A Stroppy International Women’s Day to All

To commemorate International Women’s Day, “Offsiders” a weekly sports program on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), pulled together an all-women panel to discuss the news in women’s teams and our status in sport. Simon called to me from the other room that someone had observed that “difficult men are tolerated better than difficult women.”

A shout out to Cat Phillips @catphill35 (L) co-captain of the St Kilda AFLW (Australian Football League – Women’s) team.

Thinking about that for 2 seconds led me to reply that it’s more that behaviours deemed “difficult” in women are not deemed difficult in men. My (well-trained) daughter asked “like what?” Like having an opinion. Like arguing. Like objecting to being interrupted. Like demanding, yes we’re talking about the present day, the right to wear trousers instead of a skirt or dress. (We’re talking to you, McKinnon Secondary College.) Like demanding a raise and being paid the same as men doing the same work. Like having boundaries and saying “No.” Or Yes.

In Australia, these qualities lead women to be referred to as ‘stroppy’ and even ‘bolshie,” from the word — you guessed it — “Bolshevik.”

Abby’s own sport, Ultimate Frisbee, while not being broadcast on television at all in Australia, is more friendly to women altogether with the inclusion of men and women mixed teams all the way through elite tournaments. And I’ll take this opportunity to mention that our favourite female athlete has been selected for Australia’s team in the World Junion Ultimate Championships in Sweden this July.

Women’s sport in Australia has advanced by leaps and bounds over the last few years with a growing number of women’s team sports broadcast on network television. Is this the case where you are?

Put your hands up, my ‘bolshie’ comrades. What do you say?

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A Small Blog Post

A new friend and I caught up this morning for a coffee – wait, no! Amy catching up over a coffee? – and we agreed to have a go at being accountability buddies for one another. She had a play review to finish and we decided on a 2:30 deadline. She texted to say she’d succeeded. What was I going to do? she asked. I said I would write a small blog post by 5 pm. I realised while I was walking the dog now just how easy it would be for me to blow off that commitment. It was only one post, after all; who would know if I gave it a miss? Who would care? How much poorer would the world be for the loss of this post? But the answer is she would know. She would care. And even if the rest of the world would be none the wiser, she and I are making an investment in one another – helping to put new habits in place. So here’s my post. So I gave the miss a miss.

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Now There’s An Idea!

The other day, a friend asked me if I write about each session I spend as a volunteer at a local Jewish aged care residence, and I had to admit that I don’t, even though each one brings insights and nachas (a Yiddish word usually used to describe the joys you get from loved ones).

My visits began as part of a Learn Local class teaching Elders at the residence how to use a computer — how to use a mouse to point, scroll, etc. That drove me crazy. But when that finished up six weeks later, I decided to stay on with another volunteer, Sharone, to do the work I was more interested in: working with Elders individually to introduce them to the miracles of the internet to help them connect with loved ones and the community, and to access interesting tools and apps on the internet that would enrich their lives.

For more than a year, while Sharone has been working with Ellis, I have been working with Helen who makes use of our sessions to write. She had already written a book about her years in the Gabersdorf concentration camp. So when I asked her if she’d like to write about her life, she said “Again?!” I explained that I didn’t want her to write the story Hitler inflicted on her but her own — but her life before and since her years at Gabersdorf.

And that’s what she does each week: write. Mostly, she writes about her experiences in the camp — there are so many. But she’s also written about her first love in the Zionist youth group in Sosnowiecz, Poland, about how she met her husband in Paris after Gabersdorf was liberated, the work she did for the US Army in Paris and more.

Today, I asked her if she would write a little about her husband. She said she would but continued to be absorbed in reading what she’d previously written about when her family was rounded up and sent to the camps. A little later I noticed that she’d gone silent — no typing and not a word from her.

I brought my face down to the desk where she could see me right in front of her then uttered her name. “Helen,” I said, gently “where are you?” “Gabersdorf,” she answered. “And what’s happening there now?” “I’ve come out of the toilet and she’s beating me with a shovel.” “It’s like you’re there again right now, yes?” Yes.

When I asked her again to tell us a little about her husband, she turned the table on me and asked me to write about mine. Fair enough. What she most wanted to hear again was how he and I got together. And she wanted me to write it down because her hearing has deteriorated rapidly since she came down with shingles and it’s better for her to read it. She’s so smart and was quick to bring it to my attention if a sentence assumed knowledge I hadn’t provided.

I can’t help but wonder if EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) or other neuropsychological techniques would put an end to the torment she experiences brought on by her many traumatic memories. I’ve heard that sometimes these memories are precious to survivors as testimony to those who perished.

