28 December 2012

Gratitude is not a four letter word

Gratitude is defined as 'The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation" and as we come to the end of 2012 I am very conscious of the blessings in my life.  So, in support of lists and clarity and end of year bollocks - I thought I'd share five things for which I am grateful this year.

1. My beautiful man - together for over eight years, married for over three and parents to two small forces of nature, it's been a huge year for us as a couple and parents.  Its been tough at times, ugly at times and sometimes it has seemed like we haven't had a conversation or a sleep in weeks, but through it all he remains my best friend, my mirror and my world. He has a big heart, a stubborn streak and procrastinates to Olympic level but to have him any other way is not to have the real him.  I am grateful for a love that is steadfast and unwavering and kind.

2. My wonderful daughters - these two loves are fabulous and fierce individuals seeking to find their own way right from the word go.  With only 19 months between them they have bought chaos and love and terror into our lives and I am so thankful to have such wonderful individuals to try my parenting on. My biggest fear as a parent is that I'll fuck it up but despite me, they are fantastic examples of humanity.  I love them for their independence, their smiles, their inquisitive minds, sticky hands and cuddles. I am grateful for the opportunity, that so many others are denied, to be a parent.

3. Friends and family - I know this is clich├ęd but I am blessed with a plethora of people from whom I take inspiration, am offered support, share experiences and spend time with.  These people are all unique in their own way and enhance not only my life but that of my little unit.  We have laughed, bolstered, been bolstered, cried, eaten, drank and danced our way through a year of big highs and big lows and I am grateful for all those that have been part of 2012 whether its for a season, a reason or a lifetime.

4. Self acceptance - as result of a PND diagnosis I embarked upon 'therapy'.  It's been a challenging journey as I don't fit my own idea of somebody that suffers from depression but exploring the inside of my mind has been rewarding in that I am getting better at self acceptance and viewing my world in a different way.  This has given me the freedom to try new things, be more of myself, actively accept others as they are and to sweat the small shit much less. I'm extremely grateful for the support of people around me as I've evangelised about 'owning the diagnosis'.

5. The internet - I know! Weird huh?  This year me and the internet have really come into our own. But I am very thankful to all the anonymous people that invent crap like the internet and zip lock bags.  The internet has given me access to the world. It has educated me, amused me, entertained me, infuriated me, connected me.  Ignorance is no excuse and our ability to explore ideas, enhance our understanding and connect with people across the globe that are passionate about so many wonderful ideas and concepts has never been so easy as it has in 2012.  I am very grateful for the opportunity to be exposed to so many exciting thinkers, doers and Joe-ordinaries who are changing the world one step at time.

I am of course grateful for many more things in life but I find it harder to explain how Neapolitan Twist icecream and fresh blueberries made 2012 a great year.  But trust me, they've had their place. :-)

27 December 2012

Writing a list, checking it twice...

You know, I'm a big fan of the list.  I have been known to write lists of lists so I can keep track of where I am up to and what I need to do.  I have shopping lists, work to-do lists, home to-do lists, packing lists, lists of movies I'd like to see, lists of books I'd like to read, lists of places I'd like to see when I travel somewhere, lists of cards to send, lists of presents to buy, lists of people to call. Tick!

So the fact that Santa himself needs to write a list, check it twice.  I get that.  I bet he has an 'end of lists' list as well - the one you write that has the one or two things from all your other lists that haven't yet been checked off but if you have them on one list you feel more organised.  Streamlined as it were. Tick!

And I'm not the only one that loves a list.  If you google 'power of lists', pages upon pages of people are talking about harnessing creativity, clearing your head, establishing personal process, efficiencies, visual achievement, accountability, enhancement of effort and so on.  My favourite advice is to start every list with 'write a list' so you've got a head start. Tick!  And ticking things off a list - well that's just happiness in a pen stroke. Tick! Tick!

The world is full of lists - it's just that sometimes we call them other things. Like a recipe is just a list of things you need to make something, followed by a list of processes that helps you achieve that.  A timetable is just a list of times indicating when your train will come.  A TV guide is just a list of shows you might want to watch along with the times. A catalogue is just a list with pictures of things you might like to buy.  A contract is a list of rules and regulations by which you do or don't do something. And anybody that has written a book about how to live without lists has properly got chapters in the front of their book.  And that's just a list. Tick!

