Thursday, 4 June 2015

Time on my hands for a picnic

Do you know why I'm here writing a blog post at the computer? It's because I can. It's because I have nothing else that I'm meant to be doing. Last night I handed in the last essay of my postgraduate diploma and suddenly I'm free to spend my free time as my heart desires. For a while, until I've been accepted onto the Masters programme, my quota of typeable words is my own. 
As soon as I realized that momentous fact this afternoon, a desire to start typing words that were all about me again, came back to me. Watch me get back to writing in the first person I thought! I had had no intention of starting my picnic of thoughts up again. I thought the time had passed, and maybe it has, but maybe, just maybe, it hasn't.

Today is Joe Brown's birthday. Once he was a baby and now he's nine years old. I don't know where the in-between went. I don't remember the time passing.
"These years are endless but they cannot be remembered." - James Salter
 Why don't I remember? Have I not been watching closely enough? I fear I may live to regret that. 

I have hugged Joe as many times as he would let me today. Birthday hugs where I tell him how proud I am of him and I let myself feel excited at the prospect of my son growing up into a young man. And that right there is my problem, the time I spend looking forward takes over the time I spend storing memories.

It's lucky I've got a therapist to help me sort this shit out.

I made Joe pancakes for breakfast and curry for dinner. He got a bike so cool that his grown father is jealous of it, and a big pile of books that should last him, oh, ten days.

The birthday interview held some chestnuts. I found out that he likes to say he wants to be an archaeologist but he doesn't really want to be one that much. He has friends that he likes a lot. Tom and Toby especially. He likes pizza and milkshakes and if you push him on the subject, he will concede that despite that blue phase he went through, purple remains his favorite colour. He likes to play on the iPad and play with lego and read. 

He swims better than both his parents and he plays football on a Monday evening but can't imagine that anyone would want him on their team. He plays the trumpet but I think I'm more into it than he is. He wants to put his feet up and do nothing. I want him to have a go at EVERYTHING. Somehow we've got to meet half way.

There was a notable moment this afternoon which started with me making the beds. I hate making the top bunk. It's so hard to tuck in the side that's against the wall. But in a fit of enthusiasm this afternoon I got up there and got on with it. This involved taking all Joe's teddy bears down. Joe came in when I was doing this and he said "You don't need to put my teddy bears back up there. I don't need them anymore."
I looked at him. He looked at me. And I said "Is it because you're nine now". To which he replied "Yeah."
And I thought: so there you have it. That time has passed.
I put them in a trolley at the bottom of the bunk bed steps.
This evening Arlo discovered the trolley and said "Ohhh, look at these teddies. Can I take one to bed?"
"NO!" said Joe, "Leave them alone Arlo. They're mine." Then he sat down on his bunk bed steps and cried. He was tired. Arlo was tired-er so he cried more.  I thought 'oh brother' and got busy wishing it was Ben's night to read stories to the kids. Jesse intervened and offered Arlo any of his teddy bears that he might like. Arlo chose two green frogs and all was forgiven.

There's a moral somewhere in that story isn't there? But I don't know what it is. Is it something about middle children? Or giving up the possessions of youth? Maybe you could pop it in the comments box if you figure it out.


Sunday, 31 August 2014

'Why I write' - a pass-it-on blogging kinda thing.

Hello! Hello! This is me reporting in, doing the thing that I don't do anymore but am going to be doing again with a passion after October the 13th. You can watch this space if you like. We can have a countdown. I think it's like 45 days or something.

For now I'm back for one post only though. And it's all because of Katie.
Have I told you about Katie? She is somebody that I have a great big blogging and actual real life crush on. It's true. She confesses to the crush too (well the blogging bit anyway). I have had moments of reading her blog and then thinking, "I'm giving this writing lark up. I can't compete." It's just that Katie never uses too many words and I throw them round like it's a lolly scramble. Where I'm lazy with editing word count, I suspect she's ruthless. Her words strung together sound nicer than mine but somehow she  still likes to read what I write. I guess I've got lucky there.

Anyway, there's this blogging thing where you get nominated by a fellow blogger to write about why you blog and then you nominate other bloggers to take part, and readers can follow the chain through. Katie nominated me and her fabulous blog post can be found here. You really should read her blog, but only if you promise not to dump me after you see how good she is.

So. On with my answers...

Why do I write?
I can answer this one.
I write for three reasons.
Reason one is a simple truth in a complicated sentence: It's harder to write than to not write and the hardness feels better than not writing feels. 
In other words: even though it can be hard work, writing clarifies my thoughts. Prior to writing it's all a bit confused and directionless. Writing is my map
I'm not the first person to think this.


