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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Writing, writers, books and time

Last night, as I was attempting to finish “Another Country” by James Baldwin, I knew exactly what I was going to write today. In the quiet small hours of this morning, struggling to keep my eyes open, but determined to read just one more page, one more paragraph and one more line; before the book started to fall out of my hands and I was jerked awake by its movement, I had the words in my head.

Now, the words have gone. And this morning when I woke up I had to reread all the bits I thought I had read last night. I had read them, but I hadn’t digested them, they had rolled up to my eyes and then slid off back onto the page where they belonged.

I found “Another Country” to be interesting, challenging and sometimes difficult to read. Reading Baldwin’s words were like living in one of the affairs he described. At first it was new and different and sensual, then it became familiar, later I wanted to put it down and leave it but couldn’t. Finally I had to finish it, no matter what. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book. I enjoyed Baldwin’s writing, but his characters unnerved me, probably because I had never met these characters before. They didn’t live anywhere in my life. I felt slightly uncomfortable with some of their decisions. It is perhaps a sign of great writing, the ability to make your reader feel uncomfortable, but still want to finish the book.

I wish I could write like that. Lately I’ve thought I could write like that. The stories float through my head and I ache to put them down on paper, or at least on the virtual paper on my screen. But then my life interferes. I have yet another meal to make, more dishes to wash, laundry to do, children to organise or drive around, work, work, work, study and, last of all, friends to catch up with. The time that is my own is very late at night, when it’s all I can do to keep my head straight on my shoulders as I lose myself in whatever crappy or not so crappy show is on TV.

How do other writers do it? I’ve often heard of female writers who scribble long hand on large yellow pads while their brood of six run rampant through the kitchen. They then present their publishers with best sellers and are set up for life. How on earth can they do that? It is all I can do to try to turn off from the daily noises around me, the television, the chatter, my youngest son’s guitar. Then the questions – always the questions when I want some quiet time. Telephones and computers are like magnets – as soon as you are occupied on them, they draw your children closer and closer, with no hope of escape.

But one day I will find the time, or make the time. Right now though I have to do the shopping…

Friday, February 26, 2010

By the light of the moon

Tonight I was bringing in the dry laundry by the light of the full moon. My eldest son came home for the weekend with a basketful of dirty laundry. Yes, I could have left him to do it and yes, he would have done it – but sometimes I enjoy helping out.

Anyway I only got his washing out after 5pm and then did another load of our clothes. It’s now just after 9pm and his washing is dry. Tonight is a very warm night. Inside its stuffy, outside it’s not too bad. If there was a breeze it would be perfect.

I love the moon, especially the full moon. Bringing in the washing by its light reminded me of my childhood when I would dress up in an old white lace dress of my mothers and dance in the light of the full moon, singing to myself. I must have been quite young and, looking back with grown up eyes, I must have escaped through the back door or somehow evaded my parents at that time of night. It was my very own private time; a monthly ritual.

I still draw comfort and solace from the moon. It seems to have magical powers. The silvery white light softens harsh concrete edges and caresses flora and fauna alike. I used to make believe that I could see the man in the moon. I would turn my head to one side and the other, squint slightly and crane my neck backwards, trying to make out his face in the shadows of the moon’s craters.

When I was old enough to drive I would often go and sit at the beach in the moonlight. Sitting on the sand, listening to the whoosh of the waves bathed in moonlight is a very special experience; more so if the night is balmy and the breeze is soft.

Nowadays I rarely get the chance to sit in the light of the full moon and soak in the magic. Life is pretty hectic and I’m usually trying to fit in one more household chore before I go to bed. But tonight I think I will sneak into the backyard like I used to do and, even if I don’t dance, I’ll still look for the man in the moon.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Right now I love being a mother

I have reached that stage of motherhood where my boys, now young adults, have nearly become human. They can not only look after themselves if they have to, but they can also hold (short) but decent conversations. They have their own opinions on everything from how their school/sports club/workplace should be run, to how the government should deal with violence on our streets. They can voice their opinions and argue them sensibly, rather than throwing themselves on the floor, screaming and thumping fists and feet.

