Apr 29, 2012

My Personal Guide To Menopausal Madness

You know you may be descending towards the spiral staircase of Menopausal Madness when…

1. You appear to be able to multi-task less successfully than usual, can barely even mono-task with any real aplomb on some occasions, and find that things you once committed to memory must now be jotted down on post-it notes. Like appointments, birthdays, your own children's names, and the fact that the towels have been sitting in the dryer for five days.

2. Your Aunt Flo, once a regular visitor you could set your watch by, has now become the annoying relative who shows up uninvited at all sorts of irregular hours, comes and goes as she pleases, makes brief fly-by visits between extended stays, or ignores you altogether for weeks on end before making a grand entrance at the most inconvenient of times, expecting you to be prepared. And of course, you are not. She becomes, without a doubt, the worst relative you've ever had... except maybe that drunk uncle who had trouble standing. No, come to think of it, he was more fun at Christmas and weddings than Aunt Flo has ever been.

3.  A good hair day no longer applies only to the hair on your head, but also the hair on your chin. And upper lip. And neck. And big toe. And boob. And that one which is smack-bang in the middle of your forehead, wtf? (Dear Forehead Hair, you better stay blonde. If you go black, I may have to nuke you.) And you realise you are increasingly neglecting your formerly well-maintained lady garden as you spend so much time deforesting these new areas. Really, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry should register you as a Domestic Plantation.

4. You spend hours tossing and turning every night, cursing the night sweats and resulting insomnia which has gripped you, then spend your days falling asleep on the phone, in the bathtub, at the computer, and whilst reading, cooking or having sex.

5. You constantly forget what you are doing and have to say to yourself in a clear voice, out loud, “Okay, what am I supposed to be doing again?” even if you are in a queue at the bank, a crowded supermarket, at a birthday party, or having sex.

6. You while away hours playing with the air-conditioning controls, trying to find just the right icy temperature to keep you cool, never noticing that the rest of the family have donned their jumpers and ugg boots. And if you do notice, you really don’t care.

7. You no longer measure the severity of the Summer season by how many hot days you had, but by how many hot flushes you had, and realise you either had ninety, or just one almighty mother that lasted three months.

8. You proudly boast that you have bought all the natural supplements and vitamins you’ll need to get you through the worst of the symptomatic madness, but by the time you get through the denial stage, acknowledge your changing body and remember to start taking them, they have all gone past their use-by date.

9. You spend a solid hour in front of the TV, yelling and abusing everything happening on screen, while your family look on in fear, thinking you are nuts. You then spend the next hour in front of the TV, crying and sobbing at everything happening on screen, while your family look on in resignation, now convinced you are nuts.

10. You go to the doctor to discuss the onset of what you believe to be peri-menopausal symptoms, and when he asks you to list those symptoms, you go completely blank for a full 10 seconds, before staring at the ceiling and repeating the symptoms listed on the box of menopausal relief pills you have already started taking, when all you can really concentrate on is the fact you forgot to get something out of the freezer for dinner for the third night in a row and doesn't the doctor look nice in that coloured shirt.

11. You organise a social function, then forget about it and double-book it. You move it, and forget about it and double-book it again. You move it again, forget it again, and double-book it yet again. You then cry and give your Son the ticket to the show you really wanted to see but will now miss because you have lost the will to live.

12. You blame the soap, the fabrics, the body lotions, the hand creams, the dandruff, the shaver, the heat, the mosquitoes and  the allergies, before realising even the tingling, itchy skin is hormone-related. And you absent-mindedly scratch yourself raw whilst reading about it.

13. You read about how much anxiety increases during menopause, and since you've always been an anxious person, you become anxious that you'll become more anxious. You are so anxious, you sit bolt upright and wide awake at 3.14am, with no idea what has made you so anxious, apart from the fact you are anxious about becoming more anxious. I know, even I'm confused, and I'm the one it happens to at least twice a week.

14. You suddenly notice you have batwings, hang-gliders, tuckshop lady arms, nanna wobble, bingo wings, whatever you want to call them, and you start to spend more time in the cardigan section of the department store than you ever thought possible. And no matter how bad your hot flushes are, or how much you sweat, the cardigan stays on in public to hide the flab because your vanity levels are neck-and-neck with your discomfort levels. Of course, once you get home the cardigan is discarded and let's face it, even underwear is optional.

