I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Friday, October 29, 2010

DH Suckered Me Into It

'It's almost November," says DH, from his perch on the end of the couch. "That means you'll be blogging a lot, right? Isn't it NaBloPo-something or other?" "Why, yes, it is," says I. "But I'm not sure I'll do it...so much happening right now, I'm not sure how to fit blogging into it all as well."

"Oh," says DH with a bit of a resigned sigh. "Seems a shame to miss it, though."

(...and repeat. I'm pretty sure DH and I had this conversation about 3 times in the last couple of days.)

I once went to a seminar all about active listening, and the message we got was this - if you're having a conversation and it feels as though the other person just keeps repeating the same thing, it's probably because they don't feel as though they have been heard. You need to actively acknowledge what they've said so the conversation can then move forward.

So.

DH - do you see the shiny new NaBloPoMo 2010 logo over there on the right? That's me acknowledging that what you're really saying is, "Hey Wife, I really like reading your blog. You're funny and cute and beautiful, you're tall AND you can cook, and you can write pretty good blog posts which make me laugh and sometimes cry. Please won't you consider participating in NaBloPoMo?"

I heard you, and I am totally in for the November blogging month of madness...let's just hope it doesn't turn into NaBloPoWhatthehelldidIsignmyselfupfor.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stalker Boy Update

Since I know you are all dying to know what happened, I received this email from SB recently. (named changed to protect the totally insane...and by the way, spelling mistakes belong to Stalker Boy and not me.)

Hi Michelle,
How are you?
I saw the photo of the cake it was really good and all i recived from her for all i did was just a "thanks".But i did my level best Michelle and i remeber my promise and i am not going behind her anymore.i am going to leave everything in her hands now.The reason for my email is thanks a lot for promt delivery and for a really good cake.
Thanks & Regards,
Stalker Boy

I Lost My Sticky Tape

The following story has NO point to it. It's just another in a string of "only in my life does this crap happen" stories recounted for your general amusement.

__

I have this scar which has been annoying me. It's a keloid scar which is a fancy word for 'red and bumpy and ugly and damn irritating'. So I went to the doctor and he suggested I use BioOil to get the scar tor reduce down a bit. BioOil is this supposedly miracle product which reduces the look and feel of scars. I religiously rubbed that (very expensive) stuff on twice a day for almost 3 months. At the end of 3 months, I had very soft hands but a very ugly keloid scar which had not improved one iota.

So I went back to the doctor and he suggested using something called 'Ciba Care' - which according to him worked miracles. He then said if that didn't work, my other choices were scary shit like injecting the scar with saline or getting it surgically removed. (Which I do not understand at all. Create a new scar to get rid of an old one? Who invents this stuff?!) Anyway so I went to the chemist to buy this Ciba Care thing, only to discover it's ONE HUNDRED BUCKS worth of sticky tape. Seriously. It's this giant silicone sheet - which by the way, nobody really knows how or why it works but supposedly it does. So I read the instructions and cut said sticky tape into pieces big enough to cover my scar, then stick the thing on. It's just like this very thick piece of sticky tape you apply right to your skin.

According to the instructions, you need to keep it on for a minimum of 10 weeks (24/7) AND you need to clean it regularly (twice a day!) and apparently scar reducing miracles will happen. Shyah, right. Anyway, I followed said instructions and for the past 10 weeks, hilarity has ensued. Mostly because when I sleep at night, I'm a regular rotisserie - round and round she goes, where she stops nobody knows. So when I wake up in the morning, the old sticky tape has tended to roll off and disappear in the night. Every morning DH and I play "find the sticky tape"...a game which he finds amusing for various reasons (my Mom and MIL read this, I'm not going into more detail, thanks) and I find mildly annoying. Most mornings I find said sticky tape, wash it, and away we go.

One of the more irritating things about the sticky tape regime is that, after a few weeks, it loses it's stickiness so you need chuck it out, cut another piece off and start again. The only problem is, it's not immediately noticeable that your sticky tape has lost its sticky until weird stuff happens like you're sitting down eating lunch, glance down at your shoe and see your sticky tape waving in the breeze from it's perch on your toe. This tends to stress me out because, a) my shoe does not have a scar, and b) losing a piece of sticky tape is like sending $25 down the drain.

So clearly my sticky tape has lost it's sticky...because today at work I went to the toilet and then realised it had totally disappeared. (Note, sticky tape is not normally near my nether regions, it's just that I happened to notice while I was in there.) Panic ensued as I searched high and low for my sticky tape. For the life of me, the damn thing just up and disappeared. Sticky tape being what it is, it has a tendency to just stick wherever it lands so often it's not all that easy to find. I turned my clothes inside out, checked the edges of my bra, checked everywhere that I thought, "If I were expensive medical sticky tape, where would I go on holiday?" and could not find it ANYWHERE.

Some hours later I dropped something on the floor and when I bent down to pick it up, I found my sticky tape curled up and smashed into the floor. Someone else might have binned it, but me being me, I was going to save that sucker. What, you think sticky tape grows on trees? So I had it stuck to my finger and (because my co-worker does not know about said sticky tape) looked around for a place to store it until I could get home and thoroughly clean it. My only solution (because I needed a quick one) was to stick it to the corner of my diary which was sticking out of my work bag.

