Saturday 30 May 2015

7 words

I've written before about my love for Kurt Vonnegut. I am amazed you can live through what he did and come out the other side a 'humanist' of such kind and generous proportions.

I won't repeat what I discussed in the Unusual Discourse on Love, but I was struck with the simplicity and remarkable truth of this quote, that I wanted to share again. In Jailbird, he says that a friend summed up what he's written several books about into seven words "Love may fail, but courtesy will prevail"

In all your interactions, but especially with those closest to you, treat them with the courtesy you would a stranger.

It's a very simple truth and yet more often than not, we treat the ones closest to us with the most indifference and ill-mannered emotion. We are careless with those we love most, for want of a better word.

See if that extra kindness makes a difference, and as you go about your day, make all your interactions make the other person's day a little brighter, from the barista to your husband (and especially your button pushing teen!!).

And so it goes.

Linking up with #BooknificentThursdays 

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Conversations with a Suitcase

I love an empty suitcase - it holds so much promise. You pack your expectations and excitement. You can be something completely different, for a little while. It's not intentional, it just seems to be that way. You pack for an exciting time, an adventure, an event, to explore.

We are 5, when we travel, and I have got packing for this family down to a case and a half. We have done many trips with hand luggage only. This is a great exercise if you want to learn how to travel light. We've done it so many times now, that I've managed to reduce what we take when we have the whopping 20 kilos a case.

I select four outfits, and a couple of evening ones. Those evening ones signify planning dinners out, romantic locations or a need to be more glamorous for some reason. I have clothes that I only ever seem to wear on holidays, backless shirts, maxidresses and dresses perfect for wearing into restaurants over swimmers.

When travelling to cold climates, I live in boots. I seem to be more formal in foreign cities. Just in case.

I pack games. We don't sit at home playing board games that often, but we never hit the road without a pack of Uno and the banangrams.

A suitcase is an empty vessel, waiting to hold your desired lifestyle. It seems odd, that after happily living this new way for a weekend or a few weeks, we just unpack it. We dismantle the dream and put it aside for a later date. When really, we should unpack it into our everyday life. It's all here, just waiting for us to embrace it.

Do you dress differently when you travel? Do you behave differently? Why do you think we save it for too small a part of our life?

Linking with #Convocoffee for Conversations with a suitcase

Monday 25 May 2015

Ships in the night

In a post about something else, Our Parallel Connection wrote "My hubby and I snuck out for a coffee and to catch up on our week we didn’t spend together." This struck a chord with me as it was exactly our weekend. My husband wasn't out carousing or even going to the gym. Our weekend was merely over taken by logistics.

Friday night saw me at a school function for one child, home for 40 minutes plonked on the couch watching tv with my partner before heading out to pick up the teen.
Saturday, my husband had to go into work, when he returned to take the other two kids out to lunch, I was already at a party with the third.
We both arrived home with ten minutes to spare before dinner guests arrived. They left and we, again, collapsed in front of the TV.
Sunday morning saw us race off for coffee with friends from out of town before heading to a family function for the rest of the day. While I had suggested we go to a movie on the Sunday night, by the time we got home and the kids sorted, we were just too tired.
As a result, we didn't really speak to each other all weekend, in fact, while we spent the whole weekend 'together', it felt like we didn't connect at all.

It's just part of family life, it's having three kids with their own social agendas and it's a symptom if you want to catch up with friends and family as well. It is, however, also dangerous territory to tread, as it can easily become your normal, and a slippery slope to unhappiness, or dissatisfaction.

Given this week is looking like shaping up into a similar situation - teen drive around tonight, partner off to State of Origin on Wednesday, I'm off to Canberra Thursday and so on, I'm sneaking into town to have lunch with him. Just the two of us.

Life with kids is busy. Add in work and any kind of social life, and it can become too full to manage. For some reason, it's the most important person in our lives that often loses out. Keeping that connection, or at least being mindful of what's happening, can be a small effort but ever so meaningful.

As I said before, it doesn't need to be lavish or a grand gesture. Just find a window of time to sit with them and talk. "There's no present like the time".

Do you make sure you spend time together?

Linking up with #KCACOLS

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

PS Since writing that, our lunch has gone kaput! A short deadline came in so I postponed it to next week so he wouldn't have unnecessary stress...ah! The best laid plans of mice and men....

