Poor Stevie

Archive of ‘family’ category

Happy nude year

At 12.01am on January 1, 2014, as people outside cheered and turned up music and let off crackers, I was changing a very dirty nappy. One of those up-to-the-ears-all-up-the-back poops, that you cannot believe came from something so beautiful and teensy and precious. It turned out it was an apt way to start a year that was a bit of a shit, if I’m honest.

Usually, I do a year in review by looking back at my diary entries for the year. But reading my diary was far too upsetting and boring, so I thought I would take my sister Julia’s Year in Review questionnaire thingy.

My sister Julia’s Year in Review questionnaire thingy

1.What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?

I became a ‘working mother’. I also ate a cronut.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I kept most of them. We moved out of our horrible hot granny flat in Balmain, I got a haircut, I got out and made some new friends, I am in the process of fixing my pelvis that got f-ed up when a baby passed through it, I read more.

A few of my goals for 2015 are: re-learn how to sew, make a complicated birthday cake for someone, go to the theatre, and make sure I mark special occasions.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes, my sister Mary had the darling Alexandra.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No. So, that was nice.

5. What countries did you visit?

Country NSW. That place is the bomb. Wide open spaces, excellent cakes, the best op-shops, old school friends, animals, brilliant melting moments and surprisingly fresh sushi.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

Patience. Sleep. Fashion.

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

April 26. We moved house that day and it was the greatest. July 21. That’s when I went back to work and the girl child went to daycare. August 26. The day we ignored our 10th anniversary. September 21, the day my baby became a toddler.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Going back to work. Making a bad-ass batch of cinnamon scrolls.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Scratching the side of my mum’s car in the Orange City Centre carpark. I will never forget that awful, heart-sinking feeling when I heard the sound of metal and concrete making contact.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I kicked post-natal depression in its teeth. I’m still trying to fix a case of pubis symphysis, which has me hobbling like a pirate. I am wearing a sort of velcroed, elastic, grey girdle belt as I write! Oh,mama!

11. What was the best thing you bought?

A car. She’s royal blue and we named her Barbara Bush.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

J-man, for being a boss legend. My sisters and mum and dad, for supporting me during the early months of motherhood. The girl child, for being ever so sweet.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled?

The woman who lost it at a checkout chick in KMart when she found out their selfie sticks were sold out two days before Christmas. And after a year like 2014, so, so many others.

14. Where did most of your money go?

To childcare. And the motor vehicle industry.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Seeing Nine Inch Nails and Queens of the Stone Age. The baby was about six months old, and still not sleeping very well, and I had been feeling pretty flat. I remember coming home after the show and telling J-man that I felt alive again.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?

Nominal, by #1 Dads.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?

a) HAPPIER. SO MUCH HAPPIER.

b) Same.

c) Poorer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Relaxing and being creative. I pretty much never did those things.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Fighting and looking at my phone. I waste so much time on my stupid, fucking phone. Maybe a new year’s resolution should be setting fire to my phone.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

Eating. Swimming. Watching an enormous thunderstorm.

21. Did you fall in love in 2014?

No. But I didn’t fall out of love.

22. What was your favourite TV program?

There were so many good ones this year. Orange is the New Black, Veep, True Detective, and Chelsea Peretti’s comedy special on Netflix, One of the Greats.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No. My hate levels remain very critical, but stable

24. What was the best book you read?

This House of Grief, by Helen Garner.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Young Fathers. Palms.

26. What did you want and get?

A baby who occasionally sleeps through the night. A box of Haigh’s truffles. A new house. A lot of time in the country. Some wonderful new friends.

27. What did you want and not get?

A holiday.

28. What was your favourite film of this year?

Ah, man. This is a mean question to ask the mother of a young child. I really liked Gone Girl and was particularly chuffed to have seen Ben Affleck’s man jewels.

29. What one thing made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Having an interesting job.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?

Youngish mumish, watermelon print enthusiast.

31. What kept you sane?

Afternoon walks in Rozelle, especially after discovering Bellingen Gelato and their mint-choc-chip. It is spiked with real peppermint essence and is filled with a generous amount of dark chocolate shavings. PUT IT IN MY MOUTH IMMEDIATELY.   

32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Ira Glass. Justice Lucy McCallum. Justice Geoffrey Bellew.

33. What political issue stirred you the most?

Ah, man. This year made me mad in my bones. Gender equality. Racial equality. All of the equalities. Climate change. Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers. Changes to the welfare system.

