In your honor

In your honor

 

It’s the time after. The hollow empty time, when we’re supposed to be done with grieving and life just goes on.

 

dav

 

When you become a parent there’s lots to learn, no matter where in the world you are. But when you’re in a country you didn’t grow up in yourself, the learning curve of parenting is even steeper. And it’s stressful because the stakes are so high. These beautiful magical innocent babies, suddenly under your care in a system you only partially understand. It’s confusing at best, terrifying at worst.

Whenever I needed help, when the system here confused me, you knew the answer. Yes, I had my husband and he tried to help, of course. But so often his solution was, hm, I’ll call my mom. And you’d have the answer, you knew the system, you knew the people. Your network and your knowledge became ours, and it made parenting in a new country manageable.

My own mother raised me kindly, she gave me her strength and a solid array of fundamental parenting instincts to take into my journey as a parent. But Norway was a twist I didn’t see coming. And you gave me the practical know-how to parent my Norwegian kids. To handle the day-to-day questions and conundrums. To discern whether misunderstandings were due to culture or personality. To understand what all these foreign concepts meant, not just the meaning of the words, but how they fit into the Norwegian context. .

You were my Norwegian mentor. My Norwegian Mom.

The generations over us are like the highest trees in the forest canopy. As they disappear we stand exposed, more vulnerable to the whims of wind and weather and less protected from the heat of the sun.

Of course we have other people around us who care. But not the way you did. Not all in, day in day out, calling, asking, remembering each detail and following up. The mother/daughter-in-law relationship is rarely 100% smooth. Sometimes the intensity of your caring felt overbearing to me, but over the years it began to just feel like what it was- love.

And now I mourn what we’ve lost. On one hand the practical help, knowing there was always someone nearby who’d drop everything and reschedule and find a way to make it work if we needed help. Losing that is hard, but we’ll be resilient and  find new solutions for situations like those. No, the hardest part is losing someone who loved my kids unconditionally. Who lived for loving my kids, and all the grandchildren. Unconditional love is rare, there are only a few people who offer it to us in this lifetime. You were one of ours and we thank you.

You gave the kids the wisdom and perspective you had as one of an older generation. You helped keep their world oriented upwards and inwards toward family instead of outwards towards peers and pressures. You could absorb their bad moods, deflect their tantrums, turn their energy around without reproach or shame. You remembered each detail of what they told you and followed up and asked how things were going. You offered food and comfort. You taught them patiently and spent long hushed hours doing crafts with them- knitting, embroidering, weaving.

You gave us everything you had. Your last energy, your last days, went to us, your family. We say that death came quickly at the end, that the illness took over quickly. But I think it’s the other way too. That the illness was already taking over, but you held on and stayed so strong so long because you wanted to spend that time with us.

Visits in the days leading up to Christmas. Helping us plan the Christmas gifts we could buy for the kids from you. Finding someone who could sew N’s bunad. (even though I procrastinated and it should have been too late). Organizing the list of silver necessary for said bunad. See, you were helping me learn something new about Norway right to the very end. Christmas Eve celebration with family. You were smiling and in good spirits all that night. Coming to K’s 7th birthday party on Boxing Day. You sat on our couch, right where I sit typing this. You chatted with all of us about the little things you loved to hear about. J’s gymnastics, N’s confirmation, knitting, everyone’s busy schedules, local happenings. You helped K count his birthday money and add up the big impressive number. You smiled and laughed and gave hugs.

Then you were in the hospital. We didn’t know for how long but we didn’t know the end would be so soon. We had a lovely visit with you New Year’s Eve. K climbing on the windowsill. L trying to run out the door to the corridor every time it was opened a crack. You sent M out to find fruit for the kids. J got a pear, K a banana. Even there you were still taking care of us. Making sure we were fed and comfortable and making the best out of the circumstances. You told N about a jacket you had that never quite suited you, said she could have it if she wanted it. Your last gift directly to her. You asked about M’s plans, her class ski trip, wondered how things were going with her friends. You showed us some old pictures in the history book from your hometown. And then you gave us all hugs. I’ll never forget how strong your arms and back felt when I hugged you that last time. So solid and strong, you had so much strength left in you.

You gave us so much, and you still had so much more to give.

As we watched the fireworks that night we cried, sad that you weren’t there watching with us. We had to ring in the New Year without you and then one day later you were gone for real.

We’re grateful for everything, too many things to list. But right now we’re especially grateful that you gave us so much those last days. Our last memories are not of your illness, but of laughter and smiles and hugs.

It takes a village to raise kids, and now our village has lost its matriarch.

I’m not ready to fill the void, I’m not even sure I can. But I’ll try, and because I must, for my kids, I’ll manage.And when I manage it will be because you showed me how.

It’s the time after now, and life just goes on. In your honor.

inyourhonor2

 

Listening

Since the election I’ve been listening. Reading, hearing what people are saying.

I thought I was progressive before. And I was, but my definition of progressive had crystallized 15 or 20 years ago and I had only kept up with the discourse on a superficial level since then. My social justice awareness developed within the liberal California college environment of the 90’s, and then deepened during the 5 years I lived in Switzerland. I cared and cared and cared, but with a focus on the issues that dominated in those different environments.

