I’ll have a cuppa

Last night was a tough night in the parenting trenches.  We’re waiting for little A-Rex to sleep through the night and last weekend he almost did it, going from 10:30 to 5:30am without a feed.  If you don’t have kids, this probably sounds awful.  If you have kids, this is bliss.  But then, probably because he’s only just turned 8 weeks old, he realised he probably still needs food at 3:30.  Waking up in the middle of the night every night is tough, and it’s even tougher when your little dinosaur likes to spend an hour snorting and stirring in his sleep.

So last night, MR said he would have A-Rex, and I could have a blissful night of uninterrupted sleep–until the Feliciraptor woke up as early as 6.  Still, as I’ve covered: bliss.

Except I got insomnia.  Despite being exhausted, my body is trained to wake at freaking 3 am, and when I heard my 8 week old dinosaur crying and snuffling, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should be doing something.  Worse still, A-Rex was very fretful, and MR wide awake too.  Needless to say, we were exhausted.  My very kind sister-in-law agreed to have the kids this afternoon, but still, after they were asleep, I needed something warm and comforting to unwind.

So I reached for the kettle.

Growing up in America, my knowledge of tea was that the English were obsessed with it.  I didn’t really get it.  I liked iced tea, especially sweet tea, but hot tea I could take or leave.  My parents would sometimes make pots of loose leaf tea with a fancy infuser pot, and they would drink it black.  Sometimes I would have a cup, with some sugar.  I can still taste the watery, anemic blend Lipton uses.

Note: This is not tea. When you can drink it iced, something is wrong. If this is America’s favorite tea, no wonder Americans don’t get the tea thing. They don’t even have electric kettles.

On my second trip to England I had afternoon tea at the Savoy.  As it was a very posh hotel, the waiter pours your tea for you, and he offered to pour milk in my tea.  I put my hand over the cup, equal parts mystified and repulsed by the idea (remember, all I knew of tea was Lipton).  I sipped at my black tea for formality’s sake, but I was far more interested in the food.

Even when I got to know British people and was taught the correct way to drink tea (i.e. with milk, and proper tasting tea), I was a bit weirded out by the dipping of chocolate covered things in tea, like Tunnock’s caramel wafers, or chocolate covered digestives.  Surely chocolate and tea was a strange combination?  So I ate my digestives dry and didn’t think much of them.

A perfect tea accompaniment.

For a long time, I completely underestimated tea.  I didn’t have any good stuff, and so I couldn’t understand why tea was such a comfort when you’re tired or wet or cold or in need of a pick me up; warming and cheering all at once.  Now I drink Yorkshire Gold and know better than to order tea in the US–it’s either some herbal nonsense or Lipton.  When I go home, I pack my own teabags.  Obviously I drink it with milk–now I equate drinking black tea with drinking black coffee.  It’s certainly possible and sometimes done, but only by a select few who have particular tastes.

I’m becoming assimilated.  Tonight I reached for the kettle, brewed my tea in my tea-stained mug, and happily dipped my caramel wafer in it.  The warmth of the tea melted the chocolate and softened the wafer and caramel, and the sweetness of the treat was set off by the mellow, rich tea.  Coffee’s bitterness is stimulating, but tea hits a more calming note, particularly as I was drinking decaf.  I get why the English are happy to live up to this stereotype.

 

 

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. Not sure how to participate? Here are the steps to get started. (Prompt idea by The Rebel.)

Source: Underestimate

My history of beaches

Personality quizzes like to ask you if you prefer the mountains or the beach.  I’m never exactly sure what this is meant to symbolise, but I always choose the beach.

Water baby from the start
Water baby from the start

I like music about beaches and water: as a kid I loved ‘Kokomo’ by the Beach Boys and ‘Orinoco Flow’.  I even convinced myself that Rod Stewart’s ‘Rhythm of My Heart’ was the actual soundtrack to C. S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader  (Incidentally my favourite Narnia novel).  It does make sense–a lot of the song is Stewart mumbling incoherently and one of the few clear lines is the last one in the chorus, ‘Where the ocean meets the sky, I’ll be sailing.’  You guys, that’s what they were doing in the book.  But I digress.  What I’m trying to say is I feel a pull to the water, and while my associations with mountains (or other landscapes, for that matter) are generally vague, I have some very strong memories of beaches.  Like…

Jones Beach, Long Island, New York

So. Many. People.

