Rambunctious Girls and Sensetive Boys

Sugar and spice, is that truly what little girls are made of? Because frankly I have always had more affinity with snips and snails and puppy dog tails.

But what does this mean really? To me, gender stereotyping has always felt like a straight jacket.

This week my city hosted TedX Sydney 2016 at the Sydney Opera House. One of the speakers was US sociologist, Dr Michael Kimmel. Dr Kimmel is one of the leading advocates to have men support gender equality and has been called the world’s most prominent male feminist. He has written many books about the world of men and is a seasoned and popular speaker on this and related topics.

Ahead of Dr Kimmel’s appearance at TedX this week and article appeared in my news feed entitled How to Fix the Boy Crisis: What Does It Mean to be a Man Today? Being the mother of two sons, this immediately pricked my interest. The point of the article was that at the heart of the crisis is the notion of what it means to be a man and fundamentally that boys believe that academic engagement is a negation of their masculinity. The mantra of “real boys don’t study” is prominent and Dr Kimmel’s belief is that young men face this dilemma more than girls – be popular or study?

What caught my eye in the article though was this quote from Dr Kimmel:

We know from every psychological study that boys and girls are more similar and different. There are some differences in mean distribution but nothing categorically only seen in girls or boys. Children want to be dealt with as individuals, not stereotypes.

In response the article states: rambunctious girls and sensitive boys might relate.

As well they might. The application extends to adults as well, as rambunctious girls and sensitive boys do eventually grow up.

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Long after the profundity of this quote and the journalist’s response stopped resonating, I was left with the notion that perhaps there was enough room out there for a rambunctious woman with at least one sensitive son. Existing as an individual in a world which values conformity and social norms because they permit quick and easy classification is not for the faint hearted. One tends to spend a lifetime of seeking the inclusion, acceptance and understanding that for others seems so effortless.

But this article has given me cause to celebrate my rambunctious nature and has allowed me to put a few things in context. For example, what it means to be a rambunctious girl? To me it means:

  1. You can express an opposing point of view just like anyone else.
  2. Empathy can be shown in many ways, not just by being nurturing in a way that gender stereotyping of females has us believe is essential.
  3. You can be direct and drop the faux nice.
  4. You can be scathing and funny.
  5. You can share banter with people who will not be offended.
  6. You can make people accountable for their behaviour or their lack of behaviour.
  7. You live without drama.
  8. You may spend time dressing up and putting on makeup but are not mortified if anyone sees the real you dressed in your trackkies and ugg boots.

None of this makes a rambunctious girl a bitch. What makes a girl a bitch is passive aggressive behaviour. This is why groups of women are truly scary. Generally, my experience with them as a collective has been frustrating and intimidating. You can’t out bitch a bunch of bitches. Rambunctious girls will generally tell you if there is an issue to your face and they expect you to do the same. We are not avoiders.

Marlene-Dietrich-wearing-her-trademark-mens-suitIt has also crystallised that there is a huge difference between being nice and being kind. Kindness is genuine, unconditional and a way of being without compromising one’s own integrity or boundaries. Nice on the other hand is doing what is expected so that feathers aren’t ruffled, conflict is avoided. Nice is a mask, it is fake and good ideas and progress never come out of nice.

So to all the rambunctious girls, a reminder that femininity comes in all shapes and guises and none of them have to do with pink frills, kitten heels, sugar or spice. Your gender does not define you and neither does society’s expectation simply because you carry double X chromosomes. Wearing a dress and heels, being nuturing or emotional may make you girly, but wearing your individuality makes you truly spectacular and it never goes out of style.

When Cooking is just Science with Food

Desolation: noun, the state of being for a humour blogger when life delivers nothing but unfunny moments.

Yeah, yeah, I can feel the sympathy from the blogosphere rising as you read this. Or maybe that’s just the smallest violins in the world playing a serenade.

Rather than feeling the love, I have been feeling the desolation that can only come from desperately trying to squeeze a droplet of humour out of the vignettes of life and coming up with a handful of pith. Oh, how I have wanted to jump right back in and pump out two or three humour blogs a week, taking the absurdities of life and rallying against them by showing them up for what they truly are. But I had nothing, not just nothing, but a whole truck load of nothing for about the last nine months.

The humour has been in me somewhere, just beyond reach. And like all good bouts of constipation,  the effort to squeeze a few funny words out is more than the product warranted. Hence the bar of publication never being reached.

However, today life delivered a truly absurd funny moment and I am bubbling over with mirth, retribution and have arrived in the zone. That warm and funny place where I can cobble some words together to form humorous thoughts and get them out there for the world to see.

