It’s been a crazy few months. Anyone still out there to share my stories? I am going to start password protecting this site, so if you are a friend (or follower) near or far and would like to stay up to date with the Frazier/Wood adventures… drop me an email to get the password to access future posts (oh, and to make me feel a little loved out here in Houston so far from home… ).
Send this form, and I will ship you back the password…
And until I get some password protected posts up… here are some pictures from the past few months…
A friend of mine invited me to do a podcast on motherhood for her friend / client Lisa York. I agreed! You can find it (and also a brief summary of it) here (warning: loads a little slowly), on Lisa York’s SuperMum website.
Yes…. SuperMum. I have to admit that my friend asked me to do a podcast and I was all “yeah! yeah, sure!” and never really asked what it would be about (I know.. I know). Then ON THE DAY of the podcast I listened to some of the archived podcasts (which I loved!), and dug around in the site and found out that it was all about tips for motherhood. Interestingly, not parenting per se, but motherhood – how to keep sane, or keep happy, or just keep going while “mum-ing”. For example, there were tips on how a quick morning meditation can help your day, and how to have a quick “mummy reboot” or how to “Find Your Lost Identity”. So, my immediate reaction was to look at my unwashed hair and creased clothes, and the general disarray of my life, and think “Cripes, I have got literally nothing to offer here”. It is not unusual for me to wear the same clothes three days in a row because I didn’t have time to wash / choose / think about anything else. There. I admitted it. Be grateful I use Febreeze y’all.Plus, I was worried Lisa would also want parenting tips, and I don’t give parenting a lot of thought. I’m not saying I am a brilliant parent-er, but through a combination of over confidence and and inertia (I like to think inertia sounds better than laziness) I I just mostly do what feels right at the time, somewhat in consultation with the other ‘alf, and rarely actually take stock of what I am doing. I mean, I am prone to suddenly going “ermagahd we all need watch less TV” or “waaaaah, the minions are not being adequately controlled by their masters and anarchy is on the horizon in this household” but at these points I can’t think of a time where I have investigated HOW to watch less TV, or HOW to control the parasites. I just sort of try to do it for a little while, and when a new panic comes [“We all need to take Probiotics everyday or we’ll be 20-stone and ridden with ebola!”] I forget about the old one, and who knows if I actually effected any behavioral change.
I am totally on board that I could do things better, and that my kids could be better in some areas, but I am just not motivated enough to like, read a book about it, or an article. Or, let’s face it, even a listicle (unless it has super amazing gifs, including one of Ryan Reynolds (Greatest Dad Ever TM) in his underwear). I do love that plenty of my friends read this stuff, because then when I am whining that my kids can’t do a basic human act like sit at the dinner table, I can absorb their collective wisdom (nicely digested, synthesized and often tested) as I sob into my Malbec.So, I totally freaked out, but Lisa (who runs the website and its podcasts) was ah-maz-ing and told me just to be myself and then gave me a write-up that made me even want to listen to myself (to be clear: I have not! Ha! I am way too awkward and worried that I’ll sound like a fool or spend all the time fretting about my answers to do that). But, I am glad I did it. As we talked about things like differences between the US and the UK, and the fact that I don’t read parenting books, I am super worried that I will offend someone – but still, I am glad I did it. And I definitely enjoyed it. And Lisa seemed to think that the message of “Oh, I’m just winging it because I guess deep down I don’t think what we do makes an enormous difference anyway…” was an OK message to put out there. Or maybe even a reassuring one. So, if you needed to here it – there we go.
