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.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Wordy Time Of Year

Two years ago I stumbled across the concept of picking a Word of The Year - the word which would serve as your internal reminder of what you were working towards, the word which could serve as inspiration if you ever found yourself in need of some. I suppose the word of the year could also act as a bit of a mantra. Two years ago I picked the word "progress," and in that year I made enormous leaps both professionally and personally. ENORMOUS. I would actually say that the year of the word of progress was a seminal year for me - it was the year everything changed and I started to look at the world through entirely different eyes.

Last year, I really struggled to find a word that 'spoke' to me. I never did settle on one properly - 'progress' still really loomed large on my landscape - and so I ended up not choosing a word of the year at all (or at least not for any lasting amount of time).  There is NO way I'd blame the very stressful year I've had based on my lack of a word (I'm a wee bit more spiritual these days, but come on now. I'm still firmly in Camp Sane). Still, I found myself missing having a word, and I actually thought about it quite a few times but could never bring myself to commit to anything for very long.

Given that I've been bereft because of my lack of a word, I've already started to consider what my 2013 word might be. I'm leaning towards 'reflection.' Because I am SO thin skinned, and emotional, and move at warp speed - I rarely (if ever) stop and think about what I've achieved. I rarely stop and think about just how damn good I have it (although I am grateful for it, I don't think I'm going at mindful appreciation). I think using the word reflection also implies a certain slowing down - in order to reflect, you must STOP and engage in thought which is not chaotic.

Having made such enormous progress, it's high time I reflected on it - "it" being how much I have, how far I've come, thinking about what I'd like to achieve, and focussing on all the awesome things rather than the one or two crappy things. I think too that starting my year by staring out into the ocean is a damn fine way to be reflective, don't you?

Here's your opportunity to join me in reflection. Did you have a word last year? Did it act as your guide, or did you forget it minutes after reading my blog telling you to find one? If you want one this year, what's your word going to be?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Holiday Planning

In the new year, all the planets in my life are going to align. Each of the kids is headed off on a different adventure, the business is going to be officially closed for holidays, and DH is able to take a few days off.  With all those things lined up, I decided that DH and I needed to take off on a holiday.  Of course, we're skint - and with our kids scattered all over the country I was a little worried about taking off to lands far and wide. However, the opportunity to get some quiet time and NOT have to worry about ANY of my five babies (3 kids, 1 dog, 1 business) was too good an opportunity to pass up. DH and I started to research our holiday options. I wouldn't say I'm picky, bbbbuuuutttt......

  • There had to be a hammock involved
  • All meals had to be cooked AND cleaned up by someone else
  • There had to be sunshine
  • No humidity to speak of
  • No TV, radio, internet or smart phones
  • It couldn't cost the earth (not even a very small continent)
  • Wherever possible, I'd prefer it if other humans (other than DH) were not within eyesight on a daily basis
  • There needed to be a warm body of water, either pool or ocean but the key word here is warm
  • It had to have as few or as many activities as I like, with no obligation to ever get up from the hammock if I didn't want to
  • Not so far that it took an entire day to get there

My first choice was the Cook Islands, but it failed the last one on that list with a 14 hour travel time. Second choice was Lord Howe Island, but that had limitations on the days/times you could get there and the accommodation did not scream 'relaxing holiday.' All the usual cheap Aussie holiday locations (Bali, Fiji, etc...) were going to be humid at that time of year. With the end of the year getting closer and closer, and the options getting narrower and narrower, we were getting dangerously close to a staycation, which would definitely not have hit any of the above points other than perhaps the one about the other humans.

Several nights ago, I was half asleep with DH next to me tappity-tap-tapping on his laptop. "Hey, emzee? You awake?" "Um, kinda..." "Okay, just stay awake long enough to listen to this, okay?"

This is what I heard:
"mumble mumble mumble hammock mumble mumble no tv mumble mumble average water temp is 28 degrees mumble mumble secluded mumble mumble breakfast included mumble mumble hideaway island mumble mumble." Wherever this place was, it sure sounded good...but I heard enough to think he must be talking about a place which didn't actually exist, so I asked the deal breaker question. "Exactly how far away is this shangri-la?"

"Put it this way. Leave the airport at 7am, be sitting with a drink in hand staring out at the ocean by 2:30 that afternoon."

I suddenly found myself very much awake.

"Book it, babe. BOOK IT."

So that's how, in a mere 5 weeks, DH and I are going to find ourselves on an grown up holiday, doing a whole lot of not much, hanging in the hammock (yep, even that), revelling in the blissful silence of no electronic devices and as few humans around as possible. DH and I haven't been on a holiday of longer than a weekend in...15 years.  In all those years, we managed a few weekends away together but that's pretty much it.

The irony of all this? I'm so overwhelmed by the possibility of sheer, uninterrupted quiet and indulgent luxury that every time I stop to think about it for even a minute, I start to cry.


Stressed much?

Now here's hoping I can learn to quieten my internal chaos long enough to actually milk every moment of that quiet for what it's worth.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


One of the MOST vital exercises I did under the guidance of Guru Guy was working out why I'm in business in the first place. It sounds so simple, doesn't it? What a basic question. Why on earth am I in business in the first place? I'll tell you what I told him when he asked: the business began in a somewhat organic way (as I think most businesses do). Some friends got together and bought me an "Buttercream Level One" class after I'd been messing about with cake decorating as a hobby (my first official cake was when I was 16 years old.) I was reminded of how much I enjoyed it and so I just started messing about with cake a little more seriously- and eventually word got around, and people I didn't know started to ask for my cakes. Some el cheapo business cards from Vista Print later and suddenly I found myself in business.

As time went on, and I made bigger business decisions, things just started to kind of...happen. So my second lot of business cards were a little nicer, I started to look around for a commercial kitchen, I began to buy more cake tools, and things just grew organically from there. I never stopped for a second to consider why I was doing any of it, I just did it. Natural progression and a complete belief in myself (even if I didn't know it at the time) just kept propelling me forward. It was only when Guru Guy asked the question that it occurred to me to even think about it in the first place.

Working out the answer was a bit of a process, but the end result was pretty simple - I am in the business of cake for reasons which have nothing to do with cake at all. I'm in the business of happiness - my own happiness and the happiness of my clients, and the two are of course intermingled. By making my clients happy, *I* am therefore happy and fulfilled - and the business earning money makes me happy because it means I can provide for my family, and use that money to give what I can to the people I love to make them happy (eg SSOTH fees!). I'm actually simplifying it here quite a bit but you get the gist of it - as much as I love the actual art and science of cake decorating, ultimately it's not about the actual cake at all.

Because I know it's not just about the cake - and I am not quiet about that fact - over the past couple of years I've had other business owners (cake or not) ask me for advice about their own ventures. A few have asked for a formal mentoring relationship, some have asked a question or two and that was it, a few come in and out of my life as needed. Whatever the circumstance, I'm generally pretty happy to share my knowledge and experience, with the proviso that I don't know it all and that different people have different takes on things.

Why do I share my advice? Because my business and my life is not about cake, and if I'm honest, it was probably only really about actual cake in those very early days.