And for what you are about to read, I thank my youngest, Quirky Kid, for the inspiration.

Today, a Sunday, started like any other. Italian Stallion cooked up a storm with his signature pancakes in the kitchen, the paperboy threw the paper into the rose bed, the kookaburras were laughing and Summer is here. But, little did I know what awaited in the kitchen.

For Sunday is also grocery shopping day, a task I don’t really mind. The degree of difficulty in carrying this out is only raised by having sons who eat like freight trains, but won’t tell you what they want to eat. It’s like the effort of having to think about what might satisfy their appetites at some point prior to them actually eating is herculean. So, it’s game of guess the inventory for this week and hope you don’t end up with 6 extra packets of smoked salmon because this is actually Save the Salmon week and nobody sent the memo.

My attempt at getting my guys to focus on their stomachs when they are not actually feeding consists of putting an empty shopping list on the fridge with a pen nearby, hoping they will be inspired enough to write something on the list. The results are not always predictable and often one is faced with nothing but empty blue line fever.

Today was not one of those days. For this is what greeted me on my fridge door.

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If this is not the greatest gauntlet a kid can throw down to a parent, I don’t know that is. I feel positively inspired with the possibilities.

I can just hear the Queen check out chick now projecting over the supermarket microphone “sense of humour required on aisle 5!”. Or me going up to the front desk and asking where the senses of humour are located? “Why ma’am, two aisles down from the organic cucumber face masks between the low fat, non dairy icecream and the 4 ply luxury, strong as an ox, nothing is going to get through this sucker, toilet rolls”.

Little does Quirky Kid now that he has sparked my funny gland to life. Little does he also know that I have bought him a sense of humour survival pack comprised of all the things that playfully tick him off. The $2 shop has rich pickings in these sorts of things from a giant glass light bulb, because how else do you present a bright idea? to a t-shirt which has “grumpy” of the Snow White fame on it, because that’s how he usually starts each day.

Good mothers hug their sons and comfort them. Great mothers engage in humour warfare and throw down there own gauntlets for said sons to retrieve.

One last thing, the title to this blog has also been inspired by Quirky Kid who has taken up hospitality as a final year subject. This requires him to engage in  70 hours of cooking, none of which is of course done at home. I’m still waiting for him to expend some hours in my kitchen, but alas the only hours he spends in there produce mess for me. In keeping with the grocery theme, I asked Quirky why he chose hospitality, it being quite out of character for him to choose a subject that may require some physical effort and have a practical bent.  Quirky is usually into all things science with a bit of geography thrown in. His response, accompanied by the eye role: “Mum, cooking is just science with food.”

Sounds like a great blog title to me!

Baby, You Must Drive Your Car, Beep, Beep Yeah

Which much thanks to the Beatles for allowing me to bastardise their lyrics for the title to this post, I once again turn the key to the engine to my blog and take her out for a spin.

butterflies emergingIt’s been an intriguing nine months or so since I last put fingers to keyboard. Enough time in which to create a human being or in fact move along the timeline of parenting stages. I’ve learned that I am no longer the mother of two teenagers, but rather one teenager and one emerging adult. This leaves me bemused, happy, sad and more than a little ill prepared. So in typical Curtain Raising fashion, I’ve been pulling at the curtain chords trying to work out exactly what is required to parent an emerging adult. This in introvert speak means ordering every book published on the topic.

Actually, is parenting even the right word? Is there, in fact, a statute of limitations on the use of the word parenting when referencing an emerging adult?

Talk about holy letting go, Batman!

None of it has been easy, hence the blog down time. Trying to be humorous whilst being barraged with a whole lot of uncertainty is a bit like trying to work an Iphone with a glove on. Sometimes you just have to put the damn thing down and finish what needed to be done with the glove first.

So here I am gloves off and back with another post, once again trying to make sense of the parenting journey.

About a month ago I received a lovely email from Donna L who wrote:

As a mother with two teenage daughters, I commonly find myself referencing the information on Raising the Curtain. I wanted to give you a quick shout and let you know all of the great information and tools you have provided me to acting as responsible parent to my children. I shared your website link with my group of Moms on my Facebook page, who I know will find value in your site

This is so cool, Donna L. Bless you and your Facebook page, mother’s group and your two teenage daughters.

It’s cool because we connected and I helped you and that makes me happy.

I had no expectation of ever doing that when I started this blog for I am no parenting expert. There have been many times over the last few months of hiatus where I have thought I’m not a particularly good parent, so to receive an email like this makes the doubts a little easier to bear.