 With me?  I'm right you know. List makers rule the world.  They are behind all the great religions, all the great organisations, all the great companies, all the great achievers.

So basically, I'm in good company.  Tick.

23 December 2012

Despair! For the rats-tail flourishes

Its hot.  The background is coloured with the sound of cicadas and the crackling of dry grass underfoot.  The smell is baked concrete and sprinkler mist.  It's a perfect summer's day.  Take a girlfriend, find a bar with air-conditioning and cold chardonnay and a twist of gossip and it's Sunday afternoon nirvana.

Slightly shattered by an ugly reality I'd been hitherto immune to and I've found the revelation somewhat distressing.  Here it is - bear with me as I share this simple and sad fact. (Big breath) In young males of a certain age, the rat's tail has become mainstream.  Small curly ones pasted on the neck, large Billy Ray Cyrus inspired locks, straggly flyaway frizzy ones.  Some coupled with goatees or facial hair I'd have assumed ironic if it was still November.  But nope.

And I try and be open minded.  I pride myself on trying to live and let live.  But I wanted to throw my maxi-dressed self to the ground and wail 'WHYYYYYYY'.  Keen in a proper keening type of way.  Rent clothing.  Tear hair.  Gnash teeth.  These young men in their twenties, handsome faces and otherwise cunningly disguised by a hairstyle that had its day in the eighties and was deemed a failure.  It's been resurrected, embraced, bouffanted. Mocked. MOCKED JUSTLY.

And here I was in hipsville.  Not the 'burbs'. Not the sweltering outer suburbs where flannelette and referring to your partner as 'the missus' flourishes.  My middle class sensibilities and vague aesthetics were being offended in the heart of the city, in a popular bar, frequented by the young and trendy (and older folk such as myself drinking cold chardonnay in air-condition surrounds).

And I despaired for mankind.  

21 December 2012

My shoeless kid is not the one that needs your voice

There is so much to be mad about in the world.  The worsening situation in Syria, gang rapes in India, human rights violations in Australia, mass shootings in America, attempted assassinations of 14 year old students in Afghanistan and for those that only read the entertainment pages of a newspaper - the duet by Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta.

If you are going to have an opinion, express a viewpoint, GIVE A SHIT, do it about something that really truly matters.  Where your voice can be part of a cacophony that brings change.  Where speaking up and pointing out wrongs makes the world a better place for everybody.

Whether or not my two year old daughter is wearing shoes in a shopping centre is not one of these issues.  And while I appreciate that the lady in the mall that pulled me up on this travesty yesterday was motivated by genuine horror at my lax parenting and the possibility of germs latching onto my daughter's feet, it really wasn't worth the rant.  I'd call her energy completely misdirected.  If she really wants to put that much effort into caring - I wish she'd chosen something that really mattered.  Not the fact that I forgot to put her shoes in the car and so she was going shoeless in an indoor mall.

And the world is full of people with these 'things' that genuinely affront them, that they give voice to, that they would tackle a stranger in a mall about.  Can you imagine how the world could be so much more than it is if we took the time to care about the big things and less about the little things?  More about people and less about brands?  More about people and less about etiquette?  More about two year olds with no food or clothes or shelter than two year olds not wearing shoes in a mall?

All that rage and righteousness people - use it.  But focus for fuck's sake. Focus.

18 December 2012

Housework is an art form

“I think housework is far more tiring and frightening than hunting is, no comparison, and yet after hunting we had eggs for tea and were made to rest for hours, but after housework people expect one to go on just as if nothing special had happened.” Nancy Mitford

I saw the above quote this morning in a blog by Reservoir Dad guesting on Woogsworld and it spoke to me. Lordy me, it yelled actually. Yodelled across the room and finished off with some fancy footwork. And while Nancy Mitford and her sisters were a perplexing and bigoted bunch of individuals, Nancy nailed it with that quote.

You see - as far as I am concerned - Housework is an art.  And like all the arts, what appeals to one person definitely does not appeal to another.  Some are fans of realism and minimalism that draws parallels with housework fans who like clean lines and things to be as they are.  Some are fans of the abstract approach where the concepts are more important than the execution.  Still others favour the expressionism style where their housework is spiritually or psychologically intense.  

