Sunday, 23 August 2009
Saturday, 8 August 2009
It's amazing how being a parent helps you appreciate the simple things in life. Once most of your time and energy has been taken up by your family, there's very little else you want to do at the end of the day except curl up on the couch and stare vacantly at the television with nothing on your mind. Even reading a book or the newspaper requires too much brain power, despite it being one of my favourite pastimes (sharing a close first place with yoga, listening to music and dancing).
Wednesday, 5 August 2009
For those of you that don't know me well, I have an alternative side. Every Wednesday morning, from 10am until midday (and sometimes longer, should time permit) I head down to my local Centre for Mind, Body, Spirit and fill in at reception while Sylvia, the owner, is able to run errands and do her own thing for a couple of hours. It's not paid, but that doesn't bother me in the slightest. I do it purely to get out of the house, to have some sort of face-to-face contact with civilisation, and to, for two hours a week, surround myself with relaxing, soothing, calming vibrations.
Hi all! Sorry about the lack of posts recently! I went to QLD for a week with my family, and have spent the two weeks since I returned trying to catch up on my studies, as I hate falling behind! But I'm ok now, apart from an assignment due on Friday, and another on Monday. It's all good. Really, it is! Especially with my mum not being around to help me! (Do you detect a faint whiff of desperation?)
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Sunday, 12 July 2009
Saturday, 11 July 2009
Thursday, 9 July 2009
Wednesday, 8 July 2009
...Real magazine, published by Inspired (it's actually Real) Girl Productions and supported by The Butterfly Foundation, Libra and Edge, aims to "inspire creativity and positive thinking, promote self respect and encourage readers to embrace their individuality". Editor Erin Young writes, "Each day we are bombarded with messages implying that beauty and appearance should be the most important thing in our lives. Beauty is only skin deep...it is glamour that lasts forever and glamour comes from within!" Sounds like an unreal editorial philosophy to me. Subscribing immediately!The most exciting news about the mag is that as of next year it will be a quarterly publication. Two issues a year is just not enough to say what all the young women have been emailing us about.
- There's Anais Nin's Under a Glass Bell- A beautifully descriptive piece of literature that I'm not quite far enough in to tell you about. Lent to me by my obst/gyn (who is also a family friend) it apparently falls under the genre of "soft-porn". Who knew it could be so beautifully done?
- Philip Norman's John Lennon: The life- An incredibly in-depth biography about one of the most revolutionary musicians of all time.
- Richard Yates's Revolutionary Road- the First Tuesday Book Club reviewed the book a few weeks ago, and ever since I heard that it was about a middle-class, white couple living in suburbia who dream to make their lives exciting and interesting but fail to do so, I have been dying to read it. Feeling somewhat stuck in suburbia myself, living the same life as everyone else, I could relate to that feeling of wanting more (as I'm sure many of us can) and I wanted to be shown the story from someone else's perspective.
- Catherine Deveny's Say When- which is basically a compilation of the opinion columns she's written in The Age, but hilariously funny
- Mia Freedman's The New Black- which is very similar to, and just as funny as, Catherine Deveny's book
- Phillipa Pearce's Tom's Midnight Garden- one of my books for my Children's Lit subjects at uni, it's about a boy who, staying at his Aunt and Uncle's one night, hears the grandfather clock downstairs strike 13 o'clock one night.
- And finally, Russ Harris's Act With Love- a book that I thought would help me work on my relationship with my husband, which has no problems at all (currently) but for which I like to be prepared anyway.
Monday, 29 June 2009
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Monday, 15 June 2009
Friday, 5 June 2009
Thanks to: bugmum, KerriSackville, Mia Freedman (for your blog, who lead me to these brilliant people!), bellsg, numberchic, redhossy, taraschwarz, angelapinjuh, fender4eva, carly_grace, wite_wickah, Bern_Morely, CraigieMac, emjaystar, kateburge, AussieSoccermum, shonnyk, and overingtonc.
Tuesday, 2 June 2009
Monday, 1 June 2009
Anti-abortion violence has killed at least seven people in the US, including three doctors, two clinic employees, a security guard and a clinic escort.
The zealots are out again in America. You know, the ones who are so focussed on the sanctity of life, who so cherish the human condition that they urge harrassment and even violence against doctors who perform legal medical procedures.
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
A Memory Magically Interrupted By ROBERT LELEUX
“YOUR grandmother has Alzheimer’s, right?” the doctor asked me, scrawling notes into a floppy manila folder.
I hadn’t expected to discuss my grandmother’s Alzheimer’s with him. I was hoping to hear some explanation as to why, apart from her memory, my grandmother’s overall health seemed so mysteriously improved. Her lupus, for instance, had all but disappeared from her blood work.
