Consider yourself one of the family

My family never told me I was adopted but I always felt something didn’t quite fit when it came to my place in the family.  It’s not because they treated me in a way that made me feel at odds, on the contrary, I can only suggest the feeling was either innate or perhaps something I overheard as a young child. I suspect the later to be the case because of an incident that occurred when I was around 4.

The sandbox

I was happily playing in a sandbox with kids visiting with their parents when I overheard someone talking about me. I don’t recall what was said and I don’t know who by, but whatever was said that day disturbed me and forever left me with a feeling of detachment.

That detached feeling would surface in one way or another at various times throughout my life.

Consider yourself one of the family

My aunty took me to see the movie Oliver in 1969, I was 8. I recall throughout the movie feeling distraught that he was an unwanted child. Why didn’t anyone want him? Where was his family? Why was he treated badly? It wasn’t his fault he was an orphan.

I understood that this movie, although a musical and set in a by-gone era, wasn’t entirely fictional as many children the same age as me and living within Australia didn’t have a family – I saw it on the news and documentaries.

For months afterwards I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I could wake up one morning and be an orphan just like Oliver. It disturbed me so much that every night I’d wake up in a cold sweat, sobbing. Mum or dad would come into my room each night to console me back to sleep. If they didn’t wake and come in to my room, I’d crawl in between them as they slept feeling safe surrounded by my parents.

One day at school, I was called into the principles office. The principle, a nun, said my parents were worried about me and asked if I would share with her what was troubling me. I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed and I wasn’t about to tell a nun about my fears and worries, besides I was too young to articulate what they were. She told me that if the nightmares continued, I would have to talk to a priest. Needless to say the nightmares disappeared soon after.

For the next 22 years I avoided watching the movie and when I finally did, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the little girl who was terrified she’d end up a poor little orphan.

PS:  I haven’t watched the remake of Oliver and I don’t intend to.

Love Child

Love Child is a new television series on Channel Nine. It’s set in a fictional Kings Cross Hospital with an adjoining hostel where unwed mothers live and work until their babies are born then adopted, some forcibly. Love Child has come onto our screens not long after Julie Gillard, the former Australian Prime Minister, said sorry to all those affected by the practice of forced adoptions.

I was keen to see the first episode since it would reflect closely to my story but only insofar-as the era and location. I didn’t conceive the notion that my adoption was physically forced, and here are the reasons why:

I believe all adoptions where forced, physically or emotionally. Physically without consent, emotionally because of shame, guilt and societies condemnation

1. My birthmother Anne, was 24 at the time of my birth. Hardly an age where she would be forced into giving her baby up without her consent.
2. My birthfather, name unknown, was 40 and as the story goes was helping Anne with expenses. This leads me to believe that Anne didn’t work out her confinement in a single mother’s hostel as depicted in the TV program.
3. The address Anne gave was a private boarding house in Woollahra run by an elderly spinster named Lucy. At least that’s what Lucy’s great niece told me many years after her aunty died.

When you can’t verify the information you have, one has to fill in the gaps with assumptions



Because of the assumptions I’ve made surrounding my adoption, I didn’t immerse myself into stories of forced adoptions that graced our news and current affair shows around the time of the national apology. I simply didn’t believe that story was mine but belief can be born out of ignorance.

I was immersed in my story, as an adoptee with little information to go on and developed a story that I was happy with. I was ignorant to the story of birthparents, especially birthmothers and over the coming weeks I hope with the help of the show to get a better understanding of what it was like as a birthmother.

I understand that TV doesn’t always reflect life but in the case of Love Child, there’s plenty of evidence to support the storyline. And while this show is causing headlines, it’s a good opportunity to keep the discussion going and in my quest to find Anne Watkins I hope to get an insight to what her story may have been.

The confirmation

Finding out I was adopted was more about confirming what I’d already suspected.  The confirmation itself would come from a stranger at the end of the phone and the conversation went something like this:

“I’m sorry Katherine,  I am unable to disclose confidential information of this nature.”

As unbelievable as it sounds, that statement changed my life and started me on a search that’s still going today – 30 years later.

The lead up to this phone call entailed a night at the pub for my husband Mark who ran into my brother Chris which inevitably ended up in the two chatting over a few beers. The next morning, which was probably a Saturday since Mark only went out on Friday nights,  he recounted his conversation with Chris.


Chris’s and my father died on the 9th July 1981, he was only 58. He didn’t wake up one morning.  If my memory serves me well, I think my brother Chris was living at home at the time so he was there when mum woke up and discovered her husband of 36 years lying dead beside her.

Our mum was a beautiful soft soul who didn’t cope well with her emotions so sorting out all the paperwork one has to deal with on these occasions was left to my brother. I was tending to mum and my three month old baby girl Kristy.

Mark’s recount…

While Chris was gathering paperwork to provide the undertaker, he discovered two Order of Adoption certificates, his and mine. Chris had no idea he was adopted, he was 28 at the time and we all knew mum breast fed Chris. He told Mark that he wasn’t surprised to find my adoption papers, after all he was 7 and one day out of the blue mum and dad bought home a baby sister.

