Wednesday, 17 June 2015

So Anyway...

If anyone in my family starts a call, text or email with 'So anyway...' you know some variety of shit is about to get some degree of real.

'So anyway... I think I broke my finger...'

'So anyway... my car caught on fire...'

'So anyway... it turns out that my doctor moonlights as a dominatrix...'

OK, only the first example is something that really happened but you get the picture.
We all do it.
Even me.

So anyway... it turns out I have Fibromyalgia.

If you've perused the murky depths of this blog you may seen a few blog posts (one, or two, or three) about when I got sick about four years ago.

Long story short: my arms got all warm and weird, my grip got a bit weak, my back was sore, my stomach went mental and for about three months at the start of 2011 it was no fun at all.
Everything slowly calmed down but it took at least another three months for everything to settle and for me to start feeling like I was getting back to normal, even if 'normal' meant that walking a kilometre left me a bit shagged out and exhausted for a while.

In between mid-2011 and the end of 2014 I was A-OK, no symptoms, no relapses, no mystery illnesses.
Life was pretty normal.

End of last year stuff started getting weird again.
It started with a couple of twinges in my hand, like I had smacked it on something and forgotten about it, a feeling like a slight bruise.
Around the start of December my the heel of my left hand on the little finger side got rather sore, it puffed up a bit and the tendon/muscle/whatever running up the side got a bit pissed off. I saw my doctor, popped a support on it, and it calmed down.
The doctor and I thought I'd had a little relapse of my mystery illness but had managed to head it off at the pass.

But then my arms got a bit warm again, my guts got on board with the madness, and my hands decided they were going to feel sore from time to time.

This was all a bit freaky.

Every time things seemed to be improving, they'd get worse or do something weird which threw me off balance again.

Several times up until March it seemed like everything was settling down but then it would flare up again.
The ache in my arm got worse and didn't react well to shit like me trying to type for long or at any kind of speed.

In March my doctor put me on some anti-inflammatories.
I made the mistake of reading the side effects list in the literature, my body decided to throw in some aches which suggested I was reacting badly to the anti-inflammatories.
I got nervous and went off them while my doctor sent off some blood samples to test my kidney function and a few other things.
While I was off the anti-inflammatories my knees and ankles started aching.
My tests came back clear, I went back on the anti-inflammatories but my arms, knees and ankles kept aching. In the case of my knees they started getting worse to the point that during April I couldn't move much faster than a hobble.

It was about this point that I started going off the mental health tracks a bit, though I didn't realise it at the time.

My train of thought went:
  • I am on anti-inflammatories
  • I am still getting worse.
  • I am getting worse reasonably quickly.
  • Therefore I have something progressive.
  • Something aggressively progressive.
  • This is going to get worse.
  • I am not going to be able to take care of myself.
  • I am going to have to depend on my family.
  • There goes a whole bunch of stuff I might have chosen to do with my life.

No matter what I did I couldn't stop thinking about it.

If there was anything I did or failed to do which had led me to get sick in the first place.

If there was anything I did or didn't do after recovering the first time that had led me to this relapse.

If there was anything the doctor should have done that they hadn't done.

If there was a version of me off in the multiverse who had managed to make the right decisions who was living a pain-free, able-bodied life while I was fighting to get myself up and down a couple of stairs.

I started obsessively cataloguing my various symptoms, convinced that if I could just tell my doctor enough things that she would finally have a Dr House moment and be able to tell me what was happening.

Especially be able to tell me what was happening in a timely enough fashion to maybe stop it from getting worse before it was too late.

I had stopped exercising because I had no idea whether I was aggravating my joints which seemed to already be pretty angry at me.

This was not helpful, especially as walking was what I had done to make me feel in control of my situation and like I was doing something to improve my health the last time I got sick.

Sometime in March I made an appointment to see a Rheumatologist but due to the demands on their time the first appointment I could get was mid-May.

