Thursday, October 7, 2010


IKEA dearest, excitement as your latest tome plopped into my letterbox with the all the promise of how shiny, organised and streamlined my life would be if I married my dollars to your flat-pack.
Ah dearest one, I enter your hallowed halls with expectations and delight, with wonderment in your innovations and pleasure in your primary colours.
Seven hours later, I emerged with the truth from the 'Seventh Circle of Hell' you call a store, the veil of infatuation torn from my eyes; having been funnelled like a drugged lemming through your maze-like halls amidst aisles of numbered items and towers of indecipherably coded boxes.
I had entered your portals with so much trust and hope, with a hankering for a small hook that could change my life for the better once installed in my entry foyer, but cunning torturer that you are, you brainwashed me into believing that if I filled my conveniently provided plastic shopping bag - the size of a small elephant - with paper napkins, two cushions, some plastic cups and a fluoro item (its origins of which, and purpose I am yet to determine), you would release me from your clutches and allow me to return to the bosom of my family - battle scarred and lighter of wallet - but free.
But it was all only a cruel promise – first you had one remaining ignominy for me to endure – the Checkout Counters of Hades. Other bleary eyed devotees queued like branded sheep, some pushing trolleys, others leading drooling male spouses by the hand – parched, natural light deprived, and utterly disoriented as to geographical direction, oh, but it was the tiny children I pitied the most – exhausted and fractious, I watched as harried mothers dug in the bottoms of handbags searching for a lint covered ancient mint to assuage the infants screams of pain – their begging for home and un-recycled air the most poignant of your victims. We shuffled towards the magic machines that would agree to take our money, we prayed for the holy zappers to accept the barcode release numbers for each and every item that we proffered on the counter of Swedish domination and design excellence, and we held our collective breath awaiting the denuding of our bank accounts and credit cards like impatient inmates of a gulag tantalised with freedom.
And as we stumbled towards our vehicles with our totems of modernity safely stowed in our newly purchased, but utterly un-recyclable plastic enviro bags, our eyes glimpsed your newest acolytes as they entered your siren portals, light of step and full of hope for the better life you promise and the thrill of globalisation. How we pity them. “Schmucks” we observe under our breath, “never again”, we mutter as we climb into our cars to claim the sanctuary of home. At least not until we need the next cunning storage solution proffered in your 2011 catalogue.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


The camel is broken, I’ve lost the plot and, quite frankly, it’s been absolutely liberating. Cue sharp intake of breath…. I went to my children’s school this morning clad only in my purple dressing gown, accessorised with sunglasses, polka dot gumboots, and carrying my undergarments in my pocket. Granted, I didn’t alight from the car, so for all those peering through the windows of my highly utilitarian people mover, I could have been wearing a very fluffy hoody, but it was the stand I was taking for all us working, stay at home, full time carers, students, mothers, nurses of elderly parents and juggling women that mattered most to me. I ‘took one’ for my diverse sisterhood, and it’s the best thing I’ve done for myself for quite a while.

I became the antithesis of everything a nice eastern suburbs matron usually strives to portray to the neighbours. Of course, the children were aghast, but they were also mildly thrilled by my rebellious and obviously quite insane attire. For the kids benefit, I threw in a few cackles on the drive to school as we wove through Hawthorn’s peak hour traffic. (As I was car-pooling, I must remember to ring my 9 year old daughter’s friend’s parents and explain.) But you know, today, something simply had to give. I had a choice, either hurl myself into the usual school-run hysteria of screeching exhortations at the children and issuing thundering threats, whilst attempting to cram my harassed, sleep deprived person into clothes, makeup, and style my hair as I simultaneously answered a work related phone call on my mobile (who the hell rings a woman with children at 7.57am?), received a text from a media outlet requesting an interview, injected a blood thinner into my stomach and dealt with my dementia stricken mother in law on the landline, as I filled lunchboxes and medicated the dog for epilepsy. Or, I could decide that by capitulating to the sadistic gods of time and removing one element from my daily schedule, I could gain 6 minutes and the key to a laughing gaggle of kids, instead of a chastened bunch of under 10’s strapped into a speeding vehicle as they listened to an overstressed, hyperventilating, cursing female attempting to be too perfect.

That’s the thing isn’t it, as we try to be everything to everybody, and meet all the commitments of our daily lives, we somehow lose our grip on the importance of being more than a schedule follower and timetable adherer. And in that push to be perfect, it’s so easy to lose the joy of the ridiculous and the simple pleasure of acknowledging we are not superhuman; because we can fail and fall and pick ourselves up and start all over again with a laugh. Never see many truly joyous, guffawing superheros out there do you?

