Thursday, 28 April 2016

respected: a poetry post

I've been in a people-watching kind of place lately. Maybe it's the cold turn in the weather, but I've been keeping more to myself, and instead, paying attention to the way people are talking to each other and to the stories people tell.

Yesterday I went to my friend Rose's funeral. I had written this poem in the light of her death, although of course, at her funeral it was her poems that were shared, and I was so glad about that, because I'd feared I'd never hear them again, and worse, that I'd already heard them for the last time and didn't know when that was.

I heard so many stories of the inspiration and encouragement that Rose gave to people. I can only hope to emulate that. I will try. I am very glad that her light was not dimmed at the end, but went out swiftly, so we all got to remember her as the vibrant, exciting woman she was.

On Monday I went to my Writing Group's AGM which was busy, with a packed agenda, and I was fascinated to see that the men kept getting heard more than the women. Not because of any badness on anyone's part, just because the men were more willing to expect others to listen to them, while the women would often apologise to the men who interrupted them and give the floor to them. Gender socialisation has a lot to answer for, and I'm not going to pretend that it's not still going on, but I think that noticing this stuff is powerful.

We, none of us, should apologise for letting our voices be heard, but at the same time, we must let all the voices be heard. It's a big issue for me as a woman, as a fat person - taking up space which I often want to apologise for - and especially as a mother. I have to set a good example, I have to challenge the way we think, and help my children to be strong.

And the weather is horrible...




So rather than think this all over on a walk, I tried to render it into a sonnet. I can't think of a name for it so I'll call it...

Authority

I hold positions of authority.
I am a mother, and a writer too:
Both jobs undervalued financially,
and yet the two create the world anew.
I've watched respected men and how they speak:
their confidence in their place in the world.
They take up space, talk loud, they are not meek:
point out their gifts without a troubled word.
I too, I see, am worthy of respect.
My motherly duty is to be strong:
to share successes; change I may affect;
to guide my children in what's right, what wrong.
   And I'm not only good enough, but I
   continue getting better all the time.


© Cara L McKee 28/4/16


I'm linking this up with the Prose for Thought linky. You'll find lots of other interesting posts there too. 



Prose for Thought

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

excited about Game of Thrones (spoilers up to and including S6 ep1)

We downgraded our Sky subscription this year and were pretty sure that would mean we'd have to wait for the boxset to see Game of Thrones. 

But last night I looked in the list of recorded stuff, and there it was! Honestly I could not have been more excited. So my hubby and I sat down to watch. He is not quite as obsessed as I am by both the TV series and the Song of Ice and Fire books. As evidenced by his constant questioning 'but isn't he dead?' and 'who's she then?' etc. Sigh.



Dany - Hama style
I am obsessed. Even my hama bead creations are Game of Thrones related!

So at the end of series five, at that exciting moment where the TV series passed the books, I made some predictions for what would happen next. How did I do with that?


Daenerys


Dany is still in an unfortunate situation. The khalasar have recognised her as a Khaleesi, but now they intend to take her to Vaes Dothrak. 


I still think the girl has dragons and will awesome her way out of this situation, taking the khalasar with her.


And then, eventually, she'll join up with Tyrion and Jon (please let it be Jon) and take Kings Landing as the three heads of the dragon.


Dorne


I did not see that coming! I was really hoping that Tristane was going to take over Quentyn's role and get burnt to a crisp, but dead is dead, and I don't think Dorne was working out for the show, so I can see why it was that brutal and fast. 


Cersei and Jaime


It was so good to see Cersei and Jaime reunited. Although Cersei still has her trial hanging over her. I was glad to see that rather than sending her mad with grief, the death of Myrcella has strengthened Cersei's resolve. I think they're going down, but they'll go down flaming. I suspect it will be something to behold. I wonder if Cersei will now try to build bridges with Maergery, realising that the only way Tommen can live is with all the support he can get, especially the money from Highgarden.


Melisandre

Jon Snow is still Melisandre's best bet for the reincarnation of Azor Ahai, but I'm wondering if the fact she's so old means she'll have to die to allow him to live? She's always seen snow in the flames, but it is known that only death can pay for life, so does she have the courage to die to bring him back? In the books Catelyn was well dead when she was resurrected (by Thoros of Myr, who didn't die, but wasn't happy about Lady Stoneheart). In the programme Davos only has until sundown, so Melisandre had best nap fast.


