Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What's up? It's February already???

I've been so busy these past few weeks there just hasn't been any time to update the blog. This afternoon is the first time in a very long time I've had the house to myself and not been so exhausted I just wanted to sleep. So, here we are guys, and it's almost the middle of February. At the end of this the intermission I took from my degree comes to an end, my guide dog training concluded this morning. There will be follow ups in one month, three months, six months and twelve months from now, but those only go for a couple of hours or so.

I was feeling very burned out from the PhD, I have to admit, and even this time last week was still dreading going back to it, but this week I'm starting to feel the pull of the work again - which is a good thing. I've started thinking about what I need to launch myself into next week before summer school.

The boys are back at school and so far, so good. The issues we were dealing with last year are not squared away, but we're hopeful that this year won't be as trying, only time will tell. Wouldn't it be nice if problems and issues in family life were as easy to resolve as those in the workplace. It would be nice to be able to just check things of the list. Kid skipping classes, sorted, check! Kid experimenting with swearing in all settings and in several languages, sorted, check! That would be great! Can we order that system on Ebay?

I love the internet for keeping up with distant friends. We recently arranged a games night via Skype, participants were located in west, east, and outer east of Melbourne, as well as in Hungary - how cool is that? It will be good to get back to meeting people in person though, too.

In January I shut down my Facebook page - too many upsetting associations. I started a new one with a much smaller group of friends, mostly family and a few friends, but a very small group. I still have access to my old pages for things like photos, but am not operating from that page. This meant setting up a new page for Harlem, but as yet I haven't set up a new page for the blog, not that I really need to, per se - I can still access it from the old page.

Harlem is slotting into the family so well! He has completely stolen the Grumpy Old Man's heart - which was a massive coup as the GOM is a confirmed cat person and proud. He says it's because Harlem is so well behaved. I have to admit that really is a bonus - getting a dog who has already been raised through the most difficult labrador stages and trained right from puppyhood.

I've become a bit of an advocate for guide dogs - unavoidable really - and last night I found myself writing an email to the principal of the boys' high school because, it seems, they allow students and staff to bring pet dogs to school, and some of those dogs are allowed to get about off lead. While I'm sure the dogs are probably screened in some way for behaviour (maybe the students and staff need to provide evidence of puppy training, I don't know), this still poses a problem for assistance dog users who might access the school. Guide dogs released a campaign last year called, 'Take the lead' to raise the issue of off lead dogs interfering with or even attacking guide dogs. Apparently one in three guide dogs have been attacked by other dogs who were off lead. This can result in the guide dog needing to be retired if it becomes anxious and cannot do it's job. As well as this, off lead dogs can simply distract guide dogs (despite their training) and that puts the guide dog user (the handler) in danger because the dog has taken it's eye of the job.

In other Harlem related news, our loungeroom underwent a makeover... Let me show you...

So, it looked like this. At Christmas we briefly swapped the position of the black chair and the red couch with it's back to the camera because that situation the black chair better once my egg chair (which I got for my birthday) would arrive...


And now it looks like this...

From the same angle...


From the other side...


This is my egg chair - or my nest, as I like to call it - I spend an inordinate amount of time in this chair, the movement of it is so soothing! Please excuse the dog hair on the rug, Lukas assures me he'll get to it right after school (vacuuming is his job)...


Inside my side table is of the yarn I plan to use of my next project (which I was going to start in December, but, well... There's always next December, right?


And a gratuitous photo of my baby boy - there will be many photos of Harlem on the blog from this point on...


I got something else new last week...


Once they're properly healed, I want to put spikes in, like this...


I'm thinking of adding another couple later, but three in one go was about my limit this time around!

There is so much more I could catch you guys up on, but this post is long enough for now! 'Til next time, then...


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Guide dog school...

Today is my fourth day at guide dog school. I haven't posted before now because I've just been too busy to. The only reason I'm posting this morning is that I've been up since 5am and having toileted Harlem and showered and dressed, I find I have a half hour until breakfast.

