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.