BFF

A dear friend tells me how she counsels her daughters on the approach toward those first high voltage years of peer interaction. It’s simple stuff.

Do your friends make you feel happy and positive?

Do you come away from being with them feeling great about yourself?

If the answer is no you might want to rethink your friendships. I am impressed with her early interventionism and wish I’d adopted the same approach back when D1 and 2 were small.

Instead, we now have regular discussions about the need to divest oneself of toxic friendships; vestigial hangovers from the fringes of middle school. Those ghastly years bobbing about from clique to clique trying to find your place.

mean girl

Let’s be honest, the transition from school friend to adult dynamic can prove problematic.

D1 has been on the fringe of a small group since high school and the power balance has remained the same. She is realising that really effective friendships involve work on both sides and as she is the only one doing the chasing, it might be time to cull.

D2 found that a few kids from her school days may not have been quite as accepting of her adult lifestyle decisions as true friendship would dictate. It’s probably time for her to move on from them too. Recognising the use by date can be tricky, but ultimately everyone’s better off.

So many of us continue to invest in relationships predicated on some type of balance sheet. A series of emotional debits and credits that require a degree in advanced accounting to negotiate.

...then there was that time I loaned you that dress, and the night you got really drunk...and don't forget how I dropped everything for you...

…then there was that time I loaned you that dress, and the night you got really drunk…and don’t forget how I dropped everything for you…

And look, maths was never my strong point.

At a certain juncture we learn the value of a solid friendship. That isn’t to say that these are always going to be for life, and that’s ok. Sometimes we just need someone to get us through the next chapter.

Today my coterie of true friends is small. A mere handful of people who make me smile long after I’ve left them; who bolster my self worth and value my opinion.

I count myself incredibly *fortunate.

This social litmus test applies equally to all relationships. D1 had recently broken up with her boyfriend of six years, the emotional fallout resonating throughout the house.

i don't need a guy. I just need chocolate, lots of chocolate

i don’t need a guy. I just need chocolate, lots of chocolate

While it was obvious to all and sundry that this pairing was unsuitable, D1 had valiantly battled on, certain in her ability to make it work. While it’s true he was arrogant, unfaithful and had values diametrically opposed to her own, actively applying the question does he make you feel good about yourself? would have obviated a great deal of unnecessary angst.

Instead of unalloyed sympathy and understanding, however, I railed at her for being so short sighted. I did this in the full knowledge that I had spent an entire three years blinded by misplaced passion. I’d been at the mercy of a man who had liberated me from the slow death of an unfulfilled marriage and existed solely on lust and adrenaline. Nothing mattered beyond making sure he stayed with me. Every time he walked out another fragment of self esteem was chipped away.

Eventually the madness of obsession was replaced with a bruising realisation that I had ignored all the warning signs. When the pit of your stomach is constantly roiling with fear and nausea and all previous joys are replaced by anxiety, you’re no longer there for the right reasons. The highs can never counter the lows.

I don’t recognise the person I became back then and after I apologise to D1 for my weary anger, I tell her that she too will be at this point much sooner than she realises.

She is planning a long term stint in the UK. There is an element of escape involved in this mooted relocation, but she’s not alone there. Isolating yourself from all the emotional triggers and creating some space between the person you are and the person you want to be can require distance – geographic or otherwise.

It took some running away to America for D2 to recognise her own inherent value. She had left oblivious to how wonderful she was and returned with blistering confidence and self belief.

Dispensing my middle aged wisdom (Learning The Hard Way) I say to both girls, we’re not here for ever, so let’s pepper our lives with heart warming and life affirming connections and politely decline the rest.

happy friends

*As opposed to #blessed# Exactly when did we all become so relentlessly consecrated? Perhaps #blessed could be reserved for selfies with the Pope? pope selfie

#thesaurus#synonyms#vocabulary

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Posted in Family, Not so funny | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

LOL or not

Is it just me or has the emoticon monstered out of control? Don’t get me wrong, I use them – for who wants a heartfelt birthday text message without a balloon, party hat, beribboned gift box and cake emoji?

 

what need have I for mere words?

what need have I for mere words?

 

I’m just noticing a rise in opinion text messages, Facebook conversations and emails that seem to followed by a passive aggressive addendum  winking emojo

 

It’s the old “Ok, don’t take offence but…” which signals that despite the preface, I should very much take offence to what you are saying, for if it was not intended to offend, I wouldn’t require the preparation.

 

Similarly the use of LOL appears to have taken a dark turn. Once upon a time, when we’d established it no longer meant ‘lots of love’  and had finally managed to stop our aged relatives using it to sign off sad missives about dead pets, we were blithely peppering our text messages and emails with this declaration of mirth. LOL on every second line just indicated we found everyone funny. Seriously, raucously funny. So damn funny, we were LAUGHING OUT LOUD.

laughing man

STOP IT You’re killing me!

How we got anything done amongst this cacophony of endlessly professed laughter is truly astonishing and is probably part of some observant Alien’s Phd as we speak.

I didn’t LOL. I might have made that ‘Huh’ noise and I know I’ve snorted…do other people snort out loud?

*SnOL.

Yes, I like it. Although I’m concerned the accompanying SnOL emoji may just look like someone with hay fever and no hanky.

And then when we imagined it couldn’t get any funnier, it did, because suddenly people were ROFL. These folk are to be admired; it is extremely difficult to text and roll at the same time (unless you’re Pat Mullins* [vale] In which case you’re also dealing with gum nuts up your nose).

I have wondered if LOL might just have been a way to cover up an inadequate response ; as in,

You say it best, when you say nothing at all. LOL :-)

You say it best, when you say nothing at all. LOL ?

 

But now I realise it’s also the thing you hastily type to cover the fact you may have been just the weeniest bit offensive.

I am totes laughing out loud, we’re good right?

