For the first time, until two minutes ago I forgot what my blog looks like.
I have within the last three months mislaid my detachable keyboard to my Surface, not knowing exactly where it might be, as it isn’t necessary for Netflix binging.
I had to dig my journal out of a box this morning and go on that familiar hunt for pens.
Fortunately I haven’t developed cramps in my fingers in typing thus far, but this all goes some way towards explaining the aching agony of my soul of late to say that I have not invested any time in writing. Writing reminds me that I don’t do it enough and that makes me feel guilty so I don’t bother. My head tells me there’s nothing interesting to say.
But dammit I’ve spent the last year moving, from the UK to the East Coast and across the states to the Northwest. And that surely must be tell-able. But it feels like nostalgia and not something that will help in my present, especially on days like yesterday when my five year old bursts into tears at not painting a dog’s mouth the way she wanted it and I know instinctively that this has little to do with the art project. I see the photos of friends we’ve left behind which she has pulled off her cork board to look at and I know she is feeling the same way I do: lonely and sad.
Here’s a story: we downloaded three films for our 6 day drive cross country – Coco, Ferdinand and Inside Out. The first two I’d seen, but not the latter. She would never watch Inside Out to the end, saying that it made her ‘hot’. Only a few weeks ago I realized it’s the story of a little girl whose parents moved across country and she had a hard time emotionally dealing with the sadness. Parenting fail on a grand scale.
So we watched it together in bed yesterday, curled into a blanket. Like a typical 5-year-old she didn’t watch it with great attentiveness all the way through, but I had to leave the room to ‘pee’ for fear that I was going to turn into Sadness in the flesh, on my face on the bedroom floor. And did I tell you (no I didn’t since I forgot about my blog) that I have had one celebrity encounter while in Portland? The one and only voice of Sadness (and also Phyllis from The Office (US)), smiling sweetly at me over a display of shoes at my store.
I knew that this move would be hard, really I did. And it has met every expectation in that regard. I thought it would take a year, and a year it’s been (5 July). But I didn’t really factor in the two-step move we’ve taken on, only just settling in Portland in April, so really that countdown button has been reset and I’m bracing myself that it’ll be next spring before all feels right again. So how do I cope, let alone thrive, in the meantime?
Thinking of rootedness and settling down, it just doesn’t feel like something that can be forced, while hoping that we will move to a new neighborhood instead of The Pearl (which lies just outside of Downtown) and that we will transition as jobs come into place. This brings to mind those air plants that are trendy right now. They don’t require dirt to grow and thrive, though in the wild they do need a substrate and the right conditions of course. Perhaps life right now and indeed over the last year, and maybe even eternally in some ways, for the Schellerts has been lived within a terrarium to protect and nurture us til our roots meet our new home (read communities, neighborhood, contextual identities). In the meantime, I know for certain I need soul watering that keeps me going, and that includes writing as a form of self care.
Wednesday: I woke up ahead of my 4am alarm, fully expecting to see the first woman President-elect be announced. I was greeted instead with electoral college numbers that didn’t look like they ‘should have.’ Immediately I started sobbing, for the first time in my life, over an election.
I was raised in a fully red-blooded family and my first act of political rebellion was to register as Independent. I held mostly Republican values but refused labels (not realising that Independent was an actual political party, rather than a fancy word for ‘other’). It wasn’t until going to Bible College where students were encouraged to register to vote locally that I switched to Republican thanks to what I felt was a hard guilt trip that being anything else made me less Christian, as did my tattoos and wearing a Santa hat at Christmas. Seriously, that happened.
Living abroad since 2004, you could say Europe has liberalized me, and that may be true to a degree, but ultimately life has made me a more liberally minded person, seeing beyond the individual’s rights across what I feel to be a more holistic vantage point of what matters (more than just one or two issues, or personal liberty, that is). You may hear that as arrogant and judgemental, which is something I’ve been most of my life regardless of my political persuasion. It’s a personality flaw and I am working on it. What I am trying to say is that living outside of the USA has made me more self aware and it has also made me a better person which has influenced my political outlook (that sentence is only about me, not about you if you feel slammed by it).
I struggle to identify with any political party, but I knew that once Trump won the Republican party nomination there was one party I was wholly against this Presidential election. Part of me wants to say that what he has done and said in his past is unforgivable, but that is totally out of line with my belief that everyone is worthy of love, acceptance and redemption. What I think I really believe is that his ongoing comments, deceit and inexcusable positions have left me convinced that his character is not one which I trust to hold the highest position of office in the states and I believe he will put lives at risk globally on a scale we haven’t seen – not even in Bush’s time when I felt completely threatened as an American living abroad.
