Birthday With A Difference

It was my birthday last Saturday and I celebrated it a little differently than usual. I have been known to have birthday weeks, especially when we were in Kalgoorlie as I had a Kalgoorlie birthday, then a Perth birthday with my family and then another Perth birthday with old friends. Over the past 15 years hubbie and I have been together, I have woken up next to him all except one year; I was in Perth and flew back to Kalgoorlie early on my birthday… But this is the first year I haven’t even seen hubbie at all :( He is in U.S.A. for work… but I did Skype him at 12:30am on my birthday to ensure he was the first person to wish me Happy Birthday!!

I then spent my birthday and theJason Momoa following day volunteering at Oz Comic Con, the first time it has been to Perth! What is Comic Con? I have been surprised how many people have asked me that. I thought it was common knowledge. Or maybe I have just seen more Sci-Fi shows/movies than the usual person and picked up what Comic Con was… Comic Con is a fan convention (or con!) in which fans of comics, fantasy and sci-fi books, TV shows and movies gather to hold programs and meet experts and famous personalities, among other things. Since 2008 Supanova has been coming to Perth, but now we have two big conventions in town!

The big draw cards of our first Oz Comic Eddie McClintock_2Con were William Shatner (James T. Kirk, captain of the USS Enterprise i.e. Star Trek and also Boston Legal) and Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver and Star Gate SG-1). There were other stars such as Patricia Quinn (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), Eddie McClintock (Warehouse 13 – my autograph to the right and photo below), Jason Momoa (Star Gate: Atlantis and Game of Thrones – my autograph above) and Callum Blue (Dead Like Me, The Tudors and Smallville – photos and autographs below). So I was extremely excited, and so were 27,000 other Perthians!

 

Callum Blue_3I really wanted to see Richard Dean Anderson and Callum Blue. Growing up I was a big MacGyver fan and among a million others, couldn’t wait to own a Swiss Army knife! Last year at Supanova I got Callum Blue’s autograph and oh my god is he a most beautiful person. Stunning blue eyes, infectious laugh and he is so personable and takes time to chat to everyone. So when I heard he was coming to Perth again, I wanted (desperately?!) to have a photo with him!

 

Michelle's LabyrinthI was volunteering with my youngest sister and we were helping ‘man’ a shop. So each day for 12 very long feet-hurting hours we sold lots and lots of Disney paraphernalia, autographed photos, framed autographed pictures and other bits and pieces. I managed to sneak away (I pulled “It’s my birthday” card!) and get a photo with MacGyver. Basically the photo experience was “My name is Michelle”, “Hello Michelle”, flash and then me: “Thank you so much!”. Mr Anderson was super popular and I didn’t get my autograph until around 6:30pm. I was third last in the queue. I asked if he would write Happy Birthday on my photo, to which his personal assistant said “no personalisation”, but Richard was super sweet and started writing ‘Happy Birthday’, to which I went “ahhhh, that’s so sweet”. He then asked who it was for and I said “Michelle”. He then looked up and asked “Is it your birthday today”, and I said yes… to which he said “Happy Birthday!”. He was something like the fifth person to say Happy Birthday to me in person!!!

Sunday was super mad. A couple of OzMichelle's Labyrinth Comic Con organisers said that Sunday would be slower than Saturday… but I don’t think they know Perth that well! After some desperate “can I go get a photo” questions etc, I got a photo with Eddie McClintock (to the right). And then I went to get two photos (it was my birthday weekend after all) with Callum Blue. I walked into Callum Blue’s booth and said “I get two photos with you”, to which he replied “We’ll have to do something special for the second one.”. We took the normal one and he said “So what should we do?”, I said “I don’t know, poke our tongues out or something?”. He said “Narh, lets pose for a kiss”. Now I can be a bit of a giggle pot when started and I just laughed. We posed and I swear it was long enough for a photo, so I pulled away cracking up (and doubling over)… but no, we had to pose again! The photo was taken and Callum said he had to check it out, to which he laughed and said I must be a good actor!!!Michelle's Labyrinth

