Plant net

About a gazillion years ago – long before I got a mobile phone, my friend Linda recommended an app to me that she thought I would love.  Since I didn’t have a mobile phone – even a stupid one –  and it required a smart phone, I forgot all about it.

Cured dock, or rumex crispus

Lucky for me, she recommended it on Facebook.  And, as we all know, Facebook *never* forgets anything.  A few weeks ago, the memories app dragged that recommendation up for me.

Linda was right – it is something I thought I would like, so I downloaded it.

You see, when I go for a walk, I pay close attention to the plants around me, as you may have noticed from my endless photos of them. I photograph them and try to find out what they are.  I try to remember where else I have seen them.  I try to make friends with them.

Unfortunately, I have a memory like a sieve, so as often as not, I think things look familiar but while I know I should know the name, unless it’s a rose or a vegetable, I am likely to be unsure.  (I even have to stop and study carefully to tell the difference between dandelion and sow thistle – and I *love* dandelion!!

The first miss – nothing in the database looks quite like this.

Enter Plant Net!

Now, all I have to do is take a photo of the plant in question and query it in the database, which is divided into leaf, flower, fruit, bark, habit, and ‘other’. (Not sure what that refers to..)

So far, I have explored flowers and leaves, and so far I have had very few unsolved mysteries.  It is adding a whole new dimension to my walks – and to my photos!

I have been having a good time learning the names of my leafy neighbours, reminding myself of plants I thought I recognised (hello, french lavender!) and building up quite a database of plants around my regular stomping grounds.

I have really high hopes for eventually being as fluent in “plant” as Linda and the other herbalists I know.

Northern shorewort, or mortensia maritima, perhaps?

I have to say, it’s simpler than dragging a dog-eared book out and trying to flip through it to identify plants, when, actually, I have have errands to run. Click, hunt, and run. Then review my finds when I have time.

Easy as!

So, thank you, Linda!

Everyone else, let me know if you try it and how you like it

Fermenting vegetables

Rod and I have been reading together in the evening lately.  Mainly I read aloud and then we discuss what we’re reading.

Our most recent read was Sandor Katz’ Wild Fermentation.  (Yeah, we’re 17 years behind the times.  I guess we were busy.  It’s been on my “want to read” list for most of that time.)

Katz is originally from New York, and now lives in Tennessee in one of the many rural “intentional communities” that have formed there.

In 1993, he happened across a fermenting vat in an old barn and started experimenting with it.  In 2003 he wrote a book on traditional, wild fermentation (as opposed to tightly controlled industrial fermentation) explaining what he had learned. In there somewhere, he became evangelical about it.

His enthusiasm is contagious!

Over the years, Rod and I have made the occasional foray into fermenting. Mostly kombucha, sometimes sourdough, but the occasional other experiment.  Our results, except with kombucha, have been mixed.

Reading Katz together as we did, stopping to discuss where our mistakes came in, got us interested in trying fermented vegetables again. We love fermented vegetables, and we’ve been spending a shocking amount on them in the shops!  It’s not that expensive to make – nor, according to Katz, that hard to do.  We sure could use that $10 a week on something else!

We got a couple of cabbages in our farm order and we immediately got a little carried away.  In the end, we made about 10 gallons of fermented cabbage, with beets, carrots, ginger, and turmeric root.

That was about three weeks ago. It was moving along at a stately pace and we had just started to like it, when we had a couple of VERY hot days. The brine evaporated and suddenly pressing it under the liquid wasn’t possible anymore.

Oops; time to act fast!  So today we had an emergency decanting session.  (The jars we fermented in won’t fit in the refrigerator, so we moved it all into one litre jars. It squashes down so well that we only ended up with four litres!

It’s delicious!  And I think it’s time to invest in a fermenting lid so that the brine won’t evaporate when we get a sudden hot spell. nd then, next up: pickles!!

Family history

I have been fascinated by family history since I was tiny. I remember sitting quietly at my grandparents table, listening to tales of family lore as the adults pondered old times together while the other children played outdoors. I couldn’t get enough!

I didn’t (don’t?) have much of a memory, so I couldn’t remember the stories I’d heard well enough to pass them along to my children, but I do think it’s important to have a sense of where we come from.

Later, I discovered genealogy. My first husband’s family had a chart of family history going back centuries – it was hand drawn on parchment, and it fascinated me! Now *that* is a sense of one’s history.  Even better, he has a photographic memory, so he can recount all the old stories that he’s ever heard.  He didn’t often, but it enchanted me that al that history lived in his head!

Then I discovered that my mother’s family has been full of genealogists for generations and her family has charts going back to the 1590s in France. Again, I was fascinated, pouring over the charts and details and imaging the lives they sketched out.

Since my mother’s family was pretty well covered, I drew up charts for what I knew of my father’s family, but it was remarkably little and didn’t go much past his parents. I had names for my great grandparents, but nothing else. Fortunately, my Dad and my brother David were, unknown to me, exploring the family history together, trekking from one place to another to look at records in person.

I’m no longer sure of the sequence of events, but around the same time (2012) that I discovered Ancestry.com, which was offering a free trial, and my brother and I discovered each other’s interest in genealogy. (Ancestry had been around since 1983, according to Wikipedia, but I wasn’t aware of it.)

Using Ancestry I drew up the charts of what I knew of my father’s family, and was able to flesh out some of their US history using my brother’s information and Ancestry’s records – but I hit a brick wall when it came to crossing the Atlantic.

The Irish are not particularly imaginative when it comes to names.  They have a naming system in which each child’s name is known from conception. And at that time, I didn’t know anything about where, exactly, my ancestors emigrated from.

I found endless William Delaneys and Mary Ann Ryans coming into the US, and precious few records for any of them back in Ireland. I was stumped for years.

Then my brother went to Ireland and tracked down our ancestral homes and learned more about Irish geography.  When every physical feature has a distinct legal name, it can get complicated very fast – and my head spins trying to read the maps and addresses that David seems to be very fluent with. Occasionally, I run into a real puzzle with two records for what could be the same person that give different birth places, and David is able to tell me that, actually, they are very near each other and they may be the same person.  I have more time these days to explore than he does – but I wouldn’t be able to make forward progress without his insights.

In 2015, I discovered a free genealogy class from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland (through Future Learn). It’s very good and I have gone through the course several times, learning more each time.

