26 June 2017

Best. Superheroes. Ever.

There are very few 'professional' opportunities for a blog written by a pottymouth female who has no 'niche', so the fact that two have recently come into my inbox makes me feel a bit like a kid on Christmas morning.

The first was an invitation from iFLY Indoor Skydiving Sydney West to come and check out their new Superhero Training School which is launching these school holidays.  I immediately said yes to five gifted tickets without checking the small print.

In case you are wondering, the small print will tell you that a thrice fractured S3 vertebrae rules you out of flying until it heals properly. This broken butt business is starting to get old I have to say!

But I digress.

Nobody makes it through life without wishing they could fly at least once.  As adults we chase it by bungy jumping, parasailing or via tandem skydives. I did a bungy jump in New Zealand some years ago over Lake Taupo. The feeling of tipping off the platform to plummet towards the water below is one of such exquisite terror that you understand why people become addicted to it. There is a poetry to the freefall that is not reflected by the words captured in the recording of my fall when I ask if it's okay to wet myself.  The answer is yes it is, but I didn't. It's a life highlight to be honest.

Thing is, bungee jumps, skydives, parasailing - they are things you do once because, well, because money.  But kids don't think of life in terms of money. It's the best thing about being a kid really, not having to think about money.

Kids think of life in terms of experiences.

And if you don't think flying like your favourite Superhero is an experience, you are dead inside.

Learning to fly like a Superhero is pretty much the best thing ever if you are 5, 6 and/or 7 years old (my control group for this experiment). Actually, my husband is 35 and he also thought it was the best thing ever.... so basically - being a Superhero NEVER EVER gets stale.


Mind you, when you head to one of the iFLY venues to try it for yourself these holidays (on the basis of this blog so that lots more people realise the value of giving cool shit to pottymouth bloggers - please and thank you) make sure you are totally ready to answer questions about how people fly, how planes fly, why Superheroes wear capes if they aren't actually needed for flight, why birds flap wings and people don't flap arms, and also have some kind of theory about why they won't get travel sick flying when they do get travel sick sometimes on car trips.

FOCUS CHILDREN! WE ARE GOING TO FLY!

Anybody who reads my rants regularly knows that I am absolutely besotted with my children.  I got lucky basically - I grew really awesome humans. And my heart basically burst out of my chest when I saw them all kitted up in their 'air suits' ready to fly.  They'd done their training and knew what all the hand signals were and they looked like a cross between Superwoman and tiny Top Guns.

The cute! It burned!



And to see them fly! Their small faces screwed up in concentration (and also because they hadn't realised how blowy it was inside the flying tunnel) and their bodies curved into the right shapes to stay afloat.


All the feels on the faces of the the ones that chose to 'go up' (which is when Jimmy - the instructor - takes hold of them and flys them up to the top of the tunnel and back down again. TWICE!).

video

It was also beyond adorable when my smallest one was momentarily terrified, when she thought he was going to let her go (he wasn't).  Bet it's the first "tandem skydive" he's ever done with a small person on his head!


When they had finished and were basically on the kind of high adrenalin brings - bouncing around the venue almost achieving more height than they had during the flight - I tried to get them to describe how they felt about it.  Mr 7 wanted to go straight back in NOW, Tully (aged 6) wants to come again because she felt like a 'real life Superwoman' and Cassidy (aged 5) thought it was great but she DOES NOT WANT TO GO AGAIN!

"I liked it Mama, but I think I prefer being in a plane to being out of one!"

And it's fair to say that should Mr 35 follow through on his current plans to become a skydiving champion, he'll have no reason to oppose me getting another motorbike.

While the kids loved flying, they were also fascinated by the training, the outfits, and they adored watching the iFLY teams demonstrating the advanced flying techniques such as spinning and going upside down and flying in formation.  They spent ages with their faces pressed to the glass (sorry whoever had to clean that glass) watching in fascination and opining on how it might work. I'm fairly confident on the basis of those discussions that none of them are heading for a career in aviation but who knows....

There was a downside to having spent a few hours living the Superhero dream - leaving the venue we had to impose some rules banning freestyle parkour and have some quick conversations about gravity and why you can't fly without training. Especially from walls, park benches and the like.

We'll be back fo' schiz - probably after my broken vertebrae heals and we've had a chance for Cassidy to forget the moment she sat on Jimmy's head.  Sorry again Jimmy.

