Travelhopes!

April 1, 2009 at 12:00 am (Tabitha) ()

I got a lot of travel done when I was growing up. Every 3 years  my dad would whisk us off to wherever he was spending his 7 month Sabbatical/Study Leave. In this time he would usually take us to live in parts of the UK or North America with good University Libraries and Theological Colleges so that he could work on his books while escaping his normal teaching/marking/preaching duties. I was also lucky enough to visit loads of places in Europe and Asia on the way to and from the UK/US. I’ve lived in Cambridge, Sheffield (UK) and Vancouver(Canada) and visited Beijing, Bangkok, Rome, Brussels, Munich/Bavaria (castle!), London, Hawaii,  Belfast, San Fransisco, Los Angeles, Innsbruck … I think that’s all of them… Another post from me will be about the best travel/holiday experiences I’ve had and why. Cos there’s a bunch to say about that!

So, to a large extent I’ve been spared the travel bug that seems to have hit the majority of my fellow twenty-somethings throughout their uni years. I love seeing the world, but I was OK to wait for a few years while I studied before going for it again. I can understand the urgency for everyone else, but I think it’s been a good thing that I’ve not been absolutely dying to travel over the past six years, because I’ve had absolutely no opportunity to!

As for the future, travel is finally starting to look like a real possibility.

Melbourne has been calling me for as long as I can remember. That was really stirred up by Heather’s post about all the good food, shops and cultural attractions they’ve got down there! Being a native to Newtown, and now having lived in Surry Hills for so long, I’m so in love with cafe culture, restaurants, bars, beaches, museums, art galleries, concerts, plays, bakeries, markets, and clothes/shoe shops. I’m such a city girl! And I hear Melbourne is the best city in Australia for all those kinds of things. So, Andrew and I are planning a Melbourne Honeymoon!

Andrew and I have also had serious discussions about moving to England for part of Andrew’s PhD/ Post Doc study. He and I would really love to live there for a while. It’d be really good for his career as an Academic, and it’s easy for Aussie Physios to get work over there. I love the idea of really shaking things up and exploring a new city/country together. Staying anywhere for too long freaks me out a little, and we’ve been here for 5 years! Also, I see the next couple of years as a time for us to be young adults, with spending money, and without kids. I want to live it up a little!

We’d also really love to visit Japan, and have talked to Ingrid and Alan about maybe going there with them or visiting them there  someday. I find Japan’s culture fascinating. In a way that makes me want to check it out but never, EVER live there. It has some really disturbing stuff (work/gender roles), some intricate customs (sake pouring, tea ceremonies, art, food prep), and some awesomely entertaining youth culture things (I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about here lol). I think it would be such an eye-opener, and incredible fun.

I, myself, am very interested in visiting some areas around Launceston, Tasmania because my Aboriginal Ancestor came from there. His family line is very well documented, his daughter having married into a very wealthy and influential white family whose home is now a museum. I plan to talk more about this in a futurpost after I have read more about the history and/or visited the place.

At some point in the future, I plan to go to a Third World country to work as a volunteer Physio. Apparently the volunteer agencies ARE looking Physios to send over along with the nurses and doctors. I suppose, the main reason I wanted to be a Physio was to help people who really need help. That’s why I want to work in a hospital, not a private practice. That’s why I like Intensive Care and Stroke Rehab more than working with knees and shoulders. This would be a really good way to do that. I think I would appreciate the perspective I would gain from it, and knowing that what I’m doing day to day is worth it. I would also really love to explore whichever place I’m sent to, and find out more about it’s culture and history.

Last of all… my other dream locations:  Fiji (over water bungalo), Egypt (ancient historical sites), Venice (ALL), New Zealand (mountains and skiing).

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Video games: perspective of a n00b.

March 24, 2009 at 11:13 pm (Tabitha) (, , , , , , , , )

Let’s be honest, I’m not a huge gamer. The only video game I ever played as a kid was Super Mario Brothers. We had a Nintendo console when I was in primary school, and just that one game to play on it. I was one of those players who was mocked for thrashing the remote around pointlessly as if I thought it worked like a Wiimote! I choose to interpret that information as that I was a genius player who was far more advanced than the technology at the time. Heh.

My next exposure to video games came when I was about 12, and living in Vancouver. Our neighbours had older teenage boys who played what I think must have been Myst. I remember watching them play and thinking it was the most incredible game I’d ever seen. It seemed way longer, much more complex and absorbing than the little console game I was used to. I was intrigued, but didn’t try it. I don’t think I ever had an opportunity to.

I didn’t come across any other games myself for years and years. I noted that in year 12 Andrew played Final Fantasy 2 for 150 hours during his final exam period alone. I also noticed that various Sutekhers referred to WoW, which I had never heard of before uni, as crack for gamers. The same people warned Andrew to never EVER try it, and told horror stories about people losing their jobs and relationships to their WoW addiction.

Then, Alan and Ingrid started playing WoW. We lost them for a few months! It changed the whole dynamic of our household. It was so quiet (other than the skype conversations between guild members) and weeks would pass with very little interaction between us and Alan and Ing. It made me sad! (I should mention that since then, most of our housemates play very much less often and it’s not a case of antisocial house anymore. So, yay!)

Then Andrew started to play in a guild which only played on one day per week for 4 hours. They did it that way so that all of their characters would be at similar levels so that they wouldn’t be pressured to (or able to!) play too much alone without getting ahead of everyone else. It was a great idea! But, it was hard to stick to the time limit, with some people starting late, and having to do pre-questing outside of the planned hours. It still often went over time. This caused a few rows between me an Andrew when in cut into our plans.

Then Nathan and Jodi started playing together… Then me.

I suppose it was a bit of a case of, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I tried it one night, sure I’d find it boring and be unable to figure out how to do it properly. But, I very quickly discovered, that it really is like crack. The more I write about this, the more it feels as though I’m recounting how I got mixed up in hard drugs!

Here’s what I mean. I am probably the world’s most impatient, restless person with the shortest attention span of anyone I know. I find watching movies very difficult because of this, and get antsy about a half hour into most card/board games. I struggle to read for more than about half an hour at a time. I feel most comfortable when I’m up and actively doing something, like cooking or cleaning. So, on that first try of WoW, I expected to last about half an hour, thinking I’d very quickly get bored or frustrated. But, the first time I thought about the fact that time might, you know… be passing, and looked for a clock, I thought that about an hour had passed.

Six had! This immersion seems to be a common occurrence with me and WoW, and nothing has EVER had that effect on me before. It’s so engrossing. I forget about everything while I’m playing, so it’s a fantastic way to have a solid break when I need it. It also blows my mind how huge and complex the WoW world is. It’s incredible to me that you can play for years and still discover new things, improve and complete new quests.

It also gives me a real sense of achievement, to figure out the best way of doing things (ie- tactics and using new skills, locating quest items/characters etc). To me, playing makes me feel  similar to completing harder and harder sudokus or crosswords that build on each other. Even just that I could figure out how to play at all made me pretty chuffed, considering my lack of experience compared to everyone else!

