thoughts du jour

  • "Spend some time alone every day."- His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Sunday, 23 August 2009

What would life be like with no downs?

Have you ever noticed that it's the bad things that happen on a holiday that really stick in your mind, and in a way, create the memories of that holiday? And yet if you have a holiday where nothing goes wrong, and everything works out smoothly, you remember it as being a great time, but the details aren't as sharp as they would be had anything bad happened?

Our honeymoon is a classic example of this. It began with me picking up the wrong bag at the airport in Maui. This was bad, because I'd taken the wrong bag to Maui from Honolulu, which meant that my actual bag could have been anywhere in the US, or even the world by now. Fortunately, the guy whose bag I'd taken realised that my bag wasn't his, despite their ridiculously similar appearances, and reported his missing. So when I rang Honolulu airport my bag was sitting all alone at the baggage claims department. They flew it over on the very next flight, and I was to meet someone there with the bag I'd taken. Problem solved. Thank God.

Then it was the weather. Who knew we had gone there in their wet season? For 8 out of the 10 days it poured with rain. As we flew from island to island we were literally being followed by a storm that would then wreak havoc a day or so after we'd left. It was a shame, therefore, that I never got to swim in the ocean. But not so bad to find out that two days after we left the first hotel, the grounds got flooded from high sea level and destructive waves.

Then there was the hire car incident. When we hired it I nudged Shane at the question of "Do you want insurance?"
"Get it," I hissed. I sure didn't want to be stuck paying for anything more than necessary, so insurance seemed like a good idea.
And lucky we did, because on our way up the driveway of our first hotel there was a roundabout made of large rocks. In a brief moment of confusion and disorientation, Shane went the wrong way around the roundabout, misjudged the distance, and drove over a rock with the front right wheel of the car. Which promptly  slashed the tyre and hub cap. Wonderful. Fortunately, the insurance covered it, and we wound up with the only hire car they had left: a very sexy mustang convertible. Gee, what a shame.

The last straw was that flight home was delayed indefinitely because of the bad weather. Like I needed another reason to be scared of flying. So we were stuck at some airport, I can't even remember which one now, that wasn't even really enclosed because it gets so hot there. So, of course, everyone was getting wet, and grumpy, and with no end in sight it was really quite...uncomfortable, to say the least.

Looking back, except for the weather, every other crappy incident was immediately preceded by another incident that made up for it. It was a roller coaster of highs and lows, that honeymoon. One I'm not likely to forget any time soon.

But, you see, it's the scary, exciting stories that I enjoy hearing about when people tell me of their travels. And they tell those stories with pride, like those bad things that happen are the whole reason they stepped out of their comfort zone in the first place. To experience the scary stuff that you can tell stories about later. I mean, let's face it. That's what makes for an interesting story.

And this theory- that it's the bad stuff that happens during travel that makes the trip-that led me to realise that it's actually the bad things that happen in life that makes us who we are as well. We are the product of all our negative experiences. It is because of the negative parts of my life that I am so determined to prove myself to everyone who loves me. It is because of these experiences that I am stubborn and refuse to give up on my dreams. It's because of these character-building moments that I am who I am.

Imagine how boring life would be with no downs. Nothing to compare the good times to. The good times would seem boring and lifeless. I don't want a perfect life. I just want a life full of experiences.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

The little things...

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).

When the sounds of a three-year-old boy's chatter, a baby warbling and The Wiggles fill up your day, the silence that comes at the end of the day can be deafening and a little foreboding; like someone is up to something they shouldn't be. The urge to be quiet when walking around at night is hard to get rid of too, but when you finally figure out you don't have to be quiet because no one's home, it's worth it.

When I was in my early twenties the things I really wanted to do were travel and go out with friends. A few years later (and possibly none the wiser) I've found that while my goal remains to see the world, the few things I actually appreciate are actually right here in front of me, albeit with limited access.

At this moment, I happen to be enjoying a perfect Saturday night. With my husband, three-year-old and dog a few hundred kilometer's away I find myself in the position of having the house almost to myself (7mnth old sound asleep). I've been able to eat dinner without being concerned if it's something that the rest of my family would enjoy. I had a delicious dinner of curried fish, roti and salad from my local Indian restaurant, accompanied with a glass of Riccadonna. I've had the television off all night, and my jazz music playing in the background. And I've had the freedom (and peace) to read the newspaper, read my new Vogue, and blog.

No more can I understand why people would want to fill their weekends with unnecessary activity, leaving not a moment's thought for themselves. I shake my head in wonder at my friends who insist on being sociable for a whole weekend. Don't they miss having a moment's peace? I fully understand now, why dad would always say to me "I just want a moment's peace!"