In the meantime I had seen the doctor and the physio and they had both told me that I couldn't damage myself by walking.

My doctor had ordered some more blood tests and my rheumatoid factor and a few other inflammatory indicators had come back in the normal range, along with a few other things that indicated I didn't in fact have a degenerative condition.

My physio had inspected my knees and told me that the joints seemed fine and weren't warm or swollen, they just weren't moving quite as smoothly as some of the muscles had tensed up but that walking wasn't a bad idea.

I'd even seen a hand physio about my various aches and pains and weak feeling grip and according to her my hands were mechanically sound and even though my grip felt weak it was actually in the normal range for my age.

So I started walking again, slowly and carefully so as not to push it or piss my body off.

I started seeing a psychologist because I had finally clued in to the fact that I was not coping with this situation at all.

The thing that had finally tipped me off was that I had started crying.
A lot.
For me at least.
For me crying is usually a once or twice a year thing.
Nothing that dramatic usually happens in my life and when I get normal level sad or angry or depressed I usually watch something or read something until I've calmed down enough to deal with it and by that point I'm unlikely to cry.
I was cry-sploding on a couple of my friends on the regular.
When something sad happened in a TV show my eyes would fill up.
If a sad song came on the radio my lip would wobble.

When I'd gotten sick the first time my doctor had mentioned the possibility of relapse in the future but my first illness had been: arms were weird for maybe a month, guts were mad for about four months, my energy levels were down over about six months.
There had been absolutely no talk of my arms and legs crapping out on me.
I had been aware of and braced for the possibility of a life that was affected by more long-term gut troubles, not from a life where I couldn't cook because I couldn't push hard enough to chop vegetables and I couldn't clean my own house because pushing the vacuum cleaner did not seem like a viable prospect.I had not at all been ready for this, not even remotely.

I went to the psychologist, I sobbed and snotted all the way through my first appointment, emptied out an entire tissue box and left the appointment feeling a bit lighter and less tunnel vision-y.

I had been improving slowly but steadily since I started walking and talking to the psych but I was still moving slowly and feeling a bit sore.

Finally May came around and my lovely aunt who is a nurse came to my rheumatology appointment with me.

I described the first time I got sick.
I described the second time I got sick.
The rheumatologist asked me a bunch of relevant questions.
She tested my joints.
She inspected the muscles that had been aching.
She got me to sit back down.
And she told me that it looked like I had Fibromyalgia.

My first reaction was to say 'fuck' because, fuck, I have a thing that has a name.

But then she told me that despite the discomfort they were feeling at the moment my joints were actually fine - oh thank God.
My muscles were not damaged either - double thanks, double God.
That the pain and stiffness I was feeling was because my pain system was sending exaggerated messages to my brain and my muscles were tightening up to protect my knees from an injury they hadn't sustained.

Fibromyalgia doesn't have a cure but it can be managed.
The three key things to do to manage it are:
  • get regular exercise
  • consider medication
  • manage stress as stress can exacerbate the symptoms

I had started with the regular exercise, the medication that my doctor had prescribed me to help me sleep* was actually a medication that is also prescribed for Fibromyalgia, and I had started seeing the psych so I had already started doing things to manage my condition without knowing I was doing it.

When I had recovered after my first episode I had managed to stay symptom-free for over three years just by exercising regularly, taking care of myself and not stressing out.
Of course at the time I didn't know I had anything to stress about so that was actually kind of handy.

After I got past the 'oh fuck' reaction to having something that had a name, the sense of relief was massive.
It had a name.
I had a list of Do's and Don't's.
I could stop second guessing myself.
I could build a plan of attack.

85% of my stress was gone, pretty much immediately.
I felt completely off balance but also like a great weight had come off of me.

My aunt told me that the next week would probably be a bit rough as a I went on a rollercoaster that went from 'yay, I have answers' to 'argh why me?' back to 'yay I have answers' but honestly apart from a couple of moments in the first couple of days after my diagnosis, most of what I have felt has been relief and a sense of regaining my balance and control over the situation.

