30 November 2012

Talking about the weather is not conversation

Have you noticed that everybody is talking about the weather because its hot.  Like really hot.  And over in England they are talking about the weather because its cold.  Like really cold.  And over in America we talked about the weather because it was windy.  Like really windy.  And... well you get the picture.

For talking about the bloody obvious there is no bigger topic than the weather.  For us here in Australia, we start summer tomorrow so its not unreasonable for the weather to be warming up.  And yes it's hot.  But that is what the seasons are about.  Summer is hot.  Autumn is cooling down.  Winter is cold.  Spring is warming up.  And I hate to be the one to break it to everybody - but this happens every bloody year.


If it's hot, carry a little fan or sit in the air conditioning or go swimming. Don't bitch about it.  You can't change it, I can't change it and quite frankly, the fact that you are surprised by hot weather in summer makes me doubt your intelligence and general observation skills.  I definitely don't want to talk about it with every single person I encounter be they friend, foe or sharing the bus seat with me.

And if you're living somewhere cold - put on more jumpers, wear boots and sit near a heater.  Are you with me here people?  Deal with it. Don't talk about it. If you need advance warning so you can prepare yourself - visiting bom.gov.au.  Download the app. Take action!

But if it's raining?  Go out side, turn your face up to the sky.  Stick your tongue out and catch the raindrops. Jump in puddles.  Spin around with your arms out.  Ignore the stares. Because walking in the rain is most awesome.  Fact.  And I am more than happy to talk about this any time.

28 November 2012

I'm with Mr Monkton - Let us be lovely

Sometimes, no matter how you look at the world - via print, online or just out the bus window, there is evidence that the world is not operating to the best of its capacity.

Basically, it could be a whole lot nicer if people focussed on being lovely. Like a lot.

I don't know if you know about Edward Monkton, a genius man who sums up the right approach to life with a few lines, sometimes a dinosaur and often with shoes.  Like Leunig, he is a man who has a gift for seeing the world in a way that makes a lot of sense.

Go to edwardmonkton.com.au for more of his stuff.

Can you imagine a world where this is our approach.  Loveliness, Kindness, Freedom.  All the days of our lives.  A bit like anarchy but without the inherent narcissism - this would be my utopia.

No violence.  No nasty politics.  No bitchy remarks. No second guessing.  No random deaths. No queue jumping.  No mocking the homeless or the differently coloured or the differently faithed. Respect would proliferate.  Kindness would rule.  People would use nothing but temporarily cross faces and emphatic tuts to express disapproval and people would be open to communicating so that every ending was a happy one.

And as Mr Monkton would say - let there be shoes and chocolate. Because even those that are happy with their lot and the blessings that come with it, like nice shoes while disliking killer potatoes.

There is much to be said for that I think.

27 November 2012

Reaching for the stars, falling off the ladder

My daughter slipped off a ladder on Sunday and hit the ground with the kind of sickening thud and squelch that fills your stomach with bile, increases your heart rate and has your mind go into meltdown.  Her mouth was gushing so much blood that we initially failed to notice the lump on her forehead.  Turns out that that was the real injury and the blood came from her putting her teeth through her lip.  Which was messy but not as heartbreaking as the lump that grew.

This is what my two year old looked like. The lump was seriously that large.

This time last year, she fell of a trike and knocked her front teeth out.  Well, one out and broke the other one.  The broken one had to be removed at a cost of $2000 for a ten minute dental surgery.  We didn't have major dental for our one year old.  That was an expensive lesson.

I don't have words for the love I have for my girls.  I adore their father but in a less visceral way.  If he hurts himself I'm a bit 'there there darling, buck up old chap'.  My girls hurt themselves and I want to weep with them.  However, in the height of the emergency I turn into a very sensible, matronly type with lots of bustle and pragmatism.  It is only afterwards that I want to hug them until they pop and howl at the unfairness of it all.  And that's just when they bump heads or graze knees.  These bigger accidents tear me apart.

Adding in the hurts that come from a cranky old world as they get older, it appears to me that I'm going to need to harden the fuck up. Or work out a way to carpet the world with pillows and have all the nastiness sucked out of people.

I should get to it then.

20 November 2012

Click Clack Frenzy and Madness (Ahem)

Just a brief observation - the funny thing about tonight's Click Frenzy is not that the site failed - they wont be the first group that were surprised by the size of their success - but that everybody moved in ten minutes from "HIP HIP HURRAH CLICK FRENZY GONNA GET ME A BARGAIN I LOVE ONLINE SHOPPING" to 'Oh I totes knew it wasn't going to work out - I mean HONESTLY'.

