Wet and Aggressive Corella challenges Magpie

Wet and Aggressive Corella challenges Magpie

Sunday 25 May 2014

Sunday Selections #173

Sunday Selections was originally brought to us by Kim, of Frogpondsrock, as an ongoing meme where participants could post previously unused photos languishing in their files. 

The meme is now continued by River at Drifting through life.  The rules are so simple as to be almost non-existent.  Post some photos under the title Sunday Selections and link back to River.

Like River I usually run with a theme. I am going back to the garden (for something completely different) this week.  Most of the photos are of tree dahlias which have won the frost versus flowers race - this year anyway.  I am happy, and the bees are too.  Some of the plants are over twelve feet high and the weight of the blooms is bending them sideways.  After the first hard frost they will die - but will come back next year.

As always, click to embiggen.

Also blooming in the garden at the moment (early) is one Nerine, and many, many of the purple violets.  I haven't seen any of the white or pink violets - yet.  And a stunning purple daisy.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Variety is the Spice of Life

I have confessed before to being a greedy bookaholic.  In the last few weeks through recalcitrant tradespeople, medical mayhem, worry and fatigue I have continued to read.

I read on the buses to and from hospital, in hospital waiting rooms, on the ward waiting for the skinny one to wake.  I read early, I read late.  I neglect chores and read some more.

And have found some gems. 

Confessions of a Sociopath was one of the books I picked up at a recent book fair.  A memoir of a self-confessed sociopath who was curious enough to have herself medically tested to see whether she is a sociopath.  The answer was emphatically in the affirmative.

It is a fascinating book. albeit one which made me more than a tad uncomfortable.   She enjoys being a sociopath and, as a practising lawyer and law professor is, more than likely among friends - or at least others of her own ilk. 

She describes herself as charismatic, ambitious and successful.  And ruthlessly manipulative.  She claims to be a non-criminal sociopath, and devoutly religious.  No doubt both suit her - but she also admits to being a skilled and successful liar.

The book examines her life from childhood to the present - and draws on research to explain that sociopaths have a lot to offer.  Perhaps true.  I have long suspected that many successful CEOs, among other professionals, have sociopathic tendencies.  Just the same, I don't think any of them act for altruistic reasons.

As I said - fascinating, but discomforting too.  She is also a blogger - and I have not investigated her blog which seems to be a self help forum for other sociopaths and those who wonder whether the label fits.

And then for something completely different.

In his Best Reads of 2013 meme John Wiswell listed the next book as one of his best reads for the year.  And several other people who joined in also added their vote.

So I had to read it.

And how right he (and others) were.  I am very, very glad I read this book.

It is Helene Wecker's first novel - and I will be watching and waiting for more from her.  With luck a sequel to this one, but I would take a chance on any novel she writes.

We follow a newly created and currently masterless golem and an ancient jinni who has been captured and had his powers severely limited.  Both are stranded in New York City (circa 1899).  Stranded, and plunged into ethnic ghettos.  Stranded in a mass of humanity - whose concerns are alien to them.

Wecker doesn't take the easy way out.  The golem and the jinni recognise and reach out to each others differences.  Just the same, it isn't a simple love story - though there is certainly love.  And it isn't a simply a fight against evil - though that is there too.  The development of both the golem and the jinni is enthralling - but there are other winning character studies too.  Definitely a six out of five star debut.

Just two more books (in this post).

The next was a discovery that I snatched up to take my mind of the imminence of the skinny one's return home.

Allan Karlsson absconds out of his bedroom window (still wearing his slippers) rather than attend a birthday party to be held in the old people's home in which he lives.  His birthday party.  His 100th birthday party.

And the romp begins.  Think an unlikely journey involving a suitcase full of cash (not his), a few thugs, a few deaths, an elephant and incompetent police.  Add rather a lot of vodka, explosives and the slow reveal that Allan has played an important part (very much behind the scenes) in some of the most momentous events of the twentieth century.

It is a delightful find - funny, warm with some history and politics thrown into the picaresque mixture.  I note that Jonas Jonasson has another book out already and I will assuredly snaffle it at some stage.

The final book for this post was written by River Fairchild - a blogging friend.

