31 January 2014

If you don't do something, who will?

Do you know Martin Niemoller?  He was a German pastor who during the 30s supported Hitler and who grew disillusioned with him not because of the erosions of freedoms accorded to others, but because eventually the new way of doing things, impacted on him and his ability to practice his faith freely.  He spent the war in the Dachau concentration camp.

Stay with me.  I'm cranky and I have a point.

Just after the war he said this:

“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Originally he said it a more complex manner giving examples of times when he and others had heard of harm being done to others in small ways - changes of policy, attacks on journalists, removal of documents not seen to fit with the new world order, and he spoke of it 'being none of their business'.  Until it was.

I am not claiming we are on the road to being the next Nazi Germany.  So calm down.

What I am saying is that it is our business.

We live in a thriving economy.  And for every bit of pro-Liberal anti-Labour propaganda you can quote me, I can find equal with the opposing view.  So leave it.  

This applies to all of us, all of the time.  

It is what we are allowing to happen in our name because it does not directly affect us.  The attacks on the ABC and SBS are frightening in that people who only read Murdoch presses feel very strongly that the ABC is too 'depressing'.  It is depressing.  Because it's the truth.  Our country is going to hell in a hand basket and too many of us don't give a shit because it doesn't affect us on a personal level.

The issues around the violations of the human rights of asylum seekers - we have been shown to be pro-actively violating 150 individual thingies and yet we don't take the time to write and say 'Oi, not in our name' but we have plenty of time to write to our health insurer and complain about the rude lady on the counter

We send our Navy into international waters and yet more refugees arrive by plane than by boat and yet we keep regurgitating the same incorrect sound bites being spouted by the politicians without taking the time to research the facts.  Yet we have time to research the 20 stupidest things said by celebrities. 

People seeking asylum are coming from countries torn apart by war, governments which sought to silence dissenters and places our own government suggest you don't visit as an international traveller because it's really bloody unsafe.  And yet we scream - "OOH, why didn't they stop in Indonesia or Spain, why keep coming here?"  

Ever think that perhaps they are prepared to risk everything to be as far away as possible from the places they feared for their lives?  Ever think they read about our country and the liberties which we take for granted and think "Wow - how awesome would it be to call the Prime Minister an arse and not get shot for it.  Or have my family killed so I shut up in the future"

Marriage equality.  Mothers of a certain age would prefer their children to marry their partners and not just live with them, because marriage means something and yet they cry out "Why can't them gays be happy with a civil union?".  Why does it matter to you?  They're not marrying you.  But yet, while it doesn't affect you, you want it not to happen because we are a "Christian country" and it's unnatural.

Um, no. Firstly, countries can't be religious. They are a land mass.  Plus church and state should be separate.  Makes sense since we don't all believe the same thing and the law of the land should apply to all citizens not just the ones we deem acceptable to our own personal belief system.  

Secondly or thirdly, whichever point I am to - unnatural? If you took advantage of the pretty decent education you got in this country irrespective of gender or religion you'd remember that very recent history says that marrying 'people of colour' was a bad idea.  Who looks stupid now eh?

The dredging of the reef for financial gain, the denial of climate change, the eradication of any mention of Gonski on the website, politicians that defund services to society's most vulnerable and yet give themselves pay rises. All these small things erode our democracy until we are living an illusionary freedom.  Because it hasn't yet affected us.

It's none of our business.

It doesn't affect 'us'.  It's all those bloody lefty foreigner loving bleeding heart do-gooders.

Yes it does.  And if you cant see that the insidious erosion of the very things that make us a humane and compassionate society IS your business, than please, know that you're an idiot.  

29 January 2014

My rock star epiphany

So back on New Year's Eve in 2000, a friend and I accepted an invitation by a member of the band Powderfinger to go to a party at the drummer's house. We did. Forgot to be cool, drank too much and took ourselves off home just before midnight to ensure we left with some dignity having giggled our way through the evening attempting to imitate the on trend loucheness and bored stares of the consciously trendy. Achieved nothing but 'drunk'.

To give some context - Powerfinger were at the height of the heights - the following year (2001), they would go on to win Album of the Year (Odyssey Number Five) and Single of the Year (My Happiness).  I didn't mind them but I still had more chance of knowing the lyrics to Meatloaf, Gilbert & Sullivan or That Mambo No 5 album.
The boys from Brisbane
I never said I was cool back then.

However, I was being invited to parties by rock stars.  The fact that I was briefly living next door is not the point. I. WAS. INVITED. TO. A. ROCK STAR'S. PARTY. 

I was in my mid 20s, I had just ended a year of extensive travel, moved cities, was soon to be (unbeknownst to me) single and life stretched out ahead of me.  Future unknown.

Fast Forward to the New Year's Eve just gone and my lubbly jubbly husband and I are sitting on the hill at Woodford Folk Festival, our babies asleep beside us, listening to the 2013 ARIA Song of the Year winner, Matt Corby, belt out his song Resolution.  Young girls swooned, thousands of voice sung along with him and it was a moment of pure contentment.  My happiness in fact (see what I did there?)

