way to the Library where the event was being held. But I found it and was pleasantly surprised to see a table full of drinks and nibbles on offer. I had thought I wouldn’t be eating until I got home, so this was definitely a bonus.

While trying to work out the logistics of holding a glass of wine, a serviette and a nibbly bit that I was trying to eat, the lady standing next to me said “hi” and we struck up a conversation. She was very nice and at the end of the event we exchanged business cards, so you never know, I might have found a friend!

It was soon time to take our seats and my new friend and I daringly sat in the middle of the front row. The authors who were talking were Ananda Braxton-Smith, Frank Moorhouse and Jon Watts. Their brief was to talk about their writing process. I had heard of Frank Moorhouse before, but knew nothing of the two others.

Ananda spoke first. She writes novels for 10-14 year olds, set in medieval times. Her way of talking, her stance, the way she flicked her hair, all reminded me of an old school friend and I wondered what she was up to nowadays. Ananda’s process was all enveloping. She would draft her story, then write up storyboards, similar to cinematic processes, and put them out on her floor, shifting them around until she had the right sequence. She would also write poetry about characters in the novel, make collages, invent songs and pretty much become immersed in the work in progress. More about her novels here:

Frank Moorhouse spoke next. He fascinated me from the start. He had been writing for over 40 years and was part of the “Sydney Push”, a left wing, intellectual group which operated from the 1940s to the early 70s and were notorious for rejecting conventional morality and authority. What particularly captivated my interest was just how honest his writing was. He was promoting his memoir and his writing held nothing back; the sexual, the political, the good the bad and the ugly. Some of his essays can be found here: He admitted he’d often had death threats; journalists camped outside his house and had also lost friendships over his writing. I’ve always wanted to be more honest and open about my writing, but have been scared of the consequences, so his daring intrigued me. When I discovered he was giving a lecture on privacy issues the next night, I made up my mind to attend.

The last speaker was Jon Watts who had written a book on environmental issues entitled “When a Billion Chinese Jump”. He was the most amusing of all the speakers and, if he hadn’t written such an enormous book, I might be tempted to read it! You can find a taste of his writing here: His process had centred on procrastination and the determination not to shave until the book was written – and he hates beards! He is an environmental journalist based in Asia and the stories he had to tell were very poignant. He too has received hate mail from environmental sceptics but the evidence he has that we are killing our planet seemed to be pretty overwhelming.

All in all I had a super evening. My brain was stimulated, I found renewed motivation to write and I might have made a friend!

Part two – the next two events I attended – the Moorhouse oration on privacy and the powerful oration given by Noel Pearson, a prominent Australian Aboriginal activist and leader.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Writing, competitions and Procrastination

Yesterday I entered a short story in a local competition. It was the first time I’ve entered a short story competition. Last year I entered a poetry competition but didn’t get anywhere.

Stories had to be between 1500 – 3000 in length. I found it almost impossible to get to the 1500 mark! Eventually, after many drafts and much editing I managed to write 1512 words. It is a succinct story with what I hope is a twist. Once I hear the results of the competition I will publish it here. Until then it is meant to be unpublished in any arena. I’ve checked the website and they don’t give any indication of when the results will be published, so I guess I just have to be patient.

I haven’t written very many short stories. In fact, the one I’ve entered in the competition might just be the first I’ve ever completed. I always liked the idea of writing a novel, but after successfully finishing one short story I think I’m eager to write more of them. I like the idea of thinking of a plot with a twist. My brain has been working overtime devising different scenarios.

Even if I don’t win any prizes, I’m satisfied that I can tick off one of my goals. As soon as I learnt of the competition I decided I was going to enter it no matter what. Procrastination almost immediately visited me and became my constant companion. I found it difficult to find the time to write. Then my plot wasn’t good enough. Then the twist wasn’t twisty enough. Then it needed editing and once again I had no time. But I pushed Procrastination aside and forced myself to hit the keyboard.

