Tyrannosaurus Licks.

Pity the poor dinosaur, found in many lands
With those stonking great big leggies
And such tiny little hands.

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It could never be a model, despite being so tall
It wouldn’t suit a pencil skirt
or skinny jeans at all.

It couldn’t hobble down a catwalk in high heels and a wig
Or have a pup and not get up
For less than a million quid.

It couldn’t work in real estate – it can’t get through the door
Or show a client round upstairs
Without falling through the floor.

Could it be doctor dinosaur?  Famed among the nations
For delicate, small hand surgery
And eating all the patients.

Pity the poor dinosaur, it couldn’t really think
Or work, and so I feel I know
Just why it went extinct.

When you have made a dinosaur and stood it on its toes
After dipping it in chocolate
It falls over on its nose.

Splat.

Even if you wrap its feet in marzipan.

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All this occurred when my granddaughter woke up one morning and relayed to her mother her urgent need for dinosaur cakes.  Her parents advised her that the best thing to do was to buy Nona dinosaur cake moulds for her birthday.  And for lo!  It came to pass but the T. Rex keeps falling over.  I think it’s been hitting the sprinkles when no one was watching.  Here it is at the back, look, covered in chocolate, minutely examining the rim of the plate.

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It may well have died of embarrassment, obviously having evolved as a top predator, chasing up to a smaller animal and then just – falling over, bonk.  In life T. Rex may well have had a long proboscis but as the fossil record shows, by hungry adulthood its nose was thoroughly flattened,

AD IT WOULD HAVE TALKED THROUGH FLATTED DOSTRILS AND SOUNDED LIKE SOMEBODY WIF A CODE, DIKE VIS.

Dinosaur moulds from Lakeland by the way.

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Gone with the wind.

The OH received a threat of insulin from the doctor if he didn’t lose some weight.

Being himself he went completely overboard.  First he went on the wagon (not completely, there has been quite a bit of riding on the axle).  Then he bought a book by a well known TV doctor giving the recipe for an 8oo calorie a day diet, which has to be followed for eight weeks at the end of which the OH is promised he will no longer be diabetic.

This diet does contain rabbit food as you might expect but it very notably contains no carbs at all.  No bread, no potatoes, no cake, no biscuits and nothing much you would enjoy.  It does contain lots of oil.  Absolute slicks of it floating quantities of meat, fish and  assorted dead things, in the frying pan, in a dish in the oven, in the pan and subsequently in the oven, with more oil and eggs.  Lots of eggs.  Lots and lots of eggs.  And beans.

Oh the OH is full of beans. And, because he is hungry the beans are being eaten at top speed.  Here’s a bean, where’s it been, it’s gone.  Bean and gone five minutes flat.

So.

We are having conversations that go like this:

I have lost another pffft, kilo.

Good.

My trousers are still a bit faaaaaarp, sorry, tight, pfft.

Are they?

Yes have you got the fAAAAAAAAAArp thwap, pardon, remote?

No I think it’s beside you, oh dear that’s awful.

Yes I know I’m spoop spoop spooop fAAAAAAAAAAArp thawp, oh dear.  There it is on the floor, I’ll just, thwarrp, thwarrp, flp, flp, I don’t think it was a good idea to bend over.  Oh dear that is awful, even I think so. Now what do you want to see?  Frrrrrrrrp.

What have we got recorded?

Fwwp, pthoooooooooop, flaaaaaaaaaarp, here you look.

Why, where are you going?  Oh.

(Exits pursued by a diet.)

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My big break.

It will be a year this weekend since my big break.

At the time, as you know, I just kept going.  I was nearly a week in hospital with a broken arm on two hourly morphine until the surgeon with the right skills was available to help me.  I knew the bone had delaminated but what I had forgotten was that the ball at the top of the bone, which fits into the socket, had completely sheared off.  I was reminded this week because I was sorting out my elderly emails and discovered the photo taken from the hospital computer screen.

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Looking at it now I can see why I can still feel (and always will feel) the head of the big screw that goes right down through my shoulder blade, through the ball and locates into the top of the long metal nail which comes up right through the middle of the bone.  It has four other screws going sideways through it, which fortunately I cannot feel, these anchor the slices of bone and the net which gathered the bone fragments up to the nail.