15. Bloating, fluid retention and excessive intestinal gas are increasingly blamed on bread products, poor circulation and the dog.

16. You know there is a good chance you will stab the next person you hear chewing. Or coughing. Or sniffing. Or breathing.

17. Everyday items in your home become potential weapons. You wonder how deep the puncture wounds of a hair comb or dinner fork would go. You wonder if dishwasher powder leaves forensic traces in the blood stream. You start calculating the velocity of a 460 gram dinner plate thrown from a distance of 3.7 metres and wonder if anyone will have time to duck. 

18. You fervently hope that the next time you need to sneeze violently during a hot flush, you are already on a toilet, as you weren't sure if at that restaurant last week you were just drenched in sweat, or you may have pee'd yourself a little, and you had to squirm your way through dessert and coffee not knowing exactly what sort of body fluids you were sitting in.

19. You realise that any previous mention you’ve made of having sex is a complete fabrication, because you just can’t be fucked.

20. You think of a really good #20 idea for this list while making breakfast, but by the time you sit down to write, you’ve forgotten it.

Oh, yes, just thought of another one...


These all may have perhaps might possibly could have pretty much definitely apply to me.
 Check out my Dial M for Menopause page for more madness

Apr 26, 2012

Dear Stylists...

Dear Home Decorating Magazine Stylists,

I am writing to you because I am getting old and grumpy and some of the photographs you have styled in magazine layouts are giving me the shits.

You overdo it. Really, sometimes you do.

Some of the vignettes and furniture placements you so lovingly arrange are so impractical they make me want to light a scented candle under a Laura Ashley sofa in protest.

I realise you have a job to do, and that is to make the home being photographed aesthetically pleasing.  But let's face it, the home must have been pretty special before you even arrived if it was chosen for a magazine spread. And besides, I want to see it for real. How it is lived in, used, and loved. By no means am I saying I want to see where the people keep their cat's litter tray, or how many weetbix-encrusted dishes are in their sink, or how many skid marks they make before they clean their toilet. I want it clean, but I want it practical and REAL.

For example, I'm sure the lovely people who live in the stylish home in Newcastle do not normally keep their long-handled loofah on the bathroom floor. I sincerely doubt that their morning conversation went like this..
Husband(in shower): "Darling, I need to scrub my back, where is the loofah?"
Wife: "On the bathroom floor over near the vanity, where it always is for a photo shoot, silly."
Husband: "Of course, it's in the most ridiculous, inconvenient spot, I should have remembered, thank you darling."

In the same article, much was made of a lovely feature in the master bedroom - a set of stairs behind the bed leading to a private dressing area. Gorgeous. Well, it would be if the people could actually gain entry to the dressing area, but there seems to be a pretty chair sporting an embroidered cushion totally blocking access to the stairs. Do the people don capes and leap over it in a single bound? Oh, no, they wouldn't be able to don their capes because they can't get to their dressing area, can they?

While I'm on chairs, I once saw a bathroom layout in another home that was quite eye-catching, but for all the wrong reasons. Instead of looking at the bathtub, or admiring the vanity, or wondering where they got their tiles, I found myself questioning what sort of moron would place a large wicker chair piled with pretty cushions and fluffy towels directly in front of the shower alcove in the corner. My mind wandered. Do the homeowners move the chair every time they want to shower? Or do they never shower? Maybe they just like obstacle courses? Or do they leap like the other people? I wonder if I have any chocolate in the pantry?

And then there was a kitchen. A beautiful, big, country-style U-shaped kitchen. And on the floor, in the middle, was a colourful kilim rug, placed perfectly to slip, trip and slide on while carrying a pan of boiling water from the cooker to the sink. I thought rugs in kitchens were the big NO-NO of safety hazards, or have I been hallucinating all these years? But that's not all. In one corner was a cane chair, basket of vegetables, and small antique barrel of some sort, effectively blocking the oven door and at least two cupboards. It was a stylist explosion, I'm telling you.

