Tuesday, July 23, 2013

An Attitude of Gratitude

I'm looking around me and Im seeing a hell of a lot to be thankful for. As my team at work has been rocked with illness and injury, as friends are going through some major life upheavals, and the world appears to be going to hell in a handcart, I'm chosing to look at the positive.

Call me Pollyanna.

Call me delusional.

I'm chosing the happy road - and for this I am truly grateful.

Some of this is my belief in the fact that if you put out good things, good things will come back - the old law of attraction. Yes I am aware that this may not be the case for the starving in third world countries and that indeed, crap happens to the best of us - but for the most part, going into something feeling positive and looking forward fearlessly gets you further than if you're sitting around moping and moaning.

So, here are my things that I'm truly grateful for.

1) I'm fit

Racing around at the gym with Slap last night, working out hard to The Pixies' Doolittle album I think life was about as perfect as it can get. There is something very wonderful about smacking a bag about to Wave of Mutilation. The fact that I'm a month off my 45th birthday and can race around like a loon - a reason to be gratetful.

2) I have great friends

What is life without friends. I'm lucky, I have good ones - and I thank the universe for having great friends every day. They are my family.

3) My parents are healthy

After watching a friend go through what I equate to be the ninth level of purgatory with a father in critical care on the anniversary of the death of her mother - I am very, very thankful that my parents are strong and healthy and long that remain. Mum's knee replacement went well - two weeks on and she's getting around with a stick.

4) I get a cat every so often

I rent my home and it clearly states that I cannot have pets. However, that doesn't stop me borrowing pets now and then. I love being a cat sitter. Even more, I love that the cats that come to stay appear to enjoy staying with me. I'd go nuts without my cat time. And before you ask - I travel too much to have a cat of my own - not fair on the beastie. Yet having a cat some stay for a few days here and there makes everything so much nicer.

5) Skinny ankles, Good skin

I'm grateful I got the skinny legs off my mother - boots fit above the calves. I'm grateful I got this sturdy skin that just needs washing and moisturising and is mainly unlined for my age. I've got some dodgy genetic parterns, but this isn't one of them.

6)  I'm solvent and debt free

Okay, I don't own my own home and I want to look at rectifying this soon, but I'm very lucky to be able to pay my rent on time and have money to spare at the end of each week. I work hard, but I'm truly grateful for this. Long may it continue.

7) I get to do the things I like to do regularly

Spending time with friends, going to the gym, watching movies, going to the theatre occasionally, reading, walking, sleeping, travelling... all things I get to do often. Doing things I like keeps me sane.

8) I live in a safe country free from persecution

A lot has been in the papers about new measures around refugees arriving in Australia by boat from Indonesia. I am truly grateful that I life in a country where I am not persecuted. this might change if Tony Abbott comes to power, but I realise how fortunate I am to live in a country where I can live without fear. I can vote, drive, mock the government. I have freedom of speech and travel. As an Australian, all of these things we take for granted. Many, many others can't say the same.

I'm sure there are more, but there are lots of things to be grateful about.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Cat's Pyjamas

Some of the best ideas come from the strangest places.

In my case, the idea came from www.Icanhascheezburger.com.

This eponymous website where people post funny photos of their animals with witty slogans is known over the world. Although not a regular reader, occasionally I'll dib into the Cheezburger website for a look and a giggle.

The other notable instance in my life over the last two weeks has been the inclusion of Maow Maow. Barney and Blarney are over in Tasmania. Maow Maow's been with me for about a fortnight. Regular readers will be aware that Maow Maow is my familiar. We're close and have a rather unique friendship. He's the bestest cat in the world, even though he isn't mine. We get on well. He likes sitting on me. I cart him round like a baby at parties - more for his own protection.

