Please welcome to the stage…

Meet our baby son.

profile pic

He kinda looks like every other 20 week old foetus, but he’s healthy and I’m overwhelmingly grateful for that.

Here are his feet.

feet

Every other photo we took home makes him look like a monkey. Not an ugly monkey, but a monkey nonetheless.

Having now gotten past the horrible morning sickness where I lost 5 kg, or 8% of my body weight, due to my inability to keep either food or water down (yes, sympathy is welcome), I now have thoughts and feelings about this longed for child. They vacillate between incredible excitement and excruciating terror. You know, just the typical stuff.

While I’ve received no pressure and full support from my employer, I made the decision to decide (you’ve got to start somewhere) our post-baby plans this month. Here’s the lay of the land.

Being in Australia, I am entitled to 12 months maternity leave in which my employer must hold my position for me. Being an employee of a great company, I am entitled to 13 weeks full pay during that maternity leave. Being in Australia and earning under $150,000 a year, I am also entitled to the government parental leave pay of $606 per week before tax (i.e. minimum wage) for up to 18 weeks. Being an employee of a great company, I can also choose to go back part time, either permanently or as a transitional period, after maternity leave. Really, I have it pretty good.

The plan (as of today) is to take 9 months off, go back part time with the idea of going full time after 6 months. The plan after child no. 2 is to be a stay-at-home mum. *cue ominous music*

However, we’re keeping the option open for me to not return to work at all.

I’ll post soon about some of my thoughts on that…

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Soak it in, kids…

This is one my favourite photos of Husband

It was taken in Wurzburg, Germany earlier this year. While it’s not a great photo technically it captures something I love about Husband. Husband enjoys life and often takes the time to take it all in. We had just finished a tour of the Wurzburg Palace (which I highly recommend) and he stepped outside to survey the scenery and enjoy the moment.

As a kid, his uncle would drag him and the rest of the children to various attractions and experiences. His motto, often motivated with the discovery they had left the camera behind, was always “Soak it in, kids. Soak it in.” Husband has taken this lesson into adult life and I just love that about him.

I’ll often catch him stopping to observe a pretty sight or enjoy an experience and it’s not limited to the big, momentous experiences in life.

Nothing is too small to enjoy. The other day, he stepped out onto our balcony to, as he put it, “enjoy and admire” our garden. Our balcony garden is humble, to say the least. It consists of 2 dwarf fruit trees yet to yield any fruit and a few herbs. But it’s what we wanted and we had a great time putting it together.

When we were first married we sat down and listed some of the values which we wanted to make sure we cultivated during our marriage. Enjoy life (not a lifestyle) was one of them. And while we’re only 6 years into our married life, I think we’ve done a pretty good job of this one.

So, whether it’s a UNESCO world heritage listed palace in Germany or a humble garden which you’ve planted, I think we can all take a leaf out of Husband’s book and soak it in, kids. Soak it in.

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Cultural Politics: Give me votes or give me freedom

Here is a thought provoking blog post from my friend, Heidi:

Last night on Twitter, we had a worldwide discussion about voting and the differences in voting practices among countries.

I was really surprised to learn that Australia has compulsory voting. If they don’t show up at the polls, they are fined $100 each!

People wondered why I would raise strong personal objection to this …. and so we’re kicking off a world-wide round-robin blog discussion. Everyone is cutting and pasting each blog entry onto their blog, and then replying with their own thoughts. I volunteered to go first. :-D

So.

Why wouldn’t compulsory voting work in the United States?

Simple.

As much as voting is a right of an American citizen, having the choice NOT to vote is equally important.

We’re taught from as far back as we can remember that in our country, we’re allowed to make our own decisions.

We can say the pledge of allegiance to the American flag.

Or we can burn the American flag and tromp on it and spit on it.

We can volunteer to serve in the armed forces.

Or we can protest our involvement in a war and curse servicemen.

We can throw our weight of support behind government leaders.

Or we can voice negative opinions about them without fear of retribution.

It doesn’t matter, either way.

Everything is fair game.

That also applies to voting.

Voting is a fundamental right.