“Yes, but ...” I began.
“Well, there is a theory,” he said, interrupting, “that people with Alzheimer’s heal themselves of their diseases. Because they forget they have them.”
I glanced across the room at my beautiful grandmother, smiling vaguely in her lipstick-pink trench coat. “But you don’t really believe that?” I asked.
The doctor shrugged with an implicit “Who knows?” which I found irritating because I hadn’t flown all the way from Manhattan to Nashville to discuss fanciful theories. I wanted solid answers about JoAnn’s health, and he’d thrown me with his talk of miracle cures.
But by that evening, after I’d driven my grandparents home, I realized that the real reason this doctor had startled me was that for the first time I’d heard someone confirm my experience of my grandmother’s disease. Alzheimer’s has, in a sense, healed my grandmother, and our family.
Despite my family role of bulldog journalist, responsible for sniffing out facts, I’ve always preferred fairy tales to literal truth. And I wonder if that isn’t a better way (in my family’s case, anyway) to approach Alzheimer’s, a malady that for us has had a decided fairy tale ring to it, one of those stories where a beautiful lady is cast under a wicked spell that makes her lose her whole life — only to get it back again, better than ever, by the closing paragraph.
Five years ago, when JoAnn’s Alzheimer’s was first diagnosed, I couldn’t imagine anything less fair. At the time, I composed a mental list of all the people I knew who could lose their minds without anybody noticing, scores of people whom I’d never heard say one original thing. While my grandmother, on the other hand, was the genius of the cocktail party, a brunette version of our fellow Texan Ann Richards, who always seemed poised with a staggering, stiletto quip.
As a young artist in New York, I’d spent years trying to find my voice. When I did, it was my grandmother’s. To this day, I’ve never liked anything I’ve created that didn’t somehow remind me of her. So the fact that my clumsy development and slow self-discovery was occurring just as her decline began felt like a tragic bargain. I was finding my voice just as she was losing hers.
The only certainty about Alzheimer’s is that it’s characterized by uncertainty: There is no definitive test, no definitive diagnosis. But in July several years ago, after undergoing a gruesome but unserious operation, my grandmother began to exhibit signs of the disease. It was as if her anesthesia never lifted.
I now believe she suffered a mini-stroke mid-operation — an event that frequently “ignites” incipient Alzheimer’s — but by the time I formed this suspicion, it was too late to test. So throughout that year, as my grandfather and I accompanied her to a legion of new doctors, each of whom mentioned the possibility of Alzheimer’s, my grandmother grew ever more foggy, sometimes hilariously so.
“The wonderful thing about Alzheimer’s,” she would say, unfurling her arm like Bette Davis, “is that you always live in the moment.”
Like many Southern women of her generation, my grandmother had been a stifled lady prone to fits of drape-drawn depression, medicated with Champagne and Streisand.
“Sad lives make funny people,” she told me when I was 16.
At the time, this remark had just sounded like one more zinger. But eventually I came to consider it the distillation of her philosophy. Humor was the way she had coped with every unpleasant thing in her life, from her long estrangement from my mother, her only child, to the onset of a crippling disease.
But while my grandmother was able to laugh at her decline, her husband couldn’t. He didn’t find anything funny about watching her forget their life together. I think all my grandfather ever wanted was to be left alone with his wife — a goal he’d finally accomplished after more than 40 years of marriage, when they retired from Houston to his family’s Tennessee home.
In this way my grandparents reminded me of the Reagans, one of those couples who are so gaga for each other that there is no room for the kids. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just that perfect couples rarely have happy families. They have to have children, because they love each other too much not to make something of it. But then, the honeymoon never ends, and who brings their children on a honeymoon? It’s like they always say: two’s company, and three’s an angry kid like Patti Davis, desperate for attention, with a complex about being shoved outside the magic circle.
Except that in our case, Patti Davis was my mother — a Scarlett O’Hara for the silicon age, with a chest as big as her mouth and hair. Between these two genteel Southern ladies, our family became an Old West town: It just wasn’t big enough for both of them.
Which meant that my grandfather, Alfred, adoring JoAnn as he did, not only stopped speaking to his daughter, he even stopped speaking about her, at least with me. Until the day when we were finally forced to accept the fact of JoAnn’s Alzheimer’s and its awful progression.
The more JoAnn forgot, the more often Alfred asked me to visit. And at the end of one of these Tennessee weekends, as my grandfather wound his Buick through the dark hills on the way to the airport, he suddenly blurted, “Sonny, I think it’s time your mother came home for a visit.”
I was too surprised to say anything. Then he repeated, “I think it’s time your mother came home.”
“I’ll make it happen,” I mumbled.
