Thursday, September 9, 2010

What’s in a name ....

I used to think my name was French. If you look up all the baby books they tell you this and list reams of names of actresses who have the title and of all the different variations - the list of other names the ones I’m particularly not too fond of.

I’m not a Sue, Su, Suey, Suzy, Susie, Susan or Susannah or even a Sues, Suze or Suzan.

Many people just don’t understand that there is something very wrong when they assume that you can just give someone one of these names and think that it is OK.

You know - you have just met someone and you’re introduced and in the very next sentence they change your name to what they think is some affectionate come friendly version that they and you will think is cool.

Well excuse me.

You may as well call me Thelma. That’s what it feels like.

Don’t they get it?

It has never sat right this French business. Don’t get me wrong I love France, French food, French men, French art, and French movies. I speak a smattering of French that will assure me of not starving to death, not missing a train, and having cash in my wallet because I can find an ATM at the Gare du Nord.

One of the advantages of living in a different culture to the west is that you are immersed in a dimension of living that is so far outside your realm of understanding that with each conversation and each corner you turn you learn something new.

This is how I learnt about my name. Talking with an Omani acquaintance before I left Oman they told me “you know your name is Arabic”.

‘Suzani’ is an old name. It means ‘of the needle’ and refers to beautiful tribal embroideries from Central Asia. I’ve seen some and they are magnificent, vibrant and tell wonderful stories of women who have created beauty in often harsh, hostile desert environments.

It’s also the name of a 12th Century Persian poet and in Aramaic the name means ‘tribal beautiful’.

So Suzanne from France and associated with film stars, or Suzani from the Arabic world associated with beauty and works of art made with amazing skills and the essence of love.

I knew there was a reason why I loved embroidery.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Somewhere out there....

Sounds like the name of a song. Is there anyone out there?

Sometimes it’s a bit like that. Tapping away putting down fleeting passages of my life like dust devils skittering across the back porch.

Is anyone listening?

Well I know Oprah isn’t. I have not received an ounce of attention from her!

Still I keep going.

What is the etiquette of the internet blog author? Is it too polite to ask who’s out there? Or is it just my need to know that someone else connects with the way I think.

Or is it like embroidery? The blogged word creating a tapestry of ideas and textures that colour the stories of my life, providing enjoyment by practising a skill, mastering and creating something others can enjoy.

Sometimes I wonder how far my words have spread. Like the six degrees of separation who am I now connected to? Am I just boring my Facebook friends to tears?

How many radars is my blogging a blip on?

How many hemispheres have I now traversed?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Aaaah growing up....

Who would want to be 18 again? Hands up? Those over fifty who would really want to go back there?

Didn’t think I’d get too many volunteers.

There are so many distractions, media, options, and choices while at the same time shackled to a body of raging hormones.

Life seems so short when you are 18 – tomorrow is an eternity away. Making decisions is all about the now.

It is an era of instant gratification. Not helped by the comfortable life parents give growing up, they expect that this is what life is going to be like and not realising of course that the comforts afforded them by parents comes from hard work and tough decisions along the way.

But growing up is also about learning to make your own decisions and sticking by them and about being responsible for these decisions and everything that goes with them.

Sometimes the reality is tough.

It’s not called tough love for nothing.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Decisions ... Decisions ....

It’s not easy being a parent, living life, keeping it all together and having time for you. Any parent knows the balancing act you do to get through each day and get to sleep at night.

Sometimes we have to make decisions tough decisions and then back up afterwards.

When we have relationships with others we enter into a very solemn contract with the other person. Nothing needs to be written and it goes without saying that we are responsible for how we treat that person, how we care for them, love them, share and deal with the tough things in life that come along.

That’s what we do. We stand up and are counted. We act with discipline, respect and responsibility.

It is never easy. I watched a great movie not long ago and one of the conversations stayed with me. Making hard decisions doesn’t make life easy – it just makes it easier.

So I’m back home giving the family a base, laying a foundation for my one true love when he returns to us. Families are important. We don’t have children to not share and listen to them, and when they need us we come.

That’s what families do.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Life’s too short ....

How many times do you hear that?

How many times do you say I’ll put that off until another time?

How many times do you not say how you feel when you’re hurt, upset, happy and full of love?

How many times do you not make that phone call to keep in touch, send that email, sms or card?

How many times do you get a corny email that makes you squirm in your seat about missing your friends and then there not there?

In our mobile world we move and move on, drift apart, don’t put the effort in, contact drops off to Christmas cards – “it’s OK though” because you know they will always be there.

Chris went 5 years ago from breast cancer.

And now news that Colin’s gone too.

Wonderful memories. Dinners – good food and wine. Lots of laughs. The stories of a great dane that still thought it was a puppy and wanted to sit on laps. A picture falling on the bed in the middle of the night. Weekends away together. We were pregnant at the same time, our children all born within a 3 year window. Babies growing up. Fairy parties. The trials and tribulations of just trying to get on with life with a young family. Sharing the happiness and the sadness.

Then moving and losing sight of how the children grow. Life gets filled with so many things.

And now they’re both gone.

And there are regrets – contact that tapered off but always you knew was there if you got in touch – that you could take up again where you left off.

While there are the memories that will keep them alive in our hearts I can’t but help think that the world is now a lesser place because Colin and Christine are no longer in it.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Drive Time.....

I like going for drives and exploring new places. It’s always an adventure.

I do like to have a bit of a plan, a general direction, how long it might take and, if it’s a mystery – I like to know that beforehand. It’s not all that much to ask is it?

I’m not particularly fond of speed bumps and will go out of my way to avoid them - ask the man in my life. And pot holes that can inflict such damage to my unsuspecting tyres and wheels – where do they come from?

I don’t particularly like driving aimlessly for hours to get to my destination if there is a quicker way. I really do prefer to be prepared.

If I’m going to have an adventure I want to know, take supplies, wear appropriate clothing and shoes, pack a picnic, camera and the assorted kit that can enhance the adventure experience.

I love spectacular scenery, the mystery of what can be around the next corner, the wildflower blooming in the impossible landscape and the delight in meeting fellow journeymen.

