About sleep

Of course the kid would rise at 630am on a Saturday, despite having complained every single morning this week that she was too tired to get up for school.

I should have known I was tempting fate when I told a school mum yesterday that I really hope my daughter doesn’t get up at 7am on the weekend.

How dare you voice your hopes and dreams of a sleep-in! I’ll show you worse.

There come many points in every parent’s life when they have to choose between trudging through a day on little sleep or embracing a sleep-deprived day and making the most of it nonetheless.

This morning, I chose the latter. Because it’s the weekend and I’ll be damned if I let the kid ruin it. I’m not saying I’m not on speaking terms with my 5yo, but let’s just say I would like to say very little.

At least until I’ve got more coffee in me.

• • •

Not Quite Book Review: ‘Freedom’ by Jonathan Franzen

Having recently decided it was time to do lots of reading again – real books, not on my computer screen – I picked up Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom during a trip to the library. “You can’t really go wrong with Jonathan Franzen,” was the advice my sister proffered.

A voracious reader once upon a time, and by that I mean 10 years ago, I had allowed life, the computer and too many good television shows to get in the way. Freedom was to be my first splash into non-fiction in a while, and I was ready to savour it.

Luckily so, because “savouring it” is probably the only way to tackle a tome of this magnitude. Not that the coming of age story about Walter Berglund and Patty and their two kids and the rock star best friend and the crazy BFF et al. wasn’t interesting, but I quickly found myself caring less about what they were actually doing, and more captivated by the writing itself. Because – no surprises here – Franzen’s prose reads beautifully.

A couple of weeks after I finally finished the book, I’m hard pressed to recall its ending – weirdly, I can tell you almost everything else about the plot. Instead, what I do remember is being drawn to the descriptions and being delighted by Franzen’s choice of phrases. And I remember being inspired to read – and write – more.

That’s the thing about Franzen for me. While I appreciate and admire his epic multi-generational narratives, and love, love the way he reads, I struggle to remember the details of his stories. I read The Corrections a long time ago, the novel that gave birth to Franzen’s reputation, but unfortunately I can’t remember a single thing about it.

That’s not necessarily a negative. To be read and enjoyed, to have inspired others – these are great achievements for a writer as far as I’m concerned. They are check boxes that I, personally, aspire to tick. And nothing takes away from the fact that Freedom is a very magnificent effort indeed, one that I am glad to have experienced.

• • •

Will Jon Hamm finally take home that elusive Emmy? #Throwback to my TV column on some of the Emmys’ biggest losers

The Emmy Awards are on right now! Here’s my Esquire column from November last year on some of the biggest Emmy losers, including Jon Hamm who has been nominated every single year for Mad Men since the show started in 2007. Will this finally be the year he gets the trophy? Fingers crossed.

Don Draper

The Biggest Losers
More often than not, talent and hard work do not equal success.

Say the word “inequality” in relation to the television industry (or entertainment at large), and the first things that come to mind will probably be the under-representation of ethnic and LGBT minorities in mainstream television shows, or the lack of women in film and television over in Hollywood. But that’s not what I’m going to talk about here. Rather, I want to bring your attention to something really important: the fact that Jon Hamm has been nominated for an Emmy Award seven times, and has never won.

Hamm has been playing Don Draper in Mad Men since 2007, which means he has been nominated every single year since the show started. Granted he is in a category – Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series – that sees some seriously stiff competition; but surely his portrayal of Draper, that effortlessly suave yet inappropriate, often immoral son of a b***h who has inspired so many an entertainment editorial and lifestyle op-ed, deserved at least one win.

Hamm’s only consolation, should he choose to dwell on that, is that he is not alone. Here are three other actors who have also been nominated in the same Emmy category numerous times and come away empty-handed:

1. Martin Sheen, as President Josiah ‘Jed’ Bartlet in The West Wing

My love for The West Wing and its ensemble cast is well known, but I do not stand alone in saying that Sheen, as arguably the most popular television US president in the past 20 years or more, should have won at least once out of the six times he was nominated.

2. Hugh Laurie, as Dr Gregory House in House MD

Also nominated six times is Laurie, whose complex, nuanced and no doubt challenging embodiment of Dr House made us love him and hate him many times over throughout the show’s eight season run. Laurie might have hung up that walking stick without winning a single Emmy, but at least he has two Golden Globes to show for it.

