Monday, May 30, 2011

Sick days...

We're all home sick today.

Mr 10 has Young Man Flu and is languishing fitfully in his bed, calling out occasionally for snacks and drinks. (He's feeding a cold ...)

Miss 8 and Zsa Zsa the toy poodle have climbed into bed with me for cuddles.

A little unexpected time together means unscheduled chatting, which is kind of funny.

We're watching Sunrise, and Miss 8 thinks back to one of the things I've done that really impressed her: Being on telly.

"Mum you went on Sunrise and we waved at you," says Miss 8. "Was it fun?"

"Mmm, not really," I reply.

Miss 8 is shocked. How could being on television NOT be fun?

"Well it was kind of fun, but I got really nervous," I explain.

"Oh, so you needed to spew first" H. says wisely.

She's quiet for a moment, thinking things through, making the connection that the reason I was on television (not just Sunrise, but this was the show that impressed her the most), was that I was promoting my book, Happily Ever Parted. (New Holland Australia).

"Mumma, did you make a lot of money from your book?" H. continues.

"Mmmm, not really," I say.

"Oh, so not many people wanted to buy it," she says.

Ouch. But kind of true.

"Maybe you should write another book, but make it about our family" she says. "It will be a very long book!"

Yes, I guess it would.

Just then, Mr 10 ambles in with a Foxtel brochure and casually drops it on the bed.

"What's this for?" I ask.

"You need this so you can get us Foxtel," he says. "It's EOFYS you know ...We can afford it now!"

In his 'assume-too-much' dreams.

But at least it's all material for The Book.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

This I know: (The School Run Edition)

These are truths universally acknowledged, that when it is school run time, the following will occur:

No matter how early I get up in the morning and how much I prepare the night before, we will still only make it through the door, into the car and through the school gate on time, by the skins of our arses.

While Miss 8 will happily munch on eggs on toast, cereal, or fruit for breakfast; Mr 10 will announce there is nothing in this house that he wants to eat, and that he isn't hungry anyway. No amount of prompting will encourage Mr 10 to eat, even though I know he is hungry.

I will have two million and 20 socks, but none will match. My children will insist on only wearing socks which match perfectly, sparking a frenzied sock search, even though there were perfectly matched socks with their uniforms on their beds the night before.

Socks found, at the moment we need to get out of the door, Mr 10 will discover his shirt is missing a button. Miss 8 will reveal an urge need to do a poo.

Miss 8's poo time will give me just enough time to quickly sew on a button. (Aspie Mr 10 will not wear a shirt if it does not have all the buttons).

As we get downstairs, Miss 8 will suddenly realise she forgot to feed the guinea pigs, and I will have to coax her gently to the car with the promise that I will feed them later. (If I remember. Shhhh ...)

In the unthinkeable event that we leave at exactly the right time to get to school before the bell, we will hit major gridlocked traffic, that will make us late anyway. The teachers will not believe the traffic could hold us up for so long.

Five minutes after getting caught in gridlocked traffic, Mr 10 will announce he is starving, and can't we just quickly go through a drive through? I will refuse, and he will complain bitterly, and call me the meanest mother in the world.

I will turn on the radio to drown out Mr 10's moaning, but quickly turn it off when the presenters start talking about sex, or the latest nasal and/or oral-delivery system for premature ejaculation is advertised.

We will arrive at school, and discover that:
A. One of the kids has forgotten their homework, lunch, or important permission slip;
B. It's free dress day; or
C. It's a Pupil Free Day.

As I walk them to their classes, Miss 8 will reveal she has forgotten to put on underwear. Mr 10 will triumphantly show me he's successfully taken off his socks without me noticing.

Five minutes after getting home and sitting down with my first coffee of the day I will get a call from the school to say that:
A. Mr 10 told them I refused to give him breakfast, and he is starving;
B. Miss 8 has nits;
or C. One of both of them are sick, and throwing up violently in the sick room. Can I please come and get them as soon as possible?

When we get home, Miss 8 will be cross at me for forgetting to feed the guinea pigs, and Mr 10's lunch box will be untouched. He will complain bitterly that he is starving, and I didn't pack any food that he likes.

My coffee will still be untouched on the kitchen table.

Readers, are your school runs anything like mine?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Help me win $5000 and a New Ford Territory for a year

Last year, I was hospitalised for what was formerly described as a 'major depressive disorder'. Most of you would know it as a nervous breakdown.

As my marriage imploded, and the world collapsed around me, I went with it.

It was the worst time of my life.

You can't imagine the shame, confusion and yes, resentment, I felt, that I needed to be admitted to a mental health institution in order to find myself. The guilt that I had to be away from my kids in order to do it.

"You have to do this," the extremely wise and caring nurses would say. "If Mum's not happy, the kids won't be happy."

And they were right.

On my first day in hospital, I didn't even talk to anyone, apart from the staff. I took to my (single, hospital) bed, trying to work out how the hell my life had come to this.