It wasn’t always this way. I have to admit I was one of those women who hated being pregnant. I didn’t like my body being distorted, my sleep being disturbed and my stomach being turned by that little being growing inside. Breast feeding my eldest was a nightmare. I had mastitis, he didn’t suck well, we both suffered. Then came the second and the third and I was exhausted, overweight and an emotional wreck.

Despite this I threw myself into motherhood. I did try to do the best I could. I played with my boys, I read to them, I took them to the park and, when I simply couldn’t do any more, I confess that I did sit them in front of the television while I either tried to nap or make dinner or clean the house or do the ever mounting laundry. However, television only captured them for a brief time, maybe 15 or 20 minutes at a time. Then they were off again, running through the house, three mini tornados with all the destructive force of a major natural disaster.

The older they got the better I coped. Thank goodness for schools and sporting clubs. Lord only knows how I would have kept them occupied out of school hours if there hadn’t have been basketball, football, indoor cricket, swimming and athletics. The hours of driving to training and games were worth every minute. At least while they were busy with their sport I could catch up on adult conversation with other parents or attempt to read just one chapter more of the book I had started so many weeks before.

The driving them around to sporting commitments never really stopped. These days I drive my youngest and often his friends to football training. Their gratitude is enough and, while it doesn’t fill the car with fuel, I just have to remember the cheery “thank you – really thank you for taking us” as they each squeeze their 6’ frames out of the back of my little car, to make it all worthwhile.

I once told my youngest I believe before we are born we choose our parents for whatever reasons. There might be lessons we need to learn from those particular people or lessons we need to learn from that situation. He doesn’t really agree with me but it makes me proud when he tells me that if he were to be born again, he would still choose me as a mother!

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Had a great night last night with my friends, despite the fact I’d forgotten I would have to take my youngest son to basketball, so was racing to get ready after the game. There is nothing like trying to change bra straps (from normal to plastic so they can’t be seen under a singlet top) when you are in a hurry. I’m sure bra straps know you are in a hurry and simply refuse to obey! I eventually conquered them using a skewer.

Anyway, I finally got to our first destination and met my friends. One of them had brought a friend of hers along, so there were four of us. We found a table and got a drink, chatted and looked around at the crowd. There were so many young people! Actually one of my friends bumped into a friend of her son’s. That was awkward. Apparently mothers aren’t allowed to go out!

The venue was ok, an old style pub that had been renovated, but we thought we could do better. So we left and headed down the road to a restaurant/bar that looked pretty nice from the outside. We climbed the stairs and, upon reaching the top, was stopped by the bouncer asking us for ID! Well, you should have seen our faces. Our jaws dropped, our mouths opened, we were in shock. We must have very expressive faces because the bouncer burst out laughing. He had just been joking with us! It was a nice joke though and set the scene for a good evening.

We all decided this venue was the one for my birthday. The bar is set outside on decking, there are long tables around and, if it’s cold or wet they have a retractable roof and heaters. The drinks are reasonably priced, the piped music wasn’t so loud that you couldn’t have a conversation and the staff were friendly. So I’ve got the date and the venue, I just have to get some invitations out.

Today I went out for drinks with another friend. We have both joined an American expat group and went to one of their “meet ups” at a beer garden in the city. It was a lovely afternoon and good to meet some new people.

All in all I’ve had a very social weekend!

Friday, February 19, 2010

It's all about Me!

I wish that were true! However, this weekend will come close because on Saturday night I’m going out with some friends to choose a venue for my 50th birthday drinks in April. The whole concept of turning 50 is a bit surreal. I still feel like a teenager (and I’m sure some people think I still act like one). But I’m willing to embrace the big 5 – 0 in style, so someone has to work out where to celebrate and I guess that will be me.

I decided against a party – I always get far too nervous wondering if anyone will turn up. I also decided against having anything at my home – I would not enjoy cleaning up the next day. So my plan is to let my friends know I will be at a certain venue on the day and they can join me for drinks if they like. I’ll provide some food, everyone can buy their own drinks and we can just relax. But to do that I have to decide where to go first!

Mind you, I do have to clean the house and do the laundry tomorrow. And I will have to take my youngest son to his basketball game, but after that I will meet two of my friends and we will have a few drinks at a couple of venues. I want to see what sort of crowd each of the venues attracts on a Saturday night and what sort of music they play. Both are very important details.