Jones Beach was my standard for beaches for a long time.  In a way it was awesome–when I was about 12 I realized that kids in many parts of the country had no immediate access to the ocean, and that struck me as very strange.  I had Jones Beach at least.  But because it was my standard, I never really understood what articles were talking about when they lauded the ‘best beaches’.  I loved Jones Beach, but to love it you have to really commit to the idea of loving beaches, because it kind of sucks: you park miles away from the sand, and when you finally get to the sand you have to walk across a mile of it to get to the water.  The water is the Atlantic Ocean and it is always grey and freezing, even in the middle of July.  Even when that was refreshing because it was 95 degrees outside (not exaggerating), the waves are so rough you’re guaranteed to get dunked under.  Yet I keep going back, because…nostalgia?  I even look forward to taking my kids there.

The gorgeously grey water and rough surf.
The tunnel between the parking lot at the beach.

Paupackan Lake, Poconos, Pennsylvania

My grandparents bought a house outside of Hawley, PA before I was born.  They had it newly built and chose everything, and their choices were deeply and profoundly reflective of the 1970’s, most especially notable in the skunk striped shag carpet in the living room and the matching paisley bedspreads and curtains in the bedrooms.  That house was the setting of my childhood summers until the age of 17, and I friggin’ loved it, apart from a couple of super moody teenage years.

The house.  Also visible, some of my grandfather's many many collector's plates.
The house. Also visible, some of my grandfather’s many many collector’s plates.

It was kind of a weird place–there were all these houses dotted in the woods, many of them the same because it was a development, but without the manicured suburban feel.  There was also a lake, and the lake had a manmade beach with the grittiest white sand.  Of course the lake, being a lake in the mountains, was freezing, and that was amazing.  I spent entire days swimming in that lake, coming out only to drink some of the super strong iced tea my mother made, the kind that you mix up from a powder.  She brought it in a cooler with a spout.

Not pictured: the dock.

You could tell the beach was manmade because there was a concrete barrier keeping the sand back from the water.  They included a step going down to the water, and this was always covered with green algae that looked like a tiny underwater lawn.  There was also some of the sand at the bottom of the lake bed, but after about 3 feet deep it went to mud.  As a kid I was revolted by that moment when I would wade out and plunge my foot into soft mud as opposed to gritty sand.  At one end of the beach willow trees dipped their boughs into the water and it was like swimming in a fairy world.  The end of the swimming area was marked off by a dock, and as a kid it was my life’s ambition to be big enough to swim out to the dock.  All the older kids did, and they looked impossibly cool as they cannonballed into the water.  When I finally achieved this goal, I found I was scared of plunging into the murky water, but I did it anyway.  When we went to visit my grandparents in the winter the lake would be frozen over and the sand covered with snow, and it always struck me as bizarre that all the merriment of summer could be so completely stilled.

Megan’s Bay, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

My sister at Megan's Bay
My sister at Megan’s Bay

My dad worked in real estate development when I was a kid.  I think he approved loans for people to build hotels, although I’m a bit murky on the details.  All I know is that he went on a lot of business trips and people treated him–and us, when we went along–really nicely.  Fruit baskets in hotel rooms, fancy dinners out, that kind of stuff.

One of the deals he did was in St. Thomas, and he wound up going there several times, and we got to come along a couple of times.  I feel like I missed school for the trip, but more likely we went during winter break.  I was about 7 the first time, and it was the first trip I remember taking outside of the continental US, and our first big family vacation in awhile. I remember dressing for the plane in a corduroy jumper and a long sleeved blouse, and my mother warning me that I would be really hot.  I didn’t believe her, until I stepped off the plane into the sweltering heat and cried ‘Mom!  I’m boiling!’