And choosing not to vote is also a fundamental right.

To force people to go the polls takes away from the original intent of the founding fathers — that each person has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

You can red the rest here and I encourage you to do so.

It’s now my turn in the round robin discussion!

Compulsory voting is neither inherently wrong or right.

Should compulsory voting be introduced in the US? No
Should compulsory voting be taken away in Australia? No

Have I lost some of my freedom because I have compulsory voting? A loud, resounding NO

Compulsory voting was introduced in Australia in 1924 over concerns of low voter turnout. We gripe about the inconvenience of having to take 15 min out our day very 4 years to tick our name off a list. However, it’s on the same level as griping about having to do the laundry or grocery shopping that week. It’s never a question of our freedoms being taken away. Australians are free. I am free.

The arguments in favour of compulsory voting are:
– Voting is a civic duty similar to other duties e.g. taxation, compulsory education, jury duty
– Election results more accurately reflect the “will of the electorate”
– Governments must consider the total population in policy formulation and management
– Candidates can concentrate their campaigning energies on issues rather than encouraging voters to attend the poll

Arguments against compulsory voting:
– It is undemocratic to force people to vote – an infringement of liberty
– Resources are used to determine whether those who failed to vote have “valid and sufficient” reasons.

To me the 2nd of the two arguments against is the most powerful as it is always good to question whether the benefit outweighs the extra “bureaucracy” involved in the enforcement or implementation.

It appears that there is a fundamental difference between how freedom is viewed or defined between Australia and USA. To me, it appears that freedom in the US is being able to do what you want, all the time (or close to it). And to be honest, it seems like there is a very real fear that one’s freedom can be taken away.

In Australia, freedom is that while we live in a collective society with responsibilities and obligations for the good of many, freedom to exercise our basic human rights is freedom.

Taking 15 min out of my day is not an interference of my liberty but an inconvenience to my day at worst. I can still choose not to vote (by either ticking my name off and walking out again or choosing to pay the fine), choose who i want to vote for, burn the Australian flag, not serve in the armed forces, and speak out against the government.

One thing is sure, who runs our countries is important and Australians and Americans are privileged to be able to decide who does it.

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Great Australian Innovations: Part 2 – Communications

I guess it should be no surprise that Australians have had to show ingenuity in communications where, as a nation, we’re spread out and often remote. Here are some pretty cool inventions with their birth place in the Great Southern Land.

Secret ballot 

Prior to 1855 everyone knew who you voted for. This, my friend, is a problem. Henry Chapman first came up with the idea of an anonymous ballot paper which quickly caught on (called the Australian Ballot) throughout the rest of the world. NZ introduce it in 1870, UK in 1872, Canada in 1874 and the first US presidential election used the secret ballot in 1892. President Grover Cleveland won, in case you were wondering…

This is him – Grover, that is.

Notebook

Ever wonder who the first guy was to realise that it would be a good idea to stick all the paper together in one handy book? Well, wonder no more! J.A. Birchill in 1902 was the first to cut the paper in half, and glue them on a piece of cardboard. Good job, Birchill – you made uni life that much easier.

WiFi 

CSIRO  (the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) invented and patented wireless LAN technology in the 1990s. Apparently, everyone was having a problem with reverberation where the radio waves bounced off all the surfaces. They did something to solve this problem. Earlier this year, CSIRO got a legal settlement in the USA to the tune of $220 million from 14 global firms who helped themselves to the idea. The irony in all this is that Australia has archaic internet connections at hefty prices.

Pre-paid postage

1838 and Colonial Postmaster-General of NSW, James Raymond came up with a nifty idea – the world’s first pre-paid postal system. Rather than the adhesive stamps which came 2 years later, Mr Raymond went with a pre-paid envelope and letter head. Prior to this the past was paid at the time of delivery which, frankly, is just a little bit rude. It’s like someone calling reverse charges, just because.

Part 1 of Great Australian Innovations can be found here.

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Cultural Politics Part 2

Last weekend Husband and I watched both the RNC and DNC key speeches. You know, Presidential candidate, adoring wife and “celebrity speaker”. There’s nothing like an election to bring home some cultural differences in global politics.

