Have you ever had rock candy? Hey, I’m talking about lollies not some euphemism for crack cocaine. This is a family-friendly blog. You know, that hard sweetie they roll into long tubes of sugary, colourful fun and then slice up like some sweet tooth’s version of kabana.
I remember standing at the window of more than one confectionary establishment watching the candy man or candy woman rolling out the soft and pliable candy dough and wondering what the end product would look like – would it be a rainbow of colours, an interior designer’s dream of colour scheming or, if they were really clever, would there be a word or picture through that sugar rope?
I wonder what you would look like as a piece of rock candy? What runs through the middle of you? (That’s not a literal question. I don’t need to see what a dissection of a human body would look like, thank you very much.)
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase that someone may have a “streak of madness”. What’s your streak? Maybe you have more than one. Maybe you’d be a rainbow of streakiness if you turned into rock candy.
I’ve spoken before about my inherent streak of stubbornness. It’s what got me through training for and completing my first marathon. Despite the voices telling me I’d never make it, that stubborn streak just wouldn’t let me give up. That streak took over again recently when I put myself through a process I’d sworn I’d never do again because my first experience had crushed my self-confidence. But when the opportunity arose, that stubborn part of me just wouldn’t let it beat me and I felt compelled to give it another shot. That stubborn streak is so hard, I reckon it would rival an Everlasting Gobstopper.
However, if you sliced me up, it wouldn’t just be the word “stubborn” through the middle. I can be pretty streaky.
There’s the Freak Streak for starters. The one that makes middle-aged me go out in public in fluoro orange sneakers and a hoodie saying “I am a Whovian Mum. Just like a normal mum except much cooler.” The one that dresses up in a nerd costume for a trivia night even though it’s not a dress up event.
Then there’s definitely a stereotypical streak of madness. What else would make me take on a marathon at age 50? Or decide I could put together my own she-shed with no building skills whatsoever?
There’s a wobbly and uneven streak we’ll call a combination of over-thinking and lack of self-confidence. Sometimes it’s a thick streak and sometimes you can hardly see it.
A crafty/arty streak definitely flows through me. It’s not a particularly refined one and is probably a bit lumpy with undissolved sugar but it goes through my core.
I’m not sure the MOSY Rock Candy would be a bestseller and it certainly wouldn’t appear in any of your exclusive confectionery establishments. It’s more likely to be in the clearance bin in amongst the other imperfect packages. But it’s definitely a limited edition.
So, what would your rock candy look like?
Postscript: The day after I wrote the first draft of this post, the most famous rock candy manufacturer in Australia, Castlemaine Rock, announced they were closing their doors. Tapping into the zeitgeist…
I ran another marathon.
I know, I know.
Last year’s marathon was supposed to be the once-only, tick-it-off-the-bucket-list means of avoiding a significant birthday party.
And right up until I ran it, I was definitely only doing one. But then I crossed the finish line in a not-embarrassing time and then I got handed a big shiny medal. Ooh. Hard to resist a repeat of that experience.
There’s more to it, though. Unbeknownst to me, I’d signed up to run the 40th Edition of the Melbourne Marathon. You realise what that means? The medal I was handed at that finish line was a medal only those who completed that particular marathon will ever possess because it has “40 Years” on it.
All together now: Ooooh.
So when Facebook, in its infinite wisdom, decided to float into my news stream the news that the Gold Coast Marathon was celebrating 40 Years in 2018, what was a now-marathon-runner supposed to do?
I signed up.
My family sighed.
I sold it to them on the basis that we’d get a family holiday out of it at a warm Northern place in the cold Southern winter.
And I spent the following training months vowing I’d never do another one. I mean, who really has time for all that training?
That training was less than optimal. I pretty much dropped the ball between February and April. I kept finding excuses not to go to the gym to do my strength training or to cut short a difficult interval training run or to swap a run for a gym session because it was cold and dark outside and I didn’t wanna. I “didn’t wanna” quite a bit too much.
Because of this or maybe not because of this, maybe because I’m older or maybe just because life can be like that, I was also battling a bit of knee and hip annoyance in the weeks leading up the marathon. Well, that’s not good.
So, I shrugged and figured “all I have to do is cross the finish line”. After all, it’s the same medal whether you come 100th or 1000th. Even if I had to walk the last 10kms I’d make it. Damn, I’d crawl if I had to.
The upshot of this approach is that I rather enjoyed the marathon. I didn’t push hard, I took the time to have a proper drink at every station (although, over hydrating at the start meant a 3 minute layover at the 5km mark when I decided a use of facilities might be a good idea before my bladder burst) and I just tried to enjoy the experience and the scenery.