When I first started looking into family history, I was pretty scattershot, accepting anything that Ancestry offered that seemed close, and taking the word of other researchers’ charts without double checking.

Now, I’m going back and trying to verify what I have using what I am learning from the genealogy class.

It’s actually more interesting than I thought it would be, because I now know how to use the dozens of free databases out there, not just Ancestry. (Just as well, since I can’t afford an active membership in Ancestry very often since I’ve retired.) Ancestry is useful for its ‘always available’, sharable family trees software, but I am enjoying learning how to use other databases for verification and to turn up new leads when I can’t afford to turn on access to Ancestry’s “hints”.

But I’m not only looking at my Dad’s line.  I’m also doing family trees for my grandchildren.  It’s important to me that they have a sense for where they come from, too.  All of where they come from.  I realise that not all of them will care as much as I do.  It’s possible that none of them will – though as we get into our 60s more of my generation is taking an interest, so it’s very possible that I won’t be around to see their interested piqued.  By storing all of my research online, I am doing what I can to ensure that they won’t have to start from scratch.

 

Why I love my neighbourhood

When I first moved to town, this is the neighbourhood everyone warned me away from.

Every town has that neighbourhood. The South side of Chicago, New York’s Bronx, Ann Arbor’s Ypsi, Melbourne’s outer suburbs, and Sydney’s Redfern, for example.

The thing is, I have always been more comfortable in “those” neighbourhoods. As a rule, people there are more content to live and let live and have fewer expectations about how their neighbours live.  That’s where the outsiders aggregate and experiment with lifestyles outside the mainstream.

Yes, there is some trouble with crime, but although the wealthier class would like to pretend it’s unique to the poor, I have actually had as much or more trouble in “better” neighbourhoods.  As long as you mind your own business and don’t advertise “wealth” my experience is that people in poor neighbourhoods are quite happy to attend to their own affairs.

Granted, the amenities are not what they would be in a wealthier suburb – I’m told that the schools are “lesser” (not an issue for us, personally) and the footpaths (sidewalks) are not as well maintained.  The library hasn’t had an upgrade since it opened in the 1970s – but to me that’s a good thing.  It still looks and functions like a library!  The modern dome downtown seems to have moved books to an afterthought.

But for me, the deciding factors have to do with the experimental lifestyles. Continue reading

Photo projects

Over the last several years, when I think about photography I have been thinking in terms of photography projects. What I am referring to as a “project” is making similar photos many times over a period of time in an attempt to refine my skills.  It’s a standard technique for improving one’s art, ni matter the art, I gather.  I encountered the concept in my reading on Digital Photography School.

The whole mob

While children’s portraits are my very favourite kind of photography to do, I rarely get the opportunity anymore. My children are no longer “children”, and while the last one is patient, he’s not endlessly patient. My grandchildren are far away. And I’m not a terribly social person, so I don’t have a large social group to turn to.

Whenever we can scrape together the funds to visit the folks in Adelaide, I get to make portraits of my grandchildren to my heart’s content. Like most children, they love to be photographed! Sometimes I come home with over 1,000 photos! That keeps me happily busy for months.  But the lack of practive means that I don’t really make progress – or at least not fast.

However, when Joel and Makita saw the portraits I was making as I got better at it, they agreed to let me try family group portraits and a new “project” was born!! Family portraits!! My hope is to continue making portraits for as long as anyone will show up, so that the family will end up with a life series as they grow.  Fun for them to have and fun for me to make.

As you can see, I still have a lot work to do on my technique. This group portrait one is better than the previous one – at least everyone is looking in the right direction and smiling instead of in tears and struggling to scatter. However, Autuma (who was having a very introspective week while I was there) managed to hide behind Rod without my noticing in almost all of the shots. I was in a hurry to catch the shots while Rhazel (my biggest challenge) still looked happy. In that, I succeeded, but I need to get better at noticing *everyone*.

Continue reading

Life is good.

I haven’t had a lot to say for a while. I blame it on one thing and then on another, but while I am not unhappy, I am not doing much that’s interesting.

Magnus

About a month ago, I was a week or so out from a trip to see my youngest grandchildren in Adelaide, and I found myself almost in tears from the exhaustion I anticipated. For a year or more, I had felt low-level unwell. Not sick, but like I might be coming down with something.

Since I had enough energy to do what I had to do, I ignored it and waited to feel better, but as I faced a week with six of the most beautiful, energetic, exciting people I know, I realised I couldn’t do it.  I also realised that I had been unable to take my regular walks, I had become really boring with much the same meals every night, and for the most part, I had the energy to do what I had to do, but there was nothing left for fun.  I don’t even remember when it started – but I have been titrating my thyroid medicine downward since 2014, so it’s become a familiar state.

But it was the tears that tipped me off.  I get teary when my thyroid is too low.  Evidently, the dose we had settled on was almost enough – it wasn’t until I needed a normal energy level to function (like when visiting the grandchildren) that I became teary.  Almost enough energy just wasn’t going to cut it.

I met with my doctor, and we decided that my blood levels did leave some wiggle room, so I immediately increased my dose.  Sadly, it takes weeks for the levels to rise and I was one week out from my visit, so it was a very low energy visit, but now it’s been a month and I am feeling much, much better.

I have begun feeling experimental in the kitchen again.  I have entirely caught up on my penpal letters. I have had the energy to “notice” again and have begun taking photos for the first time since my fall back in April.  I am even finding that the very, very slow healing from the fall has picked up speed. (I had sprained both knees, and while they can now support me, they remained very weak and stiff for many months.)

Does this portend a return to blogging?  I sure hope so – I’ve missed it.  But I’ve thought several times in the last 5 years that I was ready to begin again…only to have nothing to say for months, so we shall see.  The truth is, gardening is one thing that has badly fallen by the wayside, as is walking – both of those are probably more important.

Non verbal

I’ve been feeling pretty non-verbal lately. (Except with Rod. The poor dear gets it all, even when I can’t find words for anyone else.)

It took a long time to sort out why I have been having panic attacks and feeling so vulnerable. There is not, on the first glance, anything wrong.

Nothing big anyway.

Except that with the same spending habits as always, over the last few months, we have gone from being able to put aside a bit of money against emergencies every week to barely having enough to cover to basics, to the last few weeks, having to scrape just to eat every day.