Driving, I guess, is a bit like life. The speed bumps, the pot holes, not having a plan and wondering what could possibly happen next. Sometimes we feel a bit aimless, the scenery is boring, the road uninspiring. Sometimes the plans just don't work.

We’d like to be able to see the future and know what is going to happen in advance but it just doesn’t work that way. The best we can do is make sure the car is ready, the engine serviced, we have good tyres and a tank full of fuel and always move forward.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Boys Toys.....

What is it with gadgets and the male of the species?

I find it interesting that women shopping and men seem to be diametrically opposed to each other. That the thought of browsing and wandering into shops and looking rather than buying, that comparing the cut and fabric of clothes from one place to another is an activity that causes men extreme misery. Their eyes glaze over, their feet start tapping. They agree to wait outside the store.

And there you are inside ever conscious of that presence outside waiting. You love them dearly but how have they not adjusted over the years?

Living as an expat intensifies the experience. You often only have one car. There is no local public transport that you can utilise on your own. Shopping is done in tandem.

Some shopping malls are wise to the experience: comfy chairs and barista’s at regular intervals see men sipping coffee, or dozing lined up in the chairs. A repository of shopping bags at their feet and not a woman in sight.

But then there are boy’s toys. Gadgets, cars, bikes, equipment, things that go buzz.

A truly amazing transformation takes place.

All of a sudden shopping the male version takes over. Preceded by the appropriate period of internet research, relevant magazine browsing and research in book shops, discussions over lunch at work or in the car park at work, men gather speed and intensity in their march towards the cash register. Comparing shops, levels of service, after sales support, warranty and lifespan.

Armed with research they venture forth for the best deal – going from shop to shop in proportion to the increasing levels of adrenalin and testosterone now zooming around their bodies.

Until at last they emerge with their bright shiny toy held high for all to see.

Of course there are some advantages.

A man on a shopping mission of his own will agree to buy anything you want if your timing is right!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Curiouser and curiouser.....

What is it with curiosity and the need to know?

Where is the fine line that separates curiosity (harmless) from gossip (malicious)?

If someone wants to know something, why don’t they just ask?

Why do some people feel that I should bare my soul and private life across the wasteland of other peoples boring and barren lives?

Why don’t some people get the meaning of the word private and leave it at that?

I really don’t feel the need to explain every action and thought I have to those I really do not know very well.

My friends will tell you I’m an open book. There’s not too much I don’t discuss but my friends will also say that what I discuss is mine and if others want information they need to talk to me.

How hard is that?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cooking up a storm....

I really love cooking. Over the years I’ve learnt to be careful and not eat as I cook and eat sparingly of the finished product, but I do love food.

Otherwise the hips would overflow and I would be one of those people that would be forced to purchase an extra seat on the plane – "side fat" the boy child calls it. Who hasn’t sat next to that large person on a plane and been swamped by their side fat. Not nice.

Yes I really do like cooking. I’ve joined this International Cooking Group here in town. An eclectic mix of the most wonderful people from all over the world and the Middle East. We have a ball. I count myself lucky to be invited to join. The nature of the group and its activities mean that numbers need to be capped and a balance kept so that one group doesn’t dominate. There’s a limit of 2 from any country and I’m the only one where English is their first language.

It is a hoot!

A big commitment - we meet every week at a different home and the hostess for the week does a demonstration of something from their national cuisine. We start early everyone having brought something for morning tea. We do coffee, talk and then cook and end with lunch and if we’re lucky the hostess has karaoke and then we can go all afternoon. We have so much fun. We learn and share and talk and cook. We get great ideas about food and also different ways of doing things. We share cultures and language.

Sometimes my head spins. I am so humbled by these wonderful ladies whose command of half a dozen languages astounds me flipping from one language to another as they converse across the table. My rudimentary French has improved and while my conversation is basic and limited I am understanding more and more the drift of the French conversations that happen. My Arabic is even more rudimentary but I have wonderful support from those ladies that can speak it to learn more and more. Everyone is helpful and fun.

So what does an Australian cook at an International Cooking Group. I really couldn’t come at anything with vegemite! Wasn’t fussed on doing Anzac Biscuits or a pie! Our food is such a fusion of the multicultural nation that we are. I didn’t have access to the bush herbs and spices that you can get in supermarkets in Australia. So what to do?

Last week was my turn and facing this dilemma was hard. My solution of course was chocolate. A bit like the Godfather thing where the solution is always to “go to the mattresses” my solution is always to go to the chocolate – preferably dark chocolate. Is there any other sort of chocolate to cook with?

Going over the border to the nearest Carrefour (why don’t they come to Australia?) I returned laden with dark chocolate (Dutch), French cream (well UHT), French butter (unsalted of course), rice bubbles and French white cooking chocolate. Well the ingredients may not have been Australian, the recipes weren’t as well but the cook and the attitude and the zest for good food certainly was all Australian.

So what did I cook? Easy! Chocolate spiders, Mars Bar Slice, Nigella’s Molten Chocolate Baby Cakes and Nigella’s Snow Flake Brownies. Nigella and chocolate I truly believe are synonymous and she makes it sooooo easy.

I had to send out a disclaimer though, I wasn’t going to be responsible for people making themselves sick, gaining weight and generally eating too much.

It was a great morning, smooth liquid chocolate melting and mixing and stirring and forming into such yummy treats. Only problem is I think I have turned people off chocolate for at least 3 months.

Were there leftovers after I sent everyone off with little parcels to take home? Well there were a few - a box of brownies and 2 pieces of Mars Bar Slice.

The man in my life loves a chocolate treat. He’d called to see if there was any of that "Rice Bubble stuff" left. I’m sure it was the Mars Bar Slice calling to me all afternoon from the refrigerator. Needless to say those 2 little pieces of slice didn’t last until he got home and when he did get home I said I would make him some more. I explained what we would need to get to make another batch.

"Oh" he said. "That’s not the rice bubble stuff I meant". It turns out the man in my life loves Chocolate Crackles. Almost 24 years we have been married and I never knew. So I promised I’d make Chocolate Crackles for him. A bit of creative shopping substituting coconut oil for copha and I have a happy man!

It just goes to show there is always something new you can learn about each other!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cleaning up ....

It’s like an ingrained behaviour in me. I have to clear my own plate from the table.

