A Beautiful Dream

January 30, 2020 at 3:48 pm (Entries that matter, Fully Sick, Uncategorized)

I wrote this blog entry on November 29th 2019. It was fairly obvious I was having a manic episode, so I didn’t post it right away. I still don’t fully know if I’m going to pursue this, but although the idea has evolved considerably (more on that in another entry) it is still very much with me. So, without further ado…

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Not that long ago, I wrote about the injustice of the developed versus the less developed world, and my ongoing struggle to find a solution to my own white guilt (ideally one that is actually just and fair on a global/moral level, rather than just making me feel better… but also one that made me feel better because why not?)

I may or may not write an article about the other side of that—how I’m marginalised as a woman, as a disabled person, etc. But I won’t write about that today.

Today, I want to talk about my new shiny dream of the future.

This has started because of the above thought trains, combined with the fact that I have a very hefty trauma insurance plan that it seems must surely, somehow, net me some big money sooner or later (just as soon as one of my many chronic illnesses ticks the right set of boxes).

One of the contradictions of my life is that I live in a really nice house, with air conditioning and everything. So I’m rich. But heat above about 20 degrees literally makes me sick. So I “should” have air conditioning… right? But so many people don’t… I’ve personally met many people without plumbing, or a roof, or walls. . .

So here’s my shiny new thought-bauble: If I do get a massive insurance payout (and, to be honest, the maximum amount I could possibly get wouldn’t come close to being enough for this but might be enough for some of it), I would like to buy the house immediately next to ours, knock it down, and rebuilt it as not just one dream house but two, one on top of the other, designed in such a way that the two houses can be divided in a multitude of ways

eg the bottom house is for one family and the top house is for another family;

the bottom house is for two single people living completely independently (ie with their own kitchens, bathrooms, and living rooms) and the top house is for me and Chris to retire in while also caring for an elderly relative or two;

Half the bottom house is for a married couple, and the other half is studies for the family living upstairs;

Louisette and Tim house-share the top house, and Chris and I live in the bottom house, but the garage (currently both Chris’s study and Louisette’s bedroom) is converted back into a garage;

…and so on.

So it’s a fabulous, big, health-helping house for me AND an investment property at the same time.

But this is the part that is really awesome: Having effectively three houses, we could use the other two (or part/most of the other two) to house Indonesian refugees for 6-12 months each. During that time they could pay a proportion of their income (zero when it’s zero) and I could help them with English, with schooling, with getting a visa, getting a driving license, etc etc.

I used to speak fluent Indonesian and both Chris and I have teacher-ish brains so we’re well suited to help people transition into Australian society. Which is extremely helpful, useful work—especially as climate change will be making more and more refugees in the near future.

If I (or any of our parents) got sicker and we needed rental income or more space, we’d have it. Hopefully we could coordinate things so two Indonesian families were part of our mini-community at the same time (I’m a benevolent dictator, but I imagine it would be a blessed relief for anyone living here to have someone else they could talk to in Indonesian).

So if this dream came true, I’d have more space in my house (and perhaps a secret passageway or two) and I’d also be fulfilling the long-dead dream of being someone who helped low-income Indonesian people (by lifting them up to my financial level, rather than lowering myself to their poverty level as per 12 year-old me’s life plans).

I’m not publishing this article, but I’m writing it at 2am on Friday 29 November 2019. Chris and I just had a little chat about “If we were billionaires, we could….” including the above, and he was quite positive about my ideas (“Sure, if we’re billionaires”). And about having a book-lined TV room/basement. Which was enough to send me into manic mode. And here I am.

I mentioned I was manic, yes?

Right now I honestly believe with all my heart that I’ve found my true and ultimate purpose in life (this, plus writing, plus napping, plus being a loving mother and wife and friend).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I wrote the above, I knew that Climate Change was bad, and coming soon. I didn’t know I’d be buying P2 masks that my sister brought from Queensland because there were none to be had in all of Canberra. I also didn’t know that I’d be seeing golfball-sized hail smashing windows and cars in my suburb in the same suburb.

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A thousand ingredients, and not a bite to eat

November 12, 2019 at 7:12 pm (Food, Fully Sick, general life)

There are four people in my family: Chris, my partner, who is more or less normal food-wise; myself, intolerant of FODMAPS and salicylates (ie most fruit, vegetables, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, processed meats, and nuts); Louisette, age 7, who is intolerant of honey and sulphites, and TJ, who is more or less normal except for being 5 years old.

Standing up to make a peanut butter sandwich is enough to give me a sore back, so dinner is a real challenge. I wouldn’t say I’m succeeding, as such. Unless the bar we’re setting here is “no fatalities, no starvation”.

