I’m sorry, my poor neglected blog

Please forgive me? I HAVE PHOTOS!

I’ve not blogged for a while. I’ve been a busy little bumblebee actually.

You see, I chose to take on an internship as part of my degree. I had considered it, but the logistics of juggling work plus three kids and uni seemed too difficult. I quite lazily put it in the “too hard basket” and forgot about it for a while.

But then I saw the advertisement

It was for a very big company that handles various magazines, newspapers, online publications and websites. It seemed too good to be true. I thought to myself that the chances of me getting something that so many others would be wanting at the same time were pretty slim. So I bypassed my uni’s”how to” instructions on resume building and threw something together at the eleventh hour.

My previous job with a workplace bully

My job before was in financial services. I worked in the same office as a monster, who was related (by marriage) to the wonderful business owner that hired me four times over the years since I had finished high school. This monster brought me down so low that I left and never returned when I suffered a miscarriage. That whole pregnancy was spent crying into my pillow until the wee hours of the morning, waking up and going to work a few hours later and feeling so beat down and useless that I lost my appetite and just wanted to cry again. I was sick with the flu and various other ailments. It really took its toll on my health. So I quit work and became a full-time student. That was it. Massive life-changing decisions in an instant.

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In a study room at uni with Miss 2. She loves watching Peppa Pig on the big screen!

Everything hit me again when I got the call for an interview

So everything was going really well for me. I’d managed to heal but I vowed to never forget the life that had been delayed. I was fortunate enough to get my baby girl almost a year to the day I miscarried. I wanted to raise awareness and normalise miscarriage and infant loss to make others feel like they were less alone. To remind other women going through similar that yes, it IS a horrible thing, but they are not alone.

When I got called for an interview for the internship, it all came rushing back. I didn’t want to go back into a corporate environment. I’d always had a thick skin but just couldn’t shake those feelings of being useless and incompetent. I knew in my head that I wasn’t, but after being belittled, abused, and beaten down for so many months, it’s a hard thing to forget.

I wouldn’t get it anyway

I told myself that I wouldn’t get the internship anyway. I had applied for a casual role several months earlier and froze when the interviewer asked me a question. I knew I had no chance at getting this one, so thought I may as well use it as a practice run. I bought a new navy slip dress, dusted off my pink heels, donned a black clutch (it was that or a nappy bag!), and in I went.

I sat down, looked at the interview panel and told them I was so nervous. I pointed out that my hands were sweating, I’d been a mum and student for so many years I’d forgotten how to talk to people without stuttering. I smiled and asked them to please be nice. And from that moment, I was back. They were so lovely and encouraging that all the tension and apprehension melted away. I sat there, pitched a story, answered questions, even cracked a few jokes. When the interview was over, they mentioned that I was among the first interviewed. I asked them to please not forget me and they all chuckled. One even added “We definitely won’t forget you”. And that was it. All the anxiety and negative feelings about myself and my abilities fell from my shoulders, bounced off my awkward black clutch, and onto the floor in front of me. I even stepped on them as I walked out of the boardroom with my head held high. They were dead forever.

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Me with Mr 8 and Mr 6. Walking in the rain – one of my favourite things to do.

So here I am

Here I am now. I’ve written several blog posts over the last few months, but before I upload them, I email them to my editor. I ask her if she can use them, and she always does.

Did you catch that?

I said “my editor”. It’s really exciting. From this mum of three (plus one angel), who turned a loss into a life-changer. I no longer have to work in financial services because that is what I know like the back of my hand. I get to write. It’s only a casual job and that is completely fine with me, because I’m still studying. I’m due to graduate in January and rather than feeling sick at the thought of returning to work, and looking for reasons to continue studying, I’m looking forward to possibly working some more. I never expected those feelings.

To those who have followed along, my study load has now greatly reduced for my last semester, so I’m hoping to blog regularly again. But thank you for sticking around. And thank you for following me in the first place. I always wanted this blog to be completely anonymous, but I’m not so sure I still want that. If I want to bring awareness to those things that people don’t often talk about, then I need to have a name to my voice. So here I am, in the form of a few pictures. It’s lovely to ‘meet’ you. 😉

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On a recent road trip to Dubbo Zoo. Mr 8 got car sick, Miss 2 slept for most of it, and Mr 6 rambled the whole way there. (Note: I was obviously NOT driving when I took this pic).

