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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mini Artists Retreat

On Friday I came back to reality after spending four creative and relaxing days in Eden, a small coastal town in New South Wales. I had gone there with an artist friend of mine, she to paint and I to write and we had chosen Eden as it is halfway between Melbourne, where I live and Sydney where she lives. It had been awhile since either of us could fully concentrate on our creative sides and it was planned as a mini artists retreat.

We stayed in a two bedroom self contained unit overlooking the water. We brought our own food, alcohol and items necessary to be creative – in her case, canvases, paints, brushes and drop sheets, in mine, a computer, internet connection and my usb. The first two days we had simply wonderful weather, blue skies, sunshine and, when the clouds appeared, they were the most creative and artistic clouds ever.

Eden is a fishing town, with a season of whale watching, which unfortunately we missed by a week. We didn’t do a lot of sight seeing, but what we did see were spectacular views surrounding a town that sleeps in the winter and no doubt comes to life in the summer. The only downside for both of us was the drive there and back – around seven hours for each of us.

By the time we left on Friday morning, my friend had the bones of one painting well underway and I was halfway through my second short story. My aim is to finish both stories before the end of next week in order to send them off to two competitions. I’ve decided I could seriously cope with the lifestyle of a full time author and writer, provided of course that I can live with ocean views.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I see old people!

I went to a concert of 60s and 70s music the other night. It was advertised as being a concert made up of the original bands and artists, but there were only a handful of originals there, the rest of the band members were ringins from a different, more modern era. I have a fairly good recollection of music from that time but even my memory didn’t stretch far enough to remember some of the artists on stage and I can’t recollect many of the songs they sung. However the crowd that was there obviously did recollect the songs and proved it by belting out each chorus while gyrating as best they could considering the creak of arthritis that filled the air and the beer guts the men were toting with them.

I spent a fair bit of the night gazing at my fellow audience members, as I often do when I go out, and it was frightening to see how many old people were gathered in one spot, under the same roof without being anywhere near a retirement village. It was then the first awful thought hit me – I was one of them. Sure I wasn’t the oldest member of the audience, but I wouldn’t have been the youngest either. I was surrounded by my generation, with all its wrinkles and flabbiness and fake tans and pot guts. Trust me; I did not like that thought at all. That thought made me shiver “like bad news on the door step”... ah but someone has already used that line.

The only thing scarier than an older audience dressing up like they did in their teens and getting all groovy with each other, is watching musicians in their 60s and 70s attempting to swivel sexily while croaking out the songs that made them famous. It is either awesome or embarrassing that they are still on stage at this time of their lives and I’m leaning toward embarrassing. There is something about the effects of emphysema and the use of a cane that detract from their overall performance.

Now I have nothing against any of these performers in their heyday – although there weren’t many that performed the other night that I actually followed in the 70s. But some music just doesn’t cut it when performed live by aged musicians. We aren’t talking Bach or Strauss here – classical music can be produced at any age, one only has to read the tabloids to follow the careers of virtuoso musicians from 8 to 80. We are talking full on rock and roll, which, when performed live, requires all the relevant hip jerking, sexually explicit grinding motions that normally accompany it. Not to mention the jumping up and down and around the stage. It is painful to watch someone 60+ attempting to make those same moves.

I went to the concert with a friend of mine. She had bought tickets for herself and her husband but he refused to go once he had seen the list of performers. Whatever I thought of the entertainment, I enjoyed the night out catching up with my friend and the other people on our table (total strangers) added a bit of comedy to the evening. She never stopped talking and he never stopped trying to shut her up, in between the chatter and the shooshing they drank copious amounts of alcohol and regaled us with stories from their youth.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Wolf Hall

As soon as I saw this book on the library shelves I felt some slight apprehension. It is a very thick book and I wondered if I would ever finish it. My uneasiness only worsened when, glancing through the pages, it dawned on me that this was an historical novel and I don’t usually like historical novels. Luckily the story line was set in a period of English history that I don’t mind reading about – the time of Henry VIII.

When I curled up in bed that night and began to read Wolf Hall the first thing that struck me was how easy it was to read. The language flows in an almost poetical style and, although you get the sense of olde Englande, it is actually easy to understand. Following who is talking can be slightly tricky at times and Mantle’s use of person sometimes confused me, but overall I enjoyed the actual reading of this novel.

The characters were well described and even the lowliest of them was quite interesting. I especially got pleasure from the consistency of the characters’ behaviour as a few of them were with me throughout the entire story and it was nice to know they became reasonably predictable.

Nevertheless this book takes some reading and about half way through I started to lose my attention span and wish that either the story had been told in a shorter version or some of the peripheral bits had been left out. I began to get bored and found myself sneaking peeks at the last few pages of the book. Despite my growing lack of interest I managed to finish the book and I’m glad I did.

Reading this book did mean doing some research, although it’s not a necessity and the story can be enjoyed without knowing the historical detail. However I did look up several of the characters including the main man Thomas Cromwell and Anne Boleyn’s sister Mary. I didn’t even know Anne Boleyn had a sister until I read this book! I also reacquainted myself with some of the historical facts from that time as my high school history lessons are buried deep in the whorls of my brain and not easily retrievable.

I can recommend this book to anyone who gets pleasure from reading historical novels or anyone who enjoys good characterisation and plot.

The next novel I plan to read is The White Tiger and I will let you know how that goes as soon as I tackle it!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The cons and cons of responsibility

At this moment in time I would like nothing better than to have no responsibility.

I’m tired of being responsible for the household budget and constantly attempting to make ends meet. I’ve had enough of finding budget friendly meals and scrimping and saving on a daily basis. I want to be irresponsible. I want to spend money no matter if I have it or not. I don’t want to pay bills any more. I don’t want to make car repayments or pay the rent.

I would like to stay in bed in the morning instead of going to work. I would like to lounge around all day and read or write or just do whatever I felt like at the time. I don’t want to be responsible for the housework or making sure there are enough toilet paper rolls in the bathroom or check that the milk hasn’t gone off.

I don’t want to be the one who is responsible for keeping the clothes clean, getting the housework done, calling the lawn man to do the lawns or doing the shopping. I don’t want to always be the one who remembers to take the garbage out. I want someone else to do the remembering.

I don’t want to be the person at work that constantly remembers to do things that others forget. I don’t want that responsibility.

I want to be more spontaneous. I want to be more fun. I want to be a teenager again. Those teenage years really were the best. I had no responsibility. I confess I didn’t always go to school. I spent many a summer day lazing on the beach. My only worries were what to wear, where to go and which friend to call next. It was a fabulous time of life, full of fun and absolutely no responsibility. The things we used to do! There were parties that happened on the spur of the moment and nights on the beach around hastily lit bonfires that went on and on. There were trips to the country and drives that took us aimlessly to no place in particular.

But the spontaneous life has gone. I can’t stay in bed or, eventually, I won’t get paid. Someone has to stock the fridge and the pantry or there won’t be any food in the house and if I didn’t clean the house I don’t think I could live in it! If I didn’t pay the bills we probably wouldn’t have a house to live in. I doubt I would be allowed to light a fire on the beach these days and I can’t drive aimlessly because fuel for the car costs too much. The friends I used to spend relaxing days and nights with now live far away and my friends here are also weighed down with responsibility.

