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This time the truth about (my) body image

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Photo sourced from Dove Real Beauty Campaign 2012

Photo sourced from Dove Real Beauty Campaign 2012

Last year I wrote a post where I made some claims that have subsequently proven false.

In Bikinis, body image and me I made brave comments about finally having learned to accept my body as it is.

As if!

Ok yes, I did as foretold in said post, buy a bikini. And what’s more, I did wear said bikini.

I even survived the humiliation of realising my daughter’s 13-year-old friend was wearing an identical bikini at the beach, on the day I first revealed my  2 piece to the world.

My very cute, 50"s inspired bikini.

My very cute, 50’s inspired bikini.

But in recent weeks it has dawned on me that as my 45th birthday rapidly approaches, it really is about time I started to truly accept my body rather than just pretending I do.

I know I am no lone crusader on this one. There are whole organisations, such as The Butterfly Foundation, who are dedicated to helping women/girls work on their negative self-image.

But I cannot help but wonder if it really is possible for someone like me to change habits accrued over a lifetime.

If I am brave enough to delve into my psyche, I can point to any number of reasons for my poor body image.

Perhaps it all stems back to being called ‘the Michelin tyre man’ as a toddler by my family.

The michelin tyre man - notice the rols and rolls of fat

The Michelin tyre man – notice the rolls and rolls of fat

Then there was my ‘best friend’ in primary school who called me “fat ape” unless she suddenly needed me to help her with her maths.

Or my first real boyfriend who delighted in reminding me not to finish meals when dining out, as it would “make you fatter”.

And told me to be careful when lying on the beach near my parents house, in case Greenpeace  mistook me for a whale and threw me back into the water.

A beautiful animal, but I don't think I really look like this, thanks very much DPE.  Image courtesy of queenslandblog.com

A beautiful animal, but actually DPE I don’t think I really look like one of them.
Image courtesy of queenslandblog.com

For as long as I can remember, I have sorted eating into either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ food options.

I feel guilty whenever I eat a ‘bad’ food. Sometimes the knowledge I will feel guilty if I eat something stops me from actually eating it.

Other times I push on regardless, consume the item (usually very quickly, probably in some weird attempt to pretend I am not actually eating it) and then feel sick with remorse for ages after.

I have of course dieted many times over the years, and I still employ tactics such as trying not to eat carbs after 6pm or eat more than 1200 calories a day.

I do worry about the message I am giving my children.

My son is so skinny his ribs stick out whenever he raises his arms, and yet he talks about needing to go on a diet as he claims he is fat.

See what I mean about those ribs - mind you, his arms are pretty good guns!

See what I mean about those ribs – mind you, his arms are pretty good guns!

My daughter was devastated when she was weighed at the pediatrician yesterday and discovered she had put on a kilo over the intervening month since her first visit. Mind you, she was wearing more and heavier  clothes than the last time.

I estimate I would use the expressions “I’ve put on weight” or “Does this make me look fat?” at least once a week.

I tell myself and others that I am finally realising it is more important to be healthy than to be skinny. For brief moments in time, I almost believe it too.

Sometimes I feel like I hate my body. My arthritic, prone to suffer repeated and lengthy viruses, body.

For that matter, what does the fact I think of ‘my body’ almost as a separate and alien being say about me?

Enough of the whingeing already.

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But if you have any suggestions for me on how to combat my body image issues, I would love to hear them. Or if you like, why not add your own whine in the comments section below.

Cheers till next time (which hopefully won’t be too far in the future,and on a happier topic),

Ali.

The Boss is The King

The Boss in full flight photo courtesy of Bruce Springsteen official website

This Easter weekend I put a big tick next to one of my bucket list top three.

I didn’t even know it was on the list. Truth be told, I am not even sure I knew I had a list at all.

But this weekend gone I screamed and cried and jumped and danced like there was no tomorrow.

And I touched The Boss. Twice.

I felt wild, carefree and in today’s parlance, completely in the moment.

Five days later and I am still filled with pure happiness. The kind of happiness that money just can’t buy. Well, aside from the few hundred we had to spend to actually get to the concert.

