Sunday, 2 October 2016

A little catch up

It's October!  It's those glorious short lived weeks of Springtime before the Queensland summer hits. 

I have been in hibernation and recuperating mode and am just about getting back to normal (whatever that means?)

It feels like nothing at all and quite a bit has happened over the last couple of months. My days have been a routine of only essential chores with coffee, crochet or a book. Not very exciting but I thought I would just capture a little of it here. 

I have learnt a few things during this time -
- not wearing contacts or glasses is a good thing for me as I can't see the dust or the tumbleweed effects of having a daughter with lots of long hair!
- not to peer too closely into the bathroom sink as the blue toothpaste stains stare back and mock me. (On a positive - at least she brushes her teeth!)
- not having a full fridge is ok and you can do lots with eggs.
- my cats have a sixth sense and just know when things are not quite right.

During the last couple of weeks however I have tried to get out a bit more and prepare for a return to real life.

Sibs has been off school for two weeks holiday and as usual has been busy with social and dancing commitments. She is performing at QPAC next week so I have had to book in my time to spend with her in between rehearsals. We went for a bit of a stroll along the river one day and it was so relaxing just walking and chatting.

We have managed a couple of days up in Noosa and on one of the days the weather wasn't great so Sibs, Nana, Aunty D and I went to a ladies diy class and made clocks.

Bad weather never lasts long here and the next morning it was back to beautiful blue skies for a wander and coffee in Sunshine Beach. This photo was taken on my phone and has no filter attached to it. The ocean is just stunning.

I am not a huge movie goer but one afternoon when I had enough of home, I took myself off to watch Absolutely Fabulous. All was going well as I sat in the back row with a hot chocolate in my hand and the cinema to myself. Then a group of ladies with babies and toddlers came in...and sat right in front of me! The kids had ipads on full brightness, a tupperware box of cake was passed around and not so hushed conversations were had. I wasn't too impressed.

Last night I tried again, this time to see Bridget Jones's Baby. The cinema was full and everyone behaved! I laughed out loud and it was just what I needed. Maybe the cocktail and the comfy seat helped?

So another month and another season starts and the countdown to the end of the year big trip is on. 

There's some planning to be done.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Time out

Before I start I should probably state that I'm writing this feeling a bit off kilter.

I've juggled around with the various hats that I wear before so I know the score. It's akin to playing the same part in a play for a decade and then one night before curtain call someone changes the script.

The last time was about 16 months ago when I took some time out of everyday life. I boarded a plane in Brisbane, flew to the other side of the world and spent a month making my own decisions.

As I prepared and packed for that trip there were lots of mixed emotions. I felt that every item going into my bag was emblazoned with the word "me".  I had lovely supportive friends who were excited for me but in my head I heard it differently. My core instinct for the last twelve years was being shifted. My 'mother' hat was still in that bag it's just that the 'me' hat had bright neon lights on it!

By the time I was crossing the Arabian Sea I was just about beginning to let go of the guilt and look forward to the discovery.  I slept on the plane (better than I do at home!) and I spent time contemplating.

I wore lots of hats during that month away - daughter, friend, independent traveller. I had the best time and a holiday where I truly relaxed. It was a chance to press the pause button for a while.
Technology makes the world a very small place and time differences aside I still parented from a distance. I shared the stories about school camp, dancing lessons, getting into the netball team, forgotten lunch boxes. Life in my Australian home didn't really change... I just wasn't there in the moment to live it or worry about it.

Back in Brisbane I fell back into my world.

The suitcase went to the back of the wardrobe and the neon light on the 'me' hat got switched off.

I'm not complaining - that's life. I wouldn't swap a lot of mine.

Then a long term health issue started to bother me and the prospect of needing to take a step away from things was a real possibility. I needed that 'me' hat again. I pondered and pondered some more and I dithered. I made a decision and changed my mind. Once my consultant mentioned the words  - second opinion, referral and oncologist in the same sentence I stopped dithering.

