Wednesday 30 December 2009

The Obligatory Christmas Post.

Well, you knew it was coming. There had to be a Christmas post describing the varied delights of the time of good will to all men (and women, and hermaphrodites and transgender, and all those along the continuum). No doubt there will also be an obligatory New Years post, it's a given really. I must admit I do love Christmas. There have been good bits and bad bits, and perhaps most importantly there has been ham.

Christmas has a smell that you can recognise anywhere. It's a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, Grand Marnier, and flustered present buying stress sweat. I love the decorations and the food. The novelty of people actually making an effort to smile and be cheerful. The traditional Christmas Eve movie, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. You know exactly what is going to happen yet you laugh every time. It's the one time of the year that I really love all the tacky trimmings. At the hospital where I used to work, we would dress up one of the skeletons with tinsel and baubles and he would sit with pride next to the front desk. It wasn't really Christmas until he was sitting out there topped with his Santa hat. No one cares how silly they look with their tinsel wrapped hair and flashing reindeer earrings. Everyone's a child, regardless of whether they are 5 or 95. Joy is in the air and the closest thing to bar humbug are those black and white lollies you buy at the sweet shop. Well at least for the most part.

Pre-Christmas Bob made his presence known. A simple trip to the den of iniquity also known as the Knox shopping centre, was punctuated by frequent trips to the rancid public conveniences to remove all traces of food from my body. I do fear I may have mislaid a liver or at least a kidney down that pungent porcelain but I was not in the mood to search and am willing to live with whatever I have lost. Whilst this does not in and of itself scream Christmas, I did get to experience all this with the joyous tunes of Deck the Halls, Jingle Bells and Joy to the World, screeching out of the tinny speakers in the water stained roof of the bathroom.

Ah the joys of Christmas shopping, the goodwill in the car park, the kindness shown to shop assistants. Oh wait a minute that's bizarro world. This is the worst part of Christmas. The time of year when people feel it is their right to screech like banshees and behave like morally bankrupt, self-centred two-year-olds all in the aim of buying a Wii or a copy of Twilight, to ensure they and only they have the Christmas of their dreams. There was the rude middle-aged woman berating a poor shaking pimple-covered shop assistant who was trying his best to maintain his composure. She ripped the receipt from his hand, screamed over him as he tried to explain and was generally a complete cow. Call me crazy but I don't think that is the best demonstration of Christmas spirit when buying Lego for your grand kids. There were the people swearing at each other in the car park because someone stole someone's car park. I do think the height of Christmas spirit are the thieves who break into people's cars at shopping centres to steal the presents in the boot. Bar Humbug! Thankfully David did the majority of shopping this year or I think I would have been emotionally defeated weeks before the big day.

I managed to bake and chop and stir and blitz with minimal damage. Though I will have to admit that my attempts at Turkish Delight ended up more comparable to 1980's version of The Blob than the delicate rosewater delight I was aiming for. It is actually possible to bake away to your hearts content with a nuclear powered air conditioner (sorry global warming but it's Christmas and there must be mince tarts), a chair in front of the oven, bucket loads of salty potato chips and a never ending supply of cold water. Collapsing, vomiting and nanna naps on tiles are optional. No? You don't believe me. Okay compulsory then.

The house managed to get decorated and thanks to the efforts of my industrious mother, the house was cleaned before the invasion of the hordes from the west, I mean the family. They know I love them, I'm just rather comfortable with our quiet and sedentary life. The addition of 7 extra people, including 3 children aged 4, 5, and 6, was like being strapped into one of those astronaut training centrifuges going at about 50 g (note that 3-6 g sustained for more than a few seconds can cause blackouts and death and you kinda get the idea).

Bob was kept relatively at bay on the big day thanks in part to a promise of gold, my left kidney, a date with a Victoria's Secret Model and my first born son (sorry Thomas, but it's just one of those things). There may have also been some influence from my rash decision to up my meds for the big day, for which I have well and truly been chastised by my very disappointed, zero-tolerance body.

My long thought out decision to wear a sleeveless baby doll top to accommodate for both the traditional Australian Christmas day heat and the obligatory ham and turkey OD was found to have a large flaw. Halfway through the day my eldest was nice enough to point out that if I bent over you could clearly see my mid-30s, 2 children, womanly pancakes. Thereby turning to stone the unlucky viewer. This is not the first time my children have chosen to inform me of my poor fashion sense at an inopportune time. Pre-Christmas my youngest decided to inform me that the maxi-dress I was wearing was completely see through. He had noticed this earlier in the day but decided to burst my blissful bubble of ignorance halfway through our weekly shop at the local supermarket.

I was very impressed with my culinary efforts on the day, so I must brag a little. There was turkey cooked to perfection. Potatoes and pumpkin baked in a bath of chicken stock, herbs, garlic and large globs of butter, which they soaked up and caramelised to gooey goodness. Warm roast duck salad with chilli, lime and general Asiany delights. I forked out for the good ham, and it was good, oh so good. Five days later I am vaguely aware through the haze of my ham induced high that I may be about to OD. A shudder of fear runs through me every time I look at the dwindling leg sitting in my fridge. Deep down I know that each slice brings me closer to the inevitable time when this pink salty nirvana will be over and the withdrawal will begin. Yet I continue to chase the porcine dragon with wilful abandon. There were other gastronomic delights, babaganoush, macadamias roasted with rosemary and sea salt, triple cream brie, smoked salmon and capers, but none truly compare to the Babe version of china white wrapped lovingly in its vinegar soaked ham bag.

I managed to have a glass of champagne, scored with the presents and overall the day went pretty well. No family feuds erupted and the kids didn't fight, scream or cry despite the ingestion of copious amounts of sugar. The good crystal survived the day, the dogs didn't attack the children despite repeated poking and even the teenager managed to speak in full sentences rather than the normal grunts. There was genuine laughter and smiles throughout the day and even after about 10 hours of family bonding we were truly disappointed that the day was over. If that's not a Christmas miracle I don't know what is.
So there you go that was Christmas for this year and we all managed to survive. The aftermath wasn't pretty but that's always the case, Bob or no Bob.

So I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas.

OK that's it I'm off to nourish my ham addiction.

Michelle :)

Monday 28 December 2009

Apologies From an Errant Blogger

OK so it's been a few weeks. I'm a bad blogger I know. I will take myself out back for a bit of self-flagellation later on to atone for my poor posting efforts. But hey I'm going to pull the sick card, it's got to be good for something. So suck it up people. In my oxygen deprived state I was delusional and overly optimistic about the whole health thing. Now I have been firmly sat on my arse by reality and after a lovely little stay in rehab (aka my bed) I am able to at least attempt some coherent blogging, although there are no guarantees and what follows may be little more than line after line of dross filled waffle.

No talking about crappy health this week. No stories of migraines that threatened to liquefy my eyeballs, clumsiness that made me drop multiple vegetables onto my none too clean kitchen floor on Christmas day (30 second rule firmly in place so all OK), or nanna naps on my bathroom tiles where I was too fatigued and dizzy to remove myself from the way-too-close vicinity of a lone and shifty-looking, short, black and curly hair that I swear was slowly moving towards my face a millimetre at a time each time I closed my eyes. No! No more. Not today. Never again. Well...maybe next week.

The last few weeks I have lived vicariously through the Internet. Whilst my own output has been limited there are millions of champion bloggers out there who have been reducing their finger tips to bloody stumps in their furious attempts to keep us in their fascinating loops. I am amazed at the work ethic of some bloggers. The ones that post every day or at least a couple of times a week. I'm not talking about the ones that are just a perpetual list of crap twitter tweets disguised as blogs.

"Cleaning the fridge" Picture of said fridge pasted underneath. posted Dec 3 9:30pm,
"Off to scoop up dog poo from back yard" posted Dec 4 11:34am, ad infinitum, does not a blog make!

I am however impressed by the diversity of blogs out there. No matter what your fancy there's a blog out there for you. Check out one of those "What you Should Read" lists for an eye opener. 10 minutes scanning the list and I found everything from a blog devoted to the humble hedgehog (why?); a fellow who was happy to tell me the multitude of reasons I would burn in hell for all eternity thanks to my Godless and heathen ways (a real peppy people person); and the daily musings of a dominatrix. I had never realised the difficulties a dominatrix faced on a day-to-day basis. How do you explain a box filled with various leather apparatuses to the police at a road block? Well she can give you all manner of tips for dealing with just such a a situation. Who knows when you might just need that information?

What I do love are the blogs that demonstrate a level of conscious thought and creativity. These give me hope that there are people out there in the world who don't think Neighbours is comparable to Tolstoy, or that Lady Gaga's sagacious words "I'd like to take a ride on your disco stick" outmatch anything written by The Bard. People who remember that there was a time before "LOL smiley face heart". A mystical world where we were allowed to use whole words to express our emotions. (Okay so I occasionally resort to using these communicative abominations but I am like brain impaired, like, OK, umm, LOL).

