Monday, November 21, 2011

A window to the future

So, it's been a while since I blogged - life took over. Kids, work, family, friends, you know.

This post is very rushed and I apologise for that, but I know some people want to know what's going on with mum.

So, I had a bit of a fright today. Mum was with some friends on an outing to a historical house and she collapsed and was taken to hospital. So I get this phone call on mum's phone from a friend saying she was in emergency at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (about an hour's drive away - not the one near us) after being taking in by paramedics, vomiting and semi-conscious. Friend was in hospital waiting room and knew nothing else but wanted to know how quickly I could get there.

Of course, me being my mother's daughter, I went to the worst possible scenario. Rob came home from work to watch Missy and pick Gromit up from school and I cabbed to the hospital (too shaky to drive - longest cab ride of my life, with a lovely driver. Set me back $76 - but no option really). On the way, I rang my aunt who lives nearer the hospital and asked her to meet me there. If it was bad news, I wanted a familiar, friendly face.

Anyway, I got there and my aunt came out to meet me and tell me mum was OK. We went in to see her and she was sitting up attached to heart monitors etc. Turns out a new blood pressure medication for her atrial fibrilliation had drastically dropped her blood pressure (Dr said it was about 70/40 when she got to hospital). She's home with an appointment this week to see heart specialist and GP. I am at home with wine.

My  mum is 80 next year, so I had a bit of a window into the probably not-too-distant future and I'm still a bit shaky. Especially after her stroke a few months ago. As much as mum and I clash (and we REALLY clash), I'm not quite ready to be an orphan.

Rob, however, thinks she will live to 120 just to spite him. Let's hope he's right.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A catalyst for change

The 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon has got me thinking about how life can change in a second.

And I'm sure I'm not alone.

Ten years ago, we watched wall-to-wall coverage of the astonishing events. Yesterday, our televisions were filled with both tearful and hopeful interviews with survivors, and those who lost loved ones.

It was the children who were babies - or still in-utero - when they lost a parent that hit the hardest. The lives they were meant to live, and the world they were meant to live in, no longer existed.

In the 10 years since 9/11, I have got married, had two children, six houses (in three states), four jobs.

And lost my father.

I was one of the lucky ones, I had my father with me for 40 years.  But his death hit very hard and was a catalyst for things to come.

Whether it's the death of a loved one, the birth of a child, permanent injury or disability, a move overseas or interstate, divorce, marriage, you name it, there are many things that will happen to all of us that make us question our lives and motivations.

When dad died, I suddenly became the only child of an elderly parent, with the responsibilities that come with that. It also meant that my husband and I had little childcare support for two youngsters (mum helps when she can, but it's not easy for her). It became difficult for us both to work long hours in stressful jobs, as well as be successful parents. Yes, we could have continued as we were - but at what cost?

Something had to give, and for a while, it was my health and sanity.

Then one day, I woke up and decided this was "it". I wasn't going to slave away for someone else any more, and Black Coffee Communication was born.

What makes me sad is that it often takes tragedy and grief for people to have a good look at the lives they are living and prioritise what is important. And trust me, taking that business call at 6pm, when there are kids to be fed and bathed, and books to be read, is not important.

While we can't live in fear of the "what-ifs", I wonder what the traders at Cantor Fitzgerald, the emergency service workers, janitors, airline passengers and others might have done differently had they known that they would draw their last breath on September 11, 2001?

RIP - the world has not forgotten you.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A little bit "woo"

Those of you who know me will know that I am about as "crunchy" as yogurt .

I don't place much store in crystals or Feng Shui or homeopathy; I only did the parts of attachment parenting that suited me (baby wearing frees the hands and breast feeding is, well, heaps more convenient and cheaper); and my wardrobe is bereft of anything made of jute, hemp or kapok.

Something happened this week, though that made me question me steadfasted cynicism about all things "woo".

I went to my regular chiroprator, who is very good at manipulating the bones in my lower back and neck in order for me to carry around 20 kg of toddler (hence the need for a chiropractor).

He  cracked a couple of bones then turned me on to my back, and asked me to put one foot on the other knee and resist him pulling them away. Easy.

Then he lightly pressed two fingers in the diaphragm area and pulled again. Resistance was useless and my leg was like jelly. Huh?

The chiropractor pronounce my adrenaline glands "rooted" (well, he didn't use those exact words, but that was the gist) and said I had been under so much stress lately that I had been pretty much running on adrenaline and my stores were empty.

Anyway. He got out two bottles on herbs and asked me to do the leg thing again. He placed one bottle on my diaphragm and my leg didn't budge. He then took it away and placed the other bottle in the same place. I couldn't resist. Hence, that was the herbal remedy I needed.

I was gobsmacked and walked away $35 poorer but with a bottle of miracle herbs.

Please, someone, give me a rational explanation for this. My pragmatic brain needs it before it implodes. Tks.

(He also suggested I reduce my caffeine intake. I'm still thking about that. If it wasn't for caffeine, I would barely be upright.)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

My so-called (freelance) life

So, it's been a little over a week since I jumped of the treadmill to launch Black Coffee Communication ( - shamless plug) and here are the things I have accomplished:

1. Rearranged the furniture in the house so that I now have an "office". Problem is, the office still contains six amplifiers, three bookshelves, an extra (unconnected) computer and about a bajillion bottles of wine (I'm sure some of you will help with that). What the office does NOT contain is a desk.

2. Offered three new freelance gigs - Facebook marketing for a previous client, a regular blog about industrial cleaning machines (seriously!), and a brand new Fleurieu Peninsula website, launching tomorrow.

3. Cooked some real meals, from scratch, with vegetables.

4. Went to see a grown up movie with the winemaker during school hours...there wasn't an animation in sight!

5. Had my hair cut.

And this is what I have learned.

1. No matter how much you plan to put your feet up between jobs, the universe has other plans. First mum's mini-stroke and then a child at home with the cold put paid to most of my  "me" week. C'est la vie.

2. You can write a blog post for a client while cooking dinner.

3. People want writing services for all sorts of subjects (see above re industrial cleaners!).

4. There's a massively supportive work-at-home parent network out there willing to help a newbie, even if it means taking a risk.

5. This move might turn out to be the best thing I have ever done (bar marrying the winemaker and birthing the kids, naturally).

