DIY deficiency

NS November 5th, 2013

(This post is for K and N from the CC massive — you know who you are. Thanks for the inspiration and kick up the backside to dust off the ol’ blog). :-)

The Noble Husband and I are both hopeless at home repairs. This house (and any house we live in) has a perpetual list of DIY tasks that need doing but which have been relegated to the homeowner graveyard called When I Have Time, Money and Motivation. But the truth is, we just cannot be bleedin’ bothered and are useless at home maintenance.

To be fair, NH is not too bad at screwing things into walls (don’t even go there, you dirty-minded heathens) and I’ve become a dab hand at fixing the leaky toilet and stripping wallpaper, yet we have not bothered to put a proper cover over the exposed lock on the bathroom door since we moved in…six years ago. It almost seems a point of principle not to do it now. What would it say about us if we up and bought a lock cover for the door and our guests starting thinking we were all fancy and stuff? I don’t want anyone to think I’ve abandoned my roots and gone Tory just because I once thought it would be nice to have a door handle to grasp upon leaving the loo. How bourgeois.

Just tonight, NH was patting himself on the back for finally sorting out a new storage shelf for the fridge door after one broke awhile back. He ordered it online, picked it up from the post office depot and even slotted it into the door all by himself. I high-fived him as I admired our newfound ability to put bottles of drink in the fridge. “It only took you 18 months to sort that one out — not too shabby, mister!” He beamed with pride at his efficiency.

We could never live in Germany or North Korea.

Further evidence of our laziness:

  • We are still using the children’s toddler table (wooden table with two chairs) as our living room coffee table.
  • The children’s curtains are currently being held up by a series of nails and electric cables, even though a brand new set of blackout blinds sit on the office floor, waiting to be hung.
  • A few days after Noble Boy was born at home, we still hadn’t got ride of the biohazard-labelled and blood-stained placenta bucket in the garden, resulting in an embarrassing incident with our neighbours
  • When we lived in the States, we had a gorgeous silver-framed mirror that we bought from a funky local shop when we first arrived and were furnishing our new apartment. It sat on the floor for three years in two different apartments, serving as a very good shoe mirror but not much else, because we never managed to prioritise buying a hammer, nails and picture wire. It finally found a respectable home with my sister when we moved back to the UK and gave her most of our possessions, where it still hangs today. The mirror had finally fulfilled its reflective purpose (reflecting faces, not feet) and is much happier for it, I imagine

As I’ve been studying genetics lately on the midwifery course, I’ve begun to wonder if perhaps NH and I both have a DNA link missing somewhere. Is there a supplement one can take for DIY deficiency?

Death and rebirth of a dream

NS May 10th, 2013

I stopped writing two years ago. Just like that, I stopped.

After six years of solid blogging across several websites, working hard to grow my audience and hone my skills, I gave up. My journalism degree was gathering dust while I was wiping snotty noses so I put it in a box and then up in the loft, its golden embossed letters a painfully-etched reminder that I’d never made it. My blog was popular in a small niche circle but I’d come to realise that a book deal wasn’t coming, a job at a newspaper or magazine wasn’t going to fall into my lap, and the possibility of being any kind of professional writer had faded into the sunset of my 20s.

I lifted my fingers from the keyboard, put the cap on the pen and deleted the feed readers, apps and Tweet Decks that had up to that point been daily sustenance, like air or water. I made a conscious decision to stop seeking out stories of injustice and oppression, the tales of sadness, tragedy and misery that were my bread and butter, creatively. Sure, I could also write about funny and heartwarming incidents but those were mainly to do with my own life and I was becoming increasingly averse to writing too much about my family lest I contribute to their therapy bills later in life.

