I’m back for 2013

Merricks Beach
Merricks Beach

After a huge 2012, I had a much-needed break over Christmas, New Year and the early weeks of January. It was relaxing. Refreshing. Magnificent weather combined with great company, mountains of good food and time to just be. Sit. Read. Watch movies. Nap. Discover. Chat. Explore. Giggle. Wander.

I didn’t open my laptop for about three weeks. I didn’t think about work. I didn’t plan much at all; the day’s planning was usually done over breakfast. And it was a divine way to holiday.

I’ve kicked off 2013 with renewed motivation, purpose and a clear, uncluttered mind. And how could I not, considering what I saw every day? Some of the most gorgeous parts of Victoria, laid bare, ready and waiting to cleanse and inspire.

Fishing off French Island
Fishing off French Island
Gunnamatta Surf Beach
Gunnamatta Surf Beach
Lake Nillahcootie
Lake Nillahcootie
Point Leo
Point Leo
Bonnie Doon
Bonnie Doon
Somers Beach
Somers Beach

Pregnancy Is Not A Disease

First published in Onya Magazine on December 12th, 2012. 

You may know because I’ve told you, or because a little while ago I blurted it out across social media, but if you don’t, here’s my very special news: my husband and I are having a baby.

Finding out I was pregnant was an incredible moment; excitement, joy, anticipation, wonder and incredible happiness all rolled into an emotion so strong it made my stomach do back-flips and my eyes run with water for about half an hour.

My husband Kaz and I hadn’t been trying for very long. As in we started trying in mid-August and were four weeks pregnant in mid-September. Having heard of and read about so many couples who struggled for such a long time – or continue to struggle – we feel incredibly lucky and blessed for it to have happened so fast for us.

For the most part, my pregnancy (so far) has been wonderful. I had two weeks where I felt slightly nauseous – a kind of hung-over, dead-headed feeling that was only lulled by food or naps. I had some light bleeding, at around the 10 week mark, which was frightening and nerve-wracking, and despite the ‘threatened abortion’ diagnosis I received in the emergency ward, ended up being quite ‘normal’ – a large number of women will experience similar symptoms in early stages of pregnancy. I’ve discovered that having a Rhesus negative blood type means I need to have a few injections over the course of my pregnancy, to avoid any complications for future pregnancies.

Despite these small hiccups – hiccups that are incredibly mild compared to what some women go through – I have had quite a smooth run. I’m 17 weeks into my pregnancy – a few weeks shy from the half way mark – and I’m feeling good. Really good.

Waiting to cross the 12 week milestone felt like an eternity; now the weeks seem to be flying by.

I’m not anxious about any aspect of pregnancy; I haven’t had any freak-outs and I’m prepared to tackle whatever hurdles and challenges we’re faced with as and when they hit us. The thing with pregnancy is that there are no guarantees – at any point – and you have very little control over how or what you experience. I believe there’s no point in stressing or worrying over things that are out of your control, but let me tell you, if you’d like to stress, there’s probably no better time to than during pregnancy. Books, magazines, websites and people will tell you all of the things that can go wrong and all of the reasons why. If you allow it to, it can seriously overwhelm you.

I like being informed. I love reading, learning and knowing what’s happening to my body and baby each week. Name a pregnancy book and there’s a very good chance I’ve already read it.

But here’s a tip; don’t Google anything. Particularly if you’re concerned or worried about something. The Internet is full of advice and many an answer… from unqualified people. Just because someone has had a baby – or ten – does not mean they know what they are talking about. Every pregnancy is different and not all symptoms or issues are alike. My advice would be to speak to your obstetrician, GP, midwife, phone Nurse On Call, your health fund’s support service, a hospital or all of them at once; just don’t Google.

In saying that, there are a couple of reputable websites out there. Baby Center Australia and Essential Baby are two that I have found to be handy and well-balanced with solid advice. If you must Google, do so wisely.

My attitude towards my pregnancy is very much the same as my attitude to life; roll with the punches, enjoy the journey, be happy, be positive, make good choices and seize the day.

