Tag Archives: significant dates

Happy Birthday to Me

Today was my birthday, and a very good one it was, too. From the flowers the kids gave me first thing, to the cards and the presents that started my day so well, to the very good day with my colleagues at work, it was both ordinary and magical. Even got my usual walk through the Botanics, taking the odd picture along the way, seemed a little special, though I don’t know if that shows in these phiotos.

Something sprouting through the rocks


Taken 15 February 2006

Something about this drystane wall spoke to me too.


Taken 15 February 2006

Then, on the walk home, I was struck by the beauty of these balustrades in the raking sunlight.


Taken 15 February 2006

But that was nothing to the sky over Calton Hill! (Photo cropped to remove a crane)


Taken 15 February 2006

The best moments came at the end of the day – playing tag with the kids on the walk home in the last of the sunlight. Noticing that Alex has finally figured out how to moderate his pace so Fiona can catch him. Chocolate cake. Silly kids in their bubble bath. A chance to talk to Martiin in the evening (and to thank him – I am aware that the flowers, the presents, and the cake only seemed to appear magically at the right moments!)

In some ways, having such an ordinary working-day birthday was better than having an all special day, because it made me look at my everyday life afresh and see it sparkle. I hope I can hold onto that for a while yet!

Valentine’s Day

If you’re lucky enough to get a Valentine’s card today, well, good. Somebody loves you. Remember that.

If you aren’t, then one of the hearts in this picture is especially for you.


Update, 16th February: A number of people have asked me how I did this, whether it’s wicker, how long it took me to make, etc. Let me explain. I was trimming pages of a few books with my Christmas bookbinding present, the beautiful vertical plough that Martin got me. The bin was full of little strips of paper in cream and white. So I curled a few of them into a half-heart shape and photographed the result, then cut the picture, mirrored the appropriate bit, and pasted. The intricacy of the final result astonishes even me, and I did it.

Sorry to rob you of some of the magic, dear readers, but I can’t let you think I did something I didn’t.

We hold fast…

…to what is important. The more they hit us, the more they try to frighten us, the tighter we hold on to it.

What do we hold so tight?

bombs don’t care who you are, but your neighbours do
even if revenge would feel better
though it expose us to future danger
Britain has been here before
even in the face of hate

Peace, dear people.

The Inevitable September 11 Post

Like most bloggers, I find the events of September 11 an almost irresistible topic. I’d like to write about some of them now: the factors that led up to the events of the day, some of its consequences. I’m going to touch on people, religion, life and death. It’s a story that spans continents and decades.

But it’s not about bin Laden. No, nor is it about Allende. This predates both of those events.

One day, the Catholic society at Stanford University needed some paperwork collated and stapled. The committee members roped in everyone they could ethically coerce: roommates, friends, acquaintances. Among them was a tall lanky guy from San Jose, with thick brown hair that showed red when the sun shone on it and clear blue eyes. Another of the staplers was a vivacious girl from Southern California, with rich brown eyes and dark hair. The students talked while they worked, and these two hit it off. The Palo Alto sunshine seemed a little brighter, the campus a little more beautiful, by the time the work was over.

Then he vanished.

But a letter came before the plot of their story could be diverted from its course, before she forgot him, before he became a might-have-been. He had been an alternate for a course of study in France, and one of the students had a medical ban on travel. She read the airmail letter (the texture and sound of the thin, crackly airmail paper held a nostalgic quality for her for years afterward), and all the ones that followed it. But their relationship was new, and contact dropped off.

He came back just before she herself was scheduled to go abroad, studying in Germany, so they had a little time to re-establish their connection. Then she went away. And this time the correspondence didn’t drop off. The letters got longer, and deeper, the two opened their hearts to one another and discovered, as fortunate souls do, that the more they gave of themselves, the more they had to give. They must have suspected, early on, that they were engaged in something serious. By the time she returned, they knew.

