Alcohol and me




It’s not a new year’s resolution. It is not a Dry January nor a detox nor a diet. It’s no post-40 turning of a new leaf. I simply need to know that I can. I have been drinking a glass or two of wine every day of my life for several years running. Mr 6 recently drew a picture of me with my female friends and we were all sitting around a table with glasses of wine. Clearly, it’s time to scale it back. My inner critic has been whispering furiously all this while. Am I…? Inspired in part by fear and in part by my brother-in-law who has had a month long medically induced alcohol ban and has lost 6 kg in the blink of an eye, I have set about a radical overhaul of my drinking habits. I absolutely love wine and wine loves me so I will not be going fully dry. Life is far too short and I’d become an insufferable bore. I’ve set myself two rules to follow until at least the 31st of January. Rule number 1: I can only drink at social events outside my house. Rule number two: I cannot drink two nights in a row. Given the critical blow that young children have inflicted upon my social life, I don’t think there’ll be much drinking.

We (mothers of the young) are the new face of alcoholism. We are the “Oblivion Drinkers” – mums who also work outside the home (or don’t) and self medicate with a glass or two of wine to help the stress of the day get sorted. Google mothers and alcohol and you’ll disappear into a worm hole of writings about how we’re all getting mildly or madly juiced up in the evening day after day and not noticing a habit creeping up on us. We pour with automaticity while chopping the carrots, with dinner and again once the little darlings are finally quiet, having fallen into sleep at last. We sigh and collapse, we deserve this. I could be the poster girl for a generation of Sauv Blanc Mums.

I don’t have a drinking problem. I’m also pretty keen not to get one. I want to continue my love affair with wine for joy, not for survival. So I am just over a week into my new rules. This first week included New Year’s Eve, which was of course an exception. One night of wine consumption  though (as opposed to seven or eight) is a win in my view. I’m giddy to report that apart from self congratulatory day counting, I haven’t missed it. My skin in clearer (related?) and so is my head. Wish me luck!




painter Arch Jan 2013


I have been relieved to discover in my blossoming forties that I was an ass in my twenties and thirties. I truly and honestly thought I knew how shit was supposed to go down in most situations. Thankfully, in recent times, I have come to realise I’ve not a clue, which makes me much more fun to be around and far less likely to cast judgement on anyone. It’s awesome to finally be in a place of perspective where I can clearly see the embarrassing pontifications of my youth as they are. I look back on my know-it-all self as one might do with a little sister. She’s sort of cool, a bit annoying, but needs to grow up and make some mistakes.

I have had an incredibly lucky year. A few areas of my life have been crappy and hard to bear, but on the flip side, I have found a treasure chest full of diamonds this year. And that is, the very special dames I’ve been hangin’ out with. Good, honest women will make you a better woman. They won’t make you feel bad about your weight, your parenting, your filthy house. Good honest women will hit you with a clanger when you need it, pass the tissues in silence when you need it and build you up behind your back. Can I introduce you to a few honest women?

Sassy M, sweet mother of mary I have never known anyone like her. So flawed and so perfect. Sassy M is so honest about her (and your) imperfections, I have never met anyone so comfortable and F-it about who she is. Being with her always brings me into a more comfortable space with my own crap. She makes me feel OK about the crap and can always point out a yeah but to remind me that I do some things really well. When her other friends are not around, she talks them up, never down. She loves people, and lets them know. She calls me friend. She has carried unimaginable pain gracefully. She lights up when she laughs (which is often). No, she’s not flawed and perfect. She’s human and perfect. Utterly, messily, honestly human.

Fearless J suffers no fool. She is a smart, sharp, compassionate feminist. Not sure how’d she’ll feel about that description. Her outrage will fire when she sees injustice, or when some fool is being a tosser at the supermarket. She gives, and she has taught me about servitude. She has given her time, love and care to help and serve the most vulnerable. She’s totally, no holds barred honest. On more than one occasion, she has had the bravery to say what I’m too cowardly to say. As a friend she wants us to engage with our minds and hearts, and she has a limited tolerance for idle chit chat. She surprises me all the time. I can’t wait to still be friends with her when we are cranky old ladies.

