Friday, 3 February 2017

Points and dots

  • What a weird week it has been in the news. The old saying: "Truth is stranger than fiction" rings so true at the moment. In between watching the news and watching House of Cards, it's really hard to decipher which one is the fictional TV series. I was talking to an American friend at school drop-off this morning who was about to go for a run and listen to a news podcast and we both decided that it was hard to tell the difference between the real news sites and the satire news sites at the moment. God knows where this will all end up, but buckle up because we're in for a ride!
  • I've been putting together some flatpack furniture this week and have been listening to old Conversations episodes, including one with former PM Paul Keating. It was fantastic to listen to, what he lacked in charisma and charm, he made up for in policy production and grit. It's five years old, but he makes some great points that are still relevant, if you're interested take a listen here. There don't seem to be any politicians like this around at the moment. 
  • It has been hot and humid in Bris Vegas this week. Just that still oppressive humidity that covers you like an old damp doona, where you sweat a lot and not much else. Still, it doesn't come close to a Dubai summer, so I'm thankful for that and the fact that the kids can still play outside. 
  • Another podcast I was listening to this week was of Waleed Aly and he said something along the lines of, you don't really know a subject or an idea until you write about it. Explaining that he has what he thinks are great, sound ideas all the time and then he starts to write about and realises that he has no clue. That rang so true with me as I keep having 'flashes of brilliance' and then I start to write and they kind of just trickle off…. and I realise they're not as brilliant as I once thought. Maybe I should just Tweet….
  • So here I am, just writing. Writing anything to just get the words and the keys tapping. In an attempt for the ideas and the word to work cohesively in my brain. In the hope that soon the words will start flowing out better once again. So bear with me. 
  • It's been so great seeing all the 'first day' of school photos on social media this week. So many of my friends have their kids starting school this year. There is nothing better than seeing them in their enormous school uniforms, over-sized backpacks and excited grins. One of the oldest and dearest friends had her third child start school this year like me. We actually met on the very first day of Kindergarten back in 1982 and we have remained friends ever since. I saw her first day photos of her three kids and I got a physical jolt because when I saw he second-born child I could have been looking at a photo of her from 1982. When she messaged me and said it was cool that we were still friends after all these years, I reminded her that I was lucky she became friends with me at all! I believe the first time she ever saw me I was throwing up into a school rubbish bin. I'm nervous chucker and have marked every big occasion in my life by vomiting. 

If you've got this far, well done! I'm impressed. I promise to lift my game soon.

So tell me. Is it hot where you are? Are you waiting for the moment that Trump comes out and says "Gotchya, it was all a big hoax"? Do you miss Paul Keating too? Do you have any friends from kindy who are still friends? Are you a nervous chucker, or is it just me?

Monday, 30 January 2017

Monday musings

Ah Monday, Monday, can't trust that day…

As Monday arrived for a long week ahead, here's what was going through my mind.

Healthy eating….
From about August last year, I started eating a lot healthier and exercising most days of the week (aiming for 5-6 times per week). I lost some weight, toned up and felt a lot better. The Christmas/New Year period, plus a two-week visit to good food capital Melbourne, has meant that I've lost my way a little. This week, it's back to solid healthy eating and exercise again.

It's been a while since I binged watched a really good telly show (besides re-watching Mad Men over Christmas), so the past little while I've been indulging in The Crown (which is fab), but last week we finally succumbed to House of Cards (about 5 years late, I know). After the first episode, Skip and I looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders but decided to give another episode a go. Hook, line and sinker! It's so good and so addictive. Kevin Spacey's character is delishly bad. We've pretty much watched the whole first series since Australia Day. With Skip away for the week, I have to find something else to watch and save my fix for the weekend. Have you watched it?

Queensland has been back at school for a week now and we're settling into routines again very nicely. Exhausted and happy kids, which is so good after the Christmas holidays. They were happy to get back and see their friends and I was happy to have a few hours away from meal preparation.

It's been a year since we left Dubai and the past few days I can't stop thinking about the desert city and longing for it a little. It's the little things that keep popping into my head, like the supermarkets, restaurants and the streets I used to drive on. I wonder when (or if) these waves of nostalgia and Dubai-sickness will stop?

The orange one….
Even if you wanted to avoid him, at the moment it's impossible not to have Trump on the brain. Every time I see him I can't believe the power that has been given to him. The things he's said and done (especially in the past week) are frightening. Like most of the world, I can't help wonder how this is all going to end up, as I think whatever happens it's not going to peter out quietly. Personally, I'd prefer to watch fictional evil politicians than real ones!

I've really missed writing the past 12-18 months and I'm really going to try and set aside some time to write again, whether it's here or elsewhere. I know I've said it before, but this time I will.

And that's my Monday!

