Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Cutting My Blogs Head Off.

Is there some kind of story in Greek mythology about cutting a monsters head off when it grows too big? I think there is. I've been thinking a lot lately about the nature of blogging and social media as it pertains to identity and mental health. I've been thinking a lot lately about a whole host of things that I cannot unthink. The elephant in the room is that I haven't been feeling so hot. Surprise!

Last year when my stepdad Jim was dying in his hospital bed, we all took turns to sit with him in his room. He did a lot of sleeping, mostly from the pain medication. Pancreatic cancer is extremely painful. One day, my mum and one of my sisters were sitting talking quietly in his room when Jim woke up with a start, looked at them, and simply said,

"When Eden is earning enough money from her blog ..... she can hire a cleaner."

Then he went straight back to sleep.

::

I've been blogging for almost six years. Back when I started, and even until a few years ago ... blogging was considered an almost niche, weird thing to do. These days, the entire world is online. Businesses, brands, friends, aunts, bosses, children ... there has been a definite explosion. Especially with the changing nature of media. Especially with smartphones in our pockets. Everything is online and everything is accessible.

Recently I've pulled back from it all. Regularly seeing two health professionals, limiting my time online, and deciding to leave blogger talent agency The Remarkables.

I've been cooking lots of meals, helping my kids with their homework, re-organising each room of the house while it gets painted, and writing.

I like writing.

My unofficial blog motto has always been "Never complain, never explain." But I feel like I owe a lot of you an explanation, one that I'm still trying to work out myself. Thank you so much for continuing to read here and share your thoughts and lives. I'm astounded to receive such love and emails. I'm so incredibly sorry I'm so behind in answering them. I'm behind in everything. Except cleaning my house. My house is really clean because I've really been taking the time to clean it properly. Jim was wrong. I can't afford a cleaner which suits me fine because world poverty. (If I had the money for a cleaner I'd hire a nanny anyway, because mothering takes up most all available resources and capacities I have.)

The past month has been beyond hard. Did you know trauma can be cumulative? It's maths. I always failed at maths. Fuck numbers. I prefer words.

The Street Talk section of this blog is the engine at the moment. I have been in no right mind to tell any more of my stories, so am depending on other people to tell me theirs. We all have them. I grew up in my own head, all by myself. Sometimes I'm still there.

I had to get the old Eden wearing black off the Edenland blog header and put the new Eden up there, eating a banana in public. All of these virtual versions of ourselves. (I don't even eat bananas in public irl because it looks like I'm giving a blow job.) This is the part where I usually get all tough and punch the world and quote Eminem, but no. I've pulled back, let go of almost everything. I love blogging but had to set it free for a while and see which parts of it come back. Gene Wilder says we have to go forward to go back. Before I write any other post I had to write this one. I don't know why. Usually I just go on instinct.

Are you still there?

I'm here. I'm cleaning the house that I live in. And all of the houses that live in me.




Friday, 22 February 2013

Street Talk: Peg The Lady.

I had a dream about my grandmother this week. She was sitting on a couch and had kept ageing, in the afterlife. When she saw me her eyes lit up like they always did and she stood up to hug me. A really real, proper hug. One between two people who love each other so much that there is no waiting to see who will pull away first after an acceptable amount of hug time. Just hugging in the hug, for hugs sake.

I woke up and my pillow was wet.

Today I just wanted to talk to an old person. I love old people. They're comforting, and have so much to share. Dave received a thank-you card in the mail this week from a client, and as I read the sloping cursive over his shoulder I could tell it was from an old person.

In blogging we often hear from the people who can afford a computer and who have the time to write. Not a nurse who is a single mother of small children and works full-time. Or a street kid. Or people in their nineties.

I walked up the street and looked for old people. Where would they be? The post office.

I sat waiting outside the post office for a while, with the yellow autumn leaves. Looking for the right old person - the greyer the better. I hoped my fresh loaf of Hominy sourdough made me look friendly.