Reason two is an existential issue best summarised by Simple Minds circa 1985 when they said "Don't you forget about me". I suspect that it's a common but largely unspoken theme amongst bloggers.
Reason three: There is a joy in playing with words which I find irresistible.

How does my writing differ from others in its genre?
What genre? I don't know if I've got one. 
I'm not a mummy blogger although I do blog about being a mother and I do talk about my children. I'm not a cooking blogger although I like to add recipes. I blog on feminist issues because I'm a feminist. Mostly (or maybe totally) I blog about what happens within the rooms of my mind and the parameters of my life. As I said, its existential - it proves I'm here.
I had a conversation once where a person asked me what I blog about and I replied "Myself". They looked appalled at my sense of entitlement. That made me laugh. 
Every blogger is different. Every blog is different. Every blog post is different. Some resonant. Some clang. Some never get the chance to do either. My blog is only of a genre if you think it is. It's only as alike or different to other blogs as you believe it to be.
I just fell into philosophy while I was trying to illustrate the randomness of genre. 
Or maybe I was just trying to avoid answering a question I don't know the answer to.

How does my writing process work?
On a broad level, posts beget posts. The more I write the more I write. Long pauses kill the bug. 
But maybe this question is more about the process of creating each individual post, in which case, let me give you my knitting metaphor, which goes something along the lines of gathering a pattern and tools and then knitting rows and unraveling and knitting again and never quite knowing how it will turn out and whether all the hard work will result in an item to be proud of, or one which falls far short of the desired final product. 
When blogging, my tools and pattern are my orange covered notebook, a pen and an idea. I write notes and thoughts on my topic in almost unintelligible scribble, all the while fearing that when I come back to it, it will make no sense and I'll be no further forward. Despite proving to myself over and over that this process actually works for me, I doubt it every time and wish that just sitting down with my laptop from the beginning would have the same effect.
Sometimes I take my notebook somewhere. Mostly I just stay home with it. And I like a day between notebook and screen. When I get to the actual writing part I never nail it first time, instead I knit, unravel, knit (write, delete, write) until I've got something that seems to sit right. It can take ages or it can be fast. I can enjoy it or hate it. Either way it normally gets finished.
Then I give it another 24 hours. Often it needs some tweaks, occasionally it's fine as it is. Then its time to share. 
It's a slow process for me; a funny one that works but that I can't seem to trust in. It's riddled with writers block, self doubt, boredom, procrastination. But somehow, in the end, it happens.

What am I working on?
I'm working on less self doubt. I'm working on trusting a process.
I'm working on three essays.
I'm not working on any blogposts except this one. Come mid October though and I'll be all over this blogging lark. All over it without having to apologise for my absence. I'll be a blogger rocking at blogging. I'm gonna ace the arse out of blogging. 
(Possibly I just talked myself up too much).

Why do I write what I do?
I think I've answered this already by misinterpreting or over answering the previous questions, but I'll have another shot
I write what I do in the hope of representing my thoughts honestly enough that they will resonate with somebody else. 
It's a simple enough formula. I write on any topic I feel something about it. There is no theme apart from that. And then I find specific words and marry them up so they represent specific feelings I have on that given topic. There is no room for speaking generally or lacking pure honesty at this point: nobody embraces mediocre. And so I put myself on the line and risk saying the absurd or nonsensical or overly personal in the hope of producing something that represents me. Because if I can achieve that then there's a chance that what I have written will touch and resonate with you. 
Then other times I just tell a funny story about my kids and throw in a recipe.
I don't want to overdo things.

So that's it. 'Why I Write' by someone who doesn't write much in the way of blogs anymore. But who will again.

And now it's nomination time:

No Mum is an Island. Aphra who writes at No Mum is an Island is one of my Birth Wise people. She writes about motherhood. She's ridiculously brainy and calm and together and also funny and interesting. I swear she knows almost everything, but the stuff she doesn't know she never pretends to know and that's how you know how brainy she is. Also, she has SUCH nice work clothes (I know that's shallow, but honestly, she always looks sensational. It's not fair.) She's another one who never rambles. She blogs here.

A View From the Middle: I have known Michael, the author of a 'View From the Middle', since 7th form. We fell out of touch for a long time and then a mutual friend put me on to his blog and as I read it I could actually hear him speaking all his words. And when I read his blog I realised that I had been missing his voice for 20 years. So I facebooked him and told him so and now we admire each others blogs and say nice things and its good. You can read his blog here. I read each of his posts about three times.

