On journalism, and poor choices, and cultural influences, and storytelling

It must've been around 10 years ago that I first came across Dooce, a popular American blogger.

I didn't intend to though.

Back then, a fellow Estonian blogger, Daki, kept referring to Dooce in her very plentiful posts and as a result, I became familiar with Dooce as a matter of... consequential repetition, I guess. Sorry, I don't know how to call it otherwise: I didn't feel connected to Dooce and neither was I particularly interested in what Dooce had to say, but I kept seeing her name pop up in Daki's writings, so I became familiar with Dooce as a... sort of a side effect of being familiar with Daki, if that makes sense.

But anyway - in the last two years, I think I've started to finally... get Dooce. As I read her thoughts, I now actually relate to her, and what's more - she has become a fascinating storyteller to me.

I don't know if she's been like that for a long time and I just haven't had that mental space to notice her, or whether she's developed into this storytelling angel only recently - probably both - but I have found a fellow human being whose thoughts move and affect me deeply and frequently.

I don't read everything she has to say and often miss entire weeks' worth of her writing because I'm just... not interested in what she's up to, or too busy, or whatever.

But the consistent thing that's been happening when I come back to her - whenever that is - is that I keep discovering stuff that... moves me.

Take her recent post, for example, 2 Minutes of Your Time. I read it this morning and felt myself nodding inside when I was going over,

"During the panel I shared a sadness I’ve felt about the increasing lack of independent storytelling online, how so much of the content being produced now is all about images and beautifully styled vignettes. So much of the web has become a giant Pinterest board. Why share that emotion with that audience? What’s interesting is that one of the most consistent sources of incoming traffic to my website is Pinterest. And it’s not because of a picture of a room in my home or an outfit I wore to a fancy dinner. It’s a picture of me when I’m 40 weeks pregnant and it links to the story I told about Marlo’s birth. It’s been pinned to several thousand different Pinterest boards which leads me to believe that there still exists a very real need for connection and storytelling."

It's a thought I relate to very deeply, and on a very personal level.

I've been lucky, in a sense I guess, that I've been able to have a very considerable journalistic "career" very early on, at an age when I wasn't aware of the impact my writing was making and the responsibility it carried. As far as I was concerned, I was just a young, interesting backpacker whose experiences various magazines were interested in featuring, and as I accrued more experience writing about Alaska and sled dogs, I started to delve deeper into other sorts of writing.

I mean, Christ!, I've written about... international airline travel, low GI diets, motorcycling, schooling, dress codes; have interviewed people, some of them internationally renowned; columns, editing, researching.

And only through experience, and time, have I come to notice and understand how superficial a lot of this type of writing is, and how I've come to almost... loathe it - loathe it because I now have the ability to recognise it.

The sharpest turning point, for me, was during my first year of Master's studies when I was doing an internship at a major, respected, national-level newspaper and by chance and luck was assigned to work within their editorial team.

Editorial team - it's those people who take care of pages 2 and 3, right at the beginning, where there are columns, opinion pieces, sarcastic caricatures. In many ways it is the cream of journalism, a role only outstanding and usually rather old journalists get assigned to. (I don't know if you've read the book, but John Grogan explains it really well in Marley & Me - he was, and I am going by memory here, a columnist for a... Miami newspaper? Something along those lines.)

I did good work during my 6 weeks there, too, of course, and a few of those articles I would quite proudly read even now, but... there is also that little column, that little sarcastic opinion piece I was encouraged to write on a topic I have almost no knowledge of whatsoever.

You would never know what it was (and I am not going to tell you either) because on those little opinion pieces where essentially a whole newspaper's view on some topic is represented, a journalist's responsible name doesn't get printed - it is an opinion of a whole newspaper after all - but on that fateful day, editorial team asked that I do that opinion piece.

Which in itself was not a big deal, because I'd done them before, too.

But on that day, my first draft was cast aside as too dry and in need of work, and so was the second, and by third I was asked to really pump it up and say what I wanted to say with gusto - which I did, because I am obedient like that - but I also had a feeling even as I was writing it that... it was wrong.

It wasn't journalism - it was lashing out, mindlessly. It was like being a popular kid in the class and bullying some other, smaller kid, simply in the knowledge of being able to get away with it. I wrote what I was asked to write, and it was, indeed, rather harsh and "pointy", and the next day, of course, comments were coming in.

In some ways it's what opinion pieces get judged by - by the amount of feedback they receive. If a piece connects with readers or at least touches them, they write; and if it doesn't, they don't.

That morning, the comments were in - there wasn't an outrageous amount, but there was enough to see that what had been said had worked, to a point. But it was the... content of these comments that made me feel sick to my stomach.

The ones that were crying out alongside me, "Yay! Well said!" were written in a way that led me to believe that people who'd written them hadn't had a lot of schooling; and the ones that were well-spelt and respectful were saying things along the lines of, "Are you trying to become Daily Mail?" One actually said that he was considering ending his subscription because he was reading this newspaper in the hope that it was set on staying respectable and well-researched, but what he saw being said in this opinion piece was mindless lashing instead.

And I could totally agree with him.

And this - this is what puts me off about so much of the media nowadays. This is what encourages me to listen to Kim Hill on Radio New Zealand instead, and read older copies of National Geographic, and steer clear of almost every current newspaper and a magazine out there, with a few, thoughtful exceptions.

I am able to recognise that a lot of the writing out there is done not because this is what an author genuinely feels like, but because what's written looks good, or sells good, or has been asked for.

Journalists are people also, and they, too, want their bills paid and their salaries in their bank accounts. If a story has been promised by Thursday evening and it's been a hell of a week before that, but the invoices need paying and the promises need honoring, pieces get submitted.

I've done that, too - I have sat up late into the night, finishing articles I really couldn't see being great, but because I had promised I would, I did finish them, and they were printed and published, and they are there forever now.

And it's sad for me to think that some of the readers are still in the mindset of trusting media - maybe not everything, but at least trusting what they think to be the respectable sources - and as they read my words, they won't necessarily know that it was a 22-year-old writing it at 11 pm on a Wednesday night, based on some information she had googled on the internet.

I don't write like that any more, not for other publications anyway - this space here is different - but I know for a fact that a lot of the writing I see published and printed does get done in that manner. I know for a fact that some home interiors that get photographed and featured in glossy magazines get set up precisely for photo shoots and then when it's finished, people move things back to how they usually live because what looks good on a photo and what actually works in a room where people move about may be two different things.