However, the down side of Maow Maow (I didn't name him) is that he has noxious allergies which cause him to scratch and bite himself until he bleeds. It's quite distressing for all concerned as these alergies appear to be getting worse. When Barney dropped him off he was looking like a patchwork puss, albeit a healing one. The patch on his neck which had needed stitching a few weeks back was clear skin, and the patch on his back about the size of my had was coming good, albeit bare of fur. Not a particularly attractive look.
I was also advised that Maow Maow needed to be given a pill every day. Not a biggie. Maow Maow is pretty good when it comes to pills - nothing like what people say (Or maybe I'm just good at giving cat's tablets) He takes his medicine most mornings like a good boy. Give him a kiss and a cuddle and some breakfast after and he's fine.

However, in the days I've had Maow Maow, he's started scratching again and he's covered once again in ulcerated sores. It's dreadful. He's of the habit of climing under the covers during the night - he's bled all over the covers. It's just not good at all.

When Blarney and Barney get back from holiday he's being taken to a cat skin specialist for allergy testing, but this doesn't stop my 1000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets from being smeared with cat blood. I also feel for the little fellow. Scratching and biting himself til he bleeds can't be comfortable, although he seems to be in a good and happy place for the most part.

Barney also bought his jumper over when he brought the cat around. Maow Maow has regularly been put in a jumper to stop him scratching himself. Mind you, the one he has at the moment he can get out of pretty easily. I've tried - he wriggled out of it two minutes later.

And then there came the Cheezeburgers. This was posted on a friend's web page:

And an idea was born.

A trip to Target on the way home - thankfully there was a sale on kids clothing. $5 later we were sorted. Being mindful of the fact that he's a rather proud and regal animal, we thought that purple would be the way to go. Blarney has a tendency to buy him pink jumpers.

Next thing, cut the feet out of the legs of the grow suit (or onesie as some call it)

Next job dress the boy. When you have a compliant and trusting cat, this is easier than you think.

And at the end of it all, you have a cat in a grow suit. 

Who doesn't look impressed in the slightest.

Strange thing is, as stupid as he looks, he got why I was doing this to him. That night, he slept in his onesie, all night, under the covers, next to me. And in the morning, his skin was looking a lot better.

He's gone home now. The first thing Blarney and Barney did was throw his onesie back on. Maow Maow climbed into my lap as the boys ran around welcoming him back. Seems for all the torment I've put him through, he still loves me.

Maybe I am the cat's pyjamas after all.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Of Vuvuzelas and Sunday Afternoons

Here I was thinking the vuvuzela was banned. Like guns in Australia a few years back, I thought they had some sort of amnesty on the buggers and you got to hand them in and watch them be destroyed, thrown into a wood chipper like that bloke was in Fargo.

(Image from www.businessinsider.com)
It appears that this is not the case.

What was more perplexing was I saw the use of the vuvuzela twice in a 24 hour period. In the city of Melbourne - which was even more bizarre. Even more strange, the vuvuleza was championing the same cause.

The first sighting was on the up to the Dandenongs yesterday afternoon. Em had agreed to come on a reconnaisance mission with me to look at places to have my birthday lunch in a few weeks time. There was a bit of a serious side to this, as my mum is having a knee replacement tomorrow. She's coming over for my birthday and we needed to check some stuff out around going on Puffing Billy and where to go for lunch. I'm not saying Mum will be a cripple at this stage, but I want to make sure that she'll have a good time of things.

Driving up through Tecoma, the nasal BAAAARRRPPPPP was heard.

On this cold and dreary day, about 200 protesters stood outside a proposed McDonalds site in Tecoma. It's been all over the news. The residents of the Dandenongs don't want the Golden Arches in their suburb, there's been petitions and complaints but it appears our tribunal body have said yes to the beef fat and sesame seed smelling Corporation. Hills residents are not happy

You can find out more about it here.
"We did something like that at home a few years ago," said Em, who was in the passenger seat, smiling and waving at the protesters. Em originally hails from the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney - it's a place not dissimilar to the Dandenongs.

I beeped my horn, waved and gave the damp looking group the thumbs up.

