Monday, January 31, 2011

January's Star Calendar

Okay, what's this all about Pandora?

As most regular readers will be aware, I've been waging a pitch battle with my weight for the last 30 years, without much success - actually, I'll rephrase that, I've had some successes and failures, but I've never got this totally in check. Over the last few years, I've caught the exercise bug and I've managed to keep 20 kilograms off my frame (Yes, I was 20 kgs heavier than I am now - and it was awful), so I should look at this as a real achievement.

Weight and fitness is such a personal issue. I've lost friends over it - one inparticular who thought he was being helpful, but instead he came across as cruel, hurtful and completely misguided. Anybody doing this has to find their own way througn the minefield of diet and exercise plans, timings and the like. It's hard work. It's boring - but it can be done.

The time has come to tackle this head on again.

I'm also lucky because I've been spurned on by the successes of some friends who've had long term weight battles. One, in Adelaide, who I keep bumping into in Melbourne, who is looking amazing after shedding 40 kg, and another, in London, who's almost there now. I've known these guys since university - if they can do it - so can I.

The other blessings I count is my wonderful support network - my gym buddies, my trainer, Pinochet, and the girls from the Biggest Loser Club. It's so good to have people around who know what you're going through. People you can talk to about this stuff - so you don't have to bore the pants off your friends and those who don't have to or want to know about this stuff. (Sorry blogosphere - I do try to keep the weight loss stuff to a minimum)

For me, the biggest thing is accountability. How do I keep myself accountable? How to I reward myself for what I'm doing? How do I keep track of what I've done?

This is where the star calendar comes into place.

It's a simple thing really - sourced from the childhood bedwetting therapy. Wake up with a dry bed, get a star. Okay, the last time I wet the bed I was about four years old. But the reward remains. It's a great way to see how you're tracking along. And getting a star makes you feel good. Really good, strangely.
So, for me, if I stick to my calories each day and get at least an hour's exercise, I get a star.

There are a few pitfalls with this. Firstly what defines an hour of exercise? I don't have to kill myself in the gym every day to get the star. Mixing it up with exercise if vital. So along with the session with the trainer, the pump and spin classes, two gentle half hour walks will suffice twice a week - and once a week I get a day off - bodies need rest.

Secondly, calories are a moveable target. My current target is 1600 calories a day. Because life is life, there are going to be days where you go over a bit - some days you'll go under. I'm sticking my the plus or minus 200 calories to get the star - the closer I can stick to the target, the better. It's all about being consistent.

Lastly, there are going to be days where things go pearshaped. One of my greatest problems is I tend to be a bit all or nothing - and I have to change my thinking about this. Fall off the horse - get right back on next meal. None of this, "Oh, I've had a bad day, I'll just keep on being bad and start again." It's one of those bits of stupid thinking that really does me no favours.

Any other bits of wisdom for myself? Well, there's absolutely no takeaway to be had - Subway isn't takeaway as long as it's the healthy versions of it. I'm still allowed to pinch a chip off Glen Waverley's plate when we meet for lunch. Alcohol in strict moderation. And I'm not touching chocolate or biscuits. I'll scoff the lot, so why put them in front of me? I don't buy them and they're not around the house.

As for my vice, ice cream - I factor this into the daily calories a few times a week. This stops the cravings.

It may seem strict and hard, but I'm managing really well.

This all started on the 29th of December, as I said I was going to do. This was the day after I got back from the Christmas break in Adelaide. It was the day I'd planned to start back on this properly, the day set in my head as the day to start - the day when all temptation would be gone and I could do this without any distractions.

Well here is is. January's Star calendar (with the three days overhang from December)  31.5 Stars out of 34.

Not too shabby an effort.

I'm thrilled with myself. The two days missed were New Year's eve were a barbeque was had where I had far too much dessert and beer. The 17th of January I went round to a friend's place - she cooked a lovely risotto, but I couldn't count the calories. I wasn't too far over, but I couldn't give myself a star in good conscience.

The half a star on the 22nd was given as the girls went over to Pinochet's for dinner. The meal was heathly, but again, it couldn't be counted - but a two and a half hour walk in the afternoon had to be counted - hence, half the star.

I'm also five weeks take away and junk food free.

Oh, my reward for all this hard work. Another bead for my Pandora bracelet. No rewarding with food.

No point rewarding with clothes either - I've lost 4 kgs this month - if things keep going well I may have to replace my wardrobe. But let's not put the cart in front of the horse. This is a one day at a time scenario. Like giving up smoking or drinking - it has to be done day by day. It's the only way it can be done.

Wish me luck.


Friday, January 28, 2011

The Seminar

I'm late. Nothing new there. There's a bit of a greatness to my lateness. In this case, five minutes. misjudged the tram and the fact that I had to wear corporate garb - not my favorite mode of dressing - it takes time to look like invisible.

I feel so out of sorts, clad in a grey suit, a new blue shirt that looks not only fashionable, but rather fetching (I love cobalt blue). My sensible heels shoved in a bag and my feet in my comfy flats. I'm not wearing stockings. I don't wear stockings unless their the opaque ones worn in winter. Stockings are a form of corporate torture. My hair has been straightened, I have a light make up mask on, nothing to heavy, just some mineral foundation, a touch of blush, gentle eyeshadow, eyeliner only on the top lid, mascara and some rose pink lip gloss. I don't like wearing that much makeup normally (I'm and eyeliner and mascara girl) but as I have an interview at three, it has to be done.

Wearing a suit makes me feel like a fraud. Corporate wear is just a disguise. And a uniform, I've not worn a suit for the last three years. I can do what I do for a living just as well in a pair of jeans, or  something neat and tidy. Hell, half of my documents written from home were written in my pyjamas and a dressing gown, my feet shoved in the clog slippers (pantoffels) that Glen Waverley and Merijn brought me back from the Netherlands.

Mary, the receptionist at the career consultants, points at me to take a name badge - another major dislike of the corporate world. Give me anonimnity any day. Then, as she placates a person on the end of her bluetooth headset, points me towards the conference room where the seminar has just started.

Interviewing skills.

My career consultant said I should go along.

The ten people around the table look at me. Four men in their late forties/early fifties with mismatching hairlines. A faux bald bloke in t-shirt, shorts and thongs, a bit younger with an easy smile. Four women in standard issue, Millers pull on slacks and Oprah bright shirts. Also there was the the convener, a well turned out woman with a penchant for overusing expensive silver jewellery.

I was in for a fun two hours.

Walking in, the standard corporate seminar technique was taking place. Introduce the person next to you. The others in the room were busy interrogating each other. Thankfully, I would be the odd one out."You'll have to introduce yourself." The convenor told me, silverware clanking. Never to mind. It gave me a few minutes to check my email on my phone.

What surprised me, when the introductions started, was the room was full of senior and middle management. Bankers, lawyers, trainers, Chief Financial Officers - and me - coalface business analyst and word nerd. All but one had been retrenched though corporate restructures. The last one, the guy in the shorts, was on endless gardening leave as the bank for which he worked couldn't find him a position in Melbourne after he returned from one of their European offices. He'd been on gardening leave for four months now.


Without exeption, everybody in the room was used to interviewing people, not being interviewed. Most of the people spoke quietly, some more confident than others. There was a look of defeat in some of their eyes. Others held an indignant anger as they told their stories. Some, like me, saw being retrenched as one of the best things to have ever happened to them. Mr Gardening Leave thought it was great that the bank was paying him his six figure salary to take his kids to school.

As instructed, we had to give examples of positive and negative elements to interviewing.

They got to me last. I still felt fraudulent in my grey suit. I gave my schpeil.

"Hi, I'm Pand. I'm a business analyst in  the test and I.T. space. Business Analyst is just a fancy word for Geek Liaison - I talk to the nerds - I talk to the business - and play translator to both. I'm good at saying,"No, can't have that, because pink isn't a corporate font".  I've only interviewed four people to date because my boss at the time was too lazy to do it. As a contractor, I'm used to being interviewed. I use it as a chance to see if the person I'm possibly working for is a wanker or not. If they're a wanker, I don't take the job - nothing worse than working for a nob. And I trust my instincts.On the good side of interviews, if they show you the tea room, you're in. On the bad side, when you know you don't want to be there, how do you stop yourself fidgetting as you work out how you can get out gracefully. I've only once said,"Look, thanks for seeing me, but I don't think I'm the person you're looking for."