A few nights ago I was mighty upset about that client who emailed me a nasty-gram (read back two blogs to read about that situation). I spent a good part of the next day being quite crumpled about it all, mostly because it's so hard to keep the motivation for working so hard when you get knocked down. I was still carrying around some of that annoyance when I got an email on facebook from another business owner, asking my opinion about a business situation. I replied the only way I know how - with frank honesty and with a decidedly emzee spin on things (I pulled no punches!).

This is the reply I got from her (a few bits edited out for blog purposes):

THANK YOU so much for your honest and prompt response. I just wanted to say that you have been a huge inspiration to me in my career. The very obvious love of the job, care and tremendous effort put into all your cakes is so easily seen. I followed you as you moved your business from your home to it's current location with great interest as I am a mother of 2 young children and desperately wanted to take that next step but thought 'it's just a hobby - no one will be interested in my cakes'. But seeing what you've achieved and you've obviously found the balance between your work/home life, I've recently just completed the fit out of my gorgeous new XYZ business.  But I just wanted to thank you for being such an inspiration to the up and coming cake decorators of tomorrow.
Kindest regards,
Facebooker Fan xxx

Clearly, she has a rosy view of my life, based on what she's read/seen - but If I ever needed any more clear cut message that this business - and my life - are NOT AT ALL about cake, this was it. Right there. In black and white.

And so today, on the eve of American Thankgiving, here is my bit of gratitude and thanks - to Guru Guy for asking the question, and to this business owner for reminding me of the importance of the answer exactly when I needed to hear it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

In Your Own Backyard

My business recently provided a whole lot of beautiful biscuits for the anniversary dinner of our synagogue. In organising these to be made, the marketing person called and asked me if I could email her our logo for use in the event's press. She offered to print it in the booklet, announce it out loud, and basically make a big deal over my company because we provided these treats.

While I appreciated the offer, I flat out refused to have ANY mention of my company at all - and even went so far as to not label the biscuits themselves as we normally would. I think the marketing lady was a little surprised about this. After all, what company does not want some publicity and attention?

Here's the thing - the people who attended this event are NOT my target market, and they know me personally. Knowing me personally means they would not hesitate to call me and either ask for a favour or ask for a discount. Why? Because they know me personally, of course. Then if I didn't provide either the favour or the discount, word will get around that I'm less than generous - and while I don't much care what "gets around," I'd rather it was NO word than a bad one.

Does this mean I don't want to give my friends and acquantainces a discount or do them a favour?


It just means I'd rather do it on a personal level, not a professional one. The very last thing I need is people calling me and wanting something for nothing simply because they know that I have a life outside the business. Yet again the "don't shit where you sleep" adage suits this situation well. YES, I wanted to support my community, but NO that doesn't mean I needed to crow about it.

Second reason I didn't want the advertising? I wanted to avoid the Rock Star Effect. I knew if my business name was plastered all over the place, I'd get attention at the event and we all know how far I will go to avoid that sort of stuff.

Take home lesson here? Not all publicity is good publicity. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thin Skinned

(Ed's note: Yes, I know. I missed two days of blogging, thus rendering me not technically qualified for NaBloPoMo. A bit like when you've snuck a bar of chocolate when you've been on a diet, the important thing is to go back to eating healthily rather than beat yourself up about the Cadbury Fruit & Nut Bar. This is me eating healthily, from a blogging POV.)

I got a nasty gram from a client today. We made and delivered a dozen gorgeous cupcakes to her daughter on her birthday. The client failed to request any special decorations, so we just made them beautifully birthday-esque and sent them out. I got ripped to shreds in this email, because she didn't complete the order with any special requests and so we didn't put ladybugs on the cupcakes.There were no ladybugs on them because she never asked for them, but this was somehow MY fault.

Her daughter got a beautiful, heartfelt gift. Sent with love by her Mum, created and delivered with love by us.

I don't see the problem here, do you?

The fact is, there is bound to be some sort of back story here. Her ungrateful daughter did not thank her Mum properly. The Mum feels guilty for not doing the order right and is looking for someone to blame. The Mum is just having a bad day. The daughter cried about her cupcakes. Who knows? All I know is, I was the recipient of an email telling me I was unreliable, my service was crap, the cupcakes were a rip off, that she could have used any cupcake company in Melbourne, that she did not have faith we would deliver in the first place, and that she won't use my service again or recommend the business to anyone.

Oh, how I would love to tell you that knowing her reaction has nothing to do with me means that I shrugged it off.

(...but how boring this post would be if that was the case!)

I did shrug it off ... eventually. But not before feeling particularly irritated about it, wondering why this woman felt I needed to be her target and basically being fairly crumpled about it. I suppose I've got a very thin skin - I take these things personally even when I know I shouldn't and even when I know I could not or would not have done things any differently.

People talk about growing a thicker skin as they meander their way through life's challenges, but I kinda hope I never do. On the one hand, it's really NOT fun letting those sorts of things get to you, but on the other it just means that I love and care enough about these things that it hurts when someone tells me I've disappointed them.

I think there are worse things than being someone who loves and cares too much, don't you?

Of course, the real loser in this situation is not me, and not the birthday girl. It's the Mum who cannot see that she did something lovely for someone and that is surely worth celebrating. What a terrible loss of time, energy, and emotion that is. I'm guessing I got over my irritation long before she got over hers.

Yes, I think I'll keep my thin skin. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Somewhere in my head there is a blog post desperate to be written - but at this point I must tell you I'm exhausted (physically) because I spent my day cutting, baking, decorating and wrapping something like 1340 gingerbread pieces and just finding the arm strength to type this is an effort.

I couldn't bear to miss a day so this is a bit of a cheater post, in so far as rather than be witty and thought-provoking, I'm just going to tell you all I'm exhausted and then bid you adieu.

*fall over in a heap*

Until tomorrow (when hopefully I can engage my brain a bit!).

Friday, November 16, 2012


Yippee, I made it to the halfway point of NaBloPoMo...and I'm exhausted. Not from the blogging (like every year, I find it much easier to find the time than I thought) but just from all that is happening in my mad, sweet world. Most of it good, some of it challenging - not enough the washing machine lost it's mojo but last night the sewerage pipe decided to clog up leaving us without water or toilets. I've always maintained that my life is one great adventure, it's just that some weeks it's more adventurous than others!

I chatted to my sister on the phone today and I was telling her about an exciting job opportunity DH has on the horizon. DH has been chasing this opportunity for a long time, and he's excited about it - emotionally and intellectually it presents a challenge he would love to take on. Am I worried about it? No. Not really. Yes, a few things about it make me feel a little apprehensive, and yes a new change like this is always a little hard to cope with at first - but in the main I'm thrilled for him. As someone who spends most of her life taking leaps and worry about the "can I do this?" type of questions later, it would hardly be fair if I didn't let him take his own series of leaps. 

Her immediate reaction was not one of celebration, it was one of caution. I can't say I blame her, my DH has had a rather chequered work history since we've been married. I still found myself a little disappointed in her reaction, even though I know it came from a place of love and wanting to protect her little sister from history repeating itself. My disappointment comes not because she is by nature a cautious person, and not because I would have rather she be joyous for us (although of course I would have) - it comes because I found myself wondering if she has actually learned the lessons our Dad's death taught us: that nothing in life is a certainty, that there is no way to predict the future, and that a better trait to cuiltivate than caution is resilience. My immediate, knee-jerk reaction was one of slight irritation - of the, "Why can't she just be happy for me?" sort.


