Sunday, April 26, 2009

Watch the birdie

Poor thing!

A rather large hole in the window

The bird must have died on impact and dropped into the chair... What a way to go

Inner stuff

You may have wondered what happened to my use of 'Mood Manager' recently, and the answer is that my month's free trial expired at the end of March so I've stopped using the software.

Was it useful? Yes, but not in the way it was intended to be used. I didn't actually find that monitoring my moods was particularly helpful; what has been helpful has been taking the time to think about myself and how I'm feeling as a regular part of my daily life.

I've been thinking about this over the last few days. I found myself feeling stressed and anxious and I hadn't taken the time to reflect so I was getting more and more worked up, and feeling that I had too much to do and possibly couldn't achieve all that I had set out for myself. This is a bad point to come to for me because there's a real possibility of spiralling into a whirlwind of negative emotions along the lines of not being able to do anything, failing, not being good enough... I'm sure you get the picture. I can find it quite hard to get out of that very negative way of thinking, but on reflection that has the effect of being an avoidance strategy. I get so worked up that I have to drop some activity in order to salvage any achievement at all. Perhaps that's why I do it? I'm confronted with lots of things that apparently interfere with the things that I really want to do, so I allow myself to fall into a pit of despair - which is horrible but familiar - rather than having to deal with the situation, perhaps? I don't know, which is to say that I find it uncomfortable to think about it, so I'm not going to follow that line of thinking any further right now!

Anyway, luckily I had only just got to the early stages of this rapid spiralling descent when I realised that the real problem is that I simply haven't made any time for myself recently, and certainly not any time in which to reflect upon things. No wonder I'm having problems coping! And as soon as I realised that I began to be able to manage my feelings of anxiety, and to gather together some strands of self-control.

I find the state of being in a worked-up panic about things very disabling. I feel as if I don't have control, that external forces are driving everything and that I'm about to disappear along with my own wants and needs. It can descend into total panic, but on those rare occasions on which I manage to avoid going any further down that path and I calm down I manage to reclaim a sense of control about all sorts of peripheral anxieties that manage to tie themselves in with the main causes of worry.

For example, I realise that I've not been sticking very well to the CSIRO diet that we've been following successfully for almost a year. And having made the effort to get back into going to the gym I haven't been to the gym for two weeks. Now I do have a semi-reasonable excuse for both of these perceived 'failures', which is that it's the school holidays so our daughter is with us AND we drove around southern New South Wales visiting family and friends for a week which put us out of our routine. But since we've come home my rising sense of panic has at once allowed me to say that I can't cope with controlling either exercise or diet and it has prevented me from taking any control.

The word 'reflection' keeps appearing as a key to all of this. I don't need special software; what I need is acceptance that in order to stay sane I need to spend some time every day or so reflecting on myself, how I am and what I'm doing.

Having paused for long enough to reflect a little on my current condition I seem to have retrieved some enthusiasm for getting back into exercise and the diet this week, aided by the fact that school starts again on Tuesday which always seems to make things easier. Fingers crossed.

Strange happenings at 10 Kotara Place

Upstairs part of the living area extends behind a stub of wall so that we don't use it all that much. It's got two bookcases in it and some of our darling daughter's toys, but it's separate from the main living area and unless she is playing there we don't really visit at all. This evening, however, I needed to get something from a book case and...

... imagine my surprise when having picked up the required book I turned around to see glass shards everywhere and a dead pigeon lying on a chair. The poor bird must have flown straight into the centre of one of the large panes of glass and, instead of just making a loud thump and falling to the ground outside the room, it must have hit the glass at exactly the right point to make it shatter. There is glass everywhere so our daughter won't be playing there for a while. We'll have to fence it off so that our dog doesn't make off with the bird; I'm waiting until daylight tomorrow to take photos and send them to the management agency. I'm not sure whether the landlord's insurance or ours covers avian entry! If I don't take the photos I don't think anyone will believe me.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


... is how I'm feeling, having been to visit our rural block and found that the shed was not inundated during the recent floods (our possessions in cardboard boxes are intact and not at all damp), our house platform is intact and the access road has been restored - it's a rough and ready job, but we can drive up to our block so I'm not complaining. Phew!