Okay, I didn’t enjoy all of it. I mean, it’s a marathon. Nobody enjoys all of it. There was a 6km section from about the 31km mark when we’d just passed the entrance into the park where the finish line is and we had to keep going before we could loop back for the final leg that seemed interminable. I’ve never known 6km to be so loooooong.
It was also a bit warm for my liking. I’ve mentioned before that I prefer to run in the cold. It wasn’t Commonwealth-Games-collapse-on-the-side-of-the-road level heat but it was too warm for this woman from the Victorian wintry lands.
In the end, I ran a similar time to last year, just a few minutes over my previous time. To have enjoyed the race and finished well (and no trouble with the cramping I had last time) was worth a few extra minutes.
The organisers of the Gold Coast Marathon claim 60% of participants achieve a personal best time in this event. That makes the sneaky voices whisper “if only”s in your ear when you don’t achieve one. But here’s the thing about that statistic. I’ve just filled out a survey about the event and one of the questions was “Did you make a personal best time?” for which you can answer “Yes” or “No”. Here’s what I also know: according to the announcer at the finish line, 30% of participants were running their first marathon. If it’s your first marathon, it’s a given that you’re going to answer “Yes” to that question. Right? Plus, if you ran a shocker and didn’t beat a previous time, perhaps you’d be disinclined to fill out a survey and answer such a question. So it puts that 60% figure in a dodgy light, I reckon.
In the end, all that mattered was crossing that finish line and collecting another big shiny medal. It’s always about the bling for me.
All that glitters is on the Gold Coast.
Postscript: A friend texted today to ask how the marathon went. I told her it went well and I enjoyed it. Then I said:
“Unfortunately, that probably means I’ll do another one. LOL”
She runs alone
with no partner, friend, coach or team
to while away the hours
as the kilometres plod by
Time in her head
her own company she keeps
She sings to herself
to keep the rhythm in her feet
and silently screams at the voices
that tell her to stop
that she can’t do it
that she shouldn’t be there
She revisits past troubles
and reviews ones yet to come
She rewrites past conversations
and rehearses ones that have to come
It has always been thus
and she has met the challenges
she has set for herself
and overcome them
And she has not minded
the time alone
She is alone
but not lonely
Today the loneliness strikes hard
Even the usual fleeting connections
with strangers on the track
a smile, a wave, a breathless ‘Hello’
are rare on this cold and blustery winter day
as sensible people stay indoors
curled up on the couch
watching their footy team play
Perhaps, in these days of reduced social interaction
this introvert has had too much of a good thing
like an overly restrictive diet
As coffee dates and drinks and dinners out
have all but disappeared
perhaps loneliness has put a foot in the door
The loneliness in her life
finds its way onto the track
As the kilometres of bitumen
pass endlessly by
under her pounding feet
she questions this life choice
this pursuit of isolation
And she knows
Because loneliness is hard
but also all too easy
She questions her value as a friend
to all but a tiny few
Reaching out is easy when one feels
one’s value to the other
She knows she is appreciated
for her willingness to help
and her acts of generosity
She knows she is respected
for her tenacity in the face of challenge
and her passion for justice
But she longs to be loved
for her sense of humour
and her addiction to American late night talk shows
for her innate childish silliness
and her ridiculous dance moves
for her love of cosplay
and musicals and themed birthday parties
She wishes her annoying traits
that keep her from friendship
could be softened and understood
couched in an understanding
of her shyness and social awkwardness
her need for order
and her belief that life should be fair and just
As she reaches the end
the thoughts ease for now
and she knows
tomorrow she will lace these shoes again
but not always lonely
The Great Ocean Road is one of the most iconic stretches of tarmac in the world.
Built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932, it is both a testament to human endeavour and a striking memorial to those who lost their lives in the First World War.
The Road is featured in many a Top 10 traveller list and thousands of tourists traverse it every day in buses, cars, campervans and motorcycles.
What they can’t do, if they value their lives, is travel the road on foot.
Except for one special day in the year.
The Great Ocean Road Running Festival is a two day event in May incorporating races for everyone from the 1.5km Kids’ Gallop to the 60km Ultra Marathon. There are also multiple distances for walkers.
The shorter races are held around the township of Lorne on the Saturday and has quite the party atmosphere.
But it’s the Sunday that is special. On Sunday, the Great Ocean Road is closed to traffic between Lorne and Apollo Bay and thousands of runners and walkers line up to complete the 23km Half Marathon, the 44km Marathon or the 60km Ultra Marathon. (Yes, they run the Half and Full Marathons hard here, tacking on an extra couple of kilometres.)