Once I picked up a short stint of work – just a couple of weeks. It was fun. One of the nice advantages of where I was based is that there was a cafeteria. Morning and afternoon tea came round on a trolley to my desk. Wonderful friendly people brought tasty morsels to my door and I became particularly fond of fresh watermelon juice.

The cafeteria had linen tablecloths, linen napkins, wonderful food and people waiting to clear and tidy. More like a restaurant than a cafeteria. I just couldn’t do it though. I’ve been raised in an environment where at lunch, at work you fend for yourself. You clean up your own mess!

I have felt the same about having my house cleaned by someone else. Despite being plagued with the back from hell, my surgeon’s word’s not mine, and a house cleaner being a must I cringe at the thought of someone else having to clean up my mess! I do the pre cleaner coming ‘tidy up’; making sure there is enough of everything. But I hate being there when they are there. I feel embarrassed and self conscious. Sometimes I just don’t like to admit that I have to accept help.

One of the few times that I have never felt this way was when Rosa came into our life. A compact Melbournian from Macedonia she cleaned and sorted and taught me lots about managing a busy household with 2 working parents and keeping it clean. More a part of the family she sorted us out and shared our life. I really missed her when we moved to London.

In the UK our cleaner became a dear friend we went to her wedding and shared some wonderful times with her.

Then there were the twins. A whirlwind set of identical twins that charged twice as much but were out of there twice as quickly. They started at either end of the house and met in the middle having cleaned, dusted and sorted, and I could never tell them apart.

Now I have a man that comes. Twenty two steps make it all that harder for the back to get up and clean. He comes well recommended. Just can’t speak English and I don’t speak his language. He does it all. Probably one of the most organised people in the cleaning game I’ve seen. He has a system. He rotates the big jobs, windows, cupboards, oven and fridge. He just knows when and how often and what needs to be done. We manage without words to share.

So I cleared my own plate... the ladies just shook their heads and smiled, and I continued to enjoy the watermelon juice.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Trust .....

Why is it that some of us are never satisfied with who we are? That our life is never glamorous enough, or we’re frightened of being boring, not being noticed, or of disappearing against the wall paper on the desktop that makes up our existence.

Why is it that we have to exaggerate and embroider and add on to what it is about who we are? Aren’t we unique enough?

Why is it that some people have to spin a story because they want to grab our attention – wavering between reality and fiction?

Children and adolescence seem to have the market cornered on this little activity.

Some adults have this habit as well. Boosting up CV’s, embroidering stories where there is only an ounce of truth. They can cause serious trouble and inflict physical and emotional pain and suffering on others.

Don’t they realise that in this day and age the marvels of Google, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking websites don’t let you get away with anything.

Don’t do this to yourself. It doesn’t do you any favours. Don’t do it to me. I’m so gullible and trusting. I have this inherent faith in people that they won’t mislead me. Nobody is invisible and no one can hide.

I’m a great believer in karma. Sometimes things will come back and bite you on the proverbial.

Beware of the teeth marks.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Junk mail...........

I have this sign on my letter box at home NO JUNK MAIL. I think it is pretty clear. Don’t even think about putting advertising material, flyers, pizza brochures, good deals etc in there, I don’t need them clogging up my life filling it with false promises and ways to spend my hard earned cash.

I don’t have a letter box here. My only source of mail is through the internet. I know I’m a bit of a mail junkie and long for a letter or two to arrive. It’s not the same as opening the mailbox, but seeing that envelope on the bottom toolbar just makes my day.

Having said that, I really hate junk emails. It’s not that I haven’t got filters I have. Unfortunately they sometimes screen out the important bits as well.

What they don’t seem to screen out are those chain emails that are sent in such bad taste. I’m a bit of a reading freak and will read everything cover to cover. Do others read everything as obsessively as me or do they stop after a few lines and think that’s funny and decide to send it on? Don't they see the racism, bigotry and petty mindedness that get passed on for humour? Do they not see that this warped humour is a subtle veil covering behaviour that only forges ahead with extending stereotypes?

Some junk mail I don’t mind - beautiful scenery, a thought for life, and a way of laughing at oneself these I don’t mind.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not a prude and Tim Minchin is my sort of gig, using humour to confront bigotry and reflect back on society and its failings is one thing.

Being mean under the cover of humour, is another thing, and is way too much for me.

So stop and think before you click on the forward button and add my name.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Recovery drink....

I’ve given in and write this with Le Tour on in the background and the other commentary in my ear.

Five weeks has flown by fast. Too fast.

The boy child is home now and getting on with his normal routine. His “room” is packed up and linen waiting to be washed. The refrigerator and pantry is empty. His toothbrush lies in its glass in the bathroom, along with the toothpaste. Remnants of the adolescent whirlwind that came and went like Cyclone Phet.

Adolescence is a term I must file away. He’s now somewhere further along the continuum. A young man with likes and dislikes, with opinions and desires.

Perspective. Always a useful word for me. It’s one that counts now. It’s the word I draw on to understand this young man’s land.

This time of life is so hard. Learning and growing and understanding the rules of adult life. It’s a big realisation that after school the world is out there with yet another set of rules and ways to live by.

Becoming independent what does that mean? Another continuum of choice and ability. Making decisions, making mistakes and living with the consequences. Sometimes you are coasting down after a hill climb and sometimes you are picking out the gravel on the side of the road on your butt.

Sometimes you are in between, still wanting to be a little boy, and sometimes you just want to get out there and conquer the world.

I raise my glass to young people on this threshold it’s just another stage of the Tour de Life.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

So I’m not lovely, and I’m not a nice person...........

I’m just not that sort of person. It came as a shock.

Sitting having breakfast at a wonderful coffee shop after last year’s Breast Cancer Walk, with the girl child and my sister-in-law talking about all sorts of things that girls do when they get together we commented on a friend and said isn’t she lovely. It started a discussion on how we see others and how others see us.

It often crops up in conversation ‘she’s so nice’, ‘she’s such a nice person’, ‘isn’t she lovely’. I hadn’t realised it was a personality type.

I made the mistake of saying ‘well what am I?’ I think I am a ‘nice’ person; surely I fit into the ‘lovely’ category?