I follow a range of different blogs which sort of represent the various little worlds (or the voices in my head) of Michelle . Health, Humour, Food, Music, Literature, whatever takes my fancy on the day. Of late I have made a deliberate move out of the health sphere to grab a little bit of the real world. Too many health blogs can make you rather depressed after a while. As anyone who has worked in mental health for any length of time knows, it gets to a point where it takes a lot to shock you, so not all of them are PG 13, but most are guaranteed to make you laugh. A case in point is a recent post by Calling People Names where she describes a shaving mishap with her "bizness" that is both graphic and hilarious. I know there are many out there who would find her topics far too graphic and what my mum would call "naughty", but her skills as a writer far outweigh any shock from her topic choices and I never fail to laugh at the descriptions of a life that is so far removed from my own. For me I like good writing regardless of the topic. Unfortunately you have to search high and low for that these days. Occasionally you get lucky and come across a couple that make you want to actually follow publicly rather than lurk on the fringe so no one finds out your dirty little secret. There are three that I've really enjoyed over the past few months (not that there aren't others I enjoy equally I just didn't feel like doing 15 blog reviews, so nothing personal to those I don't mention and if I can pull my finger out I may write about you another day). I love all three of these blogs for very different reasons and for one very similar huge flashing neon light fact; fantastic, original and creative writing. All three of these blogs make me wish that I could force my flagging brain to reliably create whole sentences, to actually verbalise what I feel and think with some semblance of intelligence. That I could remember all those tedious grammar lessons from my Grade 3/4 teacher, the post-menopausally hirsute Mrs Redfern, who could flagellate your soul at 50 paces with her spiteful tongue, or through the use of a metre long wooden ruler across the knuckles depending on her hormonal load. Basically they make me want to be a better writer.

I don't know exactly how to describe these blogs in any way that does them justice so I'll just say:

Mr London Street: you've gotta admire a guy that can write about Doogie Howser MD, Moomintroll and the joys and pitfalls of amateur wedding photography to make you laugh or think or simply feel. A truly talented writer that makes me want to journey over the pond to experience the Reading he describes so eloquently. (Recently a Blog of Note on the Blogger site, but I like to say I knew him way back when, before the fame and the glory).
My Soul is a Butterfly: In one word, Beautiful. Hannah is more artist than writer. The topic is secondary to words that simply sing. It's the type of writing you can lose yourself in.
The Imaginary Reviewer: I don't know whether it's the brilliantly dry humour of his reviews of imaginary TV shows, magazines, books etc, or the fact that there are so many bright sparks in the world who write asking what channel the shows are on or where they can buy the book, but it cracks me up.

I realised the other day I'd regressed to teenage groupie status. I went to write a comment on one of the above mentioned blogs, stopped, and thoughts racing began to panic. Will they like my comment? Will they think I am a complete loser? Is my comment witty or pathetic and sad? Write delete, write delete. I think the answer is sad loser geek, but what can you do? So there you go these three writers are up there with my 13-year-old pre-pubescent adoration of Wham (oh how I loved George Michael. I spent many a night dreaming of snogging him backstage at one of the concerts. Obviously my finely tuned Gaydar was still in the development stage at that point along with my boobs. Funny how the Gaydar developed but I'm still waiting on the boobs).

So there you go. A few blogs that would help anyone pass the time more pleasurably than my verbal detritus. I do however, apologise for my lack of blogging. Although I do think you should thank me for not boring you senseless with lengthy and incoherent mutterings of "woe is me", which would have been 10 minutes of your life you could never get back. So really my lack of blogging was truly a public service.

The Errant Blogger aka Michelle :)

Monday 7 December 2009

A Word From Our Sponsor IX

Well I'm back from the wilderness finally. I think. Maybe. We'll see. Fingers crossed. Touching copious amounts of wood. Oh lord, I know I've jinxed it now, might as well smash a few mirrors and seek out a couple of black cats. Here puss puss puss.

Thanks to all for the well wishes, they were greatly appreciated. I will get around to answering them but it will probably take some time as whilst the mind is willing it is also beset by a rather thick brain fog at present. So sorry all, but at least you know I'm just brain dead and not being a complete cow and ignoring you. For anyone who has been hanging out for the next exciting instalment of the Adventures of Michelle and Bob, it may be time to get a hobby cause I'm really not that exciting. Actually dull may be the best way to describe my life and mental capacities at present. I do appreciate everyone checking back to see if I've posted anything new (makes my stats look good for very little effort on my behalf), so thanks for the perseverance.

Still on the recovery from my run in with that rather vicious wall. Turns out he brought some friends along and they all decided to play a hilarious game of Stacks On Michelle, which has left me rather bruised and battered.

It's been a long rocky road over the past month. My plan to be in the Guinness Book of Records for the best impersonation of a pin cushion is right on track. I've been poked and prodded, strapped up and down, zapped, scanned and sucked dry through copious amounts of blood tests. I even managed to have needles sticking out of both arms and a leg all whilst attempting to stand. I personally think they strap you down during these procedures so you wont be able to hit them with your pathetically weak arms each time they tell you to relax your muscles. I've also played the less than pleasant game of find the vein with my cardio for about an hour and found that I could still feel pain despite a local anaesthetic. YAY!!

My collection of acronyms is growing with the edition of SFN (I have chosen to rename it SNAFU as that just seems more appropriate at this point) this last week. SNAFU is Small Fibre Neuropathy, yeah exciting I know. Well you can take the girl out of the research but you can't take the research out of the girl, so I went on my usual path of trying to find out all I can about my latest edition. So first article, first line what do I find?, "small fiber neuropathy is increasingly being recognized as the major cause of painful buring sensations in the feet, ESPECIALLY IN THE ELDERLY". That's right "especially in the bloody elderly". Yep, I have added another old chick symptom to my list. That's so depressing. I really have to stop looking crap up. Ignorance really is bliss. Oh yeah, and the major drugs used to treat SNAFU lower you bp, which means I can't use them. I also get to be idiopathic girl again as I don't have any of the known causes of SNAFU. Woo Hoo!! According to my neurologist I'm "such a medical mystery". Well fanbloodytastic, that just makes my day. But wait there's more. I also have the most pathologically abnormal reflexes she's ever seen in someone who hasn't been diagnosed with a serious neurological condition. Surprise, surprise, she has no idea why. Well Merry Christmas to you too lady. I so need a holiday right about now.

I did manage to get out for one night which was a bit of a miracle. One of my physio chicks has made it back to the real world of ballet so we all crammed into a car to watch her performance. Between the four of us we managed to form almost one whole brain and not only picked everyone up, but got there, got a great park, found our seats and got home again in one piece. A triumph for all involved. So a big shout out to Sarah and her pointe shoes. I have no idea how she stands, let alone jumps on those things, especially with such grace and ease. Rather knackered the next day but so worth it.

Speaking of physio, we have recently been forced out of the hospital to a new gym. Our class is lead by a women who I believe is the long lost sister of the Supernanny, complete with the patronising, romper room accent. Well it turns out that we are "unasseptible". We talk and laugh too much, and are wasting her and our time. Delightful. We are also "sneaky", what the hell? I feel like I'm 12 again and have been caught hiding my over-cooked peas under my mashed potatoes! Sneaky my arse. So sorry our neurological and other illnesses mean we can't get into the gym bunny vibe. I am having trouble lifting a half kilo weight because I have a neurocardiogenic disorder (and apparently now SNAFU) not because I'm being lazy! Of course we are rather horrible for trying to make it all a bit bearable by having a laugh! So I must say I am not in the least inclined to make the effort to go back except I decondition at the drop of a hat. Damn it. My bestie Kerri has introduced a new swear word to the world after a recent trip to Ikea, "fargrik" (apparently it means plate, but "plate you"just doesn't cut it ). So I have decided to say fargrik to you nasty gym lady, fargrik to you!!

Well that's about it in a nutshell. There's probably more and I've likely missed something super important that's happened, but its all really been a bit of a blur. I think it's less blurry now but I could just be delusional from lack of blood to the brain. So just read this keeping in mind that I may still be in oxygen depleted fantasy land (it's really quite a lovely land that one).

The recently SNAFUed Michelle :)

Monday 16 November 2009

Oh Crap! I'm Not An 80-Year-Old Woman!

