There Is A Fire Inside Of Me

There is a fire inside of me.  I don’t remember the moment the spark was lit, possibly because it was so long ago.  I suspect the moment two X chromosomes fused and deemed me female, was the moment the flame flickered into life.

For 40 years it has been a slow burn, with the exception of four years in my late teens / early twenties when I discovered Women’s Studies at university.  Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and Laura Mulvey’s essay on The Male Gaze were profoundly life changing.  I even wrote my Honours thesis on Angela Carter and her subversion of patriarchal gender norms in her fiction. 

But it was all a bit of a theoretical exercise.

It is easy to parrot feminist theory and rage against the patriarchy while reading the current issue of Elle Dit in the safety of the Women’s Room.  It is another to leave the liberal, free thinking borders of the university and cross the road and exist in the “real world” as a young female.

As a 19 year old who desperately needed to keep my Christmas casual job I was in no position to stand up to the Santa who kept entreating myself and my fellow elves to sit on his lap, or try to pull down our elf costumes. 

At 20 I simply smiled politely at the knob cloud at an engraving booth in the city who gifted me with this enchanting conversational gem:

Me: “Hi, how much do you charge?”

Knob cloud: “For what, love?”

Me: “Um, for engraving.  I mean, is it per letter?”

Knob cloud: “Oh (chuckles heartily).  I thought you meant making love”

What the actual fuck?

When I was 21 I was chastised by the football coach at the school I was teaching at, telling me I was “making the boys soft” and “sucking the toughness out of them”, presumably simply by existing as a young female in a heavily male dominated environment.

Each time I was rescued by other people: Santa was sacked, my boyfriend gave the knob cloud a mouthful, and coach was forced to write me a letter of apology.

So yes, fucking #MeToo.

But now, I want to say, I’m ready to #BeMyOwnFuckingHero.

There is a fire inside of me.  The slow burn has turned into a bonfire.  A combination of my age, the momentum of the #MeToo movement, and the “outing” of celebrity after celebrity who have felt it is ok to use their fame, their influence, their gender, to exert power over women and intimidate, harass and ultimately assault them has me seeing red.  No longer do I need anyone to come to my rescue.  I will be my own hero.  I will call men out on their unacceptable behaviour. I will not smile meekly and try not to make a fuss.  If a fuss is warranted, expect this rage bubbling inside me to rain down on your head.  So much rage.

I will not laugh it off.  I will not make excuses for any man based on his ignorance or his age or his “sense of humour”.  A dirty old perv with a sense of humour is still a dirty old perv.

I will fulfil my role in the sisterhood: to lift other women up.

Support them when they need it.

Be their rescuer if they need it.

Although I suspect my wonder woman wrist cuffs won’t get much use because I see it in the women all around me: in the supermarket, at school pick up, at sports training.  Women of all ages, shapes and sizes, with a fire in their belly; flames flickering in their eyes.

I am not alone.

We are fed up.

We will not be silent.

We will support each other, lift each other up and link arms as we collectively say: #NoMore.

There is a fire inside of me and it is spreading like wildfire………………………………..

Good teachers can change the world

My son’s teacher has a reputation.

Last year my little man emerged from his half hour meet the teacher session with a smile on his face and a spring in his step.  Simply uttering the surname of his new teacher evoked random high fives from other parents within earshot.  This thirty minute glimpse into the future was enough to see us through the entire eight week break without a moment’s hesitation about heading into a new school year.

My son has a teacher who knows him.

By the end of week one of first term his teacher had spent enough time with him to work out the kind of kid he is, what makes him tick, and more importantly, what lights a fire in his belly.  He has then used that information to teach him in a way that he knows will hold his interest.

My son has a teacher who nurtures his passion.

From day one the football banter began, and has developed into an ongoing conversation that includes my ten year old and his thirty something teacher addressing each other using the nicknames of old football legends. 

My son has a teacher who cares about him.

There have been a few instances where I know my son has been a bit flat or unwell and all it takes is a kind word from the teacher to lift him up.

My son has a teacher who believes in him.

While my son is an inherently kind, empathetic young man who cares deeply about other people, he is also a ten year old boy.  So when he laughs a little too loudly or a little too long with his mates instead of concentrating on the task at hand, when he joins in a dare a little too enthusiastically, and even when he googles “exploding cats” and tries to argue his way out of it by claiming that is the name of a new band and he is “researching” them, his teacher is there beside him, calmly guiding him back on track, believing in the good, kind young man he knows him to be.

My son has a teacher who challenges him.

