Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Horror

It has been a horror of a week.  I can't process the details so I have consciously turned away from the news.  I don't want to bear witness.  I am also experiencing horror at some of the reactions and responses to it all.  In spite of my efforts, I walked into the kitchen this morning to hear a man in tears denying to an Australian journalist that an examination of gun laws in the United States would make a difference to something like this happening again since "no sane person would ever do this".  It's just too damn depressing.

My heart is heavy and my stomach is in turmoil.  I take comfort where I can find it.  Today, it was walking my beautiful aging dog in the sunshine through the gardens near our house, watching small children feed the ducks and coots, admiring the Lorikeets swooping through the Palms, and listening to the Cockatoos screech at each other like pairs of fishwives.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

A Little Thanksgiving and a Little Christmas Down Under

It's the first weekend in December down under.  For us that means American Thanksgiving (a week late) and a nod to the Canadian equivalent, with our international friends, decorating our house for Christmas, and as an afterthought, C2s birthday.

It has cooled to a reasonable 25c from the brutal 38c a few days earlier, and our little core contingent of the American Watts family, the French Roman family, and the Canadian Hendricks family gathered on the banks of Albert Lake in Melbourne to eat turkey, cranberry sauce, potato salad, sausages on the barbie, cranberry cake, tarte amandine, nimbu pani (the Watts lived in India, nimbu pani is an Indian summer drink similar to Lemonade), and champagne.  In between all of the eating, we took turns crewing with Paul (Watts) on a sailboat made for 4 around the lake.

Paul did his best to explain to his 3 crew, half of whom were under 10, how to trim sails, steer rudders, and duck booms whilst tacking into the wind.  He might have had a little more experience, since he and Kelly spent four years sailing from South Carolina to the Caribbean through the Panama Canal to many a Pacific Island to New Zealand and on to the Pacific coast of the United States.  See Kelly's website www.sailingtojessica.com/.  He was quite patient as I almost capsized the boat by locking the jib?

We returned home in the late afternoon, a little sunburnt, and a lot starstruck at the reality of their having done this for FOUR YEARS.

This morning, we were awoken by our 9-year old bouncing out of his bed and into ours raring to start decorating for Christmas.  Truth be told, as much as C2 and I both love the festive season, it's not easy mustering the Christmas spirit when it's sunny, hot, and beach weather.  Still, J's enthusiasm is always infectious and we pulled boxes and bags from storage and listened to carols on Pandora for a couple of hours while we brightened our house with all things Christmasy.  Then we set up our tent in preparation for C2 and J's fathers-and-kids camping expedition to the Surf Coast next weekend.

This is one of the paradoxes of living in Australia, decorating for a traditional Winter holiday while planning for a beach Surf Coast camping trip while planning for a trip shortly after to Canada's Winter.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Back in Action: Gratitude

Given the yin and yang of life, and in light of the gloomy black cloud that was my previous post, I feel compelled to acknowledge the return of a better mood and my immense gratitude for the abundance in my life.  In no particular order, these are some of the reasons I am happy:

  • Murphy's 14-and-still-going years that have splendidly blessed my life with unconditional love...and hair.  
  • The 25c and sunny skies in Melbourne whilst listening to my mum's description of the blizzard raging in Calgary.  
  • The scent inside a flower shop that positively lifts J and I up, up, and up.  Who can ever be grumpy inside a flower shop?  
  • C2 and J's robust good health.  I know it can all change on a dime. 
  • A friend through thick and thin, years and years, and miles and miles.  
  • Not having to say Vice-President Ryan, and by extension... 
  • The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
  • Christmas is coming, Christmas is coming  
  • My mother's happy, full, and fulfilling life
  • The sweet anticipation of running Mount Doug on Vancouver Island with my brother followed by a coffee as big as my face and a maple-dipped donut at Tim Horton's in 3 weeks.
  • Spending New Year's Eve in San Francisco this year with dear friends from our Geneva life whom we haven't seen in almost five years.
  • J and my sista's faces early Christmas morning as we pad through a candle-lit house.
  • The (first) Hobbit film - enough said!
  • Homeland OMG...Damian Lewis OMG...Claire Danes OMG
  • Orchids  
  • Wasted muscles that are rediscovering their strength.
  •  yoga, Yoga, YOGA!
  • Friends and family near and far.  Need them, love them, miss them.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