The girl child practically choked on her soy latte.

A look of horror passed my sister-in-law’s face.

‘Well mama, really you are not a ‘lovely’ person and I wouldn’t put you in the ‘nice’ category.’

Speechless does not even come close to describe my state following that revelation.

But surely I’m a ‘nice, lovely’ person.

Apparently not....

There was a pause in the conversation as she considered her next words...

‘Mama you are fabulous, that’s the only way to describe you.’


What is that? I felt a bit cheated.

But then I thought about it. I don’t fit the mould. I’m a bit opinionated – well ok a lot. I don’t take rubbish from anyone. I do things a bit differently, don’t dress the way others my age dress. I love art, strange art house movies, bluesy music with a classic twist. I love food and a good glass of wine to go with it and let’s not forget the champagne – I have a particular penchant for Moet. I’ve seen a few things and done a few things in my time. I’ve taken risks and climbed some mountains – well ok not the geographic ones. I have absolutely no hesitation showing my new breasts to whoever wants to see them. I keep bouncing back for more. I make mistakes dust myself off and start again.


Yes I think that’s absolutely right.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Une veuve du Tour ...........

It’s tragic. Sport on television has created generations of widows. For particular seasons and events, life enters the twilight zone, stands still, and resides in a haze of transmission details and adjusted time zones.

The lot I have to bear, after a month of World Cup football which really takes a very humble second is........ Le Tour.

It’s been an interesting month having the boy child visit. Us getting used to him and he getting used to us again. The floordrobe being created in the bedroom. The multitude of toiletries I bought before he arrived gradually disappearing – well maybe the toothpaste hasn’t really changed its level. I bought one of those clear bottles of toothpaste so you could see its level and if it was being used. Well at least I tried.

Don’t even get me started on the food that has been consumed. Our grocery bill has quadrupled. How can one adolescent eat so much pasta not to mention the grated cheese that goes on top? I actually found my favourite basic Australian cheese at Al Fair – Bega mature cheddar, and stocked up. I bought a huge block maybe a kilo. Gone in 3 days. Astounding. I won’t even start on the crackers, drinks, cereal and milk. Milk – I’m sure a whole dairy farm in Saudi has been dedicated to his consumption while he has been here.

Getting back to sport..... the last month has seen serious bike riding happen – early mornings, heat, spin sessions, debates, meeting other dedicatees, the man in my life has regained his fitness and shed those kilos that he put on – has got back into a routine and coped with the boy child’s criticisms that he has become soft. I hope I am around to see the boy child when he is 54 and see if he is as fit as the man in my life. He probably will be, given his similarities to his dad.

Cycling is their passion they do it together. Both are competitive. One now has mellowed with age and can be more reasonable – the other still young and ruthless – takes no prisoners in his approach.

Now at the end of the stay Le Tour has arrived.

Le Tour takes no prisoners. You have to be there for every turn of the wheels. Every gear change, every inch of mountain climbed, every corner taken, every crash and near miss.

They are glued for the close ups. What is the: kit, socks, shoes, pedals, gloves, helmet, sunglasses, gears, cassette, wheels, tyres, drink bottles, computers? How much warm up do they do? Who fell where? What is their form like? Who is sponsoring who? Who is supporting who? Who leads who out? What the times are like compared to other years? Who do you think is taking drugs? Who rides well in the wet? Who caused what crash?

Every detail is recorded in the cycling ‘c:’ drive of their memories. Will be discussed, reviewed, fodder for coffee with the bunch, brought out at every opportunity over the next 4 weeks and thereafter.

I really don’t mind. Well not too much. I am learning a bit more French as we don’t have English coverage. It is a bit more interesting than watching golf on TV. I also know they practice what they see. Not just TV sofa sports addicts. These guys get out and do the kilometres. They are fit and healthy and care about their bodies.

Jusqu'au 26 juillet je vais pratiquer mon français un peu plus et l'espoir que je vais occasionnellement ont une tasse de thé a fait pour moi et parfois obtenir à regarder un film à la télévision .....

Friday, July 2, 2010

How hard does it have to be? ... the hidden costs of breast cancer ......

Sometimes it seems as if it will never end. You think it is all over and bang you get hit again by another aftershock from the earthquake that hit your life in the form of breast cancer.

How do you count the costs? think you have your life in order and breast cancer rears its ugly head. You have a great job – stressful but it’s yours and you earned it. You work hard and for the first time in years feel as if you are contributing and getting on top of things. The extra family income helps you add another dimension to the family planning for the future. Your husband is in a good job well respected and working hard. The children are doing well and you count your blessings that they have managed so far into adolescence and not gone off the rails.

Work would be fine you have issues you deal with but that is your job you learn and grow and make decisions and move on. In the middle of dealing with the issues you are landed with the diagnosis. So many things get left unfinished. There’s no tidy endings, no farewells, too many things unsaid.

How do you measure the cost of lost confidence? wonderful husband hangs in there. His life turned upside down. Confidence that he knew where he was going, what he could do, that he had control and could make decisions. How do you measure that when it gets shattered? How does he keep on going at work, keep focussed, keep up the priorities?

How do you protect yourself from those who would take advantage of your loss of confidence? How do you cope with your dismay that there are people who would take advantage of this situation?

There is no such thing as your “wife has breast cancer leave”. Maybe for the first even the second lot of surgery, by the fourth he’s changed jobs, by the seventh he’s not working, by the eighth he’s on a job interview interstate, and then by the ninth he’s working overseas. You have to do what you have to do to keep it all afloat.

How do you deal with a diagnosis that is beyond your control and sideswipes you from out of nowhere?

.....there’s an old saying the wonderful man in my life tells me:

How do you eat and elephant? A mouthful at a time.

.....and that’s what we did, one decision at a time and one day at a time. You sometimes get the decisions right and sometimes don’t.

Trying to move forward when we feel as if we are stuck in quicksand.

How do you measure the cost of having to move?

.....not something that is easy at the best of time but when you are in the middle of treatment what choices do you have. Distance and multiple surgeries and procedures are not the best of friends.

How do you measure the impact on a teenager?

