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.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The 40 Challenge

At my 30th birthday party, I asked the guests to write down on an index card the things they thought I should achieve by the time I turned 40. You can see the whole list here. Not surprisingly a number of the goals are repeats and almost all of them speak to the skills others see in me, namely: baking, writing and talking. I had (and maybe still have) every intention of completing all those tasks, although some are far less challenging than others.

Challenging: "Become better friends," with a woman I have not seen since about, oh, six months after that party. More challenging: Wear high heels for a month. Less challenging: Go blond for a month. Even less challenging than that: Watch the movie 'Citizen Kane.' (I've already seen it.) I keep meaning to drag that pile of cards out and attempt at least some of them, the ones which I see as a true challenge or the ones which amuse and motivate me to get out of my comfort zone. Some of them I see no point in, mostly because they just don't hold any interest - one of the suggestions was to ride in the Great Victorian Bike Ride. I suspect the person was trying to motivate me to lose weight (thanks FIL...) but a) I'm not a fan of bike riding, and b) If I get a week off to myself, you can bet your ass I'm not going to spend it getting a bruised hoo-hah and sweating my way up a bunch of hills. Just not my thing, especially as I engage in plenty of exercise these days and so it would not be so much a challenge as it would be a form of self-mutilation.

As you will see on that list, one of the items was to perform a stand-up routine.

There is a part of me which adores the very idea of this - because it would be, beyond measure, one of the greatest challenges I'd ever undertaken. It would test my skills of writing, of performing, of being authentic, of bravery - just in writing about this, I can feel my shphincter tighten and my stomach turn over with fear. In short, if I pulled it off it would be nothing short of awesome. That being said, I knew it was something I'd probably never achieve, mostly because it requires me not only to do the gig, it requires me to find the gig in the first place - and that's perhaps a step too much for me. That goal, like most of them, has pretty much just sat in a drawer waiting for me to get to 40 and think, "Damn, I forgot about those!"

However, this week, the same friend who came up with that idea sent me an email which said, "I believe performing a stand-up routine was one of your turning forty goals, right?" and attached a link to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, which is currently taking sign-ups for acts, even those which are one-offs.

*sharp intake of breath*

It just *might* be time.


For the purpose of historical accuracy, here's the list updated. In order for it to be really accurate, I've got to go and find out who said what, but this update is a good start at least:

Without further ado, here are the things I'll do by the time I am 40 (red is done, green is in progress.):

  • Watch these movies: Citizen Kane, Hamlet (Kenneth Branaugh's version), Death Trap (with Christopher Reeve and Michael Caine.) Watch all 12 episodes of "Fawlty Towers", and learn a song and sing it in front of a crowd. A small group is okay, but YOU must sing it.
  • See your name up in lights
  • Become an Australian Citizen (I've recently changed my mind on this..)
  • Design a cake that looks like me (Jess), finish your course with flying colours, make up a song and sing it in front of 10 people, swim with sharks.
  • Repeat your [9 weeks in Europe backpacking] honeymoon trip, but with with triplets
  • You and DH should spend 50 hours a week together in the same bed for the next ten years.
  • Write a series of children's books that will be as interesting and as successful as the series of books I just read [she had just finished the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series.]
  • Have such success in your business that you can come visit me three times a year.
  • Graduate at the top of your class, or at least in joint first place with me.
  • Take a week off without DH and the triplets. (In progress forever more I think. The trip with my BFF did not happen, her health is too precarious.)
  • Join a weekend circus school, become a life coach or motivator, take singing lessons, learn to play the tuba, be under-ambitious at some point.
  • Learn pole dancing, shave your head and do a mohawk, get a Brazilian wax if you haven't already, learn to tango with DH, go trick-or-treating, in costume, as a family, enter a serious karaoke competition without laughing, learn a musical instrument like a triangle or a kazoo, play naked twister with DH only, learn to scuba.
  • Write a cookbook that is suitable for people with nut/egg/coeliac allergies
  • Achieve a weekly column in a prestige publication covering topics which make a difference, become proficient in dialectic [I don't even know what that word means], acquire patience with "what if" discussions around the dinner table and "happily" participate, never lose your ability to laugh at all the silly things life throws up, keep your talent for embracing life without steamrolling the people who love you.
  • Swim with the dolphins, go to the top of Mt Kosciusko, invite me to your 40th birthday party, give me the cake that looks like Jess, encourage the kids to remember to call me "Uncle", dance at my wedding, and put a king sized bed in my bungalow [this is my BIL, who I want to live in a cool house in our backyard].
  • Climb Ayer's Rock to the summit, you will never forget it. [I refuse to do this, on principle. I've been to Uluru, I chose not to climb to the top. I wouldn't want someone scrambling on my sacred site, either. I will, however, amend this goal to be walking around the base of Uluru.]
  • Bake a cake for royalty, run a marathon, own your own cake shop and hire me.
  • Say NO to teachers who prey on you because of your culinary ability at least twice this year.
  • Go blonde for a month, wear high heels every day for a month (with the weekends and gym sessions off), write a book that at minimum is published for friends and family.
  • Write a regular column for a magazine or newspaper, set up a franchise (baking or otherwise), bungee jump in New Zealand
  • Get to know each other better (this woman disappeared from my life shortly thereafter, so this one is moot.)
  • Swim the "Pier to Pub" in the same year that I do, go for a 40km ride down to Sandringham and back with me and anyone else you choose, turn Three Sweeties into a national franchise to rival Mrs Fields.
  • Do at least one stand up comedy gig, do the Great Victorian Bike Ride, write a novella/short story and endeavor to have it published somewhere (your local multiple birth newsletter doesn't count).
  • You need more adrenaline, so sky dive, preferably with parachute and instructor
  • Survive three bar/bat mitzvahs, enter the Great Victorian Bike Ride, win a prize at the Royal Melbourne Show for "Cake of the Year"
  • Scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef and the Dead Sea [I don't think you can scuba in the Dead Sea, and given that it's dead, what would there be to see?], or if you feel daring, a nice left nipple piercing wouldn't go astray, to match your nose ring (well, the one that's going to be revamped.)
  • Take me dancing again, because we are such a good couple, find a way to balance food, work, sleep and family. 

