Sunday, September 30, 2012

It's not easy raising boys...

Sometimes I feel I'm on the frontline of a war.

I have four boys to raise in a world when boys and men are often viewed as 'the enemy' and if not the enemy then certainly, 'persons of questionable repute'.

Almost every single time I tell anyone I have four boys for the first time, the response is one of feigned shock or concerned. 'Four boys?!'

I laugh it off. I say, 'Yes, four boys!' and look excited.

To me, they're not 'boys' per se. They're children.

I don't know what it is like to have girls, I imagine it's just as full-on, just as noisy, just as much fun, and just as challenging in many ways.

I am the first to agree that there are undeniable difference between boys and girls, and I will openly laugh at anyone who tries to tell me boys and girls are exactly the same. Their very make-up on a biological level means there has to be difference. Hormones affect all of us. Testosterone and Progesterone are not the same hormone (or they would have the same name).

Yep, you can have effeminate boys and masculine girls, I'm not saying that doesn't happen. Girls can choose to play with trucks and boys can choose to play with baby dolls and I'm all for it!

Despite their differences and their similarities, all-in-all I don't think boys are harder work than girls. It's all swings and round-abouts from all accounts.

And yet, I feel there is an element of raising only boys which does not stem from the boys themselves, but causes me to feel that I'm working just that little bit harder as a parent.


This week we had the tragic reporting of the rape and death of Jill Meagher. In the wake of this there was a heartwarming peace walk. I hear there will also be a 'Reclaim the Night' walk in March. I hope the night is being reclaimed for everyone - not only women.

You see, I've seen a lot more 'We need to teach men not to rape' posters this week, and lot more talk about 'Women feeling safe on the streets at night' talk. As if men are not randomly attacked and injured or killed on the streets of Melbourne every week.

One man is accused of committing a heinous crime and all men are on trial - at least it feels that way.

This week we've also had Alan Jones running off at the mouth again. It is no secret he has cross-hairs set on Julia Gillard. He has been vulgar and crass and stomach turning again, and once again the words and actions of one moron with a penis is a launching pad for the argument that misogyny is rife.

When rumours swirled that Bob Hawke's daughter had struggled with drugs because he was an absentee father, were there cries of misandry? And Steve Bracks' son's trouble were also related back to him in his position. The integrity of politicians has been questionably questioned for a long while and although doing so constitutes having a 'cheap shot' at a pollies and crossing a line by commenting on their private troubles, these cheap shots have never been used in the 'war of the sexes' as they seem to be since Gillard became Prime Minister.

I believe women and men are equal. Women don't even need men to acknowledge that fact - we don't need their permission to be equal. We are equal, whether or not men like Alan Jones and Tony Abbott think we are, and they do not represent all men, not even all Australian men. Just ask the Grumpy Old Man, he'll tell you until your ears bleed!

However, as long as women employ negative stereotypes to men in an attempt to 'gain ground' against them, we will all lose out by degrading ourselves. There are some awful men out there. There are some very stupid men out there. They are the minority. Please believe me on that one. If you don't know any respectful, kind, non-sexist men - you need a new social circle!

There are also awful and stupid women out there.

Women are not pure or innocent or weak or victims. Women rape. Women molest. Women perpetrate domestic violence. The numbers are not so small as many would like to think. I had the unfortunate opportunity to read - as part of an argument against juries not being exposed to the true nature of the footage the accused downloaded should it biased them against him - the court ruling (warning: graphic and disturbing material) from a court case about child pornography subscribers which described the video clips found on the accused's computer and the acts described there were perpetrated by men and women to boys and girls. It was awful and disturbing and might change some people's ideas about whether or not women are capable of rape and pedophilia and abuse. A lot of domestic violence against children is perpetrated by women. Yes, this is commonly known as child abuse, but child abuse is a form of domestic violence. I don't not write about these things to cast women in a negative light or to minimise the acts of men who perpetrate rape and violence, I merely wish to point out this is not someone only men do, and it is not as uncommon amongst women as many would have you believe. Women being violent is not rare, nor is it excusable. So we need to stopping pointing the finger at men alone - or worse, suggesting women are only violent because they are coerced by men to be violent. Women are not Madonnas, men are not the Devil.

As a mother of four sons, I do not intend to bring my sons up to mistrust girls and women - of course I won't, I am a woman, I love being a woman, I think women are amazing. I really hope my motherly counterpart of girls do the same in respect of men.

Our only hope of equality is through recognising we are not defined by our sex - either in a positive or negative sense. We are defined by how we, as individuals, interact with the world and one another.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Living in the Nexus...

I sat with the Grumpy Old Man and Erik this afternoon while they watched Star Trek: Generations. In this Star Trek movie Jean-Luc Picard's Enterprise is consumed by an astral phenomenon call the Nexus. Within the Nexus Picard finds himself inhibiting a world of his greatest desires. The Nexus is a wave of bliss within which all the inhabitants have their dreams come true. I guess it is what people commonly belief Heaven or Nirvana would be.


I couldn't help but muse on what my experience of the Nexus would be.

In the Nexus our family would always get along and all the boys would be kind to one another and they would listen to us. In the Nexus the weather would be sunny during the day and a constant 25 degrees with a light breeze. It would rain at night when rain was needed and the nights would be 10 degrees cool.

We'd do things as a family without stress and bickering.

The house would always be comfortably tidy (not so tidy we didn't feel we could relax, but tidy enough that I would never feel embarrass if people popped in unexpectedly).

In the Nexus I would not only have plenty of ideas for writing but I'd have the energy and space of thought to write, and I'd have an upstairs writing room with inspiring views - which for me would probably mean being able to see people going about their day outside.

Life would be like a dream in the Nexus.

Of course, in the movie, Picard soon realises that the world he is enjoying so much isn't 'real' and as hard as it is for him to leave it behind, he has to return to the messy, painful, complex world of 'real life'.

Wanting for nothing is a lovely idea, but how would we grow if we were perfect and the world around us was perfect?

As a writer, I can be an idealist, and I could - if I wanted to - create worlds where everyone was always happy and life was perfect and people were nice to each other and got along famously.

Notice, I said I could create worlds - not stories.

Stories don't exist without challenge. I could write a scene where everyone was perfect and kind and lovely and there was no pain, but for that scene to grew into a story, there would have to be challenge, threat, pain; something to drive my characters into action.

I've rediscovered this through playing Minecraft. I play Minecraft on peaceful because, quite frankly, I don't like to die and I find the adrenalin rush of creepers, zombies, skeletons and spiders a bit overstimulating (I have a very vivid imagination). However, playing on peaceful is ultimately limited because once you've built a house and a village and grown some mobs and whatnot, there is nothing to do. It all looks pretty, but it's not life, it's existence. So now I play yogbox which allows me to play on peaceful but which sets up challenges as well, and puts me within a story arc.

A rich life is messy and part of living a rich life is learning to manage the challenges and the pain, and striving for harmony.

Living in the Nexus would ultimately be dissatisfying and I suspect that was the real reason Picard left.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


This catch cry irritates me.

Yes, it's a well established fact that I am rather easily irritated. All the same, whenever I see someone - and by someone I mean women - started a vent with 'Men!', I immediately wonder what element of womanhood this woman is tapping into.