He sends him home with twenty vocab words instead of fifteen.  He asks him math problems he knows he will have to think about to solve.  He cajoles him out of his safe, happy comfort zone, encouraging, and gently pushing him further, urging him to test his wings, so that he will one day be able to spread them and soar, all the while walking beside him like a safety net, ready to catch him if he stumbles.

My son’s teacher has favourites.

Everyone knows the favourite students always get special treatment.  The teacher is nicer to them, they can joke around with the teacher more, and they receive more positive attention.

My son thinks he is the favourite. His table partner thinks she is the teacher’s favourite.  The child on the opposite table is convinced it is him.

In fact, if you question them, every single child in his class will proudly declare themselves the favourite.  That’s because they are.  He makes them all feel special.  He listens to all of their stories.  He has time for all of them.

My son’s teacher has a reputation.

For being the best.

Because of this, my son’s teacher has a class of students who adore him.  They chant his name, and in their sing song voices loudly proclaim that he is the best teacher in the school.  Their parents do too (although not in song): in conversations over coffee, at school pick up, at sports training.  It is universally understood.

My son has an inspirational teacher.

Being a teacher is not just what he does, it is who he is. This class of children will become adults, who will always remember how he believed in them, encouraged them.  These children may not remember everything he has said, but they will never forget how he made them feel.

I wish this sort of teacher for every child.

Learning can happen in any classroom.  Magic happens in this one.

#BlessedWithFlabs

In my quest to go from fat to….well….less fat I have been trialling a number of different exercise classes.  I frequent one the most because it is cheap and cheerful.  (Just to emphasize that point, it is run by a group of super young mums and they are super cheerful.  God love them, they are awesome, but even a hundred years ago when I was their age, I don’t remember being half as perky and smiley as them.  But then again, I am 40(ish) now so my memory may be failing me). 

At the end of today’s class, the instructor reminded us that even though it still feels cold, Summer is on its way, and we really need to keep exercising so we can have abs for Summer.  “Because we all want abs, right?” she stated (super cheerfully) as if it were a rhetorical question.

As I looked around me at the other young mums nodding enthusiastically I was perplexed.  I realized that perhaps they are just too young for me to feel an affinity with them as part of my tribe.  Or maybe they simply don’t like Tim Tams as much as I do.  But when I glanced over to my exercise partner in crime (who most definitely is of my tribe) and saw her looking skeptical, I knew she was having similar thoughts to me.  The commentary in my head went something like this:

“No Susan.  I honestly couldn’t give a fuck about having abs for Summer. I mean, if God was handing them out like Smarties I certainly wouldn’t refuse, but abs are so far down on my list of things that I care about, it’s just not funny.  There are so many things on that list of wants before abs.  Things that I genuinely consider to be a million times more important than a few sticky out muscles showing the definition of my stomach.  For example: 

I want to be able to give my exercise partner a magic wand to take away the pain and grief she is suffering over the death of her mum; to be able to put some of the colour back into her world as I know that several months on, she is still trudging through shades of grey. I want to do that for so many of my friends, as we seem to be “at that age” now where we are losing our parents and it just fucking sucks.

At the same time, I want to embrace others in my tribe, some of them so incredibly close to me, and take away their struggles with fertility and trying to conceive because apparently, we are “at that age” now when it all becomes more difficult.

Honestly, this circle of life thing shouldn’t be so fucking hard or feel so unfair.

I want my kids to be happy at school.

I want them to be able to convey that happiness to me on the way home from school.  But quite often they don’t, because apparently they are “at that age” now where it is easier to simply grunt.

I want to follow up that after school happiness with a restful evening where I don’t have to race around in the car, travelling 3,000 fucking miles just ferrying everyone to 5 million sports trainings and activities.

I want to then sit down to a lovely, healthy family dinner which everyone eats without any complaints or faux vomiting noises or tantrums.

I want.

I want.

I want.

Oh God, I want so many things.

I really want to wake up in the morning and not feel so completely overwhelmed at all of the items on the list of things that NEED to be done, that I rarely ever get to turn the page to even glance at the list of wants.

So no Susan, everyone DOES NOT want abs for Summer.

Besides, I passed Year 12 Biology (on the second attempt, but nevertheless, a pass is a pass) and I know that we all have abs.  I affectionately call mine “flabs” because they are conveniently hidden under several layers of fatty tissue, but that doesn’t mean they are non-existent.