I am guilty, in the last week or so of employing the IMHO acronym. I will confess that my use of this is completely disingenuous , for my opinion is rarely humble. ‘In my humble opinion’ just sounds like some throwback to a Regency era novel, where a lady’s ‘opinion’ was, unless she was commenting on petit point or bonnet trimming, that of her husband or father.

Now I’m just a mouthy feminist banging on about all manner of darkly subversive subjects just to shit the patriarchy. Hell in a bloody hand basket.

Mouthy AND grumpy because, once again, FACEBOOK.

A gremlin on FB keeps asking me if I want to download STICKERS with which to further annoy people on messenger. These are seriously weird. Big ass faces with expressions that do not correspond to any emotion I, or anyone I know, have ever experienced. There’s also Pusheen, the obese cat and Bun, the…what the hell is Bun? And cacti. Lots of cacti imbued with human qualities.

It’s like falling down some hallucinogenic Hello Kitty rabbit hole. This, in turn, gives me flashbacks to the time when I was dealing with the porny anime comic books my friend, Charles, would thoughtfully send over from Japan. My then six and nine year old’s couldn’t work out why they weren’t allowed to read them.

so much fantasy wrongness for western delight you love

so much fantasy wrongness for western delight you love

Oh well, watchagonnado…YOLO, emirate?

  • *Obvs from Chris Lilley’s “We Can Be Heroes” – still IMHO, his best work to date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A group therapy

I felt like a bit of a fraud walking into the dedicated dance wear store. The staff were all willowy girls in wrap tops who glided about the shop with that dancers out turned duck walk.

 

A twelve year old was being fitted for some ballet pointe’s as I hovered about the display wall of dance shoes. It’s possible that a less than graceful gait betrayed my novice status as the assistant pointedly suggested I might save some money by going next door to their clearance outlet.

 

Weaving my way through racks of half price dance pants and leotards I was quizzed by a sales assistant as to the particular dance genre I was involved with. She was roughly my age and had that old school calisthenics vibe about her; the mahogany leg tan having been replaced with bronzing mousse.

 

a natural and entertaining tan

a natural and entertaining tan

Calisthenics was the poor man’s ballet of my childhood. All the serious little girl dancers attended a fairly hard core ballet school run at the old C of E church by an impressively strict Russian ballet teacher who, with the haunted countenance of a past in espionage , was probably ex-KGB.

Sharon Valynski, hef been here all life...born Box Hill...

Sharon Valynski, hef been here all life…born Box Hill…

 

My best friend had been attending since infancy and I would hang about the back of the class with all the bored looking mother’s watching her lining up at the barre. I desperately coveted the bun and beribboned slippers.  In a bid to fit in with all the dance-y girls practicing their arabesques and plies on the asphalt at recess, I begged my dad to let me enrol too.

ballet barre little girls

The fees, according to my father, were prohibitively high but I suspect his refusal to enrol me had more to do with his newly minted status as a reluctant single dad and an accompanying unwillingness to engage with a gaggle of voyeuristically sympathetic Stepford mums.

 

Eventually a neighbour convinced him to let me accompany her daughter to the more economically viable Calisthenics.

 

The local tennis club hall was transformed each Saturday into a mini eisteddfod as hordes of girls and their vicarious mother’s swarmed about brandishing calico bags bulging with odd props. As an impoverished motherless newbie, I was the recipient of some pre-loved  clubs, a rod and an oversized pull on Terylene skirt, the purposes of which remain, even today, a complete mystery. Failing to master the simplest of figure marches and purposely clubbing Andrea Van der Camp, ensured I was not a welcome addition to the under 8’s .

 

Do not be fooled by the smile, she is a lethal weapon with anger issues

Do not be fooled by the smile, she is a lethal weapon with anger issues

Saturday mornings rapidly descended into sanctioned torture sessions as my dad refused to let me quit until the end of term. I gave back the Terylene skirt and rod but the clubs were ‘lost’, consigned to my arsenal of childhood weaponry in the event Andrea didn’t pull her head in.

 

Brownies were a big deal at about this time too. I loved the cute little dun coloured uniforms and yearned to be part of all those secret group activities at the local scout hall. I also wanted badges. Badly.

 

ok, brown is not everyone's colour...but all that sitting in a circle looked marvellous fun

ok, brown is not everyone’s colour…but all that sitting in a circle looked marvellous fun

I’m unsure as to the reasoning behind my not being allowed to be a Brownie, but once again, I was permitted to join the infinitely lamer Girls Friendly Society or German Fried Sausages as it was  hilariously dubbed.

 

The GFS was a local version of a UK based Anglican organisation. It was formed in the mid 1870’s to steer potentially wayward servant girls towards a path of righteousness as dictated by a bunch of sanctimonious upper crust twats ; kind of  Downtown Abbey meets the Girl Guides.

 

Actual research

Actual research

In a perennial bid to keep me on the outer, the navy and white GFS uniform was deemed an unnecessary expense. The first official group activity was to St Paul’s cathedral and involved dozens of GFS chapters from all over the state coming together for whatever the GFS equivalent of a jamboree might have been. I could not have been sadder, amongst a sea of navy berets and club ties, wearing the only dress that still fitted me post the maternal disappearing trick.

 

A less personally invested viewpoint might suggest that it was the prudent parent who refused to fork out for unnecessary expenses given my track record for bailing. Of course, a modern parental approach might appreciate that joining something on a conditional basis and denying the tools necessary for me to fit in, was probably not going to help with commitment.

 

An entire childhood and adolescence of enforced isolation means that even today, I struggle with being part of a group and I’m definitely not a team player. In mid life I find myself part of a choir. There are days when I am overwhelmed with the need to flee it too.  I think it might be easier to create my own outsider persona than have it discovered by somebody else.

 

I bought the character shoes, declaring to the inquisitive sales lady, that they were for some fairly hard core choreographed shuffling as part of my choir’s most recent public performance. The show was, it is universally agreed, a polished and entertaining affair and I got a massive thrill out of  being part of something so good.