One of his mother's two favourite children
So, I had made the decision to go and watch his performance that night not based on my own swooniness for the young man, but because I am friends with his aunt and his mother AND I REALLY LIKE THEM, so I wanted to make sure I had seen him and could say doting, meaningful things when I next saw them along the lines of "Sung well, appeared to have recently showered and was apparently sober, perhaps needs to shine his shoes."*

There it was. The subtle shift. A life stage.

I'm not even 40 and I have moved from partying with rockstars to partying with their mothers and aunts. (Who aren't old.  They just had babies when they were babies themselves).  And they know how to party.

I am aware that when my daughters' become rock stars I'll almost be able to get into the gig venues at a senior's rates.

I am possibly going to be like the mother at last night's Arcade Fire concert who BOUGHT A BOOK TO READ in the first row of seats.  WITH A BOOK LIGHT. While the young things she was supervising danced like the demented poppets they were.

This week I won the prize for guessing who was going to win Triple J's Hottest 100.  Which makes me mainstream yoof!

And yet, I am old enough to deliberately wear Converse shoes to see gigs because THEY ARE COMFORTABLE.

I say things to my children like "Manners are free", and yet I haven't stopped yelling profanities at the newspaper whenever it reports something new and even stupider that Abbott or Morrison has said.

It's like I'm morphing into an adult.  A real live grown up.  And I'm really not ready.  Not ready at all.

Hold me.

*Matt Corby if you EVER read this please note I did not really report like this back to your Aunt and Mum. I couldn't see your shoes from where I was on the hill.

26 January 2014

A gift for Lucy

My gorgeous sister-in-law has just abandoned solo living to move into a house with a friend in east London. My beautiful man and I have been terribly remiss in sending a housewarming gift so I thought I'd start with my refresher course for 'living with people'.

Don't dress the same. That's weird.
All these examples are all from real events, but I wasn't always the sinner, sometimes the sinned against.  The last of my points, writ first, is the old adage that to ASSUME makes an ASS of U and ME.  But mostly you.

1. Always change the toilet roll, put the milk back in the fridge and pay your rent on time.  This negates any accusations of bad house-mating for pretty much forever.  Unless you sleep with your house-mate's partner.

2. Never sleep with your house-mate's partner.  Not even accidentally.  Not even being a regular toilet roll changer will get you out of this one and I (whoops they) will ask you to move out.

3. Never date your house-mate.  Ever.  It will only ever end in marriage.  And then you'll end up in Australia with two kids and none of your friends visiting because they have read too many stories about the spiders.

4. When your house-mate is wrong, never tell them.  Well unless there is an audience and you can do it in a faux friendly extremely bitchy stress relieving manner.

5. Take the time to work out what toiletries they use, what booze they drink and buy the same stuff.  It works out for everybody if you're not having to spend time drawing lines on shampoo bottles or the cheap champagne.

6. If on the first day you live with your house-mate you catch them wearing your clothes and shoes, kick them out.  Do not wait until they steal your fundraising money and the cash from their job that day and the police come to visit.  Trust your instinct.

7. Have a date night each fortnight which includes takeaway, wine and a DVD.  Quality time isn't only for romantic couples.  Since you have the same DVD taste as your brother, let them choose.

8. House-mates love baked goods.  Own that kitchen woman. You bake gooooooood.

9. If they leave their clothes on the drying line too long, take it off and fold it.  It doesn't look like a passive aggressive act when you do it that way and you win brownie points for being lovely.  They can't see inside your seething, revenge concocting mind.

10. If they do not shower enough - mention it.  If they refuse to shower more, buy some Febreeze and use it  whenever they walk in the same room as you.

11. If your house-mate's mum and sister come to visit, smoke too much and ply them with wine.  That makes that moment a month later when you've started dating your house-mate and have to meet their family and make a good impression that little bit more awkward.

12. Remember their birthdays, their anniversaries and the name of the guy at work that they hate.  Forgetting these things make it look like you don't listen.  Hard to come back from even if you genuinely don't give a shit.

13. Pay for the TV licence.  Split it obviously but just remember to pay it.  It's a stupid law but it's the law in the UK and they actually send men out in a van if you don't do it.

14. If on Valentine's Day the police turn up to raid your house for drugs based on a tip off, you can be pretty confident it's out of date and they are looking for previous tenants.  Do not assume your house-mates have any knowledge of it. It makes you look more paranoid than is cool.

15. Remember, becoming a woman that lives with cats rather than people is not an option.  If people don't like living with you, it's just be cruel to inflict yourself on cats, who don't really have a right of reply.

Love you long time girlfriend.  Enjoy the new digs and okay, FINE, we'll send a present.  x

24 January 2014

A bit of a love letter to childcare


It you're worried about it.  You are doing it wrong.

The most often discussed aspect of childcare is that it is not cheap.  My question is why would you expect it to be cheap? You are entrusting the most precious and beloved people in your life to the behemoth that is 'the childcare industry'.

