Sunday 27 November 2011

And the winner of a copy of Charlotte Wood's "Animal People" is.........

Prize provided by Nuffnang Product Talk.

Well the day is here for the big draw. Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway, for a chance to win a copy of best-selling Australian author Charlotte Wood's fantastic new novel, Animal People.  As I  mentioned in the earlier post I use the Thor method to draw winners here on the blog. Seems very apt given the title and theme of Charlotte's book. And given the responses both here and on FB, I think most will appreciate the joy of getting your dog involved in prize draws.

For those who don't know, Thor is one of my two Great Dane's.  He had a rough start to life and we are his 4th, but most definitely final, family. He has some 'issues' (so as Mr Grumpy says, he fits right in here) thanks to his previous owners. He's very anxious, not overly bright, and his tail and back legs nolonger work well, but he makes up for that with 90+kgs of smelly furry love.
The Thor Method begins with the creation of the entries. Feathers, glitter and Dorothy Shoes are a must.
Then there is the oh so fun stage of getting Thor interested in the feather entries. Unfortunately, the glittery bird on the side of the plate was far more interesting, so this stage took far longer than anticipated.
 Finally, and with the prodigious use of bread treats, he started to seem a bit more interested.
Unfortunately, at the crucial moment he was distracted by a bright shiny object. Thank God we love him.
 Nineth time, and several pieces of bribery bread later, was apparently the charm.

And the winner is........
One soggy entry, and a quick chase around the living room later to try and get it back. Damn, he's quick for being so big and uncoordinated.

Brahm from, Alfred Lives Here

Congratulations Brahm. And if you pop over to Brahm's blog you'll see from his header that he is a very worthy winner.

Brahm if you'll drop me an email with your address (my contact details are up top), Animal People will be winging it's way to your mail box.

Thanks once again to Nuffnang Product Talk for the the opportunity to review Animal People and for the prize copy.

Time to go wash off the dog drool and grab the sticky tape to dehair my clothes.

Michelle :)

And because anyone with a furbaby in their life is a winner, I give you, Hot Chocolate's, Everyone's A Winner.

Friday 25 November 2011

All I want for Christmas is to Fart Without Fear.

Well my gastro saga continues. I'm sure my mother is proud that I've been keeping the world updated on my recalcitrant bowel, since August. I wonder if she'll add it into her Christmas letter this year? Tucked away between the updates on her roses and their trip to Apollo Bay. Mind you, you'd think she'd be used to my policy of too much information is never enough. Hell, I take every opportunity to bring up the cousin loving a few generations back, and set out nicely on the family tree, that I blame for the genetic nightmare that is my body. My people are genetically lazy, folks. Apparently it was just too much effort to saddle up the mule, pat the dust off your best burlap shirt, select your best courting turnip, and make your way over to the next, not-genetically related, village.  I can hear the banjos from here.

As I mentioned briefly in the last post my dalliance with H1 and H2 antihistamines was short lived. My gastric system, mounted a very successful campaign, and wore them down until they finally waved the white flag. So now I am back to ops normal. Might as well just put a pillow on the tiles and screw a TV to the bathroom wall. It's not like I'm leaving any time soon. Oh Universe, why must you give with one hand and take with the other.

My green credentials are going down the toilet, literally and figuratively. So sorry rainforests of the world, but my consumption of paper products is back to excessive. And my water consumptive ideal of "if it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down" has gone out the consistently umber window.

When last I saw my cardio her only advice to deal with my near-syncope each time I go to the loo (oh yeah I'm living the dream) was to be careful. Yep, that'll do it. Maybe I can put crash mats all around my loo? Or grab out all the bubble wrap Mr Grumpy hoards, and bubble wrap my entire bathroom. At least I can pass all the time I spend in their working out new and creative ways to pop the bubbles.

My trip to Gastro Guy, Wednesday was equally underwhelming. Yet again I was faced with "Oh Shit!" face when describing my symptoms. Looks like the reflex that controls this pesky issue is broken. Even better there is nothing available in modern medicine that can fix that little problem. YAY. Let me party on down with that exciting morsel of information. There may, potentially, be a drug that may help, but is only available in clinical trials here in Australia. Access outside the trial requires a combination of correct planetary alignment, prayer to every deity known to man, and payment by lottery win, kidney and/or first born. He did end our consultation with "I'm going to have to Google this", which has left me so full of confidence.