Sansa and Theon

YAY!!! How chuffing awesome was that? Hoorah for Brienne and Pod, and hoorah for Theon getting his backbone back (briefly). The scene with Brienne making her oath to Sansa was way better than anything I could have imagined. Marvellous. But what now? Perhaps they are going to make it to the wall after all? Or perhaps news will reach them of Jon's death and they'll turn away, maybe to White Harbour - I'd love to see White Harbour. I still think Theon is headed for the wall though...


Arya


Arya's blindness and getting beaten up is a bit boring, so I'm hoping she'll ace her blind stick fighting lessons soon and then maybe she could be dispatched to kill Balon Greyjoy? Someone has to kill the Greyjoy... although perhaps Theon could do it. That would be fun.


Ramsey

Talking of fun... Ramsey has lost his love, and Sansa has left him. His father is threatening to disown him. Perhaps this is the moment for Ramsey to send the pink letter to Jon. But... this moment, when Ramsey has little left to lose, would surely be a good one for him to kill his father, you know, before he stops being heir.


Jon Snow


Jon is STILL dead. Come on Melisandre... Do something!


I wonder if his soul has gone into Ghost? That might have interesting consequences when he is brought back to life, as he surely must be. 


And yet, his watch is over, surely? Ed is bringing the Wildlings to help, and Jon can join with them to defend the North for the fall of the wall, which will surely come if the Watch is to tear itself apart.




So my favourite plotlines this week were Brienne of Fucking Tarth and Jaime and Cersei reunited. The weakest in my view were Dorne, and Arya.



What did you think, and what's going to happen next?



Friday, 22 April 2016

awesome: why I'm going to keep saying my kids are awesome

My kids are awesome.

What a thing to say!

But it's my job to think my kids are awesome, and when I was recently asked to quickly state five things I think, 'my kids are awesome' was up there.

We had to quickly write down five things I think (and various other lists of five things) at a creative writing workshop I went to recently. These were mine. My apologies that some of it is illegible.
But I'm reminded of a friend reading my 17 year old self's diary (with my permission, and with me in the room). She pointed out that a the end of every entry, every day, I wrote something like 'I love my boyfriend so much.' Almost like a prayer, she said. Almost like I was trying to convince myself.

I wasn't trying to convince myself, but perhaps I was trying to solidify that love for my future, because what she didn't know, and what I only then suspected, was that a year later I'd be marrying him to make myself a new family.

A little objectivity might have been a good thing.

So what about 'my kids are awesome?' Is that a prayer? Am I trying to convince myself?

Nah. They are awesome. They're maddening too (I shan't list the ways), and if they were someone else's kids I'm sure I'd find them more annoying than I sometimes do, but beyond being family, I really like them all as people.

Me and Mr 10. I'm not sure whose hair is cooler.
Mr 10 is smartand kind, and a complicated soul. I love him to bits, feel fiercely protective of him, and hugely honoured that I still get hugs, that I'm still the one he comes to when he's hurting. He's got a great bunch of mates too, and I often have a houseful of polite, thoughtful lads. The boy is doing good.

Miss 8 and one of her favourite rocks.
Miss 8 is composed and charming and is the first person in a very long time that I've enjoyed going shopping with. She chooses 'girly' activities, as well as walks and cycling, and she makes things fun. I can't wait until we can chatter over a glass of Prosecco and a long lunch.

Miss 5, eating a chocolate rice cake. The cat litter tray is in the background of this pic, but she's still gorgeous.
Miss 5 is funny and wild and I admire her strength of character. She is forever testing boundaries, which encourages me to do the same. She tests me too, and is proof, even from her birth that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Yet amongst all her fierceness there is a loving warmth which makes it easy for her to make and keep friends, and lets her get away with murder, which is handy...

So yes, my kids are awesome, and if I repeat it it's because I know we have to grow apart. They must survive the horrors of puberty, and come of age. They have to think that their parents are boring to help them make that leap out of the nest, in time.

I want to hold on to the good in them even when they're driving me crazy. I want to always be a safe refuge for them when times get tough.

Why? Because my kids are awesome.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

godless: my thoughts on religion, politics, and schooling

I was having a friendly discussion with my husband the other day, driving across Scotland in the car, with the kids in the back occasionally seeking clarification.

He was challenging my thoughts that it's problematic for someone seeking a responsible position - like an MSP for instance - to talk about their faith. In my view, while we all have opinions and ideas, if we're in a position of authority it's important to rise above them.

I wouldn't want to elect to power soeone who professes to adhere to a set of beliefs that are grounded in patriarchy and which preach homophobia and mysogyny.