I know for a fact there are DIY articles featured out there, with furniture makeovers and room makeovers and whatever - that if you came to see that DIYed piece a few months later, you would see that the paint is peeling and that classy look which looked so sassy on a photograph, it doesn't actually work well in real life. How many times have I seen carpenters tell me that this is not how something's done, not if it's meant to last anyway? Or gardeners point out that two plants planted together like that will have one of them die within two years because the other one will overcrowd it? Or doctors comment on a diet featured in an article, saying that this is just asking for development of hypocalcemia, if a diet is stuck to?

It's why I am being... stubborn, I guess, at not wanting my name to go on that book cover any more before I am able to be proud of the text I produce.

I think it's what I have come to appreciate in Dooce's writing so much - it's that I can see a certain level of... integrity. It's the lack of integrity that puts me off so much from some other, also very popular bloggers' writing, and makes me outright cringe when they start getting featured more and more in other publications, based on their popularity.

But having said that, everyone to their own, right? It is my right to choose who I listen to, and it is other people's right to listen to who they choose to. Parenting topics especially - Christ!, potty training, starting solids, breastfeeding, schooling... Just do what you're comfortable with, within reason, and accept that other people may disagree with you, and leave it at that!

It's why I think I fit in better in cultures that leave and respect a decent amount of personal freedom, for all the problems that also come with this approach, and why I probably find it so fascinating seeing where Dooce has come having grown up in an environment of Mormonism, and Brigham Young, and seeing how she is balancing that against still having that extended family around her.

I don't know if you had a chance to listen to it yesterday, but there was a radioshow on Radio New Zealand National between 9 and 10 pm local time where a guy discussed gender equality in the context of different cultures and countries.

I listened to this lady saying how women simply are better at taking care of children and when the interviewer replied that he can see it with breastfeeding - being a male he isn't able to - but as far as everything else goes, he doesn't agree, and how this lady just repeated that of course men can take care of children, but it's just that women are better at it.

I cringed. When I arrived home shortly thereafter I told The Man I am glad neither of us is of this opinion.

Or how there was a father that, when asked why he allowed his son more freedom than he did to his daughter, he replied it's because he loved his daughter more.

I cringed at that, too.

But it's how cultural influences work: just as I weren't able to recognise poor journalism when I was 22, I can see how other people follow a certain mindset simply because this is what they're accustomed to, or because they haven't got access to information that would state otherwise, and how even this "independence" and "freedom" I am referring to is, also, actually a mindset.

It's what environment I am in. And it's the choices I make.

On three important topics

It's interesting how when a thought bubbles up, it often bubbles up alongside others.

Like today, for example: there are three topics circling around in my head and I cannot tell which one is more essential / worthy to write down / share - so I am writing down all three of them. What are they?

Quality of rebuild in Christchurch.
Rainbow babies.
And financial issues of being a young family.

First, rainbow babies: I don't know if you're familiar with the term, but "rainbow baby" means a baby that has come to a family after a loss of another one, so, say, after a misscarriage or a stillbirth or something similar.

I don't know who coined the term - does anyone? - but it refers to a rainbow coming out after a storm has passed and, in my opinion, it is a very moving way to describe things.

I came across an article today where an adult who himself is/was a rainbow baby said - I haven't got the exact quote at hand, sorry, but he said that - the only reason he is here today is because his mother had had the courage to try again.

And I looked at that and thought: damn, I'd never thought of it from this angle before.

So many times I've come across this topic from the angle of parents - or prospective parents - and never once have I thought of what it'd be like being one.

Being - a rainbow baby.


The other thing I want to write about is the quality of rebuild in Christchurch - or at least some of the quality of some of the rebuild - and, oh dear God, where do I even start with this?

But first: I am not the best person to talk about this topic for many reasons, a few being that I am not a builder myself, and haven't got the technical nor the practical knowledge of why some of the decisions have been made the way they've been made.

Having said that: what I do have - and continue to have - are people who are participating in the rebuild on various levels, and the stories they tell me in personal, informal settings, behind a cup of tea, say, or when standing on the pavement, chatting about life in general, or during quick "What you up to?" chats.

Some of the stuff they tell me makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Some of the problems are non-structural - if not to say little - and some would probably say don't even mean much in the big picture, except... it's shoddy work. Stuff that breaks down prematurely because it wasn't done well to begin with, in my opinion, shouldn't be done at all.

Take plasterwork, for example. You know how in post-earthquake houses, cracks run up and down people's walls, ceilings, cornicing etc? Cracks that then get "repaired" during standard insurance work?

I am lucky / unlucky enough to know people who see some of those cracks getting "repaired", and going by what I have heard - some of these cracks will start showing up again very, very soon. And you know why?

Because companies are rewarded for speed, not quality.

Many of these cracks get plastered over, rather than being plastered into. It's quick, shoddy work - but very difficult to tell on a freshly finished paint job. Unless there's been someone there to witness how the cracks have been simply "smoothed over" - and that certain someone has then raised a complaint - no-one will know that these cracks will simply start showing themselves in due time, again, and good luck chasing up your insurance then.

Men who do their work well and slower get fewer houses done, and get paid less, and get put under pressure to measure up to "fast ones"; and men who do the work quick and shoddy, but sneakily, finish fast and earn well. And then men who witness the shoddy work but aren't in a position to do anything about it... carry the sight of these injustices within them.

There's such a lack of well-trained building professionals within this city that shoddiness doesn't get treated the way it'd be treated if times were slower, and quality more important.

At the moment, time seems to be important. And money, instead.

With more structural stuff it's easier: if framing isn't done well enough, it doesn't get passed during a building inspection, and has to be done over again. But you know what happens then? Men who've done it to begin with move onto other sites and the ones who actually care about the quality get sent to... repair shoddy stuff.

Over, over, and over again. These men spend days, weeks going from site to site, repairing stuff that was built only recently and should've been done well to begin with, but wasn't - and you know what pressure they get put under as they rebuild the rebuild?

Time pressure. And money.

A project that has been built once already and now has to get taken down to be REbuilt costs money, and men who work on the rebuild of the rebuild cost money.

And it's this back and worth, back and forth, back and forth...

I know painters who've came to Christchurch on forged resumes and forged reference letters, without any experience whatsoever, but because no-one had time nor interest to actually check them and train them, they just got sent to building sites to do painting and they... painted. For the first time in their lives.

