A Phoney Life

Late last year I came to the conclusion that I was addicted to my phone. Gosh, that’s a statement that would have made no sense fifteen or twenty years ago!

Earlier in the year a friend had shut down Facebook for three months because she was spending all her time there and not interacting with her family. Ironically, this is the same friend who insisted I sign up because I’d be left out of social events otherwise. At the end of the three months she reactivated her account. She said it didn’t make a lot of difference, as she had spent the time she used to waste on Facebook in other apps on her phone.

It seems like the phone is the problem, I thought.

After eye surgery, while I was sensitive to light, it became really obvious that I spend too much of my time looking at screens. I’d wake up and check my phone, get up and shower, look at my phone while eating breakfast, sit in front of the desktop computer, check my phone in every break, settle down at night to watch tv and check my phone during the ad breaks or if the show was boring, then go to bed and listen to podcasts, read on the phone and, most often, look at social media before going to sleep.

If I put my phone out of my reach at any of these times of day, I’d find myself reading for it without thinking. If I set it down next to me and told myself I wasn’t going to look, I’d find myself scrolling through Facebook minutes later.

That sounds like addiction to me.

Was this a bad thing? I loved my iPhone when I first got it. It replaced my watch, diary, Melways, notebook, book, torch, ipod Nano and camera. It connects me to the world and my friends. But was it having a detrimental effect, too? Like my friend, I tended to blame the apps for making me anxious or distracted. I hate the nervy feeling that I’ll lose friends and become dangerously uninformed if I don’t keep being a slave to social media.

So I decided to see what would happen if I cut back my phone usage. I decided to:

– charge my phone away from my bed
– remove Twitter, Instagram and Words With Friends from my phone
– leave my phone in the kitchen during the day, unless we go out
– during breaks I can check my phone, but I must spend as much time not looking at it
– go back to using analogue versions of a notebook, diary, and watch, and even books

After a few weeks I noted I was feeling calmer. I fall asleep faster and have had less and milder insomnia. When I wake in the morning I think about the day ahead and make plans, and don’t forget what they were so easily.

And the memory improvement was the most surprising. I realised that by stuffing phone use into all the little gaps of time between activities I wasn’t allowing my brain time to remember the small things. Letting it meander before sleep and rising, or during breaks, gives me time to not just recollect, but to see the big picture, rather than bouncing from one thing to another without an overall sense of priority. Also, my subconscious isn’t waking me up through the night to remind me about things I need to do as often as it used to.

I’ve also noticed that friends really do expect me to be checking the phone constantly. It’s not so much that they want answers to questions straight away, but that they leave decisions that might inconvenience me to the last moment, expecting that a Message will reach me instantly. Nobody rings when it’s urgent any more.

Another advantage of putting the phone out of reach is I’m not being constantly bombarded by advertising. Oh, such a relief!

Which has had me thinking… These new devices that you can talk to in your home… How long before they begin to chirp advertising at you? Because the ploy of social media was to get people to think they can’t live without it, then slowly introduce the ads. How long before your internet-connected kettle and washing machine are telling you what coffee or laundry powder to use?

Now there’s a nightmare of a future. Maybe I shouldn’t be spending all that extra time thinking!

The Yearly Overview Post

My craft/art aims for 2017 were to paint more, try new weave structures, and dabble in other hobbies. Yeah, I did all of that. The first I managed because I held weekly art nights in January and February, and then monthly ones for the rest of the year. The second was achieved by doing the workshop with Kay in June. The third included trying basketweaving and mosaics on top of my usual secondary hobbies.

So what did I do?

In January I started the Photo Album Project, finishing the redo of my earliest album and all but the captioning of the 80s to 00s album. I still have lots to do for this, especially the holiday albums.

Weaving:
I made the Graduation Blanket, Pinwheel Tea Towels, Waffleweave Blanket, and Greenery Blanket. I finished the Denim Braided Rug, wove some fabric for the Tapestry Bag and a double weave blocks sampler. At the Ballarat Fibre Forum I learned to weave Summer & Winter. I went on a leftover warp using jape and made the Ikat Leftover Scarf, Scarf of Leftover Colours, the Plaited Twill Scarf, and the Falling Feathers Scarf, and then a thrum using jape and made Thrum Dishcloths, Spring Sampler Scarf, Anaesthetic-Brain Scarf and Thrum-Fringed Scarf. And finally there was my experiment with the Vari Dent Reed, producing three scarves.

