Diamonds are a girl’s best friend

I’m thinking of buying myself a ring. A really nice ring, to wear on the ring finger of my right hand. I don’t wear a lot of jewellery – usually costume style necklaces and earrings, if anything, but recently I bought a watch from Fossil – one of those trendy ones (well I think so anyway) with a white band and bling around the watch face. It’s such a pleasure to see it twinkling on my wrist that I’ve been inspired to bling it up a bit.

So this afternoon, after a pleasant hour reading Romulus, My Father, (have you read it? What a book!) I’ve been googling images of rings and wow there are some gorgeous ones out there, like this

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and this

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and this

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Obviously I’m not just into diamonds, but I do like chunky things that catch your eye and it has to be white gold, like this:

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So now I’ll start keeping my eyes peeled for something that’s in my budget. I’ve been feeling lately that I’m at the age now (32 on Thursday! *gulp*) where I can start to buy myself nice things. I’ve lived in op shop clothes with second hand furniture for so long that it feels a bit naughty to ‘waste’ good money on expensive things, but then again, buying cheap jewellery so often that then tarnishes or breaks quickly isn’t cost efficient either.

So I’ll start looking in earnest for a ring for myself soon. All ideas welcome!

A Writer’s Fest

Last weekend some friends of ours, FF and I went up to Bendigo for the Bendigo Writers Festival. My friend had rung a couple of days earlier to say that she had won tickets for four people to attend the festival, including the keynote speakers Ita Buttrose and Don Watson, accommodation at Quest, high tea at the Hotel Shamrock, a mine tour and a trip on the talking tram. I was so excited when she rang – best news ever! Anyone would have thought from my reaction that she’d won a trip to Europe.

Anyway so FF and I headed up Friday evening and our friends followed soon after. The accommodation was really lovely and it was just so nice to have an unexpected almost free weekend away. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, life’s been a little stressful lately, in no small part due to the fact that I was spending most of my free time studying for the MBA admission*. This surprise offer was a forced study-free weekend that was very welcome!

This was the inaugral Bendigo Writer’s Festival and it had been pretty widely advertised. I devour books, but there’s never enough time in the day to read, so many of the authors on the program were unfamiliar to me. Although we had tickets to Ita Buttrose, we decided instead to go see the Q & A session with Tony Birch, an Australian author who writes “beautifully bleak” short stories and one novel so far (Blood, winner of the 2012 Miles Franklin literary award). It was great to hear Tony speak about his childhood in Melbourne and the way he writes about men and their relationships in his stories. I was inspired, as I always am when I hear people speak passionately, yet thoughtfully, about what they do. After the session I bought his book Shadowboxing, which I’ve read already and I loved.

After Tony we went and saw a panel discussion on social activism and writing. The question was basically how much writing could influence social change. The panel – Alexis Wright, Hanifa Deen, Sulari Gentill and Arnold Zable spoke really passionately about how reading has influenced their world view and how they balance their activism (for a variety of social causes including Indigenous rights and refugees) and their writing. Alexis Wright was the only one I was familiar with and ironically she had the least to say, we thought – lots of umms and aahs. The others are now on my reading list and I left that session day-dreaming, not for the first time, about whether I could actually one day write a book, and what the hell it might say. Imagination and inspiration are such enviable qualities, don’t you think?

On Sunday (after our high tea which was a blissful way to start the day) we went and saw Don Watson interviewed before a fairly big audience (a sea of grey hair – just like every other session we’d seen that weekend 🙂 ).  He was talking mostly about his time as Paul Keating’s speech writer, captured in Recollections of a Bleeding Heart, a book which I’ve not yet read but was sad to hear has caused a rift between Don and Paul Keating. Don Watson is something of an Aussie icon. A political figure who’s been hanging around the edges for years. I really enjoyed it but FF slept through the hour, not being familiar with Australian politics.

The afternoon session was another panel discussion, this time about horror writing – the only woman on the panel pronounced horror “howwa” and couldn’t remember what year we invaded Australia. Um…. really? It was boring and tedious so we snuck out half way through. Really it was just a bunch of men comparing their favourite horror films. Yes, films. And it was a writer’s festival.

