Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Definitive Guide to Dating Sober

Guess what folks?

I am just two months off my Five Year Soberversary!

Shut up. It is such a word!

Yep. Five whole years since an alcoholic beverage has passed these lips.

Five whole years since I've been pissed, hammered, wasted, blotto, tipsy, sloshed, caned, wankered, drunk, inebriated, shit-faced, plastered. Amazing!

Five whole years since I've been hung over, seedy... can't think of any other words for hung over but I am so glad that horrible feeling you get after a night on the booze has not been experienced by my brain and body for nearly half a decade! Awesome!

And you know what? I don't miss it one little bit.

Except when I'm on a date and then I miss it just a little bit.

_____________


When I decided to get back 'out there' again about 18 months ago it was the scariest thing in the world. Fresh from my metamorphosis from party girl living the high life to sole parent living the quiet life, making the decision to start dating again was a big one.

Despite my fears, I was psyched by the new person I had become so put my profile up on a singles matchmaking website and started the process that is Internet dating.

I filled out my details, chucked a few decent looking pictures up and ticked all the boxes of what I required in a potential partner.

The two factors I worried about most with my profile were:

1. I have a kid

2. I don't drink.

Neither are negotiable for me and they can be deal breakers for others.

Before I gave up drinking I did the online dating thing a few times. The night always started with me knocking back a couple of beers for some liquid courage before I turned up to meet the guy. I'd still be nervous as hell when I arrived and so continued to drink throughout the night and if the guy hung around long enough I probably ended up pretty pissed by the time the date was over. Not really a great look when I think back to it.

Now, it is a totally different story. After several sober dates I can now give you the...

The Definitive Guide to Dating Sober


1. Make it clear from the beginning that you don't drink alcohol. Put it on your profile. I also mention it during the initial email contact phase because, like I said earlier, it can be a deal breaker for some so it should be made clear.

2. Whether you are just taking a break from the booze because you've signed up to febfast (which you should do by the way!) or you are in recovery, there's no need to mention on the first date exactly why you don't drink. That's your business.

3. Dress your best (appropriate to the time of day and venue), look in the mirror and remind yourself how good you feel and how confident you are now that you don't drink. You are a brave, strong, confident person who doesn't need alcohol to make you feel good about yourself.

4. If you really don't want to make an issue out of being teetotal organise your first date to meet for a coffee instead of a "drink". Subsequent dates could be meeting for lunch in the park or checking out a new exhibition at a gallery. There are plenty of non-alcoholic activities to choose from.

5. Turn up with a smile and, if you're meeting at a bar or restaurant, order a non-alcoholic beverage. Easy.

6. During the date, remind yourself you are being your authentic self. There's no false confidence brought on by alcohol. If you like him (or her) and he/she is enjoying your company by the time you get to dessert, you're doing really well because they like you for who you really are.

7. If you like the person you are on a date with be flirtatious but don't go overboard like you might have when tipsy. Show restraint. Be a lady (or gentleman).

8. Don't go on about not drinking. Don't be a wowser and carry on about how much better life is without alcohol. Don't act superior about it.

9. In moderation, a glass of wine is fine, so don't be judgemental if your date has a glass or two. That's their business.

10. If you are just on a short term break from grog don't carry on about how much you miss it. That is just boring and annoying. It also makes you sound kinda desperate and like you may have a problem.

11. The trickiest part to dating when sober is at the end when you're saying farewell: the kiss, should the sparks have flown. On a first date it is likely to be a chaste peck on the cheek or maybe even a quick one on the lips (in my experience anyway). Maybe it is just me, but I find this moment of intimacy extremely embarrassing without the social lubrication that is booze. It is the one moment in life that I miss alcohol. I can't give much advice on how to cut through that.

12. Enjoy yourself! When it is all over go to bed knowing that you've had a great time, you've met a nice person and you're going to wake up in the morning without regrets and without a hangover.

Have you been on a sober date? Can you give me any advice on how to do romance sober without behaving like a giggling school girl? 

_____________


I should say I'm not necessarily the best person to give dating advice. Eighteen months in and I'm still single. But, while I may not be in a committed relationship (yet) I have had some great nights out and met some really lovely people (and some not so lovely) and I've done it all while sober.

I have definitely had more success dating sober than I did dating drunk so I can't recommend it enough.

Good luck to all the febfasters giving up alcohol for just 28 days! I'm going to be joining you but I'll be giving up sugar instead. It would be cheating if I asked people to sponsor me to give up grog. Pfft! Too easy!

If you haven't signed up - just do it!

As an official blogger I'm proud to support febfast in 2013, a challenge and a tonic for all drinkers, to see if you can take a break from alcohol for 28 days this February.

After the celebrations of Christmas, summer holidays and the Australia Day long weekend, febfast is a great opportunity for people to take stock and put a focus on health in the New Year while at the same time raising some money for a worthy cause.

febfast is aiming to raise $1m to help vulnerable families and teenagers tackle serious alcohol and drug issues. Let’s band together and make a change—not only in our own lives and for our own health—but also for those who are struggling with substance abuse and addiction.

Check out the febfast website here.

V.


Disclaimer: I am working with febfast as an official blogger. I am not receiving any payment for any posts I might publish about febfast. I am participating because addiction is an issue I deal with every day and my sobriety is something I love and encourage any person to give it a go, even for just 28 days.

**Thanks go to my brother in law who let me use his manly arm in the photo.** 




Thursday, January 24, 2013

Giveaway: It is all about me (and you)!

Sponsored by Groupon

While making goals and achieving what we want is really important, so is being kind to ourselves and having a little break every now and then. You know, to just do something that is all about feeling good in the moment. Whether it be to read a book, spend the evening with your feet up on the couch watching TV until late or going for a massage, we all need a little me time for our sanity.

Being a sole parent with a limited budget the time I get to myself is so precious and I don't have a lot of dosh to do luxurious things. If I'm not with Noo or my niece Mala, I'm pretty much here in front of my screen working on my blog. My therapist is always telling me I need to set more time aside to do things that are just for me - for fun or relaxation.

If you follow my Instagram feed you'll know that I get my nails done pretty regularly. Every three weeks in fact. This is something I've been doing for years. I can't really afford it but it's a guaranteed one hour or so where I am sans kids and someone else is doing something for me. How good does that feel? Awesome.


babblingbandit.me nails (not related to Groupon)


At the end of last year when I was forking out cash left, right and centre for birthday and Christmas presents for the kids I suddenly got the urge to spend some money on pampering myself.

Not having a lot of money left over, I went and checked out some of the group buying sites that are around. Groupon had some great beauty coupons so I scanned the list of deals available and settled on getting my hair straightened.

I've always wanted to get a keratin treatment but never thought I could afford it. My old hairdresser told me it would cost upwards of $400 for my hair because it is so long. The deal I found didn't have any 'penalty' for long or thick hair so I was sold. I bought two of the deals - one for me and one for my sister.

Yolanda and I went along to the salon last weekend and had a lovely morning having our hair washed, treated and straightened while we sat there reading trashy gossip mags. The kids were with Nanna and Grandpa so we didn't have a care in the world for those few precious hours.

I'm thinking the next pampering coupon I'm going to buy is a massage. And lucky for me, the good people at Groupon got in contact and offered me a $50 gift voucher to put towards my next deal. But, because I'm such a generous soul, I want to give YOU a chance to take some time off from whatever it is you need a break from and get a little pampering... or you can use the voucher for whatever you want. They have stacks of daily deals for meals or, I don't know, go check out the Groupon website!

For a chance to win a Groupon gift voucher worth $50 all you have to do is: 

1. Like the babblingbandit.me Facebook page

2. Subscribe to the babblingbandit.me by entering your email address into the box at the top of this post

3. Tell me what you really need a break from and how you'd like to spend that break time

The most creative answer wins. This is a game of skill and will be judged on the creativity of the answer.

Just post your response in the comments below.