M.I.A.: My Sense of Humour

Spoiler Alert:  Some weeks back,  I promised that this blog would discuss some everyday moments in our life and not just the fun stuff.  So here is a first world issues, whinging, whining, and moaning post:

I am in a seriously bad mood!   It started a couple of days ago and only seems to be escalating.  Everyone is is tip-toeing around me, careful not to poke the bear in case she attacks.  I couldn't even tell you what set it off.  I usually have a sense of humour over the minor challenges of day-to-day life but this time, my sense of humour has up and fled the building grabbing its great mates 'good sense', 'calm', 'peace', and 'perspective' on its way out the door.

J's on-going forgetfulness has resulted in a seriously poked bear.  Can someone please advise if it is an XY chromosome thing, a 9-year old thing or a J thing?  The boy has the memory of an elephant and can remember the tiniest detail of an event 6 years ago, but ask him to remember his school hat?  Not a chance.

Yesterday, J had tennis before school.  When I picked him up after school, his backpack was missing and tennis racket gone (racket for the 3rd time BTW!).  The backpack had library books, money, a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel, and his homework.  J shrugged, clueless as to their whereabouts.  Poke, poke!   His French teacher then collared me to discuss his 'comportement".  That's French for "when in school you sit still, listen, learn, and do your work without giggling, discussion or tipped water bottles".  "But mum, it's almost the end of the year," he protested.  Great! Five more weeks of tipped water bottles.  This morning, he left the fork for his pasta lunch on the kitchen counter; hope he enjoys eating penne with his fingers!  This near-perfect day was topped by a rousing difference of opinion between us during homework, that 9 to the power of 2 was 81 not 18!!!  

C2 had the temerity to inquire mildly why there was no yogurt which, of course, sent me off into a rage over this personal attack.  Being an expat trailing spouse and falling into our respective roles of responsibility does not take away from the fact that I am a 21st century woman who was successful enough professionally to make choices to live the life I live now.  C2 and I are the modern ideal of true equality, which therefore does not make me responsible for the f***ing yogurt.  Don't think he'll make that mistake again anytime soon.

I ventured into my garden after the school run this morning to water my plants and found my wildly stubborn "I-refuse-to-hang-in-any-kind-of-orderly-manner" hose, which C2 had recently wrangled into submission lying about in all manner of disorder, and in a clear act of rebellion, the hose had flung its hose hanger onto the ground but on its way to the ground, it had knocked our gas lever into the OFF position.  Because our gas pilot is in the attic, only a gas plumber can reignite it.  Super!

This was followed by what can only be described as a personal conspiracy against me by the aphids on my roses.

Finally, despite seeing a spinal specialist physiotherapist, I am not seeing much improvement in my debilitating lower back problem.  The current theory is wasted muscles caused by a disc injury between the L4 and L5 vetebrae, a year ago.  Very common injury and one difficult and requiring many months to resolve.  Good to know that in spite of working out like a fiend, I manage to have wasted muscles.   Super duper!

I want my mom.


Good news:

Backpack was located late today behind the junior school building.  Someone had clearly snatched and stashed it.  It was minus the tennis racket but everything else was there.  OK, I guess I can't really blame this one on forgetfullness.

Special Mention:

Without any encouragement, J made a $5.00 donation from his own pocket money to the poppy fund in memory of his Grandparents, Great-Uncle, and Great-Granddad.

Remarkable Mention:

This morning, the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard announced the launching of a Royal Commission to investigate the responses of religious, state and community groups to acts and allegations of child sexual abuse.  As I work in an organisation dedicated to child protection, and the reduction and prevention of child sexual abuse, we are beyond delighted. Well done Australia!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Halloween Down Under

 I count myself extremely fortunate to have experienced Halloween in French Canada, English Canada, Switzerland, England, and now Australia.  However, it is clear that the notion and associated protocols of Halloween are only clearly understood and respected in North America.  The rest of the world has much to catch up with.

