Thursday, December 25, 2008

Yes, here it is Christmas day and 33C here. I just finished making 98% raspberry jam (I had to add a couple of strawberries and a few boysenberries to make the 5 cups of fruit called for). I am all alone and have done no Christmas preparations since I continued to be sick until this week, and even now I get tired even more easily than I used to. My dear MIL is coming down tomorrow afternoon for the weekend so I'll have some company for a few days. Everyone else seems to have retreated into their families so I am left to my Internet family.

Book reports: How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman was fascinating and I raced through it while recuperating. It's not about bad doctors per se although he has personal experience with a string of surgeons that may ring a bell with some people. It's more a case of why doctors fall into diagnostic ruts, why too many tests can be a bad thing, why some doctors are better at patient care than others. I've had experience with surgeons who were very bad at patient care; my eye surgeon was brilliant but not a people person. Once I figured that out I knew how to get my voice heard. My first knee surgeon didn't perform the procedure he told me he was going to, and, then when I didn't recover "properly", confessed that he was better with hands than knees. But the failure of tests to do what the patient expects or to give more information than can be really valuable is interesting, especially for someone contemplating knee replacement.

BBBB: In Confident Hope of a Miracle by Neil Hanson, subtitled "the true story of the Spanish Armada." Despite its 600+ pages, it was quite interesting and tells a very different story than the one most of us remember (if anything) about the fate of the Spanish Armada. There were massive delays and incompetence on both sides, financial penny-pinching or outright lack of funds, bad weather, poor ship design, bad tactics, not to mention that the Armada was supposed to lead the way for an invasion of England from the Netherlands. I always wondered why all the silver that came into Spain from the New World seemed to vanish without effect. Philip II spent vast amounts of it on this plan to eradicate Protestantism from Europe and have it become a completely Catholic continent. He believed that God had chosen him to do this, so it would happen. His own military leaders tried to point out the holes in his plan but he refused to listen because he knew God would help him. Thousands died at sea or on the coast of Ireland carrying out this belief.

The other thing that has been on my mind which I am not ready to talk about is my future as a widow in Australia. This year with its long trip in the States and its long lonely sickness and holiday make me wonder what I'm doing here. But nothing can be accomplished by stewing now because it's all a moot point until I can retire which still lies 5 years in the future. My financial status and the fate of the American economy will have a much stronger bearing in the issue than missing the smell of a real Christmas tree and the taste of eggnog with family.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's berry time here in Canberra, loganberries, and boysenberries mostly but a surprisingly large crop of raspberries too. I'd like to get enough to make raspberry jam but that will be pushing it. Besides, raspberries are so wonderful to eat on their own. To the left you have a small portion of one evening's picking and the first of the world famous mixed berry jam. To th
e right you have the Imp in the sink of the remodeled bathroom. She is trying to figure out her relationship with this bathroom since I am using it while the toilet in the ensuite leaks. Plumber arrived this AM and supposedly fixed leak. She doesn't like this sink as much as the other one but she loves the bathtub.

Obviously I am alive and 90% recovered. I still have a sore throat and a nagging little cough which I hope means nothing. I am still very short on energy and get tired very quickly. I think I'm going to forget about planting corn and may plant more beans or something else easy. I have little energy for gardening and earlier this week I fell onto the driveway while trying to tug down some dying foliage (or as our bus driver in Kaui kept calling it, foilage). I have another spectacular bruise on my left thigh/hip and felt very shaken up.

Book report: I just finished the 4th volume in S.M. Stirling's post-apocalyptic series that begins with Dies the fire. The next volume is out but only in hardback so I await... Very compelling plot with lots of action. Tends to revel in gore, however. Have moved on to Iain M. Banks's Matter, which is one of his Culture novels. I looked at the size of it and doubted my attention span but I find myself on page 262. As usual there are multiple stories played out simultaneously and at differing levels of the Culture. I really like these novels but they are like nothing else I've ever read in sci-fi. They are beautifully written and complex, yet the characters make the whole complexity make sense. Any reader who is not familiar with his work should be made aware that his novels written as Iain Banks are in a different style and setting from these. The confusion must have gotten to somebody because this one is the first I've seen labeled as a Culture novel on the front. Start with Consider Phlebas or The Use of Weapons.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I'm sorry to go silent on you but apparently what I have is the "summer flu" and it has completely knockend me out. If I can ever stop coughing, I may return to life as we know it. Meanwhile I cough and watch TV and knit.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

I am sitting here rereading some of my posts from the trip and feel like I inhabit two different worlds. Here I am at home in the summer with birds singing (and dogs barking) having just picked a sizable quantity of mixed berries. I hung out two loads of laundry and I managed to plant beans and more cucumbers today and do some preliminary pruning of the bay tree and the middle plum. After 90 minutes at that I was pooped and came in to collapse. Tomorrow I am due to go back to work. My legs hurt and my knees are unreliable.

But then I just spent two months in another life where it is winter and Christmas is a really traditional holiday (which I have never felt here) and people are both worrying about their jobs and trying to do Christmas shopping. I felt comfortable there again probably because the Bear is gone and he was my tie to Australia. I am having some difficulty in my own mind figuring out where I am in my life. The physical part is obviously here and I like buying mangoes and lovely cherries. But I have no trouble whatsoever switching over to US mode. I never get confused about which side of the road to be on, or money, and there were only a few words of Australian that remained stuck in my vocabulary (petrol). Australia sometimes seems so terribly provincial and the US so incredibly egotistical. I don't know how to balance the two sides of my life, especially when there are people I care about on both sides of the Pacific.

I really wish I could shake this illness and feel like I have some degree of energy but it hasn't happened yet, although the cough is less draining and my nose needs blowing less often.

Friday, December 05, 2008

This shows what a couple of week's change in location made. The snow was along I-68 in West Virginia and the lovely coast of Kauai was at the end of the cruise as we sailed back to Oahu and Honolulu. Now that I'm home it seems like a bit of a dream. Everyone said I was doing too much but, when I got beaten down, it was at the end of the trip when I had just been on the road too long. I've already gotten 2 of the boxes mailed from Maryland and I forgot Quarantine's dislike of spiced tea and they confiscated my Constant Comment. But I have Cascade Sierra (a wool & cotton blend) and one of the 2 skeins of discontinued Noro Big Kureyon in a red/purple to make a shrug from a book of patterns for little bits of Noro (which is all I can afford). I'm thrilled to be back knitting on CAW.

I am still sick and run down. I managed to get cucumbers and zucchini planted today before I ran out of steam.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I am sitting in my very own bed and trying to ignore the pain in my legs and the annoying persistent cough. Yes, I am still sick. I spent Weds of the cruise in bed and had to cancel the second snorkel trip. It's not like there aren't any available coral reefs in our country, so I can do it again another time. I think a lot of the wow factor for most Americans on the cruise was the tropical island bit. Living in Australia (and having lived in Florida for 5 years), all the foliage and such wasn't all that exciting. And I was unprepared for the wall of humidity which made everything hurt. Oh, and nobody told me it rained a lot. I didn't get to wiggle my toes on Waikiki because it was raining the whole time despite weather forecasters and tourist guides assurances that it was going to be fine.

A few very general comments about the Hawaii experience. I liked NCL and its policy of letting you eat where and when you wanted. The food was good and you choose what to eat and pretty much everything is on offer from roast meat to sushi. The cabin was small but manageable and we had a balcony as well. Unfortunately, our cabin was on the side that faced the wharf most of the time, and the ship docks at a commercial shopping terminal so you get a great view of containers on docks. I am so tired of Hawaiian music and shirts I may never want view anything of that style again. Read the fine print on your contract before you figure that you've paid for everything. This may not be a surprise to other people who do cruises, but there was a fee added for each passenger each day labeled a "service charge" which was supposed to mean you didn't have to tip people. We tipped the waiter who was extra nice to us and baggage handlers anyway. You get absolutely nothing free to drink except water out of the tap, and tea and coffee with meals. So every can of soda or water costs.
My second bus tour was not very good. It was a trip to Waiemea Canyon via the life story of the bus driver. Very little about the canyon, stops to buy souvenirs, and a stop for 15 minutes to go to the only lookout over the canyon. Yes the sight is pretty spectacular (I'll post some photos later) but I'm not sure that a trip by houses with their real estate information was what the trip was for.

