Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sometimes, a girl's just gotta...

...focus some attention on herself and know when to have some time out. Some real time out.

Take, for instance:

Exhibit A:  Jazz. 

"Oh, don't look at me with those awful cow eyes" - All hail Basil Fawlty
She might be overly manipulating your emotions with her doleful stare, but let's face it:

She knows how to put herself in the picture. 

Literally, every picture (the ones I try to take of Pepper, anyway). She knows when she might be missing out. And she makes sure she goes first. Her waggy tail comes a banging second. To everyone and everything else.

So, taking a slightly less forceful leaf out of Jazz's book, I am going to attempt to step back from online life for a while and put myself back In The Picture.

Exhibit B:  a little just-turned-2 year-old LGBB 

The last musk stick

When in doubt, let it out.

If ever there was a better reason to cry - the ugly kind - it's to relieve some tension. It's to remind yourself you're alive and that you feel. And that you don't have to share the last bit of candy just to "be good." Take it for yourself every now and then. It won't hurt you as much as continual denial of anything good will. Go'orn, do it! Or at the very least, have that cry you've been holding in.

Exhibit C:  Pepper's shut-out tactics 

"Oh please don't let her be there when I turn around..."

I can't hear you, I can't hear you, I can't hear yoooooo

There comes a time in every blogger's life when they have to stop criticising their own blog, their own writing, just because of all the brilliance and shining lights they see around them. This is always amplified when the blogs they read and comment on don't reciprocate. So much of this dance is "chance". There are fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants readers with no regularity to their visits or comments - I know this. I am one of those. There are also diligent, read-every-post-you-write because they adore you readers - I know this as well. I am also one of those. I have my favourites I never miss, my favourites I always try to keep up with but often fall abysmally short of visiting with any regularity until it becomes habit.

I adore finding those bloggers whose voices are so unique, so real, so consistent because of where they are writing from: their blinkered hearts. These are often bloggers with scarce "followers", no Fan Page on Facebook and no Twitter account. They don't seem to follow a large number of blogs. They are quality over quantity. They're rather rare gems. But find the ones that speak to you and you will discover you are mulling over things they say in their posts, smiling at words remembered, waiting for their next entry.

You can't be liked by everyone, you cannot make everyone a "friend" (especially not on Facebook, in fact it's recommended you don't...), regardless of how many blogs are in your Reader (I still don't use mine, shhhhh). But don't forget, you too are a Light. There is no other You. Hold your own torch up high and light your own way forward. Those who feel good in your Light will come find you. Don't worry!

- - - -

There is nothing quite so stifling to me as a writer than reading more than I write. And that is what I have been doing. I realised it last night.

For the next while (it could be a day, I hope it's not as long as a month) I am putting some breathing space between me and my blog. I will be creating, you can be sure of it. Writing, not blogging. Living, not reading. I am in a purging stage at home - our Ebay sales are about a quarter of the way towards my goal already! - and I can't hold onto all this as well as let go all of that. It's counter-productive.

So, off I go. Please promise you'll swing back past every now and then - why not play a game of Roulette and pick an archive post at random and give it a read while I'm gone? Better still, dip in or share the Infertility/Loss posts I have recently categorized. If you want to be super-ace, you can up my vote count with a single click just to make me feel warm and fuzzy... it won't help me win anything, that horse has long bolted... but oh, how I love a round number. Thank you if you are one of the lovely people who helped me tip the triple figure mark (allllmost)!

Guaranteed, I'll be unable to stay away too long. I hope to read you all soon.

.....Oh, and have the last musk stick. That's an order.


p.s. How cool is this: I added a favicon to my blog. See it? Up there? A little tiny sunrise on your page tab!

Monday, May 30, 2011

This book writing business

It's hard, you know. You'll find no argument here.

But I wonder, does everyone find it this difficult? Does everyone grow despondent? How is it that some books get churned out in what feels like a matter of months (from concept to bookshelf) where some take - checking my watch - four years and counting to even find any backing? Is this not the Universe telling me to stop?

I'm sorry, folks, this is going to be a Debbie-downer of a post. A bleat. And I'm sorry, also, to any Debbie's. I'm sure you're not all downers.

I feel like that poor contestant you see in the opening weeks of American Idol. The one who is so convinced of her good singing voice. She stands before the three judges, confident as her nerves will allow. Her family waits outside, supporting her and driving the 9 hours across country just so she can try out in Idaho. It's the moment of reckoning for her. She proudly tells them what she's going to sing for them. They smile, certain that someone with so much self-belief and so much backing from family and friends must surely have a great voice. And then the sound comes out.... She doesn't hit a note, makes the production team's eyes water and they're not even musical. She's stopped with a flailing hand by Randy Jackson and that's it. It's all over. She is stunned beyond comprehension. Hadn't she been told she had such a beautiful voice? Had she not been told by her parents, her teachers, her friends and colleagues that she should go for it, if this is her dream? Ah... the penny probably begins to drop on that loooong, silent drive home. They never said she was good. They just kept saying they would support her as she follows her dream. There IS a difference.

I know there are many who would say KEEP GOING! But at what expense? I can't find more than twenty minutes here, five minutes there each day. That's not enough time to find my creator-space in my mind. That's not nearly enough minutes to get into the groove of what I'm writing. I need hours of space. To sit still and listen to what the book is telling me to write. I need time to let the words mull over in my still silence.

When the latest bit of fluff comedic book comes out, it's easy to sell. You're pretty much preaching to the converted. When it's a memoir traversing the depths of grief and seeking the good in all manner of daily interactions.... well, that's proving much harder. Who wants to choose my manuscript over something light?

Everywhere around me online, there are tips and tricks and hints to make my book more polished. Less offensive to the "done" ways of the publishing industry. The tips are as random - valid, but random - as "Don't overuse the word "Suddenly"" and "Never begin your book with a Prologue".

