Friday, June 29, 2012

Rape bait

Rape bait.
Tonight in the supermarket I was catching up with a friend I hadn't seen for a long time, a woman who has not been sheltered from much that is nasty in the world, a woman who I respect.
I was horrified when she used the term rape bait.

Challenging people on their assumptions that womn are responsible for not getting raped (passive responsibility, as if such a thing has any logic) rather than men responsible for not raping (active responsibility) is something I am trying to find ways to do.  So far, I'm not very good at it.  Tonight I tried to say that it isn't a young woman's fault if she is raped.  I wasn't brave enough to challenge this assumption strongly, and I find it so deeply ingrained in our culture that what should be so simple, is actually radical and difficult to express and discuss. 

Rape bait.
The notion that women need to protect themselves from being raped by their choice of where they go, who they go with, how they dress, and when they are out in public is one which has been pulled apart by feminists effectively.  I wish I could say that I don't know why the responsibility is laid upon potential victims rather than potential rapists, but in a society where there is still an underlying current of hatred towards women for their very sexuality, I cannot pretend to be so naive.

Recently I read Joanne Harris's latest novel, Peaches for Monsieur le Cure, in which Muslim women in full burka were sexually harassed by white French boys, who speculated about what the woman had underneath her burka as if she was meat at a market.  Part of the narrative concerns a young working class woman who was raped by the son of the house and then thrown out by that family and rejected by her own.  Her fear around such an outcome for other young women whom she loves leads her to encourage all of the young Muslim women in the French village she moves to, to cover themselves  as much as possible and from an early age.  None of this protected her, but it appears to be the only thing she can think of to do for her Muslim 'sisters'.

In Pakeha New Zealand society, we often grieve for the young girl who consumes alcohol at parties which are attended by older boys and girls.  We sense her vulnerability and judge her parents harshly for 'allowing' her to attend such events.  It is in this context that I listened to the term 'rape bait' this evening.  Not my daughter, we think quietly or out loud.  Truthfully, I don't want my daughter making such a choice as a young teenager.  Whether we are prepared to say it out loud or not, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that the girls who are getting drunk at parties in their early teens are most often from homes where the will or the ability to put tight boundaries around the children is absent.  It makes it easier for many of us to judge rather than to examine our own attitudes, and I include myself in this.

How often do you hear parents or other 'concerned citizens' anxious to teach or enforce that older teenage boys do not go to parties and drink and coerce a young girl into sex?  I almost never hear it.  What I hear is a focus on the young girls, a framing of responsibility around the girl and eventually her caregivers.

When we frame the risk of rape around a girl or woman's clothing and inebriation, we ignore what really needs to happen. We must teach and model to our children how to respect all people, no matter the state of their dress or intoxication.  The socio-economically poor girl with the alcopop in her hand is a convenient locus for our fears, our shaming words and our judgements, but until we look around her and teach respect, actively and loudly and confidently, the message that rape of some girls and women is more or less okay will not change.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Saturday night reading and being 'home'.

This is what I read on Saturday night: Why Women Still Can't Have It All by Anne-Marie Slaughter, published in the Atlantic, much more thoughtful and insightful than the rather inflammatory title suggests, and sufficiently thought provoking that I was awake at 3am pondering what an earth I wanted to extrapolate from it as a woman in small town coastal New Zealand who isn't moving and shaking the White House.

Slaughter makes a number of very interesting points and I think the article is an important read.  She acknowledges her privilege in terms of being very well paid and thus able to pay others to do housework and childcare and laundry etc. 

But what left the strongest impression on me was not the gender politics of it all, or the maternal labour politics, but the sheer craziness of how much time she spent at work, whether she had children or not.  She lived for two years in Washington while her husband and two sons lived in New Jersey.  She commuted back to their family home every weekend.  But during the week were days which routinely began so early and nights which equally routinely finished so late, that I can't imagine she would have seen much more of them if they lived in the same town.