Or those poor, young, bright-eyed apprentices who've been put to what is, essentially, basic labouring - without any mentoring which is supposed to be the core of apprenticeship - and then for months they labour. And labour. And labour - and wonder if Christchurch really was the place to come and learn carpentry, or masonry, or whatever else they're doing, because they spend their days digging trenches instead.

Or how the road that's been "repaired" merely a week ago already has a, surprise!, pothole in it.

That sort of stuff.

Some of the technical problems make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, but most of the stuff - the likes of what I have just described before - just makes me... sad; sad both for the people in this city and for the rebuild in general as, going by what I keep on hearing, there will be plenty of stuff re-appearing as "in need of repair" in years to come, and it won't be for reasons other than work badly done in the first place.

Wow. I think I've written such a long saga on this rebuild thing that I'm not even going to go into what being a young family is like, financially speaking.

Getting there

Bhaah... (cue sound of yawning)

It's... yeah. Well... yeah.

I guess it's all only natural, but I would love to sleep, like, 12 hours a day at the moment. Easily.

But having said that, I would happily swap extra hours of sleep for decent digestion and sugar levels instead - because I'm done with diabetes. Soooooooooooo done with diabetes!

I keep telling myself that a few weeks more and then we'll be done: no more finger pricking, no more food consumption limits, no more achy-stiffy sleeps with two-three hourly bathroom breaks. (I have already packed a Mars bar into my hospital bag.) There will be other stuff, of course, to replace what I'm struggling with now, like most probably a newborn baby to take care of, but for the moment I am getting somewhat... tired of being pregnant, if you know what I mean.

It's what... late pregnancy tends to do to people, I hear.

On a good note though: no, I don't think I have a depression. Each day I am getting closer to what I remember being "pre-illness" felt like, so all things considered it was probably simply a virus that knocked me down and left me questioning my aptitude to... tackle things. And smile.

But still, at the moment it's just back aches and tummy aches and contractions and feeling out of breath and eating that goddamn salad again with those goddamn nuts and waking up at night, thinking, can I just have a catheter, please, instead?

35 weeks, baby, 35 weeks.

We'll see it closer on Thursday's scan, but in all likelyhood The Girlie is bigger now than The Kid was when he was born, so being familiar with NICU I've come to that "blaze sort of" mindset where I now look at my belly and think that as much I think she's better off staying there for a few more weeks, if she for some reason decided to arrive now, I'd know what it would be like. There wouldn't be panic. I've been there. 35 weeks is pretty straightforward sailing!

And that, I think, is partially why I am starting to get to that "over it" stage now. As each day goes past, I feel less like an essential incubator and more like a... hotel - which, I am sure, is also just what the nature intended when she designed our species to begin with.

But enough of this. I am going to see if The Kid wants a nap, and if he does, I am going to turn off my phone and have a nap also.


But first, I'll need to empty my bladder. Again.

Big noise, small noise

It's one of life's big mysteries to me. Why does The Kid wake up when it rains? And how, in comparison, does he sleep blissfully through a fire alarm mounted right outside his room? (Just burnt rice, no biggie.) And it's not the first time it's happened, either...

Why not have it the other way around?

On emigrating

Sometime in the last five years I've become what in Estonia is known as a "väliseestlane" - a foreign Estonian.

I still call myself an Estonian, still consider myself one. I speak Estonian to my son, as lonely of an endeavor it feels sometimes, and quite likely will carry a peculiar American-Estonian accent for as long as I live.

But I do not intend on returning.

I've never emigrated though. There was never a good bye party, no items were sold, no bank accounts or mobile phone agreements cancelled. In March 2009 when my "Estonian life" technically ended, I weren't leaving - I were going travelling.

For all intents and purposes I was due back in August 2010 at latest. I had a Master's degree to finish, and a circle of friends that shared or at least understood me for my restlessness. There was a seaside track I loved biking on and was going to miss duly, an apartment I'd rented on and off and could see myself returning to, and little crooked alleyways of both Tallinn and Tartu that I was sure I would someday walk down again.

But in all honesty, there wasn't really much to... return to. There was a way of life, a rhythm I'd developed over the years, but there wasn't any sense of belonging, no essential part of me actively wanting to be there.

At the time, I didn't belong anywhere - or, more likely, belonged everywhere. United States, Canada, Finland, Svalbard, Alaska, Norway, it was all fair game; I felt young, free and contentedly rootless.

I left Estonia with 21 kg of living/hiking gear packed away into my rucksack, and whatever else needed keeping for whilst I was away, I shoved away in a few cardboard boxes and left it all on top of a cupboard in my mother's apartment. I was somewhat minimalistic (simplistic?) in my belongings anyway, so there wasn't much to start with.

And now, five years later, I can see in retrospect that I have, in fact, emigrated and that I have, in fact, become a "väliseestlane", a foreign Estonian. Do I "belong" in New Zealand though?

Not sure yet. Somewhere further down south, maybe.

But why I'm thinking about this stuff now is that I think of the relationships I've left behind in that little, cute, Nordic country with its snowy winters and long, light-filled summer nights, and I think how these relationships have had to adapt over time, over the internet, essentially.

When people "move" abroad - like, emigrate - with packed-up households and researched school zones and potential jobs looked up ahead of time, there is some sort of finality to it all; it gets passed right down through relationships. But when they just go "travelling" - like I did - and never come back, the process of change comes much more erratically and can be downright confusing for some.

Take the stuff boxed up in my mother's apartment, for example.

I'm not sure if I've really had a conversation of "That's it, I think I'm staying here, guys" with my family. For several years the boxes full of stuff were awaiting a decision on what's going to happen to them - and me - until last year my mother sold off my motorcycling gear (and there was quite a bit of it) through a form of Estonian eBay, and that decision alone implied a some form of communication to take place before knowing whether this stuff has to go, or wait for another few years for some more apparent "decision"; and it's very similar to how many of my Estonian friendships and acquaintances have gone.

A lot of it is still, emotionally speaking, hanging. And though I like the "hanginess", and the infrequent letters and e-mails I exchange with people I still hold dear to me, it is also so... "hangy".

But, sorry, gotta go now. Toddler-duty.

Antenatal depression? Or not?

My feelings on this topic are ambivalent. Is it a natural reaction to being drained of nutrients after an illness? Or is it an onset of a depression?

Or is it both, an onset of a depression in reaction to body being drained of nutrients?

