Tattoo me

I’m a tattoo lover.  I’ve had tattoos for quite a while and most of them have been placed in covert places to avoid the scrutiny of stuffy co-workers and management lest they have a conniption.

In the last few years, however, I have come out of the tattoo closet in a big way and decided that it is okay to display tasteful body art in places that can actually be seen all of the time by every freaking person on the planet.  I have decided that I really don’t need to please anybody but myself and can be an eccentric nonconformist if I want to be regardless of that woman in the corner store’s worry that I’m going to steal something from her shelves.

I now sport an expression of creativity and of love for my pets, past and present, intertwined with roses down my right arm.  Some people like them but others behave as if I am going to rob them at gun point.  This isn’t a real problem for me as it sorts out the cheese from the crackers as far as I’m concerned and I am left with those who actually like me for what I am regardless of a bit of extra colour on my skin.

My mother came around eventually.  She is stuck with me regardless and she knows it.  The same goes for my husband.

One day when I am old I might regret having had them done but I doubt it.  When my memory fades a little all I will have to do is look at my beautiful body art and be reminded of my life and the happiness those furry little souls gave me when they were around and I will almost certainly smile.

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Beginning Again

It’s been a while since I posted but lately I have found that I have more time on my hands and more motivation to put my ‘creative writing’ skills to use once again.

I am having somewhat of a sabbatical from work at present – or rather a prolonged ‘holiday’ suggested by my husband after my work-from-home job as a medical transcriptionist became less than desirable and started to create moderate-to-high stress levels in our household.  Five years as a medical transcriptionist was enough for me, particularly as our company transferred to foreign ownership and I found that after a long-term projection I would wind up doing the same amount of work for less money – but with the same amount, if not more, stress from line count quotas, English second-language dictators and other transcriptionists with a propensity to cherry pick the best dictators given half a chance.  My recent difficulties in a Singapore hospital and the resulting anxiety and insomnia from my health issues sealed the deal and I sailed off into a semi-retirement sunset and slept soundly for the first few weeks afterwards.

Over the last two and a half years while I have been working I have also been dabbling in photography and what started out as a sideline interest has now blown out into a full-blown obsession with all things pertaining to Canon cameras, lenses, shutter speeds, apertures and ISO.  I am devouring camera magazines, doing online study courses and joining photography groups locally and online.  I am offering my services to all and sundry in an effort to gain more experience working with light and attempting to direct my models like a true professional.

Of course now that I am no longer chained to the computer for prolonged periods of time I am taking obsessive to even greater levels with softboxes, speedlights, strobes, a gathering of an assortment of toys, blankets and fluffy objects for future anticipated shoots of babies, puppies and anything in between.

My husband, as usual, keeps his distance most of the time from my hobby and rarely bats an eyelid over my purchases or my must-have items.  His motto in life of having a happy wife is to have a happy life might be short lived if he ever got wind of my pro Canon 5D Mark III I bought for a ‘good price’ last year, however.

In the meantime, I am slowly becoming what is known as the uncle Arthur in my husband’s family.  I get invited to all the best parties and functions and my popularity is soaring in my small social set.

I am slowly finding myself again.  My grandfather, the only other member of my family to ever pick up a camera and do something worthwhile, would be very pleased.

The holiday from Hell

Over the years my husband has pestered me to get a passport so that I could travel with him and enjoy the many delights of different spaces, places, cultures and food.  I have never really been interested in travel but I got myself organised and got myself a passport.  A few weeks later.. or so a previous story goes… my husband booked a holiday to Thailand online and I bought myself a new suitcase.

The holiday turned out to be great apart from a bout of food poisoning which put me off the local cuisine and took me to as many Subways that I could find in Patong as at least I was only getting salad on a bun.  Having food poisoning with my illness is no laughing matter and I was out of Solu-Cortef injections so I wasn’t taking any chances.  Subways once again came through and I remained healthy for the rest of the holiday.

A year later my husband was being sent to Singapore for a company training course and asked me to come along.  We could pay for the flight with frequent flyers and the accommodation was company-paid and therefore mostly ‘free’ (I like that word a little too much).  As I had taken up photography the year before and didn’t take any cameras to Thailand I thought this would be a good opportunity to get some experience with wildlife and cityscape shots so I was keen.  After all, I was okay the last time I went overseas and as long as I stuck to bland food (Subways or hotel restaurant) I would be okay.

One day after we landed and my husband had gone to do his course, one of the wives (a friend of mine) who had come along asked if I would be up for some Singapore public transport to check out some of the tourist attractions.  I didn’t need to be asked twice – I packed up my camera gear and joined the fray of Singapore civilians going about their everyday activities on the rail system and bus routes.

We ended up at a fantastic bird park and I got some really awesome shots of a multitude of birds doing a multitude of bird things.  I was having a great time although a little tired from the overpowering Singapore humidity and the smoke haze that hung in the air from the palm oil fires across the country at the time.

On the way home I started to feel slightly nauseated and went to bed early with a headache and an extra dose of cortisol to make up for the strenuous day.  The next day I was feeling drained but I managed to get out and about and do a little shopping and sightseeing with my husband that night where I got some great photographs of the Singapore skyline Singapore night 3bfrom the top of a viewing platform.  It was after that the rot set in.

I barely made it back to the hotel room before I was throwing up.  This went on all night until I had nothing left and kept going.  I decided to get a doctor in to give me a needle to stop the vomiting and when my husband returned he gave me my Solu-Cortef injections to make up for the lost cortisol in my system.  Unlike Thailand, however, I did not improve and ended up in the Singapore Hospital for five days with some unknown virus, a multitude of IV medications and even more oral medications.  I lost count of the blood tests and my sodium was dangerously low.  The hospital refused to let me out until my sodium normalised and my endocrinologist in Australia was contacted for instructions on the correct dosing for panhypopituitarism.

As for me, most of my time in the hospital was a blur of sickness and fear.  Fear of being in a strange hospital in a strange country dangerously ill with an uncommon underlying illness that few of the doctors there knew anything about and a fear of not making it home.

I made it home mainly thanks to my hero husband running the gauntlet of hospital doctors, hospital administration, insurance company paperwork and rebooking flights home when I was well enough.

Six months later I am still suffering the after effects.  I came home mentally manic from all the different drugs that I was given and had to see a psychiatrist for medication to slow my brain down.  I am still feeling the after effects with some insomnia and bad dreams when I do sleep.

I am getting better, however, but have decided that my next holiday will be a long time coming – and won’t involve flying to a foreign country.  I think Cairns would be nice.

The Black Dog

I watched a program on television recently that dealt with the issue of suicide and mental illness and how prevalent it is amongst our younger generation.

Don’t get me wrong.  Suicide and mental illness are not limited to the younger generation but it is especially heartbreaking to lose a young and troubled soul without feeling sorrow for a life not well-lived and the unimaginable anguish of the parents, grandparents, siblings, friends and school friends left behind.

Suicide has touched us all to some degree, whether it be somebody we know, somebody close, a friend of a friend or even our own morbid thoughts at times when things have been at their darkest in our lives.  I have not escaped unscathed with my various health difficulties without wondering at times whether it is worth the effort of struggling with the pain and functional difficulties that I have been left with.  I keep on top of it.  I keep busy.  I work and study and develop interests to keep the black dog at bay but others may not have the support that I have had or indeed the will to keep on dog paddling when they would rather sink to the bottom of the abyss.

The reality of the abyss was brought home to me again last year when my son’s best friend decided that he simply did not want to keep on paddling for another minute more.  He left behind a beautiful family, many friends and a community of people who he had helped in his short life wondering what had happened.  He didn’t drink, smoke or take drugs.  He went to church and believed in God.  He was kind, generous and loved.  He was planning a trip overseas and had booked the tickets.  He did not appear to fit the profile of a depressed and mentally ill young person and he simply slipped through the cracks.  He had sought help a few months before his death and unfortunately was not followed up.

The abyss will always be there.  It does not discriminate.  It can affect anybody.  There is no clear answer but it is clear that we need to become more aware of our fellow man and be a little more compassionate.  ‘There but for the grace of God go I’.

Travel bug bites

It’s been a while.  Between illness, travelling and new hiPad pics 195obbies I haven’t given much thought to writing this blog.  Although I should.  I have been asked more than once to keep this blog going and so I shall endeavour to do my bit for the literary world.