I have now levelled my character to 34 out of 80 possible levels, and still play from time to time. But, I have always insisted on playing alone. That’s very linked to my reasons for enjoying WoW. My enjoyment comes from figuring it out on my own to get that feeling of satisfaction and progress. I know that a lot of other players love the interactive, team work aspect of guilds, but there are several reasons that that aspect is not for me.

I cannot commit to maintaining my character at a similar level as the other guild members. Even once a week is too often for me. I fear feeling obligated to do something that’s meant to be fun and relaxing when I’m busy, tired or stressed. Un-fun to the max! For that same reason, I have always had commitment issues about things like ongoing role playing games or even long board games or Poker. Also, I’m way behind everyone else in WoW, and don’t want to rush to catch up.

But, enough about WoW.

When Alan and Ingrid got a DDR machine, it was so awesome! We all played together and progressed together. It’s really my type of thing, being more active. It’s actually a real work out, especially at higher levels! I like that you can play competitively or in exercise mode on your own. The music is pretty amusing as well.

We also got a Wii last year. I think it’s way more fun than the old style of console. It suits me in the activeness of it, and in the shortness of the games. It’s pretty amazing the way the motion sensors can pick up movement in all directions and speed. Also the Miis are pretty hilarious. Mine looks like a very serious librarian.

I’ve really loved Wii Sports, especially boxing (which made my wussy arms so sore the next day!), bowling, group play tennis, in which I found it difficult to avoid causing random accidental back hands. I haven’t tried Wii Fit yet, but I’m interested.

I also really love Smooth Moves. It’s sense of humour is so wacky and surprising. I think it’s cool how it makes you think on your feet and interpret the hints quickly.  The way it gets faster and faster, giving you less and less time to complete each mini game gets me excited and really annoyed when I get out!

The most recent game to have taken over our house is Left 4 Dead, which Tom has already talked about, and I’m sure Andrew will talk much more about in his post. It has swallowed Andrew and Alan, and loads of other people as far as I can tell. I have not picked it up myself, but I have had a go. It’s pretty awesome, even just to watch. The graphics are so realistic to start with, there are so many surprises and the emphasis on team work is so strong. It’s a rush to play, even as a complete beginner. I think I’ll play it some more in single player to get better at it before I try playing with a team. The only trouble is that there seems to be a bit of a mean social aspect attached to it, where the (normally nice) players all yell insults at each other when mistakes are made. I don’t get why everyone behaves that way when they’re playing, and I don’t like it. To the regular players: I’d love any explanations you have as to why this culture exists in L4D.

So there you go! That’s the entirety of my life’s video gaming experience in post form.

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Back for my Last Year at Uni.

March 5, 2009 at 6:01 pm (Tabitha) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Well… I’m back at Uni for my last year of Physio.

The “I’m back” part of that sentence alone gives me mixed feelings. On the one hand, it means ALL THAT TRAVEL, getting up at 6am, perma-tiredness and multiple stupid group presentations. As always, they’ve made Mondays 8am-5pm solid by cramming all the lectures into it. Not sure why they love doing that so much… but Mondays have always been hell at my campus. On the other hand, Uni makes my brain stimulated, which helps me with all my Holiday Crazy, and I really like a lot of what I get to learn, especially in the practical tutes.

The fact that this is the last year of my Physio degree has pros and cons as well.  We’re now learning all the really interesting, most dangerous treatments. I feel like the lecturers and tutors are trying to instill in us the old Spiderman values, ie- ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ because over the past few days I’ve heard so many phrases like, “By now you all will be experts at [insert Physio skill here]”, and “You’re on the home stretch now!”, but there’s also zingers like, “Next year, when you’re practicing Physios, there will be times when a small error on your part could cause your patient severe damage or death”. Those statements are pretty exciting and make me feel like I’m getting somewhere important, but at the same time, they scare the shit out of me!

Ima tell you about some of the scary stuff that can come up for Physios on the odd occasion, but I don’t want to give you the impression that it’s this crazy all the time. Being a Physio is mostly made up of safe, routine treatments that are much less interesting than this stuff!

The lecturers are trying to ensure that we have a healthy fear of making dangerous mistakes that will effect our patients, and that we respect the danger involved in what we do. There are so many things that a Physio does, that are almost always fine, but can sometimes cause tremendous harm. And then there are things which can just be easily forgotten in a busy day, and if so, can have terrible consequences.

For example, this semester we’re learning Manipulations of the inter-vertebral joints. To give you some idea of what they’re like, the Physio arranges the patient on the plinth into a position that puts particular joint in the spine on stretch, stabilises one vertebra with one hand and then gives a short, sharp push to the other bone in the they’re targeting. That normally will cause a crack or click. We’ve done loads of stuff involving moving spinal joints before, but these are the back and neck-cracking ones which Chiropractors are famous for. I find it quite amusing when the lecture notes repeatedly describe them as thrusts. Anyway, they’re a way of treating spinal stiffness or pain of mechanical origins when the symptoms occur only when a particular spinal segment is right at the end of its range of movement. They’re only meant to be used if the normal, milder spinal mobilisations have not solved the problem completely. There’s a list of contraindications to Manips in my Unit Guide that’s about 5 pages long. So, if you have any of these exclusionary criteria, it’s more dangerous for you to have Manips as a treatment. This is partly because Manipulating the spine can cause vertebrobasilar accidents (damage to or rupture of the artery that connects the spine to the brain), stroke, death, spinal disc herniation, vertebral and rib fractures, and cauda equina syndrome (a neurological condition in which the nerved below the end of the vertebral column are compressed, causing leg weakness/paraplegia,  pain/anaesthesia around the groin, incontinence, and sexual dysfunction).

So. I can see why they want us to be careful. I’m not sure I’d cope with my treatment having any of those effects on a patient! Also, they kind of want us to consider not using Manips at all, even though we’re licensed to use them as Physios. Fair enough! They have especially emphasised the dangers of neck Manips, so don’t let anyone do those to you unless they’re super qualified and experienced y’all!

Another time a Physio will have to do things that are dangerous for the patient is in Cardiopulmonary Physiotherapy, especially in Intensive Care. A lot of the time, a Physio will be in charge of the lungs of the seriously ill patients in Intensive Care. That means interpreting the patient’s daily Chest XRays, adjusting the ventilator settings appropriately, changing the patient’s position to minimise lung problems caused by being intubated, ventilated and supine, suctioning the sputum from their lungs to prevent pneumonia, deciding when is the best time to insert/remove airways and doing that, cleaning them when they get blocked, helping the a patient to cough, take deep breaths and sit/stand/walk  as soon as it’s safe to do so, etc…

All of these things are made much more difficult in the case of a patient with a brain injury. The problem for Physios here is that almost all of our treatments for the lungs lead to in increase of Intracranial Pressure (ICP). A healthy person, with a normal ICP can withstand these increases easily, but a person with a brain injury has a raised ICP to start with (because of a bleed, inflammation, tumour etc), so any small increase in ICP can result in stroke, permanent brain damage and/or death if the higher pressure inside the skull causes the brainstem to herniate down through the foramen magnum (hole at the bottom of the skull through which the spinal cord and blood vessels enter the spine). In some cases a Physio could cause this to happen just by suctioning a patient, changing their position, percussing their chest or asking them to cough. Most of the time a Physio can avoid chest Physio in these patients until they become more stable, but if you are the Physio for the Intensive Care Ward and a patient cannot breath because of a sputum plug in their airways or ventilator tube, you have to decide whether or not to suction it out – allowing them to breath but risking their brain! WAT.

