Monday, November 29, 2010

Broken...

It was my birthday on the weekend, and I couldn't help reminiscing.

Mostly about last year's birthday, in 2009.

We had arrived back home from a family holiday in Samoa the day before.

The holiday had been gorgeous; the best family vacation ever. We all agreed.

As we'd been eating and drinking a lot that week; not to mention enjoying sun, sand and a temporary taste of luxury, I'd told my now ex-hubby not to worry about a present.

I wasn't expecting him 1. To forget my birthday and 2. To not worry about a present. After all, he'd bought his sister one at the resort, and had a tattoo done for himself, and I'd expected, just maybe, a tiny piece of the cheap but gorgeous jewellery I'd admired whenever we went past the shop near the gym. But no. Hey, I'd just had a lovely family holiday, so I wasn't about to complain.

Still. It was a pretty lonely birthday, not least because we were living in another country, and I had no family support and only a couple of friends there.

The previous year, my lovely big sister had arrived (surprise!), and we'd spent a lovely weekend together. Possibly the best birthday ever.

That year, there were no surprise visitors.

The kids had school that day, my Ex had work, while I had a travel story - on Samoa - to write from home. Not exactly party stuff.

Dinner was uneventful, partly cooked by me, and I went to bed early with the kids.

I've been used to grown-up birthdays for a long time now, so shouldn't have felt disappointed, but still I felt, quite empty really.

The following day I took the kids on my own to the Auckland Christmas Parade while my ex fought battles and killed things on his computer.

I should have known then, that something was wrong, because just a few weeks later the marriage and my family and life as I knew it, was over.

I think a tiny part of me already knew it. Which is probably why I cried when I said goodbye to the childrens' teachers on the last school day of the year, not to mention the friendly couple at the corner shop, and our nice building manager. I am pretty sure I already knew that was the last time I would see them, but I just couldn't admit it.

The next day, the kids and I found ourselves on a plane to Australia, even though we'd hoped to do some more sightseeing in and around Auckland first. Yes, it was nice to be coming home to see our families, but it would have been nice to have had a say in it.

It was the Beginning Of The End.

I can't go into details of course, but a lot of my lovely followers are aware of the fact that this year has been the toughest of my life.

I've been lower than I've ever been. I've cried longer and harder than I ever thought possible, and I've seen my inner pain reflected in my eyes.

I've fallen, I've gotten back up again, and I've pulled myself together to hold out my hands to my kids to stop them from falling. But there have been great highs as well.

I've learnt a lot about myself and my life and why I do the things I do. I have forgiven myself for occasionally taking the wrong path, and dammit, I actually like myself!

The kids and I have a stronger bond than ever, and when we are together, we can be happy and just be. There is no tension; no fear of doing something wrong and being punished or put upon. We're a team, a family on our own terms, and we are solid.

I've rediscovered how awesome my family and real friends are. I've been aghast at the fairweather ones, who have stayed as far away as possible; which has made the friendship and support that has come from sometimes unexpected quarters, even more special.

I no longer feel ashamed to admit to battling depression and anxiety. As my psychiatrist says - and yes, I do see one - there would be something wrong if I didn't feel depressed and anxious after the hell I've been through.

Depression and anxiety are a part of me, and like so many illnesses and diseases they can be treated and managed. And they are being being managed fine, thank you very much.

As one always finds with adversity (Blimey, I sound like the Queen here): You either sink, or you swim. And as the late Winston Churchill once said; When you're going through the hell, you bloody well get your head down and get the hell out of there. (I may have just paraphrased him there).

I started the year broken, but by my birthday, I'm stronger and wiser than before. I am fully in touch with my values and my beliefs; which battles I must fight, and which I can choose to let go.

The cracks are still there, but a little emotional superglue works wonders.

And on my birthday, I was overwhelmed by the love and kindness from all my peeps - online, offline, family and friends.

Thank you for making me feel special, not just on my birthday, but every day. 

And a super big hug to my kids who are the most amazing humans I've ever met. I love you guys. All the way to the moon and back, and even more than that. You are the best gift a girl could ever ask for.