The hotel on Waikiki was very nice but should be at the price we paid. However, the area around the big hotels is all designed for shopping, both high end boutiques (Chanel, Dior) and the same souvenir stands selling the same stuff as everywhere. We finally went to a bar for a meal and got hamburgers since dinners in the hotel started at $25, Lots of Japanese tourists spending their yen. Many signs only in Japanese. The only souvenir I bought was a T shirt with "Obama surfs" on the front and a little patriotic verse followed by "President Obama 2009" on the back. I don't know for a fact if he does (or did) surf but he did grow up in Hawaii.

Unfortunately, no matter how much you like your cabin mate, you will get on each other's nerves occasionally. I am sure I was cranky because I was tired and sick and hurting and would have preferred to be left alone. But for the most part dear MIL was good company and we had some laughs. She went out at ports and went shopping in Walmart while I was trying to see natural wonders and maybe a bird (besides the hundreds of chickens that populate Kauai).

I am also having extremely mixed feelings about the dual citizen business. Having spent 2 months in the US on my own, I really had a good time and really had a ball with all my friends. I really like parts of American culture and life style and feel sort of constricted in Australia. Now that I no longer have the Bear, the ties to this country are not as strong. My friends in American are for the most part closer to me than any one I have here. I miss them all the time. I do love Australia and many things about its lifestyle and culture but there are a lot of things I don't like as well and time hasn't changed that. I can't go back to the US without medical coverage so I have to stay here unless I stumbled across a man willing to marry creaky old me and bundle me into his health cover. No, I'm not looking.

I hope to get out of bed tomorrow and go shopping for groceries. My housesitter left everything pristine but rearraged things a bit oddly. I have done 2 loads of laundry and have another yet to do.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Greetings from the high seas, somewhere oout of Hilo on the Big Island, on our way to Kona, on the other side of the island. I did actually make it here. A brief recap from my last post: I woke in Morgantown to find an inch of snow on the ground and more coming down. On the way out to the car my left knee went out from under me and has stayed painful, which probably means I tore something in it once again. I made it to DC, renewed my car rental at Enterprise and met up with my ex. We had lunch and I checked into my el cheapo motel. I was feeling so beat up and my legs hurt so much that I decided to curtail my activities, and rest for at least a day or 2 so I would be able to go to my planned visit at LC and see my friend R and have dinner at her house, if not stay with her. Once again my ex was super-supportive and helpful and even ferried me to the Hill and stopped by for dessert and to take me home from R's house. The LC visit was not as helpful as I hoped but I did see some very old friends.

I made my plane to LA and then to Honolulu and met my dear MIL. We got to the cruise ship and found our cabin. I was once again feeling tired and beaten about--this is the end of the trip and my stamina is very limited. I have spent the first two days of the cruise in our stateroom (the size of a small motel room, but with a balcony) but my MIL has ventured out at each stop. I was scheduled to go snorkeling the morning after we arrived but I cancelled it. Today I went on a trip to Volcanoes National Park, which was supposed to be the most important point, and it was spectacular. Huge calderas, steam vents, jumbled piles of lava. I'll try to post photos when I get home but I am sure the scale will be impossible to grasp. We might see molten lava falling into the sea from the boat tonight, but from land you are not allowed anywhere near it. The excursion was just what I was hoping for and am so glad I did it. I have rescheduled a less taxing and smaller-group snorkel trip off Kona tomorrow but today I have been coming down with a cold despite my best efforts to avoid it. If it's bad tomorrow I don't know how you blow you nose and/or cough in a dive mask and snorkel. Thursday it's Waimea Canyon which is mostly a bus trip. I will be very sad if I can't snorkel but it really depends on how I feel tomorrow. Sailing is kinda interesting, a slight rolling feeling but this is a big ship so I can't imagine feeling seasick. A cold was NOT on the agenda.

My luggage is crammed full and hard to manage so we will try to get it from the boat to the hotel in Waikiki and then HOME! I am very homesick, if you can't tell.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I am sitting in a motel in Morgantown WV (West Virginia for those outside the USA) where I forced myself off the road after too long at the wheel. I had disagreements with Mandy, ended up driving too far in the wrong direction, was driving through blowing snow all day at 75MPH (You Aussies do the maths). A recipe for an accident with monster 18-wheelers and people driving even faster all around. I stopped here at 3PM because I knew I was not going to make it to DC in what passed for daylight. Then I pulled the best trick of the trip: I locked my purse (with phone) and keys in the boot when I took out my suitcase. I phoned Enterprise and talked to a very nice man in St Louis who has friends in Perth (WA) who was diligent in trying to find my rental contract. No go. Fortunately there was a local Enterprise employee willing to drive here and read the VIN off the car to prove it was theirs so they could authorize it to be unlocked. Three hours later, I am safe and warm and typing away while drinking Gonzo Imperial Porter (9.2% alcohol) and trying to feel no pain. May I state categorically that, while the Dodge Avenger is roomy and has an aux-in jack for my iPod, it is underpowered (and therefore guzzles fuel on hilly terrain) and has the mushiest steering I ever have driven. I don't exist because I have an overseas credit card. MasterCard is going to get a very angry letter when I get home. I had this happen repeatedly throughout the US.

The last few days at BFLB's house were quiet. A little more yarn shopping so I now have 5 boxes to ship home, but there are books for an M Bag. Yesterday it snowed spectacularly to little effect, so we stayed inside by the gas fireplace and watched college football. It's spooky that I can remember gridiron tactics and plays when I haven't watched it in 20 years. College ball is more interesting than NFL anyway because people get more excited. Speaking of which I checked on the Swans fixture for 2009 and found a number of weekend day games at the SCG that are possible for Canberrans. I'd love to go back to the SCG for a match, providing it's not raining.

You might have noticed I neglected to mention The Election. I'm just so pleased to be here for this epic moment in American life (and to participate) and to watch a new era begin. I sincerely hope and firmly believe that Obama will get the best people in the country and the country is ready for change. W was apparently quoted as saying "I guess I just had one of those Presidencies" as if the entire world isn't suffering from his idiocy for 8 years. American needs to do serious work on its health care system and financial infrastructure before more people are made unemployed and/or homeless. A friend told me she was much more ready to work on any project offered her to save her job and there are lots of others not so lucky. Another friend faces major surgery without health insurance.

I listened to some good podcasts, including one a rant against a rant against boomers. Gen X etc. don't realize how much of what they take for granted (even a bi-racial President) is the result of boomers. I won't rant but the podcast ended with the Jimi Hendrix opening riff for Purple Rain so I put Jimi on the radio and cranked it up. That got the blood pumping for a while. Also listened to an interesting podcast about mythical beasts with excerpts from a new novel called The Bestiary by Nicholas Christopher. I must buy it. Both podcasts were from International Public Radio's To the best of our knowledge which were very good listening on the road. New to my podcast lists.

Thanks to whomever you are that turned me to over 12,000 hits. I hope I have amused or interested you on my Big Adventure. It's almost over but I may be able to blog from the cruise ship! I am ready to leave snow and driving behind and relax. It has been so super seeing so many old friends and making new ones. I am truly blessed by knowing some really wonderful people and will continue to be torn by loving living in Australia with all my friends there, and the delights of the US marketplace and menu, and all my friends here, the oldest I think so far I've known 48 years.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ohio is flat. This is not news but is something I forget when I've been away in more hilly terrain for years. We (BFLB and her friend M) drove up to the edge of Lake Erie yesterday to attend an open house at Just for Ewe at Marblehead. Christi has a tiny house full to the bursting point with gorgeous yarn ranging from Noro to Cascade 220 and I put another dent in my credit card. Since I bought no yarn for all of 2007 and most of 2008 and gave a box full to fellow Canberra knitter C, I feel like I can splurge a little. Two skeins of a discontinued Noro for a shrug are my favourite purchase. I've finished two pairs of socks so far on this trip and am busily working on another from Trekking wool and bamboo I bought in Virginia. It has sort of a crunchy hand but is getting silkier as I knit more and I think it will soften when washed. BFLB knits very colourful socks with pattens while I remaind a member of the "plain stockinette socks" group. The last two pair have been with ribbed uppers simply because I knew I would have plenty of yarn (Trekking and Opal are both generous in yardage).