What is worse than realising you are an 80-year-old woman? Realising that you are not, and will never be, an 80-year-old woman. For the last couple of years now I've joked that I am only a blue rinse and a hip replacement away from becoming an 80-year-old woman. This is not without a basis in fact. I worked with the elderly for years. I can spot an oldie at 100 paces. I have tested my hypothesis. I have identified my variables and calculated the statistics and it is clear I have many of the features of an elderly woman.
  1. I wear compression hose. Sexy? No? When I went into my local pharmacy to purchase said compression hose, the woman behind the counter told me I needed to bring my grandma in to be measured. When I said it was for me she looked confused and slightly suspicious. Apparently I was the first under 80 who had purchased a pair for their own personal use. She did not seem to get the humour in my saying that they were what all the hookers wore to turn on their elderly clients. I personally thought I was hilarious.
  2. I forget what day it is. I also forget, names, if I've had my tablets, where the keys are, what I am at the grocers for, and have a fondness for repeating the same story over again and again.
  3. I live at the doctors. Go to the doctors during work hours, especially early in the morning and it's wall to wall elderly. Dressed in their Sunday best. The same faces time and again. This is the major social event for the week for many elderly people. They can always find a bunion or corn that needs the doctors attention along with the compulsory 1/2 hr explanation and chat. So frequent are their visits that even the counter staff know them by name. I too am on a first name basis with my doctors and their staff. My cardiologist and I even had a chat about our weights like old girlfriends. The only difference is that I detest going and given the choice I would rather spend the time scrubbing my loo than going to the doctor yet again.
  4. I have just given in to purchasing a dosette box for my many medications. I used to recommend these for my elderly patients with memory difficulties. Sunday through Saturday spelt out in nice big bold letters, with separate boxes for the am and pm. Lets face it a human maraca with memory problems is a recipe for disaster.
  5. I am now considering buying a shower chair. Sitting on the floor of my shower only serves to remind me about my poor cleaning skills and my spectacular mould farming enterprise.
However, like all good theories that should be tested again and again when new data becomes available, I have recently been forced to re-evaluate my conclusions. Upon review, I have begun to suspect that my level of patheticness is not worthy of 80-year-old status. I have come to understand that even Methuselah could kick my arse at this point.

When I first went into hospital for intensive rehab I was filled with hope. My doc said she had sent many patients before. Fool! The minute I walked in something felt very very wrong. There wasn't one young face in the corridor for the 30 minutes I sat waiting to be taken to my room. It was like walking into my Nan's nursing home, complete with hacking coughs and the faint odour of bleach and urine. I stumbled along the bland grey corridor on that first day, expecting to see my Nan come around the corner at any minute. In doorway after doorway I'd catch a glimpse of grey hair, a crocheted blanket and a wiff of Bengay. I was surrounded by room after room of Merles and Franks and Beryls and Alfreds with no hope of escape. I was to be stuck in the room between the neurology and cardiopulmonary patients. Apparently no one under the age of 80 suffers from these ailments. How stupid of me to get a disorder better suited to those who enjoy butterscotch and bingo. Night times I would drift off to sleep listening to the dulcet tones of old Stan in the next room coughing up his left lung. Morning would be heralded by the gentle rhythms of him coughing up his right, followed by the delightful sound of the nurses sucking the phlegm from his clogged and failing lungs. Sadly I was to later find that silver-haired Stan was the Lance Armstrong of the exercise bike, whilst I required training wheels.

It was particularly inspiring that first day when the physios did my baseline measurements. There is nothing more heartening than being lapped by an old chick on a zimmer frame. I'd wander up to the gym for my 3 sessions of patheticness a day, which my lovely physiotherapist was kind enough to call exercise. I'd sit in the waiting chairs surveying the large bland open space before me. One thing I learned early on sitting in those chairs was to avoid eye contact or fain death/sleep. If not you ended up with your new elderly best friend telling you her life story and complete medical history. You only make that mistake once. The gym was a site to behold. It was like some bizarre, overly elaborate hamster cage. It was filled with an army of bent grey-haired ladies in pearls and old men with pants up to their arm pits. They'd shuffle around weird wooden boxes, sit in a chair, stand up from a chair, sit down in a chair, stand up from a chair. I'd fall into a trance watching the hypnotic rise and fall of those frail grey-haired hamsters. Then the tea ladies would come and those same little old ladies and gentlemen would move with speed that bellied their age and infirmity, to be the first in line for a cup of tea coloured water and a slightly moist digestive biscuit. It was like seagulls on a hot chip. It must have been scary for those hair-netted, khaki-coloured, tea ladies as that grey-haired horde descended on mass on their cart. Maybe that's why they always looked like they had just sucked on a lemon, and had delightful personalities to match. Me in my patheticness had to be content to sit and wait for the tea ladies to bring the dregs to the smelly vinyl physio bed as I wasn't trusted not to go arse up after my oh so hectic routine of leg raises. In reality I had no desire to fight those old ladies for their cuppa. I still have a sneaking suspicion that I wouldn't win in that fight.

My favourite memory of that hospital stay is lining up to vote. The corridor was filled with a long line of zimmer frames, walking sticks, wheelchairs and me. Woo Hoo inspiring! Eventually I did make my jail break. Luckily I was released so I didn't have to implement my Shawshank plan through the sewage pipe. One more day and I would have done it, turds be damned.

Then it was me and my grey haired homies at my outpatient physio. It's hard not feel conspicuous in a group when you are the only one not born during the Great Depression. I think I started to lose the plot during this period or at least developed a bad attitude. Maybe dementia is catching? Is it wrong to fantasise about tripping the 70-year-old guy with the quadruple bypass running on the treadmill, or sticking a walking stick in the wheels of the exercise bike occupied by the 80-year-old with the new stent. I would devise rather elaborate plans in my mind of what to do to the oldies who could walk faster and further than me. I'm a bad person I know, but at least it kept me entertained for all those months. One thing I do love is that the elderly turn up to physio in their Sunday best, whereas I'd rock up in my old gym gear, stained runners and my hair just barely held back in an old hair elastic. Maybe that's the secret? If I wore pearls and got my hair "set" I'd be able to walk for more than 5 minutes without wanting to pass out. I hung out with the gang for a year before I broke free. I did half expect I'd have to endure a gang beat down with their zimmer frames and walking sticks in retribution for leaving.

Now it's the Masters Games and I must truly face the fact that I am not worthy of being an octogenarian, nonagenarian or even centenarian. A news article about a 100-year-old freak of nature, who can not only pick up a shot put but also throw it 5 metres, is not a feel good story to a 36-year-old woman who is unable to open a can of tomatoes thanks to her pathetically weak arms. Damn it grandma go home sit in your rocker and complain about your arthritis, your sluggish bowel and those kids with their evil devil music. Serve up curdled cream, pickled ox-tongue and year-old lamingtons like a normal Nanna (or was that just my gastronomically challenged Nanna?). That's what 100 year-old ladies should be doing, not playing with large metal balls and wearing short shorts. This spunky old Nanna and her hipster peeps may be more husk than flesh, have skin flaps that flutter in the wind, and arses that have completely disappeared, but they still wouldn't want me in their group. No matter how much prune juice I drink or how many tubes of liniment I have on my bathroom shelf, I will never be allowed in with the cool grey-haired kids. I will remain Nigel-no-friends with my abnormal disorder.

I must face facts. As much as I may wish it I am not an 80-year-old woman. Crap!

The unfortunately young Michelle :)

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Lest We Forget

Without fail The Last Post makes me tear up every time I hear it played. Something about those notes, heard since earliest childhood, touch the soul. Stillness. A pure silence enveloping the crowd as everyone is united by each note. Pausing to remember those who have lost there lives in wars on foreign soils. Far from their homes and the embrace of the ones they love. For those who remain lost, missing on the field of battle in lands far removed from the dreams of youth.

As a child that silence seemed to go on for hours. I would read the long list of names on the shrine in the centre of town. So many names, so many places. Never reaching the end. Surnames I recognised as belonging to people I knew around town. Surnames that were long forgotten. Those little brass letters seemed to glow in the sunshine, almost bursting with the unimaginable loss and pain they struggled to contain. So young. Not much older than my brother at the time. I'd look at him and try to imagine him in a slouch hat, riding with Lighthorsemen, leaping the walls of Bathsheba in a hail of bullets. Would he have been able to overcome the fear screaming in his mind as his horse took that first step towards those walls? When the first bullet rang out? Would he have come home? Would he still have been the laughing boy I knew and loved? I hoped I'd never have to find out.

Those little brass letters held a thousand stories. Stories fading to the pages of history. Time slowly taking those who fought by their sides or remembered the little things that made them them. The way they held their head when they were listening or their carefree smiles as they talked with friends, before the call of war drew them to enlist. Stories that would blur and merge, to lose that which made each man unique, that made them special. Young men dead defending their country and loved ones in wars far removed from their own hearths. Young men who had never gone further than maybe a day or twos walk form their homes, agreeing to be transported to foreign lands they'd only read of in books. Drawn by the call of King and country. I often wonder what those young men thought when they first set eyes on the pyramids or walked through the poppy lined fields of France. I wonder if they could have foreseen the horrors that lay before them. I wonder what it must have felt like in that moment when the excitement of the unknown was replaced by the reality of the battlefield.