My teenage years were tough. Perhaps not tough in the same way that today’s teenagers have their lives lived through the microscope of social media, but tough none the less.

Wearing a full metal back brace that went from my neck to my butt and back again was not an attractive look, and I was unlucky enough to wear it during some pretty important formative years (13 – 15).

I tended to hide myself away in shame from the rest of the world, and so developed a love of cricket and football through endless hours of sitting perched in front of the TV in a house full of boys.

Then one magic day my friend’s cool dad Roger, introduced me to Bruce Springsteen.

“Here, have a listen to this Al, you might like it”.

The song was The River. This was pre Born in the USA days, pre main stream popularity.

Roge followed up The River with Born to Run. What else was a 13-year-old girl to do but fall in love?

The love affair has lasted over 30 years now. Sometimes it has waned a little, particularly around my 30’s and Bruce’s 50’s when he was MIA for a while and I became Robbie Williams obsessed.

But in my teens, if you met me even briefly, you would probably have learnt three things about me very quickly. I was adopted, I was a mad Carlton supporter (you would have guessed that from the duffel coat and leg warmers. Groan) and The Boss was my main man.

So many days and nights during those teenage years of angst and anger I would retreat to my room, lock the door and load up the cassette player with song after song from every one of Bruce’s albums.

When Dancing in the Dark first aired on Countdown, I cried – how gorgeous and sexy had the reinvented Bruce become?

The beautiful man dancing in the dark courtesy of Bruce Springsteen official website

When Tunnel of Love was released, I rushed out and spent my last $15 on buying the album, despite incurring the wrath of my mother.

And when the 15-year-old me was forbidden from travelling Hobart to Melbourne to see the Born in the USA tour , I thought my life could never be happy again.

Of course it was and I have had quite a few memorable days over the years. Days like our wedding day, birth of our children, Carlton winning the ‘95 Grand Final.

But as we grow older, sometimes we forgot about how much pleasure the simple things in life can give us.

Things like travelling with your equally Bruce-mad husband (I fell in love with him when he sang Jersey Girls to me one night), your BFF and her husband to Hanging Rock for a concert.

A concert kicked off by a screaming Jimmy Barnes and family. Nothing like a bit of Flame Trees (the husband and I do a great karaoke version) or Khe Sanh to get you warmed up.

Then three hours of non-stop rock n roll from a man you have looked to for answers for more than half of your life.

When I found myself hanging over the barricades, the girls on display as my arms stretched further than they ever have before in a desperate bid to touch him, I felt like I was twenty years old again and boy did it feel fantastic.

I forgot about the kids, the mortgage, the arthritis.

At the end of the night, I had danced for five hours, I had cried, I had shouted and I had screamed “Oh MY GOD” more times than I can count.

Jon Landau, a famous music critic/ producer, said back in  1974 (I used to have this laminated and hanging on my wall. Seriously)

 “Last night I saw the future of rock n roll, and it’s name is Bruce Springsteen”.

No longer the future, but all hail the king.

Thank you Bruce, you have made this chick feel blessed.

Cheers till next time,

Ali.

Don’t judge til you swim in their bathers.

IMG_0089

Swimming Australia  tell me there are approximately 50,000 registered competitive swimmers in Australia in 2013.

Of those 50,000, a total of 45 were chosen to represent their country at the London  Olympic games(47 if you count the two open water swimmers).

Which means on average less than 0.09 % of competitive swimmers will actually end up competing at an Olympic games.

And presumably, competing at the Olympic games is what drives most of these swimmers.

Elite swimming is in our national gaze at the moment due to the two damning reports released last month into Australia’s dismissal pool performance at the London Olympics.

Hot on the heels of the reports came the admission by our men’s 100 metre relay swimmers that they had engaged in a night of misbehaviour, all in the name of ‘team bonding’.

Or rather as the Missile James Magnussen claimed, relishing in the chance to “feel normal for once“.

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Now that’s a six-packed missile. Image courtesy of http://www.bodyandsoul.com.au

There has been a lot of discussion about the team admission to taking recently prohibited sleeping pill Stilnox, then engaging in the type of hijinks usually reserved for American College movies.