Saturday my other brother drove over from Indiana for lunch and we had a most cheerful lunch. He and I have spent probably the least amount of time together out of the disconnected family but we share a love of science fiction. I used to love summer stays at his house because I would try and read as much as I could from his library while I was there. He confirmed my bitter memories of my parents' endless fighting, which I dreamed of running away from as a child. I was really unaware of a lot of stuff when I was young and really didn't understand what a loving family meant until I met my ex's family who welcomed me in as a daughter. It's nice to reclaim my family bit by bit even if too many years have passed when we should have been enjoying each other's company.

My health has been good except for Friday when I felt uncomfortable and out of sorts all day. In the evening I asked BFLB to take my blood pressure (had a hunch) and it was through the roof. Fortunately, whatever it was disappeared by the next morning and I was back in normal BP. Now I know what high blood pressure feels like. I have also forgotten to take my pills on a couple of occasions, no doubt because there is no routine to my life at the moment.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Yes, I am still alive. I have made it to BFLB's home in the Buckeye state without problem after spending a day and a half with my brother in Buffalo. Unfortunately, while I was there, I took a Neurontin at bedtime because my legs were killing me and when I woke up I was extremely dizzy and promptly fell down, hitting my head on the corner of their dresser on the way down. I spent most of the day resting and recuperating from that adventure, but the weather wasn't very nice and I've been to their house so many times that there wasn't any sightseeing I felt compelled to do. So we talked and looked at family photos and I feel a little bit more connected to a family that had been mostly lost to me all my life. My father kept all his children isolated and was always in the room when we got together so we never could talk comfortably. Since he died, the children have become much closer and we regret all the years we lost.

Since I've been here I've been catching up on sleep, eating far too much, and just relaxing. Friday I went to vote early absentee and so our delight but also sadly not so good for my legs, there was a three and a half hour wait in line to vote! I can't tell you how many people that was but the line moved very briskly and snaked all the way through the lobby of the building. We struck up a conversation with a nice "young" lady who wanted to learn to knit, had firbromyalgia, and was voting for the first time. My guess is that the crowd was about 50/50 white and African American and was very patient and upbeat. I hadn't realized the extent of the bombardment voters are getting, especially in a crucial state like Ohio, from mostly the "other" side of the political divide, until I got here. I am very glad I came to vote even if I did cause a minor hiccup when I got there and told them I was not allowed vote on anything but the federal ballot. I don't want any excuse for them to not count my ballot this year like they did the past 2 elections. I should look who won the ACT election which took place last week.

Other events along the trip were catching up with friends I went to junior high and high school whom I haven't seen in decades. Needless to say, there was a lot of talking at do. Then I headed off to near Utica to visit with a former work colleague who also happened to live across the street from me in Ohio and who was responsible for one of the photos I sent the Bear when we first were long-distance courting. It rained one day so we talked all day; the next day we drove to Itaca to go to Susan's where I just had to buy some gorgeous spinning fibre, even some angora which I have never tried before. But it was 50% off so how could I not? Said friend also took me to a book store which was also dangerous. Books can be mailed home cheaply, and fibre squooshes. Not so sure about the jam I bought yesterday... Utica got a foot of snow the day after I left and it was snowing lightly as I drove around the end of Lake Erie in the way to central Ohio. I was not particularly happy to see that, but lake effect snow doesn't bother much except those that live down wind of the Great Lakes.

Yesterday we bought jam, cider, wierd beer, bratwurst, et al., and went to a perfomance of music by a folk group whose soprano provides me with a Franklin County address for my absentee voting rights. Today, who knows what mischief we will get into?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Uploading photos to Blogger while in the US of A is LOTS faster than from home so today you get pent up photos from my trip so far. At the moment we are awaiting the arrival of the the 3rd of the the three-some from high school that did everything together, listening to music, going to the movies, etc. In the mean time here are some pictures. At top is a picture of some of the looms at the Weavers School. The class was so good I cannot begin to fill up the space with superlatives. Madelyn is a super teacher and there were looms to do every common (and some uncommon) weaves. I was disappointed in my own shortcomings as most of the looms are Baby Wolf jack looms and I didn't have the knee power required to lift the shafts for plain picks between pattern picks for the summer and winter which was one I really wanted to do. I did lots of twill and a double weave colour gamp that I never thought I could do. Of course, with all the looms set up and ready to go, it was easy to concentrate on weave structure. I hope I can hold the knowledge in my head long enough to do it when I get home. The weave that is at the head of the School's web page is one we did and it looks completely impossible but is actually easy. I now own my own sample of it woven with my very own hands.

Here is one photo from Rhinebeck, the entries in the spinning award. The first prize in weaving was a twill scarf in what looked like naturally brown wool--nothing fancy but well executed and that I know is what counts. When we were getting ready to cut our fabric off the looms at the Weavers School we had to weave a border to tie a new warp to and I wove the best tabby I've ever done, knowing that future classes would see my ending border when they sat down at that loom.

At right is some of Eleanor Roosevelt's knitting. I went to Val Kill, her home, and was somewhat disappointed that only about 4 of the 20 rooms are open to the public. There was also a VIP function on at the site and I got to see James Earl Jones ride by in a golf cart. There was nothing knitting related there. I was tired and thought, well, FDR's place is right down the road so why not. I went through the museum but could not summon up leg power for the home. In the museum I cruised and found a whole wing/gallery devoted to Eleanor and there was all the stuff I wanted to see including a whole exhibit of her needlework including the example shown here. There was a short movie before you get into the gallery and she was knitting everywhere. They said she knit during UN sessions. Take that, all you men who think women can't knit and think at the same time.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The drive up to DC was great and I stopped at the Yarn Barn because BFLB used to work there when Pat was in Delaware. Alladin's cave as it was then and is now. I was a bit naughty but if I am buying stuff I like I'd rather buy it from Pat than a nameless online site. Non-wool sock yarn, a kit I think she knocked the price down to get rid of it because she didn't like the yarn vendor, etc. I am knitting another Opal sock and had almost the leg on one done while watching American TV. I have seen shows I watch at home and the "fast-tracked from the US" makes me all a bit confused as to what I am watching and what I am missing in Australia.

I am sitting in a Days Inn in Poughkeepsie where I have a little time still trying to recover from yesterday before I got out and sightsee. Mandy (the GPS lady; I've decided she went to private school and has an English boyfriend because she uses words like motorway) took me up the west side of the Hudson which I had never seen before and the fall foliage was absolutely stunning. My cheap 1950s motel was right across the road from FDR's home. The weather had changed overnight and I had to wear a cardie and my leather coat just to get out of the door. Rhinebeck was even bigger than when the Bear and I went years ago. The vendors were more and more varied. Some really nice stuff I walked past. My major mistake was buying a huge cone of wool for $10 at the beginning of the trek and having to lug it around. The very nice folks at Wild Fibers minded my bag for me so I could continue. I did meet up with Sheila Bosworth and she remembered me and awarded me "the longest distance traveled" honour. I did stick my head into many vendors' stalls, with whom I have been a customer online, and said hello. By the time I left, some vendors looked sold out; maybe Sunday shoppers will get short shrift. I had my Ravelry button on and lots of people asked me where the meetup was supposed to be and I didn't know either, and I didn't bother trying to find the lunch gathering because I was at the other end of the fairground then. I found cider and real Macintosh apples and fried dough which isn't quite an Ohio State Fair dumbo ear, but as close as I could get. I tried very hard not to overdo and left at 2.30 and went to my motel and put my feet up and napped. Still haven't figured out how to load photos, but I will.