I’m winging it and you can too 🙂
But also, it was good that one of Lisa’s goals with SuperMum is just to tell mum’s stories… and I really enjoyed listening to those – kind of like an audio blog if you will. I’ve subscribed on itunes and I am trying to listen to new podcasts on the way to work, so maybe some tips will seep in after all…
Oh, and at the end of the podcast every person is asked to give their definition of a SuperMum. Apparently the most common definitions involve happiness and health. I won’t tell you what my definition of a SuperMum is (go listen to the podcast!) but can I just make a plea that we stop tying success to happiness and health? Both of those are gifts that are only somewhat within our control. It’s easy to agree that someone who has cancer / has children with cancer (i.e. the health part is tough) is no less a SuperMum than someone without. So, can we generalize and say that someone who is depressed / has children with depression – or is even just struggling to be happy and content right now – is also no less a SuperMum. And this obviously goes beyond parenting: your success, and your worth and your value does not have to tied up to your health and happiness. It’s up to you to decide what it is tied to…
It’s been a good (and long) social media break! And an interesting one… as you may know I decided to take a break from FaceBook, which just naturally turned into a “no social media” break. Online, I only used email, and I only read BBC news, The Guardian (being careful to access the UK edition), and some of The Washington Post. It was sort of glorious – there was an instant feeling of superiority (oh come in, there is… don’t believe me? Check out this simultaneously hilarious and too-close-to-the-bone video:
… which soon faded, a lot of extra free-time …which I soon filled with online shopping, US Weekly and ALL the episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and a strange feeling of loneliness at times… which soon passed.
The superiority, free-time and loneliness passed soon enough, and I was left with just a little bit more a rounded view of world knowledge and a much heavier text messaging bill. Weirdly, I missed Instagram, and my blog, and Buzzfeed – but never FaceBook. Like, I thought FaceBook would be the thing I missed most, and I would be chomping to get back to… but as 2017 rolled around and I felt my self-imposed social media hiatus should come to end I just had no particular impetus to rejoin. Despite some “did she have the baby yet?” style curiosity (and yes, there are emails and texts for that), I just never felt the urge to reactive my profile.
So, I didn’t. I started to post on Instagram again (hey, I am way too obsessed by food, my cats and my kids not to, alright?), and I started to read Buzzfeed (while trying to continue to read more reputable news sites, with admittedly limited success), but through general inertia just never got around to really joining FaceBook again in a meaningful way (secret confession: I have a profile solely so I can buy LulaRoe clothes. Don’t know what LulaRoe is? DON’T TRY TO FIND OUT OR YOU WILL GO BROKE!). And although I missed my little blog it was hard to find the time to post, and hard to be motivated when I didn’t have a social media platform on which to share my posts. But, even so, some 4 months later I am sad, because I have this chunk of my family’s life that there is no record of now (Memory? What is this memory if which you speak? If it isn’t recorded on social media, it didn’t happen… mmmmkay?). And, especially, the kids’ development is no longer chronically in any meaningful way what with them having grown out of their baby books and all (and my ‘phone breaking and losing moths of pictures too – sob). I miss seeing pics of them and watching the grow up. And I miss being able to stay in touch with my friends through the comments sections.
So, I hope to start blogging again, and I super hope that some of y’all will join me back on this journey 🙂
I make no secret of the fact that I hate Houston. But last Saturday there was a detente in our relationship as Autumn hit. The cooler, dry air may be playing havoc with Sam’s eczema but teamed with Houston’s bright blue skies it’s glorious for being out in. An ideal afternoon is now spent playing with the children in front of the house, biking and walking to the park, Ellie around our feet. It’s almost idyllic and helps me wrap up in my family and shut out the ugliness of the world.
It’s the best bits of England made better – hardly any rain and it’s not cold but fresh. The dark nights roll in and it’s still nice to have a drink on the porch (or in the garage if, like us, you don’t have a porch.
So why does it make me so homesick? It makes me crave those parts of England I thought I would be glad to leave behind: walking with the damp permeating your clothes, dying for that cup of tea and Tunnocks tea cake, hiding under blankets inside… I miss the too cold, the too wet, the too dark. Even in its perfection, Houston is not my home.