The only option seems to be to become enormously wealthy so I can hire someone to be responsible for me.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Setting a goal is often easy. Focussing on achieving that goal is sometimes difficult and frequently unexciting. No matter how many times one reminds oneself that the outcome will be worth it and reward in itself, the pathway can be steep and lonely with plenty of distractions along the way.

I am already a writer. My goal is to become a successful author and hopefully a financially successful author. It’s taken me a lifetime to realise what I want to be when I grow up but now the decision is made, its one I’m very comfortable with. However, the steps I must climb to reach my goal will neither be comfortable nor painless. I guess I could have chosen an easier career, however I’ve always enjoyed challenges.

I’m taking baby steps now, learning to walk before I fly. I’ve joined a local writer’s club and attended my first meeting last week. They are all really lovely people and I hope I didn’t put them off with my contribution to the weekly readings. I’d brought with me my first unfinished draft of a short story I plan to enter in a competition. I might be wrong but I think they were a little bit uncomfortable with the two “f” words and the delicately worded masturbation scene.

Our state’s Writers Centre runs various events including a once a month “Write Club” (the first rule of Write Club is, you don’t talk about Write Club…) and I went there last week. It was great. I met some like minded people, listened to an awesome poet and drank a couple of red wines. What more could a girl want? I plan on attending Write Club whenever I can, as well as some of the other events at the Writers Centre.

I’ve entered another short story competition and, as I mentioned above, I’m planning to enter yet another one. I find short stories incredibly challenging to write. I seem to either be able to write short posts or lengthy screeds, but not much in between. But it’s a challenge I’m enjoying taking up. I know I have stories to tell and I plan to tell them in the best way I can.

However, despite the positive moves I’ve made toward becoming a successful author, I still tend to lose focus now and again. Sometimes I will be sidetracked by other challenges or events or issues and I have to keep asking myself “if I do this will it lead to becoming a successful author?” It’s the only way I can keep on track. If the answer is no, I try hard to ignore the issue, turn down the challenge and disregard the event. There are times I become almost desperate with situations and I have to remind myself to stop, take a breath and refocus on my goal. It’s not easy and it’s not pretty but it has to be done.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


When I was school age I read many books – up to six a day. When I was very young I read Enid Blyton’s novels, the Narnia series, Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women”, “Little Men” and “Jo’s Boy” and many other books with authors and titles I can’t remember. As I grew older I read John Le Carre, Harold Robbins, Daphne Du Maurier, Elizabeth Goudge and many many others. Sometimes I read books more than once, but that was pretty rare. With all the books I read the one criterion I had that, in my eyes, made the book a “good” one was whether or not I could put it down. My favorites were the books where I would miss meals in order to keep reading and where I would suddenly wonder why the pages were getting more difficult to read and realise the sun had gone down and it was time to turn the light on.

Breath by Tim Winton is one of those books that are difficult to put down, although I have to admit the responsibility of going to work and looking after a family did mean I had to force myself into the real world now and again. I found I could easily relate to Winton’s characters and, as I grew up in Western Australia, I could also visualise the scenery. Even though the main characters were male, I enjoyed their journeys despite some of the uncomfortable twists and turns. I can really recommend this book as one that is easy and pleasurable to read. I read somewhere recently that Breath is being made into a movie and I wonder how they will translate some of the scenes but I’m sure it will be a good one.

Having read Breath I thought I would read another of Winton’s books “Cloudstreet” which has been made into a mini series. I have to admit I didn’t enjoy this one half as much as Breath, in fact I didn’t enjoy it at all. Cloudstreet is set in the early 1900’s mostly in Perth, Western Australia around the suburbs where I lived from the age of 10. I guess I’m not a fan of historical novels and the characters simply annoyed me as I’m also not tolerant of people who sit around and moan about their lot in life or are extremely foolish in one way or another. I finally finished the book last night and I know for a fact I won’t be watching the mini series!

Strange isn’t it how one can have such different opinions of two books by the same author! I guess writers give birth to books as mothers give birth to children – a lot of hard work goes into the process but the outcome is not guaranteed to be the same as the first or the second, etc. And books really do have their own identities and personalities. Some of them demand attention and some are happy to sit quietly on the shelf, overlooked until needed.

I have one exam on 20 June to study for and then I will start my reading again. Looking forward to finishing the exam and reporting on the next book I read!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The search for identity and belonging

"Why am I as I am? To understand that of any person, his whole life, from Birth must be reviewed. All of our experiences fuse into our personality. Everything that ever happened to us is an ingredient." Malcolm X

Although I didn’t enjoy reading “The Finkler Question” (see my last post) it did stir in me, yet again, the desire to find my identity. Not that I ever lost my identity, it didn’t fall out of my pocket or disappear down the drain with the shampoo as I washed my hair. I’ve just never really worked out who I am or where I belong.

Once a week I volunteer at an English conversation class for migrants and refugees. For one hour every week I sit and talk to a group of people, young and old, male and female, who are all attempting to learn the English language. They all know where they come from and where they belong. They come from China, Japan, Iran, Korea, Romania, Vietnam and Myanmar. They are proud of their cultures and they belong to their families and their histories. But when they ask me where I come from, I’m not sure what to say.

Do I simply tell them I was born in America and that at age 10 my parents kidnapped me and forced me to live in Australia? Or do I dig deeper into my family’s roots? Do I tell them that my mother’s parents were Russian, but she was born in France? Do I tell them my father’s ancestors were German, but his family lived in the Baltic States? Am I Russian? Am I German? Am I American or Australian?

Citizenship doesn’t matter here. I have dual Australian/American citizenship. Of the two I have always felt more American. I’m proud of the country where I was born and I always will be. But being proud of being born American doesn’t give me an identity, nor does it create a firm sense of belonging. Conversely it makes me feel even more alone seeing that most people I meet refuse to believe I’m American as I no longer have the accent. I am also happy I live in Australia. If I hadn’t have moved here I would never have had my wonderful boys. In a way I have no country, or maybe many countries.

I sometimes wish I had been born into a large family, one with traditions and celebrations and gatherings. But there was only ever me, my parents and my grandparents on my mother’s side. There was an awful lot of religion, but not much celebration and we were too few to gather.

Recently I’ve been piecing together my family history. It’s a fascinating task and one which will take me a long time to complete. Each time I find another bit of information, go down another path, uncover another fact, I’m finding out who I am and where I belong. It’s a work in progress, a journey rather than a destination and one day I might have the answers I’m looking for and the sense of belonging I need.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Finkler Question

I had planned to write this post reviewing this Man Booker Prize winning novel written by Howard Jacobson a few days ago. However it took me this long to finally finish reading the book. I haven’t had to physically make myself plough through a book for awhile now. The last time was when I forced myself to finish Tess of the D’Urbervilles and that took me over a year to read!

Thank goodness it only took just over a week to read The Finkler Question because I don’t think I could have coped with it any longer. From the first paragraph I knew I was going to hate the hero. Not only was he dull and boring, but he was also frustrating. I felt like clipping him over the ear and telling him to get a life. If he was a friend of mine, not that I would have such useless friends, I would have spent a fair bit of time trying to organise him into a functional person rather than an emotional leech.