So I stopped writing and concentrated on life’s simple pleasures, my doula business, my friends and my family. I felt an intense need to disentangle myself from the dark, overwhelming, distracting and all-consuming tentacles of The Internet and The News. No more did I want to read horrific and idiotic comments on news articles, or Tweet more with strangers than I communicated with my present-day, living and breathing friends. I started reading books again. I lost 15 pounds, went to a few new places, cultivated new friendships and tried to formulate new hobbies (though I never did get past learning two songs on the ukulele or three rows on my knitting needles). I chose to stroll amongst the roses and notice their sweet smell instead of their sharp thorns.

Yet at the same time I didn’t want to be a 30-something who never realised her dreams, morphing into a regretful woman or someone who was just happy enough. I had a supportive husband, two hilarious children who I loved with all my heart and a burgeoning business as a birth doula. I kept telling myself I should be happy with that and stop depressing myself with all the ‘might have beens’ and ‘could have dones’.

But I still wanted idealism and passion and the ability to do great and wondrous things, though perhaps at something more realistic than writing [It pained me to write that sentence, let alone think it. Something more realistic. Pfft. I am now a caricature of a TV sitcom dad who warns his artist son or dancer daughter that they have to choose a more pragmatic career and get their head out of the clouds]. I was also drawn to returning to work in a more regular, full-time capacity, in a career that would pay the bills if I needed to support myself. While Noble Husband and I have a very strong marriage and he’s always supported me being at home with the kids or doing part-time work, I know all too well that I’ve been disadvantaged economically and professionally because of the years I spent raising our children and writing for free or very little. As a feminist woman raised by a strong working mother, I’ve always felt a bit nervous about relying on someone else entirely for my livelihood. I’m already way behind where NH is in regards to pensions and I have to think about making some of that up so that I’m not destitute in my old age.

But what did I want to do? If I couldn’t move people and effect change with my words, I was going to have to do it with my hands and my heart. So I began asking myself: What makes you tick, Noble Savage? What do you care about more than anything in the world? What or to whom would you be willing to devote your life?

It took me awhile and I lay awake for many a night before finding the answer, which is: Women. Specifically, the appreciation, empowerment and advancement of women.I believe that women are so much mightier, beautiful, intelligent and capable than we ever give ourselves credit for. Women may not hold much of the power in law, government, religion or society but I have seen the inescapable, bone-shifting potency of raw female power in moments of life, death, birth, tragedy and joy. I see it in the wise eyes, strong hearts and clear minds of the women I’ve been blessed to know in my own life and those I’ve supported as a doula.

The epiphany settled upon me after one particular incident. I was in a hospital room, clasping a woman’s (my client’s) hands as the grey-pink light of a new day peeked through the frosted windows. She was looking directly into my eyes as she knelt on the bed and prepared to give the final pushes that would bring her baby into the world. She needed my presence to keep her grounded and so we were locked in this very tender embrace, our hands gripped tight and her head on my shoulder as she rested between contractions. Suddenly, her look changed from one of quiet determination to one of wild despair as she clenched my hands harder and whispered something I couldn’t hear. I asked her to repeat it. “I’m going to die, I’m dying” and said in a panicked voice, as if she had resigned herself to it and there was nothing more to discuss. I took her face in my hands and said kindly but firmly, “No, you’re not dying. You are so alive. You are giving life. And you are amazing.” She looked up at me, smiled, and on the next push her baby was born. Afterwards, she hugged me and told me that when I’d said those words and seemed 100% confident in her, that she suddenly knew that it would be okay and that she could do it. I left that room so high on endorphins, oxytocin and emotion that I still get a rush just thinking about it.

I guess you could say I had a spiritual awakening, but it had nothing to do with religion. What I realised is that my centre, my passion, my raison d’être is women, and that I had the capacity to help women in a way other than in my writing. Indeed, in a more physical, life-altering way.