Friday, September 21, 2012


I got a phone call today from SSOTH, asking me if it was okay if they nominated our family to receive a grant to help with the kids' school fees.

I (temporarily) said no. Yup. I said NO to help with my kids' school fees.

Stupid, right? Let me explain my logic here.

Mind you, they were not offering anything other than the nomination - the foundation itself makes the final decision - so there was no guarantee of anything.  At first I was a little befuddled - "you're asking me for permission to help me pay the fees? Are you serious?" My next question was, "But why US? What makes us so special? Why are we so deserving?"

"Well," she said, "You've got the three of them all at once!"

To which I replied, "Well, if that's the basis of your decision, I think I'd rather you gave the opportunity to a family who really needs the help much more than we do." I think at this point she thought I'd lost every one of my marbles, and maybe I had - but there were reasons for saying what I did. Firstly, we are surely not the only family there with three kids enrolled who are struggling to pay fees. Second, if that was her ONLY reason - meaning the triplet thing somehow makes us more deserving or more needy - well, frankly, that's ridiculous. Having triplets does not mean you are any more deserving or needy than any other family with three kids. Yes, the 'sameness' of them means that we don't have many hand me downs, our initial expenses for things are often astronomical, and we work harder to navigate the logistics of their lives because they have similar needs at similar times. Even with all that, there are so many families out there working as hard if not harder to achieve the same thing, who deal with much harder circumstances. We are not special in that regard (that we are an awesome family was never in doubt of course... *wink*) I don't need to look any further than the special needs and single parent household kids sitting right next to my kids in class. Sure, things are sometimes tough - but no tougher than anyone else has it.

There was a bit of a stunned silence on her end, until she gathered her wits and said, "Let me assure you that there being three of them was not the only reason. We go through this process with a fine toothed comb and there are many more reasons why we thought we would like to nominate your family."

"Oh," said I, feeling like a doofus now, "In which case, sure, nominate us." I didn't ask what the other reasons were, beause after all SSOTH is a million-dollar organisation, and I'm guessing they don't make decisions like this on a whim. I was just satisfied to learn that there were in fact other reasons here other than "the triplet thing." It also comforted me to know that we were not the only family nominated, that there were others who were being given this opportunity as well.