Does that mean I trust Hillary? Not entirely, no. I don’t trust politicians any further than I’d hope to be able to throw them (boy would I like to try) and she is not the exception. But to me, her presidency would be another in the course of politics as usual, not more dangerous, not more controversial, but under-girded by a lot of experience, good and bad. With the exception that I would be able to say that she is a woman. And I like that. Women should have the same opportunity to be as corrupt as the rest of them – so, I voted for her (and I do lean more towards her platform these days, with some policy exceptions).
So there I sat, looking at these numbers, knowing full well that people want change, and I believe that to be good… but Trump? You can keep your Trump change. The changes he has built his platform on are not the types of changes anybody that I know who bleeds red really want. I can’t believe that of them. These are people I love and trust. I can’t label these folks the way I would label Trump. So my heart broke because this guy espousing these horrific things is the top choice over a bog standard politician who happens to be a woman. I cried, and then I got angry. I’m still vacillating between the two.
In the vein of this righteous/self-righteous anger, I shared an image on social media to stir the pot. It was an illustration of Trump grabbing the crotch of lady liberty. It was so vulgar, so offensive, and it speaks to me loudly that this is what people have voted for. Not only for the violation of women (among many other people groups) but for the violation of liberty. Empowering a hateful thug. I knew it would offend my Christian network before anyone else. And that’s precisely why I shared it- to call out the hypocrisy that it could be okay to vote for someone who has committed heinous actions, uttered disgusting and mocking words and called for terrible things to happen to a variety of people groups and individuals. He has incited hate and that is NEVER a Christian value.
How could this image be more offensive and a worse Christian witness than giving such power to someone who actually does this stuff in real life?
Christians may believe that this is the course the nation needs to take in order to change, and fair enough, I’ve had a gut feeling that Trump would win and it would take America down the path it has reaped. Do I believe that God has ordained that someone with such heinous views against God’s own creation should lead the nation? Not the God I know. God is permissive, not controlling. Besides (and without getting into a theological discussion here), even if God said ‘hey this is gonna happen’, it does not mean that we have to get on board with violating every principle of Biblical ethics and Christ-likeness to validate such a course. What will be will be. Popular belief on the antichrist is that Christians should not follow or receive the seal of this individual, yet it will come to pass. And that’s why I believe the wool has been pulled over American Evangelical Christians’ eyes politically. It is at odds with God.
In riding this out a few days before writing a heated diatribe, I can also see that some may feel the same about my vote for Hillary. Perhaps her ethics are so at odds with some Christian’s understanding of God that I sit in the same boat as those who voted for Trump, according to my critique. I humbly accept this. I’m not entirely sure I believe it, but I accept it is possible that I too am floating on this sinking ship.
And this is where I’ve come to have even more respect for conscientious abstainers – those who refused to vote for either candidate rather than settle for something anti-Christ. I’ve seen red-blooded Republican family refuse to throw their hat in with Trump and certainly refuse to lump in with Hillary, and so possibly for the first time in their lives they refused to vote on the Presidential ticket. I’ve also seen anarchist friends, many Christian, who have said this is not their system and they refuse to lend it credibility. And I believe these two groups that didn’t swallow the blue pill are the ones who have taken the high road. I wonder how many of the 40%+ who didn’t vote this cycle fit into that box, not being apathetic by any means, and why aren’t their voices being sought out? How can we hear from them, the truly silent minority?
I am angry and I am sad. But I do have hope. Not hope for a Trump presidency but hope IN SPITE OF a Trump presidency. We, the people, together for the better of one another – not for a system or a party or a President. Trump will never make America great again. I’m not entirely sure what that even looks like to begin with, but by listening to our neighbour (different and similar) and throwing our weight behind them to see them succeed, we will all succeed wildly.
*Please note that I have written this post primarily to my Christian readers. There are relevant ideas for everyone, but please don’t let my language put you off if you don’t fit that description
Comments welcome, but if they get rude or inflammatory I will not approve them.
London is said to be one of the most multicultural cities in the world. This may be in part thanks to Colonialism’s insidious reign, but fortunately it would be one of the positive things to work out of that grim history. The years have seen London in a consistent state of flux as new waves of immigrants of various shades, beliefs and experiences embrace the capital city as home. I live in one of the most diverse boroughs in London at present: Hackney, though, sadly that seems to be changing gradually.