I've been able to sit and actually hear my thoughts, and even tried to minimalise the number I have. I haven't had to talk to anyone, I've been able to do what I want and listen to what I want all night. I haven't had to think for anyone else. And I am in heaven.

It really is the little things, isn't it?

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

My little tiff about the intolerance of humanity

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.

The Centre is housed in a double story, art deco, spanish styled mansion at the end of the main street of Werribee. It is the house that all the locals look upon as the abandoned haunted house, especially me, who was prone to a wild imagination in my childhood years. The house remained unoccupied the entire time I've lived in Werribee, a good 21 years. It is the house that remained an elusive mystery, the one we as children would sneak into the grounds (overgrown with weeds and shrubs, of course) and peer through the dusty windows into the dark, dank interior, secretly hoping to spot a ghost or two.

Well, now I get to spend time in this house every week, and it has this strangely soothing vibe about it. It provides me an escape from the mundane, and I have free range of books to read while I'm there. I don't have to do anything except man the phone and reception while Sylvia ducks out. It is my idea of temporary bliss.

This morning, I came across a book called The Roswell Message 50 Years on- The Aliens Speak. I never really got into the whole Roswell thing (not actually being alive at the time probably didn't help) but I have always been fascinated in UFOs or anything unexplainable. This book caught my attention because it contained actual dialogue with one of the ETs that died in the UFO crash. The ET was contacted psychically by a medium, in the presence of a scientist who wanted to ask loads of questions.

Now I know there are a LOT of skeptics out there. And skeptics have every right to their own opinions as I do.  But the dialogue was absolutely fascinating. The ET, who identified itself as Lilit, said that it's race was basically what humanity evolves to a few million years in the future. Millions of years ago their race chose the path of technology (sound familiar?) and as a result there were many things about them that are different to humans. The main one, which I found beautiful, was that they live in peace and harmony, and that their only life philosophy is respect for all life.

I'm not going to talk about the book any more, because this was the main point I wanted to talk about. Respect for all life. Why is that such a difficult philosophy for some of us to live by? Everything that is wrong with the world today can be blamed on intolerance of one race to another, of one individual towards another. Intolerance of religion, belief systems, cultures, ways of life, morals, values, whatever. I need to ask these pressing questions:
Who cares if someone is a different race to you?
What does it matter if one society lives totally differently to yours?
Why is the West so intent on getting the rest of the world to be like them?
Why is the US so intent on making other countries into mini-America?
Why must we all be the same?

God, could you imagine what the world would be like if we WERE all the same?? Had the same morals and values and opinions, the same coloured skin, spoke the same language? What a BLOODY BORING place it would be! Not only that, but we would have got NOWHERE as a species! We would all still be sitting around the fire speaking oog-oog to each other because no one had the sense to be different.

Why is there so much intolerance in the world? Is it part of who we are? Why must each religion claim their own as being the one true religion, and damn the rest of them to eternal whatever? My opinion of this even includes things such as some societies viewing women as lesser species. Of course, personally, I disagree and think men and women are equal in all things. But I'm not going to sit here and preach to someone who disagrees with my view. I'm going to accept that fine, that's the way they think, this is the way I think, let's leave it at that. Just accepting people, cultures, societies as they are, and appreciating their similarities and using their differences to appreciate OUR society! Like, thank god we don't live in a society where it's ok to eat other people! And thank god we don't live in a society where I will be prosecuted for wearing pants!

It just makes me sad to think that people are so fixated on differences that they can't see the similarities. I think it was Groove Armada that said "If everybody looked the same, we'd be tired of looking at each other." Wise words. 

Food, glorious, unmodified food!

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?)

I went to see a nutritionist on the weekend; something I rarely do. Ideally, I want to begin a detox program for a few weeks to give my body a clean slate. But somewhere in the appointment this point got lost (possibly in translation, as the guy was really hard to understand!), and I just ended up getting advice on what to eat and not to eat to give my digestive system a break.

It began with something I already knew- cutting out red meat, dairy and anything with wheat and gluten. Fine, I sort of expected that. But then I was told a bunch of information that is totally contradicting to what I hear in every day life. He (let's call him George. That is his name, after all) told me he doesn't believe in a solid breakfast, that people should only have liquid breakfasts, like fresh fruit and/or veggie juice. He also mentioned that the body isn't ready to eat a proper meal until around midday, and that the biggest meal of the day should occur between 12pm-8pm (whew, got something right!) but that it should be had for lunch.

This, of course, would mean that I have to either totally upturn my family's eating habits...or that I will need to start cooking two sets of meals a day.

Yeah, I'll pass on that thanks. What else you got for me?

