Monday, November 28, 2011

HOT BEVERAGE WHORE.


I do not sleep very well. 
It takes me ages to wind down and then shortly after I finally manage to slip into the land of nod, my wee babe wakes ready to start her day.
But it’s not really her fault.
I can go to bed at 11pm and still be awake at 1 or even 2am.
The problem is my mind.
I think I might be crazy.
I do my usual routine – brush teeth, put on face cream that doesn’t work, climb into bed, read a bit of the Good Weekend, lights out…and then goes my mind. 
And it goes and goes and goes and goes.
Goes in directions such as this…
We are going to the park tomorrow. What if I think Gregory has Q and he thinks I have Q and neither of us have Q and someone steals her?
Or reading something about that poor kid in Bali, the one being held on drug charges, right before we flew to the US and this…
What if I get mistakenly accused of being a drug smuggler and they separate me from G and Q and they won’t even let me breastfeed her so she starves because she bottle refuses and has never tried formula anyway.
 It is really hard to fall asleep with this sort of stuff running through your mind.
 Last night a brother identified another possible cause…caffeine. He seems to think that 3 cups of coffee a day is too much.
And his flatmate (who is a nurse so I assume she knows what she’s talking about) tends to agree.
I am a hot beverage whore. I like having something hot to drink. I alternate between coffee and water all day long until the sun is over the yardarm and then I alternate between wine and water, before heading back to hot beverages for a final tea before bed.
And so as my chronic fatigue is reaching well, chronic proportions, I have decided to address my addiction and have limited myself to one coffee a day. I’ve had today’s – at 5.30 this morning. A delicious large skim latte. I savoured every sip.
The rest of the day will be filled with decaf tea.
Woo hoo. Party at my house.
 I took some Panadol as a preemptive strike and don’t feel much different so far.
I’m no less tired, Q has no less energy and the laundry has not managed to perform a self-clean.
 Does this mean I can eat more cake?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

STARBUCKS ANNOYS ME, BUT HAPPY THANKSGIVING ANYWAY.


Yesterday we celebrated Thanksgiving, my very favourite of the American holidays.
We held the occasion at my youngest brother’s apartment, very nicely situated on the ground floor of a building that backs onto the harbour, with a salt water pool and evidently full of really boring tenants as not a single other person ventured out on such a magnificent day.
Lets also remember that we’ve just had a week of torrential rain and back-in-your-winter-woollies weather, which had Q (and therefore her mother) losing her mind.
What’s wrong with people? You couldn’t have dragged us inside even if you’d bribed us with food.
Speaking of...we celebrated Thanksgiving by showing solidarity with the 50-odd million illegal immigrants to the US and had Mexican.
Photography by our friend Blair.
All homemade by my chef husband, and followed with a number one cake that was made with love, if not expertise by Q’s doting mother. Moi.
Blair did not take this picture. I did.
I tried people, really I did.
I don’t have to do another number ‘one’ for another 9 years. 
I love Thanksgiving, it’s such a great holiday. No gifts, no pressure, just a great meal with your favourite people.
Although people did bring gifts, because it also coincided with Q’s first birthday and she got spoilt rotten. I’m going to hide a bunch of them and stagger their introduction, claiming credit for them as we go.
She also got given oodles of second-hand clothes.
In 12 months I have bought her two things – a dress to wear to her uncle’s wedding and a swimming nappy.
When people first gave me clothes, I meticulously re-washed and folded them all. Now? Bugger it.
What kind of friend would give you dirty clothes?
If the Yanks do one thing well, it’s holidays. They really throw their backs into it. We were in the states just recently in time for Halloween and I really wished Q had been old enough to want to dress up as a Munchkin from The Wizard of OZ, and make her father dress up as a lion and me a wicked witch, and parade from house to house seeking treats in the chilly dark air, passing ghosts and supermen and fairies and stopping at places lit with candles, jack-o-lanterns and spooky looking ghouls.
 Back in 2002 when I’d moved to the states, it had been about the same time of year, and I remember watching in delight as people strung Christmas lights out their New York apartments, dragged Christmas trees down snowy streets and up 3 flights of stairs and the incessant ringing of the Salvation Army Bell on every street corner, calling for donations.
I remember pumpkin spiced lattes at Starbucks, which just sound outright disgusting to me.
Hot pumpkin flavoured coffee mixed with milk?
Gross.
I don’t care for Starbucks as a rule, their coffee is notoriously terrible. But they’re open late, don’t care how long you sit at their tables, and are guaranteed to have a public toilet. Many a time I’ve ducked into one on my way from dance class to work, desperately ripping leotard and tights aside to avoid a total catastrophe.
So thank you Starbucks for your latrines, but please stop calling your cups tall, grande and venti.
You are not Italian.
And neither are your customers.
The terms small, medium and large will do just nicely thank you very much.
You can almost redeem a cup of bad Starbucks coffee with another great American invention – half and half. The half cream-half milk you can buy to try to overcome the acidic taste of burnt percolated coffee, made at 5am and still festering on the hot plate at 10pm that night.
 Wheat thins are another gem we Aussies are missing out on. Delicious wheaty, salty goodness. They’re a mid-priced cracker, but as all food in the US is a 9th of the price we’re charged down under, you can actually afford to buy them.

