24 December 2013

If you believe....

I have a young nephew who embraces small obsessions at various points of his life with all the fervour of the newly converted and soon to die.  And his mind works in peculiar ways - he's a big thinker, spends a lot of time on the details but on occasion thinks so far out of the box that there is a simple brilliance to his logic.

We repeat things he says so often that it is entirely possible future generations will assume he was the same kind of philosophical thinker as Confucious.

And one of my favourite is a Christmas story.  And guess what -it's Christmas time! 

Just generally, my parents love the opportunity to take my nephew and his sister to church with them on some Sunday mornings.  They get to show off two of their grandchildren and the neblings enjoy it as they enjoy most outings with their grandparents.  And the nephew has always loved it because there is singing, and he's always loved singing.  As only he can, he become passionate about 'Jesus Music' - or as you might more commonly know them 'hymns'.  Amusingly to me he lumped other Gran favourites such as The Seekers and Andre Rieu into this and if he heard them playing in her car he'd gleefully exclaim 'Jesus Music' and warble away his own versions of her favourites. 

A few Christmas' ago, my parents and various of their offspring, partners and grandchildren went along with them to church on Christmas morning.  I feel that Mum and Dad probably spent most of the service scolding us to sit up straight and pay attention but this *may* be a memory from our childhood.  Either way, I was lucky enough to sit next to the nephew.  We sat, we stood and we sang.  During one of the hymns he was looking around with an expression of fierce concentration, I leant over and whispered "What's up dude?" and he whispered back -

"I'm looking for God"
"Oh. You are are you?"
"Yep"
(Mum/Gran glares at us from end of pew - we pretend not to notice)
"Any luck?"
"Nope"

The service continues.  He spends a lot of time looking in one direction and then during the final hymn he leans over and whispers loudly "I found him!"

"You did?"
"Yep - it's that man" and points.
"How do you know?"
"He has a beard, he's old and he knows ALL THE WORDS TO ALL THE SONGS"

On the road again... 
Genius.  Most people can spend their whole lives looking for god, looking for big gestures, moments of transcendence, eyes that cry blood.  But there he is, hiding from the adults, in full view of small people who believe.

And that is the beauty of Christmas.  Whether atheist, capitalist, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist.  Everybody knows an old guy, with facial hair that knows the words to all the songs.  

It really is a season for everybody.

Whatever your approach - be it Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Season's Greetings - I wish you that but most of all, Peace.


23 December 2013

A priceless present. A positive post by a positive person.

Today's post is a guest blog by Natalie Wills, a UK based friend who is passionate about life to the point where sometimes I think she is in danger of being permanently positive.  Big on love and empowerment she can be professional introduced as a Publishing Consultant and Writer with almost 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. She forged a successful career in international sales & marketing, including product development before she started her own business in 2011.

NSW Consulting is her business consultancy which specialises in flexible, focused and affordable project management support to book publishers.

And then she started another one. She's one of those.

Unbeknownst to me she was also into healthy living (I know), her 'other' business is a health and wellness business called Nataloe. She is building a team who are passionate about the health benefits of aloe vera. It's not a cult but people are really into it.

However, back to the blog, it's Christmas - and she's reflecting on what the best gift she ever got from her parents was and why she still values it today.

***
I spend a great deal of time telling my children how amazing AND beautiful AND handsome AND talented they are. It’s not because I think my children are brilliant at everything – it’s down to my absolute determination that they’ll go through life with good self-esteem. It’s a gift I can give them that costs nothing and can never be taken away.

I am shocked by just how many people confess to suffering with low self-esteem, especially other Mums I meet. Test my theory out by paying a simple compliment to a few of your girlfriends today. You may simply say, ‘that colour really suits you’ or ‘your hair looks nice’. How many of them will simply smile and respond with an unchallenging ‘thank you’? All too often a compliment garners a response more like ‘ah, thanks, I really wasn’t sure if this colour suited me’ or ‘really, but I haven’t had my hair done in ages’. Go one step further and compliment one of them on a nice outfit and you’ll probably be told how cheap it was to buy! Come on girls, take a compliment please!


Every morning I tell my daughter she is more beautiful than she was yesterday. She encapsulated my thoughts on self-esteem perfectly this morning. She told me I was more beautiful this morning too. Like a fool I replied, ‘but I haven’t got any make-up on’. She didn’t understand the connection and simply said,’ you’re more beautiful without make-up Mummy’. My son backed her up by adding, ‘because it’s your normal you’.  I was really touched by this magic moment and simply said ‘thank you’.

I was struck by their love and innocence at 4 and 7 years old. I was happy with the beautiful compliment they had given me and it didn’t matter whether I believed what they said.  I applied make-up anyhow – they don’t need to know about how make-up can help a woman’s confidence and they don’t need to know I’ve called it ‘war-paint’ for years. My Mum always used to prompt me to re-apply my lipstick just before my husband was due to arrive home from work. She told me, if nothing else, it would just make me feel better about myself. I was having a tough time at work some years ago and my dear friend and colleague used to nudge me before meetings and say, ‘it’s time to put your war-paint on’. Kind words and good lipstick really can help a woman!

On the school run I always admired how cool, calm and collected (and body confident) one of the Mums appeared to be. Carrying off hot pants and low cut tops on the Summer school run can’t be done by many. She made it look graceful and effortless and, from where I was standing, she oozed confidence.

We’re now good friends and she recently told me she didn’t feel confident enough to wear the dress she’d chosen for an evening out. It’s such a shame beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I can tell her she’d look stunning in any dress she chooses but, lacking in self-esteem, she’s not going to believe me is she? I view self-esteem different to confidence, even confident people can suffer with low self-esteem – it’s hidden just that bit deeper than confident behaviour. 

I run two entirely separate businesses, one in publishing and one in the health and wellness arena, and I’m spotting a common thread with many of the women I speak to. There is a big problem out there with low self-esteem and it is inhibiting people with great potential from believing in their talent. 

If I give just one gift to my kids it will be good self-esteem. They will encounter both failure and doubters in life but with good self-esteem I firmly believe they will not be inhibited. I know they’ll pick themselves up again, push a little harder and reach their goals. My parents relentlessly fostered good self-esteem into me. I am eternally grateful because I know I’d be nowhere without it.

***
If you want to talk to Natalie, feel free to comment below or contact her via 

Natalie Wills
Tel: +44 (0) 7957 198967
Email: natalie@nswconsulting.co.uk or nat@nataloe.com
Website: www.nswconsulting.co.uk or www.nataloe.com
Twitter: @nswconsulting and @nat_aloe

17 December 2013

An open letter to Scott Morrison

Dear Mr Morrison

I'd like to congratulate you on the absolutely cracking code of conduct that you have introduced for asylum seekers this month.  But I don't think you've gone far enough.  I think that code of conduct should be introduced more widely across Australian society because I, like you, don't think the law is enough.

You and I both know that according to statistics asylum seekers are 45 times LESS likely to commit a crime than a member of the general public.  In fact, the last available statistics showed us that only 5 asylum seekers were charged with any kind of crime in a one year period.  So I see why we are so concerned.  It's outrageous.

But I think we need to expand it to other groups of people too.  I, like you, are very concerned with the safety of the general public which is why this code has been introduced obviously and have helped you out by highlighting a few groups you should get your government to monitor more vigorously.

