Tuesday, December 16, 2008

dear diary


Under the water I went, down to the blue-grey depths of the pool where it was quiet and half-lit, like the ocean. I swam breaststroke, pulling at the water with strong arms, kicking in great powerful sweeps. It was silent save for my own bubbling and swishing sounds. I thought of my friend fifi, who is part woman, part fish - I thought this is what she loves, this privacy and secrecy and intimacy in water. I felt hidden and invincible, and I wanted to stay down there all afternoon. When my need for air became too urgent, I burst to the surface in a great eruption of foam and pale flesh and trailing wet hair. Breathed in gulps, then more calmly. Then back under I went, like an addict.


Like a traditional husband, I came home from work to find dinner being served. I sat with Fatty and the kids on the back deck and watched the fruit bats come winging past, to roost in trees near and far. The air was warm and soft on my skin. Laura and Ben were giggly and exuberant. Later, I read aloud to the children - Winnie the Pooh, from a childhood edition of mine, all tattered and smelling of dust and days gone by.


We boarded the train, my kidlets and I, and we stood in the foyer (if trains can have foyers), hanging on to rails. A woman sat nearby, in a pretty knee-length red dress and high heeled sandals, with ankle-high stockings on. I was mesmerised and fascinated. This lady was attractive, and otherwise well-dressed. She sat quietly reading, and gave no outward signs of mental illness. She looked like she wore the foot stockings simply because it suited her; they were comfortable, maybe cooler than pantyhose? She obviously didn't care that they looked odd. I didn't know whether to despair of her dress sense, or to admire her nonchalance.

The art gallery visit, much maligned by my son beforehand, was a great success. I decided that artists exist in another dimension altogether - their imaginations are exaggerated and immense; more creative and expansive and wondrous than my mind can even grasp. I am awed. My children were awed. We stared and gasped and pointed. I am still thinking over what I've seen.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

innocent remarks

I'm not sure if all kids are this weird or if mine are weirder than most. They do have my DNA after all.

This is what my son said to Fatty and I, apropos of nothing, as we all sat eating dinner tonight.

"So! What do you think about each other since you've married?"

We both almost choked on the spaghetti, and I'm sure I snort-laughed. I went running for a pen so I could write down Ben's latest quote. When I returned, Fatty was soberly telling Ben that he was quite happy with his decision so far. (Quite happy? I needled. Just 'quite' happy? Not really happy, or plain happy? Just 'quite' happy??)

It was all laughter and happiness and fun and games, and 'isn't Ben funny' indulgence. And then Ben came up with his second quotable quote for the evening, as I was standing in shirt & undies, ironing a pair of pants to wear to a work meeting.

Ben (approaching me, peering at my legs): Are you wearing stockings?

Me: No, why?

Ben: Oh, no, you're not. So why are your legs all crinkled?

Me: (inwardly cursing my cellulite, hating my cellulite, wishing I had killer thighs and a bouncy butt) Oh, that's just what happens to legs as they get older.

Fatty looms around the corner grinning silently, herding Ben towards the bath before he can crush my self-image further.


I am not my cellulite. I am an intelligent, interesting, independent woman and it shouldn't matter what my legs look like.

Double gulp.

Friday, November 28, 2008

morning glory

My dog may be a grumpy old beagle who snarls if I try to trim her toenails, but she is very attuned to her owner. As I lay sleepless in bed in the early hours of this morning, she barked dutifully at the paper delivery van - something she never does. She sleeps below our bedroom, and she must have sensed I was awake. I am strangely fond of that narky old mutt.

Too much coffee yesterday has undone me. From midnight onwards I slept only in fits and starts. By five am I gave up on sleep, and simply lay thinking. As much as I like to get enough rest, there is something exciting about being the only one awake in the household; I can think with no risk of interruption.

I thought of Mama, my maternal grandmother, and I thought of her quiet laugh, the glass of sherry she often drank as she made herself dinner, her cornflower blue eyes, and her face at the moment when she died. I thought of watching my daughter on stage tonight at her dance concert; how she moves her little body with grace, while her face shows every anxious thought. I thought of my patient yesterday who unexpectedly told me I'd made her feel 'a million dollars'. I thought of how trying to Christmas shop for my brother makes me want to cry. I thought of my friend, Belly, and the incredibly gentle guidance she gives me when I need advice.

I tiptoed out of the master bedroom, feeling the lure of writing. I sit in a silent house, gazing out the window. The sky is the colour of faded jeans and the sun is sparkling on leaves and grass and flowers.

It's a new day, full of possibility and promise.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Here in Australia, and in other countries around the world, the month of November has become a time for all men who are so inclined to grow moustaches. The idea has been generated by the Movember foundation, which aims to raise awareness of men's health issues, focusing particularly on prostate cancer and depression. Community-minded, caring and hirsuit individuals grow moustaches, and request that friends, family and colleagues donate to the foundation in support. Non-moustache-growers often give generously, whilst sniggering, hooting, and teasing the mo-grower unmercifully. I often wonder how permanently-moustached gentlemen feel during the general ridicule of the month of 'Movember'.

Schools sell fake moustaches to raise revenue, and my children will buy theirs today. They've been discussing what type they'll purchase (it seems there are different styles available for purchase. And here I thought a mo was a mo)

I give you the above information not because I am a good person who is aiming to promote men's health. I wish I was! I wish I'd thought of this as a genuine topic before now, but no! I am merely leading in to a comment made yesterday by my 6-year-old son. This is what he said to me:

"If you're a big person, and you have something wrong with you, or a moustache, would it be hard to get married?"

Seems a moustache rates right up there with a disability. Please dig deep.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

thinking of you

She brought you home, swaddled against the biting cold, and laid you in the middle of the double bed. You slept there, wrapped up like the most unassuming gift - my brother. I felt expanded and light with sheer happiness; I felt as if I should hold my breath in awe. I slipped in every few minutes to watch your tiny chest rise and fall, to be sure you were alive and well.

Your head was dusted with the faintest blond fuzz. You smelt like warmth and comfort. I slipped my index finger into your curled-up hand, and you gripped on tightly. In my eight-year-old innocence, I believed this reflex hold meant you wanted me there. I stayed a long time, hunched over the bed awkwardly. I began right then to understand unconditional love; the ferocious and protective love I would have for you then and have to this day.

You have grown and gone now, far from here. You don't need my protection or care; you have a family yourself. You are no longer the chubby blond baby; you have grown beyond the shyly smiling, amiable small boy; you are stronger and more confident than the laughing, gangly teen. You are an adoring husband, a besotted father, and a military man who has been promoted quickly through the ranks. People like you; they are drawn to your understated leadership, your quiet assertion and wisdom. You are a good man.

Soon you will head into a volatile battle zone for several months. I know you are keen to play a part and to apply your years of training, and I am proud of you for your skill and courage. But fear clots in my throat and my stomach aches. And when I touch the soft blond head of my son as he sleeps, I think of you, my faraway brother, and my cheeks are wet.

Stay safe, be careful. Tell your enemies to beware your big sister.

Know that the delight I felt when first we met is undiminished.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

sneaking back in

I guess when you post as infrequently as I've been, no-one thinks you're dead/ill/seriously depressed when you don't post for a month. No-one leaves worried little messages saying 'Hello Jelly? Are you OK?'. Which is a good thing, because I am none of the above. However, it does make me realise that I need to write more often. After all, I have gotten to know (in a fashion) lots of lovely bloggers out there, and it seems my communication with you all has been slowly slipping away.

Like everyone, I get to feeling overwhelmed by the demands of work and home and life in general. I wrote an e-mail to a good friend of mine saying, tongue in cheek, "I've decided I don't want to see any patients who are sick. I want to see only happy, healthy ones, and even then only rarely." Sounds awful, doesn't it? In truth I think I was just a little burnt-out; in need of a break from work.

So part of the reason for not writing has been that we took a ten day holiday. Much to the shock of other parents at the school (some of whom actually tutt-tutted me!), this holiday was taken during school term. The photo above shows what our kids were doing instead of being at school. (Fatty and I like to think of education in more flexible terms!)
So anyway, I'm back - both physically and in spirit. I'll be visiting you all very soon.

Monday, October 13, 2008

farming out the kids

We headed off to Mum's farm on the weekend. It was overcast, and even drizzling at times, but the kids (ours, and our friends' son) didn't let that dampen their enthusiasm (smirk).

Laura and Ben made friends with Mum's latest rehabilitation projects - a pair of wallabies being prepared for release back into the wild.

Our friends' son wisely declined to swim (it was cold!), but our two took off up the creek on their boogie boards as if it was delightful, balmy weather.

The two boys were thrilled to be allowed to pick the last of the carrots (Mum saved them especially so the kids could pick them). The carrots were inspected, held aloft, washed under the tap outside, and then rapidly consumed. Vegetables never tasted this good!

