oops, I forgot to make white christmas

Christmas was a fairly relaxed affair this year. I haven't really felt much Christmas spirit but it has been pleasant nonetheless. On Christmas Eve we shopped at Hassoons and the dour little supermarket nearby, good for cheap vodka. Sort of tidied the house and managed to get the washing put away, the ironing done and some fresh greenery in the vases. My pIan was to make nutella truffles and peppermint patties but the truffle mix looked a bit dodgy and I decided this sweet making thing was most likely not going to work that Christmas Eve. So I decided to concentrate on nori rolls and drinks with friends instead. Later I rescued the abandoned mix and made nutella truffles sitting at the outside table with a drink by my side and lots of nice chat flowing all around. When they tried one the children made faces at the cocoa on the outside but I convinced them to bite through to the truffle and they were given the thumbs up. And then as I was going to bed, checking behind doors for renegade snakes (because as the snake was not caught we don't know for sure that it has gone - even though it is likely to have sought more suitable habitat and lord there are probably snakes everywhere anyway), I realised that there would be no white christmas this year. I've made it for many years and this year I just forgot. Oh well, it's not like it's a health food.
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It turned out on Christmas day that mum and Rachael thought that I would bring white Christmas. Like people knew I would make a calendar  How quickly things become habits, traditions. Sometimes I think I would like a different sort of Christmas. One with no presents (except for the children and then only a limited number) and  where instead of lots of dishes we had oysters, one salad, cherries and a ridiculously good blue cheese. Gerard tends to get overwhelmed by the amount of food on offer and I guess I do too. Not that it stops me from eating a few too many chocolates at the end.  The truffles were well received and Rachael made some mince tarts which were very lovely with a crisp shell and a nice not too sweet filling. The calendar also went down reasonably well. I changed my approach which was a photo taken in the month to one of family snapshots even if the photo was taken in a different month. It works better this way I think. Maybe next year I could make an effort to take more family snaps. Anyway Christmas day was lovely. Very relaxed, nice (if over abundant) food, cute Kris Kringles. Not too many presents for the girl. I guess we are actually close to the kind of Christmas I'd like. And perhaps we might have oysters and pavlova for New Year's Eve.
. When we got home I made lentil soup from leftover vegetable crudities, herbs from the garden and leftover parsley from salad making. Goodness, it hit the spot. Boxing Day was spent sleeping, watching DVDs, reading books and sitting outside. Only one of us got properly dressed and it wasn't me or Grace. Dinner was leftovers. Gee I love boxing day. Today is continuing in a similar vein although we are going to go for a family walk and see if there are any snakes by the creek.

The photos are from the Friday before Christmas when we went to look at some Christmas lights in Preston. I found out about them from facebook and it was pretty amusing. Hope you and yours had the kind of Christmas that your family likes and everyone is feeling happy and relaxed.

s s s snake incident

So yesterday I decided to get in before the heat and wash the windows because washed windows make the rest of your house look better without doing a heap of housework. We are also talking a lot about the extension and school stuff so as I went out into the front yard with my bucket and squeegee, Gerard was behind me, chatting. As you do. Then he says, there's a snake. It was behind the old air conditioner that I'd walked right past in short pants and thongs.  It popped its head up and slithered into the area with some tatty pots and stones. I dropped my bucket and squeegee and headed out onto the footpath, being somewhat unreasonably afraid of snakes. I turned and I saw the snake heading towards the front door. Grace and some of her friends were in the front room watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Johnny Depp version). At this point I screamed and the neighbours came out of their houses and gathered around. Meanwhile Gerard had dashed around the back and closed the front door and told the girls about the snake. They thought he was joking! Grace convinced them otherwise. G saw the snake go into the study so I wasn't going to go in and get my phone or use the internet. After trying to look in the phone book with no success (so last century), I went to a friends house and we looked up snake handlers online and found someone to come out. Emily went and got all the kids and took them back to her place.
OMG we had a brown SNAKE in the front garden and in the HOUSE!
This is not the snake that was in our house but a plastic snake the snake man found under the house. The real snake is still at large. Hopefully gone from our house and yard.
Unfortunately I didn't take the snake guy's instruction to seal the study that seriously as I thought there were lots of holes there anyway. I waited in the park talking about what his car might look like and sure enough he drove a four wheel drive ute. I went home, along with a big gaggle of kids. The snake guy was really good and went through the study thoroughly  He also checked the garden and the rest of the house but it looks like our reptile friend has gone or gone to ground.  It's funny but a couple of weeks ago when I was picking mulberries by the woodpile, I thought snake. Anyway he talked to us quite a bit about snakes and how they act. Based on out description he thought it was a brown snake and told us that they are very adaptable. Gerard says that from what he told him, the snake guy thought that it was a snake on the move, passing through. He instructed us to wear long pants and socks last night and to lave the back door open. Just in case. Also suggested we play music with a deep loud base which we have been doing, much to Grace's horror. Gerard and Grace have both been really sensible but I've been a total wimp. Needing to take a seven year old with me while I finished washing the windows. Looking around corners and freaking out just a bit. And to think while I have been avoiding walking by the creek, we had a snake right by our font door!*

Now I'm talking about the snake to anyone who will listen and it turns out there have been a few local snake encounters. Someone in another part of our estate had one in the yard, as did some people who live near the creek. There's also been some sightings down the creek. Maybe it's a good season for snakes. Eek.

* For those who don't know me in real life, we live in middle suburban Melbourne. There is a creek and bushy vegetation fairly close by but there is absolutely nothing rural or bushland fringe about where we live.

christmas mc cranky pants

Yesterday was shrink day and afterwards I spent some time in the city. Running around doing Christmasy things like it's Christmas or something. I'm trying to feel it but I'm not. Gerard got a bit of a serve about it the other day. It wasn't really his fault. Christmas Mc Cranky pants, that would be me. So it was interesting to talk to my doctor about everything. I don't think she was surprised about my leaving work but she did suggest that maybe I could have gone on stress leave. Ooops, a  bit late for that. We talked about my crankiness and the guilt and all the other less than pleasant feelings that have emerged since the initial elation subsided. She said it is a big adjustment and that I need to take all of January off and relax. I already knew all that but it was nice to have her say it too.
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Walked around the grey drizzling city, bumping into people and wanting to spend big and be frugal. Hopefully I have found a middle path but I always find it hard not to overspend a bit. Bought some nice hand drawn and printed Christmas cards from  a guy sitting on the footpath outside Myer. We had a bit of a chat and I didn't say but I admired his enterprise. Had a coffee at the GPO which is my favourite place to have coffee in the city. Checked my emails and whoa..... the school PFA email list is running hot with various positions on the school's proposed one to one ipad program. I fussed and fumed all the way home, but this is what I think and what I wrote. Clearly I am in over sharing mode but I blaming Christmas (and the Recurrent Family Christmas Shit Cycle) and the leaving work/crazy shit.