Finally I saw her, coming up over the bend. Her name is Peg, she's eighty-four, and could spare only a few minutes because she was on her way to catch a bus back home.

Peg didn't want me to take her photo which was a shame because she is so beautiful. A light pink scarf holding her silver hair, beautiful emerald earrings, sparkling eyes. Worn face. She leant against her green shopping trolley and told me that she'd been living in the Blue Mountains her entire life.

"I was married up here. We didn't have a honeymoon because we couldn't afford one. My husband was a music teacher. He's dead now. All of my brothers are, too. I'm the last one."

Peg hates being called Peggy. In her green trolley were all the ingredients for a roast chicken dinner. She has two sons and one daughter, tells me very matter-of-factly that one son died in an accident when he was nineteen and it took her decades to get over it.

"I've been overseas once. A long time ago now. My husband surprised me with a trip to Europe in the 1970's. I have seen the Eiffel Tower, have you? We always said we'd go back."

She wheeled her trolley away. She loved talking about herself, with the most gorgeous, ladylike voice.

I went to give her my card with this blog's details on it and she waved it away, laughing. She doesn't go online.

There are people in the world who will never have an email address.

::

Street Talk is an unfolding art project. I am so grateful and blown away that people say yes to talking with me, trusting me with some snippets of who they are.

Previous Street talks:

1. Noelene the Young
2. Megan the Mouse
3. Harpal the Australian
4. Darren the Artist
5. Jo the Interesting
6. John the Telstra Guy
7. Michael the Photographer

PS I have a new blog header! Her name is Failed Derby Girl. 

Monday, 18 February 2013

With War Happening On Top Of Our Heads.

Every morning I kiss the two boys of mine goodbye and send them off to school. Rocco is thrilled to be finally going to big school with Max. It's incredible. Absolutely no tears, no clinginess, no problems at all. They just walk into school and go learn, every day. Papers, pencils, books, structured playtime, friends, wonderful teachers. How lucky is that?

One day back in November I sat in a cramped van in India driving through slums. A little girl, not much older than a baby and wearing a dirty pink dress, stood in the dirt playing with a box of matches. She kept striking match after match. It was the strangest sight - children just shouldn't be doing things like that. It's wrong. The bus rounded a corner and we never saw her again.

Kids in developing and war torn countries, roam the streets in packs. They still play. There's still laughter and games and fun. Just as traumatised as their parents, yet they wrestle and kick bottles. Kids are kids, wherever they are in the world.

Last week I was in my car waiting for the library to open and came across a link to a Unicef video on twitter, about the Syrian refugee children fleeing to Lebanon. I watched it on my handy communication device and got a sense of what it must be like for them. Even though my car was warm and I was holding a coffee.



It's beautifully filmed. They have gorgeous little voices.

Violence from the civil war in Syria has been escalating for two years. 40,000 people have died and 4 million Syrians now need aid. Sucks. If that happened in Australia, I hope people would care enough to help my boys. These kids. Over in Indian slums, in African refugee camps, saved from sex trafficking by Cate Bolt and living in a Foundation 18 orphanage.

All of these children, around the world? These are our childrens peers. We are all responsible for them.

::

For more info or to donate:

World Vision
Unicef
Foundation 18


Friday, 15 February 2013

Street Talk: Michael the Photographer.


I found Michael lining up some shots near Sydney Harbour Bridge yesterday. My sunglasses fell onto the dirt as I asked him if I could ask him some questions for my blog. (I usually give people my blog card but had none on me. Smooth!)

He looked at me dubiously.

"Ahhhh, how long will this take?"

"Five minutes, tops."

Michael has always been a photographer. Originally from Brisbane, he's been living in Sydney for eight years now. He's full-time with News Limited and loves the freedom.

"I usually get an email the night before, letting me know my jobs the next day. No desk work, no office. I've shot a huge range of people, from the PM to bands to celebrities to sportspeople. It's never dull."

The hardest job he's had was covering both the Cronulla and Macquarie riots. I ask him which one was worse.

