Meanderings

A different view on 6.15am starts

It is going to be 35c today, but it is warm like a pool of silky water at 6.15am. The sky has clouds, but they are cloaked in colours so vivid, reds and pinks and golds, that you have to look away from how magnificent they are. There are people up early going to work, but the buses are nearly empty, like the roads, and the drivers smile, while sleepy passengers have not yet developed the sour pinched in expression of embarrassed isolation that commuting requires.

And I am oddly happy.

Nudity is not the issue. The freak show aspect of nudity is.

What I have been thinking, this article from Jezebel said so much better than I could : “The problem with all these half-naked pop stars is that they fail, even as they succeed, because they are “artists” turning themselves into objects. Objects have no agency. Objects are disposable. Objects have no feelings. And although there is value in shock value — power in startling, provoking — the truth is, while the nightly news anchors may feign mild consternation, though talking heads may raise their brows, no one, no one is really surprised. What would be shocking: If Miley (or Rihanna! or Ke$ha!) enrolled in a university and learned how to make a point using the Socratic method. Jaws would drop.

They don’t have to enrol in University, however. They could make intelligent points without it. Or not. They don’t owe us anything. But they are objectifying themselves, and by extension, millions of young, influenced young women. They set the bar at ridiculous levels for ‘cool’, ‘acceptable’, ‘fun’. We all remember being aching to be accepted teenagers. Listening to the voices of media. Watching the film clips that were our metric for what is the way to be.

I have no issues with artists like Amanda Palmer naked. She uses her body to convey messages, to relate to the music. She has enough strength of mind, and acquired wisdom, to understand and make considered choices. Not every young woman does. These young women just do it to shock, titillate, get milage, get valuable screen real estate – because some one said, “Honey, this will show the others”. Or, granted, because she thought that herself – but it is achingly obvious from the history of exploited female artists how often the entourage, the ‘momager’, the hangers on, the coterie of yes voices, can provide a sounding wall that only echoes back their own opinion that is driven by greed.

It is not limited to women – though the nudity aspect, the sheer objectifying is. One can see the boy bands, the desperate pasts and futures of those then unsuccessful, no longer marketed as the smart one, the cute one, the edgy one – the formulaic roles they get shoehorned into, as if they are of a single dimension. Perhaps it would be wiser to say a different objectifying does occur for males. Look at young Justin Beiber.

I meet wise and wonderful young women the same age as these artists every day. They are working hard to become engineers, educators, influencers. They would mock anyone selling them this story of objectification. Yet they are as prone to self image doubts due to the objects sold as perfection…

So what is next? What is the next boundary to push? As the article says: “Because at this point Miley would have to release close-ups of her clitoris or give us a laparoscopic tour of the inside of her vaginal canal for us to see something we haven’t seen before.” Or just show some dignity and creativity. Nudity is not the issue. The freak show aspect of nudity is.

 

And before we sink into the sin of despair, a companion piece from Jezebel. And there, we can ponder the nature of disability and limits, and it certainly asks who is beautiful in these images – indeed, it challenges us to think differently…

Enhanced by Zemanta

Everything I learnt about makeup I learnt from the Sims

So I have spent my life being femininely challenged. Only one significant female figure in my childhood (hi Aunty Pam), I was to shy to ask how to do the things every other girl seemed to know – what clothes to choose, how to do makeup. A marvellous single father did his utter amazing best, but there were some things this man, born to a devout Irish Catholic mother and hard working, loving, self sufficient father. Those legacies he imbued in us without knowing, good and bad (the Catholic bit he moved away from in disgust at the wealth of the church when still young, and I could never manage the belief needed for any religion, disturbing to him but accepted grudgingly now). So makeup was pretty well avoided. I played a bit with it with my girl friends in high school, but beyond the odd bit of eye liner, and the occasional dip into mascara, makeup always felt like playing dress up – and icky on my face!

