Saturday, July 30, 2011

Blogopolis - WOW! - and some related housekeeping...

I did make it to Blogopolis today. A big part of that was thanks to Jayne summoning up what was left of her strength after several sleepless days and nights attending her daughter in hospital this week, and dragging herself along with me! Thank you, Jayne, you're a legend and you deserve LOTS OF REST now - and I don't know if I could have done it without you! Mwah!

I want to send out a big THANK YOU to everyone who came up to me and said hi! You guys have no idea what that meant to me, and I am endeavouring to keep all your faces and names in my head!

To say it was fabulous, well, that would be an understatement!

I am so happy I went!

I learned a lot today, and packed away a few presumptions about monetizing. No, I'll never be one to promote household goods or DVDs, I think, but I'm now thinking along the lines of being open to promoting those things I really believe in - particularly things, people, or events related to writing and the pursuit  of the word arts! Something to think about for the future, anyway.

Something I heard and took on board and have acted on almost as soon as I got home, is to register my own domain name. Since the beginning of 2006, this blog has been found at, but just now I bought the domain url for - this blog is already in the process of transferring to the new address, and that process should be complete by Tuesday. People looking for this blog at the old url in future will be redirected to the new url.

Down the track - I don't know how far down the track, mind you - I aim to create a WordPress blog at the new url, so this is all part of a bigger plan.

I had consider using the url (I already knew .com was taken), but somehow it just didn't feel right. The title of this blog is an answer to the question posed in the url of this blog, and it felt right to keep that little conversation going...

When we left Zinc at Fed Square, to go home, we were greeted with the most lovely rainbow I've seen in a long, long time. It was complete (which is quite rare in my experience) and the colours were unusually strong as well. A beautiful way to end an interesting and inspiring day!

Friday, July 29, 2011

My designer handbag - a.k.a. how not to wear a designer handbag...

July has been a massive month of acquisition for me. Most of the things I have acquired have been funded by tax returns and government benefit supplements, but a couple of other things have come to me via blog competitions. I've had a great month for winning blog competitions!

A couple of weeks ago I won a Microsoft Office for Mac (Home and Business, valued at $399) from the Nuffnang's Blog. The prize hasn't arrived yet, but I'm eagerly keeping an eye out for the postie everyday!

Then last week, just as I finished setting up my new computer, I discovered I'd won a handbag from FatMumSlim's blog. To be honest with you, I had no concept of Belle Bijoux handbags at all when I entered the competition. The bag depicted in the post looked pretty and colourful (I love colourful!) and it was an opportunity to wax lyrical about my inspiring mum. Once I entered, I actually forgot I had, until the email arrived! When I found I'd won I was pretty excited, but even still I had no real appreciation for the value of the prize. It wasn't until days later when I was trying to figure out if the Microsoft for Mac pack I'd won was better than the one that came with the computer (it was - MUCH better), that I even thought about checking the value of the handbag.

WELL! As it turned out, the handbag I'd won retails for $439! I was completely blown away! I have never spent that much on a fashion accessory in my life! My most expensive pair of shoes cost me about $139 and the most expensive bag I ever bought cost $99!

So, now, imagine my surprise when I opened my front door yesterday afternoon and found a regular postpak just sitting there on the front porch. I would have expected something that valuable to need to be signed for!

When I opened the postpak, I found a hot pink pouch containing this gorgeous bag! I've never had a handbag that required it's own pouch for protection! It's lovely and soft. White leather is not something I would buy for myself (because I'd be afraid of it being spoiled), but oh, those colours are just divine! It has plenty of generous pockets, too!

A zipped pocket at the front under the flap.

Another large zipped pocket inside, as well as two pockets for your phone and keys.

A large notebook pocket at the back (at least for the writers among us).

The attached badge says "Belle Bijoux" on one side, and "Limited Edition" on the other.

I had to try it out straight away. I really loved that it had a very long adjustable strap so I could fit it over my shoulder - invaluable when you have toddler to wrangle! I got the Grumpy Old Man to take a photo of me wearing it... That pretty much proved that a designer bag doesn't make the wearer look "designer", but moreso that a wearer of a designer bag can absolutely wear it wrong! The bag looks great though, doesn't it? (despite the fact I'm wearing it like it's an old potato pouch)!

In case anyone is reading this (and going to Blogopolis)...

I am a complete nervous wreck!

There is a very good chance my "security blanket" won't make it to Blogopolis after all - through absolutely no fault of her own. Life happens and you just have to go with it. So, that's okay, it's not as if I don't know anyone else going - but I kind of wish I didn't (don't worry, I'm about to explain that statement and hopefully it won't sound quite as odd after the explanation).

I've been avidly following all the Blogopolis talk on Twitter - problem with that is, everyone I *know* on Twitter is super-excited to go and to meet up with each other and hug and have drinks and so on and so forth. I don't feel part of any of that. Of course, the solution is to *make* myself part of it. Theoretically, I know that. Practically, though, I think I'd rather saw my own arm off.

This is the problem with anxiety. It isn't rational.

So, I'll "Suck it up, Buttercup" and get on the train in the morning, cross Swanston, make my way down to Zinc, and slink into the right room - I hope. I was going to wear all purple, but now I'm not sure. Meanwhile, I still probably won't be hard to recognise because I'm large as life and will be wearing "outside the mainstream" (probably red, purple, or green with black) intricately embroidered clothing.

If you feel inclined to say hello - please do! Even if you have commented on here, please don't be too upset if I don't seem to recognise you, I often don't recognise people I've spent hours having conversations with (it's a side effect of low vision and ADD)!

Of course, there is also the reality that Nuffnang has decided, in it's infinite wisdom, to randomise allocated seating. In theory I completely agree with this move. It will mix things up and give less well known bloggers a chance to mix with the tall poppies. In practice though, I can also see that it'll be quite unnerving for people who were relying on a friend or two to buffer them in the initial ice-breaking stages. So, I know I won't be the only person worried about not having a security blanket friend to cling to...

I think I need to focus on why I'm going - to learn. I want to learn from those who have achieved some level of acclaim how to produce the best work I can. I don't blog to get rich, but I do want to be heard (don't we all?) and I want to reach as many readers as I can. So, that is why I'm going to Blogopolis - to learn, to observe and absorb and take home and do!

This is what I look like these days. I love a chat once I get warmed up - so be warned!

PS. If you're not from Melbourne and you're taking taxis in this city - pay by eftpos! The other night - and I take taxis in Melbourne a lot - I took a taxi for a 20 minute ride. Now, on average, cab fair is about $2 a minute (keep that in mind) and so I was expecting this trip to cost about $40 (I get half price cabs because of my low vision, so for me, it would be $20). Instead, at the other end, the driver told me the fare was $58! I told him that was quite a bit over what I expected and he shrugged and mumbled something about traffic. Anyway, I paid by eftpos. Some hours later, I took the same trip home and this time, the fare was $26 - yes, a $32 difference! So, when I got inside, I checked both receipts because I was going to call and complain - and the receipts have the taxi's registration details on them (always get a receipt!) - and I found the first cabby had actually only charged me $32!

So, here's what I think... Had I paid cash - which he was expecting me to - he would have pocketed the $28 dollar (in my case $14 because I only pay half fare) difference. However, when I opted to pay by eftpos, the taxi computer system took charge of the charge, and he wasn't able to pocket any money, so I was charged exactly what the meter said.

The moral of the story is PAY BY EFTPOS to avoid unscrupulous cab drivers ripping you off!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bedroom wrangling...

This morning the new loft bed arrived to make into a bunk bed for Viking and Blue in what used to be Viking's room. This move is happening so Lama can eventually move into his own bed at the bottom of a bunk he'll share with Buddha.