So, what can I tell you about guide dog school? Well, in one word, it is INTENSE! We're up early, toileting the dogs, having breakfast, and then it's straight into training. We drive out to a suburban street (so far it's been in North Balwyn), and practice command such as 'forward', 'stop', 'stay', 'straight on', 'left', and 'right'. Each command is accompanied by physical signals, many of which involve co-ordinating hands and feet. It's like learning to dance.

Yesterday, being a 43 degree (celsius) day, meant that we were up and out of the centre by 7am - yesterday what a long day! We had to stop our walks by midday, so as not to distress the dogs.

Harlem is pretty good at following commands, I'd stay the only area we really need to work on is getting him down from a seated position to an alert laying position - and getting him to stay there. He does like to pop up a lot. We've tried various things, voice, hand signals, or a combination of both. We've tried a leash check under his chin (this involves sort of jiggling the leash in a downward motion). Sometimes, it works if I look deep into his eyes and say 'down' in a low, deep voice. So far though, the best method is just to get him to sit and leave him and after a minute or so he lays himself down, LOL.

Getting him under a chair can be a challenge. Ideally, I'd like to be able to get him to put himself under the chair nose first, so I down have to slide him under it bum first myself. There are two reasons for this: sliding is damn near impossible on carpet, and well, to people who don't know any different, it can look as if I'm pushing him under my chair. The reason guide dogs have to learn to sit under chairs is so they don't trip up people in cafes, restaurants, or on public transport. It is also to protect they tails and paws from being trampled.

Let's talk about hair for a moment. Not my hair, but rather Harlem's hair. It is EVERYWHERE! I mean, when I play with him, he does circles or figure eights up against my legs (there is no where here for more exuberant play), and afterwards my skirt or pants look like they're made from white mohair! I can brush and brush and brush him and take handfuls of hair out of the brush seemingly endlessly! We are so going to need a leather couch!

I have so much to learn yet, I still can't see how I'm going to learn it all by the end of the three weeks here and one week in domiciliary training, but let's see how it goes...


Friday, January 08, 2016

Moving right along...

Last night the GOM and I had a conversation. When he got home, I couldn't really speak to him. I was worried I might just start another argument, so I didn't say much. We watched Outbreak on tv in silence, and the whole time I was trying to work out in my head how to proceed.

When the movie ended I asked if we could talk in the bedroom (because we can close the door and know no one is standing around the corner. I told him I wanted the arguing to end, I wanted us to get past this last horrible week. I said before I could do that, I needed to feel that he understood why I'd been so upset. I asked him to imagine two scenarios. The first one was to imagine the last Orson Wells movie had finally come out (he's been waiting a few years now), but that it was only screening in Sydney. I asked him to imagine I told him I'd arranged for us to go to Sydney to see it. I asked him to imagine how for months he had really looked forward to that trip, and then a week out I tell him I actually just want to go on my own.

The second scenario was more real, as in it could have happened. I asked him to think back to November when we were called into the high school by Erik's head of house to discuss Erik's behaviour, and it was recommended he not do any VCE or pre-VCE subjects, and we agreed to that. Then the principal - who had not been privy to that conversation - asked us to reconsider that decision, and the Grumpy Old Man was unmovable. Then the head of house had a change of heart after talking to Erik who was - understandably - upset, but the GOM wouldn't budge. I told him I had been swayed by the principal, the head of house, and Erik's arguments, but that I had supported the GOM's position because he felt so strongly about it. I asked him to imagine that I had actually contacted the school myself, without telling him, and given Erik permission to change his classes to do some VCE and pre-VCE classes. I asked him to imagine he only found out about this action in March when Erik had been doing the classes for a month and it was too late change them back.

This is how I have felt. Duped and betrayed. We talked about the stress we've both been under, and then we talked about his trip away and what he'd seen and done. So, now we're not arguing anymore. I still feel stressed and depressed, but I don't have the same level of anxiety I've had all week. I think we're back to the place of good will we usually work from.