I'm struggling. Physically still weak and tired, almost everything feels like a chore, mentally. This morning I sat on the floor next to a sofa and cried - again - because I did not want to do any dishes, or feed the dog, or start the log burner, or do any of the other tasks that need doing. The Kid stood next to me and patted my back, and then started bringing me toys, and a while later, a handkerchief.

It's a no-brainer that I'm low on salts - frequent cramps in my calves, for one, is a direct sign of needing more magnesium. It's a no-brainer, also, that I would be low on stuff - several days of this "tummy bug" that accompanied my cold (I think it's probably quite self-explanatory here what I mean by a "tummy bug") made sure that lots of nutrients simply got flushed out of my system, and it's hard to build them back now with the little one draining my reserves, and diabetes limiting the amount and type of food I can have.

But where I get ambivalent is in deciding how long to wait for it to get better, before going to see someone and saying, look, I think I may have a depression. How many mornings do I need to sit and cry before it ceases being a case of simply being tired after an illness, and becomes a case of something else?

I'm eating to the best of my abilities as it is, and I am taking extra iron, and extra magnesium, and extra C vitamin, and extra B vitamins in form of supplements. But how long do I wait for this tiredness and weakness and general lack of enthusiasm to subside before thinking, hey, I've got a problem here?

It's quite impressive, actually, how quickly this cold made its way, and what condition it's left me in.

On being ill

I'm really bad at being ill.

Weak and tired, I haven't much energy to do stuff, but being a parent, having a real rest isn't really an option: toddler wakes up in the morning and from then onwards, for him it's all game on, regardless of whether I feel like I want to curl up in a ball or not. There are no grandparents or family to load him off onto, so ill or not, parenting's on.

So I move about and I do things, and for a few days it sort of works, but then by a third day - today - it's a crash. Like, a real crash - whatever reserves I've had, I think I've spent them.

For most of today, I've felt like I've wanted to cry. For some part, I've even done that.

I haven't the patience. I haven't the excitement. I resent the weather, the dog, the toddler, the dishes, the cold and just, generally, life.

Having started to recover from my illness, physically, I've developed an appetite for food (yay!), but because my gestational diabetes is still out of whack due to being ill (oh no...) - even foods that I've known are safe to eat have bumped my sugar numbers over the limit for the past few days - I've spent most of my morning hungry. Do you know what it feels like being pregnant, weak and hungry?

What it means, for example, is that today I would've seriously considered calling up Christchurch Women's and saying, f*ck this, put me on insulin so I can eat, please - but being a long Easter weekend outpatients' physicians are all out of the office until Tuesday, of course, so even insulin hasn't been an option; I've resented diabetes and being hungry and being pregnant among and on top of other things.

By late afternoon I was so clogged up in my head that I simply walked out the door and said to The Man I was going to go for a drive because I couldn't think of a single thing that would make me feel happy.

That - that's how beautifully crap I am at being ill, and how quickly I downgrade from reasonable to crying in a car because I cannot think of what else would make me feel better.

Time - time will make it better - but I'm not good with time. I want to get better NOW!

A moan

I told The Man I don't get ill often. He replied that no, I don't - but when I do, I do it properly.

Right about now I feel like I would like someone to put me out for a day or two, so I can wake up when most of this stuff is over.

Grumpy and congested

Wow this came on quick...

Last night, a sore throat started to make itself known. Then, during the day, other cold symptoms appeared. And now, at 1 o'clock at night, I am sitting up in the living room trying to unblock my nose as it's way too painful to breathe through my mouth.

Seriously, I've had enough of this cold, wet stuff! I want sunshine, goddammit!, to dry and air out the house, and to stop frickin' drying clothes inside! No wonder all three of us have come down with illnesses in the last couple of days. Only The Dog seems to be doing her usual happy self.

Three weeks of rain. Three (!) weeks (!).

* Edited to add: 4 am. Same thing again.

What's likely to start/induce labour?

Alright, SO: I'd like to ask for your input on something!

Usually I shy away from advice given by commenters - it tends to come uninvited or unwanted, the more sensitive the topic, the crazier the advice - but this time, hola!, I'm up for hearing whatever you guys think is out there.

And the question is: what are the things you're aware of or have heard of to be potential labour-starters? Like, things that would induce contractions in a woman that is nearing full term in her pregnancy?

I am aware, yes, that most - if not all - of the things that are likely to be suggested here will be of unproven efficacy. Say, if a woman drank raspberry leaf tea and went into labour at 39 weeks, it's not really known whether she went into labour because of drinking raspberry leaf tea, or whether she would've gone into labour anyway.

But I figure, things that won't hurt, I might as well try, on the blessing of my midwife.

I am slowly nearing full term (34 weeks now, yay!) and being a diabetic VBAC I am now aware that in all likelihood I will be allowed to wait for natural labour to start until 40 weeks, and after that - it will depend on obstetricians on duty, of course, and what me and The Man will have to say about all this, of course - but in all likelihood I will then either be given an option of being induced with Syntocinon + breaking the waters, or straight up elective caesarean because, as a rule, Christchurch Women's doesn't allow diabetic VBACs go overdue.

And so because of that, I figure that from 38 weeks onwards - if all still looks lovely and uncomplicated - I might as well try whatever looks reasonable, yes?, because the best option here, really, is if my contractions start naturally sometime before the due date, rather than going down the induction road.

I'll do my own googling and I will discuss whatever we will be trying with my midwife, but for the sake of having an array of options to choose from - please feel free to let loose! =D All help welcome.

What've you heard of?
Anything you've tried?
Anything you've had friends and family try, and have heard of?

Teas, massages, sex positions, whatever - I'm all ears! =)

On weight

It occurred to me yesterday that since getting diagnosed with gestational diabetes almost two months ago I haven't put on any weight. Like, nada - it does change a liiiiiiiittle bit, plus-minus 400-500 grams depending on when/where I get weighed, but generally speaking it's been pretty much the same since week "when I stopped eating yummy stuff" which was, what, 28? So 6 weeks ago?

In some ways it isn't surprising - I did tell my dietician right at the beginning already (when we were going through the list of things I am not allowed to eat any more) that I doubt I'll be putting any more weight on with this diet. In fact, I just may be able to hold on to what I already have.

But the thing that occurred to me yesterday was that, wait a minute, if the baby keeps growing, and the amount of amniotic fluid has grown, too, and my belly is getting bigger by the day - but my weight is staying the same - does that mean that the rest of my body is actually losing weight? Am I, like, getting thinner or something?

