Monday, February 27, 2017

Risk factors


I just read that Bob Harper, the trainer/host from America's Biggest Loser, had a serious heart attack at the gym and was saved by a doctor there but unconscious for two days. He is now limiting his exercise to walking. It is scary how someone so fit their entire life, as far as I know doing all the right things, can still have a life-threatening health event out of the blue. He is 51 years old.

It made me think of my mum and her sister. My mum was unhealthy all her life: overweight, asthma, sinus issues, allergies. Her sister was slim and fit with no apparent health issues. But they both died of cancer within two months of each other. My mum was 73. Aunty Bev was 66.

It doesn't mean we can give up trying to improve our health but... we are not in complete control. Not at all. We can only minimise risks, not eliminate them.

My dad and both my grandmothers also died of various forms of cancer. I guess that's how I'll be going, when I go. No better or worse than most other ways, I figure.

Sunday, February 26, 2017



Last night we went to my cousin David's engagement party. It was held at a surf club on the beach at Narrabeen, which is one of Sydney's Northern beaches. We live in the south of the city. I think we've been north three times since we moved back to Sydney, and every time we have got lost on the way home.

This time the problems started when trying to get over the Sydney Harbour Bridge/ through the Harbour Tunnel. The thing is once you get onto the approach, you can't change lanes. There are big barriers between them. So by the time you realise you are in the wrong lane and, for instance, going over the Bridge into the heart of the city instead of into the Tunnel to go to the Southern suburbs, it's too late.

We thought we could deal with that, we don't generally drive in the city but we've walked around it and we just had to follow the GPS right? Yeah, except roadworks had closed off a lot of roads, and our GPS kept telling us to turn around and go down roads we couldn't go down. We eventually managed to work our way south a bit, away from the roadworks, to where we could join the Tunnel. But we couldn't find the entrance in the dark with Saturday night partygoers crowding over the roads and slow GPS and one-way streets, and we went round and round in circles until we finally found our way underground. The whole thing was so stressful! I think we were lost in the city for about an hour. Poor Tim was driving, I certainly don't blame him, I got lost last time I was driving too.

Aside from that we had a nice time at the party. I got to chat with my mum's side of the family who I don't see very often. It didn't have a sit-down dinner but caterers kept circulating with fresh pizza and there was also a lolly table which the kids loved! A lollipop tree, jars of marshmallows and chocolate and lollies, and lovely Ferraro Rocher chocolates.

I had two worries. Firstly my grandfather "Poppa" wasn't there, he is 98 and still lives in his own home and is doing fantastically well for his age but I guess events like this are getting a bit much for him. And secondly my Aunty Mandy. I suppose she is in her 60s but could pass for a fit attractive 40. Slender and always elegantly dressed. I didn't notice anything amiss at first but then a cousin mentioned that Mandy seemed "grumpy" tonight. Then Tim said he thought she was very pale, and indeed she was, a sort of unhealthy white like candle wax under her makeup. Pale and acting a bit unlike herself could both be attributed to some transient illness, no reason to think it was something serious. But then I realised her clothes were wrong.

Normally she wears lovely dresses that show off her figure. But last night at her son's engagement party she was wearing a sack with a belt. Almost shapeless, with arms and legs completely covered. Like someone hiding a dramatic change of shape. I remember my mother getting all puffy when she got cancer, and now I'm really worried. It was her son's party so there's no way she would have spoiled it talking about her health, and I don't like to ask. But I'm worried.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Part time


So this is my third week of studying full time and I have been finding it too much - both in terms of time and because of my RSI. My hands were starting to ache a lot of the time. So I've emailed the head teacher about changing to part time. I want to do six subjects per semester instead of nine, which means I can finish in 18 months instead of one year. I want to keep all the classes I do face-to-face and drop three of the ones I do at home. I haven't received a reply yet so she could have different ideas about which subjects I need to do first and which to postpone, but overall I don't foresee a problem from the TAFE end. It's a big relief not having to worry about taking the time to do the grocery shopping or put on a load of laundry! And I'm sure it will help with the RSI pain.

My undergraduate days were spent at Sydney University which is a beautiful campus, the institution I am at now is so ugly! I'm guessing WW2-era buildings, like a row of dominos on their sides with narrow alleys in between. Here, I took a picture outside my building:

We are one step closer to getting our pool (pity we've got one week left of summer, no chance!). All the decorative rock around the edge is finished. That is a little cave at the far end, the light grey strip under it is a ledge so you can sit inside the cave.
We plan to do lots of planting all around the pool and behind the cave so it looks like a tropical oasis, we'll do that part ourselves and it's not intrinsic to use of the pool so isn't urgent. As far as I'm aware there are three things to get done before we get to use the pool:
1) Electrician to run electricity from the house for the filter or pump or whatever
2) Pebblecrete applied to inside of the pool over the concrete for decorative/essential surface
3) Permanent pool fencing, including raising our side fences as they are not the required 1.8m (you can see in that photo the back fence is higher than the side which doesn't meet regulations.

