A choking toddler

Many times I've learned about it on first aid courses - and today I got to do it, in real life, on my own son.

A choking toddler.

It was automatic, no "What do I do?!" sort of stuff - just kneel, leg out, baby on it, tummy down, hand between shoulder blades, massage up, push. At one point I did think, alright, if it's not coming out, ten more seconds and I'm hanging him upside down - but out it came, partly, and from there onwards it was simply about helping him get the rest of it out.

And afterwards I remembered this, too: when he starts crying, he's breathing. Good job, mom!

He cried and I hugged and I was grateful he was crying, loud and strong. You're breathing, I said to him, breathing. It's alright to cry. Cry, my son, cry, because it means you're breathing. Cry.

Thank you.

Thursday morning rant

I was ill this last weekend. Maybe it was tiredness, or maybe simply some sort of a winter bug, but I got up in the morning feeling already tired; no appetite; a while later nausea. I went back to bed leaving The Man and The Kid and The Dog in the kitchen; and returned a while later feeling I was about to vomit.

As I stood there by the kitchen sink ready to projectile into the back corner where it doesn't splash up (I've had a lot of exercise, I know) I thought, am I pregnant again? Surely not. Can't be, or at least it doesn't make sense - it doesn't fit, timewise.

Or am I?

And then I thought, jesus, is that it now, three months of this, again? And then I felt that familiar sort of tiredness, the one where I wake up in the morning, having even not moved in the bed yet, nauseous already, and thinking, here we go again, another day.

But no, I was back on my feet again Sunday morning. So that's not it. Just an illness. Phew! And I was relieved and sort of sad at the same time, which is so totally weird still because, I mean, holy cow, I'm really getting used to the idea, ain't I.

For such a long time we've been talking about it with The Man and I've kept on saying, no, thanks, I'm good. I don't really want another one. (Sort of how we'd talk if we were out in town somewhere eating ice cream and he'd suggest we get another one - another ice cream.)

And now I think about pregnancy and it doesn't fill me with, you know - dread.

(Whoa! Did I just write that?)

So, yeah, Thursday morning. The Kid is grizzly as, The Dog has chewed up another toy and I'm about to head out and go paint a fire station building.

Friday - I'm so looking forward to Friday.

Christchurch real estate

This is crazy. A house with QV (to those of you not familiar with the concept, quotable value) of $430,000 goes onto market. A family goes in to participate in an auction prepared to offer $520,000, already 90k over QV - and the house sells for... $720,000.

Let it sit there for a moment now. Think about it.

Over Seven. Hundred. Thousand. Dollars.

...

Really?

And if the answer is, indeed, "Really", then my next question to you is: are you f*cking kidding me?! Over SEVEN hundred thousand dollars?!?

Thank God I'm not buying a house at the moment. This is not healthy.

Life with The Dog

Twenty minutes ago, this was The Kid's favorite book. I shall see what he thinks of it now when he gets up from his afternoon nap...


Processing time

It's processing time this week - have a few thoughts I'm mulling over. I keep weighing one side and then another, and then one again and another.

I think once all this is over I'll be level-headed again for a while with some added confidence in my ability to think for myself. But whilst I'm not there yet, I'll just keep on analysing and maybe writing a few bits here and there. We'll see.

Meanwhile: if someone keeps telling me I'm a bad person then I either believe it and feel bad about it, or not believe it and feel alright about it. Or somewhere in the middle. We'll see.

Unrelated to previous stuff: I was out at another SAR meeting tonight. What were you up to?

Lambing lessons

It's lambing time up in the hills.

And as each spring it happens, some sheep don't make it. Every year it reminds me of my privilege to be a human mother and to live in a country with a decent medical system because up in the hills here, picking up some carcasses is a simple fact of life. A math lesson, almost, to keep track of percentages.

As a human, I didn't have to face that. Not in that sort of a percentage, anyway.

That's one way to get a new washing basket

Step one: leave The Dog and the (old) washing basket in the yard unsupervised.



Step two: go to a store and buy a new washing basket.

On the moment of being held for the first time

And another thing I forgot to add to my previous post - a thought I had whilst reading Talia's birth story where she says, "You never forget that feeling of holding your baby for the first time. It's true love and pure bliss."

I don't actually... remember it.

They took him out of my belly and put him on a side table where they did, well, whatever surgeons and nurses do to babies after they've taken them out of their mummies' tummies, and after a while someone brought him over to me so I could see him and I think I touched his finger with mine, gently, but then the medicines were kicking in and I started vomiting so I could just mutter out some sort of a warning so that someone could grab a cup for me and move the baby away whilst I was retching.

And then they took him up to NICU whilst I was being stitched back up. After a while he was brought down again but after a day - or was it two? - they took him up again and I had to stay down in maternity ward because I couldn't walk yet then.

And then there's this moment that I remember the best: when The Man had wheeled me up to NICU in a wheelchair and my son was in that incubator under blue lights. Someone opened two little windows so I could stick my hands in and touch him. I was so... afraid of touching him because he was so small and there was that plastic shield of an incubator between us, and then they said that we need to keep him warm so they asked me to take my hands out of the incubator and they shut the windows again and I just sat there and wept.

Wow. This stuff is really coming out today, isn't it.

