iPad Mum

ipad loveAs each year of motherhood passes I find myself more grateful than ever that my non-denominational god has blessed me with a daughter (a girly girl, no less) who doesn’t like sport. I’d even go so far as to say she hates it.

And right now, as Victoria (where I live) is being deluged, my gratitude is verging on fervour. Wet is an understatement. Soaking is probably more appropriate a term for the kind of rain we are experiencing at the moment. And as I drive by miserable parents crowding under umbrellas, bracing the cold and knee deep in mud at local football fields, I can’t help but feel smug. I send up a non-denominational prayer to my non-denominational god for delivering to me a child who prefers more genteel activities that are generally conducted indoors.

At the beginning of her second year at school I asked my daughter what activities she’d like to do outside of school. ‘Nothing with balls, Mummy,’ was her response. To my great relief.

Balls and I have had a stand-offish relationship all my life. We have never really gotten along. After a series of awkward mishandlings, and by mutual agreement, we decided it best to leave each other alone when I reached puberty. So I was hardly torn apart by the news that Little Miss didn’t want to run about chasing them for fun.

There are a multitude of benefits to this arrangement. Aside from the obvious aid to my personal comfort, my washing machine doesn’t get clogged with mud, I don’t have to spend money on expensive uniforms and boots, and I get to relax on a chair indoors while Little Miss does drama or whatever and indulge in my favourite pastime.

My iPad.

Yes, shamefully I must admit, I am one of those despicable ‘device’ mum’s. You know the ones. Disinterested, self-absorbed. Occasionally glancing up to give Little Miss an encouraging nod and mouth ‘Yes, I’m watching’ before returning to my inane and pointless tweeting, facebooking and writing smug blog posts about how damned first world lucky I am.

In fact, now when selecting activities I unconsciously steer Little Miss toward activities that lend themselves to an indulgent hour of social media intercourse. Classes where talking between parents is prohibited as it distracts from the little ones concentration. Or even better (and here’s a discovery for you) classes that start after 5pm, because they are the ones dads are roped into and dads simply can’t be bothered wasting their time on friendly idle chit chat with strangers. They prefer to sit and stare at their shoes. Or walk around examining the walls for imperfections. (I’ve learned a lot about anti-social behaviour by watching dads).

All round, it’s a most suitable situation for a couple of ball-hating, sport averse females. The only down side is Little Miss’s somewhat tense relationship with her PE teacher. She can’t meet this sport fanatics expectations, no matter how hard she tries. At first it upset her (she is a goody two shoes like her mum was before her). She desperately wanted this lady’s approval. But more recently she’s become philosophical and got it into perspective.

‘I think when Mrs X sees a ball, she goes mad.’

Good point. She is a sports nut after all. And everyone knows mad people aren’t sane, right? So there’s no point trying to please them, because they’re just not rational, yes?  Yes. It’s a logic I have to applaud, especially when I’m benefiting so well from it.

5 Things I’ve already learned in 2013

1. The largest number in the world is googolplex. Not to be confused with Googleplex, the true seat of power in this electronic world, where Google stretches out its tentacles into every computer and device known to humans.

2. Infinity is a concept – not a number. At my mature age this was a surprise to me. Leading to the discovery of number 1.

3. Love has a smell. It has several actually, but one in particular I discovered on holidays. It’s called a ‘Blackboy’ rose and it’s divine. It was served up as decoration on a plate of lemon tart, and I couldn’t stop smelling it.

4. You can live to a sprightly 92 by blatantly ignoring all the good advice given you. My mother-in-law is of this ripe age and has not allowed age to defeat her in anyway. She still sunbakes without sunscreen, mows lawns in spite of breaking her hip 3 years ago, fixes holes in her concrete driveway (badly) and puts her lipstick on by feel. She hasn’t looked in a mirror since she turned 70 because she can’t face seeing what age has done to her face, and so has no clue how old she looks.

5. Every single opportunity shop and second hand bookshop has at least one Danielle Steel book. (I only know this because my mother-in-law loves DS and has read every title in her local library so we are on a mission to expand her collection – which has been surprisingly easy!)

HELP THE ELF: I found part of Santa’s missing nice list!


Hi everyone! A few weeks ago I heard on the Christmas holly vine that Pete the elf had a touch too much Eggnog at a Christmas Party and as he stumbled home, he lost Santa’s NICE LIST.

