Monday, December 17, 2012
2012 opened with me recovering from the previous year's knee surgery. It is all healed now but there are complications. My knee-cap is very thin and is not being held in the proper position by the various bits of my knee tissue. It's slid down so it's resting over the end of my tibia. This causes pain, especially when the knee is held in a bent position as in sitting. My knee surgeon is the best but he couldn't offer a solution that would guarantee a fix. So the plan is now to lose the weight I packed on while immobile the previous year hoping it will mediate the pain. I have been on a strict diet since my moderate pigout in the States (but I do love bbq and root beer) and can already seen the weight start to go. Walking long distances will never be easy for me and I might never get to climb stairs quickly. The remainder of the infection has left the back of my leg with a large area of discoloured skin so I won't be showing off my legs (as if I ever did).
I spent 7 weeks state-side and aside from learning how out-of-shape I am (I bought a sign that says "I am in shape. Round is a shape"), I had a good time. I visited almost everyone who's high on my list, including both my brothers, but I can't do these marathon trips again. In fact, I'm trying to put together a plan where I come over more often but for shorter times. I'll turn 65 next year and will gain access to my US pension fund so I can afford it. Some other plans flitting about. I love visiting in October for the fall colour. Here we only have isolated trees that turn colour, not entire mountain ranges. Unfortunately Hurricane Sandy screwed up my departure, with Washington braced for the worst and closing all airports. I ended up having to drive to Atlanta and booking a flight on Delta to catch up with my flight back to Sydney. Not to minimize the horrific damage done farther north by Sandy, but she was just a lot of rain in Virginia and I don't believe it warranted closing airports just in case. As has happened before, I return torn between my two homes. I still love the US for all its flaws, but the medical expenses keep me from returning. Besides I still love Australia as well and would not want to give up the things I've made a part of my life over the past 21 years.
One of those things is of course, my football team. The Sydney Swans took advantage of my being out of the country to win the Grand Final, the championship of the whole AFL. I had promisied myself that the next time they made it to Grand Final I would pay the price and go to Melbourne to see it live. Not only could I not do that but I was on the other side of the world! I was able to watch it on replay and have indulged in fan memorabilia. The Swans have sent the Cup out to tour the fan-zones and, when it came to Canberra, I got to hold it and have my picture taken with it.
Back home I moved into renovation mode. Brian's former man-cave has been remodelled into a proper guest bedroom next the the already remodelled bathroom. So there is a suite ready for all of you who keep telling me you're coming to Australia. The former guest bedroom was rather small and is now my study with my genealogy stuff, computer, etc. Next task in 2013 is a new kitchen. I don't look forward to the actual event (and I'm certain Chianna wouldn't if she knew it was coming), but it's past its use-by date and I desperately want a new stove. I've also had a local firm make a wing chair plus ottoman made for my height so I can put my feet up when watching TV. Exit old recliners. Some more cosmetic stuff like flooring and drapes to follow. Then hopefully I will not need to remodel again.
I took another weaving course the the Australian National University and enjoyed it a lot. Met a new American pal who gets my sometime frustrations with Australiadom. The class was enough of a success that I have just purchased a small floor loom to be shipped from the US. It will have a much smaller footprint than the big one I bought in 2007 (and sold in 2008) and I will be able to do things I can't do on my table looms.
I am enjoying retirement, but wonder when I will ever get to everything I want to do. All my hobbies, from my veggie garden to my family history to spinning and weaving all take time. Adding anything else to the mix tends to tire me out extremely. You sometimes can't fight fibromyalgia when it says you aren't going to sleep, or your muscles will hurt despite medication. The fatigue can be crippling. I am very proud of myself for driving to Sydney mid-November to see Coldplay perform live. It was an epic adventure that tested my physical limits (I refuse to play the disability card if I can manage independently) but the experience was absolutely spectacular. They put on a hell of a show with lots of fun effects. It took me about 3 days to recover when I got home but it was worth it.
The genealogy trip is neverending. I got a pile of pictures from my brothers and my father's notes in the family Bible. The research can take forever, and I will need to visit some places in the US for more information. Neither the reference books nor the records are available in Australia. I've made contact with distant relatives via Ancestry. I'm still catching up with American history to learn about the ancestors.
This Christmas I will be alone as my dear mother-in-law has commitments in Sydney. I plan to watch the Lord of Rings Trilogy all the way through. No doubt Chi will spend it on my lap. She has forgiven me for leaving her for 7 weeks but still believes that as long as I am not standing up she has rights to my lap. She did not like the tradesmen banging and bringing nasty smells into her house and hid for days.