34. Who did you miss?

My mum. 300 kilometres may as well be 30,000 kilometres sometimes.   

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.

I’m still learning how to live in the moment. Not in the idiot-girl-in-your-university-dorm-inspirational-quote kind of way, but I need to just to look around every day, and be content with what I have.

36. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year

I got a man to stick it out
And make a home from a rented house
And we’ll collect the moments one by one
I guess that’s how the future’s done

How many acres how much light
Tucked in the woods and out of sight
Talk to the neighbours and tip my cap
On a little road barely on the map

vacay

When I left work to go on maternity leave, I thought I would never return to the same office, probably never know the same people, and generally be a very changed woman by the end of those 10 months, as if my whole life would disappear like Kevin Bacon in Hollow Man. But a month ago, I walked into the very same office, surrounded by the very same people, and aside from my weird, misshapen boobs hidden in my blouse, I was pretty much the same person. But returning to work did feel like a big milestone; the end of an era. So I thought I should write down a list of (sometimes contradictory) things I learnt while on maternity leave.

A list of (sometimes contradictory) things I learnt while on maternity leave:

– I am a very anxious person. There was not a day that went by that I didn’t worry about something. Why isn’t the baby sleeping? Why is the baby sleeping so much? Why isn’t the baby eating? Why is the baby eating so much? Am I still interesting? Will our money last? Have I started wearing mum clothes? Am I eating too much sugar? Do the women at mothers’ group think I’m a dick? Should we move house? Do I have a hole in my tooth? Does my house smell weird? Do I smell weird? Will I ever have fun again? Is that a spider in the curtains? And over and over with the worrying. Sheesh. I really want past Steph to give maternity leave Steph a huge, metaphorical toke on a bucket bong.

– Weirdly, I am a pretty relaxed mum compared to others. It is interesting spending time with other first-time mothers and listening to all the concerns everyone has – sleeping, eating, allergies, crawling, teething, choking, electrocution and boyfriends on motorbikes. At the end of the conversation, I quite often look around to find CC nude, covered in dirt, eating a large stick and playing chicken in traffic.

– I love being home. There are some rad parents out there who put their babies in infant fanny packs and venture out into the world like normal humans. Much to J-man’s chagrin, having a baby has made me want to stay home more than ever. CC is actually a pretty good baby when we’re out. Just now we went to a wedding where she did nothing but bat her eyelashes and smile and coo for an hour. But only I know that at the hour and five minute mark she turns into a drooling, sharting, crying, writhing, wriggling massacre of baby emotions. That doesn’t sound like a party to me, it sounds like work. So home, where our beds, fridge and TV are, is the best place to be.

– I don’t want to live in Sydney forever. I am pretty convinced that all the things that make parenting harder are related to city living. I like to imagine life with a child if I worked 9-5, weekdays, if our daycare was only a few blocks away from our offices, if our offices were only a short drive from home, if our home was not rented, if there was a backyard for playing and jumping through sprinklers, if there was a dog. None of that is possible in Sydney, with two people who work in arts/media. There is a lot to love about Sydney – interesting jobs, interesting people, good food, excellent beer – but I’m not sure it’s enough to keep my family here. Plus, I don’t want CC to be like those city kids I met at uni who asked me if I’d ever seen the ocean.

– I am starting to not care. You know how Kim Kardashian said Kanye West taught her not to make time for bullshit anymore? Clearly, I have a little bit of time for bullshit, because I know that terrible piece of celebrity trivia, but I have less time for it these days. Someone said something shitty on Twitter? Don’t care. A politician misspoke? Don’t care. Something I like is no longer cool? Don’t care. Office politics? Don’t care. Someone honked their horn at my terrible driving? Don’t care. It’s true what those cards at KMart say – having a baby does make you realise what really matters: family, friends, happiness and donuts. (Also, human rights, obviously).

 

four walls

Recently recounting getting our nephew to sleep while he stayed over.

Me: I don’t mind cuddling him during the tantrums. Because crying actually makes you really exhausted. You know, like when you cry yourself to sleep?

Him: I’ve never done that.

Me … Me neither.

over the wake

I went water skiing for the first time in about a decade on the weekend. Most of the muscles in my body still hurt. I’m pretty sure the ear muscles of people who have been around me for the last three days are also hurting from all the whingeing-slash-bragging I’ve been doing.

