Feeling a little sad

I do not enjoy making statements like that, but...

The people who still deny climate change and focus on 1) financial development and 2) environment-damaging technologies instead, I wonder if now that storms are getting stronger, droughts longer, wildfires larger and the world just steadily more un-insurable, if even they are finally going to catch on to the fact.

I wish it was possible for me to ignore the current American president, but if I intend on hearing at least some of the news and keeping on listening to interesting interviews on Radio New Zealand, it's a simple fact of life that I will keep hearing the moronic statements of this person who is... many things, but smart, focused, generous or likable are not among them.

I feel a little bit like a New Zealand housewife of a First or a Second World War. That while the world is in turmoil and a barrage of carnage is happening abroad, I'm tucked away in a relative safety of the back-benches, taking care of my family, my home, keeping the life going whilst loud arrogant men argue over their self-importance.

But, the thing is, the biggest impact I can make, I feel, is within my family and my hometown. I will continue educating my children, being involved in my school, speaking up at the council, helping when I can, voting, just... trying to be nice to people, and slowly being part of that quiet flow of life that actually keeps life going, whilst arrogant men will continue arguing over their self-importance.

It doesn't come naturally to me, but I'm learning.

She's smart, but that doesn't actually help my garden

Oh for f*** sake...

Do you remember a while ago I wrote about planting currants, and how The Dog promptly ate the young leafbuds off the plants?

Well, let's just put it this way: I am also trying to grow potatoes.

...to not much success. The Dog has figured out how to dig out potatoes and eat them.

To all of that I have another two comments:

1) it's mostly The Man who wanted the potatoes to begin with, but being the homely one I'm the one caring for the garden patch, and getting grumpy at The Dog,

2) potatoes are not good for dogs.

The summer has begun - from the kids' perspective, anyway







Ice creams

Strawberries and currants to water

***

Meanwhile, in the house: we got from the toy library a game called 'Jamanga'. Everyone really likes it!

It's kind of like Jenga, but it's more children-friendly: the blocks are soft-padded and colourful, and there is a large dice to roll - depending on the dice, it's the (colour of the) brick to pull out.

Of course, the kids also use the blocks as building elements.



Also: just as the nights have turned warm, the kids have decided they want to sleep in (brushed cotton) warm winter pyjamas.

#slapshead

Oh well, pick your battles, I guess.

What colour to paint the house

We keep discussing what colour to paint the house.

Which is funny, because the things we are actually doing at the moment have nothing to do with colour of the house.

For example: on the weekend me and The Man clambered on the roof fixing guttering. We didn't like that during heavy rains we had water running through the porch roof onto our front door. The existing guttering was just so rusted through it was, literally, not channeling any water at all. As in, it was more hole than it was guttering.

So we clambered around, demolished things, painted things, fixed things, cleaned things - it took several hours to finish the job. But it... doesn't look it. The house looks almost the same as before.

Or one of the next projects on the list: chimneys. We'll be taking them down this summer - I hope! - so they cannot be coming down (on their own) during earthquakes in the future. It'll be a considerably sized project, especially given the scaffolding The Man will be building to accommodate the work.

But just like guttering we did last weekend, once done, from outside of the house it will be almost un-noticeable that we'll have done anything at all.

...which is probably why it's both funny and comforting to discuss the colour we'll be painting the house.

***

At the moment the colour we've been discussing the most is blue, kind of like Young House Love's showhouse:


Can you imagine what it'd look like on our house?


Here, let me help:


Granted, it's the most basic sketch, but... still. Gives an idea, doesn't it.

We also have an idea to paint the shingles above the bedroom window a variety of colours, kind of like this:


Which brings me to the next step: that garage wall in the background.

It's our neighbours' garage and it runs directly on the property line, so it's kind of like a... fence line, for us. It backs onto our property and I assume it's our decision what colour we're going to paint it, because although I haven't yet discussed it with our neighbour, I really don't think he'd have any objections to it.

I mean... it's got almost nothing to do with their property. It's not visible from their land, or even from the street. It's not particularly well-kept. Its visual impact sits squarely on our property, and so therefore I've kind of been thinking about it as if it were ours.