Sunday 24 May 2015

Burgers & buns (the other type of buns)

The prompt for this week's confessions is strange diets. As all I need to do to lose weight is take Dr Rudi's advice and 'Eat Less!', I'm going off topic and talking burgers, which is food related so sort of counts.

There's been a number of 'Best Burger' lists floating round the ether, and without fail on the list is a certain establishment that is totally the Emperor's New Clothes. Every time I see it, I want to shout 'Are you on the gear? Have you eaten there?'. I have no idea why everyone loves it so much. We did go fairly soon after opening, lured by the big reviews abounding. It was four thumbs down from our group, and I've never returned.
It's often thrown into conversations as a place to go and I bite my tongue politely but I'm sure bewilderment is on my face.

So, I am ignoring the Best Burger lists (though I have noted a number of joints I really must visit to try their fare) and am starting my own - in no particular order:

The Truffle Burger at Vine. If you go Friday lunch, it's only $15 with an Asahi & chips - pretty, pretty good!
Burger Project - easy on the wallet and Rockpool team tasty.
Brodburger - absolutely loved this place. You do have to drive to Canberra but definitely worth a visit. Fabuloso!

Given my lack of dieting interest, and my keen enthusiasm for burgers, I would like to give a special shout out to Kim Kardashian for making the keister fashionable...

Which burger joints would you add to the list?

Linking on Friday with Things I know...

Sunday 17 May 2015

Close up #Haunted2015

One building provided all of these! (and no doubt a multi-million dollar property - Sydney is so nuts!) Evidently still not bored, so feel free to join in with me!

Linking up with #WeekendInBlackandWhite 

Saturday 16 May 2015

Don't be scared of the big, bad Naplan

I have seen more tears and public humiliation at the Sports and Swimming Carnivals (My heart literally breaks watching those kids that can't swim the distance) than I have ever seen for Naplan. If NAPLAN is framed correctly, the only stress is getting to school on time and having the right 2HB pencil.  I am waiting for the uproar to ban those carnivals because they're too stressful and make a lot of kids feel really bad about themselves, anyone with a kid that always comes last or never gets a ribbon knows how stressful the carnival can be. It's weird that we only seem to have this attitude about NAPLAN.
I have done some reading since (Beautiful Failures) that is quite anti Naplan, and while I in part agree, I still think it's what we the parents do with NAPLAN that makes it bad, and that the theory behind it is fine.

Last week, I saw a number of 'Dear Students, Naplan can't measure how wonderful you are' kind of posts. And yes, it can't. But neither can school or the HSC. So why have we magnified NAPLAN into a big bad wolf of injustice? I agree it doesn't measure which kid had breakfast or not, but neither does anything else, so how that came into the equation is beyond me.

It's not the government or even school's fault. It's us parents. We've become so fearful of failure and disappointment for our children. We've created a new monster, and like everything else, our children will suffer for it.

If everything in your school life leads to an exams (the HSC), then do a tonne of exams so you don’t get nervous, make them just another thing you do at school. There's no stress associated with tests unless we create it. This is proof alone in the High Schoolers reaction to NAPLAN. Their results of NAPLAN mean nothing at all to them (they're not used to get you into a High School or any special class), and as a result, I reminded three high schoolers on Monday night that they had NAPLAN the next day, and all three had been completely oblivious to the fact. So it is the parents of the year three's and fifth graders who have magnified the meaning of a simple test.

If NAPLAN was used so the school could focus on the overall weaknesses, then NAPLAN is extraordinarily worthwhile. For example, if the maths average of the year was weak, then the school could implement maths groups to help bring up the rear guard or if they clearly need to work on literacy, then they could start a literacy lockdown sessions with the K-2 groups (so that the standard by year three is improving) and so on. Doing well or bad in NAPLAN is only useful if the results get used to improve the school teaching methods, otherwise, it is only useful for the parents to help focus on those weaker areas. Maybe they need a maths tutor, or to understand how to write a story? There is something beneficial in knowing where to help someone improve.

Getting tutored to do well in NAPLAN means you’ve wasted an opportunity to see what you need to focus on. If you are being tutored for this BASIC skills test, it means you are covering up any learning areas that need focus. They may learn how to do one or two particular problems, but not understand the process completely - they see it just for the test and not beyond it. NAPLAN is meant to highlight how you are progressing at the most basic levels.