While I may be a bit sceptical about ipads coming from a staunch PC/Android family, I do see enormous benefits in a one to one ipad program for our school.  However I have some very serious concerns about the way the program has been rolled out and the equity issue. After raising the matter with the school,  I was told that having her own ipad would accelerate my child’s learning but when I mentioned that we may not be able to afford one without forgoing something else (I have just left my job - so funds are being carefully monitored) I was then told that she could use a class set but it was made pretty clear to me that this is definitely a second best option and that should extra money become available, I should then purchase an ipad for her. No sensitivity was shown concerning my current situation and it was all very awkward and tense.   Later when I thought about it, I thought equity schmequity.
All the DEECD material I have read makes it clear that an ipad is a personal device and that the best results come when students have their own personal ipad. This appears to be what the school is aiming for. But what of the kids that don’t get their own ipad? What of kids who don’t have access at home, who don’t have all their work loaded up on their own personal ipad? Will their learning be accelerated in the same way? I suspect you can’t have it both ways. How are kids going to feel using the bank of school ipads when other kids have their own personalised ipads? What if there are say three students in each class who don’t get their own ipad? Will they and their families feel a bit second best, a bit not advantaged? Is that we really want in our State school? At the end of the day we could buy an ipad for Grace if all the other kids have one but there may be families who might not be in that position. In the job that I have just left, I regularly saw families from this area (including working families) choosing whether to spend their money on food OR rent (which is now hideously expensive around here). The EMA and school kids bonus would just disappear into keeping the household afloat. People may not show it (and they shouldn’t have to) but for some these are hard times. Just because you are poor shouldn’t mean that your child gets a second best education.
What I would like is for our school community to have a genuine, honest and non-shaming discussion around equity and the other issues people have raised. We might not come up with the perfect solution but I think we can do better than this model as it stands. I think if we are serious about having a one to one ipad program then it should be just that. Every kid gets one, end of story. We could look at different model such as the one at Moreland PS (it is compulsory and the school owns the laptops and leases them to families), and I’m sure there are other things we could come up with. There could also be special behind the scenes arrangements made where necessary. 
I'm interested to know if there are any other one to one ipad programs in other primary schools? Do they have models where some kids have their own ipads 24/7 and some kids use the school ipads in class?  I haven't even touched on the issues around whether ipads are the right technology and whether primary school children need to be that immersed. This model just seems so unfair to me. Especially without an honest discussion about the issues.

So there you go Christmas Mc Crankypants. Hopefully I'll find some joy in the season soon - I usually do, even if it is a bit last minute. We're going on the annual family excursion to Norflands this afternoon, and you know, I just can't wait.

the retreat

I've been looking forward to this craft weekend for ages. Jenny organised it so the we could try out a new place in Woodend called The Retreat. (Thanks Jenny!) The group was mostly women I didn't know, a different group from the Sewjourn regulars. However it was lovely getting to know this group of women, not only did we have craft/sewing in common, it turned out that some of us knew lots of other people in common. Ah, Melbourne northern suburbs, what a strong interwoven mesh of communities.There was much making, much chatting, some instagramming, eating, cups of tea, drinking and chocolate fudge. I do believe a lovely time was had by all.
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I've been going to Sewjourn since it started and it feels like my craft weekend home in some way. So it felt a bit funny to be going somewhere else and perhaps it makes me a bit biased (although I am trying not to be). I think both places have a lot going for them and the women who run them have obviously taken a lot of care in setting them up. Judging by how booked out they are, there is definitely the demand for more craft weekend places. Both The Retreat and Sewjourn provide comfortable self contained accommodation for a group of crafters. But there are some differences and how important they are probably depends on your priorities. At The Retreat the beds are all doubles and there are only two to a room. No bunk room! It was also lovely that we didn't have to take our own sheets and make a bed on arrival. The Retreat's kitchen is flash. The stove is a beauty and there are copper bottomed saucepans, good knives and wooden chopping boards. There is also a really nice deck with an outdoor eating area. The craft room at The Retreat is a good size but depending on where you are sitting, there appeared to be little space to put your boxes of fabric and other craft stuff. People were bumping past each other as they moved around the room. The tables are good but there didn't seem to be enough space for them, or we hadn't worked out their optimum placement. But what I noticed the most was the light, or rather the lack of light. The overhead lights were not particularly bright and there weren't enough extra lights to go around. There was another light up there but we couldn't find the switch for it - I wonder if that would have made the difference? How I missed those big high lights at Sewjourn! If I was to go again I would take a lamp - I have old eyes and light is pretty important to my crafting experience. Despite it being nice that we were all in the same house, I think on balance I prefer the separateness of the Sewjourn studio - good for night owls and early birds to feel they can use noisy sewing machines without disturbing any ones sleep. However I don't think the craft room at The Retreat is in any way terrible, indeed in the days before there were purposely set up craft venues we would have found it pretty fantastic. It's just that to me, the studio at Sewjourn seems to work just a bit better for a large group of busy crafters and sewers. Maybe it's also a time thing, Sewjourn has been going longer and definitely things have evolved.
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For grace, purple bedroom


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Other things I realised I like about Sewjourn that are probably neither here nor there: the short walk into town (very nice if you don't have a car), the views and country feel, the light airy feeling. But the big one for me is that you don't need to clean Sewjourn at the end. No sweeping, mopping or vacuuming  Just empty the fridge, stack the dishwasher, wash up your pots, pack the car and go. I didn't do the big clean at The Retreat as I wasn't in the last group to leave but if I had to choose, I would much, much rather take my own sheets and make a bed than clean at the end. There is enough cleaning and domestic stuff happening at home, thank you very much. That said, both venues are of a high standard and I certainly wouldn't knock back a weekend at The Retreat. Perhaps I might just shift the emphasis from lots of sewing to more cooking and sleeping. Which would not be a bad thing.

