23 November 2017

Australia - You Suck

Refugees flee sunny days in their own countries because sunny days look like this


and like this 


and like this 


 and like this


 and like this


 and like this 



They do everything they can to stay alive. They sacrifice everything. Everything.
Everything except hope. 

And then rather than look after them, we locked them up in concentration camps and refuse to help them. During the time they are in the 'care' of Australia - they lose the will to live. 

What war has not taken from them, Australia has.
We have destroyed hope. 

This twenty seconds of footage is extremely distressing. Having fought to stay alive for so long, they would rather die than face further imprisonment, abandonment and uncertainty. 


Australia did this. We destroyed these men. 

In the week that has passed since we indicated that we would sincerely like parliament to get on with it and sort out marriage equality, a bunch of politicians are bullshitting on about their religious freedoms and how we are being really mean by not letting bakers choose who they bake cakes for.

In the meantime - we are systematically, intentionally, deliberately destroying the freedom of hundreds of men. And not only that, this is barely news. 

Australians appear to care more about the Ashes, Black Friday sales, who is replacing Lisa Wilkinson on the Today Show and sports. So much fucking sports. 

WHILE PEOPLE ARE BEING BRUTALISED BECAUSE OF AUSTRALIA. 

I have literally been crying as I write this, and as I ring the offices of our politicians to indicate how appalled I am about what is going on and that, like many others, I want it to stop.

Don't look away. Look at what we have done to people who already had nothing.  

Australia. You suck. 

31 October 2017

The lost art of faking feng shui

I am not a 'woo' person.

I have a lot of friends with faith - in religion, in the supernatural, in the universe, in signs, in superstitions, in pseudoscience, in science, astrology, in alternative therapies, in the power of 'woo' generally.... the list goes on.

BUT

The only thing I believe in is Rumpology.  Who doesn't want to believe in something that states that although everyone’s bum is unique,  a round bottom suggests a person is open, happy, and optimistic, whereas a flat bottom can mean someone is vain, negative, and sad.

Better still - you can get ROCKY'S MUM TO READ YOUR BUTT! This is a true story. Check the link out if you want definitive proof that fat bottom girls make the rocking world go round.

ACTUALLY

I don't really believe in Rumpology.  Though I really want to do so because I have a round rump.

I am however, an expert in the ancient (1990's) art of faking Feng Shui.

The following are 5 untruths I attributed to Feng Shui in the time before the internet to help some friends, that ended up actually being REAL Feng Shui.

It's a gift.

1. Throw out the mattress you slept on when you were with your ex-partner

I said it was something about the mattress holding all the negative energy of past relationships where you needed something clean and untainted. They got a new mattress, got a new partner and lived happily ever after.



2. Don't have your front and back doors aligned

I said it was something about needing the good luck coming in the front door not being able to go straight out the back, and you could fix it by putting a table or plant in the way to divert it into the house. They gave it a crack, got a promotion and six months later spent a lot of money on an interior designer to Feng Shui their entire house so they could live happily ever after.

3. Put up pictures of you with your friends having a good time

I said that I understood it was something to do with surrounding yourself with visual statements of positivity was good Feng Shui. They whacked up a bunch of photos, had a ball finding the perfect ones, reminded themselves of some great times, actually called some of the friends and voila! - no longer feeling friendless and lived happily ever after.


4. Declutter

Even I, queen of the untidy, recognises that tidying up makes you feel more in control of everything. You tell somebody you are pretty sure it's a basic Feng Shui principle rather than just some basic common sense, THEY WILL DO IT and live happily ever after. 

5. Get some red cushions and 'stuff'

I honestly even said and 'stuff' proving once and for all I clearly knew nothing. They were saying that it didn't seem to matter how hard they worked or what job that they tried, they weren't feeling successful.  Working on the assumption that the Chinese like red, Feng Shui was probably Chinese based, I said that I had seen somewhere that having strong blocks of red around the house attracted wealth, success and happiness.  They got red cushions, red vases and I think a red dinner set, actually stuck out a job for longer than three minutes and put it all down to the red cushions as the reason they lived happily ever after.



