Wednesday, August 30, 2006

when three's company

I think blog world has gone to sleep. It seems everyone has closed their laptops and gone off to defrost their fridges, trim their nose hairs or do their tax. All vital tasks, of course, but still. I feel that I need to stir things up a bit.

I was over visiting John Cowart's blog, and read his excellent post about the bad choices made by supposedly smart people. It reminded me of a particular situation that I know to exist between three people in this very city. I know this because two of the people in this story were dear friends of my pal Chooky. I'm going to have to change names and occupations, but otherwise the story will be true to life. Here it is:

Sarah and Craig met at school. Their relationship began when Sarah was still half in love with another boy she'd been dating. Eventually Craig won her over, and in their early twenties, they married. They seemed very close and loving. They were affectionate together, they laughed and teased often, and whenever they were apart, they missed each other terribly. Sarah was clever, and completed her studies to become a social worker. Craig wasn't a natural at his studies, but did very well for himself, going into business.

A few years later, they had a gorgeous little boy. Sarah and Craig were doting parents, and continued to radiate happiness - they seemed a beautiful family.

There came a time when Sarah and Craig decided they both wanted to learn a sport - for fitness and for fun. They began having tennis lessons with Crystal - a stunning redhead in her early twenties (can you hear that alarm bell ringing?.... brrrrrring brrrrrring!). Crystal was a self-proclaimed lesbian, who was in a relationship with an older woman. Sarah and Crystal became friends as well as being instructor and student. Crystal confided in Sarah when her relationship fell apart, tearfully admitting she felt lost and hopeless. She had to leave her lover's house. Where, oh where would she stay? (brrrrring!)

Sarah and Craig offered Crystal the downstairs area in their house; told her she was welcome to stay as long as she liked. Things were looking rosy for Sarah and Craig - they could afford to be magnanimous. They had just found out they were going to have another baby.

After that, the details are hazy. Chooky was told by Sarah and Craig that they both admitted to each other one day that they each 'had feelings' for Crystal. Crystal apparently felt the same. So yee-haw! they became a threesome and have remained so for the past year. When their second son was born, they named him Crystal's surname.

My friend Chooky was shattered by all this, because she'd always thought that if anyone had a rock-solid relationship, it was Sarah and Craig. They'd always seen Chooky through any emotional crises with compassion and wise words. Chooky had always counted on Sarah's sensible and practical advice. And now, this 'golden couple' were no longer an exclusive pair, and all their marriage vows were broken. It was not the morality or sexual choices that Chooky struggled with (although she did find the whole situation quite confronting) - it was the shock of realising that you may never truly know a person - you may never really know what a person is capable of - even someone who is a close and treasured friend. That takes some getting over.

Chooky has tried to maintain a friendship, of sorts, with Sarah and Craig. She doesn't ask how things are going between the 'threesome', but Sarah often sounds exhausted by caring for the baby, and Craig seems to spend a great deal of time away from the house, letting the two woman do the child-rearing. It's a bizarre set-up. It's like something from a sordid midday soapie, only more sordid.

I have met Sarah and Craig on several occasions, and they seem perfectly friendly, intelligent and interesting people. I just don't know if they're ever going to manage to be happy again.... if they ever were.

Monday, August 28, 2006

geeky li'l ol' me

Have you ever found yourself feeling about 12 years old again, and just as awkward? Have you ever been in a social situation that should have been easy, and yet struggled to find your way? This happened to me last week, and it made me feel such a nong. To be more precise, the whole interaction made me feel faintly silly and staggeringly dull. How does this happen to an otherwise reasonably well-adjusted woman in her thirties? I thought I was past these kinds of feelings - where you doubt yourself socially, and wonder if anyone truly enjoys conversing with you (or is everyone secretly mouthing 'Help! She is SO boring!!' behind my back?!)

