A COVID-19 Plea, For My Fellow Aussies…

Our world’s in a tailspin,

our reality has shattered,

if you’re anything like me,

you’re having a solid think about what matters.

You might be anxious, and scared,

maybe you’re angry, and in despair,

anyone else have trouble sleeping,

wondering what kind of world we’ve been keeping?

The handshake is gone, the high five too,

I don’t know where you sit, but this elbow tap business won’t do.

Our lives have been cancelled,

or at best postponed,

every festival has been called off,

and everyone’s working from home.

Whole industries are wiped,

so many jobs in hiatus,

while we sit inside,

wondering if anyone’s coming to save us.

The doctors, they’re pleading,

the mums, they’re screaming,

the curve isn’t flattening,

we aren’t doing what we’re needin’.

And the shelves are stripped bare,

no pasta, eggs, dunny paper or rice,

some people are even turning on each other

in the supermarket with knives.

This is not the country I grew up in,

not the one based on mateship,

or having a fair go,

and to be honest, I think it’s time for everyone to get a grip.

We know it’ll be over,

hopefully sooner rather than later,

and then we can get back to the things we love;

footy and gigs and seeing our mates over a pint at the pub.

Now isn’t the time for division,

for selfish behaviour,

it’s time to rally together,

and forget about the idea of a saviour.

Like time and time before,

it’ll be us that saves us,

the writers, the musos, the actors, the painters,

the comedians, the baristas, the teachers, the tradies,

the scientists, the nurses, the thinkers, the ladies,

the lovers, the dreamers, the poets, the babies.

We’ve got a fight ahead,

no matter how you see it,

for we are young and free,

except when we’re not, and now there’s a distance between you and me.

Now we’re social distancing,

and in self isolation,

two phrases I’ve never used before,

they’re the opposite of what it means to be an Australian.

Suddenly we find ourselves,

a little lost and a lot more alone,

thankfully it’s 2020,

and we’ve got these god forsaken phones.

And when it all passes,

I hope we make it through the other side a little kinder,

spreading much more love than hate,

I just wish we didn’t have to go through this as a reminder.

There’s some things we’ll all be doing,

you can count on it for sure,

like living like we mean it,

and not treating our time as an afterthought.

Right now, I miss a lot,

but I’m grateful for all I’ve got,

I just can’t wait to get back out there,

and be done with this nightmare.

Sure, it’s not the worst,

and staying in is the right thing to do,

but tell me it doesn’t kill you,

or that you haven’t felt a little blue?

Hold it close,

then remember what’s good,

all the things we’ve taken for granted,

all the places we wish we could.

It’s time to come together,

by keeping ourselves apart,

and while that’s hard to do,

if you haven’t already, please start.

Stay at home,

I beg you,

stay at home,

it’s not just the flu,

stop thinking of only yourself,

you’re not doing this for you.

Our most vulnerable need us,

and our old mates, too,

and if you don’t think they’re worth saving,

I want nothing to do with you.

When this is all over,

and we’re out on the streets,

and back at the bars and swamping the beach,

I want you to remember,

how tragic it felt,

to have life as we know it,

ripped from us at full pelt.

Do not forget,

those who have failed to lead us,

do not forgive,

those that refused to adjust.

I can’t wait for the day,

for this to be done,

so I can walk into the home I grew up in,

and hug my mum.

Stay at home,

I beg you,

stay at home,

it’s not just the flu,

stop thinking of only yourself,

you’re not doing this for you.

They’ll Never Get You…

“They’ll never get you,” he says, walking ahead of me, teetering on the edge of the gutter. “They’ll never see you like I do. And they can’t, you haven’t shown them the darkest and dustiest corners of your mind.”

I stop and stare at him, my shoe hitting a lip in the concrete.

He turns and edges closer to me, then reaches out and tucks a wayward curl behind my ear. “And you ask me not to love you,” he sneers.

I stare at him, willing myself to look away, knowing I won’t.

“It’s hard to not fall in love with someone,” he continues, getting even closer, “when they’ve shown you the mixed up parts of their soul, and you’ve shown them yours.”

I keep staring.

His hand is lingering on my cheek, his fingers falling past my ear.

“Say it,” he demands, towering over me, feet firmly planted atop the gutter.

I’m still staring at him.

“The deeper our conversations, the more I find to love about you.”

“Stop it,” I tell him.

“I won’t,” he retorts, “I won’t because I’ll never get enough of exploring who you are.”