Remember this?   Halloween in Switzerland

We have burned effigies of Guy Fawkes, and launched firecrackers and rockets in London in a gruesome re-creation of the ill-fated gunpowder plot of 1605.

But for me Halloween meant having a costume big enough to fit over your winter jacket, ski pants, and tuque.  It meant traipsing from one house to the next over common lawns and ONLY approaching houses burning Jack O'Lanterns at their front door.  It meant screaming in mock terror at the pretend graveyards, and most importantly, it meant a seriously bulging bag of WRAPPED candy booty by the time we returned home with frozen feet and runny noses.

The ninja, the witch and J as a vampire ghost(?)
 I didn't plan anything this year as Halloween really isn't marked in Australia, particularly a day before the start of Melbourne's Spring Racing Carnival.  Melburnians twin passions are Footy and horse racing.  All the city decorations and excitement are directed towards a week of racing leading to the iconic running of the Melbourne Cup next Tuesday.  Halloween is brushed off as ridiculous, potentially dangerous, and consumptive.

Consequently, J in his usual passion for all things holiday-related took it upon himself to help organise a group of like-minded souls and together this empowered little group made a plan.  They nominated a house (not mine) as command central, plotted a route, recruited parents, and wrote a rather long-winded but lovely poem to recite at each door.  The poem was quickly abandoned in favour of the traditional "Trick-or-Treat!".

Trick-or-Treating beneath the Palms
...and in front of Birds of Paradise

October 31 in Melbourne saw temperatures of 30c, not at all appropriate but the group soldiered on.  They pounded on locked gates, they yelled into intercoms, they chased homeowners down long windy driveways, they climbed long stairs in search of hidden front doors, they sweated under their costumes in the humid air.  In short, they worked hard!

Their booty was a tad pathetic.  A banana and five-dollar note being my personal favorites.  Most people answered their door looking bemused, and offered a Tim Tam or bowl of M&Ms to be shared.  The idea of WRAPPED candy was not clear.

In the end though, the joy and magic were palpable amongst this little motley group of ghouls.  J looked up us as we walked back to command central and inquired happily, "can we do this again next year?"

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Monday Musings

It was a weekend of doing a few things to satisfy my Spring clean/fix/polish/shine/sweep'ing instincts.   Despite their best efforts to duck, both C2 and J got roped into my mania.

We don't have a yard at our little house in Melbourne but we do have two courtyards that are rather pleasant when swept clean of piles of possum poop, and smelling sweetly of blooming jasmine.  Our trees were trimmed this week ridding us, in the process, of three possum nests so J and I swept, washed, and scrubbed the courtyards, planted flowers, fresh herbs, tomatos and pepper plants, and J's requisite pumpkin plant.

We weeded, we put down mulch, we sprayed our beautiful roses, and we swept away bags of hayfever-inducing fluff blowing down from our Plaine tree.  We reswept mulch after Murphy kicked it all directions making a nest to lie in.  After 14 years, she still hasn't realized that she is an indulged Labrador and not a wolf in the wild.

 We fixed hoses, we trained ivy and jasmine, we clipped creepers, we watered, and we hung outdoor candles.  We decorated (rather tastefully for once) for Hallowe'en.   We buried our faces in the intoxicating smell of fresh laundry blowing on the line.

We shoehorned the 20-somethings out of their 20-somethings cave, hustled them to our courtyard table, lit the candles, popped  a bottle of Champagne and shared seared tuna with a mango/avocado/cilantro salsa.  It was heavenly.

The next day, my back was so stiff, I could barely move. 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Sports at 9

C2 and I are both dedicated to fitness and nutrition, we do our best to stay healthy and in shape.  Fitness gives us the energy to get through the myriad challenges of being older parents, and in C2s case, insane work hours and a grueling travel schedule.

We have tried very hard to shape J's view of nutrition in the direction of moderation, and the importance of fueling his body to fuel his brain.  Most of the time he gets it, the rest of the time he craves gummy bears.  He also sees us working out a lot, and carving time out of our every day to devote to exercise.  During the last school holiday, I had him do some circuit training in the park with me.  He occasionally runs with me, and mountain bikes, and skiis with us with an energy most adults would covet. 