Am I?

I asked The Man for an opinion and he - straight up - said yes.

"What, like, visibly?" I looked at him, eyebrows lifted in surprise.
"Yeah, I think so," he replied simply, looked up and down my body, and then added something about my "puppy fat" (whatever that is) not being there any more.

And I sort of went... "Oh."

Because here's the thing: I was, actually, hoping to put on about 10 kg all up and to then keep it there for a while.

I remember when we were in Dunedin NICU with The Kid three years ago: my breastmilk wasn't coming and someone pointed out to us that I didn't have much excess weight to work from; that apparently being a little overweight helps, at least as far as breastfeeding goes.

I remember those big platefuls I then gobbled down for a while, "working" - quite literally - to put on some weight, quickly. I did get a few raised eyebrows from people that hadn't seen me for a while, when I returned to Wanaka softer and plushier than ever before, but hell with that - I was breastfeeding!

This time I was hoping to get there ahead of time, to put the weight on over a longer period of time and consistently, but... yeah. I can't really see that happening, not with this bloody glucose monitor thingy.

Custard squares.
Gooey caramel-filled brownies.

That's what I'm having once this thing is over!

True dat!

Source: hmdynasty.tumblr.com/post/81186448500

Mechanics must "love" women

I felt like an idiot this morning and, as I was doing that, I felt pity towards my mechanic. Poor guy, women like me - to him - must look and sound like a different kind of species, let alone another gender.

It was a pretty typical situation, I think: Bruce (my car) had started making this... shushy-rattly sound about a week and a half ago, and revving whilst in neutral, and so I took her in for a WOF / service / repair-if-needed this morning.

Picture us standing in that yard, me and my mechanic.

"So what sort of a sound is it?" he asks.
"It's like this... sssssshhhhh sort of a sound," I say...
/ mechanic is probably thinking, "Yeah, a "sssssssshhh sort of a sound" - that just about explains it, woman." /
... "And she's doing it when we're either going up the hill or speeding up on the flats. On the left hand side of the bonnet there."

Mechanic nods and files it away in his head; asks me about the revving issue, I explain. He files that away in his head also. Just before I go, he says to me that he'll quickly check something and - he then goes and fetches a... watering can.

A watering (!) can.

(The mechanically minded people among you, you probably already know where this is going, don't you?)

Mechanic lets Bruce's engine run, opens a little black lid next to where I think a radiator opening is, and starts pouring in water. Litres, litres, litres of water.

I look at it pouring down, horrified, and think to myself, have I been driving around on an empty radiator!? But he's pouring it down the wrong hole! Radiator water goes in that hole where the lid says "coolant"!

As I am standing there, thinking that, he keeps on pouring in water.

Soon yucky grimy green liquid starts bubbling up from that hole, litres of it. A puddle forms under Bruce and when it stops bubbling, my mechanic turns the engine off, lets her cool down a little and starts pouring in water again.

And as we take a drive together a little later, none of the problems are there any more - no shushy-rattly sounds ("a sssssssshhhhh sort of a sound"), no revving, no... nothing. Just a car that drives.

And I suddenly learn, at 29 years of age, that there's actually two lids to a radiator, a yellow one that says "coolant" and a black one which should get topped up with water, also.

And even more embarrassingly, when my mechanic asks when was Bruce serviced last, I say that whenever she gets a WOF - I just ask her to get serviced at the same time as WOF, so I don't have to.

He looks up at the WOF sticker on the windscreen, "But we did her WOF last time?"
I brush it off, "Oh, I must've forgotten to ask then. I'm pretty sure she was done the time before that though."

Idiot. Maria, you're an idiot.

Because my mechanic goes through his records and finds that they've never serviced Bruce before, not in the 1.5 years that I've been here.

And now I am sitting here, thinking, nice work, Maria, nice work. 

I've been driving around a car that I thought was serviced - because I thought I had asked - and instead, she probably hasn't for a year and a half already, and on top of that, she had an almost empty radiator.

This - this is why mechanics must just looooooooooooove women, at least women like me.

Jesus Christ, Maria, a car with an empty radiator. You're like one of those people from those booklets they have at mechanical shops, where they write that it's important that you top up whatever needs topping up because otherwise your car may be unsafe to drive.

And you know why they often have photos of women on those booklets?

Because go look in the mirror, that's why.

On rain

We're coming up to three weeks without a single dry day in between - up here, anyway - and the weather forecast keeps looking like this:

I'm, how to say it politely... over it. Winter weather, yeah; cold, yeah; even rain is "yeah" for a while - but this, this... this ongoing cold, humid, rainy stuff that just keeps on going and going and going... Bhuah.

(Can I at least have ONE day in between when I can hang up our washing on the line, please? One?)

Meanwhile, our neighboring farmers are saying the pastures are looking flusher now, in April, than they do in spring.

Well, good on you, guys, but I would still like to put my washing out on the line for a change, and go out on the lawn without seeing my gumboots leave indents in every place I've stepped, and go in the garden and pick tomatoes and radishes that haven't "blown up" from the oversupply of water.

Water is good, rain is good, but I'm just not so keen on having it every. Single. Day like that.

Parts of Banks Peninsula already had a record-breaking March rainfall. Does April really need to do the same?

On Ukraine and Russia

Does anyone else also find it cruelly amusing that when Russia is meddling with Ukraine it says it is "protecting" Russians within another country's borders? But when any of the several dozen ethnic groups within Russia - and many of them comprise a majority within their regions, and not a minority - try to have some sort of a semi-autonomic setup, Russia calls it separatism and terrorism and, quite literally, bombs the heck out of civilians?

On the same note, Masha Gessen's The Man Without a Face is a pretty good read if you're interested.

There are too many Russian names scattered throughout the text for my liking, and I think it may make it somewhat confusing for non-Russian speakers, but if you try and ignore the names and just look at it in a nutshell - an anti-Putin journalist, killed, a Chechen-friendly journalist, killed, an opposition leader, killed, a pro-democratic businessman, imprisoned - then you may just walk away from this book counting your lucky stars that you haven't been born a Russian citizen.

For me, it was weird reading this book because having grown up watching - among other things - Russian television channels the likes of RTR, ORT and NTV, many of the events Masha Gessen was describing in retrospect were WAY different from what I remember them being presented as back then. The rhetoric was so different!