“Don’t,” I beg, shaking my head from side to side.

He stares, long and hard.

I finally look away.

His hand drops off my face.

He takes a few steps and turns, pausing to gaze through the glass walls of an office building, fixated on a painting in the foyer.

I let him hover for a while, before approaching.

“It’s a cool painting,” I say.

He’s silent.

We stand, side by side, staring at the hues of orange and blue, red and violet, that blur in front of us.

“You might never say it,” he states, turning to face me, “but I know.” He starts to walk away.

Now I’m fixated on the painting.

“C’mon,” he shouts, “let’s roll.”

I turn and see him sauntering off, his boots kicking out just a bit to the side with each step. He walks like he has nowhere and everywhere to be, all at once. It’s captivating, and irritating.

“Let’s get a nightcap,” he suggests, swaggering down the street, “and you can continue to pretend you don’t love me.”

I laugh and scoff, all at once, smiling, and blushing.

It’s so annoying when he’s right.

Condensation Drips On Brooklyn Rooftops.

‘Nice view, huh?’ he asks, placing my drink on the cardboard coaster.

It’s so hot the flute starts dripping, condensation rolling down its curved base.

‘The best,’ I reply.

He pauses.

‘Where you from?’

I look at the coaster, then up at him.

‘Melbourne, Australia,’ I say, with a smile.

‘Wow, a long way from home. You like New York?’

The coaster is already soggy. This heat is some kind of hell.

‘I love New York,’ I answer, in the kind of tone usually reserved for a person, not a place.

‘I think New York loves you too,’ and he winks, quickly wiping the dew from the marble table, walking away.

I scull half of my drink. I don’t mean to, but this weather calls for more than a simple sip. I fall back into the lounge chair. Cross my legs. Close my eyes. And breathe out deeply. I squint and my eyes open.

I do love New York, I think to myself. I love the way everybody here wants to be somebody. The way they believe they can. I love the boldness of it, and the courage. The audacity, if you will.

I take another swig of my drink. I stare at the towering building across the river, the one that reclaimed the New York skyline after 9/11, the one I have grown to love, so much. I try and work out why it transfixes me. It’s just a building, I scoff to myself. But I can’t deny that every time I catch a glimpse of it, my heart flutters. There’s something about it. Something about the way the light dances off it. From a distance. Something about its boldness. From up close. Something about the way it catches my eye, from so many nooks across the city. I suppose it’s audacious, too.

I lift my glass to finish my drink. The coaster has risen with it, stuck to the base of the flute. It’s sweltering.

‘Another?’ he asks.

‘Absolutely,’ I reply.

He picks up the empty flute. Wipes the beads of water off the table, again.

And I smirk as he places a crisp, new coaster in front of me.

Show + Tell

A few months ago, I stumbled upon new website Show + Tell, the brainchild of Monty Dimond and Brooke Campbell (read my interview with Monty here, where she explains the inspiration behind the website). I loved it instantly – its rawness, freshness and realness appealed to me.

So, naturally, I was thrilled to have a little piece of writing appear on there recently.

Check it out here.

Show + Tell

Stay tuned for more!

Wine Day Trips and Where To Eat in Melbourne…

Melbourne Restaurants

If you love Melbourne, you’ll enjoy my latest blogs for Forbes Travel Guide…

Melbourne is renowned for its world-class food — the strong influences from various cultures shine through in its restaurant offerings. From European and Cantonese flavours to a 19th-century mansion serving contemporary Australian fare, there’s no doubt taste buds will be pleased with this city’s eats…so where are my top five restaurants? Find out here.

and

When you think of wine regions around Melbourne, the famed Yarra Valley, an area peppered with vineyards and postcard views, is usually the destination du jour for locals and tourists alike. But, if you prefer venturing off the beaten path, the following trails and regions are well worth exploring. So where to go? Click here for my unique wine trails.

My First Forbes Travel Guide Blog

As you may know, I’ve kicked off a new gig as Forbes Travel Correspondent and my first blog went live over the weekend.

Enjoying Summer’s Last Hurrah in Melbourne outlines my favourite ways to spend time in the city sun. Coming up, there will be a blog on my favourite rooftop bars in my favourite city. And I’ve also started answering destination questions about Melbourne – feel free to join the conversation or message me a question.

Summer in Melbourne

When You’re Pregnant, Everyone Has An Opinion

First published in Onya Magazine, February 6th, 2013.

