Archive for the 'Home and Hearth' Category

The pleasures of a bank holiday Monday

NS May 27th, 2014

  • Feeling zero guilt about sitting on various soft furnishings around the house, reading all day, because it’s raining. First, the remnants of the Saturday Guardian, and then, after receipt of a parcel from Amazon, two books. Absolute bliss.
  • Listening to the Noble Boy read a stack of books next to me on the bed, and surreptitiously breathing in his puppy-dog-scented hair.
  • Going to the gym first thing in the morning and feeling smug for the rest of the day. I went to the gym! On a bank holiday! In the rain! That is dedication that deserves a reward, I tell myself later as I reach for the biscuits.
  • Watching the Lego Movie and spending the rest of the day bursting into refrains of ‘Everything is Awesome!’ Sure beats that piece of crap ‘Let it Go’ rubbish from Frozen.
  • Playing Ludo with Noble Boy. Losing gracefully.
  • Spending an hour trying to figure out how to make my new haircut look like how my hairdresser styled it in the salon. Failing miserably, shrugging, and finally sticking some hair grips (bobby pins)  in it to keep it out of my face. This is the extent of my hair-styling skills.
  • Watching the Mad Men mid-season finale once the kids are in bed, after I’ve stuffed myself with penne puttanesca.
  • Watching the news after that, and discussing the week’s current events with Noble Husband.
  • Realising all I’ve done today is work out, eat, read, and watch TV. Everything is awesome!
  • Having a giggling fit at NH’s expense when he can’t get his bedside light off, then enduring a pseudo wrestling match and more laughing while we try not to wake the kids.
  • Drifting off to sleep feeling deeply contented. Sod the sun — rainy days are my favourite days.

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?

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.

Image credit

Essay: Life in bed

NS June 30th, 2010

I wrote this essay in winter and sent it to two of my favourite magazines in the hopes of having it published. I received a rejection from one and never heard back from the other. Instead of letting it gather dust while I am busy with other things, on hiatus from submitting, I’m going to publish it here. No more waiting and hoping, just my words in my space, on my terms.

Bed. It is a place I so desperately want to be but also a place of worry and restlessness and exhaustion; the scene of a cruel prank in which I am awakened at the peak of a much-needed REM cycle but to which I will not easily return, even after the baby, my youngest, is soothed and asleep again. I strain my ears to confirm that which made me stir and find my brow furrowing with annoyance, anger and misery before smoothing itself into placid resignation when the cries become clearer and more urgent. In performing my nightly routine of Bedtime Bolero, I stumble and sway from bed to crib and back again, only half conscious. Too tired to sit upright in the velvet-covered feeding chair that belonged to my husband’s great-grandmother, I trundle back to bed with my warm bundle and curve my body around his, like we’ve done a thousand times before. The drug-like effect of milk production feels like small weights being pressed down onto my eyelids, willing me to nod my head sleepily in time to my son’s hungry gulps and allow his warm, searching hands to burrow beneath the fluffy blue collar of my robe. ‘How could I be angry at this little soul?’ I admonish myself, though I suspect that’s the oxytocin (the so-called ‘love drug’ produced in lactating women) talking. Seeing only occasionally the glow of the street light outside the window through the slits of my bleary eyes, I nestle into my pillow and reflect on the spectrum of life experienced here.

Though it seems quite a boring, unassuming place, so much happens in bed. We spend approximately one-third of our existences there, sleeping. We also read, write, eat, drink, smoke, dream, agonize, cry, vomit, laugh, make love and die there, among other things. Great novels and political manifestos have been written in bed. Inventions conjured up, cities planned, wars plotted, great love affairs begun, families started. In fact, that’s where the offspring of yore were born – in the same location as their creation. Today, the most common bed to be born in belongs not to the family but the hospital; the scratchy-linened, stirrup-equipped, mechanically-reclining kind or, if things don’t go to plan, the steel, sterile one in the operating room. Some babies aren’t born in bed at all but rather into bathtubs, on rural kitchen floors or the backseats of cars that didn’t quite make it in time.