There I was, then 42, with two marriage failures behind me. Through no fault of my own, I was now homeless. And I was in hospital battling anxiety and depression.

I went from being a hands-on Mum; a successful writer and journalist; to what felt like a failure
I spent more than a month in that hospital, basically getting better. Slowly coming out of my shell and sharing truths I had never before revealed. To anyone, least of all myself.

(After I left, the healing continued. Still does. I attend outpatients' groups, study and practise Mindfulness, see my psychiatrist and a counsellor regularly. I take my meds. I do everything I need to do in order to stay well.)

At first, my psychiatrist terrified the crap out of me. But gradually, I warmed to him and learned to trust him with my secrets. The psychologist and psychiatric nurses were awesome. They knew how to ask the hard questions that would lead me to sudden 'a-ha' moments.

"So that's why I do that," I realised.  "That's why I made those (often wrong) choices)."

And did I mention the other patients? The people I was too scared to talk to on my first day, because hey, they must be nuts too, right? Those people were among the sanest, most talented, smart and interesting people I've met in my life.

Who knew?

And yet, it was hard work. Especially as my life outside of hospital, was careering out of control. Especially when I was treated with cruelty and contempt by the very people who were supposed to love me. (Note: Not my own family. My family have been nothing but supportive and great).

People often ask me if there were times when I just wanted to give up. To crawl into the foetal position and die.

And I have to say that yes, I felt that way more times than I can say.

But I had two very good reasons not to give up. To hang in there and fight. For me, for them, for us.

You know where I'm going with this, right? My kids, C. and H.

The two constants in my life that even I haven't managed to stuff up (much.) The two people that gave me a role that I (mostly) know how to do, being Mumma. The two people I love and admire most in the world.

They're my heart, my soul,  my reasons for being here on this earth. They are my drive.

It was the kids that lit up that dark, difficult period.

It was C. and H. who gave me the impetus, the motivation and the drive to get myself out of that hospital and back into my rightful role. As their Mumma.

What I've learned is that parenting and my pursuit of happiness is a rollercoaster. There are unforgiving lows, heady highs, squeals of joy, and moments of feeling dreadfully sick.

And happily, there are those perfect moments. When the kids are making a 'Mumma Sandwich', when they're giggling infectiously, or coming to me for a cuddle, just because.

And I know I'm right where I'm supposed to be.

Back in the driver's seat.

Readers, what drives you?

And if you like this post, would you care to vote for me? Just click on the Kidspot Top 50 Bloggers button on the right.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Freebies

After a shitty week (pun intended!), I thought it was time to break out some fun.

And what is more fun than a freebie?!

But first, the winner of the signed copy of my book Happily Ever Parted (Surviving Separation and Divorce) published by New Holland Australia is Effie.



Effie, email me or DM me with your details, and I will pop your copy in the post.

And now for today's giveaway.

Probably every Aussie household has at least one item of Stubbies clothing in it.

Stubbies Australia is an iconic brand that can always be counted on to provide honest quality gear at a decent price. (And they are not paying me to say that!)

As we edge into winter, Stubbies is offering an MIA reader a $30 voucher to spend on warm woollies. To win, comment below, and if you haven't already done so, click on the 'vote for me' Kidspot Top 50 Blogger button.

A bunch of us are getting together for a virtual roadtrip, in aid of the Kidspot New Ford Territory Top 50 Bloggers, which I'll post about later.

In the meantime, I'm packing up a picnic hamper so that we can eat healthily while on the road.

Readers, what's a must-have for a picnic?

If you have a favourite recipe, or product to share, please leave a comment below. There will be a prize for the one I like the most.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Parking at rear ...



"Where would you like to go?" I was asked, as I curled into the foetal position.

"Samoa," I said, without hesitation.

"Wow, you've got a destination ready," my anaesthetist said.

"Okay, well I'm going to give you a nice little cocktail that is going to take you to Samoa. You're relaxing by the pool, watching the sunset, and ..."

With that, I drifted off.

Sadly, it wasn't really off to a tropical beach in Samoa, but a twilight sedation on a theatre bed in a day hospital in Brisbane, where I was having a colonoscopy.

Anyone who has not had a colonoscopy are fascinated by the things. And I've been bombarded with questions from friends, family and colleagues, in 'real life' and online.

What's it really like? Does it hurt? Do you poo yourself on the way to the hospital?

Oh yes, dear reader, I've been asked them all.

So in the interests of public health, I'm going to share my experience. Please click away if you're not keen on overshares.

I'm not going to go into the boring, but necessary, medical ins and outs (ahem), of a colonoscopy. That's easy enough to learn from your GP and/or specialist, or via the magic of google.

What you want to know is what it is really like.

Well, I'll be honest: It is gross.

But the alternative - bowel cancer or some other nasty disease - is far worse. Which makes the discomfort and occasional pain of a colonoscopy nothing compared to NOT having one, and perhaps being diagnosed too late.