I’ve quickly realised that I don’t control my body anymore; it controls me. I need to feed and nourish it regularly and provide it with time to rest when it tells me it needs some.

I’m not stressed about my body changing. It will do what it needs to do. I’ve got a belly going and it’s kind of wonderful. I don’t fit into many of my clothes. Every day I notice a slight change and it’s all exciting and new. I might feel differently if I was experiencing ill health but fortunately I’m not, so my experience is lovely. I can do everything I did before I was pregnant, except bikram yoga, but I’ll be back there when I’m ready.

If I put on extra weight, it’ll just take me some extra time to lose it. I’m eating sensibly, like I always have, but I’m certainly eating more, because I’m hungry every few hours. I’m not obsessed with watching my calorie intake (how anyone can do this during pregnancy is beyond me) and I’m not on a strict exercise regime. I walk, I stretch, I have some days where I do more than others.

I’m not writing a birth plan, because I don’t really plan. I mean, I’ve never even written a business plan, or a list of goals. So my birth plan is this; have a healthy baby. I’m not ruling out or being gung-ho about anything. I’d like to have a natural birth but I’ll do whatever is required to deliver a healthy baby. I have no idea of my pain threshold, what kind of labour I might experience, or what complications might pop up along the way. Writing a birth plan seems like a jolly good waste of time to me. My obstetrician knows what I’d like to have happen, but also knows I won’t bite his – or any midwives – heads off if it doesn’t.

I’m being very picky and choosy with the advice I’m taking on board. Let’s be honest; all types of people can and do have children, but it doesn’t make them all intelligent, empathetic, loving people who think, feel and live in the same way you do. My sister-in-law is like my baby bible – after four kids and working in childcare, she really knows all the tips and tricks. I trust her and her advice. And yes, of course I have her on speed dial.

I’ll listen to anyone with regards to pregnancy and parenting and I’ll read a lot, but ultimately I’ll get through and stumble and survive and raise this baby in a way that’s in keeping with the values my husband and I have and the kind of people we are.

We love babies. And kids. When you’re pregnant, people love to tell you that your life will never be the same again. And some of them mean it in a way that implies you’ll never be yourself, or step out of the front door again. I’m not sure if some of these people are slightly intellectually challenged, or incredibly lazy or disorganised, but I’m tipping most people expecting a child know their lives will never be the same again.

And I don’t want my life to ever be the same again. I want my life to be multifaceted. I can’t wait to start a family with the man I love. I can’t wait to have a child to love, and raise, and teach, and enjoy life with.

I’m not romanticising parenting; I know it will be hard. Challenging. Tiring. I know there will be moments where I feel like tearing my hair out. Where I wonder how I’ll survive. Where I just want some beautiful, wonderful sleep.

But Kaz and I wouldn’t have decided to bring a child into the world if we weren’t prepared to have it disrupted, interrupted and turned upside down. We want that.

We don’t think children are annoying, we don’t believe having a child means you can never function as a human again, we don’t believe our own dreams have to be put on hold and we certainly don’t believe a baby will be the end of our living lives.

This is what I know to be true, more than anything else:

Pregnancy is not a disease. It’s not permanent. And I am not the first or last person to experience it.

I hope you will continue to join me as I share my experience – I’ll be honest, as always.

This is going to be fun.

Image credit: Kathryn Sprigg

I’m (Not) Sorry If My Hair Offends You

I’m on the left. If my hair offends you, I’M GLAD.

It’s not unusual for me to get enraged watching the news or reading the newspaper. There’s just so much stupidity in this world, it’s hard not to.

And so, just this afternoon, I stumbled upon an article (if you can call it that), in Melbourne’s The Age.

Curls: shabby or sexy? (Yep, the big issues).

Here are a few pearlers from the piece:

“Curly hair is, by its very nature, unpredictable and untamed, which business specialists insist reflects poorly on the professional, however well dressed.”

“Casual is not an image pursued by corporate headhunter Rose Filippone, who spends “quite a lot of money” having her head of ringlets polished and smoothed. “I have never seen a corporate man – a CEO, a director, a financial controller – with curly hair.”