Claire. x

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Pokemon Go, oh no…

Today my son scored a goal at soccer. He’s been playing in the same team for two years and he’s now in the under 8s. He spent a few months as goalie where he rarely got to kick the ball but saved dozens of goals from being scored by other teams. He was the best goalie. Everyone would talk about how he’d throw himself onto the ball with such finesse and courage. But the whole time he’s played he’s spoken about how he wants to score a goal. So he begged to come out of goals but then his skilled defense meant he didn’t get much of a chance as striker from the back of the field.

Until today.

Today he scored a goal. He came up to the front from his position of defense up the back (excuse the lack of technical jargon). He dribbled the ball around a few players with ease, gliding in and out around their little knobbly knees. He gave the ball one final push and off it soared into the back corner of the net. His teammates all cheered and patted him on the back and the grin on his red face was worth the wait.

And I caught a Bulbasaur.

TWO YEARS we’ve all been waiting for this moment, and I’m catching Pokemon?!

I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not how it seems. You see, I downloaded the new Pokemon Go app the other day and I have enjoyed so many fun times with my boys. My husband has taken them out to the local shops and parks and gathered items and hunted for Pokemon along the way. It’s a real team effort and has been great for entertaining ourselves and coming together as a family.

But damn you, Nintendo, for dropping that red-eyed little green creature with the bulb on his back at just that moment in time. I’m just grateful I got to see his gleeful grin.

What’s in a Name Anyway?

I read this article recently and cursed at the thought of nine screaming girls running towards me when I call out my daughter’s name in a park in my future: http://www.nova1069.com.au/best-web/most-popular-baby-girl-name-2016-so-far

When my husband and I have chosen baby names in the past, we have always clashed. He liked Daniel and Mark, I liked Mason and Harrison. His names were boring and for those who lacked imagination or wanted to just go with whatever they could find in the bible. My names here “hippy and new-age wankerish”. Our firstborn son was known as “Baby [surname]” in hospital until day three when we settled on Samuel. Our middle child only worked out because I wanted to use the name Charlie for a girl and hubs hated it as a girl’s name. We had a boy so I let him have the win, knowing I’d never get the chance to use it on a girl. I took what small win I could get at the time and although I love his name, I’m not overly keen on the popularity the name has on a boy. Our third child was named Eleanor in hospital. I played with the name, gazing down at her tiny little face, calling her “Ellie” and “Ella”, imagining an older girl with that name, a mother, then a grandmother. She was beautiful and so tiny being four weeks premature, weighing in at a dainty 2.406kg, she was just heavenly… and then our boys came to visit.

“EW! That’s VOMIT! I HATE the name Eleanor!” Charlie spat when I introduced them.

“I don’t care what you name her, I’m going to call her Olivia.” That’s Samuel, the rational one. Well, normally he is. At that time, he decided that the name he and his brother chose for their baby sister was the ONLY option, and no amount of ice cream or Pokemon cards could convince him otherwise.

At the time, hubs agreed that he also liked the name Olivia, and it was I who considered it to be too popular and not really to my liking. Not new-age wankerish enough. But he liked it, the boys wouldn’t consider anything else, and I’d just had a baby so I was messed up with all those hormones that make you cry over bedding commercials that show people sleeping peacefully… and they broke me. I gave in. Eleanor became Olivia and I convinced myself it was sweet the way the boys had taken such an interest in their new baby sister’s name.

You think it’s all a happy ending now, right? Wrong.

Five days later we arrived home. An uncle visited and my mother-in-law introduced him to her new grandchild. She beamed with pride and her face lit up with the biggest smile as she declared her name was “Lybia”.

“Aaaaah Lydia!” the uncle said.

I chimed in, determined to put a stop to this instantly, “It’s Olivia… like Olives.”

“Lybia?”

“No, O – liv – ee – ah”, I took a deep breath and waited…

“Lybia”, the mother-in-law nodded in agreement. They all smiled. I did not.

I expected that she would get it one day, but I was most definitely wrong. Now my daughter is almost two, I still call her Eleanor in secret, imagining a daughter who didn’t remind me of a country on the Mediterranean Sea. My mother-in-law calls out “Where’s Lybia?” and I respond “between Egypt and Algeria”. It keeps me sane.

Maybe one day I’ll have a Cameroon of my own too.