No wonder I felt so awful throughout the autumn.  I did of course also have cancer at the time, which might be why the bone took so long to heal.

Incredibly it has.  I have worked out whenever I could, despite all the other stuff after the surgery in January.  A year after the break, in spite of the idiot young doctor who told me I would always be disabled, I am very nearly back to normal.  As it is summer I am carrying watering cans in my right hand and lifting them up to water hanging baskets.  I have less and less pain, mostly just big twinges in the morning getting moving.  I still have difficulty getting my arm up my back, which mainly causes problems dressing and with fastening necklaces and putting curlers in my hair.  You’d be amazed at the stuff I can do with my left hand now.  That old joke about: I’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous, turned out to be true for me.

Samuel Pepys gave thanks each year on the anniversary of the time he was ‘cut for the stone’.  I think I shall do the same, I feel lucky to have survived such a big break.  I feel lucky that I had polymyalgiarheumatica 17 years ago and was allergic to steroids so had to work out every day for 17 years.  Other people in the shoulder class at the hospital found the working out so hard I suspect many of them only did it once a week in the class and consequently did not recover much mobility.  It was easier for me, I was used to working out when it hurt and knew how much to push myself and when to rest.  I also had the advantage of a home gym.  I could never afford to join a proper gym, I just bought a piece of equipment every January when the shopping channels did their New Year New You.  I keep it all behind the living room door beside the fireplace.  It’s not very Homes and Gardens but it actually gets used each and every day and I have enough stuff not to get bored.  For this break, as well as the hospital exercises mostly done with a stick (which is the stick you put in the handle of the paint roller to reach the ceiling), I have a captive ball in a wheel that you spin, a thing like a spinning cylinder on string that you pull to make it whirr, weights, weighted gloves and a vibrating weighted stick.  I ring the changes and have found another piece I can make move, or move in a different way, almost every week recently.

I am also incredibly lucky that my next door neighbour is an orthopaedic surgeon who came to my aid and told me which surgeon to wait for and to wait.  They tried to cart me off to the theatre to someone else on occasions and despite being off my head on morphine I insisted that I wait because I believe in my next door neighbour.

Recovery from illness and injury, while you are hoping it will happen and working towards it, is an article of faith.  I didn’t believe how badly damaged I was, I think I blanked it out to survive, it was the second worst break in the history of the hospital, I do remember several people telling me that.  Then again, I might have been despairing and more impatient had I not had all the dreadful business with the cancer, the cancer surgery going wrong, the appalling oncologist, the utter despair following and all that stuff to keep me occupied.  That stuff still gives me bad days.

It also does seem incredibly unlucky with hindsight to have had such a bad break followed by cancer, either one would have been quite enough.  If I had not had such a tough upbringing and such a difficult mother, I could at any point have caved in and given up.  If I had given up on the exercise I would not be strolling round the garden with watering cans now and if that were the case do you know what I would have?

Yup, withered flowers.

I am a little flower and I am still in bloom and thankful for it.  And you know what sort of flower I am don’t you?

Self raising (especially the right arm).

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Old friends.

Do you prefer old friends or new friends?

I am in the process, maybe, of making some new friends.  I have started a writer’s group.  I found a group locally, went to one meeting but it folded because the lady running it no longer wished to do so, as it was run as a business.  So I started a group by advertising on local social media and we may have a first proper meeting with three members.  I will run it, or to be more exact, I hope it will be democratically run, simply for the benefit of writers, keeping it free and fairly regular for as long as possible.  What happens at a writer’s group is that everyone reads a bit of what they are writing and gets feedback.  Amazingly famous Neil Gaiman is famous for writing with feedback from his readers on social media, though to be fair he is famous for lots of things.  When the group I had attended folded I looked up reasonably local groups up to a few towns away but there were so many published rules it was alarming.  Huge groups do have to have strict rules on how long the reading can be so everyone gets a chance.  So I’m hoping the group will be quite small.  A local published writer offered to give a talk if the group numbered ten or more but I think ten might be verging on the number of impossibility.