In the code of conduct you remind asylum seekers You must not harass, intimidate or bully any other person or group of people or engage in any antisocial or disruptive activities that are inconsiderate, disrespectful or threaten the peaceful enjoyment of other members of the community;

You obviously wont have had a lot of time to go out at the moment I appreciate since you are so busy writing fabulous documents like these, but its the silly season - this clause is encompassing 90% of office Christmas parties this month.  We're going to have to really get moving to make a difference to the safety of the public. Though to be fair we can probably skip the 33,000 asylum seekers currently living in the community - you wont let them work so they wont be at the Christmas parties. Good thinking on your part. Saves us time.

In the code of conduct you remind asylum seekers You must not make sexual contact with another person without that person’s consent, regardless of their age; you must never make sexual contact with someone under the age of consent;

This is going to get awkward but just flipping through the pages of this year's newspapers - we need to extend the code to a number of different groups such as our defence force, the NRL, the AFL, the teaching profession, the clergy, the public service, our government, anybody attending schoolies and the banking industry.  It's not a definitive list by any means but it'll get you started.

In the code of conduct you remind asylum seekers You must not refuse to comply with any health undertaking provided by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection or direction issued by the Chief Medical Officer (Immigration) to undertake treatment for a health condition for public health purposes;

We can start with the Eastern suburbs, then move to Byron Bay and the like.  The directive might not have come from immigration but there are a lot of people out there not vaccinating their children and I hear that's where the hippies congregrate.  We're seeing a rise in diseases that were eliminated in Australia and I fully understand your concern about public health.  I think we should also target the filthy buggers on the train that don't cover their mouth with their hands when they cough or sneeze.  It's an outrage.

In the code of conduct you remind asylum seekers You must not disobey any Australian laws including Australian road laws; you must cooperate with all lawful instructions given to you by police and other government officials;

We can jolly well start with the North Shore mums.  Have you seen those women at school pick up time?  They are parking in no parking zones, stopping in no stopping zones and sometimes in the park and kiss zones they don't kiss their kids they just WAVE them goodbye.  If I'm a representative example, I can tell you I should be signing this code of conduct - I got two speeding fines in the same zone in the same month earlier this year. I am truly a menace to society and so are many of my friends. Look, I'll help you out here - I'll just email them the code of conduct and get them to sign it and send it back to you.  That work okay?

As you can see, I'm all for a much more comprehensive approach to the issue of public safety and I am so glad that you are addressing it with such fervour.  I am also very keen that we introduce some kind of uniform for people that identify with the utopia you are working towards, maybe a patch can be sewn on the clothes of people that don't agree with us or maybe didn't have the good luck to be born in a country like ours?  It would just help a little I think in working out who is properly Australian and who isn't.

Looking forward to the next bit of brilliance from you or one equally noble and inspirational colleagues.

My very best regards

Alison Hallworth



 

16 December 2013

Open your heart dear ordinary ones

On Universal Children's Day I attended a fascinating forum on the changing face of fostering in Australia.  It is a subject that interests me generally, I know people in the past who have fostered and I know people now who are considering doing it.  I have always thought that this might be something that happens in our family at some stage.

I came away with a billion different thoughts churning through my brain which I have tried and failed over the past couple of weeks to put into a coherent piece that I felt comfortable publishing.  Basically because I worried about coming across as a patronising fertile heterosexual git pontificating on the changing notion of family and how fostering is part of that.

That, for me, was the bit that really resonated in the presentations by both the 'official dudes' and the people who are foster carers.  Family. Fostering for them is about creating or extending families to provide support and love to children who need it.  They don't see themselves as foster families - they see themselves as family.  They don't see themselves as 'getting a foster child', they see themselves welcoming another child into their lives.  A child (or children) who needs a home for whatever length of time that may be. 

How many children are in this situation? That number is an overwhelming 18,000 plus children in NSW alone. An increase of almost 25% in just four years.  That's a lot of kids that need love and support for either 'time-out' or, you know, their entire childhood. 

And the reason I worried about how my words looked all put together is I have too many friends at the moment and in recent years traversing the road of infertility, non-traditional conceptions, surrogacy and long term fostering vs adoption to get all rah rah about something a lot of people consider an end of road option. That of caring for children that don't 'belong' to you.

Belonging is not about ownership or 'making your own'.  You don't love your dog or your partner any less just because you didn't 'make them'.  And children are generally pretty easy to love.  They are just human beings who generally like to be fed, hugged and allowed to watch TV sometimes.  They are robust, intelligent and mostly amusing.  They don't tend to lick their own butt and then your face.  Which makes them miles more attractive than dogs in my view.

Belonging when it comes to relationships is about inclusion. Being a part of, being welcome in, being accepted.  So children that come into your life, children that you want, they are always going to be children that belong to you.

Sophie Ellis Baxter's mother once said to her "It might be the wrong man, it might be the wrong time but it is never the wrong child."  A very simple and powerful statement that has so many levels of true as to be up there with "other very true things people have said that remain true forever because they are very very true"

All sorts of people want children in their lives.  Single people, old people, young people, working people, cool people, dorky people, bearded people, gay people, uber-godly-SAHM people, "traditional" family people, country people, city people, multi-lingual people, people that wrote Jedi on the census form and adult people that wear jelly sandals non-ironically.

And adult people that wear jelly sandals non-ironically aren't necessarily going to be able to have a baby the old fashioned ways.  Nothing says passion killer like grown-ups wearing jelly sandals non-ironically.

This is where fostering is really changing. Fostering reflects real life. The facts show that more single people foster now than couples.  And while there are no stats on the number of those single as a result of fashion foibles, they are  mostly working.  And just like a single biological parent, they still have the capacity to love and care for a child or children while holding down a job, a social life and all those other things that make up a life.

The system has basically worked out that to help look after all these children, the system had to change - move with the times as it were. It's not being managed by the government anymore but by almost 50 NGOs coordinated by the pithly named ACWA (Association of Children's Welfare Agencies - see what they did there?) who are on a massive drive to let people know that fostering is not what it used to be.  

Enter - me and a few other bloggers.  Unless you count my own copy of the Trend Paper "ifoster2: The changing face of fostering in Australia" as payment, you're just getting my views on a topic I found interesting from a personal view point and now find fascinating knowing the scope of the problem and the challenges faced by the NGOs looking for people to be foster carers.

The picture on the trend paper
Speak to any of the foster carers on the day and you were speaking to people who are big on family and creating environments for children that are loving, supporting and consistent.  People who mostly get it right, sometimes get it wrong but are trying really hard to be good at the whole parenting lark.

Just like me with my own 'home grown' children.

These are people who know that having children enter permanent foster care with them means keeping birth parents as part of the circle.  These are people who know that the children coming to them are coming from shitty situations and have no reason to trust anyone.  These are people that know that the children that are coming to them for respite are possibly going back into an environment that won't include them and so they have to pack all the support they can into the time that they have.  They are people who proactively choosing to learn about being a better parent by undertaking training, networking and reading lots and lots of things on the interwebs. 

People just like us.

And that's what was so fascinating about fostering.

It is not about extraordinary people.

It is about ordinary people.

You. Me. Yep, and ol' jelly sandals over there too.


****
For more information on fostering including all those burning practical questions now that you have identified that you are totally eligible to be part of the future of fostering go HERE or call them up and ask questions by dialling 18002 FOSTER or follow them on Facebook or on Twitter at @FosteringNSW.