St. Thomas was amazing.  Leon drove us around the island, and when it looked like our bags were lost, he took me and my sister for ice cream while my mom sorted it out.  Glover was our baby sitter, and I don’t remember much about her except that she had beautifully dark skin, that kind of complexion where she looked almost velvety, that she had a soft, accented voice, and that I had one of those kid crushes on her.  I also remember Megan’s Bay.

When the plane descended over the Virgin Islands, my mom pointed out the aquamarine water to me, and I was astounded.  Most of my experience was with grey and murky water, so I couldn’t believe this was the sea.  I remember admiring how suddenly the clear turquoise would stop, giving way to sapphire blue.  I asked my dad how that happened and he told me it had to do with depth.

This captures the essence of it.

My mom is a big beach goer so while my dad was wheeling and dealing, she found out the place to beach it, and was told to go to Megan’s Bay.  One of the first things I recall about Megan’s Bay is how much my mom loved it.  When you’re seven, everything is new, so the most astonishing sights blend in with the ordinary ones.  I certainly liked Megan’s Bay, and I could see its superiority to Jones Beach, but I didn’t quite grasp how idyllic it was.  All I knew was the water was clear and calm, so I could swim without fear of drowning, and those sun drenched days were extraordinarily happy.  In thinking about it the memories come back more and more: the toy shop where I got a cockatoo on a perch that sang, the Pizza Hut where I watched the video of ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ while we waited for our food, Java Wraps which sold island print dresses and my mom bought a ton of stuff for herself and us.  It was mostly me and my mom and my sister, and I don’t think I ever really appreciated that it was one of the best times of my life until now.

I think this post will have to be two parts, because I’ve only gotten through the beaches of my childhood, so to be continued…

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. Not sure how to participate? Here are the steps to get started.

Source: Beach

Faraway

I’ve always taken great pride in being a New Yorker (New Yawka, thank you).  It’s a huge part of my identity.  When I went to college, I thought everyone at my small liberal arts college would think I was *so cool* that I was from the City.  Turns out, they were not.  Upstaters are not fond of New York City, especially when it seems only people from the City can claim the title of New Yorker.  They also do not like the City’s simplified version of New York geography, wherein you have Long Island, the City, Westchester, and then everything else is Upstate.  They like to tell you about Central New York and Western New York, although to be honest, I would just nod along politely and go back to calling it all upstate.

Point is, even when I found myself in a situation where it was uncool to be from NYC I was still hella proud of it.

Interestingly, in England I get much more the reaction I originally expected when I say I’m from New York.  I have used my accent to command the respect and attention of a class of students.  When people notice my accent (and they always notice my accent), they ask where I’m from, and when I say New York, I have gotten an actual gasp of awe.  Even MR has gone on record saying that he finds the NY accent kind of hot (really??).  I’ve branded myself as a New Yorker.

I think I can claim the title.  Both sides of my family settled in NYC when they got off the boat from Italy and Germany.  That makes me a fourth generation New Yorker on my mother’s side and third on my father’s.  I went to NYC public schools.  I taught in NYC public schools.  My cousin is a NYC police officer.  I used to have a super thick accent, along the lines of ‘dawg’ and ‘cawfee’ and most of my family still does, even when the NY accent is dying out.  I even grew up in Queens, which is one of the more ‘authentic’ boroughs inasmuch as nobody goes to Queens unless they’re from Queens.  Or going to the airport.

It doesn’t get more glam than Bell Blvd, people.

My family being in New York was an institution.  It would always be–until it wasn’t.  The transition started a long time ago: distant cousins moved to Florida; my grandparents sold their house in Brooklyn and moved to the Poconos.  My father’s parents followed suit, and my uncle went to Jersey.  But that was all fine, because my parents were in NYC and they weren’t leaving.