That said, nobody likes a daily fee that goes up.  Nobody.  But that's the business side of childcare, the management, the boards, the council, the tick-tocky bit of childcare.

Childcare is ultimately about the carers.

Let me tell you the regard in which we hold the carers that have minded our girls since Tully was 4 months old and Cass was 6 months old - Basically, if we decided to pack up and go live in a yurt in the southern fringe of a Brazilian forest AND NEVER COME BACK - we would choose a child care day.  Because we'd be leaving them somewhere they love to be and we know that while they might be pissed at us, they would not abandon the girls until they had sorted something out that worked best for the girls.

I think you can see why we'll never leave them for life in a yurt
Our girls would be with people they trust, people that care for them, and people that know them. They would be with the people that can be in a room full of crying babies and frantic toddlers and magically transform that into an oasis of small people happiness while individual parents dash off to work feeling guilty but grateful that they never chose to be a childcarer.  Because we see it all the time and we know that shit is hard.  We struggle to calm two some days, and the carers, they are performing magic on crowds of the little buggers.

But if we went to that yurt, our girls would be with people that have cuddled them, soothed their bumps, coaxed them into eating vegetables, taught them songs, laughed at their jokes, nurtured their friendships, wiped their bottoms, cuddled their woes away.  They would be with people that have listened endlessly to the latest obsessions, taught them songs in Spanish, let them dance like they've been electrocuted, soothed wounded egos and the inexplicable sads that small people get when they don't get to have the red jigsaw.

People that have made gifts for tired and harried parents that demonstrate their children's talents, that incorporate what you want for your child into an already crowded curriculum in such a way that you always feel that your child is not only the cleverest child they have ever seen, but probably the favourite.

If you bump into these amazing people outside of childcare, they greet your child as if they were royalty.  They tell you nothing of their own trials and tribulations, they listen to your anxieties and dreams as if you were the first person to hope that their children would grow up to be rockstars so you could go to pubs, rather than swimmers which seems to involve early mornings.

They are friendly no matter what goes on in their own lives.  They are beautiful to your children, no matter what is going on with the management or staffing. They are people your children list when they talk about friends, they are the people that feature in so many of the stories that your children tell to other people and they are the people that you know will tell you the things you don't want to hear on occasion when your child forgets to be perfect.

They are the people that are endlessly patient with your slapdash approach to bag packing and that make your child's toilet training sound like more of an achievement than their own degrees.  They feed them, cuddle them and nuture them.

We couldn't leave our girls anywhere where we didn't trust the individuals involved in their care totally.  Sure there have been the odd dud for us, but dud in that it was evident that they didn't want to be there, rather than dud as inefficient.  Even the casual staff are ridiculously lovely and totally 'on brand'.

We don't have grandparents on hand that can mind them so 'free babysitting' is not one of our 'lifestyle choices' as I recently heard it described.  We use babysitters and abuse our friend's generosity when we need to do something after hours.  In those after hours, we always leave them with people that will love them even if they don't get them to sleep. And we are incredibly blessed with people that love our girls enough to look after them.

But none of our friends love our children enough to give up their jobs and babysit them for free.  I'm not judging.  Just noting.

So we use childcare. Like the other bazillion people across Australia.

That kind of awesome doesn't come free. And we should value them.

And we should all remember that we started off as small people.  And that if we don't want our small people to grow up as total tossers, we need to surround them with positive role models when they are young.  So that they learn to be kind, compassionate and empathetic.  So that they are surrounded by people that espouse the values you aspire to for your child.  Even when you are not there.  And that doesn't come for free as my friends have demonstrated. (That was a joke people) (But true)

And we've got that.  And we would not leave our children, EVER, anywhere we didn't get the right vibe, feel the right trust, or see the right things.

These are our beautiful children. Our perfect, perfect girls.  And when we pay for childcare, we pay for them to be surrounded by goodness, by positivity - yes. BUT also by fully structured, accredited, accountable care.

And if we don't feel that they are getting that, then the responsibility rests with us.  For it is up to us to be so closely acquainted with our children that we know the people they are surrounded by, that they are being influenced by and that they are learning from.

Us.  The adults.  The parents.

The parents.

Because even when we use childcare we are parents.

Loving ones.

And so very appreciative of the childcarers that allow us to be parents and all the other stuff too.

23 January 2014

I'm a page 22 girl!

Just behind Kerri Sackville's VERY good article on being a pottymouth parent* - there I am.  Published.  

Page 22.  February edition of Practical Parenting. Which is mainstream media.  Australia's number one magazine for parents. 

And best of all, it's an opinion piece.

The irony after the last blog post eh?

Anyway, I've put a photo of it below but you should go and buy the magazine so you can 
a) read the 'No' viewpoint,
b) read the whole magazine 
c) tear the page with my article out of it
d) frame it 
e) get me to autograph it. 

