Stock Check

Life is never dull. I genuinely crave a bit of boredom. Boredom is a luxury and I’m more than a little jealous and begrudging of anyone who experiences it. Smug, bored bastards.

I’m not even kidding. I have a wonderfully full life but somewhere along the way I faltered a little, lost my footing and have been failing to catch up with myself ever since. Last December I got myself in such a busy work-life related tizzy that I woke early one morning and had to ride to the A&E in an ambulance because I had chest pains and a numb left arm. That is not a brag. There is nothing clever nor attractive about someone in their thirties having a heart attack. It turned out I wasn’t having a heart attack. It was more like a panic attack, but I don’t really have those normally, so I put it down to a rather ungraceful dismount from the treadmill of busy-work-season.

It was on the way home from the hospital that morning that I arrived at the conclusion that BUSYNESS IS NOTHING MORE THAN A THINLY DISGUISED AND SELF-IMPORTANT BRAND OF STUPID.

I mean it. Busy is not good. Busy is stupid. I am embarrassed at how busy I let myself get on such a regular basis. Smart people know how much they can chew, and they bite accordingly. Elephant-eaters like myself have a disconnect between what eyes, oesophagus and stomach can handle. We rudely talk with our mouths full and are grumpy with heartburn most of the time.

Occasionally, more often than I would care to admit, life gets so off-the-charts crazy that I honestly worry that I will blow as gasket. I feel like a wonky-legged washing machine on spin dry with springs starting to pop out of me.

 

Nope, I still have not managed to define what this blog is all about, but yes, I am going to go ahead and use it as a place to post this little slice of writing therapy. I write for my life. I write in the name of self-preservation and sanity. To date writing has been the most successful action I have tried in eye-of-the-storm times like these, and since everything got on top of me again a few weeks ago I’ve not been able to tweet anything of any worth, so I’m now going to have to take to more extreme measures…blogpost stock check.

 

January 2013: Tom and I engaged in annual church-wide fast. Tom cut out dairy, meat, gluten, sugar and caffeine. I was already off gluten in the name of the current (at the time) round of Dylan-solidarity but I didn’t even bother trying to fast anything else because I was (and am) still rather grumpy about the sleep-fast in which I have been obliged to engage ever since March 2011. (Dylan, sleep apnea, I’m working on my attitude blah blah blah).

 

Anyway, the outcome of the fast, in a very round about way, was that Tom and I both felt it would be a good idea to take off for a year, to put our work on hold and go live in the UK to recalibrate and refocus on what really matters most to us – our family and our art.

 

February-June 2013: Said goodbye to our lovely Domestic Helper, Eden. I shuffled my life around a bit to regain control of the household. This was all in all a great experience but was a little tricky at times and had to be done whilst packing down the DB flat, finding a tenant and still running Handmade Hong Kong.

 

July 2013: Left our DB flat in the hands of a great tenant (woohoo), moved in with my mum for three weeks (I adore my mother but this was an intensely stressful time), finally boarded a plane and made it to my family home in Oxford where my brother, his pregnant-with-twins wife and toddler live. 

 

We have been here almost three weeks and tomorrow we head off to London to housesit in a gorgeous house for three weeks, then one week in Bristol with Tom’s sister, and then, then, hallelujah only then, we move into our own house in September!

 

I will bake bread and make jam. I will to sew. I will walk my kids to school/daycare and back every day. I will write. I will exercise. I will sleep train Dylan once and for all. I will pick up a guitar and relearn my 5 chords. I will appliqué furniture. I will fight all temptation to start any businesses in England. I will probably start my PhD but I think that’s ok….

We’ve been living out of suitcases for 6 weeks now. Dylan has recently taken his 2am screaming sessions and rice milk addition to heart jolting levels. Layla is doing well but is puzzled by the double standards with which I am trying to parent (“No Layla, no more snacks. Dylan, will you stop screaming if mummy gives you a jaffa cake?”), Tom is doing great, especially for someone who struggles with travel/being away from home. I will continue to run HmHK remotely but I am almost at my goal of September, when I will have two people join my work team so I can do much much less.