Whenever I'm dealing with tough stuff (and tough does not always mean negative) I've got a friend who reminds me to stop my stressing out and instead ask myself, "What's the lesson I'm meant to learn from this?" Sometimes that's the last thing I want to hear (I'd much rather hear, "poor you, now here's some chocolate to make it easier...") but there is no denying that it has completely re-shaped the way I think about so many things in life.  So when my sister was less than thrilled about something which I think is a great, exciting (and yes, a little stressful) opportunity...rather than get more irritated at her, I just thought, "What's the lesson I'm meant to learn from this?" The lesson is a pretty simple one - it was a reminder that I'm loved. Her reaction was more about her worry and love for me than it was about anything else. I have no idea if she has learned the same lessons I've learned from our shared experience of loss - but does it really matter?

Yesterday, when I was staring into a sink filled with grey, disgusting, stuff-floating-in-it water, I wanted to cry. I really did. My life is bursting at the seams at the moment and I don't have time for another domestic drama. Since I'm pretty good at self-talk, I looked into that nasty sink and thought, "so what can possibly be the lesson meant to be learned from this mess?" (admittedly I was not looking for a terribly spiritual answer. It was said with a whole heap of mental sarcasm than anything else.) While I was contemplating the sink situation and the secret lessons held within it's murky depths, DD1 yelled from upstairs, "MUM! There's something wrong with the toilets and I've gotta GO!!!!"

Lesson to be learned?

Shit happens.

And sometimes it happens so much it gets your pipes blocked.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

Earlier in Spring I decided that I needed to get out of the rut I'd been in all winter. Thanks to some work and family drama, it was a bit of a long, miserable winter for me and I was feeling decidedly blah.  Thanks to my penchant for emotional eating, I'd also put on about 3 kilos - so I was feeling out of sorts and out of shape. Since I know that exercise for me is the equivalent of therapy, I took a friend's advice and signed up with a personal trainer for an eight week stint. I figured her pushing me would not only lead to emotional results but also help me shed those kilos and just give me a good kick start into summer, when I tend to be more active anyway. I was still going to the gym three times a week, and walking with my son twice, but I really felt I needed a bit of a jolt of energy.  To say that hiring her was a luxury is an understatement as it took me several weeks to save up the money for her sessions.

Sadly to say, somewhere around week four it all went a little bit pear shaped. The usual trainer got replaced with someone else, there was no accountability (eg they never tested, weighed, or measured me again), they changed the time of my session (which was determined by my work schedule so not really negotiable) and the new trainer didn't so much push me as she just annoyed the heck out of me. A personal training relationship is an intensely personal one, in so far as you need to both respect them enough to listen to their instructions, and like them enough to want to listen in the first place. I wasn't terribly happy with the whole thing, but having committed the time and money I was loathe to just give up (in hindsight, this was stupid - I totally should have spoken up.)

Around week six I decided to jump on the scales and see if at least the needle was moving in the right direction. It hadn't. I jokingly commented to the (new and crappy) trainer, "I must have gained and lost the same three kilos every week for the past six weeks!"

Her reply?

A look of disdain, bitchy tone of voice, and, "It's amazing the lies we tell ourselves, isn't it?"

I was left speechless. Literally stood there with my mouth hanging agape. I didn't have a witty reply and so I just turned on my heel and left.  I then fumed the entire way home and for most of that day because her comment got under my skin in a big way.  Clearly, that I was going to personal training should have been an indication that I was in fact facing up to the truth of my weight gain? That it was her job to help with my weight loss endeavour (and it wasn't working so I commented on it) should have been an indication to her that we needed to step it up a notch. So many things about her remark were hurtful and upsetting.

I eventually chalked it up to her not knowing me, and not knowing my story and how hard I've worked in the past three years (and continue to work). Often we make judgements when we don't know the back story, and I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. That being said, she's there to motivate, and her comment was hardly motivating - so I decided to call her on it. Tell her my story. Explain that in an effort to lose AND KEEP OFF close to 70 kilos, a 3 kilo bounce is almost nothing. Explain that I was feeling physically and emotionally crap, hence why I started this program. Explain that I'd worked hard (literally) to afford this, and it was important to me that each session count.

You know, basically say - I didn't appreciate your comment, you're a personal trainer, and the key word here is personal so I'm going to tell you this so that you can get better at what you do.

I walked into my next lesson, and before getting on the treadmill, I said, "Listen, I just wanted to let you know that the comment you made last week was really hurtful. I'm not sure if you thought it would be motivating, but it ended up upsetting me. I'm not sure you know my story, but I've worked really hard to get here and this 8 week venture was meant as a pick-me-up. Comments like that just drag me down."

She looked at me, bitchy sneer and all, and said, "Oh I KNOW your story, you've lost a heap of weight, supposedly you go to the gym a bit, yeah, I've heard. I still think the lies we tell ourselves are amazing." She then turned and walked away. I didn't have the best workout ever, as I wasted most of my energy on fuming and gnashing my teeth.

Needless to say I don't think we are going to become besties any time soon, but even so I can't help but agree with her on some level. We DO tell ourselves very convincing lies, about all sorts of things. The sausage roll we had for lunch isn't as bad as the burger and chips we might have had. The exercise I was going to do today (but it was too cold to do it) I'll do tomorrow. The boyfriend who treats you terribly is going to change, he really is. I can eat anything I like as long as I exercise like a crazy lady.  If only I could X, then Y will happen. You get the idea. Us humans are mighty talented at feeding ourselves a whole lot of mental rubbish which we then believe - because we know exactly how to frame it in the right words so it's very convincing.

Even if I agree with her in principle, in this specific case I wasn't lying to myself. I KNOW I need to lose those kilos, I KNOW it's my lack of effort that means they're still hanging around, and I even know what I (really and truly) need to do to get rid of them. However, the lie I'm telling myself is that engaging her services continued to be a good idea several weeks after I knew it wasn't going to work for me.

The lie she's telling herself is that she's a good personal trainer who motivates her clients with bitchy looks and cutting remarks.

No prizes for working out which one of us might have an easier time of dealing with the lies we tell ourselves.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Love Notes

I'm a member of a parenting-of-HOM group on facebook (for the uninitiated, HOM = Higher Order Multiples, a fancy word for multiple births that are triplets, quads or more because clearly that sort of parenting is a higher order of insanity.)  It's a fascinating group because it has everyone from all stages of parenting HOM's - the ones who are still pregnant all the way to ones with adult children. Recently one of the mothers (of fairly young triplets) posted a photo of a note she wrote to her husband, captioned, "Can you tell I was pissed off?"

I won't post it word for word here, but it basically was full of curse words and things like, "just because you work all day does not give you permission to come home and sit on your backside" and "I work all day too you know, they are your children too!" and so on. It was one of the most angry notes I've ever read and clearly she was having a pretty crappy day. Not every day with baby triplets (or baby, singular) is a picnic and she was obviously having one of those days.

In all the times when I've wanted to throttle DH, I can honestly say I've never wanted to do it in print like that. Yes, of course, there are times when I've torn shreds off of him (verbally) because I too had one of those days, and I was really just taking out my frustration on the nearest target. Even in my angriest moments, I can't imagine putting pen to paper like that - which is surprising given that I'd almost always rather write my thoughts than speak them.   I suppose this woman's version of communication was on paper - but I was really struck by that note and how indelible it's mark now is. (I won't even begin to analyse her need to post it on facebook...)

