it's about life, my life, quilts, midwifery, and whatever else occurs to me.

20 March 2015

The Aussie alphabet: O is for Opera House

How could O be for anything else?

The Opera House, normally:

Bonus: the Harbour Bridge in the background!

You can see more pictures of it if you click on that link just above, and read about the history, the construction, etc. etc. if you want. Fun fact: the architect - Danish!

The Opera House, during Vivid Sydney 2014:

Photo credit: me.

The building is beautiful and, of course, iconic. Never actually made it to a performance within the walls, but really, that's okay.

Now that I think of it: O can be for one other thing: 

This is an opal in the rough - still embedded in the rock it formed in.

And this is a fire opal ready to be set into a piece of jewelry. These guys are super expensive, when they are solid - (this one isn't, it's on Etsy!) and stunning.

Read all about them here:

04 March 2015

The Rainbow quilt top is done

A little history: This top came from a kit I bought in California about 10 years ago.
The shop was in Fullerton, or somewhere near there. I just fell in love with the colours. Then it sat around for ages while I made other quilts. Finally last year - no, late in 2013 - I got it out and started putting it together. Then I was interrupted by the need to piece and finish a thank-you quilt before we left Oz. While that one was being quilted, I finished this top, minus the borders. I finished the borders working on it for parts of the past 3 days.

I was going to look for someone to quilt it for me, because it's too big to quilt on my home machine. But a shop in the area rents time on long-arm machines and they have a sit-down machine that is a bit less intimidating than the ginormous stand-up ones but that I think is still big enough to do the job. So I'm going to go out there next week and see if I can get started doing it myself. Also plan to put a real label on this one, not just write on it like I usually do.

22 February 2015

The Aussie alphabet: N is for Ned Kelly

Moving on with the Aussie alphabet - I hate to leave projects unfinished! - -

Ned Kelly is the Jesse James of Australia, I guess you could say. He's known as the last of the bushrangers, defined as bandits of the Australian outback ( = bush) who harassed, robbed, annoyed, and sometimes killed the more law-abiding folk around them.

This is Ned, aged about 25, shortly before his death.

Ned was born in 1855 in Victoria, the eldest of 8 children of John and Ellen (Quinn) Kelly. John had been transported from Ireland for pig theft, and married Ellen in 1850 after serving his sentence of 7 years. 

By the time he was 14, Ned had already been in trouble with the authorities, and his chief occupation seems to have been horse theft until he graduated to killing police officers who were trying to apprehend him, and robbing banks. He was declared outlaw in 1878, complete with a price on his head, and finally captured in 1880 in a shootout with police. At this last shootout, he was wearing this suit of homemade armour, now iconic in Australia:

Image from

He was tried for murder, found guilty, and sentenced to death; he was hanged on 11 November 1880. As has happened with other so-called outlaws, there are those who yet view him as a hero struggling against the oppression of the ruling class and their agents, the police. His exploits are now the stuff of legend.

Back in the USA: Austin

I have taken another very long break from writing. Here's what happened since my last post in September last year:

1. My stepson got married on a boat in Hawaii.

2. We packed up our apartment in Brisbane and moved to a temporary rental in Austin, TX.

3. We bought a condo in Austin.

4. We moved into the condo, with our stuff that we packed up (see 2), on Boxing Day 2014, exactly one year to the day from when we were packing up our stuff to move into our rental apartment in Brisbane after selling the house there.

5. Phil started a new job.

6. My brother-in-law died at 71, way too young.

7. We bought a Vespa and took a course on motorcycle safety and management.

8. Phil had knee surgery.

9. I started to learn to knit.

So it's been an eventful almost 6 months.

Today I went to a quilt show at the Austin Convention Centre. I am always in awe of what other people can do with fabric. I took quite a few photos, of the quilts I liked, and they are still on my phone. Later. But my stitching room is set up, and now that most of the fixing-up needed here is done, it's time to get back to it!

23 September 2014

The Aussie alphabet: M is for morning tea

Morning tea. Now there is a custom that needs to be adopted in the US.

Morning tea - not just a cup of something hot at around 10 or 10:30 in the morning, like the American coffee break.

