Friday, September 30, 2005

I don't often use the word "awesome"... but...


I've just returned to the office from taking Will into the city for the Sydney Swan's Parade. What an amazing day. I really wasn't expecting that many people but there were thousands, tens of thousands.

I don't know why I felt so good as I stood there amidst a sea of red and white, in the middle of the road on one of the busiest interesections (George and Druitt Streets) in the city. It was simply a beautiful feeling, standing there in the warm Sydney spring air, blue sky above, sun on my face, my husband and my gorgeous boy by my side. We cheered as we had never cheered before, clapping as each ute (how Oz is that?!) full of Swan's players went past. It was just such a wonderful, if somewhat ridiculous, emotional outpouring. It made me feel so great to be an Australian (well, I always feel proud of that) and especially a Sydney-sider. I actually experienced the proverbial swelling of the heart (with pride).

Here are a couple of pics which were the essence of today...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Deuce Bigalow, European Gigolo...

Despite myself I enjoyed the first Deuce Bigalow installment. Perhaps it was because it was on the small screen and Rob Schneider should only ever be viewed on a small screen. Perhaps I was caught out at a weak moment. Either way I never once considered the necessity for another visit to Deuceland.

Nevertheless last night I found myself at our local Great Union, popcorn and frozen coke in hand, taking a little European vacation with good old Deuce. Just to shift some of the blame I have to say it was Jason's pick (I voted for Murderball, but Jay felt like something "lighter"). Well, you can't get anything intellectually lighter than Deuce... possibly a frontal lobotomy?!

Let's put it this way... there are only so many references to "man-whores" and "he-ginas" that a person intelligent enough to tie their own shoelaces can tolerate. While there was one vaguely funny scene involving an obnoxious French man, the film could not be redeemed after a scene featuring a woman who was sadly born with a penis for a nose (don't you hate when that happens!) and another woman with a tracheostomy (hole in the throat) having a slapstick accident... do I need to spell it out!

Don't follow in my tragic footsteps... just say "NO!"... or "NO friggin' way am I wasting my money on that brainless tripe!".
A quick catch up on things non-Swannie related...

Friday I attended the public hearing for the Federal Inquiry into Intercountry Adoption. I had written a speech, nervous about my ability to speak in public off the top of my head. I read and re-read the speech as I drank my coffee prior to the hearing. I had knots in my tummy and I was really building myself up into an anxious mess.

I was the first to arrive in what was really just an oversized meeting room - I was expecting something much more "grand". Technicians were setting up audio/visual equipment. Slowly people drifted in, including some that I knew from the adoption community. Then the pollies arrived - Bronwyn Bishop (elegant is the word that springs immediately to mind), Jennie George, some bloke from the Central Coast and some other woman.

Though I doubt anything will ever change much (but I do live in hope) I really enjoyed this hearing. One of the interesting things was that DoCs, who were slotted in the for the first submission, didn't turn up. However, the manager of adoptions was there (dare I suggest spying?) for the first hour or so but upped and left as soon as it was Ricky Brisson's turn. Then one of the deputy slimebags (Brandon) from DoCS turned up. Again he stayed for a short time and disappeared after lunch. Makes you wonder if their presence - considering they renigged on their presentation - was good value for tax payer money!

All the submissions (except one) were very worthwhile. There were a number from adoptive parents like myself who wanted to talk about the problems with the adoption process in NSW. They were all so eloquent and brave in their own way - I felt like applauding after each one. There were three adult adoptees who spoke about their own experience and about the adoptee support group they run. There were a couple of people representing parent support groups (like Ricky) who spoke about the work of such groups and the history of intercountry adoption in Australia.

As there must be, there was the one nutter. I don't want to be uncharitable but surely these people can find a better spokesperson. I am talking about Origins, the group representing mothers who gave up their babies for adoption during the 50s, 60, 70s, even 80s. They claim ALL these adoptions were illegal and unethical - though I know from speaking with Jason's birthmother that not all women felt that way and made a reasonably informed decision at the time. This woman was the usual ranting lunatic and really didn't add anything to the debate (would it be unkind to say she added a little comic relief?!).

Bronwyn Bishop is not someone I would have thought I would like. She is one of those people who can cut you to shreds with her comments and doesn't take shit from anyone. I wouldn't want to be on her wrong side. However, she is charming and interested when discussing an idea she supports. It quickly became obvious that she is very much in favour of cutting the bullshit out of the current Intercountry Adoption process and also very much against the current trend within Australia away from adoption and towards fostering. Like myself she thinks this is a recipe for trouble as generations of children are ping ponged from family home to foster home to foster home to family home, etc, etc until they are permanently damaged on every level. Anyone in any way supportive of this ideology was cut down in flames. However, she was warm and encouraging to those of us who spoke about the inadequacies of ICA in Australia. It was hard not get encouraged by her enthusiasm and I guess I did leave with a small bubble of hope rising within me.

The funny thing was in the end I just used my speech for notes and spoke directly to the committee. They asked great questions which allowed me to make all the points I wanted to make without reading them off my speech. It went so much better than I had anticipated. Nevertheless I'm not quite ready for a career in public speaking...

Monday, September 26, 2005

Cheer, cheer the red and the white...

Here is Tricia (right), Will (middle) and I
celebrating the Swans' win!

Here is Jason, Will and I
going crazy after the big win!

Here I am at the SCG waiting for
the mighty Swans to arrive!

Big Jay and Will at the SCG on Sunday, 25 September, 2005.