The native flowers showed off their vibrant colours ............

and of course no visit is complete without a disinterested glance from one of Mum's cows.

Thanks Mum. We love to escape to the peace and solitude of your bush retreat.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

dance party

We had a disco at our place last night.

I wore a purple dress with gold lame pants and gold platform shoes. The kids wore their version of disco clothes. We turned up the music in the kitchen, loud.

Laura left Fatty a note on the bed, on top of a silver 'Peter Allen' sequinned shirt. The note read:

"Put this on NOW and join us for the dance party!"

There was grooving and moving to 'Hot Stuff' and 'Give it Up', until we heard Fatty come in the front door, when we danced wildly to 'We Are Family'.

Despite having been at work for 11 hours, dear Fatty dutifully put on his bling, and even wiggled his butt for the camera. I knew there was a good reason I married this man.

We stayed in full disco attire for dinner. I felt slightly conspicuous wandering out on the back deck to pick parsley but I decided it was my civic duty to entertain the neighbours.
Brushing his teeth before bed, Ben sighed contentedly, "I've had so much fun tonight." I smiled, and had to agree.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

in stitches

I think my son Ben may have been watching too many wildlife shows.

You would think the fact might have dawned on me when Ben chose to dress as David Attenborough for the fancy dress school disco. Every other boy was dressed in some sort of superhero outfit, while my son wore beige dress pants, a blue button-up shirt, and had his hair slicked over in a side-part. Nice.

I finally twigged that Ben's brain has been overtaken by documentaries when the following exchange took place:

Laura: Mum, have you ever had stitches?

Me: No, I don't think so

Ben: Yes you have, Mum. Remember? - you had stitches after giving birth to live young.

If that's not a statement to make a gal feel glamorous I don't know what is.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

in sickness and in health

In general I'm a peace-loving sort of woman. Except when sparring at karate. Or when arguing with my husband. Except for those situations, I do try to be accommodating and understanding; I'm happy to 'go with the flow', as they say.

At work I am certainly no tough nut. If a patient tells me they've been sick, even if they appear to be thriving with good health, I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, some symptoms aren't readily apparent to the observer. A person may have pain, or nausea, and I have no way of assessing this definitively. Similarly, I try to be generous when a patient has emotional distress and doesn't feel able to attend work. I wouldn't say I'm a pushover, but I'm certainly not hard-line. If a patient is just feeling overwhelmed by life and is completely stressed-out, a day or two off work may prevent them spiralling downwards, and needing several weeks off work. I'm happy to supply a medical cerificate.

I can only recall a few instances in my working career in which I have refused to give a medical certificate. One I clearly recall was when a cheery young man told me he was going fishing the next day, and requested a medical certificate to cover him for the day. I had to try hard not to laugh as I refused this request. (I mean, couldn't he have at least tried to invent a sore throat, a stomach pain, something?!)

Then last week, there was Unhappy Chappie*. Mr UC came to see me with a long list of requests - scripts, referrals, results and the like. I scurried to try to fulfil Mr UC's wishes. After twenty minutes, I had whizzed through it all, and was wrapping up the consultation. He then piped up with one more query:

"Could I have a medical certificate for the next couple of days please?"

"Why? " I queried, concerned (and also imagining further lengthy discussions about this new problem!). "Are you ill?"

"No", Mr UC replied blithely. "It's just that I've taken today off to trim all my hedges right back, and I always get a sore back the next day, so ... I take another day off afterwards."

I blinked. For a minute I was speechless. Then I ventured tentatively, "So, is your back any worse than usual at the moment?"

"No. No, it's fine right now. It's just that I like to get the hedges done in one fell swoop, and the weekends can be busy, so..... you know..... I take the full day, no kids around, get it done." I sat, stunned. "And then I pay for it the next day", he finished.

"Well," I began gently, "I can give you a certificate saying you attended for a doctor's appointment today. But I can't give you a certificate saying you're sick. Because you're not sick in any way."

Mr UC's eyebrows shot up. He glared at me. "But Dr Doodlehead* always used to give me a certificate for this. Every spring!".

I smiled wanly. "Um, well ...... I can't speak for Dr Doodlehead, but ...... it's not legal for me to give you a certificate to trim your hedge. And if your back gets so sore from doing all the hedges in a one day, then .... as harsh as it sounds .... perhaps you shouldn't be doing it all in one go."

Mr UC's eyeballs bulged. He muttered to himself something about 'Dr Doodlehead never had a problem with this'. He seemed to simmer down though, and took his prescriptions, and thanked me as he left. But later that day, the practice manager e-mailed me, saying 'I just had a complaint from a most unreasonable man. See me about this sometime."

Anyone who knows me would know that I am not a person brimming with self-confidence. I have an average amount of confidence, I suppose, but with my work is probably an area where I have the least confidence. I have had patients complain about me a few times in the past, and it has always upset me quite a lot, and made me question myself. But this day last week, when I got the e-mail, I just laughed. I laughed out loud in my room, and I decided not to spend a moment worrying about displeasing this gentleman. Because you can't please everyone, and you can't trim their hedges either.

*Patient and minor incidental details have been changed to protect the guilty!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

on being the Mum

Now & then, when telemarketers ring, they mistake me for a child. I answer the phone as I always do: "Hello, Jelly speaking!", and they respond sweetly, "Oh hi! Is your Mum or Dad there?". I usually pause, laugh, and then assure them that I actually am an adult of the house. As they bumble and stumble over their words, I briskly dispatch them, telling them we are in the middle of dinner/I'm at home with a sick child/I'm just not interested in their product - whichever excuse happens to be true at the time.

Today, a young man telephoned. I answered in my usual way, and he politely stated his name, and his company, then asked if my parents might be around. A little tired, a little testy, I sighed and snapped, "I'm the Mum!". Then, realising just how silly that sounded, I added quickly, "and I'm not interested in re-financing the mortgage".

Not missing a beat, the young chappie chirped, "Well, take it as a compliment!"

"Mmm", I humphed. "Thanks anyway. Bye."

I hung up and began to grin. My words echoed back to me in my mind. "I'm the Mum!" I repeated to myself incredulously. I rang my husband at work, giggling. "I just told a telemarketer 'I'm the Mum'!", I snickered. Fatty didn't seem to find it particularly funny.

Perhaps I am over-tired. Perhaps I am losing it. Perhaps I am snowed-down under the weight of cooking and scouring the bath and ironing and homework and folding and swimming lessons and work and childrens naughtiness and husbandly misdeeds. I've finally cracked and my family will be very sorry they were ever less than deeply loving towards me. Because dammit, I'M THE MUM!!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


There we were, having a perfectly lovely Sunday. There she was, silently coasting away from us down the hill, as Fatty and I chatted to a friend who'd chanced by the same playground.

There was a godawful crash of metal-on-metal. "What was that?", one of us exclaimed. I moved around to where I could see the metal pedestrian bridge. There was a kid on a bike, sprawled over. Our friend, who was closest, ran down to help, Fatty following. I stayed where I was, thinking there were plenty of helpers. Then I saw the green shirt, and heard her begin to cry, quietly. My girl.

I dashed down. She had stopped crying already, but was pale and sweaty. Her chin was dripping blood. I held the gaping cut together with my bare hands to stop the bleeding. Fatty ran off to get the car.

In the ED, they joked with her and checked her over. Her jaw was tender and swollen just near her left ear; she couldn't open her mouth far. The doctor suspected a fractured jaw and I felt slightly sick, but the Xray came back clear. The jaw was only badly jarred. Sweet relief!

Laura lay still and dry-eyed as the doctor injected the local anaesthetic. She closed her eyes and said not a word as he stitched and snipped, stitched and snipped. We took her home and she went straight to sleep, uncomplaining.

Later she woke, whimpering and sweating, her eyes wild and scared. It took me ten minutes to calm the shaking.

Now she is languishing at home on her soft diet of yoghurt and mashed potato. I am kissing her and stroking her cheek and telling her she is the best daughter I've ever had, which makes her laugh.

It's good to hear that laugh.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

nothing much is really something

The book I am reading right now................

The people I am spending the morning with....

The dog I am forgiving for stealing the last piece of date loaf .................

The flowers in my world........

Nothing too exciting going on here folks, but that's a good thing.
Mama's funeral was beautiful. The readings were words from her children, and words Mama had written herself. The mood was respectful, loving, sad and humorous all at once. Afterwards, my brother and sister and brother-in-law all congregated at our place. We had lunch together, and sat around chatting and drinking coffee. Ben showed off his burgeoning reading skills; Laura offered some of her more intricate drawings to be duly admired. Photo albums were pored over, and we discussed the funeral, and Mama.
Last night I made homemade pizzas and read to the kids lying down in bed.
Tonight I'm off to the movies with Fatty.
Tomorrow we're going bike riding, then having friends over for drinks and a sunset dinner on our back deck.
It's more than enough for me.