And that was about as much information as Mark could remember. Knowing my brother that was about as much information he knew. Like me, my brother adored mum and dad and I think he was devastated in finding out he was adopted so he wasn’t interested in getting to the bottom of the story.

You would think that this information was the confirmation I needed but on the contrary, Mark was recounting a conversation held in a pub between him and my brother both of whom enjoyed the odd drink or two or three.

I didn’t want to ask Chris for confirmation of his story. I certainly wasn’t going to ask mum, that would be devastating for her.  Asking questions would uncover my desire to find out who my birth parents are and I didn’t want my family to think I didn’t love them. Asking for my Order of Adoption certificate was also out of the question, at least it was at that time.

Looking back at that time, I conclude that the moment my adoption was confirmed was the moment I wanted to know – where did I came from and how did I get  here.

If I couldn’t ask my family maybe a stranger could provide the confirmation I needed.  If there was an Order of Adoption certificate, my name most certainly would be on a government list somewhere. What government department I didn’t know but it was Saturday and I couldn’t wait for Monday to come sooner so I could start calling.

Monday and the search begins

I can’t remember the exact date my search began but I do recall being in my newly renovated lounge room which was the home my father was raised in. So it must have been 1984. By this time I had two kids – Kristy 3 and Josh was a newborn.

After making several phone calls I was finally put through to the Department of Youth and Community Services. I told my story to a lovely man and I recall his genuine interest. I wish I knew his name as he is an important element in my story. He said he could look into the records over the next couple of days but he did warn me that if I was on the list he would be unable to disclose confidential information of that nature but he said he could confirm if I wasn’t on the list.

So the scene was set, in several days time this lovely man would either say he wasn’t able to disclose confidential information of that nature or that I wasn’t on the list.  It was the longest three days I’ve lived through.

The phone rang, he said he was from the Department of Youth and Community Services and that he searched his records and his next sentence changed my life:

“I’m sorry Katherine,  I am unable to disclose confidential information of this nature.”

You have how many wives?

While channel surfing a few Sundays ago, I came across a 60 Minute story on the self proclaimed Rabbi, Phil Sharp (AKA the Rampant Rabbi) who has had eight wives. Of course in the eyes of the law he only has one wife. Sharp claims his polygamy is part of a divine plan, revealed to him by God, in which the End of Days judgement will start in his own house.

Polygamy refers to the practice of having more than one spouse. It is broader than polygyny, which refers to situations where one man has multiple wives, and polyandry, which refers to one woman with multiple husbands.

I don’t know who to feel sickened by, the polygynist man or the concubines who make up his harem.  In today’s society why do women allow themselves to be in a situation where they share the man they love and the man they bare children with?

Why would you resign yourself to be wife number 2 or 3 or more?

It’s enough that we are given identifying numbers for many life situations. Everyone entering the workforce are given tax file numbers. After you start work you’re given an employee number. If you’re a member of a club you have a membership number. For goodness sake we’re even given queue numbers.

It’s little wonder that sometimes we feel that we are nothing more than a number. Why a woman would decide to become just another number in what should be a very personal role in life, that of a wife, be it in traditional marriage or de-facto relationship, goes beyond my capability to understand the reasoning behind such a decision.

Or is it that I’ve been conditioned by society, in particular western society that polygamy is wrong?

Although most Australians live monogamous relationships it’s claimed that  70 percent of all marriages experience an extramarital affair – 60% of men and 50% of women, however that figure differs depending on your age. In many cases these affairs can be long lasting and in fewer cases again can lead to pregnancies of the second female partner.  The difference is that polygamy is open but not commonly accepted and having an affair isn’t open and more accepted. 

Given that polygamy doesn’t cover up the concept of multiple partners as opposed to the closed or secretive aspect of affairs, why is polygamy condemned?

Firstly we should look at where does polygamy stems from.  I blame religion for many things wrong in the world and my first stance is to blame religion for polygamist communities dragging on a ridiculous tradition, Mormons for example.  However, polygamy stems way back before organised religion came about. For example, for Australian Aboriginals the concept of multiple wives is normal or at least it was normal until white man came along and changed things.  There is no formal ceremony, wives are selected for the men from within the community, siblings and first cousins are not allowed to marry.

However, there are negative aspects of this arrangement and they are not confined to the Aboriginal example used here. Although, it has been suggested that polygamy stemmed from an imbalance of women to men, statistics suggest that the ratio of men and women were the same therefore leaving many men without a wife.  Men who were left out were often found to be having affairs with the neglected wives of a polygamous relationship and also a wealth of sociological information points to the fact that single men commit the vast majority of violent crimes.

Historically, all religions have practised polygamy at some stage.  Each religious text refers to polygamy. For example, in the Hebrew Bible polygamy was permitted only if a man has more than one wife, at the same time if a woman had more than one husband (polyandry), it was seen as adultery. The Quran states that a man can marry up to four women, however, in practice the first wife must give her permission.  The Bible also has many references to polygamy with some of the main characters in the old testament having several wives such as David, Solomon and Abraham. However, during the early church period of Christianity polygamy was banned citing a few references in the bible that forbade multiple marriages.

