December 11th, 2014 | Author:

Another disconcerting new change…
I had my hair hacked off in acknowledgement of big changes afoot.

I don’t like it. It’s too hard to keep it out of my face and I think it looks ugly and graceless. Fortunately I am now old enough to understand that it’s just hair. It will grow back. I’m annoyed by it., but that was always going to be the case, and I am not emotionally devastated like I have been by haircuts in the past. I know that there is no way a stranger will ever be able to know what I will like, and I deliberately chose the haircutter with the first empty seat that I encountered. Poor guy was very wary about it – he had no clue about hair the texture of mine, but he was game to give it a go. I told him he was an artist and a gentleman and gave him a largish tip for taking th chance.

December 11th, 2014 | Author:

WP_20141017_004A few days to Yule. A few days since I retired. So, so much is happening so quickly.

My application for a resident visa was approved a few weeks ago, so I am good to go.  I thought I would have to wait a couple fo years for a permanent resident visa, but they gave me that one straight up. An advantage to having been married to an Aussie for more than a decade and having an Aussie citizen son, I suppose.

I got word last week that Rod is really not well.  He is regaining function quickly, but the damage from his four strokes is  much more extensive than we could have guessed.  Because the damage is from both bleeding and clotting strokes, making it dangerous to try to treat the strokes.  That makes every transition from one medication to another really dangerous and the long term prospects very frightening if they don’t find a medication that works in the long term very soon.

I announced on the day that I got the news that I would retire at the end of the week, and I did so, on Friday.  Now, I am packing the remaining parts of the house and repacking the parts that had already been done so that I can make an inventory.

The toughest part of the packing has been dismantling my beloved home, so a group of dear friends came over to put everything into boxes to make it emotionally easier and it has been. I still haven’t managed the emotional endurance to finish my craft room…but the rest of the house is essentially done.  Once things are in boxes, I seem to be able to handle them more objectively.

On Monday we go to Chicago to get Jack’s Australian passport, and in the mix somewhere I have to request paperwork from work and that my retirement funds be deposited in my bank so we have something to live on when I get there.  My plan is to leave on december 25 and to arrive on boxing day. It has a nice symmetry since I arrived in the Detroit metro area on December 24, 1982.

I am so very grateful for good friends.  This is really hard and my instinct is to go hide somewhere, hoping it will all just go away.  It won’t, of course. And my friends are helping me immensely to keep going.  In our imaginations, Rod and I worked on all of this together.  It’s a big and very emotional job – and without Rod here to hold me when I feel overwhelmed, some days are harder than others. On the bright side, i will be with him again soon.

There is so much happening.  So much to say…but I am overwhelmed and not feeling terribly verbal.  However now that m ore fo my time is my own, maybe…?

Category: 2015  | 2 Comments
September 16th, 2014 | Author:

Rod’s flight is over Nevada right now. In 20 minutes he will land at Los Angeles and board a flight to Sydney.
An old barn door with worn wood
Life has just made a HUGE 180.

Jack and I have to go on without our rock for the next six months.  I can no longer say “Could you handle that, my love?” when something seems daunting.  It’s all mine now.

But I just keep reminding myself that in a few hours, Rod will finally be getting the medical care he needs with no ‘changes in course’ due to the expense.  By the time I see him in March, he may well have made his goal happen.  He intends to get therapy, get a job, and start supporting us.  From anyone else, I’d call it a pipe dream, but Rod has done so many astonishing things that I am not ready to write off the possibility.  But I made sure that he knew that as welcome as that idea is, I’m not counting on it.

Jack is torn. He is very sad about his Dad being away.  But he is so excited about the alternate arrangements – living for the day with his friends’ families – that he is having trouble thinking of all this as a really bad thing.

I know what he means.  We can now eat peanut butter and cheese and seafood  – foods that Rod is allergic to – without compunction. We intend to indulge.

