The Secret Life of Melanie O.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
The man who could not sit still
I've always been a bit hyperactive (just ask my mother who could never get my sister nor me to sit still for longer than five minutes.) We terrorised several babysitters. One poor fellow watched us one night while my parents went out to dinner and a movie, and refused to come back - ever.

I've always known that I would need someone who could match my activity level. For most of my life, I've left them in the dust. It wasn't until I was 40 that I finally met my match in Dan.

It's Sunday afternoon, the perfect time to grab a nap before the hectic pace of the work week arrives. I figured I'd take a snooze, and Dan could get some work done outside while there was still daylight. He had been discussing mowing the lawn all day. I thought - 'great. I'll have a quick snooze while you mow the lawn.'

It was a short-lived dream. I barely drifted off when I heard something that sounded like marbles rolling around on the floor. Was someone up in the roof?

Then I heard;
"Dammit, whoever did the wiring in this house should be shot!"
"I can't see a bloody thing in this light!"
"I can't believe whoever wired this house didn't leave enough slack in the wires!"
And so forth...

Dan decided the moment I went to lie down, to do some electrical work in the house. You never saw anyone with such a single focus: swap the electrical switches so that we can install the TV antenna, which is sitting on the roof, not attached to our television, which means, in the country, we can't watch television. We spend a fortune on DVDs. And then he had to hook up the stereo and investigate the proper connections for the DVD and VCR.

Not being able to sleep through the rolling marble sound and the occasional muttering, I got out of bed and asked Dan what he was doing. Tools and parts were strewn all over the loungeroom floor. "I thought you were going out to mow the lawn?" I asked.

Dan's reply: "what, and make MORE noise?"

Yes, Dan, but it would be white noise... outside... not this jarring stuff.

Undaunted, Dan continued his battle with the outlets. I gave up on a nap. Finally, the power came back on just as the sun started to set. I figure it's too late in the day now for a quick snooze.

What better time for Dan. Now he's out mowing the lawn.
posted by Melanie O. at 4:24 PM - 4 comments
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
And now for something completely different
Oh the joys of being middle aged. Yes, my figure is changing, but I'm old enough, I don't care! Between the arthritis, the middle aged spread and the high cholesterol, I wonder how much more time I've got for a decent quality of life.

Today, Dan called me to him while he was browsing eBay listings, and spontaneously gave me the most wonderful, warm hug. I told him he gave the best hugs ever.

"I'm so glad you told me that," he said.

He also gives wonderful kisses and he does a pretty good job washing up after dinner. Maybe, as you get older, you realise that your time is finite and why focus on the negative stuff? We should be giving out more hugs and kisses and telling the people in our lives how good they make us feel.

So, to all my friends and family - you make me feel darn good! Free hugs here.
posted by Melanie O. at 12:31 PM - 0 comments
Friday, April 20, 2007
The Homeless Campaign
I work for a large charity in New South Wales, and our winter campaign (which will be summer to all of you north of the equator) will center on the issues surrounding mental illness and homelessness.

Just one or a combination of factors may cause a person to be homeless:

  • Mental illness
  • Alcoholism
  • Other substance abuse
  • Lack of affordable accommodation
  • Physical handicaps
  • Gambling
  • Inability to budget
  • Family breakdown
  • Unemployment
  • Discharge from institutions such as hospitals and jails
  • Loneliness
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of family network or support
  • Institutionalisation as children
  • Physical conditions including HIV/AIDS.
I get furious when I hear people say that homelessness is that own person's fault. People who say this are clueless. Most people who are homeless are mentally ill or have addictions. They will rarely ever be able to function in a society that is set up for those of us who are mentally and physically healthy. It may have been French sociologist Pierre Bordieu who claimed that at any given time in history, there is 5% of the population that is non-functioning; essentially unable to hold down a job due to psychological, emotional, or economic conditions.

My son Andy is often homeless, with the occasional reprieve given to him by family members. Andy is difficult to live with, and usually uncooperative. He's anorexic and by turns is belligerent and depressed. Andy is severely Bipolar and may have Schizoaffective Disorder (he was once diagnosed as being schizophrenic, but is not.) He's part of our family and we care what happens to him, even though his world revolves around himself. He's got the emotional maturity of a 15 year old and thinks he should be catered to because of his illness. He makes it tough to like him. But we love Andy.

