Saturday, 30 August 2008

I can't imagine

I'm still struggling to get my head around the fact that my friend's mother is dying. My only real experiences of death have been when my step-grandfather died; when a guy in my class at high school killed himself; and when our dog Kesha never came home one day (presumably run over).

I can't imagine what it's like to know you won't be here in a year; to have to clear up your affairs, sell your house, get your will up-to-date, say your goodbyes, whatever else you need to do. Would you do last-minute things you've always wanted to do? Would you regret not having lived your life more fully? Would you change your attitude to your friends and family, appreciating them more, wanting to leave good memories?

I can't even imagine.

And it hurts me to think of my friend knowing his wonderful mother won't be there in a few months, knowing he'll need to watch her die a slow and painful death. He's a wonderful guy, and his mother's a wonderful woman. I haven't seen her in years, but I remember her clearly: her long hair, the sarong she often wore, her tired face, her kindness and understanding and quiet helpfulness, her love for her sons.

I can't imagine knowing your mother's going to die; that has to be one of the most painful things you'd ever have to deal with.

I want to go there and say goodbye, to make sure there are no hard feelings between us, to tell her what a great woman she is. I want to hug my friend, to know he's being taken good care of, to help him deal with it.

I can't imagine what it's like, but it must be unbearably painful for both of them. His mother's such a strong, wonderful woman. Both she and her son will need so much strength and courage to deal with this.

I just can't imagine.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Daffodil Day

There's so much tragedy.

A friend's mother has pancreatic cancer. She's been given 3-4 months to live; they're hoping to increase that to six months with chemotherapy. She's in pain, she's in chemo, she's lost 30 kilos this year (and she's not exactly overweight to begin with), and she's still going to work — I'd have given up. She's a strong woman.

It feels almost unbelievable. She's such an awesome woman — this shouldn't be happening to her.

I asked my friend what I could do; he said, "If you still pray, you could do that."

It's Daffodil Day today in New Zealand, a day to support cancer research and treatment. You can donate online here, text "DDay" to 883 for a $3 donation, or call 0900 31 111 for a $20 donation.

Another cool way to donate is here, where the National Bank have made a map of New Zealand. You can buy little virtual daffodils, which you plant in whichever region you want; and you can name the daffodil you buy and put a message on it. One virtual daffodil in the Manawatu region is called Christine Clunie; the message is, "Mum, I love you and miss you every day." It's so sad — but what a cool way to remember someone.

So give some thought and some time and maybe some money, to help those who have this horrible disease. And if you're a praying person, pray for my friend and his mother.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Six Pack Three

Finally! The annual Sunday Star-Times short story competition is on again (terms and conditions here), and this time I'm determined to enter — even if I haven't yet completed my first draft of the story I want to enter. Must get onto that. Must get onto assignments and articles first, unfortunately. So many good intentions, so very little time!

In other bookish news, guess what I got.

No, really, guess.

Go on....

That's right, ladies and gentlemen: yesterday I arrived home to find a beauteous brown-paper package in the mail, and as we all know brown-paper packages can contain wonderful and mysterious things, from anthrax to Christmas presents. In this case, it contained my own beautiful copy of The Six Pack Three, courtesy of Dee from NZ Book Month.

Of course, I can't possibly reveal ahead of time who the illustrious winners are, although I can tell you that there are six of them. Wow.

I can probably also tell you that my choice (from the reader's choice poll) is in there (go me and my awesome taste!). Actually, as I flick through the book I notice... oh, that's interesting. But I don't think I'm allowed to say.

And to finish off this totally informative post, I'd like to quote from Stacey Morrison in the introduction of The Six Pack Three: "Sculptors of words, lovers of writing and all the emotions a pen may wield, we salute you!"

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

The purr is back

Unfortunately, so am I.

Our holiday was so nice. Dan and I went to visit my family, and it ended up being a really busy visit. We toured Cadbury World and the Speights Brewery; put two coats of stain on my Nana's balustrade; went for a Hägglund ride and saw penguins being fed; went on a scenic railway tour; made cake; went through a Tropical World; and bought various presents for Mother's Day (belated), Father's Day (early) and assorted birthdays. Good times! Expensive times, but definitely good.