***

For the first few days of my son's life it was really his father that held him - The Man. He changed nappies and swaddled The Kid in blankets and lifted him from the cot to me and then back again, whilst I was first recovering from surgery and then fiddling with endless breast pumps and alarm clocks and just... doing whatever needed doing at the time.

And looking back it's no wonder I struggled.

I know, lots of people get much weightier situations than ours was - most parents in that NICU were in much weightier situations than we were. But on the other hand, everyone gets what they can handle, right, and parenting-wise that really was what I could handle then, I think.

On pain and labour

I've thought about pregnancy several times today.

In the morning I read an e-mail from a college-mate in Australia who is pregnant with her first. She's in a similar situation to me: two people that have started / are starting a family in a foreign country, going through stages that I remember going through two and a half years ago. She blogs, and when I read what she writes I think, yeah, I remember that.

Then a day spent with a friend who's got three children. I thought it was going to be crazy, but it wasn't! At some point I even thought, I could do that. (And that's a very new, very crazy thought to me, given that I regularly have meltdowns with my one here.)

Now I read Talia Christine's birth story and as much I thought, wow, I'm really glad for her, I also thought, mine was so different...

I remember the first stages of labour, or at least what I call labour - because by hospital standards I never went into labour, not even when they wheeled me up to the operating theatre the next day.

I was quietly grumbling through contractions in a dark room whilst The Man was trying to get the last few, precious hours of sleep. I knew it was early stages still and I didn't want to set the TENS machine high: I was trying to save the "high voltage" currents for the later stages when I'd really, really need them.

But the thing is: it hurt.

I'm not a wuss when it comes to pain. I can handle a decent pounding, say, in the form of muscle pain or an injured back or a headache. Tooth ache - hmm, maybe not, better not - but the rest I can deal with.

But those contractions... It was a sharp, whining sort of a pain that felt more like nerve damage, if anything, and I couldn't keep from starting to whine and, then, shriek. The Man woke up in what looked like terror almost, starting to muster together nurses and midwives and all they really did was to confirm to him that this is early still and they can bring paracetamol whilst every time the contraction came on I cried and yelped and shrieked.

They suggested we get into a bath and so we did. The whole night we spent in a bath.

At first I was quietly humming through contractions, slowly and steadily, in what I really thought labour would be like. On it comes, hum, breathe, breathe again, breathe again, it peaks and then it dies off. Over and over again.

But after a while the familiar, high-pitch pain returned again. It would start and I would try to be patient with it, and breathe, and breathe, but the thing is: it hurt, and not it a way any other pain I've ever felt hurts. It was that screech-a-needle-up-a-spine sort of a pain and jesus did it hurt.

Sometime during the night, I don't know what time it was, I started screaming again. Every time it came on I screamed because I would dig my fingertips into the side of that bath and wish for it to let me go already. Please stop, oh please, please stop I kept thinking to myself. And as the hours passed, I was so tired, so goddamn tired...

Almost every time a contraction passed I leaned back and slept, minutes at a time until next contraction came on and I thought, oh, god, here it comes again, please be gentle, oh please be gentle this time...

But it wasn't. Every now and again I'd get a weaker one, but overall they were still cry-and-wimper sort of painful, again and again.

At some contraction that medicine they'd pushed up my whoo-hoo shot out and from then on labour eased again and I could breathe, but they got me to get out of that bath again because along with pain I also started to lose contractions.

Once on the dry table, and it was something like 7 in the morning then, it started to build again. On and on it went. Breathe, breathe, breathe I kept saying to myself whilst time passed.

An obstetrician came in, said she wanted to check me out. She did what they call "a stretch" - and I really don't want to go into too much detail here, but in the essence it means that someone inserts their fingers into your cervix and then pushes them apart as hard as they can, to see how wide your cervix "stretches" - and it is by far the most pain I've ever been in my whole life. I screamed - full-on, lungs out screamed all whilst she was doing it, which did not seem short, and just caught a glimpse of my husband who stood with his back against the wall, covering his mouth with his hand, eyes watering in horror.

That - that's the sort of stuff I remember from my birth. That feeling of being patient with it and repeating to myself, just work with it, work with it, breathe and work with it, but it just kept getting worse, so that when people started scrunching their eyebrows whenever they looked at the printout of my baby's heartbeat and suggested we get me into a C-section as this really wasn't getting anywhere, I was just plain relieved for it to be over soon.

And so as much I can imagine what it's like to hum and breathe and work with it, what I remember is screaming out in pain, over and over again, for hours.

Hmm, what a lovely thought to end the day with, isn't it.

To be kicked out of university

Today I logged onto internet banking and paid off my student loan. I think it took about 4 minutes to pay off 3 years worth of studies.

And now I am sitting here after I walked into our kitchen and said to The Man, "I guess the only thing left now is to write to my uni and ask them to kick me out of Master's."

Because here's the thing: technically I am still enrolled at uni.

Technically, I've finished a year of studies and have another year left to go before I get my Master's degree, and, technically speaking, I'm still on the scholarship. So, technically - and this, I promise, will be the last time I use the word technically here - I could still go back and continue my studies; continue where I left off in 2009. Because in Estonia, you see, they give you 3 years of academic respite when you have a child and mine's only two and a half years old.

Because, you see, I wasn't meaning to stay in New Zealand when I first arrived four and a half years ago. I'd taken a year off to backpack around Australasia and to harbour myself from the economic outhouse that, at the time, Europe was heading to, so I was meaning to go back when things were more settled and finish uni, get my Master's degree and figure out what it was that I wanted to do to begin with.

