Tuesday, July 19, 2016

This post contains graphic photos of trauma...

Okay, so you've decided to ignore my warning - just keep that in mind...

Wednesday, almost a fortnight ago, I was headed out with mum to get her dog groomed when one of my big fears happened. I fell down a flight of steps. It's one of those things you get asked about a annual optometrist appointments; have you had any falls? I have always been able to answer yes. Next time the answer will be no.  

The stairs in question are very familiar to me, which is quite surprising. Just a short flight; the concrete steps down from the front porch. I didn't slip or trip, I overstepped so that instead of my heel landing on the step below, it skipped a step altogether. Before I realised what I'd done my nose had connected with the brick path a metre below.

This is what my nose usually looks like...


This is what it looked like after the fall...


I had one of the Sherlock Holmes moments where in the span of a few microseconds after connecting the dots, I was analysing the situation... My thoughts went something like this...

What? Oh shit, I've fallen. My nose, ah crap, it might be broken! Filling with blood, if I breathe in now, I'll inhale it, better breathe out. That's better. Ah crap, I'm wearing that cream jumper. I need to get the jumper out of the pool of blood [at this point I did a REAL push up, which I regretted for the next four days].

DIZZY!

My mum came rush over and flipped me over, which undid my valiant effort to save my jumper, but luckily she's a whizz with body fluids and saved it later in the day. She asked if I wanted to get up. I assessed the situation. I was feeling dizzy, it could be from the blood loss (my body tends to react to injury with fainting), or it could have been an oncoming seizure. If I stood, and fell again, who would catch me? Dave's knees were bad, mum's shoulders were bad, stepdad's back was bad... 'Call an ambulance.' I said.

Then mum wanted to know if she should stay with the kids while Dave came with me to the hospital. Dave hates hospitals. He hates waiting. He hates not being able to do something when people he loves are hurt. As well as this, we had one of the boys' friends sleeping over, and I didn't want the kid waking to strangers in the house, or the mum coming to pick him up to find strangers caring for him.


As it turned out. I was fairly lucky. No obvious break, though a suspected fracture. At the time, they basically sent me home with a band-aid. I did report feeling dizzy and sleepy, and so they did an ECG, but that came out clear. I would have thought they might do a CT scan with my history seizures, but they didn't. I wish I had insisted they did though, because the following days I had several absent seizures, I have also had a lot of cranial pressure, and dizziness. My GP suspects concussion, so I had a CT scan yesterday.



At least my nose is healing up!

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

The winter of our discontent...

It's bloody cold this winter...

It really is much colder than it has been the last two or three years at least. Both the Grumpy Old Man and I are suffering from the SADs from the gloom of it. It's not just us, though. The Federal election was this Saturday just gone, and it was a rather dismal affair for everyone involved. Dismal in that here we sit, several days later, with no result. The two main parties sit neck and neck, and the likelihood of a hung parliament is, well, actually not unlikely.

There was a swing away from the incumbent Liberal party, but not such a great swing as to bring in the Labor party. Enough though to bring a bunch of ratbag independents including Pauline Hansen and Derryn Hinch, though.

Some are calling it protest voting. I don't know about that. I think it's desperation voting. Anything but the same old, same old.

Let's face it, the Labor party and the Liberals just don't seem to get what most Australian's want or need. The Liberals kept going on and on about innovation and investment and how that was going to bring jobs to the country (through trickle down economics, which so far hasn't worked for most of us Aussies living on under 80K per annum). Labor still isn't listening when it comes to the environment and asylum seekers. The Greens aren't big enough to form Government. Neither are independents, obviously.

Then again. Maybe this is just Australia. Tall Poppy Syndrome is iconically Australian. The two major parties have gotten too big for their boots, too sure of their indispensability. So, like good little Aussies, the people are doing what Aussies do and lopping their heads off. We'll cut you to size. Put you in your place.

You can thank us later.

Tomorrow Erik turns seventeen. It'll be the first time we don't wake up with him on his birthday and give him cards and presents or have a birthday dinner and cake. We sent a card yesterday. Just a card. We're not in a position to do anything else, finances have been extremely tight since he left. I can hardly believe it's been seventeen years. That seems like such a long time, but it is no time at all. I don't feel any older, or wiser, mores the pity!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Another little house...




Another family home photo was uploaded to Facebook last night. This was also my grandmother's - you can see her yellow house in the background (the black tar-paper there on the left of the red house). This little red house was tiny, that front wall was about five metres across, I reckon (I'm trying to figure it out by remembering the layout of beds up under the eaves upstairs). Downstairs, you walked through the little white door there into an enclosed verandah, the toilet was at the far end. Boot, coats etc. came off there - because they'd be wet. Then through the front door there were steep stairs directly to your left leading to the attic bedrooms - the attic was divided in two, though towards the end of the house's life the dividing wall was knocked down. Downstairs was an 'open plan' kitchenette/living area, in the main part of the house, and in that little annex at the back was a step up to a sitting room and tiny bedroom (Amma's double bed filled the bedroom). I remember at one point, this house was being set up for my family to live in it, then I remember my Amma lived there for a while with my aunt and my cousin, I think - and my cat was born there. At another time, I think Amma, three aunts, two boyfriends and a cousin were living there? I'm not sure - there was always a crowd - every person having their own room was quite unheard of in our family!