I have always been a proponent of the abstract style of housework where people get the gist of what I've attempted without it needing to be presented in any kind of coherent way.  Since the arrival of my two forces of nature, my beautiful man and I have developed a fondness for the kinetic style.  Kinetic art is sculpture based but comprised of moving elements and powered either by wind, the viewer themselves or a motor. Families are big on engaging through the kinetic style of housework - no matter what frantic preparation is done prior to their visit,  they'll blithely dodge the small people and run a vacuum cleaner about the place using their own energy to engage with the existing construct.  

In the modern household, most housework is a collaborative affair.  A shifting of art preferences from the singular to the plural and then again to encompass the addition of small people, animals or permanent houseguests.  Housework, like art, is an intensely personal experience and what appeals to one does not appeal to another.  And just as you wouldn't walk into a house and criticise the art they hang on their wall, nor should you comment on their style of housework.  For it is chosen to suit them, not you.  One man's Gauguin is another man's Monet.  Both of value but appealing to different audiences and different approaches to life.

And that my friends is that. And please don't open that cupboard without a hard hat. 

14 December 2012

Birthdays are brilliant

I don't get why people don't like birthdays.  They are inevitable so why not just enjoy them?  Me - I adore them - they are the one day of the year where despite all my insecurities I just enjoy everybody being lovely to me.  Because people are lovely on your birthday.  They don't let your little habits annoy them, they find lovely things to say and you are allowed to do all your favourite things and ignore the housework.

I had a few of the "not long until 40 digs" - (well no - but lots can happen in two years so let me get to my 39th first) but I'm loving the idea of 40.  Because birthdays that end in 0 mean you can legitimately organise a 'big party'.  Like huge. You can have it fancy dress, out bush, in fine restaurants - whatever appeals.  And people will come along and party like its 1999 just because your birthday ends in 0. It's genius.

I always organise my birthday in advance.  Dad said to me years ago "Why don't you just leave it and see if somebody organises something for you?".  Good point.  But if they didn't my birthday would be ruined and that seems like an unnecessary risk when there is only one of them a year.  I don't mind going with the flow on some things but birthdays are not one of them.  The bigger the better.

And I am just as happy about your birthday as I am about mine.  I love them for everybody.  I love all opportunities to celebrate and be happy just because.  Weddings. Babies. Birthdays. Promotions. New homes. You name it.  But birthdays happen the most regularly.

My last huge bash was my 21st which is the one exception to the 0 rule and it was great fun.  30 was a little more low key so I'm basically going to have 19 years of HURRAH stored up to celebrate my 40th.  So you can all start preparing now.  And I can most guarantee it's going to be fancy dress because I love that shit.  LOVE IT.

A birthday grinch said to me yesterday "I don't get why you enjoy getting older."  You don't?  Well if you think of the alternative it's pretty clear.  You want as many as you can get - there is a lot to fit in to life and if you ran out of birthdays that would be a very sad thing indeed. 

And that my friends is that.  The Festival of Al is over for another year.  Now your Christmas celebrations can begin in earnest.  Mwa.

11 December 2012

The tyranny and fun of good manners

There is a lot to be said for good manners.  Please.  Thank you.  How do you do?  After you madam. And so on.  They smooth interactions, make for pleasant exchanges and are the social lubricant that keeps us all ticking along side of each other despite a myriad of differences of personality and approaches.

People hide passion, disagreement, dislike behind civility and good manners.  They can also tamp down love, enthusiasm, desire and humour.  Manners moderate.  Sometimes, they subjugate.  Or liberate.  Always, but always, they impact.

Which is why they are their own tyranny.  But a tyranny that can be used for good.  If you spend an entire day consciously using good manners, no matter the reaction you get, there is an immense amount amusement to be had.

For instance, go into a store staffed by surly teenagers more used to being ignored or told off then greeted with a smile.

Smile big.  Big. Big. Big. 

Them: "You right?"
You: "Hi, yes, I'm fine, thanks for asking. Aren't you a gem? I'll let you know if I need anything"
Them: (muttering behind hand to colleague when back behind the counter - warning - batty bitch at the back of the shop)

You: "Hi, can I have these please? This is a great shop isn't it?
Them: "$50"
You: "Thanks so much, I hope you have a lovely day"
Them: (mutters to colleagues as you depart - I dunno what that bitch is on but its killing me)

And its not just teenagers.  Thank the bus driver.  Smile at a colleague.  Greet the receptionist.  Wave at the postman.  Let the horn heavy wanker in the BMW in front of you with a smile and a nod.  Pay for the coffee of the guy behind you. Let the person with only a few items in front of you at the supermarket. Agree with a colleague. Hold open a door.

