Tuesday, 25 December 2012

And a merry dysfunctional Christmas to you!

This Christmas is turning out much better than the last three. The first one, three months after I lost my husband, was fairly sucky as you can imagine. This year, here it is Christmas Day and I haven’t felt sad at all or even cried.

The major reason for this I imagine would be the new friends I’ve made - the majority of who are Canadian – and lots of opportunities to go out and socialize. I’ve also kept busy rowing and am lucky enough to be rowing every single Sunday before and after Christmas and New Years.

So onto this year’s dysfunctional family Christmas:

My divorced parents - neither has remarried - are both coming to Christmas at my house. The bizarreness of this is only apparent when you realize that for several years they didn’t even speak to each other and we celebrated two Christmases, one with each parent.

When I say “we” I mean my sister and I. She’s not married and I’m now widowed. She’s currently – well, actually for a long time now – a drug addict who still abuses dope, she has done everything other drug over the years too. This hasn’t done her brain any favours and she now has mental issues.

As a consequence she’s moved out into the country and doesn’t want to see my father. She did text me this year to wish me Merry Christmas but last year I didn’t hear from her at all. (It is very hard to have any sort of sane relationship with an addict. Has been for years.)

So much for the heavy stuff, now for the planning stuff. You’d think that with a mere THREE people the planning would go smoothly. Not so much.

There are three of us, and one of us (not me) is on a diet, despite this we have three desserts. Everyone brought a dessert. Not that any of us actually cooked dessert but we’ve all turned up with dessert.

My father and I had decided a roast pork would be the go, that’s our favourite. When I invited my mother she hinted at her preference for turkey because it’s “slimming”- Dad and I both laughed at that and over ruled her, we’re having pork.

So Dad turns up this morning with some turkey to roast for my mum. Unfortunately it is still frozen and needs to cook longer and at a different temperature to the pork, and in water. This means we can’t roast vegetables in the dish. Nevertheless I persevered and threw everything in the oven.

Except everything didn’t fit in the oven. There wasn’t enough room for all the vegetables. So Dad has taken the turkey home, he lives 4.5 minutes from my place, and will roast the turkey in his oven.

Assuming this all works and everything eventually cooks, which I ‘spose will happen, we will end up with:

  • Roast pork
  • Roast turkey
  • Minced pies
  • Christmas pudding
  • AND a chocolate pudding. 

For three of us, and one of us is on a diet. 

Oh well. Happy dysfunctional Christmas!!!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Accidental Shopper

Shopping appears to have become one of my hobbies. I’m not sure when that happened but if you do not have a regular job and rely on emergency teaching then shopping should not be your number one priority.

Next week is the last week of school for six whole weeks, so that means NO WORK for six weeks. Meanwhile the bills keep coming in and I keep shopping. The most frightening of which was last month’s credit card bill; my savings will look far less healthy once I have paid it off.  So I have declared that I will NOT use my credit card until next February (at least).

I’ve been reflecting on how I have allowed my spending to ramp up to such unprecedented levels and while I can pinpoint a couple of instances where I have gone wrong I think that on the whole I probably should not be allowed in shopping centres unsupervised.

This is what happens: a couple of weeks ago I went looking for an outfit for the Melbourne Cup. I had a dress that was almost, at a pinch, suitable but I suspected it was more Garden Tea Party than Melbourne Cup. So I browsed the shops.

And left with a white jacket that I did not end up wearing with the dress. In fact, I still haven’t worn it over a month later. I also managed to purchase a very nice dress but not one that would be suitable for the Cup. I thought I could wear this one to my Friday night social-drinky-doos.

Yes, well that’s all very well but when I got it home and put it on with real shoes it appeared very short. When I tried it on at the shop I may have made that classic mistake of throwing it on over the jeans and just dropping my jeans to my knees. You know how it’s far too much effort to untie your runners and kick them off your feet to get out of your jeans totally.

Oh sure, when there’s a pair of jeans around your knees anything you’re wearing on top looks a/ fairly good, and b/ long enough.

Turns out it wasn’t. Or it doesn’t feel like it. So I’ve added a hem of lace to make it longer. Now I am completely unconvinced about the whole thing and still haven’t worn it.

And then I also had to rush out and buy a copy of “The Princess Bride” for a friend’s birthday. Trouble is on the way to the DVD store, which I couldn't find, I got waylaid in a shoe shop. I ended up looking at Dr Martens. They’re so funky and I fell in love with these:
Sorry about the poor quality image, I had
 to stop looking once I found this one
 in case I found other shoes I simply had to buy. 

Look how cute they are, inside the lining is a pretty floral. And instead of laces they come with these really pretty ribbons, I fell in love pretty much instantly. And they actually make them in my size. However, once I saw the price I was very strong and left the store intent on looking for the DVD store.

Before I could get to the DVD store I found another shoe store and ended up with a pair of black Converse type runner/boots. I figured these were less than half the price of the Dr Martens and would be very useful for the waitressing job I’d picked up to help out with my shopping addiction. Plus they were on sale. (True story.)

See how you can get yourself into trouble with these things?

I did not find the DVD store. Instead I sensibly left the shopping centre.

"Sensibly" didn't last very long: when I got home I discovered I had a real craving for those Dr Martens and try as I might I could not kick the thought of them from my head. And, I reasoned to myself, I’m not getting any younger if I don’t buy these boots now I’ll be too old to get away with wearing them.

So the next day I got on-line and bought them anyway!


Did you see what happened? I didn’t buy the DVD for my friend and I ended up with not one but TWO pairs of shoes. And the credit card still needs to be paid off.

Fortunately school has rung up and asked me to work three days in the last week of term; I have even sacrificed one of my rowing sessions so I can work. Sob.  This will help but I have to ban myself from using the credit card.