 The Duggars are another American favourite. Or they used to be. At first I thought they were funny and weird.
Now, with their 20th child on the way, I think they’re just weird.
All their children play a musical instrument.
20 kids.
That’s an orchestra people.
But there’s never a show of artistic histrionics in their family, they’re all always so calm.
I imagine they avoid caffeine. Even seasonally inspired pumpkin spiced lattes.
It seems they avoid Halloween too, though for religious, not glucose related hyperactivity purposes.
Shopping in general (while still a detested activity) is a lot more bearable in the US when you go to the outlet malls near my in-laws house and buy up a year’s supply of running shoes for the same amount as one pair here.
It is how my husband justifies his collection of Chucks sneakers. Every colour but maroon.
America has a lot to offer (if you can look past the jeans and white sneakers) and thanksgiving is one of the best.
So while we swapped green bean casserole for homemade guacamole, overcrowded buses at Port Authority for strolls in the burning sun, and snowball fights for cool swims in sparkling water, it was still a fabulous celebration.
Thank you America, for giving me thanksgiving, in an I-married-an-American kind of way, and welcome to the holidays people, let the festivities begin.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

NURSERY RHYMES, DESPOTS & VILE KYLE SANDILANDS


Yesterday I looked after a friend’s son who is 5 weeks older than Q. I’ve done it a few times of late and it has pretty much cured me of my dream for twins.
I take my hat off to anyone who owns such a phenomena. You must be really, really tired.
Anyway, like all good babysitters, I read the kids a story, several in fact, and sang them a bunch of nursery rhymes from a book he’d been given for his birthday.
Some I remembered, some I did not, but they don’t know them anyway, so I just made up the tune.
Others I just recited in that ‘adult reading a kid's book to a kid’ voice, but I’m not sure I'll ever read some of them again. Remember the old woman who lived in a shoe?
 There was an old woman who lived in a shoe
She had so many children she didn’t know what to do
She gave them some broth without any bread
And whipped them all soundly and sent them to bed.
 Jeez. It's not their fault they're hungry.
How about Rock a bye baby, now that one is just evil.
I now know that the Ring a ring a rosie was about the bubonic plague. When I was a little girl we just thought it was a silly game where the last one to fall was out.
What about the poor old maid in Sing a song of sixpence who had her nose pecked off by a blackbird.
Jack and Jill are really King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette who were both beheaded, so I suppose saying they tumbled down a hill is nicer than saying they had their heads cut off in the town square while people watched and cheered.
Some of them really bothered me, and it made me realise that if I’m going to sing these ditties to Q, I may as well sing them about people relevant to her time period.
The choices for modern day despots, disasters and dictators are unfortunately in no short supply.
For the men we have…
Osama Bin Laden for starters.
Saddam Hussein, another top bloke.
Some would argue George W. Bush.
Perhaps I could do a rhyme that combined all three.
Closer to home we’ve got
Alan Joyce or the Unions depending on your perspective.
And Kyle Sandilands although I’m loath to give that man any more attention than his appalling behaviour has already managed to acquire.
Representing the women we’ve got…
Most of Los Angeles for making it seem normal for women to be anorexic and artificially constructed.
Sarah Palin for destroying the environment with her excessive use of hairspray.
And Jackie O for condoning her sidekick’s language by her own inaction and silence.
 We’ve got natural disasters aplenty to choose from – Hurricane Katrina and her sister Irene. 
Cyclones and floods destroying Australian homes, lives and banana plantations.
Tsunamis wiping out half of Japan.
Bushfires, famines, droughts and plagues.
 Ugh. Not much has changed has it?
 On second thought, I think I’ll write my stories about nice things that have happened.
Like the power of the people – think Facebook, blogging and how Twitter-ers convinced the advertisers to dump that foul-mouthed Sandilands.
I can see that one as an upbeat, honky-tonk tune.
Something like this…
 He’s foul, foul,
the people growled in 140 characters or less,
Dump him now, make him poor,
Let him sit in his own mean mess.
 I think I may be onto something people…

