Your Beautiful Feathers

In 1973 there were some significant births.

My sister was born, which at the time I was not particularly pleased about, but I’ve since come around. And many of my oldest (pardon the use of that word here) and dearest friends were also born in 1973. You won’t have to remember any of your 9th grade algebra to work out that because it is 2013, they are all turning 40 this year. Congratulations, gorgeous women! 40!! Woo hoo! This post is for you, from your ever-so-slightly-older sis.

What I love about being in my 40s:

In your forties you realise that it is okay that you don’t know it all. In fact, it’s great that you don’t, because who wants the pressure of being the world’s authority on everything all the time? It must be exhausting trying to convince everyone else how wrong they are about everything – just ask the 20-somethings (hee hee).

You learn what you are great at and passionate about and you dig deeper into those things and they bring you great joy. You accept what you’re not great at with less angst than you have ever before. I will never be a professional singer, and I am okay with that (now).

You slough off other people’s expectations of what you should be or do or want. You become a better friend to yourself. You see when you are failing, and you are brave enough to ask for help. And, you learn what a brilliant and powerful word ‘no’ is.

You also earn your feathers. Let me explain: You know the laurels that cup the prestigious awards earned by films at film festivals? They look like this:


Ben and I share a running joke about the laurels. I don’t know which one of us started it, but we call them ‘feathers’. “Look at how many feathers this film has! It must be amazing!!” Well, not too long ago I was playing with my nephew and smiling joyously and I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror.

The laugh lines around my eyes reminded me of the ‘feathers’ – and in a way they are much like the laurels. I earned those feathers with all the laughter, and hilarity and joy that I have felt and shared throughout my 4+ decades.  Cate Blanchett calls hers the songlines of her face, which I also love.

Your forties is when your feathers really come in – and how wonderful that we earn them through the joys of life.

Happy birthday, beautiful women. I toast you and your feathers.

Earning my feathers

Lessons of a Proud Aunty

I am the proud aunty to Alexander, who is now 20 months old (I started to count out my age in months and quit when I got to 500). This is him:


Yes, I completely agree. He is adorable. Even in a photograph with a cute bear, he is the cute one.

These are the aunty lessons I have learned over the past few weeks, while I stayed with Alexander and his parents, Mummy and Daddy.

Lesson One: The Third Person

It is remarkable how quickly Aunty Sandy adapted to speaking about herself in the third person. After only hours in the house, I was saying things like, “Aunty Sandy is eating her breakfast too, Alexander,” and “Aunty Sandy is going upstairs. She’ll be right back,” and “Aunty Sandy loves you, darling.”  Aunty Sandy noticed that Mummy, Daddy and Grandma all do the same thing.

Lesson Two: Narrate Everything

No task can actually be accomplished unless accompanied by a toddler-appropriate commentary.”It’s dinner time! (be very enthusiastic about everything – see below) Let’s get you into your high chair. Tuck your feet in. Good boy! (praise often – see below). Let’s get your bib on, so you don’t get food all over your clothes. Here’s your dinner. Would you like Aunty Sandy to help feed you?”

Tone is very important, as he does not fully understand all the words yet.

Lesson Three: Everything is Amazing

In the world of a toddler, everything is amazing. They are still quite chuffed when they get from the couch to the table without falling down, and think that choosing their own socks is an incredible honour. As an adult in close proximity to a toddler, everything should likewise be amazing. This manifests as enthusiasm for things you otherwise would not find that amazing. Example: “Yay, Alexander, it’s time to watch Peppa Pig!”

This is Peppa, by the way. If you can draw a whistle, you can probably draw Peppa.

peppa pig

That said, she is an inquisitive little thing, giggles a lot, and the show follows Lesson Two: Narrate Everything. Alexander loves it so much that he started saying “Peppa Pig” long before he could say ‘pease’. Ahem, I mean, ‘please’.

Lesson Four: Praise Often

The ratio for praising behaviour to correcting poor behaviour for a toddler is about 20 to 1, which is the exact opposite to what most adults experience in the workplace.  It means that you spend a lot of time seeking out ways to ‘catch them being good’.  So, “Great job eating all your peas!” rather than “Well, it took you 45 minutes to eat your peas and more of them ended up on the floor than in your mouth, so work on that, will you?”

A toddler loves praise, so will actively seek out ways to earn more. This can backfire a little when they are super funny or cute while they are doing something you would rather they didn’t – and they know you are laughing at them. They will see the laughter as praise and keep doing whatever it is that you want them to stop doing. If in this situation, put your hand over your mouth, turn your head or leave the room. But even then, they tend to know when they are being hilarious. Clever little buggers.

Lesson Five: You will be surprised by how much you can love a small human

I am completely blown away by how much two Marmite-covered hands reaching for me tugs at my heart. I love this little boy more than I ever thought it possible to love a child.

While I was staying with them, Alexander started saying ‘please’, although he adds his version of the sign language Grandma taught him and he says, ‘pease’ with a long drawn out ‘eee’ sound. He worked out pretty quickly that ‘pease’ is a magic word, because Aunty Sandy gave him everything he asked for when he used his manners. Just call me a smitten kitten.

And when people say, “Oh you love being an aunty just because you can hand him back when he gets cranky or messes his nappy,” I reply that I am a full-service, hands-on aunty. I do screaming toddler. I do poopy nappy. I do runny nose and chapped bum. I do three Peppa Pigs in a row. (My friends will attest to the fact that I have always been hands-on with my honorary nieces and nephews.)