This weekend my crafting was pretty low key anyway. I don't think I have fully recovered from leaving work and I'm still having some trouble with sleeping. Even so, I made a blue and black checked linen dress to with home made bias binding. In the low light I didn't realise that the bobbin was dark green rather than black so the top stitching is a bit funny. Calling it a design feature. Also made a green sleeveless t-shirt type top which I am wearing now and which needs some adjustment - involving the unpicker unfortunately. But I am going to do it because I would really like this top if the straps didn't keep falling down. Made most of a brown sun dress in the same pattern. And a Christmas tree for the Sylvanians. As you do. Oh, and I learned how to crochet jewellery wire from some of the ladies making jewellery. Very exciting.

floating

On Wednesday morning I went back to work. I had expected to just do the paperwork and stay for morning tea but ended up staying for lunch as well so I could hang out with my colleagues. Sigh. It was nice to see them and sad to say goodbye. I think, no I know, some were a bit envious that I was leaving. I am the seventh person to quit this year. There was a funny presentation in the tiny tea room with just a few people because everyone was mostly with customers. The card is very sweet and they got me a spotlight voucher which I think was very thoughtful and indeed quite useful.
- This week I have been floating around, not really sure what to do with myself. I'm sleeping but not enough and it requires vodka which is not ideal. Hopefully this phase will pass as I relax into this stage of things. I'm telling myself that my goal is to try some different things, learn some new skills and hopefully be established in a new line of work by the end of next year. It is likely that I will be a customer at my old workplace for a time and I am trying to feel OK about that. I have assured my old colleagues that I will go to another office. They can't serve me anyway and well, it would be awkward.
- I've decided that I don't want to work in high volume service delivery or customer service again. I've done a few jobs like that and I think I'm done with it. One of my immediate plans is to make toys and small items such as needle books and buttons for sale. Not sure this will be a good long term plan for me but I am keen to make things with my hands for a bit and I can play with the web design I want to learn as I go. The craft stall at the fete was pretty successful  we put the prices up from last year  and that was OK. Most of my toys sold, as did the wheat bags and toys made by another mum. Other items were not as successful but I think it's a matter of figuring out what people want or maybe it varies from fete to fete. One thing I realised is that I'm not that good at sitting on a stall. So that is something to work on.

Anyway I am off to a sneaky craft weekend shortly. A slightly different group of people so I am nervous AND excited. Going to sew new clothes for me. And a christmas tree for the sylvanians.

just like that

When I got off the phone to work yesterday, I felt light, elated. Good. Finally done it. Quit work. Just like that. No, I guess not just like that. It has been rather a long time coming. About a year really. I kept putting off the decision because it was only three days a week, close to home and paid well enough. But I could feel the stress of it getting to me again and that slip sliding into unwellness. So boring. So inconvenient. It might be a bit inevitable with all the peri menopausal hormones ranging around but I don't think it needs to be this bad. So I went to my doctor for a certificate and then I called work. It is all done bar the paperwork and a morning tea to say goodbye to my colleagues. Yes, just like that.
 All kinds of dodgu
So what made me finally do it? Well I guess Thursday was even more challenging than usual and close to the end of my day I was dealing with yet another customer who was somewhat more difficult than usual and I said something I really shouldn't have. I removed myself from the situation immediately and told a team leader and then locked myself in the ladies and sobbed. Great big sobs. A colleague and a social worker came to rescue me and no one blamed me or gave me a hard time but really, at that moment something broke and I knew I just couldn't do it any more. I guess I'm not the first person to decide to quit a job while crying in the toilets. The next day I found out that the loan we were seeking for the extension was unlikely to be approved. No matter, we had already worked out a feasible and much cheaper back up plan. One we can do with what we have, and as a bonus, less debt.
View from the lunchroom. With coke zero.
I still feel sick. A combination of not sleeping, anxiety and just a touch of the lovely gastro that's going around here. So I've given myself permission to rest up for a week or two. To lie on the couch and read books or watch movies, to just let things float by. Then I guess I'd better figure out what to do next. I'm so glad I've finally done it. Once I shut this door, I'm sure others will open.

long time, no blog

I think facebook and pinterest have taken away my will to blog. There's only so much time in the day for computer play and that's where it goes. Not sure that's a good thing. Maybe it is, I don't know. There's a lot about which I don't know at the moment. There's a big unbloggable thing in our life about which I have much to say but well, really I can't. It will all come to a conclusion sometime next year and that's probably saying too much. Everyone is not even being snarky about it on Facebook. I suppose all I can say that is that it is something that totally does my head in.
Waiting for trick or treaters
As does the prospect of leaving work and doing something else. Which I have ideas about but ideas won't maintain the household and what if I end up working twice as hard in the back yard button factory? I've really enjoyed making these buttons but lord, you would have to make and sell a lot of buttons in a week to live off said back yard button factory. Buttons don't mutter insults under their breath like I hear at work but even so working three days a week seems like such an easy gig. Except that it's hideous. Still. And I wonder what I would be like, how I would feel if I did leave. It feels as though the next part of my life won't come until I make this change but I fear I am not being realistic. I wish I'd jumped when I was really unwell. When I had an excuse, because it just doesn't feel very sensible right now and I know I am going round and round in a loop with this. Hmm. Actually my idea doesn't have that much to do with making buttons, but still. Fear.
Learning to make wooden buttons. As g says, nothing is as easy as you think.
I've been making lots of things for the fete and if I was ever going to have a crafty business, or really any sort of business, I would need to work on my getting out of bed and my time management skills. Anyway weekend before last I set myself a goal of making three things a day and I've slipped some days but on the whole I have kept making. There are some things I won't get around too but there is a box of sale items under my desk. Pinterest has come into its own here and I have loved seeing a picture, doing my own drawing and idea and then making something new. Today I'm going to make Japanese folded owls and angora monkeys if I have time. It's good looking up how you might do a monkey face or ears. Have also made tea towel and felt needle books, little glittery purses with much wonk that Grace loves, some quilted satin purses with fabric we found in the hard rubbish, a tapestry purse that I love so much that I might have to make some more, some fluffy bunnies that look a bit like guinea pigs and some weird cats. Oh, and some christmas trees and hearts for the tree. One of the other mothers asked me if items had to be made to a high professional standard and I felt a bit sad and like laughing at the same time but I think it's OK to make with joy and some creativity. The kids love this stuff. And I think the parents will like it too. When you make stuff as part of your routine you forget that other people will either think it is special or that you are totally mad for making a button when you can go to spotlight and buy much more durable plastic buttons for half the price. I get that, but I still like making and using the wooden buttons (and we have got to a better finish with the buttons already).
Double rainbow through dirty window
We're still working on the extension plan and it's freaking me out to be considering leaving work and doing this at the same time. The extension is enough to freak me out by itself but the the two together are a doozy.  So we've been thinking about a smaller extension. Less time to build, less debt and more money for a new stove and finishing. But I'm not sure we shouldn't still go for the dream extension but we have been talking and fighting about the smaller version, so we'll see how that goes.