You see, I'm married to a man and I'm raising four men. In our society men are believed to have the lion share of the power. Ironically - if you believe television shows and advertising - they are also believed to be rather useless. They are believed to be low-brow. They are believed to be at the mercy of their impulses; boys will be boys, men will be men, etcetera. Men are believed to be lazy and selfish and base.

When a woman says, 'Men!', other women know this is short for, 'Just wait until you hear what my man has said or done now!' What ensues will often be quite frustrating. It'll be a story of a man who has been selfish or thoughtless or childish, or mean. Men can be all of these things. My man has been all of these things. It is frustrating because the man has been less than he should have been and yet, should that be extrapolated to all men???

Here's the rub.

Women can be all of these things, and men doubtlessly share these same kinds of stories with their friends about the women in their lives.

Only that is called misogyny.

If a man cries, 'Women!' it is misogyny. He hates women. He is about to degrade all women because one woman has hurt him.

When a woman cries, 'Men!' What is is? Is it labelled anything other than frustration or hurt? What is the female counterpart of misogyny? I'll look it up because, honestly, the word does not come to mind.

Oh, right, it's misandry - actually, I do know that word, it just slipped my mind because, well, you hardly ever hear it. So, the female counterpart of a misogynist is a misandrist. I doubt very much any of my friends are misandrists. Likewise, I doubt many men are truly misogynists.

So, when women cry, 'Men!' Do you believe they are being misandrist? When men cry, 'Women!' are they being misogynist? Is it fair to lump all men or all women in with the poor behaviour of one, on a particular occasion? Either we stop calling men misogynists for lumping us into one group, or we stop acting in ways, that if we saw men doing the same, we'd call them misogynists.


We, humans that is, need to treat each other with the respect we each expect to be treated with. That means if you don't want men to lump all women into one group and hate on them, then you must also not do that about men.

This post was brought to you by the emotion irritation and the state continuous.

Monday, September 24, 2012

When you don't like one of your childrens' friends...

Has your child ever been friends with a child you just don't like?

My son Lukas has made friends with a child at school this year, and that child's approach to making friends is to isolate a popular child and belittle their friends. It's actually the inverse situation to what has been happening with Bryn (in that Bryn is one of the children being disparaged) - oddly enough.

I get that these kids are new to the school and it's difficult to make friends in groups of previously well established friendships, but what is it with kids who break into groups of friends by pitching those friends against each other?

So, in Lukas' situation, the new child decided Lukas would make a good friend (Lukas has always been quite popular amongst his cohort), but this new kid didn't just try to make friends with Lukas and be part of the previously establish group of friends. Instead he made friends with Lukas and started disparaging all of Lukas' other friends.

To our great disappointment, while Lukas didn't engage in putting his friends down, he also didn't defend his friends. He told me today he is concerned that if he doesn't support this new friend, then that child will be 'pissed' with him (which I assume means, he will then pick on Lukas).


Erik has reported that many of Lukas' old friends no longer want to hang out with him because he hangs out with the new kid who has a tendency to put other people down and generally be unlikable.

We're not sure why Lukas is attracted to this child, or why he is okay with his other friends not wanting to play with him any more because of this child. Maybe he is not okay with it - he's not really saying. Lukas has a profound sense of what is fair, so perhaps he feels that while the new kid isn't helping his own cause much, he might view the new kid with compassion because he is in a strange environment. Perhaps Lukas feels his old friends have each other and the new kid has no one. I don't know.

I've talked to Lukas about it a few times, hoping that if he is dead-set on pursuing this friendship, he does not sit idly by while the new kid disparages other kids at the school. Maybe Lukas can be a friend to this child, but also a positive influence? My fear is that he made be the influencee rather than the influencer...

What else can I do?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

It's all happening here.

The Grumpy Old Man and the two older boys left for mother-in-law's about an hour ago. They have a full day of helping MIL clear out excess stuff from her house. She has told the GOM she wants to put the house on the market in November, so I'm expecting the next few weekends will involve the Grumpy Old Man and the boys regularly being dispatched to 'Nanna's' in this fashion.

I've chucked Bryn and Ari outside. Ari has been cooped up here at the house all week. We have a marvellous big back yard full of outdoor equipment but he won't go out there on his own for long and neither the GOM or I are inclined to sit out there with him - I know, we suck as parents, I have been suffering some unusual parental guilt over this, but we honestly have a lot of do inside the house, too. It was so much easier with the other three. Erik and Luey had each other and Bryn was always happy to potter around on his own. Ari is a different sort of kid, he wants lots of interaction with other people  (he's going to love kindergarten!).

So, Bryn is running Ari ragged outside for me right now - something I'm very grateful for. I just checked on them, and in fact Ari is pottering around on his own and so is Bryn - I think Ari just needs to know someone is close by.

Yesterday we discovered that the conditions of entry for the school fair art show have changed. Apparently, artists under 16 are not longer eligible to submit canvases to the art show. They can only submit mounted drawings up to A3 in size and this will be displayed separately in crates people flipped through to one side of the exhibition. Yesterday, I felt really angry about this. Today, I just feel sad. The GOM is determined to fight this change on Erik's behalf as we both believe its a condition based on the erroneous idea that artists under 16 cannot offer work to exhibition standard. We feel Erik absolutely can. He has been working on this piece for six weeks already. He's been planning it for much longer - since the exhibition last year.

This is where he is up to as of last night.
I need to have more faith that the committee will see that while he is well under sixteen years of age, he is not offering up an immature artwork.

Deep breath, moving along...

I've been struggle with anger all week again. Well, not all week, mostly since Thursday. I'm pretty sure it's hormonal. My cycles are getting shorter (between 22 and 25 days in the past couple of months). I might need to start taking some B6 took elongate them a bit and give myself a bit of a break. Knowing I'm at the mercy of my hormones also causes me to feel angry.

A lot of anger is stemming from fear of moving in with MIL. Well, not actually living with her myself, but more so attempting to communicate to the boys about the needs of an old woman for peace and quiet. I don't want the boys to be quiet as church mice - I don't think MIL would be expecting that. I just need them to bring it down to a dull roar.

That and this habit they have of dropping stuff wherever they stand and walking away. They've done this forever. I've talked, pleaded, explained, yelled and punished them for doing this for years - seemingly to no avail. I'm not particularly tolerant of mess because of my low vision. I find visual clutter almost impossible to navigate. So, I keep a fairly tight ship, but this often involves yelling (because I insist they pick up after themselves) and I really don't want to be yelling once we move in with MIL. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to yelling, yelling leads to more fear. It's not a good cycle. Hopefully by being aware of it, I can conquer it.

Bryn had another incident with the 'new kid' later this week (after the talk with Bryn on Tuesday). He felt he could deal with this kid on his own - which involved clocking the kid over the head with his fist. While the teacher did talk to me about it, I sensed she understood Bryn's frustration but had to draw the line at a physical response from Bryn to the ongoing taunts. Bryn and I have roll-played him clearly and firm stating, 'Stop! I don't like it!' as he had apparently not actually verbally told the other child he didn't like being wrestled to the ground.

I feel that I'm not meeting my children's needs at the moment. Erik needs patience (and my cupboard is bare), Lukas needs encouragement with his school work, Bryn needs to feel heard - at the moment he is feeling ignored, Ari needs to get out into nature a lot more than he is right now - he needs to burn off all that excess energy and be stimulated.

