Archive for June, 2007

And a safe arrival….

June 30, 2007

In brief, for those who read here, she has arrived. Last night (Friday NZ time) at 11.33pm, a most beautiful baby girl.

Yeah. I know…they all say that about their own babies or grandbabies, but it’s true. She doesn’t have that squashed up, wrinkled new-baby look, but is smooth of cheek and….just perfect. The new Daddy rang us about half an hour before she arrived and invited us down to see her. Who could refuse that offer? We went, we saw, we were totally conquered and if I appear to rave a little here, I make no apologies whatsoever.

We shot down to the hospital, arriving about ten minutes after she was born. And there she was, snuggled in her Mum’s arms, so like Little Pea, but so unlike as well. The contrast….I can’t really express what I feel here. Our girl looked simply radiant – I haven’t seen an expression of such joy on her face for so long. She said she would never be able to sleep again, as she wouldn’t be able to stop looking at her child; she asked if she was really theirs; she just gazed with delight. And her Dad, too – holding her close in his arms, on his face a look of such tenderness, I thought my heart would burst.
We got to have a cuddle as well and who knew that one look, one touch, could lead to such instant love? She fitted my arms as if she were made for them, gazing up with blurry eyes at this strange, new world.

I’m totally over the moon.

Baby Day

June 29, 2007

Today is baby day – the long awaited moment when our new grand-daughter will be born. This day, although two and a half weeks preterm, has been chosen because of the previous loss.

Mothers who have had an early still-birth are known to stress increasingly once the comparitive time of the previous pregnancy is reached and these stresses can affect the foetus, so when this is likely to happen an early elective is often chosen, so long as the new baby is of reasonable size and development. Just to add to the mix, the new little one is still doing her internal flip-flops and changes position from breech to normal almost daily. Because of this, it won’t be known whether the elective will be natural or sugical until the very last minute.

Because of the circumstances surrounding the birth of the first child, everyone is in a high state of anxiety. Schmootle is a bundle of nerves and although her rational medical mind tells her that all will be well, her heart responds differently and as a result she has frequent and escalating emotional meltdowns. With her, everything is seen at the surface; what you see is what you get. Her man responds differently and although he has a double burden of grief for his lost children he hides this under a veneer of slightly irritable “Oh, for heaven’s sake, what now?!” The Manpet and I respond in our ways, too. Although I’m certain that the past will not be repeated, I’m most concerned for Schmootle’s mental state should anything go wrong. And birthing is always an anxious time anyway.

Coupled with this is the on-going stress of the property sale. We have recently listed with a new agent after two unsuccessful years of marketing, and while some would think that our previous agent was lax, this was not the case. He worked hard for us and spent a great deal of money on advertising and a huge investment of time in showing the property to a whole string of potential purchasers, but to no avail. The whole nature of the property means that it will appeal to a very small sector of the market and this naturally has its consequences. So we are re-tendering with new agents who will re-brand it and hopefully swing a deal our way.

The new tender process begins on Monday and the preparation time coincides directly with the baby’s arrival. You could argue that we should have waited, but in all honesty, we are getting near the end of our tether here. Some study has shown that the three most stressful events in our lives are the death of a close family member, separation and divorce, and selling a family home. Generally, selling a family home takes a maximum of three or four months, so our two years on the market puts us right up there among the experts in the field.

One of the main stresses of having the property on the market is having to constantly have the house and gardens in perfect condition. I never was a devoted housewife and dust balls have always been close acquaintances, so the constant dusting and vaccing and tidying away to invisibility of all extraneous personal possessions goes totally against my natural sloppiness. Same with the gardens; I would much rather give in to my inner eye that says “Hey… a wee garden here would look just wonderful!” than maintain those already here, so over the years, a great sprawling conglomeration of beds has sprung up all over the big house paddock.

When we first put the place up for sale, we worked like demons to get it all clean and tidy, spick and span, both inside and out and even managed to keep it that way for quite a time. But you can only do so much and still lead a nearly-normal life so over the two year time span, things have gone back a little, especially outside. In preparation for the latest tender-thing I’ve spent the past weeks in a frantic spring clean of the house and a very cold and wet re-vamp of the gardens, which are at their winter worst. I tore out yesterday and bought a whole lot of colour spot plants to whack into the bare patches. Petunias were the choice of the day and their wonderful colours glow brilliantly in the dull winter light. I’ll put them in the raised beds outside the kitchen and study windows where the plant-eating critters seldom intrude and hopefully they will still be there when the punters come to view.

And this post, rabbiting on as it does, is something of a distraction. If I put my mental energies in here, I won’t have to think about what is going on down the road.