Here are most of the team hanging out in front of us
as they wait to go up on the stage to be interviewed.
Paul Roos, their amazing coach and fantastic ex-Swans
player, is closer to camera with his arms folded.
One of Will's absolute favourites, Adam Goodes, is sitting on the ground in front of Roosy in the white t-shirt (he even gave Will a wave). The guy on Goodes' right (also in the white t-shirt) is Amon Buchanan, one of our rising stars and the Man of the Match in my humble opinion (I may be one-eyed but who the hell is Chris Judd anyway?!).

It has been a mind blowing weekend. For those of you who didn't hear me screaming hysterically from No. 30 just a quick reminder that the SYDNEY SWANS WON the 2005 AFL PREMIERSHIP!!!!!! What a game it was. Even if you weren't a fan you couldn't help but be entertained by the ferocity, the energy, the unrelentenessness of the game. Neither side was going to say die and it really did come down to the last second of the game. Leo Barry's last mark of the game, coming up like a Phoenix out of a mega pack with the ball clutched tightly in his rock steady hands, will go down in history. Like many others I have forgiven him for the all the kicks against us he's given away over the years (he is a fearless though notorious defender and often goes just a little too far - either that or the umpires all hate Sydney, which is my favourite theory).

Anyway, after a fairly calm and normal start to our Saturday we finished our chores by lunchtime and decorated the house and our front fence in red and white - streamers and balloons - it was beautiful! Then a traditional Aussie BBQ lunch and we were all set for the big game. My boss Bob went to Melbourne for the game as his friends had a spare ticket so his wife Tricia came to watch it with us. We have been going to support the Swans together for many years so it was good to be with Tricia on the big day.

There was much yelling, screaming and stomping coming from our house between 2:30 and 5:00 pm. It was incredible. The tension built up and up... there was no relief until the very final moment of the game... it could have gone either way until the siren blew. But how sweet it was when it did finally blow and it was the Swans who were victorious.

I enjoyed every second of the post match celebrations, the speeches, the handover of the Cup, the singing of the team song. I need to put on record how disappointed I was with the West Coast Eagles who were seen dispondently shuffling off the field in the middle of the speeches. Talk about sour grapes. I mean, what about a little professionalism, boys?! Really bad form in my opinion.

Sunday we woke up on a high. As Jason said it really was like Christmas Day! After a reasonably pleasant breakfast with Mommie Dearest, B and JB at Bronte Beach, we high tailed up to the SCG to wait for the gates to open - we wanted to be front and centre for the Swans' home celebrations. It was a real carnival atmoshphere. As we waited at the gates strangers talked happily, sharing their joy, singing the club song and generally having a great time. We even had a chat with a very friendly bloke who claimed to be Barry Hall's uncle (and we have no good reason to doubt him).

Then we were allowed in and we made ourselves a cosy nesting spot right by the fence so we could be up close and personal when our heroes arrived. There was a band playing, the game was replayed on the giant screen (amazing how you can still be anxious and tense watching a replay when you know that your team won), kids had their faces painted in the red and white colours and we made a small dent in our credit card at the T-shirt stand (we both wore ours to work on Monday).

When the boys finally arrived the cheer was huge. They certainly looked worse for wear as they stumbled in, beers in hand, dark glasses covering their sensitive eyes. Tadgh Kennelly walked past holding up the Cup and Jason put his hand on it - it was like a religious moment. It was really fun listening to the boys each give a little speech (though most were hoarse and barely able to string two words together). It was so much fun being part of the "family".

At the end they signed autographs for the fans (though I'm sure they would have much rather been having a Bex and a good lay down). Being at the front we were suddenly crushed by all these mad people. While I was full of the joy of the day I did get pissed off at how rude people can be. There were kids pushing in in front of us constantly, whinging that they couldn't see, going backwards and forewards. People (even Swannie supporters) suck!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Tomorrow I am going to attend the Federal Inquiry into Intercountry Adoption hearing here in Sydney. I sent my written submission in months ago and now I've prepared a short speech to read out during the Community segment of the hearing. While I can write well and am comfortable doing so, I am terrified of speaking in public - so I am quite anxious about tomorrow. I know that the chances of this Inquiry achieving any practical benefits for the adoptive community are as good as Mark Latham nominating Kim Beazley for Australian of the Year but those of us who "believe" must keep plugging on, even against all the odds. Intercountry adoption in Australia sucks on every front and I live in eternal hope that things must improve. While there are children in the world who need a loving family and while there are good families in Australia who are yearning to welcome these children we must keep fighting to improve the processes and to support adoptive families.

Off my soap box.

Onto more pleasant things. Of course, the good news is that the Free Barry Hall campaign has worked and the big guy is free to play on Saturday afternoon. It was the big news around here on Tuesday night and all day Wednesday. It really was proverbial storm in a tea cup. If I was inclined towards conspiracy theories I would be chalking the whole fiasco down to one. A bit of pre-Grand Final hype perhaps?! Whatever we choose to call it, it's all over and the Swans are on their way to Melbourne to prepare for the big day. While I will be immensely proud of them either way I so want them to win it almost hurts. Never mind the team - I need some reward for all the years of sitting through the cold, rainy, windy days and nights, cheering them on, spending my hard earned on scarves, hats, jumpers, etc.

I have to say all this Swans carry on is a pleasant diversion at the moment and is keeping me (well almost) from spending every waking moment thinking about the other stuff, you know, the a-word, the thing which will remain nameless. Buggered if I know what I'll be doing by mid next week when all the excitement about the Swannies (win or lose) wears off.

Last night was the final "Rock School". I have to admit it wasn't quiet as painful as I was certain it would be. The concert in front of 5,000 Motorhead fans was blissfully short (i.e. one song) and not totally unbearable - that's the best I can say. Gene Simmons was his usual learing self and there was a rather weird moment where he had his arm around one of the teenage girls in a manner which made me feel a bit uncomfortable, but maybe I just can't help but see him as a sleaze bag who regards women/girls only as sexual play things. Despite myself I quite enjoyed the closing sequence with the much relieved teenagers doing a rather pleasant version of "God Gave Rock'n'Roll To You" with Gene accompanying them on guitar. If there is a God please don't let him/her allow there to be a "Rock School 2".