And if things had indeed gone that way I would've graduated by now and heaven knows where I'd be with my life now if I hadn't decided to stay in New Zealand.

I think at first it wasn't even "decided to stay in New Zealand" but rather "decided not to go home yet". Then another year. Then I started applying for residency - got declined.

Applied again - got declined.
Applied again.

And now I'm sitting here, having just paid off my student loan, thinking, "I guess I need to get in touch with uni now and ask them to kick me out of Master's..."

Learn something new every day

I used to think that Terrible Two was about tantrums and screaming, but turns out that it's more about whinge, whinge, whinge, whinge, whinging where The Kid is frustrated I don't understand what he wants and I'm frustrated I don't understand what he wants.

Boy, would you please learn how to talk soon, please.

And turns out, glass is technically a liquid - okay, maybe not a liquid, but it flows, albeit very slowly. Old houses that have very old windowpanes - the glass is thicker in the bottom of the windowpane and thinner up top.

Same with bitumen: it flows.

Etsy wisdom

A sign for sale on Etsy:


Damn right!

Besides, I don't even have an iron.

***

On second thought: my sign would read

Sort - Maybe
Wash - Later
Fold - Eventually

Good night


Pumpkin soup and camp fire.

On dying

I'm glad that both me and The Man share a view on living and dying, at least from this point here where we're young and healthy. Reading this article here (and I really recommend reading part I, it's well written!) we didn't end up in any long discussions or arguments over what we think is right, but rather just confirmed to each other what we already knew was the case: that if he can't stand for his wishes when time comes then I will, and vice versa.

If anything, both me and The Man have to have backbone to stand up to our respective families in case they disagree - which I don't know if they will, but if that was the case then my mother can be pretty darn daunting and I bet The Man's sister could have a really good go at me if she really wanted to :D. But I'm getting off topic here.

We decided something after having read this article.

Four years ago when I went to New Zealand I gave a letter to a dear friend of mine - a letter to be opened in case I died - and it was a few pretty straightforward pages of What To Do instructions, nothing fancy: key friends' (who can let the message go out fast and reliably) names, e-mails and phone numbers, a few of my wishes, simple stuff.

Now we - me and The Man - have decided to put the same thing in writing, but in English, and not about so much dying, as in, "what to do when I'm already dead", but "what to do if I'm in pretty bad shape but not yet dead". And mostly not because of each other, but because of other people, whoever they might be, so that if need be, we wouldn't have to argue with other people who disagree and think they have - and should have - a say. If there's a paper saying, look, this is what he/she wanted, now shut up, then I reckon it'd be easier. What do you think?

And remember I said recently that I repeat myself a lot? Well, I do. http://newzealanditisthen.blogspot.co.nz/2013/06/on-euthanasia.html

Four words on the weather forecast

Fourteen degrees my a$$.

On American, English and New Zealand accents

I can't tell the difference between New Zealand, Australian, English and American accents any more. Okay, I can pick out a distinctly southern drawl, or Scottish or Irish, but the rest just all sound "normal" to me.

Which is interesting and sad at the same time.

It used to be that American sounded "normal" to me because that's what I was used to not only from movies and pop music, but also from Alaska. English sounded waaaaaaaay too posh and Australian sounded waaaaaaaay too Crocodile Dundee.

Then I moved to New Zealand and for a while people asked me if I was American - so bad it must've sounded.

Then, after a while, the asking stopped.

Then I married an English guy. I could still tell that he was English, but occasionally I started mistaking New Zealand accent for English, which was weird because I didn't mistake English for Kiwi, only the other way 'round.

And then, one day, I realised that I couldn't tell if a person I was speaking to was English or a Kiwi. Or was he maybe even an American?

My mind went sort of, "@!#$" It was, like, as if I couldn't tell if I was even talking in the language I thought I was talking in. I was so used to relying on hearing someone speak "in a weird way" and from there identifying the accent, and now it just sounded alround familiar, throughout. People in the store were speaking Kiwi and it sounded "normal", people in the movies were speaking American and sounded "normal" and my husband sounded "normal".

And I've never gone back from that.

Even The Man, he says, cannot tell the difference between English and Kiwi any more. He'll be talking to, say, a new workmate and he has to ask him where he's from because he cannot otherwise tell if he's a "native" or a "pom". And The Man's English! Properly Cambridgean English!

And I - I now get asked if I'm Dutch, mostly, though occasionally someone asks if I'm South African (sort of makes sense), from Europe somewhere, from Canada and not even once but twice!, believe it or not, I've been asked if I'm Irish, of all things, to which the first time I burst out laughing because I thought it was a joke (and the person who'd asked looked sort of offended) and the second asker was... Canadian.

The world's gone mad.

On melanoma

Years ago a friend of mine wrote me about a melanoma she had had, one that doctors had operated on, one that she'd been lucky enough to get diagnosed in time and whilst she had medical insurance (it was in US). I was pretty ignorant at that point, to me melanoma was "when a mole grows bigger" so I acknowledged that she had had a problem, acknowledged that it was no longer a problem and left it at that.

It wasn't until I moved to New Zealand that I realised what a melanoma is. And then I sort of went... "Oh."