I have been buying fewer and fewer of the “little luxuries” that we had grown accustomed to.  A bag of chips here, a bottle of $6 wine there.

We’re not going hungry.  Oh, we can’t snack like we have been used to, but we have had the money to get the basic eggs and vegetables every single week.

So, what’s the problem?  Why is this reason for panic attacks rather than annoyance?

Well, a long, long time ago (three decades or so) I was a single parent to two adorable small boys.  We survived on welfare for a few years between when my marriage ended and when I completed my education and could find a job.

I was one of the last classes to be allowed to attend college while on welfare, but the punitive measures were already afoot to punish poor single mothers. They took the money that was I was granted for second hand school books out of our food stamps, dollar for dollar.

I could try to pass the classes without the books, or we could cut the already punishingly small budget tighter.  Some classes I could read the book at the library, and for the others I found the cheapest most battered copy I could and we tried to make up the difference.

I sold my blood plasma twice a week, which also gave me quiet time to do my reading assignments.  I volunteered at the food coop and in exchange I got a shot at the vegetables that were too spoiled to sell. We walked through the park together, collecting cans and bottles to be returned for the deposit. We went to soup kitchens, and I lived on the the children’s leftovers.  I still had to listen to them cry themselves to sleep the night before the food stamps came in, because even with all of that, sometimes there was no food left and no money with which to get more. I always had to make strategic decisions between toothpaste and toilet paper.

But, we also had a lot of fun.  We danced together in the kitchen.  We went boot skating in the park. We sang at the top of our lungs as we walked together. We played “volleyball” in the kitchen after the boys went to birthday parties, if they came home with balloons. We read books together.

It was tough, but we made it.  I later discovered that the boys don’t even remember it as being that tough!  They were surprised to hear that they’d gone hungry!

I’m relieved, but I’ll never be able to forget it. The experience left scars. I averaged about 900 calories a day for a few years there, so when I started working and we could finally eat again, I blew up to a size 30. I developed an intolerance to hunger – any hunger.  I can’t stand to hear my stomach growl. And I get depressed and anxious when money is too tight.

I can live contentedly on a budget, but I freak right out when I run out of money before I run out of week. I try to squirrel away a little each pay so that it never happens. Unfortunately, Rod will spend until the bank account in empty without thinking too much about it. That’s been difficult, especially time like now, when the cost of living is rising, but the income isn’t. The comfortable budget we had been living on suddenly isn’t enough.

We have to re-think the budget, and I’m sure that in the end we will be fine – but in the meanwhile, I go through serious, heavy duty anxiety. Now that I’ve figured out what has me feeling so frightened and vulnerable, I hope I can handle it more gracefully.  It’s still way more comfortable than it was 30 years ago.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Back in January, I began a project to add epistolary novels to my reading rotation, as one method for improving my own letters.

Magnus, trimming the spider plant for me.

One of the first was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I had heard about it years ago, when I was working, but had never made the time to read it.  I can see now why the reviews were mainly raves.  It was very compelling, with sympathetic characters, believable motivations, and an absorbing storyline.

I was so impressed, that I sought out the movie at the library to show to the guys, even though I knew that the odds were pretty good that it wasn’t as well done as the novel.

In this case, I was wrong. It’s not the quite the same, because you can’t just record people writing to each other – but the writer and director did manage to capture the essence that made me love the book.  Rod and Jack seemed to enjoy it, too, though they were probably not as captivated as i was,

I would so love to join a book group that was as welcoming as the one in the book. One that could provide that sense of companionship with others who also love books. One that worked the same way – by sharing the best parts of beloved books rather than all reading the same book and discussing it.

Complete coincidence – this is by the bus stop nearest my house. (My middle son is called Corey.)

For one thing, my experience with book clubs is that a large segment of the members won’t have read the book at all, and so the discussion is often derailed by the chatter of the people who didn’t have time to do the reading – or who didn’t bother.

For another, in my experience many of the books chosen for a book club were not books I particularly enjoyed; chosen not for their excellence but for their place on the New York Times or Oprah’s best sellers lists.

The clubs seem to be about seeming well-read through the reading of the “popular” novels.  That’s a valid choice, but I would rather be introduced to really excellent books, however old.  It has happened.  I was introduced to Man’s Search for Meaning at a book club – but no one but the person who had proposed it showed up for the discussion.

But I’m not at all sure I would join one if I found it right now. I’m practically a hermit these days, though i am slowly recovering.  I am in no state of mind to deal with large groups, but I’m not sure that i currently have enough to say to make a real contribution to a smaller group. Hmmm.  Maybe online…?

Have you read a book that had characters who felt like old friends by the end? I’d like to hear about it.

Long, slow recovery

Well, I am on the mend from my recent fall.

After a month and a bit of being home-bound, and almost chair bound, I can now et out and about. Interestingly, it’s not my knees that are giving me the most trouble. Yesterday, I was up to taking on my usual Wednesday chores of walking to the library, and then stopping on the way home to buy eggs from our neighbours, Amal and Mohamad.

By the time I was halfway to the next bus stop, I knew that caution would be the better part of valour, and I hopped on the bus down to the library (since it would be much harder to catch a ride the other way.) Then I walked back from the library, via Amal’s place.

When I got home, my knees were tired – but my back was spasming and my hips were on fire! I didn’t hurt either of those in the fall, but evidently they were what became weak from inactivity.

Today I took the walker back to Karen’s and carried my crafting stuff home unassisted.  My back is spasming again.

I think I’d better be careful not to miss any of my walks over the next few weeks, lest I find myself more permanently incapacitated.  The older you get, the faster you lose tone  and the harder it is to get it back.  I’ve heard that for years, and now I’m here to tell you that it’s true.

I woke up fine this morning, so it should be too hard.  It’s not going to be a cumulative back problem; complete relaxation overnight seem to make it all fine again.  Now to figure out how to strengthen it …

The endless search for entertainment

I was highly amused that “baby Sussex” was late, only to be born on Jack’s birthday! For what it’s worth, Jack was late, too – they were planning an induction for the day he was born, but I was well along in labour when the time came for my appointment. Just as well. I had planned to refuse and that wasn’t going to go over well.

Jack with his birthday feast.

In other news, we are coming to the end of the last available video in our last dinner time series.  Often over dinner we will watch and episode or two of a TV series, or we’ll watch a movie.  It’s easy when we’re in the middle of a series – we just get the next one.  Even easier when we have several going!