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Stirring the pot

It's a really interesting time in the world at the moment. As I was sitting in the car on the long drive home to Brisbane from Melbourne, we had the radio on and there were many hours of hearing the news bulletins on repeat - Trump's inauguration and the awful event in Melbourne were, of course, the big stories of Friday and Saturday.

I'm a positive person, I'm not someone to start yelling that the sky is falling the moment something bad happens, because the unfortunate nature of our world and of humans means that something bad is always going to happen. On the flip side, something good is always going to happen too.

As we saw on the weekend with the Women's Marches around the world, people were stirred up and being stirred is a great thing. When we get angry, riled, passionate, when we feel something, good things can come of that. We realise the importance of truth, kindness, respect and how not only how fragile those things can be, but also how, in the hands of a majority of people, how strong they can be too.

I know that Trump and the people like him (such as a certain redhead regaining popularity in our country) are going to say and do some despicable things in the forthcoming months and years ahead. In reaction to this I also see a rise in good people speaking out too. I see a rise in people being urged to write and create. I foresee great music, movies, art and literature being created and used as a weapon against ignorance and fear and intolerance. As history has told us bad things happen and nasty people exist, and in the face of it good people dig down and create good things in response – as long as we keep feeling something and not remain apathetic.

Perhaps, it's a great reminder, especially for the younger generation that we need to continue to fight for the things that are important. A reminder that is wasn't too long ago that women weren't able to vote, to easily divorce, have control over their own bodies or their own lives. A reminder that those before us had to fight incredibly hard to gain the rights that we take for granted. That it wasn't so long ago that, shamefully and mind-bogglingly, indigenous Australians weren't even recognised as Australian citizens.

So as long as we keep thinking critically and logically, as long as we stay stirred up and keep apathy at bay, as long as we aren't short-sighted or have short memories, I truly believe some great things can come about. What do you think?

Saturday, 26 November 2016

The magic of Christkindl

That moment we turned into the Christmas markets at Schonnbrunn Palace. 

Snaps from Salzburg's Christmas Markets

As I was browsing the world wide webs today, I saw a news clip about the opening of the German Christmas markets. My heart jumped a little. Three out of the past four Decembers my little family has really enjoyed the Christmas markets in Germany, Austria and Slovenia. I felt a little pang of disappointment that this year I won't be enjoying a Bratwurst with mustard washed down with a piping mug of gluhwein while wandering around stalls under a cover of twinkling lights.

If you've never been to a European Christmas market, they are held in town centres and squares from the end of November until the end of December. There are little huts serving mulled wine (and on occasion, alcoholic hot chocolates), sizzling sausages, spietzel (a cheesy noodle) pretzels, dumplings and stews. The main attraction are the stalls selling a dazzling array of decorations, tinsel twinkling under the lights. There is always a big Christmas tree, a band playing Christmas tunes and a very festive feeling. People go with their families to get in the festive spirit.

Last December, we were lucky enough to return to the beautiful Christmas markets in Vienna (where we first encountered them a few years before). Before we'd arrived in Vienna we'd had an incredibly stressful week packing, about to move apartments. We were also in a stressful stage of life where didn't know quite where we were headed. I remember feeling pretty wound up and fed up. The first place we went to after checking into our AirBnB was our favourite Christmas market at Schonnbrunn Palace. I will never forget turning through the gates, seeing the giant Christmas tree twinkling with lights through the cold mist. The smell of chestnuts roasting and mulled wine filled my nose. A magical sensation washed over me. The kids eyes lit up as they suddenly remembered this place for a few years before. Every little bit of stress melted away and every little niggle felt worth it for just that moment. That one moment of being in that one magic spot.

A few moments later, Skip and I had gluhwein in hand and the kids were demolishing pretzels bigger than their heads under that giant twinkling tree. I looked over at Lil-lil who kept saying over and over: "I'm just so happy." There's no doubt she spoke for all of us.

I'm lucky enough to have lots of special places that I've been to throughout my life, places that seem to hold just a little bit of magic, places that you just can't explain exactly why they make you so happy. The Christmas markets in Austria, especially those at Schonnbrunn Palace, are high up on that list.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

That time the hotel was full...

Christmas is a-coming as the kids' school schedule keeps reminding me. Concerts, end-of-year assemblies, parties, not to mention endless "Oh I hope I get this for Christmas!"

Now it would be an understatement to say that we're not a religious family. After living in Dubai for a number of years I think my kids probably know more about Islam than Christianity. When we were in Ireland last year, our friends were talking about mass, when one of my Catholic-baptised children asked what mass was. My reply? "It's like Friday prayers, but on a Sunday and in a church rather than a mosque" which was instantly understood.

So I shouldn't have been surprised when the other day, the same child came home from school and was excitedly telling me that next week in scripture class she was pretty sure they were going to tell the same story I had told them once. Confused, I asked, which story was that. "Oh you know the one about the couple who were trying to get into the hotel? But they were all full, so they had to sleep in a shed. It's weird that they know that one too!" Yes, it seems that religious education may not be my forte.