You can all guess where this story is going, can't you? I totally forgot about my sticky tape until about an hour ago, when I thought, "Oh! Must rescue my sticky tape!" Of course, the damn thing has gone walkabout again, AND it was my last piece, and damn if I'm not going to go spend ANOTHER hundred bucks to replace it. Plus, it's been 10 weeks and guess what, the damn scar looks the damn same! So my sticky tape is now lost AGAIN and all my endless hunting of my bag turned up not even one tiny hint of where it might be. I shudder to think of where it might turn up...but in the meantime, hey, it's a blog post.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My College Essay #2

(See my earlier post about why I am doing this.)

My College Essay #2
from Brandeis: If you could choose to be raised by robots, dinosaurs, or alients, who would you pick? Why?

Top Ten Reasons I Want An Alien For a Mom:

1. She probably has arms. You ever hugged a robot? Very cold and uncomfortable when their bolts stick into your ribs. Also dinoaurs? Very short arms very high off the ground. Useless.

2. She probably has some pretty good skincare tips. Anyone who has lived 48 billion light years but does not look a day over 21 has got some sort of secret, and it's not Dove soap.

3. There have got to be some wicked food options in outer space, and I'm not talking about that crappy astronaut ice cream we all ate in fourth grade.

4. She's probably got shit loads of frequent flier points to share with me. All that intergalactic travel and whatnot.

5. When she says, "Go to your room!" you can sarcastically say, "In which galaxy?" and actually mean it.

6. Being an alien, I might get to meet E.T. and seriously? I've wanted to do that since I was about eight years old. I don't get why Drew Barrymore was so damn lucky and I wasn't. (Okay she's cuter than me but that's not a good enough reason.)

7. And speaking of meeting cool aliens...I've only got one word for you (like Madonna but for the alien world) ALF.

8. We would get to sit up there in space and laugh our asses off about how those stupid humans are destroying the earth without any real back up plan.

9. Mad. Cool. Accessories.

And the No. 10 reason why I want an alien for a Mom:

10. Every once in a while, I'd make contact with Earth just to freak people right out. I'd made contact with people like John Edward and then watch while his head totally explodes when he is hearing voices for real.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My College Essay #1

I have absolutely zero recollection of the topic of my college entrance essay. I'm pretty sure that at the time the topics were crap like "tell us about yourself" or "what is your greatest wish?" or "what obstacles have you faced in getting to college?" Nothing interesting, in other words. A couple of months ago I had the great privilege of spending some time with my eldest niece, who is currently in the process of applying to colleges. Surprisingly, the part she's finding the hardest is writing her college essays - in part because there are just so many of the damn things to do, and in part because I think she feels this perfectionist pressure to do an AMAZING job on these essays. After all, her grades and achievements have already happened (and are now out of her control), but her essay is a much more personal experience. Every word she commits to paper (or these days, computer screen) is truly a reflection of who she is, not just the sum of the parts which make up the greater academic picture of her high school life. (Which can I just say, are damn impressive. She's a chip off the old Aunt, that one. :) )

I was really intrigued by the essay topics she showed me ...and as a blogging prompt for me, and a show of support for her, I'm going to write replies to some of those topics. I can't promise they'll be inspirational, nor even remotely serious, nor even useful (and definitely not edited). But it should be fun for me and interesting for her...and after all, there are days when I still wish my biggest problem was finding inspiration for a college essay. So, my most adored niece, this blog post is for you.

(Note, she sent me a selection of topics from different schools, but she's not applying to all of these.)

My College Essay #1
Kenyon College: Along the edge of ancient maps it used to say 'Here there be monsters.' What does it say at the edge of your map and why does it say that?

Stuck deep in the glove compartment of many a older-model car is a map - and probably several of them in various states of folded and unfolded and scrunched up and ripped. With the advent of GPS, most modern cars probably won't have much in their glove compartments other than mobile phone rechargers and coupon cards for various Starbucks around town. So in the current generation, it's difficult to even consider when one might need a paper-based map (isn't that what a GPS enabled phone is for?) or even where one might find one. In my parents' generation, maps were bought at gas stations, or purchased from the auto club, or even came free when you rented a car. Maps were easily found and easily read...but of course never easily folded back into shape again. Buy a map and it didn't take long to work out where you were, where you were going, and how you were going to get there. Drive from one state to another and you could easily find the next map you needed.

What about the maps which existed before my parent's generation? Maps from the time when maps were new and novel things, where exploration was on the agenda and discovery a part of everyday life. Ancient maps - in the days before cars - would have 'here there be monsters' along the edge- because to that generation, the unknown was a frightening thing. Monsters being frightening beings, it's no great surprise that that is what they believed lay at the edges of the places which had been explored. Fear of the unknown = what's out there must be scary.

So taking the current generation's hunger for newer, faster, reams of information - and the ancient generations lack of knowledge or understanding of what lay beyond - my map edges would read "here there be opportunities."

