Is grandma fit to babysit? The Checklist

the Sibyls

Sibyl, Kerry Cue, has an hilarious Grandma Checklist published on Independent Australia. Here’s just a part of the list. For more laughs go here.Grandma Test 1New

Have those idiotic airline safety instructions ever actually saved anyone? And why, then, try and poison us with airline food?

by Penny Cook

Sibylesque Dave Barry plane food quote

They insist that you watch the air safety demonstration because all aircraft MAY differ. So I decided to take note…and what I noticed from the demonstration, apart from the similarity that all aircraft have 2 wings is that; the instructions for fastening and unfastening the seat belt tightly across your lap, are exactly the same on every flight I’ve ever been on … as are the brace position and the directions to the exit rows.

air safety 1

The oxygen mask is always above your head and will always drop down in case of an emergency. Not one airline has instructed me to fit the mask on the baby next to me before fitting my own and the life jacket is always stowed underneath my seat.

air safety 5

There is never an alternative offered to inflate your life jacket before disembarking and apparently the light and whistle will always attract attention. Of course, I attended, even though there was absolutely nothing new, because I don’t like to tempt fate!!! If I didn’t watch, the plane would fall out of the sky, wherein, not one of those directions would save me anyway!!! And what is it about ‘having your seat in the upright position before take off and landing.’  Not sure how a quarter inch re cline could save your life!!

Air safety 4 Where did these directions come from? Are they just sacred cows of the air that have been floating around for ages and never been challenged. Where’s the science??? Air safety 2 Has anyone come off an airline crash saying’ thank goodness I had my seat belt strapped tight and low? I wasn’t going to but I’m so glad I did.’


Penny CookPenny Cook has been an early childhood educator for over 30 years. She loves to travel  – anywhere. Penny is a mother and ‘Nan Pen’, who is continuously fascinated and amazed by her two young grandchildren.  She has always wanted to live in  a tree house by the beach …’s never too late!!


Image source: Imgust


First Communion, First Confession: Bless Me Father for I have a Fake Tan

By Donna Jones & Kerry Cue

Sibylesque Toni Morrison Quote 1a

Tiaras, white princess dresses, salon hair, make up and fake tans. I am not describing a wedding party or a debut set. Today, in Australia, some 7 year old girls go through the full ‘bridal makeover package’ to make their First Holy Communion.

Do parents realise they are sexualising their daughters for a religious ceremony? Or, is the sexualisation of young girls in our culture so endemic, parents do not think about it at all?

So girls learn at 7 years of age that:

– their real skin is not good enough (They have beautiful skin)

– their real cheeks are too rosy (They must be made to look like an adult)

– their real hair is too ordinary (They must have supermodel hair)

Sibylesque First Communion

This is not just a BODY IMAGE issue. This story reflects a shift in values and connection to community. In his Theory of Cognitive Development Piaget used the term ‘decentering’, to define a child’s ability to think outside him or herself, to think of others. This stage stretches from 7 – 12 years of age. So at the very point where children start to think how others might feel in a situation, we turn the spotlight on them. We create little narcissists.

Sad, isn’t it.

As for the tiara, that’s fine. Every young girl is a princess.

Photo Source: Pinterest.

Toni Morrison Quote: link


OMG! I forgot to stay young …

by Penny Cook

Sibylesque Clarissa pinkola Estes

Although we now know about the hormonal aspects of menopause … and let me tell you, that concept was explained to me as a ‘pause between men’ … have we really explored the behavioural aspects?

It might just be my age and being bashed up by life, but am I alone in my thoughts and reactions? I’m finding more and more, my response to ‘chick flick tear jerker movies’ is less tears and more jerk. I don’t want to see the male mid-life crisis being rewarded by the reconciliation with the long-suffering wife on screen, or in real life. I don’t want to see the middle-age men in Hollywood more easily getting roles – possibly as the love interest of someone 25 years his junior – when women have to fight for authentic stories, as they age. I don’t want to see women on screen, or in life, having to work to stay looking young so they are valued.