Thing is - at it's heart Feng Shui seems to me more about the ancient Chinese art of common sense than anything else -  surround yourself with colour, have a positive mindset and clean your shit up occasionally*. 

And that's definitely something I can believe in!

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* Disclaimer: This is not the dictionary definition of Feng Shui.

16 October 2017

5 things which may one day end my marriage

I've seen a lot of relationships break down. And I'm not so smug as to think that my relationship -  which has passed through the stage of loved up housemates, to living in different countries, to living across the road, to moving countries, to living together, to engaged, to married, to married with children - is perfect. 

There are many, many reasons a marriage breaks down and to make sure I'm giving mine it's best shot, I have narrowed down the five areas which trigger the most discord in our happily ever after.


  1. He doesn't peg clothes on the line the way I do  Worse, his inability to peg clothes on the line in a way that is sensible, efficient and CORRECT, appears to be genetics (based on my scientific observations of his parent's clothesline over the years) which makes me fear for my daughters.  He doesn't align seams so that clothes hang straight, he'll hang jeans up by their waistband, he doesn't match socks as he goes and worst of all, when he takes clothes off the line, he LEAVES THE PEGS ON THE LINE, rather than returning them to the peg bag. In short, he's a monster.
  2. He gets amnesia when taking things out of the pantry
    Every. Single. Day. For. 13. Years. He has forgotten where the coffee and sugar go in the pantry, so once he has taken them out, he just leaves them on the bench. He also forgets how to seal the bread, put away the milk and or indeed any of the things EVER. I know he wouldn't continue to do things that annoy me so I have to assume some kind of regular, intermittent, amnesia.
  3. Time management
    We have different approaches to time. His approach is to see time as an abstract concept with no real meaning. Unless it's for a gig. In which case, his approach to time is as exacting as an Olympic official. It will come as no surprise that his approach is inconsistent with mine.
  4. Relaxing weekends
    My man knows how to relax. A weekend that involves seeing nobody but his family is his idea of bliss. If we can avoid leaving the house altogether he considers himself a man utterly content with his lot. I can do this kind of relaxing for approximately 37 seconds. I like to do things. Lots of the things. All of the things. With all of the people. All of the days. All of the time. We have a shared calendar so there are no surprises. Me forgetting to put things in the calendar means sometimes HE gets a surprise. I'm never at fault here - he should have learned to read
    my mind years ago.
  5. We have different 'conflict resolution' stylesThis means when we get cross with each other he becomes mute and I become absolute, and it only ends when we sit down and take turns to express our points of view calmly and rationally until we are back to being cosmically aligned.

    This is of course - 100% untrue.

    It generally ends when one or both of us is fed.
And for all of those sitting there smugly thinking - my relationship is much more solid than that Al - We share values, love our families, are kind and respectful to each other and love each other more than life itself. We are totally awesome.

I say.... Call me after your next argument.  

If it's about your opposing view on Australia's approach to the North Korean nuclear threat, or how best to demonstrate empathy to your children, I'll be more surprised than Nick's going to be when he sees what we have on NEXT weekend. 

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11 October 2017

Beyonce is not right. YET! #dayofthegirl

If only Beyonce was right. 
Who run the world? Girls! Girls!
Who run the world? Girls!
Who run the world? Girls!
Who run the world? Girls!
Who run the world? Girls!
Who run this motha? Girls!
Who run this motha? Girls!
Who run this motha? Girls!
Who run this motha? Girls!
Who run this motha? Girls!
Who run the world? Girls!
Who run the world? Girls!
Who run the world? Girls!
Who run the world? Girls!
But she's not. 

I mean nobody's perfect but I think we can all agree that the people currently running the world are doing a pretty crap job at it.  

That's the problem with adults. They get a little bit of power and they start wanting to have all the things - all the oil, all the money, all the love - and they forget the first rule of childhood - share!

They make up stupid rules, fire guns at people, declare war, get their knickers in a knot about who said what and who believes what and before you know it, there are a whole bunch of children whose lives are suddenly a lot crappier than they were before.

