Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Getting back in the swing of things...

It has been almost eight weeks since my last post. Those weeks are quite a blur in my memory.

On the 19th of August I flew out to Iceland, a bundle of nerves and excitement. The trip over was quite alright, three legs and long, but not intolerable. I watched a few movies, listen to music. The portable battery I bought to take along with me priceless, I was never without charge - best buy!

It was amazing when I got to Kastrup airport in Denmark and was surrounded by people speaking Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian - I felt so comfortable. I kept telling people, 'It's okay, you can speak *insert scandi lingo*, I understand you!' Of course, some people just assumed I was a Scandi and were surprised when I replied in English (because all my scandi was so rusty).

Flying over the first patch of land in Iceland was very emotional for me. Just a little farm house on a cliff top, but I was completely overwhelmed to be finally seeing my homeland after almost three decades away. There have been many times in the past 29 years that I've seriously doubted I'd ever see Iceland again.

The family could not do enough for me. Whatever I wanted to eat, wherever I wanted to go, they did whatever they could to make it happen.

Oh, the food. The food! So much has changed, there are fruit and veg sections in the supermarket! I kid you not, there weren't last time I lived there. There weren't even supermarkets the way we're used to in Australia - but there are now!

Lots has changed regarding food. Capsicum is served with just about everything. I'm not sure I'll ever get used to that - it just isn't the Iceland I remember. Skyr and súrmjolk come in flavours now. Thank goodness some thing don't change, like Kókómjolk, it even has the exact same packaging as before.

The tourists, so many tourists! There were always tourists, but this is a whole new scale of tourism. My aunty Syta took it upon herself to drive around the Ring Road (I'd never been all the way around, and even when I went part way, I was only four.

Hardly an hour went by without coming across tourist hitchhikers, dressed for an excursion to the north pole, standing at the side of the road with their thumbs up in the universal sign of 'Can I get a free ride.'

There were a lot of cyclists, too, and they were often not dress for the elements at all. I wonder how many tourist cyclists end up in hospital suffering exposure?

Mind you, the weather was brilliant while I was there, in three weeks there were only two days of the weather I associate with Iceland, gusting winds and driving rain. One of those days was the day before I flew out. My cousins all got together and did a BBQ. It was hilarious seeing the guys dressed in thick coats, braving the storm outside to check on the steaks! The steaks were great though. In contrast, when I visited my cousin Alda on the east coast of Iceland, there was 21 degree weather and we sat outside eating ice-cream to keep cool!

It was wonderful to meet the cousins who had been born and grown into adulthood since I left the country in the mid-80s, and all their children.

I went to many interesting places, including the site where the ruins of Erik the Red's farm stands over a 1000 years after his death. It was quite moving to stand on the stones at the threshold of his hut knowing he had walked there, along with this wife and his son, and who knows who else.

I visited all my grandparents and some of my great-grandparents, and even a great-great-grandfather's grave site. I hadn't been to any of those places, so it was great to finally see where they were all laid to rest, in person. I learned so much more about the family, and the nuances of relationship that I never understood as a child.

There is so much more to tell, I can't do it all in one post. I'll end this post with some photos I took along the way.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Hello August!

It feels like I've been looking forward to August 2015 for about two years now. Ever since I realised the possibility of taking a field trip there in relation to my Doctoral research. Here it is, the eighth month of 2015. Now that we've arrived in this auspicious lunar cycle, I am running on adrenalin.

The next two and a half months are going to be go, Go, GO!

Last weekend, I finished up about four weeks of getting tattoos freshened up and added to. It was a painful kind of fun. Mind you backing up for a second day on the weekend was a bit much in the end. I've been sore all week, but it'll be worth it once everything is healed up.

On Tuesday we had a rental inspection - always so much fun!

Wednesday I did some souvenir shopping in the city (my rellos had better appreciate the 10kg of Australiana kitsch I'm hauling across the globe this month!), before going to the Eye and Ear Hospital in the city for an assessment, they've referring me onto the 'Duct Clinic', lol. Interestingly, they did a field test of my vision (it measures what my field of vision is). They said it hadn't change in a year, in fact it was almost identical with last year's test. My field of vision may not be deteriorating, but my level of vision is dropping dramatically.

I've been working on that chapter I'm supposed to have a first draft of before I leave the country. On my second draft of the outline now, hoping I can start writing the actual chapter soon.

