Friday, November 13, 2009

Happy Birthday

I've been waiting since my lovely red Peugeot was written off on July 9, to get my new car. First I had to wait for the insurance assessors to declare it a write off, then wait to see how much would be paid out, then wait to pay off the interest to the financiers, the wait to negotiate a new finance deal and arrange everything. The broker found me a car in NSW for a VERY good price, the only problem was, they couldn't deliver it fast enough. So finally in desperation, I decided to fly up to Sydney on my birthday & drive the car home. I asked John to come with me and share the driving..... and here's how the day went!
When we got on the plane, he was asking me if I knew how to voice record on the phone, so I showed him! D'uoh! As we arrived into Sydney the Pilot came on the loudspeaker and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, the Captain speaking. Just as we taxi to the terminal I'd like to take this opportunity to wish Catherine Stephensen a Happy Birthday. Catherine is sitting in row 39 on the right hand sisde and she's flown up from Melbourne to pick up her new car. It sounds like a pretty good birthday present to me, so Happy Birthday Catherine, I hope you have a good day and a safe drive back to Melbourne."

We had the best fun doing the trip and John photographed EVERYTHING including the people we were talking to on the train from Sydney airport to the car dealers, and the train driver.
The train trip was an event in itself and we have promised each other we will go back and do it again one day. John asked the driver if there was much to be seen on the way down to Wollengong, and he answered laconically, "Nah, there's not much, just a bit of a view as we go around a bend." Well the whole trip was as pretty as could be, with mountains and lush semi-tropical foliage & bushland. As we left Sydney we went through pretty suburbs with lovely historic cottages, then into the coastal landscape. We had started talking ot a couple of other passengers, and I regretted it because I could have happily sat and watched the scenery go by.
We have photos of the Dealer handing over the car keys,
the car in front of the Dealers yard,

the car in front of the Dog on the Tuckerbox at Gundagi and in front of the place we stopped for coffee and in front of the service station McDonalds at Kilmore. I managed to get him over the State Border without him realising we were crossing it, otherwise we would have had to stop & photograph the border crossing too....

It was a memorable birthday.

The driving trip took bang on 10 hours, we covered 872k on a single tank of fuel, with enough left in the tank to do another 125 k.
I think the average usage was 6.2 litres per 100k. It is a very beautiful car.

2009/11/12 Kristin S <>

nice one mum!

On Thu, Nov 12, 2009 at 8:40 AM, catherine Stephensen <> wrote:

Sent from my iPhone

Begin forwarded message:

Date: 12 November 2009 8:11:46 AEDT
To: "Cath Stephensen" <>
Subject: cath plane announcement

Sent via BlackBerry® from Telstra

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The meaning of work

This post was first written in September 2009, when I was struggling with my role and still suffering from a toxic workplace. I began to question whether I could be happy workign for a `boss', rather than being self-employed, and I began to ask myself what it was that would keep me interested in working.