I am looking forward to hearing from my honey in writing – the way we courted, but for which we had little use while we cohabited.  I wouldn’t have set him away to get letters – but getting letters does take some of the sting out.

I’m very sad and scratching for reasons that this is a good thing.

September 02nd, 2014 | Author:

Wow, a lot has happened.

I intended to post a lot more and a lot more often, but our blog was on a corrupted part of a server, or something. (I never asked what happened.) It disappeared completely!

Our service provider was able to get it all back up (thanks, Steve!) but on a new version of the software, which has meant having to figure out the new software, reinstall Discuss, get my account straighthened out, and all that comes up with almost starting over. Fortunately, it looks like all the old posts are there. (I haven’t found the old drafts, but that’s not a disaster.)
As I’m sure you will remember, Rod has been having strokes for about 20 months now.  The first one was mostly annoying to him since it caused him to lsoe sensation on the left side of his body, but in May (on Jack’s 11th birthday, actually) he had the first of the more serious strokes.

That one left him unable to speak clearly or to write for several months. He later had a stroke that caused no discernable physical symptoms but had a serious effect on his cognitive function.  He became really confused and started to need to sleep a great deal.  At first it was 20 hours per day, which was really rough for poor Jack.

My honey is a fighter, and he is fighting his way back from these, too.  He is now intelligible unless he is very tired, but his diction is not clear and his voice is weak.  However he is able to function again and he is far less confused, though he still needs a long nap mid-day to get through the day.

The disruption of his cognitive function meant that it was no longer safe for him to drive, which means that all of his driving chores (shopping, taking him to the doctor, etc) are now on me. Fortunately, my manager is very understanding and he is happy for me to work from home and come and go from the office as needed to take care of things.

The good news is that Rod’s doctor has continued to research Rod’s difficult case.  (None of the “normal” blood pressure medications keep his blood pressure down for more than a few days, but all come with hideous side effects that last long after his blood pressure has returned to “scary high”.  He found an off label medication, intended for treating ADHD, that sometimes effects blood pressure.  It works!  It lowers Rod’s blood pressure so well that he found the upper limit when he passed out with blood pressure so low his meter couldn’t read it!  Yikes! That was scary, but it’s also a relief that he can keep the pressure down to protect his brain.

However the pill can’t treat the *cause* of the persistently high blood pressure and we simply can’t afford the tests that would be required to figure that out.  Our operating theory is that it may be scar tissue from a head injury he recieved 20 years ago.  The injury was serious enough to cause real trouble then, so it seems quite possible.  But that would requires a very long and involved MRI to locate and quantify the problem and then comes the treatment, which also wouldn’t be cheap.

So… *sigh*  Rod is returning to Australia in 13 days!  He can get free and low cost medical care there.  He will feel less “useless” than he says he feels here, watching Jack and I carry the load he has always carried, so it will be good for his mental health.  He already has a doctor there thanks to his sister, and his sister will take over his care. I eternally grateful to our friends Mark T and Paula M for, between them, making this possible!  No way could we have pulled this off without them.

The Smiths in our last family portrait in America

(c) 2014 Erika Woolams

That leaves me to sell the house.  It’s been on the market since June but since it is at the price we owe the bank no one has been willing to buy.  We lower the price this week.  I got the paperwork from the bank that didn’t *say* they would accept less, but did ask if we had an offer and how much it was for…which I am taking to mean that we can offer it at market value.  It can’t close in two weeks, even if someone grabs it the day the price goes down, but I am hoping it sells so I only have to handle packing and signing on my own. (Well, and moving to an apartment, and arranging to have all our goods shipped to Australia, and…) I lean really hard on my honey and all of this is pretty scary.