Only–rents got high.  My mom kept looking at apartments and realised she could never move because she could never afford a new place.  My dad got sick and my sister lived too far away to help as much as she wanted.  New Yorkers will know that a drive from Croton-on-Hudson in northern Westchester to Queens is too much of a trek to do on a regular basis.  So my parents compromised–they moved to Tarrytown.  At first I hated the idea of them leaving NYC, but as it happens, I find Tarrytown amazing.  Gorgeous views of the Hudson, amazing restaurants, still proper NY food with good pizza and bagels…MR and I visited my parents there and promptly fell in love.  We would move there in a heartbeat if we thought we could ever afford it.  But we can’t, so we settled for visiting.

Actual view of Tarrytown–it is actually that gorgeous.

 

Also delicious NY pizza here. And the bagel place next door rocks too. I am getting hungry.

Only then my sister moved to Massachusetts.  My dad’s no longer with us, so that left my mom alone in Westchester.  She shouldn’t be alone–she’s kind of isolated from everyone because she doesn’t really drive and everyone’s pretty far.  Not just my sister, but to get to her brothers in Staten Island and Brooklyn is easily a couple hours’ journey involving several modes of transportation, including a boat to get to Staten Island.  So obviously my mom needs to move to Massachusetts.  I 100% think she should do this.

But selfishly, I think that my ties to New York are getting severed.  My children will never be able to call themselves New Yorkers unless they choose to move there.  But even then, won’t they be transplants with their British accents?  And can I even call myself a New Yorker anymore?  I don’t live there.  When I go to the States I will be visiting family in Massachusetts, and I almost spit out the name.  Not because Massachusetts is a bad place (I actually quite like it, if I’m honest), but because it’s not NY.  And the bagels and pizza will suck.  So if I don’t live there and don’t have ties to the City, how can I claim it as ‘my’ city?  Do I have to start saying ‘I’m originally from New York’ instead of ‘I’m a New Yorker’?

When I left NY for England I thought I would probably come back.  But gentrification and skyrocketing rents mean that the financially comfortable life we lead in Coventry is well beyond our means in NYC, an injustice that stings.

This is definitely an existential crisis.  I want to go home, but I don’t know where home is.  Faraway is the City that raised me.  That’s part of me, but I don’t think I’m part of it anymore.  I live in Coventry.  I like England and I like Warwickshire, but if I’m brutally honest I still feel like an outsider.  I’m always the only American, and that gets a bit lonely, particularly when I have to explain/ represent some of the idiocy this country gets up to.

So where is home?  I don’t know.

 

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. Not sure how to participate? Here are the steps to get started.

Source: Faraway

You’ve Got a Friend in Me…Have I Got a Friend in You?

 

Friend is kind of a thorny word for me, because I lack so much confidence.  I’m not naturally confident anyway, most especially in social situations, and of course as a preteen I suffered some hard knocks as the unpopular kid.  Being the unpopular kid in a small school (my 6th grade class had 13 kids in it) is particuarly hard because it’s not like there are other outcasts you can hang out with.

I remedied this by going to a high school where I was no exceptional nerd–in fact I graduated dead middle of my class and was revered by it.  Of course THHS had its spectrum of cliques and social groups.  There were definitely ‘cool’ kids and ‘popular’ kids.  I don’t know how these kids would have fared in your standard 3,000 kid NYC public high school, but it didn’t matter.  What was nice is that there were very few outcasts, it felt like.  I was no longer the weird nerdy one.  My friends read just as much–or more–than me.  Several were smarter, which was kind of a nice feeling.  Even better, I found a group of friends who have been my friends for life–I have now known them more years than I’ve not known them.

In college I went back to being the nerdy kid, but this time I had a foundation of friendship and there was a larger student body, so I went on to make friends despite not being anything even close to popular.  I had a rocky start where I went on a trip to Europe with a bunch of kids who thought I was the teflon to cool, as in, it just slid off me, but when I got back I had friends waiting.

