Client meetings at the midlife

mummified cat, ink drawing, midlife, meetings, freelancing, boomers, fifty-something

“Good morning. I have an eleven o’clock with Ronan.”

“Ronan’s on a Skype call for another fifteen. Can you take a seat?” she purrs at me, pushing a visitor pass and clipboard across the shiny white desk.


Fuck. I should have insisted on Skyping. From my office cocoon. With poor light. In my PJs. Behind a smear of lipgloss.

The waiting room is perfectly formed. Beyond is the capacious glassed-in boardroom – even slicker and shinier.

I plant myself in a white and chrome Eames-style chair, the low-slung type that’s wider than your average chair but narrower than a two-seater.

“Sheryl, we don’t seem to have a Women’s Weekly or … er … anything … er … like that. Perhaps a décor magazine?”

She stands and shuffles towards me and the glossy magazine pile.

An impossibly tight high-waisted pencil skirt encases her from shoulder to ankle.

She’s one of those mummified cats I saw at MONA. All head and face. Body and legs bound in slim conical forms, like elongated ice cream cones. Two thousand year old sacred pets embalmed for eternity.

Only she’s wearing giant Minnie Mouse shoes.

And she’s deployed an over-white Cheshire cat grin.

“I’m fine. Thanks. I have messages to catch up on,” I fudge.

I forage through my oversized earth-mother bag for my phone and settle in for some Instagram stalking.

Thirty minutes later Ronan jolts me awake.

“Sheryl. Sheryl? Come through to the back office.”

Back office, front office. Back bottom, front bottom.

I follow him past the boardroom into a lightless hallway. Towering archive boxes narrow the way but I push through.

His office is dank and musty with cigarette smoke.

He is dank and musty with cigarette smoke.

“Oh, hang on.” He drags a plastic garden chair in from a tiny balcony.

“There you go.”

A dark inked shape bleeds up his neck. A vibrant full sleeve tattoo begs for attention through the flimsy fabric of his business shirt.

“Remind me what we’re doing today, Sheryl.”

“You wanted to discuss your comm’s.”

“My comm’s?”

“Your communications.”

“Yes, yes. I want you to do a media release. I need to tell the world my story, that I’m a reformed drug addict, that I’ve beaten substance abuse and made a success of myself. I’m a survivor. You know my background, don’t you?”

“Yes. Yes, I do. But I’m not sure that’s the right message to share in your industry. As a financial advisor your reputation is everything. It’s about trust and confidence.”

“No, it’s about authenticity. Keeping it real. Being vulnerable. That’s what business today is about. Just throw some ideas around and cobble a draft together, will you?”

“OK. If you’re sure.”

“Never surer.”

He stands.

I stand.

He hands me his business card: neon orange with “financial guru” plastered across it.

Fuck. Is that Comic Sans?

My toes curl inside my ballet flats. He eyes off my earth-mother bag and my pudgy bulges amateurishly mummified in black stretchknit.

“Just one thing,” he modulates. “Don’t tackify my brand.”

I smile.

Sometimes you’ve got nothing to hide behind but your teeth.

I retreat into the stygian hallway and push past the boxes into the glare of reception.

A pair of lean young girls is propped side by side on a single Eames-style chair, their gangly insect legs crossed in formation, their praying mantis heads bent, nodding at their phones.

“Lucinda and Georgia, good morning! Come on through to the boardroom,” booms Ronan from behind me.

I grapple the lanyard over my head and push my visitor pass towards the mummified cat.

“Can I re-schedule for you?” she miaows.

Must escape.

Before she can unfold her spindly, bound legs enough to stand, my phone rings in the bowels of my bag. Our eyes lock as she recognises the Highway to Hell ringtone. For a nanosecond, the teen spirit within me salutes the teen spirit within her parents.

Don’t need reason. Don’t need rhyme.

I scrounge around, check the screen, recognise the caller and insist: ”I must take this! I’ll Skype back in next week.”

I poke the virtual red button.

“Hello, this is Sheryl,” I trill, flashing a knowing smirk at the mummy.

“Yes, yes,” I say importantly (to no one), heading out the giant shiny glass door. She totters after me, zombie apocalypse style.

Two doors up the street I risk a backward glance. She’s peering at me from within the doorway; her head’s a bizarre gargoyle suspended at neck height. I suspect she couldn’t make it down the steps.

My writing cave beckons. I wave farewell, deploying an overdone Cheshire cat grin.

Sometimes you’ve got nothing to hide behind but your teeth.

The fifty-something dagwood (and the changing shape of families)

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

Being fifty-something, I read plenty about baby boomers being the “sandwich” generation, sandwiched between stay-at-home adult children and caring for long-lived, elderly parents.

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I think, there are more dimensions to the midlife meal than that. Many more. It’s a multi-layered “dagwood” sandwich that caters for modern-day appetites. For example, we’ve added another string to our “care” bow, lovingly supporting those around us (family, friends, even ourselves) through major social, emotional and financial implications of separation and divorce. And doing so without judgement because we genuinely care. And it still takes a village, right?

I’m part of a generation that grew up alongside fast-changing attitudes to divorce, marriage, parenting and child support.

More than ever, today’s fifty-somethings might be called on to help adult children negotiate shared parental responsibilities, seek advice on family law matters, take on a custody role themselves or search for information on child maintenance order.

Grandparents have rights (and responsibilities), too. And thanks to the focus on family wellbeing, today’s fifty-somethings surrounded by specialists and support services that help ensure children, in particular, are looked after physically, emotionally and financially. Through the magic of the internet, we can connect with all the resources and advice we need to help support, advise or advocate for those around us.

I’m not complaining and I’m not necessarily talking about my own experience. It’s more what I see around me and how it influences the people I love most. It’s a part of modern living and I’m so grateful that my kids live in a world where people are no longer forced to stay in marriages that aren’t working. And I love that attitudes have changed. Instead of focussing on who to blame, we now concentrate on planning the best future for families, especially the affected children.

In Australia, the principle of no-fault divorce was established in 1975, the year I turned sixteen. A flurry of divorce actions followed, with numbers peaking in 2001 and since then, decreased year-on-year.

Currently, one in three marriages ends in divorce. What our parents considered unusual (and their parents rarely discussed) is now commonplace (I say that without, in any way, diminishing the personal trauma of those who experience relationship breakdown). It’s a rare fifty-something sandwich that doesn’t include at least one layer of relationship breakdown. The shape of families has changed; we’re living in a world of co-parenting, re-partnering, blended families and step families. It’s about flexibility, creativity and acceptance.

Family and household arrangements, though brimming with love and care, are complex. From into slotting parenting schedules managed across multiple households, to mediating pick-ups and drop-offs or helping fill out the child support paperwork, fifty-somethings are very much a part of the support networks that help modern families get through their busy weeks.

And how do we do it? One bite of that towering dagwood sandwich at a time. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Adventures into subdivision #2

Today, I’ve been contemplating our beautiful silver birch trees in the midst of their autumn splendour.

Will this be their last autumn?

subdivision geelong, downsizing, silver birch trees, autumn geelong, midlife, boomers, being fifty-something

Downsizing is all about letting things go.

If we go ahead with our smaller footprint plans, our trees will have to go to make way for a new build in our backyard.

And where the f!@k are the bikes going to fit?

Which all seems kind of back-to-front. I’ve decided downsizing is a totally back-to-front process.

Those following along will know that we’ve been considering an option to subdivide our house block. It’s one of several downsizing alternatives we have.

It’s very early days, but we’ve had a small win: VicRoads has granted us permission to put a crossover at the front of our property. The road our house fronts is technically a highway so VicRoads needed to give approval for an added driveway crossing.

Knowing we can provide off street parking at the front of the property means we don’t have to include a driveway from the rear to the front block, meaning we have more square metres to play with in the proposed rear block. Yay! That means either more living space in the proposed townhouse at the back, or more outside yard space. Either way, it makes the whole project much more inviting and do-able.

Now we’ve moved on to the next step: we’re deep in due diligence. And I mean DEEP.

We’ve had a parade of real estate agents marching through, providing their expert opinions on the value of our property as is, plus the likely value of the various “what ifs” we have in mind.

Our subdivision consultant, Adam, has been working furiously in the background costing up the options. There have been visits from engineers, demolition specialists and builders.

We’re looking at options for European laundries, courtyards, decks, driveways and landscaping … and that’s just for the existing house!

We haven’t even begun on plans or any real ideas for the proposed townhouse on the rear block, though we’re slowly building a “must-have” list.

Whatever path we decide to take, we know we’ll be living in a smaller home. So it’s begun … the inevitable task of sorting, stashing, trashing and treasuring a mothershipload of possessions. Another back to front process: ridding yourself of the things you’ve spent decades gathering around you.

It’s all waxing and waning, reshaping to fit the next stage.

You  get wiser with experience and understand the value of simple living (only after years of living it up).

You grow spirited, independent children who head off into the world to live their own lives, meaning you get the chance to reshape your own.

And you plant and nurture beautiful trees that need to be sacrificed to build a smaller, more eco-friendly life.

Back-to-front. Front-to-back. Left leg in. Left leg out. That’s what it’s all about.

Mamasita … corn cobs and picklebacks

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“At least 15 minutes wait, guys.”

Will we?

Won’t we?

Will we?

Won’t we?

We’re not used to queuing for restaurants in our corner of the world. But this is Melbourne and this is Mamasita. And we’re told it’s worth the wait.

We is me, Mr P, Boy Wonder and Ms K. It’s Friday night and we’ve already had a cocktail at hole-in-the-wall, up-a-laneway, smaller-than-your-kitchen, but fabulous-in-every-way Bar Americano. Now we’re in search of dinner and Mamasita is calling.

So we wait. And we’re not disappointed.

As promised, within 15 minutes we’re beckoned up the stairs and into the dining room. It’s a slick seating process: coats cloaked, menus in hand, water poured and drinks ordered (a bottle of brisa chardonnay, valle central, chile $52).

It’s dark and lively. I pretend I can see the menu but there’s not enough light for these old eyes. We let Boy Wonder order (a delicious fifty-something privilege).

Our first round of food arrives swiftly, mostly on wooden sharing paddles. There are tiny two-bite tortillas and quesadillas.

(Quesadilla de Chorizo: 4x Wheat tortillas filled w/ chorizo, potato & mexican cheese, queso fresco & jalapeño crema $15; Tostada de Pollo: Fried single tortilla topped w/ blackened chicken, achiote, avocado & lime $12; Tostaditas de Pato: 4x Fried tortilla chips topped w/ duck carnitas & pineapple, blackbean puree & habanero crema $15)

It’s fresh mex, not stodgy and cheese-laden. It’s crisp flavours and crunchy textures.


Next, it’s picklebacks, also served on wooden sharing paddles. Picklebacks? I’ve not heard of them either: a shot of Herradura tequila served with a shot of jalapeño pickle juice (the brine from the pickle jar) $11ea.

mamasita Melbourne, mexican melbourne, mamasita picklebacks
Picklebacks (apologies for the flash photography)

We simultaneously chink our picklebacks to a toast of “Na zdrowie!” [naz-droh-vee-ay], because it looks like vodka, one of us is Polish enough to pronounce it correctly, we can’t think of any Mexican toasts other than Ole!, and we’re saving Slainte! for a post-dinner whisky bar adventure. It works a treat and we’ve created a memory that will stick.

For food round two, we have an interesting discussion about whether we should order the goat tacos. Who knew that between us we’d know so many snippets of goat-related trivia? It’s unanimous, we’ll have the goat. Only they’re out of goat, so we have the lamb substitute instead, but none of us cares.

(Tostaditas de Cabra: 4x Fried tortilla chips topped w/ braised goat, corn puree
& pickled onion. $15)

What we really, really, really care about is the Elite callejero (Streetstyle chargrilled corn, queso, chipotle mayo & lime $4.90ea). Hands-down, it’s the best corn on the cob I have ever tasted. Ever.

So, is Mamasita worth queuing for? Absolutely. The service is superb and the food impressive. The vibe is upbeat. And, whatever you do, don’t miss the corn on the cob.


Level 1 / 11 Collins Street
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Ph: +61 3 9650 3821

Monday to Thursday: 12pm – 12am midnight
Friday: 12pm – 2am
Saturday: 12.30pm – 2am
Sunday: 12.30pm – 10pm

And a final word from Bar Americano:

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Skin Cancer Early Detection Tool + a little giveaway

Disclaimer: Skin Patrol provided free product for review and giveaway.

G I V E A W A Y   N O W   C L O S E D: Winners have been notified and will be announced shortly. :)


THE WINNERS ARE: Jacky (Queensland) and Ruth (Tasmania). Congratulations … your prizes are on the way.


Being fifty-something, I remember life before the Slip! Slop! Slap! campaign of the eighties, when we didn’t really get the dangers of sun exposure. As kids, we let the sun burn giant blisters on our shoulders and then delighted in peeling back the layers to expose the fresh pink satin-skin below.

We didn’t know any better then, but we do now.

We know that, In Australia, the incidence of skin cancer is one of the highest in the world (two or three times the rates in Canada, the US and the UK).

We know that melanoma is the most common form of skin cancer in Australia.

And we know that 95% of melanoma is treatable if detected early.

Then the big question becomes: what can I do to spot a deadly skin cancer before it’s too late?

As I age, my body is throwing up all sorts of fresh skin spots, dots, moles, speckles, freckles, bumps, blemishes and skin tags. Almost weekly, there seems to be a new patch of territory on my body landscape that needs investigating. In the last few weeks I’ve noticed a stippled, raised patch on my forehead and there’s been a red blemish niggling on my thigh for a couple of months.

Nothing can substitute having a specialist check out any suspicious spots you have (or, indeed an annual full body skin check by your doctor) but, if you’re between doctor’s visits and have a blemish, there’s a new skin cancer early detection tool designed for your own use, in the comfort of your home.