My fave was the falling feathers scarf:

Loomwise, I tweaked the design of my Katie Loom, adjusted the height and pedal position of the floor loom and made laser cut heddles for my Vari Dent Reed.

Basketweaving:
I tried basketweaving at the Guild’s Summer School. But I eventually lost enthusiasm for it due to the non-spontaneous nature of the craft (because you have to pre-soak the fibre) and the wear and tear on my hands. I can see myself using non-soak-requiring materials to make baskets in the future, however.

My fave was the first basket I made at home:

Embroidery:
For the Fibre Forum in Ballarat I stitched some embroidery artworks to sell for charity. Including a pair I liked so much I decided to keep them. I’ve not had the courage to try embroidery since eye surgery.

My fave was the Bathing Beauties:

Nalbinding:
I made a too small Viking Hat, then got the sizing right for the Tapestry Thread Hat, and the Graduated Nalbinding hat.

My fave was the Tapestry Thread Hat:

DIY:
Paul and I turned an organ into a bar. We also renovated the laundry ourselves.

Sewing:
I had sessions of refashioning early and then later in the year, getting heaps of garments made, fixed or tweaked.

My fave was the red shirt to sleeveless top:

Mosaic:
I did a workshop at Bulleen Art and Garden, and was hooked. Aside from the Kookaburra I did there, and the mirror mosaic kit from Bunnings, I went on to make patches for the ventilation holes in the bathroom and entertainment room, and then two mosaic spheres.

My fave was the kookaburra:

Machine knitting:
I did only one project – the Scarf Jacket.

Bookbinding:
An artist friend came to stay and we made concertina sketchbooks.

Macrame:
I made an owl.

Jewellery:
Just before Christmas I made a couple of new pieces.

Of course, this list doesn’t include partially finished or abandoned projects, like the fabric I wove to make a skirt from, the mosaic clock I started or the longstitch embroidery I added dinosaurs to but disliked and threw out. Nor have I included all the gardening I did. I’ve left out artwork, too. I’m going to do a separate post on that.

Looking at all these things I made, I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I got done, especially of weaving. It wasn’t because I took five months off work. I did less craft than usual in that time – just the mosaic and weaving workshop. All my creativity went into home DIY and renovation projects, and gardening.

Setting achievable goals for the year worked. I had a secondary goal of making clothing from handwoven cloth, that I’ve partially achieved (the weaving part mostly, but also a little sewing). Of the new things I tried, basketry was fun but it was mosaics that really got me hooked.

I won’t be attempting to learn new crafts next year, but I will continue to try new weave structures and I’m organising a weaving week with a tutor for a small group of weavers for early next year – the first time I’ve tried something like that. I have an art project in mind, too. Overall, my craft/art aims are pretty much the same as those for 2017: paint more, try new weave structures, dabble in other hobbies.

Hail to the Neighbours

Last week I wrote a long post about the garden. It’s looking pretty good and I’d been inspired by a book and a visit to a famous garden. All I needed to do was take some photos and I’d be ready to publish.

Then the storm came.

The laserlite roof of our deck is full of holes, and there’s a mysterious leak in the toilet ceiling. Those are both being handled by the insurance. But the flood of water runoff from the neighbour’s tennis court that washed out part of the embankment and flooded the kitchen garden and studio is another matter.

We’ve soaked up all the water in the studio with old towels and ran the aircon for a day to dry it out, and there doesn’t appear to be any damage. But preventing this happening again isn’t easy. Water runoff from the neighbour’s tennis court has caused problems before. The main event happened a few weeks after we moved in, over three years agao, washing mud and mulch into our pool. We paid for a pile of drainage work to be done in to prevent it happening again, and that seemed to be working. But dirt has washed down from the neighbour’s place and silted up the drain.

I called the neighbour on the night, an they came over with extra old towels and looked at everything. They’ve promised to get advice and a quote to fix things on their side. They want to wait until we get permission to connect to the sewer, so whatever needs doing can be done at the same time.

We’ve dug and raked back the silty dirt that’s washed down (which has given us a pile of free soil to use elsewhere, so there’s a small up side at least). I’m considering putting a second retaining wall in to try to draw away the water. But there’s no guarantee anything we do on our side will work if the neighbour doesn’t sort out their drainage. If it doesn’t and we’re not at home, it’s bad news for our studio. Paul is raising the cupboards and filing cabinets up on pavers.