Though we may not remember our own births, bed quickly becomes a central theme in our lives. Early childhood memories revolve around that most magical and frightening place, where we are meant to peacefully slumber. The first flash of consciousness I can recall is clambering over the rails of my wooden crib, aged two, in order to dump pail after pail of water from the bathroom sink onto my older sister’s mattress, a middle child’s revenge for the new baby in the house who was taking up all her parents’ time. At age four or so, the light from the living room glowing in a thin yellow line under my darkened door was a portal into a strange adult world of which I was infinitely curious but infuriatingly barred. From bed I learned to listen carefully and observe with my ears, my parents’ parties intoxicating in more ways than one. The clinking of ice in a glass of bourbon, the crack-pop-fizz! of a beer being opened, the rapid ph-ph-ph-phhhlump of a deck of cards being shuffled, the chatter and laughter of friends…it seemed so glamorous and mysterious then. Eventually though, snooping would give way to somnolence and my head would connect heavily with the pillow of its own volition. Dreams would have to do while my body and mind rested.

Later, at perhaps six or seven, monsters made their way under my lavender dust ruffle and a fear of the dark and unknown often gripped me as I lay awake with blankets clutched tight, heart pounding in my chest and eyes inspecting every suspicious shape. This was not helped by my father’s propensity to allow us to watch age-inappropriate films when my mother was away, featuring nasty characters with evil grins and masks over their eyes, or a wild-eyed clown with an insatiable appetite for children. Nightmare on Elm Street brought just as many to Locust Street, I can tell you. Then, age nine, hearing the sobs and cries of my mother from her room, mourning the loss of her youngest child to the real monster under the bed: cancer. Though the other creatures faded from existence, that was the only one that never left my side and lurked, forever-more, in the shadows of my childhood. It never had a face or discernible features; it was just a deep, dark mass of seemingly indeterminate cruelty. On more than one occasion, I knelt in prayer before climbing into bed at night, even though ours wasn’t a particularly religious family, promising to be better, braver and stronger, if only God would lift the fog of grief engulfing us. Eventually, it cleared enough for us to find one another again, though the mist of loss will always be present.

Cancer wasn’t the only real-life monster I became aware of as a child, unfortunately. At a sixth-grade sleepover a couple of years later, what had begun as a standard pre-teen slumber party (giggling, videos, popcorn, talk of our first schoolgirl crushes, perhaps a bit of make-up or nail polish) turned suddenly into a confessional booth in which I was thrust into the role of priest and my three friends the confessors. But what they confessed that night were not crimes they had perpetrated or sins they’d committed, but those of the man in the next room: our host’s stepfather. It seemed the bed upon which we were sitting was not only the site of make-overs and sing-alongs, but of horrific abuse and intimidation. Ten minutes before I had been eating sickly-sweet candy with my friends. Very quickly, my head was spinning from not only the sugar rush but the sudden rush of reality. The next day, I sat down on my mother’s bed as she folded laundry and told her everything. She hugged me, then sprang into action. After the flurry of doctors, police and child psychologists had passed and their monster was safely locked away, the girls distanced themselves from me, from the pain, and our friendships faltered. I often lay awake at night, counting the stick-on neon stars on my ceiling in an effort to quiet my mind enough to sleep, wondering if I did the right thing. All I could do was hope that, one day, their beds would become places in which they could dream again, not cower in fear.

Upon entering the teen years, my bed became less a place I wanted to escape and more a place of retreat. I vividly recall throwing myself onto the mattress and crying tears of frustration and angst, sure that I was the most misunderstood, mistreated and misjudged 14-year-old the world had ever known. Weren’t we all? I lay there for endless hours, listening to the albums that best expressed my burgeoning independence and scribbled furiously and clumsily in my journal about my rage and the metaphorical cage against which I beat my wings, so desperate to unfurl them and fly away. When I wasn’t sulking in bed I was using it as a launchpad to adulthood with the opposite sex. Bed was simultaneously a place of exploration and exploitation, intimacy and intimidation. It was not only the stage on which we acted out our desires but where we learned of the thin, thin line between ecstasy and agony, of the art and importance of reading subtle body language. It is also where we learned that bedroom politics and the power therein will always be with us, even when we are well past our teens. Even now, as a woman who has been with the same man for eleven years, the vigorous campaigning for more, better, different sex and the why and how often and when it will occur is still ongoing. The passion of new lovers may have been replaced by something more familiar, but the complications remain the same.