This week it has been Brisbane again. I arrived on Saturday to a temperature of 29 deg, with 30 on the Sunday and 35 on the Monday. Brisbane at it's late winter best (or so a southerner would think). The locals were not appreciative of it, though. Grumbling that it was way too hot for winter. I was dreading working in a Fabrication workshop for the week, thinking that I would be sweaty and hot all week in the mandatory High Vis long trousers and long sleeved shirt, but I found the workshops modern with high ceilings and good ventilation, so that the heat was negligible and with air conditioned offices to retreat to, the work was pleasant. I'm working my way through lots of emotional changes at the moment. This project has asked a lot of me, taking me away from my usual work and placing me in the role of assessor again. The role of assessor is one I thought I'd left behind some years ago. It's a role that requres a specific focus and energy directed into the decision making process and the report writing that records the decision. Report writing is in itself an art. One of my co-assessors has posted one on the internet tonight that leaves me feeling inadequate! The assessment project we are working on has also required a lot of travelling back and forth to Qld. Sounds very sexy, flying all around the countryside , but when it requires not only the flying but also shifting in and out of different roles, it becomes fairly draining. So work is challenging, yet at the same time the last few months have given me the opportunity to re-assess the way in which I approach my work and what things about my work I find inspiring, and the things that are not. It can be hard to re-connect with work at times. I read an interesting book called `The Story of Success' by an American psychologist. He researched and brought together a lot of the theories about success, looking at a persons birth timing (historical relevance), the 10,000 hours of practice it takes to be an expert (research), the influence of race & culture, and the need to find meaning in work. The thing that he discussed that really made an impact on my current thinking was the discussion on the need to have meaningful work. I've been trying to re-discover my connexion to the meaningfulness of work since I burnt out in the late 90's, and I think it is slowly coming back. My first trade gave me a lot of meaningfulness which still guides me in a daily manner. Horticulture is the most constantly absorbing work and observation one can have. Engaging in plant culture in the garden and observing plants through the changing seasons is one of my greatest pleasures. I moved from working as a horticulturalist into teaching others about horticulture and in the early years felt that I was in heaven as the opportunity to continue my own professional development in the field of horticulture was enhanced by the use of my creative abilities in designing and delivering teaching materials. Time and `the system' took their toll and I lost my path. I developed expertise in areas that were well regarded and of value to organisations, yet returned little to me in either creativity or a sense of holistic purpose.
One of the things that is really necessary in finding meaning in work, is the ability to have `professional' discussions with like minded people. Being able to catch up with a peer or colleague and discuss theory, new information, research and experience is critical to my sense of worthwhile work. If I am toiling away on my own, without stopping to check in with another professional, I lose momentum and become disengaged. Workplaces that discourage professional discussion, open argument and an atmosphere of professional inquiry become stale and stifling to the committed professional. I value very highly the opportunity to engage in professional networking, seeking new information, confirming personal analysis and learning new techniques or methodologies.
The opportunity to continue learning, either in a formal or an informal sense is critical to me in enabling me to maintain motivation and passion for work. The other big intrinsic motivation about work, for me is knowing that I am making a difference to someone. It can be a client or a co-worker, it doesn't matter who. I get the biggest kick out of resolving someone elses problem. Give me a problem to solve and a person waiting for the solution to that problem and you will put me onto the path to feeling very happy about my work! I get an even bigger kick when the person I've helped shows how pleased they are with the result!
The other thing that is critical to my happiness at work, is the opportunity to be a little creative. Creativity is a funny thing, it might be artistic creativity, but often it comes out in a subversive manner, such as absconding with a colleague for a coffee, sticking silly notes on the photo-copier, organising social events, working with teams to progress difficult projects.

So all the heart ache about work last year forced me to recognise what I value in a job and to make sure I get it!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Artificial warmth smothers the fog of rain outside, grey.
We're all grey too, Melbourne winter fashion fills the train.
There's layers and layers of grey from charcoal to pearl with black over and a coloured bag or scarf here and there.
Today is not a grey mood though. I'm light-hearted not quite skipping but OK.
The train jams full at each station more grey
piles in, shaking drops and puddling footprints.
Train hum and tinny beats coming from ipods, conversations, book readers, newspapers.
This is definitely NOT a train to take the bike on.

I have favourite passages on my commuter train journey.
Williamstown Racecourse.
Once it was a swamp, probably a good dry season tucker gathering place, open to the sea in between low coastal scrub. Then they built a racecourse, ran a train line out from the busy port town and put a station there. Had a grandiose Victorian grandstand complete with Phoenix
canariensis, the`Federation Palm', that bio maps the growth of Melbourne. Phar Lap raced here.
The palm remains alone in the landscape that reverts back to swampy wetland, precious in itself. A bike path carves a circular track around the swamp, a ford and a bridge navigate the creeks. I wonder if the bike track is laid on top of the old racetrack? Were the creeks created
to drain the swamp in preparation for the racetrack? The train passes to the north and the view runs out over the swamp to the blue bite of the bay.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Northern Exposure