6 December 2013

Crafting excellence for small people. Quickly.

It has to be said, somewhat immodestly, that Playschool has never been the same since it forgot to employ me.

Not that I have ever applied.  And I can't sing. But when it comes to CRAFT. I'm the bomb.

Only when I feel like it though. I don't normally have the patience for detailed piece work. And by this I mean anything from sticking stickers in books to knitting.  My impatience for detail is completely egalitarian.

Today, I had three small people with a gap in their calendar.  So we made what I called 'wreaths' and one toddler called 'the sparkly bon bons'.

Call them what you want.  They are 3.5 minutes of creative genius.

Take a paper plate. Cut a hole in the middle.

I didn't take pictures as I went so I have googled one for you. I bet you couldn't have worked this out for yourself.  WHICH IS WHY I AM HELPING.


Then you staple a piece of tinsel to the top and wrap the tinsel around and around until the paper plate is covered. Then you staple the end in place.

This is tinsel.
When I say 'you' I obviously mean the two three year olds and the one year old.  But they are pretty crap at following instructions, so sometimes it is easier just to do it for them after they try and fail.  But make sure you are very encouraging about their efforts.  This is a key element of good parenting and important to use when in front of other parents.

Then give the three toddlers a box of Christmas themed stickers and tell them to cover the wreath as they will.  Then staple a hanging decoration in the middle of the wreath to make it look GENIUS.  Take a photo of the cute toddlers with their mound of tinsel and stickers...

All perfectly legit
And then, take 'em home and hang 'em on the door....

Best to use the same hanging decorations to avoid toddler warfare
Share genius with world on the slim chance that other parents out there are looking for ways to bond with their children in meaningful Christmas activities that last for less time than it takes to read this post.

You're welcome.


Please note: no children or their egos were harmed in the making of this blog.  All methodology is copyrighted.  

1 December 2013

The best wee you ever did see

Today, on the first day of summer, I have the enormous privilege of guesting posting for the divine Ms M over at Five Frogs Blog

I am talking about the best wee you ever did see. 

I know. How can you possibly wait any longer. Go visit!!!  

28 November 2013

The time has come the walrus said....

Today is the first day of the rest of my life.  Just like yesterday but it was a fairly ordinary Wednesday and so didn't seem so portentous somehow.


Today is the day that I stop listening to golfers.  And play baseball.

Today is the day that I listen to the inner voice that says 'Screw it, what's the worst that can happen' and not the one that whines 'but what if it all goesssssssssssssssssss wrong?'.

Today is the day where I embrace a world where I can write things and include words like portentous, dissolute, raconteur, discombobulate and chutzpah every single day if I choose to do so.


Today is the day where consequence is considered in the context of subsequence.  For if I don't begin, how can anything happen?

Today is the day where I stop living cautiously and start living with the gay abandon of the ridiculously confident.  Obviously faking it until I make it but a girl has got to start somewhere.



Today is the day where I go boldly where I have not gone before, throwing off bowlines and what not.  With appropriate references to both Mark Twain and the people that wrote Star Trek.

Today I become without job and reliant on my own talent, passion and drive to derive an income. A fact both terrifying, exhilarating and slightly nauseating.  

Today is big.

25 November 2013

My brain is full

It's official.  I've got no more room.  I'm full to the brim with a combination of incredibly useful information - like how to pinch an artery in a severed leg and less useful information like the names of all Angelina Jolie's children.

a) hard - until the blood stops spurting
b) Maddox, Pax, Shiloe, Zahara, Vivienne and Knox

In addition to the ridiculous amount of trivia in my brain, I am sitting here watching Q&A and am full of impotent rage about the state of the world and how we don't seem to be giving a shit that we are a country that is regularly, systematically and defiantly contravening our obligations under the UN convention. Yes our country.  We are seriously sucking at being the lucky country right now.  And not just on this issue.  Deep breath.

I worry about my friends and family all of whom have their own journeys at the moment.  And I worry that I don't have enough time for all of them, and I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to work out a solution for each and every one of them.  For those wanting to date - PLEASE let me write your eharmony profile - you are crap at selling yourselves.

I am learning about starting a business and am on a seriously steep learning curve.  I'm exploring my writing.  I have books I haven't read. I am sifting through mentoring. Trying to focus on my achievements. Rewriting my resume and bashing out SOAR statements with the best of them.  I am soaking in jargon because... actually who knows.  Jargon just feels useful when you're out of your comfort zone.

I am conscious that I need to be keeping my fitness levels at a level that will allow me to run an ultra half marathon next May. I'm failing miserably.  Thinking about that takes up brain space.  Beating myself up about it takes a little bit more.

I fill little spaces with articles on how to bring up my children to be functioning adults, despite their parenting.  I read articles on how to be a better partner to my husband and I waste brain space grousing that he's not reading enough articles on the same lines.  And then I get distracted by videos that Adam Hills' makes when he is drunk.

I try to remember bands I like so I can listen to relaxing music and I write lists of movies I'd like to see.  I try and remember what I need to buy grocery wise and I spend an awful amount of time wishing that 'Movember' would end so all the people on public transport with creepy facial hair will go away.  I compose eulogies for people - just in case.  Unfortunately I have a crap memory so I do these things more than once, using up brain space that was already fit to burst.

So I find myself here.

My brain is ready to explode.  I can't be the only one who has a brain that never stops, but I'm assuming that everybody else is thinking more coherently and about things that are inherently much more useful.

Because if we are all walking around with brains like mine.  We are in serious serious trouble.

Just sayin'.




17 November 2013

My name is Alison & I was diagnosed with PND

Today is the first day of Post-Natal Depression Awareness week.  I wrote earlier this year about my experience of PND (I'm a mum in a million said millions of mums) and the discombobulation of feeling so bone achingly sad, out of control and generally overwhelmed at a time I had anticipated would be one of the happiest of my life.

Baby 1. My beautiful Chairman Mao
It has been an interesting journey choosing to be open about my experience with PND.  Most people, including some of those closest to me, have never raised it with me and find me discussing it discomfiting. I have found my internal self at war with accepting the diagnosis myself so I get that, however, without wanting to sound too Xena, Warrior Princess about it, if I don't bang on about it - who will?

Until I started telling people that I had PND, I had no idea about how many friends and colleagues had experience with it as well. But they never articulated it because they were worried that people would think that they sucked at the parenting lark. Which I would have said was absolutely daft UNTIL I DID THE SAME THING.

So I decided, for better or worse, to be the person that 'admitted to it' so that any of the many people procreating or planning on procreating would know that they are not an island.  So many lovely people producing adorable bundles of joy.  They are tired, they are exhausted, they are happy, they are deliriously in love and they see any admission of it being different to how they thought it would be as an admission too hard.  They are not all depressed by any means, to feel those things is a completely normal part of having a child, but some are teetering under a greater weight and if purely because I was open about what went on in my own brain they can articulate their own darkness to somebody than that is a good thing.

Baby 2 - My beautiful Flacco
I would like to say that my experience with depression was over and that by acknowledging the diagnosis, taking the medication and going to therapy that my life now is peachy and to be viewed only in rosy hues, with a jaunty soundtrack as accompaniment.  But it is not.  It's been a big three plus years in a number of different ways and one of those is acknowledging that depression may have been a periodic companion for me in the past and may well choose to be a companion moving forward.  Am I happy about that? No.  But did ignoring the professional diagnosis of PND help me?  No.  Sometimes, the facts are a bitch.