Ultimately, I think what I really want is to go back in time to a place where “wanting abs” was a perfectly legitimate wish and an attainable thing to strive for.  A time when life was a little less complicated.  And I wish this for Susan too.  That she doesn’t turn 30 or, you know, 40ish, and stumble head on into a world of cray cray commitments and heartache and day to day bullshit.  I want her to keep wanting abs.  And keep believing that everyone else does too.

Oh and next week?  I’m going to bring Susan some Tim Tams.

#Susan is not her real name

#I don’t know her name

#Apologies to all the Susans I have just offended

#Not a sponsored post

#Need 1,000 followers to gain advertiser’s attention for sponsored posts

#Share the blog with your friends to get more followers so we can all get free Tim Tams

#Have I told you how much I hate hash tags

#Using hash tags makes me feel like a pretentious wanker

#Can’t bring myself to leave out the spaces between words because

#English teacher

#Summer bodies are made in Winter

#Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels

#Except Tim Tams

#So blessed

#Blessed with flabs

Urticaria: WTF?

School holidays really are the gift that keeps on giving, aren’t they?

Usually, they gift me with a two week long migraine and empty pockets.  But this time, before I get any of that joy, I have been given the gift of Urticaria.

Or, for us non-medical folk: hives.

Hives.  Sounds innocuous, right? Maybe even conjures up the image of a group of sweet little honey bees buzzing around in their beehive, hard at work for their queen.

Now imagine those bees are buzzing around under your skin, tattooing you from the inside.

Hold that thought.

Do you remember your teenage years when you lathered yourself with a little too much Coppertone (dark bronze, SPF minus 50), and stayed out in the sun for a little too long?

The memory is literally burned into your brain, right?

Now.  Mash the two images together. Imagine your skin feeling completely fried, burning and stinging, but also itchy as fuck.

You’re cringing now, aren’t you?

I haven’t even mentioned that the hives are also on the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet.  Or the fact that your wonderful, diligent, organised brain can’t cope with the mindfuckery of the pain and the burning and the stinging so it sends in reinforcements…which makes the skin swollen.

At this point in my happy little tale, I feel we need a public service announcement for the GP’s, pharmacists and pharmacy assistants who are loyal followers of my writings.  (I know who you are).

The next time you encounter an unfortunate soul who has hives, this is what you should not say:

“Don’t worry, it’s not Measles.  Just hives.  Nothing serious.”.

JUST hives.  Nothing SERIOUS.

Honey, I will JUST seriously stab you in the face with a fork, my nerves are that on edge.  That is, if my stubby little swollen, itchy, burning fingers can hold a fork long enough for me to hobble over to you on the swollen stubs that are currently painful excuses for feet.

What else should you NOT say to a person with JUST hives?

How about: “gee, that looks itchy.”

Thank you Captain fucking obvious for such witty repartee.

Or: “Try this cream.  It SHOULD help”.

Should? SHOULD? No.  I am now on day 3 of wanting to peel my skin from my body, a la John Travolta and Nicholas Cage in Face Off.  You had better give me a tried and tested remedy or I will jump over that counter and rip YOUR face off.

Oh, and do you remember the psycho in Silence Of The Lambs who stitched a full outfit made of human skin? If you even think of using me as a guinea pig for a new lotion you are giving me because you get generous kickbacks from some pharmaceutical company, don’t be surprised when you end up down a deep fucking well, obediently “rubbing the lotion into one’s skin”, while I am upstairs, surrounded by butterflies, spooling the thread into the sewing machine……

While on the topic of psychopathic stalkers, I have never identified with that crazy hives guy in There’s Something About Mary as much as I have the last three days.  You see, when Mary was stringing him along, it triggered him, a traumatic reminder of his doctor informing him she doesn’t know how long the hives will last, but it is possibly up to six weeks.

Six weeks?  Christ on a cracker, if I survive a week I will be organising my own ticker tape parade down the middle of Rundle Mall.

You may need to send wine.  And chocolate.  And a pallet load of Pinetarsol, as well as some kick arse painkillers.

On second thoughts, maybe all I should do is watch reruns of the Barnaby Joyce 60 Minutes interview, or the current season of Love Island and I will be so brain dead I will be oblivious to the pain……..

Only 18 Summers…..

By now I’m sure you have seen the quote about only having “18 delicious Summers” with your children?  Attributed to Jessica Scott, it says:

“You only get 18 delicious summers with your kids.

This is one of your 18.

If that’s not perspective, I don’t know what is.”

Yep.

When I first read it, the perspective hit me right in the chest, like a lead weight in my heart.  It was the same feeling I have whenever I realise I have just experienced something with my children for the last time.

