You know how I feel

A dear friend recently gave me a Christmas present, saying “I was going to write on this, but you know how I feel.”

This particular friend has been incredibly supportive through some very tough times, so I certainly know that he cares, otherwise he would be taking the sensible option of running like hell in the opposite direction.

But that offhand comment has started me thinking. Do we truly know how others feel about us? How often do we assume that people know what they mean to us and neglect to tell them?

Tell her about it
Tell her everything you feel
Give her every reason to accept
That you’re for real

Tell her about it
Tell her all your crazy dreams
Let her know you need her
Let her know how much she means

Tell Her About It – Billy Joel

In 1996 my best friend died suddenly in a car accident. Of the many traumatic impacts of her death, the one thing I could never reproach myself with was the idea that she didn’t know how I felt. We told each other eloquently and often. We wrote long and heartfelt cards for every possible occasion. We never let anything go unsaid. That’s a great comfort to me now.

Of course,  all this eloquence is easy for those of us who are expressive, extroverted, and very comfortable (perhaps even a little too comfortable) with words. For others, making those feelings explicit can be a task as arduous as removing your own appendix without anaesthetic – and roughly as attractive an option.

Yet telling someone else how you feel about them, and especially why, is a hugely powerful act that can change lives, including your own. It can build and strengthen your relationships, and teach you a lot about what you find important in the people around you, simply because you have to think about it in order to express it. It can change the way others see you, and let them know how you see them. It’s an act of love, and of selflessness, to take the time to tell someone what you truly value about them.

Telling someone how much you value their honesty might make them rethink what they see as a personal liability. The other day I asked my husband if he thought I was a difficult person, and having very wisely ducked the question a few times, eventually he turned around and said “is that necessarily a bad thing?” Which sparked a whole conversation around what it means to care passionately about important things, and to want to put right all that is wrong in the world. It flipped my view of myself right around, and made me reconsider some of what I had thought were my worst traits.

When I ran for election in 2010 I received ringing endorsements from people who I didn’t realise had ever thought twice about me. Again, it caused a shift in my world view. When I left a long-term job in 2006, the comments people wrote on my card caused a similar mental shake up. We often wait for life-changing events to express how we feel. We say things in eulogies that we never managed to say in person. We tell people things when we are saying goodbye that we should have said soon after we said hello. Sometimes we never say them at all.

These are all tragedies. Lost opportunities to connect, to change a life, and to love.

Look at it this way – you have the chance to prevent a tragedy today, by telling someone exactly what they mean to you.

Oh God! But I didn’t get you anything!

Christmas makes me a bit of a curmudgeon. I don’t like the forced jollity. I don’t like the ghosts of Christmases past that haunt me. While I love an excuse to party, I don’t like the compulsion to be happy. The implication that if you don’t love Christmas there is something wrong with you. My kids love Christmas, and I do my damnedest not to ruin it for them, but the truth is that Christmas is far too full of painful memories for me to embrace it unconditionally.

Above all I hate the obligations. The reciprocal “Oh no, she sent me a card so I’d better send her one” frenzy that results in a lot of late Christmas cards and a whole stack of completely pointless “dear X, Merry Christmas Love Y” cards, which convey nothing so much as disinterest.

And yet. Christmas, or at least the end of the working year, can be a great trigger to remind people that you appreciate them.  So I do write cards, but generally only when I have something I especially need to express. There are many I probably should write and don’t. There are many more friends I appreciate and adore who don’t get cards. But people who have been especially present, or particularly life-saving do tend to get heartfelt cards from me. Particularly at work. And sometimes, when I find a particularly relevant gift, I will also give Christmas presents. Unfortunately this comes with the risk that people will feel horribly guilty about not getting me something.


So today I posted this on facebook:

“Here’s the thing – if I’ve given you a gift or a card, it’s not because I expect one in return. That’s actually one of the things I hate about christmas – that sense of obligation, which rips all the spontaneity out of it. I don’t want or need gifts. But sometimes I feel the need to express my affection and appreciation. No strings attached. nuff said!”

and within moments it had attracted a string of likes. It seemed to be striking a chord.

I really don’t need gifts. I always attach “no gifts please” to any birthday invitations I might issue. I’m not a big fan of stuff anyway, although I have a policy of never turning down gluten free chocolate or alcohol. Not that I would knock back a gift, but I don’t need them, not the way I need, for example, hugs. Even though I don’t need gifts myself, sometimes I feel the urge to appreciate my friends in tangible form, and sometimes that urge happily coincides with inspiration for the right gift.  But if I do give you a gift it’s generally because you have already given me far more, so a return gift is entirely superfluous.

