Thursday, March 29, 2018

The corrupt banking system...

A few months ago I made the mistake of transferring the rent into our Bpay electricity account. I immediately rang our bank to see if they could reverse the payment. They said they could but it would take six weeks to reach my bank account. We're talking hundreds of dollars here, a fortune for people on low income. The different between being able to pay the rent or not.

The bank person told me I would be better off contacting the electricity company and getting them to refund the excess. So, I rang them and they said they could do and I'd have the money back in my bank account in ten business days. Two weeks without that money. Luckily, our rent wasn't due during those two weeks.

It was an ordeal and I could not understand how it would take two to six weeks to have funds refunded when we live in a technological age and in the end it's just numbers on a computer. Actually, while I'm on the topic, why do transfers between banks take so bloody long as well? Or cashing cheques?

Skip to this morning. I made the same bloody mistake. Now, I have savings so it's not as dire as before, but still it's a lot of money and hassle, and especially with the Easter long week ahead of us. We're probably talking more than three weeks now to get a refund from the electricity company.

And you know WHY they take so long - I bet I do! I bet they hold onto the money to get more interest on it. If this happens a lot (and it probably does because people, like me, get distracted by trying to remember how to spell the word electricity, then we're talking thousands and thousands of dollars in interest accruing.

The difference between last time and this time is that in the meantime I changed banks. I ditched Bank of Melbourne in favour of ING. On a chance, I rang my bank this morning and asked if they could reverse the transaction. They said they could. And then they did. And it was instant. The money was back in my bank account within seconds. They said as long as I ring back within an hour of making the incorrect transaction, they can reverse it.

To be completely clear here, I had rung my previous bank immediately after making the wrong transfer, I mean within minutes of the transaction, and they said they couldn't reverse the transaction for six weeks.

I was so relieved this morning, I was actually laughing over the phone.

And then I got angry... Angry that my previous bank had screwed me over like that. Angry that they were probably screwing lots of people out there like this. Angry that they were getting away with it.

With my new bank account, I pay no fees - no fees. With my old bank I paid hundreds of dollars a year in fees - true story. These big banks are getting away with murder because they can - no one is holding them to account.

This is not a sponsored post and I would wholly recommend anyone reading this to change banks. Leave the big four. Screw them - because right now, they're screwing you! Go to ING, do it now! Seriously, I'm just amazed at how easy it was to get MY money back.

Do yourself a favour.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Bring on the weekend...

It's Wednesday, but because tomorrow is the last day of the work week before the Easter break, it feels like Thursday. This week has felt quite long. I can't account for it in so much as I'm getting good sleep (for me). Since going back on low carb, my energy has been higher in the late afternoon, so I haven't been having those 6-8.30pm naps I've needed for nearly a year now. This means I've been getting to bed between 10.30 and 11pm.

And yet, I feel tired and can't wait for Friday (the new Saturday).

I always feel a bit embarrassed when I start looking forward to Friday, or a holiday. I am so very, very grateful for this job. I want to just want to be here all the time. I definitely don't want to complain about working. I realise no one enjoys their work as much as I aspire to enjoying my work. but I feel like I really shouldn't explain given what a gift it has been to me to have work - and full time work, at that.

I've known people who want the financial benefits of work without actually having to go to work. They resent the fact that they have to work for the benefits of having a stable income which meets their needs and wants. They cry poor while refusing to work jobs which would lift them out of that perceived poverty (living in a middle class suburb rent free isn't poor, believe it or not), which refusing to do jobs that don't fit their 'happy scale'. I have quite literally heard people say, 'Yeah, but those kind of jobs aren't what I'm looking for.'

Hmmm, working as a retail assistant is a respectable job which PAYS THE BILLS.

So, yeah, I can't and won't complain about working, but I'm still looking forward to the weekend this week because I'm tired.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Waiting on the NDIS...

I had my planning meeting about five weeks ago now. I've heard a variety of reports about how long it takes to process submitted plans. Anything from one month or six months. I guess the more complex ones will take the longest.