As a young adult who had a strange spate of trying to fit in with the young mums around me (it lasted a few years, a fish so far out of water it may as well have been desert for the way I starved to death emotionally and mentally), I tried makeup again. I dutifully bought some at one of those ‘parties’ designed to blackmail you socially. But I could never figure out HOW to apply the stuff. Five years later, the nearly intact set was gleefully given away. I had found myself, and the bloke, and settled into my earth mother phase, up until recently the happiest time of my life (now is oddly beating it, despite the whole ‘constant crippling pain and disability thing’).

Then older and trying to find my way, starting my first employment in IT, I found how much more seriously I was taken as an older woman engineer (early 30s felt so old even then around the younglings I knew at Uni). So I tried again, with the patient help of friends, but it was a strange duality, as if layering on a mask.

And now – I am finding something similar. I ‘mask up’ to gather some gravitas and professional veneer, finding myself a woman of 46.5 years, disabled and strange in a large electric wheelchair that reminds people inexorably of Stephen Hawking’s chair. Many women engineers don’t, but they are ones who are hugely successful (my dearly loved supervisor and model to emulate being one of those).

But what, oh blog, does this all have to do with the Sims? Well, I found that playing the Sims 3, I spent a lot of time in the creation of the Sims(houses and people being built are what I tend to enjoy, the actual play – not as much. Suspect it’s the engineer in me playing god ;) ) I found I build females mostly, as that is what I know. And I’d play with their makeup, learning about colour and style from modeling. A very scientific approach actually! I found myself designing Sims with similar features and coloring to me to play with hair and makeup. And before I knew it (and discovering the body Shop ethical and light makeup options) I was able to use the stuff without flinching.

Of course, I carry makeup wipes frequently, and have it off before I even hit the bus;)))

As to fashion – life’s cosmic sense of irony is having four daughters interested in fashion. So I have my own personal shopping assistants, dressers, outfit designers, and critics, choosing my clothes and jewelry combos for the next day each evening. Bliss!!!

On the weekend, naturally I revert to hippy clothes, second hand shop cast offs, and geek tshirts. And no makeup!!!

Monday rolls around exactly unlike a ball.

Youngest female offspring had performance Friday night. At first it looked like we would miss it as tickets were gone within the day,but upon enquiry for cancellations that afternoon, turns out they reserve all wheelchair tickets and don’t mark them as available. So last minute flurry to organize the bloke and I attending. The logistics of disability and pain management. Put paid to any intention of attending Amanda Palmer performance the next nigh – I can only manage so much, as will become evident – but my beloved girl was so worth it:)

So glad I didn’t miss it, but Saturday was price paying time. Many medications combined to help me endure it, but severely diminished any chance of achieving any work. Sunday was recovering from that – the side effects are the problem. I worked some in the afternoon but it was such a struggle. So much I had intended to achieve that I will now have to focus on today. I have my initial Honors outline presentation to prepare for delivering on Wednesday. Nearly done the slides, and started the speech practice. Had intended it to be truly finished, and the outline of the Advanced Networking topic finalized. And the OzCHI 2013 website I sort of volunteered for (it was presented as a lot less work, but the people involved are so nice, so this is not a complaint!) requires important updates I had intended finished Friday – I feel so bad letting others down. Worst of all, I finally had time to go quilting and see my beloved friends – it is so hard not to be overwhelmed by how much choice my disability has taken from me. Most days I am pretty good but damn, it’s been a tough weekend. Several tears shed over this one.

But a new week is starting, and plenty of others have it worse than me. So I will refocus on how lucky I am to have family, opportunities, work I cherish, and wonderful, marvelous friends (hoping they stick with me, I knew this year would be tough – but did they understand how little I would be around?).

Tomorrow I bring cheesecake. But that’s for tomorrow’s post!

It’s been a while…

Dear blog,

Welcome to Friday. It’s 6.41am and I am at a bus stop, waiting for the bus to the Uni. It’s 13.6F, but with the breeze, feels like 8.7F, according to WeatherAU app on my beloved iPhone 5. Running the new iOS 7, more on that later. I’ve taken my gloves off – and yep, the app is correct. Nice to verify the app;)

Why so early? Well, it’s a great chance to get work done when it is quiet at the Uni. Two solid hours of quiet. I practice Ukelele, work on my thesis, (teaser), mark assignments, work on lectures. Plus my body is most tolerant now, and I sleep so poorly that I am awake at 3 it seems nowadays.