Just in case there isn't enough reality TV in my life we have also started watching the new Survivor Guatemala series. I have never watched Survivor before (hard to believe but true) so it's an interesting experience so far. We are only watching because of the Guatemala-element and it does make us yearn for the "big trip" we will make one day to take Will back to visit his birthland. I can't wait to wander through those amazing Mayan ruins and have a glimpse of their fabulous history. So far there isn't much to comment on but if you're keen for some fun comments on this Survivor series check out my friend Kath's Survivor blog

So to finish off for today... GO SWANNIES!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Free Barry Hall
Free, Free, Free, Barry Hall
Free Barry Hall

Twenty-one hours before the judiciary
His shorts too tight to fit his meat*
His body's buffed but his mind is still free
Are you so blind that you cannot see
I say Free Barry Hall
I'm begging you Free Barry Hall

Sing with me now....

Don't let this travesty happen... write to your local member... write to the PM... write to EVERYBODY!

[*Give me a break. It's hard to find something to rhythm with "feet".]

I know the Swans can win without him but he deserves to be there on Grand Final Day. It would be just horrible for him to miss out, I can't bear the thought! Please keep all your appendages crossed for Big Bazza.

Well, it all started last Friday night. The Swans played a magnificent game. I really can't fault it. After a pretty shitty third quarter, during which the umpire gave a free kick against Sydney each and every time they touched another player (hello, it's a bloody contact sport!!!), the fourth quarter was just mind blowing. They all ran on with a confidence which had to be seen to be believed and they kicked goal after goal, just about everyone had a go. It was fan-bloody-tastic!

So for those who have been living under a rock this past week - the mighty Sydney Swans are into the 2005 AFL Grand Final for the first time since 1996. If they win it will be the first time since 1933 (when they were still South Melbourne). The only blight on our joy is that Barry Hall, the Big Bazza, our galant captain, has been charged for giving that St Kilda cry baby, Matt Maguire, a little tap on the tummy. Boo bloody hoo. You should have seen that faker rolling around on the ground like he was dying. The Academy Award goes to... the big sissy boy from St Kilda.

OK, deep breath now. Relax. Think calm thoughts. Gentle waves on a golden beach.... Aaahhh.

Onto a very different topic now. After the excitement of Friday night, Jason and I went to the movies on Saturday afternoon. A movie that moves you, that touches you, that really says something about our lives as human beings is so rare these days it may as well be called "Dodo" or the "Tasmanian Tiger", more a rumour, a romantic idea, than a reality. But "Look Both Ways" is proof that such a movie exists... I have seen it with my own eyes and it was truly wonderful. "Look Both Ways" is a relatively new Australian film starring no-name Australian actors (familiar only to viewers of Australian soaps). It's a very simple film, touching on the lives of a few people in a small, fictional South Australian town on a particular scortching hot summer weekend. I didn't realise the emotional impact it was having on me until I found that I had silent tears streaming down my face during the last ten minutes of the film. Very gentle, very thought provoking, very beautiful, very optimistic. I simply loved it.

Saturday night we were invited to my sister's gorgeous new flat for a house warming party. It was very enjoyable, surprisingly. I admit to some trepidation at having to spend an evening with a flat full of gorgeous twentysomethings but they were all lovely, easy to talk to and fun. There was even an old fogey couple like us who were also film buffs - so instant friendship right there. Got home at 12:30 am - way past our bedtime. Aren't we hip and happenin'??!!

Picked Will up Sunday morning, enjoyed a fabulous old fashioned breakfast at Bondi with dad and grandma. Then drove back to the 'burbs for lunch with our dear friends M and G and their gorgeous little girls L and E (Will's great friends). Nothing lazing about on a Sunday afternoon with good friends, yummy food and warm Spring weather. Then a bit of Rugby League on the telly to round off the day (GO Tigers!).

Last night I had a dream... it was sort of like Martin Luther King's dream, but much more X-rated. I have to put it down to the overall Swans fever encompassing my universe right now but it involved one Ryan O'Keefe.
I know that at the age of 24 he is young enough to be my... um... younger brother... but a girl can dream can't she!
I may be old but I'm not dead. Anyway, I won't go into the nitty gritty details but let's just say I will be shouting out Ryan's name with a brand new enthusiasm on Saturday afternoon...

Thursday, September 15, 2005

My love of Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons and all things KISS are well documented. In fact, this is probably one of my longest running love affairs, starting at around the age of 10 or 11 and continuing to the present day. Sure there were others in those heady, pre-teen days of the late 70s (Leif Garrett, Shaun Cassidy, Bay City Rollers... yikes) but none have stood the test of time like those wild boys from Queens, NY.

I had sexual feelings for Paul Stanley before I even knew what sexual feelings were. I have such vivid memories of listening to the Dynasty album with my friend and smirking lewdly (though naively) at "Charisma" - not knowing what the word meant but being sure it was "rude" since Gene sung it in such a suggestive manner.

I will never forgive my mother for not allowing me to see them live in 1980 - it is a deep-seated saddness within me which I will one day need qualified psychiatric assistance to dislodge. Seeing them live when they did their "final" world tour (two or three tours ago) was one of the greatest moments of my life. Sure they were getting old, sure my beloved Ace and Peter were beyond pathetic... but they were still larger than life and still pounding out the songs I love so much.