As parent, I think we all have them. And just to know that I can provide some clarity that may  muffle those nasty voices in our parenting heads is a wonderful compliment. So thankyou Donna L.

Donna also kindly asked me to write about the topic of teenage texting and driving. So, Donna, I am happy to oblige you.

I think we have all been in circumstances where you look at the person in the car next to yours and think “What the…?” Not because they are doing anything racy, but because they are doing everything but driving. I mean where in the learner’s manual does it teach you how to drive and:

  • shave
  • apply makeup
  • write with a pen and paper
  • make breakfast
  • read a book
  • get dressed?????

And that’s possibly all at the same time!!

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Is it any wonder then, that our teens are texting and driving? I mean look at all that’s been possible even in the pre digital era? Having driven in the US last year, on my Curtain Raising straw poll, the problem seems to be much more prevalent over there. It is scary what some  people will do whilst hurdling down the Interstate.

We live in a multi-tasking world and unfortunately that together with FOMO (fear of missing out) has entered our teens’ motor vehicles.

Mr Gottlieb here shares some good tips on how to talk to your teens about the issue. And talk we must, but we must also lead by example. That means when we drive we do not multitask. Otherwise when we talk to our kids, it’s just noise. Even talking on a mobile hands free whilst driving, listening to music through ear buds or so loud that it makes your doors rattle can be distracting.

So how do we teach our children to focus whilst they are in a vehicle filled with other teens? I am not a big fan of showing kids carnage to try and change behaviour. They get carnage on the nightly news, so much so they have become desensitised to it. To me the key is mateship and understanding that your actions can do lifelong damage to your mate. To do the right thing by said mate you have to deliver the cargo safely at the end of the night. Guilt is a poor substitute for friendship and no text in the world is worth that.

What’s the worst thing you have seen a driver do in a moving vehicle whilst driving?

London, You Call This a Heatwave? Travelling With A Milestone Around My Neck – Part 1

Q. Why did the 50 year old mother of two cross the world?

A. To get to the other side of course and because there was absolutely no reason to wait for tomorrow to do something she was passionate about. The other reason was to follow the chicken to Budapest which had gone before her so they could have an encounter that involved paprika sauce and cucumber salad, after which one of them would not survive.

But more about Budapest later.

Turning 50 can be daunting. I think the lead up to the actual event was worse than the event itself and the aftermath. At least that’s what I found, but I realise I am only a fledgling when it comes to 50+ living. That said, I decided to celebrate this achievement, rather than mourn the passing of something and to do it in a way that had meaning for me.

This meant a recent four week family odyssey to Europe and the Middle East. And we all know what happens when you cross travel with a blogger. A blog series about travelling called “Travelling With A Milestone Around My Neck”.

Welcome to my first ever blog series outside the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Over the coming weeks I will regale you with stories of beautiful architecture, amazing culinary delights, delightful characters and possibly the odd travel tip or two as seen from the lens of an independent traveller. This series will be about experiences rather than facts and figures, so come and join me for the journey of a Milestone.

Part 1

Travelling from Australia to Europe is not for the faint hearted. From door to door it involved each and every one of the plane, train and automobile or multiples thereof, only to arrive in London at 6.30am. Who other than the cleaning crew and potential thieves can get into a hotel room at 6.30am?

Not us, not after 26 hours of flying. After catching the Tube from Heathrow to our Hyde Park hotel, we sleepily deposited our bags and ventured out to kill about 8 hours. We arrived to the wonderful news that London was experiencing a heat wave. Wonderful because we had left winter. The morning was cool, but then again it was only 7am, so we were anticipating being washed over with warmth as the sun revealed itself more during the day.

Image from Alberto Vaccaro Flickr phostostream

Image from Alberto Vaccaro Flickr phostostream

Somehow in our  travel world, killing time generally equated to eating and so we went in search of food. What we discovered was that generally London does not wake before 10am, particularly on a Sunday and that after 26 hours of flying one’s sense of adventure is not at its peak. So we settled for some local eminently forgetful offering and then set off towards the Shakespeare Globe Theatre. This was a special request from my eldest, who is passionate about writing and poetry.