Well... that's just great. That is exactly how mine starts. No, not with the word "Suddenly". I mean it just begins with a current-time pondering moment in a scene that sets up the entire book. That's all.

If something you've worked so hard at is taking so long to come.... Do you take a step back and say "This shouldn't be so hard, I think I'll stop"? In some ways, I feel like I am flogging a horse that stopped a few years ago. It seemed easier to write back then - back when I was far from approaching agents. Far from feeling like I was close. This is proving a huge lesson for me, one that has shown itself many times in my life. Will I take myself out of the running of this race before there's a chance I will come last? Or worse, not even get over the finish line?? This is my pattern. This is something that will kill me early, I have such a desire not to "fail".

I should have known the biggest thing in the way of this book getting out would be me. I just didn't expect to get this far before I realised.

What do you do when you've put so much into something you are trying to achieve but the end result relies not on YOU, but on finding something/someone external who has the same passion for the project?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I've got a Weekend Love....

and I linked up to it over at Maxabella's today.

Here is the old post again, for you regular readers inclined to catch up. It's a reno story. A short and sweet one. Don't be scared. Except of the sponged walls and the plates. You can be scared of those. It's a given.

Who failed whom? And when?

I'm joining in the Weekend Rewind at the Pink Fibro today. The theme is Lessons and, you know, it's really interesting to me that this post came up. It started out, when I originally posted it in July 2008, as a look at why I don't watch the news any more (and at that time there were a couple of awful child murder/abuse cases being publicised). Recently, I have dipped in to the news again - I tend to do it on and off, I can't really take it in every single day - and the number of stories involving children was staggering. 

So, I give you my contribution: A post on Lessons.

Originally posted July 3, 2008

Just one news report of a case of neglect involving unwitting children is one too many.

At the moment, there are several. I am the first to admit that I, perhaps irresponsibly, avoid watching, reading or listening to the news. It started because we have sort of fallen into the habit of not watching it after we had the LGBB, because we won't let her watch or listen to it either. It just didn't feel right to me that a little baby would even be in the same room when it was on. And now she is more aware and fully comprehends the energy exchange between people, even when they are on tv and not in front of her, I just know she doesn't need to absorb that. When younger, she obviously wouldn't have understood the words, but it still just didn't sit comfortably with me. Same goes for those screechy US shows, or where people are talking aggressively towards each other. Do you know the sort I mean? Of course you must. It describes about 98% of the programming on television (either with or without American accents).

In fact, when you actually look out for it, it's really kind of sad and alarming the amount of really horrible language and conversations that go on between characters on shows. Even on kids' programming, for heaven's sake. I had this conversation with a friend recently and she, too, pointed out the number of arrogant characters (some of them puppets) and the way they all talked to each other. Once again, I am probably coming off sounding like Pollyanna on her soap box about this. But I just have this real desire to avoid, on Lolly's behalf, this sort of "real world" (is it, really??) stuff. I don't want to think this is indicative of how people communicate, on the whole - in these snide or aggressive or ... overacting manners - and we prefer instead to try and surround her with actual, real life situations where she sees people interacting.

The lady at the café, where she's learning the art of ordering a coffee/baby 'cino from the 'Cino Lady (as Lolly has affectionately named her) and paying and waiting for her order. The guy at the hot bread shop who waves and says hello with a smile to her. The people at occasional care who give her a shout out when she comes in for the morning.

These are the people in her neighbourhood. These are the types of interactions she should know exist. I couldn't agree with Noni Hazelhurst more, in that there is just so much (tv) that kids don't need to see "yet". It has severely cut my own viewing, and I have cut out a lot of my regular programming favourites and staples. Hmmmmm, that's a good point that I may need to reassess some time: maybe that very enjoyable "time out" of mine contributes to my feeling like I never get sufficient time to wind down. I used to have the day times, when she was a little baby, to satisfy my television habit in bits and bobs. But not now. Not with a voracious toddler on my hands.

Right now, she's painting. Her face is spread in the most gleeful grin. As I type, she's just finished watching an episode of Play School and, oh joy of joys... Trotro just started. Don't get me started on Trotro, that whiney little shit.

Now, I was going to say that this television watching business has nothing to do with the beginning paragraph of my post. But... does it? Have we desensitised to such a point that perhaps too much goes on, right under our noses - even in children's programming - that it's just considered normal to treat each other a certain way? Of course it's not the case everywhere, all over. But I am wondering if it doesn't contribute in such a big way that it has slowly turned the tide so that there is less kindness and tolerance towards others and where they are "at" in their lives or existence or lessons, less reaching out, more judgement, basically a bigger pile of crud. In saying all this, I do still have to believe that this pile is an infinitely smaller pile when stacked against the pure hearted kindness and wish to do well towards others that people have. Worldwide, I do really keenly like to think the latter heavily outweighs the former....

But to my point, those of you still with me: where have we gone wrong as a society with these mothers? We've failed the children, murdered at their parents' hands. But have we failed the parents too? I feel in some ways that I have failed my part by turning a willingly blind eye to these atrocities - they are literally too much for me to face - but is that responsible of me? To turn away and avoid it? No. I don't think so, no. Once I become aware of this stuff, I feel compelled to shift and lift as much of the grief and darkness as I can - from here - so that it doesn't stay hanging around. It isn't lost on me that there are two cases at the moment in the news - there could be more, I don't know - the one day I stopped and took time out to actually sit and read the paper uninterrupted last week. It was all the wakeup call I needed.

I have to start getting back into the habit of watching out for the news.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ebay: 5 Unwritten Rules of Engagement

I love Ebay. I really do. I have used it for a number of years and financed a variety of holidays and home projects with the money raised from carefully selected items we place for sale. I maintain that it is all in a good photo, brief details and cheap as possible postage.