Apart from going to the wedding last week, I don’t think I’ve been out on a Saturday night for a very long time. If I have, I can’t remember. Of course I’m not counting my son’s basketball games!

But that’s not all. On Sunday afternoon I’m going out with another friend to a “meet up” at a beer garden. The meet up is being held by an online group of American expats in Melbourne. I joined the group around Christmas and haven’t yet been to any of their functions, so I’m a little bit nervous. However, I’m determined to get out there and meet more people. The beer garden they have chosen is a very nice venue, I’ve been there a few times before. There’s usually a crowd of people, live music and a relaxed atmosphere.

So I have a very pleasant weekend ahead of me. I guess the most stressful thing will be deciding what to wear!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind." Rudyard Kipling

Once a week, on a Monday evening, I volunteer one hour or so of my time to teach English to a refugee couple from Iran. I’ve been seeing them since last September. They are my first English students and, before I started, I never quite realised just how challenging it would be!

What this hour a week has taught me is how important words, language and communication are. Without a means of making ourselves understood, life is so much more difficult. It must be a daily struggle for refugees and migrants who speak no English and are trying to make new lives in a foreign country. Especially those who are middle aged and probably haven’t had much education in their homeland.

I think it would be easier to teach someone from a French or German or Italian background. But Persian has different letters in the alphabet and the writing runs from right to left and it’s impossible to even decipher or guess at what their words mean.

The wife is slightly better at English than her husband. She has had a few years more of school than he has and seems to pick things up a bit faster. At times he seems overwhelmed with the whole concept of dealing with a new language, but then he almost visibly picks himself up and tries again and again. We spent several weeks on the concept of “on” and “under”. I’m still not sure he has quite got it.

This week I took my netbook with me and we talked about families. I showed them photos of my boys, my father, my aunt and my cousins. I talked about my family, the boys’ ages and what they were doing. But the best thing about the netbook was having access to an online Persian-English dictionary! Finally I could show them the equivalent word in their language.

By the end of the lesson I had my first real breakthrough. The husband told me he had two brothers and two sisters, one father and one mother! I was very excited that he had strung together such a long sentence.
I don’t think I will ever again underestimate the power of words, language and communication.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Her Big Fat Greek Wedding

What a fabulous wedding it was! The bride looked absolutely stunning. The groom looked proud and the whole family looked as if they thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

First we arrived at the church where the bride arrived in a Hummer limousine, fashionably late. While waiting for her, the Greek musicians and dancers entertained us in the car park. The dancers included the groom and members of both families. It was a great way to set the atmosphere.

The service was solemn but joyful, a typical Greek Orthodox wedding service. The line of friends and family to greet the newly married couple was long.

After a break of several hours, the guest congregated at the reception venue, which was elegantly decorated in white and brown. The toasts were made, the cake was cut, and the bridal waltz took place to the strains of traditional Greek music. It was spectacular!

There was so much food! I made sure to leave half of every course so I could fit the next one in. The alcohol flowed, which probably explained the broken glasses through the night. The dancing never stopped! Seriously the dancing never stopped. The bride and groom must be exhausted today because they were never off their feet, joining into first one Greek dance and then another. There was a break for speeches, which were mostly in Greek, but our table was lucky enough to have a Greek couple on it who translated for us. Then there was more dancing and more dancing, friends and family whirling in ever increasing circles on the dance floor.

At 1am the venue closed, so the throwing of the bouquet and the garter and farewells took place shortly before. Then the bride and groom were hoisted on top of many male shoulders and were chaired off into the night and the Hummer.

I had a fabulous time. I even joined in the dancing for a bit. But I preferred to watch and soak in the atmosphere. Ahhhh those Greeks!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dress Ups - Wedding Day Pics

Here are the pics of my new outfit - as promised.

My son takes good photos!
Except when he tells me there's a bug crawling up my leg...

So, now I'm just waiting to go to the reception...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My online dating experiences or “How to attract losers 101”

Kiki’s comment on my last post made me think about sharing my online dating experiences with you.

