I went to the laundry twice on holiday. Hoping to forestall at least some of the post-holiday pile of washing. But no matter how hard I try, no matter what hopeful strategies I put in place, a few hours after we’ve arrived back home, my laundry looks like a volcano that’s spewing smelly, slightly damp, filthy clothes, whose aroma indicates that new life is beginning to burgeon within its mass.
I met a lovely young woman on holiday recently, who proudly announced to me that she does an average of five loads of washing a week. FIVE! Most of her friends have two loads of washing a week maximum, but she has five. I think she mistook my stunned silence for admiration at the amount of washing she produces, and I was definitely admiring, but not in the way she thought, just in a more wistful, wouldn’t-it-be-wonderful kind of way. Five loads of washing A WEEK! It’s unimaginable. Three days of hard work and approximately 18 loads of washing later, I got to the bottom of this weeks’ pongy post-holiday volcano.
One of the wonderful things about living in Perth is the Fremantle Doctor. Every afternoon… actually, I’ll rephrase that, MOST afternoons he comes to visit the sweltering suburbs, bringing relief in the form of what the Sand Gropers (Western Australians) call “a light breeze”. It quickly became blatantly obvious that my idea of a “light breeze” is completely different to that of a Western Australians’. Personally, I’d describe the Fremantle Doctor as anything from a brisk wind to a howling gale, but it’s just an opinion.
Since we lived on the escarpment overlooking Perth, we received the full benefit of the doctor almost every afternoon. The only days the doctor doesn’t do his rounds are during a week in February when, like every other doctor in Australia, he decided to leave his patients to their own devices and go on holiday. Unlike most other doctors in Australia, though, the Fremantle doctor only takes a weeks’ holiday. Most specialists seem to leave their patients for six weeks.
Unfortunately, the Fremantle Doctor’s holidays coincide with the hottest summer temperatures and I can only conclude that the incessant 45 degree daily highs finally get the better of him and (heat) exhaustion force him to take a short break, leaving the rest of us to sizzle and suffer in the scorching heat.
I’m not talking about leaving your lunch behind when you head off for school or work here, I’m talking about vomiting. Puking. Barfing. Chundering. Praying to the Porcelain God. Regurgitating. Spewing. Upchucking. Throwing Up. Doing the technicolour yawn.
I have been blessed with a child who can do all of these things WITH STYLE. The girl has class. She can hit a moving target at three paces with a steady stream of highly toxic, foul smelling, stomach contents, the stench of which no washing machine or cleaning compound has ever been able to remove. This girl is a Master Hurler. Literally. She makes the kid in the exorcist look exactly like what she is: a kid. A mere novice in apprenticeship to renowned Masters of the High Art of Expelling One’s Lunch With Velocity.
It’s Christmas, the time of year when all my angst and anxieties about money are dusted off, dragged into the spotlight, dressed up in tinsel and baubles, and sprinkled with glitter. I buy too many presents for too many people who don’t really matter to me, there’s always those little (or not so little) things I get for our loved ones even when I’ve already bought all the presents that I planned for them, I buy in enough food and drink to end a small famine and we all spend the next week (or two) eating leftovers. As time goes on and the preparations for the Big Day get more frantic, I grow more anxious and stressed, and there’s this underlying feeling of overwhelming guilt and fear lurking just beneath the surface of my seasonal cheer, that I desperately try to pretend isn’t happening.
I’m very lucky in one way because I don’t have to do the whole invite-people-round-that-you-don’t-get-on-with-but-you-have-to-because-it’s-Christmas thing. We live in Australia, a long way from most of our family members, and people tend to stay with their families or go away for the holidays over here. I am heartily glad that I don’t have to invite people round that I wouldn’t normally see, just because it’s Christmas.
My youngest daughter, Keeley, is very, very clever, with a wicked sense of humour and a knack of seeing the absurdity in people’s behaviour, but she also has a few areas of… let’s call it confusion.
We were in the car on the way back from our diving trip, salty, tired, thirsty and in dire need of a shower, but Keeley was on top form, entertaining us with stories of school and life in the boarding house. “I love Ms P [the boarding mother who’s now moved to another school], right, but I won’t miss the prayers she used to do. [Keeley’s voice drops a couple of octaves and takes on a solemn, sonorous tone] Dear God, thank you for all the girls in the boarding house. Thank you for Annabelle and her English exam. Thank you for Jessie and her Maths HSC. Thank you for Lucy who played really well in hockey this week, she did an amazing job [pause], even though we didn’t win and we’re bottom of the table. Thank you for Sophie, who washed the dishes for the first time on Tuesday without being asked…”
I made a half-hearted commitment to myself that I’d kind of journal/write every day during these holidays so I could record what’s happened better. I haven’t managed it yet. Been too busy. This is Club Med, there’s a gazillion things to do all the time! In fact, in just sitting here, writing this piece, I’m missing yoga. Okay, that’s not something heartbreaking for me, I must be one of the few people in the world who doesn’t find yoga relaxing and rejuvenating. Personally, I just find it boring and dull. That’s not very enlightened of me, I know, but I suspect that, all things told, I’m not very enlightened anyway, so we’re all good, I can miss yoga and my soul will still be just as unenlightened as it was before.