I can’t help thinking we should just brick up the back door, where the water came in, and raise the level of the floor, but it’d be expensive and mean emptying the studio. We’ll just have to see what, if anything, the neighbours end up doing. And hope we’re home next time we have a big storm.

Against the Tide of Forgetting

I read the above quote in a book written by a guy travelling in South America (which I gave to a friend so I can’t look up the source). In the book, the guy used it to explain his obsessive diary-keeping. It struck a chord with me. I kept a hardback journal when I was a teenager but in my late teens lost the habit. I’ve attempted to start one again from time to time, but stopped either because I was appalled at my own whininess, or I was simply too tired at the end of the day to remember to write in it. It’s only when I travel that the enthusiasm for recording the day returns, enhanced by the fun of sketching.

For over a decade I had a scheduling diary for business use. It’s proven invaluable over the years as a store of information on when and where or how long I did things for. I also started a writing diary on my computer way back in the 90s, in which I get whatever is crowding my mind out before concentrating on the story, or brainstorm ideas. And then there’s online journalling. I had a LiveJournal back in the day, then started this blog.

If anybody ever decided to compile a biography, they’d probably curse me. So. Many. Sources.

But maybe a biographer would be pleased there are sources at all. Still, I think it’s more likely they’ll be someone needing to speak at my funeral and will have a lot of blather to trawl through to get to appropriate information. Lots of irrelevant detail, like craft projects and taking the cat to the vet.

To be honest, I don’t particularly want to narrate my everyday life, but every time I go back to my old scheduling diaries I wish I hadn’t stopped using them. I can’t rely on my memory to work out when I last had a mammogram or visited an interstate friend, for instance, but that would have been noted if I’d kept using diaries. The phone’s calendar app is useful because it has an alert to remind me of appointments, but otherwise it’s not that great. It once deleted all my old entries, and the month view shows only one dot/event per day.

Way back when I first bought a smartphone, the realisation that it could lighten my handbag considerably – replacing the camera, diary, notebook, book, torch and more – delighted me. But I’m finding myself missing the reliability (not to mention the privacy) of the physical versions. Like with travel documents, the safest approach is to keep a copy in both realms, so we’ve never abandoned using a wall calendar.

I’ve bought a little scheduling diary for next year. It cost me $1.50. I’m thinking of getting a little notebook, too. I don’t know if it’s disillusionment with flawed digital formats, or I have nostalgia for the old way of doing things, but lately I’m missing the reliability of pen and paper. Or maybe I’m starting to fear the tide of forgetting.

I’m All Out…

… of posts. Oh, I have a few half-written ones waiting for photos or for me to complete a project, but there’s nothing ready to publish. Been too busy or exhausted for either.

… of Christmas cheer. Already. About a decade ago I started cutting back the number of social occasions at this time of year because I was stumbling through December in a haze of exhaustion. However, the addition of two zero-important birthday parties this year kinda undid that policy. The up side, other than celebrating with these friends, is the falling feathers scarf was perfectly suited to yesterday’s birthday girl, and she posted a pic on FB showing how it matched a skirt someone else gave her.

… of energy. WTF is up with my body lately? Insomnia followed by exhausted but not refreshing sleep, over and over. Needless to say, not much work or craft is being done.

… of things to whine about. Really, things are pretty good overall. And there’s a Star Wars film coming out soon!

Eye, eye, aye!

Well, having a cataract removed and a lens installed was an interesting and somewhat uncomfortable experience. Not painful, thankfully, and most of the disturbing bits happened under the influence of a ‘relaxant’ that had the extra bonus of making time speed up so it seemed done in no time.

Thanks to groovy modern technology my ‘new’ eyes had 20/20 vision. I can see that I will probably need glasses for close work, like threading a needle, however. My excellent close vision is being sacrificed for me not being blind in a couple of years. I can live with that, especially when glasses with magnification are cheap and available in most chemists.

For the month until I get the other eye done I’m in a bit of visual limbo. The day after the op I took the lens out of the side of my glasses that my ‘new’ eye sees through, but immediately wound up with a motion sickness headache and dizziness. I’ve been able to get around wearing no glasses, but I can’t drive like that, so today I’m trying to wear my glasses again. I’m not getting the headache, and while the dizziness is still there it’s not as bad. Maybe if I persist my eyes will get used to it.