Like much of those in America, including possibly the winner himself, the results of the 2016 Presidential election came as a huge shock to me. So sure of the result was I, that when questioned why I would take children to an election party given that results don’t finish coming in until after midnight, I rolled my eyes and said “Oh, by 8, maybe 8.30, we’ll know. I mean, we won’t know, but it will be obvious”. I was anticipating the vote for Hillary to be such a landslide that in my wilder dreams I almost saw Texas as a swing state. I nearly made a T-shirt that said “Spoiler alert: Hillary wins”.
In the end, I was half right. By 8-8.30 I did indeed know. I can’t remember the exact time my heart stopped hoping, but at a certain point it was clear that the majority of the swing states were leaning red, and in other states Trump’s margin was greater than expected. Together, it was clearly an indication of what was to come. At 9-ish I said to friends “I don’t want to get in the car and drive home, because I know that when I get out of the car it will be a done deal”. But in the end keeping my children up far too late, and clinging on, and staying up 2 hours’ after we got home was in vain. Trump won.
Trump won. And I am afraid. And after the tears, for me, came the time for quieter introspection. How? I needed to understand two major “hows”:
1. While I respect that there were a multitude of reasons for voting Trump, many of which reflect values that I hold dear (but choose to manifest differently), how did an open misogynist, who mocked disabilities, who acted a racist to an almost caricature level, and who made hatred-inspired division a cornerstone of his campaign, win? I understand how he got some votes e.g the pro-life vote, but how did he win?
2. How did I so totally and utterly not see it coming? How did the Democratic Party and associated media not see it coming?
The answers to these are many layered and complex. They are being debated in the media now, and they will be written about for years to come. I am not Political Science savvy-enough to add to the experts, but for now I am recognizing that the DNP did not listen to their followers who actually echoed the same sentiments as the Trump followers.
I was not a Bernie Sanders fan. I liked his ideals, but I felt they were too extreme for the US at the present time, and his past record in the legislature (or more to the point, his lack of record) told me that he would not work well within the system to compromise and make change happen. I saw stagnation. But it seems I was an outsider in wanting someone more proven, more acceptable to other politicians, more used to working with the other side and deploying their army of machinations to achieve a compromise goal. I think the people overwhelmingly wanted Bernie the outsider and consistently overlooked his negatives – even some of the same negatives theory through at Hillary. And in the end, The DNP looked around at the American public overwhelmingly asking for an outsider, and put in place: the ultimate insider.
That’s just the start of what will surely be characterized in history as a catalogue of mistakes. But it is not even really where my thoughts were; they were more at the grass roots level (albeit how this reflects DNP actions) and with personal guilt. Why did Trump win? The difference this year seems to be because he exploited divisions while mobilizing a group of people that liberals all but ignore: non-college educated (I refuse to say “uneducated” like the divisive media), often rural, whites. He spoke to them, and he spoke for them. But surely, he could only get them to vote for such a heinous character but making the division between him and the other candidate strong. He must have made that wound so deep. And thinking about this, when I did some soul searching I realized that as an enlightened, tolerance-preaching all-loving liberal I was as guilty of contributing to these divisions as anyone.
Did I have any interest in America’s other whites? No. Did I care about disenfranchised whites? Oh, I read about the African American experience, and the Transgender experience, and the Refugee experience and so on. I lapped it up! I shared articles, I spouted about how enlighten I was because I could never really appreciate what it was like to be one of these minorities, but I could appreciate the environment they were in and how terrible my white straight privilege was! Oh, now I saw the light indeed. Now I was so much a better person indeed. Enlightened. Accepting. So open minded. So liberal. How did even manage to see when my halo was so bright.
But what about others? How could I not read about others who were disenfranchised? Is it that I had no access to such literature? No. Immediately I can think of two occasions where people directly tried to engage me on this issue. I posted about white privileged and two people directly said to me “I don’t think African Americans do have a disadvantage compared to me”. Of course, we all know my response. It’s the classic white liberal response: You’re wrong! And not only are you wrong, you want to be wrong. You don’t like the changing status quo my pompous ass concluded. Whether here is any veracity to those statements or not, yet problem to me is not what was said or through, but what was not. I cannot remember a single time I engaged with a disenfranchised white and said “tell me about your troubles”. “Tell me about how you feel marginalized”. “Let me listen to you”.
