Tree-hugging hippy

It seems I am slowly, but surely, turning into a tree-hugging hippy. This in itself is curious for someone who doesn't really like the great outdoors all that much but apparently I am a woman of contradictions. Hey, I like to keep people on their toes.

Recently I've been looking into home made cleaning products. This appeals to me partly because of my cheapskate gene but also because I would like to reduce the amount of chemicals with which I surround myself daily (without having to give up dyeing my hair...) I trawled around the web for a while and finally found this recipe for washing powder - and the whole blog is great so it's now on my blogroll to the right there. I made the heavy duty version, minus the borax which I couldn't find in the supermarket.  I've just finished my third load of washing and so far it seems to be working fine. My slighty-yellowed-with-age white sheets are still slightly yellow but the white bits are as white as ever.  I only wash in cold water so I'll have to add a bit of vinegar to the fabric softener compartment occasionally but I'm sure I can manage that.

And somehow this makes me feel a whole lot better about the fact that most of my veges didn't survive the first Spring heatwave...

Fit by 40

Firstly, and completely unrelated to the post title, I've turned word verification back on. Sigh. Silly spammers.

Now, back to the real post. In just a few days it will be 2010. That's a momentous year. For a start, it's a round number and they're always satisfying... but more than that, it's the year in which (dun dun DUNNNN) I turn 40! I find it hard to believe, but it's definitely true. My birth certificate confirms it and if that were in doubt the fashions my parents were wearing in my baby photos would give it away.

Still, 40 is not so bad, right? I mean, I've hardly achieved any of the things I expected but I've achieved many other completely unexpected and wonderful things so I'm more than willing to call it even. This is not like a movie where I find a letter to myself, written when I was 15, speculating on what life would be like for me at 40 - on the whole I think I'm fairly satisfied with my life. However (yes, there's always a 'but', even when I disguise it in a fancier word) there's one thing that's been nagging at me. I am overweight and unfit. Okay, that's two things but they're related.  I have spent a large part of my adult life promising myself that some time REALLY SOON I'll get my act together and start exercising and eating better. Hollow promises, as it turned out, but that's about to change.

I cannot - I will not - start my 40s feeling unhealthy and self-conscious. I'm working really hard on things inside my head; it's time to work on the rest of me too.  I mentioned recently that I've started the C25K running program and that's been going well. It's early days so I'm not feeling any fitter yet but I'm really enjoying achieving each day's goal.  I want to keep going. No, I'm not going to turn into one of those scary, wild-eyed exercise fanatics. Seriously, don't you know me by now?? That's NOT me!  I do, however, want to be healthy and fit.

Fit by 40. I have 11 months to go..

Things of which I am proud

For Kate, here's a list of things of which I am proud and/or thankful in 2009...

I am proud that I got through the entire winter without depression, for the first time in... well, a long time.

I am proud of the times when I am able to say, "I was abused."

I am proud of finally saying, "I believe I can change and that healing is possible" and actually meaning it.

I am thankful that, with God and good friends, I survived a difficult period at work without killing the people who were making it difficult (even though I fantasised about it).

I am thankful for the fantastic people I've met through blogging.

I am enormously thankful for the love and support of 'N' and 'K', my wonderful prayer buddies.

I am thankful for a counsellor I can trust, who is also helpful, wise and funny, and who knows when to push and when to back off (although I admit I am not always thankful at the time when she pushes me). :D

I am proud of every bit of healing progress I have made, even when it's only tiny. It all counts.

I am thankful for music and poetry that lifts my spirits, makes me smile and shines a light in dark places.

I am thankful for my cat and her funny ways.

I am thankful that setbacks are temporary... and thankful for those who remind me of that when I'm stuck in darkness and can't see a way out.

I am thankful beyond words that God bears with me and loves me extravagantly and forever - even in the face of my constant doubts, uncertainties and fears.

And for more thankful lists from some wonderful people, check out Kate, Becky, Crazy Sister and Scurrette.

Lurid cakey goodness

There's a story behind why I chose a frog theme for this birthday cake... suffice it to say it's an 'in-joke' that would not translate well. It's not even MY in-joke, to be honest, but I was told about it and couldn't resist the temptation to stir the pot a little.

Apparently the cake was enjoyed...



I am feeling sooo smug

Okay, I need to preface this by explaining that I am very unfit and although I have these fantasies where I become a lean, fit, exercise junkie, in reality I don't enjoy exercising that much and I've never stuck at it long enough to get that endorphin hit that those scary exercise fanatics talk about all the time. In fact I've always thought that those scary exercise fanatics are secretly disgusted by people like me, so you can imagine how completely self-conscious and uncomfortable I was dragging my pale flabby body around the gym, surrounded by the aforementioned fanatics.

However, I have reached the unenviable point where my need for exercise is greater than my desire to avoid it. I am overweight and unfit, and that's not great, but I also need to exercise for my mental health to keep anxiety under control and depression at bay. Sigh. When both my mind AND my body need it, what can I do?