And because of thousands of years of ingrained patriarchy and sexism and all those things we're not allowed to mention in case we hurt a white man on the radio's feelings or somehow impinge upon his ingrained privilege, it's generally the girl children that get the rougher deal.

Seriously - what is it about girl children that scare powerful men so much? From Joan of Arc to Malala I think we can all agree that teenage girls can be totally kickarse if given the opportunity. I've seen first hand how World Vision (to name but one organisation) empowers entire communities by focussing on the empowerment of women and children. And it works. It really does. 

I wrote last year about the impact of the F-word, toilets, education, and rehab on the lives of children in India.  And that was just what I saw in a week. 



Now if you imagine what this world could look like if all girls had the same opportunities as my daughters... clean water, a minimum of 12 years of education, access to doctors and all going well, a career when they get old enough to realise that those damn Shopkins don't buy themselves.  

Think of what this world could like if we stopped publishing 'news' stories about whether or not Margot Robbie is wearing a bra. Imagine what this world could look like if every single girl child felt in control of their bodies, their minds and their lives. Imagine what we could do if we raised a whole world of girls that trusted themselves, believed in themselves and didn't have to 'prove' themselves capable. 

It might not be a perfect world, because YES MR WHITE MAN ON THE RADIO, nobody is perfect, not even girl children, but I think we can all agree, that given the opportunity, GIRLS CAN RUN THE WORLD, a whole lot better than the adults in charge at the moment. 

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10 October 2017

Things I know about depression: World Mental Health Day 2018

There are some things I know about living with depression.

And so I should. We've been living together for a long time.

I didn't know I lived with depression of course when I was younger - I just thought I sucked at life. I dabbled in self harm, gave a decent shot at self destructive behaviours, and I wholeheartedly believed all the things my brain was telling me about my self-worth - things I'd absorbed growing up that had become my internal truths despite external contradictions.

I have lived with the incessant babble of my brain, and the overwhelming cacophony of a mind constantly at war with it self, for most of my life. These are some of the things I now know.

  1. I know that people don't think I'm depressed because I'm not lying in bed, crying all the time. Don't get me wrong, there's an element of that sometimes. But trust me, I can be sitting at a table with you, chatting about life and laughing at your jokes, and still be thinking that me dying would make the world a better place. I live with depression 24/7, 365 days a year. My medication and my clinical psych keep me in check. Without those - I'm in free-fall. I learned that the hard way.
  2. I know that there is no logic in depression. If I could stop being depressed and feeling the way I do, don't you think I would? Of course I know that I am much luckier than a lot of people. Of course I know that people go through far worse without becoming depressed. I KNOW that. And I can assure you I feel guilt and shame about living with depression for those reasons without you pointing it out to me. 
  3. I know that there are no words to explain the hopelessness and dread which consume you living with depression. It's a constant, throb in your chest, it's an ache in your bones, it's a gauzy bandage over your brain keeping everything fuzzy.  It's an effort. And trying to explain it when you are overwhelmed by those feelings makes them seem trivial, minor, and insignificant. Which makes you feel worse because you can see that the people you are speaking to don't get it, unless they've lived it. There is nothing more soul destroying than trying to explain something people don't get.  Ask any maths teacher. 
  4. I know that depression doesn't just affect me. It affects my partner, my children, my relationships, my friendships, my parenting style, my business, and my physical health. This means that you try really hard sometimes to pretend you're okay even when you're not, because 'normal' seems a nice world to live in. 
  5. I know that people think that you're 'fine' because that bit where you wanted to die so badly a year or so ago has passed and the fact you're still not 'sorted' is incredibly frustrating to them. It's frustrating to me too, trust me, I'm trying. 
  6. I know that people think they know what my triggers are. And I appreciate those that don't try to fix me, and I appreciate the ones that do. The thing is, if there was something tangible to fix, I'd do it myself - trust me on this. Different things impact at different times. I recognise this. I really do.
  7. I know that people find the fact that I can be so frank about my depression disconcerting. The thing is, I don't lack self awareness or resilience. But never acknowledging it means that I internalise all of the 'stuff'.  And then the line between what is my truth and what is my depression fades away and the world just seems unbearable. Plus, if she who 'apparently' talks too much can't talk about it, who is going to? If sharing my diagnoses makes it easier for even ONE other person to articulate their own struggles than that is the silver lining in this shitty storm.
  8. I know when my lifestyle choices are not the best for my illness, and I know when my lifestyle choices are very good for me. Sometimes making the right choices doesn't change anything despite me wanting them to be the 'fix', and then on the flip side, sometimes I just don't give a fuck. I just want to switch off. 
  9. I know that some people don't "believe" in depression or mental health as a bona-fide illness. Like climate change deniers, anti-vaxers and racists - you can just fuck off. Your belief systems don't change the science. 
  10. I know that my depression is not all of me. It's a very real part of me, like anybody that lives with an illness either short term or long term can attest. But it's part of what makes me, me. Living with depression is frequently the lens through which I view the world and sometimes, it acts as CCTV for every arsehole I encounter in a day. BUT more frequently it shines a spotlight on the kindness of others and the really great things that are going on in the world, despite all the tomfuckery.  
  11. And last, but not least, I know that no amount of David Wolfe memes make any impact on my mental health. So please stop sharing his quackery and bullshit. 