I wouldn't have been proper consultatoin if I had walked away empty handed, and so I did not. I brought these seeds called Chia seeds, which are apparently nature's superfood. You can read more about this superfood here. It turns out I'm also probably (I use the term "probably" loosely) iodine deficient- something to do with my neck. I was also told not to consume margerine or olive oil spread, or any light margarine, and instead, when cooking or using it as a spread, to use pure butter. The theory behind this is that butter is something like 80-90% fat, so if margerine is only half this, what other ingredients does it contain? The idea behind all this is that I should be consuming products that occur naturally, with little or no modification.

So, I have a new food theory. And this is NOT about losing weight, mind you. I may not be satisfied with my body, but I'm in a place where I want it to be healthy rather than thin. So, my theory is, the food we are meant to be eating is the same foods we were eating as neanderthals. 
That is fruit, veggies, grains, seeds, nuts, red meat, white meat, fish and water. That's it. For all the people that think human's weren't meant to eat meat: our canines (teeth, not dogs) say otherwise, as does the history of being meat eaters. If we weren't meat eaters we would never have been hunter-gatherers right? We would have been only gatherers. But that's not to say we should eat heaps of it.

Look, I'm starting to preach, and this was not my intention. I'm merely sharing my new food theory with you. I am enjoying this new way of seeing food, and it's amazing, once I have become aware of it, how much processed food there actually is out there. I really believe that processed food is just totally not good for us. All those chemicals! We'd be horrified if we knew what really went into anti-freeze...

Anywho. More posts soon!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Where are the women?

It was brought to my attention by Bellsg at the end of the countdown that not one single female artist made it into the hottest 100 of all time. NOT ONE. In 100 songs, NOT ONE OF THEM WAS FEMALE. While there were a handful of female band members and featured vocalists, there were no females whose own songs made it to the hottest 100.

What does this mean? Is it simply that all the great rock gods are just that, gods and not goddesses? But surely there are some female artists out there that warrant that coveted hottest 100 of all time title? What about Stevie Nicks? Tori Amos? Bjork? Janis Joplin? Not even Carole King?
I find it very hard to believe. But also very eye-opening.

After this discovery, I went through my music collection to see what were my favourites, what I listened to the least, and what I listened to the most. And while female artists were high up there on the number of times listened, all my favourite songs are sung by male artists. The ones I voted for in the top 100 were Riders on the Storm (Doors), All Along the Watchtower (Jimi Hendrix), Throw your Arms Around Me (Hunters and Collectors) and Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana). No females there.

And when you think about it, the biggest bands of all time are all males: The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Nirvana. So what's the message behind this?

I think it has to do with society's obsession with rock stars. That classic leather pants, scruffy hair, smoldering sexiness, all revolve around that iconic rock god look, beginning, of course, with the one and only Jim Morrison, who was likened to the Greek god Adonis during his time at the top. And let's face it. Rock gods are idolised. Women want to be with them, men want to be them. The power, the money, the fame, the whole bad-boy persona (maybe not in the case of The Beatles...but that's an exception) that surrounds the rock god type.

And while there are plenty of females to idolise, the psychology isn't there. Men might think they're hot, but that doesn't separate them from any other hot female. Women might think they are successful and great musicians, but that also doesn't separate them from the rest of the successful, great female musicians. Male rock gods are elevated by society as exactly that-unattainable gods who we admire from afar.

So while it's disappointing to know that really, there are no female artists out there that have made as strong an impression on us as their male counterparts, perhaps it's a chance to redeem ourselves. Think about your favourite female artists and make sure you vote for them next hottest 100 of all time!

You can see the full list of the hottest 100 of all time here; more info on the lack of females in the charts here; and what The Age had to say about it here

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Book nerd heaven: why I love my iPhone

We're all friends here, so I can safely admit to you all why I got an iPhone without being ostracized for being a sheep. Aside from the fact that I was sick of never having any credit with my pre-paid account, I was extremely tempted to get an iPhone because of some of its features. When they first came out I had a very "meh" attitude towards it. But all of sudden, over the last fortnight or so, I was overwhelmed with a strong urge to get one. Why? Why the sudden change of heart?

Well, I figured it out. It was temptation of the possibility of having hundreds of books with me in my pocket at all times that did it. Yep, that's right. I'm a MAJOR book nerd (in case you hadn't figured that out already). And last night I made the best purchase of perhaps my entire life, and I bought an application that consisted of 165 old classic books for a measly $6. That's right. $6.

Among this loooong list was a bunch of classics that I'd always wanted to read, but never got around to buying: Moby Dick, The Republic, Little Women, Wuthering Heights, A Tale of Two Cities, Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey, and many of Edgar Allen Poe's works. As well as these "must reads", there are heaps of childhood favourites: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, The Secret Garden, White Fang, Jungle Book, Anne of Green Gables and Gulliver's Travels to name a few.