While I remain evangelical about the benefits of therapy, my amygdala and I still have not resolved all our issues and an attempt to self wean myself off the medication despite the advice of the professionals didn't go so well. I hate being on it, but I acknowledge that for the moment, peace of mind about parenting and life, is supported by medication. And lots and lots of conversations about how I'm feeling with other people that understand.

PANDA (the only national helpline dedicated to supporting people living with PND) is keen this week to also grow awareness that PND doesn't only affect women.  While it may be more common, there are no stats on this because men generally tell themselves to have a cup of cement and harden up.  But becoming a parent is just as much of an adjustment for men even if they didn't push the wee darling out their very own hoohar.  Their ability to love and self question their parenting is no less.  So my plea for you all is to talk to the 'other halves', whatever gender they are, and make sure that they know that they have your full support also.

And people (even if you are not depressed) it can still be hard to adjust to the demands of a child - whether it is your first, your second, your third, your thirteenth.  Talk to people, let them know how you are feeling and if you are the friend, for god's sake don't JUDGE.  Those of us living with depression know how dreary it is and you not thinking we're 'properly' depressed or those who start a conversation with 'well when I gave birth' need to be slapped in the face with a giant stinking fish.  We know.  WE KNOW.

Babies are without a doubt the most wonderful ways to start people.  And I love my two girls with a ferocity that never ceases to surprise me.  But with love like that comes a great commitment to not fuck them up.  And sometimes, your amygdala and you might get out of sync on this one.  And that's okay too.

But please don't cry alone.  Don't hug the fears and the terror to yourself and give yourself pep talks. Call someone, talk to somebody, verbalise it.  Own it, in whatever small way you can.

It might be different to the plan, you might learn something about yourself you hadn't expected and it may just be that you can never ever again watch an advert with a dog and toilet paper again without dissolving into floods of tears, but it's not just going to go away and you can only run for so long before acknowledging that having depression does not define you. That needing help to sort it out, does not define you.

You are still you.  And you are awesome.


* I am adding this post to a link up at Five Degrees of Chaos as part of Post Natal Depression Week (17-23 November 2013). Take time to check out the other blogs and maybe even share your story.





Happiness and thunderstorms

Somebody left their umbrella outside.
Result - awesome picture
I wish I was the kind of writer that could describe accurately how much I love storms - thunder, lightning and rain.

When the first thunder signs scrape across the sky and groan in anticipation, it is not unknown for me to clap my hands, grin like a lunatic and even, when the signs are indicative of Mother Nature being particularly cantankerous, for me to engage in a bit of on the spot jigging.  

I love the grumble and scrape of the thunder across the sky, the flash of lightning so bright you do the rapid blink and when the storm moves directly overhead and the thunder makes your body shake with an instinctive thrill. 

I love standing in rainstorms with my arms spread and my face upturned to the sky.  

I love the smell of fresh rain, the pittering sound of a dripping branch and the gurgle of drains swirling and sucking the water back out yonder start all over again. 

I love the luminescence of leaves on suburban trees washed free of city grit and the swish of tyres on shiny black streets.

I love the squelch of bare feet or gumboots in puddles and the slightly acrid smell of spring flowers falling under thick drops of cold fat rain. 

I love the drumming of heavy rain on skylights and the solid warmth of small bodies cuddled to yours under blankets on the couch as the rain drips down the windows and ABC2 diverts their attention from their desire to go jump on the trampoline.

Happiness and rainy sundays -  I salute you.

13 November 2013

Good golly, bad golly

Last month I came across the following blog post - Golly Blog - by a guy called Lemn Sissay.  Now before I even start - let me just state I don't have an answer to several hundred years of horrid. None.

In brief, and without the nuances, this fellow was offended by the sale of gollywogs in a shop in Scotland and what he perceived as a perpetuation of racism by the woman that owned the shop.  She sold them, therefore she was racist.  I have read the blog, the comments, the spin offs, some of the media pertaining to the story and I say that the truth is somewhere in the middle.

The 'offending' photo (source)
You see, if you do not live a life blighted by bigotry, you don't necessarily see it.  It's not that you are selfish, it's not that you are horrid or racist or mean.  If you hear people talk about the effects of bigotry on their lives, it can be hard to imagine it, because it is not your reality. And most of us are busy just getting on with the business of living.  We don't spend loads of time wondering why we aren't somebody else, and we VERY rarely wonder why we aren't somebody else with more problems.

I mean we say things like "but I don't see why the gays need to get married" when you yourself would be mortified if your heterosexual children had babies without being married because you think that true commitment means marriage.

We say things like "but everybody knows that the Aboriginals were here first, why does it have to be in the constitution" when we get offended that we weren't mentioned in Joe's wedding speech because we bloody well introduced them.

We say things like "well of course its best to detain refugees somewhere like Villawood because they could be a rapist or a criminal", at the same time as we wonder if the girl wasn't just a bit stupid going back to the home of a footballer on Mad Monday.

We say things like "that's just Al on her soapbox again" completely dismissing the fact that there is room on my soapbox for two. Or three. Or four. And that we have plenty of time to complain about the price of bananas or smelly people on the train.

And that was what really struck me with the Lemn Sissay blog.  He lives his life expecting bigotry. She lives hers expecting none.  And instead of a dialogue there was defensiveness. Hurt. Anger. A distortion of two truths which are equally valid.

I confess that up until recently, there have been gollywogs in our household.  I have never seen them as sinister, in fact, they have been beloved toys gifted to me as a child and then my children.  The fact that they were black and dressed in stripes had absolutely no relevance to me.  They were just beloved toys in stripy clothes.

And that is good on one level.  We should make sure that signs that are indicative of evil or malice lose their potency by reducing them to nothing.  It is ultimately a rag doll no matter who dreamt it up when and where.  But it's symbolism is something extraordinary, its power is ongoing.  It represents a big big issue which is still not resolved.

It is something on which people can focus their rage, their hurt and their bewilderment.  And that makes it bad.  For if we can take away those symbols, if we acknowledge that these small toys which mean nothing negative in our own bigotry free world, but which means a world of pain in another... we can in a small way make a difference.

So the gollies are gone from our house.  Because in reading Lemn Sissay's blog, I got to thinking about how we can all justify small breaches of peace and tolerate small acts of bigotry. I read the comments and was embarrassed to find that even this bleeding heart leftie socialist was understanding the points of view that basically said "duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude, it's just a doll, chill."

Ouch.

What is that teaching my girls?  What if they ask me later on 'Mum, did you know that gollywogs are symbols of oppression and really upset some people because it reminds them of some really horrible things?' and my only answer was 'Yeah, but duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuudes aren't they are cute'?

What then? What next?

12 November 2013

The conversation

I was at a celebration of life on the weekend - a real one. Cancer 0. Friend 1.  Lots of really lovely people were there - friends from all over the place, all parts of her life, all come together to be part of a giant circle of love.

Awww - awesome huh?  

However, winning line of the weekend goes to a female person who shall be known as 'Harley'. I wasn't even present to hear this line but it was retold so brilliantly by 'the accused' that when it pops into my mind - I genuinely laugh out loud.  And my face hurts from grinning.

So to make your Tuesday a little bit happier, I present to you The Conversation.