For example, this is what we’re eating for dinner tonight:

Chris: Literally frozen and reheated airplane food (I get some truly weird meals from a charitable food pantry at St Paul’s Anglican Church in Melba; I feed it to him so he gets a bit of variety). As usual, he doesn’t get served any vegetables because it’s too hard (he usually has a carrot at work, and sometimes adds baby spinach to his sandwich). Sad but true. On very rare occasions, I will find something at St Paul’s that the kids will eat. Usually even if they like it once, they don’t ever eat it again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me: Lamb chop roasted with potatoes (and usually sweet potatoes and sometimes carrot, but not today). This is my “safe” meal and I usually eat it about 3 times a week (my doctor said to cut down on starches and red meat, and I just laughed. Then I started taking fish oil tablets). Potatoes, sweet potato, and carrots are all in my top 5 best veggies (potatoes are the only fully safe vegetable for me, which is actually not that awful; potatoes are awesome). The only hazard is the brown flavouring in the gravy. Sometimes I make my own gravy, but not today. Chris will also eat lamb chops, but the kids won’t. (I could have made lamb chops for him today, but I’m on day 3 of the same thing so I thought something else might be good.)

Louisette: Sausages in bread with tomato sauce (a la BBQ sausages). She loves it, and had two full sausages and two slices of bread. Even with no vegetables (does tomato sauce count?) that’s a win: no whining, and a solid meal. Since she’s on Ritalin, she often eats very little and is in danger of losing weight. We worked hard over many months to get her to just sit at the table every night, and even harder to get her to take more than two bites of pretty much anything. And sausages are nice and easy to make. Chris also likes them; Tim has gotten over them; I’m strongly intolerant of sausages.

TJ: “Spicy noodles” ie ramen ie mi goreng ie 2-minute noodles (the kind with several sauces including chili). With grated cheese and ham added. He didn’t eat all that much today (his first time eating beef rendang flavour, which is hotter than the norm and he said it was too spicy but he “don’t feel like a sandwich” so I guess that’s it for him today. Also very easy to make in a single portion (we have a great bowl-and-lid set that has an inner bowl that’s also a strainer, which is perfect for mi goreng), which can be a lifesaver.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other meals that we eat:

All of us:

-Eggs… sometimes. Poached, boiled, or eagle eyes. Daddy is usually the chef when it comes to eggs.

-Butter chicken with gnocchi and Greek yogurt. (Somewhat… international, I know.) This is delicious AND I’ve gotten to the point where I can sneak some zucchini (the only green veggie I tolerate well) into the sauce AND TJ will sometimes let me add frozen corn and/or peas to the sauce. Louisette doesn’t eat the butter chicken… but I set aside some of the chicken and add Ayam’s Lemon Chicken sauce, and she loves it. The butter chicken with sauce (but, interestingly, NOT the lemon chicken with sauce) freezes and reheats beautifully, so that can serve TJ or Chris or me again (with a bit of fresh-cooked gnocchi and some yogurt). We’ve been having this 2-3 times a week, so I’m starting to get a bit sick of it (plus spicy probably isn’t great for a sensitive stomach like mine). And I can’t stand chicken breast or tenderloins (unsurprisingly, I’m quite neurotic about food) so I always get boneless thighs and then have to cut them up. Handling raw meat is a lot of work, and gross. Still, for the moment, I can still stomach butter chicken—and it works really well for the whole family. The below photo is a classic scene, with the main pan having butter chicken, the pan on the right having lemon chicken, the bowl on the left cooling down TJ’s gnocchi (removed from boiling water with a slotted spoon so the water and heat isn’t wasted) and the pan at the back right waiting for the second lot of gnocchi to go in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Rice paper rolls. These are unusually healthy for me, including snow peas/cucumber (snow peas for me, cucumber for TJ; Chris is flexible as usual) and carrot. Louisette won’t touch them, but I use a Woolies roast chicken and I give her lemon chicken… ie some of the chicken pieces with the same Ayam lemon chicken sauce. And that works with relatively little effort. But rice paper rolls are a LOT of work and, again, handling the chicken sometimes grosses me out. Even though it’s cooked.

-Mini pizzas. I use English muffins so it’s easy to vary who gets what. The kids both accept basil pesto (tomato paste is anathema even though tomato sauce is ambrosia) and have pineapple and ham. I’m intolerant of pineapple and ham and aware that they’re basically just a sandwich, so I usually make mini pizzas for the kids when Chris and I are eating something completely different. Plus making two instead of 3-4 pizzas means less time spent standing up without a break.