So as a woman caring for ailing in laws, four kids, a husband, epileptic dog, health issues, work deadlines, an 80% renovated house, three books I still haven’t finished reading and various regions of the body that need to be either knitted or clipped prior to summer, I declare 31st September, National Dressing Gown Day. Are you game to join me? If so, I’ll see you for a coffee at 9.30am Adelaide time at Georges in Camberwell. Bayside venue to be announced. Gumboots optional, lipstick not required.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

LAZY DAYS. Working to live, or living to work?

Do we live to work, of work to live? For me, it is often a very blurred line.

If I am not writing, I feel as if I am barely living; conversely, if I am writing, I'm aware that there is a whole lot of living going on around me that my children are experiencing and I am merely working.

This weekend was a 'bank holiday' in Australia, celebrating the Queen of England's birthday (don't even get me started on being a colonial outpost), so therefore, a long weekend of the best kind. Crisp blue sky-ed mornings with a distinct icy chill in the air viewed through double glazing and the warmth of central heating toasting our toes.

We've lazed as a family, watching a Harry Potter marathon on the screen in the evenings, I've baked pies and walked and gardened a little in the winter's sun, and when the rest of the family was engaged elsewhere, I've snuck off to pen a couple of draft chapters and been barely missed.

Best of all, I've pushed any pressure aside and simply refused to schedule, plan or organise anything. Bliss! For one who considers my Outlook Express and Iphone synching de rigeur, just going with the flow is truly living amidst my family, not timetabling them in alongside all the other of life's priorities.

So for those of you who have even the vaguest of interest in what I write, perhaps try this method sometime.

Put the phone on answer, look around the room at those you love, pat the dog for an hour, call your other kids who are far away, give yourself a manicure, look up at the sky for as long as you like, forget about the diets and the must do's and simply breathe in the moment.

As person wiser than me once said: "Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away".

To me, it goes a little further, if we don't allow ourselves unscheduled moments, then how can we ever understand our own unspoken needs and those of whom we love?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


New vistas beckon yet again. I'm tightening up a new string to my bow and striking out as a literary agent. I already have a client, Chris Allen! (Have a look at his blog) Lord knows I am grateful for his faith in me, and it was his suggestion afterall.

So here we come... Lysander & Verity Media - hold onto your hats, we might, just might, stir up a tiny puff of wind.

It all seems terribly grown up if you ask me, but there you go, I might even celebrate turning 40 this year - who knows?

Writing for me is like breathing, and reading is as necessary as water - so, in those extra hours I have managed to achieve by going metric (more on this concept later), I have decided to see where this additional avenue takes me.

I'm rusty, having not blogged for weeks and weeks, but my other, more tangible life has been full of, well life, and family and work on the new book, and new board postitions and just learning to be slower than my usual frenetic speed. (Although, even I acknowledge the last oxymoron.)

So take this small eptistle as a warm up, a smlog. I'm applying copious amounts of oil to my blogging cortex and I predict I will be around more often.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A rebuttal

Dear Squizy, as you left no return address, I find it very difficult to reply directly to you. I have no problem with food allergies being taken seriously nor for parents to ensure that their own little ones are cared for appropriately. what I do have a problem with is that you feel it is ok for you to demonise me for stating a situation at primary schools which is ludicrous. Yes, I mentioned nuts because the children I was referring to are allergic to peanuts, NOT almonds, therefore an ignorant reaction on the part of the teachers is the issue.

Furthermore, most of the piece in the Punch was referring to an individual parent's right to feed their own child any food which they deem appropriate as long as those foods are not on the 'banned' list at school - be they deemed healthy or not.

What I do get from reading between your lines, is that you are not getting a great or forthcoming response from your own child's school. Could I therefore recommend you retain a solicitor and put your concerns in a letter to both the Principal and also the School Council or Governing body. This may be the only way for the issue to be taken seriously at the school your child attends. But don't confuse my satirical synopsis and observations as a solid 'news' article meant to be taken as scientific fact. So no loaded gun analogies thank you - I am anti-weapons of all kinds having triaged gunshot wounds in war zones - a abdominal hole in a child's body caused by discharged weapon at close range is not a great illustrative metaphor to use.
PS: Congratulations on your mathematical ability!


Something extraordinary is happening in our suburbs, apparently debate on school lunchbox contents is no longer allowed - no jokes, no satire, no irony to open up discussion or investigation. Peanuts are killers and people seem unable to be unable to read the full context of an article - once the words Peanut Butter pop up, all other words on the page fade into black.