I had read fabulous reviews about this book:

'A real giant. A great, great writer'

Jonathan Safran Foer

'The Finkler Question is wonderful. A blistering portrayal of a funny man who at last confronts the darkness of the world'

Beryl Bainbridge

'Naked, haunting, unflinching. Its account of sexual obsession is frightening, painful and finally very moving. A tour de force'

Harold Pinter

But I simply couldn’t see what they were seeing. No way was Treslove funny. He wasn’t even slightly amusing. He was purely annoying. Granted, Jacobson has a way with words. Some of his sentences are brilliant. But his characters are not so luminescent. They might have been real and true to life, but they weren’t the sort of characters I wanted to read about. I have more than enough questions about my own identity to want to read about someone else’s angst over their identity and whether they are Jewish, or feel Jewish or will ever be accepted as a Jew. There is more wringing of hands and wailing at walls in this book to ever interest me. I guess I prefer to read about people who overcome their childhoods or upbringing or disillusionments to achieve great things. I prefer not to read about those who drown themselves in continual torment and anguish, especially when there is no happy ending. Sorry – did I just spoil that for anyone???

So… onto the next book – Tim Winton’s “Breath”. Hopefully I will enjoy this one a tad more.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Procrastination and Challenges

So here I sit in front of the computer, supposedly working on my last Linguistics assignment for this semester, in reality writing this blog. I got a fabulous mark for my first Linguistics assignment – 86%, a high distinction. It should spur me on to writing another wonderful essay but I would rather be doing almost anything else.

On the bright side my topic is about blogging, so perhaps I can count it towards my assignment. But no, to be honest that won’t cut it. I’m writing on Gender and online participation, particularly on how many men comment on female blogs, using my blog as an example. The answer is not many - not on my blogs anyway. Luckily I only have to write an essay and not do the actual research. I haven’t been able to find much research in this area. There is a bit on blogging itself but not much on commenting.

Apart from the challenge of finishing this assignment by tomorrow night, not to mention just trying to start it, I’ve set myself another challenge. I’ve decided it’s well past time for me to walk the walk as well as talking the talk and write a novel with a view to publish, perhaps an autobiographical or semi-autobiographical novel. In order to do that, I felt I should really read the novels out there that have won the big prizes, the ones considered to be worth reading, good literature.

So, I’m going to read through at least the last ten Miles Franklin Award winners and the last ten Man Booker prize winners. I’m not reading for pleasure, I’m reading with a view to working out why they won. I’ve started on Peter Temple’s “Truth”, winner of the 2010 Miles Franklin Award.

To be honest the first sentence of “Truth” threw me. If I wasn’t reading for a purpose I probably would never have continued to read. I’m halfway through the book now and I can say the language confuses me, the characters confuse me, the plot (or plots) confuse me and I feel as if I’m lost in some sort of maze which is blanketed by fog, however I can’t put the book down. I mustn’t be the only reader confused by the characters as some previous reader has scribbled the names of the main characters in the blank pages at the back of the book with a description of who they are next to their names. I find myself regularly flicking to that page.

There is a lot of dialogue in “Truth”. I’m not comfortable with writing dialogue. I prefer descriptive writing but perhaps I should practise more with dialogue. Temple’s dialogue is just baffling. I often can’t make out who is talking or indeed what they are saying. He uses plenty of slang and innuendo, most of which is incomprehensible to me. But it does make me stop and think. This is a book I can’t just dart through. I actually have to read every word, or I find myself having to go back and re read passages.

I guess “Truth” is not the type of book I envisaged being chosen to win a literary prize. I’m now very interested in reading the other winners to see if there is a pattern in choosing winners. Will keep you updated!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

World Peace

I’ve just realised I haven’t posted anything for awhile and I feel extremely guilty. The last few weeks have simply flown by; I’ve been almost out of breath trying to catch up with life. There’s been work of course, which is just getting busier, my study – I’ve had to hand in two assignments, got one more to do and one exam to take before the end of semester, my once a week volunteer tutoring at an English conversation class and the usual home duties. I’ve also been attempting to read more than usual – not for study, but for pure entertainment. But I would only complain if I wasn’t busy and I get bored very easily.

Speaking of assignments, I was just finishing off the last one I handed in when I was startled by a TV announcement that breaking news was at hand. Of course it was the Osama Bin Laden killing that dominated all the TV stations from then on. In a not so politically correct way, I was a bit relieved that at least the Osama news guaranteed there would be no more coverage on the Royal wedding!

I was probably one of the few people in the world who did not watch the Royal wedding. Seriously, to have every free to air TV station showing the exact same footage of the wedding with only slightly different commentaries, was beyond me. Luckily we have pay TV and I watched the football instead! I know – I’m just different.

So Bin Laden is dead. I’ve thought a bit about this and I still haven’t come to a conclusion whether this is a good or bad thing. On the one hand I simply welled with pride at being an American at a time like this. On the other I can clearly see that someone out there will be planning repercussions. There are never any easy options left in this world. Every decision has some sort of consequence that could have global effects. I have to admit, I would hate to have the power to make those decisions.

I guess everyone remembers where they were on September 11 when the twin towers were destroyed. I certainly do and I will never forget the images I saw on TV. I was definitely roused to anger and disbelief and horror at what had happened. I don’t know how anyone can hate another human being that much and I’m saddened to think there is that level of hatred in the world that grows and spreads until more and more tragedies happen and more and more lives are lost.

I don’t put up with any form of racial or ethnic or religious intolerance from my boys. I hope I’ve taught them to try to see everyone as an individual before boxing them into some sort of generalised and usually prejudicial label. I believe that most prejudice comes from fear. We fear what we don’t know and if someone looks strange, or talks in another language or follows religious practices that we don’t understand, we fear them and their lifestyle. The Bin Laden’s of this world are just bullies who thrive on encouraging others to hate and seeing our reactions to their hatred. It’s a vain hope I know, but one day it truly would be wonderful if we could simply accept people for what they are and leave them to live their own lives just as they leave us to live ours. Just like all those Miss Universe hopefuls, I long for “world peace”…

Saturday, April 23, 2011

What price our children?

Over the Easter break my two youngest boys are visiting their elder brother in Western Australia. They both flew out last night and have arrived safely.

Their flights were booked several weeks ago at a time when my youngest son had just commenced his apprenticeship and would have had to return to work next Wednesday, while my middle son could stay until the following Sunday. Since then my youngest son quit his apprenticeship and therefore could have stayed longer on his holiday, except that it would have cost around $100 extra to change his flight so, being on a tight budget, we decided against changing it.

However, on Friday morning I awoke to the news that the airline he was booked to come home on had been issued a notice by Aviation Australia with regard to a series of serious safety and maintenance breaches. I deliberated with myself for several hours. I looked up flights with other airlines, airlines that had better safety records. It would cost around $200 to get him on another flight home.

In the end I booked his return flight on another airline, the cheapest I could find gave him another 5 days with his brother. Despite being a bit of a drain on our finances, there was no way I could have faced myself if I had ignored the warnings and anything had happened to him on the original airline.

The whole process got me thinking. What is the price we are willing to pay for our children? I’m not talking about heroics and laying our lives on the line because I’m sure that 99% of parents would do just that if they had to. I’m talking about the cost of living. How much do you allow yourself to spend on your children? Does the amount have any relation to your budget? Do you spend more on yourself or your children? Do you sacrifice buying things for yourself so you can spend more on your children?

I know that over the years I’ve had to work with fairly strict budgets and have often had to say “no” when it came to buying things my boys wanted. By the way, I’ve read numerous books on prosperity, most of which tell me not to tell my children I can’t afford something, as that promotes negativity. However, I’ve never quite worked out what it is I should be saying. Apparently its better to say “I’m broke” rather than “I’m poor” but just how you rephrase “we can’t afford it” without holding out hope that you might be able to afford it next week, is something I haven’t quite grasped.