I am mere paragraphs into this exercise but feeling a hundred times better already. We have definitely not chosen an easy path this year, but it is all in the name of Sabbath-style Rest and simplifying life. I am hopeful that the current chaos is just short term and life will settle into a more appropriate rhythm soon.

 

That is all for now. 

PS – I am grumpy about the obligation I feel to post nice/relevant/cool pictures with my writing. I’m not good at this and this is a major reason I haven’t posted in so long. I will sort myself out soon. Promise.

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Dancer’s Feet

smug beautiful arch.

 

Explanation: This is a little piece I wrote for uni two years ago. I’ve just spent the past hour trying to make it fit into the book I’m trying to finish, but finally come to accept that it doesn’t belong there. So I’m posting it here..

—-

Picture a dancer.  Scroll down to her feet.

Without much thought one might be mistaken in assuming a dancer’s feet are beautiful, like the rest of her body. After a little more consideration logic should reveal that actually, it makes more sense for a dancer’s feet to be covered in blisters, bunions, bruises and Band-Aids. No one puts her feet through as much grief as a dancer.

 

One might think that a dancer is forever going for foot massages and pedicures in order to counter the damage that she does, but often is the case that it is the dancer herself who will seek out ways to further damage her feet. There exists a product, a contraption (the name of which I cannot remember) that is designed to contort the ankle at unnatural angles in order to increase arch of the foot. Feet with high arches are to be envied on the ballet scene. When a young ballet dancer finally graduates onto Pointe shoes she will sometimes be advised to pour rubbing alcohol onto her open blisters in order to speed the callusing process. The agony of burning flesh is worth the agony of being allowed to stand on ones toes.

 

The following I find interesting as well as comforting:  The most beautiful feet in ballet – the slender ones with the high arches – are also the weakest. They are the most prone to injury. The strongest feet, the ones that will allow a dancer to enjoy a (relatively) long career in dance are the wide stocky ones with low arches.

 

This is a beautiful win-win situation:  The girls whose wide duck feet cause them to blush with shame at every shoe fitting can smugly remember that they will be in the game longer, while the pretty-footed doe-eyed dears can take comfort in their superior aesthetic beauty as they hobble up and down the halls of the physio clinic.

 

I have wide feet.  Although it has been close to a decade since I last donned a proper ballet shoe they are still hideously – and apparently permanently – disfigured.  Patches of skin are discolored and callused in places where they have no business being discolored and callused.  I also suffer from a mild case of something called Mortin’s Long Toe – where the second toe is longer than the big toe.  People with Mortin’s Toe are generally advised not to go en pointe in ballet because the more even-lengthed one’s toes are, the more solid a base to distribute the body’s weight.  I highly doubt this advice stops anyone.  It didn’t stop me anyway, and the result is quite a mangled looking line up of toes.

 

And now the lemonade recipe:  My strong, wide, ugly feet have been excellently matched to the wiring of my very being. They are not pretty, but were built to last as I traverse the optimist’s trail, dithering back and forth, picking battles and calling ceasefires within, not knowing where I am going and sometimes not even enjoying the journey. I take some comfort from the notion that my feet are strong, not weak and feeble, I take even more from the belief that they were bespoke-tailored with me in mind. Someone somewhere knows how I am wired and afforded me with the equipment I would need to get through life.

 

 

A Mummy’s Apology (not the I’m-sorry kind)

The problem: very few natural opportunities to blog.

The plan: write what I can in the time I have available today –

Go:

Tom and I are currently in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We are here because Tom is leading the music at every session of the Alpha Emerging Leaders’ Retreat. I am here to accompany him. We have some free time now. He has gone off to see the sights, I spent an hour and a half sprawled out on the king-sized bed with the curtains closed. I have drunk too much coffee and am so out of practice I was unable to nap, so I just closed my eyes and enjoyed the peace for 90mins.  What a treat!

I want to take a few minutes to process what has been happening since last year, when we were last in Malaysia for this same retreat, version 2012.

