Archive | December, 2012

Less selfish New Year’s resolutions, I think.

31 Dec

NYE photo

New Year’s resolutions are always difficult because usually after a brilliant start we end up drifting away from the best of intentions and that’s exactly what New Year’s resolutions are – intentions.

In 2013 I am turning thirty-seven so what I want to do is list a whole bunch of New Year’s resolutions to help me cope with that. To start I’m thinking diet, exercise, detox, better clothes, more effort put into my hair, teeth-whitening, regular spray-tans, no more self-waxing…but none of this is going to improve my life. None of this is going to help me achieve my goals, the things that really matter to me. So instead of including these in my list of resolutions I’ll keep there where they belong – in my bathroom when I can be bothered.

This coming year I want to focus more on integrity. How well do you stick to your morals, ethics and principles? Is sound moral character something that interests you? Are you honest? Considerate?

I try to be but often fall short, particularly when it comes to those who are closest to me. I know this is going to sound ridiculously naive but imagine a world where we all maintained our integrity most of the time?

Tiredness and thoughtlessness are the triggers for me to forget my integrity because sometimes doing the right thing is exhausting and it’s usually in the smallest ways that I fail. Case-in-point. It took me twenty minutes to find a parking space at my local shopping centre yesterday and at first I stayed calm. I made jokes, sang along to songs with the kids. After about the eighteen minute mark I started to lose it. I fell silent. A car driving too slowly in front of me trolling for a space (following innocent shoppers) annoyed me so I made a sweeping motion with my hand and was rewarded with his middle finger. I deserved it.

Two minutes of snapping at the kids later and I found a space. Was it really necessary for me to become the worst version of myself because I couldn’t find a parking space? Do I have to fall short so often?

This is just a small thing but I fall short in other ways too. I could be a better wife and mother, a better sister and daughter, a better friend.

I still think the way to go forward as a species is to focus on small kindnesses, patience, forgiveness. I’m sounding silly again. But seriously how good does it feel when a stranger picks up your child’s teddy bear for you, when someone opens a door, or when you help someone out? Couldn’t we all try and do something like this every day and teach our kids too?

I loved reading that the world wasn’t ending on December 21 but instead it was the beginning of a new era of enlightenment, where we would all share more in connectedness. I can’t think of anything that can’t be made better by increased kindness, can you?

My favourite moments as a parent are watching my children being kind to each other. And doesn’t teaching them to be kind to each other teach them to be kind to themselves?

Those are my thoughts heading into the New Year. I hope you take some time to consider yours. Your happiness matters and when we are happy we are kinder. There’s a balance to be struck between achieving our dreams and giving back and we can all work on achieving that balance. Trust me, nothing bad can come of it.

La Dolce Vita,

Jo Abi

I let my son ride his bike unsupervised

30 Dec

PhilipCutie

When I was little I lived on my bike. I’d wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast (under protest), hop on my bike and pedal away for the day. No helmet, no padding, no shin guards or wrist guards. It was just me, my bike and my little legs pedaling furiously. One of my favourite games to play on my bike was to pretend it was a car and I was all grown up. I’d ‘drive’ my bike on the right side of the road, indicate and swing in and out of our driveway for hours.

I had a c0uple of major stacks. One was when I swapped bikes with a friend on the street and decided to fly down the big hill on the unfamiliar bike, falling off and limping home bleeding from head to toe. My mum was horrified and for the next month we weren’t allowed to ride our bikes on the road. We were SO BORED. Eventually we negotiated to use them in front of our house and soon enough we were flying down the hill again and spending the entire day riding our bikes, returning home only to use the bathroom and eat.

I never planned to be a helicopter parent. I was going to be one of those really cool mums who set reasonable limits but let my kids have fun and explore. I’d guide them, teach them and then wave them off on their day of adventure. Then I had my first child. I was overwhelmed by love and happiness and fear. How was I going to keep him safe? The answer…he’ll never leave my side. Problem solved.