I had, before I read this article, just started to wind down from a very busy fortnight, one where the illness of my husband meant I did almost all the jobs at home as well as juggling a busy time at work.  The craziness of Slaughter's schedule certainly put my life into perspective, but I am more used to putting my harried grumpiness into perspective by reminding myself that the world over, millions of poor women work longer hours than me, see less of their children than me, in order just to put food on the table.  There are no relaxed evenings in front of the internet or reading a book for them, nor a husband doing the dishes and reading to the children.

As a school girl, and again as a university student, I was bright, surrounded by other classically intelligent friends and encouraged to aim high in terms of a career.  At 16, I scoffed at my mother's careful resewing of worn out sheets to make them last longer.  I assumed I would be travelling the world and my sheets would be Sheridan (I must have known about Sheridan from magazine advertisements - they always looked flash).  What I wasn't was competitive and driven to succeed above others.  As I approached school leaving age, I got more motivated in my school work and later I loved university.  But later again, balancing tutoring at unviersity with writing my masters, I decided that even then I hated the tension between teaching and writing (teaching and researching was okay, but the thesis had to actually be written at some point).  Like so many first-in-the-family university grauduates, I decided to go school teaching, and it has been a great choice.  It offers variety, lots of time with young people (teenagers are way more fun and interesting than many people are prepared to admit), intellectual stimulation, opportunities to work in big towns and small and across many parts of the world.  It also, now that I am a working parent, offers flexible work hours in the school holidays.  As a part time teacher, if I am disciplined in my use of the first and last weeks of each term, I can avoid working for almost all of the holidays.

When I go to the big smoke, or catch up with old school friends, people are guarded in their response (mostly).  Because living on the West Coast teaching high school is not considered, in traditional capitalist status terms, as massively successful.  There were points in the last 15 years where we made specific decisions which led to us leaving Auckland for London, and then London for Greymouth.  They weren't about classical career 'success', but when I tried to work out what was so unappealing about the life of a top public service worker at The White House, I decided it is because here in Wetville I am grounded in my home. 

When the midwife left and FH went back to work very early in January, 2003, I knew no one in London who was home during the day.  I had no desire to return to New Zealand just because we had a baby, and Fionn and I set about exploring London during the week as well as the weekend and finding some friends to build our new, non-paid-work life.  There were many difficulties to those first few months, but exploring London and getting to know people weren't the difficulties, they were the best bits.  I strapped him to my front in a Wilkinet baby carrier, put my coat on around him and I (people sometimes assumed I was still pregnant under the coat), packed my bag with nappies and bottles (sadly, that part of the earth mother project hadn't worked out), slung that over my shoulder and off we went to buy a day travelcard. 

London was our anchor.  Our flat was tiny and had no grass that we could actually use.  When Fionn was eight months old I went back to work three days a week.  My work was fantastic in many ways.  They changed the entire senior timetable to accommodate me and I found excellent childcare close to work so that we could travel together instead of paying for childcare while I was on the train.  Within three months however, I knew I wasn't doing this forever.  Fionn was fine but I was not.  I was like a schizophrenic.  My life Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday ran from before 6am when I got up, to after 10pm when I finally collapsed into bed.  In that time, we left home at 7am and often didn't get back until 6pm.  After I'd cooked and eaten dinner, I would prepare food and nappies (washable) for the next day.  I was determined to have home made food and washable nappies just as if I was a stay at home mother.  It seems rather insane now, but it was very important to me then.  The other days I played stay at home mummy, except I was never home past the first three loads of washing, because the flat was such a crowded mess that I hated being there.  Not liking being at home while also having a child was starting to make me feel a bit rudderless.

I stuck it out for 12 months because I had three exam classes and I wasn't prepared to leave them teacher-less.  This wasn't recesssion London in 2003 and replacement teachers were hard to find.  I remember quitting.  I remember the days when FH went back to work after the summer break and I started to cook three meals a day, seven days a week, which was something I hadn't done for a very long time.  We had enough to live on comfortably, but this wasn't yummy mummy country.  It didn't take many days of three walks in a day to entertain my 19 month old action man and discovering that the parks of neighbouring Dagenham were not green and verdant like those of inner city London, but brown, bare and often short of basic amenities due to arson.  Soon, I had a new project: a new home.