Right now, I have a target: I want to raise about $400 to spend on some outdoor screens to go outside the kitchen window. Only way I am going to be able to afford them is to sell some shit. And that is where the good buyers of Ebay come in. Just like when I am in a buying mood and buy someone else's unwanted crap and help them out. I do love Ebay.

However... there are some pitfalls. A few persistent niggles I have about the process. Namely, the buyer who doesn't pay any attention to what I've listed and just thinks they'll contact me, regardless of the information all being in there.

These are the types who will ignore the queue signs in the bank and start their own line, pretending they can't see the half dozen people all lining up in the designated spot and who are all now staring bemusedly at the one VIP who's rummaging importantly in their handbag and queuing in the wrong spot for the teller.

They are also the ones who skip over the finer details of any conversation: "I'll have the pumpkin soup." "I'm sorry, we've run out of both soups of the day, sir, is there something else you'd like from the menu instead?" "Ummm... do you have any of the pea and ham left?" Urgh.

So, this is an ode to them. I figure, if you can't beat it out of them, you may as well try reverse psychology. It can't hurt any more.

Ebay: The 5 (Unofficial) Rules of Engagement:

The first rule of Ebay is to check if the listing has a Buy Now price. Contact the seller. Ask them if they have a Buy Now price. Chances are, you'll be told in the most thinly-disguised frustrated of ways that, no, they don't have a Buy Now price because if they did, it would be listed. But try it. You just never know, you might come across a buyer who is willing for you to snatch away an item that already has bids and watchers on it. It's worth a shot (obviously, because every second buyer seems to try it these days).

The second rule of Ebay is to look for the dimensions of the item. If you see the dimensions clearly shown in the listing already, ignore them. Contact the seller. Ask them for the measurements. Bonus points if you can find a listing that not only has the dimensions in the body of the listing, but also as an answered question made visible at the bottom - where another buyer has beaten you to the punch and asked this completely pointless question already. This is not as rare as it sounds. So go hunting!

The third rule of Ebay is to win an auction for something within easy driving distance of your home. Contact the seller. Tell them you wish to pick up the item and wait for them to respond with their address and contact details. Then, advise them that it's too far now that you've looked it up on the map. And that postage is not an option because you make it a rule never to pay for postage and deal on a pick-up only basis so you no longer require the item*. Bonus points if you can actually hear a popping sound (that may or may not be a head exploding) from the direction of their suburb as they compose a reply to you along the lines of "It's an extra two streets from the suburb you thought it was, are you KIDDING ME???"

The fourth rule of Ebay is... Contact the seller. Just contact them. Ask as irrelevant a question about their item as you can think of. Top marks for asking something that is obvious, ie. if the item in the photo is orange, ask if it is orange; if the item in the photo is a plank of wood, ask if it is a plank. Of wood. You get the picture.

The fifth and most important rule of Ebay is to list an item for sale with the best unintended misspell you can get away with. I give you still my most favourite ever Ebay auction title, the one Steve likes to call

"I hear he also does balloon animals".....:

Got a doozy of an Ebay story to share?
Do you use Ebay? And more importantly, are you good at it? If so, why can't YOU bid on/win my items? It would surely save us both some grey hairs.

* Yes... This ACTUALLY happened to me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Meanest Coach

This is a post originally from April 2009, when the LGBB was an (even more) impressionable 2 year-old. Let's see what happens when subliminal messages filter through to play, shall we?....

I think Steve has been coaching the LGBB. Three of these (above) are my Barbies. Their matted, old hair proves they have been played with often. And come from the 80's. The pretty princess in her fancy shmancy ballerina get-up is Lolly's latest addition to the group, a present to her from her Grandparents for Christmas. I find her inferior, with her immovable arms, elbows and feet. But that's just me.

The LGBB loves them. She talks to them like they're respectable, decent, upstanding members of the household ... despite them, in this photo, wearing the sum total of all the clothes I have for them.

One day, recently, the LGBB was "loving" one of my Barbies so hard that she ripped the head clean off the neck. I don't mean popped it off so you could see that little bubble of plastic underneath and just stick it back on. I mean, full on tore the plastic. I was horrified! I let out a wail like I was still twelve years old. It cut almost as deeply as if one of my brothers had done the act maliciously. To top it off, Steve couldn't stop rolling about laughing (not sure if that was at my dismay or at my attempts to fix her).

And now, my most prized, my most lovely Barbie (whom I named Michelle, for I always thought that was such a soft, pretty, enviable name) has no neck. She's like a trucker. She may as well wear Stubbies and a pair of Blundies on her feet and let her gut out - Lord knows she's wanted to all these years. See her there on the right? See anything, oh I don't know...neckless about her?

The LGBB and I were playing with the Barbies yesterday. See them here in their "hot tub", or so Steve and I like to snicker and call it. During our little tea party in the hot tub, I asked the LGBB their names. And just as I was thinking how adorable (if not a tad strange) their names were, all of a sudden I had cause to believe that Steve has been coaching my daughter to get rid of the broken one. My Michelle. Despite his protests and assurances that he has not, I want your opinion. 

Take a look at these names. (From left to right) In the picture, according to the LGBB, we have:

Winkle (??? WTF?)
Barbie, and....

Wait for it.....


So. Is it Toodabin? Or........ to the bin?

Hmmmmmmmmmm. I'm suspicious, let me tell you. Nasty piece of work, that Steve.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Check it out: Video of fairies sleeping

There is a dim corner of the kitchen/dining area that I have wanted to brighten up for a while. We discussed a skylight. But at $300 plus installation and trying to save up to finish the backyard landscaping as it is, that was quickly ruled about a year ago. So one day recently, I spent $15 on a bunch of sticks with tiny fairy lights in them.