Yours-in-debt-Stella xx

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, New Year's Hell *

* With a little effort you can make that work, it's all in the timing.

It’s been a long time since I blogged, or even read a blog, and that’s because I’ve been out and about having a lovely time. I’ve made new friends in the social group I attend and so most weekends I am now out socializing, drinking and dancing with them, and having a blast.

I also find time to row twice a week. Yes, I am definitely a rowing tragic now. I go to yoga as often as I can, although I have given Bikram the heave-ho and go to a Vinyasa powerflow class. (I still can’t do handstands.)  And I also get to tango classes on a haphazard basis. Oh and I picked up a casual waitressing job once a week too. Even that can be fun and social. 

I have cleansed my life of on-line dating, and am happier for it. I go on dates with men I meet socially but there is still no one significant in my life. (And that still sucks.) But on the whole I am much, much happier than the same time last year. . .

 . . . until the prospect of Christmas rears its ugly head. And New Year’s Eve. There are still a few anniversaries and days that have the power to make me pensive. I am relieved to say I hardly ever cry in public anymore! Three years on, now that's progress! (Yes, I am gently mocking myself but it's still true.) However the holidays still sometimes suck (gotta love alliteration) and I never did figure out where I could run away to so as to avoid Christmas entirely. 

Today I was unexpectedly reminded of that. A friend of a friend has emailed us all and encouraged us to attend a function on New Year’s Eve. You know, it’ll be about champagne and canapes. My friends are all keen to go, I am less so.

Apart from the logistics of getting home after drinking on New Year’s Eve I don’t enjoy the crowds or the pressure to have a really-good-time-because-it’s-New-Year’s-Eve. Yet the alternative is to stay home. Hardly fun either.

When the hubby was around we’d go to another couple’s place and have a low key celebration locally. That was enough for me. I didn’t want to throw my own party, or make a big deal out of New Year’s but hanging out with friends for a casual drink was fine.

Now those friends have packed up and moved back interstate, other friends we often saw go away for Christmas until New Year’s and so I’m left torn between going out with other single friends or staying home.

And neither appeals. 

Any advice?

Stella-the-wet-blanket x

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Not sweet enough. Apparently

You know how when people ask if you want sugar in your tea/coffee and, being virtuous, you don’t take any so say, “No thanks, I’m sweet enough.” Well, that’s not me.

About two months ago I read some startling ‘facts’ about sugar. According to Robin McGraw’s book  What's Age Got To Do With It?  sugar bonds with something or the other and may help cause wrinkles. Plus they’re a toxin. I’m a bit hazy on the details but the bottom line is I decided to give up sugar.

Robin, bless her cotton socks, gave up sugar for an entire year. She probably had her husband, Dr Phil (I found out they're married when I tried to google* her book) providing all sorts of fabulous moral support.  An entire year, people! No cookies, no cake, no chocolate, no lollies. Hm, now that I write it out it just doesn’t seem possible. Who could be that virtuous?

Anyway, inspired by both Robin and vanity I decided to cut out sugar for two weeks. A year seemed a bit excessive. I thought I’d start with something more reasonable.

Cakes and biscuits weren’t too hard to forego, although those TimTams in my fridge did have a very loud siren call. And my beloved lemon sherbet lollies which I turn to two or three times a day were reasonably easy to kick but tea without sugar proved not sweet enough.

In the past friends have expressed horror that I have two teaspoons of sugar in my tea. “Two!” they exclaim with dismay. But it’s not that bad, I don’t have that many cups of tea in a day, maybe four on a bad day.

Not anymore, tea is so disappointing without sugar I have maybe two cups a day. I’ve survived the two weeks without sugar and now am back to eating a little tiny bit but still have no sugar in my tea.

So disappointing. Tea is no fun at all. (Did I mention that already?)

So I’ve become a bit of a tea slut, trying Lady Grey, Russian Caravan (ugh), Ceylon, Oolong, Darjeeling. They all sound exotic, some taste better than others, but all would be improved by a couple of teaspoons of sugar. 


* When I wrote "google" on my iMac, it came up as spelt incorrectly. Is it just me who sees the irony here? 

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

At the risk of being inappropriate. . .

Have been watching the Olympics, like the rest of the world presumably. Very annoying that we're in a different time zone, so hard to see races live. Trying to watch the rowing but have to keep taping it. What they do bears little resemblance to what happens when I get in a boat, still, I recognize we both have boats n' oars etc. I am in awe of them, they are machines. Machines.

However, that's not the inappropriate part. That comes into play when watching the swimming. The men. Under 'gorgeous' in the dictionary surely there's a picture of all these male athletes. I mean, there is no other way to describe them.

Oh to get my hands on just one of them. 

Which leads me to ask how the officials down there on the pool deck manage to look so professional. Some of them almost looked bored even. If I had the job there'd be a little grin on my face at all times.

Hm, wonder how you do get a job at the Olympics. . . 

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Vive la france but the huddled masses are really getting up my nose

The National Gallery of Victoria is currently hosting an exhibition called 'Napoleon from Revolution to Empire' and on Bastille Day opened until midnight so Melbournians could flock to see it.

And so they did.

I also went. We had tickets for the 9-11pm session, along with numerous other people. The queue to get into the exhibition reminded me of the queue at the airport in Bali when two 747s were ready to take people back home to Sydney and Melbourne. It was almost that long, but not quite. 

There was, however, about as much room as on board a plane. Yes, you're right I am exaggerating. Suffice it to say, it was crowded.

This led people to stand in a semi-polite circle around the exhibits taking in the splendors of the Napoleonic era, until someone decided they needed to look closer and ignoring all those peering on from a distance they'd simply walk in front of everyone, stop, and inspect the exhibit from close range. This happened time and time again. 