In historical Chinese society where a polygamist family existed the child was considered to have more than one mother and they could have up to 4 mothers. The first wife was considered to be the official mother while the others were the unofficial mothers. There was one main wife, known as the ‘Queen wife” and she had a higher status than the others.

So what’s the affect of a polygamist relationship on women?

The more information I read about polygamist relationships it’s apparent that the women get the raw end of the deal no matter how you look at it and children don’t fair any differently.

Predominately, women of polygamist relationships are more likely to be from a poorer background and have limited education.  As more and more wives are introduced to a family unit, the new wives are generally younger resulting in increased jealousies and ultimately affecting the family unit.  

The affect on children is no better than that on women because men with lots of children and wives are spread too thin, and to make things worse, they’re compiling resources to attract their next wives instead of using it on their existing families.  Also, it appears that child abuse is more prevalent as young girls become a commodity to barter with and many very young girls are married off to very old men.

On the flip side many women in polygamist relationships state that having multiple women on hand to help with the running of the family provides each wife with the ability to take time out for themselves and I sure all women in monogamous relationships would agree that this certainly would be a benefit, albeit the only one.

The countries that do accept polygamy are generally underdeveloped, their population is mostly illiterate, as well as having a cultures of oppressed women as polygyny is the only form of polygamy that is acceptable in these societies . Virtually all of the developed countries do not permit polygamy.

Kody BrownI do fear that polygamy is starting to be accepted with TV now popularising it with shows such as Sister Wives.  Although shows such as this may not show polygomy in a bad light, I’m sure practised by a wider community the impact to women on a whole would certainly be a negative one with the increase in mental health and single mothers, not the mention the negative impact to children and the increase of crime amongst single males as studies suggest.

In conclusion, society doesn’t need these type of family dynamics in order to progress and prosper. I know many people who are against gay marriage think that legalising gay marriage will lead to legalising polygamist relationships but we’re not comparing apples to apples so I don’t see why the two are linked. Polygamist families are not good for women or the children born out of these relationships and it’s certainly not good for the young males who are left on the shelf.

The Perils of Polygamy by Christopher Kaczor

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A Friday wif me daawder

I arrived at my daughter’s house on Friday at 5pm, the time she said she’d be at home.  As I arrived she called to let me know her watch stopped and she was working to an earlier time, therefore she’d be 20 minutes late.

Although I don’t have a key, the neighbour does and he also had my granddaughter as he picked her up along with his kids from school. So I got the spare set of keys and my granddaughter and I made myself at home until my daughter arrived with my grandson who was a child care.

Before I go on with my story I need to point out that my daughter is a highly strung perfectionist, with the emphasis on highly strung.  She has little patience and doesn’t like deviating from her organised plan when it comes to the kids.

My granddaughter Matilda and I were chatting about her weekly routine of school, dancing and swimming when her mother arrived home with Charlie.  Charlie, who’s three,  held out his arms for a big hug and kiss which is always welcoming and not always expected from my emotional little man.  My daughter’s greeting consisted of a quick ‘hi’ whereby she immediately launched into organising dinner.

Unlike my three kids who ate almost everything, never ever turned back a meal unless they were sick,  Charlie is something else. It’s a meal time battle ground every night, or at least every night I’m around. Charlie won’t eat anything other than chicken wings and rice and of course chocolate and lollies which he doesn’t get often so essentially he almost doesn’t eat, something that frustrates me no end.

Therefore, mealtimes at my daughters end up in a yelling match with Charlie who refuses to eat and after 15 minutes of crying, yelling and sending him to his room  he finally and begrudgingly ends up at the dinner table picking what he likes from his plate all the while pulling a face like it’s going to poison him.  In the meantime, my daughter is cranky and explains her mood started the minute she picked up a naughty Charlie from child care and of course her mood only exacerbated with the food battle.

Not to inflame the situation, I sat quietly at dinner while the food battle was raging. It would only take a single word to blow my daughter right out of the ball park but my daughter knows that my silence indicates that I’m holding back my opinion, which I was but decided to shut well and truly up.

To alleviate the situation, after dinner I bathed and dressed the kids which gave my daughter some time to relax and calm down – but not for long.

It was Friday night and the kids are allowed to stay up a little later to watch a DVD, and to my pleasant surprise it was Mary Poppins. I loved this movie when I was little and was happy to share the experience with my Grand children.

I should also mention that earlier in the evening, prior to the food battle, Matilda talked me into letting her to sleep with me.  I’m not too keen on the idea as I love to sleep on my own but she looks at me with her big wide expecting blue eyes so how can I say no.