I’ve already discussed some general differences between Australian politics and American politics, here. And the respective National Conventions are another opportunity to address some things that stick out to me. Namely, what makes an election issue?

  1. Candidates’ church or religion seem to be a HUGE issue in the States. This may not be of importance across the board but it seems that if you want the “Christian Right’s” vote you need to be a church goer. This  means that both sides scatter their rhetoric with Christian-ese to appeal to the voting Christians. In Australia, this happens to an extent. For instance, last election both candidates produced a video message that got distributed to the mainline churches each claiming to share the same values. However, our PM doesn’t claim to be a Christian and while this can be of importance to the Christian vote does not play front and centre in political discourse.
  2. There is talk of getting the ethnic votes (“Latinos for Obama badges/buttons) and the gender votes (the very reason the significant others speak at the conventions). In Australia there is no ethnic vote campaigning but there is certainly gender campaigning. A plethora of photos of our Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott with his wife and daughters emerged pre-election in an attempt to cross the great gender divide endear himself to the women of Australia – you know – his house is full of women, he “gets” us. Abbott,  according to the polls, has a hard time connecting to the women of Australia… poor Tony. I’m putting this down to two reasons. 1) While Australia is very multicultural (1 in 4 Australians were born overseas) there are no large single ethnic communities to the extent that you find in the USA (I could be wrong here). 2) There is low voter turnout for ethnic minorities in the US that needs to be tapped into, whereas in Australia voting is compulsory and so the same need is not there.
  3. Class. Class of the voters and the candidates, to me, appears to be a big issue. Both sides of politics appeal to the middle class but the democrats cosy up to the lower class while the Republicans cosy up to the upper class. Meanwhile both sides go to considerable lengths to convince us that they come from humble beginnings and have had to work their way to where they are.  Voter class is also big in Australia – traditionally you vote Labour (democrat equivalent) if you’re blue collar and Liberal party (equivalent to the Republicans, yes, confusing I know) if you’re white collar. This still rears its ugly head in political discourse. The enigma is the growing trend for young, urban professionals to vote for the Green Party. This intrigues me as the Greens are pretty far left on the political spectrum but it’s probably indicative of the Gen Y Hipster trend. The class of the candidate seems less important to elections although it’s probably there in subtle undertones – you know, humble beginnings but have made good.
  4. Business Experience. In the corporate community in Australia you occasionally hear of the importance of business experience for a candidate but the reality is, if someone wants to go into politics they get themselves a law degree. Which, to me makes more sense, but anyway that’s me… In the US, the fact that Mitt Romney is a successful businessman comes up a lot with the conclusion being drawn is that he’ll be able to run the country equally as well.

Let’s have a quick look at the policy issues (according to their convention speeches).

In the USA:
Economy, Economy, Economy
Jobs, jobs, jobs
Health Care
Tax rates
Climate change
Israel
Iran & Afghanistan (Russia and China rate a mention)

In Australia:
Economy
Mining & Carbon Tax
Asylum Seekers (this deserves a post one day)
Disability & Dental Care
Cost of living / affordability

Our foreign policy revolves around China and  the Asia Pacific region as we try to manage the fact that we’re the odd ones out. We’re only slowly coming to the realisation that we are not the dominant power in the region. Needless to say, foreign policy is rarely an election issue – except maybe during the Iraq War.

Something that Australia has, and US doesn’t, is the connection to unions. The Labour Party had its roots in the union movement and is still controlled/highly influenced (depending on your viewpoint) by the unions. This, I do not like. I do not think it a great idea for a major political party to be influenced by a narrow interest group. One could argue that unions represent a broad group but, in the scheme of voter and policy issues, the reality is that it is a limited interest. Add to that I’m not a huge union fan, they run the risk of stifling enterprise when they take employee protection too far… which they do occasionally.

Happy voting, my American friends!

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Fandoming and twitter: Really, we’re sane

Dear crew / fellow cast / producers (yes, I’m talking to you, Todd Garner) / security within six degrees of separation from Richard Armitage,

I would like to take this opportunity to say, well, to say… We’re not crazy. I promise.