The North Wind scattered the papers to all four corners of the world, and The Bookshelf Muse put out a call to help find them in order to SAVE CHRISTMAS.

Never one to baulk a challenge, I’ve been on the lookout. And then today, EUREKA!

Yes that’s right…I found part of Santa’s missing NICE LIST. Sadly the pets found it first, so when I got to it it was half torn up by my desperately bored dogs. I scolded appropriately, gathered the pieces together and shock of all shocks, found a name I recognized. Some of you will know her.

She’s a woman I met five years ago in ‘Year of the Novel’ class run by Writers’ Victoria. By coincidence it turned out we had a historical connection. Our parents families had lived in the same area of Gippsland during their childhood. They used to attend Young Farmers dances together and, as a kid, I holidayed on my Grandparents sheep farm neighbouring her family’s properties. We were almost sisters!

Without her support, great advice, good humour and wisely interjected proddings, I would not have realised my dream of becoming an author so thoroughly this year. So this is a special post dedicated to one very special lady, and I was so glad her name showed up on the missing Santa list I found covered in dog slobber.

                       

NAME: Margareta Osborn

LOCATION: Voice of the bush rural romance extraordinaire

NICE LEVEL: 98%

NAUGHTY LEVEL: 2%

OBSERVATIONS: Margareta is the heart and soul of friendship. She puts others before herself endlessly – sometimes to her detriment. She’s a great critique partner and a solid mentor. She’s one hell of a writer too.

RECOMMENDATION:     a) Coal                   b) Gift

~ ~ * ~ ~

The best bit about this discovery was, because poor Pete the Elf is dashing all over the place trying to avoid Santa’s naughty list, I decided to take care of this one myself.

Margareta, check your inbox. I feel so blessed to know you! Enjoy the gift I sent to and have a wonderful Christmas!

READERS: Is there someone special you want to acknowledge this festive season? There are plenty of free e-books, great greeting cards, all manner of little electronic goodies you can drop discreetly into the inbox of someone delightful. C’mon, don’t be shy. SPREAD THE LOVE.

Paper based slut

Prepare the confessional. I have a dark secret few people know about and I’m about to declare it. It’s an obsession. I’ve kept it to myself (relatively) all my life. Occasionally I meet another being who enjoys the same passion, and when I do there’s great relief in sharing the depths of my perversity with someone who understands it.
It’s not like I’m unusual. Everyone has their little fetishes. Mine just happens to be a bit on the strange side. Are you ready?

It’s stationary.
Yep. Stationary. The stuff you buy in newsagents.

Ever since I was a little girl I have loved stationary. I loved the smell and have been known to surreptitiously sniff fresh paper and notebooks when I think no-one is watching, like a pervert sniffing ladies panties.

I used to save my pocket money for a trip to the local newsagents (in Benalla) where I would stand goggling at all those neatly arranged clips, scissors, stamps, staples and sticky tape, packaged up in cardboard and plastic, just waiting to help me make something irreplaceable and delicate for my parents to find space in the cupboard for. Now, as an adult, I gaze longingly knowing all those little bits and pieces will help me transform my life into an organised, categorised, easily accessed dream, complete with clipboards and alphabetical indexing.

My particular liking is for new pens and pencils. There’s something about the clean nibs, the sharp points, that makes taking them to an unsullied sheet of paper pure joy. And there’s another beautiful thing. Brand new notebooks. Clean, lined pages just waiting for a neat hand to record the shopping list, my top ten movies, household renovation projects, books I must read before I die. My bucket list. Never mind the disappointment of my ever messy handwriting. Just tear the filthied page out and start again, fresh as a daisy. It’s like the absolution of the confessional – I’m forever redeemed by a clean sheet of paper.

A newsagents is a hotbed of sexy innovation. Since 3M’s invention of post-it notes, a trip to a well stocked stationer holds untold futuristic pleasures. I can buy little plastic tabs in all sorts of glorious colours to stick on useless documents I’ll never read but keep until I’m 90 – and I love the way the tabs make me look intelligent. White out, while still available, has been superseded by a nifty gadget that sticks a strip of thin white tape over your mistake. Forget messy globs of thickened white paint on a tufty brush. Here you will find staple free staplers, magic invisible sticky tape, glue sticks that don’t dry out, dividers with interchangeable removable tags. It’s the ultimate manifestation of perfection and control. Or the illusion of it anyway.