A week ago, the charity I work with, Child Wise, held a fundraising 5K run.  J had expressed an interest in running the race some weeks back but I didn't really take him seriously.  Cut to the night before the event and on our way for Lhaksa (a Malaysian dish very popular in Melbourne that deserves its own blog post), whilst discussing the race, he insisted that he run it with me.  Reluctantly I agreed, as I figured I would be sacrificing a real run for a walk/run with J, but he was adamant.

Sunday morning, we were up at 6:30 and out the door shortly after for the race around Albert Lake in South Melbourne.  The speeches were made, the warm-up completed, the starters' pistol sounded and we were off...fast.  About every half-kilometer, I'd ask him if he wanted to walk, but he just shook his head and eyed the next runner in front of us to pass.  He threw back some water at the half-way mark water station and increased his pace.  With the final in his line of sight, we sprinted to the finish.

The gold standard for any adult is to finish a 5K under 30 minutes...J's time?  29.28.  He was puffed but very proud; so was I!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

A Few Days of Sun on the Sunshine Coast

Take one hard-working husband and put him in Las Vegas for a once-every-four-years conference, add in one two-week school holiday, a pinch of chilly Melbourne weather, two live-in dog/house-sitters and...voila...you have one tired sun and salt-water craving Canadian girl with her ever-ready 9-year old bolting for the sun.

That was J and I last week as we spent 6 days seeking sun and fun north of Brisbane on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, specifically, the beach and surf town of Noosa.  It's one of those upside down concepts in Australia that one heads north for sun and heat, and south for cooler temperatures.  It has been a chilly and wet winter and spring in Melbourne, so we were happy to head to the Sunshine Coast hoping it would live up to its name for a few days in September.

We flew early into Brisbane and caught a shuttle for the nearly 3-hour drive up to Noosa.  Note to self or anyone else wanting to head to the Sunshine Coast: fly into Moorychdore not Brisbane!  Once there, however, we settled into our hotel on Hastings Street across from the main Noosa Beach; both were bustling with the school holiday crowd. The sun was shining, the waves were beckoning and we headed straight for the gorgeous beach slipping towels into beach bags, slapping hats on our heads, and slopping sunscreen on most parts.

Noosa's beach is stunning!  Long expanses of powder-soft sand, warm water that we played in for hours, waves, which on one side of the breakwater were perfect for frolicking with abandon, while on the other were perfect for surfing (not that we did any but others certainly indulged).  Wild bush turkeys amused us as they amboled about the sand looking for dropped bits of food.  One day, winds brought jellyfish into the water and the surf fairly boiled with them.  I was stung once but it was mild and nothing like the significant sting I received in the waters off Western Australia.  We played baseball (or jellyball) with the plethora of dead ones on the beach.

 J ate snowcones in the sand, we took long walks out to the breakwaters, and we absorbed sun and salt, life's greatest pair of health elixirs.  Every night, we worked our way through chapters of  "The Magic Faraway Tree" books.  C2 joined us on our final two days toughing out a long 24-hour trip from Las Vegas to Brisbane and carried on to Noosa to join us.  Truth be told, it was perfect timing as J was suffering terribly from missing his Dad whilst still putting on a brave face.

One of the wild bush Turkeys that so entertained us!

Finding zen on a deserted beach along the Coastal Trail

J and his Queensland Inukshuk

Watching sand crabs on a deserted beach off the Coastal Trail

On our final day, the heat cooled somewhat and we hiked the Noosa National Park Coastal Trail, a 10K beautiful track along the open Coral Sea ending at a place called Hell's Gate.  The trail was lined with Pandanus palms laden with fruit, Tea trees, deserted wild beaches, stunning cliffs, and pods of dolphins swimming close to shore.

Hell's Gate

From Hell's Gate looking toward a deserted beach...we had to get there of course


It was a calming and rejuvenating few days as we readied ourselves for the start of Term 4 next week.  Two and a half more months of school and then Year 3 is done and the summer holidays will be upon us.  Another one of those upside down Australian concepts.