Louisette only: Frozen nuggets and fish (1 meal, with both—but she’s over frozen chips) with tomato sauce, mayo, and lemon juice.

TJ only: Corn on the cob and ham. (Also he apparently eats a wonderful variety and quantity at day care. It will be a real shame to lose that when he starts Kindy in 2020.)

Chris and I only:

Beef stroganoff (although I think it’s awful as leftovers, so I rarely make it—plus I’m highly intolerant of mushrooms, but refuse to leave them out because they’re delicious and sort of a vegetable).

Lasagna/bolognaise (you and I both know they’re the same thing). Great for adding zucchini and carrot (my top veggies), and great for leftovers. Also our thermomix does a good white sauce without needing a human standing and stirring—it stirs and heats at the same time.

Maple marinated salmon with semi-fried rice (I add the leftover marinade to the rice and fry it for a bit). I can deal with frozen corn and peas in this context (mentally, at least). And yes, I know corn is technically a grain. Shut up.

I feel super gourmet sprinkling sesame seeds on top, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that’s where we’re at with meals at the moment. It’s… not great.

I’m about to attempt to get Louisette onto honey carrots (probably made with either golden syrup or maple syrup). Wish me luck.

Oh, there is one bit of good news. Louisette loves to have apple and hommus. She also likes lemon butter and Vegemite.

Parenting is weird, is what I’m saying.

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Do your legs stop working when it rains?

June 3, 2019 at 10:15 am (Entries that matter, Fully Sick)

I got pissy today, and wrote this piece for the school newsletter. When I googled how much the fine was I stumbled across some stuff I didn’t know, so I thought it was worth a blog post.
Dropping and fetching kids is a hassle in winter, but remember… don’t park in disabled spots even when you really, REALLY want to.
Although wheelchairs are relatively rare there are many people with painful chronic conditions who regularly and legally use disabled parking spots. Some people use their disability permit in order to avoid danger (due to conditions that hamper vision, balance, or coordination—or conditions that are made worse by even gentle physical movement). Others use their permit to limit their pain levels, since some medical conditions are invisible but make it painful for the person to stand or walk for even a few steps.
You can recognise legitimately disabled people by the permits in their cars even when their condition is not immediately obvious. Most medical conditions are not visible at a glance.
In NSW, the fine for stopping in a disabled spot is $549 and a demerit point even if:
-You are still physically inside the car.
-Your engine is still on.
-You’re there for less than 60 seconds.
-You have a perfect driving and parking record.
-There is an empty disabled spot right next to you.
It’s fine to use the disabled spot to reverse into a different parking space, or if there is a medical emergency.
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This PSA was brought to you by winter rain and Someone Who Thought It Was Okay To Park In My F***ing Spot.
And also by all the people who see me slinging children, bags, and my fat self in and out of disabled spots and think I’m okay.
This is what I looked like before I got sick (I’m on the left):
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*The massive obesity is actually a clue that something has gone badly wrong with my life, but of course it just makes me look ugly and lazy rather than making people think, “Ooh, that poor woman is clearly dealing with a lot and not coping, poor love.”
Here’s a recent photo:
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*sigh*
Life sucks a bit, sometimes.

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Things I should be doing right now

May 29, 2019 at 5:05 pm (Fully Sick)

Most importantly, I should be writing my quota for the day: 1000 words.

And gluing some stuff back together.

And tidying the living room.

And sorting three loads of washing; washing two loads including cleaning up an epic blood nose from last night (by TJ).

And sorting out the ominously paper-filled sections of several “I should totally deal with this” piles: my work table, a basket full of ancient papers that may or may not be important but has been lurking for months; part of the kitchen bench.

Sew repairs on 5-10 items.

Buy time-teaching clock from Aldi (and tissues, and milk). – DONE

Drop Louisette at school – DONE

Pick her up; go to grandparents; fetch TJ and Chris; come home.

Take out the recycling.

And the kitty litter.

Sort out all the escape room stuff currently in my living room.

Edit “Feuding Fae” and coordinate postcard printing (and letter printing).

Sort “Murder in the Mail” stock.

Design and post ad for “Murder in the Mail” final subscription period (and “Magic in the Mail: Feuding Fae” first subscription period).

Organise a launch for “The Princess and the Pirate”?

Write business plan and sign contracts for “See Through” (yup, that’s a whole new book).

Organise a launch for “Feuding Fae”?

Write a blog post. With pics.

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Appropriately drowning-like picture (actually swimming in a tidal pool last Christmas, which I LOVED).