 

Being part of a tribe is important and pretending it’s not leads to a life time of personal uncertainty and doubt. It’s possible this group is my tribe and I can finally expunge all the old hurts –

–  in harmony.

cabaret

cabaret

Posted in Not so funny | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Next!!

Lit from within – isn’t that a lovely way to describe someone? I thought so. I pondered on all those shiny people out there who act as beacons for we lesser mortals, navigating us through our murkier times, and then realised that the light from within me should probably come with a disclaimer  reading:  May spontaneously combust without warning. My light is, in all likelihood, the  glowing embers of latent rage and not a beatific beam of joy.

 

Sad but true.

 

I’d like to explain away my blogging absence, once again mourned by the Andorrans and my many readers in Tuvalu, by sharing the details of an epic publishing deal and my preliminary talks with the Weinstein’s, but the truth is infinitely prosaic.

Weinsteins

It began with Tia, a tiny profane woman of inestimable energy and resilience. A friend had suggested I talk with her about some alternative career opportunities, because nothing screams mid-life crisis more than the What in gods name am I DOING  refrain. Tia did not sugar coat anything.

 

What have you done so far? 

 

Sales, marketing, sales, sales, a bit of selling, some sales…

 

You’re not a salesperson. Look at you, you can’t sell for fuck!

 

She was emphatic and 100% correct. I cannot sell for fuck.

 

You need to speak to Greg, he’s done wonders for me and my daughter. He helped me sort all my shit out with my mother and, look, you just have to fucking speak to him yourself and sort out your own shit, ok? Come back and see me when you know what you want.

 

I left clutching Greg’s details and feeling like i’d been belted around the head with a foam baton for several hours.

 

Greg ran a remote practice from his bunker on the coast of New South Wales. Other than a few tearful drunken phone calls with friends over the years I’d never actually experienced phone counselling before, so this was set to be a challenge.

 

His voice was youthful and reassuring and I spent some considerable amount of time during our initial conversation composing a mental picture of him and his office. He was, I imagined, tall, tanned and toothy and almost certainly bald; there was a great deal of rattan furniture and the walls were hung with inspirational quotes – I’d lay money on a glass dolphin too.

 

The dolphin - firm but flexible

The dolphin – firm but flexible

There was the inevitable historical dissection and recognition of trauma before an exercise in directed visualisation. It hinged on recalling myself as a child, going to my safe place, swathing myself in several cloaks and reassuring my child-self that everything was kosher. My mind lacks a certain discipline as anyone who has attempted a guided meditation with me will attest. This was a doomed exercise from the start.

Greg in the meantime had suggested I complement his therapy with some form of bodywork such as Pilates or network chiropractic.

 

Enkindle Wellness is just around the corner. It was high time I set fire to something so Network Chiropractic it was.

 

Having only ever experienced the bone crunching techniques of your regular chiro, I was unprepared for the light touch of Dr Ken, a wildly empathetic and heavily bearded man obsessed with humanities multitude of layers. I lay facedown for an hour while Ken scooted around me in his stockinged feet pausing to press a finger for a nano second on some contact point or other and then stepping back to observe the reaction. It felt silly but I had to confess to a certain lightness when he was done.

 

I continue to attend regular sessions and while I have absolutely no idea what Ken is doing , I cannot deny the earnestness with which he does it. The good Doctor remains extremely pleased with my resurgent female energy as he ploughs on plumbing my emotional depths…or something like that.

 

Greg, however, was abandoned after three sessions. There was a School of the Air vibe about it all and Greg’s perfectly pleasant but nevertheless disembodied male authorial voice unsettled me.

My notes from our talks ended up under the bed beside the Gratitude Journal that ended on day eight , five days worth of incoherent The Creative Way rambling penned upon wakening and six unread copies of The Big Issue.

 

Pattern?

 

An opportunity to contribute to a fledging idea for a television series as part of a bigger online network came and went; the project having morphed from humorously educative to a recruitment campaign for swingers.

 

Don’t ask.

 

Two golden job opportunities presented themselves next. The first one was in writing travel brochures for a large Australian touring company. I retrieved my resume did a spot of creative panel beating and submitted it with full confidence that having excelled in this field some moons ago, I would at least score an interview. Adding to my certainty was a Travel agent friend’s personal recommendation to management on my behalf. She was one of the country’s top sellers of this company’s product and had some clout. We thought.

 

Several desultory emails passed back and forth between me and Aaron, the touring company’s HR manager, which, beyond  ascertaining that I was actually interested in the position I’d applied for, served to glaringly illustrate how much Aaron needed a thesaurus.

 

A long month passed before the conversation ended. It’s entirely possible that as the airline I’d previously worked for with such historical dedication and skill had been defunct for several decades, that barely literate Aaron had made some rudimentary calculations.

She’s too damn old.

 

 

The second exciting employment prospect presented itself via a dear friend and a conference chance meeting.  In the course of conversing with the co-director of a well known direct selling lingerie company, she had waxed lyrical about not only my sales ability with them  but the monthly newsletters I would send out to my customer base. Funny as fuck.

 

As it happens there was an in-house communications position up for grabs. How fortuitous that I had an up to date curriculum vitae, specifically tailored for a potential writing gig, to whiz off immediately. I could stop shaking my clenched fists at the Universe, clearly it had happy plans for me after all.

 

I was interviewed on an overcast Thursday morning. Signing in, vetted by security (lest I prove to be a Victoria’s Secret undercover operative) I headed upstairs to a large hot pink open plan office. It was oestrogen central.

 

Eventually I was met by the marketing manager, Amy, a delightful twelve year old UK expat in loose cotton pants and sparkly sandals. We were joined by her assistant, Han, who had evidently embraced the memo about Nightclub Thursday and was suitably garbed in a sequinned micro mini and tank top. I sat across from them, uncomfortable in my subversive navy jacket and pants ensemble.