J-man and I went to visit my parents in Orange and dad took us all to Carcoar Dam for a day on the boat. We all had a go on the biscuit – which I believe in other circles is called a “tube” – and Dad was the only one to fall off. He says he jumped off when J-man tried to take him on an s-bend, we say he fell off as a result of J-man’s trickery at the helm.

I really wanted to have a go at water skiing, something I learnt to do in late primary school and early high school, but I wasn’t sure I could still do it. I slipped into my wetsuit (after checking it for spiders) and had trouble putting on the heavy skis in the water (after checking them for spiders). I wanted to give up until J-man said “You’re struggling even putting on the skis, do you think you’re fit enough to waterski?” That was it. It took a few goes getting up and out of the water, so each time dad would drive the boat around to pick me up I would say to myself “You can do this Steve. Show J-man who’s boss”. And then I did. And I skied up and over the wake and back again, even doing a few mini jumps and taking the time out to ski one-handed so I could flip J-man the bird.

Mum told me it was all about muscle memory, but as I sailed across the glassy water I was also reminded of when I first learnt to ski. The family of a primary school friend taught me by patiently dragging me behind their orange boat called Popeye. My friend would spoon me in the water and put her feet on the skis to hold them up. I still have scars on my wrists that mark the first time I made it out of the water, after first banging my arms on the sharp sides of old wooden skis.

I would spend weekends with her family at the dams around Orange quite a lot towards the end of primary school and in the early years of high school. Her family was so different from mine. I remember her dad singing “Every night, every day, every possible way, we will do it, yeah yeah” on a trip home once. When I repeated the tune to my dad, he was less than impressed and he had to explain its meaning to me. My friend and her sister were huge belly-laughers, who wildly jumped off pontoons and loved being thrown off the biscuit into the water. They seemed fearless. Their family also ate a lot of stuff we were never allowed to – her mum made a Barbie pool cake for one of her early birthdays and microwaved McDonald’s she had picked up from town.  The girls were allowed to read the sealed sections of Dolly and Girlfriend out in the open. Later in high school, my friend was allowed to have parties in a spare paddock of the family’s property. It was out there, in the dewy grass under a clear winter sky, where I learnt an important lesson: Always bundle up your clothes and take them with you on a nudie run.

None of this really has a point, except that I’m so grateful to have had a bare foot, bike riding, paddock bashing, water skiing childhood.

And that I love proving J-man wrong.

 

you make my heart sing

I dread the day when I have to tell my own children I don’t love them as much as I love my nephew, V-man. I guess I’ll have to find the appropriate moment – like when I leave them in a basket amongst the reeds. I’m sure community services will understand when I use this video as a defence.

I spent Saturday looking after the little man and we had a blast. There was a beach trip, naps, story time and a little bit of crying for his mummy and daddy. So a lot like my honeymoon, really.

This was our Saturday schedule:

0930 – Vincent turns up clinging to the necks of Mary and Andrew and eyeing me suspiciously. They leave and he cries and cries. Our fridge is covered in hilarious things that he loves like dog magnets, photos from Taronga Zoo and polaroids of J-man and I when we were young and in love. When he sees a photo of a mountain goat he calms down and, in between sobs, points to it and says “dog”. I tell him that’s no way to speak about his Aunty Julia.

1015 – We turn on Rage to distract V-man from the heartbreak of being an orphan for a day. Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation comes on and the baby starts dancing. Cute!

1115 – We all get ready to go to Balmoral Beach. On the bus ride I start singing: “We’re going to the beach! We’re going to the beach!” Then, just like Biggie and 2Pac, we get a little call and response going. Aunty Steve: “We’re going to the beach! We’re going to the beach! Where are we going?” V-man (with arms raised): “The beeesch”.

1130 – Turns out the baby hates the beach. He likes being dunked in the water OK, but he hates the sand and starts grizzling and pointing to the bus stop about 30 seconds after we arrive. Man, kids do not know how to party. Soon he gets so sad I decide to take him to the grass area, where he starts to howl and howl. It’s really quite heartbreaking until two little kids with bags of popcorn come up and say: “Why is he sad? Does he want some popcorn?”. V-man takes the popcorn and stops crying. AND MY COLD, DEAD HEART COMES OUT OF MY EYES IN THE FORM OF FAIRY TEARS.