Maps these days can tell you in intimate detail what lay beyond their edges. Hell, they can give you far more information than you either want or need to know about tiny little pixel points all over that map. You can zoom in and zoom out and see what's on, under, near and far from the place you decided to go or the place you currently are. What they cannot do is tell you exactly which direction you should choose for yourself, what you will discover about yourself along the way, and what further adventures await you the further along that map you go. All of us wish for a life where the grass is as greener as it appears on the other side - we want the admission-gaining college essay to magically flow from our fingertips, the lottery winning ticket to be the one we purchase, to land the dream job right out of college, to find that out 'Mr Right' has come walking down the street. What we don't want is endless unknowns - because just like those ancient map makers, we still find the unknown frightening. Even with pages and pages of maps, and intimate details of people, and places, and things - we are afraid of that which we have not experienced and that which we have not yet seen. It's the fear which keeps us from grabbing life by the throat and shaking it until all the adventures come tumbling out. It's the fear which keeps us within the four edges of our life maps.

For the ancients, the possibilities of monsters was a tacit warning of where one should not dare to venture. My map changes that whole perception by making the boundaries the MOST enticing part of the entire journey. My map assures you that opportunities exist beyond it's boundaries - and so it removes the fear from the unknown and replaces it with excited anticipation of the adventures which lie beyond the boundaries. I chose opportunity rather than 'possibility' simply because of it's positive connotations - just like we all are afraid of what we do not know, we all want to believe that things will get better. However, without grasping the opportunities - life never will get any better than it already is.

So. Here there be opportunities. What are you waiting for?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

She's Just Not That Into You

Dear Customer,
(the one we now call "stalker boy")

You are totally smokin' hot. As in, so hot that when you left my office, I checked your seat for scorch marks. You're tall, and have clear, glowing coffee skin, and you're quite built and have this very cute smile with a dimple, and you're also nice and super charming. I think I love you, but I know the difference between "immediate crush on a client" love and "stalking" love. I don't think you know the difference, though, so I am going to teach you right now.

Signs you know you are stalking this girl:

1. By your own admission, you spend an entire month's salary buying her an iTouch for her birthday, and she tells you to your face she doesn't like you that way, but you...

2. Spend over $200 on buying her a birthday cake for a party which not only do you not know how many people are invited but...

3. You're not actually sure she's even having a party. But you still ordered a cake which...

4. Has her face plastered all over the front of it. I'm not entirely sure why you would buy a 20 year old a cake for her birthday with her own picture on it, but there you go. Plus I think it's pretty stalker-ish that you...

5. Brought me a USB stick with a folder on it called "babe" which was filled with photos labelled "babe1" "babe2" "babe3" and so on. I could probably have forgiven you that if...

6. You did not admit right away that you stole all those photos from her phone. Plus it got kinda creepy when I asked you which photo I should use for the cake and you looked all dreamy and said...

7. "I don't know because I think she looks beautiful in all of them." At this point I felt I had to break it to you gently, and so I said, "Wow, you're going to a lot of effort and money for this girl," to which you said...

8. "Yes, I keep giving her everything she wants and many expensive presents but it still does not seem to be working." To which I gently said, (because, obviously, my role other than cake maker is therapist), "Maybe it's time to find someone else? Because I'm not sure how much longer you can afford her!" (insert awkward giggle), to which you said,

9. "This is my last attempt. If this cake doesn't work, I will have to give up." Which means...

10. You put too much pressure on the cake maker. Mate, if the iTouch didn't help, a cake isn't going to, either. Plus - not to belabour the point or anything - it's totally weird that this cake is a surprise for a party you are not entirely sure is happening. If you didn't score an invite to the imaginary party, well... I think it's time to admit she's just not that into you. And just quietly...

11. I also find it kinda odd that when I asked you what you wanted written on the cake, you unfolded a piece of paper to check the spelling of her name, and made it pretty clear you were not at all entirely sure how to spell her name yourself, hence the bit of crumpled paper.

Listen to me. You are HOTTER THAN HOT and this chick does not deserve you. It's time to move on.

However, since I'm all about giving clients more than they expect, I want you to know that I SUPER MEGA stalkerized your cake for you. So I made the picture of her as BIG AS POSSIBLE to cover almost the entire surface of the cake, *and* I put these massive ostentatious white sugar roses on each corner. You know, so she gets the idea that you are a totally creepy dude and if nothing else, receiving this cake should make her run a mile (if not more) in her babe-ish high heels.

I know, it's going to hurt for a while...but trust me, you'll thank me later.

With love (and I mean that in the most platonic of ways),

Michelle

P.S. NO, I will not make your wedding cake.
P.P.S Even if she knows the wedding is happening.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Tale of Three Cakes

Before I begin this story, I just need to point out that I really, really, really wish I had taken photos of the cake(s) I am about to describe. Since I only took a picture of the first (completed) version, I've got a whole lot of nothing to show you, so here's hoping I can create a visual picture with words instead.

The background story here is that my new employee required a "come to jesus" talk a few weeks back. She was making me CRAZY with all her complaining and whining and carrying on...worst of all was her many mini-tantrums a day she would have when the smallest thing went wrong. Literally, small disturbance = major emotional upheaval. As if I don't have enough drama, right? So after our talk, she's been heaps better about it all...but today was a BRILLIANT object lesson in how to behave like a professional.

So.