In Townsville again this week
It's still a beautiful city, but too hot, even at this time of year. Tropical queen of the alternate lifestyle, her harbour packed with yachts, streets full of backpackers, riverbanks and rivermouth speckled with men in old shorts, tattered shirts, thongs and straw hats, with fishing gear and time to talk. Walking at night, parkies drift across her open spaces, they don't flit, they dr_if_t in pairs and clusters, all motion designed to save energy, no threat to anyone. I walk busily stretching knees and tendons, Flinders St East - West? Whatever. Scene of my despair. Town to hate, Town to love, too many demons for me, too many memories.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Turn of the screw

Well it's almost been a month since I last wrote. A month of blah. After being down over my friends tragic situation, I ran foul of someone at work the next day and they lashed out at me, causing me to just fall apart emotionally. I realised that I had a problem, discussed it with my boss, decided to get some help. I went away for the weekend and when I returned home after the weekend I found my house had been burgled. I thought - `I must have stepped on a Leprechaun'. The funny side of it was, that the burglar obviously thought I had nothing of value as they only took my video camera and about $20 in loose change. So this was bad enough, but then 4 days later, I was sitting stationary in my car, caught in a traffic bottleneck on the Westgate freeway on the way to work, when BANG, a car ran into the back of me, slamming my car into the next one. There wasn't even a screech of brakes. By the time I got into work, all I could think was that I had stepped on a whole family of the damn things.
The car has been declared a `repairable write off' and I have been issued with a notice from VicRoads to that effect, but I have nothing from my insurers or from the financers. An ominous feeling of unease sits on my shoulders

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How beautiful, a heavy frost this morning and the first jonquil opened against the red of the scarlet barked maple.
I left bread for the birds, feeling sorry for them on this cold morning.
In the carport the car thermometer was registering 0 degrees and the ice warning message came on. I slipped it into `snow' mode before backing out.
This evening as I left the office, I caught glimpses of a pale winter sunset through the fire escape window, as I descended the cold stairwell. By the time I drove into the evening traffic it was gone, yet there was still more light than there was at this time last week.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Raw nerves

Listening to Little Birdy, `Brother' off the Confetti album. How come some people can get all of it into words and music? I'm reeling from dealing with a friends personal tragedy tonight and my emotions feel very exposed. I wonder if those singers go over and over the emotions each time they have to perform. That would be so exhausting. Do they pluck them and pull at them so much during the writing period, that by the time they've performed the tune a few times it's all gone? I guess they get so that they can distance themselves from the original event that germinated the art.
I find little spaces to box stuff up into. Whether it's pleasure or pain. Mostly I think about pulling out the pleasure stuff, reviewing the memory. Mostly it's little things like the sky at sunrise or filled with winter colour. I've a picture memory tonight that's going to take a while to store away, a friends face in transition towards death, and the distress of his partner. I don't know if I can overlay it with the beautiful winter sky I saw as I drove this evening. I feel so inadequate as she tells me she thinks he's got much less time than they said at the hospital. I don't know what to say, because I know she's right. His face was somewhere between life and a death mask and you could read it there in front of you. I don't know how to help.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

At what point do you trade off

For so many years I was almost religious about BGL's and lifestyle. Yet I still had issues with weight and fluctuating BGL's. Now Ive been on a pump for 2 years and I still have issues with fluctuating BGL's and weight. At what point do you trade off trying to live a fairly flexible lifestayle and becoming manic about constantly reviewing BGL's, carbs, exercise, arthritis, sleep, water, alcohol, sex, menopause, work, stress, family obligations, BGL's! I know lots of people have to watch their diet. I know lots of people feel they should get more exercise, but I do think that coping with finger pricks and bolus's and adjusting doses to deal with illness or unexpected high's is just such a constant pain. When I was diagnosed, 27 years ago, they said to me, "oh you don't have to worry, they'll have a cure for this in five years." Funny thing, I've spoken to second generation T1's whose parents were told the same thing 40 years ago.
I'm frustrated and angry. I've had a gutful of constant monitoring. For most of the past twenty seven years, I've been grateful that I'm even alive. But it's getting more complicated, not less. Menopause sets in and that just throws everything all over the place. Everytime I think I know what's going on, something changes. I can't get a stable exercise pattern because my work obligations change too much. Sometimes I'm in the office all week, somethimes I'm flying interstate for a week. When I was in my 30's that was OK, I just dealt with it. Now, I'm just "over it!"