The lovely people here let me use this image
No matter that I took pains not to obscure anyone's view and stand at a distance, someone would invariably come and stand in front of me, and everyone else. The same thing happened as I read the accompanying description on the wall plaque. In fact once I was standing next to someone, we were both reading the description, then she moved closer to the exhibit and stood right in front of the plaque completely oblivious to that fact that I was still reading it. 

With huge self restraint I only sighed heavily once. After an hour I gave up and simply left. 

A couple of weeks ago I was also at a restaurant/bar, standing next to the bar, while my friend ordered a drink. As I was standing there a young man squeezed in beside me and pushed me out of the way. Apparently I was blocking his use of the EFTPOS machine to pay for his drinks. My self-restraint was not evident on this night and I turned to sarcasm and asked him, “Does that usually work? Pushing women out of the way?” Fortunately he didn’t hit me but mumbled something about using the EFTPOS machine, I assured him that if he’d asked I would have been more than happy to move.

What has happened to Melbournians? Have the majority of people lost any notion of courtesy? No wonder we have road rage and some of the kids I teach are sorely lacking in manners. I am happy to note that’s only some of them, the others have nice manners. However, I am disappointed in Melbournians at the moment. :-(


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers

Taking action after my slow Sunday has left me with sore hips, quads, waist, lower back, upper back, triceps, biceps and armpit muscles. I tried out a vinyasa flow yoga class today. This type of class is more active and dynamic, it’s a solid workout. It was fabulous! I may have found my new obsession; goodbye Bikram.

In a strange turn of events I’d have to thank the on-line dating guy who recommended this class to me. Well, I would except after a few text messages I didn’t hear from him again. But who cares about that?! I have a new yoga class to go to, yay!

After this class, which had me beaming and enjoying the endorphins rushing hither and thither, I headed down Glenhuntly Rd in search of a late lunch. I found a nice little café, Mr Guy, playing some funky music with a courtyard out back where I could sit in the sun and bask.

The owner took care of me like I was his favourite niece. He brought a cushion out for me to sit on, he changed the shade umbrella so I would get some sun and he played some very mellow music - possibly not just for my benefit - for me to get my zen on with.

Here’s where I come off sounding ignorant.

When I asked who was that terribly mellow man singing the owner replied Leonard Cohen. I was shocked that I’d never heard Leonard Cohen sing, and I told the owner so.

“I can burn the CD for you if you like,” he offered.

Laughing, not considering he was actually serious, I replied, “What now?”

Yes, indeed. Now.

I have a Leonard Cohen’s Greatest Hits in my car now. I will obviously have to buy some of his CDs. My immediate favourite, with violins - oh, how I love violins - was Dance me to the end of  love. (And surely it's a tango too?)

Following this interlude I decided I should possibly stay home for the rest of the day as Monday had already peaked. Not so.

That evening I went to a Tango class with a friend. In direct contrast to the salsa crowd the men at this class were lovely and encouraging. I had some issues with walking backwards. Who knew? However, one of my partners told me it takes months to learn to walk backwards properly. Then we tried another more complex step.

In theory when they show me the girl’s part I can follow it, although perhaps not as quickly as everyone else. However, when I then danced with a man my steps completely left my brain. It was OK though as each partner just guided me through my steps. Sigh.

When I got home after the class, I figured out how the initial instruction went with actually dancing with someone. Ah. Now I see the light.

This class was about as far removed from our Saturday night salsa experience as possible; I will be a regular there from now on.

Ah, the kindness of strangers.

Stella x

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Dross . . .

(Don't say you weren't warned.)
Have lost some of my blogging buzz recently, possibly because I've been busy going out and enjoying myself. This is a good thing as you can never have enough dancing and socialising. Well, actually you can if you're a bit of an introvert like me and need some down time after said dancing and socialising but for the rest of it, it's been great.

Except last night. We hit the First-Saturday-of-the-Month salsa night in town. The previous two times we'd been there I thought the night had potential. I thought if we persevered and kept going we'd get to know people and spend more time dancing and less time standing around trying to look relaxed, like I'm enjoying the music, and yet keen to dance, or to ask to be danced. 

It worked twice. This is not enough times for me to pay money to go, to watch the crowd who are 'in the know' greet each other effusively, dance with each other, and occasionally rudely shove past you on their way to the dance floor. We devised numerous strategies to increase the likelihood of being asked to dance like standing near the dance floor so we'd get asked to dance, then moving to another place because other women stood in front of us, separating so that we were clearly there by ourselves and there simply to dance etc. 

We ended up leaving as we felt uncomfortable there. This is not what dancing's meant to be about. It's meant to be about enjoying the music and having a great time. We will not go back. What a shame.

As a consequence I think the night has triggered that lonesome Sunday feeling I used to get. Sunday is usually my rowing day which means I get to exercise and socialise but I've suspended it this Sunday to get rid of this chest infection once and for all. 

So what am I doing instead? Clearly I am wasting my Sunday away surfing the net. . . in my defence I did get up and walk the dog and chat to the neighbours but since then, yes, have been surfing. I may be having some sort of existential crisis: if I got a 'real' job would that give me meaning? But then I like not having a 'real' job and having freedom. (Not sure how I think surfing the net is going to help.)

If I did something useful with my day and went to Bikram, would that give me purpose, but then seems a long way to go to stand in front of a mirror and sweat while trying not to scowl at the woman in front of me who seriously needed to WASH her feet before coming . . .

But enough of that, found this Little Gordon Ramsey. Very funny - you have to overlook the kid swearing, but funny.

And obligatory cute dog picture

(Found it at We know memes. . . somewhere. . . .)