Another thing which could kill a patient or  cause brain damage is if the Physio forgets to adjust the height of the Extraventricular Drain (EVD).

EVDs are typically attatched to the wall or a something behind the patient’s head. They’re really simple tubes which are placed into the brain (!) through drilled holes in the skull (!!) and positioned on the wall at the current height of the patient’s brain ventricles (!!!). If the pressure in the skull rises beyond a certain point, the cerebrospinal fluid within the ventricles will move out of the patient and into the tubes, just because of the gradient. So, they are used to lower elevated ICPs before they reach a dangerous level. The only problem is if the Physio moves the bed or patient down or up for treatment without also moving the drain accordingly. That could kill them.

It would just be so easy for things like that to happen. In Intensive Care, the patients always have so many tubes and wires attatched to them, that one of these would be really easily overlooked. I am so petrified of something like that happening because I’m tired or working on autopilot! I think my first year as a Physio will induce more than a few stress-nightmares for me… Responsibility for someone else’s health and safety: I fear it. I don’t know how I’ll ever manage to have kids!

All of those situations are situations that Physios have found themselves in. Our educators want us to be as prepared as possible for things like that because they don’t want us to make the same mistakes that they and their colleagues have made! I’m so glad, but I’m gonna have to study real hard before I start working so that I have all of these things in the front of my head.

The flip side of all that fear though is that all of those frightening possibilities are rare. And, I am really excited about becoming a Physio. I love that I can do something in my daily work to save someone’s life, or to help improve their quality of life. I find it so rewarding seeing people get better. It also makes me feel really good that I will eventually be an expert at something. Someone who is turned to by other health care workers, including doctors, for professional advice about a particular aspect of the patient’s care. It gives me real pride that I will become someone who has a valuable, irreplaceable role in a hospital ward. Also, I just find medical stuff totally fascinating, and I want to be in hospitals ALL THE TIME so that I can be exposed to as much of it as possible!



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Conflicting Wedding Dress Options…HALP!

February 26, 2009 at 7:04 pm (Tabitha) (, , , , , , , , )

Once again guys, sorry about the lateness of my post! I have no excuse this time, other than that I was tired and uninspired last night. But, now I have thoughts! Wedding dress thoughts.

This post is mainly an appeal to you all for opinions about my wedding dress options. I’m torn at the moment, because I had, for about three years, had my heart set on this dress:nude0011

It’s from Wheels & Dollbaby, a gorgeous Australian pinup  style store that has a boutique in Surry Hills that breaks my heart every time I enter it’s doors. I’ve been salivating over this dress (along with most of the other dresses in that shop) since Heather, Georgia and I (along with some others who I can’t remember- sorry guys!) ventured inside after a Saturday brunch at Kawa. I think it may have been  Georgia who suggested that this be my wedding dress. That set off a cascade of excited lustings for a very rebellious, retro pinup, risque, cocktail, evening wedding with all of my bridesmaids in W&DB clothes. The thought gives me tingles!

When I tried on this dress, it fit me like a glove. It’s really flattering, cute and sexy and less formal than most wedding gowns, which I like. I think it’s more individual, and really suits my personal style tastes. Another plus is it’s only $385 because it’s not officially a wedding gown!

Here’s a picture of me in a top of the same design, to give you some idea of how I would look in the dress:

wedding-dresses-0121I have always known that wearing this dress at my wedding would rock the boat a little. In fact, that is part of what I like about it. However, another part of what I really like about it is that it suits me, my style, and I would be more at home in it than in a formal dress/gown.

That was challenged when I showed it to my Mum and she said that she thought it was ‘trashy and not appropriate for a wedding’. I think her main objections are that it’s not formal and that it is future-hugging and shown some skin. My sister likes it, but thinks I should wear something that is more classic and less of a representation of my style now because she thinks I might look back on it in the futuretimes and say, “ick, that was so noughties!” or some similar.

Andrew also admitted that he doen’t like the bow, which makes me less inclined to wear it, considering the bow is the most prominent feature of the dress, and I would like my future husband to think I look nice on my wedding day! I think the bow’s the feature that makes the dress so cool!

I really don’t want my family thinking I look like a tramp, and my husband-to-be being unenthused by the dress I chose,  so I think that would make me less comfortable wearing this dress. I also wonder if my sister has a point, that I might find I hate it in 30 years. At the same time, I realise that this is my wedding and I should wear what I like best. Hmmm…

Another option that I’m considering is wearing my sister’s wedding dress. Here’s a few shots of me in it:

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This dress is from Pronuptia, a well known, British wedding gown brand. I think, if I am remembering correctly, that it cost around $2,500 when converted from pounds. But, for me, it would be free, apart from dry cleaning and alterations. It also fits me perfectly, and is incredibly flattering, which wierds me out a little because it’s not at all a style I would have chosen for myself.

I adore the bodice. The shape does wonders for me. The emroidery – especially where a flower escapes over the top of the bodice bustline – is truly special, and the buttons down the back are stunning. This style would make my family really happy, and thus would make me more comfortable.

However, the skirt is problematic for me. I don’t usually go for ‘foof’ or A-line in a dress. Also, the idea of wearing a dress like every other dress irks me, and that;s kinda what this one’s like. It is, however, like I said, very flattering.

I have vague notions of possibly having it altered slightly so that some of the voluminous skirt material is pulled back into something resembling a bustle, and maybe securing it with some kind of gorgeous clip or brooch. The aim would be to give the dress a bit more of a streamline shape. The resulting bustle sounds pretty rad perk of this plan!

Here are some shots of me in the dress pulling it back as if it were altered in the above fashion:

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I guess, when I’m honest with myself, I’m not in love with it. It’s a beautiful dress, it fits, and is flattering and is free.  It would make my family happy, and I would be comfortable wearing it. But, it’s not what I would choose. It also kind of ruins mt fantasy vision of a cocktail wedding.

So, the other option is buying a new wedding gown in a style that I love. It’d make my family happy, and I could have it just how I want it, but it would be WAY more expensive. Here are some that I have found on the internet that I really like:

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This one’s from Circa Brides, who have an amazing range of vintage-inspired wedding gowns. I think it’s really elegant, and not so ball-gown-like.

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This one’s from Culture Shock, a fantastic, Sydney-based maker of more individual wedding dresses. I particularly like the vintage feel of this one. I adore the slinkiness, the lace and the buttons on the back. The shape is how I always imagined my wedding dress would look. I do get the impression that the price will be crazy though because this one is under the couture category on the site.

That picture reminds me that the lovely Jodi – Nathan’s girlfriend, my former housemate, and amazing seamstress and Milliner extraoridaire – has generously agreed to make me a fascinator for my big day! I think a fascinator would suit any of the styles I’m considering, and would be a great alternative to a veil. Which ever dress I choose, it’d lend an elegant, eveningwear feel to it. I’m envisioning something with netting that comes down across one side of my forehead and one eye, with some feathers sticking up and some kind of a beautiful embroidered clip or base to hold them all to my hair. I haven’t found any I’m in love with yet, but I’ll keep you posted and show you when I do.