While I believe that you cannot take back words that have been said, I think words that are on paper are almost worse in a way. Seeing something in black and white like that is somehow more hurtful than words which are said ... I suppose because we all blurt out things we do not mean when we are angry, but taking the time to write them down implies (to me) a certain amount of thought and effort beyond what you might blurt in a moment of weakness.

This is probably a reflection on my communication style in general though - I don't write anything (not a blog post, not an email, not a birthday card, not even a text messsage) without either editing it first, OR going back afterwards and reading it again and then sending a second missive to explain myself better. With blogging I try very hard NOT to edit (because I find I express myself better when I don't force it too hard) but I still consider my words carefully as I write them, and I will re-read my posts many times after I've already hit the publish button. I don't know - there's just something very real about words which are written down. I just think they somehow carry much more weight than spoken words do.

What do you think? Which is more powerful? The spoken word, or the written word?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Yeah, My Kids Rock

Today I went to SSOTH* to volunteer for a couple of hours in the kitchen part of their kitchen garden program. I have been promising the kids that I would come and help since they started the program *cough* two years ago *cough*.  A couple of weeks ago DS came home in a state of hysteria to tell me that they were down to their very last few lessons and that it was now or never. I managed to get myself organised and so far I've been to one lesson for DD2, today was DS's lesson and in two weeks I've got to go again for DD1's class. Remind me again why I put them in separate classes...?

(Warning: parental brag follows)

One of the things which struck me about these volunteering experiences is just how my my kids seem to have their act together so much more than other kids do.  Both times I volunteered I was really surprised by how much parental guidance these kids needed. They've been working in the kitchen for TWO years now so you would think they would have some idea what they were doing. Yes, my kids have had more exposure to different sorts of food and food preparation than most of their peers - but honestly, some of the blatant clueless-ness shocked me. The first time I was there, I was in charge of 3 kids working on a cauliflower salad. My DD was charged with cutting up the head of cauliflower while two other boys had to make the dressing. I gave them the recipe, read through it with them, and told them to get to it. All the ingredients and tools were lined up, so it was a matter of just measuring it all into the bowl and whisking it up.

"emzee? It says to measure one tablespoon of olive oil. How do I do that?"

With the tablespoon measure right there on the table.

"emzee? Now it says to measure a tablespoon of tahini paste, but the spoon is dirty with the olive oil. What do I do?"

Either get another one, or wash that one.

"emzee? It says to measure a tablespoon of sweet chili sauce but the spoon is dirty with the tahini paste. What do I do?"

Are you getting the picture here?  These are educated, capable kids - for whom everything was provided, and yet they still could not work it out.

Today's lesson wasn't too much better. DS asked me for a demo on how to chop silverbeet, and then went on his merry way. The other kids? Useless. Even after I'd explained and provided a visual. I got the distinct impression they wanted me to just do it for them, even though the kitchen lessons are considered the most fun part of their week and they all seem to love it.  At both lessons a vast majority of the kids bolted once the cooking was done, leaving the washing and organising to the parent helpers. That part wasn't so surprising, after all most kids leave messes for adults to clean up...but what was surprising? All the other parents who made a point of coming up to me and saying, "Your kids are SO wonderful, they always help with the cleaning and sorting out, they always ask to do more jobs, they're so keen to help and work in the kitchen often without needing to be asked." I promise it's not a mother-exaggeration to say I heard that no less than a half dozen times, from parents and teachers. I'll admit to feeling my chest puff up with pride just a little bit.

So here's my question to my fellow parents - what the HECK are you doing with your kids that they are not doing exactly the same thing? If you see my kids behaving in a way you wish your kids did - newsflash - you can actually DO something about that, you really can. I'm not the best parent (hell, it took me two years to find the time to volunteer, didn't it?) My kids are far from perfect. They make messes they expect me to clean up, they ask stupid questions, they are basically just garden variety kids... but make no mistake, they are not at all like their peers. They understand the concept of community - that a kitchen, like a family or a temple or a school - is a community, and it's only by working together that jobs get done. They do their bit to help when they are expected to and even when they're not. In short my kids just seem to have their act together a lot more than their friends seem to. If other parents are noticing it enough to take the time to comment to me, then those other parents need to spend some time instilling those skills and values in their own kids. My kids are not amazing in any respect other than I've taught them to be responsible for themselves and for their community. They've watched as DH and I volunteered for a number of organisations, they've learned that they are a part of our family life as much as anyone else is - in short, we modelled this community spirit for them and so they know no different.

Today (after nearly throttling a kid who asked me if he really HAD to wash the lettuce he had just picked out of the garden which came with a half kilo of dirt stuck to it) I found myself wondering why exactly my kids are so great. Is it because they've only ever known how to live - and therefore work - as part of a team? Is it because DH and I are just fabulous parents? Is it because they are more mature than their peers? Is it because we have given them responsibilities since they were very young? Is it just because they are inherently wonderful people?

Truly, it's probably a bit of all of that. Regardless of the reason, I really did feel a great sense of pride today when I watched my son just get on with what he needed to get done - while the other kids swanned around looking a little clueless. Best of all was the enormous hug he gave me when he saw me waiting in the kitchen AND the enormous hug of thanks I got when he left, neither of which he was embarassed to do in front of all his school mates.

When I got home today, there was a heart shaped card sitting on the front hall table. It was a card from my son with this quote on it: "I would thank you from the bottom of my heart, but for you my heart has no bottom."

So it would seem that my kids are "all that" and grateful, too.

I think DH and I, even with all our imperfections as parents (of which there are many) are doing a pretty good job with these kids - so my pride isn't just for them, it's for us. 
*SSOTH = Shmancy School On The Hill, or the private school I send all my hard earned cash to, by choice. Yeah, yeah, I know, I know...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Rock Star

I once read an interview with the owner of Australia's best known cake shop, in which the owner said her favourite part of being in the cake world was the “rockstar moment.” She is someone who does a lot of society weddings and it's not unusual for her to be an invited guest at the event where her company's cake is a feature. She attends the events and gets to revel in the rockstar status of being the one who made the cake. All night when people comment about the (fabulous of course) cake, she gets to bask in the glory of being the person responsible for it. Never mind that she probably didn't have much to do with the actual creation of it, the fact is she gets to share the spotlight with it and for her, that's the important bit. The attention. The short lived fame.

We were talking about this at work a while back, and all my lovely employees agreed that they, too love the rockstar moment of being an invited guest at an event which features one of their creations Me? I can think of nothing worse. Not only do I not want to be the rockstar, I don't want to be at the event at all if I can help it, and if I can't help it – I want to be the one in the corner who doesn't own up to the fact that she was involved in the cake. This has nothing at all to do with confidence or pride in my skill, and everything to do with the longevity of my rock and roll cake career.

I am not, by nature, an attention seeker in that way – and while it's true that I am loud, extroverted, and can talk the paint off the walls – I don't much enjoy being in the spotlight per se. When it comes to cake, the whole reason I do it is because I love that it makes people happy and brings them joy at THEIR event. When you are in a room full of people and they are fawning over both the cake maker and (not just) the birthday girl – well, I can't help but be a bit embarrassed by that. I don't want the rockstar moment at the event, because the event is not about me. It's the person celebrating who deserves to have the screaming fans and the undies thrown on stage (which of course only happens at the best parties.)