Gruntled

June 25, 2007

We have had a steady history of old, dodgy PCs ever since our first one, around five years ago. I certainly can’t complain about the cost, as they have almost always been courtesy of other people who no longer had a use for them, usually because they were upgrading to a squeaky new machine, but there has been a cost in terms of frustration. In its old state, our current PC ran like a flat-tyred wheelbarrow being pushed uphill by a blindfolded snail – mind-numbingly slow and constantly falling over. Quite apart from the time wasted sitting here waiting for some app to load, the many crashes resulted in lots of lost work, causing naughty words to flow in an almost non-stop stream from my sainted mouth, which then caused various bouts of giggling or distress in the family circle, according to their individual temperament, disposition or species.

Part of the problem was that the tiny hard drive, all of 9Gb, was crammed to the utter brim, mainly with a great influx of digital photos as well as all the old stuff hopped over from previous incarnations of a lineage of PCs from years back. So crammed that I could no longer induce the thing to even do a decent defrag. It doesn’t help that I’m a gatherer of often useless clutter – the inside of my HD looks something like Steptoe and Son’s yard on a bad day – that I just can’t bear to delete. After all, you never know just when you might want a picture of a cow licking a dog, or a dissertation on Open Source versus Microsoft. And the 128Mb of RAM was barely enough to wake the thing up, let alone do anything much else. Even the normally speedy Firefox had became a laggard.

The nasty brown stuff finally hit the whirling blades the other day when even Notepad was having trouble keeping up with my typing speed, which is certainly nothing extraordinary, relying on a mere two fingers and an occasional thumb for most of the time. The low, sustained roar with which I expressed my frustration was enough to cause the windows to rattle and left me with a rather nasty sore throat. However, it was enough to make the Manpet realise that I was, at last, coming very near to the end of my much stretched tether and that it was probably about time something was done.

You may wonder why we don’t just bite the proverbial and go out and get a new computer – after all, a reasonable desktop is not beyond most middle-class Western aspirations, but there is a reason for our hesitation. Buying a desktop at this point in our lives would be pretty much a waste. We are going to be living in a bus just as soon as our home has sold and a desktop is simply not a suitable contender for life in a bus.

Power and space constraints mean that a laptop is the only option. and because I’m wanting to delve more into the intricacies of photo manipulation, something big and fast will be needed. But here in New Zealand, a top-end laptop is still a costly item, so we are putting off the moment of purchase until we have a little more cash in the bank. Also, the longer we wait, the better the specs will be, as laptops are improving in quantum leaps.

So we have come to an interim that will hopefully last the distance. A friend of a friend very kindly agreed to give the old horror a birthday and upgrade some of the hardware. So while this is still a somewhat elderly Pentium 111 machine, it now has a 232Gb hard drive and 384Mb of RAM. Wow! Digital bliss! A-a-a-nd a new and unexpected OS to boot!

So, lots of re-loading of old favourites and a few new ones, now that I have the space, then some tweaking and primping to get back to something that looks like me again. I’m still getting used to the new OS, but so far, so good.

Yeah, I’m gruntled.

It’s looking over your shoulder

June 15, 2007

Last night was one of those nights when the muse awoke me sometime in the wee, small hours with a demand to write. I lay there for a while, thinking over the proposition and struggling with my desire to capture the idea and the equally strong desire to stay snuggled beneath the duvet in the warm fug of the matrimonial bed.

In the end, warm fug won over cold writing. It’s winter here and the nights are cold and often clammy. We don’t tend to have central heating in our houses, being rather too close to our forefathers’ hardy pioneer spirit to consider such percieved wussiness as an essential, so the temperature in our houses is generally much colder than those of our European or North American counterparts. As I drifted off to sleep, I thought about how convienient it would be to be able to simply dictate the story direct from my mind to my computer, a silent flow of data travelling from the complexity of my brain to the binary of the PC. A kind of have my story and sleep on it too equivalent of cake and eating. But then I thought some more and decided that my computer and the vast tentacled array that it is coupled to through the Internet already knows a great deal more about the contents of my mind than I may be comfortable with.

Take Google options for instance. A very helpful place, with lots to do. Search, blog, upload your digipix to the net and much, much more.