I've been thinking about that conversation ever since - and about how finance lady must really think I was crazy to say no initially, about why my reaction was so immediate, and about why I didn't think we were deserving. The fact remains, this school costs a small fortune which we can't really afford - but we made the choice that sending the kids there is important to us so we make it work. We're in an ocean of debt, which we're paying off slower than we otherwise would be, because we need to funnel funds to our school account. I hate debt. Of any kind. Surely that fact alone should have made me jump at the chance to relive the burden? Well...no.

In recent years (and specifically in the last 12 months or so), I've changed my entire attitude towards life. Basically, when I wake up in the morning - if I am healthy and well, my husband and kids are healthy and well, and we can afford to eat and have a roof over our heads...well, that's a damn good day. The rest is just a bonus. Sure - I really wish we didn't have this debt hanging over us, that I was 10 kilos thinner, that business would be booming much more, that DH had a job he was really loving, that the kids did not leave as much of a mess as they do, that we could afford a few more little luxuries, that my family lived a little closer, that life in general was easier and frankly, a little cushier than it currently is. And yet, all that is just details. The fact is, we are SO fortunate. Not only for our good health and access to food and shelter - but because we have the freedom to make the choices we do. So we find a way to afford SSOTH, we find a way to enjoy a myriad of life experiences and we just somehow find a way to muddle through.  Could things be better, nicer, easier, less stressful? Sure. Of course they could - but from where I sit, life is pretty grand and I'm so grateful for all we already have that the idea that someone could be offering me more than that...well, that took a minute or so for my brain to engage and to accept the opportunity she was offering.

I suppose when it comes right down to it, sending the kids to SSOTH is an enormous luxury. It really is. They would survive public school, we'd find a way to get them a religious education, and they would thrive because we do the best job we can when it comes to parenting them.  When you look at it that way, is *anybody* at a private school more needy than anyone else? I mean "needy" and "private school" don't really belong in the same sentence, do they? The irony is, we'd probably all be a little less needy if we didn't have those fees to pay.

I have no idea if we'll get that grant or not - but from where I sit right now, I'm grateful just for the opportunity given to us, deserving or not. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Flower Seller

Today is Jewish New Year.

Yeah, I wasn't all that ready for it, either. In DH's family there is a tradition of having lunch on the first full day of the holiday. Other than baking the ubiquitous honey cake for my MIL, I don't have to do any preparation for this as she takes on the task (thanks MIL... :) ) Usually I like to bring along something extra for my MIL, as a token of thanks and just because I think it's a nice thing to do. This time, however, I was woefully disorganised and so I found myself having to pop into the florist on the way from temple to lunch.

The parking gods were smiling on me, so I swung into a spot directly across the road and sprinted to the flower seller. It took me about 0.54 seconds to pick what I wanted (freesias - she likes them and I do, too, and they are in season right now) and I asked the man to wrap up two bunches for me.

"Would you like them arranged together?"
"No, thanks, just nicely wrapped will do."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure, thanks." (I'm not being cheap here, MIL is known for arranging her own flowers, and I don't think she is a fan of overly fussy things.)
 "I think the white will look really nice nestled within the yellow,"
"I do too. Just wrapped will be lovely, thanks."

He ignored me. The decision to arrange them had apparently already been made. So he ever-so-carefully slipped them out of their sleeves, snipped off the rubber bands holding them together, and proceeded to arrange the two bunches together.

I say "arrange them", but what I really mean is drive me up a wall, one stinking flower at a time (literally, because fressias are smelly, in a nice way.)

Stem - by - freaking - stem, he's putting one in his hand, looking at it, putting a second one in his hand, thinking about it for a bit...putting another stem in his hand, holding it at arm's length and considering it for a bit... then shaking his head and putting it all down to start again.

And then there were the other customers who came in - so he would stop arranging to help them and then would need to start the whole stem-by-stem process all over again because once he'd put  it down, it lost all it's flower mojo.

By now I am getting a wee bit concerned about the time (others were waiting back at the lunch...) and frankly, I'm getting a little antsy. I try rushing this guy a bit, but to no avail - have you ever seen the scene in the move 'Love Actually' where Rowan Atkinson is wrapping the gift? It was a bit like that. (You can watch it here...comedy gold.)

To keep my mind occupied, I composed a blog post in my head. All about how I was so impatient, and annoyed, and really wanting this guy to get a move on...but that I'd learned the lesson of "good things come to those who wait," learned that there is no point in rushing beauty, learned how I'd found time to actually smell the roses, revelled in how on that busy street there was still an oasis of calm and beauty and...