I am loving my new phone and instagram in particular. Although today I feel like getting out my real camera too. But instagram is well, so instant. And cheesy and fun. I need cheesy and fun.

queensland holiday

It's nearly two months since our holiday in the sun, but nonetheless it must be blogged before I can move on to other topics, other photos. Oh how I miss my sister Betty and my nieces. It was great to see them and really, it was like we had hardly been gone at all. And yet, there is so much of the everyday and incremental life stuff that we both miss out on. So it is kind of bitter sweet looking back. This time was a bit of a last minute arrangement due to me getting some extra leave and I worried that we could really afford it but now nearly two months later we are pretty much caught up so I think there is a lesson there. And as Gerard said, go see your sister, what else are you going to spend your money on? He is generally very frugal, my Gerard, but he also has certain ideas about the usefulness of money and when it is better to spend it. I love that about him, I really do. He also said that taking Grace to QLD means that I am excused from all birthday party duty (apart from Grace's) which I didn't expect but there you go.
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Like always I took lots of photos. Of course I never take enough and I don't think there is a perfect one of the children all together. There are however quite a few photos of the children playing on my new phone. How I love my new phone - I was still learning how to use it then and it seemed to gobble up the power and fail when I needed it most but we are sorted now. And instagram, love, love instagram. It's bought me back to taking daily photos. None of this needing to upload them business. I would have even had enough pictures to blog while I was away if I had been so inclined. Of course I am still going to take and use photos with my big camera but an easy to use pocket camera is a beautiful thing.
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This time we spent some of the time staying in a hotel by the sea. It was a fabulous idea and it meant I didn't feel that I was simply swapping one domesticity for another similar one. It wasn't warm enough to swim in the ocean but the children gave the hotel pool and spa a good work out. There was a fabulous opshopping afternoon where Betty found some plates in a pattern I have been looking for for ages. They were a bit stained but have bleached up to perfection. For some reason the holiday vibe carried over to the time that we spent at their place too.  We went and visited the new house which is looking fabulous. It's exciting to think that on our next trip that's where we'll be staying. On our last day we went to the beach and it was just absolutely perfect. Blue skies, swimming in the sea. children in sun hats building sandcastles.

- - See all the photos here.

craft camp

Like Kate said in her craft camp post, I also feel like I've taken all taken all the photos and said all words about how fabulous and delicious craft camp is a million times before. So all I am left with now is the remembrance of the sweet anticipation, the joy and ease of actually being there with some of my favourite people - who I met on the internet - and the tinge of sadness that comes when it is over for a year. This  sadness about craft camp being over is also amplified by the sadness I feel now that my Queensland holiday has been and gone too. And I have a cold that I probably caught on the plane going up. And I have to go back to grinchy old work on Tuesday. I've had my fun and now it is back to real life, which although it has patches of fun, also requires me to do grown up things and washing. Yes, please bring out the violins. . . .
Spring had sprung in Lancefield. The trees were bare but budding, there were daffodils and blossom everywhere and some intermittent blue skies. In between all the magnificent food, snacks and interesting conversations I did get some sewing done. There was remake of a clothes swap skirt into a spindle dress for Grace, a school cponcert outfit for Grace, a remake of an old sun dress into a spindle top for me. I remade it because the dress no longer fit around my breast. I'd hacked it a few times but I love the fabric and I'm pleased to have it in a form I can wear now. Wore it heaps in Queensland. Also made a pair of summer pants which were great but failed and a cardigan which I love but is a bit beige so maybe into the dye pot with that one.

A dirty (as in well loved but also implying a certain amount of scampiness) little Sylvanian rabbit also appeared in my thread box. She had been missed when Sue's daughters gave away all their other Sylvanians once they became too old for them. Grace was absolutely delighted to welcome the little rabbit into her Sylvanian family, who are all about to move into a new purpose built house. She was perhaps even more excited about the dirty little rabbit than the clothes. Oh well.

bye bye toothless terror

I took this photo, along with some others, a couple of weeks ago and at first Grace was pretty reluctant about it. When they came off the camera we looked at them together and I asked her if I could put one of the photos on my blog because mum thinks starting to get your new front teeth is pretty special. She thought for a bit and chose this one. There's been a fair bit of attention on these teeth. She's had a two tooth gap for quite a while - even her beloved teacher referred to her as a toothless terror - and has been missing one of the teeth since she lost it in a backyard scooter accident when she was three.
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I've had this awful worry at times that the broken tooth might not grow back, perhaps I misheard something the dentist at the Children's said. Anyway the teeth are nearly full sized now and they look big and very white. Perhaps a little big for her mouth but I'm assuming that she will grow into them. And hopefully not need braces but I'm not that optimistic about that.

