Thursday, August 18, 2016

The good stuff...

Gosh it's a beautiful day today!

I've been drifting in a strange world where time is flimsy, minutes are big, but days are almost microscopic. I have contentment in spasms, or hiccups, and in between I'm not really here because I'm travelling through rough terrain trying to make sense of my life over the last couple of years.

But today I want to talk about the spasmodic hiccups of contentment.

Harlem had his second surgery on Tuesday, and while him needing a second surgery wasn't great news in an of itself, the outcome is very good. He actually limped out of the surgery on all four legs after hopping in the day before on just three. It seems the issue with his patella slipping to the inside of his leg was at the root of him not wanting to use the leg at all. Now that his patella is stable, he seems quite happy to use the leg, though obviously it is still sore after a second operation. He's not at all impressed at having the lampshade back on, but that's temporary and at least this time he's not crashing into stuff as much because he has a sense of the dimension of the collar.

One thing I am endlessly grateful for is the pet insurance. I was saying to my parents the other day that getting insurance has always paid off for us. While a lot of people say insurance is wrought, we've ended up using insurance a lot! I got extended insurance for my desktop and it paid for itself three times over. I got private insurance for the car, and we've used it several times now! And well, in pet insurance this year alone, it looks like we'll come pretty close to the 10, 000 coverage for Harlem. That goodness we had that!

We had Lukas' parent-teacher meetings yesterday and it was just a delight! Even he said afterwards, 'Wow, that was actually fun! It has never been fun before!'

His music teachers heaped praise on him. They said they couldn't believe this was the same kid they had in class a year ago. They said that not only were they happy to recommend him for the VET music program next year, but that he was their top pick!

Both his English teacher and his Maths teacher said he was holding his own in class, that he showed up, participated well, was enthusiastic. His English teacher said the diagnosis of dyslexia was pretty spot on, but that Lukas was a conscientious student despite his challenges. She recommended he not pursue VCE English in year 10, but that he take the year off and do an elective English class and enjoy himself a bit before the hard work of the VCE subjects kicked in. His maths teacher said the current maths class he was in was beneath his ability, and he suspected Lukas had chosen that class to ease the pressure while he focused on his music. He was also happy to hear that although Lukas is not required to do any more maths units, he wants to because he wants to have that up his sleeve in case he ends up choosing studies which require most complex maths.

I don't think I've ever smiled so much during any meeting with teachers, ever!

It didn't come as a surprise, since Lukas' GPA had been adjusted to 2.5/4.0 after his music studies were properly added to the mix.

I am really enjoying my journey with head covering. It just feels so right for me, I feel so much more confident when I go out - it's like a hug, weird I know, but it really works!

In many ways, I'm feeling more centred now. There is still a long way to go until I achieve an even keel, but I finally feel like I'm on my way.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Life work: Why we repeatedly experience the same stuff over and over, and what we need to learn from that...


Over the past 18 months, I've experienced having several people perceive me in ways that have hurt me deeply. They have reacted to me; my actions or words, in ways I never intended and I have been accused of motives I never had. I have tried to re-present myself, I have walked on eggshells, I have raged against the accusations. I have tried everything I could think of to 'change their mind' about me. To little or not avail.

I have wondered why this keeps happening to me, and yes, I have seriously considered that I might just be a terrible, horrible, stupid, lazy, toxic person. I had never considered these things to be part of who I was. I acknowledge I am someone who struggles with diplomacy. I can be honest without filters for cushioning fragile self-esteem. I can be blunt and I have precious little patience for people lacking integrity, self-awareness, humility, or compassion - yes, I need to practice more compassion, myself!

Taking all this into account, I avoid engaging in manipulation and game-playing with determination. I will never say something about a person I would not be prepared to say to their face. I would never purposefully hurt another person. 

So, I have tried to disprove people's perception of me as a person I don't identify with. I've tried to prove I am conscientious, compassionate, ethical, moral, kind, and respectful. What I have discovered is that people will see and hear what they are looking and listening for. The more I try to prove I'm not the things I am accused of being, the more these people are convinced I am what they perceive me to be. 

I believe this is the lesson I have been needing to learn in the past year and a half. I cannot control how people choose to perceive me. That is not to say I am perfect. I know I am far from perfect. This is exactly why I strive to be a better person every day. What I have realised is that in my egoistic struggle to prove I'm kind, worthwhile, or conscientious I have become angry and resentful that these people refuse to acknowledge these things about me.

Feeling angry and resentful blocks my ability to have compassion and be open to new relationships with new people, or trusting relationships with the people who remain in my life. I'm always half expecting people to 'turn on me'. That is no way to live. It causes me to be less of the person I strive to be.

So, employing the mindfulness approach, I've decided that I don't need to hang onto the desire to control how others perceive me. I need only to have personal integrity. Continue to strive to be compassionate, conscientious, and to have humility. I need to see and hear the generosity of spirit, kindness, and humility that is all around me every day. 

Let go of other people's perceptions of me because people will see and hear what they are looking and listening for and that is their life work, not mine.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Intermitted, surgery, and, oh, I can think again!

You thought I'd given up on this blog, right?

Never!

But I have struggled to sit down at the computer, and even right now, I'm only here because I can't just keep putting it off.

As you can see from the title of this post, I am intermitted from my degree again... What's that, the third time this year? It is hard not to feel like I'm failing, even though I've been reassured so many times that this is perfectly normal and stuff comes up, and well, it's smarter to intermit than to fall behind. I'm quite sick of myself at this stage of my life.