Why? I don’t think I am generally someone who doesn’t try to to see other people’s point of view, or who carries a self-righteous rightness about them. So why now? Why couldn’t I listen to family members and friends, of all people. Thinking long and hard about why I have changed to be like this, I have drawn the conclusion that a large part of it stems from living on Facebook for me. At the time of the election, I got almost 100% of my “news” from Facebook recommendations and click fests, and lived in that Facebook bubble where (and I forget what the name of it is), FaceBook shows you posts and media articles that reflect your previous interests and likes. How could this not entrench my views further? Everyday I logged on to have my views reaffirmed and deepened. Every day others logged on to have the same to their different views. How could this not create a chasm? Clearly this is only a problem when you get your information exclusively in this manner, but I am ashamed to say that I did. And now I think about it: that’s incredibly dangerous. Surely, it has to be incredibly dangerous to encourage oneself to narrow your world view? And to keep reaffirming your underlying opinions rather than evolving and challenging them. And often, let’s face it: doing all this with sound bites and memes. I nearly started a running series on this blog about liberal memes that annoyed me because so they so entirely missed the non-liberal point of view. Yet I still willingly exposed myself to them day after day.
Against this background of realizing that Facebook was not doing my world view any good, things started to get heated in my feed. I watched comment after comment get leaped on, and yelled at, even though the original intent was not to incite. The divisions deepened and became personal.
I am honest and true to my beliefs, but I express them differently depending on the views of the audience. I talk about them in person subtly and with nuance (I hope). I take care not to hurt people if they disagree with me. I try to listen. But it is very difficult to do this on Facebook. It tends to be quick status updates, memes and headlines. You speak to everyone at once, and in the same way. You can’t gauge those non verbal cues as to how someone is being affected by your words. But you do get all those self affirming likes and shares! It just wasn’t good for me.
I don’t know when much of my interpersonal discourse moved from real life to Facebook, but embarrassingly, it did. Some months ago I stopped making political posts and stuck to baby pictures and selfies. But it creeps in. A picture of Caroline in a (bi-partisan) election hat started flurry of passionate debate – by accident it seems (although I did tag it #imwithher). (#imstillwithher). That wans’t the only example. Being careful with what I posted on my own page probably deepened my resentment of the so-perceived “others”, rather than leading to discourse and learning.
So, it’s time for a break. I had thought about it before, but never managed to pull the trigger on deactivating my account. It makes me quite sad – there are so many people I am only in touch with through Facebook and I have enjoyed my friendships there. I have been to a wedding and had a marvelous friend come and stay with me because of it. I have reconnected with an old “sister” (“” because she is not family buy blood, just by love and experience). But I need a break. I seem unable to control my usage and use it only positively so Facebook is gone.
I’m sad that I have lost messenger as I deactivated Facebook, and I worry about lost friendships. But I am hoping that I can still connect with people here, and through emails and text messages. I’m not quite a hermit / dinosaur yet.
The above is just a snapshot of what is going through my mind. It’s worth saying that I recognize:
*There were many reasons for voting for Trump other than “white disenfranchisement” to include for example, his pro-life stance, and his business acumen.
*I don’t hate Trump supporters. I don’t just “tolerate” them. I love many of them, and I recognize and understand their reasons for voting Trump where I have heard them. In the same breath, I don’t dismiss articles which say, for example, that racism can be just about actions as about beliefs and voting for an open racist with racist policies can be seen as a racist act. I have trouble reconciling a lot of this in my head.
*A lot of my decision just reflect a need to hide away from the ugliness in the world for a while. It’s not helpful, but I need to be able to distance myself.
