Why Do Some People Make You Feel That Pursuing Your Dreams Is A Cop Out?

live-your-dream-2045928_1920Currently, when I’m asked at social events ‘what I do’, I metamorphose back into a little girl, look down at the floor nervously and respond, usually in a pathetic whisper ‘I’m trying to write a book’ or ‘I’m trying to make a career out of writing’, then pray they don’t ask me about it. The look of pity, by way of response, is a given. It’s the sort of look you’d expect if you told them you were terminally ill or related to Trump or that – God forbid! – you’re a full-time Mum.

 

And because I’m a paranoid bitch with anxiety, I choose to interpret that look as they think I’m a failure and that they believe my choice of words is either a) a cover up for ‘doing fuck all’ ie. I’m a “lady who lunches”, or b) they secretly believe that as a fifty-something woman, surely I’m a bit past it to pursue my dreams?

 

Which all seems a little ironic when I thought that the fashionable thinking in regards to lifestyle is about having choices, escaping the rat race as quick as you can, (unless you love what you do), or chasing your dreams before North Korea nukes us. Literally, hundreds of memes enforce this view on my social media pages each day.

 

Perhaps I’m over-sensitive as well as paranoid, but (just occasionally) a ‘good for you!’ or a patronizing pat on the back for ‘having a go’ wouldn’t go amiss. I like to think that I am encouraging when someone describes to me what their job entails – even if secretly it does sound like watching paint dry.

 

Perhaps the reason so many writers and people who work from home appear trapped by the demons of their craft is the solitariness of the job, which inevitably breeds doubt. With no peer support or encouragement, or any chance of an ‘employee of the month’ award, you have to have a deep-seated belief in what you’re doing to survive.

 

Do people really think that I don’t know that I have less chance of getting published than flying to the moon? But will reminding myself that only 0.1% of the writing population get published – and only those with the first initials JK – spur my creativity to greater heights?

 

Even the old man looks at me suspiciously when I lie in bed an hour longer than he does of a morning, trawling through the news sites and social media in search of ideas.

 

‘Where do you think I get my ideas from?’ I snap back at him when he asks me what time I’m getting up, sensitive to the fact that I feel the need to justify my time.

 

Perhaps it is envy. When you tell your friends that you work from home, it is rather like admitting that you’ve won the lottery or you got some half-price Blahniks in the sales, and you can hear yourself play down your efforts and try to negate the luck of that swim in the ocean at lunchtime.

 

But losing an income is not all fun and games, not when that second drink at the pub with a girlfriend can cause a domestic rift; the only holidays abroad you enjoy these days are those of your friends on Facebook, that you live vicariously through, and dinners out are a luxury. And chasing my dream was about more than being paid to do what I love, it was about putting my mental health first and being more cognizant of the preciousness of each day – which doesn’t pay well either.

 

And I know I am lucky.

 

Food Goals When You Work From Home

One of the main benefits to working from home, aside from the greater job security than that currently offered by the FBI, is the 24hr on-site cafeteria. 

I have instigated Google’s food policy in our house. They don’t allow their employees to be further than 200 feet from food at any time – a strategy that ‘inspires innovative thinking’ they believe, as well as a greater appreciation for food, in my experience. Particularly now, as we enter winter, and I’m cold and beginning to miss the luxuries of the modern office, (and in particular, ducted heating), and have turned to food for comfort.

Without the usual office time-wasting distractions of forming scrums around the coffee machine, bitching in the toilets, sending funny emails about the boss, kicking the photocopier and social media, food has become much more significant in my new working environment – perhaps too significant.

And the best part is there is no judgment.

There’s none of that pressure to take in the grossest, sludgiest green smoothies for breakfast; no need to hide my Nachos under my sprout salad sprinkled with caterpillar semen for lunch, which I then used to top up with Maccas when I was ‘doing the mail’. No, you see I can eat what the fuck I want to in my own home, and if suits my very busy schedule to eat ten smaller (hmmm!) meals per day, I have earned that right.

Even so, I have begun to see the potential pitfalls in this new partnership. The fifteen-pound weight gain (on average) of Google employees over their first year of employment, has been termed the Google 15, hence I haven’t got close to the scales in months. But I ask you, with no-one to have hour-long chitchats in the toilets to discuss current events, (the size of Jon Hamm’s penis, for example), how exactly is a girl supposed to fill the gaps in her concentration?

It has been said that the lack of physical contact with the outside world can be a disadvantage to those who work from home – research that I suspect was reported by someone who has either never worked from home or who actually likes people  – and I now see how that sense of isolation could lead to an eating disorder for the lonely writer. Chocolate chip cookies have been my support through several, highly stressful hours to deadline.

I’m lucky that I have been able to learn from the best when it comes to my WFGs (work food goals), my progress in which he will assess in my annual review. Because there has to be some biological reason that my husband, who also works from home, has to run 7ks a day to maintain his current weight.

He works at the other end of our house – the end with heating, (an issue that is escalating and as such has been added to the next team meeting agenda). His office, which doubles as a nap-pod and reading room – in fact, any room name he can invent to avoid me – is even closer to the evil magnetism of the kitchen and I hear him and his furtive rustlings in the pantry; the tell-tale timeout beeps from the fridge door.

The waft of melting butter on crumpets is all it takes to pull me out of my steely focus on work and straight into the cookie jar, a consistency which is certain to score me a 5 at my review, I hope.

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Versatile Muesli Cookies

Very occasionally, I like to remind myself (and everyone who reads this blog), that I am not perfect and that we can’t all be good at everything. It has been a while since I posted one of my epic cooking fails, but this one is a real gem that provided me with the invaluable life lesson that more free time does not a good cook maketh. 

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After Superglue

 

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Before Superglue

You see, now that I’m working from home full-time and the kids are older – although sadly, not any less demanding – sometimes I get this longing to be a ‘fifties meets modern woman’, who can earn a decent crust at the same time as knocking up a batch of something yummy during her coffee break. I must reiterate that this window of opportunity has only come about since the kids grew up and I can callously refuse to enable their Millennial bleats for help. Which means that aside from my 24hr nagging service (which is reinforced by my ‘when are you leaving home’ ringtone), basically I ignore them. Oh, and the cleaning.

 

Anyway, three factors brought on this strange desire to make my own muesli cookies last week:

 

  1. I am always hungry – a common complaint among those of us who work from home and find themselves within 24hr snacking distance from the kitchen. So when I discovered the recipe online, and the cookies looked kind of healthy, (because oats and fruit…) and I ignored the glaring fact that they are meals between meals with calories you don’t need, it seemed like a good idea.
  2. I got sick of paying $5 for them in cafes.
  3. They looked quick and easy, which meant I could slip them in between Facebook sessions.

 

I trust the TASTE online recipes implicitly, nevertheless, once a cheater always a cheater so as soon as I printed the recipe from the Internet I looked for shortcuts. I’m sure you can imagine my hilarity when I discovered that one of the four ingredients listed was ‘homemade muesli’, a requirement that catapulted me to Coles as fast as a two-for-one sale on Tena pads in search of the muesli-fail that looked as close to something I’d knocked up myself. And I found it, by paying a week’s rent for a European version – for which I’ve no doubt some poor migrant scaled the mountains of Switzerland for and was paid the minimum wage.

 

Another minor cheat was that I really couldn’t be arsed to weigh the butter (because then I’d have to wash up the scales) and at this stage in my Masterchef career, I think I know what 100g looks like. In hindsight, it was an interesting decision after flourless cake-gate last week, when somehow I forgot to add the butter completely – one of only four ingredients. Anyway, my generosity with the butter on this occasion was probably what contributed to the versatility of my cookies’, because as soon as they emerged from the oven I sensed they were special and came with a range of extra functions, meaning they could be used as a muesli breakfast cereal, drizzled over salad, used as a sweet version of dukkha (because be honest, no-one really likes the savoury version), drunk as a smoothie or added to houseplants as fertiliser.

 

That’s right, with the consistency of course sand, I needed a trowel to move them from the baking tray to my cake stand, so I can only assume that the egg and flour must have been having an RDO.

 

Perhaps I should have listened more closely to the sage advice of George Colombaris’ to one of the new guinea pigs on Masterchef this week, when he warned her not to go too far off piste in her cooking as she cried into her ice cream soup.

 

So weigh the fucking butter.

 

I’ve given you the recipe below and I’m one hundred percent confident that in the right hands, it will work.

 

Versatile Muesli Cookies 

Calories: Who The Fuck Cares

Ingredients:

3 Cups Supermarket Toasted Muesli (or 3 cups homemade if you’re ‘one of those‘)

100g Butter, melted and cooled

1 Egg lightly beaten

1/2 Cup Plain Flour

1/3 cup honey

Superglue (if necessary)

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees

WEIGH butter, then whisk with honey and egg.

Combine muesli and flour together then add butter mixture. Leave to sit for 15 minutes. Roll spoonfuls of mixture into balls and place on lined baking trays.

Bake for ten minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before moving (very important)

 

(Warning: When all the ingredients are combined, the mixture does feel really gross in your hands – kind of like when you find something soft and sticky down the back of the sofa. But the more you compact and flatten these fuckers, the more likely you are to get something hat resembles a cookie.)

 

 

Working Women and School Holiday Hell

Week 1: Working from home...
Week 1: Working from home… (Photo credit: Mish Mish)

School holidays upset the natural order in our house.

For working women, school holidays are akin to waxing your own bikini line with fabric strips – (those who have done it will know what I mean).

As if working ‘around’ children isn’t hard enough, mothers also have to ‘manage’ them during school holidays, whilst trying to maintain a level of professionalism at work at the same time.

And let me assure you, holiday-anxiety gets far worse when kids become teenagers. You see, you can’t shove them into childcare then, in the knowledge that at least they’ll be safe for the day – you have to leave them to prowl the streets looking for things not to do whilst you try to earn a dollar, engulfed by guilt.

School holidays probably sit at number 3 on the list of Working Mother’s Guilt, just below ‘sending your kids to school when you know they are sick’ and ‘picking them up late from childcare’.

Luckily, my teenagers do sleep through half of the day, so if I can bribe them with wads of cash, take-out food or movies on Foxtel during the afternoon, I might just find a small window to earn a living.

But things don’t always work to plan.

My job means that I work from home for approximately half of my paid hours.

The problem with working from home is that no-one in the family actually believes you are working.

Nevertheless, on paper my job sounds like the dream job for any working woman. It gives me that precious commodity of flexibility for all those unforeseen events that can send normal healthy working women to their GP begging for a Valium script at the very mention of head lice, school carnivals and orthodontist appointments.

But where this working-from-home nirvana comes horribly unstuck is when I attempt to maintain some professional dignity during the school holidays.

It is fair to say that I might have been guilty of exaggerating my home working facilities as a ‘separate home office’, during the interview for my job. Yes, I do own a desk and computer – they just happen to be located in the war zone between the kitchen and the television. This area is a high traffic area for teenagers, (and their teenage hanger-on friends), whose main purpose of existence seems to be eating or doing nothing.

If you listen really carefully, a loud and very distinguishable communal sigh of relief reverberates around the city suburbs from working mums on the day the public schools re-open after the holidays. Frankly I’m surprised we don’t all set up tents in front of the school gates the night before, like fans do for Wimbledon.

I had an interesting experience of working woman school holiday hell just yesterday.

I might have mentioned that Kurt can be quite hyperactive euphoric in the mornings, and particularly during the school holidays  – this symptom of ADHD is often labelled as ‘morning mania’. His anxiety is lessened by no train times to meet and no assignments to (suddenly) remember as he is walking out the door and his excitement for life (one that is infinitely much less complicated in holiday time) is magnified about three times. His euphoria, which is generally demonstrated by uncontrollable noise, lasts for the first hour of each day, until ‘holiday boredom’ sets in.

On Friday morning, I was in the middle of a very important preliminary call with a new client in Japan. I had assumed that Kurt would remain in bed until at least 10.30am – GROWING – as a result of that three packets of chocolate biscuits that he stole in the middle of the night.

The telephone call with my client would have been delicate at the best of times as his English is not what you would describe as ‘fluent’ and it doesn’t help that I have this awful habit of barking into the phone during international calls, as though I can somehow compensate for the distance by increasing the volume of my voice.

Anyway, at the point where I was trying to decipher some important information pertaining to my client’s visa, Kurt suddenly descended upon my work space (aka the kitchen), blaring out (with a volume to challenge the PA system at the Enmore) ‘Because I got High’ by Afroman. In fairness to Kurt, he couldn’t see that I was on the phone initially, not until he moved directly above me in all his naked glory and promptly went into his ‘I’ve got a big penis’ song; even more loudly.

Obviously, I stood up immediately to try and grab his attention, waving my arms frantically like some military traffic controller on Speed, in a bleak attempt to get him to shut the f*ck up; unfortunately, he mistook my signals for encouragement.

The silence from Japan was deafening.

Eventually my client spoke and asked me politely if I was too busy to talk at the moment, (which roughly translated meant sort your domestic shit out).

I was relating this to a friend later, (who is also trying to balance work with school holidays and failing miserably), and she questioned when exactly we women become so ‘bitter and twisted’.

I don’t think it has anything to do with the inadequacies of men (well, not much), or even menopause, and it’s not because we are trying to ‘have it all’ either.

It’s because we have to do it all.

Never work with animals and children.