Then that never ending silence would be broken by the mournful notes from the lone bugler somewhere in the crowd. It always felt like the world stopped for the length of that song. Holding its breath in grief as it mourned it's lost sons. Even as a small child I felt the solemnity of that moment in my soul.

Today is Remembrance Day once more. A day to remember those that made the ultimate sacrifice in too many wars past and present. My grandfather fought in WWI on the battlefields of the Somme. He, like so many young men of his time, lived through the horror of war to return home heroes. Little was spoken of the true horrors they faced. They were celebrated for their heroism and sacrifice. Good and Evil were black and white. Clear for all to see. Victory easy to identify. A nation united to celebrate bravery and create heroes to be honoured for all time.

Today's wars are different. Good and Evil are no longer clear. Victory often intangible. We see the face of war on our TV screens each night. We see the human tragedy, the women and children crying in the streets over the bodies of the dead, and it all becomes grey. War is condemned and nations are no longer united is their resolve to defeat an easily identifiable Evil. We see the fluidity of war, the blurring or right and wrong, the aim of the conflict becomes lost in complex politics. War no longer has a spectacular ending where everyone can mark the day with ticker tape parades, like Victory in Europe or Victory in the Pacific. War and hatred persist and we become desensitised to the carnage we see on the news. Death of solider and civilian alike become mere numbers flashed on a screen.

Many things are different between 1915 and 2009. But regardless of whether you agree or disagree with war. Regardless of why it started or why it continues, one thing never changes. The soldiers who chose to serve their country either on the battlefields of Iraq or Afghanistan or on Peace Keeping missions in various nations around the globe, the faces are the same as those captured in photos of the Great War, WWII, Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam.....the list goes on. Different places, different times but the faces are interchangable.

They are mothers and fathers, son and daughters, husbands, wives, brothers and sisters. They are your next door neighbour or the guy or girl you went to school with. They have families that love them and pray every night for their safe return. They look like you. They are you. These men and women see unimaginable horrors which they must live with for the rest of their lives. Some come home with horrific injuries, both physical and mental. Even those that get to come home frequently live with the uncertainty of being recalled for another tour, and another and another.

So often these soldiers are barely out of their teens. Not considered responsible enough to buy alcohol, but deemed able to hold a gun and dance with death on a foreign shore. I look at my 15 year old son and I can't imagine how I would be able to watch him leave to go to war or live with the unbearable fear until he was home safe once more. To see the look of lost innocence on the faces of the returning soldiers, young faces yet so old. I look at the picture of my grandfather in his uniform, more a child than a man, and it's hard to fathom that same young face on the battlefield, facing death and destruction everyday. Killing another human being in the name of war and watching his friends killed around him. Knowing the fragility and complexity of life too soon.

It's hard to equate the disappearing lines of old men that march on Remembrance and ANZAC Day, to the young men who set off each day to the deserts of the Middleast or to a multitude of other conflicts around the world. But look in their eyes and they are united young and old. United by that knowing look in their eyes of horrors seen and friends lost, of a constant battle to understand what they did and what they saw.

You don't have to agree with war, no one in their right mind does. War brings forth the worst of humanity, but it can also bring forth the best. What is important is to remember that those endless oceans of soldiers we see on the nightly news are people. People with their own unique histories and memories. People who hurt and bleed. People who love and ache. People who show bravery and courage. People who struggle with what they see and do. People who have families and friends. People who like pizza and football and going to the pub with friends. People with parents and children. They are people who sometimes don't get the chance to return home, who don't get to say good bye to the ones they love. People who can come back so changed by their experiences that the person they were may be lost forever. The numbers of dead and injured reported on the news do not reflect the beauty of a life lost to soon, or of one changed forever.

Remembrance Day is not a celebration of war. It is not a day to debate political ideologies. It is a chance to remember the human face of war, of the men and women who risk their lives day after day, and of those who make the ultimate sacrifice.

Lest We Forget

Michelle :)

Saturday 31 October 2009

A Word From Our Sponsor VIII

Have been mugged by that god damn trouble making wall yet again. May be time to hire some body guards. My own personal Grizz and Dotcom, to beat the crap out of the next wall that comes my way.

Spring has hit and and consecutive days over 20 degree C have turned my body to jelly. Bad case of stubborn stupidity led me to the gym. Discovered it's rather hard to do a lunge (or stand) when your legs wont stop shaking and keep collapsing. Now resigned to a hectic Spring living the horizontal, glued to the aircon with my legs up in the air. Woo Hoo!!!

Off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz, yet again. Which means stop the meds which keep me upright and undergo the "unpleasant" test (doctor code for "oh my god this test will be worse than being forced to sit through both "Glitter" and "Crossroads" on loop"). A day of needles, more needles, and then a couple more needles. Ahhh the human pin cushion once more. Strap me down, prop me up, add a couple of electrodes, some radiation, and suck out a gallon of blood, and it all starts to sound like some strange fetish movie.

These pesky issues may impede my blogging ability a tad so it may be a while before I surface in the blogisphere once more. But do not fear you can't keep a Rusty Hoe down.


The wall fighting Michelle :)

Sleep time.

Monday 26 October 2009

Farewell To The Brandy Hag

The Brandy Hag is leaving today. Her bags are packed and her tickets purchased. Her time is up. She is a relic of another age. The taxi has arrived and is waiting out by the curb. She had a good run. But now it was over. She takes one last look around the empty rooms, sighs, picks up her bags and walks out the door. She walks slowly down the path and steps into the taxi. She doesn't look back. She will never return. She is gone.

The Brandy Hag had been in residence for many years. She was a fixture of the party scene, at bars, BBQs, formal balls and nightclubs. She laughed. She danced. She loved. She was adventurous, willing to try anything once. She drank kava in Vanuatu. Putrid, muddy, oily water, with a hint of rotting vegetation, to anaesthetise the lips. How could she resist the challenge of such a noisome brew. She was not adverse to sampling a glass or five, of snake wine the length and breadth of Vietnam. Numerous hot, dusty little roadside shacks that passed for bars, each with their own version of the reptilian brew. Those large dusty glass bottles stuffed with mysterious herbs, random fungi, whole snakes, birds and even in one case a baby deer, preserved in a raw rice wine with a kick like a mule. Sweltering in the humidity, seated on little plastic kiddy stools, surrounded by the heady aroma of human waste, only here could you even begin to consider drinking such exotic rot gut. There even were shots of something resembling aviation fuel whilst singing karaoke with Asian businessmen in the middle of nowhere. The Brandy Hag enjoyed the mysteries of the Far East.

Her brief sojourn in the Defence Force was peppered with cheap port that ripped out her throat and then considerately anaesthetised the damaged flesh. Jugs of cut price icy vodka and orange and butterscotch schnapps were enjoyed in the bar conveniently within walking distance on her room. The Brandy Hag's roll as a significant other, allowed her to continue her patronage of various Defence Force messes throughout the years. So many years of pay night raffles, bar snacks and a glass or a pint for a pittance. The mess was a place of bonding for those forced into the gypsy life of the Forces. Curry nights, trivia nights, balls, and family days. The Brandy Hag enjoyed them all.

She played small intimate gigs in her lounge room entertaining her adoring fans with amazing renditions of Europe's The Final Countdown and demonstrating her Thriller dance moves. A gracious performer she encouraged others to join her on the stage to demonstrate their own musical prowess. Lounge rooms filled with laughter, joy and encouragement as she watched her man express his love of Dusty Springfield with a rendition of Son of A Preacher Man to a riveted audience. These were golden years.

The Brandy Hag lived an age of humidity, cyclones, crocodiles and cockroaches the size of a fist, during her years in Darwin. During The Wet she sat on her balcony watching the storms roll in every afternoon with a glass of brandy in her hand. She felt the world shake to the shot gun cracks of thunder and watched the world dissolve in monsoonal rain. During The Dry she sat on the white sands of Mindil Beach, more Brandy in her hand. She swam without care in the lagoons and springs of the tropical north. Safe in the knowledge that she was surrounded by crocodile traps and that a bottle of St Aggie awaited she and her friends in the esky on the shore.

The Brandy Hag had grown over the years, matured, settled down. She had moved from the sickly sweet West Coast Coolers and UDLs and the stupidity of youth, to a world of savignon blanc or champagne, complete with camembert and marinated olives. A fizzy coffee with a girlfriend at swanky local restaurant bar was a fine way to spend an afternoon. Or a glass of wine, curled up on a comfy couch in front of a roaring open fire, on a cold winters day. Bliss. The times they were a changing but the Brandy Hag was content.

