Friday, April 25, 2014


G'day all!

Another Anzac Day has come and almost gone.  I can't believe it is almost May - no wonder the weather keeps pretending to be nice every now and then!

Does anyone here not know about Anzac Day?  Aussies and Kiwis (and peoples from the islands surrounding us) do, of course - have a look at the letters in ANZAC.  Australia and New Zealand Army Corps.  Really, the corps is misspelt.  It should be corpse, because that is what Anzac Day commemorates, the day that thousands of young Commonwealth men stormed the coves around Gallipoli in what is now called Turkey.  Why?  Because it was part of a push to ensure that the Black Sea remained open to Russia (then an ally of Britain) and then capture Constantinople and thereby ensure the Ottomans (now Turks) did not back up the Germans.

Well, it was an unmitigated disaster.  I won't go any further, but many thousands of men died (on both sides) for very little gain by the Allies.  If you can, look up the movie "Gallipoli" and watch it.  It isn't perfectly historical but it has some degree of truth in it. Look up the Gallipoli Campaign on Wikipedia and weep for the dead, sacrificed to the Empire's ambition.

My Pop was an ANZAC.  He fought at Gallipoli and the Somme.  I've talked about this before.  I could imagine him gallivanting around like the guys in "Gallipoli" but he wouldn't talk about the war itself.  Like many other survivors,  he came home shellshocked (aka PTSD) and half the man he had been, fairly much literally - he had been gassed several times, he was full of shrapnel, bits of him were missing...

Over the years, I've come to realise that I am a pacifist.  I would prefer that we didn't sacrifice men and women on the altar of war or on "peace keeping" missions, but I understand why we do that.  I understand that some pay a hefty price to protect others and I am grateful for their sacrifice of limbs, body parts, sanity and life.  I watch the tense situation in Ukraine - will it be the centre of the next war?  How many will die in the name of freedom, whether that freedom be a Ukrainian nation or a Russian protectorate?  I've been talking to someone who effectively says the price of freedom, peace and love is being armed to the teeth and willing to fight for that freedom peace and love if outside sources attack it, and I guess like many of us, I've outsourced the fighting.  (They would also say that I'm not actually free but eh, this is good enough for me!)

In the meantime, I keep plugging away, working, crafting, appreciating the improving (well mostly improving) weather and the wonderful flowers that are blooming.  I'm trying to grow Flanders poppies (from the Somme, not Gallipoli) in the front yard but they are only the teensiest, weeniest seedlings yet.  I usually grow them in spring in Australia for Remembrance Day (11 November) but spring is at the wrong time of year in the States! 

Rosemary for remembrance is more appropriate but I don't have any, yet.  I can get some any time - a friend has a massive shrub and I can pluck whatever I like of it.  Rosemary takes root easily, so soon I could have lots and lots of rosemary, and always remember.

Pretend these are fields of poppies, not tulips,
in Flanders, not the Skagit Valley...

I grow the poppies lest we forget.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spring Sprung

G'day all!

Last weekend was amazing.  The weather was warm - so warm I ended up wearing shorts.  I got to blind people with the glaring pink purple whiteness of my glorious legs. 

It hit a whole stinking 21C!


Apparently my ideas about what hot is have changed in my time in Seattle.

This weekend?  Brr!  It got to about 12C today and it seemed cold, especially when the skies cleared and the wind came up cold from the south-west.

Spring isn't the only thing that
is sprung.

The days are getting longer and we are well into Spring.  I usually love Spring, though I'm starting to loathe the pollen that is blowing in the wind.  A lot more plants are wind pollinated here than in Oz.

Last of the camellias

There's so many flowers blooming now.  The crab apples are in full bloom along with the ornamental peaches/almonds/whatever they are, and even the early flowerers of the edible apples are starting.  Gardens are looking simply amazing.

The gardens at the locks are bloomin marvellous!