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Diabetic desk johnnie

Friday, my BGL's ranged between 5.6 and 6.5 all day. Incredible. I worked from home, because I had some new furntiure arriving. In between report writing and email checking etc, I rearranged old furniture including emptying a 2m bookcase and stacking all the books to await the new wall unit. I was pretty much up and down from the desk all day. When the furniture arrived I assissted with it's installation and so on. As a result I had almost perfect BGL's, only needing to bolus for the evening meal. Saturday - yuk! My BGL's went down then up up up, sitting between 14.5 and 22.9. Did I have a fever? Nooo, was I eating more than usual? nooo, was I incredibly inactive? No. I was helping unpack removalists boxes at my Mum's new unit. So what else was different about Saturdya - aha - day 3.5 for this infusion set. I definitely get site resistance after 3 days. I changed the set this morning and we're back to almost normal, tho not as good as Friday.

Can I give up my day job and still earn what I do but be physically active all day??? I need a job doing letterbox drops or gardening or being a personal trainer, that pays $100,000 a year!

Umm, then again, at 52 it mightn't be such a good idea..... Actually when I think about it, I couldn't get my BGL's down below 9.8 when we were mountain trekking in Morocco, but that might have had something to do with the chest infection I had at the time. But seriously, I think that desk jobs are the worst possible thing for the health of Type 1 diabetics.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Type 1 - the invisible disease

Ugh! I don't like it! I look at the angry red and purple patch where I have just removed my last insulin pump infusion set. Every now and then I get a site that has bruised and bled, probably because I've dropped the pump, subsequently tugging on the insertion site. I stuff up the next insertion, as I remove the cap off the steel insertion needle, the whole unit comes away, leaving the needle part stuck in the spring loader and the nylon infusion set dangling uselessly in the air. Oh well, scrap that one and start again. It's 6pm on a cold winter night. The tiles on the bathroom floor bite my toes and I'm thinking of the chicken casserole I've got in the fridge ready to reheat.
It's one of those nights when I'm just fed up with it. Yesterday the bright young trainee at the pharmacist chatted to me while I waited for my scripts. "Oh I've got a friend with a pump," she says. "She says it's much easier than needles."
"Well, yes & no," I say to her and we enter a discussion about the realities of doing finger prick blood tests and the way that you need to do more with a pump, than you would with needles. I do twice the number of finger pricks with the pump, than I did when I was doing 4 needles a day. I appreciate the conversation, it allows me to feel that someone is interested, that my disease and its subsequent lifestyle is not invisible.
Today the stress and uncertainty of work get under my skin. I live alone and am solely responsible for my financial situation. I've got a mortgage to pay and car payments so that I can have reliable transport. Each month, my various medications and support treatments cost me $100 or more. My role at work means that I have to travel interstate, always calculating how much insulin, how many pump infusion sets, when and where & what type of food I'll get as I fly thousands of k's arriving at hotels late in the evening. Recently I found that because of work pressures I didn't have time to get to my usual chemist for testing strips before flying interstate, resulting in a tense search for a chemist that could supply the strips, in an unfamiliar city. Because I look healthy and people who know me, know I exercise and eat well, living with diabetes becomes invisible. The fear of becoming unemployed and unable to pay for a high level of quality treatments, let alone the mortgage, becomes a constant stress. I'm not a victim & I refuse to become one. I don't want to live on a disability pension, or lean on others for daily support. I don't expect others to make excuses for me and I would be horrified if I found they were doing so. But sometimes I just wish I could have a month off from worrying about food intake and insulin balance and having enough supplies & enough money to get them.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Colours of Autumn