I want my rockstar moment well after the guests have gone, the balloons have floated gracefully to the floor, and the wine stains have come out of the tablecloths. Then, when the client has time to reflect on their event, I want the phone call or email to tell me that I am, in fact, a rock star. I want them to tell me they appreciated my effort and skill, took loads of photos of the creation, and feel that the cake truly was an important part of the success of their event and that they got joy out of it.

If the phone call never comes, or the email never gets sent – I'm content knowing that I'm a rock star nonetheless – because I will have given them the best I could give, which is a little part of my heart and my skill sitting right there front and centre at their event.

Rock stars' faces might sag, their voices might become gravelly, their hair thin, guitars go out of tune, but the memories you have of their concerts stay with you for a long time after the event. That's MY kind of rock star moment.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Laundry Love

As I type this, I'm sitting in the corner of our local laundromat waiting for my eight (yes, eight) loads of washing to get through their cycles. It's a laundromat which comes straight out of the movies. The flourescent lights on the paint-peeling ceiling have a distinctly yellowish cast to them, the "Sears Kenmore” washing machines are all lined up against the wall and are in various colours of sea foam green. On the wall there is a functional but rusting machine which, for 50c, will dispense exactly one broken plastic cup's worth of cheap, clumpy detergent. The musak piped in is scratchy and features music from the 50's and 60's (the song currently playing is sung by Doris Day). There are boxes of lost socks and discoloured abandoned shirts which look so forlorn I am almost inclined to just bundle them all up and take them to the nearest op shop for looking after.

There are tables for folding which have magazines from the 1980's (and they're the newer ones), spindly metal-legged chairs whose upholstery is either poking out or non-existent, and some Christmas tinsel which some hopeful sort strung across the place long enough ago that there are clumps of dust precariously balanced across the tinsel.

In short, it feels much much like I walked into a stitch in time – if not for the presence of the very modern laptop I'm working on, I'm pretty sure there is no difference between how this place looks now and how it did when it opened, with the possibly exception of the tinsel. There is something so totally wonderful about that, isn't there? That some places on earth just seem to be suspended in time but still function exactly as they are meant to. I've been in this laundromat a number of times over the last several weeks, thanks to my broken washing machine and my inability to find the time to ring the repair guy. Every time I have come in, the place is humming with the noise of people banging down metal washing machine lids and the reassuring clicking sound of the 1970's era dryers going around and around. And, yes, there is something rather wonderful about the dryers having see-through windows. Circling laundry is somehow very compelling viewing.

I have fallen a little bit in love with this place, for all of it's form and function, for it's retro-look (not at all deliberate) and for it's wonderful clean-laundry-and-ancient-machinery smell. Even with that, I have decided that tomorrow morning I'm going to finally call the repair guy. It's getting expensive and time consuming to keep coming here, and we really need our home washing machine back – but you know, I'm going to miss it here, I really am. It is – even with the slightly creepy guys who hang out here, and the vaguely dodgy nature of the place – just a lovely slice of domestic, communal living of which I get to be a very small part. I imagine if these machines could talk, they would probably have quite a bit to say.

I've got to go help DH fold all that laundry now, and so I'll need to end this love letter to Soapy, my local laundromat (and even the name of the place makes me smile with unbridled retro joy)… but I do so content in the knowledge that, even if I am away for a very long time, it will still be here, dusty tinsel and all.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Oh The Possibilities...

Remember my first Word Play post?
Check it out. If she were not totally brilliant, I might hate her just a wee* bit for coming up with this before I did. (*You saw what I did there, didn't you?)

This woman is totally my hero, and I might just have to make some of her cakes to support my job application for Creator of Inappropriate Baking Tools job.

Which is totally "the business after the business", isn't it?

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Ironic Pet Shop

I've written before about my son and I going for twice-weekly walks, and about how entertaining our conversations can be on those walks. Some days we don't really say much at all, while on other days we solve all of the world's problems inside of half an hour.  Sometimes we start a conversation and it develops a whole life of it's own, eventually ending up as part of our family folklore. This past Thursday morning we had my favourite sort of conversational topic - the one which I know will keep going long after the walk has ended.

In a relaxed, conversational, no-big-deal-but-somehow-serious tone of voice, my son says to me, "Mum, I've worked out what I want to be when I grow up," "Really?" "Yeah. I totally want to own an ironic pet shop." "An ironic pet shop? What's an ironic pet shop?"

"You know, a pet shop were we have things like...elephants named Tiny. A mouse named Roar. A snake named Fluffy McFluffikins. You know, stuff like that."

You can see where the rest of this conversation went, can't you? If there is something I absolutely adore, it's word play games - especially word play games which make you think and make you laugh and the ironic pet shop fits the bill perfectly. (I hereby permit you all to take this game and make it your own.)

We spent the rest of the walk home populating my son's ironic pet shop. There was:

  • A giraffe named Short Stuff
  • A dog named Meow
  • A hippo named Speedy
  • A hermit crab named Chatty
  • A porcupine named Softy
  • A fluffy kitten named Fierce
  • A worm named Cheetah
  • A snake named Fluffy
  • An ant named Huge-o
 My son and I spent the entire walk trying to out-ironic one another with the various pets and their often hilarious names. Some were very obviously ironic and some of them a bit more clever but either way we had a great time that morning. In thinking of these various names, I was reminded that DH and I did in fact own three ironic pets once upon a time. Back in the day before we had kids, we decided we needed to take on some (infinitesimal) amount of responsibility so we bought a single Beta fish. We named him...Fish.

Fish died. *sad face* I can't remember why but suffice to say we failed at our first attempt at parenthood. Our second attempt at parenthood saw us owning yet another fish, and this one we named Sushi. Sadly, Sushi also died not too long after we got him. At this point we probably should have given up, but we're not easily deterred, and so we ventured into parenthood once again with the purchase of Fish #3. Fish #3 has what remains to this day my favourite fish name: Fresh.

Fresh did not live up to his name. A few weeks after we got him, we went away for the weekend. On our return, I wandered into the loungeroom to see how he was doing. I noticed a dried leaf on the carpet, and I bent down to pick it up and throw it away.

It did not occur to me to wonder why a dried leaf would be INDOORS, where there are no trees from which it might have fallen.

Fresh wasn't so much fresh as he was shriveled and crunchy and rather dried leaf-ish.

After that we pretty much decided that if we could not keep single Beta fish alive, clearly the only thing to do was to have a go at raising children...because, you know, that's clearly so much easier

Suffice to say we seem to have done better with the real children than with the ironic pets.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Guest Blog

At last!  The power to say what *I* think!

Oh the heady joy ...

You see dear reader, Emzeegee is not infallible after all and as she drifted off into the arms of Morpheous (i.e. sleep) cried out, "I forgot to blog today!".

Today has been a very full and even stressful day for Emzee, and the discipline of blogging just slipped through the cracks. That left it all up to me, her faithful companion Tonto to jump into the saddle and dash to the deadline.

I'm still not entirely sure what this will be about, but I'm tap-tapping away with one eye on the telly and one on the time; got to get this in before midnight you know!