This competition is only open to Australian residents.

The competition closes on Friday 1 February 2013 and the winner will be notified shortly after.


Good luck!

V.



Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. Groupon approached me and offered me a $50 gift voucher which I have chosen to giveaway. All opinions are my own in accordance with my disclosure policy.















Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Work: My one taboo subject unleashed

Tears are streaming down my face. I have the proverbial frog in my throat and my skin is prickling with anxiety. My chest is tight and burning while my head feels woozy and I'm having trouble focusing my eyes on the screen. I'm hungry despite having just had breakfast and I feel nauseous at the same time. I want to lay down and close my eyes and pretend the rest of the world doesn't exist but my mind is going fifty to the dozen and I know I need something to focus on or this feeling could spiral out of control.

I'm letting people down again. But I can't go back there. Not now. Maybe never. I hate it.

I've been avoiding writing about my return to working in an office. This year is supposed to be all about positivity. About being happy and achieving what I want to do. This year I was to join the majority of the adult populace and start working again. But here I am on day three and I'm not at work. I'm here at my own desk. The place where I feel safest.




I've been promoting my blog on Facebook to my own friends and family. Now as I write I am cognisant of the fact that I now have an audience of people who know me in the real world. I love that but I have had to make a promise to myself that no matter who is reading my blog I wouldn't let that knowledge change my voice.

I've written about some pretty damn full on shit here over the last year or so but I don't fear anyone's judgement about my crimes of the past. I do fear, however, what people think of how I am now. Actually, the only judgement I fear is about what I do for money. I should I say what I don't do.


Whether we live to work or work to live having a job is an enormous part of any adult's life. Whether we work the 9-5 or the 7-7 or 8-3, in an office, a hotel or at a school or anywhere, we can spend more time at work than we do with our families. For many, work can be what defines us. For most of us, work is what brings in the money so we can live. What we do for a living and how much we earn determines what kind of life we can afford to live. And what we do for work can also be how other people judge us and how we can judge other people.

I started working when I was 18 years old. I didn't have a part time job through high school, not because I was lazy, but because I was too scared to. I was so terribly shy and awkward that I hated dealing with people I didn't know. I spent most of my final year of high school hiding in my room.

All through school I had no idea what I wanted to be. I liked the idea of graphic design because I loved art and I did my year 10 work experience with a graphic design firm. Other than that all I knew (and I have written evidence of this somewhere) was that I wanted to travel and then get married and have a family.

When our family had to move from Sydney to Melbourne my sister and I got to choose what school we went to. The one I picked had a 'business school' and my destiny was settled. My parents chose my subjects and I did a secretarial certificate while completing year 11 and 12 so when I finished my Victorian Certificate of Education I was qualified to work as a junior secretary.

In the first ten years of my career I moved around a lot. Working in small businesses, I had to move out to move up. I was trained very well in my first role by the senior who worked with me in a tiny office. I had loved working on computers since we got our first Mac in 1985 and I excelled at the IT subjects I studied through high school. So by the end of my first couple of years of employment I was doing pretty well.

I loved doing all the tasks that required me to use the computer but I still hated dealing with other people, especially on the phone. I stuttered and ummed and I always felt like I didn't know what I was talking about. I felt inferior and stupid and small. That feeling was replayed when I started working again last week for the first time after an absence of five years which is why I find myself here, writing about the one subject I hate to talk about.

Socially I was still very awkward well into my 20s. At work drinks I always drank too much in an effort to overcome my anxiety. I said silly things and behaved inappropriately and then woke up in the morning hungover and depressed and dying inside at the memory of the night before. There were many, many days that I woke up and just couldn't bear the thought of fronting up to work. Hungover or not, the thought of talking to people, putting on my work face and being the person I thought I had to be in order to be liked was just too difficult.

I got sick a lot. From my first job through to my last I had many an illness that would keep me away from the office for days, sometimes weeks at a time. Bronchitis, tonsillitis, ear infections, flu, migraines, repetitive strain injury, chest pain. But some days the alarm would go off and I just couldn't get out of bed. I just couldn't get on the rollercoaster of life and face the world.

I'd call in sick and huddle under my doona wishing there was a better way. In retrospect, after all the therapy I've done over the last five years, I was suffering depression on and off all through my working life. I self medicated with booze and drugs. They gave me the escape from the shy, defective person that I believed I was.

Strangely though I was actually very good at what I did. When I felt confident and happy I was brilliant at most office administration and I was an extremely fast operator. I can't tell you how many temp jobs I've worked my way out of because I've completed the project in half the budgeted time.

It only took a personality clash, or on a few occasions I was bullied, and my confidence would go crashing down and I'd be sick again and unable to get out of bed.

In 2000 I got a job working for a large international firm. I had only just recently broken up with a man I'd lived with for yearly three years and I was hugely overweight. My new boss was a lazy narcissist who did nothing all day but delegate all his work to the team and then take all the credit for it. He got a thrill over asking people do to things. For instance, he would get me to print out every single one of his emails. Or he'd ask me to answer his phone because he couldn't be bothered to when I was sitting at my desk having lunch. Seriously. I can't remember many other details but I remember the morale in the office was extremely low. Everyone bitched all day about this guy and it became increasingly harder for me to hold it together.

By mid 2001 I was in a full blown depression which once again was untreated. I was referred to a psychiatrist who told me I had serious mental health issues that would require two sessions of therapy a week for possibly years. The sessions were $230 a go and I didn't know you could get a Medicare rebate on it so after the first couple of appointments I told the doctor I couldn't afford to come any more. Yolanda was sending me money from the UK to pay for it which just made me feel worse.

I took some time off work but when I returned it was clear the situation there wasn't going to improve. I remember yelling at that boss about something. He was pushing me and I snapped. I stormed out of that open plan office screaming and shouting in tears. Another time he was horrible I went to the toilet and refused to come out until 5pm. I stayed in there for hours.

I resigned not long after and accepted a role at the large financial services firm I ended up being employed by until 2009. My confidence had been absolutely shattered by my previous employer yet I started a job at this company that is famous for its ruthlessly hard work ethic.

All the while I loved doing PowerPoint presentations and designing leaflets and newsletters and the like and wished I pursued my high school interest in graphic design instead of secretarial work. I always went for roles that were in the marketing departments or had a desktop publishing focus because this was my area of interest.

My last role was as a research administration assistant. The first few months were excruciating because of the massive learning curve. The girl who was handing over the role to me was not leaving because she wanted to. She had built the position up in the direction that she enjoyed which was more of a junior analyst type role but the company wasn't going to pay her for that. They wanted an admin assistant. She loved spreadsheets and charts and analysing data which was an area of weakness for me. She did all she could to handover the role in a hostile manner, making it difficult for me to grasp. By the end of the first few weeks I was in tears with the manager and saying I was unqualified for the role.

Luckily, or maybe unluckily, the company stuck with me. After two years there I was doing the job really well (and fell in love with Excel - go figure!) but I had become sick and depressed again and once again didn't seek proper treatment. I did a self development course called the Landmark Forum which started me on the self development/therapy road but it wasn't enough.

The department I worked in was very male dominated. The team I worked for were young, fit and good looking men who earned huge amounts of money. They were arrogant and sexist and often spoke with one another without any acknowledgement that there was a woman in the room. They talked about their girlfriends and lovers and women in general with utter disrespect. I just sat there and did my work and listened while my blood boiled and what little self esteem I had was eroded, comment by comment.

I was drinking heavily from Friday night through Sunday night most weekends. I was promiscuous and showed myself as little respect as the men I heard talk about women all day did. Some days I was so self conscious, just walking from one end of the office to the other took every bit of strength I had. My body shook with embarrassment as I put one foot in front of the other to get from A to B.

At the time I was also sleeping with and in unrequited love with a man who I pursued relentlessly despite the fact that he treated me like shit. By the end of 2002 I was vomiting every time I had an alcoholic beverage. I didn't understand what was happening to me. The girl who could easily put away 10 schooners on a Sunday afternoon was throwing up after one drink.