Oh, and I forgot, I get to take horse tablets for a few weeks to kill off any errant bacteria after he decided that there was something he didn't agree with on my Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) test. Doesn't that sound lovely. I keep having images of colonies of bacteria setting up some sort of feudal society in my bowel. Can't quite recall what it was, as this was after the "you will be stuck peeing out your butt for the rest of your natural life" revelation. Kinda hard to concentrate after that. All I could think was the least he could have done is given me the news with a barber shop quartet, in the highly-inappropriate, Family Guy style.

So back to basically homebound now. But what can you do? Someone asked me "how do you keep bouncing back from all the bad news?" Well, there isn't really a choice. I can sit and weep into my cornflakes (which I have done, but it just made my cornflakes taste like saddness, and a little salty). Or, I can suck it up and move on. I can't change it, so I might as well amuse myself with inappropriate jokes about my family tree and messed up digestive system. Besides bathroom humour is funny no matter what your age.

Now if only Santa can grant my one Christmas wish, and let me fart without fear. It's not too much to ask is it? Sheesh, jolly fat man. I've plied you with biscuits and milk for years, and even left out carrots for Rudolf and his hairy brethren, time to pony up.

Michelle :)

Given my current health predicament I do think it only fair that Jensen Ackles stop buy and give me a foot rub, or feed me chocolate, or...... I think I need to start a Twitter Campaign.

I leave you with an annoying, yet appropriate song.

Don't forget to enter the draw (click here) for a copy of Animal Planet, the new novel by Charlotte Wood. 
Entries close TONIGHT!! midnight, 25th November 2011.

Monday 21 November 2011

ABC Ramp Up Article

Well my response to the NYT's article was accepted for ABC Ramp Up today. A wee bit chuffed (I don't think I've ever been anyone's Editor's Choice before), and nauseous, and the vein on my temple may be pulsing, but mostly chuffed. I think. Ask me in a few days. Too much caffeine induced anxiety today, thanks to two kiddy specialist appointments. Argh.

It's pretty much the same post, but a bit less rambly and wordy. 515 less wordy in fact. Good lord it's hard losing 500 words. I recommend the ingestion of alcoholic beverages and copious amounts of Lindt before attempting such tasks.

You can read the new smooth, shiny, way more mature, article here.

It's been a bit of a highlight on a really shitty week which included one of my dogs having a mental breakdown and being put on antidepressant medications. Trying to manhandle 60kg of bat shit crazy Great Dane into a car and at the vets is about as much fun as a rectal probe. But we made it through without too many new grey hairs and minus me passing out in her wee on the vets floor. Bonus. Though she did sit on my lap and pee on me, which pretty much summed up the last week.

To top it off my bowel of discontent, has mounted a well-organised resistance movement (HA! 'movement', I even amaze myself with my hilarity) against the H1s and H2s that I was so excited about. Luckily I'm off to see Gastro Guy on Wednesday, so hopefully he'll have something new in his arsenal with which to tackle the problem. Fun times. Fun. Fun. times.

So on that bright note I leave you with this highly appropriate and helpful book that I found today.

Toilet Yoga because sometimes sh*t doesn't happen.

"The book con­tains 15 ‘poses’ that work in var­i­ous sit­u­a­tions and loca­tions. The guide walks you through the move­ments so you can walk through yours (or sit). Depend­ing on your skill level, you may choose to start at a 1 bowl on our rat­ing scale, or if you’re feel­ing adven­tur­ous, move up to a 3 or 4 bowl move. As you progress through our teach­ings, you’ll be con­fi­dent that you can safely han­dle a 5 bowl maneu­ver".

Love it!

From an article on a national news disability website, to pooing with yoga. I like to think I provide a little bit of something for everyone.

Michelle :)
After this week this seems somehow appropriate.