Highlights: I completed my Masters degree and Tom released his album and it went to no.1 on HK’s iTunes chart. I also got given a job as a part time lecturer at City U, but…

Low point: A couple weeks into teaching at City U my son Dylan got seriously sick. Dylan has been a tricky little guy since birth. He is not a big feeder or eater, and is not inclined towards sleep. Ever. I spent his first year of life trying to figure him out, and failing miserably. I just kept telling myself it would change with time, and there always seemed a reasonable, if not unfortunate explanation for his sleeplessness – teething, milestones, separation anxiety, needs a comfort item, crack of light coming through the curtain, too dark, too hot, too cold, wind, colic, lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance… the list grew longer faster than I could attempt to address each item.

One day in October our Helper Eden had gone to the shops, and I was home alone with the kids as they napped, or tried to. I was reading a story to Layla and Dylan was crying down. Only, Dylan never cries down, he cries up. His cry is never half-hearted. He is fully committed to his cry. If I were to download that baby’s cry interpreting app for the iPhone, I’m pretty sure it would tell me that Dylan’s cry means: HELP ME WOMAN, I AM ABOUT TO DIE, YOU ARE A TERRIBLE MOTHER, WHY HAVEN’T YOU FIXED THIS PROBLEM YET? I WILL BE DEAD IN THE NEXT FIVE MINUTES IF YOU DON’T COME AND GET ME RIGHT NOW.

Layla had somehow fallen asleep so I went to him. I picked him up and he continued to cry, but the cry got quieter, then he started choking and then his lips went blue and then his face went blue. I called my neighbour and asked her to come down and sit Layla until Eden returned. I grabbed my bag and ran out the door. Once I was half way up the stairs Dylan burped, and then he relaxed, but he still sounded all wrong so I took him to the paediatrician.

From that point we entered a season of visiting doctors intensively. between 1-4 appointments a week. Dylan had a bad infection in his lungs. He needed more than 12 medications a day to help him fight it without hospitalisation. We bought a nebulizer that he had to have twice a day, a vaporiser and a very expensive air purifier. We switched onto a hypoallergenic diet. I moved into the spare room so I could hold him most the night. The doctors agreed that it was the best way to go because he was at risk of vomiting and choking in the night. Eventually I made the decision not to sign on for a second semester of teaching – I was cancelling classes to be with Dylan and had no idea when he would recover. More than one of Dylan’s doctors used the phrase “I don’t want to frighten you, but…” and more than three told me very soberly that “he is a very sick little boy.”

From October 2012 to today it has been a slow and painful climb out of the ‘critical’ zone. The weird thing is that he is a very happy and calm little guy for most the daylight hours. During the night he turns into something else, but we fumble along regardless. What else can you do? You still have to get up in the morning and get on with the day.

Everyone knows a rough night leaves you feeling, well, rough. A whole week of them feels somewhat unjust. By the time a week becomes a month, and then a year, you can no longer remember what not feeling rough feels like. A new and highly undesirable identity has formed as the you that you used to be fades into the distance, taking with it whatever it was you used to think was important. This isn’t totally a bad thing. I believe there is value to be found in all the hooha but it will require a rested mind to unearth all that stuff. A few months ago I finally recognised another byproduct of the challenge I’m facing, and this one was totally unexpected. I knew I had been feeling something weird, but couldn’t quite place it, and then it dawned on me: Shame.

I was walking around life feeling deeply ashamed of what was happening to our family. I was never angry at Dylan. That was one decision I have been inflexible on from the start. It is not his fault. I was pretty upset with myself for not being able to comfort him, or fix him, or continue to achieve everything I wanted, and I was regularly mean to Tom for not being able to fix the situation either, or to read my mind to find out how and when to say exactly the right thing, and I was mad at Layla for also needing me despite the fact I hadn’t slept, and I was very disappointed at God for not answering my desperate prayers the way I wanted them answered. As for what Dylan himself had to suffer, don’t even get me started on that. There were lots of unpleasant feelings present that I recognised and could, on some level, understand, but I really didn’t expect shame to be one of them. I think it was linked to the secrecy of the whole situation – not that we were hiding it (I’ve probably tweeted about it at annoying frequency), but just that it has happened behind closed doors where no one else can see how bad it gets, or have firsthand insight into why I’m no longer sticking to the plan. I find it interesting. I don’t really have any further insights on this point though.

