Monday, April 30, 2012

Catching up

My latest hat
This post is a bit of everything, as I come to terms with the end of April, which feels like it only started a moment ago! I knew it was going to be a busy month but the speed with which it passed surpassed all previous efforts! I seem to get to May each year in a stunned state, with the first part of the year keeping me on my toes.

So, now that life is due to quieten down for a little while, I can bring you up to date.

First, a creative update: I am still keeping up with my art journalling projects and have even - wait for it - done some scrapbooking this past week! (Is that the sound of sighs of relief I can hear?) My reorganised art room is working as I had hoped and I can focus on both messy projects and dry ones. Here's hoping I can get all caught up with scrapbooking over the winter. Unless my hands get too busy with yarn projects ... so far I have a new crocheted hat and am more than half-way through knitting myself a skirt. If you want to follow along with my yarn projects, head over to my Ravelry page.

The major threat to creating right now is reading, which is good - I am quickly catching up to my target for this year's Goodreads challenge, which had fallen behind. However, my recent reading has been paperless - I am working my way through Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove series and have been using both audio and ebook versions of the books. When I couldn't get the second book in the series on CD from the library, I turned to and filled the gap. And when I can't get the book I need from them, I am downloading the digital version from Amazon. Turns out my wonderful new Samsung Galaxy tablet easily accommodates the formats of ebooks that I use - Kobo and Kindle - and I am using that rather than my Kobo reader. Because it has backlighting, which the ereader doesn't, I can grab it from my bedside and read in the wee, small hours when I am awake. And it is a convenient way to listen to the audio books - especially until I have the cash to install my car stereo with bluetooth into my new car, which doesn't have that option or take a USB. Sigh - firstworldproblems.

And obviously, my paid/unpaid work with ABA has kept me busy, with a big expo, branch conference and the annual baby boom. At last week's conference, I received my 20 year certificate and badge, for my work as a breastfeeding counsellor - a certificate I had printed and laminated and a badge I had ordered, as part of my paid work ;) Kind of sums up my dual roles, really :)

Now that the weather has turned cooler - and hopefully we have seen the last of the warm, humid weather we had even just a week ago - I am starting my yearly battle with fibromyalgia pain in response to the cold. As I have also been having mild, but persistent MS symptoms, looking after my health is a big priority. I had a routine visit with my neurologist a few weeks ago and a routine MRI a week ago and will hear the results in the next day or so. I stress ROUTINE as people do worry - my MS won't get better but also isn't likely to get worse. It has been with me almost 17 years and will be with me until I fall off the twig, but it does flare up now and then and does need to have an eye kept on it. All I can do is stay as healthy as I can and I am keeping up with my twice-weekly aqua aerobics classes, plus weekly yoga and a busy cycle of visits with my "pit crew" - chiropractor, myotherapist, physio, naturopath, doctor and hairdresser ... yes, she keeps my hair in glorious purple to give all the others something to comment on other than my tattoo :)

So - there you are! Nothing more to add other than looking forward to this weekend away with my daughters as Melissa and I add Kaitlyn to our annual trip to Daylesford and Clunes - where we stock up on books to cram into our overwhelmed bookcases at the Booktown festival. Because life is short and you can never have too many books! Then in a few weeks, we will be at the Million Paws Walk and then a couple after that, the MS Walk. Because, you know, things quieten down at this time of year ;)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Darkest before the dawn

It really is! Sigh, once again I am awake in the wee, small hours so I thought I may as well catch up on my blog seeing I am up!

The upcoming weekend will be a busy one, with our ABA Branch Conference. This annual event usually involves me loading up the car and travelling to the country or somewhere on the other side of the City, but not this time! I still get to load up the car but then I travel a few hundred metres from my home and park it! Yes, my home town is host this year and the venue is the Uni in my neighbourhood. I could even walk there if so inclined (but I am not!).

So, no weekend away and I get to sleep in my own bed :) No down time for art though and the conference is sandwiched between my usual Friday and Monday self-care activities. Friday's includes an MRI to see how my MS is going on the inside. Luckily, I don't find the MRI experience anything more than loud and uncomfortable (45 minutes or so lying immovable on my back on a hard surface not good!). I gathered all my previous scans together the other day to retrieve the most recent to take along for comparision and they are a history in their own right - when I first began having symptoms in 1995, MRIs were a very expensive, hard to access diagnostic tool. My first cost me $500 out of pocket for - sob - an inconclusive result! They used to involve trekking to a central hospital but now the machines are in local facilities. And bulk-billed by medicare :)

I have had a nostalgic week. Part of my office work has been organising our Years of Service presentations at the conference. The earliest qualified volunteer in attendance qualified as a Breastfeeding Counsellor back in 1977, when I was in Year 8! While that makes me feel young, my co-worker wasn't born until 1979, so that makes me feel old! It is lovely to catch up with old memories as groups of names celebrating 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35 years chronicle my experiences over most of that time ... and my name is on the list too! It is hard to believe five years has past since I created my 15 years certificate for presentation and here I am, creating my 20 year one! Twenty years feels like a very long time and it is! So many changes over two decades since I became a breastfeeding counsellor yet so many aspects of the role are unchanged. And so very many friendships that continue to this day. I can't wait to catch up with many of them over the weekend.