Mwah!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas, cake and other chaos

So it was  my birthday yesterday - yes, 21 again - and I had to pleasure of setting the alarm and shlepping the kids over to our old place to do yet more moving stuff.

Which we all loved.

Not.

I hate moving. The kids hate moving. It sucks, especially on a birthday.

However, the good news is that most of our crap precious belongings, are finally here, and we've settled in well to our new home and have bonded with the inhabitants. (A handful of pets came with the home, which to us is a bonus not a negative. Apparently, there are a couple of snakes about too, but thankfully, we haven't made their acquaintance yet.)

We still managed to have a fairly fun day, getting out and about, and even participating in a Christmas Carnival.

It was madness in this heat, and of course, I was the only one to get suburnt, despite liberally dousing myself in sunscreen. We had a late lunch/early dinner out before collapsing on the couch with the pets and watching Pokemon.

The kids then demanded massages since they were tired from their day out, which I grudgingly provided, whilst mumbling something about it being MY birthday, and surely I was the one who should have been massaged!

There was rainbow cake, which we made and iced together, and despite being a fully paid-up member of #TheBoombahClub, I actually allowed myself a piece. Delicious.

In all the madness, I still managed to draw the winner of the 'Search For Santa Paws' DVD giveaway.

It was Nadine, who now may actually get some peace when she's out shopping with her little ones, and they may stop pestering her for a copy.

Nadine, message me and I'll get your DVD off to you. Porter Novelli Australia Pty Limited, Aussie Mummy Bloggers, and Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment are the kind people who donated the giveaway, so many thanks to them.

In case you missed it, you can see the Santa Paws trailer here

This week, I'll have another giveaway to announce, so stay tuned.

Now, where's my rainbow cake?
Forget her! Where's my Whiskas?

Monday, November 22, 2010

The F Words part 2

Seems like I'm not the only one to get all stabby when I see a Foxtel ad.

After bitching about the Foxtel Foxmas/FuckMiss sale and their previous EOFYS effort, I found this while surfing the net doing some research. It's a parody on the EOFYS ad and you can watch it here.

If you really want to go insane, you can watch the original here.

The views and dances on that ad in no way reflect the dancing and viewing talents of MIA.

Meanwhile, you'll be thrilled to know that I've finally had the pleasure of actually seeing the FuckMiss ad. It's even more difficult to endure on the telly, than it is on the car stereo.

I couldn't find a copy of the FuckMiss ad online, let alone a parody of it, but if you know of any, send them through to me.

Speaking of scary, I thought I'd share a few photos from our first Aussie Halloween.
Miss 7 looks like she is giving the finger, but I think she is only showing off her witch's nails

Mr 9, on a normal day dressed as a zombie
We put our own Queensland touch to Halloween by carving a watermelon instead of a pumpkin. The kids took great pleasure in scooping out the flesh, and Mr 9 did the carving.

It was even scarier after dark ...

Readers what things shit, scare or mess with you?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mary Christmas!

I felt a bit like Mary Christmas the other day, as I popped a review book in the post for a special guest reviewer to read and report on when she has time. At the same time, I was able to give away some double passes to a new movie to some other lovely followers.

One of the best things about blogging is being able to give things away. Seriously, I'm like a puppy with a bladder full of wee and a street full of lamp posts!

On this occasion, Porter Novelli Australia Pty Limited, Aussie Mummy Bloggers, and Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment sent the kids and I a preview copy of The Search For Santa Paws to review. You can see the trailer here.

Isn't it cute?

And lucky readers, I also have a copy of The Search For Santa Paws movie to give away at MIA. A proper one, in a case and EVERYTHING. Just like you get at the shops. You could even give it as a present!  (Reviewers get basic CD in a clear film package.)

Now the reason for the preview:

Generally journalists and writers are lucky enough to see movies and DVDs before the general public. This is: A. So we can review them and presumably encourage people to see them (good or bad, any publicity tends to be good publicity); and B: To work out which stars and/or movies would make good features and secure interviews well in advance.