.....moving, changing schools, a crucial period of his life, after working so hard to get where he was. How do you measure that? How do you measure his loss of confidence? His lack of trust and disappointment. How do you measure his lost opportunities and pathways for the future? How do you measure the loss of trust? The resentment, anger and the sadness.

How do you measure the cost?

.....having the surgery and treatment seems to be the easy part. It’s over and I can show off my perky new breasts.

.....still the reverberations come. Sometimes out of the haze when I least expect it.

How do you do it?

..... I wouldn’t know where to start to measure the cost. It is just too great and it still keeps coming. I do the best I can.

It would be easier if I was the sort of person that wore their emotions out there and became a falling heap on the ground but I just keep on soldiering on. Falling heaps are good at getting a lot of attention but they often don’t get the job done.

How do I measure the cost?

.....of my sadness at the impact of this on the ones I love all around me. That they have changed and our family has changed is something that I cannot control. Everyone reacts differently according to their own experience and sensibility. The relationships that have been battered and bruised and are still in shock and pain from all that has happened, how do you measure that? How do you try and put it all back together when you know that some of the pieces have changed forever and cannot go back no matter how hard you try to make them fit?

If only there was something that would stop the aftershocks coming. A quick easy fix that soothed the frustrated and broken hearted from the trauma. Some direction that would tell me how to reach out to my family who are suffering still and tell them it’s ok.

Of course we're grateful. I'm here and we have a future. It is just one piece of the ceramic that needs to fit back together.

Very slowly our grief and anger ebbs and flows sometimes it has subsided and sometimes it still can be a crashing tsunami affecting us all so differently.

Tomorrow will come, it’s just one day at a time...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Broomstick Days ......

Some days are just like that. The angel wings fall off, get knocked off, pushed into a corner, blown away in a storm and there you go the only way to get around is on a broomstick.

Unfortunately broomstick days can happen to the best of us.

The worst kind for me is when the monkeys come along for the ride.

There’s Judge and Jury, the monkey that judges everything and everyone around them. I think he is the worst. Jumping onto every bandwagon that’s going. I really hate him. I try not to have an opinion, not to be harsh or critical but that monkey is always there goading me on. Who am I to judge? What have I done special that makes me any different but there I go again. I have to be constantly vigilant that this little guy doesn’t get in there and pester away at me.

The judge’s best friend often comes with him ... that would be Outrageous Indignation. He gets in my ear ... why should you have to be treated like that, you shouldn’t have to put up with this, you could do better, who are they to make judgement on you? On and on and on....

Hanging onto the end of the broom calling don’t forget me is It’s all about Me. What a balancing act, competing for attention. When they are all in fine form the broomstick is at full speed and I am the witch queen from hell. I dread their company.

There’s only so many times though, a woman can be pushed around before the wings get crushed and the broomstick comes out.

Ask the rental car man.

What is it with chili?

What is it with chili? Don't get me wrong I love spicy flavoursome food. Food that tempts and teases the palate and makes the mind wander to exotic lands. But chili let's face it what is all the hoo ha.

I really don't see the point of bombarding precious morsels of meat or any other ingredient with an assault so nuclear in nature that any remnant of flavour is blasted out of recognition.

Of having to make sure the right cool drink, bread or heat abater is nearby to quell the burning fire in your mouth and belly.

When it comes to cuisine give me the flavours that lure me with aromas of slow cooking, roasting, food that has been caressed and lovingly prepared to please the hungry heart, the lonely lover, and calm the sorry soul stressed and frantic in frenetic world.

I know I should have said long before this but noooo sorry I don't like food with chili and as much as Nick Earls in Bachelor Kisses loved Baan Thai at Toowong don't ask me, I won't go, I don't do Thai food .. too many chili memories .....

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I like Black ....

I can’t help it. I love wearing black. Any time of day, team it with another primary colour, throw on a shawl, scarf or other accessory and I feel great.

I’ve tried lots of other colours. I’ve had my colours done. I know what I should wear but I also know that I look and most importantly feel great in black. I don’t like being too fussy when I dress. I don’t like too many tizzy bits with what I wear. Keep it simple that’s my motto.

I can hear the girl child groan from here “not another black dress/top/skirt/jacket mama your wardrobe is full of them”. And it is true. She’s doing a chemistry degree I’m sure she thinks of all those transition metals with all that colour and shakes her head that I just stick with black.

I also know there is black and there is black. The black I like is the fresh black, no reflection, no sheen just pure black the sort your eyes sink into. Not for me the black that is light, hazy, pretending to be black when it is really only a “could have been”. Dark grey dressed up as black. The “wolf in sheep’s clothing” black that fades away when washed and shows its true colour.

Not that I don’t have other clothes in a variety of colours but when I pull on a black top, my favourite with bracelet sleeves and boat neck, my favourite jeans with simple jewellery and shoes I know I look good ,can go anywhere and will feel great.

So I have moved to a country where black is a staple. Abayas are all around me in my favourite colour, adorned with beautiful embroidery and sparkles. A cultural must. I love them. My Omani BFF said to me today “so you moved to a country where everyone wears black”. Not a problem with me!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Playground rules ...........

Sometimes things just are the way they are. There is no hidden agenda, no ulterior motive - they just are. We have to take them at face value and move on.

When I was a child I was shy in the playground I would hold back and be the follower. There was always the rule maker, the bully, the popular girl, the pretty girl and the bright one there before me – leading me on into whatever adventure or misadventure there was to be had.

Going to school and learning opened up a whole new world, one of knowledge and fun. Books suspended reality and created new universes to explore. My confidence grew. I learnt to have my point of view put myself forward.

There were always the playground groups at school. Where did I fit, the loner, the naive one, gullible and too easily led on by stories of others, was often my problem. I didn’t have the necessary street cunning to doubt every word or action.

Moving on from school to university brought with it a whole new playground. These were the seventies. Student unrest, voting with our feet, trying to find an identity that was unique. They were there though, the rule maker, the bully, the popular girl, the pretty girl and the bright one in the playground of student life. Trying to be grown up in a world suspended from the rest of community life. A unique microcosm of beliefs and non beliefs. Where we tried things out – some legal and some not. Wrapped in the cotton wool that surrounds student life.