This weekend is going to be very busy for all at Emzeegee Manor; DD1 is off to a Guides camp, DS has his regular basketball match, DD2 has dance, and the two of us have a 60th birthday lunch that will take us out of town whilst all of the above are occurring. This requires some logistical planning and mobilising the beloved Uncle taxi company. On top of this Emzeegee is short handed in the shop and has a large order book for this weekend.

It's no wonder that she just forgot her sacred mission to blog every day this month.

So here I am, DH, making sure that she does not fail. Ah, I see that time is running out and I must post this or miss that damned deadline and  I still haven't let you know what I really think ...


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Word Play #2: Rather Bookish

The words in red are those which were suggested as part of my Word Play game. Thanks to my niece (a fellow bookworm) for suggesting this group of words.  

As a family we are all rather bookish. DH and I have always been this way, and our mutual love of books is one of the many things which brought us together in the first place.  I can remember many a date when we wandered through a town, happened to find ourselves in a bookshop, and then emerged blinking into the bright light an hour or two later and a hundred or so dollars poorer. Our mutual love of the printed word means that when we've sat down and played the, "If we won a billion dollars and got to build our dream home" game, one of the very first items on the list is a library with shelves reaching so high you need one of those ladders on wheels in order to reach the shelves above your head. One of the other items is a toilet which is not always cold, but that's a story for another day.

So....books. I love them with the same ferocity I reserve for my children. I am however both cheap and rather space-conscious, so many years ago I got into libraries in a pretty big way. Actually my first real foray into libraries was when I was pregnant with the kids. I'd gone on maternity leave a few weeks earlier than most, and I found myself able bodied and bored out of my mind. My solution to this was to go to the local library, gather up armfuls of books (always in an even number, I'm a little OCD like that) and drag them home. I say "drag" because it was never clear which was heavier - the bag of books, or my heavily pregnant-with-triplets belly. Since then I've been very pro-library and the rest of my family is, too - we've 'maxed out' our collective library cards on more than one occasion (and one card = 25 books.)

Sometimes, it's not just about the books themselves, it's about the entire experience. So once I bring the books home, I have an entire procedure for working out the order in which I'm going to read them, a bit like the MnM's sorting procedure I do. I get engrossed in my little procedure and next thing you know, I've glanced down at my watch and realised a half hour has gone by. I can get entirely lost in my world of books - so much so I'd hardly notice if there was an Apocalypse or a whole V-formation of flying squirrels passed by the window. It's entirely indulgent...and I love it unashamedly.

I'll let you in on a few secrets, though: I rarely read anything heavily emotional or intellectual, instead preferring to read those things which require nearly no thought at all. The only time I ever read anything with any real 'grunt' to it is when it's been recommended by someone (often, my niece, who lives oceans away) or when a book has gotten enough press that I need to see what all the fuss is about. For me, reading is all about escapism. To use a cliche, reading is my happy place. It's the thing I do when I really want to just turn my brain off and stop all the infernal thinking that I do. I can be totally immersed in a book, get to the end of it, and be totally unable to tell you what the book was about. If there are more than a half dozen characters, I won't be able to keep them straight in my head. So I'm reading, but because I'm really only in a vaguely conscience state to begin with, I'm not really absorbing much of it at all.  I suppose in that way it's my own form of meditation (without the palaver of the oom's and the burning candles and whatnot.)

Is there something YOU do which is your happy place? Sew? Knit? Cook? Garden? Where do you get lost? What is the one activity which totally immerses you in it, to the exclusion of all else? (Immerses you enough that you wouldn't notice a flock of owls that landed on your window sill and ask you directions to Hogwart's...)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Something I'm grateful for this week: hospitality. We recently welcomed a family into our home who are considering moving from Perth to Melbourne.  We had the parents to dinner a few months ago, when DH got asked if we could host them for dinner. They came on a fact finding mission to decide if this was where they wanted to move to - and now having made the choice, they brought their daughter with them to look at schools and properties. We had them to dinner again so their DD could meet ours (they are only 8 days apart!). We had a lovely evening and the entire family was really very grateful that we welcomed them.

The Mum in particular thanked me effusively, saying that we were really wonderful for welcoming virtual strangers into our home and that she was impressed that our kids were so willing to include a child they did not know. She asked if this was something we actively taught them, or if it's just their nature. The answer is that it's probably a bit of both, but it's also very much a case of the old "do unto others as you would have done unto you," concept. DH and I have been extremely fortunate to have travelled all over the world, and everywhere we have gone we've managed to be welcomed into someone's home. The hospitality extended to us from places near (Sydney) and far (the US, Europe and so on) has been really wonderful and it's a great joy of ours to extend that same hospitality to people in our own home. That these people were basically strangers to us makes no difference at all - we welcomed them with open arms.

Over the years I've hosted and been hosted by all sorts of people, from all sorts of meeting points. I've met readers of this blog on two continents - and in one case met their kids, partners, and spent time in their homes. I've met friends from online parenting groups in 3 different countries. I've had dinner with the partners and children of business colleagues. I recently got invited to spend a week in Canada with a work colleague I've only ever spoken to on the phone. In short, lots of people have welcomed me and so I've welcomed lots of people. It is part of our religious culture as a whole to do so, but it's something that we as a family have embraced wholeheartedly. Someone recently asked me if it's expensive, feeding extra people every week - because of course we've got to account for more mouths to fill. The truth of it is that I don't even notice the extra expense, I really don't. I would much rather spend my money on an extra steak or some nice post-dinner nibbles than I would on almost anything else. Sharing food with friends or strangers might cost more financially but spiritually it's a damn good return on investment.

Extending hospitality isn't always about a once-in-a-while experience. I've got a friend who for the past 2 years has had dinner at our house once a week. The kids have negotiated with her to bring dessert each week, and it's now become a tradition which none of us like to miss. We welcome her into our home every week (even without the dessert!) and it's as much a part of the fabric of our week as going to work or going to school. It's just "what we do." Both DH and I (but especially DH) grew up in families who entertained quite a lot - the sharing of love, time, food and good company have been a part of our lives for as long as either of us can remember. It's no wonder then that we create that same welcome environment in our own home. My kids will often ask me, "Who is coming to dinner this week?" and will almost be a little disappointed if I say that it's just the five of us. I'm hoping that's because they too like to share and not because DH and I are boring to hang out with! :)

Have you welcomed anyone into your home recently? An old friend, a new friend, a total stranger? Oh, and are you free on Friday night?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Word Play #1: Diff'rent Strokes for Diff'rent Folks

I'd forgotten that last time I did NaBloPoMo, I asked people to give me a list of seemingly random words which I would then use to craft an entirely real and readable blog post with. One of my faithful readers reminded me of this little game and I'm always happy to use a good writing prompt. The words in red are the ones given to me (with thanks to my IBFF for these, I'm pretty sure this post will generate a heap of spam so thanks for the love. Not.)

I recently went with a girlfriend of mine to a sex shop. Actually a sex superstore.

Now there's an interesting beginning to a story, isn't there? Oh, and *waves to in-laws* - yep, I realise I'm potentially exposing (ha!) myself a little more than I like but it's all in the name of good writing practice, yes? To clarify (and avoid further embarassment) I meant "girlfriend" as in friend-who-is-female, not "girlfriend" as in my bit on the side (that's another post.) (I'm kidding.) (Really.)