Gants Hill was heaven.  A proper terraced house, a garden (actually a dump of sixty years of dumped rubbish but I had a project and it soon was a garden), reasonable landlords, great neighbours and like-minded friends nearby.  I was heavily into recycling, green and organic living and was proud not to have a car or a tumble drier.

One day in 2005 FH suggested it was time we went back to New Zealand.  He pointed out that now we were on one income, we were no longer travelling and he had probably got as much out of his current job as he could in terms of experience and professional development.  Although I was starting to hanker for a second child and my horror of the English school system meant I was serious about home educating Fionn if we stayed, meaning we would never be able to afford to buy a home in London, I still wasn't ready to go home.

Then I went to the funeral of a friend's husband.  Before the service even started, I was in tears.  My elderly grandparents, my parents, all the people I never saw and only sometimes thought about, suddenly it was awful that I was never around them any more.  It was worse that they might die without me seeing them again.

The funeral was on Monday.  We bought tickets to go back home, permanently, on the Wednesday of the same week.

What has this long long story got to do with Slaughter and her article?  I've wondered myself as I drift off into my own backstory, one I've told so often.  Here, by the sea, but further north in the seaside town of Westport, is where FH and I first talked about getting married.  It is also where we talked about coming to the Coast one day to live, to work in schools which are difficult to staff and in an area which doesn't appeal to everyone.  We liked Auckland, but it didn't seem to offer a sense of home for us in the long run.

Here, in the wet bush, with frequently thunderous skies, a house we can call our own and a back section filled with tree huts, chooks, vege plots and a trampoline, is a place where our life is centred around a sense of home.  Both FH and I have declined or stepped back from work promotion opportunities more than once in order to be together with our children.  It hasn't stopped work from being interesting and challenging; climbing the paperwork chain isn't necessarily where the fun is.  But our choices have led us to a life centred around a people and a place and that has turned out to be more fulfilling for me, at a deep level, than climbing the pyramid of prestigious career work.

I'm grateful for everything that Slaughter and her female colleagues have done, and for her sharing her thoughts via the Atlantic article.  I think her honesty is far more important than bland pronouncements to younger women such as Cherie Blair has recently made.  After all, the rising brains of the next generation are absolutely sharp enough to smell a rat when it is dressed up in the name of 'have-it-all-but-only-my-way' feminism.  I look forward to what those women have to say, as I am confident they will find ways of expressing their talents across platforms which are not only baby change tables.

I also like that the internet gives voice to voices from around the world which were previously invisible.  Maybe only one other person reads my blog, maybe 25 (my stats mostly only soar when I write about abortion, but I don't feel like writing about abortion very often), but the sense that my nightly achievement is limited to folding yet more washing and maybe reading a book is ameliorated considerably by being part of an online community of thoughtful people.  As Sharon Astyk, in many ways a person with an opposite life to Ann Marie Slaughter, has demonstrated, capitalism is not the only route to using your brain and living a thoughtful life.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Blair, Tolley & books

People who have annoyed me most recently:
Cherie Blair, who assumes that there is only one way to parent. I guess she has a lot of experience with getting up most of the night to a vomiting child, doing all the resultant laundry herself, ringing in sick to work, and cooking meals for everyone else throughout the cleanup and recovery period. Then going to work as soon as possible and trying to catch up and then rushing home as soon as possible to support still fragile child. Good on Cherie Blair for pursuing her successful career and parenting. Stink on her for judging other people's choices about which she has no clue.  Source: here.