Mine isn't complex. The things I have asked for are care and upkeep of Harlem who is part of my core needs (this would include food, insurance etc.). I've asked for funding for a gardener and a cleaner (gardener fortnightly, cleaner weekly). Also, a personal trainer - that is, someone to come to the gym with me to assist me in using the facilities (machines etc.). Also that my Mobility Allowance be continued under the NDIS (the Commonwealth is discontinuing the payment through the disability pension).

So, it's fairly straightforward.

I'm really wanting to get into a gym. If the funding for this is approved, it would make a big difference in my health and fitness. As the money has to be used or it will not be continued in the next plan, there will be that extra motivation to use it.

Getting a cleaner in would be such a relief, too. We really struggle with the wet areas in our house. I can't see enough to be sure they're properly clean and Dave just can't do the job properly because of physical constrictions (arthritis).

I have to wonder though how long the Government will be able to sustain the NDIS. It is a lot bigger than anyone expected it to be. I can see it being restricted to only the dire cases. Something like a more stringent individual application process might be implemented with, say, high needs (e.g. quadriplegics needing to replace electric wheelchairs and that sort of thing) taking priority.

I'm not checking the mail desperately at this point, but there is mild sense of anticipation rising. Only very mild, though.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Visitng Iceland, among other places...

Do you remember me writing about how I can save a bunch of money this year, enough to take the boys and me over to Iceland? Well, this is still true, only I wonder... Would it be completely awful of me to just take Lukas? You see, I have the opportunity to go see a lot more of Europe, and while it wouldn't cost me that much more, the thought of trying to wrangle Bryn and Ari as well is a bit much.

I could take them the following year, if it came to that. Or at least Bryn.

I'm wondering how much Ari would get out a trip to Europe at this point. How much would he be able to take in and remember? Is it something I should wait until he is older to do? He really, really hates missing out.

If Lukas didn't want to go, I could take Bryn, but again, would he enjoy or appreciate going to Paris, or Venice, or other places. I would be very interested in going to Auschwitz, but would that be way too much for him? Or maybe it would be a very good lesson in gratitude? I don't even know if there is an age limit there?

A chance to go around Europe with a personal tour guide is almost too good an opportunity to miss. Although I lived in Iceland and Norway for many years, and I visited Sweden, and although the last time I went to Iceland I stayed in Denmark for a few days, I have never been anywhere in central Europe. I would really love to do this.

Dave isn't as keen for me to do it, but he won't travel with me, and I can't just put my life on hold because of that. Not while I have the financial ability to do stuff like this. I would not leave them stranded here. They would have all the usual money for rent and bills and so on, and I'd leave them with plenty more to do things like go to the movies, and other outings (though, Dave isn't particularly good at doing that sort of thing either). I'd going during school term so that their routine stayed relatively normal, etc. Although, hmmm, Luey is doing VET - didn't consider that.

So, what do you think?

Friday, March 23, 2018

Everyone does...

Saw this, this morning...

It reminded me of an attitude I see from time to time that really shits me.

It's the brushing off of the needs of people categorised as special in a condescending sort of way. The Discrimination Act exists because it happens all too often that the dominant culture, or sexual orientation, or able bodied social participant refuses to acknowledge the difficulties faced by the social participants of the subservient culture. By subservient, I mean the culture with less social currency.

It stems from this idea that all people start out the same. We are all powerless babies at the beginning of our lives and therefore we are all equal in that we all need to breathe, eat, sleep, and be loved.

Sure, I'll give you that on the face of it. But then human nature kicks in and we start to look for the differences. It starts with 'my toy' and the exertion of power where one child tests their ability to meet their own needs first and foremost. Older toddlers will start to group themselves into same-same groups. Once that happens, there is the assertion of 'our group is better because...'

Conscientious parents try to soften this natural process of 'survival of the fittest' but often teach their children a lesson they don't even realise they're are teaching them - to be nice. Nice means, the other person is actually weaker and therefore we need to give them more of what we have, because that is what they need. Their needs are the same as our needs we just need to make sure we share equally 1:1. Beyond that there isn't much we can do.