As the movie neared to an end my daughter reminded the kids their bedtime was looming. Matilda announced she was sleeping with me.  Now forgive me for thinking I should be applauded for being a loving Nanni who gives in to such requests but on the contrary I got myself a dressing down for allowing such a thing and the reasons given included:

  1. What about Charlie?
  2. I shouldn’t upset Matilda’s sleeping routine.

Firstly I’d already made a pack with Charlie that he could sleep with me next time but the little bugger played up none-the-less citing the unfairness of not being able to sleep with me which of course added fuel to my daughter’s wonderful mood  –  I just can’t win sometimes and this was certainly one of those times.

Facebook, my Clayton friend

I like Facebook immensely.  I like that I can catch up with people I’ve known since childhood as well as people I’ve crossed paths with in some significant or insignificant way but time and distance ended the relationship.  Through Facebook friends are brought together and through Facebook friendships are broken.  The more sinister uses include to discredit, stalk and abuse.  It’s a powerful tool and not one to be used lightly. Caution is the key.

I try not to put anything on Facebook that would jeopardise my family or career. However, having said that I do have strong opinions on religion, adoption and politics and I have the odd opinion about child rearing and I stand by my convictions so if anyone is offended they can use the tools Facebook provide them to deal with me such as defriending.

In the days before Facebook, friends who fell out did so by either a face-to-face argument or over the phone or by text, my personal favourite is “the snub”.  These days Facebook is my preferred weapon of mass defriending.  For serious arguments you not only defriend someone but you can also block them from seeing your online presence even when you comment on a mutual friend’s walls.

However, after the dust settles on an argument,  there’s always the option of refriending as a form of making up.  I’ve defriended and refriended the same person at least 3 times and visa versa. We use it as a tool to chastise each other for one thing or another.  The last time was not so long ago. I couldn’t help but send a Facebook friend request after a couple of months with a little message saying how obviously childish we are.  I guess we can’t live without being Facebook friends – it’s kinda silly.

My most unusual friend request was a one by accident. Not long ago I received a request from a friend of a friend whom I didn’t know. I sent a message to him asking if it was a genuine request as it could have been one of those strange security issues Facebook have from time to time. He said it was in his pocket at the time, so no it wasn’t a genuine request.  We got chatting, well he was chatting me up and I didn’t say no (at my age I’ll take any attention awarded to me). By the end of our little flirtateous chat, I had my first by-accident Facebook flirty friend.  Another unusual friend request came again from a friend of a friend because he liked my photo and who was I to say no, one must be hospitible and patsy to my own ego.

Besides keeping up to date with friends another powerful feature of Facebook is the status update and I love the status update.  They can be used to brag, make you laugh, grandstand, lecture, support, encourage, enlighten. They are used negatively and positively.  I use the status update for all of the above but mainly to make people laugh and very rarely for negative reasons, religious rants being the exception to this rule.  I never use the status update as a personal abuse tool but I have been defriended for making comments that offend ideals, especially religious ones.  Generally I ignore status updates that I’m offended by especially when friends makes a religious comment thanking God for some lame deed all the while ignoring all the heinous things going on in the world. ***off soapbox***

We follow our favourite friend’s day to day activities through their status updates. Some provide us with a humorous look at life through their eyes, some make us think, some make us squirm and some make us roll our eyes. We may not agree with some and some make you cranky. 

Facebook is not compulsory and you have to take the good with the bad with the downright stupid if you’re going to use it but all-in-all for me it’s my Clayton friend – the friend you have when you’re not having a friend.

End note:  If you’re too young to understand the term Clayton friend, click here.

AAW baby

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average woman is a 37 year old Catholic sales assistant, 161.8 cm tall (around 5 feet 4 inches) and weighs 71.1 kg. Essentially the figures are telling me that I’m on the wrong side of the average age and weight but not by much, well maybe a little bit, ok a lot! I’m also on the wrong side of the average height but not by much, really, I’m only a smidgeon smaller. At 37 I was a Teacher not a sales assistant so I’d fall into the above average category on the job front and although I was christened Catholic, I denounced my religiosity long ago, an above average intellectual decision.

Although I’m not above average on all counts, the statistic tells me that I am an “above average woman”, or as I like to be referred to as AAW!  The journey to becoming an AAW has been through times of major lifestyle and cultural changes and as a result of these changes the AAWs have a rich and interesting story to tell and in my biased opinion AAWs of today are much more interesting than “below average women” or as I like to call them the BAWs.

AAWs are the baby boomers, the post war babies born into a fast changing world, especially for women. In 1961 the contraceptive pill became available and women won unprecedented control over their own fertility. This certainly helped the younger baby boomers going through their teenage years in the 70s – me being one.  My group are the younger of the boomers, born in the early 60s and the ones I talk about here.

Skyhooks 1974 – click to hear them

After the revolutionary 60s was the counterculture of the 70s bringing with it a big shift in the music industry in Australia. Aussie glam rock band Skyhooks challenged the norm with their flamboyant costumes and suggestive lyrics and many of their songs were banned from commercial radio. Pub rock music emerged with Cold Chisel, Midnight Oil and AC/DC along with international bands impacting the social mood of the day. Along with the music, the lives of the teenage baby boomer was changed by their willingness to experiment with sex and drugs – ah, those were the days!