I promised before and after photos, but then I forgot to take before photos - duh! So, I'll endeavour to describe how things used to bed from the photos of what they are now...

So, these first three photos are from what is now Buddha and Lama's room (this used to be Blue and Buddha's room). Blue used to sleep on the top bunk, and Buddha on the bottom bunk, which used to be a full length single). The two drawers on the bottom bunk (which transforms it into a toddler length bed) used to stand where the green games table stands in the corner of the room. The green games table used to stand where the pine kiddy table is now - and the pine kiddy table used to be in Viking's room. 

The teal boxes in the top row of the bookcase, used to be in bottom row, but have been moved up to stop Lama from raiding Buddha's precious'. The books have been moved down, and Viking and Blue's boxes have been removed to their new room together along with a tower of drawers that are Blue's for keeping his Lego in - they used to stand on top of the bookshelf and were hard for Blue to access without our assistance.

In Vikings room, there is now a bunk bed where there used to be a single. His Ivar shelves are filled with the boxes that used to be in black Expedit shelves in the other room. On his white set of drawers (which came with the house) stands both Viking and Blue's Lego drawers towers. Viking loses the room that used to be just for him, but considering how often we went in there at night and found Viking and Blue all tucked up together - in total contrast to the fights they seem to engage in all day long - I think he'll survive.

Lama probably won't sleep in his "new" bed for a while. We'll start by talking about it, and calling it his - he already likes to read books on the day bed set up pictured above. Then we'll try transitioning him to the bed after he's fallen asleep in the evening and then let him come back in with us if he wakes, and slowly we expect he'll get used to the idea of sleeping in that room and waking with his brothers, in his own time.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The newest residents of iLand...

Last week our Education Tax Return and Family Tax Benefits supplements A and B arrived. Each year those monies are invested into various larger purchases that we've needed throughout the year - topping up utilities account, white goods, or padding out the children's wardrobes - things to tide us over for another year. In the past couple of years this has been a particularly important time for us because the rest of each year has been so lean - living week to week.

This year, the money has gone into technologies. Specifically Apple MacIntosh technologies. In the past three years, I've had three computers die on my, and one come very close to death but is revived enough to keep limping along. This made for a very stressful period of uncertainty while I was finishing my Master degree, and led to me simply not being able to face the prospect of undertaking a PhD under these circumstances.

Late last month, after two viral close encounters in just three weeks, I decided to give us on the world of PC and give Macs a go!

I've had an iPhone since April 2009 and it has served me very well. I've heard that Macs are less affected by viruses because they are harder to write viruses for, and the ratio of Macs to PCs is still small enough to make it not worth a hackers while to spend extra time learning how to write a virus for a Mac. I really hope this is all true because I've just spent three times as much on a new Mac desktop as I spent on my last PC desktop.

iMac and iPad2

As well as this, I've bought an iPad2. First and foremost, I've wanted an iPad since they first came out. Being legally blind, I find the phone hard to read, but can access all the same portability with the iPad without straining my eyes as much. With the iPad, I can multi-task in a way that suits me - particularly with my writing (I love to write in front of the television - I know, bad, bad, very bad, but geez, it really helps me to focus so much better!)...

With the iPad2, I can finally take and make movies of my boys to send to my family overseas - and when I visit mum I can send them videos of mum and Lester, too!

I'll be able to take notes for my research while out - do research whenever I have a spare moment (on public transport springs to mind), and do it all without having to peer at a time little screen!

Lama and Blue enjoying a play on an art-pad app on the iPad2 - perfect
for little hands!

Last of all, I've put three iPod touches on lay-by for the three bigger boys (Ari can 'borrow' my iPad2). This may seem very extravagant, and I have to admit I've wavered back and forth on this one for a while, but the specific point of these devices is to keep the boys occupied quietly in the car after the Grumpy Old Man gets his licence. At least to begin with, the boys won't actually have access to the iPods out side of the car - at least until I can see how they handle the new technology, I am not at all keen for them to become obsessed and will withdraw access to them if they seem to want to do nothing but play with their iPods (I'm no fan of children occupying their time with technology - not while their brains are still developing understanding of their 3D world in any case).

I was expecting the iLearning Curve to be pretty steep, but I've been pleasantly surprised! The true plug and play interactions is just so simple (so simple, in fact, that I'm thinking I want my boys to learn how to use PCs before they become too comfortable with Macs and then find the PC learning curve incredibly steep!). Macs seem to do all your thinking for you (which is both good and for this seriously paranoid person, a little scary!)...

So far, so good! I am really enjoying this change over and learning how best to use these technologies personally and to the benefit of my family!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Big week - exhausting...

Image: source
First of all, my apologies for being out of touch for a while. It's been a huge week. Early this week I received the devastating news that an online acquaintance's baby had been born still, at term. I can't even begin to describe how awful this is. To say this baby was much longed for and anticipated doesn't do justice to the cruelty of this outcome (most babies are longed for and anticipated, but this family had been on a longer than usual journey with secondary infertility). It has fogged up my brain too much to be able to write anything. It is just too unfair and sad and horrible that this should happen to anyone ever.

Today's news is filled with the tragedy that has been the bombing in Oslo and the mass shooting of young people at a Labor Youth Camp north-west of Oslo. We have old friends whose children frequent this camp annually, and so we wait to hear if they attended this year and were among the 80 young people who were killed by the gunman.

In contrast with this, my tax payments came through, and I was finally able to purchase some much wanted and needed technology which which help me meet my goals of starting (and then completing) my PhD.

I also won two prizes in two different competitions, and had a customer service representative watch out for my financial interests and arrange a refund for me when they discovered I'd opted for free postage instead of a percentage discount when the percentage discount was a worth more.

With all this excitement and sadness, I've been on an emotional roller-coaster this week which has left me feeling physically ill and suffering from the worst insomnia I've experienced since last November.

So, I'm hoping things will settle down through the coming week promises to be just as up and down as this one.

This blog post is a bit blah, and all over the place and hasn't really done any of the events of this week any justice... It's just a bit of a brain dump in the hopes of being able to sound a bit more coherent next time. Thanks for listening.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Blind Faith...

I was watching Q and A tonight, and it was about religion and faith (well, I'm not sure if that was the title of this episode, but it certainly ended up being the subject matter).

The panel was made up of a self-professed Atheist/Agnostic (she started out as one and seemed to agree later she was more the other), an Irish Christian (I won't assume he was Catholic), a Muslim, a pratt Jon Saffron, and a Christian theologist. I wouldn't quite call that a broad spectrum, but I guess they tried.

The Irish guy - some sort of Academic of Science, said something I've been saying to people for what seems like ever. He said that essentially Science is also a matter of faith (remember he is a scientist and a Christian).

Quite a few people in my Twitter stream took exception to this, stating that Science can be proven (implying Faith cannot) and making flippant comments about allowing their children to decide which laws of physics they will believe in when they grow up.

This is all very odd to me - hey, what's new, right?

To me, it is self-evident that Science relies heavily on Faith. Yes, some scientific theories can be proven by simple experiments (throw something in the air and eventually it will fall to the ground, oh look, the phenomenon scientists call gravity!). Other bits of science relies heavily on conceptual theories and letting yourself "go there" (quantum physics, string theory, theories of time and space).

I wonder how often people ask themselves whether Scientific Fact is actually fact. Many Scientific Facts have been discounted over time; modified with the emergence of new truths. There is so much Science still cannot account for. Human's don't even understand how their own brains work, or whether or not the mind is intrinsically linked with the body/brain, or something separate and intangible. That hasn't stopped some Scientists saying it is and some saying it isn't - who has the facts?