With the man himself - Jimmy
For those interested in giving their kids the full Superhero experience and join me as "Mama of the Year", there are three current locations for iFly Indoor Skydiving - Sydney West, Gold Coast and Perth. Opening over the next year there will be another Sydney venue and a Melbourne venue. The Superhero training classes are free (sans fly) and only $39 with a 'fly'.  For more details go to www.ifly.com.au


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20 June 2017

More of them then ever

Today is World Refugee Day.

So remember that as you get out of your bed that was in no danger of being bombed last night.

So remember that as you order your soy based decaffeinated latte and skip breakfast even though there was plenty of food to be eaten at home.

So remember that as you send your children off to school feeling confident that no army will break in during the day and steal them away.

So remember that as you drop a text to your friend making plans for next weekend because you aren’t locked up in indefinite detention illegally.

So remember that as you chat to your colleagues and badmouth the prime minister knowing you won’t be shot for treason.

So remember that as your children come home and tell you that they hate potatoes because you know that kind of hate won’t kill them.

So remember that as you lie beside your partner secure in the knowledge that you will both be there in the morning.

So remember that as you go to the toilet and pee for as long as you like without having a guard time you for your two minutes, or have to barter your dignity to get four minutes.

So remember that as you worry that your children have been exposed to adult themes listening to Katy Perry rather than been exposed to adult themes by being sent to fight in a war.

So remember that as you complain about the mortgage confident that you’re not having to sell your house to get on a boat in the middle of the night because you have no other option if you want your children to grow to be adults.

So remember that when you drive home from work and nobody fires a gun at you.

So remember that when you argue with a policeman knowing that he won’t threaten to rape your daughter to make a point.

So remember that when you vote in people that disregard other people’s human rights.

So remember that when you turn off the news because you’re sick of hearing about refugees.

So remember that when you demonise people based on race or religion.

So remember that nobody leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark. 

Because refugees are you.  Refugees are me.

To deny their humanity is to deny ours.

Today is World Refugee Day.


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5 June 2017

Kids don't mean to be arsehats

I've been thinking about an article I read recently that said parents have a responsibility to stop children questioning difference aloud as it is intrusive, hurtful and rude.

I don't doubt that questions posed by children, and adults, are at times all of those things.

But the difference is that small people learn by asking questions.  We've got google.

It took me a while to work out that my youngest kid was terrified of people in wheelchairs. Then a bit more to work out she wasn't terrified of all people in wheelchairs, just some.  And it took a little while longer to work out that she was only terrified of people in electric wheelchairs. It took a while longer to realise that she found them terrifying because she didn't realise that they were people in wheelchairs because she didn't know how they operated.

From her perspective at knee high to an adult, they were just giant, silent, machines that glided towards her like some kind of strange part human, part machine hybrid, and then passed by on their way to who knows where.

Once I'd asked a man in his electric wheelchair sitting by us in a park one day if he would show her how the wheelchair worked without him moving his arms or legs - she was fine. She understand it was a person, sitting in a chair, that worked my pressing a button. None of which was scary.

I tell this story because in my view kids aren't arseholes just because they don't react "correctly" to something different or ask difficult questions.

We live near a brain injury rehab. We see a lot of people in wheelchairs every single day.  We have talked about how brain injuries affect people differently which is why some are in wheelchairs, some can't speak properly, some walk strangely and so on. We thought we'd covered off the topic pretty comprehensively and we probably had. What we hadn't realised is that the difference between somebody in a regular wheelchair and an electric one was hugely visual for a small person. She could see how one worked and that fitted into what she understood, but the other we hadn't provided enough information and so the gap in her understanding was frightening.

We are the kind of parents that don't sugar coat anything. If our children ask us a question we answer it no matter how hard or complicated the topic is. We make sure we give them the right information and as much as they can process. And then we wait for the next question. We work hard at making sure that they understand that people are different and that different is not bad. However, we can't always anticipate how they will process the world because they experience it differently to us.

And they ask questions not to be rude or disrespectful but because to them, they are still in the black and white phase of life. In the same way they make statements based on facts.

Mum has a big bum.

There is no pencil which is the right shade of black for drawing my friend.

Your cooking is not as good as Chef Clair's cooking.

Dad can't sing.

You are being very shouty today. (Okay - yes but honestly, how hard is it just to get dressed without getting sidetracked 340049 times a minute so we're not late for school?)