One side of the debate argues that this behaviour is an example of why elite athletes are not worthy of being held up as appropriate role models in Australia, particularly when this is often at the expense of other noteworthy contributors in fields such as science and literature.

I agree with this side of the debate.

However I am also someone who right throughout my teenage years, wanted to be a sports journalist. I therefore love watching most sports, and I always have a tear in my eye when the national anthem is played after an Aussie has won gold at the Olympics. Particularly when the podium is located poolside.

I am also the mother of a swimmer.

My swimmer is just short of qualifying to swim at state championship level  and is trying very hard to get there.

Trying very hard means training on average five days per week, in sessions of at least 1.5 hours duration. Three of those sessions are early morning sessions. In the past few weeks, she has also had a meet (competition) every weekend.

Late in January she attended a swimming camp where over 2.5 days they swam around 25 kms. Hours upon hours of swimming, plus gym work to increase their fitness.

Bayside JuniorCamp2012_042-L

In action at camp

My swimmer is only 13. And already, even at her level of swimming, we are constantly having to say ‘No’ to requests for sleepovers, shopping expeditions, general social activities. Which is particularly difficult when your daughter thrives on social interaction.

Every week if not every day, we have to plan her (our?) schedule including homework and basketball games (she still likes to play in a team sport) around her swimming timetable.

When she is sick (which seems to be frequent, I assume it is swimming in all the germ-laden pool water) we are assessing not so much how well she is recovering, but how many sessions can she miss before she risks falling behind?

We are not, I firmly believe, THOSE kind of parents. You know, the ones who push their children to fulfill their own unrealised dreams. Sure, I love to watch swimming but I have never pretended to be good at it – not when it takes me a long minute to swim a mere 25 metres.

We are simply doing what I see every other parent of young swimmers doing, and supporting our girl as much as possible.

IMG_0717

This month’s swimming trophy.

My point is, if this is what is required for a young girl on the cusp of state qualification, I can only imagine what life must be like for the likes of The Missile.

Which is why on the one hand I am dismayed by their behaviour, particularly disturbing female team-mates on the eve of their own olympic campaign.

Whilst on the other hand I sigh and think I can understand why these boys felt the need to blow off some steam.

At the end of the day we all can and will have our own view on their behaviour, but I simply say perhaps we should not be too quick to judge unless we have walked in their shoes.

Cheers till next time,

Ali.

Puppy Love

The Princess

The Princess

I finally have my longed-for third baby.

Sure, she is of the four-legged variety, instead of the two.

But as I sat in the water at the beach yesterday watching her chase canine companions, I realised just how joyful she makes me feel.

Sunday was the first time we had taken The Princess to the beach.

Being a beach family, we have been itching to introduce her to one of our favourite past times. However she does not yet respond to “come” when off lead, and there are just so many  distractions at dog beach. So we had hesitated making the trip to the sand and sea.

Yesterday however Melbourne baked under yet another 35+ day, and after a particularly successful morning at puppy school (finally, top of the class) we decided we had no choice but for a whole of family visit to the beach.

What followed was two hours of what I can only describe as pure delight.

I still cannot fathom how entertaining, and calming, I found it to watch The Princess’s first beach visit.

Sadly, this was not the beach we visited yesterday (This is beautiful Binnalong Bay in Tas)

Sadly, this was not the beach we visited yesterday (This is beautiful Binnalong Bay in Tas)

As expected, she was at first hesitant about entering the water. In fact, she down right refused and cried when we tried to encourage her in.

But soon her herding instincts buried her fear, as she hurtled through the waves to chase the other dogs and tried to bring them into line.

Quickly befriending a mutt called Mitzie, the Princess then raced and chased and swum non-stop.

At one stage watching Mitzie and The Princess run around literally in circles, I felt as if my head was spinning. But I could not smiling either.

And I wondered – how did we ever think, even for a brief minute, that we could live without another dog in our lives?

After Joely passed away, so peacefully in the end and with a great big sigh of relief, we took a long time to feel ready for a new dog.