"Macquarie. It was dark, we were trying to not get hit by molotov cocktails. People were going ape. It was ugly."

We then got onto the subject of the incredibly shrinking media landscape. Michael said something about advertising revenues of publications and the figures and stats of how things used to be a few years ago, not just for Aussie journos but photographers too. Such a cross-section of industries downsizing. It's worrying. What will our kids be doing, twenty years from now? What will "industry" be then?

I asked Michael how safe his job was.

"Well, pretty safe. I think. Hey, there's always weddings."

We both laughed so hard and he didn't mind a bit that we talked for over five minutes. He walked down off the steps to shake my hand, and we wished each other luck.



Street Talk is an unfolding art project. I am so grateful and blown away that people say yes to talking with me, trusting me with some snippets of who they are.

Previous Street Talks:

1. Noelene the Young
2. Megan the Mouse
3. Harpal the Australian
4. Darren the Artist
5. Jo the Interesting
6. John the Telstra Guy


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Hey, Baby.

Everything you need to know about parenting can be found in 1989's "Parenthood." Remember after Keanu Reeves is in that car crash and Martha Plimpton goes running over to him and thinks he's dead? And a young Joaquin Phoenix asks his mum (Dianne Wiest) why she helps them out so much?

"Well, because Julie wants Todd. Whatever you guys want, I want to get it for you. That's the best I can do."

My stepdaughter Phoebe-Rose will be sixteen soon. She came to live with us almost two years ago. I first met her when she was three. THREE. And now she's this being, this separate entity with her own thoughts and ideas and loves and everything.

                            Everything.

To behold such beauty and power has been quite frankly, terrifying. Phoebe and I have danced around each other, not even maintaining eye contact because the energy between us is so great. I've made so many mistakes, threw my hands up in the air, felt confounded and frustrated and so very confronted. She comes swaying into the room and the boys jump over her, smothering her with questions and chatter. Rocco is besotted .. just this morning he woke up and came out smiling.

"Mum, I had a dream that I kissed Phoebe. On the lips."

Should I be worried? That's the biggest question I ask myself in parenting, over and over again. Babies grow up and into teenagers and you start talking about smoking and drugs and fights and money. It's a completely new ballgame, and none of us have any idea what we are doing. Hopefully they'll make it to adulthood. Maybe forget keeping them wrapped up and protected, but teach them how to live in a confusing and often brutal world?

Eventually I threw all my "stepmother" cards and rules off the back deck. I wish I could tell and show all of my kids exactly what to do but they're going to have to learn shit for themselves. It's my job as a parent to love them, feed them, not mess them up too much, and be there when they fall because man they're gonna FALL. (Beside myself at the thought of them falling how far I fell.)

"Ok. How about .... I'm not a stepmother anymore. How about, I'm just a person in your life who cares for you very much and I'm just right here if you ever need me?"

She laughed. She never needs me. That's ok, but my GOD I want her to like me. Last week we were going through boxes in the garage and she found a photo of her family all together, looked at it for a while. Ten minutes later I found a photo of my family all together, from the 70's. I showed her, we agreed how weird it is to see your family looking like - a family.

Everybody in her life is just doing their best. I need to give her a copy of Women Who Run With The Wolves and as many Tori Amos CD's as I can. She needs to know not to give away her sex like I did. She needs to know how powerful she is, and she will learn it for herself when she needs to learn it.

I completely judged her boyfriend before I'd even met him. Kacper (pronounced 'Casper') is nineteen, and actually really nice. His speech is littered with obscure film and pop-culture references. He drives a shitty car, goes to uni, has a job at a Chinese takeaway. He missed his calling as a grungy hipster in the nineties. They're a really cool couple.

Kacper fronts a band called Hey Baby and in his new film clip he's smoking a cigarette, wearing a dress, high heels, and singing about addiction. Dave and I watched it together just kind of ... awestruck. (Dave thinks Lou Reed, I reckon Robert Smith.)





Phoebe and Kacper are my boys favourite babysitters. Our life together is messy and probably not entirely appropriate for other people but hey, that's parenthood.