You can find me blogging about professional stuff these days over at Black Coffee Communication - but I will still be dropping in here at A Small Drop of Ink to vent about personal issues. Hope you don't mind :)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Meat in the sandwich

They call us the sandwich generation. Those of us who had children later in life and are thus caring for preschool-aged kids and at least one elderly parent.

My youngest is 2.5, my mum is 79. Hello sandwich!

This was brought into sharp contrast yesterday.

Missy had to get more grommets so I left Gromit in the care of my mum and headed to the hospital. The surgery all went well (I didn't even cry) and we were heading home about 3 hours later.

On the way, I called mum to see how everything was just to be told that her doctor wants her to go to emergency because he thinks she had a mini-stroke. Great.

So the winemaker knocks off work a little early, picks up Gromit. I get home, dump Missy and turn around to take mum to emergency at a different hospital.

Two hospitals in one day. Is that some kind of record?

Naturally, mum and I sat in the waiting room for about three hours (actually, I tell a lie because I nicked off for a bit to go to the Target toy sale and pick up something for us to eat).

One thing about emergency rooms waiting areas - they are great placed for people watches like mum and me. We saw a man being escorted in by the cops, a young girl with a broken arm and a entourage of family and an elderly bloke who, apparently, knew what needed to be done to save the world from the idiots.

Anyway, once we got in, it was pretty quick. The doctor (who looked about 12 but spoke of a wife, so I guess not) got mum's history - and she's a walking dispensary - did some neurological testing, whacked on a heart monitor and proclaimed, yes, looks like a mini-stroke but we won't know for sure until she can get a CT scan next week. He wasn't too concerned about immediate risks because the episode was minor, so that's the good news.

Four-and-a-half hours later, we were heading home - 10 hours after I first trekked into town to my first hospital of the day.

Oh - should I mentioned this all happened on my first day of wage-slave freedom?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Older and wiser

One of the positive things about growing older (and let's face it, there are many negatives) is the ability to roll with the punches when life throws its little curve balls at you.

I'm not talking about those life-changing curve balls like death or divorce, but rather those little disappointments which once made us feel inadequate, unloved or friendless.

For example, nowadays, if I'm at a party and not having a good time, I just go home. Once upon a time I would have stuck it out to the bitter end, in case something good happened and I missed it. It usually didn't (in my experience, if a party starts off kind of sucky, it's probably going to stay that way).

If I miss out on a job, I just shrug and try and improve the next time. If someone at work doesn't like me, tough, we still have to work together. The 20-year old me would have been shattered by these experiences as it would have been some kind of proof that I wasn't worthy of the new job, or the friendship.

I was reminded of this last night when we were out to celebrate a friend's birthday.

The night did not start well, as we arrived to learn the only option was a seafood buffet for $45. Several of our party didn't eat seafood. Others baulked at the cost - they were saving their pennies for the drinking, after all :)

The younger me would definitely be in the latter category. The 43-year old me just hooked into the prawns!

We managed to convince the restaurant manager to reduce the cost for the people who didn't want seafood (there were pasta and salad options), a pretty reasonable outcome, I think.

Anyway, the night settled into a comfortable mood, and I ate my $45 worth of shellfish, salmon and dessert. Unfortunately for one of our friends, the wine and the smell of the seafood turned her an ugly shade of greeny/grey with a bit of blue thrown in for good measure and she need to be taken home - about  45 minutes drive away. Some fantastic ladies (you know who you are) willingly left dinner to accompany her home.

After the bill came and was tallied (a whole other nightmare), some of the younger ones decided to brave the nearby nightclub. Me? I know when I'm beat, so I headed home.

I haven't yet heard the postmortem from those who went out afterwards. I sincerely hope they had a fantastic time to make up for teh earlier parts of the night.

Me? Once I would have felt I had missed out on something by going home early. Today I am just grateful I got a decent night's sleep.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Today I did the most frightening, exhilarating, exciting thing I think I have ever done.

I handed in my resignation from my steady, well-paying tenured public sector job to concentrate on establishing my own business.

Those of you who read this blog regularly probably knew this was coming. And honestly, I probably knew for the past six months or so - but finally started listening to my heart instead of my head.

I have wanted to be a freelance writer/editor for more than 20 years.

As a naive uni student, I thought I would work a few years, then strike out on my own. Travelling the world and filing stories from all sorts of exotic locations and getting paid buckletloads of cash for the privilege.

Then reality hit. Journalism is hard slog, and crap money. And about 0.0000001 per cent of journalism students actually become international household names. I'm not one of them.

So, after 10 years in journalism, I moved sideways into public relations and corporate communications. Still intending to do it for a couple of years before returning to my passion - writing.

And here I am, 12 years later FINALLY doing it. And the good thing about my years of experience outside journalism is that I now also have experience at business writing. This means I can actually earn a crust - there's more money in writing annual reports, corporate profiles, policies and other business documents than there is in pure freelance journalism.

I have had some great support from my friend and family. Even the Winemaker - the most risk-averse person I know - is cheering me on.

It's a great feeling - I recommend it.

Life is too short to be swallowed up by bureaucracy.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Craptastic week

Ever had one of those weeks where you can't possibly imagine things will get worse?

Then, they do?

Well, that gives you a bit of an idea of where I'm coming from this grey Thursday.

As if the winter gloom wasn't enough, the universe has decided to throw a few curve balls my way and see if I can handle it.

The week started off great, with a girls' night at the movies. Bridesmaids - see it. I laughed so hard I nearly peed. (Champagne+Maltezers+good friends+chick flick = Made of Win!).

Then, the little annoyances started piling up - traffic, lost shoes, a kid with a cold. Hyperbole-and-a-half's Sneaky Hate Spiral explains this much better than I ever could.

So,  I arrive at work on Tuesday to pretty much learn that the Executive has completely devalued the work our project team has done over the past six months or so., Apparently, when you are trying to market/promote entirely new legislation to a state, you can just grab marketing collaterol from other states and rebadge it.

Tuesday night was spent caring for a kid who couldn't sleep due to coughing/stuffed nose etc and Wednesday morning required an early call to my mum to care for said kid for the day (thanks mum - and thanks mum's friend who also had her plans changed!)