Bewilderingly, I have so far been accused of being a bad mother, a lazy mother, a waste of space, a murdering bitch, a selfish parent, a revolting person and those are just the nicer comments that have made their way to me via my column in The Punch online, via my email and other means of modern communication.

My husband is seriously concerned that our fence will soon be grafitied or we'll be spat upon in the street. I feel like I've been lobbed in with the whores who collaborated with the enemy in the World War II and am waiting to be pounced upon so the the head shaving can begin!

Give me a break for goodness sake, I hand roll sushi at least once a week, make my own pesto for their lunches and grill chicken wings as well to go into the lunchbox, but on certain days, I just slap some Vegemite on two pieces of wholegrain bread and throw an apple in the box and hope for the best. It's about the intrusion into my choices as a parent to which I object, not the fact that I have been asked not to send peanut butter sandwiches to school because, in fact, I haven't had that request since kindergarten.

But I have had twenty five years of making school lunchboxes and I suspect this is a bloody longer time than those who have penned such horrendous comments to me ( the obscene and violent I have removed from my blog - but have left the mildly rude as a gesture of democratic free speech)

I have offended some, and frankly, in this case, I don't give a damn! No, you heard it, I have checked with a number of allergy specialists in the medical field and I am not overstating it to point out that there is a lots of mass hysteria over allergies - a lot of misguided fear and misinformation that some more sensitive parents cling to and then label their children fragile and hyperallergic on the basis of urban myth.

I have had very up close and personal experience with allergies in my immediate family - I have a very thorough grasp of the subject - my nephew was deaf till the age of three courtesy of an allergy list that included milk, eggs and peanuts. I have friends for whom their children's excema was so bad that my husband developed arm splints for the kids to alleviate night-time scratching; I, myself, have to very cautious around products containing fruit as mango can stop me breathing and I so I do get it. I invented a birthday cake using apples instead of eggs to feed to kids attending my children's parties - so I accommodate allergies on a daily basis.

So please, kindly stop telling me that I have no idea about allergies, because I do!

But come on, let's be honest, making school lunches is tedious and repetitious and soul destroying on those days when imagination and creativity are snoozing. I am a kick arse cook, it's my hobby and a great love, but putting together a plastic lunch box is just blah - there is no leeway and on days that are rushed, I feel guilty about the boring nature of what I put in. It can also be quite demoralising when the lunches into which we put so much careful thought and preparation come home barely touched.

In the past two days, I have also been accused of being severely lacking in the sphere of empathy, that I am a useless career woman and I deserved to have my eldest children kidnapped for fourteen years. Oh, and also of being a 'faux' humanitarian. Nice coming from those whom champion their own rights but think it's fine to attack another person indiscriminately - apparently, I am not worthy to enjoy the same rights as them because I like almonds - I didn't even say the dreaded 'P' word!

It's as if the one-upmanship of allergies gives the attackers rights outside the boundaries of common courtesy and manners!

Well, I do know what it is to send a kid to school everyday worrying about their medical condition. My 8 year old daughter has SVT (a heart condition) -

along with a couple of other issues like periously low blood pressure. Her diet must include huge amounts of water and quite a high salt intake to stabilise this condition on any given day, so I need to fuss about what she is eating and also, how much she is drinking - usually at least two litres of water daily does the trick. She also seems to lack the normal thirst triggers and so often needs prompting to remember to drink, although this is getting better with age. The number of times an ambulance has needed to be called, or she passes out are too numerous to be counted. I have had to train and remind the staff at her school multiple times about her need to drink etc. That is my responsiblity as a parent, and I know, that we run a risk everyday that a collapse off play equipment might kill her, but she needs to live a normal life and I need to let go of my own fears to give her that permission to experience the joy of childhood without my neurosis overshadowing her pleasure in her peers and her activities.

We make choices everyday as parents, we love our children and we do all to protect them and so we should, but we also need to learn to let go, to allow the real world to be a part of their lives - that is why we teach them life lessons and must guide them into the realms of personal responsibility, kindness, manners and social ettiquettes - it's how the world functions and survives the threat of chaos and dysfunction.

I am saddened by the upsurge of allergies and perplexed that this seems to be a nominally recent occurance as my older children who are now in their late 20's did not have have peers with such conditions around them to any such degree - so my question is, to what are we exposing this newer generation of offspring that would cause these allergies, what is the mutation that is triggering such a high incidence of anaphalaxysis?

