Renovator’s Dream

house 4

 

Renovating: Along with death and divorce it is touted as one of the most stressful things you can do. I think I agree. Here are some things I’ve learnt over the last 8 years of renovating our house:

  1. We survived. Like Stuart Diver, buried under 3,500 tonnes of rock and mud, we survived.
  2. We stayed married. And, no animals or humans were harmed in the making of this house. Just.
  3. Finishing is better than Christmas as a 4 year old.
  4. Communication: Building companies – please use this tool. It is more important than your nail gun – a gun which, when you finally turned up months late, I was perhaps tempted to see in a new light…
  5. Music: Builders, choose it wisely. Triple M is no good when there is enough banging going on already. Kyle Sandipants is banned. In fact, the best move is to ask ME what I want to listen to you sing to. And maybe the rest of the neighbourhood.
  6. If you turn up, I will give you unlimited tea and coffee and Tim Tams and the odd sausage sanga. If you don’t, I will serve you tears with a large dash of PMS.
  7. A good tradie is Heaven-sent. A bad one is quite sadly the joke of the building site.
  8. What you see on The Block is all a lie. Carpet Court will not lay your carpet in 48 hours because you are in a challenge. In fact, general rule of thumb to go by is that they like to cause a challenge, not help in one.
  9. If you want to start up an ethical swimming pool building company, you will be the world’s first, and, once word gets around, a multi-squillion gazillionaire.
  10. Choose nice people to work on your house wherever you can. They move in. You need to like them.
  11. Choose a paint colour and walk away. It will be fine. I’m sure “Dulux” means ‘Confuse the pants of you’ in some language. 
  12. Be black and white and brave in your conversations with everyone building your house. However, make sure you leave your tradie talk at home – it doesn’t work with, say, frail great aunt Nelly or the highly sensitive neighbour (and it’s likely your fault the neighbour is highly sensitive now anyway). house 6
  13. When you’re so buried in boxes you have to pole vault out of bed; when there are 10 different trades with difficult questions at your door at 6.45am and you’re in your dressing gown with the flu; when your kitchen ceilihouse 1ng leaks and bulges with rain water like a pregnant belly for months; when you have a set of gumboots outside every exit because you are surrounded by a mud moat, my advice is this: Finish one little thing. Paint the architrave in the laundry and close the door. When every single other part of your house has a bloke with his noise and dust in it, go into your laundry, sit on the floor and meditate with your gorgeous architrave. 
  14. Always say thank you (except maybe to pool builders – feel free to acquire a nail gun in this case). You may have waited 20 months for a roofer to show up, but when you sit in your kitchen in torrential rain and thunder and lightning, you will appreciate him. Building a house is no mean feat, it involves many coming together to meet your sometimes incredibly picky, individual wishes, and, they may not be able to sing, but I do believe they are proud of the work they do for you.  Plus, you want them to show up the next day.    
  1. And finally, try and enjoy it where you can. We loved finding old bits of newspaper in the walls, the pages of which were selling 1920’s Buicks. And one of the first Australian Women’s Weekly’s rolled up in the floor – amazing to think I would work for this magazine 40 years later. Restoring the original features of the house, like our hard wood French doors and a pressed metal ceiling, was an artistic endeavour, and are now thoroughly enjoyable to live with. Add your own flare and be courageous with it. It is a stressful time, but try and have a laugh with those blokes and your husband and kids while you’re all living through it, it creates good memories to go with your beautiful, finished new home.

 house 3

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Camp cramps

There are all sort of parents in this world, and you see them at the school camp drop off.

Those who are whooping their way out of that bag drop, punching the air and screaming “Look out silence, HERE I COME!”  They wave enthusiastically at a tinted window their child could be behind (but who would know), knowing everyone is going to love this little break.  As they smile kindly at a tearful mother and feel they should place a gentle arm around her shoulder, they are trying really hard to think as quietly as they can – “YES! SLEEP IN’S, WINE FOR DINNER, NO WEE ON THE TOILET SEAT, BED AT 6PM, AND NO SOCCER PRACTICE WOOHOO!!!”