I was so excited that I stayed up until 2am this morning reading through the many titles, reading bits of the first pages, and generally just being rapt that I will not be lacking in something to read for a long, long time.

If you're interested, the application is 150 Great Books and it is well worth the small change needed to buy.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

The new lords of dance

I've always had a fascination with irish dancing and irish or celtic music, so when my husband emailed me this photo I was instantly curious. I was not, however, prepared for the hearty laugh that it induced, so that was a pleasant bonus. 
Have a good laugh and enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

You're not needed anymore...

If there was ever a time for men to feel redundant in the reproductive department, now is the time. A story in The Age today describes how scientists in England have managed to create sperm from embryonic stem cell. The major breakthrough is thought to help mend the problem of male infertility. But does anyone else find this slightly alarming? First, the physical act of male and female copulating to breed has been made unnecessary with the introduction of IVF and sperm donors, so that now women don't need a man at all (in the physical sense) to have children. And now? It turns out that men aren't even needed to donate sperm anymore! All those stem cells that we've been convincing people to store safely away is really an elaborate plan to rid the world of any need for men, so that women can rule...
...Not really. But I'm sure there are some men out there, somewhere that are secretly thinking "well...I'm not needed anymore."

Australians for Ethical Stem Cell Research director, Dr David van Gend, sums up my thoughts on the issue well:

...The "abuse of embryonic humans had reached a sinister new low".

He said the researchers could have created sperm from non-embryonic stem cells.

"This is an abuse both because of its implications, namely, that scientists can now exploit a dead embryo as a source of sperm, but also because it was entirely unnecessary to use embryos as the source of stem cells," he said.

Of course, it is great news for those who have been deemed infertile. But I can't help but think of Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection...

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

REAL Magazine update

For those of you that are unaware, I'm involved in a magazine called REAL, which is aimed at promoting positive body image and self-respect in 14-18 year-old women. We all know the story, I mean, who here even remembers what a REAL female figure looks like? Every day we are bombarded with messages and signs that thin is beautiful, and that physical beauty and appearance is top priority. From the models you see in game shows like Deal or no Deal, to the hosts on television morning shows, we are brainwashed to feel unhappy with our own figures, and to strive to look more beautiful. And it's REAL's aim to show girls that being an individual is more important than conforming to what society says is right.

Anywho. Thanks to Twitter, the highly acclaimed Girl With a Satchel blogger Erica Bartle mentioned us in her Playlist section on Friday 3 July, much to my excitement, I might add. And while many people are still incredibly apprehensive of the benefits of Twitter, at least I can say that I understand why it's so great. GWAS confirmed they'd heard about us through Twitter, and the rest is history! Here's what GWAS had to say: 

 ...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 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. 

I can't believe how lucky I was to come across REAL. If I'd not been reading the Saturday Age that day in January last year (and at the time I usually didn't read it on the w/e) then I would not have read about REAL in the paper, and been compelled to contact Erin Young (the Editor) and offer my help. It helps that I want to work in the publishing industry, and that working on a magazine is right up there in my dream-jobs-I-have-to-have list. But the magazine also fulfills the part of me that wants to help, and especially, help teenagers make it through the most turbulent years of their lives. 

The great thing about the mag -probably the greatest thing- is that most of it is written by young women themselves, who have experienced the melancholy of teenage angst. It's so eye opening to read about other peoples' stories of adolescence. 

Anyway, we are updating the website to be more interactive, but if you know of any young women who need encouragement to be creative, confident, independent and happy do send them our way, and maybe they can tell their story too.

What's on your bedside table?

I've learned a lot about myself lately. Like the fact that I need to have several things on the go at once to really feel...satisfied. Like the discovery that I'm a fix-it person, where I tend to tell people how to fix their problems, and give advice where I think it's needed, and then get incredibly frustrated when people whinge but do nothing to improve their situation. And, apparently, that I love reading so much, but that the book has to match my mood.

Guess how many books I have on bedside table that I'm CURRENTLY reading? Let's see:

  • 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.
That's a lot of books. Is anyone else that bloody mad?

You see, I have a different book to match each mood. Serious, literary ones when I'm introspective and feeling analytical and want to challenge my grey matter; Humorous, ligh-hearted ones when I feel like a laugh, and nothing too serious; non-fictional ones that I can learn from when I'm in the learning mood; and fantasy-type ones for when I feel like drifting off into another world and feel immersed in the story.

What's on your bedside table?

Monday, 29 June 2009

Op-shop until you drop

Let me just reiterate: I LOVE op-shopping. Adore it. I would much rather have $100 to spend in an op-shop than $500 to spend in "normal" stores. I love to put aside a whole day to slowly and carefully sift through racks and racks of pre-loved, and often shameful, pieces of fashion to find those one or two pieces (yes, I just called them "pieces") that make the last two hours of crap totally worth it.