Then a new change came in on the wind. The Brandy Hag felt a shiver down her spine as the wind swept by her, dust eddies swirling round her knees. This wind brought change, and she knew in her bones that this change was not to be a good thing. Bit by bit the change began. Subtle at first the change wound it's way into her world. Bit by bit, day by day the change grew and when it found it's voice, its bellow shook the very earth beneath her feet. The change was here. Prohibition had been declared. The age she knew had ended. The Brandy Hag fought the change with every ounce of strength she had, but she was beaten down again and again. The fight was over, she was just a bit slow on the up take. The Brandy Hag finally realised there was no longer a place for her. The world had changed. She was but a relic of a former golden age of freedom and choice, that no longer existed.

The Brandy Hag had always been a practical sort. She knew when it was time to move on. She put a "For Rent" sign up in her front window and it was not long before she received her first offer of interest. The new tenant was unsure at first. He wanted to look at the property a couple of times before he decided. What was the traffic situation? Was there off street parking? Would He be allowed to redecorate? The more He visited the more he decided the house would suit his purposes. He offered a large sum of money to purchase the Brandy Hag's home outright. Beaten down and exhausted by the winds of change she accepted his offer. As the Brandy Hag handed over the keys to her home's new owner she paused for a moment. She looked down at the keys in her hand and a small smile appeared on her lips. She looked up at the new tenant, smiled again and with stealth slipped a spare key into her coat pocket. The Brandy Hag knew her time was over but she still wanted to have the option to visit should she ever find herself in the area again.

The Brandy Hag is leaving today. Her bags are packed and her tickets purchased. Her time is up. The taxi has arrived and is waiting out by the curb. She takes one last look around the empty rooms, picks up her bags and walks out the door, down the path and steps into the taxi. She pauses as she closes the taxi door. She puts her hand in her pocket and feels the small brass key in her pocket. She runs her finger over the rough groves on the side of the key and feels it warm to her touch. A small smile appears on her lips. She will return one day, maybe not for a long time, maybe only for a short visit, but she will return. And when she does the golden days of freedom and choice will be remembered and celebrated and the Brandy Hag will dance again.

Michelle nee TBH :)

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Fat Bottom Girl's You Make The Rockin' World Go Round.

Oh Miss Muffin Top, my new and expanding friend. I don't quite remember when you arrived on the scene but it is clear that you are going to be here for the long hall. No fair weather friend, you my bootylicious babe. You are there for me through thick and thicker. I am so used to your warm embrace now I feel absolutely no desire to see you out the door.

Once upon a time Miss Muffin Top was not in my life. She has only arrived on the scene in the last year or two, though I have a sneaking suspicion that she had been lurking around prior to this just waiting for an opportunity to come out and say hi. Lets face it I'm 36, I've had two kids and, according to Oprah I'm probably in peri-menopause, my metabolism is now pretty much a crappy 80's Datsun hatchback. There are also those damn genetics. On my mother's side we have something called "The Hellsten Curse" which afflicts every woman in the family. If you looked up pear shaped in the dictionary you would see a large picture of all the women in my family. No boobs, big arse, this is "The Hellsten Curse". Now my mum is of Swedish stock, traditionally tall, blonde haired, blue-eyed and big boobed. What the hell happened? Tall is about it for us now. I was cocky. I got to my early 30's still the same weight as when I was 20, I thought I'd avoided the curse, but no that was not to be. I now know that Miss Muffin Top was only a Tim Tam away. Then I of course I added Bob to the picture and she managed to get the red eye and landed on my doorstep ahead of time.

Now I must give Bob some props. Initially I lost weight. A lot of weight. Jenny Craig eat your heart out. Nausea from hell is not conducive to eating and what little I could get down was used in my bodies desperate attempt to repair itself. Well that was food well spent wasn't it. My bodies repair team need to be on A Current Affair, with all those dodgy builders who have never heard of a right angle or a spirit level. But alas Bob has the attention span of a gnat. Now all that weight I lost has come back home and brought along all its friends for the ride.

Nausea and reduced intake are no longer a barrier to my attempts to be the first female sumo. Now I only have to look at food and it appears to beam directly to my hips, thighs and buttocks. There's a whole lot of love in my house judging by the size of my love handles. Now I must admit I do prefer to consume my daily salt prescription with hot chips, cold chips, chips with gravy, potato wedges (with sour cream and sweet chilli sauce), potato cakes, dim sims and the like but they were on the list given to me by the cardiologist so they can't be the culprit, can they? In general I do eat healthy foods. I cook most of my own meals, really have to now thanks to my dietary issues. Spinach was not really that high up the calorie scale last time I looked.

There has to be some link to the ridiculous amounts of water we are forced to consume. We all know about water weight. This is what disappears when you do those farcical, 24 hour detox programs. Now I do remember from my Year 8 science class that 1 litre of water equals 1 kilo of weight. Now doing the arithmetic (bear with me here, brain fog girl doing math): if Y is water, X is kilos, and Z my muffin top. Then:

Z = (X + 3Y)

Then X equals 3 and my muffin top is going up by up to 3 kgs a day. That of course would make me the size of an African elephant within the year, so we must take into account other variables such as: a,frequent going to the loo thanks to my now acorn sized bladder, b increased salt intake increasing water retention, c metabolism in neutral. Basically this formula says that Miss Muffin Top is here to stay and will probably move me towards the Rubenesque woman rather than the modern ideal of the stick figure. (okay so the math aint great but you get the point).

So I now have two choices: Self-loathing each time I look in the mirror, or acceptance. Women are supposed to have curves. Remember Marilyn? She would now be considered fat in her size 14. If that's the case, then society is truly warped. I'm not talking about aiming for obesity as the norm, but there is nothing wrong with a little bit of extra healthy cushion for the pushin'. We need to re-evaluate how we look at our bodies. Just like the wrinkles on our faces our bodies tell the stories of our lives. Yes I have stretch marks and my stomach muscles are like the elastic in an old pair of undies, but I gave birth twice! Now it would be great to fit into my size 6 skirts once more but trying and failing to do up that zip really is a depressing form of self-flagellation. Frankly I have enough other crap to deal with thanks to Bob, I don't need to depress myself further by busting zips overs my now curvaceous butt. I need to suck it up and move to the size 10 rack (it may be a 12 in other stores but I'm sticking to the ones that let me be 10, denial 'aint just a river in Africa my friend), the maxi dress and dressing to match my current curves, not the curves of my 20s. To come to terms with my saggy fat butt, that my boobs will eventually touch my knees, that cankles are forever, and that Miss Muffin Top is here to stay. I will admit I would like it if I could find a way to transfer some of this insulation upwards to my boobs so I could do the whole hourglass thing, but I am resigned to this now. Short of a boob job, pear is my lot in life.

So I have decided to embrace my curves. I now have a new mantra thanks to that pinnacle of the feminist movement Sir Mix-A-Lot:

I like big butts and I can not lie
So Fellas (yeah) Fellas(yeah)
Has your girlfriend got the butt (hell yeah)
Well shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it, shake that healthy butt
Baby got back
(I like Big Butts, 1992)

Michelle and her new BFF, Miss Muffin Top :)

This Just Made Me Laugh

Sometimes you just come across something that makes you laugh. It may be completely juvenile, but it just appeals to my fogged brain today.

Thank you's Word of the Day, for using the word Turbid in a sentence:

Although both are found in the same waters, black crappies usually prefer clearer, quieter water, while white crappies flourish in warmer, siltier and more turbid water.
-- Tim Eisele, "Crappie Facts", Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin), May 8, 1998

So what water do your crappies prefer?

Michelle :)

(I so want to run out and find a copy of "Crappie Facts"!)

Friday 16 October 2009

Damn That Wall Packs A Punch!

Today is a bad day. Actually it's the continuation of yesterdays bad afternoon and evening. I'm siting here looking at my computer trying to get my brain to break through the concrete thick cotton wool that is filling my head. I type and re-type, write, delete, re-write, trying to form whole sentences. Looking over what I've written I notice that I've missed the majority of the joining words, apparently those pesky "thes" and "ands" have decided to make a break for it today. I have the fine motor skills of a rock at this point. My fingers feel like they are in those thick snow gloves which mute your feeling and dexterity. I pretty much need one of those touch sticks Homer needed to dial his phone when he decided to go for a disability that would allow him to work from home, and chose obesity. Today, I feel like I too need a moomoo or at least a helper monkey!

Maybe I could get one of those computer programs where you talk and it writes for you. On second thought I would still have to try and form sentences not only in my mind but also with my mouth. I wonder if you can get one that interprets slurred and mumbled drunk sounding talk?