So yeah.

That's what's been up with me.

I didn't want to write about it while it was at its worst because:
a) my arms and hands hurt so typing was not a great idea;
b) I didn't want to risk people commenting with anecdotes about friends or family members, or looking up shit on WebMD for me that would freak me out; and
c) when I feel stressed or freaked out the last thing I want is for people to know about it, I want to retreat like a little hermit crab into my shell until I feel calmer and stronger.

Since my diagnosis I have been exercising regularly, I have some physio exercises I've been given to strengthen the muscles that support my joints so that if they flare up again they won't get as bad because they'll be better protected, I've been sleeping better, and my psych is helping me put together some strategies to keep my from freaking out the next time I potentially have an episode.

The muscles around my knees have almost completely calmed down, though I'm still a bit more aware of my knees and ankles and they still ache a bit at the moment.
My arms are doing a lot better though my forearms do get a bit ache-y sometimes if I type fast for an extended period of time.
My guts have been fine for months, thankfully.

Essentially I'm doing OK.

'Slow but steady' is my mantra at the moment and it seems to be doing the trick.

I don't know if I'm going to get all the way back to symptom-free again this time.
If I do, I don't know if I'm likely to have episodes crop up in the future as we can't pinpoint what would have triggered either of the ones I've experienced so far.
Even at their worst, my experiences so far have been more about persistent discomfort and reduced mobility than chronic pain so I know I'm a lot luckier than some other people who have more intense symptoms on a more permanent basis.

At the moment I'm just focusing on doing my Do's and avoiding my Don't's, taking care of myself and keeping my head on straight.

And yeah, I'm doing OK.

TL;DR: The human immune system is a weirdo that sometimes does dumb things.

*My physio had asked me how I was sleeping when I went to see her. I said fine. She said that was good as I should keep an eye on that because insufficient sleep can lead to low serotonin levels and possibly to depression. That very night I started to have interrupted sleep, that continued as problems getting to sleep at night, waking up multiple times, waking up early before my alarm and I felt deeply deeply betrayed by this as 'sleep until you feel better' was a time-honoured family response to all varieties of illness that had abandoned me like a jerk-ass.
I have no idea if it was just bad timing or if I'm as impressionable as a wet lump of clay but it wasn't fun.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Sedentary Society?

I was reading an article which says that Australians are becoming less and less likely to move interstate for school or work or anything really.

It was one of those things that was both surprising and unsurprising.

My family is one of the ones that has moved for work before.

I was born in Melbourne, my family relocated to Canberra before I was 1, stayed there until I was about 8 (long enough for my brother and sister to be be born in the same place), and then moved to Coffs Harbour. We stayed there long enough for me to finish primary school, then moved back to Victoria in time for me to start high school.

And there we stayed.
I got to complete high school in one place, my sister got to attend both primary school and high school in one place, while my brother finished primary school and then went through high school without another shift.

Each of the moves had been prompted by my father's job, when new positions or promotions became available.

There was a point when I was in high school where we might have moved to Tasmania but Dad either didn't apply for the position or didn't get it.
At the time I was glad because I was a stubborn teenager who wanted to stay with my friends.
Now I'm kinda wondering what life would have been like if we'd made that move as well.

The thing is my father had a job in the public service.Even before the advent of the internet they had a pretty good listing of jobs that was available internally so you knew what was available.
I assume you either interviewed locally and a report was passed on or you were interviewed by phone back when that was the only sensible option*.

And THAT is the point my brain got all hooked up on initially when I read the article.

'How the shit are you supposed to get a job in another state?' I thought.

'Are you going to bung along your resumes, then go on some kind of interview roadtrip?'

'What kind of employers are going to be comfortable hiring someone who isn't local?'

'What if you get there and you don't like the town?'

These are all thoughts that, as a person who has friends who interview for jobs in other countries and then bugger off overseas when they get them, I was a bit surprised to find myself having.