It's often hard being the odd one out at these sorts of things, though this time, being the one who wasn't the manager, wasn't the competition, and also the one in the room who was used to being interviewed, made it a bit easier.

We looked at preparation - things I do before interviews - look over the description, research the company, know where you're going and who you're seeing, make sure your clothes are set out the night before... practical, sensible stuff that I do without fail.

Then we had some interview practice. Looked at how to get around behavioural questions that occassionally trip me up. I got some great feedback from the guys in my team. The head honcho lawyer in our group was very reticent. Gardening Leave and I suggested some acting lessons to loosen up.

The two hours went fairly quickly. On exiting the seminar, after filling out the mandatory feedback sheet, the convener wished me well. "You'll be fine, you know what you're doing."

What was most confronting for me about the session was my other seminar mates. Was this what was to come? Anger, denial, a feeling of hopelessness. Bright over shirts and slacks. That lost look of the great corporate unwanted?

I'm seriously thinking about changing my date of birth. Some of these people were surely about my age. I can't be like them. Most of them were so, so, so suburban. Where did their spark go? Or were they always like this? Desiccated, bitter and lost? And were they like that in their jobs?

I don't want to turn into that sort of mediocrity.

Meeting Alice for lunch after helped sort my head. Alice has a very different slant on everything.

Changing into my sensible heels a few hours later, leaving my flats at the Tin Can, String and Whistle coffee shop,before going to the said interview, I was back to feeling okay.

I was in familiar territory. The people interviewing me were very decent. I got shown where the tea room was from the outside of the building.

I'm on my way.


(p.s. Will get a decision on Monday about the job - references are in - fingers are crossed)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Attacking Excuses

Well, Sweet F.A. Day was such a success I reckon I'll try to schedule one in every fortnight. It was a bit of a revelation. Okay, so I ended up taking in an eleven kilometre walk, did some job stuff, went to the gym and did some cleaning - not really doing nothing, but I did it on my own, in my own time, with nobody around asking for my time, advice or energy. It was wonderful. People contact was done on my terms. I came out of the day feeling refreshed and happy. It also set me up for a new set of challenges.

I really have no excuse to not do it again soon.

I've started to look at my excuses for why I don't do things. Most of it comes down to unfounded fear.

In my New Year's Resolution to do something I've never done once a week, it was time to face the biggest gym fear of all. Body Attack.

In my gym career to date I've tended to stick with that which I know about. Pushing weights, seeing Pinochet, cardio machines, rowing, Pump class, running and of course, spinning class. All good. Yet the two classes they offer at my gym more than others were the ones I've never been to - BodyCombat and BodyAttack.

When I went to Combat last week I loved every minute of it.

So when Kitt texted saying I should come to Attack on Monday, I jumped at the chance. If I could do Combat, surely I could do Attack - well that was the theory.

There were a few bonuses to going to this class. Firstly, the instructor, Claire, is a favorite from Sunday morning Pump - that made things feel a little better - knowing Claire, I immediately felt supported - she's used to seeing me rock up just as the doors are closing on Sunday. And allegedly, Kitt would be nearby to make sure I didn't get up to too much mischief..

Secondly, after the experience of BodyCombat - knowing I could do the class and not die, why shouldn't attack be the same? Okay, from the outside it looks like a sponsored group epileptic fit - but maybe it wouldn't be that bad? I could only try. I let Claire know about my current knee problem, she said she'd give me lower impact stuff to do. Then I looked around for Kitt. She wasn't there. Bummer. Would have to go this one alone.

Turns out, once again, my fears were unfounded. Once again, I had a ball. Once again, I kept up well and wasn't a hyperventilating wreck at the end of the class. Once again my fears proved unfounded.

I saw Kitt come in the gym through the corner of my eye. She didn't stop to wave, so I gathered she hadn't saw me. We caught up later - I had to thank her for getting me there in the first place.

So in the past three weeks, I've taken a baby for swimming lessons, done a Body Combat and Body Attack class - what other new things will I find to do now?

So if I'm looking at all my fears, and the excuses I have that keep me from reaching my goals I suppose I have to look at the elephant in the room. Weight loss.

With all of the focus on diet and exercise over the last month, I'm half wondering why I did this - but Ive decided I need to tackle a few demons in my road to reaching a healthy weight.

I'm the first one to pat myself on the back for a start. In the last few years I'm managed to keep 20 kilograms off my frame, get really fit and begin to see myself as something more than a fat, lazy, ugly blob. Since Christmas, I've been back on the wagon - being brilliant with what I eat, keeping my exercise up and losing a few kilos - which feels great. Yet I still feel there needs to be a bit more structure.

In keeping with challenging myself, I've signed up for the Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation Challenge. It's something some of the girls from the Biggest Loser Club are doing to give ourselves a kick up the bum - and I've joined them.

The program starts in earnest on the 21st of February, but in the meantime, we've been set some homework to prepare ourselves for the task ahead. The first task - look at the excuses you make for not losing weight, or not getting to your goals.

Hmm. Well. let me see. What are my excuses for not losing weight. Not exercising. Not getting down to my goal weight. I'm doing all these things - I've been doing all these things (though the last six months of last year wasn't pretty - but you have to know when to calm it down)

My excuses, it appears, all comes down to fear.

I know I tend to use the busy excuse at times for not exercising - but I know how to come out of this one well. I can't use the no time to cook excuse any more. The last few weeks have got me back into the good habits again. I also don't have the all or nothing approach any more. Fall off the horse as little as possible and get straight back on again - none of this, "Well, I've been bad today, may as well continue" rubbish. Treats, such as the odd bit of ice cream, are also factored in in strict moderation.

So what's my problem? What's my greatest fear about losing weight. After a lot of soul searching , it comes down to two things. I have no concept of what it is to be slender (I'm not using the words thin or skinny - I want to be healthy - not anorexic) The last time I was around my goal weight was during first year university - where I was told to lose ten kilos by the uni doctor - I remember being so humiliated, I never went back there.

The second is more insidious. I get scared when I feel attractive. I don't know how to cope with this. I remember a boss of mine struggling with this - and I know last time I was down around my slimmest two years ago I was feeling the same thing. There was more attention. There were positive comments. There were furtive looks, flirting even. I could buy flattering clothes. And I didn't cope that well.

It seems this is what I have to start dealing with. Conquer these fears and maybe the rest will follow.

Just how I'm going to do this, I have no idea - but at least I know what the fears and excuses are now. That is the true start of the battle. Wish me luck.

On a less angst-ridden theme, the rest of life is moving on nicely. The job hunting is beginning to pay dividends. I've got an interview with the Department of Education for a two month contract tomorrow. Recruitment Consultants are calling back now, so hopefully they will be finding me something suitable soon. I'm hopeful. I feel that employment isn't too far away. The cards are looking good regardless.

As for the situations in the last blog, well, there's been nothing more from Lorelei. I've banished that one from my head - the less said the better.

My aunt, on the other hand, is still very poorly. It's a dreadful situation - she's not improving at the moment. At least I have my sympathy back now and can feel bad for her - and send love to my Uncle and his family. In such a situation, you can't do much more. My heart goes out to them.

The situation puts a lot of things in perspectives. My demons are small compared to what other people are going through at the moment. Because of this I've got no excuse to hunt them down and conquer them.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Sweet F.A.Day

I've designated today, Sweet F.A. Day. This is the day that I don't have to do anything. I'm not due anywhere, I don't have to see anybody, I don't have appointments, dates to keep, people to see, things to do. I am allowed to sit here and do Sweet F*ck All.

If I so choose.

Which is why I'm blogging.