After suffering the horrible effects of the head cold all week, I finally succumbed to it on Friday night and crawled into bed with a throat full of razor blades, at 6.30pm, staying there until 6am on Saturday, then spending Saturday grumbling about the house in my daggiest tracksuit pants, complete with ugg boots. I cancelled my appointment with the chinese doctor whom I've been seeing for my sore shoulder, I cancelled my dinner that had been arranged with some dear friends whom I was keen to catch up with, I grumbled by txt msg to the boyfriend that I was `bored witless' having to stay
 home all day, and I went back to bed at 9pm.  This morning I woke to a warm wind blowing dust into the atmoshphere which resulted in a spectacular sunrise. Captured on the Nokia N96 mobile phone camera - it's a bit hard to get the focal depth, but as they say `you get the picture'.  The photo of the maple is also captured on the Nokia, but was taken in clear daylight and within a good focal range. The continued drought in the Southern states throws up strange phenomena. The local birds love my garden because I have mulched so deeply and I water on the days I'm allowed to.  
The deep damp mulch is full of worms and wood slaters and all sorts of other goodies for birds. I hadn't worried about putting water out for the birds, because my property backs straight onto a creek, which is permanent.  Yet this morning as I stood looking out my bedroom window at the front of the house, I saw a fat glossy black rook, approach the end of the hose lying in the garden and stick his beak into the opening, seeking drops of water. Maybe he likes the taste of chlorinated water? More likely he is just like us humans, why waste effort flying over the houses to the creek, when he can have a drop of water from the hose. The hose does have one of those `stop' end fittings on it that don't allow water to flow unless a nozzle is fitted, so I was suprised that he would get enough water from it to encourage his efforts.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Roll on the communications revolution!

I've spent a fair bit of time over the past 2 and a 1/2 weeks, flying. Not virtually or metaphysically, but really. In the air in aeroplanes. Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Rockhampton. This weeks trip was to Rockhampton. I woke in the middle of the night on Sunday with a sore throat. Realising that I'd been sleeping with my mouth open, I moistened my mouth and shut it and went back to sleep, with a nagging bloked nasal passage and vague headache. 
Up in the air on Monday morning all was going well until we began the descent to Brisbane.  My left ear began to block up. I pressed against it, I swallowed, I held my nose and blew gently into the cavern of my skull, all to no avail. As the descent continued, the pain increased. We landed, I had nearly three hours to wait for my connecting flight to Rockhampton. Long enough I thought, to regain control of my eardrums. As the plane lifted from the tarmac of Brisbane airport I realised that this would not be fun. Now my right inner ear began to sympathise with my left. Unfortunately they were not in total sympatico. Somewhere in between the two of them, my sense of balance was being distorted. The interior of the plane began to move disconcertingly as my stomach moved with it. The rising tide of nausea had me in hot flushes as I struggled to find a place of stillness for my vision to rest on. I could only gain relief by telling myself that it was OK, this was a result of my brain playing tricks because the delicate balance sensing mechanisms in my inner ears were sending distorted messages. The interior of the plane really wasn't melting in front of my eyes and I really wasn't falling through the seat to the floor.  I made the landing in extremes of eardrum agony and stomach rebellion. Unfortunately the next day, I had to make the return trip home. Imagine my dismay as I buckled into my seat in the Dash 8, and the airhostess kindly informed me that this flight was making an extra stop in Gladstone. That meant up and down to Gladstone, up and down to Brisbane, up and down to Melbourne, before I was finally home. It only took until the `up' from Gladstone for the nausea to set in.  Add to this mixture the fact that storms were driving across the SE of Qld. We bumped and bucketed our way into Brisbane.  
Fianlly home, I managed a reasonable sleep, and I have got through today at work, still with a head that feels like an over ripe watermelon and a stomach on the point of rebellion.  All of this to do a presentation that could have been done by video conferencing.  Roll on the communications revolution!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