People scoff at Faith as if it is fairy hocus pocus, and yet blindly believe what they are told by nameless and faceless scientists without bothering to ask for the proof - that is, to be shown the proof in front of their eyes. Yet, they don't hesitate to demand that people of Faith prove to them that their Faith is fact, right here, right now! Prove it! Show me God's birth certificate! Oh, you can't, you're full of crap then...

Science is Faith.

Without Faith there would be no Science because all we could not see would cease to exist and many Facts would be in question.

Just as I will encourage my children to choose whether or not to follow a religious faith, I will also encourage them to thinking critically about which scientific facts they will believe without proof they can see for themselves.

There is popular flowchart that suggests science is evidence based and faith ignores evidence. So much Science has yet to be proven conclusively but people are already believing it as they always do because Science represents fact - but hmmm, Science created facts, just as it created time, weight, and dimensions. So, we believe those things because we were told to believe them.

Faith - exploring the possibilities (where's the difference?)
Image: source

12 years of babies...

I think I'm safe to say that Ari is now fully weaned.

This means that period of my life where I was a nursing mother is over. Finally. Finally, as in it will never happen again, not as in thank goodness it's over. Well, honestly, maybe there is a little thank goodness it's over in there as well - twelve years is a long time in anyone's book, and if we start talking consecutive years of breast feeding, I actually breastfed for 16 years - so you can chuck in another 3.25 years of tandem feeding in there...

And now it is done.

Imagine that, no more maternity bras... Am I sad? No!

That is not the only thing coming to an end though. Ari is more and more determined to "hand" when we go down the street. "Hand" means to hold someone's hand and walk. Every day he asks to go one the buses and every day he stipulates, "hand". I'm still able to cox, bribe and cajole him into the pram, but I know my pramming days are numbered. This is sad to me only because I do so love my workhorse pram. It is incredibly hard working and I can get so much done when he-who-shall-be-heard acquiesces to go in it. Oh the shopping I've lugged home with that pram! The extra seat I haven't had to hunt around for in the food court. The storer of coats which seemed like a good idea when we left the house, but turned out to be too warm only 15 minutes later. When we finally say goodbye to the pram, I'll be the sad one! (meanwhile, anyone want a Bugaboo Bee Original, I'll sell it for any reasonable offer!).

Then today I did it, I finally ordered the second bunk. Many years ago, the Grumpy Old Man's parents bought us a lovely Bunkers convert-a-cot for Erik (they were sick of seeing him sleeping in a travel cot).

Image: source

Later it became a toddler bed for Erik, then a single bed for him (Luey was our first co-sleeping baby). When Luey was getting ready to move out we bought loft bed and converted the single into bunks with a toddler set up below and a regular single up top. Then when Luey outgrew the toddler bed set up we took the drawers out and made the bunk into a regular bunk. When Bryn became old enough for a bed, we set up the toddler down/single up bunk again, and got the makings of another single for Erik. Then Bryn grew had regular bunks again - plus Erik's single.

Now Ari is getting to that age where we think he'd love to be sleeping in with the boys. So, I've ordered another loft bed, and with Erik's single, that will make a new bunk set up. So, in one room we'll have Bryn and Ari in bunks (Ari will have the toddler bed at the bottom of the bunk and Bryn will be upstairs for the first time ever! In the other room there will be Erik and Luey in the other set of bunks (most nights Luey ends up in Erik's room anyway so they won't mind sharing again).

Loft Bed Image: source

The most exciting bit is that in our room - mine and the Grumpy Old Man's, there'll be me and the Grumpy Old Man!!! That'll be a bit weird I think, at first anyway, but oh the possibilities; I'll be able to read in bed! 

So, I guess our baby years are coming to an end. Not all at once, but in the next 12 months certainly! It feels strange, but good strange - like finally, I'm ready. Only took me 12 years!

The new bunk arrives Wednesday week - I'll do the usual before and after shots of the set-ups, so stay tuned for those. I'm not telling the boys - they have a way of finding a problem if they have too much time to think about it - so it'll be a surprise for them when they come home on the 27th!


Sunday, July 17, 2011

The story of my vision impairment.

Trish from My Little Drummer Boys asked me the other day if I had a blog post on my blog about my vision impairment. It had never occurred to me to write an entire post about it before. Being vision impaired is a pretty big chunk of who I am, but at the same time, it is not something I'm all that keen to focus on  - probably because I buy into the stigma associated with disability. I know I shouldn't, but it's hard for me not to internalize a lot of reactions to my vision impairment (when people finally find out about it) from wider society - particularly prospective employers and people in positions of authority who tend to feel very self-conscious and responsible for my safety in their presence.

So, where to begin? At the beginning, I suppose. I don't remember the beginning, of course, so my account of it is reliant on what I've been told, mostly by my mum, and how I have remembered what I've been told - which may or may not be inaccurate, but I'm sure she'll correct any major mistakes in my memory.

Mum had a fairly average pregnancy with me. I was born about three weeks past my due date in December, 1971. Mum's labour with me was finally induced and was long and painful. On several occassions she was told I had died (they lost my heartbeat). Mum was a new immigrant to Australia, so her English was okay, but not great. She was labouring on her own, and she remembered hearing her parents (who's English was more limited than her own) pleading with hospital staff to be allowed into her room to see her. This was not allowed. Finally, in the early hours of the morning she birthed me with forceps assistance which left a large bruise over the left side of my face. The doctors noted my umbilical cord was very short. I was taken away to the neonatal unit (I'm assuming for oxygen and observation). Ten days after my birthday, mum was able to bring me home.

Within weeks, or a few short months, of my birth, mum started to have concerns about me. I seemed to be constantly cross eyed. She took me to the doctor, but was told I just had wind (translated: 'You're an over-anxious first time mother'.

Baby me - forget the eyes, check out those lashes!

Over the next few years I was slower than other babies to reach physical milestone such as crawling and walking. I often crawled and walked into furniture. At one point she had a visit from Children's Services over a report of concerns for my constant bruises.

I'm not sure about the details of the following couple of stories, but somewhere around the age of three my eyes straightened out on their own. Up until that point, Mum and Dad had been aware that I saw things double, and would often misjudge the placement of an object for its double. Once my eyes straightened out, I was suddenly able to pinpoint the placement of an object quite well.

At some stage, a visit to a doctor (possibly in the wake of my eyes straighten out) led to a investigation in theatre - this was after we moved to Australia when I was four and half, I believe, because I went into theatre in Sydney. The doctor doing the investigation invited a college to have a look at 'an interesting case', which brought Professor Frank Billson into my life. Professor Billson had been studying several cases (I think about 70 in Australia) of children exhibiting Optic Nerve Hypoplasia and the side effects for children with this condition.

Painting: source

Not much was known about this condition when I was a child, and still there is no clear understanding of what causes optic nerve hypoplasia as it has been found to have both genetic (rare and very random) and environmental links. Mum believes exposure to crop chemicals early in her pregnancy with me is the most probable cause, and the literature seems to support this (read the link above).

My parents were told that growth, hormonal and behavioural issues were highly linked with my condition - which is similar to, but not the same as de Morsier Syndrome.

Cat scans of my brain showed enlarged ventricals, agensis (absence) of the corpus collosum and other abnormalities. If you follow the link you'll see my brain has great black spots in it. I've had cat scans done of my brain a few times, but this last set (done in the early 90s) is the only set I have - and I had to be very stern, indeed, to get these back. Doctors love to keep them for their own records, to show in seminars, because - as many a doctor has told me, I shouldn't be able to walk or talk with that brain structure.