Lorenzo’s Lumber

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When Lorenzo turned up for his CT scan, Dr Clarke initially thought he had misheard the aging Italian.

“How long-a ’dis-a gonna take?” he enquires with his melodic Italian accent as he gingerly takes a seat opposite the doctor.

Dr Clarke, speculating that Lorenzo is anxious about the machine itself and having to keep still with his constantly twitching arms and legs, began to placate him. “Many people find the rhythm and the whirring sounds to be quite peaceful. I often have patients falling asleep while having a scan. You really don’t have to wor—“

“I have-a to be gone-a by three o’clock at the latest. Rosie, she live-a next door … eh, she’s-a bringing me cookies. Rosie’s-a cookies are like no others.”

Dr Clarke smiles and ensures Lorenzo that everything will be fine, and the sooner they get started, the sooner he can be devouring those delectable cookies. He adds with a wink, “You will be so well-rested and youthful that Rosie won’t see you coming.”

Having exchanged his brown slacks, beige shirt and brown Moccasins for a standard blue hospital gown, Lorenzo climbs up onto the narrow table situated in front of the large donut-shaped machine. He lets out a shiver as he lays back on the cold, metal slab, and Dr Clarke notices the protruding tent-like structure several centimetres below his abdomen. He looks to the old man for any hint of a joke but he’s met with a blank gaze.

“What is THIS?” the young doctor scoffs as he looks around for a hidden camera while gesturing towards the pyramid of blue cotton before him.

Lorenzo’s face drops as he grasps his dilemma – figuratively of course, not literally. He takes a deep breath and stares at his fidgeting fingers, avoiding eye contact as he explains, “The pills-a … they don’t normally work-a so fast.”

A Travel Story

I did a travel writing unit last year and since reading someone else’s submission I have been inspired to share my own. It’s true, all true … and it is also one of the most memorable trips of my life. Thanks for reading. x

 

Sitting on the brown wool rug among the chaos of toys and cushions strewn from the lounge, our two boys shove each other fighting loudly over the photo album from our trip to Europe in 2006. Anthony reminds them to be careful of their “baby sister in mummy’s tummy” as he winks and gently rests his hand on mine. With a few weeks to go until her arrival, the possibility of overseas travel is about as realistic as me sporting a bikini body this side of Christmas. It’s okay though; we’ve had enough adventure over the years, particularly on that first trip overseas.

Remember how impressed with yourself you were after booking those flights on the cheap shortly after the London bombing?” my husband muses. I admit I was a control freak, but tight budget aside, I wanted every last detail to be just perfect. I even went as far as organising a tour of the necropolis beneath St Peter’s Basilica several months in advance. I’d emailed the Fabbrica Di San Pietro with all the relevant details, paid a small fee, and we were then granted permission to attend a tour of the excavations under the basilica. The tour is limited to those over fifteen years of age, and groups of twelve or less. It can often take months to organise. We were so excited to see what is believed to be the tomb of St Peter, along with those of various popes and cardinals, located two storeys below the papal altar of the Vatican Basilica. Our agenda and plans were scheduled with meticulous detail. There is a French proverb, Un malheur ne vient jamais seul which means “misfortune never arrives alone”. This is like the old saying “When it rains, it pours”. The rains were certainly on their way.

I breathed a premature sigh of relief upon arrival at the modest Beauvais-Tille Airport, following a harrowing forty-five minute bus ride from Paris as the sun was rising on another dismal January morning. A test run to the bus stop the day before meant we were confident we would not get lost and miss our transfer. Our RyanAir flight was scheduled to depart at 7.00am and we were on schedule despite the bus driver stopping to smoke a cigarette in the middle of nowhere about an hour into the trip. The departure terminal was little more than a makeshift white tent, set on cold, damp grass. Plastic picnic chairs were scattered haphazardly, and flimsy metal poles anchoring white material protected us from the winter’s icy gusts.

Perched on our seats towards the middle of the terminal, carryall resting on the wet grass at our feet, we huddled together against the bleak air. Businessmen tapped on their laptops while young backpackers with their over-stuffed packs chattered away in a foreign language. A muffled announcement from a distant speaker trickled into my consciousness. I caught the words annulé and s’excuser – “cancelled” and “apologise” – among the flurry of other travellers as they swarmed to vacate the chilly space. We sat puzzled until the belated English translation advised us that our flight had been cancelled due to fog which was a common occurrence in the French countryside. We were among the last passengers left in the departure lounge, along with others who clearly hadn’t understood the first version of the announcement in French.