Schools that do endless practices for NAPLAN are equally at fault. Do a couple so the kids know how to fill in the boxes, where to write their name or how to write a story but then leave it. It should be a snapshot of what they know and what they don't, and what needs to be the focus in teaching.

This is the big issue, where the parents have distorted all meaning from NAPLAN. They started to judge schools by their NAPLAN results. Judging a school by their NAPLAN results may mean you ignore the key issues of what the school offers. A lot of schools do well because they tell students not to sit NAPLAN to skew the figures. If you want to know what's bad for a child's self esteem, it's not trying and failing, it's being told they have no chance so don't even bother. That any parent would agree to this insulting turn of events is beyond me.

Conversely, your child may do exceptionally well in a school that doesn’t do that well overall, but it’s a smaller school and the close attention worked well for him but being small, it doesn't have the numbers to get a high average. Or maybe a school doesn't do well because that school was chosen for many kids because of the Reading Recovery programme, so because of a special support unit, the overall result may read badly, however, the improvement those kids made from Kindy to year 3 as a result of the programme means the school is actually EXCEPTIONAL in real individual terms.
It is the parents who have created this distortion, and decided it is not something useful and destroy the whole meaning of it. If you judge a school on it's NAPLAN results, you're not looking at your child and their individual needs. All decisions on school selection needs to look at the details, not the number at the end of the day.

The biggest disservice we have done to our children is telling them testing is wrong and unfair. If they can sit out this test, why not sit out the HSC? That's stressful, that doesn't take into account if you had breakfast, you may not do that well in it so don't bother turning up. At the youngest level, we've decided we should tell our children they can dismiss the relevance of tests.

I think parents around the country need to step up and start using their brains a little. In the same way a midyear report card is completely useless if it doesn't give you something to focus on improving for the rest of the year, NAPLAN is just a guideline. It's not saying you are hopeless and a failure, it's saying the child, or the school, needs to focus on improving these areas. Guess what, you have two years to do that before it's measured again, and that's a lot of time to work on improvement.

Don't ask the school why they didn't get a good NAPLAN result, ask the teachers what they will be doing to strengthen those areas. Isn't that a good thing? Naplan was never designed to rank schools, nor to rank children, so let's not create that outcome.

I know this is not a popular stance, so feel free to let me have it!

Monday 11 May 2015

Enjoy the singing.

I have a funeral today. I do not want to go, as it makes it all true, something I'd rather not believe. I've had a few too many of these lately. I am not happy that I seem to meet cancer and death with every phone call.

It seems a sad stage of life - gone are the engagements, weddings and babies. In comes the shattered lives, divorce and illness.

In Theroux's Hotel Honolulu he says "The only difference between a Hawaiian wedding and a Hawaiian funeral...was that there was one less person singing at the funeral".

This is life in it's simplest terms. So enjoy it while you are singing.

Sunday 10 May 2015

A little bit of history and a lot of compassion

I read a very horrible post last night, by a woman who didn't want to share Mother's Day with her Mother-in-law and that Mother's Day should be about her. I have no idea where this idea of Mother's Day has come from, though she assured me it was common. Interestingly, she was so strong in her beliefs, she wanted to remain anonymous. (So maybe the post was written purely to get a reaction, and in that case, congratulations, it did).

The UK Mothering Sunday was the fourth Sunday in lent, and workers away from home were encouraged to return to visit their mother (remember no one got weekends off back in the 1600's!). So it was a one day of the year kind of visit. A big deal for the Mother.

In the US, Anna Jarvis, who never had kids (but obviously had a Mother), was an activist and social worker. She believed that a day should be set aside to honour all mothers, living and dead, and 'pay tribute to the contributions made by them', to combat the 'growing negligent attitude of adult Americans towards their mothers'.

She actually went on to petition to have it cancelled once the commercialisation took over - she was very against the cards and chocolates. The point was to visit or write a letter. To put in effort to share time with your mother, the woman who had done so much for you.

So anonymous post writer, Mother's Day is about your Mother-in-law. It's about the adult child who no longer lives with his mother. Your husband should visit his mother. You should visit yours. Your husband doesn't need to celebrate you as a mother, your children do. They are living at home and probably still too young to really celebrate it in any way expressing genuine gratitude, and gifts don't really do that anyway.

Now is the time for your Mother-in-law's mother's day celebrations. Your time will come when your children are adults and have left home. Let's hope they don't marry someone as selfish as you.