I have not been blogging since semester 2. I only have so much time, after all. But this morning I realised I often spend twenty minutes playing in my iPhone at the bus stop – why not resume blogging (and my poor neglected journal – Day One is the must have multi platform app for that!)

Teaching two subjects is so much of a time vacuum. Rewriting one as I go makes it hugely so. So, being me (pause for bus) (now on bus) I enrolled in my Honors degree stream. I always felt bad about not finishing my B.IT (Bachelor of Information Technology), degree. With RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning), I qualify to do the four year B.IT Hons degree. And of course, being me, that’s not enough. I want a PhD. I’ve always dreamt of that. Why?

A PhD seems like a weird life goal. When I was originally at Uni 20 odd (some very odd) years ago, I longed to stay there. I looked with awe at the lecturers – even the Post Grads seemed involved in something so special, so – aspirational. A huge fan of Dorothy L Sayers, her ‘Gaudy Night‘ was a book that captured that sense that a University was a place if something higher – higher standards, loftier intentions. learning in its purest form. Now, amongst it all, I am perhaps more realistic, and my awe is also lessened, (we lecturers turn out to be just people after all!), but the passion for knowledge, scientific rigor, and the joy of collaboration and research is strengthened. While lecturers are more human than many students give us credit for, we genuinely believe in what we are doing – and everyone I work with genuinely CARES about what not only their research, but also the students, and their importance.

Anyway, here I am on an early bus heading in to work on my thesis presentation (lecturing to a hundred students is not nearly as scary as presenting to ten or fifteen people about what my thesis is covering). I will talk more about that another time:)

Oh, and iOS 7? As someone passionate about the user, about UI, and interfaces – a solid round of applause Apple. A big leap – with much of the improvement a subtle thing that many won’t notice, the big ticket items garner the attention,but from my point of view, there is much behaviour that is a huge step into a new and exciting direction.

I will be back, dear blog. I have found the corner of time needed, and after all – It’s About Time.

Enhanced by Zemanta

The care of keeping love

My Mother, My Daughter – The Rumpus.net.

I am weeping for this woman, this magic and wonderful woman who tried so hard, who deserved so much better.

I am weeping for the mother who tried so hard to bring what light into her daughter’s life she could, who also deserved better than the hand cruelly dealt.

I am weeping for for all of the children who become parents too soon, and for the anguish of the parents who cannot change this malign destiny who have to surrender to the care of their children in a world that provides nothing else.

I am weeping for a dearly loved friend who knew a life similar to this, hiding it in an abrupt and brusque manner tt times thathid the aching pain and tenderness inside, and for the gratitude that she stuck with me, too blind to see the hidden pain of her world, as tormented by my own demons they became magnified to blind me. To this day, I would give anything to go back in time and tell her then what I try to tell her now ow much she means to me, how much I value her, how damn WONDERFUL she is.

I am weeping for another friend who has managed to go through this with such dignity and grace , she provides inspiration to her children, and what help they must give they do as part of the natural love and care within a family – and i  am in awe of that, and try so hard to emulate it. I do not know how she manages to smile so warmly when I call on her – but oh, she inspires me with that smile.

And I am weeping for the feart hat my children know too much of this due to my pain and disability. Sometimes I see the little ones, faces pinched with fear, hovering asking with such adult concern if I need medication, trying to support my tall frame if I am in pain and moving to rest. The bigger ones who mother me, and care for me matter of factly – but who lost many years of their adolescence to my increasing pain and disability. For The Bloke who loves me and silently cares for me in practical ways, who never questions my need to rest, collapse. Who rescues me and gets my medications and tells me it is all ok, who loves me and makes sure my life works, supports me in my manic and consuming need to independently work and prove I am still her, I still exist as something more than the disability, more than Evil Back.

This weekend I have struggled with medication changes, and for a few days I faded and was diminished, and their gentle care and nurturing, their determination to be cheerful and nurturing, and their unwavering support – oh gods, let me  be worthy!

Want to be inspired?