I am now trying to decide, if I have to choose because my feet still hurt, which sight is a must today. I think Eleanor Roosevelt's home. The Culinary Institute of America's restaurants are not open on weekends and I could have gone Friday night but I was too tired. I am OK in my 2 star hotels and will be seeing my sister tomorrow. Please Aussie readers remember I'm now speaking in US time and you'll have to convert it if you want to figure out when I am where.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Blogger lost my post so I will try to recapture my stream of thought. I am at the end of my stay in the south and I remember why I love this part of the world so much. The smells, the voices of the people, the lay of the land, the food (of course). I've eaten LOTS of barbecue and we managed to get ham biscuits yesterday and I have a small packet of real Virginia ham to eat before I leave. I have made contact with all the friends I hoped to see and L and realized we had been friends for 38 years!. P has bought the house I lived in (as a renter) for five years and is completely remodeling it and it looks great and not in the sorry state when I lived in it as as penniless grad student. I have eaten LOTS of barbecue and ham biscuits and have a small packet of real Virginia ham to eat before I leave the States. L (different L) has been working as a volunteer for Obama so she brought me up to date on all things political and otherwise. I didn't get to see as much of her husband as I would have liked, but then he wants me to write book on authority control!!! I don't have time to post photos but we took the ferry across the James and we saw an eagle sitting on a post. Jamestown has has had a major upgrade since the Bear and I were there before. Today we are driving back to DC the scenic route and will no doubt yack more in the car. DH2 has been wonderful to me. We have both matured emotionally since we were married all those years ago. I miss his parents almost as much as he does and I'm glad I made the effort to see them one last time when the Bear and I came through here 2 trips ago. It's a bit spooky to see my former niece all grown up when I left her 17 years ago as a small child. I'm living on credit cards and have not shopped till I dropped, just hit the outlets I knew I wanted to hit and didn't spend too much but linen slacks for $15? My health has held up except for overdoing one day in Durham when L took me shopping and I didn't say stop fast enough and my legs told me about it the next day. On to Rhinebeck!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hi, gang! I made it! Here I am typing away from the U S of A. The weaving class was really overwhelming and I'll post photos of my production when I get a chance to upload some photos. I can highly recommend The Weavers School and Coupeville, Washington, was charming and had a good pub with a nice selection of ales and fresh local mussels.

I will be off to visit friends in North Carolina in a day or two and then head north to see my sister et al. I will post when I have wi-fi and time. The US is still not my home but hasn't changed too much. I miss the Imp.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Well, folks, tomorrow morning I'll be on a Qantas plane, heading for LA and then Seattle before crossing the water to The Weaver's School for a week of in-depth weaking study. I am terribly intimidated and hope I can avoid making a fool of myself. M was such a forgiving teacher, who would help me correct mistakes or say it wouldn't matter. The new M is A Big Name in weaving and I hope I can absorb enough to put it into action when I get home.

Everyone who has read my itinerary can't believe I am trying to do so much but at every stop I think there is a block of a day when I can call time out if I need it. My legs were killing me after a brief stint of shopping to buy a new purse for my dying one. If I can get a good night's sleep tonight I'll be right and I have no trouble sleeping on planes. I have confidence in my housesitter and The Imp seems to like her although I'm sure she will miss me as much as I'll miss her. No little cat head on my shoulder as I go to sleep. And I hate leaving the garden at this time of the year. I just picked another half dozen spears of asparagus. There will be strawberries soon too. The other grafts on the grafted apple tree are also blooming.

Wish me luck and I'll post when I have a chance (not for at least a week).

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I know. But there is just so much to do before I wing away. After spending a week simply being exhausted, I've decided to pace myself better. I've done a test pack and need to do some shifting about. I may finish the pair of socks I'm knitting before I leave, so I've pulled out another couple of skeins of sock wool. They are light and squooshable. My GP had all the paperwork straightened out for my meds and I came home with a shopping bag full and a bill for $400.

Meanwhile we bypassed spring and are in 25C, breezy sunshine. I mowed the lawn after I had an idea about how to get the mower to start easier. I left it out in the sun for several hours and it started on the first pull. Used the clippings to mulch the strawberries (all in bloom) and the potatoes (first leaves up). The asparagus at left is one day's cutting and there will be that much again tomorrow. My grafted apple tree has blossoms on one of its twigs but the dwarf heritage ones just have leaves. I need to lay a new drip irrigation hose through the asparagus and meandering around till it comes through what is now spinach and silver beet to meet the one coming from the potato bed. This is the time of year I love my garden and it is really hard to think I'll be leaving it for 2 of its best months. The wisteria is blooming and I cleaned out a lot of ivy around the front of the house (and I broke out in a rash on each arm despite long sleeves and gloves). The house-sitter says she doesn't mind gardening so it should at least be tidy when I get home. Since I'll be planting later I might try corn which I usually don't have room for. Let's hope we don't have drought as bad this year; we've had irregular rains but rains nonetheless.

The warm weather and open windows have made the Imp full of beans and she woke me up about 15 times in the night. She is now dead to the world in her cubby and could barely rouse herself for a meal of grass. I want to come back as my cat.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Swan not-news: They lost to the Bulldogs but then they play a lot dirtier than we do. There were an awful lot of high tackles and other misdemeanors which the umps didn't see, and we couldn't kick straight to save out lives. So I don't have to think about footy until I get back. We will be going through rebuilding for several more seasons as our older players retire, so matches in the future may be painful to watch.

One of the things that I always forget about FMS is how badly stress impacts on my body. The trip planning and both excitement and anxiety over its actually happening, a disagreement with a friend, worrying about the super fund issue, etc. and I end up not necessarily in pain but exhausted. I couldn't pry myself out of bed after three busy days and slept most of Thursday. Friday I went to see my GP and to get in first I have to be there before 6.30. I came home, slept a bit more, and then wrestled the prunings of 2 weeks ago into the now empty trash pack. I then pulled up ivy in the first phase of getting the entry way tidied up. Then I slept some more. This morning I slept even more. I feel like I could sleep for a week and not get caught up. It's a bone deep fatigue and not just being sleepy (no more Neurontin to blame that on).

It's finally gotten spring-time warm and my fruit trees are blooming. Except for the newly planted apples which are budding. I have asparagus to eat and lots of spinach. Unfortunately one of our last storms combined rain with high winds which means we get a dose of mud on everything. The veranda and fence and even the daffodils have a dusting of red-brown dirt on them.

The CAW jumper has its back finished. I left off two repeats of cables because it was very long. Just started the front. Knitted socks in the doctor's office. Stopped spinning the targhee when I guestimated I'd done half. Went back to spinning the purple Bendigo wool.

The issue with the super fund and my step-daughter's complaint is now out of my hands completely. I am not a party in the complaint so they will do the conciliation (If possible) with her, and I don't have to be involved. Considering their previous rulings on similar cases, I am not worried; I just want it over.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Finally. It's put together thanks for the work of M, my weaving teacher, and the faithful J. Obviously it is not fully tied up but one of the main reasons I wanted it put together was to see how much of the floor it took up. It is now evident that some furniture rearrangement is called for. M suggested turning the loom around so my back was to the wall and the light would fall on the weaving in process. Whatever I do there isn't enough room at the side of the loom to get past easily. I'm not going to do it before the trip, but I will have to do some re-adjustment, perhaps moving some things into the spare bedroom (like bags of fibre) or even back into the computer room. I have a book somewhere that describes the tie-up of countermarch looms so that adventure also lies in the future.

Everything that could possibly go wrong with booking my trip has, but I think everything is now done. There were too many cases of not being able to make connections in the times allotted, airline screwups, hotel rates jumping 300% over a period of days. My sister's situation has changed at the last minute which required some inner debate as well.

Swans news: They won the elimination final! J and I got together with takeaway and a bottle of wine and were about ready to call it a night after a dismal first quarter, but they managed to pull their socks up (figuratively if not literally) and win by 35 points. Much screaming and yelling and singing the team song at Chateau Swanknitter. Roosy was bagging (in jest) those who preferred to stay home next to the heater with a cup of chicken soup, but I really would have liked to have gone but I just couldn't afford the expense or the time (not could J). I don't mind sitting in the rain watching my Swannies win, but I do NOT like the Homebush stadium and had the match been at the SCG I might have gone. This weekend they play the Bulldogs who beat us so badly here in Canberra a few months ago. But Goodes is on song, and maybe Mick will be back and some of the youngsters are growing confidence. Much has been made of Kieran Jack who is the son of a rugby league legend, and his father was ecstatic when young Jack kicked 3 goals.

Book report: I finished Measuring America and it was well worth the read although the real underlying theme was the rise of uniform measurements worldwide, culminating in metric. So it was very interesting both from the standpoint of how America got laid out in a grid, right up to its refusal to adopt metric measurement today. I live in a metric world and I rarely convert from one measurement to another, but a box of cereal is a box of cereal whether it's metric or oz. I am now reading Out of Mao's Shadow, the struggle for the soul of a new China by Philip Pan. He was a writer for the Washington Post and while I've read several books about post-Mao China, this one writes it from the inside, what the people actually think, not what has changed to Western eyes. We know about the Cultural Revolution but there is a generation of young Chinese who have never been taught about it. We know about the hot new industrial climate in southern China, but not the unemployed steel workers in the north who, in the land of worker's paradise, cannot even form a union or protest when their pension funds are embezzled. It's a weird feeling when the evil West knows more about China's past than the Chinese do. We know about sweat shops and pollution and shoddy products, but not about the horrific rate of deaths in coal mines and the careful cover-ups done by the one party system. Protesters at the Olympics should have been asking about the unemployed and starving ordinary Chinese who have no public spokesperson to shine a light on their plight. I recommend this book highly to those who are interested in what goes on behind the red curtain.