"They were going to try and put a McDonalds in Katoomba. We told them where to go and they went away."

"I hope that happens here."

Checking the map on their website, there is still no McDonalds in Katoomba - and there is not a gold "M" in a red circle on the map in Tecoma - and long may it remain.

I stopped beeping and waving once we'd passed the picket line.

I do like it when I hear stories like this. We have three McDonalds in our suburb. I'm at a loss as to why, other than it offers employment to young people and provides trans fats to those who wish to partake.

Em and I made it to our first stop about five minutes later, after passing through the town of Belgrave. Parking the car, we made out way down to Puffing Billy to have a look around. Looking at this from the view of somebody who may be on crutches or a Zimmer frame (we're not sure, hopefully the former) is interesting. Where could we drop her off? Where could we pick her up? What was it going to be like for her getting on the train?

Thankfully, Puffing Billy is extremely accessible for anybody with a disability. It truly is great to see, noticing that there were ramps for wheelchairs - and the conductors were very helpful.

For me, I was just happy being around the trains. It's in my blood - my great grandfather drove the Nhill express in the 1890s - back when Victoria was in its post Gold rush flutter and trains were the way to get around.

Em had never been up to see Puffing Billy before. She was surprised that you could get up close and look at the trains without a ticket. She commented on the volunteer staff - the train tragics - who love spending time with the trains. The smell of the smoke, the way that the soot gets in your eyes, the excited little kids. It was all a first for her. She's coming up for my birthday in a few weeks time to get the real experience.)

Me, I just felt happy. There is something very reassuring about steam trains - even if this one is a volunteer run, donation funded, small gauge railways that run up and down the hills of the Dandenongs (if you're interested, go to www.puffingbilly.com.au to have a look.)

Satisfied that Mum was going to be okay on the day,, after waving off the 2.30 train (and not being admonished for acting like a child) it was time for a coffee and a bakery trip. In front of where the car was parked sat an old fashioned bakery.

Em and I have similar sweet tooths it appears.

We sat with our jam tarts and coffees outside in the mist, reminiscing about our childhoods.

"Being from South Australia, they don't have the same things we have in bakeries - oh the jam tarts and lamingtons are the same everywhere, but where are the Balfours Frog Cakes? Not the frog meringues like they have here.  Where are the Kitchener Buns? (Adelaide thing - a doughnut bun filled with mock cream and jam, dusted with icing sugar) What they call a coffee scroll over here, we call a Boston Bun. Why don't finger buns have sultanas in them?"

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia - the green frog cakes are the best)

"Wow, you know your bakery items."
"Yeah, that I do."

The jam tarts found in Belgrave were like the ones we had when we were kids. Crisp, shortcrust pastry and lots of raspberry jam - the only think missing was the raspberry seeds - no self-respecting jam tart should be made with seedless raspberry jam - it's not the same if you're not fishing out seeds with dental floss for the next two days.

Em and I then made our way to Emerald, about twenty minutes drive away. Our next stop was to search out somewhere to have lunch on the big day in a few weeks time.

Emerald isn't that big and doesn't have that many places that do a nice lunch at. We found a bakery. A fish and chip shop. A curry house. Another bakery which was about to shut its doors at 3 pm which felt like it was thinking about going out of business soon - it was not inviting at all.

Finally we found the spot five minutes later after a walk down the road and me remembering coming up with a friend a five years ago. This was going to be the for lunch. The bistro is down the road and up a steep hill , so we will have to get somebody to pick up Mum from Emerald station and take her there - no biggie. The menu is reasonable, the outlook lovely - the perfect place for a birthday lunch with me and a dozen or so friends and family.

After a quick beer at the bar, Em and I meandered back through Emerald to the car, stopping off at the decent looking bakery on the way.

If your're ever in Emerald, Victoria, stop here!