Even with the more adventurous lifestyle the baby boomers still settled down and married in their twenties and had kids soon after. And now in the second decade of the 21st century the baby boomers are the AAWs and life will be taking on a whole other identity for them but in true style the AAWs will be up to the challenge as they took the challenge by the horns in the 70s as teenage baby boomers.

AAWs should be waving goodbye to their adult kids as they move out of home. For the AAWs whose adult kids don’t look like they’re moving out any time soon, my advice to you is move!  Move to another suburb or downsize to an apartment. Either way your kids won’t want to move with you.  If you move suburbs they’ll hate living away from their friends. If you downsize they’ll hate living in closer proximity to you and visa versa. Think of moving as a good spring clean – new place, new stuff, less people and less work to do and more time for you – happy days!

According to reports, baby boomers hold approximately 401 per cent of the nation’s wealth and worth an average of over $1 million per household2. Baby boomers are now enjoying a new era of unprecedented financial and personal freedom.  But a word of warning, don’t tell your kids, they’ll want your money and they won’t pay it back – EVER!

With all this disposable money in your pocket you’ll have the luxury of spending it on important things: clothes, shoes, botox and all things that make you feel and look wonderful. And of course, more money means more holidays – long holidays and first class all the way. Gone are the days of setting off in the four wheel drive with the kids, dogs, boats, bikes and tents in tow for a 2 week beach side holiday at one of the Big Four Caravan Parks. This is what the BAWs are doing now, poor darlings. Hotels with fluffy white towels, a mini bar, room service and a beautifully laid out buffet breakfast is awaiting your arrival – what are you waiting for, go book it!

Another positive aspect of being an AAW is having grandchildren. It’s wonderful to have little babies around. It’s like getting a second chance to screw up. Only this time you can hand them back when things go belly up. You also get to impart your kid-rearing knowledge to your kids – the parents of your grandchildren.  It’s the advice you were given from your parents and subsequently ignored as will your kids but when things don’t work out you get to say – “if you only followed my advice, this wouldn’t have happened” –  again, happy days!  Just don’t tell your kids you didn’t follow the same advice.

Of course there are some downsides to being an AAW.  It takes several days to get over a big night on the booze.  Two nights with the grandchildren leaves you in a vegetative state. You become forgetful and your eye sight goes as does your hearing. Although I suspect the hearing comes down to not listening as this was my recent experience. Getting up from ground level takes some energy, so does carrying 6 bottles of wine.  You become less nimble on your feet finding yourself kissing the pavement more often, even when you’re not drunk and you look for the stairs in the pool because your weak arms couldn’t pull your fat arse out of the pool to save yourself.

Forgetfulness, blindness, deafness and falling over aside, being an AAW in the 21st century is pretty damn good. We have more independence, more friends, more money and better social lives than our mothers. And let’s not forget more access to cheaper beauty therapies. We have better homes, travel more and generally have better health. We’re used to experiencing big change like we did in the 70s and we’ll face the challenge again in the 2010s. AAWs are a group for the BAWs to notice and learn from because one day they’ll be AAWs.  But one thing they’ll never be are baby boomers.

(1)   HILDA Report, waves 1 to 6 (Volume 4) 2009. Data analysed by Mi9 to provide an estimated value for Australian Baby Boomers (aged 50 – 69)
(2)   HILDA Report, waves 2, 6 & 10 (Volume 4) 2009. Data analysed by Mi9 to provide an estimated value for Australian Baby Boomers (aged 50 – 69)

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Finding my mojo

I have been slack of late with updating my blog, I haven’t even bothered to review comments, which isn’t a bad thing, they’re usually spam anyway. I know for a blog to have success one has to keep publishing. Successful bloggers spend many hours a week tapping away at their keyboard bringing what could essentially be a dull boring topic to life. I feel like I’ve lost momentum and certainly the passion for some of the topics I’ve published in the past: being a nanni, adoption and depression to name a few.

I have a theory of why I haven’t been depressed of late and therefore not writing deep and meaningful blogs on my dark days. I haven’t had any dark days ever since I had a minor operation to fix a medical condition known as hyperparathyroidism, which depression is one of many side affects – and quiet frankly I’m not amused. I believe I produced my best work when I was depressed. I can only hope it’s a passing phase as I’m not terribly fond of feeling normal all the time, it’s terribly draining and not to mention boring as hell. I was quite use to the swings and roundabouts of my mental state.  The ups from downs felt pretty damn good as I’m sure most depressed people would agree.  My favourite depressed person of all time Stephen Fry admitted his depression may have helped him be successful. He said he was driven by the energy his depression gave him to be creative. Not that I’m comparing myself to the great Mr Fry but he certainly does have a point.

My passion for writing about adoption has also waned. I can’t help but think it’s directly related to my recovery from depression as it was on my down days I’d reflect on my search and subsequent failure. Or maybe I’ve just given up after 30+ years, maybe I’ve just thrown the towel in the ring!