I love books, but it seems not quite as much as one of you stylists does. In one home alone, I saw small piles of five or so books artistically placed on every flat surface in every room. On trunks, side tables, coffee tables, benches, chairs, shelves under tables, bedside tables, cupboards, even the floor. Did these poor folk not own a bookcase? Can you imagine the conversation this couple would have come bedtime?
Husband: "Darling, where is my new Grisham novel? I want to read in bed."
Wife: "I don't know darling, you'll have to search through all of the 37 small piles of books scattered around the house for the photo shoot."
Husband: "Oh of course, aesthetics trump practicality, I should have known, thank you darling."

There was also the case of The Moving Flowers. I suspect the stylist responsible for this particular shoot was on a very tight budget, as there was one exquisite bunch of fresh flowers in a stunning vase... and it was in Every. Single. Shot... in Every. Single. Room. I did not look at the furniture or the decor or the fabrics or the designs, but instead was mesmerised by my own game of Spot The Moving Flowers. Which, I might add, I won.

And who could forget the spotless garden? Two pages of pristine paths, lawns, entertaining areas and garden beds, where not a leaf, twig, plant, paver or ornament were even dirty, let alone out of place... and there on the third page, in the bottom right hand corner of a photo, was a glimpse... of a big pile of leaves, sticks and shit... and a broom. Now that's reality.

Look, on the whole you get it right. Week after week, thousands of beautiful, inspiring photos are published in the magazines, and even normality is attempted now and then. The Mum, lovingly whipping something up in the kitchen, even though she looks like she doesn't know one end of a wooden spoon from the other. The kids, happily drawing on a strategically placed blackboard, instead of their usual canvas, the bedroom walls. The Dad, rarely seen in the home due to his 80-hour working week required to pay for the imported French armoires, commissioned sculptures, and hand-woven-by-blind-nuns designer throw rugs, is there surveying his professionally manicured yard, pretending he even knows what a lawnmower looks like.

I love your magazines, honestly I do. I aspire to have my home looking like them. And one day, maybe when the kids stop wiping their hands on the furniture, their friends stop bringing in dirt and pizza boxes, the dog stops pissing on the sofa, the Husband stops spilling coffee and red wine everywhere, and I stop being a lazy housebitch, I will achieve it. You present an image to me which, although about as achievable as getting Matthew Newton to stay out of trouble, I do admire.

I have one final question. WHERE ARE ALL THE TVs???

Love, Cate.

Apr 23, 2012

The Girl Who Kicked The Menopause Nest

You’ve heard of the ‘F’ word. And the ‘C’ word. It seems there’s a new taboo word and I may be breaking some sort of secret women’s code by mentioning it. I’m talking about the ‘M’ word.


Not so forbidden, you’d think. But is it? If by what I found on various women’s websites is anything to go by, we’re not mentioning it much. Sure, there are numerous medical sites which go into detail about the symptoms and what to expect when you no longer have a chance to be expecting. Very informative. But to be honest, some of them are a tad tedious, and by the time I get to the section on fatigue, I’ve usually fallen asleep.

According to most surveys (I asked a few friends), Australian women are increasingly seeking information from online sites which they often visit daily to get their mix of serious news, political insight, fashion tips, recipes, funny stories and health updates. In a time poor society, women want to laugh, cry, learn and connect all before lunch and preferably in one place. So I thought if I searched some of the sites which offer all these things, I’d find a plethora of menopause stories written in amusing, realistic terms by real people and I’d be able to nod, laugh, say “Oooohhh, dry vagina” and not doze off. How wrong could I be?

Maybe I picked the wrong sites, but I chose three, which shall all remain nameless (not just because of my short term memory issues... no, actually, it is because of my memory... I can't remember what they were).

The first search of “menopause” on Site A yielded one result. An article written back in 2007 which seemed to be about blogging, and listed various blogger’s names and sites, in which perhaps, just maybe, one of them must have mentioned menopause. Strike one.

Hello Site B. I got excited when my search brought up a long page of results, but on closer inspection I was disappointed again. The first match was a story about a woman whose youngest child had just started school and she was not planning on any more children. An era had ended for her. Okay, so she’s sad, but that hardly makes her menopausal. There was an article on breastfeeding (?), one on a celebrity with breast cancer, two on anxiety, a few on infertility – all worthy pieces but still not the menopause mayhem I was looking for – and three pieces which appeared to be solely about Sex and the City.