What is it about country bakeries that make them so wonderful. Em found a white chocolate lamington, with cream. Me - the last coffee ├ęclair had my name on it. 24 hours later, I'm still waxing lyrical about this coffee ├ęclair. OH MY GOODNESS - it's one of the best things I've ever tasted. If you're in the Dandenongs, go here. Just do it.

(Image from misslulus.com.au - but the one I had was much better - coffee cream filling that's better than sex)

We made it back to the car for the drive home just as it started to rain.

"It's been a great afternoon." said Em.
"It has. Thanks for coming up here with me."
"I never expected you to be a bakery aficionado. You like to watch what you eat."
"Bakeries and me. Oh hell yeah, runs in my genes. My dad could never pass a bakery without going in - I'm not much better. I have memories of him with mock cream dribbled down his chin. He was happiest with a Kitchener Bun in his hand."
"I don't hear you talk of your dad much."
" I don't. But when I go into a country bakery, I think of him."

(Image from Wikipedia)
We drove home, discussing politics, corporations and the passing by the now very damp protesters in Tecoma. You have to admire their determination. We beeped and waved at them in support.

This morning as I passed Parliament House on my walk to work, the Tecoma protesters were outside in full force. Vuvuzelas calling the politicians to do something and quickly to get rid of the proposed McDonalds soon to be installed in Tecoma.

Good on them I say.

They've found a real use for the vuvuzela - annoying politicians to listen to the people and see reason.

Maybe we should take one to Tony Abbott's next media conference... help drown out the dross.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Naming Rites - Part Two

My cousin has asked me to write this.

So I'm not taking full responsiblity for my actions here.

See, the last time I wrote one of these posts I got in a lot of trouble with my family. But there is nothing new there - I'm always in trouble with my family.

What happened back in October 2011 was my cousin and his wife had a baby. Lovely baby - gorgeous little fellow.

Then they proceeded to call him Malcolm.

Yes, Malcolm - a name reserved for those who are Scottish and are bound to be part of the grey cardigan wearing public service, where the most interesting thing they will ever do is coach the local Under 12s Lacrosse Team.

Names are very personal things - and as a rule I try not to comment on names. It is absolutely no business or concern of mine what people name their child. It's their business, not mine - though my cousin's mother and I had many a conversation over the naming of said Malcolm - thankfully young Malcolm is now one of the most stunning children you're ever likely to see which should have him in good stead.

I also need to say that I will most probably never get to name a child. In my young and deluded days I always had it in my head that I wanted to call a son something normal and boring like Matthew, George or Thomas, and for a girl, maybe something like Sienna, Imogen or Erin. Nothing too way out for a girl, though I'd love to give her the middle name of Serendipity - probably scarring the child for life.

There are other conventions that I'd probably try and avoid. Naming children after your parents or grandparents. Middle names maybe, but that's it. Besides, with the choice of Eunice, Reg, Ada, Darcy, Ron and Kay in my case, maybe not. Though my sister gave her firstborn the middle name of Kay - nothing wrong with that.

I also loved the name Jayanthi - after an Indian friend - but I don't think I'd like to instill a life of spelling out their name on a child.

I discussed this naming thing with a work mate who said that they thought long and hard about the names and the consequences of the initials. Christopher Ulysses Nathaniel Taylor and his brother Francis Alexander Robert Taylor might not have such a good time of things.

You look at the siblings too. You wouldn't call your daughters Jenna and Tahlia and then go calling for them in the play ground at the top of your lungs. It's just not done.

Another friend said that she wanted to "supermarket proof" her child's name, so that if she had to yell for them to stop doing something in the supermarket she wouldn't sound like a right berk. My friend has a reasonably strong Cockney accent, so names like Amy, Archie - basically anything iambic in nature (Two syllables,short starting sound, longer ending sound) doesn't work with a nasal accent (think of a think Australian accent then say Narelle or Kaylene - you'll get my drift - not pretty)

We're also going through a stage where people are naming their children with old fashioned names. I'm getting good at keeping schtum as little Adelaide (Pseudo city in South Australia), Mabel (Cat Name) Elsie (smells of boiled veggies and stale urine) Archie (Lives at the front bar of the All Nations) and Walter (sausage dog that live in a furniture shop down Bridge Road) are handed over to be bounced on my knee.

