28 November 2013

The time has come the walrus said....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today is big.

25 November 2013

My brain is full

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I find myself here.

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

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

Just sayin'.

17 November 2013

My name is Alison & I was diagnosed with PND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are still you.  And you are awesome.

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

Happiness and thunderstorms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happiness and rainy sundays -  I salute you.

13 November 2013

Good golly, bad golly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

What then? What next?

12 November 2013

The conversation

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

Awww - awesome huh?  

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

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

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

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

General conversation and convivial atmosphere continue.

Then all of a sudden

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


Laughter.  Of the tear streaming down your face variety.  

In between hiccups of laughter.

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

A hand thrown in the air dismissively.  

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

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

11 November 2013

Who is in charge of personal responsibility?

My dad says I'm like my mum.

My mum says I'm like my dad.

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

But it is true.

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

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

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

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

That was a joke.  Obviously.  

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

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

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

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

I am never wrong.  Neither is mum.  

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

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

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

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

My dad likes to dance.

My mum is curious.  

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

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

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

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

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

6 November 2013

Please. Don't call my girls princesses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But they aren't princesses.

They are better than that.

5 November 2013

Are you a Bitstrip addicted pity poster?

Discovered Bitstrips yet?

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

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

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

And for them, I have this public service announcement: 

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

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

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

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

4 November 2013

Too late my friends. The change has happened.

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

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

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

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

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

Successful. Beloved. Married. Parents.


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

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

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

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

And so many more.

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

Our beloveds.

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

Are we there yet? No.

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

Cool huh?

1 November 2013

Ethical sons not sober daughters

I am going to keep this one brief and crass.

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

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

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

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

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

The end.