And they ask questions the same way - loudly and without a filter - and generally when you're in a public place - particularly stuck in an elevator or close enough to the person or situation that triggered the question to hear it.

Mum if smoking is a dumb thing to do why did you used to smoke?

Why does John's Mum eat so many sometimes foods if she doesn't like being fat?

Why does that man only have one leg?

Why does the man in front of us smell?

Why is that woman's scarf a hip-hap and yours is just a scarf?

Why would you keep having children if you only get boys?

Why does willy rhyme with silly?

Why is it rude to use the word 'fart' in front of old people?

Why is that man homeless - doesn't anybody like him?

When people die do they miss us?

Why does that old lady have hair coming out of her chin if she's not a boy?

Why do I have to use a quiet voice to ask questions?

But I think we've got to embrace the fact that we are raising children that are confident enough to ask questions. Sure we also have to teach them empathy, kindness and consideration but we also can't have them worrying about offending everybody when they seek to increase their understanding of the world.

I am actively trying to stop apologising to the world after a lifetime of doing it and yet, I find myself apologising to people in case offence is caused by my overly curious children who inexplicably can only ask questions at a volume which would make hardened rockers wince.

Which when I stop and think about it - could sound to my children as if I am apologising for them. And I'm not. I'm extraordinarily proud of their independence, their curiosity, their common sense and their desire to explore the world.

I watch them as they role play endlessly after seeing something different or hearing something new. I like hearing them flesh out things they need to be mindful about when playing with a partially blind friend - pointing out a step in a dark room, making sure they have a spot up front so they can see. I like seeing them explore their feelings even if it makes me squirm - "Pretend you are feeling really sad, like that time Mum got in an elevator and left me behind". I think its a solid play habit to pretend to be different people in different situations and see how you would deal with it - "Pretend I'm a refugee and you want to help me by giving me some books but I think your books are boring."

I accept that sometimes they are going to say or do things in those games which may need further exploration and further explanation by us, as the adults. I also accept that sometimes they say things which are so profoundly wrong on every level that we have to leave the room to laugh before we address it in our serious adult voices.  But most important for me, and I think for other people to remember, is that kids don't mean to be arsehats.

They are small humans, desperately seeking to understand the world around them through questions and play and watching the people around them.

So it's not up to parents to stop their kids asking questions even if the questions are inappropriate. It's up to us to work really hard NOT to be arsehats saying inappropriate things or asking inappropriate questions so they can see how that works in a world which is chaotic, and at times incomprehensible.

So my answer is basically #dontbeadick.

And your kids will probably turn out just fine.


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1 June 2017

Love - Nil

Look, I hadn't ever heard of Margaret Court before. I'm sure she's great at tennis but she's a bit shit at being a loving inclusive Christian type.

Here's the thing about gay people.

They're gay.

They happen to love people of the same gender.

It's that fucking simple.

There is no grey in that.

There is no ulterior motive.

There is no big fat agenda.

There is no devil coming for our children.

They are just human beings capable of love.

Just like the rest of us.

They aren't some kind of modern communism. Or national socialism. Or goat bonking perverts.

Here's the other thing about gay people.

They are people.

Capable of good things and bad things. Like all people.

Because, in case you missed it.....

Gay people are just FUCKING PEOPLE.

With human rights.

THAT WE ARE IGNORING.

And I am heartily sick of us giving air time to the likes of Margaret Court and Miranda Devine and whichever posturing pretend Christian politician is trying to get his name in the paper this week.

I am heartily sick of the hurt inflicted on every single one of my gay friends - and I've got a DISPROPORTIONATE NUMBER OF THEM REMEMBER? - every time some slack jawed, high profile bigot of advanced years wants to inflict their lifestyle on the rest of Australia.

Okay. Deep breaths. My point?

All people in Australia should have the same human rights as all the other people.

And Margaret Court should shut the fuck up.


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16 May 2017

These are just days in our lives

I'm all for inclusion.

I'm all for mindfulness.

I'm all for kindness.

But I am absolutely over seeing other people apologising for things that aren't even things.

Take Mothers' Day.
Darth Vader had a mother too

A Ms Jarvis, established spinster and massive fan of her own mother, started the campaign to answer her mother's dream that one day the powers-that-be would create a day commemorating mothers for their service for humanity.