Sure, before we actually do anything to it, we're definitely talking to the neighbour... but not yet. At the moment, it's our dream land.

So: when me and The Man were discussing what shade of blue to paint the house, I suggested, how about we paint the garage wall first? That way we'll have a big enough of an area we can live with first, and get used to it, and see if we actually like that particular shade of blue in real life.

But then I went further and started thinking: actually, why not do something really fun with that wall?

For example: our family really likes a children's book called The Gruffalo. What if I painted a scene from that book on the wall?


A world map?


A mural, basically. I know I have the skills to pull something like that off, but the question really becomes... what would we like there?

And, really, we're definitely not talking of doing it this year. Probably not even the next. Two, three years' time - maybe. First we will continue doing the "invisible" stuff: fixing things.

We know that painting it will be huge visual improvement - but we're not there yet.

Thoughts on weather

The weather has been absolutely glorious. Like, glorious! Warm, humid sunshine - the kind where even though temperature is slightly below 20 C, everyone is out in t-shirts, basking away.

Yesterday a decent thunderstorm rolled across Southland. Initially, it was 'cumulus congestus' clouds that built mid-morning with their beautiful, upright towers of fluff. Gradually, their undersides darkened until in the afternoon, the whole town was, what felt like, standing still in the awaiting of thunder.

And then there it was - lighting.

Thunder.

More lightning.

More thunder.

It is so rare that Invercargill gets thunder at all! In my year of having lived here I've only seen it twice and, man!, did I enjoy the spectacle.

Just like last October, spring has treated us to beautiful warm days this year - I'd describe it as 'unseasonably' warm even. But I hear that's what Invercargill does in spring: typical westerly airflow brings warmer than average temperatures in Southland when 'Foehn effect' brings in moisture from Tasman sea, releases it over the mountains as rain and then that warm dry air basks the Invercargill streets with sunshine.

Which is to say: just wait until November and December when summer creeps closer, and we'll start getting that horrible rainy-windy-cold stuff again.

And then in February, just when kids go back to school, suddenly weather will turn glorious again.

Like now, in October :)

Photos of late

Practicing writing numbers

Built a caterpillar out of a cardboard egg carton

Guess who's got tiger costumes

Checking out a stick bug who was hanging out on the bench-leg in the morning

Over and out

Showing me the figures he's banged together with wooden shapes and nails

Drawing. Drawing. Drawing. (The butterfly on the right, by the way, The Kid did all on his own.)

The apple tree is blossoming

Currants are in (white, red and black), and so are strawberry plants. Potatoes are coming up in the corner-patch, behind them is a row of garlic. In the greenhouse a whole plethora of things are happening. In the evenings birds ruffle through peastraw and steal bunches of it, flying away - I assume - to build their nests with it.

Backyard in the evening light

It's obvious there are children living in this house looking at the condition of window glass. Handprints EVERYWHERE.

Advice wanted: epilepsy bracelets

Hi guys. I'd like to ask for some advice.

I am wanting to get myself a medical bracelet (for epilepsy), something the likes of these:




And now here's the question: what kind do you suggest? It doesn't have to be one of the above - these are just images I've randomly copied off Google.

I've never worn a medical alert wristband before and, to be honest, I'd don't really wear bracelets, as in, full stop. I very rarely even wear a watch on my wrist. I don't like jewellery - that goes for both bracelets and necklaces, by the way.

But I do want to get myself a medical alert bracelet. I will be travelling on the plane alone with my son, and although I very rarely get full seizures, the chance is still there, so I am wanting a medical alert bracelet.

But what kind to choose?

In addition to not knowing 1) what kind of a bracelet I'd like (because I don't normally wear them), 2) I also don't know what the benefits & disadvantages of different medical alert bracelets are.

To get a silicone one? Does the tag necessarily need that red cross and a snake symbol on it? Etc etc etc.

If you've got experience, share it, please :)

PS. So far I am thinking of getting a steel "tag" which I will wear tied around the wrist with string. Front would have red cross / snake design with word "epilepsy", the back would have my name, catamenial epilepsy and ICE phone number.

The Kid's a Kiwi alright...

For two minutes we were having this conversation.

The Kid: "What'd you buy in shop?"
Me: "A pen."
- "Pen?"
- "Yes, a pen."
- "Pen? What's a pen?"