The piece of land this tiny house sat on was quite large and was marked off by a low stone wall, as you can see in this photo which was taken from the point of view standing in front of Amma's yellow house, looking over the river and the yard of the red house.


In summer my brother and I used to play in that yard, eat the sweet stalks of the grass. I loved the feel of those stones, I imagined they had been there forever, for hundreds of years - maybe they have. According to Wikipedia 
According to Landnámabók Þuríður Sundafyllir settled in Bolungarvík around 940 along with her brother Þjóðólfur. Folklore says they had a disagreement and put a spell on each other, as they were both skilled sorcerers. Þuríður laid on her brother that he would spend eternity as a monolith on which all birds would defecate. Þjóðólfur in turn hexed his sister that she would forever stand where the wind blows most. The pillar that was said to be Þuríður collapsed in half in 1936. The legend says that same night "Þjóðólfur" sank in the sea. That night their spell washed away into the sea.
I guess when you grow up with such a rich sense of heritage, such a connection to land, roots, it fills your spirit so you don't feel so poor or vulnerable. Maybe this is why first peoples, robbed of their culture and robbed of their connect to land feel so lost and no amount of money or substitute culture can fill the gaping hole that is left behind. In the meantime, I wonder if a lot of post-industrial Western society has become so disconnected from land and roots that it has created the sense of poverty so many people suffer now where there is simply never is enough to make them happy. Whether it is acknowledgment, praise, pity, love, money, things, or admiration.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Home...

I woke up this morning to a family member had subscribed me to a Facebook group for the village I'm from in Iceland. When I say I'm from this village, I don't mean that I am born there - I'm born in Australia. I mean, it is where I lived the longest in Iceland. It is the village I know like the back of my hand. I have literally walked every street of this place.

Someone had posted a bunch of photos, and for some reason, several photos included my grandmother's last house in the village. This house had been torn down when I visited in August, so I was very excited to see it. These photos are taken from around the time we moved to the village last. My grandmother's house is the yellow house in the middle of the photo. She didn't own the house*, she rented, and she only rented half the house - the right side of the house with the black tar-paper cladding exposed around the windows.


When we moved to live with Amma in December 1982, three of my aunties, one uncle, and one cousin were already living with her. So, to be clear, her half of the house is where the black tar-paper starts and right of that. The first window is the kitchen window. The door is in the tiny entry, directly opposite the door was a staircase which took you up to an attic bedroom. To the right of the front door was the living room/diningroom, behind it was Amma's room, towards the front of the house (that window) was a teensy room that fit a single bed only), which you got to throught the bathroom/laundry, out back was a storage room of sorts. Once we moved in, there were nine people living there for several months, plus on occasion my aunties boyfriends.


When we first came to the house at Christmas 1982, the snowdrifts were up to the roof line at the door of the house, and we had to dig steps down to the front door. The snow kept coming throughout winter, and on more than one occasion, I remember people clambering in and out of the window to the attic bedroom that you can see in the picture below.

In the summer of 1983, when I was eleven, I had a summer job of taking care of five children during the day, they ranged in age from nine down to eighteen months. I look at the river, so close to the front door, no fence, those rocks, and it used to flow quite quickly. I remember my nine year old brother and my five-year-old cousin play with paper boats down there. I wonder if I'd trust Bryn with five kids next summer by that river...


These windows at the back of the house belong to my Amma's bedroom. Her boudoir. To me she was always very glamorous, she had a tendency to get about the house in a matching nightgown and robe sets, but not flannelette and quilted cotton like my English nanna, no, Amma's were always flowy and drapey like a 40s noir character with plenty of cleavage on display. and she always had a cigarette hanging from her lips. Her bedroom had a large Chinese paper umbrella hanging open and upside down in one corner of the ceiling and on a heavy buffet at the foot of her bed was white plaster sculpture we called 'The Kiss'. 


What I love about this last photo is seeing how close the mountains were. I love those mountains so much!

The other day I had a strange experience. A friend linked to an article about an Icelandic crime series which is currently available on SBS on demand. When I clicked through to the article there was immediately a photo. As I looked at the photo the word 'Seyðisfjörður' popped into my mind. Now, that is the name of a village. A village I have never been to. A village I have no association with whatsoever, in actual fact, so when it came to me, I laughed and thought it might be funny if the show was filmed or set in Seyðisfjörður. I kept reading the article and several paragraphs later, right at the bottom of the page, it said the show is, indeed, set in Seyðisfjörður. I had to look it up because I had no idea where in the country that place is. As it turns out, it's not far from where I stay a night back in September last year. I rang mum and told her and we came to the conclusion that the land is in our DNA, someone it is part of us and we are part of it and that is why we yearn for it and it calls us.