Nice to be back y'all.
See you again in October.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Breastfeeding (or not). A re-release of an old blogpost for new Birthwise readers.


I'm of the opinion that I know a bit about heaps of things, quite a lot about a few things, but I am an expert on nothing - not even myself. This makes me nervous about going out on a limb and expounding on anything as surely someone else will know more on the topic than me. (Self doubt and I are such good buddies some days.)

What I will say is that I know quite a lot about baking. And that I am very good at organizing stuff. And that I know a fair amount about pregnancy and birthing and breastfeeding. And it's on that last topic that I'm going to write.

It happened last year, when I was just about to host a reunion for the Birth Wise course I'd finished teaching a month before, that I received an email from one of the women who was on the course saying that she wouldn't be coming to the reunion because she and her baby were having such a terrible struggle with breastfeeding.
I felt so sorry for her. Sorry that she was struggling. Sorry that she felt she couldn't be there because of it. Sorry because I knew how isolating it is. And I wanted to find some words to say to her. I wanted to somehow be able to give her the definitive answer on what the trick to breastfeeding is, or maybe offer her a perspective on what's really important. I tried to write to her but I couldn't find the right words. During my time with Birth Wise I've had opportunity to talk to so many women about their experiences of feeding a baby and what I've realised to be the definitive answer is that there isn't one. And that everyone's perspective is different. For each mother with each baby it's a different game. 

What I want to talk about here isn't how to breastfeed. I don't want to say anything about how breast is best, or the benefits for mother and baby, or any stats on how breastfed babies do better at school blah blah blah. I'm just going to tell you about what I've learnt from all the wonderful mothers I've spoken to. 

Here we go...

I have known some women for whom breastfeeding was impossible the first time but easy the second time. And then I've known some women for whom it was easy the first time but impossible the second. 
I have known some women who couldn't breastfeed until they saw a lactation consultant.
I've known others who saw a lactation consultant but that still didn't fix it.
I've known women for whom it was easy from the get-go. I've known many more who struggled at first until eventually it came right. And I've known a few that it never worked for.
There've been women who wanted to breastfeed but couldn't. And then women who breastfed easily but just didn't want to keep going.
Women who said they would breastfeed but didn't. Women who said they wouldn't but did.
Women who breastfed until their babies were children because they wanted to. Women who breastfed until their babies were children because the child wanted to.
Women who weaned their babies whether or not the baby was ready. Women whose babies weaned themselves even though the mothers weren't ready.
Women with too much milk. Women with the right amount of milk. Women with not enough milk.
Wome who exclusively breastfed. Women who fed a mix of breastmilk and formula. Women who only formula fed. Women who only bottle fed breastmilk. Women who only bottle fed formula. Women who gave their breastmilk to other babies. Women who breastfed their friends' babies. Women who breastfed twins. Women who breastfed their toddlers and new babies at the same time. Partners who breastfed to take the pressure off engorged  breasts (it's sweet and watery, but the hind milk can be quite strong tasting apparently. Not many people want to talk about partners drinking breast milk. If you have anything to add to that I would LOVE to know.)  (You know I love hearing those kind of things. Don't deprive me).

In a nutshell I have learnt that it's nearly always possible, but just sometimes, it's not. And that everyone will do it their way. I have learnt that you can be a really good Mum without breastfeeding. I have learnt that not breastfeeding is a much lesser deal than the guilt that goes with not breastfeeding.
In a nutshell I have learnt yet another example of what I've spent my whole adult life learning: The more you know about something, the harder it is to have a hard and fast opinion, let alone an answer.

So I guess I'm concluding my 'Educating you on what I know about breastfeeding' piece by saying that actually I don't know very much. Your additions to my ramble would be gratefully received in the comments box. Maybe you can be a bit clearer than me.


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Guilt is not a useful emotion…except for when it kicks you in the butt and makes you do stuff.

GUILT: Kasper Sonne

If I had to pick my top two worst feelings I would say guilt and remorse. I loath feeling either. They're worse than anger and grief (which I would also prefer not to feel). They are particularly detestable. 
That said, some of my very best work is fueled by guilt. The guilt of letting someone down. The fear of things I might regret. All the should have's and must do's. The worries about what terrible things might result from me doing the things I do.