There are those who are late for the bus – and they are the ones who are never, ever late, apart from this day. Somehow in the lead up, whilst packing for an 11 year old on a commando course (because we do that all the time),

commando outfit
“I think this outfit is perfect for a commando course”

trying to think of how to combat travel sickness in absentia, trying to teach them about the importance of a shower – with soap, or teeth brushing – at all, packing 5 lots of thermals in case it’s cold in Coffs Harbour, and then implementing the crash course in karate should anyone be mean to them, school camp for these parents is the final tug of the lace bringing everything unravelling. Nerves – 1, Mum – none.  They are running to roll call, they are sitting three abreast on the bag to try squaaaaash it in on top of 100 other suitcases, sleeping bags, pillows, back packs and giant teddy’s. They reach up a hand with a kiss on it to a disappearing cheek up the bus steps, and they say “I love you darling!” to the closing doors.  

Then there is me. We have been packed for weeks, so I didn’t have any callouts for new trakkies at 10pm last night – or that’s what I’m telling you, anyway.  We have had conversations, trying to be casual and not frightening, about safety – of friendships, of personal stuff, of health, and of looking after the precious person that is you, my child. We have talked about whether, because “Undies” is not on the packing list it means they are not needed.  We have worn in the “old shoes” we had to buy. We have discussed what you can eat if the bus stops at McDonalds (as all our parental fear-mongering about the place comes back to bite us on the bum).  And we have planted spy’s in Coffs Harbour with fresh fruit, vitamin C tablets, his bedtime teddy’s, a nice fluffy doonah and perhaps, just maybe, a getaway car.

I don’t take lightly to my child being away from me. For a week (yes, four days is a week). On the other side of the country. You are very well taking my heart right out of my chest and driving it away on Forest Coachlines.  

You are very well taking my heart right out of my chest and driving it away on Forest Coachlines.

I do know he’s going to have an amazing time. I do know this year 6 camp is the “coming of age” camp.  But am I ready for him to come of age? No. He is just fine as a not-teenager. So, bring him back. I can just see his beautiful face as he goes into the indigenous preschool with all the gorgeous little kids – I know already this bit will touch his gentle, gentle heart and change him for the absolute better. But he is the BEST already, so, bring him back.  I can hear him, as he rock climbs, bushwalks and surfs, laughing confidently with friends – a place he has worked hard to get to. He is confident now, so, bring him back.

Because until you bring him back, I am half a person here.

But I know if you do, he will be the half a person. I have to let him grow up. Little by little, I have to let him go.

Hip hip hooray #healthyhipsweek

When I was young, I would curse my hips because they wouldn’t make my legs and feet turn out like my amazingly beautiful ballet teacher. If they would only do their job then I would look just like her – despite the fact I had brown short hair, was a plumpa-lumpa and nothing like her 6 foot tall willowy goldilocks.

When I first entered high school, my hips were the place I used to roll my uniform skirt up and over, so that instead of the hem reaching that daggy spot mid-calf, it flew somewhere above-knee. Then, as beachgoing became the mid-teen activity of choice, I became increasingly interested finding and exposing my hip bones. Ultimately, I decided that there were none in there and continued on eating.

As I grew into 20-something, my hips became important in the right way they should be regarded – my physical health. The discovery of a back problem which would be my companion forever, meant more attention needed to be paid to my hips – keeping them straight, strong and stretched, meant I was giving my back the best opportunity to remain healthy for as long as possible.  