And trust me: I have experienced loved ones dying, painfully and quickly, from bowel cancer.

Happily, I have seen loved ones are still alive and healthy because colonoscopies have discovered their conditions early.

Sadly, I have friends who were diagnosed via colonosopy but are still fighting this insidious, nasty, shitty disease. (Pun totally intended).

So every single moment attached to the toilet, fighting the urge to throw up, or the indignity of presenting your barely-draped arse to a specialist so that he can insert a tiny camera into it, is totally worth it!

But still. I can think of a million things I would rather do.

This was my second colonoscopy. The first was a 40th birthday present of sorts, mainly because bowel disease runs in my family. I'd developed a few #OVERSHARE ALERT# haemmorroids while pushing out two human beings  a few years earlier.

Mostly they settled down, but occasionally flared up. That, and the incidence of bowel disease in my family - and the experience of a very dear friend whose life was saved when a colonoscopy found a tumour - led me to have the procedure, kind of like an insurance policy.

It was yucky, but fine. No nasties were found and I was sent home to sleep it off. I was up and preparing dinner for the kids that same evening.

And I forgot all about it until a few weeks ago, when I started exhibiting a few of the obvious symptoms of bowel cancer.

Bleeding, not just a little, but a lot. (#OVERSHARE# Yes, when pooing). Plus, there was constant stomach pain, numerous tummy upsets, urgency, diarrhoea, change of bowel habits, the lot.

But the bleeding. Hell, the bleeding. That scared the crap out of me. (Literally. Sorry).

There were other symptoms too, that didn't necessarily mix with the bowel stuff. Really high blood pressure. Really high pulse rate. Vertigo and dizziness. Headaches. And my blood tests were not great.

So a colonoscopy, as well as a raft of other tests (brain scan anyone?), were ordered.

The test I feared the most was the colonoscopy.

There are all sorts of ways and places to have one, but I go to a no-frills place that just does gastro things. So they are experts at it.

They also charge a minimum - mine was $140 out of pocket after private health cover - and you're in and out in a few hours. Unless there are complications obviously.

A few days before C-Day, you go in and have a chat to a nurse who takes your history and makes sure you know what's going on.

You agree to go on a horrid low fibre diet, which is the opposite of the way we're taught to eat. White bread only. Stewed fruit. No grains. None of the good stuff.

You take home a couple of bottles of the Devil's Own Armpit Sweat Fleet preparation, which you must start to drink the night before the procedure.  The idea of this is to clean out your bowel and stomach so the specialist can see clearly inside it. Right to the end.

(Unfortunately, the day before the colonoscopy I was helping out at the school fete. Oh, how hard it was to ignore the delights of the Samoan food stall, and the Asian noodles and spring rolls.)

And then, to go home exhausted, knowing I had to drink the yucky Fleet solution.

It's supposed to taste like ginger apple, but it tasted like sweaty armpits. (Do not ask how I know this, I just do).

You mix it with your choice of 'clear fluid'. Clear fluid means un-pithy juice, soft drink, tea, water.

I chose diet ginger ale.

On this occasion, I had to drink the devil's brew in half an hour, than follow through with a few other glasses of more clear fluid.

I started the night before at the time I'd been instructed to drink it. (Actually I started 15 minutes earlier, because I knew I'd have problems).

I gagged immediately. I tried to take my mind off it by watching Dancing With The Stars and tweeting. But it was really difficult. I swallowed again. And then the chills started.

Within about 20 minutes I was perched on the loo, doubled up with tummy pains and well #OVERSHARE ALERT# the worst, most violent, diarrheoa you could imagine.

Eventually, I felt too ill for even telly and tweeting, so I turned off the computer and TV and concentrated at the task at hand, before falling into a fitful sleep.

My alarm rang at 3.15 am - I'd been told to set it for 3.30 am, but again, I knew I'd need a bit more time. This time it was even harder to drink the solution. I was shaky and I began to throw up a little in my mouth. Yes, whilst attached to the loo.

It took all my Mindfulness training and breathing not to throw up. (If you throw up the solution, you generally have to go in and be assessed, and quite possibly, get sent home and made to do it again. I really didn't want to go through all this again. Thankfully, I did not throw it all up.).

I crawled back to bed again, dying for a drink of water or tea - but I was now Nil By Mouth - before getting up a bit later for a shower.

I dressed in loose clothes as instructed - leggings and a comfy top - and tried desperately to ignore my need for tea or water. Anything.  My mouth was so dry I moistened it with ice a few times, hoping it wasn't against the rules.

You're not allowed to drive yourself into the day surgery hospital, so my lovely sister-in-law arrived to take me in.

I was worried about pooing on the way to the hospital - we'd joked about me getting adult nappies - but the solution and the timing seems to have been refined so that by the time you're in the car, you don't need to poo anymore.