Image sourced from www.seniorpooch.com

Image sourced from http://www.seniorpooch.com

There were times when The Husband and I thought about how much easier life would be without a new dog. Holidays, even weekends away, would  not require the additional expense or worry about what to do with the dog.

Without a dog, the backyard could remain The Husband’s domain. No twice weekly ‘pooh patrol’ required, or frantic dash outside when the kid’s friends come around, amid shouts of – “Careful on your way to the trampoline, you never know what you might step in”.

And no needing to work an extra day just to pay for the vet bills.

But the kids were desperate for another dog, especially a puppy, having never known Joely as a youngster.

And every time we would arrive home, even from a quick trip to secure the daily coffee fix, there would an empty feeling as no little black nose was pressed against the fence, tail wagging in excitement to see us.

So we agreed after our return from our christmas holidays, we would start the hunt for the newest member of our family.

After countless hours of trawling the internet, filling out four page applications in desperate attempts to adopt a rescue dog, I finally decided to go with what the heart wanted all along, and searched for a mature border collie puppy.

My first call hit jackpot – No, the 10 month girl advertised was no longer available, but was I interested in a six month old? Indeed we were, and from the first minute she raced up to greet The Husband when we went to visit her, she was coming home with us.

First day in our family

First day in our family

Barely a month later, it is hard to remember when she wasn’t with us. Even harder to remember how we survived for six months without the pure unadulterated love a dog provides.

Yes she is hard work. There is hair everywhere she is allowed to go, I have to find time in an already stretched schedule to walk her, and I have to stand guard over my washing on the line (she is particularly fond of beach towels).

But watching her race through the waves yesterday, I marvelled at how such an innocent activity could bring me so much peace and happiness.

Welcome to our family Miss Lillie, and thank you to the universe for sending her our way.

Cheers till next time,

Ali.

I understand, Nicola Roxon

sourced from google images/ thechrancyfamily.com

sourced from google images/ thechrancyfamily.com

On the weekend just gone, our first ever female PM announced the resignation of our first ever female Attorney-General.

Resignation not just from her demanding cabinet position, but from her career as a parliamentarian.

The timing of the resignation, just days after a surprise election announcement, has meant the reasons for the resignation were questioned.

But the stated reason, that Ms Roxon wishes to spend more time with her family and in particular, her 7-year-old daughter Rebecca, seems eminently reasonable and understandable.

Certainly for any working mother who has ever experienced mother guilt (which I venture to suggest, would be most working mothers at some point) there is probably a sigh of recognition. Especially when Ms Roxon laments missing out on her daughter growing up, should she stand for re-election on September 14.

Nicola Roxon and family sourced from theage.com.au

Nicola Roxon and family sourced from theage.com.au

This morning I dropped my son off at his school. Today is day two of a new year, and he is finally the big fish in the little pond. He is a Grade 6’er, with all the responsibilities and freedoms that entails.

As I walked away from the classroom, I felt a pull on my heart-strings. I wondered if it was because this is the last year I will be walking through the gates of our beloved primary school.

Then I remembered I have had this feeling on many  occasions over the years, and I came to realise it is not really about this being ‘our’ last year.

No, this feeling is all about the sadness and guilt I feel as I leave my children at school and go off to work. The feeling lurking somewhere deep inside me, that this is not really what I ought to be doing.

What I feel I ought to be doing is what I see ‘all the other mothers’ doing. Hanging around and chatting to each other, building up relationships that benefit themselves and their offspring.

Or being more involved in the school and classroom activities. Maybe joining the Parents Association.

At the very least, I probably should have volunteered to be the class rep at least once in the nine years I have had a child attend the school.

Yet I have always worked. Which, for me, meant either dropping the kids off at school and running to work, or on my precious ‘days off’, running around like a “headless chook” (quote courtesy of my octogenarian mum).

sourced from googleimages / girlillawarfare.com

sourced from googleimages / girlillawarfare.com

Until I took a year off in 2010 to return to University, I had always shared their care with paid helpers.

Over the years we employed a combination of child care centre, always-knew-better-than-us-nanny (a post for a different day), after school care and after-school-uni-student-babysitters-come-taxis. Including one memorable term with German back-packing Fabian, our ‘manny’, who was very popular with the other mothers at school. Such a shame he decided to continue his travels throughout Australia instead of staying with us.