At the beginning of this month Dylan’s ENT specialist said Obstructive Sleep Apnea was the main problem we had to tackle, so he had surgery to remove his tonsils and adenoids. Putting an under-two-year-old in for an operation was not an easy decision, but the truth was that the whole household was at a point of despair, and the doctors said if Dylan doesn’t start sleeping properly his development will be affected.

The three-day hospital stay was difficult but his physical recovery was perfect. Tom and I can hear that his breathing now sounds normal. He still isn’t sleeping though. He doesn’t know how. He has had to wake himself up to breath since birth, so it’s going to take some time to give him the skill and gift of sleep.

Sleep is a crazy thing. It is very hard to appreciate its value until you go for a season without it. I have now gone two years with less than 20 good nights’ sleep. It shows. My immune system is very weak now. I have a constant cold and sore throat. I have gained a ridiculous amount of weight because I am the opposite of those people who lose weight when stressed. I am exhausted all day long so I eat in the hopes of getting an energy boost to help me through the day. I also eat when trying to feed Dylan – “Look Dylan, Mummy’s eating it!” It doesn’t work. The child won’t be coerced. What I do lose when I’m stressed is hair. Not because it is falling out – because I tend to cut my hair when stressed. I think in a weird attempt to gain control over something, anything, I find myself taking to the scissors more often than good sense would recommend. But the way I see it now, if I’m not bald it means there’s still some fight left in me. Rage, Rage against the dying of the light.

I’m also going grey. There are moments when I can feel the colour draining out of my hair. Tom and I used to marvel at how young we felt. We met when we were teenagers and on some level felt like teenagers ever since. Until last year. We used to wonder where the point was that people really truly become grown ups. I still can’t pinpoint it exactly, but I know for sure that I’ve past it now.

C’est la vie eh?

And, in the truest of all symptoms of mummyhood, I have to go. No time to get to the bottom of all this.

Bye :)

 

Spare Rib Syndrome

Recently I have allowed myself to dream big dreams again.

Then I got scared. The dreams are too big and greedy and likely to embarrass me when they don’t work out.

I decided to put them on the shelf; at least, that’s what I was telling people I was doing.

In fact, I was shoveling dirt onto them as they lay in the grave I had dug for them earlier just in case. I said had to “shelf” them because I have young children and my husband needs me to be available to support him. These are not bad reasons. Raising my babies is the highest calling I will ever have in this life. Playing a supporting role in my husbands dreams is a part I have always felt not only comfortable with, but truly my authentic self in. So, when I got scared and began hedging my bets and weighing my options I felt sure that no one would question my reasons for the “shelfing”. No one can argue with the young kids excuse. I mean reason.

I went to church this afternoon totally unaware than my careful construction of excuses was about to be wrecked. Church, my church, was one place I safely assumed would affirm my need to shelf. However, not today. Today was the day that Founding Pastor (and my father in law) Tony decided to courageously speak a life-injecting word about the value of women. He was supposed to be speaking about social justice but according to him social justice must begin in our hearts and in our church home, and our attitude towards gender injustice. His words soaked into the parched dry ground of my past-hungry for affirmation, exhausted-from-multitasking feminine soul. As tired and afraid as I am, those words will not return to him void.

The children are asleep, one is coughing. I will probably have to get up to settle someone a few times tonight. My eyes are heavy but dammit, I am reaching towards the shelf, to pick up the shovel and begin to unearth those dreams again. God help me.

It’s Complicated

That’s no lie – it really is.

First off, I hereby acknowledge my failure to listen to the little voice of truth that whispered in my ear “this isn’t going to work” the second I typed the words in my last post:”I’m going to blog every day”.

Good, now that that’s out of the way… 

I’ve been having some thoughts… they have been percolating for some years now, and I haven’t really known how to even broach the subject…

No one likes a raging feminist.

One of the things I liked about my new faith when I ‘came out’ as a Christian at the age of 15 was the fact that, for the most part, Christianity seems to condone a sense of inequality between the sexes.

I liked the idea that a girl should do ballet, wear makeup, grow up to become a mummy, and then make food in the kitchen and wear dresses and all…I think this is because my mum has never been what most would consider to be a traditional mum. Mine worked hard, has been the director of her organization forever and is well respected in her professional field. I resented this growing up because I never had anything good in my lunch box.