I don’t think I ever knew quite where I should fit. Sometimes what I believed was certainly different to the rest. I wasn’t the one asked first to the balls and didn’t have the flock of friends wanting to eat with me at the refec. My political, sporting and religious views were often at odds.

When I entered the workforce it was such a relief. I was out of the playground. I could be me and enter a world where I could drive my own agenda free from what others thought. A whole new universe of learning opened up for me. I saw the vision of people growing and learning and finding the strengths from within to overcome distress and hardship in their lives.

What was I thinking? A naive 20 something in the workplace. What life experience did I have? None. Low and behold there they were - the rule maker, the bully, the popular girl, the pretty girl and the bright one. The environment of the playground and faces had changed but the main players had come along for the ride.

With each job I grew stronger, learnt more about myself and how to cope and adjust to the pressure the players put on me. Life threw its punches and there have been many hills to climb (I’ve done enough climbing now).

Probably the hardest player in the workforce playground I came up against was the bully. I thought I had escaped the menace but there it was urged on by its evil partner in crime - envy – one of the seven deadly sins. A formidable combination.

You think you are strong. Other’s try and be helpful. It’s a learning experience they say. Well I’m all over learning and the sting from envy and bully still smarts. Although with time and distance the pain of course, subsides.

I don’t think we can escape the players in the playground every group, society, culture and community has them. All we can do is be ourselves.

And what have I learnt from my experiences?
  • I can only, and always will be me.
  • There are some people I like and some people I don’t like. That’s OK.
  • There are some people who like me and some who don’t. That’s OK.
  • I don’t have to play by other people’s rules.
  • Negative people are like an energy sink without a plug, they drain away my emotional energy and I don’t need them in my life.
  • There is not a hidden agenda and ulterior motive behind everything – not like some people would have you think. That’s called paranoia and it is a psychiatric symptom.

    So ... you can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk ....

Friday, June 4, 2010

How I miss my daughter ...sometimes you just need girl talk ....

Sometimes you just have to have a chat. Whole libraries have been written about the differences between men and women... talk shows thrive on it, TV series are rife with anecdotal trivia, women’s magazines abound with stories of difference.

But let’s face it sometimes a girl just needs girl talk.

It’s been a full on four months. Moving country, setting things up, getting organised for a new life here. It is very different but also similar. My husband’s a trouper. I love him to bits. He is just the best person ever. We met and fell in love and that was it. Five full days later he proposed and we just knew this was right. 23 years later we are still going strong despite the hurdles that life has thrown us – back surgery, breast cancer, parents dying, children and their challenges.

We have always talked. About everything. Sorted through our crises and talked about the hard stuff when neither of us have wanted to go there. Made decisions – some we got right and some we used as learning experiences for the future.

The children being young adults are good fun conversation wise. Having one of each sex has probably made the conversations more defined in their nature. I didn’t realise how far it had gone. We aligned ourselves along gender lines, the girls had similar interests and so did the boys – the conversations gravitated to each other. Like, as my favourite saying goes, “maggots on a chop”.

Being here with the man in my life has highlighted my internal craving for girl talk. We’ve been through the what car do we buy? Test drives, internet searches, conversations relayed from other owners, comparisons, prices, tyres, steering, “torque”. But not the sort of talk I needed. We’ve bought the car now we have to get it up to speed with how we like a car to be, I use the “we” word figuratively of course. Do we do a safety check, what about the tyres, who uses what garage, what do other drivers say? Where do they go for repairs?

I mean how hard is the car thing? You drive it, fill it with petrol and when it stops take it to a garage to get fixed. But then I am a girl.

The boy child has arrived for his 5 week visit. Probably symbolic that he arrived on the same day that a cyclone did. What more can I say? I now have 2 of them.
Boy talk. It’s just exhausting. There are levels of detail that-

1. I just don’t need to know,
2. Don’t want to know, and
3. Don’t even want to go there –
If you know what I mean?

There’s that wonderful movie called Children of a Lesser God that William Hurt stars in as a teacher of the deaf. After a full day of signing he just needs to have a break from it and put some music on – the continual translation is exhausting. He loves what he does, loves the people but sometimes you just need to tune out.

I really miss my daughter. The girl talk. Comparing notes, having coffee, going to a movie, shopping, browsing, going to a gallery. Having a reference point that is into a different sort of detail. Being with another woman you know really well and trust too. We’re the best of friends the girl child and I. Not that she takes notice of everything I say - she has 2 tattoos. We are still mother and daughter and sometimes I just have to tell it like it is. She shares her confidences with me – and I’m sure there’s some she doesn’t share as well. We love books, buying them, reading them and talking about them. They are precious jewels for appreciation. All these things we fit into our girl talk.

I love the men in my life. Don’t get me wrong. But I came from a family of girls. Girl talk is what I know.

I know I have to be patient. I know I have to be interested and I really do try. I know the men would do anything for me. So for 5 weeks I will manage. It’s good for the man in my life to have the boy child here because he can boy talk till the cows come home and will have someone who knows what to do and say.

Me. I’m saving up for the girl child to visit.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I need a job ... why I’d make a good roving reporter for Oprah ...

I really need a job. REALLY. I knew it would be tough when I came here and I’ve tried to get myself out there but I’m in a country where my profession as a social worker is not really established.

I’ve always worked. Asked the girl child and boy child I’m sure they’ve felt like neglected children when I’ve been off helping other people make sense of their lives. Did they get sympathy from me? NO – can you hear the boy child and girl child yelling from there. It’s a bit like the mechanic having hopeless cars, the builder with lots of jobs to do around the house and the doctor not treating his own family.

So I’m looking at options. What can I do? I could easily do the expat wife thing to keep my days filled but really - not my style. I’m too opinionated, been through too much and want to contribute and participate in the society in which I live with the skills I have gained over the years. It’s how I feel at home – how I get to know the culture, the people and the country. It would be too easy to transport the social parts of my life here, not leave the compound and it would be as if I’ve never left Australia.

I really want to learn Arabic. How hard is that? Really hard. Firstly, lots of people said ‘don’t bother everyone speaks English, you only have to know the basics’. Well I figure that if someone has gone to the trouble of learning English a renowned difficult language to learn then I can learn Arabic. This has not been easy to do. Firstly you have to find classes and then you have to practice every day – best by immersion. I’m getting there. I’d love to be able to have a decent conversation with someone and I practise in the shops. It’s great to get feedback and refinement of my pronunciation. I will endure with it.