I arranged them in a favourite display vase and turned them on. When the LGBB came home, she almost lost it with excitement. We now have a firmly convinced little fairy spotter on our hands and I have been informed that a flock of fairies (what does one call a group of fairies?) has taken up residence in this artificial floral display indoors at our place.

I had no idea what it means when little flowers are lit up. Apparently, it's a very, very big deal. But I'll let her explain in the video (I think it's from a Tinkerbell movie?? Is it wrong/bad of me not to know?).

Untitled from Lolly Lovers on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Good weekends look like this

Our gorgeous Liquid Ambar tree

I chose a colour for my external office wall and hung
the wall plates Steve gave me for my birthday last year.
THANK YOU for your input, dear readers!

I'm very proud of these doors - my $70 French door Ebay win! Cha-ching!

Work break: home made meringues for afternoon tea,
looking out from my new office/workspace to the family on the (messy) deck

A spot of painting: Beautiful sepia colour for the internal walls.
I feel calm already! Looks like a good window to sit
in front of to finish writing a book....

Finished off by a stunning sunset (which I only thought to try
and photograph at the last minute.... Darnit! It was gorgeous)

And to top it off, the safe arrival of our newest family member. What's better in life than that?

So how was your weekend? Do anything productive?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Circle Game

This song is for The Bubba we are now waiting with bated breath to hear from word on. The suspense is now palpable. I have been brought to cascading tears tonight by good ol' Joni while his/her mama performs the marathon of her life and I hold her in my caring concern as well.

Damn, but this song is surely one of the loveliest ever written. Just sublime.

Godspeed, little one. In good time. In safe time. In Sepia light with the energy of the Universal midwives' right behind you.

Oh, and Internets? Hold me? So I don't squeeze-hug the LGBB into the size of a matchstick while I wait to hear word? *kitten mews*

If you click the vid, please just listen - don't watch the pictures....

The Circle Game
by Joni Mitchell

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game   
Then the child moved ten times round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like when you're older must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams 
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game  
Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels thru the town
And they tell him take your time it won't be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down 
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game 
So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There'll be new dreams maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through 
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

© Siquomb Publishing Company 

Update: Mind you, have discovered in the past however long since posting that one extremely good remedy (aside from bloggy hugs, which I NEVER ask for unless under extenuating circumstances) is watching a backlog of Modern Family ep's. Love it. Laughter through tears. Best medicine.

Grateful for.... Interplanetary Dancing

I have been up since before 5am today. Slightly earlier time than usual, but not an altogether unusual time of day for me to be awake and doing some pre-dawn energetic work for the Earth.

It has been overcast and/or raining for the past few weeks. A few sunrises of note as the sun coloured the clouds briefly before they turned into their usual grey gloominess. But apart from that, not much to be seen. Or so I thought. That pesky cloud cover, it has been hiding a real treat. What a sight I was greeted to this morning!

Although I thought twice about it, I didn't bother trying to capture what I saw on camera (sorry!). But imagine this: a brilliantly bright "star" that you know must be a planet (my guess was Venus, which I know can often be seen here in the southern eastern Australia states at least), plus another three stars of varying brightness (but quite faint and getting fainter as the sun edged upwards over the horizon). They were in such unfamiliar formation that I went to consult Dr Google. And was delighted I did.

Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Mercury - if you have been under a rock, like me - are apparently doing a very slow planetary "dance" at the moment. They have been visible from April and will be there in full view for anyone in the south east to see if you check your horizon around 6:15-ish any morning until the end of May.

More information can be found here. And I was delighted to find this website here, what great information! I was so glad I was up this morning, grateful for a cloudless Autumn sky. And absolutely awestruck yet again at the wonder and power of our uncontrolled Universe. Simply breathtaking to consider one is watching not one, but four of the planets whose names we are so familiar with but whose sighting with our own naked eye - within mere degrees of each other, no less - is one of those rare things.


And go see Maxabella, that's where I've linked up to today

Friday, May 20, 2011

Not by choice

If I had had my way, the LGBB would be a big sister by now. Possibly even twice over.

If just one of any of the four pregnancies I have had since her birth in 2006 had come to fruition, she would be that big sister.

If just one of the three pregnancies before she was born had eventuated, or if her sister had lived, then she wouldn't even be here. Not the same wonderful, unique being she is, anyway. Or, heck, if any of the four pregnancies before her sister died had happened then we wouldn't have even had her sister! That's a lot of missed opportunities.

I always wanted three children. We have two. One on this Earth, one not. So really, we are raising at least one less child than we ever expected. But it is as it is. And I am eternally grateful.

I recently read an article on Kleenex Mums about only children which brought these feelings up all over again. By an adult raising an only child (have you met Christie from Childhood 101? Oh, she is an absolute delight and I hope we can one day continue our conversations which began in March in Sydney). The tips she shared were relevant. Further, I was buoyed to read such a well balanced piece on the... I don't know what to call it - Issue? Phenomenon? Situation, is the best way for me to see it, I think. Because this is a "situation". This is our "situation".

It seems a hotly debated topic sometimes, and there is always an opinion to be had. Of course. As with anything. But this one seems to bring more out of the woodwork to weigh in than others regarding families and decisions (or not) of size/number of children. Isn't this an incredibly personal thing to be spouting off about? The size of other people's families?

It is painful to see/read/hear the derogatory opinions of so many against only children. Against my child. (I hasten to clarify the prejudice is not necessarily in that blog post I have directed you towards in the previous link, but in its comments section and so many other places, and not necessarily even online - as well, I hasten to add that I adore Maxabella deeply and she and I have discussed this at some length.... the "only child" post, not my adoration of her...). Opinions that range from them being "odd", that we are "making them miss out on something" by not providing siblings, that they are "spoilt" and "don't know how to share", that "they lack negotiation skills" and perhaps the one that surprises me most, that my husband and I are "being selfish parents" by not giving her a sibling to share her life with.... On and on the self-opinionated lay in unfairly. And I cannot help but take more than just a little bit of slight to it.

