Monday, April 30, 2007

My claws are out - SA Labor Party, hang your stupid big bone heads in shame!

Ever since Sunday when our execrable local paper, the Sunday Mail announced that one of their esteemed columnists, Nicole Cornes, had been 'shoulder tapped' by the labor party to run for the Federal seat of Boothby at the next election, South Australia has been buzzing.

Buzzing not with the sounds of approval, but shocked intakes of breath, dismay and anger that Labor could do something so insulting to their members, steadfast voters and future voters.

Nicole Cornes....*sigh*...... Pretty to look at but pretty dumb to read, see and hear. On ABC radio 891, she sounded like a teenager, trailing off each response with a pointless 'yeah' added for a full stop.

Let me take you back a few years when she emerged from being Graham Cornes (ex-coach of the Crows, now car dealer and 5AA announcer) muuuuch younger new wife and mother to a couple of kids to having her own full page to witter on about such heady things as how to keep your man happy; why it's great to be invited to Bec and Lley Lley's wedding and the huge stress of running a fairy shop in Glenelg.

Whenever we went on holiday, I'd buy the Dungday Mail to read her column and luxuriate in the blind rage it would evoke. I couldn't even get a sub-sub-sub editor to reject my submissions in writing, but Nicole gets invited to write a column that would make Paris Hilton's 'Confessions of an Heiress' look like the 'To Kill a Mockingbird' of the 21st Century.

Nicole's CV is so damn patchy that, even with all the padding added by the Sunday Fail journos it has about as much weight as Nicole Richie's eyelashes. Left school at fifteen - fair enough. Tripped about doing reception work at RAA until she landed Gra Gra, got married and up the duff. Then did her 'adult entry exam' and got into Flinders Uni law. Part time, along with, for four years, running a 'Fairy Shop' in Glenelg. (Sapphire had attended a few birthday parties there, but not once did I ever see Nic in there either behind the counter or interracting with ~shudder~ children from ~~double shudder~~ outside of the Glenelg post code area).

According to a close friend of mine, Nic's been studying longer than a Tibetan monk, so her self-proclaimed stress of studying and incurring a HECS debt must be at the rate of one subject per year. She was having her legs waxed when asked to write for the Fungal Nail, so lord knows how she made time for that with two children, part time study and running a shop. Thank god for good help...!

What really made me want to barf up my breakfast was that she admitted to voting for John Howard. How could any sane, self-respecting person with a sense of conscience, social justice and common sense do that?

Worse still - Why oh why did someone from Labor think that she would be a decent candidate? Perhaps we could forgive Nicole herself: she was asked to run and was clearly flattered and dumb enough to think that she would be OK as a contender. Her ego must have played a huge part in accepting the role because those a,mongst us who also possess egos tend to have brains that go with them, advising us that "If you don't have any previous connection to labor, are completely clueless on what your local electorate consider important and have the written and oral communication skills of a girl guide, don't do it."

Yet some mental pygmies from the Labor party thought she'd 'do'. In the classic Aussie spirit of, "Near enough is good enough." They must have quickly warmed to the stupid idea, rationalising that, "She's OK to look at and gets her hands on the crayons long enough to write a few words on yummy mummies, hair colourants and Hollywood gossip - all very crucial issues facing Australians right now."

No wonder Kevin Rudd suddenly has too many appointments to come back to Adelaide and officially endorse her - why didn't they whisk away into a hidden bunker for three months, indoctrinating her into the world of politics ("Come on Nicole, you can do it - repeat after me: The House of Representatives stands for......") before unleashing her bottle-blonded 'brand' of naivety onto the world?

So much for mates I know like Helen, who have been fighting social injustice and inequities the moment they were big enough to maintain the rage, attend rallies and become active unionists. Nic-shit hasn't even joined a union and could not think of ONE THING that was important to her electorate despite telling us how she had lived there all her life. Not one thing? Not ready access to childcare, reduced childcare fees, decent public schooling, destroying Work Choices to free lower paid workers, working on the Kyoto protocol to properly commit Australia to reducing emissions, making water tanks compulsory with decent government rebates, flexible working hours....

ARRGH! What an insult!!

Monday, April 16, 2007

The stress of meditation

Those of you who have been regular readers may find it surprising to find out that I spent the weekend at a meditation retreat. In virtual silence. On my own. With no access to chocolate.