Eventually she got her way and because the world is as it is, it started as one thing and morphed into another when the marketing department got hold of it.  Somebody at Hallmark probably got a bonus. And now a century later we commemorate our mothers for their service to humanity by buying joke cards, dressing gowns and wine.

Now here's the thing. I get that not everybody has a mother in their lives due to death or other reasons. I get that not everybody has a mother they like. I get that not everybody is a mother, or can be a mother, or wants to be a mother. And I get that some have two mothers or  some step-mothers, or a grandmother acting as a mother, or a father who is doing the mothering which seems like fathering which is just parenting but hey, I digress.

No. Not everybody is going to be loving the day.  Or needs the day. Or wants the day. Okay. Got it.

But that doesn't mean we can't say on our social medias, or in a card, or on the television "Happy Mother's Day" without adding a caveat inclusive of all the above.  We do not need to apologise for enjoying the shamelessly commercial nature of a day dedicated to this particular role in life - if we choose to do so.

It's not a competition people. Just enjoy the day or not. Stop making it a battlefield.

We don't apply the same hysteria to the whole buy-a-diamond-worth-three-months-salary-thing which is nothing but another successful marketing campaign designed to turn the historically commercial transaction of marriage into a way of making money out of the modern notion of 'a love match'.

When somebody gets engaged, we don't say "Happy Engagement" and then add a caveat to acknowledge all the people that didn't choose a diamond, aren't married, are formerly married, want to get married but aren't, no long want to be married, and so on and so forth.

We don't shout down the people congratulating the happy couple by calling them out publicly for their insensitivity to the unlucky in love or the recently separated or berating them for forgetting that you want to get married but can't find anybody to marry you.

On the most part we think "how lovely for them" and then forget about it.

Absolutely - if you know somebody personally that's having a rough time around Mothers' Day, or their ex-husband's engagement or whatever - reach out to them personally, but don't patronise them by acknowledging them one day a year and then say or do nothing about it for the rest of the year.

If you truly give a shit you should know that that loss or absence in their lives is a constant. It needs support and encouragement all year around, not some token "I see you barren lady" post alongside the pictures of you in your new car.

Be kind, be thoughtful, be inclusive, be mindful - but give over making it 'a thing'.

The celebration of one thing is not a dismissal of another. You can care deeply about one thing and still indulge in fun. It's one of the key elements of being human.

Chaotically, imperfectly, unchangeably human.

(And one last thing - don't forget to hunt out sea monkeys, trees, lovers of Coquilles Saint Jacques, Biographers, LGBTI Elders, and people who draw and wish them a good day today. Because today is their day. And I am in no way offended if you don't include a caveat that acknowledges my absence from that particular set of descriptors.)

Happy Tuesday.

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12 May 2017

I see you little one

I see you little one.

I see your eyes sparkling with delight behind your long lashes.

I see your easy smile.

I see you use words like 'love' with an easy familiarity.

I see you sing loudly even when you don't know the words.

I see you watching all that she does.

I see your bright little face crinkling in laughter at the joke you don't quite get.

I see your little legs running to catch up with the bigger ones.

I see your little hand outstretched to join the circle.

I see your relentless enthusiasm.

I see your rage, your hurt and your bewilderment.

I see you abandon things you held so dear because you're a "big girl now".

I see you play the goof for attention.

I see when your face crumples in on itself after a careless word.

I see you delight in their successes.

I see you stamp your foot.

I see you try again and again and again.

I see you hold steady and true to yourself when you know you are right.

I see you rage against the injustice of their rules and your place in the age hierarchy.

I see you copy the things they do - both the good things and the bad.

I see you delight in the inclusion.

I see you hug without fear.

I see you make room for other people.

I see your kindness.

I see your effortless joy at living.

I see you try things.

I see you fly when you weren't expecting to fly.

I see your big heart make room for everything they hold dear.

I see you settle into your space beside her when the friends have gone home.

I see your connection with the person you love most fiercely of all.

I see you loved back just as fiercely.

I see you little one.

I see you.

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2 May 2017

My broken bum and why World Vision rocks

There are thousands of moments in our lives where we do something and the thing we do is of no consequence. Things that might make no sense in retrospect or are hard to explain, but that you have done a zillion times before with absolutely no need to tell anybody. And because there is no consequence, the thing is of no interest to anyone, so therefore, it goes undocumented, unremembered, unimportant.