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27 September 2017

Vegetables and War Zones

If you asked me last month about soil salinity in Afghanistan I would have been able to tell you nothing. I probably would have thought to myself, I kind of think that soil salinity in Afghanistan is the least of their troubles.

And you are sitting there thinking - "SOIL SALINITY? WHAT THE ACTUAL F&&K FRANK? YOU CAN NOT SERIOUSLY BE ABOUT TO BLOG ABOUT SOIL SALINITY?"

To which I would primly point out to you that I talk about everything from housework to human rights and SURELY THAT COVERS SOIL SCIENCE?

That aside, it turns out that soil salinity is a fairly critical issue for Afghanistan and other 'critical states'.  'Critical states' refers to the places we here generally think of as 'countries which have had the bejeezus bombed out of them and the infrastructure destroyed for reasons we're not very sure about but seem to result in lots of people killed, injured or misplaced'.
After the largest non-nuclear bombing ever happens, not much is left
Source: Reuters
For a country that has around 75% of the population dependent on agriculture, where it snows in winter and bakes in summer, where the woodlands/trees/forests have been depleted due to conflict, construction and the need for fuel, the salinity of the soil is a massive deal. It affects the ability to grow anything, like you know - food, which affects both the health of individuals and the economy. It affects the quality of the water, which of course affects hygiene. And of course hygiene, affects health, which affects.... oh you get me.  Being able to grow stuff is pretty important so if the soil is all wrong (a genuine scientific evaluation) everybody is screwed.

Add into that mix Afghanistan still suffering more than it's fair share of conflict and internal instability, it almost seems like it's all too hard. I'm a bleeding heart lefty remember and even just listening to it I felt overwhelmed by the impossibility of the task. I mean - gardening and guns - I am not great with either if I'm honest.

But it turns out that people like Brian Hilton from World Vision, the government and a bunch of other NFPs are more comfortable with gardening and guns than I am, and have wandered about Afghanistan chatting to the locals and worked out that overall they'd rather NOT be growing poppies even though the buggers grow everywhere, because poppies mean opium and opium means addiction, fighting and the average Afghani is pretty much over fighting about anything.  So, they've worked out they can grow winter wheat, saffron and pistachios and get it all moving again.
Khatai cookies - Afghan cookies with cardamom and pistachio (vegan)
You're very welcome for the #foodinspo
Now obviously I've massively oversimplified lots of really involved science, politicking, negotiating and so on, but if you had ever told me that getting Afghanistan back on its feet might be as simple as nuts, I would have told you you were, ummmmm, nuts.

Oh c'mon. You would have made the same joke.