Please, let me know what you think of all of these ideas. I really want your input! Also, if you know of any interesting places to buy unconventional, vintage inspired wedding dresses, please inform The Tab.

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Own House and Career vs Shorthaus and Study.

February 18, 2009 at 8:59 pm (Tabitha) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it’s going to mean for me to be finishing my degree, getting married and moving into an apartment with Andrew on our own. Them’s some pretty big changes right there. Warning: this post is full of worry.

Finishing my degree and starting work as a Physio.

Pros: Awesome. I am so over study for the moment. The first couple of years of my degree almost killed me, but now that I’ve been learning the real practical Physio stuff and have had a taste of work on my placements, I feel like I never want to go back. I love helping people. Having something worthwhile to offer is pretty cool. It makes me feel great at the end of a work day, and helps me sleep well at night. I like the physical-ness of it as well. Sitting still (like, when studying, for example!) drives me INSANE. Being on my feet and working with my hands, however, gives me a sense of release and calm. I know that’s strange, but it’s just what it’s like being me. I’ve always been this way. So, yeah… getting away from the sitting still and rote-learning and into some practical, worthwhile work will be really great for me.

Also, MONEY. Sweet, sweet money. And free evenings and weekends! I hope I’ll be able to pick up some of my old hobbies again, like life drawing classes and acrobatics.

Cons: An inability to take time off when I need it for my mental or physical health scares the shit out of me. It comes down to this. When I was a kid, my Mum let me stay home from school whenever I wanted, with little to no explanation required. She was being kind, because she has had a life-long struggle with multiple health issues and one of the only good things about her own mother was how well she looked after Mum when she was sick. She also knew that I suffered from some long-term health problems and was being empathetic. However, like most kids would in this situation, I took way more sick days than I needed. I still do. And now, growing some fucking discipline is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do as an adult. My lack of discipline is one of the lamest things about me. Point is, having only 4 weeks of per year, when I’m used to more than 4 months, is going to be a major adjustment!

Another thing that worries me about starting my career is that I’ll get sick of it really fast. Nothing seems to be able to hold my attention for very long. I am pretty much the most fickle person I know. That’s why I feel like I have to get really good marks now so that if I need a change or want to do further study later, I’m not trapped as a Physio. Being stuck=claustrophobia! FEAR.

So, I’ve developed all these ideas for what I’ll do when I get sick of Physio, even though I haven’t even started being one yet! The possibilities so far include Medicine, specifically surgery if possible (which would require a hell of a lot more sitting still and rote learning all over again, but would help me feel that I was continuing to progress), midwifery, paramedic, or an Arts degree (cos I’ve always felt that the breadth of my knowledge is so poor and that my degree has made me miss out on choosing my own subjects in areas of interest, just for the love of them).

Getting Married.

This, I’m cool with. There’re only pros! I love Andrew and want to always be with him, so that’s not a stressor… other than all the organising that needs to be done in order to make it actually happen!

Moving into our own place.

Pros: I can’t wait for this is so many ways. I’m dying to start my life alone with Andrew.  I’ll love to be able to walk around naked/improperly dressed and be louder at night when we’re up at all hours, to never worry what I look like when I leave our room for the bathroom or to get brekkie in the morning. To know that noone’s ever gonna just walk in unexpectedly.

I’m so excited about setting up the house with proper, grown up things which work and look the way I want them to. I have this fantasy of having a really anally organised kitchen and fridge. My sister has this great method of fridgenation that I have been salivating over for a few years now. She puts everything into plastic takeaway boxes before putting it into the fridge so that it stacks really easily, saves space and  cling wrap, is air-tight and you can always see what’s inside each of them at a glance.

OMG. Poor Andrew!

I like that I will be able to keep things in a way that I feel is good enough to have people over for impromptu coffee or drinks, or have friends/family over for dinner. I can’t wait to be able to do that without having to spend the entire day cleaning and tidying.

I suppose all of that arose from that I’ve been living in a rather messy, disorganised house for the past four years of my life. Ready for a tangent? I guess everyone has a different level of mess tolerance. I am in the minority in Shorthaus cos mess makes me really uncomfortable. The others are much more relaxed and don’t seem very bothered by the way the house is at the moment and wouldn’t feel embarrassed about anyone seeing it this way. For that reason, I just go with it and do what everyone else does, try to calm the fuck down about it and  let it be therapy for my OCD tendencies. I suppose my only other alternative is to do way more than my share of housework for my own sake, but I don’t want it enough to do that amount of work. Plus, I think I’d wind up bitter.

Here’s my cleanliness perspective: I draw the line at the point where things are no longer just messy, but dirty, smelly, unhygienic, attracting bugs and fostering mould. I can’t stand that shit. I hate not being able to walk around bear foot because things stick to my feet, and not being able to open the fridge without getting feral fridge-juice on me. But actually, more than that, I would prefer for things to be vaguely tidy and have their place so that surfaces and seats are clear for use and so that I know where to find a thing that I am looking for. Andrew and I had a series of minor squabbles about replacing my nail clippers where they belong, for example. It also really bothers me when the dishes haven’t been done for so long that I have no cups/plates/utensils/bench/stove to use.

Rant concluded. My apologies! Back to the post we go.

Cons: I’ll really miss living in Shorthaus! It’s really great living with a bunch of fun, easy-going, interesting, like-minded friends who enjoy eachothers’ company. There’s almost always someone to talk to late at night, to vent to, and kid around with. It’s really cool to be able to spontaneously have a board game or a drinking night or go out together somewhere cool. Sharing good TV shows, movies, music, computer games, clothes shopping, and Christmases has been so nice. It’s an awesome environment for big house parties with decorations and costumes and music. Communal, cooking, chores and rent-paying means less work and less expense for a house in a great location. We have a laid back, helpful landlord who likes us and will come over to fix things at a minute’s notice. He lets us have a cat, and he even let it go one time when Andrew accidentally dinged his Ferrari.

The other problem is the unavoidable fact that my partner is, and will always be a very busy person. That is something that I really love, the enthusiasm and drive about him. But it means that he’s not around a lot of the time and it leaves me a little worried that when we move out of Shorthaus and start living together alone, that I might be bored and lonely. I realise that I have a bunch of hobbies and that my friends will only be a phone call away, but it still seems like I’d be in an empty home a lot of the time, and that makes me sad.

I suppose the aforementioned issue of terrifying permanence comes into it as well. It gives me that stifling feeling of that it might be the end of the line, like there’s nowhere to progress from living alone as a couple. I know that that’s just not true, considering that we could  aim to one day save up for a deposit on a place of our own, or we could just move to a different rental place or we could have children etc… but, the mortgage and the child options sound even more heftily permanent (although they do admittedly involve a lot of change and progress), and the moving to a different rental place just sounds like more of the same state of being, really. It just feels like  it’s really early in my life to become so stationary and sameish forever.

In a nut shell, I’m really excited about this new, grown up stage of my life that’s fast approaching, and am looking forward to it loads. But because I am The Tab, I am also really apprehensive and anxious. Welcome to my current brane crazies!

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Birthday Gifts, Sweet Bakings and The Atheist’s Nightmare.