Yes, it takes patience, and plenty of optimism. Often enough I will find something I think is brilliant, only to find I might have fit into it...oh...four or five years ago. D'oh!! But that's where it turns into an art form. If it doesn't fit me, it might fit someone else. And if I'm willing to pay $4 for it, maybe, just maybe, someone, somewhere (hopefully on Ebay) is willing to pay $8. 

I've had some awesome finds at op-shops. It has taken me a good three or so years to refine my op-shopping skills. There are plenty of op-shop finds that I thought were awesome at the time, that I've never actually worn. Like that crochet dress (yes, DRESS) that I thought might look good over something. Turns out I don't own that something that would make that dress look good, and therefore have never worn it. Oh well.

So what are my best finds? By far, the best one is a Dolce and Gabanna satchel (pictured) that I bought for $30 in an op-shop in Pakington Street, Geelong. It looks like it's from the 80s, and is really worn, but is still in quite good condition, which makes me think that it's actually real. It has a huge ink stain on the inside (which may or may not be my fault) and one of the handles had to be re-sewn because the stitching came undone (which may or may not be from shoving too many phones/cameras/diaries/books/keys/perfumes/moisturisers/nappies in it), but it's the one thing that people always comment on when I go out with it.

I've also found a huge burgundy Guerlain tote bag from an op-shop in Camberwell. Just recently I found a beautiful grey cotton Country Road t-shirt (pictured) that was in perfect condition, for $5 at an op-shop in Yarraville. And a really nice pair of metallic grey Esprit pants (pictured) that were also in mint condition. And the best thing about these pants was not only was it in my size, but they were also my length! Amazing! No matter how hard I shop at "normal" stores, I can never, EVER find a pair of pants that fit me as well as these ones do. I am a midget, and "normal" stores only cater for "normal sizes".

So, whether you're like me, a poor, job-searching student and mother who can't afford (or detests) shopping in "normal" stores, or just want to find those clothes that no one wears anymore, to make a unique statement, I highly recommend op-shopping. Yes, it's old news, but it never goes out of fashion.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

What are your life-changing books?

There are many books and works of literature out there that have opened my eyes and made me think. Some of them have been profound, some of them have been a giant reality check, and some have been eye-opening, heart-wrenching and/or LOL funny. But to come across a book that I can say has changed my life and the way I think about things is a very rare treat. So, I'd like to share with you the books that have changed my life in some way or another, and hopefully have you share your life-changing books, if only to add to my short-list of must-reads.

Many Lives, Many Masters- Brian L. Weiss MD
This is actually a true story. I couldn't sum it up without doing it injustice, so I took the explanation off Dr Weiss's website:
As a traditional psychotherapist, Dr. Brian Weiss was astonished and skeptical when one of his patients began recalling past-life traumas that seemed to hold the key to her recurring nightmares and anxiety attacks. His skepticism was eroded, however, when she began to channel messages from "the space between lives," which contained remarkable revelations about Dr. Weiss's family and his dead son. Using past-life therapy, he was able to cure the patient and embark on a new, more meaningful phase of his own career.-

I loved this book. Whether or not it's totally true I don't know, but I tend to believe it is. The guy's a doctor! He has qualifications! And if it's true, the consequences are absolutely mind blowing. It provides evidence that there is not only an afterlife, but that reincarnation exists. Being a pagan, I'm a firm believer in reincarnation, and living life after life until we become enlightened and have no more lessons to learn. I believe the Christian way of thinking is an easy way out- you only live once, and if you're good you go to heaven, and if you're bad you go to hell. Where are the lessons? What's the point of having one chance? Anyway, I'm getting off the topic here. The point is that this book somehow confirmed my belief that there is something, whatever that something is, after life.

Stranger in a Strange Land- Robert A. Heinlen
This was apparently a best seller when it was published in 1961. It's about a human that was raised by martians on Mars, who was eventually found by another Mars expedition, and brought back to Earth. Of course, you're wondering how a human was raised by martians on Mars right? Well, on an earlier expedition a husband and wife couple conceived while on their mission. Somehow everyone in that expedition but the baby dies, and the baby is found by martians and raised as their own. The result is a human in physical appearance only, but a martian in mind, emotions, and spirit.
This book made me question many of my own values and morals. Like monogamy, and why it is so important in our society. Like the true ability of humans, and the fact that if we supposedly only use 10% of our brains, imagine how amazing we would be if we used all of it. And it also brought up the question of environmental influence. If we were brought up in a society that only used thought and feeling and actions to communicate, would we be able to read people's thoughts? Would our brains and our powers of thought be so advanced that we could move objects with our minds? Would we all be Uri Gellers?
If I were to recommend any book, this would be the one. You'll either love it or hate it, and I'm willing to wear the blame if you hate it, but it certainly made me question many of the "rules" and regulations that our society has in place: what's tolerable with regards to sex, behavior, religion, and what's not.