Professor Billson asked to see me in his suite after being invited into theatre by his colleague. Several times in the intervening years, I visited him for a 'check up'. My sight remained static, though he told me that as I aged my sight would deteriorate at an average pace, but because I have less to lose I can expect to lose vision completely before others might experience that. He was keen to find out if any children I had would be born with my condition, none have (as far as we can tell).

Professor Billson found that I had no vision at all in my left eye. He suggested my brain may have been confused by conflicting messages from both eyes and therefore refused to take messages from my left eye - basically shutting it down. My left eye still dilates in reaction to light (though slower than the right eye) and it moves in unison with the right eyes. Over the years, my left eye became lazy and significantly turned outward (27 degrees turn) and so in December 2009, I had an operation to have it straightened. How long this straightening will hold is unknown as the eye can not be exercised to strengthen the muscles supporting it. I have been keeping an eye out for pretty eye patches for the day it starts turning again - yes, I'm that vain!

The visual field in my right eye is narrow - tunnel vision. I also have a varying focus in my right eye. That means sometimes I can see fairly clearly up to about 1.5 metres in front of me (not for reading purposes though), and clear enough to recognise images for several metres beyond, and then my focus will suddenly - without warning - shift, and I won't be able see clearly more than about 30 centimetres in front of me. Seeing out of only one eye means I have faulty depth perception - I hate descending long flights of stairs. Also, I'll never enjoy a the phenomenon of a 3D movie. I have about 15% sight in my right eye.

I don't see things, as much as recognise them. I recognise people by how they move and the kinds of clothing they wear, not by their faces. Just yesterday I was at a friends birthday party and a woman arrived, and I asked Jayne for an introduction, and the woman said, 'We've met before'. It turned out to be someone I've met several times before - she'd even given me a lift home (20 minutes in the car together, sitting right next to each other and talking) and I didn't recognise her! Yes, it can be embarrassing to be me sometimes.

I don't make it easy for myself, though.

I was brought up to be very independent. Mum and Dad didn't know a lot about my vision impairment and associated symptoms and so I wasn't allowed to use my impairment as an excuse not to try and do for myself. I am endlessly grateful that Mum and Dad did this. I think not feeling disabled has helped me tremendously throughout my life.

However, it probably also means I'm reluctant to bring attention to myself by using those facilities that might help me. I don't use a monoscope (which is like a mini telescope) when out and about, or a magnifier when reading. I don't listen to recorded books (which would help me with my reading issues a lot! I know of so many fully sighted people who do listen to recorded books, but I haven't figured that out yet - I will!). I don't hang out at facilities for vision impaired people - in fact, I feel very much outside of that community. I can't relate to in the vision impaired community.

When I was ten I went to school for the vision impaired in Adelaide, South Australia, named Townsend House, and lived in the cottages one the grounds which served as dormitories for children attending Townsend and also the local hearing impaired school. Whenever we went out on excursions I remember how keenly I wished not to be associated with other children with disabilities. I hated being stared at, pointed at, treated like I didn't understand normal language. So, I learned to shy away from communities for the vision impaired.

When I read, I hold books right up to my face  Right now I'm sitting 13cm away from my 21 inch computer screen (I just measured it)... The type on my screen is 14pt, this is the minimum I'm comfortable with. I get headaches all the time from reading the screen. I find it difficult to read books for long because book print is usually around 11pt type - sometimes smaller - and yet, throughout my life I've read thousands and thousands of books because I love stories. Determination is my middle name!

I have had a lot of difficulty getting any kind of paid work. I've never had a regular job for any length of time. I've had some work through Government sponsorship - basically employers only have to pay half my salary for a period of time, and the Government pays the rest. As soon as the sponsorship is over, I'm usually let go under some very dodgy circumstances - I had one employer tell me he was afraid might drop coins on the floor and not notice, I hadn't actually done that, but he was concerned I might...

I have had and am raising four children. They've all survived to the ages of 12, 10, almost 6 and almost 3, so far. I often go out with all four of them on my own. We navigate public transport, roads, and human traffic just fine. I've completed three degrees. I've run a household - I am have sole responsibility for our utility and rental accounts, and our fortnightly budget. Yet, when I tell employers I am legally blind, I am - so far - always categorised as 'too risky' to employ. Yes, this makes me resentful. I can't do many things as fast as others, but I can work - if I had a real opportunity, I'm sure I could prove this. Only 15% of vision impaired and blind people in Australia have permanent, paid employment. The career outlook for vision impaired and blind people in Australia is grim (as far as I can see, no pun intended).

So, that is the story of my vision impairment. I don't read braille. I don't use a guide dog or a cane. One day I may find a need for these things but so long as I don't, I won't.

PS - if you're out and about and you see me, even if we know each other from elsewhere, please free to yell out and introduce yourself, don't rely on me recognising you - as illustrated above! By all means, don't grab my elbow and steer me around - if I need assistance I will ask for it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Yes, I'm a wowser...

I've been mulling over this for a week, really trying to be okay with it. I've read a lot of debate about it, and mostly that debate concurs it's just a bit of fun, it's funny. People of all ages think it's funny, so why don't I?

I'm talking about the book titled, "Go the f**k to sleep" which Text Publishing is releasing in Australia. There has been a lot of outrage that the video reading of the book by our beloved Noni Hazelhurst *cue collective AWWWW* was pulled from You Tube - while the same reading done by Samuel L Jackson was not. I'll state it here that I also find that outrageous, and also discriminatory (because it was just Noni).

Text Publishing proclaims it a book for real parents who know the frustration of trying to get a child to sleep (meanwhile, I have already read about parents planning on reading it to their children, and reference to it as a children's book - are people for real?). I am a real parent, and I have been frustrated when my older children won't go to sleep (I'm talking about my post school aged children, here), so I get that frustration. I was talking with the Grumpy Old Man about it the other night - while still trying to figure out why this book makes me feel kind of yuck - and yes, he concurred, we have BOTH thought that very phrase, "Just go the f**k to sleep!".

The thing that I think is playing on my mind is that there is a difference between thinking it, even saying it once or twice, and publishing a book which makes light of it in such a way that reveals the contempt much of society has for the sleeping needs of small people.

Text Publishing describes the book as "affectionate", but is it really? Or does it simply say, "Yeah, you child is being a little shit and not getting that you're tired and just leaving you alone"? We all laugh wry laughs because we've all felt this way, but do we ask ourselves why we feel this way?

Why do we feel this way? Is it okay to feel this way?

I'll suggest we feel this way because we, as parents in Modern Western Society are under-supported. We value our little sanctuary homes more than living with extended family. We don't want to be reliant on others. We don't want to have to put up with interfering grandparents and their old-fashioned opinions, or nosey neighbours, or other unreasonable people (because we are always reasonable, rational and right). We want our big houses and our cars, and our private education and our holidays, and our new clothes every season, so we have to work. A lot of parents work a LOT, because it's the only way they will make ends meet. If one parent doesn't work, then the working partner has to work doubly hard to compensate for the lack of income, leaving the other parent often feeling isolated at home with the small person - or people - all day long.

At the end of the day, the child wants to spend time with mum and/or dad, because they haven't seen them all day (either because they were in childcare or the other parent was at work all day, or both).

As well as this, many parents believe their child should be "sleeping through" by six months, and when the child almost always isn't, many parents resort to sleep training practices which actually teach the child to associate stress with going to sleep. Quite often these sleep training practice work in the short term. Only very rarely do they work in the long term. So, then you have a 3-4-5 year old who resists going to sleep because somewhere deep down inside it makes them feel unsettle, insecure and abandoned.

So, the combination of strung out parents who believe they shouldn't or can't ask for support to parent their child to sleep, and children who miss their parents or have negative bedtime associations leads to a society which is more than a little obsessed with getting children to sleep.