If they could do it back when all job postings were by newspaper and employment agency then obviously they can do it now, we just don't.
Maybe because there is a part of our brains that is still rattling along, unobserved by the conscious mind, still thinking this shit.

'How the shit are you supposed to get a job in another state?'
Search for jobs in your field online and apply for them, durr.

'Are you going to bung along your resumes, then go on some kind of interview roadtrip?'
Well what with these magical advances in technology, any employer willing to hire someone from out of state would be willing to interview you by ye olde phone or videoconference over Skype or Viber or another similar program.

'What kind of employers are going to be comfortable hiring someone who isn't local?'
Well some employers would be fine with it, others wouldn't.
A lot of government organisations, chain businesses, or big companies that have offices in more than one city would think of it as business as usual. If you have the qualifications and are willing to relocate, then you're a good candidate.
Some towns or cities that need more people from various trades, or more medical professionals and the like, hold information events to attract anyone qualified to do the work and willing to up stumps.
There are some employers who wouldn't consider it but they would for the most part be smaller businesses or in industries that have a certain kind of turn over.
You wouldn't expect to apply for a cafe job on the other side of the country and have the owner excited to Skype you for a casual position.

'What if you get there and you don't like the town?'
I am very aware this is a question you ask yourself when you've never been in proper economic difficulty.
You've never had your back to the wall and been looking down the barrel of 'do I pay the rent or do I buy groceries?'
If there is work available locally and you're just a bit bored and looking for a change you may not be that thrilled about the idea of moving to a town/city/state you've never visited before and decide against the idea.
If the shit is heading for the fan and you've got a chance at this distant job I expect you take it and worry about whether your prospective new home has a bowling alley or a place of worship of your choice later.
There are people who move purely because they want to experience life in different places, to get more experience.
There are also people who move wherever they need to in order to support themselves and their families.
If you've got the luxury to be in the first category then good for you.
If you're in the second category you probably find this whole discussion a bit frivolous.
If you're partway between the two... good for you, you're probably very level-headed and making the best out of your opportunities.

This topic has been in the public eye recently with Prime Minister Abbott answering questions on the lack of work available for young Tasmanians and what this will mean with harsher welfare benefit criteria by saying “If people have to move for work, that’s not the worst outcome in the world … for hundreds and hundreds of years people have been moving in order to better their life,”.

At the time this comment was met with outrage which I joined in with in a vague sort of way, waving my fist at the car radio and muttering imprecations, but now I can see that most of that anger came from a possibly subconscious reaction of 'what if they don't want to?' or 'why should they have to?' the answers to which in previous generations would have been, respectively, 'tough titties' and 'because they want to eat'.

It's amazing that in a time of faster travel and easier communication in many ways we are becoming more rooted to our physical locations.

It's hard to believe it could be a fear of the unknown, seeing as so much more information is available to us these days, but are we coming less adventurous as a result?

Have we decided that being able to see things virtually rules out the old saying 'if you never ever go, you'll never ever know'?

Or maybe, like me, everyone is thinking of moving about as something they'll do 'later' but because we never apply any proper thought to it, later doesn't come and all of a sudden we'll be in that age bracket who are less inclined to move at all.

Whatever the reason it'll be interesting to see how trends develop in the future.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

The Russian Bride

I went to a party on the 31st of May and I am still in shock.

Not because the party went off like something you read about in the papers and tut tut when they talk about it on the radio.

The party was for a friend's birthday and she decided to have a 1950s theme so we all turned up dressed appropriately, faces and hair gussied up, made cocktails, ate edible versions of tragic 1950s party nibbles and enjoyed some period appropriate music until everyone got drunk enough to put on Amon Amarth, Puscifer, Tool and Korpiklaani.

The thing that shocked me is that one of her friends who had casually mentioned he'd be bringing a guest, turned up with a lovely young girl who essentially seems to be a Russian mail order bride.