Monday, 11 February 2013

The Public Shaming Of Chrissie.

Last week, I was watching the Project with my eleven-year old son Max. Media personality Chrissie Swan came on and was tearfully interviewed about being photographed by paparazzi while she was sitting in her car smoking a cigarette.

Chrissie is pregnant with her third child.



Max couldn't believe it.

"She SMOKED when she was PREGNANT!? That's so bad. That's so wrong."

I felt uncomfortable. Turned to him and told him that yes, she did. He just shook his head.

Thing is, I smoked when I was pregnant. With him. I'm not proud of it. Smokers are idiots, and pregnant smokers are a breed of their own.

As soon as I found out I was pregnant with Max, I stopped smoking. Being nauseous all the time helped, but as time went on and the cravings returned, I started up again. One a day, I allowed myself. And I never smoked the whole cigarette ... hidden away in my backyard, hunched shamefully over a huge belly like the dirty secret it was. I was still part of a rehab program, after battling addiction for almost a decade. I've known pregnant women who shot up heroin, took cocaine, ice, pills, you name it. It was common for them to come in to rehab at the very end of their pregnancies, to try and get clean before the birth so that DOCs wouldn't take their babies away. Smoking was the least of their problems.

Yesterday I went to the toilet in a shopping centre and came face-to-face with this:


Smoking during pregnancy is "a thing." Women are trying to stop. Chrissie Swan is not Robinson Crusoe. Whenever anybody I know is trying to quit smoking, I give them my biggest pep talk and sympathies. Because it's SO HARD. Out of everything I have given up, smoking is up there among the worst. When I finally gave birth to Max, I quit cold turkey (again) because I didn't want the maternity nurses to see me going outside for a smoke and think I was a bad mother. I took it back up eventually, then quit. The biggest reason I don't take up smoking again is the horror of trying to quit again.

I'm not defending Chrissie or myself. Am I? I'm not sure. I've taken this quite personally. I owned up to Max, said that I smoked when I was pregnant with him and I was so sorry. Told him that it was so hard for me to not do it and I had no excuse and I'm so lucky that he was born so fit and healthy. He was shocked.

"Geez, mum. Lucky I don't have asthma."

Last week I listened to Sami Lucas and Yumi Stymes on Mix 106.5 talking about Chrissie smoking while she is pregnant. I sat judging Sami as I heard her judging, but then she started to cry. Told her listeners that she's been trying to fall pregnant for years and she just can't comprehend how a pregnant woman can put her unborn baby at risk like that. I stopped judging her.

We are all so quick to judge each other.

The people behind Woman's Day magazine bought the photos of Chrissie smoking in her car for $55,000. The issue hit the newstands today. They've thoughtfully put the photo in a break-out box on the front cover with a yellow arrow pointing to it and the headline:

"CHRISSIE SWAN: THE PHOTOS THAT SAVED MY LIFE!"

I flicked through it in the newsagent this morning, then put it back on the shelf. I never buy Woman's Day because it's shit. The accompanying "article" uses quotes from Chrissie's Project interview. (Chrissie lost a bidding war for the photos.)

A pregnant woman smoking is confronting. Tobacco companies reaping profits from death is insidious. And fifty-five thousand dollars for photos of a pregnant woman smoking (under the guise of "news") - is disgraceful.

::

Why Are We So Angry At Chrissie Swan? by Clementine Ford



Friday, 8 February 2013

Street Talk: John The Telstra Guy.

I must look like a weirdo every week on the street when I'm looking for somebody to talk to. There's strict rules in place: it must happen organically, and it has to be a complete stranger. I'm learning so much from doing it, especially how wrong my pre-conceived ideas are. Nobody has said no to me yet, and every single time without fail I've walked away from the conversation a little lifted.

After narrowing it down to a girl with glasses who looked like a uni student, a mother with a baby, and a couple of German backpackers ... I saw John.


At first I thought he was a parking inspector. (I would *love* to chat with a parking inspector.) But he's not, he works for Telstra. 

