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.