Can I just point out the obvious here and say.... have we all not at some point or another come across a child (who is not an only child) who is odd? Who is missing out on something because they actually do have siblings? Appears to be spoilt? Doesn't share? Can't negotiate?? It is really difficult to break out of a label once "society" (or the proverbial "they") has slapped one on a child. Please don't label my child before she's even gone out into the world and truly begun.

I also feel inclined to state that it is not for anyone, not even other so-called "onlies", to speak on behalf of my child. Who knows if she is lonely or not? Or will ever be? One cannot deduce that, simply because their life as an only child was isolating, it goes without saying that every child suffers the same fate. My father was an only child. I have not once in all the years I have heard him speak of his youth express even a tinge of loneliness.

But is this because he never felt it? Or because he had a glass half full mentality about it? Food for thought.

Further, I was third of four children. I was painfully lonely at times. Just as I really do believe my daughter must be lonely... at times. What I am saying is, when an adult only child (or any other adult who presumes to know, simply talking from their own experience) steps up and says they were lonely so, therefore, all only children will surely suffer the same fate, they are speaking about an immeasurable experience - how would they know, if a couple more brothers/sisters were thrown in the mix, that they wouldn't have been just as lonely?? They can't know.

The LGBB will always be a little sister, but that means little to her in the present moment, in terms of someone to bounce off, play with, argue with and plan to grow old together (and share the responsibility of possibly taking care of either or both her elderly parents.... not that I feel I will ever get old, nah! Rather, will never *feel* old enough to need taking care of).

To see opinions floating around that virtually condemn us for compelling our child to live an only, lonely life is rather unsettling. Why are we, as human beings, so hellbent on warning others and being self-asserted "forebears" of the what if's of anything that we feel has harmed us detrimentally? I can certainly understand an only child who lived a lonely life because of their family's circumstances would want to speak to that loneliness and ensure others don't make what they perceive as "the same mistake" their parents made. But the thing is, I am not about to assume I know the entirety of one's situation. How am I to know what that only child's parents were thinking? What they were going through?

More to the point, there surely can't be different rules of engagement either - that is, we can't say to parents who would desperately love to bear a sibling for their child that these warnings about only children don't apply to them, but only to those "selfish" parents who have only decided to have one child. That is just so disappointing. And downright scary (that such bigotry exists).

Stories come out all the time - ALL the time - if we care to listen, they shed light on just some of the legitimate reasons (that I can see, anyway) a couple might "decide" not to have any more children. Stories about mothers who couldn't cope after the birth of their child. Stories about subsequent (or earlier) children being put up for adoption. What if the thought of having a second child brought her to her knees? What if they tried for the next ten years but it never happened? What if? What if, what if? There are so many what if's, this is but one of them I can think of off the top of my head (heh, can you tell who suffered depression after the birth of a much-wanted child??.... cough).

We have only just started to come out of era of not talking about this sort of thing. If any older adult only child out there thinks they know the whole story, perhaps it would pay them to think again. Perhaps it's simply time to forgive their parent/s the "decision" not to give them a sibling (if that is the case, for is it even known if they perhaps had difficulty conceiving any more? Or miscarried and it was too painful to try again?? Miscarriage alone has only just in the past ten or so years, if that, started to be given the credit it deserves for so adversely altering the course of a woman's life).

The LGBB draws houses these days. Chalk board after chalk board of houses with many windows. Faces in all the windows. She proudly rattles off who is at every window. The family in the drawing always consists of me and her Dad, herself, Ellanor, and then variations of the following:

"My little sister, my big brother, my little brother, my baby sister, my brother the baby, my sister the adult..."

She goes through bouts of this and where once it used to stun me into a frozen pause - a literal *pause button* stand-still where I am, can't think, can't move brain and body freeze - now I am not so taken aback. See, to Lolly she apparently IS from a large family. Her imagination is stellar. Her intuition is sharp and insightful. She is a child who is matter of fact and organic.

If I don't get my act together soon, Steve and I will miss the chance of having another child anyway. That is fact. But I shall not be tempted to do it just because apparently, according to some in society, I am crippling my child's emotional wellbeing or chance to be happy or burdening her with my heady ambitions for her.

All it takes is for us to consider what we're contributing to before we go jumping on a bandwagon about which we can't possibly know the full story. Wide public opinion doesn't necessarily make something fact or lore. Being an only child doesn't make one any more remarkable or less capable of knowing how to fight a good fight. It simply means these are the circumstances that contribute to them being the unique individual they are.

So, please.... Can we just stop with the stereotyping - Stop with the guessing - Stop with the labelling and the judgement?

Right. Hot hat off. And just lastly, if you have been offended by this - I offer my hearty apologies. My intention is not to offend or divide further. I am merely seeking to give a voice to all those out there with hands tied, waiting in IVF clinics or otherwise simply unable to bear another child for their "only". I can safely bet they are grateful for the one they have, regardless of the choice that has been taken from them.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Say what you mean, mean what you say

Closely related to the Dr Seuss quote, "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who matter don't mind and those who mind don't matter"... I've been wandering around with variations of these two sayings in my head all day.

I got to thinking this week as I was trawling through some more editor's notes/suggestions on Chapter One of my book. This is the chapter that has remained largely untouched for the past 12 months because I was so sure of its already nailing it.... until I realised it needed an overhaul and had to send it back to be edited after I butchered it on my flight back from Sydney. So I got it back today, with notes. One of them stood out so brightly that it struck me as something I could really apply to so much (and so many others, not just myself):

"Is this what you really mean to say here?"

So simple. But I looked again at the sentence his note was referring to and was then compelled to dissect what I had meant when I wrote it. To me, it had made sense - at the time of writing and also on the eleventieth read-through - but now, through another's eyes, I could see plainly that it didn't sit right at all. So I tried to read it again as I had read it all those other times. But it was too late. I had heard it from another individual's perspective and there was nothing for it now but to reconsider my choice of words, if not better explain myself.