Fast-forward eight years and my son is champing at the bit for a bit of freedom. We live on a double cul-de-sac and he watches other children play on their bikes and scooters. I see them too, and I see the cars roaring up and down the road as well (P-platers!). We’ve been watching them for the past three years and they manage quite well. My son is eight, almost nine. I’ve taken all three of my children out there to play three or four times but I’ve stayed there with them.

This Christmas my son was given a new Spiderman bike and he was dying to get on it and ride around. I just couldn’t wait for the weekend to take it to the park. So I made a decision.

Against my better judgement (because there are so many ways he could be maimed or killed by this decision) I told him he could go for a ride. I told him to stay with his friends, to pull over when he saw a car and to keep his helmet on. I told him to ride up the driveway and call out every few minutes. I waved him off, closed the door and sat down nervously.

Firstly, he flew down our driveway so fast, whizzing onto the road and immediately joining his friends. I watched him ride up and down the street in complete ecstasy. He was gone for about two minutes before he rode back up our driveway to say hello and then whizzed back down for more fun. I suspect his willingness to regularly check in with me had something to do with the fact that our sloped driveway gave him quite a bit of torque to projectile himself onto the road.

I felt sick the entire time he was out but also a little proud. It took about twenty minutes for me to crack, grab the little ones and join him on the street.

I want my children to have fun, to have adventures, to climb and explore but everywhere I turn there is danger. There are people on the street I haven’t met, cars that drive a little too fast for my liking, awkward falls that could result in injury. I wish I could switch my mind off but paranoia keeps children alive so perhaps it has it’s place. I’m yet to strike the balance.

It’s my fault for moving into a double cul-de-sac. It was inevitable that he’d want to join in the fun and how many childhood TV shows and movies show kids playing in the street. I grew up watching The Wonder Years and Stand By Me. Their formative years were spent playing in the street, visiting each other, lying to their parents about where they were (he’d better not). I want him to experience all this, safely and I hope I ease up enough for it to happen for him.

Because a life lived in fear is a life half-lived, right? But ask any parent and if we were being honest we’d probably admit we’d be happy for our children to have half-lives as long as it meant they were safe.

La Dolce Vita,

Jo Abi

Can men and women be friends, just friends?

28 Dec

Friends

It’s the question men and women have been asking themselves for forever and never more than shortly after the release of the brilliant movie When Harry Met Sally
in 1989. Two very attractive people (Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal) are on a forced road trip together and Harry explains to Sally that men and women can’t be friends because sex is always on someone’s mind. Then, they become friends, disproving his theory before getting together, proving it once more.

So, we’re still in the dark with some of us thinking men and women can be JUST friends (no flirting, no benefits) and those of us who think that it’s never just friendship.

I was one of the ones who thought men and women could be friends, just friends. I count a handful of special men as dear friends, as dear to me as my girlfriends. We care about each other, we amuse each other, we break bread and there is no sex and minimal flirting involved. I’m happily married, my husband is happy with my friendships and we’re all happy as Larry, so to speak.

But here’s what happened to me recently…I landed myself firmly in the shit after I sent an overly affectionate Facebook-hug to a male friend on his birthday and his wife read it and became a little unsettled. It was on their shared Facebook page so even though I sent is as a message, I didn’t think she wouldn’t read it, I fully expected she would.

In my defense, I did think the world was ending in a few, short weeks and I had been sending affectionate correspondence to several friends including my male friends (hi Alf, hi Alex) and all of my female friends. I hardly ever get to see this friend, someone I consider family and the message read something like, “Thinking of you today and now I know why. It’s your birthday. Happy birthday. You’re the best/awesome, I love you lots, have a great year. I hope the girls are well.” I think that’s how it went. That’s basically how it went. My friends and I always joke that when I think of someone they call or I call them when they are thinking of me, like we are all mind-readers. And did I mention I thought the world was ending?

So the shit hit the fan a few weeks later when I was made aware of the discomfort and I promptly apologised, protested my innocence and tried to smooth things over. Then I found out I’d been unfriended by one and blocked by the other. WTF?