The garage project continues.  This week we got the frame signed off, so we can start getting the wiring done and finish off the insulation and start the sheathing of the walls.  The rubber on the roof isn't glued down yet cos this week has been cooler and ahem, we may not have bought enough glue in the first shipment... Well, not me, someone else...  I am glad that when I went out to find more, I took DH with me cos he knew exactly what was needed whilst I had vague instructions of "water based glue for rubber" and they were trying to sell me solvent based glue for asphalt roofing (yes, the US has odd roofing materials, at least to my mind).

The dogwoods are just starting

I'm still in thinking mode, trying to work things out.  The week at the retreat spoiled me - I had people to talk to if I wanted to talk to them, if I didn't, I didn't have to, I didn't have to do anything bar sit and knit if I wanted to, or sit and listen to stories, or show people how I knit.  Coming back to reality was somewhat of a shock, and I realised I was lonely.  I started growing up in a house full of people (four bedrooms, six people) and finished my growing up in a much more empty house (being the baby has advantages and disadvantages).  When I was small, there were always people around.  When I was older, Mum was always around.

Lovely blue irises.  The beardies are just starting.

Now there's often just me, and if DH is around, he is working or busy doing things or tired and not interested in chatting or I am supposed to be working.  People say I should get a dog and then I'll always have an adoring admirer but that doesn't work for me either - I'm not a dog person.  Having a cat would be good but I don't want to have to give one up when we leave or plan our departure so far in advance that we can keep the cat.  Also, I like having cats in pairs.

Tulips are still going, though we are into the
later ones now.

I've been reading blogs and getting Ideas, and I don't really care for some of these ideas.  Things like what is my legacy?  What do I want to be remembered for when I'm gone?  Not that I'm expecting to go for a while yet but these sorts of things have been starting to obsess me.  How can I make a difference?  What can I do to make that difference?  Many people have children but I don't, and I wasn't going to have children just because then they might be around in my dotage.

Stinky stinky lilac.  Still like them though.

Apart from that, I'm trying to work out what am I good at?  What am I really good at?  Suggestions?  Anyone?  What should I focus on?

The problem with these sort of ideas is they get me thinking about things that I am not really very good at.  I'm still fairly clever but I'm realising that I am quite limited in many ways.  I've never been an intellectual - I was not reared by intellectuals and I've never really adopted that way of thinking and analysis and expression (though I am quite good at research and synthesis of reports).  I'm good at lots of things but I'm not particularly driven and I think that is part of the problem.

Apparently the barge has a hole.

A lot of people think you should work on your weaknesses and become a more rounded person.  I think if you have strengths, you should develop them in preference to becoming more well rounded.  Obviously if you have weaknesses that cause distress to you and those around you, then yes, work on fixing them but don't ignore the things you are good at.

What do I want to do?

I've never really known.

Curly shadow.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut.  Noone ever told me I couldn't be, but when I found out that I pretty much had to be a test pilot, I decided that I wanted to be a scientist and cure cancer.  I worked in Social Security for a while and learned a lot about human nature and what people do when they are desperate for money (yell at people who are trying to help them).  Then I got to be a scientist for a while, but it wasn't curing cancer.  I didn't get the marks I needed to get into immunology.  Instead I investigated sheep placentas and membranes.  Good basic and surprisingly useful research.  After that I worked in insurance and that was good in part because I got to learn a lot more about the human body and how body systems work, or don't as the case may be.  Now I work in occupational hygiene developing online training courses and it allows me a whole range of freedoms, like I get to research stuff and draw stuff and design courses and implement them.  It is actually a pretty good job match for me as it turns out.

The frilliest daffodil ever!

What do I like doing?  Discovering interesting (to me) stuff.  Researching things.  Reading up on the natural world.  Working out why people do the things they do.  Playing with colour.  Playing with yarn and fibre and fabric.  Making things.  Sharing the results of my researching and makings (honestly I love telling you all about the things I've been reading online, if I can remember them...).  Growing things.  Riding my bike (blast you stupid lungs).  Travelling.  Experiencing things in the different seasons.  Experiencing the natural world, the play of light on water, light on plants, through leaves and flowers.  Developing friendships and opening up to people.  Learning to be me, whoever I might be at the time.