Weird. A few hours with someone who:
a) seemed to be in a ho-hum sort of mood
b) is naturally slightly reserved
c) yet is normally interesting to talk to and likeable, hence I actually care whether or not we get on together ....
.....a few hours of stilted conversation with this person, and I felt so small and pointless. And that is exactly how I felt a lot as a kid. At least, I felt like that whenever I had to interact with the 'cool' kids - you know, the ones who could talk to adults with ease, speak in public without blushing/shaking/stammering, the ones who seemed to brim with self-confidence. (Looking back, I realise a lot of their 'confidence' may have been an act, sheer bravado. But at least they had an act!)

I've been trying to shake off those old feelings of inadequacy ever since. Because although I was a self-conscious, uncertain child, I have grown into a woman who believes herself to be friendly, genuine, occasionally funny and no more boring than anyone else. Or perhaps I should clarify that most of the time, I believe this. Some days I just have to re-convince myself!

So, is it just me? Or is someone else prepared to admit to sometimes feeling nong-ish too?!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Fatty and Jelly twitter together

An honest-to-goodness conversation I had with my husband late last night:

Fatty: "I'm really excited about my Latham's Snipe." (he had gone out bird-watching earlier that day)

me: "Yeah?"

Fatty: "Yeah." (thoughtful pause) " I actually was hoping to see a Buff-Banded Rail, or even a Spotless Crake. But I ended up seeing the Latham's Snipe."

me: (unsure how to respond to this suddenly frighteningly nerdy man lying next to me) "Mmm. That's good, hon."

Silence. Fatty undoubtedly planning his next birding adventure in his head. I'm still in shock at the oddity of the conversation we just had. I wonder if Fatty might end up being a trainspotter one day. I kiss my funny husband goodnight, and lie on my back, soundlessly memorising the bird names Fatty just mentioned, so I can write about it the next day.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

worst case scenario

At the dinner table tonight:

Benjamin - "Do you know what the worst thing in the world is?" (pauses briefly) " Being dead."

Laura - "No! Mummy said that sometimes people are really, really sad. That could be worser."

I guess that could well be 'worser'. Severe depression must feel like the deepest crevasse, the blackest night, the loneliest place on earth. How strange that my five-year-old daughter was able to remind me of that fact this evening. Children sometimes have the keenest sense of the truth.

Major depression affects approximately 6% of the Australian population. Too often it goes undiagnosed and untreated - especially when sufferers hide their distress, or complain more of the physical symptoms, such as fatigue, insomnia or problems with memory or concentration. I suppose we all need to be vigilant in watching our nearest and dearest for warning signs. And that includes ourselves.

Of course, for those transitory blues or momentary stress-outs, there's always chocolate. It has proven mood-elevating benefits (I'm sure I read that in the New England Journal of Medicine, or was it Who Weekly?). With the amount of Old Jamaican Rum dark chocolate I ate tonight, I should be cruising through the rest of the week, happy as a clam!

I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

small humans go feral

Over the past 24 hours, my children have morphed into evil creatures. I want to make a list of their misdemeanours. One day when I am driving them crazy (dribbling, muttering spitefully about their spouses, getting lost in the grocery store), this list may soften their hearts towards me.

In the past day, my angels have:

1) foraged wildly in our store-room, tipping out the contents of several boxes of carefully-sorted old toys onto the floor

2) decided to refill the paint pots in the easel downstairs - in the process, spilling paint onto themselves, the floor, the couch (eeek, not the couch!), the hallway (from their feet, as they trotted down to the bathroom to get a cloth to 'clean up'), the bathroom sink, counter, floor, and the shower recess. I'm not sure WHY there was paint in the shower recess. It was one helluva mess.

3) brazenly ripped some plants out of the ground when we visited friends yesterday evening (causing me to have to send one child to the laundry and one to the spare room, where they sat, wailing mournfully, as if I was an unnaturally mean mother)

4) shoved the other, violently (Laura did this to Ben)

5) bitten, in retaliation (Ben did this to Laura)

There were other more minor incidents, (such as sneaking peanut butter from the jar with grubby fingers, when my back was turned), but the crimes I've listed were the major ones. I figure if I have to put up with another 365 days X 15 years of this, I'll be well within my rights to become a truly crotchety old lady. I'm going to start right now with the muttering.....