Some time ago a friend told me about C25K, the 'couch to 5k run in 9 weeks' program and I think I've mentioned it on here before too (but I can't be bothered looking for it right now). The friend who first mentioned it is one of the last people I would have ever picked as a runner... and then another friend told me she'd been doing it and I would have bet every cent I have that SHE would never, ever run anywhere. So I thought, if they can do it then surely I can at least give it a go, right? There is no way I have enough self confidence to try exercising outside, in public, where people might see me - but as we know I have that nice shiny treadmill that hasn't seen all that much use.

So... today I did C25K W1D1 (Week 1, Day 1) which is 5 minutes of brisk walking, then alternating 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes. I took that to mean 20 minutes in addition to the first 5 minutes of walking, so 25 minutes in total. You fit and healthy people are probably thinking this sounds like less than you do for a warm up, but let me tell you this is a big deal for me. It's a very big deal. I have never jogged in my entire life. Admittedly, I was jogging at a speed I could have walked if I'd wanted (albeit quite briskly) but still... jogging. That means there were moments there when this fat and wobbly body was airborne! That usually only happens when I fall over...

I am NOT fit - have I mentioned that? - so by the end of the 25 minutes I was pretty puffed and I think my face was a shade of deep purple often seen as a feature wall in classy homes, but still... I DID IT! I have to do the same thing twice more this coming week and then the following week I get to go to the next step. They recommend doing a pace that you can manage so if it means doing each week twice and making it an 18 week program that's okay too. I'll see how I go.

Anyway, at the risk of blowing my own trumpet... wow, I am so proud of myself.


I saw this musician the other night - she was a support act for Nicky Chiswell and they were doing a gig to raise money for a beach mission team in my church. Check out this clip... her name is Clara Rhoden and she was awesome.

"If you sit on my lap today..."

I put up my Christmas tree this evening (to the great fascination of my cat) and, as is traditional with me, put on the DVD of the Rankin-Bass animation "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town", with the voices of Fred Astaire and Micky Rooney.  I love Rankin-Bass animation, particularly the stop motion animation, and have collected a few DVDs as they've become available. They were mostly done in the late 60s/early 70s so they're not as politically correct as some animated films produced today. I realised just how much times have changed as I listened to one of the songs, sung by Kris Kringle when he first goes to Sombertown to give gifts to the children.  The chorus goes: "If you sit on my lap today, a kiss a toy is the price you'll pay..."

Strangely, that song is often missing when the show airs on television. Go figure.

Give us this day...

Breadmaker: $17.99 in an op shop six months ago. It's paid for itself 10 times over. Score.

Drastic measures

Sometimes they are needed...

(That is the freezer, in case it's not obvious...)

Is this a joke?

I'm still living partly in the Cave O' Hibernation but emerging every now and then to growl at people. Fun times. I'm not doing all that well, to be honest, but sometimes that's just the way it goes. I'm trying to deal with some rather heavy stuff that came up partly through writing and partly through other things and it's tough going. Very tough going.

Part of the fallout from all of this is massively increased anxiety. I've had a number of middle-of-the-night anxiety episodes of the heart-thumping, buzzing-with-adrenaline variety and they are not fun. They're not up to my level 10 yet (on a 1-10 scale) but they're certainly higher than normal and as a consequence I'm sleep deprived and I feel sick most of the time.

So here's where the cruel joke starts. Do you know what helps with anxiety? I mean really helps with it? Exercise. Not just any exercise, but exercise vigorous enough to increase the heart rate significantly. And I have to ask... why couldn't it have been chocolate? Or lying in a hammock? Or sitting on the beach?

Exercise. Honestly. Whose idea was that?

On a similar note...

The squeamish should probably stop reading now, because I'm continuing on the menstrual theme. I've had some questions recently about my menstrual cup and as I'm always delighted to sing the praises of my fabulous cup I'm answering the questions by subjecting my blog readers to an entire post of icky, squirmy girly stuff. (Except, of course, it's not icky... which is the point of the thing.)

Uhh, so what is this cup thing?
A menstrual cup is a small, inverted-bell shaped cup, usually made of medical-grade soft silicone. There are a number of different types available now and they all look like a variation of this:

Okay, cute. What's it for and how do you use it?

It's essentially a tampon alternative. You fold it, insert it in your vagina and let it unfold. It forms a seal against the vaginal walls below your cervix and then sits there catching blood and menstrual fluid. Kind of like the picture below, except that most women don't have 500 metres between the cup and their cervix like in the diagram... and so far as I know my uterus is not green.

Seems a little gross. What happens when it's full?
When it's full, or before it's full, you go to the bathroom, squeeze the bottom of the cup to break the seal, remove it, dump the contents in the toilet, wash the cup if you want and then reinsert it. Some people are fanatical about scrubbing and sterilising the cup every time (not that you can actually 'sterilise' anything without, you know, an autoclave...), some just rinse it, some... like me... just give it a good clean at the end of their cycle.