The theatre is located on the bank of the Thames and is built in the style of theatre as it was back when Shakespeare was a playwrite. The performances are performed outdoors rain, hail or shine and there is standing room and seating depending on the price you are prepared to pay. We had a wonderful 90 minute tour of the theatre and watched as the stage was being prepared for that afternoon’s performance of Antony & Cleopatra. At various times, the actors would appear to familiarise themselves with the theatre acoustics and exercise their throats in readiness for that afternoon’s performance. Not being sure we would stay awake for the performance we didn’t buy tickets. Please be assured, dear readers, this had nothing to do with Mr Shakespeare’s writing prowess and everything to do with travel fatigue.

It was a beautiful sunny day in London and the sun starved Londoners were out in force along the Thames. Buskers, food vans, town, friends, lovers, families and tourists all contributed to an active, lively throng with a fantastic vibe. This was enough to lift our travel fatigue, which was a good thing because there was another 5 hours yet to go before our eyes would clap on a bed. We were seeing London at its jolly best. I have been to London before in Summer, but I had never seen it this carefree, this animated.

Strolling along the Thames it was inevitable that we would come to the Londoneye. The Londoneye is a mega ferris wheel for tourists where on a clear day you are treated to an amazing vista of London. On this day, there was a mega queue to ride the mega wheel so we settled into a mega wait, which thankfully didn’t turn out to be mega at all. I’m generally not one for pre-buying tickets, because that locks you in to being somewhere at a certain time and that’s not what holidays are to me. 40 minutes later we were in our hermetically sealed bubble along with about 20 others marvelling at the beautiful London landscape. At this point I would love to show you a picture of that vista, but I have to ask for a little patience as I sort through the technical glitch with the photos. In the meantime, here’s a stock photo.

Having safely reached terra firma once more, fatigue again set in and I could encourage the kids no more to keep going. The good news was that we only had half an hour before our hotel room would be ready.london eye view - wikimedia commons

And so we made our way back to the hotel via the London Tube. This has to be the greatest invention known to man. A train every 2-3 minutes to whisk you away to practically any point in London and so easy to manoeuvre around  even a 50 year old can work it out. Try as it might, Sydney just can’t replicate this sort of efficiency.

After retrieving our room key, we were shown to what had to be the smallest closet hotel room in London. For four of us, two of whom were teenage boys! Nevertheless, said teenage boys were asleep in 10 minutes. The Italian Stallion and I went in search of some shops to get the basics for our trip. 34 hours without sleep so far.

And the heat wave? A paltry 24 degrees Celsius (75.2 Fahrenheit). As Mick Dundee famously said in the movie Crocodile Dundee “You call that a knife” so I will famously say ” You call that a heat wave?” Bah, to an Aussie 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) plus is a heat wave.

Nevertheless, it was great to see Londoners out and frolicking about, even if they were tempted to sunbathe in a park in the middle of the city. A rather amusing habit to an Australian who along with most other Australians gravitates towards a beach for that purpose.

With the vision of bikinis and speedos in parks, I could fight the sweet siren call of sleep no more.

Next up: Pomp, circumstance and popping my B&B cherry in France

 

Cut From The Same Cloth

Every closest has a deepest darkest recess. Yesterday I ventured into mine. Not lightly, but it had to be done.

This was not a cleaning or clearing expedition, it was in fact a hunt borne out of a little desperation.

Only a little, mind you.

I decided I was going to wear a proper suit to work.

Now, I work in an office and have been wearing tailored gear, so it’s not as if I haven’t been dressing up. It’s just that what it means to be a professional has changed for me. At some point I reached that zone where being good at what I do is less about convincing others that I am and more about projecting my self-worth and confidence in knowing I am good at what I do. This is not hubris or arrogance, I know there are ways I can do better and I consciously put myself in positions where I have to learn every day. It’s just self belief. Guys tend to be quite good at it. Women, not so much, we tend to only put ourselves out there when we have ticked every box. Guys maybe tick one box or tend to have a go when they think they could tick at least one box if given the opportunity. There are masses of women’s publications devoted to this very topic trying to nudge women to move away from perfection.

Whatever you want to call it, self belief was a lesson that took me 40+ years to learn.

And with it came a wardrobe (and job) change.

Now my work wardrobe reflects who I am. Whilst I have never been tempted to pull out the little pink sequined number with purple Doc Martins ahead of a business meeting, manly because I don’t own any of these, I have given myself permission to move away from the classic suit. It has been quite the liberation.

One small step for mankind, a huge leap for the Curtain Raiser!

But back to the bowels of my closet and suit day. I’m not sure why the reason for the suit, there was no high powered meeting or function. I just felt like it, and that’s a revelation in itself.

Hey pal, how many of those grey numbers do you have?

Hey pal, how many of those grey numbers do you have?