So on September 11, 1966, they married. It was a date that was significant only to them and their families, passing unnoticed in the headlines of the day.

They joined the counterculture and grew their hair. She got pregnant in time to keep him from being drafted. They loved being parents, loved their son. Soon they had another baby, which may have eased her grief at her mother’s untimely death from breast cancer. They bought some land and built a cabin on it, though they never ended up living there. They moved around a lot, working at various jobs, raising their kids and enjoying the glory of youth. They lived in a commune for a time. He bought a printing press; she painted. They worked on cars and raised their kids. Her father passed away.

Eventually, they both ended up in law school. For each of them, in their own ways, the practice of law was a vocation. And their other vocation grew as well – they had two more children when their first set was reaching adolescence. He lost his father to prostate cancer. The older kids went to college just as the younger ones were starting school. Their second child, a daughter, even went to Europe during university, studying for a year in Scotland. They visited her when they returned to the Continent for their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.

Their elder children each married, and have since had kids of their own. His mother died suddenly, of a stroke, earlier this year. The younger children are both in their twenties, one currently studying in Prague, the other living in the Bay Area. The consequences of that September day flow on, in the lives of us their seven descendants, our spouses, our friends. For us, in the family, this is still the real September 11.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad.

Baby Time – and about time, too!

Martin has described Fiona’s birth from his point of view. Mine may or may not match his – I was present, and conscious, for different portions of it than he was.

Tuesday, January 27 had been a bad day. I was worried that I would have to have another Caesarean section (not that I mind C-sections) if Chenoweth didn’t emerge soon. They don’t induce labour if you’ve had a section previously, but by the time they were done waiting for spontaneous labour, they’d be scheduling me for a section the week before Martin started his new contract. If you can’t tell, I was beginning to doubt whether Chen would be born normally at all. I hate waiting. It makes me pessimistic.

That evening, I was doing a jigsaw puzzle, which always soothes my emotions. I felt an intermittent crampiness from about 11:00, but didn’t mention anything to Martin at first. No sense giving him false hopes or false alarms. By midnight, I decided they weren’t just my imagination and told Martin, then started timing them. For me, the rest of the labour seemed to have been timed and measured. Like a timetable:

All times are approximate, most are deduced rather than based on checking the clock, and recall of many is influenced by drugs and/or altered states of conciousness.