I remember, in my glory days of writing for magazines in London, when the editorial team saw a preview of Four Weddings And A Funeral, and we all tried to convince the editor that we needed to interview a guy called Hugh Grant, because he was going to be BIG. (Well, big in the movie star sense. I cannot vouch for his size in any other area).

Anyway, the (hetrosexual male) editor tutted and said: "No one's ever heard of him. NEXT." (Because a female or gay editor would have totally been into Hugh immediately, right?)

So we passed on the free interview we'd been offered, and a few months later when Four Weddings was making a killing at the box office, and Elizabeth Hurley started wearing next to nothing, our esteemed editor demanded an interview with Hugh Grant, and gave us a bollocking for not having done so already.

By then Hugh was far too popular for his people to even speak to our people, but one of my colleagues did score a phone interview with Liz Hurley, which was almost as good. Especially as she was given Liz and Hugh's home number on which to do it, and she spent the next few weeks trying not to phone them to listen to their answer machine message.

But I digress.

As luck would have it, our preview Santa Paws DVD arrived the day the kids and I were ordered to rest up because we all had tonsillitis, fevers, and were contagious.

I felt like a magician as I whipped out the magical disc (ie, the Santa Paws DVD), before the kids could moan about having nothing to do.

I then set them up with ice-cream, sick bowls, and antibiotics, before settling down to enjoy the movies. Afterwards, (okay during as well), the kids shared their thoughts.

I've weeded out the irrelevant ones like: 'Mum, C. keeps putting his feet on me', and 'Mum, H. just farted on me.' And the classic: "Mum, I'm gonna spew!"

Despite all that, they enjoyed Santa Paws and here is what they thought:.

Mr 9: "The start is silly. I hate the singing. It gets better after that. I liked the bit where Santa got knocked over by the car. That was funny." (Yes, he does see a child psychologist.) I want a magic crystal like Santa and Paws.  (Don't we all, son? Don't we all?)

Miss 7: Santa looked weird, I didn't really like him much. He's not like the real Santa. I hated the mean lady. Why do mean ladies always have orphanages? I love Paws, I even loved him when he became a toy. I want a magic crystal like Santa and Paws. (See above.)

Ms 42 (AKA Me): This is the prequel to Santa Buddies, which my kids loved, so the approval rating was already pretty high.
The cute dogs and their antics held the kids pretty much spellbound, but they lost interest during the singing and dancing scenes (which is when the touching and farting began. On my couch at home, not in the movie). The Christmassy scenes were gorgeous.
It's a cute enough movie, very predictable, but it hits all the right buttons for primary school-age kids. Younger kids might be a bit upset at some of the scenes, and teens would probably act bored, but might give in and watch if they're in the same room.
Also? In the extras section,  Debby Reynolds who is apparently quite hot right now, does a rocking rendition of Deck The Halls, which both kids loved.
I'd recommend it as a rainy/sick day/Christmas holiday viewing.
(And Miss 7 is right, the Santa did look a bit creepy. And I want a magic crystal too).

If you would like to win a copy of The Search For Santa Paws (rated F), just leave a comment below.

The winner will be announced on Friday, November 26.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

And the winners are...

I'm so excited to be able to announce the winners of my latest blog giveaways!
I didn't use the random generator thingie, I had a more old-fashioned variety ... I used two small humans to pull names out of a tupperware container.
Here are the random humans:

So the double passes to the preview of Red Hill at BCC Myer Centre Cinemas on Monday November 22, at 6.30 pm go to:
Amber, and
Adri
Congratulations girls. DM or email me with your contact details so I can send your prize.

I was thrilled with the response to the book giveaway. There are so many deserving young reviewers out there, that I'm hoping I can run regular competitions like this. Your kids get a nice book and I get free labour
really honest, well-written reviews from the very demographic the novels are aimed at.
So the winner for 'Careful What You Wish For' by Aussie author Maureen McCarthy is:
Melli's daughter.

