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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Me Time

As my boys get older – by the end of September they will all be adults, at least in age – they require less and less of my time. I used to think that would be a good thing. I used to look forward to the days that I wouldn’t have to bathe them, dress them, prepare their food, clean up after them and guide their daily movements. I enjoy the extra freedom I have since they started doing most of those themselves, although I do still cook and clean. However, I suddenly have a lot of spare time on my hands!

The question is what to do with my spare time?

I seem to be frittering away most of this extra time by lazing in front of the TV, which is not that bad a thing to do during a Melbourne winter, but also not that interesting or exciting or stimulating. However, the cold and the rain often put me off taking that step outside into a more adventurous land.

I was thinking I should revisit my “to do” list and see what I can cross off. Or I could write another list?

The other day, with the thought that I would eventually like to earn a living by writing, I booked myself into a talk at the Victorian Writer’s Centre given by three publishers. It was being held after work so I wasn’t tempted to go home at all. After circumnavigating a few city blocks over and over again trying to find parking, I gave up and found a car park several blocks away from where I was headed. I braced myself and walked briskly through the icy cold wind to my destination. I was a couple of minutes late. I took the elevator up to the talk and... walked straight into the talk itself! It was being held on the landing right in front of the elevators. All heads turned to look at me. Then I had to find a seat, naturally the only available ones were in the middle of already squishy rows. I hope I didn’t tread on too many toes as I stumbled in.

But the talk was good. They spoke on the types of writing they were looking for, the genres and how best to approach them. They suggested the best way for writers to be ‘discovered’ was to write! Publishers apparently do a bit of reading... I asked them if they ever read blogs, as opposed to newspapers and journals, and they do! So I now there is yet another reason to keep writing my blog. Apart from the sheer enjoyment I get from seeing my words on paper, I could be discovered one day! Like a super model or famous actress!

Do you think I should wear makeup when I’m blogging?

Anyway, the Victorian Writer’s Centre holds quite a few of these talks throughout the year, as well as other interesting events. I think I will try to prise myself off of the couch more often to attend them as I did get quite a bit of good information out of that one.

In the meantime... perhaps I’ll get my hair done and change my profile pic. Just in case a publisher starts lurking around my blog, I want to look my best!

Sunday, June 27, 2010


I love Sundays. On Sundays I can sleep in or read or laze around in my pjs for as long as I like. Of course I don’t, but I could if I wanted to. There is freedom in choice.

Sunday mornings mean pancakes and catching up with the news of the world. Pancakes on a Sunday morning have long been a tradition in our house. I’m not sure exactly when this tradition started, but it has certainly continued. Even my eldest son, who moved out of home at the beginning of the year, expects pancakes on a Sunday morning if he visits.

I make my pancakes from scratch and they have regularly been voted “better than Maccas” by my three most discerning gourmands. For those of you who might want the recipe, it’s very easy. For each person I mix together one small coffee cup of plain flour, two heaped teaspoons of baking powder, a pinch of salt, 1 egg and enough milk to make a thick mixture. I let it stand for 30 minutes and then add more milk until it’s the consistency I want. That amount of mixture will make around 3 pancakes per person depending on the size you make them. Smothered with butter and maple syrup, the pancakes tend to disappear as quickly as I can cook them. I only have one problem – I can never work out exactly how much pancake batter to make. Sometimes the boys aren’t very hungry and I have left over batter. Sometimes – like this morning – there wasn’t quite enough. Sigh.

I used to read the weekend newspapers on a Sunday. Nowadays I catch up with all the news online. Not only has it worked out to be a less expensive and more environmentally way to read the news, but I also don’t take up the entire table and it is much easier to flick between papers and news stories. I love relaxing in front of the computer with my pancakes and coffee, reading about the world we live in.

Sunday afternoons are never as relaxing. Sunday is a day to do the laundry – the muddy clothes from football and the pile of clothes the boys wore through the week that never quite made it into the dirty washing basket. It’s also a time to catch up with cleaning. Today I finally wiped off the layers of dust on top of my fridge! Like who looks on top of a fridge? It was only after I was trying to reach something I had stored up there and got on a chair to look for it, that I realised how gross it was.

It took awhile today, but I finally convinced the boys to tidy their rooms and help with the vacuuming. There is something special about a clean house, it always makes me feel wonderful to look around and see shiny surfaces. Of course it would be much nicer to have a cleaner come in and do it for me, but it does only take an hour a week to keep the place clean, so I guess I can’t complain.