I hail from Southern California, a town that a taxi-driver in Tijuana once referred to as ‘Little Mexico’ owing to the large numbers of Mexican farm labourers in particular. I grew up with friends of all backgrounds, ethnicity, income. As a child, it just wasn’t a thing to label people. We Californians pride ourselves on being different – and on not being known for our racism. However it does exist… boy, does it. I went through a spell as a teenager of racial hatred and white supremacy. As people we tend to identify someone to hang our hardships on and in my case I directed certain feelings towards certain people. If I could travel back in time I would give myself an extraordinary backhand.
But as a recovering racist* living in London now for almost a decade, its beauty in shades of skin, language landscape and tolerance for beliefs, it’s got to be one of the things at the top of my list about this place. Living here has further broken the back of my racist self, it’s challenged me to question my own beliefs, particularly where these beliefs put my back up against anyone else’s. Tolerance isn’t such a bad word in my book. Possibly not the best word, but not a bad one.
My fellow country-folk are in jeopardy of losing the benefit of such a multicultural stance on life: the way it changes you if you allow it to. It’s frightening to be vulnerable like that, to feel that your own culture and ways may be threatened. But if these ways are to be, they will remain unchanged, at least where they’re most truthfully and sincerely held. But with an openhandedness rather than a closed-off-ness. Or a balled up fist.
At any rate and having cast my absentee ballot today in favour of the other guy (not the one with the rage and bad toupee), I also cast my ballot (metaphorically speaking) in favour of a city that just welcomed its first Muslim mayor. Sorry to pigeonhole you, Sadiq but I’m hopeful you understand that I’m not trying to limit you to just that, but to help others see that it really doesn’t matter or that a bit of difference helps us all.
*Some other guy came up with this recovering racist thing on FB. Admittedly I didn’t watch his video or read his blog or whatever, but I think I get it. Racism is so ingrained in us it’s hard to ever really be free of it. I can only hope my fear or hatred of the other dies more with each passing day.
I have done plenty of blathering on here about pregnancy loss and such, a topic that is still very important to me. But I think it’s high time we did some celebrating! The hubster and I have collaborated to make a perfect little Spud, due 4 June 2013. I’m now 13 weeks 1 day along, much further than my past pregnancies and all looks to be very good.
I’ve started a new job (sensible thing to do whilst expecting right?!) which is less than 10 minutes walk from home, pays much better than before and opens up lots of opportunities around home for our new family. Things seem to be taking a turn for the best- something I am learning to embrace rather than to fear.
So for now, I introduce you to our womb-dweller, Spud.
Inspired by my friend and fellow blogger Rachel who wrote a recap of her family’s year, I thought I’d do the same. I can’t help but feel that it was a really bad year for us, more so for me perhaps than my hubster as it was metaphorically speaking very wintery, but as he reminds me, there were some gems to be celebrated and lots of great stuff came out of the most painful of experiences. So here goes…
We greeted the new year with friends and a few million others atop the Waterloo Bridge with a stunning front row view of the London fireworks. Not much to say about that but it was a good few hours hanging out and welcoming in all that we couldn’t possibly foresee.
The first of the year had me working as Team Manager for SPEAK, a campaigns and prayer network. While I have to be honest and say that it was one of the most trying things I’ve ever done employment-wise, I learned so much and met some inspiring and beautiful people in the process and worked with a fantastic team campaigning for corporate accountability and to stop UK public funds going towards the international arms trade. I was in the throes of coordinating the planning of the annual network gathering to happen in February and things were pretty intense all around.
While much of this tiring month work-wise was spent still preparing for the gathering to occur at the end of February, there was a wee bit of living done outside of work hours.
Valentine’s Day was a great opportunity to ‘show the love’ to our neighours (didn’t Jesus say something about that?) so we wrapped some love up in chocolate chunks and cookie dough. The response to our little offering of unconditional vegan love was amazing.
After Valentine’s Day and a heart-burning, stomach-turning binge on very nice steaks, Rob turned to me and said ‘I think we should become vegetarians’. While it sounds hypocritical to say, I had been waiting to hear those words for some time, always knowing I’d go back to being vegetarian and that in my heart it’s the right thing to do. I can’t say we’ve been perfect at it, but we do our best and enjoy it.
We celebrated with Rob’s best man Simon as he was married and sadly we lost a friend Paul to a heart attack. He had cooked the meal for our wedding party at our rehearsal and driven the gals, my mom and myself to the church and the new Mr and Mrs back home at the end of the day. He was a great person to have called a friend.
