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27 June 2016

Michael Brotato

My seventeen year old brother Michael has come to visit us! Whoo-hoo!

But first, before I chat about our adventures, some important news:

1) I'm a finalist in a scholarship competition! YAY!

2) We've started a new round of fertility diagnosis. This new clinic is much fancier than the ones with NHS (not surprisingly), and I even got to see my little eggs on a big ol' screen in real time. I'll be going under the knife next month for a laparoscopy as the doctor thinks I have endometriosis. Prayers, positive vibes and good will are much appreciated :)

Anyway, having the little brotato here has been lots of fun. We've toured the town, played on the beach and gone surfing all in just a couple of days. More photos on that later, but isn't he just cutest? We've really enjoyed having him around. He's the perfect house guest.

Yup, that's Michael holding a beer bottle opener made from Kangaroo testicles. These Aussies think of everything.

And just a reminder to vote! I am in sore need of clicks!  Thanks a million :)

16 June 2016

Feeling In Control

I'd like to introduce you to Alice. That's what I've decided to name this little succulent plant, and she is about to go live at my acupuncturist's office.

I bought Alice as a gratitude/apology gift to Jess because I spent all of my last session sobbing, like a little sprinkler. Jess was very very sweet. I don't feel so bad about the tears-- a bit of self-pity is healthy if you can mourn and move on-- but I do feel bad she had to be there for it. 

I should say I am 100% ok. I just finally realised that I have zero control over my life right now... not in where I live, if I can work, whether I get scholarships for grad school, whether I can have a baby, or whether I can afford IVF when we get back to London, and, when it hit me, I realised how much it sucks to feel trapped.

It is hard not to feel powerless in the world right now. With the Orlando shooting this past weekend, a devolving US presidential election, the possibility of a Brexit, and major crisis' like the Syrian refugees or the suicide rate of native american teens (I've linked both these last two with really impactful documentaries in case you want to have a look). Sometimes it can be really overwhelming. 

Something that has helped me is that Jon and I started investing with an organisation called Kiva a little over a month ago. We've been meaning to for months now, and now that we've finally got it rolling I'm a little bit obsessed! I worked with these guys a bit during my undergrad and have been so very impressed with the work they are doing with microloans.

Let me tell you how it works: 

Basically, Kiva is an organisation that helps people in the developing world get loans so they can grow and develop their businesses. The Kiva employees travel to a country, give entrepreneurship classes and help the people in the villages write loan proposals. They look at their finances and make sure that the loan can be repaid (usually over year or two). These loans are called micro-loans because they are relatively small (usually under $5000). That amount goes a really long way in a third world country.

Once Kiva puts the loan online, they you can search through them and decide what you want to fund.

I feel really passionately about helping women, especially single mamas. Jon feels really strongly about helping with education and clean water. You can search through and read their stories and decide which ones you like. The great thing is that it is crowdfunded so you can invest as little as $25, but then you GET YOUR MONEY BACK + INTEREST!!

Because these people make so little money, it takes a little while to get it back, but in the end you will have the opportunity to reinvest that money into someone else. However, if you want to close your Kiva account (after the loan has been repaid), than you will get the money you invested + interest back in your Paypal account. 

It's a pretty sweet deal and everyone benefits. In my experience, I'd recommend sticking with female loans as they are very, very good about repaying them. In fact some micro-lenders will only lend to women. The men tend to default more (although the amount that that happens is still pretty low). 

If you join, I'd love to have you join our Young Rubbish group. I've only recently started it, so most of our loans will not appear in it, but I'd love to see how much of an impact those reading this blog can make! This kind of thing makes me feel more in control of life-- knowing even with a small amount of money, I can make a huge difference to someone who has things even more difficult. 

So, go forth and give! Let's make the world a little brighter. 

14 June 2016

We're Off to the Races!

Brisbane Stradbroke

When I was little, my favourite movie in the whole wide world was My Fair Lady. I mean, can you get much better than Gershwin, Audrey Hepburn and enormous hats? No friends, you can not.

So, ever since we moved to London I've been impatiently waiting for the moment that I'd get to wear one of those fancy hats (aka a fascinator). Ironically, it hasn't happened until we came to Australia.

Jon's colleague Doria is a horseracing fiend. She is unabashedly fond of gambling (this woman seriously has to be one of the luckiest people I know... she ALWAYS seems to win) and so she and her husband bought members-only passes to the seasonal horse races. She invited us to take two of her guest passes to come and to the Stradbroke Day races, which meant dressing up and finally getting to buy one of those hats!

When I went to the Queenstreet Mall to buy one, I almost had a heart attack. I found the clearance rack at Macy's and discovered this:

price of fancy hat

Apart from being one of the ugliest hats I've ever seen, it was on sale for $539 -- which I suppose would be a pretty good deal for a hat which was originally $899. I had no idea they were going to be so expensive.

But I wasn't about to let a little thing like a grand stand between myself and a good hat. I scoured the craft supply store, target and the dollar store until I had everything I needed to make my fascinator for just $18. And I have to say, I'm pretty please with how the old girl turned out.

This triumph was only made better when I found my dress for just $21 at the outlet mall! Looks like Doria isn't the only lucky one around here...

Brisbane Horse race

The day of the races had beautiful weather and a million glorious hats.

Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival

Below is Jon with Doria and her husband Gary. This is inside the members-only area while everyone was staring up at the screen to find out the lineup of winners from the last race.

Brisbane Stradbroke Race
Horse Racing Australia
Marie Antoinette Costume

This race was a part of a larger set of races called Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival, so there were lots of fun costumes and people around, like this Marie Antoinette and several women on stilts (I have a photo farther down).

Brisbane Winter Races

We watched most of the races from the stands, and although we didn't make any financial bets, Jon and I picked our horses and made bets with chores around the house. Jon was a bit more discerning with his choices, but I just picked my horses based on which one had the most inappropriate name.

On the big daddy race (number nine - THE Stradbroke Day race), I picked "Under the Lou" to win. I realised that my horse was actually named "Under the Louvre" about a minute before the race started, which was a much less improper name than I would have liked, but I as I didn't have enough time to choose another one, I kept my bet with Jon. Let's just say, Jon had to wash the dishes that night (my lucky streak is still going strong!)
Horse Racing Winners
Carnival Baby
Brisbane Jockey

All told it was a really fun day with good food and lots of excitement. It was especially fun, since we were in the posh seats, to see the owners when their horses won. They'd scream a long strain of totally misplaced profanities and grab whomever was closest and kiss them. This happened multiple times, and it never got any less funny.

After the races, we met up with some of our married-without-kids friends for a dinner party and games. They introduced us to this really fun card game called "Exploding Kittens." I haven't laughed so hard in a long time.

Dinner party brisbane

Weirdly, it was later that night that the most exciting stuff happened. After we put the ear plugs in and went to sleep, I woke up around 5am as one of the plugs had come out.

A couple was walking down the alley just below our flat. It became clear that the guy had had his wallet and phone stolen (and presumably the girl hadn't brought hers with her). The girl was giving this guy some of the most venomous verbal abuse I've heard in my life. It was pretty unrelenting... and it pushed the guy from drunken ambivalence to self loathing pretty easily. Then almost without warning, his anger transferred from himself to her.

"Stop it... stop it!" she started saying to him as he was clearly starting to get physical with her. Then with panic in her voice, "stop... stop! STOP IT! Stop hurting me! Someone help me! SOMEONE HELP ME!!"

I bolted out of bed and pushed open the balcony door.

"STOP!" I yelled as though I somehow possessed the omnipotent power to stop him with my words... this was followed by an awkward pause as I realised I hadn't really thought things through... then, "I'M GOING TO CALL THE POLICE!"

The girl rushed off and the guy looked up at me as if suddenly woken up. "Um... thank you." he said before turning to follow the girl.

I then called the cops, who apparently didn't actually listen to the report, but instead of going to the alleyway, they showed up at our place a half hour later thinking Jon and I were having a domestic.

It was the oddest experience, partially because I'd never actually called the police on someone, but also because of the earnest "thank you" I'd gotten from the guy. There is, of course, NEVER an excuse for physical violence, but I have to think that the combination of alcohol and stress caused this guy to do something he never would have ordinarily done.

Either way, I'm glad he was stopped. Hopefully the two got home safely and they wake up in the morning ready to make some positive life changes. One can hope, right?