I went to the doctor who ordered a whole stack of tests. The vomiting was accompanied by the most intense chest pain. A burning that started at the centre of my breasts and shot through to my back like I was being impaled by a hot poker. I had an endoscopy, ultrasounds, blood tests, breath tests, urine tests but the doctors couldn't find anything physically wrong with me.

The only person who suggested I might have anxiety was my mother but I refused to believe it because I knew my head was much harder to fix than my body. I wanted so badly for them to find something, anything, that could be medicated or operated on to fix that horrible sickness.

In early 2003 I cut everyone but my family out of my life. To my family I was unbearable. I was rude and selfish and completely self obsessed. I went on a diet and I exercised. I became obsessed with every calorie I put in my mouth and when I wasn't at the gym I fantasised that I was running. Just running and burning that horrible person that was me away.

I thought if I could lose weight and be skinny then people would like me and respect me at work. After listening to those horrible conversations by my team day after day about girls being a 'moose' if they were slightly overweight or 'minging' if they weren't attractive enough I just thought if I made myself look better I'd be better.

I quit smoking and drinking and lost 12kg and got down to the lowest weight I'd been in six years. People noticed too. They said nice things to me at work. Even my family were more complimentary.  I felt more confident and started seeing my friends again. The guy I had been chasing for so long was giving me more time. And then I started to feel that need to make a change. A big change.

A position became available in our London office. One that I was extremely qualified for and I managed to convince my superiors to let me go. I could get away from the boy I'd loved for so long and I could push myself to try new things, to travel.



That's all I can write today. I want to tell you about London though. I've got to write about it. Maybe it will help me get over this fear of work I've got if I write it all down and analyse it.

I've got to find a way that I can work without having to go to an office. I've got the skills. I've got the equipment. I've just got to find the confidence.


Back soon.

V.























Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Kiss smart: The BB goals for 2013 - health

We are well and truly half way through the first month of the year and I'm yet to post my resolutions for 2013. Only I'm going to call them goals and aspirations because, apparently if I call them New Year's resolutions I'm less likely to succeed. If a little word change or two is going to help the cause, I'm all for it.

While I am aiming high this year, I also intend to stick to the KISS philosophy with some SMART thrown in.




Both KISS and SMART are mnemonic devices, if you didn't already know, which basically means they have been created to help us remember shit. Being ADHD, I need all the help I can get with my short term memory!

So while Keeping It Simple Stupid, my goals will be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. And because I have a few, I'm going to break them up into seven key areas. Each area will have its own post, otherwise this one post would be so babblingly long no one would ever bother to read it all.

The areas I want to work on this year are:

  1. Health
  2. For the soul
  3. Finances
  4. Career
  5. Relationships
  6. Family
  7. Community

So basically I'm breaking down my whole life and setting goals and aspirations for each part.

Without further ado, here is goal area number one:

1. Health


I discovered last year that I heart my body. Yes, that's right, I love this 175cm 82kg body of mine that carries me around all day and all night. I haven't always loved it, in fact I've pretty much hated my body through a lifetime of brainwashing that my body isn't worth loving if it is fat.

Hating my body never helped me lose weight and keep it off so what is the point of that? Feeling shame about my body only served to make me feel shit about myself all the time and because it made me feel like shit I punished it. But I guess that is what we do to people/things we hate - we aren't very nice to them.

While I am now almost 20kg lighter than I was the day I got my lap-band, I am still around 5kg over my healthy weight range and 12kgs from my ultimate goal weight. My lap-band has been instrumental in helping me get to this point and now the rest of the work is up to me.

So hating my body has never worked and my lap-band has pretty much taken me as far as I can go, so the only approach left to take is to flip this hate caper on it's head and try love instead.

Following on from last year, I'm going to continue to love this body in 2013.

How do you treat people/things you love? You treat them with respect and dignity. You nurture them and say kind things to them. You do what you can to make them feel good.

So my health goal is to help my body feel good. Ok, let's aim higher. I'm going to make my body feel great and this is how I intend to do it:

a. Quit sugar... again

I'm currently back on the IQS (I Quit Sugar) bandwagon with one foot dangling off in the sea of temptation. I'm fighting my addiction to sugar with as much strength as I can muster, but I haven't been as strict as I was for those seven glorious weeks last year when Will Power was my best mate. Hell, she was my lover! This year we're getting back into bed together again. Whether she likes it or not!

I've paid up $9.99 for *The Happiness Institute's Boost Your Willpower - 30 Tips in 30 Days email course. I'm up to tip number six and so far, so good. Willpower is relevant for a lot of what I want to achieve so I think it has been a worthwhile investment.

b. Give oxygen to the flames of my cooking mojo

Like the glowing embers of an old fire, my creative desire to prepare food ebbs and wanes in the breeze. I absolutely adore cooking and when I am eating well I tend to cook more and the fire burns brightly. When my diet is shit I get lazy and disinterested in food and the flames are extinguished.

This year my fire will burn brightly with fresh whole foods being at the centre of the flames. Fruit, veggies, quality meat, whole grains and dairy. The only ingredients not allowed are sugar and processed junk.

Too easy. Well, you'd think so but the saying is always easier than the doing.

c. Move

Always the hardest part of a healthy lifestyle for me is to incorporate exercise into my everyday life. It is not because I don't like to exercise, I actually do like it but for me to get right into it, the exercise has to be easy. Not just easy to do, easy to get to, to do. If you know what I mean.

I know this is just an excuse but I very rarely have time on my own where I'm not with either Noo or my niece Mala. But if I was to really look at where I have moments on my own I guess I could find a gap or two to go down to our gym and get the heart rate going for a bit.

There are maybe two mornings a week when my parents are here. I should be at the gym at 6am on those days if I really wanted to work out. 6am. That is bloody early but the gym is in our building. That's right. Two floors down from me is a full gym and pool.

My lame arsed excuses for not going there include:
  1. No one to look after kid(s)
  2. The times that I could go are the busiest (ie 6am)
  3. The times that I could go are too early (ie 6am)
  4. I love spin classes but obviously we don't have group exercise classes in this residential building and none of the gyms around here have a creche
  5. I cannot afford a gym membership and why should I join a gym if I have one here I can use for free?
  6. My knee hurts
  7. My foot hurts
  8. I need to wait until I have an x-ray and CT scan on my lower back because of my foot (doctor thinks sciatica, I just think my foot is fucked)
What I can probably do is walk more. At least after my foot gets sorted out. Noo and I walked for miles yesterday around the Harbour and Opera House and today my foot is killing me. Stupid foot.

d. Keep this table stable

By table, I mean me, my mind. It rhymes with stable... anyway, I'm feeling pretty good this year as far as my mental health goes. I haven't had any serious mood swings for a while actually. If my mind feels stable my body reaps the benefits.

I think I finally have the right combination of medication and I really like my psychiatrist. Now the challenge is to find a way to hold on to this good feeling and maintain that stable table. Too often have I got here only to plunge again. Never as deep as rock bottom. I've only been there once. But I've dropped down low enough to start doubting myself again which in turn makes me feel too scared to keep pushing boundaries.

To keep things running smoothly I will continue my therapy but move it back from weekly to fortnightly. I'll keep reminding myself everything is ok. I have achieved so much and continuing to challenge the status quo only helps me achieve even more.


So, let's check back in with KISS SMART:

Did I keep it simple? 

I think so...

Goal: Help my body feel great
How: Quit sugar, eat whole foods, move my body, monitor my mind
and continue to challenge the boundaries of my comfort zones


Are my goals smart? 

They look pretty smart to me...

Specific: See above
Measurable: By 30 June I aim to be 75kg and happy
Achievable: With 7kg to lose in just over five months to do it in, I think so
Relevant: Absolutely
Time-bound: Yes, to be measured on 30 June 2013


So that is it for the babblingbandit.me KISS SMART goal area number 1 for 2013. I will check in periodically as to where I am tracking over the next six months.