I'd explain. He'd ask again. I'd explain again.

For two minutes we were having this back-and-forth conversation, with me both confused and amused that he was asking me about pens, and The Kid seemingly unhappy with my answers.

And then The Kid suddenly exclaimed: "OH, PIN! YOU MEAN A PIN! YOU BUY A PIN IN THE SHOP!!!"

Kiwis say "pin" - not a "pen" - when they mean a writing implement. And so all the while I'd been talking about pens, The Kid hadn't actually understood that I was talking about pens. To him, a pen is a "pin".

...

And at that point I just thought: yeah, mate, you're becoming a Kiwi alright.

Sometimes I agree

I understand some of you may find political comments off-putting and offensive, but...

These two tweets just make a lot of sense.


What it will cost to travel to Europe next year

Just in case any of you are interested, here's what it has cost so far to organise our family of four to travel to Europe next year.

Invercargill to Estonia $3,956

$173 plane tickets Invercargill-Christchurch (Air NZ, 3 people)
$80 car petrol Invercargill-Christchurch (1 person)
$3,368 plane tickets Christchurch-Auckland-Shanghai-London (Air NZ & Virgin, 4 people)
$335 plane tickets London-Estonia (Easyjet, 4 people)

Estonia to Invercargill $3,956

$335 plane tickets Estonia-London (Easyjet, 4 people)
$3,368 plane tickets London-Shanghai-Auckland-Christchurch (Virgin & Air NZ, 4 people)
$173 plane tickets Christchurch-Invercargill (Air NZ, 3 people)
$80 car petrol Christchurch-Invercargill (1 person)

Travel insurance $412

$312 Tower Insurance through Kiwibank credit card
$100 coverage top-up for pre-existing medical conditions (2 people)

TOTAL: $8,324

Granted, this does not yet include things such as expenses on the way, dog kennel etc which we expect will bring the total to about $10,000 NZD - but in a nutshell, this is what it'll look like.

Fixing up a greenhouse

When we first viewed and then bought the house, the greenhouse wasn't much to look at.



It was one of those "looks like it used to be used well, but hasn't for a while now" things (that this house has no shortage of). There was rubbish, broken glass, a pickaxe, toys, a young tree - a variety of things, basically.

Apart from clearing it out, we hadn't done much to it. The structure was salvageable, but the effort and time it would've required to fix the thing was simply not... compatible with my school hours, The Man's work hours and just life in general.


That is, until this week.

Ta-daa!


If left to my own devices, I wouldn't have done it this year. I would've left it another year and then properly re-clad with new plastic, built in raised beds, set up irrigation and made it to last years.

Done once, done well.

Fortunately/unfortunately, that's not how The Man operates :)

He, a passionate planter and harvester of things - even if not the weeder and the waterer in-between ;) - planted a plethora of seeds in ice cream containers on our kitchen top, and it got to a point where pumpkin plants were spreading their roots and kale was about to fall over due to its weight. He knew that garden boxes were not ready (eventually we will have them set up in front of the house), but he really wanted to plant things, and so we, basically, got to a point where last week when my school holidays started, I just got myself organised and fixed up a greenhouse.



It's very basic. Temporary, even.

For example, where plastic panes had broken away from the greenhouse, the nail-holes were ripped.


It was one of the reasons I hadn't wanted to fix up the greenhouse to begin with. I knew that plastic edges like that would've made the panes likely to rip again - and there wasn't enough plastic overhang to "stretch" it.

Then, amidst the very real need of having to find somewhere to put The Man's plants, I came up with an idea.

I reinforced all broken edges with tape...


... and then fixed the panes through both plastic and tape.


Inside, kind of the same thing: not wanting to spend time/energy on building wooden edges for raised beds if I was going to re-do the whole greenhouse down the line, anyway, I came up with a semi-temporary solution. I gathered up a bunch of bricks to make a walking area, and built up raised planting-areas along the perimeter of the greenhouse.


The result of all that is, as much as it is a very, very basic approach to fixing up a broken greenhouse, for now, it'll do. I spent about $20 on a couple of bags of compost and planting mix, but everything else was free. A roll of tape I already had at home, the nails I re-used, same for framing - I made do with what we already had.