February 12, 2009 at 4:52 am (Tabitha) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Late Post is late. Sorry AP5!

Birthday Gifts.

This year for my Birthday, my eldest sister Miriam, and Andrew’s Mum Dot gave me very thoughtful, and accidentally synchronous gifts.  Miriam gave me cookie cutters, flamboyant flower-sprinkles, multi-coloured mini patty pans and little icing flowers in pink and purple to decorate cakes. Dot brought me two of the new bendy plastic-y muffin trays that are all the rage at the moment, one of which is for tiny cupcakes! She also brought me a simple recipe for vanilla cupcakes with real raspberry icing – made with just raspberries and icing sugar.  Oh hells yes.

I think it’s so lovely that they both know exactly what I like. They got me things that they knew I would love, but are too special for me to ever buy for myself. Not necessarily expensive, but too frivolous for me to indulge in normally. That’s pretty much my definition of a great gift.

I love also that these gifts were the trigger for me realising how clever my niece is becoming. Of course she wanted to play with all the colourful things I was unwrapping, and the cookie cutters were the least dangerous of the bunch. That is how the cookie cutter bear recognition story came up. It still blows my mind that an 18 month old can recognise the abstract cookie cutter teddy as the same thing as her cuddly toy, and call it a bear without prompting. Wat.

Anyhoo, I made the Vanilla Cupcakes with Gen-yoo-ine Raspberry Icing tonight. I used the recipe, the muffin trays, the patty pans, the sprinkles and the flowers. They were really easy to make, and very yummy. Here  are the results!:

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Sweet Bakings.

Ima take this opportunity to introduce you guys to a few of my current favourite recipes for Sweet Bakings. Now these have to come with a warning. My idea of a great dessert is one that whacks me over the head with its flavour. I wanna not be able to eat any more of it by the time I finish a portion, due to excessive richness. I wanna be incapacitated by that bitch. With baked goods, I am pretty much the way Andrew is about everything else… EXTREME! So, it makes sense that I love things like white chocolate and raspberry cheese cake, double choc brownies, and caramel slice, right?

Chocolate Death Brownies. -Recipe from ‘Bake It’ by Murdoch Books, given to me by my lovely housemates last Christmas and adjusted by me to make it even MOAR CHOCOLATE-Y.

Ingredients:

250g milk chocolate, chopped

175g butter, chopped

2 eggs

250g brown sugar

60g cocoa

125g plain flour

80g cashews, toasted, chopped (or whatever nut/other filling you like. I like marshmallows or gummy raspberries)

150g dark chocolate, chopped (extra)

Icing:

200g milk chocolate, chopped

125g butter

50g cocoa

40g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees. Grease 23cm square tin and line with baking paper.

Melt the first batch of chocolate and butter in the microwave for 20 secs, stir to prevent burning the chocolate, then another 20secs until done. Beat the eggs and sugar in a separate bowl until pale and thick. Mix in the melted chocolate and butter and then the sifted cocoa and flour. Mix in the extra dark chocolate and  the cashews. Pour into the tin, smoothing the top. Bake for 30-35mins or until just firm. Allow to cool.

For the icing, melt the chocolate and butter in the same way as above. Add icing sugar and sifted cocoa and stir well. Spread thickly over brownies and allow to set. Cut into squares and serve! Add bacon as desired.

Coronary Caramel Slice/Millionaire’s Shortbread. -from ‘Chocolate’ by Parragon books, once again altered by me for ADDED YUM-FACTOR FLAVOUR-TIMES. Thanks to Hat Guy for this recipe book for my 22nd Birthday. I have got so much use out of it and have found one of my most beloved recipes inside it. Also, pretty much anything containing aweetned condensed milk is bound to be hot stuff.

Ingredients:

175g plain four

125g butter, chopped

4tbsp brown sugar

Topping:

55g butter

4tbsp brown sugar

400g can sweetened condensed milk

150g milk chocolate

Preheat oven to 190 degrees. Grease 23cm tin, line with baking paper. Put the flour and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add butter and rub in with fingers until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Press into the base of the tray. Bake for 5 mins until lightly golden. Leave to cool.

For the topping, place the butter, sugar and condensed milk into a non-stick saucepan and bring to the boil over a gentle heat while stirring constantly. Reduce heat immediately and cook for 4-5mins, still stirring constantly, until the caramel thickens to the consistency of honey. Pour over the shortbread and leave to cool.

When the caramel it set, melt the chocolate and spread it over the caramel. Refrigerate it to set. Cut it into squares and allow it to blow your mind. Add bacon as desired.

Bon appetit!

And now for something completely different.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been loving Rozebooshje’s channel on YouTube lately. During my watchings, I found a video of his that is a response to the old, Banana: The Atheist’s Nightmare video. Please watch the original first if you haven’t seen it, otherwise the following videos will make no sense at all. The middle of this video really made me laugh.

When I showed that to Andrew, he showed me this one from CauchySchwarz. It is, similarly, an atheist’s response to the original Banana: The Atheist’s Nightmare video, and made me lol.

Bon appetit x2! If that can be said about consuming the fruits of YouTube.

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Holidays, and the Coping-With Thereof.

February 4, 2009 at 10:51 pm (Tabitha) (, , , , , , , , , )

I have a pretty bizarre relationship with holidays. I pretty much hate them. Please forgive me! I know most of you wish you were on holidays right now and would die to be in my position. But, most of the holidays of my life have left me more stressed out, sleepless and unhappy than my exams or placement or work (although there are definitely some exceptions). Lately I’ve been trying to understand why this is so that I can maybe do something about it.

I’m gonna take some time to first explain what makes holidays so damn lame for me. I hope it doesn’t come out as a great big whine.

Mental Health.

I have had double depression pretty much since I became a teenager, as far as I can tell… it kind of crept up on me. Basically this means that my usual state of being is dysthymia and involves chronic, but mild low motivation, low opinion of my capabilities, high levels of anxiety and dissatisfaction and just an inability to become enthused by or enjoy anything that I used to. On top of that chronic, mild depressive state I also, from time to time have episodes of major depression or anxiety attacks and/or paranoia.

Holidays exacerbate these problems by removing most obligations for me to leave the house and do things. This brings on a horrible cycle of boredom, restlessness, a severe feeling of dissatisfaction, frustration or having failed to achieve anything… that my life is passing me by, wasted. I sleep poorly and at all the wrong times. Lately I have been waking up at around 6pm, which means that I see very little of my housemates and fiance and have even fewer things to entertain me throughout the late night hours, due to things being closed, nothing happening and tv sucking even more than usual. It also triggers my anxiety when everyone’s in bed. I start hearing noises and assuming bad things are about to happen. I stay away from the doors and windows. I’m too scared to be downstairs alone and cook, or sew or watch DVDs or play on Alan and Ing’s computer. So I just find myself sitting, doing nothing,  for hours and hating it. It makes me needy and clingy and dependent on Andrew for stimulation, which is just BAD. Andrew calls it my Limbo State.

Removal from the Things that Satisfy Me.

Namely, Uni and Placement and learning and outside. These take me out of my mind-burrow and expose me to awesome shit and give me a sense of achievement and progress and self-improvement. They give me a little perspective, force activity and don’t allow me to reside in my Limbo Land.