Procrastination’s final effort to stall me happened on the last day for getting entries in. I had to take my youngest son in to the radiology clinic to get an MRI on his shoulder and planned to stop on the way home and put in my entry. Even though I had taken my entry with me, procrastination kept telling me not to drop it in. It was too much of a detour to take, too far to drive, too much traffic to get through and there would probably not be any car parks when I got there. Luckily I’m learning how to ignore Procrastination!

I found two quotes about Procrastination that I can relate to:

“The two rules of procrastination: 1) Do it today. 2) Tomorrow will be today tomorrow.” ~Author Unknown

“Procrastination is opportunity's assassin.” ~Victor Kiam

I hope I can continue to ignore Procrastination and grab all opportunities with two hands!

Wish me luck for the competition!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My youngest son

That’s my youngest son, number 31, about to take a mark. He loves football and always has. We let his two older brothers start football when they were 8, but he begged and pleaded so much that we let him start at 6 and he hasn’t missed a season.

Last week, at the 18 minute mark of the first quarter, in the last game of the season, my youngest son dislocated his shoulder. It was the same shoulder he dislocated at the beginning of the season. One minute he was going in to tackle his opponent, the next he was staggering off the ground, holding his arm and screwing up his face in an attempt not to show pain.

This time the trainers managed to get his shoulder back in place in the clubrooms. He later told me he would have put it back in himself rather than go to hospital again! They encased his shoulder in ice, gave him some painkillers and he watched the rest of the game from the sidelines.

His team had the lead right up until the end of the game. Another shoulder injury, no players left on the bench and a few mistakes, and the game ended with the other team winning by 8 points. It was pretty devastating. We looked back at the stats later and the man my son had been defending kicked 4 goals after my son left the field. Prior to that he had only had one kick and one point.

So now we once again begin the endless round of physiotherapist and remedial massage therapist visits. My son will soon start the endless repetitions of exercises. It will be at least 6 weeks before he can start any sort of training or sport again. It’s a good thing that the season is now over and preseason won’t start until around November / December.

Of course it’s an inconvenience too. My son is booked to go for his driver’s licence soon. We shall see if his test has to be delayed or not. The end of his last school year is approaching and, having injured his right shoulder, he is unable to write which doesn’t help for school work, revision or exams. Not to mention that he can’t play Playstation!

Through it all my youngest son has made me so very proud of him. Yes, we both felt initial disappointment and frustration, but he is starting to rise above those feelings. He is trying to be so very independent in a one armed way. There isn’t much I have to help him with. Strangely enough he can manage to put more dishes in the dishwasher with one arm than he ever could with two!!!

When my youngest son has healed and his shoulder is back to normal, I hope he finds the courage to put this disappointment behind him and move forward to achieve his goals, whatever they may be. I hope his inner voice only ever speaks positively to him and that he ignores any negativity around him. I know he can achieve great things, I hope he knows this too.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My middle son

That’s my middle son in the photo about to kick the ball in from the boundary line. He has always been the most patient and least mercurial of my children. I remember him as a kid striving to keep up with his older brother. What he lacked in talent he more than made up with determination and patience. One time he spent hours and hours mastering the art of rollerblading. His determination won through and he was soon rollerblading everywhere.

My middle son is the one I turn to if something needs fixing around the house. He’s not home very often, but when he is he kindly looks at whatever problem I have and tries to find a solution. The solution is sometimes unorthodox, but always works. If he says something can’t be repaired I believe him because I know he has tried to find some way to make it work.

My middle son is an apprentice Electrician. He is in his second year of his apprenticeship and is enjoying his work. I’m so glad he has found something that not only interests him but also gives him enough money to be independent. He might live at home (for the moment) but he has a full life outside of home with work, friends and his sport. I am proud of the man he has become and I treasure the times he is at home because they far too infrequent and usually consist of sleeping!

This week my middle son takes off for a ten day holiday in Thailand with some of his friends. It’s a destination I’m not comfortable with and he knows that but at nearly 20 years of age (one week to go) he is more than able to make up his own mind. I’ve talked to him about the dangers – political riots, unrest, bombings, drugs, sex and all the rest – and there’s not much more I can do. I do trust him, I just don’t know his friends well enough to trust them and I certainly don’t trust the people in Thailand.