Somewhere around the ‘believer age’ of 13, having been married for about 4 years, I took a job at my church, where my husband and also my father in law also worked. It was explained to me that our church supported the notion of couples ministering as couples, but that due to limited funding I would not be paid a decent salary nor would I be allowed to work in the same area as my husband because we couldn’t afford to double up roles and there were many other things that needed doing. At the time I saw no problem with this. I worked at church for 4 years before I started feeling like something was not right.

Before I go any further, I need to say that I have been committed to my church, The Vine Church since I was 15 years old. That is not in question. I love it and I love the people who make it happen. I don’t agree with the way everything is done but this is not meant to be an attack on any of the wonderful men I have in my life. Remember, it’s complicated.

Anyway, toward the end of my stint as church staff I realized that although all the boys I’d grown up with were fast being rebranded as Pastor thisorthat, I was never going to be given this title. We do have a female pastor in church – as many might expect, she is the Children’s pastor. We have even had a female Elder, we have female worship leaders and females are welcome to preach from the pulpit, although the statistics on how often this actually happens are not overly helpful. 

‘Why don’t we have more women on the platform?” I ask from time to time. 

“We would love to,” Comes the response. “But there aren’t many suitable candidates around right now.”

I was not in a good place when I left my job at church – I was working through mental things, my father died, I got pregnant and had a baby, and I honestly had no sense of what I was meant to be doing.

Motherhood came along and I pushed all the feminist-flavoured questions to the back of my mind. 

Yesterday I was in town buying some soy formula for 16mo Dylan. It just so happened that OBE Rob Glover,  someone I respect very deeply was in town, two doors down from the formula shop, holding a meeting for the board of trustees for his charity, Care for Children. I was pulled into the meeting and listened happily as the people around the table and on the conference call introduced themselves – high powered men, every one of them.

Again – I have NO problem with any of these guys. 

As they all took their turns it dawned on me that I was going to have to say hello and explain myself too… I wasn’t sure why I was there, and as the wearer of many hats I didn’t know what angle to go with…why was I there?

“I’m a writer”

“I run Handmade Hong Kong”

“I’ve just finished my Masters and getting ready to do a phd”

“I was responsible for coordinating the 50-person trip to CFC’s BeijingHQ back in 2008”

“I’m just a mum”

or…would it be…

“I’m Tom’s wife and I’m here to represent him.” 

Tom is quite highly sought after, and so he should be. He is very talented, he is at the head of the pack in terms of what he does here in HK/Asia. But not only that, he is an incredibly valuable team member/leader. He is very tech savvy and practically minded with a generous dosage of creative foresight. Anyone in their right mind would want his input.

What I am trying to work out is, where does this leave me, and how do I do both of these things:

– avoid competing with/resenting him

– avoid giving myself up completely and becoming ‘just a wife’

From what I’ve observed, it’s very easy to go to either extreme. In church culture I fear that there are many wives for whom their wife/mother role becomes the path of least resistance. I’m sure many of them are deliriously happy in that role, and again, if that is what God wired them for, then all power to them. 

Other women might set themselves against the idea of becoming a supporting role, and even shelf the wife/mother option for a bit/forever. 

This recent article says it nicely – you can’t have it all

At this point in the thought chain I begin to lose track of what I’m talking about… what’s my problem? A feminist has to have a problem right?

I guess my problem is that I’m beginning to face up to the reality of the fact that I’m living in a man’s world, and indeed, and even a man’s church. I can see the path of least resistance beckoning me on, but there is a little raging feminist inside me threatening to break out. It’s not actually that I’m mad. I’m sad mostly.

I don’t think that, in my world anyway, any men are purposely creating resistance in some areas (and therefore paths of less resistance in other, less valued areas). I actually think it’s what starts as a harmless boys’ club, and evolves into something simultaneously hard to pinpoint yet almost watertight-impregnable. Like the popular crowd in high school – they are just enjoying their cool fun stuff so much they don’t realize how left out the losers are feeling, or how valuable the input of those losers could be if they could all just play together.

Here’s where the complication steps up a notch, and may even be accused of bordering on hypocrisy,or contradictory at the very least: I think we ladies are the weaker sex. I think it takes a very strong and very generous group of men to step aside and allow the girls to shine too. 