We are discriminated against on so many fronts on the screen and in real life. Then, we further disadvantage ourselves by wilfully aging. Meanwhile, we face inequality of pay at every age. That’s the real life script. We burnt the bra. There are no more undergarments left to burn.

So what will it take … for equality now?


Penny CookPenny Cook has been an early childhood educator for over 30 years. She loves to travel  – anywhere. Penny is a mother and ‘Nan Pen’, who is continuously fascinated and amazed by her two young grandchildren.  She has always wanted to live in  a tree house by the beach …’s never too late!!…….


Photo source: Vintage Gal


Chemo Journal I

by Sibyl Jules

Sibylesque Chemo Quote

How do you describe the old chemo trip which, incidentally, I finished 2 weeks ago after 6 months of 2 weekly cycles? This is only my experience- everyone has different sorts of chemo and some are much worse than others. My side effects were horrible on one drug, which I was spared after 4 cycles because of weird stuff happening. I never wanted to know what the side effects might be beforehand- then I’d only get them! A useful tip shared by an oncology nurse friend was to keep the literature they gave me as a reference if something did feel unusual or bad, and just read it as you need to. This helped me avoid worrying about things that might happen and to respond appropriately to them if they did.

chemo art

I can’t say chemo was easy, but when I meet with any of my ‘cancer club’ as my partner calls them, he always comments how happy we all are. We are, after all, alive, and eating, drinking (albeit a modified beverage of choice) and laughing with friends. I think that the last 6 months of chemo has taught me to enjoy and savour every tiny joy- cooking and sharing food and wine with good friends and family has always been an important part of our lives- so when chemo flattens me for a week, being able to eat and drink and meet friends again- or go to WOMAD, the happiest 4 days of the year as I know it- gives me much to be happy about. Every tiny joy helps…Look for them- they make you feel safe and help to stave off the anxiety and fear.

Sibylesque Apparition of the Visage of Aphrodite of Cnidos in a Landscape, 1981

Oddly, chemo has also reminded me how much I love my work. I’ve been able to work two or three days a week, throughout chemo. I found that focusing on thinking and working, surrounded by busy people doing interesting things has helped me to avoid the pitfalls of the ‘poor-me-illness-behaviour mode’, which I might be prone to without the focus! I’m lucky I can choose when I go to work and if I feel too bad I crash and burn, but usually I get some days in each week. I’m also fortunate I love my work. And having a supportive and loving family and partner has helped too of course. I’ve loved having old friends call up out of the blue, and have been overwhelmed by the incredible generosity and thoughtfulness of people around me. Totally unexpected and humbling.

On grumbling about chemo prior to treatment starting, a surgeon reminded me that I am very lucky to be offered chemo- a treatment that may help keep me alive. For some things there is no such treatment and for that reason I knew I’d just have to go with it, knowing that every 2 weeks, just as I’m beginning to feel a bit ‘normal’ again, another bus will run me over.


 Picture 1Jules is a perceptive observer and an irrepressible, positive force as well as director and publisher for the Neuro Orthopaedic Institute, Adelaide, SA. And here is the Chemo Fashionista post of the fabulous Jules at WOMAD, Adelaide.

Are the Food Police killing us?

by Kerry Cue

 Sibylesque diet Quote

Who are the Food Police? Epidemiologists. They juggle statistics and advise governments. They do good work with diseases. Where? Why? How?

But their diet advice is often iffy.

‘At best they can show only association, not causation. Epidemiological data can be used to suggest hypotheses but not to prove them.’

Nina Teicholz, The Government’s Bad Diet Advice, NYT, 20 FEB, 2015

So what are some of the backflips in Government dietary advice in recent years:

  • salt is not that bad
  • red meat is not that bad
  • fat is not that bad
  • and now, guess what, cholesterol is NOT THAT BAD.

See Why we eat ourselves crazy on this blog.

Sibylesque desserts

The US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s hysterical fear of fat in recent decades gave support to low-fat foods, which, because of their high-sugar content, may have significantly contributed to obesity and therefore other chronic diseases.

