A Quick Lesson in Acronyms

Now I know that I am a little obsessive over this but it really annoys me when people use acronyms incorrectly. The following two examples are my biggest pet hates and they go hand in hand.

ATM Machine

I have had many friends ask me where the nearest ATM machine is. Why is this annoying? ATM stands for automatic teller machine. You are asking me where the automatic teller machine machine is? Now doesn’t that sound wrong?

PIN Number

And when they get to the automatic teller machine machine they will giggle and say “oh, I forgot my PIN number”. Again, why is this wrong? Because PIN stands for personal identification number.

So now, said friend is standing at the automatic teller machine machine trying to remember their personal identification number number. Perhaps if they stopped so much duplication they might be able to remember the four digits!




The Lost Art of Gift Giving

I went to a wedding on the weekend. It was a beautiful wedding. Very simple and elegant.

As I arrived, I lugged a huge box from the boot of my car into the foyer of the venue. It was a gift that I had spent hours the previous day trudging up and down the stores at my local shopping centre trying to find. I agonised over many objects until I finally settled on something I thought right for the couple.

I chose a vintage drink dispenser; a large glass jar with a little silver tap that you can place beverages in when entertaining. I thought it would suit as they are a couple with young children. He also dabbles in brewing. In my mind, it was the type of item that you would not normally buy yourself but is nice to have. The type of item that I think is the perfect gift. It is useful to their needs but not so practical that they would have already purchased it themselves (or having two  would not be a problem).

When I got home I agonised over wrapping my gift. Not wanting it to break, I carefully placed it in a cardboard box and taped it up first. I then searched high and low for wrapping paper. Not finding any, I settled on brown paper and neatly wrapped the box. To decorate, I tied white ribbon, lace and a string of beads.

As I entered the foyer I approached the gift table. The invitation had not specified any gifts. There was no registry to follow or requests for cash. Yet when I got to the table (and I was running late so the rest of the gifts were already there) it was starkly obvious that I was the only person that had gone for a traditional gift. There were two or three small boxes on the table and my large box stuck in the middle of the table. To the side of the table was a large glass jar marked “cards”. This was full. Everyone, except for me had given cash.

Now I am not opposed to giving cash necessarily… ok… I am a little. When I say I am not opposed, I mean that I understand that life is expensive. These days most couples live with each other before they get married and have already got a toaster, blender and the rest of the household appliances that they need. What they need is cash.

But it still doesn’t sit well with me. When did gifts suddenly need to be practical? Who decided that you can’t just give frivolous objects that people might simply like?

I have this argument with my mother every Christmas. She has decided to cut back on the amount she spends on my children. Her argument is that they get so much stuff at Christmas time that they really don’t need more. Instead, she has opted to buy a small gift and put the money she saves into a bank account for them for when they are older.

I think the bank account is a nice idea and appreciate what she is trying to do.

What gets up my nose is the fact that Christmas has a value on it. Although I appreciate her actions, I find it unnecessary. Who decided that a certain amount needs to be spent on each person? Why is it that gift giving has become about a dollar value and not about the joy of trying to find something that the receiver might like? Why can’t children get heaps of useless crap at Christmas time? It’s something I just don’t understand.

I feel that we have lost the meaning of gift giving. For me, giving a gift was about the simple act of trying to understand someone else’s likes and choosing or making something that would bring them joy and happiness. I relish in the delight on a child’s face when they open a box a find a toy they haven’t seen before.

When someone opens a card and pulls out a $50 note, says thanks and shoves it in their pocket I feel that we have taken away some of that magic. All this focus on practicality and dollar values seems to have stripped the pleasure of gift giving.

Maybe I am just being old-fashioned or reading too much into it but I love gifts that are outside of my comfort zone. I love when people buy me things that I would never have thought to buy myself. It helps me to be adventurous and experience the world. There are things I have been given that I would never in a million years of thought to buy with my money (or given money).

What are your thoughts? Is this a lost art or do I just need to get with the times?

Being Different

I am often told that I am “different”. This is something that I’ve found hard to deal with over the years. I have long grappled with the true meaning of being different and why others feel the need to remark as such.

Foremost, I question what I am different too. We are all different. We all come from different places and families and different ideas and values. We come in different colours and sizes and all have parts of our bodies that we love and parts that we would change (you should see my freakishly small little toes). I have never met 2 people who are exactly the same and would never want to. I love all the differences in people in the world.

Yet if everyone is unique, why don’t we call them all “different”. This seems to indicate that “different” in this context means something else. Is it different to “us”? But then, who is “us”?

In essence it often seems that the person making the remark feels a likeness to those around them but not to me. Is this unlikeness due to my physical appearance, my choice in clothing or is it more internal? Perhaps it is my outlook on life or my values.

I think what has haunted me for so long about being “different” is the value judgement that is perceived. If someone feels the need to remark that I am different then obviously they feel I am not like them. For many years I took this to mean “not as good as” them. I could never understand why people would say this. I would think, “but we are all different and you haven’t made the same remark about anyone else”.

As I grow older, I embrace being “different”. I still find it odd that people actually feel the need to tell me that I am different. I don’t think I will ever understand that. I have wondered if it is an ignorance on their part or if it is something that makes me stand out from the crowd. I don’t feel “different”. I have always felt this way. It is only recently that I have started to be comfortable in my own skin. To feel happy and proud of the way I feel. Glad that I am “different”.