It makes you feel remarkably good and it discombobulates the rude.  Knocks them off course. And that's not a bad thing.  Not when you've done it so politely.

Go on. Try it. 

8 December 2012

Road trips with kids vs without kids

There are two types of road trips - those with kids and those without.

Those with kids can never be taken spontaneously and without snacks.  And by snacks, I mean the resources to feed the 5000 should Jesus fail to appear.

Those without kids only need the tic tacs in case you meet a cute policeman at an RBT.

Road trips with kids require additional clothing for both children and adults in case of spillage, blowouts or some kind of random travel sickness never before invented.

Road trips without kids can be done in the nude if that what takes your fancy.

Road trips with kids require an in depth knowledge of action songs, cheery songs, songs with clapping and repetition.

A road trip with out kids can be done entirely by surfing the radio channels or re-enacting Queen's finest hits while head banging, playing air guitar and driving.

Road trips with kids require an understanding that you drive with only about 1/4 of your attention on the road and the rest on the houdini in the back seat trying to extricate themselves from their shoulder straps.  (They'll win - no matter that you've drilled holes in their shoulders to loop the straps around)

Road trips without kids involve scenery and sunsets and impromptu stops at strawberry picking farms that you never notice when you're watching Houdini.

Road trips with kids are full of tense silences with your partner while you fume about the myriad of misunderstandings that have happened since you got in the car and they messed up your system of bags designed to make the journey easier.

Road trips without kids are full of long silences, intertwined fingers and sporadic conversation about shared experiences, or nothing.  Lots of gentle nothing.

Road trips with kids are full of moments where they eventually slumber and your heart wells up with love for their little selves, their adorable little selves and their bored, inventive little minds filling in time on a road trip with the olds.

Road trips without kids are full of moments where you wish you could be singing action songs and doing funny seat dancing or yelling 'CAR' whenever you see one.

Verdict.  If road trips without kids mean giving back my girls I'd probably keep them.  Probably. Maybe. Okay, yes.  YES.  But I still think a road trip in the nude should be on my bucket list.

3 December 2012

Too tall, too old for Totes. Fact.

Today I have become an over user of the word 'Totes'.  And it is not even lunch time. I am not a 'Totes' person.  My hubby and I use it ironically or stupidly between ourselves but we don't use it in regular conversation.  I'm not perky enough, short enough or young enough to say it without sounding like a complete prat.  But today is obviously 'Totes' day.

"This rain is really heavy"

"What do you think of this picture"
"Totes adorable"

"I really like Zooey - I hope she's as cool in real life"

You see?  Get the picture?  Embarrassing. 

I have a vocabulary.  I am comfortable using the word 'Totally' in its entirety and I can even use it correctly and not as substitute for intelligent conversation.  Every time I say the word I also get the urge to make this little rapper hand movement at the same time.  

You know the one.  They do it all the music videos when they're checking out the backsides of girls wearing no clothes. That sentence is enough to guarantee that I should not be using 'Totes' in conversation.

Such a dilemma.  What to do with myself?  

2 December 2012

Stop clicking Bono

You know the joke where Bono stands on stage and clicks his fingers.  One.  Two.  Three.  Four.  And then he says sonorously into the microphone.  Every time I click my fingers a child dies.  Five. Six. Seven.  And from the audience a voice calls back - "Stop fecking clicking then ya sick bastard".

I feel like that about some news we got on Friday night.  Shitty, crappy, poopy news.  It's not our news so I can't talk about it but if I could unclick my fingers and go back to the stage before this news.  Before it happened.  If I could take it all away and make it better I would.

Because I honestly feel like somebody is clicking away merrily, pissing on people I care about.  And whoever the clicker is - he/she has gone a little too far.

You wake up and you wish that it was just a bad dream.  But it isn't.  And I know that if for me its awful, I know that for the people living it - its more awful. Its crap. It sucks. It bites.  There are not words big enough for the storm that's hit them from behind.  Good people.  Nice people. Ordinary people.  Very very much loved people.

Adored and beloved people.  The after will come.  But I don't think it's unreasonable to wish for them 'the before'.  Back when the world was normal.  Made sense.  Was less random and fucked up.

So I'm channelling love, good karma, positive thoughts and whatever credits I have wherever towards them.

Big, huge, mammoth love.