Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

So, it's 9.30pm on New Year Eve, 2010, and I'm in bed, laptop on my, um, lap, getting ready to turn in. No wild parties for me - kids and middle age put an end to that.

I justifiy the lack of  night life by telling myself that I partied enough between the ages of 16 and 30 that I pretty much wore myself out. And, you know what, I don't even miss it that much.

I've had some interesting New Year's Eves in my time. I have memories of being a kid, at the Tuncurry Caravan Park and being allowed to stay up till midnight. My cousins and I used to tie tin cans to pieces of rope and run around the park, making such a racket, I'm surprised no-one throttled us.

Then there was New Years Eve, 1984, when some of my more erudite friends rented out room 101 at a Delhi Hotel and threw a fairly wild party. Boy did we think we were clever..Room 101, 1984...but just because a high schooler is well read, doesn't mean he or she is won't pass out drunk in the bathtub (I'm looking at you, Hugo!).

There are also some that are memorable for the wrong reasons. Like the millenium New Years. There I was, at work, waiting for the electricity system to fail. It didn't and I got to send out a "nothing happening" press release at 2am.

And there are those New Years' I'd rather forget . Years at street parties, house parties, on the beach, at pubs. Mostly trying really hard to have the Best. Time. Ever. And usually failing. There's such pressure on that one night!

I guess I should mention the best New Years (in case the Winemaker is reading). It was December 31, 1995, wth my two girlfriends, spying a couple of good lookers across a not-very-crowded bar. I believe my friend offered them a slow comfortable screw (the cocktail - get your minds out of the gutter!). We got chatting, we exchanged details, I whipped their arses in Daytona 500, and six years later, I married one of them.

A lot has happened in those 15 years, there have been ups and downs and some big challeges to overcome, but I wouldn't change a thing. Happy anniversary to my best friend.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Searching for the inner geek

There have not been many times in my life when I truly wish I was a geek. When I wish I had spent more time learning how these darn things work, rather than wasting time on the three R's (in my case, reading, writing and reading again).

Unfortunately, today was one of those rare days. I got infected. A damn spyware trojan landed on my computer courtesy of clicking a Google link to an online toy store (look out for Don't say you haven't been warned).

The spyware, Security Shield, was a bitch. All day long it has been popping up on my screen with warning about my computer not being protected yada yada. The problem is, it pops up about every 10 seconds, which makes productivity a tad impossible. I'm sure it was potentally harmful as well, but, if you don't mind me swearing, it was mainly just fucking annoying.

After a day of yelling at the computer, I am hoping Google solved my problem. I started in safe mode and downloaded something called Safe Returner, which seems to have worked so far. So if you see this....

you've been infected. Don't waste a day yelling at the screen.

See, if I had more geek genes my day wold have gone far more smoothly. And I might even have got some work done.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Single parenting - or what time is too early for wine?

As we hardened souls know, love wanes. As much as our life-partners are important to us, it may well be that love won't keep us together.

I'll tell you what will, though, the horrifying thought of single parenting.

The winemaker was very ill for a few days last week and was fundamentally bedridden, which meant I was, for all intents and purposes, a single parent for three days. And it just about killed me. I was desperate for the kids to be in bed  by 7.30pm so I could collapse on the couch, wine in hand, with trash TV and a Lean Cuisine for company.

I have always had the utmost respect for single parents who successfully -  on the surface at least - charter their family on the course of life without the assistance of another grown up. They have no-one to clean up the sick all over the bed sheets while they throw the toddler in the bath; no-one to hand them a glass of wine and takeover when the going gets tough; no-one to celebrate the small victories with. Having an extra pair of hands at times like this makes up for all the petty disagreements about discipline and the kids' diet and whose turn it is to cook dinner.

My single parent friends - every one of them an inspiration - tell me that they do it because they have to. Which is understandable, and I am sure I would do if it I had to as well. Thankfully, I don't.

When the winemaker improved, I mentioned that he was stuck with me as there was no way I was doing this alone. He seemed resigned to his fate.

So this goes someway towards explaining why I haven't blogged for a while - illness, work pressures, exhaustion. Damn that real life for intruding!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Office contraband

I have a black market rubbish bin. That shows you how much on the edge I like to live. Way out there, like a lone ranger on the highway to hell. Or not.

Let me explain. Today we moved into new whizz-bang state-of-the-art modern offices. You know, the kind of place when the meeting rooms have catchy names and lurid walls? Where there's real coffee in the "work cafe" and it still tastes like crap?