“Filippone says curly hair looks unkempt. “The person may not be, but would you walk out of the house looking like that? Not if you’re in a suit. We’re not DJing. Let’s remember where we are. It’s not allowed. It’s the unspoken rule. Men do it quite well.”

And this, from HR executive Louise Adamson: “It’s part of the corporate image. Curly hair is always going to look slightly messy unless you’ve got a hairdresser walking behind you with a comb.”

I just don’t know where to start without being incredibly offensive or swearing my mouth off.

I understand that this article may grate at my core more than that of others – it’s no secret I have curly hair – but it’s also terrible, lazy, bullshit journalism.

I love the occasional lifestyle piece in my newspaper. In fact, the only reason I even buy the newspaper anymore is for the lifestyle lift-outs on weekends, but I’m not sure utter trash like this qualifies as lifestyle.

It’s pure and total crap, complete anti-curl propaganda.

The reality is, curly hair is beautiful. I’ve never been ashamed of my curly hair. Nor, I should point out, has my curly hair restricted me from advancing in my career. Just this afternoon on Twitter someone told me that their Senior Manager in Banking is a woman with curly hair – that’s also dyed pink. I’d love corporate headhunter Rose Filippone to cop a look at her.

“Articles” like this just perpetuate the myth that every person with curly hair is a free-spirited hippie, and people with poker straight hair are stone-faced, heartless monsters.

What I’d like to say to “journalist” Natasha Hughes, Rose Filippone and Louise Adamson is this; IT’S FUCKING HAIR. Most of the population has it. And it can’t all be the same. There’s different lengths, and thicknesses, and colours, and styles, and textures. IT DOESN’T DEFINE US. OR THE WORK WE DO.

We were born with it and to suggest that the follicles on our scalp outline the rung we can take on the career ladder is a FUCKING JOKE.

It’s ignorant, biased and completely stupid. And so are the people who believe it, or are martyrs to their straighteners living in fear of it.

Guess what? I have a hairy dog, too. SUCK ON THAT.

I’ve only ever been told how lovely my hair is, not unprofessional or untamed. Adamson’s suggestion that my hair is “always going to look slightly messy” has actually made me develop a slight twitch.

Curly hair might not be easy to manage for those with very little idea, but for those with some smarts, it’s a simple matter of finding the right technique and product. I spend very, very little time on my hair. It gets washed and styled. Not combed or straightened. And it always looks good.

Perhaps Adamson should spend less time on her own head of hair, and more time partaking in intellectual activities. And as for Filippone, maybe she should invest more of her money in learning how to accept and love what she’s got, than trying to be something she’s not. And Rose, love, I walk out of the house every day with my curly hair. And I’m no DJ.

I’m quite happy to fly the flag for the curly-haired folk of the world – maybe if more people were less ashamed, these kinds of articles wouldn’t get published.

And maybe The Age needs to start seriously thinking about their relevance and outdated business-model in an ever-evolving world and addressing issues like their dwindling readership and general public apathy amongst Melbourne readers, before hitting the publish button on articles that are further tarnishing their masthead.

This Sort Of Thing Has Never Happened To Me Before

A couple of weeks ago, I completely forgot my PIN.

Well, I thought I had it right, except when I entered it the ATM read back ‘Incorrect PIN. Please try again.’

So I did.

And it was incorrect for a second time.

At which point I decided not to go for a lucky third, out of fear the machine would swallow my card.

Instead, I hit cancel, then wandered around in a daze trying to remember what the damn number was and why oh why couldn’t I remember it?

‘This sort of thing has never happened to me before,’ I muttered.

Earlier this week, walking back from a meeting, I couldn’t resist the SALE sign out the front of Country Road and decided that yes, another knit dress was exactly what I needed because gosh darn it they’re so comfy and warm and stylish and I better get another one before they stop making them forever.

So I tried on four but settled for one and bought it and skipped out of the shop with the bag swinging and swaying off my arm.

Then I walked past Myer and couldn’t resist the SALE sign at the Cue section and decided that yes, another top/shirt/pinafore/jacket was exactly what I needed because gosh darn it they’re all so comfy and warm and stylish and practical and Australian made and I better get them all because I love supporting our industry and I need to be warm and they might stop making them forever so quick, swipe the debit card, swipe it.

