Monthly Archives: April 2011

Best Blunders – Episode 1

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Have you ever committed a monumental, very public error that made you want to change your name and disappear somewhere in the Mexican wilderness? Something like, say, being responsible for the Olympic cauldron getting stuck half way up it’s ascent into the heavens on the night of the Opening Ceremony?

Well, maybe it wasn’t the Olympics, but there’s one sporting moment that stands out in my memory and gets me chuckling every time.

It was a small swim meet at the AIS, something we used to call a ‘scratch meet’ – nothing more than a training session spread over two days; meaningless and unimportant race practice – but because it was in the lead up to something major (I can’t remember what), a lot of the who’s who were racing. The AIS had promoted it as ‘your chance to see The Stars in action, up close, personal and cheap’ to try and get a bit of crowd together. It can be hard to perform when there’s nothing but stony silence for atmosphere.

As it turned out, the promotional strategy worked because it was the most pumping scratch meet I had ever been to.

Now, swim meets are generally not real crowd pleasers given that the nature of the sport involves short bursts of action followed by large stretches of not much. So, in an attempt to make them as entertaining as possible, the major meets are scheduled down to the second with medal ceremonies slotted between races and loud ‘exciting’ music interspersed with pool-side interviews and commentaries. But where there is no budget, no TV rights and no big-dollar ticket sales, organisers rely on tight timelines and a bit of music over the PA.

And so it was, when mid-way through day one of said pumping scratch meet, officials experienced an unspecified technical malfunction and the tight schedule was blown out of the water (very corny pun intended in the absence of anything wittier).

The start of the next race was delayed… and delayed… and delayed again. The children in the stands became restless: “Where are ‘The Stars’?”, “Why aren’t they swimming?”, “Mummy, I’m boooooooored…”

Chip packets and lolly wrappers rustled. Parents whispered, “Not long now, how about we play ‘I Spy’?” Kids started climbing on the benches. The atmosphere was disappearing fast.

“Music! Hit the music!” somebody hissed. A fumbling at the control desk. A crackle.

And through the silence boomed a voice:

“Fatboy Slim is fucking in Heaven. Fatboy Slim is fucking in Heaven. Fatboy Slim is fucking in Heaven. Fucking in fucking in fucking in Heaven…”

It was like a carefully choreographed dance – jaws dropped, eyes bulged as hundreds of hands slapped over the ears of every near-by child before the collective gasp sent shock-waves over the pool. It was an interminable 30 seconds before further fumbling managed to replace the obscenity with a steady beat and thumping melody, but the damage was done. The competitors behind the blocks couldn’t contain their mirth, officials couldn’t hide their horror and parents in the crowd couldn’t think of how to explain what had just happened to their incredulous children.

For me, it was a moment to remember and, to this day, I feel for the poor sod who hit ‘play’ on Track 3. I wonder what their new Mexican name is…

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Chop chop

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Have you ever made a decision in the heat of an emotionally unstable episode? Have you ever come to your senses just that little bit too late? Have you ever learned a lesson only to find yourself learning it all over again?

I should have known better, especially given that the black dye I put through my hair last time I was feeling a little techy was still making me look like a wanna-be goth piece of mutton dressed as an angry lamb. But nooooooooo.

I only came to my senses when the monstrous girl with pink and black hair boofed up the back of my head, bangles a-clanging over wildly tattooed arms, proclaiming that “OMG your hair just like stands up naturally and I have to tease the crap out of mine to do that so I’m totally not liking you right now.”

“Dear God what have I done?” my inner voice cried as I surveyed the 6 years of hair growth that my son was making ‘hair castles’ out of.

“Mummy take off all her hair!” he smiled as he rolled in the off-cuts.

I inspected the damage. And damage was the right term. The right side was a straight cut over the ear while the left was shaped and feathered. The right fringe was in my eye while the left stopped half-way down my forehead. And the top/back made me look like one of the Golden Girls.

“Um, is it just me or is this uneven?” I asked politely.

“Hmmmm? Oh yeah. Wow. OK…”

I knew how Samson felt in that instant. All my courage lay strewn across the salon floor and the Little Lion was throwing it like confetti. I had gone in with visions of Natalie Portman and Emma Watson, but I was left with ‘Nanna wants to be a boy’.