The allergy is the enemy - I am not.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Food Nazis

Be afraid, be very afraid. The food Nazis are on the hunt through suburban school lunch boxes. Food is no longer a private matter in our educational institutions; parents are quaking in their shoes, terrified that they will be judged on the efficacy of their social responsibility and parenting skills by the contents of the humble pail.

Forget guns and knives, this is the deadliest schoolyard weapon.
The fallout of which means becoming social pariahs based on white bread, or the inclusion of a Tim Tam.

Teachers peer beneath the lids of the not so humble receptacles (very seldom now a simple plastic box – they’re now themed, decorated, iced, chilled, heated, layered, compartmentalised and sheathed) and “tut tut”, or shake their heads at a child’s humble peanut butter sandwich or limp carrot.

Quite often, a ‘parent helper’ is on duty in the classroom and will also investigate what a harried, working mum has flung together and encased in cling wrap, subsequently broadcasting to all and sundry (other competitive mothers) that ‘Little Susie’ came to school with the dregs of the pantry, or an anaphylaxis just waiting to happen.

Do you remember the simple days as a kid, when everyone sat around at lunchtime in the yard, poking despondently at the sad vegemite sandwich and sipping on tepid cordial? Those were the days, when food was simple and only vaguely nutritious, before the prevalence of food allergies and the litigious nature of society.

You were responsible for teaching your own children not to steal other’s lunches and to refrain from picking their noses without a hanky. Now it’s all about fear, the school live in fear of being sued by parents angry that ‘Little Angus’ in the class next door consumed a peanut butter sandwich fifty metres from their ‘Little Johnnie”, the poor mums live in fear of being judged a failure if they don’t whip up a three course meal and box it up everyday.

The poor kids live in fear that they will be made consume their midday repast whilst sitting on the special chair at the front of the class reserved for children who have dared to come to school with natural roasted almonds as a snack, quarantined in case a sliver of a ‘tree nut’ sprays on ‘Little Angus” who has a peanut allergy. If “Little Angus” at the age of 10, doesn’t know enough not to stuff a stray almond in his mouth which he found on the floor, then “Little Angus’s” parents have got a problem on their hands!

What is happening, where did personal responsibility go and privacy for that matter, is food the new frontier of the Nanny State? I don’t advocate my children sharing food, and they are well aware of the dangers of food allergies – they live with a mother who could expire on a mouthful of mango, but this is ludicrous. The guilt, the oversight, the intrusion.

Today I will send my offspring to school with wholegrain wraps, filled with home baked Mediterranean chicken, mayonnaise, chives, home grown cherry tomatoes with a chaser of yoghurt dip and home made berry coulis. Tomorrow, I’m bloody well sending grated chocolate sandwiches on white bread and a chocolate Hershey bar. Take that Food Nazis – I will choose what I feed my kids and I’ll thank you to keep your noses out of my Tupperware – my kids’ impending malnutrition and/or constipation is our own business.

PS: I am not that pro-peanut butter, I keep a separate, nut free shelf of snacks for visiting kids with allergies and am very concerned with the issues of allergies in general, but gee, I have packed lunchboxes for four of my own kids, also two stepchildren, two foster children, sundry nieces and nephews who have lived with us and frankly, I am exhausted - I've been making cut lunches for twenty five years already and my youngest child is still only 6! So cut me some slack and enough with the personal attacks on my mothering capabilities and my children please!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Vaguely vague and other lost grey cells

Here I sit liberated from the daily real time existence of my desk. Thanks to a good friend who came to my rescue, I am now able to access my own blog - yes, that's right - I couldn't remember my own password or gmail user name to retrieve same. So I apologise for my vagueness, my loss of memory and my um errr oh, never mind it will come to me shortly. So in any case, it's either my post surgery reaction, the long summer holiday, or my body adjusting to all the changes of having so much medication that I simply forgot. So is this the way of the future when all of us are slaves to our PIN numbers, passwords, and usernames? with one misplaced digit we risk effectively being locked out of our own lives. Makes one truly lament the simplicity of the old days and a primitive key, bank book or handwritten letter. Ah technology, when my 6year old pointed out a new fingerprint recognition front door lock in the hardware store, I recoiled in horror as I imagined the consequences of an injured finger, one large bandage and a winter's night spent in a car be because a hightech door latch didn't recognize my damaged thumb! So if you visit me, avoid the digital doorbell and just yell out over the fence - I'll use my super-duper low tech ears and come let you in.