I didn't even need to go when we got to the hospital. (Which was great, because if you go, you're not allowed to flush and have to fetch a nurse to look at your poo to make sure it's watery enough. Cringe).

My doctor was a nice man, and my anaesthetist a friendly woman. I knew I'd be under twilight sedation, but because of my anxiety, I asked her to promise I wouldn't wake up or be aware of what was happening at any time. She reassured me: I would know nothing.

Then I was wheeled into theatre, draped with a sheet and asked to pull my knickers down to my knees. Then I told to put my knees up to my chest, presenting my bare butt to the doctor. (It was loosely covered with the sheet.)

And then the anesthetist sent me to Samoa.

Except that the next thing I knew I was in agony, experiencing the worst bloating and pain since giving birth. I screamed and moaned, and the anaesthetist quickly gave me more drugs.

And then a smily nurse was waking me up. My butt and tummy really hurt. One of the recovery nurses said she'd get me a hot water bottle, but was too busy and forgot. I think she gave me some pain relief.

Recovery was over-run, so we were encouraged to get up as soon as we could. I didn't really feel up to it, but I was dying for a drink, so eventually I pulled up my knickers and shakily got to my feet.

A nice nurse held my hand and walked me into a sitting room. There, I was given the best cup of tea I'd ever had in my life. Seriously, I could have drunk endless pots of it. Plus some crackers and cheese. My first proper food in ages.

The specialist told me everything had gone well, and he'd had to tie up a few internal haemmorroids (who knew?) and remove a couple of polyps that had probably caused the bleeding.

He was surprised I remembered waking up: 'You needed a lot of medicine,' he said, putting it down to my body's resistence due to the crapload of stuff I take for depression, anxiety, ankylosing spondylitis and fibromyalgia. (Which thankfully, I've managed to recently cut back quite a lot, under medical supervision of course.).

You'll be pleased to know the doctor said my preparation was 'excellant'. (I always was a swot).

I was sent home with a prescription for pain relief and steroid suppositories. I know! And we had to go to three pharmacies before we found one which stocked them.

I was feeling sleepy by then, so sis-in-law drove me back to her place, gave me another cup of tea, and put me to bed in her lovely spare room. Complete with clean flanelette sheets.

My sis-in-law and brother both wanted me to stay for dinner or even overnight, but I was ready for pain relief, which I knew would make me sleepy, and I was thinking about the pets.

I slept surprisingly that night, though days later, I'm still not fully recovered. (Unlike last time, where I was back to normal the very next day).

Possibly that's because my insides have been poked and prodded, and I was a little freaked out by waking up during the procedure.

I'm tired, possibly because of the extra drugs I required. (They take a while to move through your system.) And when I move, my tummy feels like there are shards of glass in there.

Housework and other chores have been ignored, and I've spent the past two days propped up - or planking - in bed.

Where are the kids, you ask? Now that I'm a single Mum, I scheduled the colonoscopy for a week when they were with their Dad.

Which means I've been able to take it easy, and will hopefully be fully recovered by the time they get back.

The main thing is I'm cancer- free! And the bleeding should be well and truly over in a couple of days.

So would I want to have a colonoscopy again? No! But I'll have to - probably in two to three years, depending on my health.

And will I go through it all again? Totally.

Colonoscopies? Because we're worth it!

The kids came with me to pick up my prep, and thought the sign was hilarious.

I so didn't go here ... And the doctor could have totally have bought me a drink first!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Come on, get happy

Recently, I found it.

That elusive thing called happiness.

I was walking along the harbour in Sydney, taking in the sights and sounds of the city, and I suddenly recognised the somewhat unfamiliar feeling bubbling up from inside me and spreading out through my fingers and toes. And I smiled.

It was happiness! And it felt awesome.

I credit my recent trip to Sydney for the launch of the Kidspot Top 50 Bloggers competition for my flirtation with fun.

How long has it been since I’ve spent a few hours walking, just for the hell of it? Not to get somewhere fast, or for the exercise, but to see something new?

How long has it been since I’ve shopped for things other than groceries, prescriptions, school supplies, or badly-needed clothes for fast-growing kids?

For being a tourist?

For looking at the world around me, instead of just rushing through it?

Far too long. Clearly.

Part of the reason for my joy, I realised, was that whilst sightseeing and window-shopping, I was being totally Mindful.

So much of my journey from depression to healing has involved Mindfulness.

Embracing life: The good and the bad. Breathing, feeling, listening, living.

Not worrying about the past or fussing about the future. Living completely in the moment.

And I did it in Sydney.

How far I’ve come since my marriage separation left me homeless, depressed, betrayed, confused, and abused! A shadow of my former self, quivering with doubt.

On my first work trip away from home following my marriage break-up, I was so crippled with anxiety I did not leave my hotel room for the duration of a two-night stay in Sydney.

Seriously.

I got into a cab at the airport, checked into my hotel, attended a conference and awards night, then got back into a cab, returned to the airport, and flew home.