So I gingerly approached my closet’s bowels and starting pulling out suit options. First one, then another and then another trying to figure out which one would work. I hadn’t laid eyes on these for a couple of years, so there was a short period of reacquainting and reminiscence.  And as I began laying them out in a row, a pattern began to emerge.

It hit me like a plank to the side of the head. These suits that I faithfully wore over the last decade were all the same. Oh, there might be slight variations in style as in pants versus skirts or charcoal grey versus navy, but they we all made of dark fabric and had pinstripes.

There laid out before me was evidence of my blind conformity. All in all, was I just another brick in the wall? (With apologies to Pink Floyd)

Gaaaah!

It’s amazing how the myriad of little decisions we make everyday weave together to make the tapestry of our lives. Any one of these decisions in isolation probably has little consequence, but put together and laid out like this, it’s a page in the book of your life. A page I have firmly decided to turn.

It was heartening to see in those suits confirmation that I had moved forward.

Speaking of moving forward, time to head to my closet and then to work. Uniforms need not apply.

 

To my regular readers: My sincere apologies for not yet posting about my travels. I have had a few technical glitches with photos. Will hopefully get to it soon.

 

Life Under the Iron Dome, MH 17 and a Tonne of Gratitude

Well, here I am back in the land of the roo and once again pumping out my words to the blogging kingdom.

And I am grateful, so very grateful.

I will be blogging in more detail about our trip over the coming weeks. Each place we visited had its own unique hum and gifts to share and each is worthy of a mention. I could talk about the food, the architectural beauty, the culture and our experiences, but not in this post.

Today, I want to write about geographic boundaries, dodging missiles, coming home and gratitude.

When I left these Australian shores a month ago it was with the knowledge that I would be vigorously attacking the travel part of my bucket list. There were places we visited and almost visited that have been in my personal bucket for decades and they were finally going to be red penned with much excitement.

Travel is inherently risky. We could talk about statistics and probabilities and compare travel to other activities, but that would mean reducing feelings to numbers and introducing too much logic into what ultimately is a personal decision. Whatever the case, it’s a risk I have always willingly accepted.

For the first two weeks of our travels in Western European countries, we ate, we walked, we toured, we ate, we saw, we ate, we slept and we ate. This is not to say that all we do is eat on holidays. It just seems to be that when travelling one tends to have more encounters with food than usual. So I have a perception that I ate a lot, although my clothes seem to have forgiven me.

route map

During the third week however, the news about the conflict in the Middle East became more extensive and urgent. For the most part we were stuck with the BBC news coverage, which seems to be the English news service of choice amongst our chosen innkeepers. We also knew that we had to make a call at the end of that week as to whether we would continue with our planned flight to Israel, a flight we booked a year ago. Making this decision for oneself is hard enough, but to also have to make it for your children raises the degree of difficulty exponentially. I can only imagine what decisions Palestinian and Israeli parents have to make for their children every day.

Whatever the merits or demerits of the current Palestinian/Israeli conflict, we were about to head straight into it.

I have discovered that Government travel advisories are only of limited assistance if you want to live a life wrapped in anything other than cotton wool. So I felt we were largely on our own in having to make the decision.

After considerable deliberation and angst we decided to proceed, having stored the email address and contact number of the Australian embassy so it was close at hand. Four air raid sirens and rocket blasts later, we observed and experienced what life was like under the Iron Dome.

And we flew out of Tel Aviv richer for our experiences – ALL of them.

It would take three flights and about 30 hours to get home to the other side of the world.

One of my favourite pieces of inflight entertainment is the route map. I love watching it in the warmth of cabin darkness, seeing the passing of time and passing of names of cities which roll off the tongues of our local news presenters with some effort. Names like Kandahar, Teheran and Jaipur. Then there are names of cities I had never heard of like Sevastpol in the Ukraine, adjacent to the Black Sea.

We were in the air at the time MH17 went down. We were one or two hours out of Singapore headed to Sydney  – a seven hour flight. There was no indication of the tragedy that was to unfold over the Ukraine skies at the time we last tapped into the news during those precious final free WIFI grab moments at Changi airport.

Touching down in the cold of a Sydney’s winter day at 6 am in the morning, we felt tired and excited whilst feasting our eyes on the familiar. Turning on my local phone, we learned of the fate of MH17 whilst collecting our luggage from the arrival carousel. A luxury not afforded to the passengers of MH17.

And then came the swift realisation that we had been flying over the same region, if not squarely over the crash site, some 8 hours before the MH17 tragedy.