 For when I become Beiberesque in my celebrity and you want to sell that autograph to fund your retirement.

Don't think it's worth the $6 to buy the magazine? 

All I have to say people is remember the parable of the Bitcoins. The doubters still work for the man, the investors own big yachts and throw their underpants away rather than wash them. 

You're welcome.

* Self confessed pottymouth parent with children that don't.  Nature vs Nuture? Thank you Nature. 

21 January 2014

I am a woman of strong opinions

I am a woman of strong opinions.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, this isn't probably a surprise.  If you've known me for more than a minute in real life, this probably isn't a surprise either.
It's true. 

And yes my dear pedants, by it's very definition, an opinion doesn't always have to be factual  and will contain an element of bias. Which is why we sometimes define things as a professional opinion, or a personal opinion depending on who we are trying to persuade.

These are not my feet
But everything in life contains an element of bias.  All of us have an opinion on everything from what is the best cereal for breakfast, what is the best genre of movie, is bacon basically god?

We do nothing on a daily basis that is not coloured in some way by our opinion.  Our own experiences, our education, our lifestyle, our beliefs, our ethics, our families, our friends, our absolutely everything, colour our opinion.

Opinions can change. 

My favourite Jesus Christ Superstar line is "We all have truths, are yours the same as mine?".  Pontius Pilate was basically saying that even facts, when viewed through different eyes, take on different meaning. Basically we can have different opinions, even though we use the same facts.  I'm not interpreting the bible here people, just the musical - so please don't start quoting Leviticus at me. 

Why all this pondering on 'opinion'? Quite simply, somebody referred to my writing as opinionated the other day and its thrown a big black cloth over my brain and I can't find any words to write without second guessing my own blog.  The thing is, this person wasn't being mean, because I asked her if she thought it too opinionated and she said no, she was a regular reader and enjoyed it.  

My blog is all about 'having a say on everything from house work to human rights - commentary, observation and opinion'.  I write what I know, what I see, what I feel and what I wonder.  I do have strong opinions.

I have always had strong opinions.  But not at the expense of learning, of developing, of growing.

Bill Watterson nails it again
I am truly grateful for the freedom to have an opinion, something I know that many women and men don't have.  I am not preaching hate, I am not preaching ignorance, and I like a feisty discussion around ideas, concepts, politics, ethics, people, music, books, movies.  Anything really.  And I love to be around people of strong opinions.  A quick audit of friends and family demonstrates that 'strong opinions' applies to most of them.  

So I come back to the word 'opinionated'.  If I was quieter, less adamant in my expression I would perhaps be seen as perceptive.  Which is also an interpretation of truth.  A perception and an opinion are not distant cousins by any means. 

I am perceptive.  I have self awareness.  I do know what I'm talking about.  And I have 20 years of team days backing up these statements.  I also lack the ability to lick arse.  20 years of team days backs this statement too.  I always keep team feedback - it's nice to look back through it and see how some things have grown and shaped, and others, like the old report card saying 'Alison would benefit from talking less in class" never change.  

The other one that came up regularly was 'never afraid to share her opinion'.

Why would I be?  Why should I be? Why is my opinion any less valid than another?  Your opinion is equally valid too.  That's the beauty of opinions.  We can learn so much, share so much, yell 'YOU ARE WRONG', bang the table and yell 'MORE WINE! We are not going home until you see that I AM RIGHT'.  That's how I met my husband actually.  He was probably wrong though (right beautiful man?).

So opinionated is what I am. I am not intransigent. And that's good.  If I was opinionated and intransigent I'd just be a wanker.  And nobody wants to be that. 

And now I am going to find a picture or two to illustrate this blog and get back to using my opinions about food to decided what to have for lunch.

Yes. Yes I am. 

20 January 2014

I had a dream

Okay, I get that there are things that make up our conscious mind and things that make up our subconscious mind and all of this works together in some mysterious way.

And I get that quite often our subconscious mind works overtime when we are at rest and seemingly influences our dreams.  Which is why our dreams are supposed to be significant if we remember them when we awake.

So work with me here.

Last night I had a dream that I had taken the girls to a "Fun House".  There was a gift shop and admissions area downstairs and you caught a lift upstairs (unless you were afraid of lifts in which you had to pay extra to use the escalator)

Once upstairs, instead of rooms, there was a huge beach complete blue skies, light breeze etc.  With a counter running the entire one side of the beach where you could purchase refreshments, books, newspapers, and souvenirs.  On the other side of the beach, the water stretched away into the horizon.  It was a proper beach, an Australian one with white sand, shells and lots of people sweating suncream and lazing about on towels under umbrellas.

I settled in under an umbrella that was emblazoned with my new business' logo, and the girls went off to play while I chilled out, reading 'The Railway Man' and watching the girls.  They were part of a performing jet-skiing team - doing formations and amazing stunts, bouncing over the waves like total experts.  In the dream they are exactly as they are now - the younger aged 21 months and the older almost 3.5 years old.  They wore helmets and their favourite swimmers.  I was very proud of them and took lots of pictures which of course I posted on Instagram.