 

The interview lasted an hour and involved lots of promising asides between the girls. Apparently they had never had anyone apply to work in  marketing who had also worked as a sales consultant with the company. Fast forward to What kind of money are you looking for?

 

I begged off answering this question when they avoided giving me a ball park figure and said I’d get back with a salary range in the next few days.

 

My response, based on consultation with several HR industry professionals, was duly forwarded.

 

Four days later saw Amy and Han accompanying a group of mega earners on a sales rewards trip to London via Dubai. I received an impassioned  rejection email as they flew out of Sydney.

 

Despite my love of the brand, the product and the people and the enlightened thoughts they felt honoured to hear, they were unable to offer me the role but wished me the very best of luck finding something that I could live and breathe and that would fulfil my beautiful passion of life…

 

Beautiful passion, my arse!

 

My request for information on any impediment to employing me was met with a passive aggressive missive about my inner joy, which suggested that

 

  1. Amy doesn’t understand the word ‘impediment” or
  2. Han didn’t have the heart to suggest pleather leggings,a mullet top and House of Harlow accessories.

 

For the record, I was now feeling rejected, old and a bit of a failure…oh, and none of my jeans fit.

 

Spouse agreed to join me in a month long nutritional detox as recommended by Dr Ken, who, whilst stripping away my various emotional layers, was busy stripping away his own subcutaneous fat.

 

The President’s Pak (sic) arrived chock full of supplements, powders and bars, a blender and a host of literature featuring smiley Platinum Circle baby boomers wearing jeans and funky shirts with contrast cuffs.

 

We were ready to get our healthy on.

 

I kept a diary. This was abandoned on day sixteen when I was still feeling like wholesale crap. Spouse on the other hand enjoyed consistent blood sugar levels and a major upsurge in energy. He developed the focus of a Tibetan buddhist monk and, after losing 8kg in three weeks, the arse of Gandhi.

 

During this detox period I come across a tweet from Catherine Deveny advertising her upcoming Gunnas Writing Masterclass and, faint from hunger and/or caffeine withdrawal, I booked myself in.

 

The day dawned unpromisingly grey and I set off confident in nothing more than my inherent mediocrity. Fifteen of us filed upstairs to be greeted by Dev (actually, I haven’t been invited to use the hypocoristic, but she probably wouldn’t mind) a vibrant woman fairly crackling with unbridled enthusiasm.

 

Dev’s patter was fast and furious. We began by finding out about the person beside us and then took turns introducing them to the group. I chatted with young Maddy, a policy writer with the department of justice, whose mother had booked her in to the class. The effects of my first coffee in the biblical time span of 40 days, ensured that concentration during this information gathering exercise was compromised by palpitations. I thought I was having a heart attack.

 

I wrote as prompted and listened to the stories of creative insecurity swirling about me. Everyone felt some degree of fraudulence along the way and we all just had to get on with it. Ms Deveny’s no nonsense approach understood the self pity but didn’t for a moment buy into it.

 

An hour a day, four days a week for four weeks.

 

Just

Do

It.

 

So I am.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Christmas roundup The Hard Way

I haven’t felt particularly Christmassy this year. There seems to be a combination of possible reasons for this. D2 is still blissfully happy in the backwoods of Massachusetts and making noises about the possibility of future permanent residency. D1 heads over to the UK in less than a month and has been working as many shifts as possible to ensure she can afford more than beans on toast while she’s there.  There is little regard for Christmas and its accompanying traditions.

Spouse views this time of year as nothing but hard graft. Every bar in the city is ordering treble the usual quantities and they all need their stuff NOW. He leaves home at an unconscionably early hour and returns exhausted and aching in the late afternoon. The last thing he wants to discuss is what he wants to do for Christmas – the answer of course, is sleep.

xmas sleeping

I’m privy to the very first hints of this highly commercial holiday as I careen about the suburbs for work. Some malls and department stores are extremely tasteful with a pared back festive aesthetic while others look like Christmas projectile vomited over every available surface.

Father Christmas had been getting his schmooze on from early-November. I first spied him through the tinsel entwined archway at a shopping centre in Geelong slumped in his big red chair. His photography elf has wandered off and he was adjusting something on his belt, well at least I think that’s what he was doing.

Propped at a table with a coffee happily typing an email describing Santa’s inherent lameness I became aware of someone behind me. Unable to convince any of the young mother’s with strollers to plop their toddlers onto his lap he had wandered across to press the flesh. I shook his damp gloved hand and suggested he grab a Latte and come back in December. He was thin and anaemic looking and I can’t help thinking a few weeks of carb loading and some sunshine might help.

A week later I spied him out North surrounded by ice skating penguins and dozens of rope lit palm trees. He was still quite thin but his complexion was considerably swarthier. Thousands of bud lights flashed psychedelically. His photographer had reindeer antlers and not much to do as everyone had smart phones to record their own free Christmas memories. They hadn’t thought this one through.

He was schvitzing away under the radiant heat of a gazillion Swarovski crystal ornaments out East of the city. Giant rivulets of sweat ran down his jowly florid face and kiddies were reeling away from his purchased embrace. The crying was contagious and before long there was an entire queue of progressively hysterical toddlers being cajoled by frazzled mothers and grandmothers.

Stranger danger? This fat dude with the killer hipster beard is asking me all these leading questions and offering me presents…it doesn't get much stranger!

Stranger danger? This fat dude with the killer hipster beard is asking me all these leading questions and offering me presents…it doesn’t get much stranger!

While Father Christmas works his festive magic from his various magic grottos grim faced shoppers clutch lists and bags and bags of stuff. Car parks become Darwinian exercises in survival. I’m saw very little of the Christian sentiment that is supposed to abound at this time and a great deal of frazzled and ill-tempered folk determinedly making it all about themselves.