It's Autumn

It's Autumn. I love this time of year! As I drive home I just want my eyes to become a camera framing everything as the late evening sun strikes colour into the most mundane surfaces. I just missed catching it along the sides of the plane trees and manchurian pears this evening. The traffic wouldn't stop long enough for me to frame the photo with my phone camera. In the morning I'll get up and look out the kitchen window to see the first rays catch the burnished red and gold of my two maples. So much beauty to have with my cup of coffee.  We've had a sudden cold snap this week, and rain, glorious rain. I snuggle down at night under my fleecy blanket and relish the cold on my cheek and nose, while my toes sneak into the warmth of the bottom of the bed.  In the vegie garden the worms turn in the compost and blood and bone, the snow peas send tendrils searching for the trellis wire and the pumpkins mature roundly, patiently waiting their harvest.  Oh Autumn, time of prolific harvest and deep earth. I'll try and catch the last sun in the branches of red gold turning leaf and I'll smell your wet earth and promise of spring before the clean cold frosts of winter and I'll keep your light in my eyes as I go through those lean months ahead.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

social activism

It's ages since my last post on this site, but I'm prompted tonight by the intersection of Twitter, TV, and  the question of massive Executive payouts and my social left background. I've been watching an SBS Insight program which has raised the question of Executive pay levels. I find it hard to imagine the type of money these guys are earning/amassing. I mean most of us can only physically work a maximum of 20 hours a day - even the most brilliant need to sleep at some point.  While I agree that if an Executive drives their organisation to new levels of financial reward, they should be paid well, the question remains, What happens if the org doesn't perform? What happens if the decisions that Exec makes leaves the business in ruins 5 years later? What is `Paid Well'?
If we equate pay with performance, then we need a radical re-think of how we reward the majority of our workers. I see too many $45,000 p/a employees who put in as many hours as their boss or the CEO, and probably many more hours that the Board members. So if Exec pay isn't rated on hours, then what are the measures? Company performance - When and where? and what about long term effects (sustainability) Think about BHP's record in PNG.  Then there's the Boys Club effect. In my current position I'm learning it's not what you know it's who you know. That culture pervades all of Australian Business. It doesn't really matter how smart you are, it's how you leverage your networks,

Friday, February 20, 2009

Office space

I've got a great home office set-up. After initially creating my office in the spare room, I found that I felt totally alienated, sitting and working in the little room off the corridor through the middle of the house. After a while, I moved the computer desk out here, next to the kitchen bench on the right and facing a view of the backyard to the left. I put the printer on the kitchen bench, and left all the files and boring stuff back in the spare room.
Now this is really ridiculous, because at that time I didn't have anyone else living with me, and there was no reason to feel isolated in the spare room, but I did. Now I feel connected, I can watch the news on telly while I work, watch all the little birds in the garden and think about what to plant next. It's not procrastinating, just an enjoyable work environment.
I put an old microwave down by the garden shed, waiting for the next hard rubbish collection. A little black and white plover has discovered his image in the glass door and has kept me amused all day as he has busily come back and forth, doing beautiful courting dances trying to win over his lady love. I haven't been down to see what condition the microwave is in!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

mobile workplace

Had a rough nite, my right shoulder has been giving me curry since I came off the bike, 3 weeks before Xmas. I've pretty much been using pain killers so that I can get to sleep since then. Yesterday I was feeling quite exhausted and put it down to having commuter ridden to work. So I went to bed early at 9.30, taking 2 nurofen and 1 panadol. I woke at 4am in pain and with a low blood sugar, so I ate and took 2 more panadol & went back to bed - no good :-( The alarm went at 5.30 and I felt like crap, so I decided to `work from home'. Didn't do me much good, I've been feeling awful most of the day & have a sore throat, earache and a stiff neck, so I'm guessing the shoulder & back pain is probably emphasised because I've got some sort of virus.
But how about the capapcity of technology to allow me to do my email, set up files, check online quality control stuff and so on! I love the fact that when I'm not able to go into the office, I can still contribute productively to my workplace.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

