Bionic Woman

On Friday I will become the bionic woman. Well, a bionic woman. A bionic person. I’m getting an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD). Over 3000 implantation procedures are performed in Australia each year, mainly in men aged over 70, so being a female under 40 it is slightly unusual.

I have been living with the knowledge of my heart condition for eight months. The majority of this was I was under the impression I had a mild, mainly inert version of cardiomyopathy. I wore a 24 hour holter monitor in November last year and had a follow up appointment with my then cardiologist in December. I attended the appointment and had been waiting for over an hour at 6pm on a Friday night and was informed by the receptionist, when I asked, that it was conceivably another two hour wait and so I left and said for her to contact me if anything pertinent had arisen on the monitor that I needed to be aware of. I duly made an appointment for six months time and left. I was exhausted and went home to sleep.

I received a follow up letter two months later stating that episodes of ventricular tachycardia (VT) were evident. I googled this and immediately organised a referral to my dad’s cardiologist, Professor Prash Sanders of the Cardiovascular Centre. VT is a major indicator of sudden cardiac death. The day after receiving my referral my new cardiologists office called and arranged an appointment. SInce that appointment only four weeks ago I have had a four day holter monitor, an angiogram, cardiac biopsy and will be receiving my paramedic on demand in three days. I have also had a preliminary test for an extremely rare genetic disease which affects maybe 10 000 people in the world.

It’s been a whirlwind and my mind is in chaos. Google has been a relief and a terror. The more I read about the medical benefit scheme and private health insurance gaps the less I actually understand. I’ve always felt that I was bone idle but now that I’m not allowed to do anything (Prash doesn’t want me getting my heart rate above 120 and my family won’t let me do anything that requires any exertion at all), I feel an utter frustration and uselessness like I’ve never before felt. Though I do allow myself the gallows humour fantasy of imagining my loved ones having to explain my passing due to the exertion of emptying the dishwasher and people exclaiming that they would never have imagined that particular circumstance happening to me.

You do have to keep your sense of humour. My first appointment with Prash I commented on consulting with his colleague Dr Google and finding this incredibly rare disease and being able to attribute multiple symptoms. His rolling his eyes but not laughing me out of his office was both reassuring and alarming in equal measure. I told my friend that my husband won’t touch me at the moment because he’s worried about my blood pressure getting too high. I replied that it hasn’t been a problem in the past, why worry now? Boom Boom.

I’m looking forward to having the ICD put in. I’m aware that there are potential side effects and that it’s componentry will need to be replaced over time, but living with constant low level paranoia as I have for the past month has been harrowing. I’m hoping that reaching this milestone will alleviate my immediate concerns. I need to reconcile the fact that I have lifetime of health concerns to come, the severity and progression of which are not completely within my control. I also hope it will provide some reassurance to my loved ones. I commented to my mother on my concerns for my husband and his stoicism. She remarked that it’s hard being the one that has to watch. This breaks my heart. Figuratively of course, literally it merely beats irregulaly and is oblivious to everyones concern. (There’s that humour I referred to earlier.)

As a side note, Sudden cardiac arrest is one of Australia’s biggest causes of death and disability. It claims the lives of an estimated 22,000 to 33,000 Australians each year. (See here http://www.heartregistry.org.au/2013/02/cardiac-arrest-heart-attack/ for more details.) It is different to a heart attack as that is caused by a blocked artery. It’s the electrics as opposed to the plumbing if you will allow me the analogy. If you would like to donate to further research in this area, and in particular to Professor Prash Sanders team at the University of Adelaide please go to the web page http://www.adelaide.edu.au/chrd/impact/

A Little Creative Piece

I was a bit slack over the Christmas break in regards to maintaining this blog. Yes, my Christmas break extends from November to early February. (Did everyone read my first blog entry where I mentioned my propensity to procrastination and outright laziness.)

Anyway, I wasn’t completely stagnant. I had a bit of a 25 word or less competition entry frenzy. One competition I entered involved penning a 100 word short story. I wasn’t sure what to write about in such a compact formula and then an idea came to me in the shower. It was a conversation between two entities and hopefully the last comment made the big reveal of the topic of the dialogue.

I was confident it was a good piece but as is the fickle nature of the judges of these things you’re never really sure what they are looking for or how they will determine the winner. Needless to say, I didn’t place. They did, however, print the winning entries on their Facebook page. The pieces were good, although in my opinion a bit trite. I’ve seen variations of them before. I realised what I wrote never had a chance.

This experience has taught me a valuable lesson. Research your audience. If I had conducted a little due diligence I would have realised that the particular publication has a conservative leaning and my godless creationist drabble didn’t fit.