We have to organise 1) and 3) ourselves. The electrician has been out once, I'd better call him again today and get him out here.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Extra family


Another busy week over. This time I didn't get all my TAFE work done during the week, I had to do some on Saturday morning. Partly because there was more to do now we're out of intro week, but also because I'm having to be very careful with my RSI and take lots of breaks. I was getting some twinges in my arms and hands which worried me so early in the school year, but taking a long break every half hour (moving around, doing some housework etc) has it under control. This is the first time I've been on the computer for leisure all week.

If I want to do any fiction writing, if I can find the time, I think I'll have to set up my old DragonDictate. It is pretty cumbersome for anything else but ok for straight dictation. Just try to imagine, though, if you had to get the mouse to a particular spot on the screen without touching the mousepad or keys. You tell it to navigate and it puts a grid of nine squares on the screen - you tell it which square the target is in. Then you can divide that square into a further nine squares to narrow it down further and so on, until the cursor is over your target and you can tell it to double click! You can see why I don't use it for regular computer use. Of course my software is ten years old, it could have improved since then.

We had some extra family over for lunch, the couple who were the victims of a surprise party a few weeks ago. They hadn't seen our new house yet. Lunch for fourteen is pretty standard these days, but I got a bit stressed when they called not long before expected arrival time to say they would be an hour late! I had to work out how to hold back a half-cooked lunch so it would be neither overlooked nor cold, and meantime find something to keep at bay the hunger of the other guests. It all went well in the end.

Tim's aunt Jan is one of those people who seems lovely but has no idea how inappropriate some of the things they say are - talking about how much they liked someone's former partner (to the new partner), how someone's parents always disapproved of her marriage choice because she married beneath her social station (um, he's right there). Oh and some judgements about Ukrainians, although to be fair she didn't know that's where my Nana was from. Yet she's not nasty at all, just oblivious. Family is fun.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017



My eye wasn't sore today so I risked mascara, bad idea! My eyes watered constantly on the train ride, so I ended up with panda eyes that I had to repair when I got to the city.

I have an early morning class on Wednesday, Tim has gone to work late to get Aiden to school (he goes an hour later than Jas). I've had Aiden's name on a waiting list for before-school care but no luck yet. Anyway, today there were 18 people in a 16-computer classroom and the teacher asked if there was anyone who wanted to do the subject online instead... it seemed like a good time to switch. I'm doing half my classes online anyway. And we're only in week two, still easy to make the adjustment. So I stayed the rest of the lesson but have organised the swap.

BTW, the lady I found so annoying (because she made constant "listening" noises for two and a half hours) was there today but didn't make a sound that I heard. I checked behind me a couple of times to make sure she was in the room!

My other class today was the one I was least sure about - about websites. But who knew HTML coding was so easy? Very logical and straightforward (so far). I really enjoyed it. The lady next to me had no idea what was going on, I was able to help her a lot (although I grumble a lot here, I am actually a very nice and helpful person).

Since I complain about bad weather, I will mention that today was lovely, cloudy in the morning but then warm and sunny without being too hot.

Monday, February 13, 2017



I spent the day with soggy feet. There is a famous poem about Australia as the land "of droughts and flooding rains" and today was the flooding rains bit! Very wet shoes and socks getting to class this morning. I managed to mostly protect my books, only got soggy in one corner.

This week the students are getting to know each other better, everyone seems very friendly. Quite different to when I tried going back to Uni a couple of years ago and I felt very lonely and out of place amongst all the 18-year-olds. I have five different teachers in five different classrooms, people sit in different positions next to different people for each class, but it seems we've decided on our set places for each class. In one class I sit next to Mark at the back, he's the one with dreadlocked hair, he has a 26 year-old-daughter with her own kids so he is a grandad! In another class I sit with Cathy near the middle, she's the one who already looks like a librarian, she is really lovely. In yet another I sit right up the front with Marlen. We don't talk so much. I think she always sits right up the front. Model of German efficiency.

The older Italian lady I expected to drop out because she can't use computers was still there today. Maria asks a lot of questions, which is not a bad thing at all, but she is very disruptive in another way. She was sitting near the back and couldn't see the projector screen, so kept getting up and walking halfway to the front and standing in the aisle. Two different people offered their seats but she wouldn't. The teacher got her to sit right up the front at the side but she couldn't see from there either. She kept going back and forth, saying she didn't want to be a bother but not seeming to realise she was much more of a distraction than if she'd just accepted a swap. She was trying to take notes which is difficult while standing so she ended up kneeling at the teachers desk, was offered a chair there which she refused but eventually she did roll a chair over. It was this ongoing two hour saga.