But it goes to show how much we know over here in our little corner of the planet. And this is what is fascinating to me about the work World Vision does - they don't just say "I think they need", or "I believe they need", or "They bloody well need", they go and ASK THE PEOPLE WOT LIVE THERE LIKE.

Or to be fair, they send people like Dr Brian into the field with his American accent, his crutches, more than a touch of knowledge about 'stuff' and a couple of translators/bodyguards to help with the asking and then they all sort it out. But then, you get the opportunity to listen to him talk and you find that you are actually massively intrigued by what is involved in the reforestation of Afghanistan and what that means for the people.  I mean this is the same man that got me fascinated in the biodiversification of sweet potatoes in Burundi last year and what that means in regards to the elimination of blindness. I mean sweet motherless child of Colin, I'm not even sure I could have placed Burundi on a map before he spoke but all of a sudden I was loving Burundi innovation as if I'd discovered it myself! (Could I be any more of a white cliche?)

Anyway, as you know a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous things and before you knew it I had fallen down the 3am rabbit hole on more than one sleepless night, reading about the role of vegetables in getting countries back on their feet after years of extensive conflict. In short, people are feckin' amazing and vegetables are so much more than your ability to see in the dark.

I've been thinking a lot about what Australians' don't know about 'critical zones'. And I know that when people say 'go back to where you come from' they're being more than a little bit racist, but it also shows how much we don't know collectively. I mean it would be great to send all the refugees in our detention centres back home wouldn't it? I mean most of the fighting is finished, so like just get back to it. Start living your lives again.

Except that there are no trees in public parks for kids to fall out of so they can sue the government so there are no jobs for lawyers, there are not hospitals for doctors to doctor in, no food for grocers to sell, the schools are bombed out so teachers have no resources, the power is still disconnected so there is no need for electricians to link up to Foxtel. These countries literally have to start at the very beginning, and that's sorting out the soil, and the drinking water and growing nuts.
source: World Vision Images
And what can we do? We can dust off our compassion, be kind to each other and share our pistachios. We can't solve all the problems of the world at once, but we can do a lot by doing a little to make our little corner of the world a much less hateful place.

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15 September 2017

I am. You should.

The first friends to hold our second child were Brad and James.  They popped in after work in their checked shirts to congratulate us and deny that they could see any resemblance between her and 'Flacco', which was kind but clearly untrue.

Flacco and Cass
Brad and James have always been the kind of couple that we should all view as an excellent example of 'synergy'. One of them loves to cook, the other one can't cook. One drives, the other doesn't. One talks, the other doesn't. One's got your typical go-to country family, the other has a family that has nothing typical about it.  One is pragmatic, the other dramatic. One buys a checked shirt, the other wears it. And vice versa.

In fact, the only odd thing about this couple is their commitment to checked shirts. I'm not sure it's natural in people so young. Who don't live in the country and milk cows for a living. But I digress. 

We went to Hobart in 2015 with the girls to take part in Brad and James' four day wedding love fest. It basically ruined the girls for life because now whenever we attend a wedding that doesn't have a bagpiper and band to walk us from the ceremony to the reception they feel a little bit ripped off. They know what love looks like.... it kind of looks like Brad and James BUT WITH LOTS OF DRUMS.  I get it, I feel a little disappointed I didn't have drums at my own wedding in hindsight.

We've celebrated a number of New Years with Brad and James, had them to our place for dinner, gone to their place for dinner (a much better option if you've ever get the choice), had them mind our children while we've gone on date nights, called them for advice, offered advice, given support, received support, made bad jokes, chatted on the phone, hung out. You know, like friends do. 

Today we received a letter from them that made my heart hurt and my eyes cry. 