No wonder I’m no fan of electronic records. Where’s the pleasure in them? You can’t smell them. You can’t appreciate their colour, their tidiness. You can’t run your appreciative fingers over the smooth cover of a new manilla folder in cyberland, can you? Nope. Only the real deal will do.

You can imagine what happens when I go to Officeworks. I think I’ve died and gone to God’s central business office in the sky. Tidy aisles brimming with my drug of choice, the smell of ink and unopened plastic, the promise of my blind hope – a life without chaos and unpredictability. Now that’s what I call HEAVEN!

Do you have a strange fetish?

The rush

Escalator
Escalator (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Speed. The world we live in is built on it.

It’s a fact that’s been made more obvious to me since I’ve been hobbling heavy-footed around Melbourne city streets during peak hour, a crutch in one hand and my determination not to be pushed out of the way firmly in the other.

Returning to work after 7 weeks away from the madding crowd was something of a shock. I hadn’t noticed how quickly people in our city move. 90% of the population is in a frightening hurry while the remaining 10% is getting in its way. Knee surgery has forced me from the 90% into the 10%, and I’m getting a taste of life in the slow lane.

Getting onto a peak hour escalator has become an extreme sport for me. I have to deftly calculate the exact moment I can step into the fast moving queue without causing people to back up behind me, then I need to get exactly the right foot ready at exactly the right moment to step onto the escalator without going A over T (look it up J).

Most people politely move around me. With some I can sense their frustration bearing down on my back as they come up behind me. I can also sense the flood of relief as they shuttle past into the mainstream current of pedestrians.

This is what it’s like to be old. This is what it’s like to have a body that doesn’t work at the same speed as the 90%. The world waits for no one. If you can’t keep up you’re gonna be well and truly left behind. It’s bewildering. And terrifying.

I can’t help but wonder if this frantic rush isn’t driven by our technologically-dominated lives. The rate at which we receive and consume information has increased exponentially in the past decade, and I think it’s making us all a bit manic. It’s evident in our addiction to e-devices. We can’t imagine life without God Google or time-wasting Facebook. What did we do before these things dominated our lives?

I’ll remind you. We read newspapers from cover to cover. We hand wrote letters and used the postal system. We looked forward to the supermarket and toy catalogues arriving in our letterbox. We had patience and we waited for answers that weren’t immediately available. We looked things up in libraries. We remembered things.

Managing the rate at which life happens now is a constant challenge. I can barely comprehend the deluge of unsolicited demands that land in my 3 email inboxes, my letterbox, in-tray, phone, Facebook updates, and Twitter account.  I find myself besieged by community groups to corporations, causes to politicians, beggars to bandwagons, all screaming ‘Pay attention to ME! Listen to what I have to say’.

Finding the information I actually want, rather than the information everybody else wants to give me, is like looking for a pearl in a sea of jaggedy oysters. It means I scan, take information in on an ‘inch deep, mile wide’ basis and I never really know much about anything that’s going on, while knowing a little bit about everything that’s going on (which is vastly confusing).

Having to physically slow down has made me realise that mentally I’m travelling at 200km/h – and it’s time to put on the brakes. My brain and body will be better off if I take a breath, relax and pay closer attention to the things that matter – like sending a friend a hand written card and getting on the escalator without falling over.

7 Things I learned from my grandmother

Phyllis Ward – affectionately known in my family as ‘Mother’ – died on 22nd July 2012 aged 93. She was my much loved grandmother and the last of my grandparents to pass away.

Ninety three is old – especially when you consider what she’d seen in her lifetime. Aside from the obvious things there was toilet paper, paracetamol, vinyl, plastic bags, supermarkets, seasonal fashion, and long range weather forecasts. My grandmother lived in an era when people started work at 13 years of age, when houses were built without running water, bathrooms or toilets, when baked bread was considered a convenience food and young people died of pneumonia. She lived through nearly a century of rapid and profound social, economic and technological change, and given her long life experience, I want to share with you some of the wisdom I gleaned from her while she was alive.

Things I learned from my grandmother.

1. Sit up straight, put your shoulders back.

While this sounds like a piece of advice from Ms Havershams School of Deportment for Elegant Ladies, it means so much more than simply holding oneself erect. My grandmother believed in dignity, which was why watching her dissolve into dementia was so painful. She was always well turned out and taught me to take pride in myself and to always walk with my head held high.