‘Over the past 50 years, we cut fat intake by 25 percent and increased carbohydrates by more than 30 percent, according to a new analysis of government data. Yet recent science has increasingly shown that a high-carb diet rich in sugar and refined grains increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease — much more so than a diet high in fat and cholesterol.’ Mark Bittman, How Should We Eat?, NYT, 25 FEB 2015.

Meanwhile, cholesterol has come in from the cold. All those eggs you didn’t eat and all those egg white omelets you did eat have not helped your cholesterol levels. The US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has recommened that dietry cholesterol is not much of a problem. Mark Bittman, How Should We Eat?, NYT, 25 FEB 2015.

In other words, when dealing with the Food Police take their recommendations with a grain of salt, a lashing of cream, a scrambled egg and some leafy green vegetables (everyone thinks they’re a good idea).

Photo source: unsourced


NO WIFI: What can we do grandma?

 by The SibylsSibylesque   Having Fun Quote

Two thoughts for the New Year:

1. You can never have too much fun.

2. Life was funny, so funny, before wifi,

but you had to be there.

Sibylesque No Wifi Quote

Being Wise about Being Old

By Kerry Cue

Sibylesque tim Wilson Quote

Sibylesque is dedicated to challenging the ‘little old lady’ stereotype and developing a realistic, yet positive outlook on aging. We have already noted that a positive attitude to aging can increase your quality of life, improve your general health and even increase your life expectancy.

Sibylesque Grandmas Rock

Yet wisdom lies in not only tackling life full on, but also knowing when to bow out gracefully. I know a number of males, who have waited until retirement to go wild. Several bought motorbikes for the first time in their sixties. One bought a 1000cc Suzuki. But he was so worried about sitting in the middle of the road on his big bike, he’d only make left hand turns. He’d take ages to ride anywhere because he had to sort of spiral into his destination.

Another 60+ retiree bought a Harley. He won’t ride it in the rain. I picture him riding his Harley holding up an umbrella. His wife/biker’s-moll said he went out riding one day and came back. He forgot his glasses. He went out and came back again. He forgot his boots. Then he forgot his wallet. ‘Do you know what this means?’ she asked me. ‘We’re talking Alzheimer’s on a Harley’. Is he a danger on the road? Should he hand in his helmet? And who decides?

You are the one who must decide in life when it is time, in one situation or another, to take a backseat. The decisions may be BIG. Should I retire? Should I downsize? Should I sell the motorbike? Or, SMALL! Should I get others to climb the ladder? Should I stop wearing those floppy, loose-fitting, and potentially dangerous, shoes?

Life is, and has always been, a gamble. Just like the lyrics of the Kenny Rogers song to be wise about old age ‘You’ve got to know when to hold ’em/ Know when to fold ’em/ Know when to walk away/ And know when to run.’

Until then, Go Grandma, Go!!!!!

Photo Source:  Corbis Images


Dealing with a Sudden Death in the age of Digital Data

 by Elizabeth Darling

Sibylesque bureaucracy quote

When my partner died unexpectedly my generous local bookseller gave me a book on grief counselling titled “I wasn’t ready to say goodbye”. There are many helpful books on coming to terms with grief and loss. Funeral directors, banks, solicitors; all have handy lists of things to do and organisations to contact. The lists are useful, but if we had prepared ourselves for the possibility of a death and its consequences, I would have had the space and time for grief. I do not write of philosophical or spiritual preparation, I write of ordinary practical arrangements, which need to be made and reviewed during a partnership. I’d like here to share some advice, which will help others find time to grieve, rather than waste emotional effort in railing against petty officialdom.

We had sensibly made wills and written agreements about the form of funeral service and the disposal of ashes. These agreements saw me through the first stages, past the unamused funeral director who could not provide an IKEA style coffin, the disapproving relatives who expected a religious funeral service, and gave me the strength to demand the ashes from the crematorium without purchasing a tasteful urn and plaque for placement in their memorial gardens.