Seriously - the majority of the world appeared to give it about ten minutes.  Its a 24 hour sale, it was a bit over successful and the whole thing started more slowly than planned.  You're still talking about it, you're still logging on or checking for cheat codes to get your bargains.  Click Frenzy is not in any way a failure.

And I've got me a whole bunch of loot that says so.  And if you want the same BUT YOU WANT IT NOW NOT IN A FEW MINUTES - get you to #clickfrenzy on twitter and calm the fuck down.

Accidents happen

About ten years ago in Canberra, my baby brother was riding his motorcycle to work in the afternoon, when a car failed to give way properly and cleaned him up.  It was a horrible accident leaving him with significant injuries and a stint in intensive care followed by a heap of rehab.  It just so happened that in a car travelling a little way behind my brother, was a man who knew my Dad and our family.  He stopped to help at the accident, recognised my brother when his helmet was removed and immediately called my Dad.  My Dad took the call from a meeting in Melbourne, heard the news and called Mum at home, who leapt in the car and drove up to the accident.  She almost beat the ambulance.

The marvel at the time was the speed with which the information was shared thanks to mobile phones, and while horrible for Mum to see her baby boy in that condition, she was able to travel with him to the hospital and be with him while they pinned him, stitched him, patched him and all those things that a bandaid and kiss from Mum just weren't going to fix on this occasion.

The news spread as his siblings were told, then friends, and so on. People rallied behind him and behind the family offering support in a myriad of different ways.  All of them overwhelmingly positive and valued. Community at its very best.

A while after the accident the driver of the car rang to apologise. He spoke to Mum and she asked of him, as she had asked the universe a million times, how could you not see him? He wasn't speeding, it was broad daylight and it's a big bike?  The man replied 'I did see him, I thought I could beat him'.  What my mother heard was 'I drove into your beloved baby boy deliberately'.  She raged.  I get that.  I got it then and I get it even more now that I have my own children.  I still maintain that the driver did the right thing by apologising, by owning his actions, even if he got the apology so horribly wrong.

The reason I write about this is a story I read online yesterday about an accident uncanny in its similarity to my brother's accident.  Except, due to social media, photos were shared of the accident within minutes, some of the family found out via facebook as the parents hadn't had a chance to call everybody as they were at the hospital with their son.  Some 'friend' noted the registration of the car that hit the bike and tracked the guy down and a harrassment and hate campaign started towards the driver, calling for him to be run over, his family hurt and so forth.  And all within a couple of hours of the accident.

This is so very very wrong. This is not an example of community at its best and its not helpful for the family.  Whatever the split second decision, or momentary distraction was that meant the driver hit the bike, it was an accident.  A horrible, horrible accident but one I am sure he would take back if he could.  Accidents come about generally because of a series of small incidents that culminate in an event.  Accidents have impact, accidents generally have a root cause but they are still accidents.

Accidents take time to assimilate.  The driver needs to work out what he did.  The rider needs to heal.  The family needs to grieve, to rage, to worry.  The police need to work out what happened and files charges accordingly. As a society, we need to stop validating this mob mentality where we judge and sentence people without knowing the full story.  We need to give people the opportunity to apologise.  We need to give the law a chance to work.  Of course it takes time and when you are hurting, your friends or family are hurting, it is natural to want justice to move more quickly - but without the constraint of due process, we are no better than we should be.

A girlfriend of mine once said "good people can make bad decisions and do bad things, it doesn't change who they fundamentally are". As she had been at the receiving end of the bad decisions of somebody else, the words resonated with me and have stayed with me.  Because they are true.

Most of us are good people.  Most of us have made decisions that haven't worked out so well.  Most of us are lucky that they haven't resulted in injury to others.  And it would do us all good to remember that.  The driver in the second accident is, on the law of averages, probably a good person who made a dreadful mistake.  Let him own his actions, work up to an apology.  The apology wont change anything, but the mistake is his.  Starting hate and harassment campaigns, revving up a mob mentality - that's just a different example of how good people make bad decisions.

Our online communities should be the same positive and supportive force in our lives as the old fashioned communities.  Their reach should enable that support to be more widespread, more diverse, but should always, always, be used as a means for good.

That is all.

16 November 2012

Michelle Bridges aint got nothin' on my routine!

You can keep your morning boot camps, your Fitness First memberships, your morning walks with the dog - I am absolutely convinced that if I paid people to take my girls shopping it would become the world's most challenging fitness regime.

Take yesterday's trip to Kmart.  Yes.  Kmart.