Anne Tolley. 
We don't laugh and gloat in court if someone is sentenced to jail for a crime, but somehow it is okay for an MP to stand gloating and laughing on someone's crushed car.
 Seven nights without alcohol.  The chocolate stash in the fridge is disappearing instead.  I've settled on turmeric, mostly in the capsules I bought, plus low alcohol intake, as my main strategies for the iron overload project.
 What I have been reading: One Good Year by Laura Brodie. An interesting and frank story of one woman who took her daughter out of school for a year.  Fascinating reading even if you have no desire to home educate.  I liked how she evaluates so honestly some of the personal challenges of intensifying the mother-daughter relationship through doing teaching/facilitating/leading herself.  Here is a shorter article she wrote which addresses much of what she wrote in her book.  Now I am reading The Sum of our Days by Isabel Allende.  It's interesting.  I've just watched a TED talk, Tales of Passion, which she did in 2007 which is great.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


At 6am this morning I left the warmth of my bed and stared at the kitchen in mild despair.  Today is Matariki and I have two plates of healthy food to provide for the shared lunch being held at my children's school.  Favourite Handyman is much improved but hadn't felt strong enough to do the dishes the night before.  I'd done one dishwasher load then and began to organise another this morning.  I put potatoes on to cook after realising we had no canned borlotti or similar beans for the mini quiches.

I may be better in the morning than late at night, but I'm still not great at restaurant-speed cooking when I'm tired.  By 9.05am, I'd made two dozen mini quiches, hummous and assembled carrots, celery, olives and crackers into named containers.  I'd done a big pile of dishes.  I'd also driven FH to work in my dressing gown, driven the kids to school in my dressing gown (we live very close but I refuse to walk them across State Highway 6 in my dressing gown), organised their play lunches and the feeding of the chooks.  My special treat at this point was a shower, one uninterrupted by arguing children.  At 9.25 I dropped the food off at the primary school and at 9.40am I was at work, slightly breathless but triumphant over the morning mothering challenge.  Frankly, it was a fairly grumpy kind of triumph, because washing dishes and cooking before dawn isn't my idea of fun.

Come 12.20, I finished the non-negotiable part of my job (some of my time is flexible and some of it is not) and hurried to deposit my computer and paraphenalia on my desk, then run to the car and drive to our local primary school.  I didn't quite run up all the steep school driveway but I hurried nevertheless and ran bits of it.  I didn't want to miss the kapahaka performance.

Was it all worth it?  The early start, the frustration at a seemingly endless job of making food and the extra burden of clean the utensils this past ten days?  The kapahaka performance was wonderful.  By the last waiata, I was feeling quite emotional, as I always do, watching my little white boy (who is getting to be medium-sized) putting his heart and soul into his haka performance in particular, overwhelmed by the effect of all these children performing together in a form unique to New Zealand.  Brighid is in the kapahaka group, but the tiniest children didn't perform today.

I remembered once more going to kapahaka class in London.  Fionn was two and I wanted us to expose him to Te Reo and waiata.  The people of Ngati Runana were so kind and so welcoming.  Fionn wasn't ready to participate and FH and I don't sing, so we didn't continue, but I will always remember the warmth of that Saturday session.  Now we are home, and our children get to learn and share in Maori culture and so do we. 

The shared lunch was lovely.  Was it worth it?  Yes it was.  Am I glad that FH has returned to dishes duty tonight?  I don't quite have a word to express how glad. 

Happy Matariki.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mitochondria and the iron project

I've just rewatched Terry Wahl's TED presentation on mitochondria.  Terry Wahl is a doctor who developed Multiple Sclerosis and deteriorated to the point of being unable to walk.  She embarked on her own research into MS, delving deeper and deeper into what is known about mitochondria, and developed an eating programme which restored her to active health.  Now she campaigns the cause of vegetables, lots and lots and lots of vegetables.  I've read about her before and found her story interesting and inspiring.  I often think the focus in the media healthwise is far too much on what we shouldn't eat, to the neglect of the things which are very good to eat.  Instead of bemoaning KFC and proposing fat taxes, I wish that souvlaki bars were more widespread.  The proportion of veges to carbohydrate (plus the sheer yumminess factor) of a souvlaki is way way better than a KFC dinner box or a parcel of takeaways fish and chips.  In my experience, bought food offers a valuable sanity window in times of stress, and the problem isn't fat, it is lack of vegetables.