10 Days out

10 days out, the impact recedes. Everyone is saturated with media stories. ABC 774 is doing an incredible job of community networking. They have reporters and mobile studios in every major centre of the fire damage. In the evening as I drive home, they air snapshots of stories their reporters have filed. Sad little vignettes, heroic recountings, renewal of faith, loss of memory. Tonight I hear for the first time, what sounded like a government related `Community broadcast' with notes on how to prove identity, get financial help, get help to remove toxic waste, claim funding and so on.
In the city we are past the first wave of shock and are moving into or on with our lives. Unless we have a direct connection, we are preparing to forget. I hear counsellors on the radio talking about the stages of emotion victims feel, and I think to myself, it will be years. He's talking about how some people will react by rebuildingtheir house exactly as per the original plans, but hten one day they open their cupboard in the new house, expectign to pick up something they had before the fire, and it's not there. Dissonance, disconnect sets in and grief follows. I feel for them. It's going to be a long road.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Shock and horror has left a prevailing trail of sadness. The death toll was, this morning, 181 and the authroities are predicting it will go higher. We are surrounded by a sea of public grief and it is hard to maintain an even keel. But today has marked some kind of turning point. I noticed that on Monday and Tuesday people at work simply weren't talking about it excepting in hushed whispers or brief hurried tones, and I had to remove the newspapers from the lunch room table yesterday because we weren't coping with the pictures or the headlines. Today people are starting to talk about their emotional reactions, exchanging stories about crying as they heard one horrible story or another. Today also the fundraising and donating has really kicked in. It started late yesterday afternoon as various people sent emails around the office about donation collection points and fundraising ideas. For those of us not personally connected, yet still grieving for others, it brings a welcome opportunity to `do something'.

The newspapers are now full of stories of miraculous escapes or extraordinary reunions of people who had thought they had lost each other. I think about what triggers the ability to move through the tidal wave of emotion from shock, horror, grief, sadness and I wonder what on earth is going to help some of the people who have witnessed too much. As a nation we must talk about it or we will become mired in grief.
I feel for the people who by nature aren't talkers and who just shut down and keep it inside.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


after my innocent post yesterday, I am in shock as is the whole state, over the toll of the fires on Friday. This evening we are hearing 66 confirmed dead, 640 houses lost. 2 incidents where whole families were incinerated in their cars as they tried to flee. I thought yesterday as I watched the wind destroying my garden, that it was an evil wind and I knew even then that it would be an horrendous day for fires.
Many of these areas burnt have, since my childhood, grown from `bush' towns to `tree change' towns. Whether this has a bearing on on people's preparedness, I don't know. I heard one man on the radio this morning, saying, "They should have told us, they should have let us know about the fear, nothing has prepared us for the fear as it approaches." I look at my own situation, a nice little suburban house that backs onto a creek reserve, mainly grass, with its few scrappy gums, and inside my fenceline, deep leaf litter mulch... and a howling northwesterly wind, so dry that it burns the leaves off plants in the shade of the verandah, and burns the tips of the tomatos in the vegetable patch. It could happen here, leaf litter in the gutters, embers blowing up to 20 k ahead of the fire front. I have made my mind up already, I would go, but how do you know when the fire front is still 20k away?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Heat and the garden

Can't believe how hot it has been. I'm sure I'm not the only one who is saying it. I took the car out to go to the supermarket at 12:30 today and when I started it up in the carport, the temperature on the digital dash was reading 48 deg. C. I drove to the supermarket and it was reading 49 deg. C. Later standing at my kitchen window, watching the wind tearing across my yard, I was distressed to see my plants all withering before my eyes. Even the sage bush looked as if it would dessicate under the howling northerly. I've got a large veranda along the back of the house, which faces North West, getting the full belt of the summer sun, here in the southern hemisphere. The house is low slung, almost american `ranch style', 3 bedroom brick veneer, built in the 1980's. Thankfully, the bedrooms are on the southern end, so that as soon as we get a southerly wind change, I can open up the windows and vent the hot air from the house. They get a bit cold in winter, though. I'm in the south western suburbs and the area is renowned for its harsh micro-climate. Wind is constant and the natural landscape is rivermouth, salt marshes and wetlands - low, flat, brooding under a grey sky, harsh under the summer sun. I moved here in April last year and one of the things that pleased me, was that the garden was non-existant. The rear of the property and the kitchen window, faces an open reserve which lies along a creek. It has a bike path which runs down to the rivermouth then all along the coast trail for over 2o klms into the heart of the city. I intend to convert the barren yard into native vegetation, ultimately blending with the vegetation along the creek, which is grassland, scrappy gums and