Doesn't it leak everywhere?

Sometimes it can leak a little bit before you get the hang of using it and find exactly the best positioning for you. It's different for everyone and it can take a couple of cycles to fully work out what's best for your body. Mine has never leaked but I know it's happened to others. Also, if it completely fills up the seal will break, which will cause some overflow. Once you work out how long it take your body to fill it then there is usually no problem.

Is it uncomfortable?
I have never been able to feel it... to the point where I've sometimes forgotten it was even there.

Alright, but what's so great about it?
Well, women like them for different reasons but here are the top points for me.

1. It's better for your body than tampons. Tampons are designed to absorb any fluid in the general area, which means that in addition to catching blood they also absorb the natural self-cleaning lubrication that your body needs. They dry out everything, they can leave minute fibres behind and those fibres can scratch the vaginal walls... and that's what can cause Toxic Shock Syndome. Cups don't absorb anything; they just catch menstrual fluid and there are no nasty little cotton fibres to be left behind. Of course it's always wise to be careful and wash your hands, but to date there is not a single recorded case of TSS linked with cup use.

2. They last about 2-3 times longer than tampons between toilet trips. On my heaviest days a tampon would last me maybe 2 hours. On my very heaviest days now it takes about 4-6 hours for me to fill my cup. Women with a lighter flow can go 12 hours or more.

3. I haven't had to buy anything from the 'feminine hygeine' aisle for years, nor do I have to worry about running out of products at an inconvenient time. I forked out about $60 for my cup roughly 4 years ago and it's likely still to be going strong in another 6 years or so. You do the maths on that.

4. I'm not contributing to landfill. In the US it is estimated that there are 12 billion pads and 7 million tampon being thrown out and going to landfill EVERY YEAR. Obviously those numbers are smaller for Australia, but still the average woman is likely to use this amount of disposable products (pads and/or tampons) over ten years:

Multiply that by... well, a lot of women... and you have a lot of money and a lot of waste in landfill.

Well, I'm still grossed out but I might do some investigation. Where should I look?
Start by Googling 'menstrual cups'. I use the Mooncup (although I chopped off the stem because it was useless and uncomfortable) but there are many different kinds available now so do your own research. They even come in different colours! The only bad news here is that they're not available in shops in Australia so you WILL have to buy them online if you want one. Because it's an internally worn product and it's medical grade silicone the TGA wants to classify it as a medical product so they're still not allowing any businesses to import them yet. Sigh.

For those who haven't run off screaming, thank you for allowing me to rave about my cup - which is the best purchase I've ever made in my life - and I hope I covered all the questions people have had for me recently.

Returning you to your normal programming now...

Don't even ask...

There's a convoluted explanation for how this memory reappeared in my head, so don't even bother asking. It's really not important. Just enjoy the story.

When I was in my first year of high school we had sex education/puberty lessons in health class. These days they do it earlier, since kids tend to develop earlier, but in those days it was first year of high school and there were plenty of kids who had no idea about any of this stuff so there were lots of questions. To combat embarrassment we were invited to write questions down and drop them in the question box, with the assurance that they'd all be answered the following week.

The next week rolled around and the teacher brought in the box of questions. She pulled out the first one and said, "I assume that this question was meant to say 'what happens if you are playing sport on the field and menstruation occurs?'.... but what this person wrote was 'what happens if you are playing sport on the field and masturbation occurs?'... [she paused briefly, then deadpanned]... and my answer to that is, I can only suggest you get off the sports field as quickly as possible!"

A small rant

Technically I'm back online but I'm still writing furiously so I'm remaining in semi-hibernation, but MAN... I had to blog about this.

This morning I drove past the church near me with the appallingly bad signs out the front. Today's offering was short: "Live your truth". Not 'live the truth' but 'live YOUR truth'. May I just say one small thing? It's this... AAARRRGGGHHHH!!! Get a dictionary - there's no such thing as YOUR truth and MY truth; there is just truth. TRUTH IS NOT RELATIVE!!

Thank you. That is all.

And even more LOLz...

...because it's a great way to procrastinate when the writing gets a bit hard...

More LOLz

So, Crazy Sister started it and then Givinya threw down the challenge... and since I love LOLcats, I had to join in. (Particularly since I have an actual cat which, I hasten to point out, is the same breed as the original LOLcat.)

Heh. So anyway, here is my contribution.

I'm not here. Truly.

I know, I know, I said I was disappearing until the end of November... and yet here I am. Addicted? No way! Just enthusiastic. Yeah, that's it... enthusiastic.

I am, for those interested, nowhere near 50,000 words. I'm at about 17,000 now and with just over a week to go there's no way I'll reach the 50K goal. However, that's okay. I decided a while ago to forget the word goal and concentrate on the words themselves. That goes entirely against the spirit of NaNoWriMo but I don't care, because I've made some great discoveries. In the process of putting parts of my story together I am finding links I had never seen before. I'm developing an understanding of some things and starting to see the inherent sadness of other things. The entire process has been incredibly valuable, more than I ever anticipated, and that is worth a great deal more than the satisfaction of reaching a word goal.

