Saturday, May 28, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

Having breakfast with Trin after boxing today, my common, mucky roots came out on show.

As refined as I try and make myself, the fact that I hail from Myponga, South Australia, went to a terrible high school and I''m a bit of a bogan at times comes and bites me on the bum occasionally.

Here is me, coffee and wine snob, love my literary books, watch foreign films, like to discuss ideas and thoughts, trying to improve my life. I like going to nice restaurants. I know where to source the best macarons in Melbourne, great wineries around the place, little treasures of goodness all over the place. I'm great and knowing what is good to see and what not to see. I like to think of myself as fairly erudite in my tastes.

But there are times, when the friends I'm with want to desert me and never see me again. They don't see this trait as endearing at all.

Trin and I order breakfast. Sitting in a swanky Burwood cafe, the food looks amazing. The coffee certainly smells good. We're both a picture of sweaty happiness after the 90 minute boxing class - but we're sure we don't smell too bad. The hand sanitizer has removed most of the smell of the boxing gloves and focus pads from the grunty boy boxing gym we go to in Ferntree Gully for this once a month class. The gym is really a trumped up shed with a lot of leather and the lingering smell of sweat and testosterone (with a bit of old vomit thrown in for good measure). It's brilliant.

Trin places her order.

Then I place mine. And Trin's nose crinkles in disgust.

What is wrong with my standard mug of skinny cappucino. And and omelette, with tomatoes and basil and asparagus with sourdough toast? It wasn't that which Trin objected to.

It was the tomato sauce I asked for with it.

She berated the waiter for not being horrified at my request.

"Yo've travelled the world.You can talk about opera and politics and psychology. You like foreign cinema! I'm appauled!" remarked Trin. I thought she was going to walk out on me.

"Yes, I am reasonably refined. But I drink beer and I have a thing for the gobstoppers you get out of the gumball machines at the supermarket, and I do occasionally chew gum (but that's normally to level my ears on planes and never Juicy Fruit) and I can't eat my eggs without tomato sauce  - and lots of it. If that makes me a bogan, so be it."

"You heathen!" I'm not sure if her ridicule was laced with horror or not.

"I have bogan roots. I have tomato sauce on barbequed meat and eggs. Deal with it."

Trin's nose remained wrinkles.

"Look, if it makes it any better, I have the same thing with the girls at meditation. We go to this great cafe in Caulfield. I order poached eggs on multigrain toast with a side of spinach and smoked salmon with tomato sauce."

"Smoked Salmon and tomato sauce. Eww." The colour was leaving her face.

"Yummy. But the girls at meditation have exactly the same reaction and I've been doing ordering the same thing for years." Which is true, but they now look at my eggs and sauce foible as an bizarre genetic failure.

It's just one of those lingering weird habits. Eggs or any sort - poached, boiled, scrambled, fried - quiche - needs tomato sauce in my opinion. I don't care if people don't agree with me. I just like them that way."

"Do you have any other strange food foibles?" Trin asked, still aghast as I tipped a small ramekin of sauce over my breakfast when it arrived.

"Not really. I like fairy bread. Though I rarely eat it, I sort of enjoy fresh white bread (though I berate my family as it's all they have at home). I love baked beans - but only Heinz ones. Bliss is a sausage in bread from the Bunnings barbeque. I do drink Jim Beam and Jack Daniels and Bundy Rum - but only when out with certain people -  and normally in South Australia late at night. I have danced around a handbag at an Essex disco. I love romantic comedies and animated films. And if I could do it more often, I'd be happy to live on fish and chips from the Greek chippy round the corner."

"You really can be common."

"Yep - and I'm very proud of this. Especially being unabashed about my eggs with tomato sauce."


Wait til she finds out that when I'm back at Myponga I drive my stepdad's ute about the place...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Decoupage in Heaven

My aunt passed away last night, five months after a freak accident robbed her of her sight and her mind.

I know it's a blessing that she's passed. She'd hate to have known that for the last few months she's been languishing in a hospital bed, making no sense, unable to see, unable to communicate, unable to do anything for herself. It's also a relief for my uncle, who's been racing around from hospital to nursing home to doctors and home again to feed their little dog clinging to every glimmer of hope. He's understandably devestated - but philosophical as well.

Of course - Mum had something to do with her passing. She visited early last night, dropping into the hospital to say goodbye. Once again, the bone was pointed, her duty done, my aunt took heed and passed away quietly a few hours later.

I'm not sure I'd like to have Mum's gift - I prefer to know I can get rid of headaches with the flick of a thumb and a nod of the head. That's a slightly more sociable talent than Mum's, though I know hers is an honor.Also, coming from a family of doctors, nurses and priests, death is ingrained as a part of time - nothing to get upset about, it's all a part of life. What they fail to admit is that it's a part of life that hurts those who are left behind.

Now it's just the wait to find out when the funeral is and fly back to Adelaide.

My third quick interstate trip in a month.

And I'm sitting here a bit numb. I'm okay, just that things are a bit foggy.

I found out about this at work just before lunch. Not that I'm frantic at work, but I have stuff to do - but it was hard to keep my mind on things. Luckily, drawing process maps is something that doesn't require that much contentration.

Lunch consisted of a long walk and some macarons. Macarons fix most things. Unfortunately, it didn't quite clear the fuzzy head, but it did take a little of the edge off.

I left work a bit early after my last meeting. Not much point being there as I felt like a lump. I wasn't blubbering, I wasn't screaming, I wasn't ranting - though the urge to deck the Wesley nob from another department was still there -  but that is normal. If anything, I'm was just sitting there quietly not concentrating at the meeting to hand - all I wanted to do was get outside and walk. Which fifteen minutes later, I did. Til it started to rain. So I got the tram back home instead. Walking would have been nice under the circumstances.