For despite their questionable sex-appeal (which for me has dwindled considerably over the years) their songs still have tremendous power over me. Of course there are the anthems: "Rock'n'Roll All Nite", "Detroit Rock City" and "Shout It Out Loud". There are the rock your socks off songs: "Strutter", "God of Thunder", "King of the Nighttime World", "I Was Made For Loving You", "Deuce", etc. But the songs I really love are the "smaller" songs, the album tracks which didn't make the charts: "Hard Luck Woman" (a Peter Criss classic, done beautifully by Garth Brooks on the "Kiss My Ass" tribute album), "Beth" (another Peter Criss ballad, which I actually thought was a tender love song - in my innocent days - before I listened again and realised he was saying he wasn't coming home because he would be out rehearsing with the boys - he's no SNAG, that P. Criss), "2,000 Man" and "New York Groove" (both from Ace Frehely's solo album).

All this reminiscing brings me to "Rock School". For those who haven't had the pleasure it's the latest catch from the shallow end of the reality tv pool and it stars the unquestionable lord and master of the KISS universe, Gene Simmons. Having read his biography recently I have no misconceptions about Mr Simmons. He is a man who knows what he wants (money, fame and power) and he knows how to get it (by flogging to death every conceivable, and sometimes inconceivable, merchandising opportunity for the "KISS" brand). Whatever one might think about his ambitions in life one thing is true - there is no bullshit about his ideas, his motives or his focus. It's refreshing in a world of music stars who don't discuss the business side of their careers, swanning through life as if they were some sort of holier-than-thou deity.

I digress. The idea of "Rock School" is simple, though incredibly stupid: put rock god Gene Simmons into a stuck up, 200 years behind the times, poshy posh boarding school in Bugger-upon-Avon, England; mix in a handful of butter-wouldn't-melt-in-their-mouths, love classical music, don't like rock music, stodgy teenagers. Purpose? Create a teenage rock band to open for upcoming Motorhead concert.

To be honest I was excited at the idea when I first heard about it. Only because it was KISS related and I thought they may do something "interesting" with the idea. What a fool I was! From the first few moments of the first episode I knew it would be crappola of the highest order. First of all there is very little of anything interesting to show so the majority of screen time is filled up with images of Gene striding around the staid surroundings of the school, all long leather coat, big black boots and rock star sunglasses. Then there are the bits where he tells the poor, pouting children how much they suck (in a mistaken belief that they will rebel and show him how good they really are).

These children are freaks (though I'm sure their parents are awfully proud). They just aren't into rock or pop music so a demonic rock idol like the fire-breathing Mr Simmons would seem from another universe to them. When he asks them to have a "rock attitude" he might as well be speaking Swahili. These are placid, well behaved children who obviously haven't seen a single minute of MTV and therefore might as well have been living in a cave on a desert island. For someone who has grown up living and breathing popular culture it is very hard for me to believe such children exist outside of remote tribes in Papua New Guinea.

Gene chooses the singer from the group because this young man seems to be the "outsider" (and Gene seems to think all good lead singers are such because of their outsider status). I'm not so sure. This kid is a geek amongst mega-geeks. He speaks Elvish! Enough said. Watching him trying to emulate the sort of rock performance he has never actually seen is cringe-a-fying (?). Singing and performing rock music is as alien to him as the possibility of a platonic relationship with an attractive woman is to Gene Simmons.

Over the weeks things simply haven't improved. The kids are still terrible. Gene is still sauntering around the school with his faux demonic demeanor. Next week is the final episode where the "big performance" will be unveiled. Despite some careful editing I fear it will be a terrible fiasco. I cannot fathom how it could turn out OK and I cannot fathom why anyone (especially myself) would care.

Having invested the past 6 or 8 weeks of my life in this television stupidity I must stick it out to the end. As I watch the aging Gene Simmons strutting around I try to recall how he used to make me feel. How I would sit in the darkness of our attic, listening to a KISS album through my headphones and I would imagine that if I was ever in danger that Paul or Gene would come to my rescue and we would... well, I didn't really know at that point in time but I knew it was something naughty but wonderful. I try to reconcille those pre-pubescent, romantic dreams with the wrinkled, foul-mouthed, middle-aged man I see now and a part of me is very sad for what is lost and a part of me wants to play "Detroit Rock City" really loud and jump around like a maniac. Life is strange.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Nick Davis should be stuffed and mounted! This average, dare I say daggy, young man single handedly pulled the Sydney Swans from the jaws of defeat and what a sweet victory it was.

I had spent three and a half quarters of Friday night's crucial game against Geelong cursing the Swans, the SCG, the Geelong fans and myself (for thinking that following a football team was an enjoyable hobby). The Swans were down and out the entire game, there was little hope but this game was proof that one should never give up hope and young Nick certainly didn't!

The majority of the game varied from boring to painful and shades of inbetween. I admit, I was the epitome of a bad fan. I whined, I whinged, I said bad things about all the players, the coach and anyone and everyone associated with AFL and the Sydney Swans. It was not pretty and in hindsight I am thoroughly ashamed of myself. But that was then and this is now. "Now" being the pride I feel as I bask in the warmth of being a supporter of the winning team. I want to enjoy this feeling for I don't know how long it may last. Dare I hope that the Swans beat St Kilda on Friday night and thus caterpault themselves into the Grand Final? Oh, I can only dream. And then.... wonder of wonders... should I even allow myself to dream the impossible dream... to be victorious over the seemingly unstoppable Adelaide or be second time lucky over the powerful West Coast Eagles on last Sunday in September?

