One Sad Day

For a light-hearted blog, I’m about to get a bit serious.  Bear with me, I’m just trying to make some sense out of all this.

I recently wrote about our fantastic school reunion and how we had such a great year.  We really did. I now think back to that night of smiling faces, I think of the beautiful friendships, the laughter and camaraderie in the room.  Just weeks later, the unimaginable has happened.

I can’t believe I’m writing about a terrorist attack in Sydney.

And I can’t believe Katrina Dawson, by nothing more than pure and ugly chance, was killed.

You might have read or heard about Katrina.   If you did, you will have heard she was a superstar lawyer with a supreme intellect, a mother of three and a lovely person to boot.

I’m lucky enough to know Katrina from school and I can tell you, she really was remarkable.  A friend described her as “formidable” on the news last night, and I think Helen nailed it when she did.  Honestly, she was always smiling and genuinely happy to see you.  She’s the girl who never said anything bad about anyone.  You won’t hear a single negative thing about her because she really was that nice.

KD

I read somewhere yesterday that she was a “high flying barrister” and I’m not sure about that.  She had a stellar career, yes, but for me, the words “Katrina Dawson” and “high flying” don’t go together.  She was too humble, too nice, too normal.  Her great friend Molly wrote this today and it’s just spot on.

I’m devastated for her family who are in a world of pain beyond anything I can imagine.   She had a tight-knit group of school friends who are just lovely, wonderful people. I’ve been in contact with a few and I’m thinking of them all.  I’m finding this incredibly difficult and intensely sad, so  I can only imagine what they are going through and my heart goes out to them.

For someone so warm, doing so much good and with three young children, to be killed the way she was is beyond comprehension.  I now know what it’s like to see a friend’s face on the evening news, something I never wanted to experience, and it’s absolutely gut-wrenching.

It’s been a long couple of days.  These feelings are totally new to me and hard to describe.  At varying times I feel breathless, sick in the stomach, sad, panicky… sometimes all at once.  Just now, I took the kids out for pizza as a treat.  The people on the neighbouring table started talking loudly,  in graphic detail, about the siege and hearing it so suddenly meant I lost it right in front of the children.  So if that’s me, how on earth are those closest to her coping?

But as I’ve said, we had a great school year and the messages, words of love, comfort and support bouncing around have been really something.  I’m looking forward to seeing them all for a big group hug.

Finally, as I tucked my kids into bed last night, I thought of three gorgeous little children whose loving mother never wanted to leave them.

And my heart broke.

The Biggest Mistake I’ve Ever Made

I can’t stop thinking about Friday.  I feel sick about it.  I made a ridiculously big mistake and now our pets are all dead.

IMG_2873I’ve written about our guinea pigs before.  We bought two guinea pigs for the kids and despite them both being female, one of them had a baby. Let’s just say there was a party in the pet shop.

Somewhere along the way, I was surprised to fall quite in love with them.  I know they’re not for everyone (“Really?  They’re rodents?  I had no idea!”).  I’m normally a dog person, but something about these little critters just got me.  They had real personality.  Watching them tootle about their business was surprisingly relaxing and Josephina, well, she just looked ridiculous and made me laugh.

Josephina the Shredder from Mid30slife on Vimeo.

The baby, Sam, who my son named after himself, ended up shagging his mother and friend.  Stay classy rodents!  So Rosie and Josephina were heavily pregnant, one of them with her son’s baby – apparently incest is socially acceptable in cavy circles. We were expecting babies any day.  Checking for new, tiny guinea pigs became part of our routine and we were all really excited.

The kids loved playing with them and when they had friends over, they’d all spend time in the pen.  Their care was left largely to me, and yes, I’m the only parent on earth to say that.  They slept in a hutch, and I made a large wire pen so they could run around during the day.  I’d move the pen around the lawn so they always had fresh grass, and they had little boxes and tunnels to hide in.  When it was cold, they snuggled up in lots of straw, and when it was hot, they kept cool in the shade and I’d water down their boxes and put a wet shirt over their hutch.

They got lots of attention and they had a great life.

Then on Friday, because I fucked up, they’re all dead.

It was a seriously hot day.  First thing in the morning, as I did every day, I moved their pen to a new part of the lawn.  I took the hutch out of their pen, probably because I wanted them to have more space but now I wish I didn’t do that.  I put their boxes in the pen, changed their water and food, they squeaked at me and all was well.

They were in the shade.  I had to go out and I remember checking them, thinking they had enough shade for the morning.  I remember thinking I wouldn’t be out for too long.