Mum's okay. My aunt wasn't my real aunt - she's my mum's best friend. They were each other's bridemaids, my aunt did the duty twice for my Mum. They went through nursing school together. Mum continued nursing for many years, my aunt had to give it up after it did her back in. If this had happened today she would have been on compo for life with a lucrative lawsuit sorting out the incompetent surgeon who really stuffed her back over early in the piece.

There's heaps I could tell you about my aunt. She was one of the most irrascible people you'd ever know. Adelaide Establishment, from the very right side of the tracks. Dux of her school, she could have been a doctor, but chose nursing. Loving mother of two, loving grandmother of two. Very in with the right people, stalwart of the community. She would never be seen without her string of beads, bright button earrings and her bright pink lipstick. If she'd been allowed to grow into old age, I'm sure she'd give Lady Bracknell a run for her money.

I'm going to gloss over the chronic pain she was in that could turn her from somebody rational and caring to an utter harpy. At times, her use of painkillers appeared to be to her detriment - and I don't think anybody could understand the pain she was in  - ever. I know it disturbed my mother - but my mother has never been in physical pain for more than a few days. My aunt had forty years of it.

And now she's gone. I know I'm not a Christian, but I like to think that we go somewhere else when we die - that God or whatever it is up there has a plan. And I know that she's up there now sourcing out some small paper scissors and other things to start decoupaging once again and checking out the local coffee shops for a decent cappucino and cucumber sandwiches. Poor old St Peter aint gonna have an easy time with her. She's in the bucket with my Grandmother - branded a stroppy woman - watch out, St Peter - she's going to give you hell if the lamingtons are stale.

I say this with the greatest affection. In spite of the fact that my aunt could be somewhat difficult at times, I owe her and my uncle a great deal.

My aunt and uncle provided a safe haven in my late teenage years. They gave me a place to go when my own family situation was unbearable. They gave me love and support when there was nobody about to give me any. They bolstered me up when things were horrible and made a very lost, very lonely, very unhappy young woman a sense of place. I remember going through my childhood wishing they were my parents. They've often called me the daughter they didn't get as neither of their children went on to university - something I know they would have loved - among other things.

You can't thank a person enough for that.

I'm crying now.

As there's nothing of fur or flesh to cuddle around here (possum in the roof doesn't count and I don't think it's that cuddly), it's off to do the next best thing. Interval sprints.While watching Masterchef.

The treadmill will hopefully soothe away the fuzzies before tomorrow dawns.

Bless you, Aunty Gaye. Now that your suffering is over, I hope you find some real peace - it's been too long in coming.

They gym awaits.


(Normal transmission will be back in the next few days - I bounce back pretty quickly)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Shaper of Dreams and other Mythic Figures

There have been a couple of mythic references in my life of late.

First up, one came over the internet. It seems I worried a few of my online support group when I said that Project Pandora was over.

Well, it is - when I set out on Project Pandora I stated that it was for the time of the 12WBT (twelve week body transformation challenge) - a project that was very successful. Now that the 12WBT is over, it's time to find a new project, with new goals, and new project name. Pandora was the perfect name for the last project. A mythical figure based in Greek Mythology who held a box that had every human condition, good and bad, within it. When she opened the box, the evils flew out into the world - the only things remaining inside were hope and opportunity. The twelve weeks have very much been a time of me facing my demons and using hope and the opportunity to get on with things. A brilliantly named project.

Working in IT, I've been thrown on some really interesting projects. Project Centaur was about a group of bankers charging like wounded bulls towards an intangible enemy - in this case, a redundant custody system. Project Aquarius was about swimming towards another new custody system at a different firm - it had a bit more purpose than Project Centaur, thank goodness. Project Titan was a Tin Can, String and Whistle initiative to flex a bit of muscle.

So what am I going to call this next round of goals? Well, I had to have a good long think. I delved into my rarely used Classics degree. Neriads, muses, Greek and Roman variations - there was lots to choose from ... what would suit this next phase of proceedings? Something decent, someting strong. Something I could aspire to over the next twelve weeks.

Project Medusa - turning men to stone with a single glance. I think not. Project Persephone? Queen of the underworld, she of the pomegranate eating clan. Hmmm, nope, would give the tendency for depression. Project Prometheus? Nope that was the last six months of last year, tied to a rock having my insides taken out. Project Bacchus.... hmmm, that could be fun, but naming a project after the god of wine, sex and debauchery - yeah, fun, but I could see myself getting very fat and unfit again.

After flicking through a few more Greek and Roman references, I got it. It was there all along.

I'm embarking on Project Morpheus. Morpheus? Wasn't he a character in "The Matrix"? He was. However, he was originally the god in charge of dreams - the shaper of dreams to be precise, and this I very much like.

It's time for me to get dreaming. To work out just what it is I want in life and other things. For the next twelve weeks I know I'll be concentrating on running the Run Melbourne 10 km in under an hour, participating in the city to surf - and hoping to do a better time than 1.40. I also want to see if I can lose another 6 kgs  - taking me down to 20 kilos lost for the year.

Yet, I still need to dream. And dream big. I don't know what that will bring - I leave it in the hands of Morpheus.

The other mythical creature I came into contact with this week was the nature strip fairy.

Who? The nature strip fairy The one that takes you unwanted items away in the middle of the night. You know the one.

See, last week I had a dilemma. I don't condone junking stuff in the street. I try to be a good citizen. However circumstances made me chance it.

My friend Kath, her husband and daughter are moving to Switzerland in the next few days. In talking to Kath over the last few weeks I knew they were ridding themselves of the contents of their house. I put in an offer for both their coffee machine and their microwave - and after a counter offer, a deal was reached.