Place smallest weight (approximately 7-8 kilograms) into trolley seat.  Place larger weight (approximately 16 kilograms) into the trolley at large.  Ensure trolley has one dodgy wheel so you have to push to the right the whole trip to ensure you don't just do left leading circles.  If we were in a fancy gym and I was charging you for this exercise, I'd call it resistance training.

Set off at brisk pace (cardio) in vain attempt to distract the weights from the fact that they are in a shop.  Obviously not fast enough.  Larger weight sways from side to side in desperate attempt to leap from moving trolley.  Remember that dodgy wheel and compensate the swaying of your trolley accordingly. (Full body resistance training)

Get to shoe aisle - do forward lunge (good for your butt apparently) to catch larger weight hurling themselves over the front of the trolley.  Lower gently to the floor being careful not to indulge in momentary urge to let them fall. Find the right pair of shoes for them.  Do series of bend and squats to pick up everything larger weight has removed from shelves while waiting.

Push trolley with lighter weight towards to the homewares section to find pegs and a new dishbrush.  Do twist and push as you walk ensuring you keep the dawdling larger weight in view while not allowing trolley to veer left.

Do two large and quick sidesteps into aisle to grab necessities and then back again.  Realise larger weight has now vanished from sight.  Do quick sprint in one direction, pivot and run in other direction before locating larger weight hiding in the men's shorts.  Remove said weight bodily tucking under one arm and returning to pushing trolley with smaller weight.

Eventually realise this is not going to work but ensure all muscles are pushed to maximum weight bearing capacity before lowering weight gently to ground.  Have larger weight streak ahead.  Keep up with lighter weight as you head towards the toy section.  Have lighter weight hurl your purse out of trolley.  Break, spin, squat, retrieve, lose sight of larger weight.  Spring with trolley.  Stop.  Realise that you actually can't find child.  Sprint up and down large aisle before finding larger weight conversing with Dora's backpack.  Pile larger weight into trolley, strap in and carry lighter weight under one arm while pushing trolley to front counter.  Self serve and leave.  45 minutes into what would have been a 5 minute stroll sans children.

Absolutely frickin' buggered.

Then get 'health questionnaire' on your email when you get home asking if you do enough 'formal exercise' (because otherwise you'll get fat and die leaving your little babies all alone in the world.)

I raise my glass of wine (large of course, no need to stop the informal weight bearing and repetitive exercises) and say 'Fuck off' out loud.  Because I'm like that.  

12 November 2012

I'd love to make violence extinct

I really really really wish there was no violence.

I know this is not a realistic approach to the real world but that’s the great thing about wishing for a better world. Violence wouldn’t be an option and so people would have to find an alternate way to express rage, frustration or feel powerful.

The thing I find most baffling about so much violence is the why? I can’t comprehend how one individual can bash a child, maim an animal, torture an innocent, beat a loved one, kick a stranger in the head, rob a wounded man, or any of the other myriad of cruelties that people enact. I find gratuitous violence the most baffling because there is no instinctive response to danger, a desire to protect, it’s just petty hyped up nastiness.

And I wonder where does it come from? I don’t think its television, or video games or anything like that…its existed for all time and it is not restricted to one race, one culture, one gender. It’s a visceral thrill for some. A sober experience where they get off on the power with nary a thought for their victims or a damn for the consequences.

You can not stop it. You can not change the fundamentals that make such behaviour acceptable to some. I can comprehend crimes of passion, the red hot surge of anger that makes you want to lash out. Even Mother Theresa admitted to feeling angry – but not everybody acts on it. I just don’t understand wilful violence. And I don’t understand how people can stand by when it happens Surely that makes you just as culpable?

I know I’m a bleeding heart. And I have in the past been slightly embarrassed about my propensity to feel for people I don’t even know, but surely mine is not a bad approach to life. If I can imagine the consequences, feel on behalf of another, that empathy is a good thing? I’m not perfect by any stretch – I’m notoriously hot headed. I profane and I can lash out verbally and have been known to shake with rage but ultimately, bar the odd reactive face slap to the petty mind games of an ex-boyfriend – for which almost 15 years on I still feel incredibly remorseful, I have never had the slightest inclination to deliberately and systematically hurt somebody.

And I would hate to be that person.

Surely an inability to comprehend violence is a desirable state. For while I acknowledge mine is a fairly non eventful middle class anglo-esque life, I am passionate about causes and I truly desire to see change in the world. I’m prepared to march, sign petitions, have conversations, take part in causes but I do not see how violence can effect sustainable change. Maybe I’m naive but perhaps I don’t want to be anything else.

Some questions, some desires are instinctive. My instinct is for a non-violent world. And if I have to start at the beginning with a world that contains no physical violence, I would consider it a small step for man and a giant step for mankind.