On Wednesday, I sat on a interview panel where one of the applicants was the person who has been doing said job for nearly 18 months (New slogan for the public sector "We're accountable, not efficient").

Then, a meeting with the boss in which I receive confirmation on what I already suspected - strategic communications to deliver new legislation is a skill that the agency doesn't think it needs, and I have two months to go back to my substantive, frustrating, annoying, stress-inducing management role (with all the responsibility and no authority - again welcome to the public sector) or leave. The first is not an option.

Then, just to make my week even more craptastic (literally), this morning, the cat poos on the couch and Gromit sits on it.

Really Pepper? You had to pick this week?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Winter blues

The weather has turned chilly and the gloom that has descended on me matches the grey skies outside.

I hate winter, always have. But as I've grown older it's become worse.

My preferred place in cold weather is bed, wearing thick socks and flannel jammies and reading some chick lit. But I think my family might complain if I hibernated for three months every year. Not to mention what the boss might say.

When I was younger, I had field hockey to keep me going in winter. It was something to look forward to each weekend and, even though I felt like curling up with a good book, I had the team to think of. Oh, and the after-game session at the club, which, if I'm truly honest, is probably what kept me on the field long after my used-by date.

I haven't played in about four years and, with my creaking bones and dodgy wrist, I think I can finally say goodbye to the Hockeyroos dream.

It also hasn't helped that I have moved from a town with very cold - but sunny - winters to a town that is milder but grey, grey, grey.

I've heard that Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD - how perfect) may be related to low vitamin D, so I'm pumping in the supplements, but to no avail so far.

I try to get out for a walk as often as I can, and take the kids to the park. And I have some great friends and workmates that often make me laugh out loud. But the fog inside my head remains.

Throw in some pre-menopausal mood swings and hot flushes, and I must be so much fun to live with right now.

It was about this time last year that I had the near breakdown in my boss's office which led, eventually, to my stepping aside from my substantive staff management role to work part-time on a self-contained project.

I have felt pretty good since I made that decision, and the working part-time is doing my mental state the world of good - plus I actually get to spend some time with the family.

But then winter returned and with it, the gloom.

Anyone else out there suffer the same way? Maybe we can start a support group - "SAD not sad".

Friday, June 3, 2011

Sugar and spice and ...oh look, something shiny

I am so not ready to be the parent of a girl child.

Yes, yes, I realise that I should have thought of this several years ago, and it's a bit late now, but it still scares me.

Taking aside all that pinkness and hair product, and forgetting about the mean bitch and teen witch thing for the time being,  it's the vagueness and dreaminess and on-another-planetness that will drive me insane.

OK, so I'm generalising a bit here, but after spending a day volunteering at an all-school excursion (what was I thinking?) I can confidently say that girls are more likely to to ... oh look there's a shiny thing.

What I meant to say is that the girls I saw tended to be more easily distracted by things other than what they was supposed ... hey there's that shiny thing again.

So, girls seem to concentrate less on the project at hand and more on the birds, flowers, people, buildings and shiny things off the beaten track.

I had six kids in my group - three boys and three girls. You've heard the phrase herding cats? Herding seven-year olds is like that times infinity. And with the knowledge that if you lose one of them, there will likely be a parent out there who's a bit pissed off.

And the girls were the worst. The boys tended to stay on the path and follow the crowd, while the girls? Well, they danced to the sound of their own drums, so to speak. And the drummers were way off in the other direction from where we were heading.

And the complaining? My Lord, you would think I was chaperoning an outing of the old folks home with the "my bag's too heavy", "My shoulder hurts", "There's a rock in my shoe", "My hat is scratchy". And yes, all from the girls.

My girl is currently lying on the couch next to me, having her night-time bottle. I adore her stubborness and her bossiness. She's cuddly, and imaginative, and challenging, and frustrating, and hilarious, and seems to have just two moods -  happy and furious.

As much as I'm not ready for it, I'm nuts about my girl child and I guess I won't trade her in. Yet.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Plastic fantastic?

I am becoming increasingly sure that somewhere in my house there is another dimension where plastic shit breeds.

Otherwise, how can you explain the proliferation around the house of those dinky toys you get in fast food outlets?

I'm sure my kids haven't been to [insert name of whatever chain takes your fancy when it comes to plastic toys - and food] a kabillion times, so how come we seem to have a kabillion useless little toys?

They get under your feet, get sucked up the vacuum cleaner. You find them behind the couch and deep in the linen of the gown-ups' bed. They're inside the house and out, and the more you throw the more take their place.

We have Ben 10 figurines, characters from Rio and Night at the Museum. We have Stawberry Shortcakes, Australian Idol "iPods" and strange, unidentifyable objects that not even the seven year old can explain.

It's like an episode of Twilight zone.

And don't even get me started on Kinder (f-ing) Surprise.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hell on earth

I don't believe in heaven and hell (so it's a good thing the Rapture was a furphy), but if I did, I'd like to think there's a special place reserved deep in the pits of fire for certain characters.

I mean it goes without saying that all your peadophile, murderers, wife beaters etc will take up a far bit of the spcae but if there is a little left over, I have some suggestions (in no particular order).

1/Manufacturers./importers/designers/retailers/wholesalers of flat pack furniture
Remember when furniture used to come all assembled, and delivered to your door? OK the flat pack stuff is cheaper, but is it really worth the the years you lose off your life with the stress of working out those ineligible instructions with the stick figures? And don't even get me started on allen keys.

2/ People who knowingly send their nit-infested kids to school/daycare
Keep them home. I'm sick of that horrible lotion stuff and that ouchy litle comb. I realise anyone can get nits, but reasonable, decent parents keep their kids home. Learn from them.

3/ Not-my-jobbers and What's-in-it-for-me-ers
We are all working towards a common goal, aren't we? I know it's hard not to refer to your position description everytime you are asked for a favour. But please, for the love of God, try. The most annoying type of workmate, closely followed by...

4/Tea room gossipers
I don't care what your best mate got up to on the weekend, nor do I give a rat's arse if yoiur sister-in-law is a crazy-arsed bitch. Do these people not realise that noise travels in open plan offices? When people are trying to work, listening to you bang on about your favourite curry recipe is incredibly annoying.