And then you fall off the toilet seat you were standing on in your bathroom and fracture the S3 vertebrae in your sacrum, concuss yourself and injure your wrist, and everybody wants to know why you were standing on the toilet seat.

You know something, the why wasn't and still isn't important. It's something I've done a thousand times before, and which without a doubt, I will do in the future once this memory has dimmed. Of course it potentially, in hindsight, wasn't the smartest thing to do, but as I said, if I hadn't fallen, it wouldn't have been a big deal, you would never have known. Nor would you have wanted to know. And most importantly, you wouldn't be making a judgement call on it as if you're some kind of perfect beast who has never done something without thinking that ended less than optimally.

Yes. I've gotten to the grumpy stage of recuperation.

The funny thing about breaking your bum is everybody kind of assumes it's a self diagnosis. I can assure you it is not - I spent time in hospital being poked, and prodded. I've been x-rayed and had my first ever ECG and CT scans.  I have wept into the clean linen on the plastic beds in the short stay unit until the sweet blessed drugs took effect and dulled the pain a little. Since I left hospital, I've wept a lot more than I am comfortable with, but broken bums hurt. And I'm irritatingly, irredeemably, human.

Here's the thing - fractured sacrums generally don't happen to healthy 42 year old women unless they've been in a traumatic accident like a car crash.  They're more common in the elderly or people with bone density problems. And since 42 is not old and my bone density is ace, it falls into the category of 'bloody impressive fall Al'.

It also falls into 'your timing sucks Al'.  This Saturday I am due to fly to Indonesia with World Vision for a ten day stay visiting their projects (similar to what I did with World Vision in India last year). I'm not going. I can't sit properly. Or walk properly. Or bend properly. Or lift things. For a while in the hospital, it was looking like it would be my call about whether or not I went - and I was still thinking of going. I mean what's a broken butt really in the scheme of things?  But then just before discharge the doctor said nope.  And then he said No. And then he said it a few more times in case I wasn't listening.

I was.

I am also 100% aware that the purpose of going with World Vision to Indonesia is so that I can form a connection with the works they are doing. It is to interpret the impact World Vision has on individual communities and relate it to my own life and experience in such a way that the people reading my blogs can better understand the work that happens.  The purpose is to put aside 'me' and immerse myself in the lives of other people so that I can deconstruct what I see and pack it up for you, the readers of this blog, to better understand a way of life we generally only see or read about through the finely tuned lens of advertising or media stories.

Source: Monty Python
And I can't do that if I quite literally can't sit myself down and be part of it. I do World Vision no favours and I definitely don't do the Indonesian communities any favours by merely observing from a distance perched upon a plastic ring, or lurching around the communities with my antalgic gait, like somebody from the ministry of silly walks.

So instead of going, I'm going to be amplifying all the amazing stuff that Virginia from www.challengeyoass.com writes (you should follow her blog as well - I was late to the party but fell in love by the end of the first post) and the musings from Carly who blogs at www.smaggle.com, who most people know already.

You see, we think we understand what organisations like World Vision do. We've seen the adverts. We've paid our $43 a month to make sure that Javier in Honduras* is doing okay. But the reason World Vision invests in sending bloggers to visit the projects isn't to tell you what you think you know. They want you to understand, really understand, how your donations manifest in the real world. They want you to understand how the money doesn't just send Javier to school. It empowers his mother, it gives his sister medical assistance, it provides his father with dignity, it puts toilets into villages, it gives a slum full of single mothers their financial independence, it provides education, clean drinking water. It provides access to people's fundamental human rights.

Donating money for us is a no-brainer. But on the ground the impact of those dollars is breathtakingly visceral. It is physically disruptive. It is supportive. It is liberating. It is transforming. It is driven by the communities recognition of what they need and how they need it. It is delivered by some amazing people who are at heart, believe themselves to be staggeringly ordinary, who are actualising extraordinary change.

The work that World Vision does is life changing.

And while advertising gives you a glimpse of that, it is in the telling of the stories from a personal perspective that people come to understand the transformative reality of 'donating a goat' or 'sponsoring Javier'.

So even though it won't be my bum on the ground this time round, I'm proud to be a blogging ambassador for World Vision and looking forward to learning more about what they do in Indonesia, through the creative and talented word stylings of Virginia and Carly.

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*Made this name and country combo up for the purposes of this post.