1145 – J-man buys us colas and V-man a fruit juice. V starts crying again and becomes very clingy to just me. I ask J-man whether he thinks he should put his shirt on to stop scaring the baby. J-man says I am crazy. I’m pretty sure it’s a legitimate concern.

1215 – We realise that V-man wants nothing more than to leave. So rather than take him back to the sand to collect our stuff, V and I sit on a bench while J-man packs us up. I hold him and point out a little kayak to him. I tell him it’s like a row boat and start singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and he grins from ear to ear. Every time I stop singing he says: “ro-ro?” to prompt me to start again. My hipster reputation lies in tatters.

1230 – We get on the bus and almost immediately V-man starts to snore in my arms. I have some trouble finding a button to push to signal our stop. This is when I realise that all those mothers who go on and on and on about people being jerks are right. All these people just stare at me while I struggle with a beach bag, a sleeping kid and a video game-playing husband. We miss our stop and I blame humanity. Humanity and those damn selfish childless women.

1315 – I hope V-man will keep sleeping for a while, so Aunty Steve can catch up on the important business of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. But he wakes up with a snap as soon as we get home and says “ro-ro?”

1400 – We play with the phone, the remote control, the PlayStation control, the fridge magnets, the button on the TV, the handle on the suitcase table and carefully examine the knob on the drawer of our phone table. It’s exhilarating. We play a really great (read: predictable) game of chasies. J-man has a couple of friends come over and V-man hides behind my legs. I put on my playsuit especially to go to the playground and I show V-man how slippery dips are done.

1500 – I carry V-man a couple of blocks to get a lemonade icy pole and we share it in our courtyard. I don’t know if he’s had an ice block before, but it seems like a huge novelty. His eyes get all wide, he goes “ooooh” when I unwrap it and it’s obvious the cold sensation is new and weird to him. My land lady is in the courtyard doing some washing and hangs a little stuffed dog up on the line by its ears. I get a bit worried V-man will be upset, but he says “dog” and my land lady falls for his charm and gives it to him to keep. Inside, he throws it on the ground over and over again. Baby hates fake dogs. I say that is no way to treat his Aunty Julia.

1545 –  I have the ingenious idea to share a mint slice biscuit with him on the couch. Yeah, great idea idiot. Babies get stuff everywhere. Within five minutes there is chocolate on the couch, on his clothes, through his hair, on his hat and all over my soul. I clean him up and take him downstairs to put his hat in the washing machine. And I scar the kid for life. It turns out his hat is kind of his security blanket, so seeing it locked into a big noisy watery box is the end of the world. We go back inside and he throws himself on the floor in sadness. Just like I did when J-man washed a blue sock with my new white singlet top in Holland. No, really – there may have been public yelling and throwing of things. Aw, the little man takes after me.

1600 – Everything is OK once we read Where The Wild Things Are and he roars his terrible roar.

1601 – The exact moment when my lady mechanics ache for a baby. Get it together J-man! Just keep your damn shirt on.

vale

A couple of weeks ago I visited my grandmother Mamie in her bright room at a nursing home near Newcastle. She was bedridden after a stroke six months ago. Sitting up in bed with her hair freshly washed and bouffant, she asked me to open the curtains so she could look out onto a garden as she dozed. That afternoon, with my mum, uncle and two aunts, we sat around her chatting. I stroked her hair, held her hand and cleaned her nails for her. As we all finally left for the afternoon, she said: “Abyssinia Samoa”. I didn’t understand at first, but mum translated the 1940s-style play on words for me as “I’ll be seeing you some more”. As I left the room I looked back in to see the others saying goodbye and, with her face left almost expressionless by the effects of the stroke, her eyes twinkled back at them.

My final visit to her perfectly summed up the Mamie I loved and the woman I hope to emulate.

Her shiny ebony hair dotted with a trim of bright silver was the final hint of her glamour. I never thought she dressed like an old woman; she wore bright blouses, red lipstick and Chanel perfume. She would wear beautiful, delicate rings on her olive-skinned hands.

Her request to open the curtains to look at the garden was kind of symbolic. She managed to take pleasure in the smallest of things and was always sunny and positive. Mamie would often loudly give thanks for everything around her – the music, the view, a vase of flowers, a friend who had sent her a card, a good article in the paper, an excellent cup of tea, a delicious chocolate.