This is not really them
because it was a dream
so don't look for it on instagram
Oddly, I wasn't at the beach with Nick, but his absence wasn't sinister or anything - just like he was at work.  But I was accompanied by a beardless, floppy haired Russell Crowe.  Aha! Fantasy I hear you say!  But here's the thing.  He's not (sorry Russ) and he was attired in pirate finery, and he had two 'peg legs'.  Not one. Two.  And he wore a watch made of feathers and he was there to watch his kids in the 'dolphin chariot race'.  And it didn't seem odd that he was a pirate or that there was such a thing as dolphin chariot races.


Apparently Russell's kids are the current world champions.

Russell and I were taking turns like any event you go to with a fellow parent, one would go to the toilet or to get lemonades or whatever and the other would watch the children.  It was a lovely, non-eventful day.

Then all of a sudden, a storm blew in and it started raining, turning the beach into a giant marshmellow.  A huge emergency siren went off and people were desperately trying to get into the lifts to leave.  Security guards were not letting people without the right tickets use the escalators and people were getting really frantic as one lift had gone out and people were having to wait for just one lift but yet the escalators were running with nobody on them.

In the midst of this, I was trying to find the girls who were not where they were supposed to be and somebody tried to steal my purse.  Russell got all Karate Kid on the thief, even saying 'wax on, wax off' as he knocked him out.  Then I saw the girls by the lift, holding onto the hands of the security guard looking for me.

Remember this?
So I bounced over to them on the marshmellow and managed to squeeze into a lift by being completely rude to the people already queuing and only feeling a little bit guilty, because I was just relieved I had my girls safe.  I said bye to Russell and his kid as they had escalator tickets.  The lift opened at the bottom and we headed out into the Big W at Top Ryde shopping centre, just by the book section and....


Nothing.  I don't know if I woke up or the dream ended just there.

Now, dear people - explain THAT dream to me.  Because all I'm thinking is that my subconscious needs to lay off the cheese and bikkies on the weekend.

Any clues?  Or do you regularly have obscure dreams?

16 January 2014

Understanding blah blah blah

This quote on a friend's feed on the faceybook. 

"With no understanding, there can be no acceptance."  

It's obviously spoken to her.  It did not speak to me. 

I've googled it and I and the closest I can come to putting the quote into context is JK Rowling's "Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and acceptance is the first step towards recovery". From Harry Potter's Goblet of Fire apparently.

Otherwise, I don't know where it came from.

Even so, I still cry "Bullshit"

Let me start by saying that understanding things is indeed brilliant.  But you don't have to understand everything to accept it. 

I don't understand how my car works, but I still drive it. 

I don't understand how flying works, but I still get in aeroplanes.

I don't understand how electricity works, but I still use lights.

I don't understand how anyone voted for Tony Abbott and his cronies, but I accept that is how democracy works.

I don't understand what goes on in my husband's head about 85% of the time, but I still love him.

I don't understand how my body created such two awesome human beings but I'm still claiming all the credit for the most amazing, interesting and beautiful girls ever to be born.

Bet the Wright Brothers didn't understand their wives
Sure you can read about these things, learn lots of stuff and connect the dots and say 'AHA, now I get it', but there is an awful lot of things out there in the universe and if you had to understand everything fully before you accepted it, used it, embraced it, tried it, sang it, loved it, sold it, bought it, shared it, walked it, read it, lived it.... you'd be..... ummm... busy.  And really really freaking boring.

I bet you don't understand how the internet works in all it's entirety but yet you are reading this because of it.

Cool huh? (And thanks... I appreciate you coming by!)

And people - understanding them first before you accept them?  You'd have no friends.  If we had to waste all that time understanding our friends before we accepted them, we'd be lonelier than a very lonely thing.

And it would take all the fun out of it.  Sometimes to not fully understand is what keeps it interesting.

There are definitely things in the world that we do not understand and we do not accept.  There are things we should try and change.  Mullet haircuts.  The Kardashians.  Cross-fit. 

But otherwise, move on. Embrace the mystery. Enjoy the journey.  

Go on. I dare you.  

14 January 2014

Three little words

So there is this guy Trevor Young who is known as the PR Warrior.  I first met him at the ProBlogger conference I went to last year where I was massively inspired by the confidence and kindness of so many successful bloggers and entrepreneurs. I wrote a post called 'Big Love and Blogging' if you missed it.

Anyway, back to Trevor Young who I didn't actually write about (sorry Trevor).  I read his post detailing his year in review and the three words he was going to use as his guides and inspirations for 2014.  And I trawled through posts from the people he found inspirational, and the people in the Twitterverse discussing it and I thought - I like this. I really do.

Three words to give focus to a year that will be either "Awesome" or "Um, er, unsure what happened there"

And you know why?  Because it is so easy just to do today as you did yesterday.  Which means tomorrow will look like today, which looked like yesterday.  And I live in constant fear of waking up one day and finding out I went nowhere and did nothing.