FUCK THAT. I'm running late, I need these damn flowers, and for the love of god, would you PLEASE just nicely put them together and wrap some paper around them so I can get the heck out of here?

This man was in no rush, and was clearly enjoying the creative process, no matter how one-bloody-stem-at-a-time it was happening - and he just didn't notice my having practically having a "I REALLY need to GGGOOOOO!" seizure right there in his shop. A good 20 minutes later and I finally had my artfully arranged, sticky tape placed *just* so bunches of flowers, and I bolted out of that shop like my butt was on fire.

So while I'd love to tell you I learned a whole bunch of peace, patience, love, flowers, hearts and unicorns lessons from this, I can't.

I just learned to use a different florist next time I'm in a rush.

Sometimes the lessons we learn are not so profound.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

When You Know, You Know

Last night I had dinner out with a good friend who is in the beautiful, heady days of a new relationship. She is positively glowing from the inside out, and it's really wonderful to see just how sparkly she is. The way she spoke about her new partner was I'm sure the same way I spoke about to DH when I met him; with an almost incredulous aire that there could be someone who just fits so well. So she said things like..from their first date, it felt like they had been friends forever. Things like..although she has lived alone for a long time now, after having him over only a few times, the place suddenly felt very empty when he wasn't there. Things like...when he's hurting, she feels it, too. She then looked at me and said, "You know, what they say about these things is totally true. When you know, you know."

I could only smile at that one, especially since it's a line I've used many times before and she's always fobbed me off by retorting, "that's something only you 'smug marrieds' say!"

After she said it I started to think about how often in life that statement is true - there are so many things about which we know the answer, it just takes a while for us to acknowledge it. Or for us to come to terms with the fact that the answer is clear, we just might not like the answer! It occurs to me that it can apply to so many areas in our lives but also to those things which are positive and those which are not so positive. You might "know" that a relationship is ending long before it actually does - and that could apply personally as well as professionally. You might "know" that someone you've entrusted to do a job for you isn't doing the best they could or should be, but you'll hang onto them for a while. You might "know" that an opportunity seems to good to be true, but pursue it anyway. You might "know" that the seemingly inconsequential lump on your arm is something more sinister. You might just "know" that while everyone is fawning over the new girl, something you can't quite put your finger on is warning you that she's not quite what she seems. You might "know" that the house you just looked at is exactly the right one to buy.

When you know, you know. Intuition is such a wonderful gift, and yet how often we ignore it! Sometimes we listen to it, only to be influenced by other people - the ones who have enough influence to convince you to ignore that little inner voice. Sometimes we're unduly influenced by the strength of our intution - only to later on show that our intution was in fact dead wrong (rare, but it happens.) For my part, things happen to me all the time that cause me to then think, "You know, I KNEW this would be the outcome. I really shouldn't be surprised."  I suppose it's human nature which makes us carry on a course of action even though the little voice in our head is telling us not to. I'm pretty sure that's what made me pursue the business- I totally ignored the voice in my head telling me I was just a tiny bit insane to be attempting it.

Maybe the key is to work out when the little voice is inuition, and when the little voice is self-doubt - because I imagine there are times when they sound exactly the same, and times when either would send you into a course of action which then later turns out to be a bad idea.

I've clearly got a lot more thinking to do on this topic - but for now let me just say that hearing my friend use that expression strengthened my faith in intuition just that tiny bit...because, when it comes to matters of the heart, I totally believe that when you know, you know.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

On Spirituality

I've recently returned from a trip to LA, and while there I took a short jaunt to my Dad's house in Mexico. I call it "my Dad's house" because it really was HIS - although owned by my Mom, too. He just adored that house, and could spend weeks and weeks tinkering with things both inside and out. In as much as it's possible to do so my Dad carried on one hell of a love affair with that house; none of her needs were too small or great, and by the time Thursdays would roll around he would hear her calling to him like the siren's song. Money was no object when it came to her demands, and he'd shower her with all sorts of gifts whether she needed them or not. The gift she gave him in return was singular - peace and quiet. He often said that in Mexico (as a whole) and in that house (in specific) it's the only place he ever felt totally relaxed.

