Spring is Here

Spring is here.

I was driving to the shops today after a sweetly domestic morning and early afternoon. As I drove I was acutely aware of the sun was shining, the birds singing and the trees being treely, treeish… treelike.

I reflected on what I love about this time of year, this glorious pre summer in Adelaide;

– the bang of the front fly screen door as the kids, with their neighbourhood friends, run from house to house.
– the buzz of opportunistic blowies as front flyscreen doors are left ajar and flapping in soft spring breezes.
– the sweetly scented air after hubby mows the lawn.
– buying antihistimines in bulk so hubby can mow the lawn.
– eating cold crispy salad with cold roast chicken.
– the tangy aroma of industrial strength sunscreen combined with insect repellant slathered on the kids as they jump around under the sprinkler.
– the squeak of the rusty porch swing as I lazily push myself to and fro and indulge in some not safe for work literature.

You may notice an abundance of allusions to smells and sounds, well, here’s another one and I don’t have many synonyms in my repertoire for scented and aroma.

– the zesty odour (heh heh thought of one) of accelerated fruit decomposition which brings the promise of litres of icy smoothies.
– the rhythmic hum of the fan oscillating and blowing welcome gusts on the back of my neck
– the glorious extra hour of sunlight we get each evening due to daylight savings, it’s so worth that first painful day of adjustment and the curtains fading.
– the fact I can wash, dry and put away a weeks laundry in one day. If I felt like it.

That’s what I enjoyed today at any rate. Tomorrow we’re planning to get some gardening in, so I’ll probably be less favourably inclined towards the season when my fingernails are full of loam and sweat is pooling in my bra.
Please add a comment of your favourite things about spring and the changing of the seasons from winter to summer.

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Kids Say the Darndest Things

Another day, another awesome zinger from one of my offspring. My kids come out with so many I’m going to make this a permanent category on my blog and update it from time to time. I’ve listed a few of my favourites. Enjoy.

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My elder daughter turned ten last week.

We gave her a present before she went to school to tide her over before we went shopping that night. We had gone out on a limb and puchased something online that we had an inkling she would like. It was a deluxe spirograph kit and she loved it. She loves art and patterns and colours.

While examing the packaging of her spirograph box, with a huff of agitation, I hear from the backseat “I hate how they lie on the packaging.” Me, “How so?” “Well they’ve taken a photo of it but then they’ve changed the colour so it looks light green but inside it’s dark green. I don’t care but it would suck if you wanted light green.”

Indeed.

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Me saying to Miss Six after bad tantrum “You need to listen to me when we are out. If I say jump, you jump. If I say stop, you stop.”

“Why would you ask me to jump?”

“That’s not for you to wonder about, you just do it”

“Ok. Thats weird though, I don’t know why you would want me to jump.”

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Driving Miss Five to school we were having a discussion and she asked “Who made the sky?”

I began to explain that some people think it was God and he made everything in six days, including the sky, the earth, the trees, the sun. I then explained that there are other people that believe in things called the big bang and evolution and it has taken millions of years for everything around to develop to how it looks now, and that that is a part of science.

She was staring out the car window and asked “Who makes science?”

I was secretly thrilled, she’s curious about science, she’s going to be an engineer or a physicist. “Well,” I began, “science just is. It covers everything around us” She interrupted me to clarify, “No, signs. Street signs. Who makes them?”

“Oh, they’re made in factories.” I replied.

“Wow.” She looked incredibly impressed with my knowledge. “How do you know that?” Yes she was more impressed I knew about factories than about the origins of the universe.

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Miss Three had been playing with a castle and assorted paraphenalia with her grandfather all afternoon.

Dad comes home and picks up one of the pieces. “Look at this Piper. It’s a pavillion. Can you say pavillion?” Yeah, it came across slightly patronising, but that’s how you talk to three year olds.

She looked him dead in the eye and replied “Can you say tent, Dad?”

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My Humanism

When I first watched Emma Watson’s UN speech I was impressed. Our Hermione had grown up.

I found it somewhat disjointed but articulate nonetheless. Later that evening, and following a two hour debate with my husband, I revisited the transcript. Upon closer examination I wasn’t quite as enamoured.
She states that the label “feminist” is unpopular. Of course it is. It is claustrophobic and limiting. The term, here in the west at least, have been corrupted by egocentric and greedy neo fems.

As a woman born in late twentieth century Australia, I have been educated along side males, competed against males and worked with males and never felt disadvantaged due to my gender. My successes and failures have been mine to own. I have had the same opportunities. I have worked in many industries, hospitality, retail, both large and small private businesses and for the federal government. In each of these occupations I have been rewarded with the exact same award wage as would be paid a male counterpart. I also know that, while it wasn’t my choice to be the member of our couple that had to bear the children, it was my choice to remove myself from the workforce for a time to childrear. I have no doubt that if I had taken a very short time off work, let my husband be Mr Mum and carefully constructed my career I would be quite successful. But I didn’t want to.