There are a few things that I don’t compromise on when it comes to spending. I’ve always tried to buy good quality sports shoes for my boys. I believe it’s important to keep their feet healthy and looked after. So their running shoes and footy boots have always been the best quality and make I can afford. It’s the same with my shoes. I’d rather spend a bit more and get good quality leather shoes that will last me 1-2 years of continuous wear, rather than spend less and get shoes that hardly last six months. Another thing that I’m willing to pay a bit more on is food. I’d rather spend more on healthy, nutritious food than I would on junk. So we eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, grain or wholemeal bread, whole grain cereals and low fat milk. We don’t often have takeaway food as I’ve found it’s far less expensive to cook at home.

Where do you draw the line on spending for your children?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Are there really plenty of fish in the sea?

This is a question I’ve asked myself at various times over the years and am now asking myself again. Every time I’ve been disappointed in love, the standard response from my family, friends and casual acquaintances has been “Don’t worry, there are plenty more fish in the sea!”

But are there really plenty of men around? And, if there are and they are over 40, are they single, heterosexual and in reasonably good physical shape? Oh – and for me they really have to be around 6’4” – I’m a tall woman, I like wearing heels and I don’t like looking down on the man I’m with.

Now that I’m considering dating again, I’m beginning to wonder if there is actually anyone around to date. I’ve been forcing myself to attend more functions and I’ve noticed it is rare for men over 40 to be a) unattached, or b) in good physical condition. They just don’t seem to care about their appearance. If any single man over the age of 40 is reading this, please note that if you are fat or flabby or unkempt or unhygienic, you are definitely not desirable. I don’t care how much money you are worth or what position you have, the single more mature women I know are simply not that desperate.

Yes, I do try to keep myself looking good. I exercise regularly, my hairdresser knows me very well, I don’t usually leave the house without make up and I try to dress to impress. And yet I know there are women out there who are overweight and casual about their appearance who nevertheless can seemingly reel in the men. It puzzles me.

In the last five years I’ve probably met two or three men that interest me. However, there must be something about me that they don’t like as none of them have returned my interest or attraction. Oh, there’s been some mild flirting and a bit of conversation, but nothing ever eventuated. I often wonder what I’m doing wrong, but will probably never find out. I wish there was some sort of questionnaire that could be handed out to those who aren’t interested, just to gauge what it is I’m not doing. I’m not averse to change – but I’d like to know what it is I should consider changing?

Of course, to be honest, at 51 I’m no spring chicken, nor have I ever had flashy model looks, nor am I super skinny or in the slightest bit wealthy. I seem to enjoy things that other women my age don’t. I like rap music, RnB and jazz. I don’t like classical music or musicals, opera or country, grunge or heavy metal. I don’t particularly enjoy social functions where people compare the cost of their outfits, their jewellery or their last holiday. Actually, I’m not fond of social functions at all – they involve smiling way too much and being nice to people you would rather ignore.

Although, as a teenager, I used to frequent night clubs and bars on a regular basis, I don’t know anyone who would want to go out with me and I wouldn’t know where to go these days. I do miss listening to live music though. I hate camping, fishing or anything to do with the great outdoors, although I love the ocean. I don’t ever want to own a pet. I only enjoy shopping if I have money to spend, which isn’t often. I take pleasure in watching some sport – AFL football and basketball – and I especially like watching my boys play. I think a perfect night out would include a well cooked meal with excellent wine partnered with intellectual conversation and perhaps a bit of thoughtful argument.

So, while I will continue to keep my eye out for datable men, I’m afraid I’m not that hopeful of finding any. However, I will never say never!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Opposing Planets...

Just when I thought life was cruising along happily, one of those bumps in the road jumped in my way and nearly unseated me. My youngest son declared he was no longer interested in continuing the apprenticeship he had just begun and would instead look at studying something. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have no intention of forcing any of my boys to do anything they don’t want to do career wise. Life is too short to waste it in a job or career you simply don’t like or don’t want to pursue. It’s just that with him working, he was able to help out financially and I need a lot of that right now.

I’m over the initial shock now. I’m not sure if I mentioned this in previous posts but this was the boy who never ever ever wanted to go to University or study again. And this same boy is now looking up tertiary courses. He thinks he would like to do sports coaching and I think that’s a wonderful idea. He has the experience from volunteering to coach a junior basketball team a couple of years ago. The boys loved him and he did an excellent job. So I’m sure he will be fantastic as a coach. I just wish I was as confident about him concentrating on study. Study on a tertiary level is so different to secondary, it’s more involved and more is demanded of you.

Speaking of study, I tried to get onto the University’s online pages for students last night and couldn’t even access the website. The whole system had crashed due to a power failure. As I also work at the University, I knew about the crash but thought it might have been rectified by the time I tried to access it last night. Its things like these that make you realise just how much you depend on computers.

Our home phone has also been working intermittently of late. It’s something I must rectify before my father attempts to call me again. If it weren’t for my father I probably wouldn’t have a home phone line. He doesn’t like calling mobile phones.

Yesterday I was talking to a co worker about all these little blips in my life striking at the same time. She was having similar problems and laughing blamed it on the planets. I thought she might actually have something there so I googled the latest planetary happenings and discovered that at the end of March Jupiter was in opposition to Saturn. Apparently this occurrence is something that will affect the rest of the year. According to the website I was reading, the last time it happened was in the 60s around the time of the race riots in USA and Martin Luther King’s assassination. This particular website drew the reader’s attention to the so called “Jasmine Revolution” underway in Africa and the Middle East, inferring the planetary opposition was, if not the cause, then at least part of it.

I’ve always found it interesting how the planets and moons can affect us here on earth and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this Jupiter / Saturn opposition is causing my life to be a bit bumpy at the moment. I can usually tell when there is a full moon because my mood definitely changes.

So, if you have had to ride a bumpy road lately or dodge strange happenings, you could very well blame it all on the planets. That’s exactly what I plan to do!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bring on... 51!

This is my last week of being 50 – next Sunday I turn 51. Some people might say I’ve reached the summit and it’s all down here from now on. But I like to think I’m reminiscent of the bear that climbed over the mountain – do you remember him from your childhood?

The bear climbed over the mountain,
The bear climbed over the mountain,
The bear climbed over the mountain and what do you think he saw?
He saw another mountain,
He saw another mountain,
He saw another mountain and what do you think he did?
The bear climbed over the mountain…

So here I am, about to reach the top of the mountain and getting ready to climb another one. I often wonder what the next ten or twenty or more years will bring.

Wondering about the next years made me think about goal setting. I found this quote the other day:

"The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goals to reach." Benjamin Mays

It says it all doesn’t it? If we just float through life without any aim we could very well end up in a place we never wanted to be, ending our life full of regrets. Lately I seem to be hearing so many people who are full of regrets. They might be at the same function I’m at or sitting at the next table in the cafĂ©. But I hear them moan to their friends, “if only I had travelled when I could have”, “if only I had taken that course”, “if only I had followed my heart instead of my head”, “if only I had taken a chance”.