This afternoon I'm off to see my GP, I need a prescription for anti-depressants/anti-anxiety, but that has to be worked in with the anti-convulsant I'm on which is also a mood stabiliser. I need a new prescription for the anti-convulsant. I need a prescription for antibiotics for the abscesses I keep getting because my teeth continue to disintegrate, and finally, I need to consult with her about the migraines I've been experiencing at an increasing rate in recent months (which could be due to mostly not being on the low carb, high fat diet - because they seemed to go away when I cut out sugars last year.

I'm hoping to come out of the GPs with some sort of battle plan to help me cope a lot better with life.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Four cubic metres of crap...

Gone!

That's four cubic metres less stuff to move when we next have to move.

I'm going to keep culling throughout this year, not big skip culling, just consistent small bits here and there. As part of this move to lessening the amount of crap we move with us everywhere, I'm also going to stop buying stuff I don't need. In particular this means furniture, clothes, nik-naks (oh how I love all my little pretty nik-naks, though I rather ruthlessly parred right back to things I love). I'm going to tell people who want to gift me stuff (Mother's Day, Birthday, Christmas etc.) to get me consumables that I don't need to store - vouchers for the movies or for iTunes, or a facial or something like that, food, wine.

The GOM is due home any time now. Haven't spoken with him since the night before last. To be honest, I would not mind if he stayed away another couple of days - funny that, really, I'd normally be hanging out for him to get home.

The house is neat and clean, there is (mostly) a lack of arguing and bickering going on. I don't want that disturbed. I know I can influence what happens next by not starting any arguments. The thing is, I'm so hurt right now, the very sight of him, or the sound of his voice might tip me over the edge again. I need some space. The older boys told me last night that they'd known he was planning on going away on his own for at least a month - Erik reckons he knew back in August or September. I don't know this person who keeps secrets and makes plans behind my back and then encourages me to feel bad because I'm angry with him.

And then it always some back to, what is wrong with me that he feels he has to go behind my back or he feels he can't tell me what he wants.

Quite a few of you have written to me with your concerns. I'm taking it all in. I had an appointment booked to see a GP for a mental health plan yesterday. I cancelled it because of the skip arriving, but I rescheduled it for Friday. I know I need to get some help. I'm not sure how, or even if, I can afford counselling, but I'll try to make that happen, too, if only for the kids.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Clearing out...

I wrote on the last day of the year last year that I had learned that things happen that you may not expect. I kind of regret saying that now, as it seems I've attracted the unexpected into my life now, and none of it feels nice. Not nice at all.

This morning the skip I ordered yesterday will arrive. Last night I went through my bedroom wardrobe - the depository of all the things I no longer want to see or deal with. So much stuff. I really need to get my impulse shopping under control. It's shameful. We also went through the garage and identified stuff that needed to go. There isn't a lot because we did a cull before we moved here from Leeds, and again before that from Birdwood.

Today I'll go through the linen closet - which I did cull before we moved here, but which is still overstuffed with mostly inherited linen that we never, ever use. After that there is clearing out the cabinets. Cabinets in the hallway, in the kitchen in the lounge room. Then finally just bits and pieces which have been lying around, gathering dust.

In times of stress, this is what I do. I declutter, I streamline, I try to control my physical environment because I feel I have little control over my emotional, psychological, and mental environments. It is calming and cathartic, but ultimately it doesn't get to the core of my problems. I guess that is because I can't put myself in the skip and have me hauled away. I can't put myself in the top of my wardrobe because I don't want to deal with myself.