This aspect of my personality is unsurprising as it ties in nicely with my role as an Obliger. At the risk of sounding like a stalker because I mention her so often, Gretchen Rubin has these four tendencies that she talks about. They are that of:
Upholder - someone who is both motivated by external sources and from within.
Obliger - someone who is highly motivated by external sources but struggles with internal motivation.
Questioner - someone who questions all expectations, either internal or external, and
Rebel - someone who just does the opposite of whatever the expectation is. 

There's a quiz you can do to figure out which one you are. Find it here. I am through and through an Obliger. Honestly, arguments like "people are counting on you", "you said you'd do it" "people will be upset if you don't" and "they need you" have me on my knees. Ben is an equal mix of Upholder and Questioner. It's annoying all the things about him that are better than me.

As part of my course work I have to read books about family therapy. There is a whole new world of guilt and self-doubt regarding my value as a parent to be obtained within the covers of those texts.
"Guilt to Motherhood is like grapes to wine." - Fay Weldon (link)
The latest one I've been reading talked about the importance of offering empathy to your children when they're feeling upset. So it seems that instead of saying "FOR GOODNESS SAKE!!!" and explaining to them all the ways they're wrong wrong wrong, I have to be sympathetic and help them put their feelings into words. And their self esteem is apparently very important. And when they're teenagers, even though they won't want to do what I say, my approval will still be valuable to them. And I have to let them sort out their sibling tiffs themselves and just be there to offer "empathy" rather than conflict resolution. It didn't say anywhere that I have to listen to them when they're being really boring and talking about Nintendo games, but I'm guessing that that's in there somewhere as well.

I am shit at this parenting lark.

Anyway, another area of Mummy guilt I've been struggling with is that now I spend one day of every weekend studying and we never take our kids out on any adventures or excursions, I've convinced myself that they'll look back on their childhoods and think they sucked because we never took them out anywhere. So I've implemented a 'We're going out to do something each Saturday' rule.
So far we've been to Massey Memorial and then to the Chocolate Fish cafe:
We've been to the Greenacres School Gala:
And we've been out for breakfast at the Porirua Markets (yes we did let them share a milkshake at breakfast time. It didn't say in the book that we couldn't and our children considered that to be a display of the utmost excellence in parenting)

And while I'm adding photos why don't I add some hard and fast photographic evidence of how much better at taking photos Ben is than I:

I feel no guilt, nor remorse for my photography skills. We only need one official photographer in the family and that's Old Man Brown.

Let me end this with a story that RACKED me with guilt and Mummy remorse and general that-didn't-feel-good-ness. 
Friday was a kindy day for wee Arlo Brown and he didn't want to go. He told me a lot of times at home that he didn't want to go, and then he told me again several times in the car, and then once we got into kindy he started to cry. Every time he'd told me he didn't want to go I'd said " I know it feels hard and sad doing things you don't want to do".  In the end he got sick of hearing that, so he started to cry "I just want to go home for fish and chips now" (we were having fish'n'chips with the Sheridans that evening). To that I said, "I understand it's hard waiting for things you want". He responded by crying even more loudly at me "I WANT FISH AND CHIPS NOW!" And do you know what I said? I said "Yeah but buddy you can only go home from kindy if you're sick and if you're sick we can't have fish'n'chips tonight." I was a stinking adult and I trumped him with my extra 36 years of having a brain. He just looked at me with his sad little face, took one of those big shuddery breaths that you take when you're trying to stop crying, and said, wiping his eyes, "Ok Mummy." Then I stood up and took his hand and we stood there for a second while I felt guilty. In an attempt to move on I said "What activity shall we do?" to which he didn't answer at first, and then he said, in a little voice, "Can you go now Mummy?" 
Game, set and match to Arlo Brown I'd say.

Hope you've had a great week.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Bard of Barking

If twenty bad things had happened this week including the death of a family member, I would still have had to mention, first and foremost, that Dot and I spent last Sunday evening with the Bard of Barking: Billy Bragg.
Somehow we have had the good luck to have him tour New Zealand twice in the last year and a half. That was my seventh time seeing him in concert.  He's good. He's so good. And it's always better with Dot.
He played lots of old songs and some new songs and we loved it all.
This is the song that people kept shouting out for until at last he played it. This is Billy Bragg gold:

Billy Bragg's style in concert is to spend as much time in between songs talking as he spends singing. Those times that he talks are my favorite bits. The last two times that we've seen him have coincided with a time in my life when I've been thinking more about the politics of humanity. And I've had this realization that everything I believe politically, so many of my values, I've learnt from him. Women's rights and gay rights, equality and a living wage, political leftism and the notion that apathy is our worst enemy, all have come from him. (Should I be worrying that I've given nothing back?) He's been my role model. And such a good one at that.