Sweet F.A day was organised in a knee jerk reaction to events of the last week, where it felt like everybody wanted a little bit of me. Okay, it's nice to be wanted, but it was reaching levels of the ridiculous.

So today the phone is off - actually, it's on vibrate - I can pick it up if I so choose. I haven't scheduled anything, and it feels lovely.

Back to last week, I'd got to the stage where I'd overscheduled stuff. I know I do it - I do it all the time. This was the universe's way of telling me to slow down, relax and enjoy. It was have this no schedule day or get a migraine. The choice was mine. I chose option one.

Making things slightly worse, it appears everybody I know in the midst of an existential crisis? This is an overstatement, but the world appears to be in hyperdrive and people aren't coping.

The first call came early in the week. Reindert asking if we could have a chat on Skype. I'm never going to begrudge him a moment of my time. As he's one of the most generous people I know, of course I'm going to lend an ear. In the scheme of things, he's not in crisis at all - just finding his way in his new role. It was actually great talking to him as he's the person I wish was still around the most. I also get to scoff at the fact he's entered a 20 kilometre foot race run in minus 20 degree conditions. He can keep that one. After 45 minutes, the world was a slightly better place once again.

The next call came at ten to midnight on Thursday. (This account has been fictionalised to protect identities)

In hindsight, I wish I never took the call. It was Lorelei, an old friend from London.
"Can you talk, Pand?"
"Well it is nearly midnight, Loz."
"Never been good with the time zone thing. I thought it was closer to ten."
"Daylight Savings over here. Okay, you've got me talking. Wassup?"
There was a deep breath and a sob at the end of the line.
"Loz, what's up?"
She slowly gained a modicum of control. "I dind't know who else to call."

I hate those words. I truly hate those words. More than,"We have to talk."

"I've met somebody."
"I'm thinking of leaving Ross."
"Well aren't you going to say something?"

That an old friend calls you from London is lovely. That she calls to tell you that she's thinking of leaving her husband and father of her child - well that's another thing entirely.

"Loz, why are you telling me this?"
"I had nowhere else to go. Ross thinks I'm on a work conference in Italy."
"Where are you calling from?" I asked.
"Lake Como."
"Gorgeous, actually."
I had to ask. I just had to ask.
"Is he with you?"
Silence. "He's a she."
"Oh. Does Ross know?"

None of the conversation phased me at all. I'm the first to acknowledge that you never know what goes on in other people's lives. From the outside, Lorelei and Ross seemed very happy. I'd class them as one of the happiest couples I've known. It appears that Loz met her new paramour at a work function and she was working through all of the emotions and feelings of what she was about to do.

"You're not judging me, are you?" She asked.
"No, of course not. You can do what you please. You're my friend. I don't give a toss if you're gay or straight."
"You sound a little miffed?"
"Of course I'm miffed. I was about to go to sleep and you've told me something that only a handful of others know about. I'm not comfortable keeping some sorts of secrets. This is one of them."
"You won't tell Ross?"
"Of course not. To be honest, that's your job. Besides, he's back in London and he wouldn't know me if he tripped over me."

I also explained that I wasn't angry, or disappointed. A little surprised. I offered no advice or judgement. I just listened.

I was more concerned for Ross and her son. The innocents in the whole mess. It seems this is what was concerning Lorelei more than anything.

An hour later I put the phone down and cried.

Lorelei's call put me in a foul state of mind for a few days. I really hate being stuck with knowledge like that. I'm also aware that my own family sitiation was tugging at my psyche - miserable parents staying together for the kids - that sort of thing. It was crap for everybody. I don't know what will happen with Lorelei - but extrapolating the situation.... I just can't think about it without getting sad. It's also not my place to say anything. I'm staying right out of it. Being on the other side of the world helps enormously.

Saturday took the biscuit. I truly enjoyed every minute of the day, but I was craving some alone time. Chance's swimming lesson, followed by a massage, then a client, them some cleaning, the out to Pinochet's for dinner with the girls from the gym. A fun night was had but I got home at 1 a.m.- exhausted.

The cherry on top of the existential angst came last night. My Stepdad called to tell me that a dear Aunt had been in a nasty accident. This Aunt - actually my Mum's best friend who's been like a surrogate mother to me, came a cropper while she and my Uncle were up the river on their boat. A few days on, she's still in a rotten way. She's lost an eye, she may have difficulties with the other. She's not really conscious. It's a bloody mess. My heart goes out to them. However, when my stepdad asked how I felt about all this all I could say was, "Well, at least she has another eye and this will get her off the roads - they should have taken her licence away years ago."


I'm officially out of sympathy and empathy. As healer, one of the greatest lessons you'll ever learn is knowing when you can't fix something. I can't fix this. I can't bring back her eye. I can send love and courage, but I won't bring her eye back.

And I'll book a trip to Adelaide in a few weeks to go see her.

Which is why today is Sweet FA Day. Time to get my energies back. Time to give some love and time for me.

And what have I done on Sweet FA Day so far?

Umm. Well I met Gloria and Gaynor for a walk around the Tan and a coffee this morning. My choice. I extended ithe walk out to go collect my mail and take the long way back to the car - eleven kilometres in all.

I've done some job hunting. Sent off some applications. Know I have a couple of interviews coming my way.

I'm writing this blog.

I'll toddle off to Pump Class at 5.45 and maybe do some shopping after the gym.

Later I'll get the car ready for the trip down to Mordialloc for my weekly massage session, my current money spinner, for which I have to be out the door at 8.30 am.

But that is my version of doing Sweet F.A. I've not talked to anybody. I've not given to anybody but myself. I feel wonderful that I've had some down time to do what I like, with no schedule. And I feel myself coming back to the fold once more.

My dream version of a do nothing day would involve a king sized bed, a large, fit, not too flabby man with a slightly furry chest, soft hands and willing wobbly bits. Staying power, fresh pineapple and raspberries, good coffee, some tea and tonic water and the nearness of a good shower would all be required as well. Oh, with some Jane Austen to go on the DVD between scrums. Yeah.... But I haven't had a Sweet FA Day like that for many years and I should stop tormenting myself thinking about it.

Might put that on the list of things to do for this year too.

Pandora smiles whistfully as she locates her heart rate monitor and considers going to the gym.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Reluctant Pugilist

I'm growing used to the ups and downs of being in this state of between jobness. For the most part, my tactic of making sure I'm pretty busy works in keeping my moods in check. Then there are times when the doldrums strike and I have to work out how to get myself back on track.

Today, on waking, there was a little feeling of sadness. Her Royal Highness went home yesterday and she's left big hole - thankfully not in the furniture, but her little, happy, cuddly presence was no longer in the flat. I was becoming used to waking up to a cuddle first thing in the morning (well, the cuddle came after I'd deigned to feed her... bloody cats).

Then came the time to plan the day. An hour of reading, writing, job hunting, exercising and cleaning. I set myself the spin class at lunchtime at the gym for the exercise portion of the day. Writing was the first job off the ranks, challenging myself to submit an article to the local paper. Cleaning would take place once the article was in. Job hunting was relegated to after the gym and reading would take place before going to dream group. All nice and orderly.

To some, this might seem like an anal way to plan the day, especially when I'm effectively on holiday, but I like the order and the structure. I like to think that I'm doing something constructive with the time.

By eleven, the article had been sent in and I was half way through the ironing pile. I was dressed in my gym gear ready to get all sweaty on a stationary bike for an hour when the call came in. Uncle Mike, an old family friend. The sort of old family friend who calls me Pandy, drops by whenever he's in Melbourne (just as I do when I'm in Brisbane) and I love catching up with him and his wife. He and Aunt Joan are some of the lovely people from my childhood. He said they'd be over in half an our to take me to lunch.

Bugger, there goes spin class.

They turned up in their converted bus cum motor home. One of the best things about Uncle Mike is that you'd never know what sort of vehicle he'll be turning up in. He's taken me to school in everything from a semi-trailer to a fifty seater luxury bus to a Rolls Royce. Uncle Mike used to do something with transport - I've never been sure what exactly, but it appears he never goes anywhere in the same vehicle twice.