The letter said -

"Dear Nick and Alison,
Last week the High Court of Australia took the decision that the marriage equality postal survey will go ahead. As two people involved in politics in this country we were disappointed with the outcome because in Australia our laws are made in Parliament and if offends our sense of social justice that the rights of any minority are subject to a different process before they can even be considered in that place. This is nothing but a costly and harmful delaying tactic engineered by the opponents of equality. Rights delayed are rights denied.
Since the announcement of the survey our first priority has been to help our friends, family and colleagues support each other through this tough time, particularly our younger friends for whom the struggle for equality and dignity is just beginning.
We are now focussed on 'winning' the survey and so have chosen to ask for your help by the same means that the survey will take place - by way of the post.
Here is how you can help us to achieve equality for all LGBTI Australians:
1. Complete your survey
This survey is optional and based on similar postal ballots we understand that only about 65% of survey forms will be returned. This makes every survey important.
We are heartened that a majority of Australians support equality but if those people support us do not return their form, than the ballot may be lost.  As soon as your survey comes in you should fill it in and post it straight back.   
2. Tell your family and friends that you have voted Yes
Take a photo or video of you completing your survey (or putting it in the post box) and post it to social media. Ask your friends to do the same. 
3. Talk to people about what marriage means to you
We've been in a loving relationship for nearly a decade. We have built a house, grow herbs on the balcony (with mixed results), share dinner with friends over at the weekend and sometimes disagree about what we are going to watch on Netflix. 
On 22 August 2015, we hosted a four day celebration of our love in Tasmania, but it was not a legal wedding. Our relationship doesn't have the same standing in society as others in our family and a patchwork of legislation means our legal status as a couple is not guaranteed. 
If you feel you can't share your own store of love or a story of how this will affect your family we would be honoured if you shared ours.  We believe that the only way we can win this fight is with love and we have plenty to spare. 
All committed love between two consenting adults is equal. All families are equal. We should all be recognised under the law with equality.  If a Yes vote is returned than nobody is going to be any less married and nobody is going to be any more gay.  Love will win the day. 
Yours in equality
Brad and James"
Now the question you might be asking me is why such a beautifully articulated letter made me cry?

To recap:Our friends just wrote to us to ask us for our support 
in helping them to achieve the same human rights as we have. 

My friends felt the need to write to us, and all their other friends and family, to ask for our support in having their own country recognise their shared humanity.  

They were asking for help, to have themselves recognised as equal, as worthy, as relevant as us.

What a fucking disaster Australia has created. 

We have put faith before humanity. We have put politics before humanity. We have put our family and friends on the firing line and asked them to play Russian roulette with the rights that  we WROTE AND ENSHRINED in the United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights on10 December 1948.

In fact -

The first two articles state:
Article 1. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. 
Article 2. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
AND AUSTRALIA NOT ONLY HELPED WRITE IT, AN AUSTRALIAN WAS THE BLOODY PRESIDENT OF THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY AT THE TIME

Australia’s Involvement in the United Nations Charter
Australia was one of the 51 founding members of the United Nations (UN) and our involvement in the development of the international human rights system dates from this time. We played a central role in the negotiations on the UN’s charter in 1945 to ensure that respect for human rights was placed alongside peace, security and development as the primary objectives of the United Nations. 

Australia’s Involvement in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Australia was also a founding member of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which is the main international forum for the promotion and protection of human rights. The Commission, with Australia as one of its 8 members, drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration was presented to the UN General Assembly and adopted on the 10th of December 1948. In the chair as President of the UN General Assembly was an Australian, Dr. H V Evatt, one of the architects of the Declaration and the chief Australian delegate to the UN.
So yes, I do find it heartbreaking that my friends are being put through this absolute farce of a vote. And yet the only thing I can do about it now that it is in play is to make sure that I vote, and that you vote, and that you understand it's not about you and what you believe. 

HUMAN RIGHTS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR BELIEFS, YOUR VIEWS, YOUR OPINIONS AND YOUR RELIGION. AND IF WE DON'T TREAT ALL PEOPLE AS EQUAL IT ALL GOES REALLY BADLY FOR EVERYBODY INVOLVED. 

History has proven that time and time again - Cambodia, Rwanda, Ukraine, Zunghar, Armenia, Libya, Burundi, Iraq, Croatia, Bosnia, the Holocaust.... and um.... our First Australians. 

I get that Australia has a track record of voting on people's human rights. Hello 1967's referendum. But that was fifty years ago. Surely we've learned something in that time, even if our our politicians haven't. 