That assumption that everyone has the same needs does not acknowledge that even before a baby is born they are advantaged or compromised by the attitude of the society they will be born into.

You are black in a white society, you are from a family who communicates differently to the society they live in, you are sexually oriented differently to the most people in the society you're born into, you have cognitive, or physical, or psychological needs (babies who were in utero in New York at the time of the events of 9/11 were found to have higher cortisol levels than babies whose mothers were not under high levels of stress - this means they were born more prone to anxiety and depression).

Even before they are born, they are different from the dominant society and will live a life where their different needs will not be recognised and respected because the society they live in believe doing things for them makes them equal when 'doing for' is just another action of treating as weak.

You see, there is a difference between being nice and being respectful. Being nice doesn't engage with an understanding that everyone is not equal once 'done for'. Being respectful acknowledges the fact that people who are different from the majority (not the norm, the norm suggests the way people are expected to be, the default for how people should be) live with the pressure to blend in, to minimise their difference so other people will be comfortable.
The dismissive, 'Everyone needs to be treated equal' implies that if people are nice to people who are different then somehow those, disadvantaged people, will magically no longer be disadvantage. If we create accessible buses, or braille labelled lifts, or unisex toilets, or if we say 'Sorry', then we've blotted out the difference and everything is okay.

Everything is not okay until society acknowledges that some people will always be aware that they are 'done for' because they are 'different', rather than society not looking for the difference but flowing with the need of the person.

It is a complex issue that is all to often glazed over by people being nice. 

PS. The language I have access to does not offer a useful vocabulary because it reduces everything to 'different' and 'same' because that is how we think.  

Thursday, March 22, 2018

If they studied science, would I relate?

Lukas got his first certificate from the College of Sound and Music Production. He studies VET Music through them and I'm very proud of him. I was thinking about it and the fact that Erik is all about art, Lukas is all about music, and now Bryn has shown an intense interest in music as well, sits very well with me. I'm proud as punch.

I would be no less proud if they wanted to be doctors, or lawyers, or psychologists, but I really wonder if I would be able to relate to those passions.

So many parents want their children to be motivated towards careers with solid, stable incomes. The arts usually cause parents consternation. I know of one set of parents whose daughter wanted to be a dancer and they basically forbade her from applying for performance art degrees because they saw 'no future' in that direction.

The arts are also not as prestigious in this day and age. When I was doing the PhD, people would be quite excited to hear that and they'd ask what I was researching. I'd say Creative Writing and they're enthusiasm would dampen - not a lot, generally people aren't that rude - just enough to say, 'Why would you do a PhD in Creative Writing, can't you just sit down and write - Creative Writing is not going to save someone's life.'

I think even doing Literature would hold more esteem for people because, well, English Literature Professors are kind of cool.

There is a lot of kudos in the non-creative arts fields. It is almost as if the value of music, dance, acting, or writing is 'nice' but not 'necessary'. People think of them as fitting better with hobby than career - unless you become really famous, that is, but who needs a degree to do that, right?

For me, though, the fact that my children seem to be choosing creative arts is quite thrilling. Erik has moved his passion for art into Graphic Design so he'll have the possibility of a career. Lukas always has the option of becoming a sound engineer, or composing music for television or movies. On the other hand, he could become a teacher. The same goes for Bryn. There are stable work possibilities out there, and that is good, but I just love that they love the process of creation.

Who knows what Ari will want to do, he is very academic, good at math, seems to enjoy design and construction (making stuff of his own design with lego, that is). He also likes to draw and write. So, who knows. I wonder though, if I'll relate as well to his choice career if it turns out to be science, or IT, or politics, or business?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Love at first sight? I call bullshit...

I have heard that if you're in love, you'll know it. This is often told to teens with their first infatuation. 'Am I in love? Is this what being in love feels like?' 'When you're in love, you'll know it!'

Thing is, most people think this is that stomach eating, heart racing feeling they get when they first see their object of desire.

It's not.

I'm not wrong about this, guys. Seriously. When you think you're in love with someone you've just met or someone you've been in a relationship with for a few weeks, you don't know what being in love is.