This intermission was taken because the medication I went on in April for migraines and seizures combined basically left me with symptoms of concussion. Then, of course, I actually was concussed in July when I fell down the front steps. Anyway, I spoke to my GP and I have come off that medication and am back on my old anti-seizure meds which I tolerate well. I have been given something to take for the migraines, but it is a medication that is contraindicated for the anxiety meds I'm on, so I'm not really keen to try it unless I'm completely incapacitated. Not being at uni means not staring at a computer screen all day, which so far has meant only headaches, not migraines. Fingers crossed (though the glare from this screen is already affecting me, I can tell).

In other news, Harlem had surgery on is left cruciate ligament last Friday. It'll be 3-4 months before he's working again. The specialist has diagnosed him with cruciate ligament disease, which means the other knee will most likely go in the next couple of years as well. I have not been more than two metres away from him except to go to the loo or shower, in the past 6 days. I'm sleeping on the floor in the lounge room next to his crate. It is likely I will be extending my intermittence, but I want to give it another couple of weeks to be sure.

We will need to do some retraining in November once he's back on his feet properly.

I have to say, these past twelve months have really sucked. There have been a couple of highlights (getting to go back to Iceland, and getting Harlem are standout bright spots in the past year), but quite frankly, I look back on the last twelve months and am grateful I'm not psychic! Let's see:


  1. I had a seizure a year ago, putting my back into the status of having epilepsy (that was ambo trip one).
  2. Mum nearly died from vasculitis and spent a month in hospital.
  3. Dave got sick, kept passing out and had to go to hospital (ambo trip two).
  4. Massive stress about PhD, created by me.
  5. On-going stress/arguments/anxiety about Erik's behaviour.
  6. Dave and I having a massive falling out over how to handle Erik's behaviour.
  7. Bryn and Ari changing schools, and then having issues at new school in first six months.
  8. Me spending weeks and weeks away from Dave and the boys (7.5 in total) having adverse affects on them.
  9. Broken teeth = on-going severe jaw infections which require surgery to fix = on 12 waiting list.
  10. Erik running away from home/moving out permanently
  11. Migraines, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts.
  12. Money stress.
  13. Harlem limping from suspected ligament tear.
  14. Brain fog from migraine medications inhibiting my ability to concentrate or think clearly.
  15. Falling down stairs and face planting on brick path (ambo trip three), facial scarring, concussion, several seizures.
  16. More Harlem limping, tear confirm, surgery recommended.
I'm burnt out.

Since coming off the migraine meds completely in the last few days, I have to say I feel more like my old self again. I can THINK! I'm dreaming again - this is not a great thing as I'm having nightmare after nightmare. Obviously stuff has been bubbling away in my subconscious but suppressed by the medications. I have REAL trust issues, apparently. I feel quite traumatised.

Being able to think again is mostly great though. I was really starting to despair over my inability to focus at all. At least now I feel like I could possibly pull myself together again. I will still benefit from a break though.

I need order in my life. That is usually what works to centre me again. Predictability (well, as much as can be had, anyway, life isn't predictable), routine, keeping things low key as much as possible. I've been eating a lot of rubbish lately to stuff my anxiety, so I'm back on track with nutrition and water because the crazy hormonal swings from hypos and hypers is not good for me.

I am focusing my energy on Harlem right now, it is important that his recovery go by the numbers to ensure he can return to full work. The prospect of having to get a different guide dog does not interest me in the least.

We are also in the process of having Ari assessed. Initial testing reveals he is superior and very superior in many of his learning categories (particularly coding), but well below average in initiating, receptive language, and focus (basically, he rates a 98% probability of ADHD, which is no surprise at all). We have a specialist paid assessment books for September but we are on the waiting list if a slot opens up earlier.


There is no improvement of the situation with Erik. We have resigned ourselves to it. It feels like we have lost a child. There is still a lot of grief and anger about that.

Lukas is going great guns. His work at school is going extremely well. He has really found his niche in music. His band is currently heading off to the state finals in battle of the band, representing the south eastern region of Melbourne in the junior category. He really seems to have found direction.

Bryn has settled so much since Erik moved out. He's doing well at school, well socially. His anxiety has subsided considerably. He is just a happier kid.

Harlem is a darling - he has brought so much happiness into our household. Our graduation was supposed to be this month, and I had even been asked to speak on behalf of the graduating handlers - which came as quite a surprise, but was very lovely! Sadly, Harlem will still be restricted to home, so I've had to turn down the request. This means we also won't be able to meet Harlem's puppy raiser or any of the people I went through training with. It's disappointing, but his recovery is my top priority right now.

Braille is coming along really well as well. I have much more confidence now, and am onto my second grade two book (there are only two grades). It is really good as my sight continues to deteriorate month by month. The other day I walked into an overhanging branch - something I have NEVER done before. It was a bit of a shock. I'm feeling much more accepting of this process now, though, so that is something - I was feeling quite devastated earlier this year.

I am finding a lot of solace in head covering. It is very strange, actually, I feel less exposed, less vulnerable when I wear my wraps. I never leave the house without them now. I think I haven't felt safe in a long time and everything I'm doing now is about feeling safe again. Hopefully, that will lead to a more balanced me in the next few weeks or so.

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.
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