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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!