'The accused' and 'Harley' hadn't seen each other in ages.  After the face kissing and general chit chat, 'Harley' says to 'the accused'

"Something has changed since I last saw you? Something is a little bit different? Maybe your hair? Don't tell me, I'll work it out"

General conversation and convivial atmosphere continue.

Then all of a sudden

"I know what it is! YOU'VE SHAVED YOUR ARMPITS"


Silence.

Laughter.  Of the tear streaming down your face variety.  

In between hiccups of laughter.

"Nope, that's not it, I've always shaved my armpits".

A hand thrown in the air dismissively.  

"Well I don't know what it is then!"

And there it was - the funniest, the most random comment of the weekend. May the rest of your week continue a hidden gem like that one. You're welcome.





11 November 2013

Who is in charge of personal responsibility?


My dad says I'm like my mum.

My mum says I'm like my dad.

There are times when they say this and they are not being complimentary.  

But it is true.

I am like both of them.  And nothing like either of them.  

Sometimes the similarities are ephemeral - a reflection in a window, a memory that matches a moment, the emphasis in a sentence, a facial expression under a new hat. 

And others are more permanent.  Elements of me which after almost 39 years are just part of who I am and what I have learned along the way.

I look at my little people and I am entranced by their emerging personalities and strengths. They seem so unique, so individual.  But I know that one day, they will accept that some of their good habits they learned from me, and all their bad ones, from their dad.  

That was a joke.  Obviously.  

I look like my dad but with more hair.  Which means I look like my uncle, but with less beard.*

I like lists like my mum. Handwritten, long, actionable. 

When I was younger I taught myself to sign from the Auslan alphabet that used to be printed in the Yellow Pages.  I can still sign the entire alphabet plus the useful phrase 'bad moon rising in Russia'.  Just in case. 

My dad recently took a course in blacksmithing and is now doing a course on mindfulness.  Just in case.

I am never wrong.  Neither is mum.  

My dad likes to have records of his journey. Diaries, photographs, notebooks full of 'this happened'.  I have cupboards, full of shoeboxes, full of books, full of 'this happened'.

My mum has a strong, vocal and proactive sense of social justice. We don't always agree but we're probably bothering somebody, somewhere, to change something.

My dad thrives on 'doing stuff' and 'new ideas'. Travel, explore, discover.  If he can do it on his motorcycle all the better. Though my beautiful man and I are yet to resolve the 'Why I should get another motorcycle' discussion.
Well said Mr Rohn

I have my mother's hands.  Not literally obviously.  That would be really weird. 

My dad likes to dance.

My mum is curious.  

It's not an exhaustive list by any means.  Not at all. Nor is it black and white, but many shades of grey. 

So many things, often small, make up the individuals that we are. We can deny, we can embrace, we can have genuine moments of 'Oh shit' and others of comforting familiarity.  But ultimately, each of us have to take responsibility for ourselves and the people we become and the things that we do.  The good, the bad, the ugly.  

For if we apportion blame for that which we don't like about ourselves, we can not claim credit for that which we do like.

And personal responsibility is at the very heart of both happiness and humanity.
#justathought #justsayin' #seethepointaboutmeneverbeingwrong






*This is only true because when I was getting my eyebrows waxed last week the lady tweaked a hair on my upper lip and said 'No Movember for you lady' and proceeded to remove any hint of hirsuteness with such ferocity I've had a trout pout for a week.  And I thank her obviously.  Now. 

6 November 2013

Please. Don't call my girls princesses

Recently, I found myself physically grimacing when somebody referred to my daughters as 'adorable princesses'.  I really feel strongly about the word 'princess' in relation to MY small people.  Really strongly.

1. They are not. I'm not a monarch, but husband is not a monarch and there is no monarchy in our history apart from a rumour that we are distantly related to the woman referred to as the "Catholic whore of King George IV".  Which we are not according to the chief genealogist in our family. Which is a pity - because everybody likes a salty story in the family tree.

No frog when kissed becomes a prince
2. Even by the urban definition of princesses as 'spoilt, pampered and sheltered from real life', my girls don't qualify.  They've been involved in social justice marches since they were babes-in-utereo and we don't automatically switch off the news or avoid stories that don't have happy endings.  They might be but 1 and 3 but we talk about it all.  If they are to learn compassion, empathy and how lucky they are, they need to learn about it as naturally as they learn about using please and thank you, or how yelling the word 'bottom' is never going to lose it's comedic value no matter how old you get.

She thinks they fit and that's all that matters
3. The Disney definition of a princess as somebody who needs rescuing (preferably after being kissed by a man they have never met) goes against the grain of all sensible personal safety messages that we seek to ingrain in our girls.  Firstly, if somebody is kissing when you wake up and you didn't ask for it - kick the bastards in the bollocks and run like the wind, screaming as loudly as you can. Secondly, if your stepmother is a bitch and makes you work rather than going out and getting an education and doesn't give you the love you deserve - I will be coming back to haunt your Daddy for his ill conceived choice of a second wife with every supernatural bastardy I can lay my ghostly hands on.


4. My 3 year old wants to be taller so she can drive a cement mixer.  I'm proud of her for having the foresight to understand that the cement is always going to be a useful thing and therefore being the driver/operator of a cement mixer is a valid, long term career option.  A career like that will always have relevance.  Unfortunately, monarchies will not.

Tiaras are not just for royalty
5. People use the word princesses to indicate that they think girls are beautiful.  All small people are beautiful. When my 3 year old was a baby she looked like Chairman Mao.  When my 1 year old was a baby she looked like Paul Livingston's Flacco. I can tell you quite honestly, that I have never seen two more beautiful babies in my life.  

I am proud that when you ask Tully what she is she'll answer all sorts of things like "I am hiwarious", or "I am impossible" or "I am orrrrrrrsome".  If I say to them "who are my favourite girls in the world?" they'll both answer "ME".  They interchangeably hear me refer to them as "my girls", "dudes" or if I'm cross they even hear "GIRLFRIEND WHAT ARE YOU DOING?".  I throw my "sweethearts" and my "darlings" and "my beautifuls" and "my gorgeous'" around with the gay abandon of the endearment over user.  I have no problem with them understanding that they are beautiful to me in every single way, inside and out.

But they aren't princesses.

They are better than that.

5 November 2013

Are you a Bitstrip addicted pity poster?

Discovered Bitstrips yet?

It is the Facebook and smart phone app that lets you create a comic you and make little comics where you are the star.  It started almost a year ago but only went onto the app stores about a month ago and is taking over the world.  
Duuuudddeeeee.  Uncool. 
And your Facebook feed is probably flooded with these cartoons at the moment and fundamentally I love the concept - comics are a great way of storytelling and some people have nailed it - seriously clever and very funny.  And most at least raise a smile. 

But the thing that is making me seriously consider blocking Bitstrips is the passive aggressive pity poster. 

You know the ones - they never have anything positive to say and post statements which are supposed to have you engaging and sympathising about their dreadful lives.  They're all woe is me and fuck my life.  Using the correct textspeak abbreviations of course.  They are generally people you like or even love - but they do tend to see the world as out to get them.  Every single day. 

And for them, I have this public service announcement: 

BITSTRIPS IS NOT YOUR FRIEND PEOPLE.  Being a passive aggressive pity poster in PICTURES is just poor form.  It does NOT reflect well on you.  