This slim collection of stories was drawn from flash fiction River featured on her previous blog - which I looked forward to each week and devoured.  When it was honed, polished and given a more permanent life (afterlife) I had to have it.  It is available on kindle - and in paperback for dinosaurs like me.

Did you know that Death rode a Harley, and is addicted to peanuts?  Or that Chronos has a gold shag pile carpet (in which Death's peanuts are frequently lost)?

You didn't?  You need to read this gem.  Death and his best friend Chronos interact with other immortals in Purgatory and on Earth.  They are both very, very busy with responsible and demanding jobs - but make time (or one of them does) for fun.  And poker.  And parties.  And occasional altruism.  And some necessary repair work.  In the lead up to Christmas I have often longed for death - but my deficient imagination would never have gone to the places River's delightfully warped mind took her - and where I was very, very happy to follow.

Four very different books, but in their very different ways I received an education, distraction, amusement and/or comfort from them.  And it would be greedy to ask for more.

Sunday 18 May 2014

Sunday Selections #172

Sunday Selections was originally brought to us by Kim, of Frogpondsrock, as an ongoing meme where participants could post previously unused photos languishing in their files. 

The meme is now continued by River at Drifting through life.  The rules are so simple as to be almost non-existent.  Post some photos under the title Sunday Selections and link back to River.

Like River I usually run with a theme.  This week my camera has been neglected and I am going to go on a trawl through old files.  All week a phrase has been lingering in my mind and my lips and it made me decide to hunt for the Frigate Bird (which is close to the phrase I was thinking of).  Sadly, my freudian slip is showing.  I have no images of a Frigate Bird but instead bring you The Stormy Petrel.  (I had the image in my head clearly, but had an epic fail about its name.)

As always, click to embiggen.


Friday 16 May 2014

He is home...

Thank you so much for all your supportive comments and emails.  They have meant a lot.

On Wednesday I went to visit.  He was on oxygen, a drip, and had a catheter and a drainage tube installed.  They had just promoted him from ice and water, to clear fluids.  And told me that they intended to send him home the next day.  The drainage tube could be removed some time next week.

Lemon-lipped doesn't begin to describe how that made me feel.  Ballistic with anger/disbelieving/teary/overwhelmed.  All of the above.

I considered simply refusing to come in and pick him up.  With no money, no clothes and no keys it would have been interesting to see the hospital's solution.

Somehow the idea that it might be a touch premature percolated into their grey matter.  So they kept him for Thursday, subject to review on Friday.

This morning, they were balanced on the fence.
 ' Maybe he can go home, maybe we will keep him for another day'.  'We will take out the drainage tube and see...'

When I went in at the start of visiting hours, the drainage tube was still in place (draining freely and copiously).  He was still on oxygen and he still had a cannula in his arm.  He had been told his diet was unrestricted.  Progress of a sort.

It took three staff to remove the drainage tube.  When they let me back into the cubicle they were telling him that he would need to keep a careful watch to ensure that it didn't become infected, back up with fluid behind the incision, ooze pus, become painful (more painful?), become red and swollen...
'If it does any of those things you can see your general practitioner.'
 'There is a three day wait to get in to see her.'
'Oh, perhaps in that case you could ring the hospital...'

Which we most definitely will.

Over the next hour they took him off oxygen and put him back on it.  They made him walk and cough.  They removed the cannula.  They took him off oxygen again.  And announced he was free to go and that they had someone coming into his bed shortly.
 'And if you wait downstairs, we have prescribed medication to go home on.  The wait might be several hours...'

He was already an attractive grey colour, so I negotiated for the ability to pick up the medication for him later in the day and got him home.

When I rang a couple of hours later to check they assured me the medication was ready, so I went back in.  They lied.  It was nearly ready.

There are still quite a number of unresolved questions.  He has an appointment in the surgeon's rooms in four weeks time.  At that appointment we will not be fobbed off with flunkies, or given a scanty 75 seconds of the important man's time.  I will get answers, and I will indicate deficiencies in the treatment he/we received.  And, if necessary I will go further.  And further.  Which will make the skinny one cringe.  Tough.

On a much nicer note, over the next few days I hope to be able to visit your blogs again.  Thank you again for your support and your patience.  It has meant a lot.


