Sunday, 24 January 2016

SUMMER, at last!

Globe artichoke in flower
Summertime, and the living is easy!  And we're singing and humming along!  So, so happy!
Finally, summer has arrived.  We have had a sporadic, half-hearted attempt at summer, up until now!  The Land of the Long White Cloud has certainly lived up to it's Maori name, Aotearoa, ALL summer long!  Up until now, that is.   Yep, world-wide, weather patterns have changed.  When most Kiwis should have been out in and on the water, yelling, whooping, skiing, surfing and swimming, we've been holed up inside, scrounging for wet weather gear and even the odd woolly jumper to ward off the unseasonable chill!
Welcome, Sunshine!
 So all's not been roses and sweet peas in the garden, I mean, everything is late in the edible veggie patch!  God, in all his wisdom, forgot to put stop-cocks into plants, so much of our tomatoes and plums split while still green, in the persistent, non-stop rainfall, inviting fungal infestations and fruit flies, way before they were even ready to be picked!  But such is the life of the gardener.  We run with the ups and downs and do our best to dodge the weather gods' wrath.  Mouldy nectarines had their "good bits" chopped out to make nectarine compote (still yum!) and the fruit fly-infested plums were thrown to the birds (double treat for them - fruit and flies!). Luckily, there's still some left though, and to ensure a steady supply, I shall have to bag the remaining fruit on the trees, or else the birds will continue their feasting and leave us with nothing.  I simply tear up strips of recycled fabric and peg them around the fruit or tomatoes.  Then there's the plight of my beans.  Beautiful bean wigwams one week, rusty the next from too much rain!  Had to pull them all out to stop the fungal spores spreading to other veggie crops!  And the weeds.......Weeds that love all that extra rain, having grown to Empire State Building proportions!  Oh, boy!  The joys of weather gremlins!

At times, we have wondered how the sky could hold so much rain up there!  Huge reservoirs of mammoth proportions!  While parts of our country have had not a drop, we have considered building an ark in our backyard!  It was consolation to hear that we weren't as bad off as Wales, who had 81 days of continuous rain!  
So in the middle of summer, the rain seems to have moved on and the sun has managed to part the clouds in a last ditch attempt to shine on us and finally ripen our fruit!  The sun is so very, very welcome!  
We all love the sun!
Having been thwarted by weather and other events and circumstances, my garden has been a little neglected, but since then, I have been working methodically, slowly but surely on trying to control the jungle it's become.  Patch by patch, I am gaining control and winning the war on weeds.  You don't realise how big your bit of turf is, until you hand weed it, every square centimeter of it!!
I have begun a systematic clean up programme, and am happy to say that finally, I can look out and see a little order arriving in my backyard!
Bee Fodder
After a gigantic herb garden sort, chop, divide and ruthless weed culling yesterday morning, our compost bin is overflowing with the fall-out, but now we can see the lovely herbs and access them for our meal prep enhancement.  All the "off cuts" have been put to good use and I have dried many herbs in my second-hand dehydrator to be stored and used over winter.  I try not to waste much in the food production arena, it would seem self defeating! Which reminds me, I have a big bowl of Omega plums waiting to be processed today.  I may just freeze them for later processing into jam or compote in winter when fruit is scarce.  I have already made 8 bottles of spicey plum chutney.
Before:  Herb Jungle

After: Herb Garden
After our gardening mission yesterday, we headed off for a drive and then a splash into our local waterhole on the Uretara River.  Cool and refreshing!  What a lovely way to end our summer's day.  I LOVE summer!  Especially, a long-overdue one!
Splash into Summer!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

A New Life

So I haven't written in a long, long time!  Not because I didn't want to write.  I love writing!  Lots has been happening in my life, and I just didn't know HOW to write about it.
New Discoveries.
Since our trip to New Caledonia in October 2015, there have been some earth-shattering experiences for me.  In October and December 2015, I experienced multiple seizure episodes twice.  Out of the blue.  I should say, my husband experienced my seizures, as he's the one to have witnessed and dealt with them.  I have no recollection, except some briefest moments in between!  Every life experience affects us in different ways.  What I have gained from this experience, is immense gratitude.  So many things to be grateful for!
We live half an hour away from the nearest hospital, and our small local ambulance service rushed me to hospital in both instances.  I am most grateful for these fine dedicated ambulance officers, who are mostly volunteers from our small town.  I am grateful too, for the dedicated care and attention of the multi-cultural hospital staff in Tauranga hospital.  Fine empathetic folk, patient, caring and kind.  I am grateful to live in beautiful New Zealand, were all citizens have access to FREE hospital care!  Amazing!  I am grateful too, for a loving, supportive husband and family, who cared for me during and afterwards, and still do!  And I am grateful for supportive friends, who showed their care and love in a myriad of different ways.
Lastly, I am grateful to be alive!  There is still so much I need to do in this lifetime!
Cycles of birth and rebirth.  Each year, chamomile reseeds itself and regrows in our garden.

After my first episodes, I left the hospital and I was ANGRY!  Angry at my own body for being such an ungrateful traitor!  I have never smoked.  Never drank alcohol.  Never took any drugs, legal or illegal.  Ate healthy food.  Vegetarian for about 26 years.  Researched health extensively and took pains to understand about healthy lifestyles.  Grew much of our own organic fruit and veges for the last 15-20 years.  So how come I ended up with seizures??  Could not understand it at all.  In retaliation, I asked my husband to take me to the supermarket and to his utmost horror, I filled my basket with junk foods, my reasoning: my body was so pampered with healthy options, perhaps it needed to know exactly what abuse was, so it could work harder and be more grateful for all that good care it had been so used to!

Well, that soon passed.  I was wrong!  And I discovered the hospital tests revealed dangerously low iron and oxygen levels in the blood, which meant there was insufficient oxygen to my brain, resulting in short circuiting!  Hence the seizures.  This was apparently a long-standing problem! 
Now I knew a little more, but was still confused.  As vegetarians, we have always been aware of eating iron-rich foods.........then... Lightbulb moment!  I have had 30 years of heavy, painful periods.  But I had always just thought this was just my lot in life.  Women's cross to bear.  Never thought anything more of it!  So we saliva-tested my hormones............... shock, horror!  My body produced almost NO progesterone.  Hence the menorraghia (abnormally heavy bleeding at menstruation). 

Everything in Life is about Balance.

While still coming to terms with our findings, I had my second bout of seizures.  Hospital and independent Saliva tests confirmed the hormonal theory, and CT, MRI and ECG's all revealed nothing too spectacular.  Tumours were ruled out.  Another aspect to be extremely grateful for.  I am now on anti-seizure drugs (haha, me, who did not support the use of any form of drug, in whatever shape or form!), also adrenal support, hormone and vitamin therapy.  I am still getting used to being a pill-popper.  But at the moment, I have no choice and I am hoping the anti-seizure drugs are a short-term solution which is going to last only 6-12 months till I can get my hormones under control!
Butterflies undergo incredible metamorphosis.  This is my metamorphosis.
What I have learned:
  • The body is resilient.  It has been deprived of what it needed for so long, and yet it still managed to keep on keeping on.
  • I now have short term memory loss.  There are so many, many little things I do not remember since the seizures.  Names of friends.  What I did in the few months leading up to my episodes.  Where I have put things. The list goes on...
  • We should not just accept pain and discomfort as "our lot in life".  
  • When we show our weaknesses, true friends will always be there to show support.
  • It is okay to let someone else take the lead, to hold your hand and show you the way when you have lost your direction.
  • Every day I learn something new, about life, about humanity, about myself.
  • You might think you have everything planned, but sometimes, unplanned events just happen, and you have to keep up!
  • Life is precious, and magical.  We should celebrate our living.  Do little things each day that make you happy.
Find the beauty all around you.
There are also several changes that I have made in the last few months:
  • Mike and I had decided to stop working for a salary, just BEFORE my seizures.  Providence, of which I am now truly grateful.  Kindergarten teaching is a hectic environment, and one has to give 100% to the job.  I am only operating on 80% right now.  Our home environment will provide a healing space to be in.  Our living allowance will be a Mini budget, not a Mercedes budget, but we are used to living on the smell of an oily rag, so we should survive, particularly since we grow 80% of our food!
  • I am not allowed to drive for 12 months following the last seizure.  This is one of the most painful changes, as I have a gorgeous little Honda Jazz that I love to drive, with all the independence and freedom that provides me with.  But, I have two working legs, better get used to using them!  These are my new mode of transport!
  • My husband and I had planned to celebrate this year (2016) as we turn 50 and 60yrs respectively, with a long-dreamed-of trip to Spain, Portugal and Morocco.  We still plan to go!  Life is precious.  Live it!
  • We are going to devote more time to getting fitter.  We are already on the way!
These words of wisdom come to mind, which I have always treasured in the past, and even more now,  as I face a future I have no idea of what it will look like.

"...Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

"Several years ago, this paragraph from A RETURN TO LOVE began popping up everywhere, attributed to Nelson Mandela's l994 Inaugural Address. As honored as I would be had President Mandela quoted my words, indeed he did not. I have no idea where that story came from, but I am gratified that the paragraph has come to mean so much to so many people."
Marianne Williamson

Beautiful and wise, wise words, thank you Marianne Williamson!  They inspire me to Shine!

Let's all Return to Love.  With Love, anything is achievable.

A New Life.   2016, Morocco here we come!                      (Sculpture by Shayni Green.)