Light through ornamental maple leaves.

One of my friends on Ravelry asked "What would you do if you couldn't knit/spin/crochet/etc."  And my honest answer is if I could not make things at all I'd either be dead or hope to be dead soon.  If I couldn't knit or spin (my crochet is bad enough that it isn't a hobby but something I do when I have to), I listed a whole heap of things that I'd like to do instead.

"If it were only knitting and spinning that were out, I’d make more quilts and sew more and maybe do felting (wet and/or needle) and embroidery (not cross stitch because I am incapable of counting apparently) and bead and make jewellery and draw and take up glass blowing and do enamelling and glass etching and make buttons out things and do some woodworking and maybe a bit of metalworking… and learn how to paint watercolours… oh gosh, there are so many things I could do! (I love taking photos but I don’t see that as a crafty hobby.)"  I think I should also add dyeing yarn, fibre and fabric to that list because it is fun and I love working out how to make the colours I want.

It's not like there aren't things I'd like to do, it is more a paralysis of choice.

Water under the bridge, or more accurately
over the spillway

All in all, I really think I should just get out there and do things and stop introverting so much.  Stop being so self-centred and just do stuff!  Get into the garden and start planting more things.  Sort the wood scraps so that you can reclaim some of the yard and dig it up and plant things.   (This is going to be a HUGE job cos the pile is as tall as me and wider and longer than I am tall.)  Do more work.  Participate in some of the local clubs and societies.   Reciprocate when someone offers friendship - stop being a shy violet.  (Haha, people laugh when I say I'm shy - they think I'm a rather loud clown but that is a very effective attempt at camouflage.  It deflects people from seeing me.)  Let go of the past, the mistakes made, the harsh lessons learned as a shy and sensitive child. 

Sky of om!

Just get on with it!


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Retreat and regenerate

G'day all!

Since my last post, I've been away, on Island.

Leaving San Juan Island, wearing new
or recently finished knits

It was lovely.

The last two Aprils, I've gone away to a magical place and met like minded souls.

We are all knitters.

We come together and we knit and we talk and we relax, away from the humdrum of daily life.  Deb Nolan prepares amazing food for us.  We don't have to wash a single dish or cup or make any of our meals... It is wonderful!  We leave politics and race and religion at the door (mostly).  Last year's group spawned "the kindness of knitters" and this year's group was "a quietness or calmness of knitters."  (Lord knows how we managed that with me and another lovely lady who could gasbag loudly with the best of us!)

And did I say that we get to knit as much or as little as we like?

This chullo (choo-yo) was most likely knitted
on bicycle spokes!  (Not still on the bike, silly!)
And as we knit, we get told stories by the amazing Cat Bordhi.  She takes us to places many of us have never been (in this case Bolivia and Peru, with her adoptive brother Jim from the Frog Tree family).  And she shows us techniques and inspires us, and reminds us how special it is to be a knitter, what it is to be a knitter.

Now some people think being a knitter means one has much too much spare time on one's hands.  In reply, I might ask that person what did you do last night?  Did you sit on your butt and watch tv for two or three hours after dinner?  Or did you create something or play sport or play with your kids or clean the house?

In your tv watching, what do you do?  Do you create something?  Do you sew or knit or crochet or whittle wood or draw or paint?  Or do you just sit and watch the goggle box?

Who is hiding in the washing?
Yes, I like bright towels... so does DH.  Surprised?

Of course if you are reading my blog, it is very likely that you will not sit and watch tv all evening.  It is likely that your form of relaxation is making things and having ideas and finding inspiration and reading about stuff.

In Cat's world, and it seems in mine, knitters are able to reach the still pond that lies at the centre of all humans.  Somewhere in there is a place where we just can be.  We can carry that stillness, that calmness with us.  When I create, I am tapping that centre.  Doesn't matter what I'm creating with, really, be it pen and paper or fabric and sewing machine or two sticks and some lovely soft string, I am accessing me, being me.  It's just that for me, knitting is accessible pretty much everywhere.  (No, I do not knit on the loo!  Though when I have to do a colonoscopy I will definitely consider having a machine washable project to knit whilst esconced....)  Writing is also available nearly everywhere.