5/The management guru who decided that open-plan offices led to more team building.
 See above.

So that's my whinge for the day ... does anyone want any other  added to the list?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Google, it has been 17 days since nmy last blog post.

In that time, I have coveted my neighbours shoes, spoken ill of many people., I have been  impatient, angry, envious, proud, jealous, vengeful, gluttonous and slothful. I have not been chaste in mind or body. And I have almost certainly taken my mother's name in vein.

I was brought up Catholic, you see, and I quite like the idea that you can do pretty much anything you want, as long as you confess, say a few Hail Marys and are truly sorry for your sins.

I stopped going to confession some 30 years ago - and became agnostic around the same time - but I still think we could all do with a confession now and then. At least to purge our conscience.

But who needs religion when you have the Internets to hear your confessions.

In the past month or so I've read about
There's more, and the common thread seems to be that none of these people have enough self-awareness to realise that their confessions (or in the final example, reaction) are likely to attract vitriol and bile and be the subject of much water-cooler discussions.

Or maybe they do? Maybe this is the 21st century version  of "bad press is better than no press at all". Maybe they are looking for there 15 minutes of fame?

Whatever their reasons, this sticky beak is very grateful for other's lack of inhibitions. But if you expect the same from A Small Drop of Ink, you might want to stop reading right now.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Secrets, lies, the law and the internets.

Way back in the dark ages, while I was at Uni, I did a year-long course about the law and media.

One of the hot topics for discussion was how the law continually fails to keep up with technology - and this was WAY before the internets.

It seems the law is still struggling, as envisaged by events in State politics this week.

A State parliamentarian was arrested and charged with possessing kiddie porn. He can't be named here due to a 1976 amendment to the the Evidence Act (1929).

Basically, the media may not publish any evidence tendered, or submission made, in the Magistrates Court relating to an alleged sex offence. This includes naming any person charged with an offence until they have entered a plea.

The crazy thing is that this law only applies in this state, so media elsewhere has taken a risk and named the MP in editions not sold here, and anyone with access to a computer can read all about it on various blogs (not to mention that Derryn Hinch himself has outed the alleged culprit.)

Now, as  an former journo - and one that has spent more than a few hours reporting from criminal courts - I have a big problem with blanket suppression orders, but I do understand the notion of innocent until proven guilty and realise that being accused of kiddy porn can destroy a person's life- even if they are later found not guilty.

But the point of this blog is not to argue the rights and wrongs of suppression orders, but to point out that the internet makes this particular law a farce.

The man's identity is the worst kept secret of the State, and it's time that the law recognised that in the age of Web 2.0 and the rise of social media that suppresion orders are not worth the paper they are written on. And if any over-eager sub-judice lawyers are reading this, please note I did not break any ridiculous law.

(Now we will return you to your regular programming of mummy-juggle whinging!)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Where did my baby boy go?

My little boy is growing up.

Yes, yes, I know, this shouldn't come as a surprise. But it kind of has.

Sure we recognise all the regular milestones - first word, first step, first tooth, yada yada. But then they get a bit older and these reminders don't come along quite so frequently. And then, suddenly, they do.

In the past couple of weeks, Gromit has matured in front of my eyes. First, it was his rejection of Big Dog, the soft toy that has been his constant companion since the winemaker bought it at the hospital gift shop the day Gromit was born. Sure, Big Dog still sits on his bed during the day, but the poor thing is tossed unceremoniously on the floor at bedtime, when he used to be cuddled all night.

Then, he decided he wanted to read to himself before bed. The night-time ritual of me snuggling up to my boy and reading to him - one of the more peaceful moments of my day - was over. Kaput.

Until last week, Gromit needed the light on to go to sleep. Now he turns it off himself - after he's read a couple of chapters of his latest Boys Rule or Aussie Bites adventure.

Finally, yesterday we cleaned out his bedroom and he happily threw away broken, rubbishy toys and other things he no longer had a use for (3 1/2 garbage bags full! Plus a box of toys and books to be put aside for his sister).

He turns seven next month. My baby is no more.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

To sleep, perchance to dream

There's this new Oil of Olay ad where they use the same model they had 10 years ago to illustrate how the skin cream has kept her young.

The ad goes along the lines of "Ten years, two children, 348 pre-dawn starts", first showing the model as she originally appeared in press ads, then revealing her "now" look. Voila. No new wrinkles!

I am insanely jealous of this woman. Not because she hasn't aged in 10 years, but because, with two children she's managed only 348 pre-dawn starts.

Gromit is seven in 40 days. So that's 365x7-40= 2515 (give or take for leap years). I probably average one sleep-in a month in that time. So 12x7= 84. That gives me 2431 pre-dawn starts in seven years. And, honestly, most of the sleep-ins are because I've been up half the night with a child. They don't really count.

So you see my point.

I know not everyone is "blessed" with early-rising children. I've heard tell that some kids sleep in on weekends. I've also been told that some kids wake early, but then snuggle in the parents' bed and they all fall back asleep. Ha...when my kids are up, they are UP.

On the plus side, they do go to bed reasonably early, which is a good thing, since the winemaker and I hit a wall by about 8pm. (And, no, putting them to bed later does not make them get up later. Exactly the opposite in fact).

When you are pregnant, you expect a few sleepless nights and early mornings while the child is an infant. But no one warns you that the early starts may last a lot longer than that.

Of course, I wouldn't trade it for the world, yada yada yada. But I would pay good money for just one decent night's sleep with the opportunity to wake up when I was fully rested.

Or at least with no child screaming in my ear.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The mother of all guilt trips

I am a working mother, therefore I have a finely-tuned guilt gene. It comes with the territory.

Right now, the guilt gene is in overdrive. You see, I only go into the office two days a week - Tuesdays and Wednesdays - and this week, Missy has decided that those are the days she will get sick

So instead of attending meetings, developing marketing content, finalising artwork and collateral,  writing a 2000 word article for an industry rag, and generally being an effective employee, I am at home, on the couch, watching over a sick little girl, while trying to do a bit of work.

The watching the kid bit is easy. She's running a fever and is generally lethargic, which means she is lying on the couch and is easily placated by liberal doses of Dora and the Wiggles as she drifts in and out of sleep.

Work? That's the hard bit.