Much is made of the pay gap. I contest that for the majority of the labour force (again I am relying on my experience as an Australian citizen) the relevant award rate is in force and gender is a non issue. That is, as a Customer Service Specialist for a bank I am paid the same as my male colleagues of the same level and years experience, also as a waitress I was paid the same as a waiter of the same years experience. I will concede that it would be more apparent if you simply averaged male and female full time incomes. It is quite obvious that some occupations are unappealing to women for various reasons; they may require significant physical strength and endurance or may have untenable social constraints eg periods living away from home, long hours, inflexibility. I’m not suggesting this would be true for all women. It is also because of these very unactractive aspects of these jobs that they attract higher incomes. Who would work two kilometres underground on a rotating roster of eight days on eight days home if you weren’t paid an allowance to compensate? Not to forget that men are also more likely to die on the job through workplace accidents; danger money is not a misnomer.

Incidentally, they are also more likely to be physically attacked, jailed, chronically homeless and successfully commit suicide. I actively support charities like Beyond Blue and the ‘Capril’ event in April. (Monetarily, not by wearing a cape. I’m not that brave.)

I love men. I love my husband, my brother, my father, my nephews, my friends. They also deserve the right to compete fairly for jobs, for parenting rights to their children and to be physically safe.
How magnaminous of modern day feminists to invite men to the conversation. The first womens convention held in Seneca Falls in 1848 produced a Declaration of Sentiments http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_of_Sentiments and was signed by 100 of the 300 attendees. Thirty two of the signees were men.

The question we need to ask is when were they uninvited?

We in the West should use our united privilege and reach out to our brothers and sisters in the third world and help elevate their living conditions. Does it not appear obscene that a woman in America can complain about being approached by a man for coffee and being made to feel uncomfortable and it becomes a viral sensation online, when both boys and girls around the world cannot access even primary school education and risk death to even request it? To drive home the inequalities even further between the West and the rest, has anyone been following the trail of devastation left behind the terrorist group Boko Haram. They are famous for kidnapping 234 school girls in April 2014 sparking a worldwide campaign to have them returned? Are you aware that in February they attacked a boarding school in Nigeria killing at least 59 teenage boys, many burned alive, shot or having their throats slit, after letting the girls go? Or the September 2013 school attack where again, only the boys dormitories were targeted and 42 were slaughered.

Equality of conditions, respect, reporting and rights.

Do you really think that the suffragettes who rallied for the elevation and enfranchisement of women would now be rejoicing in the apparent separation and competition between the sexes?

I have to applaud Emma Watson for her bravery and poise but to me, as a modern day woman, feminism is a dirty word and I much prefer to be called a humanist.

The Truth About Christmas

We told our daughters the truth about Christmas. We couldn’t have them continuing to believe that an imaginary man spied on them all year and then broke into our house to give them gifts.

My husband never wanted to perpetuate the myth. His religious upbringing brought about a feeling of intense betrayal by his parents when his critical faculties kicked in prior to puberty and he then put two and two together and realised that God was also imaginery. This led to years of distrust and animosity between he and his parents and culminated in a two year radio silence. However, I’m a bossy bitch and because my experience wasn’t as dramatic I pooh poohed his fears and so wouldn’t hear of telling them the truth and forbade him from ruining their childhood.

I must admit though, I’m a terrible liar. I also can’t keep secrets. It was easy when the kids were little and just believed everything and fabricated enough of the magic that really my input was minimal. Yet when they are standing right in front of you and asking the question “Is Santa real?” I found it incredibly discomfitting to lie to their faces. Phrases like “If you don’t believe you don’t receive” also make me ill-at-ease as they encourage the enquiring young mind to prioritise greed over critical thinking. Worse, they may not trust their own reasoning.

So here’s how it went down. It was early November and the four of us had sat down on a Sunday night for dinner. Miss’s Nine and Five were finishing up and Mr T broached the question, “So Christmas is coming up.” Enthustiastic nods from the offspring. “How do you think Father Christmas gets around the whole world in one night? Do you think it’s really possible”
Furrowed brows, suggestions were made. We nodded sagely and we could tell the girls were starting to see, through their basic knowledge of time, space and physics, that it was pretty unlikely. You might say impossible. Miss Nine, clearly thinking quite hard about the conundrum stated, “Well if it’s not him, who is it?” Brandishing her fork to make her point, “I mean, it can’t be you. You can’t afford it.”
Miss Five is getting wise to what’s going down. No utensil required for her to assert herself. Finger pointing with conviction, her eyes narrowed, “It is you. Isn’t it?” Then lets out a laugh, man we’ve had them going good all these years.