New Zealand and Australia have the highest melanoma rates in the world. My understanding of it is limited, but from what I know:

  • when melanoma gets deep enough that it enters blood stream - game over. 
  • Melanoma can grow under the skin without any visible marks on top of skin, or symptoms, and when it gets deep enough that it enters blood stream - game over.
  • Melanoma can grow quickly, in between yearly "mole checks" that are quite common in New Zealand, and when it gets deep enough that it enters blood stream - game over.
And I don't have much more to say about it than... "Oh."

I know children who no longer have some parents - because of a melanoma. I know people who no longer have some siblings - because of a melanoma - or wives/husbands - all because of a melanoma. Young, otherwise healthy people who've gone from happy to dead in a year.

And it makes me shudder, to think about it, and not in least because I'm that person who has fair skin, burns quickly and has lots of moles all over. 

Some of them have changed size/shape in the past few years and every now and again my GP has a look at them and records the size - and that's a healthy thing to do, but even then, it doesn't really guarantee anything!

And I have a problem with things that I cannot really help.

I'm self-reliant and I'm used to being self-reliant, so when something's wrong or uncomfortable or whatever, I'm used to fixing it; whereas in this case I can just do my best and then leave the rest to, well, life.

And to me, that's a big concept to swallow. 

But regardless of that - when a 9-year-old kid goes to his mother's funeral, it pisses me off. It's unfair!

Melanoma's unfair.

Good morning



On storytelling and Liz Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert is one of those authors whose work I enjoy reading partly because of how much she writes about herself there, in addition to her subject.

"Eat Pray Love" is not really a good example here because of how self-centered that book is, by default - I mean, it's a book about Liz. It's supposed to be.

But let's take, say, "The Last American Man" which is a book about Eustace Conway who is both a nutter and a character, and many things more. I'm only a few dozen pages in, but even now I've come across paragraphs like

"I was twenty-two years old, acting as if I were a Western cowgirl - an act that took considerable pretense, given the inconvenient reality that I was actually a former field hockey player from Connecticut."

"The other wranglers on the ranch even had an authentic cowgirl nickname for me. They all called me Blaze. But only because I'd asked them to."

Something along those lines.

Even The Man has, after I read a few bits out aloud to him, taken up reading it. I think he's enjoying it. I definitely am.

I love when authors put bits of themselves in their writing, it's sort of the difference between... study material and feature writing, almost: one's to pass on information, the other to tell a story. (Talking of feature writing: did you know that the movie "Coyote Ugly" is based on a feature article Liz wrote for GQ magazine? Because Liz was one of the bartenders in that Coyote Ugly saloon in East Village, New York?)

It's why I love National Geographic so much, I think. Sure, not all articles are awesome, but the ones that are, to me - tell a story. Not only about the chosen topic, but the author.

It's like talking with a (good) friend over a cup of tea in a cozy restaurant, as opposed to listening to a (boring) university lecturer in a big hall - both can talk about sociology, or Antarctic, or whatever, but one's interesting and the other one sucks.

And when university lecturers are awesome, they tell stories, too. I love stories.

Oh... no.


He's come in with... wallpaper in his hands.

Dammit.

On writing late

It's such a nuisance, heading somewhere in the evening and feeling, I really need to write it down! But then by the time I get to sit down and write, I'm tired already, thoughts are disjointed and it takes ages to get to point, if I get there at all - but I feel I need to write regardless and then in the morning, yet again, I look at it and go, it's not your brightest of moments here, Maria.

On feeling connected to humanity

I'm not sure if she knows about it - and even if she doesn't, she will after having read this - but this lady here is one of the major reasons why I've been holding on to my sanity this year. There are other things, of course, there always are, but she's one of them. A blessing in my life, really, along with the rest of the girls.

Here's the thing: every week I skip an evening of whatever's to be done at home and take off for a "girly night". Five or six or so of us meet, talk, craft - usually there's chocolate involved - and it's this... this...

I don't even know how to put it, really.

I've kept on moving over the past few years. Wanaka has been by far the longest stint, whole three years of it, but even in Wanaka I lived in five different places. Every time the same thing: new place, new people, new friends appear, relationships deepen and then, I move again. I have a whole inbox full of people I keep on revisiting on my computer screen and in my thoughts and in my dreams; so many friends that are scattered around the globe. It's lonely sometimes, and when it's hard it's lonelier still.

I've written about it before. I'll be writing about it in the future. I tend to repeat myself, a lot.

This group of women here I see on a weekly basis, it's just... it feels like it's keeping my feet on the ground. As anxious as I might've grown over the weekend thinking about things I want to do and about my book and about Antarctica and whatever, every Tuesday evening I feel like I get to plop right back onto ground again and I'm connected again. It's like every Tuesday I feel that I'm connected to people who feel connected to their whereabouts. Warm, stable people who laugh and who make me laugh.

Lunatics are awesome to learn about, and impressive to write about, but relationships with them run hot and get very exhausting very quickly, whereas this bunch of women are just... homes, families, children or, for heaven's sake, kitchen remodels and curtains and all that stuff I've never really been part of before.

I think it - the way I'm feeling - must have a lot to do with friends, how the connections I've made keep on staying back in places where after I've moved, people aren't physically accessible, say, for a cup of tea in the evening or an unplanned meet at some third person's party or whatever. I'm constantly a telephone or a computer screen away from people that matter. And feeling disconnected like that very quickly turns into feeling angsty, to me.