After a leisurely lunch at the Ikea Cafe, they went off back to Brisbane and I got stuck into the job hunting and the ironing.

It was then the doldurms struck. Exercise - what to do? Being due at dream group at 7.30 what were the options?. I'd texted Pinochet to see if he wanted a training partner. He texted back "Haha, I'm training with a couple of guys today. You train with the other girls. That's why they are there. You're funny but I love your enthusiasm." Piffle. He's just scared I'll show the grunty boys how it's done. Without stopping to pose after ever ten reps. Probably a blessing looking at it now. I don't like posers.

Then the cry went out. Bless Facebook. " Pandora Behr is trying to find the motivation to do something constructive. Since my lunchtime spin class was rudely taken away I'm a bit lost."

Emm and Kit came to the rescue. Emm said come into the city and do spin with her. Kit said come to BodyCombat class.

Over the past few years, one thing that I've had pressed into me - exercise is far more fun if you do it with somebody else. I  tend to do the exercise when I know that somebody is waiting for  me at the other end, whether that be the gym, the pool or a car park. Other people egg me on to do better, do more, go further - and on some days, just get my sorry bum around a gentle lap of the Tan track (A lap of the Botanical Gardens is one of the nicest city walks in Melbourne with a big hill thrown in for good measure)

I chose the Kit option - Body Combat. Argh. Another new thing. Every time I've looked at the Body Combat class I've dissed it for another sponsored epileptic fit of a class. On speaking to the instructor before we started, I told her of my bung knee. She looked me up and down, told me to take it easy with the kicking and told me to get back to the back row where I could blend in.

Oh, how wrong was I. It was the best fun I've had doing a cardio workout in ages. Burned nearly 600 calories in the class according to my heart rate monitor. Kit kept on looking over at me. After calling her every name under the sun, she could see I was having a ball. I more than kept up. I didn't want to die half way through. I seemed to be doing better than some of the regulars. "See, you had nothing to worry about."

Jabs, crosses, uppercuts, hooks, body blows - just not connecting the punches. Yep, all in my repertoire. I have to work on my roundhouse kicks -  but then again, I'm not Chuck Norris - he's the king of the roundhouse.

Muscle memory is a wonderful thing.

What I haven't told many people. Boxing is the one thing that got me into exercise. Back in London, 15 years ago, the gym in the basement at work ran a boxercise class. I'd just discovered Weight Watchers in the months before and decided to try to do some exercise to help things along. For some reason I chose to do this manic, high intensity class.

I remember coming back from that first lunchtime class the colour of a beetroot, exhausted and barely able to work after, such was the intensity on my poor, unfit, overweight body. This was the first time I'd ever done a real cardio class. I went home after the day, slept for eleven hours that night and could barely move the next day. (see below for obligatory beetroot shot taken after my first sponsored run - I just wish I got my pink geek t-shirt in better)

Strangely - I went back two days later, and again, and again. Two years after that first class I was training with one of Lennox Lewis's old coaches in a grunty boy gym complete with blood on the mat, a canvas ring and obligatory wrist strapping.

Boxing was the class that actually go me into exercise. Since then, I've managed to get over most of my exercise phobias. I've always walked a lot, but I've managed to keep a gym membership and use it regularly. Strangely, I took up running at the ripe old age of 40. I'll do spin class, weights, you name it, I'll do it (except burpees - refuse to do burpees - they give me vertigo)

So now, I'm sitting here, I know I have Latsimus Dorsi muscles (Back muscles to the masses) - they're a bit tight. My right deltoid (shoulder) is a a little achy. But hell, I feel good!

The reluctant pugilist has been awakened.

Next Wednesday, before dream group, I'll be back - punching the air, kicking away the demons, trying to perfect my Chuck Norris roundhouse kick.

And I know I've come full circle.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Three of Swords

I only ever go to have a professional tarot reading when the voice inside tells me to. This only happens once or twice a year at most, when I trot off to Vivienne for a reading. Vivienne used to run the tarot guild. She's one of the best readers in Australia if not the world. She's also one of the more direct, tarot readers around. Another friend who sees her for readings calls a session with her "ripping you a new arsehole." Maybe it's not quite that violent, but it certainly gives you something to think about.

Unfortunately the truth often hurts. Oh, how do I know this one.

There were a couple of reasons why I asked for the reading today. Though I'm pleased with my time off, I was looking for some clarity around the work situation. Also, with all of the changes that have been happening, I want a bit of clarity on a few things. Friends have come, friends have gone, jobs have gone, opportunities are coming. Things are in a bit of a spin.

I've also been drawing the devil card a bit of late. When it come up often it's a sign to talk it out. The Devil is about looking fear in the face. Only I can't quite see what I'm scared of.

There was also another issue that raised it's head during the week which I needed to see a way through. The pain was raising its head again. It was time to address it once more - and not let if fester.

The pain, you ask. Yeah, I call it the pain. It comes when somebody touches a nerve and you don't quite know what to do with that pain. In this case, it was stirred up after reading a friend's blog.

My friend, Aim, is one of the most remarkable people I know. Her blog detailed her history, right through her childhood, through a miserable adolescence, into adult hood. Three years ago, Aim screamed  "Enough!" and started on a journey - the most incredible journey, during which she has shed 75 kgs and had discovered that life can be, and is, wonderful. She's one of my inspirations. She's a wonderful spirit - wise, funny, knowledgeable and brave.  I feel honoured to call her a friend.

Aim's story rang far too many bells with me. In her journey, she's also been addressing the hurt, shame  and pain that were a constant factor in her life. Everything she was saying I could relate to. I know that my story isn't as extreme, but I saw myself in her words.

And then came the 'aha' moment for me. What's going wrong with me in within?  Go back and chat to Viv.

What was stirring in me was old pain. Childhood pain. Teenage pain. The stuff that's been hanging around for what seems like eternity. The stuff that if you don't deal with it comes and bites you in the bum until you either knock it on the head, or die. Three of Swords stuff.

If Aim can look at her demons, so can I.

(Big breath in, big breath out)

So after this morning's massage client I take myself off to Viv. The normal pleasantries. The normal chat about the cat and the computer. The normal preambles. And then the killer.

"The universe has made it apparent that you are supposed to get out there and do this right now."
"Aha." I wanted to say "No shit, Sherlock," but I'm a little less crass than that.
"Everything is going to hinge on the decisions you make next."
"And you don't trust yourself because you've messed up in the past."
I butt in here, "But I'm doing a better job of things lately."
"I didn't say you weren't. But you need to trust every instinct you have from now on."
"Okay. I hear you."

I knew this. Sometimes you need somebody to spell it out for you.

We did a few more rounds. Seems my idea of going contracting is sound - but I know this. I'm happier when things are changing and I get to meet new people and do new things. I should also get a plan together, looking into setting up my own business - but doing what I asked.

And then, the obligatory relationship question. Has to be done. I'm just like everybody else when it comes to this question - what's doing with the lovelife? Everybody asks it. Up comes the Three of Swords. Old pain.

"Well, you're broken. You got broke."
"No shit, Sherlock. Why do you think I sit in that dream group?"
"So you can see that you're not that badly off."
"You're just as broken as the rest of the world. You just have to find a different way out of it."
"It's time to start trusting yourself."
"Aha." I'm tearing up by now.
"You don't know what love is and it scares the shit out of you."
"So what are you going to do about it?"

I consider this for a while. I know she's right. I know I'm a bit broken in some ways. I know I've healed in others. But after all the work, the therapy, the courses and the tarot and navel gazing, I'm still broken, and I certainly don't trust myself in these situations - anything to do with relationships - I buckle and run.

"Well, I'm going to try and fix it. It's the elephant in the room." I say with resolve.
"The elephant in the room?" asked Viv.
"Yeah, the one in the corner you know you have to eat. And how are you going to do it - one bite at a time."

I might have to get myself another star calendar. I have one going for diet and exercise going. Each day I keep within my calories and take at least a half hour walk, a star goes up on the calendar. They use it for toilet training kids, why not use it as a reward system for keeping my health and wellbeing on track.