However, we’ve been at this for many years.  We’ve watched everything in the Harry Potter franchise.  We’ve watched everything in the Lord of the Rings franchise. We loved David Copperfield and Pride and Prejudice. We have watched almost all of the Star Trek franchise, though we lost interest part way through the first season of Enterprise and never went any further. We have watched Sherlock all the way through.  (It had gotten kind of weird by the last season, though.  If they make more, I’m not sure we’ll bother.)  We have watched as much of Elementary as the library has. We are almost all the way through Father Brown. We saw most of Stargate before we lost interest.

The front of the card

We watched a season of the new Upstairs Downstairs and kind of liked it, but the library only had the one.  We watched a season of Downton Abbey. Eh.  It’s not dreadful.  (Which I say sadly.  I love Maggie Smith, but at least so far her character doesn’t have much depth.)

Now I am back on the search for something interesting that the library has.

I do this every few years and collect a bunch of series that might have promise. It seems to be getting harder and harder, though.  We’ve already watched so much of the old stuff the library has, though I still hold out hope for some hidden gems we haven’t discovered yet.

Inside the card – somehow it looks much more impressive on youtube.

Modern shows seems often to be very very fast-moving and very visual, meaning that I have trouble following them, or gruesome and thriller/horror oriented, which I really don’t like.But I don’t really like gossipy stuff, either. I’m going to have a try at Agatha Raisin and Midsommar Murders. They might be similar to Father Brown. We’ll try Dark Matter.  That may have potential.

My search method has to do with wading through Ranker lists and searching through “you may also like” lists on various sites.  It pulls up largely duds, but it does give me lists to investigate.  Bleah.

I’ve reached another “immigrant milestone”.  Not a super important one, just a sad one. The shapes of standard clothes are subtly different from one country to another.  We don’t really notice until we can’t get “the right fit”, and it’s really subtle, but annoying.

In the US, Rod really missed his Bonds blueys –  his favourite sleeveless t-shirt. It just fits him right and nothing we ever found fit quite the same.

Blowing out the candle…

Now it’s my turn.  I like to sleep in standard Fruit of the Loom t-shirts.  Actually, most US t-shirts are cut very similarly, but Fruit pf the Loom is roomiest.  My last three are wearing out from continuous wear.  *sigh*  Oh well.  Kmart sell one that’s a little tight in the shoulders and across the bell – but it’s almost right.  Maybe a larger size would work, though they’re in Asian sizing and may not come any larger.  I’ll have to have a look.

The cake! Rod outdid himself this year.

I was finally able to discover how to get satin pillow cases.  Jack and both prefer them and I was in the habit of buying them at Sally’s Beauty Supply for $10 each.  They are not available anywhere here that I have been able to find.  I had to resort to $60 silk pillow cases, and those aren’t holding up very well!  Fortunately, Wish.com has them for about the right price – plus shipping, but it still comes in way under $60.

And I’ve carried on about shoes before.  It’s funny what you miss. I knew shoes might be hard – it was hard in the US, too, and the population (and the market) is smaller here. Pillow cases and t-shirts? I never dreamed that cared so much.

OK, it’s late and I’ve probably stopped making sense…good night.

 

 

I’m back!!

It was a reasonably productive screen free week – I finished most of my library book and most of my penpal letters.

Sports day! Who has the most fun wins!

It wasn’t as productive as usual – by the end of the week, I was peeking far more often than I intended, but I think that part of that was because I couldn’t get out and about and enjoy nature as I usually do.

Team Smith: Joel, Rodney, Autuma, and Travis

Also, the “rules” have changed slightly to allow screen use as a tool. That does make sense, since it’s been several years since screens were primarily about entertainment, but it also meant that Jack spent pretty much the whole week staring at his phone to play chess.  “It’s a tool”.

That meant that I felt pretty much alone in my endeavour this year. It’s no excise really, but the combination did make it easy to cheat.

I’m no longer entirely housebound – I can run errands, but my knees still complain by the end of a trip to the post box or a trip to the grocery store, which makes a trip to the park less attractive.

Azalea

Usually I would be out for at least one photo walk and plenty of other adventures, but this year walking was still too hard which made boredom more of a problem.

One of the amazing books I read over the week was one I had been trying to get to for a couple of weeks.  Under the Quandong Tree is an excellent read, but it requires real attention and focus.  It is also not a “read once” book.

Travis

Unfortunately, it was, as far as I can tell, privately published in 2007 and remaining copies are evidently going for $100 or more.  I can get it for a reasonably price in electronic format, but I can’t read electronic books with any kind of understanding, so it’s not worth the price.

Anyway, Under the Quandong Tree is a brief description of aboriginal women’s lore, as recorded for a general audience by an elder Wirradjirri  law-woman and teacher.

Joel

It makes more sense to me than anything I have encountered since my first explorations of European paganism, and the two seem to me to be complementary – like two different takes on fundamental human wisdom, as developed in two different places to suit two different environments.

I’m finding it hard to find words about how and why it moved me so deeply – it touched me at a non-verbal level I guess. I’m thirsty to know more, though that may never be possible.

Rodney

Next up is Salt: A World History. It’s not nearly as compelling but it is interesting – I love histories that follow a single thread through human culture.

I find them so much more enlightening that political histories. (The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History by Katherine Ashenburg is a particularly interesting example of this type of history.)

Today is Jack’s 16th birthday.  He works today, Rod has choir, and Monday is all-around a busy day, so we celebrated a day early with a feast of pork roast with pineapple and a grain free chocolate mudcake with cherries.

He seemed a bit bemused that we were making such a big fuss over his birthday when he is no longer all that excited about birthdays until I pointed pout that it’s just a chance to celebrate him and who he is and who he is becoming.  Then he seemed pleased.  I wonder whether it will change the way he sees birthdays…

OK, well, I have laundry to hang out, letters to write and mail, and dishes to wash, so I’d better stop here until next time.

Adelaide photos

Rodney and Jack have finally given me their photographs from their trip to Adelaide!  Yay!  I can hardly believe how much everyone has grown – and yet, of course, I know it’s been nearly two years.  At these ages children change a lot in two years!  Even Jack still changes a lot in that time – just maybe not so dramatically.

Anyway, you can expect me to use a lot of them to show off my angels over the next few weeks.