Once at the check-in desk, we were greeted by a tense looking clerk with pursed red lips, thick false eyelashes glued on with excessive eye makeup, and hair pulled back into a tight bun. “You can wait to see what the weather’s like tomorrow, or request a refund”. These were the only options presented to us, then the clerk added “Fog is very common in the country”. She barely looked up from her computer, appearing to have already built up the wall which protected her from the onslaught of many disgruntled travellers. One look around at what resembled an old warehouse was enough to convince us to take the latter option. Cracked grey concrete walls met dirty concrete floors with the occasional splash of fluorescent yellow construction tape. There was a distant hum of jackhammers and the hint of construction dust in the air. Beauvais-Tille airport was about to be renovated to transform it from its war-time airfield glory to a new hub for Europe’s budget airlines. It had a long way to go.

After completing the paperwork for our refund, we headed back into Paris in search of another passage to Rome. A brief stop at an internet cafe confirmed there were no flights out of Charles De Gaulle airport, and following directions we made our way to Gare du Nord train station with the intention of purchasing rail tickets to Rome. A few minutes later, we had two first class tickets for the Thello night train departing from Gare de Lyon at 7.30 that evening, arriving in Rome at 10.30 the following morning. We only had nine hours to make our way a few stops on le metro then wait for our train to depart.

Those nine hours dragged as slowly as doomed escargot headed for a fatal pot of garlic butter. We filled some of the time with games of eye spy, took turns playing Sudoku, and attempted a short excursion out of the departure lounge with our overly substantial luggage only to discover there wasn’t much else in the way of entertainment. Back in the departure lounge, a broken down coffee machine set against a grey concrete wall served only to entice people out of the limited seating, allowing for other waiting passengers to quickly swoop in and occupy them, settling in for the long wait. With every new passenger entering the big glass doors, another gust of cool air swarmed into the room. Eyes lazily looked up from their books and magazines to size up the newcomers, then rested back down again indifferently. We had spent most of the day lingering around various waiting areas like cattle ready to be sent out to pasture. The hint of a headache and a slight scratch in the back of my throat threatened to make a bad day even worse.

Finally the train came to a halt and we were eager to climb aboard. Perhaps too eager, since we hadn’t met the train guard yet. As we climbed the deep metal steps towards the middle of the long train, the guard sized us up with a grunt. He checked our tickets then stepped aside as we squeezed past his protruding belly, and through the haze of body odour mixed with the alcoholic tang of cheap aftershave. The lower buttons on his shirt threatened to pop under the strain from his girth and the stale smell of cigarettes emanated from his mouth as he directed us towards our cabin.

The cabin was just large enough to allow for standing room next to our luggage. The only colour amidst an expanse of wood panelling was the royal blue cushioned bench seat along the left hand wall. Straight ahead of us was a window adorned with a beige blind and a ladder fixed up the middle. On the right was a single shelf fixed below a wood-framed mirror. Anthony excitedly grabbed at the top bunk just as I noticed a small sign which read in bold lettering “BEFORE TO OPEN SUPERIOR BED, BE SURE TO OPEN INFERIOR BED”. I tried to decipher the secret code, but it was too late. We were left with a lower bench seat under an opened bunk. Neither would budge, so there we were, sitting with our heads hunched forward underneath the top bunk. It was that moment that the train guard appeared in the doorway and boomed with a loud heavily accented voice “YOU BROKE-A ZEE BED! Now I have to MAKE REPORT! PASSPORT!” His outstretched hand was met with bewilderment. Why was he demanding our passports? What was he going to do with them? Was this our punishment for breaking zee bed? We quickly handed him our passports, expecting him to check them over, then he turned on his heels and left, passports in hand. We sat there, heads slouched forward under the bunk for another hour. We each tried to convince the other to ask the guard for our passports back, but neither of us wanted to risk another confrontation with the train guard.