As I was reading the more memorable bits out loud to The Man, he kept asking how it is possible to get away with stuff like that, how would people of a country let something like this happen, over the years in an ever-growing intensity, and I could only think that... back then, you just didn't know.

Sure, I was only a teenager in the late 90's so my picture of what a state television channel was like and how politics were portrayed is very watered down not only because I don't remember much of it, but because I wasn't politically engaged anyway - however, even I, in my "teenagerness", remember that what I learned about the theatre siege, and the school siege, and Politkovskaya, and Khodorkovsky, and Gusinsky and whatever, was NOT what I was now reading from Masha Gessen's account, and Masha's account makes quite a bit of sense.

I don't understand what's happening in Ukraine at the moment, but I have a feeling that there is going to be a lot of confusing, misinterpreted and false accounts of the events and it's not going to be until ten, twenty years later when this stuff becomes "history" that it will be properly understood and in retrospect, so many things will probably become oh-so-apparent.

It's the beauty of hindsight right there.

What my birth will be like

Something I forgot to add to my previous post.

I came across a sentence at Birth Without Fear yesterday that, just like to the person who wrote it, spoke to me.

"Earlier in the week, our friend Maggie told me that my birth will be whatever I need it to be at this moment in my life. Those words will forever haunt and inspire me."

It's what I feel this pregnancy is like for me, too, and what the birth - however it will go - will be like. No matter what it will be like, it will be what I need at this particular moment in my life now, and so will be my daughter.

I don't understand why exactly, but this sentence fills me with... something bordering on peace and hope, or maybe encouragement.

Oh, and by the way, you - you the ones I know have prayed for me, even though you know I do not share your gods and your religions - thank you.

I feel thought of and supported. Encouraged. And helped.

Thank you.

On being good

(Okay, yeah, so I've done something, like, four posts in two days - a blogging diarrhoea - but here's another one.)

I am so relieved and so, so, so knackered!

I think it's the experience of having had a bit of a difficult birth the first time around, and being classified as high risk this time around - due to diabetes, previous Caesarean, previous IUGR etc - but I've been feeling a bit... "on my toes" about this pregnancy lately.

Nothing's been outright wrong, thank heavens, and we're coming along nicely, we really are!, but it's this label of "high risk" and the potential for problems down the line that's been making me a little apprehensive.

These past few weeks of getting past 30+ weeks have been sort of crucial, in more ways than I can probably care to elaborate on.

One has been, of course, gestational diabetes: as much as I've been doing a good job of managing it with diet and exercise, I've also been acutely aware of the fact that sometime around 28-32 weeks it may intensify considerably, regardless of my efforts, and because that process would be driven by pregnancy hormones then there would be very little me and doctors would be able to do, apart from putting me on Metmorfin or insulin, or both.

And I knew that if that, indeed, turned out to be the case - that if I did, indeed, need drugs to help me manage my blood sugars - then doctors would start pushing me towards an early Caesarean at 38 weeks, and I didn't really... want that. As much as I wanted a healthy child and a healthy mother, regardless of how we got there, I also wanted to at least have a chance of getting there on my own, without heading straight down the surgery theatre way, and possibly NICU way.

I've already been down to the surgery theatre way, and NICU. I know what it's like.

The other things have, of course, been the post-Caesarean part (how will the scar look once we're a bit further along?), the thyroid levels (will they start declining, like they did last time?), the blood flow to the placenta (will it start calcifying, like it did last time?) and, most of all, the "how the baby grows" part, which has depended on everything listed above, and many things more.

I've known and felt week by week that this pregnancy is different from what it was like with The Kid in almost every way I can think of, and I've been somewhat ambivalently sure (if that makes sense to you?) that we've been fine, both of us - but I've needed to have my support system of midwives and doctors assuring me that we are doing fine.

Four, five weeks ago when "high risk" labels first started getting bandied around, there was a lot of talk about things that may - or may not - go wrong, and it's part of medical professionals' job to inform and prepare people in case things do go off the beaten track a bit, so there aren't big shocking meltdowns happening afterwards.

But as much as they've been repeating to me that, at this stage, everything is looking fine and hopefully everything will continue on looking fine, it has also been the case of "let's wait and see", and "let's meet again in a fortnight", and "we'll know better once the results are in".

Basically, that you're doing good, but just be aware that it may change soon, mmkay?

And so, because of all that stuff that I have listed above, what I saw and heard at the Women's Hospital today really... made my day.

It wore me out, sure - but it also made my day.

Pretty much every person I came into contact with today - a radiologist, a diabetes physician, a dietician, an obstetrician, a testing centre nurse - they were all happy with where I was standing at this particular moment in my pregnancy, and none of them had any qualms about their particular part of my medical history and circumstances (a first!), and so for the first time it really did feel like it was a green light all the way through.

I have made it to 33 weeks, which in many ways is a sort of a cut-off point. A lot of the hormonal changes have done their spikes already, and if I have managed to get to here without having to alter my regular medications and their dosages, then in all likelihood it will stay that way, too.

I have managed - and been lucky enough - to not have to use diabetes drugs, and so medically speaking it has allowed me safe passage towards a potential natural labour (whether it'll happen or not is another story, but at least it's an option).

And as is the case with many post-NICU parents, I looked at the numbers charted on the ultrasound screen today  (2+ kg, 30+ percentile, all measurements dated to 32 weeks or later) and let out an audible sigh, I think.

It must be the experience of having been around clear plastic bassinets and blue lights and oxygen masks and intravenous drips - NICU paraphernalia, basically - (do post-NICU parents ever get over that? Ever?) - but I looked at those numbers today and felt my tummy and smiled towards my daughter and felt like we were... getting out into clear, and that I didn't have to prove myself to anyone any more. They could see it all on their computer screens, if they wanted to: me and my daughter were doing fine.

And with that, I may just sign off for today and go some dishes or something.

It's nice to be good.

Crazy morning

Oh. My. God.

I am sitting in the kitchen eating breakfast, it is seven o'clock already, and THE KID IS STILL ASLEEP!

This is surreal. This is, like... wow. It feels like a vacation. It's so quiet and nice!

On size

Tomorrow, I will be 33 weeks pregnant.

I have started to "feel" it. Whatever I was doing at 33 weeks previous time I was pregnant - ain't happening! I feel tired and move around quite laboriously, and get back/hip/tummy aches easily, and I am definitely not playing any ball games this time around! (As opposed to what I was doing last time, with weekly Pilates sessions and climbing an apple tree and whatever else I was doing, a nutter.)