Christmas isn’t about gifts. The best of Christmas, to me, is about hugs and friendship and love. So don’t fret about buying gifts. Work on expressing your feelings instead. With a hug, or a card, or a few heartfelt words. Those are the best gifts of all.

Body Imaginings

Today I made the mistake of going shopping for a bra. Reading all the signs, I was struck by the number of ways I could reinvent myself. I could tuck my tummy, smooth my back, conceal my nipples with a “modesty panel”, uplift, separate, reshape or a whole range of other possible changes that I don’t even understand.

Seriously? My back might not be smooth enough? Good God, there’s a whole level of trauma I didn’t even know I could aspire to.

As a woman I am expected to shave my legs, shave my armpits, tuck my tummy, conceal my face behind a whole slew of gloopy chemicals, pluck my eyebrows and thicken and extend my eyelashes, just for starters.

Don’t get me wrong, if you want to do those things, go for it. I completely understand a desire to reinvent yourself. A couple of weeks ago I had purple hair, and I am currently sporting a henna tattoo. What I object to is the overwhelming message that we should completely reject our bodies as they are. That simply being who we are is inadequate, even gross, and must be slavishly hidden in order to be acceptable to polite society.

You may think I am exaggerating, but my 6 year old can’t bring herself to wear a dress without adding shorts underneath, lest someone see her knickers. Not her bottom. Her knickers – the purpose of which I thought was at least in part to conceal her bottom. But now we must conceal the concealers. This is the overwhelming message of the primary school playground – that knickers must be hidden. So now we are not only twitchy about hiding skin, we are twitchy about hiding the hiding of the skin. If we take this to its illogical conclusion we will all be padded up like the Michelin man.

Bras are apparently no longer sufficient to contain and conceal my breasts, unless they have thick padding (getting thicker every season) artfully designed to pretend that I don’t have nipples and that my breasts are a highly unnatural, but apparently now inoffensive shape.  Almost every bra in the shops has this padding, and it is both uncomfortable and unattractive, if you ask me (which clothing designers never, ever do – perhaps it has something to do with the way I glare crankily at them from under my bushy eyebrows).

Clothing is increasingly designed to hide our bodies.

We must have tummies unlike our own, breasts entirely unlike anybody’s own, skin that is closer to plastic than a living organ, and a body that is pulled, pushed, warped, plucked, and padded until it resembles nothing more than a Barbie doll.

We are told in every ad, every shop and by every beauty product that who we are is no good, but don’t worry! We can fix you!

And we wonder why our children develop eating and body image disorders.

I would love to be able to tell you that I am proud of my body, but I am not. But I refuse to buy into the tummy tucking, nipple hiding, waist cinching culture that tells me I should be ashamed. This is my body. This is my shape. I have skin. I have wobbly bits. And I have better things to do than waste my energy being ashamed of it.

Fructose Friendly Christmas Pudding

I have concocted REAL Christmas pudding. Gluten free, fructose friendly and super easy. I haven’t had Christmas pudding since diagnosis 5 years ago, so this was an emotional moment for me. We tried cooking one today, to be sure it would be good for Christmas day, and I now have that true Christmas “ate so much I can hardly move” feeling. Which wasn’t quite the aim, but I couldn’t resist this pudding.

For kids you could avoid the alcohol soaking step, Miss 10 wasn’t keen on the cherries as I used too much cointreau ( but I loved them, *hic*) If you do that you might want to soak the citrus peel overnight in hot water or something to soften it a bit and add some moisture to the mix. The other option is to still use the alcohol but keep the cherries aside and not soak them.

It’s not fructose-free, so depending how sensitive you are you might need to have smallish serves, or swap all the brown sugar for glucose. I used half and half glucose/dark brown sugar.

fructose friendly christmas pudding
1 tsp  mixed spice, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground ginger
125 g mixed peel (candied citrus peel)
1/2 packet (around 125g) glace cherries, roughly chopped. (I used Coles brand which is refreshingly free of dayglo pink colouring.)
1 cup mix of glucose & dark brown sugar
250g butter
4 eggs
1 medium grated carrot
1/2 brandy and cointreau (optional)
1 1/2 cups fresh gf breadcrumbs
1 1/2 cups gf sr flour

First check that your pudding basin fits in your slow cooker!

soak carrot, citrus peel & glace cherries and spices in around 1/2 cup of brandy & cointreau overnight (for small people don’t soak cherries, as they taste quite strong even after cooking).

Beat butter & sugar together until pale and creamy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well. Stir in flour and breadcrumbs, and then carrot & fruit mixture until well combined.