I looked up mitochondria and iron overload on my friend Google tonight, but sentences like this:

In this issue of Blood, Nie and colleagues examine the role of MtFt in cellular iron uptake and distribution using a cell line stably transfected to express the murine MtFt gene under control of a tetracycline-responsive promoter. (from here)
are still beyond my skill set to comprehend.

The latest iron reducing foods update:
When I was on my rheumatoid arthritis reducing eating mission (I despise the word 'diet'), I stopped taking the chlorella tablets as they didn't seem to make me feel so great.  Last night I had another look at chlorella, this time in relation to iron.  On this website, I learnt that indeed chlorella contains iron and is not a good choice for people with iron overload.  The back of the chlorella packet also lists iron as a significant ingredient in chlorella.  So no more chlorella tablets.

I made oven-baked wedges for tea, with olive oil, turmeric and lemon and pepper (the lemon and pepper mix you buy in a Greggs packet from the spice shelf ).  I cooked onion-garlic-ginger-bacon-peppers-carrot-spinach-silverbeet in a bit of olive oil on the stovetop to go with it, topped with slices of avocado and soem sour cream.  I had my turmeric capsules at the end of the meal, i.e. with fat and black pepper.

I haven't done any sewing, or any gardening, or knitting.  I did read Joanne Harris' Peaches for Monsieur le Cure in the weekend.  I loved her older books, the ones including and written around the time of Chocolat, so this was just the perfect kind of escapism from a weekend of chilly weather and family ailments. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The iron chelating project update

In my last post, I outlined the options and my preferences in my quest to lower my iron stores while I wait for an appointment with a doctor with the knowledge to supervise a phlebotomy regime.  Two days later and I've got more things to think about.

1. Green tea. 
The advantages of drinking lots of green tea for a medicinal purpose are that it is cheap, easy to make, and can even be bought when out for lunch or dinner.  The disadvantage for me, I was noticing rather clearly today, is that drinking 3-4 cups of green tea per day is a lot more caffeine than I normally drink, and I've been getting tetchy headaches and restless legs/muscle spasms.  When I found myself craving chocolate this afternoon, it all began to add up to the possibility that the green tea was chelating out magnesium as well as iron.  I've learnt from past experience to look after my magnesium levels.  Next time I got near the computer, I did some research and sure enough, the tannins in the tea chelate out all minerals.  Oops.  I ate some chocolate and made a non-tea drink with magnesium citrate powder added to it and started to feel better quite quickly.  Indeed, chocolate cures many things. 

2. Turmeric.
Yesterday I made roast chicken.  I smeared turmeric powder and black pepper all over the skin before cooking it.  This also meant that the roast potatoes were cooked in some turmeric and I used some of the roasting liquid to cook the bok choy and peas in as well.  It tasted nice and didn't look too radically different from the roast chicken which I normally smear with paprika or cajun spice mix.  I took a turmeric capsule as well at dinner time, 'cashing in' on the fat and black pepper in the meal.  Cucurmin is the active ingredient in turmeric which has the iron chelating and other health benefits properties, and cucurmin is fat soluble and also known to be more effective when combined with black pepper.

Tonight I peeled and cut up a butternut squash and spread rosemary, chopped garlic, anchovies and slives of halloumi on top, drizzled olive oil all over it and baked it in the oven.  I spared the rest of my family a second round of turmeric, but mixed some turmeric powder and black pepper into some full fat yoghurt to have as a dressing with my dinner.  I took two turmeric capsules with dinner.

Given the hitches with green tea, I spent some time this evening researching possible problems with cucurmin.  So far, it still has the green light.  It isn't quite as convenient as drinking green tea, but it may be more worth the effort.  I wonder how long the cucurmin is medically active after cooking.  If it does last, then I could cook up a garlic and onions and turmeric and black pepper mixture to keep in the fridge and add to most meals.

3. Apple cider vingear (acv)
Laksmi got me into drinking acv in water a couple of years ago.  I liked the taste (I drank it fairly weak, to be fair), and it made me feel really good.  I've been looking around on the net for information on iron and acv and found mostly nothing at all.  Tonight, working on a hunch more than anything, I re-read Heather Twist's Off the Food Grid blog references to acv and found this interesting reflection, in which she speculates that the acv is stripping the precipitates of iron out of places where it should not optimally be.  I'd stopped drinking acv recently until I could find out more about its status in relation to iron, but now I'm encouraged to put it back in my water throughout the day again.  I had been thinking the acv was significantly if not completely reducing my arthritis because it was stripping calcium deposits and maybe it is, but now I suspect it was possibly iron deposits sitting in my joints all along, and probably now.

4. Booze. 
Three nights without wine is hardly grounds for a medal, but as with the last time I made a concerted effort not to drink, I do wake up feeling much better after a teetotal night. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

The iron reduction project

I collected my blood results and sure enough, two of the readings considered significant for iron overload are outside the 'normal' range (transferrin and iron saturation).  Today I rang the medical centre to request an appointment with a doctor with some experience with haemochromatosis.  If I'm going to have regular phlebotomy, I would like to be under the care of someone able to interpret the blood results and with a clear picture of what needs to happen and how frequently.  Even in the days of bloodletting with leeches, I'm guessing people preferred to have some guiding expertise and supervision for the process. 

It wasn't possible for the nurse to be sure of who had the requisite knowledge and experience, but I now have an appointment in five weeks' time with the doctor with the best reputation at the practice.  The blood bank doesn't visit Wetville in winter as the risks of having a full van of blood and not being able to get it back over the hill to the blood bank are too high.

In the meantime, I have launched my own project to see what I can do all by myself.  Google has been my constant companion in this quest, turning up quite a lot of repetition, some implausible stuff from wacky sites and some very interesting articles.  This is a potted and incomprehensive summary of the things I found.

Green tea.  Quite a few articles recommending green tea for iron chelating benefits.  As a useful bonus, green tea is also beneficial against rheumatoid arthritis.  Some scientific research to support it.  As I get more familiar with the terms, my confidence at deciphering the gist of scholarly scientific articles is growing.  This afternoon I had a look at green tea capsules at the health shop.  Ouch.  $60 for a bottle of 30 capsules (though it is available online for $44, I later discovered).  On the back, it claims that two tablets contain the equivalent catechins to three cups of green tea.  The bottle recommended two capsules per time.  That is very expensive compared to just drinking the tea.  The capsules stayed on the shop shelf and I've been drinking green tea (which we already owned) this evening.

I first picked up a link between turmeric and iron chelation on Off the Food Grid.  I've had turmeric enthusiasms before, when I was focused on reducing inflammation and getting the rid of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.   I never ended up eating as much as I'd planned as the children quickly (and vocally) tired of all meals being yellow.  This scholarly article has given me the concrete information I wanted.  This afternoon, swayed by that very human desire to just get a product to help, I bought some turmeric capsules.  They weren't as expensive as the green tea capsules, but I am nevertheless thinking of moving back to food-based turmeric consumption. It is best consumed with fat, and somewhere in my google travels tonight I saw a recommendation of making a yoghurt dressing with turmeric.  That would allow me to add it to meals without subjecting everyone to yellow everything.

No booze
Not my favourite discovery, but it is in research findings all over the place.  I can't and won't promise never to drink, but I am at least aiming to reduce it.  I guess I'll be busy drinking green tea instead.

No discussion of this so far specifically for iron chelation, but plenty of information on its role in sweeping toxins from the body.  I already have some, leftover from the last phase of detoxing in pursuit of reduced inflammation in my joints.  So I've started taking that again.

The benefits of this are focused on heavier metals, and again I tried making coriander pesto in my last intensive anti-inflammation effort.  I really like the taste of coriander, but haven't had a lot of success growing a regular supply, and buying the small packets of herbs in the supermarket is expensive.  I expect I'll try this a bit but cost will stop me from making multiple acres of yummy pesto.

IP 6
Again, I first learnt about this substance from Off the Food Grid. It is a supplement of phytic acid.  It blocks the absorption of minerals like magnesium as well as iron, so I'm not keen at this stage.  I would want to understand more widely how it works before buying and swallowing it.