 

TJ had his first truly epic blood nose about 3am last night and Chris and I both had to get up and run around with tissues and towels and so on. Then I got super anxious about… just… life. All of it. It took a long time to get back to sleep.

I’m still feeling panicky and overwhelmed today, so I thought making a list might help. Then I colour coded the list; blue for things I can delegate to Chris; purple for “won’t take long”, and red for seriously needs to be done today. Yellow for things I’ve already done and should celebrate.

I’m gonna do the gluing now. That will be one small thing done. Then I’ll probably go have a nap (from 3am-6am I slept on the couch; I could hear Chris snoring even from there). I nap 9 days out of 10 because of one of my meds (amytriptyline, for those who like knowing such things), and I’m also recovering from the flu at the moment.

If I have a shower on the way to bed, then that’s two jobs done.

Yes, showering is a job. Sometimes I feel fine after a shower; sometimes I’m exhausted. Either way I dread showering.

In other news, I have an operation scheduled for 12 June. It’s for adenomyosis (and presumed endometriosis). I’ve been having stronger and stronger endometriosis symptoms… which is good, because if it’s bad enough (which they only know by operating on it) then not only will my overall health improve a bunch, but I’ll get an insurance payout too.

So that will be awesome.

 

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Guest Post: What doesn’t kill me. . .

May 6, 2019 at 10:19 am (Fully Sick, Steampunk, Writing Ranting)

Hello and welcome to Karen J Carlisle!

Karen J Carlisle is a writer and illustrator of steampunk, Victorian mysteries and fantasy. She was short-listed in Australian Literature Review’s 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. Her first novella, Doctor Jack & Other Tales, was published in 2015 and her short stories have featured in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’, and the ‘Where’s Holmes’ and ‘Deadsteam’ anthologies.

Karen lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat.

She’s always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea. http://www.karenjcarlisle.com

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Karen is just about to release The Department of Curiosities. Here’s the blurb:

Miss Matilda Meriwether has a secret. Actually, she has several. One of them has shaped her adult life. Another now controls it. Her Majesty Queen Victoria has control of the Empire. She is the Empire, and creator of its secrets. Sir Avery works for The Department of Curiosities – the keepers of secrets – especially if they are useful to the Empire. When Tillie finds herself in the employment of The Department of Curiosities, she realises this is the perfect opportunity to uncover the truth she has been searching for. But the Queen has other plans for her.

The Department of Curiosities is a steampunk tale of adventure, a heroine, mad scientists, traitors and secrets. All for the good of the Empire.

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And here’s a guest blog:

What doesn’t kill me…

“Was mich nicht umbringt macht mich stärker.”

“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”

-Friedrich Nietzsche (German philosopher),

Twilight of the Idols (1888)

Today I’m writing about writing processes, the evolution of The Department of Curiosities and a long, long journey through the dark.

In 2012 my life changed. For six months I floundered. I’d worked since I was fifteen. Now, suddenly and unexpectedly, I wasn’t. I was lost. How had this happened? Why had this happened? Why me? Why?

I was given professional advice: do something I like. “Find your bliss,” they said. “Do something for yourself.”

I’d always wanted to be a writer and artist, so I turned to a quirky fantasy story that had been mulling around in my head since the late 1980s. But my mood was too dark for the characters. I didn’t blame them. There were other stories wanting to be freed. I turned to a steampunk story I’d been toying with… An adventure. It had a name: The Department of Curiosities. I started writing.

For almost a year I wrote, as my professional world began to crumble, and finally crashed in 2014. I felt used, abused, betrayed, and abandoned. My mental health was stretched. After twenty-eight years of looking after everyone else – my family, my patients – I had to learn to look after myself (not as easy as it sounds). I felt selfish. I felt exhausted. I felt useless.

I stopped writing.

The characters of The Department of Curiosities slipped back into the shadows not wanting to entertain the Black Dog. I didn’t blame them either. Eventually, Viola Stewart stepped forward, willing to sacrifice herself (and her eye) to support and guide me through the next three years. Jack the Ripper, and various nefarious villains, helped me explore motives and psychology as I delved into the darker side of humanity: why do people do what they do? In the process I confronted my own daemons and my personal Black Dog, which constantly nipped at my heels.

Being trained as a scientist, I needed not only to put a name to my emotions, but to discover why I felt this way. Almost five years of professional help, and I hadn’t progressed beyond: Anxiety, ‘deep breathing’ and ‘finding my happy place’.

In 2018 I changed professionals, and was challenged to confront myself. I was diagnosed with PTSD. I started desensitisation therapy.