So when she evened the ears and fringe out, I didn’t bother to comment of the boof. I humbly paid my money, went home, had lunch, put the kids to bed, showered and booked an appointment at another salon for a ‘fix me up now or I will die’.

The girl at the second salon needed no guidance.

“So you want something a little less ‘grandma’ and a little more ‘stylish’?” and I just cringed.

She did her best. My hair just isn’t made for Natalie Portman, besides, my eyes are too close together and my shoulders are too big anyway. I was often mistaken for a boy in my youth, so I don’t know what I was thinking. The end result is “1980s Angry Rocker on suburban housewife who wanted to look like a movie star.” I guess I could do worse, and if I am still unable to look in the mirror without jumping back in fright next month, I’ll just buzz cut it and start again.

Damned shame about all those long, soft locks though…

Weekend Grateful

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This weekend I’m grateful for:

1. The sound of constant conversation between the Little Lion and Mr D as they potter about, hanging pictures on walls, fixing stuff, using tools in a manly manner…

2. Rainy days that give me all the excuse I need to catch up on the blogosphere I have missed over the past month.

3. Maxabella’s reminder to find something for which to be grateful.

Have a great weekend everybody.

x

Disabling Fear and Ignorance

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What is it about disability that strikes such a deep discomfort in the average person’s soul? What is it about that word that makes us, in our heart of hearts, cringe and gasp and turn away? Why do we feel so compelled to sneak a surreptitious look at the carer and her troupe of six disabled young adults carefully selecting their weekly groceries, but we turn our guilty gaze away the moment they look in our direction?

For me it has been an almost visceral fear – fear of the unknown ‘other’, fear of causing offence with my curiosity, fear of the impact it would have on my life if one of my own were to be afflicted, fear of the weakness in myself that has always stood in awe of those who choose to care for the severely disabled. The fact that my troubles and trials become so glaringly petty when faced with disability as a comparison has often made with cringe with self-disgust and disgruntlement all at once. How dare their problems take the wind out of my sails!

It’s not that I have never had contact with disabled people – my mother worked for Homecare with a couple who had debilitating cerebral palsy, but who were determined to have as independent a life as possible. It was a fairly regular occurrence that my sister and I would help out on shopping trips, chasing Greg in his motorised wheelchair or that we’d share a cup of tea with Anne, slowly learning to understand her speech. But, truth be known, I was always conscious of ‘acting normal’ with them. Somehow it never came naturally and, to this day, I am ashamed of that fact.

And then along came The Divine Miss A.

Many years ago, we swam together. I was always a bit intimidated by her because she was indeed divine, but she had a laugh that could turn any wall to dust and I loved her. When I was 15 I got lost in the Chronic Fatigue quagmire and then went and broke my neck, so I was out of the swimming world for a while. She swam to great heights and by the time I came back to the pool, she had suffered her own string of career-ending misadventures and we never spoke to one another again.

Then one day I received a message in my Facebook inbox that said something along the lines of, “Do you remember who I am? I promise I won’t stalk you if you’d rather not talk to me…”

Did I remember her?! My mother still talks about her gold shorts! What was 20 years ago was rekindled in an instant and I was thrilled to hear that she had two children of her own. And then she told me about her children and my heart stopped. I was faced, at close quarters, by all the guilt-laden fear I dared not look at, and out of love I had to look, feel and examine it or lose. Simple as that.

And what did I find?

People. Only people. Human beings like me and you and every other person on the planet.

I discovered that:

It is the label, ‘Disabled’, that creates the fear, the sense of ‘otherness’, the separation between ‘us’ and ‘them’ in the same way that ‘homosexual’, ‘Jew’, ‘asylum seeker’, ‘negro’, ‘untouchable’, ‘Afghan’ or any other label has stirred fear and suspicion through the ages. And they are all unnatural labels created with a focus on division, separation and classification rather than a focus on what commonalities bind us together as the human race.