Women keep telling me how I am not looking like I am 33 weeks pregnant, that they were "looking like that" when they were 23 weeks pregnant, or simply bloated, or whatever. Sometimes I even get asked if the baby is small inside.

After having tried a few times and seen how long it takes to explain to people that tummy size isn't necessarily correlated to how big the baby is inside, I have started to... ignore it, ignore the constant "you're not very big, are you!" attitude that I seem to come across again and again.

I'm not in a mood for giving a long lecture, but here's a few bullet points to get the idea across - in case you're interested, but haven't heard this stuff before.

Amniotic fluid and the amount of it - it's got a lot to do with how big the tummy is looking. When women have lots of fluid, their bellies balloon and midwives struggle to even palpate their babies because little critters "float away" inside their mothers' tummies; when they have little, then a lot of the pregnant belly is the actual child inside, plus placenta.

I'm on the low end of the spectrum.

People come in different shapes and sizes - that idea applies to pregnancies, too, you know! Hardcore abs, for example, may make it difficult for the belly to "pop", and where/how placenta lay affects the shape, and many other things.

A friend of mine gave birth to a 3.4 kg baby boy last winter, for example, and her neighbors - apparently - didn't even know she was pregnant when she came home from the hospital, a child in tow. (I mean, yeah, it was wintertime, so there were lots of big jackets involved... but still. You know?)

I'm not sure if I even want to keep on going on this topic.

Basically, what I think I am trying to say here is that the size of my tummy - the part that sticks out, anyway - does not correlate necessarily with the amount of space that has been squished out of my other internal organs (how other women feel, I don't know, because I am not them, but I do feel how far my lungs have been pushed, and my stomach, and my bladder n' stuff), how big my baby is (we're well monitored with fortnightly ultrasounds and we're coming along nicely, really) or whatever else has been said about my tummy.

But I'm just not fussed enough to actually talk about it, so if you, too, tell me how I'm not looking like I am 33 weeks pregnant, then most likely I will reply with a random "Uhoh, yeah" and a smile.

And then I'll probably go and use the bathroom to empty my bladder, as I do at least a dozen times a day, because there ain't any spare space left in that little bugger!

Because the space that was is now taken over by my daughter. Ahem!

Rainy thoughts

It's been raining for several days now. Down on the flats it's probably not as bad, but up here we are often enveloped in a cloud, so even if it is not outright "raining" it is this white, humid fog of a cloud surrounding us, which makes it feel like the rain is just hanging in the air.

The grass hasn't dried for, oh, I don't know, over a week. Wet, sprinkly, damp... humidity.

I hate it, or maybe not quite "hate" it, but sure don't like it. The house feels cold, clothes hang heavy and toes take ages to warm up. A friend who came for a visit last week said that our house feels like one of those old farmhouses, where regardless of weather it is always just a little bit humid and, in winter, chilly - the sort of houses everyone used to live in thirty, fourty years ago. (At least in New Zealand.) Single glazing, breezy floorboards, jiggly doors - you probably know the sort of a house I'm talking about.

For a comparison, when I went to visit that friend a week earlier, I asked if she had a log burner going or a heat pump maybe, because it felt dry and warm, though the weather outside was rainy and cold -  and not surprisingly, she said no, no heating, just... a house. Ventilation, insulation, basic stuff.

On days like this I crave... friends; friends I can sit down with and just talk, heart to heart, about old stories and new stories and how these new stories fit with our old experiences.

I crave... company. Interaction. Smart, silly, challenging discussions. Another adult, basically!

And what I also do a lot of on days like this is think.

I keep re-playing our Dunedin-going story in my head and weighing it up against what my life is like here, and putting stuff on one side, and the other side, and then walking around with those imaginary scales, convincing myself that it's worth staying for another year, that Christchurch is worth sticking with.

It's... it's not my city. I'm not a Christchurch girl. Especially not a rurally living Christchurch girl!

Christchurch is so spread out, so isolated in a sense of pockets of houses, big lots, high fences, people driving such long distances from where they are sleeping to where they are working.

I was driving home yesterday from town and as I kept stopping at one traffic light, then another, then another, I said to The Man how I so wish Christchurch had "green lanes" where traffic lights are managed to get the traffic moving steadily and consistently, without constant stop-and-go which, on top of everything else, fills the air with exhaust fumes and in Christchurch, that stuff doesn't clear well, not in winter anyway.

The Man smirked and said I tell him that every time I drive. (Really? Do I?)

It made me wonder. How many things are there like that, where I keep thinking "I like this" or "I don't like this" on a daily basis, without realising that I'm doing it?

But most of all, I think I just need a sounding board on days like this, someone to bounce ideas off of - but instead, I am enveloped in a cloud.

Good morning

On things that are important

I watched him go, excited and nervous, and thought to myself - or, rather, felt it - that we're in a good space in our lives right now.

It's a bit of a nuisance, sure, balancing our lives and our wants against having small children with us (which, by the way - having small children, that is - makes for the entire pace of life to slow down, considerably), but there is also something so simply romantic about these slow Saturday mornings we have, when the house is enveloped in a low cloud, it is oh-so-quiet, we have peanut butter toast for breakfast (okay, the boys have peanut butter toast and I have a carrot and an apple) and as we lay in bed watching a movie together, The Man holds his hand over my tummy and feels his daughter kick.

It almost makes me cry with gratitude.

There are many things I am not doing at the moment, things I want to be doing, but... at the same time, there is such beauty in what's happening now, in what I am doing, now.

It doesn't make much sense as a blog post, sorry for that, but I am just laying here and typing what I am feeling as The Man is on his way to a meeting which may alter his life considerably, and as I watch him go, I am so happy to see him strive again!

It's a balance between working hours and childcare arrangements and financial matters and everything else that happens within a family unit at this stage in our lives, but on the background of all of that, there are the important matters which... matter.

Am I happy? Are you happy?

I have watched several people close to me change their lives considerably recently, picking up dreams they've held for a while and deciding that rather than wait and put things off - there are always reasons to put things off, and always will be - that they will just find a way to follow their dreams now, and... you know what?

They've all found a way. Somehow, between working hours and childcare arrangements and financial matters, they've found a way to do things that are important to them and it's been a joy to witness it all - moves abroad, moves home from abroad, enrolling in courses and universities, changing careers.