Later on I lined up to get my autographs with Callum and then Eddie. As I said Callum chit-chats. I was about fifteenth in line, but I was waiting for over half an hour. My feet were killing me by this stage, so I was leaning from side to side trying to get my weight off my feet. After many sweet-talked fans it was my turn. He laughed when he saw my photo and said to his assistant that it was his favourite photo of the day. I said I had smsed my husband about it and his response was “Yay!”, and I didn’t know what that meant. He said that I should tell him we slipped some tongue in after the photograph. I laughed and said something along the lines off that he was in the states at the moment so he wouldn’t know. To which Callum said “F-k him, lets nick off then!”… more of my laughter followed. Callum handed me my photos and said “Great snog!” in his English accent…. More laughter. I was on cloud nine. Best birthday ever!!!

Michelle's Labyrinth

My parents also came to Oz Comic Con on Sunday and were there for 6 hours!! Mum got a photo and autograph with William Shatner (she loves him off Boston Legal) and they also saw the R.D.A. (Richard Dean Anderson) and William Shatner panels. They thought the panels were great. Dad was beaming after seeing R.D.A. He said he was so funny. Apparently R.D.A. glanced over his shoulder and saw himself on the big projector screen and said “oh my god, I am old and fat”! He apologised for the weight, saying he had had a couple of operations over the past year or so on his foot and leg, and just couldn’t exercise to shift it. He then tugged on his hair and said “This? This is just me being lazy”…. I love it!!

After some house cleaning and chill-axingMichelle's Labyrinth on Monday, I went to visit my folks in the hills on Tuesday. It was the puppies first visit to the grandparents! After the struggle of me getting them in the car by myself including two escapees and one near miss; the drive there was a success. Meeting their cousins Leo (German Shepherd) and Daisy (West Highland Terrier) was also a success! Except for Macbeth (less than 3kgs) and Leo (over 60kgs) had a couple of growls – Macbeth’s instigation. Had my Mum in fits of laughter!!!

I made my birthday cake this year. Actually the cake was supposed to be my first Christmas Cake and was made in November. But I had so much cake last year that I didn’t fancy it. So after many top ups of brandy, I iced my cake last week. A layer of  marzipan stuck on by apricot jam, and then some Royal Icing the next day. The recipe I made was my Mum’s. It came from a recipe book Dad gave to her in September 1971 (Marguerite Patten’s Every Day Cook Book in colour)! We are not sure why Dad gave it to her, as the month has no significance, but maybe it was to help her cooking out. Well she was only 16! And kudos to Dad, because Mum is an amazing cook! (I’ll post the recipe on my Tumblr site tomorrow if you’re interested http://michelleslabyrinth.tumblr.com/)

Michelle's LabyrinthSo to ensure my cake looked like a birthday cake I added blue dragons and blue flowers!!!! I love my birthday cake :-)Michelle's Labyrinth

It was a wonderful different birthday. Thank you to all the smses, voice messages and messages on Facebook. Oh, and I did make a little purchase on my birthday with my birthday money from my Grandparents… Signed Supernatural Season 7 framed photo. Yay! My birthday filled with all my favourite boys!!Michelle's Labyrinth

One more thing, I have been enjoying Season 1 of Dead Like Me again, and Mandy Patinkin enjoyed a piece of Key Lime Pie in the ‘Pilot’… I see/hear pie everywhere now! A couple of pie blogs will follow soon :)

Last thing – sorry for my dodgy photos. I took them with my iPhone. Was too lazy to go upstairs and scan my photos. That and I want to keep the best quality of the originals just for me :)

Hubbie from Berkley, California says hi to all my blog fans :-)

 

Black Dog

Five years ago today a very good friend of mine completed suicide (psychologist term). Today always causes me to pause, reflect, think about my friend and think about me. I miss my friend and I hope he is in a better place. I also hope his family and wife (widow?) still love him and are not mad at him.