Skin Cancer Early Detection Tool, Skin Patrol, Melnamoma Australia, melanoma Early detection

The clever people at Skin Patrol sent me one of their detection tools to trial (and another couple to give away … more about that later).

The Skin Cancer Early Detection Tool guides you through analysing a spot on your skin for characteristics of skin cancer (asymmetry, border, colour, diameter, evolution, focus) and provides nifty little pocket-sized tools (magnifying window, diameter measure, colour chart) to help you along the way.

Skin Cancer Early Detection Tool, Skin Patrol, Melnamoma Australia, melanoma Early detection

This video explains how it works, and how it takes the guesswork out of skin checking.

I’ve used the tool to work through the analysis of both my new blemishes (forehead and thigh) and am confident neither requires immediate medical review (though I’ll be showing both to my GP at my next scheduled visit in a few months’ time.

I found the process (five YES/NO questions to answer) easy to understand, the tools simple to use and the supporting website very helpful. And I know that the people who created this tool are specialists in the area of early skin cancer detection. Straight up, I trust them more than heading to a random Dr Google. And, if the tool does help you decide you need a medical follow-up, the website provides a list of accredited skin cancer doctors across Australia.

The Skin Cancer Early Detection Tool is available online for $20, or use the code ‘savelife’ for a 25% discount for two or more (+ P&H).


Or, if you live in Australia, you could be the lucky winner of one of two Skin Cancer Early Detection Tools I have to give away. Just leave a comment below this post to let me know you’re keen. I’ll close off entries at 5pm (EST) Friday 22 May and announce the two winners the following day. I’ll post the Early Detection Tools out to the two winners (at no cost to you). NOTE: Giveaway is only available to readers with an Australian address. Good luck!





Kennett River, Great Ocean Road, Victoria … and a path less travelled

Being fifty-something doesn’t mean I’ve learnt to enjoy the chilly-ness of autumn weather, especially when the temperature dives dramatically like it has this past few days. I’ve been dreaming of warmer climes and my mind keeps wandering back to a little break we took at Kennett River a couple of months back. Just the memory warms my heart a degree or two.

We headed off on a Friday in the little campervan that could. We reached the Kennett River Holiday Park and were set up just in time to take refuge as a belting thunder storm moved in from the west.

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It soon passed and we had a chance to have a look around this gorgeous little park, which is right on the Great Ocean Road.

The park backs onto bushland and has a lovely green, treed vibe and a feeling of space. There are even koalas munching on gum leaves, high in the trees above the camp sites.

The birdlife is prolific with colourful parrots swooping through, kookaburras laughing from nearby branches and duck families waddling by.

The surf beach is just a short stroll across the road. It’s uncrowded and fringed with explorable rock pools.

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kennett river, kennett river holiday park, grey river road koalas, great ocean road, visit victoria, visit great ocean road

kennett river, kennett river holiday park, grey river road koalas, great ocean road, visit victoria, visit great ocean road

We spent hours in the surf over a couple of days, giving our boogie boards a serious work out. Such fun (even though I couldn’t raise my arms above head height for a few days afterwards).

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At the entrance to the park is Grey River Road, a popular stopping off point for international tourists to check out the koalas nestled in the trees above. We wandered along the road and were rewarded with a couple of koala-in-the-wild sightings.

Then we discovered something even better … a path less travelled.

Beside Grey River Road is the Kennett River General Store (well worth a stop) and to the east of the store, is a quieter, lesser known walk. Just a few metres past the car park, you’ll find the river. Turn left and follow along side the waterway.

At first, the pathway is wide open, snaking along between the river on one side, and the rear of homes on the other. Soon, the bush closes around the track and you leave the road, the buses, the store and the people far behind.

We found giant waterbirds, black cockatoos, wrens, ducks, parrots and more. We found more koalas hidden high in the treetops, far away from the crowds of Grey River Road. There were ferny glades, rocky river crossings, giant trees and fascinating bush sounds.

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kennett river, kennett river holiday park, grey river road koalas, great ocean road, visit victoria, visit great ocean road

We walked for several kilometres and saw not another person.

We scrumped wild blackberries along the riverbank (later enjoyed atop pancakes for our dinner).

kennett river, kennett river holiday park, grey river road koalas, great ocean road, visit victoria, visit great ocean road

kennett river, kennett river holiday park, grey river road koalas, great ocean road, visit victoria, visit great ocean road

We paused to rest on leviathan trees, left where they’d fallen to regenerate the bush.

We found a couple of picture-perfect picnic spots, where the path widens out to a clearing; enough space to stop and take in the surroundings, hear the sounds, watch the waterbirds swooping in over the river.

And we’ve hatched a plan … to come back more prepared, with a daypack stocked with food, water and binoculars, so we can spend an entire day exploring this remarkable, hidden treasure: a little path less travelled on the Great Ocean Road.