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

BAD PARENTING - WOULD YOU ADMIT TO IT?


Yesterday was Q’s first birthday and she celebrated by taking a dive off the bed and giving herself a lovely bruised cheekbone.
We’re not bad parents I promise.
Gregory is.
I wasn’t even here.
Although I should admit that this morning I had to stop her from swallowing a necklace piece I had left lying around that was a potential choking hazard.
Have you called DOCS on us yet?
The thing is, this parenting gig is fraught with potential disaster. There are near-death experiences awaiting your every move.
Only yesterday my friend pinched her son’s skin into the seatbelt harness when she was putting him in the car.
Not surprisingly he squealed in pain.
The day before that another friend was carrying her baby and walked her clean into a door. Even worse, all her friends were watching.
Then there was the time Q came out in a dreadful heat rash because I had done exactly what they tell you to do and put her in one more layer than I was wearing and just about cooked her.
Note to self – my babe runs hot like her father.           
Or when I was too scared to give her Baby Panadol for the first time, so she cut her first tooth pain-reliever free.
That would have really sucked.
My brother has squashed her hand against a wall when he was walking her in the pram. ‘I told you to keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times Q,’ he said rather unsympathetically.
Anyone that changes her has to perform a UFC move by trapping her arms with their head, her legs with one arm and dodging a pooey nappy with the other. ‘It’s like trying to put a cat in a heshen sack,’ says another brother.
Then there are the amateur mistakes like baths too hot or too cold. Ditto food. Getting stuck in the rain without any protection and being forced to walk home while breastfeeding, the water beating down on the back of your child’s head. Anyone remember the trouble Jackie O got into for walking while bottle-feeding? Lucky nobody knows me.
Forgetting to give Baby Panadol before your child’s first vaccines.
Leaving your child with 2 doting uncles and a bottle of expressed milk, which she refused and decided to scream for 2 hours instead.
Or packing all parts for the bottle except the one that joins the nipple to the vessel thereby rendering the entire thing useless and forcing your husband to try to drip milk off his finger into your starving child’s mouth.
Yep, we’ve pretty much covered all areas of bad parenting, and due to upcoming changes in our family income, it looks like I may have to venture out into the workforce, so it seems only sensible to do what I am naturally gifted to do…
Babysit.
20 bucks an hour, cash seems fair don’t you think?
30 if they’re not asleep and I actually have to do something.
No doubt I’ll fill up pretty fast, so be sure to book in immediately.