I have been thinking about whether to write this post all afternoon and evening. I have started seven other blog posts and three of them are well advanced, so wasn’t sure if I should start another one! Also even though people try and convince others that depression is not taboo, nothing to be ashamed about, it is with many people. People just do not want to discuss it. But we should be able to! I have a friend who has spoken up about domestic violence, so here I am opening up about depression.

I know the day my friend was going to tell me about his depression. We caught up every now and then for a coffee at Gloria Jean’s and this time he e-mailed that he wanted to tell me something. We chatted about work and he told me that he had stomach ulcers again, but I knew that wasn’t the ‘something’. I didn’t pry as I just don’t like appearing nosey. He didn’t mention anything else. Not long after that it was Christmas and he and his wife took off for a drive to Adelaide. His wife mentioned this in her eulogy and things started to make sense about some of his actions. I wished I had been nosey. What if he had one more friend that understood what he was going through?

I understand completely. I understand why someone would feel like suicide is the only option. I understand the constant struggle – to smile, to operate, to live. I understand the feeling of total isolation, from everything and everyone. What I do not understand is why people think suicide is the easy way out – what is harder than making the decision to leave your family (parents, spouse, children etc) behind? Why are people so mad at the person that completed suicide – should you not feel some empathy to what they must have been going through to make such a final decision? Are people just trying to put the anger they feel at themselves onto the one that has passed? I do not the answers, these are just my thoughts. I am not mad at my friend for making the decision he did, I am just sad. Sad he didn’t think he could talk to me, sad that he didn’t think he would get out of the darkness, sad that he is no longer around for his wife and family.

When I found out about my friend I went into a dark place pretty quickly. Things were mad for me that January and February. Our Kalgoorlie house had settled, but our Perth house was not ready, so we were homeless. I had a lovely friend that took hubbie, Makita and me in for a week or so, until a unit that belonged to work was available. It was month end and I was trying to pass on all my knowledge to my replacement, and January was the worst month end at my previous employer, because it had a December year end, so that meant in January there was a lot more reporting, plus you had to roll over all sorts of models in time for January’s month end. I was stressed about the Perth house, things were taking too long. We also had to pack, and since I was going to be in Kalgoorlie for another month until I finished work, I had to ensure I didn’t pack certain things. And because the Perth house wasn’t finished we had to store our entire life contents somewhere! We had planned our wedding trip for March, so we were busy planning that. We were also building two units in Kalgoorlie, so there was some extra pressure there too. Plus we were about to get married! Not that that was a stressful thing for us, since we were going to enjoy ourselves in Las Vegas! But it is still a lot to deal with at once!

At the funeral, his wife read outMichelle's Labyrinth a book that her late husband related to – I Had A Black Dog by Matthew Johnstone. Holy bleep! How I related to the words she read out. How things made sense. It was exactly how I had been feeling on and off for a year or so. How brave and strong she was to read that out, at her husband’s funeral in front of hundreds of people, and being so young herself. How wonderful she was/is!

Since February 2008 I have been on and off anti-depressants. There was a 18 month section in the middle where I wasn’t on them; I was really enjoying work. But the black dog feeds off stress and fatigue, and I had been in highly stressed roles for years. I don’t talk about my black dog, well it is more like my dark cloud. I smile and laugh and have been told how great my laugh is and that I am the happiest person someone knows. My laugh is happy, and it takes a lot of effort to laugh sometimes, it is exhausting, then I get fatigued, then the black cloud takes over. I have tried to talk about it, but have then been asked what do I have to be stressed about? So I shut down.

It is not about being stressed or being sad. It is not something you can build a bridge and get over (something else said to me). It is a chemical reaction, a ‘brain state’ as it says in I Had A Black Dog. I guess you could say depression is like alcoholism, addiction, diabetes. It is a disease. I am not weak. I am not a whinger. I just have a black cloud that is always near by.

