Friday, June 7, 2013

Autumn in my garden

I love, simply love Autumn and Winter.

At no other time of the year do I feel more energised, more in tune with the natural world.

I listen to my work colleagues grumble about the rain or the cold, or the clouds and wind.  I listen and I pity them.

 I spend more time in my garden through the autumn and winter than I do in the summer.
 My magnolia doesn't seem to mind the winter.....
 The rain stays glistening on the plants all day....
My walnut tree plays games with me... I gather up the leaves and as I pass by it sneakily drops more behind me.  I know what is really going on.... it wants me to stay out there and keep it company - I love that tree.

The cyclamen start flowering...
 Rain wets everything and leaves adorn everything...better than any xmas decorations....
 My potted camellia blooms giant flowers that dwarf the plant.... how marvelous!

Naturally I love my garden all year round.  But at this time of year it seems to speak to me.  Its quiet grandeur, its complete disregard for my son's regular (albeit grudging) lawn-mowing, its timeless march through the decades; all make me feel like it has condescended to allow me to be its guardian.

And I am a willing disciple. I would pick those leaves up one by one and by hand if I could.  Sometimes I do then I place them underneath the balding canopy so as to preserve the cycle of life and let the leaves protect their mother with their mulch.

If you stand still long enough the protective cocoon of the life around you blocks out the traffic, the dogs and the sounds of civilisation itself.  The leaves crackle, the ground sighs as you step on its soggy dampness, the air whispers in your ear.

Love Love Love

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mesothelioma - a Guest Post by Cameron Von St. James.

Hi all 

I have been unable to post for a while due to some kinda fritz attack in the blog.  I have been trying to post a contribution from Cameron who contacted me after reading about some of the challenges my husband and I have faced with his kidney cancer.  But the clincher comes from knowing that Jeff's sister is a Mesothelioma survivor - and only recently so.  

Thus, for us too Cameron's blog has some wonderful insights into those moments of the cancer journey that affect the person with cancer, but just as importantly the person providing the support.  

Read the short piece below and then please visit his blog (link at the end of the story) and admire his commitment not just to Heather his wife but their joint commitment to the greater good.... and all at a time when it is so easy to just close ranks and wallow. 


Cameron Von St. James
A Time as a Caregiver Led to New Discoveries

I never thought I would be a caregiver until I sat with my wife Heather across the desk from our doctor as he gave us the news that my wife had malignant pleural mesothelioma.  It was November 21, 2005 when the doctor informed us about the disease and Heather’s diagnosis.  We knew we had to do something quickly to make sure Heather had every chance at recovery. Prior to getting this news, we were enjoying being new parents to our three-month-old daughter, Lily. All of the joy and excitement we had experienced as new parents was ripped away when we learned that Lily’s mother would soon be fighting for her life.

When a person must adapt the role as a caregiver for a loved one, it is a process to adjust to this new role.  I knew right away that I would be my wife’s caregiver because I wanted to be sure she got the best possible care.  One of the first things I did as Heather’s caregiver was to make travel arrangements to get her to Boston to see a seasoned mesothelioma specialist.  This person had a great reputation and it was important to us that Heather had access to the best care and the most experienced medical professionals.  I had to believe that if anyone could help my wife, it would be Dr. Sugarbaker in Boston.

Learning how to live life as a caregiver, while still taking care of family and financial obligations, is a huge chore.  I cannot imagine how we made it through those years of trial when Heather was sick; but I do know that we were so blessed by the support we received.  Family and friends stepped up and provided assistance in countless ways.  They made it possible for me to spend as much time as possible supporting Heather. If I had one piece of advice to give other caregivers in a similar role, it would be to accept every offer of help you receive. Even the smallest offer of help can be a weight off your shoulders, and at the very least will remind you that you are not alone in the fight.

Being a caregiver was the hardest job I’ve ever had, and if you ever find yourself in this role it will undoubtedly be just that for you as well. Allow yourself to have bad days, this is natural and inevitable. The important thing is to never, ever give up hope, even in those dark moments. Use every resource at your disposal, and always keep fighting for the one you love.