I have been going to meditation classes for a few months now and could see the benefits of learning how to relax instead of clenching my jaw and cracking my crowns as a way of getting to sleep each night. As such, I was interested in signing up for 'level 2' despite my disappointment at not receiving a certificate or award of some kind for completing the first level. Surely our teacher John had been watching us intently, and would hand out a chocolate frog or smiley face sticker for, oh I don't know, the 'Still-est Meditator' or the 'Person Who Looks Like They're Doing It The Best'?

There was a 'Finding Life Balance' retreat advertisement on the whiteboard and he assured me that my lack of experience, high-chatter-to-intelligent-thought ratio and non-mung-bean-munching persona would cope well enough on a 2 day meditation retreat.

Friday night found Love Chunks winding his way through the Adelaide Hills, with me, Sapphire and Dogadoo in tow. The retreat was sort-of on the way to Victor Harbor, where Sapph was going to spend the first week of her school holidays with my folks and LC and Dogadoo decided to stay with them for the weekend also.

As the station wagon roared off in a cloud of dust into the darkness, I was greeted by one of the teachers, Ann, who showed me into my room. Well, I *almost* stepped into the room until I saw the huge, man-eating huntsman spider leering at me from the top of the sliding door. "Erm, unless he can be err, removed somehow, I don't think I'll be able to sleep in here." Ann tried her best to persuade the Creepy Devil Beast to willingly enter a yoghurt container, but he gave her the big finger and scuttled away behind the curtains. "Oh, he'll be OK," Ann smiled at me encouragingly.
"Oh, I'm sure he will but I won't. I noticed that Room 3 looked empty?"

Having achieved that crucial first victory, I was fully revved up for a weekend of serious meditation. About a dozen of us gathered in the hall, shyly smiling at each other, but not talking. Our rooms and the communal bathroom had signs tactfully advising us to "....respect each others' needs for a retreat by keeping conversation and noise to a minimum." Ann and Robyn also told us that we did not need to chat over our meals, but instead see them as a chance to concentrate on the food, take longer to eat it and enjoy the tastes, sights, sounds etc of the meal and of the bush surroundings. We were told too that most people attending their retreats did not wish to reveal why they were there, what job they did or anything else that you'd mostly ask someone in a social situation, so we were released from the wear and tear of empty social chit-chat.

We had a couple of meditation sessions and, by the wild-and-crazy Friday night time of 9pm, it was time for us all to head back to the retreat block to our beds. As per usual, I had a night of tossing and turning - too hot in my uber-arctic-condition sleeping bag and too cold with just the sheets. Elsewhere was complete silence as I tiptoed to the loo and back several times. My dorm mates must have thought a constipated elephant was patrolling the hall.

Despite this, I did get up at 6.45am to shower and get ready for the 7.30am stretch and meditation session on Saturday morning. The bathroom was a co-ed one - something I hadn't experienced since uni days. The sharing with blokes didn't worry me as much as having the toilets in the same room as the showers. How were we supposed to ~ ahem ~ "let it all out" when other people were trying to get clean? Also, it felt very strange to be cleaning my teeth with toothpaste and drool all over my face and smiling like a rabies-infested Al Jolson at a half-naked bloke getting into the shower to my left and hearing the drops-and-plops of a very genteel-looking lady in the 'engaged' cubicle on my right.

At 7:30 we were all at the hall, still shyly smiling at each other and only venturing as far as a whispered, 'excuse me' in the huddle to kick off our shoes at the shelves by the door. Afterwards, at breakfast we were all feeling supremely relaxed and were busy eating, drinking hot tea and trying to 'just be', when Nathan - not me, it's nice to write for once - got his bread stuck in the toaster too long and "REE REE REE REE REE REE REE REE REE REE REE REE!" went the fire alarm, jolting us all of our relaxed states. Hell, someone even said "Oh dearie me," out loud; most likely Nathan.

Eventually calm was restored and classes resumed. One of the practicals was to walk outside in a meditative state, which, for me, was to slow it r-i-iii-ght down to 1) lifting foot; 2) moving foot; 3) placing foot - said like a mantra. My eyes were supposed to be softly focused on the ground about 2m in front of me, but my failure to achieve this meant that I got to spot this gorgeous little blue wren and about six of his little brown girlfriends hopping about a bush. (why are the males and females of the bird world around the wrong way? Why is it that the blokes look all colourful and gorgeous and the poor little females are so drab - topic for a future blog maybe).