Linking up for #FYBF and #WeekendWrapUp

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Don't leave it blank (or What I learnt from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty)

We watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty again last night (the Ben Stiller remake), and in the opening scene, there is a line where we discover Walter had failed to fill in his 'Been there, Done that' section of his dating profile.

No spoilers but Walter has been a 'responsible' working adult from a very young age.

Do we need to put our lives on hold in order to 'do the right thing'?

Last year, when my daughter started a new school, we decided to invite some of the new school parents to a party we were having. The party was for no reason, and a fancy dress spy party (ok, the reason was I'd been watching OSS:117 and got the idea into my head...reason enough for me to run with it). We didn't know them very well, but I figured you had to start somewhere. The party was large, and they were just a few extras added to our invited friends.

We're having another party, and at the new class dinner, I invited one of the women who hadn't already been invited. She responded with "Oh, you're the people who had the party last year. I heard about that. They didn't know what it meant, a party for the adults (like it was some porno key party??)". Taken aback I said "Is it that weird to have a party?" (Having not realised until now my invitation had marked me as a pervert). With no sadness she replied "Oh you know, you kind of put your life on hold and do things around the kids".

I agree, you do to an extent. But a party? Do you never go out without the kids, as a couple? Or even as a single, an individual person? Is it strange to do things as an adult? I understand cost of babysitting, or even finding a babysitter makes life difficult but that a party invitation would be met with trepidation and confusion? Ironic given we seem to throw quite lavish parties for small children (compared to what I grew up with).

I think Walter is not alone, in putting aside his dreams. We let life slip by as we busy ourselves with everyday demands.

We need to fill it up, so our been there, done that criteria is full and makes us happy. It doesn't mean we have to ignore our responsibilities, just not lose ourselves in them.

That is the quintessence of life.

Linking up with #OpenSlather

Sunday 3 May 2015

Embarrassing songs on my ipod...

Firstly, it needs to be said that I don't have an ipod. So that in itself is embarrassing. I'm a CD kinda gal. However, a lot of the music I listen to does not come on CD anymore, so there are some that sit on my phone and laptop in the iTunes.

The most embarrassing has got to be Fatman Scoop's Be Faithful. I am sure it is a joke song, and I find it hilarious yet uplifting song but I have been assured by someone far more youthful than me (my son), that it's not a joke and just a really, really stupid song.

You decide - tell me if you didn't feel the need to hoot'n'holla and raise your hands at some point in the song (or at least bounce a little).

 Warning: Even though it's animation, it's not appropriate for work (booty cam etc) and you do need to listen to the whole song for it to wear you down...totally unPC and yet so bad it's good....

Listening along with Sanch for #IMustConfess

Friday 1 May 2015


Imagine having the only house in the village deemed inhabitable.
Imagine having lost all you own and most of your friends and family.
Imagine watching the Aid trucks speed past, not stopping at your village.
Imagine people with nothing turning up to help, as they know not else what you do.
Imagine having no access to water. Or to clean water.

What happened in Nepal is beyond comprehension.
And yet it happened.

Massive work needs to be done, just to help the survivors survive.
It is a call on all humanity to chip in where possible.

Send money, or if you see the boxes in businesses, send clothing and blankets.

Medecins Sans Frontiers have teams on the ground and sending more - Donate here
Oxfam already had teams on the ground, working on poverty and other issues. These are now being redirected. Donate here
Redcross is working on rescue as well as helping the survivors. Donate here.

Or donate to another charity with people on the ground. Many are listed here.

There are plenty of fundraising events going on around town:

Lentil As Anything in Newtown has a fund raising dinner on the 6th of May.

Sydney Tafe is hosting a fundraiser on the 6th of May from 2pm.

The Oz Fuss Café and Restaurant at 121 Enmore Rd, Newtown has boxes out the front for donations (raising money and collecting clothes, shoes and blankets).

Bauhaus W at 163 Enmore Rd, Enmore are donating this week's takings to help the efforts in Nepal, so if you haven't been there yet, now's the time!

Please add fundraisers or places to donate in the comments.
Together, we can make a difference for people enduring what we can't imagine.

Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT (Sorry, I went a little early with this, but I wanted as much exposure as possible - please forgive me, I haven't forgotten the rules!)

Note I have no affiliation with any of the above charities or events. I just found their details on the net.

Linking with #WeeklyWrapUp and #TIK