Friday, August 29, 2008

she is

On my way home from the nursing home today, I stopped at traffic lights. As I waited, I pressed the buttons on my phone, sending my friend a text message. The last word of the 3-word message kept coming up wrong - at least it was not what I was intending to say. Although I kept pressing 'options', somehow each 'wrong' message struck me as incredibly true and right.

My message said this:

'She is good'


'She is home'

then, finally, what I was trying to say all along

'She is gone'.

Mama, my darling Mama, may you fly free and rest easy.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

a close shave

I'm often running late. Not more than five minutes usually, but just a wee bit late. If I set my mind to it, I can be perfectly on time, of course. It's sheer laziness when I time things too finely, not allowing for lost hats, the applying of sunscreen, or the kids' last-minute toilet stops.

My running-latedness extends to school drop-off, too. I'd say fifty percent of the time I'm just 2 or 3 minutes late dropping off Ben (he starts earlier than his sister). Usually there are other kids still arriving, and the teacher is still chatting to parents or children. I tell myself it's not such a big deal.

My children, however, are not impressed when we are running late. They hate being bustled along, and they hate the thought of not being punctual. (Bloody neurotic kids - where do they get that from? Don't answer that please it was a rhetorical question) Laura once asked me plaintively, "Why are we always late for school?". I snapped, "We are not always late for school! And anyway, if you stopped dancing around in your underpants instead of getting dressed, we'd probably be on time!". Suitably chastened (or perhaps just frightened into submission), Laura gave up her protest as we pulled up to the school. Three minutes late.

The truth is that it's usually my fault when we're late. I get wrapped up reading blogs, or I take too long to make the lunches (do these kids of mine really appreciate my fancy salad wraps? I sincerely doubt it), or I just can't get my hair to look fit for public viewing. So I try to admit this to the kids, and apologise.

Last Friday, we were properly late. I'd taken extra time to wash my hair, and to shave my legs (lest I turn into some sort of hairy wildebeest). We arrived to find the class seated, and the roll being taken. I kissed Ben and told him to have a good day. He scuttled in, anxious to be marked as present.

I was chatting quietly with another mother when the teacher aide burst out of the classroom. She was breathless and laughing.

"Ben just told us it wasn't his fault he was late - it was because his mum had to shave her legs".

I think I may have been taught a lesson.

Shave your legs in utmost secrecy.


Last-minute addition: Feeling somewhat shamed by all these very punctual commenters, I must add that I am never late for work (in fact I always get there early to check results etc), and I am never late if meeting someone out somewhere. So obviously I am capable of being efficient, if I only shave early enough!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

hearing right

I've been trying to become a better listener.

I read in a book recently that to listen to someone fully and attentively is to give the other person one of the most precious gifts in the world. Reading those words struck a chord. I thought yes. Oh yes.

My closest friends are all incredible listeners. When I have a problem, they focus. They hear me out; they take time to comprehend. They let me express my fears. And this time and kindness that they give to me is of untold value. I believe that without their friendship, I would find life wearying and difficult.

My children seem to talk to me an awful lot, as I suppose all children do. They tell me what they've read, they ask me how to spell words as they write, they ask obscure questions which stump me and secretly frustrate me. Sometimes the flow of endless chatter feels like a tidal wave of words, and I want to shout "STOP! Stop this infernal talking!" Yet at the same time I am delighted that I am still privy to their worries, their queries and their day-to-day stories. And I want to be someone to whom they can speak, knowing that I will give them my full attention whenever possible. I want them to say, when they are grown, that they always knew they could talk to their mum.

At work, I listen to people all day. I hear their problems, I ask questions and hear their answers to my probing. There is a lot of conversing involved. Because a lot of talking occurs, I sometimes kid myself that I'm a brilliant listener. I begin to believe that I am well on the way to winning the inaugural Australian GP Listening Trophy 2008. Then I catch myself wondering what I'll cook for dinner, or I hear myself butt into the patient's story with a premature question, or I ask something my patient has already told me. Occasionally I ask the same question three times. Oh yes sirree, there is plenty of room for improvement here.

I suspect I am even worse at home. After all, I have already, in my delusional mind, won the listening trophy at work, and by the time I've lugged that sucker home, I'm exhausted. Fatty tells me about his footy team's injuries and I make vague 'hmmmm' noises, as if that should suffice. Laura tells me her dream from the previous night blow by blow and I fight desperately to retain enough detail to sound like I was paying attention. Benjamin explains his drawing of underground worms to me at length, and I stare and exclaim at the wonderful squiggly creatures while my mind is figuring out when Laura's jazz ballet fees are due.

So lately I've been trying to pay more attention, and by doing this, to pay more respect - to the people I love, and to the patients who entrust me with their medical care. It's hard work, but I'm enjoying the challenge.

(No-one's awarded me any trophies yet, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

seeing the world

The beagle and I went walking today. It was late in the afternoon, a clear day, with just the slightest chill beginning to touch the air.

Only minutes into the walk, we encountered a white-haired older woman, walking her beagle. The two dogs snarled half-heartedly at each other, then subsided as they realised their owners were stopping to chat. The lady and I discussed beagles and their insatiable greed. The woman suddenly asked, "Is this Millie, from Smith Street?". When I replied in the affirmative, she smiled indulgently. "Oh, Ruby and Millie always growl at each other", she laughed. The two dogs stood staring off in opposite directions, like bored teenagers. The woman and I bade each other farewell. I was amused to realise that we knew our respective dogs' names, but not each others'.

I took a route past my friend Belly's house. I knew she and her family were out, but I walked past anyway. I felt a pang of loneliness. The dog and I passed by.

Up a steep road went Millie and I, to my very favourite street. It is a crescent at the top of a hill, and from there I can look out in all directions. The sun was glowing orange in the distance, turning the sky along the horizon a soft tangerine. I felt that surge of happiness that I always feel at the sight of natural beauty.

Down through suburbia the dog and I plunged. We passed a man and his son, kicking a football to each other across a quiet street. The boy, perhaps five or six, watched Millie and I intently as we strolled past. He piped up, "Dad, I wish I had a soccer dog!".
"One that likes to play soccer", he added, in explanation.
"Me, too", his father replied good-naturedly.
I grinned to myself as I strode along.

Closer to home, Millie and I passed a slim, athletic-looking couple. From a distance, I thought they were in their twenties. As we passed, I realised they were in their fifties. Their faces were a little lined, their hair was greying, but I could tell they had been a handsome couple in their youth. They were still a good-looking couple now. I wondered if they were ever sad; wondered if they ever missed the recognition that used to be given to them because of their younger glory. They nodded hello to me and kept talking amiably to each other. They didn't look sad at all.

Our street was bathed in every shade of yellow as the dog and I reached home.

Thursday, July 31, 2008


I miss everyone in my life.

What I mean is - I never have enough time to spend with anyone, so I miss everyone.

I'm tired.

I'm going to burrow under the doona.

I miss everyone.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

faraway friends

Have you discovered that there are certain blogs you just keep coming back to above others? Have you found yourself drawn to someone's way of thinking, or the way they express themselves, or their sense of humour? Have you felt a sense of connection with another blogger in another town, another country, another continent, but felt unsure as to whether the connection was real?

I have often wondered what it would be like to meet a fellow blogger. Would they be as they seemed on their blog, or would I find them to be completely different to how they represented themselves in writing? Would we chat easily, or would the conversation seem forced and superficial? Would the experience be a thrill or a disaster?

Well, now I know. I had the opportunity to meet with an effervescent blond blogger whilst we were both on holiday, and she was just as I'd imagined.

We met for breakfast, and despite my fears that we would have some embarrassing sort of greeting along the lines of - "Are you...... are you, um?..... Are you a blogger? I mean, are you meeting...um..... another... well.....I'm Jellyhead anyway!", this thankfully did not occur.

I was quite nervous. I confessed this right away. Yet we chatted away for almost two hours, and I had a great time. I think I rambled on too much. I walked away wondering if my blogpal would report back to her husband that 'Jellyhead' was aptly named. I told myself not to worry because I knew my blogger friend was a positive and forgiving type.

From my point of view, the sense of friendship was not imagined. Even though we had never met before, it seemed we knew each other a little already - rather like you might feel seeing an old school friend you hadn't seen for years, but still remembered fondly.

It's incredible that you can meet and make friends that, but for the internet, you would never have known. It blows my mind, and it renews my faith in humankind.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


I knew I'd gained a couple of kilos on holiday, but this fact became cruelly evident to me when, during a game of hide-and-go-seek with my kids, I became wedged in Ben's dirty clothes hamper.

After being 'found' by Ben, I tried valiantly to free myself. I wiggled and wriggled. Laura offered me a hand and tried to help. Nothing worked. I was stuck at the hips. I sent the children to get their father, who was glued to the football on TV.

From my seated position in the blue container, I could just discern the conversation in the TV room.

"Da-ad. Mum's stuck in Ben's dirty clothes basket."