Could I get one of these dogs and take it on the train with me when I go out partying? Then leave it with the bouncer at the venue while I go inside and dance? Then it can escort me home again. I'd call it Cujo, obviously. It'd be perfect. No?

Sunday, 17 June 2012


Sometimes it’s disheartening to be me, I am such a slow learner. To counteract this I have to remember how far I’ve come and count all the baby steps.

For example rowing. Rowing in a straight line is working reasonably well for me now, however, I do still run into trouble when I need to cross the river to go the other way or back the boat. Then it’s as if I’ve just gotten into an alien craft that will not obey any of my directions. And my brain goes into NFI* mode.

As I peer around behind me I see the riverbank looming close, then know I need to steer more to the left or right. However, figuring out which side to row, or to simply plant my oar, is often more a matter of trial and error than actually knowing what I’m doing. Still. (Dammit brain work harder!)

So, this week I need to acknowledge some progress, as small as that may be. I remember the very first time I sculled by myself I swore that rowing wasn’t for me and was just about ready to give it up. Despite having rowed for five months now, I have only rowed by myself four times and this week I didn’t have a mild sense of panic as I crossed the river to go in the other direction, unlike last week. Nor did I end up behind the two poles sticking up in the water causing me to need to back up the boat.  I didn’t get so close to the bank that I couldn’t row either. (Oh, OK, maybe once but I knew what to do this time.)

Backing up the boat still meets with some brain freeze. For a start when you back up the boat you want it to go ‘forward’ in the direction you are seated. In reality ‘forward’ is behind you as you sit backwards in the boat. Then you need to do the opposite of rowing; push the oars away from you. Looking at the end of the oars and hoping your arms will automatically do the rest is not helpful.

I spent some time dithering, talking myself through it as our coach yelled from the bank, “Back it, Stella. Both oars.”

Well, Good Garden Party! if I could just easily do it I would’ve done it already. I knew I had to back it, I’d gone past the start line as we practiced for a race next week. I was meant to be next to someone else instead I'd pulled ahead. (In my defence I thought she'd wanted to me to start rowing.) Yelling at me to “Back up, Stella!” was not helping. Neither was looking helplessly at my arms. “You have to do it quickly!” Didn’t have the desired effect either.

When I returned and spoke briefly to another rower she suggested “B for backing, B for body” and that means I start with the oars at my body, and then push forward. That makes so much more sense for me now I have a starting point. 

I know my brain is acting as if it’s gone on holidays but there’s not a lot I can do about that. I had wondered about the wisdom of entering a race where I have to scull by myself but I figure it’ll be good practice. And I need the practice, it’s the only way I’m going to improve.


* No Friggin’ Idea

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A change of heart, and muscles

I have become a rowing tragic; I have signed up for the Winter Sculling Series. This consists of six sculling events, in a boat by yourself, over the month of July. My aim will be to row in a straight line, not to get caught in any of the garbage traps (they're a hazard, honestly) and not to row into anyone else.

It'd also be nice if I could keep warm. I almost lost the proverbials (you'll have to fill in the blanks) at the regatta. My teeth were chattering and I'm surprised I still need to wear a bra. (There, I've made it easy for you.) To this end I've gone out and bought thermals. 

The upside of rowing is that I'm developing some awesome muscles. I'm really impressing. . .well, myself, actually. I'm sure everyone is sick of me talking about it but it really is an unseemly waste that I am single right now because I look better than I did in my 20s. (Not that I can remember that far back.) An extra bonus is that I can eat anything I damn well please and not worry about it. OK, so this overlooks the fact that I always eat anything I damn well please and not worry about it, but still . . . it's a bonus. Now I just have to  make a bigger effort because I'm hungry more often. I also have this huge "buzz" for a couple of days after rowing. 

Despite my awesome new muscles, I absolutely no longer care that I am single. Or more correctly: I no longer care about finding a man. I don't think this has ever happened to me before. I'm enjoying rowing, working (somewhat), and going out with friends drinking and dancing; so much so that the other day I realized that I'm just enjoying my life and don't care that I'm single, in fact, I'm enjoying the fact that I am single and can blithely ignore anyone else's expectations of me. 

How did this happen? I wish it had happened sooner. I'm no longer doing on-line dating. Yes, I realise that you've heard that before but it's been a couple of weeks now and I don't even have the desire to go and look. I'm not that interested in continuing to go along to the social Friday night drinkies group and chat to the men, I'd much rather hang out with my friends and dance.

Now if I can just sort my working life out everything would be super groovy, baby.

Stella x

Thursday, 7 June 2012

On being a nerd

Despite being incredibly hot n' sassy, recent events have confirmed my long held belief that I am a nerd.

Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, after all, someone has to do it. Plus I believe Big Bang Theory is lending nerds some kind of It's-sort-of-OK-To-Be-A-Nerd-Aura.

I was recently on an excursion in which several schools participated. I had wandered outside to sit in the sun at lunchtime. My students were busy chatting to other students. Of the opposite sex. I knew enough not to go and sit with them so I found an empty table and sat down there. 

I was soon joined by two others; they were senior students from another school. They had the kind of poise and self assurance I did not have in my final year of school. They proceeded to chat with me quite pleasantly, apparently showing a genuine interest in where I taught, what subjects I taught etc. 

I was enjoying this little interlude until the moment when "I like your uniform" came out of my mouth, apparently before I could engage my brain. Damn. Such a nerdy teacher thing to say. In my defence it was quite a nice winter uniform. You'll just have to believe me on that one.

I was also likewise chuffed when an ex student stopped to give me a hug the other day. 

And finally, I raved to the Principal today about the quality of some of the work that I am marking. And how enjoyable it is marking it. (Yes, I am being paid to do this marking but still . . . .)