A real turning point on my voyage to maturity was when I bought my own bed. After having slept on a succession of mattresses provided by my parents, relatives’ and friends’ cast-offs and landlords of ready-furnished apartments, my husband and I finally made the big leap to orthopedically-correct ownership. It wasn’t as intimate an occasion as we might have hoped, given that my father stood nearby while we tested for potentially embarrassing squeakiness, but we didn’t have a car back then and needed Dad’s pick-up truck and adeptness at moving large items to get the thing home. Still, it was ours and it was freeing, in a small, mundane sort of way. No more worrying about stains, chips, unsprung springs or ill-fitting firmness levels that had us rubbing our backs in the morning. We could make love in our bed and not think of who had done the same before us, or would do so after us. We could smoke right then and there after a marathon session, with the sweaty sheets tucked around our waists and chests, in a perfect, L-shaped improbability, while he grinned or slept and I looked, wild-haired and open-mouthed, into the middle distance — the very picture of Hollywood-styled post-coital bliss. We’d sleep there ’til 10, 11, even 12 on Sundays, with nowhere to go and no one to see but each other. Then, I had excuses not to get out of bed; now, I have none for not doing so. Even though we enjoyed nearly seven years of pre-children cohabitation, I sometimes look back on those days with intense longing and wish I could tell my younger, more carefree self to enjoy them while they lasted, that my older, parental self would want me to ignore the phone, the cat, the laundry or that movie time. ‘Stay in bed!’ I would shout. I’d tell that young couple to bottle up those moments so they could be uncorked and appreciated later (perhaps in the midst of an argument about whose turn it is to get up with the crying toddler or whose career is more important), allowing the weight of responsibility to drift away on an effervescent memory.

If I could replace the nights when anger and resentment sent us inching towards the far corners of the bed with fond memories of his arm draped protectively over my baby-laden, wriggling mountain of a belly, I would always be happy. If I could erase the time I wrecked our computer in a fit of sleep-deprived rage and substitute the memory of him placing our son in my arms immediately after he’d been born, I’d never again feel guilty. But I can’t and I wouldn’t. The bad with the good, that’s what we promised when we married. All the nasty, gory, ugly grimness in order to enjoy the uplifting, companionable, heart-melting wonderfulness.

My reverie is disturbed by my son’s babbling, his wide-open eyes and mischievous grin telling me I have no chance of slipping back into sleep. I smile at the blond mess of hair peeking out from the other side of the pillow, confirmation that my little girl has wandered through at some point in the night to curl up beside her father, her best friend in the whole world. All four of us lie there — breathing warmly on one another’s closely-assembled faces, tucking elbows and knees respectfully to our sides (us) or flailing about indiscriminately (them) — pressing our bodies together to form a pulsing, nuclear mass of love and security, stronger together than we ever could be separately. Despite the lack of sleep, the arguments, the bedroom politics and the hardships, this is what he and I wanted when we decided to become parents. This is what we dreamed of. Our idea of familial bliss, what we saw when we pictured our lives with children, revolved around this image, in this bed. All of the other stuff goes out of focus until only this moment becomes crystallized. We are reminded by their beautiful faces and rising, falling chests of why we do this, of what makes each day worth facing. My lover’s hand finds mine somewhere in the tangle of blankets and we smile faintly at one another, the outlines of our lips barely perceptible in the pink-grey light of a winter’s dawn.

Finally, as the first rays of real sunlight begin peeking through gaps in the blinds, illuminating the thin layer of dust ever-present in our house, the reality and routine of everyday life sets in. I swing my feet out of bed and into slippers. I change a diaper and brush my teeth, squinting away from the easterly-facing bathroom window. I pour the cereal and feed the cat, then wash the bowls and pack the bags. I contemplate crawling back into bed with my second cup of coffee, knowing it won’t happen. Instead, I sip from my mug in the kitchen while I write, my effort to forge a career in snatched moments of peace a distinctly exciting and frustrating endeavor, the possibilities as endless as the limitations.

Later, when the boy is napping, I go upstairs to make the bed. My hands linger as they fluff and smooth the duvet and my lips smile at the morning’s memory. I perch carefully on the edge, close my eyes and try to picture what other memories I will create here, how many more times I will sob into my pillow or lay awake with worry or excitement. I wonder if, once the children are grown and gone, my husband and I will revert to modified versions of our pre-parent selves, with less mind-blowing sex and more cups of tea, but with the same unfettered blitheness on a Sunday morning that we enjoyed in the beginning. I imagine our rekindled closeness will make the likelihood of watching him die, perhaps in this very bed, all the more unfathomable. I’m not able to imagine any further than that before the ache in my chest makes me draw breath and shake off the vision. I go back to the scene from this morning and hold it in my mind until the monsters and demons, both past and future, scurry back under the bed where they belong.