It's so amazing, the English language, how you can use words that are relevant and say what you are trying to say.... but dig a little deeper, or have another person reflect back to you what they heard (using your exact words!) and sometimes, all of a sudden, you are saying something entirely different.

More than ever, I see this editing process - this fine tooth-combing, nit-picky, gruelling process - is willing me to bring out what I really mean, and not just in terms of this book. What is my message? Where is my voice? Is my essence truly present in all that I say (let alone do)?

Funny thing is, prior to that plane ride home, I would have said yes, I was satisfied with Chapter One. But now? Now that I have chopped it, had it edited and been forced to look at it yet again in this new state? Now it is absolutely bloody awesome. Which begs the question...... could it be even MORE awesome? Twitchy fingers at the keyboard.

But my real point to writing this post was to just share what I was pondering deeply this morning, on my return from kinder duty - as you do - and ask how you feel on the subject:

Do you really say what you mean? Or do you just think you do? Do you say one thing but hear yourself think another? How do you self-edit as you go (in writing and in life/spoken word)?
As always, you don't have to answer! I know sometimes I throw out the curly ones. Questions, cheeky reader... that'd be questions I mean.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Help me win $5000 and a New Ford Territory for a year

The official competition entry post as Round 1 of the Top 50 Bloggers sponsored by the New Ford Territory and Kidspot.com.au. If you like my blog, make it count and vote for me! 
Vote and share and Like and Tweet the crap out of it! There. I shan't ask again on here. Promise.

Otherwise titled..... Travel All Over The Countryside

I apologise in advance..... This is long. It's by me. You KNOW it's going to be long. But I have had an absolute BLAST reminiscing.

Not actual vehicle - ours was sky blue. With complementing dark blue curtains
made by Mum. And this one looks to have at least 2 more opening windows than we got.
Photo credit

When I was born, I arrived into a family with a Kombi van. To be exact, it was a Volkswagen Type 2b microbus - the model that was being built from 1971 to the late '70s. This was the model that had a fancy "face lifted" front which included a bull bar.... that was a menace to everything and everyone if they connected with it at speed. Ah! the good old days.

New Ford Territory Titanium RWD
Now, I met this new slick Ford Territory up close and personal. I can safely say, it honestly caught my breath. I was expecting it to look like the first generation style of the car which I've seen everywhere for a few years now. But it didn't. This one was sleeker. Pretty, even. Less petrol-hungry looking. And I admit to feeling a pang of envy that someone is going to get to drive it.

"Push the button, pull the choke,
Off we go in a cloud of smoke"
Photo credit
But after I came home and my post-Sydney high wore off, I thought about it. Do we reeeeeally need two handbag storage compartments? Ten cup holders? Wine bottle hol.... well, okay, we could do with those. But as to the rest, can this new Territory really take us places that we couldn't get in our old car? Hence, my tour of the only car I grew up with - the Volkswagen 8-seater Kombi - and an inadvertent trip down memory lane I took with my old Dad that ended with him coming over all nostalgic for the gas-guzzler and wanting to go and buy one.

Once I had furnished my mind with long-forgotten memories of our beloved Kombi, I have to admit... the Territory looked even better. But that's not much of a compliment, frankly. Here, let's browse through the list of top features and take a comparative look at why that might be:

Oozes comfort, no?
Photo credit
Ford says:
• Driver's knee airbag, lockable security drawer under driver's seat - Well, I don't know about you but the interior shot here says it all. Who needs a security drawer and airbags when surely, first and foremost, some suspension might be nice? Let's not get all fancy ahead of the basics.

Priorities, people.

The seats are sitting directly on top of the wheel arches. No fancy-shmancy padded upholstery. Plush is for wimps!

Ford says:
Fancy: Individual cigarette
ashtrays. The height of luxury...
Photo credit
• Removable rear rubbish bin - What's wrong with what our mother fitted the car with? Little plastic bags we had to all ensure we had in front of us for any long trips, tucked in to the cigarette ash trays (yes, there was one in the back of each seat... those meticulous, comfort-seeking, chain-smoking Germans, they thought of everything).

Ford says:
• The New Ford Territory is able to expand to a 7-seater if needed" - Oh, come on, guys. You're not even trying to compete with our old Kombi now. It was an 8-seater ALL the time. Without even trying. 
Granted, the middle seat of the centre bench seat had no seatbelt which meant - if we had to use it  - the kid in the middle had to be ready with their feet if they wanted to resist the inertia created during any sudden braking. Because if they didn't, they'd end up garotted by the automatic transmission T-bar (there was a galley between the two front seats, like a proper bus, which was great in wet weather but not good if you were supposed to be in the back and you suddenly found yourself in the front during a braking 'incident'). The trajectory of the sudden stop happened to me more than once and no doubt to my siblings as well. But we learned to brace the emergency crash landing position. And my thigh muscles ended up like a Russian gymnast, let me tell you. 

Not only was it an 8-seater (in your face, Ford Territory), the bus was a mobile motel. Oh yeah. Totally. Dad told me he and Mum rigged up a bed by way of a severed table tennis table with space for all four of us to sleep while they hurtled across the Plains of outback South Australia. No corners, therefore no pesky rolling. No worries! 
Bed On Wheels!
Photo credit
But I also have vague memories of being put into the boot of the car to sleep while they partied in later years. I'd wake on the drive home from the motion, where there were corners - I'll bet my parents probably assumed would lull me and my kid brother into a deeper sleep but did the opposite, because they'd put us to rest on top of the motor. See, there was none of this too-clever engine in the front close to where it's most needed business.  Pah! Noooh, much better to have it tucked away in the back of the car and run all the workings from the back along the undercarriage to the front of the vehicle. Genius engineering. They really thought their way out of anything, didn't they?

