Broken!

In March of last year, so almost a year ago, I went to the doctor for the first time since my arrival in Australia.

It was time to check up on my blood sugar, since my glucometre had broken shortly after I arrived.

It turned out that my blood sugar was fine. However, since I was there, the doctor ordered a whole panel of blood tests.  Everything was delightfully normal, except…my thyroid hormone was frighteningly high! (Or rather, my TSH was nonexistent, for those of you who know what I am talking about.)

After chatting with the doctor – me very reluctant to mess with what was working, and the doctor very concerned about the long term health effects of hyperthyroidism, I went home and did some research.

Hmmm. My teeth have been crumbling for some time, and that’s one of the (minor) symptoms of over-medication with thyroid hormone. A number of other symptoms were also there.  I agreed to try reducing my dose by one grain. The first three months were miserable, but instead of getting worse, at the half-way point, I started to feel better.

Clearly the doctor was on to something.

When I had been feeling better for about two weeks, I made an appointment to get my blood tested again. Still far too high.  Worried, I agreed to try again. Same result.  Misery for three months, and then back to normal.  Testing revealed that the dose was still too high.

Hunh, interesting. I am currently down from 7 grains to three and feeling fine again.  Time to get another blood test done.

It appears that one of the side effects of working with Dr. Sickels and following the Wahls protocol is that my thyroid has healed. I won’t know for another six months or so how completely it has healed, because reducing my dose suddenly could be catastrophic, but I am hopeful at this point that I may be finished with my last prescription! (I was declared “cured” of seizure disorder in 2002, of diabetes in 2012, and now maybe of hypothyroidism.)

Now to the point of this post’s title.

One side effect of the reducing thyroid hormone has been weight gain in addition to the weight I had gained when we moved ‘down the hill’ to within a block of the best stop and the greengrocer. Of course. That was to be expected. It was only about 20 pounds. My clothes fit differently, but I didn’t change clothing sizes. (Partly because I expected that moment – unintentional weight loss can be expected to be followed by unintentional weight gain – and I always chose very forgiving clothes.) But I didn’t want that last five pounds that would doom me to more clothes shopping.

So, I started working a bit harder at using up energy.

Instead of going to the nearest bus stop, I went to the next stop walking as fast as I could.  If I had the time, I kept walking to the next, and the nest bus stop. It was going great! I felt stronger and fitter and more energetic as the days and weeks passed.  I was wonderful.

Then, in August, it all came crashing down when I was momentarily distracted and tripped over a rough spot in the pavement at full speed.  I came down hard and broke both an arm and a leg. The first serious break or injury of any kind in my life. (Being a physical coward has it’s benefits.)

No more speed walking for me for a while!  Actually, for a little while, there was no more walking for me at all. I spent four days in hospital before I was allowed to get out of bed. I gradually learned to get around and get my chores done with one arm and one leg. That was fortunate, because a few days after my accident Rodney (who had been carrying the load at home in addition to cooking meals and bringing them to me) ended up in the hospital with heart trouble!

As an aside, I came to Australia planning to get a job immediately. I discovered, however, that it had been determined that Rodney needs a full-time carer. That would be…me! After a year and a half, I had begin to think that Rod was really OK, and would be fine of I got a job, at least part time. Maybe not, though. It feels weird and wrong not to be working, but as the family keep telling me, I *am* working.  I’m educating Jack and caring for Rod.  Clearly he does still need me to do that.

Anyway, I hobbled around looking very silly with bone supports on alternate arm and leg.  When it came time to remove the casts, I thought my healing was pretty much done.  Then they were actually removed and I learned that my healing was just beginning. It took me a couple of months to be able to leave the cane home, and my leg is still a bit stiff even six months later. My arm took longer and may well never have its full range of motion back, but I can do everything I need or want to.

I was completely amazed when four days in hospital, medications, equipment, physiotherapy, and everything else cost me less than $50! I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but that was it. Amazing.

Soon after I could start to hobble around and get to town, I started brewing bone knitting herbal infusions, and I will continue drinking those until January 2018, since that’s how long it takes for bone to completely heal.  Other than that, or if you were to notice that I hold my arm at an odd angle to reach things, you would never know I had broken myself t nearly 60.

It was a very interesting experience. Until then, I had no real idea how knitting and recuperation worked,  and I had no idea what I was capable of until it happened. I don’t regret it, though I am in no hurry to repeat it.  (My back still hurts sometimes from the strain and contortion I had to use to get in and out of bed, to put on my own socks, and all those other little tasks you don’t eve think about until you have to.)

That may be the single most interesting experience I’ve had personally since arrival and that could have happened anywhere.

On the move again

Well, we’re on the move again.

We were home sharing with Rod’s youngest sister to allow us all to live in the neighborhood with Wenche. With Wenche no longer living here, we’re scattering.

Our lease is up in April, so we have some time to plan, and the rental market here is so fast that anything we find now is unlikely to be available when we’re free to sign a new lease, but we think we have probably chosen our new neighborhood. Maybe even the house, since we know of a cute one currently being renovated and probably available around the right time.  Rod is a bit reluctant, because its tiny and mouldy, and other things are available within a block that are much more spacious for the same price, so we’re not making any decisions until closer to the day.

So, I am back to packing.

It’s easier this time because Rod is well enough to help, Jack is old enough to really help, and I never really fell in love with our current place.  It’s nice, but I knew it was temporary, so disassembling it isn’t traumatic. Also, we’re moving across town, not across the planet, so it doesn’t have to be done so carefully. Packing starts this weekend with a good cleaning.  :p

It’s funny. I have slowly begun to realize that I am just now feeling like my Australian adventure is about to begin.  I have been here 25 months, and I thought I was settled in well and well entrenched.  We have a daily routine. We have wonderful friends. We know how to get what we need and how to find our way to where we want to go. But when we went to look at the cute little cottage a friend of mine told me about, it felt like I had been holding my breath and waiting. Now I feel like I am breathing again.  That isn’t to say I was unhappy.  Nor was I unhappy waiting in Los Angeles for five days for a flight that had room to bring us over. Both have been all a part of the process.

Maybe that’s why I am able to blog again?  I don’t know.

Wenche Abrahmsen Smith

Wenche Abrahmsen Smith
19 October 1922 to 3 February 2017

Rod’s mother died fairly suddenly today.

On Tuesday she was fine.

On Wednesday morning, she became dizzy and fainted. She was admitted to the hospital, as a precaution.

On Tuesday evening, her heart stopped twice. Twice, she was resuscitated.

On Wednesday she seemed to be rallying and we had great hopes.

On Thursday, she took a serious downturn and we were far less confident.

On Friday, we lost a beautiful soul.

***

Fourteen years ago, when I married Rodney and took him so far from home, Wenche welcomed me warmly into her family. For most of the years we were apart, she was my most regular correspondent, until arthritis made writing too difficult.

Wenche could have resented me for taking her boy so far away, but as far as I could tell, she never did.  She was, instead, warm and welcoming.

Maybe a little concerned that my enthusiasm for her son was unrealistic, but once she was sure I had realistic expectations, that never came up again. She was gracious, kind, sensible, and loving — always.

Good-bye, Wenche.  We are all going to miss you terribly.

General update…

July 2016

OK, now that my huge task (the letter objecting to the proposed new homeschool regulations) is underway, it’s time to let you know where I’ve been for the last two years.

I’m sorry for mostly disappearing for so long. I didn’t intend to, but life in a new country proved pretty all-consuming.

When Chez Smiffy stopped working (I could no longer update the software or upload photos) I didn’t have the “bandwidth” to address the problem. It was just too much for me to deal with on top of all the adjustments we were making.

I also found myself uninspired about posting when I couldn’t use photos as spring boards for my thoughts.

And so, blogging took a back seat.

All is well here.  We are enjoying our new life.  Because Rodney needs to have someone available to him pretty much around the clock, I am not yet working but am on a carers pension. That means that the guys and I are together much of the time.  It’s brought us all even closer than we were.  I love that!

Jack has grown from a boy to a young man in the last two years. Living in a small city has meant that he has a much more independent lifestyle than he could have had in Michigan, because he can grab a bus on his own to run his own errands. He has also taken ownership of his own education.  That thrills me! He chooses most of his books for the week, and then he chooses what to study each day. We have agreed on the number of subjects we will cover in a week, and I still hear his narrations (at least as much for my own edification as anything) but he does a lot of silent reading, too, these days.

January 2017

Rodney, as you can gather from his recent posts, is also doing well. He can get out and about pretty easily these days and has started to expand his social life beyond just being Jack’s Dad. He is able to work with clients and is back to his astrological research – and even blogging!

I am doing well and enjoying life here in Australia. The town we’re in is just about perfect for me. The micro-climate is one that almost always has moderate temperatures.  That isn’t to say that it never gets hot or cold – it does both – but the heat and cold rarely last for more than a few days before they return to reasonably comfortable.

Getting to know Rod’s family has been wonderful! It’s easy to see why he turned out to be so wonderful – it’s a family trait.

In May of 2015, Jack took a cooking class at the Ministry of Food downtown. It’s across from the bus terminal and the name made us curious. We peeked through the windows and saw that they give classes to anyone over the age of 12. Jack was interested, so we signed him up. I was so impressed by what I saw that a month later, I signed up to be a volunteer. I am still there, once per week, helping to keep things running behind the scenes. (Someone has to wash the dishes, run the clothes washer and dryer, arrange the food on equipment on trays for class, and chop and peel and dice.  That’s me and my compatriots on the volunteer squad.)

I have far too many projects on the fire to go into all of them in one post, but the big ones are genealogy (including astrological genealogy), photography (mainly portraiture), MOOCs on various topics that interest me, maintaining several penpal relationships – as well as writing to each of our grandchildren (up to 11 now) every month, and making greeting cards – even occasionally experimenting with new techniques.  And now, I hope, blogging again.

Rod’s Health Journey

My health journey actually began when I gave myself permission to be vulnerable.

Let me explain. I’ll need to give you a few details for background. I am number 8 of 9 kids, and soon after I was born, we started moving house frequently. I actually moved 16 times before my 15th birthday and had attended 10 different schools.

I was 8 years old before my family had any idea that I was profoundly deaf. I had learned to read emotions as a more reliable mode of conveying information than reading lips and speech. It was my reading lips that alerted my family that I had a “problem”.

When the doctor had a look, he suggested that I had often had earache, that my eardrums were permanently scarred, and that I would never hear any better than I do. The fact is, we were always on the move, always busy. There was no time for me to be sick, no point in complaining about earache, that was just life. I coped. I have no regrets. But I was the child who never complained about anything, who was always easy to deal with. When my mother found pools of pus on my pillow, she asked why I had not told her, “my ears always hurt, Mum.” was the answer I gave her.