Rod and Jack have built an amazing group of friends, who have all kindly taken me in, too.  They have offered Jack a place in their homeschools so that I can continue to work – and I am hoping that with so many of them splitting the job, it won’t be too onerous for anyone to have an extra kid around.  I am truly amazed at how loving and generous this group of friends is.  Actually, when I think about it it makes me cry.  So, for part of September, October, November, and part of December, Jack will tour his friends lives and see how other families do home education – and they tell me that they are looking forward to seeing how Jack does his.  (But he will be cutting way back for those months, since his studies take three hours per day, which would be way too much to ask of his friends. He will take one book per day.)

I packed my craft supplies over the weekend.  I miss crafting, but there really hasn’t been time lately. It seems like every time I think I have time to pack the last few rooms, we have a viewing so that I spend the time polishing the house for that instead. I also need a completely dry weekend so I can put the last of the stuff at the curb.

Anyway, that’s what we’re up to.  I hope that all is well with any of you who are still around.  :)


July 12th, 2014 | Author:

Hey, everyone!

It seems likely that the only folks who will ever read this have it set up so they get a notice when I post, but I’m back. :)

a black and white photo of Jack at 11, showing every sign of adolescence

Jack at 11

Looking back, I see that I have posted more recently than I remembered. That’s good. But life since November has been a whirlwind of cleaning, packing, and (hardest of all) paring down our possessions to what we really have to keep.


I am a bit of a packrat, so I had tonnes of treasures socked away in every corner of this 1700 sq ft house. Since we have to pay for every ounce we carry across, that had to be winnowed for the most important treasures. Since wood has to be funmigated before entry, it seemed wisest to get rid of it. (That means the furniture has to be replaced.) Since glass, ceramic, and crystal are fragile and likeliest to break enroute, I mostly passed that along, too. (Some things, like wedding gifts and dishes, I am taking my chances with.)

So now, virtually everything we are taking, but don’t need day to day, is packed up and stacked out of the way and the house is for sale. The stuff we actually need day to day looks pretty sparse and the place no longer feels like home…though it is a lot easier to keep it sparkling so we can show it on 30 minutes notice.  (If only my lovely boys remembered that that was the goal.  We can show on the weekend or on Monday morning, but by Wednesday we need way more notice.  *sigh*  Oh well, we have only had one viewing, which is what we expected.  The house is priced very high for the area.  But that’s what we owe the bank, and the bank isn’t feeling cooperative.  They don’t see any reason we can’t just stay put and keep paying the mortgage.

One reason that it has become urgent also changes the plan in Australia completely. Rod has had three strokes in the last 18 months.  He now drags his left side and has serious trouble speaking and writing.  The odds of his being able to work are slim and we have to get him home asap.  He has had his heart and circulatory system inspected and that isn’t where the problem is.  His blood vessels are clear as a whistle and his heart is strong. He had a treatment to repair the damage he did to his neck and head 20 years ago, and he has been functioning better since then, but it hasn’t really resolved the issue the way we had hoped it would. Has it reduced the chances of another stroke?  We hope so.  But we really don’t know.  We do know, my baby needs to be home, asap.  He isn’t one to complain or show it in social situaitons, but the strokes have really made a mess of his self image and his confidence.

A lovely sepia "selfie" of the bride and groom

Michael and Agnes (Nessie) Smith

Another really important reason we have to get home – there are important members of the family we haven’t met yet! Michael married his lovely bride, Nessie, on the 9th of July. We haven’t met Nessie, yet and we can’t wait to.


We also haven’t met Joel and Makita’s sons Rhazel and Rodney – and now they have another on the way around the beginning of the new year! So exciting!

The plan for the trip is shaping up nicely. My official retirement date is 19 December, and we now think that our departure date is around 1 February. That gives us time to find a shipper and wrap things up here, after my visa application is approved. It could all move faster, but pushing to make it that would be very rushed. I have had enougha ll work and no play these last few months. :p

In one of my more recent posts – January, I think — I mentioned that we were going to go for a more strict interpretation of paleo. We did that, and it “worked so well” (at reducing my apetite) that I started to eat later and later in the morning. I am never hungry in the morning, but I was getting to 1 or 2 pm before I wanted more than my coffee on many days. I noticed that my trousers were getting more snug, but I put it down to the fact that I hadn’t had the energy to walk as much as usual (which I blamed on the Augean Project at home).  However I had the chance to test my blood sugar a few weeks back and was alarmed to find that it was high forst thing in the morning and went *higher* as the day wore on even with no food!