So whether she knows it or not, this lady here is most certainly one of the highlights of Christchurch to me. She's probably the sort of a person that when I do move again - and I have a feeling that I most likely will in a year's time or maybe two - I'll think about her often and smile, because she's one of those bright, memorable people that just ARE so goddamn cute. Cuddly. What's the word I'm looking for here?

Fab. I don't know, sorry, I'm really struggling with a suitable synonym to "wonderful" here.

And I just really wanted to write that. Thank you, Treena, and sorry if I've made you feel uncomfortable reading this. I wasn't meaning to, really.

=)

On Asperger's

There are several reasons why I'm grateful for how wide the word about Asperger's has travelled and how relatively common and well-known the concept is. On the other hand, though, I feel it's a bit like saying that someone's an introvert.

Have a think, maybe you feel differently about it than I do.

When someone's said to be an introvert, I feel it's like putting a label onto things the person doesn't do (well or comfortably): public speaking, sharing emotions with strangers, loud initial contact. Whereas, and I know it's been said much better by other people already, (some) introverts are bloody good at things (some) extraverts suck at, and the most important to me is probably: persevering and getting. Things. Done.

Quietly.

And it's sort of the same with Asperger's, because to me, saying that someone's got Asperger's is like saying they don't pick up on social cues.

Okay, fine, I get that. But! Often Aspies are also fuckin' talented at school, and hardworking.

When you hear that label, Asperger's, is that what you think about, that they're probably meticulous and pay attention, or the fact that when someone cracks a joke in the dining room, Aspie probably looks around at the reaction of other people before going, oh, righto, it was a joke?

I don't know whether I'm on the spectrum. I doubt it. Even if I am, it's a mild form of it, which is to say, I and Aspies share certain characteristics. (People that have worked with me probably know what I'm referring to =).)

You probably wouldn't want me on your sales team unless your product is fuckin' good, because things I personally believe in, I can walk to the end of the earth for them; and if there's a product that needs to be worked on and my bosses sort of go, nah, there's other priorities now and they therefore make other people lose time/money/quality by not wanting to fix mistakes - and make me work with something that I know isn't as good as it can be - that's when I can feel the hairs on my back go up and that's when I start looking for another job.

I'm bad at lying. It's such a complex structure, having to keep all the bits together - the story, the facial features, whom to trust the truth to and what to say... It's laborious. Which is to say, and I am very sorry if I've done that to you at some point, and didn't know it, means that when a lady with a really weird haircut comes in and starts saying how she's just been to the hairdresser's and how it's nice to be all freshened up again, I go, without having thought about it first, oh, so you actually like it? And then when she looks at me all puzzled, I suddenly realise, oh shit. Here, I've done it again. Awesome work, Maria. What'ya gonna do now, huh.

But it also means that if you need someone to be meticulous almost all the time, paying attention, doing the job well and being straightforward, I'm your gal. I've got some work ethic going on, uhom. I can come in, look at a big pile of information, dig in and then organise it into tidy little compartments so when you come in and ask, d'you know where we keep files x, y and z, I go, sure I do, have a look in a, b, c and d.

I'm awesome at that.

Am I an Aspie? Like I said before, I doubt it and given that I won't be walking into no psychologist's office anytime soon, even if I am, I wouldn't know it. But I am frickin' proud to share some characteristics.

Proud.

Radio NZ National: Bill Andrews on science of ageing

Oh, heck with it: instead of making you Google around to find that one Radio New Zealand interview where they talk about how lobsters don't age and what ageing is to begin with, here it is, the link:

www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/greatencounters/audio/2561167/bill-andrews 

And if you right-click on that "MP3" icon there, you can save that file onto your computer, too.


Continuation in the series "Life with The Dog"

It's very well when a 2-year-old kid and a young lab keep on trying to get into the bathroom when you're busy doing your stuff there, but I can clearly see how the following situation doesn't quite fit the bill of "acceptable" any more.

Namely, picture yourself as a guy leaning above a toilet bowl somewhere, unzipping your pants, getting out what needs to be got out and starting to tinkle - and then picture The Dog suddenly appearing from behind you, sticking her head between your knees and hungrily starting to lap up what's flowing into the toilet bowl.

There's definitely a locked bathroom door policy in our house now.

About yesterday's first aid course

It is an entirely different ball game, attending a first aid course given by a man who is an actual, current paramedic. You know, like, as opposed to school nurses and driving school instructors who are all very well-meaning but just don't have that... oomph.

I mean, the wealth of practical, hands-on knowledge and experience this guy - the one that was training us yesterday - possesses is just... wow. If he could, I bet he could go on talking about the stuff he's seen for hours on end, and I could very well listen for hours on end.

I don't want to say it was magnificent because magnificent is not really the word to describe a first aid course, but to me, that's exactly what it felt like.

And to, then, pair his course up with a roomful of people who are current SAR members, meaning, they are the ones who go out searching for missing trampers and whitebaiters and occasionally for suicidal people or elders with Alzheimer's - and they all have their own stories to tell - I have never in my life enjoyed a first aid course as much, and I've taken, how many so far, five? Six?

So, in no particular order, and just to get these things out of my head:

There's a website called www.aedlocations.co.nz that's got a map of New Zealand's publicly accessible defibrillators online. A great resource, I think.