Just over a year ago, I decided to write a book about how we went from having ordinary jobs to being property developers and turning over a hefty amount of money annually. I wanted to explain to people, maybe “tell” people is a better expression, what we did to make the necessary changes in the way we think that allowed us to make that transition.
Before we started doing all this wealth creation stuff, we thought it was all just about making money, having a business, lots of employees, sell stuff and somehow the money will come. It isn’t about that at all. It was very hard to believe for a long time, but it’s actually about the thoughts we have about money that make the difference. That sounded really bizarre and we felt like we were being totally led astray and up some fairy garden path for a while, but enough books & people said the same thing that we began to pay attention and eventually give the whole “money mindset” thing a try.
We’re on a diving course at the moment, as in SCUBA diving. John and I first learned how to do SCUBA when we first landed in Australia in 1991. I was always a keen aquatic and one of my biggest dreams as a child was to be a mermaid. More specifically, I wanted to be Aqua Marina from the British children’s TV show, Stingray. She was beautiful and brave and the only downside that I could see to being Aqua Marina was that she couldn’t speak. But that was okay because I could speak, so all good. At some point in my growing years, I heard about the theory of evolution and came to the conclusion that if I just spent long enough lying on the bottom of the swimming pool trying to breathe, then I would eventually develop gills and clear vision.
I lie in bed, in that wonderfully comfortable world between sleeping and waking, the world where I seem to have access to ideas and knowledge that I don’t have access to once I get out of bed and start doing things. I love my time in that world and I dedicate at least 20 minutes each morning to exploring that world and finding out answers to questions and conundrums that I have, it’s like all the answers that I need are right there, waiting for me to access them.
Except the answers to one thing. One thing is eternally elusive in my omniscient morning world. One topic never appears in there, the answers just don’t come, no matter how hard I try. Actually, getting the answers is very much NOT about trying, it’s about letting go and ALLOWING, if that makes sense. A couple of days ago, I woke in the middle of the night with the solution to a dress-making problem that had been bugging me, bugging me to the point of redoing the bloody thing three times. All that stitch unpicking… [groans and cradles head in hands]…
One of the things I love about spending one-on-one time with Keeley is the little things she comes out with. Like yesterday.
The kids went on a weeks' camp in the bush last week, and because it's done as part of the Army Cadets program, it's proper camping: set up your own hoochie, carry your gear, cook your food, no showers, etc. At the end of the camp, each of the platoons creates a War Cry which is then performed in front of all the students and judged by the teachers & instructors.
It's an intense competition with the winners gaining a lot of prestige over their rivals.
The girls of 7 Platoon (I hope I've got that right!) spent two days coming up with the words while they were marching, kayaking and canyoning, and an evening crafting the moves to complement the music and words. One of Keeley’s friends, Issy, is new to the school and was a little concerned about how she should behave. The school (TAS) was a boys’ school until 3 years ago and still retains a lot of the boy-ish behaviours, which is one of the reasons the girls & I love the school.
A 500-word-a-day challenge. Pfft. Not a problem. Except that it’s very likely to be a complete challenge over the next couple of months. Let’s rephrase that and “be responsible”: I’m EXPECTING it to be a challenge. I’m ANTICIPATING that it will be a challenge. Ergo, it will be a challenge.
Sorry, sorry, my personal development training just won’t let me get away with crap like that. “Take full responsibility”, “Nothing happens that isn’t your own creation”, “Own everything in your life, it’s the only way to have full power over your life”. Well, that’s all fine, but sometimes I just want to whinge about how hard my life is. Sometimes, I just want everyone else to feel sorry for me because I’m so busy and I’m so stressed. Also, I want everyone to be IN AWE when I post something because they know how busy I am and they’re amazed by the sheer amount of stuff that I get done in a day, plus they’re all then completely understanding when I flake out and don’t do things that I said I’d do; I’m really busy so it’s totally understandable, right? I put a lot of effort into convincing people of how busy I am, I can’t burst the bubble and admit that I actually spend half my life just wasting time.
One of my great long-distance driving Stay-Awake tools is singing along to Robbie Williams. At top volume. I can’t sing for toffee, as Keeley so graciously confirmed once. I was happily squawking along to some swing tune or other, aiming for the high notes and missing by quite a long way, trying to do the harmonies – which, to be fair, I am quite good at for some obscure reason – but getting it wrong half the time, and, not wanting Keeley to miss out on all this fun, particularly as she’s the family musician, I enthusiastically urged her to join in; I was having so much fun, I was sure she would, too.