I felt like I’d been kicked in the guts. I felt really sad. I really like these two people and I couldn’t believe that after almost ten years of successful friendship just one overly-enthusiastic message could result in such drama. As friends, wouldn’t they assume I had the best of intentions? Wouldn’t they know what I meant? Didn’t they know I am happily married and even if I wouldn’t I have never and would never do anything? Was the message really a proposition?

I am a writer and I do word-vomit like this often but most of my friends laugh it off. They know I get emotional.

Do I have to be more careful with my married male friends? Is friendship between men and women only possible if they are single? Am I living in fantasy land? Are any of my male friendships real?

I really don’t know the answer but I do know I might be a little more careful in how I express myself through social media (for a little while at least). My husband has been telling me for well over ten years I am way too affectionate in written correspondence. Apparently xxx’s and ooo’s are not appropriate ways to end emails and text to work colleagues, in particular bosses, but otherwise it just seems so cold. Can I at least send a smilie face?

I love my male friendships and I love becoming friends with their life-partners too. There isn’t anyone less threatening than me. I mean really. Even if my friend was Daniel Day Lewis and we’d previously dated I would NEVER EVER EVER try anything and I would never expect him to read a proposition into my message.

Did I mention I thought the world was ending?

I think it’s sad that this has happened but I really don’t want to be less expressive with my friends. Life is too short. I love everyone. I love you and you and you and I truly didn’t mean anything by it.

Another of my favourite movies Juno has a scene with the step-mum where she is advising her step-child to be careful with her friendship with a married man, saying it’s different with married men. But Juno is single. I’m not. We all know each other. Our kids play together.

Maybe I’m too influenced by my Gen-Y friends. They don’t seem to have the friendship rules and regulations my generation has (Gen-X, yeah!).

I’d love to know what you think. It may be one of those conundrums that is never answered and that we’ll struggle with for all our days.

La Dolce Vita,

Jo Abi

The gift of perspective

17 Dec

kidscute

Isn’t it a shame that it takes something so completely horrific as the Sandy Hook school massacre to remind us of what really matters in life. Debates against gay marriage, weight gain, electricity prices, shopping…none of it matters if our children aren’t safe.

I was in a job interview recently with one of the most amazing men I’ve ever met. I’m usually hesitant to bring up my children when in a job interview just in case they wonder if I’ll struggle to fulfill the duties with three children in tow. Looking around his office I saw drawings and paintings obviously done by his children including one hilarious attempt at drawing their daddy and we were soon chatting about our children.

Sitting down discussing this ambitious job we both agreed on one thing: nothing matters unless our children are okay. There’s nothing we wouldn’t give up for our children. The only way we can be ambitious and pursue our dreams is if our children are well.

From the moment I had kids my life completely changed. I enthusiastically and willingly gave up everything I thought I wanted, to care for them. I have a list of amazing jobs I turned down because my son developed food allergies and we had to spend a year in and out of hospital trying to figure out what he was allergic too and how to move forward. After the birth of my second child I started working again until he developed a lung infection and it took weeks for him to recover. Then shortly after my little girl was born I accepted one day of work. I left her with my mum, some breast milk and formula she’d never tried before (stupid me). She spent the day vomiting and by the time I turned up was limp, weak and all the other things you don’t want a baby to be. My mum and dad had started giving her water which probably saved her life and thankfully one breastfeed later she fell into an exhausted sleep, fully recovered.

I’ve never had a major tragedy touch my life (touch wood) although I have known people who have and I’m constantly amazing at the strength of the human spirit as these people get up each day, deal with their trauma and eventually get to a place where they can continue to function, even if it is a much lower level of function than before.

While I have my issues with the Catholic Church I do believe in God, I do believe we are all connected, I do believe that our prayers and love can help make the world a better place and I will never stop hoping that we can make the world a better place.

Cynicism has its place but I think we can all agree that something needs to be done in the US, what we are disagreeing on is what that something is. Gun control? Better mental health services? How about both?

No one wants to interfere with a person’s right to bear arms but you don’t need an assault rifle. Even in Australia we could be doing more to treat those with mental health issues.