"What? She's what?" (this snorted derisively)

"She's stuck! She tried to hide in there and now she can't get out!" (this accompanied by gleeful twittering laughter)

Muttering grumpily, and taking his time, Fatty stumped through the house to Ben's room. By now I was grinning widely. I can always lose those extra kilos, but I believe I have set a new record for klutziness, and that can never be taken from me.

Fatty began to smile despite himself. "How on earth did you expect to fit in there?", he scolded. I gave no reply, merely lifting my arms up in supplication. Fatty pulled and heaved. My bottom remained firmly stuck within the depths of Ben's laundry bin. Fatty sighed, and tried lifting me from under my arms. Still I stayed hunkered-down tight. By now I was giggling, and Fatty's frustration only made me laugh more.

"We'll have to lay you down", decided Fatty, as he eased the laundry hamper into a reclining position. I was by this stage weak with laughter. Finally, I came unstuck, worming my way to freedom and lying leaking tears of mirth on Benjamin's bedroom floor.

I haven't laughed that much since Laura did her puffer fish imitation.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

tropical tripping

Last year, around this time, my dear friend Chooky whisked me away for a birthday treat weekend up north. We sat on the beach and talked, we dangled our legs in the pool whilst drinking mango daiquiris, we ate lunch on a veranda looking straight out to the azure blue waters you can see in this photo. That night we ordered room service, drank hot chocolate with marshmallows, and watched 'Under the Tuscan Sun' on DVD.
I should make it clear that Chooky is not a wealthy woman. She just scrimped and saved to do something truly special for me. Most years we celebrate each others' birthdays with cards and small, inexpensive gifts. Sometimes we make more of a fuss, and last year was the fuss to end all fusses. I had such a brilliant time. And I was so blown away by the beauty of the place that I vowed to drag husband and kids to the same town one day.
So, one year later, I am travelling with my small family in tow, back to this wondrous place. It will be a different sort of holiday - less lolling and chatting, and more snorkelling, swimming and sandcastling. But there'll still be that blue water and that soft sunshine.There'll still be that fine white sand to walk along, hand in hand with my husband, as we watch the kids run ahead of us.
I say bring it on.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

gastrointestinal grievances (warning - graphic details may offend or cause significant queasiness)

If it's not the dog's vomit that plagues me it's my children's. I suppose I should be grateful that until last night, neither dog nor child had spewed for a few months, but when my daughter hurls on the half hour for most of the night, I am nowhere near grateful. I'm not exactly grumpy, though, because after all I'm not the poor little body wracked with wretching. I am merely the holder of the bucket, the passer of tissues, the cleaner and the comforter. Much worse to be the bucket-filler. Still, I am weary. I need to sleep tonight in case tomorrow night brings another chundering child. Or heaven forbid, a sick moi. I am no good at vomiting. I have no style; no guts (he he) and definitely no glory.

Although I consider myself fairly stoic (rightly or wrongly), I admit to being a complete wimp when it comes to my stomach. I can go to work with a thumping migraine, I've walked around on a broken leg as a kid, I've given birth with but a whiff of gas. But give me a touch of nausea and I am a whimpering baby, a wuss, a sook. When I reach that point where I know that everything I've eaten is coming back to greet me, I feel panicky and desperate. I'd sell my first-born to stop the whole nasty business (well, maybe not my first-born but absolutely my dog). I mutter and shiver and shake and feel like bawling. I'm pathetic.

My son has inherited his mother's lack of vomit aplomb. He cries. He begs me to tell him when it will all end. He shakes and quakes just like his old ma.

My daughter is a calm, serene spewer. She coughs, spits, rinses then rests. She doesn't complain - I suppose she sees no point.

I feel a bit of a fraud bemoaning my lack of sleep last night, when it was not me bringing up my dinner with odd assorted chunks of what may have been pancreas. Really I ought to just go to bed and be glad I'm not (yet) ill.

Wish me luck (because I've grown quite fond of the dog)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

planet of the apes

So, today I found myself standing up in front of a very large crowd (several hundred people), doing a gorilla impersonation. This is where my life has taken me.

Fatty, Laura, Ben and I were singled out by the compere of a large theme park (mean! mean! mean compere!) and I didn't want to be a party pooper.

I wasn't very good.

Friday, June 06, 2008


You know, I don't get annoyed easily. Well, maybe I do, but I'm certainly not the type to get furious at the drop of a hat. And when I do get peeved, I am usually over it pretty quickly. I either say my piece, or I make myself think about what difficulties the other person may be dealing with, and that snaps me out of being angry. But this week I've been bothered by a couple of things, and I'm still stewing.

The first annoyance began when a patient, 'Victoria', returned to see me after trying a medication I'd prescribed her. I asked her how she was going with her tablets - were there any problems? Victoria reported that the medication itself wasn't bothering her, but that it was hard to remember to take it for 3 nights on, 3 nights off. I frowned. "The chemist told me to take it that way", Victoria explained. I felt myself getting steamed-up.

"Well, that's unusual", I replied. "This was a prescribed medication. The chemist should call me to discuss it if they feel there's a problem with the directions." And indeed that would be the professional thing to do. However, this chemist, without even having the courtesy to conference with me, had advised a patient of mine to take her medication in a fashion which will mean she never gets the full effect. Victoria may as well be taking jellybeans for all the good it will do her taken in this way.

I am the first to admit that a good chemist is the saviour of many a patient. There have been a few occasions where a chemist has called me to check my prescription directions, and has saved me from giving my patient an excessive dose of a medication. None of these medications would have caused a fatality, but they would have made the patient feel pretty awful. And as much as I try my best to be safe and careful, one day I could make a mistake that has the potential to kill a patient. Chemists watch for these errors, and they truly save lives, and save our doctoring butts.

That said, I object to having my directions completely over-ruled, without so much as a phone call. It is rude, it is presumptuous, and it has been to the detriment of Victoria. And I think I need to make a quiet phone call and politely express my thoughts about what occurred.


I was tucking Laura into bed last night, and had already kissed her goodnight when she called me back. "Mum?"

"What, love?" I enquired.

"Mrs D (the librarian at Laura's school) says 8 o'clock is too late to go to bed".

My frown from earlier in the week reappeared.

"Don't worry sweetie, she's not your parent", I soothed.

"But she says it's too late for going to sleep", Laura persisted.

"Well, she's not your parent", I reiterated. "Daddy and I will decide what's best for you".

I felt my annoyance rise anew against the chemist, and now against this teacher, too - advising my patients, and my daughter, without knowing the full details. The chemist did not know the full clinical details of my patient's condition. And this teacher does not know that Fatty & I have been trying to deal with Laura's nighttime insomnia, because of which Laura has been lying awake from her 7:30 bedtime until 8:45 or 9 pm most nights, tossing & turning. Mrs D doesn't know that we have recently instigated a new plan involving making sure Laura gets plenty of exercise each day, playing soft lulling music in her room at bedtime, and putting her to bed a little later, so she has less time to toss & turn. This may end up being a temporary measure, until her anxiety about getting to sleep dies down. But last night Laura was asleep within 20 minutes, and that has been a huge relief for both her, and for Fatty and I.

I would be happy for a chemist, or a teacher, to raise an issue with me. There have certainly been times when I have taken on board advice from either of these professional groups, and changed my way of doing things. I just don't like it being done behind my back.

This tirade is now over.

Saturday, May 31, 2008


I took my daughter shopping for shoes today. It's getting too cold for sandals, and black school shoes are not acceptable casual footwear for discerning seven-year-olds. We bought a pair of lurid hot pink sparkly sneakers. And then, as you do when you are sucked into the vortex that is a large shopping complex, we ended up looking around more, buying more. Purple flannelette PJ's with dogs on them for Laura, and a stripey blue jumper for Ben.

After a couple of hours of shopping, we stopped for coffee (for me) and hot chocolate (for Laura). We sat peaceably opposite one another, chatting and people-watching by turns. Laura acquired chocolate crescent shapes at either side of her mouth.

Eventually we headed for the car. Laura remarked that when she got home, she'd like to lie on her bed and read. "Oh yes, me too, " I rejoined eagerly.

"You can't lie on my bed to read, " Laura corrected gently.

"Yes, I can!", I argued. "If you scrunch over, we can lie side by side, and each read our books on your bed". Warming to my theme I added, "And when there's an interesting bit, or a funny part, we can read it out loud to each other!"

Laura paused, and then mused, "Well, yes, we could do that. You could read bits to me if they were appropriate for me to hear".

I laughed to hear this small girl speaking in such a dignified manner. Leaning down, I hugged her around the ribs and tickled her. "If it's appropriate, hey Louey?!". She sounded so grown-up.

"Well," Laura persisted, "you might not read it to me if was about someone being injured. Or if someone in the story was saying rude things.... like 'rack off you moron!'."

