How I almost ended up in hospital with a finger stuck in my ear

I have a low-level cold at the moment - no real cough or anything, just a sore throat and swollen glands, and it's been like that for a few days already - and stemming from that cold I have inflammation around my left eardrum. No big deal. Sometimes happens.

On a practical level it means that I can't blow my nose, or otherwise put pressure on my eardrum - because if I did, it would be very, VERY painful. If I had plane tickets to go someplace, for example, I'd probably have to postpone travel because I don't think my left ear can equalise and deal with changing air pressure inside a plane cabin.

And I've had this for a few days already, but yesterday something happened which made me think that I had all the potential to end up in a Christchurch hospital with a finger stuck in my ear , and I could just picture in my head what it'd be like, doctors or nurses talking to each other after their shift has ended, "Oh my god, you wouldn't believe this girl that came to the emergency department today!"

And what happened was this:

I had a shower, and just like after many other showers I've had, there was water inside both of my ear canals. I towel-dried them, changed my clothes, lay down in bed.

But then, because the wetness inside my ear canals made both of my ears somewhat tickly, I used my finger to dry the ear further and get that tickly-itchy feeling away.

And that's when it happened.

My left little finger which I used to "dry" out my left ear - because there was still water inside my ear canal - "clicked" and sealed itself with the walls of my ear canal, essentially forming a vacuum, AND I COULD NOT, FOR THE LIFE OF ME, TAKE IT OUT ANY MORE.

I mean, technically, I could've moved my finger out of my ear, yes - but the problem was, because my finger was stuck there forming a tight seal, trying to move my finger out created impressive pressure on my eardrum and therefore IMPRESSIVE pain in my ear, and so after trying to move my finger out a few times to the tune of "Oww, oww, OWWW!" I just lay in bed, with a finger inside my ear, saying out loud:

"Shit."

And then for several minutes I tried moving my finger and finding ways to break the seal. Moving gradually, moving clockwise, jiggling my ear lobe, massaging around my ear...

The more I was trying to get it out (and keeping on feeling pain every time I did so), the more I was getting a feeling that, oh my god, I would have to go in the living room, show and explain the situation to The Man (who would probably laugh, a lot) and then if we didn't find a solution together, we'd have to wake the kids up, stick them in a car, and my husband would have to drive me to a hospital.

TO GET THE GODDAMN FINGER OUT OF MY EAR.

But I also kept telling myself that, come on, Maria, it'll be embarrassing, yes - but the eardrum itself is more important than that. I didn't want try yanking the finger out and risk rupturing my eardrum in the process.

And all through that time, if you were in the bedroom, you would've heard me mutter:

"Ow. Ow. Oooowwwww! Shit... Ow. Oooooowwwww..."

In the end, I got it out. Through some pain and a faint feeling of a little gap in the seal that I managed to create by twisting my finger in a position I never would've imagined myself doing, I managed to let in just enough air (and pressure) to be able to get my finger out without screaming.

And when I did, I just sat there, thinking, "Should I laugh or should I cry?" Because it still hurt - even with breaking the seal I had managed to hurt my ear enough for it to continue with low, pulsating pain - but it was still better than having to drive to the hospital, with my finger stuck in my ear.

And I so won't be doing that again, not whilst I can feel the inflammation in there...

So yeah.

A genius book

Suddenly, I remembered.

The book! We've got this book!


It's been at least a year since I opened it last. And as I opened it now, I almost weeped in recognition of what is my dear, dear, dear daughter who I love so dearly but who... yeah, I'll let you guess.


Me 7 years ago

Wednesday. I sit down to work on "My New Zealand" and as part of it, go through my archives. Remind me of things.

July 2009. Learning to snowboard at Coronet Peak, Queenstown.

Whilst our Swiss training guide, Patrick, is teaching someone from our group to maneuver on a snowboard, most people wait for their turn whilst sitting down. But not me: I slide down the hill, whoosh!, fall, bang!, hobble back up, donk-donk-donk!, and by the end of the training session where everyone else has gone down the hill three times, I've gone down at least fifteen.

***

An Australian watches me hobble, snowboard attached to one foot, up the training hill for what feels like the tenth time, and remarks: "You must be either in really good physical shape, or really excited."

Me: "Both."

***

Back at the hostel I pull up my pants to see the bruises on my legs. A young man is sitting next to me and I ask him, "Are you a snowboarder, too?" He turns to me to answer, looks down at my legs and gasps, "Dear god!"

