Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I'm afraid to ring my husband

... because he'll either burst into tears and dribble mucus all over his computer or grab the meteorological nerd nearest him and rip him a second - or even third - poo pipe.

In a series of renovations that have been going for (checks diary) FOUR months now, we are - or were - looking at the home (see what I did there?) stretch. Our renos have moved slower than honey on a sponge, leaving us to live, eat and entertain in our bedrooms and occasionally streak outside to use the porta-shower.

I was moaning to Love Chunks the other day about how, in times of stress, the home is normally a 'haven' but ours is full of tradies with blaring radios, cigarette butts strewn all over the garden, dust, gravel, wood shavings, BO, Maccas wrappers and badly painted walls that need to be redone (when the stupid, slack clown has time to come back of course). No inviting lounge room, 'come to me' kitchen, 'divine' dining room or 'total spa experience' bathroom to sulk in.

This coming weekend was to be the end of it. Full use of all of the rooms in our home, the end of dust and no more miniskips clogging up the garden. Today, Gary (7 cups of strong black coffee every day) and Sean (just water, thanks and do you mind if I have SAFM playing at over 100 decibels for at least eight hours so that you get to hear Good Charlotte, Deltra Goodrem, Kylie Minogue and Silverchair at least 10 times each) are out there working their little hearts out on the pavers which are looking great.

Some delivery dude turned up (whilst I was in the midst of an argument with someone from the cruel castle of Hellfire and Recrimination) with a huge cork noticeboard for Sapphire's room. He checked out our wrought iron screen door and remarked, "Nice, very nice door. Did ya get that from 'Iron Curtain'?" That we did and it cost about as much as the contents of one of Britney Spears' nostrils thank you very much.

The third character in my Tradie-Trifecta turned up at 10:30am. Affable Steve set to putting the floating floorboards together in the living room, and I silently jumped for joy at the thought of no longer having ground-cement-dust trod through the house. Steve admired our newly-polished old wooden floorboards in the original part of the house. "Yeah, they were the only time we actually had to move out of here during the renovations," I said, prouder than the eco-conscious owner of a dead front lawn. "We spent a salubrious week in a cabin in the Levi Caravan Park for these babies."

Steve set to work, cutting boards on the front verandah, dodging the licky affections of Dogadoo (she loves a quick lick of a tradie, especially if they're crouching and reveal a bit of builders' smile) and, in between coffee runs, I could see what wonderfully quick progress he was making.

I phoned Love Chunks. "The floorboards look GREAT. Maybe we can go and look for that plasma telly you've been yearning for this weekend seeing as the living room will be ready to go by tonight."

(Smacking forehead in a literary sense): Stupid Stupid Stupid! I should have known NOT to get over-confident and assume that all interior renovations will be finished by the weekend! Predictably, Steve tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to come and look at the floorboards. He explained, to my sinking expression, that he had been given one third of an older shipment of boards and two thirds of a new shipment and, despite being the same company, range, colour and width, they didn't, erm, match. He'd also been told by his boss that the next shipment of the newer batch was still on shipping container out on the sea somewhere and not expected to turn up to the world's largest island until a fortnight or so.

By this stage my bottom lip had drooped so far that Dogadoo was sitting on it. I nodded, said the expected phrases of, "I know it's not your fault Steve", "Thanks for telling me, I can see how this must be frustrating for you, too," and "I appreciate that you weren't just going to shove two ill-fitting types together and hope like hell we wouldn't notice" etc, but inside I was thinking, 'What the hell is Love Chunks going to say?' This renovation process has, for him, been more time-consuming and frustrating than a 3000-piece jigsaw puzzle being knocked off a card table with only one piece left to insert.

I left it to him to rant and rave at our builder to coordinate an alternative floor board colour or layer or company or whatever, and decided to take a more passive and grounded approach.

What are the all important rules of renovations? I present you with the Tradies' Testament:

1) Your renos will be completed in the fullness of time, or as per the will of Allah. Or, when we can fit it in between larger, and more money-making jobs such as entire housing estates or even just one house from scratch.

2) We tradies reserve the right and will to arrive at *any time of our choosing* between midnight and noon if we say 'morning'. Alternatively, we are entitled to turn up at one minute past noon right up to midnight if we tell you it will be 'some time in the arvo'.

3) Despite our somewhat elastic appointment times, we tradies won't wait for anyone. If you are on the bog, trying to wipe onion juice off your hands before answering the door or two blocks away coming back from walking your daughter to school we may not deign to step out of our utes before deciding that the house is empty and bugger off again.

4) We will all carry enormous mobiles with incredibly groovy ring tones that we will continually interrupt our conversation with you to answer. That doesn't mean, however, that we will feel compelled to answer our phones when it is you ringing them.