But I also wonder: Helen in 94 years old and she has lived 90 of those years outside the camps. She has been in love, she has married and has a daughter and grandchildren. She worked for years at the Australian Jewish News and has travelled to Israel.

Still, despite so much life, it is Gabersdorf that visits her the most. If these memories ended, what would happen to Helen?

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Bowled Over

Dinner was a success. Brown basmati rice with Thai tofu for Simon, sizzled chicken breast in lime, edamame and pickled seaweed salad. All in a bowl – quattro stagione – like pizza. It’s a dinner I should have photographed, unlike the many I have. Defrosted the seaweed, boiled the edamame and sauteed the chicken in the pan after the tofu. Everyone was happy.

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Medicaid Approved

Mom’s application for Medicaid benefits has been approved. This would seem strange to her fifteen years ago self because it would ever have occurred to her that she, the upper middle class wife of a psychiatrist, would need these benefits that are targeted for those “whose income and resources are insufficient to pay for health care.”   America’s Health Insurance Plans (HIAA), p. 232. Retrieved from Wikipedia 1/12/2018.

But a variety of bad decisions, lies of omission, shirking of responsibility and failures to plan have landed my mother in the tenuous position of needing government aid. 

And one of the disturbing ironies is that she is, at once, frivolously spending money as part of an addiction to a home shopping channel, and needing government benefits. She doesn’t have enough money to pay for all of her health needs, even if she weren’t charging like a wounded bull, and at the same time she has too much. 

And we resent it. If she has so much money to fritter away, why doesn’t she give some of it to us? Over the last two months, she’s made about 40 purchases from the home shopping channel, most frequently  pieces of jewellry. 

What is she buying all this jewellry for? She doesn’t get out of bed, let alone go somewhere that warrants new jewellry. A few years ago when I was visitting, she had a pile of knit sweaters — I mean like 15 of them — that she had no use for because they were too small for her and too big for me. 

A program I belong to would call it a massive case of denial. Somewhere in her she imagines that she will go out to a concert, a movie, a Broadway show, wearing this jewellry. 

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Teenage Giggles

Abby and Gina were born one day apart — Gina on the day Abby was due, and Abby on the next. Gina’s mum and I were the oldest in our mums group and it turmed out that our husbands worked together at CSIRO. We all have remained friends over the 17 years since our girls were born and Abby and I are staying with them while back in Perth for the Ultimate Frisbee Under 22s national competition.

Tonight is our last night. Abby is sleeping on a mattress in Gina’s room and the noises that emerge — the secret giggles, even if they are at our expense, tell me that we have done many things right where our kids are concerned.

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Friends from my book group all got together today on the occasion of Abby’s and my visit to Perth. Suzie booked two tables — one for the mums — Ann, Carolynne, Carol, Bridget smaller one for the four daughters: Abby, Gina, Elisheva and Alice. 

I went to the bar to order my bubbly, As soon as I tasted it, I knew I made a mistake so I gave it to Carol and went back to the bar.  The young woman who had served me the first time. She had (at least) two tattoos — one that said “The show must go on!” and the one is music to     Once Upon a Mattriess. Can’t go on  tonight…

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It’s a Shellacking: Labor Wins Landslide Election.

It was a shellacking for the Liberals in today’s Victorian State election. And, in our own electorate of Bentleigh, there was a swing of 12% toward Labor and away from the fear-mongering Liberals. https://www.abc.net.au/news/elections/vic-election-2018/results/

And that’s all I have to say right now. 

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Scoring Points

I watched Abby score a point today as part of her third game in the first day of the Under 22’s national tournament of Ultimate Frisbee. The team, the Blue Devils, had lost the first game of the day and althought they also lost the second game, I did see her make an awesome catch and score a point. 

To do this, I had to break with a history of missing her spectacular moments in sport — first Netball and now Ultimate Frisbee.  I feel it’s the same history as It also requied breaking with my history of working pollsites on election day and being off on a toilet break or coffee break just when the candidate was stopping by the site I was working. I don’t know how it kept happening through the various electoral campaigns I worked on, but it did.

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Something About Friends

There’s something about being with old friends, and something special yet again about being with friends you have raised your kids with. These are friends we spent time with, day in and day out on camping trips, cooking and eating meals together, spell eachother some by watching kids. These are people who witnessed so many fights between Simon and me, and like a marriage our friendships grew from it. Over coffees and teas, wines and whines. When you see eachother before the civilising first cup of  tea in the morning or after too many glasses of wine by the campfire. Collapse on their sofa without asking permission.  Those are friends. I think I’ll keep them. 

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