Milk Thistle
Some research indicates this is good for liver support, but I'm holding back on this following a scientific article on milk thistle exacerbating liver problems for a person with haemochromatosis.  I'm also holding back on a gut instinct.  Gut instincts may not be very scientific, but they have a useful place in my world, given how often later events prove me right in exercising caution based on gut instinct.

Red meat
The medical model perspective on diet and haemochromatosis is that it makes no difference.  I am totally unconvinced of this.  I've been speculating about the evidence for poorer health outcomes overall for red meats eaters compared to non-red meat eaters and wondering if the contribution to iron overload through red meat consumption is a key factor in the cancer rates for red meat eaters.  Like alcohol, it is unlikely I will give up red meat completely, but as Favourite Handyman isn't wild about red meat anyway, and the children don't pay the food bills, red meat consumption is declining already and will likely decline further.

Favourite Handyman is once more proving his handiness, this time in interpreting the periodic table for me, as I think about metals in the body and what 'heavy metals' mean compared to other metals. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bringing back some gothic romance to medicine

One of my favourite pastimes is learning about achieving good health through natural remedies.  I like working out what is wrong and then finding out what can be done food-or-herb wise to increase the postive health outcome likelihood.  Last Friday I got a blood test.  I went to see the locum doctor and explained about haemochromatosis and requested that, given it was 15 years since my last bloods specifically testing ferritin et al levels, I get tested.  Unfortunately, the locum seemed to know nothing about haemochromatosis, and didn't even seem to have much of a database to look up for more information.  If I'd known that I was going to be dictating which tests to ask for, I'd have looked them up and written them down before I went to the doctor.  So I later worked out that some tests are missing on the lab form, but hopefully what is ordered will tell us something useful (Who am I kidding?  Tell me something useful).  The doctor ordered some other tests when I commented on alcohol sensitivity (a most annoying thing I might add) and arthritis.

Up at the hospital laboratory, I asked the person collecting my blood what an ANA test was.  He explained that it was a measure of autoimmune disease.

Was I scared?  Did I start worrying about a new potential problem?  No way.  I walked back to work with an enthusiasm for researching this new word in the evening.

Tomorrow I get to collect the blood results.  I've not had blood results to play with since I got so enthusiastic about all this health home learning, but I'm expecting it to be fun working out what I can interpret from them.  Meanwhile, I've taken to drinking green tea for its iron chelating properties.  Of course, if my iron saturation levels are sufficiently high, then I'll have to have phlebotomy to lower it the medically advised way.  Phlebotomy is a fancy word for the time honoured medieval practice of bloodletting, almost completely out of vogue if it weren't for useful old haemochromatosis bringing back a bit of gothic romance to medicine.  I will concede that modern practices of bloodletting are a bit tame, involving a clean needle every time and not a leech in sight.

For tonight though, Favourite Handyman is the subject of my experimentation.  I've made garlic infused olive oil and massaged it into Brighid's feet when she has been laid down with a virus before and I think it helped. This time FH has a throat infection which is trying to go down into his chest, so I'm going to see what the antiviral and antibacterial properties of garlic delivered via foot massage can do for him.  More specifically, for his throat I will carry on making lemon, garlic and ginger drinks.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Jerusalem artichokes

The garden the garden.  Everything in life seems so much more wonderful when I have my fingers in the earth.  I weeded around my daffodils, planted garlic and planted some pansies.  I harvested some jerusalem artichokes.  I had thought the plant would yield a dinner's worth but actually there is a bonza harvest underneath that decaying stalk.  This week is likely to feature more jerusalem artichokes.  Tonight's dinner, of garlic, onions, bacon, kale and j.artichokes, with lashings of butter and some parsley to boot, was most delicious.  Recipe ideas very welcome.

I have almost finished the red corduroy skirt.  All it needs is a hem.  But as I sit here wearing it, I have two thoughts:
1. I may splash out on a leg wax.  I don't see why anyone should have to remove any bodily hair just because of social conventions/expectations, but at the same time I find I want to hide my legs when they are hairy.  Which is most of the time.  In 13 years, I have removed leg hair twice, but both of these times were in the last 12 months.  Perhaps it's part of turning 40 and re-evaluating my landscape.