Monday, November 21, 2011

CONTRACTIONS, 1OK WALKS & GROOVY NEW HUMANS


365 days ago I issued an eviction notice to the human within.
It had been getting increasingly tight in there, and the month of pre-labour lead me to believe it would be happier out than in.
I left the house, hips dislocating with every step, and began my 10k walk.
Yes, yes, that particular behaviour has been called foolhardy, but at least I didn’t ride my bike to the hospital like one woman I heard about.
At about the 7k mark, I decided to give the human a helping hand and started to jog. The definition of such being that both feet must be off the ground at the same time. It wasn’t pretty but I managed.
Still it didn’t budge.
So I went to acupuncture, lying to the lady and telling her I was already overdue.
I hate needles, so perhaps this is an indication of how dearly I longed for things to change.
Sometime after that, I realised that even if this was just more pre-labour it was rather uncomfortable and I’d rather not go through it alone thank you very much. So I rang my husband who was gardening at my parents, and politely requested he return home. Fast.
He and the midwife had a discussion and decided I should come on in to the hospital.
But I’d listened in the baby class when they’d insisted you stay at home for the first 8 hours at least.
‘Nooooooo,’ I moaned in between contractions coming far quicker than I realised, ‘they told us we had to stay at home.’
Gregory overruled me, which was wise because had he not, Q would have arrived on a cool, polished floorboard, and we got to the hospital with just an hour to spare.
A more detailed account (written last year) including banana-flavoured condoms and borscht soup can be read here.
And now, here we are 365 days in, and not much of the gloss has worn off. We still think she’s the coolest human out there.
Happy first Miss Q, you rock our world.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

THE MEANING OF LIFE LA STYLE


I’ve been running for approximately twenty-six years.  Not continually, but regularly and wherever I seem to find myself.  Along the foreshores of Sydney, on the dried crusted sands of outback Australia, through a grey, dank park south of London, along the frozen Hudson River in New York.  Wherever I’ve lived I’ve run.  It’s very cathartic for me.  Without it I’d likely be medicated for anxiety.  At the very least I’d be rather difficult to live with. It also fits my budget…it’s free.  All I do is throw on a pair of old runners, fall out the back door and go for a trot. 

That’s the easy part.  It’s getting back again that I find difficult, for I perpetuate the feminine stereotype of having utterly appalling navigational skills.  Absolutely no sense of direction and a complete inability to read maps.  It shames my brothers, but if forced to use a map, I flip it to match any turns I make and therefore embraced that navigational masterpiece, the GPS, with more joy than I did my husband on our wedding night.  The points on a compass mean nothing to me and unless I waited until the sun set, I would never know where west is. I’m a navigational black hole.  Any relevant information enters my brain and if it comes out at all it’s warped.  Left seems right, up is down, and as for roundabouts, circling them until you’re dizzy is better than getting on a freeway you can’t escape and traveling for miles suspecting, correctly, that you’re going in the wrong direction. 

I think my father thought he could fix the problem by enrolling the four of us in an orienteering course when we were young.  We were put in pairs, given a compass and a map, and a series of targets to find somewhere in the bush.  The first team back won.  I was always put with a family friend who (if he’d been so inclined) could likely have represented Australia in the middle distance running events.  Off he would dash, disappearing amongst the gum trees and buggar following the map, my sole objective was to keep up with him and not spend the day lost in the wilderness.

New York spoiled me; its convenient grid meant that even when I was lost, I was still only one block in the wrong direction.  I’d forgotten how much that hid my disability when I was briefly back in Australia and working in Darwin, Northern Territory.  On my first night there, I stayed with my new boss and her husband and headed out for a jog.  Two and a half hours later, heels bleeding, mouth as dry as a popcorn fart, they found me pounding the pavement clear on the other side of town.

In those days I was a fashion workout puritan; old t-shirts with no labels, my midriff securely covered, shorts from my soccer days and definitely no music device.  I’ve graduated now - audibly anyway - and strap an ipod to my arm.  An excellent device that detracts those pesky talky-trotters from striking up a conversation with me when I cross their path.  It is an instrument I wish I’d had as a little girl when my father would drag me from bed for an early morning run.  In my entire running career I’ve never met a runner like Phil.  He doesn’t seem to find breathing a necessity thereby allowing him to run and talk at the same time.  “So Nome,” he’ll say, half way up a hill, “what do you think is the meaning of life?”

These days I sprint along the edge of the Pacific, the Santa Monica Pier in the distance, dodging seagulls, my feet pounding in time to the rhythm of the Venice drum circle, the theme from Chariots of Fire running through my head.  Usually I am accompanied by a pod of dolphins playing in the waves where the lifeguards are performing one of their many surf rescues.  I’m not sure why there are so many, though it may have something to do with the large number of people swimming fully clothed, which can’t help too much with their buoyancy.  

Sometimes I skip the beach, bike ride to a steep set of stairs and run up and down them until my legs shake so badly I can barely ride home again.  It may seem like an odd thing to do, but I am never alone.  The stairs are always crowded with hundreds of sweating, panting, puffing Santa Monicans all working for the perfect body. 