Joel

Rod and Jack are off at a chess championship again this weekend.  So far Jack is at 3.5 out of five going into the last day, which is pretty decent.

It’s just the Melbourne Chess Club, this time.  A tad more challenging than the Geelong chess club, but just a local championship rather than an International event.  He actually went back and forth about whether to attend  this one, because of the cost, including the fact that it involved (relatively expensive) commuting  to Melbourne for four days, and the time commitment.  In the end, though, he gave in to temptation.  I’m glad Rod can go with him – it sounds gruelling to me – but Jack is having so much fun that I would have gone with him if needs be.  Still, Rod and I are looking forward to the day, very soon, when Jack can go on his own.

Autumna

I should be working on letters and catching up on library reading. I did manage to get a couple of letters written before I got too tired yesterday, including the next to the last of the grandma letters and number one of nine penpal letters, but I have three books already on the second renewal that I haven’t even started yet.  Those have to take priority soon, too. Right after I finish my grandma letters – so here i sit, blogging and researching crafting techniques.  Very productive, right?

I am blaming it on feeling a bit under the weather and unfocussed.  Last night, I thought I might be coming down with something, but now I am concluding it’s just lack of sleep.

Rodney

(The tournament involved being up four hours early to get breakfast and lunch made before the guys get on a train hours before our usual wakeup time.) ZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

My knees are just about there!  My left is pretty much normal at this point, and my right is still and a little achy when I over-do it, but I’d say it should be be normal with a few days.  Fragile, but normal. I expect that, if only because of a month of relative inactivity, both legs will tire easily for a while, but the only fix for that is walk!  I’m tempted to continue to use the walker when I’m out and about for a while … but that’s primarily fear.

Travis

I don’t want to fall again.  It’s probably silly.  It feels like I just fell – but it was almost four years apart.  That isn’t a “habit” by any definition.  (I told you I’m a physical coward, right?  Yeah, still true.)  Maybe I’ll just use the cane as a reminder to pay attention.  I really don’t need the walker unless I’m carrying a load.

Oh, screen free week starts tomorrow, and as usual Jack and I will be participating.

The “rules” have changed slightly, since the screen free folks are now acknowledging that screens are just as much work tools as they are time wasters and entertainment, so Jack  will have a few minutes each morning and evening to check and answer e-mail and FB messages.

Azalea

I don’t think I will be doing that, and we won’t be spending time on FB or YouTube or chess programmes…or blogging.  (Not that I’ve been blogging so reliably that you’d notice I was missing, but I thought I’d mention it to save you checking in until May 6.)

I always feel so refreshed by the week off that I continue year after year – and this year I suspect I’ll celebrate my renewed mobility with a walk or two.  I also enjoy coming back online at the end of the week usually, but a break is good for me I guess, and I am certainly behind on quite a number of things I want to have done.

These pictures have made me keen to see the children and take photos of my own.  I like lots of kinds of photography, but portraits are my special love, but I don’t get much chance to do that these days. Rod and Jack and patient, but not *that* patient.  Oh well. Back to my Digital Photography School challenges in the meanwhile.

Out and about again

I have been able to get outdoors again, finally!  What a long three weeks it’s been since my fall. Harder still has been the time I was mostly trapped in my chair, which is always hard on my back!  But it’s over now.

It took that three weeks to be able to tackle the front step outside the door so I could go out gallivanting. The porch step is steep and uneven, but once my left knee was strong enough to take my weight while bent, I was able to take my walking frame out and catch the bus to the shopping centre.

It still leaves me pretty tired, and it will be a while before I am up to walking over there, but at least I can go back to running some of my errands.  I have been worried about the strain taking over for me has put on Rod – though I must admit that he mostly seemed energized by having more to do.  Maybe I need to give up some of the errands and chores to him.  He seems to have healed a lot more than I realised over the last few years!  (Yay!)  It’s not that I’m not willing to share – I just didn’t notice that he was up for it.

Then again, he is doing far less running around for Jack – as the weeks tick down to Jack’s 16th birthday, the lad is doing more and more on his own, as is to be expected.

Rod had devoted himself to being Jack’s sidekick for something like the last 16 years, and Jack’s dawning independence leaves him a fair bit of spare time and energy.  (I never could figure out how running so hard didn’t exhaust him.  It sure exhausted me when I had to pitch in.)  I think Rod’s just happier with lots to do, so I guess we should talk about that.

About 8 years ago, when Jack was studying Isshin-Ryū, Rod started taking a tai-chi class at the dojo. He brought home some exercises that he called ‘longevity exercises” that were said to have been developed long ago to help heal warriors who had been injured in battle. We did them together for a long time, and they really did improve our physical strength and sense of well-being. But then the strokes started, and we had other things on our minds.  They fell by the wayside.

For the last few weeks, all the sitting I have been doing has been causing terrible back spasms. My back has spasmed often since my fall back in 2015, but sitting so much has made it much worse.  So much so that the clover infusion I had been using to tame it was no longer controlling it.  By dinner time each night, I was in agony.

Left to my own devices for a week, I had quiet to think and it finally  dawned on me that those exercises might be what I need. I started to do them any time I got out of my chair for a potty run or a stretch, and they did indeed help a great deal! A few days ago, I fell behind in making my infusion and realised that they are not enough by themselves – at least not yet – but what a relief it has been to hurt less!  Togetherm the clover and he stretches are making life bearable and that’s good.

 

Last card for a while

This card took a very long time. Long enough that I actually got sick of crafting!

Card front

It looks pretty cool on the outside, but I think its evident that I had lost patience before I finished the inside.  (The placement is a little wonky but after a while, I couldn’t get it to look any better, so “in is good enough”.)

Now, in the week before I have to start Jack’s card, I think I will work on something entirely different – like…oh, maybe … letters!  It’s more than time for the grandma letters and I am behind by quite a few penpal letters! And the next few cards will almost certainly be simpler so I can finish them in a sitting.

This one was fun, and I learned a lot.  I’ll bet in the future cards like this won’t take a week to make, but for now, this is enough.  (The shape isn’t the hard part – it’s that the whole thing, feathers, shapes, backgrounds – were made with white card stock that I die cut and embossed with shiny coloured embossing powders.  Embossing turns out to be very fiddly when done in large amounts on die cuts. (Maybe that’s why I do it so seldom…)

Card inside. The message is in the folded white paper at the very top.