I had a massive cake to do today - to feed 150 people, two tiers, with a corporate logo on top and lots and lots of buttercream icing in red and white stripes. This bastard was also filled with 2 layers of vanilla buttercream for each tier, so it was heavy and enormous. Picture the sides of the cake - I used a small star nozzle in a piping bag and piped perfectly straight edges up and down the sides. So maybe 8 rows of white, then 4 of red, then white and so on. Then a really nice border on top (on the edges of the logo) and what can I tell you, it was fab and gorgeous. (Sidenote: The logo had a grammatical error in it - which was the fault of the client whose graphic designers had made this logo up especially. It annoyed the shit out of me.)*

DH, bless his cotton and wool blend computer socks, picked it up to go and deliver it for me to a restaurant about 20-ish minutes away from the kitchen. He had a whole car full of cakes, though, so he was stopping to drop some others off first.

About 10 minutes after he leaves I get a phone call. "Mich," he says (and I can count on one hand the number of times he's called me "Mich" so I knew it was NO GOOD NEWS), "I'm coming back. There's a problem..the buttercream has just kinda...fallen off ...the cake. It's not sticking to it."

Hmmm. How does buttercream FALL OFF a cake? I'm pretty sure I did not feel a dramatic shift in gravitational pull or anything.

So another 10 minutes goes by and DH brings the cake back - and let's just say he is the master of understatement, because nothing had fallen off...the entire damn thing had melted into several red and white puddles of buttercream. Literally the sides of both tiers had totally melted and slid off the cake. This is the FIRST (and please god, only) time it's ever happened to me. (Although earlier in the week DH managed to wreck a part of another cake by knocking into it with a crate...but we still love him.)

Truth be told, I really did want to break down and cry - BUT - I was already on a tight time deadline with some other cakes to do, and this damn thing needed to be delivered on time. So, I put on my big girl cake disaster panties, and started to scrape it all off and start again. I also noticed I didn't have enough icing, so my poor assistant had to stop mid-baking and start making new icing as well.

Please note, I did not panic. Well, I didn't panic externally. Inside, I died a thousand deaths.

So. I got DH to print a new logo up, made up more red icing, got clean piping bags and tips, and cleaned up my cake disaster as best I could. I then took the entire thing into the cool room, and decorated it while standing in the cool room. My thinking was that because of the temperature, as soon as I piped a line it would solidify and that would effectively 'shore up' the sides of the cake, giving DH more time to get it there in one piece. So I stood in there freezing my tatas off and kept having to go in and out to re-fill the piping bag.

It worked like a dream...so well, in fact, that I called out to my assistant to get her to come into the cool room and see what a freakin' stress free genius I am. I handled it all with total aplomb! I was a legend! I could fix cake disasters in freezing temperatures! I could manage it without a tantrum! I WAS THE QUEEN OF THE CAKE UNIVERSE.

It was the shortest royal reign in history. Me being me, I decided to wipe away a little microscopic spot on the logo. I didn't realise I had some red icing on the tip of my finger...which resulted in a GIANT RED SPLODGE right in the middle of the damn thing. Which, despite my flapping around and trying to fix it, only got bigger and more red and more totally and utterly buggered up. In a case of deja vu, I called out to DH to print yet ANOTHER logo. I dragged this sorry cake's ass into my kitchen, peeled off the logo and piped border (which thanks to refrigeration had solidified so was easy to peel off.) I then took it BACK into the coolroom, affixed the brand-spanking-new logo sheet, and re-piped the border on.

Phew.

It was a very long afternoon.

Good news - I not only survived it, but the cake made it in one very cool piece to it's destination. Plus I proved to my employee that the best way to solve a cake problem is to fix it, not freak out about it. PLUS I discovered just how long I can stand in a cool room without needing resuscitation.

Bad news - I'm pretty sure there is no actual profit left in said cake....but then who needs money when you've got icing? Icing just about fixes everything. (Really. You should try it sometime.)

*Dear major engineering company - 'thank you' is TWO words, not one.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Capital L for Loser

Today I went to a one day conference all about being a "Mumpreneur." Sidenote: I hate how the (internet based) world has gone all wordy mash-up. Like everything is "something-tastic" or "something-preneur" or "something-ist." Very annoying.

Anyway. So for ages and ages I dithered about whether or not I would go to this conference, because although the speakers and topics seemed interesting, it was kinda expensive. Plus, you know, I'm just not all that good at hanging out with strangers. I'm really not. I'm awkward, and uncomfortable, and really pretty crappy at small talk (mostly because I find it as interesting as watching paint dry.) I spend most time in the company of strangers wanting to crawl into a big, Michelle-shaped hole and stay there stuffing my face with canap├ęs until it's all over. I'm trying to get better at this whole " work ON your business, not IN your business" thing, so I decided to chalk the cost up to a totally legit tax write off and go along. This was going to be me, putting on my big girl business owner panties, and getting on with it.

This may seem easy to some of you reading this, but let's examine the things which needed to happen in order for me to go to this conference:

1) I had to lose a day's wages at my 2nd job which normally happens on a Wednesday (so it was cost of conference fees + lost wages= big bucks for us right now)
2) I had to wake up earlier than usual (I don't do mornings.)
3) I probably would need to dress nice (I don't do "dress nice")
4) I probably would need to put on some lipstick (I certainly don't do lipstick)
and
5) I would need to actually spend and entire day in a small room with aforementioned strangers. (=extreme discomfort)

All of these individually make me very uncomfortable, but put them together and there I am rocking in the corner wailing, "Make it stop! Make it stop!". For those of you who know me in real life, you're probably reading this and thinking, "What the...? Michelle? Awkward and shy? Yeah, right." Let me assure you I spent the entire day either on my phone (and therefore looking way too busy to actually interact with anyone) or resisting the urge to go and hide in the toilets for the social bits of the day. Yes, I was a complete and utter failure at this whole small business phenomenon of networking. I downright SUCKED at it. So much so that at the end one of the presenters said, "How many of you have collected a bunch of business cards from today's event?" and EVERY single person in the room raised their hand except for me.