Again in my defence this Year 10 student (probably 16 years old) had written a sophisticated university level thesis - I'd be proud of the piece of work if I had written it myself. Actually I'd be surprised if I had written it myself.

Now I think about it there is more evidence. When out dancing on Saturday night I recognized a guy I had danced with a month previously. He was such a good dancer I was secretly hoping he'd be there again this time and ask me to dance. S-o-o-o encouraged by my friend to say hello I wandered over and told him I remembered dancing with him last time. 

My friend didn't tell me to be a nerd, she encouraged me to say hello. I managed to be a nerd all by myself. I mean, "I remember dancing with you last time" is hardly the best opening line I've ever heard. 

His friend then also proceeded to be less than socially graceful as he mocked me by saying, "Gee, it must've been a memorable dance then! Haw, haw."

He didn't actually say "haw haw" I just threw that in there to get some of my own mocking back.

It's a good job I've taken up rowing as I believe this redeems some of my nerdiness.  See Exhibit One below, my very first regatta. We called ourselves Operation River Storm.

That's me at the end, in the bow of the boat. (See how good I am with the terminology?)
Actually, no I don't believe the rowing does redeem me. I was at the library today; I have lost my library card. I discovered I know my library membership number by heart. Sigh. But that's only because I've been logging on electronically to download free ebooks to my ipad. (That reason doesn't help, does it?)

Stella x

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Pet magpies

Come spring, when rogue magpies determinedly swoop the magpie is no one's favourite bird, except my Dad's. 

Here in Australia, from September onwards magpies can start getting territorial about their nests and will swoop and attack unsuspecting passer bys. Local council never want to get rid of these pests and just call them 'rogue' magpies. Nevertheless, having spent the last 12 years walking dogs of every description, twice a day, I have been swooped myself. 

As a result I am not a fan of birds. Even when they don't swoop.

So imagine the scene: my Dad's house in the hills. He has been doggy-sitting my dog all day, and now that I've turned up she's antsy to get home. I collect my bag, call the dog, and open the back door. Whereupon a magpie swoops down towards the door with a flutter of feathers.

I emit a small shriek and close the door quickly. The dog's head gets in the way. I re-open the door, let the dog pull her head in, and then close it quickly.

Turning to my father I implore, "You go first and save us from that magpie."

"Don't panic, it's just a baby. You can see he's all fluffy still. He's just wanting some food."

Last nesting season my dad fed the magpies and turned them into pets. (As you do.) Now the baby magpie thinks he lives there. In fact, he thinks my dad is his dad. Magpies as pets. Not cool.

However, dad also maintains four possums as pets. He has possum boxes for them outside in the trees, which is a better alternative than having them rampaging around in your roof. They sound like baby elephants in the middle of the night. He also regularly feeds them apples. 

The possums don't bother me, the pet magpie does.

Emma doing her infamous 'lean' on my Pa
I'll stick to pet dogs.

Friday, 25 May 2012

No, I'm not big boned either. . .

I swear the next person who tells me I'm rather skinny, or too skinny, or very thin is getting to get socked right in the mouth. I'm sick of people pronouncing judgement on me. I don't make it my business to tell people they need to lose weight, or exercise a bit more, or even exercise at all, but people seem to think it's OK to tell me about how I look.

Fine, give me a compliment but don't decide for me how heavy I should be or that I need to put on more padding. The latter advice is because I frequently complain of being cold; I am always one jumper colder than everyone else. 

"Well, you have no padding on your bones," they tell me. 

It got to the point where I asked the doctor about it as I do find I need several layers of clothing to stay warm. She told me I'm in the healthy weight range but turned it around and said that everyone else generally has one jumper more padding on their body than me. I'm OK. I'm healthy: that's just how I roll, that's my metabolism, and my body type. Possibly I should move somewhere with a hotter clime, she advised. 

I have weighed around this weight for the last two decades, give or take 2kg. For the record I'm 5"6' and usually 56/57kg. I'm fairly certain that this is a normal weight for me: I don't diet, I don't exercise obsessively, I eat chocolate, I eat too much cheese for sure, I drink moderately. Granted I rarely eat junk food but that's a healthy lifestyle choice. I think about what I put into my body and try to make it healthy. I eat until I'm full, and then I stop. 

To put on weight I'd have to stop listening to my body, and I don't think that's particularly helpful, and overeat, or eat foods higher in fats more often. None of which make me feel very good.

Perhaps I should stop exercising to please these people? At the moment I'm not doing too much at all anyway. I row once a week and have only been getting to yoga once or twice a week also. I've only been managing to dance once every couple of weeks too. 

The rowing is, however, toning me quickly but that's just my body type. I've always had skinny arms and legs, now they're fairly toned and muscular: a little bit of exercise and my body responds quickly. I feel fit and healthy. The exercise helps my slightly manic brain calm down and it helps me sleep at night. 

All in all I feel I have a quite a balanced approach to food and exercise, so why do people think it's OK to tell me I'm too thin? I'm just getting crotchety about it now, people, please butt out!

Stella x

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Credit card rage

I have been trying to contact my credit card provider to check on a purchase I made but I got some basic information wrong: my full name, date of birth, and my mother's maiden name. Apparently. Or one of these, they won't tell me which one and they won't let me guess again. 

The upshot is they won't help me as some of my details are incorrect. What? How can I possibly have got any of those wrong? On occasion I can be a bit dimwitted but this really takes the cake. 

I ranted. This did not help. (The chocolate I'm munching on and the wine I'm drinking is helping though.) 