My Dad's life was relatively high-stress - he owned his own business, and worked insane hours. In Mexico there was the opportunity to just let all of that stress go. He loved nothing more than sitting outside on the beach recliner, gazing out to sea - or even just laying in bed, doing the same thing. He called it being "bitten by the Baja bug," in so far as you might get there all wound up, but within an hour you suddenly found your bones had turned to mush and whole days could disappear without you really noticing. He'd also spend HOURS tinkering with things, as beach houses are constantly fighting the war against rust and deterioration thanks to all that (beautiful but destructive) salt air. It was, in short, his haven - and he even named it Casa de Mis Suenos (House of my Dreams).

Usually, I don't like going to his house when I am back in the States. I just find it all too painful and horribly claustrophobic. Every square inch of that house is teeming with memories, and they have a habit of creeping up on you when you least expect it. You might find a half-empty bottle of his cologne in the back of a cupboard, or a piece of paper with his writing on it, or come across an ornament I remember buying with him. There are times in that house where I literally feel like I cannot breathe because he is looking over my shoulder. In short, spending time in that house is like living with a ghost and I find it very hard to be there.While I, too, get taken in by the beauty of the sea and time becomes rather fluid, I also find it terribly unsettling and therefore not at all peaceful to spend time there.

The concept of inner peace, or the broader idea of spirituality, is not one I grew up with AT ALL. The most spiritual we got was the feeling of euphoria when you ripped into a giant block of Toblerone. We were also not a religious family, although we were mired in the culture of our religion. God was just not a topic of conversation. Whether you believed or didn't believe was never an issue because frankly, nobody really gave a shit what your thoughts were. We were just practising the culture of our religion, and going through all the motions, because that's what we did. I can't ever recall having a single conversation - even as an adult- about religion or spirituality or faith or...well, anything one might describe as 'woo woo.' My family experience was that we were all about the importance of the tachlis - or the 'brass tacks' - of life. We had neither interest nor time to discover anything outside of that realm. That being said, I probably still count as the most liberal of my family members in so far as I've always thought that there could be more to life than just, well, life. I just never really bothered to find out much about life beyond the tachlis of it.

It is only in fairly recent time that I've started to educate myself in the more spiritual realms, by dipping my toe in a few different waters like meditation, and learning about the idea of "the Universe" and so on. I suppose the older I've gotten (and the different people I've come across), I've started to wonder more about my own purpose and meaning in life, think about concepts beyond the everyday, and consider that there is a lot more to a person and their experiences than just the tachlis.  In many ways just thinking about things which are 'woo woo' makes me uncomfortable because it forces me to acknowledge that could be other forces at work here. I've got to let go of my belief that I am the ONLY person in control here, and I've got to totally suspend my belief that the only things worth my attention are things which are tangible. I'd say at this point in my life I've not necessarily accepted or taken on board all the things I've either learned or been taught, but I am certainly willing to learn and be taught - and that's saying quite a bit. It is, as the cliche goes,  a voyage of discovery.

So that's how I found myself in Mexico, laying in a beach lounger, staring out at the ocean and thinking to myself, "Dad's energy is just ALL OVER this place, it's like he's practically breathing down my neck," and then thinking to myself, "Dad's ENERGY? Seriously? If he heard me say that he's laugh his ass off and call it "energy, shmenergy bullshit!" and then shake his head at me."

I stared out at the ocean some more. I thought about my Dad some more. I started to feel that crispy-at-the-edges feeling you get when you just know that your European white girl skin is slowly but surely burning. I just kept staring at that ocean, letting my mind wander and my muscles relax in the sunshine...and all of sudden, I got it. I understood. My Dad's version of spirituality was right there, in Mexico - he would just never in a million years call it spirituality, or meditation, or finding God, or having inner peace. He would just call it "getting some peace and quiet," or being "bitten by the Baja bug," or "the only place in the world where I feel relaxed."

So that's how I found myself in Mexico, laying on a beach lounger, staring out at the ocean and thinking to myself something entirely different, which was, "Dad, I get it. I really do. We all find our peace somewhere, and this is where you found yours. In your own way, you were a spiritual person, too, you just called it something different."

Suddenly that house did not seem as claustrophobic anymore. I was right in thinking that my Dad's energy resides there, and that he is looking over my shoulder while I spend time there. I like to think of my Dad's spirit being there because that's the only place his physical body ever felt peace, so it's fitting that his spiritual self found peace there, too. I suppose it's not surprising then that having accepted that, it gives ME peace, too - and that, too, is a gift given to me by a house in Mexico.