5) Near Enough Is Good Enough. If you don't notice the fly we've permanently lacquered to your floorboards then neither will we. If the toilet door is varnished with about as much care and cover as a Jordan mini-dress you should be grateful: we're in demand, after all. If a kitchen cabinet is installed upside down and in direct opposition to the ten other doors alongside them, we will feign cupboard blindness (this appears to be like colour blindness - the inability to notice any workman faults that are apparent to even the imbecilic home-owners among you).

6) If you don't like it, you can shove your poncy degrees up your arses and go get an apprenticeship yourself. At least then you'll be able to send a fifteen year old off to the post office to ask for a 'verbal agreement'. Har Har.

July - our underground rainwater tanks!

Since then - bugger all rain

August - Sapphire playing 'Queen of the Castle' on the topsoil removed for the tanks

September - our 'huge' (read: 1.6m by 2m) bathroom. It was touch-and-go as to whether we'd just make the room an entire plunge pool instead - it would certainly make life interesting for any unsuspecting house guests.
October - Sapphire wins first prize at her friends' Halloween party for going dressed up as "Daddy after he's vaccuumed up the cement dust that's seeped into our bedrooms for the tenth time."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hey hey hey heeey!

I've been going to meditation classes for about a year now and am now able to experience the odd - or very occasional - moment of 'being in the now.'

Relaxing my body to make it at least loose enough to stop sitting up as rigidly as a fighter pilot on a 'Maximum Collateral Damage' mission has been a huge challenge but I'm getting there. I can now at least focus on my breathing for about four seconds before racing back to thoughts such as "What will they put on TV during the 'off ratings' season when there was already such crap on during the 'ratings' season", and "Remember to let out the chooks, let in the floor sanding guy, take your CV to the interview tomorrow, don't inhale chocolate again and see if you can find out why Mark Holden is considered an expert in anything."

John, the teacher, is as calm and collected as you'd expect a meditator to be, but somehow he's managed to work in an IT Help Desk environment and manage to keep sane, smiling and out of any murder trials. "If thoughts arise in your mind, just notice them and let them go. Let go of these thoughts and shift from thinking to sensing: return back to your breathing and keep listening to your body."

I've since learned that by 'listening to your body' John does not mean fantasing about introducing a dark 'Kit Kat Chunky' chocolate to Australia's corner shops or a decent decaffeinated iced coffee but to remove all distractions and really check out how your body is reacting.

Despite having a nose I could rent out as a warehouse, thighs about as firm as cling-wrapped cottage cheese and an arse dwarves could seek shelter under, he urges us to see how hard our bodies work, 24/7. "You may rarely notice how your heart never stops beating, your food is digesting and replenishing all parts of your body (mostly the butt in my own particular case) and how it transports you to wherever you need to go."

All flippancies about fatness and flaccidity aside, I noticed that I was finally starting to get it. "Stay still. Stay in the now. Don't feel guilty about not doing anything, you are doing something, something incredibly worthwhile. You are deciding to listen to your body instead of overriding it or ignoring it to push through working longer at the computer, eat crap it doesn't want or stay up later than it requires. Be still, be silent and listen: this is just as important for your body as the most strenuous exercise."

My breathing was steady, strong and refreshing and I could easily watch those pesky and inane musings like "What would happen if I gave one of our chooks a chicken-flavoured rice cracker to eat?" or "Did Joe Dulce earn enough money from 'Shaddup You Face' for life or is he now eking out a living busking outside of Cunninghams' Warehouse" or even "How could I train my dog to weed the garden when I'm at work?" were easy to note, dismiss and ignore.

John continued the exercise. "Imagine a dark red rose bud at your heart, so dark it's nearly black at the edges, lightly covered in dew. It slowly opens and fills you with kindness, acceptance and warmth..." Oooooh yeah John I was feeling it, seeing it, smelling it.

"Picture someone you love right in front of you, someone you admire and treasure..." Easy - there was Love Chunks, looking as self-conscious in my imagination as he would have if he'd actually forced to stand in front of the group as a stripped-off study for life-drawing class. "Feel your light emerge from your chest and fill this person..." Yep, it's all happening, can do, rightyo, this is all good stuff so far....

Not an errant, "Don't forget to write up that article you promised Charlotte tomorrow and keep it serious, not stupid" or "I'll bet my month's wage that Bryce Courtenay has a novel out for Christmas" type of thoughts were entering my now rose-coloured brain and chest.

Then John said, "Now picture someone you dislike, standing in front of you. Fill them with your light of loving kindness......"

Oh. Bugger. "No," I told myself sternly. "You are making amazing progress tonight. Don't let your searing, boiling hatred that's stronger than the heat blasted from one thousand new suns distract you from the forgiving and letting-go nature of this exercise. Move on from this unproductive anger and distress - Share your rose light."