So much of what I do involves interaction with others. In order to write said 2000 word article, I need to catch up with a colleague who knows the subject matter backwards. And it's hard to give valuable input into proposed graphic design changes via email or phone without the body language and robust discussion that goes with face-to-face meetings.

It's times like this when I am really conflicted about the whole career woman thing. In my case, my family is ALWAYS going to come first. And, at the moment, with the winemaker in the midst of vintage, I am, for all intents and purposes, single parenting.

And then the pragmatic business woman in me understands this makes me a risky prospect when it comes to employment.

At the moment, I'm lucky, I can do some of my work from home, and I work in the public sector, which means my employer is obliged to give me the flexibility I need.

But I can hear the frustration in my boss's voice when I call to let him know I can't actually make it into the office for one reason or another.

And I know, when I was the boss of part-time workers, how my eyes rolled back when they rang in sick, or because they had to look after sick kids. (Kids seem to have this uncanny ability to get sick on their parents' working days. It's a fact - someone should get a research grant to examine why).

So what's the solution? Do we go back 30 years to the days of single-income families (I know that I would totally have been one of those housewives dosed up on valium and having it off with the postman if I was at home with kids day in and day out).

Do we offer parents more opportunity to work from home? The problem there is that there are many jobs which just CAN'T be done from home (retail, factory work, staff management etc).

So, any ideas?

(Meanwhile, I guess I should stop the blogging about my dilemma and get some work done.)

Friday, March 18, 2011

A lasting reminder of India

I have many lasting memories of my three years in India, some hilarious (the naked sun worshipper on the bonnet of our car), others heart wrenching (the mass of humanity I saw every day outside my front gate), but mostly good.

There's the cultural influences, the poverty, the heat, the welcoming locals, the food (Bukhara Room rules!) and, of course, the many International friends I made (many of whom I am still in touch with, thanks to the Internets.),

But it seems I have one lasting effect, which means I may not have saved three lives back in January,

Turns out the blood bank was only able to use my plasma (so, I did save at least one life) because, get this, I have malaria antibodies in my blood, that must have been making themselves at home for the past 25 or so years.

Before you give blood, you need to answer some short questions (you know the kind : "Have you ever had unproteted sex with a intravenous drug user?"). I usually go along the rows of these and answer "No" to all these (which, quite frankly makes my life sound a little boring).

Until I got to the one "Have you ever lived or travelled more more than three months in a malaria-affected area?"


Something interesting about me.

It threw the Red Cross nurse into a bit of  a lather, as she wasn't sure whether I needed to be tested, since I was in India so long ago (back when Michael Jackon was black and a web was something spiders wove).

Anyway she looked through all her material and learned that yes, anyone who had spent any length of time, no matter how long ago, in India, needed testing for malaria antibodies.

I thought nothing more of it until a week or so ago when I received a letter with, in bold letters, about 72 point, it read "Malaria Information Sheet."


It turns out to not be such a big deal, it just shows that my antibodies did what antibodies are meant to do, that is fight infection. And it doesn't mean that I have (or ever had) malaria. Unfortuately, it also doesn't mean that I can't catch malaria.

As for donating blood, I will need to be tested each time I front up to the blood bank.

In the absence of symptoms, I can still give plasma. Whch is better than nothing, and more than a lot of people do.

And I still have all those other great memories.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Middle-age blues

I can't deny it anymore.

As of tomorrow, I will be past middle aged.

That's right, if you take the average life span for females in Australia (84) and divide it by 2, you get 42. Tomorrow, I will be 43. The downhill run.

I don't feel middle aged. Middle aged people wear cardigans, and talk about insurance, or real estate, or how things were so much better/cheaper/safer/simpler when they were young.

(Come to think of it, I really do need income protection insurance, and we could do with buying a house with more backyard. Gees life was so much simpler when I was young. I might even have the odd cardigan in the closet.)

It's also been many years since I knew (or cared) about the top ten charts (is there such a thing in the era of iTunes?) and I would rather an early night with a good red and a good book than hitting the latest nightclub.

Fuck, maybe I am middle aged?

But that means I am running out of time to live the dream. The 20-year old me would have been appalled at what's become of her. A house in the 'burbs, a husband, two kids, a job in the public sector.

Where's the rich Spanish lover? The homes around the world (in a quest to never experience Winter. I hate Winter)? The fame of being Australia's most trusted and respected foreign correspondent? The Jimmy Choos????

Still, life's not too bad. I have a husband who loves me and is a great dad, two kids who keep me amused and tear my heart out (often both at the same time), my health, a steady job with good pay and benefits, caring, thoughful friends who are always there for me.

And it could be worse. I could live in Swaziland. With an average female life expectancy of 39, I would be positively ancient.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The myth of multitasking

Once upon a time, there was a midle manager in the public servant who prided herself on her ability to multitask.

Juggling several balls in the air was what she did best and she NEVER dropped one.


Let me tell you about the myth of multitasking, something that we working mums pretend we are really good at.

It's simple, if we try to do too many things at once, we will fail. Something will give and balls will be dropped. And Murphy's law ensures that the dropped balls will be biggees - Ministerial bringing papers, cabinet submissions, board papers.

It's one thing to brush your teeth while putting on your stockings. It's an entirely different thing to check your emails,  or talk on the phone,  while editing a policy-speak document into plain English.

So why do smart working mums continue to multitask?

Maybe it is because we feel things won't get done if we don't do several things at once. But guess what, if we multitask, there's still a good chance things won't get done. Or at least won't get done very well.

 So, let's put the myth of multitaksing behind us and work on one thing at a time. We will all feel better for it.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Husband for hire, three month terms.

Some time ago, I wrote a post about how much I would suck at single parenting.

Well, the time has come to eat my words.

No, no, it's ok, the Winemaker and I have not split up. It's just vintage has rolled around again and we are back to him working 13-hour days, six days a week, and being a big fat pain in the neck the rest of the time.

I'm not blaming him for the abovementioned pain-in-the-neckness. Hell, I would be a bitch on wheels if I worked those hours (no comments from those of you who know me in real life, thanks).

It's just that with two whiny kids around bedtime, I don't really need a whiny adult as well. (Last night, he lost his cool because the water temperature was still set for the kids' bath/shower and hadn't been reset to a hot enough for doing the dishes. Seriously?).