It’s interesting being a pregnant woman.

Suddenly, everyone* has an opinion on your body, what you should and shouldn’t be doing, eating and drinking.

Don’t eat poached eggs. Don’t eat ham. Steer clear of coffee. Watch those steps. Don’t lift that. Don’t do this. Don’t try that.

This morning, I heard Chrissie Swan’s tearful and heartfelt admission about struggling to quit smoking while being pregnant.

“Over the last year I have taken up a habit I thought I kicked for good years ago, smoking the occasional cigarette, in total secret and never more than five a week. I never told the chippy (her partner) or my friends I’d taken it up again and I’m not sure I ever would have come out of hiding and acknowledged I was addicted, but this week a pap photographer snapped me smoking a cigarette whilst alone in my car and I knew it was only a matter of time before it became public.”

I’m not here to debate the rights and wrongs of Chrissie’s admission and I won’t get into a debate about it. One tweet this morning was enough for me to realise that some people are all black and white, unable to see the grey. The very same people are full of their own contradictions, but somehow fail to see them. And I refuse to argue with people like that because their blinkers and attitude bother me. Immensely.

I wish Chrissie all the best in quitting her smoking habit – for good. As someone who has never smoked, I have no idea how hard it is to quit, but I have a huge amount of respect for her addressing the issue in the way she did, without making excuses. I’ve got no doubt she’s an amazing mother. And instead of beating her down, I hope we can find ways to support her, and others in similar situations.

When you’re pregnant, people don’t just have opinions on what you should do and eat, they’ve also got opinions on how you should look. I’ve been told everything from, ‘wow, you are huge’ through to, ‘you don’t look pregnant at all!’ At over six months pregnant, I do look it. But I think I look exactly what I’m supposed to look like at this stage of my pregnancy. No two bodies are the same, so it makes sense that no two pregnant bodies are going to be the same. There’s no right way to look. And often, when we’re presented with an image of pregnancy, it’s not an accurate one: a model parading maternity clothes with a belly bump clasped around her waist is not an accurate depiction of a pregnant woman. Kudos to the magazines and online stores that use real, pregnant women to showcase their fashions and wares.

I don’t buy ‘women’s magazines’ (I’d rather stab myself in the eye with a fork) but I was flicking through the latest issue of Woman’s Day this morning, and I saw this:

Post-Baby Bodies

And I instantly thought, ‘fuck you, Woman’s Day.’ Perhaps the caption ‘they’re in no rush’ was meant in a positive way: ‘Hooray, they’re in no rush to be super slim, how refreshing!’ but I’m not so sure it was.

The focus on women’s bodies post-pregnancy (or any time at all) is not healthy. It’s not constructive. It’s not even important. Where is the focus on health? On happiness? On a happy heart and mind? Why don’t you publish that, Woman’s Day?

I’ve met pregnant women obsessed with their size. Obsessed with exercising and following a strict eating regime. I’ve read countless pieces of information in websites and books explaining what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat. That it’s not necessary to eat for two. And it isn’t – rather, as your pregnancy progresses, so too does the need for you to up your calorie intake.

I don’t eat much junk food. I cook a lot of meals at home. I eat a well-balanced, varied diet. I love fresh food. Fruits and vegetables and grains. Some days, I eat pretty much the same as would I would pre-pregnancy. On others, I’m ravenous every two hours. I listen to my body and feed it regularly – as and when it needs it.

Seeing your body change when pregnant is quite incredible – it’s amazing, but it’s also frightening, at times. The last thing pregnant women need to be told is how pregnant they look. I can’t bend down in the shower to shave my legs properly; do you think I need anyone telling me my belly is growing?

It’s not the right or the responsibility of anyone to pass judgment, comment or advice onto pregnant women. Perhaps an obstetrician, or a GP, when approached and questioned, but it’s not up to you or me.

Eating a sandwich with fetta the other week, my lunch companion questioned whether I should be eating that particular type of cheese. Drinking an iced coffee the other day, the waitress wondered aloud whether it was ok for me to be doing so.

Um, what?

I know being pregnant means being slightly more cautious with certain foods and environments, but it doesn’t mean you can’t live. Or eat. In fact, I’d go so far as to surmise that our obsession with eliminating so many food types is half the reason we have a generation of children walking around allergic to every second food group.