The other thing I’d come to realise is that I love working WITH women too. I know many people bemoan all-female environments and I’m not saying it’s always easy, but I detest the idea that women are back-stabbing, catty, emotional vampires who will turn on a fellow female in an instant if she thinks someone is prettier, smarter, or getting more attention. I’ve never felt more inspired, empowered and safe as when I’m in a room full of like-minded birth workers. I was at a conference recently and the array of intelligent, kind, witty and determined women in my presence was almost overwhelming. I felt so lucky to be there amongst them, amongst people who, like me, want to help women and help make things better for us all. Sisterhood is powerful.

And so I decided, after this long, emotional process of reevaluating my dreams, that just because one dream may never come to fruition doesn’t mean it hasn’t served its purpose. Writing led me to politics which led me to feminism which led me to women. Women led me to motherhood and guided me through it, and so now I try to do the same by being there for them as a doula. And now I’m ready to take that one step further and become a midwife. I spent all of 2012 applying, interviewing, testing, waiting and hoping and just confirmed a couple months ago that I will begin training in September. Yep, I’m going back to university to get another degree, this time a BSc in Midwifery. Maybe I’ll even get the ol’ journalism degree back down from the loft when I qualify, so it’s not lonely up there on its own.

If you’d asked me 10, 5 or even 2 years ago if I wanted to be a midwife I would’ve looked at you like you were crazy. But now I know it’s what I was meant to do all along and that everything up to now was a stepping stone to this destination. After all, midwife literally means ‘with woman’. And with women is where I want to be.

Licked by Larry

NS November 29th, 2011

Do you remember the stories I told you about the Guinness world book of car crashes, and the longest night a 19-year-old girl ever spent on a European misadventure? Well, in one of those stories I promised to tell you about the longest taxi ride ever and realised today that I had never got round to it. I figured I better rectify this toot suite, before all the Saturday nights I have spent watching X Factor turns my brain into a chocolate fondant-type pudding that, like Louis Walsh’s common sense, spills into a nonsensical puddle when prodded.

So, the taxi ride.

It began when I decided to be responsible and stop at 6 drinks instead of my usual 9. I fell out of the rowdy American blues bar where I’d been hanging out with my friends since we finished work. I staggered to the curb in my high heeled boots and flagged down a taxi almost straight away. As I slid open the mini van’s door, I realised there were already two gentlemen (I use that term loosely) inside.

“Sorry!” I said, and began to close it, but one of the men said they weren’t going far and so long as I didn’t mind the driver dropping them off first, I could share the taxi with them. Because my suspicion of humanity had not yet kicked in (I was only 23, and a happy drunk), I gladly agreed and hopped into the back seat. I sat beside one of the men, whose name now escapes me, and he introduced me to his brother Larry, who sat on the row of seats behind me.  There was something odd about Larry that I couldn’t quite place so I resorted to squinting my eyes at him whenever we passed underneath a street light. It was a Wednesday,  2-for-1 on whiskey drinks, so this meant that squinting didn’t achieve much besides creating two blurry visions of Larry instead of one.

The man beside me (let’s call him Dick), asked what I’d been out celebrating.

“The invention of alcohol, mainly,” I chuckled. “How about you guys?”

“Oh, Larry here just got out of prison yesterday.”

Gulp.

“Ah, you don’t say! Fascinating.” Cue another nonchalant-but-desperate squint at Larry as we passed under a street light again. I was about to ask what he’d been inside for but the swastika tattoos that littered Larry’s neck like graffiti on a store-front shutter rendered this line of questioning irrelevant.

I turned back around and plastered a small, tight smile on my lips, trying not to freak out or panic. I didn’t have long to contemplate my next move because at that moment Larry chose to scoot forward in his seat, so that I could feel his breath on the side of my face, and proceeded to run his tongue, very slowly, all the way from the base of my neck to just behind my ear. I fought the urge to wipe his saliva off and moved away ever so slightly but kept the polite smile on my face, not wanting to provoke my Hitler-loving travel companion. For a woman who is used to having altercations with sexist assholes on a regular basis, and standing up to them, this required a huge dose of self-restraint.