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

thinking, thinking

I've been quiet lately, I've realised. No post for almost a week. The fact is, I've been thinking (which could be a dangerous thing - but here I am, bravely thinking away regardless)

One of the medical magazines I read is running a writing competition. The prize is a trip away, a flashy dinner, a laptop computer, and being published (published in the magazine, that is). And seeing as I once got a poem published in the local Sunday newspaper when I was ten, I figure I'm ably equipped to win this competition. Easy as pie.

Actually, I'm interested in the laptop and the trip away, and I'd like to give the writing a go, but I'm extremely daunted by the idea of trying. The requisite is: 1000-3000 words, theme is 'Time'. What would I write about? Could I even write that many words? (without writing things over & over like, 'I must not pull grey hairs out with the tweezers'). Could I manage a work of fiction, or should I write something from real life? The task seems fraught with difficulty. I feel silly even discussing this, because I doubt I would be able to concoct any kind of competition entry. Even if I could, what would be the chances of winning an Australia-wide competition?! The whole idea is just ridiculous. And yet, maybe if I start to enter writing competitions now, I will start to write better prose. Then one day, when I'm as old as the hills, I might just win something. I could peer with rheumy eyes at my new laptop and smile a crooked smile at the achievement.

With that image in mind, I'm going to return to thinking. Time...... what could I write about on the topic of time? (reader input is beseechingly requested!)

Friday, August 11, 2006

conversation, child to great-grandfather

We went to a Chinese restaurant with my grandfather last night. Grandpa is 92, and though his eyes are watery and his back is hunched, his mind is sharp. He's a living wonder, and a truly good man.

As we ate, Ben decided to speak with his great-grandfather.


Grandpa, being slightly hard of hearing, continued to munch his stir-fry vegetables and rice.

"GRANDPA!", Ben shouted.

Grandpa looked up, and turned his head slowly, to see who was bellowing his name.

"Yes, Ben?"

"I can't see your smile", Ben explained.

Grandpa looked puzzled, and turned to me. I reiterated what Ben had said, unsure if Grandpa had failed to hear Ben's comment, or if Grandpa had heard and was understandably perplexed.

"Can't see it for the rice, hey?" Grandpa grinned, as he chewed and chewed.

"It's because you're so old", Ben pronounced, and resumed his meal. I widened my eyes across the table at my half-brother, and we smirked, embarrassed. Grandpa either failed to hear the comment, or wisely chose to ignore it.

Grandpa and Ben sat chewing together. I pulled out a scrap of paper and wrote down their conversation, verbatim. It seemed important to remember.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

morning march

I started today by going walking with my pal, Chooky. She is a bitingly-funny, clever and gorgeous woman, who is paradoxically prone to sadness and self-doubt. Whatever her mood, however we spend time together, I love to be with Chooky. We've known each other since we were twelve.

We walked in the chilly dawn, with a pale moon still hanging low in the sky, like a drunken dinner guest who had lingered too long. The sun was already rising, though it wasn't warming us up much! We strode along the streets at a cracking pace, dragging the beagle reluctantly behind us (What's wrong with you, oh my hurrisome owner? You don't want to sniff the gutters?! But there's a DEAD BIRD to snuffle!).

For awhile I felt slightly queasy. I think it may have been the mountainous terrain we were traversing (or at least the small hill we started our walk by climbing). Or maybe my body was in shock that I was denying it coffee. Whatever the cause, I soon felt good again, as Chooky and I walked and talked. We talked of friends, we talked about men and love, we spoke of children, we discussed body image. We listened to each other. We teased each other.

It was cold, it was ridiculously early, but it was a sparkling way to start the day..... just Chooky, the beagle and me.

Monday, August 07, 2006

"No one listens to me!"