'To know someone is to love someone'... or something like that, but therein lies the truth about love. When you first meet someone, even when you have known someone for a while as a friend, that feeling of wanting to spend every minute with them, that feeling is your mind and body preparing for love.

It is the infatuation stage of pre-love. It is when you project all the things you want onto the person you feel attracted to. It's that stage of the relationship where even their worst qualities seem cute or even possible of being changed - if you plan to change someone, you don't love them. Those future irritants are not cute and until you are ready to love the person knowing those qualities are not going to change, you aren't 'in love', you're 'in... fatuated'.

Love doesn't just happen, it takes really getting to know someone without those scales on your eyes. It means packing away the rose coloured glasses. It means committing to those hard bits, those really, really hard bits. The bits where you feel completely alone because your love is going through something you can't be a part of yet. It means going through those times when you aren't sure what you saw in the other person in the first place because every thing they do or say is like nails on a chalkboard.

It's saying, hey, this is hard, but it is fighting for because you love the person knowing they won't change.

For the record, I'm not talking about abusive relationships. By definition there is no love in abusive relationships. If you abuse the other person, or they abuse you, love is not living in your relationship. Power lust or dependency are occupying the space love would otherwise be.

Don't stay in a relationship that is endangering either of you physically, mentally, or emotionally.

Okay, so now that I've busted through the common definition of being in love, let me end on a more upbeat thought. I truly believe everyone who is open to love (not the glorified idea of it) can fall in love and be loved. That means you.

Monday, March 19, 2018

All the phones - phone ettiquette...

Got to work, realised I didn't have my ATM card. Pretty sure Dave had it but wanted to reassure myself he did. So, I called home, and got the answering machine. I called Luey and got his answering machine. I called Dave and got his answering machine. Finally, I got through on Bryn's number.

Let's get serious here. A house full of phones - only Ari doesn't have a phone - and no one was answering. I don't think we have to worry about interrupting people all the time just because everyone carries a phone these days... Well, not in my house, anyway.

Dave is always at a loss as to why we text all the time. I talk to the boys via SMS or Messenger all the time. I have even been known to send Luey a message to come to the lounge room, rather than yell for him to come (yes, I'm one of those mums who yell at their kids at the other end of the house to come to me - hey, if it is good enough in nature, then it's good enough for me).

Terrible, isn't it?

The thing is though, everyone knows it's rude to call all but your absolute nearest and dearest on their mobile unless you've already tried texting and it is a dire emergency. Dave doesn't get this.

Dave doesn't get this but at the same time he thinks it terribly rude that people don't call ahead before visiting.

In the olden days, before Graham-Bell invented that life changing thing, the telephone, people would just rock up on each others door and if no one was home, they might leave a note. If people didn't want to be disturbed they could hide behind a lamp stand (seriously, Dave's dad did this once when Jehovah's Witnesses turned up).

It's just the next level of calling before you come over. You text and if they don't text back it means a) they are busy and not looking at their phone right then, or b) they just don't want to talk to you. In both cases, they'd be pretty pissed if you put them on the spot by calling them at that time.

So, usually, I text. Dave isn't good at reading texts so I call him and invariably I get that 'HELLO...' that says 'What now?!' (yes, that needed an exclamation mark to show just how annoyed his sounds). It isn't a pleasant thing having to ring him - I really wish he'd read texts. Also, who wants to ring and take the chance the person isn't driving right then, and that they're not the kind of idiot who answers their phone while driving. Who wants to live with the guilt of someone crashing their car, right?

I should have just texted.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Reality Bullying...

I was almost on reality television this year - I really should blog about that, actually. It wasn't the kind of reality television that consists of teams or individuals competing against each other, thank goodness. I couldn't participate in anything like that because I'm just not competitive with other people. As soon as I sense someone is competing with me, I just back off. Let them have it, I say. I'm not attracted to competing with other people because I just don't feel I have to prove myself to anyone other than me.

I also don't watch reality television of any kind. I find it boring, to be honest. Still, there is no avoiding the ads. What I see in the ads - the ones where people are competing with one another - is, frankly, repellent.