I can see why it doesn’t happen as much as it should. Women can really suck for many reasons – we can be, and usually are very complicated, emotional, talkative, needy, sensitive, jealous, insecure, fallible creatures. But, we also have a lot of value to offer, and more than any of us really know. 

I actually agree that operations, events, teams etc can work much smoother and more harmoniously with less estrogen… this is where keeping it guys-only is indeed the path of least resistance…least drama anyway. But, that low-drama path just doesn’t sit right with me. Somewhere in my feminine spirit I long to see women doing things: Awesome things, and ordinary things that usually default to the boys. Am I just complaining because I wish I would be asked to lead/preach/sing? No. hand on my heart, no. I’m not after another single thing to add to my plate. Too busy unraveling the current mound of spaghetti.

When I can’t find a strong woman role model anywhere I look, week after month, after year, I begin to die a little inside. Something says to me, why bother? Who cares? And I start the process of checking out.

If men are the stronger sex, and I’m ready to argue that they are (I love them), then the reason there aren’t many strong female candidates around right now is probably because the dominant sex is not proactively making room for them. It sounds whiney, I know, I know. But this is the whole point, girls generally don’t compete well on the same level as boys because girls are not the same as boys. If given an opportunity to contribute even though they whined instead of competing for their place, then they will often deliver something valuable that few men possible could – because girls are not the same as boys.

So, what am I saying here? What’s my problem? I’m not entirely sure. This one is still in the sketching phase. I’ll color it in slowly once I’ve done some more thinking. It’s really very complicated.

Hair Clip Rack

Here’s a very simple way to store little girls’ hair clips.

I have a shedload of arts & craft supplies that I am determined to use up.

Today’s ingredients are:

1) Cheapo Ikea picture frame

2) Scraps of ribbon

3) Staple gun (but I couldn’t find mine so I used a regular stapler)

Bleh

The morning started with me waking up to the glorious realisation that we had all slept through the night! This is an increasingly rare phenomenon in our household, ever since the arrival of my little lactose intolerate bundle of baby boy joy. He’s now 15 months old and between taking FOREVER to figure out what his problem was, and teething, and numerous other issues, we’ve not been having much sleep.

As a new mum the first thought to rush into my mind upon waking naturally at any hour after 6am, is “has someone died? Is that why no one’s crying woke me earlier?” I realized this morning that the new-mum thing had worn off. I snoozed for longer than I have in ages and then realized Layla, my 3yr old was snoozing in the bed with me. Soon enough little Dylan came toddling in and we all enjoyed some cuddles in bed. Dylan found a ball on the floor and started rolling it around, then fussed as the ball lodged itself under my bed. Layla, the ever-loving and helpful big sister rushed to his rescue, but took us all by surprise when instead helping Dylan, she vomited all over the poor little guy.

Layla proceeded to projectile vomit for what felt like an eternity as I screamed for Eden (our live-in helper) to come and take Dylan to other bathroom as I waited for Layla to finish her business and then got her hosed down in my bathtub. It was a most dramatic 3 minutes.

I work from home. My workload was already piling up to an uncomfortable level due to the fact I’d been shuffling Dylan between three different doctors’ appointments yesterday. I had a lunch appointment booked in with a professor at City U that I really didn’t want to miss, so I jumped at my Mum’s offer to spend the day with the kids. She walked through the door about five minutes after the spewing incident and the kids settled into joyous play with her (she is an early childhood expert and pretty much on par with Disneyland for my kids).

I managed to spend an hour in my room/office catching up with work, and then headed over to Kowloon Tong to chat with Prof Rocio Davis about the possibility of doing a PHD in the nearish future. Lunch was yum and the conversation most encouraging and inspiring. I’ll write about that later.

After a quick-ish stop at Toys R Us (where I bought a guilt offering for my kids for leaving them sick) I came home for a really nice afternoon of family time. I made a hair clip rack out of some old scraps lying around, watched two episodes of The Modern Family, and then worked on my website.