Up and down the steps I pound, head down and eyes on the stairs, which is great for avoiding an embarrassing trip, but gives me no time to prepare for coming face to face – or face to bum as the case may be – with the person in front. 

Usually it’s a woman in Lycra pants and matching sports bra because here, a display of midriff is compulsory, regardless of its state.  The owner of said midriff may have just given birth to octuplets or placed first in a hamburger eating competition, but still their jiggling abdomens are revealed, shuddering like bacon on a factory convey belt.

And if it’s not the jigglers I run into, it’s the man with the weights, always dressed in a black fleece tracksuit and covered in a weight jacket.  The pungent odour of man-sweat trapped between metal and a synthetic fibre wafts behind him like a skunk under threat.  Though I do occasionally wonder if I’m not much better.  My typical morning involves getting dressed into the pajamas I didn’t wear to bed, (I find them restrictive for sleeping, but perfect for writing) writing for a few hours, then getting out in the sunshine for a bit of exercise.  Rationalising that there’s no point showering before a workout, or putting deodorant on either since I’ll only sweat it off so I may as well save the money, I head for the stairs as natural as nature intended.  The saying ‘ladies don’t sweat, they perspire’ does not apply to me and it has occurred to me that my natural pheromones may, in fact, be offensive to others. 
Now, while the stairs are being pounded by those with the extra pounds, they’re more likely to be lightly tapped by rawboned women, their glossy manes bouncing around their doctor-designed faces, their chopstick legs desperately balancing the weight of their surgically enhanced chests so they don’t topple forwards and land at the bottom of the stairs in a tiny bundle of plastic, collagen and spandex. 
LA is the kind of town where if you didn’t have an eating disorder when you got here, you’ll quickly acquire one.  They’re obligatory.  Like a valley accent, or air pollution, or a passive-aggressive attitude.  Here, pre-schoolers do yoga and ladies carry their complexes in their designer handbag.  Recently I overheard a woman ask her friend how she stayed so thin.  “I haven’t eaten anything that tastes good in years,” the friend replied.

I’ve only been here eight months and already I’ve developed the disturbing habit of reaching under my shirt and feeling my belly pooch every time I take a sip of tea with sugar in it or - heaven forbid - eat the bread my sandwich comes with.  Sometimes when I’m running the stairs I grab at it, as if I might be able to feel the fat dissolve with every step I climb.

So here we are, the fatties, the clones and me, all vying for space on the wooden stairs.  And just like I can sniff the weight man, I can also sniff the clones’ disdain when they glance at my outfit, my baseball cap hiding my unbrushed hair, the sun cream running milkily down my arms.

“What’s the time?” Clone One asks Clone Two, pointedly ignoring the watch on my wrist.  After taking her earphone out of one ear and telling the person on her iPhone to “hang on a minute,” Clone Two looks at Clone One and says; “twelve thirty.”  (No self respecting Hollywood-wannabe exercises before noon.  Probably because their waitressing shift didn’t finish until three and they also need the morning to blow dry their freshly washed hair).  But it’s not really the time Clone One cares about.  What she’s really saying is; “how did you convince your surgeon to do your breasts so big?  I tried, but mine refused.  I knew I should have spent the extra money for the surgeon on that reality show, all my friends did and he did exactly as they asked.”

One of my greatest runs was back in New York on the night of ‘blackout 2003’ (as the commemorative t-shirts said).  At first New Yorkers panicked (it seemed a little too much like that fateful September date) but after it was ascertained – and blamed on Canada – that it was just a huge power failure, it was a very pleasant evening indeed.  Spontaneous street parties erupted, stores gave away melting ice creams and candles were shared as people gathered together on the brownstone steps.  At dusk, not a single light but the fireflies in the trees and the sun setting over the west side apartments, I strode around the Jackie Onassis Resevoir and thought of Phil. 

What was the meaning of life?  Was it this?  A mad-paced city forced to stop and smell the dog pee evaporating from its sidewalks?  To recognise that for all their differences, the inhabitants could still be united by a single blown fuse.  Or did the clones have it right?  Was the meaning of life competitive uniformity?  Should we abandon individuality and strive instead for homogenous perfection? 
I decided to ask Clone Number Two…if only I could work out which one she was.