Getting back to jobs. Like I’ve said before lots of people have said over the years 'you should write a book girl’. Well, I don’t know about that. I love reading them and record all the ones I have read – indexed of course. But writing a book is a whole new ball game. Hence my blog - small snapshots of an interesting life, one that has had many mountains to climb and had to recover from being shattered a few times. Mosaic. A good word. Putting together a thing of beauty from the shattered pieces of something else. I think my life is beautiful. It is the only one I’ve got so why shouldn’t it be.

And what are my main attributes?

• Do I have opinions – of course!
• Have I had life experiences, too many (would like a reprieve please?).
• Have I been to interesting places – yes and currently living in one.
• Am I willing to be challenged – well that’s my whole life.
• I’ve had 30 years experience as a professional helping people dealing with life.
• I know what it is like to be different, to feel alone and to come out the other side.
• I know what it is like to be a parent and have to fight every day for the rights of a child who is different.
• I have a great sense of humour and I don’t take rubbish from anyone.

So yes I think I could be a roving reporter for Oprah – just one of the options out there .......

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The body .. where did it go?

Truth be told my body was never that fantastic. I've struggled with my weight. Been challenged by the back from hell (lots of surgery there just to keep me upright), had big droopy boobs - then no boobs, and now new boobs. It's been a dynamic experience my body - great variations of change.

The last two years have been pretty busy. The breast cancer thing (my present to myself for my 50th birthday) certainly diverted my attention from what was happening in other regions of the body geography. The dilemmas of multiple surgeries, infections, and the road to reconstruction was paved with a few diversions. It certainly was worthwhile though. Coming out the other side they're perky and for the first time in my life I don't have to wear a bra. I feel like a teenager again.

Two years later and I have just had the odd glass of bubbly to celebrate another birthday. It's amazing. What happened? Where did those 2 years go and what did the rest of my body get way with while I was preoccupied? I feel like I am in possession of this errant child that will do what it wants to do despite strict instructions to the contrary. It has bulged out in places that it never did. These granny arms have appeared and I long for longer sleeves.

Weight will just not disappear like it used to. Watching calories makes me feel as if I have to go on a hunger strike. I've had to resort to the gym. Serious exercise is helping to bring it into control. 5 kms a day on the treadmill (too hot and no footpath on the road) at 6kms per hour and then some weights to fix the granny arms is slowly bringing things under control. Even though I feel it is like eating brussels sprouts I get in there and do it.

At the start of this discovery I felt as if I'd woken up from a long sleep over the last 2 years and my body had been hijacked. Breast cancer had hit at the same time as menopause. I didn't have the time to do the book reading, Oprah and Dr Phil watching to know what the world was up to with these issues I just had to live them.

That self pity lasted about 5 minutes. Some time you just have to get on with it. Life is too short to be miserable. There is just too much to do, see and explore. Too many nice people to get to know and other people who you may choose not to have in your life (negative energy from them)!

My new body while it is a bit different is enjoying the new found freedom. A new range of bras I would never have worn, no drooping, a bit fitter - the middle is disappearing. I've discovered ten pin bowling a great activity to share with the man in my life and good for the granny arms.

And to celebrate the birthday I baked chocolate cake to share with friends. Why not!

Ginty's Foolproof Chocolate Cake
2 cups Self Raising flour
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cocoa
2/3 cup soft butter
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
Sift dry ingredients
Add butter, water, vanilla and beat 2 minutes
Add eggs and beat another 2 minutes
Bake in 180C for 40-50 minutes.
I used gas, middle shelf for exactly 50 minutes. I don't have an electric mixer so just beat with a wooden spoon. I cooked in a 26cm round tin lined with baking paper. The mixture can be doubled and cooked in a large rectangular tin for hoardes of hungry adolescents.
Turned out wonderful with a chocolate ganache frosting and served with fresh cream:
Chocolate Ganache Frosting
200 grams dark cooking chocolate
150 mls cream
45 grams diced butter
Melt cool slightly (until thickens so it is not too runny and runs off the top of the cake) Pour over cake.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Shopping .... and why it should be an Olympic sport

I really like shopping. It's not some much the buying but the looking that counts. The thing about the looking is also about having choices ... the 'to and fro', the thrill of the hunt, the satisfaction of discovery and the glee of the bargain found. All these and the exercise involved put it in the best of sports to be considered for Olympic competition.

My favourite arena for competition now is Lulu. That wonderful Indian owned hypermarket that is expanding into the outlying towns of Oman.

When I lived in London, Waitrose and Sainsbury's were up there but Lulu has defined for me the world of choice.

Leaving Australia I wondered how I would cope without Coles or Woolworths, my favourite delicatessen, the bakery, fresh fruit and veg from the green grocer, the list went on. Would I be able to get my favourite things to cook with?

Then I discovered Lulu. My first look was like a training run. I didn't come home with everything on my list. I felt a bit deflated. It was a huge arena to enter - aisles of goods, produce, homewares, but where were the things I needed?

Lulu is an adventure, a wonderland of delight with hidden secrets there for exploring. Every expedition now brings home another find, a treasure that makes the gold medals of success worth while. Once I had decoded the aisle system, sorted the layout, and the best path through - it is like a cross country race, to fit everything in by the time you get to the checkout.

Not only are there Middle Eastern favourites, there is an ethnic aisle that has goods from Australia, the US, UK and other european countries. A nifty section on Japanese household gidgy gadgy thingy's for hooks and holders. Amazing meats, cheeses, juices and sweets. This weeks find was Maldon Salt - it had probably been there all along but who knows the joy in finding it was immense! I can even score some Ben and Jerry's icecream for a treat. The prices are fantastic and a pleasure to see at the checkout and if you want to feed a hundred the huge bulk bags of staples are amazing to see stacked up and cruising out the door in shopping trolleys.

I also love going to the souq. The traditional market is a world away from Lulu but also an adventure. It's great to explore and go back to. A place to meet the people and practice my rudimentary arabic. I love getting help from the store owners about pronunciation and it makes me feel as if this wonderful country is becoming more and more my home.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

On adolescence and the boy child...