I have since grown up. The boy who did not complain became a man who would not. It became increasingly important that I not be seen to be vulnerable in any way. So I became the image of robust good heath, I could eat anything and I could do nearly anything (or so I thought). I was physically active for most of my working life.

That describes much of my first 40 years of life. I had occasional bouts of injury, but they never lasted long.

Then I went to America to marry my wife. At first, I had intended to get my green card and work. When our son made his presence known, I was to be the at-home parent, and later the homeschooling dad. I could live with that.

My wife’s first order of business was to get me to have a sleep test conducted because she was very alarmed that I woke gasping for breath many times each night. (Of course, I had no memory of such things!). I did as she suggested and was very surprised when they put the mask on me at about 4 am. Between 4 and 6 were the best 2 hours sleep I could remember having in at least 10 years! I have used a C-pap ever since then, and do not sleep without it. I was dying, many times per night, and I had no idea! I suddenly went from “invincible” to “vulnerable”. That was my first taste of my own vulnerability, but it would not be my last!

Part of my immigration process was to have a chest ex-ray (which I had never had in my life to that point). The doctor asked me how I felt, and I said something like “Fine until you asked me that!”. It turns out that my chest ex-ray looked like a Fantasia Lamp: there was white stuff all through my lungs. “What is to say that this is not Lung Cancer?” I asked rather matter-of-factly of the Doc. “You wouldn’t be able to stand up for the pain,” was his equally matter-of-fact answer. “I am going to say that this is sarcoidosis in a fairly advanced state” he said. “More people die with sarcoidosis than from it” he went on “have you noticed that you have been getting shorter of breath of late?” I admitted that I had. I had just put that down to recently sedentary living and gaining in years (I was about 43 at the time).

The real shock to my system then was that I had a chronic disease that I knew nothing about. I had to monitor that disease and make sure it got no worse. I suddenly had multiple specialist’s appointments. I was getting older! Thankfully my wife’s health insurance covered everything except for a small co-pay. (A benefit which eroded in later years. The co-pay went from $10.00 per visit to $8,000.00 per year) My blood pressure had started to sneak upward by then as well.

I had this disease, possibly since birth, that I never knew about. Much like my hearing loss, it was really just a part of life.

So that was my second taste of vulnerability. Again it would not be my last! Feeling better because I was treating my sleep apnea did not make up for feeling bad about having this disease, but I was improving.

In April of 2009, (I was now pushing 50) I had started to bleed from the nose regularly and everything hurt from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. Movement was painful; resting was just as painful. I had put up with this agony for a week or so when I mentioned something to my wife (the habit of being invincible was still hard to break). It turns out that a mutual friend was having the exact same symptoms. Her diagnosis had been fibromyalgia and she had started taking massive doses of Vitamin C for it, and something called SAM-e for her state of mind. Fibromyalgia produces depression as one of its symptoms. Considering the pain I was in I could well understand this.

I started to do the same as she had, starting on 10 g of Vitamin C per day and 400 mg of SAM-e. It worked to stop the pain within 2 days. I later boosted the Vitamin C dose to 20g (5 doses of 4 grams 3 hours apart) when the pain started to return. I kept up with that dose for 6 months, then I started to back it off successfully. (I had numerous trials at backing it off, but they began to succeed at about the 6 month mark. The SAM-e I just went off, it was expensive, and of limited benefit to me anyway. I was still taking 10g of vitamin C a year later.

By the time two years was up, I had reduced my Vitamin C intake to a maintenance dose of 2 g once per day. By that time I figured I had beaten fibromyalgia with massive doses of Vitamin C over a long period of time. Vitamin C had me feeling better than I had in a long time.

That was my third bout with my own vulnerability, but the story does not end there.

I had been seeing a lung specialist for many years since I had been diagnosed with sarcoidosis. The shortness of breath was slowly getting worse, so she eventually put me on a steroid for asthma, which I was to begin taking immediately and was to take for he rest of my life.

Seeking for alternatives (and our insurance was beginning to cover less and less anyway) I went to a GP who was outside the mainstream and not covered by our insurance. He heard my tale of woe including sarcoidosis and fibromyalgia and promptly ordered a barrage of blood tests. Having heard me out, he was nearly convinced that my main problem was, in fact, celiac disease. He said that I was to take my medication as prescribed for as long as I needed it, just in case he was wrong.

The tests came back with a huge positive for wheat allergy, and he said that if I do nothing else, my health would improve if I were to live without wheat.

I decided that I could do anything for 3 months (that is generally how long it takes for a food sensitivity to show itself), bought a focaccia on the way home, and announced to my family that this may well be the last bread I ever eat. Within 2 weeks, my breathing was noticeably improved, so much so that I stopped taking the steroid. I never bothered to try wheat again (there would be accidental cases of wheat ‘poisoning’, which would prove the point anyway), I felt so much better without it that I was convinced.

I never went back to my lung specialist after that.

My new doctor told me that there are 3 proteins which our bodies treat very similarly, they are gluten (in wheat-related grains), casein (in all milk products), and soy protein (in soy products and tofu).

Now I need to digress a moment to tell of how much I used to love wheat, and what a chore it was to give it up. My wife, being a “nutrition nazi”, had turned me onto whole foods. By 2009 I was grinding my own flour from wheat berries and making my own fermented bread from it: we were more-or-less observing the Weston Price style of eating. Our friends used to like my bread when I made it, and once I had perfected the recipe, we ate very little commercial bread. (The focaccia I bought as our last loaf of bread was so I would not have to bake a loaf from scratch!). My wife tells the tale that, early in our marriage, I would go to a store at 3am to buy bread if we were out of it! I loved bread! For the doctor to suggest that I live without it was no small thing. For me to decide to live without wheat was no small feat either. During the course of many conversations about food allergies with my wife and my doctor, it became clear that we crave the foods we to which we are most allergic. My preoccupation with bread certainly fit into the “craving” category.

Of course, when I went off wheat, I started to eat more dairy. (I liked dairy almost as much as I liked wheat). Six months into the no-wheat thing I had to admit that dairy was filling in for it, so I would give dairy-free a 6 week trial (I was not going to give it a full 3 months!). If I thought life without bread was tough, life without dairy was tougher! It was in most of the substitute foods which I had become fond of, and besides, a life without cheese was barely worth living in my book! So at the end of 6 weeks, my wife came home with some goat yoghurt, hoping that it was far enough removed from cow and had so many probiotics in it that I might be able to try it and be OK. Terrible mistake, I got sick as a dog from it, damn it! I was going to have to live my life without wheat or dairy! So much for Weston Price eating; we still followed those principles but made adaptations for my growing list of allergies.

Over subsequent months, I tried eliminating many other things, none of which I had a reaction to when I went back on them. Eggs were safe (thank the gods), as was coconut, almonds, cashews, pineapple etc. The only other one was peanuts, and with bread and milk on the “No” list, it did not seem that hard to add peanuts to it as well.

One other factoid that came from my doctor’s research: in the studies he was reading, people who had sarcoidosis of the lungs were shown to be intolerant of gluten. There was every chance that my gluten-free life had also dealt with my sarcoidosis. I have since had chest ex-rays which confirm that there is no sign of sarcoidosis in my lungs!

By August 2011, after 2 years of going without wheat, I had lost over 50 kg (110 lb.) in weight. I never tried to lose a pound, I just stopped eating the things that were killing me. I was feeling better all the time as well. I had more energy than I had ever had before.

I had mentioned that my wife was interested in whole foods.  As a matter of fact, is she is diabetic, and highly allergic to corn. I have diabetes on in my birth family as well. All things considered, we decided that carbohydrates were probably not our friends. In hunting the Internet for recipes, we discovered that the people who were eating the way we had begun to went by the “paleo” tag. So when anybody asks us, we are paleo – – not because it is trendy, but because it is necessary for our well being.

It was facing my vulnerabilities, and dealing with the facts as they were rather than how I wanted them to be, that helped me to overcome sarcoidosis and tame celiac disease. It is no longer a chore for me to live without wheat and dairy, that is how I can write this piece at all, and I feel better than I ever have!

While it might be nice to end my discussion about vulnerability there, I have things which make these challenges pale in comparison.

I’m lucky to be alive!

I have suffered 4 strokes that I know about. Some have left me permanently altered, some have not. I will just add here that, should I have felt at any time that I was life-threateningly ill, I would have not hesitated to go to the Emergency Room.

Stroke 1- December 2012.

I call this a stroke because the numbness remains with me to this day, but in the grand scheme of things it really does not present as much inconvenience. I lost sensation in the ball of my left foot somewhere around December 15, 2012, by December 19 I was in hospital having an MRI. The doctors said it was probably a TIA and that it would rectify itself in a week. 4 years later I still have that symptom. They identified quite a few damaged spots in my brain and recommended that I take blood pressure medication. I tried several medications at that juncture, but I found the mental slowness that all of them induced to be intolerable. A bill for $60,000 of which we had to pay $8,000 deterred me from going back to hospital to be told nothing very much in subsequent events.

In time, I had more or less forgotten about that incident, though I was on a bunch of natural supplements which brought blood pressure down a little, but nowhere near enough.

I had always said that I did not want us to be in the USA for the 2016 US Presidential election. So we began to plan in earnest to emigrate. Our plan at that time was to emigrate sometime in 2015, maybe early 2016.

Stroke 2- November 2013

This is where things get serious! I went to bed one afternoon with a very bad flu. When I woke up, next day my entire left side was paralysed. “How do I get to the loo?” was my first thought. I figured that if I jammed my left leg and locked the knee, my bones would hold me upright, so that’s what I did. It was nearly a week before I ventured downstairs, by which time I was getting good enough at jamming my leg to drive our (manual transmission) car. Rather than letting it stay useless, I insisted on using my left hand wherever possible, and slowly some utility returned. It took at least 3 months before I could take our stairs in succession, and at that point I did so very gingerly. To this day, my left side is less capable than it was, but it is slowly improving. I did not see the point in going to hospital to be told what I already knew. I would, and did, work this out by myself. I did not need another $60,000 bill to deal with.

Stroke 3- May 2014

As if things were not serious enough at this point, they just got a whole lot worse! I went to the movies with my wife and son to celebrate his 11th birthday. When I walked into the theatre, I could talk just fine; when I came out, I was unable to talk at all! (And no, the movie was not that good!) My son, who had been in my at-home care from the time he was 6 weeks old, knew what I was thinking, even if I could not say it. He acted as translator while I figured out how to talk again. It was like somebody had put a 2 inch section into my tongue while I wasn’t paying attention. I knew what I wanted to say, but I could not say it clearly enough to be understood. Again I was not going back to the hospital to be told what I already knew.

I began looking for speech therapists to no avail at all. It was during this time that I decided to head home to Australia where health care is less of a crap-shoot and they ‘understand the question’. I had started to discuss this with my wife, but we still had a family trip to take and I was going to do it! (She suggested I stay home, but I refused.)

At this stage I could not walk 200 yards without stopping to rest.

Stroke 4 – July 2014

We went to the family gathering in upstate New York from our home in Michigan. This was to be our last family reunion before we emigrated. On the way, we called in on a dear friend in Ohio who has since passed on. I think we took the last photograph of her alive!

We were due to travel back home to Michigan on my birthday, so we celebrated early. It was during that trip home that I told my wife she would have to take the wheel, because I was having trouble driving on the “wrong side of the road and the wrong side of the car” (I am from Australia, but I had been driving without trouble in America for 13 years!)

I call that ‘stroke number 4’ and my Australian neurologist seems to think that it was. I had one last professional commitment to fulfill, which I did the following Saturday night. I drove to a gig an hour away, and home, then I hung up my keys for good. I had to concentrate way too much to drive that night. I am glad I got away with it.

So here I was, unable to speak in more than a whisper (I had worked out pronunciation, but still had not learned projection) and unable to drive without second-guessing myself. It was time to call on my family for help. Within a day, I had a place to stay in Australia and someone to stay with me at all times. (Thanks, Ann!)

Within 5 days, we had figured out how to pay my air fare home (Thanks, Mark and Paula!) and I was ready to fly out in September of 2014. My wife and son would tie up the loose ends of our life in America and join me later.

I have never traveled well, being unable to sleep in a moving vehicle makes a difficult 30 hour trip into a grueling feat of endurance. I was a basket case by the time I reached the other end.

Within a week of arriving, I had seen a medical doctor and had appointments with many specialists. We were going to see what damage had been done and what we could do about recovery! An MRI showed 4 strokes: 2 clots and 2 bleeds. At least here the medical establishment were not going to be putting their hands out at every turn for money. I believe I had to pay one bill for $200; everything else was covered by medicare. The speech therapist was brilliant. She had me ready to deliver a 2 hour online lecture in November 2014. I still speak with a bit of an accent, specially when I am tired, but I can make myself understood.

There was a period between stroke #3 and early October 2014 where I could not understand a paragraph of written text. I could read every word, but I could not tell what they meant. That particular debility rectified itself as quickly as it had appeared. One minute I could understand nothing, the next minute it was as clear as a bell. Just because I could understand it did not mean I could remember writing it. It was quite novel to read something I had written many years before and not recognise it as my own work until I read the by line.

Anti-hypertensive drugs slow my mind down, there is no arguing about that. I take them now because I do not want the strokes to continue. I have noticed, though, that my mind is pretty much as agile as it ever was, it is just translating what I know into language or movement that has become arduous. Whether it is writing or speaking, it is all difficult, but it continues to get easier as time passes. Anti-hypertensives also mess with my body’s thermostat. I get extremely cold when most folks are a bit cool, I also get extremely hot when most folks are just warm, but that too, is rectifying itself over time.

Singing has helped me no end. I was a choral singer until stroke #3, and I wanted to get that ability back. I can sing without slur or accent! It uses a different part of the brain than does speech. Working with ‘Stroke a Note’ choir has helped me to find my confidence again.

If I have a pet peeve, it is being “infantilised” by well meaning folks who figure that I am disabled, therefore they have to do everything for me, including think. I am less physically agile than I once was, and we need to make some allowance for that, granted. I am as mentally agile as I ever was, it is just expressing my thoughts that is more difficult than it used to be.

I consider myself lucky to be alive, because my brother, my father, and my grandfather all died before their 56th birthday, and I had stroke number 4 around the day I turned 55.

I have always believed that we make our future; that nothing is fated. Had things worked out differently, I might have died in the midst of all this, but I believe I made a decision many years before which meant that this would be a difficult time rather than a deadly one.

Marrying my wife and having our son has given my life renewed purpose. The dietary changes have meant that debilitating injury does not need to stay that way. My brain-scan from 2012 shows many small spots of damage. My scan in 2014 appears to show much healing, along with much more new damage. I now take anti-hypertensive drugs to reduce the risk of new damage.

Recovering after stroke is not easy. Progress is so slow and sometimes it does not appear to be there at all, but we persist anyway. The “fog” of anti-hypertensive drugs passes with time. The tiredness has not left yet, but healing a brain takes a lot of work.

So here I am, two and a half years past my last stroke.

  • I walk with a cane, but hey, I can walk and 3 km is not out of reach these days!
  • I speak with a strange accent, but hey, I can speak and be understood!
  • My reflexes aren’t what they used to be, but I still have them!

Life is good. Occasionally I have to remind my legs that they are walking and would they please continue. Moving from sitting to standing and from standing to sitting are still challenging. Talking and walking are very deliberate processes these days. Nothing is impossible, but it is truly just not worth the effort sometimes.

I occasionally come across folks who like to whine about this or that. I must confess to feeling a little smug when I think “hey, we woke up this morning, let’s not waste our life wondering what might have been.”

An open letter to the Victorian Department of Education regarding the Draft Education Regulations 2017

(Updated on 19 January)

21 December 2016

Education and Training Reform Regulations Review
Attn: Strategic Policy Division
Department of Education and Training
GPO Box 4367
Melbourne, Victoria 3001

Dear Sirs and Madams:

The Victorian Department of Education has before it Draft Education Regulations that would, in part, require registered home-schooled families to:

    • wait for permission before removing children from school

    • submit a plan to Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) for approval as part of registration process

    • submit to reviews by the VRQA on a ‘random sample’ basis by the VRQA.

My question is: Why? What problem is this plan designed to solve?

The claim in the RIS is that the Victorian Education department does not “have enough data about quality of homeschooling education in this state”. In a thinking organisation that requires data, research is done before regulations are enacted. Since you are entrusted with the education of our children, I would like to assume that yours is a thinking organisation, and so I have to wonder what it is that you’re truly trying to accomplish.

I have been a classically oriented homeschooling parent for 14 years. It alarms me that the VRQA intends to further infringe on the educational autonomy of registered home-schooled families, with measures can not serve the stated purpose and are thus unjustifiable.

I agree whole-heartedly that every child deserves the best possible education, but those who value Universal education must carefully steward the limited tax-payer resources available to provide for those who would drink at the public well.

Those resources that would be squandered to no end by the addition of the expenses of new staff and infrastructure (and increased work load) required to collect, evaluate, and maintain the new homeschool registration information demanded by these proposed new measures are desperately needed for the education of those children whose welfare has already been entrusted to the public school system of the state of Victoria.

The eager, publicly educated student are ill-served when we squander the limited resources we have for the education of the children of this state on unnecessary new projects that don’t serve them.

There is no evidence to suggest that home-education in Victoria is broken. There is, on the other hand, evidence published every day, in the newspapers comment columns and online conversations, evidence to suggest that the standard set for functional literacy by the public schools in Victoria is not excessively high. Perhaps you should turn your attention to the standards of education and the levels of engagement of the students currently in your care.

When I first began my study of pedagogy in the late 1970s, one of the first things I learned was that there are dozens of methods of approaching the education of young people, and that all of the methods work better for some children than for others, and that no one method is ideal for every child. I also learned that the one thing required for successful learning is internal motivation by the scholar. Young people learn best and remember most when they are motivated to learn for their own reasons.

That means that even the very best of public schools can only successfully reach and engage the majority of children. Large group education can not reach every child; that is the nature of the human condition.

Homeschooling families, with their very small class size, are better suited to conveying a style of education at an appropriate speed and depth, best suited to their own scholars, especially when those scholars fall on either end of whichever continuum you might want to evaluate. Already, in designing an education for my single child over the last many years, I have had to change course several times to keep pace with his development in unexpected directions; something that is simply not feasible in large scale education.

Home-educators tend to be “can do” people; people who see a problem and work toward a solution rather than waiting for someone else to fix it. This is the very sort of problem solvers that Victoria, and Australia, needs. Surely there can be no fruitful end to an endeavour that would burden an already under-funded system, and present one more barrier for the kind of autonomous, enterprising families we need so badly in our state.

Please reconsider these regulations. The regulations, as written, are FAR too vague, and give far too much undefined power to the VQRA, with no guidance or protection for homeschool families who will be subject to that power. In at least one case, it intends to usurp the moral and legal rights and responsibilities of a parent to protect their child from harm. It brings up far more questions than it answers. The Regulatory Impact Statement, which should be used to explain why the regulations were written the way they were, is instead used to hide functional regulations where they needn’t be reviewed before or announced when they are changed, leaving the homeschool family on a slippery footing in which we can’t count on the rules from one moment to the next. This is duplicitous and unfair.

Attached is my point by point discussion of the proposed regulations.

Commentary on the Draft Education Regulations 2017 as it applies to Homeschool Families

Misti Anslin Delaney
Parent Educator
Victoria

Homeschooling in Victoria is about to get more difficult

We started our homeschool journey in Michigan – a pretty excellent place to homeschool. There were a few completely reasonable rules, but no registration, no check in, and no hassles. Parents in Michigan are assumed to be competent and to have the best interests of their children at heart. The laws are written so that, in cases where this is not true, there are protections for the children, as it should be.

A couple of years ago, we moved to Victoria, where homeschooling parents were also respected and trusted to be competent and to have the best interests of their children at heart.

We were required to register, and again, there are rules about what we must cover, but it all seemed quite reasonable.

Then, last month, as the Christmas and summer holidays were beginning, the board of education released a sneaky new set of proposals. Sneaky because they were quietly posted online with no fanfare, no notification to registered homeschooling families, and timed for when everyone could be assumed to be distracted.

Also sneaky in that they are written in such a broad, vague way that it’s hard to get your mind around what, exactly, they are proposing to require. Only around the third read, and a good think about the impact statement, did things start to jump out at me. (Be aware that the link automatically downloads the file onto your computer. I couldn’t find a less intrusive link.)

Worse, most of the “rules” are in the impact statement, rather than the regulations, meaning that they can be “tweaked” (rewritten) without any notification or consultation.

I am, of course, hard at work on a letter to the responsible parties and their bosses.

I don’t expect to be too badly effected by the new rules in the short term. I am an experienced homeschooler, registered for the third year, a reasonably organized person with a fairly coherent plan. My unschooling friends and new homeschoolers have more to be concerned about in the short term, because the rules are completely antithetical to natural learning and there will be a steeper learning curve for them.

In the long term, however, this could be very bad news for all Victorian homeschoolers – and we may find ourselves looking at New South Wales and their comprehensive oversight as a relatively easy place to homeschool.

These proposals stink of deception and power grabs. Lets hope the authors simply didn’t stop to think things through, and that the well-being of the children is, as they say it is, the primary impulse here.

Test

It would appear that the blog is working again!

Thanks to Rodney, Dave, and Steve!

Now let’s see whether I can get back into the habit of posting….

This photo is from our most recent photo walk. Jack and I have been taking semi-weekly photo walks lately.  He has become far more discerning, and we have started to swap cameras. I take the little point and shoot and he takes the big, fancy camera every other walk.

Most recently, we escorted a group of homeschoolers on a photo walk – something we may try again sometime because it went pretty well. I took this photo with my phone, because no one had charged the “point and shoot” battery lately and it ran out of charge a dozen photos into the walk.  The technical quality isn’t very good because I tend not to use my phone as a camera very often, but I like the photo.

Oh, cool!  We’re back on-air!  I am so happy!!!

Lucky to be Alive

I figured it is about time I told the story of the strokes I have survived. I have suffered 4 strokes that I know about. Some have left me permanently altered, some have not.

Stroke 1- December 2012.

I call this a stroke because it remains with me to this day, but in the grand scheme of things it really does not present as much inconvenience. I lost sensation in the ball of my left foot somewhere around December 15, 2012, by December 19 I was in hospital having an MRI. The doctors said it was probably a TIA and that it would rectify itself in a week. 4 years later I still have that symptom. They identified quite a few damaged spots and recommended that I take blood pressure medication. I tried several medications at that juncture, but I found the mental slowness that all of them induced to be intolerable. A bill for $60,000 of which we had to pay $8,000 deterred me from going back to hospital to be told nothing very much again.

In time, I had more or less forgotten about that incident, though I was on a bunch of natural supplements which brought blood pressure down a little, but nowhere near enough.

I had always said that I did not want us to be in the USA for the 2016 US Presidential election. So we began plan in earnest to emigrate sometime in 2015, maybe early 2016.

Stroke 2- November 2013

This is where things get serious! I went to bed one afternoon with a very bad flu. When I woke up, next day my entire left side was paralysed. “How do I get to the loo?” was my first thought. I figured that if I jammed my left leg and locked the knee, my bones would hold me upright, so that’s what I did. It was nearly a week before I ventured downstairs, by which time I was getting good enough at jamming my leg to drive our (manual transmission) car. Rather than letting it go, I insisted on using my left hand wherever possible, and slowly some utility returned. It took at least 3 months before I could take our stairs in succession, but at that point I did so very gingerly. To this day, my left side is less capable than it was, but it is slowly improving. I did not see the point in going to hospital to be told what I already knew. I would, and did, work this out by myself. I did not need another $60,000 bill to deal with.

Stroke 3- May 2014

As if things were not serious enough at this point, they just got a whole lot worse! I went to the movies with my wife and son to celebrate his 11th birthday. When I walked into the theatre, I could talk just fine, when I came out, I was unable to talk at all! (And no, the movie was not that good!) My son, who had been in my at-home care from the time he was 6 weeks old, knew what I was thinking, even if I could not say it. He acted as translator while I figured out how to talk again! It was like somebody had put a 2 inch section into my tongue while I wasn’t paying attention. I knew what I wanted to say, but I could not say it. Again I was not going back to the hospital to be told what I already knew.

I began looking for speech therapists to no avail at all. It was during this time that I decided to head home to Australia where health care is less of a crap-shoot and they ‘understand the question’. I had started to discuss this with my wife, but we still had a family trip to take and I was going to do it! (She suggested I stay home, but I refused.)

At this stage I could not walk 200 yards without stopping to rest.

Stroke 4 – July 2014

We went to a family gathering in upstate New York from our home in Michigan. This was to be our last family reunion before we emigrated. On the way, we called in on a dear friend who has since passed on. I think we took the last photograph of her alive!

We were due to travel back home to Michigan on my birthday, so we celebrated early. It was during that trip that I told my wife she would have to take the wheel, because I was having trouble driving on the “wrong side of the road and the wrong side of the car” (I am from Australia, but I had been driving without trouble in America for 13 years!!)

I call that ‘stroke number 4’ and my Australian neurologist seems to think that it was. I had one last professional commitment to fulfil, which I did the following Saturday night. I drove to a gig an hour away, and home, then I hung up my keys for good. I had to concentrate way too much to drive that night. I am glad I got away with it.

So here I was, unable to speak in more than a whisper (I had worked out pronunciation, but still had not learned projection) and unable to drive without second-guessing myself. It was time to call my family for help. Within a day, I had a place to stay at home in Australia and someone to stay with me at all times.

Within 5 days, we had figured out how to pay my air fare home and I was ready to fly out in September of 2014. My wife and son would tie up the loose ends of our life in America and join me later.

I have never travelled well, being unable to sleep in a moving vehicle makes a difficult 30 hour trip into a gruelling feat of endurance. I was a basket case by the time I reached the other end.

Within a week of arriving, I had seen a medical doctor and had appointments with many specialists. We were going to see what damage had been done and what we could do about recovery! An MRI showed the 4 strokes , 2 clots and 2 bleeds. At least here the medical establishment were not going to be putting their hands out at every turn for money. I believe I had to pay one bill for $200, everything else was covered by medicare. The speech pathologist was brilliant. She had me ready to deliver a 2 hour online lecture in November 2014. I still speak with a bit of a slur, specially when I am tired, but I can make myself understood.

There was a period between Stroke #3 and early October 2014 where I could not understand a paragraph of written text. I could read every word, but I could net tell what they meant. That particular debility rectified itself as quickly as it had disappeared. One minute I could understand nothing, the next minute it was as clear as a bell. Just because I could understand it did not mean I could remember writing it. It was quite novel to read something I had written many years before and not recognise it as my own work until I read the by line.

Anti-hypertensive drugs slow my mind down, there is no arguing about that. I take them now because I do not want the strokes to continue. I have noticed, though, that my mind is pretty much as agile as it ever was, it is just translating what I know into language or movement has become arduous. Whether it is writing or speaking, it is all difficult but it continues to get easier as time passes. Anti-hypertensives also mess with my body’s thermostat. I get extremely cold when most folks are a bit cool, I also get extremely hot when most folks are just warm.

Singing has helped me no end. I was a choral singer before stroke #3, and I wanted to get that ability back. I can sing without slur or accent! It uses a different part of the brain than does speech. Working with ‘Stroke a Note’ choir has helped me to find my confidence again.

If I have a pet peeve, it is being “infantilised” by well meaning folks who figure that I am disabled, therefore they have to do everything, including think, for me. I am less physically agile than I once was, and we need to make some allowance for that, granted. I am as mentally agile as I ever was, just expressing my thoughts is more difficult than it used to be.

I consider myself lucky to be alive, being that my brother, my father, and my grandfather all died before their 56th birthday, and I had stroke number 4 around the day I turned 55.

I have always believed that we make our future, that nothing is fated. Had things worked out differently, I might have died in the midst of all this, but I believe I made a decision many years before which meant that this would be a difficult time rather than a deadly one.
So here I am, two and a half years past my last stroke. I walk with a cane, but hey, I can walk and 3 km is not out of reach these days! I speak with a strange accent, but hey, I can speak! My reflexes aren’t what they used to be, but I still have them! Life is good. Occasionally I have to remind my legs that they are walking and would they please continue. Moving from sitting to standing and from standing to sitting are still challenging. Talking and walking are very deliberate processes these days. Nothing is impossible, but it is truly just not worth the effort sometimes.

I occasionally come across folks who like to whine about this or that. I must confess to feeling a little smug when I think “hey, we woke up this morning, let’s not waste our life wondering what might have been.”

Rodney’s Most Amazing Brownies

For Jenn and Joe

Ingredients

  • 10 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 1 1/4 cups of sucanat or coconut sugar
    (we have reduced it to 1/2 cup, but start here)
  • 3/4 cup teaspoons of organic unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of pink salt
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup of almond meal
  • 2/3 cup of walnut or pecan pieces or chocolate chips (optional)

Preparation

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven.

Preheat the over to 325.

Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with baking parchment, leaving an overhang on two sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test.

Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

Scrape the vanilla bean and stir in the vanilla paste with a wooden spoon. Discard the vanilla shell or put it aside for making vanilla sugar.

Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.

When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the almond meal and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula.

Stir in the nuts, if using.

Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes.

Let cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

Chocolate note:
Any unsweetened natural or Dutch-process cocoa powder works well here. Natural cocoa produces brownies with more flavor complexity and lots of tart, fruity notes. I think it’s more exciting. Dutch-process cocoa results in a darker brownie with a mellower, old-fashioned chocolate pudding flavor, pleasantly reminiscent of childhood.

Happy New Year 2016

Hmm, that was a much longer hiatus than I had planned.  Actually, I hadn’t planned on a hiatus at all.

The last year has been a whirlwind of adaptation, change, and re-adaptation.  All in all, it’s been a wonderful year, but such an enormous change was bound to be stressful, no matter how good.

We are coming up on the one-year anniversary of Jack and I arriving here. In some ways the time has flown – and in others it feels like we’ve always been here.

By February we had worked out the bus system, Jack had joined a dojo and a the local chess club, and life started to get busy.  The original dojo Jack had joined was a massive affair with one instructor and dozens of students.  It was very different from his Isshinryu experience, but it was also a very long way away, so in April he changed dojos to a much smaller one where he works more closely with his instructor and we don’t have to spend four hours traveling to get him there.   They also meet three nights a week, as opposed to only Saturday morning, and Jack regularly attends two of those.

I did take the photography class.  It was a lot of fun!  For six months I concentrated on photography and I got pretty decent.  However my class ended in early December, and I have taken few photos since my exhibition – and for some reason, they haven’t been very good pictures.  Oh well, I learned a great deal and I will pick the camera up again in the new year.  It’s been nice not to HAVE to do shoots every week for a few weeks.

One of the expected challenges of moving to a completely new culture has been the whole food issue.  We eat funny.  I have spend the best part of the last 12 months exploring the foods here, looking for safe versions of packaged foods and tracking down completely pastured meats. We have found a wonderful farm market and a pastured meat delivery service, so the basics are covered. We also have a lovely greengrocer and an IGA a very short walk from our new home, which covers most of the rest. But the exploration process – and a really bad and long lasting case of indulgence – has had some less than ideal effects on my health.

After 20 years of close control of my diabetes, I am having some complications – due almost entirely, I’m sure – to my indulgence in “cafe culture”. I stopped having gluten free treats with my coffee when we’re out and about a few months ago, but I think my blood sugar must still be very high because my feet have been getting numb after meals that have even a little too much carbohydrate.  I have a lot of work to do! (My glucometer broke about six months ago, and I have only just gotten the paperwork done to apply for a new one.  Foolish of me, but it’s done now. I will eventually have a new one and can test my blood sugar experiments and get control back.)

In September, we moved from Ann’s house, down the hill to share a house with Trudi – another of Rod’s sisters. Our new home is around the corner from Rod’s mother and his third sister, Karen, which is very, very cool! I have had a marvelous time getting to know this side of Rods family better.  It’s also been great to unpack the boxes that waited in Rod’s mother’s garage for us to move down here. Not surprisingly, we are finding that some things from the boxes “went astray” – and some of the boxes had clearly been unpacked and repacked.  Putting things in different boxes than they came from was a dead give-away. Oh well – almost a year between packing and packing means that it may be years before I am sure what’s missing, and the emotional impact come largely from the impossibility of replacing things until I am working again.

The higher rent on a bigger house has also presented us with some challenges.  Pensions are not established with whole food diets in mind, so most weeks the money is gone once we have our groceries.  I’m not wildly enthused about going back to being poor and have begun to investigate how I might make some extra income while Rod still needs me to be home.

Jack’s exciting news is that he is now working.  He tutors chess at a private girl’s school in Melbourne for a couple hours per week.  He REALLY enjoys having an income of his own and he has bailed us out on more than one occasion when the budget came up short. His studies are continuing smoothly  – and I have joined him in his math studies.  I never got a very good math education, so a few years ago, I picked up his curriculum and started working through it.  He’s still far ahead of me, but I am making progress.  I recently completed the elementary section and started on the middle school section  – and since he does one chapter each day and I do two or three, I may eventually overtake him. (Or not.  he seems to understand math better than i do and I consider it possible – or probable – that I will come to a point where I slow way down just to understand.

In other exciting news, Nerida and Connor have come to spend the new year celebrations with us! Our first house guests!  It’s so very, very good to catch up with them again. The only problem is that its made me very aware of how much I miss our weekly dinners together. Sadly, they will head back to Sydney this weekend.

It’s 3:30am. I think I’d better get some sleep. I’m sure there’s more, but I wouldn’t be able to write about it coherently at this point….

Food in Australia (by Jack)

In Australia in the 1900’s, the menu was slightly different than it is today:

In the 1900’s

Australia’s main production was wool back in the 1900’s, so it isn’t surprising that the average breakfast usually included lamb, sausages, and/or bacon and eggs. [Which has been a staple for Britain since the 1600’s.]

For lunch, bread and jam was the normal food, and the tradition seems to have stuck.

Dinner was wider in variety, but it usually consisted of “meat and three veg”. Finally, dessert was typically either rice custard or steamed pudding.

Today

Breakfast today mainly consists of cereal or bacon and eggs, but pancakes and waffles are also fairly popular.

Lunches are usually either sandwiches or take-out food.

Dinner is quite often had in restaurants, and usually includes hamburgers, steaks, or some other type of meat. And dessert is typically very sweet, like ice cream, or over-sweetened cake.

Over to you; which would you rather have, and why?

Globalization (by Jack)

Introduction

When you say the word “globalization” on the internet, you are almost bound to have started an argument between people who want to look intelligent, but really have no idea what they, or you for that matter, are talking about. Of course, saying pretty much anything else on the internet will result in the same thing, but globalization is actually a rather important subject, and should be treated as such. So, I am writing this essay, partly because I have to do it for school-work and partly because I think that it is a subject worth writing about.

Now, the essay…

Globalization and the Subsets Thereof

Globalization is made up of several subsets:

 Free Trade

Possibly the most talked about aspect of globalization, free trade is the phrase we use to express corporate expansion, in some cases, corporate exploitation. (Have you noticed that pretty much everything is made in China? I mean, America is still the world’s leading source of cotton, but most cotton clothing is still made somewhere in Asia…) Free trade technically allows countries to produce what they produce best with little to no tariff, essentially making the whole world Marxist. (Not that there is anything more wrong about Marxism than Capitalism, but Marxism, just like any type of government, isn’t fool-proof. [Sigh… I probably just angered half of the people reading this…]) Anyway, this works fine until you introduce people.

Okay, suppose we have two countries, A and B. A produces a lot of oil, but doesn’t produce much in the form of food. B produces a lot of food, but lacks oil. B can blackmail A by cutting off A’s food supply until A gives them twice the oil that they did before, leaving B nice and cosy in their oil-guzzling cars as A struggles with both food and oil.

Pretty nasty, right? Therein lies the flaw of free trade. Now, suppose B wanted to sell food more cheaply. The solution is simple: sell less of the actual food, and instead fill it with all kinds of cheap, tasty chemicals made in a laboratory. Of course, not all of these chemicals are safe and A inevitably starts to lose people to strange illnesses. But A is so enamoured with the idea of more food for less money that they irrationally put the blame on airborne viruses, oil fumes, anything except the cheap food. And they cannot allow it to be proved that it is the food that is making the A population sick, so those few who do ask questions are quickly silenced. Keep in mind that A is still giving B twice the oil that they had originally been giving them. So you end up with A working their hides off, while dropping like flies. And the population of B are still happily chugging along in their cars, and eating good food, and leading good lives. And here’s the thing: most of the B population don’t know what is happening, because they know A only as a vague place that gives B its “fair share” of oil. The leaders/representatives of B don’t want the rest of the population of B to know what is going on, so they edit the school curriculum to give future generations bias-loaded impressions of A, and label it as a “new, innovative form of education”.  So we have the population of B in a state of blissful, luxurious ignorance, while we have the population of A in a state of exploitation.

Free trade allows this to happen fairly easily. I, personally wouldn’t want to live on that planet, or, for that matter, in that theoretical reality. Would you? Give it some thought.

Stereotypes

On the other hand, globalization also allows people to experience other cultures by way of air travel and television. However, there is a loophole in the television idea as well. Have you seen many movies set in Asia? How many of those movies involve actual life in Asia? How many showed the stereotypical shirtless Asian dude doing martial arts? And how many movies have you seen set in the US or England? How many of those thousands showed a white dude with his shirt on heroically saving the day, calmly solving a mystery, or discovering some sickening truth about something or other? The stereotypes are overwhelming. And the scary thing is – most of us let them wash over us as if they aren’t there. Television doesn’t help with this problem in the slightest.

Of course, the situation isn’t totally polarized yet – you can easily find a movie featuring an old Asian guy giving sage advice to people that need it. (The Karate Kid, anyone?) And you need not look any farther than Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger to find big white men mindlessly bashing each other to bits. (Alright, I’ll admit – Schwarzenegger is European, but he’s still white, and he was the Governor of California for a while. Does that count?) Of course, this says nothing about the actors themselves, but it says a whole lot about the stereotypes that they represent.

There are many other stereotypes that I could happily waste your whole day with, but as long as you have gotten the point, I’ve fulfilled my task.

Socialization

However, as I have said, globalization allows people who are curious about other cultures to travel around the globe and learn about them. People can put up fund-raisers on the internet and other places to help people in need living in other countries. However, we must keep in mind the horrors of the Ku Klux Klan, the American slave trade, the Holocaust, and 9/11 as just a few things that hateful people have done to people from other cultures. (It should be noted that the Ku Klux Klan is still active and fighting for white supremacy, and that slavery is also active in some parts of the world.)

Multi-National Corporations

Globalization allows multi-national corporations to thrive everywhere. In fact, globalization is the reason that you can hardly go a block in any populated city without seeing at least one McDonalds and/or 7-11. This can be a good thing as far as food availability is concerned, however food quality falls sickeningly, or, sometimes, fatally. However, that is a subject for another essay. What is even more sickening than the appalling food is the exponentially expanding wallets of these corporations. In 2012, McDonalds made an average of 75.21 million dollars a day[1]. 75.21 million dollars A DAY. That’s more money than anyone usually sees in a life-time. 7-11’s $60,000[2] per day seems to be a little measly in comparison, but it’s still nothing to be sneezed at, especially since the average American rakes in $51,371[3] a year. I’ll let that sink in…

The Condensed Version

Here’s a condensed summary of globalization: (Now, if you haven’t figured out my bias, you will soon.)

Pros of Globalization

Cultural Diversity
“Do-what-you-do-best” Attitude
Freedom to Travel
Can Create a Supportive Atmosphere

Cons of Globalization

Opportunity for Corporate Manipulation
Product Centred
Gave Rise to the LEGO Movie
Impersonalizes Product

Coda

Globalization is a huge something, be it a problem, or goal, and I hope to have given you a good synopsis of it. Failing that, I hope it was at least interesting. Failing that… well… I’d like to know why, so that I may write a better one next time.DSC_0165

[1] Quora.com

[2] Convenience Store News

[3] NPR News

Settling In – a very tardy report

We’re still here! 🙂

I have wanted to blog for months, but at first I was emotionally overwhelmed with all the changes and couldn’t find words to express it all, and then, as my emotional life settled down, Jack’s social life picked up and time became an issue.

DSC_0017
1 Off to the shops

Our scholar now has eight regular commitment each week in addition to any play dates we arrange. (So far there has been at least one play date each week, and often two. He has met some stellar people and has started to make some fantastic new friends.)

He is back to playing chess and to studying karate, of course.

He has initiated a Games Day every Monday at a nearby cafe, and he has found a group that plays Magic the Gathering at a shop in town every week, so he has joined them.

He meets with friends at a “junior skate park” for a few hours each week and another days he meets other friends at a soccer field to play. (So far the parents and Jack are the ones who think soccer sounds like a good idea. Everyone else runs around and plays other things.)

Next month. he will start a cooking class at Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food and because he will be of minimum age for the class, I get to go free as his assistant!

On paper, it doesn’t sound like all that much, but I find myself wondering often how Rodney kept this pace for so long.  I find it grueling. Of course, while taking the bus isn’t as tiring as driving, it does stretch the adventure out for more hours – Saturday karate has taken the better part of eight hours. Fortunately, the dojo has just opened a class closer to town, so starting today we don’t have to travel as far.

DSC_0020
2 The view of the bay, just down the hill.

Jack and I have become real pros at hopping the bus and trundling around the city and suburbs and Jack figures that he’s ready to start taking the bus on his own.

DSC_0021
3 It’s a nice long walk to the shops…

I trust Jack, but this is a much bigger town than he’s accustomed to. I know he wouldn’t get lost if he was going somewhere familiar, but I am concerned about how he would handle unexpected situations.

I think I will hold him back for about a year, but by the time he turns 13 he will have been with me on the buses long enough to have observed most of what’s likely to happen. (Which is almost always “nothing” but might occasionally include something alarming.)

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*sigh*  My baby really is almost grown up. I’ll admit that the delay is as much (or more?) for me as for him.

Autumn has well and truly come to Victoria, and I have to make a confession.

I brought my winter coat because I left Michigan in a blizzard.  I didn’t think, having watched the weather online through the course of the last year, that I would ever have need of a big coat here.  40 is considered pretty cold in Victoria, and in Michigan that’s balmy weather.

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6 The shopping precinct is well marked, as are all of them. Very convenient.

What I couldn’t have realized from a distance is what the antarctic winds do to the wind chill. Oh my goodness!!!!

I have already worn my heavy winter coat this autumn and I expect to get a lot of use of it as winter approaches. 40 feels much colder here, with the frigid winds blowing my body heat away as fast as I can generate it.  Brrrrr!

Australian homes often don’t have central heating, and that is the case here at Ann’s house, so getting up at night is a VERY brisk experience some nights! I miss my winter robe and clothes and will be very glad to see them again when out shipment arrives!

Fortunately, the weather here is whimsical. One day we can be bundled up in coats and hats and still shivering, and the next in light slacks and shirt sleeves. Rod says that that continues all winter, the major difference being not how hot or cold, but how many days are hot or cold.

The folks here speak with pride of “four seasons in one day” and I am coming to realize that it’s only half a joke.

I still have the get used to the seasons being “backward”  – I suddenly have a winter birthday – but I am delighted to report that it’s far from boring like the tropics.

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7 but today, we passed on by to go to the further precinct for a coffee and to buy pastured pork and eggs — from a bakery of all places.

Rod’s health is coming along swimmingly! As my longtime readers know, he was in really bad shape when he left for home last September. Now, however, he is healing quickly.

He no longer sleeps most of every day, and when he’s busy, he is able to skip his nap entirely. Usually, he is down to an hour or two of extra sleep each day, which is perfectly reasonable. He is able to walk well with his cane, and is now able to walk anywhere he wants to go, as you can see in the photos. He does need to sit and rest along the way on long journeys, but he is getting further and further each day before he needs to rest.

He is speaking clearly – a little more slowly than he once did, but just fine.  No one who didn’t know him before the strokes started would detect a problem, I think. He is able to do meet with clients and to do big psychic fairs again!  That makes all the difference to him.

Starting last week, he can even ride the buses with Jack and me!  That has been fun! We actually managed a “coffee date” last night while Jack was playing Magic – and it means that he can start to take over some of Jack’s social whirl.  I think all of us will enjoy that! Jack will get more time with his Dad, Rod will have a more familiar role in Jack’s life, and I will have a little more time to myself.

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8 Cafe Dolce Trieste – the best coffee shop in the whole world! (And a bit of a secret. It’s almost always very quiet.)

Did I mention that Jack has adopted a very thick Aussie accent? It’s so thick – and different enough to Rod’s – that I can’t understand him sometimes and have to ask him to say it “in American” – but he’s forgetting how to do that! Ahh, well.  At least instead of commenting on Jack’s odd accent, people comment about how interesting it is that his accent is perfect even though he’s only been here  a few months.

I am pleased and amazed at how quickly Jack has adapted to life here. It was rough at first. He has reached an age where his friends are very, very important to him and leaving behind the friends he has loved since he was two years old was very traumatic and he is probably always going to miss them. (He is saving up to visit them as soon as he is old enough for International travel on his own.)

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9. And then back to the shops we haunt almost daily…

Then, having the average age of his daily companions here be around 60, and having little to do at first other than study was not terribly exciting.

One by one we added activities, starting with chess one day each week, then adding karate. Then we started games day, and he found the Magic group. Now he’s busy and happy.

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10 That’s it. The whole precinct. A pharmacy, an IGA, a butcher, a baker, a cafe, and a green grocer.

He finally finished his studies on the Ancient Rome unit on Pi day (March 14), and he’s been on school holidays ever since. After over a month off, he started back to hitting the books today and we will ramp up slowly, as usual. (The deal was, that he was allowed to break until out stuff arrived. We were notified that it docked on Saturday, so while we don’t have the books at hand yet, we have collected a few thing for him to start with.)

The history element of this unit is the Middle Ages.  That should be an interesting change from the ancients, which I think he is well and truly sick of. We’ll have a good look at Norse culture, too, which should bring some personal relevance to his studies.

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11 Oh, and a “bottle shop” – a liquor store.

Rod and I are also joining him on a more formal study of Latin, using lively Latin. That will probably replace his Swedish studies, at least for a while.

Oh!  I forgot to mention how it is that I have all this time to be involved with Jack’s education and touring around town with Rod.  Rod is on a disability pension for the next few years – and because he needs help throughout the day, I am on a care givers pension.  We are also on a homeschoolers allowance.

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12 And our final destination: the green grocer! This is where we get most of our groceries. All the veg is grown here in Victoria and most of it was picked this morning. (You do have to pay attention, because they don’t throw away yesterdays – but they seem to sell most of it most days.)

The disability pension has allowed Rod time to take care of himself and recover, but I don’t think he’ll need it forever.

Rod wants very much to be the one to support us and I think that would be very cool.  We just have to get him to the point where he has the stamina to work every day – and he is making progress daily on that. (I am so proud and impressed with his determination! I have known so many people who took a single stroke as a reason to stop living ad Rod is coming back from FOUR of them!)

I will continue to receive the homeschoolers allowance until Jack turns 16 and that will be a big help, but I need to find a way to contribute after that. I can probably do it in an office, but I so hope I don’t have to. Twenty-five years at a desk feels like plenty and I have four years to figure out what else I have to offer.  With Rod being the main income, I have a bit of leeway to figure it out – isn’t that cool?

In the meanwhile, I will take a photograph class.  Not because it will help my employability but because I have always wanted to!  Luxury!

OK, I need to run down to the shops before Jack wakes up.  Have a great day!

 

Book Report: Jim Thorpe Original All American (by Jack)

Book Report:
Jim Thorpe Original All American
by Joseph Bruchac
Penguin 2006

This is the story of Jim Thorpe as told by the author.

100_7820Thorpe was born in Oklahoma to a half Indian family. They had, I believe, 8 other children. When he was older, his father tried to take him to school, but Jim would just run back home and be right there when his father came back. This continued until his father eventually took him to a boarding school when he was about 12. There he remained until supervisors from Carlisle, the major Indian school at the time, took a shining to his athletic ability. They offered him a place in their school, and soon enough, he was on the football team. He played without compensation for quite a few years, and became one of the most renowned players in the land. Then, a few of his buddies offered to take him with them to play baseball for compensation, which he did, for a year or so. Then he went back to Carlisle, and signed up for the Olympic Games of 1912. (I think.) He competed and won medals in everything that he competed in, along with praise from the king of Sweden, and two lovely cups. He went back to America with head held high.

But then, the baseball manager whom he had been with for a year told someone else, “I know that guy. He played baseball for me.” Soon, it became known all around the US – Jim Thorpe was no amateur. He lost everything that he had won, except his pride, and that is for this reason: most of the US thought that the sports committee had made the wrong decision.

The Boston Inquirer stated that: “Men wishing to sign up for the Olympic Games had better not play croquet, tiddlywinks, hide-and-go-seek, or button-button-who’s-got-the-button for any type of compensation or they may not run, hurdle, jump, or throw.” Thorpe started playing for the New York Giants’ baseball team soon after that, and married Iva Miller soon after that.

And that is the story of Jim Thorpe. The author puts emphasis on Thorpe’s feelings throughout the events in his life. For example, when he loses his medals, Bruchac dedicates a whole chapter to his feeling of profound loss, an element that I found intriguing, and involving.

All in all, I found that the book gave a fairly balanced perspective of the events, and at the same time quite fun to read. I would definitely recommend it to someone who wanted to learn more about this legendary football player.

Life in Australia (So far)

Slowly, slowly life has started to take on a rhythm. Maybe it will even settle into a sense of normalcy over time.

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Home sweet home – Rod’s sister, Ann, has welcomed us into her home for a few months while we get ourselves organized.  What an amazing sister!

When we first arrived, it seemed that life was a mad rush between doctor appointments for Rod and compulsory meetings at Centrelink.  Many days we would have one of each. (Centrelink is the agency that acts as the unemployment office, medical insurance agency, social services agency…and probably more.) I needed to get a tax number and get on the rolls for help finding work as soon as possible. In the weeks since then, Rod has been granted a disability pension, and I learned that I am exempt from working because Jack is homeschooled. I have also applying to be Rod’s full time carer, since he isn’t well enough to be left in charge of Jack all day. As Rod is better able to take over at home, I’ll look for something part time and maybe Rod will be able to work given more healing time.

Over the weeks we have been here, I have seen one appointment series after another finish. Rod has now gone as far as the therapists for speech, occupational, and physical therapy can take him. The rest is a matter of practice and healing. That’s three appointments he no longer needs to attend. The neuropsychologist has set him free, with an offer to help should he ever feel the need for her services. The cardiologist has given Rod a clean bill of health, and his regular appointments can now be spaced at every six months. I’m not sure about the pace with the neurologist and the supervising physician. They may continue to see him frequently, but we now have more time between visits if its now only two doctors.
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On the other hand, Jack’s social life is picking up steam. Every Friday evening, he has a meeting of his chess club, which is small but enthusiastic. Jack was the “seed” they had been looking for to start an intermediate group between the beginners and the tournament players. As they pick up more intermediate players, the group will probably grow over the next year!

We have also started to make friends in the local home-school community. L and E (I don’t have permission to use names) have taken us under their wings and seen to it that we have been included in several outings in the last couple of weeks. Since most of those adventures so far involve swimming, Jack is getting lots of practice and we are both turning berry-brown.  We have started to meet other friendly people, some of whom I really hope will become friends over time.

We haven’t interviewed any dojos yet, but I think that will come with time. The number of new experiences every week is still overwhelming.  In the meantime, we are doing lots of walking and Jack has been teaching himself to ride a skateboard, so in addition to the swimming he’s doing, he’s still getting plenty of exercise.  Still, karate has been such a big part of his life for so long that I hope he won’t give it up now.
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Jack and I have been working on finding our way around town.  We are now able to get into town by bus, around town on foot to do some shopping, and then home again. Our next adventure involves getting to the library to join on our own.  Then maybe I can add a trip to Centrelink before my next meeting,  That’s an afternoon appointment, so it should be possible.

I have been delighted to discover a little “village shopping precinct” a few minute’s walk down the hill from our home.  There, within a couple of blocks, is everything we might need – a butcher, a green grocer, a pharmacy, a grocery store, a bakery, a post office, a stationer, a florist, and even a wine shop.  We might have to make longer trips for some specialized purchases, but I have been walking down the hill every few days and I hope to support the local economy by making most of our purchases from those local proprietors.  (I was excited to find that one bakery also sells pastured pork from heritage hogs!  We tried it, and it’s phenomenal!) I also love the very European feel of walking to the shops and carrying home only what we need for a couple of days.  It’s a literary fantasy come true!

With the shops at a nice walking distance, the trips to town, my wanders every evening with Rodney, and a million other little reasons to move, I am feeling stronger and happier by the day!

On the lighter side, folks have asked me about the drains swirling in the opposite direction.  I haven’t noticed that since the drains I have experienced don’t swirl, but I have noticed that all the light switches are on “upside down” and all the electrical sockets require turning on before they will work. Also, 24 hour stores seem to be a rarity. Most shops seems to close fr the evening between 4:30 and 6pm.  That’s wonderful for the folks who get to be home with their families in the evening, but it;s taking this yank some getting used to.

Life is grand!  But it;s time I woke the boy for his studies.

Arrival!

We’re here!

I’m sorry for the long delay in posting. Life has been pretty “full on” since we left Los Angeles.

The night after my last post, we did manage to get seated on the flight! Even better, we were seated together and the seats were very comfortable (a new experience for me on a trans-Pacific flight). There were no over-tired, uncontrolled children nearby. It was pretty much perfect, and we were finally underway!

I used the flight to discover a “new” game, having tired of Mah Jong on the flight from Detroit. Bejeweled is interesting. It took over half of the time I was awake to start to see the patterns, so I guess it was probably a brain expanding experience, but it wasn’t so demanding that I was unable to do it once exhaustion set in. Jack and I each managed to doze for about seven hours, so when we arrived, we were tired, but not completely exhausted.
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At Sydney, I was astonished at how quickly and smoothly customs and immigration went. Both were pretty much a “shoo through” experience.

At customs, though, we did meet the most adorable “inspection trainee”. She seemed to be a terrier mix of some kind, and she really, really liked the empty potato chip bag I’d forgotten was in my purse. Oops. But nonetheless, the whole process took about five minutes. Then we had a six hour layover with all of our bags in our possession. Again, I sing the praises of the engineer who invented roller bags with reliable wheels. (Next up, un-carpeted hotels and airports?)

Jack and I were pretty tired. Far too tired to do anything exciting with our six hours in Sydney, so we bought the tickets for the last leg of the journey and had a coffee. After a while, we discovered a baggage storage place so we could wander un-encumbered for a few hours. Then we wandered. I don’t really remember what we did, actually. It was a blur then and it’s gotten less clear over time. It did involve the purchase of lots of coffee and many bottles of water, some silly conversation, and a bit of people watching. Eventually, we were able to reclaim our bags and check them in to the last flight.
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We landed at our final destination on Sunday evening, around the same time as we had closed and locked the door on our previous life the Sunday before.

It’s a small airport, so we climbed down the steps onto the tarmac and headed for the airport to claim our bags and our new life. Rodney was there, of course. As were sisters Ann and Trudi. The reunion was sweet, and I didn’t want to let go of my beautiful husband. Not then; not ever again. (It required two cars to get all of our luggage home.  Usually I like to travel light, but this time I was very glad for the extra bags – it means we were comfortable for a week in Los Angeles and that we had Jack’s study materials to get back back to our studies as soon as possible.10951627_10206241488182774_1260577901_o
Life since then has been wonderful but, as I said in my opening statement, pretty full on.  When I first arrived, Rod was still having several medical appointments each week, and we have also been dealing with Centrelink (the social services/unemployment/medical insurance agency) to get Rod on a disability pension, to either get me a job or registered as Rod’s full time carer while he needs one, and to make sure Jack and I have access to medical care should we need it.
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I have also been learning the ropes as far as where to get what we need each day – groceries, medication, public transit, fountain pen ink, postage, and the like.  Ann and Trudi have been helpful with car transport for Rod, who can’t yet safely take the bus, and sister Karen has been an enormous help with learning the bus routes and the walking routes around Geelong and Melbourne.

Rod and I have been walking very regularly, and he has been able to go further and further as time passes.  He has also been swimming three times each week, and his progress has been phenomenal. Last week, he started to see the slowing and ending of some of his regular appointments.

He has been seeing a general physician, a neurologist, a cardiologist, an occupational therapist, a physical therapist, and a speech therapist as well as a neuropsychologist and even a nutritionist.  Total bill for many months of such complete care?  Less than $200.  I was amazed.

He has gone as far as the various therapists and neuropsychologist can take him. Thanks to his determination and persistent practice with the skills they taught him, the rest is just practice and healing time. The cardiologist has given him a clean bill of health – including superb blood test results, and switched him to every six months monitoring.  That has freed up a lot of time!

Now for the next adventure…!

Our days in Los Angeles

Note: If you’ve been around for long, you may recognize many of the photos in this and near term future posts. I have cleverly not provided myself with the cords required to get photos off either my camera or my phone.  Oops. Sorry for the boring repetition. I’ll go back to new pictures once I buy Australia friendly cords. [Not exactly the most sentimental of quotes, but information none the less…]

[Again, bracketed commentary by Jack.]

It’s Friday morning, and we are still in Los Angeles. I had felt really good about getting out last night, but we had been pushed back to places 7 and 8 on the wait list by new folks with higher priority and only the first 5 people left. Now, there are rumblings about travel not being likely for another week and a half. We will turn up every night anyway, though. We only need two seats and we can’t be seated if we aren’t there… [It’s really sad when the airport feels like home to you.]

Now lest our poor pining family think we are having way too much fun, here is the roundup of how we spend our days. [Please, no pesticide. Ha…ha… Bad pun. Sorry.]

a traffic stop sign burried in snow to just under the sign.
For my Michigan friends

Our days here in LA have started to take on a characteristic rhythm:

We arrive around midnight on the shuttle.  I wash out my travel clothes in the shower every other day or so and hang them to dry, then we read the Internet (to make sure the world is still spinning) for an hour and go to sleep. [More like turn into sacks of potatoes for 10 hours…]

Around 9am, just before the free breakfast is closed for the day, we crawl out of bed and make ourselves presentable, and go get something to eat. [Not today, unfortunately. *sigh*] I head right for the coffee, which is good, [Yes, if you don’t head for the coffee, you turn into a pumpkin in the middle of the day- you are quite talented at turning into all kinds of starchy vegetables…] and then we have powdered eggs as scrambles or omelets with CAFO bacon or sausage. [Scrumptious!]  Jack adds a yogurt and orange juice and I sometimes indulge in juice, too. I grab a second cup of coffee and some extra cream and we go back to the room. I make up the pot of less stellar room coffee, and we read Facebook, write thank you letters, read our books, and generally hang out. [Separately. In our own corners of the room.]  We have even fit in a few hotel workouts – push-ups, luggage lifts, planks, squats, etc. [We did that once…] I wish we were doing more of the workouts and less of the Facebook, but I am also not instigating it. [Which means I suggest it and she says, “Remind me later.” Only because you have the knack for instigating a workout when I m in the middle of a train of though! :p. Hmph.]

Most days I also go down to the front desk to explain again that 1) No, we are not checking out today, 2) Yes, our friend has paid for the room for tonight.  Yes, another friend. 3) No, we don’t know yet whether we will be staying tomorrow because we are flying standby and we hope to be over the Pacific by then, but we won’t know until late tonight. [When there is no turning back. I fail to see how we are going to get the room key back to them. They are electronic keys and completely interchangeable. We can mail them back later, but the stamp probably costs more. I see.]

At about 6:30 pm when we make sure our bags are packed and everything is accounted for, and then we go down to the shuttle. We ride to the airport, check in and check our bags, and have dinner. There are only a few gluten free options and the meat is CAFO, but the staff understand the question so I feel Jack is reasonably safe from gluten. [Do they really, though? Better than the MacDonalds across from the hotel, anyway. Some know more than others, though,  You’re right abut that. Well, it tastes better, but still…]

Then we walk around the terminal a few times, and then sit behind the gate where I can hear the announcements until the gate closes between 10 and 10:30 p.m.  Then we go back to luggage claim, get our bags, call the shuttle, and go back to the hotel…and start over.

a boy playing on an antique tractor in front of an old barn
July 2014
Redford New York

Today I let Jack sleep in because I know he needs more sleep than he has been getting lately. [Absolutely.] It’s almost noon and he hasn’t stirred yet [*clears throat loudly*] so I know he must have been as tired as he looked.  Once he’s ready, we’ll walk over to the 7-11  that I am told is nearby to see what we can find in the way of (probably)[possibly] gluten free calories for the boy’s breakfast, and I hope to drag him down to the mini-gym downstairs afterward to change things up a little.

Some observations on layovers:

  • It’s always a good idea to travel in comfortable clothes in layers. Airplanes and airports are very hot and stuffy, except when they are freezing. Rayon works well because it breathes when you’re warm and is quite cool if you get down to one layer but enough layers can be toasty warm and the layers aren’t bulky so they don’t take a lot of room in your carry-on when you need to stow them. On long layovers that stretch into the vast unknown, rayon is even better, because you can wash it in the shower at night, hang it in the shower, and it’s mostly dry by midmorning.  It doesn’t look any more rumpled than it did yesterday and it smells way better than it would have after a week without washing. (A little hotel shampoo can deal with the inevitable food spots.) [*end advertisement campaign for rayon clothing* Ahem. That was an informational campaign, thankyouverymuch. I don’t sell rayon. You’re welcome.]
  • There is no way to eat really clean when you don’t control the kitchen. But if you choose the same reasonably accommodating place for every meal, they get better and better at understanding the question. [Especially if you get the same waiter!] The good places generally have at least one person on a shift who knows where gluten is hiding. However, while you can avoid corn tortillas, sweet corn, and other obvious forms, catching corn starch, corn syrup, and the like is difficult, and catching the “derived from” sources is nigh on impossible in a restaurant unless it’s a very high end place that sources everything at the farmer’s market.  I can’t afford that level of indulgence, so I have had my ‘wheat stomach ache’ and my ‘corn bone ache’ pretty much constantly since the kitchen in Michigan was packed. Much more the latter than the former. Our snacks ran out days ago, too.  Another thing to look for at 7-11.  :p
  • Roller bags are a gift from the gods…or at least god-like engineers. In the 1970s and 1980s, I was hard pressed to carry just my own carry-on, and my packed luggage absolutely required assistance. That is the origin of my packing minimalism – ‘as long as I can manage, on as few outfits as possible’ is my MO. Today, with modern bags, even though Jack and I are moving across the planet, so minimalism isn’t an option, we have no trouble at all moving our six bags through the world on our own. Hotel carpeting is a bit of a pain (I wonder whether that will go out of style now that it slows roller bags…) but we can do it entirely unassisted without pain or exhaustion.  Wow!  I am so glad that I eyed our ratty old luggage and decided to invest in new matching sets for all of us. This would have been much harder with carry only duffel bags and old fashioned suitcases.

 

Back again!

July 12, 2014 at 12:37 pm (Forgot to hit “publish”.  Oops.

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 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 that would be very rushed.

The Adventure Begins!

If the hero in an adventure story walks out the door of his home and into the dragon’s cave without incident, kills the dragon on the first shot without incident, and then walks home with the gold without incident, it’s not much of an adventure story! That’s just all in a day’s work.  This, my friends, is an adventure! [ Be advised- no dragons have been harmed,  no caves trespassed, and gold stolen during this adventure. ]

[comments in brackets by Jack]

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getting brighter …

Jack and I are now lounging in Los Angeles, waiting for the gods to turn the wheels of fate and get us upgraded to “passenger”. [Yes, passenger would be nice…] Our tickets were for standby, since we can’t really afford full fare.  Usually that doesn’t matter, but it seems that everyone in the country wants to go to Sydney this week and every flight is overbooked by impressive amounts. [ This may create serious over-crowding issues for Sydney.]

We arrived here in LA on Monday morning (having left Detroit very early) planning for a 12 hour layover and then to be off to Sydney.  We did our best to entertain ourselves at the airport, though the weeks leading in to our departure had been grueling and had involved short sleep and little real food, so we were exhausted.  (Have I ever mentioned how much my son impresses me? [Only 50 times this week. Thank you, though.] As exhausted as he has been, he has never been grumpy with me.  At worst he gets very, very quiet and solemn.  He clearly didn’t get that particular strength from me!  But I can be reasonable when I am exhausted, as long as no one else is unreasonable with me [which mean breathing too deeply], so we’ve been doing really well.  This young man is such a joy to travel with!) [*blush*]

Anyway, on Thursday, the movers came.  They were an hour and a half late, because the wind chill was -45 (a goodbye gift from my beloved Michigan winter), and the truck was cranky, and then they lost their way to our house when they missed a turn. That’s OK.  I was signing papers at the end before I realized that they had been late, and then only because they had written it on the forms.  I had been too busy to watch the clock. Anyway, remember I mentioned the wind chill?  Yeah; well, it was necessary to take the door off the hinges to get the dolly in and out with boxes on it.  It took four hours to load the truck.  It was a tad nippy even in the house (not much point in having the furnace roaring with no door) and my hands are still rough and red from cold damage.  It was hilarious, but I did feel very bad for the fellow who was hauling the boxes out into the freezing gale. He kept coming in from a load and huddling over a furnace vent trying to get warm. It was cold in the house; I can’t imagine how much colder it was out in the wind. [I was on a sleepover for most of that part, but it was pretty cold.]

Friday and Saturday were our days to say goodbye.  Jack had a party on Friday with his homeschool friends and I had an open house on Saturday for people to drop in to say goodbye.  It was wonderful to see everyone, but also overwhelmingly sad for both Jack and me. Before and after the parties, I was frantically sorting to make sure I had not forgotten anything.  On Friday, the moms of Jack’s friends spotted a closet I hadn’t even looked at yet and helped me to go through it. (Thanks, Nerida, Mary, and Stacey!) They found two pair of brand new shoes I had bought as backup and forgotten about!!!  (I have a miserable time finding shoes that fit, so when I order a pair that feels heavenly, I try to buy another couple of pair, since they always discontinue wonderful shoes right after I discover them! Whew!  That was close! Thank you so much, ladies!!!)

On Sunday, our last day in Michigan, we spent the day scrabbling to get done everything that we needed to do before we left. It seemed that no matter how hard I worked, no matter how long the hours, I never quite got “within cooee” of getting it all done. Thankfully, Linda is handling the stuff I couldn’t get to and then she and Paula and Nerida, and Jan will get the remaining stuff shipped.  In the evening, our dear friend, Mark, drove us to a hotel near the Detroit airport. We had an early Monday flight to Los Angeles, and Michigan decided to throw a blizzard to see me off, so rather than ask anyone to drive through that at 5 a.m. [Who sets these hours?] , we went to a hotel in the evening and took the shuttle to the airport in the morning. It just made more sense. [And it wasn’t borderline cruelty.]

Not making the flight to Sydney was a possibility that I knew about, but I was emotionally unprepared for it. We were devastated. All I could imagine was weeks taking turns with Jack sleeping on the airport floor.  Paula, who arranged the tickets for us, offered to bring us back to Michigan, but emotionally, we can’t bring ourselves to turn back now. We have said too many goodbyes and our lives are now ahead! [Well, right now they’re at a bit of a standstill…]

We were exhausted, near tears [We?] , and a serious mess, so I did what I always do under those circumstances.  I called my beloved Rodney. As he always does, just by being Rodney [And, you know, breathing, and maybe talking.] , my love talked [I rest my case.] me through it and calmed me down. The poor guy had to deal with my helpless [No.], doom-saying [Eh… I guess so…] , negative first reactions [dramatic might be a better adjective…], but he’s used to that I guess. [You think?]  He just keeps using his soothing voice and I start to feel my brain turning over and the world starts to look brighter. I usually just go with his advice no matter how unlikely it seems to me that it will work, because he is usually right. After a few minutes, my brain started to work and I decided that the first thing we needed was a good night’s sleep and a shower. [Not to mention food.] The flights to Sydney leave Los Angeles every 24 hours at 10:30 pm. It was going to be a long wait even for the next available flight, and I knew from discussions with the agents that every flight for a week or more is overbooked and this could take a while.

I started to research hotels in the area, but just as the page came up listing the hotels that have 24 hour shuttle service, my phone’s battery died. (Sunday night’s hotel had no electric outlets.  One down side of a cheap hotel.) The only hotel whose name I saw before the phone died was the one I asked the cab to take us to. (It was too late for the shuttle so I would have needed the hotel’s phone number to call the shuttle after hours – and my phone was dead. A cab it was.)

We settled in and got some sleep, and the next morning  – as I often do – I whinged on Facebook. I was already feeling better, but the challenge of many nights in the hotel taking me closer to the desperate need for an income immediately was still stressful. Several friends immediately offered to help us out with the hotel bill.  I gratefully accepted and they have been calling the desk and paying a night at a time.  That removed the last of the panic factors.  Now it is just a waiting game. [The Waiting Games… I like it.]

I hope to be on tonight’s flight.  Jack and I were #1 and #2 on the wait list last night, so if there are any seats we might we get them. (If no one with higher priority signs in today.)

When Rod and I dreamed about this day for 15 years, I never envisioned doing it alone.  Just as well.  I’m pretty sure I would have been terrified out of my mind. To some degree, it is true that this is an impossible task to do alone.  But I have never been alone in all of this.  Our friends have come together to lift Jack and me out of panic and to help us at every step.  Each friend has brought something different to the project, and all of the contributions have been vital. Not to downplay those very tangible helps, but I think that the greatest gift any of them has given to Jack and me, is the understanding that we are loved and we are not alone in this amazing adventure. With friends like these, no adventure is too much to handle. [ I agree.]

Finally on our way!

It’s been a long, grueling road over the last five months, with little time for introspection and blogging. My apologies for not making time – but when I am very emotional I am not terribly coherent and that made it almost impossible to find anything to talk about that would be even marginally interesting.

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We have packed up our lives into a stack of boxes, tied off all the threads that made up our lives here, and lived like squatters for months, making due with as few possession as possible so that everything stayed in its boxes rather than sneaking out to play and making packing later -now-more difficult.

We have said goodbyes, we have cried, and we have dreamed about an amorphous future on the other side of the globe. We have reached out to home-schoolers, dojos, and chess clubs in our new town. We have ignored it all and watched way too much TV. (On dvd on the laptop, but escape is escape.)

But tomorrow the movers come and take away our boxes.  We will be saying our goodbyes over the weekend, and then at dawn on Monday, we are on our way!

It’s amazing to me how having the flight settled has changed my mood.  For the last month, I have been near tears a lot of the time. We announced over a year ago that we were leaving and it seems like we have had a steady stream of “last times” and “goodbyes” since then, with the pace becoming breakneck once Rod left for Australia in September.

My permanent resident visa came through in mid-November and planning and packing went into high gear. I retired and started closing accounts and wrapping up day to day details in early December … and by last week it had all become too much emotionally.

Then the retirement money cleared the bank and Jack’s Australian passport arrived so we were able to make flight arrangements.  When my friend, Paula, who works at the airlines, called yesterday afternoon with itinerary, the sun came out for me. Now I feel like I can look ahead and I realize that I had spent many weeks and months looking backward.

I had spent more than 30 years making this area my home after a rather footloose youth. Each time I went somewhere that had been familiar in my past, I was painfully aware that the odds were that I would never see it again. You can only do that for so long before it all gets overwhelming.

Now my attention can turn to wrapping up the last details here and starting my new life in Australia.  What a relief.  As much as I will miss everyone here, I can’t take many more endings and knowing that beginnings will start in five days has made life so much easier.

Jack and I have been discussing that we will need a new look for the blog, though…this house goes back to the bank on Friday (that’s another long story for another day.) and is no longer Chez Smiffy.  We will be looking for a new look once we get there.

Oh, and I forgot to mention …

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Shorn! Ugh

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. The 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.

In transition

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dark days, growing brighter

A 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 of 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.  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…?

Last day with Rod…for a little while

Rod’s flight is over Nevada right now. In 20 minutes he will land at Los Angeles and board a flight to Sydney.
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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.