Lack of Hobbies.

Until recently I had very few hobbies. I suppose this is because I spent so much of my time as a kid and teenager doing sport, talking on the phone and watching tv. I never developed the ability to entertain myself. I never played games, or read books, or made things or sought out things of interest. I find that, probably because of the whole dythymia thing, I often cannot keep interested in stuff long enough for them to become meaningful to me. A prime example of this is me and books. I usually get about 100 pages in, and if it hasn’t grabbed me, promptly give up.  I need to get up and move halfway through a film, to the great bafflement of my housemates. It just means that I never engage with anything fully, which just builds my feeling of failure and dissatisfaction and boredom. So, now that my massively time-consuming gymnastics addiction can be no more, and I don’t talk on the phone, and TV really sucks unless it is in DVD form… I have no idea what to do with myself. At first, I developed a clothes shopping hobby, but there was a major flaw in that plan in that after I finished my year off, and thus had to stop working full time, I hadn’t the funds to support this pursuit.

Aggravating Jobs.

Throughout high school and uni, my holidays have usually involved working a truly abhorrent part-time job. Unlike most of the people I know, I seem to be incapable of growing a thick skin and not caring that people will be horrible to me all the time at work. It deeply screws with me that it’s so normal for so many people to treat staff in the service industry as subhuman. Because of this, and the huge time pressure in cafe work, I stress about going to work the entire time I am not there, including in nightmare-form when I’m asleep! So, working in cafes amplifies all my aforementioned issues quite substantially. Especially the anxiety and dissatisfaction. But, it also serves to make me angry and bitter… yay!

I think that sums up the main things that make me hate holidays. I have actually been much more successful than ever at managing my loopiness over this Summer break. Here are some of the things that have really helped with managing the Holiday Blues.

Meds.

I am currently on Lexapro and have been for probably about 2 years. My doctor and I have come to the conclusion that I will most likely need to stay on them forever. I have had several periods of taking SSRIs since I was 14. Each time I recover to the point where I don’t need them anymore, and slowly wean myself off them on the doctor’s advice. Each time, I slowly return to my dysthymia/major depression over the months following giving them up. When I cease functioning normally, I go back to the doctor and return to my meds. My Dad has Dysthymia and is permanently medicated, and as it is a chronic illness, chronic meds are often necessary, in conjunction with strategies to deal with life problems more effectively.

I have found this medicine quite incredible. It makes me myself again. It makes me normal. It doesn’t make me happy, it just makes me not ill. I notice that my ability to engage with and enjoy things returns, and that my ability to force myself to do things that seem hard or unpleasant also returns. It allows me to actively manage my issues rather than deal with everyday stresses with added mental illness. The active strategies for improving the way I react to stressors are just as important, but the meds are vital, I feel. The way my doctor explains it to me is that I have a chronic physical illness, an imbalance of neurotransmitters. It can be triggered or worsened by life’s stress and my choices, but it is separate from not enjoying my work, or being stressed by a thing. It is a physical illness brought on by external and internal happenings which cannot be treated by removing the triggers alone. For example, having an awful family situation is hard, but not as hard as having an awful family situation and an untreated depression. The situation won’t change, but your fitness to cope with it can. In my opinion people should treat these meds like any other for any other sickness. I’m hugely saddened by the unnecessary stigma that surrounds them and depression, when a sufferer of this problem could have it treated and cope with life much more easily once they have been partially unburdened. I suppose, I just want people to understand that taking medicine is not the easy way out, it doesn’t mean you’re weak. It will not hinder your ability to develop coping strategies, but rather help you to do just this! And most people do not need to be on them for more than a few months, at which point, if you wean yourself slowly, your own brain will take over it’s normal functions and you will have recovered.

I stumbled upon this guy on YouTube, and found his views on loads of things really interesting. In this video his explanation of his experiences with Lexapro mirror my own very closely. I really relate to his wonder at the subtle amazingness of this medicine. When I watched it, I was really heartened to see that someone was openly talking honestly about what these drugs are like to take. Anyway here it is:

Doin’ Things.

And by ‘things’, I mean anything at all other than sleeping and staring at the ceiling like in my Limbo state. It may sound pretty obvious, but this a really hard thing for me. I have found that I have to make myself do things, and continue to do things even though I don’t like them and find it very hard to start or continue. Things I have been doing are, going to the gym, making/altering clothes, baking sweet things, cooking dinner, blogging, reading the SMH, subscribing to National Geographic and YouTube channels of interest (like the one above), playing WoW, playing board games, going to cafes with you all, frequenting street fashion sites, being a housewife to Andrew while he’s my workwife, watching Mad Men, Big Love and The United States of Tara, attempting crosswords and sudoku and researching wedding plans. Making sure I fill my day with things to do and actually follow through with them makes me more calm, stimulated and sleep better. It makes me a much better person to be in a relationship with as well! But, it is an effort considering most people spend their holidays relaxed, or relaxing. And that’s not really a concept I understand outside the context of after work/uni evenings when I find myself able to do so readily.

Removing Myself from the Service Industry.

Frees me from all the things I talked about previously. Even if it makes me dirt poor, I am much more sane this way! Only trouble is that Andrew has to be more poor as well cos I’m not contributing, other than my Youth Allowance. Luckily, I have a guy who understands all this and will actually be happier if he’s with a healthy partner than if he had heaps of spending money… when forced to choose.

Result!

Well, I’m still a bit… intense during holidays, but I can sleep (even if it’s not at night) and I’ve been really starting to enjoy some of the stuff I’ve been consciously make myself do. I’ve actually developed a variety of interesting hobbies and feel I’m a better person for it. I’m getting better at some of them too, like the sewing and the games. Funnily enough, pursuing my interests makes me feel more like I have things to contribute to conversations with smart people, which was something I always felt I lacked. I’m also not in Andrew’s face the second he gets home and keeping him up at night. I’m more fun and relaxed. So, yay! Progress on the Holiday front.

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How does one cut off one’s own finger with a plastic knife?

January 29, 2009 at 12:06 am (Tabitha) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

When I was thirteen, I was so convinced that I was in love with a boy. I was head over heels for him. Crazy about him. Perhaps a little too literally. For this reason, I thought it would be a great idea for me to carve his nickname into my arm using a pin. I wanted to be permanently marked by him. I, unsurprisingly, regretted this very quickly and had to scratch away all around it so that it was just a scarred patch, rather than a word. DUMB. For a while it looked a little like a birth mark, and now I can barely find it, even when I’m squinting… thank goodness! Did I ever mention that I was a little idiot as a teenager? Yeah…

Anyway, the point is, that I am comparably quite sane and much less hard core according to an article I read in the SMH. It informed me that Ivan Milat had cut off his own little finger using only a plastic knife and had put it in an envelope addressed to the Australian Government. This set off a cascade of thoughts which I will now subject you to.

I am aware that a picnic knife was probably not his implement of choice. I mean I’m sure it would have been much easier for him if he had a cleaver or an axe on hand. But this method,  even though it wasn’t his first choice… really shows determination, am I right? It just makes me think, surely there’s a point at which you’re cutting on yourself and the reflexive pain response would make you unable to continue?  Apparently not in some cases.