We are grateful to be home, we are grateful to have had the ability to wait for our luggage at the point of arrival and we are grateful to live in a land of peace. Our thoughts are with all of the families who lost members during the last month in each of these conflicts. One has to believe that humanity will ultimately prevail.

As always, I welcome your comments on my posts. However, I have no wish to turn this into a political debate about the conflicts referred to in this post or the political views about any country referred to in this post and I would ask that you respect that. I am merely relaying my personal recent travel experiences which happen to collide with current affairs.

 

 

 

Travelling Like Its 2014

Gone FishingThe big day has finally arrived and the bags are all packed together with our family’s anticipation. In a couple of hours, we will be taking to the sky for what will be a 24 hour ride to the Continent. Thankfully that 24 hours is broken into 3 legs, because 24 hours straight in a sealed steel capsule is no one’s idea of fun except if that capsule happens to be the International Space Station.

It’s all a little surreal since the planning and booking for this trip took place about a year ago and it has all come down to this last few hours.

As a family we tend to do holidays well together. Some families implode in this thrown together 24/7 situation. We explode. We explode with mirth and banter and the need to pull together for a common goal. In some ways we work better together out of our natural environment than in it. Whatever the case, it works for us. And for the first time we are travelling with one of our children officially classed as an adult.

This is not the only first. There will be a lot of firsts in the next 4 weeks. First time in Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany and first time we drive in a foreign country. First time I celebrate a belated birthday in another country and first time we will be in a nation other than Australia during a World Cup. And many more.

We will be covering a lot of ground in the time we have. If you have to travel a full day to get to anywhere you have to make the most of it.

The top 10 things I’m looking forward to on this trip:

  1. Poking around the Normandy region and checking out the D Day beaches.
  2. Seeing the remnants of the Berlin Wall.

    image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

    image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

  3. Not having to cook.
  4. Belgian Chocolate and the Last Post in Ypres.
  5. Petra.
  6. Amsterdam – all facets of it. Heard so much about it, time to check it out.
  7. Being with the family.
  8. Not having to cook.
  9. Visiting a friend in Denmark.
  10. Budapest.
  11. Not having to cook (hoping you aren’t noticing this is number 11)

And so much more.

I’m not planning on blogging during the trip, but will write about it once I return.

In the meantime, I hope you all have a great month.

There’s only one thing left to do and that’s to say see you all on the flip side!!

Living The World Cup Life

WARNING: This post contains opening game of the World Cup spoilers.

I’m not sure where the last month has gone. I have looked high and low.  I’m sure it’s around here somewhere. It was not my intention to lose a month of blogging, but I’m reappearing briefly before disappearing again to lose myself in European adventure.

soccer ballBut not before setting out my observations on the opening game of the World Cup. If you have to ask which World Cup, you are clearly not a soccer/football fan, because there is really only one World Cup and that’s THE World Cup. Before I start, a warning to the football purists, I grew up in a soccer world. That’s right, a soccer world, not a football world. My dad was a soccer fanatic. Born of European origin he transplanted his passion for the game to his adopted country. This meant I grew up on a steady diet of weekly soccer games at which dad would discuss soccer politics and yell at the ref. He would also buy a bag of peanuts to eat during the game and at the end of the 90 minutes, we would find ourselves knee deep in peanut shells and exit the ground to the sound of underfoot shell crunch. Once at home, he would talk more soccer politics to his friends and they would solve all of the competition’s soccer ills over a few glasses of spritzer.

This is what I grew up with and to me “soccer” is the name of the world game played with the round ball. Football on the other hand was something that Aussies played with an egg shaped ball whilst chasing each other around a paddock. Commonly known as rugby – whether league or union –  that was and is the dominant sport in this country. It’s really only in the last decade or so that the term “football” has been also used to describe soccer, bringing us in line with the UK and other soccer playing English speaking nations (are there others?). So soccer it is in this post.