So here goes.  My three words are:

... in myself, in others, in success, in happiness, in life, in a world where empathy and compassion are proactively practiced.  To ignore the dissenters and rise above my internal voices.  To believe I can make a success of my new business, my blog and this infernal half marathon.  To believe I can make a difference to the Australia and the world I live in. To believe that change can and will happen.  To believe I'm going in the right direction, even when I forget to take the map.

And that rhinos are unicorns in disguise.

... to do the things I've never done, to try things that I haven't tried, to say things I've never said, to be silent where I was never silent and to act in ways I've never had the courage to act.  I am going to dare to speak up when it is right, to always challenge apathy, ignorance and bigotry. I am going to dare to live as the kind of woman I want my daughters to aspire to be.

And maybe even do that skydiving thing.

... because I am woman, for my children, for my husband, for myself, for all those that can not roar for themselves.  I am roaring to rev myself up, to find the my 'Serena' grunt, to cover the sound of my own terrified heartbeat.  I am  roaring in voice, online, on paper, in action, in attitude.  I am roaring for those that can not roar, that will not roar and that have not known the freedom to roar.

And because sometimes I just like to be loud.

So what do you think?  Three little words for me to live by in 2014.

What are yours?  

13 January 2014

The letter I never read

When I was in Year 6, we all had to write a letter to ourselves to open when we were 21.  I don't remember the exact things we were to include but it was about what we thought our future selves would be like and what we were like right then in 1985.

I sealed that letter up, took it home and gave it to my parents.  They put it in the study under the green vinyl divan in the storage box which was the great repository for all important documents we didn't want to lose.

Guess what? It got lost. 

Somewhere between 1985 when I wrote it and December 1995 when I turned 21, that letter went astray.  Probably tossed out as not important, a small letter in a small envelope, addressed to "Alison", insignificant among the sea of documentation that lived under the divan and which would have had to be sorted when the divan went to divan heaven.  

I often wonder what I wrote in that letter.  Judging by a couple of my short stories that have survived from primary school it is entirely possibly illustrated beautifully like this: 

or this

 Or perhaps it had a confusing 'summary' like this book jacket where I seem to have written a book that advocates incest and babies as the route to happiness:

Or maybe it's as thrilling as this little play:

I won't ever know where my ten year old self was heading or what I thought I might have achieved.  I suspect that it was best I didn't know how turbulent the next ten years were going to be and how confusing and terrifying growing up was rather than a raffish adventure like Nancy Drew would have had.  I wouldn't have known about the friends I was going to make that I still have, or the mistakes that I would make that still impact.  I did not know how much I did not know.

1985 was the year I read Watership Down and wasn't part of the special group invited to watch Genelle and Daniel 'pash' at lunchtime on the obstacle course. I had one older brother and four younger siblings and didn't feel I fitted in anywhere.  I read a lot, wrote a lot, dreamed a lot.  I got my first pair of jeans, a love affair started by a cousin named Sue, that has lasted a life time.  

Mrs Hinton set a homework assignment that required us to answer ten questions about 'A Country Practice' and Dad thought I'd made that up as an excuse to watch a forbidden TV show, so I failed my homework and was publicly outed as the only kid in Year 6 not allowed to watch that particular show.  Arthur lost his temper and threw his chair out the window and I was hugely impressed by his daring.  I had a crush on a tall, gentle guy called Michael, and Mr P, the coolest teacher I ever had, called my parents in to discuss why I used the word 'ejaculated' in my fiction writing.  My naive, book obsessed ten year old self, used it quite innocently in the context of "saying something quickly and suddenly" not in relation to semen.  

In hindsight, that was probably a very discomfiting discussion for my parents to be having. I suspect they weren't congratulating themselves on having a child with such an extensive vocabulary.

It snowed on my December birthday that year quite randomly and I was excited about going to high school the following year. I liked riding my bike and going on adventures. When I look at the handful of things I remember from that year, I can't even begin to imagine what I wrote to my older self but I'm prepared to bet it used big, beautiful and possibly age inappropriate words.

I hope it dreamed big.  Really big. I really do.

Did you ever write to your future self?  What did you say?

9 January 2014

Enthusiasm. So uncool.

I have some friends who are positive.  Really genuinely enthusiastic about, well, life.  All the time.

If you are one of them - you can stop reading now, I got nothing for you that you don't already have.

Yahoo Serious - Role Model
 You probably know these kind of people.  They like most people, love new ideas, like to get people together, find positive things to say about Hitler's art, are genuinely interested in your grandmother's bunions and will remember to ask about them the next time you see them.  They don't notice people being narky, or what people are wearing.  They wear clothes that make them happy, they don't pretend to have read books they haven't, they can't name brands, they love both Lara Bingle and Cate Blanchett and are thrilled they are doing so well for themselves.