Like Van Gough, who famously cut off the lobe of his own ear lobe with a razor blade (or “riseuplide”, as Andrew’s Grandma’s hilarious book of Australian pronunciations says). And the people (who I have been unable to avoid seeing on Space Ghetto) who participate in Body Nullification, like the self removal of parts of their own genitalia.

How are people able to complete such feats of self mutilation in the face of such immense pain? I do understand it a little more if you’re in a life and death situation like Aron Ralston (warning: this video is a detailed description of this man’s self amputation and may be disturbing) . He’s the climber who had to amputate his own arm with a two inch pocket knife in order to free himself from a fallen boulder after 5 days of being pinned there by it. But, even with the knowledge that you will die unless you do this, and the endorphins and adrenalin pumping around your body helping you to survive and dulling your pain… this is extraordinarily excruciating work, and it’s incredible that anyone could see it all the way through.

I wonder if the motivation for the people who do this voluntarily is so strong that it overcomes their immense instinct to stop? I mean, Ivan Milat was attempting to send his finger to the Government. Maybe he felt he had a vital message to send them? One that could outweigh the pretty powerful desire to desist injuring his hand. Or maybe, his desire to be remembered by the public was so intense that it could spur him on in the face of huge self-induced trauma. He has been on a well publicised hunger strike before.

Maybe Van Gough too, felt that sending a message to the people he knew that he was in such distress was important enough to endure the discomfort of cutting off his own ear lobe. After all, he did it after a relationship breakdown and gave the severed lobe to a local prostitute for safe keeping.

Members of the Sadhus, a religious group in India devoted to liberation through meditation, sometimes walk around for decades with one hand continually raised, which can cause the fingers to eventually “withdraw into a stump”. Is this behaviour a self-harming attempt to communicate to others about their beliefs? I don’t know. If so, their need to communicate that message must be pretty damn strong.

I suppose it is possible that the need communicate a critical message  is all it takes to keep a person’s ‘mind over matter’ powers high enough, but somehow I doubt that it is the entire explanation in these extreme cases. I would argue that it is  probably a contributing factor only. I think it must also have something to do with the physical adaptations to stress, such as adrenalin and endorphins enabling you to do incredible things and bear much more pain than you ordinarily could.

It would not surprise me at all if Van Gough’s paranoia, delusions and anxiety could trigger his body’s fight/flight Sympathetic response to turn on. Nor would it seem strange to me if the same thing resulted from whatever extreme  emotions might fill Ivan Milat’s head at a time like that, possibly aggression, anger, frustration or helplessness.

Wiki tells me that a possible reason that a person might perform a penectomy on themselves is that they might view that organ, or masculinity (of which the penis can be seen as a symbol) as connected with rape, abuse or aggression. For some this leads to a desire to cause it harm or remove it from their body due to complete revulsion or a feeling of being dissociated from it. I can also imagine that having such overwhelming negative feelings about a body part of your own might be so unbearable and distressing as to cause your body to prepare for danger. Especially if you know you’re genuinely tempted to cause yourself drastic injury! I reckon that would get my heart rate up and give me a bit of a “rush”… not a good one though!

I know that some medical disorders can cause similar problems. For example, in Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome (a genetic disorder caused by deficiency in an enzyme because of a gene mutation) the sufferer uncontrollably bites their own lips, tongue and fingers and tries to harm themselves by vomiting compulsively, answering test questions incorrectly and refusing treats and rewards. This behaviour is exacerbated by stress. In many cases the physical damage is permanent. If you are interested in horrible things, there are some pictures of people with this disorder: here and here. This, to me seems in line with the idea that the physical component might be the largest one that allows this type of large-scale self harm to be carried out without backing out.

On a side note, some of the patients I was treating during my Neurological Placement in a Stroke Ward suffered from Hemispacial Neglect. When I would ask them to move an arm or leg on their effected side, the common, very calm, casual response was, “that’s not my arm/leg”. Most of the time they’re completely unaware of it, but when they are forced to acknowledge it’s presence they just claim it belongs to someone else. It’s interesting to me that these people seem amazingly unperturbed by the notion that a limb that does not belong to them is attached to their body. They DON’T have any desire to harm or remove this unfamiliar body part. I think I might, cos it’d freak me out more than a little! I guess this means that dissociation from a body part alone is not enough to cause extreme self mutilation. At least, not in stroke victims.

Conclusion? Git away…I aint got one! I was just musing :p

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Recentish Juxtaposition Outfits

January 22, 2009 at 12:43 am (Tabitha) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Here are some outfits which have tickled my fancy and sparked my imagination recently. I tend to find these things during my internet wanderings. You will have seen some of them if you follow my Facebook Album about clothes and stuff I like. In case you want to look them up, or find things that are in the same vein, that album, and its predecessors also contain the urls for all of the clothes that I have found, including the ones in this post.

The general theme is mixing up styles in ways that give an interesting look. I think it gives a bit of expression, intelligence and sometimes humour to the person’s appearance. I want to make it really clear though, that I have picked the photos for the outfits, NOT THE PEOPLE in them!

Biker-Ballerina:

031008_hathaway_200x400 I love the way this outfit evokes images of a girl at a formal wearing her rebel-boyfriend’s jacket because it’s cold. I love the way in which more masculine clothes, as part of an otherwise soft, girly outfit, only serve to make the wearer look more delicate and feminine by comparison.

Ingrid says that this type of outfit reminds her of the old Buffy movie, in which the main character is at her Prom in a cream-puff, princess dress, stunning the socks off of the boys when things go horribly wrong and she dons a jacket and proceeds to kick a bunch of bad guy arse… saving the day. I think that was how it went.

I like how this type of juxtaposition expresses strength and femininity in a way that shows that they’re not mutually exclusive. I suppose this explains, in part why Kim, Ing and I are so addicted to the ‘tough leather boot and frilly skirt’ combo that we love so much. But, for Kim and Ing, it more specifically reflects their love of Goth-Loli style – another great example of a trend involving juxtaposition of styles, but not one that I’m a huge fan of myself.

SciFi-Hippy.

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Now, I know… She looks like she needs a feed and a wash. But, like I said above, I’m not interested in her, but the outfit. Or the idea of it, anyway.

I love the unlikely combo of the earthy, relaxed, loose, almost sack-like, long top with the leather-style tights and tough boots. It strikes me as a Sarah Connor outfit, or possibly something that a person who lived outside of the matrix would wear. I can see an artist wearing this type of thing too.

I guess it boils down to the same thing as the above. It’s soft, and tough, and smart, and more casual than it probably should be. It suits the type of personality that I find attractive in women. It also shows an awareness of things that have been cool through the decades and uses a surprising combination of them which expresses something complex about the wearer’s mood or personality. To me, that’s clever and entertaining!

Other related finds…

Circus-Evening Wear.

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Geek-chic/Librarian-chic.

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Men’s Clothes on Women. Shit Yeah.

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I also wanted to let you all know that I added a cool new video to my last post (about gymnastics) in case you’re interested in having a look.

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Gymnastics is srs bsns.