The lake was still, reflecting everything.  The peace is incredible.

But it isn't just good for me, it is good for other people too.  How often do you craft in public?  People watch me knitting.  If I spin in public people will stare.  It doesn't worry me.  I smile at them.  Sometimes.  It makes some of them look away and only watch covertly.  The brave ones ask questions and I get more questions when I'm spinning than if I'm knitting.  It helps make the world a better place just by being open to other people and their stares and their questions and their curiosity.

This isn't still but it generates
a nice effect

I needed this time away badly.  I've been introverting more heavily than normal recently, trying to work out why I am doing things the way I've been doing them.  I've been starting to recognise some of my attitudes are wrong and that I need to get my act in gear.  I'm starting to think about the future again.  I guess you might think I'm more worried about my cancer follow ups than I let on, and you might be right.  I won't even let on to myself that I'm anxious.  It sometimes amazes me that I went through all of that and came out the other side, that I wasn't dead within a year of diagnosis.

Lime Kiln was gorgeous, as always
As you might remember, I've been talking to (emailing) my first ex (boyfriend) and that opened a whole can of worms that disturbed me greatly. 

And then he said something, and a whole series of buried memories and events unfolded in my head and I said, "Ah!  So that is why I did what I did!"

Luridly Spring green.

I was bullied a lot as a child.  I was weird.  I was different.  (Ahem, I still am.)  I was shy and retiring and all too sensitive to the way other kids treated me.  I should've worn glasses but that would've been just another cross for me to bear.   I was told "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me," and other such rubbish such as ignore them, you are better than them, etc.  There's plenty of other stuff you don't need to know!  Kids used to get up in my face and threaten me with all sorts of things.  I never got beaten up - I was always bigger and stronger looking than most of the kids in my year level - but I was plenty damaged.

I talked to one of the bullies many years on - probably about 15 years on.  I saw her at the post office in Oakleigh and decided to say hello.  She was pleased to see me - "Lynne, my friend!"  She remembered threatening me with a set of pliers in the music room - "Wasn't it a funny joke?"

Umm, no.  No it wasn't.  I took it rather seriously.  I had been trained into seeing everything as attempts to hurt me, whether or not they really were.  I was, and probably still remain, strongly self-protective.  Noone else would look after me if Mum or Dad or my big siblings weren't around, so I had to.

The coast - even the water was calm this time, rather than a furious gale

So why would a girl who was desperately in love with a boy run away from him?  I thought young me knew the reasons, but why was young me scared of him coming back to Oz?  Didn't young me want to see him?  Didn't young me crave his presence?

Well, what if once in a while, that boy used to do something that he thought was a game, a total fantasy?  What if that something triggered memories of being bullied in that girl?  What if that boy didn't realise that when that girl begged him to stop, please stop that she wasn't playing along?  What would a shy, almost completely incapable of talking about important things girl do in response?

Exactly what she had been conditioned to do.

She ran away.

I may have managed to pretty up the
lighthouse a bit.  It is a stunningly
ugly lighthouse, so that might explain it...

So this realisation happened just before the retreat, and oh gosh it was good to have a place to process it and, quite frankly, grieve for what followed.  It wasn't lack of love on the part of either party that led to young me running away and finding someone else, it wasn't due to lack of care, it was conditioning and youth and inexperience and not being at all ready to find that depth of relationship.

I talked to a couple of the other women there about it, and to a friend, and in brief to first-ex and now I feel so much better about it.  I've always taken the blame, I did the wrong thing and badly hurt someone that I cared about and still do care about (I have friendly relations with all bar one of my exes and that one is only because I have no idea where he is and what he's doing and his name isn't particularly unique).   Understanding why I did it helps me so much.  I guess you could say that I am feeling better because it "wasn't my fault" but it isn't that, it is now I understand why I did what I did and I can have more compassion for the girl that was.