I don't want any of my friends EVER to have to ask me again for my help in having them recognised as being equal to me. I NEVER want to be in a situation where people can be so hurtful and unkind to people they haven't met. I NEVER want to have to look at any of my gay or queer friends or their children and say "I AM SORRY WE FUCKED THAT UP."

All I want is human rights for all humans.  The humans I know and love. And the humans I don't know and never will. Even the humans I know and don't like. 

HUMANITY BEFORE FAITH
HUMANITY BEFORE OPINION
HUMANITY BEFORE POLITICS
HUMANITY BEFORE RELIGION
HUMANITY BEFORE ALL ELSE.

So please, for Brad and James and their families, friends and future checked-shirted offspring, and at least forty other people I know personally and their children, and for all the people whose sexuality makes no difference whatsoever to you - vote YES. 

I am.

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28 August 2017

Aristotle, Google and Me

It was Aristotle that said "Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man" and he also said lots of other fairly clever things which is why people still talk about him 2,500 years or so later.

Now, like most things that were written 2,000 or so years ago, it's fair to say that it wasn't meant to be taken literally.  And I think we can all agree that he was talking generally about the first seven years of life being critical in terms of the development of a child in relation to the adult they would become.

Or maybe he was offering to raise the entire Greek population for the first seven years of their lives and his great plan to found the greatest childcare centre of all time was wildly misinterpreted. Bummer that - 2,500 years of childcare fees would have easily made him richer than... well anybody.

But I digress.  Modern thinking about raising children would indicate that he was correct about the early years of a person's life being hugely influential.  But I think we also dismiss the human experience to say that who you are at seven is who you are for the rest of your life.  And since most of us don't remember much until we are about four it would be disappointing to know that the adult you become is entirely shaped by the poo, fart and bum jokes you spend the following 900 odd days telling.

That said - it would explain a lot about humankind.

Our eldest daughter Tully turned seven a few days ago. She's a great kid.  Clever, inquisitive, stubborn, loving and kind. She worries a lot for a small person and she is fierce with her affections. She's very loyal and sometimes, like all humans, she's a massive pain in the derriere.  She's completely adorkable to me and her father, and the centre of her sister's universe.


If the adult Tully is anything like seven year old Tully, she's starting strong. But I would like to think that in the next seven years, the seven after that, the seven after that, and so on, she is experiencing the world in a way that helps her evolve into the individual she is meant to be.

That will mean being proactive about getting out in the world, going outside her comfort zone, being open to education and different kinds of people. It will mean knowing that the world is shades of grey and not the black and white we see it as when we are younger. It's about knowing the difference between right and righteous, between kind and nice, and of course - between their, they're and there.

I would hope that the adult version of my seven year old had the opportunity to be exposed to many ideas and thinking that is outside her parents' experience. I would hope that she challenges the things we present to her, not only to challenge her own thinking, but ours. I hope that she learns that she can lose sight of us, because we will never lose sight of her.

I have lived six sets of seven years so far and I can comprehensively say that the person I am now is a much more rounded version than me at 7, 14, 21, 28 and 35.  And what I have learned about myself in the last seven years has been heavily influenced, firstly by her arrival and then her sister's arrival which just goes to show you that it's not just people older than you can teach you things about yourself.

I would like to think that my seven year old realises how much power she has in her own life much sooner than I did. I want her to know that no matter what we've imprinted on her in the first seven years, she is the only person that steers her boat. She doesn't need to be the person I want her to be, or her father wants her to be, she needs only to be the person she wants to be.

And at seven, she doesn't really know what that is unless she looks at it in the context of a career. In which case she wants to be a doctor/rock star/actor/scientist/ethics teacher/spy. But being seven years old is far too young to realise that what you are is never going to be as important as who you are.

I know right? Who needs Aristotle when they've got me. And Google. How did parents answer the questions of seven year olds without Google?


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14 August 2017

One for each year

I got asked last week why I feel so passionately about marriage equality when I'm not gay.