23:00 – 0:00 Vague crampy feelings, on an off. Didn’t pay too much attention to them lest they prove imaginary.
0:00 – 1:00 Painful, but bearable, cramping feelings every 5 minutes
1:00 Called hospital materinity triage. Told that I should wait longer to ensure labour was established. Call back if contractions were still coming every 5 minutes in a few more hours, or if waters broke.
1:00 – 2:00 Timed contractions – they backed off to every 10 minutes, but remained painful.
2:00 Went to bed to try to get some rest.
2:00 – 4:00 Contractions got stronger, more painful, but still only once every 7 or 8 minutes.
4:00 Threw up from the pain. Called the hospital, told to take paracetomal and a hot bath, and call back when contractions every 5 minutes or waters broke. I don’t think they felt labour was well enough established. Asked Martin to call his parents to come down from their home (about an hour away, plus getting-up time). Whatever the hospital thought, I knew this was it.
4:00 – 8:45 Intermittent pain is an odd thing. The pains came every 7 – 8 minutes, lasting a little less than a minute each. I drifted in and out of dreams for the off times, then was intensely aware during the contractions themselves. It was like living at seven-times speed, really paying attention for less than 10 minutes each hour. Unable to keep any fluids down, starting to vomit bile from the pain. Never knew digestive juices could be so colourful.
8:45 Waters broke. Called hospital – they were still being off-putting. I wasn’t taking any more hints to stay at home though, because I knew there was pain relief there and I wanted it.
8:45 – 9:15 It’s amazing how long it can take to get out of the house when you’re in labour. Contractions sped up drastically – one every three or four minutes – meaning I had to get up, get dressed, get the necessary paperwork together, etc, in short bursts, then sit down and whine for a while, then throw up more bile, then go on with preparations.
9:30 Martin dropped me off (contraction in dropoff bay – not very reassuring for pregnant women in for antenatal checks) Found my way to labour triage and was taken to an examination room, where they hooked me up to foetal monitors. They clearly thought I was being too dramatic when I was howling during the contractions (and demanding pain relief). Then an internal exam showed that I was 5 cm dialated, and they started to take me more seriously. They gave me something for the nausea (still vomiting bile, to the consternation of a medical student observing). Still took them ages to get me up to the labour suite.
10:00 – 11:15 The options for pain relief are generally entonox (“gas and air”), a variety of opiates, and an epidural. I had already decided not to use opiates, since they cross the placental barrier. I had high hopes for entonox, but was also intending to use an epidural to get me through the end of labour. As it turned out, gas and air would have been fabulous earlier on, but despite giving me a quick high every contraction, it didn’t really take the edge off of the pain. They started an epidural fairly early, but even after two top-ups it wasn’t covering the peaks of the contractions.
11:15 I didn’t realise how much the signals that your body sends you in labour vary. They asked at the triage room if I had an urge to push, and I didn’t. But when the urge to push comes, there is no mistaking the sensation. I’d been feeling the desire to push downward since before 11, mentioning it every contraction, and getting very little reaction. An internal exam showed that I was fully dialated, at which point they let me begin pushing (try to stop me…)
11:30ish The doctors noted that the amniotic fluid contained a lot of meconium (baby poo), and that the baby’s heartbeat was getting faint during contractions. They decided to try a ventouse extraction, which is basically putting a suction cup to the baby’s head and pulling it out. (Sounds awful, but better than the alternative of forceps.) They made an episiotomy cut for ease of access and started assembling the equipment.
11:30 – 11:56 The midwives and doctors seemed to be in a race. With every contraction, I could feel the baby moving down, and I was certainly doing my best to push it along. Meanwhile, the doctors were assembling the ventouse as fast as they could, in case the baby got stuck again.
11:56 The midwives won. Fiona Chenoweth Sutherland was born while the ventouse was still half-assembled. They gave her to me, still covered in blood.
11:56 – 13:00 It can take a long time to stitch an episiotomy. ‘Nuff said.
13:00 – 13:30 Once the embroidery session is over, tea and toast are served. I was feeding Fiona, so Martin had to help feed me. The hospital provides enough for the labour partner (Martin) as well as the mother, which is (a) a good touch, and (b) a violation of one of the longest-running stereoptypes of the NHS. Meanwhile, everyone comments on the vast amount of blood on the floor under the bed.
13:30 Martin goes away to make a lot of phone calls and buy a pink hat.
14:00 I get offered a shower. All I need to do is walk into the shower room with Lynn, one of the hospital staff.
14:01 I faint dead away in the shower room. Lynn catches me, despite her bad back. Lynsey, the midwife, hits the emergency alarm, and every available member of medical staff races to my room.
14:02 I regain consciousness to the sight of four midwives and one doctor standing in the doorway to the shower room, all saying, “Abi! Are you all right?”. I am sitting on a stool, looking at a pool of blood at my feet, and listening to the ringing in my ears.

At this point, things melt into a kind of timelessness for me (can’t think why…)

I remember spending a lot of time sitting on the stool in the shower room, supported by Lynsey, while she took my blood pressure and pulse every 10 minutes. After a couple of tries on each arm, we concluded that the automatically-inflating blood pressure machine can’t register low enough and Lynsey switched to the manual system (pressure of 78/53, well out of normal range, even for me).

The fluid drip they set up for me after delivery wasn’t getting fluids into my arm, and my veins collapsed enough that it took four tries to get enough blood to check my haemoglobin levels. All I wanted to do was to lie down, but the medical staff didn’t want to move me yet.