Sibylesque E Darling 4

The next 9 months were filled with time spent, not grieving, but becoming increasingly frustrated and desperate, on the end of a phone, listening to strangers in call centres who were “so sorry for my loss” but who were unable to help me because I didn’t have the required papers, code words or numbers, and who frequently demanded to speak to the person whom I had told them was dead. Although they never used that word, it was always ‘Deceased’. Filling in forms occupied a great deal of time, many required supplementary documentation. Some forms needed to be submitted a number of times.

Here is a list of actions which you should take while your partnership is active to avoid this mind numbing experience:

Store in one place relevant documents and update regularly. There are a number of essential documents; passports, birth, marriage and divorce and death certificates, investment and superannuation papers, tax returns, and whatever will be needed for next year’s tax returns, mortgage and insurance papers, property titles, car registrations, bank records, the Christmas card list; those papers you would save if a bushfire was threatening.

Make sure that there is a secure, accessible, accurate list of all codes for any transactions on the internet, or records kept on the computer system. This must be on paper, not hidden in the thickets of computer files.

Internet banking and direct debit arrangements to pay regular bills for utilities or other service providers create real difficulties. It is a mistake to drift into the habit of allowing one member of a family to manage the finances, especially when the records are held in computer files. I never learned how to operate the details of the accounts package and slowly the household bills had drifted into his name, and were paid from one of his accounts. This made it difficult to prove that I had any involvement, or rights (more on this under superannuation entitlements).

On the death of an account holder, the banks freeze accounts, and direct debits are then not processed. Our bank could not tell me what direct debits had been regularly paid from my husband’s accounts, and we could not access his files (being clever, he had cryptic clues for his codes kept beside his computer but these were incomprehensible to me). I am now unsure whether it is of benefit to be so reliant on the internet as a vehicle for paying bills, although more and more companies are penalising individuals who want to operate on the paper bill system.

Like most, I have an email address. I use my iPad and my iPhone for communication. I can search for information and use the word processor, but like many of my generation I am unable to operate complex computer systems, having left him to write his own research papers and to edit, spellcheck, rationalise, record, and print out mine. If I’d been asked to explain, I’d have said that he couldn’t paint and I can, we didn’t need to double up on skills. Only he knew how to copy, download, make complex documents, take photographs, and add my illustrations to the text; why should I bother to learn all that when he could do it so easily? I had not considered how I would manage on my own. I certainly did not know how to do an etax form!

Sibylesque E Darling 2

Although we were able to access his emails, we had no way of cancelling or changing any of the arrangements he had made. Pushing the unsubscribe button without the specific identity code is useless. Where a transaction is electronic it is not easy to validate if there is a computer failure. Paper bills addressed to the house (which once could be paid by anyone with a cheque book regardless of the name on the account) are no longer posted. Telephone conversations are of little use, Call Centres rely on callers being computer literate and are unable to help if you cannot download forms or fill in forms on the internet or send a fax or pay electronically. Of course we had bought services and items on the internet, but my role had been to decide what: I did not know how. Being required to take a photograph with your iPhone of the screen of your computer, which showed that you have paid the rates and then to take the phone into the rates office to prove that you have paid the rates because their computer does not, seems too ludicrous to be credible. At least chequebook butts and paper receipts are still seen as legal proof.

Keeping records such as tax returns or medical records in the computer, either on the hard drive or on discs in files or in separate memory sticks presents the same problem, if the information cannot be retrieved. Records on parchment in Mediaeval Latin can with diligence and effort be translated – his files defied accomplished hackers.

We should have asked whether it was better to have services or items in both names or one. I had to pay to have my car’s registration and insurance changed into my name, because although I had bought it, it was registered in his name.

Ask your bank what their policy is on joint accounts. Do they freeze the account if one of the partnership dies? Have you arranged your income so either one could remain solvent until probate has been declared? In some cases this can take a long time. The solicitor was prepared to lend me money in the expectation that probate would ultimately be declared, but no one likes to be a supplicant.