Just as Laura blurted the words 'rack off you moron!', a man walked past us, and did a double take. Meantime, I walked hand-in-hand with Laura, and marvelled at her innocence. Somehow I thought the world would have tarnished her more by now.

I know that this can't last. But for now I revel in my daughter's trust and purity. I kiss Laura's soft forehead and feel a thickness in my throat. She is all that is good in the world.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


He seemed to appear from nowhere. One minute I was sitting at the long, low table, drinking wine with some old high-school friends, and the next minute he was there.

I didn't see him arrive in his too-big checked suit. I didn't see him lay his cane down, resting on the bench seat beside him. But I glanced up from conversation and there he was - a wizened old gentleman, hunched at our table. It was 11 o'clock at night.

I stared, astonished. I was at a city bar, with music pumping, and lipsticked women chatting to business-shirted men. There were a few silver-haired men in their forties or fifties, but there were no Zimmer frames. This man who had joined our group was well into his eighties. I nudged my friend Kylie, who is divorced, and murmured that there was a new member at the table. She grinned and quipped, "I know you guys try to set me up with any man who is actually breathing, but I'm not sure that this guy is!" I followed her gaze. She was right! The octogenarian was leaning off at an angle, eyes drooping. Was he having a stroke? Had his heart stopped? Was he..... dead? I moved to get up, but just as I did, Mr Checked Suit sat upright. He blinked, and resumed examining his hands.

"I wonder if anyone has taken his order?", I worried out loud to Liz. I had only just met Liz, but I had already discovered she was smart and kind and brave. Liz didn't waste time worrying. The intrepid young Liz marched over, and sat down next to the elderly fellow. I watched as they conversed. Liz eventually disappeared into the bar, returning a few minutes later with a cup of coffee.

Liz had discovered that the suited man lived eight blocks away. He took his coffee with 5 sugars. When he gave Liz the money to buy the coffee, he had pulled out a wad of fifty dollar notes, and begun peeling off bills, telling Liz to buy drinks for herself and her friends. Liz had, of course, declined.

When Liz had asked the barman for a coffee with 5 sugars, the barman had cried, "Oh no! I forgot Allen's coffee!" The barman told Liz that Allen owned a huge chunk of nearby inner city land, and that he came to the bar every night for a cup of coffee.

I like to know that there are always these lovely quirky souls in the world who refuse to fit the stereotypes. I like to know that Allen can wander down at almost midnight and drink coffee at a city bar, where the barman knows his name, and knows how many sugars to put in his coffee.

I like that people are endlessly surprising, and that there truly is magic in everyday life.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

love in a cold climate

Yeah, yeah, I'm a bad dog. So what? You still feed me.

Sometimes I almost hate our dog Millie. My regular readers know this already. When this 'family' pooch snapped at my infant daughter, (for taking a nut Millie was chewing on) I was furious. When Millie bit the friendly builder who stuck his hand through from the neighbour's yard, I was mortified. When I find her sleeping on the living room couch, and she merely raises her eyes to me, but doesn't budge, I despair of her awful canine behaviour. And when Millie burrows under the fence into the neighbour's yard (a new habit she's acquired), I'm well aware that it's not just Fatty and I who are seething with irritation. But just when I think she is a nasty mutt who cares for nothing except food, she softens my heart with proof that underneath all that acting out, there is genuine affection for her owners.
This morning, I braved the snow, icicles and blizzards (although I could be exaggerating again) to go buy bread. Millie was already inside the house, luxuriating in the warmth of our small heater, curled up on her comfy dog cushion near the back door. She gazed at me hopefully as I put my shoes on, and then looked doggy-disappointed when I reached for the car keys. I strode callously out the front door, without a backward glance.
I returned with a still-warm loaf, my breath smoky in the chill morning air as I rushed from the car back to the house. And there sat Millie, waiting for me on the veranda. She leapt to her feet as I arrived, tail wagging enthusiastically. In spite of the fact the rest of the family were awake and clustered in the cosy kitchen, Millie had chosen to keep watch for her mistress out in the cold. I bustled into the kitchen, telling Fatty about our winter-braving watchdog. "She loves me!", I exclaimed. "She really does love me!" I'm such a sucker for love.
Later in the morning, I passed Laura's doorway and noticed a small note stuck to the outside of her uniform.
Before I reveal the contents of the note, I should explain that lovely Louey has been in trouble a few times a week lately - mainly for being forgetful. Water bottles are left behind, hats lost, library books not packed (and all this despite repeated reminders). Even the daily things - such as hanging her bag & hat, and retrieving her reading folder on arrival at school - are regularly undone or half done (she'll walk away with hat still on, or without remembering anything to take into class). It's not deliberate - she's just a dreamy soul - but sometimes it drives her parents spare, and we get cranky with Laura-Lou.
Today I had to grasp the very sharp metal object that had penetrated my heart, and rip it painfully back out. Because this is what Laura's handwritten note said:
1) be good
2) be kind
3) try hard
4) be sencabal (sensible)
Laura, my sweet Louey. Forgive me for my own impatience. Forgive me for making you feel anything less than wonderful, just as you are.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

for my mother

I remember how you comforted me whenever I was scared in the night.

I remember how you drew a princess for me, in coloured chalk. She was the prettiest princess I had ever seen.

I remember how you answered my questions so patiently, day after day.

I remember how you made me dresses of all different colours and patterns - my favourite was the strawberry dress.

I remember when I was ten and my best friend moved away, and I sobbed in your lap like a small child. You held me quietly; you didn't offer platitudes. You just let me be sad until I felt better again.

I remember how you always told me I was beautiful. When I was a gawky, awkward teen, it meant a lot to me that at least one person in the whole world thought I looked lovely.

I remember how when I was in my final years of high school, you would bring me a cup of tea and a piece of cake, while I was studying.

I remember one night, before a major exam, when I couldn't sleep, and you came and rubbed my back for an hour or more. I had to pretend to be asleep, so you would finally go and get some sleep yourself.

I cannot remember you ever yelling at me. I remember you being angry a few times (and I always deserved it), but I never remember you screaming. Now that I am a mother myself, this fact astonishes me!

I remember you meeting Fatty, and telling me later, approvingly, "Oh, he LOVES you!" You have never criticised my husband, nor my siblings' spouses. You treat our partners like your own family.

I remember you holding my daughter, your first grandchild, and looking radiant and overjoyed. You brought your mother to see Laura, too, that day, and there were four generations of women all together in the hospital room.

I remember when I was tired and emotional, and trying to settle my infant daughter in her cot, and you came and stood with me, and told me I was doing a good job. You didn't make suggestions, or take over. You simply told me I was a good mother. Your words filled me with pride, and with new energy.

I remember how, every year around the time of our wedding anniversary, you have cared for our children so Fatty and I can spend time away together.

Each Mother's Day, I remember anew that I have been blessed with a mother with profound patience, kindness and strength. You have loved and accepted me just as I am, all my life. You continue to have faith in me, even though I know I am different to you.

Mum, I count my lucky stars that you are my mother, and I love you with all my heart.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Jellyhead's Wondrous Life - Chapter 354

I've been pondering various pressing questions lately. Namely - why my softly-spoken patient 'Ella' has such bizarre lab results, why someone dear to me is having to deal with a spouse's dodgy behaviour, and why the damn dog keeps puking up her dinner. I was awake at 4 am this morning pondering all three dilemmas.

I got up around dawn, and stumbled out into the cold (note to readers from Canada, the US, the UK and anywhere else 'properly cold' - Australians think it is bitterly cold once the temperature drops below around 20 degrees celsius. Well, at least the ones who live in the tropics do! And it was only 10 degrees this morning, so I was practically risking frostbite). I picked up the newspaper and searched for evidence of upchucked dogfood. As I wandered barefoot in the shivery, wet grass, peering into all corners of our yard for vomitus, it seemed to me that the day had started ominously. However, as the minutes passed, I forgot my icy feet. I stopped wondering if the neighbours would be offended by my mascara-smudged eyes and bedhead. There was no spew! Oh joyous day!

Safely at work a couple of hours later, I spoke to the specialist to whom I had referred Ella last year. The specialist sounded edgy and evasive. "Yes, this is all getting out of my league now", she muttered. "I'd like you to send her to Dr X." I dutifully phone Dr X. The next available appointment is July. I may, if I wish, ring Dr X tomorrow, though, to plead my patient's case. I feel confident I can wangle a deal. I've become an expert at begging in as dignified a way as possible.

Later in the day I phoned the person whose partner is causing them grief. Things sounded happier.

My daughter came home from school wan and febrile. I set her up on the couch with DVD and drink and nurofen. Within an hour, she had recovered enough to eat pikelets with raspberry jam and wander the backyard with her brother.

Now, the dog-with-intact-stomach-contents (touch wood) is lying nearby, curled up on her dog pillow. My kids are asleep. Fatty is out playing squash - keeping fit and getting in touch with his masculine side and male-bonding and all that. And here sit I, telling you of my day.