And the result of all that is: The Man is a happy man. He actually said today, when emerging from his planting spree where together with our kids they planted tomatoes, carrots, beetroot, kale etc, that it feels more like home when there are things tied into the ground here.

Gradually, bit by bit, it will become more and more like our home - and if fixing up a greenhouse, albeit somewhat "temporarily" and on the cheap, got him closer to feeling it, it'll do.

Dear PETA: wool is not the problem

Recently PETA came out with a campaign against woollen clothing. A couple of famous people got posed under slogans which said, basically, that they'd rather go naked than wear wool.

To which I'd like to say: dear PETA, there are many problems in the modern clothing industry, but wool is not at the top of those.

If you find cruelty during shearing a problem, please advocate for better treatment of sheep, and not against wool.

What would you, rather, see people wear instead? Synthetic fibres such as polyester which are petrochemicals and pollute oceans with microfibres? Cotton which is water-intensive to grow and gets sprayed with a variety of toxins?

PETA, you already argue against wearing of silk, and leather. If you now also argue against wool, what clothing, exactly, is there left? Linen?

Wool has excellent thermal properties. It is biodegradable. Durable. Many breeds of sheep don't even self-shed wool any more, so if such sheep don't get shorn they grow into unsustainable mountains of wool and eventually die, slowly, because they aren't able to see, or eat, from inside their coats.

Many sheep farmers are responsible, ethical people who care about the animals and are interested in their well-being. But just like with any other human-involved activity, there are some some who don't.

Advocate against those. Set standards and frameworks for ensuring quality in animal rights.

But do not advocate against wool.

Because otherwise you're insane.

When milestones arrive sooner, and then it kind of throws the entire system

Another morning at the hospital: orthotist casted The Kid's foot so he can make us a new ankle brace, and then we just chilled out in the paediatric department play area I've written about before.



But the reason I'm actually writing about it is this:

The Kid chose a new brace design. It's a right we celebrate: wearing clothes/footwear he is proud of is part of being a strong, individual person. We do argue when choices are not weather-appropriate, but generally what he wears is his own choice - and I just exercise my parental power at the point of buying clothes ;)

But nevertheless, his choice totally threw me. For a while, I sat there with a grin on my face, unsure whether to laugh or not.

Because he chose skulls.


I mean, I knew that design was probably going to come our way one day - but I did not expect that it would be at 6 years old. Ten, maybe. Even thirteen?

But not six.

Nevertheless, this is what he chose and it's his right I will continue to celebrate. Even if it means that, in my head, I need to re-evaluate some other milestones that'll be coming our way, because seeing this come today made me think, "Ukoh! What else will be coming sooner than I expect it to?"

Parental life is an exciting one, isn't it.

No TB vaccines in New Zealand at all?

Well... I didn't see that coming!

Yesterday I called the medical centre to organise TB immunisations for both of my kids - we're heading to Estonia soon, and Estonia has high rates of TB.

Except I was told that vaccines are not available at the moment. IN WHOLE OF NEW ZEALAND.

That next March there may be a new shipment of vaccines coming through Pharmac (New Zealand drug buying agency), but until then - nothing.

And I was, like, uhm... Yeah.

Girls' life versus boys' life

A quick post before I run off to do other stuff.

I don't know if you've heard, but awhile ago there was an interesting discussion over gender stereotypes on womenyoushouldknow.net. Basically, someone went into a US library and noticed two magazines side-by-side on the shelf:

Image from womenyoushouldknow.net/girls-deserve-a-better-life...

They took a photo of them and uploaded it on the internet for other people to see. (The one on the left is marketed for teenage girls, the other for teenage boys.)

Notice a certain... pattern? Apparently, lots of people have, and have been appalled by it. Going by the two magazines the girls' job is to look pretty and the boys' is to explore the world.

(The full article is at womenyoushouldknow.net/girls-deserve-a-better-life-better-than-the-inane-stereotyped-version-marketed-to-them)

A graphic designer named Katherine Young was one of the people who saw the image and she felt as appalled as many others before her. She quickly whipped up a version of what she thought Girls' Life cover should look like instead and sent it to the magazine.