This is the fertile ground into which the seed has been planted that a book which shows open contempt for a child who obviously has a need to be with their parent (the book doesn't illuminate what the rest of the child's day is like - do the child's parents work, is one of them feeling isolated and depressed because they are at home with the toddler all day and their career is slipping away from them? Are there financial stresses or relationship stresses the child is picking up on? Who the f**k knows, right?) is funny!

If the book was an elderly person with dementia, would there be more outcry?
If the book was about a child with a disability people could see, would there be more outcry?
If the book was about how real people feel about asylum seekers, would there be more outcry?

Why is it okay to laugh at parents who are not supported and are finding it difficult to have compassion for the child who relies on them for everything, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

I know it's a book about how many of us real parents really feel. I have really felt that way - even this week. But I suck it up because I'm an adult and I can ask for help, I can rationalise that this too shall pass, I can meet my own needs. My children can't do that as well as I can yet, which is why they still need me to help them do it. I understand that as much as I would like them to just go the f**k to sleep, that is unrealistic expectation and if I'm really stressing about it I need to ask for help.

Putting a book out into the market place that espouses this kind of contempt for the real needs of small children will only make it acceptable to feel and express such contempt, and not get help for it - because it's completely normal and okay to feel that way, everyone does...

What will the next outrageous and funny book be about - wanting to throw the screaming baby against the wall - haven't we all wanted to do that at some point, as well?

NB, I do know what it is to have a child who won't sleep, one of my children landed me in hospital with exhaustion after sleeping a total of two hour in every 24 hours between the age of 18 months and 2 years - this same child never slept more than 40 minutes at a time - or 9 hours in total (which happen twice, the rest of the time, he slept 6 hours) in every 24, and I still had his big brother to care for, so I was lucky to get 4-5 hours sleep in every 24 for the first 2.75years of this child's life. Two of my other three children didn't sleep regular hours until they were 3 and 2 respectively. I had one child who did sleep "well". So, I get sleep deprivation. I also get that parents need to demand more adult support, and not rely so much on their babies and toddlers to understand the needs of their parents for sleep - it is beyond the capacity of a child under 7 or 8 to understand their parents needs.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How I ditched my self-loathing about fat...

A conversation I've been having with some people on Twitter today has inspired me to write this post.

I'm fat. I'm 163cm (about 5'3") tall and weigh - let me just check - 106.8kg (236.5 lbs) in light clothing. That makes me about a size 20 in Australian sizes.

I've always carried a little extra weight. I've never been "skinny". I remember mum had me put on a diet when I was ten and living at a boarding school which served desert every night (I'd put on a few extra kilos and was heading from rounded to rotund) - we didn't often eat desert at home. I guess that was the first time I thought of my body as being wrong. I don't blame mum for that - society informs parents what to be concerned about and society has long stated that anything more than a little fat on the body is always a bad thing - no matter how nutritious your diet is, or how active you are.

By the time I was 12, I'd decided I as a fat, ugly beast who needed to torture herself for her own weakness by starving herself for half a day, then bingeing on whatever she could find for other half of the day (that habit stays with me to this day).

We lived at a college for a while during my middle teen years, and they had a large kitchen with a walk in fridge. That fridge was always filled with all sorts of good things left over from the meals of the day. I would gorge myself on large metal bowls of strawberry jam (picking the strawberries out piece by piece to eat), among other things.

I was always on a diet, sometimes they "succeed" for a while, mostly they didn't - certainly never long term. I idolised anorexics. I thought bulimics were gross, but did give bulimia a go, too. Bulimia didn't work for me, I couldn't make myself throw up, as much as I tried. I collected newspaper and magasine articles about anorexics and watched every single show or documentary I could about them. Once I discovered the internet, I visited pro-ana sites and made plans to try all the tricks I read about. I thought these girls (they were mostly girls) were amazingly dedicated and focused, and brave - even though I thought many of them looked quite repulsive in their photos. Of course, I was never an anorexic, just a fat, ugly wannabe.

I grew into adulthood loathing my body.

I never had a shortage of boyfriends though. As much as I thought I was unattractive, there was always someone else who thought I was attractive enough.

Eventually, I married and I had babies. Four of them. The whole time loathing my body. Babies led to stretch marks and droopy boobs (these are the side effects of pregnancy, not breastfeeding, by the way). I hated my body more.

After my third baby, I decided enough was enough, and I started exercising and put myself on a very restrictive diet (as the year progressed, my diet progressively got stricter). I lost 32kg. People complimented me, and I did feel good about myself on one level. On another level something else happened. The more weight I lost, the more I started to criticise my own progress and I started to feel a low panic in my mind that I'd have to maintain this new slimmer me. I hated how my stretchmarks were now a wrinkly pouch of skin on my abdomen. I felt gross touching that skin. I carried it around with me like a dirty secret - my scrotum-skin tummy.

Every day I hated my body. I thought about how much fat I was eating, how much sugar, how many calories. Every day I calculated how much exercise I would need to do to burn enough energy to lose another kilo and get closer to the next size down in jeans. Every day I stopped in front of the mirror many, many times to see if I looked thinner or fatter than the last time.

It was exhausting!

I got a phone call from my dad one day late that year, and in that conversation - without having seen me for 18 months - he said to me, "Fat mums raise fat children". The night he said that, I was a size 12. I had never been a size 12 in all of my adult life. He had never seen me as a size 12. What's more, my older boys - who were 7 and 5 at the time, were skinny, both of them were well under the average weight for children their age (they have always been average height, and well below average weight since toddlerhood). I felt angry. I felt resentful that I had been working my butt off - literally - all year and still I was going to be judged as a neglectful parent if I was even a few kilos overweight.

That was probably the first spark of me ditching the self-loathing - but still it didn't happen fully until about 4 years later.

After 2006, I struggled to maintain my new smaller size, and eventually I started to put the weight back on. There is no secret to how the weight went back on. Basically, I was working on my Masters, and I had another baby, and then we had a few upsets at home with FIL dying and the Grumpy Old man losing his job, and then having to move and money struggles and so on. I simply prioritised eating less junk and doing more exercise very low on the list.

As late as late last year, I still pretty much loathed my body. I resented not being able to dress in clothing that was flattering, comfortable and stylish (in the styles I liked). I still thought I was weak and useless - something I based entirely on my ability to lose a kilo in a week.

But I was tired of feeling bad. I was tired of feeling that I SHOULD feel bad. I started to do some reckoning.

Was I weak? How could I think I was weak? I am legally blind and am raising four children on a very low income. I single-handedly manage all the finances in this house - I am responsible for it all. I have complete three degrees and a certificate III - two of those degrees were by correspondence (that means I had to be a self-starter). I've traveled overseas completely on my own, arranging everything myself. I'm pretty handy with a screwdriver and a flat pack - even assembling bicycles. I can walk many kilometres a day, if I chose to. I can swim for hours without stopping, if I choose to.  No, I'm not weak, unless the only sign of strength is to be a size 8.

My body has grown and birthed four other human beings and then nourished them for 12 years (16 years consecutively). That is not weak.

Fabulous, fat me!
The more I thought about, the more I resented being judged on my ability to fit into certain sizes of clothing. I am so much more than my weight, or girth.

I refuse to loathe my body anymore. I love it. I started to adorn it with art because I love my body now. It is strong and beautiful. I don't want to hide it under unshapely clothing. I want to celebrate it. As much as I hated it and mistreated it over the years, it has always done its best for me.