V.


*Not sponsored! Just wanted to mention it because I like The Happiness Institute.



Linking up with Jess at Essentially Jess for #iBOT.






Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sugar free banana bread

I have posted several times about what a fussy eater Noo is. You can read here and here how much his eating habits drive me crazy. I'm always swinging between the emotions of fear for his health and exasperation at the stubbornness of that little kid who is so energetic, healthy and happy, yet so under fed. If Noo sat down and ate an entire Happy Meal I think I'd probably cry with joy. You don't hear that from many parents, do you?

Noo decided last week he liked banana bread again so I was more than happy to oblige by making him some. I would make him anything as long as he ate it and it had no sugar - so I can have some too. Yes, I'm back on that bandwagon.

Last Monday I was up late trawling through Pinterest (go on, follow me!) going through the multitude of 'healthy' banana bread recipes. Egg free, gluten free, sugar free, nut free, with nuts, no oil, with oil, vegan... It was all getting overwhelming but I clicked like on a recipe I thought looked pretty good and repinned it.

The pin then showed itself on my Facebook feed and a mum I know through my online study ventures commented on the picture, chucking in her favourite banana bread recipe. It was so simple! But it included the banned substance. A further comment from me asking if I could swap out the sugar with rice malt syrup prompted a comment from my sister's mother in law who said if I was to do that I'd have to up the flour or the batter would be too runny.

And, voila! I had a recipe to try and I had to try it immediately.

At midnight I found myself throwing the ingredients together and by the time the loaf had been baked it was heading towards 1am but the recipe was a success.


Sugar free banana break mark I and Noo with a mouth full of it


Every last mouthful was eaten and the friends and family that had a taste enjoyed this delicious sugar free treat.

After a few requests on Facebook for the recipe I decided to make this delicious sugar free banana bread again, taking photos as I went to publish here on the blog. What better way to get clicks? Surely that title alone has a whole lotta SEO magic happening. Only time can tell.

Without further babbling, here is the recipe:

Sugar free banana bread


Ingredients

125 grams butter
1 cup rice malt syrup
1 egg beaten lightly
3 small-medium ripe bananas
A sprinkle or two of mixed spice or cinnamon (depending how spicy you like it)
1.5 cups of wholemeal self raising flour


Method

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease and line a loaf tin.

2. Melt butter and rice malt syrup in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

3. Mash bananas in a large bowl. Add flour and spice.

3. Combine cooled butter and rice malt syrup with egg then add to banana, flour and spice. Stir until combined.

4. Pour batter into lined loaf tin and bake for 50 minutes or until cooked.


Mix it, bake it, rise it, cool it, eat it - super easy sugar free banana bread


That's it!

Let me know if you make it and how it goes.

Yum, yum pig's bum.

V.

Disclaimer: Just because this recipe is sugar (fructose) free does not mean it is low in calories but it is super easy to make and super delicious to eat. It is a treat and should be treated as such. I take no responsibility for anyone who wants to gobble up the whole loaf in one go and then steps on the scales only to find they've stacked on a keg or two!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Awards season

I had my first Shrink appointment for 2013 last week. I hadn't seen him since last November because I cancelled all my weekly slots leading up to Christmas. Who wants to go over all the shit of the past in what should be the funnest (this is a word!), happiest time of the year?

Not only is December Christmas time, but the kids also have their birthdays (Mala, my niece, on the 21st and Noo the 22nd) during this busy month. Like most grown ups, December is when I think over the year that's been and make plans for the year to come. For me that includes making my therapy plan, as well as my study and work plans. Like a lot of people, I've also made a stack of resolutions.

So I go into my appointment feeling great, with a shitload of plans and ideas for the year ahead, and Shrink asks me why I feel so good, what has happened over the last six months or so. I think about it and reply "my blog happened".

I've been blogging since August 2010 but it was only last year that I allowed myself to write about everything. The good, the bad and the ugly. By doing this I've been able to let a lot of stuff go. The stories of my past have become just that: stories. Writing them out has given them less power over me. Moving away from the lap-band blogging scene to a more general area, I've also found myself becoming a part of a larger Australian blogging community that has been so wonderful, entertaining and supportive.

Now I come to the crux of this post (I had to babble my way here of course). I want to thank the lovely bloggers who have nominated me for either the Liebster or Sunshine blog awards over the last six months.







The first award came on 28 August, when a Liebster was tagged to me by the lovely Salwa at Salz Dummy Spit. I had the pleasure of meeting Salwa in person late last year when she organised a successful blogger meet up lunch out at Parramatta. I was honoured to receive the reward but alas did not carry on the chain of blog love that is required by these blog loving memes.

The months came and went without another nod until that generous of all months December: On the 17th, a blogger with an awesome first name, Vanessa at Ness at Boganville, bestowed me with my very first Sunshine Award. I was chuffed to say the least, but yet again I broke the chain.

Not two days later the double occurred: both a Liebster and a Sunshine Award came from that hilarious mummy of three, Kelly who resides over at Handmade Tears & Triumphs, and it became obvious I needed to acknowledge the love that had been coming my way.

The aforementioned Christmas and BB birthday season came and went and babblingbandit.me received more Sunshine love by a blogger I didn't previously follow, but was very glad to discover, Kim from Falling Face First. In her unique style an interview took place where she answered the required Sunshine questions and enlightened us to some random facts about herself. For example, did you know that Kim's favourite colour is cornflower blue? And that she loves her birthday? (So do I Kim, so do I. A little birthday attention is always appreciated here at BB Headquarters, as long as my age is no longer mentioned.)

The final award came yesterday from a blogger I've been following for many years now. Kathryn, from Project Kathryn is a very interesting woman to say the least: a sole parent to a son (now a man), a published writer of erotic fiction, a japanophile who lived in Tokyo for a year and was there during the devastating tsunami of 2011. Kathryn has very cute taste in clothes and footwear and a love of polka dots. I highly recommend checking out her blog and her sexy fiction.

Now, the rules of these awards state I must answer some questions and pass on the torch to some new bloggers with under 200 followers. As these awards have been doing the rounds for sometime now and pretty much every blog I've ever read has already received them at least once, I am once again going to end the chain. But I will answer the questions.

There's been many, many different questions bandied about so I'm just going to answer them all. Here it goes:

1. What did you want to be when you grew up? I haven't grown up yet and I'm still not sure what I want to be. Actually, I always wanted to be a wife and mother. That's it.

2. Who do you most admire? My sister.

3. Where is your favourite place to be? Sydney Harbour. On it or by it. No so much in it. The sea freaks me out a bit, but I'm working on it.

4. What is your favourite TV show? Break Bad. Hard. Gritty. Intelligent TV.

5. Do you believe in guardian angels? I'm a sceptic and an atheist.  I believe nothing. Unless you can prove it to me.

6. What is your favourite treat? Chocolate. Best ever I've had? Belgian chocolate from Bruges in Bruges.

7. What are your hobbies? Blogging is definitely a hobby. I love it.

8. What is your favourite childhood memory? Crikey! This is a hard one. Too many to choose from. Any time being with my family when we are all happy. BBQs in the backyard in summer when my brother and his wife came down (they lived up the street).

9. If you go to the cinema, what flavour popcorn do you order? This must be a Yankee question because until recently I thought there was one one flavour - lip shrivelling salty. When I went to see Skyfall this week I was surprised that you can get caramel too now.

10. Who or what makes you laugh? Noo makes me laugh. He is hilarious.

11. Who do you want to see live in concert? Gosh! So many! Led Zeppelin, Wilco, Miami Horror, Band of Horses, George Michael in the 1990s, Modest Mouse, Powderfinger, Mumford and Sons, Arctic Monkeys, The Libertines, Billy Joel, Black Keys, NWA, Public Enemy. These are just bands I haven't seen but there are heaps I've seen before but want to see again!