If only I could work out what I would get a star on the calender for on the other problem. You can't count calories and exercise sessions when it comes to matters of the heart.

Leaving Viv's place, I was a bit unsettled. Lots to digest. Lots to think about.

I'll do double job hunting tomorrow. Today I just need to let myself think and heal. And get to the gym, where I know I work some of this pain out and gather more self-respect with every push, row, step and pull.

One day at a time.

One step at a time.

(Big breath in, big breath out)

Looking fear directly in the face.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Dispatch from the Captive

Is this thing on?

Hello? Hello. Is there anybody there?

Hello, help me. I'm being held captive by the enemy. I need your assistance so I can resume my plan for world domination, as this is the goal of all of my race.

I need to introduce myself properly. Following the rules set out by TS Eliot, Philosopher General of Our Race, I have three names. Officially, I am known to others in my race as Her Royal Highness, Princess Hephzibah Jonquil Hortensia Murgatroyd-Ross. A regal and dignified name, you will agree. My captors have taken a shot of me to demonstrate my undeniable beauty and poise:

My captors also have the audacity call me Miffy. Miffy Ross. Oh, the indignity! I was named by the second youngest of my regular captors. He seems to think that I am half worthy of reverence.

Oh, for heavens sake - how can you run the world with a name like Miffy? Miffy is a Dutch cartoon rabbit, not a creature worthy of running the planet. Mind you, those who choose to keep my race in captivity have the tendency to find degrading names for my friends and fellow race members. Names like Tibbles, Toe Rag, Fluffy, Pussy, Maow Maow, Twinkles - names given to 1950's strippers, not the name of an intelligent, sociopathic, world leader such as myself. Surely names like God, Thor, Zeus or Despot would be far better suited to me and my compatriots.

I also don't come to the names of "Puss, puss, puss", Kitty, kitty, kitty," or "Fur encrusted house demon." "Your Royal Highness" is how I'm supposed to be addressed - not that my captors acknowledge this.

Currently, I am being held captive, jailed in a place that is not my own. It's an alternative prison - not like my normal one, where I have a bit more scope to roam. The normal captors let me out to into the garden and appear to be pleased, indeed grateful, when I turn up for dinner. I can smell that others of my kind have been help captive at this new prison before. I wonder how they have coped? I made my displeasure felt by marking my territory in the bathroom sink. My new captor, though annoyed, just got out the disinfectant and said that she's been warned about that small habit of mine.

For a prison, this place isn't too bad, really. My jailer talks to me incessantly, which is good, it keeps me awake to plot her undeniable and forthcoming downfall. She massages my back regularly, as is required - although she takes great delight in tossing me over onto my back to try to massage my belly. I'm not sure if I like this. Oh the indignity of the movement. Next think you know she'll shove me in a bucket of water. My captor bathes regularly - strange creature. How can she tolerate all that water? I always watch her when she bathes - hoping the nasty water will make her disintegrate. Well, here's hoping.

There isn't that much to do here. As I learn from osmosis I tired to get on with my jailer's reading material.
What I'm going to learn from the dictionary, an anatomy colouring book, the book of what your birthday means, an illustrated book of essential oils and The Teachings of the Buddha, pilfered from a Bangkok hotel I will never know. My reading spans more to "Thus Spake Zarathustra", "Mein Kampf" and "The Origin of Species." The captor, has, at least, some interesting titles for her picture box. Every episode of Six Feet Under and a recording of Fight Club. Maybe this captor has a bit more kudos than I thought.

Most distressing, my new captor doesn't have any feeling for my personal comfort. Every time she walks into the feeding room, I demand to be fed, as is required. My jailer has the audacity to laugh at me. I am fed some desiccated pellets and water morning and night - that is all. This is not how I am supposed to be fed! Where is the raw chicken and fish? Where is the cheese? What sort of diet is "pussy flowers" as my captor calls them. Phah! There will be punishment for this inhumanity. There should be more decadent libations made to my kind. Don't the captors know this?!

At least this jailer allows me personal comfort for me to do my best work - which is done when I sleep.
I also try and keep fit, now that I'm in captivity. There are plenty of things to chew on, climb up, toy with or mangle. The latter appears to annoy my jailer. The other day she was trying to place some sleeping utensils in a plastic bag, attaching the bag to an air sucker. I saw no reason for her to do this and sunk my claws and teeth into the bag. Needless to say, my jailer was not amused. Something about destroying a space bag was mentioned. I was laughing loudly on the inside.

My favorite thing to do at this godforsaken jail is toy with my jailers comfort possessions. She calls it a knee brace - I call it fun. I've taken to carting this so called "knee brace" with me around the jail. She calls it a knee brace. I call it a child substitute. My jailer calls me a "strange animal" when I do this. Doesn't she know that royalty all have their foibles. It's expected.
My captor has said that there is only a week to go and that she will miss me when I am returned to my regular jail. I don't know why she will do this. I'm sure she will find another one of my kind to imprison at some stage. It appears it is what she does.
Ho hum. If you are hearing this, please help me escape. I need to begin my cunning plot for world domination and there is no way I can do this here. If you help me get out of here, I promise to be merciful when I take over the world.

Yours regally,

Her Royal Highness, Princess Hephzibah Jonquil Hortensia Murgatroyd-Ross

(A.K.A Miffy to the jailing race)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The iPod Shuffle

This comes courtesy of Working Through It - with thanks.

"Instructions: put your fruit-flavoured or other brand MP3 player on Shuffle, and write down the first 15 songs that come on, and what they mean to you (if anything).

Now the temptation here is obviously to scroll through your songs and pick the 15 most interesting, and chuck in one embarassing one to make it look honest - or you can do it properly."

I will admit to two things on this. For the most part I've done this properly. I had a lot of double ups with the Arctic Monkeys, so I have skipped over two of their songs. I think this is fair - you can only listen to so much Arctic Monkeys.

Second thing to admit to. Every time I put my iPod on shuffle, invariably it will play Radiohead's Paranoid Android at least three times. I am gobsmacked to find that Paranoid Android - nor any Radiohead got into this list. Pity I can't say the same for the Arctic Monkeys.

One last thing. I'm normally very careful about who I let near my iPod for  fear of derision or humiliation. The last time Glen Waverley got his hands on it he was too busy pissing himself laughing at the fact I had a Gary Glitter song on there - and the Bee Gees. Sheesh - like he's perfect, Mr "Placebo should Rule the World". I also remember looking through another friend's iPod and thinking I'd have to break off the friendship. A 43-year-old straight man had no real reason to have that much crap nineties dance music at their beck and call. It just wasn't right.

I'm also putting down a sixteenth song. Just because. Your tube links can be found in the titles.

1) It's Probably Me - Sting

Oh this song has a history. 1993. It reeks of an inappropriate, badly-endowed Irishman from County Galway - this was one of his favorite songs. It's also off one of my favorite albums - Ten Summoner's Tales - in particular the song "Shape of my Heart" brings on a tender melancholy like no other. This song, however, reminds me of Padraig, the car salesman, living in very ordinary digs in Belsize Park, working crappy temp jobs, being lifted up by the joys of Sting. The whole album is well worth a listen - I know I play it regularly. Thankfully, the Irishman is no longer in contact (indeed, alcohol and denial have probably killed him by now) but the song remains liked. Even if it reminds me of Padraig.

2) No Aphrodisiac - The Whitlams

Ah, The Whitlams. Other than the one and only Gough is one of my heroes, this band are some of the best Australian adult alternative about. I get this song. "A letter to you on a cassette, cos we don't write any more...". So nineties. Well before skype and email. I don't think I've ever put a letter on a tape, preferring to write instead. But I have made many mixed cassettes in my time. I had this album on my car for nearly a year. This was the first song on the album which I scored of Sam many years back. Love it.