This is the view looking diagonally down the gully that runs between the house pad and the studio pad

There's been some earth and branches washed down the gully but considering the amount of rain it really isn't bad

The pads (platforms carved from the hillside on which to build the house and studio) themselves have suffered very little damage and none of the batters (earth walls behind the pads which have been 'battered' into a slope) behind the pads has slipped at all. We walked up the the spillways above the benches (the batters are stepped backwards into the hillside; benches are the flatter areas between one batter and the next) to assess any damage and while we saw a little bit of slippage in a couple of places the main effect of the tremendous rainfall was to wash off the top soil exposing the beautiful colours of the Argillite rock underneath!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A small step

Woohoo! I should probably be posting this on our "Lookout31" blog, but I'm sticking it here because it's easier and because I may have mentioned previously that we're hoping to build a house one day on the rural block of land we own off North Boambee Road. Well, we are a small step closer to building something at some point in time because Builder #6 is apparently coming around tomorrow afternoon to tell us why he CAN put in a quote that is somewhere in the same galaxy as the price we can afford if the bank is kind to us. Again I say, Woohoo!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Baldy #2

I'm hoping that the new, relaxed me (described in my previous post) will carry me through the trauma of the fact that I'm beginning to lose my hair! Baldness is not a good look on a woman unless you happen to have Sinead O'Connor's bone structure, and believe me, I don't.

I'm trying to get to the bottom of the problem. I've never exactly been blessed with a thick mane of hair; it's always been very fine and there's never been much of it, but now if I stand in front of the mirror with a light above me I'm dazzled by my shiny scalp. I had thought that the problem was restricted to the top of my head (and how many people look at the top of my head?), but I was a bit shocked to find, when I examined the back of my head using two mirrors that the shine is beginning to extend down the back of my head towards my neck. I can tell how bad it is using the 'Scale of Tact' used by my delightful hairdresser, Dan...

This is not good. I'm 43 and not, as far as I know, suffering from any nasty illness. The culprit is likely to be the fact that I had a full hysterectomy and am taking HRT. I spent months trialling different types of HRT before I had the operation in order to find one that worked for me, and believe me, those little pills can wreck havoc upon you if you don't take the right one for you. I tried pills that made me suicidal within days, pills that made hair grow in all the wrong places, pills that made me eat like a horse and pills that signally failed to do anything noticeable at all. Which is why I was so happy to find that Kliovance suited me: a little bit of progesterone in the mix seemed to have huge benefits despite the fact that "technically" I don't need it. In fact I reckon that starting HRT marked the first occasion on which my poor old malfunctioning body actually got the hormones it should have had for the preceding twenty+ years, since I'd suffered from endometriosis from the tender age of about 14 years old. On HRT I've had more energy, fewer mood swings, better skin... and less hair. It seems that the female body can convert progesterone into testosterone, which then binds with androgen receptors in my scalp (if I've understood the medical language properly), thus killing off my hair follicles and turning me into a soon-to-be baldy! Help!

I guess the risks of baldness and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (something else Gynaecologists don't tell you about when you consider whether to excise your reproductive system) do outweigh the pain and misery of endometriosis, but I find myself feeling a bit sorry for myself about the lack of hair things because it ain't going to be pretty. Clearly I do need to talk to my doctor and an endocrinologist about my hormone levels and to rule out a thyroid problem, but I think I also need to consider strategies to cope with hair loss.

Hats? Yep, I love 'em. Sadly I can't afford to have them tailor-made for my enormous head, but it would be a good look! I could legitimately channel Isabella Blow and the English Eccentric look for my Australian neighbours if I could afford it, but I may have to learn millinery before I succeed. I might be better off finding an African-Australian neighbour who could teach me to tie the gorgeous headscarves worn by Nigerian women. I love them, too! Or I could just continue to wrestle with my vanity and attempt nonchalance. No hair? Who cares? I haven't quite got to baldness yet so I have some time to work on my attitude. I'll let you know how I get on.