If you have an enquiring mind, you possibly use the Google search engine every day. Possibly many times. It is a great idea – a vast, if somewhat random repository of much information that would otherwise be very hard, if not impossible in some cases, to access. It is easy once you get the hang of it – simply bang in your search terms, and kind Google rushes quickly to sort them into a generally relevant bunch of links for you to peruse. We can look up all sorts of things from the history of the USA to breeding lines for budgies, from the development of artificial intelligence to a recipe for biriani chicken. Of course sometimes you may be searching for information that you might not be happy about someone like your Aunt Cynthia knowing about. Or your mother or father. Or even your partner. But you are cunning. You know how to delete your History on the PC, so…no worries, mate.

But Google always remembers. Google remembers every single seach you have ever done. Google remembers which links you clicked and which images you viewed. Google knows when you search and remembers the day and the hour. If you have gmail, Google knows the contents of your mail and who you send them to and receive them from. Even if you delete your mails, Google has a h-u-g-e box that it keeps all the old mail in. As does your computer, by the way.

If you have a Google account of any sort, a gmail or Picasa for your on-line photos, you can test this for yourself.

Go to Google. You are most likely already logged on to your account. Click on the “My Account” button which you will find at the top right-hand side of the screen – many people don’t even notice it sitting up there- and when the secreen re-loads, click “Web History”. If you are not logged on, you can sign in. Spend some time there – click around in the various options presented to you and you may well be astounded at just how much you have searched. Stuff you have long forgotten about. Some you may be happy to see again and some may make you look over your shoulder.

If you know about all this already, you probably fall into one of two camps. You will either be completely unconcerned or you will be searching using a proxy of some sort, such as Scroogle.

And if you are completely unconcerned, maybe you should ask yourself one question: Why do they want to know?

Sunshine Again.

June 7, 2007

“She’s turned!” Her eyes are alive and alight.

“She did it on Sunday afternoon. Then she turned back and yesterday she turned again and hasn’t moved since.”

And indeed, Schmoo’s mummy-tummy is looking a lot more comfortable. Instead of a hard, high mound beneath her breasts, there is a gentle sloping bulge that falls gracefully away. We are both relieved at the change and although it is still early days, if thirty-four weeks gestation can be described as early, this is the first sign that the baby is getting ready to be born head first.
Today is scan day. I’ve been invited, partly as support person and partly because I’m the grandmother-to-be. We are usshered swiftly into the small, darkened room by a technican as stick-slender as Scmoo is rounded.
On with the goop and there she is, the wee moko, curled and tucked close under her Mum’s heart. The image is grey and a little grainy. It’s kind of hard to see what you are supposed to be seeing. I stare hard at the monitor.

“There’s the skull,” says the technican as she measures. “Size at the top of the range. That’s good..” She slides the scanner. “And there’s the heart. Good and steady.” And indeed, there it is, its little auicles and ventricles pumping away, opening and closing silently and rhythmically like odd little mouths.
“And here’s a thigh,” she says again, “a little shorter than standard.”
“Short? Did you say she’s got short legs?” snaps the daughter, truly her mother’s child.
“No, no, not short as in short. She’s still well within the normal range.”

Eventually she removes the scanner. She hands over a rumpled bundle of paper towels.
“The results will be through in a few moments,” she says “Just sit in the waiting room.”

In all honesty, scans make me feel a little uneasy. I am not wussy in this way in general. I don’t swoon at the sight of blood. Seeing (minor) bits of human separated from the main body doesn’t make me scream or throw up. I can kill, skin and gut an animal if there is a need to do so. Flyblown sheep are my friends. But this stuff disturbs me somewhat. Maybe it’s the sight of all that stuff that should never be seen, all that mysterious inner world. I don’t know. But a good bowl of organs would do me anyday, whereas this…

Soon, the pictures are ready. We go outside and stand in the weak winter sunlight, holding them up and peering closely.
“Short thighs, eh?” I mutter. “Well, she’s her grandmothers grandchild then, isn’t she.” We giggle together. And it’s true. My Father’s side has bestowed a genetic marvel on the females of the family in that we are almost universally direct inverses of Barbie. Piano legs are the rule. Even though I’m only a little over average height, if my legs were directly proportional to my body, I’d be around five feet ten. But I’m tall when I’m sitting down and that will have to do.

We embrace closely, warmed by more than the sunshine.
“Have you got a name yet?”
“Yes. But we’re not telling.”

Ah – secrets.

Days in the sun.

June 6, 2007

We have just returned home from four sunny days away in the bus. The bus, you ask? Ah yes, the bus. I will write about that one day soon when I have more time to spare.