I have had a few highlights in the last few months, one of which was that overseas holiday that I was so busy procrastinating about in one of my last blogs.  It turned out alright in the end and laid my travel paranoia to rest until the next time.

We started the trip on a high with a hired limo to get us to the airport.  I was a bit reluctant to leave the plush leather surrounds and the free sodas to get into the confines of Qantas cattle class but as I got to watch the latest movies on the flight over with a set of headphones that drowned out the screaming baby a few rows in front of me I was reasonably content.

The concerns I had about my pharmaceuticals and my portable fridge were unfounded and with my specialist’s letter in hand and we breezed our way through the Phuket airport terminal into a wall of humidity that would have put the Queensland tropical weather to shame on its worst day.

After ‘OMG, the heat’ and ‘why did I bring a jacket?’ we settled into our air conditioned taxi and hung on for a nail-biting  30-minute breakneck ride through Phuket to our resort in Rawai.  I was really not sure what roundabouts, red lights or pedestrian crossings were for anymore as they were completely ignored by everybody as drivers went for gold to get to their destinations in the shortest amount of time with complete disregard of impact statistics and safety regulations.  I saw five people on one scooter, four on another and one old scooter with three adults, two chickens and one dog on board.  There were also people in Tuk-Tuks, in the back of utes, in cars and pushbikes topped off by a multitude of massive tourist buses dodging the lot of them.

After three days my husband was zipping around in the traffic like a pro with me on the back silently screaming and mentally telling him to hit the brake.  We zoomed through red lights with the rest of them, dodging anything and everything that came our way.  I wasn’t quite sure whether it was my husband’s skill that got us through it or the skill of everybody else getting out of our way.

We moved from Rawai to Patong and discovered ten different ways to say no to the spruikers and stall holders at the various markets wanting us to buy everything from T-shirts to tattoos.  I also discovered paraflying and spent a nail-biting few minutes sailing high above Patong beach taking in the view and not worrying too much about travel and accident insurance.

For my first time overseas I think I did okay.  Apart from one bout of food poisoning I came out virtually unscathed with a new appreciation of just how lucky I have it here in my own country with services that I take for granted.  True, I could have more in life but I could always have a lot less like some of the people I saw in Thailand…and for that I am grateful.

Dogs and me

I’ve been lucky enough to have had the company of a few dogs over the years.  Each and every one of them has enriched my life in some way and taught me a thing or two about loyalty and love.  Whoever said that dogs have neither feelings nor  souls has never owned a dog and therefore does not matter, in my opinion.

My first foray into dog companionship kicked off when my grandmother came to live with us when I was seven.  She brought along her little terrier and I got to pretend that I finally had a dog for the next eight years.  That little dog put up with dress ups, my questionable dog grooming skills, posing for ‘portraits’, sharing her mat and was my first port of call when life sucked and I needed a unbiased ear.  I was hooked on the dog-bug for the rest of my life.

After I left home I decided on a larger ‘real-dog’ travelling companion.  I purchased a beautiful black German Shepherd pup and she became my copilot for my many adventures as I navigated up and down the coast working and generally having a good time.   Company aside, as she grew she was a marvellous deterrent for any would-be lotharios that were inclined to think that I was up for it.  I have one spectacular memory of her sitting on top of some unlucky sod after she ran him down because he swiped my ice cream cone.  To this day I am still not sure if she was after the ice cream or the thief.

I was companion to a beautiful silky terrier a few years later.  She became the perfect match to my grandmother when I had to move and I couldn’t take her with me.  She was as silly as a wheel but she suited my grandmother perfectly and I got to see her on weekends.  So began my love for the smaller lap dog when I met my future husband and talked him into purchasing my next dog.

Jackson came into my life just before serious illness struck me down.  He was a white ball of fluff that my husband took one look at and asked where the batteries went.  He was the perfect foil of patience, loyalty and love that would get me through the tough times ahead.  He was a gentlemanly dog, preferring to mind his manners at dinner time and always ask for permission before he did something.  Aside from his one grand adventure when he disappeared for hours only to be found curled up under the recliner chair bay sleeping and oblivious to the mayhem that surrounded him – he never put a paw wrong.  He was the light in my life when I needed it most and a joy to be around.  The day I lost him I lost a part of myself that I still haven’t found.

Jackson’s offspring, Dylan, was a completely different fluff ball.  He was brash at mealtimes and would barge in to get his share before somebody else got it.  He thought he was a giant but was scared of the budgie.  He loved to sleep on anything soft that was higher than the floor.  He loved attention and would sulk when anybody else got it.  He would show off to get an extra treat.  We lost him to cancer a few years ago after many operations and no hope.  I still grieve for my funny little soul who snored in his sleep.

These days I am entertained by my two Bichons, Angus and Ruby.  I love them dearly and I laugh often at their funny little ways and different personalities.  Angus is fearless and will bark at anything that moves until he gets outside his home turf.  He owns the world and has a strut to prove it.  His retrieval skills are unmatched and he can play until my arm has gone numb.  He is king of his domain, a bright little button in my life that simply must have his head elevated when he sleeps.  He has taken to carrying his own mini-pillow around with him for portable comfort whenever the mood suits.  Ruby is my lovely little fluffy girlie girl.  She knows her place in the household which is mostly wherever the food is at.  She will hear the fridge open from out in the front yard.  She will be at my side in moments when she hears the crackle of paper – just in case.  She is affectionate and soulful.  She loves nothing more than to lie on her back in my lap for a belly rub and will drop to the floor flat on her back at the hint of a possible spare hand doing nothing.

There is no question that my dogs have been spoilt.  I am probably over the top and am considered a little eccentric by some when it comes to my furry companions.  I would much rather be this way and experience all that a dog has to give and lose them one day than never to have had the opportunity to experience it at all.  Dogs enrich my life, they lighten my heart and they offer solace when I am feeling sad.  They are my constant companions, loyal to a fault and dependent on me to live their lives in the best way they can.  I can offer them a good home and a good life.  At the end of the day and of my life if this has been my only purpose then it will have been a magnificent calling.

 

Fly me

I’ve finally bitten the bullet and gotten myself a passport after 15 years of  subtle pleading and a bit less-subtle harassment from my other half.

I’m still not sure that I want to physically get in a plane and fly off to some foreign destination with customs I know nothing about but it doesn’t matter.  My husband has taken the liberty of booking the flights and the accommodation at lightning speed.  For somebody that knows little about the Internet he did a pretty good job of keeping one step ahead of me and out of my way.  I can only hope that the impeccable record of the flying kangaroo holds in good stead until after we get home and the destination he has chosen meets all my minimal standards – clean, safe, soft toilet paper and vermin free.

It’s now four weeks until we take off and I’m starting to get myself into travel mode.  I find that I am not as excited about the prospect of travelling as much as I am about the fact that my husband has booked a stretch limo to take us to the airport.  That man will do anything to get me on the plane.

My first port of call was the baggage shop in my local shopping mall.  I decided that the aqua blue case with yellow stripes was an easy-to-see combination on the carousel with the added bonus of almost certainly negating the possibility of theft.  I would have gone for the red and black spotted one in the corner but I can only push my husband so far and I will need somebody to help me with my case at some stage.  He barely negotiates with me on dressing the dogs in sedate woollen yet fashionable  jumpers in the winter time.

My paranoia extended itself to bright yellow locks to match the stripes, credit card protection wallets and a fashionable body money belt.  If they managed to steal my easy-to-see case they weren’t getting away with my money, my credit cards or my passport.

I’m also developing a rapport with the Qantas call centre staff, although they might call it something else.  I’ve called them six times this week to determine what is classed as carry-on-luggage, as their printout and rules are ambiguous at best.  I’ve had three entirely different conversations on the rules for flying with medications, injections and keeping my meds cool.  I’ve finally come up with a plan that involves the purchase of a portable battery-powered mini fridge designed for epipens – after much negotiation about the safety of battery powered devices versus the safety of a couple of ice bricks that may or may not contain dangerous chemicals.

I’m going for casual-and-comfortable fashion that requires little maintenance.  I’ve been told that I can purchase cheap clothing over there but I’m going on the premise that you can never have enough underwear in any situation and I’m loading up appropriately.

So wish me luck as I embark on my first-ever overseas holiday.  As long as I have my seasoned-traveller husband at my side and wifi in my pocket to keep in touch with my dogs on the Internet I should be okay.