Yes. I managed to go to an event with a room full of people who fit my customer demographic to a T, and I did not give out (nor collect) ONE single business card. I'm pretty sure I left a pretty crappy impression on most of these people as well, but there you go. Actually one woman said to me, "Wow, you've been having a very busy phone day, haven't you?" to which I mumbled some excuse about deliveries and customers and family and you know, I'm just a busy person, okay?

Nice one, Michelle. Way to go on that whole "work ON" the business thing.

The good news here (the silver lining, if you will) is that the speakers had some very useful info for me. Not all of them were relevant to me but those that were had some good info and I picked up some good tips for future thought and action. (Namely that I should be twittering to achieve fame and fortune, but who has time for that?! The twittering, not the fame and fortune bit).

...and the second best part of the day was when I ran to the elevators the very SECOND the damn thing was over, and found another woman in there who had also been at the conference. She looked at me, and I said, "Glad I'm not the only one who felt the need to hot foot it out of there!" and she nodded, kinda slumped against the wall, and said, "Oh yes. I've just about had enough of fake smiling for one day." Huzzah!

Now there are two of us, maybe we should start a "I went to a conference and I was a total networking loser" club!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Kids Are Not All Right

My DS has been having a bit of trouble lately - full of emotion but with no real outlet for it, so we've had several of those phone calls from his school. Not the kind of phone calls one wants to get, and certainly not the sort one wants to get several days in a row.

This past week he had a pretty terrible, emotional week - which on Friday afternoon culminated in he and I sitting on the edge of my bed, holding onto one another for dear life while he cried his beautiful blue eyes out. Way back in July, DH and I sat the kids down and explained what happened with the whole job thing. We explained pretty well what was going to happen, what changes our household would need to go through, and what we expected the outcome to be. What we didn't do is reassure them that everything would be okay. I guess we got so caught up just in the facts and process of it all, "...so Dad will be doing more school drop offs and Mum will be taking on a second job..." that we sorta forgot to just hug them and tell them the lie all parents are required to tell - that everything will be okay, truly. We promise.

As my dear sweet boy sat there sniffling and crying, I had a parenting light bulb moment. "Boy," I said, "Boy - are you worried about the whole Daddy job thing?" To which his reply was to nod his head vigorously while it was buried in my chest, and cry even harder than he was before.

A-ha. Suddenly all the pieces made sense. THIS would be why his teachers tell me he has not been his usual communicative self since July. This would be why he is wandering around frustrated and impatient and angry. This is why my boy has gone from what his Nana calls 'sweetness and light' to bitterness and irritation. This is because I didn't take the time to just tell him IT'S GOING TO BE OKAY.

Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. I buggered this parenting thing up MAJORLY.

So we sat there, and I explained to him that we would be okay. That he would still live in his room, and have enough food to eat, and a school to go to, and people to love him, and Scouts to attend, and books to read...and that worrying was for the parents to do, not the kids. I straight out told him that *I* am a little worried too, but that I know we'll be okay and that HIS life will remain as okay as it ever was. I did say we had to get rid of a few small luxuries, but that on the whole we are a family, and we will pull together and we will be OKAY. I just held my boy and I promised him that we would take care of him and his sisters and that NOTHING would ever get in the way of that. I reassured him as much as I could that all will come good in the end. Truth be told, I have no idea if we're going to be okay...but my boy needed to hear it, and I forgot to say it all those months ago. So I said it, and I hugged him some more, and I listened to him cry and I prayed for my heart not to break for this little boy who is so full of worry and frustration.

Gradually he calmed down - and in the day and a half since, I would swear I am living with a different boy. This one is smiling. This one is walking just that little bit taller. This one did not pick up a book and hide in it for even one minute today. This boy laughed, and laughed, and laughed... at a funny website and a funny TV show and at his Mum tickling him on the couch. This boy did not complain endlessly, cry in frustration, get mad or let his sisters get the better of him. This boy did not lash out physically, and this boy ---this boy, THIS IS MY SON.

At the end of our conversation, I asked him if he had any questions for me - was there anything he wanted or needed to know about the situation? "Yes," he said, wiping his streaming eyes, "Will you always comfort me when I need it?" He was totally serious, and so this time I told him what I believe to be true - that today, and tomorrow, and every single day until my dying day (and even probably a little bit after that, too), I will comfort him when he needs it. He just doesn't quite realise how much comfort he gives me in return, but I suspect that's a lesson for another day.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Swings and Roundabouts

What is it about life and timing? Since I started the biz, I always imagined it taking place in it's own space - a little shop front which I could decorate in the very un-emzee but very pro-cake 'shabby chic' style. A place where I could have cakes on display, where I could invite people into my happy little sweet cake world. Finance and circumstance led me to start the business in a place which is nothing like that at all, and in the past 3 years I've just retained that little fantasy cake space in my head. Mind you, the place the biz is in now has served me very well and has a number of positive attributes... but it's not the space.