Last time I need to buy nappies: check.

Last time I need to move the booster seat in the car: check.

Last time he will reach for my hand when crossing the road: check.

Last time I will drop him off at primary school: check.

Cue tears.

But as the holidays have marched on, I saw the quote pop up in my Facebook feed a second time, and a third.  Suddenly I realised it wasn’t resonating with me anymore.  Rather than giving me perspective, it was just giving me anxiety.  The lead weight on my chest started to spread, until it felt like it was hanging around my neck.

By the fifth or sixth time someone shared the quote, it just made me pissed off.

Don’t get me wrong: I understand the sentiment, I truly do.

And if it encourages parents to look up from their phones and be present in the moment with their kids, to really enjoy the time they have together, then I am behind it, 100%.

But on the flip side, it feels like a lot of pressure, with a side serving of guilt.  I feel like I carry enough mum guilt around with me every day, thank you very much.

In the same way the women smile at you in the supermarket and entreat you to “savour these moments, they grow so fast”, while watching you wrangle a toddler climbing out of the stroller to reach the checkout chocolates with one arm, and simultaneously comforting a screaming, hungry, overtired baby in the other, Jessica’s dose of “perspective” is not actually helpful.

Do her words make me want to really savour every moment of the 18 “delicious” summers I get?

Well, maybe.

But not as much as it makes me want to punch Jessica in the face.

I would love to invite Jessica to Australia to test the validity of her words.  Obviously in America the children do turn 18 and move away for college, whereas given the state of the housing market here in Australia, those 18 summers are likely to number well into the twenties.  And I am confident Jessica would not use “delicious” as an adjective to describe an Adelaide Summer of consecutive 40+ degree days.

Still, there have been many moments these holidays when I have looked at my kids and wanted to capture the moment forever, my heart full to bursting with love and gratitude that I get to spend such precious time with them.  There have been just as many other moments when I have wondered whom at school I can bribe to take them back earlier.

Often these moments occur in the same hour.

So you see, Jessica’s words are not helpful.

They are not helpful to me as I flip flop between hugging my kids and not wanting to let them go, to looking up how much I could sell them for on Ebay.

They are not helpful to working mums who have to schedule the school holidays with military precision, knowing it is a physical impossibility to spend every day of the holidays with their children.  It only makes them feel “less than” and heaps on another dose of mum guilt.

Her words are most certainly not helpful to the mum I read about today, whose 5 year old son filled up his Nerf water gun with his own urine, and proceeded to spray his entire bedroom with it.

As the mother of boys, let me tell you this made me snort laugh in solidarity.  But I was not surprised.  The only thing that surprised me was that neither of my boys have ever thought to do it.

Now, if THAT’S not perspective, I don’t know what is.

All My Friends Are Going On Cruises

All my friends seem to be going on cruises.  Big ships, beautiful destinations. While I love the idea of a cruise, loyal followers of the blog will remember I have a particularly irrational fear of gastro, especially vomiting.  This has singlehandedly stopped me from even entertaining the idea of going on a family cruise.  But this did not stop us from dipping our toes into the water of the cruising experience and taking on the challenge of our very first houseboat holiday!

With a sense of excitement and trepidation, we boarded our houseboat, raring to get cruising!  But before they let us loose on the mighty Murray river, our instructor – Sam –– had to show us the ropes.

While Sam was teaching us the basics, we fired some questions at him.  Without missing a beat, he answered them all.  However in hindsight, it is entirely possible that Sam was a little loose with the truth.  I suspect Sam is actually a sensational salesman who would be just as comfortable in a used car yard as he was in the loungeroom of our houseboat.

 Here are just a few of Sam’s answers:

  1.  “The river water is 100% safe to drink.  In fact, it is just as good as tap water.

First of all, blind Freddy could see the amount of duck and pelican shit on the deck of the boat and work out how much of that is in the “100% safe” drinking water, not to mention the colour. Or the smell.  Yep, that water is about as safe as picking up your drink in a bar after you have left it unattended for several minutes next to a serial killer with a pocket full of Rohypnol. 

Thank God for our foresight in bringing 40 litres of boxed water on the boat to avoid contracting Murray Mouth or whatever the local equivalent of Bali Belly is.

  •  “Parking is a piece of piss, mate!”

If you mean the only way to successfully park is by going in full throttle, mounting a sand bar and ramming the riverbank with the same force as the Titanic rammed the iceberg then yep, “piece of piss”.

  •  “Nah, no snakes.  In 2 years, I’ve probably only ever seen two snakes”.