While it was certainly an exciting start to my weekend there was more fun to come. On Saturday afternoon we took Will to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I have only dim recollections of the original with Gene Wilder so I didn't have alot of concrete expections this time around. Well, Johnny Depp is a genuis! Who could have known all those years ago that the skinny upstart on 21 Jump Street was going to grow up and be someone special! I have enjoyed his work for many years - from "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" to "Ed Wood" to "Chocolat" - but he really was perfect as the demented chocolate king Willy Wonka. If you haven't seen it but plan to, watch out for the early scene where he starts to take the children on the tour of his chocolate factory. The look of disgust (at the children) on his face is priceless. It was certainly on the dark side for a children's film (though Will really enjoyed it and said it was "funny") I thought it could have been much darker and would have been better for it (but then it would have been more of an adult's film so I guess it wouldn't have really worked). Highly recommended.

Sunday included a less than average yum cha experience at the Marigold in the city. Normally this is one of our favourites but it was annoying on a number of levels this time around. First off, they have this maddening habit of standing each group next to a table of people who are just about to go. So you end up hovering uncomfortably next to a table full of people who are ready to go but haven't actually left. You block the aisle and the trolleys have to barge past you. Then the waiters come and clean up the table while you hang about some more. Not good! Then, when we actually sat down, we realised it was bloody freezing in the restaurant - I mean meat isle of the supermarket freezing. As it was a wonderfully warm day outside we were all fairly lightly dressed and were quickly shivering like little penguins adrift on an iceberg. Let's face it, you don't go to yum cha for the silver service. It's basic and that's fine. But this time the waiters seemed to be straight out of some Siberian gulag, glaring at us, throwing down drinks and utensils in a most unhospitable manner. Despite enjoying the usual array of dumplings, ribs, noodles and chinese tea I really couldn't wait to get the heck out of there. Back to East Ocean next time!

Friday, September 09, 2005

If you want to laugh until you wet your pants - the only way to laugh in my opinion - go to this site NOW:

It's not for the feint hearted, it's totally UN-pc (bring it on!!!) and it is bloody, bloody funny! I can only take it in small doses as my face starts to hurt and I cry (in a good way).

Maddox - I think I love you in a totally unwholesome, very wrong and broken way.
I don't know why I keep doing Market Research. I got hooked a few years ago and now I can't stop. I've tried following Nancy Regan's suggestion of just saying "No" but it hasn't worked. It can't be the money that keeps me coming back - I mean I earn a decent income, we're not exactly on "Struggle Street" as Alan Jones would put it. The $60 or $70 I get from each session is nice, it's a bit of luxury money which can be blown on a meal out or on a pair of shoes without a tiniest amount of guilt, but it certainly doesn't put us into the next tax bracket (especially since this "gift" always comes in cold, hard cash without any papertrail connecting me with the Tax Office).

It's certainly not the fact that these MR excursions usually mean travelling here, there and everywhere and getting home way past my bedtime. I have parked in dark alleys in Parramatta, walked half a dozen blocks through the city late at night and on one memorable occassion had a bunch of teenage boys throw water at me (long story... don't ask!) as I walked to a session at Ultimo.

I can only surmise that what keeps me coming back is the thing that I hate the most about Market Research - the freaks! It's a love/hate relationship and one that's very hard to break off.

Take last night for example. The freakiness started early, at the phone interview stage in fact. In the good old, innocent days of Market Research they would just call me up, confirm age, employment and marital status, ask a basic question or two about whether I ate pasta or used the phone and then off I'd go. Recently just getting through the phone interview can be a harrowing and often unrewarding experience. Having limited wartime experience myself I would nevertheless compare it to walking through a minefield. The questions go on for half an hour and one wrong answer and you've blown it.

E.g. Interviewer: "Do you eat XYZ cereal?"
Me: "Yes."
Inteviewer: "How often do you eat it?"
Me: (starting to panic) "A few times a week..."
Interviewer: "Can you be more specific?"
Me: (what the *&#$ is the right answer!!!) "Twice a week..."
Interviewer: "Sorry, we only need people who eat it three times a week. We'll call if another opportunity arises."

Oh, how I mentally kick myself. IF ONLY I had said THREE... I should have known that two was not enough and four was probably too many. Then I start hating myself for even staying on the phone with these modern day inquisitors for more than five minutes. "Why am I such a sucker?" I ask myself. Next time I'll just tell to go &*$# themselves, that's what I'll do!!!!

To get into last night's session I had to survive two gruelling interviews. The first was quite bizarre and involved the very helpful girl interviewer feeding me a lot of the right answers (they must have been getting desperate). Then two days later they rang to confirm my "answers" and to put the icing on the cake asked me what three famous people I would have over for dinner and why. This might seem like a fun dinner party conversation topic but they had rung while I was having lunch with friends and I was tucked into the corner of their living room, being curiously observed, as I frantically tried to think of who I'd invite to my fictional dinner party and why. For the first few terrifying seconds I couldn't even think of anyone famous. My idiotic thought process ran along the lines of: I would have John Cusack... but no, I can't, he smokes, I couldn't have him over for dinner because I hate disgusting smokers. Oh shit, who else? Um, um, um... Finally I blurt out: "Gus Van Sant." What the...? Sure I think he's a great director (except for that diabolical "Psycho" remake) but I had never considered him someone to covet as a dinner party guest. Then I was on a roll... "Kevin Smith" I almost yell. Oh yeah, he'd be cool. Then I stumble... I can't have another director, we'd be director top heavy and that wouldn't make for a fun dinner party. Oh MY GOD... who else? My brain races around like a rat on speed. Out of nowhere "Billy Connolly" drops in. The relief is unimaginably wonderful. I can hear by the young man's voice on the other end of line that he is less than impressed with my choices but I "pass" and he tells me he'll email the details to me on Monday. To get this far I have spent a good half hour on the phone and have added at least 10 gray hairs from the stress of "getting it right".