“Good,” he said, tapping the wheel. “It’s time.”
Of course, I had no idea how I would make it happen. Fortunately, my mother — who, for many years, had been no stranger to a Bloody Mary — was newly sober, and I took advantage of that narrow window of Alcoholics Anonymous time before making amends becomes a crashing bore. All that summer, I begged her long distance. I swore that if she would only visit her parents one more time, everything would be different. Finally I played my ace: I asked her to visit them in Tennessee for my birthday in September.
“Damn it,” she screeched. “So now if I don’t go, I’ll be ruining your birthday? Fine. I’ll do it. But prepare yourself for disaster.”
“There won’t be any disaster,” I said.
“Oh, really? Give me one good reason why things will be different this time.”
“Alzheimer’s,” I answered.
For my grandfather and me, having to witness JoAnn’s Alzheimer’s had been agonizing — like watching “The Miracle Worker” backward. Every day seemed accompanied by a new limitation. But for my grandmother, the disease had seemed liberating. For the first time in all the years I’d known her, she seemed truly happy.
Imagine: to be freed from your memory, to have every awful thing that ever happened to you wiped away — and not just your past, but your worries about the future, too. Because with no sense of time or memory, past and future cease to exist, along with all sense of loss and regret. Not to mention grudges and hurt feelings, arguments and embarrassments.
And that’s the fantasy, isn’t it? To have your record cleared. To be able not to merely forget, but to expunge your unhappy childhood, or unrequited love, or rocky marriage from your memory. To start over again.
There had always been an element of existential fury to my grandmother’s barbed wit, concerning her lost time and missed chances. But as her Alzheimer’s advanced, she forgot to be angry. And she seemed healthier, too: her pace quickened, her complexion brightened, her hair thickened. And with my help and her husband’s credit card, even her wardrobe improved. Her transformation was magical and unmistakable.
It was certainly unmistakable to my mother on that bracing September day when my grandparents and I picked her up at the Nashville airport. “Look, JoAnn,” Alfred said, “it’s Jessica.”
“Isn’t that funny,” said JoAnn, before embracing my mother. “That’s my daughter’s name, too.”
My mother forced a smile and shot me a wary look that abruptly softened once we got to the Buick and my grandmother reached for her hand. “Tell me all about yourself, darling,” she said. “I want to know everything about you.”
All through my birthday dinner that evening, JoAnn positively doted on her daughter — beaming sweetly and patting her hand. This behavior unsettled my mother, who afterward made a theatrical production of rooting through the closet in her bedroom.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Looking for space pods,” she said. “Who are those people, Robert? And what have they done with my mother? I keep thinking I must be in a blackout. That I must be drunk in a ditch somewhere, and when I wake up I’ll have the hangover of a lifetime. Because believe me, if that nice old lady had been my mother, I’d never have left home.”
DURING the following week, the starchy blue autumn skies remained clear, and so did the irony. Now that my grandmother had, in a way, disappeared, she was fully present to my mother for perhaps the first time in their relationship. Now that she was all but unreachable, she was finally available. Each evening, as JoAnn scooted close at dinner, my mother found the nearness less nerve-racking.
On the last day, as we were leaving for the airport, my grandfather kissed us goodbye. Soft black cows strode serenely on the hillside. Suddenly JoAnn grabbed onto the lapels of my mother’s jacket, as if she were about to shake her.
My mother looked rattled, but then JoAnn said: “Thank you for coming, Jessica. I want you to know how much it means to me. I want you to know that I know we’ve never been close. And I know that’s been mostly my fault. I’m not sure how much time I’ve got. But more than anything, I want to have a shot at spending it with you. It’s so important. I mean, after all, Jessica, we’re sisters.”
I groaned, then looked over to see my tough mother crying.
“Close enough, Mama,” she said.
Robert Leleux, who lives in New York, is the author of “The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy” (St. Martin’s Press).
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
But there has been many pieces of advice that I've taken hold of and kept with me throughout my life. Valuable pieces that have helped me through a plethora of circumstances and situations.
Monday, 25 May 2009
My husband, of course, has a different idea. He thinks children thrive best with stability, routine, and predictability. Which is great. If you want to raise boring people with no life experience and no personality. See, when I was 8 my parents packed up and went to Alice Springs for 6 weeks, while they renovated the old house they used to live in. For 6 weeks I left my life in Melbourne to go to school in Alice Springs. I made new friends, had new experiences, and witnessed first hand what it was like to live among and go to school with indigenous Australians. It was the first time I came across non-white people (not including Maoris). We lived in a run down house (until it was fixed up) on mattresses, surrounded by red backs (NOT exaggerating). On the way up and on the way back we camped in caravan parks, but without tents. Oh no, tents were a luxury. We had one of those fold out beds, and our sleeping bags, right under the stars. I remember staying overnight....somewhere in the outback, with cattle trains full of cattle mooing and smelling all night, while dingos walked around the perimeter of the caravan park type place we were staying in. My dad called it "millions star hotel". You know. 'Cause of the million stars. On the way home from Alice Springs (we had a car and a trailer) we stopped at Ayers Rock, and I got to climb it, at 8 years of age. It was amazing and scary as hell. All I remember was getting about 3/4 of the way up and crying because it was so windy and I was scared I was going to fall off, and this old man in front of me from California (I remember hearing him talk about it) saying to me "You hang in there!"