Finally, I convinced Lynsey to let me lie on the bathroom floor, despite her horror at the unsanitariness of it all. She spread a sheet from the bed on the tiles, then I engineered a slow collapse into blessed horizontality. They were still not sure about moving me to a bed, so I stayed where I was for some time, presenting an alarming picture to anyone coming into the room. At this point, I was well past caring about either sanitation or alarm.

Fiona was asleep in the cot the whole time, which made me care a lot less about what happened to me.

Finally, an orderly came and helped me into bed again, and the doctor came to give me another stitch to close a leaking blood vessel. Martin came back to find me in bed, looking pale, much as I had been when he left. They took me up to the postnatal ward then, rolling on a bed with Fiona in the crook of my arm.

I spent one night in hospital, then made such a pest of myself that they discharged me home. (Considering how well Martin takes care of me, the daily midwife visits that are standard on the NHS, and how close I am to the hospital, this was not a foolish decision. Even for someone whose haemoglobin count was at about 70% of normal.)

So here I am home now, with Fiona, Alex, Martin, and a severe case of anaemia. I look like a Goth without the makeup, and despite taking iron tablets three times a day, my haemoglobin has dropped to 67% of normal. According to the midwife, I should be having trouble breastfeeding, though the fact that I’ve already frozen 200ml of breastmilk as well as feeding Fi kind of flies in the face of that. I am, however, utterly exhausted and frequently faint.

We discussed my medical situation with the midwife this afternoon, and agreed that this can’t go on. It’ll take weeks and weeks for me to feel better, and I need to be able to cope with both Alex and Fiona a lot sooner than that. So sometime over the next couple of days, I will be going back into the hospital to get a transfusion. Three units of blood should get me back on my feet again.

On the one hand, I’m looking forward to having the energy to climb the stairs more than twice in a row, and to being able to give Alex the attention and reassurance he needs. On the other, I feel selfish, using up blood that could save someone’s life, purely for my own convenience. This is particularly selfish because I haven’t given blood for some time. (The last time I did so, I fainted in a bus stop an hour later. Kind of put me off.)

10 Years

A decade ago yesterday, I woke up in my parents’ house. It was my last morning as a Foley.

The house was full of college-aged guests, too impecunious to stay elsewhere. Then there was the family: two parents, two small children, and me (Mick lived elsewhere by then). And guests and relatives were wandering in and out from time to time. It was a zoo, but a delightful zoo, with someone unexpected in every room.

I laid out my beautiful wedding dress, handmade of silk by my mother, and the shoes I’d chosen to go with it. Then I realised that I didn’t have tights! A quick drive to Payless solved that, though all they had were “control top” tights. I shrugged and figured they would make me look even better in the dress.

By the time I came home, everyone was getting ready. I managed to get some mirror time, just enough to brush my hair and put a little makeup on. I never wear much, and that day was no exception. I took the least time to get ready of anyone in that house, with plenty of time to help Kathleen with her hair.

I remember very little after driving to the church in the van. Martin and I had memorised our lines, and were word-perfect through the ceremony, but I don’t recall much of it. We drove to the reception in Jeeps, with white streamers tied to the roll bars. We ate, drank, and were merry, but again, I remember very little of it.

I was just too happy.

I’m still happy now, a decade later. Not in the same euphoric, memory-destroying way, of course, or they’d have to lock me up as a danger to myself and others. But my marriage to Martin has been even better than the wedding.

There have been bad times, of course, and no doubt there will be again. But the greatest joy of our marriage is that we can overcome adversity better as a couple (even adversity within the couple) better than we could individually.

It is far from time to rest on our laurels – with a toddler running rampant and a baby on the way, we certainly have some challenging times ahead. But we have made a good start.

I love you, Martin, even more than I did on the day I cannot remember.


“Thirty-three. This was the year they got Him.”

Thanks, Mom. I was already thinking that.