It gets to last night and I soooo not want to go. I'm home, I'm cosy... the last thing I want to do is drive to North Sydney and talk shit about pay TV (the theme for last night's MR session). But the draw of the freaks pulls me in... I don't want to go but the curiosity is too hard to fight. So there I am.. the invite said to arrive at 7:55 pm for an 8:00 pm start. We don't start until 8:20 pm - I am getting tired and annoyed and we haven't even started yet.

As we go around the table with the obligatory brief introductions I start to get drawn into the world of the losers around the table (hey, I'm not a loser... I'm just conducting a valid social experiment). There's always one stand out but luckily we had two last night. There was Yummy Mummy (hereto thereafter to be referred to as YM) and Stupid Anti-American Cow (SAAC). YM introduced herself by talking about how much breastfeeding, giggle, giggle, she was doing right now and SAAC told us all about her wholistic wellness centre which she had recently opened with her husband - did anyone want a business card? Now I've got as much time for wholistic wellness centres as I have for Seventh Day Adventists knocking on my door at 8:00 am on a Sunday morning so I'm probably not the best judge but this bird was no advertisement for any sort of "wellness", wholistic or otherwise. She was one very, very fat lady (not being rude, just the facts) and she had that lovely make up technique professionally known as caking it on with a trowel. As I was lucky enough to sit next to her I got to examine the concrete like texture of her face and it was not a pretty sight.

YM was just a dingbat, no excuses. I love the people who are full of useless, meandering stories which have nothing to do with the task at hand. We are all tired, bored and talking shit about a subject we really don't care about just to get our 70 bucks and here is YM telling us all about her holiday to Africa. Here's some news for you YM - we don't care! Shut up! Then to really prove her credentials as a MENSA candidate she starts complaining about how the Discovery channel is now "too far away" since they've gone digital. I can only assume she meant that being a channel with a high number it was "far away" when one was flicking through the channels. But who knows what goes on in the void known as YM's brain...

SAAC was a real joy. One of my pet peevs at the moment is that so many Australians are on the "we hate America/Americans" bandwagon. I don't even want to get started on that one... But SAAC just went on and on. Since we were previewing and commenting on new shows they were trialling for some of the pay TV channels some of them happened to be American shows. One in particular was a documentary series featuring a charismatic American guy whose dream was to create the first US based performance motorbike to challenge the Japanese and European bikes at the world's MotoGP races. Despite myself I really found I enjoyed the segment we got to watch. This guy was passionate, articulate and not too hard on the eye. The documentary style was engaging and interesting, great music, etc. So what does SAAC have to say? "I hated all the American flag waving, it just makes me sick!" Yeah, it's so offensive when peolple are patriotic and proud of their country... how dare they! Finally I could take no more! "We don't all hate Americans, so can we just get on with it!" I snapped much to (sad) SAAC's surprise.

Because of all the stupid, irrelevant and just plain boring side-trips into Freakland we took the session didn't end until 10:40 pm - 40 minutes later than anticipated. As I walked to my car through the dark, lonely streets of North Sydney I contemplated better, easier, more fun ways of earning $70 for four hours of my time and came up with prostitution. Surely sex with a total stranger would not only yield more than $70 for four hours (what are the going rates these days?) but would also be more enjoyable and thought provoking than listening to the moronic opinions of eight drongos who have nothing better to do on a Thursday night (remember ... social experiment...). Maybe I should just live with the guilt of spending $60 of "real" money on a Thai take away and just get on with my life...

Thursday, September 08, 2005

For those of you who get the ACC newsletter here is a sneak preview of the upcoming "Kathy's Korner"; for those of you who don't ... I am the editor of the aforementioned newsletter and write a regular column as per above.

WARNING: The subject of this column is our adoption "wait" so if you are heartily sick of the entire topic (as I am) please skip this blog installment and come visit again soon.

Kathy's Korner

After surviving our first adoption I thought the second time around would be a walk in the park. I mean we no longer feared our social worker, were reasonably confident that we would be approved (after all we had managed to love, nurture and generally care for our son for over two years by the time we commenced our second adoption) and thought we were well prepared for the vagaries of the adoption process.

As always, when you are too smug, life has a way of turning around and biting you on the bottom. Our first “bite” came when it became clear that we would not be able to adopt our second child from Guatemala (where our son was born). Despite numerous assurances from the powers that be (or “those whose names should not be mentioned” for the Harry Potter fans) when it came down to the crunch we were railroaded into choosing another program.

To be honest, part of me was somewhat relieved. It was such a tough and anxiety-ridden slog battling through the unknowns of the Guatemalan adoption process that it felt good to be going with a well-established, running-like-a-well-oiled-machine program. This is when “bite” number two came up. Little did we know that as we were choosing to go with the Colombian program, the Colombian government were choosing to introduce reforms which were to result in uncertainty for adoptive families and much greater waiting times.

We went from the frypan and into the fire.

Which brings me to another lesson from my favourite book – “Adoption for Dummies” – waiting does not get easier the second (or subsequent) time around.

At first the idea of “waiting” didn’t seem frightening at all. After all, we were expecting a reasonably short wait and having got through an eleven month wait AFTER allocation the first time, I really didn’t think there would be much to phase us this time.

“Bite” number three! It turns out that I wasn’t immune to the anxieties, worries and nail-biting the second time around. After what I considered “the expected” waiting time the doubts and niggles started setting in. The little voices started whispering:

“What if our papers never arrived?”
“What if the program closes altogether?”
“What if it takes 2, 3, 5… years for the allocation… how long can we wait?”
“Should we cut our losses and move to another program?”
“What if…”

It was endless, annoying and insomnia-inspiring… just going around and around in my mind, like a broken record.