I should have known yesterday that this was coming up. It started with wobbly legs at gym. Then the tingly and then numb face when I was having coffee with my physio girls. I swear I missed half the conversation as I vagued in and out. Then the feet started, the purple coming up my legs, going from lavender to midnight purple, my muscles becoming weak and super uncoordinated, then pins and needles feet. I got home just in time to enjoy the severe stomach cramps and nausea, the room began to swim, greying vision, and well that was the pretty much the high point of the day. After that it was pretty much game over. This isn't the first time I've experienced this and it certainly wont be the last. But that doesn't make it any easier to bare. Logic brain is off line today. Emotional brain has moved in and she's got a bad attitude.

I sit here feeling like an absolute space cadet. Sooooooo exhausted, mentally and physically. There's no point in even begining to entertain the idea of doing anything today. The simple task of making coffee was only achieved by sitting on the floor in the kitchen with my dogs looking at me like I was a freak. I look in the mirror and today my "invisible illness" is very visible. In fact there might as well be flashing neon lights around me and a marching band to announce it as I look so unwell. I wonder if I wack on enough Nude By Nature or Sheer Cover, will I be able to fake my way through the school pick ups? Hmmm... after a second glance in the mirror I think not. It may be time to break out the Halloween mask to cover up. That white faced scream guy from Scary Movie has more colour than me today.

I've downed so much water I might as well just sit on the loo for the day thanks to my acorn sized bladder. I've had extra salt on top of the normal ridiculous amount (it may be time for one of those huge salt licks they put in paddocks for cows). I've had all my tabs. I've tried lying down with my feet up. I've tried an extra sleep. I've made sure I eat despite the nausea. I've done everything I'm supposed to do and yet this crap continues. I hate that my body keeps on betraying me no matter what I do. There is no mind over matter some days. I try to be positive, I really do. I try to find the funny side of things. I know it's probably just the combination of the trip into the city to see my doc, change in meds, normal ill health and trying to go to physio, but I'm still shitty. As I said emotional brain in control today and she may just bitch slap the next person that crosses her path, whether they deserve it or not. I'm so over being sick. I'm so over it not only affecting me physically but also mentally. I had a brain once. I really did. I was able to juggle multiple intellectually complex situations with ease. Now I can't even find an "and" to complete a sentence that hopefully makes sense.

I know it'll pass eventually and I'll be back to normal crappiness. I don't want sympathy or pity, god I so don't want that. Just like I didn't want to get a motherly pat on the back by the gym lady for getting my tricep exercise correct (I know she meant well but Arghhhh). That just makes me feel more of a sick person.

OK time to end this blog. Just realised I've been staring at the screen for about 10 minutes without doing anything. Brain failing fast. Fine motor skills failing even faster. Getting that horrible whole body feeling like the sudden drop in an elevator. Never a good sign. Time for an extended nanna nap.

I hate hitting the wall. Especially when it slaps you right back, then jumps on you WWF style, and kicks you while you're down. Some walls just fight dirty.

Michelle :(

Wednesday 14 October 2009

A Word From Our Sponsor VII

Ding Dong the witch is dead
The wicked witch
The wicked witch
Ding Dong the wicked witch is dead

It's over! Woo Hoo! No more Mestinon for me. Time for a ritual burning of the bottle and left over tabs to cleanse the universe of their evil!!! (Hmm...maybe I've been watching way to much Supernatural, but hell Dean is hot). OK that may be a little over dramatic but I will enjoy disposing of those little white tablets. Who knew so much evil could be contained in such an tiny unassuming white tablet. I did persevere in the vane hope that they may have eventually turned out to be a miracle, but alas that was not to be. Not that I'm really shocked. Lets face it I've had little success from all the other meds I've trialled. But "you've gotta be in it to win it" as the saying goes, so I'm sure I'll be willing to trial the next little pill that comes along, No 3s and all.

So where to from here? Who knows. I'm personally thinking Barbados may be the way to go. My cardio says I'm so odd I may just be my own form of Bob. No POTS, NCS, OI or the like for me. That's right, I have a bad case of "Michelle's Disease". Woo Hoo! Me and Lou Gehrig, what a way to go down in history. Oh you have to laugh. I've pretty much embraced my freakishness now but I never really had dreams of becoming my own disorder; that just seems kinda pretentious. She did however confirm that I am normal. See a doctor said its so it must be true. I did ask her if I could get that on a card to show people. So it's official now I'm not crazy I really am just a little (well a bit more than a little) unwell!

Well at least I can say good bye, adios, auf wiedersehen, sayonara, arrivederci, and au revoir to my porcelain lover now that the Mestinon beast has been slain. All I have to say to you my pine fresh beau is:

Hit the road Jack
And don't you come back
No, more, no more, no more
Hit the road Jack
And don't you come back
No more.

So now it's off for yet more tests. Oh joy. Well until that time, I am going to rejoice in defeating the son of Beelzebub, Mestinon, and enjoy the novelty of a non-exploding body. See evil Mestinon I told you I'd be back. I won the war.

Veni Vidi Vici

Caesar Michelle :)

Oh man I'm so tired, time for sleep, sleep, sleep. Brain failing fast. Night all.

Sunday 11 October 2009

Thank's, But No Thanks, Shirley McClain. Reincarnation Sucks: My New Life As A Lab Rat.

Once upon a time I was a real girl, happily bumbling along through life. But somewhere between a chai latte and glass of savignon blanc I appear to have died. Who knew. Not me. Maybe I'm just as incredibly unobservant as the dinner party guests in The Meaning of Life when Death pays a visit thanks to an iffy salmon mousse. But now I find that I have been reincarnated as a Lab Rat. I'm thinking that this is a bit of a slide downwards on the reincarnation ladder, so I've obviously displeased the gods big time. Maybe it was my love of 80s New Romantic music that displeased the gods? I know that there are few who can truly understand the deep, existential joy of Ant Music. But who knows? All I know is that Ratdom is my fate from now on and testing my crappy little plastic running wheel.

Does anyone ever consider we little rodents when they say, "Why don't we order blah blah blah test". Yep, that's the favourite phrase of every doctor on the planet. What do you do when 50 tests aren't enough? Why you add another, and another, and infinitum. Well maybe I'd rather sit down and nibble on a big chunk of yellow cheese rather than deal with yet another electrode. Did anyone ever think of that? Go push your own damn lever.

Having Bob in your life means having tests in your life. My life has felt like one giant pop quiz over the last few years. Problem is that I have apparently spent my life doing tequila shots and attending keggers, rather than focussing on my studies. Big F- for me.

I was trying to think of all the tests I've had done over the last three years and it's all started to become one lab coated and alcohol swabbed, blur. I do know my personal highlight was having to pee into a styrofoam cup and collect my wee in a giant plastic juice bottle for 24 hrs. I think my husband's personal highlight was having to carry said juice bottle to the pathology place for me. You know there is nothing you can't face as a couple if your husband is willing to drive around with, and handle a large bottle of your wee.

I have had my Hannibal Lector phase, otherwise known as the tilt-table test (times two of course, because one time is just never enough. Third times the charm though, can't wait for the more invasive tilt. Woo Hoo!). Thank God, I decided to forego the fava beans and ciante beforehand, as the doctor would have worn it all. If you have Bob you will most likely have been lucky enough to experience this joy. I wont go into the intricacies of the tilt-table test you can find that information on many other far more serious and definitely more qualified sites than mine. Basically you get strapped to a bed (not in the kinda kinky, need a safe word, way), and the bed is raised so you are pretty much standing up (hence the Hannibal Lector reference, no creepy leather mask though). The doctor then chats to you, continually measuring your hr and bp, whilst waiting for you to pass out. If you are so uncooperative as to not pass out during this period they then inject you with a form of adrenalin and sit back and let the fun begin. Incredibly unpleassant is the only clean way to describe a tilt-table test. I can however think of a long list of colourful expletives to use. Now I recall being strapped in. I remember saying I'm going to vomit. The world going strange and then..... the next thing I knew I woke up lying on my back with the doctor holding my legs up in the air. I was then given a glass of water, an information sheet on NCS, my salty food list (see my Chiko Roll post, July 09), and a "see you later, you'll be fine tomorrow". Ha! Liar, liar pants on fire buddy. A week later I was still feeling as though I'd just completed the New York Marathon, twice!

I've had a plethora of heart tests: ECG, EEG, 24 hour monitoring, stress test etc. Most on more than one occasion. What I love most about these tests are the little round sticky things they use to attach the electrodes. Without fail I get delightful little round, itchy and sore, welts by which to remember the whole experience, for the next 3-4 weeks. I like to call them my ringworm if people ask. Gotta get some fun outta the whole experience. But that's just me and you've probably worked out by now I'm a little bit twisted. Can I just ask, do they really need to press so hard for the ECG. I swear the tech pushed some of my ribs out through my shoulder blade. OWWWW!!!