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here, maybe I’m not cured of depression, maybe I might have reached a point of acceptance in my life, acceptance that this is it. Oh surely not, the thought of accepting that this is it, is, well it’s slightly depressing. But alas only slightly!

And there’s my gandkids who have given me so much blog material but with a month away in Italy and their subsequent holiday in Fiji (with their parents of course) has meant I’ve hardly seen them in almost two months.

That being said I now find myself in a quandary, how can I get back my writing mojo?

For starters, it may also be helpful to get my fat arse off the couch and stop watching the Real Housewives series, all of them:  Orange County, New York City, Atlanta, New Jersey and Beverly Hills.  Yes I admit it, I really do watch them religiously.  I try to analyse why I, a somewhat intelligent woman, gets engrossed in these unreal reality shows. I can only conclude it’s pleasing to see beautiful rich women fight like feral cats over the carcass of rats. I wish I had friends I could fight like that with, how liberating.  My friends are just way too polite to behave so unladylike and I’m just way too polite not to reciprocate the same level of politeness – how boring!  Our retaliation is defriending on Facebook.

Back to my quandary!

I’m obviously not suffering from writer’s block because after all I am writing this blog, so the issue isn’t that I can’t write but what to write. I saw an interview with Jerry Seinfeld who said he finds material for his stand-up routines in every aspect of his life and when he gets an idea he’ll work on it day and night until he’s happy that it’s perfect.  And since he’s a very successful comedian, his work philosophy is certainly one to emulate and I’m sure the same word ethic would apply to writing blogs. Do I have that dedication?  Now this is where I should come out with fighting words but all I can say is “I’ll give it my best shot” – how lame.

I may not have my depression to drive my writing but I still have my crazy friends and family, especially my Grandkids who I’ll be seeing more of since we all have our holidays behind us. Surely with all this subject matter and my sarcastic wit and bold opinions I’ll be writing up a storm from now on. Now to work on my bone idle laziness and addiction to the not-so-real housewives!

Scrambled eggs with strawberry topping

A few weeks ago MOTH and I completed our first ever cruise.  We were on a month’s holiday touring Italy and thought we’d include a 7 day cruise into the mix. The cruise started and finished from Venice cruising through the Adriatic Sea followed by the Ionian Sea (who knew this was a sea? Not geographically challenged KityKate anyway) followed by the Mediterranean Sea followed by the Aegean Sea and back again.

We’d visit three countries besides Italy. In the 7 days we’d visit five other ports including Bari which is in southern Italy, Katakolon in Greece, Izmir and Istanbul in Turkey and Dubrovnik in Croatia. Also there was one full day of non-stop sailing.

Embarking at Venice (AKA getting on the boat)
We travelled from Stresa to Venice via Milan to be on board the cruise ship by 2.30 pm. Now this is a long trip so by the time we got to Venezia Santa Lucia railway station with our *40 kilo plus bags we were a little wrecked. Luckily we could leave our bags at the station with the cruise baggage handlers and they assured us the bags would be delivered to our cabin, and they were.

*I must add here that my bag was by far the heaviest as I certainly did need all the shoes I packed albeit against MOTH’s wishes. But in my defence, I did wear all of them at least once. And it would have looked silly me carting the bigger bag.

The ’embarkation’ was a little slow but not to the point where we became murderous. By 3.30 pm we were in our cabin awaiting departure.

Right on 4.30 pm the ship sailed out of Venice, luckily our cabin balcony was on the side that had full view of Venice as we sailed past (or motored past to be more exact).  What a sight to behold – Venice on a beautiful day is a truly breathtaking sight (and I’m not easy to please).

We were off to a great start.


After we set sail MOTH and I unpacked our bags for the first time in three weeks and filled up what little wardrobe space we had and once finished we ventured down to deck 7 for cocktails. Our cabin was on level 10.

There didn’t seem to be many people in the first lounge area we found so we settled down and ordered our first cocktail. We hadn’t explored the ship as yet so we didn’t know how many lounge areas were on-board.

We were both feeling good at this point, it was the first time in the three weeks we were relaxing with a drink in the early afternoon.  All other days were filled with sightseeing, including a gruelling 10 hour day walking around Herculaneum and Pompeii.

After a couple of margaritas and a visit to reception to change our assigned dinner sitting from 6.30 pm to 9 pm to avoid old people and kids, we adjourned to the cabin for a snooze.

Dinner time
At 8 pm we arose from our snooze to shower and spruce up for dinner. I brought my bestest summer dresses. I didn’t pack formal evening gowns as I don’t have any and I certainly don’t have clothes that would make me look like mutton dressed as lamb as it appeared many of the women did.  I do know my limitations when it comes to clothing.

MOTH put on a pair of trousers as the dress code dictated.  I splashed on some make-up and my lovely smelly stuff (Beautiful by Estee Lauder to be exact) and we headed for the level 6 dining room.

When we alighted from the lift, turned left toward the restaurant we were affronted by a very long, very wide queue heading in the same direction– the restaurant.  It was the 9 pm dinner crowd.

