Monthly Archives: October 2010

The Way We live for Sunday 31 October 2010. The one about Grandparents’ Day

Don’t cringe but I loved Halloween when I was little. I was first introduced to it in primary school when a classmate and her family returned to Brisbane from the US and brought back with them the notion of celebrating Halloween.  You can dress up?  There are games?  And lollies?  I’m in.

Halloween polarises Australians. Mostly because people think it’s yet another American tradition we’ve adopted. (Actually, it’s not – it’s English).  But for me, Halloween conjures up happy memories of friends, of crepe paper costumes and of my Nanna.  In reality I think my Nanna only stayed with us once over Halloween and yet she is part of the Aladdin’s Cave of memories in my head. Nanna adjusting my witch’s costume and helping me perfect my cackle.

I didn’t grow up with Grandparents.  They had all died by the time I was two. But my Great Aunty Ann took on the role of Nanna. And even though she lived in Sydney and I only got to see her once or twice a year, her presence is infused into my childhood.  I still have the enormous bride doll she posted to me for my fourth birthday.  The handwritten letters.  The Snoopy brooch.  It was Nanna who coaxed me into eating cauliflower as a vegie-hating child and it’s Nanna I totally blame for a ten-year (now cured) addiction to Days of Our Lives.  It was her favourite show and I was allowed to sit with her and watch it if I didn’t bombard her with questions the entire time.

My Nanna’s been gone for over twenty years but I am reminded of the important role she played in my life every time I see Ava revelling in the attention and love of her own grandparents.  Grandpa delights her with stories and songs.  Gran takes her to the beach and together they build sand castles and search for shells.  Nonna draws with her and does jigsaws and takes her to the park.

Next Sunday, 7 November, is the first ever Grandparents Day. It’s a day to celebrate and acknowledge the amazing role that so many grandparents are playing in the lives of their grandchildren.  We don’t thank them enough particularly when you consider how many grandparents have taken on the role of day care providers – essentially raising small children all over again.  Sure they do it out of love but let’s not pretend it’s not exhausting.

Grandparents Day is also for non-Grandparents – those people in our lives who technically aren’t grandparents but who are happily playing that role: neighbours, adopted grandparents, other older relatives (like my Nanna). They’re all there offering their wisdom and helping struggling parents fill in the gaps.

A whole slew of activities will be happening at the Southbank Piazza next Sunday from 10am until 2pm.  Inter-generational games. Sausage sizzles.  It’s the perfect way to say thank you to all the Grandpas, Grandads, Pas, Grans, Nans, Grandmas, Nonnas and Nannas out there who are doing such a great job.

The Way We Live for 24-10-10 : The one about Movember

Occasionally amidst the pokies and the “Number 32 your Chicken Parma is ready” and the lovers’ squabbles and the trivia nights and the earnest covers bands and the suspect bowls of peanuts – greatness unfolds in the pub.

Stirring poetry is written on the back of sodden drinks coasters. World problems are solved by tanked up sages on bar stools.  And a group of mates concoct a way to literally change the face of men’s health.

You might not know the name Travis Garone but you’re sure to have heard of Movember . It’s the worldwide movement Travis and his buddies started back in a pub in 2003 encouraging men to spend the month of November growing a moustache all in the name of raising money and awareness of men’s health issues. Specifically prostate cancer and depression.

“Women are far more proactive in caring for their health, in having open, honest discussions about looking after themselves,” Travis says to me over email.  And he’s right.  Men like to sit on bar stools and talk about Ponting’s batting average or the NRL’s salary-capping woes not about how they’re struggling to get out of bed every day because of the Black Dog.


And depression is killing our men – young and old. A friend’s uncle hung himself earlier this year following the loss of his job.  A childhood mate of mine is currently struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder thanks to the years he’s spent as a police officer. He has a loving wife and beautiful children and yet every day he fights thoughts of driving his car into a tree.  After months of talking to no one, thankfully he’s now talking to a psychologist and taking medication.


Meanwhile prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australia. One in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.  Sure if caught early it’s highly treatable. The problem is catching it early. Blokes avoid the doctor the way pregnant women avoid lycra.