There's also the names that are almost certainly casting your child into an alternative lifestyle. Crispian, Peregrine, Thurstan, Doris and Wilma spring to mind. Not that there is anything wrong with that at all.

I also think there should be a law not allowing the use of Irish names unless you are Irish. I know a Tadhg, Aioslinn, Aoife, Connaighh and Breidh - and I proudly know how to pronounce their names - but I also know their Irish born parents making this acceptable. Thing is, these children are going to be spending an extra five minutes on the phone spelling out their names for the rest of their lives - maybe not so in Ireland, but thems the breaks.

Naming your child after brands is never a good thing - Chanel, Dior, Manolo may be chic - but on a bogan from Elizabeth, South Australia or Coburg, Victoria, maybe not so much. Then there are the Harley Davidsons, the Jack Daniels and the Bundies to contend with.

(Maybe if I had triplets I could name them Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray and Hendricks...)

Then there are the associations that you have with names. Everybody has them. It took me a long time to get over the fact that a good friend of mine had the same name as my father. That one was freaky.

Other associations that I have are:

Natalie - carries a briefcase to unversity. Teeth like a horse
Colin - Small man syndrome
Allan - Friend of Colin. Makes the tea
Russell - Not particularly well endowed. Boring but means well - would make a good parking inspector
Andrew - giggle giggle (I had a car named Andrew - names after an ex's wedding tackle which were small but got you where you needed to go)
Dave - Solid. Has lots of pimples on his back
Rebecca - alternative in a good way - looks good in purple - should have been a teenager in the sixties
Yvette - flaky
Yvonne - a little deluded in a cute sort of way
Sam - reliable
Roy - Will be bald by the time he's 30
Amber / Tawny / Ginger - Stripper Names
Teri - takes too many amphetamines
Mike - Plays far too much golf / watches far too much formula one
Gordon - Thunderbird name
Virgil - also a Thunderbird

I could go on. But I won't.

Regardless, my cousin sent me a text to say that his son had been born.

Tristan Alexander

I congratulated my cousin and asked after his wife and Malcolm. I also asked if young Malcolm liked his new brother - which it seems he did.

Better than me. When my sister was born I wanted my Mum to take her back - you see, my sister wasn't black - all the babies I knew about were on Sesame Street - and they were black. Then when my sister was brought home I proceeded to sit on her in her bouncinette.We got off to a good start.

Then asked my cousin if he was hoping his son would be a Knight or an academic and if the latter, did his onesies have leather elbow patches already.

Think I'm off the Christmas Card list once again.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Empire

Opportunities are invented from the most unexpected of conversations.

A few weeks ago I was sitting with friends after my fortnightly mediation class trying to put the world to rights over breakfast.

We talk about all sorts of strange stuff at our post-meditation breakfasts. Subjects such as tarot, spirituality, life force, feminism all feature regularly.

This conversation was a little different.

Daphne is a wonderful, gentle soul in her early sixties. She's a grandmother, still working part-time a medical field and is well versed in all sorts of topics.

We got talking about work. Daphne, approaching retirement needs an income - don't we all.

"I was at this career fare for retirees and I'm looking at going into business on my own." she told me.
"Doing what?"
"See, there is the problem. I don't quite know. They were saying that to get the best out of home business you have to look to your ten greatest strengths and passions and a mix of these ten key ingredients will give you the perfect job that will make you suceed."
"Sound like a sound plan."
"I don't know why you don't go into business." she said to me.

At the time I was just finishing up in my last role - still not in a great space. I think she was egging me on to find better (which I have, but more on that later)

"I have no idea what I'd do. Starving writing in a garret writing anti-Abbott vitriole would get me nowhere."
"Have a think about it, " she continued. "Go on, write down you ten greatest strengths and abilities."