What amazed me was when actual cool people, or people I deemed cool, seemed to like me.  Even today, when they laugh at my jokes or want to talk to me, there’s a part of me that’s like ‘Wait–you do know I’m a giant nerd, right?  I mean, I sit around writing fan fiction, for God’s sake!’  I try not to let my freak flag fly, but I’m always afraid someone will discover it, and then judge.

In a weird way, I suppose this means a lack of trust in the people I call friends, and especially people in general.  Because a bunch of snotty 12 year olds walked away from me when I tried to talk to them, I think that everyone wants to do that on some level.  As I type this, I realise how dumb that sounds–aren’t we all at our worst at 12?  And maybe I’m not completely cool, but there are some things about me that are cool.  For example, people here really dig that I’m from NYC, even when I get itinerant about bagels and pizza.  And then I think about one of my coworkers too–he labels himself as awkward, but actually as I’ve talked to him, I’ve never really thought of him as awkward.

I did have a friend who I bared it all to.  We met on a Narnia fanfiction site, and not only was I able to completely geek out with her (although she wasn’t the first–I met some pretty awesome girls through Les Mis as well), we also forged a creative partnership.  And, looking back, her friendship was addictive.  She threw her all into it, and because of that I responded, and we were able to form this Sex and the City, gal pal friendship that you only see on tv.  We would send each other huge missives and talk to each other on MSN messenger virtually every night.  We swore we were best friends until the end.

Until…we weren’t.  The reason those sorts of friendships only exist on tv is that they’re unsustainable.  We sacrificed so much of our personal lives to be the very best of friends to each other.  I didn’t go out with my NYC friends, the aforementioned ones who I had been friends with since 14.  I didn’t try to go out on dates because I didn’t want to give up the close friendship we had.  She in turn let her marriage suffer and didn’t let her social circle expand.  And because we had given up so much for each other, we grew jealous of each other’s separate lives.  It didn’t help that she lived in England and I lived in NYC, so we could never really bring those social circles together.  When I made new friends and went out with them, she confessed her jealousy.  When she declared she wanted to rekindle her love of acting, I fretted about the loss of our creative partnership, even though that hadn’t actually happened yet.  It did eventually, but I think it was more self-fulfilling prophecy.

And so the friendship soured.  Her last great friend deed was to introduce me to my husband.  If you’ve so much as glanced at this blog, you know the end of that is me moving to England.  I thought we might feel better being able to have a more ‘normal’ friendship, not scheduling around time zones and work, but it wasn’t to be.  We became competitive with each other about parenting since we each made opposite choices: I would go back to work, she would stay at home. She was very much about child led parenting, I favoured sleep training and schedules.  She would post links to articles on facebook where people would rant about how sleep training is child abuse (what), and I would take it personally.    She started to go through post-natal depression and I only half recognised the signs, so instead of helping her and supporting her, I wound up criticising her for her lack of friendship.  (I have a whole lot of thoughts about friends with PND and what it means to witness it and how better to support it, but that’s another topic for another time).  She continued to act and I wasn’t very supportive.  I didn’t like the plays she was in for the most part, but instead of focusing on her performance and how she was, I focused on the play and my opinions of it.  Not v. supportive

A year ago we were still clinging on, and I went to see another friend who told me for what it’s worth, you can’t pick and choose things about your friends.  You either have to take all the crazy or none of it.  I thought about this and realised picking and choosing was exactly what I was trying to do, attempting to tailor make our friendship to what it used to be.  I thought perhaps we should redraw the boundaries of our friendship.  After all, the SATC thing was exhausting and not how functional adults behave.  That said, I had a number of highly successful friendships that meant the world to me.  And she did too, so maybe we ought to retry.

I don’t know where things went wrong.  I didn’t go to the play she was next in.  It was the day after I got back and although I love me some Arthur Miller, I was far too exhausted after traveling with a toddler to contemplate the deeper meaning of the American Dream.  Maybe that was the last straw for her.  Maybe she felt I couldn’t mean anything but criticism for her when I suggested we reevaluate things.  Maybe that phrase is scary.  All I know is that when I suggested a discussion and outlined why I wanted it, she unleashed a tirade.  She accused me of saying and thinking things I never meant–or said, or implied.  I guess she had a lot of anger, and it wound up getting released in a fireball of destruction.  I wound up saying she should contact me when she wanted to talk things over.  She unfriended me on Facebook and I haven’t heard from her since.