Enter Movember.  It’s an ingenious way to have a laugh but also provides the perfect opening line. That dodgy looking mo is the way to start the conversation about depression, about regular prostate exams for men over 50 (or 40 if there’s a family history).  That mo is a talking point.  Particularly if it’s more Mike Brady than Magnum P.I.


Which begs the question. Does Travis have any tips for growing the ultimate mo? “Lots of combing,” he tells me. “You can also try talking to it in the mirror, like a plant – the encouragement has been known to help. But really the one true secret is to pick your own style and wear it proudly. Love your mo and your mo will love you right back.”


Fellas, I challenge you to register for Movember this year. As for the rest of us, let’s support this cause the way we support the Think Pink campaign.  For more details and to register go to





The Way We Live 17 October 2010 – The one about pets

A single thirty something friend of mine went on a blind date recently. All was going swimmingly The guy was in his early 40s, funny, employed and at no point attempted to sign my friend up to Amway during the date – ring a ding ding! And then the subject of pets came up.   He hates animals.  My girlfriend adores them.  Game over.

The do you or don’t you want pets question is right up there as a deal-breaker in many relationships.  Up there with religion and politics and what-do-you-mean-you-keep-your-Vegemite-in-the fridge?/iron your towels?/ hate Master Chef? type revelations.

But the fact is, we love our pets here in Australia with more than 60% of Aussies owning a Spot or a Fluffy.  (Actually a worldwide online survey by Veterinary Pet Insurance revealed the most popular names for dogs and cats included Max, Chloe, Bella, Oliver, Maggie and Lucy).

And our love affair with our animal children is only growing stronger. And frankly, weirder. I read the other day about a new “dog pram “ designed so that Bella The Beagle doesn’t actually have to walk anywhere. Like say to her Doggy Day Care Centre or to her Pet Psychologist. And when our pets aren’t out and about having therapy they’re most likely at home, sleeping on our beds or mysteriously updating their own Facebook pages. This is where I embarrassingly reveal to you that our cockatiel has a Facebook page.  Brad denies all knowledge of setting it up. But what’s more surprising is that she has 67 Facebook friends, which is amazing considering how cantankerous she is. We’re talking about a cockatiel who has the looks of Tweety Bird and the personality of Hugh Grant.

Anyway what all this means of course is that the role pets play in our lives has changed. Our animals are no longer bought to serve a purpose (to guard our homes or catch mice). Instead we’re buying them for companionship and in some cases, as an alternative to having children.

Which makes dealing with their deaths all that much harder.  Particularly if you have small kids. Small kids who adore their pets the way only kids can.  A friend recently told her three year old niece about the death of her cat, Boney.  The three-year-old nodded wisely and walked away and then two hours later asked if she could “play with Boney now”.  It can be hard explaining this stuff to littlies.

Which is where local Brisbane mum Philippa Morton comes in. Philippa has helped create a lovely children’s book called, Memory Flowers about a young family who have to deal with the death of their pet dog, Charlie.  The book was specifically written to help kids deal with the trauma and sadness surrounding the death of a family pet.  With the tick of approval from vets and an educational psychologist, it could be just the tool you need to talk through the process with your kids. You can buy Memory Flowers online at


First Sunday Club October 2010: Community Angels

Forget the blue bubble snow dome of Rome and the kitsch “I heart Athens!” teaspoon. Forget the “Bula Fiji!” tea towel, the Queenstown fridge magnet and the classic “I got wrecked on Great Keppel” stubby holder.  Really, if I want friends and family to see where I’ve travelled all I need do is send them into my bathroom.

How do I say this? Um, it was pointed out to me recently that I appear to have the world’s largest collection of complimentary hotel shampoo bottles.  See, now you’re imagining me swanning around at home in a Marriott fluffy bath robe, glancing at my Hilton alarm clock, admiring my water-coloured parrot print I lifted from a dodgy resort in Noosa. No, it’s not like that. My home phone doesn’t have a “Dial 9 for reception” notice on it.   I promise you I don’t go to hotels and channel my inner-Winona Ryder. But those itty-bitty complimentary bottles of shampoo?  Can’t help myself.