With a 24km run on the training schedule, it seemed logical to run the GOR Half Marathon instead. Run much the same distance and gain some bling at the end? Easy decision.
I think because I only saw it as a training run, I didn’t really take the run all that seriously. I didn’t chase up accommodation, choosing instead to travel from home on the morning. The night before, I was wondering about the wisdom of that decision as I was facing a 5am departure. Meh. Who sleeps before a race anyway?
The Marathon and Ultra Marathon both kick off from Lorne and finish in Apollo Bay (the Ultra taking a detour or two off the road to add the extra distance). The Half Marathon starts (predictably) half way at Kennett River. Shuttle buses run from both Lorne and Apollo Bay to the start line.
For some, this is not the optimum start to a race. The Great Ocean Road is a very windy road and those of a travel sickness disposition can find the bus ride to the start a bit unsettling. Hard to face 23km of running when you feel like you’re going to throw up at the start line.
We’ve been having some unseasonably warm and sunny days this Autumn but typically, Mother Nature decided to pull out a cold, misty and windy day for Race Day.
I loved it. I am most definitely a cold weather runner. I am also a winter beach person. I would much rather a walk beside a wintry, wild ocean than a warm, crystal blue lagoon.
I had registered in the 2.5 hours plus group since I’ve only just got back into a proper training program and it being a bit further than a normal half marathon.
I surprised myself and finished in 2:15:17. I had a great run. So much so, that I actually got a bit of a shock when I reached the 18km aid station. I was beginning to wonder if I’d miscounted the stops until I saw a walking track sign saying “5km to Apollo Bay”. Only 5km to go? Sweet!
Now, that time of 2:15:17 is the actual time it took from the start line to the finish – my “net time”. My “official” time is more than two minutes longer than that.
This is the injustice of the humble runner. You put yourself at the back of the group and then it takes you several minutes to reach the start line when the gun goes off. I noticed a runner on the list who crossed the finish line a few minutes after I did but her official time was almost the same as her net time. This means she stood right on the line at the start but took longer to run the race than I did. Sometimes I wish I had that level of nerve. You can see the difference the time makes in the rankings between the two times.
Of course, it must be confessed that as a white-bibbed more-than-2.5-hour runner, there was some measure of psychological boost whenever I overtook a red-bibbed less-than-2.5-hour runner who got to start closer to the line than I did. There’s always a silver lining.
The Great Ocean Road Marathon is included in the book “50 Place to Run Before You Die” and I can definitely say it’s a run to be experienced. Of course, the great thing is that you don’t even have to run it. With the option to walk 5km, 10km or the Half Marathon (or, if you’re a bit sneaky and can walk fast, even the full Marathon), it’s an experience open to more than marathoners. Put it on your bucket list.
Now, what else is in that book….?
This blog began some three and a half years ago and at the time I couldn’t really put a finger on what I was good at and hence the title.
Over these past years, kindly folk have suggested various masteries I could claim as my own but I’ve usually shrugged them off.
I’ve always struggled to say “I am good at…” and always wondered why.
Recently, I realised that perhaps it is because I possess no socially acceptable standard that I am a master of anything. It is hard to claim something for which you have no proof.
If you can say in society, “I have a degree in Literature/Creative Writing/Journalism. I am a good writer”, everyone around you will nod their heads, admire you and agree “You are a good writer.”
If you can say in society, “I have a Masters of Education from [name your own prestigious university]. I am a good teacher”, you will be regarded as an asset to any classroom.
If, however, you possess a degree in Mathematics but do not work in the field, what is it worth?
If you are qualified to teach science and mathematics but teach in an area where those skills are irrelevant, what good are you really?
And yet, I know I am a good writer. I know I am a good teacher. But my evidence for such claims is circumstantial and personal.
It is the people who tell me, “Write more blog posts, we love your writing”. It is the staff who smile happily when they realise you will be teaching in their classroom.
Fine for me.
Not so much for society.
One of my (pathetically) prized possessions is a photocopy of the front page of a training manual I once wrote which was reviewed by the upper management Training Manager (for some reason that I do not recall).
On the page, he had written “This is the best training material I have ever read in my 13+ years of training”.
Like all positions of employment I’ve ever held in my life, I had neither the qualifications nor experience to be employed as a training developer but for some reason they gave me the job anyway and I got this review within my first year on the job.
But it doesn’t look as significant hung on the wall as a Bachelor’s degree.
I’ve never even sat a music exam. So I have no proof that I can sing, play piano or guitar or write music. Well, I do have a school report from Year 9 Music that says, “She has a good working knowledge of music theory at this level and in the end-of-year examination scored an impressive 100%” so there’s that, I guess but I’m not sure how that would play out.