I hear my son awaken in his room, calling to me. I stand and sigh good naturedly. Up and out once more.

The pain of art, the joy of living

NS June 14th, 2010

You know how some artists (whatever their medium; painting, music, writing, what have you) depend on being miserable, sad, angry, depressed, lonely, frustrated, misunderstood, tired, undervalued or oppressed (or all of the above) to create their art? And how when they’re happy, busy, valued, surrounded by people, encouraged and clear-headed, with a joyful, fulfilling and healthy personal, professional and social life, they sort of lose their edge?

That feels like me right now. I’m flailing. I’m losing my ‘art’. I’m losing my blogging mojo. I’m losing interest in fighting the fights I’ve been fighting for so long. I feel less and less inclined to come up with topics to write about, things to get incensed about, news to devour and dissect. I haven’t read the papers but one time since the British elections on the 6th of May. I have read articles that would normally have me writing lengthy screeds in opposition or approval and felt nothing but the briefest glimmers of interest. I log in then I log out. I stay up late trying to figure out why I’m drawing such blanks and get less and less sleep. I become more irritable.

But then one day I just stopped for awhile. I had other things going on and didn’t have time. Normally I’m itching to get back to my ‘online life’ after a brief spell away; this time I had to force myself to log in. I felt bored. I felt restless.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve recently taken up running. I’m doing a 5k at the end of next month and have been going three times a week fairly faithfully. Yesterday my regimen notched itself up from 8 minutes at a time to 20. I looked at what the running app on my iPhone screen was commanding me to do  and gaped. Go from an 8-minute run to 20 with nothing in between? No gentle breaking-in, no gradual increase over a long period of time? Who the hell did this running app think it was, bloody Richard Simmons?! I gave it a wary eye and told myself that if I couldn’t make it, so be it. It was too much to ask, anyway! It would be a miracle if I didn’t need to stop due to bursting lungs or cramping calves or some other such affliction.

But it turns out, I did it. I did it and it wasn’t even that difficult. I could do that run all along but I was holding myself back. I didn’t think I could do it so I didn’t even try.

For the last few years, ever since I had my daughter, I’ve been waiting for my life to find its niche, its groove, its upward trajectory towards success and happiness. But it turns out that you can’t wait for this shit to happen; you have to make it happen. You have to pour your heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into it and then wade head-first, eyes open, into the mix instead of standing on the sidelines feebly throwing cups of water at those racing past you.

Right now I am going through some intense transformations; from couch potato into runner, from a frustrated writer and stay-at-home mum to an independent businesswoman and running-three-websites mum, from distant, grumpy wife to more engaged partner and from a mother unhappy with her parenting practices and interactions with her children to one taking control and doing things to rectify those negative practices, ones that stem mainly from that discontent I spoke of earlier.

Needless to say, something has got to give.

So while I love my art and I love my little corner of cyberspace and the friends, opportunities, emotional and intellectual growth it has provided me, I am beginning to feel that I may be done with Noble Savage. I’ve been going for over five years and I’m not sure what else I can say, really. I’ve poured my heart out, written my fingers to the bone, researched, read, reported, raged, ranted, laughed, cried and gone a little bit loopy in the process.

Maybe I’m not going to get that book deal or journalism job or freelance gig after all. Maybe all I was ever destined to do was write this blog to meet the people and read the things that grew my mind and fed my soul enough to get me on my life’s true path, one that will make me happier, more fulfilled, more at ease and successful than my years-long dream of being a published author or  respected hack ever would have afforded me.

Maybe I just need a break, with no defined return. Maybe  a complete release from the pressure of a blank screen and a full RSS reader will do the trick and when things have settled down with the doula business and the running and getting my marriage back on track, I will have more to say, and better. Hell, maybe tomorrow I will wake up having completely changed my mind and be ready to tear the shit out of some article in the Times or wax lyrical about the highs and lows of parenthood.

But for now, the joy of living is overriding the gut-wrenching pain and time involved in creating my art. And this time, I’m going to let it.

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