It's funny but just as her big teeth are coming in, Grace seems to have reached a new level of maturity. She is really enjoying helping me prepare Friday night dinner (which often involves meat she chooses at the supermarket with her dad) and the the other night she chopped up all the vegetables using the rather sharp chef's knife I bought for her to use. I really enjoy it too, she is a genuine help and we chat the whole time. Grace is also learning to wear jeans rather than just skirts and tights and can do her own hair in a number of cute styles. Her bed is full of books and she loves to read before going to sleep. She still loves a big cuddle but also likes to discuss things in more detail.  It's really rather a lovely stage, I know I say that about all the stages but it is.

feel so, so different

Trigger warning- a bit of reflection on those horrid suicidal thoughts.
Yesterday kicked off with a book parade. Lots of kids wearing put together at home costumes (as requested by the school), teachers in fabulous costume and the Principal dressed as captain underpants. I remembered how last year I had felt really sad going past another school on the bus as all the kids arrived in their book week costumes. So I put it on the agenda for school council but then a book character parade happened quickly before we even got to the meeting. It's grown from there and it was such sweet fun. I am really pleased about that. We also opened the new library and that's another thing I'm glad we have back at the school. It's humble but it can evolve.
- After the school shenanigans I went into town to pick my other new pair of boots. They are still a little tight so am wearing with thick socks and leather stretch. And admiring how beautiful they are. They had better fit because they are my perfect short boot. Also been thinking about going to Queensland. Having a week off and have convinced work to let me take a week of flex as well - accrued as I pointed out by staying back and seeing customers after others had left. I have totally earned that week. But Queensland would be expensive, even more expensive the two pairs of  boots, new clothes and books. I could afford to go to Queensland (without putting it on the credit card) for a few days and hang out with my sister and the cousins at a hotel with a pool but I have been saving and I dislike seeing that number go down - even if it is temporary. Now I am not depressed, suddenly all I want to do is spend money, it seems. Last weekend mum thought I was a little high but I don't think I am. I certainly don't want that to be the case as it feels rather good. Sometimes I feel like I come across differently, that I am somehow not quite me. A bit more assertive, a bit more jolly, a bit more gung ho, some strange expressions. But I don't really feel that way. No, not at all.
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I feel as though a big porous boulder of sadness and surrounding stones of anxiety have been removed from inside my body. The suicidal thoughts are gone. Including the usual random background thoughts. All gone. I wonder why that is, because those very low level thoughts have been with me as background for as long as I can remember. They don't often get to the scary level and I have only ever felt like acting on those kinds of thoughts once before, in my thirties, when I had a what I now see as a manic low. After work I would hole up in my bedroom to smoke bongs while listening to Nirvana. Wearing a well washed flanny shirt and ugg boots. At work I baked cakes as tears streamed down my face. My family intervened and I got some really good help. But now I am curious as to why I felt like that both these times, why do I have these thoughts at all? Can I banish them for ever? I feel like I have to understand this as when I look back at that awful week, it horrifies me. Now I feel well again, I have plans for the house and for a business. I feel like I can do things and I am surrounded by good people I love and who love me. So much to live for.

So yeah, I'll take this little white pill with the terrible reputation. At least until I feel like I don't need it any more. And then if it turns out I really did need it then I will take it again. I asked my doctor why she prescribed this rather than a new anti psychotic and she said that she had seen it work in similar circumstances on the ward and she thought it might work for me. I had one of those moments when I thought about her experience and learning and exposure to lots of other crazy people and realise, yes that's why I pay you the big bucks. That's why it's worth it. Of course I might well be fighting with her again once the drug honeymoon wears off but she's helped me get out of that hole, more or less intact. I'm thankful for that.
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It seems like a few things are coming together for me right now. After I watched this video, well I've watched it several times now and the first time it made me cry, I went and bought Susan Cain's book Quiet. I don't think I've ever pretended that I'm not an introvert, even when I have wished I was otherwise, but I don't think I've ever been able to place a value on introversion. Indeed I've always felt there was something wrong with me and perhaps because our culture places a high value on extrovert qualities. I've often wished I was different, less wrong, more extroverted. Reading this book is helping me articulate why I need to leave my job eventually, why it is bad for me. It's ironic that the aspect of my work that I am best at and enjoy the most - interviewing - and which adds the most value to the organisation, is not something I can do all day, day after day in a big noisy open plan office. To stay in that job would mean that I could probably only ever work part time and even then it's unlikely to be good for my well being. I've been trying to think about whether the job could be redesigned to suit me better but somehow I don't think that is a possibility. Never mind, I have plans and if they don't work out then I'll think of something else.

Thank you for all your kind wishes on my last post. It was really lovely to feel heard and read.

let's just stop and see what happens

This post comes with a TMI warning - also triggers for suicidal thoughts. 
Until this week, when I started to feel much, much better, every couple of days I have looked through this blog of mine for clues. Because I've always written about my mental health issues one way or another and it serves a a useful personal history for me in this way. I've been asking myself, have I ever felt this bad before? Has this year really been this shite? Why now? What am I doing so wrong? And at a certain point last week I would have said, Janet you are doing everything so very wrong, nothing you can do will ever be right, and so on. Thoughts of ending it all came tumbling through my mind, often at breakneck speed. At first I could recognise these thoughts for the utter evil they were and remind myself of the great loves in my life and my responsibilities but as the week progressed, there were these other thoughts that it would be like sinking into a big soft bed with clean sheets followed by the most blissful nothing ever. Luckily on the worst day, G was around and I asked him not to leave me alone and he didn't. That made me feel a little better but it was still pretty horrible and although things have been a bit tenuous, what with work, school politics, winter and various life decisions not moving along as fast as I would like, my mood went from a bit blah into a hideous crazy downwards spiral within a week and a bit. It was so bad that my doctor and psychiatrist spoke about me on the phone to each other and at one point my doctor was asking me whether I felt like I needed to be in hospital. That shocked me. Still, even though it would have been public hospital, the idea had some appeal. I decided that I would be OK at home but it did really shock me that he asked.








A month or so ago, at the direction of my psychiatrist, I stopped taking one of my medications and as it wasn't a big dose, there wasn't much of a plan about it. Let's just stop and see what happens, she said. After a few days I stopped sleeping properly and then the sleep became worse and after a few nights of much missed sleep I started to get that feeling you do after you've been out partying all night and still go to work the next day. Kind of stretched taught, greasy and a bit trippy. I took a day off work and went to see my doctor. He prescribed some valium which seemed to do the trick. The next week at work wasn't great - there was a day when I turned on my computer in the morning and burst into tears - but other than that it was bearable enough.