Foxy Mama D is the shining sunbeam of love and foxiness. She’s the one who walks into room in a short, fitted, sparkly dress and has every eye on her, but is completely unaware of it. Her heart is incredible. She’s the polar opposite of me in lots of ways but she loves that about me and I about her. She’s taught me to ease up with some of my internal parenting thoughts. She is so at ease with being a mother. She is so full of authentic happiness. I have been watching her and learning from her for a few years now. At first I didn’t understand her, now, I probably still don’t but I’m so very thankful I know her.

Sophic S. It was hard to find a descriptor for her. Yes wise, yes kind, yes honest. But that all seemed so trite. She is the first and only friend who has ever confronted me over a disagreement in a way that led to a warm discussion. I was incredibly impressed, proud and relieved that she would serve up her disappointment to me rather than bottle it away. It led to trust and respect. She too has carried huge pain in a hand basket that came close to getting too heavy. Her life scars are precious. Her professional wisdom is wide and deep and I often pick at it for morsels. She too is brutal, kind and real about life. I can tell her anything and remain totally safe.

Kool K will know why I chose this label for her. I don’t know if there is a single person I have laughed with harder and more often. Oh she’s wonderful. I have learned an incredible amount from her about humility, grace and God. Kool K is a humble student of life. She submits herself to the honing power of life’s errors, never afraid to look deep into her wounds to find the lesson. I’m not half the woman she is, but I’m lucky to be in her periphery. I don’t see her much, but think of her often and, like the strongest of women, she affects me even when she is on the other side of the world. She’s kind of inescapable. Lucky for me.

When I am with these women, I do not have to pretend. I do not have to talk, I do not have to shut up, I do not have to justify or defend myself.  It’s real. Nobody compares one’s child to another’s. Nobody is better, nobody is worse. We’re honest about jealousy. We’re honest about relationships. There is no judgement so we are safe to bare all. Or not. There is no pressure so we are free to grow. And teach. Good, strong women will make us all better women.

Letting go and finding new


scary dudes Arch Sept 2012


Coming home from China, after three years as an expat resident in Suzhou, was one of the most difficult periods in my life. If I thought I experienced culture shock going over, it was nothing compared to coming back. China is a vibrant, noisy, exciting, boisterous, energetic world where life is lived out on the footpath and in large groups of extended family and friends. Suburban Brisbane couldn’t be more different. When we are out on the streets here, we are alone or in nuclear family groups, quickly attending to the busyness of our day. Come sunset, we close our gates and lock our doors. We eat behind closed doors, we love, argue and raise our children in the privacy of our own homes. We have space, lots of it, and we prickle when someone enters ours uninvited. Coming home was hard. The silence was one of the hardest things to get used to. Quiet evenings, no incessant beeping of bike and car horns, quiet, civilised supermarkets where everyone waits patiently in line. And no nightly fireworks outside my bedroom window.

I had to let go of so many things during that time, and it was a pruning that left me bare and raw; a sad little twig trying to come back to life after a dry winter. If I’m honest, there was a material shock in coming from a place where I was a relative affluent with disposable income up to my eyeballs, to Australia, a regular on the highest cost of living in the world lists. On one salary. We went from two international holidays a year to budgeting to the last twenty bucks in our fortnightly coffers. It was humbling and necessary, and it forced me to reflect on what happiness really was and what my family really needed.

I had to let go of a concept that I had of myself that I was competent, educated, valued and skilled. I came out of the best professional experience of my career, to staying at home with my toddler, failing at the job day after day and wondering who the hell I was. Suddenly I couldn’t do anything well. It was a new experience of hating myself and how badly I thought I was at mothering. It was a dangerous cycle that escalated over the next few years. So much of my identity had ben wrapped up in my profession, that when that was gone, I was lost.

Possibly the hardest part though, was letting go of friends. Not the friends I left behind in China, for those, despite the distance, stuck close by (electronically) and are close still. It was the friends I returned to. After a while, I realised it was time to loosen my grip. I knew that being the returning traveller was nothing special to those who hung around. We have all been away, come home, gone again, returned. It’s the job of the returnee to reconnect, I get that. So, despite being an introvert to the core, I committed myself to making the effort to reconnect with my friends. I phoned, I emailed, I Facebooked, I called again. It was an incredible shock to me to find that a few of my long term friends had simply moved on. I had to, for my own sanity, just give up.