I went to Macquarie Centre, a shopping centre I’ve long avoided but it’s been redone so I had to check it out.   I started my Christmas shopping.  I met my sister for an early lunch.  She thought I was nuts showing her photos of the guinea pigs’ huge pregnant bellies, but we had babies on the way people!  Tiny, fluffy babies!

And then… well I don’t know what I was thinking.  I should have come straight home to move them; it was a stinking hot day, nearly 40 degrees.  Instead I popped into my local shops to pick up dry cleaning and get some groceries.  I don’t remember feeling like I was in a hurry. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking.  Did I forget about them?  Did I think they had shade and would be fine?  Did I misjudge how hot it was outside?  I’ve tried to remember but I can’t.

As an aside, if I am ever a police witness, then everyone involved in that case is screwed.  Ask me what I did last Sunday and chances are I’ll have no idea.

Anyway I got home at about 1:30pm and knew something was very wrong. Normally they’d race over to see me, squeaking.  I could see black and white fur in the blazing sun, and it was completely still.

I ran over and found Rosie and Josephina were lying together, dead.   I looked for Sam and found him lying dead on his side, in a shelter.  They had moved their little shelters around,  so the openings were facing the sun, offering no shade at all.

I picked up Josephina and rushed to get her under a tap; I thought I could revive her.  The water from the tap was hot so I ended up scolding an already dead guinea pig.  Instead of properly checking on the others, or actually trying to revive Josephina with something other than hot water, I ran in circles around the garden with her in my arms.  Yep, calm.

I buried them together in a corner of the garden.  Well, I’d put Josephina in the little grave, saw the size of the grave was hopelessly inadequate, got her out again, dug some more, buried her again…. etc.  I must have said goodbye to her about about five times.  It was a bit silly really.

Telling the kids was horrible but they were OK.  Abbie and I had a little graveside ceremony, where she said, “You were all so nice to me, and always so friendship.”

That night in bed, I cried into my husband’s armpit – a place I normally avoid.  He has made me promise I’ll be this upset if and when he dies.

On Saturday, the backyard was too quiet.  When I step outside, I’m used to having three furry faces racing around their pen to see me, whistling.

So I went and bought two female guinea pigs which my daughter has named Fluffy and Abbie.  My kids really do have a penchant for naming animals after themselves, and no, my daughter’s name isn’t Fluffy.

Abbie & Abbie

Abbie & Abbie

Anyway, this is what I wish I knew:

- I knew guinea pigs don’t like extreme temperatures.  I didn’t know that they can die from heat stroke within half an hour of exposure to extreme heat.  Our pets were in the sun for 1.5 hours.

- Those plastic pet igloos trap heat and humidity.  They’re great when it’s not hot, or to keep pellets dry, but don’t rely on them to keep pets cool in the warmer months.

- Know your garden.  Where I put their pen that morning was exactly where the afternoon shade cuts off, so had I had the pen just another 30cm towards the fence, they’d have been better off.

- Guinea pigs don’t drink warm water, which is frankly annoying and I question the evolutionary benefits of shunning water because of its temperature.  The last couple of days I couldn’t work out why they weren’t drinking, and that’s why.  Put ice cubes in the water on a hot day.

- Freeze containers or bottles of water and put them in the hutch or pen.  They’ll snuggle up to them and stay cool.  I really, really wish I had thought to do this on Friday.

- Don’t be a douche and forget your pets, or think they’ll be fine.  Always be cautious.  I was the crazy guinea pig lady, which is slightly better then a cat lady but not much.  I honestly took great care of them.  But I fucked up just one time and now all of them, including lots of babies, are dead.  So I’m thinking if someone like me, who is normally so careful, can make such a huge stuff-up, then anyone can.

I know there are worse things happening in the world.  I know there are sick kids, families in refugee camps, endangered species and the like.  And I know that none of this compares to that.

But this feels pretty shitty.

“Nobody’s Jugs Are Bigger Than Annette’s”

So here’s a fun fact: nobody’s jugs were bigger than Annette’s.

grease

I had no idea.  I’ve spent the last 30 years thinking it was, “Nobody’s jugs are bigger than HER NETS.”  I can’t find a clip so you can hear the similarity for yourself.  I did, however, find the original trailor and I include it here as my gift to you.

I’ve spent years (YEARS!) lying awake at night, wondering, as a woman (for that is what I am), what are my nets?  Are they my nets?  Is that my net?  What’s a net?