......These are the words that I wailed, as I finally left my consulting room this evening. The receptionist laughed her throaty laugh, and didn't try to console me with platitudes. She knows I'm telling the truth... or at least a partial truth. The fact is, as much as you might think that patients come to see a doctor to get medical advice, this is often far from the reality. Why seek advice from Dr Jellyhead, when you can consult the latest issue of Woman's Day? Why ask my humble opinion about a symptom when you can google 'sore throat' and conclude that you have acute thyroiditis? Why bother to ask the GP what they think, when your neighbour can tell you across the fence that you definitely have what she had last week? (which needed that particular medication to clear it up). Just figure out your own diagnosis, then come to the GP to demand the appropriate tests/medication/referral to a specialist. (Am I sounding a little bit *TETCHY* here?!!!!)

Today, a young man of 16 came to see me with his mother. The boy, 'Nate', walked in with a slight limp, and his ankle was mildly swollen. He explained he'd played a game of football the previous day, and noticed his ankle to be sore as he came off the field. He couldn't recall noticing anything amiss before that moment. No pain, no' snaps' or 'cracks'. This morning he found the ankle was more sore, and had swelled up.

Now this boy's mother was a nurse, and as much as I have great respect for nurses in a medical sense, they are often terrible patients, and terrible patients' mothers (Heather, don't hate me for saying this! I'm not referring to you! And I'm sure doctors as patients must be the all-time worst!). Nurses have seen too many dodgy doctors, they have seen too many serious illnesses and complications. The nurse patients that drive me crazy have reached the stage of distrusting everything a doctor says, and fearing every illness or injury is their (or their child's) last. I understand this, but nevertheless it drives me nuts.

So I see Nate, and check him over thoroughly. His ankle is minimally swollen, not at all bruised, stable, and he was able to bear weight easily. It is not broken. I'll run up & down my street naked tomorrow if that ankle is broken. ANYWAY. I tell the mother why I think it is a sprain. I tell her that it would be extremely unlikely that someone could break their ankle and not notice it. I ask her to continue with the treatment she's given Nate so far. And, to appease her(because I know she's worried), I give her an X-ray form, to use if the ankle gets worse, or doesn't improve over a few days.

Sound like sensible advice? Well of course it was - I'm full of sensible advice. Ask me any question, I'll give you the sensibullest advice you could ever imagine. But did the bad bad Nate's mother take any notice of what I said? Nooooooooooooooo she did not. Later this afternoon, we got a from call from the local X-ray facility, asking a question about Nate's X-ray form. Nate and his mother were there, getting the X-ray already! HMMPH! Pah! Stomp! *Various other noises of the temper tantrum variety*

I'm nothing but a writer of slips, a paper pusher! I am a referral service!

Also, I'm a whiny baby. Whining in my blog, over and over...... nooooo-one listens to meee!!!!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

truth is stranger than fiction

Yesterday morning, I went to my usual Friday morning gym class. I think I have mentioned before how I go to an energetic class involving boxing and running and a muscly instructor. Although, being married, I never notice the instructor's muscles. Much.

So yesterday I breezed into the gym, only to notice a distinct acrid smell in the air. There was a smoky scent, and another woman asked the instructor, "What is that awful smell?" It turns out there had been a fire the previous day. This fire started when some towels in the cupboard spontaneously combusted!

The towels had been used by the massage therapist who comes to the gym, and although they had been washed, apparently there was some residual oil in them. The towels had then been tumble dried, and stacked in the cupboard while still slightly warm. They began to smoulder. Smoke was eventually seen coming from the cupboard, and as soon as the doors were opened, the fire took hold in earnest. The owner, who was either incredibly foolish or incredibly brave (depending on how you look at it), picked up the stack of burning towels, which was not yet ablaze top and bottom, and ran outside. As he threw the towels onto the footpath, the extra oxygen to the now separated towels caused them to burn up in a WHOOSH of flames. It was a Towelling Inferno.