Her silly joke to me was also pretty typical. She had a cheeky sense of humour and would have a real belly laugh at jokes, with her head tilted right back and her hands gripping the couch cushions. When she got a bit tipsy from her nightly scotch or a couple of glasses of wine, her cheeks would go red and the jokes would get as close to dirty as she could muster.

Her twinkling eyes were something she saved for people she loved. She would twinkle for her children, her grandchildren, her beloved sisters, her friends and, in the end, her loyal carers, and even her pharmacist. She had a habit of referring to everyday people as “my friend” because she was social butterfly, constantly seeking out good company. Everyone who ever got to know her well got the privilege of her twinkle.

Even though that afternoon was my final moment with her, I will also always remember the years when she was able to play with us in the surf, climb rocks, collect shells, indulge herself and us at the David Jones Food Hall or makeup department, take us to concerts at the Opera House, dance around the house to our choice of music, play imaginary games with us and chat for hours on the phone, often about her world travels and childhood.

Lots of people look underwhelmed when you say you’ve lost a grandparent. For some, I think it goes hand in hand with “I have a cold” or “the dog ate my homework”. But my sisters and I were fortunate enough to build real, loving, long-lasting relationships with each of our grandparents to the point where I felt they were an extra set of parents.

I’m not sure I’m doing Mamie justice. I think my sister Julia did it much better, so did my sister Mary.

Goodbye, darling.

50 foot queenie

I read so many crappy columns written by women about why they wanted to watch the royal wedding, despite being feminists in favour of a republic. I read things like “All girls secretly love weddings!” “All girls secretly love romance!” “All girls secretly want to be princesses!”. Well, it turns out I must be a big ol’ man – one of those unfortunate ones born with their junk on the inside – because I don’t secretly love any of that.

Sure, I look at a lot of wedding photos, but that’s only because it’s so satisfying to see what my high school enemies are up to. Quite often their weddings involve XXXX Gold, a cavalcade of Holden Commodores and a child who does not have the same skin colour as its father. I don’t particularly enjoy romance. Look up the phrase “dead inside” in the dictionary and you’ll find a picture of me. Frowning. And I could never be a princess because I think they gave the title Duchess of Potato Bake to Fergie.

So here’s where it gets real. Some people love heroin, others like to binge drink, but my dangerous and unpopular vice is a love of all things royal family. And, as I’m sure Prince Harry would say, if you don’t like it you can suck it.

To change gears here a little, I think my fascination comes from my beloved paternal grandmother, Corelly. I cannot describe how cool my grandparents’ house was to visit as a little kid. There was an orchard to run around in; a silver bowl filled with sugar cubes to suck on while hiding from adults behind a couch; tins of home-cooked treats; honey on toast cut into soliders every morning; a freezer full of choc-coated ice creams; rooms with spacemen and soldier wallpaper; a cupboard full of old, weird books and a vintage telephone; a ride-on lawnmower; a ping pong table; a sheepskin rug to tiptoe on; a dresser full of beads and costume jewellery; a cappuccino maker used to make cups of froth; a giant organ to learn Beatles songs on; a long hallway to run up and down and a scary staircase to lock your siblings/cousins in. When I was old enough to read, I started spending a lot of time flipping through my grandmother’s stash of Woman’s Day, New Idea and Women’s Weekly. Nan totally loved the royal family and it was something I felt I could bond with her over as a primary school girl. Princess Diana died on the day of my confirmation and I remember hearing the news on the radio as I drove home with Dad, feeling strongly for the first time like I was living in a historic day. On the day of her funeral, I was sleeping over at a friends’ house and her mum made us sit and watch while she cried on the couch. Around the same time, Mum and I would spend Sundays watching a dramatic series about Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson as we snacked on salty chick peas. As I got older, my interest in the royal family was also an easy way to learn about different periods of history. My fascination with King George III and his mysterious purple wee informed my knowledge of the Georgian era (and wee!). Edward and dirty old Mrs Simpson helped me get interested in learning about the lead-up to World War II. One of my favourite books is The Royal Book of Lists, which is a collection of trivia about which kings died of syphilis (King Henry VIII and King Edward VI) and which royals were related (all of them).

So it was only natural that I wanted to watch the royal wedding, despite being a bit of a femmo and a republican (as in, the go-away-royal-family kind). There was little to no cooing over the dress, the kiss or the fact that she was becoming a princess. No indeed, I was dressed as King Edward VIII, got totally sloshed on Pimm’s and made a lot of royal dick jokes. And as Prince Charles would say: “Oh God, I’ll just live inside your trousers or something”.

sonny boy

The first time I held my new little nephew, I almost puked. It was certainly not the reaction I expected.