I have not been actively seeking to move the business, much in the same way people go off birth control and then tell you they are not trying to get pregnant. You know, secretly hoping it will happen by not trying to make it not happen. In various neighbourhoods around me, I've kept my eye on a couple of different shops which I just happen to like the look of. One of them came up for rent about a year ago...and they wanted $50,000 a year rental (plus outgoings, plus GST). Hmm. That's a LOT of cake. So I let that one go. The second one I had my eye on, they wanted $55,000 and my right arm plus GST plus outgoings. That's even MORE cake, so I let that one go as well. Last week I happened to be driving down a road which I don't often drive down (too much traffic)...and yet another of my 'wouldn't it be nice' shops was sporting a shiny new 'for lease' sign. Just because I like to torture myself, I drove by it two more times before noting down the name of the leasing agent.

This past Friday I went to see the inside of it.

It's almost perfect (needs a bit of a spit and polish). And it's almost affordable (more than I pay now but not unreasonably so). And I don't need to sell too much more cake (okay, maybe a wee bit more) in order to make it workable - because the space has potential to give my business the profile it deserves and hence will open up some new income streams.

Oh my.

And of course, this happens while DH is still looking for work, while I am seriously contemplating sending my kid(s) to another school (that's a whole 'nother post), while we are so broke as to be too scared to look at the bank balance too often, while I am planning on going to my brother's wedding in a few months, while I'm still working on what I want out of this biz, while, while, while....while life gets in the way.

Oh. My. Goodness. Gracious.

It's the first space I've seen that I've thought, "YES! I can make this work." It's the first space which falls into my finances in a much more realistic way. It's the first time I drove away from a property and in my head was designing the interior in such a way as to make it work well for me. It's the first time I've had two real, serious offers of financial help to get this thing off the ground. It's the first time I've thought, "Holy crapzoly. I can make this work. I totally can."

And it's just about the worst timing that ever was, but by now I know that humans plan while god laughs. So laugh away, big guy, because I am totally going to make this happen.

This is it. As they say in the old country, I can feel it in my waters.

...and for the record, even if it doesn't work out for whatever reason (and there are myriad reasons why it may not, some practical and some not...) for now all I really need is the HOPE of it. In recent months, so little has brought me joy...that this little bit of joy potential will keep me going for a bit. If for some reason I have to abandon this opportunity - well, you know, there is nothing wrong with the biz as it is now. So I will have lost nothing, and maybe gained some insight into this mad, mad world of small business ownership.

Watch this space.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

An Open Letter to Lady Gaga

Dear Lady Gaga,

Love your work. Truly. You're original and fun and not the same pop princess stuff we had all resigned ourselves to throughout the Britney and Xtina years. So thanks for being truly original in a copy-cat musical world.

However.

Earlier today I read somewhere online (and yes, I know one should not trust online sources, but it makes a good segue to this blog post, so bear with me) that you just spent $1.2 million dollars recently on ONE outfit.

Let's think about that for a minute. Growing up, did you ever have one of those times when you heard that the state lottery was worth 10 million, and you thought to yourself, "Sheesh! 10 million! What would I do with ten million dollars?!" Then you sat and planned - you know, one million for a house for Mum and Dad, one million for new cars for everyone I know, and so on and so forth...and in your head you spent all that money? I'm guessing that nowhere in those dreams were, "..and I'm going to spend over a million dollars on a shiny metallic gravity defying outfit," were there? (Or maybe there were, I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.)

I guess dreams change. Me, I used to dream about holidaying with my kids and paying off my house and paying for my nieces and nephew to come and visit me. These days, I just dream about being able to afford groceries and pay my mortgage when it comes due fortnightly. Since my DH lost his job, I just dream about spending time dreaming instead of spending time worrying and stressing out. Like I said, dreams change. Today I found myself thinking about that old, "What if I win the lottery?" fantasy. I used to desperately want to win something big, like the old 10 million we mentioned earlier. Today I found myself thinking, "You know, I'd be just happy with HALF a million." Half a million dollars - or about equal to one shoulder of your smokin' hot new outfit - would pay off my mortgage, AND pay off all my debt, AND give us enough money to live on for about 2 years assuming DH does not find anything new (which he WILL. Because we are all about positive thinking over here.)

Half a million. That's all I need. I'm willing to forget all about the lottery win just for that amount of money - which to me feels like a humongous amount, but to you, not so much. It's barely 5% of what you earn each concert (reportedly 10 million.) Why spend it on yet another outfit when you can come to my house and do some real good in the world? As an exchange, I'll even let you borrow some of my kids too-small dress up outfits - heck, you can keep them! That way you're helping someone in need, AND you're totally going to look fashion forward. Apparently ripped and completely falling apart pink fairy wings are the new black, didn't you hear?

So, Lady Gaga, your talent is totally fabulous and I think you're just the bee's knees (even if I totally did not get that 'Telephone' video with Beyonce)...but right now, won't you please forgo just one shoulder of one more sparkly alien-looking outfit and help a girl out? Let me know, okay? If I don't hear from you soon, I'll call you on the telephone.

