A bit pissed off at the moment

I don't feel healthy at the moment. In part, it's not a surprise: the last month and a half has been tough. For the amount of distress, and lack of rest, and a lack of sleep, and a lack of control I feel I have over the circumstances, it's only normal to expect me to feel unwell.

But don't get me wrong: if I walked into a doctor's office today, they'd say I'm fine; 'cause, physically, I am.

But I don't feel well. I don't feel strong, nor healthy at the moment. I'm not even managing the epilepsy too well - the consumption of water is off, and the amount of good quality of sleep I am getting, and the food I eat, and the kind of exercise I get. It's not good.

It's not bad bad - but it's not good.

I don't get full-on generalised seizures, but I do get the small stuff, the what they call "simple partial" seizures. I feel the condition building for a couple of days until I get a day of it, and then it takes two-three days to get off it again; and it sucks.

It's also distressing to feel what it does to my mental capacities: I'd go to log on to my internet banking and not know what my access code is, hand someone a pan but forget what it's called - "p...p... p... it starts with p" I'd think to myself, but not be able to actually get the word stored in my brain somewhere, "pan", because it would feel like the word just is not there. I'd look at a person and think, man, I've met you somewhere, but I can't remember where. Or think of a name but not know if it's actually the right one. Step into a kitchen and think, what did I come here for?

For all I know, it's the stress and tiredness and overwhelming amount of information that's doing it, but if some day in the future I sit in a neurologist's office and they ask, when did I start noticing the gradual decline in neurological function, I'd say 29. Right after the epilepsy itself started.

And it sucks to feel that way, but heck, I've got four working limbs and a decent heart and strong lungs and I am going to make the best with what I've got, even if the thing that matters to me a lot - my brain - is not doing that well at the moment.

And, to ask that you don't get me wrong here either: it's not bad bad. I can still get the highest score on a school test, and run cosines on a roof angle calculation, and cope with my life.

But I can tell the difference.

And I am looking forward to next week.

Because on Wednesday, The Kid is starting school. The week after that I am probably going to catch up on my overdue school assignments. Maybe in a month there is going to be a pattern and a rhythm to our days again. The house will get insulated, the heat pump installed. The roof gutter will get fixed so that water isn't rushing down our porch ceiling and seeping under our front door, and the masses of greenwaste piled up in our yard will go to the composting station.

I'm sure something else will pop up, like it seems to do at the moment, but I'll deal with it once I'm there.

At a crash site

A couple of days ago I witnessed a car crash. Not just cars that had crashed, but the crash itself - I was looking at the intersection as it happened.

One car come through a give-way intersection without stopping and ended up right in front of another who was driving down the main road. A loud bump, window glasses and bumper plastics flying out, a car coming to a stop at the wall of a building.

I ran towards them and was fishing out my mobile phone on the go, ready to call for an ambulance.

Of the three people, two were looking scared and anxious, but physically alright. The third - a guy whose side of the car took most of the impact, right into where he was sitting - was obviously in shock. Eyes wide, he was looking out into "nothingness" and not focusing on anything in particular.

I was standing at his window - the glass was all gone -, "Are you alright?" He looked in my direction and was motioning towards his chest. "Sore," he replied and then started looking around with that dazed look again. There was blood on his hands. "Am I bleeding?" he asked, looking at me. "Not from your head, no," I replied, not knowing what else to do.

At that point, another woman arrived. Straight away she knelt at his window, face close to his, and started talking in an assured, calm voice. "Hi, my name is Shirley. What's your name?"

"Paul," he replied.
- "Hi Paul. How are you feeling?"
- "Sore."
- "I bet. Tell me where does it hurt, please."

I walked away, leaving them to it. I had The Girlie to pick up from preschool and the woman looked like she knew what she was doing. Three other people were at the scene, helping.

I left my phone number with one of them in case police needed a witness report later (they did) and walked towards preschool.

And I thought, man, that's what was necessary.

I've been through several first aid courses. I think I know, mostly, what to do with people that are injured - physically - but I have never learned, I don't think, what to do mentally, like that woman was doing: engaging the injured man in a conversation, gaging his wellbeing through his answers, getting him to focus on her, offering comfort.