He had told literally no-one that she existed.

He hadn't said he'd met anyone online, that someone was moving in with him or that he had suddenly turned into the kind of guy who tells his friends that his girlfriend* isn't allowed to drink because he's told her she's driving...

He's closer to 40 than not, she looks like she's around 20 and speaks English with hesitation.

She didn't seem cowed or shy exactly but she wasn't actively engaging in conversation, rather responding when asked and content to stand around and observe otherwise.

He didn't hover over her like a hawk all night but him swanning off to talk to other people and leaving THE GIRL NOBODY KNEW EXISTED who doesn't speak very good English with a bunch of loud, tipsy strangers isn't much better behaviour.

I had actually seen him down the supermarket with her once a couple of months before, said G'day in passing, gotten a Hello back from him and a smile from her and wandered on thinking 'I guess he's got a girlfriend?'
If it hadn't have been for that encounter absolutely nobody would have any idea how long she'd been in the country.
And that's just when I saw her.
For all we know she's been here since his last visit to Russia** and he just hasn't seen fit to mention it.
The last visit to Russia that we know about was late last year, in case you were wondering.
What if she's been here this whole time?
Just... sitting about his house...

The thing is he's always been shit at sharing news.
You find out he's due to have knee surgery a week or two before it happens because he makes a throw away comment about taking time off work.
You find out he's going overseas because he says something about a VISA.
But moving a human being from one country to another and possibly having to sponsor them legally?
And moving them to a shitty country town with nothing going on, and not introducing them to your friends*** so she possibly has no social circle?

The friend whose party it was thinks he said she's over here teaching Russian but I don't know where or to whom or even if this is an accurate recollection as the problem with 1950s cocktails is that the party started at 6pm and everyone was stinko by 8:30pm.
Luckily they slowed down, eased off to lighter mix drinks and didn't wreck themselves but there were a lot of lapsed memories that evening.

It is a very weird situation to find yourself in.

He was acting as if nothing was wrong but getting a bit stubborn if anyone asked him why he wouldn't let her drink.
Her English is functional but not very complex and if he's the only person she knows, she mightn't be willing to risk getting him offside if we start asking her if she's OK or happy.

Maybe they're having a perfectly good time together, it's hard to say, but the situation seems creepy.

So I guess now we know she exists we'll have to try and work out what the hell is going on, who she is to him and make sure he's treating her right.

I can imagine wanting to start a life in a new country and being willing to shack up with somebody to make it happen but moving to a small town in central Victoria and spending most of your time in the house of a man who barely talks doesn't seem like a great reward for your bravery.
Better than actual abuse - which we don't think is going on - but yeah, not the cream of the crop of promised lands.

He's always been a bit NQR in some social situations but even people who have known him since high school are stunned.

And so now we're questioning everything we know about him.

So now that we know those who know him best are going to try and get the two of them to come to more days/nights out, get to know her better and ask him what precisely the deal is before we all die of curiosity or start stalking them around the place to make sure she's OK.

Because she's a total sweetie and we would throw him over in an instant if we thought he was treating her badly.

*We assume, for all we know they're married...

**He's been two or three times and had never really said much about the trips even when pressed and now we're worried we know why.

***Or family? We have no idea if he's told his family...

Saturday, 31 May 2014

And It Goes On And On

Well we've gotten to the end of the week without any more solid information.

The supervisors (not contract staff themselves) have been assuring us that things won't be as bad as all that and that it'll be people from the other areas of the contract that will be let go, not their staff!

Yes, yes, thanks, so helpful.

We go through flurries of discussing the possibilities (cut hours but not cut positions, positions cut from one role but not another, the odds that people already part-time will be in more danger or safer) and then periods of not wanting to talk about it at all.

The question of whether or not this might be a bit of a rattling to keep us in our box or to get people to quit under their own steam has been asked but not answered.

I have in fact gathered my courage and applied for another job:
a) just in case, and
b) just because I'm freaked out about the future doesn't mean that I'm not still bored with the lessened amount of work on offer, because I am.