As much as I'm hurt and angered by having the family holiday pulled out from under me and, at least, the little boys (because the Grumpy Old Man and the bigger boys had reached a consensus in private that I was the only person interested in a family holiday - they didn't ask the little boys), and because the Grumpy Old Man decided to try and buy cooperation and improved behaviour from the kids by getting them a very expensive toy - and then everyone (yes, I found out all the boys were in on the secret) keeping it that information from me.., As much as that hurts and angers me, in the end, I've only got myself to blame. In the end, the common denominator here is me, or rather resentment or contempt directed at me - which can only be indicative of me being an arsehole. Let's face it, many people have shut me out of their lives because I am an arsehole - why should my family, who have to live with me, feel any different?

It's really a good thing that I'm off to guide dog school on Monday. They will all get a break from me for five days a week until the end of January. That will be a relief, and I can't cause too much trouble while I'm away. It's a double-edged sword though, isn't it? They get relief from my constant annoying behaviour, but at the same time, it leaves the GOM alone at home with all the kids, which stresses him out.

What is the solution here? Obviously, it is that I need to change, I need to change as the most basic level. I need to fade into the background somehow. Not assert my opinion, or my needs. My very core rebels at this realisation. My ego screams, 'Hey! Don't I count? Don't my feelings count? Am I supposed to be a servant at the beck and call of the rest of them. Am I supposed to become someone I am not?'

The battle within me is driving me to the brink. Can I live in a house where nothing gets done because no one does anything if I'm not organising them? Or is it expected that I do everything myself, except all the things they don't want done? They would all be happy for me to cook and clean, pay the bills, organise appointments, buy them gadgets and DVDs... I should not ask them to change at all.

Just this minute, I turned to Ari and told him to turn down his techno music, ten minutes ago, I asked Bryn to turn down the gaming noises on his iPad, in a few minutes I'm going to ask Erik and Lukas to get up and help me arrange stuff to be taken out to the skip - the skip that the Grumpy Old Man never wanted me to get. In their ideal world I would not do any of these things. Is that who I need to be in this house to achieve harmony? When I go away, I'm essentially taking with me all the demands I make on the family, but I'm still causing problems because I'm not here to help out.

I don't feel part of this family. They want me to do all that I do for them, but they don't want me to do any of the stuff I do that is asking them to do for me. I can give, I can't except to take. That is it. That is what I'm doing wrong, I'm expecting too much of people. I have always expected too much of people. I've expected people to see me. That is my ego. I need to let go of that need. I need to stop believing that I am that important.

Declutter will help. Everything I am decluttering is stuff I brought into the house. By getting rid of it, there will be more room for them. I will take up less space here.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

I can't believe it...

The Grumpy Old Man and I had a long conversation last night. I thought we'd managed to gain a better understanding of each others perspective. I have accepted a lot of the blame for everything going on in this house. I have felt terrible for causing everyone so much pain. I have second guessed every one of my decisions and had basically come to the decision to quit the PhD, or at the very least extend my intermission a few months so I could give more to my family and get us to a better place.

I have been so low the past few days. Suicidal low.

The Grumpy Old Man left this morning to have a break for a few days. I sent him off with my blessings because I understood he'd been through so much because of me.

Then about midmorning I went downstairs to put on some laundry and there I found Erik acting all edgy. I asked him what he was hiding and of course he said nothing, but I knew he was lying so I made my way around him to investigate. On the floor, hidden under a bean bag I found a playstation controller. I asked him where he'd found it because I'd taken all the electrical gadgets off the boys in early December as a consequence for giving the GOM and I such a hard time last year over school (not Luey so much as the other three). He said the GOM gave it to him, bought it for him. I was shocked that the GOM would undermine me so blatantly. Then I realised the controller didn't work without a console, so I asked him where he'd found the PS3 console. He said he hadn't, then he showed me the console. It was a PS4. Apparently, the GOM had bought it for the boys while I was in Iceland, knowing I didn't want them on devices at the time. They gotten their devices back after the Spring holidays, but lost them again in December. At no point did he or any of the boys tell me about the PS4.