I'm focusing on Christianity here, and I know that the homophobic stuff is in the old testament and with Saul/Paul, but it's still there, and isn't balanced out by the idea of loving the sinner and hating the sin. I think the patriarchy issue is mainly a fault of the Abrahamical religions - but they're rather popular - and even polytheistic religions tend to the patriarchal if we're honest.

Quite often, finding out about a candidate I'll feel pretty supportive until they say they're Christian.

I'm not saying that Christians are bad people, but if someone is telling me they're Christian because they want me to vote for them, it's not so I know they sing with others on Sundays, and they have a strong network of supportive friends (which are both marvellous things about Christianity). Rather it's short hand for explaining their beliefs, their patriarchal, homophobic beliefs.

My husband is a bigger fan of Christianity than me and he argued that my feminist beliefs were akin to religious beliefs. I think he's wrong, but I can see what he's getting at. Although right now feminism seems to me more of a process than Christianity, perhaps because it's pushing against the structures which Christianity helped to put in place. Christianity itself was radical in its day.

Someone on the radio, whose daughter sadly had inoperable cancer said that she was praying for a miracle and that her faith would get her through.

Faith is good for that stuff. That's why prayer works, that's why spells work, that's why people have lucky pants.

My husband said that of course I didn't believe in an interventionist god (cue Nick Cave and explaining to kids what interventionist means)...


...I don't believe in an interventionist god, but I do believe that prayers, magick, and lucky pants work. I don't know why, but perhaps we'll find out one day. To me it's a bit like dark matter. It fits an explanation that lets us get on with things, but we don't know if it's actually true.

Perhaps there was (perhaps there still is) a being that we don't understand. There is plenty that we don't understand. Perhaps she does intervene sometimes, but I'd imagine it more like a human giving hamsters some toilet roll to play with than some benign deity granting our wishes, but only if we're good enough and grovel enough.

I tried being Christian as a teenager. There was a boy involved. I loved the supportive network and the singing. I didn't love the judgement and control.

I've been a Wiccan too. I got on well with that, there was more of a concept of the gods as characters, not necessarily real. That magick was done by use of the will. But Wicca, like all religion, is stories strung together with an ethos.

I've since found other stories which I like better, but I still like to mark the seasons, and who doesn't love a festival? I see no reason to throw out those babies with the bathwater of religion.

But at the same time I don't want my kids groomed into Christianity at their 'non-denominational' (Church of Scotland) school. I want them to celebrate together and to learn about religion, but not from the perspective of Christians, and not singing creationist songs.

That said, I wouldn't stop the children from believing in Christianity or any other faith if they wanted to, so long as they question the stories they're told. I'm also happy for them to believe in Santa, the tooth fairy, and the Easter bunny.

What are your thoughts on this? Are you a person of faith? What do you think of faith in politics? What do you think of faith in schools? I'd love to hear some of your opinions.

Monday, 18 April 2016

visiting a life: A poetry post

This week over on the Mum Turned Mom blog The Prompt is 'visitor'.

It brought to mind two things which have been kicking about on the backburner in my writing life. One is a short story which is going to get incorporated into a novel at some point, so I'm not sharing it here, and the other is a poem I've been writing about a friend.

I've been writing it for a very long time. Writing and rewriting. There's something good about it, and lots of things that aren't, and I'm having trouble disentangling my feelings about said friend with the poem.

But today the kids have gone back to school and I had tasked myself with getting some of my poems into shape, so I've dragged this one back out into the light, and tried writing and rewriting it again, to see what works. The sonnet form is the best I've come up with yet, but it's still not right.

The poem is about someone I briefly went to school with. He was different and interesting, and got to shape his own school timetable, which I found amazing - who knew that that was even possible!? I was fascinated with him, and one night, whilst really quite drunk, I met him on a beach, and we talked about life, the universe and everything, and decided that because we shared a birthday and a bedroom (not simultaneously - his family moved into my old house), we were metaphysically connected.

We never hung out with each other at school, or in public, after that night on the beach. But we did meet up from time to time, especially when he'd been out the night before and taken too many drugs and done things which he wasn't sure he meant. I thought he was mad and stupid, and scared and lonely. I wanted to fix him and wasn't sure he was broken.

He didn't change.

And the last time I saw him was at a friend's party. He was drunk and shouting, looking for drugs, and I told him he needed to get his act together or he would die.

He told me to go away.

I did. And he did. 

Something happened in his brain and it just stopped working. He just died. Apparently these things happen sometimes, and it could have happened to anyone. It didn't though. It happened to him.