11 November 2012

The joys of old friends and vegemite

There is a saying that friends come into your lifetime for a reason, a season or a lifetime and I think it is very true.  Each are important and it is possible to miss a friendship for much longer than it lasted.  However, there is something to be said for old friends, the lifetimers.  

Some people say that the benefit of a lifetime friend is that they've known you through all the ups and downs and while there is a certain truth to that, that very knowledge can limit their understanding of the person you've become.  The flip side is the joy of conversations started midway.  Every time you see them.  You haven't seen them for a while, and before you know it you are sitting in a half busy bar near your old college in your home town thrashing out the world's problems, creating perfect solutions to your own messes and pontificating like an expert on all aspects of their life and yours.

And they don't get offended by a sentence imperfectly imparted as long as the intention is good. They don't comment on your ageing or outfits because you don't notice those things after the bubble skirts and ripped jeans and big glasses of the 80s and 90s.  Quite frankly, anything you are wearing these days is a vast improvement.

But they know that there is always part of you that is going to be pleased that you finally grew boobs, and you know that they worry about turning into their mother more than most.  You look at what they have achieved and you are so very proud of them and they look at you and wonder if you're ever going to work out what you're doing with your life.  And there is a comfort in that.  

And vegemite - well thats like an old friend.  You might not have vegemite sandwiches all the time, but making them for a road trip and pulling them out of the bag all squished and consuming them two thirds of the way through the journey is immensely satisfying.  And seeing the vegemite smeared faces of your little people in the backseat.  Well that is priceless.  Just like old friends.

6 November 2012

Social climbing is not a form of exercise

In my utopian world, there would be no social climbing. Not even in really expensive shoes.

It would be safe to assume that social climbers have a latin based horticultural name that encompasses ‘an overall decorativeness cloaking viciously thorned, tenacious climbing roots’. Like ivy or wisteria, flaws can be concealed beneath a benign and attractive exterior and the damage caused by their relentless climb towards the sky can remain undetected for quite a while.

The tragedy of social climbers is that so often they have, as most people do, a fundamental sweetness about them, a broad appeal to the masses. They have ambition, a zest for life and are rarely stupid. However, they become so fixed on the climb that they become careless of those that nuture them or allow them opportunity. In the times ‘ye olden’ social climbers were often ambitious mothers with a view to improving the lot of their daughters (and the wider family) through matrimony, but the modern social climber is invariably found within the workplace.

Social climbers are cruelly careless of the ethics and expectations of others and carefully cultivate relationships with people they see as advantageous. They hoard credit and apportion blame. They tend towards one close frenemy or no known associates within their work habitat freeing them to big note themselves or patronise as appropriate and they are ruthless with anybody expressing sentiment or genuine feeling, crowing that professionalism and ambition are better bedfellows than ethics or kindness. They are destructive in that they prey on the insecurities of those around them.

In a utopian world, the social climber would be denied the environmental conditions to flourish. Individual contributions might not be measured in terms of heirarchy or power or wealth but rather through demonstrated values and a genuine commitment to doing good work and being supportive of their colleagues. Those would be the ones to move up through the ranks. Leading by example, the gentle loyalties and integrity would rate higher than the lick-arse antics of the social climber.

It’s a fundamental flaw in the modern workplace that social climbers are more often recognised by management then their quieter counterparts. It is also a flaw that those among us that lack the courage to publicly challenge the social climber are complicit in their upward journey. Our silent support of the quieter colleague should be vocal, our support should be documented and repeated. For like all injustice in the world, to say nothing is to enable it.

It is said that to walk a mile in somebody’s shoes is to better recognise their journey. In a workplace where you might treat people judged on the price of their shoes or the title on their business card it is worth remembering that there are many around you who will do the journey barefoot having lent their Christian Louboutins to somebody else.

5 November 2012

Comment rage is a real thing

I had a bit of hiatus from some of the sites, blogs, pages and so on that I regularly follow over the weekend.  And not because any of them said or did anything nor was I feeling exhausted from being constantly connected to information - but rather I had 'comment rage'.

I had started following the facebook pages of the asylum seekers on Nauru and I was sickened by the comments and abuse being hurled about by people.  For a bit of light relief, I clicked onto a story about Adele's new baby boy and I was appalled by the horrid comments about her weight and her pregnancy. I went and read some articles on a news site and couldn't believe the nastiness people were dishing out about people so spectacularly bereft by the unexpected loss of a child.