Every time I see a homeless teen, man, or woman on the street, I am reminded that that person is someone's child, sister, brother, or parent. There are homeless people on the street with university degrees. There are entire families who call the family car 'home.' Some people will make it with a "leg up" from a charitable organisation and get jobs and get off the street. Other people will survive just one more day due to charitable organisations. My son maintains a close relationship with a Christian mission in Texas in order to survive. He's not a down on his luck guy who will make it with job training and a leg up. At least, not this year.

I couldn't care for my son in my home - he is too disruptive and uncooperative - but I can donate to those charities who have the experience and facilities to do so. The government has ceased to fund mental hospitals. The one Andy used to go to in Raleigh, NC has closed its doors. So, where do all of these people go? I guess the government thinks that with medication, these people will be able to rejoin our healthy society as functioning members. And they can - for a little while - but then they'll be back on the streets. That's the way it works for many countless mentally ill and addicted people.

There's no happy ending to this story. It's just about getting by day to day. I wait for letters from my son to hear that he's all right. I dread the day that I hear he isn't.
posted by Melanie O. at 11:25 AM - 5 comments
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Autumn rituals
I've found that moving to another country with a different culture and "upside down" seasons, is not always helpful for getting over the homesickness. I miss Halloween (slowly catching on but not nearly the big fun it is in the USA,) Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July. I can't really do anything about that except to try to keep some traditions and hope that other people catch on to the fun and meaning without thinking that I'm just another American trying to force my traditions on them.

One autumn tradition, however, seems to be universal wherever there are autumn crops: pie baking. Every year in the early autumn, I'd make my way to the nearest public orchard, and stock up on apples. One of my favorite spots is in upstate New York. The Beak & Skiff orchard in Lafayette not only puts you on a hay wagon and lets you pick your own, they have a country store with heaps of apple products, including some of the best apple cider I've ever tasted.

One year, laden with three bushels of apples, I made apple pies and apple butter. We had pies that lasted our family of six through the entire winter, with extras to give away. I gave home made apple butter away as gifts. Imagine my delight when I discovered the Tennessee Orchard in Yerrinbool, just down the road from us. There's no hay wagon or cider, but there are HUGE apples to be purchased. So, we did. And were given a bucket of "seconds;" apples that were slightly damaged from hungry parrots but which still would make great pies.

I'm on my third round of pie baking this week - after my order of foil pie plates arrives from the UK. They have great apples here - but no disposable 10-inch foil pie plates. At least not out here where I live - in apple country.
posted by Melanie O. at 1:41 PM - 2 comments
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
The Ethics of Fur
My mother-in-law gave me a gorgeous fur coat and a fur wrap last week. For being over 40 years old, they are in wonderful shape. I think it's sweet that she gave them to me, but now I have an ethical dilemma. Is it ever OK to wear fur?

I don't mind posing with them on my website. Somehow, the nostalgia factor makes it a bit removed from modern-day reality and sensibilities. But I'm wondering if there would ever be an occasion that wearing vintage fur is acceptable? Or would I risk being doused with paint by some well-meaning uni student, or get looked down upon by a socially conscientious matron who would look at me as some harbinger of death? And is it any worse to breed animals for fur, when we breed them for meat? Am I just a vegetarian at heart?

I am in no way justifying the fur trade, and I wouldn't be caught dead buying new fur. It's just that this is vintage fur - and it seems a shame not to wear it. Somewhere. Some time. I'm just not sure what that time or place would be.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, there are 40 little minks staring at me - but I don't know if they're saying: "Hey! They killed us to make that coat. How could you wear that?" or "They killed us to make that coat. Take good care of it - that's our legacy. If you rip it up, we died for nothing."

I love my mother-in-law. She's a wonderful, generous woman. But do I keep these furs secret forever? I wonder how many other women like me are out there, who've inherited furs and are too embarrassed or conscientious to wear them? I'll probably never know.
posted by Melanie O. at 8:50 PM - 5 comments

About Me
Name: Melanie O.
Home: Durham, North Carolina, United States
About Me: Female, American health and beauty-conscious professional who has rekindled a childhood love of dolls.
See my profile...

Another Retro Housewife
Brought to you by
Previous Posts
If you read this blog,
you're not alone!
Sydney Weather
    The WeatherPixie
Favorite Links

You are visitor number