While I have absolute sympathy for the people I know whose spouses work away a lot, at this time of year I almost envy them.

My life would be much simpler if the Winemaker would just stay at the winery for the duration of vintage.

I love him, I truly do. And the fact that the next couple of months is a nightmare, is made somewhat more bearable by the knowledge that winemaking is a pretty flexible career for nine months of the year.

So ... do I have a deal for you?

One husband available for three months hire. He won't fix your car, or mow the lawn, or take the rubbish out, or cook dinner, or pick up after himself, or keep the kids occupied, or even have sex.

He will, however, get under your feet, mess up your routine, yell obscenities at inanimate objects that don't work and fall asleep on the couch at 8pm each night.

Any takers?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Do you want to know a secret?

I have a secret I'd like to share.

It's something I've been doing for three weeks and it's like I'm a new woman. My house is cleaner, my kids are getting more nutritional food, the clutter situation is being addressed, less fruit and vegies are being wasted and I'm not so tired that I fall asleep on my feet.

I can tell that everyone is keen to hear the seret, and it really is quite simple. I have turned the traditional working week on its head and now have a two-day week and a five-day weekend.

I don't know how I managed to work almost full-time since having kids, and I have the utmost respect for anyone who successfuly juggles career and parenthood. Me, I wasn't so good at it.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a complete disaster. I did pretty well at the whole career thing, and I'm not a dreadful mother (half-arsed? maybe). But work and kids often competed for my time, meaning that something had to give. And it was usually me.

Now, the two days I spend at work are extremely productive, not only because I know my time there is limited, but I am also not wasting work time worrying about when the groceries will get done, or feeling guilty about not helping Gromit with his spelling words that morning, or ringing daycare because I forgot to mention something important at drop-off.

It's also hard, at just two days a week, to get drawn too far into office politics - or gossip - which means I am pretty much left to my own devices during the day.

Two days is also good time for me to have as an outlet from the monotony of parenting and housework. I would, truly, go stir crazy if I didn't have this.

I admit, the finances have taken a hit, and there have been cutbacks. No more impulse buying for me, or amplifiers for the Winemaker (really, five amplifiers is enough for anyone).

Ask me again in a few months how I feel about the money situation, but at this stage, I see no faults with my plan.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Naming rights

I never changed my name when I got married.

Some people think this brands me a rabid feminist, but, quite honestly, it was more a case of being too lazy to schlepp my marriage certificate around town changing all my official documents.

Plus, I didn't get married till I was 34, so I was pretty attached to my name by then. It's not a great name. I have to spell it out most times, and even then people get it wrong.

When I was younger, and dreaming about Mr Right, I fully intended to change my name. Mainly to get away from the spelling-out thing (I had images of marrying someone with a common, easy to pronounce and spell, name). But then I fell in love with the winemaker and,  frankly, his surname isn't much better than mine. Plus it is also the name of a well-known childrens' TV character here in Australia, which is just too much for me to "bear".

He didn't care one way or the other about whether I took his surname (he's ambivalent about most things at the best of times), so my maiden name stuck.
It has its benefits. When a cold-call telemarketer rings at home and asks to speak to "Mrs Hislastname", I can truthfully respond "No-one of that name lives here". I am also easily traceable by old friends (maybe a negative?) and people sometimes remember my name from my journo days, which can be helpful when pitching for work.

On the other hand, my honorific can't be Miss, as I am married, and it can't be Mrs, as my surname is not my married name. Therefore, I am stuck with Ms, which I loathe and detest. (Why do men get a single honorific that confers no martital status????). It almost makes it worthwhile to lose several (more) years of my life on inconsequential study with the aim of becoming a Dr (of letters, not medicine - bodily fluids gross me out).

It is also a bit of a pain now I am the only Mylastname in a family of Hislastnames, especially when it comes to daycare and school.

So, I have been contemplating changing my official name - but still using my maiden name for work.

Should I? Or is the "out" for the telemarketers worth all the trouble?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hi honey, I'm home.

What I REALLY need is a wife.

And I'm not talking any lesbian fantasty wife. What I want is a stay-at-home-scotch-when-I-walk-through-the-door-kids-bathed-and-fed-linen-smelling-like-fabric-softener-1950s kind of wife.

Don't get me wrong. The winemaker is a fine partner is so many ways. He's smart, and funny, and handsome and he really does do his fair share of the cleaning, cooking and kid-wrangling (if I'm being really honest, he probably does more than his share of the cleaning. Domestic Goddess I am not).

The thing is, we both like things to be neat and orderly. Problem is, while we fall back on the excuse of young children and work, the truth is we are both fundamentally disorganised and lazy.

A friend commented recently that our house looked a little like a student house. This kind of shook me up. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't offended, but It hit me that, at 42, it really was time I had furniture that matched, and maybe some nice paintings on the wall..

And, as I mentioned in a previous post, it is time to stop the clutter invasion, sort out the house and start to live like a grown up.

But it would be so much easier if I had a wife.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Note to Gwyneth - Take your lemon flavoured flax oil, and stuff it where the sun don't shine.

Gwyneth Paltry and her good friends, fashion designer Stella MCartney and venture capitalist Juliet de Baubigny, are, apparently, just like you and me. Stressed out working mums. At least, according to their shared "day in the life" post on Gwynnie's blog Goop.

Yeah, right. If that's the case then where's my nanny? My stylist? My personal assistant? My $20 million dollar mansion (with staff to boot)?

When Gwyneth and her ilk try to remind us that they are just ordinary people with ordinary stresses, I get an overwhelming urge to shove my (very ordinary) fist down their throats and rip out their insides.

OK, I admit I already habour a BHORC (Bizarre Hatred of Random Celebrity) for Gwyneth, so perhaps my view is tainted. But just have a read of these tidbits from her the blog.

"Got Apple all fed and dressed in her uniform and ready to go but no sign nor sight of Moses at 8 am and we have to be out of the house by 8:20. I went up to arouse the little man from slumber and he quite happily got up and crawled into my arms.. We got downstairs and I made him a quick breakfast of eggs and toast followed by a spoonful of lemon flavored flax oil that I try to remember to give them both every morning."