And these weren't dedicated trolls.  These were one off comments mostly by people expressing their opinion and moving on to spread their poison elsewhere.  And it genuinely distresses me that people are so nasty or so defiantly apathetic and with so little thought.  So inured in their life approach of not caring that they can smash people down with a careless comment or two and then go about their life probably not even giving the horridness another thought.  Yet they put their names and faces to it and leave it there in cyberspace to be read and reread by hundreds, thousands of others.  Casual nastiness is no less damaging or hurtful then sustained and deliberate nastiness.

By the end of Friday I was agitated - genuinely and considerably agitated - by the negativity I had absorbed through the comments sections.  And I wanted that to go.

Change begins with I.  I truly believe that. I try to maintain the rage in a proactive and useful way by talking about issues, standing up for what I believe in, not being a passive bystander when bigotry or nastiness is perpetuated but I had the weekend off.

And probably nobody noticed but I'm back, fired up and ready to try and change the world one small suburban step at a time.

2 November 2012

My Australia is not represented by the racists or the xenophobes

Some of the guys on Nauru have set up a Facebook page with their half an hour access every second day as a means of communicating with a world that they are worried might forget them and their plight.  And a bunch of racist Australian rednecks are protesting their single mother plights are more profound suffering than those seeking refuge from war and oppression.  I'm not saying it is easy - I'm saying its comparing oranges with apples.

And some of the asylum seekers are on a hunger strike as they want not to be on Nauru in tents.  They are looking for a asylum and a better life, not a freaking camping trip in the middle of nowhere.  And people are saying that they go on fasting diets where they last longer than the hunger strikers.  Again - your diet is an orange, their desperation an apple.

And now Australia is talking about annexing themselves or some such crap, which makes our current government a bigger pack of xenophobic dickheads then the Howard government.  And that's saying something.

It makes me ashamed to be Australian.

Being born Australian isn't some kind of right.  It's luck.  You could have just as easily popped out anywhere else in the world. Being born here doesn't make you more entitled, more worthy of safety than those born in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq.  It's a privilege to be born Australian.  Not a right.

It definitely doesn't make you a better person as made evident by the policies they seek to enshrine or the comments on the Facebook pages or in the media.  Those are the kind of people that mistake their good fortune for some kind of divine specialness.

We have the room, we have the resources and we have a history rich in immigration and opportunity.  People don't leave perfectly good homes and their families because they're in a great position and just fancy a freakin' sea change.  If that was the case, we'd all be paying dodgy sea merchants to ship us in the opposite direction, or we'd be breaking our visitor's visas and trying to seek asylum overseas.  Desperate people live on the edge and below the radar because they feel they have no other choice.  Not happy, shiny, smiley people living lives of deliciousness.

Lets start living as compassionate, educated and welcoming people.  Not xenophobic, racist arses.  Because those Australians do not speak for me or my family.  There is room in my Australia for those wanting to make the most out of life for both themselves and their families.  The only thing that my Australia doesn't have room for is bigotry.

(You can support a better Australia at www.welcometoaustralia.org.au)

1 November 2012

The second n in drunkenness

There are a couple of us at work that are what you would call 'good spellers', and a few of us at work that you would call 'not as good spellers who are mega competitive'.  So the challenge was on to find a word we couldn't spell and various options from websites and medical tomes were thrown at us. But the word that brought us undone was actually drunkenness.  One word out of many but oh the smug faces of the people who were not able to spell idiosyncrasy and had to look up drunkenness before hurling it at us.

Anyway, I digress.  Drunkenness.

It has two n's.  TWO.  A fact that when you see it written gives it the lurch of a drunken man and actually looks like the spelling was made up by the same drunken man hanging off the shoulder of a slightly less drunk compatriot.  When you say it, conscious of the double n scenario, you actually sound like a drunk person attempting to sound sober.

It is in fact a brilliant word.  That double N makes the word so terribly appropriate for a state that a lot of us find ourselves in on occasion but disguise with adjectives like tipsy, friendly, loud, relaxed or wankered.  When in actual fact, there is that word describing us at all stages of the inebriation process.  Who'd have thought?

I don't know if prior to this conversation whether or not I would have typed drunkenness with a double n subconsciously.  As a fast touch typist, there are many occasions where the correct spelling appears on my keyboard even as my mind starts to wonder about the spelling but now that I have verbalised it and spelt it incorrectly it becomes a conscious word.  A gloriously descriptive word.  Which almost means I'm going to have to go and have one glass too many just to roll it around in my mouth along with the 'one last glass' of chardonnay.

So basically - I'm organising Friday night drinks purely to spell.  I would not have imagined this scenario in any of my passion pop drinking days on a cold winter's night on the Watson Oval.  Not even once.  Honest.