Speaking of which, Bio mum came through again with another reliably thoughtless gift. I was sure after the impossibly tiny Japanese bowls and Lilliputian cheese set of the last couple of years I was in for some equally microscopic collection of specialty crockery.  This year in a clear attempt to keep me guessing she went with oversized. Along with one of those cheap wire canisters with implausibly flavoured olive oil and vinegar she went with two gigantic tea towels.

Nothing says let me eradicate the pain of missing 40 years of Christmases with my daughter like tea towels, right?

I’d gone with a book because my mother loves to read. It was a wonderful book written by a local author, set in Melbourne and critically acclaimed. She will love it.

She’d gone with tea towels for me because…?

I mean, truly, has anyone in the history of the universe ever said, “Look, I know I mentioned perfume or a DVD box set, but what I’d really adore is a couple of tea towels”?

I’m toying with employing some canny seamstress to fashion them into a pair of cheeky shorts; then I’ll photograph myself wiping dishes on my ass and frame it for her next birthday.

Her granddaughters scored a box of chocolate-coated macadamia nuts.

That’s the one box between them.

D1 wanted to know how her grandmother could possibly have known just how desperately she coveted chocolate covered macadamia nuts? I can only speculate on D2’s reaction.

Ermagard! You got me WHAT?!

Ermagard! You got me WHAT?!

My stepfather, however, ensured spouse received German pale Ale. Lucky, lucky bastard!

Despite my lack of religious sentiment, I do enjoy a good spot of caroling. So imagine how pleased I was to learn my choir was singing a few numbers at a Church Carol night last weekend? We had already performed two concerts the week before and were high on just how gosh darn fabulous we were.

The door to the church was closed and a scrawled note instructed any interested parties to venture around the corner. There, a makeshift cardboard A-frame with “Carols Here” crayoned in the large wonky hand of a five year old with advanced motor skills, alerted me to the notion that audience expectations may not be high.

The tiny outdoor courtyard was decorated with a sad cardboard Nativity scene that looked suspiciously like the work of the aforementioned five year old and may well have been sponsored by VISY. Perhaps we could introduce them to ply wood for next year?

We were allotted a small performance area on the lawn between newly landscaped garden beds. I found myself teetering more than once into a large plant pot as we attempted some travelling choreography. Given we were closely ranged before a makeshift alter complete with flaming advent candles, there was the ever present hazard that one of us, flinging a rogue arm about, could trigger a Michael Jackson Pepsi moment.

Ladeeez, we on fire!

Ladeeez, we on fire!

We began with the medley from Sister Act, which, as it begins reverentially enough, seemed to meet with audience approval. However, as we happy clapped into the up-tempo section some of the more puritanical amongst the congregation were looking a bit jaundiced.

We briefly redeemed ourselves with the Lithuanian folk standard, Carol of the Bells but lost all credibility during our Monroe-esque sashaying to Santa Baby. There was genuine horror on their collective faces and I’m quite sure I lip read “work of the devil”.

We must have intuited the general vibe as the pace of our singing became increasingly accelerated, sounding at times, a good deal like Alvin and the Chipmunks. Our accompanying choreography also sped up so we appeared to be performing some type of Tap meets River dancing hybrid.

Finishing with the ubiquitous Mariah Carey’s All I want for Christmas we more or less sprinted off to a smattering of bemused applause.

mariah carey

It’s entirely possible we may not be invited back next year.

But I will be. Thank you to my loyal band of readers for your comments and “Likes” (pre-facebook that would have read “approval”) I look forward to chatting at you again in 2014.

Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays!!!

Mwah!

Posted in Family, humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Change

Conversation with girlfriends has taken a turn lately. Some of us are more open about it than others and some seem to be fishing for information, but we are all tacitly focused on the same thing – menopause.

I’ve always been a light sleeper, but lately my slumber patterns have been reduced to nocturnal power naps. I’ve become hyper-sensitive to every siren, train whistle and barking dog within a 5km radius. I hear ghostly creaks in the house and my husband’s snoring is amplified ten fold.  snoring

I’m stupidly tired all the time. Every 30 minute session with my personal trainer feels like 3 days and I’m grumpy. SO. VERY. GRUMPY.

I share this with a friend, who looks alarmed and then whispers,

“I think you might be peri-menopausal.”

I whisper back, “Why are you whispering?”

I really don’t know a lot about peri-menopause. This is my own fault of course, because while I skim the odd magazine article and note an occasional flip comment from my friends, I have chosen to remain largely ignorant.

However there is every possibility I have entered this weird grace period between two distinct eras and to be honest, I’m not as sanguine about it as I’d like to be.

So in our mothers’ era the menopause (and to be honest, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to include the ‘the’ or not) was often referred to as ‘the change’, which has a magical metamorphic suggestion about it.

I've always rocked green

I’ve always rocked green

“Do you know what would be great?” I ask my self-conscious coffee companion.

I’m not speaking in hushed tones.

“What if menopause was presented to us with the same degree of expectation and life-changing possibility that menstruation was?”

She looks dubiously at me as I go on to illustrate my point –

– at length.

There was something mysterious, exciting and, if I’m honest, a tad stomach churning, about those late primary school sex education talks. The boys would be sent outside to kick the footy and wrestle on the oval while we girls learnt secret women’s business.

We’d leave the classroom clutching our Johnson & Johnson sample bags and looking patronisingly at the boys.

ppfft, YOUR maturity is like dog years…you're at least 7 years behind.

ppfft, YOUR maturity is like dog years…you’re at least 7 years behind.

You wouldn’t understand, said our collective gaze.

I read the ‘Growing Up and Liking It’ information booklet from cover to cover and was on high alert for the next four years, by which time the absorbent contents of my sample bag were a sad collection of shredded cotton.

I was anxious for this impending womanhood to get going because, according to the glossy black and white photographs in ‘Growing Up and Liking It’, life as a menstruating teenager would be amazingly great.

