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.