For years I’ve communicated with people on the internet, first through Yahoo chat rooms, then MSN, then My Space and now Facebook. So I’m not averse to online communication. In fact there are a couple of people I met on Yahoo chat over 10 years ago that I still chat with on Facebook or email.

I also have two friends who are in long term, loving relationships that began online. One of them met her husband in a Yahoo chat room on my computer. It was the first time she had ever gone into Yahoo chat and he was the first person to contact her! I went to their wedding six years ago and I love them and their two beautiful children. My other friend met her partner in an online dating site – I think it was RSVP. They have now been together for a few years and seem very happy.

I wish I had such good experiences.

Last year, after much thought, I decided I was ready to date again. After all it was five years after the break up of my last intense relationship and ten years after the end of my marriage. I was encouraged by my friends and the two stories above, to try online dating sites.

Now I do have to watch my budget and there isn’t much left after pay day to throw around, so I chose sites that were free. I put up what I thought was a fine, slightly witty description of me, filled in all the blanks and sat back and waited for the replies. The one exception I made was to join eHarmony – the free bits only.

I have to add one thing here – in my description and also in all the blanks I had to complete, I stated very clearly that I do not like fishing, camping or outdoor activities. I wrote that I am a city girl; I like 5 star hotels, gourmet dinners, fine wine, intelligent conversation, cultural happenings and intellectual debates. My music of choice is fairly eclectic, but I do not like country music, grunge or heavy metal. I also made it clear that, as I’m tall, wear heels and feel uncomfortable with shorter men, I’m looking for someone at least 6’1” or taller.

I got replies. I got plenty of replies over the next few months. There was only one problem with all of the replies. Not one of them could read! Or maybe they didn’t bother to read. One is just as bad as the other.

The men who replied to me all enjoyed fishing, they loved camping and spent most of their day in the great outdoors. Not one of them liked gourmet dinners or fine wine. They preferred to slurp on cans of beer and chomp on burnt barbequed sausages. They were also all either country music fans or into heavy metal. As if that wasn’t bad enough, not one of them was over 5’11” in height! I kid you not!

By December last year I had had enough. I took down all my profiles and unsubscribed from all my accounts. I’m sure online dating has worked for many people, but there really has to be another way for me!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Staying Single

A conversation with a friend, another 40 something year old divorced female, has prompted this post. We were discussing our single lives and, along the way, wondering if we would ever find another partner. Is there just one person in the world for each of us? If you make the wrong choice the first time, do you get a second chance? Or has that moment disappeared forever?

Or, in my case anyway, is it just not less complicated to stay single? Do I really want to share my life with another person and, in the process, have to also share their life? Have I become too selfish to want to move back to one side of the bed instead of sleeping in the middle?

Speaking of beds, there is no doubt that I miss sex! That is number one on my list of things I miss in a relationship. There are times I would nearly (nearly) do anything to have some decent sex. But do I want to give up my independence and way of life in order to have sex? I don’t know. Sometimes I do and sometimes I would prefer to stay celibate.

But the question that neither my friend nor I could answer was when? If we were to be given a second chance, when would that happen? How long do we have to wait? How long before we just give up?

I’ve read the books and got the same advice from friends and acquaintances – when you stop looking you will find love. In that case I will be dead before my second chance comes knocking! I like looking. If I see an attractive male somewhere between the ages of “over the age of consent” and “one foot in the grave”, I will have a good look; sometimes a long look. And sometimes I might smile. So I can’t see me giving up looking any time soon.

I’m feeling pretty good about myself this year, even though I will soon turn 50. My social life is gathering speed, I’m making the attempt to get out and about and meet more people. I’ve got far more confidence than I did in my 20s or even in my 30s. But I still hesitate when I start thinking of seriously looking for another partner. Am I just strange? Or are there others like me somewhere out there?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The joys of cooking, every day

At lunch time today I got a text message from my eldest son “any ideas for meals cos I don’t know what to cook”. (Remember he's the one who's moved out).

I must admit I laughed.

My reply started with “Welcome to my world!”

I find the most tedious thing in my life is trying to decide what to cook and before that, trying to decide what to buy in order to cook. I need easy, fast, simple recipes that everyone in the family will eat. I don’t like cooking the same thing all the time because my taste buds get bored. There are just so many times I can have spaghetti bolognaise before it gets “blah”.