The food was fabulous. Mainly vegetarian which meant soups, lentil-based curries, rice, salads and fruit. By late afternoon, my digestive system was struggling to cope with the night before's dinner of lentil soup and that day's lunch of lentil dahl and I was seriously worried about how in the hell I'd be able to get through our 'deep relaxation visualisation' without letting rip a butt blast or two...... Bless Robyn's sweet heart - we were allowed to lie on the floor, put our legs up on chairs, cushions or blankets.... Let's just say that there's one poor grey polarfleece rug wedged underneath me like a doorjam that got the full force of my silent-but-deadly arse emanations. Hopefully it served to soak up the odours, but if not, at least the voluntary vow of silence taken by us all meant that no-one could voice any objections.

We were given time for a walk, or sleep or do what we liked (bar making any noise) before dinner. I stumbled along in my bright aqua crocs along a cornflake-crunchy, parched brown paddock of roo poos and gum tree bark to find a shady little spot away from everyone in order to try my best at 'being in the moment.' All was well for a while - I heard sheep baaaing, horses whinnying and many different bird calls. The air was warm, the sun bright and I was slowly sinking into a dreamy state. But then it happened - the distant tweets turned into raucous squawking as an enormous flock of cockatoos decided to choose my gum tree to land in. The ominous 'Pfft pfft pfft pfft' sounds of bird turds dropping all around me. Holding a particularly large chunk of bark over my head, I ran for cover - not an easy feet in crocs, believe me. If it had been rain instead of poo, I'd have had two handy little dinghys to sit in and paddle to safety.

Dinner that night featured more adventurous salads and lentil-based deliciousness and the festive noises being made by my lower intestines hinted at the interesting challenges that lay ahead.

On Sunday, I again made it to the early morning session and was immediately in a panic - yoga! Not even the Queen could do a yoga session of downward dog, warrior pose etc and not let a few 'parps' or two slip out! As I'd discovered overnight in my tiny room the night before, mine weren't likely to be quiet or discreet, let alone acceptable to folk who'd been standing outside breathing in lungfuls of country air with contented expressionns on their well-rested faces.

Luck was on my side again. The yoga session was a mostly lying down and relaxed and Meredith near me was soon promptly asleep, her snoring not unlike a slow burp. It was my opportunity to let a few pearlers go and hope that they'd be silent so as not to identify me as their creator, but instead be blamed on her supine state instead. It was indeed a blessing that Meredith's dreams were my dutch ovens and my gut was now only half the size of a basketball and slightly less dangerous to touch.

Ann was taking us through a meditation in which we were to find a warm, safe place to feel the sun on our skin, soaking into us and moving through out our bodies. That part was working, right up until she said, 'Now imagine a soft, light rain, washing down from your head, face, torso, arms and legs, washing, washing, dripping, soft and continous...."
"Hey hey heeeeeey!" My thinking mind shoved my sensing mind out of the way and accusingly blurted out, "We're suffering a severe drought here right now - we should be saving our rainwater, not wasting it." The internal scene worked better when my brain shifted the scenario to a dark room and a warm bed with no alarm clock, no migraine and no work to do.

Just before our farewell lunch on Sunday, I again stumbled down to the gum tree to visit my now-favourite mellowing out spot. Instantly, a herd of neighbouring sheep came trotting towards me, the barbed wire fence the only thing separating us. "Hello Human Thingy - we're here for our hay", they seemed to say, their long faces looking at me with expectation.
"Sorry sweeties, I don't have anything for you." They still waited, very still, which gave me a chance to count them - 43 in all, and all with their beady, sheepy little eyeballs on me. It made me simultaneously feel very awkward and also a bit sorry for them (especially seeing as there was no grass to be had on their dried out paddock and we'd been lavishly washing ourselves in rainwater during our last session), so I waved good bye to them (I know, it's stupid - who on earth waves to sheep?) and bumbled and stumbled my way up the poo-strewn hill to the dorm, farting like a volvo all the way (you take your chances when you get them, trust me).

"Now that your formal retreat with us has ended, you are now allowed to talk freely over lunch." Instead of the verbal diarrhoea I'd been expecting, I instead stayed fairly quiet, preferring to sit and listen to the others and answer their questions if they were directed at me. Little did I know that I'd spent the weekend alongside a doctor, a palliative nurse, a psychologist, three IT experts, an artist, a naturopath, a builder, a surveyor, a teacher and a school principal. It showed me how hard it was to label people when they're barefoot, wordless and all wearing trakky daks.