I'd like to say first of all that I don't think wanting all the humans in the world to have the same human rights as other human rights is the weird thing.

I think the weird thing is that not everybody cares about equality.... not just marriage equality.  Why aren't we all passionate about a world that is free of hate and bigotry of all kinds. Why does one human think they are better or more worthy than another human being EVER?

I mean we can think we're funnier, or more interesting, or cleverer, or even better looking - but to think we are more human than another human on the basis of skin colour, religion, sexuality or anything at all really is just daft.

And I think people know that.  They do. But we can convince ourselves of almost anything in an effort to belong and some people choose hate as their act of belonging.  That's the whole thing about free choice.

But sexuality isn't a choice.  It's the same as skin colour. Fuck all to do with you and all to do with biology.  That' doesn't mean sometimes you don't wish it was different - I'd love to have skin the colour of Lupita Nyong'o - but I was cursed with the kind of pinky white skin that burns in the sun and makes you look weird and blotchy for a month after you cry.

I think the only reason people would wish their sexuality was different though is because as a society we have spent a lot of time being homo/queer-hateful and that kind of negativity can be hard to ignore.

And some people argue that marriage equality is not THE issue of the day. That it doesn't affect everybody.  But it does. When inequality is enshrined in law against any of our fellow humans, we're essentially condoning inequality as a reasonable option. And history shows that ignoring inequality and hate allows it to flourish. It's a well documented way to hell.

But we're on the cusp of setting the world to rights by ensuring all Australians have the same human rights as each other. Sure, I get that we can go to war with North Korea without voting for it but deleting a sentence in our legislation requires 122 million dollars worth of paperwork - but hey, mine is not to point out the hypocrisy again of the LNP.  They're doing a mighty fine job of it themselves.
But I am 42 years old.  And I have at least 42 reasons of my own, one for each year I've been alive, for wanting marriage equality.  They have names, partners, children, homes. I have worked with them, travelled with them, drank wine with them, cried with them, laughed with them, celebrated with them. They are my friends, my confidants, my tribe. They are better humans than me on the whole, and mostly better looking and kinder. None of them are funnier obviously but then who is?

So in short, I have at least 42 reasons for being passionate about marriage equality.

Even though I'm not gay.


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3 August 2017

This time next year

I had to have a really difficult conversation with my daughters aged five and six this week.

And I blame Brad Purdy and Karl Stefanovic.

source: News.com.au
We were watching our recording of 'This Time Next Year' on Tuesday afternoon and Karl encouraged Brad to say it out loud..... so he did.

"I am gay."

Says the six year old who is about four years late to the "WHY" stage.... "Why did he have to say it out loud?"

So I explained that he has never told anybody before that he is gay.

"But why not?"

"Well he was worried that his family and friends might not love him if they knew."

"But why?"

"Well some people don't think that loving people of the same gender is okay."

The five year old now adds her "But why?" in that tone that tells an adult that they are making no sense at all and you are definitely not getting your point across.

This is where it got tricky - how do you summarise the complex issues of bigotry, politics, religion and the importance of equality into a few sentences that explains everything in a way that is suitable and digestible for two small people. So I said 'Um' and paused for a moment.

And the six year old interjects with "So Brad hasn't told anybody that he wants to find a husband because he is worried his Mum and Dad might be mad at him?"

"Well yes, I suppose so."

"But it's just love, why would his Mum and Dad care who he loved? Isn't love good?"

"Yes, yes it is".

"I don't get it. If you love somebody, you just tell them. You can love anyone you want. It's nobody elses business right?"

And in that moment I could have hugged them so hard they popped. I would have liked to have sat them down in front of every opponent of marriage equality and said to them THIS. THIS IS WHAT LOVE IS.

It's just something you tell people. It's nobody else's business. It's definitely not something that needs to be voted on.  Kids get it. It's only adults that make it more complicated than it needs to be.

But because I'm a responsible parent I just said "No it's nobody else's business my darlings, you're quite right.  It's just that some people are....."

"Arseholes."

Well yes.

But just for the record I was going to say "odd about things sometimes."

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