No, I’m not racist. I am realistic. Thailand is going through its own political struggles, the people are exposed far more to corruption than we are in Australia and their way of life is totally different to what we are used to.

In the end I have to have faith in my son to do the right thing and faith in the Universe that nothing bad will happen to him. He can’t wait to go away and I can’t wait for him to return!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I’ve forgotten to believe in fairies

When I was a child and a teenager and even a very young adult I didn’t have a care in the world. It was easy to live, love and laugh. I could walk down the road with a swing to my hips, a smile on my lips and the world spread out in front of me to enjoy. I believed in fairies, Santa Claus and angels. Life was so simple then. As a family we weren’t wealthy and my parents never gave me any pocket money, but I didn’t seem to want for much. Somehow I always had money to spend and friends to spend it with.

I moved out of home at 17 and tried a number of different jobs. I moved to another state at 22, got engaged at 23 and married at 25. Our first son was born when I was 28. By the time I was 39 the marriage was over. But through all those years I was still having fun. There was so much to fit into life and I was determined to squeeze in what I could.

But somewhere along the way life became more complicated, or maybe I complicated it. I can’t even pinpoint when it happened. Suddenly the money stopped flowing quite so easily and instead of fairies all I can now see are endless piles of laundry to wash, pantry shelves to fill and meals to cook. The horizon is a never ending collage of grey and there is not a rainbow in sight.

Instead of planning a new adventure, I’m calculating how to pay the bills. Instead of going out in the world, I’m cleaning the bathroom.

Last weekend all my boys were at home being their usual brotherly selves. There was much wrestling, dancing, singing and general jumping around going on and all I could think of was potential holes in walls or broken light fittings.

What happened? When did I stop seeing fairies in the garden? When did I stop enjoying life? Where did my sense of humor go?

I’m pretty sure I have to find those fairies again. I don’t think they have totally disappeared. They must be hiding somewhere. I’ll be looking for those angels too and hoping that Santa Claus shows himself this year. After all, it’s all about belief isn’t it? The belief we have in ourselves, in our family, in the power of the Universe... and fairies.

Maybe, if I just clap my hands...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Election Blues

This has to be the most boring election I’ve lived through so far. No matter where you look the leaders of all parties are dull, colorless and boring. Julia’s red hair is the most vibrant patch in a field of grey conservatism.

What happened to the great orators of the past? What happened to the leaders who used words as their friends? The ones whose voices were their instruments of power and they knew how to use them with passionate energy. What happened to the speech writers who drew upon emotion and feeling?

In this election we have no great speeches. The leaders’ voices don’t rise with passion and fall with emotion. They don’t thump the lecterns to make their point, they don’t raise their fists and they don’t ever let feelings get in the way of their bland intonation and soporific statements.

Our leaders are too scared to sound anything else but “normal”, whatever that is. They are too scared to make promises that might antagonise sectors of the community. They are so intent on staying in the dead centre of conservative Australia that they look dead themselves. There is no passion, no belief and no strength behind these leaders. They have been given their boundaries and they make sure not to straddle any fences.

How can we trust any of these leaders to govern our country with strength and passion if they are too scared to show us how they really feel?

How can we choose between these various shades of grey?

Are these leaders of ours a product of our making? Have we been so apathetic with our governance that politicians think we only want bland, colorless leadership?

Are we so selfish that all we think of is what we can get out of each party? So we sit back, listen to their promises and try to work out which one will give us more money or more benefits and vote for them without any consideration for the country or our children or their children?

Maybe it’s about time we looked at ourselves and changed our mindsets? Maybe we should decide what we want for the future and not for the now? Maybe we should think of our children and our grand children and their children? Maybe we should do what’s best for the environment and for those who are worse off than ourselves?

We really should do something before we end up with a progression of dull, colorless, boring cardboard cut outs of leaders and our country loses its passion.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Women who have influenced me – Maya Angelou

I first heard of Maya Angelou on a day I was at home and sick and watching Oprah. From memory Maya read some of her poetry and from that moment I was hooked. Her poem “Phenomenal Woman” from her book And Still I Rise is one of my all time favorites and forever reminds me of just how wonderful women are and how we should all hold our heads high no matter what life throws at us.