I’m pretty sure my subconscious mind thought “nets” was referring to bras – the word implies a degree of anti-gravitational support.  But I couldn’t understand why the t-birds would be so excited about the possibility of bras being bigger than boobs?  Wasn’t Kenickie a man about town?  Surely the outer casing, if you will, is always going to be bigger than what it’s holding?  It’s just not that exciting.

But it’s all a moot (what a great word) point, because this whole time it was “Annette” not “her nets.”  I wonder if such complications are an everyday thing for women called Annette.

On a sidenote, when Rizzo sang Sandra Dee, one of the lines was, “Would you pull that crap with Annette?”  Jeez, Grease people, we get it – Annette was the word (did you see what I did there?).

OK I know this is sad but it’s also educational:  I googled Annette because I really am that tragic.  They are referring to a real person, her name was Annette Joanne Funicello.   The scriptwriters used references to this1950s celeb to dupe audiences into thinking the film was NOT made in 1978.  She looked like this:

annette

Yep. Nobody’s jugs were bigger than Annette’s.

I just wish I’d figured this all out sooner.  I realised Kenny and Dolly weren’t singing “I live in this street” when I was about ten.  That was handy as I was living on a farm and the two types of music were country and western.  To misquote Kenny and Dolly was social death.

kenny dolly

“I live in this street, that is what we are…”

For a short while, I thought Sade’s Smooth Operator was a telephone operator.  I had certainly worked this little chestnut out by my late teens, so that’s OK.

operator

He’s very, very smooth.

Of course it’s not just me.  I have a great friend, Nic – she’s the one who paid a fortune for her pet mouse to have an anaesthetic so the vet could fix his permanent erection.  When Huey Lewis sang about the power of love, she didn’t get it.  She thought he was singing about his beloved car, his Powerola.  She just thought he really, really loved his car.

OK so it’s not just Nic and I, everyone reading this has stuffed the words up at some point. What did you get wrong?

Themed, Styled & Spotless

As every modern Mummy worth her Himalayan salt will tell you, kids’ birthday parties are about one thing: the styling.

Yes, our kids’ birthdays are the perfect chance to show everyone how stylish and creative we are.  My daughter is having her sixth birthday party this weekend.  It will absolutely look like this, and sure, I’ll style my kids’ friends if I have to:

party 2

Or this….  who knew kids could be so clean!

party 3Seriously, when did we decide kids’ parties have to look so pretty?  This is a recent thing, yes?  It actually suits some people, for some, any kind of decorating is effortless and they absolutely love it.  I suspect this isn’t the case for most of us.

It’s easy to get caught up in it all. Last year, I did the “Look!  I’ve put pink drinks into mini milk bottles, each one personalised with a stylish name tag attached with ribbon and served with stripey paper straws!”  thing.  I was quite chuffed as it looked great, although really, my daughter would have been just as thrilled with a chewed paper cup that said “Wayne.”

I didn’t even get a photo for Facebook!  What WAS the point?

I don’t go crazy, but I do love having birthday parties for the kids.  Turning another year older is a huge reason to celebrate, and really, they’re not little for long so bring on the fairy bread (how good is it??).

So this time each year, I’m in party planning mode.  I use the word “planning” very loosely.  Basically I go online for ideas, find all these pretty things look too hard and ignore them.  I end up throwing the same party as last year, with a different looking (but not tasting) cake.  The kids like it so far, it works for me, so it’s fine.  But if you haven’t already, just take a look at some of the other parties out there.

Just… wow.

wowI am seriously impressed and slightly envious – I honestly wish I had such talent.  And if I could, I’m pretty certain I would.  It’s all so pretty!

But I’m also leaning towards, “Come on people, let’s cut this shit out” because there’s already enough to do without full event styling for six year old children.  I’d hate my kids to expect this level of perfection for their birthday parties because they will never, ever get it from me.

At my little boy’s first birthday party, he didn’t stop eating and how he still managed to breathe, I’ll never know.  I thought it was really cute. “Oh look!  He’s eating the equivalent of the family Mazda!  Bless!!”  This was a mistake.  It was his first time eating both cake and chocolate – eldest child, obviously – and he ate so much, so quickly, that he puked highly decorated chocolate cupcake everywhere.  With hindsight, it really was skilled, precision puking and it wasn’t my finest parenting moment.

Anyway, while I’m genuinely impressed with other people’s efforts, I’m really pleased a setup like this didn’t get covered in kiddy spew:

party 5Come on, fess up, how much work goes into your kids’ parties?

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Thanks Netmums!!

A Challenge You Won’t Regret

Here’s a little challenge for you that I can 100% promise will make you feel really good.