So, what can we do besides write to politicians, Facebook-post and Tweet? We can spend today and every day being a little more patient, a littler kinder, a little less judgmental and a whole lot more appreciative of the gift of life and the things we do have.

When you children walk into the room make sure they know they’ve lit it up, that you love them, that even though they smeared ice-cream across the lounge you still love them (but they damn well better help you clean it up!).

La Dolce Vita,

Jo Abi

Come to our barbeque, bring your own meat…

13 Dec

Weber Family Q305 2

I am so embarrassed.

Some old friends invited me to a barbecue at their new place. I was so looking forward to seeing them. I packed the kids into the car and headed their way. We walked in and exchanged hugs and greetings. I sat down and watched as other guests arrived, proudly handing over parcels of meat to my friend’s husband who was firing up the barbecue. Crap. We were meant to bring our own meat (and drinks apparently) and I hadn’t brought a thing. I’d heard about such events but I had never been to one.

I hate being invited to barbecues these days. It’s just gotten worse.

Have you noticed how many barbecues require you to bring your own meat? And it’s not even that you have to bring your own meat that is the real issue – it’s that it’s hard to tell which barbeques you have to bring meat to and which you don’t.

Rarely does anyone bother to let you know if you are meant to supply your own meat…they just seem to think you’ll figure it out. So you either turn up to a barbecue expecting meat to be provided and it’s not (we had to go down the road to KFC for our lunch once) or you bring meat to a party that has it already (and you’re esky of sausages is left to rot in the car).

This is fair enough when it comes to drinks. If you want to get on the piss then bring your own alcohol. Alcohol is expensive and people like specific brands. But being invited to lunch and then having to provide your own lunch is filled with uncertainty and wrong assumptions.

Will sides be provided? What about plates and forks? Can I use one of your napkins? Is there any water?

And meat-envy is the WORST. I turned up once with cheap chicken sausages (because I knew my kids would eat them) and my friends were barbecuing chicken thighs marinated in lemon, olive oil, garlic and rosemary. I almost did a grab-and-run. They smelled AMAZING.

In my family we have never asked guests to bring their own meat. The thought is preposterous. We are Italian. We are happy to over-feed you at our expense. But pasta is cheap and meat is expensive. How do you socialize and keep it affordable?

This is why I think we need to adjust new-age-barbecues a little. If guests have to bring their own meat, TELL THEM. Or even better…if everyone brings a dish then we can all share. That way there is no food envy and you don’t have to fry your meat on your corner of the barbecue, trying to avoid your friend’s t-bone steak. We can slap it all on, put it all out and dig in.

Barbecues are Australian but if they are going to continue without incident we need to start communicating better or switch to picnics, although picnics seem to be increasingly BYO too.

I pulled my friend aside at my first BYO-barbecue and explained that I hadn’t brought anything. I apologized profusely and she said no worries, she had enough for us. I fed the kids but stuck to communal corn chips myself. It really was the worst day.

I have another barbecue tomorrow and we weren’t told if we had to bring meat so I texted and vaguely asked if I needed to bring anything. “Just meat if you are staying for the barbecue…and drinks”, she responded.

I mean really. She’d better have nibbles.

Fess up – are you still using your mobile phone while driving?

7 Dec

iphonepic

It’s tempting, isn’t it? You’re at a red light. A message has come through on your phone, or an email, or a Facebook update. A quick look won’t hurt, right? Has your husband remembered to get dinner started? If you send him a quick text now, it’ll been half-done by the time you get home. Or you might check out the weather website, to check if it is going to rain tomorrow. You’ll be quick.

Last week new laws regarding mobile phone use while driving were introduced in New South Wales. You are no longer allowed to even touch your phone while driving. It needs to be in a cradle and you can use it completely hands-free, but don’t touch it. Not even for a second. It’s all about voice activation now. And it’s for your own good. They’re not trying to ruin your social life.

More than fifty drivers are being booked each day since the new laws have been introduced. We just can’t stop using our phones while on the road. 443 motorists were booked in the first eight days alone, since the November 1 introduction of the new laws.

If you’re busted you’ll cop 3 demerit points and a $298 fine.

My friends and family know I’m a stickler for what many call ‘distracted driving’. Distracted driving is thought to cause more accidents than speeding. It just takes the smallest glance off the road, the slightest over-steer or under-steer, forgetting to indicate to let cars behind you know what you are doing or clipping a car on a fast road to cause chaos.

It’s just a quick text message, right? Or you’ll put it on speaker, once you find their number under your Contacts list?

Meantime you’ve ploughed into a family travelling in the opposite direction, or a truck, or a power pole.

Don’t underestimate the danger of using your phone while driving. If you have to, put it in your handbag and put your handbag on the back seat out of reach or even in the boot. If you know it’s a temptation, remove the temptation. Then turn the radio up and enjoy the music on your favourite station or the vitriol on talkback as you make your way home, safely, fully aware of your surroundings, with your eyes never ever ever leaving the road, for any reason.

We often forget that cars are hurtling pieces of metal and when these two pieces of hurtling metal crash into each other or even clip each other and spin-out, the consequences for us are severe.

My friend was pulled over for using her phone just a couple of days ago and said the police officer gave her the biggest lecture.

“Why didn’t you use your cradle,” I asked. I know she has one.

“I was having trouble hearing you,” she said.

“Oh God, just call me when you get home,” I said.

“I will. I just wanted to tell you something.”

Well, you can’t talk if you’re dead, I felt like saying.

Phones and driving just don’t mix.

Chocolate makes you fat…and other stupid surveys…

7 Dec

Pepp Crisp

I laughed my wobbly arse off when I read research that revealed women eat more chocolate when reminded that it’s unhealthy. By warning women about the fattening nature of eating chocolate , we are actually driven to eat more of it. This, according to research from the University of Western Australia. Other studies they are involved in include “Cinnamon Donut Eaters Are More Sensible than Iced-Donut Eaters” and “Excessive Alcohol Leads to Increased Peanut Consumption”…

Chocolate is my ‘dark passenger’ and I have a love/hate relationship with it. I love eating it and I hate it when I have to share.

I often buy chocolates for my family only to hide it in the cupboard under the cous cous and forget to share it with my loved ones. I justify it to myself…”They don’t love it as much as I do”, “It doesn’t mean as much to them”, “They’ll be just as happy with popcorn”, “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.”

If there is chocolate in the house it doesn’t last the day. I’ve never been a couple-of-squares-each-afternoon kinda gal. I’m more the eat-the-block-then-skip-dinner type.

According to researchers the fact it isn’t good for us increases the pleasure when we eat it and I TOTALLY get that. Just as we’ve all dated a ‘bad boy’ who we knew was trouble and delighted in secret trysts in cars in random parking lots, knowing chocolate is bad for us makes it taste all the more delicious.

I googled “Why women eat more chocolate than men” and it was blamed on hormones and blood sugar. Also research shows women are more likely to eat chocolate if the product is advertised by thin women. I remember this being discussed when a larger woman was cast in the Terry’s Chocolate Orange ad. I’m happy to say that happily consumed chocolate products featuring all sized women – because that’s just the kind of person I am.

When I run out of chocolate I usually get started on the choc bits or the cooking chocolate, both of which taste pretty good when cravings hit.

I don’t have any friends who don’t love chocolate and to be honest, if I found out a friend of mine didn’t like chocolate the friendship would be over. “What kind of person are you? Get away from me strange alien-like-creature and take your savoury snacks with you.”

To be honest, if someone tells me they don’t like chocolate I pretty much assume they are lying. They obviously have issues because everyone loves chocolate. I mean, it’s chocolate.

I find it comforting that money is being spent researching the reasoning behind excessive chocolate consumption (it’s sugary and delicious and tastes amazing – study complete). Because life is all about the little things…the big things can wait.

Now shut up and pass me the dairy milk…hey, your piece is bigger than mine!

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