Anyway, she asked me to accompany her to...ummm.. oh hell. *red cheeks* She asked me to accompany her to purchase some toys. The type of toys which, when you turn them on and hold them in your hand, cause vibration. I'm always one for new adventures so I went along as moral support and we checked out the selection there. I have got to say that I was astounded at the amount of - stuff - they had there. Literally everything from plain old pornography of the magazine sort, to videos which feature everything from The Pope to bananas to Octomom (and I SO wish I was kidding about that Octomom thing. I'm not.) The video section alone had me wandering in there, mouth agape, at the sorts of things which people seem to find titilating. There was an entire section of parody videos - literally, people dressed up as (for example) The Simpsons - acting out whole episodes but with a sexual twist. Then there were the sci-fi and horror sections, featuring aliens and strange creatures and ghosts which go bump in the night (quite literally as it happens.) 

I've got to say the entire experience was eye opening quite literally - frankly, there was a bunch of stuff which required me to read the instructions just to work out what you might DO with one of those things. My question is, who sits around and thinks about making these things?! And can I have their job? Because I'm thinking spending all day coming up with an entire BAKING SECTION of stuff of a naughty nature has GOT to be a fabulous job. Did someone sit around and think, "I know! I've always wanted to make a pavlova in the shape of a penis! Let's manufacture a penis-shaped cake tin!"  Apparently, they did. There were cake toppers. Candles. Cake servers. Aprons. Funny chef's hats. Cookie cutters. Literally all the tools of the trade in the shape of...tools. An entire cookery AISLE of stuff, should you ever feel yourself in need of, say, boobie-shaped ice cubes. I have no shame in admitting that I wanted to buy that cake tin. I really did. I'm not sure why I didn't buy it, other than I'm not entirely clear on what use I might have for it, and explaining it's purchase to anyone (or it's existance in my business's collection of cake tins) might be a tad...hard..to do. (You saw what I did just there, didn't you?) Besides it was a crappy quality, made in China sort of affair and I prefer my penises to be hard wearing. 


I just typed that out loud, didn't it?

Ah well, in for a penny...

I'm pretty sure the instructions required that it be hand washed - and can you just imagine the jokes that would go on at work about that?! It's the only baking tin in the world which gets harder the more you wash it.

*boom tish*

Before formally ending this post (and the humiliation therein), I'd just like to remind you all that there are only 7 shopping weeks until my birthday, and I quite like novelty pavlovas. 

*exits, stage left*

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Swetheart Darling Sweetie Lovey

The other day I realised that when I talk to clients on the phone, I almost always finish a sentence with a smile and a generic affectionate name. "Great, so that's 500 cupcakes for the 21st of November. See you then. Thanks lovey!" or "Yes, of course we can create that, no worries at all darling," or, "Oh you're most welcome sweetheart, my pleasure!"

OMG, just reading those makes me feel like I speak in the manner of a 1950's housewife trying to please her husband with her meat loaf and polished silver.

It's worse than I thought, isn't it?

I'm not sure why but I suddenly became aware of how much I do it (more than once in most conversations) and I realised that maybe it's just not the done thing. Nobody has ever pulled me up on it, but maybe they're afraid to. Or maybe it's just become such a thing that it's too embarassing to bring up. Besides, how does one frame that conversation? "Uummm, emzee? I'm not your darling, babe, honey, or sweetie. Stop that girly bullshit, okay?" I will admit to being somewhat annoyed when strangers do that to ME, and here I am doing it with gay abandon several dozen times a day.

I decided I needed to fix this habit of mine - and it's exactly that, a habit... so easily made and easily broken. I tried. I really, really tried. I ended up sounding (to my ear anyway) like a robot. I just seem to be lacking in a business phone voice that lies between something out of Dr Who and June Cleaver. I'm either robotic and formal sounding, or I want to give you slippers and a cup of tea when you come home, sweetheart. This attempt at sounding more professional went on for a few days until I finally gave up. For the record, I can do a professional, not loving or robotic voice at all - but generally that's in a situation where you have pissed me off so damn much I'm trying not to reach through the phone and throttle you. I decided in the end that I needed a second opinion, so I got one of my work colleagues to listen in on several phone conversations and then asked her what she thought.

"Is it wierd that I call everyone lovey, or sweetheart, or darling? Give it to me straight, does it make me sound like a people-pleasing housewife? Do you think I'm annoying people by doing it, given that I have no real idea if they are sweet or loving or darling-like? Do I need to mentally kick myself every time I do it, until the Pavlovian response kicks in and I start sounding like a normal person?"

Her reply surprised me - she said, "No, it's not wierd at all - because you sound like you really mean it, and I know you DO mean it. You are really good at making people feel really good about themselves for ordering with you, and you calling them an affectionate name just proves that you care and you're emotionally invested in their order. Since that's the truth of it, I don't see it as a problem. Yeah, okay, if you were a creepy dude in a shop somewhere, it would be wierd. But on you it just sounds like...you."



Phew. I can just go back to being me. The same me who, frankly, even all these years later, is really damn grateful that you trust me enough with your order, that you pay me to do what I love, and that you care enough to come back and do it several times over again.

Fair to say I think that resolves it, sweetheart.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Facebook Not Friends

Here's a lesson that Biz Guy taught me a long time ago: if doing something or someone makes you feel like crap, just don't do it anymore or don't see them anymore. I'm pretty sure he said it in a far more business-like and spiritual sort of way, but that's the gist of it. How often do we find ourselves engaging in an activity or investing energy in someone - which not only is not worth it, but also makes us feel kinda crappy? I don't know about you, but I used to do this a heck of a lot.  I kept people in my life who (for myriad reasons) just didn't really belong there. Maybe I kept them there because of shared history, maybe I met them once and liked them and so they stuck around, maybe someone else introduced us and we hit it off, but sometime later I decided they did not really 'do it' for me. It's not just people, sometimes I'll engage in activities which make me feel kinda sucky. A good example of this is the personal trainer I hired for 8 weeks (more on that in another post.) Somewhere aroundn the 5 week mark I realised it wasn't for me. I didn't do anything about it, I just kept going along - which is ridiculous, really, because isn't PT meant to boost you up, not bring you down? I literally kept trying to find reasons to miss my appointments.

Biz Guy's lesson is a really good one - because it reminds me that it's ME who is in control of what I do and who I engage with, ME who makes the decisions, and ME who can make a choice each time. I forget that sometimes, I really do. So how does this relate to my current life?

I used to have a very, very firm rule that (as much as it was reasonably possible to do), my personal life and my business life were to remain separate. You know, what my Dad would have called the, "Don't shit where you sleep," rule. Let's face it, I'm an open (loud mouthed) book and sometimes not a very nice book at all - and I don't think my work colleagues need to know that, do they? It's also not really their business what I do in my spare time - because that's exactly what it is, MY spare time. Unfortunately I kinda forgot that rule for a while, and so I became facebook friends with (very few) work colleagues - people who I thought I would get on with outside of work, people who just made me laugh, people who pushed my buttons in all the right ways. I'll even admit that it was ME who sent some friend requests.