Evidently, they think I'm unreasonable. When I confronted the GOM on the phone, he said he'd gotten the PS4 in hopes it would encourage the boys to do better. After he got it, Erik stopped doing all assignments and stopped turning up to all his classes except Philosophy. So, that backfired, but did the Grumpy Old Man confiscate the PS4 when I confiscated everything else - you know, even without telling me he'd bought the device? No, he didn't.

So, for months on end I've been portrayed as the trouble maker in the household, the argument instigator, the unreasonable one in the face of the kids being complete little horrors at school. All this time the GOM has escaped most of the heat directed at us from Erik, at least. Now I know why. He bought their favour and broke my trust in one fell swoop.

I feel sick.

I feel like I don't belong in this family at all.

I feel like I must be such a horrible, despicable person that everyone else in the household is conspiring to undermine me.

I feel I can't trust the people around me to be honest with me.

What is wrong with me?

P.S. I have ordered a skip so I can get on with decluttering this house. The Grumpy Old Man hates when I get a skip because his hoarder tendencies make it difficult for him to part with stuff, even when it's my stuff. He still hasn't had our old car picked up since September, or the washing machine which broke down 14 months ago. So, I've ordered a skip. Unlike him, I am not keeping this a secret until he gets back and discovers it. I have already told him what I'm doing, he's not happy. Now that makes two of us. Again.

The black hole...

Not in a good place right now. The Grumpy Old Man has just left for a trip away for a few days. He's doing the longest drive he's ever done and I'm worried because he's on his own and there is no one to wake him if he starts to nod off. He says he'll take a break if he even starts to feel his concentration dropping, but these things happen unexpectedly - no one willingly dozes off at the wheel.

If anything were to happen to him, our last memories would be horrible ones of hurt feelings and arguments. This only adds to my worry.

I've decided (with the encouragement of close friends) that the time has come to seek some professional help, and very likely some medication to get me back on an even keel. We can ill afford counselling, even just for me, but we'll have to do it somehow because I really need to talk to someone. I'm not equipped to deal with all of this on my own.

The transport system in Melbourne really, really sucks. Where I live, there is no outlet within a 45 minute walk that sells travel passes. I can't get on a bus to go buy a travel without a travel pass. I could order one online but it would take a week or more to get to me. So, how am I supposed to get out with the kids while the Grumpy Old Man is away?



Sunday, January 03, 2016

Trouble...

The first two days of this year haven't been very good.

I have been insensitive.

I have been trouble.

Looking back over my life, I can see I have always been trouble, right from the get go. I was trouble at birth and then I grew into a person who always caused trouble. People have tried to point this out to me, but I have never understood.

I think I understand now.

I've been trying to be someone all my life. I've been trying to be special. I didn't want to be special because of my low vision, so I've tried to be special in other ways. I've been desperate for people to notice me and that is how I've been trouble.

When I was very young, about four years of age, I did some - said something - that caused a big rift in my family. It caused a divide between my mum and her family. At school I wouldn't be quiet, and I wouldn't follow the rules. I was moved from one school to another, time and again because I was trouble. I didn't care, I had to have things my way because I was special, I was somebody.

At the first place I boarded for school, I was always in trouble. I chose friends who also caused trouble and then I willingly went along with everything they did, because I was special.

At the second place I boarded for school, I almost caused the lovely couple who were housing me to divorce. I put a lot of pressure on the family. I wanted to be part of their family, equal to the other children in the household - not a boarder. I wanted to be special and noticed and somebody.

When I was sixteen I got myself into trouble, I didn't tell anyone at the time, and nature took care of my problem for me. Later I told a friend, who told her father, who told just about everyone. I caused trouble for my mum, with her wayward teen child. I caused trouble for, by then, my ex boyfriend. I embarrassed everyone.

I then went on to be more trouble until, eventually at age eighteen, mum handed me over to dad. While living with dad, I when off the rails, though he wasn't aware of it, I don't think. I got pregnant again and this time booked in for a termination, but once again, nature took care of my trouble.