I filled the freezer, I made lists, I organised my work commitments, I cleaned and scrubbed like the queen was coming to tea!  I did so much in the week before surgery that I seriously couldn't have fitted anything else in if I tried.
I was exhausted and then I had horrible morbid thoughts at 4am that made me even more exhausted. I was almost looking forward to the operating table just to have a proper sleep!

I then let go of every... single... hat...

On Monday I had some surgery and on Friday I was told my pathology results were clear.

I was nothing for almost a week. I didn't realise that I was in such a limbo until Friday afternoon. By Friday evening in my head I had "recovered".

Well, not quite....

I should probably enjoy this time. I know how important it is for me to rest to recover and I am doing it. (I also know my mother wants to jump on a plane so I have to re-assure her that I really am doing the right things. Mam - I promise.)

Being at home and not being in control is a strange feeling though.  I have to consciously give myself lectures about things like not picking up the stray pony tail band on the floor - it was yellow and it was there for 24 hours and nearly drove me insane!!

I'm not naive enough to think that life is a 'one hat on, one hat off' game. We all multi task, we all take on different roles at different times and I just have to adopt in this theatre where I'm typecast as homemaker.

It's unbalancing but I'll find a pretty ribbon and tie it around my 'me' hat in a big knot under my chin

....and breathe....


Tuesday, 26 July 2016

A crochet chat

About two years I decided I needed a bit of a creative outlet. I set myself a little challenge to teach myself how to crochet. I thought it would be easy - one little crochet hook, a ball of wool, what could be so tricky about that? Well, it wasn't quite as easy as I thought...

My ipad an I spent many evenings attempting various stitches with varying degrees of success. I struggled with the tension and my crochet samplers grew and shrunk with some alarming regularity. As they say, practise makes perfect and whilst nothing is ever quite perfect my confidence grew and I began to try out work that was a little more exciting than a scarf!

One of the things that I enjoy making is blankets. I love the anticipation of the project, sorting through the colours and the repetitiveness of row after row coming together. To date I have either followed a pattern or just slightly tinkered a bit with the colours. I got a little bit brave a few months ago and decided I could manage to venture alone...

I considered my colour choices, decided on the basic stitch and started. I often give my blankets as gifts but I still need to love them whilst I'm in the process. With this one the love began to waiver about a third of the way through. The irregularity of the stripe was beginning to bother me. The initial attraction to the randomness just wasn't working anymore. I noticed that the blanket wasn't really progressing as I just wasn't drawn to picking it up in the evenings.

Thankfully, the solution came to me and the answer was to mirror the pattern from the halfway point. Ahhh, symmetry..... all became well in my crochet world!

I've worked blankets with lots of different colour stripes in the past but these three shades needed rhythm and purpose.

Once a blanket is completed I'm itching to get going again. As a welcome change I looked for a quick start and finish project.

Back in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales in the little town that was my home for many years the planning is underway  for 'Yarndale'. This is a creative festival of all things woolly and they have a community project that you can contribute to wherever you are in the world. This year the community project is to make a woolly sheep. These sheep will be a visual display during the Yarndale weekend and then they will be sold with the proceeds going to Martin House - a hospice to care for children and young people in Yorkshire and a donation will also go to The Children's Liver Disease Foundation.

I have watched the crochet community post their creations on social media and marvelled at the different interpretations. From my attempts my favourite was my little girly sheep in her pink jumper, so she will packaged up and sent back to Yorkshire. I wonder where she'll end up?

Details of the woolly sheep community project can be found -  HERE and you have until September 9th to contribute.

Another community project that I have just completed also came to my attention via social media. It's called #jennysblanketofhugs. A very kind and thoughtful individual is creating a blanket for a young girl who sadly has just learnt that her brain tumour has returned. The idea is that people can crochet squares that will then be made up into a blanket.

I really wanted to do my bit to contribute to this blanket. I set to work on the plain square and after a couple of attempts (that tension thing again!) I managed to get the required size about right. The same thing happened with the stripes - my size was out and the sides were wonky. The bobbled one was a real challenge for me - rows of increasing and decreasing number of stitches and bobbles that were way too flat! On Sunday evening I was on attempt number six or seven and then a thought came to me. These squares are just three squares in a huge blanket of hugs. There are numerous individuals from different corners of the world expressing their squares in their own way. Just like we hug. Each hug is different - similar... but different.  Each square made for this blanket would be similar but different.