So I skipped out of Myer with the bag swinging and swaying off my arm.

Then I got home and wondered why I only had one bag swinging and swaying off my arm when I should have had two.

Then I walked around in a daze trying to remember where I last was when I held the Country Road bag, trying to retrace the steps in my head.

As I suspected, I had left the Country Road bag containing my lovely and necessary knit dress in the Myer fitting room and after phoning the Cue counter (and bemoaning how long it takes anyone to answer a phone in a department store) it was thankfully still there. So I breathed a sigh of relief because whilst I love paying for knit dresses, I only love them when they end up hanging in my wardrobe and not when they’re left as a gift for the lucky person who ends up in fitting room seven and believes it’s part of Myer’s new customer service strategy to provide free knit dresses to anyone trying on their clothing.

‘I’ve never lost a shopping bag anywhere, not ever, this has never happened to me before,’ I muttered, several times to no one in particular, then several times again the next day to the lovely girl at Cue when I picked up my knit dress and gaffa taped the Country Road bag to my hand.

This morning, I put the kettle on (or, at least, I was sure I had) and poured a cup of green tea only to discover the water was cold and I hadn’t flicked the little lever on the kettle, the one that actually makes it boil.

‘This sort of thing has never happened to me before,’ I muttered to the dog. ‘I don’t know who I’m becoming.’

Living The Width Of Life, Not Just The Length Of It

The past few months have been a bit of a blur.

They’ve gone so fast, it almost feels as though only a week or two have passed, but in the very same breath, looking back over them seems like an eternity.

They’ve been filled with wonderful moments, challenging moments, laughs, successes, disappointments and moments of hair-pulling frustration.

They’ve been busy. Jam-packed. Running from appointment to meeting to event and from thought to idea to phone call. Running a business, or two or three, and a household, and experiencing all the beautiful intricacies of every day life.

And I’m a little bit over it.

Not any of the actual things I’ve been doing, but the way I go about doing them.

I’m over rushing. Constantly having to switch my brain from task to task. And I’m over the same old, the exact same thing repackaged as new and interesting.

This morning, I sat back and looked at a list I made about what I wanted for/from 2012 and I realised that one of the things on there is the very reason my life has been manic:

Take advantage of every good offer that comes my way.

I’ve decided to take that back. I’m erasing it from my list.

This pursuit, this chase, this fear of losing an opportunity or missing out on something; it’s not for me.

I get a lot of good offers, for lots of good things – but 89.7% of them do not fulfill me in the way a meaningful conversation does, or producing some really good work does.

And, truth be told, the best offers are those that come from meaningful conversations and producing really good work.

I don’t intend to come across as spoilt or immodest here, but every single brilliant opportunity I’ve ever had in my life – from personal to career – have either come directly to me, without a chase, or have come in moments of being totally content and relaxed.

I’ll still accept good offers – but I’m going to be far more picky and choosy about them.

I don’t want my diary to be so full; in fact, I want to see blank boxes, just begging for something spontaneous or self-indulgent to fill them. Maybe, even, more time to do the things I love; reading, writing and taking photographs, like I had planned at the start of this year.

This morning I decided that from now on I’m going to be very picky. Fortunately, I can be. I love what I do so much, that I find it difficult not doing it. Instead of chasing things that I’m only semi-interested in, I’m going to suffocate myself with those I’m madly in love with.

Be Afraid – But Do It Anyway

Last week, I was being interviewed by a lovely and clever University student, and we got chatting about fear.

And it got me thinking about a common misconception bandied about confident people – it’s assumed they don’t feel fear.

I don’t think that’s true.

Everyone is afraid, at some point or about some thing. Everyone gets scared. Everyone gets nervous. Anxious. Worried. Stressed.

It’s how we react to that fear that matters. It’s how we push through it that’s important.

When I’m afraid of something – big or small – I run to it.

I refuse to let fear hold me back from doing anything in life.

I know that if you let fear control you, then it will. It will grip you. Choke you. And consume you.

