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.

Halfway

I’m getting close to halfway through the six month break from writing I decided to take in the hopes I could heal and strengthen my neck enough that I could at least get back to the level and frequency of pain I had before last year. It was all going well until about four weeks ago, when pilates classes stopped thanks to a minor virus forcing me to miss the last class followed by the school holiday break.

I was amazed at how quickly things went backwards. Clearly pilates is doing something good. It’s also the first time I’ve noticed that not doing something made it worse. Usually I’m looking for the thing I did that aggravated the neck. I can identify one activity that had a detrimental effect, but I did it a few weeks after the decline became obvious so it can’t be the cause.

The upshot is that after three months I feel worse than I did at the start, but I’ve learned something: don’t stop pilates even for a few weeks! I’ve got to work out how I’m going to manage that when the place closes over school holidays.

The Photo Album Project

Some years back, when I was on Pinterest, I followed a pin to a website with sensible suggestions for getting photos organised and into albums. I thought I’d managed the first step: getting all photos into one spot. After that I got busy, and the enormity of the task overwhelmed me every time I thought about tackling the next step. Especially this last year, when I had to start limiting my time on the computer. Making photo books was never going to rise high enough on the computer time priority list to ever happen.

As January arrived, I got all enthused again after I got some photos printed to use as photo references. It hit me that if I gave up on the idea of photo books and just had photos printed and slotted into album, the albums might actually happen.

Then I had a look at my old albums, and saw that some of the photos from my childhood are fading. I really ought to scan those or get a hold of the negatives and print replacements that’ll last longer. They’re in one of the old photo corner style albums, and I still haven’t got around to adding the corners for the last third of the album – the photos are just slotted loose between the pages where I intended to put them. So there was that to do. I started a list:

Photo project #1: finish first album

Once that album had filled up, I had kept the rest of my photos in plastic envelopes and a couple of albums for specific holidays. I really ought to put the photos in the envelopes into albums, so that went onto the list:

Photo project #1: finish first album

Photo project #2: put photos in envelopes in albums

Most of my holiday pics from the late 80s to 00s and are slides, because I used to take pics with Lonely Planet books in mind (employees and ex-employees were encouraged to, but eventually they started an image library and became very fussy about the style of photos accepted). Getting them scanned to print as photos was too cost-prohibitive in those days, but a friend scans slides for a modest fee so I recently had her do all mine. I just needed to select what I want printed. That became a task all of its own:

Photo project #1: finish first album

Photo project #2: put photos in envelopes in albums

Photo project #3: select, scan and print slides and put in albums

It occurred to me that my photos really fit in three categories: birth to independence, independence to Paul, Paul onwards. The Photo Album Project was growing rapidly larger, so this division seemed a good way to break a big project into smaller chunks. I also decided that the holidays from the ‘Independence to Paul’ era would be combined, chronologically, with photos of friends, family and events, but holiday photos from Paul onwards would be in separate albums since we’d already made a few photo books. So the list suddenly became more complicated:

Photo project – Birth to Independence

#1: scan and print fading photos

#2: add corners and insert rest of photos

Photo project – Independence to Paul

#1: move post-independence photos from first album to new one

#2: select, scan and print slides

#3: select photos from envelopes

#4: fill albums with #2 & #3 plus holiday album contents, chronologically

Photo project – Paul Onward

#1: select images of non-holiday subjects (family, friends, pets and events) from 2002 onwards, print and place in albums

#2: select images from holidays not yet in albums and either make albums or photo books

I could break the last task into the separate albums, too, but for now the list is intimidating enough! Of course, a lot of the work involved requires using a computer, so I’m delegating as much of that as possible to Paul.

I’d like to concentrate on one chunk of the project at a time, but so far I’ve wound up concentrating on bits of all them. I can’t do much on the Birth to Independence album because Dad is looking into whether he has negatives of the early photos. I’d start moving later photos from that album to the Independence to Paul albums, except we don’t yet have albums. I’ve found some nice-looking acid-free ‘slip-in’ photo albums online, but the shop doesn’t open until mid-January.

So I’ve been tackling the slides. This had me going through old diaries to date them, going through holiday diaries to caption them, renaming files and sorting them into folders (so much for avoiding the computer!), and I’ve just started selecting what I want to print.

As for the Paul Onwards albums, I’ve selected all my non-holiday photos. Once Paul chooses his we can print everything and start filling albums. It might end up being the easiest of the projects chunks to finish.

Deadlines, Lists & Tidying Up

The last couple of months have been a bit trying. I came back from overseas expecting an edit of my current book to arrive soon after, but it was delayed by a few weeks. Every day I’d wake up, check the internet and see it hadn’t arrived, and then decide what I wanted to do with the day. Which was nice, but had me constantly on edge, unable to plan anything.

