Foto Finish Friday

Finding random things in odd places has GOT to be one of the best part of having kids. Unless it’s lego you find stuck in your foot.

But I found this pretty cute. Made me giggle.

As did this… while working one day, daughter decided to play “wake up” under my desk and I had a sort-of out of body experience, looking at the difficulties and wonderment of my life at once.

Yes, she’s sleeping under my desk. Anyone else remember watching The Brittas Empire on ABC? Remember the secretary, Carol? The one who couldn’t afford day care and kept her baby in a drawer? Yep, feeling bit like that!

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Big bum not ‘Germaine’ to the argument

DID Germaine Greer throw herself on the sword last night on ABC’s Q&A?

If you haven’t seen the clip – where she says our female Prime Minister has a big arse – you can see it here.

But her asinine remarks went viral overnight. People ousting the 73-year-old feminist as out of touch. But she did something countless women have tried recently, and failed, to do.

She united people under a feminist agenda by doing something so against the grain of a women’s movement that we simply couldn’t ignore it. And she did it to the highest office held by a woman.

She couldn’t have affronted women anymore if she were Kyle Sandilands.

I’ve talked before about what it takes to be a feminist. But what stops most women in their tracks is the bad publicity of the “feminist movement” – a bunch of unfriendly, rigid, self-serving women.

I know I don’t want to be seen that way.

Feminism has become captive to a social attitude that is only appealing to a minority, when it was once a free platform for discussion on topics that mattered to all women.

As Naomi Wolf wrote in Fire With Fire, “Many women identify feminism with specific issues that may or may not include them, rather than with a theory of self-worth that applies to every woman’s life without exception.”

“Is it about abortion? Well, I am not certain I know when  life begins, a woman might say. Is it about lesbianism? Well, I am a married woman. It’s for middle-class white women, isn’t it? I am working class. Is it about fighting against men? I am an Afro-Caribbean woman and there is no way I’m going to put down an Afro-Caribbean man. It’s anti-pornography right? I  don’t believe in censorship, and I don’t want anyone telling me what to do in my bedroom. Is it about not wearing makeup? I like to look good. Is it restricted to women? Well, I am a parent, and I care about my daughter, but I am a man. Is it about sexual abuse or rape? That may have happened to me, but I am interested in putting it behind me, and I don’t want to define myself as a victim.  (p67)

With such a diverse range of issues and so many conflicted views, people opted out altogether and, it seems to me, the cause of women’s rights has stalled.

Disagree?

Last year the Australian Bureau of Statistics released a report showing women earn 11% less than men per hour, on average. And that, when you barge through the glass ceiling of corporate Australia, some of the gaps there were almost 50 per cent between men and women (according to Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick last year).

And when we wind back to part-time – as is often the case when you start having kids – women’s rate of pay drops to 64 per cent of a man’s income (working the same hours).

So, yes, Germaine Greer did a shitty thing. But has she reignited a debate worth having? Most definitely.

It now remains to be seen whether this sudden defiance will translate into other issues.

Whether it was her intention to do so or not, I’m glad for her remarks. I’m glad to see so many men and women stand up and defend Julia Gillard. I bet Anna Bligh is wishing GG had a go at her dress sense.

Holding on: thin threads and tight smiles

The actual tagline for Feral Bells is "Because anyone can fall in love". It's been changed here to reflect mummy's mood.

MY two separate sides crashed together during a radio interview last week. In my very best “phone voice” (louder, an octave higher and filled with witty – maybe just silly – repartee) I discussed my book, my work, my ambition, how far I’d come since I left my family home.

And then my daughter woke up.

She couldn’t find me. Of course she couldn’t, I was hiding in the carport hoping to get through a 15-minute phone call without tears or demands for yoghurt or my son’s shouts that my daughter had “JUST DONE A POO ON THE GRASS, MUM!”

I could hear her coming and somehow, while my brain was racing with thoughts like “do I lock myself in the granny flat? Will I get reception if I run down the street a little? Is that abandonment?”, I managed to keep speaking about my book in that same “isn’t it wonderful” voice.