Sincerely,

A fan in need of one sparkly alien shoulder

Sunday, October 10, 2010

You're My Best Friend

In this weekend's Age 'Good Weekend' magazine there was an article about the value of having a best friend, and the importance of a good, close, (in this case female) relationship. The article itself was pretty misguided in so far as it just seemed like a chronicle of their relationship - which, as it turns out, was really rather more intimate than that of just friends. It didn't really tell you anything much about best friendships, or the value of them.

I mentioned this article to two friends of mine - and while most of our conversation was around the fact that the article was crappy, one comment stuck in my head. The Neighbour's Wife said, "Who has a single best friend any more? That's just so fourth grade!" Now as someone who HAS a single best friend, my first inclination was to get defensive...but my second was just to file that comment away and have a good ol' think about it. Plus I met my best friend in the fourth grade, so just that made me laugh at the irony of her comment.

My best friend and I have not been 'together' in the daily or even weekly sense of the word since we were about 15. We're now both 34, and we met when we were about 9. So for 6 years, we went to school together every day and talked on the phone and basically lived at one another's houses. After that, we went to different schools, then different colleges, then lived in multiple different countries and even today we don't live in the same place. So for the last 19 years of our friendship, we have not had daily contact. In fact, due to travel and illness and just this thing called life, months would go by without us having any contact at all. And yet, she's still my best friend. The tyranny of distance means I just can't call and have a chat, or go out for a coffee, or have her come over to hang out. She isn't privy to the goings on of my daily life (even though we're pretty good at emailing) and I'm not privy to hers. I have friends who I confide in far more often, friends who I see far more often, and friends who I would run to in an emergency - but all those are because they are HERE and NOW and it just makes more sense.

Why then, is an old friend who I hardly see - why is she still the person I consider my best friend? Well, in part it's because she was there before I became the ME that I am now - so she knows me better than anyone else on the planet. In part it's because I know I can say or do just about anything, and she'll understand. We can walk into a room after years apart and just pick up the conversation where we left off. There is no judgement, there is no accusation, there is no 'coulda shoulda woulda', no secrets and no lies ... it just plain works as well today as it did when we were 9. We grew up, we moved on, we changed dramatically...and yet still the things which drew us together as awkward geeky 9 year olds still draw us together as awkward geeky 34 year olds.

Now I know full well that I am missing out on enormous parts of her life, and she is missing out on whole expanses of my life. Plain and simple, it sucks to not live anywhere near your best friend. However, the fact that all that missing out makes not one single zot of difference to our friendship is exactly why I am proud of having a "fourth grade" single best friend. Being a grown up, though, means that there is room in my life for more than one - and so I also enjoy every second of having best friends who I can talk with until 2am on a Saturday night and none of us feel like no-life losers.

I suppose the difference between then and now is that we don't feel any need to attach labels like "best friends" to the people we spend our time with. No need for cutesy necklace heart charms which snap in half, no need for matching t-shirts or declarations of being "bestest friends 4 eva" written on school notebooks.

...but secretly? If I could, I probably would. Because I like having best friends, and being a best friend - no matter how fourth grade that makes me.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Mirror

When we moved into our house, the kids were 10 months old. Most of the house was in great condition but the kids bathroom was a disaster zone, so we spent a bit of money and fixed it up. New tiles, a paint job - just a bit of a lick and polish really. One of the things we did was put in a bathroom mirror above the sink. DH and I installed that mirror ourselves (and by "installed" I mean bought it at IKEA, hammered a nail in the wall, hung the mirror and muttered "that'll do.") Anyway when we installed said mirror, we didn't think very hard about the placement of the mirror - so DH hung it on the wall in the exact spot where he could see his face in the exact middle of the mirror. Because of course you hang a mirror where you can actually see yourself in it, right?

Just FYI, my DH is 6'1".

Once the kids got old enough to use the bathroom themselves, we realised that when they stand on the floor, the mirror was actually several feet above their heads. So they couldn't see themselves in the mirror at all. When we realised this mistake, we then spent several minutes (over the course of several years) talking about how we should move the mirror down so the kids can actually see themselves in it.

It has not moved one iota.

At first we used to lift the kids up so they could see themselves - we used to stand them up and put their feet on the edge of the vanity. Then we used to hold them up with their legs dangling down in front of the vanity and their tummies squishing into the edge of it. Then they used to jump up to see themselves - which meant you had to be pretty quick and nimble to see anything at all. Then we got wise and bought them a little footstool to stand on. The stool was great - at first they could only see the tops of their heads, and then after a while they could see their foreheads, then their noses and at the moment we're at the stage where they can see most of their face in the mirror. If you remove the step stool, only the tops of their heads can be seen in the mirror. So the footstool is still very much necessary if you're to have any hope at all of seeing yourself.

Just the other day I said to DH (for the umpteenth time), "You know, we were so dumb putting that mirror there. We forgot it was kids who were going to look in it, not adults. We should totally move that mirror down." To which DH replied, "Yeah. I guess." and then he shrugged, which translated from DH-speak means, "Whatever. Why are we talking about this again? Can I please go watch Sci Fi Channel now?"