It didn’t take me long to find Maya’s books in my local library and I’ve read through most of her autobiographical memoirs. Maya is everything I admire in a woman. She has had an incredible life, lived through some hard times, made some mistakes along the way, but at every stumbling block she encountered she managed to pick herself up, dust herself off, review the situation and move on. She never gave up on herself or on life in general.

This woman lived through some of the more tumultuous of times. She battled through poverty, her parent’s divorce, sexual molestation and the racial discrimination that was endemic in the Southern states. She forged a career as a performer and then moved into both the editorial and academic worlds. She worked with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr and has become a renowned author of contemporary literature, successful in both prose and poetry. She was even asked by President Clinton to write a poem for his inauguration.

I read Maya’s first autobiographical book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings without really knowing what to expect. What I discovered and enjoyed was a style of writing that pulled no punches. Her honesty is both insightful and confronting. I got the same pleasure from her other autobiographies, each portraying the next stage of her life. I can highly recommend her books and her poems. In case you haven’t read any of Maya’s poetry, here is Phenomenal Woman, my favorite:

by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing of my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can't see.
I say
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
The palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

from And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou
copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou.

Meeting the Girlfriend - part two

Just to update everyone - I met my eldest son's girlfriend and she is very nice! I think we got on well. I found her easy to talk to. She's also intelligent and seems to know what she wants out of life - things that are important to a mother! But the most important thing is that my son looks very happy and that makes me happy.

Now, if only my team would have won on Sunday...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Meeting the Girlfriend

This weekend I get to meet my eldest son’s girlfriend for the first time. They are coming to the football with me and my youngest son.

It’s a bit daunting to meet a girlfriend. I never know what to say or do. If I say the wrong thing I could either embarrass my son or alienate both of them!

I get the impression that my boys are often embarrassed by me. I admit I can be a bit eccentric, but I stand up for my right to be what I want to be in my own home! The other day my youngest son brought a friend home who I hadn’t met before. What did he expect walking in during the last three minutes of an incredibly exciting football game where my team was hanging onto the lead? Did he expect a docile female sitting quietly to watch her favorite team, currently fifteenth on the ladder beat a team in the top four?

What he got was excita-Mom! There I was jumping up and down, yelling at the television, only diverting my attention for a moment to open the front door for them. As the final siren went I flung my arms around my youngest son’s neck with joy (luckily he was the closest one to me). I paused for a moment to greet his friend and then proceeded to do a happy dance to my team’s song. What’s wrong with that?

I’m a social creature and I enjoy meeting my sons’ friends. They are most welcome to come to our house any time. I’m happy to have them stay for a meal, as long as I get a bit of warning. It can be a culinary nightmare to try to stretch meals designed for a set amount of people. Just how far can one steak stretch? Luckily I usually cook large meals based on either pasta or rice as all of us take leftovers to work and/or school the next day.

I’ve been trying to remember what it felt like to meet the parents of boyfriends. I do remember going out with one guy who rode a motorbike. The night I first met his parents I was still trying to take my helmet off as I walked through the screen door. Yes, through the screen door as opposed to opening it first! I guess I haven’t changed very much over the years.

My ex husband didn’t officially introduce me to his parents. They lived on a farm and the first time I went with him to meet them he left me sitting at the back door while he went to see his father in the dairy. I sat there for quite awhile until his mother came home and found me.

Back to meeting the girlfriend. It’s probably a good thing that we are meeting at the football. The game will give us something to talk about. I think we are going to go out for a drink and some food afterwards. It should be a nice afternoon.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Homelessness or Houselessness?

Another new suburb is opening in Melbourne. Its vast former farming lands will stretch the boundaries of our city once more. People slept in their cars over night to be first in line to buy empty blocks, just one more sign of the desperation felt by many who cannot afford housing in our wonderful city. But amazingly, there were also a good percentage of investors queuing up for the new blocks. One man and his wife were there to buy what will become their twelfth investment property.