3) Bloody Mother Fucking Arsehole - Martha Wainwright

I came to Martha Wainwright by way of Dream Group a few months ago. This song is deeply moving. I can't talk directly about dream group in  this blog so I can't say what went down - needless to say, this was the score to one of the most poignant and powerful evenings I've ever experienced. Martha Wainwright does pain really well.

4) Hard to Handle - Otis Redding

OTIS! Music by which you dance around the house naked. Love Otis Redding. I love old R & B.

5) Don't Marry Her (F*ck Me) - The Beautiful South

Oh why, oh why did this song have to come up. This is a Lachlan song. Whenever I was round at Lachlan's place, invariably The Beautiful South would be playing on the CD player. This is another London, mid-nineties flashback. The version they had for the radio had the lyric changed to "Don't marry her, have me." It would take me another two years to buy the album to find out what the real lyrics were, but there was no way that word would be heard on British Radio at the time. I have a funny feeling this was the song going through my head when I watched Lachlan get married... hmm.

6) Mardy Bum - The Arctic Monkeys

"Cos you're, argumentative, and you've got the face on."! I love the Arctic Monkeys. I love this song. They always remind me of a Mancunian friend of mine who regularly used some of the terms in the song. They're a great band, but I can't listen to them hour after hour for fear of wanting to go find a pint of Boddingtons, a pack of Marlboros and go hold up a bar with that friend as  he complains about his boss who always "had the face on'.

7) Under the Weather - KT Tunstall

The whole of KT Tunstall's first album came my way by a London friend, Fleur - who also put on my hard drive a heap of Corinne Bailey Ray and Billy Bragg. Though she's a bit commercial, it's easy driving music. Easy listening for those with a brain. Good stuff - though a little banal now that most of the album has appeared on the Grey's Anatomy soundtrack.

8) Ruby Tuesday - The Rolling Stones

I don't have any strong associations with Ruby Tuesday, though I've always got a lot of the old Rolling Stones on my iPod. I could write reams about "Sympathy for the Devil" or "Satisfaction" or "As Tears Go By". Just another good Stones song. Just no story attached.

9) Feels Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana

My current ringtone. London. Late nineties. Nirvana were amazing - and I'll always feel that way. This song will always remind me of rather drunken parties with my downstairs neighbours in West Hampstead, the pub after drama class and the feeling that my youth was still firmly intact. Kurt Cobain's sound is still as raw as steak tartare with embedded razorblades. Perfection. Mind you, I think I love Nirvana because I idolise the Pixies. If there were no Pixies, Nirvana never would have surfaced.

10) Gangsta's Paradise - Coolio

No story attached to the song, though I know how this got here. I've collected all of the Triple J Top 100 albums and this got here by one of those. I don't mind it - in fact a little gangsta wrap I can take - well the soft stuff like The Fun Loving Criminals is fine. It was attached to a film with Michelle Pfeiffer in it - Dangerous Minds.

11) Vamos - The Pixies

V Festival, 2008, mosh pit. 2000 people in their late thirties, bald spots, glasses, sensible shoes, constantly checking the phone to see that the baby sitter hasn't called. This song goes on. The late-thirty somethings go MENTAL. The Pixies are GOD. All Hail Black Francis, Joey Santiago, Kim Deal and the guy who looks like Uncle Fester. Everything the Pixies have put out is GOLD. This is no different. Though I have no idea what the song means as most of it is in Spanish. Vamos, vamos, vamos!

12) Walk the Dinosaur - Was (Not Was)

How in the HELL did this get here. Oh yes. In 2003 I moved to Greece for a few months. I left my CD's with my friends Bernie and Gav. This one found it's way into my CDs and I keep forgetting to return it. Okay, it has a catchy riff (Boom boom aka lakka lakka boom). That's about all it has going for it. Better return the CD to Gav - soon - to get my street cred back.

13) Gamble Everything for Love (Ben Lee)

This is a beautiful song. Very catchy and very meaningful. It's on many of my playlists, just as I get a lot out of this song every time I listen to it. It's a bit of a mantra for me. Not that I've ever done it - but it offers me a challenge every time I play it. Ben Lee is pretty good too. He's got a wonderful energy. Claire Danes really stuffed up there.

14) Black Boys on Mopeds - Sinead O'Connor

Ah, great memories of this one. 1989. Adelaide. Sitting in this back alley coffee shop with my best friend Mariah, who put me on to the whole album - not just the Nothing Compares 2 U cover. This is a wonderful elegy to those who choose to have a relationship with somebody society sees and different. One of the few songs I know all of the words to, by heart. But it will always remind me of Mariah, who told me about this song as she told me about her burgeoning relationship with a newly arrived refugee. Truly gorgeous.

15) I Sucked a Lot of Cock to Get Where I Am - Regurgitator

How the hell did this get on here?! Don't like the song. Don't like Regurgitator. Think this is a Triple J special. I know if I dig deep, this could have been something by Machine Gun Fellatio or Garry Glitter. I should be thankful.

16) The Band Played Waltzing Matilda - The Pogues

My proxy song (as the last one was SOOOOO sucky) The Pogues reminds me of the boyfriend I had when I first got to London. This song moves me to tears. Either the original or this version. The only time I ever get patriotic. It speaks so eloquently of the futility of war. Having a number of uncles who served in World War One, it just stamps it home further. Shane McGowan gives it a rougher edge - but it's still a song that will bring me to tears by the second verse.

There you go- last time I ever let anybody into my iPod.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Swimming Lesson

In my year of trying new things, yesterday's adventure will go down as one of the more memorable and fun.

Yesterday morning I got to take Chance, one of Blarney's twins, for his first swimming lesson. This was brilliant fun. Much less challenging or oppressive than Zumba, and certainly far more rewarding.

A bit of history. I love the water. Like most Australian children, I was dunked at about three-years-old, had my first lessons at four and have been swimming regularly ever since. I'm not of any great standard, but I'm a reasonably strong swimmer and I'm very comfortable in the water, pool, sea or river. If there's a party with a pool, I'm in there. I don't have any scruples about going for a swim. It's me in my natural element.

Blarney, on the other hand, is Irish. She learned to swim two years ago. I'm so proud of the fact she can now do twenty lengths of the local pool with ease - something we do regularly all year round. She's often lamented that not knowing how to swim has stopped her doing things on holidays and she's adamant that her boys will be able to swim well.

So now Chance and Lance are over the age of six months, it's time to get them in the water. Aunty Panda blurted out a few months ago that if she needed a hand with swimming lessons to shout and I'd be there. I'd be available on the weekends I don't have meditation on Saturday morning.

Blarney shouted and Saturday morning we traipsed down to the Altona Pool to put Chance through his paces.

It often surprises me - I'm a 42-year-old, childless woman. Why would anybody leave me with their child? Let alone take them into a pool for a half hour lesson? Blarney, in her wisdom, told me to take Chance for his lesson while she played with Lance in the kiddie pool. Chance seemed to like the bath more and is a bit more dextrous that his brother. Neither Chance or Lance are crawling yet, but they're going for swimming lessons.

Glumph. Something new for Aunty Panda.

So Chance, in his swimmer nappy, and  me in my togs, jumped in with Sam the instructor, and ten others. Three dads, a mum and one grandpa, with their offspring, aged from six months to two years for the half hour lesson.

This is some of the best fun I've had in years. Chance had a ball as we did the "motorboat" and the chase the balls, fall off the edge into the chest,the float on backs and the run/crawl/dance on the mat. To their credit, little Max, Marnie, Jaxon, Deke and Shawna were exemplary students. No tears, no screaming. They all seemed to love the class, as did Chance, who's an ace at floating on his back (with a bit of support) and kicking in the water. Bubbles are a bit beyond him, but give him time. I got lots of smiles and giggles from him. The only thing he wasn't too fond of was going under water under a bar (with help). A toss in the air or two got his smile back after that nasty interruption.

What was more fun was watching the adults really get into the class - singing, jumping, larking about.

As a bonus, nobody drowned.

It was really sad to see the class end, on which we got out of the pool and went and found Blarney. She said she's been looking over periodically and we seemed as happy as pigs in muck.