Whilst I appreciated and relied on these assorted carers, I always resented them. I was particularly jealous of the uni kids  that took my children to their afternoon activities, and were the ones cheering them on from the basketball court sidelines instead of me.

My Uni timetable in 2010 allowed me, for the first time ever, to be home in time to pick the kids up every day from school. I do not exaggerate when I say the kids thrived with having me home with them in the afternoons. If I had any doubts, they would continually tell me how much they loved having me around.

And conversely, if I spoke about looking for full-time work, they would dissolve into a flood of tears.

Of course there are days when I wonder why I want to pick them up from school at all. Those are the days when my child is abducted by aliens, and replaced by a grumpy monster who does nothing but whine and complain. And fight with their sibling, me, or both.

Worn out from whinging. At least they are quiet.

Worn out from whining. At least they are quiet.

The problem is that now I have seen the benefit of being around for the children in the afternoon, I feel even more guilty when I cannot be there due to work. Yes, I realise I have a teenager and a tween. But the years do not seem to diminish their need for me, if anything, it has increased.

At this stage in my career, I would love to be able to work full-time. To have a real crack at the career I have dreamt of.

But the mother guilt always pulls me back.

So I say to Ms Roxon on her resignation from her 24/7 job due to the pull of her  family responsibilities – I hear you sister.

Non-alcoholic* cheers till next time,

Ali.

*It’s FebFast time of year again and this time I will make it the full 28 days.

NOTE: This blog post is about my feelings of mother guilt –  constantly trying to juggle work and home and never quite feeling like I get either side right. This post is certainly not a comment either about stay-at-home mothers, or mothers who work (full-time or part-time). I only hope that every mother gets the chance to do what is right for them, and their family.

Why friendships are like gold

Sourced from hivarebk.blogpost.com

Sourced from hivarebk.blogpost.com

Recently I received a gift.

The kind of gift that keeps on giving. And a gift I was able to share with five other people.

For recently I received the gift of friendships remembered and renewed, and agreed with that old saying “your friends tell the story of who you are”.

I spent the weekend in the company of five of my oldest friends. By ‘old’ I mean the shortest friendship in the group is a quarter of a century, and some are pushing towards the 40-year mark.

Despite the length of our friendships, and all we had been through over the years, we had never holidayed together.

As the self appointed chief organizer, for weeks I was plagued by doubts.

Would it work? Would we all get along? Would the princesses we had apparently all become be able to put aside their foibles and phobias and have a good time?

Thankfully the answer was a resounding ‘Yes’.

It might have helped that the owner of our accommodation did not appear to understand the meaning of ‘self-hosted’.

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As the joker of our group proclaimed after our three hour ‘check-in’ – “I’ve had shorter job handovers than that!”

At least she gave us something to bond over, as we loudly, vehemently and often had cause to complain over her grumpiness (think Basil in Faulty Towers), rules (again, think Basil) and her inability to leave us alone.

Even when to all intents and purposes it appeared she had actually vacated the building – her car was no longer there – we still remained paranoid, convinced she was either hiding in the basement listening to us, or video-recording our every word and deed. Or both.

But despite our host, the house we stayed in was beautiful. And gradually as we unwound and drank more, our old selves began to re-emerge.

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Our shy and inverted friend slowly returned to her self-proclaimed “potty mouth self”.

Our keeper of decorum was once again embarrassed by our loud conversations in pubs and cafes, where we amongst other things we reminisced about boys we had known who always, um, came a little early to the party.

And our hyper friend was true to form with her wicked cackle being heard throughout the house – although thankfully not during the wee hours of the morning when she walked the house when her insomnia was in full flight.

Over the weekend I began to remember how we have a shared history that is irreplaceable.

They were there, and knew me, during the time in my life when I was in love with a bastard. When I was belittled, put down and degraded. When I was warned by my ‘lover’ to be careful Greenpeace didn’t throw me in the water, having mistaken me for a whale.