So, where does this leave people who are yet to own their own home? With housing prices going through the roof, it is becoming more and more difficult to even save the deposit in order to buy a home. It is estimated that it will take couples at least five years to save for a deposit for a home in one of the outer suburbs. At least ten years to save for a deposit for a home closer to the city. I guess it would take even longer for single people to save.

Rents are sky rocketing and there is a distinct lack of social housing. More and more people are sleeping in their cars, couch surfing or taking to the streets. These are the new houseless members of our society. Why do we tolerate this? By the same token, Melbourne’s boundaries can only be stretched so far before the effects are felt with a lack of infrastructure, leaving these new suburbs in a state of disconnect from the rest of the city.

According to the website, homelessness is defined as: 'An inadequate experience of connectedness with family and or community,' (Dominic Mapstone). This fact is now recognized by Habitat, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme.

Until I looked it up I didn’t realise there was a difference between homelessness and houselessness. Reading through the website it appears that homelessness is more about social connectivity and feeling a part of something, more than actually not having a roof above one’s head. There have been instances of people refusing shelter simply because the shelter offered is not in the geographic area that they consider themselves to be part of. And there are instances of people having shelter, but ending up on the streets because they are lonely in their accommodation and all their friends are still on the streets.

Of course there is also the matter of safety in some of our rooming houses and shelters. I’ve heard many stories of women and children dealing with environments that we wouldn’t want our animals to live in, let alone other human beings. There are corrupt and greedy landlords everywhere, but apparently there are more than enough of them preying on some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

So what is the answer to both homelessness and houselessness? How do we prevent people suffering from loneliness and a lack of social connection? Will the same feeling prevail in our new distant suburbs, where people will be left in nice houses in the middle of nowhere, with little public transport? Have we not only created a society of haves and have nots, but also a society where the privileged are also geographically better off?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Books – Build Your Own Life Brand!

There are times in my life when I turn to music for healing and there are other times I turn to books. When things got rough for me six and a half years ago I turned to self- help books.

OK – don’t click out of here just yet! I know that some of you don’t believe in self- help books and, in some cases, I would agree with you. But for me most of the ones I’ve read have helped in some way. It might have been just one hint out of the whole book, it might have been the mention of another book or website or it might have been presenting things in a different way and making me think outside the square, but all of them have been useful.

One of the first books I bought and read was Stedman Graham’s “Build Your Own Life Brand!” I have no idea what attracted me to this book, perhaps it was the connection with Oprah. Graham was and probably could still be (I really don’t know) Oprah’s partner. I admire Oprah, so that could have been the appeal. Whatever it was I bought the book.

As the title indicates Graham’s book deals with branding and expands the concept to the individual. He asks us to look at ourselves as products and shows us how we can a “Life Brand” for ourselves “that will enable you to stand out not only in your work but also in your relationships and the greater “communities” that you belong to.”

Throughout the book Graham gives us real life examples, not only of individuals but also of individuals sorted by professions. There are lessons to be learnt and exercises to complete. I didn’t do them.

Once you have created a “Life Brand” Graham shows you how to market it to give yourself the best opportunities in life. He takes some marketing strategies from corporations and tailors them for the individual.

This isn’t a book that I would read over and over again as I found it slanted more toward the commercial world than I feel comfortable with. However I really liked the examples Graham gave of real life people. And I did take away some good points from the book.

At a time when I was struggling to deal with the chaos in my mind and in my heart, this book made me focus on who I was, where I was going and what I wanted in life. Over the years the things I want and the places I want to go have changed, but I couldn’t have started without working out who I was.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My Eldest Son

This is my eldest son doing what he loves best, harness racing. In this shot, taken a few months ago, he had begun to drive the horses while they were training.

At the beginning of this year he moved to a country town about an hours drive away to study how to be a Harness Racing driver / trainer. Finally he had followed his heart and found his passion in life.

Like many teenager, my eldest son had no idea what he wanted to do when he left school. He’s a talented sportsman and toyed with the idea of trying to get to a USA College in a basketball program but decided against it. Then he thought he might try out for an Australian Rules football team, but decided against that too. In between he thought of going into different trades and even got his certification to be a Personal Trainer. But nothing he tried seemed to be right for him.