Finally I found something. A piece aimed at women over 40. Unfortunately when I read through, it was pretty much an abbreviated version of the same straight-faced medical jargon I’d already read, advising which health checks should be carried out in the forties, with two paragraphs on peri-menopause and menopause, quoting ‘averages’ which mean nothing if you are not ‘average’. And it was all headed by yet another photo of the girls from Sex and the City. Really? They are my only menopausal role models?? Strike two.

Just when I thought I could be no more downhearted, I went to Site C. My search flashed an answer at me instantly.

Not found. Sorry, but you are looking for something that isn’t here.”

Uhhhh... I hate to be the one to break it to you ladies, but menopause IS here, and it is not something only grey-haired old ladies with subscriptions to Reader’s Digest need be concerned about.

Look, I get it. Articles about Brazilians (and I don’t mean people from Brazil) make us feel younger and more glamorous. Stories about the school run and packing lunchboxes make us feel fertile and needed. But reading about menopause? Well, that just reminds us of the *gasp* aging process. Guess what? The aging process begins from the moment we are born. Deal with it.

I’m not yet 50 and I’m not yet grey, but I’m out, I’m proud, my approach to menopause is loud.

I just want to be able to laugh about it, and know I’m not alone. So I am kicking the menopause nest. Am I alone in that?

Apr 17, 2012

Purple Roads

You know when you experience a whole gamut of emotions for a fictional character - fondness, sympathy, frustration, anger, and then a desire to kick him in the nuts before finally wanting to hug him - that the author has done a wonderful job weaving his personality into a story. That's how I felt about Matt Butler in Fleur McDonald's latest release, Purple Roads.

Of course, I have no idea if that is how Fleur meant me to feel, but I think whenever an author makes a reader feel something, anything, it's a wonderful thing. A gift.

I have introduced you to Fleur on this blog before with her previous novels, Red Dust and Blue Skies, and she brought a lot of hits with her mention of semen-catching in this interview. (Go on, you know you want to read that). Fleur lives, breathes and captures with words our great land in all its beauty and harshness. She very kindly sent me a copy of Purple Roads to have a read... just between you and me, I think Fleur is trying to slap a bit of the city-slicker-chick out of me and 'countrify' me. And I like it. I can get my fix of country hospitality, farming life, and the feel of open roads and gum trees as far as the eye can see, without ever getting my high heels dirty or smelling one single sheep.

In Purple Roads we meet Matt and Anna Butler and their young daughter Ella, a family who have achieved their dream of owning their own land. Times are tough and the seasons are unkind, but together they do what they can to hold onto their dream. When a horrible accident and a callous theft see the couple facing financial ruin, leading to the loss of the farm, Matt embarks on a dangerous mission to find those responsible for his plight, alienating his wife and daughter in the process.

There are some interesting characters, a few twists and side stories, including a glimpse at the horrors facing a soldier at war, some education for me (who knew fertiliser was so important? I just get $7 bags of blood & bone for my roses from Bunnings... and pregnancy testing ewes? how the hell do you get them to pee on the stick?), and the setting of South Australia's mid-north, in particular mentions of Clare and Spalding, I admit I am biased about. I LOVE Clare. I LOVE the whole Clare Valley and have stayed there many times. Sevenhill, Crabtree and Skillogalee, how I love thee. They make exquisite wine there. Enough said.

Anyway, Purple Roads is not about wine, but a lovely read about hope, faith, and the belief that some things are worth fighting for. Love, marriage, family and dreams. And wine. Sorry, not wine, that's just me.

For those of you in South Australia, Fleur is doing a whirlwind tour of several country locations from 23rd April.

Check out Fleur's website fleurmcdonald.com

Apr 15, 2012

The April Photo a Day Challenge: Part One

Yep, I'm doing Fat Mum Slim's challenge again. I have decided I may have missed my calling as a photographer. Not a great one, mind you, but a fun one.
Here's the first 15 days.




DAY 4: SOMEONE WHO MAKES YOU HAPPY...yeah, that's my baby.