I have just finished watching the tail end of the opening game of the World Cup. An exciting matchup between Brazil and Croatia, with the home team coming away with the win. Love the colour, the spectacle and the knee-high socks that stay up against all odds. I might even admit to admiring the odd highly toned striker/midfielder or two, but only because of their *cough* fancy footwork, *cough* grace and *cough* athleticism.soccer bonding

The game had the usual volume of on field machinations. It set me to thinking about what would happen if we applied some of these techniques in our day to day lives. So, what if we could see more of the following:

  1. The own goal recovery – Brazil is one of the classic soccer nations. Kids learn to dribble a soccer ball, well… before they learn to dribble and every kid dreams of making it to the national team playing in a world cup. Of course, this current one also happens to be before a home crowd on home soil with the eyes of the world watching. The anticipation and drama around Brazil being ready to host the event have been building and the opening game is finally here. And the first goal scored? An own goal by one of the Brazilians. Can you imagine the thoughts that would have run through that guy’s head at the moment? I’d venture to suggest that “oh crap” doesn’t come close. However, there were no open recrimination, the dude got a tap on the back by one of his team mates, they avoided the psychological black hole to win the game. What would life really be like if team work was more than a term in a managerial manual and people actually lived by that credo?soccer team
  2. The Clayton’s foul –  A stray foot or hand and suddenly there’s a player on the ground acting as though was run over by a semi-trailer. All in the hopes of scoring that penalty to give his  team the edge. And when the ref flashes that yellow card he is more than half way to victory. The recovery rate and speed of these players once a penalty is awarded is nothing short of miraculous. Coupled with that if every soccer player had the injury he enacted on the field you would need 4 times as many players to complete the 90 minutes of game time. Perhaps we should all have academy award training for unintended slights, paper cuts and directed passive aggression. Thankfully, this is not the way most of us live our lives, although we have probably encountered people who do.
  3. The goal scoring pile up – this is my favourite. One of the guys scores a goal and he is squeezed, squashed and piled on. I’m sure this is a macho technique to hide all of the hugs, kisses and tears that is the consequence of a goal having been scored. You don’t fool anyone, guys. We know you just bonded in that 10 second pile. Imagine what life would be like if every time you had a small victory your “team” came and piled on top of you? Might be a mother of sons thing, but I think the pile is a very under utilised technique for showing appreciation.

Soccer fans are in for a real treat over the next few weeks, with many more Oscar winning performances to come.

Australia will face its first opponent, Chile, in the next day or two. We are the firm underdogs. But there is something to be said for being privy to a great Aussie pile. May the Aussie boys experience their fair share in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, I will be watching for more pointers to add to my life manual called Living The World Cup Life.

Food Labelling Nonsense: How Intimate is Your Lunchbox?

I may be lunchbox friendly but am I label friendly?

I may be lunchbox friendly but am I label friendly?

Have you ever wondered what happens inside your lunchbox after you shut the lid? I know I have lost endless hours of sleep and sanity thinking about this very thing and more importantly as a mother thinking about how I may be affecting my kids by what I pack in their lunchbox.

OK, given the ages of my kids I don’t really pack their lunch boxes anymore, but I did for years and found it an eternal struggle. Struggle in the sense of keeping the lunchbox interesting so that its contents actually ended up in the kids’ stomachs rather than as a science experiment two weeks after it was first packed. We parents have all witnessed that experiment at one time or another and have acknowledged how creative Mother Nature really is by coordinating so many pretty colours of mould. And like me, I am sure you were often in fact packing lunches for other people’s kids because lunchtime was just a big swap meet. To ensure your kid maintained playground status it was important to always pack swap worthy, interesting items. Your kids may not have appreciated the nutritious, smelly salami sandwiches that you lovingly packed every day, but little Johnny whose parents were vegetarians certainly enjoyed your daily efforts.

I’m glad those days and the lunchbox pressure is now over.

Roll the film forward to lunch time today and I was lucky enough to have been offered a  muesli bar by a friend. It hit the spot right in the middle of four hours of uni classes. As I was breaking open the packaging about to savour the delicious flavours of strawberry, yoghurt and oats, I noticed that the labelling on the packaging proclaimed this muesli bar to be LUNCHBOX FRIENDLY.

Since when did muesli bars become aggressive and mean? Mind you, I have had my suspicions. Every time I used to put a muesli bar into my son’s lunch box the apple core would come back bruised and the mandarin beaten to a pulp. Coincidence? I think not.

If I was putting together a lunch box today for my sons I would have to consider not only the nutritional and freshness retention value of the food together with the ever changing palettes of my offspring, but also whether the food played nice with other food when the lid came down. And if not for the food label how would I ever know if a particular food was friendly and compatible? I mean trying to catch unfriendly food in the act is a bit like trying to peek inside the fridge door without making the light come on.

Needless to say the expression LUNCHBOX FRIENDLY came with a little ^ after it, meaning there was more to this friendship story. After chasing the little thingy around the bottom of the packet and squinting so hard that I almost burst a blood vessel, I found this explanation:

We care about you and your family and are committed to helping Australian families make easier choices for the lunchbox. That’s why we now make all of our muesli bars with a no added nut recipe* ensuring the range is now lunchbox friendly.