Me: "I take it they're not supposed to be that blue, are they."

Him: "No. Not after only one day, anyway."

***

I send a friend some photos of my bruises and he replies: "It looks like you've driven your snowboard in front of a car or slid down a rocky mountainside."

***

First time on the skilift I make friends with an Italian skier who, when he's caught up with me down at the base building again, shouts over the heads of people around us: "Are you sure you've never snowboarded before?"

***

On day three a morning assessment is done to assign people their training levels, and I get put on level 4. Patrick, my first day's Swiss guide, looks at me in disbelief. Apparently it's unusual to see someone move from level 1 to level 4 within two days of starting snowboarding, and so Patrick says to me: "You're as enthusiastic as you were on the first day, aren't you? Doing everything as quickly as you can?"

***

I take a decent fall and after the snowcloud I've kicked up with my tumbling down the mountain has settled, an Australian snowboard instructor rushes up to me. "Dude, that was massive! Are you alright?"

Me: "I'll know in about a minute..."

*******************************

It also means looking through my Youtube videos.

From days spent at an Estonian skydiving club (I couldn't jump that day because I'd injured my foot whilst motorcycling)...



...to my days at the university...



...to then hiking in New Zealand...



...to just videos in general. Seeing what I was like, back then.



It's amusing sometimes, remembering it all, because at some things I look and think, "Man, you could've ended up in a lot of trouble doing that, girl..." but even in those moments I am proud because in the end it matters that I went, and did it. Just did it.



Rifts

I am still in somewhat of a shock over the UK referendum results. I did not think - or expect - that they'd actually vote to leave, but they did, and now I am, like, whoa people.

(A little sidenote: did you know that immediately following the voting people in UK started googling terms such as "what is EU", "what is brexit" and, most amusingly, "move to gibraltar". Immediately following the voting though. Not before - after.)

And now I have witnessed a division form between generations of relatives. I have watched an elderly relative stay up all night watching the referendum results and upon seeing the Leave campaign take its win, put little Union Jack flags outside the house in celebration; other relatives in their 50's stay up until 2 am watching the results, pleased; and then I have watched people my age gawk at the results, eyes wide open, and think, "WHAT ARE YOU GUYS DOING!?"

And I do understand why any of them have voted the way they've voted. I can see their point of view.

But it doesn't mean I agree with it.

On what feels like useless days

Many passages form in my head as I go about my days, but instead of sitting down and writing I do anything but. Today, for example, I plopped down on the sofa as soon as The Girlie went down for an afternoon nap because I wanted to finish reading Paul Kalanithi's "When Breath Becomes Air" (which I got from the library only yesterday and read to such a late night yesterday evening that I felt physically nauseous with tiredness by the time I finally put the book down, half-finished). Reading books isn't usually high on my list of priorities, but today it was because Kalanithi's book is just so, so wonderful.

Now, however, I will go back to... putting clean bedsheets on the bed. Hanging up washing on the line. Washing dishes. Prepping dinner.

The days are so simple in their processes and results that sometimes the only proof that I AM ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING IMPORTANT is the fact that my children wake up each morning a little bigger than they were the previous night, and that I am (mostly) to thank for that.

But it doesn't change the fact that yesterday when I wondered what some of the people I went to school with are doing, I googled their names quickly and as I then scrolled through galleries of their lives on Instagram, their Twitter feeds full of projects gone by and upcoming, and media writing about them, I felt my stomach rise in anger and envy. Is it really the best use of my time, I asked myself, really!?, to be changing nappies, stretching socks over leg casts, wiping smudges of food off our kitchen table when there is so much, so much more I could be doing instead. With my head, nonetheless.

And I walked around with that anger for the whole afternoon, wondering if there was some magical way I could get myself out of parenting duties and onto something more substantial, but as usual life then continued on, I got distracted with... well, nappies, leg casts and smudges of food on the table, and I forgot about it.

And now I will go back to changing bedsheets and hanging up washing, whilst my firstborn is doing his best learning and growing at preschool, and my youngest is sleeping, busy growing.

One day, I tell myself. One day.

PS. I have always known that I have a strong visual component to how my memory functions. In high school, for example, I had instances where during tests, even if I didn't remember the correct answer to a question, I often remembered on which page I had read about it. I mean, it didn't much help me because writing "I'm sorry, teacher, I don't know the answer to this question, but I do remember that in our book there was a paragraph about it on the upper left corner of a page, opposite the photo of a volcano" wasn't going to get me to pass, but...  Even then I found it amusing that my brain even does that, and often used that visual side of my memory to remember better, knowing full well that if I wrote something down myself, I would remember it better, too, because I would remember how something looked on the paper as I wrote it down.