Need I mention, that I could not afford a cab? And in the past had mostly used public transport? Quite easily and stress-free.

After arriving at my hotel, I was so anxious at being out of my comfort zone that I could not leave the building, even though it was situated on top of a fabulous shopping centre.

Seriously, I could have been anywhere. I did not see Sydney at all.

This was so not me.

I’m a Sagittarian, I was born to travel. I’ve lived and worked all over the world.

I’ve navigated my way across countries. Stepped on and off planes, trains, buses, and automobiles. I’ve made myself understood in countries knowing only a smattering of the local language. And I don’t think I’ve ever been fearful.

(Except maybe for one time in Athens, but that’s another story.)

So venturing out in Sydney on my own and (gradually) feeling totally relaxed and happy, was a huge deal. HUGE!

And you, dear readers, have all played a part in my recovery. For my trip to Sydney was all due to social media.

When I started Maid In Australia early last year, I never imagined my little blog would bring me so much pleasure. (Steady on, not that kind of pleasure!)

Blogging and tweeting has been a way for me to rediscover my writing voice, and share my journey. More importantly, it’s put me in touch with some of the funniest, wisest, talented, and kindest people I’ve ever met.

It’s brought me to Sydney twice now. Once for the inaugural Aussie Bloggers’ Conference, and again for the launch of the Kidspot/Ford Territory Top 50 Bloggers Competition. I am still in shock that I am one of the finalists.

What is even more valuable than the honour of being a Top 50 Blogger, is the friendship and mentoring I’ve received from other bloggers.

They have commiserated with me when things are shit, and celebrated when life is good.

They’ve generously shared knowledge and advice; they’ve helped me technically and practically; and one of them, the lovely Eden Riley, even gave me a camera when she saw that my own was crap.

They’ve accepted me: Faults, overshares, a distinct lack of merkins, and all.

And slowly, that acceptance has fed my self-confidence. Which in turn made me brave enough to travel to Sydney and turn up to a party on my own. A party where I knew hardly anyone.

It was something which would have been too intimidating a year ago, and it was tops.

Even better, when I had some time to myself later, I didn’t lock myself in my hotel room. I went outside and played tourist. (It did take some deep breathing, and a close look at the map, but I did it!)

Usually, when I’m in Sydney, it’s a flying, working visit. I’ve never had time, or made the time, to enjoy the city.

Or the confidence.

I’d forgotten how travelling brings the spirit alive.

How experiencing something different or new, in a refreshingly unfamiliar environment, makes you more aware of sights, sounds, and tastes of the world around you.

How it keeps you in the moment. Mindful.

And this trip, Sydney totally did it for me!

Readers, have you ever done anything that scared you?

 Maid In Australia's visit to Sydney was sponsored by the award-winning, boutique tourism PR firm, Infront Communications, the Mantra Group, and the BreakFree On George Hotel.


The Chinese tea garden at Darling Harbour

Sightseeing

Heading towards Darling Harbour

Isn't it gorgeous? Near the Maritime Museum, where I once appeared at a writer's festival. (Pre the crippling anxiety days).

Loving the Aussie flag!

Sleeping, not planking

 Sunset

That's a saucy-sounding cocktail list!

There's always something happening in a big city. Here is Channel 10 recording an outside broadcast.

But this family enjoying fish and chips are more interested in the view!

Time to head back to the hotel ...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I'm a Top 50 blogger!

I held my breath as the taxi hurtled down a one way street the wrong way, and into what looked to be a dark alley.

Oh dear, was this it? Had I unwittingly flagged down a serial killer instead of a taxi driver, and was my number finally up?

(Apologies to all taxi drivers who are not of course, serial killers, and are mostly very nice. It’s just that getting into a car with an unknown man and ending up in a dark alley in an unfamiliar city can be scary for a country girl in the Big Smoke).

But no, we pulled up outside a brightly lit door and I realised that I had been delivered safely to the Tom Dunne Gallery in Little Burton Street, Darlinghurst.

Inside, a warm welcome was waiting, and the Kidspot Top 50 Blogger Awards were officially launched.

Most of the finalists had made it to the party, and there was much squeeing and hugging as we recognised each other’s twitter and blog names.

It was great catching up with some of the women I’d met at the Aussie Bloggers’ Conference earlier this year. Others, I knew only from our escapades online. (Including discussions about slanketts. And home hair dye disasters. And vagazziling and merkins. And all sorts of #overshares).

The beautiful Alex, Editor of Kidspot, took to the floor to welcome us all. Did you know that Kidspot attracts an audience of more than 1.2 million? As Alex pointed out, that is way more than Ita Buttrose achieved in any of her years in charge of a Book. (Magazine talk for magazine).

It made me feel even more honoured that I'd made the cut.

All the bloggers were women. (A coincidence, I'm told, but also proof that social media is really female-friendly). So it was a brave Dave from Ford who spoke about the New Ford Territory, which is the major sponsor of the competition. (The prize is $5000 cash - swoon - and the use of a New Ford Territory for a whole year. Double swoon).