Living in the Middle East away from the the boy child has its advantages ... no smelly adolescent clothes to wash and no adolescent rooms to clean. I'm so glad adolescence is in the past. Who would volunteer for all those hormones again?

It's been tough. The BC thing threw a spanner in his growing up. Changing schools, mum in and out of hospital, dad having to change jobs and then thanks to the GFC having to move here because of no work there. He's had to learn to adapt and adjust and deal with all those feelings. He loves his dad and misses him a lot, is it any wonder he was a tad cross about such a big change when both mum and dad moved away.

The girl child had her own hurdles to jump but is more resilient and knew her strengths.

Having said that though I feel I could write a book (not) on parenting an 18 year old boy from afar. Boys are so concrete. Remember the vision thing. He's had to step up to the plate. It's been interesting. My typing skills are improving some of my creations include: a step by step guide to cleaning the bathroom (illustrated); a grocery shopping list for a growing teenage boy; a timetable to fit cleaning, study, sleep and eating - (I know, hopeful aren't I?). All copies are available for any other hopeful mother.

How do you explain multi-tasking? How hard is it to put a load of washing on while you cook/eat dinner? How hard is it to squirt some cleaner on the shower glass while you have a shower? Well we won't even talk about the toilet.

He's getting there - he cleans his clothes, doesn't starve, manages his studies, a gruelling training program, doesn't do wild parties, doesn't smoke or drink or do drugs. I can't complain.

He's created a new word - a floordrobe. Why put your clothes away when the floor is there - empty?

The girl child has a chairdrobe.

He's finally forgiven us and decided to come and visit - yes another list of what to bring and what not to bring. Not forgetting that his chief instrument of physical torture (bike)has to be packed and brought with him because really (mum), he still needs to keep training.

The father is in fear. His gentle twice weekly rides have to be ramped up to meet the demands of the boy child's training. He loves riding with his dad.

Life will change for a month. They will have great bonding time.

At least I won't experience what I did when I went home for a flying visit recently. The boy child was racing away for the weekend. We shared a room - 2 single beds, 3 nights. This is something no mother should ever have to do with her 18 year old son. Ever.

Copies of lists, guides for the adolescent boy growing up and being independent can be emailed on request.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Life .. according to Notting Hill

I admit it my favourite movie is Notting Hill. What can I say Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts good combination. More importantly I have established my own philosphy of life according to Notting Hill.

Who hasn't had that moment in the car where everyone is trying to tell you where to go - "James Bond doesn't have to deal with this shit". Ask my children they will tell you.

Who, when things seem out of control doesn't need to get a little "perspective" - there are in fact children starving in the Sudan (or wherever).

But let's face it my favourite is "they're only breasts every second person has them".

Well I don't. Not real ones anyway. Well, they are kind of, it is difficult to explain.

I went for a massage with a new person - my first in this country. I'd just done a gruelling flight back from spending some quality time with the boy child (spending being the operative word) the back was a wee bit stiff - no sleep but 8 movies later needed a bit of a rub down. The man in my life greeted me with red roses and a massage appointment - he is a gem (well except for the vision thing).

How do you explain when you're standing there in front of the masseur in your knickers that you don't like your front being massaged mainly because your front is reconstructed breasts that feel funny when they are touched. She is lovely and I tried to explain. She looked and looked. Tilted her head .. and then had to have a feel. Then I got the best massage I've had in years.

Breasts are breasts except when they're not. These kind of look like them naked, really don't feel like them, but clothed no one would have any idea!

I'm pretty proud of them. They took a lot of effort - apart from the double mastectomy there were 3 infections and 7 lots of surgery finishing with nipple reconstruction and tattooing. I'm pretty stoked so's the man in my life.

I think the surgeon who put it all back together for me was pretty stoked too - I think he was also probably glad to see the end of me after all that - if there was a risk of something going wrong, my number seemed to come up every time. He was a patient man.

If anyone wants to see them I'm happy to show off. I figure it only helps to debunk the myths and fears around breast cancer. They're pretty cool.

So here I am in a country that's modest and I have to cover them up. That's OK. I know they are there. I don't have to have them taken away again and I never have to have another mammogram - there are some advantages.

How about that for a little "perspective".

Friday, May 7, 2010

Looking for things ....

What is it with male vision? Really, how hard can it be to look for something in an assigned place and locate it. It's simple. What do they not understand about "it's in the drawer?".

But no. Somehow this translates to "if I open the drawer and it's not on top it's not there". How can that be? Blutack is what I wanted and it was in the desk drawer, I called from the top of the 22 stairs down to the living area where the desk was located. He was down there how hard was that?

The villa we live in here in the Middle East has lovely high ceilings, marble stairs and cool, cool floors to be a respite from the heat - serious airconditioning also helps. I was upstairs for the night but blutack is what I needed. We'd been shopping - one of the joys here is wonderful shopping hours into the evening - another heat advantage as who wants to go out in the middle of the day. I had a wobbly stand I'd bought (I think it was the tiles on the floor) and some blutack under the foot would solve the problem.

I know that the vision thing is a gender wide affliction. The boy child has it too. We now refer to "Mummy looks". If you can't find something a mummy look is required. How needed do I feel.

I also know that it is not just the males in my family it seems to be across the community. Am I right? My friends would seem to agree.

How do they manage me here - the children there in Australia. I'm a wanted woman or at least my eyes are.

And yes I had to do those 22 stairs, and yes it was in the drawer.

That pink colour ...

I really don't like breast cancer pink - there I've said it. If anyone can have post traumatic stress disorder from a colour that would be me. I have this great Geoff Bade dress that I bought before (the C word came into my life) in that pink - I just loved it still do but if I could change the colour I would.

I really don't like the word 'journey' either. Oh brother if I had one more person talk to me about the breast cancer journey I think I would scream.

I am entitled to say these things I'm from a minority group of people who've been there done that and have no breasts to show for it.

Lots of people said to me write a book. Well no.

What have I done? Well I've run away with my husband and left the children at home. I'm over the worst two years of my life and now is the time for another chapter of the adventure and you'll notice I didn't use the 'j' word once.