I don’t know now how I feel about all this.  I do often miss her.  But she seems to have replaced me with a new, intense best friendship.  She did help shape my life in some valuable ways, and it was at the very least flattering to have someone so devoted to me and our friendship.  In some ways it was even enriching, and it gave me confidence.  I could be the nerd and it didn’t matter.  Except I all the times she said she would always be there, no matter what, proved false, and in the Venn diagram of our social circles I see she has already replaced me with a new bff flavour of the month.  If it were not for her entrance into my life, I would not have met my husband.  Yet she completely ignored the birth of my second child–there aren’t many clearer messages than that.

I still struggle with the conclusions I should draw about all of this.  I know now that if a friend is all-consuming, that’s probably not a good idea.  However, that friendship did provide me with some valuable things and it’s sad to see it evaporate completely.  I know that high maintenance friendships are best left to tv shows where the characters only exist in very tiny spheres.  But do I see that friendship as a productive thing?  Would I be friends with her again?  Have I made peace with the experience?

Not yet.

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. Not sure how to participate? Here are the steps to get started.

Source: Friend

On the Shelf: parenting advice from Louisa May Alcott

Man, I love Little Women.  Ok, that’s an obvious statement, rather like saying ‘I enjoy breathing.’  I have yet to meet someone who’s read Little Women and not absolutely loved it.  Even Joey loves it:

What’s so great about the book is not only are the characters completely endearing, but the titular women in the story are way ahead of their time.  Ok, Meg, Jo, and Amy all end up with a guy, but their choices are theirs, and often unconventional.  Meg could have married Ned Moffatt and become a rich man’s wife, but she goes for John Brooke instead.  And one of the best moves in literature is Jo turning down Laurie.

I always loved the chapter ‘On the Shelf’, and it resonates even truer now that I am a parent.  In it, Meg is fretting over her twins playing mother-martyr and ignoring her husband, who looks for company (of a very platonic kind) elsewhere.  Meg eventually starts to miss him and get resentful, and Marmee tells her that John should have a hand in raising the kids too.  So Meg turns bedtime, which has heretofore been a struggle, over to her husband.  There is a battle of wills, but she wisely stays out of it, and ultimately Demi (their son) learns to go the f*ck to sleep, John gets more involved and stays at home more, and Meg is a hell of a lot less strung out..

We have a very skewed view of dads today.  They’re treated as secondary parents.  On sitcoms, even the progressive Modern Family, they’re the buffoons of the family who can’t do anything right (to be fair, I didn’t come up with that–I read it in an article once).  Then there are products like this:

Har har, Dad is so dumb he can’t do anything right!  He doesn’t know anything about childrearing.  You’re drunk, Dad.  Go play golf.

Except this becomes problematic for everyone.  Dads are marginalised in the family unit, and that’s a bad idea in general and especially when both parents work.  It leaves the mother playing the martyr role, taking on too much and trying to be superhuman when she is clearly a very regular human. (For the record, I absolutely see single moms as being superhuman because they have to play both roles.) Meanwhile, the kid never gets to feel the benefit of having both parents around and the family doesn’t come together as well.  I’m not sure why we treat dads as inept, but it’s a dumb idea which is seriously impairing the quality of family life and the equality of the sexes.  It implies that only women can rear children, and that’s problematic for a whole host of reasons.

Turns out, good ol’ Louisa May had the answer 150 years ago.  Let Dad help–he knows what to do.  It may not be exactly what Mom does, but it’ll get the job done, and just as well.  Then you can be a parenting team and make some serious strides for equality to boot, instead of being a martyr.  And being a martyr sucks because you work your butt off but no one thanks you for it anyway.