“No, it’s fine, thank you,” she says. I implored her to chill out, join in and enjoy herself a little. I know she can sing, why doesn’t she participate in the family singalong? It’ll be fun! “Because,” she says, “it’s really annoying when you hear people try to hit the right notes but then end up singing off key.”
Right. Bemused a little by the criticism inherent in that sentence, I finally consoled myself by singing for a while. Off key, of course.
I’ve been thinking there was something wrong with me for the last few weeks. I’ve felt more and more listless, unable to sit at the computer and write, unable to get a string of words together. I make sure that I exercise and do all that stuff; after learning the hard way, I know that if I don’t exercise, I don’t sleep, and sleep is a vital ingredient to feeling good and having your life work. Sleep is as precious as diamonds. Hence, I exercise and stay physically active, I fall asleep quickly and I sleep well. So why am I feeling more and more lifeless, more and more depressed? Why don’t I have much enthusiasm for anything? Why are things getting to me so much? Why can’t I cope with life, taking things personally and blowing everything out of all proportion? What is wrong with me?
It all came to a head yesterday. It’s been a particularly stressful week and I’ve no doubt you’ll hear about it in one article or another. There have been massive upsets with Keeley, concerns about Kira, arguments with Jamie, things going on with Ryan, chats with teachers, emails flying all over the place, arrangements rescheduled, Christmas is hurtling towards us and I hate the whole Christmas thing, and John went into hospital for an operation on his jaw.
It might be the season of planetary misalignment also known as Christmas, but, swear to god, I’m inundated with sagas of passionate people whose fervent desire to help the planet, protect the flora and fauna, and support numerous altruistic results in bullying. I’m not going to mince my words here, because I’m sick to the back teeth of how we all tolerate this behaviour because ‘they’ve got a good point’ or ‘they’re only trying to help’ or ‘that’s what they believe and they’re obviously passionate about it’.
I don’t speak up on this kind of thing for various reasons… actually, no, let me clarify that: I haven’t spoken up about this before because I do my best to be kind and compassionate to others and, besides which, who am I to tell someone that their belief isn’t right for me? Or maybe I believe that what they’re saying is completely wrong? It’s none of my business what anyone believes, everyone is entitled to believe what they like and no one else can tell them that they’re right or wrong. THAT is my belief: no one can criticise or judge anyone else’s beliefs because no one can fully understand someone else, they don’t have their experiences or personality, so just shut up and leave them alone. Consequently, I get pretty damned upset when someone forces their beliefs on me.
I wandered through Broadbeach, wondering whether I needed to shake myself and wake myself up. Was this a bizarre dream? Or some kind of not-so-scary nightmare? Surely I wasn’t actually awake and walking down the streets of a tourist-focused beachside suburb. Something weird was going on. I looked around and all I could see were sparkles, extra-large bows, lycra, shiny backpacks covered in that silver holographic material, sequins, over-the-top makeup, fake smiles and high ponytails. I felt like I was wandering though some strange My-Little-Pony-Meets-Barbie world not the beachy-touristy place that I was expecting. After a few enquiries, I discovered that the Gold Coast Convention Centre, located just across the road from where we were, was host to the National Cheerleading Championships and two and a half thousand competitors plus their families had descended on us.
What do I want?
I shook myself, trying to regain some semblance of control of what was going on inside my head and quell some of the more strident voices that are clamouring for attention. Get a grip, I told myself, these are my thoughts, I am in charge here, it’s time to stop. Just stop, okay? What is it that I actually feel is right for me? Take what John thinks out of it, take what Keeley or Kira think out of it, what do I want?
Oblivious to the Pacific Ocean, its surface glassy and sun-kissed, its waves dotted with tanned, fit surfie-types who had succumbed to the ocean’s seductive call to come and play (and possibly drown or get bitten by a shark), I continued my stormy stomp down the beach, completely unaware of the sand massaging the tension from my feet but uncomfortably aware of the sand scrubbing away the remnants of the blisters there. Blisters that I got after a beach walk a few days ago, when I crossed the carpark while wearing no shoes.
I have my money stories like everyone else. I hug them to my chest and hold them close, treasuring them and trying to protect them from prying eyes. Sometimes, I fail miserably, and my precious stories get hauled unceremoniously out of their safe, cosy hiding place, after which a dazzling spotlight is shone on them for all the world to point at and analyse.
Today is one of those days. There’s a certain point where my money stories and John’s money stories meet. It’s a dark and seething maelstrom of twisted beliefs and painful, partly-formed ‘facts’.
For anyone who hasn’t been on the internet or seen the TV for the last week, it was the Melbourne Cup last Tuesday and social media is full of horror stories about the Cup & horse racing in general. Fortunately, the onslaught of annoying posts is starting to die down now.
