Friday, July 10, 2015

The lost art of boredom

Our second lot of school holidays this year have almost finished. Youngest Son heads back on Monday, Eldest Son & Middle Son return the following day. Dare I say, they can't really complain about being 'bored' these holidays. We've headed to mini golf, a movie or two and an indoor trampolining place. They've visited friends and had friends visit them. We've been to the local park a number of times where we've played football and frisbee. Youngest Son spent a day with a friend in a holiday camp building Lego and swimming in the indoor heated pool. We've eaten out, spent very little time in shopping centres (something they dislike, unless they're buying something for themselves!) and played a heap of video games on the wet, cold days. I played an intense game of Junior Trivial Pursuit with Middle Son (and lost - ahem), and a number of games of Connect Four with the other boys. They've played board games with each other. They have, in my opinion, been kept sufficiently amused.

And yet, here we are on Friday, and they're asking if we can do something 'special' today. *sigh*

Kids really don't know how to entertain themselves these days. Back in my day (I know - I'm sounding just like an actual parent now), boredom was part and parcel of school holidays. I recall many times complaining of being 'so bored!' and yet my mother didn't haul me off to such venues mentioned above (in actual fact, she didn't even have a driver's licence), rather she suggested I 'play this' or 'play that' and in the end, it was up to me to amuse myself.

And guess what? I did. I read books, I wrote stories, I played many, many games of solitaire (with actual playing cards, of course). I had one electronic gaming device: a Nintendo Game & Watch (remember Parachute?), and believe me, although it was addictive catching all those parachutes in a boat as they fell from a helicopter, it was a just little repetitive after a while. I played with my dolls, I played 'schools' - pretending to teach my imaginary class of students about a made up island, drawn on my chalkboard. I set up a 'shop' in my cubby house, selling mud pies out of the window to imaginary customers. (Perhaps the imaginary parents of the imaginary students?)

I didn't even have siblings around to amuse me; being twenty-one years apart in age, my sister was well and truly out of the home before I was even born. I did, however, sometimes have her kids - my niece and nephew (my age) - come over for a few days to both relieve my sister during school holidays so she could work and provide entertainment for me. And together, we played all those imaginative games together (and partook in some very noisy sessions playing Hungry Hippos, from memory).

I think it's really important to be bored. I was bored so often as a kid, it taught me how to amuse myself and as a consequence, I've always been very comfortable spending time alone. In fact, I crave alone time, and I'm very capable of finding ways to keep myself entertained.

So, even though my boys get to do a helluva lot more than I ever did on school holidays, there are days (like today) I instruct them to amuse themselves, and if they tell me they're bored, I advise them I'll find them something to do. Like, say, empty the dishwasher or pick up the dog poo or replace all the toilet paper in the bathrooms or colour-code the Lego. They soon realise they can probably find something else to do that's a little more appealing than that.

Being bored, I say, is a great life lesson.


Monday, July 6, 2015

After such a strong start too ...

During the early nineties, I briefly dated a work colleague's son. I met him at a work dinner. He had come along as his mother's 'date' which I (and everyone else there) thought adorable.

I won't lie: he was attractive, in a tall, dark and handsome kinda way. He had a lovely smile, was well-mannered, appeared capable of holding a conversation and he clearly loved his mum, so my first impressions of him were pretty high. By the end of the dinner, I was quite taken with him.

After dinner, a bunch of us ended up at a nightclub. He and I had been talking - getting to know each other - and after watching everyone on the dance floor situated on the lower level of the club for a while, I turned to him to comment on some of the dancers only to find him holding a long-stemmed red rose which he immediately handed to me, smiling as he did, and, well, I was officially smitten.

Later, when he (and his mother!) dropped me home in a shared cab, he walked me to my door and kissed me goodnight. I went to bed that night thinking I'd done it: I'd potentially found my new boyfriend.

I was, however, also a little wary about getting involved with him because a) he was my work colleague's son (enough said); and b) he was in the process of getting a divorce and had two young kids. To be honest, I wasn't bothered at all about dating a guy who had been married before, and I'd always loved kids so that wasn't an issue either, it was just that I questioned whether he was ready for anything serious? I was looking for a long-term relationship, not to be someone's transitional fling.

I needn't have wasted so much time thinking about it: it all went downhill from there.

He called me at work the following week and asked me to his place (which also happened to be his mother's house) that coming Saturday night to watch a video with him. 'We'll just grab some dinner out beforehand and pick up a movie on the way home,' he suggested. I couldn't wait. A cosy movie night in sounded good to me. I pictured us grabbing some food at the local cafe, maybe even a pizza place, then snuggling up together on the couch in front of a nice, romantic movie. Perfect.

Saturday night arrived and I was beside myself with anticipation. His mother greeted me as I walked through the door, but left soon after. 'Let's go grab some dinner,' her son suggested just minutes later.

You can imagine my surprise when we pulled up to the local shopping centre, outside the entrance to the food court. 'Is the video shop here?' I asked.

'No,' he said smiling. 'We'll grab dinner here first then pick up the movie.' Hmmm. Okay, I thought. Not quite the casual cafe or pizza restaurant I imagined, but ... whatever.

As we walked up and down the food court, assessing all that was on offer, he asked what I felt like eating. 'Maybe some Thai?' I suggested, my mouth watering at the thought of some chicken satays or red curry with rice.