They don't care about your housekeeping, they give credit where credit is due at work, they'll loan you money, they love their families, they can tell stories about themselves for your entertainment.  They haven't yet given up on Tom Cruise, they see rainbows in oil slicks during torrential rain.  They buy carpets hoping they are magic, they buy the Big Issue religiously. They'll go places that aren't cool, they own up to liking show tunes and love catching the bus because they always meet somebody new.


Have you noticed that you always distrust these people? Shy away from those that are openly friendly?  You wonder if their infernal happiness has a darker side - in fact, it's the only thing you've been positive about this year.  You assume they are nothing but an office lick-arse because they are so willing to well, take PART and say outrageous things like 'Good morning', 'have a nice weekend' and other such pleasantries.

Instinctively, or perhaps because of societal conditioning, we distrust happiness.  We especially distrust people that are happy AT us.  We find their energy, their zest, quite exhausting. And we wonder - what do they want from us?  Why are they doing this to us?

Is it that we assume that people that are pleasant and open are weak?  Do we assume that people that find joy in the small things must have nothing larger?  Do we belittle their enthusiasm because we are envious and/or small minded?  Are we basically only happy ourselves if everybody around us seems to be weighed down by the same obligations and insecurities?

(image source)
Imagine the world we could make for ourselves if we approached everybody like a giant Labrador?  If we assumed people are nice to us, because they are just nice people?  Imagine if the next time somebody spoke to you on a bus or in the lift you didn't immediately assume they have mental health issues or are about to rob you?  Imagine if you went through life with gusto, with pep, with zest?

Just like negativity, positivity is catching. But yet we avoid positive people with the same kind of energy that Brett fellow threw balls at Piers Morgan during the cricket last week. (Sporting reference - go me!)

I once asked an enthusiastic girlfriend who I knew had had a tough week at work - how do you do it?  And she said (and I quote) 'Fuck me Al, it seems to take such a lot of energy to be a fucking wanker, I just can't be bothered.'

Even enthusiastic about profaning. What's not to love?

Go forth my people - enthuse.

8 January 2014

Crosspatch and Crankypants

I am what is known in the business as 'hot headed'.  When I'm cross I shout.  If I'm really cross I shout and tears come out of my eyes and I shake.  It's like all the crossness has to ooze out of me to accompany the noise.

When my husband is cross, he goes quiet and doesn't want to talk until we've all calmed down.

That generally moves me from cross, to really cross, to internally raging as I try to work out where my daughters and I are going to live now that I have to leave him for being such an arse.

And then I get sad because my marriage is over and when I find my  man, he's normally reading something on his iphone about the music industry or the cricket and is not worrying at all because it's just an argument and not the end of the world.


picture courtesy smh.com.au

Occasionally, he does do some storming, eye rolling, door slamming and shouting, but he's not had the practice that I have had and so while dramatic, I feel he has some way to go before he gets to be an expert. 

But neither of us stay cross for long.  We are not grudge holders, though he wants to ban me using the phrase 'YOU ALWAYS...' during any of our 'discussions'.*

We do always say sorry.  I am a big believer in the word sorry starting a conversation.  I could not be in a relationship with somebody that does not know how to apologise. Even if it's just 'sorry I yelled' and 'not sorry I called you a stubborn arse**', because there is no point in apologising for something you are not actually feeling contrite about when the conversation begins.

And if you get to the point in your relationship where you are not using the word 'sorry', you're screwed.

I used to be much more hot headed than I am now.  My world was very black and white, I lacked self esteem and the fear made me very shouty.  As I've grown older and a little more confident, and found shades of grey in the world, I am less shouty.  Still prone to being tempestuous but it's not my default position anymore.

It's the aftermath of those emotions and arguments that matter. Now more than ever.

We have two daughters who watch the way we interact with the world constantly.  And they have memories like elephants.  And they are brutal.

"Mama, do you remember when you did shouting at Daddy?" (Cue internal mortification)
"Yes darling"
"I was cross with him"
"Because (insert whatever daft reason got me all heated up)"
"But you said sorry?"
"And he said sorry?"
"Yes he did"
"That's very good Mama"

Like all the things which they don't fully understand it will get brought up again and again, discussed, pondered and returned to the vault.  Arguments with each other or their friends get brought up, laid against their experience of what happened when we 'did the shouting' and discussed.  It's all in there.  Layers upon layers of seeing how people interact.  The positives, the negatives, the boring and the dramatic.  Layers upon layers of experience jutting against their innate personalities and shaping their future responses.

The responsibility is huge. Huge.

I wish I didn't get cross sometimes.  I wish I was someone who could just say 'Ah fiddlesticks' when driven to distraction by a person, an event or hormones.  But I'm not.  So all I can do is make sure that my apologies and my explanations are as visible to the girls as any cross words I utter.  To anyone. 

I welcome the questions in so many ways because it means that no matter what else there is no fear.  There is trust.  There is love.*** 


* He does 'always' though :-)
** He really can be - don't let his loveliness trick you
*** Loads and loads of solid soppy love - I'm very blessed and he twice so

7 January 2014

We hearted Woodford

This year, with Christmas still clinging gently to our heels we packed up the four of us into two backpacks, two day packs, a tent bag, a satchel and two small people sized owl bags and caught the plane north. 