OMG, where did all these people come from?

When the restaurant doors opened we were quickly escorted to our assigned tables where we would meet our dinner buddies for the first time. Luckily we were seated with an Irish couple and a young couple from Perth.  Given the rest of the cruisers were from Germany, France and Italy, it’s my guess they sat like speaking people together. This I thought was a good thing as I was a bit over trying to communicate via broken English and hand gestures and I certainly didn’t want to do this at mealtimes.

The Irish couple were on their 3rd cruise and like us the Perth couple were on their first.  Anyway, our first cruise dinner went well, dinner topics included travel, religion (I didn’t start it) and politics. It appeared we were all of similar persuasions except maybe the Perth women, she was only young and very quiet. She was very keen to see the Virgin Mary’s House in Ephesus Turkey as she was raised Catholic.  Although her Vietnamese-born Aussie-raised husband later conceded he doubts very much the authenticity – live and learn.

The buffet (AKA the nosh pit)
After a relatively good night sleep albeit with louder than ever snoring from MOTH because he had a slight head cold, we rose for our first cruise breakfast.  We headed for level 15 buffet breakfast.

Something worth mentioning is that using the lifts between floors  was becoming slightly annoying, but more on that later.

Once we reached level 15, we headed in the direction of the buffet. Our first glimpse was of the seating arrangements, tables of 6 aligning the full glassed wall with amazing ocean views. It was soon apparent we weren’t going to get a seat near the window or anywhere else for that matter.

I should note now that kids travel free. I was lulled into a false sense of security by the fact the Italian school holidays were not until August. However, I didn’t know about the German school holidays.

There was people everywhere. I was surrounded by men, women and children all buzzing around with plates piled high with a vast mix of food, much of which shouldn’t be seen on the same plate.  I’m sure I saw one women with scrambled eggs covered in strawberry topping with a side of bacon, pancakes and a couple of croissants balancing on slices of tart.

Did this mean there was no more food until dinner time and people were eating up to get through the day? Or did this mean they were facing the death penalty and thought they’d eat all their favourite foods in one meal?  With the frenzy that surrounded me I definitely thought the latter.

I was totally dumbstruck by the circus before me but I found a clean plate and wandered from buffet bar to buffet bar. After 5 minutes I found the croissants and picked two from the back. There were so many people MOTH and I had to devise a meet up plan in case we lost one another. I met up with MOTH at the designated meeting point. He had eyed off a couple who were ready to finish up so we hovered until they left.

We vowed that for the next 6 days we would eat at the restaurant which was the same place we had dinner, and as it turned out the same place we would eat lunch.  We just didn’t want to return to the nosh pit with the feral pigs.

We compared notes with the Aussie couple who concurred with our experience at the buffet. They also told us of the people handling food and putting it back once they decided they didn’t want it after all – I’m speechless!

Going up?
In Australia there are unspoken lift rules and they’re easy to follow. For example: when you’re waiting to take a lift and one arrives you wait until those exiting do so. You also let those who were waiting before you to get onto the lift first.

I know there is the odd exceptions of rude behaviour but on a whole Aussies are pretty good with these rules. What we encountered from day one on the ship was a free-for-all when getting on and off the lift. People barged in before anyone even considered getting out – no exceptions. This behaviour was displayed by all Europeans (yes I’m throwing them all under the bus).

On one such occasion MOTH and I waited as a family of four alighted from the lift. The mother got out first with the elder child and the father followed with the baby in a stroller. He was half way out when an older women barged in and bumped the stroller.  The father instinctively apologised and we noted an Aussie accent. His wife, who witnessed this said loudly “don’t apologise, she barged in” to which the man turned around the said “yes that was very rude” (followed by a pause when he saw MOTH and I) “old lady”.  We knew he qualified his verbal response with ‘old lady’ so we weren’t implicated as we politely waited until he was completely out of the lift.  We gave him a smile to indicate our solidarity.

I don’t like to be rude but enough was enough so I couldn’t help but say to MOTH loudly enough for the rude ‘old lady’ to hear that I was over rude behaviour. I only hoped the bitch understood English.

I can’t count the number of times the door opened to an almost full lift where MOTH and I would wait for people to exit only to be left stranded when others who came after us barged in and pushed the close button leaving us dumbstruck.

By day 3 I would only use the lift outside meal times when they weren’t busy . I couldn’t be in close proximity of these rude bastards anymore. By day 7 I never wanted to encounter another European again, but we still had 3 days left in Venice.

Thankfully my faith in human decency was revived by the Italian staff of the lovely hotel we stayed in on the Grand Canal.

Clean before the cleaner comes
There’s one aspect of cruising I can’t complain about and that’s the service staff of which they seemed to outnumber the cruisers.  After I discovered what little wages they receive it’s little wonder there are so many.

Our room was serviced three times every day which meant tidying up each time we left the cabin so the service staff could do their thing. You might think this is silly but we didn’t want to leave cameras, e-pads and phones around, not just because of the security aspect but to ensure they weren’t accidentally broken.