Again DM or email me your details and I'll send your prize.

I'm still waiting for my ice-cream giveaway to come through (sulk), but I hope to be back with more giveaways soon.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A sobering reminder

I've bitched about crappy advertising quite a bit lately, but this morning, radio and television personality, and fellow blogger Emily Jade O-Keefe posted about a spectacular but scary example of powerful advertising.

On her blog EmilyEverywhere, Emily featured the very successful Victorian drink driving campaign.
Warning: It is confronting to watch, and if you've lost someone to a traffic accident, you may not want to watch it. Or at least wait until someone is with you when you do.

I have never seen this ad, but apparently it has had amazing results. And I'm not surprised.
You can see it via Emily's blog here.

Drive safely people please. Don't speed, don't text or phone, and never drink and drive. Remember, it only takes a few seconds or an extra drink to change or even take lives.

It's not worth it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Careful what you wish for...

Because you just might get it!

That's the idea behind the latest novel from Maureen McCarthy.

The former art teacher is one of Australia's most-loved authors, with several of her books being turned into television fodder as well.

Careful What You Wish For is the tale of put-upon 11-year-old Ruth Craze who thinks her life sucks.

And then a much-loved aunt gives her a rather unusual gift, and Ruth's wishes start to come true. But are they really for the better?


Regular readers know I love to read, and review, books, but on this occasion, I thought: Why not let someone the book is aimed for, the chance to review the book instead?

Basically the book is aimed at girls aged between about 9 and 12, although it would appear to boys as well.
 (One of the main characters is a rather mysterious boy). Also? There's a rat. A rat who changes everything!

If you have a child who would love the chance to be a guest reviewer, leave a comment below.

I can't pay the winner, however he or she will be able to keep the novel, and boast about their gig to all their friends. And of course, his/her review will be published here at MIA with byline and photo if that's okay with the parents. Otherwise, we can use first name and age, and leave it at that.

Careful What You Wish For by Maureen McCarthy is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $15.99.

Finally, a quick reminder to Brisbane movie buffs, that Red Hill is soon opening in Australian cinemas on November 25.

If you want to see it before all your friends, I have two double passes to giveaway to the preview at the BBE Myer Cinemas on Monday, November 22, at 6.30 pm. 

There's an awesome Red Hill Shoot-Out Game to play on Facebook if you're interested.

For the Red Hill giveaway, just leave me a comment on who your favourite Australian actor/actress is and why. This competition closes at 5 pm on Friday November 12.

For the book giveaway, you just need to let me know if you have a child who would love to read Be Careful What You Wish For and give his/her honest opinion.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

More Stuff That Shits Me

"Mum, why are they swearing?" Mr 9 asked, as we drove home from school yesterday.
"They're saying the F-Word."
I couldn't help but laugh because I'd already thought the same thing.
I had the radio on and the Christmas campaign jingle for Foxtel was playing.
"It's FuckMiss, It's FuckMiss", the advertising singers warble in excitement. Or at least that's what we thought it sounded like. Apparently they're supposed to be singing "Foxmas".
And that ad totally shits me.
If we didn't go through enough with the freaking EOFYS ad at the end of the financial year, now we have weeks of FuckMiss to endure.
Remember the EOFYS ad? It was supposed to be advertising the End Of Financial Year Sale. (Get it? Yeah, really inspired. Not).
Instead it featured a street of freaky neighbours putting out Christmas decorations far too early, young men carrying signs, and a gaggle of teenage girls happily bumping and grinding. Just like an afternoon in my own street really ...
 EOFYS? Sounds crap to me. 
I haven't had the pleasure of actually SEEING the FuckMiss ad, only to have my eardrums tortured whilst driving.
And for the record, my kids aren't allowed to say the F-Word. Mumma is, but only when I've stubbed my toe, paid my electricity bill, or heard the FuckMiss jingle.
And that got me thinking about other ads that shit me.
The "Shout" campaign, which features women who may or may not be drunk, high, or both, screaming and rampaging through the store in search of tampons.
Because everyone knows menstruation is a joyous time of the month, and tampon shopping is a highlight. (Sigh...)
I love the way they highlight that there is now a handy 4 pack. That's because women are too stupid and/or lazy to put a few tampons in our purse or bag so we don't have to shlep the usual tampon pack around. Huge as it is. And we'd love to pay extra to pay more for some which come neatly packaged for us.
Shout? Nah. It makes me want to hurl, quite frankly.
(And dear Johnny O-Keefe would be rolling in his grave if he knew his iconic song was being used to plug - not sorry for the pun - sanitary products for women.)
To be fair, it's not just ads that are aimed at women that shit me.
One of the latest pasta ads pisses me off no end.
Dad is portrayed as a hen-picked husband whose wife doesn't trust him to feed their kids.
Despite this, the blokey Dad finds a handy packet of pre-made pasta in the fridge. Chuck it in some sauce - presumably also store bought - and he has a meal that the kids will eat. He likes it too. Praise be! And get this: They have to keep it a secret from the Mum.
Why?
And what happened to actually making pasta and sauce from scratch? Or producing a meal all on their own. It's not that hard and most men I know can do it.