I’m not sure if Sam measures time in the conventional way or in dog years because we saw a snake on day 2.  It was as we were coming in to park.  Let me tell you we went from full throttle forward to chucking the oversized paddle boat in reverse so hard we possibly burnt out the clutch.

  •  “It’s great weather for swimming.  The temperature of the water is exactly the same as the outside temperature”.

Again, I’m not sure on the units of measurement Sam was using.  Whatever they are, how would Sam explain my son suffering from hypothermia throughout his body while simultaneously getting thoroughly sunburnt on his face?  Not the same temperature, Sam.

  •  “The toilets are a bit sensitive”

No shit, Sam.  No, really.  That is what you should tell people. 

No. Shit.

Do not under any circumstance use the toilet for the purpose it is intended for or it will block up.  And smell.  The heady, aromatic smell of sewer mixed with river water (you know, that delightful brown water that is 100% safe to drink?).

  •  “The boat absolutely does not rock”

You’ve got us on a technicality there, Sam.  You’re right, it does not rock in the traditional sense, but there is a definite horizontal swooshing movement that sees the boat move several metres from side to side, making it impossible to find your centre of gravity.

It was after enjoying a night of this regular “swooshing” that we returned the houseboat to its moorings (full throttle all the way in until we launched onto the bank), packed the car to the rafters with all of our sleeping bags, pillows, clothes etc and with our stomachs still swirling, set off on the drive home.

Eager to get home, my husband helpfully suggested we take the quicker route home, otherwise known as “the back way”.  Otherwise known as Gorge road.  Otherwise known as the windiest road known to man……..

Y’all know how this story ends, don’t you?

Ten minutes into the journey there was groaning and complaining from the back seat.  I sprung into action, dispensing Chuckeez sick bags and lollipops.  By the time we reached the Big Rocking Horse, we had to pull over so that the 12 year old (aka Mr Sensitive Stomach) could sit in the front.  That meant I was now crammed in the back with my youngest son (aka Stomach of Steel: nothing fazes this one), and the Leaning Tower of Pisa of luggage between us.  Ignoring the continued groans now emanating from the front seat, Mr Iron Stomach declared he was starving.  So we fossicked through the leaning tower until we found a pack of BBQ shapes, which he started to demolish quite happily.

It wasn’t until I realised the snacking had stopped that I looked over the top of the leaning tower to see the sheer horror on the face of my youngest offspring.

While Master 12 was sitting pretty in the front with his three sick bags and lollipop, his brother had regurgitated nearly an entire box of biscuits into nothing but his cupped hands. 

This was a vomit explosion of epic proportions.

Luckily our travelling companions pulled over to help and between us, my sister in law and I managed to mop up the mess with packets of wet wipes and towels, just enough to get us home (windows down all the way).

The next day as I was drowning under a pile of washing and the toxic fumes of car upholstery cleaner, I reflected on our houseboat holiday which was – despite the small setbacks – truly sensational.  I even laughed about Sam and his gift of the gab, his skills akin to a used car salesman.  Which leads me to the point of this post: if you’re in the market for a new (used) car, there is a fantastic Holden Commodore for sale.  Lovingly cared for, comes complete with its own unique smell from the back seat. If you need any more info, please call Sam……

Dear Coach

Dear Coach,

Thank you for showing up.

Week after week, training after training, game after game.

Rain, hail or shine, you were there. 

Win, lose or draw, you were there.

When my mum or dad didn’t want to get out of the car because it was so wet and cold, you were there.

Thank you for teaching me the basics, and allowing me to kick the ball around with my mates.

Thank you for encouraging my dreams, for making me believe I could be the next AFL superstar, the next Grand Final winner, the next Magarey medallist, the next Brownlow recipient.

Thank you for teaching me what it means to be part of a team, part of a group of mates, part of a club.

Thank you for teaching me what it means to be part of THIS club:

to Play Hard

Play Fair

and Never Give Up.

I will take this with me wherever I go, whatever I do, and whatever challenges I face.

Because of you, I know that winning isn’t everything: that mateship, teamwork and good sportsmanship are so much more important.

Because of you, I know that there are different types of masculinity, that there are different ways to be a man. You have helped to shape the young man I am becoming, and the type of man I want to be.

Because of you, I know that limits don’t exist for girls, that we can play footy too.  You have shown me that everyone is welcome here.  That I can pursue my dreams too, that I am just as worthy, regardless of my gender.

So, Coach: thank you.

Thank you for your time.

Thank you for your commitment.

Thank you for your passion.

I will see you next season.