So this week I will begin to set some goals. I already set myself small daily or weekly goals – time set aside to finish assignments, time set aside on the exercise bike, books to read, budgets to meet. But I’m ready for some big goals now. For starters I want to finish the book I started years ago and self publish it. I’ve been looking at kindle and self publishing and marketing and I believe if I can finally finish my writing I might have a chance at selling a couple of copies.

Lately I’ve wanted to own my own house. Renting has never worried me much before as it has left me free to move whenever I want to and I’ve moved around a lot. But this past year I’ve thought it would be nice to have a house where I can do what I want and not have to worry about the landlord. Perhaps I could own my house and travel a lot. That might satisfy my urge for new places and different horizons.

So, owning my own house might be my main goal for the next few years.

What goals do you have?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Recurring dreams or nightmares

A couple of nights ago I had a dream, or perhaps a nightmare. While I was dreaming I realised it was a recurring dream, I just can’t remember the last time I dreamt it.

In the dream I was an abused wife. My husband would regularly beat me and verbally abuse me. I knew this even though it didn’t actually happen in my dream. Although I knew I should leave my husband, it felt impossible. It was as if I could take a step forward, but every step forward sent me two steps backwards. My husband was always watching me from the top of the driveway as I tried to reach the road. It was as if he knew that I knew that I wouldn’t get anywhere. I think he was holding a knife.

I couldn’t see the house. There was only a driveway and a sort of veranda next to it. Everything was quite grey. As characters we seemed to be dressed like the actors in Tennessee William’s play “A Streetcar Named Desire”.

In the end I resigned myself to the abuse and turned back to him, knowing he would kill me. I can’t describe the feeling I had while I was walking back up the driveway, seeing him coming closer. I wasn’t scared, just reluctantly accepting of the situation.

I woke up knowing this dream. I know I’ve dreamt it before, perhaps on more than one occasion. I wish I could remember where I was in my life the last time I dreamt it.

If I was to attempt to interpret this dream, I’d guess it has something to do with feeling stuck in my life at the moment. I’m in a job I’ve outgrown, but it’s a comfortable rut, so to speak. I should move onto something else but, although I often look at other jobs, I never take any other action, always reluctantly returning to the one I have.

I don’t think it has anything to do with my personal life. I’m not in a relationship, my boys and I get on well – in fact I rarely see them on weekends as they are always out socialising.

When I was a child I had a recurring nightmare that scared me. I was walking toward a house that looked like the one the Munsters lived in. It was a dark and stormy night (of course) with lightning flashing. I walked up to the front door and opened it (why?). The front door opened directly to a staircase and I walked up it (again, why?). At the top of the staircase was another doorway. I would put my hand on the door handle knowing that if I opened the door I would die.

I always woke up before I opened the door but I would be so scared that my entire body was stiff and I could hardly breathe. I knew I just had to wriggle a finger to be able to move my body again but it took such a long time for me to get the courage to wriggle my finger.

I stopped having that nightmare when I was about 12 but I still remember it vividly.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


As I sit and watch the latest news from Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and Tunisia there are so many emotions flowing through me, it’s almost impossible to decipher exactly how I feel. On one hand I am supportive of people who feel it necessary to rid themselves of regimes which are violent and discriminatory, on the other I’m overwhelmed by the brutality of it all. I especially feel for the women and children. I don’t imagine the women in any of those countries would be particularly empowered or free. I assume they would be somewhat under the control of the men in their families and, if those men are involved in the protests and fighting – on whichever side, their women will be drawn into the unrest in some way.

I feel for the children. In particular those children who are too young to know or even care what is happening around them. They must be living in such a permanent state of terror that it will impact them for the rest of their lives, however long those lives will be. I can’t begin to imagine how the mothers of young children and babies must be suffering. I wonder if they were already suffering so much that this is simply another burden to be born.

I can’t help but think of the children involved in the fighting between Israel and Palestine, the children who grew up with violence until they became adults who now continue the violence.

I hope and pray there is a successful result to the unrest in all of these countries. A result that is successful in the eyes of the people who live in these countries, the people who are fighting for their rights and equality.

I hope and pray that very soon the women of these countries will be able sanctioned to take control of their own lives and that the children of these countries will quickly know peace.

I don’t think I have ever felt quite so insignificant or unimportant as I carry on with my life in a democratic country, whose most pressing issues seem to be whether we should have a carbon tax and which of our sporting heroes have misbehaved.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I don't do "sick" very well

Today I stayed home from work. I have a cold and it has given me a mushy brain, one blocked nostril, one runny nostril, a sinus headache and a sore throat. I woke up feeling like crap and thought it would be best if I rested at home. I’m not a good patient, especially when I’m the nurse. These are some things I’ve discovered about being at home, sick:

1. Once I’m awake I can’t lie in bed. Even if I wake up at 5.30am when my boys get up.

2. Once I’m out of bed I find myself looking for something to do. However I still don’t want to do the vacuuming.

3. I can’t go through the day without turning the computer on – and the TV.

4. I find it difficult to rest. I just have to check my work emails and my home emails and Facebook…

5. I can’t remember when I should take all the pills lined up on the kitchen windowsill.

6. I hate taking pills.

7. Exercising on the spin bike unblocks my nose.

8. I don’t think I can exercise on the bike 24/7, so apart from 45 minutes every day I will have a blocked nose.

9. I get bored being at home.

10. Daytime TV is more crap than night time TV.

11. I actually want to go to work tomorrow, even if I still feel like crap!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

OK Universe - I'm ready now - bring it on!

For the last six years I’ve been dateless. Not only have there been no men on my horizon, I wasn’t even looking for any. My last break up was devastating enough to keep me from getting burnt again. I always enjoyed the company of men in many ways but the last few years I’ve been building such thick barriers around myself it’s been difficult to see the world around me, let alone allow anyone to see me.

However last week I felt that barrier start to crumble. Perhaps the recent earthquakes have undermined its structure. Whatever happened, I’m beginning to feel like being with a man again.

Before anyone out there gets too excited, I still don’t know if I’m ready for a committed, full on relationship. At the moment I wouldn’t know where to fit one in. It would have to be scheduled into my calendar somehow and I daresay that’s not the way to conduct a relationship. I could do with some full on sex though. Actually I’m not sure how I’ve managed to go without it for so long! I read in magazines and articles how women just don’t like sex and I wonder who they have been interviewing because they definitely have never asked me!

Now that I’m ready to start looking for men again, I don’t know what the next step is. Where do I go to look? What do I do next?

As a 50 something female not only do I not want to go out alone, but I wouldn’t know where to go. My taste in nightlife has changed so much since I was in my teens and twenties and I have no idea if anything even exists for the older single woman. I’m also not sure if I’d be attracted to the men who might prowl through there. I’ve tried dating sites in the past and, apart from being a scrooge and not wanting to spend money just to read someone’s misspelled email, I’ve been very disappointed with the men on these sites. Take for example the time I put a profile up where I said I wasn’t interested in camping, fishing or any other outdoor activity – you guessed it, I only got interest from men who camped, fished and hiked through the great outdoors! I am sure none of them could read, or bothered reading the profiles.

I admit it, I’m fussy. I expect a man to look good physically. After all I take pride in the way I look so why shouldn’t they? I make an effort to exercise and eat healthily in order to stay slim, so why shouldn’t they? I try to wear clothes that suit me and are vaguely in fashion, so why shouldn’t they? Oh and I really like nice arms with muscles – mmmmmm.