A real captcha code I had to enter when commenting on a blog recently. Says it all recently.

So readers, what ads shit you?
Or why limit it to ads?
What else shits you?
Or is it just me?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Oops ...

So today, I totally had a date with John Travolta.
No truly.
Well, it wasn't really a date. More a media opportunity to watch him land at Brisbane Airport, meet him and greet him, and eat a piece of birthday cake cut by JT's own beautiful hands.
Yes, despite all the crap happening at Qantas, it is their 90th anniversary.  (And truthfully, I believe, they have been unlucky, and they have acted brilliantly and responsibility in both treating those affected by the latest concerns, with care. Whilst also responding to the public's concerns).
And part of the celebrations involved their wonderful Ambassador-At-Large John Travolta, flying into Sydney on his own Qantas B070 aircraft, and then onto Brisbane, where he was welcomed by Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce.
And then JT and Alan helped staff and their families, and the media pack to celebrate.
 (Please note:  Staff and their families were counted as VIPS too. I love that! Apparently, JT also answered questions from kids, which we all know can be Wild Cards.)
As a travel writer, I was lucky enough to be invited. And my goodness, I was looking forward to it.
As a journo, I rarely get startstruck by celebrities. To me 'real' people are far more interesting than celebs, who are usually spoiled, bored, and on their umpteenth interview already, to give much away.
But I think I would have been nervous if I had the chance to interview John Travolta. He always comes across as a super-nice person, a family man, a husband, a man who has experienced great loss, and change, and adulation, but still remains disarmingly 'normal'.
I had that confirmed just a few days when I met someone who knows him well. JT is apparently the real deal.
My problem was that I confused the RSVP time to attend, with the time of JT's actual landing.
So despite RSVP-ing I missed it.
Would it have changed my life? I doubt it.
Would it have made great blog fodder? Definitely.
And would I have swooned just a little? Quite possibly.
Look, I've not been the biggest Qantas champion in recent years. I've found their in-flight service, check-in/boarding procedures, and response to issues and/or complaints to be bollocks in fact. So much so that I now avoid flying with them.
However, on this occasion, I do believe they are a great Aussie icon, they are doing what they can, and JT as an ambassador is a fantastic PR achievement. And credit is due, because they still have possibly the best safety record in the business.
For me, Qantas PR could only be bettered if they could convince a great Aussie to learn to fly their planes. Hugh Jackman anyone?
Anyway.
Happy birthday Big Red Kangaroo.
If you want to send me some of the cake sliced by JT's own hands, I will faint, then recover, and eat the lot.

He should have been giving the thumbs up to me ...

Or talking to me in his nice uniform and big microphone ...

So readers, what has been your greatest stuff-up?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Giveaway: Red Hill

After whining for some time that Aussie companies, don't 'get' Social Media, MIA has been pleasantly surprised to have had some positive interest recently.

Several cool PR companies have been kind enough to give me hot products to review and/or giveaway.