Over the next weekend though, my mind started to go to total crap. At the follow up appointment with my doctor, the one where I blurted out how bad things really were inside my head, I agreed to go and see my psychiatrist. Luckily I was able to get an appointment a day later. It was a pretty intense discussion and she seemed to think I had been a bit angry about the decision to go off the other medication and to be honest I guess I would rather be fat and getting on with my life than crazy and not, so while I understood the reasons for not taking the zyprexa any more, yes, I was a bit pissed off. That said, I would have been happy to go off it and just be on the lithium but that doesn't seem to do the trick for me at the moment. Anyway she also had the theory that I might be one of those people who are sensitive to valium, that it may have been disinhibiting in some way and that this may have caused the rapid downwards spiral. She prescribed me another anti psychotic - one so old school that I had to go to three chemists before I found someone that stocked it. I didn't want to take the medication because in my mind bipolar is fine and all very well as long as I am controlling my symptoms. However when I have symptoms or things go wrong, it is so unpleasant and demeaning that I have a big issue with the diagnosis itself. It didn't help when the fill in team leader at work suggested that despite having a doctor's certificate that I might feel better if I came in and did some work from the carer's room, because that would make (depressed) me feel better. Urgh. Anyway I have stuck with the new medication, even increasing to the maximum recommended by the psychiatrist and despite feeling a bit in la la land (which could well pass in a week or two), I am feeling much, much  better. No horrible thoughts. I've been able to drive, go to work, laugh a bit and contemplate the future with hope again.

yeehah! we will have a high school in Coburg!

On Tuesday night while wishing a friend happy birthday on Facebook, I noticed that my friend Cate had already typed a message under her birthday wish "Some of us got you a little something today for your birthday - a High School for Coburg!" I nearly fell off my chair. 

Apparently Cate (the woman G and I have always said will be responsible for getting us a high school) received a call from The Age asking if we were celebrating yet? The journalist revealed the exciting news that the Minister for Education, Martin Dixon was about to announce the decision to expand Coburg Senior High School to include years 7 -12 in 2015. An hour so later she got another call from the DEECD who confirmed this great news including a process of community consultation. So on Wednesday morning I got up early to read this article in The AgeCampaigners win fight: Coburg will have a high school. Tears streamed down my face. Grace came in and gave me a cuddle and told me how great she thought it was that she'd be able to go to high school with her friends from primary school. I posted a link to the article and was surprised at how many people are online at 6.30am.

hsc campign
Mosaic showing some of the HSC working party and some of our protest actions
This exciting news has rippled through our community with hugs and celebrations. There's an afternoon tea planned at our primary school, a working party drinks next week and then a family and community celebration on the 29th. There wasn't any warning of the announcement, no bureaucratic softening that I was aware of and in some moments it doesn't seem quite real yet but really, it is a total game changer. Grace and all the kids at her school will have the option of going to a well equipped high school a 15 - 20 walk away and a  5-10 minute bike ride away. No 40 minute commute. No catching the school bus to Reservoir, the bus and tram to Brunswick or Carlton, the tram to Northcote or the train to Collingwood. All these schools have great things going for them and if we decided that Grace should go there it would now be because of what they offered being the best choice for Grace at the time (there are also likely to be more spaces for entry on curriculum grounds too now). But suddenly the local option is there and it feels like a great choice. The right choice. Funnily enough having the local high school option is also making me feel better about some of the things I don't love about her primary school. I don't know how that works, but there it is. It seems the news has also spread like wildfire amongst the local real estate agents. Not that it makes any difference to us because we have no plans to move, but I expect house prices in the area will rise. And also people will be less inclined to leave. It's all good.


I've also been reflecting on my part in all this. Coming on the back of the pool campaign, I initially resisted becoming involved with HSC. In the end though, I really thought they needed a more easy to update website and I liked hanging out with Cate and I wanted a high school, so I put my hand up. Over the last few years, I've tended not to be one for meetings and as I have discovered, I actually don't much like meetings. But I do like taking photos and messing about with blogger, scribd, flickr, Facebook and Mailchimp. The good thing about having a website is that it gives you a way to collect your history as a group, to positively express what the group is about and to tell your story. Using Mailchimp enabled us to get more of that story out to more people but I think it was Facebook where our supporters really engaged. I didn't know that much about Facebook pages in the beginning and neither did Cate but she took to it like a natural. I guess the website was like the library and Facebook was like the common room. You need both. I've learnt heaps and I'm thinking that by doing those things I like, I've made a contribution. And I'm going to stick my head out here and say that I'm proud of that. However, I do recognise that we absolutely need the people who tirelessly go to meetings and talk with politicians and bureaucrats. People who don't give up when the meetings are difficult or unpleasant. Without those people and their efforts, nothing changes. Cate and the others in the working party have done that brilliantly and I'm tremendously grateful to them. But I'm quite pleased to have been in the background doing my thing too.


Yeehah! High School for Coburg in 2015!

good things, not so good things

good things
I know I'm being repetitious but making a new doona cover for Grace out of two old sheets last week was pretty ace. Not only does she love it but it involved an afternoon with Nana with chicken sandwiches and banana cake for lunch. And she got to have a go on the little sewing machine and be helped to make a matching pillow case.

- There is movement on the extension front, our loan application is in (after huge amounts of paperwork that I found totally daunting which is weird because I do heaps of paperwork at work) and we have had the initial meeting with the council. I'm picking the heritage approval will be the trickiest but I am optimistic that we could start work before Christmas or early in the new year.

Eating brussels sprouts with potato and tinned salmon for lunch. The brussels sprouts were on special at the supermarket and they were smallish and very sweet.

- Putting the blanket I've been crocheting on the bed and realising that a) it is more than half done and b) I like it. This has seen a renewed interest in finishing the project which will mean I can then do something else. I've realised I can't focus on multiple projects on the go.

Lots of reading so far this year. At the moment I am reading Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow and quite enjoying. Before that I read Kate Grenville's The Secret River and loved it, reading it in big page skimming gulps - will need to reread. Also pleased to know that there are sequels to look out for.  Grace is reading chapter books now so among other things, I am buying books I read as a child - Little House on the Prairie and Famous Five. Also enjoying reading some kids books we didn't have, like the Rowan of Rin series.  Haven't written up my reading yet, and all the read books are in a pile beside my desk, but my goodness I feel better for reading.


not so good things
Eating lunch in the tea room upstairs (I am one of the few downstairs people who eats there) and having the thought that I could just climb up onto the balcony edge and topple face first into the street below and then I wouldn't have to go back for the afternoon hell shift. I dismissed this thought as a stupid fantasy but it was disturbing nonetheless.

- Worry about what I am going to do next. Are my ideas plausible and realistic? Will I be able to get another job if my other plans don't work out? Knowing that things need to/will change and being totally fearful about it. This gets worse as time goes on - there is something to be said for just taking the plunge I suppose.