So I just wanted to say that there are people out there that are willing to listen, without judgement – like me! Our lives are hectic, we are moving a million miles an hour but we need to take care of ourselves. We are often told to slow down and smell the roses, or enjoy the sunset. But how often do we do that? We should make more of an effort to make time for our family, our friends and most of all ourselves. That is what is important.

On a different topic, I did my first felting project today! I have been seeing lots of lovely felted fantasy creatures on Facebook and Etsy, so I thought I would give it a go. I watched the youtube videos (Make a Felt Sheep, Part 1 &2):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XijouQJyE4U
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nEhjPIs95M

And got some ideas from Facebook pages:

http://www.facebook.com/FeltingIsFun
http://www.facebook.com/TanglewoodThicketCreations

So this is what I made:

Michelle's Labyrinth   Michelle's Labyrinth

The inspiration from Labyrinth:

Michelle's Labyrinth

Felting is fun. You stab (I mean poke) wool with a small needle until that tangles the fibres until they join into the shape you want. The stabbing is fun and I think it is going to be a new method to remove any excess anger :)

And also I was serious, if you ever need me, for any reason at all… I am here for you.

DIDYMUS:  AND REMEMBER, FAIR MAIDEN, SHOULD YOU NEED US…
HOGGLE:   YES, SHOULD YOU NEED US, FOR ANY REASON AT ALL…
SARAH:    I NEED YOU, HOGGLE.
HOGGLE:   YOU–YOU DO?
SARAH:    I DON’T KNOW WHY, BUT EVERY NOW AND AGAIN IN MY LIFE, FOR NO REASON AT ALL, I NEED YOU– ALL OF YOU.
HOGGLE:   OH, YOU DO? WELL, WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SO?

 

 

 

Roller Coaster Week

Last week was a very trying week. I had a fair bit of bad news and a few bits of exciting Michelle's Labyrinthnews. I haven’t felt much like writing a blog post about cake decorating or geek stuff until I got this off my chest. I had planned on writing a blog post at some stage about all the roller coasters we have been on around the world (like California Screamin’ at Disney California Adventure Park), and this week is not one of the roller coasters I wanted to talk about. So here is my Monday-Sunday of last week.

Monday morning started fairly well. I wanted to get up early and go dress shopping. I had left buying my outfit for the Melbourne Cup until the last minute. But I was so exhausted, so had a little sleep-in. My dress shopping was a success – found something after only trying two dresses on! Then a lovely lady helped me buy my first fascinator, and I already had shoes to match! Yay!

Monday early evening I received a call about some bad news. One of my loved ones has cancer. It is not my story to tell, but we are optimistic that it can be removed and it was found early enough.

Tuesday was a fun Melbourne Cup day – my first one outside of an office! My hubbie had organised for his team at work to go to Ascot Racecourse in the Yellowglen tent and paid for me to go too – well I have done some work for him! We had a lovely lunch, the smoked salmon entree and chicken main were divine, and lots of sparkling wine – Yellowglen of course! One person won a bet on our table, but hubbie and I had no lucky gambles at all!

Wednesday and Thursday I had great card making mornings. Nine Christmas cards done! The afternoons I stayed home, did some cleaning and cooking and spent some quality time with my puppy Makita. She had started bloating on the weekend and it was making it harder for her to get up. Now I say puppy, but she is almost 13.5 years old, which is fantastic for a rottweiler. But I say puppy because she is my baby. Thursday afternoon I e-mailed the mobile vet to come and see Makita. Wednesday night we went for a walk and she only made it to the second house down. Michelle's LabyrinthShe just laid down and I was worried we weren’t going to be able to coax her back up! And Thursday she flatly refused to go for a walk, which is a first :(

Also Thursday night I remembered to pay for another purchase for my studio – a Mad Hatter doll. I had asked the artist in South Wales UK on Sunday to hold it for me while I got some credit card details (as I had to cancel my credit card that weekend because it was hacked!). I finally remembered to pay her Thursday night, as I had been somewhat distracted during the week.