“So, what Grade level did you reach?”
“Me? Oh, well, none. But I have this great report from my Year 9 music teacher. Want to read it?”
The prompt for this post was a comment that found me consumed with jealousy for those who can claim a qualification to legitimise their obvious skills. I’d offered some assistance with a task on the basis of believing I possessed some relevant skill but was countered with the explanation that the other person possessed a high level qualification in the area in question and would therefore not require my unqualified help.
I can’t argue with that.
Of course, if it concerns me so much, why don’t I go out and gain such qualifications? Because I’m a Jack of ALL Trades. Which qualification would I pick?? I’m not sure I’ve got enough time or energy (or money!) to pursue a degree in literature, journalism, music, fine arts, computer programming, IT support or a Masters/PhD in Education, Science, Mathematics or a trade qualification in building, carpentry, painting, textiles, electronics, costume design, cake decorating or car maintenance.
So I think I’ll just go on as before, having a stab at anything that takes my fancy whether qualified to do so or not, and live the life of a Jack of All Trades.
And hope that someday someone introduces a Master of All Trades qualification.
I’d like to hang that on my wall.
boireannach: ( /ˈbo.rə.nəx/) noun woman, female (from Scottish Gaelic)
I live with boys. Lots of boys. I have a husband, three sons and a male cat. Then there’s me – the lone female in the house. (If you don’t count the resident spiders some of whom must be of the feminine persuasion. I don’t love spiders. I’m just not a fan of housework.)
It’s not a major problem. I suspect the universe gifted me such a plethora of testosterone because I can take it. Probably better than I’d take a plethora of oestrogen. I am not a girly girl. Never have been, never will be. I was quite happy to have boys. Not sure I’d know what to do with a girl. Admittedly, I was lucky they turned out to be geeky boys rather than sporty ones. Science fiction and fantasy I get. Football bores me to tears.
However, as much as a family of boys suits me, there have been times when the testosterone load gets a bit much. Especially as they have got older and messier and smellier.
One day, a bit over a year ago, during the long summer holidays, I went looking for somewhere to sit down for a while. As I wandered around the house, I found the Eldest Son sitting at the dining table eating his lunch, the Middle Son watching Japanese anime on the television in the lounge room and the Youngest Son playing video games on the computer in the family room. Oh, and the Husband sitting on my side of the bed in our bedroom listening to the cricket on the radio.
There was nowhere to go that didn’t contain testosterone. And that includes the kitchen. Even if there weren’t any boys in it at the time, all it reminds me of is endless requests for food.
It was a breaking point of sorts.
For a number of years I’d toyed with the idea of taking over the cubby house in the backyard as my own space. The boys didn’t use it anymore and it was a usable size. Unfortunately, it was full of junk and the very thought of clearing it out gave me an attack of the procrastinations. I did try. I pulled everything out one day, sorted it, threw out rubbish. Then had to put it back in when it started to rain. The next time I went to tackle it, there was more in there. Sigh.
Moaning about the situation to a friend one day, she suggested that I ditch the cubby house idea and just build something new.
This was an attractive idea.
It would entail some expense. Some studio/cabin options were in the vicinity of $20,000. They were commonly around the $8,000-10,000 price range. This was not so attractive.
Eventually, after extensive research, I settled on the idea of a basic timber shed that I could upgrade. It would mean more work but it was less than half the cost of other options.
I ran the idea past the Husband, couching it in terms of being for my 50th birthday (he went to New York for his) and adding value to the house. He agreed to the proposal.
In fact, he more than agreed and this is my favourite part of the story. He not only agreed, he got it. As I listened to him explain what we were doing to his family and our neighbours, I knew that he’d heard me.
And so began Operation She-Shed. It was long, it was arduous, it was frustrating and it took well over a year from purchase to completion but I made it. And I made it.
Following is a pictorial history of the journey from pick up at the factory to the last brush stroke. Along the way, I’ve learned to do so many things. I’ve driven a truck, constructed a kit shed, installed insulation, cut down and fitted a door, lined a ceiling, laid a floor and a deck, cut and installed skirting boards and beading, built furniture, designed and constructed planter boxes and done an awful lot of painting. I’ve used a drill, a circular saw, an impact driver, an orbital sander, a drop saw and a nail gun. I got to know my local hardware store really well. The only job for which I called in the professionals was plastering the walls. I thought about doing it myself but I was getting impatient and having it done in an afternoon was easier than figuring that one out myself.
So, as I sit here in my new space writing this blog post, I still can’t really believe it exists and it is mine. Really mine because I made it myself.