Well, read it for yourself and decide. I would love comments and critiques!

“It lives, husband.”
“I see. It was too early, the birthing…”
“Yes.”
“Will it survive?”
“Unknown. With little interference it should develop. It’s maturation will take an age”
“And the others?”
“None of the others have potential such as this one. They will serve as reminders; potent demonstrations of the capricious agency of fate.”
“Wife, we must away.”
“So soon? I hoped to have longer.”
“Yes. We are needed elsewhere.”
“Will return be possible?”
“Unlikely. Come.”
“Husband, this one is special; I shall name it.”
“It will only pain you in the parting, but do so if you must.”
“Earth.”

Sting and Paul Simon in Concert! Woot.

So I saw Sting and Paul Simon in concert last night. I will warn you that this review may be slightly biased toward the Paul Simon element of the night, mainly because I was so freaked out that I was seeing Paul Simon!

I’ve been eyeing off tickets to various concerts in the last few years but find the cost of tickets prohibitive. I can talk myself out of the expense by satisfying myself with my aging CD collection. Imagine my delight when I got a private facebook message from my Mum five days ago.

“Won tickets to Sting and Paul Simon. Dad doesn’t want to go, do you want to come?” she wrote.
My reply was a simple “OMG, yes.”

Sunday afternoon found me circulating the house, humming ‘Mrs Robinson’ to myself. Arriving at the venue, we didn’t know what seats we had been allocated. The guy at the box office opened the envelope and looked at us with a smile, “You got great seats. Gold section, B4” Yes! High fives.

There were people everywhere and the atmosphere was scintillating. Late afternoon was turning to evening and a balmy breeze was a welcome relief from the moderate heat of the day. Multiple food suppliers were available, but the longest lines were at the Coopers beer tents. Mum bought a bottle of wine and asked for two glasses. I had a soft drink so I can only think she was trying to appear less of a lush. I don’t think anyone was fooled.

We found our spots and realised there wouldn’t be a lot of space for dancing. A mosh pit with seating.
Then the moment we had been waiting for, the stage filled with the band and the star attractions. Our seats were great, not so close as to see the beads of sweat but near enough to see them raise their arms to wipe them away.

The music started and we were immediately swept up in it’s soaring notes. Mum and I grasped hands and just looked at each other, “Paul Simon” we squealed, total fan girls.

The play list was extensive and spanned from the earliest dates in each artists songbooks. There were duets and solos and musicians galore. There was careful design to the order of the music. Rollicking hits that had everyone on there feet were followed by mellower tunes that had people swaying in their chairs. This was especially considerent given the mean age ofthe attendees and the fact that concert ran to nearly three hours.

It was revealed that it was essentially two full bands on stage. Many of the musicians were multi instrumentalists and the many solos were captivating in their own rights. Three drumsets, a brass section, strings, a harpischord, a keybard. At one point there was a piano accordion, ukulele, washboard and I think even a kazoo. In one song! The back up singer was a local girl and was magnificent. She also looked exactly like Kaley Cuoco from Big Bang Theory.

I couldn’t get over how great Sting and Paul Simon sounded. No discernable deterioration in quality from their recordings, as far as my untutored ears could tell. Sting’s voice has a gravelly sexiness but of his playlist I found his Police anthems most entertaining. The songs from his solo career are a little dreary. Paul Simon is mesmerizing. At one point during his set I actually forgot Sting was there too and got a surprise when he walked back on stage.

The penultimate song was the Simon and Garfunkel classic, Bridge Over Troubled Water. Mum and I stood arm in arm, singing along, as did the entire audience. I had goosebumps.

Although it has been about fifteen years since I last saw a live act and my memory might be a bit hazy, last night was one of the best nights of my music appreciating life.