Love Chunks picked me up and found me serene, refreshed and so very glad to see him. Whilst it was good to go into retreat and meditation mode, it was his face and Sapphire's face that rose up in my mind every time I closed my eyes in every session. Unfortunatley for him, my chatterbox had finally woken up, and he was verbally assaulted for every second of the hour long drive home. I loved him even more when he shared his dark chocolate Lindt balls with me when we settled down onto the sofa...

Friday, April 13, 2007

Three points and I'm out

As you can see, we three were rather spoilt this Easter just gone and, ironically, none of the chocolates pictured here are mine - I didn't get any - these here are but a sample of those received by Sapphire and Love Chunks!

To be fair though, LC has noted my increased girth and my concerns that my three rather sedate runs per week weren't actually using up the energy gained by my inhaling my own arse-weight of chocolate per day. Despite this, he has been very generous with his treats and I have been too quick to say "Oooh yes please" each and every time something covered in bright foil has been waved under my nose.

But I digress - this post was meant to be about Sapphire and the three things she said to me a couple of days ago that were painfully true. She'll be turning eight in May, yet still manages to combine a huge dose of innocence with an even larger serving of honesty that hits a bullseye every time.

She was upset that neither Love Chunks or myself could take the time off work to go and see her at her school Sports day. I had dutifully attended for the past two-and-a-half years and was more than happy to give any mummy-guilt the big finger and leave it to LC to decide. You see, Sports Day is mind numbingly, stultifying boring for a parent. There seems to be a lot of hanging around but no chairs to sit on or shade to hide under; a head teacher shouting out indecipherable instructions via a loud hailer; far too much dust; over-excited children who are about as easy to rally together as a herd of cats in a string bag and it's always hot.

Unfortunately Love Chunks couldn't attend either because he'd taken a day off the previous week to take Sapphire to school and stay home looking after me during a particularly unwanted visit from Mr Migraine that left me clutching at my forehead in agony before, during and after the frequent chuck-ups into the bucket. Therefore he had 'noble carer' points that meant he too was absent of any working father guilt trips.

To compensate for our lack of attendance, I carefully painted Sapphire's toenails and fingernails green, bought a big, kermit-like t-shirt from k-mart for her to wear sprayed her hair with that sticky, powdery green stuff. She loved it. I even painted my own toenails and pointed out to her that I could look down and mentally spur her on even though I was chained to my desk. This also appeased her.

However, after dropping her off at her classroom and kissing her goodbye, she immediately told her teacher that, "My Mummy has green toenails," which, judging by Evelyn's expression, was translated as fungal-infection-turned-to-gangrene instead of cheap $2 emerald polish from the chemist's.

Early evening, my still green-haired daughter and I were dressed in our pristine white karate gi-s, ready to receive our newly-earned yellow belts. Before the official handover, we had to do our usual warm up exercises, as directed by Ian senpei. To put you in the picture, the teacher, Ian, is a gentle giant of a man who loves his karate and is kindly and patiently teaching us beginners before he joins the later class as a black belt. He is relatively shy, a brand-new father and a mild-mannered accountant by day.

We were barely two minutes into the class before my internal plumbing system finally realised it was karate. For my bowels, Karate equals Farty. Out popped a ripper - not unlike an ultra-loud QUACK by a very surprised duck. Carly and the other kids around me fell about with laughter and I mumbled, "Err yes, better out than in, it's been a long day, we all do it, it's completely natural, I'm sure even the Queen has to let one go occasionally when she's christening a ship..."

Sapphire didn't mumble back, she fog-horned, "Oh Muu-uu-u-m, why are YOU the ONLY person who farts all the time at karate?" Poor old Ian senpei was blushing profusely: it should have been me who was flushed with embarrassment but no, it happens too often these days for that. Ian blushed redder than a babboon's bum during mating season - clearly his wife hasn't yet exposed him to the joys of dutch ovens or the unplanned-for 'parps!' when bending over too quickly.

After class, we drove home and I was busy telling Sapphire about Jude at work, who had just earned her PhD. Several minutes of explanations followed about how at uni you can be called a doctor but not for medical reasons and the importance of study and research and discovering new ways of looking at things and the years of hard work and study that goes into it and I could see that Sapphire - bless her smart little heart - was understanding it all.

I summed it up with, "...and she's been asked to write a book about her studies. Her book will be different from the one I'll be doing because it will be----"
"Very interesting", Sapphire interjected.
"Oh. Well, yes, that's true I suppose......"

Three points for Sapphire, none for MillyMoo.