Im finding the content easy so far but there is already a lot of work to keep up with. Plenty of homework. I'm doing my reading on the train.

Yesterday afternoon my right eye got sore and bloodshot, I must have scratched it or something. It got worse in the evening and a night of rest didn't completely heal it, I couldn't wear any eye makeup today. Hope it's better tomorrow.

Happy Valentines Day!

Saturday, February 11, 2017



The cement truck has been back several mornings in a row (6am) pumping concrete up to our backyard.

We now have stairs...

And the slab for the paved area beside the pool, and the rock feature edging...
Obviously none of this is finished! Nothing is anywhere near finished. Sigh. But at least it's a bit further along than just a hole in the ground.

Only other news around here is the heatwave. Over 40C several days in a row. I stay inside as much as possible, but still feel ill from the heat and humidity. Hard to sleep. We're supposed to have a few cooler days now before it heats up again.

Friday, February 10, 2017



Let me tell you about some of my classmates. I made a real effort to memorise their names (about fifteen in my first class, then a few extras in later classes). Obviously I don't know them well yet after one week (in some cases one two-hour lesson) but some people stand out.

Mark wears grungy clothes and has long black dreadlocks pulled into a messy bun. He mentioned he lives inner city nearby. He dresses like boys I went to university with the first time, in their late teens or early 20s, but mentioned he went to uni in the 90s so can't be much younger than me. It's like he's stuck in a time warp. The most interesting thing about him is that when we were all introducing ourselves to the group, he completely glossed over what he'd been doing between that time at university twenty years ago, and now. No mention of jobs, family, or anything else. So what has he been doing with himself? Intriguing.

Maria is the opposite of secretive. She's only in one of my classes. Probably the oldest, a middle-aged Italian lady. Her self-introduction was at least four times as long as every else, she rambled on and on while the teacher got uncomfortable and politely tried to get her to finish up. That wasn't so much of a problem but her lack of computer skills was. At the information session I went to in January, they told us a certain level of computer skills was assumed and if we didn't have that, or if we hadn't worked/studied for a long time, we should probably do the more basic Cert III rather than the Diploma. I don't think Maria got that memo. I could believe she'd never used a computer in her life. She required so much help from the teacher and other students at every stage. We use the computers a lot. I felt sorry for her. I think she's been a housewife and mother all her life so the whole thing will be a huge challenge. Actually I expect her to drop out within a couple of weeks. But maybe she'll surprise me.

Kathy looks more like a librarian than a real librarian. Actually she is a music teacher. Youngish with a serene face, slender, glasses, a blouse with a flat lace collar. I can imagine her looking almost exactly the same when she is 80, a permanent fixture in her little library.

There is only one person I took a dislike to, she was only in one of my classes and that class didn't do an introduction so I don't know her name. You know how some people make "listening" noises during a conversation: mmm, yes, u-huh. She did this constantly while listening to the teacher lecturing. And by constantly I mean literally every few seconds. She was sitting right behind me and there was this stream of distracting noise. She'd finish the teacher's sentences! Repeat phrases. All at a conversational volume, not a quiet murmur. Did she think it was polite, to show she was listening? Not appropriate in this setting! The rest of us were sitting silently, showing our attention by staring at the teacher (now I wonder if staring would be inappropriate in some cultures?) and asking the occasional question or answering one. This lady was Australian so cultural difference wasn't the problem. It was a very technical class which I expect to be my favourite subject so I found it very frustrating. I gave her a few disapproving puzzled frowns over my shoulder which had no effect. She was extremely morbidly obese, I wasn't going to mention that because it wasn't relevant, but I mentioned what other people looked like so is that a kind of prejudice to avoid saying it? And maybe it is relevant, I've read blogs of very overweight people who have mentioned that a lack of self-esteem can make them over-eager to please so that could be having an effect. If so, it's backfiring. I can't believe it's only me that finds it so annoying.

Sarah is English and looks so much like someone I know (Amy, also English) that I want to discreetly find out if they are cousins or something. But it's probably just a racial type of large-boned blonde.

Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Back to study


I returned to study on Monday, so I've suddenly gone from full-time mum (doing a bit of writing) to full-time student + mum. I'm finding it a bit hectic!

My campus is in the city, and the times of day I go and return mean I have to park a long way from the train station and never get an express - more like "all stops to the city", so it takes me about an hour and a half commute door to door (so three hours a day travel total). The walk from car to station and station to campus means I'm getting nearly 10,000 exercise steps on the three days I go in, so that is an up-side to the travel! And I read on the train.