I discovered that:

Beyond the label lies a heart and a shining soul that needs love and affection and fun and stimulation as much as every other human being. People, some with minds trapped in bodies that don’t work effectively, some with bodies that out-grow their minds, some who cannot say what they feel and others who express every fleeting inner sensation with abandon. But all thinking, feeling, willing people imbued with the same life force as you and me.

I discovered that:

The unconditional love required of carers like The Divine Miss A, while completely awesome, is not unattainable. It is not something to be intimidated by or afraid of because we, The Average, have the capacity to love without expectation of return and without end as well. What makes us afraid is our own tendency to buy into the labels because it’s easier, because it allows us to dwell on our own relatively inane worries and feel justified in doing so, because it allows us to avoid being confronted with the extraordinary and unsettling diversity of human experience. But we can transcend our little homogenous box and learn what love is really about… if we choose to.

And I discovered that:

We are all afflicted in some way by something – here is the woman whose mother abandoned her when she was five, there is the man whose father was an alcoholic, here is the person who is a gambling addict and there is the person who was molested as a child, the mother who works such long hours that she barely knows her children, the father who is treated with suspicion because he stays at home with the kids… People with a disability are just people with their particular affliction out there for the world to see. Imagine if we all had our afflictions on display; who would be the ‘other’ then?

The Divine Miss A has shown me that, in truth, I have been the one disabled by my ignorance and fear.

And I thank her for showing me a whole new world of beautiful people to listen to, to learn from and to love.

The Divine Miss A has nominated me to be a champion blogger/tweeter/status updater at the National Disability and Carer Congress. PLEASE vote for me here so I can keep you updated on what happens there! All you have to do is follow the link, enter your name and email address and select “Nadine” (at number 35) as your champion. Simple.

Thanks!

Again about me

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SPONSORED POST BY ME, FOR ME AND ABOUT ME – Don’t read further if you don’t care.

But if you do care (and I’ll love you forever for caring)…

I’VE BEEN REVIEWED!  Tres cool.

In NEWSBITE – the NSW Writers’ Centre newsletter (OK, so it’s not TIME MAGAZINE, but you’ve got to start somewhere, right? And if you can tell me how to get reviewed in something bigger, I’m all ears!).

There’s an extended version of the review on Narelle’s blog as well.

And another review in MARY: A Journal of New Writing.

Nice. Now buy the book!

Another (useless) List

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Life is a bit of a Shite-Fite at the moment, so remaining functional is all about ticking off lists. Lists like:

1. Get up.

2. Put on clothes.

3. Make breakfast.

4. Make sure kids eat breakfast.

5. Figure out what to put on the next list.

Inane stuff, really, but helpful when you tend to find yourself in a flap at 10 am because you are still in your pyjamas and the kids are screaming blue murder due to boredom and starvation. So in honour of The List, I am going to give you another countdown:

The Top 10 Things I Have Learned About Myself in the Last 2 Weeks.

Buckle your seatbelts – this is earth-shattering stuff!

10 – I can eat a whole packet of hot cross buns without realising that I am doing it.

9 – I am still capable of creating all manner of things out of toilet rolls (the latest achievement was a rocket ship), even if my creativity is so catatonic that I have to resort to top 10 lists for my blog posts.

8 – I now know why the word ‘sweet’ has always made be cringe and shudder, much like the generic response to finger nails down a blackboard. (Reason to be revealed in some future post, I am sure).

7 – I find asking for help more difficult than I previously thought. Paralysingly difficult, in fact.

6 – I am nobody’s friend at 4am, especially if you are a small child crying because you are sick and teething. I am sorry, but compassion does not live here at 4am. I have bigger fish to fry.

5 – I am capable of feeling extreme guilt at the same time as feeling #6.

4 – When placed under extreme stress, I suffer from Exercise-Induced Meltdown, a condition where, should the sufferer make the mistake of thinking a brisk walk or light jog will help restore serenity, he/she will instead find themself pounding the pavement sobbing and heaving like a lost child, main road or not.

3 – I now know why I hate people putting pressure on my shoulders (again, the reason is sure to come out in some future post, but does not belong here).

2 – I am weaker and more fragile than I ever thought possible.

1 – I am stronger and more resilient than I ever thought possible.

It’s been a big couple of weeks…