Finally, the SPEAK team and crew of volunteers pulled off what was dubbed the best gathering in years. It was pure exhaustion, highlighted by driving fines, some tears, lots of creativity, people chopping potatoes in the middle of the main room, and finished off with a few of us hiding away drinking what was left of the communion wine and laughing heartily.
I think I likely spent the month following the conference sleeping or in some semi-conscious state. Around this time I decided to leave the Network Support Team on a relatively high note and handed in my lengthy notice. My heart really ached to get back into community work on a local scale and I preferred to carve out more time for life at the expense of money so the hubster and I agreed I’d start working part-time.
Rob and I had a nice get-away to Hastings for a weekend by the seaside. We discovered awesome vintage and secondhand shopping that has changed our lives… well, nearly.
Let’s not forget that Japan experienced terrible earthquakes and tsunamis during this month with horrible loss of life.
I ventured into the realm of the fashionably unemployed in the middle of a terrible economic downturn having finished up my role with SPEAK. Boy was I tired. The stress of a few years’ near-burnout-experiences really caught up with me. Fortunately I did have some space at this time as we headed Stateside for some East Coast visits.
We spent Easter with Rob’s family and some time with mine in North Carolina. True to my own nature, I was all go and little rest, but it was a great time catching up with people including my best friend since 8th grade and her family (I’d never met her kids!). We also were in New Jersey and in NYC which gave me the perfect opportunity to drive through the city (thanks to a hubster with an expired license).
May brought glad tidings of employment and alternative currency. I was hired for a part time role in Haringey with the Timebank. Unfortunately I had about four weeks until I actually would start the job and plenty of time to fill so I spent most of it walking around Hackney and other parts of London and doing crafty projects and cooking. Nice way to recuperate!
Started work, tried to do community work, was just too tired so didn’t. So what did I do? Went to see friends perform at the English National Opera in their community choir, hosted Shai Hulud, blogged a lot (relatively speaking), asked where summer was and then applauded it’s sudden arrival.
Went on a British wine tasting adventure, explored satisfaction and saw this pig
Ah yes, and discovered we were pregnant.
and thus began the summer of insanity…
Rob returned from a nice few days in Germany to a fiery London and a stressed out Inked Eskimo. Riots had hit, flats were pulled out from under us and we had little to no time to find someplace to live. I entered my mid-30s technically speaking and we looked forward to meeting the growing ‘blueberry’ nesting in me. We moved out of our flat, bid farewell (contextually speaking) to our flatmate, and took up residence at the Greenbelt Festival, my second time being homeless at this gathering.
The small dose of joy we experienced (well small in actual size but truly great in the context of even the most difficult experiences of the year) at the encapsulated arrival of Blueberry was dashed as we discovered the little fellow’s heart had stopped after a few weeks time. This was probably the most mournful thing I’d ever gone through but I won’t allow the grief to overwhelm the elation of experiencing what will always be our first pregnancy. As I shared our story I was and still am completely gobsmacked at the response of others who’ve endured similar loss or who just rallied in sorrowful support.
Rob and I celebrated our third anniversary in Cornwall after a week of hosting his parents in London where we were house-sitting. We found the best flat we could’ve imagined, aside from wishing it one additional bedroom, moved in and finally felt truly at home in London for the first time ever.
Nearly 10 months belated as a Christmas gift but just at the right time, a little black and white furball blew into our lives from Battersea animal shelter. Cosette the kitten arrived, 6 weeks old and ran off with our hearts which she has hidden somewhere still to be found.
We also Occupied London and celebrated Rob.
The little heart-thief Cosette pretty much carried all of November away with her, but we also gave thanks with some friends over cranberry and mushroom nut roast (thus discovering that actually nut roasts can be delicious) and cranberry margaritas. Days later, Rob was arrested for supporting striking union members at a local library during the largest strike action in a generation. We’re still in the throes of fighting that nonsense (holding my tongue here) and hope to get the all clear come mid-January. Stay tuned.
The events of late November admittedly had a knock on effect on our household. Thankfully we had already planned a get away to the seaside with friends which we stuck with. We celebrated a nice quiet Christmas together, glad for the peace, our home, those who have stuck with us, our kitten, and new experiences however painful they may have been.
I always thought it’d be difficult to conceive. I never thought it’d be so easy. I felt so blessed- finally something had gone really really well in a summer filled with housing fiascoes, unemployment/reemployment, depression and riots.