Here’s the thing, right: this is not an article about the pros and cons of horse racing. This is not an article about animal rights, cruelty, veganism or anything else like that.
What this is about is whether what you’re posting is in alignment with your personal values and giving other people the freedom to live by their own personal values.
After a long day working my fingers and my brain to the bone yesterday, I decided to reward myself by binge watching some episodes of Project Runway. I only intended to watch one episode then go to bed but I got into things. Finally, at about 11pm (and I’m normally up before 6am, so 11pm is not a good bed time for me), after a brief but bloody struggle between my desire to watch more episodes and my need for sleep, I manage to stop myself from downloading any more programs and head upstairs to my bedroom.
As I’m faffing around like I normally do in my lengthy preparations before sleep, I hear a thump. Followed by another thump a few seconds later. I cautiously head towards the noise, treading very carefully in case the source of the thumping is something really vile like an oversized cockroach (though how an oversized cockroach would make a thumping noise, I don’t know), I gingerly look around.
And then instantly leap back with a shriek
There’s a lot in the paper about the upcoming 2018 Schoolies Week, which actually isn’t a week, it’s more like Schoolies Month, but the mere thought of there being a ‘Schoolies Month’ would send most parents and every local council in the tourist areas running for the hills while clutching at a bottle of Valium.
For any non-Aussies reading this, you may not know what I’m talking about. I first heard about Schoolies Week when my kids were at Primary School, but at that point in time, it was simply a vague event in the possible future, so far away that I could patronisingly chuckle at the stress and terror of the parents of the students who were about to embark on their Schoolies adventure. Then as my kids began to approach the second half of their Secondary School career, I started to experience the full onslaught of the worry, anxiety and outright panic about my children’s upcoming debut into drunken debauchery, as I heard them begin to discuss with their friends, ‘Where are we going for Schoolies?’
I sometimes think that there are occasions when the universe gets a bit bored, so it gathers its minions round and they all amuse themselves by creating things in my life that no one, and I mean NO ONE, would ever dream possible. If I’m going to be fair, I have to admit that the things that happen are, on the whole, equally balanced between positive experiences and negative, but just occasionally I get one that makes me curl my lip like Elvis and say “Whaaaaa?”
More family stories…
I’m probably going to get into a lot of trouble for this, but I’ve been in trouble my whole life, particularly with my family, so it’s not a new experience.
This blog is one that I wrote more than three years ago about my Mum’s eldest sister, my Aunty Joan. She passed away at that time and these are some of the memories that came up for me.
I was always a little scared of Aunty Joan. She had seven children and it was always chaos at her house, so (of course) I loved going down there. It was always full of people, there was always lots of noise and there were always things going on. They also lived right opposite the local church so Sunday morning at 6.30, the bells would start ringing. All the family slept right through it and I could never figure out how they managed it.
Cat (sitting outside the window opposite where I'm working): meow (rough translation: please let me in)
Me: [ignores cat] ...
Cat edges closer to the window, tries to make self look more appealing: meow (rough translation: I'm still here, waiting patiently to come in)
Me: [tries to stay engrossed in my work]…
Cat starts to look irritated: MEOW
Me: … but thinks “Piss off, cat”
Cat gets on hind legs and scratches at window
Two days ago…
“I’ve sent my Aunty J a birthday card,” I said to my dad, “But I realised after I sent the card that I’ve put the wrong age on it: I thought she was 70 but it says on her Facebook profile that she’s 74, so this will be her 75th. I don’t think she’ll mind about getting a 70th card anyway, at least I assumed she was younger than she is, so all good.”
In true Dad style, my father responds with “Oh no, you’re not getting away with that! I’m going to make sure she minds; I’ll stir things with her until she does!”
I’m quite sure my father could hear me rolling my eyes even though he was 12,000 miles away and we were talking via text message.
I sent a message to my dad, asking how the party went.
I had to go for a root canal earlier this week. My sixth. The dentist tells me that the two biggest causes of cracked teeth (which lead to people needing a root canal) are kids and horses. Ooh look: four kids and a lifetime of riding horses. My teeth are screwed. And if you're wondering how kids can damage your teeth, then you haven't fed many babies; you're holding the baby post feed, gently trying to bring up whatever air they managed to swallow while drinking their milk and suddenly they decide to launch themselves backwards, straight into the side of your face. Maybe there was just too much air waiting to come out, I dunno, but when a baby launches themselves backwards, you'd better get out of the way or your cheekbone gets broken. As do your teeth.
Hi! I’m Karen O’Connor, hormonally-challenged, menopausal writer, blogger, self-confessed sarcasm enthusiast, mother of 4, wife of 30 years, destroyer of souls... no, wait, that's just in the mornings...
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