Don't forget to enter the draw (click here) for a copy of Animal Planet, the new novel by Charlotte Wood. 
Entries close midnight, 25th November 2011.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Craft Like You Don't Have A Chronic Illness

My blogging has been a bit all over the shop lately. Partly due to the usual feeling like death warmed up. Partly due to apathy. And, partly due to the fact I'm trying to actually get around to some of the craft projects that have been collecting dust and dog hair all over my house.

Last Hardwaste (for those who don't have this, it's the magical time of year when you can put all your large rubbish items out on the street and the local council comes round to collect it, free of charge) I scored. I personally think of Hardwaste as a bonus Christmas. People put out some amazing 'rubbish' and I am not ashamed to stop on the side of the road and re-appropriate these unappreciated treasures. Even my children get in on the act, with an audible groan and eye roll. They love nothing better than being made to get out of the car and fossick around in someone else's junk. They have carried all sorts of treasures home for me. Tables, wardrobes, chairs, old braziers, the list is endless. I've even roped their friends into the act. Suck it up boys. I feed you. You can carry crap.

And I've found some great pieces over the years. As soon as I see a piece my mind starts whirling with possibilities. And by the time it's stored in the rumpus room I know what I'm going to do. Pity that my poxy body often refuses to go along with my plans. Makes it hard to buy paints and varnishes when you're physically incapable of driving. And even harder when you don't have the strength to lift your head from your pillow, let alone sand down some woodwork. So many of my projects take 6mths to a year to complete.

My latest project is a large pine-framed mirror that I found on the side of the road. It's huge and heavy and I already know where it is going in my loungeroom, well once it's had a bit of a make over. I'm rather proud of how it's turned out. Now I just need to get Mr Grumpy to hang it for me.
You can see by the back of the old lounge it's leaning against, it's rather large.

The frame was pretty boring so I decided it needed more than just a coat of paint. There is a poem I have loved for years. The River Merchant's Wife*, by 8th century Chinese poet Li T'ai-Po, and translated by Ezra Pound in 1915. I made a pdf of the poem, cut and pasted to fill an entire A4 sheet and had Mr Grumpy to print them out on the laser printer at work (important if you don't want the ink to run). And used these to paper the frame.
Nice and Cheap

 My high tech, can of chickpeas solution, to elevating the mirror
Unfortunately the way it was made, I couldn't remove the mirror from the frame 
so had to paper the mirror to keep off the paint and varnish.
Finally a use for all the articles from my thesis. 
"Lateralization of human nasal chemorecepetors..." is exciting stuff. No, really it is.
Quick coat of white paint to stop any remaining traces of varnish coming through. 
Also gives a better background to the white paper.
 Two days of frustration, swearing, spilt glue, and three layers of varnish later, it is finally papered.
Voila! Shitty photo of new mirror.  
How do you get a decent photo of a mirror without getting your ugly mug in it?

A weeks worth of work, a lung full of carcinogenic varnish fumes, and one new mirror. Woo Hoo!

Now for a prolonged nanna nap.

Michelle :)

*The River-Merchant's Wife

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead
I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.
You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,
You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.
And we went on living in the village of Chokan:
Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.
At fourteen I married My Lord you.
I never laughed, being bashful.
Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.
Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back. 
At fifteen I stopped scowling,
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours
Forever and forever and forever.
Why should I climb the look out? 

At sixteen you departed,
You went into far Ku-to-en, by the river of swirling eddies,
And you have been gone five months.
The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead. 

You dragged your feet when you went out.
By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,
Too deep to clear them away!
The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.
The paired butterflies are already yellow with August
Over the grass in the West garden;
They hurt me. I grow older.
If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,
Please let me know beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you
      As far as Cho-fu-Sa. 

Tuesday 15 November 2011

"Animal People" by Charlotte Wood, Product Talk & Give Away.

(This review is part of Nuffnang's Product Talk. I did not receive payment for this review. However, I was lucky enough to receive a copy to read and keep, and another copy to give away to one lucky reader.)