I've heard all the "it's bad for your health" arguments, maybe it is, so is smoking, so is drinking, so is unprotected sex - where are the hashtags for people who have unprotected sex? Smokers aren't stigmatised nearly as much as fat people. People who drink alcohol aren't stigmatised - and yet people who don't drink alsohol are! Quite frankly, stigmatising people is a crock! There are many slim people out there dying from diabetes, heart disease, malnutrition, and all the other diseases associated with being "overweight" (overweight is, by the way, an arbitrary calculation of what weight a "normal, healthy" human should be - how can the ideal human weight be calculated other than by "the norm", which hasn't changed in 100 years even the though the majority of humans on the planet don't fit into, being either over or underweight according to the "normal, healthy range").

So, that's how I ditched my self-loathing about fat. You may be glad you're not as fat as me. I'm glad I have my body, it's been awesome to me this lifetime!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The C word...

Image: source
It has six letters. Well, actually six plus three letters, the C word of this time is "carbon tax".

I have to admit, I haven't really been able to follow the debate very well. For a long time I couldn't figure out why so many Australians were opposed to doing something to try and prevent global warming and all the fallout that would follow from that event.

From what I gather, a lot of people are not convinced that global warming isn't a natural phenomenon that would have come to pass even without industrialisation and global population explosion. I know my brother believes global warming is a conspiracy and he has many convoluted explanations for why he believes this is so.

Me, I don't trust people with lots of power, but it still makes sense to me that in the past couple of hundred years we've become very efficient at digging coal and other fuels out of the ground, and at the same time the world's population has increased from 1.6 billion to 6 billion people in the 20th century alone. So, in 100 years it increased four fold. Now there is still plenty of room on the planet, and there is actually plenty of food to feed everyone on this planet despite the extraordinary rates of famine we've witnessed over the last century. However! Producing enough of anything or everything for four times as many people takes more energy, and emits more pollution - I don't understand how anyone could think otherwise.

So, Australia is finally - long after many other nations of this world - making some sort of effort to address this issue. There are plenty of people who are willing to argue that the effort is misguided, that it won't work. Do we tell our babies not to try to walk because at some point they are going to fall? Should we have told the Wright brothers not attempt their first flying machine because it would crash and burn? No, from failure humans learn - this is how we have come to dominate this planet; we weren't afraid to get it wrong (even if it cost money and sacrefice and a bit of effort), to learn from getting it wrong, to modify our approach and eventually figure it out.

I've heard people say Australia only emits 2% of the total global carbon dioxide pollution, that us reducing our emissions isn't going to make jot of difference if the big polluters (China and India?) don't do anything to reduce their emissions.

By that logic, our children should not stand up for the bullied child in the school yard because "no one else is, and what difference does it make if I do when the kid will get bullied by everyone else anyway?"

Also, I was watching Q and A last night. They had Julia Gillard on talking about the carbon tax. Can she be trusted - I don't know, I was a big fan of Kevin Rudd and I didn't like how Julia came to power... Still, she said that Australia leads the world in per capita carbon dioxide emissions, generating 27 tons of carbon per capita each year in comparison to 6 ton of carbon per capita each year in China. These numbers weren't easy for me to verify, but I did find this chart of emissions per capita in nations around the world and in 2007, Australia was emitting 17.9 ton compared to China's 4.9 ton per capita (Australia had remained quite stable over a ten year period from 1997, only increasing from 17.2 to 17.9, whereas China had increased from 2.2 to 4.9 over the same period - however, if what Julia said last night is true, then Australia has increase emission by 9.1 ton in the past four years while China has only increased by 1.1 per capita in the same period!).

So, by that reckoning, we have further to travel to match China's emission per capita and they are, in fact, making changes to reduce their own emissions (despite continued claims that they are doing nothing, so why should we) - though not to eliminate them altogether (but why as of them what we are not prepared to do ourselves).

By starting to make change - even if it is misguided and won't work, it will inform future attempts - we are helping to put pressure on other countries who are still refusing to acknowledge this resource and global warming crisis which has already begun.

Another hefty point of contention is over jobs. People who work in industries which pollute or drain energy resources are worried about losing their jobs, and yes, that is a fair concern. However, their current jobs will lead to the demise of the global human population, and new job can be sourced in renewable and lower emitting industries.

A few years ago, the Howard government sought to close down compulsory student unionism. When his government succeeded in establishing voluntary student unionism many, many people lost their jobs and their careers - including my husband. Since then we've been struggling considerably to make ends meet. Change can be painful for those at the coal face (no pun intended), but change when our children's and grandchildren's very existence is at stake must not be resisted, however uncomfortable it is in the short term.

Humans are resourceful and because we have to stop relying on non-renewable energy and industries which emit high levels of carbon dioxide, we will have to find other ways to make a living. We are lucky - Australians, that is - we live in a society where people on hard times are taken care of until they can get back on their feet.

So, many families will have to live with less for a while - we have long lived with excess and we've come to feel entitled to that excess, this could be a good change for many people.

As for who gets compensated for the carbon tax, and who doesn't. I do - so I shouldn't have a voice, but I would happily pay the extra $10 a week for carbon tax (which rightfully should be called pollution tax) and do without something else I probably don't need because I want to see sustainable change - I want a future for my children and their families - so, if you earn too much money to get compensation (in form of extra money and/tax rebate) and you feel you should be compensated, I will give you the $610 my family will receive in compensation. Despite living on $45k per year for a family of six, I will find a way to pay that tax ourselves (first in, best dressed for this offer!), because I wouldn't want anyone to feel hard done by losing 0.7 of their annual income to this carbon tax that is trying to make a first attempt to change our children's future for the good.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Who is responsible?

I just read an article (it's long, but oh so good!) where a therapist (Lori Gottlieb - also author of "Marry him, the case for settling for Mr Good Enough") was discussing how she had come to realise a lot of her sad, lost patients had been raised by loving, caring parents who put a lot of emphasis on supporting their child and praising their child in an effort to build their child's self-esteem. This therapist had realised those parents were doing what she and her colleagues were doing with their own children in order to prevent the kinds of mental and emotional damage they were couselling many of their patients over.

Anyway, this was all discussed on a parenting forum, and it wasn't long before someone said, "More parent bashing, always blaming the parents"...

Yes, well, as a parent I know full-well that feeling of standing in a shopping centre with an overwrought small person who is simply losing it because it's 4pm/we're not stopping at the toy shop/they've just started dropping their afternoon nap (or all three) and having uncountable numbers of judging eyes scanning me from top to toe for clues as to how I failed as a parent. It's not nice.

Image: source
At the same time, let's not get so lost down the path of "You can't blame the parents" thinking that we completely deny the fact that our greatest influencers from birth until adulthood are, in fact, our parents - both biologically (nature) and sociologically (nurture).

"Blame" is an awful word, but you know, it's also often used incorrectly - a bit like "ignorance" - you see, you can't be "to blame" if you didn't have a clue that you needed to act differently. You can only be held to account if you had information and just ignored it because it's easier to maintain the status quo without considering it might be the root cause of issues you're having now, or might have in the future.

It's a bit like the legal reference to intent. Intent is connotative of planning one's action ahead of time for a specific outcome.

So, if you read that some parenting practice you've implemented with the best of intentions turns out to be detrimental to your child, you cannot be BLAMED for creating the negative outcome - nor should you blame yourself. If however, you are presented with information suggesting the path you've chosen is likely to have a negative outcome and you continue down that path without seriously weighing up the validity of those claims, then if the path ends badly, you probably could be blamed.

It is fair enough for parents to demand respect and to not be judged by their children's actions alone - however, parents must also accept that they are the biggest influencers of their own children (mittigating circumstances such as accidents, illness and disorders aside) and to that end, we need to accept that some of our children's issues are as a result of our parenting choices.