I close with a photos of my class project in my weaving course, a scarf woven of white wool with stripes of coloured rayon. When washed, the wool shrinks and the rayon doesn't, creating ripples in the fabric.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Yes, this time it has truly been an eon. I almost decided to let the blog die. I've been partly suffering from low-grade depression, which makes me think that my life is crap, and partly inertia. Let's get the ugly stuff out of the way first.
My knee has healed and I have full range of motion. I still get tired pretty quickly and my back isn't as strong as I'd like but if I did my exercises more rigorously that would help. However my right knee hurts now. Behind the knee cap, all the time. There isn't anything more surgically to be done since my surgeon said my patella was pretty thin already. Heaven help me if I have another infection. Let's not go there. So it hurts which makes me want to not exercise it which is no doubt counter productive. I've had a few bouts of gastric upset as well. This week I had a skin cancer (just a basal cell one) removed from my upper lip. I thought it was going to be really minor but it has proven to be more uncomfortable than expected. I feel like somebody punched me in the mouth and have a bandage over my upper lip. Gross. I went back to my optometrist who is going to fit me with a different style of contacts that cover more of the eye and supposedly give better vision. Meanwhile watching the footy is tiring as I can't see what's going on clearly enough.
I've been madly spinning everything in sight. I sold off $200 worth of spinning fibre on ebay to clear the decks a bit (and downsized the knitting stash to D as well) and am just spinning whatever comes to hand. Right now it's a blend of wool and alpaca in rusts, browns, fuschia, and orange. Plying merino and silk in red with black and white accents. Knitting has gone on the back burner with my eyes not 100%. My hands are often sore as well since winter has arrived. We've had temperatures at night below freezing already.
My genealogical work progresses. I am poking at a branch that were the first Dutch settlers of Albany, NY, and plan to map out the migration of some of the early Massachusetts ancestors. I found I have one ancestor who came over on the Mayflower, William White, and his son Resolved White. There is one ancestor with the exotic name of Naomi LaPorte who was a French emigree fleeing the French revolution. That's as close as I get to my mother's myth that we were descended from General Lafayette's brother.
I've been watching Masterchef again, but I skip the team competitions and watch when they are concentrating on a dish I would consider making myself. Maggie Beer sets the bar too high I think and doesn't allow enough time. I do wonder about the cooks hurtling about madly to finish their dishes in time, then cut to the kitchen totally clean and each cook brings a dish up one at a time. Some things must get cold or sit in their juices too long. Maggie's grape upside down cake must have been still hot when served or they are fudging the timeline elsewhere. I've been catching up on the TV series Fringe on DVD which seems an intriguing mix of X Files (not a fan), Lost, and Alias. J.J. Abrams shows his influence in all three. I look forward to seeing more of Leonard Nemoy as the enigmatic William Bell.
Last but NOT least is the weaving course I took at the ANU School of Textiles. It was billed as 3D weaving which involved making textures within the woven cloth, with things like pleats, waffle weave, and seersucker. My class project is above, a scarf of felted wool with stripes of rayon that created ripples and bubbles. I had to weave like hell because I was sick fo a couple of classes. But it turned out exactly right. I bought a battery powered fringe twister which was a treat for sore hands, then put it in the washing machine for felting. It's now soft and interesting and I can't wait to do another.
And yes, I got my hair cut. Now it's just under ear length and layered. Much easier to maintain.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Well, I told you I was wondering why I wrote this blog and I haven't come up with enough things of import in the past 2 months to write about. I have come out of my depression without intervention by a professional (fortunate, since my appointment with the shrink isn't until April). I have started work at the Library as a volunteer doing not very interesting material but it was good to see all the friendly faces. My physical well being improves. My back no longer hurts except for occasions when anybody's back would hurt: long time spent bending over, etc. I continue to have pain in my leg muscles after I walk any distance which is disappointing because walking was how I wanted to get fit. One day of walking means I am very sore the next day. I've had my enthusiastic Bhutanese gardener go after weeds in my garden. The Canberra weather has been extremely bizarre: cold and wet which is hardly a typical summer. My tomatoes don't know what to do when we had an all-time record low for January of 1C. They produce a handful of tomatoes. The lima beans are still going and have produced pods. I made 2 batches of zucchini pickle relish from blimps produced in the garden. We are at this moment having a hailstorm. Housewise, I got the drains cleaned out, have been nagging my gutter repairman to do the job he signed up for in November, and had to get my old DVD player wired into the new digital set-up because my new whiz-bang DVD player/recorder won't play region 1 DVDs and there is no hack for it that I could find. Since I have hundreds of American DVDs, this was not permissible so I had to take a step back to an older DVD player that has been hacked.