But what to do with my old microwave Old faithful, purchased on ebay some seven years ago for the grand sum of $30 has served me well. It was still operational but getting a bit rusty inside.

Well, I asked around? Where can you get rid of an old microwave? You can't give them to the local charity shop, they don't take electrical goods. I did a quick sweep of the local streets - couldn't find any skips about the place - not that I condone using other people's skips to dump goods - it's not good karma. The overwhelming response from people I asked  was "Leave the bloody thing on the nature strip. Let the nature strip fairy take care of it."

My first question was "What if the bloody nature strip fairy doesn't want it?" What would happen if I was the person that the nature strip fairy didn't like and for the following two weeks my old microwave was sitting in the street looking all forlorn and me looking really guilty. I felt bad enough about getting rid of the old thing.

I asked about, checked with a few people if they had a shack or a cousin with a meth lab who might like it, there were no takers. It was going to have to go on the nature strip. I was going to have to chance it on "the magic portal" as a friend calls it.

So before going out to Kath's, I lugged the old machine, all 25 kilograms of it, downstairs ready to make my dash. It's really bad form to get caught putting stuff out in the street (unless it's hard rubbish night, which is three months away I believe.).

Just as I was leaving the stairwell, Mr Patel from appartment 14 came home. I waited for him to leave his car and the driveway. I moved with stealth out into the driveway. The coast was clear. Then it was to the gates. Oh why wasn't I wearing black. The "Mission Impossible" theme tune was playing in my head. Doomp, doomp, dee dee, doomp doomp... I made it to the gate, only to hear a line of traffic... I hid behind the bins, 25 kg dead weight of microwave in my arms. After 30 seconds, the cars passed.

I checked the street again. Bloody joggers. Who runs at night! Another run of cars and a couple of women on their evening walk later I managed to sneak out and deposit the offending item on the strip. It was a dry night. No rain was due for days. I had to be a good omen.

The blessing was said for the old microwave, thanking her for the bowls of porridge and ready meals she's heated up for me. I then invoked the nature strip fairy to do her business, with gratitude.

I so did not want to be the person who had the shame of an offending item left in the street for weeks. You have to work all the good mojo you can in these situations.

Seems my spells worked. The microwave was gone by morning. Whether swallowed by the magic portal, dealt with by the nature strip fairy or just picked up by some opportunistic person from the council flats down the road.

I just hope it's gone to a good home. ...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Angels and Demons

Project Pandora - Complete - starting weight 92 kgs - final weight  - 83.8kgs

Project status - very, very successful

I waved my friend off at the Skybus before work yesterday morning. After a weekend that was pretty legendary, this would be he next step in her evolution. I watched a woman who four days before had never been to an airport, scared to travel by herself, unsure of what to do confidently stride onto the airport bus to catch her flight back to Sydney and the embark on the three hour drive back to her home town. From all accounts she made it back home without a problem.

It really was an incredible weekend spent with fabulous people. My friend was great to have around - a wonderful house guest. She said she felt comfortable in my clean, but rather untidy flat. For me, she and I ticked along well and she was no drama having her about. It's interesting that both of us live alone but felt more than happy to share the space - I don't feel that with everybody.

There were also lots of events planned for over the weekend, so we weren't home that much. Shopping trips, exercise sessions, lunches, trips to a national park and of course, the main event, the 12wbt finale party.

Lunch at the Hu Tong Dumpling bar was a great ice breaker - we finally got to meet a couple from the group in person for the first time. People came from far and wide for this party. Brisbane, Sydney, Perth... you name it. The wonderful thing we all found is that although we may have never met in person, we all feel like we've known each other for a lifetime. We're friends online. Some of us use skype to talk to one another, but other than that, other than the Melbourne girls who I train and do the steps with regularly, we'd never met in person.

Completely fabulous it was.

I look at these women with utter amazement. I'd never meet them in my life. What would I have in common with a preacher's wife, a housewife, a day care worker, a night fill manager, a graphic designer an a landscape architect, among others, most of whom are ten years my junior? Seemingly nothing.

However, these women and I have something very much in common.

We're overcoming.

These women are my angels.

We've all been each other's angels over the last twelve weeks. These are the people who've picked me up and dusted me off when things have gone pear shaped, celebrated my wins, ran, walked, climbed and pumped with me - and supported me through this whole process.

I can't thank them enough.

But for all the camaraderie and fun, the demons did come out at times. We all have demons. We've all lost a substantial amount of weight, 20, 30, 40 kilograms - in two cases, one of them has shed 60 kilos from her frame, and my friend, now over 90... You're going to have demons when this happens.

We all know what it's like to be the large one, the outcast, the person who is overlooked. The shy person who doesn't put themselves out there. Some of us have been the butt of jokes, the person who gets stared at, pointed at, ashamed to go places, sometimes made to feel ashamed of who they are. All of us know what it is to be fat. All of us are well on the way to getting on top of this state and fixing it once and for all.

But the mindsets continue. It's a great thing to change your body. In some ways, that's the easy part. The hard bit is changing your head.

The morning after the party, tired, mild hangover beating at my temples, my friend and I got talking over a cup of tea before going off to the gym, a miracle as I'd hitched a ride home with a friend at midnight. Nine glasses of champagne had been enough - and my feet were hurting from standing around in heels. The two staying at mine that night made it  back around three and I had to be up to let them in.

She was telling me about our night filler. 60 kgs lost, looking amazing, a quiet, shy acheiver really let her hair down at the party - which was a joy to see. When I left, she was going at the dance floor like a demon. She looked happy - like the rest of them.

Then the killer. They went for coffee after the club. Our night filler let it be known it was the first time she'd danced in public.

I broke down there and then, crying for the pain of what was, and spouting a few tears of happiness for the life she has found.

Everybody in the group had a moment like this. It was a night to shed the old. It was fantastic.