So, Alexander, when you are old enough to read this, just know that I love you (always) and can’t wait to see you again soon.

Off the Beaten Track in London

I am currently in London, UK.

Well, not the Buckingham Palace-Tower of London-Big Ben-West End-Leicester Square kind of London, but the real London. You know, where the people live. London people. I have been staying with my sister and brother-in-law (and their son, my nephew) in Isleworth, which is just outside of Richmond, which is just outside of central London. It has some quaint houses and pretty parks.



Within walking distance are three ‘high streets’ where small shop-fronts line up, one after the other, in what can only be described as ‘complete randomness’. The funeral parlour is next to the deli is next to the mirror shop is next to the mechanics is next to the beauty parlour, and so forth. I love high street shopping. As most businesses are owned and run by the same person, it makes you feel like part of the community and you often get personalised service.

St Margaret's High Street
St Margaret’s High Street

Many of the roads around here are one lane each way with parking on each side of the road, but they are just a tad narrower than they should be and buses wait patiently at either end of a row of parked cars, taking turns to navigate the gauntlet. Then they ‘rinse and repeat’ a few blocks down the road. A  bus journey from here to Richmond is enough to make you hold your breath, such are the manoeuvres of the practised drivers. The buses are very nice, I would like to add – modern and clean.


And speaking of Richmond, it really is one of my favourite places in London, especially the view as you cross the Thames into Richmond. The river is beautiful, and I love the buildings along the waterfront.


I have, however, not had the nerve – or any inclination – to go into here, which is just down the road:


I wonder if somewhere nearby is the ‘Working Girls Club’.  Hmmm.

Diary of Cold Virus by Sandy’s Cold

Day One

Victim has no idea I am here. I *love* this part, lying in wait to emerge at the least convenient time. When I do, victim will be racking her brain to work out if she’d finally succumbed to the cold her boyfriend has been nursing for 2 weeks, or if that baby sneezing into her mouth sealed the deal. Confusing my victim is always a good fun way start to the relationship.

Day Three

Brilliant! Victim is on a plane and is asleep. She went to sleep well, and now I make my move. When victim wakes up from five fitful hours of upright plane sleeping, she will have a sore throat to rival all others. And, to carry on with the whole ‘confusion’ theme, she’ll attribute it to ‘airplane travel’, rather than to me. Hee hee.

Day Four

Victim has arrived in destination and finally admits to all and sundry that she is sick, with a cold. She is blaming the baby, but only I know the truth. She picked me up on that last visit to the gym before she left – the one she made herself go to so she would feel good after her flight. Bwah Hahhahhaahack-cough-splutter. Oh dear.

Day Six

Awesomeness! Victim’s sister is now sick and victim is convinced she brought it with her, even though there really is no possibility of her having infested her sibling. I like to call this ‘Guilt Phase’.  As well as her body feeling like crap, now her soul does too. Oh, and she is missing out on her mum’s birthday. AND, she has had to send the brother-in-law out for more tissues – the ones with Aloe and other soothing properties. She’s a real wuss, this one. Victim sleeps a lot during the day.

P.S. Is that a little tickle I feel in my throat?

Day Seven

Wow, this chick is going mad for the OTC cold meds (that’s over-the-counter medication to the uninitiated). At last count she was popping Vitamin C (Yeah, good luck with that), cold tablets (impotent and expensive – more fool her), throat lozenges (5 minutes of relief + the added benefit of a sugar high for 15) and zinc. Wait, zinc??!? Crap, that stuff actually works. I had better distract her with some more snot and completely fruitless coughing.

Day Eight

Victim’s mother is now sick – and has a 36-hour flight ahead of her. Booyah! Bonus points for me. Victim feels even more guilty – so she should – and is using extra tissues due to eye leakage. Not sure what that is about, but her sister is likewise afflicted. Victim’s 19-month-old nephew has developed a cough. It is very cute, and victim keeps looking at him with a concerned look on her face.

P.S. Throat sore.

Day Nine

Today, victim went outside. Silly girl. Didn’t she know I would save the best symptom until now? Wooziness!! Ah-hah! That’s what you get for dressing up and putting on lipgloss and going out into the world. Don’t you know that you are mine?!!!!

P.S. Nose runny.

Day Ten

Some of my best work yet: victim woke up sounding like Demi Moore after a three-day bender. She *says” she is starting to feel a lot better. BUT, her mother’s Facebook posts about being really sick and her sniffling nephew are putting her back in her place. Her body feels better, but her soul is being destroyed with guilt. I am a genius!!

P.S. Nose still runny – and snot a weird colour.

Day Twelve

Victim went for a vigorous walk today – and did not sleep at all during daylight hours. She is definitely on the mend. Damn you, zinc!! Good news is that her mother is now in the middle of this horror, her sister still feels like crap, and to add a cherry to the top of my crap-sundae, her nephew will not sleep at all tonight – and neither will the three grown-ups, who will get up throughout the night to soothe him.  Note: Victim’s brother-in-law seems to have avoided getting sick at all. Bugger.

P.S. Cough and sneezing and not sleeping well.

Day Fourteen

It has been a good run. My victim is about 95% well – just some residuals to deal with. Pat on the back to me for taking down her mother and nephew. Not sure who to blame for sister, but kudos for excellent timing. Brother-in-law still well (can’t win them all).

P.S. Going to bed. Am sick.