I took the week off work, and I’m glad I did. Every day I’ve been so tired I wound up having a long nap in the afternoon. Concentration is a challenge. I’ve filled the days with sorting out my cd collection – making sure I have everything in iTunes and updating playlists – and working on a mosaic ball which, because the surface is curved, I can only do a bit at a time on or the tiles fall off.

I’ve done a little bit of weaving on the saori-inspired project in the evenings. It’s a bit hard to focus on fine lines, so I don’t trust myself with projects where skipping a warp thread would be a bad thing. More complex weaving might have to wait a bit.

This weekend we have two social events to go to, so I should be well occupied. I’ll get working again on Monday. If I’m still struggling with my vision after that… I’ve got my yearly wardrobe assessment and cull on the list of things I can do that don’t require seeing well close up or wielding sharp objects. I’ve started my yearly washing of knitwear, too. And I have to say, having a nice long laundry bench to lay garments out on to dry is wonderful! No more taking up the kitchen table for weeks and weeks.

Do You See What Eye See?

A few weeks back I had a huge bout of startitis sparked by ideas for using up thrums. Just about every loom in the house wound up with a project on it. I finished the dishcloths then a busy fortnight arrived, with an interstate friend staying over and another friend’s 40th birthday party to organise and host, and suddenly I didn’t have much time for weaving.

It was a fun two weeks. There’ll be a post some time with the sketches I did at the Dior exhibition. September had been really lovely, socially. It zoomed past as a result… and possibly because I was dreading today, the first of my cataract removal surgeries.

So there might also have been a bit of “DO ALL THE THINGS WHILE YOU STILL CAN!” anxiety behind me starting so many projects. The thought also occurred to me that if I had a range of projects warped and ready then something might be doable during the recovery time.

So I have:

A clasped weft using thrums twill scarf on the Ashford 4-shaft loom. (Though I need to dye up a third colour to add to the thrums, because I don’t have enough of them to make a good scarf length.)

Krokbragd on the floor loom. I wove a good ten cm but had to unweave most of it because the selvedges were VERY bad! But I consider those cm a ‘sampler’ I was learning on and expect I’ll do better on the second attempt.

A saori-inspired project on the Knitter’s Loom in which I’m using up more thrums as well as some leftover yarn. I’m doing as many different kinds of weaving I can think of. Clasped weft, rya knots, thick and thin, danish medallions, and brooks bouquet have all made it in there.

The Falling Feathers scarf hasn’t been touched since all this thrum-using inspiration hit, I admit. But I haven’t lost interest. Now that I have more time, and so long as my new eye settles in well, I’ll be back to it again soon.

Body Maintenance, House Improvement

A few months back I went to the optometrist to see if I needed new glasses, because my vision in my left eye was getting a bit fuzzy. Turns out what was a faint milkiness a few years back was now a cataract. The optometrist said I wouldn’t be able to get it fixed until my right eye was as bad.

Since that would mean I couldn’t drive safely, I decided last week to see an eye surgeon. He confirmed the diagnosis and said the one in my other eye would probably be as bad in six months so I may as well get them both done now. I’ve been researching different kinds of lenses and considering when the best time is to have the surgery.

Gosh, I’m glad I live in an age where I won’t be blind in a year or two!

When I got the referral for the eye surgeon, I also got one for a hand therapist. My RSI returned six weeks or so ago, when I attempted to knit a small strip of garter stitch. Though I only did a tiny bit of knitting, the pain hasn’t gone away. It’s different this time, too, affecting both of my hands and all of my hands plus wrists. I hadn’t even started work again when it began, so that can’t be the cause.

So yes, I’ve resumed writing. My six month break finished at the end of July. I’m easing into it, doing an hour or two a day, which gets a chapter done a week. I can get a first draft done in a year at that rate, though I’d need (and have) another six months to cut and polish it.

The rest of the time I’m continuing back-strengthening exercise and tackling a new domestic challenge. We learned that we might finally be able to connect to the new sewer system in a few weeks. There’ll be a whole lot of other jobs relating to it that need attending to: tree removal permit application, tree removal, the sewer connection itself, repairing the driveway (the septic tank is under it), finishing the drainage and electricity for the garage (which will go under the driveway at the same time) and planting the screening trees the garage permit required.

I doubt we’ll get it all done this year. Planting the trees should be done in Autumn anyway, to give them as much time to establish as I can before the following summer heat and dryness.