It's cold and damp. Feck, I loathe winter. Lord knows how I would go living somewhere that has a real, utterly cold winter with ice and snow.

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I think it's important to note here, that there are more good bits than bad.

school holidays, so far

Sort of snuck up on me these school holidays did. When I had the negotiation about leave at work, I really didn't think that I'd be there still. Anyway I am glad I asked for them, as my evil plans to leave seem to be moving and developing very slowly. Oh well.
- On Monday, we launched right into the school holiday activity plan with a trip to the Aquarium. Grace, me and mum. It was bitterly cold that morning as it has been every morning this week - so much so that I resist getting up to the most stupid degree. Grace was extremely excited to be going to the aquarium for the second time (ever) and I had never been so I was quite keen. Once we got there, it was OK. I mean I like fish and sharks well enough but the aquarium kind of lacks the wow factor of the zoo, or even the museum. It was also confusing to work out what was where, the map was shite and unlike Australia Zoo there never seemed to be anyone to ask. But yeah, it was OK. I liked the sharks swimming overhead and the big rays and the jellyfish. And I got a good deal with tickets online so I didn't feel ripped off.
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- My camera battery died half way through the excusrsion which was a pity as I was enjoying that aspect of it. But I am pleased to have captured the jelly fish. And one of the many visitors taking pictures with their iphone.

On Tuesday we went and had our first meeting with the council about the extension which is at present being designed by the age old method of yelling and fighting. The meeting will be one of many I suspect. Yikes. Yesterday we went to Preston market and made a banana cake. Today we had Nana over for some sewing. I made a doona cover and Grace sewed a pillow case. They turned out pretty well with the absolute minimum of swearing.She was extremely happy to have them on her bed tonight. However I would have to say that this holiday is not as relaxing as I thought it would be.

5 reasons to love craft camp - even though I could probably think of 100

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1. I get to hang out with my people. My lady friends from the computer as I explain to Grace. You know who you are and you are all awesome and totally special. It is lovely to sit and chat, to catch up, to be silly and serious.
2. Removal from family. Gerard drove me up and as Grace had a pupil free day we turned it into family fun at the opshop and in downtown Lancefield. It was great until the day started to fritter away and it was time to be at Sewjourn. Luckily they were keen to make a move too.
3. Food. We say this everytime but it s great everytime. One meal. The rest get cooked for you, beautifully with love and care. Why can't real life be more like this?
4. Making stuff. Sometimes for me the craft gets a bit periperal but this time I came away with a mended long woollen house skirt, a bag of jumpers zip up top, a hoody for Grace - which she likes!, a denim skirt and an unwearable green top. It wasn't cut on the straight and it looks funny. Yeah, you win some and lose some. I also made some project bags for my knitting and started a pair of socks.
5. Taking pictures. They're all here. Actually that was a bit of a highlight for me this time. Especially the fog. I wish I'd taken some more standing in the middles of the road but it didn't seem such a good idea at the time as the fog was quite thick.

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always a little behind....

Craft camp was lovely but I haven't uploaded the photos yet. Always a little behind. It was hard going back to work last week and although Tuesday was crazy busy, being the day after a public holiday,Thursday was the worst for me. I was so angry after a customer provoked me that I needed to leave the floor to prevent explosion. I was well supported in this but it was not nice to be sitting in the tea room alternating between tears and rage. Particularly as I don't want to be there at all.

I think it would be fair to say that I am not doing my job with a view to the future any more. That I have let go already. I'm still trying to get it right but I am certainly not sweating the small stuff. It frustrates me that I am still there but we are working towards getting some things organised before I leave. Just need to hang on a little longer.

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I am finding that I feel OK, even sometimes pretty good, on the anti psychotic (olanzapine). Despite feeling hungry and thirsty all the time, creaky and sore in my bones and a bit sleepy and dull, the positives of olanzapine are well, quite positive. I sleep, I'm calm, I certainly don't have racing thoughts and thoughts about throwing myself into incoming traffic are much much less frequent. I still feel a level of tension - but it's distant. Nonetheless I feel that if I am working and stop taking the olanzapine then I would be messy again within a month or two. If I wasn't working then I think I could stop without too many ill effects. I also have this feeling at the moment that I really want to stop work because I don't like it at all any more and that I need to stop work because it is harming me. It's very hard to separate the two - the not liking work is such a strong feeling that it has become intertwined with all the other feelings. Sometimes I feel like I should just suck it up, that I am being a brat and why would I want to leave a secure job with good pay, good hours, generous super, doing useful work, and of course it's so close to home? Friends at work and not at work can both see why I want to leave. No-one has said leaving is a crazy idea. Quite the opposite.

Next time craft camp photos.

holding pattern

I don't really know what to say here. I've been back at work. Parts of it were shit and included asking for help, not receiving it and crying. Parts were nothing, much of it was quite dull and spent wishing I were somewhere else. It doesn't help that I've pretty much decided that I want to leave. It's just the when and how that keep getting twisted about and I supposed I need to keep going through the motions and doing the best I can until all the pieces come together and the way forward is a bit clearer.

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It's making me despondent though. Back when I was off work and started imagining possibilities of what I might do and how I might earn a crust, I felt a lot more positive. About life, about family, about pretty much everything. People are being supportive of my decisions and choices but somehow that has me feeling stuck and moving slowly through various actions. Much to my horror, I really do need to be a grown up and stick it out just a bit longer. Funnily another possibility surfaced in my mind after an interview with a customer who was telling me about their course. But as the days settle in to mid winter greyness and the increased medication regime takes hold, the possibilities fade away and all I really want to do is sleep. And on the way home from work, I look at the lines of speeding traffic on its way to somewhere other than here and think well, there's a quick way out. Of course I wouldn't do that, but the very thought is kind of disturbing nonetheless. I know that change is imminent, because things cannot stay like they are.

Luckily I've got something very fine to look forward to next weekend.

Queensland holiday photos

I'm making some progress moving through all the stuff on my to-do list. Some of it good, some of it painful (either in the boring I don't want to do this sense or in the I wish things were different sense). Working through the holiday photos was actually pretty easy and fun once I got started. Although there were some I wish things were different and I could see Betty and the girls more often and without shelling out for interstate travel thoughts. It could be worse, they could have moved overseas but still I'm working hard to maintain some degree of rose tinting in my glasses.