*This product has been made on equipment that does not use or handle peanut or tree nuts. Whilst we have taken these nuts out of our recipes we cannot guarantee that the other ingredients in this product have not come into contact with tree nuts or peanuts.

So having chased a ^ and * around the packet, I found that this friendly muesli bar didn’t hang out with nuts, but some of its ingredients could have. It certainly is a sign of our times that 40 or so words have to be used on packaging to avoid potential litigation or bad press around nut allergies.

I sympathise with any parent who has a child with a food allergy. I am not sure though whether introducing the label of LUNCHBOX FRIENDLY is the clearest way to warn consumers. That expression can mean a host of things to a host of people, if it means anything at all. My first reaction was that lunchbox friendly meant less fat, less sugar.

My second reaction was lunch boxes must have gotten a whole lot tougher than when I was a kid. My third reaction was to check the pantry for other nonsense labels.

The message seems to have gotten lost in the attempt at clever marketing. How many people would pause long enough to chase the symbols around the packet? It seems preferable to simply state NOT MADE WITH NUTS given the caveat about other ingredients possibly having socialised with nuts.

Why use 4 words when you can use 40?

Have you ever come across nonsensical  labelling of foods?  Do you read the food labels on packets?

The Y of Living Imperfectly: Forever Young and Gen Y #atozchallenge

So many adventures couldn’t happen today
So many songs that we forgot to play
So many dreams swinging out of the blue
We let them come true

Forever young, I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever, forever, forever?
Forever young, I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever, forever, forever?

From Youth Group – Forever Young Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Y Challenge Letter The thought of living forever seems a double edge sword. As I age, the notion of quantity of life is giving way to quality of life. Of course, this is a personal choice for everyone, but to me, I want to make the days I have left count and to squeeze the most out of them.

I have written before on this blog about thinking old v thinking young and how at this age and stage, the difference between the two approaches becomes more striking. For our perceptions and choices at mid-life seem to have a large bearing on older ageing. At least that’s what it seems like to me . I really feel like I’m at a cross-road at this point, needing to decide whether to think young or think old.  Any decision or choices I make on the score will impact on how I set myself up for the second act.

Ha, I’m still talking as if I am not in the second. Possibly denial, but I would like to think of it more a long the lines of young thinking. For as long as I think young, I can stay in the first act. Thinking forever young works for me.

Being bit of an upside down, back to front person, I feel like I have moved beyond the stage of older thinking in my life. By older thinking I mean being driven to the totally practical because of perceived risks.  This sort of thinking came in my twenties and thirties at a time when everyone else around me was thinking young. Whilst I can’t deny that it served me relatively well, I can’t help but feel there was a price I paid for it, namely regret.

Which is why I have made the decision to age disgracefully imperfectly.

 Need to be careful not to sound like this

Need to be careful not to sound like this

I had a great discussion this morning with my eldest about following your heart and having the confidence to do so. At the age of 19 these are weighty issues to consider, mostly because at that age the heart may not be giving you consistent signals if it is giving you any at all. And as a parent discussions like these are a real tightrope walk, because the practical always threatens to intrude along with the notion of what we would do in a similar situation. The natural instinct of a parent is to prevent pain and suffering for their child, but if we don’t let them have these experiences how are they to learn? Vicariously through others? A lot of adults live their life that way, but to me that’s even more risky because learning through the mistakes of others tends to lead to living through others. I’d rather have my boots on leading the way. And it’s not what I want for my children. However it is their choice.

So it’s why I now find myself in a postgraduate media class at university filled with a bunch of Gen Ys. The experience has been interesting and for the most part I enjoy it. There are a lot of bright young things out there and I believe the world’s future is in good hands if these kids can ever get on the job experience. The necessitymature age student meme of graduate qualifications to getting a job in today’s competitive world has been rammed home to me. Most of the “kids” in my class have started their postgrad education immediately after finishing their bachelor degrees, some with a total change in discipline. They compete for intern positions to build their CVs and with the hope of landing a full-time job, eventually by the time they are in their mid twenties.

This is very different to my undergrad days when postgrad degrees were a sign of “going the extra mile” for advancement. They were therefore regarded as optional until a career move made it essential. Because of my love of learning I actually had only one year from when I finished by bachelor degree and started my postgrad degree. But that was highly unusual and well, I’m weird like that.

So following your heart and making it in this world as a young Gen Y is not easy. Following your heart at any age is not easy, but I think it’s essential to thinking forever young.