But our night filler's situation - the do dancing in public. This is indicative what the pall of obesity does to you. It suppresses the joy, the fun, the great things in life.

I know many of you reading this won't get the enormity of this. To have the confidence to dance in public, or catch a plane.Other smaller victories I won't bore you with for long - like being able to find clothes that fit, or to be able to walk and not get puffed or to just feel like you blend in.

Most of us have felt something like this. My angels understand the demons.

And this is what bonds us together.

For me, my demons are still haunting me - although they are lessening. In getting dressed up and having my hair done and putting on make up - I still felt fat. I felt awful on the inside at times. Thankfully not all the time, but the feeling was still there.
I was telling Pinochet about it last night. I'm putting the work in, I'd doing what I have to - but I still feel fat.

My head is telling me otherwise, I see the numbers, feel my limbs growing strong and lean. But I look at pictures of the night and I still feel fat and ugly. Part of me wants to obliterate every photo of me that has been put up online. Actually, that is a lie, there are some good shots out there, but the bulk of them, I'd destroy if I had the chance.

Okay, I hated what I'd let them do to my hair - I feel much better with it down and  wish I'd gone with my gut. I was wearing an old dress, something I've had shoved in the wardrobe for ten years - but it fit well and showed off some of my newly firming curves. And mentally, I know I was looking good. I was looking great.

But the demons arose, and still come up for air. Despite the physical changes which appear to be coming quickly, despite the fact that I'm buying clothes are size or two smaller, that I can run up big hills, pump large weights, keep going after many others have fallen by the wayside, there is a bit inside that feels fat and ugly.

It is slowly changing. I can look at myself in a mirror now and like what I see. I will let people take my photo on occasion. I feel better having my photo taken when I'm in casual clothes, work out gear not dress ups, and I wonder if I'll ever get on top of this.

Regardless, Project Pandora may be over, but the journey continues. I've set myself a few goals for the next three months.

1) Participate in the Run Melbourne 10 km event and do it under an hour. If the Mother's Day Classic is anything to go by, I'm a few minutes off this. Training will get me there.

2) Get below 78 kgs by August - about 5 kgs away, an achievable goal. Then it's off to Sydney to celebrate my 43rd birthday, climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge and run in the City to Surf.

Of the latter challenge, I know my angels with be there on the bridge and on the road to Bondi with me, not only in person, but for those who can't make the weekend - in spirit.

Well these are my challenges. All of the group have set themselves new goals now that the 12wbt is over.

Knowing my angels are there to keep my head above water - it's knowledge enough that I can keep going on this journey.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

The First Flight

As a city dweller, there is so much I take for granted. Clean streets, public transport, decent coffee, food, drink, services available any time of the day or night. There are people around everywhere. You can do what you want, when you want and there are few limitations on you. It's normal. It's just how the world is.

Another thing I take for granted is travel. Ostensibly air travel. I had my first flight at the age of five, when my family and I went to Kangaroo Island for a holiday (Cute fact, I lost my first tooth on Kangaroo Island and I remember being worried that the tooth fairy wasn't going to find me). From my early twenties, climbing on a plane to go places far and wide has not daunted me at all. I've been in and out of airports regularly for the last thirty years, whether it be picking up friends or dropping them off - or just heading off somewhere from a weekend to a few months.

I love travel. It makes my soul sing.

So, yesterday's trip to Sydney was going to be nothing out of the ordinary.

Although it was.

Yesterday, I was on a mission.

Leaving work mid-afternoon, I took the Skybus to Tullamarine and waited for my short flight to Sydney. Of course it was a little late - flights often are. I'd already had my flight moved forward an hour, but for my pains I was shoved in Virgin's version of business. A seat in the first row with lots of leg room and a tray table between me and the person in the other seat in the row. The flight was fine - barely a bump was felt, and for a change, the plane wasn't shot down in Sydney. (I'm suere there is a man with a big gun who goes duck shooting at planes in Adelaide and Sydney sometimes)

After disembarking, I changed terminals and found the object of my mission.

I'd come to Sydney to accompany a friend back to Melbourne. That's the only reason I went up there. To hold a friend's hand and escort her down to Melbourne.

She was easy to find. Sitting with a cup of tea and a large, animal print suitcase, she didn't seem nervous or out of place. I was very proud of the fact that she'd made it there after a three hour journey from her home town in the middle of New South Wales.

"This is the first time I've been to the airport." she told me.

Que! What?! My friend is 32-years-old. Okay, my brain in having a slight paradigm shift here. At 32, I'd been to nine or ten countries, mostly on my own. I'm rather adept at getting around places, even if I can't speak the language. To not have even seen a plane up close. My, my. As a child I remember my grandmother taking me to the airport to "watch the big birds." Then again, Adelaide airport was 15 minutes away from her house and my uncle was a pilot, stationed at Adelaide airport regularly.

"You're really not sure about this?" I asked.

"I have no idea. I'm not scared, but I don't know what to do. But you'll help."

"Don't worry, ninety percent of the people are in the same boat - just muddle through or ask somebody." Which is true. As long as you are pleasant, you don't normally end up having a body cavity search. Australian domestic airports are kittens compared to their American counterparts. You're not going to run into trouble unless you mention the words "bomb" or "drugs" or act like an utter cretin.
We went up to the departure hall.

"Okay - you're doing this. Book yourself in."
Yep, what do you think you have to do?"
"Go to the computer kiosk like everybody else."
"Good call."
Five minutes later, boarding pass in hand, behemoth bag stowed in the hold, we tackled security.

"The trick here is making sure you have no metal on you. Coins, mobiles, belts, boots with buckles - shove them on the conveyor and send them through the box."

"Okay. I'm good. you warned me about that."