3. Michael C. Hall, as Dexter Morgan in Dexter

The idea that television audiences would sympathise with a serial killer, and actually root for his success (read: get away with murdering people week after week) is preposterous. But that’s exactly what Dexter achieved, due in large part to Hall’s understated, subtle portrayal. His five Emmy nominations (and one Golden Globe gong) for his work on Dexter is recognition enough of that, though a win would have been nice.

As for Hamm, with Mad Men commencing the final leg of its run in January 2015, all eyes are on Draper, who, by the way, is widely expected to meet his demise come series’ end. That gives Hamm one last shot at Emmy glory, at least as Don Draper, or risk being forever known as “that guy who keeps losing at the Emmys”. And who knows? An onscreen death just might be the sacrifice needed for him to finally nab that elusive trophy.

Update: Jon Hamm wins his first Emmy! Also, here are the other winners.

• • •

A half-eaten bird’s egg: the story of my daughter’s first crush


My 5yo met me at school pick-up with a half-eaten bird’s egg the other day. It had been given to her by a Grade 2 (I think) boy.

Years from now I’m going to tease her about this boy, whom she played with almost every day for about 2 weeks earlier this year. He started coming up to her after school and just standing around her, and then she started to look for him after school so she could wave bye. She wouldn’t say anything, just wave. It was the cutest thing ever, except she was also my baby girl and so, after a solid week of hearing about him, I told her I wanted to know his name and class. At least.

I needn’t have bothered. Like any summertime fling (okay it was more like autumn), their friendship fizzled out and they stopped playing together. In fact, the kid started ignoring him, even when he would come over to say hi. I was a little mortified by how rude she was being! (Let this be a warning to all future potential suitors.)

I told her she was not allowed to be rude to anyone, and that was that… until this episode that will henceforth be known as “The Half-eaten Bird’s Egg”. As we were walking out of school that afternoon, he ran up to make sure she still had it. I asked him if it was his lunch, and he said yes but it’s okay because he had a few of them. (I hope he didn’t give them all away to different girls because I would not be cool with that.)

This time, the kid didn’t ignore him when he said bye.

• • •

2015 is my Year of Kindness

Continuing on from my last post about the importance of being uncomfortable

I used to write every January about my “theme” for the new year ahead. I didn’t this year because by the time I got around to actually typing out the words, it was June. (And now it’s September.) But I knew my theme – in fact, I’d known it since October or November last year. 2015 is supposed to be my Year of Kindness.

If we would all just make the effort to be kind to other people, it wouldn’t solve all the world’s problems, but it would, to invoke the cliche, “make the world a better place”. It might seem like a small, woefully inadequate thing to give a homeless man a meal or some clothes, especially in light of a global refugee crisis, but maybe it’s better to make a small difference even to one person than to do nothing at all? Maybe the point is not to try and fix everything, it’s that we would all do our best in the little windows of opportunity that we get as we go about our daily lives.

As I’ve discovered, it’s easy to be kind to our friends or people we know and like. It’s easy to be kind in passing to a stranger on the street – someone I can slip a couple of dollars and then forget about as I walk away. It’s really easy to make a donation to a worthy cause. It’s not always easy to reach out to someone in need, a family struggling to get through a tough time or a person who I know needs a listening ear, especially when I know that’s going to take up time and energy and – heaven forbid – cause me inconvenience.

Compassion is a good thing, but it’s only the start. Kindness, doing something, that’s the second step. I was moved when I read about the Germans who welcomed Syrian refugees into their country with open arms, food and clothing. I don’t think the German government, or any other government that has stepped up to the plate to do their part in this crisis, is under any delusions about the long road ahead. I can’t even imagine what it must be like for these refugees or what they’ve gone through. Resettlement of the fleeing and displaced millions is going to be neither convenient, comfortable nor easy, but like I said in my previous post, I think we’re past that point.

I also believe that kindness can be found in many forms, from small acts to grand gestures. We admire great acts of bravery and generosity and goodness because those are the ones we hear about from the media. But really, just because an opportunity comes wrapped in a small package doesn’t make us any less kind or our act any less significant – as long as we take it. That’s something I really wanted to work on this year, and I’m hoping to get better at it.

• • •

The importance of being uncomfortable: what I learned from the Syrian refugee crisis

I’m embarrassed to say it took the photo of Aylan Kurdi to finally wake me up to the reality and urgency of the Syrian refugee situation. You know, that photo of the three-year-old toddler who washed up on a beach. I almost thought the photo was doctored at first, because it was so shocking and confronting. And this is awful but true: would I have been just as affected if it had been an adult man instead of a cute toddler? I don’t know.