In case you're at all confused, my day has been thus - ( in order) - puppy puke, patient problem, pissy partner, pale progeny, pikelets. I bet you're simply gagging for Chapter 355.

Monday, April 21, 2008

blue is the colour

I truly don't know how people who struggle with depression keep putting one foot in front of the other. They must have to draw on such reserves of strength just to make it through each day.

I don't think I've ever been depressed - not according to the clinical definition - or if I have, I've been lucky that it righted itself without intervention. But some days I get a taste of what it must be like to be depressed ..... I have the blues and they're hard to shake.

Last night I thought about the week ahead and it seemed that my life stretched ahead of me in endless weeks - work, work, weekends, work, work, weekends. Occasional holidays - long anticipated, over in a trice - then more work, work, work.

I woke up this morning and was overwhelmed by a sense of dread for the day ahead, the week ahead, the months ahead. Already this feeling is slowly lifting, but it's a frightening emotion. I hate to be so gloomy, so negative, so introspective, and yet the dread seems to wash over me unbidden.

To all those who suffer on not just the odd Monday morning, not just a few days here and there, but weeks and months and sometimes years on end - you are heroes. Day after day, you battle what others like myself can only imagine, while we despair of a single day of sadness.

It's time to get ready for work. It's time to change that blue to purple, then merge to red, and maybe even rev it up to hot pink.

I wish you all a hot pink kind of day!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

beauty and beasties

Despite the fact that I am a non-church-goer married into a family of devout Lutherans; despite the fact that I always take seconds of dessert; despite the fact I boss their son around and am much louder and more assertive than is probably seemly - despite all this, my parents-in-law are nothing but loving towards me. They accept me as I am. I think they even love me (well, they say they do!). So when we go to visit them, I genuinely have a good time.

Last week, Fatty and the kids and I went to visit Nanna and Poppa. We drank lots of coffee and played several games of 500.

The Birdman could not help himself and even did a bit of twitching in his parents backyard. This photo was not staged in any way.... I simply snuck up behind him.
Laura and Ben spent hours watching their snails race. Yeah. 'Race' is probably not quite the right term.
I just hung around making strange finger gestures.

When not making odd gesticulations, I wandered around Nanna's beautiful garden, taking photos of the glorious roses. They are so perfect, and so fragrant.

One day, Fatty and I took the kids to a wildlife park. I have never seen these particular Australian animals up so close. Normally these species are to be seen in the distance in some cage. You squint your eyes, and your companion says, "See! See that brown fur?", and you say, "Oh. Oh, OK", with disappointment, because really, it could be a stuffed toy for all you can see of it. But these guys were careening about their open-topped enclosures, as if to say "Look at me! La-di-da!"
Wombly wombat

Dastardly Dingo

Enchanting Echidna

Devlilish (Tasmanian) Devil

And now, this devilish woman better get some sleep, or I'll be devilishly obnoxious tomorrow.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

ninety four

He lay in the narrow cot, covered up to his chin by a light cotton blanket. His skin was almost as parchment white as the blanket. His mouth was agape. He was as still as a mountain. I came close to Grandpa, and touched his shoulder gently.

Red-rimmed eyes opened. A slow smile of recognition spread across his pale face. "Hello darling!" he exclaimed. "Happy Birthday Grandpa", I proclaimed proudly.

Later, we sat around a plastic table in a courtyard - Grandpa, my daughter, my son and I. The children drew with pens on scraps of paper from my handbag. Grandpa watched the children as we talked of his health; as I told him a funny story; as he recalled tales from his life. He ran his hand over his grey hair as he declared himself pleased to have reached 94 years of age.

Out of the blue, Grandpa declared earnestly, "I'm staggered by the beauty of those children!". I felt a flash of motherly pride (Yes! Someone else has finally realised! My children are unusually and incredibly beautiful!), before I recalled that Grandpa has quite poor eyesight.

After half an hour, the (astoundingly gorgeous) children and I said our goodbyes. Ben permitted himself to be hugged, and Laura gingerly kissed Grandpa's dry stubbled cheek. Grandpa's eyes watered and he murmured huskily, "I'll never forget this day".

And now, in writing this down, I'll never forget either.

Friday, March 28, 2008

taste sensation

It's been my experience that as soon as kids go to school, their parents become completely ignorant, and no longer possess any worthwhile knowledge. All wisdom previously considered the domain of their parents is magically transferred to the teacher. Nothing you can say as a parent will budge your child from this viewpoint.

My daughter, Laura, seems most affected by this transition. Her teacher, Mrs M, has achieved the status of some sort of deity, and every word she utters is the gospel truth. Once, when I dared to dispute what Mrs M had said regarding a medical matter, I was howled down by my daughter, as she wailed tearily, "But Mrs M said so". Mrs M is an experienced and excellent teacher, and seems very switched-on, but as a mother and doctor, I felt entitled to correct the minor mistruth. It seems I was out of line. Mrs M rules supreme.

It was with great amusement, and a sense of pride in my questioning son, that I overheard the following conversation:

Laura: "Mrs Marshall says that you should keep trying foods you don't like to eat. She says if you eat something you don't like every day for two weeks, then your tastebuds will adjust, and you'll start to like the food."

Ben looked sceptical. There was a brief pause.

Ben: "So...... what about if you tried to eat poo every day for two weeks?"

(I couldn't wipe the grin off my face)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

all sorts

It's true what they say - it takes all sorts of people to make the world go 'round. I'm always astounded by the vast array of different personalities I come across in my work and social lives. And some of these people are just so darn entertaining.

Her permed curls bobbed cheerily as she squeaked across the hospital ward floor towards my grandfather. My grandfather's face is affected by Parkinson's disease, and his face at rest is set in an expression of solemn contemplation. He seemed to regard the cleaner warily as she bore down upon him.

"Hello my POPPY POP!", shrieked the cleaner, with a look of glee on her face. Grandpa's face moved slowly into a bewildered smile, as the woman leant closer.
"How are YOU, Poppy Pop?", she yelled, as if speaking to a person who was another room away.

Grandpa smile widened. He glanced across at me and I knew he was thinking exactly what I was thinking: 'This woman has escaped from the Psychiatric Unit and has nicked a mop and begun cleaning'. Well, perhaps he wasn't thinking exactly that, but his look was amused and surprised and conspiratorial.

"She's got her own nickname for you, Grandpa", I teased, in a quiet undertone. Apparently the cleaner had very keen ears, even if she assumed no-one else did.

"Oh, I call them all Poppy Pop!", the chatty cleaner chirped, as she bustled about replacing a bin liner. "Why, what do you call him?", she queried, sounding surprised that Grandpa wasn't actually called Poppy Pop.

"Hmmm, Grandpa, hmmmm", she muttered in response to my reply. It seemed clear that she considered 'Poppy Pop' to be a far superior name.

"There you go my Poppy Pop!" she cried, as she fixed the bin liner onto his tray with two pieces of sticky tape. The cleaner stepped closer to my still-handsome, grey-haired, fleecy-vested grandfather. Her grin was stretching her face into previously unseen dimensions. She laid a hand on each side of Grandpa's jaw, and lowered her head until her forehead touched Grandpa's.
"I just want to ADOPT you!" she shouted.

The other men in the four-bed room began to laugh out loud. Grandpa's shoulders began to rise and fall as he chuckled uncontrollably. I sat in my visitors chair, stunned - not just at the cleaner's offer to become Grandpa's legal guardian, but at her sheer volume. I swear my ears were ringing and I was a full two feet further away.

The laughter did nothing to daunt our boisterous cleaner - if anything she seemed to become more effusive. "You're just so GORGEOUS!", she crowed, vigorously pinching Grandpa's cheeks. Grandpa's eyes began to leak tears of laughter, and he and I kept sneaking incredulous glances at each other as we both struggled to suppress our mirth. Just when I thought Grandpa's laughter might trigger one of his coughing fits, the cleaner bustled away. "See you tomorrow, Poppy!". She stalked away, and the four men slowly wiped the tears from their cheeks, chuckling quietly to themselves.

She may be bordering on certifiable, but that cleaner made those elderly gentlemen laugh like kids. And I don't know any sweeter medicine than that.

It takes all sorts alright.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

comeback queen

There is only so long a person like me can hold their tongue. That time limit has now been exceeded. I'm back, and I'm chatty. Don't say you weren't warned.

While away from blogging, I've read a lot more, I've played some online Scrabble, and I've talked to my friends and family a bit more, too. I've kept up to date with your blogs via Bloglines. But I've missed expressing myself. This blog gives me a voice beyond mothering, beyond mundane household discussions, beyond the interactions I have in my work persona. And let's face it - you, my blogfriends, are some of the world's greatest listeners!

I hope you are all having a lovely Easter. I'll be visiting you all on your blogs very soon.