Your life and living it

I saw on screen you were alive today.
I had to Google you to check you're gone.
Your gormless face has surely gone away?
I found out that they got our birthday wrong.
Those mornings gone that you knocked on my door
with tears of fear and loss about the night
and we would walk and talk upon the moor
and, hid in bracken, kiss to put things right.
You caught me by surprise with your swift end.
To you, your life meant less than living it.
I'd thought 'twould be the drugs or your fool hand.
Perhaps the devil saw and could not wait.
And if my fury with you is still strong
well now my love you'll never prove me wrong.


© Cara L McKee 18/4/16



mumturnedmom

Sunday, 17 April 2016

JUMP: Ilkley reminiscences

As a kid in the 70s and 80s we lived in a big house which my parents filled with teenage foster kids and young adult lodgers.


I can't find a picture with Jermaine in it
but these were some of the people who
lived in our house. It was a great way to
grow up imho.
One of the lodgers was Jermaine. She was into keeping fit, and she set up an aerobics class in town - Jermaine's Universal Movement Programme.

My Mum and I went along to support her. I wore a long sleeved wraparound leotard, which I would have worn always if I thought I could get away with it.

The class was in a nightclub called Madames. Named after Madame Avis who would later be known as the stingy landlady of the Crescent. The one who charged high prices for glasses of Tesco Value Lemonade which the Scottish barman would display as he poured so you knew you were being ripped off. After that she went on to run The Box Tree. 

Madames was underneath The Listers Arms where I would play in the beer garden on Saturdats while my parents chatted with their friends. The Listers Arms as was is now a retirement home and most of the gardens have gone. The Wetherspoons across the road has now taken the name.

Madames was lined with mirrors. That seemed fairly standard for clubs back then. Le Phono in Leeds, which became my club, also had mirrors where glammies used to do their makeup, although my abiding memory from Le Phono was the sticky-shiny black lines you'd get on your clothes from sitting in the beer and fags on the floor. Le Phono still exists, gently mouldering away under the Merrion Centre.

Madames clsed before I could ever go there as a nightclub, but I had a boyfriend whom Madame Avis would upbraid for breaking her mirrors every time she saw him. Reminding him he'd been thrown out and barred, although that was Madames and this was the Crescent. He'd laugh and apologise with a twinkle of mischief in his eye, and she would suck her teeth and turn away before she smiled.

I don't remember much about Jermaine's Universal Movement Programme except that the first song was always Van Halen.




mumturnedmom

Friday, 15 April 2016

Coming to terms with illness and disability: a process of grief

I'm delighted to have a guest post on the blog today from my friend Erica Kimber. She's suffering with problems that cause ongoing debilitating pain, and has kindly agreed to share some of her thoughts on the experience.

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It's been 3 years since my health started getting really bad and it's continued to get worse over the past 3 years. I'm struggling to deal with what is happening to me. It doesn't help that my health has been getting worse and that my conditions are variable so I’m having to deal with different things on different days. I don't know how to find an acceptance of what is happening to me. And I know I need to do this if I am going to really live with these conditions. It’s one thing to find and buy the items I need to live, mobility scooters, travel type cups etc., but it's another to accept that I have to use them. It’s one thing to accept the pain as a way to deal with it, to reduce it, it’s another thing to accept that I’m going to be in pain and on powerful drugs for the rest of my life. It’s one thing to face extreme verbal abuse as it happens with equanimity, it’s another thing to be composed later thinking about all the verbal abuse I have received. So how do I learn this acceptance? I have no idea.

I need to be able to grieve for what I have lost; for the me I used to be, for the things I used to be able to do, for the things I will never be able to do again. It is difficult to find the space to do that. People who don't have my conditions (or other similar ones) don't want me to focus on what I have lost, on what they see as the negative side, they want me to focus on what I have, on what I can still do. Much to my surprise virtually all the people with similar conditions that I have talked to also don't want me to talk about what I (and they) have lost. They don't want to think about that side of their illnesses, they too want to focus on the positive, on what they have and can do. Now I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with being positive; in fact there is a great deal right with being positive and I need to be more positive, but I also need to grieve. I have lost part of my life and I need to grieve for what I have lost before I can have any hope of being positive, before I can reach any level of acceptance. So how do I find the space to grieve, how do I move on from just being angry? I have no idea about that either.


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Many thanks to Erica for sharing her thoughts. Have you been through a similar process? We'd love to hear from you.