There's a lesson in this story somewhere...... maybe - if you see smoke coming from a cupboard, tell someone else, then leave the building quickly? No, that's not it. I'm not quite sure what it is, but someone's bound to know. John Cowart?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

future women

My daughter went to a jazz ballet class today. She's never been before, but her friend goes to this class, and Laura wanted to try it out. I sat in the foyer, spying on these miniature dancers, as they hopped and stumbled and skipped around the room. It was amazing to see that these little girls are showing already who they will be when they grow up.

One little blond looked haughty and ambitious, at the tender age of 6 or 7. She held her chin in the air, she spoke only to one or two others, and she her face was china-doll beautiful. This girl is bound to be a school prefect, and she'll probably be the Queen Bee in the 'in' group of girls. Of course, I could just have a wildly overactive imagination.

One little girl was unlikely to be the Queen Bee at school. She clumped when the others tippy-toed. She landed with a thud when the others sprang lightly. Her timing was all wrong, and her movements were awkward. She yawned and looked over at me with huge, limpid brown eyes. This doe-eyed child had thicker limbs than all the other girls, and her body was stocky. She will probably never be skinny; she may never be graceful. Her eyes were arresting. I hope someone tells her she is lovely, often.

I remember being a little girl, and I don't think I have changed much since then, in essence. At the dance class, I would have been scared, without visibly quailing. I would have been frightened of any criticism from the teacher, trying my hardest to get the moves right. If another girl had been dismissive, or mean, I would have chewed my lip, hard, trying to quell the tears. In time, I would have started to chat, getting more & more animated if anyone responded. I would have been just like the little girl yesterday with a fraying ponytail of mousy-brown hair - not outstanding, and just a little more fearful than the rest.

Yesterday, watching my daughter, I was glad for her. Because, like I would have done, she was concentrating hard, focusing on the dance steps. But between dancing, she never so much as looked like chewing her lip. She smiled, she twirled, she giggled with some of the others. Her confidence was a joy to behold. As she stepped in time to the music, and flicked her little hips side-to-side like she'd been born to wiggle (1-2, 1-2-3!), I felt my heart grow huge with pride. What a wondrous creature my daughter is! She is like me in some ways, but in many ways she is un-like me. And I couldn't be happier to know this.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Mama Bear tagged a few of us to do this meme. Now that I have written mine, I am concerned I may have ended up disclosing some slightly odd stuff. But at least I don't have model airplanes in my closet!

5 things in my freezer:

1) 2 blackened bananas (you know, for the banana cake I've been intending to make for, oh, 5 months or so)
2) a large chicken - dead, beheaded and de-feathered, of course. I looooove cooking roast chook!
3) Sara Lee rum 'n' raisin ice cream (there's gotta be ice cream!)
4) a golf-ball sized hailstone, stored assiduously by my children since the last hailstorm
5) leftovers in tupperware, for those nights when my frown is larger than my smile

5 things in my closet:

1) a short winter skirt that I once wore with tights and boots, but now could only wear with a very long skirt over top. It needs to go. I need to face reality.
2) a mouthguard, chest guard, shin guards and sparring gloves in a backpack (for karate)
3) my wedding top and skirt, hanging forlornly, wishing they would see the light of day again. Sorry guys.
4) bridesmaids dresses. Like the wedding outfit, they wait in vain.
5) handbags I have known and now know to be ugly.

5 things in my car:

1) crumbs
2) tissues
3) street directory
4) dinosaur mini-torch
5) 1-2 children, depending

5 things in my purse:

1) gum
2) baby wipes
3) ibuprofen
4) diary
5) roller mini-bottle of perfume my daughter gave me for Mother's Day. It is very floral, and very stinky. I pretend I love it.

5 things in my wallet:

1) photo of my hubby and kids,
2) photo of my brother and sister
3) stamps
4) ticket stub from the last movie I saw
5) old shopping list that reads:' floss, fly spray, salt, bread, beer, wine, crayons, paper, mags'. I don't know what occasion these items were for, but it sounds like it would have been fun. Except for the flossing, of course.

I'm done, all done. Who else feels like rifling through their belongings? Feel free to leave an abbreviated version of this meme in the comments section. I'd be interested in your freezers and closets, in particular!