I'll be posting again soon, too, but right now there's a box of Lindt chocolates that's calling my name.....

Thursday, February 21, 2008

goodbye for now (but not for ever!)

I've been a blogger for 2 1/2 years now, and it's been a truly wonderful addition to my life.

Blogging opened my eyes to a whole new world of communication, and sharing of lives. I've been fascinated, awed, touched and amused by all manner of posts, from all kinds of people. I have made real friends. I 'know' so many more people who have enriched my life in ways large and small.

I've written about my own thoughts and experiences, and in doing so have discovered unrealised feelings. Writing has always given me a sensation of expanding joy as I put words together, and through blogging I could write with a sense of happy purpose. Someone would read what I wrote, and they would even be reading it voluntarily! And to get comments on what I wrote .... well, that was (and still is) such a thrill!

There have been times when I have stayed up too late, addicted to reading blogs, or writing my own posts. There have even been times when I have failed to read or write for a week, or more.

Right now, I have lost the urge to blog. I've lost the inclination to read blogs, and I have no desire to write. I'm sure this is a temporary thing. Maybe I'm just blogburnt-out. Maybe I just need some time away, to read novels and talk with my kids and phone my family more often.

Whatever the reason, I'm sure I'll be back. I would miss all 'you lot' too much if I didn't come back to see how you all were. And I'd miss being able to rave on about whatever I pleased, on my own personal soapbox here. I reckon after a month I'll be back leaving silly comments and writing silly posts with gusto.

So take care everyone, and I'll come back to blogging with renewed vigour in March...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


I had forgotten what they're like - the young interns, striding importantly along the disinfectant-scented corridors. I had forgotten until today, when I went to visit my grandfather in hospital.

Grandpa's had a fall, and at almost 94, he takes time to get over these things. He's healing well, though, and lapping up all the attention. He and I sat together and talked, looking out to the misty grey skies. Grandpa told me a tale from his days in the police force, a dramatic story of cornering and capturing a 'bad guy'. As we chatted, various health professionals came and went.

I hadn't recalled, or perhaps I hadn't ever noticed, just how self-satisfied interns look. I found it disconcerting and embarrassing to watch. They stalked along the corridors, almost bursting with pride, chins thrust forwards as they looked my way. Their unwavering gaze seemed to me to say, "Yes. You suppose correctly. I am indeed a doctor." With one or two of them, I felt their gaze flick over me, taking in my jeans and T-shirt, and I felt them dismiss me as of being of no importance. I was taken aback, to say the least.

Maybe I was reading their body language incorrectly. I don't think so, though. I doubt my instincts were wrong, because I have insider information. I remember when I, too, was new to doctoring, and I know I was hugely, incredibly, swollen-headedly proud.

For me, it wasn't ever that I thought I was the keeper of any sort of vital knowledge. I knew damn well that I was hopelessly ill-equipped for my new role; relying every day on kind nurses and older doctors to prevent me from harming or killing my patients. I wasn't arrogant or cocky. I was proud, though. I felt like I'd taken a leap up the social scale. No longer was I a shabbily-dressed student who no-one bothered to glance at, much less look up to - suddenly I was a respected member of society. I'll admit that I enjoyed feeling important. I liked to stride the corridors in my new tailored pants and blouses, knowing that people walking by could tell I was a doctor. Gad! I was such a jerk! And so are these hallway-stalking interns I witnessed today.

The longer you work as a doctor, the less proud you feel, or at least that's how it's been for me. You realise that you'll never know everything about anything. You realise that being a doctor is nothing magical - it's just a job like any other job. You meet patients from all walks of life; you admire people most of all for their goodness, or their humour, or their bravery. You experience some of life's joys and life's sadnesses yourself. You grow up because you finally have a job like everyone else. You realise that some clever people are incredibly stupid, and that many 'non-academics' are extremely smart. You begin to understand that a person's inherent worth is nothing to do with their place on the social scale, or their education level, or their occupation.

You also learn to respect people, and that's different altogether from simply 'being nice'. I winced as a ponytailed female intern came bobbing up to the woman opposite my grandfather.

"Hi, Gwendolyn!", she squealed in her girlish voice, as she touched the arm of the grey-haired octogenarian. (Gwendolyn??? Not Mrs So-And-So? C'mon, she's not your pal, she's your patient. Show some respect, Ponygirl!) Ponygirl asked the woman to bend her arm up.

"Good girl!", enthused Ponygirl. "You're doing so well!" Ponygirl bounced away, looking mightily pleased with herself. I had to fight my overwhelming desire to go to her and to pull her into a quiet corner. I wanted to tell her that her positivity was admirable, and that I'm sure her intentions were nothing but kind, but that she must never, ever call a grown woman 'girl' again.

Mrs So-And-So looked across to me from her recliner chair and rolled her eyes, smiling.

I sat with Grandpa as the rain came across in blustery sheets, gusting over rooftops. As we looked out, Grandpa spoke of his wish to reach 100 years old. He says he's never done anything 'remarkable' in his life, and that reaching a century old would be a real achievement. I held his calloused hand - calloused still, after a lifetime of hard work - and told him that his legacy would be not his age at death, but his shining example of honesty, honour and unconditional love.

I forgot the strutting interns; their pride seemed silly, yet understandable and forgivable. They are only young.

I sat beside a man devoid of pride; a humble man who is frail and old, but who is nothing short of remarkable.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

being 'bleah'

I haven't wanted to post, because as some wise person once said - If you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. But after keeping quiet for several days now, nothing has changed. I decided to write. Sometimes writing helps.

It's not that I'm snippish, or bad-tempered, or ferocious, like the lion-fighter of my dream. I'm just a bit lacklustre. (Don't you love that word? Let me say it again ..... lacklustre)

I suspect I am grieving a little for my children's babyhoods ..... which I'm perfectly aware is silly and ungrateful, not to mention tedious for you to read about (again!). It's ridiculous to feel maudlin when your children are growing and thriving and happy. It's just that I am sensing the beginning of their breaking away from me, and I'm sad. I wonder how mothers the world over deal with this? How do we each carry these babies in our bodies, feed them from our breasts, hold them, comfort them, sing to them, walk with them, swim with them and throw balls with them....... and then watch as they roll their eyes at us, refuse offers to spend time together and push us away impatiently if we hug them too long? How do we go from skin-close to a respectful distance?

Maybe the answer is - gradually. Slowly. With a few tears, and with consolation and understanding from partners and friends and other mothers. With the knowledge that we have done well to raise children who are independent and resilient.

And, I hope, with the occasional quick tight hug from a growing-up child who still loves their mother much more than they show.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

fierce creatures

The lion padded swiftly towards us. I tried to move away steadily, without running. I herded the children in front of me, urging them on with low, insistent words. My daughter was in front and reached the door of the hut first. She darted inside, and I reached for Ben's hand to pull him inside, too.

The lion snarled and pounced. He seized my son betweeen his jaws; caught my son by the back of the neck as if Ben was an errant lion cub. The beast lifted my son in the air and I watched with a sense of hopelessness, and with a feeling of unbearable loss. In that moment, I felt a chasm of grief open up and I peered down into its depths with mounting horror.

And then I attacked the lion. I yelled, I howled, my rage knew no bounds. I grabbed my son with one arm, and began punching the lion's chest with my free hand. Sounds of such great fury came from my mouth that even I was astonished. There was a brief tug-of-war, and then all at once it was over. The lion released my son, and gave its head a shake, almost as if in disgust. The lion looked at me for a moment. His eyes seemed to convey that he could have taken my son; that this victory was only mine because he'd chosen to allow it.

This was my dream, the night before Ben starts school (today). Do you think I might be feeling a wee bit protective of him?!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

a new era

He's going to school. My baby, my youngest child, my chubby, ever-questioning, dimple-smiled Ben is starting school next week. In his over-large shirt and his shorts almost reaching his ankles, he looks too small to be a schoolboy. He's five, though, and he's ready to fly the coop.

My friend Heather consoled me, "He's going to be fine. He'll love school!"

"I know!", I retorted mock-tetchily. "I'm not worried about him! It's ME who's upset .... don't you realise it's all about ME?!"

Ah, yes, of course," she replied, smiling. "How silly of me. Of course it's all about you."

I pouted dramatically for a moment, then laughed. Because I know it's pure selfishness to be sad about something that will be thrilling and interesting and challenging for my son. School will mean a growing sense of independence for him. He will learn to feel confident with all different types of people. Ben will learn to read and write, and the magical world of books and communication will open up to him. He will hear differing opinions, and begin to evaluate situations himself. It will be the start of his boyhood.

For me, it is a chapter of my life coming to a close. No longer will I be a mother of pre-schoolers; no more will I compare notes with my friends about the drudgery and delights of staying home with small children. I will be working another day as a GP. On my two days at home, I will go about the housework, and grocery shopping without interruption..... and although that probably seemed like bliss when the children were babies, the idea now strikes me as faintly sad.