The flipside of this, however, is that a whole lot of stuff is being churned up and I don't necessarily have the capacity to deal with it all at once. Of course I don't have to deal everything at the same time, but a lot of it is out there now and it's hard to unring a bell, you know? So I'm continuing to take things slowly... I'm still a hermit, I'm still minimising my online activity and I'm taking lots of breaks from writing when I think my body and mind need it. If I were listening to my counsellor I'd also be shunning junk food, eating more vegetables and doing plenty of exercise, but hey, one can't have everything. (Although... if I HAD listened to her advice about self-care then I might not have had those midnight anxiety attacks either so perhaps there's something in what she says...)

So this is where I'm at. And hey, who's sick to death of the interminable updates about Femina's mental health and counselling sessions? Yeah, me too... but like I said, this is where I'm at...

In which Femina disappears...

...just for a fortnight.

It's been a big few weeks, and I think NaNoWriMo is taking its toll. It's been great in some ways... I'm loving forcing myself to write even when I don't feel like it and I like having a goal (although I am about 10,000 words behind where I should be by this stage) but it's been very intense and emotionally draining. Partly that's because I'm writing about a lot of things that I normally take one at a time - I'm talking about abuses that happened when I was growing up and how I felt about myself at the time; I'm reliving early counselling sessions with a counsellor who harmed more than she helped; I'm writing about depression and anxiety; and I'm talking about things I've learned and ways I've grown. It's all really great stuff but in order to get this material I'm reading old journal entries, emails and other things I've written over time. Reading the things I wrote when I was depressed made me very sad, and reading various emails I've written to my counsellor when I was in the middle of a dark place was not easy. Reading any journal entry I wrote when I was seeing my previous counsellor makes me sad and angry at the same time.

In addition to this fun-and-therapuetic-but-really-rather-draining writing I've also had a big couple of weeks. My new boss started two weeks ago and he's great - I think he'll be an excellent thing for the church and an excellent thing for us as a staff team - but we're all getting used to working together and that takes time, effort and energy. So far we're all working together well and I feel confident that will continue, but he's only just met us and we've only just met him. We're all still trying to get to know each other and to work out how we work best together. That's exhausting.

And to add one more thing to my already overflowing brain, I've just had a week where I was out every single night for one thing or another and to be blunt, I'm stuffed. Some of them were great things (including a fantastic birthday board-games-and-Indian-takeaway night last night) but still it takes its toll... and there's no respite yet because we have a women's ministry event coming up this Saturday and I'm one of the key people organising it. Yeah, well, it seemed like a good idea at the time...

Anyway, so this has all been a very long-winded way of saying that I'm going to be disappearing until the end of November. In truth I'll probably still read some blogs and I'll still be contactable on email for those who have my address but my intention (as in, those things with which the road to hell is paved) is to stick the phone on answering machine, refuse all social invitations unless it's a wedding or something, and stay off my computer as much as possible. Not sure how that's going to go since I may be a little bit addicted to Facebook but even halving my 'connectedness' will be a good start.

I need some quietness and contemplation and space. You'd think I already have that, since I live alone, but it's not the same thing. I need to retreat for a bit and live without a constant (self-inflicted) barrage of pictures and messages and sights and sounds and noise.

I may crack in three days, but I reckon it's worth a try. See you in a couple of weeks... and PLEASE remember to contact me if anything really juicy happens!

Birthday poem

A friend wrote me this poem for my birthday. It's not a hearts-and-flowers birthday poem; it's gritty and real and hopeful, and very insightful. I like it a lot.  He has asked to remain anonymous.

(For more information about the title of the poem, read here and here.)

Is there a chart for the scars of the past?
The house-bound monster longs for sacrifice.
Shall the fearful child be free at last?

The wisdom of your guide is unsurpassed,
But homeward, will the verbal thread suffice?
Is there an art for the scars of the past?

What now can break the fatal spell it cast?
Will sorrow grown familiar still entice?
Shall the anxious child be free at last?

Asleep you find the mutant child, the outcast,
Hidden in the centre of your strife.
Is this the start of the scars of the past?

The secret battle rages over the vast
Maze of memory, exacting its slow price.
Will the awkward child be free at last?

Returning, change the colours at the mast,
Celebrate the gift of unexpected life.
There is a balm for the scars of the heart.
May the hopeful child be free at last!

"She's a rebel..."

"...and she never ever does what she should..."

I am officially a NaNoRebel. That's right, I've broken the rules. Happily there are a lot of us, hence the term 'NaNoRebel' rather than 'NaNoCheat'. I'm a rebel because I'm writing a memoir (albeit fictionalised) AND I'm using some previously written material. This is outside the NaNoWriMo guidelines... however, they're kind of okay with it and really just want people to write, so rebels are allowed so long as we admit that we're rebels. It's all good.