We could have been to more events but wanted to relax and enjoy the weekend away with a bit of sightseeing too, not just attending sessions. We saw enough to get a creative and intellectual thrill out of it. What I appreciated most about it was that listening to other people talk about their craft was a gentle reminder of how much there is going on in the world. It took me right outside of my own head for a weekend and that was timely and very welcome!

My favourite second hand bookstore – Book Now – happens to be in Bendigo. So on the Sunday we spent a leisurely hour there and I came away with a pile of books that are on the coffee table waiting for my loving attention. In no particular order they are:

Pure by Julianna Baggott

Fishing in the Styx by Ruth Park

Illywhacker by Peter Carey

Highways to a War by ChrisopherKoch

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

The Ghost Writer by John Harwood

The Navigator of New York by Wayne Johnston

The Grapes of Wrath by John steinbeck

The Short Novels by John Steinbeck

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden

The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie.

Needless to say I’m pretty excited about all the hours of reading pleasure that lie ahead!
Ciao x

*So, after weeks of torturous agonising and studying I’ve decided not to pursue the MBA for now. I wasn’t that impressed with the online program they asked me to do to prepare – mostly because it left so much unexplained that I had to tie my brains in knots in ways I just can’t do at the moment, with a lot going on at work. I’m not closing the door on it forever – just for now. It does mean that for the next little while I can focus on reading and exercise – goody gum drops 🙂

A White Whine

Something’s wrong with me lately. As you may have read in previous posts, I embarked on a crazy scheme to get into the MBA program at Melbourne Business School and I was SO fired up about it. I was convinced that this was the best idea ever, and that now was the time for me to study again. I had all these romantic notions of burning the midnight oil, slaving over the books, having early morning group work sessions and the post-exam self-congratulatory beers with my fellow classmates (I don’t even drink beer. In fact I hardly drink).

Anyway so fast forward a few weeks and I’ve had a bit of a reality check. Firstly they looked at my application and saw that my work and academic history have been pure social science, so they asked me to sit a maths test to prove I’ll be able to handle the quant aspects of the course. I failed it, so the next step was to enrol in a 4-week online MBA-Maths course which is supposed to give me the excel and basic finance skills I need as the basis for the course.

I’m almost half way through the online modules and quite frankly, it can kiss my arse. It SUCKS. I have not felt this unmotivated or this useless or this much of a loser for YEARS. Yes I’m getting that little thrill when I manage to nut out a difficult problem, or finally ‘get’ how that particular excel formula can be applied but it doesn’t last long and the next night when I get home from a really hard day and sit down in front of the computer to face the demon again I just stare at the screen like I’ve been lobotomised. And what’s really weird, and is causing me to really doubt myself, is the massive tantrums I throw when I can’t quickly grasp a new concept. If I feel like one of the online lectures hasn’t explained something well enough I’m swearing at my laptop like a complete bogan and that is just embarrassing.

So yeah, it feels like crap and now I don’t know what to do. My options are pretty simple – push through and get accepted into the course, and from there the hard work really starts, or – quit. I’m almost delirious with the thought that I could stop this mental torture right now. Just not do it. Email the Business School tomorrow and say thanks but no thanks, I’m just not enjoying this as much as I expected to and it’s clearly not for me. But I also have incredibly high standards for myself, and the thought of quitting and feeling like a failure makes me queasy.

There are other options, obviously, that could follow the quitting. I could look for other courses that I could do – other study that would also be useful and upskilling (is that grammatically correct? no? Am I suddenly shit at English as well? Figures…) but that I might also enjoy. I could enrol in that French course I’ve been thinking about FOREVER, and also go harder at my other current hobby – trying valiantly to get myself a body like one of those Olympic hurdlers (random aside but how freaking hot are they??!?!).

I was talking to my sister the other night about this – she’s of the view that I need to take a good look at why I wanted to do this in the first place. There were a lot of compelling reasons why it seemed like a good idea, and those reasons still apply, but the main thing was that I feel like I’m drifting at the moment. I don’t have a goal and my life lacks purpose. The MBA seemed like it might offer a solution and provide a goal. But at what cost? My sanity? Anything resembling a life?