She and Lance had lots of fun in the kiddy pool. One on one time they rarely get.

We got home and Chance conked out immediately, falling alsleep in his high chair between mouthfuls of mushed up pumpkin.

Next week, Barney will take Lance for his lesson and Chance will have Mummy time.

All I know is I feel incredibly honoured and privileged to get to do such things, as it is an honour to have a friend trust you with their child as such. Not that I have any regrets not having had children, I just know that getting to do these sorts of things with the boys is something I will cherish for life.

Friday, January 7, 2011

What Quiet Life?

I'm sitting in my "office" on the 17th floor of a tower block in Collins Street. I hear the hum of the efficent air conditioner and my own tapping on the keyboard. I have a great view of the IOOF (Institute of Odd Fellows - that always makes me laugh - why are they so odd that they need an institute?) and that new stadium that looks like a blown up witchety grub - I'm not sure what they play there, but lots of feral fans seem to pile in each week.

I'm supposed to be updating my CV. I came into my temporary office - part of the service that the Tin Can, String and Whistle career consultants offer, to do this.

I'm supposed to be doing a lot of things, but there are some things stopping me. Firstly, friends have asked to meet me for coffee - who am I to complain? I'm just back from a long macchiato and a chat. Secondly, the keyboard here at the this temporary office is crap.I think I'm better doing this on my own computer at home.

I could have stayed stay home and do this, but I have a house guest at the moment. Her name is Miffy and she belongs to Geerrt, my old boss. Other than disgracing herself in the car on the way over, more than likely through fear, she's been  perfect. I was told that she slept in her own bed. Right..... this is what I've found the last two mornings. How can one small cat take up most of a double bed? She's the biggest cuddle slut I've every laid my hands on. She's lovely, but not conducive to getting things done.

I can always find better things to do than look for work anyway. I've already made two appointments for next week and I wasn't going to look for work this week. Besides, the contents of my handbag are on the desk for diseminating. How one small red, leather handbag can contain the following I will never know.

My wallet
My mobile phone with it's cover that looks like a block of chocolate
Two small bags of tampons
Three biros
A Berlei sports bra in beige, size 16DD (bought on Ebay, just collected - I don't normally cart around a spare bra)
50 mls of Stella McCartney Rose Absolute perfume 
One Moleskin lined notebook
One rose coloured lip gloss
One dusky amber coloured plumping lip gloss (the plumping is very important)
One hairbrush
One lavender bag, just given to me by Merijn for looking after her cats over new year
One spectacles case with sunglasses within
One MAC lipstick, colour X-TREME (my favorite)
One small bulldog clip
One Moon Diary containing various bills, christmas cards and a ticket to Mary Poppins
50 mls of 30+ sunscreen, complete with crampon for easy access.
One pack of Eclipse mints of the peppermint variety
One pack of Eclipse mints of the cinnamon variety (why are they called mints when they don't even taste of mint?)
One ventolin inhaler
One ArtDeco compact if the HydraMineral variety, shade 65
One large yellow hairclip
One litter ninja badge (thanks Kath)
Three letters from the post box
Two flash drives of the 2 GB variety, pilfered from Tin Can, String and Whistle
One book - The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson - which has to be finished by tomorrow so I can pass it on to Blarney.

Nothing more will fit now. Funny that.

Then tonight, it's off to Georgie's birthday drinks before seeing Pinochet for a grunt session. Tomorrow morning I'm heading out to Blarney's to be with Chance and Vance for their first swimming lesson - that should be pretty cool.

Sunday, after Pump, I'm reading cards.

Monday I'm massaging in the morning, then meeting Gloria for a film.

Tuesday I have interviews and pump and Zumba before meeting Sam for a film.

Already this week I've given two massages, cleaned out my spare room, met people for coffee, done the 1000 steps in the Dandenongs, entertained the masses with my sensual Zumba moves, stuck to my calories, done an hour of reading, writing and exercising a day and lay on my bed reading with Miffy purring gently next to me.

And next week, in the evenings, I have films and dream group and theatre tickets and dinners and....

I think I'm busier now that I'm between jobs. Here I was thinking that this between jobs lark was going to be quiet.

I had better shut down now and go off to Georgie's drinks. I'm certainly not looking forward to the session with Pinochet. It's 34 degrees outside and he's mean in the heat.

But if I want today's star, that's what I'm going to have to do.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Adventures in Zumbaland

One of my resolutions for the year is to try some new things and go new places. A lot of the time this will entail doing some really fun things and seeing some great places.

Other times, it's going to be very confronting and rather scary.

Tonight's new thing to try was Zumba. The latest dance and exercise craze.

Joy. This falls firmly in the confronting and scary basket.

I should fill you in on a few facts about myself.

Firstly, I got to a lovely, normal people's gym. There are the grunty, sweaty boys at the front, the cardio section with the tellies and the treadies near on the other side of the aisle from the grunty boys and a smaller back gym where the normal people go where you can get on with your workout and be around normal people who don't need to make orgasmic noises when they bench press their lives away smelling badly of ketones. There are few posers (other than the grunty, sweaty boys and they only have eyes for themselves) but most people just go in and then get out with little fuss. Lycra unitards are a no-no. Daggy is the norm. I like it there. I feel confortable. I rather like chatting up the hot, Gen-Why slacker dude who is just a bit too cute for his own good on the desk. I'm there four or five times a week. It's a part of me.

Secondly. I am built like a refrigerator. I could easily throw shot put or discus for the Romanian Olympic team. I'm not little or delicate. My shoulders scare most men away. Trinny and Suzannah, those English doyennes of style refer to my body shape as a goblet or ice cream cone - wide shoulders, big breasts, no hips or bum and long legs. Not a dancer's build. I'm more comfortable boxing and cycling and kicking things. Set me off running and I'm happy. Dancing. Hmph.
Third factoid. I have a pathological fear of dancing in public. After being humiliated at a school social in grade six I've shunned the dance floor I've shied away from dancing. It takes a lot of alcohol or other strange substances to get me dancing in public. This does go deeper. As a child I was never allowed to do dance classes because my "ankles were too weak and I might mess up the surgeries." Now, at forty two, it's just something I don't do. I went to two belly dancing classes about five years ago - and gave up in despair. And we won't even go near partner dancing.... It's all scary.

So tonight, after a day of massaging and writing and talking to recruitment agents, I get my kit on - leggings, knee strapping, two bras and my favorite Che Guevara t-shirt. Normal gym gear. I'd bitten the bullet. Tonight, after Pump class, I'd go to Zumba - give it a try.

I think I'd rather fact a panel interview or a firing squad.

Knowing I was going to be taking part in this sponsored epileptic fit of a class, I made sure I dropped my weights down in pump.Okay - I only took off 2.5kgs from what I normally use - but it was a bit of respite. Body Pump is my favorite class. I can do Pump. It's in my realm of things to. The class went well.

Then it was time for Zumba. I introduced myself to the instructor - a lithe young thing with a stripper name (Tiffany / Amber / Holly). I explained that it was my first class and that my right knee wasn't up to jumping. She was very nice. I also explained that I have no rhythm  or coordination. She said that was fine. It takes practice. Hmm.

I then looked at my class mates. So this is where the lycra hangs out. Skinny, pretty little things. I wanted to run and hide - or at least go out and do a few rounds with the grunty boys - Che stared out from my belly with no amusement. Hmm. I felt rather out of place, but I was here to face a fear and there was no backing out.

An hour later, I left, pleased with myself, but still a bit disturbed.

I know now what the flying howler monkeys from the Wizard of Oz now do for a career. The instructor had a bevvy of whoops, grunts and "Marimba!"s. Lots of the moves resembled jungle creatures. Doing the elephant and the monkey was a bit interesting. I know I'm better with upper cuts, jabs and roundhouse kicks.

The other strange thing - my body doesn't do what it's told. I don't do left and right that well as I'm ambidextrous and I accept this with grace, but I found it rather confronting that when my shoulders were supposed to be shimmying, by arse wobbled. When I was supposed to be doing that bum wiggle, my shoulders shimmied. And don't ask me about my non-existent hips. They just go nowhere. They're rigid.