12. Favourite time of year: Autumn, when the leaves start to fall in the Blue Mountains were my parents live. It is beautiful. I do love my winter wardrobe so much better than my summer!

13. Favourite festive movie: Love Actually. Daggy but true. I was living in London when I saw that at the movies and it filled my heart with joy.

14. What is your passion? I'm passionate about my son, my extended family, my city, my community, my sobriety, my writing, politics, food, coffee, my health, psychology, the interwebs, music, movies, TV shows I love. I am passionate about passion!

15. Favourite colour: Red of course. The colour of passion!

16. Favourite time of day: Surprisingly it is first thing in the morning. 6am is good. The day is fresh. I have not had enough time to do anything to feel guilty about (eg spend money or eat crap).

17. Favourite flower: These beautiful, colourful, smellifull flowers that I always forget the name of.

18. Favourite non-alcoholic beverage: Coffee with a capital C.

19. Favourite physical activity: Sex, of course. Anyone who says anything other is weird in my book. It is the ultimate physical and mental high.

20. Favourite holiday: Exploring a new city and culture. God, it has been way too long!

21. What's the weirdest thing you have in your handbag/wallet? Little boys undies. Try accidentally flinging out a pair of those when you're on a date!

22. Where do you plan to travel this year? Melbourne! Got money for tickets to take Noo and me on a plane ride down south for my birthday last year.

23. Tragedy strikes and you are stranded with your phone. Who is the first person you call?  My dad. He always knows what to do.

24. What is the one thing you plan on doing in 2013 to maintain or get fit? Fucking hell. Commitments! Quit sugar, exercise more, have more sex. Whoops, that's three things.

25. If you had to quit TV and other drama watching apart from one show, what would it be? Well, Breaking Bad only has eight episodes left so I guess I'd quit everything but that.

26. Who was your teenage crush? Johnny Depp, the 21 Jump Street years. Oh, and let us not forget, Private Resort.

27. How do you take your coffee? At home I have Campos Superior Blend, plungered, back with 1.5 Sugarine. Out, I have either a large skim cappuccino with two equal or a skim piccolo with 1 equal or Stevia. I also like flat whites, lattes, espresso. Any or all, as long as the beans are good and the barista knows what they are doing.

28. Best place to go for dinner in your town? Too hard! So much to choose from in Ol' Sydney Town!

29. What's the one thing - clothes or makeup item - you can't live without? My Not Your Daughters Jeans. Since having a kid I go quite a lot without makeup although I do love it.

30. Do you drive to the airport to pick people up or tell them to get a cab? I drive people.

31. What is the one thing that is guaranteed to make you lose your shit? Fuckwits on the road! Especially cabbies cruising for fares, or driving unsafely to get a fare, or generally being selfish fucks on the road. Grrrr! Road rage. I've got it.

I'm done. Liebered and Sunshined out of my head.

Thank you one and all, you gorgeous bloggers who tagged me. You've played a small, but important part, in helping me get to this great place that I'm starting 2013 at!

I love youse all!

V.






Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What's in a name? Alcoholic, dipsomaniac, boozehound, alcy, drunk, wino, trashbag...

Hello, my name is Vanessa and I'm a recovering alcoholic.

Or... 

Hello, my name is Vanessa and I'm a recovering dipsomaniac.



International dipsomaniac: Beer in Berlin, Vienna, New York City, Dublin, Copenhagen.



I'm not sure which one fits.

I think the difference between an alcoholic and dipsomaniac is slim:

An alcoholic, or someone suffering alcohol dependence syndrome, has a physical dependence on booze. They must drink continually otherwise they start suffering alcoholic withdrawal syndrome if they quit drinking, or even just go an extended period of time between drinks. Withdrawing is like a hangover, but 100 times worse, and the only way to avoid it is to start drinking again.

Alcoholics feel powerless over their dependence to booze. Alcoholics constantly crave alcohol. Alcoholism is a disease that is suffered.

I've been to AA meetings. The word powerless is used a lot there. When I was an inpatient at a psychiatric hospital for drug and alcohol addiction, PTSD, depression and anxiety just before Noo was conceived we were made to go to six Alcoholics Anonymous meetings a week. I found them to be very sad but pretty boring. Listening to people get up and tell their story of despair was harrowing, but it got repetitive which it is kind of meant to be I think. I understood why retelling their story over and over helped these people stay clean, but I always felt my story didn't really match up. I felt like an impostor, like I didn't deserve to be there.

A dipsomaniac is basically a binge drinker. Someone who doesn't need a drink first thing in the morning but they like to get wasted every weekend or they only drink heavily in the evening but can take a few days off here and there if they want to. Dipsos function: get up in the morning, go to work, socialise, have families. You know what I mean, they drink more than the average person but they seem normal. Ben at Year of Living Sober describes dipsomania perfectly over at his blog.

I definitely think I am a recovering dipsomaniac and not an alcoholic. I never had a physical dependence on alcohol. Even the doctors in rehab said that. But I probably had an emotional addiction to alcohol up until I first gave it up in mid 2007.


Is being a dipsomaniac any less of a problem than being a full blown alcoholic? 


The Australian Guidelines For Drinking Alcohol state that both men and women should have no more than two standard drinks a day and no more than four standard drinks on one occasion. Four. That's not that many for a Friday night out with the girls from work or at your best mate's wedding. But that is what is recommended to keep safe from any harm from alcohol.

By saying I believe I'm a recovering dipsomaniac rather than an alcoholic I'm not saying I didn't have a problem. I definitely had a problem. A serious drinking problem. When I drank booze I pretty much always drank to get drunk. But I could go days and even weeks at a time without drinking. Occasionally I could have one beer or a glass of wine and leave it at that but mostly I didn't want to. I loved getting hammered. I loved partying and getting high. I loved the escape and the adventure a night on the tiles would bring.

After 12 years of heavy drinking I had a pretty large capacity to hold a lot of liquor and I was proud of it. I never vomited, passed out or blacked out. I did do things I wished I hadn't. I behaved inappropriately at work functions. I spent more money on alcohol than anyone really should. I woke up with bad hangovers, anxiety and often felt depressed about my drinking. I felt guilty about the amount and frequency that I drank. I would often get sick and had more sick days than anyone should.

In the final few years of drinking I was out of control. I was living in London where drinking is practically a national sport. You can find a busy pub and people to drink with Monday through Sunday. In an English pub a bottle of wine only contains three large glasses, but a 250 ml glass of plonk is almost three standard drinks here.

In London I had an office job in financial services during the boom before the Global Financial Crisis hit. At work functions Verve Clicquot and Taittinger were standard. We had a drinks trolley that came around on Friday afternoons at 4pm with beer, wine and bubbly. It was standard practice to knock back a stack of free booze before hitting the bars situated conveniently on the ground floor of the same building.

Now I'm not blaming the city I lived in or the company I worked at for my drinking problem. But the culture within which I lived and worked made it very difficult to quit. Couple that with some serious undiagnosed mental health issues, followed by a violent assault and boom! The perfect cocktail mix to create an out of control dipsomaniac.

Fast forward five and a half years since I left London and I'm in a totally different world. I am the most stable I've ever been and I have a beautiful son. I'm happy, content and working for myself. Could I now have a glass of wine and leave it at one? Or would I be powerless to stop?  My psychologist thinks, given how well I am today, I could drink just one or two glasses of wine or beer. But I just don't want to drink.

I love being sober.

I don't crave alcohol and I don't really miss it. Except maybe on a hot summer's day when I see people drinking an ice cold beer out the front of the pub down the street. This apartment that I share with my parents is full of beer, wine and spirits but I'm never tempted to have some. I don't even think about it - except when dad's beer takes up space in the fridge where my Diet Coke should be!

For now I think I'll leave it at that.

Alcoholic or dipsomaniac?

How about non-drinker, coffee addict, Diet Coke lover, teetotaler?