2. Slippers are not for wearing outside.

I learned this golden gem when I was only 4 or 5 years old. She’d bought me a new pair of slippers with Mickey Mouse embroidered on the toes. I was mighty proud of those slippers and she growled at me when she found me playing in them outside in the empty chook shed.

It took me a long time to understand the value of this advice. Everything has its purpose (including indoor footwear) and to ruin things by using them inappropriately is not only wasteful, it’s disrespectful of the object itself. If you want something to last take care of it, use it properly and appropriately. Needless to say I still can’t wear my slippers outside.

3. Be careful to whom you address the following question: How are you?

My grandmother was so very right about this one. The world is full of tyre kickers and time wasters who are just waiting for an opportunity to fill your ears with their pointless whining. What you should do is smile politely (because manners are important too), say hello and keep pushing that walker away from them as quickly as possible. If the very same question is directed at you, you are not obliged to answer. Just tell them to mind their own business – which my grandmother did – often.

4. You can’t expect to always get along with your life partner.

While this seems like a no brainer, it’s the one truth most people forget when they’re making their starry eyed marriage vows. There is a no nonsense honesty about this advice I have always valued. It reminds me, especially at those times when I have to restrain myself from poking someone I love in the eye, that I’m not perfect and I’m probably lucky to still have my own eyesight.

Personally I think her list is a bit short. She should have included daughters and sons, dogs, other random family members, work colleagues, friends and cats.

5. History is important.

My grandmother and grandfather spent a lot of time and money researching their respective family histories. Thanks to my grandmother I can claim to be partly descended from the Huguenots, French blue blood no less, which would have to balance out all that wild Scottish/Irish  temper – surely?

But it’s not just about genealogy and all those confusing circles and squares in a family tree. It’s about tribe. My grandmother taught me that I belong, that I am part of something larger than myself – it’s called family.

6. Laughter is a form of forgiveness – and saying sorry.

Whenever my grandmother was angry with me, she’d soothe my hurt or irritated feelings with a joke, mostly at her own expense. Try it. If you’re annoyed with someone, if you’re arguing over something petty, if there’s tension in the air, take a look at yourself and how ridiculous you’re being and laugh. It’s a great tension breaker – especially with kids.

7. You don’t need to wear underwear to bed because it’s good to give your bottom a rest at night.

For some reason this bizarre and meaningless piece of advice, offered to me when I was very young, fresh out of the bath and ready to climb into my bloomers and pyjamas, has stayed with me. So much so I offered it to my own daughter a few years ago and she recently repeated it to a friend during a sleepover. This is where superstitions begin. I’m powerless to stop it now. No doubt my descendents 50 years from now will be refusing to wear underwear to bed because Mother said so. I’m not sure how happy she’d be that this will be her lasting legacy, but I reckon she’d get a bloody good laugh out of it. And given the enormous value of her other pieces of advice, I think she’s allowed one real dud.

I am relieved that my grandmother is free of the vast indignities and discomforts of old age. Her spirit, and her strange advice, will live on through her children, grandchildren and great grand children.

Farewell, Mother, grandmother of mine.

I love you, I miss you, rest well, in peace.

To love a woman differently

I came across this on another blogpost and was so moved by it I had to repost. This is one for the blokes out there – a little piece of insight you might find of value should you choose to attend to it.

From Terry Tempest Williams

“If a man knew what a woman never forgets, he would love her differently. What a woman never forgets is when she allows a man to make love to her, she enters a pact with angels that should a child be conceived in that moment, she holds the life of another. A man can come and go, he pulls out and walks away. But a woman stays and remains tender. She wants to be held. She wants to talk. She wants to revisit that motion made inside her because in the lovemaking, a woman is remade – because until she bleeds, she knows that man is the father of her child, whether she ever tells him or not. Because until she bleeds, her body has been rearranged through his ecstasy and hers, which will become theirs. Because until she bleeds, repeat it again…she will check her womb everyday for the stirrings of life. Because until she bleeds she wonders if her life will be one or two or three. Repeat and repeat because until she bleeds, she imagines every possibilty from pleasure to pain to birth to death and how she will do what she needs to do, and until she bleeds, she will worry endlessly, until she bleeds. If a man knew what a woman never forgets, he would love her differently.”

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