Now, over seven years since her heartbreaking mesothelioma diagnosis, Heather remains healthy and cancer free. After months of treatment, she was able to defy the odds and beat this terrible disease. Throughout the time of being the person who consistently took care of her while still shouldering other responsibilities, I discovered a lot about what I can handle when the going gets rough. Being a caregiver was the toughest challenge I’ve ever been faced with, but it was also the most rewarding. Now, I’m glad to be able to share my story, in the hopes that it may inspire others in a similar situation to never give up, and always hold onto hope. 

Cameron Von St. James


thank you for choosing me Cameron.  


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A-Z challenge must read.

 I am not doing the A-Z challenge.  But I am sure reading some fabulous stuff on Penwasser Place.

Just follow this link

Must read A-Z challenge

...and hang on to your funny bone!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Raindrops keep falling......

It has been overcast all day.  And now the sun is getting low in the sky.  Dusk is imminent and there is a glow, a luminescence to the world.  The greyness makes the green of the garden even greener.  But my heart is heavy and it has been for many months now.

I have been a stressed little gal all my life. Super charged. Hyper. Active. Hyper-Active.

I have watched, friends, family and colleagues crumble under the pressure of life.  I kept going.

I have had 9 of the top 10 life stressors dogging my steps for most of the past 30 years. I kept going.

I have achieved. I have worked. I have dreamed and I have compromised. And I have kept going.

Suddenly I didn't want to keep going.  Suddenly I was scared for my sanity.  I really was. Suddenly, and for the first time in my life I was afraid I wasn't going to be able to get up the next morning.  Suddenly I was sitting in front of the TV at night and feeling my grip slip.

I went to work each day. I worked, I talked, I laughed, I mentored and I sometimes growled.  But I always looked the same. Yet I didn't feel the same.  Sometimes a panic would grip me and I was terrified that I was going to collapse. I was terrified people would see me collapse. I was terrified. I would go outside and walk up and down the carpark till I had put some oxygen back into my blood and the trembling stopped.  Then I went back to being me - the me I have always been and never liked.  The martyr.

As I sit here now I know I have pushed all this into the background. I know I am in tenuous control. But I also know that one more disaster in my life right now will implode me.  I have withdrawn into myself and the funny thing is no one has noticed.  The more troubled I am, the happier my cardboard exterior becomes.

My treatment of my depression is to make myself create.  Craft, cooking, writing, chores- yes chores.  I set myself little goals each day - and I mean little.  I learned the hard way to stop setting impossible goals.  Impossible goals unfulfilled fuel the anguish inside.  Possible goals chip away at the despair.

So, I have started chipping. Today I resolved to take a nap, do a load of washing - only one - and find the half knitted scarf from last winter and put it next to my armchair.  I also resolved not to cook dinner and to stay in my pyjamas all day.

Mission accomplished. 

It also helped that I was able to chat to my bestie, Kim Kollert, for a few minutes today on Yahoo.  She is in Oregon, USA but when we chat it feels like she is in the room. I miss her.

So, new mission.  Blog myself out of this funk.

What I would really like is to hear your stories of a time when the weight of the world was so heavy you almost couldn't breathe.

What I would really like is to know that I am not alone in this.    That others have felt the vice grip on their chest, the suffocation of panic and the fear that it will never get better.

I am not going to medicate my way out of it. Not yet.  I am going to work my way out of it. Or at least try.  I have done it before many times, but it was never this bad, more of a despondency than a depression. A temporary setback rather than a flat out crash.

Well it's time to get out into the garage.  The other tactic to overcoming this state of affairs is fitness.  Since I have rheumatoid arthritis jogging is out of the question, but I am already developing some major biceps and quads lifting weights - OK, ok little ones. Jeff is lifting 150 kilos in a dead lift. I can lift 50kgs.  But I am doing it. It helps the new knee too so that is good.

Well the bench press awaits.  You know? Just writing all this has made me feel a little bit better.

Thanks for reading this far........ Bless.

Friday, November 30, 2012

If I can have a holiday so can Obama for crying out loud...

When is a hypocrite not a hypocrite?

When they don't say the answer.

I am going to comment on something sort of political. Not my usual fare but I just saw something on facebook that really... and I mean REALLY... got to me for its sheer irrationality.