I feel so tired and overwhelmed and unable to do the bare minimum, let along the extra mile that being a parent constantly seems to require.

I haven't started doing yoga or meditating. I need to make those a priority, but instead I keep making excuses - mostly that there is no peace and quiet in this house, when I know the problem is all the noise in my head.

Right now, I'm going to go have some brunch, then clean the house while half the family is out from under my feet.

Friday, September 21, 2012

All that is wrong with this country! Trolling and a sure sign I'm getting old!

Here is a sure sign I'm getting old. I wrote to a regional paper this morning to complain about all that is wrong with this country. Yes, yes I did.

You see, I saw a link on Facebook. My cousin posted it. It was an article about her new fiancé.

I've never met the man. I know his name, and I know he's engaged to my cousin and that is all I know about him.

The article was a local-interest story about him because he had set up camp outside his local Apple store yesterday morning to await the Australian release of the new iPhone 5. He's obviously a fan of iProducts, he was depicted sitting there with his Apple laptop - and well, yes, he was willing to queue all day and all night to be the first to get an iPhone 5. He's also obviously a man with a sense of adventure. He hoped others would queue with him (I don't know whether they did or not), but he wanted the experience of being first in line.

There is a long history of people in Australia and around the world queuing day and night for footy tickets or concert tickets or new release Playstations and Xboxes, and yes, certainly for iDevices, so he hadn't decided to do something no one has even done before.

And yet...


When I clicked through to the article this morning there were 81 comments, and so many of them, so so many of them were personal attacks on this man. Commenters carried on about him being an iSheep or and iDiot, they carried on about how he should be at work and how their tax dollars (because they apparently worked - though took time out of their own work days to read the Courier Mail online and then log on from their work computers or smart phones to have a go at him for apparently not working), how their tax dollars were paying for him to sit there and wait to get his hands on the iPhone 5.


I was shocked and terribly disappointed for him, and I don't even know him.

What the hell is wrong with people?

What is this trolling phenomenon about, exactly? Is society that rotten that people feel entitled to tear strips of someone for liking a product they themselves aren't inspired by or for having an adventurous enough spirit to doing something a bit different for a day?

What this young man was doing wasn't hurting anyone! He's stimulating the economy - that's what politicians always tell us to do. He wasn't attacking anyone. He wasn't depriving anybody of any essentials or even luxuries of life. As one commenter pointed out - he may well have been working from his laptop. Or he may have had a rostered day off, or he may be on holidays - I can't tell you, I don't know that much about him. If he did happen to be unemployed, there may be a very good reason for that and he may have saved up for a very long time for this phone.

The thing is it is none of anyone's business!

This is where I'd drag out that old saying all our mums chanted at us as kids, 'If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all.' But I feel that is a bit useless because trolls really only want to spew filth at other people from their anonymous hiding holes.

Trolls are vile. Trolls are unAustralian. Trolls are what is wrong with this country.

I was also very disappointed that after posting my own comment, I saw a statement from the courier mail that they will not publish comments which do not add to the debate or which are personal attacks - and yet they let single word comments such as 'iDiot' slip through their filter? So, yep, I wrote them a letter because trolling has been in the media recently, it had been headline news, and someone has to act on their policies to disallow such commentary, why not them?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

If we survive the end of the Mayan calendar...

2013 is set to be a very interesting, exciting and profitable year...

The Grumpy Old Man's mum called this morning to say the insurance company was willing to pay $2K toward replacing her asbestos filled roof after a tree limb put a small hole in the roof a couple of weeks ago. This means her cost of replacing the roof would still be $18K. If she decided against spending that money and just had the hole patched, that would be fine - until the next hole in the roof, which the insurance would not cover at all until she had the roof replaced.

So, she's determined to sell the house at this point.

The GOM and the two eldest boys will be at her house this weekend helping to shift items to the nature strip for council pick up.

I've learned something new about mother-in-law. When she dithers or is indecisive, it's a sure sign she just doesn't 'want to' do whatever you may be trying to persuade her to do. I've learned this because now that she's decided to sell, she has seriously thrown herself into this project with gusto!

Having considered her options, it seems she is not keen to buy a unit in a village because she doesn't want 'busy bodies sticking their noses in' to her business. She's also not keen to move into an independent unit as this would only be a temporary measure and soon she would be back to square one.

Her solicitor has suggest two units on the same property so that after she passes we could draw an income from renting out the second unit. The Grumpy Old Man and I are not keen to follow this course because, having been renters for decades we know that good landlords have sufficient savings to deal with things like broken hot water systems, and damages due to storms and so on. We believe that ultimately a rental property might become a money pit rather than a source of income.

We showed her a number of properties on the market at the moment which would afford her her own living space within a larger house - on occasion even her own entire floor of living space and she seemed open to this idea at the time.

So, besides one child starting high school, and another child starting kindergarten, and me possibly starting a degree, it looks like we may possibly also be leaving the rental market!

Financially, this would be a boon to us as we currently spend in excess of $19K on rent each year. In a house with no mortgage, we would be paying rates and maintenance and that would likely only come to $6-7k per year (I'm not including utilities or food in this as we pay those separate to rent, of course). Even though the house would be in her name, we would pay for rates and gardening and gutter cleaning etc. and we'd still be several thousand dollars a year ahead!

So, assuming the world does not come to an end on December 21st, life is starting to look up!

Monday, September 17, 2012

My child is hurting... Parenting impotence.

Today Bryn's teacher called me into the room at pick up time.

Yeah, that's never a good sign, is it?

It seems he's been randomly bursting into tears in class over the past few weeks. He's been upset because his house doesn't have a second floor or stairs and other kids in his class does. He's been upset because he got a lovely amber necklace for his birthday and kids asked him why he had a necklace on. He's been upset because he's the only kid in his class with a name starting with B and when the class plays dodgeball (I think) he doesn't have anyone to run with (this also happens to the only child with a name starting with I and the only child with a name starting with L, as well).

He's been telling us these things at home as well, so we already knew about the things that were upsetting him, but until this afternoon, we didn't know about the common denominator.

Apparently, a new kid joined the class this term. Bryn has mentioned this kid a number of times, but not directly in relation to his dissatisfaction with his name or living abode. Turns out the new kid has decided that Bryn's best mate is now his best mate and Bryn is a third wheel. This child has taken to taunting Bryn with the things that make this child and Bryn's best mate similar and which make Bryn different. So, the new kid and the best mate don't wear necklaces. The new kid and the best mate have names with more common first initials and always have someone to run with in dodgeball (though not each other), and the new kid and Bryn both live in houses with stairs and second storeys.

When the new kid taunts Bryn, Bryn gets really mad and has punched or otherwise 'attacked' the new kid. The new kid then tells the teacher and, of course, Bryn gets into trouble. When Bryn tells the teacher about the taunting, the new kid lies and says he didn't taunt Bryn and without evidence the teacher is unable to act.

I've told Bryn when the new kid is annoying him, he needs to walk away because he can't be laying hands on the new kid. I've tried to explain that even though the new kid is being mean, Bryn can't punch him or otherwise physically attack him because then Bryn will get into trouble.

Bryn feels he has no friends now (I'm fairly certain his best mate is still friends with him - at least from his perspective, but Bryn feels like they aren't friends anymore). He is resistant to the idea of making new friends.