Tuesday 13 May 2014

Another hospital update.

This morning a little after six I finally managed to speak to the nursing staff.  And I only got disconnected once.  She told me that his high and skinniness 'had a really good nights sleep, was very comfortable and in no pain.'  I listened, I hoped, but experience has made a disbeliever of me.

I told one of my brothers and a friend this morning, both of the nurse's statement and of my distrust.  Both of them told me I was being negative, cynical and not helping anyone.

When the ward was open for business I went to visit.  Sadly I was right.  He looks dreadful this morning and admits to feeling less than perfect.  He says he got very little sleep, is in considerable pain - and nauseous.

Then he went on to give me further less than wonderful news.  Shortly before they started the surgery they discovered the problem was considerably more extensive than they had thought.  A much longer and more complicated operation ensued.  And, worse still, the surgeon visited him this morning and told him that there will be more operations in his future.  Operations plural.

He has now had seven abdominal surgeries - which is more than enough.  Except that it won't be enough.

I didn't stay long this morning - and left hoping he would get some sleep.  I will go back this afternoon.

I am well aware that things could be a great deal worse.  Just the same, I am feeling sad for him.  And tired to the bone.

Thank you so much for all your messages of support.  They have meant a lot - to me and to him.

A long day

The skinny one and I fronted the hospital (early) for his 9am appointment yesterday.

The admissions nurse was one of our neighbours - which shocked both of us.

He was given the stunning attire to change into, complete with hat and booties.  And did.

And we waited.

Ten am:  Still waiting.
Eleven am:  Ditto
12 noon:  You guessed it.

People in the waiting room came in, people in the waiting room moved out.  We waited some more.

1 pm:  Still waiting.
2 pm:  'Second verse, same as the first...'
2.30 pm:  He was finally moved to a trolley, destination the theatre.  We were told that it would be 6pm before he was in a ward and I could talk to anyone.

So I came home.  Fed the cats.  Dealt with their kitty litter.  Put out the garbage and the recycling.  Dried his dressing-gown which I had washed before we left for the hospital.  Waited.

6 pm:  I rang the hospital to be told that he had only entered recovery less than half an hour earlier.  He wouldn't go to a ward until 7.30 or so.  'There are no phones in recovery so I can't put you through or talk to them and relay how he is on to you' (liar, liar pants on fire...)

I rang at 8pm.  'No, he hasn't reached a ward yet... Ring in half an hour or so'

So I did.  He has just got to the ward (hooray) but we are too busy to talk to you.  Ring back later.

So I gave up and went to bed myself.  Trusting, hoping that they would ring me if anything went pear-shaped.

He has had the surgery.  He is alive.  Both good things.

And today is a whole new day.

Sunday 11 May 2014

Sunday Selections #171

Sunday Selections was originally brought to us by Kim, of Frogpondsrock, as an ongoing meme where participants could post previously unused photos languishing in their files. 

The meme is now continued by River at Drifting through life.  The rules are so simple as to be almost non-existent.  Post some photos under the title Sunday Selections and link back to River.

Like River I usually run with a theme. This week I am going from the sublime to the ridiculous.  As always clicking on the photos will embiggen them.

Starting with the sublime.  The skies have been a delight recently.

Sunset.  Building to a crescendo.

Dawn.  Softer, more muted colours, but still beautiful.


And then the ridiculous.  Jazz loves the fridge.  It is a wonderful vantage point for him to survey what is happening in the most important room in the house - the kitchen.  I would much prefer that he didn't climb up there - fridge magnets hit the ground with monotonous regularity.  When I attempt to remove him/discourage him or heaven forbid chastise him, the smaller portion leaps to his defence saying 'he is so cute...' and patting him as a reward.

From the top of the fridge he is able to climb to a ledge behind the cupboards.  It is very, very disconcerting to go past a cupboard and have it purr at you.

Wednesday 7 May 2014


We were brought up to believe that we had an obligation to contribute to the community in which we live.  Over the years we often had an unofficial refuge in the home - people in distress would come for a meal and stay for weeks.  My mother taught migrants English in her lunch hour.  My father gave blood (hundreds of pints of blood) and repaired aids and appliances for people with sight disabilities.