So now I’m going to enjoy the rest of my Sunday. There are books to read, football to watch on TV and, for dinner, home made pizzas and a glass of lovely red wine. What more could a girl want?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mixed Feelings

Australia has a new Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. She is our first female PM and, as far as I can work out, our first red haired PM. Not that the color of her hair matters, nor does her gender.

I have mixed feelings about this changing of the guard. It all happened so quickly and so stealthily. I feel bad for our ex PM, Kevin Rudd. It almost seems as if the bullies in the playground decided they didn’t like him any more and found someone else to play with. They literally pushed him out of the cubby house without warning. Now if my boys had done that to anyone else I would be storming out at them demanding apologies.

So, I’m unhappy with the process. But if I seriously look at the alternatives, there are none. I am acutely aware that we have an election looming, probably in the next three months, and I am petrified that Australia will vote for Tony Abbott.

A vote for Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party will turn the clock back decades, at least for women. Apparently Abbott believes we are all better if we stay behind our ironing boards:

"What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it's going to go up in price, and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up." Later, he said it is “more common to see women ironing,” informing us that it’s the way it works in his house.

Well, it certainly doesn’t work that way in my house. I made sure to teach all my boys how to iron and, if necessary they iron their clothes. But in fact we iron very little. I find if you fold clothes as soon as they come off the line they don’t need ironing. And yes, I am the one to get them off the line. Unless of course I hang the clothes inside and leave them there long enough. In that case the boys just take them off the racks and put them on!

So Tony Abbott prefers his women to be doing housework, not to mention that apparently, according to him, the greatest gift a female can give is her virginity. What? Are women to be valued for nothing more than an unbroken hymen? Does anyone seriously think that how and when a female has sex is more important than how she brings up her children? Or how she contributes to society in general? Or if she is a law abiding citizen?

Oh, and he doesn’t particularly like the homeless either – when asked if he would continue the Rudd Government’s attempt to half homelessness by 2020, he replied in the negative. In justifying his stance, Abbott quoted from the Gospel of Matthew ”The poor will always be with us,” he said, and referred to the fact there is little a government can do for “people who choose to be homeless.” Please tell that to the victims of the GFC who can no longer afford homes to live in!

If Australians have any pride in their country at all, if they want progression and not regression, they will not vote for Tony Abbott. But I’m very afraid…

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cotton wool kids

It’s a sad reflection of the age we live in that parents are now so over protective and so fearful of their children’s safety that their children are growing up scared.

It used to be normal and even healthy for kids to walk to school or catch public transport. Now parents are considered negligent if they allow their children to venture out on their own. I remember walking home with my friends in all kinds of weather, even slushing our way through mounds of snow. It was our time to chat and to chill out. My own boys walked home from school nearly every day, sometimes I joined them, if I was out walking whichever baby I had then, sometimes they managed on their own. Nowadays kids are shunted from school buildings into cars and back into their homes, with hardly any time to pause or catch breath. No wonder they head straight for facebook – they still need that time to chat and chill with their friends.

I grew up moving from one place to the other, if you count kindergarten I went to six different schools. Our biggest move was from USA to Australia when I was ten. I hated my parents for that. But in retrospect, at least my parents gave me my independence. I was allowed to ride my bike, go for walks, meet my friends, play by the creek or walk the dog from the age of 6 onwards. Earlier still, when we lived in an apartment block in White Plains, NY I remember playing in the open backyard with some other kids and no parents in sight! We even crossed the main road to the playground by ourselves.

As soon as my boys could walk I would push them out the back door and let them play in the yard. They had a sand pit and, depending on where we lived because we also moved a lot, they also had a cubby house, swings and a trampoline. Yes, they got hurt. Yes, there was blood. They would run inside crying and I would clean up their wounds, rub them better and send them outside again with a hug and a kiss, telling them to be careful.

As they got older, around 8 or 10, they would wander to the local park and kick the football or play cricket or just have fun with other kids. Its only now, at ages 17, 19 and 21 that I’m discovering what they got up to. They climbed trees and roofs and cliffs (where they lost my best screwdrivers), they skateboarded, roller bladed, rode their bikes, fell over and hurt themselves and each other, but generally had fun.

These days it is rare to see kids playing outside their fenced backyards, if at all. We are bringing up kids who don’t know what it’s like to run through parks, roll down hills, pop tar bubbles, play chicken, coast down snowy hills on your mother’s baking trays or kick a ball and retrieve it. We are bringing up kids who can’t cross the road by themselves or get themselves from point a to point b on public transport. We are bringing up kids who are too fearful to go anywhere on their own, too scared of germs to get dirty and too wrapped in cotton wool to enjoy themselves.