 

Postscript: For the record, MR is much more a John Brooke kind of dad.  He’s very involved, and it makes my life a lot more awesome.  Plus it’s super cute to see the Feliciraptor bond with him.  When his relatives comment in surprise about how involved he is, I stare at them in bemusement.  Of course he’s involved.  He’s her dad.

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. Not sure how to participate? Here are the steps to get started.

Source: Shelf

Envy

In a parallel universe I never left NYC.  MR and I waited the nine months and paid all the fees and the lawyer and decided we would be apart for the first 9 months of our marriage to settle there, even if it meant being apart

Sometimes I envy this me.

Not often, because if we had chosen to be apart, we wouldn’t have Feliciraptor, and she is worth giving up a country for.  But when I think about the mess that is the 2016 Presidential election, I miss being in America.

One of the things no one tells you about being an expat is that you automatically become an ambassador for your country.  And, man, is it hard to represent the United States sometimes, because isolated on their continent, Americans have no clue how they’re coming across to the rest of the world.  And newsflash–it ain’t good.

It was tough traveling abroad during the Dubya years.  He was not popular around the world, and the war he started in Iraq was even less popular.  In comparison with now, however, those were much simpler times.  I had to do a bit of defending against ridiculous conspiracy theories like Bush masterminded 9/11 (wtf?), but for the most part, all I had to say when I travelled to England was ‘*I* didn’t vote for him.  I pretty much disagree with every word that comes out of his mouth’ and people understood.  After all, a lot of them disagreed vehemently with Thatcher, and they subsequently drummed Blair out of office, so it wasn’t a huge stretch.

Then we elected Obama, and while I routinely faced questions about whether every American owns a gun (answer: no), things were overall better.  The world likes Obama.  I like Obama.  The gun issue was the biggest thing I had to speak to during that time, but it most people seemed to understand that it wasn’t the whole sum of the US, although Brits do think Americans are *nuts* for refusing to even examine firearms legislation.

But now things have gone crazy because Trump stands an honest chance of becoming President, and he is an insane fascist.  There is nothing that makes this man a viable candidate for President.  First and foremost, he clearly only wants to represent white men.  He reacts to insults like a child, or worse, threatens acts of free speech with violence.  This flagrant disregard for the first amendment is truly alarming, because the Constitution is one of the things that makes America exceptional.    Not only that, he is a straight up fascist.  His slogan, ‘Make American great again’ sums that up.  Make America great–how?  What does a ‘great’ America consist of?  He has no real concrete ideas about this, just insults he hurts at minority groups, religions, and other nations.  Furthermore, it implies that America is in a state of complete ruin–not so.  It is rare to find any nation in a state of complete ruin.  Alongside this is the word ‘again’, as though America should turn back the clock to some unspecified point in the past.  Going back is never a good idea.  The future lies ahead.  And moreover, the whole statement implies an entitlement to greatness which is probably the most obnoxious thing about America.  No nation is the greatest nation by default, and the rabid patriotism this slogan presents is exactly what makes other nations roll their eyes in disgust at the naive ego of America.

This is the delicate line I have to walk.  On the one hand, I do not just disagree with Trump–I think he could cause a world war if elected, and that’s not hyperbole.  This man is dangerous.  Yet when British people deplore the state of the elections, when they start telling people who to vote for on my Facebook feed, or when they ask whether I am going to give up on being American should Trump get elected, my hackles raise and I feel like saying ‘It’s not your election.  Butt out.  And also, stop insulting my country.’

I am not suggesting that America should listen to the rest of the world when deciding its next President.  Part of the unique strength of Americans is that willingness to pioneer and go it alone, whether it be as a nation, as explorers in the west, or as immigrants starting a life all on their own.  Nevertheless, the opinion of the world can be a useful reflection.  Is this who we want to be as a nation?  Do we want to be more like Franco’s Spain or Mussolini’s Italy than the America which has stood for more than 200 years?  Because if we elect Trump, the nation will become Trump’s America, and frankly, that’s a nation I don’t know how to defend.