I also expect a man to be reasonably intelligent. I’m not looking for Einstein, but I would appreciate someone who could converse on global events rather than be limited to the latest sports report. I love certain sports too, but I’m also interested in the situation in Libya and the economic happenings in Europe. I want to debate with someone on those three subjects one should never argue about – politics, religion and sex. I enjoy intellectual stimulation – I find it sexy.

I’ve also had enough of men who are poor. I want someone who can afford to wine and dine me. They don’t need to be a millionaire (but hey, I wouldn’t turn them away) but they do need to have some means themselves.

So where do I start looking? Cmon Universe – give me a hand here!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What if?

I’ve been thinking of the question of morals and morality. Who sets the morals we follow? Do they change over time? Is there some sort of moral etiquette to follow? Does morality matter much any more?

A few weeks ago I was researching my mother’s side of the family who are originally from Russia. Considering the royal family of Russia, the Romanovs, and indeed most of the population of Russia were devoted to the Orthodox religion, I found it surprising that the many bastards of the Tsars were not only tolerated, but almost welcomed. The Orthodox religion is very strict, especially on matters of sex outside marriage, but apparently the advantage of being born into the Romanov family was that one could have as many lovers and children out of wedlock as one wanted. So what happened to their morals?

I remember my German teacher in high school telling us stories of the hardships she and her family faced during World War II. She was quite serious when she told us she would have killed anyone who had tried to touch her children. If you kill someone in order to protect your family is it still a moral issue?

If you lost your job and could no longer make the repayments on your house. If you had spent all of your savings and there was nothing left and the only way you could feed your children was by stealing a loaf of bread, would you do it? Would you stop yourself from grabbing that loaf of bread because stealing was against your morals, even though your children would starve?

If you met a married man whose wife no longer allowed him in her bed or her life but refused to set him free, would you pursue him or would your morals kick in? What if you knew his wife was having an affair, would that change your mind?

Have you ever shoplifted or rode the bus without a ticket? Have you ever ignored someone who needed your help? Have you done anything to break your own moral code but somehow managed to come up with excuses that exonerated you?

I don’t think I’ve ever got on a bus without a ticket, but I have shoplifted. Many years ago as a young teenager I felt the need to take a nail file from a department store. I have absolutely no idea why I did it, but the adrenalin rush of getting away with it did nothing to compensate the guilt I felt. However, at that point of time I never thought of the morality of stealing. In fact morals never crossed my mind at all.

What about you? Do you think of your own morals before you make decisions? Do morals play any part in your life? Or is morality something you only think of when you are about to make a choice that might go against your better judgment?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Wishful thinking...

One of the highlights of my recent holiday to Perth was catching up with two of my friends. The three of us have been friends since the beginning of high school and have kept in touch ever since. When we first left school we still spent a lot of time together then, gradually at first, we became involved with husbands and children limiting our own personal time. Eventually I moved interstate and we kept up communications over the phone and by email. This year marks the 37th year of our friendship. I find that both wonderful and amazing!

All three of us are single again, our children old enough to leave at home without worrying. On my last night in Perth we went out to dinner at a new seafood restaurant right on one of Perth’s most popular beaches. We sat on deckchairs overlooking the water, sipped champagne, ate a very tasty meal and watched both the eye candy on the beach and the sun setting into the water. Later we walked along the beach and, as we wanted some photos of ourselves, we stopped a strange young man who happily took several photos on all three of our cameras. We sat for awhile chatting and watching people play on the beach. It was a perfect evening.

I miss going out with my friends. I especially miss going out with my friends who are single and don’t have husbands / boyfriends to rush home to. There is something special about being both the same age and on the same page as your friends. Not only does conversation never run out but there is no outside pressure to answer to another.

I enjoy going out with my friends in Melbourne but all of them are either married or in relationships, some of them have young children and it’s not quite the same. Unfortunately my single friends all live either in geographically distant country areas or different states.

Perhaps if I were in a relationship I would feel differently. But I don’t feel any strong urges to find someone to have a relationship with. Although I miss the physical side of relationships, I feel as if I wouldn’t have enough spare time to give to someone else. Or perhaps I’m simply still too burnt after the sudden end of my last relationship seven years ago. Whatever the reason, I look forward to the fleeting moments of social life I have with my single friends.

My holiday in Perth and the time I spent with my friends there will always remind me of just how special friendships are. We shouldn’t need any reminders to treasure our friends. We should never be too busy to keep up with what they are doing or too stressed with our lives to listen to them. Friends are people who love you for who you are not what you do or what you look like or how much money you make and they aren’t easy to find. But once you find them, don’t ever underestimate their true value.

To all my friends – thank you for being who you are and always being there for me. I hope I will always be there for you too.

“Even though we've changed and we're all finding our own place in the world, we all know that when the tears fall or the smile spreads across our face, we'll come to each other because no matter where this crazy world takes us, nothing will ever change so much to the point where we're not all still friends.” Unknown author.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Perth Holiday Part III - Mandurah and Perth

I had a fantastic time in Mandurah. Not only did I get to wander by the water and check out the various markets, but I got to swim in the clear blue ocean and see dolphins!

On my second last day there we hired a boat – more of a punt with a cage around it – and we went all around Mandurah in search of dolphins. Many of Mandurah’s houses and apartments are built on canals – think Venice, but cleaner and bluer and sunnier – some are absolutely huge with their own jetties, massive boats, tennis courts, etc. Around the entry to the ocean marina we saw dolphins. At one point they came right up to the boat and under it and around it. It was a magical sight.

That night we went to the local Irish pub for dinner. There was a singer / guitarist playing music from my teenage years. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy listening to live music.

The next day I was headed back to Perth and my father. On the way we went to the local harness races as my son had to help with one of the horses. After that we stopped at a national park and saw some very tame kangaroos – tame enough to pat! Then to the city for some shopping, dinner at an Indian restaurant and we took our dessert to Kings Park – a large park with natural bush land bordering the city.

I’m back in Perth now and things are a little better with my father. I’ve been allowed to walk down to the shops in the mornings, giving me a bit of a break. Today I had lunch with a friend I haven’t seen for over 30 years. It was fabulous to catch up with her and comforting that she hasn't changed a bit!

View from Kings Park

Friday, February 18, 2011

Perth Holiday Part II - Mandurah

So last night my son brought me down to his new home in Mandurah, about an hour south of Perth. It is absolutely beautiful here – right on the beach. There is a boardwalk along the water, heaps of places to eat, drink or just have a coffee. Actually as I was having my morning coffee I saw a dolphin! I tried to take a photo but it was far too quick for me.

In the afternoon we went to the beach and had a splash in the water. It felt cold when we first got in, but we soon got used to it. Sunbaked for awhile, back in the water and then we saw another dolphin!

It’s probably lucky that I’m having this weekend away from my father as I blew up at him yesterday. I was just tired of being locked in the house and frustrated with his constant paranoia. He had wanted me to go to the bank for him, but had insisted I take my son with me for protection. My son was late, I was worried we wouldn’t make it to the bank before it shut and I just exploded! I told him in no uncertain terms that I was totally capable of going to the bank on my own and I was tired of being constantly protected and locked up. I apologized later, but I really should have tried to keep my temper.

I am going back to my father’s on Monday until next Friday and I will have to try to keep my temper. I think I will just have to insist on going for a few walks and hope he will be able to put up with it. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy myself here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Perth Holiday Part I

I’ve come to the conclusion that I really don’t do holidays well at all; at least not the sort of holiday where you sit around and do nothing. Note to my friends, if I offer to do the dishes, I really want to do the dishes because I don’t like sitting around.