The dining room staff where predominantly Balinese. Each night we had the same waiters and through broken English struck up a few conversations.  We found out during these conversations that the staff only get off the boat for a few hours each week and can only call their family once a week when docked in Italy.

I wondered why the cruise was so cheap; I guess I had my answer – slave labour!

I couldn’t help but feel bad that I was feeding into this tourist industry on the back of cheap labour but on the other hand the cruise liners were providing jobs to people from poorer countries who’d earn less back home.  In the case of the Balinese their livelihoods where decimated by the Bali bombing. So all in all I have mixed views.  Although I vowed never to go to Bali for security and safety reasons, I can’t help but feel that I should do my thing to help them stay at home by incorporating a stopover on my next overseas trip.

I would feel much better if the staff were given more time off and better pay. I for one would gladly pay more for a cruise if it meant the staff were better off. That’s if I ever go on another cruise.

It wasn’t all that bad
Maybe my cruise experience is still raw, after all it was only a little over a week since we disembarked (AKA got off the ship).  However, there were positive aspects of the cruise, mostly experienced off the ship. The ports we visited showed us glimpses of Greece, Turkey and Croatia and were all experiences I’ll always remember, especially Turkey and especially Istanbul.  Istanbul was an amazing city with amazing architecture and an amazing harbour. But maybe I’ll talk about my favourite places in another blog. For now I just wanted to share my cruise experience.

To school or not to school?

Today’s modern families seem to be incapable of steering clear of the constant bombardment of information, all conflicting, on child rearing including when and when not to send a child to school. This most certainly applies to children whose birthdays fall between February and July. Children are eligible to start the next school year if their birthday is between 1 August and 31st July. By law, all children must be enrolled in school by their sixth birthday.

When I was young, you went to school if your birthday was before the cut off date. I don’t believe there were any conversations around whether or not to hold a child back from starting school if they were of the legal age. Children went to school, simple as that. In all my classes from kindergarten to finishing I’m not aware of any class mates being more than 6 months older as me given my birthday is in January.  I had several good friends  whose birthdays were in May and June and there is no evidence they suffered as a result.  On the contrary they are doing very well in their chosen careers.

Off to school
KityKate’s kids off to school. First day of high school, first day of primary and first day of school

When my daughter started school in 1986, it still wasn’t a topic of discussion and my daughter’s birthday is in April which is considered, by today’s standards, as on the fringe. My sons birthday’s were in March and January so I didn’t give it a second thought. Looking back, if I kept my daughter from starting in the year she turned 5, all I would have achieved was to have a bored little girl who would have ended up starting and finishing school one year later.  So nothing would have been gained.

I can’t help but feel that today’s parents take on board too much conflicting and confusing information from so-called-experts who want to inflict their ideas onto parents.  You have child psychologists, pre-school teachers, other parents and grand parents all sprouting their opinions by whatever media is available to them such as TV, radio, magazines, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and books.

I had one book giving me the run down on what to expect from conception to when the baby turns two years.  I knew the book was flawed from the beginning as my baby wasn’t following the book verbatim. So I figured is was time to take control and work it out myself.  And my first piece of advice to my daughter when she was pregnant with her first baby, my first grandchild, and who bought every damn baby book available – “don’t overload yourself with too much bullshit sprouted in the books or the internet or TV”. “Follow your instincts and don’t under any circumstances let the baby rule the roost”. For the most part she follows this simple advice but every now and then I have to remind her not to listen to others because it will only screw with her capability to make important decision for her children.

As I mentioned earlier, when it came to sending my kids to school I didn’t ask anyone for advice because it just wasn’t an issue.  However, today it’s an issue and I’m exposed to this through my daughter whose daughter (my grand daughter) is eligible to go to school next year and until now the topic of when she’s going wasn’t up for discussion – she’s of school age and she’s going, simple as that. But as the start of school is looming for my granddaughter it’s becoming apparent that many children of a similar age are being held back.  On the most part I haven’t heard a valid reason other than what they’ve heard or been told by others.

And here lies the issue – too many opinions, and on the most part not backed up by any supporting evidence.  This bombardment of information is taking away the responsibility of parents to make decisions based on the their knowledge and understanding of their own children.  With all the hype going on around this topic, even my daughter has questioned, for a moment, her decision to send her daughter to school next year given her birthday is in May.

I can’t help but wonder, if there are concerns in sending children to school before they turn five and there was enough supporting evidence to prove sending them was detrimental to their long term development, wouldn’t the school age be increased?

Holding children back from starting school will have the negative affect at the end of their schooling life because many child turning eighteen in year twelve have two things, possible three, on their minds – getting drunk, getting laid and getting high!  And there isn’t a thing a parent can do to stop their eighteen year old, who technically is an adult, from doing all three.

So before you make one of the most important decisions on behalf of your child, ask yourself one important question foregoing all that ‘others’ have said: is your child intellectually ready for school? And what good, if any, will come from holding them back?

Simple questions with simple answers.