That's the beauty of this blanket. It has a colour theme, it has variations on plain, stripes and bobble squares, but it's full of individual hugs that give it that that beautiful uniqueness.

On Monday morning I came back from a yoga class, got straight into sewing in the stray ends to my (slightly wonky) squares, took the selfie that was requested with my contribution and these will be posted off to the UK this week.

The details of the #jennysblanketofhugs project can be found  - HERE

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Winter school holidays

It's Winter here. It's socks, slippers and cardigan weather...and I'm loving it! The daytime sky is a beautiful crisp blue and the temperature hovers around 20 degrees. Then as the sun sets the evenings are cooler and spent under blankets or some nights around the fire or heater. I wish it was Winter all year in Queensland.

We have just come to the end of a few weeks holiday. As the last break was a pretty busy one (to say the least), this one was much more sedate and all about catching our breath and forgetting about the usual frantic planning of everyday life.

I was fortunate enough to be able to take a couple of weeks away from work and cherished my moments with Sibs. There was some serious chilling out with a few pyjama days; we shopped, we had some dinners with friends and we de-cluttered like there was no tomorrow. In fact that's what I should be finishing off now but paying a few bills online suddenly became  -  'let me write a blog post before I do anything else!'

My sleep pattern, which is never the best, had some serious hammering with Wimbledon and the Euro 16 finals. Wales made it to the semi's and there were a few 5am football starts after 2am tennis finishes! The benefit of all that TV watching was that the blanket that seems to have taken me forever is now finished.
I started this one way back in February and was making it up as I went along. There are only three colours and I began to fall out of love with it. I realised after a while that the lack of symmetry was bothering me so at the half way point I mirrored the pattern and then it made sense again. It took almost 4 months to do the first half and just over 4 weeks to do the second half!

One evening I needed a start and finish project so I made this wooly sheep. He has his own removable jumper which is a little on the cute side and I can see a flock in the not too distant future.
(The pattern is from Attic 24 link HERE)

I re-introduced my Sunday G&T but have to admit to getting a little confused last weekend. Just as I was about to sit down with my drink and my new book it dawned on me that it was a Saturday. Needless to say I carried on regardless!

Spending time with Sibs has been a giggle and her sense of fun and humour is really developing. There have been some days where we have been helpless with laughter, so much so that I had to stop driving one afternoon as I couldn't see through the tears!
She has introduced me to snapchat and even though I only have one contact it's a fun way to keep in touch.

This has been a holiday of mainly resting and re-gathering with a few full days thrown in here and there.

Life continues to feel like a whirlwind and the momentum of the year is still hurtling past. On the health side I have conceded to the realisation that the numerous non surgical interventions that I have been attempting will not give me the long term solution. It was worth a go but now the bed is booked and I will be hibernating for a while.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Scoliosis - 18 months on

I'm a little overdue with this scoliosis update but as they say - better late than never. 

Sibs has had a couple of appointments recently with the first one being an MRI scan. She is used to these now and the experience doesn't faze her in the slightest. She is becoming quite the expert in remembering to wear the right clothes with no metal bits which leads me onto quite a funny little tale...

Before I get to that, I'll just record the procedure for the MRI appointment. The all important job of choosing a movie is first on the list and she always hovers between the familiar (as she knows she might not get to the ending) and the opportunity to watch something different. 

There was a younger child being scanned earlier and I'm not sure if Sibs was amused at the fact they kept the donut screen in front of the machine or not?  I personally thought it looked a little scary from my side of the room! (Note for my mother - they are not dirty socks - they are white and have grey heels and toe parts!)

Once the scan was sorted it was then onto some measurements that the research team then log for their findings. Sibs's height growth has slowed down during the last 6 months. This wasn't a surprise as I can see for myself that she hasn't changed as much as she did in the few months before the last scan. I had noticed that her feet had stopped growing too and there hadn't been as frequent a cry of "nothing fits" for a while.