Otherwise, I read, watch TV, spin, work on my family history. The photo above is one I scanned from a collection of photos my sister had. I've made a couple of contacts with distant, previously unknown, relatives. I managed to get some data for my MIL's genealogy search as well. Books: I finished Judgement of Caesar by Stephen Saylor. I love his Roman mysteries and have read every one. I also finished Stephen Fry's second volume of autobiography, The Fry Chronicles. I raced through the Steve Jobs biography which I found absolutely riveting. What a complicated, driven, genius of a man. We will miss his mark on society since he personally approved of every tiny detail of every Apple product. I have been an Apple fan for a long time and now know some of the why. I bought a first generation Macintosh the first month they were on the market. My BBBB is now is Thames by Peter Ackroyd. My previous BBBBs proved not to be sleep inducing and are therefore languishing half read. I've been reading science fiction on my Kindle. I go through so many hard science/space opera novels that it hardly bears listing them.
I spun coffee brown BFL, some hand dyed BFL in blues, browns, and roses, and am now into 15 oz of merino & tencel in a lovely aqua/sea green. Bought two lots under different colour names from two different vendors and it turned out to be the same thing. I spin so much and knit so little that I wish I could sell some. My current new favourite TV show is Homeland partly because I love Damien Lewis. I am also a fan of the Canadian series The Republic of Doyle and Flashpoint. I am watching the British mini-series Exile because I love John Simm.
Next week I see the eye surgeon, have a mammogram, and I intend to make appointments for my teeth, the cat's annual check-up, and my hair. I am finally tired of the locks enough that they're coming off again. This weekend I am going blackberrying in the state forest with some of the girls. This assumes there are blackberries given the weird weather and that it doesn't rain.
Is that enough for 2 months? Don't know whether there is enough interest in what I do write, but I'll continue to update my waiting audience when there is something to post. Maybe after I start the weaving course in 2 weeks.
Monday, December 12, 2011
The weather is stuck in some other time dimension. We've continued to have rain (thunderstorms yesterday) and it's only around 20C and not very sunny. I've said it before but it's still true: this is not normal for Canberra in December. The garden loves it. The beans are blooming. So are the tomatoes but the weather doesn't suit them.
My BBBBs have been American Jezebel and Language Death and they have both been too stimulating and I haven't been sleeping. The David Crystal book inspired me with his rationales for multilingualism, including that being bilingual stimulates your brain. I have studied a long list of languages but the only one I feel comfortable in taking up again is Spanish, partially because it is an "easy" language. It's not hard to pronounce, it seems closer to Latin which helps me out, and I did study it intensely as recently (ha) as university. I have more years invested in French (5) but I can still read it with the help of a dictionary. So I got some simple Spanish stories for my Kindle and a dictionary for my iPhone and am going to try reviving my Spanish neurons. Even tho I taught Swahili in grad school, not much of it remains in my brain and I have little opportunity to use it. At least with Spanish I can read labels on stuff imported from the US! For those who only know me in the Swanknitter persona, I got a masters degree in Linguistics & Non-Western Languages, specializing in African languages and before that studied Latin, French and Spanish. Lack of jobs in the field shunted me into library work. I love learning languages, but they are like puzzles to me; once I figure out how they work I lose interest so rarely become fluent without constant exercise. My new BBBB is Foreign Devils on the Silk Road, which follows on from previous BBBBs about Central Asia. My Kindle book is another Neal Asher Ian Cormac novel, Line War.
My dear MIL is coming for a visit over Christmas, which overjoys me. I haven't seen her in over a year due to my knee. Once I got the word on the cataracts, driving to Sydney to her new home seemed beyond me and would put off a reunion till sometime around June next year. So seeing her over the holidays is the best present ever. Each year without the Bear is hard. I hope someday it won't be so raw.
I finished the handspun sock yarn for D. and It turned out really well, with the colours lining up almost exactly in plying. I finished a pair of Opal cotton socks last night and bought up 2 more balls of it (since I found out it was discontinued and I really like it). The last pair was grey/blue/pink and the next pair will be coral. I am spinning some brown wool of unknown origin but those blankets deserve stripes. I finished spinning what I think was 4 oz. of wool/silk/mohair blend in autumn colours. Have no idea what I'll do with it!
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
In the process of researching 17th century America for genealogical purposes, I am reading American Jezebel by Eve LaPlante, about Anne Hutchinson. I'm not a very religious person. I was raised in the Congregational church, which was my choice for my family, made when I was 7. Since this denomination is descended from the original Puritans, I expected to find some chords to resonate in the story. I cannot say that today I am a Christian because I no longer believe in many of the basics of Christian faith but I do try to follow the ethical standards. I am now totally dumbfounded to find that the founding fathers of Massachusetts, who left England for religious freedom, became totally legalistic and narrow in their beliefs in the new world and prosecuted Anne Hutchinson for her differing opinions on points of theology. Of course, much of it boils down to the fact that she was a woman, who was supposed to be silent and obey her husband. Anne was brought up as an independent thinker, and one who believed at a deeply emotional level about how "salvation" is achieved. I don't believe in heaven or hell and I'm not sure what I think about what happens after you die. Sometimes I believe in karma; sometimes I think you just die. Of course these are the same legalistic ministers who banished my ancestor Roger Williams, so I shouldn't be surprised, but I was. The original society of Massachusetts in the 17th century is not quite how we were taught in school. I'm not sure those controlling ministers should engender the respect that they get as "founding fathers."