My holiday did start well. One of my friends picked me up from the airport at midnight – thank goodness for friends like her! We sat up and drank wine and chatted until 3am, which would have been 6am in Melbourne, so I can boast that I pulled an all nighter! The next day we went food shopping for lunch. She had invited her mother, her sister and another friend of ours. Let me tell you, I was very impressed at how good they all looked. They hadn’t changed a bit and it had been over 3 years since I saw them last.

Lunch was delicious; there was bbq chicken, salad, cauliflower cheese and lots of bubbly. It lasted well into the evening with leftovers for dinner. It was great to catch up with everyone and find out what they and their families have been up to.

The next day my friend’s son took me to my father’s place, with a rather long detour to my son’s place to pick up my netbook. It is wonderful to have my netbook back, I’ve missed it!

So I spent the rest of the day with my father. He is 91 and, although I admire him immensely for still living on his own in his house, I do wish he would realise I’m an adult now. I really don’t appreciate being told to wash my hands every 10 minutes and I’m a bit over being told to go to bed at 9pm. Mind you, that is after he has asked me what time I usually go to bed and I’ve told him 11pm. I expect I will get comments telling me to put up with it and I do but that is why I’m grateful to have my netbook back.

So here I sit, in bed at 9.15pm, with my netbook on my lap and a usb stick full of episodes from Season 1 and 2 of the OC. Guess what I’ll be doing when I’ve finished this post?

Tomorrow I plan to go for a long walk to try to get rid of all the food I’ve eaten over the past few days. Naturally my father doesn’t like the idea of me going for a walk. Apparently there is a rapist / burglar / kidnapper on every corner just waiting to pounce on me. My personal opinion is that the entire neighborhood is dead already because it’s just so quiet around here! Apparently someone attempted to kidnap a young girl the other day and my father thinks I’m a prime target and am next on their list. Naturally I would be flattered if a kidnapper thought I was an acceptable victim at over 50 years of age. I’ll let you know in my next post if I get kidnapped or murdered.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The week that was

My technology woes continue to stalk me. I don’t know what I did to offend the god of technology, but I’ve obviously done something.

Now our Foxtel (equivalent of cable) isn’t working. We can no longer access shows we have recorded nor can we record any more. This is not good. I spent a rather long time on the phone with one of the technicians – to the point where he told me he had spent a long time with me and I was tempted to tell him to suck it up. He talked me through a variety of troubleshooting solutions, none of which worked. Eventually he got me to reset the entire system, which resulted in losing everything we had recorded, and that didn’t work either. So now we have to wait a week for the technician to be in our area before we can have it fixed.

On the bright side I took my phone into the customer service centre and they believe they can fix almost all the issues I’m having and I should have it back before I leave for Perth next weekend. The girl on reception was lovely and restored my faith in warranties.

I managed to put on a kilo of the weight I had lost, however it’s not all bad as I’ve lost an inch off my waist! So I’m hoping I’ve put on some muscle instead of some fat. I totally broke my diet over the weekend, pigging out on pizza, chocolate cake and chips, but I don’t feel so bad.

Went shopping yesterday and found just what I was looking for, some flat summer shoes to take on holiday with me. Temperatures in Perth are rather hot so I’m only packing light summer clothes. At the moment they are fighting some awful bush fires that have destroyed several houses. I hope they come under control soon.

Speaking of natural disasters, the weather here has been totally crazy – cyclones, rain and floods in the East of Australia and drought and high temperatures in the West. All we need is locusts – oh wait – we have had them too! This summer has been totally extraordinary. I’ve even had the heater on this morning as it was freezing in the house when I woke up. Its summer! What’s going on?

I’m looking for a good book to take to Perth with me to read on the plane. Any suggestions?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Technology Battles

I was torn between writing about my battles with my new phone and new provider or my battles with my youngest son. I chose the new phone because it won’t read this blog!

So last week our new mobile phones arrived in the mail. Note to self – we still have to fill out the warranty cards. I had been cajoled into buying a new phone by my youngest son who wanted to get one as well. Actually, he didn’t have to cajole me that much as my old phone was reaching the end of its productive life and had begun to turn itself off. We had also both decided to change providers, so we obediently went to the suggested website and chose the phones we wanted.

It took me a little while to navigate around my new phone and I admit I’m still navigating and often getting lost in the various settings. Most importantly I have learnt how to answer a call, make a call, send a message and read a message. I even taught myself how to download my own ringtones as the manual was totally useless. I still have to work out how to assign my own tone to message notifications – no matter how many times I select the music I want, the phone insists on using its own notification tone. How on earth did I manage to attract a stubborn phone?

I did have to call a friend of mine a couple of times in order to find some solutions. She has the same phone and gave me some helpful hints, especially about setting up calendar. Nowhere in the manual did it say you had to sync one of your email addresses to the calendar in order to set it up, but apparently that’s what you have to do. And here is where the fun begins.

At the end of last week I transferred my phone to a new provider whose rates look pretty good. There are no contracts so if I don’t like them I can transfer to another provider. My son also transferred a few days before I did. He got the extra $5 credit they were offering for transfers before 31 Jan, I didn’t. He got emailed instructions of how to connect to the internet etc, and I didn’t. It didn’t worry me at the time and yesterday morning I rang them to ask about the $5 of credit and they added it to my account without any problem.

Yesterday afternoon I tried to add a new event to my calendar but couldn’t. The phone asked me to log into my email account and then told me my password was wrong – it wasn’t. It then told me it couldn’t sync to my email so I couldn’t use my calendar. I should explain that I use my phone calendar on a daily basis. It reminds me when to pay my rent, when to take my son to the physio and who is having a birthday. It is my memory and I feel very vulnerable without it.

So I went on the internet to find solutions but there was nothing. After three hours of googling and fiddling and calling my friend again and getting frustrated I gave up and called my new phone provider. Apparently I should have received an email giving me instructions of how to access the internet. Sam, the very nice trouble-shooter from my new provider endlessly tried to sort out my problem over the phone to no avail. After a long time talking to Sam –far longer than I have talked to any of my boys over the past week – he told me he would call this morning and see if he could sort it out.

Sam called this morning while I was on the exercise bike. I hope my puffing and panting didn’t put him off. Apparently he had sent me some text messages which I hadn’t received. After a brief conversation he hung up promising to talk to his supervisor and get back to me. We are obviously building up some sort of friendship here!

So I sit and wait for Sam to get back to me with a solution. Until then I’m in the dark about what is going to happen this week as all my notes are locked away in my phone’s calendar. So much for technology!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

So Far So Good

It’s been a few weeks now since I started my health kick to lose weight and get fit and I’ve managed to keep on track. I’m pretty proud of myself as I’m not usually known for my staying power. So far I’ve lost 2kgs (about 4½ pounds) and I think I’ve lost a few inches as my clothes seem looser.

I thought I’d share my daily routine with you, just in case you are interested.

On weekdays my alarm goes off at 5.30am. I take about 15mins to wake up then I get out of bed and make sure my middle son is awake. I go back to bed and wait for him to leave at 6am. Once he leaves I meditate for 15mins or thereabouts. Sometimes I find meditation incredibly difficult as my brain doesn’t want to stop wandering. On those days I might only persevere for 10mins or so.

Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays I then do a few exercises. Using a thera band I work on my arms, I do some crunches and some back exercises. Every few weeks I change what I’m doing, usually when I find a different exercise to try. The whole routine takes about 10mins.

Then I start getting ready for work. I have a cup of black coffee and make a smoothie for breakfast that I take with me to work. If you want to know what’s in my smoothie, here it is:

¼ cup of uncooked rolled oats, 1 large tbsp LSA (a mixture of ground linseed, almond and sunflower seeds), 2 tbsp low fat or no fat plain Greek yoghurt, ½ cup frozen blueberries, 1 tbsp flaxseed oil and about ¾ cup low fat milk.

I did some googling on why middle age women have a problem with weight around their stomachs and, from what I read, it appears that after 40 years of age women make more testosterone than oestrogen and this is why weight gravitates to their middles. So I concluded that adding more oestrogen to my diet might help. Apparently flaxseed not only has large amounts of omega 3s which are really good for us, but ground flaxseed can help with oestrogen production and has lots of benefits for women. I haven’t found ground flaxseed yet so I’ve been using the flaxseed oil to start with. I’m no expert but I do feel better and have a lot more energy.

When I get home I change and get on the exercise bike for at least 30mins. I’ve cycled for 45mins a couple of times, but past that my butt hurts too much!

On weekdays my mornings are far more relaxed and often extend to afternoons. I still meditate but often for longer than 15mins. If it’s sunny I get up and sunbake for about 30mins. Then I get on the exercise bike for 30mins and after that I’ll think about breakfast. On Sundays I don’t have a smoothie because it’s Pancake Day! Of course I still have to fit cleaning into my weekends but I’m starting to look at it as another form of exercise.

I’m not too fussed about my diet. I limit the amount of wheat I eat – so far the only wheat I have is in pasta and that’s only because gluten free pasta is so expensive. I buy either spelt or oat bread and I use spelt flour for pancakes, etc.

I usually just eat smaller portions of whatever I’m cooking for the boys. Smaller plates and smaller bowls make the portions look just as big as normal. I drink heaps of water – I have to force myself because I’m not big at drinking much of anything. I eat more fruit than I used to. I’ve never liked sodas or sweet or fizzy drinks so it’s been easy to just drink water. I still have a couple of glasses of wine at dinner time.

I’m happy with my results and I plan to keep going. I would still like to lose another 3kgs and some of the bulge around my waist. Hopefully in a month or so I will have done that!

BTW – for those of you with small children reading this now – there is no way I could have had this routine when my boys were young. It’s only now that they have all left school that I can focus on myself.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Looking for Solutions

I’ve discovered that parenting and providing for adult children isn’t that easy. I no longer know when they will be home or where they are going. Not that I mind, as I’m happy they have plenty of friends and a busy social life. However, I still have to do the food shopping and prepare meals. Nowadays it’s not unusual for those meals to remain uneaten and, once their refrigerated life has ended, to be thrown out. Of course I do freeze portions and one of us takes them to work for lunch, but there is just so much sausage casserole or pasta bake that I can eat over and over again!

I hate waste and I especially hate seeing food that I’ve taken care in preparing later thrown into the garbage. So what do I do? My sons don’t live to any form of schedule or planned existence. Their friendships are based on impulsive meet ups and spur of the moment decisions. So when I ask them in the morning if they will be home for dinner they can’t give me a definitive answer. As my middle son has told me “I can’t tell you I’ll be home because if I decide to go out later you will be mad at me and I can’t tell you I’ll be out because if I stay home you won’t have enough dinner for me.”

The other day I called a family meeting to discuss this problem. We brainstormed for a few minutes, middle son suggested freezing all the meat in portions so that we can all take out what we want for dinner and cook it ourselves. It isn’t such a bad proposal, but it means I have to get out of the frame of mind of cooking for the family and that is difficult for me. Portions might be the way to go, but what if I’m cooking a casserole or pasta? Youngest son just suggested stocking the freezer with chicken schnitzels as they are his favorite right now.

Today, for example, it is nearly 3pm and I still haven’t taken anything out of the freezer for dinner tonight. I would like to have steak tonight, but the three steaks I have are all frozen together so I would have to take them all out if I want them for dinner. Yes, I know I should have frozen them separately, but I wasn’t thinking of solutions then. My youngest son is home at the moment but that could change at any time. My middle son is still not home after going to a 21st birthday party last night and I have no idea when he plans to return. So here I sit and wonder whether to take the meat out or leave it in the freezer. It’s a problem that will be on my mind until its time to cook and there is nothing defrosted.

Yes, I do have a microwave but I haven’t yet learnt how to defrost accurately. Nine times out of ten if I’m defrosting steak or chops they end up slightly cooked around the edges and I’m left unhappy. I do defrost some things, just not everything.

So what to do? I would be more than happy to listen to all solutions. Perhaps some of you have already been down this road and would like to share your experiences?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A New Year, a new beginning

I’ve begun this year by looking after me – my mind, body and spirit. I’ve decided to take 50 as the mid point of my life. Yes, I know that means I expect to live to 100 but, as long as I’m healthy and happy, I can’t see any problem with that goal. Besides 50 is a nice round number. For me it heralds the beginning of middle age and I’m planning a middle age that will be far from boring.

I’m already looking after my mind by continuing my study. However, I’ve also started to research my mother’s family which is definitely testing my problem solving skills. My mother’s parents came from Russia and before Russia it is possible that my grandmother’s family came from Sweden and my grandfather’s family was perhaps descendant from the Tartars. All of these possibilities are vague and I’m finding conflicting bits of information as I go. I’m planning a trip to Perth soon to visit both my father and my son, but also to go through some of my mother’s papers in the hope that there will be more information.

This year I hired an exercise bike – a spin bike – mainly to help my son regain his fitness after his operation. However, I have managed to cycle every day for at least 30 minutes and I’m very proud of myself. I’m slowly building up speed and resistance, but I find it difficult to cycle any longer than 30 minutes as, by that time, my butt is so sore I can barely move. I even bought a gel cover for the bike seat, which makes it slightly easier, but not much better. I never thought I would enjoy cycling, but I like the way that I can watch the news or do some reading while I’m pedalling and I don’t have to worry about being fashionable either. I can wear anything I want to, even pyjamas! I’m also doing some exercises for my upper arms and back and abs three times a week.

I’ve been trying to eat healthier foods. I am a bit stubborn in that I refuse to give up coffee and my glass of wine with dinner, but otherwise I’m doing alright. Ideally I would like to lose at least 6 kilos – about 12 pounds, but I’d be satisfied with losing inches and toning up. I’ve been lying in the sun every day for about 20 minutes to half an hour and am gradually building up a tan and soaking up Vitamin D.

Spiritually I’m re exploring the works of Florence Scovel Shinn and Catherine Ponder, both of whom believe in the metaphysical. I’m trying to develop a more positive attitude to life and I’m making a huge effort to watch the words I use and the thoughts I have. I believe negativity attracts negativity and being positive will bring positive things into my life.

So there you go – so far this year has been all about me and I can’t see it changing any time soon! Of course I still have to work, I would love to find more time to blog and I will always be there for my boys. But let’s face it – they are all adults now and have their own lives. I feel like I have been reborn – I’ll be 51 later on this year and I’m determined to make the most of my new beginning.