There was also that time I overheard Lil-lil explaining to Darbs who Jesus was. "He knows everything you do, he knows when you're good or naughty. You can pray to him and ask him for things or for help. He has a beard," she carefully explained. Darbs thought for a moment and said: "That's not Jesus. That's Santa!"

So, perhaps, over the next few weeks, it's time to start talking a little more why we celebrate Christmas and what's behind the tree and tinsel and presents.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Monday, 21 November 2016

Byron bliss

Over the weekend my family and I decided to take a little road trip. Go exploring.
We headed down the coast when Skip said: "why don't we keep driving to Byron Bay" and we decided why not indeed! Before we knew it we were sipping coffee as we wandered around The Farm and then devouring fish and chips next to the sparkling sea.

Byron has always been my happy place, somewhere I've just felt relaxed, rejuvenated. I went there for a day visit when I was 15 and then went to schoolies there 22 years ago when the love affair truly began. Then there were end of Uni-year getaways, which eventually morphed into family holidays and most recently Skip and I escaped for an adults only vacay.

When Skip and I went on our kid-free Byron, I was saying that I believed self-help is going to be the next big thing (again) for all the 20 and early 30-somethings who have lived their adult lives on social media who are suddenly looking for more. Looking for meaning beyond likes and summing up themselves with emojis. This idea fascinated me, so I've been reading a lot of the self-help stuff that's around and realised what a lot of drivel it is. Really it offers "motivation" and "taking control of your life" and finding "inner happiness" but most of it is written in a way that can be adapted for any situation. So it's a one size fits all approach, you can read into it whatever you want to read into and then hold it up as "proof" of a way to live or a "key" on your journey to fulfilment. In my mind it's just telling your whatever you want to hear to justify your choices.

As we were wandering around on our day exploring we can across a lovely guy with Down syndrome busking. He had a sign up saying he was an international rock star, he wore a glittery hat and he danced like there was no tomorow. Pure joy right there. He was having the time of his life and his joy made us all smile goofy smiles.

The thing is the real key to happiness is right there in front of us. It's jumping in the car and driving somewhere special. It's singing your lungs out in the car to a song you're heard a million times. It's giggling as you watch the kids jump over waves. It's dancing without inhibition in your lounge room. It's licking the salt and grease off your fingers of a decent piece of fried fish as your toes dig into the sand. It's laughing until your belly aches at something silly or inappropriate. It's dreaming about doing it all again next weekend. It's closing your eyes and dancing to your beat.

So yesterday was a magic day. Being in my favourite place with my four most favourite people on a most gorgeous day. That right there is happiness. A little memory that I'll carry with me.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Instant Karma's gonna get you

Karma. Reaping what you sow. Treat others as you'd like to be treated. What goes around comes around. Whatever you call it, as a parent this is a lesson that I (and I know most parents) try and try again and again to teach my kids. I think it's one of the tougher lessons to learn too, because when there's something you really want (a lolly, some money, whatever) just sitting there, the temptation can be too much, why not take it? When there's a chance you're going to get in trouble, why not lie? I'm trying to reinforce that those few moments that feel good or stop you getting in trouble may be great, but the bad stuff coming is far worse that resisting temptation.

I'm really big believer in Karma or reaping what you sow. I truly believe that you get back what you put out, so I know that I try to live the best life I can live. Of course, I'm never perfect and stuff up a lot.  I can be negative, cynical, bitchy, whatever, but I would never go out of my way to hurt others and I try to catch myself and stop any negative behaviour. Basically, I think if you consistently lie, cheat and steal (literally or figuratively), essentially treat people badly then it's going to come back to you in some way or another. It may not be today or tomorrow, but that negativity is going to come back to you in equal, or larger, measures. I think if you try your best to do right by people, treat them with respect, be honest with them, listen to them, just be there for them, then a whole lot of good things come back to you. When you hit those speed bumps in life (as you always will), there will be a lot of good people around to support you. I want to live life knowing that whatever happens, I've done the very best that I can do.

Which is why I'm trying hard to teach my kids this lesson. Lessons like, if you lie, you lose people's trust and that is a really hard thing to regain. Trust is one of those things you don't realise how important it is until it's gone. Trying to teach them to be good to each other as siblings, as hard as it can be at times, because the family living under their roof are the people they need to treat the best. The people they need to be able to trust and rely on. Mostly their eyes roll or glaze over when I talk about treating family the very best and always being there for them, but I hope that one day it will sink in. That they'll be good citizens. Good people. A good basis to build a good life on.

Do you believe in Karma?

"Nothing happens by chance, by fate. You create your own fate by your actions. That's Karma"

- Unknown.

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