Destination: Woodford Folk Festival.

festival armbands unite
The adults in this equation are no strangers to festivals or camping.  But this is the first time we'd attempted a festival with the girls when there were not 'in utero' and also the first time we had ever taken them camping.

We can not say enough nice things about the
Coleman pop up tent - genius! 
We were like some of the original pioneering folks.  We had to use communal facilities to charge our smart phones and everything.  

That was the first glorious thing about Woodford.  How unashamedly capitalist and consumerist it's approach to what is largely seen as a breeding ground for alternative thought, alternative lifestyle, music and food.  I revelled in the irony, even as some cultish vegan hipster ladled toppings onto my potato, charged me more for a lemonade than you paid for the wine and asked for a fiver to charge my phone.

Do not take this to mean that the festival is overpriced - the diversity of entertainment, the calibre of the performances and the sheer beauty of the surroundings - makes it incredibly good value.  But still ironic.

There is lots to love about Woodford.

Street sign
The children's festival
There is clay, circus classes, colouring in, drumming monkeys, music shows, puppet shows, free facepainting, watermelon slices, story telling, sandpits, hay bales ball pits, Auslan classes, mask making, tshirt decorating, grufflepud creating and a ridiculously high proportion of children called Marley.  It's a little slice of small people utopia which when attended in the morning leaves them in a state of bliss which helps them endure heat, the music choices of their parents, dirt, spiders, ants and the wrong colour water bottle.

Daily facepainting - this day we were a potato and a cat
Cold showers
It's really freaking hot at Woodford.  Even when it's not over 40 degrees, it's still inland Queensland in the middle of summer.  So it's still hot.  Cold showers equal happiness.

Working out the spray gun
Hat? Check.
Sunglasses? Check
Groin and nipples covered? Check
It applies to both genders and is the basic approach to all fashion at Woodford.  How much material covers those two things is entirely up to you.  Nobody gives a shit whether you are dressed in an inch of material or miles of it - anything goes.  And really truly nobody cares.  I saw a lady who was easily 80 plus and she wore a different Mickey Mouse onesie every single day.  Practical. Sun safe. Comfortable. Good for everything from yoga to dancing.

That mermaid hasn't got any clothes on Mama
Bush Poet's breakfast
This was a gem of a discovery.  Hot breakfasts and an hour or two of subversive and hilarious brilliance. Aged stockmen, swagmen, farmers, urbanites and hipsters using colloquialisms and cadence to articulate their thoughts on everything from shearer's stew to love to ageing to mining to horse racing to taxes to indigenous issues to English supermarkets.  They rabble roused, insinuated, amused and saddened.  Such talented storytellers all of them.  And such fun.

Awesome arty things

Snippets of conversation
I love how you overhear bits of conversation as you wander from venue to venue or sit on the hill in the sunshine.  The son and his father speaking about whether or not he love loves his girlfriend or whether he just loves her.  The small lads sharing stories of their lunch dates. The girls laughing so hard that their legs are almost kicking.  The 3 year old that laughs hysterically every time you pass the restaurant which has repurposed toilets into chairs. The old lady wondering why you would want to swallow a sword in the first place let alone make a career out of it.  The girls walking away from the Matt Corby gig wondering why they had never seen him live before and how they would never miss another gig.  The young guy wondering whether to accept a teaching position at a Steiner school or Knox after the holidays.  The lady screaming on her phone to whoever had stood her up and the stranger giving her a hug afterwards and inviting her to join their group.  Tiny, fleeting moments of other people's lives that offer a glimpse into different thoughts, interests and people.

Part of the opening ceremony

And last but not least...

The Whole Shebang
It is not an all inclusive list but we saw GANGajang, Beth Orton, Matt Corby, Clare Bowditch, Castlecombers, Bob Hawke, Brendan Maclean, Simon Sheikh, Tim Finn, Busby Marou, Blue King Brown,  Denise Scott, The Nymphs, Jordie Lane, Joff Bush, the dusk performances by the Pormpuraaw and Injinoo dancers.

Dancing with Daddyo
That was just the talent.  That was without the opening ceremony, the art, the food, the one man band, the games, the cricket matches, the side show, the circus, the venues and that big wagon thing they push.

Dancing to Busby Marou
Clare Bowditch during the storm - absolute favourite gig at Woodford.  That woman has an amazing voice, a big heart and I adored this performance. It was perfect for every sodden moment I spent on the hill that night.  My next favourite was Brendan Maclean's NYE performance - he's snarky, vocally explosive and his music is awesome.  But then there was Tim Finn, Busby Marou, Blue King Brown.... oh you get the picture.

Beautiful surroundings
It was brilliant.  You should go.*

He was the music man
*This is not a sponsored post.  Just a big fat happy new fan.  Though if you want to pay me to review a festival, feel free :-)