*As it turns out, my aunts tells me she did own the house and that it was utterly ruined by the last tenant and the township then sold it for demolition - or that is how I understand the translation of what I was told.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Chances are you're not a loner...


I saw this poster on social media this week and I thought, what a strange way to define a loner. If a loner is now someone surrounded by family and a few good friends, then aren't most people loners? It's a bit like the poverty thing, people crying poverty when what they mean is they can't afford a holiday, or they can't afford copious discretionary spending. I would have thought a loner was someone who didn't relate to people, a hermit, someone who kept very much to themselves. Just as a poor person would be someone who struggled to meet their basic needs, not someone who could afford organic food, new clothes every month, and subscription television.

I wonder what it is that has people looking so hard for the deficit in their lives these days. To have family and a few good friends is to have a lot. That is not to be a loner. There are people in this world who truly have no one. I have found whenever I have said that I cannot relate to other people, that I feel like a completely different species, that I feel like I stand outside of every social network I know and cannot properly connect with other people, that people can relate to that. Most people know what that feels like. Apparently, that feeling is very common. So, if you feel strange and alien and like no one gets you, at least you can console yourself with the knowledge that you're not alone, most everyone around you feels exactly the same way!

As it turns out, we're, none of us, that unique... As for being loners, very few people are true loners, except for the barriers they create in their own minds.

Friday, June 17, 2016

I know you can do it...

The Grumpy Old Man cried this morning...

Tears of joy, and tears of relief. He cried in the car after dropping the boys off at school, and then he cried again at home when he told me the story I'm about to tell you. He apologised to me for crying, but I told him there was nothing to apologise for.

We are currently in the process of having Ari assessed. There is a strong likelihood that like his mother, his grandmother, his uncle, and several other extended family members, Ari has ADHD. He is extremely bright. He reads well above his grade level (he's half way through grade two and reading Star Wars novels now), and his maths is even stronger than his reading. His writing lags a little, not because he struggles with spelling or anything - he's a whizkid speller - but because he can't focus his thoughts to put a story together on paper. He can TELL you the most fantastic stories, but when it comes to writing them down, he gets very frustrated and anxious and restless.

Actually, in class, he is generally very restless.

This year, he's had a marvellous teacher for dealing with restless kids. Actually, she was the teacher I spotted when we first visited the school a year ago, I thought she'd be perfect for him then, but he chose another teacher for himself (who was lovely, by the way, just not no nonsense enough).

We'd suggested to Ari's current teacher that he might do well if given a responsibility, but she was of the opinion that he had to earn the right to a responsibility. Fair enough, we said, and left it up to her.

This morning the GOM took Ari to his class, and Ari immediately set to doing some sort of work in a workbook. The GOM commented on it to the teacher and she said it was something he liked doing in preparation for another part of the day when the kids did another activity which he wasn't very settled for at which point she usually gave him the responsibility of sitting with a particularly child in the class who has been struggling with reading. The teacher said, 'Your heart would melt if you saw him! He sits next to [X} and [X] get to a difficult word, Ari says, 'Okay, just sound it out, I know you can do it!' He so sweet!' The GOM said it was all he could do not to burst into tears right there and then.

You see we've been worried. With Erik having autism and being unable to relate to others emotionally, having to be taught how to make friends and pretty much mimicking emotions to make connections, we've wondered if Ari might also have those difficulties. He also doesn't have any close friends at this age - he has friends he plays with at schools, but we don't know their names because he doesn't talk about them by name. He never introduces them, never asks to have them over, is never invited on playdates or to birthday parties. At some level, it bothers him, but he doesn't talk about it except very occasionally.

He is very affectionate, but we wondered still if he was capable of awareness of other people's emotions. This act of tutoring another child, actively encouraging them in their learning, this shows he is aware.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Prom...

Erik went to his senior school prom on Friday night. Don't know why they call it that - I thought in Australia it was called a formal? He scrubs up well, doesn't he?



Not that he'd ever acknowledge this, but this is my favourite haircut for him. I've been trying to get him to cut his hair like this again for the past five years! It really suits him! Also, hello Icelandic cheekbones. He may have the Bird chin and the Bird brow, but though are my Amma's and his Amma's and his mother's cheekbones!


He's looking good. It's breaking my heart that we didn't get to have this Erik. I hope she appreciates that she has this Erik because we raised him for the first 16.75 years and even though he didn't appreciate our efforts, we really tried our best. I don't think we did a terrible job.



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