The cycle of life

I had a fun time on the retreat in different ways, though one thing was expensive.  One of my eyes went quite quite weird one evening - it had flashes and if you've ever sprayed water on a tv screen or a monitor and seen how it magnifies the pixels, well that was happening along with weird blodges where I could not focus.  So I hauled me off to the ER on island.  I apologised to the on call doctor for dragging him out of bed (it was 11pm or so...).  He was really really really nice.  Good sense of humour, great accent...  I thoroughly recommend going to the ER when he is on call, but it turns out he's from off-island.  He thinks I probably had an "ocular migraine".  Or maybe I just had severe eyestrain from reading the phone screen whilst chatting to DH.  (Of course the symptoms disappeared when I got to the ER, and I'm thinking I will have to avoid buying anything unnecessary for about two months to make up for how much the retreat cost... now with ER visit...)  I also discovered a quite decorative young man dealing with fallen limbs and rotted trees on the resort we stayed at.  He was apologetic about being shirtless.  I quite enjoyed the view...

I take endless pics of ferries, and endless
pics on the too.

I've become known as a crazy person on retreat too.  I apparently do crazy, silly things.  I guess I am crazy and silly.  Cancer taught me lots of things, and one is that you never know how long your life is going to be, so get over the existential angst and enjoy what you have whilst you have it.  (However, I probably am still fairly much an existentialist, after reading about it on wikipedia today.  If you want more labels, try humanist as well.)  Enjoy being silly if you want to be and it is not harming others.  If you want to be very serious you can be that too but I seem to be pretty fluffy these days, or at least I retreat to fluff.  I can hide behind it and hope noone can see me.  Knit and craft with bright colours if you want to.  Wear them.  Wear all of them at once.  Colours that is, not all your clothes... Wear only one colour.  Those pants that you love but feel self-conscious in?  Put them on and strut, baby!  Everyone else will love them too!  (Well assuming the reason why you don't wear them is something other than they are indecent, possibly due to holes in places-wot-shouldn't-have-holes....)

Choose life.


Saturday, April 05, 2014

Here and there

G'day all!

Still all over the shop here at our new Modest Manor.  I've been playing way too much 2048 in its various guises (doge2048 crashes my video card badly - the monitor says it is getting no input!).  The problem with playing games like that is I get to mull over things.  And at the moment I don't like what I'm mulling over.

Many years ago, more years than I care to think about, I did something that was quite quite bad to someone who deserved so much better treatment.  I was young and foolish, and I hurt someone deeply.

An image of beauty to offset the nasty.

Did you know I'm a cheater?

Yep, I cheated on my first boyfriend.  I learned the error of my ways, and what I did still haunts me to this day.  It was wrong on so many levels.  I had reasons, I had excuses but I did the wrong thing.  It has informed me for oh so many years, trying to be careful not to make that same mistake again.

You can see the phone's imperfect stitching - maybe it will distract you from the narsty nasty.

It is strange looking back and thinking, "Ah, that is why I do that!" and "Now I understand why I react in such a way to certain events."  They are triggers for what I did way back when, they evoke memories that I buried or did my best to forget.  I guess I never really dealt with what I did because it horrified me so much when I realised the damage I had done.

Distracting enough?

I hadn't even known I could cause such hurt.  Me.   How could I cause such hurt?  How could my actions pain someone so much?  I was a nobody, a rather shy, silly girl with no experience of boys or men, desperate to be liked, desperate to be wanted by someone, desperate to be worthy of attention.  And I had that in spades and I now think I didn't know how to handle it, and I threw it away.  He ended up far far away, communications were in the dark ages of snail mail, and I wanted to read certain words, which were not forthcoming because, as it turned out, I wasn't the only one scared of what had happened to me.

It is strange now seeing the patterns, seeing how everything fell together and became a perfect storm, my upbringing in a rather stiff upper lip household, being the baby of the family, having pretty much no self-esteem or self-understanding, being protected and unaware that I had any power...  Being totally unprepared for the intensity of what hit me.