He then returned an hour later and loudly demanded we “GET OUT!” in an angered and frustrated tone. He had gained two large sweat patches spreading from his arm pits, which smelled like a mixture of the local rubbish tip and a tin of rotten cat food. With a flick of his hands, he had both bunks down and made up ready for our night’s sleep. After unpacking and changing into comfortable clothes, we ate in the dining carriage and returned to the cabin for an early night. I walked down the carriage to use the bathroom and neither cubicle had toilet paper. Stepping across the hall towards the office, I was met with a pyramid of soft white rolls being held hostage. They were piled high on the train guard’s desk. When he saw me approaching, I gestured towards the leaning tower of Kleenex, and he handed me a roll and insisted I bring it back. Seriously? Was he scared I was going sell it on the black market? Or share it around with all my friends? My bursting bladder didn’t argue, and I’d never consider getting on the wrong side of the train guard. Not ever.

As we settled into our cabin for the night, body aches and a sore throat set in. We huddled underneath the blankets on the top bunk watching the rolling hills go by. We drifted off to a restless sleep, gently rocked by the lull of the train. It was like you’d imagine sleeping in a washing machine to be like. Just without the water. Feverish chills woke me just before sunrise. The train slowed right down as it passed through Milan train station. A white blanket of snow covered the train platform, and the smoke from many chimneys rose in the otherwise still air. Our breath fogged up the window and the cool moisture dripped down the glass in small beads. The rising sun reflected off the snow outside, throwing bright rays upwards from the sleeping city. We lay there mesmerised by the stunningly crisp countryside, rugged up under our blankets, sheltered away from the cold outside. It was one of those moments that will stay with us forever. We missed the tour of the excavations, but we gained so much more. What we gained was borne from ill-fated circumstances rather than detailed planning. We would never have chosen to spend six hundred Australian dollars on rail tickets when we have the option of eighty dollars in flights, but I’m grateful for the nudge.

As the book closes on one chapter, I’m more conscious of the new one ahead of us. As with many things, holidays cannot be planned to perfection. Carefully laid plans can easily be railroaded, but it’s how we choose to remember those experiences that makes a difference. Although we missed the tour of the Vatican Necropolis, spent a day uncomfortably waiting around various departure lounges, and encountered who we subsequently nicknamed “The Train Tyrant”, those memories are the ones which we’ve enjoyed the most. Those which have earned the biggest laughs. If we ever manage to travel so extensively again, I’ll be sure to plan not to plan.

Happy Valentines Day for the Old and Wrinkly Ones

Some say that love is a warm and fuzzy feeling, the need to be with that special someone for the rest of your life, a burning desire to get as close as physically possible and bear the fruits of your love in the form of many little munchkins…

I say that love is like walking across a tightrope between two buildings while balancing twenty-six dirty nappies in one hand and a tray of chicken nuggets and chippies in the other and wearing a fat suit following thirty-six hours of no sleep. And still smiling at the other end.

When I met my husband, I was a size six. I had abs, long luscious golden locks, and perky breasts. Now I have a pouch that could house a small joey, mousy brown hair and floppy sock breasts with big giant nipples. When I take my bra off I could find a whole collection of Lego, hair clips and Cheerios. Love is what my husband still has for me, despite all these changes in the bargain along the way.

Love is ageing alongside one another, changing so gradually that neither of you notice these changes and beg the marriage gods for a refund. Love is sacrificing designer handbags and European holidays for a nappy bag and a trip to the zoo and still wanting to take photos to preserve the precious memories. Love is about getting three hours sleep and finding a smile inside when you’re woken by a one-year old blowing raspberries on your flabby belly. Raspberries ALWAYS sound better when there’s a bit of give in the skin’s elasticity. I do it for her. Really, I do.

Love is that coffee and shortbread that you hurriedly share after the kids are in bed, while both hoping that it lasts forever. It’s walking around MovieWorld the day after tearing your hamstring clean off the bone. It’s the way I feel right now and every second of every day of my life without exception and I would never change a thing.

Love is a smile, open and free

Love is an embrace, especially for me

Love is my cocoon, warm and secure

Love infects me with a passion, of which I want no cure.

My sweetheart’s love is balmy and thrilling

We share passion, excitement, our love is fulfilling

Like the apples fallen from the abundant tree

Our love has created cherished hearts three.

The love of our cherubs is innocent and bright

Unconditional and constant as the stars at night

Always forgiving, never a grudge to be held

To protect them forever, I am always compelled.

Love is acknowledging how blessed we may be

And never assuming its loyalty

We give and receive in equal shares

Showing our love that nothing else compares.