Others who have gone through this same change of role assure me that within days I will be whooping with joy as I whizz about, unencumbered. They're probably right. I've always enjoyed my own company, and I have plenty of projects - both pleasurable and tedious - to occupy me. It's not that I need the company of a child in my day. It's just that I'll miss it.

So goodbye little Benjamin and hello there, schoolboy Ben! I'm sure your days will be filled with fun, in new and varied ways. I really am excited, and proud, and happy for you to be starting school next week.
I just might need a tissue when I get back to the car.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


I used to be a Sleep Princess. I could only sleep if lying down in a bed, preferably my own. If there was the slightest noise, I had trouble dropping off. Any discomfort rendered me an insomniac. My husband Fatty joked about checking under the mattress for peas.

And then I had children. Since that fateful day, I have found that nothing much deters me from sleep. I become dimly aware of Fatty snoring at 100 decibels, and I turn over and fall back to sleep. I slumber peacefully through storms. Just like 'normal people', I now may drift off whilst sitting upright, watching a movie. My children wear me out, and now I can sleep.

Except that it is 4am right now (or it was when I gave up on sleep after an hour of tossing and turning) and here I am sitting at the kitchen table. I have a wry neck. Not such a big deal. But I am remembering what it is like to be awake through the night, and how isolating it is, and how I used to not like it!

When I worked nights, I hated the feeling of driving in to work to start a 10pm shift. I experienced a terrible sort of jealousy towards all those who were just about to crawl sleepily into bed. Dreading what cases might come in to the emergency department overnight, often having slept fitfully during the day, I wanted desperately to flop into bed, too. I remember driving to the hospital feeling so alone, with a knot in the centre of my belly.

Other times I lay awake the night before an exam, or after a big spat with a boyfriend. Once I was awake most of the night after having a root canal done the day before. Yet I realise I have nothing to complain about, because these are all fairly isolated incidents, like tonight...or should I say today?! Some people struggle terribly with insomnia. Even the simple process of getting older causes a change in sleep patterns such that people in their 60's or 70's begin to sleep in 2 or 3 blocks of slumber, with periods in between where they are wide awake.

A friend of mine who has fought depression and come through it says the worst thing about her illness was the insomnia. I remember her despair at not being able to get to sleep, and she described her terror each time she woke after only a couple of hours' sleep. She was desperately trying to function on a few snatched hours here and there, and the tiredness and loneliness from being awake all through the night just floored her.

It's good to put one night of poor sleep into perspective. And now that the birds are beginning to chirp, and the panadol is starting to kick in, I may just head back to bed. If there are any peas under the mattress, I'll eat them.

Good night, good morning or good day, depending. I wish you a good night's sleep tonight, wherever you are!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

dancing around an elephant

One of my patients is dying. Perhaps I should clarify that - given that we all are, in essence, heading for that final curtain. One of my patients is dying, and will die soon.

I still find it disturbing and unsettling, no matter how many times I attend someone in their last months, weeks and days. Dying is such an unknown, and so brutally complete. There can be no encores - at least not in this world. I wonder how the person feels, and if they are afraid. I wonder if they wish they were well enough for just one more stroll along the sand, just one more lazy afternoon devouring a thick novel, just one more animated, wine-fuelled, late-night debate with family or friends.

I'm not sure whether it is coincidental, but my last two terminally-ill patients have seemed, to me, quite withdrawn and distant. Almost emotionless. I asked each lady how they were feeling, mood-wise. Each replied calmly that they had 'come to terms' with their situation. Yet, to me, it felt like more than 'coming to terms' - to me it seemed more like a slow 'checking out'. We discussed their wishes for their last days of life as if we were discussing a grocery list.

It was in this strange atmosphere of disconnected emotions that I visited 'Mrs E' yesterday. She lives alone in a small retirement village unit. She was sitting patiently and uncomfortably on a seat near the front door. Her arms & legs have wasted even more since I saw her last week. Her eyes and skin are turning a delicate lemon yellow. And when I felt her abdomen.... suffice it to say the distortion of her internal organs filled me with horror at the time, and brings tears to my eyes to recall it now.

We sat and talked about her discomforts, and made plans to relieve her symptoms as best we could. Arrangements for assistance in home and personal care were confirmed. I lightly stroked her swollen feet as we discussed the fluid retention - not because it would help, but because I wondered if anyone ever touches her poor puffy feet. Mrs E earnestly discussed a new medication, and mentioned troubles with her phone. And the enormous elephant, the subject of Mrs E's impending death, stood in the centre of the room. We both leaned to look around the elephant and continued to discuss nursing visits.

I know there is a cycle of life and death. I know that Mrs E is an elderly lady, and that this is the inevitable conclusion to her life. I know that she is wiser than I am, and I do believe she is accepting of the fact that she will not live to see winter. And yet her bony arms make me want to weep.

Monday, January 07, 2008

old flames, and love in the kitchen

I've been away. Quite possibly this fact has gone unnoticed by all, but nevertheless - I've been away!

While away I spoke on the phone to my friend C. W. Woo. He had news of a fellow I dated for a few years. This Fellow I Dated (who from now on shall be referred to as 'FID') and I were only young at the time, but we were quite serious for awhile there. FID and I were youthfully, naively certain we were in love. In truth I think we were mostly in love with the concept of having a steady girlfriend/boyfriend. In any case, that was a long time ago (17 years, to be precise). We grew apart, we broke up, and although I have some fond memories, I also have plenty of memories to remind me how unsuited FID and I were to each other.

FID is now a politician. He is a member of parliament in another state. He is, in fact, a Minister for Rhubarb and Codswallop (can't get too specific here, for fear he, or someone he knows, discovers this blog!). He is married, with children. I have spoken to him a handful of times since we split up - always on friendly terms, but never with much sense of connection. We have taken different pathways in life; we have differing priorities.

Not so long ago, FID telephoned me at work, wanting to meet for coffee. He was in my city for an important meeting. He sounded lonely and wistful. He wanted to meet that day, despite the fact that I was at work. He seemed strangely unable to grasp the fact that I couldn't simply drop everything and come to see him. "Don't you have have any spare appointment times?", he queried persistently. "I'm meeting Neil & Ruth for dinner, then I have to fly home tomorrow".

I politely explained that I was fully booked, and had appointments scheduled all day. I suggested that maybe next time he was going to be in town, he could let me know in advance!

"Oh, right", he sighed. He seemed to grasp about listlessly for conversation. "So, you're working as a GP then?".

"Yes. I work two days a week", I explained. "It's good. I really enjoy it".

"So...... are you going to specialise?", FID asked.

I felt a rising irritation. Why do so many people assume that GPs are failed specialists? It's insulting, especially to those of us who thought long and hard before choosing general practice as our life's vocation, and to those of us who have done the post-graduate degree in general practice.

I took a deep breath. "No, " I replied patiently. "I like working as a GP. I don't want to look at eyes all day, or hearts, or skin. I like seeing whole families; I like trying to figure out what is wrong with patients of all ages, from all walks of life." Inwardly, I wondered if the question he'd asked was entirely innocent. After all, I have been working as a GP for more than ten years. If I was planning on specialising, surely I would have done so by now. Perhaps FID felt I should have done something more spectacular with my life, like, say, become a renowned brain surgeon, or maybe a Nobel-prize-winning physicist, or ...... a Minister for Something Important?

"Oh, right", FID murmured, disinterested. We talked a few more minutes, and then I had to excuse myself to call my next patient.

That night I told my husband Fatty of the conversation. We marvelled at the social ineptitude of this 'politician', this 'man of the people'. Because although I believe FID to be a good man, with honourable intentions and strong principles, I don't think he is man who truly likes people in a general sense. I think he likes some select people, but I don't get a sense of him caring about we Australians, all us 'great unwashed'. It seems he respects high achievers more than people in general. And if his words to me that day were any indication, he doesn't always stop to consider how his comments may affect others.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this. I'm not really annoyed with FID anymore. The more I think about it the more I feel a bit sorry for him. Our mutual friend tells me FID has no friends to speak of. He hinted that all was not well in FID's marriage. And all FID talks about is his next step up the political ladder.

Once FID told me that the worst thing about being a polititian was having to listen to his constituents talk, whilst pretending to be interested in them. If only he knew how that remark made me cringe. I pictured all those men and women, earnestly expressing their hopes and fears, with FID nodding seriously, as he inwardly wondered whether to have a pie or a smoked salmon bagel for lunch.

My husband doesn't address auditoriums full of people, he doesn't wear snazzy suits, he barely manages to get a haircut 4 times a year. He does not grace the pages of the newspaper and he's uncomfortable at parties. Yet he's kind and respectful to all, and never hints that I am anything less than what he's always dreamed of. He is the kind of man I imagined loving. And, here he is, right now, in our kitchen, loading the dishwasher. I need to go kiss him this minute.....