I’ve just had a quick browse around online at other Management qualifications and they all require a solid foundation in mathematics and statistics. Looks like there’s no getting around it, I might just have to suck it up and develop that solid understanding of maths and stats. But maybe I’ll do it in my own time. I’ll find online programs similar to the one I’m doing now and just solidly plug away at it without the pressure of a looming deadline (I have two weeks left to finish the one I’m doing in order to be considered for the January intake of the MBA).

I guess I could try and spin this to tell myself I am learning a valuable lesson here. The lesson of doing something the long hard way. Yes I’ve done postgrad study already and yes that required years of commitment, but honestly, and I’m going to say something slightly controversial here… that felt easy. It was kind of just… offered to me, and I was already in my comfort zone to a degree so it didn’t feel like I had to twist my brain in as many ways to get through that.

So… no decision’s been made yet. I’m leaning towards throwing in the towel – for now. Or, maybe, I’ll get a second wind tomorrow and somehow find the motivation to finish by the deadline. And if I do pass it, I’m going to buy myself the biggest self-congratulatory beer you’ve ever seen and skull the lot.

What a difference a week makes!

In my last post I was banging on about my morning routine, and how to improve it. Within literally a day of posting that a solution of sorts presented itself – adrenaline. Work has been busy for a while now but throw a couple of different deadlines into the mix and suddenly it felt like a whole new ball game.

For the last two weeks (almost) I’ve been getting to work earlier, working through lunch and staying late, because it felt necessary to do that in order to meet the deadlines. Also, the truth is that I’m happiest when I’m stressed and pressured. It makes me feel like what I do matters. Some times I wonder if the Gods look down on us all scurrying around like little ants, pretending that what we spend all day doing is actually important. (Before anyone has a go at me, yes there are some jobs that even the most cold-hearted of Gods would recognise as genuinely important). In weeks like the one I’ve just had, those thoughts go out of my head. Adrenaline was what was propelling me out of bed quicker in the mornings and powering me through the day. All I was thinking about (almost) was work, and what had to be done that day.

On top of that, I was studying in every bit of spare time for the maths test that I was asked to do for my MBA application. Update – I failed it 😦 As a result, they’ve asked me to do an online MBA Maths program, which has 4 modules, each requiring approx 20 hours study. This is on top of my 50 hour weeks. Clearly, I’m insane to even consider this, but now that the MBA bug is under my skin, and because I hate the feeling of failure SO much, I’m determined to do it and I’m determined to pass and be accepted into the program. The online program is timed – I have to have my results in to be assessed by the 20th August. FML…

Still on the MBA subject, my workmate found me in the photocopy room the other day muttering about how much I hate problem solving. She raised her eyebrow and queried “Erm… is an MBA really for you then?” I got all boringly earnest on her for a few minutes about how the fact that I hate problem solving, algebra gives me hives, and I avoid spreadsheets at all costs is precisely why I want to do this. How can I become a truly well-rounded professional when some parts of my job make me this anxious? I want to face the fear and overcome it. I could probably coast along not doing this, for 10 or 20 more years. I would learn on the job and in more senior roles I can delegate all that shitty stuff. But delegating it is what has gotten me into this position of being embarrassed my lack of competence in some areas and I don’t want to bluff. I want to be one of those rare people who can do the financial and technical stuff as well as the writing and talking (my natural comfort zone). I think we’ve all worked with at least one of those people and respected them. I think I scared my workmate a bit by being such a total nerd-face. There’s something about being a woman,I believe, that makes us feel we should downplay our ambition a bit, especially to each other. Bugger that I say 🙂

Anyway so back to my original point – workload increase + study = adrenaline (see what I did there? That looks almost like maths 😉 ). Hello adrenaline, goodbye slow mornings. This seemed to be working a charm for all of two weeks, until…..

 

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I got sick. Down for the count. Out to it. WHAT A PAIN IN THE ARSE! The timing couldn’t BE worse! To say I’m pissed about it would be to describe Tom Cruise as eccentric or Napoleon as a bit short. This is so unfair. The sore throat started two nights ago and then yesterday the aches and pains started in earnest and overnight I’ve got the full on throat, headache, temperature, sore eyes, sore ears etc etc.