I should add that this was all during the worst phase of my depression, when I was sad but didn’t realise, I just thought I was failing. So everything was sadder, more black and white, less logical and more tragic. I was just desperately looking for a safety net and found it not in old friends, but in new ones. I vividly recall one very very sad day, I was walking around with my toddler, six months pregnant with twins and just killing time as I seemed to do day after day. Heading toward home I considered stopping at the park for a while, to kill another half hour or so. I almost didn’t, but did. I was sad to the point of holding back tears. A woman came along, newborn in pram and toddler on foot. We talked. I found that I hadn’t totally given up because I had the courage to suggest we swap phone numbers. A little over a year later, I ran my first half marathon with her. We now babysit each other’s kids. She cooked for me when I moved house. She saved me. She never even knew it.

It was a painful pruning, but the spring came, as it always does, and the new has replaced the old. It took a really long time, several years in fact, to recover from reverse culture shock. I feel like China was a juncture in my life. There is before-China and after-China. My life BC after couldn’t be more different to my life AC. My work life, home life, social life, all of them are totally not what they were before. Many spring buds have blossomed into full bouquets that have brought me such happiness. Too much with the spring metaphor? I’m thinking too much. Yep, much too much…I feel a little ill….just threw up a bit in my mouth.

Saving your relationship from your kids




A friend recently threw caution to the wind and bravely asked what all of us have probably wanted to ask a zillion times but were too skittish/scared/embarrassed. I’ll paraphrase her to protect the innocent. Is your relationship surviving your kids? Well is it?

Kids suck the life from your most significant relationship in more ways than you can count. I never seem to be able to write about a thing when I’m knee deep in it. Too emotional, too close for comfort, too much too soon. Maybe it’s dishonest of me not to, but I do know I have more insight when a crisis has passed. We all love hindsight right? I am also bound by my main rule of social media and blogging…husband didn’t sign up, so don’t sign him up. He gets right of veto on anything I put out there. My vow in social media and in general, is to never say anything publicly that would embarrass him, belittle him or cause others to think ill of him. I won’t discuss the intimate details of my relationship with him. But I’ll acknowledge that none of us are alone in various levels of relationship crises brought on by the little angels we, starry eyed and naive, brought into our lives.

There are things I know that see us through the tough times we’ve already had and are having and will have. One of course is dating. We have been totally crap at dating these past two years, but are determined to make it happen again. Leaving the house with nothing but your clutch in one hand and your partner’s hand in the other is a feeling like no other. For the first few minutes you feel like you’ve forgotten something, but then you ease into the quiet conversation that flows on and on without ever being interrupted for fight resolution, toilet assistance or apple peeling.

Quiet time alone has helped us too. We are both capital I Introverts. In the Myers Briggs sense. Time alone is not a luxury, it is a necessity. This is another thing that we are crap at, at the moment. When we make the effort to give each other quiet time, we stupidly wonder at the difference it makes. Like a lot of things, we know what helps, we just forget to do it. Running, for example. It makes me feel amazing, I should have my lazy ass out there every day but I’m doing well if I hit the road two or three times a week.

Some other things that help to kid proof your relationship…

Cuddle often in front of your kids. Don’t let them join in. Let them know that sometimes, mummy/daddy is more important than you are little one.

Let them see you fight, but make sure they see you say sorry.

My husband is trying to make me stop and take a few minutes, with him, just before sunset. The kids are playing, it’s cool, the light is lovely and he almost has to tie me down to stop me from being busy. When I do, it’s lovely. Stop together, every day.

This one I would like to do but it’s hard at the moment when my husband gets set upon the moment he walks in the door. I want me and him to be the first person he and I want to see and say hi to at the end of the day. We’ll get there.

When I am having a conversation with him, and the kids interrupt, they get scolded. I’m snatching some precious seconds here people, wait your turn! In a few ways and at some times, I do want them to know that he comes first.

Nothing new or particularly wise here. It’s hard. Young kids will make you or break you. They used to say that about travelling together. Nothing so far has been as hard as this for us. What is different now is that I feel great excitement for the years to come. I don’t have any doubt that it will be easier, more fun, full of laughs and maybe even some travel. I am already feeling moments of peace that I didn’t have for quite a few years. Just little pauses in the chaos that are coming more frequently and are lasting just that little bit longer.