All my Christian friends have taken their 33rd birthdays pretty heavily. Not midlife-crisis heavily, talking about death all of the time like a fifty year old, but hard nonetheless. It’s natural, if you strive to model yourself on Jesus, to ask the difficult questions now. In particular, the really hard one.

If I died now, what will I have done? Will it be enough?

Nobody expects me to die this year, much less rise from the dead. But whenever you hear of a contemporary dying (usually a celebrity), you ask yourself these questions. It’s kind of the reverse of my stocktake at the end of last year.

OK, this is what I have received. What have I given back?

I don’t know. I have a half-share in the birth and raising of Alex, who I hope will leave the world a better place than he finds it. That’s something. I try to be a loving wife, a good friend, smart and competent at work, a responsible citizen and a compassionate stranger. I buy fairtrade and take public transport instead of owning a car. I argue for peace in times of war, and for justice in times of greed.

But is it enough?

I’m Rich

Rich, I tell you!

No, no, I didn’t win the lottery.

Last night (Sunday, December 29) was the annual Almost New Year’s party of one of our dearest friends from our university days. And after living so long in a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, I find I have moved the date of my annual stock-taking, the day that I count my blessings and review the past year. Now I do it at Paul’s party. This has the added advantage of moving the stocktake after the solstice, when the balance of the year has shifted toward the light, when I know [Seasonal Affective Disorder|my mood] will get better now before it gets worse again.

Here’s this year’s tally:

· We are all healthy, sound in body and mind.
Oh, yes, we all three of us get ill from time to time. I have a cold as I type, Alex has been coughing nights, and Martin isn’t doing too hot either. But these are passing things.
· We have a nice house
It’s pleasant, on a good street, with good neighbours. The mortgage is affordable, and will remain affordable even if interest rates go up.
· We have secure, well-paid jobs in these times of redundancy.
I hope I’m not tempting fate by saying this. But we’ve both survived one round of redundancies in our workplaces. We’re even paid enough to be able to work part-time and still have enough money for our needs and our desires. We are, to use the phrase of one of my former colleagues, hardcover book rich.
· We have time
Working part-time means we each spend entire days with Alex. I get two days a week with him, Martin one.
We even have time to spend on our hobbies. Martin does web-type stuff and plays the drums, and I bind books.
· We have love
Martin and I are heading for our tenth anniversary. The years have not always been easy – no long-term relationship is universally smooth. But even in the worst times, we have never stopped loving each other.
Now we have Alex, not yet two, and we love him more than we can express. He loves us too, though he does not yet understand the concept.
We have loving families – brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, a whole network of relatives. We may disagree from time to time, but that never gets in the way of the love that ties us together by marriage and blood.
And we have dear, dear friends, some we see often and some we see less than once a year. (A fair number of them came to Paul’s party.) I have friends I have never met in the flesh, but still am enriched by (and ones that, I hope, I enrich).

And so many things that we have, that so much of the world lacks, don’t even make it on the list. Our water is safe to drink, we have plentiful food (more than plentiful – I need to lose weight). Our home is safe from confiscation and our health from epidemic disease. We have a voice in our governance, and the right to say what we please in public. Realistically, we fear no violence in our daily lives. We even have access to cheap public transport and good quality health care.

What can I say? We are rich.

One Year On…

…and we have failed.

The world is not a safer place, as our politicians promised at the time. It’s, if anything, a worse place for most people.

Before I go on, let me say something to those who will be offended and stop reading halfway. Just because someone is critical of, say, your nation, does not mean they’re wrong, or biased. It could mean your nation is on the wrong track. Getting in a huff won’t solve the problem.

Back to the facts.

Palestine, the goad that drives the Islamic world to terrorism, is in a worse state than ever. Israel, driven by the same fears that drive the US, has not taken the terrifying, courageous and necessary leap toward co-operation, and after some brief gestures in that direction, their strongest backers have not pressured them to do so. America, by the way, should take a good look at how dreadful everyday life is for Israeli civilians. This is where the US’s current foreign policy is taking our nation.