I'd been chatting to an old workmate around the time this whole situation broke and it turned out that there was a 1 year contract opening where she worked to cover someone's maternity leave.

Now a 1 year contract isn't ideal in a number of ways (eg, the bit where I'd be having to do all this again in a year's time just when I'd really gotten used to it, a bit of a salary cut) but it is:
  • work in my field
  • with a reputable company that would look good on my resume
  • being vouched for by someone I've worked with before who knows the kind of work I've done before
  • a chance to remember how change works without having to worry I've committed myself to an ongoing position that may turn out to be awful
Thursday I refreshed my resume which mostly involved updating the formatting, making it look a bit more professional and jamming in all the things I've learned since the last time I updated my resume a year or two ago.
That went OK and I felt pretty good with how it looked by the end of it.

Then I sat down and wrote my cover letter.
This was a bit trickier as I am pretty terrible at talking myself up. At first I can't think of anything to say and then I put in way too much detail but then have trouble trimming it down because it makes me sound good.
By the end of this I thought I could walk on water and was qualified to become dictator of a small country because it made me sound really quite good.

Then I had an hour and a half conversation with the friend who told me about the position, got her impressions of working there, what the workload and people are like, how she thought I'd find the place, what to remember for the interview if I got one.
I felt a lot better about my chances after this because job ads always make it sound like they're looking for someone with four degrees and mad juggling skills which isn't always what the position requires.

But then I hit a sort of wall of Thinking About This, felt kind of emotionally drained, and then got a phone call from my Dad who wanted to know how the process was going, was very encouraging but also suggested this was a good time to think about what I want to do in the future and what my long-term goals are.

No, Dad! Bad!

The thing about my long-term goals is that very few of them are to do with work.

Most of my long-term goals look like this:
  • travel a bunch
  • get better at things I find interesting
  • eat delicious food
  • maybe get some nice snogs with a lovely man
I don't have a vocation or any passions that lead me towards particular fields of work.

I want steady employment in something mentally engaging where I can contribute but don't have to be in charge.

I don't mind responsibility but I don't want to be leading the way because I am not ambitious.

I'll brainstorm the shit out of ideas for the people who are in charge but I don't want to have 'come up with ideas for the company/business/workplace's future' as one of my key tasks.

So yes, I do need to think about that shit but right now is not the best time for that.

I just ended up curled up on the couch, eating chicken nuggets and watching Archer like an adult while I ignored reality on the surface and pretended the undercurrents of my mind weren't wailing 'Argh! Change and decisions! Either you'll get the job and have to change now or you won't get the job and you'll either keep your boring job or get canned and be unemployed! Argh!'

Friday morning I woke up, remembered The Fear, got to work anyway, pootled around, submitted my application (which my friend who had name-dropped me to her boss tells me her boss had asked about) and freaked out some more.

No matter what happens in the next month I won't be in dire straits.
I have savings, somewhere to live, a supportive family and won't be in the desperate position some people would be in.
I had just forgotten about this particular brand of my own anxiety because I haven't had to deal with it for a while.

I get notoriously nervy around big decisions because I am terrified of making the wrong one and ending up in the shitty storyline of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure that is life.
But making no decisions can often dump you there anyway.

Oh, and Friday evening I got an email asking to set up an interview for next week so the 'What If...?' train has started building up steam in my brain and is barrelling along down the tracks 0_0

So either:
  • I'll get a new job and it'll be lovely and a good intro to the next phase of my life.
  • I'll get a new job and it'll be OK and I'll just have to get a new job in a year when it ends.
  • I'll get a new job and it'll turn out to be stressful and horrible, leaving me extra put out because it'll be shitty AND involve a long commute (I'm not moving to a more expensive area for a year's contract when my next job might be elsewhere), then have to get a new job.
  • I won't get a new job and will have to stay with my boring job while looking for another new job.
  • I won't get a new job and will be out of work and will have to look for another new job.