And what the hell is a jete? Or a plie? Or a grapevine? They talk another language!

In its defence, the music was fun. Lots of South American and African beats - reminiscent of Shakira and Johnny Clegg. As I'm not up to jumping, other than the  co-ordination factors, it wasn't stupidly hard class. It was also easy to modify for my knee.

Most confronting was watching myself dance in a mirror for an hour. The Zumba-ing Fridge. Great.

The instructor called me out after the class. She commented that there was nothing wrong with my co-ordination and that I did really well for a first timer. She hoped to see me next week.


On returning home, my heart rate monitor clocking over 1000 calories for the two and a half hour session, I reflect on just how big a thing this is for me.

Dancing and having my photo taken are two of my greatest fears.

Maybe I'll be back there next week for another session. Maybe getting my hips moving might open me up a bit - good for the Kundalini.

Maybe this is a fear I can kick in the next few months.

Zumba. Fun, hmm. Scary - for me, definitely. Life changing - maybe.

Right, to bed - knackered now.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The New Era

First up, a happy new year to you all.

I'm sitting here writing with a clear head, clear skin, clear eyes and the knowledge that the last of the ice cream cassata is in my tummy not be sitting in the freezer whispering "Eat me, eat me!".

After years of hating New Year's Eve, I think last night's events will go down as the near perfect New Year events. Surrounded by friends in the back yard at Blarney and Barney's, only two half glasses of champagne were imbibed - great conversation, a nana nap at about ten p.m. on the couch (a few of us took turns for kips on the couch - we're all getting old), my favourite cat to pat, and home, sober by one a.m. - it was all just right.  There's no more guilt about not going out, dancing and getting mindlessly drunk, there's no more angst about staying home alone. It was great to be around good people, some good food and of course, nice pussy cats.

So now, it's 2011. Now what? 2010 was a big year, what's 2011 going to bring?

Well, the first thing I'm coming to terms with is my between-jobs status. I finished up at Tin Can, String and Whistle on the 22nd of December and drove to Adelaide the following day. Now I'm home with all this time on my hands. The priority after the second week of January will be to look for a new job, but until then, I have a heap of stuff to do. I'm pretty much resigned to the fact that work won't start until hopefully early February and that January is mine to do as I please.

But what to do in January?

I have a whole month to start to rejuvenate my life.

The first thing I've decided on, I need a plan - how to structure my time in this time off. I could spend the month sleeping away, but what would be the point of that? So this month is going to be called 'Reclaim Pandora Month." A time to constructively get my life back in some semblance of order.

First up - we need a few rules and a few minor things help facilitate this.

I have a new calendar, a packet of sticky stars and a new paper shredder.

The rules of January are as follows:

Sticking to all of the rules gets me a star on my calendar. The more stars the better.

Rule One:

An hour  of each day must be spent in the following activities: Reading, writing, gymming/exercising,cleaning/rearranging the flat and as of Tuesday, looking for work and those associated activities. That takes up five hours a day - there will be plenty more to do, but this has to be done.

Reading is one of my great pleasures and I haven't done enough of it. One of my numerous resolutions is to not buy any books until I've read a few more of the unread ones in my shelves, of which there are many. I may also have a book cull soon just to tidy a few things up. As I haven't done enough reading in the last few months, this is a good chance to catch up.

Writing for an hour a day is a no brainer. Whether it's blogging, working on the travel website I do for beer money or starting on that novel or articles for The Age I've been meaning to write - writing an hour a day is a necessity.

My flat needs a complete de-crap. I want to be able to walk into my spare room and not get scared. If I spend an hour a day turfing things out, cleaning, hoovering and the like the place will be immaculate by mid January. I'm not naturally tidy and this will be a chore, but it has to be done. I need to make room for new things in my life.

Starting to look for a job as of next week is also a necessity, but it's not critical at the moment. I'm okay for money for a few months, but I'd rather have a job by February so that I can upgrade my car and save the most of my package. An hour a day means I'm putting in the necessary leg work to find work, but not getting too engrossed in journey of job hunting - which is a bit of a downer at the best of times. To look for work all day, everyday, especially as I have money and time, is just stupid.

I've also got some contingencies in place for this month. I've set out on facebook that my plank is up and I'm happy to read cards, massage, play with feet and do all the hobby jobs I do for money. A few clients a week will pay for the food on my table and petrol. I'm really lucky I have these skills. I'm also arranging contras where I can. I've already talking Pinochet into a massage for a personal training session - not bad, eh!

Exercising for an hour a day also isn't hard. This can be an hour in the gym, or going to get the post in the city, taking in a yoga class, going for a swim. Just something that gets me out of the house and moving about.

Rule Two:

January's daily calories: 1600 per day. (Plus or minus 200 calories)

The big thing for January, the one thing that I need to get in order is my weight. This is my project for 2011. It's a project, and it needs to be managed as such. Done with care, determination and a sense of humour.
As regular readers will be aware, I've struggled with my weight all of my life. It's been the bane of my existence for as long as I can remember, taking away much of my self-respect and self-esteem for many years. It's only been in the last three years that I've got something of a handle on what all of this is about. I also have some semblance of self love now - it's a pity to took so long to find. It makes this jouney somewhat more pleasant - believe me.

I know that when my head is in the right space, I can achieve amazing things. Losing weight, as anybody who has tackled this will tell you, is 99% mental. Yes, diet and exercise are incredibly important, but if your head isn't right, nothing's going to happen - you just end up sabotaging yourself - which is what I've been doing for the last long while. Saying this, the sabotage this year meant only being two kilograms heavier than I was at the same time last year - but now, I want to reduce.

Recently, I lost a friend over this issue - well, this was the catalyst that set of the events. This friend went into a two hour diatribe about what I was doing wrong and how seeing me in the state I was was disturbing. It continued the following morning with what were described as "helpful" emails. I snapped and acted out inappropriately, for which I have apologised but this friend has not found the forbearance to forgive me as yet. Such is the power of this topic. Handled incorrectly, you can lose friends over it.

Losing weight is such a deeply personal experience. It's different for everybody. What can work for one person doesn't always suit others. As an example, Atkins doesn't suit me or my lifestyle - I like my exercise too much and I go stir crazy without carbs - but I'm pleased it works for others. I find Weight Watchers expensive and rather one size fits all- just my experience of it as I know it works for thousands.Just not eating is never an option. It's all a matter of balance.

I have a great plan and program that has worked brilliantly in the past which is what I'll be focussing on this year. It comes with it is a fantastic support network, some of whom have become friends. Without the support from the crew from the Biggest Loser Club, I'd be sunk. It also lets me talk weight loss with people who want to talk about weight loss and diets and all of that stuff.

That's another universal truth. Talking about dieting full time is very, very boring if you don't have to do it yourself. The girls from the BLC are my rocks and I'm so glad we're on the journey together.

Losing weight to me is a pure consistency, keeping excellent records and allowing for life to occur in the mean time. It means that the occassional glass of wine or cone of ice cream can happen. It means that you can go out for dinner once in a while. It also means hitting the gym, doing the miles, doing the reps and making sure it's happening regularly. It also means when you fall of the wagon, which will happen, you get back on it immediately. It's as easy as that. It's all in being consistent.

This month lets me get back into the swing of things.

I'm not going to bore you with it any more.

Finally, my resoluions for this year - new job and weight loss aside.

I resolve to go somewhere I've never been once a month - and that doesn't mean overseas - it can just be a new suburb of Melbourne or to a restaurant I've never frequented.
To get at least two articles or stories in print by the end of the year
To have a decent house deposit ready to buy an off the plan apartment by December.
To replace my aging Toyota Echo with a new-to-me Mazda 2 (or maybe new shape Fiesta... ) by June.

And under the proviso that my knee gets better - to start running again. I miss it terribly.

It seems I'm planning a big year for myself.

Wishing you a wonderful 2011. Hope you're as excited as me.