Growing up with the Melbourne Cup

melbourne cup day

melbourne cup day (Photo credit: doublebug)

On the first Tuesday in November, Australia stands still to watch 24 horses race at Flemington. It is a public holiday and if you happen to go anywhere around this time you will find that cafes and shops are deserted as normal life is halted to watch the prestigious race.

For Melbournians, Cup Day is a public holiday. As with all good holidays in Australia, it is celebrated with BBQs and beer. Wether the sun shines or the rain pours (and being Melbourne weather it can go either way), we charcoal sausages and induce hangovers.

Today’s Melbourne Cup got me thinking back to the Melbourne Cup day traditions of my childhood. As a kid, I loved Melbourne Cup day, and it had nothing to do with a horse race.

When I was a small child my parents had a Cup Day tradition. Every year we would go to a friend’s house and a group of my parents friends would get together to bottle wine. They would buy huge casks and spend the day bottling them. Of course, there was still a BBQ and a lot of the wine didn’t make the bottles.

When each cask was emptied, the silver belly would be blown up with air and tossed to us to play with. We would spend the day diving and jumping on the giant casks (in hindsight they weren’t that huge, but it was how I saw them at the time).

Early in the day we would cut out the names of the horses from the newspaper and put them in a hat t be drawn for the sweep. Just before the race we would each pull a horse out of the hat. There were the normal prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd. In addition, the last placed horse got their money back. I think we only be $2 each.

At 3pm we would trudge inside to cram around the TV. Back then, household televisions were small boxes in the corner of the room. They were not flat screens that took up a whole wall. We would all squeeze into the tiny family room and squint at the TV trying desperately to find our horse. As they whooshed by, it would be hard to find your horse on the tiny screen.

When I was 10 my parent separated. After that, we no longer spent Cup Day with the same group of friends. However, there was always a BBQ and sweep at my Mum’s house. I used to joke that the 2 biggest religious celebrations in our house were the Melbourne Cup and AFL grand final.

As I got older I started to travel. Whenever that first Tuesday in November came around, I would think about the cup and how it stopped Australia. It would feel strange when 3pm arrived and the world kept turning. In other nations, the Cup was not such a big deal. At most, it was a news story somewhere in the sports bulletin.

After returning to Australia, I met my partner. He took me to my first Melbourne Cup. Strangely enough, before I met my partner I didn’t really think that people went to the races. Sure, I saw them on TV. There were women dressed in beautiful dresses with amazing hats. There were always a few punters in fancy dress and of course, the party in the Flemington Racecourse car park! I don’t know why I didn’t think that real people went to the races. I seemed to have this idea that it was only for the rich and famous.

When I went to Flemington for my first race day I instantly fell in love. I loved the party! I relished the chance to dress up and feel like royalty for the day. The atmosphere was electric and all day I buzzed with excitement.

For the next few years, I was a regular at Flemington for Spring Carnival. My partner worked there so we had the added luxury of getting in and drinking for free. I felt like a princess.

Then children came along. Since then, I have still tried to go to some of the race meets but usually not Cup Day. As it was a public holiday most of my babysitters were away or attending BBQs so I had children to entertain.

Now my partner no longer works at Flemington for the Carnival. This year, we spent the four day weekend at our caravan. My sons rode bikes and laughed with their friends. My oldest son picked his horse out of a hat. We watched the race and he was very excited to see if his horse won. unfortunately it didn’t but seeing him enjoying his day, more for the time with his friends then the love of the horserace, made me start reminiscing.

I am looking forward to spending many more Cup Days with my children. I wonder what they will remember 30 years from now.

WOW its Better than Cake! Why I Love Volunteering

I volunteer with a program called Words on Wheels (WOW). It’s a program run through my local library service and is staffed by volunteers.

WOW is all about bringing stories, entertainment and discussions to aged care facilities. We have numerous kits that are based around a particular theme. Each kit has a collection of short stories, poems, song lyrics, jokes, trivia and other activities.

The whole purpose of the program is to bring the outside world into aged care facilities. It was found that many of the residents were losing touch with the world as it exists around them. They were also losing touch with their own pasts as they became more focussed on the day to day living within the facility.

With WOW we use the kits to generate discussions and get the residents to connect. The whole purpose is to get people talking. It doesn’t matter if we stick to the topic or not; and we usually don’t.

I have been participating both in researching and editing the kits and also as a presenter. I visit an aged care facility once a month with my kit and whatever props I can find.

For my next session I am using a kit titled “Anyone for Cake?”. As a prop I have made these cupcakes for each of the people in my group. As many cannot eat sugar, these are each made of face washers. I will give them to the residents as a gift.

I didn’t realise how much I would love volunteering. Not only do you feel great knowing that a little bit of your time has brought joy to someone else’s life, I have also grown and learnt so much from the program.

WOW has brought out my creativity. I love finding stories and jokes to add to the kits. I have expanded my literary knowledge and found some fantastic websites as a result.

I also love designing fun activities and props to take to the sessions. It has really got me thinking about different crafts that I can get into.

I was very hesitant when I first signed up. I thought that the generation gap between me and the residents would make the sessions a challenge.

I couldn’t be more wrong. They don’t want me to be perfect. The just love to have a chat.

The residents have taught me so much. Through our conversations I have gained an insight into life when they were growing up. It has been wonderful to go back in time with them and relive games, activities and events of their era.

All in all I have found the experience to be very uplifting. I even enjoy it more than eating cake and it’s much healthier!

If anyone is interested in learning more about the program you can visit this website http://yprl.vic.gov.au/about/careers-and-volunteering/volunteering/wow.