This mental state leads to what I like to call chronic tea leaf reading. This is a state where I would try to make some semblance of sense out of the wait by trying to pinpoint how much longer the wait would be. Since this is impossible and akin to finding the proverbial needle in a haystack it is really an exercise in futility but one that is hard to refrain from when you are a half-crazed, expectant adoptive parent.

For me tea leaf reading involves scouring every source I can find in order to get hints as to how long other families, wherever in the world they may be, have waited for their allocations. I would read all the Colombian email lists, question my friends who had completed their Colombian adoptions and attempt to coax clues from our faithful adoption coordinator. This is a process which generally meant I would put two and two together and end up with five (numerous panic attacks ensued). The information which I would glean from all these sources meant nothing – because each adoption story is different and individual, no two are alike. When it’s your turn it’s your turn and there’s nothing that can be done to predict or control this process.

For a control freak like me this is a terrible state of affairs. It goes against every fibre of my being to leave my life to the universe, to sit back and allow fate to do its work. Quite literally every atom in my body fights to find some means of controlling what is essentially an uncontrollable situation.

You might think that I would learn something, become somewhat philosophical but the truth is being aware of my “disease” does not allow me to “control” it. If anything, being “aware” just adds to my frustration.

My thought process also leads me to sadness. For while I grapple pointlessly to control this situation I think about the other people involved and I realise how little control they have. No matter how bad I feel I know that there is a birthmother out there who must feel a million times worse; a woman whose life situation has forced her to make one of the most difficult choices a person ever has to make. While I sit in my comfortable home, drive my nearly new car and work at a well-paid, white collar job, knowing that my family is well fed and that my son is getting the best education possible, I can only dare to imagine the life situation of a woman in far away Colombia who believes that relinquishing her child for adoption is the best gift she can ever give that baby.

These thoughts break my heart. They make me feel spoilt and selfish and unbelievably self-absorbed. They make me think that my desire to “control” the situation comes from a lifetime of finding ways to control whatever situation I find myself in and that there are many, many people in the world who struggle to find any sort of control in their day to day life.

I want to appreciate my luck, my privileged position, the incredible twist of fate which has brought me from a young life of near poverty in the former USSR to a cushioned, middle-class existence in the paradise we call our home, Australia. I desperately need to keep perspective and to understand that my “needs” are so very different to the real, life-threatening needs of the majority of the world’s population.

But all these philosophical, dare I say “noble” thoughts do little to help in the long run. I want to get “the call”. I want to know that our baby is a boy or a girl, how old they are and their name. I want to look at their photo and imagine holding them in my arms. I want the materialistic pleasure of shopping for my new child and preparing our home for their arrival. I want to plan our trip and talk happily with my husband about the details as we lay in bed at night. I want to ring our friends and family and tell them the exciting news and email our baby’s photo far and wide. I want to get on the plane and daydream about our first meeting, about our baby’s personality (will they like us? will we “gel” as quickly as we did with Will? or will this child take us down a different road?) and about our adventures in Colombia. I want to bring our baby home and watch them sleep in their cosy cot for the very first time.

These are the realities of my life. These are the things I yearn for. I think about and “feel” the other side of this coin but I can not change that. I want our life back. I want to stop jumping each time the phone rings. I want to regain my equilibrium and the joyous optimism with which I used to tackle each day and each project.

But I am, quite necessarily, the most insignificant of the adoption triad members, and I know that my “wants” count for absolutely nothing in the scheme of things. I will continue to wait and hope, for hope is what keeps us all taking the next step… and the next.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Well, that was exhausting... buying tickets for the Sydney Swans vs Geelong final series game for Friday night. You would think it would be a fairly simple exercise... get on-line, hit a few keys, put in your cc details and bob's your uncle. Well, nothing is that simple in the deep kick girl universe. My dear hubby J is about as obsessed with AFL and Rugby League as I am with our adoption (compare and contrast the level of life priority...). Ever since last Friday's devestating events (i.e. the Swans loosing to the Eagles, see more later) the big J has been devising and scheming ways for us to get tickets to this Friday night's game at the Sydney Cricket Ground. He had even managed to find a friend at work who is "best friends with the Chairman of the Geelong Football Club" and could get us tickets if all else failed.

My plan was simpler... get onto the Ticketek website and buy the tickets. It seemed like a simple plan. This is where it all went wrong. The website said this morning tickets would be on sale from 12:00 noon. Jason rang at 10:30 am to say he had a friend who worked at Ticketek (never heard of this friend) who said they would really be on sale from 11:00 am. So I start looking and refreshing from 11:00 am. Guess what? Nothing doing. Finally after a tedious hour of pointless refreshing the screen changes at noon, but, guess what... The dimwits at Ticketek forgot to include the "BUY NOW" button. I wouldn't presume to tell the techno nerds how to do their "job" but wouldn't you think a "BUY NOW" button would be a fairly obvious inclusion on a page where people like to... well... buy tickets!

So picture the scene... I'm on my PC, refreshing the Ticketek page (assuming that someone at TT will get their finger out of their bum and realise something isn't quite right), I'm hitting re-dial over and over on my phone... my sister is on the PC and phone next to me doing the exact same thing. Amongst this maddness we are trying to eat our bbq chicken and chips for lunch. The noise is horrendous and the action is chaotic. With my third arm I ring J and tell him to high-tail it to the nearest TT outlet in the city so he can purchase the tickets face to face. Then, miracle of miracles, at 12:25 pm, the TT geniuses come back from their coffee break and figure out the "BUY NOW" button problem. It appears, as if by magic, on my screen and within a few seconds tickets are found and purchased, the swearing, redialling and frantic keyboard punching stops. Calm returns to the office.