Then what was so incredibly right went terribly wrong. Not only did we lose our precious little baby, no larger than the size of a blueberry, but I then carried it for weeks knowing its very inner being had left us but the shell remained behind. I felt like a walking coffin. But it was somewhat comforting to walk through the grief this way, holding it closely both physically and emotionally, as we waited for our ‘Blueberry’ to join the earth again, hoping that nature would take it’s own course.
We did things the way it’s all recommended- don’t tell anyone til 12 weeks has passed. In the first trimester, the incidence of miscarriage is incredibly high- over 1 in 4 women will experience miscarriage in their lives and the odds are that about 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. I must be in good company. In fact I discovered that my mom also miscarried in her first (known) pregnancy, though I suspect it was a spontaneous miscarriage rather than a ‘missed miscarriage’ as I suffered.
The hardship with telling so few people we were pregnant was that when we lost our baby we didn’t have many people to turn to. In fairness, I’m not sure that most of our friends had any idea how to cope, never having encountered a miscarriage let alone this mysterious missed miscarriage/walking tomb scenario. I certainly wouldn’t have known what to say to a friend in the same place as I found myself. Miscarriage is a devastating experience in and of itself, compounded by the fact that it’s a taboo to talk about (reinforced by the fact that you shouldn’t say you’re pregnant til 12 weeks, just in case).
As a result of this terrible ordeal which has stretched about six weeks between initial spotting to finally becoming unpregnant, and not in an effort in any way to make those who did try to offer support feel like failures, I’d like to just offer my experiences and feelings on how best to relate to someone suffering a miscarriage, particularly a missed one.
How not to respond:
“You will have children some day.” I heard this from a couple well meaning people and it was partly infuriating and partly soul-crushing. As these words were spoken, I carried my first baby (maybe not first-born, but my first pregnancy that I know of and therefore very special and loved). I was pregnant, I felt pregnant, and I was still very much connected with and to a baby.
“I will pray for a miracle.” I don’t even know where to start with this one. So I won’t. Please just don’t ever say this, particularly if the miscarriage is several days/weeks in.
“Doctors have been wrong before” or “Maybe they missed something.” It goes without saying that if the doctors are wrong, there will be cause for some serious celebration. But going there emotionally is like dragging someone’s hope and faith through something very dark and hurtful. Denial is definitely not helpful.
“At least it happened early on.” It may be only a few weeks on and no movements had been felt, (or perhaps the pregnancy was a blighted ovum, in which case the woman was still pregnant – emotionally at the very least), but make no mistake that this young life already had so many dreams, plans and hopes built up for it. After a bit of time has passed, this may feel more true to the parents but it doesn’t matter at the start how far along one was.
Avoidance. Not asking how the mother- and the father – are doing if you’ve been entrusted with such knowledge makes one of the most isolating experiences that much more lonely. If they clearly don’t want to talk about things (perhaps the thought of opening up is too frightening as the tears may never stop) just remind them that you’re there if they want to talk at all, or even if they don’t want to talk. Even just being silently present in solidarity can help.
The most helpful thing I found was when a friend acknowledged that I may not want to talk, but if I did, whenever, wherever, however, it was always an option.
The most powerful words were, “I am so sorry.” There really isn’t much more that can be said. It just plain sucks and there’s no way to make it stop hurting.
I would be very interested in hearing if any of you have suffered a miscarriage. Not to draw up any old pain, but to do something towards destroying this taboo we’ve reinforced. I believe in rejoicing with those who rejoice- but it goes hand in hand with mourning with those who mourn. Let’s get some solidarity going on up in here.
Only after returning home in early August did I realise that I spent half of July away from home. Half of the away time was spent at Buddhafield Festival with the SPEAK Network. We brought our yurt to share our campaigns and to get to know people there. It was a really cool festival with great people and interesting conversations. Really chilled and enjoyable.
The following week I went with Rob to Freakstock Festival in Germany where he participated in a service, doing some storytelling on the theme of pilgrimage. He told the story of Tom Joad through the eyes of Woody Gutherie who wrote a folk song about Tom’s journey during the dust bowl. It was great seeing Rob on that stage in front of so many people and speaking with such confidence. The festival was a great time to see old friends and make some new friends too.
We spent the following three days in Berlin, site-seeing and shopping in the alternative district of Kruezberg. It’s good to be back in London now though, I must say! Enjoy some photos from our trip!