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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Highs and lows

Yep, you said it Garfield.  I confess, I've been in a bit of a dark place lately.  You see, it turns out when it comes to money there is broke and broke.  There is the broke where you THINK you're broke and the broke where you really ARE broke.   There have been a lot of times over the years where I have thought I've been broke but none of these have compared to the last month.  I remember reading a discussion on the Simple Savings website not so long ago entitled 'How broke have you been?'  and sat wide-eyed as people described not being able to afford to buy a tube of toothpaste or worse, tampons.  I was horrified.  I couldn't possibly imagine what that was like.  Not being able to afford life's most basic essentials, how bad would that be?  How things have changed since I read those stories.  I apologise for imparting too much information but I can now say that I DO know what it's like not to be able to afford tampons.  And whilst surviving without buying them was empowering in an odd sort of way, it's not really an experience I am keen to repeat.

The good thing about not being able to spend any money whatsover is that the results are rather like Pantene.  It won't happen overnight, but it will happen.  Eventually, your living expenses get to the stage where they are so low that you start to notice the difference in your bank balance.  I'm still waiting for it to get to the stage where we actually get to KEEP some but just knowing that you are actually making a difference is enough to keep you going. 

Which is good, because there have been a few days where I've been gloomier than Eeyore and not even a beach walk has helped.  I guess we all feel like the most useless, worthless being on the planet now and again and I am a champion of beating myself up. Fortunately when this happens I have the love of some wonderful people to talk me out of it.  Except they don't pat me on the shoulder and tell me how nice and lovely I am, or bring me cups of strong, sweet tea.  Instead they make me laugh until I cry and my stomach muscles ache from being doubled over.  They are my boys.

Liam has mercifully made it through the teenage grunting stage and has now progressed to using proper words and sentences once again.  He still doesn't say much as a rule but what he does say is usually hilarious.  When it comes to cheering me up however it's more about the things he does than the things he says.  As any mother of a 15-year-old boy will know, hugs are pretty few and far between so to get one means a lot.  In Liam's case they come in the form of a great bear hug which just about squeezes the life out of me and lifts my feet considerably off the ground.  To get a hug like that - correction - for someone as gloriously and perpetually vague as Liam to even NOTICE that I'm sad enough to need a hug like that - usually means I must look like absolute crap.  Which makes me snap out of it pretty darn quick because I hate for my boys to see me sad.

Ali on the other hand knows exactly which buttons to push to make me laugh.  And I mean literally because usually he'll call me in to show me something funny on YouTube.  Seeing as we're both equally mad he knows instinctively which gems of insanity to share with me, from my favourite Miranda Hart clip to the rather disturbing Dubstep Dentist.  However I think the other day was his biggest triumph yet, and all thanks to the humble iPod Touch.  'Talking Pierre' is an app which features a talking parrot.

Basically, you can record whatever you like into the microphone and he will say it back at you, parrot fashion.  This sounds funny enough in itself when you listen to it but then dear old Pierre started throwing in random words in random places and I was soon an absolute mess.  Once again I was in tears - but this time it was because I was laughing so hard I thought I was going to die.  Ali on the other hand was being heartily congratulated by the rest of the family for being the only person who had successfully pulled me out of my hideous black hole of gloom all day.  Mind you, I think they were kind of over my virtual feathered friend when I was still shrieking with hysterical laughter two hours later!

It goes both ways of course.  Nobody knows how to cheer up my boys when the chips are down better than I do. I've got it down to a fine art, not that it happens very often.  If Ali's the one with the problem we head out with the dogs for a long walk where he can rant and rave to his heart's content.  Or, if I'm feeling really generous I'll let him watch one of my recorded episodes of 'The Weakest Link'.  Precious because usually I have to watch these without him, otherwise all I get is 'MUM!  STOP ANSWERING ALL THE QUESTIONS!' even if they are answers he couldn't possibly know.  By the time we've beaten the rest of the other contestants, slagged them all off for being thicker than us, won £3,000 (being the UK version) and congratulated each other on being true geniuses he's usually stopped worrying about whatever was bothering him in the first place.  With Liam the answer to regaining happiness lies in his stomach.  As yet, I've found there's nothing a potato top pie or a banana split can't fix.  Throw in 'The Inbetweeners' on DVD for good measure and he's soon back to his cheery self. 

We all have highs and lows and our family has adopted a new dinner time regime which we have shamelessly pinched from six university students who are flatting together.  Every day they sit down at dinner and share the high and low points of their day with each other.  I really liked this idea and as soon as the boys reach the dinner table they race each other to say 'Highs and Lows!'  We have found this awesome because let's face it, who REALLY talks about their day?  Aside from the 'Hi honey, I'm home!' or 'Hey, how was school?'  'Alright', how many of us really get beyond that?  Since we have been sharing our highs and lows everyone is communicating much better and we are finding out much more about what is going on in each others' lives and more importantly, how we are all really feeling.  I'm so glad we started doing this and am very grateful for the idea.  Give it a go, you may be very surprised!

TODAY I LEARNED: That there is still a great deal of wisdom to be learned from younger people.  Just don't tell them I said that!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Gaga, ooh lala!

I was shocked a few months back when my best mate called me judgemental.  Judgemental, moi?  You've got to be kidding!  I'm as open minded as - as - OK well as it turns out I am more judgemental than I considered myself to be.  However I had my eyes well and truly opened a few nights ago and all thanks to someone I thought I hated - Lady Gaga!

Whilst I would admit to humming along to some of her songs, on the whole my opinion of Lady Gaga was rather low to say the least.  Here was a person who was making a fortune out of deliberately shocking people - crude, sleazy and on occasion even meaty.  Every time I saw her on TV my reaction was more 'Gaah!' than Gaga.  I honestly thought she was repulsive and when it was announced she was coming to our shores I couldn't imagine anyone I would rather see less.  Until a couple of weeks ago when quite by chance I saw her perform 'Marry the Night' live on the Alan Carr chat show, just her and a piano. I was absolutely gobsmacked.  What a voice!  I literally sat in the lounge with my jaw on the floor - and kicked myself for not getting tickets.

Fortunately for me, as destiny would have it the opportunity presented itself quite unexpectedly to go along to her first Auckland concert and I grabbed it with both hands (oh thank you cousin Jenny I am eternally in your debt *mwah*!) I also grabbed the opportunity to wear the new purple dress which had been sitting in my wardrobe for months, unworn and begging for an outing.  As we made our way to Vector Arena I was worried I was overdressed for the occasion.  I couldn't have been more wrong.

As we entered the venue we were immediately greeted by the most colourful, outlandish throng of people I had ever set eyes on.  There were glow-in-the-dark cats' ears, wigs of every colour, bows intricately woven into the wearer's hair, there were bra-tops, stockings of every description, sparkle, lipgloss, leather, sequins and pearls - and I don't just mean the women.  Ahh yes, I had completely forgotten.  Lady Gaga has a big gay following.  It was like being a fly on the wall at the annual convention of the Village People - and it was brilliant!

You know when people say things like 'I'm not racist, but...' and immediately follow with something which IS totally racist?  I'm embarrassed to admit to being a bit like that when it comes to 'I'm not homophobic, but...'  I have several gay friends who I went to school with and am still friends with today and I was absolutely fine when they 'came out' to me.  I didn't have a problem with it at all and it didn't change my perception of them.  Because I was at a safe distance of 12,000 miles away.  I know, I know, how small minded can you get...

Yet here I was now, laughing and chatting away like old friends with the bloke next to me; a very sweet young chap with stars and butterflies all over his face.  And who could help but notice what surely must have been the outfit of the night - an elderly man with snowy white hair dressed from head to foot in a silver and white sequined suit.  Now that takes a lot of guts! He was having a blast too, bless him and as I looked around I realised something about Lady Gaga that had never crossed my mind before.  She brings people together.  All kinds of people.

Suddenly the curtain lifted and we were greeted with the sight of an enormous Gothic castle.  Before we knew it, the great Gaga was making an entrance on her unicorn (as you do) and 12,000 people were immediately gobsmacked, just as I had been in my lounge a few weeks before.  Her voice was amazing; powerful and flawless throughout, which was no small feat when you consider how much she was dancing and jumping around.  Even when she was singing upside down she never missed a beat!

Once again I was impressed.  Yep, this was what we had all bought our tickets for.  OK, it was weird - how many singers do you know who actually give birth to themselves on stage?  Or shove their dancers into a giant mincer and appear in the next instant sitting on a meat couch (yes, you read right) wearing a meat dress?  But hey, I expected her to be weird.  What I didn't expect was for her to be so... nice.

I've been to a fair few concerts in my time.  Everything from *cringe* New Kids on the Block when I was 16 to Jimmy Barnes, Robbie Williams and the Eagles - even Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. I am nothing if not cultured!  But I have never witnessed an artist take so much time to talk to their audience and make them feel special before.  If you're lucky you might get a 'WE LOVE YOU AUCKLAND!' or 'EVERYBODY PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR!' but not Lady Gaga.  Instead, she sat on her motorbike - which, naturally had a piano built inside - and talked to us for around 15 minutes.  Except she didn't just talk, she  inspired us.  This woman was so humble, so genuinely grateful for everything she has and just wanted to give us the best show possible.  More than anything, she wanted us - this big, colourful crowd of Village People - to embrace our differences and not be scared of being ourselves.  And why not.  After all, look at where it got her!

She picked out individual people in the crowd and invited them backstage, much to the delight of the crowd.  She would be in the middle of a song and all of a sudden spot someone and say 'Look at you, you're so pretty! Oh don't cry, you'll ruin your Judas t-shirt!'  A definite high point of the night was when she interrupted a song to go and chat to a 78 year-old man and his wife.  'Look, you're probably wondering what on earth you're doing here and have thought about leaving at least 10 times already.  I understand if you would rather just sit here than dance.  I just want you to know that I think you're lovely and thank you for coming'.  By the end of the show, that same guy had his jacket off and was dancing his heart out.  Like I said, Lady Gaga brings all kinds of people together.

I left the concert buzzing.  It had been an incredible show and no mistake, but not just for the music and the special effects.  The lasting memories are of the woman herself.  I learned a lot that night about so many things and I am so very glad I went.  I guess you could say my opinion of Lady Gaga has undergone a complete turnaround - and I'll be first in line for tickets next time she comes to Auckland!

TODAY I LEARNED: Never judge a book by its cover.  Even if it's covered in meat.