But lately I have had several recurring dreams where something similar has happened.

On both instances - in my dreams - I was trying to log onto my internet banking. But although I knew which buttons on the keyboard I was having to press - visually, as in, I knew it had to be left, then over to right, then one to the right of the first one and then one to the left of the second one - I could not, for the life of me, figure out what my access number itself was. I could log onto internet banking, but I could not figure out in which order numbers were printed onto the keys of the keyboard: was it 1,2,3,4,5,6 etc, or was is 1,2,4,3,6,5 etc?

And so, in my dreams, I was logging onto my internet banking not because I knew what my access number was, but  because I knew which buttons I was having to push, going by spatial awareness alone. And on both instances - in my dreams - I even thought to myself that, come on, Maria, this is really stupid for you to not remember what your access number is. What if one day you forget in what order you have to push these buttons and then you're going to have to go to the bank's office and apply for a whole new access number, and it is going to be a pain in the a$$ doing it from around childcare?

And remembering these dreams now made me wonder if that it why I find it so pleasant to think about rooms, and use of space, and building standards. Architecture, basically.

Visual and spatial awareness.

When breath becomes air

It is one of the most beautiful books I have read.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Oh my god, can you not see that the world has ended!! HELP!!!

If there ever comes a day where The Girlie is an actress and she has to perform a scene of utter despair - think along the lines of throwing herself on the floor with loud cries of anguish at some otherworldly unfairness - she should do it just the way she throws herself on the kitchen floor now when she asks for a banana and I give her only half of a banana.

It's spectacular. In a theatre setting, an audience would be doing a standing ovation right now, but it's only me, The Girlie and The Kid in the kitchen, and the spectacle is about half of a banana, so I'm sorry, but it's a no go.

And I'm still going to give you only half of a banana, dear daughter, because I am tired of you demanding whole bananas, taking two bites and then refusing to even touch the rest.

On playing lotto

"Are you playing lotto this Saturday?" a workmate asked and I shook my head. I don't play lotto. Never have - not since I was about 9 and mom gave me money to play Keno. After a while I'd learned that I had a much better chance buying ice cream with this money, rather than "wasting" it on lotto.

But I enquired from my workmate why he'd posed the question to begin with, and he said there was a 22 million jackpot up for grabs that week, and explained that he only ever played lotto on occasions like this, when there was A REALLY BIG sum of money up for grabs, because the $10 or so he'd spend on his ticket wasn't that big of a deal for having a chance to get really rich, really fast.

"Just imagine what you'd do!" he exclaimed.

"I know what I'd do," I answered. "I've known for a long time already."

I'd move to Wellington.
I'd buy a house.
The Man would stay home taking care of our kids.
And I would go to university and study architecture.
And then, as an architect, I would eventually learn to design schools, and various learning spaces. I find it fascinating, thinking about design and how it influences people who learn within those spaces.

It's a plan I came up with a while ago when someone on the radio had interviewed a family who'd won a lot of money on lotto and I'd amused myself by thinking what I would do, if I were in their situation. And it was really fun, actually, to think about it that way.

A while later when the topic came up between me and The Man, he asked what was keeping me from studying architecture without lotto. I'd explained that in New Zealand, there were no institutions teaching architecture on the south, less populated island where I live, and I wasn't willing to move to Wellington for 5 years whilst we were functioning as a small, single-income family where kids were that age where they needed the most parental support and encouragement they could get. It would cost us a lot of money and it'd take a lot of effort to get me through architecture school, if we did, indeed, do it without winning lotto. The dream wasn't good enough to be worth all the trouble I'd have to go through, in order to get there.

The Man thought about it for a while and said that the house - the one in Wellington - better had a workshop then so he could do woodwork in his spare time :)

And I've actually really enjoyed the experience of "living it out" in my head that way, just imagining what it'd be if it did really happen. But I also understand that I am probably enjoying playing with the idea that way only because I am happy with what I am doing instead.

I am happy with the idea of us moving to Invercargill next year and me starting studying quantity surveying in 2018. I don't feel a pang of sadness over toying with the idea of Wellington because I am not needing it, and instead, it's just a pleasant way of self-amusing.

Random bits on a Friday

All got quiet in the house. I went to check what she was up to.

She'd raided my underwear drawer and was now meticulously putting them all on, one after another.