As a young thing I volunteered with the YMCA, despite being neither Christian nor male.  And gave blood.

When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis the blood bank slapped a life-time ban on me.  As far as anyone knows MS isn't a blood borne disease - but they were taking no chances.

The MS progressed and my employment was terminated.  And I discovered that I had been defining myself by what I did.  A mistake.

I needed to feel that I still had something to offer the community - so signed up to do the training with Lifeline to become a telephone crisis counsellor.  That was a little over sixteen years ago - and I am still there.

I take calls from people in crisis Australian wide - self-defined crisis.  So I speak to people with relationship difficulties, grief, loss, survivors of sexual abuse, people contemplating suicide (and on a few scary occasions people in the process of killing themselves), people wrestling with mental illness, people bereaved by suicide, and a whole range of other things. 

I also speak to people using the crisis line to indulge their sexual fantasies.  We are cheaper than the sex lines.  So far, while they get short shrift from me, I have managed not to ask them 'Are you interested in a job involving sexual intercourse and travel?  You are?  Well eff off then.' 

Each call is different, and my heart thumps each and every time the phone rings.  I firmly believe that if I wasn't anxious I would be getting complacent and it would be time to move on.

I have wept with and for callers and I have laughed with them too.  The calls are often challenging and frequently exhausting.  I have been frightened, angry, disgusted.  Sometimes I leave with my heart aching.

But I am not a hero.  I get a great deal more than I am able to give.  The pain, the fear, the anger I feel is a pale shadow of what the caller has and is enduring.  It is also a reminder that there are a lot of positives in my life. 

I am endlessly fascinated by people.  I don't always like them, and I often don't like what individuals or we as a species do, but I am fascinated.   And sometimes I can reduce pain, often I can share pain, and sometimes I can help people turn their lives around.  Which is amazing.  And rewarding.

So each fortnight I do a shift.  Most of what I do is listening.  Hearing, and sharing the pain and hopefully giving the caller some resources to take charge of their own life and direction.  When safety is an issue we are more directive, and will sometimes intervene but as a rule it is about empowering the caller rather than taking over.  In the 'off weeks' I put on a supervisor's hat and support other counsellors and negotiate with emergency services when and if required.   I sometimes fill extra shifts too.   There is always someone in crisis and our lines never close down.  We are open all day and every day.

Yes, I do contribute to the community, but I have chosen the way in which I want to do so.  It is a good fit with my interests, and has introduced me to some amazing people.  I suspect that if I was faced with some of the things our callers face I would be under the bed, velcroed to the carpet, refusing to come out. 

One of my brothers donates plasma each fortnight and drives the 'blood bus'.  He also volunteers at the local zoo - shovelling crap often, but being exposed to the animals he loves (jealous thoughts).  He. like me, volunteers in areas which are 'right' for him.

Similarly I work with the MS Society providing other people with the dread disease with peer support.  I wish it had been available when I was first diagnosed...

Monday 5 May 2014

Happy Dances

His high and skinniness was asleep when the phone rang a few minutes ago.

It was the hospital on the line.  Do I think that he could/would possibly agree to surgery next Monday?  'We are sorry for the short notice...'


And now I have woken him up.  Which gave me pleasure on lots of levels.  The pavers are not here though...

Pre-Admission clinic tomorrow afternoon.  'Are we familiar with the process?  Do we know where to find them?'  Given that this will be his seventh abdominal surgery I hope so.  I really hope so.

Sunday 4 May 2014

Sunday Selections #170

Sunday Selections was originally brought to us by Kim, of Frogpondsrock, as an ongoing meme where participants could post previously unused photos languishing in their files. 

The meme is now continued by River at Drifting through life.  The rules are so simple as to be almost non-existent.  Post some photos under the title Sunday Selections and link back to River.

Like River I usually run with a theme. And this week I am featuring two positives in my world.  As always clicking on the photos will embiggen them.

On my way to Lifeline I generally stop off at Koko Black to buy chocolate to tempt the skinny one's jaded appetite.  He loves chocolate and will eat it when he is refusing everything else.  While there I pick up some small treats for the paid staff at Lifeline - who do an amazing job, work very long hours and are paid a pittance.  Koko Black chocolate is rich and decadent and yummy.  A suitable thank you.