Now there’s a thought, the number of impossibility.  Douglas Adams had the answer to the world the universe and everything as 42, though no one was sure of the question.  I have a feeling that might be the age when you suddenly realise it’s going to be downhill all the way but you’re not yet worried enough to, for example, go on a diet or start contributing to a funeral payment plan.

Numbers, quite big numbers, as in ‘how long have we known each other?’ are the stuff of ancient friendships.  All mine are miniaturists, though as I have written this for what will be nine years in September, I have gathered some old friends by email that I may never meet but whom I find I care about deeply.  The miniaturist friends were gathered at Miniatura, which on a busy day is 6,000 people with the same mindset; you’d have to be a very strange miniaturist (and there have been a few, I know, I interviewed them) not to make friends easily at Miniatura.  There were so many people I instantly loved, there was an Australian doll maker who wandered for miles along the barbed wire fencing collecting snagged sheep wool for doll hair.  There was a lady making houses out of liquidised corn flake packets.  There were clubs knitting houses and everything in them.  There were people recycling minis for charity.  There have been a lot of brave souls forgetting dreadful life circumstances with creativity.  So many admirable people, brave, funny and strong, easy to like though not always easy to talk to, though knowing they came from the same bananas place you did and inhabited the same crackers world was a help.  (Can you tell I am writing this at breakfast?)

The problem with old friends at Miniatura was that so many were old and having retired once from reality did it again from miniatures.  I keep in touch with a few and consider myself blessed that they reciprocate.  Last week I wrote to Kay Curran, wife of arguably the most famous potter working in miniature in the country, Terry.  She rang and we had a long chat.  It does you so much good just to chat to friends.  If you are a long term reader please do email, I answer emails.  I’d love to know if you have been reading here since 2009.  Whilst I read and reply to emails I don’t always publish them but I will if it’s on the subject of reading JaneLaverick.com

The book is progressing, I had a few days off and tomorrow the grounds man is coming to clear the way for a bigger drive and a lot of work in the back garden.  If I can write with a lot of noise, or, probably, where I can write with a lot of noise remains to be seen.  Today the cats are going to live with the S&H who wants them back.  If they return when the building finishes, time will tell.  They are old friends now and I will be so sad to see them go.  I started calling myself Mummy to the cats, always a mistake, what am I – a fish loving creature with huge ears who is covered in hair?*

How will I manage without them, how will they manage without me?  I had better get busy writing.

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* Yes.

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I’m a writer.

I’m aware that you may know this already.  It’s not exactly hidden. I have written stuff ever since someone put a pencil in my hand.  I was a published child poet, won prizes and filled the school magazine with poetry.  I stopped doing it because it seemed too easy and because my mother was prone to making me invent a poem and read it as a trick for her dinner parties and I hated it.

At college I wrote in the magazine, was on the editorial committee and did a cartoon, which was so long ago the cartoon was reproduced by someone actually carving a wooden block to go to the printing press.  I’m practically mediaeval.  When teaching I was the teacher who wrote the phonically sensible comic to help struggling readers, my finest hour there may have been an entire page about an elk on a cab which was also funny.

It seemed a short hop to the bit where I morphed into a magazine writer, first doing the funny column because I thought people were taking themselves very seriously then interviewing all those with a story to tell and there were plenty of them.

And after various fits and starts here I am writing a novel again and liking the writing a lot.  I am nearly 50,000 words into it, which is probably half a novel.  I love my characters though my love of them has changed since I last wrote a novel.  The first novel, the one that eventually garnered a literary agent who was so fake the police hauled him off, was obsessed with the baddie.  He was in nearly every chapter and had more scenes than the protagonist, who appeared briefly in three chapters.  I think there is little doubt that the novel reflects the life of the novelist.  Even stories set in outer space or fantasy land are still about the everyday struggle of yer average human.   If you are a writer and there is a lot of conflict it will be there in the story.  Judging by television drama I’d say many dramatists have terrible conditions and physical violence in their lives.  It might be why comedy is much more difficult to write, few lives are a laugh a minute.

This time, though the protagonist is not in every chapter and there is a secondary hero, the baddie, who is horrible but heavily disguised as a philanthropist, does not take over but he is nasty and the main hero will win.