Which I did in a conversation earlier in the week. Leave the hairspray at home, I have heaps. Keep your big camera in your hand luggage. You'll have to unpack your laptop at security if you bring it. Those sorts of things which make travelling easier. It 's always less of a chore if you're prepared.

No problems with security. We both sailed through.

We found some dinner and spent an hour looking around the Sydney Qantas terminal. Not the most inspiring of places, but it's something different if you've never been there before.

"All airports are pretty much the same. Overpriced shops and food, lots of people running everywhere, crying babies, people hugging. All you have to do is know which gate your plane is going from and at what time - and you can see that from the board. So where are we going?"

She looked at the board.
"Gate Four - board at 7.10."
 don't have to think about this stuff. I haven't really considered this stuff for years. I think about things like - how the hell am I going to transit Frankfurt airport in my transfer time, or what if my taxi driver Greek doesn't get me straight route or what do you mean there are squat toilets here in this godforsaken hell hole. Or the best one - can I scavenge a couch to sleep the five hour transit time here in Darwin. (The way home from Bali - arrived 2.30 am - few out 7 am - but they have great two seater couches you can nap on)

She wasn't nervous - well, at least she didn't appear to be. We chatted about things - what we're getting up to over the weekend, the people we'd meet, the things we'd do - the 1000 Steps, a session with Pinochet, a big party and getting all dolled up, the shopping, the doing things different.

The flight was called.

"Come on, get your boarding pass out."

We queued up with the rest of passengers - mainly business people returning home after days of in endless meetings. I know the look. Rumpled suit, laptop in hand, on the mobile asking to be picked up. Been there.

We were scanned in. I mentioned to the flight attendant that it was her first flight.

I'm going to remember this tidbit - the service you get is impeccable if the crew think you're on your first flight. Mind you, I have a silver Qantas Frequent Flyer card - it's hard to fake that one.

The one hour flight was uneventful from a flight perspective. Smooth take off and landing, no turbulence. The cabin crew were lovely - and we both came away with a bottle of wine and a colouring book (I asked for the latter - I always do - but don't normally get one)

Five minutes into the flight she said,"Wow, I'm flying - this is a bit trippy."

Well it is a bit trippy. You think about it. You're sitting in a large metal tube being thrust through the air by jet propulsion. I'm still unsure how a multi-tonned lump of metal and plastic stays up in the air, but somehow it does. And air travel is still safer than crossing the road.
An hour later, we arrived at my place. She's staying with me for the weekend. It's not the Hilton but there is a room to call her own, a clean bathroom, a kitchen with teabags and safe haven. She's now in the know about how to get into town, to use the trams, the make sure she keeps her handbag on her person at all times and other city protocols that we city-dwellers don't think about.

My job is done.

I've been asked a few times about why I flew up to Sydney to go and get my friend. It seemed improbable that a woman wouldn't be able to get on a plane by herself. On Monday morning, when she goes back to Sydney, I have no doubt at all that she'll be fine after I drop her off at the Skybus on the way to work.

But how cool is it to be able to take the fear away from somebody? To show them the ropes, however simple they may appear to be, let them know that even if they feel like a nuff-nuff, chances are, most of the people around feel exactly the same way. To take the time to say, "Hey, it's alright. You can do this."

If the smile on my friends face as we took off yesterday wasn't enough, the knowledge that I've empowered her - hopefully instilling a desire to travel is a reward in itself.

As we were about to board the plane, we talked about this.

Dr Spencer Johnson in his book stated it as a tenet for change. "What could you do if you weren't scared?"

We nodded in agreement. In this process of change that we're both going through, the smallest of rewards bring the greatest knowledge and joy.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Classic

I have a few rules about running. And fitness for that matter.

Train regularly and often.
Get yourself out of your comfort zone.
Be generous with your time and advice with others (though with the latter only offer it when you know what you're talking about)
Stop bitching and get on with it.

I try to keep my integrity around these rules. I do train often - maybe not as hard as I'd like, but I do train. I do get myself out of my comfort zone regularly - and I like to mix it up as well. I'll get to the being generous rule in a bit.

And stop whining, get out of the Princess mentality and just do it - well yeah. It goes both ways. I've got to the stage with Pinochet that if I'm not up to giving him 110%, I reschedule - why go in half-arsed? Go hard or go home.

Well today was Mother's Day - which means I made my normal five minute phone call to my mother and I got up early and run the Mother's Day Classic - a charity fun run for breast cancer research. This year would be the third year I've run the event probably the seventh or eighth time I've participated (the other years I just walked with the walkers, which is always a sight - thirty thousand people walking around the Botanical Gardens) I'd entered in the eight kilometre run event.

This race is a bit special for me. It was two years ago that Emm and I trained up to do this race. We practiced on the treadmills in the gym for weeks before and on the day, we made it round the four kilometre track in 30 minutes, twenty seconds. We were on top of the world. We'd done it - we'd actually run in a race and not died.

It was two years ago, almost to the day, that I ran my first foot race.

Last year, Kitt and I participated in the eight kilometre event. Kitt trained up, I was in reasonable shape, and I set the proviso that I'd run with her, but I wanted to do the eight kilometres in under the hour. She agreed - and after a bit of coaxing for the last three kilometres (and nearly making her chuck when I made her sprint the last 100 metres... he he he)  we did it in an hour and 30 seconds. Good work we said. We had a great time, Kitt got her PB and all was well.

Reindert instilled in me the need to be generous with fledgling runners. Reindert saw me round my first half marathon in Adelaide in 2009. An incredibly kind act on his behalf. Reindert completed the Boston Marathon in under three hours this year - the stuff of elite athletes - to run with him is an honour. He's given me tips and tricks, taught me breathing and stride techniques, rapped me for not doing hill and sprint training (something I do regularly now - well I do a lot more hills now - getting better with the sprints) basically coached me through my beginners running phase.