One of the researchers also takes photos of various angles of Sibs's back and torso. This is where the funny story comes in. 

I was sitting watching the photography from a little distance and concentrating on the researcher telling us that these photographs could be used in a study paper. Being a typical mother I have to admit I checked to see what crop top Sibs was wearing. Hmm, I don't recall that particular one Sibs....!

It turns out that from the extensive supply of crop tops that my thirteen year old possesses, she decided that on the day that she gets to show the medics (and now possibly the world?) she would wear a home made one...wait for it...made from a pair of knickers!! I'll let you work out the how.

I was a mixture of proud and mortified! I couldn't argue with the fact that it ensured that she didn't have any metal bits though.

As you can see from the photo above when she is standing upright her scoliosis is hardly noticeable and her shoulders and waistline are pretty even.
It is only as she begins to lean forwards that the extent of the curve becomes clear. I think I have mentioned this before but I haven't recorded any clear photos. This was the way that it was first noticed and what prompted the start of the interventions.

There is also some very slight left rib protrusion when she is lying flat on her back. 

The research team will continue to track and record the results of the MRI and various measurements in order to try and understand the complexity of the condition and hopefully find some answers for treating and even preventing future cases.

Then a couple of weeks later it was back to see the spinal surgeon for a check up. Once again the routine is to get to the clinic, pick up some paperwork and then get up to date x-rays. 

Trying to juggle work and school pick up meant that we hit the South Bank traffic and we cut it very fine to make the 4.15pm appointment.  The two bits of good news were that we made it in time and then the magazines in the waiting area had been updated!

After studying the x-rays and measuring Sibs's back Dr A came to the conclusion that the degree of the curve of her scoliosis is increasing. Not such great news....

Because she had been excited about the fact that her growth was slowing down, Sibs had began to hope that the brace would no longer be needed. Also during the very first meeting with the surgeon there was a discussion about wearing the brace for about 18 months.

Telling this to a girl that counts down everything (curse those iphone apps!) then in her calculations that would mean that time was up just about now.

I had been casually talking through different outcomes and options with her and as much as the conversations were heard, I'm not sure how much she really wanted to believe. In her mind, March 2016 was going to be her last month of wearing her brace.

So back to the news about the increase. We've been here before - her last appointment showed a similar story. The increase is small and still keeps her in a bracket that is under the recommended degree for surgery. Sibs's curve is at 37% and surgery is recommended from 40% upwards. Interestingly she is back where she started in terms of degree of curvature. In one way that is a reassuring thing. It decreased at first when she had a bit of a growth spurt and even though it has gradually crept back it probably means that by wearing her brace she has prevented the curve moving into the 40+%. If she had opted not to persevere then the chances are high that she would now be facing back surgery.

Anyhow....she rallied and now has another countdown! Her next appointment is July but she's set her expectation of stopping wearing her brace for October.

I continue to say the same thing - I am so incredibly proud of her. Her resilience is pretty amazing. She picks herself up and onwards she goes.

Sibs has given her approval for content and photos in this post.

Friday, 20 May 2016


I've been staring at this screen for a long time.
Starting to type sentences and then hitting delete.

I've been back and forth to this 'new post' page on my blog umpteen times over the last few weeks doing the same. Two or three sentences in and then delete.....

Why do I sometimes need to record things and then other times nothing I write feels right?

When I look back over the last few months, lots of things have happened.

  • There's been a month of a family visit with days out and a little holiday up the coast.
  • Sibs and I got the best upgrade at a Madonna concert in March and had a fabulous night out. She's such a great little concert buddy!
  • We were super busy with a huge production of Hairspray at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre in April where 14,000 people came to watch the show over a weekend.
  • I've started to organise a big holiday for the end of the year and I'm already getting excited and am counting the days.
  • Sibs has had a few hospital appointments and check ups with some updates on her scoliosis. (I will update on that soon)
  • I'm back singing with a choir and it's hard work but so much fun at the same time.
  • We've had a great house guest from the UK staying with us and she was a breath of fresh air.
  • I'm still in the decision stage about my health options....(I can be such a procrastinator)

Lots of bloggable and recordable moments...