Anyway, a lot of people are moaning because while the building is whizz-bang and state-of-the art, it is rather bereft of offices. Yep, you got it. The latest in "management techniques" - the open plan office. Unless your title has the word "director" in it, your door is no more.

Instead we have several small meeting rooms, and a few quiet rooms, for those tetchy discussions between a manager and her staff, or between HR and anyone. I used a fair few of those rooms myself, just today (I have a plan to use the rest tomorrow).

Me? I'm not so worried about the office, but there is one thing that has raised my hackles.

By way of further background, not only is the office whizz-bang and state-of the art, it is also a five-star green-rated building. No one is allowed personal electronic equipment such as heaters, fans or portable printers.

And no-one is allowed their own bin.

Instead, there are three waste disposal units in the work cafe - one for general rubbish, one for recycling and one for organisc wastes.

Yeah, yeah, all very admirable and everything, but the efficiency nazi in me just cannot for the life of her see any purpose in wasting several minutes every day traipsing to and from the cafe to throw away various pieces of rubbish.

Hence the illegal bin, tucked under my desk, out of sight of all but the most prying eyes. I am happy to empty it myself, heck, I'll even empty it into the correct receptacle in the cafe. But damned if I'm giving it up without a fight.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Words and memories

You know, I really couldn't care less what colour your bra is, or where you put your handbag when you get home. But there is an internet meme I can get behind - 15 authors in 15 minutes.

The idea is to list the first 15 authors that come into your head, in no more than 15 minutes.

Here goes (I am ashamed to say that it may expose some pedestrian tastes):

John Irving

Minette Walters

Charles Dickens

Jane Austen

Fay Weldon

Margaret Atwood

Ben Elton

Barbara Kingsolver

Monica McInerney

Robert Heinlein

Jodi Picoult

Charlotte Bronte

Emily Bronte

William Thackeray

Tom Robbins

Okay, so that's 15. Funny the ones that came to mind. Some I love - Margaret Atwood, Tom Robbins - some I can barely tolerate -  Ben Elton, Charles Dickens (Sorry, but you can blame my ninth grade English teacher - Mr Pepperling).

Barbara Kingsolver makes the list because I have just finished reading - and adored  - The Lacuna, a fictional account of the time Leon Trotsky lived with Frieda Kahlo and Diego Sanchez. Just brilliant.

Margaret Atwood because she wrote the best ever "chick lit" - The Edible Woman - and then followed that up with some brilliant science fiction in The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crace.

Heinlein was my first foray into the world of sci-fi, and I became a reluctant fan, after spending years believing sci-fi fans were freaks with huge IQs and no social skills.

Irving, Weldon, Walters, all bring back memories of a youth spent absorbed in books and more books.

Picoult and McInerney are not exactly literature, but they are wonderful company late at night when the baby has woken you for the umpteeth time and, once again, you are sacked out on the couch with a hungry mouth on your boob.

The Bronte sisters, Austen and Thackeray. I can't think of one without the others. And when I think of them, I think of Sunday night drams on the ABC, with mum and dad in our little house on Henry St. My dad was possibly the only straight man in the world that loved costume drama.

Ben Elton I really want to like, and I have read almost all of his work in an attempt to do so -but it all just seems too clever by half. He is brilliant at writing BBC comedies and should stick to that.

Charles Dickens conjures up nasty memories of the pop quizzes of which Mr Pepperling was so fond. He called them Pepperdingers.

Tom Robbins? Still Life with Woodpecker. Get it, read it, you won't regret it. Funniest love story ever.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The meaning of luck

So the Winemaker and I will never be rich, nor will we be famous. But we really are very lucky.

Sometimes, in the day-to-day drudge of family-work-life-sleep (not enough of the latter, in my opinion), it's easy to forget that fact, but yesterday, I was sharply reminded of it as I looked around at all the people who had come together to celebrate Missy's birthday.

There were my mum (Moni) and my aunts and an uncle, as well as families we have met through Gromit's daycare, school, swimming, playgroup and other activities.

The lucky bit comes from the fact that not one of his friends have a parent that the Winemaker or I don't get along with, or don't think is "right" for our kids to be hanging out with. Many of his friends he has known since daycare, so their parents have known him since he was a toddler. I would trust them with his life. And, lucky for Missy, a lot of them now have younger brothers and sisters for her to play with; and who, eventually, she will join at school.

There's no doubt it was an exhausting afternoon, and I could have done without the 5am Missy wake-up call this morning, but that doesn't diminish my general good feeling.