The feature model utterly inspired me with her long, straight, centre-parted hair cascading glossily past her shoulders. Her teeth were white and even, her complexion unblemished; she looked just like Marcia Brady.

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!!

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!!

She was photographed variously playing netball, swimming and riding a horse. Her enviable figure—clad in a variety of mini-skirts, high-waisted jeans and body shirts—was obviously the result of all that physical activity along with the recommended eight glasses of water she drank each day.

I’m quite sure her perfectly groovy boyfriend was a consequence of her vigilant attention to personal hygiene. They were pictured holding hands and regarding each other with Christian Youth wholesomeness.

This booklet was my template for teenage success and while it’s true I never actually attained the state of grace the model depicted, it gave me hope and kept me optimistic despite my under-developed chest and sporadic outbreaks of acne.

My friend is nodding and recalls her earliest sex education booklet that interspersed human reproduction with the life cycle of the frog and explained much about her predilection for swimmers.

So while I was delighted to receive the ‘We Heard You’re Fifty Bowel Cancer Detection Kit And Free Mammogram’, wouldn’t some type of ‘Welcome To Menopause’ booklet go some way to allaying our collective disquiet about this next phase?

Could we not engage a Michelle Pfeiffer-esque woman to demonstrate the delights of The (abracadabra) Change? She could show us how to keep our ageing skin well moisturised, and how to dress stylishly for our shape… whatever that becomes.

Just keeps getting better

Just keeps getting better

I want my elegant welcome to ‘Growing Older and Loving It’ model photographed at Pilates and social tennis. I’d like to see her clearing her bathroom cupboards of all superslim tampons and overnight maxi pads before enjoying the company of a companion in a hot tub.

With wine.

And, depending on her cholesterol reading, possibly a nice wedge of ripe Camembert.

My favourite photo, though, will be the one where she does the Toyota jump just after waving goodbye to her harried adult children, who are dragging screaming toddlers away from her home.

My voice has risen now and I have, much to the chagrin of my friend, amassed a largely sympathetic audience.

Can someone produce this please?!

Smattering of applause.

It might have to be me.

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What a pain in the neck…elbow, shoulder…

Gone are the days when I could make do with a reasonably switched on GP and a dentist who was generous with topical anesthetic, now I seem to be assembling a veritable army  of ancillary health professionals to assist with my gradual disintegration.

First port of call for all serious health concerns is always Dr. McDowell, a mature woman with a faintly Irish lilt, who performs the most apologetic of pap smears. She’s thorough and pragmatic with a no nonsense approach that rarely buys into my occasional hypochondria.

No, I said you were a mad cow, not that you have the disease, dear.

No, I said you were a mad cow, not that you have the disease, dear.

A few years ago back pain led me to a bayside Chiropractor. I’d historically harboured a quiet mistrust of chiro’s (based on no experience whatsoever) but a friend who swore he alone kept her limber made an appointment for me.

Dr. Steve was a chatty chap whose crisply ironed shirts were tightly tucked into very high pants.

At the insistence of Milla, his manic Serbian wife and part time receptionist, I made regular appointments and bought an ergonomic pillow. It was and remains, singularly the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever slept on but apparently my neck is aligned.

Eventually the back pain abated and gradually dissipated altogether.

Milla would send me monthly newsletters peppered with the myriad ailments modern chiropractic techniques could cure. They always ended with a series of affirmations from Louise Hay.

...with the help of a great chiropractor for nothing says  happiness like a straight spine...emiright?

…with the help of a great chiropractor for nothing says happiness like a straight spine…emiright?

“I now receive the treatment I need in the perfect time, place and way for me”

“I lovingly do everything I can to assist my body in maintaining perfect health.”

Ok!  Ok! I get it.

At each session Dr Steve engaged in the same seven or so signature manipulations. Conversations with others revealed that we all seemed to undergo an identical treatment. I couldn’t help thinking that while our bodies were fundamentally similar; it was the kind of dodgy science that sees us ascribing the personality traits of the entire earth’s population to twelve astrological signs.

astrology

Eventually thrice weekly personal training sessions obviated the need for monthly chiropractic adjustments. All that resistance work was assisting with bone density, flexibility and maintaining lean muscle mass.

Until I buggered up my shoulder.

We walked past a Spinal and sports Physiotherapy practice on our way back from the gym and I made an appointment.

My physiotherapist was Shane. He was a distracted little guy hepped up on coffee who talked over the top of me.

So where does it hurt?

Ok, well it started up here, but my elbow is really…

Yep, yep. Right. Got it. So I’m going to do some dry needling and just loosen things up a bit.

Shane, it emerged, did a lot of work with the North Melbourne football club.  north mel footballer     He spent hours palpating the AC joints of huge men with forearms like the roots of a Moreton Bay Fig. Their tolerance for his bruising brand of manipulation was much greater than mine.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MAN, STOP THAT!!!!

Two painful sessions and a haematoma later I abandoned Shane and moved onto an osteopath.

My practitioner was another Shane who began the session with a comprehensive health analysis. Politely waving away my complaint of shoulder and elbow pain he assured me that we would eventually get to the reason I was there when he had explored every conceivable health condition I had ever had.

EVER.

An hour and a half later we had charted my medical history for the past fifty years, identified the current issue, undergone some judicious massage and dry needling, locked in an additional three appointments and I had shared my blog address.

Ok, so we’re both shameless.

Along with my lovely new optician , a sometime dentist and my hairdresser (or follicular therapist) I can now add Shane the Osteopath to this stable of professionals Learning the Hard Way. I’m quite sure they will do much more for my deteriorating corporeal form than I will do for their respective businesses but you never know.

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Let me ‘right’ it!

Can you just read over this please, Mum?

When is it due?

Um, today…

I look at my watch. 11.23pm.

Well it was due today, but it’s ok, I’ll hand it in first thing tomorrow.