It occurs to me that my kids will be able to see their faces right smack in the middle of that mirror when they reach adulthood. And, once they are tall enough to see themselves, they probably will think hugging their Mum in public is embarrassing. They probably won't call me as often as I'd like, and won't come home for dinner often enough, and may have their own children and jobs and lives and worries. By the time my kids can see themselves in that mirror, our relationship will have changed dramatically -and one hopes it will be for the better. We will have survived teenage-hood - periods, voiced changing, body hair, and hormones which make me want to kill them nightly. We will have survived young adulthood - boy/girl friends, university applications, first jobs and trips overseas. By the time they can see themselves, they will probably think very differently about the person they see in that mirror.

On second thought, I think we should move that mirror - but we should move it UP.

For The Record...

The very next person to say, "Well, at least you'll lose some weight," when they hear about my recent sickness...will be forced to suffer a very long, very painful near-death experience. I say "near" death because I want that person to feel every moment of suffering. This will involve but is not limited to:

- Having to hang out with the most annoying OPK I know, and the play date will involve having to do craft activities which are designed expressly to annoy people,
- Eating my Mother In Law's cooking (sorry MIL),
- Conversing about parenting with the now infamous Helicopter Mum,

and

- Going on a Cub-and-You camp which does not have any actual toilets or cooking facilities.

Because, seriously, after more than 10 days of feeling like my ass is on fire, and harbouring a bad mood the sort of which is usually felt by postal workers wielding an AK-47...I do not give a flying fig if I have lost even one quarter of one eighth of an ounce. Right now, all I really want for Christmas is the ability to do a solid shit.

Thank you. You may now return to your regular programming (and may I suggest you not call me and mention weight loss vis-a-vis food poisoning.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Look After Yourself

I was all ready to post about how excited and proud I am that DH is stepping up and taking responsibility for his family...about how someone who is postgraduate degree trained and has 30+ years of engineering experience is not too proud to take on a $20/hour job just to keep his family afloat. As he promised, DH is behaving in a far more grown-up fashion these days and really trying to 'fix' the unemployment situation. Of course this doesn't mean I'm still not terribly grumpy and irritable and frankly scared out of my freaking mind, but it does mean that I feel as though we're working like a team on this one, and that calms my soul just a wee bit.

So. DH is now getting a few casual shifts doing some unskilled labour and frankly, I think we're all better for it. Sadly, the joy I feel over this small victory has been overshadowed by the fact that, since Monday night, I've been sick as a damn dog. There were a few moments where I really thought the end was nigh. I stood in the shower on Wednesday morning and very nearly passed out from the pain - my head felt really weird, and when I looked at the tiles they got all sort of fuzzy and seemed very far away. For two nights I was shivering and shaking hard enough to give me 2 days of jaw pain from the teeth chattering. For several days now, mere minutes after I eat something (and by something I mean an icy pole, or a piece of toast, or some hot tea, or just water) I am doubled over with the most horrendous gut pain you can imagine. According to the lab, I have food poisoning. Which is strange because for the life of me, I haven't eaten anything differently from the rest of my family, and I haven't eaten any dodgy take-away. For whatever reason, I was the lucky one.

And I say lucky one, because according to Dr Google, less than one droplet of chicken juice can cause this asshole of a condition to occur. Also according to Dr Google, it's rare but some people end up with permanent paralysis, and some people end up with arthritis, and some people die (!) from this freaking thing. I now officially hate Dr Google. Jerk.

HOWEVER, what I will say is that this is really endorsing a lesson I've only recently come to appreciate. It's simple really - you have nothing without your health. I know it's a very grandma type saying, but the truth of it has really hit me square between the eyes this week. I think back about the people I know who are chronically or even temporarily unwell (and sadly, at this moment there are many), and I think, "Holy crap. Jobs, money, mortgages, naughty kids, first dates, broken refrigerators, unreturned voicemails, facebook updates...none of it means ANYTHING unless you've got your health." Unless you are healthy and well, SO MANY things simply cannot happen - including being able to take the temp job your family so needs. We really underestimate our dependence on our good health. How often do we take my good health and wellbeing for granted? I'm pretty sure I take it for granted just about every moment of every day.

Between you and I, I'd love to end this post with a, "And as a result of my latest epiphany, I resolve to take much better care of my health, only eat organic, become a convert to all things lentil, and wash my hands 23 times a day at minimum." You know, basically promise a lot of lofty goals I cannot possibly achieve. I can't do that because: 1) I know I'd be lying, and 2) this stupidly painful illness has shown me that sometimes, when it comes to one's health, shit happens (pun very much intended). I don't think I can make any promises beyond this one: I will look after myself. I will still eat too much ice cream. I will still sometimes eat for reasons of emotion rather than physiology. I will still take risks like crossing when not at a cross walk, and speeding, and probably even do stupid things like boat rides and plane rides and other things which place my health at risk. BUT. I will still get pap smears, have check ups once a year, have my teeth checked and cleaned, and avoid any chicken stir fry which DH chooses to cook for me*.

So in my laid back and not wanting to be a preachy blogger sort of way, I'm encouraging you to do the same. Look after yourself. Because, trust me, if you're unwell, you won't be able to read my witty postings, and THEN where will you be?

*Current suspected source of said horrendous food poisoning, but to be fair it was ME who bought said chicken which went into alleged hotbed of bacteria stir fry. And nobody else who ate it got sick. (Thank goodness.)