Twenty minutes to get two kids out of the house. Pull the other one. It has bells.

And from Stella: "We sit on the bed and read, and I demand my usual cuddles. Jen leaves at 6:30, so I try my best to juggle the three monkeys and keep them all in one piece till bed time". That's Jen, the nanny, who has been caring for Stella's youngest since before school drop off. So Stella has, at most, an hour by herself with three kids before it's their bedtime. Oh Boo and Hoo.

I have no idea who Juliet is, but I hate her already: "I have a great salon near me that I can go to at the end of the day to have a facial, manicure and pedicure at the same time.  I'm in and out in 70 minutes.". 70 minutes? On personal care? Most working mothers of young kids are happy to use the loo for two minutes in the morning without company.

So, for contrast, here's my average day.

Midnight: Woken by screaming two-year old. Her bed clothes and jammies are saturated. Change sheets. Kid won't go back to sleep without bottle. Give bottle. Take half an hour to get back to sleep.

4am: Cat meowing, wants to go out. Get out of bed, open door, cat runs away from door back into the house. Spend five minutes tracking cat and putting him outside.

5am: Two year old awake for the day. Has bottle in front of Teletubbies while I fortify myself with three filtered coffees.

5.30am: 6-year old comes out of his room. Complains that he's hungry. Wants chocolate. Try to give him something healthy. Suddenly not hungry anymore.

6.20am: daddy leaves for the peace and quiet of work.

7am: breakfast for kids. Throw something quick  in front of them while I have a shower.

7.30am: Do the 6-year olds reading with him. Listen to 10 minutes of whining about having to do the work, and then three minutes of actual reading.

8.15am: all dressed and ready for school. Two year old poos in her nappy. Have to change nappy before going to school.

8.30am: Drop 6-year old at school.

8.45am: Drop two year old at childcare.

9.30am: arrive at work. Spend eight hours hitting my head against figurative brick walls. Achieve nothing.

6.30pm: Get home. Kids driving daddy up the wall. Daddy sits down and has a wine. I do bedtime bottle for two-year old. Books for 6-year old.

7.30pm: Winemaker and I eat some hastily-prepared meal on couch. Watch inane TV. Check out Facebook.

9pm: fall asleep on couch, a little bit of drool at the corner of my mouth.

Just the same and Gwynnie, Stella and Juliet. The similarties are uncanny.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Stemming the clutter invasion

My home is overrun with plastic crap. From the Tupperware cupboard to the kids' rooms, the plastic has taken over.

Also, paperwork. School projects, old utility bills, tax returns, you name it. Unfortunately, no-one in our family is one of those admirable "everything has a place and everything in its place" kind of people.

Which is why the plastic crap and the paperwork have taken over. I have begun to think of our home as England and the clutter as William the Conqueror. But unlike old Billy, the clutter will not assume the throne.

Which is why I made a decision that 2011 is the year I will declutter our house - starting with the computer room-slash-repository for stuff that we may one day need but have nowhere to keep.
(And this doesn't even begin to represent the entire junkness in all its glory)

I remember the days when I was so proud that I could move houses with just a car and a trailer. I had no accumulation of stuff. No kitchen appliances I had never used (I'm looking at you, expresso machine), no three lounge suites, no eight doonas (and only three beds),  and no kids - the biggest crap magnet there is.

What's making my quest difficult is that my mother is also constantly decluttering her house. But being a child of World War II and rationing, mum throws NOTHING out. Which means her idea of decluttering is to pass her crap on to me. Over the years, I've acquired used linen, old airline bags, second hand crockery and cutlery, wall hangings, ornaments and socks.

The latest offering includes a pillow, a stapler, two boxes of staples, a hole punch, a highighter pen and about a dozen pencils.

Not surprisingly, at the grand old age of 42, if I didn't possess all of these items already, I have the wherewithal to but them.

I used to try and refuse these "gifts" but I soon realised it was easier to say yes, then box them up for St Vinnies myself.

Maybe I need to take a leaf out of mum's book and "donate" my used crap. Now to just fnd some unsuspecting soul....

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A mother's revenge

Those of you who know me will not be surprised to learn that I appear to have bred a stubborn, opinionated, headstrong, determined daughter.

Missy's favourite sentence is "No, self", which roughly translates to "Thank you mummy for your offer to help, but I am quite capability of doing this myself.". This is quite closely followed by an angry "Mummy, help!" as the object of the frustration is hurled across the room.

See, when she's angry, she throws stuff,.  Then she storms to her room and slams the door.

This is likely to occur at any time. Like, for example, if we have the audacity to offer grapes, when she wants strawberries, or if she has to wear her birdy pajamas because the doggy ones are in the wash.

She's two. What will she be like when she's 13? The winemaker and I are dreading the hormonal teenage years. While my mum, I'm sure, is quietly chuckling in her tea, muttering "sweet revenge".

But I'm sure I didn't storm off in a huff to my room until at least 8 years old.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A promise kept.

I saved a life today, maybe three. I'm not even sure whose lives I saved. One of them may have been yours.

There wasn't any mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, or running into burning buildings, or  jumping in front of bullets.

But there was blood. Lots of it. 500ml in fact.

OK, OK, so I'm no hero. I simply went to the Red Cross and gave blood, something I had promised myself I would do when my dad was sick and having regular transfusions.

It too more than two years, but I finally came through on that promise and it was easy-peasy. The waiting was the hardest part (with thanks to Tom Petty).

I did throw a bit of a spanner in the works given I lived in India as a teenager. Apparently if you have spent more than 6 months in a country where malaria is endemic, your blood needs to be tested for the nasty mosquito-borne disease. Who knew?

Anyway I feel like have made the first small step in giving back some of the blood that my father took out of the system. The transfusions didn't save his life, but they did prolong it, and make him healthier for a short while.

I just hope the family members of the person's whose life I saved feel the same, and go on to donate blood themselves. A rewarding way to pay it forward.

Friday, January 14, 2011

There IS something you can do

About 14 years ago, a good friend's husband died. Their baby was 8 months old at the time.

All her friends and family rallied around, and while most offered emotional support and seemed to know exactly what to say, I made the tea.

When another good friend's infant son was recently diagnosed with cancer, I made quiche - and sent her a big fat gift card to help with her groceries.