***

If not happy doing breaths on another person during CPR, don't, as massage will push oxygen from the lungs to the brain anyway. And as a side note: do you know how many people in New Zealand have been diagnosed to have hep C?

***

How fast to push on a chest during CPR? 100 beats per minute or, to put it simply - and I got quite a kick from that - in rhythm to the Bee Gee's song "Staying alive"

;)

And when "Staying Alive" ends and the heart's not going yet and you need something to keep ticking you over, continue with Queen's "Another one bites the dust".

;)

***

Liability and first aid - if you're doing your best trying to save a life, you're not liable.

***

90% of people that are performed CPR on, die.

***

Blue lips = blue brain.

***

There are several positions from which CPR can be administered. The one I - along with the rest of us - seemed to prefer was straddling the person's head with my knees as I'm then able to keep the airways open whilst I'm pushing on the chest. Like this:


Instructor's comment? "Over the head CPR is acceptable everywhere except on a beach wearing Speedos."

;)

***

When talking about defibrillators - and bear in mind that most people attending were farmers - someone noted, "Here we just drag him over to the electric fence and throw the leg over the fence." To which the instructor noted, "It works."

;) (I should just stop adding smiley faces to paragraphs, shouldn't I.)

***

What does a defibrillator shock feel like? Well, according to a person who got shocked when he didn't clear his leg from a patient's body when CPR was administered, "Like being kicked by a mule does."

***

One of the guys there worked as a boatman taking people to the start of Milford Track and two people he gave a lift to were potential future SAR "patients".

One had a light daypack and when asked, where was his food and water, replied, "Oh, I'll just get something along the way." When explained - by this boatman - that between here and the end of the track there's only one place to buy food and it's this boat's here store, he ended up walking the track on a supply of potato chips, chocolate bars, packets of candy and such.

Another one had a big pack but upon enquiring admitted to having it all full of camera gear, not even a sleeping bag. He walked the track using his spare pair of underwear as a sunhat.

***

Sometime along the course I realised, it's been years since I've been in pain - apart from pains of pregnancy and childbirth - which is probably why I'm slightly anxious about being in situations where I can end up in pain again. I don't remember exactly what it used to be like.

Whereas as a teenager and a young adult, I didn't have many reservations about pain as I quite often ended up in situations where I was faced with it and I just dealt with it.

I think I might miss out on a lot of great things if I don't take them up because of fear of pain I might end up with.

***

A police officer, now dead, had told one of the guys there how right before he had a heart attach he'd felt a strong need to go use the toilet and when he did have a heart attack in the toilet there, then realised why so many people he had, over the course of his career, found with heart attacks in toilets.

***

Best dressing for burns? Gladwrap.

***

Cyanide, apparently, smells like grated almonds. And as a side note: when you're close enough to smell grated almonds, you're probably too close to be walking out of there.

***

Alright, that's it for today. Have a good Sunday, guys!

A busy day and a night ahead

I don't know what's more exciting, the fact that lobsters don't age (look up Kim Hill's radio interview on the science of aging, if you wish) or the tons of ideas that are bubbling around my head at the moment, all from today's first aid training up at Methven. Either way, I won't divulge more because I am about to go out to dinner, like, with The Man, leaving The Kid at home with babysitters, and it's like, wow, I get to go out again! With The Man! Just the two of us!

Oh how awesome.

The morning after

When it happens, this thing takes me out for a few days. It starts with tiredness in the evening, then I get a bad night of sleep because the clusters wake me up several times, and then the following day I'm tired not only because I had poor sleep but because I'm alert the whole day, paying attention to how I'm feeling so that as soon as I feel a wave coming on, I pause, and if I'm driving, I stop.

Several times now I've tried talking through the wave - just to see if I can - and I can't. I don't pass out, but I feel close to passing out; and I can't talk.

Today is the day after when I catch up on dishes that weren't done yesterday, and mostly just try to rest because I'm worn out.

I guess it's becoming part of my life now, isn't it. How "wonderful".

The morning after

I have never in my life been drunk, but! I do know what a morning after is like.

It's like today when I look at the screen and think, did I really write all that?

Geesh, girl.

A long ramble

Me and The Man put up a saucepan rack in the kitchen today. It's very basic and very, very straightforward. (And of course I didn't think to get a photo of it in daylight.)


As I've gone about my daily business, several times I've looked at it and thought: I like it! I frickin' like it! It gets the saucepans out of where they've been in the way (toppling in the cupboard) and into where they're needed and functional - here. And all it took was half an hour of digging for some hooks, a board to cut to right length and some drilling.

And it's made me wonder about this house and my attitude towards it.

I know I've said it several times already, but when we moved in this place was an effin' sh*thole. Like, a proper, proper sh*thole - old stinky carpets, unkept floors, no curtains, no curtainrails for that matter, no heating, no insulation, spiderwebs and just, generally, years and years of grime. And I knew it was bad when we first signed the lease, but dear god did I have meltdowns over this place or what.

I mean... I don't know how many times I've done it, but many a time I've knelt on this kitchen floor here, crying and saying, I hate this house, I effin' HATE this house because I'm so tired, so tired ALL THE TIME!

And for a while, I mean... I was. For weeks or months or however long it took I was just scrubbing and fixing and wishing for summer when it got warmer and saying to myself, it'll be worth it in the long run, it'll be worth it in the long run, it'll be worth it in the long run.