Sue Austin: Deep sea diving … in a wheelchair | Video on TED.com.

So, here is a positive rebuttal to my own post. Oddly enough, I saw this before buying my electric wheelchair, and it was a direct contributor to me stopping being reluctant to taking that step. It did not, as the post on the matter has stated, resolve my doubts completely – but it should be the voice I listen to.

And Jodie’s voice too. Her comments to that post were both inspiring and comforting. Everything you would wish from a true friend – and a long term source of inspiration. When my disability gets me down, or my doubts swamp me, WWJS (what would Jodie say) is a conversation with myself that gets me through. (If the real thing is unavailable, or I do not wish to burden her. I don’t think I have ever told her how grateful I am for her – she is my mentor, my disability expert, an endless inspiration, and a great source of fun. She and I share a great deal of the same interests and ways of thinking. I am lucky to have her, and she is one of the few people that I feel completely myself with. Thank you Jodie. I can only give in return loyal friendship and deep admiration – and occasional jam;)

It’s been a while

I don’t know if anyone reads this blog you know. I make such a halfhearted effort to post – yet I am prolific on Google Plus, which becomes prolific on Tumblr and Twitter by default, as one feed morphs into many. If Google releases an API that allowed me, as once I was able to do, to post directly here and thence outwardly I would be so much happier. But here it is.

And perhaps I do so much writing at work, that at the end of any day I may have posted some comments on links found on G+, written in my Journal (DayOne has proven to be a godsend cross platform app), and spoken to so many people that my meandering has no need for a further outlet – indeed, I am unable to consider it. And yet I have many thoughts and ideas that are deeper than the brief comment, the 144 character remark, the noting briefly of the day’s events. This is what the blog exists for.

I guess I am always tired, too – the spirit is willing but the flesh is struggling day to day. And there has been much to process emotionally lately. So I have decided that it may be about time, (yes, the title of the blog is actually a pun that is also deliberately targeting these things), time to address such big things.

Where to start? Perhaps the King of Hearts has a point about starting at the beginning, and going on until you mean to stop, and then stopping. But beginnings are not always clear cut. For this concerns my disability, and happy anniversary indeed to you, car accident, 8 years ago. 8 years ago March 11 my spine started to morph into Evil Back, my bitterest of enemies and strongest of teachers. But I do not need to start quite that far back.

So, my birthday. 46 and aging rapidly – for being female and wishing to still feel young in body as in mind, 46 is an odd transition. I have these beautiful young women, my daughters, to reflect how hopeless that aspiration is. And I resent that not. I do resent the mirror, however. And the weight that wants to lurk in formerly untroubled places – oh belly! Oh hips! How ample thou art! And exercise, of course, basically impossible, beyond merely keeping what works working. So diet it is, but diets for someone who has struggled with eating disorders in the past is a bit fraught. And medication plays a trump wildcard on there. Oh blast and bother, can the scales not sympathetically just LIE occasionally? No??

That’s two pieces. Disability behind both of them to more or lesser extents, merely being flavoring in the background, or adding a more solid foundation for the feelings of sadness and inadequacy. Though I think those labels are a tad simplistic, and it is more complex than that. I like being more mature as a person, and love where my life is at creatively and professionally, as a mother and as a friend and partner. Disability is so intrinsic to who I am now that is it is there in everything, no matter how hard one tries to avoid it. Yes, I am more than my disability, yet I am unmistakably disabled, shaped and strengthened and limited by it. Sometimes I find myself dreaming of past events, or even remembering the past – and in my dreams I am still disabled, in my memories I find myself slightly shocked that once I walked and ran and rode and was without this pain, this constant insistent companion.

So other things, other things I have inferred. Well, meet my new companion, the as yet unnamed vehicle: 20130310-170817.jpg – an electric wheelchair. It tilts, allowing me to adjust my position during the day to an almost full recline, so I can hopefully do more. I can catch buses again, and hurtle round, and generally do things more independently than even the scooter allowed for. All with less of an impact or issue, as it fits in more places, and has a tighter turning circle. It has memory foam cushioning, which is incredibly useful when one sits so much. It has changed and liberated my life.