You see, I'm not too good with the tough emotional stuff. I like to be able to offer practical help.

Which brings me to the current events unfolding in Queensland, and how impractical it would be to make tea and quiches and ship them to the thousands of families affected.

Nicole McIver asked herself that very same question and, unlike those of us who sit and ponder, she's got off her bum and is doing something.

Nicole is a working mum who runs the online business Wholesale Baby and has put her money where her mouth is by launching an online auction to raise money for the victims of the floods. Thanks to other like-minded business owners, there are heaps of great items to bid on. Not just stuff for babies and kids, but financial services, business coaching, logo design and more.

She is looking for anyone who can help in the following ways:

1/ Go to the Facebook page and bid on the item/s you like.

2/ Donate goods for the auction.

3/ Help with pick up and delivery of items.

4/ Spread the word (talk about it on your blog, share on Facebook, try and generate media interest).

So most of us can't head to Brisbane and help with the recovery, but we can sit on our computers and bid for some great deals. A win-win, I reckon.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Making a deal with cancer

Let's just say at the outset that cancer is an indiscriminative bitch. For every Michael Douglas, there's a Patrick Swayze, or Farah Fawcett, or Paul Newman or Lisa Woody. Or my dad.

Is it wrong for me to be pissed off at Douglas, who has just announced he's beaten Stage IV throat cancer. Why the fuck did it spare him, and not my dad? Or two aunts? An uncle? My maternal grandmother? My cousin's husband?

See what I mean, fucking bitch, that cancer.

It even goes after kids.

A good friend of mine is facing what no parent ever wants. About three months ago, her infant son was diagnosed with a tumour on his liver. He was barely one, and the tumour was the size of an adult's fist. A fucking adult's fist.

An aggressive chemotherapy regime was put in place, which has reduced his immunity to pretty much nothing. Thankfully, it is shrinking the tumour and he has a pretty good chance - once he has surgery and even more chemo. Which, by the way, has already affected his hearing and may have long-term consequences for his liver, kidney and pretty much every other organ. He's 17 months old.

My friend's story will , hopefully, be one of the good news ones. No-one that loves her will even consider the alternative. But the things she has seen while at the children's oncology department is the kind of stuff I choose to remain blissfully ignorant about. 'What do you mean, cancer kills kids? La, la, las, I can't hear you. Rainbows, unicorns, fairy cakes."

So here's the deal cancer. If we give you Michael Douglas, will you leave the kids alone?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Shame on you Woolworths

What's the bet Woolies got flak for having Hot Cross Buns out so early, so got a work experience kid -  who never learnt the difference between there, they're and their - to do a sign?

Nervous breakdown or work life balance? A no-brainer.

Ok, so my summer holidays are nearly over. Back to work tomorrow.


Most of the time, I rather enjoy my job. But what I don't enjoy is the time it takes away from my family. Like most reasonably senior staff-managementy type jobs, to do it properly takes more time than your regular 38-hour week. Time I don't have.

This, coupled with the fact that I stupidly thought I could do it in a four-day week, has led recently to what I like to call my "mid-life crisis period".

There I was, fitting more than five days into four, plus commuting two hours a day and working at home at nights and weekends (and taking phone calls/checking emails on days off). Meanwhile my work was suffering and I was letting down my staff, my boss, my family and my friends. And myself.

The breaking point came when my boss voiced her disapproval of some work I had completed for her. Work that was, admittedly, substandard. I had no excuse, except the aforementioned craziness of my schedule.

The floodgates opened and, if I didn't think I was stressed before that conversation, I was left in no doubt afterwards.

Anyway, I have a fantastic boss and we have come to an arrangement to let me step aside from my substantive role to do a two-day a week project job for the next few months, while I also supplement my income with some freelance work. I then need to either go back to my job, the job they employed me to do, or leave. Fair enough I say.

Which brings me, finally, to my point. I am lucky, I have a wonderful, understanding boss and I work in the public sector, which is pretty flexible. It helps that the agency that employs me is also responsible for the State Strategic Plan's work life balance target. I also have a husband who encourages me to take the odd leap of faith and who isn't bothered by the sudden drop in my income.

But my situation made me think about all those people who are stuck - for financial or other reasons - in jobs that are causing them stress and impacting on their families. Work life balance has been a catchcry for a decade or so, but how realistic is it for the large percentage of employers - and employees - who work outside the comfort of the public sector (or a large corporation)? Can small business operators afford to offer their staff this elusive dream? Can most wage slaves afford to take a cut in their pay?

And now a shout out to Emma Grey, who tackles these issues daily as director of WorkLifeBliss. If you need some balance - or are a business owner wanting to know how to attract and retain talented staff - you need to check out what she offers.

Meanwhile, I am going to enjoy my last day of holidays. The baby is asleep right now, but when she wakes up, it's off to the park to soak up some sunshine and play on the swings.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Seasonal disorders - or is it Easter already?

So, the Christmas decorations are still on half-price sale and the shops are stocking Hot Cross Buns. Yep, you read right. Could 2pm January 3 be the earliest ever sighting of Easter marketing?

People make jokes about how early is too early to start seeing seasonal collateral. Well, let me be the first to say that nearly four months is Too. Early. (Or is it stale leftovers from last year?)

There are some immutable rules of nature. Birth, death, taxes and that Hot Cross Buns are not to be consumed till Good Friday (of course, then you can eat several a day till you explode).

I'm not a big one for tradition, but I do reserve season treats for the correct time of year. Hot Cross Buns - Easter; Fruit Mince Pies - Christmas. And if I was American, I'm sure I would only eat Pumpkin Pie at Thanksgiving.

The same goes for decorations. I do not want to see tinsel in October (or Halloween Ghouls in June).

My Christmas tree gets garnished no more then two weeks out from December 25. I don't care that I now live in South Australia and the "tradition" is to deck the halls on the day of the Pageant. Honestly? That seems to be held earlier and earlier each year. In the not too distant future we will be heading to town mid-winter and Nipper and Nimble will need to be renamed Nippy and Tremble.

 It's time we Australians stood up to the big retailers and said "enough".  How can something be a treat if we can get it all year round? You hear that Woollies? I will not be buying Hot Cross Buns in January. I don't care how tasty they look.