On the way home I got pretty depressed about leaving; I would really have liked to have had just a couple more days there. But my family's coming up to Wellington for Christmas, so we'll see them then, and that's not too far away. In fact, Mum said they might be able to come stay with Dan and me for a couple of days, which means we need to sort out our house. Get some kitchen benches installed, buy a dining room table, that kind of thing.

I was a little worried about our cats; we haven't left them for so long before, but when we got back they were so happy to see us — Toby could hardly stop purring. We decided to let the cats in our bedroom for the night, since they seemed to be craving affection, but oh dear. They were obviously craving more affection than we'd realised; I was awake most of the night with Mitsi sniffing me and nudging me and trying to get under the covers, as Toby lay on my ankles and purred contentedly.

But it's nice to feel we've been so missed. When we first got Toby, he had a really loud purr that you could hear all the way down the hall, but lately his purr's just faded into a regular cat purr, and Dan and I have joked that he's "broken" his purr through overuse. But when we got back last night, there was no doubt about it: Toby's purr is definitely back.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Gym: Week Two

Total calory burn for Week Two: 1215 calories

OK, week two was technically last week, but I wasn't really in the right head-space to write about exercise. And my Nana broke her arm last week, so all things considered, not a good week for my grandmothers.

But on to gymnastical talk. I ended up having to go to the gym four days last week, and it has been an additional source of stress for me to find the time to go. And I ended up being half an hour late to lunch with a friend one day, because I took 30 seconds too long at the gym and missed my bus.

I only needed to get 70 calories burned on Friday to get to 1000, but decided that, since I was going to miss lunch anyway, there was no point in only doing the 15ish minutes I needed; so I did 50 minutes instead, which is exciting for me as it means I voluntarily stayed on at the gym.

But I've decided to skip this week, so I'll have to start over again next week; but I don't feel too bad about it. As Dan and I are going to visit my family tomorrow (ee! very excited), I only have two days in Palmy this week; thus I'd need to burn 700-800 calories today, and skip lunch to do the rest tomorrow. It's just not worth it, especially when I need that time to finish those three assignments I have due this week. I'm not failing the task, just postponing it; and with the gym, I intend to try and continue to do 1000 calories per week till my membership runs out anyway.

Despite the stress it can cause, I'm really enjoying working out; my body just feels so much fresher and healthier and fitter. Maybe the sensation's all in my mind; but as long as my heart's a little healthier, that's fine by me.

Saturday, 16 August 2008


My Grandma's been diagnosed with dementia.

There are so many things I could say, and maybe later I will. I hate myself a bit for not visiting her more often, for not treasuring her while I could.

Jo's Gran has Alzheimer's, and it's been painful for me to watch Gran deteriorate over the years. I can't imagine how it must have been for Jo and Joy; and I don't know why I was never more grateful that my three living grandparents are in relatively good mental and physical health.

Apparently Grandma already has "bad days", and I don't want to think what that means. My poor Granddad, living at home with her, taking care of her. She's always been the reliable one; he's depended on her for years. At least, since the stroke, he's been more used to taking charge.

I want to visit her, but what's the point? Will she know me? She must do, it can't be that advanced yet. Will she forget me visiting? I guess she will. Will she forget what we talked about five minutes ago? I hope not, I hate to think of my strong, wonderful grandmother like this. I need to visit her, to spend time with her while she's still her, even if only on her good days.

I hate to think of this — it's awful, horrible. It would almost be better to hear she had some physical disease; at least they're generally treatable.

Why do so many physical diseases have cures, and so few mental ones? We're going to end up having cures that will keep you alive for 200 years, but for the last 100 years your brain will be a pile of mush.

I hate thinking of her like this. Her brain's slowly dying before her body's ready to go. It's horrible.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Diversity CHAFF: Issue 19

Drumroll please for the upcoming instalment of CHAFF:
  1. Diverse horoscopes
  2. Ye diuerse olde weeke in historie — Elizabeth Stuart, Elizabeth Báthory and Nessie
  3. An incredibly dull article on the Six Pack Three (Update: This ended up being moved to Issue 20)
This will be the last issue before semester break, which means two weeks' break from CHAFF while I haphazardly attempt to complete my four upcoming assignments before semester break, when I'll be visiting my parents and coming back to do contact courses, more assignments and of course more CHAFF articles! Lucky me.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008


To continue my self-appointed task of listing Kyrgyzstan's results in the Olympics: Kanatbek Begaliev just won a silver for wrestling, which is fantastic, although I'm not impressed with the French guy who stopped Kyrgyzstan from getting their first-ever gold.

On the Kiwi front, more disappointing results in rowing and canoeing, although full props to Moss Burmester, even if he didn't get a medal. He got a very solid fourth, and if only someone had knocked Phelps over the head beforehand, we might have got a medal....

Speaking of which, I'm starting to dislike Phelps on principle of all the adulation he's receiving. His head's going to be huge at the end of this. They're calling him "the best Olympian" and even "the Olympian king". Ugh.

Which reminds me of my other peeve relating to the Olympics: changing the swimming times so that they fit into US prime-time. I accept that the States are the current superpower, but I don't like the rest of the world (or at least the Olympics) having to reorganise their schedule to suit the USA.

Anyway, at the end of the day, New Zealand is still medalless and Kyrgyzstan now have both a bronze and a silver in wrestling. Hopefully Saturday's rowing will change all that, or maybe an event before then... but we'll see. It's a little embarrassing for NZ's 180-strong team to be coming behind Kyrgyzstan's 15 athletes.

But tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008


Articles are increasingly overdue; assignments are looming; I've only burned 179 calories at the gym this week; but the Olympics are on.

Ahh, my once-in-four-years love. My... quadannual love?

New Zealand's still medalless, but with the sad exception of equestrian events we're still doing as well as could be expected — while countries like Chinese Taipei, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan are slowly accumulating medals.

My main focus is still Kyrgyzstan, though; partly because, with only 15 athletes competing, they're much easier to keep an eye on than NZ's 180ish-strong team; and partly because if New Zealand wins anything, it'll be on all the NZ news before the athletes themselves find out they've won.

I found myself getting irritated at the news yesterday for all of the non-Olympics news. The National Party's made a new policy... who cares? How did we go in rowing? Russia's invaded Georgia... but what about the swimming? Did Phelps score another gold?

Not that I'm trying to detract from either news item; both very important, but...did they have to happen now? If the world revolves around me (and it does), shouldn't it also revolve around the Olympics?

But as far as Kyrgyzstan's going in the Olympics, Asylbek Talasbaev won his boxing match and is going through to the next round; and Ruslan Tiumenbaev just (as I wrote this entry) got a bronze medal for wrestling. Go Ruslan! Go Kyrgyzstan! That's their second medal ever as an independent nation. (I was psychically trying to send Ruslan bronze-vibes during the match, and must therefore claim all credit for the medal.) But that's fantastic news for Kyrgyzstan.

Monday, 11 August 2008


I sometimes complain about the few remaining friends I have in Palmy, but the fact is that to an extent that's my fault. I've decided I'm really bad at keeping in touch with my friends: and I want that to change.

I want to reconnect with my friends. Recently I was talking with Kylie, who said how she'd always appreciated the fact that when Dan and I started dating, I was still there for my friends; that I didn't mind going out without him for a night with the girls; that I wasn't one of those girls who suddenly can't function without her man.

Then, when I moved in with Dan, that all changed.

I love living with Dan; I'm so glad I moved in, but I don't want that to affect my friendships. Nate, Daniel, Siska, Jo, Sherryn, Darcy, Reuben, even Kylie; and probably others, that's just off the top of my head. I've been a pretty poor friend, and I really want to make an effort to rekindle my friendships with these people.

I was talking about my priorities with Joy over the weekend, and we worked out that my priorities are more or less: Work, study, CHAFF and gym. (Dan and housework should also be on that list, although I'm not sure where.) But my friends weren't mentioned on my priority list, which I want to change. I hung out with Jo, Daniel, Nate and Nate's fiancée last week, which was really great, and made me realise how much I'm missing out on.

I do feel like this new life with Dan has been so comfortable and nice and easy that I've forgotten my friends a bit; and I do get a little lonely for a good girl friend sometimes. So I want to make an effort, and renew my friendships; and if you're a friend I haven't kept in touch with — I'm sorry!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Kyrgyz efforts at the Olympics

First-off, congratulations to Vasily Danilov, a 19-year-old from Kyrgyzstan who came 3rd in the first heat for the men's 400m individual medley... OK, he may not have won, and no one from that heat actually got into the finals; but I think it's great that Kyrgyzstan managed to enter a swimmer who didn't (as per my expectations) come last, but who beat the speedy swimmers of Turkey and Andorra.

OK, it may not sound that great, but the Olympics (as of 1996/98) were virtually uncovered in Kyrgyzstan, so there's very little support for Kyrgyz athletes; which makes it fantastic they even manage to enter a team.

Little-known fact: Kyrygzstan (although then "the Kirghiz Republic of the USSR") has won one gold medal in Olympics history, for weight-lifting, in 1980. Go Kyrgyzstan! Independent of the USSR, I think they've only won the one medal — bronze — for extra lightweight judo in 2000.

In Kiwier news, congrats to the Evers-Swindell twins, who exceeded everyone's expectations with a beautiful easy win in the first heat of the women's double sculls; and the Waddell/Cohen team who everyone knew would win the first heat of the men's double sculls, although the Belorussian team gave them a very good run for their money.

Ahh, the Olympics. I'm mainly rooting for Kyrgyzstan and New Zealand, as well as any random small countries (e.g. Belorus) that catch my eye; and I do hope China get more golds than the States this year. Go China! Woo!

...end Olympics rave.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Gym: Week One

Total calory burn this week: 1035 calories

I'm exhausted. I feel bad for not updating my blog lately; but I've been so busy, especially with the gym... I feel really proud about the gym, though.

On Monday, as I was about to head off to the gym, I ended up talking with a guy I know for a while, with the result that I only ended up having 35 minutes at the gym. Tuesday, no time between lectures; and on Wednesday, I was so behind with CHAFF that I actually decided to go home and work on an overdue article rather than go to the gym.

On Thursday, I forgot my towel, so I had to go home, grab my towel and made a special trip out to Massey. And today, I had to postpone lunch till 3pm to fit the gym in. I knew exactly how many calories I needed to burn off today to get to my 1000-calories goals, and wasn't too impressed at the end of my hour to be three calories short. Grrr.

When I went back on the treadmill to burn those three calories, my heart rate was much lower than my first effort today — and I did 38 calories in 5 minutes, as opposed to my first effort, which averaged 27 calories in 5 minutes. I was wondering: would it be better to do three lots of 20-minute exercises (as I'm doing now) or six lots of 10-minute exercises?

I'm really glad I've done it this week. I enjoy the training, the feeling, the knowledge I'm helping my heart somewhat — although I was worried today when my chest felt quite tight for almost two hours after training. My heart rate went as high as 192bpm, too, which can't be good; and I've been exhausted every afternoon this week, even the days I haven't trained. Hopefully that's just something my body will learn to deal with, but we'll see. And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go to bed.

Olympics CHAFF: Issue 18

To celebrate the Olympics, of course we had to have an Olympics-themed CHAFF at some stage:
  1. This week in history — Hulk Hogan, Pat O'Connor, Pee Wee Reese, Billy Fiske, and the Olympics 1936 (the year of Hitler and Jesse Owens) and 1964 (the year without South Africa due to apartheid)
  2. Sportsy horoscopes
  3. Possibly a movie review of Forgetting Sarah Marshall (although that might be in next issue, I don't know what my editor's doing)

So, good times. I kinda feel like I haven't done much for this issue of CHAFF, although I may or may not have another DVD review and feature article in Issue 19, depending on how sorry I feel for my editor and how much time I have. I've been so exhausted and busy lately — I'm really trying to complete my monthly goals this month, as well as going to the gym, staying awake during lectures, and contemplating my five upcoming assignments. Nervous breakdown, here I come!

Although I haven't really been particularly stressed. Just very, very busy.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Bruchko (Bruce Olson)

They say not to judge a book by its cover, and maybe it's a mistake to judge it by its genre, either. I was so little enthused about reading Bruchko that I almost put it on TradeMe instead; but decided to give it a go first.

Bruchko is the autobiography of Bruce Olson, a missionary who went to South America to convert the Molitone Indians. I generally steer clear of Christian literature, which tends to be full of far too many nauseauting descriptions of the love and peace of our Lord God Almighty amen.

Bruchko had a few of those scenes; but they're easily skipped over, and the book was still really interesting. He also initially went to Venezuela, which was an extra facet of interest to me with the story I'm writing.

The good thing about Olson was that he didn't try to "Westernise" the Molitones; he didn't even object to the witch doctor, which I know many missionaries tend to strongly dislike, as witch doctors often pray to demons. Instead, Olson (or "Bruchko") works with the witch doctor to help her, far more effective than running against the current culture.

This isn't a sentimental account: Olson is open about the bad as well as the good in Molitone culture; and there's tragedy here too, as he shows life as it is. He starts his story by showing how his conversion alienated his family; he ends by showing how the Molitones' conversion caused death.

The account of his family life seemed pretty one-sided, casting his family in an unloveable light — I'm sure their side of the story would have been completely different, probably with Olson as a self-righteous little brat.

But all in all, this book was interesting throughout, and held my interest. It's a pretty short book, and took me maybe a couple of hours to read. But I'm glad I didn't flick it off on TradeMe after all.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Angels Fall

I love that first stage of a story, the first excitement, new possibilities and ideas and wonders to explore, new characters with heart and passion and longing... and I don't mean romance, I mean fire in the soul.

Writing can be such a beautiful experience, especially at the start. Some day I hope I'll write a story that's beautiful at the end, as well. I don't mean happy (necessarily) or wishy-washy — just beautiful to read.

It's hard for me to think up new plots, and often I base my stories on my own life. But this new story isn't based around me at all; so far it seems to be about a 12-year-old girl and her solo mother. And I love the fact that this story is based, not on a conversation or experience; but on my calendar.

The July picture for this calendar was a photo of Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world... which struck me as exquisitely funny, and every time I saw that calendar I just smiled and savoured the inner joke*.

Then, about a week ago, a related story idea occurred to me; and from then on, every time I saw that calendar, I just mused on the idea a bit and a bit more, until I had a theme for my story. I had no plot or "hook" or anything, but I've been brainstorming those on paper lately, and now I'm beginning to write scraps of the story as I plan out the plot.

It's so long since I've written a story just for my own pleasure, and... I guess I always know I enjoy writing, but it's not till I'm actually really doing creative writing that I realise how much I love it.

*The joke, for me, is that when an angel falls (e.g. Lucifer/Satan), it really is the longest fall in the world....

Friday, 1 August 2008

August goals

Although I only completed 1 out of the 5 goals I'd wanted to accomplish in July, I ended up achieving several others instead: backing up my Personal folder, reinstalling Windows, and seeing a professional stage-show — The gods of warm beer, starring Laura Hill (Toni from Shortland Street). I'd counted on time during semester break; but my break was mostly taken up with writing articles for CHAFF (grrr). Still, I am undaunted: August goals.

Tasks to complete
#34: Keep desk and floor tidy for a week!
#38: Get a facial.
#49: Bake a птичье молоко (ptich'e moloko) cake.

#66: Visit Mum and Dad.

#93: Buy Francis a birthday present.

Reading goals
As the crow flies; Bruchko; Oliver Twist; Plumb; The man from St Petersburg; The tenant of Wildfell Hall; Sold.

Writing goals
Write first draft of story for SST competition; send story in to Takahe; write 10,000 words of The Snow Dragon; enter story to the Heartland 1000.

Tasks to work towards
#17: Complete six chapters of Russian textbook.
#25: Sort out one "Unsorted" folder.

#33: Sort out one box of crap.
#58: Knit 30 more rows of my jumper. (8/30)

#62: Play chess.
#78: Burn 1000 calories at gym each week. (2/4)
#82: Use plaque stuff ten times. (10/10)

Unthemed CHAFF: Issue 17

Coming up this exciting week in CHAFF:
  1. This week in history — Percy Bysshe Shelley, Marilyn Monroe, the Tower of Pisa, John Walsh and Sultan Qaboos of Oman
  2. Abecedarian, periphrastic and verbose horoscopes
  3. Unmissable feature article on the unintentional cruelty of vegetarians and the self-awareness of plants
  4. A free competition where you (yes you) can win a free copy of the Six Pack Two! Watch this space for more details. (OK, I didn't write the competition, but it was my idea so hopefully it doesn't utterly fail... you can help by entering the competition!)

And no, there's no theme for the upcoming week's CHAFF. Which reminds me, I was leaving the CHAFF office earlier today and almost bumped into a woman dressed all in black Muslim clothing... I'm pretty sure she was the girl who wrote me that letter, and I'm just happy she couldn't know who I was! (Although my editor, the traitorous scum, probably immediately told her. Oh well — I was out of shouting distance by then.)