For me, it's a no brainer to pay it forward.

So running with Kitt last year, or with Trin in the Run for the Kids this year - it has to be done - I'm not out to set any speed records - I'm recovering from injury - bah, run with them - give me somebody to chat to along the way. No skin off my nose. Trin and I run about the same pace anyway.

But there has always been the question - what could I do on my own? What could I do if I ran under my own steam - what could I do if I wasn't there, chatting, coaching, egging on my mates with my trade mark "Mush, mush, Princess"?. Hmmm.

Well, today, for the first time in the Mother's Day Classic, I was on my own. Kitt and I were supposed to be doing  the 8 kilometre run together, but Kitt's circumstances have made training impossible of late. Trin had other things on today and the rest of the girlies from the posse were interstate or participating in Geelong. Oh well, do it on my own. Suck it up.

Today was the day to see what would happen. Today was the day to test myself.

There were the pre-race jobs to do the night before. Get my bum bag sorted with race number, $20 (jokingly referred to as taxi fare), credit card, driver's licence, running keys (the ones that only have the house keys on them)., a Sunday Saver metcard, water bottle and a gel (runner's food - 100 calories of complex carbohydrate and caffeine). Then, set the clothes out, my compression leggings (which Reindert say are a waste of money and I have to agree now as they're getting baggy), my pink "Geek" t-shirt, two bras, shoes, socks, knickers, heart rate monitor and the timing tag for my shoe. The Pink Geek T-shirt is the only pick article I own in mywardrobe and it is the colour of the day so it has to be done. I'm proud to say it's really baggy now.

I got up in the morning. I had a headache. I'm a bit sniffly. It's cold. It's early.

"Suck it up, Princess. Mush, mush."

I get out the door on time and go to the tram stop. I look down Victoria Street to find that the tram is 300 metres down the road  - past my tram stop and five minutes early. The next tram is 25 minutes away and that will make me late for the event.

"FFFAAAARRRRRRKKKKK."  I hate Yarra Trams.

Plan B - scout run to Bridge Road a kilometre away. Scout running, for those who don't know, is running to a stobey pole/ lamp post / parking pole then walk to the next one over the greater distance - an efficient way of getting somewhere quickly without killing yourself (or in my case, tiring my legs). Bridge Road is just over a kilometre away - but at least  the trams are more frequent.

Thankfully I get to Bridge Road and I see a tram about five minutes away on the correct side of the road. Cool. Good move.

Finally getting to the event in the city, I find the bag drop area an set my bag with my jumper and water bottle in it down with the nice ladies running the area. Coming out of the bag area I get clocked in the face by another runner taking off his warm up gear. It wouldn't be a Mother's Day Classic if somebody didn't beat me over the head - this is the third event at which this has happened - and I like did nothing to them!

Geez. These events are effing dangerous! I storm towards the start line holding my face, hoping to hell I don't get a shiner. I'm cold. I'm miserable. The panadol I took earlier hasn't set in yet. There are heaps of idiots about the place - like why would anybody bring a stroller and a dog and a kid on a run whilst wearing a pink wig. People. Phah.

I stand there waiting for the starting horn. Heart rate monitor poised to be set for go once I pass the blue start mats. At least it's perfect running weather. Overcast, cool, a light breeze. If I'm going to run, this is the weather to do it.

Gertie the Grumpy Gobshite gets in my head. "You're a frigging gazelle. Stupid bint. Should be in bed. None of your friends would run with you. Daft woman. You're agoraphobic - why the hell are you here?" I just love my self talk when I don't have anybody with me. Lovely, it is.

The starting gun goes off. I'm convinced the less time you have hanging round the start line the better. It was about five minutes this time - which is good. Give you less time to talk yourself out of the run.

As I pass the blue mats, set my heart rate monitor and start jogging with the rest of the 4000 daft gits who are doing the 8 km event.

It feels wonderful. Gertie leaves me and I get my normal running persona back. Trin calls me the running fairy. She says I get this angelic smile on my face when I run. I never knew. To me it just feels good.

One kilometre mark. 6 minutes. Eh! six minutes! Shite, I should slow down. But I'm comfortable.
I ran up Anderson Street without any drama and hit the two kilometre mark at 12.06... eh? WTF.

And on it went. The Tan Track is mostly a gently downhill with a good flat stretch and a horrid big sod off hill known as Bloody Anderson Street. I can run up Anderson Street when I'm fresh. Most fledgeling runners look at Anderson Street and start to cry - or turn around and run into the city for a coffee.

Kilometre Five. 31 minutes. Hell - that's the fastest five kilometres I've ever run! I normally do that in about 34-35minutes...

The second traverse of Anderson Street was done scout running - any why not? I set myself a target of doing the course in 55 minutes - that wouldn't slow me down. I'm feeling a bit peaky, but as I found while waiting for the starting gun, I left my gel at home so I'd just have to suffer.

At the six kilometre mark I met up with a young girl in her mid-teens who was struggling a bit. I called her over and we ran for a bit together. I asked her about the tribute card on her back. She was running for Team Amelia. Amelia died of breast cancer at 21 years of age she told me.

The tribute cards are the most poignant element to the Mother's Day Classic. Many people are running for friends or family who have had this insidious disease. More and more are surviving - but some still succomb to it. The most unsettling of these tribute participants is when you see a father with a brood of kids with a photo of a glowing young woman. The words, "I'm doing it for Mummy" - then the dates of her birth and death on their backs. You see that more in the walkers.

You go a bit too fast most of the time to take too much notice when you're running.