(Very excited to receive my parcel)

I am a book geek. No two ways about it. One quick glance at my dusty bedside table makes this readily apparent. This is not a new phenomenon. I was the weird child reading Tolkien and Bronte in primary school. One of those strange kids who actually volunteers to be a library monitor so they have first access to all the new additions. Yep that's right. I was that girl. I knew how to party back in the day. I can even admit that one of my favourite High School trips to Melbourne was to visit an antiquarian book shop that looked like it was straight out of a movie. A beautiful blue stone building complete with muffled silence, lashings of dark wood panels, and precious first editions secured behind glass. Makes me wistful just thinking about it.

Very little has changed since that time (including my aversion to dusting, and never ending love of hula hoops. Remember those Big M ones that smelt like the drinks? I had a chocolate one that I loved dearly. Well, until my big brother gave it to the dog for a game of tug-a-war. Not that I'm still bitter or anything.) There is still nothing better than the feel of a book in my hands or the smell of the pages as you crack it open for the first time. Or even better the well-loved, dog-eared copies of your favourites, held together with sticky tape and prayer. Battered treasures that you pull out on rainy days or when you need that extra hit of comfort.

(If I make it small, you can't see the dust right?)

And, luckily I have been given the opportunity to feed my addiction, whilst simultaneously reviewing the latest offering from bestselling Australian author, Charlotte Wood. Animal People takes place over one day in the life of Stephen, a despondent, cafeteria worker from the local zoo, intent on dumping his girlfriend.

I came to this book with no expectations. I avoided reading any reviews and decided to dive in armed only with an open mind and a trusty block of chocolate. And I was rewarded with an engaging book that was truly a joy to read. Can I write a book review by simply typing the words "loved it" again and again? Probably not. Does it count that I teared up at the end as Stephen finds clarity in an unexpected moment? Is my emotional connectedness to the story and the characters an adequate reflection of the book? Or that I read it in two sittings as I became so drawn into the story? Emotionally, I'd give it an A+, but I should probably try a more intellectual approach as well.

Charlotte's paints a vivid picture of Australian city living. The familiarity of the scenes and attention to detail draw you in from the beginning. I particularly loved the early picture she painted of Stephen's vision of his mother on the other end of the phone tracing the flowers on her carpet with her toes. A level of detail reflected throughout the novel. The characters, from the main protagonist Stephen to those that pepper his life on the periphery, feel as though they have been plucked from the real world, giving depth and realism to the story. The slowly building tension is well paced. And the ending (without giving anything away) unexpected and cleverly hopeful, where she could easily have left the reader with a feeling hopelessness and perpetual urban disconnect.

The central character Stephen is as fascinating as he is troubled. Charlotte's use of his internal dialogue as he tries to make sense of the world around him, whilst also trying to preserve his self, is truly engaging. The oppressive heat of the day, the perfect mirror to the oppressive weight of Stephen's life.

The question of not only whether you are an animal person, but what exactly that means for how we relate to the world and those around us, is craftily played out throughout. Making the reader constantly review their own position of what it means to be one of the animal people, without it feeling forced or lecturey.

Overall, I found Animal People a really enjoyable read. And I have no doubt that it'll find it's place up there with my other well-loved, dog-eared treasures to be read again and again.

You can read more about Animal People here. There are also a series of great videos of the author discussing the novel.

Competition Time:

I have one copy of Animal People to give away to one lucky reader.

All you have to do is leave a comment here on the blog, twitter, or FB, and let me know if you are or aren't an animal person, and what that means for you. Make sure you let me know if you do tweet or FB.

Entries close: Midnight, Friday the 25th of Novemeber 2011 (Australian time)

Winner will be drawn using the Thor Method and announced on Sunday the 27th November 2011

Michelle :)

Wednesday 9 November 2011

"OMG! That is weird". Or is it?

I do delight in freaking out medical practitioners with my weirdness. Lets face it, you do have to find the fun in Bob where ever you can. Luckily, my weird quota seems to go up with the more time that passes.  So I have many opportunities to freak out doctors near and far. Why just yesterday I showed this little video of my foot to my cardiologist and received an "OMG! That is weird".


Which is just what you want to hear when you see your specialists.  Not that it's that unusual these days. But a wee bit more pokerface would be appreciated. (It's most likely a muscle fasciculation, by the way.  Could be a spasming blood vessel, but I need to check my pulse next time it happens to work that out. Another moment of excitement to which I can look forward).