In fact, I will soon be gettng some ice-cream. ICE-CREAM people! And not just any ice-cream ... Stay tuned).

In the meantime, Sony Pictures Australia have generously given me three double passes to a screening of the upcoming Aussie movie Red Hill.

Here's the synopsis:

Young police officer Shane Cooper (Ryan Kwanten) relocates to the small country town of Red Hill with his pregnant wife Alice (Claire van der Boom) to start a family.
But when news of a prison break sends the local law enforcement officers - led by the town’s ruling presence Old Bill (Steve Bisley) – into a panic, Shane’s first day on duty rapidly turns into a nightmare.
Enter Jimmy Conway (Tom E. Lewis), a convicted murderer serving life behind bars, who has returned to the isolated outpost seeking revenge.
Now caught in the middle of what will become a terrifying and bloody confrontation, Shane will be forced to take the law into his own hands if he is to survive.

The trailor features loads of scenes showing Ryan Kwanten looking Very Hot Indeed. (A little eye candy for the ladies never hurts). And of Steve Bisley looking wrinkly and concerned. Tom E. Lewis looks suitably scary, while the only footage I remember of Claire van der Boom was of her pashing the Very Hot Indeed Ryan.

Seriously, it gave me goosebumps. You can check it out here.

In the interests of Full Disclosure, I must admit I gave one of the double passes to @Bern_Morley's Great Melbourne Cup Twitter Sweepstakes.

So that leaves two double passes to a screening of Red Hill on Monday 22 November at 6.30pm at the BCC Myer Centre Cinemas.

If you're lucky enough to be able to get to the screening, leave a comment saying who your favourite Aussie actor (or actress) is and why. Winners drawn Friday November 12 noon, AEST.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Horsing around?

I'm not going to be blogging much this month, having commited myself to doing NaNoWriMo for November. Basically the idea is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month, even if it's crap.
Every year, I make noises about doing it, and every year, I feel guilty because I don't.
Not this year.
Having said that, it's day two and I've yet to write a word.
Anyway, even though I was determined NOT to blog today, there's been so much action on twitter, I couldn't help but join in.
That's because it's Melbourne Cup Day.
To those foreign folk, it's supposed to be the 'race that stops a nation'. Basically, jockeys ride horses and people bet on who is going to win.
There is also much dressing up, flirting, and drinking, usually ending with people going home shoeless, with torn clothes, and perhaps personal parts of their bodies falling out. (And yes, I'm talking about the adults).
I haven't done Melbourne Cup in ... Oh I can't even remember.
It used to be one of the most fun days of the social year.
One of my earliest memories is of being taken out of school and into the TV room to watch the race, as teachers excitedly urged on their horses, and then were either super nice for the rest of the afternoon or super grumpy.
When I was a young journalist, The Cairns Post management would always put on a catered lunch, including cold chicken and champagne. We'd always dress to the nines on those days (at least the women did), drink us much free bubbly as we could, then stumble back to our computers to bash out a few more stories or headlines.
Later, as a freelancer, I'd meet up with a few fellow writers, and we'd do Melbourne Cup lunch. It was never a knees-up affair, but it was an excuse to dress up and enjoy one of the benefits of freelancing - being able to enjoy a long lunch if you wanted to.
When I lived in London, Melbourne Cup Day was one of the few times I'd go to an Aussie pub, where we would watch the race on a big screen.
And when I came home to Australia after several years overseas, it was early on Melbourne Cup Day. Having spent the past few months in Thailand and Taiwan I hadn't even realised. We arrived home in the morning, slept off the jetlag and walked to the nearest shopping centre to watch the race.
Since having kids, I don't think I've ever been to a Melbourne Cup event, so it took me a while to find a photo in racing dress-up mode.
This one was taken in Cairns, and I thought I looked pretty damn special at the time. I didn't back a winner, but I didn't end up throwing up in the gutter and shoeless at the end of the day, so I'm calling it about even.


So readers, do you celebrate Melbourne Cup day?