Hmph. Begrudgingly, I did this as the last of my coffee went cold. Strangely, my ten qualities and strengths came out easily.

This is what I came out with:

  • Sense of humour
  • Writing ability
  • Empathy
  • Down-to-earth / pragmatic
  • Clear sight / tarot abilities
  • Corporate savvy
  • Able to see around corners / through problems
  • Positive attitude
  • Imagination
  • Enthusiasm by the bucket load

"There you go. Now what am I supposed to do with this?" I asked.
"Don't ask me - but when you find something that fits with all of these, you'll have something to work with."

The epiphany came early on Monday morning as I started the hunt for work.

As I normally do when I'm between contracts, I put out my hobby job shingle. A post goes up on Facebook along the lines of "Anybody need a massage / reflexology session / tarot reading give me a yell".

This time, I modifed the message.

"Anybody need a CV overhaul?"

Within half an hour I had ten people enquire wanting some help.

It's a universal working problem. Does your Curriculum Vitae (or resume) represent you at your best? English grammar not your strong point? Don't know the industry standards? Can't be asked? How many people do you know out there hate writing? Seriousle, there are a lot of them out there.

I've been helping people with their CVs for ages. I remember when my sister was trying to get back to work after being a Stay-at-home-Mum for six years. She'd found somewhere she wanted to go but had no clue about her CV.

"What do I say about the last six years?" she asked me. "I've been at home minding kids."
"No you haven't. You've been managing the house hold finances, running a house, been involved in school committees... you've been doing lots of things. Getting a job is about selling your skills, not just going on about what you have done in the past."

I worked on my sister's CV for an hour. She sent it in. She was called for an interview the next day. In that interview she was complimented on her CV - and she got the job.

Reindert enlisted my help when he was moving back to the US. We had a session on change managing career. Where did he want to go? What did he want to do? Start visualing what he wanted.

Another friend a few weeks ago was in dither mode. We had a "holistic" career management session (this means drinking tea and having your cards read, amongst other things) and spent some time on her CV. A week later she was employed.

So it seems I have a bit of a gift helping people sort out their resumes and documents - as well as working with people to get them in the right mindsets.

When I look at it, I have a lot of experience going out and finding work. I'm also a writer with a lot of commercial and professional experience.


So the idea for the Empire was sparked.

Overhauls - like a car. Resume or CV Overhauls. I could do that. I've got a computer and a phone and the internet. What more do you need? A website. Easy - I got onto Weebly and bought a domain name.

I could offer different service levels - like you have when you take your car in for a service.

A Minor Service for those who need a tweak - all the information is there - just needs a bit of tweaking, formatting and the like.

A Major Service for when you have to have a good dig around to get more information, complete re-writes, help with applications and cover letters, writing social media content for websites like LinkedIn.

Then there would be a Complete Overhaul Service, where not only the CV is overhauled but I could work with the person on Change Managing their career. Look at what the person really wants to do, where they are going. Look at what they're afraid of? What to expect. Interview skills. Preparing to get back to the workforce. Holistic career counselling.

Pricepoints are on my time commitment. A minor service shouldn't take me much more than an hour - along with a 15-20 minute chat with the person who needs their CV fixed.

Well - a week later I've started developing my website - and I've had my first client. Who has been invoiced and he's paid.

It's something I can work on in the down times, sell my services to the odd agency who might recommend me (I spend enough time with recruitment consultants, may as well get some work off them) and get in the odd job by word of mouth.

I'm not sure if it's a good or bad thing, but I know a heap of engineers who hate writing. There are very few people out there who enjoy updating their CVs. It's one of those chores nobody likes doing. Also, being a wordsmith, it's something I can do fairly quickly and easily, in industry guidelines. And I know heaps of technical bod and engineers who change jobs regularly.

The website is under construction - but you're welcome to have a look.


Call it another string to my bow.

Viva the Empire.