The impetus toward war in Iraq continues. Americans seem to want it, and George Bush wants it (to finish what Daddy started, maybe?). Tony Blair, perhaps trying to be more “presidential”, is trying to persuade a skeptical British public that such a war is a good idea. I don’t think he’ll succeed. Will he commit the UK anyway?

Climate change continues, unabated, because the worst polluter has yet another reason not to care. Yesterday it was floods in France and the drought in Africa continues unreported while the richest nation in the world drives its SUVs with the flag at half-mast.

And (lower on the list, since it kills no-one directly) my native land, blinded by fury, has lost hold of its guiding principles. Where is the liberty and justice for all? I await the trials of the people in Camp X-Ray, currently in a most unpleasant legal limbo. I await the restoration of genuine freedom of speech, where the right to say what you like even if it is unpopular is protected. I await the return of the mindset that made America a true beacon of liberty to the world, before she became obsessed, before she discovered that she could do so many things and forgot to ask if she should.

I am filled with sadness for the thousands who died a year ago. But I am also filled with sadness for the thousands who died offscreen, getting up not in comfortable, secure homes but in refugee camps and sun-scorched farms. These people mattered too, and were beloved of their families too. They were innocent, and they were heartbreakingly brave in the face of terrible adversity, but where are their parades and their memorials?

Death and more death.

Death and more death. Destruction. Despair.

When I woke up this morning, I thought, “My mom and dad have been married for 35 years as of today. Today my son is 5 months old.” I looked forward to lunch with my husband, and to maybe hearing from my great-uncle, newly on my web community, E2.

Now it’s all shattered. Looking down at my sleeping baby boy now, I wonder what sort of a world he will inherit, because of today. It makes me want to slap the hawks who are howling for blood on every channel. Revenge won’t bring back the dead, just deepen the hatred that the assailants already clearly feel. Then they’ll strike back, then we will…I don’t want to live like that. I dont want him to live like that.

I bury my nose in his soft, fragrant skin, and wish for this morning again.

The above was my daylog on Everything2. The only other thing I would say is that we, as Americans, must insist that our officials pursue a course of justice, not revenge. The relatives of the people killed will be howling for everyone who might possibly be involved to be bombed to slag, in chorus with a fair slice of the American political spectrum.

This is a bad idea because:

  • Revenge breeds revenge. The allies and relatives of the people we unjustly avenge ourselves on will be out for our blood. I’ve seen enough of that in the news on the Middle East and Northern Ireland.
  • Most US politicians, and many US voters, identify themselves as Christians. Now is the time to put your beliefs in action, guys. Vote to turn the other cheek. Yes, it’s hard. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be a test of our committment, would it?
  • Now is our chance to set an example of civilisation for the world to follow. If the US is to have any credibility but that of the neighborhood bully, we must act responsibly, even in the face of violent provocation.

I don’t hold out much hope that we will pursue such a mature, responsible course.

I got this email from the US Consulate General in Edinburgh:

Dear American:

Following today’s tragedies at the World Trade Center in New York and at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, we encourage all U.S. citizens to maintain a low profile, vary routes and times for all required travel, and treat mail and packages from unfamiliar sources with suspicion. In addition, American citizens are also urged to avoid contact with any suspicious, unfamiliar objects, and to report the presence of the objects to local authorities. Vehicles should not be left unattended, if at all possible, and should be kept locked at all times. U.S. Government personnel overseas have been advised to take the same precautions.

We recommend that Americans continue to monitor the media channels for further information and refer to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the following websites: www.fema.gov and www.usembassy.org.uk respectively or our toll free information line: 0800-0279890. Please understand that very limited information is available at present.

American Consulate General
Edinburgh, Scotland
September 11, 2001

I do not consider myself at much risk.