And it's not just me - all around me in the office over the last little while, there have been muttered conversations about people's feeds being cluttered with Bitstrips bitching about boyfriends, bad days, and so on.  Bitstrips is supposed to contribute to engaging story telling and world peace.  It is not an illustrative tool for the self perpetuating disaster your life currently is.... unless you're Fiona McLoughlin - that woman makes the dark places in her life seem like a trip you want to go on.  

So my dear passive aggressive pity posters ask yourself this - are you Fiona McLoughlin? 

No.  Then trust me, help me HELP YOU - get the eff off Bitstrips. 

4 November 2013

Too late my friends. The change has happened.

Last night I was watching The Graham Norton Show and laughing myself stupid at the hilarity that was Sir Elton John, Dame Judy Dench, John Bishop and Jeremy Paxman being interviewed by Graham Norton.

They were discussing everything from embroidery that contained profanity, the importance of family, music, theatre, creativity, the first world war and how, in a world before the internet, a French kiss came as unexpected and entirely unpleasant experience for a teenage boy not familiar with such things.  And I laughed a lot.

Then Elton John went on to talk about how unexpected it was to find himself, a lad from a council estate, bopping along politely with the Queen at Andrew's 21st where he had been invited to sing.

And it struck me, rather powerfully, that change happens first in a blaze of publicity and then just builds in incremental bits and the once unbelievable becomes perfectly everyday.

Growing up the eternally entertaining paparazzi darlings Elton John, Ellen deGeneres, Neil Patrick Harris would not have had role models like the ones they are today.  Talented, charming, on the TV, in magazines, all over the place.

Successful. Beloved. Married. Parents.

Gay.

Doogie Howser is a Dad. The world does change
(image source)

Even when I was in high school in the 1980s I wouldn't have confidently named a single gay person - either in my circle or in celebrityland (unless you counted poor 'dead because he was gay' Freddie Mercury).  And when Ian Roberts came out - oh my! He can't be! He plays football.

It was always news... and now - so many people are gay and yes, it still does continue to be part of the story because we are still on a journey - it's not news.  Not news at all.  They are just a fabulous roll call of people we hear about everyday.  Every single day.

Matthew Mitcham. Alex Greenwich. Ruby Rose. Chaz Bono. Bob Brown. Tom Ballard. Penny Wong. Michael Kirby. Daniel Kowalski. Ricky Martin. Jodie Foster. Justin Fashanu. Tim Campbell.  Dolce and Gabbana. Armani. Tracey Chapman. Melissa Etheridge. Pedro Almodovar. Queen Latifah. Matt Branson. Martina Navratilova. Tim Gunn. Sir Ian Mckellan. Kerryn Phelps.

And so many more.

That's before we talk about the people we know personally - the married couples. the parents, the friends. Lots and lots and lots of names.

Our beloveds.

The once unbelievable is now just the way it is. It does get better.

Are we there yet? No.

But I bet a young Lizzie never imagined a time when she'd be dancing with rock stars born on council estates.  Those who fear change haven't even noticed it has already happened.  The world is not as it was.

Cool huh?

1 November 2013

Ethical sons not sober daughters

I am going to keep this one brief and crass.

Our responsibility is not to bring up daughters that are good hearted, conservatively dressed, teetotallers.  If that was going to keep them rape free, the Amish and Muslim daughters of the world would be completely safe.

Society's responsibility is to bring up sons that never think rape is an option. My daughters, in fact everybody's daughters, should be able to get drunk and lie down naked in front of a room full of men, safely.

If we are raising a society of ethical sons, those men should think no more of sticking their dicks or their digits into any part of her body than they would think of shoving those same items into a pool full of hungry piranhas.

In fact, naked drunk women if front of a room full of men should end up with no more than moustache drawn on their top lip and a blanket tucked around them while a friend is called.

Yes, those daughters should rethink their booze intake and their perchance for public nudity but poor choices are not an invitation to violence.  Ever.

The end.


29 October 2013

I hear that Jesus likes hot potatoes

For those that might not know, I'm a little fond of climbing up on the old soapbox on occasion.  Particularly around equality and social justice issues.  I'm constantly flabbergasted and genuinely bewildered by people that think they are somehow more equal than other people.

I recently got an email from someone who seemed to have taken a gap in their calendar and filled it up by reading my blog.  Which is quite flattering except that they appear not to like me very much - they said that I was a bit like the devil, first loving 'them gays' and now it's clear I'm a 'black refugee lover' as well.

So basically I am Jesus. Not the devil. And as an aside, I bet he didn't know he was coming back as a pudgy, potty mouthed bleeding heart female.

The intended insult has misfired.  See, I do love them gays and them refugees.  Even the non-black ones. I am completely okay with them having the same legal status as me and being treated with kindness and compassion when seeking asylum. Even if I met them and didn't lurrrrrrrveeeee them I'd still have this opinion.  And just to show how well rounded I am - I also believe that climate change is a thing and that we totally suck in our approach to supporting the differently abled. I know. What kind of arse am I?

On the subject of being a 'refugee lover' I recently became Deputy Director for the Sydney Branch of Welcome to Australia, which is an organisation that seeks to establish a culture of welcome more akin to the national anthem rather than that portrayed in political soundbites or via our mainstream media.  It's a voluntary position which is really going to piss my troll off - that's right dear troll - I'm not even being PAID to give a shit.  Though I was promised a badge.*

So last night, this new position got me walking the red carpet at The Golden Age Cinema in Surry Hills.  An absolute darling of a cinema dating back to the olden days.  Like the 1940s or something.  I was there for the launch of The Hot Potato which is a little gem (see what I did there?) of a documentary put together by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) to 'take the heat' out of the asylum seeker debate.  They got themselves a caravan and toodled around ten towns in ten days serving hot potatoes and inviting people to share their views about the issue.

Even Wally 'Gotye' an opinion
Yep - even people that didn't agree with them.  And this is the astounding simplicity of the idea.  Sometimes an idea seems so RIGHT, so OBVIOUS, that we forget to allow people to express an alternate view and explore their concerns or the things they don't understand and so in the face of BLEEDING HEART SOAPBOXERS like myself, they say nothing and carry on thinking what they are thinking, or wondering what they are wondering and taking part in BBQ conversations based entirely on the views expressed in The Daily Telegraph or by Andrew Bolt or the Prime Minister.  Where is reasoned debate or an opportunity for greater understanding?.

Enter 10,000 potatoes, a bunch of LISTENERS and BOOM... 10 myths about asylum seekers blown out of the water just by allowing people access to the facts along with insanely delicious potato toppings.

That beard is called Tom
The unintentional star of the movie is Reg.  Reg, by his own admission, was 'just there to drive the bleedin' caravan from A to B'.  He really didn't give a rat's arse about any of it and yet by the end, he'd come around to a different point of view and publicly owned that change of heart. His original views weren't all wrong, but they weren't all right either and given the opportunity to better understand - he did.  He's a gruff bugger and a brave one.  Very few of us are prepared to admit we've changed our mind let alone publicly.  HIP HIP Reg.

Reg and Carmelo  (awwww)
At the launch, one of the panellists involved in the making of the film mentioned how she'd had her unconscious stereotypes challenged too.  In Queanbeyan, she spoke to any number of flannelette wearing, heavily tattooed blokes tending toward bogan about the issue and they all thought asylum seekers were getting a rough deal.  And she said she welcomed the learning that she got herself that her assumptions and beliefs were wrong.  I loved that honesty and insight.