I'll take one of those labels instead.


Are you a big drinker? Or can you take or leave it? Have you considered giving up for a while to see what it feels like to have a break?


Maybe 28 days alcohol free is just the tonic for you.


As an official blogger I'm proud to support febfast in 2013, a challenge and a tonic for all drinkers, to see if you can take a break from alcohol for 28 days this February.

After the celebrations of Christmas, summer holidays and the Australia Day long weekend coming up, febfast is a great opportunity for people to take stock and put a focus on health in the New Year while at the same time raising some money for a worthy cause.

febfast is aiming to raise $1m to help vulnerable families and teenagers tackle serious alcohol and drug issues. Let’s band together and make a change—not only in our own lives and for our own health—but also for those who are struggling with substance abuse and addiction.

Check out the febfast website here.


V.


Disclaimer: I am working with febfast as an official blogger. I am not receiving any payment for any posts I might publish about febfast. I am participating because addiction is an issue I deal with every day and my sobriety is something I love and encourage any person to give it a go, even for just 28 days. 






Tuesday, January 8, 2013

We heart the Blue Mountains

Noo and I have been back from our 12 day holiday at my parent's house in Sydney's Blue Mountains for a couple of days now. We had a lovely time up there in the bush and because of that the time went by very quickly.

Living in the city has definitely got its perks: Sydney Harbour, easy access to our favourite playgrounds, museums, libraries, cafes, shops and friends to name a few. I love that I'm able to raise my son right here at the historical heart of Sydney. Right where our ancestors came ashore off a tall ship in the First Fleet and walked around this land over 220 years ago.

But I am also grateful that we get to 'go bush' and hang out with my parents in a setting that is completely different from our urban home. Where we get to see stars at night, watch lizards play under our feet on the deck, breathe clean Mountain air. I love it when we go to the Mountains we don't have to leave the house every single day. We stay in our jammies until lunchtime, go to bed when we want to and wake up when we feel like it.


From top left: Noo and me in the back seat driving to Lithgow, Santa left pressies for Noo in the Mountains, fun in the sun, the view over Katoomba from the new Arts Centre, some bush of some kind (I'm not into gardening!), Noo tearing at presents, Noo Cat and his cat family, Noo's new haircut, Christmas pudding on the deck, tree change


If you hadn't noticed, I spent a lot of time writing while we were away. I wrote my retrospective of the year that was 2012 in two posts you can find here and here. And I almost completed the story of how I came to meet Noo's father and why he isn't in our life now. All five parts can now be found on this page here.

Noo painted and played and scooted and had a lovely time with his family. He is so amazing at entertaining himself. He never complains that he is bored and when he is doing something he loves he can focus for hours without being distracted.


From top left to right: Me waking up with very bouffy hair, first skim pic of the year, New Year's pavlova, Buddha and the snake scarer, Noo with his Nanna painting, a Blue Mountains sunset, my massive lasagne, another tree photo, Spider-Man at work, me on the deck


We had a couple of trips into Lithgow and a couple to Katoomba to pick up supplies and get out of the house. Other than that we were home actually relaxing. You know, like you should on a holiday.

In the past I didn't really look forward to the two week summer break from daycare because it meant I didn't get time off to do anything for myself. But this year was so different. As Noo gets older and his independence and his personality grow he becomes even more of a pleasure to be around. And we don't have to be around each other all the time. He is happy playing in his own world with his superheroes, or out in the garden with his Nanna digging out weeds, or following his Grandpa around with his wheelbarrow.


From top left: Asian style BBQ prawn salad, me, Lizzy the lizard, Batman, Noo, Noo and me, Noo, me and my new hat, some lovely yellow Marigolds and my foot


From top left: Noo playing ball, Nanna and her BBQ pizza, Noo splashing in his Aussie pool, superhero games, Batman pushes the wheelbarrow around, Noo the scooter champion


Tomorrow Noo goes back to preschool while I have time to myself to prepare for the year ahead. Twenty thirteen is going to be a big one. I have some resolutions I will share later in the week. Noo and I are both really excited.

As Noo says:


"Let's do this thing!"



Have you got 2013 started yet? Or are you still in holiday mode?


V.





Saturday, January 5, 2013

Part 5: The dad question


The first four parts of The dad question can be found here:

Part 1: The day we met
Part 2: A new addiction
Part 3: Walking into the abyss
Part 4: The opposite of rehab

_________________



Together alone


The couple in the back ran the joint. They collected everyone's rent and paid the landlady who would call by once a week. They dealt small amounts of pot which guaranteed a steady stream of weirdos making their way up the hall and past our room, through the lounge room and to their bedroom via the yard at all hours of the day and night. They didn't like him because he was unreliable with the rent and I guess they knew stuff about him that I didn't. He was rude to them and constantly started arguments. They liked me though because when I moved in I always paid the rent on time.

Living off disability pensions, both of them made weekly trips to the nearest methadone clinic which was a bus ride away. In their forties and in bad health it amazed me how they survived. He had no teeth and an incredibly strange pallor to his skin. She was always doubled over with cramps. They did heroin when they could afford it which freaked me out completely. They obsessed over the tiniest issues with the house. There was always some reason to have a go at us or any of the people that lived there: The rent, the garbage, recycling, the kitchen, the lights being left on.

Sharing a tiny sun room off the lounge room were two teenage boys. They were skaters and deviants but sweet and harmless. I liked these kids the best. I felt hope for them. One had completed his HSC and said he was just having a year off to bum around on the dole before going to uni. I could tell he was smart and he was still in contact with his family. The boys would deal a little LSD on the side to make some extra cash. They would do anything to get high: inhale nitrous bulbs, sniff paint. Anything. This also freaked me out. It felt so desperate and dangerous.

Opposite our room lived a single man in his forties or possibly fifties. He worked a regular job at a local supermarket stacking shelves. I had respect for him because he worked and paid tax. He was an ex crim and a functioning alcoholic but he was trying to make his own way in life.

On the other side of our room was another couple. They had the nicest and largest room in the house. Ex junkies as well, the woman also had no teeth when I first arrived to the house. She was waiting for her new Medicare provided dentures. She was thin, with long hair down to her waist, also in her forties. Apparently she was a stunner before heroin stole her looks. She also made regular trips to the methadone clinic and smoked bongs all day but was strict with herself and her partner when it came to booze. No grog til after 5pm. She was a massive INXS fan and when her partner was at work as a painter she played Michael Hutchence and co at full bore. She was fastidiously clean and tidy and was the only one who cleaned the two bathrooms and the kitchen.

Her boyfriend worked when he could. When he wasn't working he was at the house smoking weed and sneaking drinks with my partner who was still enjoying a steady supply of beer and cans of Jim Beam and Coke provided by me. This bloke was a huge Star Wars fan and had a replica light sabre that he would prance around the hallway with as if he was Skywalker himself battling an imaginary Vader. Around the same age as his partner, but short, with a beautiful Japanese koi tattooed on his right arm, he often came to blows with us over silly things. Or should I say, come to blows with him.

The final tenant lived in the other front room. He was a man in his twenties. He lived like a pig. He had a funny little Jack Russell which, when I arrived at the house, was pregnant. The dog lumbered around looking half stoned thanks to the thick cloud laden with THC that permeated the air in the house. Finally giving birth to about four pups we discovered she'd been having it off with a red Pomeranian. The puppies were gorgeous and, in my secret pregnant state, I fell in love with them.

This bloke, when I said he lived like a pig, I was not exaggerating. He worked in a record shop during the day and while away the women of the house would care for the puppies. At night he let the Jack Russell and her pups sleep, eat, pee and shit in his room. Anywhere in his room. It was fucking disgusting. That room was like one big dog pen that was rarely cleaned out. That guy didn't even shower regularly and his feet stunk like they had some sort of fungal disease. I would retch every time the smell would drift up the hall.