This week I did the same.  And was astonished by an act of generosity.  I picked out and paid for the Lifeline treats and was then GIVEN a large box of Easter chocolates.  Yes, I am a good and regular customer and Easter is over, but to give me a box?  Gob and smacked.

The speckled eggs on the right have a candy coating and are filled with praline.  And are sold in little egg boxes.

My other plus is more mundane.  Finally, work is underway to repair our driveway after the plumbing disaster earlier this year.   Not only did the plumber dig up a section of the driveway but their heavy machinery buckled and warped other bits - exacerbated when the hole allowed our very welcome rain to seep into the foundations and caused the driveway to warp further.  Uneven, unsightly and not safe for me to walk on.  

Which meant that sadly, most of the driveway had to be ripped out, and the foundations levelled before it could be relaid.  $$$$

It rained yesterday so they had the day off, but have promised that if the weather is fine they will continue work today.

And I will be very pleased when it is all over.

Thursday 1 May 2014

Soul Searching

I am a frequently grumpy introvert and most of the time I don't focus on the big issues.  I know they are there, but usually the small things are plenty big enough for me to cope (or not cope) with.  Essentially I am a watcher and a listener rather than a doer.

I give what I can to carefully selected charities and volunteer with Lifeline and provide peer support to other people with the dread disease.  A drop in the proverbial bucket - but every ocean starts with a drop.

However in the last little while two big issues have been nagging at me.  Loudly.  And insistently.

Suicide numbers here in Australia are rising again.  And suicide is almost certainly always under rather than over reported.  Not all suicide can or even should be prevented.  Suicide as a permanent solution to a temporary problem?  A very different issue.  I firmly believe that everyone who rings the crisis line with thoughts of suicide is at least ambivalent about their wish to die.  They want the pain to stop, and can perhaps think of no other way, but death is not their only option.  And I, and all the other volunteers will work on that ambivalence and do our best to help them develop a way to stay safe.  For the moment at least, until they can get to some other help...

My local lifeline centre has started a campaign with the aim of raising $1 million by November this year.  The link takes you to a short video.  We receive some Government funding but are largely self funded.  Training is an expensive and on going expense.   I don't donate money (directly) to Lifeline though I suppose that donating and purchasing books from the book fairs counts.  And I don't think I will give money this time either.  I don't even feel very guilty.  Lifeline gets its pound of flesh from me.  And I will be there for most of today supervising and supporting fledgling counsellors first days on the phone.

The next issue is bigger.  And I haven't properly resolved it in my head  or heart yet.  My country's treatment of asylum seekers horrifies me, angers me and shames me.  Over 90% of those whose claims have been assessed have been found to be escaping from genuine persecution and danger.  And successive Governments have bad mouthed them as 'queue jumpers' and potential terrorists, and built them up to be a threat to our well being and safety.  And now we physically and mentally torture them, and no longer guarantee their physical safety.  And deny them any prospect of EVER being accepted and housed here.  And are doing our level best to have them homed somewhere, anywhere else.  Without regard to their safety or dignity.

Who of us wouldn't take any means which presented themselves to ensure our families safety from persecution?   And no, I wouldn't join a queue (even if one existed), if the mere act of joining that queue would endanger my life and that of my extended family.

I have happily signed petitions and marched.  And recently another option landed in my in box.  Which is where my quandary comes from.

Julian Burnside, a barrister and human rights advocate has called on the community to show those people in detention centres that we recognise their humanity, and that we do care.  In this link he asks that we write to an asylum seeker on Nauru or Manus Island, telling them a little about ourselves and  to let them know that they are not forgotten and that we care.  And to enclose a stamped and self-addressed envelope so that they can reply.

One of the things which has made me so angry about our treatment of asylum seekers is the way we have dehumanised them.  Julian Burnside's suggestion is a step in the right direction.  It doesn't and can't of itself change the policies I object to, but it does show that people care.  It is a relatively simple way for me to 'put my money where my mouth is'.  But I don't know what to say, and I frequently feel over committed now and am reluctant to commit myself to an ongoing relationship.  So, from being angry and ashamed at my government I have moved on to being angry and ashamed at myself as well.  More thinking to do.  Quite a lot more thinking to do...