So why do I feel so oddly guilty for using it? Like I am not quite disabled enough? A normal wheelchair is damned hard work, and I work on the side of a hill, and pushing it aggravates Evil Back something fierce, as he is a spiteful sod. Sure, I am sitting in bed for the second day after pushing myself too hard, now even getting to the toilet is a long and painful process while Evil Back decides to be ascendant until rested into a more placated mood. But I CAN walk after all.

Ok, it’s jolly painful on even a good day, and as the day wears on, the letterbox is a world away and too far to manage even with the walking stick and all the time in that unlikely world. I mean, in that world I can lie down for a day after even the mildest walk to this letterbox – or on the very very best times, to the corner and back, but always with the stick, and a long long time to slowly accomplish it. But that’s not much to live a life with, a small world boundary, you see, and the chair is designed to prevent Evil Back from getting so cranky, malign, and vengeful. It’s allowing me to do so much with fewer consequences.

And yet I have had odd looks and snarky comments from people about it, I find myself having to defend this liberation machine, as if one must pass some sort of strict approval process to be worthy of being deemed disabled enough. Oh well. I must learn to move on from that.

And there’s the last bit to process. It’s MRI time again. Claustrophobics like me will all be shuddering at the idea. And why is it time, well, evaluation and keeping an eye on what the cranky old EB is up to is useful obviously. But also because there is fear my spine is collapsing more on its damaged side. That one day I will move and then not be able to move again, that what mobility I have will be gone. Sometimes I think that is a consummation greatly to be desired, as that could mean no pain. And yet even more issues arise with paraplegia. The body, as I have found, dislikes inactivity, and is designed to move by evolution, and sitting constantly has some very nasty issues that I do faithful physio exercises to try and relieve.

But no pain. Is that a price I am willing to pay? My family would be overjoyed to see me out of pain, and losing the medications would be an additional celebration here. But then, how badly damaged would I be, how much care needed, how restricted would I be, how much more of my precious hard fought for independence would i lose?

So life gets big. I guess it always does. But to lose more of myself, to diminish further would be to lose independence, I have realised, not movement. It is th e unknown that weighs on me, the fear of becoming a burden to those I love, of being even less than I am now. That becalmed increasingly intolerable as a thought, so I try to just revel on what freedoms, what movement, what mobility I have, with or without devices. Of course, I must find a suitable name for my chariot of freedom, to truly celebrate what it gives me first.

Enhanced by Zemanta

The rules of engagement – sexuality

The 2013 Guidelines for Coming Out.

So, Jodie Foster came out. Or didn’t. It seems there is some idea of what coming out should look like, some wording that is necessary to meet a standard. Odd, the notoriously private Ms Foster, who made a speech that included a yearning plea for privacy’s necessity, is chided for not beetling this standard.

Who sets this standard? Who decides? Why must sexuality, coming out, or any related issue conform to rules? Consenting adults make choices. Healthy relationships come in so many forms.

And by healthy, I do not mean sick, controlling, violent power plays of rape and force. I do know people who are into BDSM, and in that scene, the concept of consenting adults is vital to it being conducted. It does not always succeed, but the intention is there, and that is worthy of respecting, again, human sexuality is complex. But when force is used on people without consent, or coercion, bullying, blackmail – all the vile variations that end up with someone sick their stomach in fear and or revulsion doing what they would not choose to do – then that is a vileness that is to be purged from any healthy society. And yes, I know wherein I speak on that, too:(

I have loved people. Their gender has changed depending on the person. I do not claim to be anything but myself. I do not think of myself as anything such as gay or straight or bi. Sexuality is too fluid to me; to me, it has always been about the mind. I found (after some erroneous attempts to be like other people), that I could not enjoy partners whose mind I did not respect. That I felt almost repulsed by people who I did not feel a warm connection to. That did not mean I had to be in love, but that I felt a connection to them. This seems to me to be normal. The shape that mind, that person came in, was thus irrelevant. People have such different shapes after all – tall, short, thin, round, male, female…