Morning tea has tea, yes; coffee (always - this is Australia where they are serious about coffee). But there's more! Because you can't drink tea or coffee without a little bit of something to go with it, can you?

Scones. Banana bread or carrot cake. Lamingtons (yuck, but some people like). Even brownies. Or savoury treats like mini-quiches. Often bite-sized so you can have more than one or two. Sometimes fruit. Mmmmmm. You almost don't need lunch.

No conference, meeting, or gathering that happens in the morning will fail to offer you morning tea. It's part of the deal. Always good to know in case you didn't leave yourself enough time to eat breakfast; you needn't worry that you'll faint before lunchtime. Morning tea to the rescue.

I shouldn't leave M, though, without mentioning 'mate' and mateship. 

Mate = friend, buddy, pal; can be used as a noun ('my mates are coming by later') or a form of address to virtually anyone regardless of how well you know them ('hey mate, how're you going?' - to a friend you haven't seen in a while; 'no worries, mate' - to a stranger who has just apologised to you for some minor contretemps like bumping into you in a crowded space). In the past it was used mostly by men ('blokes') to other men. These days it's for anyone, though it seems to me I hear it mostly from blokes.

Mateship = an Australian value implying equality, loyalty, and friendship (says Wikipedia). A bit more intense than camaraderie. It comes up in military contexts where each one depends on and looks out for all the rest, a Band of Brothers kind of thing, or other circumstances in which a group of people share a common, usually difficult, experience.

22 September 2014

6 years

This past weekend marked 6 years since Phil and I arrived in Oz for our gig. And it has been an adventure for sure.

We made some good friends.
Bought, and sold, a house.
Got to know two different neighbourhoods in Brisbane quite well and became acquainted with a few others. 
Visited North Qld, Byron Bay (several times), Sydney, Melbourne (both multiple times), Adelaide, Hobart, and surrounding areas of each.

For my part, I finished a PhD and a few quilts, taught some fabulous future midwives, and helped a few young new Australians learn English.

Phil created and led an innovation lab at the university, with much success and some frustration, and was sought out as a consultant or speaker at universities and schools, and even the Federal government.

Now as we anticipate leaving in just a few weeks, here is what I'll miss:

TimTams. Yes, you can order them on Amazon, but they are super expensive, so no.
Living on the river in West End with the view that I never tire of, and where I can walk to everything. 
The CityCat ferries, most civilised transportation ever.
The weather, especially spring and fall.
The jacarandas in bloom in October.
Being 2 hours from Melbourne.
Really excellent wine, even though I can't drink very much of it at a time.
Prices that include tax and service charge.

28 September 2013

Stories from Dad #1: Birth, 1951-style

A new occasional feature, capturing my Dad's memories while he is still around to tell them. This one, starring me! 

It was the evening, or maybe late afternoon, of August 28, 1951. Mom's water broke, and Dad brought her over to the hospital. 

At the time, Dad was part of the broadcast team for the local baseball team, the Elmira Pioneers, an A-league farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

Interesting fact: during that same 1951 season, Don Zimmer, then a Pioneers player and later the bench coach of the New York Yankees, got married at home plate, Dunn Field (the Pioneers' home stadium). Wonder what the bride really thought about that!

The Pioneers had a home game that night, and Mom apparently wasn't doing much in the way of contractions so she sent him off to the game. He left the phone number of the broadcast booth with the labor room nurses in case 'something happened I should know about'. But nothing did, and after the game, around 10:15 pm, he stopped off at the hospital to see how things were going with Mom. 

(Ed. note: I was surprised to hear they let him in to see her, being under the impression that until the late 60s or even later, fathers were banished entirely until the bundles of joy were out, cleaned up and moms likewise cleaned up, spiffy in their new pink nightgowns and beaming with bundle of joy in arms. But perhaps not. Or maybe it was up to the doctor in charge, and he would have let Dad in. Anyway on with the story.)

Dad stayed with Mom for (he says) about an hour or so. (I couldn't get him to clarify this so I'm just guessing that she still wasn't doing much contracting.) He left to go get some sleep and given the 'not much happening', the GP who was our family doctor and Mom's attending doc - since other than being a bit old, she was normal, and GPs did births all the time back then - would also have been home trying to get some sleep until needed for the big event.

Home for both Dad and Doc Gridley was Horseheads, only about 6 miles north of Elmira but at the time requiring a long distance call and the services of an actual human operator. When the labor nurse saw that I was getting ready to make my debut, she called Doc - and called - and called - and the Horseheads operator never answered. In the end it was some intern who caught me, unless it was actually the nurse but she had to credit the doctor for it. Because, good heavens, how could someone who's not a doctor catch a baby on their own responsibility!!?? That was at 2:34 am on Wednesday, August 29.

Dad says he got a call from the hospital around 7 am to tell him he had another daughter. (I haven't asked if he was disappointed about me not being a boy. Too threatening.) Presumably he was soon enough at Mom's bedside admiring the new bundle.

That bundle would later: cause so much trouble in her first grade class that she was sent up to second grade; set a kitchen on fire; read left-wing periodicals; vote Democratic; throw tear gas canisters back at police; hitchhike across the country and back twice; experiment with illegal mind-altering chemicals; convert to Judaism; and get divorced. Had he known all this at the time, I am certain he would have been horrified.

It was later determined that the hapless telephone operator had fallen asleep at the switch(board), and sadly, though not unsurprisingly, was sacked for it. 

And that's the story.

03 July 2013

Three rants

This has been coming for a while now.

 Rant #1: 'High school degree'. I read this only a few weeks ago in the soi-disant Paper of Record, the august New York Times. My understanding has always been that only people who complete a course of study at a college or university get a Degree, whereas what you get when you finish high school is called a Diploma. But it's possible I could be wrong. So, let's see what the DICTIONARY has to say:

from The Free Dictionary: An academic title given by a college or university to a student who has completed a course of study: received the Bachelor of Arts degree at commencement.

from Merriam-Webster: a title conferred on students by a college, university, or professional school on completion of a program of study.

And when you google "high school degree", guess what comes up?

Now we have three sources that say I'm right: the words 'degree' and 'high school' do not belong together. So dammit, New York Times and everyone else in the world, get it right!

Rant #2: 'Emergency cesarean section'. This terminology is used in Oz to describe a c-section done when the woman is already in labor. Now some of them are indeed emergencies: a prolapsed umbilical cord, for example; or massive hemorrhage. But in Oz, the term is applied not just to these rare and actually life-threatening situations but to ANY cesarean on any woman in labor, or I guess I should say labour since it's Oz we're talking about.

Referring to Merriam-Webster again, we find an 'emergency' is: an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action.

And this from the Oxford Dictionary online: a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.

Anyone who has worked in a labor and birth unit knows that while immediate action may be needed in some 'emergency cesarean' situations like the ones cited above, there are many others - possibly even the majority -  where the problem is that the baby just isn't coming out the usual way. And while you wouldn't want any undue delays, as long as the mother and baby are both stable, there is no 'emergency'. I think another slightly less fraught term should be substituted. Something like, say, 'cesarean section in labour'.

Rant #3: Hobby Lobby. My nominee for the most nauseating and obnoxious business name ever. Not only does the rhymey name itself make my teeth itch, but it's a chain of craft supplies stores where odds are everything in the whole place was made in Chinese sweatshops. It's owned by religious nutjobs who quite illogically oppose both abortion AND the only thing that actually decreases the need for abortion, i.e., contraception. Here is the latest on that front Maybe it would be okay for HL (I can't even bring myself to write it out again, never mind say it out loud) not to allow even their medical insurance provider to cover contraceptives without a co-pay if the company were to pay their employees a real living wage and while we're at it, how about a bonus for every baby? But according to, the starting hourly rate for a cashier is a meager $7.85 and even managers top out at under $20/hour. I can't say I hope they go out of business, because that would mean a lot of people would be unemployed and even worse off than they are now, but  let's just say I wouldn't be sorry to see them get bought out by Costco.

By no means is my ranting done, but I think 3 is a good number for a blog post. I like that I included one US usage, one Australian usage, and one evil business; I didn't plan it that way, it just happened, but it has a certain appeal and perhaps will be a template for future rantful posts. Cheers mate!