 

The reason I’m recording all this is that today I’m really struck by the truth that life happens and will continue to happen despite the fact that I would like everything to wait for me to get my act together, or step aside so I have creative space and time to really focus in depth on the stuff that I feel needs it at that moment. Ain’t gonna happen. My option will always be to shelf the things I want to do in order to deal with whatever is most pressing, or to find a way to fit in all the things I just know in my gut that I’m meant to be doing. Sometimes I will have to call in sick, and sometimes I will get the balance wrong, but I’m not going to stop trying to fit it all in.

The house still smells a little of sick, and I’ve failed to exercise yet again, but tomorrow is another day. I had to write this post because I’m tired of waiting until I’m ‘ready’ to write. I’m going to write daily. I just decided.

 

 

 

Well Hello

I promised myself that once I had linked my WordPress site to my domain name I would start blogging regularly again. It’s been a hard several months since I got the news about iWeb wrapping up. The news, although given with plenty of warning and no real cause for panic, really knocked the blogging mojo out of me. Yes, it was iWeb’s fault. Not mine. Nothing to do with the busyness I’ve been indulging in this year. I am an innocent victim. Stupid iWeb.

Anyway, we’re up and running again and now I’m committed to getting some momentum going and sticking with it. Yessirreee Bob. I’m doing it.

What is this blog about? I hear one member of my mental panel asking… The answer is, it’s about whatever I feel like writing at the time of writing. One day it might be about motherhood. Another day it will be my thoughts on theology. Or swimming. Or a particularly interesting episode of Locked Up Abroad. Today’s post is a clearing-the-throat post. It’s been a while since I last posted, so I’m just going with the flow right now.

My husband Tom is a terrible and awesome blogger. He’s awesome because he blogs some very deep, thoroghly-thought-through ideas that really provoke his readers to further thought. He’s terrible because he really labours over each blog post and hates the process to the point of being grumpy for most of the blogging day, making my day trickery than need be too. He’s a perfectionist. I’m not telling you this because I’m in the mood to have a moan about my husband, I’m telling you this because he and I are very different in this area. I am not a perfectionist. I am not labouring over this blog post in any way. (other than having to go back and re-enter the u’s in laboUring because of the American auto-spelling-correcter). I’m flowing. I’m just typing whatever comes to mind.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m better than Tom in this regard. He’s actually much better than me, he definitely has many more people reading his posts than I do, but what I am saying is that it’s okay for different types of people to do the same sorts of things in their own different ways. I think that’s what I’m saying. Or else maybe I was just trying to say that I have no qualms about blogging semi-thoughts with very little preparation and the route of bringing up Tom in order to contrast myself with him just took my fancy. Yup. That one.

So, this year has been jam-packed. I’m beginning to wonder if this is what growing up is all about – just cramming more and more and bigger and bigger things into life until finally you start getting really tired and your hair either falls out or turns grey. Don’t get me wrong, I have pretty much loved the things that have been taking up all my time, but I do often need to pause and catch my breath just so I can keep up with it all.

I have completed my Masters in Creative Writing at HK City U. I’m really happy about having seen that challenge through to the end, and even happier with the grades I got. The next challenge is to keep writing and get to the end of the book I feel I am supposed to write. I’m about one third way in now… and it’s been… um, about five years in the writing…

This is one very good thing about writing. I think that very few really good books get written very quickly. Okay, for the sake of sounding like I have a backbone I will say I don’t think it’s possible to write a really good book really fast. These things take time, either time in the physical writing, or time in the mental percolating. Unlike music – if someone catches wind of the fact that the trend is moving towards say, accordion and harpsichord combos, then it’s not hard to run home to Garageband and have your new release out within the hour…whereas, it is quite hard to fast track a work of the literary arts. Maybe. I have no backbone.     

When I do this —- it means I’m moving on to something entirely different.

The other night I went to a random networking function at a bar in Wanchai. It was the meeting for a society that I got membership to by taking a test. It’s a very elite society that apparently people strive very hard to be a part of. I went along to the test venue for the heck of it, because something in my gut persuaded me to go along. It turned out that I got in to this club, which was nice, but here’s the kicker – they discourage members from telling others that they are members. hmmm. So, um, what’s the point of trying to get in the club then? I’m pretty sure it’s a big social experiment masterminded by some cruel character with a fluffy cat on this desk. So, because of the guidelines I’ve been given I will not go into what the club actually is, but I will say that I find the whole thing very amusing.