I feel sad for that girl and that boy.  Neither of them knew how to deal with such an intense relationship.  They were both only kids.  One of them was me, but in some ways I'm barely recognisable now (and not just because of years, wrinkles and a handful of extra kilos).  There's nothing that can be done about it, it is water long under the bridge.  I apologised many years ago, the apology was accepted, it should be done.  But it isn't.  Not for me.  I not only hurt him, I damaged me.  It was a terrible way to discover that I do have power over a very few people, that my actions have repercussions.  And I knew at the time it was the wrong thing to do but I did it anyway.  If I had known what I know now, I would never have done it.  But I was young and stupid and so very needy.

Some things don't blow over.

It helped make me who I am today.  I hope it made me a better person, one who learned from a mistake that she still regrets.  It sent me down a different path and I would not be who I am today, talking to you now, so I guess it isn't all bad :-}


Wouldn't you look wary if your
boobs were about to go in the

I had my 3.5 year cancer check up on Thursday.  Mammos were "beautiful" so now I can prance around and say my boobs are beautiful, even with the rather obvious scar on one.  (It is a fantastic way to embarrass guys, just sayin'.)  My bloods were fine (though two of the cancer markers hadn't been done) and I'm awaiting results of the chest xray.  I expect if there was anything bad, they would've rung me.

So it appears that I am still dancing with NED (you would think I had learned my lesson in cheating but No Evidence of Disease is one guy I wish to continue dancing with!) and can continue to harrass the internet with ramblings.

Cherry walk by Seattle Cancer Care Alliance

I asked about the breathing thing.  They said it is possible that radiotherapy damaged my right lung - it does have scarring but that could be from anything.  I know have to go see a pulmonologist.  Sigh.  I'm sick of seeing specialists.  I have to see a dermatologist and a gastro too - one to check my moles, the other to do an up and down on me as my sister terms them.  I hate going to see doctors but I hate the idea of dying more.  And I'd like to be able to breathe.  I'm practising belly breathing but that means burping a lot and I still have issues when I'm getting in the aerobic zone.  (And anyone who says karma is a female dog, it sure took its time to kick in!)

Yeah, I have pics on the big camera
but deal with these crappy phone shots

I finished a jumper (sweater) for me and I've even worn it several times, enough times that the low twist merino yarn in it is pilling.  Sigh.  I'll see if I can find pics to upload for you.

All that work on my butt muscles
is working, yay!

It's called 3-in-1 and it was a fun knit.  The two by two stripes up the body make it feel fast to knit.  I had to add the purple bits because I didn't have enough contrast colour to finish the thing.  It was all made with stash yarn.  Yay me!

Vintage buttons from the button jar

I really need at least three buttons but I only found two of these lovely pearlescent glass buttons in my button jar.  I presume Mum bought them many many years ago or (more likely) cut them off something.  I figured they would do very nicely.

Socks for me!

I also finished some socks in String Theory's Continuum, in colourway "Vulcan."  Yes of course I bought that colourway even though it is the wrong Vulcan.   Alas, you get one really crappy shot because I wore them on a very dull day (cos umm merino cashmere socks on a cool day?  Lovely!) so a photo shoot was out of the question really.

Spring is springing gloriously here.  We missed out on the terrible cold that hit the east side of the States.  Admittedly we got much more cold and snow than we did last year (last year was very mild with NO snow for us and very little freezing!) but Spring is roaring in madly.  It is so pretty here at the moment.  The early daffodils are done, the late ones have peaked, the hyacinths are pretty much done, the tulips are coming in beautifully along with the bluebells, the grape hyacinths are in full bloom...  The pink cherry plums are done, the other flowering cherries are almost done, the crab apples are coming in, the trees are springing into leaf....

On Sunday I'm off to San Juan Island for a knitting retreat.  I'm looking forward to it.  Last year I was terrified, now I know what the deal is and I'm anticipating a great week.  DH will be on his own.  I expect to come home to a dishwasher full of clean dishes (just as I left it) and a week's worth of breakfast bowls awaiting someone to put them in the dishwasher.  Pity he doesn't have five cups for his morning coffee, eh?  He'll have to wash one!