We have probed, requested, hinted, kissed up, blackmailed and batted our eyelids all in the hope of gaining a glimpse of our favourite actor. I can understand that on the face of it we come across as hormone fuelled crazies who have no commitments, responsibilities or life outside our attempts to follow this man and, well, tweet about it.

Now would be an appropriate time to tell you that each and every one of us (I think) lead a normal existence. Like superheroes we blend into normality donning our fandom capes and lycra only when autograph opportunities or photos appear. Our cause: fun and appreciation. Our enemy: boredom.

We don’t normally talk in exclamation marks or emoticons despite what our twitter timelines may tell you. We tweet while conducting business meetings over the phone, write blogs while waiting for buses and trains, retweet photos while preparing meals, scan articles while on our way to that next meeting.

We tweet, we ooh and aah, we blog, we squee but we can retain a job, raise a family and overall be responsible citizens.

We do actually think about other things and at times our fandoming (is that even a word!?) has a greater purpose. We learn valuable career lessons from Thorin and Bilbo (here and here), give to charity, give blood. Don’t be deceived, we discuss philosophy, art, music and life often within 140 characters and still leave room for emoticons. Yes, we are that good.

In short, we each have our hobbies – understand that this is ours.

Sincerely,
@KatieFromOz

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Displacement theory gone wrong

In lieu of falling pregnant, I’m baking.

I want to be a mum. I am not one of those people who all they’ve ever wanted was to be a mum. No one who’s ever met me would think that was the case. I didn’t spend years at university and more years investing in my career as only something to fill in the time before I popped one out. No, for me, it was something I intellectually understood I would want… one day.

In fact, there’s many things that down right frighten me about being a parent – everything from concern that I won’t actually like my kid to not being able to function on the lack of sleep I know I can expect. All I can put this yearning  down to is hormones. Crazy, stirring, slightly unhinging hormones.

A word on the side: I have more male followers than female (Hi *waves*) and don’t want to frighten you off with all this hormonal talk. However, I consider myself a fairly sane person and you just may have an equally sane person in your life who finds herself in the same situation. It just may be to your advantage to have heard this stuff before.

I want to create a baby so I create a cake instead. I have images of Samantha in Bewitched and today I’ve got it nailed – minus baby and witchcraft.

I baked…

I washed…

I shopped….

Yes, apart from the cake ingredients the only other purchase was a can of baked beans. Domesticated, I am. Domestic goddess, I’m not.

I titivated and preened….

I am a housewife poster child. All bar the kid.

Call it nesting, call it displacement, it has well and truly seized me.

What is this thing called cluck? I have always been able to appreciate the cuteness of little humans. I get it, they’re small and therefore, by default, cute. Now I see anything small and I find myself a goo of mush, oohing and aahing – babies, clothes, shoes, kitchen utensils… I’m clucky. Plain and simple, clucky.

Except it’s not plain and simple. It’s strange and frustrating. There is nothing I can do to speed this process up. Nothing, well… next to nothing.

And while I have nothing to worry about, heath wise, the wait can be hard. I’m philosophical about it to the extent that I know it will eventually happen. However, for someone who likes action plans and making steps toward goals all I can do is wait. And make cake.

But here is what I’ve learned:

  1. Miscarriage is common, misunderstood and, for most, an incredibly painful experience
  2. I am fertile. I am grateful for this because for many the wait for children never ends and I can only imagine the heartache that must bring. Also, I was told by doctors that I may not able to have children due to a very messy burst appendix many moons ago. But, by the grace of God, I can and will have children
  3. The desire to have children is illogical. I am both most desirous and frightened at the concept of giving birth and raising people. These polar feelings are strangely coexisting quite comfortably in my mind.

I can write about this because I am fine with it. I am, for the most part, happy to wait. What I find strange and slightly comical is this surge in domesticity that comes along with it. So friends, next time someone you know bakes a cake spare a thought for the fact that she could simply be trying her best to make the most of her time while she waits.

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