Well, I think she will, at the moment she is in it up to her neck.

So, if you’ll excuse me I must go and mount a rescue mission, or at least get her safely to the next morning.

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Writing

Hello it’s me.  Briefly, I am writing.  I know you know that because you’re reading it but otherwise I am writing, deep in  the novel.  The characters are developing lives of their own.  This does happen and is always a surprise, various people have surfaced in these columns and taken over but in a novel you get the chance for them to live more fully.  You can explore their motivation, their hopes and anxieties.  As they become rounder and more real you find yourself cheering them on or hissing and booing from the sidelines.

At the same time I’m trying to get to grips with my garden.  I love my garden but five years of gardening my mother’s garden and a year of a broken arm just when I hoped to be able to turn my attention to my garden hasn’t done my garden much good.  I remember, not fondly but I remember, my mother turning up to  our new house when we’d just got married and peering through the window sipping the cup of tea the wrong shade that I’d just poured her, remarking ‘Oh I see your neighbours have a neglected garden, as well.’

Normally I’d be out there every hour of daylight but right now, if I do that, I can feel the characters in the book hanging in suspended animation wondering when I am going to come back and rescue them.  I’m up to 40,000 words which could be half a short book but the whole thing has its own pace and momentum.  I see the first time I mention here that I am writing is May 5th.  I did intend to start the novel before I broke my arm but the difficulty of typing saw to that, instead I drew the scene where the action takes place in a fictional village over several months.   So I’ve really only been writing for five weeks in earnest.  I like to print off the day’s output and take it up to bed to read my own bedtime story and correct my own grammar, which is more entertaining than it sounds.

I did join a writer’s group and really enjoyed the first meeting, until the group folded.  I emailed to ask when the next meeting was, but it wasn’t.  So it’s back to just me and a keyboard writing in any quiet room in the house.  Like the S&H I have always found the most interesting thing in the world to be the one between your ears, his is full of computers, mine is full of words.

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Time.

How long have you got to read this?  In fact how long have you got?

Recently I have been buying a lot of craft stuff, which adds quite a bit to all the dolls’ house stuff, needless to say.  In a flash of revelation this morning I realised that I have been trying to buy time.  All the time my mother was ill I promised myself I would eventually find time for all the things I like to do instead of the things I had to do.  Then, when she was no more, I still had no time, winding up her affairs, dealing with solicitors and so on.  Then I broke my arm and all the things I wanted to do I couldn’t then I got cancer (though I think I had probably had it quite a while) and it looked as if I was out of time completely.

A lot of fear is attached to this disease, fear of pain, suffering, disfigurement, loss of physical control and eventually, loss of life.  When I had the disastrous meeting with the horrible threatening oncologist, who, in hindsight, was more worried about his insurance policy than my wellbeing, the fear of God that he put into me was the loss of all the above.  He was careful to make it my fault if I died because I was the stupid person not accepting his disfiguring, disabling treatments.  If I had been a more robust person, if I hadn’t just had all the awful things to deal with that I had had in the previous seven years I might have accepted treatment and worried about it less.  But the radiotherapy couldn’t knock the cancer out of the ball park, it just lowered the possibility of it returning by ten percent.

With all this churning around in the back of my mind, no wonder I’m trying to buy time to do the things I like.

I think it is probably normal to worry after illness.  I worry more, like the pain felt from a bereavement, last thing at night, when I’m tired and first thing in the morning.  In fact first thing is a bad thing at present.  It is a bereavement of sorts, imminent everyday fear of cancer returning.  The fear is there despite the fact that I do seem to be getting better.

For the last four or five years I had worn that mineral powder make up a lot, especially under my eyes.  For the last three years, without the make up I looked like a panda.  Yesterday I did gardening without make up, today I walked round to the shop without make up.  I had just thought it was me getting older.  For many years my old Caesarean scar used to split or weep, I thought it was just my skin reacting to sitting in the car on endless journeys to care for my mother, now, even though it’s a new old scar, it is beginning to heal properly.  Yesterday I gardened all day, though I did have a long sit down in the middle of it.  I need to do this, after all the neglect, the garden is looking like a wilderness.  I was terrified doing it that it would start something off that I didn’t want but, with a lot of rest afterwards I was OK and my flowerbed looks like a flower bed again.