Lately in particular I’ve been doing everything right, or so I’m telling myself – eating well (I’ve started doing Lite n Easy again – SO convenient, I really should blog about that), personal training twice a week, lots of water, vitamins etc, and I still get sick. The only factor I can pinpoint is that I’ve been a bit stressed and that the adrenaline I was praising for it’s rocket-up-the-arse benefits just isn’t that good health-wise.

Some people never seem to get sick. My boss is one of them. I really must ask her her secret one day. I, on the other hand, seem to have some kind of regular quarterly sick cycle. This morning, between moping about the house trying to stay warm, and answering only the most important work emails, I’ve googled why people with a healthy (ish – no rose coloured glasses here) lifestyle still get sick. One thing that jumped out at me was the quote “Stop worrying about getting sick. Constant worrying causes cortisol and epinephrine levels to rise – and these stress hormones can weaken the body’s overall immunity” (www.webmd.com). Perhaps this is my problem. Perhaps this is bleeding obvious to anyone else and I’m just a little slow on the uptake. While part of my brain was perversely enjoying the panicky feeling, my body wasn’t coping at all. I guess this brings me back to what seems to be the theme for my life at the moment – trying to achieve balance. 

The ‘B’ word. Anyone else think they’ve got this nailed and care to share your secrets? Meanwhile, I’ve just taken my temp and it’s 38.4 – time for more panadol.

 

Ciao x

Not a morning person

I’ve always been a morning person. Between the ages of 13 and 16 I did a paper-round 6 mornings a week and had to be at the newsagent by 6 each morning. There were plenty of wintery Ballarat mornings where I’m sure I hated it, and I do remember begging Mum or Dad to take pity on me sometimes and help me deliver the newspapers from the car, but mostly my memories are the cosy ones – the warmth inside the paper shed on those cold mornings, the fact that I was the only girl in a shed full of teenage boys (no shortage of fumbling pimply suitors waiting for me to glance their way) or the breakfast waiting for me when I’d get home*. I’m grateful that it set me up to be an early riser and taught me the value of hard work.

So for years following this, my alarm would go off at 5 or 5.30 every day of the week and I got used to having a leisurely 2 plus hours to fart around getting ready for work, or Uni, or whatever. These days, it’s getting a little harder. My alarm goes off at 6 and I inevitably hit snooze for half an hour or 45 minutes before getting up, then sit on the couch with a coffee like a stunned mullet for 15 or 20 minutes checking what’s happened overnight on Facebook, Twitter, etc. The whole routine goes something like this:

6am: alarm goes off
6-6.40: snooze
6.40-7.10: coffee, couch, stunned mullet
7.10-7.25: shower
7.25-7.50: hair, makeup (when I can be bothered), dress
7.50-8: breakfast
8-8.15: pack lunch, pack bag, teeth, panic, rush
8.15-8.45: walk to work

Looking at that, I’m only productive for an hour of that time. SO much less productive than I used to be and it that pisses me off. I’ve been toying with different ways to get going earlier in the morning, and make better use of that precious time. I really should make more effort with hair, makeup etc since I’m a big girl now and wear I pull-ups. Living only a 20-30 minute walk (20 for most people, 30 for me because I dawdle) there’s no excuse not to be there just a little bit earlier.

Options I’m tossing up are: Leave the alarm where it is, but actually get up when it goes off. No more snooze! Or, set the alarm for later so it’s a real sleep in but bounce out of bed at the alarm like I used to do in the good ole’ days. I could try harder to pack my bag the night before work, or I could take my breakfast to work and eat at my desk which would save me at least 10 minutes each morning.

Coincidentally, I mentioned this to my workmate this morning and she directed me towards an article that someone she follows on Twitter had tweeted the link to – ‘What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast’. The author says something I firmly believe – “The hopeful hours before most people eat breakfast are too precious to be blown on semiconscious activities”. She’s dead on. Apparently mornings are when our brains work quicker (I did used to notice this when studying) and our willpower is stronger, so it’s an easier time to do yucky things like exercise. One of the 5 strategies she offers for making over your mornings is to ‘build the habit slowly’, and choose one new habit at a time to introduce. It’s the same with trying to make any change in your routine – incremental change is often more sustainable than drastic change.