Anyway, Dave chatted knowledgably about the car, including the stuff that matters to chicks. Like handbag hooks, reversing camera, boot space, how many child car seats it will fit (3!), storage (including wine bottle holders), and colours. (Yes, Mrs Woog, it does come in pink!)

Then we were encouraged to smooch up to an actual New Ford Territory and show it some love, with the promise that the most embarrassing/lustful photo would bring prizes.

This we all did quite enthusiastically. Some of us more than others. Ahem.

After that, quite a few of the bloggers were making the most of child-free time by heading out on the town. But a few hours in unaccustomed high heels, and an early start, had this little birdie heading back to my hotel, to chill out with a nice cup of tea to take it all in. (Yeah baby, that's how I roll...)

My room at the BreakFree on George Hotel had been supplied by travel PR company Infront Communications and the Mantra Group. Oh and of course, the actual BreakFree on George hotel!

I'm pleased to say that despite the prime central location, my hotel room was beautifully quiet. The sheets were crisp, the pillows were comfortable, and the air-conditioning was Just Right. (Actually I turned it off and later switched it to slightly warm as the temperature dropped. Bliss).

Dreams of New Ford Territories and $5000 in $5 notes danced in my head, and I slept wonderfully alone in my comfy Queen bed.

(See I can rhyme as well as blog).

With no animals to lick me on the face or sleep on top of me for warmth, and a distinct lack of small humans to climb in for a cuddle in the wee hours, I slept like Goldilocks and woke fully rested. Which in itself made the trip to Sydney totally worthwhile.

Readers, what do you like about a night off from your normal life?
My room at the Breakfree on George, Sydney

Another view - it was quite spacious, with room for the kids if I hadn't been flying solo
All dressed up with somewhere to go ...


The prestigious list!

That's me!
The goody bags!

The finalists with THE New Ford Territory

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bronnie and the City: Part One

Thanks to my lovely sponsors Infront Communications and the Mantra Hotel group, I found myself jetting off to the launch of Kidspot’s Top 50 bloggers.

Held at the Tom Dunne Gallery in Darlinghurst, the soirree was a swish affair attending by most of the bloggers who had met Kidspot’s strict criteria to be named in the Top 50 blogger awards for 2011.

Squee! I can’t believe I made the grade. Nor that I’d managed to obtain sponsorship so that I could afford to attend.

In a sliding door moment, I may not have made the Top 50 Blogger list, had I not decided randomly to check my junk mail a few weeks ago.

Turns out the email alerting me of my nomination and requiring me to agree to the terms and conditions and answer a few questions had been sitting in my junk mail for days.

On the day nominations closed, I discovered the email about 30 minutes before the deadline to accept.

Holy crap! What an honour, I thought, and began typing like a banshee. (However a banshee types. I’m not even sure if I know what a banshee is to be honest).

It’s times like these that the old journo skills come in handy. I shot off the email with about 10 minutes to spare, and breathed a sigh of relief when I got the confirmation that I’d made it.

Phew!

So here I am, sitting in a hotel room in Sydney. I’m feeling pretty damn exhausted after being up since 5 am to finish packing, schlep the kids to school, find the airport parking place, get to the airport, check in, and make my flight.

I’m always anxious when I have to leave the kids, and there’s that nagging feeling of Mother Guilt also. By the time I get to the airport, I’m literally shaking with anxiety, fighting that feeling I always get to go straight back home and be Mumma again.

But part of my pursuit of happiness is finding out who Bronnie is. The Bronnie who is not just a mother, but is a woman, a writer, a blogger, part-time nutcase, sister, daughter, and friend.

And the Bronnie who is hoping to build a social media business one day, which will help support my little family.

In Sydney, I wandered outside to find the airport shuttle bus, before almost being blown over by a gale. I swear, if I’d been carrying an umbrella, I might have drifted away, Mary Poppins-style.

And it was cold, so I decided to stuff the cost and get a cab.

Much quicker, and warmer. Though far more expensive.

Of course, I got the only cab driver who didn’t know where the Breakfree On George Hotel was. It’s a Breakfree Hotel. On George Street. How hard could it be?

Luckily, I’d thought to jot down the street address so he could put it in his GPS. (Whatever did we do without them?).

The room is comfortable enough, except that it’s a strange design and I can’t watch telly from my bed. (One of my favourite things to do in a hotel room. Yeah, I know, First World Problems).

There’s a rudimentary kitchenette, with microwave, toaster, and a couple of hotplates; and the mini-bar fridge is refreshingly free of over-priced alcohol and snacks.

I think longingly of the kids, and how I’d be able to whip up some soup, toasted sandwiches or vegemite toast if they got peckish.

But of course, it’s just me.

Which is okay, because I am Bronnie tonight, and it is time to make myself nice for the The Kidspot Top 50 Bloggers Launch Party. And the start of the New Ford Territory Bloggers Challenge for 2011.