Of course finding recipes that all of my boys will eat can be a challenge, especially when it comes to my middle son. He won’t eat eggs, chicken, fish or mushrooms. There go half the easy, quick, simple recipes I like! The other challenge is keeping the grocery shopping within budget. I would love to eat sushi three times a week, but it just isn’t going to happen!

I have my staples. The meals I fall back on time and time again like the afore mentioned spaghetti bolognaise. We also regularly have schnitzel, homemade hamburgers, homemade pizza, macaroni cheese, ravioli and sometimes steak. But I really do get bored both cooking and eating the same things. Now that my eldest son has moved out I’ve added lasagne to the list. He wouldn’t eat it as he’d had a bad experience with it once. My youngest son is pretty good with food, he eats just about anything.

Grocery shopping has become a weekly nightmare. I have been known to stare blankly at an empty piece of paper hoping the shopping list will write itself. Or I will jot down all the cleaning items I need, but then falter when it comes to the food. Eventually I will write down the easy bits – bread, milk, butter, cheese and whatever fruit we need. Then I will turn the page over and start to plan meals for the week. I write “spaghetti bolognaise” and then it all gets too hard and I quit.

I think if I were ever to be enormously wealthy I would either eat out a lot, or hire a personal chef to do all that thinking for me!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Dress Up Blues continued

Or should I say there are no more dress up blues! I went shopping this morning at one of my favorite shopping places in Melbourne – Bridge Road in Richmond. It is a long shopping strip with designer dress shops, factory outlets, shoe shops, suit shops and lingerie shops all dotted with cafes, restaurants and bars.

I had done my homework as I knew I wouldn’t have much time. No matter how good my intentions are, I always find it difficult to get up early on a weekend and the shops on Bridge Road mostly close around lunch time on a Saturday. I went online, checked out the fashion stores and picked a couple I wanted to go to.

I was lucky with my first attempt. Not only did I like the clothes, but the sales lady was great. She wasn’t too pushy and gave me an honest opinion. It’s not often you get a sales person who tells you that one of their pieces of clothing doesn’t look quite right on you! With her help I found a lovely skirt and top that is sort of like a sleeveless waistcoat. I just have to find a black lacy camisole to wear under it and all will be well!

I’m so happy I found something that fits and doesn’t make me look either old or fat. If my son comes back home soon with his camera I will see if I can put some photos up here. I can’t find any online to show you!

The rest of my day has been spent doing the laundry and cleaning the house. How exciting is that? But later this afternoon I’m going to visit my ex boss who is also a friend, so that will be nice.

And tomorrow… well, I have no plans at the moment. We will see what the day brings.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Always thinking...

With a distinct lack of time in mind, this quote seemed apt:
"The Future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is." ~C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Here we go again...

My time off from work is over and it feels as if I’ve never been away. How quickly I managed to fall back into the same routine. Up at 5.30 in the morning, exercises 3 days a week, laundry done, dishwasher emptied, lunches made, then off to work at 7.45 wishing I had left just a little bit earlier to miss all the traffic.

At work I do the same things over and over. Lunch at 12.30 and we all do the quiz in the newspaper. Pack up and leave sometime between 4.15 and 4.30. The same drive, probably with the same traffic. Stop at the supermarket to pick up whatever I’ve run out of. Then home to change, sort the laundry, make dinner and collapse in front of the television. Unless of course, it happens to be one of the days I take my son to football training or do my volunteer work. Next month I will be trying to fit in some study as well.

Weekends, which are reasonable relaxing at the moment, will soon also be over run with activity once basketball and football start up again. Not to mention taking my son to work when he gets a shift. Oh, and my social life has suddenly picked up – I have a wedding to go to in a week and a bit, then the next weekend I’m going out for drinks with some friends.

But I’m glad I’m busy. I hate to think what sort of a couch potato I would turn into if I was occupied most of the time. In my time off, when I wasn’t running around helping my son move out of home, I found it far too easy to stretch out in front of the television watching whatever mindless show was on at the time.

So I do welcome my routine. It keeps me sane.