In his NYT column “Refugees Who Could Be Us”, Nick Kristof makes some excellent points about the current situation (so go check it out because I’m not repeating them here). To read the news these days is to subject yourself to the horrors of the world in which we live – partly because tragedy and bad news sell and so publications are extra motivated to stuff those down our throats – and when I came across this piece about Icelanders volunteering to house Syrian refugees, I swear I got a little bit emotional.

My dad has many faults, but one of the things I did get from him was generosity – I’ve always been happy to give to others. Would I, however, open up my home to strangers in need? Honestly, no. I could give you all the practical (and valid) reasons why I wouldn’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t, but the first reason that leaps to mind is simply this: I wouldn’t because it would be uncomfortable for me.

That’s when it hit me: what if we, the fortunate and privileged citizens of the world, are past the stage of being comfortable? Too much is going on, too little is being done, and we who are able and have plenty no longer get to hide in our cosy cocoons of willful ignorance. I’m not talking about just Syrian refugees or even other refugees, of which there are thousands if not millions more, I’m talking about lack and pain and suffering everywhere we look.

I’m not ready to house refugees, nor do I have a plan to change the world. Words are cheap and they mean even less when I’m typing them from the comfort of my home – I know that. But I can’t un-realise what I already do, and more importantly, I don’t want to. If knowing all this makes me uncomfortable, if coming face to face with my selfishness makes me uncomfortable, then so be it. The human race as a whole is long past the point of “being comfortable” anyway; just because most of us are less affected, blissfully unscathed even, doesn’t mean we get to ignore what’s going on.

The kid’s doing her school production this week, and whether by chance or circumstance, her class is singing ‘Man in the Mirror’. That’s one of my all-time favourite Michael Jackson songs, and we’ve been listening to the song on loop a fair bit. The lyrics touch on poverty, homelessness, grief, death and a “washed-out dream”, which, in light of what happened to Aylan Kurdi, seems to have been injected with new meaning.

And then, as if that weren’t enough, I found out that the whole school is also going to sing ‘We Are the World’, which, again, made the tiniest lump appear in my throat this morning when I played it for the kid and we started singing along.

(Part 2: 2015 is my Year of Kindness)

• • •

Rewatching ‘Sex and the City’, which led me to Gabriel Macht, which led me to this video

Been trying out Quickflix because I got a voucher for my birthday, and last night I made the life-changing mistake of revisiting Sex and the City Season 1. Life-changing because I’m now completely hooked, and how will I ever find the time to read and watch TV every single night? THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH HOURS.

On a related note, I recognised Gabriel Macht, better known to me as Harvey Specter from Suits, in episode 2, and all it took was a little search on YouTube to unearth this gem. You’re welcome.

• • •

Book Review: ‘The Man Who Couldn’t Stop’ by David Adam

The Man Who Couldn’t Stop by David Adam, a book about “OCD, and the true story of a life lost in thought”, is worth reading if you have an interest in the subject – which I do. I joke about “my OCD” a lot, but I also wonder if my quirks are indeed manifestations of the disorder.

My sister thinks so. I like things in my house to be a certain way, and I often can’t sit down to start a day’s work without first making sure that everything in my house (and my head) is organised and “in order”, as I like to call it. Since she used to lie awake wondering if one of her pencils were pointing a different direction from the others, I guess my sister knows what she’s talking about. These days she has other quirks, but, like me, nothing that really interferes with our daily lives. That’s the benchmark of whether or not we have OCD, isn’t it? Can you be “a little bit OCD”?

The answers to these questions and more are covered in this book, which starts off with a story about a girl who compulsively ate an entire wall in her house. Not all at once, obviously. But even though the book is a personal memoir and eases you in with a bunch of interesting stories, it’s not all anecdotes. Adam also explores in-depth around 10 possible causes of OCD, among them genetic, evolutionary, family, psychological and traumatic, as well as methods of coping and “cures”.

I won’t lie: there were parts of it that put me to sleep every night for almost a week. About halfway in I contemplated giving up, but – here’s the irony of it – my OCD demanded that I finish a book I had already started. (Apologies for what I now realise might be flippant use of the term, it’s the only way I know how to describe it.)

In hindsight that was my chance to nip this urge in the behind; all I had to do was put the book down and return it to the library the next day. But for better or worse, I finished the book. And I learned so much about OCD and mental health and lobotomies and a bunch of other things that I have stored away in a warehouse in my brain marked “general knowledge”.

