The Movember phenomenon

I came across an article about the Garone brothers Adam and Travis recently in the careers section of the weekend newspaper. They are the founders of the Movember movement

What started as a birthday party stunt for Travis in 2003 involving 30 close friends has since evolved into a fund raising juggernaut worth $450 million in revenue. The main beneficiary is the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Journalist Simon Nettle explains its success succinctly in the article:

Movember has hit the charity nail on the head. It combines an excellent challenge (growing a moustache) with an efficient fund raising system that fights prostate and testicular cancer and raises awareness about men’s mental health.”

In 2004 the second Movember had 450 participants and $52 000 was raised. The Garone brothers thought they might be onto something….Between 2004 and 2005 a small team set up the website and other infrastructure using their own time and money. The 2005 campaign saw 9300 participants and $1.2 million raised.

Now it is a full time job for everyone involved and takes place in 15 countries.

This year Movember Ambassador and celebrated Australian pastry chef Adriano Zumbo has released a special Movember ‘Zumbaron’ with 100% of proceeds going to Movember.

Movember has always been a reminder of time passing in my various workplaces since its inception – not unlike the Christmas and Easter holiday periods. My male work colleagues parading round with their new facial accessories looking simultaneously sheepish and proud.

I think the cleverest thing about the movement is the fact that it costs nothing to do, is easy to achieve (though I have been privy to a few ‘whispy’ versions over the years!) and is an instant marketing presence when all the billboard faces show themselves with their new furry wingman. I noticed Australian cricketer Mitchell Johnson sporting a handle bar version on the TV the other night during the news (that’s about all I noticed of the cricket!).

Good on you Garone brothers.

Making Soup

I woke a few Wednesdays ago to the lingering smell of soup. Not any soup – ‘Pho’ (pronounced phar), the Vietnamese soup that is a staple from that country and is proving very popular here in Sydney. I have eaten it at four restaurants – 3 of them on the same street in the inner west’s suburb of Marrickville, a Vietnamese food destination.

Making the soup was a lengthy process starting with the beef stock a few days prior. With two classically trained chefs under the same roof, we had to think outside the square about this and follow the recipe not our instinct (the recipe doesn’t call for roasting the stock bones for colour beforehand as we would naturally do, just soaking them).

The soup ritual took place on the same day as the Melbourne Cup – ‘the race that stops the nation’. I smiled to myself at the juxtaposition of such an iconic Australian event with the preparing of a dish from an exotic location that has also become a part of our diet, at least in my house.

We all had a hand in making the soup starting with finding a recipe on the internet. That was the teenager’s job. And shopping for ingredients (cassia bark proved elusive in our part of the world). We took turns at chopping, soaking, stirring.

The process gave us something to talk about and provided a little interest amongst the tedium of producing a weekday dinner (I can imagine heads nodding in agreement to this comment!).

The final eating of our combined labours didn’t happen till a bit later than is acceptable dinner time for our household. The big test was whether the result compared to the authentic street food that we have enjoyed on many occasions. The conclusion was: almost. Maybe it was the missing cassia bark that would have made all the difference.

My son regularly visits a Vietnamese family with seven children. He comes home with stories of what they had for lunch or dinner. Being an only child I think the noise and chaos accompanying the wonderfully home cooked food adds to his memorable experience.

When I pick him up from their place I navigate my way through a myriad of shoes on the front porch in varying sizes to get to the front door. Through the screen door I can just make out their shrine to Buddha in the lounge room. On my last visit there was a plate of plump mangoes placed on the shelf as an offering.

Here is the recipe courtesy of SBS

Highly recommended for a bit of family bonding.


Singing in the Shower

Recently the teenager in our house was struck down with a health issue that kept him out of circulation for nearly 3 months. He passed up invitations to the beach, movies, and even sporting events during that period. And missed a lot of school.

He became a prisoner in his own home.

We would come home from work to find him in his room quietly playing a game on his PS3 or computer or on better days working out on his gym equipment in the garage. He was always pleased to see us, glad for the company.

A low black pall hung over our little family, none of us knowing exactly what was wrong or how long it would take to fix. I didn’t want to talk about it to anyone. I didn’t have the energy. I was in a hole.

My son is a fairly robust human being it turns out. After numerous visits to our local GP for tests and to 2 specialists (by which time if it was me I would have definitely ‘lost the plot’), his problem eventually started to dissipate, leaving us a bit numb in its wake.

He has been back at school for over 2 weeks now, a fact I feel like sharing with the world from my rooftop. And he’s started singing in the shower again. It is music to my ears no matter how off key (his voice isn’t too bad, though I may be a little biased!)

I thought about all the people who live with chronic or terminal illness and those close to them, how the world narrows in to focus on the patient and their well-being and everything else fades into the background. How every bit of available energy is used up trying to alleviate the suffering.

And how it is so important to follow one’s instinct – the 2nd specialist was at my insistence as the first just didn’t measure up with his prognosis. Both my husband and I became our son’s advocates. It gave us an outlet for all the nervous tension that was building up inside our four walls. And perhaps a sense of control, of purpose.

I noticed just in the last week how he has started to make me at times feel frustrated again for all the reasons that your average teenage boy annoys his parents. For that I am truly truly thankful.

Post script:

After publishing this post I read about mother and son Judy and Tim Sharp in The Sydney Morning Herald.  Judy had seen 24 doctors before Tim was 3 and no one could determine what was wrong with him. I was moved by Judy’s determination and persistence. Tim was eventually diagnosed with autism. He is now an internationally acclaimed artist and the world’s first person living with this disease to have one of his characters made into a TV show, Laser Beak Man.

My persistence in finding a cure for my own son’s illness has been humbled somewhat.

How to Measure Happiness

Happiness is trying out a recipe with your big footed son

Remembering to look at the sky

Running behind your niece as she pedals with purpose along the footpath (she stops to smell the roses, literally)

Waking up and remembering that you don’t have any plans for the day

Viewing the craters of the moon through binoculars outside in the approaching dark

Sleeping between sheets that smell of the sun

Lying on the beach and hearing nothing but waves crashing

Curling up on the couch with a glass of wine, the weekend in front of you

Hearing that your long time unemployed friend has secured a job

Watching the  lizards busy themselves in the garden as you sit quietly on the kitchen step

Being pummelled by the surf as you attempt to catch a wave