The need for this chaos began last Friday night, a night we were looking forward to with great excitement and a certain feeling of confidence. The Swans were going to kick some serious Eagle bottom over in WA, the state that time forgot. Well, it wasn't to be. Though it was a brilliant game, it was not a fine example of the running game I love but a great example of the physical, defensive, lay-your-body-on-the-line game which really gets the adrenalin going, the Swans lost by 4 points. It was terrible... it took years off my life. That fourth quarter was nearly unbearable. It made me question the wisdom of watching this game for relaxation (after all, isn't relaxation supposed to make you feel "good" and not like you've been run over by a herd of rhinos?). Even my darling Will stayed up until the end of the third quarter, at one point throwing himself down on the bed with a dismayed whisper of "oh, Swannies!".

Sunday morning we awoke with that feeling of "I really hope that was just a bad dream" but soon realised it wasn't. The horrific reality began to settle in. Luckily we had a lunch date with our friends T and R and their three wonderful kids. On the way we stopped at our friend's M's new clothing shop and burned a considerable hole in the battle weary credit card. It was a fun day with our friends, topped off with J being asked to be the "godfather" to T and R's youngest boy, J. As they explained they can have one non-religious godparent as long as the other one is religious, which is a lucky loophole for heathens like ourselves. It was lovely of them to ask and J is feeling very honoured.

Sunday was Father's Day and I was up early preparing for lunch. I even gave our dear moppet dog Mia a bath (which always makes me feel somewhat righteous because I don't do it anywhere near as often as I should). Lunch was the usual somewhat enjoyable, somewhat excruciating family meal. After everyone went home I did some more "righteous" work and filed a whole pile of paperwork and got out tax stuff to get ready for the accountant. My halo was absolutely sparkly.

Then my friend C and I went for a girly afternoon coffee and movie. We used to do it fairly regularly but lately haven't had the time, so it was nice. Unfortunately our choice of movie was piss weak, even on the girly movie side of things. We saw "PS" and I have to say it was the emotional equivalent of watching paint dry. It wasn't "bad", it wasn't funny, it was just nothing. The basic premise is lonley 39 year old university administrator Louise comes across a young student F. Scott (that drove me round the bend... F. Scott?... what the *&#$... how can you say that with a straight face? you try it...). He happens to be the spitting image of her teenage, ex-boyfriend who died in a car accident at 17. The ex-bf was an artist, the young kid is an artist, they have the same name (except for the ridiculous "F."). Bonking ensues, allegedly meaningful conversations abound. Then there's the bassethound eyed, sex-addict ex-husband, the slutty, "bad girl" best friend (with friends like these...), the ex-addict, now reformed brother. A textbook motley crew of "interesting" characters who really weren't that interesting. That was an hour and a half of my life that I'll never get back.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Not a lot to report. Feeling good, feeling positive right now. I've been watching "Adoption" on the Hallmark channel. I love that series (though most of the episodes we are getting are repeats of repeats, I don't mind). For those who haven't seen it it's a documentary series about adoption in the US - it focuses on all sides of the triad: adoptive parents, relinquishing mothers, adopted children. There are adoption stories (local and intercountry), there are reunion stories, there are adoption decision stories about relinquishing mothers in the US. What I like is they follow up too, doing a visit with a family a year or so after the adoption (or the "non" adoption as was the case last night where they visited a young woman who was planning to relinquish her daughter but decided not to). It's such a good show because it embraces all aspects of adoption in a warm, sympathetic but non-judgemental way.

When I watch it I feel happy and optimistic and oddly proud of being a member of this weird "adoption universe". Watching other people's stories, which are often very harrowing and turbulent and much, much more confronting and challenging than our own, I feel not only more perspective on our own situation but also a sort of elation that there are wonderful people in the world who will go above and beyond to adopt children who would otherwise have a very bleak future. There are families who adopt older, troubled children and teens, families who have adopted 10 children, families who adopt children with serious medical problems - sometimes knowing that the child will not have a long life but choosing to give them a loving family even if only for a few years. Often I cry tears of joy and sadness when I watch but it's the best kind of "reality tv".

Wednesday night we went to see "A View from the Bridge" at the Ensemble Theatre. It was a dress rehearsal and was put on as a charity event for the STaR Program. It's an Arthur Miller play so of course it was beautifully written and very powerful. The cast was also great. My only gripe would be the accents. Every play I've ever seen where Aussie actors have to play Americans the accents suck; they just can't seem to keep them consistent throughout the play. The accents fade in and out and each actor seems to be from a different part of the US - it's very confusing and distracting.

Tonight the mighty Swans (Swans really is a piss weak name for a tough AFL team, isn't it - why not call them the Sydney Gold Fish or the Sydney Kittens? wouldn't that strike terror into their oponents' hearts? "come here and we'll peck your eye out, argh!") take on the West Coast Eagles (Eagles - that's more like it, if you have to have a bird at least have a vicious one). West Coast are Jason's old team (being from Perth) so I'm sure he has some mixed feelings when the Swans come up against them (though he swears to being a die hard Sydney fan now). I'm looking forward to the game but I also know how tense I'm going to get and I don't know if I need any more tension right now (having at least temporarily achieved a state of peacefulness). But I'll give it a go - if it gets really bad I'll just do some housework or read a book while I watch the game (my equivalent of watching a horror movie from behind my fingers). Honestly I want the Swans to WIN so bad it hurts - they haven't won a Grand Final since 1933 so they're bloody well due for one, aren't they??!!

Oh, I should tape Will trying to sing the Swans' club song. It is so CUTE! He thinks he's singing the words but apart from a few here and there he is just singing nonsense to the right tune. Sing with me now "Cheer, cheer the red and the white, honour the name by day and by night...".