The best days of my life have been the ones where I’ve been the most scared. The best results I’ve ever gotten, the best I’ve ever achieved, have come from moments when my stomach has been tied in knots.

Fear is terrifying.

It can literally stop you in your tracks.

It’s also a great motivator. And face fear once, and you’ll be likely to face it again.

I’ve felt fear. It’s nearly made my knees buckle under the weight of it. Quite literally, one time.

But it’s also challenged me. Pushed me further than I thought I could go.

And it’s because I felt it. Sat with it. Heard it. And then used it. Against itself.

I get scared. I feel the fear. And then I do whatever is so scary and frightening anyway.

The richest moments of your life might just be clouded in fear.

Embrace it.

Discover them.

The Most Incredible Man I’ve Ever Met…

First published in Onya Magazine, on January 27th, 2012. 

A couple of years ago, I interviewed an incredible man – Siegmund Siegreich. Siegmund, or Sigi, was a Holocaust survivor. He was 15 years old when Germany invaded Poland – 15 when he was placed into a concentration camp. The next six years of his life were spent enduring endless humiliation, beatings, starvation, serous illness, not to mention seeing family members and friends killed, shot, and left for dead right in front of him. When I sat to talk with him, at 88 years of age, the pain of his ordeal – one that he managed to survive – was evident every time he spoke about it. He, along with his wife and two daughters, cried their way through the interview.

It was one of the hardest but most incredibly special moments of my life. Made more so by the fact that Sigi was probably the biggest gentleman I’ve ever met – he was so kind, graceful and intelligent. He was humble and proud and strong.

His book, The Thirty Six, written almost six decades after his time in war-torn Poland, changed my life. I read it almost entirely in one sitting. I cried, nearly threw up, felt rage, felt sadness and felt love. I often think of what I learnt from that book, and I often think of Sigi, and his gorgeous face, and the love he had for his family.

I thought of Sigi today. As a man who lived through every horror imaginable, I wondered what he’d think of the protests in Canberra yesterday, and the burning of our flag. I wonder what he’d think of so much hate being spouted – from protestors and commentators alike.

Sigi was a man, who was only a boy, when he saw his father die. And his mother. And uncles. And aunts. And cousins. And neighbours. He was a boy who had to sleep through the bitter cold, in a lavatory shed, in his own faeces, where the stench of urine penetrated his every pore. I won’t even go into the torture he was subjected to. To type it would make me sick. Of the Holocaust, he said, “People may think the world knows enough about it, but to understand the enormity of it all would shake humanity to the end of time.”

When I asked Sigi if he hated the Germans for what they did to him and his family, he replied and said, “No, I do not. You cannot hate an entire race of people, for the mistakes only a handful of people within that race have made…

“I have seen the devil in men, I have seen my family members shot, I have seen them smile, wave and walk off, never to return, I have been starving, frightened, frozen, petrified…but I have seen the beauty in people. I have felt love and I know there is good in the world…

“Hate is a waste. We just must never forget what has happened, so as to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

In 1971, Sigi migrated to Melbourne, with his wife and both daughters, sponsored and backed by a friend of his.

“We finally set down roots in a truly free and democratic country, where our family has prospered and multiplied.”

Now, I’ve got no doubt the Aboriginal community are in need of more assistance – more help, support and education.

And we’ve somehow wound up in a place where no one can offer a suggestion or a thought without being branded as a racist, or radical.

I’m not a racist. I’m not radical. I believe in equality, and fairness, and in doing what’s right.

Taking land off the Aborigines was not right. Stealing Aboriginal children was not right. There are so many things about our Australian history that are not right – I spent an entire year in Year 12 studying everything about Australia, and in many cases shaking my head.

But I also know that the actions taken by a minority in Canberra yesterday were not right. Nor was the action of burning the Australian flag. I am reminded of words I heard from Sigi, “You cannot hate an entire race of people, for the mistakes only a handful of people within that race have made…”

And I think how true that is.

I am sorry for what happened to every Aboriginal when white colonial men settled this country.

I am also sorry for Sigi, and everything he endured, and did for decades and decades afterwards. I am sorry for what his children endured, and continue to. And what his grandchildren endure, and will continue to.