In better news, my knees are continuing to heal – by the end of the weekend, I may be able to switch from the walking frame to a cane.

I’m still very tired, and some of that may be pain – but at this point I think some of it is just sitting so much.  I’m not much good at sitting all day, and I pop up out of my chair every few minutes to stretch and do some chores, but after not too long my knees start to bother me and sitting down starts to seem like a good idea again.

My poor garden.  On the day I fell, my new seed for my winter garden arrived – but I still can’t manage the steps into the back yard, so they’re sitting in the kitchen waiting.  Rod went out today to water and weed the beds and harvest the last of the tomatoes, potatoes, and sweet peppers (wait, I thought he got the last of those weeks ago?  No, evidently not the last.) but I need to get out there to sow the new stuff.  I can manage the front step, so maybe I’ll go out that way, and around through the gate to the back.  I only need to get as far as the gardening table…the guys can fetch and carry the soil and pots…

I’m bored.  And boring. I hope I can do something soon…

Incoming storm

I love a good storm.

High winds, rain, thunder and lightening – I love the energy of them and love to stand outside and enjoy them – especially not too far from the house, so I can duck back inside when I start to get cold.

After a very still, humid, hot day, we have such a storm coming up now. I wish I could go out to enjoy it – but I’ve opened the door so some of it can come in to me. Lovely!

I have one more card that I was supposed to complete while the guys were away.  As usual, I have been overthinking it and making myself nuts.  It’s not done – this design really requires an inside design as well, and it’s not quite what I had envisioned, but I have finally completed it and I am liking it so far.

Once this one goes in the mail tomorrow, I have other things I should be doing – maybe even taking a photo or two. It finally dawned on me that it’s not necessary to leave the house to take a photo.

I also have almost a dozen letters to write – starting with letters to my handsome Smith grandsons.  They sent me letters and pictures and photos – and even ribbons they won at sports day! (And Travis wants me to send him a “Christmas”.  Mamma didn’t have any ideas, so I am going to assume he means a gift – so I am sending bite sized chocolates in this months letters.  Gift enough I think.  At least for now.)

The hardest part of this healing thing right now is not so much the pain as the exhaustion. I guess rest must be necessary for healing, because within an hour of waking up, I’m tired again. Bleah. The pain is mostly manageable, but I want to be done now.  (And the exhaustion makes it hard to feel like I am making any sense when I try to blog.)

Lest I do noting but complain tonight – there is good news!  My HbA1c has come back at 5.7 (the normal range for non-diabetics is between 4 and 5.6) and my homocysteine has come back at 5.6 (anything between 4 and 10 is good.)

OK, maybe I can make more sense tomorrow.  Good night.

The boys are home again!

Magnus and I are very pleased to have the rest of the family home again.

The memorial card for my granddaughter, Mia Faith. It should have been her third birthday. 🙁

Rod and Jack arrived home at dinner time last night. They showered, ate, and went right to bed. Interestingly, I was so tired that I went to bed, too, even tough it was two hours before my “usual” bedtime. I slept right through, too – 12.5 hours! I don’t think I slept all that well without my honey.

Magnus was reasonably quiet, too – he didn’t feel the need to call for me every two hours to check that I was still there, like he did all week.  He did let me know he was awake at about 6 AM, like he always does but I guess he was happy just to cuddle with Jack the rest of the time.

I’m still trying to get that last card done. Back to it befpre I have to start dinner.

Monday

Well, the week is just about over, and the boys are enroute home.  They’re due to arrive in about four hours, and I am still a couple of cards behind.

From the first tutorial. Because of glue soaking it in the upper right, it’s not usable, but I think other than that, it came out kind of pretty and I learned a lot. Made from a piece of white cardstock and a half a piece of blue from my scrap bag, so a fairly economical card, too!  (Shhhh, that’s not what I want peole’s reactions to be.)

I found the pain from my knees far more distracting than I expected, and so I wasn’t able to spend as much time crafting as I wanted to – I could have taken painkillers (and I did to sleep) but taking too many seemed like a bad idea-and it wasn’t too painful as long as I wasn’t trying to concentrate.  I have, however, gotten through my year’s quota of stupid YouTube videos.  *laugh*

I’m not sure whether he’s cold or whether he’s worried that I might disappear, too, but this is how I have spent a large part of the last two days!

When it dried completely, the blue card still looked a little flat, but didn’t look as “stained” as it did when it was wet, so it can go into my “emergency stash”.

(I learned about the usefulness of emergency stashes back when I broke my arm a few years ago.  I prefer to make a card with a specific person in mind, but sometimes it’s better to have one at hand than to miss out entirely. Now I try to have at least one masculine, one feminine, and two children.)

card 2 from the tutorial

And, of course, for the first few days that the guys were gone, Magnus needed to sit on me full time.  That’s not exactly conducive to crafting, either.  He settled down eventually, and while he stuck by my side like gum on a shoe, he did decide to find somewhere more comfortable to nap – it just was never more than a few feet from me.

Oh, and when I stood up, he shook himself out of sleep and trailed after me to the toilet and back again, looking so, so sleepy that he was staggering.   I think he really, really missed his boys.

Card three from the tutorial. I seem to be mastering the glue, so now no more cards should fall apart on arrival.

Maybe it’s just as well that my knees won’t let me tackle the steps into and out of the house.

If I’d wandered off on daily walks like I’d planned, the poor kitten might have lost his mind!

He’s fretful again today, but maybe he senses the boys headed our way.  Animals are funny that way.  And he will be thrilled to see the rest of his family.

…and, something entirely new. I’m not thrilled, but it has potential.

A couple of days ago, Jack called me so that the grandbabies could talk to me.  It was wonderful!  And they sounds so much more grownup than they did last time I saw them – wow, nearly two years ago!  They are trying to sort out brothers and sisters and they find it a tad confusing that Rod and I each have five brothers – but while Rod has three sisters, I don’t have any sisters.  I suspect that they imagined that the five brothers were all the same people, so once I can get them printed, I’ll send them photos of Rod and I with our siblings at about the same age.

Travis asked me especially to “send him a Christmas”. I don’t *know* what that means, but I think it’s time to include little presents again. The last try went badly wrong. The packages kept coming back – and so they arrived all higgledy piggledy rather than all of them getting their gifts on the same day.  Note to self: presents all go in one envelope!