That made no sense to me because I never had symptoms of hypoglycemia.  However I did some research and discovered that fasting has that effect on two groups of people.  People who already have pancreatic dysfunction (me!) and women, especially post menopause (again, me!).  So…Rod has again started making “breakfast cookies” so I can have one with my coffee.  It makes me hungry all day, but evidently that’s better than not being hungry. Oddly enough, I now have the energy to walk again!  Oh well.

When Rod’s choir and Jack’s Sunday school quit for the summer, Rod started taking Jack to karate.  That meant that I have not been sitting somewhere that I couldn’t be packing or cleaning, and so my studies have stalled – probably also for the summer.  That and crafting have been on a back burner for quite a while.  And now it looks like my first order of business once we are in Australia will be to find a job, so I don’t know when I will pick them up seriosuly again. Oh well, the piecemeal I had been doing can resume once Choir and Sunday school start up again.

Well, while I haven’t been studying or blogging, I have managed to have *some* fun.  I have started making our own saurkraut.  That came out so well that after my second batch, I decided to try dill pickles.  It’s easy, so I hope it works out.  Real fermented pickles at the store are super expensive and I can’t have the cheap ones because most are pickled in corn vinegar.

Ahh, well.  I hope to do this every weekend now that packing and cleaning are essentially done.  Have a great weekend!

March 22nd, 2014 | Author:

Fun news – our copies of Jack’s book have just come in!

We have agreed that the next installment should probably have a slightly bigger foint, but otherwise we’re pretty happy with it. And Jack is well into part 2! He was so excited about the fantastic response that he was inspired to get to it, dropping his work on the cat book he was working on for the time being. A PDF of part 2 will be available to purchasers of part 1, but we will also publish parts 1 and 2 together in a new release of the book.

Jack in a suit January 2014
In preparation to start taking charge of Jack’s middle school education I have been doing a great deal of research. In the process, I discovered that there is a whole new level of reading that I had never learned or even been aware of. I picked up a used copy of How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and have been working my way through it, using The Idea of a University by John Henry Newman as a practice book. (I had picked that up last spring and read it through, but came away pretty sure that I had missed a lot.)

Since it was a used book, and the previous owner had taken Adler’s advice to heart and had marked the book up thoroughly, cleverly missing the point of almost every paragraph, I have started making my notes in a separate notebook, which I find makes it easier for me to slow down and really think about Adler’s points.

It’s a long, slow process, but I am enjoying it very much.  I think I will be able, by the end, not only to read better myself, but also to share the process with Jack a little at a time so that he comes away able to read more deeply than is usual in anyone with (as Adler describes) less than a Ph.D.

Am I nuts that this is my idea of a really good time?  It’s right up there with hiking in the woods.  :)

March 15th, 2014 | Author:

Hello, friends! The biggest news: Jack has cut his hair for the first time.  (Pay no attention to the copyright – I have been too busy with lots of packing to do much photography and had failed to update it when the year turned.)

The reason: I can now talk about it openly because it’s official at work. I am retiring at the end of the year (or very early next year) and we will be leaving for Australia around this time in 2015.  Our family cut out hair when our lives are changing dramatically.  Jack feels that the change has already begun for him and it was time to acknowledge that.  (Living in a house full of packed boxes and living without all the stuff you need enough to be shipping it across the planet has that effect, I guess.)  Rod and I will cut ours as we get closer to the day.

Jack has started work on part 2 of his serial.  This is called “The Exodus”.  He is very encouraged because he has sold 32 copies of part 1!  Way beyond our wildest hopes!!  I hope he will have it finished by the end of summer.

We had hoped to put the house on the market by the end of the month. Then we had hoped top have it ready for May.  Now..I just don’t know.  Progress has been very slow and I feel very overwhelmed.  Rod and our friend Troy have done a great job at all the maintenance that had been neglected and the furniture and other things we don’t need and won’t be taking with us are largely moved to new homes,  but the sorting and packing has to be tucked into the time I am at home, and after my “keeping the house  functioning” chores are done.  It feels like it is taking FOREVER.  It got to the point where I started to have anxiety attacks when I started thinking about how much there is left to do.  I think I will just have to breathe deeply, keep my shoulder to the wheel, and believe that I will finish “in time” even if it’s not on the schedule I would have preferred.

On a far cheerier subject, Jack is about 2/3 of the way through his Rome unit and I am hard at word digging up the materials we will need for his Early Middle Ages unit.  (Remember, we describe the units by the historical period we are concentrating on, but we cover much, much more than history.)  Now that Jack has made an intellectual leap, we are going to move from “grammar stage” learning to “Logic stage” learning.  We had already begun some of that of course, but we will be moving more toward learning how to learn and away from simply absorbing facts. I am pretty excited about that.  :)  Once we are in Australia, the plan is for me to be at home studying with Jack while Rod supports us .  That will be lots of fun for me and while Rod is an excellent teacher, I think he will be glad to get back to his more familiar and comfortable role as wage earner.  :)

OK, the packing and cleaning won’t happen if I spend all day on the computer.  Catcha on the flip side.  :)







March 02nd, 2014 | Author:

Jack’s first novel, part one of a science fiction adventure serial, has just been published. He has already sold five copies (we have such good friends!) and he plans a book signing in the next couple of months.

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

From the cover: Îhil Gidnol was platforming and texting on his new jPhone, when he bumped into a billboard that said “Don’t text while platforming!” Fortunately he had slowed down to 5 miles per hour while texting, and just sat down hard. “Darned signs!” he grumbled as he picked himself up “There’s one of them every 20 feet.” He continued a bit more carefully and managed to get home before rush hour. He was at a loss at what to do next. He had just passed into manhood. “What next?” He asked himself aloud. Then he decided that, before money ran out, he’d better get himself employed. Little did he dream what adventures his first job would lead to!

Category: Jack  | 4 Comments
January 05th, 2014 | Author:

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January 05th, 2014 | Author:

Happy New Year!!

Wow, the snow is coming down with a great deal of dedication today. Rumour expects 10 to 12 inches, followed by the lowest low temperatures in decades. A whole lot of folks are hoping for a snow day or two. I am enjoying the snow, whether I get a snow day or not. I love winter! Of course, it’s now me who shovels the drive..

The holidays were lovely, and I really celebrated being able to find cookie recipes that were more or less “safe”. Come to find out, though, my body doesn’t agree that they were safe. At least not in the quantities I ate them. I feel pretty dreadful, as does Rod. We discussed trying a month or so of stage 1 GAPS, but on re-reading the list of allowed foods, I don’t think that would work. It basically amounts to lots and lots of stews…and that would be a pain to carry to work and hen eat cold. Besides that. it rules out my beloved coffee. Nope. Not going there.

So we are thinking we’ll go super strict with primal/paleo for a few months. That we can do. Mostly, that we do anyway, except for the occasional potatoes and safe cookies. Sadly, the potatoes have gradually stopped being occasional as have the cookies. I generate a fair amount of coconut pulp when I make my coconut milk and Rod has regularly turning that into low sugar cookies. They are yummy – but Jack doesn’t like coconut. so mainly Rod and I eat them. Even low sugar cookies can become a problem if you eat enough of them. Now, what can we do with the coconut pulp other than compost it…?


Category: Health, Uncategorized  | 4 Comments