So I think I am at last beginning to get better.  I had an appointment about my arm at the hospital, where I was told I am making good progress.  I had stopped going to the shoulder class after the cancer surgery and then had to be referred again but in the meantime I kept going with the exercises myself.  Now I have been discharged but given three more exercises to help with my elbow problem, which is because of all the time I spend typing.

Three things in life are of major significance.  They are: freedom, good health and absence of fear and worry.  If you have the three legs of this tripod, you can build anything on a strong foundation.

I do finally have freedom, I am working my way towards the second, when I am absolutely certain I have that then I hope I will have the third.  What I would like for the future, which I cannot buy, but must make, is a future writing comic novels. Comic because they’re the kind I like to read.  What I wish for is the legs for my tripod, which will make the writing so much easier.  I am a third (probably) of the way into the novel, if I didn’t waste so much time each morning worrying, I’d be further in.

So you know what I’m off to do now.  I wish us both time for the things we love.  I take my hat off again to Stephen Hawking, who wrote despite being told he was out of time at the start.  He wrote by swivelling his eyeballs, which makes me think I am moaning about nothing.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

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Writing.

The thick plottens, at least it does if the thick is me.  I am plottening like nobody’s business as the novel grips me.  I wake each morning full of plot and can’t wait to get it on paper.  I think it was possibly Sam Goldwyn who said he wanted a film that started with an earthquake and built to a climax, though the quote has been attributed to several people.  Whoever suggested it, for a novel it’s a good idea too.  For a comic novel I think it’s essential.  The greater the threat, the bigger the laugh, the higher the climb the larger the pratfall, the more desperate the situation, the more welcome the light relief.  It sounds like a description of my life, so far.

I am still regularly assailed by fears.  Typing by the hour causes problems with my metal arm and my elbow, previously not a bit of me that was hurting, can really smart first thing in the morning.  I would have to say if you wanted to be a writer and were full of angst about nothing physical, you should probably get over yourself.  I am amazed at how lucky I was when I wrote for magazines, to deadlines and it didn’t hurt, either when I was doing it or the day afterwards.  It’s always the case that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.  This is true of the cancer returning, I am always awaiting the arrival of the big yellow taxi.

Some people have happy, easy lives but I don’t think any of them are writers.  Misery is the fuel that propels the pen.  Unresolved past issues are also a wellspring of words. Reacting to the occurrences of life with words on paper diffuses all those past detonators lying around to trip us up.  Standard advice for bereaved people with issues  with the deceased is to write the problems down and burn them.

I am also aware that I am still recovering from seven dreadful years, illness for a long time and major surgery.  The AA has an helpful mnemonic HALT for the times when alcoholics in recovery are likely to succumb.  The times are when they are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired.  Over the last few weeks I realise all the days which have been black days or full of panic, or even times during the day when I worry myself to a standstill, all correspond to those conditions.

You don’t have to have had a struggle with drink, or have been ill to respond negatively to events at such times, I think anyone hungry, lonely, angry, or tired has a good chance of treating happenings with less positivity and more despair.  The AA suggest at such times you should stop and take care of yourself.  I am trying to do this but it doesn’t come easily after a lifetime of trying to please other people first and look after myself later or not at all.

I am still, however, counting my blessings.  The greatest of these, in my estimation, is that I can write and I love doing it, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do a bit more of it.

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Writing

I know I’m writing rather infrequently here.  One reason is that I am writing very frequently elsewhere,  I wake up with the novel in my head and just have to get it on paper.

I wrote a novel long ago as my millennium project.  It got rejected in lots of places; I finally filed the file of rejections up in the loft last week, I hope the floorboards can take the weight.  The last thing that happened with the novel was that I got a literary agent.  After about six months the agent asked me for some money but I wrote back that I didn’t have any, mostly because I didn’t. He kept sending letters saying how many publishers he’d submitted the novel to and I kept not giving him money and then the police rolled up on his doorstep and arrested him because he was a fake literary agent and some of the authors he had asked for money gave it to him.  Amazingly poverty was my protection.