I think I'd like to learn that.

On permafrost


Sitting in the library, working on my "10 potential problems with soils" assignment, it was easy for me to write about the potential challenge presented by permafrost. I could, almost without having to consult any outside sources at all, describe the sort of building standards that are used in Savlbard where I spent the winter of 2008.

I didn't even have to google to find a photo to illustrate the text: I had it on my computer, a building support pile in the Russian town of Barentsburg.

But I wanted to check how deep the top layer of permafrost melts each summer, when sun comes out.

So I googled it.

And in the top I saw, instead, photos and new stories of this: Arctic stronghold of world’s seeds flooded after permafrost melts, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/19/arctic-stronghold-of-worlds-seeds-flooded-after-permafrost-melts


The winter that I was in Svalbard, they had already encountered what were considered "unusual" weather conditions. There was rain that was immediately followed by heavy frost, which covered the ground in a layer of dense ice and made it difficult for reindeer to survive, given that they couldn't get the food from underneath it. (So the hungry fellas started "pinching" hay from our dog kennels instead.)

There were winds which drove snow in unusual directions, closing our access roads and covering our vehicles.

An outhouse. Not that we were using it anymore... for obvious reasons.

And now I'm reading about the "doomsday vault" and water gushing into its entrance.




A long rant about schools and life's decisions

I still think it's going to be months - or at least weeks - until I breach the topic of our school change again. It's ruffled me up on so many personal levels.

It has made me ask: am I some sort of an overprotective, whinging a$$hole of a parent?

Or have I really stumbled upon something that years from now people look back on and think, yeah, that probably wasn't such a good idea?

I've looked at other people and wondered: how does that make sense to you? I've wondered, are they missing something?

I've asked myself, am I missing something? Is there some sort of an underlying, unspoken, cultural difference that I am not aware of, but one that makes sense regardless?

I've spent weeks thinking about it all.

I still feel raw about the process.


On another hand, maybe give it a go on the blog right now?


One of the first things I did, after I had attended The Kid's first school visit - and I mean, after I called our RTLB and sobbed on the phone - was that I called up a lady I knew who works as a teacher aide in another Invercargill school, and asked if she would meet with me for a talk.

We met, and I described to her the things I had seen in the classroom that had made me uncomfortable, and I asked her to explain her teaching experience to me.

On one hand, I wanted someone to confirm my feelings, but on another hand I really did hope that she was going to be able to diffuse my anxiety and say, it's okay, Maria, this is how it works. That somehow, magically, she would be able to explain to me that what I saw in The Kid's first new entrant class is entirely logical and I'm just unfamiliar with the schooling system.

But instead, I kept describing to her the array of problems I was seeing, and she kept frowning and asking me, "Really? The teacher did that?"

She said it was definitely not her experience with teaching, and that she was struggling to see how such an approach to a new entrant class would make sense; so she, too, was finding the situation confusing, though on the other hand it was also difficult for her to approach such a subject given that she wasn't familiar with neither the school nor the teacher. She'd never worked there, and had only ever heard good things about it.

I left her place feeling that it had been good to talk, but on another hand it had not made me feel any better. I'd hoped to walk away feeling more confident about the school, but instead had found another person I trusted - a teaching professional - say that they weren't comfortable with the things I'd described.


I then met with the whole school team - not, literally, every person working at the school, but every person directly involved in The Kid's care.

Vice principal.
Special needs coordinator.

We talked for almost an hour. We discussed not only The Kid's schooling, but also how it had come to be that our school start was so rocky and confusing to everyone involved, and ways in which the school has changed their policies to make sure it will never happen to another family again. They apologised, and in a way that was very personally important to me, the teacher apologised for the comment she had made about another child in front of the class, confirming that it had been a misjudgement on her end and that she's learned from it, and intends not to do something like that again.

I came away from the school feeling I had built up trust in their work again. Not, specifically, in the teacher maybe - but I had trust in the team behind the teacher, and I trusted that they were able to support her in her work. I wanted The Kid to go to that school again.

Except... then came another part of the story.

The Man still said no.

He, also, had gone for another visit with The Kid, and he, also, had come away feeling very uncomfortable with what he'd witnessed. I think his first words, literally, as he walked in through the front door, were, "We can't send him there."

And although I had changed my mind since meeting with the school, The Man hadn't. And so we had to find another school.

And it wasn't pretty. It honestly wasn't.

The two schools our RTLB was recommending weren't going to take us - because, duh!, we've just bought a house to precisely get in "our" school zone, and therefore were out of theirs. Which left us essentially with only two schools in whole of Invercargill, both a car drive away.

I balked.

Yes, my epilepsy is well managed and I am able to drive, but I am also very aware that if I get an unexpected seizure, I am going to lose my drivers license - and how, I was asking The Man, would I manage getting The Kid to school, The Girlie to preschool in another direction, and then getting to school myself?

About a week and a half it took us, all while The Kid didn't have a school to go to and I kept bringing him to my classes in the polytech, so I would, say, study construction contracts and The Kid would watch a cartoon next to me. Before class I would colour in pictures with him, and do exercises with letters and stickers.

Even the very last moment of decision-making, where we essentially finally settled on what school The Kid was going to do to, was not pretty. In a nutshell, it was simply The Man saying, this is where he'll go.

Because by that point, I was simply too traumatised and tired and overworked and overwhelmed to even want to decide.

Because the way I saw it, there was no winning option for anyone, at all. Whatever we chose, someone was not going to think it the best.

I still wanted Middle School.
The Man preferred another unzoned school.
The Kid liked the best another, a third, unzoned school.

And all the while, I was thinking, where did we go amiss?


Yesterday I got a text message from the lady I went to see after The Kid's first school visit - the one who works as a teacher aide, the one who I thought would help me figure out how schools work.

It was short, and somewhat... poignant.

She said she had been to a teacher training conference and had met the teacher in question.

She did not get a good feeling about her.


It's ridiculous, I know. I know!

But somehow, I feel exonerated.

I have spent weeks trying to figure out, how is it that there are so many people happy with Middle School and yet, when visiting, I have walked away wondering, wtf is happening in that class. That how is such a disconnect possible. That intelligent, reasonable, compassionate people work in that school - and they do not see a problem. How is it that I see a problem?

And then a simple text lands in my phone and I almost cry with relief, thinking, thank goodness, one more person aside from our RTLB agrees with me.

I mean, aside from The Man.


It's hard to write on this topic. On one hand, I do not actually want to type out the school name, because I do not see the need in bringing the school into this virtual space - but on another note, I've spent months writing about our move to Invercargill and how we have bought a house precisely into its school zone.

I've felt that, realistically, not bringing up the school name doesn't actually achieve much, because I've been open with the school name for a long time already.

But it still feels bad writing about it.

I also feel bad writing about it because I know that if someone really dug into it, they'd be able to identify the teacher. But it's not something I want, or am looking to achieve. Yes, she's probably not a good teacher yet, in my opinion, but... she's learning. There's a strong team behind her, and a team that's interested in supporting her.

But I also feel bad about not writing about it, because that would deny me the opportunity to seek emotional repair.

This whole school process has taken over a month, and I feel like I've lost a lot of nerve over it all, and a lot of hours in my life.

I am behind with my own schoolwork, and am now struggling to catch up. Dealing with kids and their chickenpox took two weeks, and endless hours of discussing it with The Man, organising school visits to other places, talking to people...

Like, yes, it is totally a first world problem and I am very much aware that it is - and grateful to be living in an environment where problems even are such - but still. I still feel traumatised by it, and feel like it will take me months to process it, and understand what exactly happened and why people said what they said, and did what they did, and why did I react in ways I reacted.

In hindsight, of course there are things I could've done better. But I didn't know any better at the time. And even with the blessing of hindsight, I can say that I did the best with what I had at the time, which is good enough, and which is something I can live with.

This week The Kid will start in another school. I will be able to go to classes unaccompanied again, and get some time off from kids, and study. Hopefully, sleep. (Looking at you, my dear daughter!!!)

Phew. Here's another 45 minutes gone.

Like with many other difficult parts of my life, writing this to the tune of John Mayer.