Arguments amongst the house's residents could be easily sparked when everyone had been drinking. Especially on dole day because the inmates were flush. He was often at the centre of the blues that could rage for hours. Voices were raised and violent threats were made but it never came to blows. The others knew he could kill them if he wanted to so no one was ever brave enough to throw the first punch. For some reason he never actually hit anyone but it always felt close.

The house was like a little micro society in itself. Every little thing that happened seemed important because there was not much else going on in our lives. Us three women who lived there didn't leave often. The men came and went. We all kept to our rooms, especially at night. He and I sometimes sat in the lounge room for a change of scenery when we were off our trolley before I fell pregnant but other than that the skaters were the only ones who used that space. Oh, and the Poppy Seed Man, but I'll come to him in a minute.

There was a couch and a lounge chair and an ancient TV that I remember watching reruns of Godzilla on while tripping off my brain. The walls were covered in old band posters, bits and pieces past tenants had pinned up, and graffiti. There was a mannequin dressed in black lace in one corner and an old wall unit filled with pantry goods that had been obtained from the local Salvos. I hated walking through there in the dark on my endless trips to the toilet during that first trimester.

By mid year there was a homeless guy sleeping on the couch - it was too cold for him to sleep in one the caravans in the yard. Cockies scuttled across the split lino floor as I tiptoed out the back to the loo, desperately trying not to wake the transient artist who had passed out after consuming yet another pot of tea he'd brewed from poppy seeds. Yes, poppy seeds.

(I've actually seen Poppy Seed Man recently at our local shopping centre. Total freak out. He's the only person from that time that I've seen in over four years. Guess what he was doing when I saw him? Buying a single bag of poppy seeds from Bi-Lo.)

When it came time for my 12 week scan I was in cautious contact with my family and some friends. A girlfriend came with me to the private clinic and all looked good on the screen. We left and went for a coffee. I got a call from clinic not long after asking me to come back. I'd left before getting my results. I told my friend I'd be ok, everything would be fine so she should go get on with her day. When I returned to the clinic I was called into the doctor's room and told that the baby's nuchal fold was a little longer than normal and they wanted to do a CVS test immediately.

I didn't give myself any time to think about it and agreed to the test. On my own, holding a nurse's hand, the doctor then inserted a massive needle into my uterus to extract some fluid to test. It was scary and painful and I held my breath as I realised my escape from rock bottom could be whisked away from me.

I remember walking away from the medical centre and vomiting in a garden on the way to the bus stop. The chances of a Downs Syndrome child were still slim but not remote enough to not risk a miscarriage by putting a needle in my guts. I was supposed to be in a relationship with the father of this child growing inside me but I was alone and had no one to feel this pain with me. No real partner to hold my hand and tell me it will be ok, if there's anything wrong, we'll just try again.

The next ten days as I waited for the results were the longest ten days of my life. I was starting to see sense in my situation. I was seeing the man I was sharing my bed with for what he was: An addict who was never going to get sober, never going to get a job to help provide for me and my child, a man who didn't really love me but was living off me while he waited for his ex and mother of his other children to take him back.

When it was time to make the call to the pathology centre for my results, I sat alone in the room that had been my home, my prison, my sick bed. I gave my details to the woman who answered the phone. Without having to wait a moment longer she told me everything was fine. There were no chromosomal abnormalities with my baby. The anonymous woman on the end of the phone asked me if I wanted to know what sex the baby was, I immediately said no because he had told me he didn't want to know. I hung up the phone and sat quietly with the knowledge that my baby was OK.

My baby.

My mind flashed through with what I'd learnt of its father over the previous four months and made projections of what kind of person he would be into the future. I picked up the phone, pressed redial, gave my details again and said I'd like to know what the baby's gender was.

"You're having a boy".

I started crying then. With pure joy and happiness. It was all real for the first time. After three months of vomiting, pissing dozens of times a day, doctor's appointments alone, hours spent in the ER with a drip inserted in my arm to rehydrate me, and lying around going over and over in my head questioning if I could possibly stand another minute of this pregnancy, another day, another month...

Sitting alone in that room I named him Noo.

And I wasn't alone any more.


Mid October 2008, six weeks before Noo was born


I took stock of where I was and I made the decision I had to get out of that house. We had to get out of that house. I needed to feel clean and smoke free and back in control of my life and my surroundings. I had to get back to my world. I had to do it for us.

While that seedy little house provided shelter when I needed it, it was now time to leave.



_________________



Sometimes when I think about that period of my life I've described above, it doesn't seem real, or like it happened to me at all. I don't feel bad about it. Not at all. What I do feel is lucky. Lucky to have made Noo, lucky to have my family, lucky to have the support of my employer to give me time to work shit out even though it has taken years. Lucky to have a team of medical professionals over the years that have helped me get to this place I am now.


Noo and me today


Most of all I feel lucky that I gave myself a chance to wipe the slate clean. To start again and begin a new life. It has been a hard road but worth every battle won, every backwards step, every struggle with self doubt, just to look in my beautiful son's eyes and know I love him and he loves me and together we are going to be just fine.


Thanks again for reading.

V.




Friday, January 4, 2013

The BB twenty twelve retrospective: The second half


Following on from my last post The BB twenty twelve retrospective: The first six months here is the run down of the second half of the year that was.


I had a few more mood dramas in the second half of the year. Anxiety being the usual culprit, but going back and reading this post I wrote in early July reminds me I had some depressed moments as well. Writing this retrospective on the year just gone has actually been quite a good exercise. I had forgotten I felt that way just six months ago and it really puts how good I feel now into perspective.

In this post I'm contemplating writing about my past and what the offline consequences sharing so much of that shit might have. Going by all of the sex, drugs and rock n roll I've written about since then I've obviously thrown caution out the window and published my heart out.

One of the topics I love writing about is my boy Noo. I love that little kid like nothing on earth. I just reread this post on playground politics and it still gets me fired up. This issue has come up a lot during the tail end of 2012. Not in the playground with me this time, in the yard at preschool. I made an official complaint about the behaviour of a child and his parents at our school's Christmas party and then the boy's mother made a complaint about me. But that story is another post in itself because I'm sure the drama will continue in 2013 when Noo goes back to daycare. I will say this though: I will not stand idly by while one little shit of a kid bullies mine and others around him, as his own parents stand there and do nothing. Oh no.


Starting from top left: Noo - A photo per month from December through to January 2012


In mid July I was diagnosed with ADHD, just to add another mental health condition to my list. We all know what that is so I won't bother linking the term to a wiki. I've had a second opinion from another psychiatrist who is an ADHD specialist and who confirmed it. After a few nightmares with my meds, I'm finally all sorted there I think. I don't think my concentration has improved that much but my mood definitely has.

And speaking of meds, my confessions on benzodiazepine abuse is still my second most popular post. I'm guessing this is probably because Zanax, Valium, benzos are search terms that rate quite highly. Or maybe it is because of the shocking reality of what can go on in an apparently reputable private psychiatric facility. Not that I named the joint.

July was a great month at babblingbandit.me because I posted 17 times (a huge number for me), one of them being an Ode to London. I'm not saying this one is any good, but I haven't written a poem since I was forced to in high school, so the fact that I chucked a few stanzas together that rhymed, well... I think that's pretty awesome.

The confessions continued to come babbling out across my keyboard as I wrote this little tale about Noo, that was followed up closely with another popular post: The dad question part 1. Writing the story about how I met Noo's father through to last time I saw him has now become a little series that continues over part 2part 3 and part 4. I've actually written 6,500 words on this story, the last 1,500 of which I'll post later this week. But that still won't be the conclusion. Sorry to disappoint but there's more to come.

August starts with me being anxious, mainly about blogging. In an earlier post I wrote that I believed blogging was awesome because there are no rights or wrongs, no deadlines - just my own voice and my own timetable. Going by that there should be no stress about keeping this site at all. Whether people want to stay and read that is up to them. But after attending Blogopolis and reading more about the Aussie blogging scene I realised that if I wanted to monetise this space I have to put in a lot of hard work and try not to offend people.