OK,  so some character posted a photo of the Obama family heading off to vacation on his blog.  Then a bunch of people, some of whom I know, shared it on facebook. 

The caption on the photo reads as follows:

"The Obama family is taking a 3 week, 4 million dollar vacation to Hawaii while the rest of us worry about the fiscal cliff. Is anyone else as outraged as we are????? While he's asking us all to share the "wealth", he's taking a major vacation on our dime!!! Oh, the irony!!!!!"

Question: Since when is a working man and his family NOT entitled to vacation time?

Answer: All working people are entitled to vacation time.  Slavery was abolished.

Question: Is the man that posted the pic going to take a vacation sometime this year? 

Answer:  Of course he is.  Maybe even more than 1.

Question - does the man that posted that pic and caption pay taxes?

Answer:  Well, he sure seems to have a lot of time on his hands.

Question.  If Mitt Romney was elected would he have been allowed to take a vacation? 

Answer: Of course he would.

Let's keep going......

Question: If Mitt Romney got elected would his (insult deleted) supporters expect the secret service to go too and protect him?  

Answer: Of course they would.

Question: would they complain about the cost?

Answer: Nooooooooooooooooo!

Surely the man that runs a country 24/7, is at everyone's beck and call, is blamed for everything and never thanked deserves a few precious days with his family. I never heard anyone complain when little Dubbya went off to his ranch in his too big hat and too spangly boots during that other global crisis.

So ... new questions.

Would you prefer to have a president of the US who was rested and refreshed?



would you have a President that looked like this..... ?

and had his hand on one of these?

Seriously.... some folks need to hear themselves......

Sunday, November 11, 2012

...make mine lazy date loaf....

Well if this isn't the easiest cake I ever made in my entire life.  And why can't all of life be this simple and this successful.

4 ingredients plus some hot water - but I didn't have one of them so I used 3 ingredients plus some hot water.

Now go figure how you can make a cake with so little stuff and effort.  Is that what life is really about but we keep missing the point?  Maybe we - and by we I mean I -  over-think, over-plan, over-complicate every little thing - so that life becomes a concrete cross crushing us with its weight.

Recently I got the news that I am to have both my knees completely replaced.  After I got over the initial revulsion of the image of my legs being chopped into 3 pieces and having a surgeon hammer a titanium joint into the ends of my leg bones I realised something......  it was the happiest news I could have gotten at this very dark period of my life.  New knees.  A gift from the gods. 20% reduction in my overall rheumatoid pain, the ability to kneel down and garden again, the ability to go up the stairs without crying tears of pain and frustration.  All of a sudden the very thing I have been putting off for 5 years seems to be the best thing to be happening.  It is probably a part of my need to get my life back on track.  

So much has happened this year and culminated 4 weeks ago in my being assaulted by a client at work who had a psychotic break right in front of me and proceeded to throw 5 heavy desk chairs at me.  After I locked him into the interview room I had been in with him we evacuated our building and waited 11 minutes for the police to arrive.  In that small window of time - 11 minutes - he got out of the room and proceeded to systematically work his way through the office and throw every single desk chair at every single computer.  He also threw chairs at 9 plate glass windows, smashing them and damaging 3 of my fleet cars parked outside in the process.  Everyone was upset and as the manager of that site it was my job to coordinate everything including the repairs over the next 5 days - 2 of which were the weekend.
I still have a few injuries - some deep bruising and I think my left thumb may be fractured because every time I use it I get a sharp shooting pain there.  Now please don't worry it will be x-rayed tomorrow.

So as I have worked my very large ass off to get my office and staff back up and running I learned another bitter lesson in life.  The staff don't give a rat's arse about me.  Hardly any of them didn't blame me for the incident. They wanted to know why I had interviewed that client in our office instead of somewhere else... where else I have no idea.  Most of them didn't even ask me if I was OK.  I worked 12 hour days to get new computes, chairs, windows and a security guard.  I worked on the days they were allowed to go home and I worked on the weekend.  No one has thanked me.

So a week ago when the orthopedic surgeon said 'well, madam, we will have to whip those old joints out and get you new ones", I cringed then smiled. "Madam" indeed!  My only condition was that he NOT do them both at the same time.  I am not good with bedpans!....something to do with retaining that last shred of dignity women in general are deprived of early in life with their first Pap test.