Rain, rain, go away...

You may have seen on the news or indeed read on my other blog, Double Elephant, that the Coffs Coast Region has been declared an emergency zone by the New South Wales state government owing to the enormous quantities of water that poured out of the sky on Tuesday/Wednesday of this week. Well, it hasn't stopped raining yet and apparently we're due for more deluges of monsoon-type rains this weekend and particularly heavy rain next Monday. Hoorah! I hadn't appreciated quite why the city centre flooded as badly as it did (I seem to have driven through the area about 15 minutes ahead of the flood waters!), but the backing-up of the storm drains and creeks around the area coincided with a high King tide (King tides are equinox tides), so that water flowing out to sea was met by extra high tides flowing in towards the city and the outlying regions, hence the floods.

Gurdial standing on the plank across the crater

Anyway, so far so good, until Jake (the headmaster who recently built a house near to our block) sent us some photos yesterday. King tides aren't to blame, instead the valley is a huge water catchment area and as it came down off the hillsides it slammed straight into an inadequate culvert under the main access route up to our blocks... and washed the road away, leaving a crater impassible by vehicle and only just navigable over a single plank on foot. Jake's family couldn't get back to their house after work and school and have had to decamp to his mother-in-law's house (with five kids!) for the duration. Adam, who built his house right next to our boundary was lucky that he was at work while his wife was at home, so they were able to park their cars on either side of the gulf and have been ferrying children/food/adults back and forth between work, school and the shops via the rickety plank! Gurdial, whose blueberry farm is two blocks away from ours, on the other side of Adam's house, hasn't been able to get up there. We finally got all our boxed up goods into our new shed last Thursday and haven't been up there since so we have no idea if the rain water was able to drain away from the concrete foundations or whether our carefully stacked boxes (which were on pallets, luckily) have escaped the flood waters or not...

Gurdial's brothers standing on the plank. You can see the 3 large concrete culverts from which the road surface was washed away

Thanks to Jake sending us the photos we were able to go up to the crater this evening for a meeting to discuss what happens next, although they were all still arguing when we had to leave to collect our daughter from after school care, so I don't know the outcome. But the options are to spend $2,500 - $3,000 on a more-or-less well done 'bodge job' which would see large rocks placed down the sides of the re-positioned drains and topped off with water-repellent clay soils covered in gravel, or to invest more like $10,000 on doing the job properly which will include digging out a drain in order to divert the water flow while proper concrete pads are put in for the culvert and retaining walls built before a contoured slipway is incorporated into the road profile above... Clearly the latter idea is sensible, but apart from the time it might take to do and the fact that no work would be able to start on either option until the water flow has considerably reduced, there is of course the question of cost. It's likely that the bulk of the costs would be shared between Gurdial, Jake and us, and I have to say that we hadn't planned to spend a big lump of money on the road right now.

It's quite a large gap!

I do think that all the Buddhist reading I've been doing recently has had some effects. I am making a conscious effort to examine how I'm feeling, to recognise the signs of becoming stressed and to calm down, to relax more, to forgive myself more, to be more realistic, to encourage myself to exercise and to quell the nagging, critical inner voice. It's not that I'm embracing Buddhism so much as that I'm acknowledging the sense in what I'm reading and trying to apply it to my situation in a practical way.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Not a baldy any more

Belle isn't bald any more! Because I've spent several evening recently sewing 400m of cotton embroidery thread (in 4 colours) onto her little head... approximately 1,000 lengths of thread! I am completely mad.

If I find any more thread I might - one day - lower her hairline a little. Right now, though, I'm remembering that upper class ladies in the late 1500's - early 1600's used to pluck their foreheads to attain such alabaster elegance because it was a sign of beauty. So there.