Finally I felt a slight ease. Things made sense. There was the odd moment of calm. A smile here and there. Aunt Enid popped by, providing a glimmer of hope in my writing worlds. She was beginning to open the doorway back to my original fantasy story… but I wasn’t (and am not) quite there yet.

Tillie stepped forward. She was ready to be heard. I glanced over my notes, pulled out my original manuscript (of almost 80,000 words). I started at the beginning –rewriting, scribbling down notes and plot changes as I went. The story was a little darker than I’d originally envisaged, but overall was a much lighter story than Viola’s murder mysteries, with adventure at its heart.

The Department of Curiosities is my longest story yet – at 104,000 (ish) words/420 pages. Most of the plot has remained intact, though I’ve rewritten almost everything – cutting back on ‘tell’, rewriting ‘inactive’ sentences and adding extra characters. I’ve learned so much about writing in the past five years! During the process, I discovered Tillie, like me, has been fighting to control her own life.

I’ve heard people describe writing as a form of therapy. But it’s not an easy path (at least not the one I took), and not one for the faint hearted. I confronted some dark themes, shied away from some, and embraced others. I discovered catharsis. I’ve excised a character’s eye in revenge, peeked into the darkness of the soul, confronted the feeling of helplessness, and struggled to free myself (and my characters) from the control (or at least the perceived control) of others. I’ve even visited the happier memories from my childhood.

It’s been a long journey, and looks to be a long, rocky trek ahead. Writing has played a major part, sometimes taking me on unexpected side paths, but all heading in one direction: forward.

I feel like I’m starting to free myself from years of expectations and self-denial and neglect. I’ve found a way to work through some of my darker thoughts. It’s helped me to accept (on good days) that I deserve ‘me time’, to look after myself and my mental health. As Writing has made me stronger. I’m starting to believe in myself again. I’m facing my fears and anxieties one at a time. Sometimes I win. Sometimes they do. Perhaps one day I will bring that Black Dog to heel?

The Department of Curiosities is my fifth book – and my longest (if you don’t count that fantasy book still squirming in the back of my head), not only in word count, but in gestation time. I wrote another five chapters and shuffled two chapters into the second book of the trilogy.

I started this journey in 2013. It’s taken five years to see it to completion. It’s taken a year to finally finish the final version of the manuscript.

The Department of Curiosities will be officially released on 22nd May (Tillie’s birthday). A perfect time for new beginnings…

You can find out more information on where to buy it at: http://www.karenjcarlisle.com/shop Check out the book trailers at https://karenjcarlisle.com/books/the-department-of-curiosities/book-trailers-the-department-of-curiosities/

 

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If you want to follow the rest of The Department of Curiosities book launch blog tour, check out the links on my blog post: http://www.karenjcarlisle.com/DOC1bookblogtour You can sign up for my newsletter at: https://karenjcarlisle.com/sign-up-email-list/

Follow me on: · Twitter: https://twitter.com/kjcarlisle · Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karenjcarlisle/ · Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KarenJCarlisle/

Or support me on Patreon (for less than a cup of coffee a month and you get cool rewards!): https://www.patreon.com/KarenJCarlisle

 

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Christmas: Stress

December 26, 2018 at 2:13 pm (Fully Sick, Mum Stuff)

NB: The Mary Sue pop culture site wrote a far better article on Christmas stress. Go read it here.

I live in fear of Christmas from about October onwards. (I also start buying presents for my kids at that stage, which I like doing—so there’s that.)

It’s particularly tricky for those who are at the “moved out of home but don’t have a family of their own” life stage (which can be incredibly lonely) or those who have recently lost a close family member to death or divorce.

And of course for those who suffer from depression, social anxiety, or other chronic illnesses. The pressure to be happy and joyful can be horrifying, and it climaxes on Christmas Day. It feels like the whole word is saying, “You must be happy and healthy at this time and place!”

There are four major sources of stress around the holiday season:

Finances

There are two ways to make finances better at Christmas. Either you spread things out over the whole year (buy one present a month, for example; buy travel tickets in February and then pay off a little each month) or you reduce the cost of Christmas.

Sometimes, the only option is to be honest: If you can’t afford travel, tell people that you can’t. If you really want to travel, it may be possible to receive travel costs as a gift—send an open group email to the whole family and say, “Instead of gifts, can everyone put in $20 so I can come to the beach without breaking the bank?”

Gift-wise, especially with kids, remember that YOU are setting the standard of what is normal. If the kids get a single gift from you each year, then that’s what they’ll accept as normal (with the occasional comment of, “All my friends get ten presents for Christmas” which you’ll have to resist along with every other “All my friends…” comment that the kids send your way the rest of the year).