NB: Just on the article itself. If the therapist had read "The Aware Baby" by Aletha Solter or "The Continuum Concept" by Jean Leidloff, she might have saved herself some time. Both espouse early attachment which allows the child to express themselves whether content or discontent, and emphasises the child's need to develop beyond completely dependent babyhood into semi-independent childhood and all the way through to completely independent adulthood - this is the "middle ground" the therapist seemed to feel was missing. To me, this is common sense, but that is because I don't believe a person can or should be happy 100% of the time, I don't believe in painless living - pain is what let's us know when things are good, or even great. Happiness is transient which is what makes it so precious when it happens. Something we have all the time will always be devalued and become less precious to us - that should never happen to happiness!

I need a reading intervention - HELP!

Okay, let's say I haven't read a book in ten years... Yeah, yeah, don't everyone fall of your chair at once (I have read a few books in the past ten years, but I can pretty much guarantee they weren't on the best sellers list, or even in the "aspiring to be a best seller" list, or even novels for that matter)...

Where do I start?

What's good?

What's hot?

What's cool?

What has rocked your world lately???

I need suggestions, STAT!

I don't read horror or sci-fi (I read about 500 sci-fi books in the 80s, and kind of overdosed on them)...

Where, in the great wide word of all things bookish, do I start?

Please help - in fact, feel free to send all your mates over to help, too - I'm really desperate and at sea, and totally pathetic, you'll be doing your humanitarian deed for the month!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Stop Dissing the Net - reasons I love the internet!

If you hang around the net a bit, it won't be long before some smart arse will come along and tell you - via the net, mind you - why life is SO MUCH BETTER without the internet.

I've had more friends and net aquaintences, than I care to recount, tell me at one time or another that they're seriously considering cutting way back, or dropping this social network or that social network, because it sucks up so much of their time.

100% have never seriously cut back, or left any social network permanently.

Me, I LOVE the internet.

And I'll tell you, when it first came out - when my boyfriend at the time said, "You've got to come to the computer lab and see the chat rooms on the internet!", which then turned out to be hangouts for all sorts of perverted and seriously unattractive people, I was completely convinced I would never ever, EVER be a fan of the internet.

Well, times change, and the net has changed a lot since the early 90s as well.

Here are some of my top reasons for loving the internet:

  • I met my best friend on the internet. That was nine years ago, now. I would absolutely not have met her if it was not for the internet. We didn't travel in the same circles at all. In fact, we've laughed at the thought that had we met *in real life* many years ago, we would have both run screaming in opposite directions! She was a goth who liked to take morbid romantic photos of herself laying on gravestones with her eyes shut and a bouquet in hands on her chest. I was a Salvation Army soldier who sat in shopping malls selling the "War Cry" and collecting change (and I was really good at it, too!)... However, thanks to the net, we did indeed meet, and initially we connected over similar parenting approaches and later over many other things that make up both cackle laugh like old witches gorgeous, young maidens...
  • Finding beautiful things - especially clothes - that are not only to my rarified taste, but also fit me! This world, at least the world outside my door, dictates that women should at least try to be somewhere between a size 8 and a size 18, and they should want to wear clothing from fashion magasines or truly awful facsimiles of such clothing. Me, I'm not good at fitting into the mainstream, but that's okay because I have access to the internet, and via the internet I have access to shops that have sprung up because they have access to people who like what they have to offer, even those people aren't locals. The internets supports the idea that maybe only 50 000 in the whole wide world like peasant, rennaisance or bohemian clothing in plus sizes, and they don't all live in the same city. The internet makes such a business viable and because it's viable - I can access it!
  • I can learn how to do so many things I couldn't learn just by reading a book - even if I could find a book on every skill I wanted to learn. Yesterday I found some amazing, intricate "tatted" jewelry and thought - I wonder how this woman made that, so I looked it up, and found out how to "needle tatt" - and then I found an Australian business that sells tatting supplies, and I ordered some - because they were very inexpensive, and next week I'll teach myself how to make beautiful, intricate tatted pieces by watching someone do it on You Tube!
  • Tonight, I've spent a few hours reading the blog of Australian freelance writers and reviewers. I've followed some of these people on Twitter - where I might even pluck up the courage to "talk" to them, and who knows what I'll learn about the craft of writing through this indirect form of mentoring!
I'm a very shy person. Like most shy people, I'm mostly fine once I've gotten to know people - though if I don't see people for a while, you can bet your best buttons my heart will be racing at our next meeting - and the internet is great for breaking the ice before meeting people *in real life*. Later this month I'm going to a Blogger's Conference in Melbourne called Blogopolis. I do know a few of the other attendees from *real life*, so that is good, but only, let's say, FIVE people out of TWO HUNDRED and FIFTY! Thankfully, being a blogging event, every attendee has a blog and through their blogs I can get to know a little bit more about each of them. Some of them I also have on Twitter. This isn't going to completely shield me from my shyness, but it really does help - people like to say *real life* is best, and it probably is, but some of us wouldn't even think of venturing out into *real life* if it weren't for the transition of getting to know people over the internet.

And that is why I love the internet!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Things I know - the July edition

Joining in Things I know, at Yay for Home.

  • The biggest boys may have just turned 10 and 12, but I still think it sounds weird to have them refer to me as "my mum" when talking about me to other people!
  • Waiting for tax money to return in July makes this month creep along at a snails pace.
  • The combination of rain, no car, and school holidays make July creep along at a snail's pace, with the snail hauling a lead brick.
  • My life will be rainbows and lollipops just as soon as that money hits my account and our household is transformed into an alter to the twin gods, "Apple" and "Macintosh".
  • Or maybe not, but it'll be COOL!
  • Dave will have a job next month!!! Yes, he will! After almost 2.5 years of unemployment, he'll be bringing in a pay packet that will see the end of begging MIL for handouts!!!
  • Dave will have a licence next month!!!
  • While life hasn't been a tip-toe through the tulips so far this year, nothing horrible has happened either - that officially makes this year 100% improved on the past two years! I am grateful for having learned to appreciate the stability of nothing exciting happening, good or bad!
  • My kids need a new vocabulary, one that doesn't rely so heavily on the phrases, "Mum, when can we..." and "Mum, make him STOP!"
  • Despite it being the holidays and us all being shut in and stepping all over each others very last nerve, I have a great family, the best family, in fact! Don't we all!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

You know what I was saying about contradicting myself...

Here I go again!

I had said in a previous post that I can't manage multiple blogs at once; I'd tried in the past and it was all too hard. Yes, well, never let it be said I wasn't the definition of an optimistic - someone who does the same thing over and over again, hoping for a different outcome - no, wait, that was Einstein's definition of a fool....

It all started when my friend, Jayne, decided to give her blog a face-lift, she decided to rename it "Non Domestik Goddess" - which is a great name, don't you think? So, she launched it on Facebook, and another friend made a comment about "untamed" being another good adjective for her. I immediately though "The Untamed Goddess" and fell in love! Suddenly, I just had to use that as a blog name.

Problem was, I love this blog's name, it's so very me! I love that my blog name answers my URL address ("where the fairies live"). I can't change this blog's name. So, that only left one solution - I had to start another blog.

Unfortunately, someone else already has a blogger blog named The Untamed Goddess. I tried the name The Untamed Voice, but decided against using it (it's just sitting there on my dashboard waiting for a reason to be at the moment) because a friend is going to be using a similar name soon - so, I'll wait and see how that pans out before deciding what to do with The Untamed Voice.

Instead, I decided to use The Untamable Goddess - do you like it? Suits me quite well, as I'm fairly unruly, and quite untamable - even when I try to tame myself. Also, just as an aside, my name - Sif - is the name of a Norse goddess.