John just moved back to his hometown of Orange six months ago after living in Brisbane for twenty years. 

"It was just time. Brisbane has so many people now - it's changed."

Johns wife is a nurse and they have two adult sons who stayed back in Brisbane. He was born in Parkes. He's not going to miss the Queensland weather because "it's too stinkin' humid anyway."

I asked him if he was going to miss his friends but he said no, not really. He thinks city people and country people are different. He lives on a farm, has a cat and a dog, and some fruit trees.

The black thing he's carrying is a hydrogen checker thingo. When he explained how it works, my brain blanked out like Homer Simpson. (Sorry John.) He likes his job, is pretty much his own boss.

He laughed when I asked him if he's on Facebook, shook his head. No way. 

He doesn't have any regrets in life. 

"Really? Not even one?"

"Not even one." 

::

Previous Street Talks:




Tuesday, 5 February 2013

School Bros.

Rocco started big school yesterday. Neither of us cried. Dave asked him last night at dinner how many people in his class.

"Um, about a hundred and fifty thousand."

There's such a revolting feeling when your child starts kindy. Who will help them open their crackers? How can they possibly go to a bathroom stall by themselves? The sports field is SO BIG, and they are SO LITTLE. And weren't they just covered in vernix? How can this happen?

So we have one boy in kindy and one boy in year six, at the same school for the only time in their lives. I keep telling Max in my best Rizzo voice that he's gonna "Ruuule the school."

By the time I was his age, I had already been to five schools. I tell him that because he is so strong and tall and popular, he has a duty to watch out for kids who need his help, who might be bullied. He tells me he does - I hope he does.

As soon as they got home yesterday they drank a full cup of juice each, put on their boxing gloves, and ran out to the trampoline to punch the crap out of each other.

 

They took a shower together and did armfarts. Ate dinner side-by-side, then the three of us played Donkey Kong on the wii until bedtime. (Gaming with my kids is quite the joyful parenting moment.)

This morning we woke up and did it all again - the lunches, the dropoff, the uniforms.

Today I cried. They walked in together and I realised that the first day of kindy never ends. No matter how old they are I'll always be amazed, watching them go off into the world.




Friday, 1 February 2013

Street Talk: Jo The Interesting.


There's a new library in town and it's MAGNIFICENT.






I visit libraries just to feel better. Have been there four times in the past week.

Jo was sitting comfortably on the couch, reading the newspaper. She's a tenancy advocate for a local community legal centre and has one son who is 27. He just got back from Europe and is staying with her for a while. He's a digital strategist and writing a musical.

"He's already used up the internet access at home ... it's so slow now. Three more days until we can go online again properly."

I laughed and told her her that will always happen as long as he lives with her. Jo raised her son by herself. It was hard, but she managed to do it with the help from her mother who minded him while Jo went to uni and worked. She said she couldn't have done it if she had more than one child.

Jo is kind and shy. Her TV is on the blink and she loves it because she's reading so many books. She borrowed three today.



We sat together awkwardly, but by the end of the conversation we became more relaxed and friendly and exchanged cards. If she needs building work she'll call Dave, and if I need tenancy advice I'll call her.

I thanked her so much for saying yes and talking to me, because I could tell she hesitated.

"Oh I'm not very interesting." 

I said everybody is interesting. Every one of us. Jo had a seashell sewn onto her handbag. She had a limp because she had a sore knee and she'll probably have eggs for dinner because she has four chickens.

We walked outside and I told her I really want to get chickens. We stood in the rain and her eyes shone when she described her chicken coop.

"The Radiata Pine in the backyard was struck by lightening and had to be felled, so I got a guy to come up from Hartley and mill it. I built the coop myself, and the chickens lay eggs every day. If I ever build another one, I'd draw a plan."

So cool. We laughed and I touched her arm when we said goodbye.

::

Previous Street Talks:

Noelene The Young
Megan The Mouse
Harpal The Australian
Darren The Artist


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