Put mixture into a 2 litre pudding basin with the lid on, cook in a slow cooker with hot water 4/5ths up the side of the basin on high for 6-8 hours.

You can serve it straight away, or reheat it when you are ready. Don’t forget that it is fructose-friendly, but not fructose free. If you are super sensitive you might want to reduce the cherries, and/or switch all of the brown sugar for glucose.

Happy over-indulging!

I will not be ashamed, but I will be ANGRY



27 gay couples got married in the ACT in the brief window between it becoming legal for them to do so and the High Court declaring it unlawful.

27 couples experienced, oh so fleetingly, equality with heterosexual couples in the eyes of the law.

27 couples, none of whom I knew, as it happens, but whose emotions I nonetheless recognized, felt a full part of society, just before Tony Abbott made it quite clear it was a glitch that should never have happened. A declaration of humanity that was swept away in a heartbeat.

Tony wants it well understood: gays are not normal. They are not human. They are not full members of society. They have a problem.

Yes, Tony, they do have a problem – and it is you, and all of your ilk.

Tony also wants us to be very clear that asylum seekers, or “illegals” as he would like them, entirely erroneously, to be known, are not human. They are therefore not deserving of respect, compassion, or care from those of us who entered the country legally, or at least by plane, which apparently is the same thing. Luxury yachts we can probably also make allowances for.

It’s only a matter of time before Tony starts gunning for the poor (minimum wage, anyone?), single parents (especially mums, because goodness me, women are scary), public schools (helloooooo & goodbye Gonski), public health, and the environment (who wants a reef anyway? It just gets in the way of all that coal. Hell, there’s probably oil under it somewhere.).

Tony is coming for them. And sooner or later he is coming for you, unless you happen to be male, white, heterosexual and loaded.

Today I am deeply ashamed of our courts and of our government. But I refuse to let them make me ashamed to be Australian. We are compassionate, egalitarian, and fair. We are people, just like gays, refugees and people on the minimum wage. We will not pass by on the other side, and we will not allow Tony Abbott to make us in to something so much less than we can be.

Marriage equality is inevitable, and history will vilify Abbott for his role in delaying it, just as it will one day vilify him for his incredible inhumanity towards people in desperate crisis.

Today I spelt my feelings out in henna on my arm. Love for All. It will fade in 2 or 3 weeks, but my feelings won’t.

What makes you come alive?

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” — attributed to Howard Thurman.

You can spot someone who loves what they do a mile off. When you ask them about their work, they give off an almost blinding light with their incandescent joy. Which is not to say that they never get frustrated, annoyed, or tempted to quit. Someone who is passionate about what they do is quite likely to experience all of those things often, because anything truly engaging, that you believe in with all your heart, is never going to be perfect. There are always going to be things you can’t achieve, and because you are passionate about it, those things are going to really hurt.

Someone who is wholly invested in their job is quite likely to have QFQ days (those days where you find yourself screaming “I QUIT! I F*&^@ing QUIT!”) on a frequent, if not regular, basis. But most of the time, all screaming aside, if you believe in your job with that kind of intensity, quitting is the very last thing you will do, even on those days when you would happily throw your resignation sky high and shout it from the rooftops. Even on those days, when someone asks you what you do, you will probably still glow, even if it is slightly muted.

I know that I do. Even as I am ranting about the things that drive me mad, I remain high as a kite from the sheer exhilaration of the good bits of my job.

Where there is desire there is gonna be a flame
where there is a flame, someone’s bound to get hurt
but just because it burns doesn’t mean you’re gonna die
You’ve gotta get up and try and try and try.
–Pink, Try.

The trick with a job you are this passionate about is balance. I have not yet worked out how to care passionately about what I do, yet be able to walk away from the job at the end of the day, knowing I did my best, and not beating myself up over the things I can’t do, can’t fix, or can’t change.

One of the other ways to spot someone who loves what they do is from the exhaustion around their eyes. The occasional dummy spit over simply not being able to do everything. The rare, but deeply felt despair over the problems that simply can’t be solved.

Bob Brown recently said that you can’t change the world from a position of pessimism, yet I’d be astounded if he did not occasionally feel pessimistic, even despairing himself. You can’t fight 24/7/365 without sometimes burning out.

Perhaps the balance is to be found in the overall ratio of exhilaration to despair. I do know one thing though. However close it is to the end of an exhausting year, however many obstacles I have clambered over, only to find bigger ones still in front of me, however loudly I want to scream: Giving everything I have to a job that I believe in with my whole heart is the only way I can be everything I have the potential to be. It’s the only way to live a whole life. Anything else is just marking time.