OK, I’ve spent so long on this that I expect the boys to come round the corner from the bus any moment.  Gotta go!

April 9

Well, I have made it through the first week after my fall, and recovery seems to be on course for the two week recovery that Dr. Google predicted for moderate sprains.  It’s not fun, and it hurts more than the break did, but it’s far less disabling than that was.

Just some hand made stationery – fun to use and a good use for scraps!

I have spent the last week mostly sitting and watching crafting (and wellness) videos — which means that my back is killing me — but I have some fantastic ideas for cards for some very important upcoming birthdays!  And with the boys away for their week in Adelaide, I have time to try my hand at them more than once, if necessary.

One amusing experience that would probably not have happened if not for my tumble: about seven years ago, I fell in love with the work of a professional crafter, Christine Griffiths. She had put together a series of “tutorials” explaining how to make the style of cards she was making at the time, and which I had fallen in love with. She recommended a “starter kit” of very flexible dies on which she based the cards in the tutorials. I bought the dies, planning to take the tutorials course.  Something happened and I never did get back to it. Continue reading

Broken brain 2

Rod and I have been watching a web series called Broken Brain 2 by Dr Mark Hyman, Director of the Cleveland Clinic Centre for Functional Medicine.  We never heard about Broken Brain 1, and seeing it after the free preview is far too expensive ($300!), so I hope we can see all 8 episodes while they’re free.  Unfortunately, each episode is available for only 24 hours, so we’re likely to miss at least some of it.

Part of our interest, of course, if Rod’s stroke, making brain plasticity and healing of overwhelming interest to us.  But part of our interest, too, is my family background of dementia.

As I understand it, my grandfather died of dementia, as did his parents, and so have my mothers older siblings, one by one.  Now, my mother has the diagnosis.

It may not be something I can avoid, but I’d like to tip the odds in my favour – or at least postpone symptoms as long as possible. Her siblings get into their late 80s or early 90s, so I have a good long while left, if that’s what I have to look forward to. (Or, if I go like my Dad’s family, stroke or heart disease could take me out in four or five years.)

Anyway, so far, we’ve seen one episode. Continue reading

Mileva

The guys and I have been watching National Geographic’s Genius bio-pic of Albert Einstein.  It’s not the first time I have watched a biographical movie of his life, but this one feels more…personal.  Like he was someone I got to know and not just someone I knew a little about.

Condolence card 1

Perhaps that’s partly because, as a 10 part series, there is simply more time “spent with him”. But also, unlike previous things I have seen, this series is also more honest about his personal relationships – and both his strengths and his weaknesses.

Condolence card 2

One thing that has really captured my attention is the greater depth and detail in the portrayal of his relationship with his first wife,  Mileva Marić.  That would be, in part, because her letters were only made public in 1982 — long after I was seeking out information about him — and by seeing the relationship from both sides, it feels deeper and richer.

I find myself with a new deep and abiding fondness and respect for Mileva.  She was not an easy person – prone to depression and caught in a world in which her dreams and aspirations were seen, at best, as secondary to her husband and family, she would have been very frustrated and not easy to live with.

Masculine birthday card

But part of her frustration was about Albert’s selfishness.  He wasn’t an evil man, but he didn’t see past his culture’s assumptions and his own desires to understand that Mileva’s own frustration at being sidelined was no less than his when it happened to him.

Had he been more inclusive of Mileva’s ideas and more open in including her in his scientific enquiries and in thanking her publicly, her depression and anger might well have been less and her temper sweeter.

It fascinates me to wonder what she might have been capable of if she had managed to avoid emotional entanglements – or at least the demands of family life.

We can never know, of course, but having experienced for myself the limitations placed on women, I find myself more sympathetic than ever before.  (I think that’s the point of view of the screen writers, too, though.)

And yet,  I also find myself understanding that Albert was immature, not evil.  It’s not that he didn’t care that Mileva was in pain, it’s that he couldn’t see it from her point of view – he was too involved in his own point of view to see past her anger to the pain underneath or to understand its source and what he could have done about it.

Which of us hasn’t been that immature and selfish at one time or another?

Humpty Dumpty…

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall…

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall…

…only I wasn’t sitting on a wall. I was just walking down the street at a leisurely pace this time, but I fell again Monday afternoon, just like I did three and half years ago.

At first I wondered whether I had broken something again, but it felt better fast enough that I am now convinced they’re not broken, just sprained. Actually, after a few days, as the swelling has gone down, I have gotten much of the mobility back, but the pain has just started.

That’s an interesting irony. Feeling stronger while hurting more, I mean.

An interesting looking house…and the photo I was taking just before I fell. :p

For the first couple of days, I was hobbling around the house leaning on a little step ladder for stability. That got old — and heavy — so now (thanks to sisters Ann and Karen) I am borrowing the walking frame that once belonged to Wenche. Much better – and possibly more than helpful, because within 12 hours of switching to the walker, I started to recover much of the strength in my knees. At first, I had to lock them to walk at all, and now I don’t.

My knees didn’t hurt too much for the first few days, but they were swollen up like melons.  It was very impressive looking and made it hard to be sure what was going on. Even now, every so often, I feel a snap – maybe the tendons or ligaments adjusting to the reduction in swelling? It doesn’t hurt, it just feels weird.

I sit as much as I can tolerate, but after a week my back (which has never liked sitting) hurts as much as my knees do. Ahh, well. My knees still don’t like weight for too long, but they are starting to demand that I keep them moving, which probably indicates healing.  So I can sit less.

One thing I learned about through all of this is about proprioception.

Evidently proprioception difficulties are a common feature of autism. I didn’t realise. After all, the way I have always perceived the world is what is “normal”, right?

But it does explain my tendency to walk into the corners of things, even when I know they are there, and my tendency to trip over rough footpaths – or, when those aren’t available, my shoes will do.

Evidently, according to my research, it also explains my sucking my thumb until I was 9 years old, my inability to erase on my homework without tearing the paper until well into adulthood, my alternating between such faint hand writing it was unreadable and having such a heavy grip that I broke pencils constantly. It probably also explains my being fearful of physical challenges – perhaps I learned to be afraid before I can remember, because I fell so easily?  That’s a guess, but I have been hurt less frequently than most because I am a physical coward.