Obviously.

Flash back to 1999.

backstreet boys

When is it due?

Um, yesterday…

Oh come on! How many times do we need to have this discussion? Huh?

Apparently for the term of my natural life.

Miss Dodson is going to kill me if I don’t hand it in!

Alright, show me what you’ve done so far. Where’s the rest of it? No, seriously. This is it?

homework graph

The diary of a convict transported from Great Britain – I did the same project when I was at primary school and I loved it. Less enthusiastic offspring declares that my relish for the task must have been due to a closer chronological proximity to the era.

You probably knew some convicts, mum, or at least their parents, right?

convict girl

Yes, that’s right. My best friend, Fanny, used to love telling me about her grandad the gypsy tinker from Leicestershire who stole a pig and was sent to Van Diemen’s land.

Back when the world was sepia toned.

So we I set to work rewriting the sentences that made absolutely no sense and filling the gaps between ‘1793, Dear Diary, I stole a loaf of bread…’ and ‘this concludes my first hand account of life as a convict. The End.’

When I was happy with my impersonation of an eleven year old impersonating an adult convict it was time to create a credibly aged document. This involved smearing the cover with dirt and burning the edges of the pages.

It’s entirely possible I confused the aesthetics of an unearthed convicts diary with the routinely grubby and singed offering of a pirate’s treasure map, but what the Yarrrrrrrrr, it was the best I could muster at such short notice.

While the child may have been quizzed by Miss Dodson on her comprehension of the words ‘disconsolate’ and ‘atrabilious’ –how else to describe the mental state of our hapless diarist, I ask you? – We were marked a solid ‘B’.

Ms Dodson prefers projects with lots of colours, mum. I need some fluoro textas. Remember for next time.

I have to hand it to my incredibly lazy daughter, she quickly figured out to play me like a cheap guitar and soon the bulk of her school assignments were being ‘proof read’ by me.

She knew spelling mistakes drove me nuts and that poor grammar and syntax were the bane of my life. She also knew that if she poured a large glass of red wine and stood behind me massaging my shoulders as I skimmed over her book review I would inevitably rewrite it.

Yes, yes…I’m an APPALLING mother. I know. I can sense your collective parental outrage from here. I am controlling and critical…No…Wire…Hangers!

mommy dearest

And when all the visits to galleries and museums, bedtime recitations of Austen, weekend Shakespearean DVD fests and subliminal Mozart, somehow failed to stimulate her humanities gland, I just took over.

keyboard

On the upside, she is remarkably proficient at mathematics and given I am entirely innumerate, it seems only fair and proper that she spend the next fifteen years preparing my tax returns.

You should know that my impetus for redrafting this University assignment was not red wine or massages…no, no, it was that we really need to maintain at least a credit average to ensure my dearest, darling, eldest daughter’s semester in the UK next year is LOCKED IN.

Empty nest. Hell yes!

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Rose coloured glasses.

Zinna promises to find a pair of glasses that will make me look ten years younger.

They must be rose coloured.

Which, coincidentally, was the actual colour of my very first pair at the tender age of thirteen. Thick rimmed pink plastic with actual glass rather than the infinitely lighter polycarbonate, they were hidden amongst my school books as I travelled between classrooms.  I would furtively pop them on and stare straight ahead hoping one or other of my current crushes wouldn’t notice.

Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.

Which was pretty much true throughout high school but mercifully disproved as I headed myopically into my twenties.

I spent a couple of years heavily involved in amateur theatre. The glasses would be removed during performances and I developed a squint that was often employed for comic effect – think Mr McGoo.

Eventually I was relying on fellow cast members to steer me away from the ever present threat of careening head first into the audience. It was time to explore the possibilities of contact lenses.

A genial ophthalmologist in the City conducted another eye test and checked the health of my eyes. Apparently they were extremely healthy with all the ocular prowess of a fruit bat.

He assured me that I was the perfect candidate for contact lenses and that he had yet to meet a set of eyeballs he couldn’t fit.

Given my general skittishness to anyone attempting cosmetic congress on or around my eyes or that I was utterly incapable of fishing out the odd rogue eyelash, this was set to be a challenging exercise.

Chuckling at my nervousness, the good Doctor sat opposite me with his plastic container of disposable contact lenses. Our knees met as he leant toward me with the tiny transparent disc balanced delicately on his index finger.

contact lens

Now I want you to relax; I’m just going to open your eye with this hand and –

My head reeled back like a striking cobra and the lens pinged off onto the floor.

That’s ok. It takes a few goes but you’ll be fine.

I’ll spare you the commentary and fast-forward to the point where Dr I-Can-Fit-Anyone is crawling around on the floor retrieving 27 contact lenses and sobbing quietly.

I left with a huge pair of pink, white and gold Christian Dior frames that worked so well with my bouffant 80’s hair and shoulder pads. For clearly this was the decade when my eyewear choices were truly tasteful fashionable.

There were several variations on the ornate Dior’s before a pair of heavy black Clark Kent ones, followed by a series of whacky primary coloured frames to match the Jenny Kee jumpers and Ken Done tee shirts.

The decade that taste forgot.

The decade that taste forgot.

When I turned up for my eye appointment Zinna was nowhere to be seen…and yes, I was wearing my glasses.

Well that’s just great, who’s going to make me look ten years younger now?

She had been replaced with Amelia, a veritable foetus behind the desk.

Take a seat, I'll be with you when i've finished confirming these appointments.

Take a seat, I’ll be with you when i’ve finished confirming these appointments.

Excellent, there’s every chance I’ll leave with a pair of Katy Perry diamante embellished cats eyes now.

Alright, I grant you, she could wear Sir Elton's 70's cast-off frames and look amaaaazing

Alright, I grant you, she could wear Sir Elton’s 70’s cast-off frames and look amaaaazing

I met the optician, Van, a twelve year old, who conducted a most thorough eye examination featuring all the usual flashing lights, drops and pressure tests that one has become accustomed to over the years.