Then there are the miscellaneous blood tests. I have given my weight in blood a dozen times over during the past three years. Old Nosferatu would have been able to forego the neck sucking and been able to live an eternity on the amount I've supplied. At one point I was having so many tests that my arm became seriously hypersensitive to the needles. Blood tests to rule out other disorders or diseases. Blood tests to check that I'm not going to keel over from an imbalance due to my meds. There has to be an easier way! Who thought taking copious amounts of blood from the girl who passes out from a low bp would be a good idea? I can see the fear in the nurses eyes every time I go in. She now just pats the bed and tells me to lie down for as long as I need.

Then there are the bp and hr checks. Lying down, sitting up, standing up or any combination of the above. It's like some strange interpretive dance routine. "The dance of the Seven bp Readings"! Hell, I'm an expert at reading the old sphegmomanometer (say that 10 times fast). Who the hell names these things. I'm sure there's some weird little guy sitting in a dark room somewhere with his Star Wars actions figurines, a "What would Buffy do?" t-shirt, with a countdown to the next Star Trek movie on his FB page, trying to outdo his online buddy at making up weird names for medical equipment. Or maybe it was some Swedish guy called Spheg who was really impressed with his moustache. Who knows. My hr and bp can be hard to get at times so this can be hours of fun for those charged with trying to measure it. I have particularly fond memories of a nurse when I was in hospital who kept getting angrier and angrier when she couldn't get either, bruising my arms in the process, and then storming out never to return. I guess she missed the class about Florence Nightingale.

So what do you do when you've run the blood tests, done the tilt-table, the heart tests, the bp tests?? Why an MRI of course. Oh yes, put the claustrophobic girl in the giant circular coffin! OK, I've sat in on quite a few MRIs over the years when my patients were going through it so I knew the drill, right? Well I apologise to every last one of you. All the little old ladies that I suggested an MRI for, I'm sorry. I now know that I was a sadistic cow for doing that to you. Maybe the MRI was my karma? That 1 hour trapped in that thumping fluro tunnel was one of the worst things I have ever experienced. Thankfully, my sweet David was allowed to sit in and pat my leg throughout. I think they gave in due to the shear terror painted across my face. Being in that weird headgear, being forced to be completely still, it was all like some Medieval torture device. David, to be hilarious, later decided to mention how hysterically funny it would have been had a Huntsman spider (my biggest fear being spiders) were to crawl in there whilst I was unable to move. Oh funny, funny man.

And lets not forget the hours of fun involved in the Autonomic Function Test. Yet another reason to strap me up and stick electrodes all over my body. Remember how Neo looked when he finally woke up in The Matrix?, well I was doing my best impersonation that day. I'll never look at a balloon the same way after that horrible valsalva test. Worst thing was I knew the neurologist who did the testing, had worked with him in the past. He decided he'd tell me really bad doctor jokes to make me feel comfortable. This did not make the time go quicker. Although I will have to say he did give me the clearest and best discription of what the hell my body was doing. He was also the first doctor to tell me they don't need to make you pass out on the tilt-table test. He showed me on the graphs where everyting dropped as I was on the verge of passing out, this was when he quickly put me back down, thus avoiding the crappiness of fainting.

Then there were the gastro tests to see if there was an underlying gastro reason for my perpetual nausea. Cameras both ends. You know you have no dignity left when you get to lie on a cold table in a hospital gown and some strange man places a camera up your butt. And lets not forget the "cleansing" that must occur prior to the camera/butt incident. It's just pleasantness, followed by pleasantness.

And you just know the tests will continue. You can say no, but the reality is you need to try and find out what is causing Bob if you are ever to have a hope of finally getting rid of him.

In the words of the fantabulous Smashing Pumpkins and their classic, Bullet with Butterfly Wings (1995):

Despite all my rage
I am still just a rat in a cage.

Templeton :)

(Allrighty, due to popular demand I will clarify the Templeton reference. Apparently it's a little obscure. Templeton was the rat in Charlotte's Web. Not that exciting I know just my little bit of sad brain fog humour. Why I can remember an obscure character from I book I read as a child and not remember the names of my children at times, is just one of the many mysteries of Bob).

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Ode To Joy, aka My Furry Babies.

Ok this isn't actually an ode. There is no lyrical verse. No strophe. No antistrophe. No epode. With my brain that would be way to much work. So apologies to Mrs Walker, my high school English Literature teacher. I did listen, I'm just brain challenged at the moment. Besides, "Prose to Joy" just doesn't work. And lets face it I'm no Horace or Catullus.
I love my puppies. They are big (well they are great danes after all), smelly, have turned my garden to mud, fart in the car (and the house, and at the cafe, when stretching and pretty much every where, they are fart machines), stain the carpet and persist in rubbing mud, drool and miscellaneous goop over every surface in the house, but they are bliss. As you can see from the picture above, Thor has made himself comfortable and Freyja, well she is just a camera tart. When she hears the camera start up she sits straight in front of you to have her picture taken. They are my permanent shadows. It's like having toddlers again. Even as I sit here typing I have a giant smelly dog head in my face just looking at me. There is nothing quite so disconcerting as having two dogs sit and watch you on the loo. Or having a cold wet nose on your arse when you are doing your teeth in the morning. Unfortunately they can generally open the sliding door to the en suite and on the days they can't, they sit with their paws touching the door till I come out.

Thor, our almost 17 mth old fawn, was a rescue. When we first brought him home he didn't play, he didn't make any sound and didn't really know how to interact. It was like the lights were on but no one was home. He was underweight. His tail didn't work and had no feeling. His stomach was covered in scars. It broke our hearts. When I first saw him at his rescue mum's house I knew he was meant to be with us and there was no way I was leaving him there. All the other dogs were running around with the regular unbridled puppy enthusiasm and he was just sitting in his own sad little word. To see him now you wouldn't know he was the same dog. He is happy and loving. Every time he sees us it's pure love and excitement. He still gets confused, is anxious, his back legs don't work that well and I don't think he'll ever get the feeling back in his tail, but he's happy. He goes everywhere with us and loves meeting people. He's been to my physio class and has been photographed by numerous Japanese tourists at the local cafe. He is an absolute tart for a pat and will go to anyone whilst he's out and about. He still thinks he is a lap dog even though he is over 80 kgs and when he stands the top of his head is boob height. He just wants to be close. Why he persists in sitting on the BBQ I'll never know. His little sister is now learning this trick.
I think Thor and I found each other at the right time. I had to give up work in the February and was stuck at home ill. Life was not a bed of roses. David finally gave in to the idea of getting a dog again (we had lost our beloved Bacchus 2 yrs earlier) in the October. I started looking straight away. I went through all the rescue sites and there was this blurb about a beautiful pup with huge paws who needed a forever couch. No picture, but somehow I just knew, there was something in the description that made me determined to meet him and it was love at first site.
This year David finally agreed to get Thor a friend. Given his size and his inability to control his huge paws, so many bruises from puppy love, we knew we'd have to get a big robust dog. We looked and looked and just didn't find the "right" one. So many dogs need homes and in reality I could take them all, but with Thor's "issues" we needed a special dog. Then on my birthday David gave me a birthday card with a picture of a beautiful little female merle great dane puppy, with a message saying that she couldn't wait to come to live with us. Thus the gorgeous, slightly insane, Freyja, became part of our life. Seeing her overwhelming puppy enthusiasm it shows just how withdrawn Thor was when we got him. She is pure excitement, complete with excited puppy weeing. Does that ever stop? She is 6mths old now. She has the full body wiggle going on and her tail is a lethal weapon. She is joy.

When we drove up to the breeders property there was this huge pile of great dane puppies running and playing in the front yard. Is there anything as blissful and joyous as a pile of puppies? I don't think so. And adult danes happily roaming around. We took Thor to meet her and it was a bit overwhelming for him, luckily they are very easy going dogs. It was the first time that he had been around so many dogs of equal size. He was so excited. From the start she has loved her brother and he has loved her. They are inseparable and become hysterical if you try and part them. She has to touch him constantly and sits on him at every opportunity. Freyja has shown Thor how to be a puppy, and it is like all his inner puppy has been unleashed. Now puppy stage is hard with 40 kg of Freyja, try puppy behaviour in 80kg of dog. But it is so lovely to see him so happy. His tail even moves now (which is like being hit with a shovel handle if you're not quick). It gives me that little warm feeling inside when I see them playing together. She is such a rough nut. They zoom around the yard and pound each other into the ground then get up and do it all over again. Amazingly they are both scared of our geriatric, incontinent, 4 kg cat, Monty. She just has to look at them and they get scared. She has them completely bluffed!
They are both the best medicine for Bob. They take my mind off being sick. They love me no matter what. When I am so sick and I can't get off the couch they come and put their head on my lap or just sit at my feet. They seem to know when you need that little extra bit of love. Though having two big hairy heads sitting next to my shoulder when I'm bent over the loo is not exactly the kind of support I'm after.