So yeah.
Flipping out about things that most other people have to deal with more often.

I know I'm not the only person who gets anxious about this kind of stuff and I'll eventually get better at dealing with it as I get the opportunity but right now I'd rather like to go into some nice soothing denial but honestly can't.

Time to be an adult or some shit like that.


Saturday, 24 May 2014

Change Ahead

Damn damnit.

Real life you are ruining my weekend!

At work a group of us are technically contracted to our workplace by an outside employment agency.
I say technically because we found out about the job independently or through people we knew, interviewed with the people who run the place, were hired and then signed a bunch of paperwork with the employment agency because they were the ones who were technically running the contract and paying wages for these positions.
The contract for these positions used to be renewed every three years for a three year period.
Two years ago management decided instead to renew for one year with two options for renewal.
Last year they signed the first renewal.
This year we've been told there's to be some more negotiating.

They told us this on Friday afternoon because that's what we all needed to hear before two days without any additional details!

Work has been slowly down steadily for the last two years and as a result they've decided the amount of hours they're going to contract the employment agency for is lower.
They of course don't know how much lower or anything helpful like that.
All they know is that they will probably end up with more positions that people and a few of us may not have jobs come the 1st of July.

Thanks for the heads up, incredibly well-organised and thoughtful management people! This is sarcasm!

We've all known for a while that this was probably coming considering the amount of work we were getting now compared to the old tempo but they obviously knew this too, they've probably been planning for it.

What would have been nice would be if they had let us know at the start of the year that this was a strong possibility and given people longer to assess their finances and look at whether they wanted to continue on here or look for work elsewhere.

Now, considering how I know these things are handled*, we'll probably be told how many positions are being lost a week or two before it happens.
Some of us have a bit of annual leave saved up so we'll have a few weeks of pay to survive on if that happens, others do not.

They've said that it should hopefully only be a small reduction and for all we know it'll be more along the lines that a few people have to work 4 day weeks or 6 hour days but until we know everyone is nervous and on edge.

I've been working here for 7 years now so I have been a bit bored and looking to move on but I was hoping for the time to look for something appropriate before then.

I've no reason to believe that I'm one of the people on the chopping block but it doesn't do to assume yourself entirely safe either.
That just leads to heartbreak and panic if you find out you're wrong.

This whole situation combined with the fact that there's only one year left before the entire contract goes up for tender again means there's only one year of guaranteed work before there's possibly even greater changes in the works.

This has prompted a lot of thinking, some panicking, some panicked thinking and some long overdue updating of my resume.


I hate unexpected change.

I'm no so great with planned change either but this?  >_<

*I'm not saying it's been a bad place to work, for at least 5 of the 7 years it was pretty excellent. The last 2 have been dull because we've had less to do. The bullshit here comes in from the fact it's an organisation that has a lot of red tape and bureaucratic bollocks and it gets snarled up at times when it would be particularly handy if it didn't :-/

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Put It On The List

Time for another installment of Magic Future Garden That Will Have The Space And The Environmental Conditions To Support All These Plants (And Which I Hopefully Won't Kill Through Ineptitude)!

The previous installment can be found here.


Lovely colours and they bring in various birds.

Dwarf river wattle (or Acacia Cognata)

I just like the look of these, they fill their part of the garden nicely and look soft to the touch.

Woolly bush (or Adenanthos sericeus)

 But not as soft as the woolly bush which Mum and I call 'huggable Christmas trees'. These are lovely and very hardy.

Kangaroo paw

These are bright when they flower and as natives will deal with the odd year of shitty weather better than some other plants.

Pimelea ferruginea

Pretty as hell and apparently they'll bring in the butterflies.

Mulberry tree

We had one of these in our backyard in Coffs Harbour and I remember sitting on the fence amongst the branches picking ripe berries until I gave myself a stomach ache. Totally worth it.