Ah... the cake has cooled enough to come out of the pan.  Smells divine.

In a mixing bowl place 375 grams of dates.  Sorry my American friends I am not helping you with conversions - it's time you all joined the rest of the metric world.

1 cup of hot black coffee - made with 2-3 teaspoons of coffee - no sugar. I used 3 teaspoons being the coffee junkie that I am. Can use Decaf if you like.

Pour the hot coffee over the dates and allow to stand for about 2 hours.  You can chop the dates if you like - I didn't.....lazy remember?

After 2 hours throw in one heaped cup of Self Raising flour - the one that already has the baking soda and other stuff in it.

Mix it with a fork.  Now the mix needs to look like a sticky mess rather than a runny batter or bread dough. If it feels too dry just add a few more drops of water.  If too runny add a dash more of flour.

Pour it into a greased and lined loaf tin.

Bake at 170 Celcius for 45 minutes.

so.... here it is again

375g of dates
1 largish cup of very strong hot black unsweetened coffee
Stand 2 hours
throw in a heaped cup of Self Raising Flour and mix.
Bake @ 170C for 45 minutes.

Done.  Did you notice there is no sugar?  Yet the cake is sweet from the dates.  A life lesson.  Don't add sugar and you can still enjoy it.

The fourth ingredient - in case you haven't fallen asleep yet - was slivered almonds to go on the top of the cake before baking.  But therein lies another life lesson - we don't always need the embellishments.

Of course I slathered some butter on my slice while it was hot - well you gotta have some fun.......

It was simple and it tasted brilliant.

And the journey back from the floom continues!

Summer arrives downunder as you can see from this pic of my walnut tree.  So coffee and cake under the tree for me.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Spring has Sprung.....

...siting here eating breakfast.  Bagel with butter and vegemite, hot coffee and a fistful of pills.  The usual fare.  It is 7.30 am Saturday and I have been up for an hour because I don't want to be late for my appointment at the Hospital where I will have an MRI on one of my knees. No biggie.

Outside the Sun is bathing budding trees and flowers in light - unfortunately if you go outside it is quite chilly.  But there are no clouds so from my vantage point I can pretend it is warm out there.  It is certainly so in here.

I love winter and I love my garden in winter... but what is it about blossoms and buds?  Why does the heart swell with happiness at this sight?

My grande dame - the walnut.  Reaching for the sky and preparing its new leaves.

 My popcorn bushes.  No idea what this plant is.  Grew them from cuttings and every year they pop like this.  On the left is our baby pear tree. 

An azalea that did not thrive in the ground.  I put it in a pot a few years ago to bonsai it but decided to just shape it into a ball and now look....

Last year I didvided my orchids. One of them was a huge round mass - now here you can see all the new plants.  There are 3 kinds of orchid in there - the pale pinks, a yellow and one trailing on the ground behind the sapling is a greenish colour.

That sapling is my claret Ash.

 Last year's Mandarins - still a few left and the tree about to erupt with the new crop.....

It's been a long hard winter.

Ok time to go and get Magnetised......

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ave Maria......

It's rant time.

This 'Floom" that I am trying soooooooooooooo hard to shake off is not my fault.

In February this year I told my boss that I have rheumatoid arthiritis and that I didn't know how much longer I could keep up the pace.  I also told him I was OK for now but that it was important he knew and understood that sometimes I will get tired and a bit cranky.  I explained about chronic pain but also that I know how to manage that.  I reminded him that the only sick leave I have taken in the past few years was once when I had the flu myself and a couple of times when I had a bout of vertigo and had to be taken to the doctor ( a remnant of the virus).  There was also the time I had a few days off when my husband had to have reconstructive surgery on his face after being wacked in the face with a pool cue by an inmate at work.  I told him that I had a 2-year plan.

I was honest.

I did the honourable thing.

I ended up in a meeting with the HR guy being told I might have to be performance managed and that they would help me to find another job.