I let out a breath, I really wasn’t sure which way this could have gone. My girls, my beautiful, intelligent and reasonable girls had taken it in the spirit I had hoped. We discussed it a for another half hour or so and then settled in to watch something appropriately family orientated on the television.
The biggest reaction I had was from my adult friends and family who became quite aggressive when I told them. I was accused of stealing the magic of childhood and was warned that “They better not tell mine.” Sure, I’d love my girls to stay young and innocent forever but it’s not going to happen. For the record they haven’t told any of their playmates (that I’m aware of) and politely play along when adults coo to them about Santa and the Easter Bunny.

Of course in the back of my mind I do still second guess myself, but that’s true of nearly every parental decision and I have had two moments of vindication recently. One, there has been a study that shows that children that are exposed to religion (in my mind this would include other imaginary stories purported to be true by authority figures) have a harder time differentiating between fact and fiction.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cogs.12138/abstract

Secondly, my sister in law told me of her experience at Easter. Master Ten had a meltdown when he confronted his parents about the supposed non existence of the Easter Bunny, there were tears before chocolate and a miserable time had by all. The words “You were right” were bittersweet because I really do respect her and felt bad for her ruined weekend.

The most important judges are, of course, our kids. About an hour after the big reveal, Miss Nine sidled up to me and thanked me for telling her. She had actually had an disagreement at school that week with some classmates and had sided on the “Santa is real” camp and I was reassured that our timing had been about right. She then added after a pregnant pause, “OK, and the tooth fairy….?” I just shook my head.

Welcome to my first post

I’m Jessica. Hi. I’m married and we have two daughters. I work part time at a bank. I will be turning the big 4-0 in 2015.
That’s the bare bones. To be honest as my mid thirties turned into my late thirties I started to become reflective . I remember that turning 30 was not a big deal. I had achieved all the goals I had wanted to in my twenties. I had lived overseas, bought a house, got married and had a child. I began a mental checklist of my achievements of this fourth decade of my life. A second child, built a house, found a decent job.
It didn’t feel quite as accomplished as the previous. Upon reflection I felt like I was on autopilot. All the ducks were in a row and I didn’t need to do anything to drastic to keep them in line. I felt creatively unfulfilled. I also felt dumber than I did twenty years ago; like I switched off my brain when I finished high school and was too busy to learn anything new. Two discoveries and one knock-me-on-my-arse diagnosis have changed the course of my life.
The first was brought about by my indecision in having my second daughter baptised. My husband has been an atheist since his teens and went along with the first ceremony in the vein of similar men through millennia, keep the sleep deprived and lactating missus happy. For some reason, however, I couldn’t commit to the second. It didn’t feel right. Then a friend linked an obituary for Christopher Hitchens on facebook. I clicked and then found hundreds of hours worth of ethical debates on youtube. The day I decided and said out loud that I am an atheist was edifying. I am released from the burden of indecision. I am a humanist and this now colours all of my decision making and I feel more in tune with the planet and my fellow creatures on it. It makes me happy.
The second was discovering fan fiction. People that know me, know that I love the Harry Potter series. Really love it; like read books one through seven in succession nine times in a row. So anyway, I was stumbling through the internet and discovered a fanfiction site. Where had it been all my life. The world and characters I love with new imaginings, new plots, new pairings. Erotica, yikes. Stay with me here, people write the stories with the characters aged, it’s not weird. This discovery has opened me to the possibility of accessing my own creativity. How wonderful to create a fictional world that could inspire other talented creatives to inhabit it and expand it. I undertook a short writing course at TAFE this year and was pleased with the encouraging feedback from the lecturer, even if my grammar and punctuation is deplorable. The most important lesson I learnt was about behaviours; having a regular place and time to write and making it part of my routine. Unfortunately, I am very lazy and this will need to be overcome. Hopefully having this blog can help me.
Finally, a month ago I was diagnosed with a genetic and chronic heart condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). A long name, too long when you are constantly typing it in google. This illness is an explanation for my near constant fatigue and inability to do more than basic chores without my chest tightening and and my breath becoming laboured. I thought I was just unfit. The general overview of this disease is, the cells in my heart have become disarrayed and caused part of the front wall to enlarge and thicken. My heart has to work harder to pump blood through my body. Fortunately for me I don’t drink alcohol or smoke so haven’t had the stress of withdrawals. Ironically the worst instance with drugs I’ve had is caffeine. I gave it up cold turkey about two months ago and was feeling fine but then decided to have a coffee for old times sake a couple of weeks ago. Have you ever heard of caffeine intoxication? Neither had I. I had to be driven home from work because my arms were shaking and twitching so much. Even though it’s out of my control to prevent the progress of the disease (it may or may not get worse), I’m now on a health kick and hoping that I can do everything I can to prevent the symptoms of the disease.
So that’s me.
My goals with this blog is to express myself and make commentary on subjects that interest me, to practise my writing and to connect with other people in the HCM community. Fingers crossed that lazy thing doesn’t crop up too often.