But I don’t want to have to surrender who I am, nor will I ever be able to.  People always see me as American.  Living in a quieter corner of England I’m also the only one.  And I don’t know how to represent a country with such a dangerous leader.

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. Not sure how to participate? Here are the steps to get started.

Source: Envy

Incomplete

Occasionally, my husband will bug me with: ‘So where is your best selling novel?  Why haven’t you written it yet so we can live a life of luxury and I don’t have to work anymore?’

I guess some people might find this obnoxious, but I find it funny (it’s partly down to tone).  I also like it because it reminds me of my life dream.

I had several years of childhood existential angst where people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I never had answer.  What did I want to be?  (Note to adults: don’t ask kids this.  They don’t know.  And if they are sure they want to be a sparkle princess firewoman, they’ll tell you.)  Then in 6th grade I did a story writing unit and on the bottom my teacher scrawled ‘This is great!  You should be a writer.’

Thanks to Mrs. Garwood, suddenly everything made sense.  Hadn’t I been scribbling and composing stories since before I could write?  I even had some proto-fan fiction drama in a notebook: a hilarious crossover between The Legend of Zelda and The Little Mermaid.  I don’t know how offhand that comment was, but it changed my life.

I devoted my life to becoming a writer.  Well, kind of.  I was never a tortured artist who was consumed by her art, but I did everything I could to be a better writer–I penned my first (terrible) novel at 15, and wrote one complete sequel and half of another.  I took the creative writing electives at high school and majored in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing in college, damned be the expense and impracticality.  I kept filling up notebooks with further novel attempts, planning out a family saga in four parts–but I never finished the first.

It turns out that writing is pretty easy.  Finishing a piece of writing is hard.  Figuring out what makes me finish something is harder still.  After about five years post-college dithering with one novel, I discovered that fan fiction was an actual thing.  No, I was not weird for spinning further stories about my favorite books–or if I was, I was in very good company on the internet.  Inspired by the fact that I wasn’t alone and a renewed spark of inspiration for the Narnia books which had fired my imagination so much as a kid, I churned out a good half dozen multi-chapter and short stories in the space of three months.

I also met my a writing partner, someone who was as caught up as me.  We started writing fan fiction together, and I abandoned my serious literary attempts to write about fully copyrighted characters.  We mused often about how we would go somewhere with our stories, but at the same time, we were having so much fun we didn’t ever want to finish.  We did some good work and I honed and thought about my writing skills, but I never seemed to finish much of anything.

Yet all through these years since I had been told I should be a writer, I never doubted that I would be.  I would write, no matter what.  Even if I wasn’t producing, I knew that one day I would, and that was enough.  After all, I spent every night writing for two plus hours as my writing partner and I spun stories for ourselves.  There couldn’t be more dedication.

Then things started to change.  I met my husband and started building the dream I didn’t think would come true–getting married and starting a family.  My writing partner had a kid, then I did.  We didn’t have as much time for writing, and then the fights we had been having from such an intense friendship and creative partnership became too much to get past.  I got a job teaching, and marking and planning took up a lot of my time outside work.  I did manage to write a play and even get it performed at a small am-dram company, but lately, I struggle.  Instead of the absolute certainty that one day I will write a best-selling novel, I start to wonder sometimes: do I have to?  I’m already so happy.

This line of thought scares me.  I always swore I wouldn’t be the type of person who gave up on their dream, yet here I am, sometimes on the verge of doing so.  It is hard to fit in writing when I have one kid–very soon to be two, and a job that is full time and then some.  It’s easier to mooch around on Facebook and BuzzFeed at night instead of plodding through typing to find my inspiration. But actually finishing is hard, and I’m teetering on an edge, given my present feelings and my past history.  I always thought that without writing and achieving my goal to be a published author I would feel incomplete.  What’s scary is to realize that incompleteness wouldn’t be a gaping hole but more of a niggle that I could live with.

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. Not sure how to participate? Here are the steps to get started.

Source: Incomplete