I just hope I get a nap sometime today.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A wiggly birthday

Gah, I came here to write a fun post about Missy's birthday and plans for the party on Saturday. Then I read my last post and I'm crying again.

It's OK, really, it's just the way it is. To me, Missy's birthday will forever be linked with Dad's illness. In some ways, it's a good thing. When dad died, I had a newborn to distract me. And now I have two great kids (and, you know, an OK husband) who will hug me when I feel down.

So, where was I? Oh yes, Missy had a great day, receiving not one, or two, but THREE Wiggles-related gifts. Gromit helped her unwrap, but she got the hang of it pretty quickly.

The Winemaker and I really didn't think things through - noisy toys so early in the morning. But the kids enjoyed themselves.

It was a brief birthday celebration as the grown ups had to work and the kids had to go to school and daycare. (Even though Gromit had tried to get a day off for his sister's birthday. He got a day off last year, for her first, so he thought he'd give it a shot)

Anyway, the big party is on Saturday. And like all parties for kids under about four, it's all about the parents. (and, in this case, the big brother). A celebration of the day our family became whole.

Happy Birthday Missy Moo Moo. Your adventure is just beginning.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

For my dad

Two years ago tomorrow, our little family of three became four.  In the morning, we will celebrate Missy's birthday - she'll open her presents (mostly Wiggle-related) and we will laugh and smile and take photos. But tonight, allow me a little melancholy.

Just three weeks before Missy was born, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. When my daughter was eight weeks old, my father died. A sharp pain in his side turned out to be secondary cancer of the liver. Doctors found the primary tumour in his stomach. Initially, they tried palliative chemotherapy, but all it did was make dad sicker. So the port came out and we waited. And hoped. And waited.

Thankfully, the end, when it came, was quick. We celebrated a lovely family Christmas at my parents' home, with Gromit decorating the tree and Missy having poosplosion all over her specially-brought Christmas outfit. A couple of days later, Dad complained about a new pain that he could not control, so he went into hospital for what, we thought, was a few days while he got the meds sorted.

On New Years Day, a Thursday, I took Missy and visited him. He sat up in his bed and ate some Christmas leftovers, although it was obvious that he was very uncomfortable, and his appetite had all but gone. On the Friday, I got a call from mum saying he was in a drug-induced coma and I should come in with Gromit. I swear dad knew his grandson, his favourite little boy, was there.

On the Saturday,dad's family, including his brother who had made the trip from Queensland, were at his bedside. A vigil. Going home that night , I commented to the Winemaker that I don't know how people did bedside vigils for days, sometimes weeks. I had done one day, and it was the worse thing I had ever experienced.

At 8.45am, Sunday, January 4, 2009, dad died.

When I think over the past two years, I mark time in the things he missed - Gromit's first day of school and first lost tooth. Missy's first word, her first steps and the funny way she bum-shuffled long before she crawled or walked. Birthdays, Christmasses, a beautiful sunset. A relaxing day at the beach.

Tomorrow, I will hug my gorgeous girl. I will laugh with her as she opens her gifts and I will be thankful for all I have. But tonight, I cry.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pride comes before an armpit fart

There are some moments that make you truly proud to be a parent. All those firsts. First smile, first step, first word, first armpit fart. Yes, that's right, Gromit spent the weekend mastering the art of the armpit fart.

He has several versions, all putting the left hand under the armpit and doing different actions with the right arm - the gun, the duck, the dog and so on.

You wouldn't know it to look at him, but he's actually quite a smart kid. His academic skills are at least a couple of years older than his age. That, however, comes with its own problems. He has such a  high expectation of himself and is prone to meltdowns if things don't go just his way, or if it turns out he's not actually perfect.

Maybe it comes from being used to being the smartest, maybe it's that people expect more from him because he is smart (and big for his age). But you know, he's only six, even though I have to remind myself of this at times. The fact that he finds hilarity in armpit farts helps.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Missy's installation

While I am (obviously) happy to have my dirty laundry out there for all to see, I try to protect my kids from Google while I can. They have both had online monikers since they were just a few weeks old.

My eldest, now 6 1/2 (where did THAT time go?) is Gromit, named for the fact he was a superb Vomit Gromit as a newborn. The baby (who is now nearly two - huh?) is Missy, short for Missy Moo Moo, which we call her at home (it's hard to remember proper names at our ages).

And now, just to confuse things, Missy has just come home after day surgery to get grometts . I can hear my invisipeeps now, with their witty retorts about whether Gromit also has Missys, not to mention that most of the peeps won't even know what grometts are. They're mainly American, you see (the peeps, not the grometts) and American English is far more literal than ours. They call them "ear tubes" (how dull).