So, that only leaves the question of what The Untamable Goddess will be about.

Writing (Of course, you'd guessed already, hadn't you?)

The Untamable Goddess will be a blog about all things writing. All my writing thoughts, experiences and works will now be published over there. I have put a nice big button over on your right so you can check it out easily, and I will continue to link my writing blog posts to my Facebook page as before. This way, however, if I want to show people my writing, I won't have to worry about them wading through the "how cute is my toddler's jammy grin" posts, or the social angst posts (which, let's face it, do nothing for building people's confidence in my sanity).

At the moment, the blog is like Mother Hubbard's Cupboard, but soon there'll be plenty to read over there, and I want you to view the new blog as a kind of "Secret Garden" at the bottom of the garden that is this blog.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Erik the Red - Viking at large!

Erik Keith Michael:
Born 06/07/1999 at 4.50pm after just over 8 hours of induced labour - he was happy "inside", and even when we booted him out at 14 days past his estimated due date, he wasn't in a rush to meet us. The first time I gazed into his wide black eyes, I could have sworn he was not impressed at having been "pushed along".

Today the lad turned 12. He has officially started his final pre-adolescent year. Erik has always been young for his age. Very bright, very artistic, very sensitive and very innocent - it shows in his face!

I love that he is not in a rush to grow up. Nevertheless, the tide cannot be held back and slowly but surely he is leaving boyhood things behind and taking on the preoccupations of adolescents (music, technology and identity crises - so far)...

More and more these days he is interested in discussions on world matters. Tonight at the dinner table he wanted to know about the carbon tax, and whether it was really worthwhile. He wanted to understand how it could be that we humans are managing to deplete natural resources faster than they can be regenerated when thousands of generations before us didn't do this. He had heard people talking on the bus about the waster of time they thought a carbon tax was, and he wanted to know why we - his parents - would support something that other people think is a waste of time. He is a questioner - just like us.

On several occasions recently, I've had cause to think of some advice I was given many years ago when starting a business. There is a lot to be gained from patience, from biding one's time and letting the business grow at a steady rate that is within one's ability to cope. If a business grows too fast, all the motivation in the world might not stop it from collapsing in on itself. I've been thinking about this in relation to my writing career and my blogging pursuits, but today I found myself realising it can also apply to growing children.

In some ways, there is such a rush for children to grow up these days, which is juxtaposed with the great push to protect children from the harsh realities of adulthood, and it's a bit like encouraging a beanstalk to gain height before it has a chance to harden the stem it already has. Under those circumstances the stalk will collapse under it's own weight. Tall trees must either have wide roots, or must grow in close proximity to other tall trees for support against the wind.

I'm glad Erik is growing at a steady pace, even if it sometimes seems to lag behind that of his same age peers (in that he is relatively innocent and naive). I believe he will have the opportunity to develop some fortitude before faced with the wild winds of adolescences that many children seem to rush headlong into with their parents cheering them on because they believe it will make their children succeed in life.

Take it slow, Eriky boy, and ask many, many questions! We will always be hear to bounce ideas off!

Love Mum and Dad xxx

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Socially conditioned not to complain?

Image: source
So, I've been playing around with the Beta version of Google+ for a few days now, and I like it for the most part.  I like that, like Twitter, you can follow people without them having to follow you back. I like that I can group all my Friends into Circles of "Close friends", "Acquaintences", "Bloggers", "School mums" and so on. I love that I can enter my interests on Sparks and have a bunch of interesting articles and blog posts listed for me to browse and share with my various Circles, and I love that in the future - when I have a webcam (that isn't shoved into a box because I can't figure out how to use it properly) - I will also be able to the Hangout with friends online via video conferencing - especially any family who might be up for that!

This will all be a boon to students for getting work done or discussing tutorial topics and so on in the near future because they'll be able to add their entire class in a Circle then Hangout together to discuss stuff without having to pay for coffee!!! Being an external student is set to be a lot less isolating!

Oh and virtual writing groups! No more will a writer need to be close to other writers to have a writer's group and reading out and get feedback on their writing!!! The possibilities!


image: source
Yes, I'm going to be paranoid about something...

Google+ also doesn't have a button for not liking stuff.

On Facebook you can "like" people's status updates and shared items (photos, videos and other links). On Google+ you "+1" things you like.

Facebook doesn't have a "dislike" button despite millions of users requesting one, and Google+ has not offered a "-1" button either.

At first glance you might think, "Well, "dislike"ing or "-1"ing might be used to bully people"... Yes, in the wrong hand any tool might be used to bully people.

Image: source
The thing is, often, status updates, videos and so on are about people sharing the shitty parts of life as well, and to "like" something like that doesn't work. This got me thinking...

What if not having a "dislike" button or a "-1" is actually about the old adage "If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all". We all heard it as children, and for the most part it was meant to teach us to be uplifting, positive and friendly, HOWEVER, it also teaches us not to speak up when we're unhappy about something...

Is social media conditioning people to ignore that which makes them feel bad? Are we being conditioned to be silent about inequity, atrocities, and discrimination? If we can't "dislike" or "-1" things that offend us or upset us, are we being conditioned not to consider those things anymore because we're meant to be positive and fun all the time?

Image: source
Most of my friends won't be silenced on issues that affront them, so I'm not sure this form of social conditioning is penetrating - yet, but the internet is still young and Facebook and Google+ (and doubtlessly there will be others) are just getting off the ground in real terms - so maybe it will make a bigger impact on the next generation, many of whom (in our society, that is) were using a mouse long before they ever discovered crayons...

I think it is important we remain conscious of our right to dissent. The world is definitely not all icecream and lollipops and while it is nice to escape to a place where everyone is your "friend" (and if they're not you can just "unfriend" them with the click of a button), social media is a great place to share ideas and to do so properly we have be able to not only agree with those ideas but also disagree with them.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Great Gallifreyan Tramp Stamps... a blog about whmsy...

Tonight a friend posted the following image on Facebook...

The geeks among you may recognise this as Gallifreyan script. More specifically it is the inscription seen on the side of the Doctor's crib in the mid-season cliff-hanger of the 6th season. Most people assume it signifies the Doctor's Gallifreyan name - which is MASSIVE secret that all us Whovians are waiting with baited breath to have revealed to us. After all River knows his name, so it's about time we knew it, too!!!

Isn't it pretty? If you Google "the Doctor's name in Gallifreyan" you'll soon come upon this image - it has done the rounds on Tumblr. You'll also see that many a Whovian on this planet is planning on getting this tattoo'd on their person. I have to admit, I want it tattoo'd on my person because it's so me! It's all full of circles just like my other tattoos (well, two of them).

I was thinking it would look really nice on my inner left forearm...

However, it contain a number of very fine lines, and my brother (who does all my tattoos because, while big and hairy and tattoo'd, he's, well, my baby brother!) is always saying those tiny lines are the first to bleed or drop out... So, it might need to be bigger and be somewhere like my back... Maybe down my spine... 

Maybe I should make it a tramp stamp??? (for the uninitiated, that's a vulgar term for a tattoo on the lower portion of you back).

The thing that plays on my mind is that we still don't know what the Doctor's name is. What if he was name "Great Gallifreyan Git"? I'm not sure I was a tattoo that says "Great Gallifreyan Git" on my person. Okay, so most people wouldn't know what it meant, but enough of people maybe - millions of people watch Doctor Who!

Also, it might not be the Doctor's name... It might be the same of some loser Time Lord... It could be like having one of the lesser Baldwins... (yeah, yeah, I'm old...)

But, it's is so pretty, so whimsical.

Good Job!