And when these kids eventually grow into adults will we, then in our old age, shake our heads and wonder why they have turned into scared, fearful adults who lock themselves in their homes or offices and refuse to venture into the wide world around them?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I must have missed the small print!

Whereabouts in life’s contract did it say middle age would bring with it wrinkled hands, a thickening waistline, weak eye sight, a dislike of noise and a desire stay at home instead of dancing the night away? Who would have known that growing older meant becoming my mother?

I even caught myself the other day starting to say “in my day” – oops! How could I?

Suddenly technology is looking strange. Why would I need an iphone when my out of date mobile phone is fine? Why on earth can’t I master the new video camera I got instead of relying on my boys to show me how it works? Why do I find an ipod so frustrating to figure out? I can almost relate to the people who didn’t believe we needed cars... almost. And I’m normally a person to embrace technology.

This morning I couldn’t open a jam jar. Where did my strength go? Eventually, with much grunting and dancing around, I got the jar open. Will I still be able to open it in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? One of my frypans is getting heavier as time goes by. And I do weights 3 or 4 times a week! Not huge weights, but enough to keep up my strength, or so I thought.

I’ve lost a lot of energy too. These days I find it difficult to keep my eyes open past 10.30 at night. I used to be an all night girl, never needing much sleep. Now I’m dosing off like a grandma in a retirement home. I can’t tell you the number of TV shows where I’ve missed everything in the middle and woke up to see the final few minutes and the credits. Reading sends me to sleep too. I always used to read in bed just before going to sleep. Nowadays I pick up a book, read the same paragraph four times and wake up when the book falls out of my hands!

I’m beginning to forget things and absent mindedness sometimes kicks in. I’m not as bad as my mother who used to look everywhere for her sunglasses only to find them perched on top of her head. But I have moments where I ask my boys the same question twice (strangely enough their answers don’t vary in the space of 5 minutes) or I find myself putting the milk away in the pantry.

And let’s not mention my eyesight! I used to think it amusing when my mother would hold the paper an arm’s length away to read it. Now I’m doing the same thing – and I wear contact lenses!

There are however some positives to middle age. I have far more confidence than I ever had in my youth. I’m not afraid to stand up to my boss, return items that are unsatisfactory or say “no” to pushy salespeople. I realise the world will not fall apart if I happen to be late to an appointment and my children won’t die if they don’t eat vegetables every now and again. I have worked out that politics is a game and all politicians are basically the same as each other; some just play the game better. I would still like to change the world, but am more practical and realistic. I know what I can do and what I can’t do and I refuse to be made to feel guilty about it.

I guess, once I’ve resigned myself to the physical downside of ageing, middle age isn’t really that bad!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The art of mature age study

My expectations for my boys and their schooling have always been high and I’ve usually been disappointed with their results. They are all intelligent and I know they would do well if they just put their minds to it, but all of them found it easier to cruise through school doing just enough work to keep their GPAs above the minimum level. Although, I have to admit that my middle son was able to get high marks in the subjects he liked without doing much study at all.

I shouldn’t be surprised at their study habits. It must be genetic. I just have to look at myself to see where they get it from. I was never one for intense study. I was very much like my middle son; it didn’t take me a great deal of effort to do well in the subjects I liked. I would cram the day before for exams and pass. There were far more interesting things to do with my life than sit in front of textbooks.

I didn’t go to University when I left high school. I deferred an Arts Degree and never took up the option. The beach was calling and I spent the next couple of years volunteering for arts festivals and earning enough to keep me going with casual and part time jobs. I didn’t need much money. My friends and I made our own fun.

Years later, at the ripe old age of 37, I decided to apply to study a Graduate Diploma in Arts and Entertainment Management. Despite not having an undergraduate degree, I was accepted based on my work experience and, two years later, I graduated. Besides achieving a piece of paper which now hangs in my hallway, I realised how much I enjoyed study. At the end of 2007 I applied to do a BA in Communications as an off campus student at the University where I work. I was accepted and will eventually finish the degree midway through 2013. It now seems like a long time to be studying and I question my motives nearly every day.