2012 is the year I discovered that there is a lot of politics that goes on in the blogosphere. I learnt terms like 'hater' and 'troll' and I lurked from behind my screen and watched some pretty nasty arguments unfold across blogs, chat forums and mainstream media. Sometimes my breath catches in my chest as I read this shit and I wonder what I signed myself up for. I worry all the time that I'm exposing myself and Noo to the possibility of attack and I realise my earlier anxiety is justified.

Over exposure or the threat of a troll attack wasn't enough to stop me from participating in the RUOK Day initiative in September and I cried as I wrote this piece describing the day when I was not ok. As if exposing my soul wasn't enough, I exposed my body for the I Heart My Body campaign. 140 bloggers linked up with the We Heart Life team to declare they loved their bodies even if they didn't conform to society's norms of what a beautiful body should be.


Starting from top left: Vanessa - A photo per month from December through to January 2012


I haven't posted about it anywhere, which is strange, but in August I started working for my sister as Mala's part time nanny. I looked after Mala two to three days a week up to just before Christmas while Yolanda worked on the thesis for her Masters degree. Hanging out with Mala was such a pleasure and it was also a great way to ease me back into the work frame of mind. Having a commitment to be somewhere to work was empowering after such a long absence, but at the same time I did often feel frustrated that my time was not my own any more. But this is the reality of life. I had to go back to work at some stage (and there'll be more of that this year).

Mid year I signed up to the ProBlogger Training Event in Melbourne and in October made my way down south for the first time in a long time. I learnt more about how to grow my readership and monetise it - one of the most contentious issues around in the Aussie blogosphere right now. But my main motivation for flying to Melbourne wasn't really to learn how to make money from babblingbandit.me. I forked out the cash because I wanted a weekend away, and to get out of my little comfort zone here behind my screen, to meet some people I've met over social media and on their blogs face to face.

I'm getting a little ahead of myself. How could I forget 'the BB sugar experiment'? It started in August with this post about Noo's fussy eating habits and continued with some detail of my own sugar addiction. Things really started to heat up on the topic when I declared I wanted the truth about sugar. That post far outranks all others on babblingbandit.me as the most popular for both clicks and comments.

After a couple of failed attempts to get on the quit sugar bandwagon, it wasn't until I participated in Droptober - Just Lose 2kg that I finally stayed sugar free, actually lasting seven whole weeks without the evil white powder.

Then on 13 November I had my birthday, again (I'd wish they'd stop coming!), and broke the spell on my new sugar free life with a chocolate cake. Before long December rolled around and I was riding Santa's Sugar Sleigh like the sugar junkie I am.

Noo turned four just before Christmas and Mala turned one the day before Noo turned four. We had a great Christmas lunch at BB Headquarters with friends and family and on Boxing Day we came here to the Blue Mountains to relax and hang out with Nanny and Pa.

New Year's Eve was quiet, just hanging out at home with my Mum, Dad and Noo. I have never really enjoyed NYE until now. Previously there were always too many expectations and hype for a big night out. I always get a little nervous that another year is about to clock over and I haven't done all I've wanted to do. 2012 was different. I have done a lot and a lot has changed within me: My mood is stable, I've been working and have plans for more work in 2013, and my confidence and self esteem are at an all time high. I have the most wonderful kid who astounds me every day with his presence.

It was also the fifth consecutive 31st of December that I've celebrated sober. It felt good. I feel great.

There is a lot in store for me and for Noo this year, twenty thirteen. What a great number: 13. I don't want to sound superstitious, but I have a good feeling about this one.


If you made it this far and to the end of the BB 2012 retrospective, thank you. And thanks to all you wonderful readers who popped by and said hello throughout the year. I know I babble, short posts aren't really my thing. And I know some of the stuff I write about is deep and sometimes alienating and it's sometimes hard to know what to write in the comments, but I really appreciate knowing you're there.

I hope 2012 was a great year for you and that 2013 is everything you want it to be for you and your family.

V.


Updated: Linking in with the fabulous Grace at With Some Grace for...




Thursday, January 3, 2013

The BB twenty twelve retrospective: The first six months

I began writing a post on New Year's Eve that started with the sentence: "I should write a post reviewing 2012 but I can't be bothered". Ah, but now I can and it has taken me days to write the story and collate the photos that made up what turned out to be a pretty big year for change for Noo and me. Not changes you can see, changes we can feel. Twenty twelve has definitely been a year worth documenting.

Last year (I can say that now, but it will feel weird referring to 2012 as 'last year' until about Easter) started off pretty well according to my first post of the year. We had a new addition to the family, my niece Mala, which was the best thing about 2011 and made 2012 one of the best of my life. Noo had just turned three and I had taken some time off my studies. I was still blogging about my lap-band and The Babbling Bandit was still at blogspot and predominately a weight loss blog.

The first half of the year had its challenges. I had chronic Restless Leg Syndrome, resulting in anxiety, insomnia, headaches, depression, concentration issues and I was basically a moody pain in the arse. When I finally got diagnosed with iron deficient anaemia and had an iron infusion resulting in a good night's sleep, life started to improve.

Despite the slow and steady improvement to my mental health, I didn't bother blogging over March, April or May. Probably because I was sick of my own whinging and figured no one else would want to read about it either. My weight was on the increase because of a bout of gastro that meant I had to have a heap of fluid taken out of my lap-band making it easier for me to eat bread, pasta, rice, cake. There's nothing more motivation sapping than writing paragraph after paragraph full of the same excuses over and over again in an attempt to justify why I'm not doing what I wish I was. It just leads to paralysis by over analysis and nothing changes.

Also during those non blogging months, with my sister on maternity leave I was spending a lot of time with her and my beautiful baby niece. In between doctor's appointments and Noo time, Yo and I got to have a lot of quality sister time, which included many a piccolo latte. This has been the best part of 2012. The time spent with Yo of course, not just the coffee!




In June I decided to get back to my blog. This place here where I write my babblings and spill my guts about my sordid past. Deciding to switch from lap-band blog to general 'personal blog' has been the best decision I have made about this site. It opened up a huge bank of memory files at the back of my brain giving me plenty of juicy content to write about. And I could stop carrying on about my dieting failures.

Attending the Nuffnang Blogopolis conference gave me the courage to just write whatever came to me. To be true to myself and my voice. To stop being scared of my story or what other people might think of it. Because the past is just that: Passed, gone, over. It is the now that matters. And my now is pretty good.

The Babbling Bandit became babblingbandit.me the week I attended Blogopolis. I thought about what I wanted to focus on writing about and came up with four main categories: sole parenting, weight issues, addiction, mental health. I rebranded with a new banner created all by me. I was quite pleased with how it turned out, incorporating the tattoo that is on my left hand into the logo (check it out above). I chose a .me web address because this site is all about ME. Call me a self indulgent narcissist, I don't care. I probably am one. I think you have to be somewhat self involved in order to be bothered to type all this stuff up anyway!


The Babbling Bandit banner before I switched from weight loss blog to personal blog and I'm still hovering around 80-85kg!


It was around the middle of the year that I discovered a whole heap of Aussie blogs that I'd never even heard of before. The big ones: Woogsworld, Edenland, Styling You, Good Googs, Random Ramblings of a Stay At Home Mum, just to name a few. And some smaller Aussie blogs: Mum of Adult Kids, Diet SchmietCamera Chronicles, A Study in Contradictions... Finding these bloggers led me to other bloggers, who lead me to even more cool blogs.

Moving out of the somewhat small niche of lap-band blogging into personal blogging gave me an entry into the Australian blog community that had previously alluded me. The community I have found online has been wonderful. Supportive, entertaining and educational, I have loved it all.

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That was the first half of 2012. The next six months will follow shortly.


Looking back, how was your 2012? 

Do you like going back over the year that's been in order to plan for the year to come?


V.