***

The Kid got a birthday present of a bunch of colour-in masks.


The Girlie insisted on not just getting the same kind of a photo, but even holding her arms up the same way her brother had 30 seconds earlier.


I can see why they call these little ones "monkeys".

***

Back from hospital with The Kid, I landed on the sofa and insisted I get to stay there for 5 minutes.

I got to stay there alright, but peace wasn't exactly the word to describe the experience with.

That look on the sofa

I think it describes the state I am in very well if I say that it's 8 am on a Friday morning, I have finished breakfast and put a DVD on for the kids, and now they're sitting in the kitchen watching Lotte Reis Lõunamaale whilst I am on the sofa in the living room, browsing Pinterest.

Because... geesh it's been a long week. Jesus.

Totally done for this week.

PS. Except, The Girlie isn't interested in more than 10 minutes of cartoons so now she's piling Thomas The Tank Engine memory game cards on my lap and I'm still sitting and browsing Pinterest, with a lap full of cards, and more on the way, thinking, "Whatever :)"

Here we go again...

The first week of bilateral serial casting again. Like last year, except I think I'm feeling it more this year. Monday was a day at the hospital - general anaesthetic, Botox injections, the works - Wednesday again for adjusting the cast, now I came home from a girls' night at the movies to find my little man crying in bed with pain, dozed up on Paracetamol already but unable to sleep, so a quick chat to his physio on the phone and we took the cast off. The Kid cheered up instantly and is back asleep, but it means that tomorrow we're off to the hospital again, to get a new cast on, and then on Monday next week again, to get both casts replaced by our own physio.

Tired. Just tired.

Could write more, but I don't want to. Tired.

The genius of a five-year-old

"What would you like for breakfast?"

"Food."

Random bits and bobs on Friday

If, like Lidia Yuknavitch, I were given an opportunity to go to New York and meet with three authors of my choice - any authors! - I would choose Elizabeth Gilbert, Jon Krakauer and...

Actually, I don't know whom the third would be. I may have to think about it a little longer.

***

Adam Foss and Toni Mac have given spectacular (!) speeches at TED this year; well, well worth a listen to.





***

I may have mentioned The Girlie's love for all things pink. Cue a set of pink butterfly wings our neighbours gave her for her second birthday.



If she could, she'd wear them to bed.

Declined

The first few minutes after being told that The Kid won't get special education funding for when he goes to school are the hardest, because for all the effort that went into methodically listing every f*ckin' problem that we could think of when it comes to his development (a very demeaning experience in itself, and one I hoped I would never have to do again), I very much hoped that there would be at least funding granted, as a kind of a sunshine in the end of the road - or, to be exact, at the start of the road as he will be starting school next year and the funding would've covered the speech and the physiotherapy all through his schooling years - but instead I am sitting here, reading this e-mail and my eyes are welling up with tears.

Oh well, I guess I am going to go down the same road I have already seen several of my friends go. I am going to find the money to fund the therapy privately, and I am simply going to find ways in which to support my kid who I see has a lot of potential to go places, and do things, even if Ministry of Education doesn't see it that way.

***

As I'm typing this, The Kid looks up at me and asks, "Why you cryin?"

"I'm sad. I'm crying because I'm sad..." I answer him.

"Need cuddle?" he asks.

"Yes, I would love a cuddle, thank you," I tell him.

He comes up to me and gives me the cuddle. I cry into his shoulder and then he goes and continues playing with Lego - he's trying to figure out ways in which to change out the figurines' arms and heads.

He checks up on me after about a minute. "Mommy sad?" he asks, "Need cuddle?"

I smile at him. "That was a lovely cuddle, thank you, I feel much better for it. Thank you," I say.

And then I finish writing this post here, and I set the computer away, and we're going to play with Lego together.

I love my kids. I love them a lot.

Winter is here

A warm autumn

It has been such an extraordinarily warm autumn that yesterday we were still picking strawberries from our back yard. On 4th of June!


***

To quote Cheryl Strayed's mother - from the book "Wild" that I wrote about a few days ago - our home is rich in love.

Today a few friends gathered in our living room and in a very simple "morning together" we celebrated what was The Girlie's 2nd birthday, but there were no party decorations, no banners, no set tables. It was just us gathered in our living room, drinks and food that everyone could fetch from the kitchen when they saw fit - I had made pancakes, someone else brought brownies, from the supermarket we'd got beef spring rolls - and it was such a wonderful morning I had said to The Man, right as everyone had departed, that it was so nice it had reminded me of our wedding.