Anyway, I went to Slim’s bar next to Pacific Place 3, and sat outside for about an hour, reading a book, and then revving myself up to go in and mingle with a bunch of complete strangers. I hate small talking. I’m not very good at it. I can fake it sometimes, but other times I’m very very bad at it and I end up saying stupid things and wanting to die, and the biggest problem is I can never tell which way it’s going to go. Finally I went in and found the table full of members. I identified them as the right group by recognizing the club’s logo inconspicuously placed on the table between beers and a basket of peanuts. 

I introduced myself and then waited for an opening into a conversation. The group was of about 15 people, all Chinese ranging from about 18 to 40, except for one Brit who was probably in his 50s. It turned out that this guy, Simon, had been traveling in the Philippines with the Welsh Male Voices Choir. As soon as I found this out I knew I was going to be okay, and that I was glad I had gone along to the meeting.

The WMVC had been good enough to come to sing at my father’s funeral in 2008 and Simon had been one of the singers there too! What a small world. I guess HK is a small place, but it was just very nice to find that connection in the unlikely setting I was in. Hurray. 

 

Okay, it’s 1am and baby is crying. Better end there for today.

My Orange Fish Dress

We had a really stimulating discussion at our Plus group earlier this week – Tom was leading the evening and he had us watch Alain de Botton‘s latest TED talk on Atheism 2.0. I was so glad he chose to do this, and even more glad that I am surrounded in a Christian community that has no problem with the unconventional. Maybe it’s just the imagined (and if I’m honest, villainized) conservative Christian in my mind who would take offense at sitting through what was essentially a very convincing sermon for the other side, instead of looking at the bible at a bible study… I don’t know, I’ve grown up in HK (a cosmopolitan place) and in The Vine (quite an unconventional church). Here we have liberal views on things, I’m told that this is not the case for many other Christians. Whatever the case, no one freaked out – so, go us! What shallow type of faith would be afraid of listening to another (albeit very clever) person’s reasons for not believing?

Anyway, I’m coming down with the flu & promised myself an early night so I can’t go too deeply into Atheism 2.0 right now. I will read Religion for Atheists and write down more thoughts in a later post.

For now, what I wanted to do was to apply some action to another, unexpected gem that I took home from the TED talk – the idea of the artist discussing their art. I won’t attempt to recap what Mr. de Botton (Mr.Botton?) said about this, so please do take a moment to watch the TED yourself.

As an artist I have been guilty of refusing to talk about my work, sometimes even citing ‘art for art’s sake’. This is stupid. Actually, I always have reasons and ideas behind what I make – and I always tell Tom all about them, and then swear him to secrecy! I haven’t put enough thought into my reasons for this yet – I’d like to think I do it so I can hear what other people get form my work without their experience being colored by mine, but the truth is probably closer to something like me being a Rumpelstiltskin, wanting to appear mystical…

Again, great food for another post.
Now, on to some action.

This is a painting I made last year… or 2010, I forget…

I had met with an wonderful lady in church called Eufemia to pray through some of my life stuff, not overly focused on any one thing, just free styling, if you will… and I ended up telling her about this awful experience I’d had when I was a little girl. The summary of which is that as my family was driving some relatives from out of town back to the airport after their visit, my little cousin started crying and saying she wanted the dress I was wearing. The dress was a recent handmedown from an older cousin. Even as a child I was surprised to find that the adults in the car did not defend me or tell her that her demands were crazy, but instead asked if I would be willing to hand the dress over and spend the rest of the car ride in my undies. I remember feeling totally wronged and going into a tantrum at the horror of the whole situation and then allowing it to become evidence to a growing conclusion that I was indeed, a bad girl. I was not generous enough to sit in my undies. Even though I did keep hold of the dress I never felt like I wanted any rights to it after that.

I hadn’t really put much time or thought into remembering the incident, it really wasn’t too big a deal, but after praying with Eufemia I had a sense that God wanted me to know that He cared about it, and that he was asking me to paint a picture of the dress – my dress – in a symbolic gesture to remind me that God sees the little things and is able to restore any loss or damage done to his children, regardless of time.

So, that’s the story behind this painting.
:)