And then - more than one of those people set about treating me in what I would consider a disrespectful manner. They didn't treat me with the same honesty and integrity I treated them with. I tolerated it for a while, I really did - too long of a while, if I'm honest. Then several posts and photos came and went which made me feel - you guessed it - pretty crappy. It really, really began to get under my skin, in a way only an ill-timed or not-thought-out facebook post can. You know, you start to read between the lines. You start to wonder who is telling you the truth, or even if anyone is. You start to wonder if it's YOU who is the moron here and the rest are laughing at how you got sucked in so easily. You start to wonder if...it's really worth your time being 'friends' with these people at all.

Guess what? It's not - because if doing something or someone makes you feel like crap, just don't do it anymore or don't see them anymore.

I spent a small part of my day yesterday unfriending a heap of people, the vast majority of which are business associates. I took the power back. I took my privacy (on facebook anyway) back. Yes, I'm fairly certain some of them read this blog - but that's okay, because I can't police this environment and in this space, I accept that it's open slather. On facebook, though - where I'm even less cautious than I am here - I don't want them in my happy space. I really don't. I can't even really explain just how much better I feel knowing those people are now out of that corner of my life. It feels....freeing.

So - I'm giving you Biz Guy's advice for free. Go get rid of something - or someone - that/who makes you feel like crap. Believe me when I say you'll find yourself wondering why you didn't do it much sooner.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Meditation Missteps

My efforts at becoming a devotee of meditation have been, shall we say, lacking. I really, really wanted to be one of those people who gets up an extra 30 minutes early and devotes that time to the practice of mediation. Instead I became one of those people who gets up several hours early and then looks irritatedly at the alarm clock until it becomes time to actually wake up and face the day. The irony that I am struggling to sleep very well because of stress and worry - and it's meditation which would help -  is not lost on me. The irony that I am lying in bed awake ANYWAY and should therefore use that time to meditate is also something I'm aware of.

What can I say, I have yet to master the art of actually doing the bleedingly obvious right thing to do.

I decided that it was easier for me to get to bed earlier than it was to wake up earlier, and that the solution here was nighttime meditation. I then decided to go all 21st century and download a sleep meditation app. I don't own a CD player (and my car still has a tape deck!) and so the app was the best way to go.

App #1 was actually a sleep hypnosis app. I listened to it - in full - for 3 nights. Every night I got to the end of the talking and thought to myself, "Wait, aren't I meant to have been hypontised into glorious sleep by now? I wonder if that guy talking is hot. He sounds kinda hot...but kinda old and a little creepy. Can you be hot yet creepy and old...?" and so on, ad naseum, until I realised I once again was not getting any sleep.

App #2 was a little better, except that it was a "Learn to Meditate" app and specifically tells you not to do it at night or lying down. I ignored that bit and did it at night, lying down. His voice was quite pleasant, and I did manage to fall asleep once or twice, but he kept banging on about focussing on a candle...and I was shit at the focussing so I'd fall asleep trying desperatly to imagine up a flickering candle. I think if you follow the official instructions you're meant to actually light a candle, but I'm pretty sure doing that while lying down half asleep is a bad idea.

App #3 was actually a Sleep Meditation App. Ahh, now we are getting somewhere! Only problem is that the delightful Shazzie, a) has a ridiculous name, and b) is English so has a delicious sounding accent but talks so slowly you desperately want to tell her to hurry the fuck up. Plus the first thing she says in her calm and very slow voice is, "Do not listen to this sleep meditation while driving a vehicle or operating heavy machinery. Do not listen to this sleep meditation if you intend to drive a vehicle or operate heavy machinery immediately after listening to it." Is it just me? First, what moron gets into his tractor, pushes his IPod ear buds, and listens to a sleep mediation? Second, if she's doing her job, I won't be doing anything AFTER this mediation other than SLEEPING, not driving a fecking tractor!

OMG I just Googled Shazzie. She's like an entire enterprise.

Anyway - I quite enjoyed the lovely Shazzie and in truth, I've never made it to the end of her recording because I've always fallen asleep mid-way (and therefore I never get to drive the damn tractor! Argh!) I'm not entirely loving it though, as I find I fall asleep while waiting for her to finish a sentence, and I'm pretty sure that's not the point...or maybe it is?

My voyage to sleep has actually made me realise that the issue is not falling asleep, the issue is staying asleep andn having a full restful night.

I hear that apparently meditation can help with that.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Most Writing-est Time Of The Year

Yep, it's that time of year again - National Blog Posting Month - NaBloPoMo - which happens every November. Bloggers with too much free time, oodles to say, and enough masochism to last the distance  pledge to blog every single day throughout the entire month of November. Since I quite proudly fit into all those categories, I'll be joining in this madness for the FIFTH year in a row - here's hoping I make it through the month without too many filler posts, with my sanity mostly intact, and having gained something other than more kilos from the experience.

Today I'm going to share a story about my run in with the SSOTH Parent's Committee. For those relatively new to this blog, SSOTH stands for Shmancy School On The Hill, which is the horrendously expensive private school that DH and I sweat actual blood and tears to afford to send our kids to. Why we choose to send them there is a whole 'nother story, but suffice it to say someday these kids had better put me in a five star retirement home.

The PA sent out a request for volunteers for an upcoming Sports Day. Sports Day, so you know, is held on a public holiday and it's considered a compulsory school day. I'm not sure how they get away with that, but the end result is a bunch of bored parents (except those annoying ones yelling from the sidelines looking like they give a shit) and a bunch of sweaty kids all covered in cheap, nasty face paint which stains all their (expensive) uniforms and gives most of them a face rash.

I digress. Me being a volunteering sort, I replied that I'd be happy to help. If nothing else it alleviates the boredome if I get to look like I'm being helpful, when in fact I'm standing there making snide, unfair judgements about the well manicured, eyelash-curled, bling-wearing, high-heel wearing parents who are yelling from the sidelines.

I got no response to my email for several days, and then an email went out which said,

"Thank you very much for volunteering to help out at this year’s Parents’ Association Sports Day BBQ. Before I prepare a roster I would like to know if any of your husbands or partners are available to actually BBQ the sausages. I know all you women are more than capable but traditionally the men toast the snags! (it’s also nice male bonding time :))."

By no stretch of the imagination would I call myself a feminist, but this has to be one of the most ridiculous emails I've seen in a long while. Yes, she was kidding - but it was a pretty ill conceived joke, and she really belaboured the point, didn't she?. I wanted to fire off a really long missive ...but instead I slept on it for a day, and then came up with this reply - which I think you will agree gets my point across nicely:

"I asked my husband if he wanted to help and he said he'd prefer I was pregnant, barefoot, and tied to the kitchen sink - which apparently is what women "do traditionally" and where we bond with one another.

I actually find this email incredibly offensive. Given that the parent's association asked for volunteers, and you now have a list of people who are willing to help, I would think it's more important to make sure the job is getting done than worry about what is men's work and what is women's work."

HER reply to that was suitably pissed off and feather-ruffled. She (wrongly) pointed out that her husband was currently the ONLY volunteer for the job (how that's possible when she emailed a whole group of volunteers is beyond me) and that last year, the poor baby had to BBQ the sausages with two helpers for 4 hours and he found this very, very hard to do.

Let's think about this. 3 adult males found turning sausages for 4 hours really, really hard and therefore we need to make sure we only recruit big, strong men to help them this year.

Excuse me while I guffaw and then throw up.

Needless to say I don't think my nomination for Parents' Association President is going to be forthcoming anytime soon...