A shed load of love and thanks to all the family and friends who helped me realise this dream through practical help, moral support, lending me things and making the appropriate wow comments whenever I shared my latest achievement on Facebook. You all rock.
Picking up the shed
I must thank my friend Kath for coming to my rescue and driving the truck to Melbourne to pick up the shed. The cost of delivery was phenomenal so there was nothing for it but to collect it myself but I didn’t think this was the trip on which to learn to drive a truck. She did make me drive it back to the rental depot after we unloaded for which I am grateful because now I can say, “I drove a truck”.
Preparing the site and putting in the elevation kit
We don’t live on an easy block to put things in the backyard. Everything has to be carried up steps. We also live on clay so digging holes is a mammoth task in itself. I’m incredibly grateful to my husband for taking on the task of putting in the elevation kit.
Building the shed
Oh boy. Or oh boys. Thank heavens for three boys. Carrying all those pieces of shed around the garage and up the steps and past the clothesline and up a path to the spot in the backyard was no picnic. They worked hard. And I’m still traumatised by the act of getting the roof on. (And yes, it’s a tad off-centre. Close enough.) I must also thank my friends Kris and Meg for lending me their impact driver and cordless drill. We would never have got it together without them.
When it came to putting on the door, I held it up to the spot to check the fit and instantly lost a lot of light. Urgh. Hm, I thought. Wouldn’t a window be nice? So I went hunting through demolition yards and found a new door which I then had to cut down to fit. Still quite proud of that effort.
The verandah and deck
When it came to putting up the verandah, it was only when it weirdly sloped upwards that I realised I was supposed to cut down the railing posts to the right height. I’d already screwed them in so there was an interestingly unsafe exercise of cutting through them with a circular saw vertically while the boys held up the roof. Installing the deck was much more fun. I rather like banging in nails. Once more, thank you to the boys for carrying, lifting and holding.
One day I had a vision of my shed in dark purple and white. Cruising around the paint charts at the hardware store, I dismissed one colour as too dark and too blue but then read the name. “Dark Heather”. Well. Nothing for it but to ask for a sample pot. When she opened the tin, I knew it was exactly the colour I’d been looking for.
Insulation, ceilings and walls
The one thing about timber sheds with a corrugated iron roof is that they are hot. I knew I was going to have to insulate and I also came to realise that I was going to have to install some sort of ceiling with insulation even if it meant losing the skylight. My solution was to cut the leftover insulation in half to make it thinner, glue it to the back of some plywood and screw said plywood to the roof frame. It came up better than I could have hoped. Thank you to my friend Carolyn for solving the issue of “how do I get massive pieces of plywood home in a sedan?” by lending me her tray truck. When I got the quote for plastering the walls, I nearly had a heart attack and I wondered if I could repeat the same process on the walls as the ceiling but by the time I added up the materials, I was only a few hundred dollars short of the quote. I figured that $300 was worth the ease of getting someone else to do it. Thanks to Craig at Feathers Plastering for doing the job that many other plasterers turned down as not worth their while.
Beading and inside painting
Craig had asked what I was going to do about the join between the walls and the ceiling and I told him not to worry, I’d find and install something. Part way through installing the beading when I’d broken my drill bit drilling guide holes, banged my fingers, dropped the hammer from the ladder about five times and uttered numerous four-letter words, I was wishing I’d added it to Craig’s quote. But I got there in the end. And my solution to how to meet the pieces in the weirdly angled corners was to just keep the edges straight and then hide it all under putty and paint. Worked a treat. Painting the inside white added so much lightness that I didn’t miss the skylight at all. I also discovered I am not a fan of painting. I don’t have the patience. Although, using the roller was quite fun.
Floor and skirting boards
Soon after starting on the floor, I realised it really needed three people to be able to click in the whole length properly. Thanks to the Husband and Middle Son for helping out. I tried cutting the first end board with the circular saw but it was ragged so for all the rest I used a hacksaw. Yep, cut them all by hand. When it came to installing the skirting boards, I knew I was going to need a more accurate method of cutting 45 degree angles than the ‘protractor, pencil and hacksaw’ method I’d used for the beading with limited success. I put the call out for a drop saw and am grateful to my friends Julie and Cam for lending me not only the drop saw but also a nail gun. No more banged fingers. Using the drop saw was so amazing, I wished I’d thought to ask for one when I was doing the floor. I’d have had it done in half the time. I really want my own now. The nail gun was efficient but nerve-wracking. I blame that WorkSafe ad.