Ford says:
• 8" colour touch screen, rear DVD player, iPod, USB and Bluetooth mobile integration - I have to admit, this was hard to look past. 
Volkswagen was all over the 8" screen decades ago.
Photo credit
When Kevin Rose, co-host of one of my favourite web shows - Diggnation - was given a Ford Focus to drive around for a few weeks and the spots they filmed showing the car's connectivity, he managed to make me very jealous. I made a mental note at the time to go and see what Ford were doing when next we had the need for a new car.
So, the best I can come up with to pit the Kombi against such feats of modern technology is..... the story of when my family drove across the Nullarbor to Perth. And back again. 
Six people, five days of straight driving. Well, er, not so straight all the time - my Road Safety Expert, doctorate-qualified father has told me stories of nodding off and taking out a roadside guide post or several.... hmmm, a cautionary tale, I'm sure. 
Now, the technology part is this: the mono AM radio wasn't going to cut it for a long 7,000km+ round trip across the Nullabor-ing desert, was it?*  So what did my older brother do? Why, convince Dad to help him rig up a power source by way of a cable from the cigarette lighter to his tape deck (in itself a very basic 1970's-standard, single speaker outfit). And then he subjected us, his siblings, to a repetitive play list worthy of any 10 year-old in 1979. It included such memorable hits as Money (Flying Lizards version), Escape (the Pina Colada song), I Don't Like Mondays and I also remember - too much - Driver's Seat (Sniff 'N' The Tears) and Dream Police (Cheap Trick).

And Ford are really just rubbing it in by stating "Cars are just mobile play centres." Okay, answer me this then: Who needed a rear DVD player when we had such fine compilations to keep us occupied hour after endless, tear-inducing, mind-numbing, sibling-fighting, fart-smelling hour? I ask you. And just once more: *

We all survived. But we heard Girls Talk by Dave Edmunds several dozen times too many. By the time we got back to Melbourne, I loved the song. And I was only four. I still remember most of the words and I haven't heard since... 1979.

Ford says:
• 8.2L/100km on diesel, emergency brake assist... - blah blah blah. Listen, I'm all for a bit of adventure in car transport, actually. I clearly remember willing the car up any slightly inclined hill around town because, guaranteed, we'd start going backwards before we reached the top if Mum hadn't judged the external temperature:incline, distance:velocity ratio's. What excitement in a kid's day! Will the car make it up the Brysons Road hill or won't it? Not only that, the sliding door of our bus never actually closed properly - they bought it that way - and if it wasn't closed properly, the thing would slide open alarmingly while we were driving along. How none of us ever fell out, I don't know. Perish the thought....

Regardless, what's with all the safety features in cars these days? In my day, Mum and Dad had to adapt to the needs of the vehicle to keep it on the road, not the other way around. Dad proudly told me, when I was picking his brains for this trip down memory lane post, that once he had been given the tip by a mechanic to bash a particular spot of the undercarriage of the bus with a heavy spanner, its intermittent stalling became a thing of the past - unless someone was willing to get under the car and give it a bang.
I still recall sitting under the shade of the only stick that used to be a tree as far as the eye could see on the Nullabor - in unrelenting midday sun - waiting for the car to play fair. And it was one memorable stop. Dad had done what any father worth his Clarke Griswold Award would do and had taken us miles out of nowhere to see the world's largest ball of mud (Wave Rock, to be exact) and on the way back, the car carked it. So Mum did what any good mother of young children would do: she made "fairy-dells" with us and we gathered stones and rocks and made little circles in the desert dirt for the fairies in case any were going to happen past anytime soon. They would've been poor, shrivelled up, barbecued fairies if they did, I tell you. Still, it was fun.

And all this isn't even to mention the height of Summer days when the breath would literally get knocked out of us from the heat of the seats and the metal belt buckles, if they touched our skin, would actually scald. The patterning in the seats was terrifyingly painful - I fast learned to peel myself slowwwwwwly from a hot vinyl seat. The massive steering wheel that seemed like so much effort. My brother running the car through our fence when he mistook the accelerator for the brake (hey, easy to do...) when he was practicing pre-Learner plates. In fact, I remember more than once Mum stopping the car at the end of our drive and letting us drive the car up to the house. Problem: tight curved driveway, hill, kid barely able to reach pedals... Result: more than one near miss. 

Enough from me. Plenty, more than enough. I've said TOO much. My god, I think that's the first time ever that I've said that on this blog! My point is, that car served us extremely well. For a large family and the amount of trips it made each year, it was a bloody good (if not reliable) car that features prominently - and fondly - in my the memories of my childhood, not that it necessarily went to any great lengths to help me survive it.

********* chirping lone cricket **********

I want to hear from you now:

What great memories do you have of your family's first car? 
Did you take it on big adventures across country? Was it a death trap like ours?

* (Aside: What the HELL were my parents thinking, going all that way with four kids aged ten to two?? It's kinda no wonder they divorced, huh?)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Hello, Bruder! A vlog.

This is not a sponsored post - as in, I was not paid to write this. It's an appreciation piece for a give away I received and it's only been posted about - as with everything I write on this blog - because I've been so impressed that I felt compelled to share it with you.

A very welcome addition crept its way into our house after the recent Melbourne bloggers' brunch, hosted graciously by Melbourne Channel 31's Room To Grow, Kids Business and once again the lovely folk at Kleenex Mums.

Princess Neighhhhh!

It was a most unexpected gift, one that the LGBB has been playing with consistently in the fortnight since she has had it. For a girl not really much into her imaginative play (something that used to concern me a couple of years ago.... so sensible is the sensible Lolly that I was sure she was destined never to imagine her way through her childhood), this new toy has provided this mum with not only much-needed times of a break from the apparently endless stream-of-consciousness jibber-jabber from her four year-old daughter, but also a rare opportunity to glimpse her playful mind.