I became a married woman. And started yoga. The two were not related. Or maybe they were: My husband’s work took us to living in some weird and wonderful places, and we experienced some really challenging times.  In each place I did yoga for excercise. Time and again I would hear “our hips are the place we hold our fear, our emotional junk drawer, where we put emotions we don’t know how to handle”.hip replacement

Next: Babies. Pregnancy, hips widening, birth, lots of sitting and breastfeeding, and muscles relaxed to the point of being floppy – man, I was a good yogi. A happy hippy time.

Then my mum had an accident and shattered her hip. She had to suffer through a night of the most horrific pain I’ve ever witnessed, before being given some new jewellery – a metal hip ball and joint. A long recovery, and 10 years later the thought of using her hip normally still generates fear.

And another life hip event: A baby with a hip infection. Nasty old pneumococcal disease settled in our six month-old baby’s hip joint, eating it away. She is classified disabled, although right now you would never know to look at her skipping, cartwheeling and being the most beautiful ballerina she can be, much to my delight. She is a true miracle.  The time will come when her hip will get cranky and we will deal with that then. Operations will be soon. But for now, every day, I appreciate her special hip, as we call it, because it reminds me the body is a gift, to be looked after and appreciated for it’s capacity – with a ballet leap and a cartwheel while I can.

So cheers to Healthy Hips Week. Keep them healthy, keep them “junk free” and appreciate them for more than just a pair of hip bones in hiding.  

 

 

Missing Mother

Breaking News:  Reports of a possible missing person. 

A stay-at-home mother from Sydney’s Insular Peninsula appears to have disappeared. The missing mother is known as a woman who quietly and boringly got on with her life as a housewife and children’s Uber driver.  She was not known as social, being as she was mostly stuck in the kitchen and kitchen’s do not talk.  Nor was she known as adventurous – going to Coles was a big day out – and those close to her say that she likely may, or may not have, left of her own accord.

The missing mother was released from her cage – err, household, last Thursday.   She was sighted at Sydney Airport with a woman said to be an old friend from school.  The old friend was allegedly feeding the poor unsuspecting missing mother champagne at 8.30am.  It is not known if this friend is an accomplice, as she is also usually a mother at home, or if she is a suspect.

The missing mother and her friend were then seen at Auckland Airport, with yet another friend, who is a known policewoman, leaving the airport with a bottle of Tequila.  Kiwi’s, cops and tequila – it is not looking good.

It is believed the missing mother was planning to attend a wedding.  The word “Chenery” was overheard by witnesses on numerous occasions – detectives suspect this might be secret code for ‘Brewery’, which was the possible wedding venue, or it could be the bride’s name.  Despite the alleged wedding being full of cops and lawyers, detectives are not holding out much hope that law enforcement would prevail. They know their own kind too well.

Local fisherman, next to the wedding location, believe they spotted the missing mother, although personality descriptions do not match accurately.

mohawk-sideways-copy
Facial composite of the missing mother

  The missing mother’s family in Sydney said it would be very unlikely to be the same woman if she was seen dancing all night long and up on the stage pretending to be Salt n’ Peppa to the popular 80s song “Push It”.  The family also refute claims that the mother would put a fluorescent pink mohawk on sideways for something called a “photobooth”, accidentally or not. 

Nor would she ever be seen singing into love hearts on sticks, somewhat like a microphone, which the bride had painstakingly decorated her wedding venue with. Her husband said it was always, always, a wooden spoon or kitchen implement she sang into.  

There have been suspected sightings of the missing mother back in Sydney.  But the woman singing Whitney Houston while she baked, and dancing to Salt n’ Pepper while she vacuumed, did not resemble at all the drab woman who once stood in that apron in that spot, so those claims have been dismissed.  Other reports say this same all-singing-dancing  woman did not have a nightly glass of patience – err, wine – as the missing mother used too.  Justifications along the lines of a detox of gin,  tequila and other unremembered beverages, have also been dismissed.

The search continues.

 

Staging a #Fexit

I’ve staged a #Fexit.