I am also sorry for my parents, who migrated to Australia at such a young age and had to endure years and years of racism, bullying, misconceptions and harassment – all because of the sound of their surname and the contents of their lunch box.

My parents never gave up. They never gave in. They made something of their lives. They gave me and my brother and sister a life, and a very good one. They taught us to be equal and fair and to do what’s right.

Sigi never gave up. When every single thing in his life went against him, when everyone he loved was taken away from him, when he was buried face down in a dirt pit, hiding under the body of a dead Jew to avoid being shot himself, he did not give up. When he was made to dig his own grave, he did not give up. He fought and gripped onto life because he knew that life was worth living.

Australia – the country and its people – never offered any sympathy, or compensation, or assistance to my parents. They didn’t do so for Sigi and his family, either. And I’m not drawing comparisons between racism in a Richmond primary school and the Holocaust, I’m drawing a point; that maybe, perhaps, it’s time someIndigenous people got up, stood tall and proud and made a life for themselves. A life in a country that can offer them so much, a life in a truly free and democratic country.

I imagine that doing so will be difficult. Painful. Frightening. But there are many people who have done it before, including people from their own race. And I’m not suggesting some Indigenous people forget, or leave behind, or move on from the past; I’m suggesting they use it to spur them on to do great things and build the life they so very much deserve.

My 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I asked the talented bunch of writers at Onya Magazine to reflect on 2011 and write a piece about something, or a few things, they had learnt over the course of the year.

Today, I wrote a piece of my own, a list of my 2011.

It features things like meeting Billy Connolly and getting a chow chow. You can read it here.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of you – my wonderful readers – for your support; reading this blog and commenting on my articles. I’m planning on a big 2012. I hope you’ll join me for the ride.

Wishing you a very happy and safe new year, and a 2012 filled with love, happiness, health and success

x Sandi and Leo

 

Someone You Wanted To Make Proud

It’s been over two months since my Aunty and Godmother, Julie, passed away.

She was an incredible woman.

Strong.

Honest.

Proud.

Hard working.

Clever.

Stubborn.

Generous.

Headstrong.

Selfless.

Vivacious.

She had a presence about her; you always knew when she was in the room.

She was someone you wanted to make proud.

My Aunty was the eldest of eight children and she was every bit the boss and ringleader that you could imagine the eldest of eight would be. She was a big sister to her only one, my mother, and six brothers. She always had her finger on the family pulse, and she never forgot a thing – not a birthday or a special occasion.

I remember when I was young, I would lovingly joke with my sister and cousins and call her the Queen. Not because she acted like one, but because she was honestly so noble and so well put together – in everything from her appearance to demeanour – that she really seemed like one to me.

Since my Aunty’s passing, a few things have surprised me, like; how much you can miss someone that you didn’t even speak to every day or see every week.

Like; how much of a gaping hole and aching silence can be left by one person removed from a large and boisterous family.

And how things, material objects, mean more than the matter they’re made of when they were given to you by someone you loved.

I can’t turn my head in my home without seeing something my Aunty gave me. Teacups, of which I have hundreds. Literally. Gorgeous trinkets and collectable antiques. The garter I wore on my wedding day, which I’m so glad I chose to keep. A fly squatter, of all things. None of them are boring or generic, and she wasn’t either.

I learnt so many things from her, including;

That tea always tastes nicer out of a real china cup; wine and champagne always taste better out of a crystal glass.

To be generous, because you don’t take anything with you.

That you can’t buy style.

To always use the good cutlery.

To develop a keen hawk-eye.

That family comes first.

That any day is a good day to spoil yourself.

That it’s all in the small details.

To always take advantage of a good bargain.

That no summer fruit platter is complete without cherries.

I have learnt that I was lucky to have an Aunty and Godmother like her. That not everyone gets one.

That, in turn, I am lucky to be an Aunty to a beautiful niece. A niece I think of when I buy something nice or do something great. A niece I want to share with, spoil, teach, and one day buy teacups for.

That I understand being an Aunty can swell your heart with so much pride you feel like it might burst.

And that maybe, I did that for her.