And I love that. I love both the fact that it had been such a lovely morning spent with friends, and that me and The Man had wed in such lovely, simple circumstances that now when there is a lovely morning happening, I can even say that it was "so nice it reminded me our wedding".

We wed in a park in Wanaka, under a walnut tree, and there were three guests, plus a dog. I wore a skirt and a shirt I had bought from a second-hand store, I was barefeet, The Man had a flower tucked in his chest pocket, and for a "honeymoon" afterwards we drove to a beach where we spent the afternoon skinny-dipping and relaxing in the sun. It was such a warm, lovely day that I think back to it with nothing but pleasure as there had been hardly any stress, and definitely no seating plans, budgets or guest lists. Just us, our wedding celebrant, The Man's brother, our flatmate, our neighbour, and his dog.


Two interviews worthwhile listening to

Kim Hill interviewing Anna Reed on prostitution and sexuality
www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/saturday/audio/201803335/anna-reed-prostitution-and-sexuality

www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/saturday/audio/201802439/richie-poulton-40-years-of-dunedin-health-and-development

My two-year-old

Tomorrow you will turn two years old.


You are the pain and the beauty of our lives; the loud mini version of what Maria-used-to-be-as-a-child; the character who wants things NOW! and to do it MYSELF! and to point out that things are MINE!

Always mine. Now. Myself.


But you are also kind, gentle and sensitive. When your brother starts crying because you are playing with Buzz Lightyear and your brother wants to play with it instead, you come up to him and hand the toy over. "Play! Buzz!" you say.


When any of us get hurt, you come up to us and give us a kiss. You stroke our heads - something you learned from your brother who strokes your head when you are upset at having to lay down to get your nappy changed, and it soothes you. You give us the same hugs as your brother, too: tight, close-by and warm from the heart.

Actually, you are a lot like your brother full-stop. You want to do everything he's doing. You like him a lot.


But you are also different, oh how so different! Loud, demanding, stubborn, self-assured and loud. Did I say loud already? That's good, because you are twice as loud as anyone else of us can be loud. And then some.

But we are learning that by giving you space and challenges - just the way I was given space and challenges by people who understood what drives me as a person - you can be incredibly reliable and independent, to an extent beyond what we'd expect from you given the fact that you are only jut turning two tomorrow.

And I am grateful, more than I will write in this blog post, for the lessons you have taught me along the way, and how the very fact that I carried you inside me taught me things about The Kid and myself I had not known about; that part of the reason I get on so well with The Kid now is the fact that you are here, my little loud munching monster of a girl.

I know that you are my last baby, and I cherish the time I get to spend with you, but I also look forward to the future when you are older, and when we will start arguing over things and exasperating over each other, as we are both stubborn, the way your father and your brother are both kind and gentle. You make me smile, you make me laugh, you make me want to pull my hair out, and crawl back into bed at 5 am when you are cheerfully chirping in your cot and wanting to get out NOW! because who cares that everyone else in this house is still asleep - you aren't, and you want out NOW!

You are a character of a child, and we love you very, very much. Maybe not as openly at 5 o'clock in the morning ;), but still.

Thank you, my dear daughter, and happy birthday to you tomorrow.

Why am I?

I don't know if you have access to this material from where you are reading this - most of you that visit this blog are from Estonia, US and United Kingdom - but if you can, please watch this documentary.

Why am I? available through TVNZ On Demand at www.tvnz.co.nz/content/tvnz/ondemand/shows/w/why-am-i.html

It is a documentary (or to be exact, a series of several episodes) recently made and broadcast in New Zealand, and it's about a so-called longitudinal "Dunedin study" where a team of researchers have tracked over a 1,000 people that were born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1972, to find out how these people have changed over the years and what has affected what kind of adults they've become.

It has shown links between children's self control and their expected employment opportunities as adults, how people chose their partners, and even how as preschoolers, as young as 3 years old, it could've been forecasted which of these children were going to end up in jail as adults.

Fascinating, and at times a scary documentary to watch. Both myself and The Man teared up at several moments.

An article at www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/tv-radio/80355634/why-am-i-sheds-light-on-the-internationally-renowned-dunedin-study explains the gist of the series and it's a wonderful, wonderful documentary to watch.

PS. When I read that the participants of this study were born at the Queen Mary Hospital in Dunedin, I cannot help but remember that The Kid, too, was born in Dunedin. That's where we spent our first 2.5 weeks together.