First of all, I’d had a looong day at work that involved no lunch. Also, I was really nervous about meeting little Vincent for the first time. I sometimes get nervous about meeting new people because I can be a bit shy. The kid was four hours old and naked when I met him, so I kind of had the upper hand. Then, the smell of the hospital really got to me.  Also, I guess I was kind of emotional. You know, new baby, new chapter and COMING TO TERMS WITH THE FACT I’M NO LONGER THE BABY OF THE FAMILY all that.

So, when someone put him gently into my arms for the first time, my vision went funny, I could feel the blood draining from my face and the morning’s toast crawling back up my throat. All I could think about was how I would never, ever be forgiven for puking all over his angelic face. My kindly brother-in-law Andrew, the father of the boy child, took me to another room where I promptly sat on the toilet with my pants on and cried.  I cried because I COULDN’T BELIEVE NO ONE WAS PAYING ATTENTION TO ME of the threat of vomiting. Even at the age of 23, when that feeling comes on all I want is my mum to clasp her hands under my mouth and catch the stomach shower.

Five days later, when the new little family were safely at home, I went to visit. Our second meeting was just as successful:

And then even more successful:

It’s clear he’s going to hold it against me for the rest of my life.

For real homes, Vincent Eriks is the sweetest little baby going around. He seems very easy-going, content and curious and he’s getting so much love from his very proud mum and dad. Sigh!

it’s a wonderful life

I pretty much write the same blog post each year around Christmas time. I’m thinking about getting ‘I (heart) Christmas’ tattooed on my forehead.

But just now I was out on my deck, eating fish in a box and a bowl of salad, looking up at the gum trees and trying to pinpoint exactly what it is I like about the festive season. Sure, there’s the presents and the candy canes and the pancakes and the bacon and the chocolate and the afternoon nap and the seafood and the dinner and the wine and the presents and the tree and the stockings and the cute kids and the bon bons and the spicy nuts and the carols and the classic movies and the excitement of Christmas Eve and the awesome teevee specials and the holidays and the twinkly lights and the cicadas and the jokes and the conversations and the presents.

All of that is amazing.

But I think what I really love about Christmas is giving. I know, gag. Send me to the Oprah show because sisters, I believe in the gift of giving. I just really, really get a kick out of getting people things they really want, or really like or that will remind them of something they used to have or that’s just plain old kick ass. Even if the receiver opens up my gift and gives a weak smile before thanking me – like the year I gave my Dad a framed, signed picture of myself – it’s still satisfying to know I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about someone else.

For real, that’s what I love about it. That for a whole bunch of days and weeks before Christmas, I’m thinking about other people. I’m finally distracted from all my stupid thoughts about myself like, “Oh my God, why is that woman staring at me. I applied my dark eye shadow as blush didn’t I?”, or “I can’t believe I just bid farewell to a bunch of female colleagues by saying ‘bye guys!’, because they’re definitely not guys”, or “Man, I love this song. I wonder what my biceps would look like if I was a drummer”, or “Hmm, that was a weird feeling in my stomach. I wonder if I have a tape worm. Hey, I heard you could lure those out with milk. Just like Santa Claus!” God, it gets boring hanging out with myself.

Anyway here’s some things I’ve been doing in this beautiful month of December:

Ah, the infamous stick tree! Joel and I decided we’re going to keep up the tradition of decorating sticks for the rest of our lives. We figured stick hunting would be seriously cool for any future pugs/kids we have. And here’s a tip: the best sticks are always found near the Hare Krishna building.

Here’s a nice addition to our tree, thanks to Jillberry – the one who passed on the Christmas spirit to me. She who once saw an NRMA truck during a drive to look at houses decked out with lights and squealed: “Ooooh, twinkly lights”.

Here’s our calendar and our advent calendar. We’ve had a few misADVENTures (clever!) this year. Including opening 13 instead of 3. It almost ruined Christmas. Almost.

Here’s my wrapping this year. I’m using newspaper, pretty ribbon and tags made from old Christmas cards. I made sure I used last weekend’s Spectrum rather than the news pages, so the receiver will be reading delightful fashion tips rather than about a circumcision that went terribly wrong in New Zealand.