The problem is I recently received a new credit card, with a slightly new a number, and a new PIN which I paid no attention to whatsoever as I never, ever use the PIN. Let's face it, if I can't remember such basic details as my name and D.O.B. how can I possibly remember another PIN?

My brain is already overloaded with these PINs or passwords:
  • One for my bank account
  • One for my mortgage loan
  • One for my other bank account
  • One for
  • One for my google account
  • One for my teacher registration
  • One for mobile phone account
  • One for ebay
  • One for a site where I get to use their photos for my blog (but only if I log on 1st)
  • One for logging onto the system at work
  • One for the photocopier at work
  • One for Facebook (even though I'm fairly anti-facebook & rarely use it)
  • One for each of the three email accounts I have (I know, three: excessive)
  • One for an online food ordering company (rhyming with Kite n' Breezy)
  • One for the library service (Probably the most important one as far as I'm concerned)
  • One for NaBloPoMo (I can't even get their web address correct unless I say it really slowly)
  • One for BlogHer (I always forget that one)
  • One for the internet dating site (I also have to remember my user name here)
  • One for the Meetup groups I belong to - I'd hate not to be able to go drinking with them
  • One for my internet provider
  • One for Paypal
  • One for my Citylink/Eastlink  account (A toll system that gets me into town more quickly)
  • My phone number and postcode (yeah, I'm just being silly now)
  • The PIN for a stamp company in the UK where I once bought my long suffering Pa a black penny stamp for his birthday
  • The PIN for my new you-beaut-GPS account so I can update my maps
And I'm sure there's more. 

I'm confused. In fact, once I actually tried to get money out at the ATM using my photocopy number. Needless to say it didn't work.

Anyway, my point is my brain is FULL, I cannot possibly remember another PIN so when I got my new credit card I didn't even look at the PIN. This was a mistake. To log on I need the PIN. Or I need to get some of my personal details correct.

I failed.
I got very annoyed.
I rang them and ranted.
It didn't help.

I went looking for another credit card provider. 
I found one: Virgin money. 
I started to apply.
They wanted to know my marital status.
I wanted to know why they needed to know my marital status.
How can it possibly make any difference to them?
So I asked them.
They couldn't tell me.

So I will look for ANOTHER credit card provider. Preferably one where I don't have to remember anything. (This is very, very annoying as I know my current credit card details off by heart.)

That sound you can hear? Yeah, that's me grinding my teeth.

Stella x

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Injuries: self inflicted and stupid

For some reason I have not been very motivated to exercise during the past week. It may have something to do with my cold. (Is that why they're called a 'cold'- because you feel very cold?)

With over one kilogram of chocolate sitting in my spare room this has been making me slightly anxious as if I don't exercise AND eat all of that chocolate - which is inevitable at some point - then fairly soon I gonna have to kiss 57kg goodbye and go buy me some fat jeans. 

So I hauled my butt off the couch last night and did some yoga. Stupid me. I did ye olde basic Surya Namaskar (yeah, I'm showing off, that's the Sun Salute) and then some hand balances. I do like the crow balance, or Kakasana.

Crow pose involves balancing all your body weight (yeah, all 57 kg) on your hands, while tucking your knees behind your arms. The video above shows how useful it is to have a helper. I didn't have a helper which might explain why it feels like I've strained my wrist. However, that's OK because the other danger is that you might fall forward onto your face; better a sore wrist than a black eye.

So today I went rowing; where one flexes one's wrist back and forth as one manipulates the oar. 

A note to the wise: this is not a good idea if your wrist is already sore. 

(I don't actually know if I suck big time at rowing, or just small time, or actually have some competence. I'd be surprised if it was the last option but I am enjoying it. Except when we get rained on. And really, I wish I knew, or at least was given more instructions so I know where I stand, or er row.)

As a consequence I have decided not to go salsa dancing tonight, the very first time someone spins me I think it will strain my wrist. At least with salsa I know I have some competence. Someone even told me recently I was a good dancer after showing me such a good time on the dance floor I thought I was a pro! So it's a shame I'm not going because it always feels good to know you can do something. Especially when you can do it without hurting yourself. 

Ha!  Which reminds me of the good old days when I used to do unsupported headstands . . . until the day I toppled over completely and strained and sprained all sorts of things in the pelvic area. It was no laughing matter- walking was an issue.


Stella x

Saturday, 19 May 2012

I'm impressed

To paraphrase Cher from Clueless: I must give myself snaps for partying two days in a row. I am definitely not as old as I thought I was. (And don't be thinking that means I'm gonna tell you how old I turned when I had my birthday - involuntarily - on the 17th.) 

When my birthday hit a couple of days ago I resisted my natural tendency to avoid doing anything and organised dinner with a friend. Then work said she had to work so she had to cancel and I decided to go out drinking and dancing with another friend. Then I made the fatal error of saying I'd see who else I could rustle up for the 'celebration.'

Now being somewhere in my 40s I have very few friends who want to go out clubbing midweek they're all so responsible. Or married with kids. Or have given up their clubbing ways long, long ago. As I stressed about this I eventually came up with a handful of friends who were happy to come out. Phew,  pressure's off - I do stress about these things. We ate sushi first and then hit the nightclub and danced, danced, danced. It was fun.

The next night I went out again drinking. (I am doing too much drinking, for sure.) I was totally impressed with myself for being out there partying again. I thought I might be past all that but not so. I chatted to various people and even met a man who had been married three times. Three times? That's very impressive if inexplicable.

What, was he such a romantic that he rushed off to the altar on a frequent basis? Where did he find three women he wanted to marry? I've only managed to find one man and these days I can't even find a man I'd like to date more than once. 

Anyway, was meant to go out again tonight to see an 80s band but just could not muster up the enthusiasm. The trouble seems to be that I go along to the Friday drinks thing and chat to people. That part is OK, it's the part where I start focusing on looking for eligible men that is my undoing. 