I went to uni, latched onto the first guy who came along and proceeded to be trouble in his life. I needed to be special, and I did everything I could to make him make me feel like I was someone. I drove him away.

He was not the first, and no where near the last person I drove away in my quest to be someone.

I had a good friend who, because of my insensitivity, cut all ties with me.

Since then I've had two other friends do the same thing. These were nice people. I was trouble.

At uni, I always had to be the exception. I always took double the time of other students to finish my degrees.

After I met the Grumpy Old Man, I brought trouble into his life as well. I had to have it my way. Marriage and a baby, and then another, and another, and another. I've always joked that he was very good at compromise, but in reality, I didn't leave him any options. I pressured him and pressured him, and he relented because he's a good man.

I did a grad. dip. ed. with the promise of work, but then I was too afraid to put myself 'out there' because I didn't want to find out that I wasn't special, I wasn't someone. So, I did a Masters of Education instead. I piled on the pressure having two babies while doing the Masters, all because of the admiration I received for being vision impaired and having two babies and doing a Masters degree. I felt like I was someone. I made the GOM suffer through this with me. I sent him out on a stormy day to hand in my final assignment. He had bronchitis when he left home and pnuemonia when he came back. He did this for me because I had to be special.

He told me I couldn't do any more study, it wasn't fair on the family. I didn't study for five years after that, but instead I forced him to move out of our comfortable, convenient, and cheap home into the country because I wanted to be a country town somebody. I forced him to commute four hours each day to and from work. And then I got sick and he had to take time off work to care for me, and we had to move back to Melbourne - to a much more inconvenient and expensive house. All the while I was pressuring him to have a third child.

He acquiesced to having our third, and then our fourth, at which stage I started a new degree, despite promising not to put the family through all that again. I didn't feel special enough just being a mum. Soon after our fourth was born and I was in the middle of my second masters, the GOM was made redundant. That put more pressure on the household, but I refused to relieve any of it by quitting my Masters. I had to be someone, whatever the cost.

All this time, if I didn't get what I wanted, I would rage and nag until I did get what I wanted, because I was someone, I was special - people just needed to accept that.

Finally, I signed up to do a PhD. This has put so much more pressure on the household. Our kids have all started to act out. The household is always in a state of tension and argument. And what for? Because I have to be someone? Because my ego is so inflated, it has it's own timezone.

The thing is, and it has taken me a very long while to acknowledge this, though I've known it all my life, I'm not special

When all the sums are tallied up, I'm just a woman with a vision impairment who had ruthlessly manipulated everyone in her path to feed her ego. And to what end? I won't ever work because people who employ people can see right through my facade. I'm nobody. I'm trouble.

The last two days have been awful as I've come to realise how much trouble I really am for everyone. The Grumpy Old Man tolerates me, and I'm sure, by now, he's wondering why he does that - I think it's for the kids, really. We were supposed to go on a family trip next week. Yesterday, the GOM said he wanted to go on his own, he needed alone time, to regroup. I raged because *I* wanted us to go on a family trip. I refused to see how he's suffered over the years, and how, finally, he just can't do it anymore.

Recently, Erik told me that he and Lukas couldn't wait to move out, to get out of this house.

I'm driving my family away.

I am not special. I am nobody.

My new years resolution for 2016 was going to be decluttering the house and putting a stop to my excessive consumerism. I will do those things, but I've decided I need to focus on being nobody. I need to let go of my ego, my need to be special. I need to put my family first. I'm not exactly sure how this will play out but I'll figure it out as I go along.

I'm hoping it's not too late, that I haven't already caused irreparable damage, but I suspect I have. I suspect I killed off any feelings the GOM had for me, years ago. I suspect he's just too good a dad to leave the kids with me, or to take them away from me. I'm hoping maybe I can repair my relationship with the older boys, and not make the same mistakes with the younger boys.

I have hurt so many people, thinking about it overwhelms me. If I could, I would not exist, not be born, not live a life of causing trouble. I can't take back the past now, though.


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