It’s not new, in fact you might have already done it.  Or maybe you heard about it but didn’t actually do it.

Ben-Stiller-Do-It-Starsky-and-HutchI heard about it at work recently.

I work for a children’s charity, and we are very into all things positive.  Positive psychology pretty much underpins everything we do, and if I was to tell you more about my work, you’d get why.

But I won’t.  Instead, I’ll tell you that during a session on positivity, we were challenged to do this really awesome thing.

Here it is.  If every single person reading this did it, all three of you including my mum, there would be just a bit more happiness in the world.  And we all know that happiness is wonderfully infectious.

This is what you have to do

Think of someone who means a lot to you. They need to have had a positive impact on your life in some way.  Maybe they inspired you to do something good, they might have helped you, made you laugh… it could be anything. They might have showed you how to juggle chicken livers and you’ve been enjoying it ever since.

Now, write them a letter.  Write from the heart; it has to be truthful.  Don’t worry about the grammar, your handwriting or letter writing etiquette, none of that matters.  Go crazy – use bullet points if you need to!  Woah – a letter without proper punctuation – it’s insane!

You are writing down why this person means so much to you.  What is it about them that you like or love so much?  Why do they matter so much to you?

Go on, off you go, I’ll be here when you get back.

Later…

Ah you’re back. All done?  Good.  (I will soooooo know if you haven’t done it. Like the time I found my daughters name written with her sparkly texta, in her writing, on her bedroom wall. She said she didn’t do it but I am just so intuitive, I knew it was her.  Sixth sense and all that.)

You know where this is going, don’t you?  Because the fun / scary part is coming up.

Now you have to go to that person and read them your letter.  You HAVE to.  I have officially challenged you and sure, you might not know me from Jack, but a challenge is a challenge.  Don’t overthink it.  Just do it.

Ben-Stiller-Do-It-Starsky-and-HutchIf you skip this crucial step, what was the point of your letter?  It’s a letter full of stuff you already knew.  You could have been doing something else in those five minutes, like learning another language or how to fly a light aircraft.

Does the thought of reading this out to that person make you feel a bit silly?  I understand.  I am certain none of my friends have ever said, “Wow, Rachel is so in tune with her feelings and doesn’t she love to share them?”  It’s just not me.  Maybe it’s not you either, but I still think you should do this.  You might make someone’s day – or year.   I can promise you that afterwards, you will feel happy.  Pure, real, sparkling happy.

A  woman from work read her letter to the mother of her best friend from childhood.  She called her, explained what was going on and read the letter aloud.  Far from feeling silly, she said it was amazing and it was really cool hearing her describe it.

I wrote to my husband and the words came easily.   I folded my piece of paper up, shoved it in my bag thinking that was that – and then I was told I had to read it aloud to him.  I felt a bit awkward about it.  Like I said, normally, this wouldn’t be my kind of thing.

I waited for the right moment.  About a week later, realising this whole “right moment” thing is a big fat joke, as it always is, I decided the time had come.  Too bad it was 11pm and he was fast asleep.  I woke him up, and he is always supremely cheerful when I do that, and explained, “There was this thing at work…”

I read him my letter and I’m so glad I did.

I promise you’ll be glad you did too. And if it doesn’t then you can absolutely blame me.

How did you go?

Pants on a Platform

This morning I got dressed for work, only to find my dress a bit tight.

I just looked a bit lumpy.  You know what I mean, it looks like your fat is making a break for it.  Now I own a slip that I’ve never worn before, in fact I’ve never worn a slip ever, so I took my dress off and popped the slip on.

Things were good.  The slip is tight, flesh coloured and hardly pretty.  But it contained the excess me, like a hard-working sausage casing, so I threw the dress over the top and left the house.

My dress was looking better.  Smoother.  All was well.  I felt pretty sophisticated wearing a slip, I have to say, like I’d joined a secret club.  I exchanged knowing glances with other women my age, although with hindsight I was just staring at strangers with my mouth open.

Walking to the station, something wasn’t right. My slip, possibly because it was on the tight side of small, was wriggling skywards.  I reached under my dress, exposing more thigh than I’d have liked, to yank it down.  But where was it?  It had disappeared.   I started to doubt myself.  Did I even put the slip on?  Am I still asleep?  Oh shit, that’d be bad.  What if I turn into one of those sleepwalkers who rack up huge credit card bills from unknowingly internet shopping?

shock

Anyway, I kept walking, feeling less sophisticated.  I could now feel that my slip had risen right up to my chest.  It was all bunchy.