DAY 5: TINY... tiny aphids eating my roses... til they met with death.


DAY 7: SHADOW... some synchronised disco dancing

DAY 8: INSIDE YOUR WALLET... being Easter Sunday, I was pretty devastated at Day 8 NOT being a chocolate theme, as I had far more Cadbury eggs than money....

DAY 9: YOUNGER YOU... I seem to be dressed as a boy here... which would explain the balls...

DAY 10: COLD... I was so cold, my friend offered to keep my neck warm with her scarf, and my boob warm with her hand...


DAY 12: STAIRS ....  okay, so I googled stairs and took a pic. But I don't have stairs. I have a few steps here and there, and a ladder or two, but they are not stairs (and I'm kinda pedantic about the fact that steps are not stairs) and I don't even know anybody with stairs. And I have a bad back, so I'm not going to go doorknocking the two storey houses in the next suburb to find some stairs. Google images will just have to do.

DAY 13: SOMETHING YOU FOUND.... found this in our back yard when we moved in, and considering it was Friday the 13th, I thought it was apt to share.

DAY 14: HOW YOU FEEL TODAY... decided to peruse book titles for this one. I wanted to choose 'There Should Be More Dancing' but I had a bad back and didn't want to dance at all. 'Bossypants' was a thought, as was 'Dear Fatty', then 'Misery' and 'Forever Odd' seemed apt. Was going to ask the Husband but knew he would suggest  'A Clubbable Woman'. Decided to draw on the positive and chose...

... but only a tiny bit, mind you.

DAY 15: SUNSET..... perfect night at Grange Beach. Took so many shots, was hard to choose one, so put  them all in a separate album on FB. Do you know how happy it makes me that this scene is 10 minutes down the road from my house?

Apr 10, 2012

Easter Conversations With My Family (or 'Shit We Say')

MOTHER (looking at her own wedding portrait): Where was this shot taken?
ME: Uhhh... your wedding...
MOTHER: Yes, but where?
ME: Not sure, since I wasn't there... What does it say at the bottom?
MOTHER: Crown Studio.
ME: So I guess that's where it was taken.
MOTHER: Oh, I remember, it was taken at the Crown Studio.
ME: No kidding?


HUSBAND: I still love ya.
ME: Good on ya.


HUSBAND: Look, the Ribena is flowering.
ME: Sorry? The what?
HUSBAND: The Ribena. It's flowering.
ME: Ribena is a drink. Wanna try again?
HUSBAND: The... Rubella...?
ME: That's German Measles. Care to take another shot?
HUSBAND: That green plant over by the fence.
ME: That would be the Photinia Robusta. You lose.


HUSBAND: You haven't given me a kiss yet.
ME: Well, you haven't given me one either.
HUSBAND: But you haven't given me one.
ME: Why should I give you one first?
HUSBAND: Because.
ME: Go away now.


DAUGHTER: When you play poker, how many cards do you deal?
HUSBAND and ME (in unison after a few moments of silence): Why?
DAUGHTER: Because I am the Master of Random Questions.


HUSBAND: So it's called the Bluestone Arena now.
HUSBAND: So I like to make up words...


ME: Do you want some pasta salad, Dad?
FATHER: No, I was sick on it once.
ME: Not on my pasta salad.
FATHER: No, it wasn't yours.
ME: Soooooo... you don't want mine?
FATHER: No, I was sick on it once.


HUSBAND (after I'd pushed him aside to get to a cupboard he was blocking): I think the words you are looking for are 'excuse me'.
ME (after swallowing what I was eating): No, the words I was looking for were 'get out the fucking way', but I'm eating and I'm too polite to speak with my mouth full.


HUSBAND (after a rapid exchange in which every comeback of mine seemed to stump him): Damn. Outwitted again.
DAUGHTER: You don't make it too difficult, Dad.
ME: Yep, I am Marriage Survivor. Outwit, outplay, outlast. You're just lucky you haven't been voted off my island yet, dear.
HUSBAND: Why is everyone picking on me?
DAUGHTER: I repeat, you don't make it too difficult.