2. I need to turn the fabric up in order to hem it.  This mean that even when I sit like a lady, my knees and a  bit of thigh are visible, not elements of flesh I've bared in a gazillion years.  I may make a false hem of some kind, or even add something else on the bottom.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Queen's frocks

Lefties, the pure kind, don't seem to like royalty.  It doesn't take much analysis to deduce why campaigners for a level playing field kind of society abhor institutions of inherited wealth and privilege.

Once again, it seems that I am impure.  Firstly, I didn't grow up in a left-wing environment.  My freezing worker dad thought that there was nothing wrong with capitalism, except that he was at the wrong end of it.  My mum never ever came from Addington when she introduced herself to people, always Canterbury.  That should tell you enough.  It's not their fault that I did or didn't like royalty though.  Dad's heroes were All Blacks and Mum had her own weird mix of wealth and privilege and supposed meritocracy in the form of her allegiance to the Pope. 

Books on the royal families were in good supply at the Richmond Public Library when I was a kid.  I had a particular interest in Queen Victoria's progeny.  I recall writing up family trees of the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha-Windsors for fun, to show myself what I had pieced together.  Funnily enough, I didn't bring them along for news at Intermediate - it paled in comparison to who was going out with who and how some girls (whose mothers didn't share an allegiance to the Pope and old fashioned values with my mum) had dyed their hair and shaved their legs.

Over time, I found some better hobbies.  Feminism, gardening and drinking have endured whereas genealogy and exercise waned.  Housework never made it on the radar.  In recent years, I've added sewing to my arsenal of housework-avoiding activities.  Which leads me to why I think I'm so interested in gawking at pictures of an 86 year old woman endlessly opening parliaments or riding on boats or collecting posies of flowers.  Sometimes I look at her younger female relatives as well, though I'm not much interested in the men.

Elizabeth Windsor's clothing is made to measure, fitted precisely and the product of years of accumulated wisdom on what suits her and what is uncomfortable.  Although she seems to have a perfectly lovely figure for a post-menopausal woman, and hardly a stoop for 86, she remains one of the very few women continuously in the public gaze who isn't young and svelte.  I've read, and eventually written, quite a bit about the impossibility of finding clothes which fit me, or many other people, properly, off the shelf at the local Warehouse/Postie Plus/insert almost-if-not-every clothes shop in New Zealand.  Elizabeth, and Camilla, demonstrate to the home sewist what can be achieved with a personalised fit.  I'm about a zillion miles from achieving it, particularly given I mostly nod tiredly to my sewing machine of an evening and decline to even turn it on, but looking at other people looking rather good in their new outfits, people who aren't frighteningly thin, remains at least mildly interesting.

I thought it might be relevant to look at Hillary Clinton's apparently unmade up pictures from a recent news conference in Bangladesh, after a tip off from the Hand Mirror.  But she still looks pretty elegant and coiffed to me.  Bright red lipstick, a tailored and well-fitting suit, expensively dyed hair, immaculately shaped eyebrows - the woman is wearing thousands of dollars of grooming, surely?  Apparently this is what Hillary Clinton had to say on the matter:
"I feel so relieved to be at the stage I'm at in my life right now. Because you know if I want to wear my glasses I'm wearing my glasses. If I want to wear my hair back I'm pulling my hair back. You know at some point it's just not something that deserves a lot of time and attention. And if others want to worry about it, I let them do the worrying for a change."
Quite, Mrs Clinton.   Please carry on using your very good brain to do your highly influential job.  I will carry on considering it dressing up when I put on leather boots instead of gumboots and I will also carry on observing the clothing of older women with a budget to dress gorgeously with interest.  For me, it doesn't take away from respecting the brains and achievements and actual words of Hillary Clinton or Julia Gillard (I wouldn't put Queen Elizabeth's words and achievements in quite the same category) to acknowledge my own interest in clothing and presentation.