Looking back now, I learned so much from that trip. Sure, I missed my friends. I didn't want to go in the first place because of my friends. But once I was there I made new ones, and I very quickly got used to my new life. Children adapt so much easier to change than adults do.
My inspirational women are Catherine Deveny and Mia Freedman. I'm a huge fan of honesty and being blunt, which is where my love of Catherine Deveny stems from. She's so frank and brutally honest, verbalising what most of the population are too scared to. And she's great at giving advice. I'm currently reading one of her books (can't remember which one, will tell you when I do) of which parts of it resonate so deeply with the way I feel about a lot of things: parenting, life, family, relationships. Of course, she's hilarious too, which adds to her appeal. Last month I was involved with the Williamstown Literary Festival, and Catherine gave a talk about creativity and procrastination, with regards to writing. At the end of the session I asked her how she got rid of the guilt of sometimes choosing to write over spending time with her children, and she answered with this:
"If writing is a big part of who you are and what you love, you need to make time to do this so that you can be a better mother. Because if you don't make time to do what you love, how can you possibly be the best mother you can be?"
I'm a fan of Mia Freedman because she's ambitious and has had a successful career, as well as a family at a (relatively) young age. In a way I feel (like many of you, I'm sure) that I can relate to her, and I think that's what makes her so popular among young women, and mothers. I also love that she's funny, and so observant about everyday things, and I love that she's intelligent, and can tackle the controversial topics on her blog, as well as the mundane. As an ex fashion magazine editor, she also has a sense of social responsibility with regards to body image, and is involved in the National Body Image Advisory Group.
I guess ultimately, the qualities I admire in these women are the ones that I aspire to myself: success in family, success in career, strong, intelligent, funny, and honest.
What about you? Who do you admire and why?
Tuesday, 19 May 2009
Banker Rescues Darling Ducklings
May 18, 2009 5:38 PM
Joel Armstrong is no duck connoisseur. The 43-year-old banker and father of two learned everything he knows about ducks through Google. But this Saturday, none of that mattered as he helped rescue a new family of ducklings.
For the past 35 days, Armstrong watched as a mother duck nested on a ledge outside his office window…two blocks from the Spokane River in Washington state. On Saturday morning, Armstrong arrived in town for the annual Lilac Festival parade. Seeing the newly hatched ducklings nervously pacing back and forth on the ledge, he knew they were stuck. Their mother stood waiting below, but the jump off the ledge was too far for the ducklings.
Armstrong hasn’t played baseball since grade school, but he stepped up to the plate ready to help. Standing below the ledge, he caught each duckling as they leapt into his waiting hands below. By the time it was over, a crowd had gathered for the parade. To the sound of cheers and applause, the mother duck led her ducklings to water.
Banker rescues darling ducklings
Monday, 11 May 2009
It's the first time I've ever cooked risotto, because I always thought risotto was one of those things you had to get right or it was awful. And it worked, thank goodness. It was delicious, so I'm sharing it with you all.
Time: 15 mins prep, 25 mins cooking
400g raw, shelled prawns
3 Tbsp finely chopped spring onions
125g finely shredded baby spinach leaves
30g finely chopped fresh basil leaves
330g arborio rice
500ml chicken stock
30g grated parmesan cheese (optional)
2 Tbsp olive oil
Put aside 6-8 prawns and roughly chop the rest of them. Put chicken stock and 175ml of water to saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and add the whole prawns for 2-3 minutes, or until bright pink, then remove and put aside.
Put 2 tbsp of the butter and oil into frying pan, on med-high heat. Add spring onions and sautee until soft. Add rice and sautee until opaque. Reduce to medium heat and add 180ml of stock to rice and stir until most of stock absorbed. Add chopped prawns and stir. Continue adding stock in 180ml batches, adding more every time it has absorbed, until only small amount of stock left, and rice is al dente. Stir continually. This will take around 20 minutes. Add final tbsp of stock along with spinach, basil, remaining butter, salt to taste, and parmesan. Stir then serve immediately, garnishing with prawns that were set aside.