And it's made me recount over and over again how I enjoy working with and being around people that inspire me.

I am not here to listen to "You shouldn't"-s or "You can't"-s or "That's not how it's done"-s, because I know for a fact now that I can always find a person who's already done something I want to be doing, and if they can do it, so can I.

And it's a joy to see The Man feel the "I can!" emotion pumping from within him, to see him pick up an amulet he carved from a bone several years ago and to see him slide his fingers across little markings he's carved into that bone - one line for work, one line for family, one line for life and the balance between the two - and to fasten the amulet around his neck where it belongs.

For several years now he has not worn it and I've seen it sit in his drawer, quietly and patiently, waiting for the time when he is ready to pick it up again, to remind himself of the things that are important and... it makes me grateful, it really does.

Off to pick up The Kid now, he's just woken from his afternoon nap.

On having gestational diabetes

Has internet (and world) changed? Or was I walking around with selective vision before?

Everywhere I look now there are photos of gooey caramel-filled brownies, and pastries with cream fillings, and cheesecakes of every imaginable color and size. Endlessly attractive desserts, basically.

Meanwhile, I stab my fingers with that bloody glucose monitor again and go get myself another carrot, or an apple, or a cucumber, or something else along those lines.

You know how they keep on repeating that people should eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day? And preferably even 7, but because 7 is a hard push then they say eat at least 5?

I've got a solution: make people have a mild case of diabetes and it's sorted. Okay, yeah, so some people will probably go onto insulin injections instead and continue eating as they've always been eating - rather than try and correct it with diet, as I have... but still.


I've got a sweet tooth, I really do. Always have, and probably will, too.

Three weeks in I am sort of starting to resent my husband - along with every other person I witness eating wonderfully gooey desserts, well, everywhere - and I am also starting to resent the green-looking vegetables in our fridge, and how the freezer is stocked with fish and chicken, and how I am probably eating more fruit and vegetables now than I ever have in my life whilst I am wanting to eat a wonderful portion of slightly bitter tiramisu instead.

So you think I've done enough complaining? Well, tough luck - I am not done yet.

I want... cheesecake. Salted butter pecan ice cream. Chocolate-covered mint cookies I can dip in my tea. Tiramisu. Raspberry-melon smoothie with mint. Rich, rich pumpkin soup.

Not little bites every now and again, but decent, filling portions!

And, for Pete's sake, I want a decent bowl of porridge for breakfast! Not wholegrain oats with green milk and a few berries for lunch, but porridge, for breakfast. I want breakfast that fills. For hours!

That lots of people have diabetes and that some people even say that diabetes is one of the best things that has ever happened to them because it's made them get healthy, result of which is that they've toned up and slimmed down and have started to eat well...

Well, good on you, guys, but I am - personally - looking forward to delivering my placenta and keeping my fingers crossed that diabetes leaves my body alongside it, because this is annoying; not as much hard as it is annoying.

There are people eating wonderfully gooey desserts all around me, all the time, writing about it on the internet, posting their photos, and I keep on seeing all this stuff around me and thinking, yeah, I guess I'll take a bite out of my apple now, and I think I have a carrot in the bottom of my bag here, too.

Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Taylor, Halle Berry, Larry King, Neil Young... the list can be long, especially if women with gestational diabetes get added (hi, Salma Hayek!), but I do not intend on being on that list.

I want my chocolate - not dark Ghana in minuscule quantities, but decent Whittaker's milk chocolate.

Another morning rant

I showed someone my middle finger yesterday and actually felt proud for having done so.

Look, I'm not an a$$hole generally speaking: I do swear somewhat freely, but usually it's to let out an emotion (for example, upon having dropped The Dog's raw chicken on the floor you'd probably catch me muttering, "Oh for f*ck's sake!") and not because I'm swearing at, you know, someone.

But this lady yesterday... I mean, geesh, I would've happily said a few things to her. At her!

You know when you're driving down a road and traffic is backed up across several intersections? Picture, say, Colombo street in Christchurch during morning rush hour. I'm pretty sure it's a legal requirement on top of just being a reasonable thing to do, but... even if the green light is on, if there is not enough space on the other side of the intersection to get the car off the intersection then instead of stopping in the middle of an intersection (where you'd end up blocking other traffic as soon as lights turn) you wait until traffic has moved and then drive over.

Easy. Reasonable. Considerate.

But this lady behind me, apparently, had other ideas. (Khm-khm... nitwit!)

I was stopped at an intersection, the green light was on. There wasn't enough space on the other side to get across so I waited, paying attention to traffic ahead, when suddenly a beat-up looking car behind me started honking its horn at me.

Beep! Beep! Beeeeeeeeeeeeeep!

"What? Where?" was my first reaction, quickly looking around to see if there was an ambulance wanting to get through or something, but no - it was just this woman waving her hands at me and honking. "Oh go... somewhere!" I muttered under my breath and started paying attention to traffic ahead of me again, whilst she was busy doing:

Beep! Beep! Beeeeeeeeeeeeeep!

Then, just as I could see that cars were about to start moving ahead of me, I pushed on the accelerator gently to get the car rolling and... BEEEEEEEEEEP!

The f*cking woman's car was next to me!

There was no spare line for her to be in, so she was busy speeding around me - like, in the middle of an intersection - just as my car was moving across the intersection, too, and as she was doing that she, again, honked her horn.


I'm sorry, it's totally one of those blog posts where I am writing down a novel about an event that took less than 15 seconds in real life, but, geeesh!, I could've so easily chopped off this woman's head after that intersection there.

She was stuck behind me for another 20 seconds as we were driving in line of traffic down Colombo street and for about 10 consecutive seconds I held up my middle finger for her to see.

And, listen: I understand that sometimes there really is an emergency, say, someone's in labour and needs to be driven to hospital or something, and I do leave this woman here a bit of a doubt in case hers was an emergency also, but, look lady!, make your way around other traffic at intersections slowly then - carefully - and you may even put on your blinkers so that other people can see that something's up. And, for f*ck's sake, don't BEEEEEEP! at them like that!

Bot don't be an a$$hole, please, and then I won't be having to show you my middle finger through a rearview window, okay?



I was hanging up our washing yesterday and dropped a clothes pin. First I just stood there and looked at it, but then I said to myself, "Come on, you can do it," and bent down, groaning, to pick it up.

And then I laughed because it reminded me of a poster I once saw: