Saturday, February 25, 2012

I was reminded of something a bit naughty I did when about 10 in order to get out of going to Ash Wednesday Mass at 7am in the morning before school. Just reading " Mom's blog reminded me...
On a freezing wintry day in 1963
We were pretty unsophisticated in the early 1960's... and before TV the outside world consisted of radio maybe  and just the people you came across which was not too varied in our small country town of Aberdeen NSW. My sisters and I went to a very Catholic school and the only teachers were the NUNS. They wielded ultimate power in such lengths that in my childhood I was never scared of Mum or Dad - they were a benign power comparatively. Some of the nuns I came across were fair but i was unlucky enough to strike some rare samples who it was better to try not to cross - I posted a story about them here back in 2007 - its long but if you weren't here then it might give you a laugh or four.
Veronica  (Confirmation day) at rear,
June on right and myself -
who would but those awful hats for us?

Because it was a small town and the Catholic boarding school (for primary school boys) was a big establishment in the town the nuns seemed to know and see all - which is true and not a fancy. As town kids we were able to attend this excellent (for education) if savage school. Nothing much touched me emotionally that way in those days and still - I always recovered quickly from any canings or other and never really ever took it personally - you just got on with it and unless it was really bad never told anybody. I got the cane often under one nun particularly and it got so that ti didn't hurt...I just toughed it out and once over I went on out into the playground and was pretty happy most of the time. 

In that town in those days some week day mornings as well as on Sundays there would be an early morning mass. If it was a holy day such as Ash Wednesday the town kids as well as the boarders were not only expected to go to mass it was considered a MORTAL sin if you didn't. That is at age 9 or so you could go straight to HELL if you missed Mass - or so we were told.

Some part of me, my gut instinct saw through this bullshit and I knew that any God who loved me and knew me wouldn't be so silly... Ash Wednesday, 7am... Mass time. I just didn't want to go. off June and Veronica trotted..."I'll come a bit later" we lived close. (I hid out in the yard somewhere) Towards 8am I started to realise it might not have been a wise move as the Nuns always seemed to know exactly who wasn't there out of the two hundred or so kids...Its got me beat but they were always spot I started to  - too late - re think my absence. as well all the people who went to Mass on Ash Wednesday had a black cross on their foreheads done in ash by the priest. Well - I could fix that I thought and went down to where Mum tipped out the ashes. Down I squatted - dipped my fingie in the blackness and collected a good amount...skulked up to the house and snuck into the bathroom just as my sisters were coming home. I drew on my forehead a big black cross, bigger and blacker than ever - they would see how Holy i was and know I had indeed been to Mass. My sisters were asking where I had been and that part was easy - "down the back and i ran home before you" - they were doubtful but you just didn't dob to the nuns because the outcome was too awful to contemplate.

Off to school... the first nun i came across was one of the kinder ones and when sh commented on not seeing me at Mass I said without blinking an eyelid, "I was there down the back. See I have the cross." I remember her looking at me in a strange way and commenting "Oh but what a big black cross you do have Therese" Thinking I had fooled her I went on my merry way... I know I got into some trouble over it later  - mainly being questioned intensively - but it can't have been too bad because deep down my survival instinct let me know not to change my story, insist I had been there and they really couldn't prove it anyway. I remember when I came home from school still proudly wearing my Ash Wednesday cross Mum looked at me strangely and said "Maybe you might need to wash that off by now" Off to the mirror and there it was - what had seemed such a good imitation of the priest's delicate and gentle efforts was there bigger because of smudging and all over my forehead...I think I got away with that one - and somehow I know God has a good sense of the ridiculous - he made us humans after all.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In our old backyard so many years ago
Anne, Mum, Veronica and I 1971 in our backyard in Aberdeen NSW
1971 to be precise. I may have posted this a few years ago - its hard to remember - have been posting since 2005. I just came across this today. Our mum is 2nd from right. She is only 44. its two years after our Dad was killed and she was going through really hard times emotionally and financially. She was always happy towards us but I now know what her alone times were like. There was no help in those days for grief and struggle like hers. Anne the youngest is to her left. Veronica on her left and I am on the right. I was 17 and had just left home. I even remember clearly the pattern and colours on the little quilt we were sitting upon. There was nothing my sisters and I thought we didn't know in our late teens...but what a lot we had to learn only to find myself now 14 years older than my mum was in this photo... we are so very lucky to have the few black and white photos we have ...I rather doubt memories would be so very clear without them. Mum was always the Mother but as well as that she was a best friend and the link still remains all these long years since her death in 1993. Just a memory is all.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Not sure what to make of this - I hadn't heard of this before
Toxoplasmosis: could that latent infection affect people’s behavior? This is disturbing news. What if eating undercooked meat, gardening, or having a cat could give you an infection which stayed with you for life, nested in cysts in your brain? Worse, those cysts somehow affected your personality, possibly putting you at increased risk of suicide, schizophrenia, or car accident? And here’s the stop-you-in-your-tracks point: up to one third of humanity may harbor this protozoan. That is one very successful parasite. Infection rates are frighteningly high: as much as 10-20% of the population in the US, 30-40% of Czechs, and 55% in France. Sounds like a plot for a bad sci-fi but we know that Toxoplasma gondii makes small mammals take life threatening risks – an infected rat finds cat-urine “attractive” and runs about more, being fearless, but getting eaten: good for the parasite, not so good for the rat. Our brains may be larger but they are made with much the same building blocks and tools. Rabies is known to stir larger mammals into a rage, and there are “a truckload” of examples from the insect and fish world of parasitic mind control. Hmmm. Toxoplasmosis is thought to be a nasty parasite that affects pregnant women and immune-compromised people, but evidence of an insidious nature is accruing. Jaroslav Flegr, an evolutionary biologist from Prague, has a theory that this protozoan might be rewiring our brains. ‘There is strong psychological resistance to the possibility that human behavior can be influenced by some stupid parasite,” he says. “Nobody likes to feel like a puppet. Another more obvious reason for resistance, of course, is that Flegr’s notions sound an awful lot like fringe science, right up there with UFO sightings and claims of dolphins telepathically communicating with humans.’ Flegr has been ignored or years, but other researchers are now getting results that support his theory. Studies show that mental illness is 2-3 times as common in people who have the parasite compared to people in the same region who don’t. It could be that schizophrenia runs in families because of a genetic predisposition to a weaker immune response to parasites. According to psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey, schizophrenia did not become common until around the same time as people started having cats for pets. Schizophrenia did not rise in prevalence until the latter half of the 18th century, when for the first time people in Paris and London started keeping cats as pets. The so-called cat craze began among “poets and left-wing avant-garde Greenwich Village types,” says Torrey, but the trend spread rapidly—and coinciding with that development, the incidence of schizophrenia soared.” Now that I ponder the unpleasant implications, it seems inevitable that evolution could toss up a parasite-host relationship which shifts human behavior. If Toxo isn’t doing it, sooner or later something else will. (Another reason we ought throw more money at medical research, rather than at bat-killing windmills.) Those who test positive for the latent infection have significantly delayed reaction times and here’s an especially weird effect, infected men are more likely to be introverted and suspicious and to disregard rules, but infected women are the opposite: more trusting, outgoing and obedient. ‘Compared with uninfected people of the same sex, infected men were more likely to wear rumpled old clothes; infected women tended to be more meticulously attired, many showing up for the study in expensive, designer-brand clothing. Infected men tended to have fewer friends, while infected women tended to have more. And when it came to downing the mystery fluid, reports Flegr, “the infected males were much more hesitant than uninfected men. They wanted to know why they had to do it. Would it harm them?” In contrast, the infected women were the most trusting of all subjects. “They just did what they were told,” he says.’ ‘Why men and women reacted so differently to the parasite still mystified him. After consulting the psychological literature, he started to suspect that heightened anxiety might be the common denominator underlying their responses. When under emotional strain, he read, women seek solace through social bonding and nurturing. In the lingo of psychologists, they’re inclined to “tend and befriend.” Anxious men, on the other hand, typically respond by withdrawing and becoming hostile or antisocial. Perhaps he was looking at flip sides of the same coin.’ Because reaction times were slowed he looked at car accident statistics and found that people who tested positive for Toxoplasmosis were 2.5 times more likely to have a car accident. Turkish studies showed similar results. To put this in perspective Flegr says he cannot say who is infected and who is not by doing a personality test. He needs at least 100 people to find a statistically meaningful disparity. (Only 100 thinks Jo?) “The vast majority of people will have no idea they’re infected.” It may be that the parasites most detrimental effects occur in a smaller genetically susceptible part of the population. One quarter of a group suffering from schizophrenia showed shrinkage of their cerebral cortex in MRI scans, and these were the same people who tested positive for Toxo. So most schizophrenia is caused by something else, but some cases appear to be caused by the parasite. Joanne Webster, a parasitologist at Imperial College London: ‘I don’t want to cause any panic,” she tells me. “In the vast majority of people, there will be no ill effects, and those who are affected will mostly demonstrate subtle shifts of behavior. But in a small number of cases, [Toxo infection] may be linked to schizophrenia and other disturbances associated with altered dopamine levels—for example, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and mood disorders. The rat may live two or three years, while humans can be infected for many decades, which is why we may be seeing these severe side effects in people. We should be cautious of dismissing such a prevalent parasite.’ Flegr has the infection himself, and this was part of what got him interested in studying the area. He noticed that he seemed unusually happy to take risks that others around him did not, getting honked at while crossing roads, being calm when gunfire broke out in the strife torn region. ‘He also made no effort to hide his scorn for the Communists who ruled Czechoslovakia for most of his early adulthood. “It was very risky to openly speak your mind at that time,” he says. “I was lucky I wasn’t imprisoned.’ So an odd side effect, a potential benefit in a weird way, is that a large slab of the population might be less afraid to speak up against tyranny. Common Toxo infections might make at least males in the population more likely to rebel. The bottom line For meat eaters: if you like it rare, better make sure that meat was frozen before you cook it; otherwise, learn to like it well done (freezing and cooking both kill the parasite). For gardeners: wear gloves. For cat owners, change that kitty litter daily, wash your hands. (Cats don’t post that great a threat. Indoor cats don’t have it, and outdoor cats are only infectious for the first three weeks after they catch it, not to mention that there are plenty of studies showing benefits from pet ownership.) Do read the full (much longer and well written article) in a The Atlantic. Gripping, provocative stuff — an example of a real problem we ought be dealing with instead of all the faked ones. There is no treatment for Toxo, no way to remove those cysts, not yet.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Another year older!!! Was good fun

- exhausted after - getting awful close to the big 60!
A cake made with much love
Ali gave me a handbag I have had my eye on for a while
A very special present from Melissa
There is a family history with this one - if you can get to see the very old version of this book (was on ABC TV in the early 1990's and scared the bejesus out of us all honestly
Am a very lucky mum
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Friday, February 10, 2012

Another Moving Day!!!
Ali and Andrew are deciding will they be "good" neighbours or "bad" ones - judging from all the musical equipment they drag about it might be noisy - she sings and plays piano and he has a few guitars and is excellent at whatever style - self taught the pair of them.

Don and the girls had a phrase for me "the woman who gets things done" a family joke - but today I was more "the woman with the van" for all the bits the removalist wasn't allowed to touch - quietly he would have been safer than me but I managed not to break their TV's and other electrical stuff - by good luck more than anything.

A good day but no one is moving much right now.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Alison and Andrew have discovered "Webber Cooking" When they finally got it put together - we had a long wait till the food actually cooked - although he has it figured out by now. In their rented place there is no backyard shade so he donned the Big hat and we stayed mostly inside - the yard is sparse and comfertless. But finally Andrew produced the nicest roast I have had in years...he is now Master of the Webber. I am going to like being close to one of our girls - wish it could be possible to be near both of them...Its strange after all the years apart to see them regularly.        : )
Ali and Andrew putting the monster together on a very hot day.

SOOOOOO hungry
Looks like fun in the almost 40 degrees hot summer sun!!!!
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A wonderful send off last year...
 I just came  across these lovely photos taken late November 2011. A group I belong to which fights for farmers (and everyone's property rights held a get together for me before I left Port Macquarie. It was the best day. It was at a place called Kindee which is 40kms west of where I used to live, and reminded me of the beautiful green hilly country around Byron Bay. We had a wonderful BBQ - a really long walk down to the head of the Hastings River and then people started pulling our guitars and singing. It was so unexpected. Also unexpected was a German lady I know who started singing Irish songs...the man playing in the photo sang Australian songs from the countryside and one was a love song - I lasted one verse and had to leave the room. Later he said to me "I always get one with that song"

It was a very beautiful day and one of those days I shall always remember. Its quite likely I shall not see all of those people again, but they made me so happy that day and although I had only known most of them for a year through the group, they were kinder to me than many - sometimes strangers well met can become friends even if for only a short time.

Yet was not enough for me to want to stay. I love it here, I know I don't have the beautiful views and all of that but for me it is the people I love who are most important. All else follows. The couple who lived at this place lived amongst the most amazing beauty I have ever seen and although they constantly chipped at each other you could see how much they loved each other...It was touchable. 

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