Anyway, back to the point of the post, which, until I got sidetracked,  was going to be Missy's day under the knife.

Surgery to install (is that the right word? Makes it sound like a home entertainment system, or shutter blinds) grometts into a kid's ear is fairly straightforward. A good ENT would do several a day. But ANYTHING that requires a toddler to fast for six hours or more waking hours will send shivers down the spine of most parents. There's a reason the Winemaker was happy that I was the one who had taken the day off work.

The day began well (at 5.20am!) with her drinking a huge bottle of milk. I then spent the next couple of hours feeding her anything she asked for (Freddo for breakfast? Sure, why not?). We had to stop all food at 8am, although water and clear cordial was allowed until noon.

We lasted until 8.45am before she started rubbing her tummy and saying, rather demandingly, as is her wont, "gree, gree, gree". At that time, we were walking down by the beach, her in her stroller, me with my iPod cranked up to "I hope people in Iceland are enjoying the music". I took an executive decision to play with the definition of "clear cordial" and bought her a Lemonade ice block about 10am. This was inspired! It kept her quiet for a good half an hour while I managed to have a shower, wash the breakfast dishes and pack the bags for our time in hospital.

About 10.45, the whining started up again, so I threw her in the car and off we went, detouring past the shops on the way. This, also, kept her mind on other things and was a godsend.

I had hoped that she might sleep during the hour-long car trip into town but that was not to be. We arrrived at the hospital about 1pm, and she headed to theatre about 2.15. The LONGEST 75 minutes of her little life. Ooh boy, the tiredness and the hunger was not a good mix. A sweet four-year old boy in the day bed next to us tried as hard as he could to cheer her up, sharing his Teenage Mutant Ninjas Turtles and Bakugan with her, but she was inconsolable.

The surgery itself was quick and relatively painless. She had some trouble coming out of the anesthetic, but within a couple of hours, she was back to her old self - and eating everything in sight.

And me? Well, I got a little teary while I held her as the anaesthatist held the mask over her tiny mouth but all in all, it wasn't as bad as I had expected.

It helps to put days like this into perspective. As I was waiting for Missy to come out of surgery, I received a text from a friend who's 14-month old son is undergoing chemotherapy for a tumour on his liver. I would happily take 100 days like the one I've just had, rather than a experience a minute of what she is going through.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ego is not a dirty word

So, here I am. In the Inter Nets. Yet another frustrated writer using technology to stroke my ego and, in the process, hopefully make a few people smile knowingly.

I find it somewhat ironic that not that many years ago, I wrote my innermost thoughts in a private diary and would have been mortified should anyone actually read how much I loved Consul (the honest-to-goodness name of the first boy I had a crush on) and hated Tracy (who is probably still a bitch). Now, I am out there, on the World Wide Web, hoping for more than one follower (and that's only if I can bribe my husband to read my blog).

I guess I should start with a little bit about me, so here goes - 10 not-so-secret facts in no particular order:

1/ If you can't tell already from the preceding paragraphs, I'm quite fond of the parenthetical bracket. I know they annoy some pedants, but I don't care. If you don't like them, move on.

2/ I hate whingers. It's one thing for my six-year old son to bellyache about irrelevant details. It's a whole other thing for 50-year old colleagues to do the same.

3/ My favourite past-time in boring meetings is to make up more and more fanciful ways of seeking revenge on those in the upper echelons who have no concept of the time, money or resources it takes to operationalise their hare-brained ideas.

4/ If you ever read in the newspaper about frustrated middle-manager sewing a senior bureacrat into a child's pull-out couch and forcing him to watch Thomas the Tank Engine over and over till his eyes bleed, I swear, it wasn't me.

5/ When I was pregnant at 36 with my first child, the medical fraternity labelled me elderly prima gravida, which is Latin for "are you out of your mind having a baby at your age?"

6/ I am out of my mind as I went and did it again 4 1/2 years later.

7/ Sometimes, when it's my turn to "sleep in" (ie: past the 5am starts my daughter favours), I actually sneak out, make myself a coffee and go back to bed with the paper.

8/ I love to read and write, but have little time left for either of these - unless you count Ministerial briefings, minutes and business plans. Which I don't.

9/ This little blog is my solution to the above. I am hoping it gives me a creative outlet to prevent me from going completely insane (see fact number 4).

10/ I don't particularly like making lists and always struggle to find eactly the right point on which to end.