Current word count: 10,422. Still a bit behind but that's okay. And here's a tip I'll give you for nothing... a detailed description of a middle-of-the-night, off-the-scale anxiety attack is probably not something one should attempt to write at night, if one hopes to sleep at all. Apparently it's difficult to write about anxiety without feeling anxious. Huh. Well, lesson learned. It's also the only thing I've written so far that has made me cry.

Word Count

6,240... slightly below the aim of 1,667 per day (which would put me at 6,668) but still not bad. Unfortunately the quality decreases as the word count goes up. Oh well.

Onward and upward. Writer's block, begone!

NaNoWriMo - Day One

It doesn't bode well that I got to about 5pm on day one of National Novel Writing Month and thought, "Oh yeah... I'm meant to be writing."  As you can tell, I'm tremendously excited and couldn't wait to get started. :D

I've gone into this flying completely by the seat of my pants. I have no plans. I have no plot outline. I have no defined characters. I don't know what's going to happen or how it all ends. Ends? I'm not even sure how it starts.  Nevertheless, my word count is 1,784. You need to write 1,667 per day to make it to 50,000 by 30 November so I'm ahead. Where I'll be in a week from now, and what will be on the page, is anyone's guess... whatever you do, don't ask ME. I have no idea.

And no, I'm not uploading any of it.

I am surrounded by talent

Wow, two posts in one evening. I am already practising my writing procrastination skills (by... errr... writing).

You know, I read a few blogs and have discovered quite a few more through other people's blogrolls. I love dipping into blogs that my other blog-friends read, partly because they are usually pretty good blogs and partly because it gives me an insight into the person who reads it. "Hmmm... so she regularly reads a blog about 18th century button collecting. Interesting."

Here's what I have discovered in my blog hopping: there are LOADS of talented, crafty people out there. A disproportionate amount - it feels like four out of five blogs are written by these crafty types. Are people who can sew/create somehow more likely to create a blog? Or is it that everyone else in the world apart from a dozen of us are tremendously talented and they kindly let the useless amongst us take up a quiet little corner of the blogosphere, way over here where we won't cause any damage?

Whatever the reason, I'm in awe. I can knit a little but most of it is pretty basic and I lose interest after a while so not a lot gets finished unless I'm knitting for someone else... and even then I generally only do baby stuff because it's easy and quick. My knitting, however, pales into insignificance when I read blogs where people are making clothes or quilts or bags or earrings or paintings or pendants or hats or... well, anything, really. What's even more amazing to me is that it's often people with three or four children who are making these things. Seriously, how on EARTH do they find the time?

Every time I read one of these blogs I think, "Right, that's it. I'm buying a sewing machine and I'm going to learn this sewing thing. I'll learn it, I'll love it and I'll blog about it. Yep, that's the plan."

Ten minutes later, I'm back to fixing my skirt hem with a bandaid...

Signed away my sanity

I opened a new post to tell you all about signing away my sanity, only to discover that this is my 400th post. As my dad would say, wacky-do! (No, really. He would actually say that. In public and everything.)

This may be proof that in fact I had no sanity to sign away in the first place, but I have just signed up for NaNoWriMo. Yep, that's National Novel Writing Month, where the aim is to write a 50,000 word novel in November. That's WRITE a 50,000 word novel, not tweak a novel you've already written or finish a novel you've already started. You're supposed to start from scratch on November 1 and aim to finish by midnight (your local time) on November 30.  If you make it to 50,000 words by the deadline you can submit your novel to the website for an official word count and be declared a winner. (Everyone who finishes the word count is a winner. There are no actual prizes.)  Here's an excerpt from the website:

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

So, this means I shall either abandon my blog in November, or I'll be blogging every single day as a method of writing procrastination.  Frankly, I have my doubts that I can do this and I feel sure I WILL write a lot of crap, but I don't care. I think it's going to be a hoot to give it a go... and as the website says, "Win or lose, you rock for even trying!"


I need a holiday

So this morning I was chatting with my sister via email and she said, "I need a holiday," to which I replied, "Yeah, me too... and a holiday where I actually go somewhere." There was a thoughtful pause from me as I tried to remember the last holiday where I went somewhere. Okay, I remember now... it was the holiday where I did a bus tour of parts of the USA and Canada. I combined two bus tours, with a stop off in Calgary in between them to visit my cousins. The first tour was 16 days around these places:

That was a lot of fun and I stayed an extra couple of days in New York at the end, before heading off (via Calgary) for another 16 days around these places:

This part was even more fun because it included DISNEYLAND! And Las Vegas, which, if one is not gambling, is kind of like a grown-up Disneyland. It was lots of fun.

But here's the scary part. I was trying to remember exactly when I took this holiday, and finally realised it was just before the September 11 attacks (I left America on September 2, as it happens). That was in 2001... that's EIGHT YEARS AGO! I haven't had a holiday in EIGHT YEARS. Of course I've taken time off work, and had uni holidays in the 2004-2007 period when I was studying, but I used the time to visit family or to stay at home relaxing. There's nothing wrong with a stay-at-home holiday, but geez... has it really been that long?