SON: I'm going out with the boys.
ME (whispering): yay!
*4 hours later*
SON: I'm back, all the boys are here too.
ME (whispering): *%^&$@#*


DAUGHTER (after doing a huge burp): Dad, if anyone asks, that was you.
HUSBAND: That's what your mother said when she farted earlier.
ME: *tries to look innocent*


HUSBAND (watching golf): Who the hell would name their kid 'Bubba'?
ME: I sincerely doubt it's his real name.
HUSBAND: Oh. Didn't think of that.
ME (after googling): His real name is Gerry.
HUSBAND: Gerry? I like Bubba. Bubba can hit the ball.
ME: *sighs*


HUSBAND (to our friends): Hope the bread turned out okay, had some problems with the breadmaker today. The thingymajig that mixes the dough came apart.
ME: Basically, his knob fell off, he had to pause it mid-thrust, pull the dough out, stick the knob back on and shove it back in, but it messed up the whole rhythm.
HUSBAND: Yeah, what she said.


DAUGHTER (watching a tv ad in which Jennifer Hawkins takes a sip of water): Well, that's her meal for the week.


DAUGHTER'S BOYFRIEND: Who made the pizza?
ME: Husband did.
DAUGHTER'S BOYFRIEND: Wow, so I've had both his cooking and yours now, and I'm still alive.
ME:  Congratulations.


Apr 2, 2012

The Wonder-Where-They-Went Years

(This post was originally published on The Hoopla)

The last few years, in some ways, have been unkind.

When I was 42, I could hardly believe I’d even turned 40. I was young, wild and free. Well, by young, I mean still able to tick the age group box of 41-45. And by wild, I mean I could still stay awake past midnight without having a mid-afternoon nanna nap first. And by free, I mean I hadn’t yet discovered the crippling magnetism of Twitter, Facebook and Blogger.

Now that I’m 47, I can’t believe I’m not 50 yet. I feel it.

In those years from 42 to 47, my son grew six inches, started shaving, learned to drive, travelled interstate without me, completed high school, outgrew all his clothes and shoes three times over, became an adult, registered to vote, voted, got a car, started Uni, became a Call of Duty expert, slept through lectures, went on pub crawls, broke a tooth and made it, unheralded and with very little fuss, to the ripe old age of 19.

My daughter got her period, got braces on her teeth, grew boobs, started shaving, failed Chemistry, went clothes shopping without me, wrote stories about vampires, got the braces off, outgrew all her bras three times over, discovered vodka, aced an English exam, acquired a boyfriend, broke thirteen pairs of headphones and managed to, with a scenic joyflight in a light aircraft to celebrate, navigate her way to her 17th birthday.

My husband went completely grey, got reading glasses, grew extra nose, ear and eyebrow hair, changed jobs, put on weight, fell asleep on the sofa before 8pm, compared the kids to when he was their age, broke two suitcases and his big toe, and is now starting sentences with “When I’m retired…”

How dare they? These are all incredibly aging things for ME.

Please stop the Daily Excursions of the Carousel of Advancing Years (DECAY), I want to get off.

Never mind my 6 grey hairs which have become 60, my expanding donut gut, my wrinkles which suck in my make-up like polyfilla, the vertical frown line which rivals the Grand Canyon, the escalating strength of the spectacle lens required for me to not bump into stationary objects, my boobs which appear to be increasingly searching for my knees, the hot flushes which seem to last for three months and the vagueness which has me… oh hell, I don’t remember what it has me doing.

Not my fault. Unkind years, I’m telling you.

On the other hand… I don’t feel the cold in winter as much now. I no longer have to make excuses for any behaviour other than “hormones, sweetie”. My husband and I can go out, and even go on holidays, without the kids, meaning charming B&B cottages in vineyards are back on the agenda after a prolonged absence in favour of crowded beaches and money-sucking amusement parks. And I have seen the emergence of two healthy, happy, responsible, well-adjusted young adults who can, as of last week, manage to stack the dishwasher and run the vacuum cleaner over the floors on the day we’re due home in order to hide all evidence of a week of laziness during such holidays. I couldn’t be prouder.

Perhaps the last few years weren’t so bad after all.

Crap, who am I kidding? I’m off to fill in a survey on what I expect from a Retirement Village, and I’m going to have to tick the 46-50 age group box….


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