I had to keep on repeating that because otherwise I would've just packed it up. Like, for real.

And the thing is - now I think back on it and think, god I wish I had some of those photos. At the time I hated the grime so much that I didn't even take any photos of it. I knew it would get better in the long run and I knew it would be quite a kick to look back on it and go, geesh, do you remember how bad this place was?

But at the time, I just felt like I was going to drown under all that work and I wanted to wipe it clean and not have any evidence of what a sh*thole we moved into.

And the thing is, I was embarrassed of this house. Which is stupid, because for Pete's sake, it is a rental. A rental! Why on earth would I need to be embarrassed of it, of all things?!

But I was. I knew, even at the time, that it was gonna be worth it in the long run because the rent we pay here allows us to save money for a home we might one day have for real - and in the post-earthquake Christchurch it is a big deal because the rents in this city here are outrageous - but even equipped with this (theoretical) knowledge of it being worth it, I knew I was going to get looks from my parents and, possibly, my in-laws that would border on pity and worry for our mental state for having moved into this place, and it would last for months.

And given how worn out I was from all the fixing and scrubbing and dressing my kid in winter clothes when I got him out of bed in the morning so that he could play inside the house (which was just plain ridiculous) I just didn't have the energy to defend myself in front of people who would raise some, well, legitimate points.

Even now, when I say to people that we've insulated the roof space and laid carpets, and underlay, and put up doors and fenced and whatever, they raise their eyebrows and ask, why would we want to do that if it is a rental. Why would anyone want to put so much work into a house that isn't theirs?

But the thing is... In this time in my life when I'm - along with thousands of other young families who choose to stay with their children and, essentially, function on single incomes - on a limited budget, it's either this where I'm spending a lot of time and little money, or I spend more money and have more time. But where would the latter take me? What's the point of putting such horrific amounts of money down on rent when it's just money that keeps on going down this hole where nothing ever comes of it?

Me and The Man like working on houses. Sure, sometimes we have fights where we get close to ripping each other's heads off - figuratively speaking - but in the end, we like it.

And in many ways we've already tested out many of the things we would, one day, need to test out in our own home, and it's sort of nicer to test it out in a house where it won't have to be rebuilt again because a cupboard sits in a place where everyone keeps stubbing their toes in it.

Like, check this out: in Wanaka we moved into a house where a kitchen looked like this...

And that really is all the countertop space there was.
Like, that's it - there's no more hiding anywhere. Chop your veggies here, baby.

... and we left it looking like this:




The deal was, landlord paid for the materials and we provided the time and the effort, and got our rent deducted, a little bit. Was it actually worth it given that we only got to use it for a few months given that our residency came through earlier than expected and we packed out bags and moved to Christchurch?

Not really, financially speaking, and considering time that went into building this thing all from scrap materials and old, paint-coated furniture that needed restoring before it got to this state.

But still: I got to learn about what re-building a kitchen is like before I had to go through arguments like that in my own home where I would've probably put loads more passion into it, and boy would've that got ugly.

But now I know: rebuilding a kitchen is a big thing. Hold on to your marriage vows sort of big, and remember to still have sex with your spouse sort of big.

Big!

And so because of that, I'm glad we did it, because I am so not going on another kitchen remodel anytime soon - which is why in this kitchen here there's an old cupboard covered with a piece of tabletop functioning as a kitchen island and that's how it's gonna be, baby, because I'm definitely not doing anything to it.

But boy oh boy have I got off topic or what.

Basically, it's been hard learning this house here, but also useful because now I can personally appreciate the amount of work that goes into restoring old villas and so if one day I do go on a house hunt, I will probably have a bit of perspective when looking at do-up properties rather than going in with lots of passion and saying things along the lines of, oh, look, this place has such charm! We'll bring it back to life and it'll be wonderful! Honey, can you see, it'll be so immeasurably wonderful!

Speaking of wonderful: I've had a chilled out weekend with my family and my dog, who's now part of this family too, I guess, so I could just stop pointing out her existence in addition to saying "my family"...

You know what, Maria, just f*cking stop writing and upload your damn photos and let these good people go do some other useful stuff instead of reading through pages and pages of your writing here.

Here, I said it. I'm going now. Going! Bye!

At the cinema


No, my child is not on top of the car, I have no idea what you're talking about

See? I told you he's not on top of the car.



Oh, and in case you're wondering: my camera is filled with outtakes like this.







On pancakes

I know I suck in the kitchen, but there's one thing I absolutely rock at and that's - pancakes.

Like, if a president of something had to come for dinner sometime and I had to make something on my own, no help, nothing, and I had to know for a fact that it would taste delicious, I'd be, like, "So d'you want pancakes tonight?"

I mean, choose your style: thin crepes, thick cottage cheese blobs, sweet and oh-so-soft yoghurty goodness pancakes, I can make them all.

And they're awesome!


(Read this to a soundtrack of slurpy milk going down The Kid's t-shirt and licky sounds coming from underneath the table where The Dog is busy cleaning up bits of pancake The Kid is throwing on the floor.

PS. Godammit, he's learned that The Dog will pick up anything you give her and now no matter how tasty the food is, if The Dog's in the kitchen and I'm not looking, The Kid's throwing food onto the floor.

PPS. Repeat after me: I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid.