I used to work in Newtown for a couple called Marg and Neil. I babysat their two children and helped around the house for almost ten years. They were really good and kind to me and I really liked being there. They're all (Laura and Pete are totally grown up now) such funny and interesting and intelligent people. It took me until I was about 37 to realize that I'd pretty much just fashioned my life as a replica of Marg's. How unimaginative of me. She's a psychotherapist and that became what I wanted to do. She loves writing and cooking and so I was alerted to the greatness of those things too. Pete was a baby when I started work there and all the things I'd watched her do with Pete: cloth nappies, baby-led weaning, they were things that I adopted when I had babies
What I'm trying to say is that I obviously really looked up to her. I must have felt that the way she did things was the right way. And upon reflection, of all the people to look up to, she was a really good choice.
Linkdin has a list of 'Most Influential People'. Gretchen Rubin is on it. She's on my 'Most Influential People' list as well, but Marg and Billy are way ahead of her.

I don't know if Marg knew she was my role model, but there's a lesson in there isn't there? One about living our one good life well and with integrity, as who knows which young person might be watching. Who knows what you're going to open their eyes to. Who knows what they'll end up believing just because you do.

Sheesh, that's some responsibility right there!

So Billy Bragg was the highlight of the week. But other good things also happened:  Arlo finally got better and went back to kindy. After two weeks of being ill he is SO HUNGRY. He talks about food all the time. "I want fish'n'chips with tomato sauce" "I want bread with tomato sauce" "I want a biscuit" "I want another biscuit" "More nutrigrain please". Those gorgeous chubby bits will be back in no time, praise be. He's jumping on the couch and laughing his head off and that's what it looks like to feel better.
Today Jesse learned to ride his bike with no trainer wheels (according to him, next stop is the BMX track). He's really proud. Actually we all are. We all remember the day we learnt to ride a bike don't we?
In other good news, Joe still wants to hold my hand.

It's really good in life to know what makes you feel good. I've realised that time spent with my friends is really energizing for me. It's a must-do not a should-do. A half hour catch up with Belinda and I'm happy for the day. 
Dinner with the Gault-Cleavers and the Ryes (adults only please, all kids in bed) and when the clock strikes midnight I'm nowhere near ready to go home. No way. 
An evening out with Dot and I come away happy and so grateful for the length and breadth of our friendship. You can't sneeze at 25 years. What's more, I'd like to point out that it takes 25 years to be able to say you've been best friends for that long. You can't just do it over night. She and I take it for granted most of the time. It's easier that way.

I'll round this up back where I started, with Billy.
I read an interview with him online recently, (annoyingly I can't find it now that I want to link it), and he said that it's always been about the love songs more than the political songs for him. I'm hearin' him there (did you see what I did there? Hearing him? Yeah, I'm so funny). His political stuff has been the best education but his love songs have touched my heart. Here are a couple of his songs so your good hearts can make up their own minds.

(Dot'll like this one…)

(And this one's for me…)
"Is there a flag that flies above your heart and is my name writ there upon it?"
Possibly the quote of the century

Have a great week.

Monday, 24 March 2014

The Picnic Newsletter

Do you remember when I talked about Haruki Murakami's book "What I talk about when I talk about running?" here? Do you remember how much I loved it? Well today Gretchen Rubin quoted that book on her blog. I was so delighted. It was like my worlds had merged. It was like noticing that two of my friends on Facebook know each other and I didn't know and I really like them both and as it turns out they really like each other as well. It was a little bit like that. Kind of. 

The quote was this:
"If I used being busy as an excuse not to run, I'd never run again. I have only a few reasons to keep on running, and a truckload of them to quit."
 This is totally applicable to my running, but even more applicable to my blog. Why don't I do the thing that I miss doing every day? If I don't write I won't write even if I mean to write. I need to find better excuses than busy.

There's a new column in the life section of the paper on a Wednesday morning. It's right next to my beloved Dr Rosenthal's intimacy column and it's written by the life coach who writes in Next magazine, Sarah Laurie. 
Her column this week talked  about making resolutions. 
Some people believe in New Year's Resolutions. Some people just don't see the point in stating they're going to do something that they probably won't do. I would classify myself as a believer-in-NYRs.
People could write more resolutions like: 
  • I'm going to work on eating more chocolate. 
  • I plan to watch more tv. 
  • I'm going to wag work at least once a month.
Those kind of resolutions should be quite achievable and you could be glad at the end of the year that you'd stuck to your guns and not given up.