Image from womenyoushouldknow.net/appalled-graphic-designer-shows-girls-life-magazine...

The contrast is impressive and, again, I know which magazine I'd prefer to read.

(The full article of the re-do version is at womenyoushouldknow.net/appalled-graphic-designer-shows-girls-life-magazine-what-their-cover-should-look-like)

Do children go hungry at school? Sometimes, yes.

It's a... pet peeve of mine, I guess.

Food at schools.

Students in New Zealand schools don't, generally, get food provided to them - not in a way Nordic countries feed kids. Everyone tends to bring their own lunch, packed in a box or a bag or whatever, and kids eat whatever they brought along from home.

Low decile schools, ie schools where students' parents tend to earn little money (decile 10 are top earners 90-100%, decile 1 are low earners 0-10%, etc), they tend to have some government funding or council funding to make sure that kids get at least some food, so the schools provide kids with a piece of fruit in the morning, or some milk to drink - stuff like that.

But still. It's a pet peeve of mine.

My kids eat well because... I pack food which I think is good for them.

But not everyone does. Not everyone has the means, even. Some lunchboxes I've seen in The Kid's school, I've thought, man, I wish the lunch doesn't look like that every day...

Recently a program on Radio New Zealand National introduced this problem through two videos, and I think they're worthwhile seeing.




To anyone reading this from Estonia or other Nordic countries, where you may not have even heard about an approach like that... let's just put it that way, seeing this video may make your eyes widen.

When private landowners treat their land like national parks, and protect them forever

Me and The Man attended a fascinating public talk last night, presented by Jesse Bythel from QEII National Trust.

(That we ended up attending at all was a coincidence - the babysitter who sometimes watches our children/house in the evening so me and The Man can have a date night, she couldn't come on her usual evening. We proposed, okay, how about Monday evening?

Monday evening suited her well. We scrolled through various calendars of the city to figure out where to go on a Monday, and this event was one of the very few, so we thought, okay, let's go check it out. AND I'M SO GLAD WE DID!

Because here's what QEII National Trust is - a concept I had never heard of before, though I did think there would be setups similar somewhere, just not sure how they'd work exactly.)

You have probably heard of National Parks that are reasonably common throughout the world. They are publicly owned, protected lands which (though managed and developed to an extent) remain very close to their natural state, therefore allowing parts of the world to have protection from damaging human interference.

Well, QEII National Trust in New Zealand does something similar, but it's on privately owned land.

About 40 years ago there was a farming couple on the North Island of New Zealand who witnessed rapid land development around them and wanted to to protect part of the land that belonged to them. But they didn't want to just protect it themselves - they wanted to set up a legal covenant which would protect that land for generations to come. They wanted to make sure that even if another person bought the land, the covenant would remain on the land record, unable to be removed, and therefore the next owner would also be prohibited from turning the land into farmland or a mine or whatever.

Kind of like a national park, but on private land.

And that's what, basically, QEII National Trust now does. It offers legal support, and part of the funding, to people who throughout New Zealand want to set up protected areas on their lands.

Owners do not give land away to QEII National Trust. Land remains private - able to be sold, and re-sold.

Neither do owners give away management of the land. They remain owners and managers of the land, and they deal with pest control, weed control, planting. They continue receiving support from QEII National Trust, and the trust visits their land every 2 years to check on it - but otherwise, it's still owners' responsibility to deal with the land.

The setup has been through the court on several occasions and remains a strong legal concept. There have been people who've bought land and have then attempted to remove the QEII National Trust covenants, but they haven't succeeded. Even, basically, if land "accidentally" caught fire and the native bush burned off, it still would be a protected area, unable to be developed.

The list of private lands protected in such a manner continues to grow. I think Jesse said it's approximately two new areas each week? Some are small, a couple of hectares each - a bunch of bush around a pond in the middle of a farmland, fenced off. Others are massive - I think Jesse said the biggest is 93 000 hectares, managed by an overseas owner who bought a large piece of land and turned 90% of it into protected bush.

It provides important migration corridors to protected species of wetland birds. There are rare orchids on some, rivers which remain blocked off from farmland on others and, as a result, remain clean.

Fascinating topic. Absolutely fascinating!