Because I love my puppies so much I do cook special doggy treat bicies for them. Sad I know, I have become one of those weird dog people. I know I am not alone in my puppy love so I have decided to put my treat recipe on here. These are better than a Shmacko any day. My dogs now know the sound of the treat jar opening and will do absolutely anything for a crunchy bone shaped treat.

Puppy "Crack" Biscuits:

Makes about 24-30 biscuits depending on your cookie cutter. I use a bone shaped cutter (of course) which is about 3 inches long.

  • 2-3 cups fresh parsley chopped.
  • 1/2 cup finely grated carrot.
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella.
  • 1-2 tbsp peanut butter (this is like china white to dogs).
  • 2 tbsp olive oil.
  • 2 2/3 cup wholemeal flour.
  • 2 tbsp baking powder.
  • 1/2 - 1 cup water.
  1. Heat oven to 180 C.
  2. Line a large tray with baking paper.
  3. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl till just combined.
  4. Knead mixture for about 1 min to combine well.
  5. Roll out to about 1 cm thick.
  6. Cut out shapes and put on tray.
  7. Cook for about 30 mins or golden.
  8. Turn off oven and leave biscuits in the oven to dry out biscuits.
  9. When cool and crisp store in an airtight container on the highest shelf. My dogs can smell these a mile off and the jar often has dog nose prints all over it.
I do think a dog should be prescribed for every person with a Bob in their life. A dose of smelly puppy love is better than any pill.

Michelle :)

Sunday 4 October 2009

A Word From Our Sponsor VI

Lets see. How to sum up the last couple of weeks:

Week 6 of Mestinon hell begins. Still living the joyous life of the exploding body, burning toes and weird muscle spasms and shaking. Bob still the same old, same old, despite persisting with what now amounts to an extra 18 tablets of hell spawn a day. My doctor has to at lest give me an A for effort and persistence. Chest infection decided to pay a visit. Not like I had anything else going on. The doc I saw for the chest infection was not only a cow but also incompetent. My specialist physio class has been cancelled, which was the highlight of my week. And to top it all off, the ATM ate my card. Ever had one of those days, weeks, months, years, lives!

Bought a new car last week to help transport two teenagers, assorted teenage paraphernalia, two great danes plus me and the husband. Who thought it would be a good idea to give the brain fog girl a new, larger, fast moving metal object to manage? Too complex for my addled brain. Already I have been confronted by the complexity of the radio, which required a call to David. This apparently has provided he and his work collegues with much laughter and merriment. Why doesn't the magic sound box turn off when you take out the key???????? Oh you open the door and the magic sound box turns off, ahhhhhhhhhhh. I have also provided comic relief for the people in the next car space at the supermarket. 10 minutes of hysterical laughter at my escalating frustration and use of expletives in my attempts to try and lock all the doors on the car with the electronic locking thingy. Apparently they were too exhausted from their laughter to give me a hand. Oh lordy, I need to stay away from these newfangled, beeping electric/computer thingamajigs!!! I did think the greatest irony was that the former owner of our car was Pfizer! Yes, that's right Pfizer. I can't even get away from the drugs in my new car! Arghhhhhhh..................

Well my joy at feeling the cold has run its course and I am back to crazy thermostat. I realised it was truly over when we were driving in the car, me in a t-shirt, David in 5 thermal layers, with the aircon on full.
I probably should have noticed the return of my weirdness when I could see David's breath in the car and the fact he kept putting his hands, one at a time under his armpits to try and warm them up. It's probably important to note that it was about 8 degrees C outside and hailing. I have had spurts of cold but not consistently (or when appropriate) and my thermostat seems destined to be stuck on surface of the sun!

I have however, discovered a new method to identify when I have reached the limit for my body. Swept half way down my steps, became dizzy and began dry-wretching. Subtle I know, but I do think I can spot that one!!

Continuing to live the dream.

Michelle aka The Stig :)

Saturday 3 October 2009

Serenity Now: Breathing techniques

Stress and illness go hand in hand: stress from the physical toll on our bodies and stress from the constant attacks to our psyches. We've all heard the comments “why don't you just sit down and relax”, “stop stressing”, “if you managed your anxiety better you'd feel better”. Oh thank you, Confucius. Notice how these prophets of bliss run for the hills if you question them as to how you will achieve this blessed state of Nirvana. I love that episode of Seinfeld where George continually attempts to diffuse his stress by screaming “Serenity Now”!!! I think if I screamed that at these well meaning individuals I would feel less stressed. Mostly because I would be peeing myself laughing at the look on their faces!
There is no dispute that stress impacts negatively upon our bodies, even if you are in good health. When you have Bob or his like, the damage goes up exponentially. For example, when you get stressed your heart rate increases. If you are tachycardic, your heart is already going at marathon speed. Add stress and it's like you have the energiser bunny on smack inside your chest, with all the collateral damage that increases in your body. So what can you do? Relaxation wont cure Bob but it will make living with him more bearable, and that's always a good thing. There are many, many different forms of relaxation. Some simple and some complex. Before you head into the world of relaxation there are a few things you should know.
  1. There is not a one size fits all solution to relaxation and you may need to try many different types to find the one that's right for you. I have never been able to visualise my light much to the judgemental disappointment of my old yoga instructor. I always felt like I had been caught smoking behind the bike shed in her class. And I find that airy, synthesiser, new-age, whale song, music like fingernails on a chalkboard. Yet I have a girlfriend who swears by both.
  2. If you want instantaneous relaxation see an anaesthetist. Just like the Panteen ad says, “It wont happen overnight, but it will happen”. There's no point starting relaxation thinking you'll get instantaneous results. You'll only end up more stressed. All techniques take time to work. For some people it may take 6 weeks or more to get there.
  3. Practice is part of the program. Just like riding a bike you need to practise until the technique becomes automatic and unconscious.
  4. You need to practice when you're not stressed. If you begin when you're already stressed you are setting yourself up for failure. Practice whilst sitting on the loo, out in the garden, on the couch or lying in bed. I don't recommend doing it whilst sitting at the traffic lights, that's ok for your Kegels, but not for relaxation techniques which require concentration. I like to think of it this way. Would you rather learn CPR in a classroom with a smelly plastic dummy named Jean, or on the side of the road at the site of a multi-car pile up? The latter high stress situation is hardly conducive to learning.
  5. If you go in expecting it wont work, guess what? It wont work. You have to be open to the process.
  6. Don't beat yourself up if it doesn't work as quickly as you want. Every time I've tried a different technique I end up losing focus within 2 minutes, instead going through my shopping list and working out how I'll get child A to football practice and child B to karate both at the same time. This often happens for weeks before I can finally get into the flow and focus on the technique.
So where to start. One of the easiest places to start is with breathing. It may sound like the punch line to a blonde joke, teaching someone to breathe, but most of us don't actually breath well, even when relaxed. When we get stressed our breathing rate soars, it often becomes rapid and shallow, you can feel like you are suffocating and your chest can hurt. Unchecked, these stress responses feed on themselves: you feel like you are suffocating, you breath quicker, your heart rate increases, your breathing becomes shallower, and so on. By simply slowing and regulating our breathing we can calm down our physiological reactions and in turn calm our emotions. There's nothing complex about this technique. You can do it anywhere, any time, sitting, standing or lying, and you don't need to buy any special appliances or tools.
  1. Get comfortable.
  2. Place both your hands lightly on your diaphragm. (Just below your ribs). This helps to ensure you are breathing correctly. You don't need to do this once the technique is established.
  3. Breath through your nose rather than our mouth. If this is difficult stick with your mouth.
  4. Take a deep breath at the same time extend your belly, allowing your diaphragm to naturally expand and fully fill your lungs. This may feel awkward in the beginning.
  5. As you breath out suck your belly in, pushing your diaphragm up and fully emptying your lungs.
  6. Do this a few times until you get used to the sensation. This often feels odd when you begin but it allows for better breathing. Many of us are shallow breathers (suck our stomach and chest in as we breath in) without realising.
  7. Once you feel comfortable with this, it's time to start.
  8. Take a deep slow breath in, for the count of ten. You may need to start with less, eg count of 5, until you are used to it.
  9. Count in your head, 1.....2.....3.....4.....5.....6.....7......8.....9....10.
  10. To get the count right initially, watch the second hand on a clock or wrist watch.
  11. Then breath out slowly for a similar count of 10.
  12. When you breathe out try and relax your muscles. In particular, drop you shoulders. When you tense up your shoulders can end up next to your ears.
  13. Repeat this process 10 times.
If you've every done yoga or pilates you will have used a similar breathing technique. If you have trouble focusing on this and have access to a Wii Fit the breathing exercise at the start of yoga session are similar and you can visually follow the blue circle around the trainer.
So next time when someone tells you to “relax” or “stop stressing”, you can take a deep relaxing breath and stop yourself from throttling them.
Serenity Now”!!!!
Michelle :)