PPPS. Also, repeat after me: I love my dog, I love my dog, I love my dog.

PPPPS. Also, repeat this: I'll f*ckin' vacuum you out of the kitchen if you don't stop tempting my kid NOW and go do something else somewhere, outside preferrably. Mocha, outside, NOW!)

So, anyone hungry?

Different, I know

She said to me, "He's a peculiar character," to which I could only reply, "I'm a peculiar character."

- "Yeah, I know, but..."

=)


(image via Rockstar Ronan)

Damn right!

So, I found these two yesterday:



They made me laugh.

And so today, I made these three to commemorate what yesterday was like:




Granted, I'm not Ryan Gosling crazy, but damn he's hot.

Early morning thoughts

A few things that have stuck in my mind, things which I will probably mull over once I've got energy because at the moment, after three crappy nights of sleep all I want is sleep, are, in no particular order:

I realised only yesterday that relationships I've had growing up have mostly - if not all - been time-limited, meaning, I didn't spend a heck a lot of time with people that were around me; not with my brother, or my father, or my mother or my friends. I'm not used to intensive relationships that last over a long time.

Short relationships? Bring it on. I don't have a problem sitting in a car with someone and within minutes, discussing fiercely personal items of hopes and fears and tribulations, or however that saying goes. I'm familiar with it - building intense relationships and then moving on.

So it shouldn't, really, come as a surprise that I start feeling bound when I've been with someone for a while, but for whatever reason, it does (come as a surprise).

It's something I'm learning at 28 now.

***

A workmate said yesterday that in his time, it was a story going around parenting circles that children need quality time.

Now, at 40+ and with his children all grown up, he says that he disagrees with the notion. It's not quality time children need, but time.

He says he doesn't buy the notion that a person can put aside his work for an hour and say, for the next hour I'll be with you to a kid, and for that to be enough. There a circumstances, of course, and he understands that, but we were talking about relationships with children that last over a long time, and about trust, and what it takes to build trust.

I, personally, think that trust is attitude. I don't have a problem picking out a person, relying on my instinct, and then going with it whether it's advice on skydiving or an invitation to go up a glacier, but I also understand that biochemically, it's a quirk I have. I am anxious by nature, and I've come to understand and accept that - for a lot of the time anyway, though not always - so to me a decision that carries risk and also potential isn't that hard to come by. I decide quickly whether to trust or not, and then trust.

To me, trust is about deciding to do it and then simply rolling with it until it feels otherwise. I don't understand, intuitively, what trust based on calculations and experience is like because in my head, calculations don't work. God knows I've tried, but I'm not set up like that.

It's why - and I know that now - I don't make a good adventure guide. My decisions are based on intuition and with a group of people relying on me for their wellbeing, that's not a good place to be.

But I also need to understand that a lot of people around me - probably more people than not - function differently and trust they have builds and diminishes differently than mine.

My husband and, quite possibly, my son trust differently than I do.

***

A person I know proposed to his wife for a second time when they were already married. He says it is a commitment he was making.

At twenty-something, his reasons for getting married were different from the reasons he was staying married at 35; and so to him, it made sense to propose yet again as a sign of respect over how their relationship had changed over the years and to show why he was choosing to stay in it.

It is a tad cute, sure, but it is also... weighty, for lack of a better word.

It is such a rich topic to write about - commitment. I'm not even remotely rested enough to dwell on it for much longer.

***

My son is asleep now, that's why I'm writing. I've been up since 5-something, for several mornings in a row actually, and it's 8 o'clock now and he's been asleep for an hour.

I know there's things to do, a bag to pack, food to prepare, a shower to have since I am still sweaty from running around last night with a bunch of people, laser guns in hand, and taking out our CEO for what must've been five, six times in a row (every time I sneaked upon a person from the back it was, like, it's you again!, and he said later he spent most of his time reloading his gun because Maria had taken him out again), but I'm just... tired, so tired.

A late evening, talking

It was such a wonderful evening I didn't, initially, want to attend.

I learned a lot about some people I work with, and their partners, and families. During one talk with a middle-aged man I almost cried because I thought, it's the sort of a talk I never had with my father, and would've so benefited if I'd had - we talked about relationships and about being a parent and about the importance of time, and commitment.

A few minutes' ride in a car and I learned about another person's heartache, a pretty impressively honest account, actually.

A few meaningful conversations that have left me, on one hand, feeling connected and on the other, so confused because I am thinking, where do I fit in this picture?

It's a curse I have, and a blessing.

I think I'm good at interviewing because I dive into another person's story and I make it my own. I feel through it and I write about it as much as I understand it - it's the thing that made me a feature writer, but so not a reporter.

But the other side of that is, when I've finally said goodbye and gone home, I have trouble distinguishing which part of that story is theirs and which one's mine.

And so I kneel in front of the laptop here to write about it so I can get at least a few thoughts out of my head so I can maybe sleep better.

It's been such a difficult week to sleep in.

Good night, friends.

Pffffft

I just came here to write that one day, I'll write meaningful stuff again, but first I'll catch up on sleep so I don't slump onto a sofa on a Wednesday afternoon thinking, is it bedtime yet?

But then I thought, what's the point in that? What's the point in writing an un-meaningful post about the meaningful post I'll one day write?

This is some Wednesday logic happening right here. And, is it bedtime yet?