I bloody shared it all right. My rose light instantly changed from a misty, free-range cloud into a sharp column of red-hot rays, not unlike a light sabre. She got it full-on in the chest before toppling face-down in agony, body spasming like a horizontal Peter Garrett as she writhed and foamed her way to a painful death. My breathing sounded strangely "Mooorfth Moooorfth" like a certain bloke with a fondness for black and building Death Stars.

I was at peace with the world.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Taking the wind out of my sails

Life for me lately - workwise, home-renovations wise and health-wise has been rather hectic and frustrating to say the least.

After the hassles of a soul-suckingly shiteful working day, it would be nice to head to my home as a haven of love, support and rest. However due to the current renovations that have gone on longer than a heavy metal guitar solo my 'haven' is literally three bedrooms to cook, eat, sleep and watch TV and use the computer in. The only other option of having somewhere to sit apart from the bed is by venturing outside to the tarpaulin-covered (and bird-poo dotted) sofas being stored under the back verandah. All with a fetching view of a dust bowl garden artistically patterned with Dogadoo's arse offerings.

No grass is left thanks to the total removal of top soil after our two underground rainwater tanks were installed, so we are either treated to a mouthful of dust when the gully winds blow or track slimy wet chook droppings and clay through the house.

It has therefore been a huge consolation that the editing and proof-reading process on my book (due out in January 2008; fingers crossed) has been a very cooperative and smooth one. Well for me anyway: maybe I shouldn't assume the same on the part of the editor.

Anyhow, it was with a great sense of indignation, anger and entitlement that I wrote a butt-kickingly stern account of my view regarding a situation that has gone from bad to worse in my day job. The time for feeling nervous and tearful had long since passed and my written missive was a first step in showing the heavies that sometimes we, pond-scum level plebs:

a) know our rights;

b) have a fair point to make;

c) deserve a right of reply;

d) are 'innocent' and should be treated as such; and

e) aren't going to shrink and disappear into the distance without getting resolution to all of the above.

Before submitting my 'Why I deserve to live' statement to the Head Honcho Hangman, I read through it a few times. A few more examples were added, some searing pieces of factual evidence to support my assertions were included and I threw in some choice descriptors (that were in fact true) that I knew would force the reader(s) to sit up and take notice.

Now for those of you regulars who 'know' my Dad* - a retired high school teacher with a mischievous streak and a fetish for good spelling - will also know that he's always been a supporter of workers' rights and the entitlement of every person to state their case. I asked him to check through my electrified email to see if I'd properly, professionally and maturely got my points across.

Dad confirmed that I had. "Go for it, Kiddo. You've exposed their contradictions and unfairnesses. Geez, this could be the SA Education Department Cardigans from the early 1970s!"

Off it went - in person, to a meeting, where I asked not to be interrupted as I read from it. Also via email, so that the hard copies I presented could not be 'lost' in the long 11 metre journey from my hand to the Head Honcho's office.

I sat back, feeling anxious, annoyed, outraged, hopeful of a fair resolution, nervous, shaking. Even chocolate lacked it's normal appeal (I never thought I'd ever had to write that in a sentence!) All I could do was wait for their response (I'm still waiting, in fact).

The phone rang - Brrrrrr- I was on it quicker than Britney on a bucket of frappuccino - Finally, the issue will be resolved, my name will be cleared and my reputation restored......! Aw bugger, it was only Dad.

"Er Kiddo, I just have to tell you. It's about your ~~long, delicate pause~~ um, that email. You've made a typo."

"Oh geez, where? Where Dad, where?" My heart was pounding harder than John Holmes at his celluloid peak.

"Er you mis-spelled the word 'foreword'."

"But I added the 'e' after the 'fore' bit and before the 'ward'."

"Nah sorry mate, it's fore WORD, as in 'before the words of the book', not 'foreward' as in goin forward but with an 'e' thrown in. I just had to point that out to you."

"Ohhh god, I feel so very blonde now Dad," I said, stifling a laugh but blushing at the same time. "I've used that word throughout my statement - it's the central bloody theme for hecks' sake - boy oh boy, that sure takes a fair bit of the sting out of my tail."

Dad chuckled. "Ah well, at least you can laugh about it. We're still with you kiddo."

"Yeah I know. I'm still a good speller you know Dad - even Love Chunks can't spell diarrhoea and I hold the crown for best speller in the Grad. Dip. Ed. course at Adelaide Uni in 1993-----"

"True. But I'm better."

And he is too.

* I never seem to be able to get that hyperlink dooverlacky thingo to work, so you can read about my Dad here: