17 years and through

Since July 21, 2000, I’ve been keeping a diary at this website, chronicling my doings. Here’s an excerpt from entry #1:

[K] asked me to be on a campaign for the Honi 2001 editorial team. Honi is the Sydney University campus newspaper, and the team is determined by popular vote, which means the campaign is dominated by political factions, and the newspaper is edited by the campus left. I am very left in social politics and centre economically according to some quiz I did on the web once, but don’t belong to a campus faction.

I think this team is going to be comprised of people at various stages of left-ness who are unaligned – so it would be very hard to win…

Yes, we did run for Honi Soit editorial board late in 2000. No, we didn’t win.

And yes, seventeen years in, I’m winding up the diary. The last entry will be the one for July 2017.

There’s no one big explanation about why I’m ending it, it’s been in gradual decline for about ten years now, and today’s the day I decided I just don’t want to tell you about my ski holiday in August, gosh darn it. (It was quite good!) Or about my next round of thyroid cancer surveillance. (There will always be thyroid cancer surveillance. Anything could happen!)

Have some little explanations:

  • The diary project, in its waxing and waning, has lasted nearly half my life, that is, the length of time it takes to become almost a different person.
  • 17 years ago, I was just barely someone’s girlfriend. Now I’m someone’s mother and someone else’s boss.
  • The author of the diary it was modelled on died two years ago last month.
  • The parts of my life I want to talk about in a globally accessible public diary have got even smaller than they were in 2000 (and it was never a tell-all in the first place).
  • The time I used to sink into writing I increasingly sink into taking photographs.
  • I always assumed I’d read the diary and reminisce, and I’ve only read any previous entries a total of about three times.

What now?

  • puzzling.org is staying and every so often I’ll post to it.
  • That may sometimes be a story posted about something that happened to me. It will probably be in the ‘Diary‘ section if so.
    If I had to guess how often, I’d guess once or twice a year. But I won’t be trying to write down an ongoing saga of my deeds.
  • I’ll keep my parenting blog, Incrementum, going for some time yet, although attentive readers will note that my older child is into reading and surfing the web age, so I imagine that it also has at most a couple of years to live in anything like its current form. (At which point it too will have been a decade-long project.)

Thanks for following. See you in some other genre.

After sunset, Cid Harbour

July 2017

July was an inevitable tour through my yearly theme of “why don’t I have any social life or do anything ever?” also known as “every single winter of my adult life”. Relatively speaking that is, mostly meaning I didn’t see a lot of unrelated adults.

It began, to be fair, with Pia’s hen’s night, which was the most hen’s night I’ve ever been to. That is, not very, but there were penis-shaped straws, so an effort was made. There was karaoke, at which I pulled my usual karaoke trick (I can more or less perform Eminem’s Lose Yourself, which invariably gets put on at any white person karaoke without anyone first checking that anyone there can rap). There was a chocolate cafe which really doubled down on chocolate cafe to a degree that really puts anything else in the category to shame. And so Pia was sent off.

We took the kids to Luna Park halfway through the month. It turned out they’ve been watching Youtube with the ads on: V sidled into our bedroom with “an idea I had, about what we could do today?” and later A was burbling with joy about going to “LunaParkWinterfest” all-one-word. Luna Park had its usual knack for us of having Sydney throw a warm and painfully glarey day at us regardless of time of year. Youtube ads or the school holidays got half of the city there, packed onto ferries loading and unloading at the very underprovisioned Jeffrey Street wharf. A went on the ferris wheel, crying, and the carousel, not crying, and she was done. Andrew and V left an hour after us and had made it through the queue of just one additional ride.

At the end of the month we went to Tamworth for a weekend to visit my aunt — Rob‘s widow — and my cousin, their youngest child. They live next door to where my grandparents lived until my grandmother died in 2000, which means same corner shop, same park hidden behind the water tower. If it hadn’t been winter, same pool that we swam in as guests of the neighbours at the time that Rob and Cas eventually bought the house from.

It was winter though, and a run of cold nights, so lots of adorable moments of the kids cutely huddling under blankets and drinking hot chocolates. Lots of daytime adventures too; I had forgotten the wildlife park at Tamworth, and several of the playgrounds have had an upgrade to fancy 2010s adventure playground gear so it was a bit of a dream weekend for the kids. The tens of thousands of smelly flying foxes living along the Peel River are new since I was last there too and presumably unwelcome to everyone but curious visitors. Someone set off a siren to scare them while we were there and V was staunchly defensive of the “brave bats” refusing to leave their trees. Mid-winter sunlight and wide streets and New England hills are all somewhere in my personal geography.

V’s soccer season went right through the month, so, each Saturday, down through Callan Park to the oval, and up hill again to the ridge after the game. A’s walking pace and distance slowly improved over the season, and most Saturdays other than the one with the 8am game it was a nice way to get out of the house and into the sun and trees each weekend. Also destined to be somewhere in my personal geography.

May & June 2017

May began with comforting rituals, as it usually does since our wedding anniversary and Mother’s Day are within a week of each other.

Our 10th wedding anniversary was the first time A had ever spent a night away from both of us: I’ve travelled, Andrew’s travelled, but there’d always been one parent or other under the roof. We hustled her with V into my parents’ car at night in Lithgow, all four adults fearing howls and despair, but she smiled like a blissful angel and apparently had a happy weekend, broken only occasionally by solemnly sharing that she was thinking of “my Mummy, Mair-wee”.

Andrew and I spa-ed, walked in the sun, and had a lovely dinner that I’d accidentally booked in Blaxland rather than Blackheath, more than halfway back from the holiday spot to our home. But we’ve always been good at long drives together, and Restaurant Como’s rose and raspberry Eton mess and the audiobook of Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway made for a good evening.

The next weekend, another milestone on the slow climb out of young child parenting: we did our usual Mother’s Day walk around Clarkes Point Reserve, where we were married, and the nearby shipyards, and this year A more or less walked it herself. Not before time, I really stagger a far bit carrying her now, especially if she’s recently eaten. Lucky her though; by the time V was her age, I was pregnant again, no carrying at all for him much after his third birthday.

At the end of May, Rob died, just a few days after his birthday and a visit from my father. I flew up to Tamworth on the 27th a few days before his funeral to see parts of my family, and did a lot of food shopping for his wake with my cousin (his daughter), but didn’t stay for the funeral, instead flying to New York on the 28th.

I’ve visited New York twice before, in 2004 and 2012, but both times it was the peak of summer, and the second time I was badly jet lagged, so even though this was a work trip, I felt it was the first time I really had a chance to enjoy the city. I spent almost the entire trip above ground, using the subway only to get to JFK for the trip home, and did a lot of biking.

I’d hoped to circumnavigate Manhattan by bike on the middle weekend I was there, but I wanted to do it on Citibike (so that I could give up and get the subway back to my hotel if the biking was too much) and Citibike doesn’t go north of Central Park. So instead I circumnavigated the Citibike area, a ride of about 35km all up. I had no idea how extensive the parks were in Manhattan; not just Central Park but the East River Park and the Riverside Park also.

My work trip to New York was related to becoming a manager of my team at work, which I had been discussing with my own manager since March, and which took effect in June. My Sydney team partners with another team in New York; we share a pager rotation, and so visiting New York is part of the deal in even being on this team, but especially in managing it. So part of my goal in being there was to start to put down a few roots; to find the odd place I wanted to return to. I didn’t expect I would root myself in a bikeshare scheme though.

Once back in Sydney I had the first of the lifelong rounds of cancer recurrence screening I will need, initially to be six monthly. This first one in June was clear but didn’t involve a radioiodine scan, which will happen at the one year mark since concluding treatment, ie, November. I found out I’ve been somewhat hypothyroid for months and months, the exact opposite of how I’d ideally be dosed in the years immediately following having thyroid cancer. There will always be something.

Otherwise June was a quiet month, which was good for transitioning to my management role, which although effected largely through paperwork rather than interviews, was in practice the third new job I’d had in eighteen months. I’m looking forward, some year or other, to a year where we live and work and study in more or less the same way at the end of the year as we did at the beginning.

10 years on

Andrew and I were married ten years ago on May 6 2007.

Mary Gardiner, Andrew Bennetts (by Jo Gardiner)

In ten years: two children, one PhD, two house moves, one house purchase, three surgeries, one cancer diagnosis, one life threatening illness, one business, four new jobs, many passport stamps.

We took none of those things with us for our anniversary weekend in the mountains:

Anniversary
More pictures from our anniversary trip.

April 2017

April was a bit of a mess, from my point of view. V’s vacation care bookings always need to be done many weeks in advance, using the worst app on the entire Internet; among other things, Excursion 1 and Excursion 2 are the same booking each day but mean different things each day, so you need to sit there with a cheat sheet to book it. It also books out within hours. It wasn’t something I had time for during oncall training at work, so we ended up with a very patchy set of vacation care bookings for the Easter holidays and both Andrew and I had to pick out a bunch of days to take off work to supplement V’s vacation care.

Since I’ve switched jobs a couple of times in the last few years, I’ve had weeks off at a time (in fact, months between the Ada Initiative and Stripe). Andrew on the other hand hadn’t taken a holiday in years that didn’t involve a load of packing and driving the kids somewhere, so he took a few weeks off and spent several days alone with a cryptic crossword.

It was a month of birthdays. For Sarah’s birthday we zipped up to the mountains on the 8th for lunch with Mum’s entire family after one of V’s soccer games and drove back down the same night.

My birthday fell on Good Friday, which happens not infrequently (also in 1995 and 2006, in contrast my birthday was last on Easter Sunday in 1974 and won’t be again until 2047, happy 66th birthday to me). It’s always a little strange to celebrate on Good Friday; I’m just Catholic enough to feel the dissonance. I also feel the dissonance of the children needing me to celebrate my birthday, which usually involves me having to make my own cake. We spent our Easter weekend at home, thank goodness. It took me a long time to realise as an adult that visiting family isn’t a mandatory use of long weekends.

Sam’s 30th birthday was that month too, and he had a small family party on ANZAC Day, a nice afternoon but also with a strange edge as a gathering of people who were mostly seeing each other in Tamworth caring for Rob, rather than in Sydney.

Otherwise, on the last Friday of Andrew’s time off, we realised our long-held dream of going to Wet n Wild together without kids. By the time we did it I was dreading it; we went in late March with the kids and I took V a second time on one of my days off with him and I went just wanting to check the box with Andrew. But we had a lot of fun, even though he tipped me forward off the raft at the end of T5, and I refused to go on the Bombora, the last of the high adrenaline rides to go. Always leave something to aspire to.

Feburary & March 2017

How fortunate I’ve been, to not have had a weekend job in basically my whole life. I worked night fill in my teens, which is a weeknights thing, I tutored university to get through undergrad, and while the jobs I had between undergrad and ending the Ada Initiative were all varying degrees of soft money, they were all weekday jobs, aside from the travel. And even work travel involves weekends where I can lie in a hotel room eating sashimi and trying not to be too sick from jetlag. (Protein, fat, and sheer misery: the bitter diet of the jetsetting class.)

February was the last month without working weekends for a while to come. But they were still parenting weekends, with V having both athletics and swimming on Saturdays. We made a one night trip to see my parents before the end of summer, which was worth it, but the eight hours of driving in two days hurt. Last days in the pool, lots of threatening clouds and not a lot of rain.

March was the brief interregnum between hauling everyone down to King George Oval for athletics on Saturday morning and hauling everyone down to Callan Park Oval for soccer on Saturday morning. Just swimming lessons on Saturdays, luxury. We had Sam and Hannah over for dinner in one of our rare and always nice uses of our outdoor furniture, and we went around to Mark and Tim’s so that V could turn up his nose at all their child-friendly food, but I also kicked off my weekend work for the first time. Rather gently so; I did a secondary oncall, for which I need to be half an hour away from starting work at all times, not primary oncall (five minutes from beginning work). It wasn’t until April that a real trial by oncall fire kicked in at work. Perhaps gentle March is what I should aim to return to sometime soon.

January 2017

We finished January this year with a week away at Lake Macquarie. I realised last year that we hadn’t had a holiday as a family that didn’t involve winter sports for a couple of years. So we went away to a cabin in a little resort and mostly had a relaxed time.

Because of timezones, V’s birthday falls across US presidential inaugurations every fourth year (so, twice now). He celebrated his seventh birthday dubiously by reading the TRUMP skywriting that someone placed over Sydney above the protests as we drove out of Sydney. And so kicked off bad news year.

The holiday was a gentle thing, which we wanted. There was a heated pool next door. V learned to dive badly, and A took many flying leaps into my arms, way out of her depth. We managed to get to the actual beach every day. I celebrated the first day with a bluebottle sting at Blacksmiths Beach. We had not been to the area before, so we vaguely thought that Caves Beach was named for someone Caves, perhaps. No, it’s named for actual caves. Fortunately we learned this during our holiday and got there at low tide to see the caves several times. We ended the trip with a swim at Catherine Hill Bay, admiring the rundown wharf and the weatherboard shacks, and drove up over the headland into the middle of an eerie empty luxury estate; the roads laid down to build out beach views, but no ground broken on housing yet. There will be a north-south divide in Catherine Hill Bay soon, clearly.

I went back to work around the time of the attempted US refugee and immigration ban, and put together a fundraising campaign for several tens of thousands of dollars for Australia refugee organisations. Among other things, it was a strange flashback to my previous career. My main memory of that week is literally dark because the main gathering at work was around an internal staircase in a dimly lit area. I haven’t had the needed energy and will to stick at it constantly since, but I’m glad I started the year with some focus on Australian immigration politics and activism.

Sunday 15 January 2017

There comes a time in any life partnership where you learnt to recognise the tone behind “Mary, come here?” which means “you need to come urgently, but not in a way that displays visible alarm or it will make the whole situation worse.”

Such it was when Andrew saw what he thought was a cat in our living room, turned on a light, and instead discovered a possum.`Not that a cat would be all that much different in terms of what comes next, it’s just harder to picture a big dark eyed brush tail possum being what gazes back at you. Luckily it was a Sydney possum, so fairly tame, not a rural scared possum or their aggressive introduced cousins in New Zealand. Sydney possums are selective in their aggression; they save it for each other when two or more have got into the same rubbish bin. It wasn’t tame enough to be handled and even if it had been I’d have been uneasy with that, but after a few failed attempts to herd it out the back door it shot upstairs, out our balcony door and into the frangipani. Sydney: native animals and introduced trees.

Otherwise, it’s hot and humid. The sort of hot and humid where the big story about the weather is “we normally have [negligible] days over 35° in Sydney each year and this year we’ve had [really quite a lot]!” This year is the first in many that I haven’t been working from home in an unairconditioned home office so it’s a lot easier to let the days glide on past from my gilded cage. It’s harder to sleep even with airconditioning — Friday night was the hottest January night on record — because of the heat that leeches out of the bed over the course of the night, but of course unairconditioned past Mary is unimpressed with my complaints. So far there’s been precious few Sydney storms to break the tedium.

This is usually the season of ceaseless weekends, and this weekend Andrew and V went to the cricket, and today we went to Greenwich Baths with J, S, and L. But it seems like after our holiday next week we’ll be having a quiet summer. Quiet, and maybe at times a bit cooler, but I rather doubt it.

Friday 6 January 2017

Between my weak right shoulder, my total dependence on thyroid replacement hormone and my extreme sentimentality surrounding changing anything at all for my children, I’m something of a soft target for anyone bent on my destruction.

In early 2014 I dutifully trotted teeny floppy little baby A, aged 11 weeks, to her new daycare, and yesterday she ended her time there with last snuggles with the carers who looked after her as a baby, and I think I felt exactly the same both times. It feels like less of a “my baby, her first/last day of daycare/school!” cliché when you’re in it, and I haven’t always been this change-averse. It’s new as of about a year ago when even adventurous V was not happy to be starting a new school.

People tell me kids cope just fine, but I was in my fifth school by my ninth birthday and I think it’s not a coincidence that I feel like this about jerking my kids around between institutions and Andrew, who changed school only once other than the primary to high school change, doesn’t. V has recently become very curious about the whole idea of moving, and asked about all the houses I’ve lived in. So I tallied up all of them for him, and the grand total is twenty, ten of them in adulthood in Sydney.

It’s the season for looking back again. Sure, yes, New Years. But I compounded that for myself by having children in January. Since the children are very nearly exactly four years apart in age, I’m doomed to spend my entire parenting journey reliving the events of four years ago but in January it’s extra acute as both of their birthdays approach. Seven years (two moves) ago, it was a hot hot hot summer and I hadn’t received the memo about taking it easy in late pregnancy, even though I was also having regular monitoring for V’s health. Four years (one move) ago, we were free of nappies for a brief window and commencing our second lonely year in that suburb. (For all that I intensely miss it now, it really did take about two and a half years to feel at home there. Don’t move, kids.) Three years (also one move) ago, I was having very stressful late late late late pregnancy monitoring with A; is it that you need a coffee, or your baby needs to be surgically removed? So hard to tell.

I’m not looking forward very far at the moment, but Monday is A’s birthday, and her last day at another daycare I’m far less sentimental about, and then Tuesday is her first day at a daycare across the road from V’s school, where he’s finally been for just as long as his first school, and I’ve almost finished converting my former home office into a TV room for me and Andrew, and I’ve cleared out a bunch of giveaways from the attic, and our baby things will soon be trucked over to a pregnant relative, and maybe, just maybe, the house move we made in May 2015 is finally finally done.

Ten years

Andrew and I got engaged ten years ago, on December 23, 2006. We were married in May 2007.

Sailor’s Thai, where I proposed to him, closed earlier in 2006, so we went to Longrain on the 22nd.

Engagement anniversary

Longrain wound up being similar in spirit to my two visits to Sailor’s Thai (the second was on our first wedding anniversary) in that the entrees were much more memorable than the mains, and the betel leaf one most of all. After we were done, we still had two and a half hours of A’s babysitter time left, so we did a very us thing, and walked around in the nighttime, catching a ferry to Kirribili, walking through the backstreets of Kirribili and down the harbour walk on the southern point (past at least four other couples sitting in the darkness), and around to Luna Park. We then caught a ferry to Balmain and then walked from the top of Balmain over to Rozelle. Between the two walks, it captured a lot of our time in Sydney; we used to live up the hill from Luna Park.

It’s been a long and difficult two years, but a good ten. Happy anniversary Andrew.