river reeds. These photos show it on a cool winter morning, and then in flood two months ago. Of course I have also established a vegetable garden, and the veranda has a collection of plants in pots, and it was the vegetables and the plants in pots that I watched in despair as the 90kp/hr northerly winds scorched everything today. I've never seen the growing tips of tomato plants burn off, before but I did today. The tuberous begonias on the veranda, in the shade, lost all their leaves. The stems simply collapsed in the middle, under the extreme conditions. Even some of the indigenous plants in the front garden have simply burnt off. The wonderful stem of new flowers on my Blandifordia (Christmas Bells) has burnt, all its buds are dessicated. Here is a photo of how it looked last year.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Weight Watchers week 2

I lost a kilo!!!!

How did I do that? I spent the first three days being completely anal, recording EVERYTHING. I was doing blood tests every hour, coping with low sugars because of the change in carbohydrate mixes, monitoring activity, weighing foods, driving myself nutso. Then I gave up - I was volunteering at the Audax Alpine Classic, over the long weekend, a 200 k bike ride with 2400 participants, based in the Victorian Alps. One of the joys of being a `vollie' is that they feed you. Custard tarts. I had two, and I drank a lot of red wine (after hours), and I worked and I danced and I had a great time. And I gave up counting points, and I went to the WW's meeting on Tuesday night and found that I had lost weight.

last riders come in off the mountain
So now I am being REALLY attentive and anal. If I could loose weight last week, what can I do if I concentrate! Stay tuned for next weeks blog.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Its a happy life

Sometimes life just gets along really nicely. Since I came home from my travels, I've been warmly welcomed back at work, managed to host the family Christmas party, successfully, sort of settled into a routine of having my brother living here, started dating a new fellow, and found my work life expanding satisfactorily.
I suppose I should be careful and not tempt the djinns. The new date arrangement nearly came unstuck last weekend when I had a dose of food poisoning and threw up spectacularly all over the front cabin of his car. He was an absolute gentleman about it and put me in the shower fully dressed, then went and cleaned up all the mess in the car.
I hope I'm not tempting the djinns at work. I'm working on a new project which is coming together really well, and I'm really enjoying it, AND getting pats on the back from the boss. Even better than this, I seem finally to be making better relationships with my workmates and feeling comfortable in my position.
Its nice having someone in the house, although it is difficult to adjust to some behaviours of another person and I don't feel I should have to make too many allowances as it's my space, rather than a joint tenancy arrangement or a relationship.
anyway, all in all, Life is Nice just now.

Oh Oh - Weight watchers

This is something I've been putting off for years. Even before I became a type 1 diabetic, I was always a solid girl. Never obese, but always just above the healthy weight range. I've always said that if I was a horse, I'd be a shetland pony, able to survive harsh winters by digging in the snow for dead plant roots. Lately I've been increasingly frustrated with my creeping weight gain, as the hard work done in the late 1990's when I got back down to a size 12 (which is near anorexic for me), came undone and I climbed back to a size 16. I do a fair bit of exercise and I eat good low GI stuff, but I eat a bit too much fat, not enough vegies and I like a drink.... Ho Hum

A couple of weeks ago a friend challenged me to come to Weight Watchers with her.

One of the reasons I've put this off is that for the last 26 years, I've lived on a restricted diet, anyway. I've had to track what I eat, keep records and test my blood glucose levels 6 - 8 times a day. Why would I want to add to that routine by taking on Weight Watchers and their silly points system?
I went to the first meeting. Its pretty challenging because now I have to learn to manage points, then re-convert to carbs, then consider whether they are Low GI or High GI and how long they will interact with insulin etc. I'm used to just eating pretty much the same thing for breakfast & lunch each day. That way I can get up & go to work half asleep, without too much fuss! I told them that I am Type 1 Insulin dependant, so of course they handed me a book all about Type 2 Diabetes. (Happens every time) They just don't `get it'. Anyway that left me feeling a bit flat.

Well you can only `give it a go' and see what happens ...