The girl asked me who I was running for. Hmm. Well, lots of people. I'm really fortunate - breast cancer hasn't blighted my family to date, thankfully. (Unlike ovarian, lung and kidney cancer) But I told her I was running for my friend Flick's Mum, and two of my old managers, and Kitt's Mum, and countless others who I know have gone through this. Courageous people who fight this crappy disease. I'm just thankful they're getting better at treating it now. We ran on, but as she'd freshened, is sent her on her way. The finish line wasn't too far away anyway. We'd just passed the seven kilometre mark.

Five hundred metres, four hundred metres, three, two... turn onto St Kilda Road. Finish line in sight...

My result, after sprinting the last hundred metres.

50 minutes 48 seconds. Nearly a clear ten minutes faster than last year....

I double checked my watch. Yep, under 51 minutes. My mate Kel the Whippet did her last 8 km race in 45 minutes. I was gobsmacked at how well she did. I'm only six minutes off that.

Under 51 minutes!!!!

Trin sent me a message after the race, after I questioned the result. She said, " Of course you ran well, - you lost that ten minutes ‎1. By not dragging a ball & chain 2. By losing 10+ kilos 3. By training with integrity 4. By simply being The Pand 5. Cos you're awesome :D " (Love my friends, blush)

I don't think I could be prouder of myself at this point in time.

And I now know what I can do.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

On the Absence of Touch

I've wanted to write on this subject for ages, but have never found a way to do it without a heap of self-pity and other morose navel-gazing.

Until now.

Around fifteen years ago, I took on a massage course. There were two reasons for doing this. The first reason was that I thought it a good thing to do as a second job that could be taken anywhere. I didn't realise that I was falling into a vocation.

The second reason was a little more insidious. I partly took up massage to get some touch into my life. Some healthy, positive touch.

The lack of touch in he modern world is a phonomenon people don't talk about that often. People don't really think about it. I used to have a flatmate who said he liked being on crowded trains because he like being touched. At first I thought this creepy until years later, chronically celibate, I could sort of get where he was coming from, not that I'd even consider being packed in with 300 other strangers as positive touch.

Thinking about it, other than my monthly massage, the odd hug from friends, the Maow Maow and Blarney and Barney's kids, I'm rarely touched - making this massage even more important. I know if I leave it more than six weeks I start getting cranky. This positive touch helps to keep my physically, mentally and emotionally in check.

Since qualifying, I've given thousands of massages - bodies of all shapes and sizes. My speciality is feet - my reflexology sessions are the stuff of legend. Even my mother, who has always professed to hating being massaged asks me for one when I'm home. (Which doesn't creep me out at all - just another body on the slab)

Being a massage therapist, I also make sure that I receive a massage at least once a month from a professional standing - it keeps you up on techniques. There is a wonderful holistic practice in my suburb where I go to see my naturopath and my massage therapist - normally the wonderful Yoli who has been beating my tight shoulders into submission for years. Ths month, with things getting a bit stupid, booking to see Yoli was impossible. So I had a choice. Another female masseuse, or Dave.

I chose the latter.

To preface this, the other female massage therapist moans about her husband for the hour of your session. Not wanting that, Dave was the better choice.

Dave is my age, prematurely grey, has bit of a pot belly, wears birkenstocks in summer and he's been my naturopath for over seven years. We have exactly the same sense of humour - which I find very scary.

He can give me a massage, I thought - cool - nothing strange about that. Something different. The only change that would be made is that the knickers stay on. I know everybody in the practice has excellent towel technique, but still... there has to be a modicum of decorum - it's a strange mental barrier that one.

An hour later, I'm feeling wonderful - and no, nothing untoward happened.

Dave appears to have sorted my knee. Actually, Dave has magic hands. And a set of hot towels that just make you feel all floaty and safe. And a great firm but not painful touch. And somehow, he appears to have got my right ITB (Iliotibial band)  into a state where it is moving. Isolated the origin point of the bugger and did some work on it. AMAZING - this is what's causing my knee problems.

But more stunning to me - I'm having a massage and I'm identifying bones. "Is that a shoulder blade?" I asked, "Can you see it?" Yes - my scapulas are finally starting to show themselves - my back fat is going. "And are those ribs?"

Dave laughed at me. "Not use to the new body. Yes, I can feel your bones."

I've never been able to feel my bones - we at least have them near the surface. I knew about the cheek and collarbones, but shoulder blades, and hip bones and ribs - HELL!

"And have you changed your towel supplier? They seem bigger."
Dave once again had a laugh. "You're not quite used to the shrinking thing, are you?"

No. I'm not.

The size 16's are getting baggy. I've been a size 16 since university. There has been times where I will sit in a plane seat and there is barely any room between me and the tray table. Not any more. T-shirts have normally been purchased in an extra large - they're now swimming on me.

And for the first time in ages, I was with a group of women the other day and I didn't feel like the biggest one in the room. I'm starting to feel spacially "normal".

Huge stuff for me.

And having a massage from a bloke. Well, it seems the same thing stands since massage school - if you want your legs done - get a man to do them.

Going to go to bed all smiley now.

Heaven knows what will happen when this bout of singledom breaks. I think my smile might light up the world.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Day of Blessings

Yesterday morning I rose at 5.50 am, briefly showered, grabbed my pre-packed bag, drove to the airport, hopped on 6.30 Qantas flight to Sydney, dismbarked, found the train station and make the quick trip into the CBD and walked about half a kilometre to be with a special friend on a very special day.

I'll let Amy tell her own story. You can find her blog at .

I've "known" Amy for three years online. We've been forum buddies - only in the last six months or so we've become friends, along with a group of us who are on similar journeys. We refer to each other as "The Posse". These bright, articulate, fun, courageous wome are there to watch your back, pick you up and dust you off when things get rough, applaud your wins and offer friendship, love and support unconditionally. It's a blessing, not only for this weight loss journey, but for life.