It was at this point that I realised we’d been in the taxi an awfully long time for a ‘quick trip’ to drop them off and that we’d gone outside the city limits and were quickly approaching the flat, featureless countryside that exists everywhere along the edges of suburban and small-town Indiana. The taxi driver was getting fed up with Dick and Larry’s vague directions and mutterings about their destination being ‘just up here a little ways’ and demanded they either give him an exact address or get out. Twenty minutes later,  the neo-Nazi neck lickers were standing outside the minivan shouting abuse at our Pakistani driver, telling him to go back where he came from while kicking the side of the vehicle and blocking it from turning around or moving forward. When I told them to stop and let us go, Dick lived up to his name and began hurling insults at me too.

This was not amusing anymore. I began to have visions of being marched out into the cornfield at gun point with my poor taxi driver, who looked so perplexed and kept repeating, as if for reassurance of his company’s policy, “I cannot carry passengers who refuse to give an address and who treat me in this manner.”

Finally,  Dick and Larry grew bored of terrorising us and walked away into the pitch black night. I breathed a sigh of relief and looked forward to finally getting home. What should have been a 5 minute ride had taken the best part of an hour and had ruined my buzz. Fascist criminals with twisted world views will do that, I hear.

Unfortunately, the taxi driver couldn’t find his way out of a wet paper bag (this was pre-GPS days) and so we drove around in Nowheresville for another half hour before we found a rural gas station at which we could get directions back to the city. Finally, over 2 hours after I stepped into that ill-fated taxi, I arrived home, less than 2 miles away from the bar I’d walked out of earlier in the evening. I mumbled a brief outline of the situation to Noble Husband, washed my neck several times, and then went to sleep.

The moral of this story is: sometimes it is bloody well safer to walk home (even drunk and alone, at night) than to get a taxi. Oh, and always check fellow passengers for prison tats that may indicate a propensity for douchebaggery.

If I ruled the internet

NS October 16th, 2011

People would use grammar and spelling in a largely correct, coherent manner but, likewise, overwrought pedantry about the misuse of words and the digging in of heels against the evolution of language would be punishable by being forced to eat sweaty socks.

Those who sprinkle apostrophes everywhere in a mistaken belief that they indicate plurality instead of possessiveness would be dipped in wet, gluey newspaper strips, stuffed with sweeties and flogged by errant toddlers with large sticks.

Continually posting pictures of cats doing cute and hilarious things and expecting everyone to lap it up (particularly if you’re a woman and a feminist), while simultaneously berating those who post pictures of kids doing cute and hilarious things and expecting everyone to lap it up, would be seen as the giant hypocrisy it is.

Complaining about changed Facebook settings, while continuing to use Facebook, would result in one’s automatic demotion to Bebo. Repeat offenders would be dropped into the bowels of MySpace, haunted by a never-ending loop of emo music on automatic play.

Cowardly commenters who make disgustingly offensive remarks on forums and news websites under the cover of anonymity would be taken out of their miserable jobs and/or mothers’ basements  and given the attention and cuddles they obviously never received as children. If the cuddles didn’t work, their pockets would be lined with stones and they’d be tossed in the nearest river like a sack of unwanted kittens.

Anyone using the phrases ‘full of WIN’ or ‘epic FAIL’ would be reincarnated as the bottom of a nappy bin in summer.

Porn, in its current misogynistic form, would largely disappear. All at once. I just hope the energy shift resulting from 5.7 million solitary handjobs ceasing mid-stroke isn’t enough to spin the Earth off its axis.

The Daily Mail’s website would be hacked and taken over by immigrant lesbians, fat liberals, paedophile benefit scroungers and French-speaking EU bureaucrats, with a few drunk tarts and feral teens thrown in for good measure.

Defining or qualifying women’s capabilities based on their parental status (like ‘mummy blogger’ or ‘mumpreneur’ or ‘mummy track’), while trying to make it sound cheerful and hip, would result in a 2-year mandatory sentence at Camp Patronising, where all the tables and chairs are 10 times as big as the adults and giant children talk down to them while patting them on their pretty, tiny little heads.