I spent half the summer scoffing prawns and fresh seafood. I’ve eaten camembert. And prosciutto. And I don’t need the pregnancy police telling me how or what to eat. I buy good quality, fresh food and I won’t take policing from someone who defrosts their dinner in a microwave every night.

I’m much more concerned with being healthy, strong and happy. And my focus – and that of the pregnancy police – should be directed towards parenting and raising well-adjusted, empathetic, educated children, rather than worrying about the contents of my sandwich.

*Usually strangers.

My Problem With Faux-Aussie Pride Brouhaha

First published in Onya Magazine on January 25th, 2013.

I’ll be honest straight up; I’m not particularly fond of Dick Smith.

I appreciate his intense keen attitude when it comes to supporting Australian made products, and the way he encourages others to do so, but there’s something about his products, something about his marketing style that really gets up my goat.

I try and support Australian businesses where and when I can. I like shopping local; supporting the people that live in my street and run my local stores. But I also understand that sometimes, it’s not always possible to do so. I’m ok with that. I’m realistic. And I don’t really go around making bad puns trying to talk people into changing the way they shop.

As someone who really tries very hard to buy Australian made and owned products, I can declare that I’ve never bought a Dick Smith product and I never will. Because I think the man’s a dick.

And I have a real problem with the faux-Aussie pride brouhaha that some companies and businesses feel the need to push onto consumers. We don’t want it and it’s not working.

I don’t want my peanut butter to be emblazoned with the Australian flag. Or the name of my morning spread to be some awful play on words. I don’t want a company to market at me using outdated, colloquial, racist jargon. And I’ll go out of my way to completely avoid and never support such companies that do.

Do we really have to shove the fact that products and items are Australian made in consumer’s faces? I’m all for a small ‘Made in Australia’ tag, not a problem, but in 2013, do we really still need to keep the occa Aussie stereotype alive?

People aren’t buying it.

The Australian products I buy aren’t screaming “AUSSIE MADE! HERE’S A FLAG! AND A KANGAROO! WEARING A CORK HAT! WITH A SOUTHERN CROSS TATTOO! OZZIE OZZIE OZZIE, OI OI OI!”

Mostly, the products I buy just so happen to be made in Australia. From items in my pantry to products in my bathroom, they’re lovely; gorgeous packaging, encasing a product that works and one that I like, that just so happens to be made in Australia. No fuss, no fanfare, no bullshit.

That’s the type of support I’d like to see our Australian companies getting; support for creating products that are good and that people like. Not support for purely being Australian made, as though that somehow grants them unlimited access to our wallets.

This Australia Day, say no to the faux-Aussie pride brouhaha. Sam Kekovich can stick his lamb up his clacker, Dick Smith can suck a big one and anyone believing that a cheap Australian flag made in China makes them any more Australian than the next person can sign up for my head assessment program.

None of that is what being Australian is about. 80% of the messages we’re fed – via the news and morning programs, newspapers and online columnists – in the lead up to this Australia Day have missed the point entirely.

It’s not about sticking a Southern Cross tattoo on your face once a year. It’s not about buying products that assault your eyeballs. Or perpetuating silly ideals imposed upon us by a select group of outdated bigots.

It’s about compassion. Empathy. Kindness. Celebrating our resilience, our spirit. Showing support for those who are having a tough time; through migration or bushfires, a rough trot or a shitty start to the year. Being Australian isn’t about embodying the image the media is feeding us; if it was, I’d be on the first plane out of here.

It’s about acceptance, not tolerance. Learning from our mistakes, not creating new ones. Opening up our back gates and inviting our family, friends and neighbours to celebrate – whether that’s with a BBQ, dumplings, curry or koftas. It’s about learning from the many cultures that make Australia so unique, not celebrating a singular idea of what our culture is supposed to look like.

I know there’s more to us than the image we’re currently being presented with. And you know it too.

Happy Australia Day. Celebrate with pride for all the good things this nation is truly about, and all the change that’s yet to, but will, come.

Oh, looksy, it’s me!

I’m very, very thrilled to announce some exciting news… I’ve got a new writing gig and it’s with a company and publication I admire and respect greatly; Forbes.

As of, oh, well, now, I can add Forbes Travel Guide Correspondent to my bio. And I couldn’t be more excited.

I’ll be writing about (one of) my favourite cities in the world, Melbourne. Blogging, answering questions and providing expert advice.

You can view my profile here.

Sandi Sieger, Startle/Forbes Expert, Travel Correspondent

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