There wasn't a second thought about going to Sydney yesterday. Over the last few weeks the group and I have watched as Amy's jumped through a lot of hoops - at times at the expense of her physical and mental wellbeing. Being there for her photo shoot on Saturday needed to be done - not that she wouldn't have been okay by herself, but I really wanted to lend her some moral support. Both Trin and I felt the same. We were going to be there to help her celebrate as well as let her know she wasn't alone.

Trin and I are in the middle of our own journeys. We're aware of how hard and confronting a total makever could be. Gee, we can get emotional when you buy something in the next size down - what would it be like to be totally transformed?!

Being in Sydney yesterday was a no brainer.

Meeting up with Amy for the first time was like being with a very old friend after years of separation - as if no time had ever passed - even though we'd technically never met. The Biggest Loser support staff were amazed that the three of us weren't the oldest of friends. But Trin and Amy and I are old friends - we've just never physically been in the same space. Strangely, it feels like this with all of the support group.

During the course of the morning, we watched as Amy was tranformed. With a lovely, patient, encouraging stylist and a very down to earth makeup artist our friend was zhushed into the glorious being we know her to be on the outside to match insides - not that there is anything wrong with her outsides now as they normally are. The photographer on hand was a great fellow as well, funny, approachable and able to put our girl at ease.

In the background, Trin and I kept a watchful eye. With the permission of the photographer and crew, I was on the other end of my camera taking photos of proceedings for posterity. Amy couldn't see what was going on in the background - but Trin and I could. We've taken a suitase full of shots to record the day.

It was a great morning, watching over the process as Amy and two others had their photo shoots. At times, there was a bit of chicken dancing going on in the background to take her mind off things (my speciality is the Chicken Dance - goes with my chicken legs) We were there to prop her up when needed and just be there to let her know things were okay.

Things came a little unstuck for a few minutes when they asked her to pull out an "old" article of clothing. I will also let Amy relate this if she wishes to - but it was an incredibly poignant moment as we watched our friend face her former self. A few tears, some reiki and a lot of encouragement and things got back on track again.

I had a chat the managing director of the Biggest Loser Club - a laid back Kiwi, who was mooching around the set. Being the nosy person I am I asked who he belonged to and we struck up a conversation. Had a good chat about life, the club and the journey in general. He asked what I liked about the club. The tools and the forums - realising you're not alone on this journey was a powerful message. And what I didn't like. Well, I found the meal replacements and the express model they have going a sell out - but as an occasional user of the meal replacements I couldn't judge too harshly. And what was the club missing? More on the psychology of the journey. Eating right and exercising is nearly pointless if you don't have your head in the right spot. More should be done about getting you through the journey emotionally. It takes time to get your head around the changes as not only I, but every one of the club members in the room has experienced.

Karen, another club member receiving a makeover was in exactly the same boat. She was shown the photos of herself on the computer and burst into tears. She hadn't realised just how far this journey had taken her. Karen looked incredible. Losing 50 kilos will do that to you. A beautiful spirit inside and out as well - and that not only because she's from Adelaide.

Trin and I now have it in our heads to keep going. We want a makeover! It's quite a few kilos away for both of us, but gee we want one. Watch this space.

Once the shoot was over, after we'd met a couple of contestants who'd come to the studio for further shoots Amy, Trin and I went and found some lunch and has a walk around Sydney, taking in the enormity of the morning. It was huge. What Amy has done is nothing short of incredible.

I'm honoured to call her and Trin my friends.

Of course, the obligatory shots of the big coat hanger and the "Nuns in a Scrum" building had to be taken.

Yeah, I know, you can't really make me out - but I have a waist now and here's proof - and I'm loving that!.. (And just like the Stig, I'm The Pand - nobody knows my real identity...)

After a bit more mooching and some lunch, it was back to the studio to grab our stuff. We left Amy to get back to her sister's place in outer Sydney and Trin and I went to the airport to make our way home.

A day filled with the best blessings imaginable. The blessing of friendship.

The full force of yesterday hit me this  morning. I'm exhausted - a little headachy even. I missed pump - feeling too blah to even give it a go, though I met up with Emm after for a coffee. I cried off the engineering barbeque - too tired. And now I'm off to Blarney and Barney's to wish Chance and Lance a happy first birthday. I made them a cake.

When I told Blarney I wanted to make them a cake she said not to - she'd buy them one. Then I said that I wanted to make them a cake as I don't have kids to make a birthday cake for - and I'd sorta like to make a tradition out of it. So here is a dinosaur cake for the baby dinosaurs (as they are affectionately known) that was made and iced this morning. It's nearly as cool as the "Old Git" cake. Hope they like it - mind you're they're only turning one....

It's been a memorable weekend. I'm pretty sure the weekend in two weeks time will be even bigger. 12wbt finale, the whole of the posse is getting together.

Think I'd better stock up on berocca.

April Star Calendar

Well, no Pandora bead this month, but still, not a bad effort at all. 25/30.

In all, not a bad month. I'm down to 84.3 kgs now - so much better than the 98.3 kgs at the start of the year.

However, April has been a month of readjustment. I started work and fitting in exercise with work is proving hard - though I am doing it.  There's also been the odd dinner party where things just go out the window (9 April) a night out on the tiles - (Easter Saturday) and the last two days have not been great. Yesterday I was in Sydney and at the mercy of pub food and airports.

However, I'm really proud that my eating and exercise habits have changed for the better. Though I've gone over the prescribed 1600 calories, I've not binged. I'm keeping the exercise up. I'm making good choices.

So I don't see this as a failure at all. I'm just being honest. I have a life - and I can't control everything all the time. And sometimes you need to celebrate and enjoy and occasionally - very occasionally, you have to say "What the f*ck!".