The main reason for the break was to spend a weekend with Schmoo and the Man – in all probability the last weekend we will have with them as an unencumbered couple. Because in four short weeks, their baby is due to be born. Talking and even thinking about this child is still a little like walking on cracking ice, because although we are all so much looking forwards to this new little one, there is a lurking feeling of what I can only describe as guilt hovering somewhere in the background. Quite why guilt should be present at this time is a bit of a mystery, but there you are. There is no explaining the human heart. I try not to explore too deeply in that painful area but I can only imagine that, deep within my psyche somewhere, there is a feeling that things might be different if only I had….what?

And there my mind sticks. Because my logic tells me – as it rightly should – that there is not a single thing on god’s green earth that I or anyone could have done to prevent the awfull consequences of March 2006.

Schmoo blames herself. She denies it, but little hints creep out sometimes, little words that indicate to me, the ever vigilant mother, that she feels responsible for the death of little Pea. She even admitted to feeling guilt over being pregnant again, which must be a horrible thought to blight a new pregnancy with. I do my best to reassure her, but I know how the mind works, niggling and sniping at un-guarded moments.

This baby, like the last, is stubbornly presenting as breech. And the one thing that Schmoo will not countenance is turning her, because it is thought by her ob-guy that that is what may well have set off the whole disaster last time. And you know, I know, he knows and she knows, that thousands upon thousands of breech babies are turned, completely without any negative consequence every single year. If the wee one doesn’t turn, a Caesar will be flavour of the day.
You could say that she is being un-necessarily cautious, but in this, I support her to the hilt. To encourage her to do otherwise would simply make her re-live those horrible days all over again, even if this time all goes like clockwork.

And it is still a possibility that she will turn. After all, her mother was also stubbornly breech. Her other prefered position was transverse – she would lie like a giant lozenge, right across the width of my belly, roundy head at one side, roundy bum at the other, little feet kicking strongly at my stomach. She was turned but had reverted to her head-up bum-down position by the time I got back home from the hospital. But on the day of delivery, there she was, head down, ready to go. And this baby may well do the same.
I tell Schmoo this and she looks at me, hope shining tentatively in her eyes.

“Really?” she asks.

“Really.” I say.

All you can really do is to hope. And, if you have a mind for it, to pray.

Playing tag with the muse.

June 2, 2007

I guess most aspiring writers long for a muse. Popular legend has it that having a muse is the gateway to writerly heaven – you just sit at the keyboard, or the pen, if you are somewhat old-fashioned, and wait, fingers poised, for the inner inspirer to start pouring the wonderful words from your fingertips to the page. Virtual or otherwise.

But the reality can be very different.

I have a muse, of sorts, but not a very pracitcal one. His inconsistency is astounding. I won’t hear from him for days or even weeks and then suddenly, like an unwanted suitor, he is all over me like a rash, nattering day and night into my ear. I’ll be in the middle of doing some task that can’t be ignored, like driving the car, and his voice will suddenly start, forcing me to pull over and grab a pen and paper before he stops talking. Which he often does. Or I’ll be on the phone, having a lovely conversation with someone dear to me and he’ll rudely butt in like an unwanted extra on a party-line, causing me to become vague and distant as I try to listen to two people at once. I’ll make my silly sounding excuses to the human on the other end and hang up, all lathered and panting, ready to start writing and dammit all, the muse will hang up on me. His number is, of course, unlisted.

He is also stunningly inconsiderate. After being awol for weeks, he’ll wake me up in the night, always at a most un-godly hour  and scream something into my befuddled ear. I try to just roll over and go back to sleep, but he’s a persistant bugger and generally refuses to be ignored. “Now!” he shouts. “Write this now! No time to lose! I won’t be back tomorrow! No, you won’t remember by yourself!” I thrash and flail, but he just keeps on, destroying any hope of sleep until I get up and obey. I sneak on tiptoes past my sleeping partner, hoping like hell that he won’t wake and wonder just what the hell I’m doing at the computer in the middle of the night, to sit bleary-eyed at the machine and bang away until such time as the muse decides it’s time for a rest. He, lucky bugger, goes back to sleep again, happily off in the land of nod, while I return to bed, freezing my little butt off, to lie awake for hours, wondering just where the story is going to go next.

But sometimes – just occasionally – he is wonderful.

Sometimes he visits when I am alone in the house, when the day is silent and still, when there are no distractions of other people’s needs or pressing tasks to get in between where my head wants to be and where my body is. Then, his voice is a soothing whisper. He sits just behind my right shoulder, his voice clear and calm and warm and gives me the whole story, one that pours out just as fast as I can write it down. The words flow across the pages; silken, smooth and uninterrupted. Those are always the stories and poems that just work, the ones that make the readers go “My God!” or “Wow!” 

They are few and far between, but worth every moment of waiting for.