It’s not easy to fit in the small amount of study I do. I take my books along to my sons’ sporting matches, I read them at night in front of the TV and at times I try to sneak in some study at work. But my haphazard methods seem to work for me, lord knows how! My study habits remain very close to those of my sons. I don’t study much at all. I read the bare minimum of the recommended readings and often skim through those. I race through assignments in the last couple of days before they are due. I have just decided that I really should study for my exams next week, as I still haven’t finished all the readings... I’m just not good at the whole studying bit!

My motivation is not the piece of paper at the end; instead it is the learning of new things. There are some subjects where I am so interested that I can get lost in tangents looking up different facts and figures on the internet. There are other subjects where I metaphorically throw up my hands and ask “why”? As a writer I often wonder why anyone would want to dissect someone else’s work and I just know I would hate my own work to be dissected!

But I’m getting reasonable marks and passing the subjects. That’s really all I want to do. And I’m already looking around for what I can study next. I couldn’t imagine not learning. I think I’m addicted!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Who cares about soccer???

OK, so I have now alienated a huge percentage of the world’s population who are no doubt glued to their respective television screens, anticipating the next winner of the World Cup. To me soccer is a boring game. It’s a bit like watching a race to the bottom between two raindrops on a window. In the end it takes far too long and you wonder if it was worth it.

I know the World Cup is exciting to most people and I enjoyed the small bit of the opening ceremony I watched. The enthusiasm of the South African people is definitely contagious and it’s a joy to see them dancing on the streets. Although I would love to visit Africa, I’m kind of happy that I’m not there at the moment. The sound of those horns 24/7 would drive me nuts!

My boys like watching the World Cup. My youngest even got up at 4.30am to watch Australia get annihilated by Germany. But when I’m in control of the remote the television is turned to a different channel.

I am, however, a huge fan of Australian Rules Football. I watch it on TV, I listen to commentary on the radio, I watch my boys play it, I read about it in the newspapers and on the internet, I am an addict! Thank goodness there are only four months of the year without games being played. With each elite season ending in September, by the end of January I am suffering massive withdrawal symptoms.

I am just as addicted to the sport at a local level as I am to the AFL (Australian Football League) the elite level of the game. All three of my boys play in different leagues for different clubs and to try to cover all their games is mostly impossible, at best requiring advanced scheduling skills. My youngest son gets the majority of my attention, which is only natural as I have to drive him to his games. Once his game is finished I try to make a mad dash to my middle son’s game. If the youngest doesn’t play, for whatever reason, I make the trek out to the country to watch my eldest son.

I take my youngest son’s stats for him when he plays. I write down how many marks, kicks, handballs and tackles he gets each quarter. He then transcribes them to an excel spreadsheet where he can analyse them. I just bought a video camera and will start taping his games. After each of his games we discuss how he played or, at times, we don’t as silence is sometimes the better option.

If you have never seen a game of Australian Rules Football, please check out this site:
Clicking on the link to “videos” will get you to replays of matches. Maybe you too will become an addict!

Monday, June 14, 2010

No excuses

Yes, I’ve been absent from my writing for awhile and no, there are no excuses. Well, none that holds any water so to speak. Life and all that entails simply took over and I found myself with little time and no energy.

It’s been a time for some soul searching and deep thought. Not only for myself but also for my youngest son who is grappling with some difficult emotions and feelings. His football, which means everything to him, is not as satisfying as it once was. For the past two seasons the teams he has played in have only won about 3 games and that is a difficult thing for youngsters to cope with. By the way, we are talking Australian Rules Football here.

He’s also coming to the end of high school with very little idea of where he wants to head in life and what he wants to do. He misses the band he was in 18months ago and would like to focus more on his music, but his friends from the band are now scattered in different cities. It all makes for some deep and meaningful conversations in our house!

As for me, I’ve finally worked out what I want to do when I grow up!

I want to write!

I grew up constantly scribbling stories, letters and diaries. The only time I’m truly happy with what I’m doing is when I’m writing. I have one book written and ready to be edited and I’m somehow going to find the enthusiasm and the time to do just that! Although I must admit, finding enthusiasm for writing is one thing, but finding it for editing, well... that is another thing altogether!

So, now that I’ve decided my career for the remaining years of my life, I have to work out a way to reach my goals. I have taken the first step and booked my ticket to a talk on how to publish non-fiction (my book is in the form of a memoir).I’m hoping the Universe will acknowledge this step and help me on my way.

As I go along my chosen path, I’ll keep you updated. Let’s see if I can turn myself into the Susan Boyle of the literary world!

In the meantime, if I’m missing again in the next couple of weeks, it’s because I’m studying for exams. Wish me luck!