Finishing up she cheerfully announced that my right eye had deteriorated. Just how many freaking carrots do I need to eat in a lifetime???

Van suggested popping a pair of contact lenses in to assist my new frame selection while deftly inserting one under each lid. I had absolutely no time to react negatively. Genius – the woman was an optical ninja.

Wandering out into the showroom it was time to select face furniture to reflect the twenty teens….No? Ok, what would you call it then? What is this decade called? Anyone?

I stood before a column of frames ruefully contemplating my face in the mirror along side. While the contact lenses were not my exact prescription they afforded me clarity of vision that bordered on the forensic.

I SAW TOO MUCH

x-ray vision

Right, girls, here’s your task – from what I’ve observed I have a good decade before unaccountably shearing off my hair, dying it an implausible hue, adorning my ears, neck and wrists in gaudy resin jewellery, swathing myself in luxe pashmina’s and sporting glasses of such alarming colours as to frighten small children – for now, I just need to look stylish and a bit fabulous. Are you up to the challenge?

Amelia finished updating her Facebook status and snapped into action.

I quickly settled on two pairs, which Van obligingly photographed me wearing so I could send the images for familial consensus. Fortunately we all agreed on the same frame, which, as so often occurs, was the first pair young Amelia handed me.

I should probably appreciate the gentle blurring world created by my current lenses and if, when my new glasses are ready, everything is just way too HD, I’ll whip out the vas and give them the Doris Day treatment.

...the future's not ours to see -  - no really

…the future’s not ours to see –
– no really

Que sera, sera.

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Art for art’s sake.

From the moment my youngest daughter could hold a pencil the world at large became a colossal sketchpad. Every surface was an invitation to illustrate and I swear she developed her own graffiti tag at 18 months.

graffiti

She was an infant Banksy.

The week we moved into a newly renovated house she set to work boldly autographing every single one of the pristine white vinyl wrapped kitchen cupboards with a black permanent marker. We found a couple of covert works on the polished floorboards behind a TV unit and she was just starting on a door when we walked in.

Nothing was sacred. Books, dolls, tables and walls – even the poor dog was routinely doodled on with felt tip markers. Relatives were similarly rewarded when she visited their homes. Her uncle and aunt could not thank her enough for adorning their new lounge suite with pink nail polish.

It was difficult to maintain any kind of rage at my child’s wanton disregard for property because she was so incredibly gorgeous. A bob haired, blue-eyed blonde whose first properly articulated word was, to my eternal shame, ‘McDonalds’, it was impossible not cuddle her to death shortly after wanting to strangle her.

Bored at the home of her grandparents one day she decided to draw on the bonnet of my father’s Mitsubishi Magna with a rock. The swirly design kept her amused for at least twenty minutes before someone realized it was very quiet all of a sudden. The silence did not prevail as my father blew the proverbial gasket. Some sixteen years on, he still has the car with its bespoke vehicular etching – neither of which is worth much.

After some judicious aversion therapy and the threat of a foster home, she eventually moved away from decorating every available surface and concentrated on the permanent canvas of her own body.

Her artwork at kindergarten was in the vein of Pro Hart’s famous carpet advertisement complete with body slide.

pro hart

and dressing the child in rainbow hues was the only way of camouflaging the daily self daubing of paint and paste.

Of course, give her a pair of scissors and she would be practicing the ancient Chinese art of jianzhi on anything that could be cut. She re-worked the hemline of many dresses during this, her Tang dynasty creative period.

I had to admire my daughter’s  willingness to embrace new mediums as hanks of her own hair were lopped off and hidden amongst the cardboard rolls and pipe cleaners of a pasting or tucked away for later use in a bathroom drawer.

Primary school was every bit as as chaotically and colourfully messy although by this stage it was less about art and more about being a bit of a klutz.

This child of mine has never learnt in the conventionally passive manner of her older sister  – the listen and learn approach. To really learn something she had to understand how and why. Much like the time she took the home telephone apart to figure out how it worked. I’m not sure it cleared very much up for her but I am quite sure I couldn’t get it back together again.

During the less active classes that often define secondary learning she would regularly pass the time drawing on her arms or knees. I spent six years yelling at her to ‘go wash that off!’

By year twelve the Pi sign was an almost permanent fixture on her wrist. This was less about a particular affinity with mathematical constants and more about an odd crush on her math’s teacher – a sweaty young man with a penchant for the sweater vest.

Compute to the last digit of Pi !

Compute to the last digit of Pi !

This little Greek letter was re-penned daily and my daughter declared that as soon as her emancipation from life as a school girl allowed, she would have the symbol professionally tattooed there.

I couldn’t wait.

Two and half years later and 9146.5 nautical miles away from me she has finally come through on the promise of ink.

An artistically filtered Instagram photo revealed to the world a tattoo of two crossed arrows.

...unless you cross me and then it's WAR!!!

…unless you cross me and then it’s WAR!!!

Despite some vague assurances that the symbol was Native American in origin denoting happiness and a reminder not to live a boring life, some rapid fire Google research suggests it means friendship and peace…or possibly war, depending on which way the arrows point and which authentic Native American Symbology website you happen to be looking at.

I toyed briefly with drawing a comparable Indigenous Australian Aboriginal symbol on my arm and sending her the image, but every one I found was entirely literal – an arrow is just that, an arrow and I’m not sure that the message implicit in a bush turkey or honey ant would really work.

ah, ok...grounded like the fire ant but um...feisty...

ah, ok…grounded like the fire ant but um…feisty…

Given the indelible nature of this latest artwork, youngest offspring is understandably thrilled beyond measure with it.

However, with no connection to an image symbolizing my daughter’s independence and no understanding of its genesis, I have found myself kind of wishing she’d gone with the Pi sign after all.

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