That’s a Facebook exit.  Unlike the #Brexit I did not consult a whole country. I did however let my ‘friends’ know I was outta there, lest I miss something vital, like a baby, engagement, or self-tan gone hilariously wrong.  I asked them to pick up the good old dog and bone.

And I had several calls from my beautiful friends, God bless ‘em. All to see if I was alright. Staging a #Fexit has become a major concern, you see.

But there was no need for worry.  It was just time to be gone from the old FaceAche (wish I could claim this one but put your hands together for the ultimate wordsburger Ms Mari Budgewoi), for a little hiatus, a wee holiday.

Probably like everyone, there is a lot of my life that is mundane and boring. It is in those moments, whilst cutting the 65000th apple into a creative dodecahedron for lunchboxes, that I’d drop into FaceAche to look at other people’s non-boringness. But after a while I’d stopped seeing what I was scrolling through and was whizzing past a whole load of who knows what.

And it was making me feel far busier than I in fact was.  FaceAche sucks up nearly an hour of the average person’s day according to a recent New York Times article. “That’s more than any other leisure activity surveyed by the Bureau of Labour Statistics, with the exception of watching television programs and movies (an average per day of 2.8 hours). It’s more time than people spend reading (19 minutes); participating in sports or exercise (17 minutes); or social events (four minutes). It’s almost as much time as people spend eating and drinking (1.07 hours).”

More time than reading or exercising?  Well that’s not good.

If it adds up to that much time, don’t I have a better way to spend it?

But, like a smoker, I needed something to fill the space and occupy my hands where my habit once was.

So I looked up: “Is crochet or knitting easier for beginner?” Google told me crochet.

Google was wrong. crochet

Avoiding the temptation to inform the world of this momentous new knowledge on the FaceAche, I decided to defy the internet and try knitting. This is how that one ended up: 

knitting
Guess what you’re getting for Christmas

Much better.

Not only did I learn to knit, but I learnt that it’s reeeeally relaxing. Meditative, creative, and something you can do together – which face in phone is most definitely not. Yes, even the 11 and 9 year old boys wanted to do it and enjoyed it.

On my ##Fexit I found my brain space was a little clearer – which is fantastic for when you’re trying to be a creative type. It’s also fantastic when you have a lot of stuff in your head which needs to be organised or achieved – you do all this organising while you’re knitting and the achieving while you’re on your #Fexit, rather than when your head hits the pillow and should NOT be organising and achieving and keeping you awake.

On my #Fexit I feel like I’m on a holiday, not being connected all the time – you can put your feet up and stare at the view. I look at my children and husband rather than my phone – they look pretty good in fact. I now need to actually speak to my friends to find out exactly how closely their fake tan resembles Dictator Trump’s, or that their child got the Superstar Award this week. And I can hug someone in genuine congratulations in person, instead of clicking a Like button. I can choose what I want to investigate on the internet, not what’s fed to me.

Admittedly I’ve only been on my #Fexit for a couple of weeks. And in all honesty I haven’t staged a full #Fexit, I just took it off my phone. Because I still have a host of lovelies who live in other time zones that I need to check in on, and it would also mean having to ditch my blog page which I can never do!  However, just that little measure has given me back a real life, rather than the FaceAche one I seemed to be living.  I can highly recommend staging a #Fexit.

 

 

 

An unanswerable question

Cancer has been hanging on the edges of my life recently like a grim reaper smog. Five people have lost their fight in the last weeks, long before it should have been their time to say goodbye. Senseless, is the only word for it.

What, possibly, on this merry earth, can be good about cancer?

If a miracle doesn’t happen, then the good news is small – actually imperceptible. But maybe it is still present; found in the tiny intercostal muscles of life. 

Family and friends.  They come together.  They talk, cry, hug and laugh without restriction – because what is the point in fluffing about the issue when life and death are staring you bang in the face? They simply spend time, which in busy lives doesn’t happen as often as it should. They support; they may mend broken ties and hearts. If nothing else, they think about one another – even with no contact, there is heart in this. 