I have met lots of interesting women, who have become friends, but fewer interesting men.  Some of the men have been a little strange too. One of them started a fight with my friend because she interrupted him. Others have been married three times - I know I've already said that. Sorry, I just can't get over it. Others flirt with me and then don't follow through, at all. But next time they're all keen to flirt with me again. It's all very mystifying. The women have been interesting, a lot of them anyway, there's one or two who don't won't give you the time of day but many of them have been lovely. 

It can get very disheartening when you start looking for someone to date in the crowd. At some undetermined point I started to do just that. I wonder how I go back to just enjoying being out and chatting? I must stop looking, looking, looking. It's exhausting and demoralising. 

So tonight it's just me and my new best friend: Whitman. 

This is what my sister thinks I need for my birthday. That's MORE than 1kg of chocolate. Who in their right mind needs that much chocolate? I've had to give it a room of its own it's so big.

We'll sit around on the couch and try not channel surf, just me and Whitman. I won't be looking for hot men on the TV.  I'm going to be all grown up about it and just stop bloody well looking for a man.

(Yeah, yeah, you can stop laughing now.)

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

When I grow up I want to a be a professional writer

I guess the use of the word "professional" implies you get paid for writing. Yeah, that's what I'd like.

Sunday last I was huddled in the boat shed down on the Yarra, watching the rain come down so hard it bounced off the pavement, and shivering. And regretting agreeing to being in a regatta as that meant I was obliged to turn up to practice with the rest of my crew, there being four of us in the boat.  And pondering exactly how long it would take before I was soaked through. (This paragraph right here may be the reason I'm not a professional writer.)

Three of us were there waiting on our fourth; let's call her Ernestina. (I'm currently reading The French Lieutenant's Woman.) Anastasia- yep - made that one up too - was muttering something about killing Ernestina if she didn't turn up, I was mentally agreeing while chomping down on my Strepsils and feeling sorry for myself. 

As we waited the discussion turned to professions. Our coach revealed that he was a professional writer, as if he didn't already have enough cachet being an experienced rower. 

It's at this part of the conversation I always start to feel slightly jealous of everyone else's profession. 'English teacher' just has no glamour attached to it at all. I mean, I can (sometimes) corral 30 students and keep them captivated while teaching them the basics of dialogue, but it's not the same as writing scripts for a living.  I decided to leave the first part of that teaching description out and revealed, "I'm an English teacher, apostrophes are one of my skills." It almost sounds good when you say it like that, doesn't it?  

I was immediately gratified when Anastasia (a research fellow in Psychology - sigh, I'm so easily impressed) asked for clarification on an apostrophe point. But still . . . an English teacher. Maybe I want to be a professional writer too, wonder how I do that?

So I asked a friend. OK, actually, I was having a bit of a whinge but she pointed out you go and do some research and do some courses and get qualified etc. Yep, she's write (get it?) I pondered, so I went and did some research.

This looks very interesting, and promising, I thought discovering you can do something called a Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing. Ooh, I'd enjoy doing that. Oh, it's $18,000. That would involve a fair bit of emergency teaching to be able to fund that.  I wouldn't enjoy that so much.

Plus, well, let's face it I'm not that motivated to write, am I? I've done lots of short creative writing courses and enjoyed them, plus started my first best-selling novel What's a Nice Girl Like Me Doing in a Place Like This? but 'started' is the key word here. And I'm only blogging sporadically these days, the wild enthusiasm I had when I first started speaking up has dwindled. 

Maybe what I need is a writing buddy? We could write a chapter each, young adult fiction, I think. How hard can it be? Have you read Harry Potter? Really? That, and all the subsequent books were best sellers. And made into movies. All of them. And let's not even talk about that Twilight Series - it's just an overly long, anti-feminist, updated version of Romeo and Juliet, complete with sulky teenage sighs.  

Surely I could do better and let the female have a brain and a mind of her own. And, yet all three books were turned into films. Even better, three books turned into four films! And if you thought the books were bad you could only be aghast at how bad the films turned out to be. 

So who wants to write a book with me? We don't have to call the characters Ernestina or Emmeline, promise. 

Stella x

Josie would be a good name though, wouldn't it? ;-)

Sunday, 13 May 2012

In a fair n' just world. . .

. . . when I took up rowing there’d be lots of nice hot single men.

Instead, what I got today was 2 hours of rain with a top temperature of 14 degrees. Plus, I had a cold. So didn’t feel super fantastic to begin with, never mind warm.

To combat this I put on 2 pairs of leggings, 2 t-shirts, a merino wool (apparently they’re very warm) ice-breaker top, a windcheater, and a cap.

This was all pointless as by the time we’d carried the boat out of the boatshed down to the river and dumped it in we were all damp.

By the time we had rowed 2km we were all soaked.  This was fine while we were actually rowing because at least the activity involved keeps you warm. It was when we stopped and our coach took the time to correct the finer points of our technique that we got cold. And wetter.

By the time we got back I smelt like a wet lamb. My hat was wet, my hair was wet, both t-shirts were wet and my underwear was wet. My feet were freezing cold because my runners and my socks were wet.

Again this was fine because once we’d gotten the boat out of the river we had to turn it upside down to empty it of water. Guess where that water runs when you are holding the hull? Yes, onto your feet.

Suprisingly there were NO other boats on the river. There were two ferries, with people on the inside all warm and dry. I bet they enjoyed seeing us hauling ass. We were going fast, but then we were quite motivated to get back.

There was nary a hot man in sight. (Or woman come to that, we were all freezing our proverbials off.)