Parenting Panel


Join us on ABC Brisbane local radio 612 each Wednesday for our parentage chat with Steve Austin.

In recent weeks on ABC612, we have talked about child health and fitness….

Listen here!

And we tackled the minefield of kids’  birthday parties…

Listen here!

And we tried to figure out the stages of parenting…

Listen here!

And just because…here’s Mummy doing the gardening.

Mummy gardening Oct 2012

There’s no home for you here


iron man fighting a baddy Arch April 2013

There is no place to go. I hate where I am and cannot go anywhere else. Around me, there are people who care, but those people will rotate in and out of my life daily, weekly, every few months. There is nobody near me who I have known for more than six months. People look intently at me, assessing, scribbling notes, making assumptions, making diagnoses. Without my knowledge or consent, people sit around huge tables and talk about every single, horrible, private and shameful detail of my life. They all own a little bit of me but I own nothing. I have nothing more than what fits in two drawers, one box and a schoolbag. My house does not carry the sounds of life, but the echoes of a place that people are getting ready to leave. The walls are ragged and weak from my rages; vicious and visible scars that are a perfect image of my pain. I move through this alternate universe like it is normal. In fact, it is. Not a single day in my life held the kind of normal that you know. My normal is ten different houses in one year and ten different schools in ten years. My normal is to be sent, taken, pushed, hidden and locked away. My normal is not to think for a moment that anybody else will do what they said, so there is only me. My world has locked doors, case notes, uniforms, therapists, impossible words and long, long days of trying so hard to survive, that when the night comes, I have to let go. The need in me to rage is like your need for water in summer. I want a cluttered home. Noisy. With people laughing and arguing and watching TV. I want school newsletters, junk mail and bills piled up on the kitchen bench. I want to live in a house where they don’t lock up the knives, the baseball bats and the paracetamol. I want to get dropped off at school and make it to 3pm. But there is nowhere I can go. I am too unpredictable, too violent, too impulsive. Some people like me enough to wish they could have me, but they know that they will not be safe with me around. So I cannot have a home. All I get is an echoey room and a whole bunch of people who can see the crack up ahead through which I will fall.

How to drive your mother insane


drawing 7 Arch Feb 2013

Brothers, it’s me. Twin 2 she calls me, or Trouble, or Baby B. When she is in a good mood, or has had a couple of glasses of that yellowy water, she might call me Bunny, or Sausage, or Chicken. Anyway, I’ve snuck away. There may only be moments to spare. Not a sixty second period goes by where she doesn’t suspiciously say where is your brother? Or she shouts my name, quickly followed by what ARE you doing? Honestly that woman does not trust me alone for a single moment. If we tally up the number of times she shouts all the names, I’m way out in front. I am not suggesting for a moment that I am the innocent in all this, but I do think she overreacts at times.

Take for example the time I flushed the bath plug down the toilet, followed by the face cloth, and my teddy, undies and other things she doesn’t know about. She and Daddy pulled out their serious, deep voices that day. So overdramatic brothers. And I can’t help it if I like to empty things. Like bottles of Dettol, and whole bottles of bubble bath, and cooking oil, hand sanitizer, toothpaste tubes and my cup of water into my dinner. Just trying to be helpful people what’s the big deal? Sheesh. And why not bring the business end of the garden hose into the house to speed up the cleaning? She is always wiping things and cleaning food off the floor, surely the hose is more efficient brothers?

I am a born risk taker brothers. When I am a teenager this quality will ensure I am on a first name basis with the local Emergency Department nurses. As an adult, it will make me a millionaire in stocks. And then bankrupt. And then a millionaire. But at 3, well it’s a tricky skill to balance. Mum freaks out when I come out of the garage with a razor sharp pocket knife that I’ve managed to locate (those parental types continually underestimate my detective skills). She also loses her shit when she finds me in the playroom with Dad’s screwdrivers, secateurs and lawn mower.

I am also an unsung artist. We all know about my previous escapades with poo painting. Now that I hold a somewhat more mature view of excrement, my media are less offensive. Or so I thought. She seems impossible to please brothers. I thought that the white floor tiles downstairs were, well BORING!! I thought some dark brown paint would look GREAT! She is always carrying on about how freaking amazing my drawings are so why the big meltdown about my paint work? Brothers, do not try to understand adults.