Steps, planters and painting the deck
For some reason, when we put the shed together on top of the elevation kit, it didn’t fit properly and we ended up with the front stumps exposed. This presented a problem for installing steps so I had to extend the deck. I think this was probably my favourite thing about this project – coming up with creative solutions to problems. From a decorative disc to hide an off-centre door handle hole to shoving a piece of timber up the inside of the door when the bottom hinge wouldn’t attach properly to building planter boxes to hide the posts sticking out the front, it’s been gratifying to find ways to hide the flaws.
Decking it out and connecting power
Ooh, the fun bit! I had a highly successful trip to Ikea for a shelving unit and a place to store tea and coffee supplies. And putting together Ikea furniture seemed a breeze after the various challenges with building the shed. It was a fun, if very wet, weekend. (You should have seen the mud I had to clean off the deck…) The desk is an old work desk that the boys used as a computer desk until we rearranged the family room and moved the pc to a smaller desk. I sanded it back, painted it and attached some new handles to the drawers so it wouldn’t look like the place that boys had sat at for years. And there were all sorts of bits and pieces sitting around waiting for a home, especially my series of coffee-themed pastels by artist and friend Jill Shalless. But my favourite item is the chaise-longue. I must thank my friend Naomi for spotting it on an op shop’s Facebook page and letting me know and then driving us to the town more than an hour away to pick it up in her station wagon.
Power at this stage is connected via an extension lead from the garage. Probably a more permanent solution is warranted but it’s working quite well at the moment. (I’d considered a solar system but couldn’t justify a system that cost more than the shed.)
What’s with the name?
I knew I wanted a name for my place. It’s personal to me. Boireannach is Scottish Gaelic for woman. It was perfect. It looks like the name of something, it represents my Scottish heritage and it signifies the importance of my ‘no boys allowed’ space. Thank you to my friend Margaret-Rose (aka M-R) for the nameplate.
Wondering how to pronounce it? Here’s a fun video that may help you.
The End and the Beginning
So there you have it. If you’ve stuck with me this long, thank you. It has been important to me to document this journey officially. It’s been a long road but I got there. There’s still some landscaping to be done but at last I’m in situ. I’m looking forward to the many creative adventures ahead in a place of my own.
Last year I celebrated a significant birthday. As much as I tried to bury it in a marathon effort and fundraising for refugees, there were friends and family who still snuck in some gift-giving.
I received some wonderful presents from people who clearly know me well. The generosity of my work colleagues blew me away and also their perspicacity in choosing a gift that happened to be on my bucket list – a session in a flotation tank.
Birthday gifts that also made me happy were the many friends and members of the family who generously supported my bid to raise money for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. Surely the best birthday presents help someone else in need.
However, the birthday gift that touched me most deeply and for which I was most grateful did not come wrapped in colourful paper.
A few weeks before my birthday, a friend asked if I could babysit their baby son so she and her partner could go out for a date night. I eagerly agreed. With three now-grown sons, time with baby boys is always a joy. With an arrival time set on 6pm, my friend insisted that she provide me with a meal. I argued that it was ridiculous to be going out for dinner and still have to provide a meal and I was more than happy to provide for myself. She insisted again and stated she already had it planned. I reluctantly agreed.
I arrived at the appointed time and was surprised to see her mother and brother there but then inwardly shrugged and decided it must be a family dinner out.
As I stood there, waiting for them to leave, my friend looked at me, smiled and said, “You’re not babysitting.”
“What?” I said.
“You’re not babysitting. My brother is babysitting and we are taking you out for dinner.”
“We’re taking you out for an early birthday dinner.”
I stared at each of them trying to comprehend. Then it dawned on me. And then the tears welled up.
In a year when my trust in friendship had been badly shaken…
In a year when I wondered if my worth lies only in what I can do and not in who I am…
In a year when I felt so confused about how to read people’s motives that I have become increasingly socially reclusive…
…Such a gift was unexpected.
More was in store as I arrived at the restaurant to find other friends part of the secret. More emotion. More confusion and joy.
I received some wonderful gifts from people who took time to think carefully about what I would like and I will treasure them always.
But, in the end, all any of us really wants is to know we are loved and wanted for who we are and for others to want to spend time with us. That is a gift that truly counts.
What is the gift that truly counts for you?
An Ode to PMS
“You’re a shitty human”
Say the voices in my head
They often make me wonder
If I’d be better dead
Men don’t understand
And neither do the boys
They sigh and roll their eyes
And then return to all their toys
They’ll never understand
The monthly torment that I feel
The anger and depression
How nothing feels for real
“Wow, you really screwed that up!”
“You’ll never have real friends.”
“They all find you annoying.”
“You’ll never make amends.”