Volunteers are unpaid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Creatively organised or organised creation

Those who know me well realise when it comes to left/right brain dominance, I am split right down the middle.

I love order and colour, planning and spontaneity, control and freedom. I like a place for everything and everything in its place, but prefer it to be in colourful spleandour rather than behind closed doors.

This "whole brain" approach is most visible in my art room. I store like with like, but that might sometimes refer to the use and sometimes to the colour. I abhor packaging, love re-purposing and care not one bit for brands!

As I have opened up my creating to expand from scrapbooking and embrace art journalling, the urge to organise my new tools and supplies began right from the moments of purchase. The rainbow is my palette and those colours call to me to be seen. My favourite colours - purple and orange - are my base in wardrobe, decorating and creation and the colours which harmonise with them attract me.

I was really happy with how my room had evolved for scrapping. You can see lots of photos here to see the storage options and layouts that still formed the base of the room - and still do, just added to and a little reorganised. You can see my former space AKA the dining room in 2008, where many of the storage options were already in use.

So - first, just a couple of before photos. I am really bad at taking before photos, because that is the cringe-worthy point for me: if the space is bad enough that I must reorganise it right away, then I am most likely embarrassed for it to be seen by others. But in the public interest ...

Functional but cramped and crying out for better use of space.

As you can see in the video of my work over Easter, I added an extra desk. But I also want to show you some of the smaller details.

I have a few basic organising rules which I try to apply everywhere:

"Store like with like"

"Make it easy to discard what you don't want"

"Think outside the square"

"Keep only what you know to be useful or believe to be beautiful"

"Location, Location, Location"

"Don't overlook the obvious"

"Respect the needs of those who share your space"

My space is like a game of Monolopoly or Lego - never really finished! This is how it is right now.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Ta Da! Art room, formerly known as scraproom

I am now sitting back and enjoying the end result of two days rebooting what I now intend to call my art room.

While I do plan on taking some photos to share the details, I grabbed my tablet and made an impromptu video to show you the overall result. One thing that often strikes me when I look at people's studios is just how much space they tend to have, especially those in the US with big basements. So i want you to really understand that, if my arms were only a little longer, I could stand in the centre of my room and touch both walls. This room is not big and while I am so happy to have it, I understand the frustrations of not having a dedicated room for art/craft of any kind. So I am big on maximising the space I do have and using storage options that are, for the majority, items bought second hand or freecycled, on sale or low budget. Keeping it real.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Time to reboot the scrapping room!

As New Zealand is known as "The Land of the Long, White Cloud", Australia is proud of its status as "The Land of the Long Weekend"! For reasons lost in the mists of time, it has been traditional for many public holidays to be tacked onto a weekend, to create a long one. But the Easter weekend is naturally the favourite as we take Good Friday AND add on Easter Monday to compensate for Easter Sunday falling on a day we already have off! Only a couple of decades ago, we even had Easter Tuesday, which I think was a day off to compensate for the Monday, which we were already off for because of Sunday! Sadly these days, while office workers add flexi-days either side, round out the two weeks with a bit of annual leave or "chuck a sickie" with fortunately-timed vague illnesses, those who work in retail can find themselves working  all but the still respected Good Friday (although even that can find those in the food service industry rostered on that day).

While Easter is a sacred religious festival for some, a cultural celebration for many and a feast of chocolate for all, it is also a time when those on holiday divide into two camps: those who go away and those who stay home. Those who stay home tend to turn the four days into an autumnal DIY opportunity of painting and other household maintenance and redecorating. Which is what this rambling introduction for the benefit of my overseas readers is all about!

My lovely scrapping room isn't working efficiently for me as I am moving more and more into art journalling. Scrapbooking is a basically "dry" craft activity, where the mess tends to be scrraps of paper. But now I am using a lot more "wet" techniques - paints, sprays, stencilling, mediums etc. I really need to distinct work areas to keep my dry stuff out of harms way when the wet is flying thick and fast.

I popped into Ikea after work and picked up this on special:
I plan to set it up to be my dry workspace and use the storage drawers and cupboard to keep my journals when I am not working on them. At $69 instead of $99, it was just the size I was looking for to tuck in and create an L-shaped area with my current desk.

But like all simple solutions, it means that much of the other furniture in the room needs to be rearranged so it will fit in. I am going to use it as an opportunity to do a thorough clean out, purge some unloved supplies and refresh the space.

I also plan to squeeze in some art time before and after over the four days - as well as get some rest - LOL!!! Photos to come!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Early Daze - Six Steps to Breastfeeding

I presented the following talk at this weekend's Baby & Toddler Show in Melbourne. Many of my friends  who were volunteering on the ABA stand at the same time. or arrived later in the day, said they wished they could have heard it, so I uploaded my notes to Scribd to share with you. You don't get my ad libs, but I did stick mostly with the following, so it is just like being there!

(Feel free to share the link with friends expecting babies, but please do not reproduce the presentation without consent, as the photos are from the ABA photo library and can only be used with permission.)

The Early Daze - Six Steps to Breast Feeding