QEII National Trust.

She picks it up pretty quickly

As me and The Girlie watched a short documentary about Cassini's last approach to Saturn where it burned up three days ago...



...The Girlie sketched a couple of planets with surface variations and rings.


A pretty good effort for a 3-year-old, if I may say so myself.

I have time again!!!

On Tuesday, I submitted my last school assignment for the year. From now onwards, it's just lectures and then one big exam at the end.

The relief is... palpable.

Or shall I phrase it instead: WOOOOOHOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! :D

The backlog I ended up in in May when The Kid had to change schools and for a month I dragged him along to my lectures - whilst he didn't have a school to go to - and I got very little schoolwork done due to meetings, research, paperwork and then both kids having chickenpox - it's really only now that I've cleared it. It's really only now that the last assignment is submitted and I am free (I am free!), I am no longer behind the rest of the class.

It is such a joy. Such joyful relief. Such joyfully relieving calming of life.

I thought it would immediately translate into more spare time, but at the moment it hasn't yet. Instead, I am catching up on the rest of the life that's kind of been pushed back.

I vacuum floors, including tricky corners and under furniture where big dustballs have been gathering. I sort the kitchen cupboards, pouring ingredients into containers rather than having them sit in plastic bags in a pile. I look through "needs sorting"-pile of paperwork on my dresser where by this point, I don't even remember what's in there - all I know is, for a while I have been putting "important" paperwork onto my dresser, to be looked through "later", and it's been steadily growing since... May, really.

I've also started to blog again.

And write.

I've discovered a painful truth that whilst I've been busy with life, a book deal that's been waiting on me for EIGHT years has been given away to someone else.

It's unfortunate. I've finally got myself to a place where I've thought, this summer I will actually get done!, but it has turned out that... the publishing house is no longer waiting on me. They had a change of management, the new manager signed up another author without telling me about it, and whilst I was discussing my book with Invercargill's writers' group, figuring out how to structure my work, it turns out another person was already working on it - and by the time I contacted the publishing house, saying, I think I can do it!, the answer was, basically, sorry.

Though the immediate reaction was sadness - I have to admit, I did tear up - in some ways it has brought on excitement. I am no longer in the privileged position of having a book deal even before writing it, however the passion for writing it has returned, which makes me think I am probably going to write it anyway, whether there's a publishing house wanting to back it or not, and I am going to see what happens.

It's... wonderful, after a long time of not having time, not having time, not having time - school, kids, moving, life - to suddenly have time and it feels like my whole brain is going, POOF! THE OPPORTUNITIES! ALL THE THINGS I CAN DO WITH MY LIFE NOW!

Springs is coming. The trees are blooming. The sun is out.

On Matt Vickers and refugees

I am processing two difficult thoughts this morning.

One is a beautifully written article by Matt Vickers, On Simon O’Connor’s Comments On Suicide. (lecretia.org/on-simon-oconnors-comments)

***

The other is a public meeting I attended last night.

It was about Invercargill soon becoming a place for refugee resettlement and as much as I feel strongly about the importance of support towards refugees, I came away feeling quite... uncomfortable.

It started off lovely. Dawit, a former refugee from Ethiopia gave his account of his journey to New Zealand in the 80's and 90's, talking about the violence he's witnessed along the way and the importance of support towards the displaced. 


Red Cross spoke. Andrew Lockhart from Immigration NZ spoke.

And then... that's when it turned kind of sour.

The organisers had invited two women from Colombia to talk about the country - to introduce the place where Invercargill's refugees will be from (for the foreseeable future, anyway). And I mean no disrespect to them, their talk was heartfelt... but I felt it set such an unhelpful tone to the rest of the evening.

The first speaker did her best to talk about the positive things about Colombia: she showed us a tourism-oriented marketing video, talked about the wonderful food, about the importance of festivals, how bright the country is, about the beautiful landscape is.

The second speaker talked about Colombia's high cost of living, and how moving to New Zealand allows people to have better opportunities.

They did not talk about Colombian refugees, or about reasons people may get classified as refugees in the first place.