Some people chose a word. I don't know, like 'Love' or 'Family' or 'Thoughtfulness' and they use that as their inspiration for the year. Apparently sometimes it's hard to think of a word.

This year I chose a letter. S. S was my letter for the year. If it didn't start with S I wasn't going to do it. If it did start with S but it didn't inspire or motivate me then I probably still wasn't going to do it. On my S list were: Stride, Stretch, Sip, Scribe, Spend time, Save money, Study and Stir. I liked that list but it was a bit hard to remember sometimes what each thing meant. And apart from Study I don't think I've been doing that well with any of my S's.

Anyway, Sarah Laurie says that goal setting in summer is all wrong because we should be setting our goals according to the season and what that season represents. Autumn is apparently the time for planning, creating and considering new ideas. I'm unsure why, but that's what she says. I'm hoping that she's right, and that my 'S is for Scribe' goal might really come into play.

So, onwards with news of the Browns:

There has been vomiting at our house. Both from Arlo and from Joe. Arlo waits until the middle of the night then he comes into our bed and vomits all over the sheets and pillows. I'm so terrified he'll vomit on my face that I find myself saying things like "good boy" and "well done" when he vomits all over his own face instead. It seems to take him by surprise every time. And he hardly complains, although he cried a bit last night when he vomited in his eyes. I didn't say "good boy" to that. 
I hug Joe tight because he's clever enough to get up and vomit in the toilet. Thank you thank you thank you dear boy.

Who knows what foul bug or illness they have. You can imagine all sorts once you get going. It doesn't pay to get going. 2am is my favourite 'get going' time.

I love 2am and I hate it.
I would never go for a run at 2am.

Here is a list of five things I love. It would pay for me, at 2am, to think more about these things and devote less time to my other imaginings:
1. I love hanging out the washing and bringing it back in again. I don't want any help. I don't want to be spoken to. I just want to shake and peg. Or smooth and fold. I always fold at the line. It's my very best thinking time. I'm reluctant to admit to this love here, but I figure that the worst that can happen is that people will ask me to hang out or fold their washing, to which I will most likely say: No.
2. Peppy Chews. Who knew that I would ever choose peppermint over caramel. It's got to be a sign, I'm just not sure of what.
3. I love the Massey University library service. It's like free shopping. I can just pop online, choose a few books that look good, request them, and then next thing they're arriving on my doorstep in yellow and red courier post bags, present shaped and delicious, with a sticker like a voucher for free return postage. They'll even send me a reminder to take them back to the post office. What makes them want to be so nice to me? It feels like they really care and want me to be happy.
4. Holding Arlo's hand on the couch. He wants to hold my hand and watch TV with me. He loves me a lot and I love him. Soon he'll be better.
5. I love a really good tidy up.  In preparation for the arrival of my brother and his wife and children, I cleared every space, tidied every cupboard, remade every bed and vacuumed every corner of our upstairs space. Ten bags of STUFF went to charity. Two boxes of toys and clothes were packaged up for our cuzzies off the boat. There is a box of stuff to be listed on TradeMe. I pack it, Arlo unpacks it. "That no go in there" he says. Who knows who'll win that fight.

While I haven't been around these parts you might have been imagining me bent over counselling theory textbooks, scribbling notes long into the night. Or, in light of this blog post, standing at the washing line pegging or folding. I have been doing a lot of both, but in-between times I have been hanging out over at Facebook looking at stuff and being non committal. The thing with Facebook is that some people give so generously, posting and sharing. Others, like me, just stalk and read and take take take. 

So, three things from Facebook:
This was the thing that I found the most interesting…
In our family Ben is the calm one and I'm the one that flies off the handle. Joe has my temper. I wish it hadn't worked out like that. I definitely don't want to watch a video of me angry. It would be nothing but ugly and shameful. I'm like the hulk except that I'm not green and Mark Ruffalo isn't inside me. (More's the shame.)