Squee....

I've already missed a few days due to being in Sydney without a decent internet connection. So please, people, please if you have just a moment, take a minute to vote for me here.http://www.kidspot.com.au/MySpot-Top-50-bloggers-Maid-In-Australia-...-Kidspot-Top-50-Bloggers-2011+5539+416+article.htm

Thank you, I will love you forever. MWAH.

FYBF

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Cinders SHALL go to the ball

This week, I've been shamelessly begging for someone to fly me to Sydney and accommodate me for a national awards launch that I am a finalist in.

Finalist are not supposed to name the competition until the official announcement has been made, which has frustrated me no end. Keep it quiet, you say? I want to shout it from the rooftops!

I'm happy to say that a fabulous tourism PR company, Infront Communications and the M8 hotel group, have stepped into help. They are kindly going to put me up for my stay in Sydney, and for that I am truly grateful.

Cinders SHALL go to the ball.

I had hoped to organise complementary flights too, but no cigar. Virgin Airlines, a very social medai aware company, replied straight away that they couldn't help at this stage. I was disappointed, but grateful for their prompt and polite reply. Also, they sponsored me to attend my literary agent Selwa Anthony's annual Sassy conference last year, so I have no complaints at all.

Qantas, as always, ignored my emails and tweets, as did a handful of other companies. Really, what don't they get about the power of Mummy Bloggers and/or Social Media?

So I've booked the cheapest flights possible; Qantas one way, Virgin the other.

If I'm serious about developing my social media business I need to suck it up, because I need to be there at events like this. Particularly events which are to celebrate social media peeps who are awesome. Like me apparently. Squee!

I'm under no illusions that I will win, because the company I am in is way too talented.

But I'm honoured to be a finalist.

I wouldn't call it a Mother's Day present though.

The best Mother's Day present was having my kids arrive this afternoon. They couldn't wait until tomorrow to give me the gifts they'd bought at the Mother's Day stall with my money. (Their Dad didn't give them any money to spend on me. Typical. Even though I've bought presents they've chosen to give him for his birthday next week).

Tomorrow, they want to make me breakfast, and I'm hoping to take them fishing for the day. It's not that I love fishing, but they do. And on Mother's Day, spending happy time together is what really counts.

Happy Mother's Day Mums. xo

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hump Day Giveaway

A funny thing happened to me in the book store the other day.

There I was, happily browsing the shelves looking for chicklit, parenting books, and @KerriSackville's When My Husband Does The Dishes, when I came across this:

It was a copy of my book, published back in 2006 by New Holland Australia!

Wow, talk about a surprise.

While Happily Ever Parted did okay by new author standards, it didn't exactly set the literary world alight.

Whenever I pass those bargain basement tables at book stores I always half-expect to see if sitting there for sale for $5 or some similar paltry sum.

But this one was still on the shelves, and what's more, the price appears to have gone up.

It made this fledging author go all warm and fuzzy inside.

Back when my book was published, there was a flurry of activity for several months as I promoted the hell out of it. Television, radio, newspapers, magazines, the internet ... Nowhere was safe. I was even invited to speak at writer's festivals - you know, with real authors.

While it was a lot of fun, the promotional and public part of writing, as an author rather than a journalist, was not something that I enjoyed. Because I had to come out from behind the computer and actually speak to people.

In addition, I suffered sickening anxiety before every television and radio interview. I have no idea why, considering I used to work in that industry before moving onto print, but there you have it. Completely irrational.

Anyway, having spotted the first copy of my book 'in real life' since those heady days, I decided to celebrate by giving away a copy of Happily Ever Parted.

It might come in handy, you know for propping up a leg on a wonky table or something. God knows, it hasn't helped me much this time around (divorce number two), but it might help you ...)

If you'd like to win, a signed copy of Happily Ever Parted (Surviving Separation And Divorce), just leave me a comment below. 

Speaking of giveaways, the winner of the Bega Stringers Cheese competition was the lovely Caz from The Truth About Mummy.

And finally, check out Kerri Sackville's debut book below. Every woman needs a copy.

Monday, May 2, 2011

We are not twits, we are awesome!

When non-social media peeps dismiss twitter and blogging as self-interested updates about what we had for lunch and what we're watching on telly, I am gobsmacked.

Especially if it's a journalist dissing social media.

All the huge worldwide events and tragedies have broken on twitter first. It's been the go-to place for all big news updates, especially during natural disasters. Tweets flood in on where to go and where to help out. Who is okay, who need help? Which areas are affected?

 When the Qld flood clean-up was going on, a call was put out for drinking water for volunteers working along a particular street in Rocklea, I got in my little car, drove to a nearby shop, filled the back seat with water, and drove to the closest point I could to the floodbound area of Rocklea. And began handing out chilled bottles of water to thirsty, mad-spattered volunteers.