Michelle's LabyrinthI woke up at 3am on Friday morning. My mind was buzzing with a couple of ideas, so I got up to write them down. I then checked Facebook and Twitter and saw a post about a gallery in New York who was showing Brian and Wendy Froud’s Trolls. I already have the new book called “Trolls”, I pre-ordered it months ago. But I somehow managed to find a catalogue of more than 100 Full color pages of over 100 paintings, drawings & sculptures including many published pieces, the lost Labyrinth collection, and new sculptures from Wendy & Toby. So I ordered it, because I have a collection of all of Brian & Wendy’s books.

Since I was on the AFA gallery website (http://afanyc.com/) I thought I would have a look around, and found that some of Wendy’s sculptures were still unsold. It said that for original art that you had to phone up for prices etc, but since it was in New York I thought I would shoot them an e-mail. There was one particular sculpture I liked called Sap Dancer. I got a e-mail back very quickly, but it had the price and a picture of one of Brian drawings. So I wrote back with a picture of Wendy’s sculpture and said that I was after the “doll”, not the drawing. I got a quick reply saying Sap Dancer was definitely available and the detail on him was incredible.

At this stage it is 4:08am. I thought the price was extremely reasonable for an original piece of artwork. So I had to make a decision, do I check with hubbie first or just order it. I thought about asking if they would hold it for 24 hours while I checked with hubbie, but it would be Friday night our time by then and I may not feel like phoning New York. Plus I really really wanted it – I never thought I would be able to buy an original Froud piece of art! So I called New York!

The phone was a bit crackly to start with, I had to ask for Carol three times and said it was Michelle and I had just e-mailed her. I waited a few moments and this excited American voice said “Is that Michelle from Australia?” She was so excited, she said that once she knew I was after the Michelle's Labyrinthsculpture that she ran downstairs to make sure he was still there. She then asked me if I had met the Frouds! I am like no :( It would be an unbelievable experience. She said that she had filmed one of Wendy’s sculpture workshops and it was amazing. She said she just wanted to put the camera down and get involved in the clay. She also said her boss had a chateau in the south of France and Wendy occasionally held workshops there. She then asked if I had the new “Trolls” book, I said yes I have all of his books. She then asked me about some specific books and I am like yes I have them all, I have everything except for Wendy’s Sculpture Workshop DVD. She said that I must be a big fan then… Yes :)

I had a lovely hour drive on Friday, with my convertible’s roof down, to visit my friend and her 3 month old. One the way I thought about my new purchase. I was so excited. I thought that I could almost go back to work now for a bit, since I have fulfilled a dream.

I had a great day with my friend. We chatted, then went scrapbook shopping. I had given my friend the idea on a previous visit to start a scrapbook of her baby girl. She is very creative and likes to be active. Under doctor orders she isn’t allowed much physical activity at the moment, so I thought scrap-booking would keep her occupied. She also has rottweilers and we had a fantastic talk about Makita and what the near future may hold.

Friday afternoon the vet visited Makita. Makita has a chip on her shoulder about being touched (unless it is cuddling or patting!). The vet was awesome and understood some dogs are nervous and just let Makita be. He prescribed some pills, which Makita is taking with a spoonful of apricot jam. It is the only way to get her to take tablets – jam! It took us about 11 years to work it out too. Tried cheese, ham, peanut butter… and when she started going on daily arthritis medicine I had to find a better solution, and jam just seemed to be it. There was no sucking the jam off and spitting out the tablets like other methods. I also always think of “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down…In a most delightful way”, a song from Mary Poppins, when I give her jam.

Friday night I spent with my youngest sister. We went and saw Paullina Simons – our favourite author! She did an hour talk about her latest book “Children of Liberty” which is a prequal to “The Bronze Horseman”. Then she did some book signing. She is a beautiful lady, completely down to earth and she makes time to speak to each person and she loves Perth! I think it is wonderful she comes to Perth and I think she said it was her 5th time!