They mutter and they scream at me
From when I wake til bed
So often I just want some peace
From voices in my head
Supplements and therapy
Have helped just now and then
But mostly I just stagger on
In search of something Zen
I wonder how long will this last?
How long until the change?
How long ’til I stop feeling like
They all think I am strange?
But then I can’t help wondering
If what I’ll really see
Is not that it was PMS
But really it’s just me
I turned 50 recently. Crikey, even writing that phrase feels weird. I’m still 23 in my head.
Yep. I reached the half ton (if you’re a cricketer), the half century (if you’re an historian) and I can no longer deny that I am middle aged (if you’re an anthropologist).
So I have used this somewhat significant milestone to do a bit of an analysis of the previous decade.
I’ve just been through possibly the most life-altering time of my life since puberty.
In my forties… (in no particular order)
I had my nose pierced. (Since given up.)
I travelled with my husband and three boys to 15 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
I coloured my hair for the first time and proceeded to dye it a rainbow hue of various colours over the next ten years.
I went back to theatre and found lifelong friends.
I found a new community singing group and a musical home and family in the process.
I took up running and ran in three half marathons and the Scotland Run in Central Park in New York City. And I got to train with Olympic marathon runner, Steve Moneghetti.
I began writing my own songs. (You can check out some on my Songs page.)
I completed two community projects with World Expeditions, building a bridge in Peru and a school in Nepal.
I bought and learned to play a banjo and ukulele.
I took up crochet for the first time since my mother taught me how when I was a kid.
I became a special education teacher, a job for which I was not previously qualified or experienced but that I found I was good at. And I love it with a passion.
I discovered I can draw. (There’s a whole gallery here.)
I broke six ribs and punctured a lung falling off a wooden box after trying to kill a tiny moth. (That story never gets old.)
I completed the Oxfam Trailwalker 100km challenge twice – in 2012 and 2014. And raised thousands of dollars for Oxfam in the process. (That’s what it’s really all about.)
I took up rowing and then dropped it again.
I lost my father to mesothelioma.
I learnt that I can sing. No, like, really sing.
I became a Great Aunt. (Not that I wasn’t already one but now it has capital letters.)
I started a blog.
I’ve already started building a bucket list for the next decade because I know anything is possible.
Related posts about some of the things in this list that may be of interest:
(Plus any post starring the Flying Beetroot. Use the Search function.)
I’ve been conspicuously absent (or inconspicuously depending on how much you missed me) from the blogosphere this past year. Some of that is due to gaining a part time teaching contract and having my brain preoccupied with how to teach a subject of which I have no real knowledge (Physical Education – wot a laff!). Mostly, though, it is due to a special project I decided to undertake this year that somewhat consumed me not only physically but also mentally and emotionally.
The Mad Wannabe Marathon Woman Project
Since I was reaching a big UH-OH birthday this year, I decided the best way to celebrate it would be to take on a massive physical challenge. Because that’s more fun than a party, right?
Yeah, well, anyway…
Some time last year, I mused to a friend (my Spreadsheet Enforcer of earlier years) that I was thinking maybe of trying a marathon for my 50th birthday. And then I forgot about it. Until January this year when an email arrived in my inbox with the subject line: “Are you really sure???” (three question marks would seem to indicate that the Spreadsheet Enforcer certainly wasn’t) and a training spreadsheet attached.
A part of me was not sure. The rational part. Luckily (or unluckily depending on your view of marathons) most of me is completely irrational so I wrote back “Let’s do this!”
And thus began nine months of training.
There were good times – like gaining back the fitness I’d lost after the GMI (Great Moth Incident).
There were bad times – like the times I would run and cry at the same time as the Inner Critic stuck the boot in telling me I was not a real runner and I had no hope of running a marathon.
There were the highs – like shaving 10 minutes off my previous time for a hilly trail half-marathon I took on as one of my training runs.
There were the lows – like the foot injury that people took an unseemly delight in telling me they hoped wasn’t plantar fasciitis but that it probably was and in which case my running career was over. (It wasn’t and it was fixed with a new pair of shoes.)
Number One Training Moment
Through the wonders of Facebook, I was convinced by a couple of friends to attend a running retreat weekend they were organising on Magnetic Island. Gosh, a weekend in Queensland away from the freezing September weather in Victoria so I could run with Olympian marathon runner Steven Moneghetti? Tough. Tough, tough choice.
It changed my life. Literally. You can read about the impact here.
To add incentive to my completion of the marathon, I signed up as a member of the Run 4 Refugees Team, raising money for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. It was something I’d wanted to do last year but realised that if I could save it for a full marathon, I’d be likely to raise more money.
I’ve always found it more motivational to complete a challenge for someone other than myself.