EXPECTATIONS are crucial, and honesty, though awkward (and I guarantee some people will just think you’re cheap—screw ’em) can save a lot of pain.

I knew someone who would pick a fight every December and then not show up at Christmas. That’s… certainly a strategy. I would really rather this person just talked to us.

I know someone else who gave spectacularly expensive-looking but wildly thoughtless gifts. Every time they saw something on a massive sale they bought several. And that’s what everyone got for Christmas. They once got really weird about having gifts with half our family at one event and half somewhere else—because of course they’d bought the same thing for everything. Again, that’s a. . . strategy. That one could have worked great if there was any correlation between the gifts and the recipients. Like, if someone hates reading, don’t give them a book? Save it for someone else.

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Family

Family is complicated. Some people love getting the full set together in one room (I’m one of them). Other people would rather not see a single member of their family ever again.

If your family is truly abusive, you don’t owe them anything. Get out fully if that’s truly what’s best for you.

If your family is annoying, or just one or two are awful but the rest are great, see if you can work out a way to take the bad with the good (or, if you’re especially cunning, find a path where you get more good and less bad).

If your family is mostly good, be honest about your abilities to give/host/travel/etc. Traditions don’t have value if they’re hurting you. For me, it’s often easier to host than go somewhere else.

Travel

It’s really, really hard. Things will also go wrong. Travelling at Christmas is harder than at any other time because (a) So many people are doing it, and (b) You gotta pack gifts (both giving and receiving).

If you know you’re not physically, mentally, or emotionally up to it. . . you have a choice.

If you can handle travel, work out what you need to make it suck less. For me, an ample supply of chocolate, water, and snacks makes a huge difference. Air conditioning is crucial, and so is ‘down time’.

Take your painkiller of choice, and if you’re inclined to get travel sickness of any kind then take supplies for that too.

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Pure Busyness

Don’t be an idiot and promise a 3-part Christmas blog.

Manage expectations, both those others put on you and the ones you put on yourself.

Learn to say “No” and/or “Not this year”.

Basically, expectations (including traditions) can be helpful (“I know I’m meant to bring a plate every year”) or harmful (“I know I’m meant to bring a whole roast turkey even though I’m driving interstate to get there in time aieeeee”). In the end, although manners are important, you are the boss of you. Take charge, and make Christmas fun for you—whether that means staying home and watching “Die Hard” with no pants on, or travelling in convoy with your 32 cousins to great-grandma’s retirement home and eating nothing but funyuns for two days.

Kids home from school

That’s a whole ‘nother story. I haven’t worked out a good strategy for being “on” for ten hours a day for 6 weeks, so feel free to share your strategies in the comments.

The moral of today’s blog: Kids, animals, travel emergencies, and health are unpredictable. Plan for that.

But most of all, plan for who you are and what you can realistically do.

Good luck.

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The Banana Bread of Destiny

July 20, 2018 at 2:21 pm (Food, Fully Sick)

The only good thing about banana bread is that is uses up bananas.*

Ingredients

1 and a half c buckwheat flour

1 c coconut sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1 c mashed banana

1 egg

1/2 c yogurt

1/4 c grapeseed oil

1/3 c maple syrup

2 tsp vanilla bean paste

Method

1. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.

2. Add banana, egg, yogurt, oil, maple syrup, and vanilla. Mix.

3. Pour into a lightly greased 21cm x 10cm loaf tin lined with baking paper.

4. Bake for 1 hour at 160 degrees or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

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Obviously, the kids loved this. Even Louisette.

 

Yum Factor: 0

Health: 2

Easy: 4

Will make again? Nope. Bananas are evil.

*Apologies to the 6 year-old child who lovingly contributed this recipe to her Year 1 class.

Aaaand we’re done!

While in the waiting room today I looked over my last three months of blood sugar readings. It turns out I spoke too soon when I blamed that delicious baklava for my record-breaking blood sugar reading the following morning.

As is utterly obvious to anyone who glances at me in passing, I eat a lot of chocolate. Like, every day. (I’m gonna go analyse that habit sometime soon.)

Despite this, my blood sugar has been remarkably good ever since my stomach operation  last year. (Pause for cheering!)

Except these school holidays.

Was it all these not-usually-healthy recipes?

Actually, nope.

I looked back over the past three months of daily blood sugar readings, and guess what?

There were a total of 10 high blood sugar readings.

1 was due to getting up at stupid o’clock to drive to Sydney.

1 was just random.

2 were due to medical appointments. (Often deeply stressful.)