I'm not a saint, and I'm not sharing this for praise.

I'm sharing this to show the power of twitter.

 Emergency services couldn't get everywhere. But the People's Army could, and they needed a hand.

Physically, I couldn't do a lot to help, because of my arthritis. Financially, I couldn't help a lot either. But I could bloody well use all the spare cash in the house to buy water and drive to the area that needed it, and hand it out.

And that, my dears, is the power of twitter.

But it's more than that.

I've made fantastic friends via twitter. And blogging.

People of all ages and from all walks of life. People I NEVER would have come across in 'real' life. And people with whom I have so much in common, despite geography, career, income, marital status and/or sexual orientation.

I've never had an internet romantic relationship, but I sure have met some lovely people and developed some great Girl Crushes on people who rock.

Recently, a blogger I admire, VegemiteVix, from the other side of the world, let me know she was in Bris. Vegas and keen for a meet up. The lovely Nikki from StylingYou joined us, and OMG, we nattered on for ages.

See?

From left: Me, Vicki, and Nikki. Photo courtesy of friendly Wagamama waiter.

We met at Wagamama at Indooroopilly, where we each opted for a Bento Box and juice. I had the tofu one, and it was delicious.

Mmmm, bento box

Anyway, anyone who says twitter is full of twits can go jump, because these are the people I tweet with.

They are real people, with real lives - full of fun, joy, loss, disappointment and everything else that The Universe throws at us.

You can't see him but there is a little boy next to Styling You called Flynn, who is her son, and was so beautifully behaved I would have quite happily taken him home with me.

(Not that I would do that, because that would be, well weird. And Nikki might not like me anymore...).

Anyway, an awesome time was had by all, and I can't wait for the next time I meet some of my fave tweeps.

Readers, have you ever met tweeps or blogging fans, and how did it work out?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Right Royal Occasion

On Saturday, I woke up to a house littered with what appeared to be the detritus of a super-hot party.

Empty platters bearing a few lonely morsels, crumbs on the floorboards, and the odd upturned champagne flute.

Not to mention the fact that no one wanted to get up yet, and most of the household were still snoring.

Before you cast judgement, dear reader, please know that the previous evening, ChezMIA had celebrated,  and watched, sometimes tearfully,  the Royal Wedding of the Decade.

When I lived in London, many years ago, a lovely Auntie used to regularly invite my then husband and I to the country for a Proper English Sunday Lunch.

And it was divine, with at least one roast each time, Yorkshire puddings, roast vegies, and all the trimmings. Including bread sauce. Oh I'd forgotten about the bread sauce!

Afterwards, we'd go for a brisk walk or be taken on a tour of some important local landmark our rellies deemed significant, while Auntie and her grown up daughters prepared High Tea.

It was always delicious, and a little bit naughty. Party pies, sausage rolls, and loads of delicious sandwiches. Plus sweet things like biscuits and trifle for dessert.

Usually a glass of champers or Pimms was served, followed by good English Tea.

Just delicious.

We'd drive or train it home to London, fully satiated with love and food, and in no need of dinner.

In any case, with the Will and Kate marriage news being absolutely everywhere, the kids really wanted to mark the occasion.

They've actually never been to a wedding, or a proper High Tea, so we agreed this would be the perfect way to participate in this historic event.

After school, we prepared a feast.

Spring rolls, dumplings, lovely cheeses and dips, vegetable sticks, sausage rolls and mini pies were the main hot fair. Plus that Aussie party staple, hot cheerios and tomato sauce. (Non-Aussies, cheerios are little red sausages, like mini hot dogs).

In addition, we did cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches for the adults, and fairy bread for the kids. (Okay, and some of the adults). Plus a fruit platter for all.

The drink in the champagne flutes was creaming soda, not champers, but it was a treat for the kids to be trusted with the grown-up glasses.

We got to the tea and scones just in time for Kate's walk down the aisle.

We practised making wedding small talk - nattering about the weather and toasting the happy couple - while eating our canapes. (A new word for both the kids).

And we had us a Right Royal Good Time.

Look, I'm not a royalist, but the Kate and Will's marriage was still an important moment in history, and I love that we could share it.

I remember, as a little girl, watching Princess Di marry Prince Charles and thinking how lucky she was, and that fairytales came true. (I conveniently overlooked the fact that I did not find the Prince of Wales at all handsome, I was just caught up in the magic of the event.)

This time, Miss 8 was similarly starry-eyed. "I want to be a Princess when I grow up," she said. "Wouldn't that be cool?"

I tried to explain the realities of Kate Middleton's Princess Catherine's new life, and that it wasn't going to be all singing animals, flower picking, and picnics in the woods.

But she was having none of it.

For now, I'll let her keep her fantasy.

Dreams can come true, and it only takes one look at the besotted Catherine to know that hers certainly have come to life.

I'm hoping they were worth the wait, and this is one royal marriage that will last the distance.

Now that really would be a fairytale!