All of the following ‘debates’ would cease to exist: breast v bottle, SAHM v working mother, breeders v childfree, kids in restaurants, babies on aeroplanes, and whether getting drunk or walking home alone is an invitation to get yourself raped by hapless, horny passerby.

No one would ever blog about not blogging.

Tweeting about your ‘homemade’ this and your ‘organic’ that, along with continual photographic evidence of said meals and craft projects — to broadcast to the world how healthy, clever, trendy and environmentally-conscious you are — would be illegal in 39 states and Canada. The punishment for breaking this law would be a diet of foie gras, veal and dolphin-unfriendly tuna served with PLAIN, UNORGANIC VEGETABLES. Yeah, that’s right, bitches. I’m that cruel.

I would be able to accurately convey my intentions and emotions without the use of smiley faces, LOLs or ‘just kidding!’ disclaimers.

I would always end a post with a zingy one-liner or memorable moral instead of just allowing my fingers to fall away from the keyb

Crossroads

NS August 27th, 2011

Gosh, this blog is gathering a rather thick layer of dust, isn’t it?

For the past few months, I have been mainly consumed with:

  • My volunteer work
  • My doula work
  • Planning our holiday in Spain (from which we recently returned)
  • Reading books
  • Wondering why I haven’t felt like blogging and if I will ever write my much-dreamed-of book
  • Contemplating the mass deletion of all my blogs but never bringing myself to do it
  • Feeling more drawn to fiction writing but being too lazy and scared to try it
  • Losing weight (15 pounds so far)
  • Getting back into running and going to the gym
  • Spending time with my family
  • Falling even more in love with my husband
  • Contemplating a third baby and then immediately ruling it out, and vice versa
  • Daydreaming of faraway places and feeling a strong desire to move
  • Looking into the possibility of becoming a midwife
  • Shitting myself at the thought of becoming a midwife
  • Mentally redecorating the children’s bedroom and my office, looking at catalogues and sketching out ideas
  • Knowing I need to weed the garden and do some DIY but not being arsed to do so
  • Moaning about the weather
  • Wondering when I will finally sort out the Spanish, guitar, photography or knitting lessons/courses I so desperately want to take

I feel both lethargic and energised with possibilities. I dream of so much but actually achieve so little. The bulk of the work I do is unpaid. More and more, I don’t mind.

Some days it feels like I am standing at a crossroads and I need to just choose a path and start down it. On others, it’s nice just to stand there and survey the different options available to me. Knowing I have the luxury of even contemplating these choices humbles, excites and even sometimes embarrasses me. So many others have not one iota of choice in their lives.

I often feel both stifled by my duties and empowered by the freedom from ‘the working world’ that they give me. Reconciling the part of me that used to feel worthless for not earning money or having a prestigious job with the ever-growing part of me that actually feels BETTER for it has been a lesson in self-actualisation and in assessing my own worth instead of depending on external sources to put a value on me and the contributions I make to my family, my community and my society.

Increasingly, I feel more and more grateful to Noble Husband for going out to work in the 9-5 rat race every day so that I don’t have to. Knowing that he understands how it depresses me, how it stifles my creative urges and humanitarian socialist tendencies, makes me love him even more.

I used to think I was the one doing him a favour, staying at home to raise our children and keep our household running efficiently. But now I see the favour he’s done for me, too. He has gifted me with possibilities; wonderful, endless possibilities.

After our children, it may be the most wonderful thing he’s ever given me and for that I am eternally grateful. I just hope I can fulfil at least some of my dreams and make him proud.

In time, the path will become clear to me, I know. I will make a choice, step off a cliff and make that leap of faith. Whether success or failure waits for me at the bottom, I don’t know. But at least I will have tried to be and do some or all of the things I’ve always wanted.

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