So these are my two life-changing books. What are yours?

Monday, 15 June 2009

Favorite photo

So last week I was tagged by Kerri Sackville with regards to what my favorite photo is, why, what the story behind it is etc. It's been hard picking just one photo, because there are so many from different times in my life that I love.
Anyway, the one I picked is this one:

The people are my dad with my two best friends from high school, Jacqui (on the left) and Sarah (on the right).
It was at mine and Shane's wedding, 3rd November 2007, which was celtic themed and held at Overnewton Castle, in Keilor.

The reason I love this photo is because of my dad, really. He's a lovely man, and in this photo, between two beautiful women, he just looks so cheeky, and pleased as punch to find himself in such a sandwich. They are some of the most important people in my life, and seeing them together, happy, and having fun on our wedding day just warms me up.

Pretty boring, really. But looking at all the photos I have on my computer (and there's nothing earlier than 2006, so there are whole sections missing) this was the one that would warm my heart and make me smile.

So...who to tag?
I tag :

Who on earth am I? Who on earth are you?

How long did it take you to find out who you are, what you want from life, and what your values are? How old were you when you finally felt comfortable in your own skin, confident of who you are and what your place in this universe is?

I had a conversation with a friend on the weekend, where I admitted I looked forward to being in my 30s because apparently that's when one really gains an understanding and acceptance of who one is and what one loves (I am practicing proper English).

The feelings of being lost, aimless, and clueless haven't been improving as I've grown older. On the contrary, the older I get the more panicked I feel that I don't know myself well enough. 

So what I want to know is this: when did it become clear for you? Was there a defining, light bulb moment, or was it a gradual understanding? Has it become clear? Or are you still where I am, wondering what it is that you are passionate about, where your life is headed, what you want, and how to get it? 

Friday, 5 June 2009

To the people that have kept me sane...

To all the people on who have been keeping me sane during the day, when I would otherwise have no one to talk to but a three-year-old and a 5 month old: thank you. If it weren't for you I would have lost my mind 8 weeks ago. I don't deal well with being a SAHM at all. I need to be around people, need to be talking, need to be socialising, need to be stimulated. From intelligent conversation, to mundane banter, to good laughs, you guys have provided me with almost everything I need to keep sane...minus the face-to-face contact. I just realised today how much I appreciate you all when I saw nasty comments on Mia's blog and just wanted to stick up for you all. It's weird. Not 12 months ago I would have thought someone who made friends online a loser (I'm sorry, I just had that mindframe!) But now I've made friends with a group of people I'd be willing to fly interstate to catch up with- and it's a nice feeling!
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

The dying art of conversation

I'm surrounded by conversationally challenged males. One who can't speak at all, one whose conversations revolve around Cars (the movie) and Thomas (the tank engine), and another whose conversation extends to cars (the mode of transport), drinking, Ebay, cars, computer crap, and cars. And I never realised how much it bothers me until I read an article in this month's Vogue about how the art of conversation has plummeted and is almost non-existent since the introduction of modern technology.

When your friends seem a million miles away and the only conversation you get is the conversation you have with the checkout chick who you buy milk from, the Medicare lady when you get your refund, or the women on Twitter you "talk" to but have never really met and your sentences never exceed more than 140 characters, it's easy to see how important conversation really is. Especially when your life is lacking it.

I remember the days (may I remind you I'm only 27 and I'm starting a sentence like I'm 50) when I used to catch the train into the city to work, and strike up a conversation with whoever was sitting near me. Sometimes it was me who started it, sometimes it was them. Either way, it would begin with a "where are you off to?" and end with a sincerely genuine "it was great talking to you!" I also remember the days when it was perfectly natural to be friendly with your neighbors, to strike up a conversation when you went out to collect the mail at the same time: "How's that chook of yours going, any eggs yet? I heard her laying up a storm early this morning." Nowadays we only ever speak to neighbors when we're forced to. Usually we try avoiding them all together, sneaking the long way around the car, running up to the door before they turn around, pretending not to see them.

So the article spoke about the art of conversation, and how it used to be important to be able to converse with someone you didn't know. Unfortunately there are numerous occasions when I've found my conversation skills lacking, when I'm at a party standing with someone I've only just met, and have run out of conversation. I mean, what do you talk about? Or, how do you walk away politely once the conversation has run dry? "Well...I'm gonna go to the toilet/grab another drink/stand over there now..."

For all you lucky Sydney-ites (probably the only time you'll EVER hear me say that, because I'm a strictly Melbourne girl) you can go to a seven week course that teaches you the art of conversation. For those of us that aren't so lucky, there's a book titled, funnily enough, The Art of Conversation by Catherine Blyth, that I fully intend to read. 