'Hmmm,' he replied, frowning, perusing the prices. 'Looks a bit expensive.'

I opened my mouth to reply, but couldn't. Nothing would come out. I can't remember what we ended up eating, but it certainly wasn't Thai food.

But hey, I figured, maybe things are tight with the divorce coming up and all that? And besides, I assured myself, it was supposed to be a casual night in. That's all. This is what most 'couples' did, right?

The movie wasn't the romance film I'd imagined we'd watch, but we had a nice enough night nonetheless. Hey - I saw a film, at least. I drove home feeling ... a little disappointed. But, you know, I figured it was early days yet.

Later that week, he called me at work and asked if I wanted to meet him for lunch? He'd come to me, he said. Well, I thought, perhaps he felt bad about the Thai food thing and was going to make it up to me? I worked on a busy street, spoilt for choice on places to eat. Just a couple of doors down was a nice Italian restaurant/cafe. I figured he'd take me there.

Instead, he suggested the local cafe/deli. Which was fine: there were tables and chairs there and the food was also pretty good. In fact, I ate there regularly. It was just ... nothing out of the ordinary.

We enjoyed a pretty nice lunch and a chat. I pushed the disastrous movie date from my mind and wondered if things would improve from here. A new beginning, perhaps?

A few days later, however, when I went back to the deli to grab a spinach and cheese filo pastry for lunch, the owner called me over. 'I'm sorry,' he said, looking apologetically at me. 'The gentleman you were in here with the other day?' I nodded in acknowledgement. 'Well, he left without paying the bill.'


I should have paid the guy right then and there, but out of principle, I didn't want to. My date was the one who was supposed to pay - after all, he invited me to lunch! - and I was damned if I was going to be out of pocket. I assured the owner I would make sure he paid - and soon - and hot-tailed it out of there, red-faced with embarrassment.

As I spoke to him on the phone, warning bells were going off in my head. He's a cheapskate. Dump him! But he apologised and ensured me he would pay. I ascertained it was probably just an honest mistake. A mistake anyone could make. Right?

I had to chase him for over a week to fix up the outstanding bill. He didn't seem to see the urgency in my request. At all. From memory, he eventually delivered the money ... to me! I'm pretty sure I insisted he go to the deli owner and pay!

So by now, I was not so enamoured by him any more.

I gave him one more chance when he called me out of the blue a couple of weeks later at the eleventh hour asking if he could see me. But once again, he didn't want to take me out anywhere - just hang at my place and watch a movie (a movie I'd already chosen and he complained about, so he decided to go home when I wouldn't change it). Funnily enough, I never saw him again after that.

Sometimes a connection can start strongly, only to peter out as quickly as it started, eh? *sigh*


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Back on track

With winter comes its challenges: comfort food, more excuses not to get outside and walk, less trips to the park with the kids, more time reading on the couch in front of the fire rather than swimming in the ocean (not entirely a bad thing, that. Might just reduce my reading pile soon), more comfort food ...

Not that summer doesn't offer similar challenges. I started the 5:2 Diet in December last year, and it was going really well. I was about half a kilo off my goal weight, and then the warmer weather arrived and we found ourselves entertaining more (pass the cheese, please) and when school started in late January there were numerous events to attend, most of which involved food. But I mostly stuck to the diet. I organised coffee catch ups with friends around my preferred 'fast' days (Mondays and Thursdays) and there were probably a couple of weeks I only did one fast day, rather than two.

In April, Eldest Son and I flew to Perth for a week and I decided to take that week off my diet. How could I refuse dinner, lunch or any other catch up that involved food with family and old friends?! I figured: one week won't hurt, and to be honest, it actually didn't. The only problem was that, on my return to Sydney, everything got busy again with school holidays and Term 2 and I found myself doing more of a 6:1.

It's easy to slip in to bad habits, and I would have to say I've mostly kept to just the one fast day a week since then. Which is still not so bad - my weight has pretty much stabilised. Except for the fact that in the last couple of weeks, I've found myself finding excuses to not fast at all, and coupled with the fact that I've moved in to typical Winter Mode (you know - the comfort food and less movement I mentioned above), I can pretty much tell without jumping on the scales that the weight is creeping on again. I'm definitely not back to where I started - I can still fit in to my skinny jeans (well, just) - but nevertheless ...

A couple of weeks ago, Mr A asked if we were going to take on Dry July (an alcohol-free month in support of fundraising for cancer research). Neither of us have taken it on before, but thought it might be a good way to kick-start a healthier us this winter. I don't really drink a lot of alcohol anyway - I probably drink two (sometimes three) glasses of wine two nights a week, mostly on Saturdays and Sundays. Sometimes it's a little more, sometimes less. But, you know, I figured it would be a great way to boost my 'healthier me' plan. Besides, I've had three kids and managed to stay off alcohol completely throughout each pregnancy, as well as around six months before each boy was conceived, so one month is sure to be a walk in the park for me. Right? (*crosses fingers*)

So, July becomes the month I plan to get back on track: No alcohol and back to two fast days a week - the real 5:2 Diet. No excuses! I know I can do it, because I've done it before. And I can do it because I want to. All I needed was an excuse, and Dry July is providing just that.