The other 6—that is, 60%—were ALL on the one day a week that I look after the kids for the full day (that is, from 8am until 6pm, while Chris is at work and there’s no day care or grandparents).

So that’s informative. Unfortunately for everyone, I associate the kids with an increase in physical pain and panic, which of course is a self-fulfilling thing.

So school’s about to start again, which is going to help with my sanity a bunch, but I clearly need to think about this some more. For one thing, I’ll make sure Chris takes more time off work next holidays.

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More More Pancakes

July 19, 2018 at 9:30 pm (Food, Fully Sick)

Ingredients

2 eggs

1 and 3/4c milk

1 tsp vanilla essence

2 c self-raising flour

1/3 c caster sugar

 

Method

  1. In a bowl, sift self raising flour and mix in the caster sugar.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, milk, and vanilla essence.
  3. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients and mix until there are no lumps (a blender, hand mixer, or shaking bottle is helpful).
  4. Heat and grease frypan.
  5. Spoon mixture into frypan and cook until bubbles form and pop.
  6. Flip and cook other side.
  7. Enjoy with your favourite toppings.

 

The kids were thrilled, naturally.

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Surprisingly, this recipe had a lot of similar elements to the other one (I guess not that surprisingly, since they’re both pancake recipes).

Tomorrow is technically the last day of school holidays, and the kids will both be at the grandparents all day. So we made it? I guess? We HAVE done all the recipes, and I’ll blog about the last two shortly.

Today I spent two hours with an endometriosis nurse. This is one of the steps along the road towards likely surgery (given how much the last surgery helped, and how much hormone treatments have destroyed my brain, this is good news—and since it’s through the public system, I won’t need to run another GoFundMe campaign).

As I drove to the appointment at the Canberra Hospital, I listened to the radio.

So it turns out that, last night, a man under police guard wrestled a GUN off a POLICE OFFICER and fired at least two shots. In Canberra Hospital. (He’s now being charged with two counts of attempted murder, so. . . yay?)

Well, I didn’t get shot and I didn’t quite start full-on bawling while discussing my mental and physical health, or being earnestly told that diet and exercise is strongly recommended (WHAT!?!?! I’m an enormously fat female with depression so that idea has never once occurred to me or any of the dozens of medical professionals I meet every week or so).

So. . . yay.

Tomorrow I have a “diabetes checkup” which is medical speak for having another, unrelated nurse tell me to diet and exercise. She’ll continue suggesting exercises I can’t do and foods I can’t eat until I start sobbing, then she’ll tell me off for giving her attitude, and then I’ll say, “Thank you very much. I’m going now” and walk out while she’s still talking.

Or at least, that’s what the last one was like.

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Amytriptyline

July 8, 2018 at 1:51 am (Fully Sick)

One of my meds is amytriptyline. I take it to prevent migraines.

I’ve always had migraines with my period (not that I knew they were migraines until relatively recently) and when I was pregnant for the second time I had pregnancy migraines. It took a long time to get them diagnosed because they were mostly expressed through an aura that was pretty much 24/7. So basically my vision was blurry, and I had a lot of headaches. Along with a lot of other pregnancy awfulness.

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Pictured: The up side of that pregnancy.

The migraines continued after pregnancy, still every day, still mostly aura (but plenty of pain, too—and if I was in pain it usually went for three days straight) until I finally saw a neurologist. They mentioned that, among other things, I had some non-permanent brain damage (as I suspected, at that point – I’d had migraines every day for over two and a half years and definitely felt like something was wrong with my brain that wasn’t “just” mental illness or absent-mindedness or baby brain). The first med we tried didn’t work, and amytriptyline was only an option if I was NOT taking zoloft so I went through a really nasty period of getting off zoloft (for anxiety/depression) so I could try amytriptyline.

Fortunately, it worked—and at a relatively low dose, too. Amytriptyline is also sometimes prescribed for anxiety, but sadly it didn’t help me (so I now take pristiq for the mental stuff).

The early days on amytriptyline were super trippy. For the first week I’d get up in the morning too doped-up to walk straight. It got less silly after a bit, and I started taking the pills with dinner instead of when I went to bed.

Nowadays I still get aura relatively often—generally towards the end of a long day—and the occasional migraine (the aura is a warning; I take painkillers and chocolate and try to avoid physical and mental stress in order to head off the pain before it settles in).

Solving my migraines was a really big step toward functionality, but amytriptyline has some pretty intense side effects.

Firstly, I need to be careful of other meds containing serotonin (so I don’t take too much, get serotonin syndrome, and maybe die).