Basically, because we can be oblivious to where our bodies are in space, we tend to be clumsy. In my case, it’s only occasionally a real problem. I am, however, starting to wonder whether my walks should involve a style change…as in: knee pads. Wouldn’t that look fetching? But it might save the occasional pair of trousers and, even better, prevent more knee damage. The knees have recovered from the break, but regular damage could accumulate.

This, of course, happened a week before the guys leave for Adelaide to visit that side of the family.

Rod was concerned about whether it was safe to leave me alone!  The first day or two, I wasn’t sure, either, but now I can do almost everything except tackle stairs, albeit more slowly than usual.

But, gosh I’m glad it’s my turn to tend to Magnus – I’ll be fine home alone, but I don’t think I could travel by Tuesday.

Fortunately the guys will only be gone a few days and if I need to, Woolworth’s will deliver groceries for $15, so I feel safe about having enough of what I need.  I’d rather not order, because of the amount of plastic they wrap everything in, but in an emergency it’s a good option to have. But as fast as I have been healing, a trip to the shops will probably be feasible before they get home.

The worst part of the fall in some ways, is that healing has been so exhausting.  I couldn’t concentrate long enough to blog or craft or read a book, so I stared at walls or napped.  I’m feeling much, much better now.

 

 

Update: 31 March

First off, please forgive me for the quality (or lack thereof) of the photos.  They were on my phone and I have run out of decent ones to share.

I need to pull out my camera for a play, but so far that hasn’t come to the top of the list.  Every time I think about it, it’s been either far too hot or raining and very cold.  Cold, I can deal with, but cold and wet?  Discouraging.

Partly though, ot hasn’t risen to the top of the list because I have a rather large stack of books from the library, but I am sunk in the mire of the current one: The Time Traveller’s Wife.

It came about nearly 16 years ago, and I heard about it then, but I was busy with work and a newborn, so I didn’t get a chance to read it.  Even NPR liked it, and it had such a promising premise that it went on my “someday” list, but in the end it turns out to be just another drippy romance novel.

The premise is interesting, but not interesting enough to offset the tedious and extremely frequent sex scenes.

Still, I might as well find out how it ends. He’s deep in depression and missing his feet, so it probably won’t have a lot of sex scenes from here on out.

Mostly, I am very content staying at home and doing my thing – so much so that Wednesday is the only day I reliably get out for my walks.

Occasionally I feel a bit lonely, but I have some lovely acquaintances here in the neighbourhood and some very, very cherished online friends.  I have Rod’s family, and they always seem to be happy to get together with me, though they stay as busy as Rod does.

Rodney is my very best friend, and Jack is funny and charming and “gets” my sense of humour, so the for the most part, I am more than content with my life.

The loneliness comes about when I start thinking “what will I have after Jack moves on, as young people do.”  If it’s only Rod and I, I will drive him nuts.  :p  He’s extremely social, but also an introvert (how does that work. anyway?) and he spends all his spoons at stroke support groups and choir and all the other things he loves to do. We chat, of course, about what each of us is doing or reading or thinking…but he’s gone a lot.  Will I be lonely then?

Usually, I would trust my ability to make friends, but as I mentioned a few days ago, in regards to volunteering, I seem to have fallen into a circumstance where I feel I am being “othered” more than I have been in years.

Is it ageism?  The health struggles of the last few years have certainly left me looking look older and more frail.

Is it ableism? Certainly my “neurotypical” mask has definitely slipped in the years since I retired – and truth be told, for several years before that, though my colleagues at work had known me long enough to know I was strange before it became obvious. I just don’t (possibly because of the health challenges, possibly because I’m just too old) have the energy to pretend anymore.  Oh, I can pull out the script and make small talk with delivery people and cashiers.  No need to make their lives less pleasant than they need to be.) But I can’t sustain the effort when I am in social situations.

I’m probably borrowing trouble.  If I get my health challenges under control (which astrologically looks very likely in the next couple of years) everything may look very different by the time Jack moves out.

After all, I only need to find one or two “low social needs” person is a city of 190,000. That doesn’t sounds too hard. (And this is what my anxiety looks like.  I panic about a problem I might have, and then try to talk myself out of rationally.  Sometimes it work.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  Have I talked about my anxiety around my camera?)

Blogging and growing older.

I have been blogging for nearly 16 years.  In that time, I have followed many, many bloggers. But over time, most of them drop away. Mostly because their lives change and they stop blogging.

My house – much prettier inside.

One of the few I have been following who has stuck around recently posted that she is having trouble posting regularly.  She is almost exactly my age. Continue reading

Citizenship and Ambivalence

I was supposed to apply for citizenship in mid-January.  I had been planning to do so for four years. 

But when the day came, and my calendar reminder came up, I postponed it for a couple of weeks.  No reason.  I just didn’t feel like tackling it.

After a couple of weeks, I started the paperwork and discovered that my answers were not saved when I saved and closed.  The form came up blank the next time I opened it.  I haven’t opened it again.  Too much like work.

In the meantime, I have been dismayed by constant reminders that Australians are just as human as anyone else. Now that’s silly.  My conscious mind is completely aware and prepared, but evidently my subconscious mind isn’t.

Examples: a very good neighbour invited us over for a beer on his last day in his rental.  We had had pleasant exchanges across the fence, but had never socialised before. He blithely used racist language through our entire encounter.  I was flummoxed.  I had no idea how to respond.  I thought he was a nice guy!  (He is.  That sort of language is sort of “normal” amongst a certain class of Aussie working men and doesn’t actually – necessarily – reflect their personal views.  Wait – what?!?!?)

A rule is in the works by neo-liberals on a national level insisting that “formal” European/white style clothes be worn by new immigrants to all citizenship ceremonies, at the same time a rule is being passed by the same folks that all citizenship ceremonies be held on one of the hottest days of the year (Australia Day).  Continue reading

Feeling like myself again!

Feeling fabulous

Yesterday, after my third brisk walk of about a kilometre running various errands, I was struck that for the first time in many months, I actually felt fabulous!  Very energised and not at all in pain!  (Very stretchy, as a matter of fact!) For a very long time now, Wednesday has been exhausting and by the time it was time to make dinner, I was completely exhausted.  Finally my energy is coming back and I am benefiting from my exercise!  I still tired easily from being sick for so long, but that’s mainly when I sit too long.

Wednesday

Wednesday is usually the most tiring day of the week, as I mentioned. Continue reading