So, starting tomorrow I’m going to get straight into the shower as soon as I get up. And when I’m in there,

I’m going to give this new product a goImage. No idea if it’s any good but I love the idea of having one product to do everything – a truly streamlined shower experience! That will have to save me some time, surely? I’ll try that for a week and see how we go. Ultimately I’d like to be at work by 8.30 each day and I’d like to be well-groomed when I get there. Apparently, “when you make over your mornings, you can make over your life. That is what the most successful people know”. Bring it on!

*Now that I think of it, I wonder if this is where my food issues began? Some mornings my brother and I (he had a paper route as well) would drop past the servo for a hot pie on the way home, or Mum would have one in the oven waiting for us, and that salty savoury goodness was worth hours of misery that had led up to it. On Saturday mornings the whole crew (me and the 15 boys) would take our cash down to Maccas for a big breakfast. Hash browns were my first one true love and will always hold a special place in my heart.

Foody blues

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This woman looks how I feel at the moment

I’ve been eating like crap the last week or so, and I feel like crap for it. Basically, I tend to lose the plot when I get busy, and end up not exactly skipping meals (HA! that’s never going to happen) but skipping snacks so that when I DO eat it’s a massive bowl of whatever I can get my hands on easily. I know that what I need is small, regular, protein-rich meals with little to no carbs or added sugar, but as soon as I’m out 2 or 3 nights in a row and then don’t get to the shops, all that knowledge is next to useless.

It’s annoying, but this eating well business requires being really organised and vigilant. No slacking off! There were three or four days of last week where I’d run down to next to nothing in the cupboards and had to buy just about every meal. This is not good Gen! Although the exercise thing is going well these days – I’ve had two sessions with my new trainer and they’ve been awesome – I’m so way off the time where food and diet and my weight are just non-issues.

Waaah! Although I’m now all psyched for a new week, and I’ve actually been shopping and I’ve got my meals planned, I’m still feeling fat and frumpy and miserable and sorry for myself. That may have something to do with the fact that we went for a really long walk along the beach this arvo, then I was stuck in traffic for nearly 2 hours and was starving so I bought KFC for dinner instead of waiting until I got home to cook the first of my planned meals for the week. It’s such a vicious cycle too. I may not have goten so hungry today had yesterday been a better day. Sigh…

Anyway, so enough sooking, this week I’m going to cook two different meals and each one will give me 3 or 4 serves, so will do for dinner and lunch and then dinner again. It wasn’t too taxing to have to think of two meals and shop for them, and not having to cook every night means I’m less likely to buy food. There will be a couple of meals where I have to eat out but I’ll try and remember the golden rules when I do: portion control and protein.

My daily diet is going to go something like this:

Breakfast: homemade muesli or ONE piece of toast with cheese and tomato
Snack: 2 sugar-free oat biscuits
Lunch: left over salmon and brie quiche or chow mein, depending on what I cooked the night before
Snack: grilled haloumi
Dinner: as per lunch

I’m posting it here to be accountable. Obviously I’m not fretting too much about the fat content of the food, or the calorie count, because even though I DO want to lose weight, I’m not going to tie my brain up in knots to do it – that energy needs to be put elsewhere at the moment.

Ok-doke, now I’m off to put the chow mein ingredients in the slow cooker ready to be popped on when I leave for work in the morning.

Ciao!

Time, that slippery witch

ImageRemember how a couple of posts ago I was berating myself for my inability to learn French, and how I ‘was, was, was, was’ going to recommit to it? Yeah well I haven’t, and probably won’t now because I’ve got a new project. I’m one of those people who feels like time is against me. There’s just never enough bloody time in the week to do all the things I want to. There’ve been times when I think I’ll never be capable of a ‘full time’ relationship, or heaven-forbid – kids, because I’m too selfish about my hobbies. Paradoxically, while failing to commit to any of these said hobbies with a serious time investment as I bounce from one to the other, I then whinge about how I have too much time and energy to burn.