Next week I have an MRI scheduled in the wake of the seizure I had last month. It's a 06.50am start! I'm the first patient up, so at least I know I don't have to wait, too bad I won't be able to go home and sleep though!

I just know I have something else going on next week, but I can't for the life of me remember what it is.

I still have a list as long as my arm of things I have to sort before I leave Australia, but let's not bore ourselves with that.

Okay, so this is the next couple of months...

Parent/teacher meeting at TC - August 12.

MRI - August 12.

Bryn's birthday party - August 15.

Bryn and Mum's birthday lunch, Robbie's birthday dinner - August 16.

Get ready to go to Iceland, including drafting that chapter.

Go to Iceland for three weeks - August 19 - September 10.

Travel around Iceland and see all the sites I'm writing about in my creative work, take photos and write notes, also write a flash every day = 28 flashes.

Go to Denmark for nearly a week - September 10 - September 15.

Return home - September 16.

Go to Duct Clinic. - September 18.

Work on thesis for a week, possibly also meet my dog (here's hoping!!!) - September

Go to guide dog training (hopefully) course for three weeks - September 21 - October 16.

Home training guide dog - October 19 - 23.

If I don't do guide dog training at the end of September I'll be doing it at the end of October. The rest of the year will be getting the rest of my thesis drafted so that I can spend next year polishing it and preparing for examination.

Hence the rush of adrenalin at the moment.

Honestly, I'm very excited that all of this is finally happy, and at the same time, I can't wait for it to be over, LOL. Feelings are weird. I can't wait to be back in Iceland and to see my family there and in Denmark. While the internet has made it so much easier to keep up with each others lives, it's just not the same as being in the same room with people you love. Also, I'm really, really hoping this will revive my Icelandic. I would love to be able to converse with my family in Iceland in Icelandic on Facebook when I get back. Who knows, I might even start speaking Icelandic with mum when it's just the two of us.

So, there you go. Let's the games begin!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Unless you live it, you can never judge it.

I had a really interesting experience this week.

I was reading a journal article about verse in the Icelandic sagas and came across the assertion that the use of verse as dialogue in Gíslasaga had to be a contrivance of the original author (there is an argument that Gíslasaga actually has two authors, but we won't go there right now). It was argued to be a contrivance because no one really speaks in impromptu verse.

I read that part twice and thought, 'Hang on, that's not right.' I wrote 'Really?' in the margin and moved on. Then I spoke to my mother later in the week to see if I was remembering correctly... You see, I remember that both my Icelandic grandparents spoke in impromptu verse. On spec, they would create verse in response to things people said. Mum confirmed this, and also told me that many of my grandmother's siblings did the same. In Iceland - at least in previous generations - people in, did fact, speak in verse as a matter of everyday dialogue. It may well be that that tradition, or skill, has been lost in the past two or three generations, but it certainly happened in previous generations.

This is the problem with judging something from the outside. People always apply their own limitations. If they can't do it, or don't like it, they struggle to comprehend that others can.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Seizure, Symbol, and Some fence building.

It has been three weeks since my last blog post.

It's been a busy month.

Last time I wrote, we were in the middle of the school holidays. Since then, Erik had a birthday - his 16th! I've been giggling like a school girl every time I mention 'my 16 year old'. How can I possibly have a 16 year old? For his birthday, he took some friend to the movies and then out to eat.Gosh in less than two years time he'll be an adult. I've been doing my PhD longer than that!

Thirteen days ago, I woke up to strangers in my bedroom talking at me.

Even in my hazy state I knew they were ambos. It took me about half a second to realise why they were there and to think, 'Oh shit! Not again!' I'd had a seizure.

The last (and first) time I had a seizure was 12 years earlier, almost exactly.

Back in 2003, I was put on Dilantin, and then because I was still breastfeeding my 18 month old (much to the amusement of the GP, who believed firmly that Australian babies did not need to be breastfed past 6 months of age), I was transferred to Lamictal. Because I wanted to have more children (I was certifiably insane, LOL), I weaned myself off after six months. I didn't have another seizure for 11.5 years until thirteen days ago. Now I'm back on Lamictal.

This has all made me a bit anxious, so it's good I'm on Lamictal because apparently that is also a mood stabiliser.

Twelve years ago, we put the seizure down to extreme distress experienced the twenty-four hours before the seizure on top of six months of less than 2 hours sleep a night.