If the stock market is not my future, then Junior Masterchef certainly is. But still I go unrecognised for my skills in my own home. Let me tell you, grated cheese and breakfast cereal IS a delight, no matter what your mother tells you about having to pick all the cheese out of the cereal box. And why am I the first to discover that custard and orange juice is a match made in heaven? People please.

Brothers, I will soldier on. If only to carry your faith in me as a valiant warrior would. But I am not without self reflection. Before I go (get caught) I must bare my soul in order to seek absolution. To the innocent fish at Day Care, I am sorry. I am so very sorry. You did not deserve the terror that was visited upon you. Please forgive me.

Run for your life (Syria)


It is mind boggling to think that Syria is smaller than Victoria but has a population roughly the same as Australia. Over one hundred thousand people have died there in the current conflict. Almost two million are running for their lives.

The President’s name is Bashar al-Assad, who looks like this:



He and his father before him have held power in Syria for over 40 years.

Oh, and Syria is here:



So the civil war began about two years ago when disorganised, undertrained and disconnected groups of militia got armed and fired up. There are different theories as to what started it. Sections of Syrian people have been angry at the government for ages, but it turned nasty when a group of children were jailed for anti-government graffiti. Some were killed in custody. Protests against this and the failure of the government to bring economic reform to the people of Syria spread across the country. In April 2011, protesters were shot at by the Syrian Army and this blew things up even more. These disparate groups of insurgents pulled together and formed the Free Syrian Army (FSA) a few months later. Heaps of soldiers from the Syrian Army defected to the FSA. This was in part because they were given orders to fire at civilian protesters and refused. Some were shot by their own army for refusing orders.

The FSA states that its goal is to remove Assad from power and protect demonstrating civilians. But it has also been accused of  getting into bed with extremist Jihadist Muslims who have bolstered their ranks and their arsenal. The FSA has also been accused of war crimes such as kidnappings and the torture and execution of people it says are aligned with or working for the government.

So what are the crimes of the Assad regime? In order to clear FSA held areas of civilians, the regime has bombed, massacred, bulldozed and ballistic missiled them out.  Indiscriminate air strikes have killed thousands. Underground detention and torture chambers. It is now thought that it was probably the Assad government that directly or indirectly ordered the gassing of well over 1000 people a week or so ago. Including babies. Displacing the population means the FSA might have won the area, but they end up losing the people. Hence, we have a massive refugee situation. About 2 million of them. A massive one million in 2013 alone and 75% of them are women and children.

I don’t understand all the intricacies of civil war. It seems that this is, of course very complicated and that there is evil on both sides and freedom seekers in there somewhere. I am sorry that this is a very elementary piece of writing. Such a short explanation cannot possibly do justice to all the issues here. I fervently hope it does not trivialise them. I don’t know the history dating back decades. I never thought much about Syria until the past couple of years. But I do think about this girl. Quite a bit.



She, gasping for breath, panted I’m alive, I’m alive over and over. In shock that she survived the chemical attack. How will she ever recover from that day?

I’m ashamed that we will never welcome her here in Australia with warm, open arms. We will never welcome her or any member of her family. There are two million refugees running for their lives and some of them will find their way onto leaky boats headed for our unwelcoming shores.

A woman presses against the wire gate. Two small children cling to her chador, and she is alternately begging and demanding from the G4S guard. Finally, someone pulls her inside, the children like limpets. She’s taken to an office where veiled women interview her. She arrived three days ago with four children under 12, she has no husband, she has no extended family, and here she begins to weep. They are alone; the children press against her like bookends, and she says she is also six months pregnant and doesn’t want to have her baby here, in the white desert. She draws a deep breath, angrily wipes her eyes and whispers: “I am humiliated.” 

Click to access long%20day%20journey%20into%20night%20by%20aa%20gill.pdf

After all of that trauma, after the journey from hell, running for her life from a hell that used to be her home, she and her children cannot hope for a safe place here with us.

Turning away refugees is like the war on drugs. It’s pointless. There will be drugs. Deal with it, educate people, manage it as safely as you can. Boats won’t stop. Malevolent regimes will not stop. Refugees won’t stop. Come on Australia, can’t we do better than this? Aren’t we smarter than this? What gives us the right, why is it OUR country? Just because of an accident of birth? Goodness, we are SO lucky to be born here, it’s embarrassing. Think back Queenslanders to the dreadful floods of the past few years. Imagine if your rich neighbour on a hill, high and dry, said to you after your house was washed away, that no, you cannot come to me for help. Go and figure it out for yourself. Just imagine that.