I pulled my dress up, thinking I’d quickly find my slip and yank it down.  It took ages, seriously, and I realised with horror that in my haste I’d hoisted my dress waaaaaaay too high.  It was higher than my pants.  And they weren’t nice pants either, they were tiny (not in a good way), flesh coloured and nearly worn right through on account of them being made when I was in my twenties.  How the hell did I do that??  Shit.

monkey 1

Did I mention it was peak hour and there were people everywhere?  OK so it’s the North Shore of Sydney so hardly a huge crowd, but still, it feels like a crowd when your dodgy pants and cellulite are on show.  Shit again.

People, bless em, were turning away out of politeness.  School kids were laughing. I desperately tried to bring all my clothes back to where they belonged.  But I kid you not, my hands, which are normally pretty adept at, you know, grabbing things, just could not make contact with my clothes.  I didn’t know rising panic turned your fingers into pencils.  I threw my bag on the ground, its contents spilling everywhere.  Normally people help by picking things up, but remember they were all trying to pretend not to see me.  Except for the schoolkids who wouldn’t help you anyway.

monkey 2

Very aware that my revealing, threadbare pants and my gut were on full show to a train station of people, a miracle happened.  All that mad scrambling meant I soon (but not soon enough) managed to pull both the slip and the dress right down.  Yay!!  I could go back to feeling sophisticated – I had dark sunglasses and everything!

I started hurrying to the other end of the platform, where I could start afresh with a new crowd of commuters.

I took a few steps and tripped over absolutely fucking nothing, straight onto a really short person with alarming hair who broke my fall.  “Oh no!  That woman I was pretending not to laugh at, the one with a penchant for public nudity and old pants, just lurched onto my alarming hair.”

monkey 3Anyway, I eventually caught my train.  I closed my eyes for what was meant to be a few minutes, and when I opened them, I’d missed my station by three stops.

Was your morning better than mine?  Comment below!

Lessons from a 20 Year School Reunion

Last night we had our 20 year school reunion.

And I loved every minute.

I know a blog post with bitching and drama would make better reading.  I know a “how I dropped 3 dress sizes to look hot for my reunion” would get more clicks.  If you’re expecting a “I finally got to show THEM” moment from me then I’m sure to disappoint.

I was a boarder for 7 years at a girls school.  The other boarders in my year felt like family, you had a ready-made group that you were always a part of.  We were all different but we came together and it just worked.  Sure there were times when you felt on the outer, and one of the joys of adulthood is the realisation that everyone else felt that at some stage too.  Too bad that never occurred to you at the time.

Last night 50 girls from our year came together and we had a ball;  I can’t stop thinking about it today.  No-one has changed, it really struck me that people had grown into stronger versions of themselves.  So the outrageous girls are now even more outrageous women,  the serene girls are the very epitome of calm,  the glam girls have taken glam to new heights and I’m sure the smart girls are super clever women but I really didn’t get to test that one out (“Quick!  Define pi!”).  Everyone was just fantastic to talk to.   And can I just say that looking around the room, we scrubbed up pretty well too.

I didn’t notice any obsession with what people are doing with their lives.  We’re at different stages, each doing our thing and hopefully doing it happily.  I didn’t hear any hurried justifications, you know the kind, the “I’m-a-SAHM-but-I’ll-use-my-law-degree-soon” sort of thing.  Everyone I spoke to seemed content, happy and confident with what they are doing and genuinely happy for everyone else too.  Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m reading too much into it but I’m really thinking there is something pretty bloody awesome about being in your late 30s.  You’ve got it sorted, your shit is together and it really doesn’t matter what others think of you.

Whether you’ve got kids or not, single or settled, working, at home, in the city, in the country, shaking things up or plodding along… either way, that’s what you’re doing.  Hopefully you enjoy it.  And when someone asks, you tell them with no care what they’ll think.  And the best bit, the absolutely most amazing part, is that that person you are talking to gets it.  They can see you’re happy and they are genuinely happy for you.  And I just love it.

So to the class of 1994, and to women in our late 30s everywhere – you are awesome.  Excuse my language but you fucking rock.  Keep on keeping on, do it proudly and be happy for each other.  You deserve it.

So here is a group shot, not the sharpest but you get the idea.  I’m in front in the red dress.  If I look like I have a carrot up my arse, it’s because I decided against the Nancy Ganz pants and I’m trying to suck in so my stomach isn’t front and centre of the photo.  I know I’ve just implied such things are trivial in your late 30s, but still, a semi-flattering photo is still a woman’s prerogative.  Too bad it doesn’t always work out.

reunion

I hope you love(d) your school reunion too!