Armed with a Polly Pocket driver/rider or two from her own toy stash, the LGBB has been whizzing her friends around in this awesome horse float. A proper Mercedes Benz Sprinter replica. Not to mention the actual horse that comes with the float. Lolly's is (apparently) a flying horse. The best kind, I hear.

So gorgeous. I would have fought to the end for something like this as a child. Horses were my LIFE. No, let me be clear about that for you...... HORSES. Were. My. LIFE! I never had one but oooh I came close to several, I rode them as often as I possibly could. Lolly has never shown interest in them before now.

I jumped online after flicking through their catalogue and it would seem Bruder has all sorts of vehicles you have to see to believe. The attention to detail is really quite awesome. I dare you not to get down on the floor and play with one if it's in your midst! (The Australian importer appears to be Zimbler Pty Ltd, from there you can find stockists)

Miniature versions of Mack and Scania tip trucks, garbage trucks (complete with wheelie bins and all), fire trucks, DHL parcel trucks (which was the other vehicle being handed out at the bloggers' networking morning), cement mixers, tractors of varying styles, the list goes on. Just amazing. It looks like it caters for a wide range of ages too - 2-4, 3-7 and 3-10 yrs. Take a look for yourself!

The horse float has totally won me. It is tough, very well built with quality materials and rolls so easily... Can't say enough really. I wish we had more. I'm eyeing off the jeep and the cattle transport truck. And the cute little forklifts! Oh my. Must stop looking. 

This is ridiculous, I'm a grown woman. Who can I give one to as a gift? Got a few nephews and nieces in the ideal age bracket....

So, thanks Bruder! You have satisfied this mother, at least, and given our little girl an outlet for some fantastic lose-herself time. It is gorgeous to see. And even more of a delight to watch.

Here, captured on that awesome Canon video camera once again, are a couple of scenes from this evening where Lolly is having a grand old time. Up on the kitchen bench. As you do. The first one is her speaking a language all her own, something that vaguely resembles English in places. And the other - regardless of if you believe me - is her pulling her usual "nobody's looking" theatrical antics. I often wonder what she'll be capable of one day with some more confidence and an audience.... Part of me daren't think about it.

Hors'naround from Lolly Lovers on Vimeo.

And.... Scene from Lolly Lovers on Vimeo.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

About a bear

Peek-a-boo! The Bear and the LGBB look-alike: Me! 1975

I have a bear called Parby. Everyone who knew me under the age of ten would know this bear. He went on school camps, countless car trips, every family holiday... 

Parby was a seriously special companion to me. He was the one constant in an often confusing and painful childhood. And he went everywhere with me. I can't quite convey how much comfort he gave me.

I married Parby once. In an intriguing plot twist worthy of daytime television, he was also my baby and wore nappies.

In short, he meant everything to me. 

He was safe. And he held all my whispered secrets, being my constant companion he was reliable like that. You'd also be hard pressed to find a photo without me holding him in my first five years.

I had long since forgotten the importance of Parby. That is, until Lolly developed a deep obsession with the old bear. He had been sitting on a shelf in her room since we moved to this house. About a month ago, she discovered the bear for the first time and became overly excited that it was mine. After introductions were made, that was it.

"I could get used to this" - Parby
"Welcome to Hugsville" - Scraps
She became thoroughly convinced that he is a magical bear. Possibly because, at 36, he is "sooooo old" that how could he possibly still be in existence. Ahem. She has told no fewer than two friends who have visited that "Mummy is his owner but I look after him now. He's a bit shy..... 'sokay, Parby, 'sokay."

I am fascinated that, from a couple of simple words - "This is Parby. He was my old bear and was waiting for me when I was born" - my daughter now holds him in such high regard. Her movements with him are gentle and she always makes sure she cradles him or carries him as a mother would a small child. It's so funny to me. I know I did the same. Perhaps it's his sweet face that just compels you to be gentle with him. He is rather endearing.

They are still in the getting-to-know-you phase. But theirs is a firm friendship already, I can see. Lolly has introduced him to all her firm old favourites and, to my sheer surprise, has even overlooked the gorgeous Scraps (her own constant companion) in favour of ensuring Parby has a seat in the car. She is definitely pulling out all stops to make my old bear feel welcome. 

And in a move that may yet see me go nutty (for she keeps shoving Parby into my arms), the LGBB is also completely convinced that he moves. Never mind that I just *happen* to be holding him when he nods and giggles at whatever she's saying. God, I love the innocence and imagination of children. May she never completely fill in the blanks and always have that sense of wonder and "imagine if".

When I took my little LGBB to the bloggers' brunch a couple of weeks ago, there was a store of Baby Born dolls clothes. As she has never really been into dolls (just Scraps and Bunny and her bears), I bypassed the display the first time around. After we had met everyone, I took Lolly back to the display and suggested, "What about getting some clothes for Parby?"

NOT posed! I found them like this...
Lolly agreed. We chose an outfit. The bear looks totes spunky in it now. He is sleeping with her every night. And over the past couple of nights, my heart has been so filled to the brim seeing my old mate being loved again by a happy, safe little girl and her friends that I have had to take a sneaky photo and risk waking her with the flash to capture these precious memories for her. And for me, I can't kid myself.

What about you? Did you have a special favourite childhood bear? Do you still have it? What happened?

R-L: Asleep, asleep, asleep.... awake and can't believe his good fortune!

This is my weekend Grateful For contribution at Maxabella's place.
So I guess, in a sentence, I am grateful for the opportunity to witness a very important "person" (bear, whatevs) to me be discovered by my daughter. It thrills me no end that she gets such an uncannily similar sense of wanting to nurture and take take care of this gentle bear as I did, all those years ago. 

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