Canberra's weather continues to confuse me. We got 90mm (almost 4") of rain last week. Last night the thunderstorms started around 6PM and are still rumbling and raining at noon the following day. I have a small lake in my back yard and I would love it to stop raining long enough for me to pick strawberries, etc. The garden loves it and the weeds like it too. I need to get my gutters repaired but the guy can't fix them until it stops raining!
The cataract problem continues to bother me. If I read too much or do too much close work in the evening I often get a headache. Apparently cataract surgery is a simple process so I'll go ahead with the weaving course. I continue to have a weak back, but I'm doing exercises to strengthen the muscles. I have a weak lower back originally because I am missing part of a vertebra. I am told this is an extremely mild variety of spina bifida; it just means my lower back hurts when I lift things the wrong way.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
The knee progresses but the back is still weak. I walked three city blocks on Friday and was barely able to keep upright at the end. But I also worked an hour in the garden mulching and weeding and was sore but managed to actually accomplish something. I'm getting good returns of strawberries but the spinach has given up in the heat. One of the varieties of pea has finished but another is still coming in if this hot spell passes.
My city visit was to see my optometrist because of semi-constant headaches, especially when I try to do close work. I feel like I'm straining to see. The verdict was unexpected: cataracts, when I was expecting new lenses. I see the surgeon in Feb just before the next weaving course. I hear the recovery time is short so I may be able to do both. The next weaving course is on textural weaving like waffle weave and seersucker, both of which I wanted to learn, so I really want to take it. I can drive now but don't trust myself in locations like city traffic (I know you who snort that Canberra has city traffic but we have sufficient concentrations of bad drivers). I think D doesn't want to relinquish driving my car but it's nice to have somebody there to take up the slack when I tire myself out. It's only been a month since surgery so I am entitled to longer recovery time.
I'm reading Martin Cruz Smith's Three Stations on my Kindle and have downoaded Steve Job's autobiography. My BBBB is American Jezebel about Anne Hutchinson, She co-founded Rhode Island with my ancestor Roger Williams based on radical ideas about freedom of religion and payment to the the Indians for taking over their lands,
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
At right is the only knitting I can show for the last month, a pair of socks from Noro's Kureyon sock. The colours are obviously a knockout but the yarn itself is rather harsh feeling and is spun no better than my handspun. If the wow factor of Noro is the colours, I can dye yarn just as striking. I've started a new pair of socks out of Opal Cotton in greys and soft pink.
My spinning output has been the one pound of 50/50 merino & tussah silk in a deep forest green. I got 4 hanks out of the pound from Yarn or a tale which cost all of $21, but I haven't counted yardage yet. It's very soft and is a sport weight. I've been thinking of knitting one of those long skinny scarves that people seem to wrap around their necks these days and this silk mix would be a good candidate. The next spin will be some superwash merino in hot pink, neon green and turquoise for the sock hoon, D.
My other preoccupation since I've been home is the release of Coldplay's new album. I am a very devoted fan of theirs and would love to see them perform live. I'll have to keep my ear closer to the grapevine to find out when or if they are coming to Australia and try my best to get a ticket. I know nobody else my age or younger who shares my musical tastes so I'll go alone if I have to. I've been watching a lot of their Youtube videos and phrases from their songs are running around my head 24/7. Any Sydney folks out there who would go with me?
Speaking of which, while I've been home, I've been thinking a lot about this blog. The person for whom I wrote is no longer here. I know I have a handful of devoted readers but they are not interested in knitting and spinning for the most part. This blog may have passed it's use-by-date. Facebook connects me with a lot of my friends that wouldn't read my blog. This platform may become more irregular and be confined to crafts, books, movies and such. Once again I ask for feedback altho I know who most of my readers are. Anybody anonymous please let me know why you read?
Book reports: I finished In Siberia by Colin Thrubon and it was just as interesting as all his other travel books. He goes to places ordinary travelers wouldn't and seeks out unusual people. This was a picture of post-Soviet Siberia, which is crumbling like many of the other bits of the Union. He visits prison camps and Old Believers, Lake Baikal and the Amur River. I am now reading both Language Death by David Crystal, which invigorates those latent linguistic routines in my brain, and Will the Boat Sink the Water? about the plight of the peasant in rural China. For regular reading, there's Steven Saylor's Judgement of Caesar, and on my Kindle some ripping space opera.