PLASTIC SURGERY VICTIMS AND HOMELESS MEN DANCING WITH ANTLERS. WHERE AM I?


I lived in the US for 8 years, six and a half of them in my little NYC, and eighteen months in LA, which I never had any interest in moving to, but did so because my husband got a great job offer there and since our next move was to my land on the other side of the world, I figured I owed him at least that.
 LA is a funny town. Owing to Gregory’s insane work hours (chefs do not understand work-life balance - an executive chef isn’t aware the concept even exists, and kitchens operate rather similarly to the military – ‘yes sir, no sir,’ and there is no time for discussion because your lavender infused béchamel sauce is about to boil over) we lived near where he worked, which meant we shacked up in a tiny seaside cottage in the tourist hotspot, Santa Monica.
It wasn’t a bad life. I took a break from performing so I could write (and be near my new husband) swam in the beach every morning, rode my bike to work in a nearby fancy restaurant, and earned a quid doing what I do unfortunately well – seating the people.
Gregory and I would meet at the end of the evening and wine and dine the night away with our other hospitality friends.
 It wasn’t a bad life because it is very easy to love that sort of life - you know someone at every joint you enter, there is a lot of fresh seafood and a stupid amount of gin.
It is fair to say I started to resemble a juniper berry.           
I drank so much of the stuff over those 18 months that I haven’t touched it since.
 I would argue this excessive intake was necessary because while the friends we made in LA were fabulous and are some of our dearest, the pervading culture of that town is more toxic than the plastic filling the chests of most women.
 Almost everyone who lives there is waiting to become someone. And if they’re not, it’s because they already think are someone, which comes with it a sense of entitlement so outrageous and misplaced, I was forced to fight fire with fire and between the hours of 6 and 11 in the evening I became a hostessing vigilante, informing people with just a look and a well raised eyebrow that they are, in fact, one of the most wretched people in the world, that it is just dinner they’re waiting for and that conventional manners suggest that if someone is in front of you, they will be addressed first.
 Still, I missed it when we left. The excellent weather, (I am sorry to say that it is superior even to Sydney’s) the Santa Monica farmers markets, well attended by locals, celebrities and the ever-following paparazzi, and the odd-bods who make the sands of Venice beach their home.
 Apparently if you are released from re-hab and have nowhere to go, you are issued a one-way bus ticket to Santa Monica and Venice.
 It’s very kind of them really. If I was going to be homeless I’d much rather do so under a palm tree than above a subway grate in NYC. Particularly in winter.
These delightful characters can be found sitting in a circle beating drums as the sun sets, chilling quietly on a grassy knoll, or (as I witnessed this time round) performing a bizarre sand-dance with arabesques and pirouettes, dressed in ragged shorts and bike helmets with antlers sticking out.
 You don’t get that sort of entertainment at Bondi.
 I ran a lot in LA. So I saw a lot while I was there.
And it inspired this piece about plastic surgery, Hollywood wannabes and the meaning of life.
I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

33 TODAY. WHAT A DECADE IT'S BEEN INDEED!


This time a decade ago I was sitting in a café on the upper west side of NYC, supping on coffee and cake with my new American friends, the adrenalin and excitement at having moved to the Big Apple keeping me warm in a city that was to become my home for the next 7 years and celebrating my 23rd birthday. 
A decade ago.
Comparatively, this morning began at 3am with my nearly one-year-old daughter practicing her break-dance moves, which saw me leave the marital bed for the second time that week and move to the couch where I watched the dawn creep slowly in.
Where once I was taking 8 dance classes a week, buying ‘standing room only’ tickets to Broadway shows, drinking cheap wine at late night bars on the lower east side and living on Ketchup soup, I now get incidental exercise walking my daughter to the park, see a play at the STC and stress the whole time about my bottle-boycotting daughter, get drunk on a sniff of champagne and am never without food in my mouth.
 Time can be a fickle fiend. But she can also be considerate and accommodating.
Life is long my friends.
And life is good.
Very good.
Here’s to another fabulous decade.
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