A beginner’s guide: How to wear spots with stripes


Because let’s face it, I AM a beginner. Never have I EVER given fashion advice to anyone. Not least of all because I normally dress like this for work…

Women's The Diva Boot-Cut Jeans - Acadia


…this on the weekend…

Women's The Diva Boot-Cut Jeans - Acadia


…and this for going out…



But I wanted to spread my blogging wings and so fashion advice it is. Spots and stripes. I must admit, initially, I could not imagine any parallel universe where this could work. I think the first piece of advice is that you really have to think about it. Really. It can go so very wrong. And this pretty much rules me out from the get go, because I can’t give more than 90 seconds worth of planning to my daily work wardrobe. It is time wasted in the morning when I could be attending to more pleasurable duties such as wiping porridge off the walls.

Secondly, I think you need to really choose your pieces carefully. This is no time for a Supre ensemble that looked good on the mannequin while you were high on Bieber and Chupa Chups. You need quality, you need heels, you need class. Again, I’m out. My workwear needs to be adaptable to any situation. I need to kick a footy around in it, catch flying chairs in it, visit juvy in it, paint, garden and play in the sand pit in it. Heels only get done once a year when my birthday falls on a workday. And if I turned up in spots and stripes, the boys would relentlessly take the piss.

My third piece of advice is the same advice I give for medical questions, geographic questions, historical questions and pretty much everything else. Google it stupid. Do some research and look at what works for others. And if you are spending any amount of time at all Googling how to wear spots with stripes, slap yourself in the face and do something useful with your time. There are starving children in Africa didn’t you know??

Finally, there is one, enduring piece of fashion advice that can never fail. Coco Chanel said it. I say it. Take a look in the mirror. Take something off. My advice would be either the spots or the stripes. Have a really good look and ask yourself, do I look stupid? If the answer is yes, the take it all off and start again.


Vegemite is not the same overseas


Pretty much the only time I eat Vegemite is when I am not in Australia. Certainly the only time I wave an Australian flag is when I am not in Australia. The only time I ever think a tattoo of the Southern Cross is a good idea is when I am not in Australia. I don’t celebrate our national day when in Australia. We are in an election campaign in Australia right now and when I hear we live in the greatest country in the world, I cringe. But when I’m overseas, I’m all over Australia Day, and I do think Australia is the best country on offer (or at least among the best).

I wonder what Americans would think of this attitude to my (lack of) national pride? I’ve seen in US election campaigns that it is polling kamikaze to suggest that The US of A is anything but the best. I look at wildly patriotic countries, especially South American ones during football competitions and I just can never imagine the same heated passion taking over our lazy-ass population. I remember my first trip to North America and thinking how weird it was that all the houses had flags out front.

Sadly, all things patriotic, at least when at home, have taken on new meaning since the mid-late nineties, when Pauline Hanson burst onto the federal political scene with her One Nation party and this very well known image of her draped in our national flag.  She and her party peddled half-baked, divisive policies that awoke the sleeping beast of xenophobia in this country. Just don’t ask her what that word means. The infamous Cronulla Riots in Sydney further sullied the image of wearing our national flag when, for a shameful week or so in 2005, national pride was used as an excuse to brutalise random strangers, destroy property and assault emergency service workers. Now, at least for me, the flag has become a symbol of an underbelly of racism that festers here in our best country on earth.


I don’t celebrate our national day because it is the worst day to celebrate our birth as a nation. Australia Day is a celebration of the arrival of the British on our shores and their subsequent proclaimation of soverignty over an already populated country. Invasion, most would call that these days. I would love to celebrate Australia Day, just not on that day. I am, actually, a very proud Australian, off shore and on. I love lots of things about us. Our -isms, our humour, the attitude. I love the love of being outside that we have. I love the incredible beauty of our place. I love that we have snow, desert and rainforest all in one place. I love that Europeans freak out that you can drive for six days in Australia and still be in the same country. I love that we have the deadliest animals on earth here, and the cutest. Sometimes I even have a bit of Vegemite on toast.