Three weeks later in March I am back in there and being offered an alternative job.  This new role was one whole classification level below my current level, close to $30,000 p.a. less pay if it was full-time.  But it was not full-time. It was 0.8 - or 4 days per week.  It meant I had to travel a further 10 kms to work each day and would now have to pay for parking and use my own car.  In my current job I have perks - a car for one thing.  Bleeding money I was supposed to take up a project position with a woman NO ONE wants to work with because she is a lazy, arrogant bitch.  "Oh don't worry" they told me - we would maintain your current salary for 3 months ( gee thanks!). 

My manager was talking it all up to me and I was trying to keep a lid on the Vesuvious that was my rage.  24 years in this department.  I have worked my way up... and I have W O R K E D !!!!  24 years and my 34 year old boss is trying to put me out to pasture because I told him the truth about my medical condition.

For the first time in my life I understood what it means to be disabled and how the prejudice can shatter your world.  My mantra in every conversation with him since then has been " I have a physical disability, there is nothing wrong with my brain!".

I confess it sucked the life right out of me.

Prior to this I had taken my 10 months of Long service leave.  I had started a blog, joined facebook and had fun and rest.  I had forgotten all about my all-consuming job for which I am on-call 24/7 365 days of the year.  I had found new friends and re-connected with some old ones that I had missed so much but just didn't have the energy for. I sent time in the garden and discovered photographing it was wonderful fun.

I went back to work on 30 January 2012.   By the end of February the floor of  my professional world had started to crumble.  By Easter my husband had cancer and faced the loss of a kidney. In April I am physically and mentally exhausted.  I get the flu again - badly.  In May I am trying to get through each day stifling sobs of frustration and rage.  I see an ad for a secondment in a rural office doing the same job I do here in the city.  I applied.  I got it.  Of course I got it. I am good at what I do and everyone in this department knows it.  They couldn't believe their luck.  They paid for the accommodation so I could stay up there all week.  My husband and son were supportive.  We cooked and froze meals for them.  I went to the country and was welcomed for 8 weeks.  I loved it.  They wanted my opinions and they actually asked me to teach them things.

In mid-August I come back to my regular job.  My replacement had left 2 weeks earlier.  He took my vehicle, a great 4-wheel drive - brand new - and left me another one that was dirty inside and out and a sedan.  My boss decides he doesn't want to deal with it.  It's a boy's club I guess.  I tell him that was the only car that I could get into and out of without wincing in pain.  He doesn't seem to care.

I am getting madder and madder as each day and week passes.  I have cleaned up most of the screw ups and backlog that was left for me.  I have cleaned up the car.  I am back on top of everything at this office and I am again doing things that all the managers are supposed to be doing, but are not, and then some.  I make a comment to this effect one day when I find out that I am the ONLY manager who provided feedback as requested on a draft document.  I say well if I am the only one I should get a pay rise. The response "I thought it was part of your job description."  My reaction?  "Well then if that's true then the other managers should get a pay cut!"  He is not amused.

Well .... I AM NOT AMUSED!!!!

I am pissed off spectacularly.

And.. as if all this is not enough... I have to sell my house.  Why?  Because it is 2-storeys and big.  We can't look after it with me not being able to do all the things I used to do.  I am heart-broken.  All those pics of my garden, my flowers and trees will be all that remain of my 17 years in this house - my dream house.

I am devastated beyond words.   Some days I feel as if my chest is going to explode.  Other days I feel like I am smothering.

If you are still with me during this rant with no pictures, don't worry.  I am not one to give up.  I just need to spend a little more time licking my wounds.  Then one morning I will wake up and BAM!  Things will start to happen.... fast.  That's how I am.

Till then I will go on.  Every day I will help my staff with their various problems, professional and personal (They think I am a very wise old woman when they don't hate my guts.  LOL.)  Every day I will do my job better than most of my peers.  Every day I will deal with the spectre of cancer that came into our lives this year. Every day I will climb those wretched stairs and every day I will tend my garden for someone else's pleasure in the not-too-distant-future.  Every day I will take my pills and every Friday I will stick that needle into my thigh so I can walk more freely.  Every day will pass and I will marvel that it did so.  Every day I will look out of the window in the morning and track the growth of my plants.  Every day I will hug my son who has become a man yet takes the time to kiss me on the cheek.  Every day I will look at my husband and wonder how we dodged that C bullet and every day I will wonder if we really did. 

Every day will be a new day and every day has the potential to be a marvellous day.  I read a book last week called " the hour I first believed" by Wally Lamb.  It's amazing how much the human spirit can endure and still prevail.

So I will prevail.  Like so many of you.

Please - no pity. That's not what this is about.  I am just voicing the struggles that beset so many of us.  What an amazing thing the human mind and heart.  Just when you think you can't take any more you look up and find that you can.

Rant over....

Friday, August 31, 2012

Speechless...(Warning - Adult content... and the 'f' bomb))

I find I don't have a lot to say these days.  Maybe I am overwhelmed by the plethora (thinking of you Kim) of verbal diarhoea on Facebook.

Is no one else frightened by the sheer and overwhelming volume of images people are re-posting (aka 'share') on Facebook.

There seems to be nothing but hatred and venom oozing from almost every picture being put up.  Now I am not talking about people's personal snaps of their not-always-very-pretty kids in leotards, or the always-very-cute  pics of newborn grandkids, or the I-can't-believe-I-actually-cooked-this pics of food (of which I am very guilty), or even the too-cute-for-their-own-good pics of animals doing strange humanlike things.

Or this...


I am talking about the ones that advocate shooting people or hurting them or belittling them.  I am talking about pics that tell me to fuck off for no other reason that I am allegedly not a good enough friend.  Problem is they never tell us what we are supposed to do to qualify for the group of friends who don't have to fuck off.

It is upsetting - do they mean ME?

This one was posted by someone I have not met but who is a colleague of my husband's.  She sounds so nice. Always cooking and sending love messages to her friends and family.  She seems to work hard and is always doing stuff - Cleaning, washing, cooking, looking after her hubby who was seriously ill for a while.  Just the sort of woman I search in vain for to befriend.  But then she posts things like this and I gotta wonder.  Just what the hell am I supposed to do to fit in?

The day before she posted this........

So she loves dogs but hates people???

Now either she is schizo or I am.

Another friend - and I do  know this guy - seems so mild mannered and then he posts this.... no points for guessing he is an American.  But then so is my hubby.. Ok now I'm scared.  LOL.

I mean ... this is a prayer for fuck's sake!!!!!

 How about this one from a friend who never swears.  Truly she never does and then this appears.  Is the whole world fake???? 

Is there anyone out there who is genuine and says what they think out loud instead of only posting it on Facebook.  I gotta tell you I am starting to wonder. How am I to judge a friendship if on the face of it people act all warm and fuzzy with their kiddies and their pets and their home cooked meals and then advocate for the gun lobby or post abusive/offensive placards.  Someone please explain it to me.  I really wish people would tell me to my face!  I mean of her 357 friends which ones are the assholes?  And if none of them are then why feel the need to post this.  Ergo some of them are.  And if I am one of them then why not tell me to my face.   I have just put myself into a logic loop - anyone know what that's called?

I am skeered peeeples!!!!!!!
 Now I may have mentioned before that I am not religious, or even spiritual, but what I am is intelligent.  I am so intelligent that I know enough to know that I don't know if there is a God out there or no. Notice I capitalised the word God?  I do it out of respect for those who do believe, since I want them to respect me.  Anyway, my point is that if there is a God out there then s/he is sure gonna be one pissed off deity when s/he notices what we are doing down here on planet earth.  God ain't gonna like it that we kill each other, rape each other, shoot each other and subject each other to the endless torture of opinions - just like this one right here.

God isn't gonna like that we claim to be believers on Sundays, Easters, Wedding days, Christmases, fasting days, prayer days (or hours in some cases) etc etc etc and then only remember the violent parts of the 'holy' words.

I am thinking that when I get to 'heaven' (insert appropriate paradisical location) I am gonna be one of the few people who can look God in the eye.  And I haven't even lived a flawless life.  What I have lived is an honest life in all its ugliness and sometimes all its beauty.  With my luck however, I will get to heaven and there really will be 72 virgins waiting - all women.  I'll be teaching them how to knit.......some men.  That is if I can get them off Facebook long enough.

 The moral of this story is.....

Cited by the Writer's Studio on, guess where, Facebook!

 ... so please don't shoot me or unfriend me just because I don't fit in.  Thus have I spoken!

p.s. I luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuv facebook!!! Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!