She found me and her cries intensified, leaving me completely satisfied that I had caused her much distress for a quick bit of publicity.

I apologised to the interviewer, probably laughed, plonked her on the couch and ripped open a packet of Tiny Teddies, all the while thinking “fuck my life”.

And that’s really unfair, isn’t it?

I’ve written a book – an actual, 70-odd-thousand word book, self-published it, had it picked up by a distributor and even managed to talk on local radio about it. How lucky am I? I mean, it was bloody hard work too, but I’m still very lucky. Why can’t I roll about in that happy moment?

If I have chosen to work from home, shouldn’t I embrace the chaos it creates rather than squashing it? Why can’t I laugh honestly and point out all these wonderful imperfections? After all, I chose this. Not my children. I chose to make my parenting a statement – “I can do it all with my kids, they’re that important to me”.

Instead I’m freaking out, smiling between gritted teeth and hoping the words tripping delightedly from my tongue are not the same colour as my frustrated, bleak thoughts. Desperately hoping I don’t sound like the dithering SAHM that I can sometimes be.

…Even more desperately hoping that my work ethic and cranky pants don’t leave little pin-pricks of scars that a psychologist will one day point out on my children’s souls.

Every day I must decide whether I want to stay on this punishing treadmill or don an apron and get serious about being a mother. Would that make me a better mother? Or infinitely worse?

But instead of deciding once and for all, I inch through every day, surreptitiously moving the goal posts a bit further back and wondering about it all again tomorrow.

The idea that I won’t surrender my own goals is now more a sad fact, than a celebration. It’s not easy and the kids don’t love wandering shopping malls as I sign books for people that mean nothing to them.

My son hates my books the same way I used to hate the smell of beer on my mother who worked as a barmaid.

I can’t really know if my children will come to appreciate having me for a mother or whether they’ll instead search for people who would make that sacrifice.

As I’m writing this, I’ve been asked to “take my fairy dress off”, “come and see the pink thing on my bike”, “read me the Christmas story”, “put my fairy dress on” and listened to my son’s beatboxing and I’m trying so hard to give them the attention they deserve. To not get angry as my words, wading through muddy PND run-off and dripping down to my fingertips, flinch back to the dark recesses of my brain.

You can listen to the interview if you like. It’s almost all there. He left in my daughter’s cries and my apparent delight. He took out the Tiny Teddies. And I’m glad for that. Even though I was exasperated, he saw the life in that moment. Appreciated the exchange from worker to mother.

But there’s one shuddering breath in that interview that says it all.

In that one breath I can hear all my anxieties, all my frustrations, all the FMLs unvetted… I’ll let you see if you can hear it too.

Foto Finish Friday

This came in the mail this week – it’s a congratulatory letter from the wonderful ladies at Bermingham Books. Honestly, I don’t know where they find the time! But you’ve got to love their style – spreading the love and all.

Are you listening universe? Yes? Good. *whispers* Though I’d be happy to sell enough copies to hire a cleaner.

I shared a little love too this week – sending out review copies to some of my favourite book reviewing gurus.

A little ding-a-ling embellishment in honour of the new title, Feral Bells.

Husband and I discussed this week how we, being regular computer users, find ourselves going to use certain functions in everyday life. Do you do that? Find your fingers itching to hit “control z” when you’ve put the recyclables into the wrong bin? Opening your “task manager” when you’re stuck in a checkout jam? Pressing “control s” when you want to remember something important?

Foto Finish Friday

Getting a delivery of your books is better than Christmas morning! Even if you have to answer the door in a towel (no pics of that, relax!). If you haven’t heard the news, firstly tsk tsk, secondly click here.

They’re filling the space under my desk. Now I get to sign 100 of them. Crikey.

Does BB know I wrote the thing out longhand in the first place?!

This is me trying to be professional. I know. At least I remembered to put my shoes on… after the first dozen photos!

Lastly, this is my International Women’s Day salute. Being a feminist, doesn’t mean you hate men, wear Doc Martens and have no sense of humour. It might have been yesterday but think about why you believe women are equal, share the things that make you think you’re not a feminist (mine’s I’m a romance writer) and realise how little it has to do with women’s equality. Help stop feminism from being a dirty word.