I also found I could have sexual relations with friends, a warm loving connection that required nothing more. I also found that very few others could experience that without complication, so I learned not to pursue that side of myself. We are, after all, a society with some strange attitudes to sexuality. Restrictions and rules that often have zero validity, or some that do but for the wrong reasons, unnecessary with better understanding and healthier outlooks. But that is what it is, and one must function responsibly to survive comfortably. I stand by my code of consenting adults, and do no harm. I have not always succeeded with the latter, but cannot imagine doing other than the former. However, I probably (due to circumstances of upbringing) regarded myself as adult long before I technically was. Je ne regrete rien – probably spelt wrong, French lessons being, like so much else, a very, very long time ago:)

While i make the point that attraction resides in the person, I can add that bodies can be broken or different, and still be sexual and attractive. Disabled people have needs, and we, as a society, are seemingly terrified of that. I have had disabled partners because of their gorgeous minds – their bodies became attractive in my eyes accordingly. I am disabled, and still have a sexuality to my nature. We who are disabled are not dead, after all.

I have a daughter who came out in the expected fashion. She did not angst about it, as she was aware neither her father or I would be concerned. I did, however, point out that her siblings had not felt the need to inform me, and I would welcome any partner she chose to introduce me to if they were good to and for her (sorry, abuse may kids, your form fails to matter, you are persona non grata). She laughed and said we gave her nothing for therapy;) but she knows me enough to understand, I was not rejected her announcement, just sad that the difference was needed to be commented on. I wouldn’t blink if one of my offspring bought home a same sex partner without the announcement, as long as they were making my child happy.

And that, after all, is the point. Life is a sweet, rapid blip. One fails to know how rapid as a teenager, when time can drag so heavily. But oh, how it speeds as one gets older, and every cliche about feeling young despite one’s body comes true. And here we are again, despite one’s body, feeling things. There it is. That’s what love is. We fall in love with unsuitable people, on spite of ourselves. We are attracted to the wrong people, in spite of ourselves. The heart and body (really the mind and body) will feel what they feel, for complex hormonal, sociological, genetic, historical, and chemical reasons. But I wish we could acknowledge that, teach healthy self respect for ourselves and each other early on, so that one’s sexuality is merely an aspect of oneself like hair colour (and for me, that changes in shades of red for decades now;) ). That one does not need to fear bullying for coming out, as why would one need to come out when normality is healthy respect for all the glorious shades of human sexuality, of consenting adults in healthy relationships?

By the way, let me end on this note. Oh, Ms Foster. I have so had the biggest crush on you since Contact. You fought for that project, you understood it, you knew Sagan’s work. What is not to crush on? An amazing woman with a sharp mind. Fiercely loyal, intellectual. Sigh. Yep. Crush inevitable.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Productivity in the time of toothache

Toothache (medication plus ten pregnancies = tooth issues) meant an ‘emergency traumatic surgery’ last Friday. I am still healing, and almost on real people food, so that is good. Relieved what was a decidedly vile ordeal was resolved, but missed out on family trip away. Persuaded all to go, and they had a rousing good time. I stayed home and waited for the somewhat surprisingly epic bleeding to settle and sewed in bed with a very sad Jack Russell. Larry the wonder dog prefers his family with him – where they belong. I also decided to make a small batch of a few jars of jam from left over Xmas fruits – apricots and nectarines. Family got home and were delighted with jam.

Then the apricot tree in our backyard decided all the apricots must ripen in this warm summer weather yesterday, with varying degrees of ready from now down to mid almost,(you can pick them mid ripeness and they will continue to ripen). The birds were trying to swoop on them. then dad called to say he had two bags of apricots from HIS tree. So cooking has commenced.

We have also been dealing with a large amount of honey. The honey is mangrove and mallee flavoured, as in those were the areas the bees hung put in – makes for unique honey. We got a huge bucket of it, and have decanted it into jars for gifts.

So far, we have made 18 jars of apricot jam (including some huge ex coffee jars), and fifteen of honey (we gave a lot of honey away for Xmas). Still have half an esky full of apricots, so next batch of jam is on, plus a batch of apricots in dehydrator. And I am trying to manage a cup of tea in my quest to resume grown up nomming.