Then the edit arrived and, oh boy, was it a mess! It took me a week just to go through and work out if there was a problem, and what that problem actually was. Then it took until last Wednesday to finish tackling them and submit the corrected manuscript.

Aside from the difficult format the edit was in and the number of issues to tackle, the main reason it took so long is that I still can’t work for more than an hour or two a day. I learned this the hard way when, a few days before finishing, my neck problem flared up again and I wound up in so much pain that over-the-counter pain killers didn’t work, and I resorted to vodka. (It was a Sunday, so no chance of seeing my doctor.)

As you can imagine, there has been almost no crafting for most of this time. Nothing to blog about, except maybe whinging that I couldn’t do any craft, and then my one to two hour limit meant I couldn’t type that anyway. The blog post I did make were mostly pre-written or constructed in several small sessions, eked out as long as possible.

Well, the edit is done and manuscript submitted. The next day we went present shopping. The day after I walked through the house and make a list of everything we needed to do to tidy up before Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and we spend the rest of the day tackling three quarters of that, and the rest all but one item (tidy the craft room) by yesterday. On Sunday I made a list of things to tidy up outside, but it’s going to take longer. A couple of trips to the tip are involved, and one major sewing project.

So not much craft has happened since I submitted the ms either! But last night I sewed together several squares of the Gampa blanket, and today is rainy so I’m thinking a tidy-up of the craft room is in order. Perhaps I’ll soon have something craft to post about.

2016 You Suck… Mostly

I hate to judge something as arbitrary as a year, but – aside from a few bright spots – 2016 has been a bit sucky. Not a disaster. Not terrible. Though premature deaths of people I admired, political stupidity and callousness and awful things happening out in the wider world have certainly added to the feeling of gloom.

Sucky:
The new garage sitting empty for six months because the concreter never turned up to finish the job.

Sudden worsening of my back, perhaps due to a compressed disc in my neck.

Which meant I could only work an hour a day and delivered a book four months late.

This meant I couldn’t do more art classes before my teacher retired at the end of the year.

Structural edits for the book are, for the first time, not straightforward and likely to take until December to complete.

Ongoing drainage issues around our house.

Not Sucky:
Painting doesn’t hurt my back.

Only being able to work an hour a day means I can still go to more than the one art class per week.

My portrait of Lucy made it into the Moran semi-finals (but not the finals)!

The landscaping looks great and has improved some of the drainage issues.

If I was the sort to believe ‘the universe’ was trying to tell me something, I’d conclude it was urging me to give up writing and pursue a fourth career in portraiture. I’m not sure I want to, though. I’ve turned art into work before, by working as an illustrator, and it took a lot of the fun out of it.

The List of Lists

Holidays can be like punctuation marks in the flow of daily routine. Sometimes they’re a like a comma – a small interruption after which life continues in the same vein. Sometimes they’re like full stops – things begin anew but on the same or similar subject. Sometimes they’re like paragraph returns – a shift in direction. And sometimes it’s like an entire chapter finishes and another begins.

The new problem with my neck that began at the beginning of this year forced me to find a new routine. I had to work out what I could and couldn’t continue to do by trial and error, and found that I needed to restrict sitting and typing/weaving/whatever to an hour at a time, once or twice a day.

Since what I do for a living involves sitting and typing, that meant lots of changes. But I had a deadline, which kept moving as I discovered my limits. Eventually I knew I’d finish just before going overseas, and a lot of things I needed or wanted to do were pushed onto the ‘when we get back’ list.

Now that we’re back, I’ve been considering all those things, and all my to-do lists. Last week I divided everything into six categories that fit across my computer screen: work, general, house, garden, art and craft. (I use a program called Stickies.) It allows me to not just prioritise within a category, but across them. And when one task is held up, I can consider spending my time on high priority tasks in other categories as well as in the same one.

It’s been working really well. When bad weather meant I couldn’t tackle many of the more important tasks, or items further down, I moved across the lists until I found something I could do. That turned out to be renovating a loom I’d rescued from the Guild. Knowing I really couldn’t do those other things means I could work on it guilt-free. I didn’t stuff around wasting time in the house or on the internet.

As a result I’ve got the loom finished in time to put it up for sale at the Guild’s Textile Bazaar next Saturday. I’ll be bringing in the Ashford Table Loom on the homemade stand as well as the Dyer & Phillips loom. Hopefully they’ll find new homes and I’ll make back the money I spent on them with a little extra for my time… to spend at the bazaar!