Strangers.  It begins with doctors, nurses, or one anaesthetist who threw out a meaningful line that stayed with your cancer patient to keep them strong. It moves into your community – help with the kids, meals on your doorstep, fund raising, prayers from the local church, a volunteer at the hospital, a sudden hug from a complete stranger who has found themselves in your world.  How far the reach of your patient, how much they are loved and how much you are loved.

Personally.  Strength – born of a love so great you would do anything. If you’re a survivor, you’ve had strength to fight to stay for your family.  If you’ve been strong for your loved one in their illness and passing, has this, without anyone knowing, showed them you will be resilient so they can go in peace?  There is also strength in the legacy: Why wouldn’t you follow the simple procedures science has given us to avoid cancer? Why wouldn’t you live your life fully and with heart, be healthy and giving, and know what you have is precious? 

The tiny, imperceptible goodness in cancer seems to me to be that it shows us the most important thing is to love one another.  As much as you can.

cancer

 

 

 

 

My crappy new look

The other week I pictured myself stepping back into the glamorous, highly strung world of fashion, as a fashion editor sitting in the front row at Australian Fashion Week. Result: Grey roots, a pink shell tracksuit and lack of understanding of the uses for handcuffs, did not serve me well. 

So I decided to stick to my mission to be a Fabulous Authoress. Your outfit and hair do not matter because you’re always holed up at home, and as for the uses of handcuffs – I can make that all up in my next book.

But every now and then the Fabulous Authoress type must extend her nimble digits and leave the house to mingle with other writerly types.  Lucky for me, the Sydney Writers Festival was on the week after Fashion Week. So I decided to take my crumpled style ego, don whatever was comfortable and warm, scarf my roots and toddle out to all of Sydney’s Pier’s to see how I fit in.

Turns out, the saying that everyone has a book in them, is true: 

colourfuloutfit3.jpg
Be careful who you sit next to

There were all makes and models of humans at this event. In contrast to the all-black, praying mantis’ of the week before, this event was bursting with colour – all on the one body, most of the time.

There were older couples, young grungy students, well-dressed women, and street-cred blokes.  There were young mums with babies on their front, some who looked dressed for a wedding, and others who looked as if they’d just crawled out of a marathon Game of Thrones session.  Red hair, green hair, brown hair (I hope Dr Seuss was there) and grey which is the new blond.  They all had two things in common: bright, wacky eye glasses were on just about every face.  And, they love to drink champagne – I imagine Sydney Harbour had a few writerly piss-heads sloshing about in its waters at the end of that day.     

And me? 

I’d been sitting at home all week writing about toilets.  Yes, someone paid me to. In a lovely matching coincidence, that beast that is a tummy bug came to visit our house, which gave me endless opportunities to research my topic. “Curvaceous ceramic bowl, pure as the white of an angel… Top of the range is the “Wind Tunnel” with an extraction fan for all those memories left behind…. Recline, relax, the Leatherette seat is as comfortable as your Nick Scali lounge…”  I was buried in literal crap, and I looked like it too.

Creative genius at an all-time high, and (bypassing the handcuff trend) bleach-scented yellow rubber gloves my look, the day of the Festival arrived.  Sick myself now, my husband rolled me out of bed like a hot dog out of its bun, and sent me on my way. I think I was out of my dressing gown, but I can’t quite remember.

Of course, there is no crappy ending. I forgot I was sick, and suddenly stepped into my element – completely ensconced in the atmosphere, the brilliant authors I was listening to, in taking notes for my own books, and in feeling like I was a part of an industry, a group, some form of the working world which I usually think everyone else is participating in except me. A day of unadulterated inspiration, surrounded by an accepting, champagne-swilling crowd, who’ve all been there done that crap and now wear the wacky glasses to prove it.

I must get me a pair.

toilet glasses1
Do I fit in?