Category Archives: About me

12 reasons I don’t hate Christmas

My crying in front of the Christmas tree has been interrupted by the arrival of our online shopping order. Bags of quality produce to last us through the next few days of family, friends and festive-ness.

I’d just received one of those phone calls dreaded by expats, involving “sad news” and “I wish I could be there”.

The call itself was fine. It was only a few minutes afterwards that the sneaky waves of sadness started washing over me. An unexpectedly large wave knocked my legs out from under me, and I gave in to a little quiet seated weeping.

The shopping delivery put an end to that. As did the discovery that the luxury Madagascan vanilla custard was substituted by an own-brand LOW FAT custard.

You shall not say that you hate Christmas

It may be fashionable to declare that one despises Christmas. This year, Christmas is reminding me of the good things in my life.

Here are 12 reasons why I don’t hate Christmas:

  1. Pork, in all its many forms. Every meal is piggy.
  2. A wobbly drunk man in a novelty Christmas hat (with dangling fake mistletoe) trying to kiss strangers on the Tube.
  3. Christmas craft. I made a willow wreath.

    Willow Christmas wreath

    Willow is bendier than I expected…

  4. This is the last year that my son sort of believes in Santa. “I think it’s you putting my present under the tree, but I’m not sure. I hope he’s real, because I want an iPad.”
  5. I’m not homeless.
  6. Husband is like a Christmas cooking machine – shortbread, pavlova, potted duck, Christmas pudding, pork terrine.

    Christmas pavlova

    The secret ingredient is crumbled Flake chocolate bar.

  7. Parcels and presents and cards are outnumbering junk mail.
  8. Kids singing. Even if they’re not entirely in tune, the sound of kids singing carols is wonderful.
  9. Half price Nordic cheese domes. (I have no idea…)

    Nordic cheese dome

    I thought about it briefly, but didn’t buy one.

  10. We put aside any concerns about global warming and turn on ALL the lights we can find, as soon as it’s dark. It’s so pretty!
  11. Christmas jumpers. I bought my first one this year and have been told that it is Awesome.

    Christmas jumper

    I wore this to work – twice.

  12. Family and friends, and my health and my home.

Here’s one I wrote earlier

You ungrateful cow. Would you like a whinge with your excellent coffee today? I would. It’s almost a reflex: “No sugar thanks. (The man on the bus smelt like old sausages.) Full fat milk please. (I hate filling in forms.) Just a regular size coffee today. (Charity muggers are taking over the streets.)”

Judgemental as anything

It’s not cool to judge, unless you are a legal official or preside over hotdog-eating competitions.

Women and mothers – judge me not

Women, and the subset ‘mothers’, are the most judgemental people I’ve met. The sisterhood is not always a friendly suburb of tea and sympathy. Motherhood is a place where sometimes I roll up my windows, lock the doors and drive through really fast.

I don’t like the gently shredding comments about other women’s choices. Casual dismissal of circumstance and background. Little packets of superiority sliding across café tables.

My close lady friends are, of course, excellent people. I have ‘binders full of women’ who I like and love and would share a Twix twin bar with.

Nerds and geeks – free hugs!

Nerds and geeks are the least judgemental people I’ve met. I recently had to say goodbye to a charming group of them. I said that it was ‘one of the most diverse places that I’d ever worked at’. This wasn’t a euphemism for unpleasant weirdness, but an appreciation of difference.

Aside from the obvious differences (gender, race, sexual preference, age etc), in the team there people who:

  • Liked a screen of neat code or fat book of chick lit
  • Changed hair colour on any day of the week ending in ‘day’
  • Enjoyed noisy gigs (yo there thrash piggies!) or throwing pottery shapes after work
  • Were proudly working class or mildly middle class
  • Could dance like Justin Timberlake in a tumble-dryer
  • Didn’t eat carbohydrates or food with faces or didn’t drink alcohol
  • Wore tweed in a non-ironic way
  • Could discuss non-intersectional feminism or Grand Theft Auto cheats.

A basic level of mutual respect (and sharing of kitten videos) kept this mixed bunch together.

(BTW – I found this intriguing empirical analysis of the difference between nerds and geeks.)

So don’t judge a book by its cover. I was once too embarrassed to read a Dr Who novel in public, so I hid it under a fake book cover titles ‘Mother truckers’… Was that any better? 

Here’s one I wrote earlier

Slightly ranting about kids, technology, good and evil I can’t decide. Internet = evil cesspit of narcissistic idiots chatting to gambling-addicted paedophiles? Or Internet = global community of inspiring humanity sharing knowledge and joy? Depends on which parent I am talking to … 

Will you be my friend?  The fastest way to make friends is to have a brief chat, run around a park for a bit, then exchange phone numbers. This method seems to be working quite well for my son.

Let me list the ways I list

I love a good list, almost as much as an excellent strawberry tart.

Attributes of an excellent strawberry tart:

  • crisp pastry shell
  • thin layer of dark chocolate
  • velvety crème patisserie
  • fresh strawberries.

I use lists to:

  • remember the names of meeting rooms
  • make me feel guilty about the friends I need to call, see or write to
  • make my online content easier to scan (is it working for you?)
  • maintain the façade of a multi-tasking super wonder mum (there is a sub-list of the ways in which I am not achieving this).

I’ve graduated from jottings in a very nice Japanese diary (mum work), to MS Outlook tasks and pushy mobile apps (office work).  I thought this would ramp up my home-life productivity performance indicators, but it’s making my personal tasks a bit scary.

Alert – buy that birthday card!

Alert – pay the nanny!

Alert – try to find out the name of the thing that person told you not to forget!

Alert – your brother and wife are having a baby!

Reasons why I still love lists:

  • adding a task to a list is practically the same as starting something
  • starting something on my list is almost like being complete
  • if I write it down, I will clear some brain space for something else
  • ticking things off makes me feel like a Winner and an Achiever.

The Mostly-At-Work-Mum

I’ve recently stopped being a Stay-At-Home-Mum (SAHM). I am now a Mostly-At-Work-Mum (MAWM).

It’s Sunday night. Before I pack my bag for work, I have:

  • tidied away stacks of drawings of ice-creams, love hearts and roses
  • marched up the stairs to tell someone to put away his (Dr Who) Sonic Screwdriver, as he’s meant to be sleeping
  • washed wellington boots
  • found most of the pieces of a (Star Wars) Republic Assault Ship
  • tipped glitter and food crumbs out of school bags
  • secretly recycled even more drawings of ice-creams, love hearts and roses.

[Aside: I don’t recall seeing mums in films doing any of these tasks. They spend a lot of time at kitchen benches slicing loaves of sourdough bread, or washing lettuce.]

During the week, I have outsourced a large proportion of my kid-related responsibilities, so these little things I do at night and on weekends keep me connected with them.

We still have some excellent conversations.

My son’s answer to peak oil and energy resource depletion:  “Buy a load of dead animals and bury them in the ground.”  [This was his variation on the boring old coalification process where coal is formed from prehistoric fossils…]

My daughter was drawing a sea horse. “It’s a French sea horse,” she explained. “Why?” I asked. “Because it’s wearing a bow tie and has a moustache.”  Of course.

So let’s get on with that work-life balance.

Getting older and further away

Several weeks after leaving Facebook, my life continues on.

Older

I had a decidedly non-digital afternoon tea with some delightful ‘old girls’ from my school. I’m not using ‘old’ in a pejorative sense. One of my companions had graduated from school in 1944!

My days are usually spent in the company of people my own age, or with children. It was quite brilliant to share shortbread with an entirely different generation.  No-one secretly checked their messages under the tablecloth. No-one leapt away from the table to grab their iPad to look up the EXACT name of their angina medication. And no-one posted photos of us with mouthfuls of date slice on FB.

I felt younger and springier. Hopeful that I would one day be a feisty senior with sturdy boots and a backpack full of cake, talking too loudly to the bus driver.

We shall be exchanging addresses and sending cards to keep in touch. Hooray!

Further away

I’ve been thinking about the ‘unreal’ friendships that I left behind on FB. I might have commented on photos of their 5 course Peruvian degustation meal, but I really didn’t know what was going on in their lives.  I never asked “How are you?” on Facebook.

Once, a friend received a disturbing email from her very good friend overseas. Lots of apologies for being a bad friend, inadequate mother and general life-failure. Alarming .

Even more sad than the actual email, was our first thought: “Is this real or a hoax?” How could we tell if it was some crazy spam or a genuinely troubling communication? It turned out to be genuine, and I felt so guilty for doubting its authenticity.

I treat email as administrative and functional. In this case, the medium (email) did not match the message (I am feeling truly awful and need a friend).

We have to ask “How are you?” a lot more often. And be happy even if we just get a 🙂  back.

Here’s one I wrote earlier

Love is not dead, it’s just resting.  How often do you tell your loved ones that they are loved? On a sliding scale, I think the most romantic medium are (with 1 being most lovely):

Why Facebook is not my friend

I’ve un-friended Facebook.

I’ve haven’t been popping in to FB’s corporate blue cyber-lounge very much recently. FB was dropping down to the bottom of my To Do list. It was above “Pick up next-door cat’s poo in my garden” but below “Find lost sink plunger”. [We have sub-standard plumbing in this house.]

I decided that in 2013 I would *leave* Facebook. I’m not closing my account, but I’m just not actively checking it or updating it. It’s a bit of a relief actually.

Good things about leaving Facebook

  • I don’t have a constant parallel “I-must-remember-that-funny-thing-so-I-can-post-it-on-Facebook” soundtrack in my mind. I just laugh at it, and move on.
  • I am no longer jealous of distant colleagues’ luxurious holidays .
  • Calibrating a suite of ever-changing FB privacy settings? Ha! I laugh at your privacy settings.
  • I don’t need to comment on anyone’s pictures of their kids. Of course I think my friends’ children are funny, smart, adorable, stylish etc. I just don’t need to prove it.
  • I haven’t had to ‘friend’ either the generation above (parents, uncles, aunts) or below me (nieces etc). I have avoided breaching inter-generational FB sharing etiquette.
  • I have rung, and Skyped and emailed and met with and written to my Real Life Actual Friends. It has been lovely.

Bad things about leaving Facebook

[After a long pause… ]

  • I will not know what you ate at your wedding anniversary dinner.
  • I will not know that you liked the page for “Katie’s Bespoke Ceramic Yoghurt Cooler Pods”.
  • I will not know that you got divorced, deported, promoted, pregnant, married or mauled by a rare mammal on your charity fun run.

Life after Facebook

I read that Facebook is the email of the digital natives. Ubiquitous, functional and essential. I hope that’s wrong, as I’m going to live without it.

This was my first post on Facebook – 3 July 2007:

[From me to friend] Now I’m a zombie chump thanks to you.

This was my last post on Facebook – 9 December 2012:

2013 new year resolution SPOILER: Only 23 more sleeps until I leave* Facebook.

*I’m not even going to pretend to check/update very often. Just can’t be arsed.

There are plenty of other ways we can connect: twitter, linkedin, flickr, pinterest, my blog, your blog, email, skype, landline, mobile, post, or meet me for a coffee?

(But not google+… I suspect that I will be on that even less than FB.)

Here’s one I wrote earlier

We are all alone together. Looking down the hill, the lights of the party twinkled and crinkled through the trees. The wafts of voices floated up past me in the dark. I could see my friends arranging and rearranging themselves in to little clumps of conversation and mid-priced wine.

I am, like, so not popular. I am not a very popular person. I only have:

  • 90 Facebook friends (although if I friended my mum and all my uncles, aunts, cousins and their spouses I’d probably double that). [Update: As at 7 April 2011, I have 100 FB friends.]

As useful as a metaphor

I like words. I have clever friends who write stories and books and wonderful things. But I have never had an urge to write a book. It sounds like quite a lot of hard slog.

If it’s true that “everyone has a book inside them”, mine would be a small attractively-designed pamphlet.  I’d use a modern sans-serif font, and include random observations with too many metaphors.

For example:

In shorts, his legs were exactly the same beige as his eco-bag. Feisty organic salad vegetables jostled with a local paper and a ball of string. The cucumber was clearly winning.

Offers of help disappeared, like drops of water in a hot frypan.

There was a micro-pause in the conversation. A sliver of a second when I could feel my anger rise, as unpleasant as hot bitter orange juice.

She had lips so thin, she could have been wearing lipstick on her gums.

I saw an oil slick of black taxis oozing out from the station, sliding in to the pastel purple morning light.

He had a head shaped like a potato. A potato that you turn over in your hand at the supermarket and put back, because of its weird shape.

And here’s one I wrote earlier…

A good night in. It’s been a good night in. Husband is away, so I’ve had some great nights in at home…

We are all alone, together. Looking down the hill, the lights of the party twinkled and crinkled through the trees. The wafts of voices floated up past me in the dark.

I heard a bus shelter singing. Last night I heard a bus shelter singing. I was sitting alone, watching the lights of a  basketball court flicker on and off, waiting for the promised number 46.

Pictures of my kids, or not?

My kids are too attractive to put pictures of them in my blog. Their beauty and grace would make you weep tears of joyous wonder over your keyboard, rendering you unable to see or type.

That’s my back-up reason for not featuring my outstandingly photogenic kids on my blog.

The real reason is that I feel a bit odd about maxing out their digital presence, before they are old enough to understand and sign a consent form.

I’m not even sure this blog will be around when they’re old enough to sign this consent form. If it is, the form might look something like this:

Dear Mum

(You are great.)

I give you my permission to include the following in your amazing blog:

  • Pictures of me. I may be looking right at the camera, or it may be one of those secret shots of a pensive child gazing in to the distance.
  • Sound recordings of me. Even if it is a song about being sexy. (I do actually know what ‘sexy’ means.)
  • Videos of me. These include me falling off stuff in a funny but not painful way.
  • Pictures of my AMAZING school art projects. I am an artistic prodigy, after all.

I understand that all of my friends, relatives and future employers will be able to see these pictures and recordings of me. Complete strangers in foreign lands might even copy them to use in promotional material about pineapple-based health supplements for the whole family.

(I love you mum.)

I  ____________  have read and understood the contents of this form.

Signature

Date

 

Here’s one I wrote earlier:

Show me your private parts. Pre-digital privacy was such a clear concept: Teenage diary with “Keep Out. Private.” written on the cover…

First World Problems

I live in the First World and I have problems. Some people call this ‘White Whine’, but as I’m not technically white, I prefer the term ‘First World Problems’.

I’ve just returned from a week in the English countryside, where we had a lot of rain, and very little Internet access.

I found small transient pockets of 3G as we whizzed through towns. As husband drove, I frantically updated and refreshed as many mobile apps as possible. Then I had to put down the phones as we swerved through green hedge-lined tunnels of car-sickness.

Getting a decent Internet connection was a complete pain in the bum. So we ate a wide and varied selection of fried fish and fried potatoes, moaned about the weather, and watched Jubilee TV.

Here is my current list of other First World Problems:

  • I don’t buy yoghurt because there are too many choices, and anyway, it’s just a pretend-healthy tub of sugar + dairy nonsense.
  • The cafés at garden centres have uncomfortable seating.
  • My mobile phone screen is always smeared with ear grease.
  • I have too many plastic shopping bags, but I don’t want to put them in the rubbish because they will enter the waterways and strangle dolphins.
  • I still don’t know which of my relatives I should add to Facebook. I think mum has stopped trying to Friend me.
  • I am a little bit embarrassed when my (Chinese) parents bring their own toothpicks to (non-Chinese) restaurants, and pick their teeth after a meal.
  • I don’t have time to read Vanity Fair properly anymore.
  • My Kindle now looks out of date and unfashionable.
  • I still don’t let my kids to wear Crocs in public. Unless we are near a large body of water.
  • I don’t know what threadcount my sheets are.
  • I read blogs written by people who are more creative, funny, rich, stylish and/or youthful than me. It makes me feel inadequate.

Get out of my house

[Warning: This particular blog contains no humour, or wit. It is just me complaining.]

There are strangers in my house.

Well, it’s not really mine because we are renting it. That‘s the problem. The landlord is selling the house, and strangers are potential new owners.

Once again, we are boxing up and moving out.

The ‘For sale’ sign appeared a few days ago, and a steady stream of smug, anxious professionals is coming through. They want to buy ‘my house’.

My son’s face crumpled slightly when I told him that we have to move, so I talked up all the positives. New = good. It’s exciting. Woohoo…

I could write something thoughtful about having a sense of place; connection to physical structures; belonging in a community; the need to ‘nest’… blah blah blah. Instead, I will just say that I slightly want to vomit at the thought of moving house again.

[Insert wise words “At least you’re not moving overseas.” or sensible comments “You’ve done it so many times before, just get on with it.”]

Our local squirrel has offered to help me pack.

And here’s one I wrote earlier…

Where do you go when you press Home? Does your life have a ‘Home’ button? I’m back home (Sydney) after a brief visit to London (new home).