I just never knew that something that I've been so good at for so long (my grade one school report said "Melissa talks a lot") could be an art form. Being able to make good conversation is as necessary as being able to make a good coffee, be a good listener, or a good friend. Being a good conversationalist means people view you as smart, intelligent, witty, and enjoyable to be around. I'd much rather be that than awkward and uncomfortable, which I sometimes find myself being. If I want to excel in the Communications industry I really need to start working on my conversation skills.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Definition of hypocrisy and irony: pro-life extremists willing to kill to make their point.

Finally, a news story I can get angry about. It has been a long time since a piece of news has made me this angry, and here it is.

According to UK Times online website, 67 year-old Dr George Tiller was shot in his church while performing his duties as an usher. That's right. IN. HIS. CHURCH. Tiller was known for his work on performing late-term abortions at his clinic in Witchita, Kansas. Obviously abortion is a controversial issue without adding to it the taboo of it being a late-term one. Tiller was aware of how many locals felt about his work, having been the victim of a shooting in 1993, where a woman shot him in both arms, and had his clinic bombed in 1986, causing serious damage but, fortunately, not injuring anyone. Los Angeles Times says the police arrested a 51 year old man, who could be charged today with murder and aggravated assault (they obviously don't have the same laws over there with regards to what the media can talk about before being charged).

So let me get this straight. There are people out there that are so AGAINST abortion that they think it ok to try to KILL someone because of it. Is anyone else scratching their head in confusion, trying to figure out HOW on EARTH this makes any sense? The PRO-LIFE extremists are willing to KILL to get their point across? Doesn't that kind of ruin their credibility and their argument? I mean, they are advocating for unborn feotus's to have the right to a chance at life. Their argument is that unborn baby's are humans and have feelings too. Um, hello? Aren't 67 year old men with a wife, four children and 10 grandchildren humans too? Don't 67 year old men have feelings too? Not only that, but this person who did the shooting was a CHURCH GOER. One word. HYPOCRITE.

I found this sentence in particular to be especially ironic:

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.

Anti-abortion has killed at leas seven people.
Can you see why I'm scratching my head?
The Alphamummy blog (one of my favorites) summed up my thoughts perfectly when they summed up the event:

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.

Well, this will most certainly shove the whole debate of abortion under the nose of Obama, who, although supports the right to choose, has apparently been avoiding the topic. Until now, that is. But I am loving his statement (I really do love this guy):

Don't get me wrong, I'm not mad at anti-abortion groups. They have as much right to opinion as the rest of us. It's the extremists once again that take it too far. People say religion is the the cause of most of the violence and wars in the world? Well it's not, it's the EXTREMISTS that cause it.

You can read the full story here. I just wanted to point out that the sheer stupidity of some people astounds me. I will be shaking my head about this for a very long time.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

A memory magically interrupted- by Robert Leleux

I read this story a few months ago on the New York Times website and meant to post it on here but forget. Fortunately it's a timeless one, relevant now as it was then. It's a sad story, impeccably written and quite humorous, about the writer's grandmother who has Alzheimers. 

A Memory Magically Interrupted

“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).

Soundtrack of my life

*After conversation with Twitter peeps I have had to amend my list somewhat to include a bunch of songs I forgot all about until we started chatting about it!*

You can tell a lot about a person by the music they listen to, and the songs that define periods of their life. From as early as I can remember I have a soundtrack for my life, that starts around the time I was 5 and is, of course, still growing. It consists, so far, of around 20 songs of different genres, from heavy metal and jazz, to hip-hop and funk, with a bit of clubby music on the side.

What I also love about music is the same thing many people love about clothes and fashion, that you can change it to suit the mood you're in. I have music to suit the massive range of emotions I can go through (sometimes in one day). My hubby can often tell what sort of mood I'm in by the music I'm listening to. Watch out if I'm listening to Tool, Korn, Marilyn Manson, Butterfly Affect or anything heavy like that. But if you hear Gotye, Lily Allen, or Basement Jaxx playing you're usually ok to approach me (although treat Lily Allen music with caution, because I could be venting my distaste for authority and/or men).

The major songs in my life soundtrack include:
Learnalilgivinandlovin- Gotye (my life song)
New York, New York- Frank Sinatra (tap, jazz, and ballet dancing in high school)
The way you look Tonight- Frank Sinatra (my preferred-yet not given-wedding song)
Shiny Disco Balls- (?) (fun days working at Crown)
November Rain- Guns n Roses
My teenage angst could be summed up in two songs: You don't know me (Reel Big Fish) and Fly Away (Lenny Kravitz) along with the whole Marilyn Manson's Coma album.
UFO- Sneaky Sound System (one of my best friend's wedding nights and the best night out in a long time, even if it was in the Go of Bendiness. Lots of drinking and dancing involved)
Touch Me- Rui De Silva (when I met my husband working at Crown Casino)
Water Runs Dry- Boyz II Men (my first "real" boyfriend and my song)
Forbidden Apple- Paul Van Dyke (night of pure bliss)

What songs would your life soundtrack consist of? Are there any songs in particular that really stand out and return you suddenly to that part of your life that you love to remember (or rather forget)?