Thinking an early drive to Melbourne with the whole family sounded like not much fun, we booked into a hotel apartment not too far from the start line the night before. It also had the advantage of being able to walk some of the course before the day to determine the best vantage points for the family to cheer on their mad wife and mother.
Marathon Day started early and alone. Seriously, it was less stressful to leave a husband and three boys in bed and get only myself to the start line than have them accompany me. Besides, there was something peaceful about hopping on that tram in the early dawn light with only other runners (and the occasional party-goer just heading home).
At the start line (after a successful last minute visit to the portaloo – only other long distance runners will understand the significance of this achievement), I heard the starter chat to Steve Moneghetti. It was somehow comforting to know he was there. ‘I must make sure I find him at the finish’, I thought.
I stood in the marathon runner crowd towards the back. It was a tactic to ensure I started slowly and didn’t get over-excited and run too hard at the beginning.
The start gun went and we were off. Which meant walking for those of us at the back. I think I got up a jog just after I crossed the start line. Just as well I wasn’t trying to qualify for the Commonwealth Games.
For the first kilometre, I was struggling not to cry. I know this would be normal for the last kilometre, but for me it was the start of the race that reduced me to tears. I was finally here.
I settled into a steady pace, telling myself regularly ‘Slow down. Don’t go too fast early.’ At the 3km point I passed the hotel where we were staying. I looked up at the windows of our apartment, half expecting to see some familiar faces and an encouraging wave. Half expecting because, really, it was only 7.20am. Sure enough, not a sign. Waaaay too early for my male household to be stirring. 🙄
They did make an appearance eventually. Conveniently at the 22km mark at a bit over halfway, just when I needed a bit of a boost. A wave and a cheer and I was off along the waterfront for the next down-and-back leg.
It was on this leg that I met a man attempting the same feat but in his case he was celebrating an UH-OH birthday ten years more than mine. This was an aspect I loved about the marathon – meeting new people, having a chat, mutual support.
The family appeared again around the 30km mark, another point at which a boost was appreciated. I called out, “Feeling pretty good!” and I was. Then. A couple of kilometres down the road, things changed.
My calves started cramping. I ran for a bit and then thought, maybe it would help if I stopped for a minute and stretched. So I did. Big mistake. As soon as I stopped, my whole thigh cramped badly. ‘Uh oh,’ I thought. ‘Nope, just gotta keep moving.’ I hobbled off and once I was moving the cramp in my thigh eased although my calves and feet were still cramping.
For the last 10km of the race, I ran with my calves and feet cramping on and off. I had an interesting running style when the calf cramp would set in but I kept moving, even running up the ‘hills’ they threw into the mix in the last 5 kilometres. I was in pain but still managed something of a grimacing smile for the photographers.
The finish line for the Melbourne Marathon is on the hallowed turf of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It would be almost impossible not to feel uplifted and excited entering the ground and running a lap of the oval to the finish line. And I did feel it. But I was also tired and I was hurting so my pace remained mostly steady. Until I hit the final straight to the finish line and then could not ignore the Need for Speed. I moved onto the grass and shot past the man running in front of me to fly over the finish line. I suspect I may have spoiled his expected finish line photo but a girl’s gotta do….
Remember how I thought, ‘Oh, Steve’s here! I must go find him after I finish to thank him for helping me complete my first marathon!’?
Yeah. I forgot.
I was so emotional about actually finishing my first marathon, all I really wanted was to collect my finisher’s medal and find my family which is exactly what I did. (Well, after a little incident on the staircase outside the MCG while I was on the phone to my husband to work out where they were. My legs cramped up and I was hanging onto the rail trying not to swear. People were wonderful. Someone gave me salt tablets, another gave me water, another offered himself for me to lean on while his friends spoke to my husband on my phone and then they helped me up the stairs and waited until my family found me. Runners are lovely people…)
And that was it. I’d done it. My nine-month-long Mad Wannabe Marathon Woman Project was completed.
And I was no longer a Wannabe.
I finished the marathon in 4:27:37. Since my main aim was to finish and then secondly to do it in under 5 hours, to have finished just under 4 1/2 hours was more than I could ever have dreamed.
I raised $2384 for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, by far so much more meaningful to me than the race result.
I met another Run 4 Refugees runner at a 10km a few weeks later (we were both wearing our shirts). I will always feel part of a special community.
I discovered Steve Moneghetti at a trail run recently and was finally able to say ‘Thank you’ for his part in my finishing the marathon.
I spent nine months saying, “This is my one and only marathon. I just want to do one and cross it off my bucket list.”
I’ve just signed up to do the Gold Coast Marathon next July.
Some people are hopeless….