I'm doing five subjects face-to-face, whichever ones were being held within my kids' school hours, and four subjects at home online (plus homework of course). I've done a bit of each so far and enjoyed it all. My classes are mostly all the same people (about fifteen of us) with a bit of variation as some like me don't go to every class, or go to a different class at a time that suits them better. Mostly women, mostly aged in 30s or 40s with a previous career and maybe child-rearing behind them. I'm pretty standard for the group though at the older end of the spectrum.

Obviously with the full-time workload something's got to give. I still collapse in front of the TV for my favourite shows in the evening but no computer games for me, a lot less playing with my phone or iPad, and I haven't done any writing. Not sure when I'm going to fit that in. So far I've been too tired after dinner for any study or creative work. I have done some study with the kids home in the afternoon, I told them I was going to work for an hour so they'd need to entertain themselves, so five seconds later they were chatting to me and showing me a new YouTube video or something. In any case, most afternoons I am driving them back and forth to dance lessons, gymnastics, youth group, dentist appointments etc. I'll be doing as much study as possible within school hours on the days I don't go in to campus.

I get half an hour lunch break on one of my campus days and none at all on the others so it's a matter of inhaling an apple or piece of cheese when we're given a bathroom break. My sister-in-law was saying I'd be able to go out and have lunch at Chinatown - ha! I barely get to leave the building. I take a series of healthy snacks to scoff between classes or on the train.

Sorry I'm going to complain about the heat again, Monday was ridiculously hot and my official student card photo looks like a sweaty tomato with glasses. Tuesday we had storms and heavy rain so that the tunnels under the city were running with water and I was wading through puddles in wet shoes (I still prefer that to the heat) then a couple of bearable days (31 today) but from tomorrow it's going up over 40 degrees for three days. I'll be staying home inside as much as possible; but I worry about Aiden playing tennis outside in that kind of heat, or going to my sister-in-law's for dinner when her parents disapprove of using the air conditioner.

We've had some progress with the pool and more work over the next few days, I'll post photos after this stage is done. Not everyone comes when they say they will, common complaint about tradesman I know. Our poor front and side lawn were just starting to recover a bit from the previous depredations, now they have been completely destroyed again by more heavy machinery driving over it during the wet stormy day. We don't have grass, we have mud with tyre tracks in it. Drying into interesting ridges and holes full of weeds. Well we can't worry about that bit now, we'll fix it when the backyard is all done.

I am really enjoying the study and I don't mind being busy, it gives me purpose in life.

Oh, and I forgot to mention on Monday, I lost 1.3 kg last week after getting back on the diet healthy way of life wagon.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Too hot


Last night we went to a 40th wedding anniversary surprise party, Tims aunt and uncle in the side we don't see as often. It was at a restaurant nearly an hour from here, further inland so even hotter than here near the coast. Unfortunately if the restaurant had air conditioning it wasn't working very well! Even my father in law who doesn't usually complain about stuff like that commented on the heat. We've just had our hottest January on record, and February will be just as bad.

Apart from the heat, the other problem was the food. Quite nice, but not exactly diet friendly! I couldn't ask for anything special for me, they were busy catering for our group of fifty or so plus a wedding reception in the other room. So I had an Arrancini ball which is deep fried rice, some crumbed and fried calamari, some deep fried something else maybe potato, and some salad. At least the salad wasn't deep fried carbs! I also had four glasses of water.

Aside from these petty issues it was nice. I was sitting opposite Tims cousin and her husband, we went to their wedding about eighteen months ago and she was now clearly pregnant. Lovely couple. Good chat. And other family I knew were there as well. We left straight after the speeches, which I couldn't hear from behind everyone else. But the couple were certainly surprised! They thought they were just going out to dinner and walked into a room full of people they knew, all staring at them.

Sorry to go on about the heat so much, but it saps all my energy and I have trouble sleeping so I have to complain to someone!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017



I've two days child-free (within school hours anyway) and I've got so much done! Or maybe it's because I'm feeling better. It's not like the kids need constant care and attention when they are here. But I've done heaps of stuff, organising mainly, we have a few things coming up, plus of course the pool.

The pool has hardly changed in months. A concrete hole in the ground.
At least this week we've had tiles put down on top edge (under the plastic) and some plumbing done.

My TAFE course is all organised. I'm itching to get started. When I saw the head teacher last week I asked if there was anything I could read to prepare, she told me just to relax and enjoy my child-free week before starting full-time study. Has she never met an eager mature-aged student before? But it turns out I have been using the time well on other things. I even tidied my desk - although my in-tray is still overflowing. Well, I've got two more days.

I'm back on my blood sugar diet and feeling well. A bit hungry, but I know that will pass as I get used to reduced calories.