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Advice: the good, the bad, the ugly.

My last post got me thinking about advice. The good, the bad, the ugly. And the downright ridiculous. I've had some crummy advice in my lifetime. The one that stands out was the beginning of my VCE, year 11, when our teacher told us NOT to pick subjects just because we liked them, but to pick them because they're useful. You know. Like maths, english, and science. The smart subjects. The higher scoring subjects. It still makes me angry to this day that I was so naive as to listen to that god-awful advice. Don't pick a subject just because I like it? What great advice! I mean, I don't need to actually do WELL in the subject do I? Oh no, just passing it will be fine. And guess what? It will all be worth it ten years down the track when I find myself in a sticky situation and think "Gee I'm glad I stuck out general maths, or I'd never know how to change a tyre/manage money/stick to a budget." So what happened? I picked maths, because, you know, everyone needs to know how to count right? That's why calculators weren't invented. And then what happened? I FAILED. F.A.I.L.E.D.

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. 

1. Never rely on anyone but yourself (credit given to my mum)
This is a useful piece of advice for work, home, or anywhere really. If you never rely on anyone else, you'll never be disappointed, disillusioned, or dependent. While it's nice to have a partner do things for you, or work mates help you out, once you come to rely on them you lose control over your life because you're handing it over to someone else. This also counts for never relying on parents, spouses, friends, family, or children. The only person in the whole world that you KNOW you can rely on WITHOUT FAIL is yourself.

2. There's no such thing as "can't" (mum again)
If you want something bad enough, you'll get it, no matter what. If you don't get it, you don't want it bad enough.

3. Nothing in life worth having comes easy (some movie, but it really struck a chord)
The things that are really worth having in life are the ones you need to work hard for, and sometimes fight for.

4. If you don't make time to do the things you love, how can you be the best mother you can be? (Catherine Deveny)
This is so true. Too often lately have I been feeling guilty for wanting to forfeit my motherly duties for some peace and quiet, a good book, and some quality writing time. And for some reason I am overcome with guilt every time this thought pops into my head. But getting advice like this from someone who is successful at home and in a career is heartening.

There are other bits and pieces of advice I've lived by throughout the years, but these are the ones that have really hit home with me, and will probably stick through the rest of my life.

What are the most valuable pieces of advice you've ever received?

Monday, 25 May 2009

Children and travel

When my boys are older, say, 10 and 7, I'd really like to take them out of school for either a few months or a year and take them traveling. Where to and what doing I don't know yet, but I believe that traveling and being exposed to different cultures and experiences will teach them something they'd never be able to learn through books.

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.

Women who inspire

It's imperative these days to have a woman, women, (or men) to look up to and who inspire you to be better people. I see people who get undeserved media attention (like the "Fat wog, skinny wog" chick who should be, pardon the pun, SHOT) and think to myself "If these are the type of people that get noticed, what hope do we normal, ambitious, hard-working people have?" So It's time to put the limelight back on those who DESERVE our respect, not just those who have become well known for idiot comments and idiot stunts.

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

Today's feel-good story: the banker who saves ducklings

I was watching ABC midday news when they had this story as the final feel-good story of the morning. It made me cry, much like that Sound of Music video in the train station...

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

Food for thought: Prawn, spinach and basil risotto

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)
60g butter
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.


Quick and Easy Meal: Veggie stir fry with rice vermicelli noodles

One night I had NO idea what to have for dinner, and I thought we had no food in the house. No meat or fresh veg anyway. What we did have, however, were frozen veggies in the freezer, and vermicelli noodles in the pantry. Mixing this with soy sauce and oyster sauce made the fastest, tastiest, and surprisingly healthy meal that I couldn't have done better if I'd planned it.

Time: 10 minutes (from start to eating)
1 Packet frozen veg (asian is good, but any are fine)
1 packet rice vermicelli noodles (of hokkien noodles)
soy sauce
oyster sauce
sweet chilli sauce (optional if you have it, for more flavour)

Cook noodles in boiling water until tender
While noodles are cooking, add small amount of oil to wok and throw in as many (or few) frozen veg as you want
Add enough oyster and soy sauce to coat veggies with flavour
Drain noodles once cooked, then throw into wok
Stir all together for couple of minutes, then serve!

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