We talked about it often, sometimes we yelled at each other, that’s just the way we are. I’d like to think I’m close with him and his brothers. Eventually he told me he would really like to try harness racing. He had found a course and talked to the coordinator. I told him that if he really wanted to pursue harness racing as a career, he should go ahead and do it. My only condition was that he organised it all himself. See, I’d helped him with most of his other career choices and they had all fallen by the wayside. I finally realised he had to take the reins (so to speak) and take responsibility for his own life and his own decisions.

He has never looked back. I’ve still kept the text message he sent me after his first day at the course. It said “This is it. Found what I want to do. Love it!”

It’s a wonderful feeling when your children find something in life they are not only passionate about but they are also good at, as well as something that has the capacity to earn them a living. The life of a Harness Racing driver / trainer is not an easy one. There are 6am starts no matter what the time of year or weather. The horses have to be looked after, worked, groomed, fed, etc. It can be very physical and there is always the chance of being kicked or bitten. But every occupation has its downside and if the downside doesn’t faze you and, despite everything, you still love what you do, then you are truly one of the lucky ones.

I think finding his passion in life has also given him the confidence to be more independent. I get less text messages asking for me to call him than I did when he first moved away. He knows how to cook, clean and do his own laundry. This week he has a week off from his course and he organised some work experience at a large stable near his grandmother. On his own. Without anyone’s help.

I don’t get to see my eldest son very often. It might be only a short drive away but I still have obligations to my other two sons who still live at home, oh and there’s work too. But when I get the chance I go down to see him and he sometimes comes home for flying visits. I miss him dreadfully but I’m so happy that he’s happy. And I am very proud of him.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Women who have influenced me - Tina Turner

In early 2004, a few months after I was dumped by the man I believed to be my soulmate, as I was beginning to put myself together again, I was gripped by a desire to find out more about strong women. I was living with some friends at the time and my bed was just under their massive bookcase. I spent many days with their vast selection of books. It was almost like having a personal library.

One of the first books I read was “I, Tina”, the biography of Tina Turner. Now I was never a huge Tina Turner fan but I had bought “Private Dancer” – on cassette (do you remember cassettes?) and enjoyed it. I started reading and couldn’t put the book down.

From memory it was not the best written of books, but Tina’s story was sad and hard and, in the end, inspiring. Born into a dysfunctional family her life was punctuated by a lack of love and abuse. Yet, she managed to survive and, more than survive; she eventually thrived – once she left Ike – even though that step left her with millions of dollars of debt. Millions of dollars! I can’t even imagine trying to pull myself out of that kind of debt. Yet she did. At the time I had been left homeless, jobless and practically penniless after the break up. To read about someone who was in the same situation but also had that much debt and managed to work through it all, was just what I needed to hear.

And for all those people who are about to comment that Tina was a well known singer with the connections that allowed her to climb out of the hole, I believe she would have done the same thing if she had been a nobody. There are probably plenty of Tina’s out there that we have never heard of, who have left miserable lives with different measures of success.

It was “I, Tina” that first introduced me to Buddhism and chanting. Not that I’m a Buddhist, but I did try chanting for a bit. I was beginning my journey of self healing and it was one of the stops I made. Chanting is not for me but over the last year or so I have begun to meditate again – a practice I find frustrating at worst and blissful at best but I’m determined to persevere.

"I never felt sorry for myself. Once you start the self-pity, you're dead - you're in the box. I didn't allow myself to go in that friggin' box. That's the message. Don't accept it. Keep going." - Tina Turner

That is one of my favorite Tina quotes. Like Tina I didn’t want to go into that “friggin’ box”. I was down but not out and her story showed me that there are many people out there who are in far worse situations than I was or hopefully will ever be. Despite her situation, she never gave up. There’s something for us all to learn.

Another Tina quote: “Sometimes you've got to let everything go - purge yourself. If you are unhappy with anything . . . whatever is bringing you down, get rid of it. Because you'll find that when you're free, your true creativity, your true self comes out.”