But I'm just too tired.

Life is hurtling by and I'm just about holding on. Gosh, I sound like such a drama queen! Maybe I should just delete that last sentence too??

Each week I mentally plan things for the days ahead. I make lists and then I prioritise. I've even been known to prioritise within my priority list but it's funny how sorting out the study cupboards  never quite makes it onto any priority list...ever!
Work days are generally accounted for and on my days off I go through a lot of the boring and mundane things like grocery shopping and meal planning and cleaning and cooking and admin stuff and medical appointments. I have my regular yoga class on one of these days off and once in a blue moon I occasionally throw in a 'me' treat.

I know I'm just too tired when this kind of thing happens. -  I'm wandering around Coles aimlessly comparing the prices of brown rice packets when my phone beeps and tells me I have a message. I get as far as the frozen food section before I decide to play the message and it's to tell me (in a lovely way) that I was expected forty five minutes ago for an appointment for a facial! Now granted these appointments are rare but that's even more  reason that I would have been looking forward to it!

I also know that I'm too tired when lots of people are asking if I'm OK. Now that's lovely and caring but also a bit disconcerting!

As I'm typing away here I think I know some of the answer. I've just gone back and read my last post. The one where I thought about self care. The one where I made a bit of a promise with myself that I think I've broken....

I don't know why I might believe that I'm so indispensable! The world will not stop spinning if I don't contribute for a while.

I think it might just be time for that new kind of normal...

I'll sleep on it.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Questioning 'normal'

Can one define "normal"?

I thought that I knew what my normal was but I'm beginning to question it.

I've recently been challenged.
Just before Christmas I was literally stopped in my tracks by an acute episode of pain. That hasn't happened for a while. I'm extremely good at avoidance and denial. I know I am, but I still do it. If I can bury my head in the sand until it disappears I can almost convince myself that it didn't happen! This time though, as much as I tried my usual coping method I conceded and dragged myself to my GP. Lots and lots of tests and scans and specialists appointments later I had some investigative surgery.
This week I had a follow up appointment with the surgeon and I was questioned on the severity and frequency of the pain. During this discussion I began to realise that my normal is probably not quite what it should be!

I haven't thought about my response to the question "How is the pain?" for a while.
It is what it is. Part of life.
I just spouted out my stock response of :-

"I am so much better than I was...."

"It's not too bad now....."

"Yes, I think I can manage...."

"Medication works most of the time...."

The last time that I was challenged on this was quite a few years ago. A pharmacist had made a comment to me one day about the strength of my medication. It got me a little worried about what I was putting into my body so I went to see a Chronic Pain Specialist in a tiny room in the community hospital where I lived.  He was an anesthetist and also ran a pain clinic to look at alternatives to traditional medications. Over time I tried massage, acupuncture, reiki, yoga, physiotherapy, tens machine, homeopathy... Some worked, other didn't.

I have just adapted. I have more good days than bad and I really think that I am better than what I was.....

It's not all consuming anymore and I'm not frightened to plan things in advance with a chance of changing arrangements. Did I really live like that?

So I may have normalised my situation and consequently accepted a level of tolerance. I've been OK with it. I've been managing - but now it's been questioned again.

Someone has given me a possibility of a different normal. Not perfect, but potentially better. There are a few hurdles and hoops to consider and I'm working through how much of a jump I'm prepared to take but I am considering it all.

I'm keeping a detailed diary and an open mind. I'm trying to dispel ingrained beliefs of what's acceptable, manageable and expected and I'm trying to look at the real picture.

It's good to question things, it's good to be challenged.

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Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Just living...and a little bit of planning.

My new year starts in February.
It's not me trying to be clever or anything, it's just that I take extended leave over the Christmas and New Year period so January is still a lovely blur of days with no structure. It's a little like a month 'on hold'.