The highlight of Saturday was dinner at Rockpool with some ex-colleagues. It was great to catch up with them and have a girls night out. The Wagyu Bolognaise was extremely tasty, but I would buy the main size course if it is going to be your meal. I almost went with entree size, because their entree sizes are pretty big, but I am glad I had main – to soak up my cocktail :)

Both Saturday and Sunday morning I was up pretty early and went outside to have breakfast, read and soak in some sunshine. It was truly peaceful and I had Makita next to me sun-baking as well. I was listening to the birds chirping, the occasion squeal from the kid next door and just breathing in the fresh air. My mobile rang just after 9am on Sunday, which is extremely odd since most people know I like my sleep-ins. I knew straight away what had happened.

Michelle's Labyrinth

Source: http://www.army.gov.au/Our-history/Traditions/~/media/Images/Our%20History/Traditions/Remembrance%20Day/R10713831.jpg

My Granddad passed away early Sunday morning. Remembrance Day. I knew he was not doing well, as he had stopped eating earlier in the week, but it is still a shock. I was also worried about my Dad, as I know he has been so busy lately. Of course you start to then reflect. There would be no more cheek from Granddad; no more being asked which country you were calling from (or acting surprised if you were actually in Australia); or that you should be a belly dancer. You then remember your younger memories of him: the sliding cut off thumb trick; the poking out of his false teeth; that his fridge was always stocked with lemonade and he always had Arnott’s biscuits ready for his visitors.

I thank Granddad for my nose, my tardiness and my addiction to chocolate. But of course also for my Dad and for his love of his family and pets. I’ll miss his Geordie accent, which I could understand most of the time, unless he didn’t have his teeth in! I will always remember our Friday night visits to Nanna and Granddad’s and how Dad’s Geordie accent was always stronger after visiting his folks. And I have a couple of mementos to look upon.

Michelle's Labyrinth      Michelle's Labyrinth

Remembrance Day will now hold an even stronger meaning for me. I always thought of Granddad during our minute’s silence on the 11th of 11th. Granddad was shot and then captured as a prisoner of war in Germany during WW2. He used to tell us stories about being a POW. He only told us the more fun moments though. He was well liked by the guards, once hit by lightning, pulled out of fist fights and he even escaped. He just kept his hat down, said goodbye in German to the guard and just walked out. He was picked up a number of miles down the road though. He said that the guards were just human, like him. They were just doing their part of the war and as long as you respected them, things were okay.

I think he was well liked then and now because he loved to laugh. When my sister and I last visited him he was so happy to see us, even though I think he was confused a couple of times which grandkids we were. And he said that laughter is the best medicine. I have always believed that myself, and since Granddad made it to 93 and a half years old there must be something in it!

Granddad lead an interesting life as hinted above. He was born in 1919 so was a post WW1 baby. He was father to 5 children, post WW2 babies. Granddad and Nanna emigrated from Newcastle (England) in 1963 on the ship Canberra, with hopes of a better future for their five children. Granddad and Nanna’s names are engraved forever on the Welcome Walls of the West Australia Museum in Fremantle.

If my maths is right, Granddad was grandfather to 14 and great-grandfather to 22! So he will surely be missed. But he is now with Nanna. He has been without her for over 17 years and now they are together again. So we must smile at that. If you have a moment, please listen to “Hit The Road Jack” by Ray Charles and reminisce about your grandparents, whether they are still here or up above.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8Tiz6INF7I

I am not sure how I would have coped if I had been working and totally stressed to start with. The world works in mysterious ways, that is for sure. I am sorry if you found this blog post long and unsettling – life can suck sometimes. To help cope I indulged in a huge slab of fruit cake and a lemonade yesterday, in honour of Granddad, and I am munching on some chocolate while writing this blog post. Back to blogging about cake decorating next time! :)

 

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