This time, while I'd had a sleepless night the night before, it is rare these days that I suffer insomnia. In fact, I got far less sleep in 2006, and 2009/10/11, so I can't account for this seizure, which makes me anxious.

They think the seizure is caused by stress. Well, hmmm, granted the PhD is stressful, and going blind is stressful, and travelling overseas for a month - a month away from my family, who I've never been away from for more than four days - is stressful. But I haven't felt particularly stressed, really, and not nearly as stressed as I did before the last seizure.


In other news, I have a new tattoo. A symbol for carrying on, even when you feel like giving up.

I've also had my fob watch retouched after I screwed up the healing of it a couple of years ago. It still needs colour added in though.

And then I got Mike to design a new Aussie/Icelandic tattoo to commemorate my trip to Iceland next month! It's not quite half finished, but I want it done before the trip.

At the end of the school holidays, I took Bryn to the Cat Cafe in the City of Melbourne. I wish I could say I was more impressed with it than I was, but I can't. It's $10 per person to walk through the door, the rules (which I do understand are for the wellbeing of the cats) are so restrictive and the staff are so, well, cat-like, in personality (read: cold and distant), that it feels like humans aren't really welcome in the cafe. The coffee is expensive, and comes in a tiny cup, and 55 minutes after you walk into the cafe the staff seek you out to tell you that you must vacate the cafe strictly within in the next five minutes. It's really not very welcoming. The cats are lovely, though.

Bryn and Ari started their new school, and have settled in nicely. We have a parent-teacher interview with each of their teachers tomorrow.

They're so CUTE!!!

Also, massive news! I finally, finally, after only twenty-five months in my degree, got a permanent desk! I am so happy! It is beautiful and shiny and new, and there is a great coffee maker, and panini maker (not that I eat any kind of bread), and such like in the lovely little kitchen adjacent. And best of all, it is quiet and temperate and the people are nice, and I love it!

Finally, last weekend we started on shoring up the back fence in preparation for the new dog coming into my life soon! I've done a few sessions of mobility training, and getting this fence sorted was the only other obstacle to being matched up with a dog. So, hopefully the fence will get ticked off on soon and I'll get to meet my new buddy.

Now you're all caught up, so I only have one more thing left to say.

Yesterday, I received a LOVELY message from a long term reader, first time commenter, Natalie! I live for messages from you guys! I've been blogging here for nearly ten years and am aware I have some regulars, but it is extra special when you guys drop me a line! So, thank you Natalie, you made my day!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Let's talk about passion...

No! Not that kind of passion!

I've been hearing a lot about passion recently. Well, for years really. I talk about it a lot myself, with my kids. I find myself imploring my teenagers to find their passion, and being somewhat frustrated by their seeming lack of passion for anything much other than sleeping or their laptops.

Now, if they were using their laptops to research topics they were passionate about, I wouldn't mind so much, but mostly they use them to watch content, or play games. I guess I could try to convince myself that they are passionate about movies, music, and gaming, but I know they're most or less just passionate about escape. Sleep is escape, movies, music, and games are also escape.

The other day I had one of those 'out of the corner of your eye' moments. It's a Doctor Who thing. Sometimes we don't see what is right in front of us until we look at it passively out of the corner of our eyes.

I am not passionate.

Neither is the Grumpy Old Man.

So, why are we so invested - passionate, if you will - about our boys having passions?

Why are we expecting something of them that we do not possess ourselves?

I subscribe to the understanding that we, humans, are basically 80% biologically conditioned and 20% sociologically driven. Assuming this is right (which I, personally, do) then it is somewhat preposterous of us to expect our children to be passionate when we have not, likely, passed on the passion gene, nor have we modelled being passionate about anything.

I write. I love to write. I am driven to write. I cannot not write.

However, I hardly have a passion for writing.

I am just as likely to sit down and write a shopping list as write a piece of fiction. Or a blog post. Like this one.

I've written a lot in the past year, but mostly because my supervisor cracks a whip about me handing in two flashes every friday (must get onto this week's flashes). I don't like to miss deadlines.

I guess, just as I was with swimming, I'm most a slow-burn personality than a passionate person. Maybe the kids are the same.

And what is wrong with that?

Why is it so much better to be passionate?

I think there is a place for people who operate in a slow-burn fashion.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Teens boys...