Stella x 

Friday, 11 May 2012

Sensitivity training required

Am I expecting too much? At the end of the day at work I was offered some marking work and told who the team of markers would be. I did this marking last year also; one of the team will not be able to make it this year.

This is because she is unwell. The person offering me the work asked if I'd heard about our co-worker. I hadn't. "She is dying. She has cancer and when it was operated on it was found to have spread. . . "

It was at this point I thanked the person for the work and rushed out of the room. 

If you knew someone had lost their husband to cancer, and nursed them throughout the whole sad, sad time would you give this person the kind of details I was given? Surely you would use a little more tact to tell that person. Perhaps you would not feel the need to give any details.  

Or is that just me? I left the room in tears. Two and a half years later, I had hoped my crying in public days were over. I then had to walk down to collect my car from where it was being serviced. I semi-collected myself but naturally the car was not ready, and so I stood there embarrassed at my obvious tears and felt obliged to explain them. Again. 


And, of course, the tears are as much for my work colleague as for my own sadness. 

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Dodge ball anyone?

I sucked at P.E. at school . . . actually, not true. Just was quite average. I sucked at the competitive games. It's still not me. I know that because the activities I have done since don't involve stuff like netball, tennis, basketball. . . I have no eye/ball/hand coordination. . . (unless, of course, there's a man involved then I hold my own. . . or his anyway. . . sorry.)

I'm back to CRT work (that's Casual Relief Teaching for the non- teachers amongst us) this term at school. I'm finding this curiously liberating: no preparation, no marking, no Parent-Teacher nights, no meetings, and very little internal politics to worry about. On the downside the work is irregular and you can't tell which classes you're going to get. 

The classes I dislike taking the most are P.E. You have to put the students into teams and generally supervise things you have little understanding of; and because our school is very short on space, you do it in the Hall, which is never heated; and you have no idea you'll be taking a P.E. class when you arrive so you are not dressed in sportswear of any description. 

Being able to come to work in tracky pants and runners would almost outweigh the disadvantages of actually taking a P.E. class but they don't tell you that when they ring you at 7am to see if you want to work. 

Other reasons to dislike taking P.E. classes include:

1/ Generally 25% of the class don't want to "play" so to speak. And if you don't know their names it's hard to yell at them to participate. Even if you do know their names they're sullen teenagers and they just ignore you anyway. (Ah the joys of teaching. Frequently makes me glad I have dog, not a child, who never whines or casts me dirty looks.)

2/The PE staff assumes everyone knows PE games that you can get the kids to play. Not so. I do not know how to umpire basketball or netball and I'm not prepared to put someone else's whistle into my mouth to get their attention. Ick. I'm not sure how to organise them into Bench ball or the other thing that they always use as a warmup . . . I should be familiar with it by now but, alas, no. 

3/ Sometimes they have to work on their own choreography for a dance routine or cheerleading. I may be able to salsa, but that's because someone else is leading. The girls know moves as if they've all been part of a professional dance video of one of the current songs. Seriously. I look like an elephant next to them. They could all be Britney Spears' back-up dancers. 

4/ When they are choreographing a dance to a song it means that song, or worse part of that song, is inflicted on you 20 or 30 times in 70 minutes. It gets tedious after 10.

5/ The PE teachers at my high school as I was growing up all appeared to be bitches. Unless you were good at PE they really didn't waste any time on you. As a consequence I hated PE. It's the ultimate irony that now I'm totally into exercise but I still don't like teaching PE much.

Today, fortunately, I was not a PE teacher. Yeeha! I was an Art teacher, I also suck at art big time; a psychology teacher (which is my subject but I got to supervise a student teacher so that was easy); an IT teacher (that's a laugh but they were working on their own projects); and an English teacher - yay - we got to talk about parts of speech. (It's the little things that make me happy.)

Stella x

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

An antidote

After the pathetic-ness of my Slumping Saturday I roused myself from my stupor, extricated myself from the couch, and actually went rowing on Sunday. I had already paid, after all.  

Curiously when I tell people I went rowing they often think I mean on a rowing machine- often even after I have shown them the blisters on my hands. I have to explain I mean in a real boat, on the Yarra, with real oars; that's how you get blisters, not on a rowing machine. It's the manipulation of the oars - squaring them in the water, pulling back, then feathering them out of the water as you slide forward for your next stroke, that creates the blisters.

Anyway, I arrived in a grumpy mood. I didn't want to be there, yet the day before I was completely sick of myself and my inactivity. We got the boat down to the river- often the hardest part, those boats are not light - got the blades in, did up the oarlocks, adjusted our feet so we could come to a full slide, and gently pushed off.

We were in a quad, so that meant we had to row in time with each other, and we were sculling so we had two blades each, instead of just one. (The Aussies among us will remember the Oarsome Foursome: they rowed in a four, with one oar each, so they were sweeping.) Luckily I was in the stroke seat up the 'front' (technically it's the back as you row backwards) and so I kept time, the others followed me. Simple, almost meditative once you get your rhythm.

These guys are sweeping; they also look far more professional than we did!

We rowed all the way into town, I love seeing Melbourne from the water, it's such a different perspective. All up we rowed 9km. Nine km! No wonder my butt hurt and my hands are covered in blisters. But, I felt much more positive after that. 

But also much more tired. Exhausted actually. And hungry. The vegequarian in me didn't stand a chance as when I got home I fried up steak and egg and stacked it on a bun like hamburger with cheese and tomato. 

Thus fuelled up again I also went dancing that night- salsa. Fortunately I had agreed to go with a friend or I would've given that idea up after all the rowing. I'm glad I didn't because it was fun even if I did have to cover my hand in bandaids.

I must remember all this next time I full into a slump and don't want to go to yoga, or rowing, or dancing.