By the time I found out that my literary agent was a crook  I was deep into the sequel.  I tried to go on with it but the enthusiasm had seeped out as the constabulary weighed in.

Some years down the line, re-reading my own work I could see where the faults were.  I have taken that knowledge and used it in this novel.  The one similarity between that novel, the one I’m writing and the sequel I didn’t finish is that they all sound like me, if they ever get published and you are a regular reader of this blog, you’ll like them because it’s all just me.  The column I used to write in Dolls House World was called Just Jane and it absolutely was.  I am either stunningly consistent or a one-trick pony.

The other reason I haven’t posted much is that I keep having bad days of paralysing worry.  I have spoken to the cancer nurse who said it is common for people to imagine the cancer is back again whether they have earache, headache or a blister.  Knowing that does not stop me having bad days.  I’ve had bruises that I instantly thought were leukaemia, tiny specks of blood that I thought were my insides going rotten and dropping out and broken fingernails that were sure indicators of oh dear here we go again.  I do think I’ve had a bad experience; not everyone vomits blood post operatively, in fact I think it’s unusual.  Most people are out of hospital in three days and do not keep going in and out for a fortnight. Most people do not have four holes and a long incision in them. Many people do not have cancer and a broken arm with a lot of metal in it.  Most people haven’t had all of that after seven years of dreadful stress.  It is 16 weeks since the operation and I’ve only just this week had the letter from the awful oncologist confirming my decision not to have the radiation, which letter of course brought back all the anguish and alarm.  And as I broke my arm in early July it’s been ten months of in and out of hospital.

I do think I’m on the mend. as long as I don’t try to do too much, the problem is I can’t remember what it felt like to feel well and unworried.  There were so many awful happenings in caring for my mother, such as working right through the first broken arm.  Mostly I just kept going, through all the awful and all the legal stuff, which has only just finished.  I think I am drained, I think I look older.

But I am still here and writing.

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Art therapy.

I haven’t posted for a while.  I finally relaxed and indulged in a bit of art therapy. I’ve been making some arty cards, here they are:

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I am starting to use the stampboard plaques I made such a lot of a while ago.  I have also used some of my own sculpted paper items from the moulds I made, on the right my ancient Aunt’s face. In the centre the hands of the S&H.  Centre and left paper dolls from Tim Holtz and in each a wonderful stamped image from AALL & Create that says Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life, it sure does, and some bits of lovely Stamperia rice paper.

Over the long awfulness, what kept me going was watching crafty shopping channels and buying stuff.  The OH has not been happy about the parcels arriving.  I am so glad that dies for die cutting and bits of paper for cutting with the dies (for die cutting) are basically flat.  All the time I was stuck in hospital and all the previous years caring for my mother I kept thinking of all the arty stuff I was missing and then, when I crashed and burned, I kept thinking of how I might never get to it, so I collected and collected and now I am finally well enough to use it.

I am going to have to stop and tidy up, or more precisely, rearrange the piles of junk, as the S&H and gang are coming tomorrow.  As it’s my birthday I’m taking them out for lunch, though to be fair I do that every time they come and I enjoy it.  There are quite a few child-friendly restaurants locally with proper food for children.

And afterwards, back to the art.  Art of all kinds is a wonderful way of processing all the stuff that happens to you in life.  Like vomiting up buckets of blood, it gets rid of all the bad stuff, except in a non violent and undangerous way

I am also writing and might soon be gardening, though the OH is going to have a workshop which will involve chopping up the lawn and laying concrete.  Also, in the front of the house, the drive is going to be widened so the S&H and DIL can park when they come.  We are living on what has turned into a busy road and need to make access safe.  So maybe not gardening until all the construction is done.

And then more art therapy until I feel cleansed of all the terrible things that have happened over the last year.  I had a dreadful year when I was 33; I had a miscarriage and cancer and two lots of surgery.  At 66 I had a broken arm and cancer and surgery for each.  I wonder what will happen at 99?  I believe life is cyclical.  As you get older you do sometimes think:  Oh hello, been here before.  Maybe that’s what life is about, learning.  Perhaps if the lessons get harder it’s a sign of progress in the curriculum.  Fortunately if the lessons are really hard there is art because:

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