Therein lies the heart of tiny little film that roars.  It really offers up an opportunity to have a dialogue and to return to the Australia we most want, that of the fair go.  Not one full of angry people on either side of a line screaming RIGHT! WRONG! RIGHT! WRONG! and not listening and not understanding.

Which isn't somehow as REVOLUTIONARY but undoubtedly a lot more successful.

Sigh.  Rational, reasonable people are no fun.  But they make great films.

Check it out at www.thehotpotato.com.au and take the conversation to your next pub night, or BBQ.  And tell them Reg sent you.



*I didn't want to appear cheap. And I still haven't got it. BRAD! Just saying.

Please note: This isn't a sponsored post.  Yes, I have a vested interested in sharing something that supports my point of view but I really think this is a game changer and a great film. The soundtrack isn't as catchy as that of Grease, but I think the appeal will last just as long.  Please share with people and even if you don't agree - remember to be lovely because being born in Australia is for the vast majority of us nothing but luck, and if we are truly lucky - we don't need to be arseholes.  Thanks xoxo


25 October 2013

Behaving badly

I described my girls' behaviour today as 'contraceptive'.

It was. It really, really, really was NOT an example of their normal levels of awesomeness.

The incessant mewling of the discontented, the whining shrieks of the hard done by, the petty fighting, the clinginess, the fake crying and then eventually - the physical tantrum of the thwarted.  Times two. All day.

Interspersed with fleeting seconds of adorable 'siblings getting along' behaviour that kept them from being put in boxes and left outside a local charity.

Teamwork - 3 seconds
The thing about behaviour like this is that it brings me to a state of extreme irritation and disfunction softened only by the overuse of the words 'sweetheart' and 'darling' during each of my bellows. For instance 'JUST DO AS YOU ARE TOLD SWEETHEART" "STOP WHINGING DARLING".  And of course, yelling at small children is so productive.  It always works.

Said no parent ever.

I don't know whether it is paranoia that they will grow up to be an adult who incessantly mewls and cultivates discontent but I have no patience at all with this particular behaviour set. Actually, I have no patience with this behaviour set in finished adults either, so it's just a button presser really.  FFS - if you're not happy, change something.  Please. And I say that to my toddlers, so it's not like I'm playing favourites here world.

And I am sincere when I say that  I have no problem with open defiance, a genuine bout of anger or even a proper melt down - I feel that I'm successfully parenting if my children have firm opinions or heartfelt responses.  Plus, hands on hips and a scolding from a small person still has the power to make me smile, even as part of the unfolding of an imminent apocalypse.

It's the faffiness of whining that I dislike.  If people want something - ask or DEMAND it.  A please can always be added afterwards.  But that whining in a high pitched baby voice which bears no resemblance to their normal vocal activity resulted in me being the kind of parent I don't want to be.

I said to my three year old today "I don't like little girls that whine".  And I was truly appalled at myself.

I don't like whining but of course I like my little girl. I love her.  Always. When she's older I hope she says "and I don't like mothers that imply even for a moment that they don't like their little girl".  Because is there anything more thoughtless or harmful than insinuating that my love is dependent on good behaviour?  No.  And the fact that they are but toddlers and won't remember is no excuse.  If I reply crossly like that to a small child, imagine the world of hurt we'll all end up in when they reach their teens.

Kisses for baby Kara's toes
I might not like their behaviour, but I always always like them.  In fact, I'll always love them and I need to make sure they know my love is unconditional right from the very beginning.  Because it is.

And as I type this, one is sitting on my shoulders and the other is drinking milk with her head on my lap.  They are watching Alex sing "I am the music man" on Play School.  We are all quiet and content.

We're friends again, and my transgressions are forgotten.

And for that I am very thankful.

23 October 2013

In defence of Tony from the Davidson Rural Fire Brigade

You know things are pretty dire when I write the following.

Leave Tony Abbott the fuck alone.

I know.  I barely believe I wrote that sentence myself.

I know he's leading the country back into rack and ruin.  I know he's a climate change denier.  I know he's a hypocritical arse on so many levels. But volunteering as a rural brigade firefighter is not something you can just swan in and do for political point scoring.  And to say so devalues the efforts of all firefighters.

Yes all of them. The firefighters out there this week who, by and large, are volunteers, train regularly and vigorously to protect other people from bushfire.  And bushfire, as we know, is an inherent part of the Australian landscape.  Long before white settlement and long after we all die in a heap because the Liberal party sold our national soul to the Rineharts.  And fighting it happens because a large number of people regularly give up their free time to learn how to fight such fires in times of emergency.  Like now.
NSW firefighter

Let me recap for those not following - with a population largely clustered around the coastal areas, which tend to have more trees and grass than say, the desert, fire happens which will impact real people.  Sometimes because Mother Nature is a contrary bitch and indiscriminate with her lightning bolts and sometimes because people throw cigarette butts out windows carelessly, thoughtlessly and other times because for some bizarre reason people get kicks out of lighting fires and leaving them to tear through the countryside ruining lives.

However they happen, bush fires are volatile, nasty and quick.  They swallow up property and sometimes people without a pause.  The firefighters putting themselves out there work in hot, thankless conditions, for days and sometimes weeks on end, leaving behind their real lives, their families, their friends and their homes.  In times like now, when bushfire surrounds us, every volunteer firefighter is needed to contribute.  And that also means Tony from Davidson Rural Fire Brigade, veteran volunteer firefighter of 13 odd years.

It doesn't matter that he's PM, if he has found time to go wave insignificant hoses at big flames or give some other firefighter backburning a break for even a few hours, he's doing more than the vast majority of us.  And if he knows what he's doing, which the evidence says he does, than his contribution is important.  The fact that he's an arse, does not mean his contribution is any less valuable, any less worrying for his family and friends or any less useful.  And if being PM, his presence draws attention to the individuals out there fighting the fires, well bully for him.

He didn't snapchat the media a message from the back of a fire engine or hanging from a burning bush and say HEY LOOK SEE I AM OFF TO SEE IF I CAN STOP ME SOME FIRE, any more than any of the other firefighters snapchat  the local media from the back of a fire engine or hanging from a burning bush and say HEY LOOK SEE I AM OFF TO SEE IF I CAN STOP ME SOME FIRE.  It's just what they do.  And for that, we should be, ALL OF US, very thankful to the men and women that have spent so many hours volunteering with their local fire brigades to be prepared for situations like NSW finds itself facing now.

Even if it is Tony.

Very very thankful.

18 October 2013

I got me some culture tonight.

Musicals aren't for everybody.  People that lack the capacity for joy, who hate tunes and abhor dance - they don't like them much.  People that prefer their stage to feature the tortuous journey that is 'Death of a Salesman' - literary excellence, performed to death in front of an entire generation of high school drama students, they scorn the musical as flippant, lighthearted, not 'real' theatre.

Well I say ptooey and other such things to that.

The girlfriends and me
The hip swivel may have started with Elvis, but nobody owned that shit like John Travolta as Danny Zuko in Grease.  The musical had it's opening night in Sydney tonight and I blatantly sold my soul for four free tickets and a girl's night out to be there.  I mean c'mon.  Grease. The musical. Girlfriends. A night out.

What bit would you have said no to?

Exactly.