*Many felt Hillary was just a truly non optional alternative. I loved her, but they saw entitlement, dishonesty, murder and warmongering. She lost a lot of her vote because of this.
*Many (the majority?) of people are able to use Facebook in an entirely constructive way. I am not one of them at their moment. You would probably be horrified if you knew quite how much time I spent on there. This is a personal decision that does not reflect what I think of Facebook and its users in general.
*The extreme right seem to be gaining traction all over the world (including Europe and Australia). This is a world patterns right now which probably has nothing to do with social media and everything to do with the fallout of several wars and economic depressions.
*At times I sounds like I am really beating myself up. I am very sad at the moment. It is hard to put into words what watching a man who was vocal racist, who said women should be punished for abortions, who promised to enact racist policies and undo some of the greatest social progress this country has seen in decades, and who has no political experience to temper his actions, what it has done to me to see this man be put in power. What it has done to me to see literal hate spewed forth and not only be legitimized but supported. If I played any part in this, if I even contributed to underlying movements that in some allowed this to gain momentum, if I was even prepresentative of the problem rather than part of it, I take that very seriously and will demand dramatic changes of myself. Change must happen. A man such as Trump much not be allowed to be the face of a Nation.
*Coming off Facebook is not the most helpful thing I can do. I know this. I have already been researching organizations and making lists of what I can feasibly contribute to, both financially and by giving my time or expertise, to counteract racism, and promote gender equality. Good will come of this.
I promised him I would treat her as my last. Even though nothing makes me as happy as “the babies” – from the big awesome responsibility of raising tiny humans to be moral beings, to the little every day tasks of bathing and feeding and drying between tiny toes – I promised him. I will make her my last.
But how to do it? How to ignore that space in my heart? How to deal with the yearning to “do for” when my son says daily – multiple times daily – “but mummy, I can do it all by myself!”. Well, there is a way. I will nurture and spoil and baby and coddle this one. I’ll let her need me to I’ll do all the things for her and I’ll keep her out of fashionable skirts and in babygrows, and out of chairs and in bumbos and out of the playroom and in my arms. It’s the last time — I will savor her forever.
Ah, But Little Miss. Little Miss Caroline Grace who has outgrown her name and adopted the sassy CG does not want to be savored. Unlike her laid-back brother who lingered in each comfy stage she charges ahead. I should have known. When she upped and walked at 10 months… I should have known. When at 10 and a half months she grabbed the legs of her highchair and screaming tried to toss it over… I sat her at a regular chair in at the table with a booster seat for 3 years plus and I should have known. I should have known when I saw her holding her own in an argument against her brother who has three years on her… when he sloped away defeat I should have knon. When she put her own shoes on… when she grabbed the medicine syringe out of my hand and threw it across the room screaming “no”… when her bellows weren’t screams of sad anguish but those of cold, determined anger at any lack of control… I should have known.
I really should have known when at 12 months on the nose they moved her to the 17-24 month class. “No binkies! No bottles! No bare feet!” They said. Then quieter… “She’s doing so much better…” they said.
But… she doesn’t want to be a baby. She is fierce, and she fights for her independence. I know now. I know not to fight it. So when she told me for months that she hated cribs and she won’t be constrained in one, I should have listened. But I fight too, and she’s a baby and I know that babies go in cribs and so we stood yelling at each other until one of us gave in. And here she is… peacefully slumbering in a toddler bed. I lay her down, kissed her on the forehead and left. And there were no tears, she just picked up a teddy and went to sleep.
She is my last… but she will not be treatedas such, Adamantly, she will steam ahead and be first. She does not compromise and when it comes to what is best for her: she is not wrong. And as we draw the battle lines and give each other steely eyes gazes across them, I recognize this – in too deep of a way – and I know where she gets it from.
And though my heart screams and I dig my heels in (and she digs hers in further) – May she keep trail blazing. May she keep lighting her eat into the future and we will all stand in her wake and look on and try to keep up.