Secondly, it dries out my eyes. I now use eye drops every single day, but my eyes still water a whole bunch. I can’t wear eye makeup, and more importantly my eyes are in danger of going kablooey due to diabetes.

Thirdly, I sleep. A lot. I typically go to sleep around 11pm and get up at 7am (for those of you who don’t like counting, that’s eight hours each night) and also nap for around ten hours every week. Some nights I go to bed as early as 7pm, and sleep a full ten or twelve hours in a row. Then quite often have a nap the next afternoon. I used to be a night owl, but now I’m usually pretty wrecked in the evenings.

Since I started taking amytriptyline, three things happened:

My writing output dropped, and has never recovered. I still write more than most humans, though.

I can eat chocolate after dinner. This I like.

TJ sleeps less than I do, which SUCKS because I get almost no Chris-and-me-watching-TV down time.

It’s always super easy to get to sleep. Except every so often, generally when (like tonight) I take the tablet much later than usual, when I feel wildly awake. When that happens, I get up and watch TV or read a book until I feel tired enough to try again.

And that’s why I wrote this blog entry. At 2am.

One of the to-do lists I wrote recently was a medical one. There’s a lot of stuff on that list. I’m currently on a waiting list to see the neurologist again (I think the waiting list is about a year) and talk about other pill options. I don’t mind waiting because I know things might get worse before they get better. My mental state is fragile at best.

It’s clear I still have issues with migraines. It’s also clear that my brain damage hasn’t healed in the two years since I started taking amytriptyline (suggesting that the low-level migraines I’m still getting may be preventing my healing).

There is a very simple test for brain damage: I try to walk using ‘fairy steps’ – with each step, I touch the heel of the new foot to the toe of the previous foot. I’m now able to do it, but only if I use my arms to help me balance. If I keep my hands clasped together, I fall over. The physical lack of balance is nice and measurable, but I don’t know the effect this brain damage has on my writing or my ability to socialise. I’ve always been bad with names, but I’m really REALLY bad now. I also switch nouns (eg “Put the carrots in the laundry[fridge] please.”) and presumably my conversation isn’t as sparkling as it could be.

I used to be quite fond of my brain. Mental illness really doesn’t help with that, but brain damage is a whole new kettle of brains. Fish. Fish brains.

You know what I mean.

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My new belly button

February 11, 2018 at 9:36 am (Entries that matter, Fully Sick, Mum Stuff)

It’s been about ten weeks since my stomach operation, and although I’m not fully healed I was just given the go-ahead to swim (my favourite and most effective exercise) yesterday so I’m pretty much in the clear.

Some thoughts:

It really really hurt a lot. There were times when I wasn’t sure it was worth it. (But it clearly was.)

Post-operative infections suck. Especially when you’ve allowed a month off and then suddenly it isn’t close to enough (it was more like taking two months out of my life, although I did get some work done in that time).

Yes, I have a new belly button.

I can fit clothes! This is still extremely exciting.*

My blood glucose has been within target ranges EVERY SINGLE TIME ever since the operation. Under the advice of my doctor, I’m slowly cutting out the diabetes medications that I take—continuing to monitor my blood sugar all the time. It’s too early to be certain, but it looks suspiciously like my stomach operation instantly fixed my diabetes. THAT IS AWESOME. It is also another reason this operation should absolutely be covered under Medicare. How many other mothers have severe health problems because their internal organs just haven’t “bounced back” after a massive physical event?

I’m not so hungry. I snack much less often, and don’t feel as weak, shaky and fatigued as I did before the operation. Stomachs are designed to be enclosed by abdominal muscles, and that goes a LONG way towards explaining why I’ve doubled in weight since having kids… my stomach just wasn’t working, and both my hunger and my fatigue were telling me I wasn’t getting enough food.

I’ve lost a bunch of weight since the operation without trying (or being hangry, which is a big problem for me as it connects to my existing mental conditions in dramatic ways). Hopefully this is a trend that will continue! Honestly I know that things will get harder and harder as I have less weight to lose, but this is certainly helping a LOT.

And sure, I’m still massively overweight, and I still have at least two other conditions that make standing/walking a big problem. But my health has improved hugely, and my optimism for the future—maybe even, one day, a healthy future—is greatly improved.

 

*I actually bought a full-on ball gown the other day, on a whim, because (a) It fit, which is an amazing thing. (b) It’s very pretty, (c) It was at Vinnies, so it cost $50 instead of $500. (d) It was near my birthday.

Full disclosure: I can’t actually do up the zip at the back. Yet.

But I promise to post a pic someday. I’m thinking I might wear it as part of the Kickstarter video for “Murder in the Mail”, which I need to film and put together this week.

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