I know shows like 'My Kitchen Rules' and 'Survivor' (is that one outdated?) are very popular. The thing is in shows like this the tension doesn't come from a story line. It comes from people treating each other like shit.

Usually, there is a segment between 'the action' where the competitors comment on situations or each other. It is generally pretty awful.

In the 'action' scenes, there is rampant bullying, sniping, aggression, all the things that show the worst of people. Often participants argue that the scenes were cut to look worse than they were. The words still came out their mouths, the tantrums and aggression still happened in front of audiences. People crying because they were treated badly still happened.

Think 'The Greatest Race', people actively sabotaged each other to win the race. In 'Big Brother' and 'Married at First Sight' people cheat on each other. In 'The Bachelor/ette' people lie and scheme and undermine each other. In 'Top Model' people attached each other emotionally, and sometimes physically.

This, folks, is bullying as entertainment. I've heard of families getting together - mothers and daughters, fathers and sons - to 'bond' over these shows.

While all this 'entertainment' is going on, we deal with what is being called an epidemic of bullying at our schools. Social media bullying is a big deal. All the time watching people bully each other on a daily, or rather nightly, basis. We are setting these 'characters' as role models for our children, and we think it's fun to watch together. Real people really bullying each other is 'fun' - let that sink in for a minute.

Can't anyone else see what is wrong with this? Surely, it's not just me.

There was a Doctor Who episode dedicated to this debate where in a fictional future people were actually killed for 'losing' television competitions similar to 'Trivial Pursuit' or reality television based on 'Big Brother'. It was an extreme version of what is on television now.

Is this our future? Will people on 'Survivor' or 'The Biggest Loser' be killed for entertainment? Let's face is, it almost happened a few times during 'The Biggest Loser' where people were pushed beyond the limits of their body and carted off to hospital.

All in the name of entertainment.


Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Permissive parenting or realistic parenting?

A question has been occupying my mind for a few weeks now. Am I being a permissive parent or a realistic parent?

Erik is 18 and therefore an adult and therefore legally able to drink, and responsible for whatever drug taking he might choose to do - and on occasion, he does choose to do. As his mother I worry about him, but he's an adult and there isn't much I can do about it.

Lukas is 16 (17 in June). I have become aware that when he stays over at mate's places, they will often drink, and have occasionally smoked pot. I also know that on one occasion, after Lukas had been on an excursion in the city, he and a couple of mates, and Erik, thought it would be fun to smoke some weed in a park. Afterwards, Lukas told me, and I tried to explain all the ways this decision had put him and others in the way of danger. He wasn't ever going to acknowledge that. Eventually, I had to let it go before it became an argument and his brain shut down completely to anything I was saying.

Again, I worry. I worry a lot.

What can I do about it? I remember watching Dr Phil years ago, when the boys were little and hearing that I should strip my child's room and put them on house arrest to show that I care about and love me child. I also know that I tried to discipline Erik in this way and he ran away from home and did it all anyway.

People I have told (about the drinking, not the smoking) have been horrified. I'm not sure if this is because their children didn't do these things or because they didn't know that their children were doing these things.

One thing I can say is that my boys tell me what they are doing, don't hide it from me. I tell them I think they're taking their lives into their hands and that I wish they wouldn't, and that I realise I can't stop them. I can only hope they take care of themselves and their friends.

Is this being permissive? Am I failing them as a parent? Or am I being realistic about my ability to control their behaviour? Should I be doing more, and if so what?

Erik taught me I couldn't control, or even influence his choices when it came to stealing and lying. The harder I tried, the more I saw him steal and lie. I was at a loss, and in the end I lost him (at least for a little while).

I have told them about the changes being inebriated causes on the body. That alcohol stays in a young person's body for up to three weeks because the young body (being lighter among other things) is unable to process the alcohol. I've told them about the family members in my family who struggle with addiction to both alcohol and drugs. I have tried to give them knowledge and understanding. Adolescents though, they feel invulnerable. How do I protect them from that?