By the time they finished and it was time for questions and answers, the first question was from an older gentleman who asked what, I think, many other attendees were already thinking: that after seeing that wonderful video and hearing about the positives about Colombia why, exactly, are the people coming to New Zealand?

Please understand: I know it is possible to talk warmly about lots of places in the world that are torn apart by conflict. Someone can show beautiful landscapes of Afganistan without even *mentioning* the cost of human life there, and the atrocities committed every day.

But... seeing that sort of tone set for a *refugee* meeting as Invercargill prepares for becoming a refugee settlement, it made me feel so sad about the evening.

It took several questions and answers before the problems of Colombia even started getting discussed - about the pockets of violence remaining in the country, and why people get displaced in the first place.

The meeting lasted about an hour and a half. Some people spoke of the support they have towards the program, others of concerns they have for the region's housing etc.

In the end, having the meeting was a very important step taken by the council, thank you!

But... nevertheless as I process what I heard yesterday, I so wish some of that marketing-type presentation had not been made last night, and feel sad for the tone it had set for the rest of the evening.

In our own times

Reading Ashley-Ann's article "In her own times" made me tear up for two reasons.

One, it reminded me of a time when my first serious relationship ended and I cried every day for almost a year. Every day.

Then, one day, there was a day I didn't cry. Then, a while later, another day I didn't cry. Eventually breaks between those days grew shorter, until there were more days I didn't cry than days I did cry.

Eventually, the pain subsided altogether. Other seasons of my life started and with it, growth.

If I could go back to that girl I was back then, I would put my hand on her shoulder and say, "It's okay." I would assure her that life will move on, and help her understand that she did what she did because she didn't know any better - and that's okay.

No-one knows things until they learn them; and learning comes with time.

Ashley-Ann's article reminded me of that change of seasons - how, as hard as that time was back then and as much as I thought life would not move on, it has.

Just as life moves on now.

Another reason I teared up reading the article is to do with my family. I won't go into it other than to say, seasons change - and with the change, come new challenges, and new joys.

We are doing well.

That's not to say life is easy, but we are doing well.

Righto, computer down, off to school.

PS. If any of you know good flight offers London-Tallinn-London, let me know. I am going to sort out my Estonian travel dates within the next few weeks, I hope, and then I am going to start badgering you, friends, on where the hell in the world you will be in 2018 so I can figure out who I can see in person and where ;)

On sketching

At the moment, the house is in a very similar condition to when we bought it in March. Yes, the backyard no longer looks overgrown, but the house itself hasn't changed much because the changes we've made are mostly "invisible": insulation, removal of mould, putting in an attic hatch etc.

The reasons for that are many, but mostly it's to do with lack of time: I spend long hours on schoolwork, The Man works, Saturdays I work, too, and the spare time we do have together, we try to spend it relaxing and enjoying ourselves, so as much as it'd be cool to do more house stuff... at the moment the priorities are different.

However, there's a silver lining: it means that we get to plan slowly and calmly. We don't rush into renovation or restoration, and we get to think and then re-think a lot of the ideas we come up with.

Part of my study involves learning to sketch well. By sketching, I don't mean just "proper" architectural sketching (where I sit behind a table with rulers and good pencils - although next year I'll do that, too) - I mean sketching on the go where I jot down quick, hand-drawn lines to explain an idea to someone, or try to figure out on my own if something I want to do will work.

In the future, it'll be a skill I will most likely need as I move around construction sites, discussing things with builders and architects and project managers, needing to grab a pen and quickly sketch down a diagram on the back of a business card or a restaurant flyer or whatever.

Basically, I need to know how to jot something down quickly, with very basic lines, and have confidence in my ability to explain my ideas through drawings.

And the reason I am telling you about it is that... I sketch our house a lot.

In spare moments of my days - arriving to class 5 minutes early, sitting in the library waiting for my kids, having lunch, whatever - I take out a notepad and sketch.

I visualise what garden beds in front of the house would look like.


I think about built-in shelving we'll put up once we take down chimneys and fireplaces in all three bedrooms.


I think about how to set up the laundry.


I plan the kitchen.


When I show The Man these sketches, it's much easier to discuss things with him: we know that we talk about the same things, and it helps him visualise, too.

And to me... it helps both to plan the house, but also to do schoolwork well.

Win-win.