I'm now back at work, Sibs is back to school and we are on the treadmill of real life again.

Each February I consider the year ahead and make some plans. Some concrete and some tentative. I get a little nervous when my life is too mapped out as it just seems to speed up time. You know that feeling of not quite enjoying the moment as you're waiting for the next thing to happen?

I have quite a few things on the calendar for February and March; I know what's happening during the Easter holidays; I have a feeling what June and July will be like and I'm planning a trip home in December. That's quite enough I think!

I've never pressured myself with resolutions and goals, but I have been thinking a little about getting more regular with this blog. I remember a year or so ago I felt that I had lost a bit of momentum in my blogging and that I had nothing to write about unless it was a major change to everyday life. I seemed to be waiting for the "amazing" moments before I posted anything. I guess it's a self imposed definition though....?

As a reminder to myself and a push to blog more there is a lovely quote that I saved on my phone just before Christmas that I instantly loved.

"Life is amazing. And then it's awful. And then it's amazing again.
And in between the amazing and the awful it's ordinary and mundane and routine.

Breath in the amazing, hold on through the awful, 
and relax and exhale during the ordinary.

That's just living 
Heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life.
And it's breathtakingly beautiful."

LR Knost

I've decided to adopt the following line as my mantra for 2016.

Breath in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary.

I'm not suddenly going to bare my soul here, but I do want to capture a little bit of the in-betweens of life's stories.

Just to get me going - this is a glimpse at my recent amazing, ordinary and a little bit awful.

evening stroll in Noosa

Australia Day get together, chatting with Sibs in the pool and a day at home with the cats. 

emergency hospital with Twmff who thankfully made a good recovery.

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Saturday, 16 January 2016


Hello out there. It's been a little while since I visited this blog. I've been on a holiday that started last year and I'm not sure what the date is or what day of the week it is. I know we've started a new year but don't push me on any more details!

So let me recap on the last month or so.

My December started OK and then I got a bit unwell and ended up starting my break from work a little earlier than expected. A hospital stay a few days before Christmas wasn't quite on the plan, but it didn't stop the festivities and Christmas day was celebrated with some family and friends.

We sat out in the shade and ate our usual salads and fish and then more salads and meat and then ice cream cake.
We Skyped and Facetimed grandparents in the UK and an uncle on a boat in the middle of the ocean somewhere and we messaged people from all over. It's always lovely but never quite right..... It just makes me just a wee bit homesick.

For New Year we headed up the coast. First to Mooloolaba (love that name) and then up to Noosa. It was all very relaxing. It was picnics and gentle walks around markets and coastal paths, heading to the beach when the crowds went home.

We decided not to venture far on a Summer holiday this year so have been spending the time at home doing a few diy jobs and pottering around. The pool area got a bit of a tidy up and we've been enjoying the peace and quiet there in the early evenings. There may have been a sly G&T and bowl of crisps involved!

Sibs and I have been on walks through the forest area behind our house and have been discovering all sorts of pathways that lead us up and down the mountain. As it gets so hot in the daytime these walks have usually been around dusk but I have managed to drag myself out of bed to do some mornings. (Oh OK,  so it was just the one morning!)

 I have loved the time with her and the conversations that these walks have prompted. Special and precious moments have been created.

It wouldn't be a holiday without some crochet and I have a few projects on the go courtesy of the Spotlight sale.
There's a ripple blanket as a housewarming gift and lots of colourful scarves that will be heading back to the UK as presents.

We have been to the cinema, had a few morning coffees out and about and met up with some friends here and there. So nothing extraordinary exciting but everything that long and relaxing summer holidays should be. It's been the right thing to stop and enjoy being at home.

Tomorrow we're going to the theatre to see Les Miserables (again) then we'll have dinner out by the river.
Next week is full of rehearsals for a production that Sibs is involved with that starts in April and I'll be doing some volunteer work and starting to think about the transition back to work and school routine.

There's a few more sleeps till then so I should be able to finish off the pile of library books before they're due back.

Here's to a happy and healthy 2016.

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