Our Lukas turned 14 yesterday. I'm feeling very aware that birthdays lose their magic a bit in your teens. When you're little birthdays seem to hold endless possibilities, but by the time you're a teenager, you know the limitations better. He received a few things he had asked for, and we had cake and ice-cream after dinner, but of course the rest of the day was just a regular school day, and in high school there aren't announcements about your special day in class. Lukas doesn't like to draw attention to himself, so that didn't bother him. But at some level I felt like I wished I could make it more magical for him. Growing up is hard when you're a mum!

With Lukas turning 14 yesterday and Erik turning 16 in ten days time, I really do feel like a 'teen mum' now. On the one had, we gave Lukas a gift card to a cool little shop call Off Ya Tree, which sells all the cool stuff . 'Cool stuff' includes things like glass bongs, tees depicting hypersexed girls toting machine guns, and body piercing service... All of which he has been told are not options for him. Ah, the joys of having teenagers.

Still, I'm quite liberal - becoming more so the older they get, it seems - so if he must have the skull tee shirt, or the zombie-eating-brains backpack, I can live with that.

Meanwhile, Mr almost 16 tried to get me to bleach his hair and colour it something 'not natural hair colour' last night. This did not happen. Not because I'm opposed to him colour his hair - it's just hair - but because he had school today and they have a strict policy about 'not natural hair colour'. To be honest with you, I think the policy is daft, myself, but a policy is a policy and if he wants to go to that cool school with all the cool things it offer, he's got to follow the rules.

My biggest reservation with the whole hair colour thing is that he has so much hair. It's going to take forever to do, and his hair is dark and fine and will definitely suffer in the bleaching process. It will going frizzy and break off and look crap. I've told him many times that if he wants to mess with his hair, he needs to cut it shorter. I guess he just needs to learn the hard way. I imagine my Saturday is spoken for...

Still working on chapter one. Trying to get it sorted by Monday afternoon so I can send it to a visiting 'Thinker in Residence' who has kindly agreed to have a chat with me about my work on Friday next week. It will be good to get another set of eyes on the chapter as well. I'm sure he'll confirm all my supervisor has already said, but still, every opportunity for a fresh perspective must be grasped with both hands.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Half Day at New School...

Bryn and Ari went off for their half day at the new primary school today.


We turned up early and waited in the foyer for the Monday morning staff meeting to conclude. Then the assistant principal walked us down to the Ari's class which was in the same building. Ari hovered around Dave's legs as he met the teacher, but seemed more or less okay, if a little shy. She took him to put his bag in a cubby, then took him into the class where he was immediately greeted by a group of girls (7 and 8 year old girls love Ari because he's so little cute). We told him we were taking Bryn to his class and would be back. In hindsight, it might have been better to take Bryn to his class first because we kind of disappeared and Ari had no idea where Bryn's class was - more on that in a minute.

So, then we walked Bryn over to his class. He got to put his bag in, and the teacher told us she had books and pens etc. for him but he would need a pencil case. She asked if he had a book with him. Bryn is the kind of kid who never leaves for school without his personal library of books in tow, but Dave had taken them all out of his bag this morning. The teacher said she could lend him a book, so all was well and we left Bryn with his teacher to meet the classroom dog and the other kids.

We walked back to Ari's class where the teacher was sitting with him at the table, with the group of girls standing around them. The teacher moved to the reader boxes and Ari followed and this is when we realised he'd gotten a little teary after we left. He was brushing away tears with his jacket sleeve while his teacher talked to him and showed him the books in the reader boxes. He didn't see us for a few minutes, but when he did, he just gave a brave smile through his tears and kept paying attention to the teacher. More kids came into the class and everyone gravitated toward the mat in the corner of the room, Ari went with the other kids and as the bell rang, we left.

Poor Dave, I could see he wanted to go to Ari, but I was holding him back because I thought it might undermine Ari's resolve to be brave. Dave was transferring more than me over 'being the new kid'. I've done it many times more than Dave, but I think that means he feels it more keenly.

Of course, now, sitting here at my desk, I feel so for the boys. It really is hard to leave an environment you know, and leave your friends, and start again. I really hope the boys find people to get along with today, even though they're only there until 1.30pm.

Intellectually, I know this is probably the best move for Ari. Still, it's hard not to be aware of the damage caused by disruption to their social circle. They will, hopefully, settle in nicely and make friends, but the disruption is a wound which, when healed will always leave it's mark. While that mark will be, hopefully, a big part resilience - the knowledge that they were okay even though it was scary -, it will also be that knowledge of loss. It's hard to be the instigator of loss.

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