At least I managed to get this one of video. They happen frequently on my body these days. But when you try to explain these things you often look like a loon. Now at least it's documented so they know I'm not some weirdo making these things up. Now I just have to get 'stroke face'* (when the left side of my face droops) and 'crazy eyes'* (probably nystagmus, you can see a little bit of it in this vlog I did ages ago) on camera.  Not that I generally think to do it when it happens.  Usually I am sick as a dog when it occurs and really I'm not thinking of Kodak Moments at that stage. My report from uberneuro actually includes both delightful phrases. At least I know he was listening, I guess. And it doesn't look weird. No. Not weird. At. All.

(* For those new to the blog, this is what my delightful children call these things.  Basically if mum has stroke face or crazy eyes they know it's a bad day).

What I do love is that even as I write I know there'll be another Bobette out there saying "Hey, I have that too". Because for all our reported 'uniqueness', we have a lot in common. Apart from the odd specialist, most doctors are unlikely to see more than a handful of Bobettes in their practice. And even then without specialist knowledge, they may have difficulty differentiating the weird from the not so weird. Thanks to the internet, Bobettes from all around the world can connect and share their stories. And all of sudden you realise your weird is actually approaching normal. Well not regular people normal. But our normal bar is quite low and easily excited by discovering the normality of our abnormal lives. We are a simple folk.

Another great example of my not so weirdness, is the fact I nolonger 'prune' when I have a bath or swim. Here I was thinking it was just me and my bizarre body. But no there are many many Bobettes out there with the same issue, all thanks to SNAFU. Who knew that having your nerves die would mean a lack of pruning? Not me, that's for sure. I don't recall learning that in my Neuroanatomy and Neuropathology classes. And when put up on a forum, a large group of non-pruners came out of the closet.

Or my labile blood pressure that apparently is quite severe. To give you an idea here are 3 readings from a five minute period.

 Time 1
 Time 2
Time 3

Fun times. Not exhausting at all. And, as I now know, not that uncommon in the world of Bob.

And these are just the tip of the iceberg as far as weirdness goes. Hell, even my battle scars from my hospital stay were greeted with a chorus of "Me too!"

(Good old Nurse Ratched, wouldn't believe that I react to tapes)

And that, for me, is the joy of social media. It stops us from feeling so alone. If only one person responds with a "Me too", it's a relief to know you are not alone. To know that whilst you are abnormal to most of the world, there is a part of the world out there that understands and gets it.  That small connection removes a layer of fear and makes you feel a little less lonely. We may all differ in severity and aetiology, but the world of Bob is quite inclusive. After all, a busted ANS is a busted ANS regardless of your cause.

And then you realise, in the world of chronic illness it is actually quite possible to be abnormally normal.

The always weird Michelle

Saturday 5 November 2011

Because I wasn't already feeling like a shit mother.

"Well at least you know who to blame", said the arsehole GP to my youngest after going through our (read my) genetic history. Because, apparently I passed on my shit genes on purpose. Because I knew that my faulty DNA was going to cause my children a life of pain. Because I'm a sadistic cow like that. Me and Joan Crawford, best buds in the Mummy Dearest club.

You know what's worse than watching your child in pain and being unable to make that pain go away? Knowing that you're the cause. It doesn't matter one iota that I never chose to pass my crap onto my kids. It doesn't matter that I had no clue about what was going on at the genetic level in my body when either of my kids were conceived. None of that matters.

I've known for a while now that I've passed my health issues onto my kids. I deal with it every day. I lay awake most nights beating myself up about it. Every time I see that little grimace of pain on one of their faces I grab out the mental whip for a good dose of self-flagellation. I sure as hell don't need some bastard with a stethoscope and the bedside manner of Charles Manson to rub salt in the wound.

Sitting, listening to a doctor or physio list off what is wrong with your child's body. Hearing words like "interesting", "special", "surgery", "I've never seen.....", is like being sucker punched again and again and again. Handfuls of referrals to specialists and for scans. A punch in the gut. Prescriptions for pain meds no little body should ever need. Another mental strip for my back.