I feel so impotent.

I want to make the new kid be inclusive of Bryn, but of course, I can't.

I want the best mate to tell the new kid to leave his friend Bryn alone, but I can't.

I want Bryn to feel safe and included and as if friends last forever, but they don't and every time you make a new friend you risk getting your heart broken - that's life. You've just got to keep swimming and know there will be new friends, and maybe new heartache, but may not.

I want Bryn to make other friends so he can move on from this hurt, but it takes courage to put yourself out there and make new friends, especially if you feel old friends have abandoned you.

I want to make my child's pain go away.

If only parenting was that easy!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

So excited!

Today was the 'Meet and Greet BBQ' at Erik's high school!

Every time I go to this school I'm impressed!

There was a sausage sizzle followed by a brief introduction about year seven curriculum, and then the children were sorted into their school houses. There are six houses, all named after constellation. I knew five of them (Aquila, Centaur, Orion, Pegasus and Phoenix), the one Erik actually got into I didn't know - Dorado - apparently it's a constellation above the Antartic. That house's colour is yellow.

There was an introduction to each student, basically stating their interests and from that we discovered that artists are not particularly common, only two or three besides Erik. lots of kids listed Minecraft amongst their interest and most of those ended up in the same house as Erik - so he'll be very happy with that. One student was also into Art and Doctor Who and is in the same house as Erik, woot! Apparently none of the kids in his house went to the same primary school - which I think is pretty good actually because it means they all start out on a similar footing.

The students went off to do 'team building exercises' - Erik reported back that it was some sort of treasure hunt - and we, the parents (and mostly bored siblings), listened to a speech from the principal on the school's educational philosophy and approach.

I am always so very impressed with this principal. Probably because so many of his views are identical to my own. But he is also humble and said, amongst other things, that he is always open to discussion about anything that goes on at the school because, 'We don't always get it right, implementing a new approach can be messy.' He also said, he felt parents should be highly involved and included in their child's education and that this high school did 'not treat parents as if they didn't know anything'. Yes! Love it!

He outlined the education approach - which includes Australia's first ever school with over 100 students to actually offer individual learning programs to every student - and some of the innovations which are still in the pipeline. I asked him for a copy of his overheads after the speech and he will send them to me, but did ask I didn't make them public until the students of the school had had a chance to hear about the innovations - this is because students are consulted and all aspects and their feedback is taken very seriously into account. Student reps are on all school panels - including for hiring of staff - so student involvement is taken very seriously.

I had to tell him I'd already tweeted some of his speech - oops! This made him laugh, I don't think he'd considered that possibility. He may preface future speeches by asking attendees not to tweet them! He didn't say as much, but I wouldn't be surprised if he was thinking it.

We still need to organise an interview for Lukas, who is set to start high school in 2014, and this time I don't want to be trying to get him in at the last minute!

Hiding from mum's camera phone - because mum is soooo embarrassing!

The sorting hat - got to love a school which references Harry Potter!

Erik having been sorted into Dorado. He looks so uncomfortable standing up
where everyone can see him, but he did survive!

Next appointment at the school is in November for the information night - cannot wait!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Flexibility and inner peace?

Today day is the first day since Sunday that my left leg hasn't felt like it doesn't belong to my body.

All week it has been horribly painful to sit, stand, lay down and walk. My right leg has been less affected but also very inflexible and sore.

So, why have I been experiencing all this discomfort? Well, because last weekend I tidied the back patio. Tidying the back patio entailed scrubbing moss off the stone tiles and I should have crouched down or knelt to do this job, but the ground out there is very rough and was very wet as well.

I've always been very limber so I chose to bend at the hips and scrub the patio that way.

Yes, wrong move, that!

All the muscles and ligaments at the back of my legs became strained and agitated doing this. I didn't feel any of it until Monday around lunch time, by Tuesday morning I was in agony, and Wednesday was the worst day. Yesterday was a bit better and finally today I was able to actually cross my legs and sit with a little pressure under the back of my knees (all week I've been perched on the edges of chairs and couches).

This got me to thinking I really need to work on my flexibility, and strengthening my muscles.

I've been suffering more from lower back stiffness and hip stiffness in the past year or so as well.

I am carrying a lot of so-called extra weight, but I don't think that is the problem (in and of itself) so much as a lack of strength in my core and muscles to support the extra weight, so I want to work on that a bit.

A while ago I saw this video about how yoga helped a man walk again. It's quite amazing to watch.

I did a bit of investigation and found the series of DVDs this guy bought to achieve this miraculous comeback, but they're quite outside of my budget, and besides, I don't need a miracle, just a bit of strengthening, which I think I can achieve with just regular yoga, if I am consistent.

I found this video on You Tube and it looks quite easy to follow and get to know by heart.

I don't care if I don't lose any weight. Losing weight is not my goal.

I thought maybe also that doing yoga might help me feel a bit calmer.

A guy started following me on Twitter last week. He has a blog, so I checked it out and read this post which I found somehow compelling (probably because he said yoga gave him a feeling of inner peace, and I yearn for that)...

So, yeah, I have a yoga mat ready to go (albeit quite dusty), and I'm going to see if I can't pick up the routine on the above video (it can't be too hard, right?) and maybe I'll become a bit stronger and a bit more flexible (and won't suffer injuries from cleaning the house) and maybe, just maybe, I'll also find a bit of inner peace.

I live in hope!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Yesterday was a GORGEOUS day! A.K.A I can't think of a title for this post...

Gosh, yesterday in Melbourne was beautiful and today is shaping up to be the same way.

Beautiful weather always helps to alleviate my mood.

That is not to say that I don't still seethe - I do - I'm trying really hard not to. For example, I have a reader who checks in here several times most days and this is someone I know but who I'm no longer friends with. Someone who swore to boycott my blog but just can't seem to stay away - particularly from posts which might be controversial - and I feel the urge to make cutting remarks about this person. Instead I'm going to send this person love and hope they find the closure they are looking for and are able to move on from visiting my blog; possibly gloating over my challenges or looking for disharmony. I've moved on, it wasn't easy, but you can move on, too. You know who you are, and I see you there in my 'visitor pathways'. Pax.

I feel a strong need to feel love and compassion for people around me. I think if I can give love, if I can be the kind of person other people feel safe around and feel respected by, then very possibly I will also feel peace and serenity. Certainly, wearing my sarcastic goggles and seeing idiocy everywhere is not making me feel particularly good. I believe I've developed a very destructive habit of belittling others over the years. Perhaps it's a defence mechanism because I've suffered from inferiority complexes during periods of my life. Whatever it is, it isn't enriching my life at all and it poisons my relationships with others as well.

So, yesterday was a bright and warm day and I had another appointment with Vision Australia. I now have a prescription for yet another pair of reading glasses. I will now have my snazzy red reading glasses for working on the computer (for distances between 20-40cm), but also a pair of black rimmed glasses for reading close up (distances between 5-20cm). The new pair of glasses are not snazzy at all, but they were the best of a bad lot and they will only cost me $37 which is damn sight more affordable than Erik's $450 pair!

As well as this I have the electronic magnifier with a light for very small writing (recipes and instructions on packaging - oh, and bike construction manuals, what is with the teensy weensy print on those?) and a monocular for distanced reading (public transport boards and tram numbers etc.). I'm going to get those granny glasses string thingies to put the two pairs around my neck and I have a lanyard for the monocular.