concert2

concert

PLAYLIST

Sting & Paul Simon
Brand New Day (from Brand New Day, 1999)
Boy In The Bubble (from Graceland, 1986)
Fields Of Gold (from Ten Summoners Tales, 1992)
Sting
So Lonely (from Outlandos D’Amour, 1978)
When The World Is Running Down (from Zenyatta Mondatta, 1980)
Seven Days (from Ten Summoners Tales, 1992)
Driven To Tears (from Zenyatta Mondatta, 1980)
Walking On The Moon (from Regatta D’Blanc, 1979)
Paul Simon & Sting
Mother and Child Reunion (from Paul Simon, 1972)
Paul Simon
50 Ways To Leave Your Lover (from Still Crazy After All These Years, 1975)
Dazzling Blue (from So Beautiful Or So What, 2011)
Graceland (from Graceland, 1986)
Pretty Thing (Bo Diddly cover)
Still Crazy After All These Years (from Still Crazy After All These Years, 1975)
Me And Julio Down By The School Yard (from Paul Simon, 1972)
Sting and Paul Simon
Fragile (from Nothing Like The Sun, 1987)
Sting
America (from Bookends, 1968)
Message In A Bottle (from Regatta D’Blanc, 1979)
The Hounds Of Winter (from Mercury Falling, 1996)
The End Of The Game (from Brand New Day)
Roxanne (from Outlandos D’Amour, 1978)
Desert Rose (from Brand New Day, 1999)
Paul Simon and Sting
The Boxer (from Bridge Over Troubled Water, 1970)
Paul Simon
That Was Your Mother (from Graceland, 1986)
The Cool Cool River (from The Rhythm of the Saints, 1990)
Hearts and Bones (from Hearts and Bones, 1983)
Mystery Train/Wheels (Junior Parker/The String A Longs covers)
Diamonds On The Soles of Her Shoes (from Graceland, 1986)
You Can Call Me Al (from Graceland, 1986)
Encore:
Sting and Paul Simon
Cecilia (from Bridge Over Troubled Water, 1970)
Every Breath You Take (from Synchronicity, 1983)
Bridge Over Troubled Water (from Bridge Over Troubled Water, 1970)
When Will I Be Loved (Everly Brothers cover)

I don’t like fat Barbie’s

I don’t like the fat barbie dolls. And what’s with the acne and stretch marks.

I don’t think I would have played with them when I was a kid. They don’t look fun. They look like they’re trying to teach something about acceptance and tolerance, but in a really obvious way. Kids get that shoved down their throats constantly. I know I’m always reinforcing it with my daughters. They get special presentations at school and TV shows.

I don’t mind them playing with anthropomorphised pets, zombie vampire hybrids or idealised human toys. Yes, Littlest Pet Shop and Monster High are big in the Lighter Heart household. They know when they are being preached to, and I want their playtime to be free of societal expectations. I want their imaginations unleashed. Having said that, I don’t want them roleplaying anorexic suicide pacts, but I’m not sure a barbie doll would provide much of an influence either way.

I enjoy the spontaneous quality conversations we have. I like to think they have a deeper and longer lasting impact on their forming psyches.

I was watching something trashy on Youtube one day. It was one of those random things where you’ve clicked on something and then clicked again and ended up somewhere you never expected. It was an excerpt from an American talk show and it had black women who wanted to be white. One had gone to the lengths of changing her name to be less ‘ghetto’, changed her hair, bleached her skin and moved cities to get away from her family. They had bought on her cousins to berate her. My nine year old started watching with me and commented “Why doesn’t she want to be herself?”

Well that started an hour long, fascinating discussion that covered generational self hate, identity and prejudice. I covered a bit of the history of race relations in the US, and how even though it’s outlawed it still exists. This woman had been told since she was a child that she was inferior due to her appearance. Miss Nine commented “But didn’t her Mum tell her she was beautiful?” I replied, “Well that would be fine if her mother had high self esteem. But what if she had also been told that she wasn’t as pretty or smart as white people? What if society told them they weren’t beautiful?”

I then took her on the computer and we simply put into google “Beautiful faces”. There appeared pages of sexily posed white people, mainly young women. There were three black women, eight Asians and a handful of Bollywood actresses. It was painfully obvious.
We then clarified the search term by googling “Beautiful Black faces”, “Beautiful Asian faces”, “Beautiful Indian faces” etc.

The worst yet most enlightening thing which illustrated my point was our chance stumbling across a video on Youtube It showed young children, perhaps three years old, sitting before two dolls, one which looked like them and one of a different race. They were than asked questions. It’s heartbreaking. These gorgeous, innocent children are asked, “Which doll is black?, Which is white?, Which is good?, Which is bad?, Which is UGLY?, Which is pretty? And then finally asked, Which one looks like you? The looks on their faces when they indicate the ones they had called ugly and bad.

It’s called Doll Test https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkpUyB2xgTM

I’m not a sociologist, I don’t know how to fix this. All I know is how to talk to my daughters and help them recognise bullying and bigotry when they see it. Also to ensure their self esteem is sky high. I also want them to have the critical faculties to know that if asked “Who is the ugly one?” they can reply that everyone has the capacity to be ugly, just as everyone has the capacity to be beautiful.

I’ve kind of strayed from my original point, but I’ll say it again. I don’t like the fat barbie’s and I don’t think they’ll achieve what the makers want them to. The prejudices are formed outside barbie play time.