This was the thing that made me the most angry…
I shouldn't even be giving him any airtime on here (bahaha, that makes it sound like lots of people are reading) but I need to go out on a limb here and say that, regardless of any ifs and buts and what abouts,  I support the right of every woman who gets pregnant to make the choice as to whether or not to carry and deliver that baby. 
 Matt Walsh sees things differently from me. He thinks that if women are allowed to abort babies, he's allowed to masturbate in a park full of children. Matt Walsh has over 100k followers on Facebook and a button where you can donate to his blog. People LOVE Matt Walsh and his ideas, but I continue to think he's a bit full of shit. When I read his blog I find myself saying "Oh Matt, really?!? Come on." in my frustrated-with-having-to-listen-to-this-nonsense voice. I could write 16 blog posts on this topic but I think I need to limit myself. Three paragraphs will be enough.
Therefore, in an effort to settle this argument once and for all, I have come up with an idea. It's going to sound facetious, but it's not a bad idea when you think about it: How about giving all young men a vasectomy until such time as they have a good use for their semen. It would be a weight off everyone's mind. 
Comments in the comments box.

But in better news, this was one thing that really made me smile...
Before his transition to acting, Christopher Walken’s theater training focused on dance. Even though he moved on to be the thespian superstar we know him as, he didn’t leave his roots behind. In most his films, he seems to find a way to work at least a move or two into his role, scripted or not.
I love finding out things I didn't know about people. I love how some people can't keep their feet still.

And this was another…
My Julie sent this to me. It's one of her favorites. And that's Joe Brown singing.
Hope you enjoy it.
See you next time xx

Monday, 13 January 2014

Winking at Feminists

A couple of months ago I took up running for the third time in my getting quite long life. I like running. Well actually I'm often not that keen just before I go out and do it and can be tempted to grab at any excuse not to go. Then while I’m running my opinion of it varies: I swing between feeling great and cursing the way it hurts. But after I’ve finished a run I love running. I love the feeling of not running anymore but knowing that I have run. That is an entirely different feeling from loving the feeling of not running but that being because I’ve been on the couch all morning. This must surely be a common experience for many. 

I can run for more than half an hour now (not much more in fairness). That’s not that long I know and it doesn’t amount to very far, but considering the fact that after a week of running I was only able to run for twelve minutes, getting over thirty minutes seems like an achievement. I say to myself “Well that’s good. Now if anybody needs somebody to do something that involves running for half an hour I’ll be able to offer to help.” and then I spend some time trying to imagine what that thing they might need help with might be and I can't think of anything so I just go back to enjoying the initial thought which is that I can run for half an hour. And I’m not dead at the end. As Sarah McLachlan would say, it’s a long way back to the place where I started from.

There are parallels between running and blog writing. Both are something that I need to make time for and which tend to drop off my to-do list when the going gets busy. Blog writing is a kind of fitness and the more I write the easier it gets. (As I type that sentence I doubt it’s validity but I’ll leave it. Maybe it’s true). Blogging makes me feel guilty if I haven’t done it, and it can be painful and difficult while I am doing it, but the pleasing rush after I’ve done it is worth the hard work I put in. All of that is like running. 
In summary though I would say that I’m surprised that I’ve taken up two pastimes for which I find the process really quite hard.

I don’t see that many other runners in Tawa. I know they’re there but I don’t see them much. Maybe they're just miles ahead of me. Here in Taupo though where we’re spending our summer holiday with the Browns, runners are a dime a dozen. I go down and run by the lake and I am surrounded by other runners pounding those scenic pavements. Female runners tend to nod or smile or say a (breathless in my case) hello to each other. Male runners tend to not make eye contact or acknowledge me. Not all of them, some of them spend some time looking at my teeshirt. That’s irritating. My personal favorite was the one who winked at me. There’s something so encouraging about a wink. It’s conspiratorial. That wink didn’t seem suggestive or lecherous. Instead it was a wink that said “What on earth are we both doing out here?” or “We’re in this running lark together. God help us.” There’s a lot that can be read from a wink.