Ah, ageing is all about the accessories, isn't it?

I received an email from Deakin yesterday - from the scholarships office saying they had received my completed application and they would be advising me regarding my success or otherwise around mid-December. I wrote back and asked if I would receive a response to my degree application before that date as I aim to proceed regardless of scholarship status. I have not heard back yet (possibly because those matters are processed by two different departments, I may have to call Deakin to get my answer).

MIL rang yesterday. Her solicitor has advised against her selling her place and buying a big family home for all of us. His argument was two fold. First, he's had several clients do this and apparently it never ends well. Secondly, he was sure she would not find a suitable home in the surrounding suburbs to fit all of us and said she might have to look at the outer suburbs. He recommended she buy a unit in a retirement village.

He also said he knew people at a couple of local retirement villages and would be happy to put her in contact with them.

Yes, hmmm, this is one of those situations where I struggle to feel loving. He is a man of means, and the Grumpy Old Man and I can't help but wonder if he hasn't invested in the retirement villages he would suggest to MIL. That would present a conflict of interest.

Searching on yesterday, I found in excess of 30 homes which could work for the seven of us; providing MIL with a suite of two or three rooms and an ensuite, all in the surrounding suburbs at the price of the valuation of her current property. Yes, we have four children, but we don't need a bedroom for each of them, they share now and could easily continue to share for a few years to come.

We've offered for MIL to come over this weekend so we can show her what is currently on the market.

We have to be very careful though. This is her home we're talking about. The place she has lived for forty-one years. Ideally, she would prefer to live the rest of her days in this home. While it would certainly be a huge adjustment both for her and us to all live under the same roof together. The adjustment would inevitably be greater for her. There is absolutely no question that that arrangement would benefit us.

So, we have to be careful. It is ultimately her decision and we have to be mindful of that.

Things that worry us are:

  • If she stays in her current home and it continues to deteriorate, that could pose a risk to her health.
  • Apparently to get an alert system installed would require rewiring the entire house. 
  • The roof needs mending. 
  • She lives an hour by public transport away from us, so running errands for her is very time consuming and while we're making it work this year, next year we'll have one in kinder, two in primary school, one in high school, and possibly me at University full time - spread over several suburbs and of course, no personal transport. Juggling her increasing needs an hour away will be even more complicate than it is now.
  • Could she really cope with living in our three ring circus and could I really get the kids to not scream and yell and whine and stomp around a lot less? I said the Grumpy Old Man yesterday that I don't want to promise her something we can't deliver. We're a noisy family and we argue a fair bit more than what most people would probably think reasonable. We love each other intensely - we do everything intensely. We're a fairly intense bunch of people. Is it at all fair to try and persuade her to live in that kind of environment at her age because it would be more convenient for us?
  • If she moves into a retirement village, some of her immediate needs will be met by the village]s resources, however, if for any reason she suddenly needs continuous care, she would be moved to a hospital or hospis and may not return to the unit. Her direct care would then be mostly in the hands of strangers in an unfamiliar environment and we would still have our hectic lives to work around or possibly put on hold to be with her. It is hard to put children on hold.
  • Would the retirement village be close by so we could still help her out relatively easily?
  • Does buying into a retirement village still mean the village actually owns your unit but you've paid to use it until you no longer need it - at which time it, and all sales proceeds, revert back to the retirement village? In other words, if she spend $300K on a unit in a village, does she say goodbye to that money forever - even if she is moved to a hospis and no longer uses it? Or can she sell it in that circumstance and use the proceeds to her own benefit?
  • Coordinating the selling and clearing out of her house, the purchase of a new house (in whichever circumstance) and moving into a new house will be a huge wrench for her. It will undoubtably exhaust and upset her.
There is so much to consider. It's all very much up in the air at the moment. At the same time, I feel a little as if I'm standing at the bottom of a snowy mountain and someone has just let of a round - I'm listening for the possibility of an avalanche and wondering if I, we, could survive one...

But the weather was beautiful yesterday - just glorious - and it is a challenge to be grumpy in such weather! I'd like to order more of the same, please!

I thought I'd share a floorplan which would be ideal for us...

This house has two entries, which would be perfect. In this house, the front part of the house; the bedroom with ensuite, living and dining, would be MIL's part of the house. The kitchen would be shared and then we'd put the boys in the large back bedroom, the study in the middle back bedroom, and our room in the corner, and the family room would be, well, the family room... This house is in a local suburb and going for a price comparable to MIL's property.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Deciphering Anger...

Do you ever feel angry and just don't know why?

At the moment everything irritates me and annoys me. I'm a little concerned because I'm feeling very uncharitable. I don't seem to have a lot in the way of compassion or sympathy for other people. I really don't like this feeling at all.

I'm not exactly sure why I feel this way. 

The quick answer might be that life is stressful, but that's not really very helpful because life is always stressful. As far as I can see everyone's life is stressful (and they don't seem to be irritable all the time). Life has been stressful in this house for a long time and that is not set to change any time soon.

Or maybe that is the reason. 

I keep waiting and hoping for things to change and they don't and I resent it because I feel we deserve a break.

Then again, life is not as stressful as it has been.

I'm finally figuring out how to live on this small income and even put a little bit of money aside each fortnight (for Erik's start at high school). That doesn't leave much in the budget - I have about $48 pocket money each fortnight. The Grumpy Old Man has a bit more because I only ask him to pay for half the food (I pay the rent and utilities out of my money, but I also have free public transport). He, of course, will give me money for things - like the school mums' dinner last friday - and he has to pay for incursion/excursions and so on for the kids.

Forty-eight dollars every fourteen days doesn't stretch to much, but then again I don't go anywhere, either. I pretty much stay home and write or do household paperwork, arrange appointments, oversee Erik's painting and so on.

The anger might be tied in with the loose ends thing. Ha! 'tied in', 'loose ends', see what I did there. I crack myself up!

Without something to occupy my mental spaces, I notice how little my life feels. I notice that I don't get out. I notice that I don't get to buy stuff (like so many other people on the net seem to be doing all the time). I notice that I don't have much in the way of a social life; partly because I lack the funds to participate and partly because agoraphobia drains the fun out of socialising.

So, the anger may well be rooted in the concept of idle hands being the devil's playground.

Yesterday I got out into the sun and Lukas and I cleared the back patio. I'd called the council last week to arrange a hard rubbish collection at our house this week. I finally got rid of the king sized mattress which had been propped up against the house outside the back door (I couldn't go out there, it looked so much like we were derros who didn't care - I was embarrassed when the lady came to cut Jacob's coat and saw the mattress on our back patio (along with sundry other bits and pieces and weeds popping up between the pavers).

So, with the mattress gone, I got Lukas to chuck out the bits and pieces that had collected around it (thanks boys), and we weeded the pavers and cut back the trees and set things up nicely and now it looks so much more inviting for Spring and Summer.

The physical work was good for me, but the anger was still there and I had to resist losing the plot over the state of things.

I so often feel that the Grumpy Old Man and the boys just don't care about how we live. The amount of mess they can tolerate is so much higher than me - to the point where I wonder, if I wasn't here, would they end up on one of those hoarders shows? They do clean up, when I tell them to, but that makes me angry, too. Why do I always have to tell them?

MIL said something last week that I can't get out of my head.

She had a tree limb from the neighbour's house come down on her roof and put a small hole in it. She called the SES and they came out and chopped up the limb but wouldn't remove the pieces for her and wouldn't touch the roof because they said it had asbestos in it. This all happened late morning, but she didn't call us until 4pm. At that stage the hole in the roof was still open to the elements and rain was forecast for that night.

So, the GOM hauled butt over to her place in a cab we couldn't afford, so he could go with her to let the neighbours know (at that point she was under the impression it was their job to remove the pieces of limb from her yard, she later found out it was not their job), and I got on the phone to hire-a-hubby to see if they would cover the hole with a tarp for her.

Ultimately, it all worked out thanks to mine and the GOM's resourcefulness and the hole was covered before the rain came.

The following day I was talking to her on the phone. She'd had the insurance people out and they were telling her she needed an entirely new roof. They said patching the holes (they found two more) was not good enough. Now, MIL has the funds to put on the new roof (insurance covers most of it, apparently), but the GOM felt she needed a second opinion.

So, we talked back and forth and of course, the subject of saving for rainy days came along, and she was talking about how people lose their homes because they have so much debt and I said, 'That's the main reason we aren't worse off now, we have no debts.' To which she replied, 'Well, yes, and the fact that [FIL] and I have loaned you so much money over years, it's at least $20 000, and you've never repaid a cent and seem to have just forgotten about it.'

... <--- That's the space where I have no words (words I would want stored here for all eternity, that is).

Not a thing she said was untrue. Except maybe the bit about having forgotten about it. I haven't forgotten about it. I can't speak for the Grumpy Old Man. I'm only far too aware of the bonds they have given us (when we made it very clear we couldn't repay them), and the food money in recent years as well. I hate accepting money from her and not being able to repay it.

The thing is, we have also forgone opportunities to live where housing is cheaper and where we would have a better chance of getting work because we've had to stay close to her and FIL to help out practically. Has she forgotten that? As I write this, the Grumpy Old Man is at her place doing grocery shopping for her because she can't do it herself.

Things are tight, but I'm more determined than ever not to take another cent from her. I said to the GOM last night that Christmas this year would be lean and we might not be having our regular Christmas dinners because I won't be letting MIL buy Christmas dinner this year. She is welcome to join us, but we'll be eating within our means without her assistance.

I feel that I'm such a failure in my life because I cannot provide properly for my family and I want to change that. It seems that I keep going in circles trying to make that happen though. MIL's words hurt, possibly because they're the truth. By true, I mean, we have not been doing it on our own, we have not been managing like adults.

The anger is omnipresent. I feel as if I'm jealous of everyone. Everyone seems to so much better off than we are. 

I need to stop feeling like this. I just cannot figure out how.

And we're not starving. We pay our bills. We pay our rent. We have toys. So, we're not so badly off. So, I also feel angry at myself for lacking gratitude and compassion and sympathy and calmness and generosity.

Friday, September 07, 2012

At a loose end...

I'm at a loose end, and I'm really not good at it.

This is why I wouldn't make a good buddhist or meditator. I'm far to restless and these four competing channels of thought in my head are so noisy and distracting and frustrating - and right now they're all clambering for something to work on, to nut out, to pull apart and reassemble and examine and theorise  about.

Having submitted my application and with no other 'project' to occupy my mental spaces, I'm feeling agitated and hungry for stimulation.

The internet doesn't it do it for me - yes, it's entertaining but mostly it's just a time suck, filling my head with superficiality and pureed ideas that are more palatable to the masses - and no one had better suggest housework, because I'd probably not be able to resist the urge to scratch your eyes out.

I've been biting hooks, which is no good.

Not actual hooks, just the kind of hooks you find on forums and Facebook. You know, someone makes a statement and it's so preposterous you can feel your muscles coil into jump mode and you're more or less powerless to fight the urge to pounce. Yeah, that.

Statements like suggesting people who choose not to vaccinate their kids are not fulfilling their obligation to society. (because obligations are, you know, only ever one way, right?)

Or suggesting that Michelle Obama has let down feminists by saying she views her highest priority to be her role as a mother. (because Michelle Obama can only be a proper feminist if she downplays her role as a mother and is embarrassed by that role)

I know my views aren't popular, neither was Pythagoras' view that the earth was, in fact, spherical rather than flat. It took hundreds of years for that theory to be widely accepted, too, but the evidence was all around.

Please follow this link, the blog post it takes you to is quite fascinating!

Even if I'm wrong - and I may be - it's only my opinion, right?

I should probably just keep my opinions to myself, they aren't winning my any friends. The thing about that is, what if I'm actually right - as inconceivable as that might be to many - shouldn't I at least put the ideas out there for consideration (surely *someone* isn't just fobbing me off as a nut)?

The truth is, if I was not at a loose end, I'd probably be too busy to bite hooks. That would probably be best for everyone, too, because I'd feel a lot calmer and everyone else could just get along agreeing amongst themselves without my dubious contributions.

Argh! Being at a loose end is torture!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Starting high school.

I lay awake for a long time the other night.

Next year is going to be a big one for us. There is a good chance we'll have to move at some point and all of that (the how and where) is still very much up in the air. Then again, I always think we're going to move 'next year' and for the past couple of years, that hasn't eventuated. So, moving wasn't keeping me awake.

Ari is starting kindergarten next year. The Grumpy Old Man and I realised he has never been anywhere without us or one or more of the boys. Erik and Lukas never went to kindergarten. Bryn went, but he'd already spent a year at creche (three hours, once a week) with our friend Jayne and her daughter. So, he had a smooth transition away from the family and out into the wider world. For Ari, kinder will be his first experience of being 'out there' on his own. I'm sure that won't be a smooth transition, but I'm also sure we will manage to navigate it quite well. So, Ari starting kindergarten wasn't keeping me awake.

Yesterday I finally heard that all the paperwork for my PhD application has been received by Deakin and my application will now begin being processed. Getting into this degree is not a given. In fact, now that I've submitted my application I'm not at all sure it will be accepted. However, if it is, there is no doubt next year will be a busy year for me. Next year, and the two years after that will be crazy if I get into this degree! That was not what kept me awake the other night.

The thing that kept me awake was Erik starting high school.


We love the high school he is going to. Their education philosophy is very much in line with our own. He will have a mentor of his choice from any of the school staff. He will have a negotiated homework schedule based on his needs and the needs of our family. He will be encouraged to pursue his talent in art. The range of electives he can choose from is large and varied, including computer game design, animal care through local zoos, and a school TV station! There are tutors available from all over the country via the net until 10pm most nights, so if there is a work we can't help him with, he can contact a tutor from home. It's just fantastic!

We're very excited about him being offered a place there.

However, now that the excitement has worn off a bit, I feel anxious. It took Erik five years to establish himself at primary school and to makes some good friends. He won't know anyone at this new high school. Sending him to the local high school wouldn't have improved those odds much as all his friends are going to different high schools, but still, there would be familiar faces.

He'll have to take two buses to school - he did that when he was ten, so that's not new.

Maybe it's just that we - the GOM and I - will have to get to know a new set of staff and new expectations. Also, the high school isn't just up the street like our primary school has been for the past two and a half years, so I guess we won't be up there nearly as often (besides, high school kids don't like mum or dad hanging out at the school gate, apparently).

Maybe it's just because he's growing up - going out into the world and with the start of high school that process will suddenly accelerate. I'm not resistant to the idea of him growing up - I really enjoy his company now that he has his own ideas about the world and can communicate them quite well. It's just that now he'll be at high school, I can see the time when he'll have friends we don't know, and go places we don't know, and eventually have a life we can only be part of by his invitation and well, that's going to be an adjustment.

He is so happy with his group of friends and his status at school this year, and all of that is set to change next year. I think he'll still stay in contact with his primary school friends, but he won't see them as often, and he won't be familiar with everyone at school. He'll have to re-establish himself in a new culture.

I'm very thankful that the high school is about the same size as his primary school - the two local public high schools are each two and a half times the size of our primary school. So, at least there is a good chance he'll get to know most people fairly quickly and find his place at this high school.

I'm probably just projecting from my own high school experience, which followed on from a complicated primary school experience. His primary school experience has already been far better than my own. He navigates friendships better than I ever did and has more self-confidence than I had at his age, so hopefully that will all set him up for a better high school experience as well.

I did eventually get to sleep.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Red: A Doctor Who Motif. Oh, and my thoughts about what REALLY going on with the Doctor.

Gosh I've had a lot of traffic here this month already. Hi to all of you who visited my posts on vaccination and leggings as pants - forums are a boon to bloggers, aren't they?

Today, I thought I'd talk about something completely different.

I've been watching the first episode of series seven of Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks. I've watched it five times since Sunday morning and am seeing a pattern. (Yes, well, if you watch anything often enough you'll begin to see patterns, that's how conspiracy theories come into being).

Ever since the introduction of Amelia Pond, way back when Matt Smith first graced out screens with his hyperactive, Peter Pan view of the world, the colour red has featured strongly. In the very first episode of fifth series (modern) 'The Eleventh Hour' we meet red-haired Amelia (Amy) Pond, in her white nightdress with red hearts and red buttons on it. Her cardigan is red, the blanket/shawl she packs in her suitcase is red, her boots and beanie are red, the windmill in her garden is red with white spots, the Doctors hanky is red with white spots, it's just red, red, red everywhere.

In fact, in nearly every episode she wears red, even if it's only nail polish! Don't believe me? Have a look at this and this.

Eventually, during and after 'Demons Run' she pretty much stops wearing red, but red continues to feature in the show.

Red balloons are seen at Amy's wedding in 'The Big Bang' - where Amy brings the Doctor back from non-existence after the cracks in the Universe are mended. They're also seen in 'The Almost People' - where the Doctor stabilises Flesh Avatars into humans, and in 'The God Complex' - where rooms of an 80s style hotel are filled with patrons greatest fears to inspire faith in them so a Minotaur can consume their faith energy to continue to live.

The red with white polkadot handkerchief is seen in the 'The Eleventh Hour' - where the Doctor saves Amy from the crack in her wall, and again in 'Cold Blood' - where the Doctor uses it to retrieve a piece of TARDIS debris from the crack (and is not consumed by the crack like everyone else has been!), and a third time in 'Let's Kill Hitler' when he takes it out in Hitler's office - in that episode, River saves him from dying after she poisons him with a kiss.

So, back to 'Asylum of the Daleks'. Red featured in this episode again. This time it wasn't in relation to Amy or the Doctor himself, but rather it was the dress worn by Oswin Oswald - who will somehow become the Doctor's new companion Clara Oswin during the Christmas special to be screened later this year.

Also - just as an aside - it was interesting that Darla Von Karlsen is a red head, and her daughter (I believe this is the little ballerina who is actually a dalek when Amy looks a second time), Hannah, is also a red head. The Doctor's universe seems to have more than our usual 7% population of red heads...

Anyway, back to the story... I thought it was noteworthy that the soon-to-be new companion was wearing red, and the old companion has stopped wearing red...

I believe red is a motif in Doctor Who. I believe it is a metaphor for 'red flag'. Instances where the Doctor is messing with stuff he shouldn't be messing with or has 'rewritten at timeline' and 'tainted' inhabitants of that timeline.

I've been watching all the series repeatedly for a couple of years now, trying to figure out what Moffat is trying to tell us. Many believe there are secrets to be revealed (about the Doctor, perhaps his name or who he really is, or about Amy or River), things Moffat has written into the show that will become obvious later, but which are only clues now.

We were all busy trying to figure out who River Song was, and who Madam Kavorian and The Silence and The Headless Monks were, but I think I'm beginning to see the significance of all the red in this show.

I believe Moffat is not asking the audience who Doctor Who is. I don't think we'll ever find out his real name. I believe the question is being posed to the Doctor himself. I think the Doctor is heading for an identity crisis.

Way back at the beginning of the series, nearly fifty years ago, the Doctor ran away from Galifrey. Later in the Time War, he distroyed all the Time Lords because they wanted to destroy time and become gods. Since those times, the Doctor has been roaming the Universe messing with time, he recognises fixed points in time and mostly respects those, but he is constantly messing with the rest of time. He is known to the people of the Gamma Forest as a great warrior - their word for warrior is doctor - and he is known to the Daleks as 'the predator'. He is constantly battling with and winning over species who want to dominate (earth specifically, but dominate generally) and is also known as 'the oncoming storm'.

A title he gives himself... You can just catch him saying it in this trailer, 'Violence. No violence. Not today, not while I'm around, I am the Doctor, the oncoming storm.'

Matt Smith has said in the past that the biggest clues to the story arc of the eleventh Doctor can be found in the very first episode 'The Eleventh Hour'. I believe that clue is when the Doctor speaks with the Atraxi at the end of the episode and says to them, 'Basically run.'

Later in the Doctor's timeline, River says to Rory that at Demon's Run the Doctor will rise higher than he ever has before and fall even further. Actually, one of the TV trailers for 'A Good Man Goes to War' rather succinctly conveys what I'm trying to say here.

In short, the Doctor believes himself to be someone who saves people; a defender of the innocent. However, his immense conviction, courage and ability to manipulate time to his will makes him a great threat to the rest of the Universe. This is also shown in 'The Pandorica Opens' when all the warring factions collaborate and conspire to lock him up - which surprises him.

I believe Moffat's aim is to show that power corrupts and ultimate power corrupts ultimately, and that the Doctor is becoming exactly what he destroyed the rest of his people to prevent them from becoming - a force to be feared.

The red motif is that of a red flag, highlighting every moment that he has inferred with the space-time continuum in a way no one should have the power to interfere, and all the beings he has tainted with this interference.

Ultimately, I believe he will destroy the people he loves the most, Amy and Rory, through his sense of entitlement to 'rewrite time'. This lesson might not be learned with the demise of Amy and Rory, though, which may be why Oswin Oswald wears a red dress until she is ultimately destroyed in 'Asylum of the Daleks'. The Doctor's ultimate fall from grace may come with Clara as his side kick and lead into an existential crisis for the Doctor at the fiftieth anniversary series!

That scene with the atraxi at the end of 'The Eleventh Hour' - I think that's the lynchpin of the entire story arc for the eleventh Doctor. The fear on Rory face may not be for the eyeball-in-the-sky but for the power he witnesses in the Doctor's display.