So anyway, getting fit is something I’ve been tinkering with all year, as part of a renewed interest in all things health and wellbeing (see the story of How I Quit Sugar). Towards the beginning of the year I bought one of those groupon deals that got me five one-hour personal training sessions for something ridiculous like 80 bucks. I really enjoyed the sessions – they hurt like hell, but that’s the point isn’t it? And the best thing was, combined with the new diet, I found I could actually cope, and the pain didn’t kill me. Most of the time I think it’s the anticipation of pain and failure that is crippling. While the sessions were good, trying to get them booked in with the trainers was a pain in the arse – our schedules didn’t match and they were unreliable, hence it’s taken four months to have five sessions.

At our second last session a month ago, I enquired about the cost of continuing, if I were to pay the usual full rate. It was way beyond my budget – somewhere between $45 and $60 for a half hour (can’t recall exactly). My investigating online didn’t throw up any cheaper options either. I knew I didn’t want to lose the motivation but wasn’t sure how to continue when:
a) I couldnt’ afford more than one session a week which isn’t really enough to do much good, and
b) The time required was a bit overwhelming.

Last week at work, my workmate, who herself works out like a demon, asked if I was still looking for a trainer and I said yes but that I was struggling to find one within my budget. She then recommended her friend Nat, from Stiles Training, who offers sessions for $1 a minute – that’s only $30 for half an hour people! Bargain! Nat is apparently keen to get some really reliable clients to commit to regular sessions and that’s what I want too – do unto others and all that.

It does mean another weekly commitment – twice-weekly actually. On top of my recent application to study again, and work being a tad full on at present it’s going to make my weeks frantic, or at least Really Bloody Busy. Currently, an average week for me looks something like this:

Monday: Work, gym then home
Tuesday: Work, then drive to the other side of Melbourne for dinner with my 89-year old G’pa
Wednesday: Work, then personal training, then over to FF’s for the evening (before starting PT I was doing yoga once a week)
Thursday: Work, some sort of social catch-up – perhaps a public lecture followed by dinner (true story – not trying to sound like a hipster wanker)
Friday: Work, more socialising, usually with FF in tow
Saturday: a bazillion miscellaneous errands followed by either an evening at home, or a party (and often a bit of work thrown in too)
Sunday: some sort of family commitment or a little country jaunt with FF

Throw the imminent possibility of two nights a week at school into the mix and my schedule is officially screwed. So, time for a reality check here, if I’m going to commit to two personal training sessions a week as well as two nights of school something’s going to have to give. I don’t know how I could possibly squeeze more into an already busy schedule. When I’m at home ‘pottering’ I’m always doing more than one thing at a time. I’m cooking and cleaning and dealing with the ever-present floordrobe, or I’m playing on the net, watching tv and playing games on my phone. Even writing these blog posts sometimes feels like “something else I gotta do”. And I don’t have to look after anyone else but myself so seriously, get a grip Gen. Queen of the first world problem here.

There’s an expression I heard/read/saw somewhere once that has stayed with me. “You can have it all, just not all at once”, and I have to remind myself of it often. The things I can’t and won’t devote less of my energy to are work and family. The family stuff doesn’t come around all that often, because they all have schedules that look like mine, but when it does, I’m there with bells on. Next on the list is FF, and if I’m going to be studying that will have to be right near the top of the list.

Maybe I’m crazy to be considering personal training, but I’m still 10kg away from my goal weight, and I really think it’s something I have to get a grip on NOW, before it gets harder. Seize the day and all that. The thing that’s probably going to have to drop off my list is the socialising. I don’t have a group of friends as such, but a sizeable pool of individual or ‘pairs’ of friends. Sometimes I’ll be out three nights a week catching up with people and still only see most of my friends five or six times a year. Do I sound like a bragging ‘little miss popular’ type? Don’t be jealous – I’m sure most of my friends merely tolerate me 😉

Coming back to the ‘you can have it all’ saying, it’s time I got my priorities straight in my head. This year and probably next, should be my ‘work/study/get fit’ phase. My social-butterfly and community-volunteer phases can come later. My friends will hopefully still be there, and FF – well he’ll just have to squeeze in somewhere 😉

My first session with Nat is tomorrow night – wish me luck!

 

UPDATE!!! Nat is awesome. Anyone in Melbourne looking for a trainer can check her out here – http://stilestraining.com.au/