Gah! I’m so excited. What I also like about the festive season is the whole idea of the new year unfolding in front of you. I’m into broad new years resolutions and for 2010 mine are: try harder and know more.

nine to five

This morning I was sitting in a doctor’s waiting room with a young dad and his daughter. She was super cute, wearing a pink outfit with shiny curly hair. But when her dad wouldn’t let her play with the water dispenser thing, it was all over. She collapsed face down on the carpet, kicked her feet and pounded her fists and screamed like a possessed rabies victim for a good 10 minutes. Far from annoyed, I wished it was acceptable for me – a 23-year-old woman – to join her.

You see, I’ve been on holidays for a bit over a week and I go back to work tonight. I woke up this morning feeling like I was Sean Penn in Dead Man Walking. I wanted a cigarette, I wanted Susan Sarandon and I wanted someone to explain to me how I, a convicted murderer, could access so much hair gel. Also I felt like it was my execution date, obviously.

One of the things I had planned to do in my holidays – apart from eat my body weight in nachos, sleep until noon and watch a lot of Oprah – was look through my childhood photos. And boy did I find some good ones:

Clearly I was born a very camp man. I don’t have a lot to say about this picture other than “Hello laaaadies”.

Oh my goodness that fringe looks like a piece of wholemeal Helga’s hanging from my forehead. This is me on a very exciting trip to the Zig Zag railway in the Blue Mountains. And I’m not even being sarcastic, it was exciting.  I used to wear this jumper to pre-school and, somehow, whenever I ate kiwi fruit it would end up covered in blue, red and yellow strands of wool. I also remember blaming this on my friend Hannah. She deserved it.

That’s me in the blue hat smoking the pipe. Not the old guy to the left, in case you were confused. The old fella is my grandpa, Da. He was a true character. We’re sitting on the verandah of my grandparents’ house on the Central Coast. It was the best house ever for kids – heaps of room, right near the beach, a packed sweetie jar and pretty sweet-ass grandparents. The pipe I’m smoking like a pro was one of those plastic ones filled with sherbet. They’ve probably outlawed them now along with fads, golliwogs and flammable pyjamas.

Here I am just casually relaxing in the garden. What a surprise to see you! You’d think I’d be ashamed of my unconventional layering – I know my dad sure kept his distance from me in public when I dressed like this. While I can see now I look a little bit like someone who might have a penchant for dreamcatchers and poor bathing habits, it was actually the beginning of my interest with experimenting with fashion and clothes. I got the singlets from a sale in Miss Shop, the green petticoat from a hippy-ish shop in Orange and I made the purple skirt underneath. While I’ve ditched sewing my own clothes – because I was utter crap, with no sign of improvement – I still raid sales like a truffle pig and find treasures in most unexpected places.

This is me at the beginning of year 12. I’d just cut off my waist-length hair in a moment of teenage heartbreak – a story that could actually be the script for a box office flop. You see, I’d started dating this weird dude who talked about nunchucks a lot (you can’t judge me, I was a teenager and there’s scientific evidence to show teenagers date losers obsessed with weapons because their brains aren’t fully formed yet. That’s right, I skim New Scientist magazine). A few weeks into our love affair he announced he was leaving town to join the Army. He said he would call and write and visit when he could. I was actually semi relieved because I wanted to nail the HSC and make like a shepherd and get the flock out of Orange. I got one letter which was a vague break up letter. Then I found out he’d been back in town to bone one of the predictable mingas in my year. Sigh! Anyway, it turns out I got a great haircut and he got to shoot stuff. Win/Win.

Here I am celebrating with a glass of champagne after finishing my last HSC exam. My last one was three unit English and by that time I had completely run out of puff. There was one subject in year 12 that I pretty much had to teach myself because the teacher was unaware of a fangled, crazy idea called a syllabus. It was months of unadulterated torture. There were panic attacks, tantrums and thoughts of driving myself off something very high into something very hard. I remember watching the final two minutes of that horrible period tick by on the clock in the exam hall, waiting for life to begin. It was the most glorious feeling ever.

This is the J-man and I in our second year of love. I think we were just coming out of the stage where people couldn’t bear to be around us. God, couples can be gross. I’m sorry to all we offended with our public saliva swapping, declarations of love and groping. Now we just settle for the good old train station/supermarket/party/pub spoon.