January 14, 2009 at 11:39 pm (Tabitha) (, , , , , , , , )

I have some very mixed feelings about competitive gymnastics. Having taken part in approximately eight intense years of it (as well as three less full-on,  school representing ones), I kinda got the inside scoop. I did Artistic Gymnastics to elite stage 3 of 5, and dabbled in Rhythmic, Trampolining, Tumbling, Sports Acrobatics and diving (which I feel is strongly related).

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On the one hand, gymnastics is an incredible sport. Some of the most impressive feats of flexibility, strength, fearlessness and ancrobatics I have ever witnessed have emerged from it. It is mind blowing what the human body can achieve.  I find it beautiful, amazing and terrifying to watch and to participate in.

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The feeling of flying in trampolining, tumbling, vault and uneven bars is something I will miss forever. I have often mused that if I were to die doing anything, I would be most happy for it to be flying or falling. To develope an instinct for how to make your body rotate through the air in ways you’ve never tried before, and that will ensure a precise landing, almost feels like growing a sixth sense. Plus, it was just cool to be truly good at something, and to represent the State or your club or whatever else. And, I won’t lie. I loved being stronger than other girls. I loved being able to do Buffy-esque flips.

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I liked the opportunity to choose to develop skills which were of particular interest to me, and to create routines and moves, and choose music that tickled my fancy. I find it interesting to see how some gymnasts are very creative and expressive, and really enjoy embedding aspects of their personality into their routines, while others concentrate far more on technical excellence and totally ignore ideas of fluidity, elegance and personal taste.

I love how tough and determined and brave serious gymnasts are. This is where the good and bad start mixing though. I remember watching a young gymnast in the 2000 Olympics break her ankle during a stretch of tumbling.  Seeing that made my screwed up gym-brain go, “Oh, you didn’t rotate enough… you’re gonna get murdered by your coach.” Incredibly, she proceeded to finish the rest of her routine as well as possible. Gymnasts do not abandon an effort. Sure enough her coach was yelling at her as soon as she left the floor, even with her incredibly valiant perseverance right to the end of the music.

“Getting right back on the horse” so to speak, is so vital an idea to this extreme sport. Without it, no one would get anywhere near the level of inhuman ability that some achieve. I was not quite cut out for this level of harshness during my training at about age eight. I remember a few incidents that made it very clear to me that I shouldn’t accept an offer to go train at the AIS and have tutoring instead of school. Thankfully my mother had immediately taken that choice out of my hands anyway (for which I was VERY ungrateful at the time). I was already, at that point training six hours per day, six days per week. It would have, I presume, been even more rigorous a regimen there, which I can’t quite imagine now. But then I was torn, being so in love with gym and having found something I could really excel at.

One of these incidents was when I was training with the school team. I did a split leap on the beam (just as I had a million times before) and landed straddling it, the first point of contact being my crotch. Luckily, I’m not a guy, but by god that hurt. Also, it was scary and shook up my confidence on an apparatus I was previously so comfortable with. My coach gave me 150 situps – as was the punishment for falling off the beam – and then ordered me back on to do 100 of the same leaps again. The idea was that it would stop me from developing a serious fear that might hinder me in the future. I tried, shook and fell several times, redoing my situps, becoming more exhausted and freaked out. Eventually I started crying out of anger, frustration, nerves and adrenalin, snapped at my coach and stormed off. In order to return to training a couple of days later I had to apologise and agree to comply in future.

I had a recurring problem of a similar nature when the blisters or calluses on my hands from training on the bars would rip. The general policy when you get a rip is to tear of the skin/callous flap and get right back to training on the same aparatus. I was considered a massive baby for attempting to avoid this as much as possible, or for cotinuing my training very half heartedly due to the pain.

These are both rather minor, commonplace problems encountered by young gymnasts. It is worth mentioning that a lot of the other participants ignored their rips, their falls and their fears. They were just stronger than me, I suppose.

However, the reason I had to stop being a gymnast alltogether is also very commonplace, albeit less minor. I developed what I think was an RSI in my lower back. It arose from me repeatedly twisting off into a controlled fall midway through a backward walkover on the beam, because I wasn’t confident. I had been practicing this move 3-4 days per week for several weeks and without realising I was hurting my back. I still suffer from mild pain in that area on a regular basis, probably because I have not sought ongoing Physio for it. I also noticed in the last year of my gymmings that my right knee would sporadically give way during running or jumping, and that I had trouble descending stairs and preventing my right knee from hyperextending in standing or lying. I regularly get aching knees, shins and ankles and am not quite sure what the cause is. It sounds like some kind of ligament/connective tissue injury. I will probably figure it out during my Muskuluoskeletal Physio placement next semester (yessss!).

Anyhow, injury being a very common reason for stopping a sport you still love and would be great at… is, shall we say, a bit of a worry? Most of my coaches were coaches because they could not train or compete due to gym-related injury, but couldn’t relinquish their ties with the sport of their dreams. Unstable knees, ankles, elbows, backs, necks etc are everywhere in gymnasiums. Although, I suppose this could be said about many other sports too.

But, let’s not forget the body image confusion. As a teenager at school and practically anywhere else, I admired the bodies of, and hoped that my adult body would one day emulate those of slender, curvacious women who looked soft and fine. As a teenager in the gym, which was just as often my location in those days, I admired women whose bodies were short, compact, muscular, broad-shouldered, those who showed little to no signs of reaching puberty. I envied the girls whose hips were more narrow than their muscular midsections, and whose chests, backs, shoulders and arms looked like those of a very athletic young man. The ones who had 8 packs by the age of seven. I found myself increasingly frustrated in my teenage years as I seemed to fit neither mould fully. I did start to grow and become more feminine, a little. Enough to hinder my balance and strength, but not enough to put to rest my rampaging paranoia that I looked like a boy in girls’ clothing.

Fashion side-note: In my normal teenage headspace, clothes involving sparkles and lycra were not exactly ‘in’. But I remember being so jealous of all the glitzy, diamonty-embellished, faux velvet crop tops that my team mates would convince their parents to fork out for. Funny.

gymnast_face1

It worries me too, that there are girls I know who trained harder than I did, and went further than I did, and whose bodies have been permanently changed by it. I left gymnastics at age fifteen, and promptly grew taller and more womanly. There are so many that I know, and know of who missed that window for growth entirely and are stunted now forever. At least, that’s how it looks to me. They still look much like the girl in the picture here, minus the facial expression.

I suppose I am talking only from the point of view of women’s gymnastics here, because as far as I can tell, the issue of postponing puberty doesn’t seem to apply to males (the issue of serious injury clearly does though). This may be partially due to the ages at which gymnasts of different genders appear to peak. For men, puberty’s changes actually help, whereas for women, the prepubesent body is much more capable.

Look at this picture of members of the USA Gymnastics Team in 1956:

1956olympicteam22 They look healthy, and like… women. I understand part of what makes gymnastics so amazing is that the nature of the sport is to progress in difficulty and push the human body’s limits  further into crazy extreme land.  But, I guess that’s the reason why I can’t participate in it competitively anymore.

In an attempt to wrap this rambulation up somehow, I guess I’m really sad that something I adore so much isn’t available to me anymore. It seems that the only way to learn the really cool stuff is to commit to a competitive team and train so hard that it will change/hurt my body in ways I’m not willing to accept. I would love to try an adult acrobatics course at some point though.

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