Right now I have exactly NO money for a holiday and that is likely to be the case for quite a while but still I think I'm going to have to come up with some sort of holiday idea soon. Because wow, eight years...

I need a holiday.

Opinions - I has them.

During two years of counselling I've discovered many things about myself. Some things have been good and some have been... hmm... somewhat more challenging.  My most recent discovery has surprised me a little - I've discovered that I have opinions.  I know, that sounds nuts, doesn't it? Everyone has opinions. What I haven't known until recently, however,  are MY opinions.  This is not to say I've never had an opinion on anything - in fact I'm sure there are plenty of people who would call me very opinionated - but I've never been confident in my opinions and have always been easily swayed to other opinions, partly because I haven't trusted myself and partly from fear of rejection.  Those things are still there to a degree, but I'm slowly discovering what *I* like and what *I* think... and sometimes it surprises me.

So today I did some clothes shopping. It was a spur of the moment thing (most of the 'spurring' coming from one friend who recommended a fabulous shop and another friend who came with me and 'encouraged' me to buy the things I did) and I spent waaay too much money, but I don't care. I bought things I would never have bought a year ago or even six months ago because I didn't really know what I liked and I feared wearing anything that might draw attention to me. This, of course, led to some boring fashion choices.  Here are todays's choices... far less boring than previous choices and for the first time I really know that I like them and want to wear them:

This one is actually a birthday present from a friend (but I don't have to wait until my birthday, which is not until next month). The red is darker than in the photo.

This is from the same store, which has some truly fabulous stuff. (First photo is the front, second is the back.)

Also from the same store... it's actually striped, not grey, but it doesn't show up well in the picture. The second pic shows the detail.

Trust me when I say that this one looks a LOT better on!

On to another store... I saw these months ago but they were too expensive. Guess what? They were $40 cheaper today AND in my size!

And what are shoes without a handbag? (It's not leather and it's a darker red than the photo.)

I also bought this in black but it didn't photograph very well. It's a long, swingy coatish thing which I'll probably wear with jeans.

Another casual one...

See the lovely royal blue on this one? It's actually a dark purple but my silly camera didn't want to co-operate. The top itself is also black and not that weird, faded, greyish black that it appears here.

Last photo - this is also a darker black than in the photo.

In addition to all of this I bought a couple of plain tee shirts (one black, one white) and a couple of singlets to go under the more revealing items.

All up, a very nice day. Hooray for shopping and hooray for starting to find my voice. It's a great feeling.


God made me crazy

Some months ago a friend of mine started seeing the same counsellor I see. As my friend doesn't drive I offered to take her there for appointments, and her sessions are generally in the evenings so we have dinner together at my house beforehand. We've also just completed the Anxiety Management course I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.... all up my friend and I have spent quite a bit of time together recently. Tonight I remarked that the great thing about this is that we've got to know each other a lot better, which I think we've both enjoyed.

I feel sure that God had a hand in pushing together two friends with similar insecurities into a situation where they can support each other and have fun too. Isn't that great? God made me crazy so I could make more friends! Hehe. (It's okay - you're allowed to laugh. God has a great sense of humour. Truly.)

Healing words

Thank you all for your comments on my last post - both the comments on my blog and those that came to me via email.  I appreciate them more than I can adequately express.

I'm not sure I made it very clear that my last post was a positive one. Well, the background information was negative, but the fact that I'm feeling the tiniest shred of something that might one day become compassion towards myself is... okay, it sounds like not much but believe me it's a big deal, and a very positive step in the right direction.

But back to you all... you "faceless internet identities" who've never met me in real life. I'm a stranger to you, right? Why should you care? Why on earth would you be supportive? And yet you are NOT strangers to me, even though we have not met. You DO care and you ARE supportive - time and time again, and in wonderful ways that I could not have expected. You have become my friends and I am blessed.

So I'm taking your comments to me from posts in recent weeks (plus some from people who know me for real) and I'm writing them here as facts. I don't believe them all yet, and maybe I won't for a long time, but I am kept strong by the fact that you believe them.  My belief in myself is shaky but I am hanging on to your belief.  So here goes...

* I have an amazing way with words
* I am courageous, strong and vulnerable
* I am a great woman
* I have a strong faith
* I am part of the Body of Christ
* I am precious
* I am a woman of compassion
* I am loved by God
* I am God's creation
* I am special
* I am worthwhile...

Thank you, my friends. When I come to believe these things it will be, in part, because you believed them first and helped point me towards the truth.

The age of compassion

In recent counselling sessions I've talked a bit about particular incidents that happened when I was growing up and still living at home. Mixed up with these memories are my thoughts and feelings about myself during that time. I've looked at photos of myself when I was small. There's one in particular where I'm about three years old - I'm sitting on the lounge talking on the phone and laughing and looking very cute. It's a happy photo and when I look at the little girl in that photo I feel so sad for her. My brother started treating me badly when I was quite young. I have no memory of it not happening and given that he's six years older than me it's likely that he was already picking on me to some degree even when I was that little. I look at the photo and I can see how awful it is that anyone could tell that happy little girl that she's worthless. Even more sad is that she would grow up to believe it.