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That's the girls with the bronzed Steve Irwin family at Australia Zoo. They would have liked to see Bindi but we just missed that one. Australia Zoo was great,quite expensive but great. And every time some one needed to go to the toilet, one just had to turn around and there one be one nearby. Quite a useful feature when out with children. The animals were also extreme nice looking and their cages had that raked gravel look. We asked a keeper who was playing with some cuddly looking Tasmanian devils and she said that they don't let them fight and they are groomed everyday. I don't know whether that is a good thing from the animal point of view but it all felt very well run.

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There were lots of animals and the like to have photos taken on and they loved this one of the crocodile. We went to one of the shows with the crocodiles and birds and it was very entertaining. Especially the way the birds of prey swooped in to the arena. The crocodiles were pretty scary too.

The girls played pretty well and once again they seemed very sure of their cousinly relationship. Maeve had her first go with my camera and took a surprisingly OK photo of me. I miss them already and have been making plans to visit again in the not too distant future. Perhaps in conjunction with a holiday that has a pool and a mini bar. We'll see closer to the time because we are also thinking the winter desert and hot springs with a side trip.

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Work last week was pretty bad and I lasted two days which I actually think was quite good going, all things considered. I suppose I did make it worse by saying what I think on one occasion but bugger it, what are they going to do, sack me? Thursday I didn't go to work as I didn't really sleep and all on Wednesday and I was a mess. Not to mention tired. But too racy to sleep during the day. Oh well, I have a doctor's appointment on Friday and various other things on the go. Next week should be fun. But I think it will get better after that.

unicorn blood and more crazy times

I've been a bit unwell. Again. A few weeks (months?) of dodgy sleep a week at work where I had an awful couple of days due to being so very, very tired, followed by a weekend where I missed a few nights sleep and then Tuesday morning when the alarm went, and there I was already wide awake with countless thoughts racing through my head. Again. For the third out of five nights. (The other two nights I had gone to sleep with a fair amount of vodka - lithivod mmmm- which my doctor agrees is not a prudent long term strategy) Decided not to go to work and I think my shrink thought I was putting it on, but she suggested I go back on the anti psychotics nonetheless. Went back to work on the Thursday and lasted less than ten minutes before I was standing in front of a team leader trying really hard not cry, not succeeding, and waving my arms around. Ushered into the room with tissues and sent home. Actually, work have been reasonably decent but my doctor, well - I'm having some doubts. And it's very hard when you're feeling fragmented and vulnerable to make sensible decisions about anything, particularly when the very thing you use to make decisions - your brain - is not working as well as it might. And if you start taking zyprexa again, particularly at a significant dose, well you will feel a bit better when the racing thoughts stop and you get some sleep but you may also feel like you've been kicked in the head every day for a while. And for me other symptoms like anxiety take a little while to calm down. Hence the somewhat unpleasant kicked in the head creek walk where I saw a snake in every rustle, even though my rational self knows it is too cold for snakes.

Anyway, the drugs are working properly now, I've had a good stretch of sleep and although I have a cold, I feel pretty good. However because this is the third episode in just over 6 months, I've made some decisions. First, I am going to start looking for a new doctor. Second, I'm going to find out whether there are any other health issues affecting me - hello peri-menopause? And three, well three is really big and complicated - I'm looking into doing something about my work. This time work wasn't the cause or trigger for the episode but it certainly doesn't help me feel any better in general. Need to sit with that a bit and see how I feel in a few weeks but yes, thinking about work big time. TMI? Yes? Unicorn time? I thought so.
"Death of the Unicorn" by Amy C. Reed
Grace and lolled around this afternoon and watched the first Harry Potter DVD again. I liked it well enough the first time around but on the second viewing I got so much more. And how did I not pick up the unicorn scene last time? And why does the reference to unicorn blood seem so apt?
From here
"...it is a monstrous thing, to slay a unicorn. Only one who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, would commit such a crime. The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price. You have slain something pure and defenceless to save yourself, and you will have but a half-life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips."—Firenze explains to Harry Potter why the slaying of a unicorn is a crime.[src]
We have decided that it is time to move onto the next Harry Potter DVD and to start reading the books. Although I am re reading Little House on the Prairie (wasn't able to find Little House in Big Woods at the library) at the moment and I am enjoying it every bit as much as I did when I was a child, maybe even more. So maybe I need to decide which series to go with for the moment. Or not. Maybe we can live in both worlds at once.

some things I didn't blog about

I forgot to blog about craft camp way back in March. Of course, it was excellent as usual. Good company, good food and lots of time at the sewing machine faffing around with sylvanian costumes and toys for the fete our school is yet to have. There is now less time to wait for the next craft camp than has passed since the last one. Sure I have been busy but my slackitutude with blogging amazes even me.

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I fully intended to blog about Grace's first tap dancing performance. Grace was keen enough to take the initiative and ask Miss Caroline about being in it. While I was at craft camp I think. Even though she had only been tap dancing for four weeks or so. But I needn't have worried, Caroline has it set up so it is fun and inclusive and although there's no real pressure there is enough excitement that the kids all do their best. I had all sorts of proud mum moments and may have even shed a small tear or two.

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Every year I blog about Grace's birthday and how pleased I am that she is growing up and how I want to spend time with her as a baby/toddler/small child again. Now I'm still a little nostalgic every now and then but mostly I just love spending time with my girl. She's smart, loving, kind, funny and generally pretty good company. I like it that we don't have to do any of that bottom stuff any more, that she can get off a bus or a tram and that she can read a story book to her cousins. Not so pleased when she reads my Facebook over my shoulder but we're working on that. Happy sevens Grace.

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This year for Grace's party we had three friends over for a slumber party. We had dinner outside on one of the last balmy nights for the season and I thought I had made the most kid friendly meal imaginable after consultation with Grace but not so. Anyway. More pavlova for the pavlova lovers. After dinner and a pinata, the kids took heaps of books out to the tent and read by torchlight until they were ready to go to sleep. They slept all night in the tent without any issues at all. When they got up, G made them toast and then I made pancakes with raspberries. Then they all went off to another party.

I stayed home and got ready to go to Queensland. Which will have to be another post because I haven't done the photos yet. There, that wasn't so hard was it?