WIN A FREE COPY

Four Ingredients guru whips up some hot romance

THE woman behind the success of Four Ingredients, Rachael Bermingham, is helping launch a new face for contemporary Australian romance (that’s me, for those playing along at home!).

Rachael Bermingham’s book distribution company, Bermingham Books, has signed on upcoming Queensland author, Peta-Jo and her debut novel, Feral Bells (see? Me! Woot!).

Feral Bells is a balmy Queensland tale that delves into what price people put on success and is “laugh out loud funny”, according to Rachael.

Peta-Jo self-published the title last year (you may know it as its original title, Wedding Etiquette For Ferals) and spent 10 months promoting it around Queensland before Rachael decided to add it to her stable of top authors in January.

Feral Bells follows Lydia Vermont’s career path which veers wildly off kilter after a one-night-stand. It’s a story of dreams versus reality and the familiar travail of people who must leave their hometown to study or further their career.

Feral Bells was awarded the Queensland Arts Council’s New Regional Writer Scholarship and Peta-Jo worked on it, and a sequel, at the Varuna Writer’s House in the Blue Mountains.

Peta-Jo grew up in Bundaberg, but studied journalism in Toowoomba before working in Ipswich as a reporter and subeditor. She is now a subeditor for Queensland’s regional newspapers and writes a regular blog at petajo.com.

Feral Bells will be available in bookstores around Australia in coming weeks.

E-books will be available from mid-march.

Proceeds from book sales will go to SANDS Australia supporting couples and families through miscarriages, stillbirths and neonatal deaths.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

So that’s what I’ve been up to! Excited is an understatement. This is why my Facebook status updates lately have been consisting mostly of: Oh My God, Oh My God, Oh My God!

Apologies for that. I’m not all that cool under pressure. So ring your local bookstore and tell them you want your copy of Feral Bells immediately – or as soon as we can ship them to your local store.

Share the news with everyone because to celebrate I’m giving away free copies to the next five Facebook likers.

Mood lighting

IT’S been a strange, exhausting, fulfilling, exciting few days. And now, as luck would have it, the heavens have opened up – conspiring to keep me indoors and keyboard-bound.

I drove to the Sunshine Coast on Thursday night after I finished my late shift. I packed stealthily in the dark, swallowed some coffee and we loaded sleepy bundles of children into their car seats.

It’s so peaceful driving through towns after dark. You can see inside people’s lives better. You can see them slumped on the couch soaked in the white glare from their television. Their languid behaviour framed perfectly by their windows, fettered by curtains, made cubist with venetians.

You can see women in their pyjamas, making their way to the kitchen. Idly scratching their bottom.

I saw a dilapidated Queenslander – all louvres and peeling timber – and, through the window near the stairs, were mismatched photo collages. Their decor wasn’t designer, it was cramped pictures of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces. All together. All side by side.

I imagined the people inside. Made up their story for them.

They didn’t work that day. Hadn’t worked for awhile. They had no plans for the weekend. No plans for their life.

Maybe they’d go to the markets. Maybe they wouldn’t. Depends on what time they get up.

Ambivalent about it all, but happy. Free to stay up as long as they liked. It all seems so decadent but they don’t recognise the beauty of their days. “It is what it is.”

I only imagine they’re that way because it contrasts so starkly against my ambitious, plan-driven, finish work and race hundreds of kilometres to make another appointment in the morning, type of flight.

I push myself to create more, I push myself away from my own laid-back country pace. To the point where I’m driving in the middle of the night, terrified. Sick with nervous energy. Nails bleeding because I won’t, can’t, stop chewing them.

Of course, everything went according to plan. It usually does in my world – so I’ve been told.

So, all will be revealed in due course – maybe tomorrow? – so I’ll take this day, this rain, this scudding of thoughts and revel in it. Sloth about in an imaginary place where I don’t care about tomorrow. Today is enough.

xx

PS Stay dry. Stay safe.

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