Monday, September 03, 2012

The Happy Family.

What does it look like?

I've seen questions surrounding the idea of a 'happy family' in the past couple of days. The first was asking for the opinion of people who had a 'happy childhood' about what made their childhood happy, and the other - just now in my inbox - asked, 'Is your family as happy as you would like it to be?'

I imagine if I clicked through from that email in my inbox, I'd received a list of things I could do to make my family happier if I didn't feel they were as happy as I'd like them to be.

Can a family ever be as happy as we'd like them to be, I mean for more than a moment in time?

The other night I watched 'Deep Impact' for the fifty millionth time. At one point Tea Leoni's character is reminiscing with her dad about 'one perfect day' they had together during her childhood before her parents split up.

A single perfect day?

I wonder how often I've tried to make this happen with my family. Creating a picture perfect day where people are all smiling and happy and getting along. A day where every day worries aren't lingering behind our eyes causing our smiles to drop in unguarded moments?

I have never succeeded in making such a day happen.

We haven't had our 'one perfect day' yet.

I suspect those days don't really exist. I suspect they're a construct of advertising and movies and stories we're told as children. I suspect they're an ideal and as such, they're lovely to imagine, but striving for them will only bring frustration and disappointment and possibly even a feeling of having failed some sort of essential test.

Is my family as happy as I'd like it to be? Hell no! Of course it isn't. I'd love us all to live stress-free lives and to feel fulfilled all the time, and never be sick - of each other, mostly.

There are many ways in which I can fool myself in thinking, 'If only...'

If only we owned our own home.
If only we had a car.
If only the Grumpy Old Man had a job.
If only I could get published.
If only it was always sunny and 25 degrees with a light breeze.
If only we won the lotto.

The problem with that way of thinking is it doesn't address the main problem, which is our attitude. I think happy families have great attitudes. They accept that life isn't always going to be straight forward and stress free. They accept that each member has his or her own needs, personalities and idiosyncrasies and that sometimes we will irritate one another or even downright piss each other off. They know that someone throwing a tantrum or not smiling all day long can't 'spoil the day', that only each individual can really do that for themselves by focusing on the blemishes rather than the beauty.

Happy families forgive and laugh and don't let little things become big things that block out the sun.*

Based on that, I think we have a happy family.

We're definitely not a Kellogg's ad family, or an Omo family, but sometimes for very brief and flighty moments, if you squint and hold your breath, we could be mistaken for one.

That's enough for me!

* This is where I'd like to acknowledge that happy families come in all sorts of sizes and shapes; they include single parent families and blended families as a result of separation or divorce. Sometimes happy families need restructuring to truly be happy!

Saturday, September 01, 2012

I want a political party to offer me THIS.


I was having a conversation with the Grumpy Old Man last night about politics. Not really current Australian politics, or world politics but about the problems I have with the political parties and how none seem to quite meet my needs.

Not my financial or spiritual needs, but my understanding of societal needs.

I thought I'd try and explain what I'm on about - I'm not certain I'll be successful at doing this, but here goes...

I'm no fan of capitalism, and 'sustaining the economy' as Howard used to bang on about makes me think The Economy is a beast we need to feed. A hungry and heartless beast which doesn't understand the emotional needs of humans.

I'll never be a Liberal (if you're not Australian, I need to explain that here Liberals are the same as American Republicans, our Labor Party is like the Democrats, our democrats are a party that used to be, but are no more, and then we have The Greens, who started out as environmentalists but are now more left that our Labor party).

I believe in society providing basic needs for the people in that society. I believe in universal healthcare - including dental - that is provided through tax. I also believe in free education provided through tax.

But while I have voted left in the past (and will continue to vote left until something better comes along), I'm not entirely sympathetic to left politics either.

Let me explain why.

While right politics is about 'freedom of choice' and 'user pays' (assuming you can afford to pay, and if you can't, well that's your problem), the left of politics is about control. Sure, they'll set up health care and they'll set up education for everyone, but, they also create a variety of hoops for people to jump through because they have this need to parent society.

Both sides of politics act as if our tax dollars are their money and we have to prove we need it - it being the money we pay in taxes, our money they hold in trust for us.

Parents can't simply choose not to participate in formal education for their children - to provide their own best understanding of their child's education needs. Parents get hassled for not choosing to vaccinate, and now if you don't take your child for certain check ups, you forfeit support as well.

It's 'Life, our way.' According to the Labor party, at least.

Last night, I was thinking what I would suggest as an alternative, because, you know, just whinging about it is a cop out. If you think the status quo sucks, you really need to step up and offer an alternative rather than just sit back and complain, right?

So, here is how I'd like to see society run...

There would be a tax system, and it would be tiered, so that the people who earn more, pay more tax. The reasoning behind is that a flat tax system would only increase the gulf between the haves and the have nots. I do not believe for a second that having to pay more tax as you earn more would deter people from earning more. It is in human nature to 'want more'. Besides, higher paid jobs are more prestigious, no matter how much tax you have to pay.

If a person earning 35k a year paid 15% tax, they'd take home 29 750 per annum. If a person earning 140K paid 40% tax, they'd take home 84 000 per annum. If a person earning 250K paid 60% tax, they'd take home 100 000 per annum. So the more you earned, the more you'd still be taking home.

The taxes would primarily go towards infrastructure, health and education.

The quality of health and education would be world standard. Let's face it, the only reason anyone has private health care is because they know the public health care system is substandard. There are not enough facilities, doctors and nurses to meet the demands in society, so the waiting lists for some very basic services are outrageously long. Health care would include all aspects of health, from birth to death, disabilities - physical, mental, and learning, dental, alternative, everything.

Education would include all varieties. There would be government funded schools for Christians, and Muslim and various education philosophies such as Steiner and Montessori and so on. If a group of educators or parents wanted to form a particular kind of school with particular philosophies, they would receive funds for the Government to do so, because they would be meeting education needs within communities.

Participation would be at the discretion of individuals. The health care system would be available to all but participation would not be compulsory, vaccinations would not be compulsory, for example. So, okay, right now many of you are going to say, 'Why should I pay for a system where people put the health of my children at risk by not vaccinating - the Government is only trying to ensure my children are healthy to save money in the future because epidemics are expensive. NOT TRUE! If Governments push vaccinations, it is not for prevention of disease. If they were interested in prevention of disease, they'd ban the sale of cigarettes, but you see, the tax on cigarettes is far too lucrative to sacrifice for the health of the population.

So, infrastructure, health and education would be accessible to all at a world leading standard, the need for 'private health' and 'private education' would disappear because everyone would have ready access to the best.

Everyone would continue to pay tax through the GST - sorry to disappoint, but I don't think the GST was the worst concept ever. Because of the GST, I can be confident that I am also contributing to society through the payment of a tax, even though I receive a benefit from society in form of a pension. It shuts up those people who want to claim I only take and do not give.

Those who cannot earn money through employment would have basic needs met still. Those who could work would help provide for those who couldn't, but everyone would be given the opportunity to contribute through GST and through work programmes for which they'd be paid a liveable wage.

Participation in infrastructure, health and education would be at the discretion of the individual - and I think you'd find participation would be greater because services would be better.

That's my ideal.

Where's the party that will offer me this to vote for?

Good Job!