The really idiotic thing is that I rarely use them.  They tend to sit in my toiletries bag ready for when I go away … to another hotel where I can pilfer more shampoo and bath gel bottles. (Don’t judge me. Too late?)

This week I discovered the perfect way to put my addiction to good use. Homeless shelters. Our homeless shelters are always desperate for the bare essentials – shampoo, soaps, toothbrushes, deodorants. That kind of thing. And I’ve been told those little hotel shampoo bottles are the perfect donation item. So that’s where my stash is going from now on.

And it’s homeless shelters that are part of the focus of the First Sunday Club this month.   Recently I heard about a group of Brisbane women who call themselves “Community Angels”. Working as a registered charity they dedicate their time to raising money, collecting donations and finding volunteers for a range of small charities in Brisbane including the Pindari Women’s Shelter in Spring Hill which houses up to 30 homeless women at a time; Young Mothers for Young Women which offers family support and education to young women who are parenting; and the Deception Bay Flexible Learning Centre Network which offers education to kids who are struggling with family breakdown, drug and alcohol abuse and low socio-economic conditions.

Led by Mary Bourke, these women are dedicated to fulfilling needs where they find them.


“At the moment there are ten active members,” Mary tells me. “The original conception of Community Angels started close to six years ago. Some of us had worked together previously supporting homelessness in the community and we discovered the need for more support for women and children in the Brisbane area.”


I say let’s give them a helping hand and allow them to put our $10 to whatever need is currently greatest.

You can post a cheque to Community Angels PO Box 2216, Tingalpa 4173 or email for bank account details. Click on for more information.


Sunday Mail Column for 26/9/10: The one about creativity

Sequins, it turns out, are good for the soul.  Which would be good news if we weren’t about to hit a major sequin-shortage thanks to the return of The Boy From Oz.

Last year I wrote a column on what my friends and I do when we’re feeling glum. Some friends go for a surf, others go running or shopping or watch favourite DVDS. Me? I tend to go for a walk in the fresh air and listen to trashy, cheery pop.

When I told all this to my friend Anna not so long ago, she had a different blues remedy entirely. When the world seems bleak, she gets creative.  Anna reckons that just the act of making something – like say, sewing buttons or sequins onto an old denim bag – revives the spirit.  I think she’s right.  A little bit of magic happens when we decide to get creative.   In a world of mortgage payments and credit card debt there’s something soothing about letting the right side of our brain take over.  I like to call it the “Playschool” side of our brain where amazing things are fashioned out of a few cardboard boxes, pipe cleaners and foil.

Recently I’ve become a fan of the Australian site It’s an online store for handmade goodies. There’s everything from patchwork scarves to framed vintage cards, ladybug dresses for little girls, crocheted laptop sleeves, polka dot coin purses. The prices are reasonable and everything is unique. It’s the Lady Gaga of the retail world. I log on and get all inspired to make things but then I tend to wander off to the kitchen to eat Milo out of the tin and contemplate the mortgage.

But maybe it’s time to just have a go. Are you tempted to dip your big toe into the creativity wading pool with me? The next question is, where to start? Glad you asked.

Leisa Gill is the owner of Pandemonium Café in Paddington and on Saturday 2 October at 3.30pm, she’s running “Cardmaking for a Cause” … an afternoon of glue sticks, glitter, ribbons, stickers and whatever else you need to make gorgeous handmade cards.  The event is for everyone – including those of us who wouldn’t know a glue gun if we fell over it.  All the cards will be donated to the Leukaemia Foundation in memory of Leisa’s mother Sascha who passed away in June, just 25 days after being diagnosed with Leukaemia.

Leisa says, “My mum and I would spend Monday afternoons sharing our ideas and making cards together since we had subscriptions to two card kits each month.  I wasn’t interested in making cards at all after mum died but a friend motivated me to make this happen in her memory.”

The cost is $10 per person, which covers tea/coffee, nibbles and a $5 donation to the Leukemia Foundation. Meanwhile Leisa will be supplying all the cardmaking materials.   For more details go to or call 3369 4420