Ornamental grapevine

I'm more interested in the look than whether they produce grapes or not. Growing your own grapes that turn out right, rather than bitter, is a bit of a crapshoot but having a nice vine that you can put across a trellis or use to shade you from the sun is a better bet.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Dear God, Why?!

The family dogs have been happily living in a new dog run since the end of last year.

They get to spend most of their time in the dog run because of their unfortunate love for pulling things off the washing line (primarily Apocalypse Pup) and their unfortunate enthusiasm for killing blue tongue lizards (primarily the Labrador of Doom).

The thing about the dog run is that is has a few gum trees in it.
It has a few dips and bumps and strange topographical features.

This means that when Mum has gone in to the run* she has only been able to tidy the parts of it that she can get to safely.

So for Mother's Day this year I decided that my good deed for the day was to tidy up the dog run.





You guys.




There were three key areas which I was calling The Elephants Graveyards of Poop.

The dogs had of course chosen to locate these pooptopias in the weirdest parts of the enclosure.
Places my mother would not be game to fight her way through to.
Behind the various clumps of trees or near the little drop off.

I picked up somewhere around 10 to 20 kg of poop**.

Three reinforced garbage bags and some very unlucky disposable gloves sacrificed their lives to the cause.

I also found several toys that the kids from the house behind us had lost over the course of the last 5 months, the remains of what must have been the more delicious of the toys that the kids from the house behind us had lost over the course of the last 5 months, a stash of bricks from a building project that probably took place about 20 years ago, and the treated pine palings from our old pool fence which was taken out about 15 years ago at the same time as the old pool***.

The palings were the most startling thing to find, they were piled up under a drift of eucalyptus leaves so thick that given a few centuries archaeologists would be identifying them as a specific historical strata that could tell us a lot about the local culture.

I also had to spend a bit of time with a shovel digging out the area behind the gate because there had been some sediment creep and it had become impossible to open the gate further than about 70 to 100 cm**** wide in recent months.
Now there is a nice flat area to swing the gate open over which hopefully won't give the dogs 'diggy' ideas.

So at the end of the process I had thrown out:
  • more poop than I have ever wanted to see or handle in my entire life
  • old bones that had been hidden but which were no longer safe or delicious
  • bits of dead toys and scraps of material
  • palings from the old pool fence which we can't burn because arsenic!
I had also tidied up and put away:
  • a bunch of kindling that had been thoughtfully dropped by the eucalyptus trees
  • actual chunks of good quality firewood that I expect my brother had forgotten he had chainsawed up out of larger bits of eucalyptus tree
  • old palings from our wooden perimeter fence which wasn't treated pine so we can burn it
  • a huuuuge pile of leaves
By the end of the afternoon I was sweaty, dusty and being followed around by two very interested dogs who thought the whole situation was very strange but hey if I wanted to collect their poop and put it in a bag who were they to protest?

Of course, this was just the beginning.

Next weekend I have to go back in there to burn the  metric butt-tonne of leaves, have another rake around and make sure we don't have any more archeological layers of extra items hidden in there.

And the gum trees are trying to increase their numbers which will only lead to danger and sadness so there will be a sapling massacre which will then have to be turned into more firewood and stacked up neatly with the rest of it.

Then, smoky, dirty and exhausted, I'll probably take the dogs for a walk.
Because I am a masochist apparently.

*Which doesn't happen as often as it could because the dogs get really extra excited about this kind of thing.
There is Five Minutes Of Frantic Bouncing when you let them into the main yard, try get them ready for a walk or join them in the run. No matter how we try and train them out of it, their excitement will not be tamed!
**That's 22 to 44 lbs of poop, for you Imperial scum!
***The pool was an above ground construction which was murdered by a tree from the yard behind us. The tree's roots grew up under the pool and pierced the pool lining and the whole thing went the hell remarkably quickly.
****27 to 39 inches or 2.3 to 3.3 feet, whichever makes more sense to you guys.