Sibylesque E Darling 1Are all the service manuals for appliances kept in one place? They will be necessary if, as in many households, one person only has worked the appliance. I had not learned how to operate the central heating, the 5 remotes for the T.V. and sound systems, the clothes washing machine. He had always stacked the dishwasher. (Well, he never cooked.) I did not know how to start his car or drive the lawn mower. I could not reach the switch for the hot water system. I might never want to mow the lawn, but I should have learned how to change channels on the T.V. and a number of other routine domestic tasks, which had become his province alone.

Is there a list of the tradesmen usually asked to attend to the blown light bulbs, the blocked drains and other routine maintenance? It’s no use knowing vaguely that when the cistern fails it can be fixed by a neat tap with a hammer, somewhere. What you need to know is how all the idiosyncrasies of the house are controlled. Which brick is placed where to hold open the garage door? How is the heating system turned on and off? If the house alarm goes off unexpectedly how is it cancelled?

Whenever you hire a rental property for a self-catering holiday there is a folder of instructions for all appliances, and peculiarities of the house (do not turn on both the heater and the kettle at one time, the fuses blow!). Every household should have one, a current one. Instructions for a beta dvd recorder are of little practical use, but notes on how to play back or change messages on the telephone are essential. A number of callers were so distressed to hear his voice still on the answering machine that they hung up without leaving a message. Some were angry with me. I should have known that they would find it distressing.

Make a priority list: some things can wait, some can’t. The funeral director, your solicitor, or the bank will give you a list of organisations, which need to be informed. It is not their role to tell you how long each task will take, or how difficult dealing with each organisation will be. Grief and shock would seem to affect the memory and organisational ability. In a bound book, (scraps of paper lose themselves), make notes of the questions you need answering. Record all conversations. Cross off what has been achieved, on despairing days it is sustaining to see that you have made some progress.

Sibylesque E Darling 3

Decide who can be reliably asked to help and prepare to be vague with others – not everyone who offers to help, can, and you need a bland response, which will acknowledge their offer but not commit you. You have to protect yourself!

Before you make a phone call to an institution (Origin Energy perhaps) or visit one (Vic Roads, for example) check that you have all the documents you will need, and time.

When ringing Call Centres have a novel at hand: I read 2 chapters while on hold to a line to a call centre in W.A. trying to change the name on an account.

Listen carefully to the instructions as to which button to press. I have spent an hour in a queue only to find I was talking to the wrong department.

Remember the individual on shift on the line’s end or at the counter in an institution may know that it is necessary to offer condolences (the manual tells them so) but it is not necessary to deviate one bit from the job description. Be prepared to demand to speak to the supervisor.

It is better to hang up or walk away than to lose your temper or self-control – the only person who suffers is you! As soon as the shift is finished, the operator is done with your problem. You still have to resolve it. (I lost my temper in the Roads Board Offices, with a subsequent migraine headache although I was right, and she was wrong, I had to go back the next day and start again, she simply moved onto another customer)

A Certified copy of Death Certificate is necessary, and of the Will, before any organisation will change anything. Find an amenable JP and get him to certify at least twenty copies.

In general, do not assume that any organisation will be swift to respond. Ask how long it might be before a reply can be anticipated, and follow up if the reply is not timely. It was 10 weeks before we received a death certificate and then only because we persisted. The clerk had been unable to read the doctor’s handwriting so had done nothing to process the form. This is a useful reminder to ensure legibility…

If Superannuation and insurance policies were set up by a partnership with the expectation of supporting the survivor, it is important to know beforehand what the support will be and how it can be accessed. The old Commonwealth Superfund, for example, not only requires a copy of Death Certificate and Will, but also of joint household bills, and other proofs of identity and cohabitation This, they cheerily informed me, was to prevent identity fraud, Who would want to be.

Erithrean Sibyl crop .

Elizabeth Darling is a dynamic thinker, meticulous writer and recent widow, who lives in rural Victoria.


I will not be a stereotype when I grow old

Sibylesque Paul Coelho QuoteChange is a Beautiful Thing is a part of The Beauty Project by New York director Kathryn Ferguson. This short  film does not whitewash aging. It is full of the foibles, doubts and uncertainties of growing old. Yet it also bubbles with individuality, vitality and the honesty age, hopefully, brings.