To say that I liked a wink makes me feel like I’ve let my feminist self down though. I'm the first one to announce that I don't want to be objectified, but in the same breath I'm going to say that if some handsome man jogging past me winks, then hey, I'm pretty much fine with that. 
There's an Australian columnist and writer called Jane Caro who is a great feminist. A bit like Caitlyn Moran and Clementine Ford, or maybe like their Mum. She wrote this great article about 'the male gaze' and she talked in there about the difference between what’s sexual and what’s sexist. She says that being a feminist doesn’t mean you don’t want to be attracted to and attractive to men, it just means you don’t want to be objectified by them. 
“This complexity of the relationship women have with male admiration may be one of the reasons there is so often such confusion around what is sexual and what is sexist. Some men, particularly those of good will, have become nervous about expressing their sexual admiration for women at all, terrified they may be accused of being sexist… Yet, apart from a few radicals, most feminists do not want to limit the fun and excitement of sexual attraction. If a man is frankly admiring – yes, of your body and appearance, but also of your mind and personality – it can be just as exhilarating for heterosexual women as it is for men, especially if the attraction is mutual.Where sexism comes in is if a woman's appearance is used without regard to her as a human being. We see a lot of this is in the way women are portrayed in the media. It is sexist to see women only from the outside: as eye-candy for the delectation of men, rather than as real, thinking, feeling, fellow humans.” (Here’s the link to the article if you’re interested: 
I've found myself to be the type that doesn't want to put my name to every cause, even if I believe in it. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe I'm worried I'll get judged. Or maybe I'm just worried I'll get asked to organise something for the cause. I do too much organizing as it is.
A good example of not wanting to represent a cause happened recently: Joe brought home from school a large yellow sticker promoting safety when reversing out of driveways. It said "Know where the kids are. There's no going back." Without consulting the adults of the household, he proudly stuck it on to our letterbox. In theory I have no objections to that. I completely believe in the importance of safety when reversing. But now I feel that anyone who comes to our house will consider me/us to be advocates for this cause when in fact I know no more about it than what I've already told you. I have become, to coin Cousin Vicki's phrase, an Accidental Evangelist for road safety. 
When it comes to feminism though I am quite evangelical and not at all accidental. I am  prepared to tell anyone prepared to listen that I'm a feminist. Of course it's really all thanks to Caitlin Moran who said in 'How to be a Woman' that if you believe you're in charge of your own vagina then you're a feminist. It's kind of a no-brainer if you look at it like that. 

Here are a few small, everyday examples of why I want people to keep talking about feminism; why I think discussions about equality, equity and  gender assigned roles and expectations are really important. 

  • The other day an oven-fixing-man came to the house and said  "Good girl" to me when I told him he could leave his shoes on. I have surveyed a small sample of people (about 5) and asked them why they think he said that to me and they all said that he probably meant it as a compliment. One person suggested it's because I wear a ponytail. They all agreed though that he wouldn't have wanted me to say "Good boy" back to him when he fixed the oven. For the record I didn't take it as a compliment, I just felt patronized, but if it was indeed meant as a compliment then why is it a compliment to a grown woman to be called a girl but not a compliment to a grown man to be called a boy? Is it because as I woman once I've lost any youthful beauty I had then I'm left with nothing? What does that say about my clever mind or my frankly hilarious ability with puns and dirty rhymes?
  • Or what about my dear friend Kristy who last year gave birth to the most gorgeous bonnie baby; a baby just like Joe and Arlo were, solid and strong. The only thing is that her baby is a girl and mine were boys so she has people say to her "Don't worry, she'll grow out of that" whereas they said to me "Ohhhh, he'll be an All Black". Why is it ok for baby boys to be solid and strong but not baby girls?
  • How come it's cool for girls to be tomboys but not for boys to be in any way like a girl? 
  • Why can I wear trousers but Ben can't wear a skirt? 
  • Why does my son say "I know, I know, I just screamed like a girl"? I don't think Ben or I taught him that. And then I have to say "No you didn't darling one. You screamed like a boy. And that's okay."
  • How did women get this reputation for being the weaker sex? Jesus Christ, I pushed 10 pound 10 ounces of baby out of a hole that can hold a tampon in place. That's five 1kg blocks of cheese squished into the shape of one very "solid and strong" baby. If I'm not brave and strong, who is? Is it because I cry more than Ben?
  • I'm proud to call myself a feminist: a running, ponytail wearing, baking, knitting, mothering, writing, feminist. But why do so many other women not want to add feminist to how they define themselves? What's to be ashamed of? Lorde, at 17 years old, is a self proclaimed feminist. She believes that men and women are equal, but Taylor Swift on the other hand, would prefer not to put her name to it. I know who I'd rather have coffee with. 
  • And what about all these men that I love and respect in my life. I don't think any of them call themselves feminists yet I really believe that most of them are. They believe that women and men are equal. Men make great feminists. Maybe they could use their collective influence to spread the word.
These may seem like small things but I believe that leaving them in place is not doing anyone any good. I would like my sons to not be carrying any of this gender crap into adulthood with them.  And what about my goddaughter and my niece and the small girls I borrow to fill the place of no daughters in my life: I don't want them growing up either believing this shit or having to keep fighting a battle that should have been resolved and laid to rest by our generation.

I'm not asking for a revolution here people. But could we at least get talking about it?