Friday, September 05, 2008

While I have continued to make progress on CaW, I was feeling spinning withdrawal so I pulled this out of the stash. It Targhee from Susan's Spinning Bunny (Hi, Susan) in Clematis vine colourway. I have never spun Targhee before and it feels very strange. While I can see the individual fibres when I'm drafting, it has a very springy almost spongey texture. Since I only have 4 oz and am spinning it fine, I guess I'll try it for socks. It is retains its springy character when spun up, it should be good. Susan is one of the people I hope to meet in the flesh on my trip. Internet relationships do need occasional face time. Even my late best friend C, who exchanged mail with me just about daily, only shared air with me when we both went to the same conventions or on a couple of ill-fated visits (things sometimes go wrong).

I have been having endless problems with American Airlines and my flight reservations. Apparently when I made my reservation, and was forced to use their site in India because Australians are now forbidden to use their US site, either my not reading the fine print or the way the web page was designed, my surname and forename got reversed. In these days of automated responses, you don't instantly have alarm bells going off when something is addressed to Smith John instead of John Smith. It didn't to me, but then I wanted to double check some times and could find no listing under my name. Last night I finally got to the nub of the matter, after several previously fruitless and lengthy phone calls to a toll-free number that may have been answered anywhere in the world for all I know, and found somebody who noticed the error. They promise that the change will be rectified and even called me today to give me a status report which is good because I tried to call the listing up today and it was still missing. Outsourcing services may save money but when my only alternatives for buying tickets were India, Japan, China and Korea, I was not amused. Sure they will do currency conversions but I don't like fares quoted in rupees. I am only using American because of frequent flyer connections with Qantas. Global economy indeed. And by the way, I was right to buy when I did because the Aussie dollar has last 10 cents against the US dollar in the past fortnight.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I am slightly less depressed than I was last week. I still feel like I have no goal, no path, no future with an expected or wished for outcome. Still just going through the motions. I managed to recover from my fall and then overdid pruning back the jungle between the back shed and the fence. Lots of lampant berry bushes, ivy, wild passionfruit, wisteria and privet. And since the trashpack is full I had to leave it where it lay. Emerged to be sore the next day and my hands covered in scratches. I need to get a new pair of leather garden gloves since I wear through them so fast.

I read Sherri Tepper's Sideshow while I was recovering and it was not very interesting compared to other of her works. Too much unnecessary complexity and weirdness seemingly for it's own sake. I also have a quibble with the Great Question which drives the culture(s) she describes, which is: what is humanity's destiny? "Destiny" to me means a final outcome, like I am destined to be a musician. She really meant (I think) what is humanity's purpose? which is an entirely different kettle of fish and the answer seemed to have been to become more than human. Humanity wasn't destined for that but that was its goal, its next step in evolution. And the need to tell the story through hermaphoditic siamese twins I really don't understand. Like I said, unnecessary complications.

I also took a stab at Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture, which was touted as being so insightful and thought provoking. I found it full of platitudes and written by somebody who had never had a single obstacle in his life until he got pancreatic cancer. One of the first chapters is called something like "choose your parents carefully" and he had lovely parents who encouraged him and discussed things in ways that were verified by dictionary and encyclopedia and, not by "because I said so" which is where our family discussions usually ended. My father was very domineering and his opinion was the law. Ever when I was an adult and he was in his 80s, if he hadn't seen it with his own eyes it didn't exist so I gave up on trying to tell him anything, even that there was a new store open down the street. He'd tell you about it with great delight but wouldn't believe you if you saw it first. I'm not very good at lying or pretending to go along with somebody who obviously wasn't listening. There was no dialogue, no conversation, just his word and your acceptance. Randy excelled in school, had a great job, married the first person he fell in love with and sounds like an all round nice guy but he didn't pass on any gems to me that weren't common sense. But then, common sense isn't common, is it? The book apparently was to provoke parents to talk to their children, but it was a bit late for me. I can't even remember any childhood dreams except wanting to be a cowgirl when I was 5. I've always wanted to learn new things, but that wasn't inspired by my parents who never rewarded me for good grades or academic achievement (and I had lots but they were never good enough). I just like learning and I like to read, one "good" factor from being an only child from the age of 9 and having parents who were a generation older than my friends'.

Now that I'm counting down to my trip I am doing things like booking airport shuttles and arranging for car hire pickup etc. I am also trying to get the house sufficiently clean so I am not consumed with guilt when the house sitter comes. I've decided not to do anything to the garden before I leave and plant it out (late) when I get back. I wish I could do something about the gross carpet in the dining room but have no money to do so. I wasn't going to do anything while The Senior Cat was alive since her had a habit of upchucking in there. Her ashes are to be returned to me tonight and she can join the ashes of Lucy, my dearly reparted Burmese, in the kitchen breakfront. The kitchen vinyl flooring is also full of holes but again waits for funds. I can only clean. I also have every knitter's dilemma: what projects to take with me. Socks of course. Cables After Whiskey? Maybe. A smaller summer top? I'd like to start it before leaving so I don't suddenly realize I don't have the right needles or it's got some other problem I can only solve at home.

Swans news: We're in the finals, but I don't expect us to last long even playing North at home (Homebush). J and I decided not to go, to save money and to use the time more productively at home. With my luck they'll be in the Grand Final and I fly away that weekend.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I've been very depressed lately. I don't see my future path or goals. I am going through the motions of life but I am detached and hiding in a hole in my head. I lost control of that hole a few times, ending up crying in my boss's office again. She wants me to get more rest, to get over the physical soreness that remains from my fall, and get some sleep. One of those unwelcome features of how my depression works is I either can't sleep when I need it the most, or I can't stay awake when I need to. So I'm going to take a flex day and try to regroup.

Since I've joined Ravelry my knitting posts haven't been curr
ent so here's an easy blog fillerThis is the back of Cables after whiskey which is a remarkably forgiving pattern. Since the cables are random, if you miss one of them, and see you have too much plain stockinette at the end of a cable row, you can just throw one in. While this yarn isn't top of the line (Stahl Hobby) it's also light enough that I can wear it without stifling. Only cable once every 8 rows so it's actually pretty mindless.

and there's always socks. These a rather vivid colourway of Opal.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I think genetics is very unfair and practically impossible to argue with. My dear MIL has discovered that her family carries one of the breast cancer genes and therefore she has an 80% of getting breast cancer. You can understand why women remove them rather than living a life with that kind of shadow over it. My genetics, at least what I am railing about tonight, is body shape. One look at the female line of my family and one sees the heavy hips, thighs and belly that probably made us highly desirable in Paleolithic times, but are not the fashion in the 21st century. I need to stay on a 1500 calorie diet all the time if I want to approach my "ideal" weight. I can't. I love to cook, I love to eat. I enjoy a glass of wine now and then. I like to bake, make bread, have a nice piece of cheese. All of these make me gain weight. I have eaten a diet of fish and vegetables for so long, and lost 35 kgs, but I am sooooo tired of it. A piece of red meat? a potato? Everything is forbidden and when I do indulge (I am not that strong-willed) I feel guilty. It is so unfair that some people seem to eat anything and stay slim and other of us always tip the scale over that "ideal" weight. Sometimes you can't fight genetics. And I refuse to be on a diet for the rest of my life. Bring on the cinnamon rolls, the aged Jarlsberg, the chardonnay, and all the fruit I can eat. Check out this site.

My main exercise (since walking per se is not permitted with my knees) is my garden work. I love getting my hands dirty and making things grow. I do not believe there is such a thing as a "no work" garden, unless one can start with an completely blank slate and no weeds drift in on the wind. I find new weeds every year that I have never seen before and they must come from somewhere. I also have a yard planted in every noxious viney plant known to live in this climate. The entire back yard is ringed in vinca and ivy and they are both extremely hard to get rid of, especially when they creep under the fence from neighbors' yards. I was filling up the trash pack with debris today and fell, tipped over a hose, and landed hard on my right side on paving. I think I will be very sore and bruised tomorrow, but I just got up (not quickly) and got on with it. Nobody here to kiss it and make it better. Did I mention how lonely I am and how much I miss him?

Swans news: They lost to Geelong last week and are in the process of losing to Collingwood as I write. If St Kilda wins this week I think we drop out of the 8 and no finals for us. Not that we would have lasted long in the finals. Keep repeating: rebuilding year.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I have an embarrassing confession to make. When I was growing up and reading everything I could get my hands on in the public library, I was intrigued with this British concoction called "porridge." I was convinced it was the essence of British character and was jealous that I didn't have access to it. So now I live in an Anglo country, albeit one caught between English and American languages, and I learn that porridge is just oatmeal. Very disappointing, altho I love oatmeal. My mother had a long list of cooked cereals I was fed on cold mornings: cream of wheat, cream of rice (always lumpy), Ralston, and oatmeal. Today with temps here in the morning of -5C I am glad for quick cooking oats and I always have them with honey, because honey is another of my vices and Australia makes wonderful honey. I am currently working on a jar of white box honey from Beechworth. I was listening to Bush Telegraph on my iPod at work and they interviewed the author of a book about honey. I must find a copy of this and read it with a selection of honey at my side.

While I was sick, writhing in bed with my gut tied in knots (and I'm not 100% healed yet), I read Spin by Robert Charles Wilson, which rates a big thumbs up from me. Part sci-fi, part love story, it is masterfully written and the characters as well as this future world really grab you. I was thinking about Tyler Dupree for days afterwards. While I like a good mystery, they are harder to find these days, so I generally stick to known authors. Sci fi I usually buy in book stores where I can read the cover matter, reviews (are they from the Podunk Daily News or a major reviewer?), etc. I liked Spin enough to check out his other work, so I will troll used book stores, which where I usually buy known-title older books.

Haven't been knitting, been plying, so I can take a skein of hand spun alpaca to BFLB. There were a lot of lost ends in one bobbin of the singles, so there was much muttering and even some scissorwork. While plying I watched Code 46 on DVD which was very entertaining near future science fiction and a love story. Tim Robbins is an actor I have mixed feelings about; Shawshank Redemption is in my Top 10 movies, but other films I haven't found his acting believable. Code 46 was believable even if Samantha Moreton sounded very much like a prima donna in the interviews. I didn't even recognize her as Mary, Queen of Scots, from Elizabeth. I am a movie fanatic but rarely view them in cinemas, because I can't pause them to go to the loo, or find the end in a bobbin of singles,.

I have reluctantly decided that when I have the money to pay a surgeon, etc., I will have to have my knees replaced. Even with losing weight, they hurt, especially in cold weather. If I could get them done both at once and get it over with...

Monday, August 18, 2008

I have now spent 36 hours with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) due to no good reason I can figure out. I ate no forbidden foods, I haven't had any stress spikes. All I have are waves of pain and severe bloating in my abdomen and more trips to the loo than normal. I've had IBS since I was a child but I didn't know what it was until just before the fibro diagnosis, and now I know that 85% of FMS patients have IBS. I had it so bad at uni (in college) that I stopped eating everything but dairy products in the cafeteria because they were so big on fried food and mystery meat. The only possible culprit, altho it was a delayed reaction if I'm right, is a rissotto I had for lunch on Friday that may have had too much onion in it. I didn't even think of it until I was wracking my brain to find out what I could have eaten. I should be grateful since this business used to be common and is now infrequent. Bur I feel like a mule kicked me. If I lie down, the lack of movement slows it down but I can't stay in bed forever.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Swans news: They Won! I watched a DVD and checked the score now and then (after last week's debacle I didn't dare hope they could beat even Fremantle). And they almost didn't. Trailing into the final minutes of the final quarter and Goodesy did some magic with the footy (as one of the commentators narrated the replay it was "show it to them in this hand, show it in the other, then kick a goal") and a win!. It does show how pathetic they can be without their stars and I hope they are cooking up another batch to fill in Mick's & Goodes' shoes. We have a few promising ones up front and some half decent backs but there's nobody in the middle with the skill and tenacity of Kirk and Bolton. But then I never thought they could play well without Kell, and they managed. Tonight it's Geelong and I don't expect miracles

I had a long day yesterday: GP at 7AM (to join the queue not actually see him) where we have to plan how I can get enough of my meds when I take The Trip, to the markets, to the hardware store to buy a new drip hose, to the chemist, out to lunch with J, home to work on the rose bush and I finally got the potatoes planted. Bintjes, 8 little darlings. The soil in that corner could use some breaking up below the top 8" so they better do their job. As expected I was sore all over and very tired the AM, especially because I couldn't to sleep for all the aches, until I had a glass of sherry at 1AM. So I slept in and then went to the grocery store. No need to buy cat food anymore since The Imp actively rejects wet food. She did like the roo I gave her and even did a bit of play with it--tossing it up in the air, etc. She has gotten very vocal since she became ruler of all she surveys. Greets me every time I come home with a tone that has a deep note of "why did you go off and leave me all alone? Pet me NOW!" There was a very noisy cat fight some time in the night so she has taken over the role of seeing off strange cats. At one point she was sleeping right up in my face and I could feel her breath. And her whiskers.

I think I'll give my body the rest of the day to heal and work on indoor projects. Move curtain rods. Take a nap. I started the pattern part of CAW and misread the instructions so had to frog the first row and I was too tired to concentrate on a second go. Now that we are getting the US So You Think You Can Dance 3 nights a week, I can't watch dancing and knit complicated cables at the same time, but there are plenty of commercials to knit in. We are approaching a local election and the ads have started. I found out from the guy handing out leaflets at the supermarket that it's while I'm away so that's another thing to do before I leave.

The hit counter has broken 10,000 so it seems like you missed me.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Later in the same day as I wrote my last post, we had a death in the family. Dear Miss Pink Nose, the Senior Cat, went to the great cat box in the sky. I took her to the vet for an assessment but she had been so frail lately and the vet said she was having difficulty breathing so I decided right then to end her pain. More tears over the little soul who had been with me almost as long as I had the Bear and only outlived him by a little over a year. I got home and went to clean the littler box and found that she had peed all over the floor yet again, I think just because her back end hurt too much to get it in the right position. The Imp doesn't see to mind, although she has done some looking around in corners and has been a bit clingy. I'll never be lonely with her in the house although I wish she wouldn't wake me up with kisses on my mouth. Ick.

The DNA Files is a really fascinating podcast. It's presented in a light way with one person playing dumb so everything is explained. I have recently learned that my dear MIL many have one of the genes for breast cancer. A relative does and they are now tracing it through the family. Her DNA test will be back in a month. I know from the DNA Files that this gene can express in other types of cancer than breast. I wonder if I have a gene since my mother and sister both had breast cancer. There are no other branches of the family to check as we are the last twigs. I supposedly have reduced my risk having had a hysterectomy (but so had my sister and my mother) and I had breast reduction surgery. After last December's scare who knows. I might ask at my next screening.

Friday, August 08, 2008

I've made a decision since something has changed in my situation. I have decided to tell you why I have been self-censoring and for the most part stop doing it. The trouble I've been having has decided to make itself public so I will tell you my side of the story without getting into sordid details.

When my dear Bear died, the whole scenario played out very quickly and I was mostly concerned with being brave and supportive and not thinking about him actually dying. He knew he had been putting off writing a will; we had talked about it for years and the will form was in the kitchen table for him to fill out and the papers making me the beneficiary of his pension funds. But he never got around to filling them out (he was a world class procrastinator) so there he was dying in front of my eyes without a will. I quickly filled in a basic will making me the executor and sole beneficiary. Despite what other people think, we had no real assets except the house and cars and a large debt on the land we had just bought. While I didn't like it, we lived paycheck to paycheck and when i was able to squirrel away a few thousand dollars it went on house repairs and maintenance. He signed his will in front of the assembled family, witnessed by his sister and his uncle, and I asked his eldest child, E, if she trusted me to distribute whatever money there was to divide and she said yes.

A month later and I'm plowing through the mountain of paperwork that pops up when someone does and I get to claiming death benefits on his super funds (pensions). Unlike estate law, pension funds here are distributed by the trustees of the fund unless you have named a binding beneficiary. I tried to get that form done as well but I missed that it had to be witnessed so the fund declared it invalid. Now the distribution of his 2 funds was in the hands of the trustees. By law, all children are automatically dependents, although not necessarily financial dependents. The children were not responding to my requests for them to sign the paperwork, and I made them an offer of an amount of cash, approved by their mother, if they would choose not to claim for the funds. The next thing I know I get a letter from a probate lawyer acting for E asking me details on the estate, my income, etc. I paid a whopping amount to get another lawyer to tell them there was nothing in the estate to be divided and to go elsewhere.

So they have all claimed on both pension funds as financial dependents. This is the point where is gets a pit tricky and I can't go into detail. Let's just say that E has claimed all sorts of things in her submission to the super fund that are either not true or irrelevant. She went through my blog and listed every time I bought something, every time I worked in the garden (to prove I wasn't really disabled), not knowing or including every time I couldn't get out of bed or all the bills I was faced with lacking the Bear's salary. She accepted the ruling of the first and smaller fund, as did I because I just wanted it done. The second fund is quite a bit larger and she has contested the ruling of the trustees, and now gone further to the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal. From my understanding of the law, she has little legal standing in this because she wasn't financially dependent on the Bear when he died and I was. It's not that the fund didn't award her anything, it's that she thinks it isn't enough. At any rate, it has pushed the settlement of this whole mess even further into the future. Since I will be out of the country for 2 months I may not get any action till December. Meanwhile, I must live on my salary which is much less than a normal salary due to the disability portion which is only 75% of my real salary. With the mortgage taking a large chunk out of that I will have to eat into the payout of the first fund which I had been trying to maintain intact to generate income.

All of this has put me in a state of high stress for almost since the Bear died so I am trying to heal myself from that while dealing with this extremely petty and invasive attack by his children. If they had ever shown any affection for him in the 16 years we were married, I would be able to see the point. But they ignored him, avoided him, didn't visit for years before he died and now, on the basis of a relationship built on phone calls, they claim financial dependence. It's not something I even have any control over because it's now between the children and the fund and my opinion hasn't even entered the picture. This last bit on going to the Tribunal totally mystifies me because she made the complaint before the fund made a decision.

So there it is. We will now return to our regularly scheduled programming. I am still going to the US and aside from a very few nights in 2 months, I will be staying with friends and generally not buying much (as if I needed more yarn or fiber) except at outlet malls and those American foods I adore and can't get here. I'll drink a lot of root beer, eat lots of breakfast sausage, etc. My sister is still undergoing treatment for breast cancer and BFLB is stable with her liver cancer but who knows with these things. I will also see friends and relatives I haven't seen in ages and maybe get a little family history done as well. Yes, I am taking a cruise in Hawaii, with my dear MIL. I have always wanted to see Hawaii and the cruise is surprisingly cheap considering what it covers. I want to see volcanoes and go snorkeling before I'm too old to do them. I have also learned that I cannot fly from the east coast of the US directly home without being in great pain from sitting too long, so decided to break the trip coming and going with a side trip. the Weaving School sounds very daunting but I have been encouraged by the the instructor to do it without a lot of weaving under my belt.

If I've further offended E there's nothing I can do about it and besides, it won't have any bearing on what either the super fund or the Tribunal decide since they are interested in the law and the circumstances existing at the time the Bear died so anything said or done now here is irrelevant. I have been very depressed over this entire state of events, which has also suppressed blogging, and I will try to push it into another of those little boxes in my head so it doesn't hurt so much that the one person I thought I could trust utterly betrayed me.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

This self-censoring has taken all the fun out of the blog. I hope it will be over soon, but it may be just as I go overseas and then who knows what I will be able to do. In preparation I have been drafting a new will which will go to the Public Trustee since I wouldn't want to burden anyone I know now with estate business. I also now know how important having a will is.

I have planted both apple trees. I attempted to divide the rhubarb but it was so entangled that trying to separate it broke off big pieces of root. I will have to replane as that rhubarb has been underperforming for years anyway.

Lyrica does wonders for pain but nothing for fatigue. I am totally exhausted and come home and take a nap most days. That's what I get for not resting when I can.

Swans news: they played absolutely horrible football and lost to the Bulldogs by 16 points. They shot off to a great start and then apparently sent in the evil twins or the reserves of the evil twins because after that they didn't know what to do with this funny ball that occasionally came their way. Drop it, mostly. It was disgusting to watch and the lack of Goodes and Mick showed how bad they can be. Yes, Roosy, I know they are young but still... J and I even left the match in the beginning of the 4th quarter as it was so painful to watch.

I am going to try and get gauge for Cables after Whiskey as soon as I finish J's bed socks which are 3/4 complete

Friday, August 01, 2008

There is so much I can't blog about that I feel rather stifled. I am a person who has strong emotions, both positive and negative. I am not manic-depressive since I have never felt mania, but some times are better than others. My ex who has volunteered to chauffeur me on the second stage of my trip in October has seen both sides at their worst. He is in his protective mode which I value so much. Not that I would have ever given up my soul mate, but if my ex had been at the level of maturity he is now (having gone through some bad patches himself) and I had been less rigid in my expectations, we might still be married. But I doubt it; too many promises had been broken long before I met the Bear. I am much better at managing my emotions now, and the grief for my Bear stays in its box most of the time. I have gotten a book out of the library that is a guide to channeling strong emotions for those of my spiritual bent that I hope will give me some ideas. Right now, I am very good at putting on the game face or whenever is needed for long periods of time, but it only means that the bottle get uncorked sometime and it all comes out, usually the bad parts. Funny how I don't get overcome with the effort of holding happiness in check, eh? More socially acceptable to be happy that to be unhappy.

I am knitting a pair of bed socks for J our of hand-spun merino and silk (green) which are very mechanical for me. I have to generate a new knitting project since my dream cardi hasn't materialized, so maybe I'll pull something out of the stash and knit something else. That grey superwash wasn't what I had in mind for the dream cardi but an Aran variation like Cables after Whiskey might be interesting to play with.

Started reading Robert Silverberg's The Alien Years, which was written in 1998 and starts with "seven years from now" and he manages somehow to make it still feel 7 or so years in the future. Silverberg was one of the authors the Bear and I shared so I feel a connection reading "old" sci-fi, which he probably read several times altho I bought this because I didn't recognize the title and with that publication date, I should have remembered it.

It has been extremely windy all evening and I was beginning to worry about trees falling down. There are no big ones of that character near the house. High winds always put me on edge. There goes the roof/window/tree/whatever. Sometimes being a homeowner is too much worry about all the things that could go wrong.
I just finished The Harsh Cry of the Heron by Lian Hearn which is the last book in the Tales of the Otori. The first three books were totally captivating and this one led to a bittersweet end. I was crying while reading the last few pages in which the story finishes, not as one hopes, but as life is. If you haven't read these I encourage you to do so. They are deliberate and beautiful and restrained while deeply emotional and violent as only their time was. I'm not going to say more to keep the illusion you may discover as your own feelings.

Another cold and wet day here. I was trying to dig a hole for my apple tree on Weds. and, aside from using some muscles that have been on holiday for a while, I discovered a pipe. It is only a plastic pipe that was installed as part of overflow mechanism from when we had a swimming pool but it will have to be removed and I ran out of light before I could do so. I am thinking of removing more of the pavers in that area and putting in a different surface. Decomposed granite or even woodchips. More places to fight couch in, but the large paved area in the back of the house heats up in the morning and then radiates heat back to the house all afternoon and evening. If I am going to stay here, I have no need of a large paved area outside the back of the house. If I could be assured of keeping them watered, I'd do more in containers. Not this year while I'll be away for the crux of the planting season, unless my house sitter will water things carefully. I could plant seeds of lettuce in the big terra cotta pot for table use and plant basil in it when I get home. If the basil goes into a pot the snails can't eat it, right?

I have spun 2 bobbins of while alpaca ready to ply to take to BFLB. It hardly made a dent in the white alpaca, but it seems very silky and soft.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I was listening to a new podcast today, The DNA Files. Some new things have been discovered on how genes get switched on and off that I am sure will make an incredible difference to the health of millions, once the scientists figure it all out. I am pretty confident I carry the gene that is latent for arthritic diseases and it got activated big time. I think my sister has it partially expressed, showing some FMS symptoms but not all. My MIL has discovered she has a breast cancer gene throughout her family, and I am high risk as well. My mother died of breast cancer and my sister is currently enduring therapy to remove it from her. Gene therapy offers better health but I am afraid I'm too old to get much benefit from it. I also hope it isn't one of those things that is limited to wealthy nations.

Another episode of the same podcast was about GM foods. I am of two minds on this one. I would love to see rice with an added beta-carotene gene grown in areas with severe deficiencies in Vitamin A in normal diets but I'm not so sure about inserting e.coli into pigs to help reduce their waste products. What about coffee decaffeinated in the bean? Do we know enough to do this? On the other hand we've been messing with plant and animal genetics for thousands of years. If only they'd work on weed genetics and not crop plants. So far the only work I've heard about is finding herbicide resistant weeds.

I was thinking about this before I venture back into the garden to plant my latest plants from Diggers. I am trying potatoes for the first time and I have 2 dwarf apple trees to plant. I know nothing about apples so I am on a steep learning curve. Sorry about the silence but I have been otherwise occupied and very depressed so why share the grief? He really is never coming back and that still rips my heart open daily.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Apparently Blogger lost my last post, which probably just as well because it was full of anger and spite. Last week was a very difficult one for me that sucked the emotional well dry, leaving me anxious and painful in mind and body. While it may be of little interest to my readers I want to say a few things about my spiritual life.

I was brought up very happily as a Congregationalist. I did all that a child could be expected to do: Sunday school, singing in the choir every Sunday, youth group, retreats, summer camp, the lot. In my senior year of high school I lost my connection to that tradition. It was partly due to reading about other ways to be spiritually fulfilled, it was partly disgust at my father's hypocrisy at being a deacon and behaving in an unChristian manner, it was partly just that I no longer believed that I would be spiritually fulfilled or "saved" by performing certain rituals, saying certain words in certain places at certain times. I know my friend J who was brought up in the church nor my dear MIL who is still a Carmelite will not only disagree with me, but try to convince me that the ritual isn't what it's about. If it isn't, then I don't need the ritual. I have always felt most as ease in my connection to God?, the great spirit?, the universe of love? when I have been alone in the natural world. I do believe there is a higher plane but I don't believe in any of the mythology of any organized religion. In fact, the organization of religion is what lost me to the Church.

I have mentioned in the past my trying to live a Buddhist life. By that I simply mean the "be here now" part of it, not hours of meditation on the Tibetan scriptures or kneeling (sorry, no kneeling possible) in front of a golden statue. It is about meditation in removing your mind from the messy bits of daily life and calming your inner self. I am really bad at it and, if I ever manage to make to that calm place, I usually fall asleep since I am continually tired. Most of the fibromyalgia books suggest meditation as a relaxation tool, and I know it works at that but I'd like to get good enough at it that I can stay awake, alert, connected to the world but let the annoyances and pettiness of daily life wash past without arousing anger or anxiety which usually cause tense muscles. I've got quite a library of Buddhist/Zen books, the latest being Awake at Work and I've only read the introduction and know I need more training. My outward manner I know shows good humour, cheerfulness, flexibility and a desire to perform whatever job well. Inside, however I am often churning with resentment beginning with forgetting my lunch, through to the person who pulled out in front of me in traffic and continuing to be told to catalogue a book I think worthless. It extends to my poor typing ability, my frustration with my poor sight, the creakiness of my knees, the exhaustion at the end of the day, just the fact that I will never be pain free. Yes, I hear you, it would take the patience of a saint to live cheerfully with that, and I am not anywhere near a saint (if there are such things). Perhaps I just long to be more "saintly", to accept the life of pain without it dragging my conscious mind along, so I can really accept the pain and learn not to fight it. I do fight it so much and feel guilty when I don't do all the tasks life throws at me, whether it be work or housekeeping. The garden is the only place I really don't mind (except mowing the lawn) because it's where by some magic, my conscious mind goes away except for the low mutter of "need to prune that back, how can I keep the snails out of the silverbeet?, will I get good strawberries this year?" I beat myself up and feel guilty when I am forced to take a sick day which is silly. My life is full of "if only"s and "I ought to"s which are walls preventing me from experiencing the now.

Today's now tells me I moved furniture a bit too much in cleaning yesterday and I need a bit more sleep. I can't be in the now while I'm asleep which is maybe why I resent needing so much of it.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I am afraid I am going to have to censor my blog even more than I had done, by never naming names, etc. It turns out that random comments in blog have been taken out of context and are being used as evidence against me in dispute resolution regarding Brian's superannuation funds. I will not go into details or name names, although I'd love to drag the whole sorry mess into the open. From now on it's knitting/spinning/weaving, Swans news and not much daily life kind of stuff because that stuff has been twisted and used against me. I was wondering who was reading my blog, well now I know one person has been hanging on every word.

Swans news: After a long string of wins, they lost badly to the Magpies on the weekend. Very low scoring game (I couldn't bear to watch). However, Barry Hall did it again and took a swing against a Collingwood player. This happened 2 matches after he returned from a 7 week suspension for a similar action before. The Swans management, not just the tribunal, is very tired of this behaviour and has suspended him internally and are not giving dates when he will return. He's supposedly getting counseling on anger management. This is not meant to defend his actions, which are simply wrong, but he does get targeted by the opposite team, winding him up till his temper blows, but if he can't control his fists in those situations, he shouldn't be playing footy. Simple as that.

We've had heavy rain and it was fortunate because I had just bedded down the berry plants, all tidied up, top dressed with cow manure and mulched with lots of leaves. My spinach seedlings and silver beet are doing well. The rain is not good for my arthritis and I ache all over. Lyrica does an outstanding job on the major pain, but, as my GP has said, I'll never be pain free. The arthritis is in the joints and the fibromyalgia in my muscles. My knees especially don't like wet weather. I am still trying to avoid surgery but a day like today makes me think twice. Since I can't afford a surgeon, I'll make do. No mountain hiking in my future. Lyrica also does nothing for fatigue and as I reach hump day I can feel it creeping up on me. By Thursday I'm exhausted and really have to pry myself out of bed on Fridays if I want to go to the markets for fish & fruit & veg or even do those routines we all have like vacuuming or other sorts of cleaning. I do wish I had a self cleaning oven like I had in the states but they are rare here.

On the knitting front I found a quantity of bulkier weight hand spun in a darker grey. Unfortunately I wound it off in a mess so I have to untangle a very large mass of grey spaghetti before I have balls I can knit with. I think it would look very good in a zip front jacket. Doing this while having 2 cats on your lap is not easy.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Two photos of me from behind. One to show off my hair, which I am exceedingly proud of. My hairdresser always marvels at how healthy it is, considering all the drugs flowing through my system. I am going grey, but it's happening in streaks so one could think it's highlights, but it ain't. It's so slippery I cannot keep a hairclip of any sort in it; they all fall out almost immediately.

At right is the hat I've been slaving over. I am also proud of that considering it's my first stranded colour work.Others on Ravelry say theirs are too big but I have a big head and it fits fine. Very warm as well.

I am now stuck between projects. I wanted to knit something out of handspun but the stuff I pulled out is not suited for what I want to knit and I can't find a pattern anyway. Maybe I'll go back to the project I was going to knit anyway, which is a cabled cardigan out of grey superwash for wearing round the house and out and about. J and I are off to Victoria for the wool show and other delights next week and I'd like to have something other than socks to knit. I am spinning alpaca so I can take a skein to BFLB when I go to see her in November.

My working in the garden and the joy and satisfaction it gives me have made me decide to stay in this house until I retire at least. I feel more confident A.L. (after Lyrica) that I can do the work required and there's something about working with plants that I find very Zen. I am going to pick up 2 more apple trees at Diggers, having decided the apples are OK. These are dwarf heirloom varieties and the fruit bat in me is happy.

Today's family tree find was my great-great-grandmother on the Canadian 1851 census. Her place of birth is given as USA but her husband, Joseph Stanton, said Canadian. He was a farmer and my great-grandmother was there at 10 years. My mother's side of the family seemed to hop across between the US and Canada a lot which makes them doubly hard to trace.

We are not mentioning the passage of the first of July. It was difficult and I felt very fragile all tad but it's over with moderate tears. J came over to keep me company and we ate pizza and planned our holiday. I dread thinking about the price of petrol to drive the Camry there, but I guess there's no escaping it. At least it has a big boot.