Don’t read this if you’re already tired, it’s not stay-up-all-night material. What it is, is well-researched, simply written, great work. It wasn’t easy for Adam, who, right up till he wrote the book, hid his OCD from his parents. His reasons for writing this were personal, but also to raise awareness about what OCD really is, and remove the stigma attached to some of the more challenging (but harmless) obsessions that people have.

A few stand-out points that come to mind: his argument that mental health should be viewed not so much in terms of strictly defined categories (as they are now) but perhaps on a spectrum; the reason why it’s so hard to develop drugs to cure mental illness; and the fact that if you’re horrified by your “dangerous” obsessive thoughts, for example to harm children or drive your car into oncoming traffic, it actually means you won’t go through with them because a psychopath would not find thoughts of harming people repugnant at all.

As my sister and I have figured out, one of the ways to deal with OCD is to simply face the “fear” head-on, i.e. not give in to the compulsion. So really I should have stopped reading. But then again if I did, I wouldn’t have understood that you can be a “little bit” OCD and there’s actually an online test that you can take to find out where you stand.

• • •

Spring is coming! So we headed out to Wombat Bend park

Overjoyed at our first sunny, warm(ish) Saturday in what feels like yonks, the kid and I headed out to her beloved Wombat Bend park on the weekend. One of my favourite things about where we live is how there are parks pretty much around every other corner. We have four within easy walking distance, and another three that we drive to pretty regularly, but Wombat Bend is by far her favourite. That’s high praise given the stiff competition.


Until I thought about it, I hadn’t realised that it had literally been several months since we went to a park. Winter can do that to you – make you want to stay indoors and forget that going outside to play for hours was ever an option.


We came across this awesome new nature play space where you could build your own cubby house, and check out this beautiful specimen that I obviously didn’t build. I looked at all the twigs, branches and natural materials helpfully strewn around, and try as I might, couldn’t even figure out where to start. It was a little sad, really.


The other thing we really enjoy, besides Wombat Bend itself, is the Main Yarra Trail that runs kind of along the Yarra River, a little way from the play space. I love water, and that river is the second best thing to a beach. The trail is also great for walks/runs, bikes and spotting wild rabbits – probably one of the few “sporty” things my kid actually asks to do, if it can be considered thus.



I’m so happy that the kid enjoys nature because I’m pretty outdoorsy myself, and I harbour not-so-secret hopes that we will one day be able to hike trails and go on long bike rides together. Also, in case you’re wondering, we did see rabbits – two of them!


• • •

I need to do better

It hit me the other night. While I was reading one of those parenting/mummy blog articles or some such. I can’t find the article now, but it was essentially about how we should treasure each moment with our kids because we never know when it’ll be the last time we… (insert mundane task here). In this particular case, it was washing her daughter’s hair.

That struck a chord. It was probably 9pm. It’s amazing how open and calm and full-of-good-intentions I am when the kid is fast asleep and the house is completely QUIET AND PEACEFUL. If I were half as good a parent when my child is asleep as when she is awake, I’d be kicking motherhood’s ass.

This isn’t a novel concept of course. Neither is it anything I didn’t already know in my head. But in my heart? In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, during moments when I can’t wait to tuck the kid into bed because she’d been whinging since we walked in the door after school? Not so much.

I need to do better.

Again, not a new idea. I’ve been thinking this exact phrase for months now. And the article was a good reminder for someone who regularly expresses her wonder and amazement at how fast time goes. We’re already halfway through the third term of school pretty much, which means it won’t be long before we hit term four, and then school holidays, AND THEN MY DAUGHTER WILL BE IN GRADE 1.

I can’t slow down time, but I can make the effort to be more present. It’s kind of morbid, I know, but imagine if you died tonight. I did. And the only thing I kept thinking was: I want to be there with/for my kid as she grows up. Not: I should have worked more, or done more writing, or watched more TV, or even travelled more.

As a single mum, I cut myself a lot of slack. I don’t push myself to take on too much, I understand what’s important to me right now, but I also think there are times when I could choose not to let the kid watch another hour of cartoons on the iPad. The great thing about parenting a 5yo is that every day is a new day. The kid is quick to forgive when I mess up, but it won’t be like that forever. She’s eager to hang out and loves to chat – sometimes I even get to choose the topic – and I can only hope and pray that this will last.

Telling myself that I need to do better is not me being judgy or comparing myself to other mums. It’s not me saying I want to be the best mum in the world because I’ll be honest and say I’m really not competitive enough to give a shit about that. It’s about me wanting to give this motherhood thing my best shot (and never give up), because that’s what I tell my kid all the time, and what would I be if I didn’t follow my own advice, right?

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