These are the same friends who stood by me when I was at my lowest point; when my destroyed self esteem saw me go from one drunken fling and escapade to another.

As we talked about ex-boyfriends and exploits from our early twenties, sometimes we laughed so hard my stomach hurt.

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But it felt good to be able to relive the sometimes-painful memories with the people who were there when the memories were created– and to be able to laugh at them from our vantage point of ‘early middle age’.

Over the years there have been times when my friendships with these girls have been tested.

Times even when I thought maybe the friendships had passed there used by dates.

As our lives moved in different directions – literally, in different states – sometimes it seemed as if we had little in common except a shared history.

What I learned over the weekend is that this shared history is like gold.

I remembered how I can truly be myself with these girls. After all, they know me warts and all, and know when I am trying to be someone other than who I am. And will tell me so.

I am proud of the women my friends have become, and I feel honoured they still count me as worthy of spending four days of their precious time with.

Now all that is left to do is to start planning next year’s trip.

Byron Bay anyone?

Cheers and Merry Xmas,

Ali.

The Caffeine Controversy

Image courtesy of http://www.popartuk.com

My name is Alison and I am a coffee addict.

Although according to my friend Professor Dan I cannot in fact be an addict, because I only have one coffee per day.

Yes, that’s right, only one. Long gone are the days of old (read uni days) when I would knock back somewhere around 8 cups a day. Usually with a no-doz chaser.

These days apart from the one morning ‘cino, I am pretty much caffeine free. I only drink true herbal teas like peppermint, lemon ginger and camomile. No pretender decaf Green tea for me, no matter how good an antioxidant it might be.

After all, antioxidants can be found in far better places. Like berries and red wine.

Back to that one coffee.

In one corner, we have Dan and the wider medical profession.

According to my quick consult with Dr Goggle, it seems there is little research available to support a theory that one coffee a day equals addiction.

In the other corner, well, hiding down at ground level below the other corner, is me.

The person who claims that actually they can be an addict with only one coffee per day.

And here is my submission in support of my case your honour.

The fact is if I do not have my one coffee per day by lunchtime, then strange things start to happen.

First of all, my brain refuses to work properly until the caffeine hits my bloodstream.

Coordinating my brain to work in harmony with my mouth is particularly difficult before those first few sips.

I suppose that can be pretty easily explained away as some kind of Pavlov’s dog response. Have coffee, brain will wake up. Repeat on a daily basis.

But then there is the inevitable caffeine withdrawal headache that arrives around mid-morning if I am still ‘cino-less.

And what I find less able to explain or justify, unless as evidence of an addiction, is my mood swing.

If it is, say, 11.30am and I have not yet had a coffee – I become aggressive. I become single-minded about procuring my coffee, and if anyone or anything gets in my way, I become a little mean. If the husband were party to this post, he would probably suggest – actually I become more than a little mean, and maybe more than a little crazy.

Image courtesy of performancedu.com

Getting that coffee becomes all that I can think about. And when I am finally handed the cup of gold, I often find my hands shaking. Yes, shaking – presumably in anticipation of the hit.

This behaviour, I am not proud to report, is pretty standard fare for me.

Even on holidays, I can be so completely relaxed I am almost permanently horizontal and yet, my one holiday stress is always – where am I going to find a decent coffee every morning?

Because the other part of my ‘addiction’ is that the coffee has to be  a good one. For a bad coffee is inevitably an omen for a tough day, there seems to be no way up after a dire caffeine hit.

Today as I waited for my favourite barista at my local espresso bar to brew my current favourite drop (soy cappuccino, I am on a dairy free health kick), I was serenaded by the other barista with my signature song.

I felt a warm glow of happiness, and briefly I wondered whether it is actually the caffeine I am addicted too, or the event?

Is it really more about the pleasure of choosing a good cafe, with warm and friendly staff to help start your day – rather than the desperate need for a coffee?

But the more I thought about it, and the more sips I took from my cup, I kept coming back to the same conclusion.

My name is Alison, and I am a coffee addict who is willing to partake in research into caffeine addiction.

As long as the reasearch is conducted before noon and a good brew is on offer.

Cheers till next time,

Ali.