Meanwhile, here’s a picture of my personal My Child doll that I got back in the 1980’s. I defy anyone to tell me she isn’t beautiful. She sits in my cupboard with my anthropomorphised teddy called Muffy and my crew cut, leather jacket wearing Cabbage Patch doll, Celeste.

20141130_215857

It’s NaNoWrMo

Otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. The objective is to write your novel, aiming for at least 50,000 words.

I’ve been on the mailing list for the last two years. As at November 3rd 2014, 9.30pm I’ve written 0 words in any November towards my novel. Cue headbanging on desk now.

I had a fascinating chat with a chap on Halloween. He is in the final two months of his year of saying yes. He said it has changed his life. He has accomplished many things this year all due to saying yes when asked to do them (I can’t recall many of them, hey it was a party,) and is currently running for local council.

He is also an ex copywriter and adman and has done a screenwriters course. He was quite encouraging when I mentioned I want to write and he said “Writers write. Just do it.”

I have a habit of finding inspiration in so many people I encounter. I need to apply it to myself. I want to be the inspiration, not the cautionary tale of someone who coulda been a contender.

So as at November 3rd 2014, 9.43pm I’ve written 199 words. Alas, none towards my novel. Twenty seven days to go.

Like It’s My Birthday

Thirty nine today, thirty nine today.

When I turned thirty, nearly a decade ago, I reflected on how I felt about it. I felt good. I had achieved a lot in my turbulent twenties and learnt about myself. I had lived overseas and travelled extensively, got married,had my first child, bought two houses and kept myself gainfully employed when I wanted to be.

I find myself now regarding this past decade and what I have accomplished. I find it harder to quantify as my goals have been less definite than when I was younger. So, instead of “I will live overseas for one year and have at least one child before thirty”, it is has been more ephemeral and of the consolidate the family and commence the rebuilding of my career bent.

So, I have one year to make some concrete goals. A manifesto if you will. By having it written down I can hold myself accountable and damn that procrastination impulse.

I will commit to having achieved the following within the next 365 days.

1 – Have written at least 50,000 words of my novel. I am 1,522 words in so only 48,478 to go.

2 – Consolidate all my supers. Yes, part of my job is to advise people to do this, and I have not actually gotten around to doing it myself.

3 – This one is dependent on the willingness of my daughters to be involved, but I would like to get out the Janome and complete a wearable garment from pattern to finish. (Maybe I should amend that to get out the sewing machine, help the kids stitch a straight line until they get bored and then hem a pair of pants and put it away for another five years.)

3 – Declutter my house once and for all. This is unacceptably ambiguous. I’ll rephrase that. My office, bedroom, panty and garage will be cleared and organised to my complete satisfaction with everything having a place or discarded.

4 – Finally having a house that is presentable, I will have a fabulous fortieth birthday party. By fabulous I mean Fabulous. I’m thinking maybe a Great Gatsby theme.

5 – Getting a better list together for things to achieve in my forties.

I think that’s enough to be getting on with. I have some usual plans like getting in the sun more, and Piper wants to go the Art Gallery again, but we’ll take those things as they come. We’ve also been going to the TTG library every fortnight so we’ll keep that up to.

If anyone has any suggestions for me, please let me know and I’ll take them under advisement.

Cheers.

Tired

I was tired today.

I’m not happy with the state of my health. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot I can do about it. The cardiomyopathy will limit my wellbeing and the fatigue will be something I will have to deal with.

My doctor today said that I’m probably stressed and am I feeling down. No, I’m not. I’ve got a history with anxiety and depression and have been on medication for it for over fifteen years. I like to think that I’m pretty self aware in that regard. Since I’ve gotten over a dreadful couple of months of colds and never ending flus I’ve actually been pretty productive and positve.

To be honest, I’m a little bit over depression or stress being the first cause that anyone thinks of.

But there’s the rub, as soon as it’s mentioned, the innately anxious and self critical part of me starts prodding in my mind. “Hey yeah, maybe you are a hypochondriac. No one gets as tired as you, you don’t even do that much.”

My doctor tried to reassure me today by saying “You shouldn’t worry because your heart’s not that bad.” I know it’s not that bad, when compared to people requiring heart transplants, but to me it’s a concern. Not an overwhelming one. I know that I don’t think I have a greater chance of dropping dead today just because I have a diagnosis. Mortality is still something I ponder probably more than I should. Hey, I’m a thinker, I think about a lot of things more than I should. I don’t think I’m more stressed since the diagnosis.

I feel happier than ever.

My body now just gets tired. I need to rest.