Can I protect them from their own risky behaviours, or is it more realistic to accept I can't stop them, and just hope it all ends well?

Monday, March 05, 2018

Finding their wings...

Erik comes over quite a bit these days.

The other day when he visited Luey had just been paid his GPA award -

Let me explain that in more detail... Our high school has a monthly GPA rated from 0-4, with 1.67 being an acceptable minimum, the older boys have never done particularly well on their GPAs but last year I implemented an award system whereby anything over 2 was paid. Between 2 and 3 there is a $20+ payment, between 3-4 there is a $75 flat payment. A 4 is awarded a payment of $150. Lukas has consistently been hovering between a 2 and a 3 for much of the past year. This first GPA of the 2018 school year saw Luey score a 3.1 and Bryn - on his first ever GPA - came in at 3.3!

So, back to the story. Lukas had just received his award payment and wanted to go to a concert with his friends. Now, there is no way between heaven and hell we would have let Erik go to a concert at Luey's age - Erik just wasn't trustworthy enough. Erik also wanted to go to the same concert and as Luey's friends had already bought their tickets, this seemed like good solution to Luey not sitting on his own. Erik didn't have the money right then to book, and Luey didn't want to leave booking too much longer, so I spotted Erik the money until he got paid the next day. Erik did pay me back the next day.

And so the two eldest brothers are going to their first concert together (they've both been to concerts separately with their respective friends). For some reason this is very heart warming for me, to see my boys growing up and doing grown up things together.

Yesterday, Luey and Bryn headed off to our local shopping centre so Bryn could spend his money (he had the $75 + $60 for good results for his end of year resport (I pay $10 per B equivalent and $15 per A equivalent). He ended up wanting to a by a game that required adult consent. The boys called Erik to see if he'd come along and help them out (with my permission of course), afterwards they wandered around the centre together for a while and then walked home). Again the boys hanging out together - and including Bryn, something Erik would never have done two years ago because he openly expressed loathing and contempt for Bryn back then. Again, a proud mama moment for me.

This morning Bryn is headed off to his year 7 camp. Dave and I still find ourselves tripping over the fact that Bryn is a high school kid now. He'll be gone for a week and the house will be much quieter. I really hope he enjoys himself! And now I have to call him before he leaves because one downside of working is not getting to be there when the kids hit these school milestones.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Worried about Harlem...

Next week I'll be having a couple of training sessions with Harlem. I'm getting worried about him, his anxiety just seems to be getting worse. I didn't realise he had anxiety until our 12 month assessment back in October or November. One of the things we were working on then was finding out why he wouldn't stop pooing in our local shopping centre. When I walked him through the front doors, the trainer remarked that he was licking and yawning - both signs of stress. I knew right there that he suffers from anxiety a fair bit. The licking happens all the time, we thought it was just a Pavlov's dog sort of thing.

Since then I've done a bit of research about signs of stress in dogs. Shaking - like dogs do when they're wet - out of context is a sign. He does that all the time both in and out of harness.

I noticed he doesn't seem to like the noise and crowds in shopping centres. Actually, he doesn't like crowds much at all. Some days he seems okay working through a crowd, other days it's like he's completely forgotten how to do it. He'll stop dead behind someone and when I tell him to 'find the way' he'll just stand there. Other times he'll try to barge through people.

Going 'under' is oddly inconsistent. He'll do it on busses and trains except this one part of my trip to work. He just refuses to go under. I can figure out why.

I've been working on 'come' with him using food, he won't even come from the back of the yard if I have food. He won't poo on lead - with or without a bag.

Recently, he's also started dropping his speed to almost standstill without any obvious reason at all - though, when I saw the vet the other week (checking to see if his eyes and ears are all good) she said that within 18 months of any injury or operation a dog (or anyone, really) will develop arthritis. Maybe that's what is happening and he's just getting sore and distracted. I might have to get him x-rayed again.

Anyway, his behaviour is giving me anxiety. I don't go into the shopping centre after work now because I get anxious and I think he senses that and also gets anxious. Hopefully, the trainer will be able to help me figure it out.

Good Job!