Grease the movie was iconic in so many ways. The raw defiance of Rizzo, the inner geek of Zuko and a ridiculously catchy array of tunes.  Blue moons.  Sandy never quite said "Stud" right and I know it's our Olivia but seriously, much like Andie McDowell's "Is it raining I hadn't noticed" line in Four Weddings and a Funeral, Olivia's "Stud" has always been a jarring note in an otherwise fabulous cinematic experience. Not to mention she did that ridiculous tongue thing which Miley Cyrus has been ripping off lately and quite frankly, Olivia should apologise to the world for influencing Miley in that way.  

Anyay, I digress, Sandy in the musical should also have avoided saying "Stud". Grease the musical is more loving tribute than replica of the movie and for that I'm very grateful.  The musical is a joyous celebration of an era and an icon, played to perfection on nearly every level.  Sandy's "Hopelessly devoted to you" is just brilliant and Rizzo's raw defiance mixed with melancholy in "There are worse things I can do" had me falling in love with Stockard Channing all over again.  Yes. Stockard.  Is there a better tribute than being so awesome at a character that it completely evokes the original that you knew and loved?

I never wanted to be Sandy. I always wanted to be Rizzo.  That attitude. That sneer. That strut.

(Stars dreamily at  near empty wine glass in a clear case of reminiscence, then returns to typing furiously) 

Kenickie is a little bit sexy in the musical and that little bit edgier than Rob Mills' Zuko.  The characteristic self
Grease Lightning (Media Call)
conscious chuckle is done with due deference but overall Rob is a little bit too nice to be Zuko.  I wanted to ruffle his hair and tell him to go home and stop pretending to be an arse.  But that said, Sandy was a bit stroppier and a little less wet than in the original and that really worked in the show.  Still, if Kenickie was to have driven past thrusting to Grease Lightning I suspect the entire female part of the audience would have followed him in a Pied Piper-esque manner. And that should be Zuko, don't you think?.  

Bert Newton, Anthony Callea and Todd McKenney all feature in made to measure cameos that made me love them all a little bit when normally I don't really think about them much at all.  The nods to their 'other lives' in each performance made for a fabulous comedic salute and Todd's description during media call of his character as "part mirror ball, part Michael Douglas and part Liberace" was insightful genius. 

And you know something, Bert's Vince is a genteel lecherous played to perfection.  I wanted to yell "Slimey Bastard" and "I love you Bert" at the same time.  And I really wasn't expecting to dig the Bert in that particular character.  The show was almost stolen though in the early part of the show with three chorus dancers in a shower routine - one of many brilliant examples of the exemplary choreography and one of the earliest moments I wish I'd grown up to be a professional dancer in a stage musical.  

Obviously I didn't take this picture of finale
because photography was banned
And this is where Grease the musical excels.  There isn't one star in the movie.  The music, the choreography, the chorus, the leads - all of it combines in one riotous tribute which felt like it passed in but the blinking of an eye.  Like a party that ends at curfew, Grease left me feeling pepped and energised and wanting to stay longer.

Also, I want to learn to hand jive.  Because if that dancing is what hand jiving is about - I want me some.

Would I recommend the show? Hell yeah.

Would I pay to see it? Hell to the yeah

Would I say that watching it made me a better person? Well "there are worse things I could do, than fall in love with a show or twooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo"



* Thanks to entertainME, Lyric Theatre and all the fabulous cast, crew and orchestra from Grease for a great night out.

* In the interests of full disclosure I have to let you know that I have performed on stage in The Canberra Gangshow in my younger years as a Turkey, Cow 3 and the Roman solider too small for a doublet, so I just wore a singlet (boom tish).  So I'm pretty much an expert theatre critic as a result and my recommendations are highly sought after by some.


16 October 2013

The procrastination post

Well

If you start at the very beginning, it's a very good place to start 
- Mary Poppins
The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step 
- some wise dude from the olden days

Both Mary and the wise dude are sitting on my shoulder giving me a severe case of the irrits.  Not to mention an earworm thanks Mary.

I've got things to do.  Loads of things.  I've managed to put a letter back in the post box that was incorrectly delivered, read the news, admire photos of my girls, talk to my neighbour over the back fence about his recent holiday abroad, wave toilet duck at the toilet, eat some rice bubbles and clean a few cobwebs out of the toy room.

None of these things are even remotely things I need to do today.

Sometimes getting started is harder than it looks.

And I hate faffing.  My husband is a professional hardcore procrastinator and it drives me wild. If he was here killing time writing blogs when HE HAD STUFF TO DO I'd be cross and humph a lot because FFS JUST DO IT ALREADY!  So lucky he's not here.




(And lucky I'm so perfect I have no irritating habits)

I think people that start their to do list with 'write a list' so they can immediately cross something off it and feel a sense of accomplishment are essentially cheating.  But right now - I'm totally owning that.

I'll tell you another way I've managed to not start today.  I googled 'list apps' just to see if there were any interesting technological innovations in list writing since the last time I googled it.  When there is a pen and notebook beside me on the table.

If that isn't dedicated not starting I don't know what is. And yes - I've googled 'list apps' previously.  What of it? I like lists. I like technology - it stands to reason that googling 'list apps' would happen once or twice in my lifetime.

The more time I have to do something, the less I seem to get done.  I was on maternity leave twice and  I never wrote a best selling novel, sorted out my old photos or took up a domestic art.

Calvin never gets it wrong (Source Bill Watterson)
Anyway, this is it, I'm finishing this and I'm going to go and change the world.

Which isn't on my list either.  Bugger.

Okay... off to write a new list.  Starting with 'write list' and followed by 'change the world'.

And if you hear of any good 'list apps', please let me know. 

11 October 2013

Day of the Girl Child

I have been fascinated today by the interpretations around International Day of the Girl Child and how some have hijacked it to get all man hating and rah rah rah 'we does have rights as women right like you know' without any reference to what the day is actually about.

Which is to highlight the inequity between the rights of boys and the rights of girls world wide.

We're talking fundamentals here people - not the right to wear short skirts and have sex with whoever you please and what not.  We're not talking about glass ceilings.  We're not talking about pay differences.

Those things are all true.  They all matter. They do - but to grown ups (primarily) in the first world. And I'm not saying that I have all the answers.  But as the mother of daughters, I fiercely and passionately want for all small girl people, the same things I want for my own daughters.

Girl Power.

For this is about the girl child.  Child.  In first, second, third and fourth worlds.

We're talking right at the beginning - to be as pleased with the arrival of a girl baby as a boy baby.  We're talking about living a life that is not considered lesser, of having access to a proper education, the right to become an adult without being married off or handed over as part of a deal.

We're talking about living a life that is fearless, where violence isn't visited upon you, where you can catch a bus to school without being shot in the head or your mother burns you with cigarettes because she doesn't want you 'growing up pretty'.

We're talking about the right to play sport, to run free, to be fed, to be cherished. We're talking about the right to be loved, irrespective of gender.  To be valued because you exist, not because you've 'earned' it.

We're talking about a world where to 'run like a girl' or 'fight like a girl' is not seen as weakness, where being female isn't considered a liability or being the third girl doesn't cause your father to abandon your mother to find a woman who can birth him 'real children'.

We're talking about allowing children to be children, whether they are boys or girls.  We're not talking about the adults they will one day be if the world continues as it is, but rather - what if EVERY child had the opportunity to be loved, to be educated and to forge their own lives, with the same opportunities.

Love. Education. Freedom. Respect.

That's girl power.

That's power.  Full stop.