All of this coming a day after him telling the school nurse not to ring me. Because he didn't want me to be stressed about trying to get to school as I'm unable to drive that far thanks to my own broken body.  Two sublaxed patellae at school and being wheeled to the bus in the school wheelchair, and he doesn't want to stress me. Needing to be carried by his brother up the stairs at home because he can't weight bare  and he's worried about me. Nothing can make that better. Nothing can assuage the guilt.

He shouldn't have to worry about anyone but himself. He should be able to know I'll always be there. I'll always come to get him. That I would slay the dragon and crawl over broken glass, to be with him. Not subjugate his own needs for mine.

And all I want to do is take away his pain. To give him back a childhood without pain and heartache.

But I can't.

So I put on the mask.

And I stuff down the guilt for later. When I can gorge upon it in the privacy of 3am.

I make hot chocolates in pirate mugs. And sit on the couch with him to watch re-runs of Myth Busters. I gather ice packs and crush up pain meds and mix them with honey to make them more bearable. I gather the pillows and make crap jokes. I hug him and tell him that I love him. That we'll get there. And, that it'll be okay.

And I hope that he believes me.

And maybe one day I'll believe it myself.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

The Trick is to Keep Breathing.

It had to happen. Payback. I knew it was coming. I wasn't delusional enough to believe that I could avoid what was coming. That's just how it is. The game rarely changes. The rules remain the same. Now it's time to batten down the hatches and ride out the storm. I know it'll pass. That much is clear by now. That realisation doesn't necessarily make it any easier to deal with. But at least you have something to focus on whilst the storm rages. A candle in the window to lead the weary traveller to safety.

Like usual I pushed my limits. I let myself get caught up in the excitement. And it was grand whilst it lasted. It doesn't even matter what I did, it was just important that I did something, anything. Something not connected to illness. Not connected to symptoms, and pills and doctors.  Not connected to 'I can't", "I'm too weak", "I'm too sick", "I'm too.....". Small moments. Moments that have been in short supply the last three months. 

I didn't think, I just did. I shut out the voices that sing of defeat even prior to action. I don't know how. I don't know a magic formula or mental trick. I wish I knew so I could call upon it at will. I wish I knew so I could share it with all who read. I didn't think about payment. I didn't listen to my body's protestations. I closed my ears and shut away my internal naysayer.

I swept the dust from my potential and made it shiny and new. I saw possibilities and I took them without hesitation. I held them tightly until I could stand back and admire my handiwork. Pride. Satisfaction. Odd and unfamiliar emotions. Joy from littlest of achievements. 

And it is this I cling to whilst the winds howl and the rain pours. And I concentrate on the wonder that was achieved and I ponder the possibilities for when the storm ends. For it will end. And the sun will come out again. The trick is to keep breathing. Through the pain and the nausea and the fear. The trick is to keep the knowledge that it will pass close to your chest. That you'll make it through once more. That when the next storm hits you'll be prepared. You've been there. You've done that. You can do it again. A thousand times over. And with each breath you will feel lighter. With each breath you'll be free.

Michelle :)

Two songs today as frankly I am too tired to pick. Garbage have been a fav from back in the mid90s when they first formed. Combining the talented vocals of the gorgeous Shirley Manson and great muso and producer Butch Vig was always going to be gold. Maybe go the first one if you are in a more mellow mood. And the second, if like me, you like your down times to at least have a kickarse beat. Now back to communing with my pillow.

So lets see.  Last post I suggested that others get on the blogging wagon and join the 50KAwareness project.  Go, awareness. Go, getting your voice back. Go, not realising that it is already November and you are already behind. (Sigh). Foiled once more by the permanent fog that envelopes my last few remaining brain cells.  Between my failing temporal perception, fatigue and penchant for being distracted by bright shiny objects, this does not bode well for churning out 50,000 words in the month of November.

And that's the difficulty with trying to raise awareness when you are living with a chronic illness. The illness itself gets in the way. Best intentions and a can do attitude are not always sufficient to get the ball rolling. Sustaining the momentum is damn hard when you are having trouble simply brushing you teeth. But I shall solider on. No idea if I'll make the word count, or stick to topic. Like Carol Beer on Little Britain, I fear "computer says no".