The feelings I have when I look at those photos are entirely appropriate. The things that happened to me ARE sad. The problem comes when I look at photos of me at older ages, particularly when I'm about 14 and up. When I look at those photos I don't feel sad. At an intellectual level there's probably some sadness but mostly I am overwhelmed by the things I believed at the time - all the feelings of worthlessness and shame that were absolute truth to me then are truth to me now. I can't look at photos and think, "How sad that the happy little three year old grew up to become this fearful and unhappy teenager who believed she was worthless" because I'm too caught up in the belief that I was (and am) so worthless and ridiculous that I completely deserved everything my brother and others ever did or said to me. Not only can I not feel compassion, I don't want to believe that girl is me. I don't want anything to do with her; I don't even want to acknowledge her existence. I don't want that girl to be the building block of the woman I am today.

Whilst pondering all these things I came upon this poem...

Variation on the word sleep
Margaret Atwood

I would like to watch you sleeping,
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you,
sleeping. I would like to sleep
with you, to enter
your sleep as its smooth dark wave
slides over my head

and walk with you through that lucent
wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
with its watery sun & three moons
towards the cave where you must descend,
towards your worst fear.

I would like to give you the silver
branch, the small white flower, the one
word that will protect you
from the grief at the center
of your dream, from the grief
at the center. I would like to follow
you up the long stairway
again & become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands
to where your body lies
beside me, and you enter
it as easily as breathing in.

I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.

This is essentially a love poem (and as a love poem I think it's wonderful) but I was also struck by the third stanza:

I would like to give you the silver
branch, the small white flower, the one
word that will protect you
from the grief at the center
of your dream, from the grief
at the center. I would like to follow
you up the long stairway
again & become
the boat that would row you back

Part of me still doesn't want to know that young girl, but there's another part, a tiny part... if I could go back in time and meet that girl, I think I would want to protect her. Maybe that's not compassion, not yet, but it's something. It's a start.

It all makes sense now

This morning: 
Large hot chocolate and a raspberry/white chocolate muffin.

A bowl of hot chips with tomato sauce.

This afternoon:
Five 'fun size' Milky Way bars.

This evening:

My period started.

Ah. Mystery solved.

A blubbering mess

** Warning - if you haven't seen The Color Purple, don't watch the clip I've embedded in this post. It is the final scene and will totally wreck the movie for you. **

Last night I was doing some knitting and decided to put a DVD in to watch whilst doing it.  I looked over my collection and thought, "Hmmm... I haven't seen The Color Purple in a while."  It's a long movie so it seemed like a good choice, as it was only early evening at this point.

Okay, sure, I know it's an emotionally wrenching movie. I've seen it before several times and I always cry at various points of the film, but that's okay. I mean, I also still cry when I read Little Women and get to the scene where Beth dies but that doesn't affect my enjoyment of the experience.

So, I put the DVD in and settled down to watch. I teared up a little at the beginning. I was a trifle misty at several points during the film. I wiped away a stray tear when Celie finally got away from Mister.  But when we got to this scene...

...I was a blubbering mess. Not just crying; I was sobbing so hard I had to turn up the volume because I was drowning out the movie.

It is a truly excellent film... but next time I say, "Hey, now there's a movie I haven't seen in a while..." please remind me to have a store of clean hankies nearby.

What? Isn't this normal??

Last night I attended the first night of a four week (one night per week) Anxiety Management Workshop. There were about 10 of us there and it was a friendly - albeit slightly anxious - little group. The idea of the sessions is to help us understand how anxiety works in the body, to recognise what can cause it to be a bit out of whack, and  to learn strategies for getting it under better control.  There were some interesting things last night, but one incident really made me laugh.

We were each doing an anxiety scale, where you rate your anxiety symptoms from 1 to 10. 1 is 'peaceful and calm' and 10 is your highest anxiety level, which is different for each person. So for me, level 10 would be things like chest pain, extremely elevated heart rate, shortness of breath, hyperventilation, light-headedness, inability to concentrate, shaking... thankfully I don't reach 10 very often!  The idea of doing a scale is to help us recognise what's happening in our bodies BEFORE reaching level 10 (or 7 or 8 or 9) so that we can employ anxiety management techniques before it gets out of control.  As we were all working on our individual lists someone asked, "What if your anxiety is up around level 8 all of the time?"

Let's pause for a second and imagine that question being asked in any other scenario. Surely it would be greeted with cries of alarm, concerned questions about why your anxiety level is that high, and assurances that it's most definitely NOT 'normal'.  At the very least there would be a muffled gasp. But in this anxiety workshop... not a single person responded, and as I looked around the room I saw the same question on every face... "Hang on - isn't that normal??"