Getting old never stops. Neither does work around the house. But the cataract surgery might mean I don’t have to wear glasses any more, and the driveway and garden will look a lot better when they’re finished.

Laundry Re-do

A laundry renovation was in our future from the moment we bought this house. The old one contained a wall of cabinets on one side, and just a rusty old sink, water outlets for the machine and a shirt airing rail on the other.

For storage we made do with second hand wire shelving and the cabinet we had to remove from the kitchen because our fridge was 5cm too tall. I asked the kitchen and bathroom company that did our ensuite if they did laundries, and they said no – and suggested we’d use cheaper DIY cabinets than their expensive high-end ones. I asked the plumber if he’d do it, and he said “put in DIY cabinets and then call me for the plumbing”.

In the last couple of years I had played around in Illustrator making plans and elevations so we could discuss the layout. We wanted a decent length of bench space so I can do wet crafts like papermaking and dyeing, and Paul could lay out photo processing chemicals when he used the laundry as a dark room. So this was to be a laundry used for more than washing clothes and storing cat food.

A couple of months ago we decided it was time. We had a layout we liked, and found a brand of flat-pack cabinets from Bunnings that would fit the space. The cabinets were easy enough to construct – similar to IKEA ones. Getting the heavy wall cabinets up onto the wall was a challenge, but we came up with a way that didn’t strain our backs. The plumber came over to sort out the pipes, install the benchtop and glue on the cement sheet for the tiling. I painted the wall, Paul added kickboards and I did the tiling and caulking.

And it was done:

I’m pretty chuffed that we managed to do most of it ourselves. The tiling was the most challenging, but only because space I was tiling was about 5mm off the tile size, and it’s really hard to cut a strip that small from a tile.

I’ve done some dyeing in there since. Paul has tackled most of the tasks he needs to do to use the laundry as a darkroom. He’s removed a set of wall cabinets on the other side, which meant I had to patch the plaster and help him repaint the area. He just needs to find a neat way to cover the window when he needs to and block the light leakage around the doors.

Internetlessness

We’ve finally got internet again after making the mistake of signing up for the NBN two and a half weeks ago. Paul has lost too many hours of his life to being on hold and arguing with Optus call centre staff. We had the NBN techies here three time. In the end, after the two companies blamed the other several time, it was a simple configuration problem spotted by a second-tier Optus techie that fixed it.

We weren’t completely internetless, of course, because we could access it on our mobiles. However, after we used half a month’s data in a day (Facebook appeared to be the main culprit) we turned off data for everything but email and Messenger.

It was an interesting lesson in how much we rely on it, and how much we don’t. I had to do my BAS (quarterly tax) on paper, which meant taking photographs of all the documents I didn’t have as files in case they went AWOL and sending Paul out to deliver them to my accountant. I had to photograph the pages of a Word Document on my computer screen and email them to my editor.

My biggest worry, as the weeks began to multiply, was that something would happen to my Dad, and Mum – who has dementia and never adapted to mobile phones – wouldn’t be able to reach me.

But of the ‘unimportant’ stuff, I was intrigued to note what I missed and didn’t miss. I missed this blog more than I expected. I was most frustrated about not being able to look up information, especially, I’m ashamed to admit, searches relating to shopping. Though I don’t buy a lot online, I certainly do a lot of research there.

What I didn’t miss was social media. And yet, I missed connection to my friends. The way they work is rife with irritations you put up with so you can know what your friends are doing at any moment and can arrange a get-together easily.

The pleasure of not being a slave to the Facebook feed led me to consider leaving it, as a friend of mind has temporarily, and cutting back on other distractions. I do something like this every holiday, culling what I follow so I can keep up, then when I get home I slowly accumulate again.

The phone is a big part of the problem. It’s with me, everywhere and every hour, at every moment of weakness. I finish doing something I think “what now?” and immediately pick up the phone to check social media, play another round of Words With Friends and eventually check my to-do list. It’s the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing at night.

I spend far less time just thinking, processing what I’ve absorbed, letting ideas come and develop, getting a sense of priorities. I could happily lie in bed letting my mind drift of a morning, content to look up the weather when I got to my computer or catch up with world events via the evening news.

I was a much less anxious person before I had an iPhone. Though I can’t blame it all on this device, limiting my use of it is something I can control. Unlike world politics, everyday unfairness and health problems.