Okay, maybe you had to be there - or maybe you need my sick sense of humour - but I found it extremely funny...

Just a whinge

Yesterday at church I was approached by someone who doesn't normally speak with me. I don't mean he ignores me, it's just that I'm at a big church and there are many people I don't get to see, and that's fine. This particular person is someone with whom I've had contact in the past so I thought it was nice that he came up for a chat. After a few minutes of chit chat and asking me how I am etc he said, "By the way, we have [an event] coming up and I really need people to help with the set up and cleaning up after it. I don't want to ask anyone with a family because they are too busy so I thought you could help."

Okay, this drives me wild for two reasons. Firstly, I hate being treated like I don't exist until someone wants something. It's downright insulting. Secondly, I resent the implication that single people and/or people without children are always available to drop everything and help with every event that comes up. This is NOT to say that people with kids aren't busy; what makes me angry is the belief that the rest of us have no life and no commitments.

So here's a tip I'll give you for nothing - if you ONLY speak to me when you want something, and treat me like I'm invisible the rest of the time, it's very unlikely I'll be inclined to help you. Further, don't make assumptions about my social life and other commitments. Given that you haven't bothered to give me the time of day up until now there's a very good chance that you know exactly nothing about my life.

A little bit of comfort

My brother (the one who bullied and abused me) has recently moved back to my parents' house. This doesn't thrill me and I am not willing to stay with my parents while he is living there. However, since I've never discussed the abuse with my parents I can't explain why I don't want to stay there - and the excuse of 'no room' won't really work since my parents have a four bedroom house with only three people in it. Hmmm. Anyway, that's a discussion I've deftly avoided up to now and I'm not planning a trip back there for a while so I'm not worrying about it yet.

The problem with the 'don't worry about it yet' approach is that I'm apparently too good at it. I'm so good at it that I actually forgot my brother was living at my mum and dad's house... so imagine my shock when I was chatting with my mother on the phone yesterday and suddenly my brother's voice came on the line. Let me add some context here - I haven't seen my brother face-to-face for at least two years. I haven't heard his voice in that time either. What I have done in the last two years is talk about 20 years of abuse. I've had nightmares and flashbacks. I've had frightening anxiety attacks. I've experienced depression. I've struggled. Of course, my brother is not directly to blame for these things - and in fact seeking to lay blame anywhere is unhelpful - but he is certainly a massive factor in it all and I was not ready to hear his voice on the phone. (I should add that he wasn't speaking to me and didn't even know it was me on the phone; he just picked up the downstairs extension because he wanted to tell my mother something and couldn't be bothered walking upstairs.)

When I heard his voice I started shaking and experienced other symptoms of anxiety. I had a long bath and did a few anxiety-management techniques and eventually I was fine. I slept well last night and felt pretty good today so I assumed I was over the shock of hearing his voice. Well, until this afternoon....

I made choc-chip cookies...

...and then some gluten-free dark chocolate brownies...

...and then some Mars Bar slice.

Uh.... comfort cooking, anyone?

(I haven't actually eaten any of this and will give most of it away. No, really. I swear!)


I have reached a certain age

It's happened. I've reached an age where I looked at a particular product and thought, "Hmmm... there's a handy little item..."

The item? It was this:

Yep, I bought a "tv tray". Actually it's called the Table-Mate II. I have no idea how it differs from the Table-Mate I but I'm sure it's infinitely superior. I bought it so I can comfortably use my laptop whilst sitting on the lounge and it's great for that purpose. However... the pictures on the box are a little off-putting.

They all look a bit sad, don't they? One lonely little person, sitting there all alone on a HUGE lounge, eating a solitary meal or reading a book, using their handy tray table.

When I start eating TV dinners by the comforting blue glow of my television I'll know for sure that buying this table was the beginning of the end.

Garden World

Be still, my beating heart. Today I went to Garden World. Oh my.

Now that the vege garden is complete I decided I needed a few flowers. I went the cheap-arse option and bought "potted colour - 4 for $10!" - which means "we can't even be bothered telling you what these are called because they'll be dead in a couple of months anyway, but in the meantime... PRETTY!" I also bought a gardenia, which thrills me to my fingertips because nothing says Spring to me more than the smell of gardenia. Forget jasmine; it's gardenia all the way for me. I also bought a bromeliad for indoors - I'd never even heard of these before until I saw them in my counsellor's house, but I absolutely love some of them so I couldn't resist it. What attracted me to this one was the vivid green of the leaves, which of course doesn't come through in the photo properly. Hmph. And it has just occurred to me that there's every possibility my counsellor will now think I'm a crazy stalker who is trying to emulate her by buying a bromeliad... but I guess she's in the best position to assess my level of craziness at any time. (Yeah, but keep your doors locked... just in case...)

Garden World also had a large bonsai section. I don't know, I find bonsai a bit weird. It's like the plant version of teacup dogs... I get the feeling that if Paris Hilton were into plants she'd fill her house with bonsai because they're 'cute'.


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