Then I ended up in Norway and had 5 babies in 13 years and focused on that. My caring was devoted to them, and my activist thoughts, those I had the energy for through the haze of sleep-deprivation, focused mostly on birthing and breastfeeding and the right to autonomy over one’s body during these processes. And gender issues, the school system, family issues, parental leave, and so on. And slowly, in sync with my growing fluency in Norwegian language, I began to gain a deeper understanding of the wider issues going on within my new country of residence as well.

The rest of the world was outside this bubble. The US was way outside this bubble. I still cared, but I only got glimpses of what I should be caring about here and there. A friend’s photo from protests in Chicago. A link on facebook to an article another friend wrote in New Orleans. The news, filtered through the small number of websites I could find that didn’t disgust me with their overly obvious bias.

But this winter I was shocked into focusing on US politics again. I knew a lot about the US’s foreign policy issues of these past years (you know, living in a “foreign” place and all), but the domestic issues were more hazy. So I admit I’m one of the shocked. There are many voices out there saying this isn’t new. This racism and bigotry was rampant before and it’s only people with privilege, those who didn’t experience it directly, who can be shocked it exists. And I agree. In that sense I was wrapped in a bubble of privilege over here in Norway and I didn’t realize how extreme it had gotten, or how extreme it was all along, just not focused on in the environments I was part of. I knew this strain was there in US society but I didn’t know it was strong enough to lead to this election result. I’m sorry for not seeing that more clearly before.

And some voices are also saying, the only good side of this election was that the racism and bigotry has been brought out in the open, which might hopefully wake more people up to join in the struggle against it. And I agree with this too. And along with that sentiment comes anger, that it takes this level of assholery to shake the privileged out of their bubbles to join the fight against oppression. Where were we before? (In our bubbles.) Why don’t we care about injustice before it spits in our face and threatens us directly? (Because it’s easier that way, and because we benefited from it. Hard to face but true.) Will we use this momentum to push for real change, or will we fall back into old patterns once the immediate threat is over? (I don’t know what to say, I really hope not the latter.) Are we gonna stay with the struggle for justice or become complacent? (I can only answer for myself. Stay.)

So I’ve been listening.

And I learned that my way of caring was outdated. That the discourse and terminology I knew how to use was stale and superficial. That the conversations had continued without me and the issues had evolved and deepened and changed. I learned new terms which have helped me understand other perspectives on the human experience. I learned that many of the terms I already knew have nuances I was unaware of. And I learned I have a ton more to learn, so I have to keep paying attention.

I learned that ally is almost a dirty word in some activist circles. That it’s not a label one gives oneself, but an action one strives to achieve in each individual situation. In each situation you choose your behavior, and if you see injustice around you, in any big or small way, you choose your actions to be on the side of justice, to turn the situation towards equity and away from oppression. And then, in the next situation, you have to assess and react and make that choice again. Striving to be an ally is about constantly choosing, constantly working to be on the side of justice, each day, each individual situation at a time. I’ve used the term ally in a self-labelling way before and I apologize for that.

I learned that sometimes the best way I as a white person can help is to be quiet and listen. To support and amplify the words of the people who have lived experience with the issue at hand.

Listen. Amplify. Stay in my lane.

If oppression is happening (and it is) I have to listen and read and hear if the issue is being addressed by the group directly affected. I have to lift those voices up, link to them, amplify them, defend them to any white/privileged friends or acquaintances who would belittle or ignore them.

It’s hard not to want to jump in and say your piece on an issue you care about. It’s hard not to want to say “yeah, but I’m not like that” when you hear someone talking about how white people have hurt them. It’s hard, but we have to learn to hear these things and take them in without reacting defensively. We have to let those voices be heard. Let the words come from the people experiencing the injustice. Hear the message in those words without needing to have it filtered through a white perspective first. There are times we should speak, but not when our voice talks over or drowns out marginalized voices.

I see the irony in writing this post about how I’m trying to learn to hang back and just listen. I get that there’s massive centering happening in this post. (That’s what this blog is, mostly, an exercise in centering.) But I write this as a white woman to other white people, other people who may need to learn to listen. Which voices are you hearing? Where do their opinions on the subject come from, lived experience or outside-in observation? What bias do they have? Why is this voice more comfortable to listen to than another?

I want to learn more humility, to increase my ability to sit back and listen. Yet here I am writing this. Finding that magic balance where adding my voice to the discourse is more useful than not is a tricky one. So here’s the thing, after all the learning my listening has brought to me, and though I will humbly attempt to amplify others’ voices when possible, I still feel that when in doubt I have to err on the side of saying something.  Because the conundrum is that in some situations staying silent means showing tacit agreement with the oppressor, or the bully, or the President. So when I feel the scales tipping towards injustice, I’ll speak. Or write. Even if I center and whitesplain and whitewash. I’ll try not to do those things, but I know I’ll make mistakes. Then I hope I’ll have the strength to accept the criticism and continue learning. But I also hope my words might reach someone who can learn from them. The blatant racist who “doesn’t see color”. Or the white people who aren’t sure they want to leave their bubble yet. The ones who unfortunately might still need to hear these things first from another white person before they’re able to open their heart to other voices. And the people like me who are trying to figure out how to care without causing harm. Because that’s what it all boils down to, I care.

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A drawing of sparkly dots and a flower, by my daughter. The kind of thing I randomly find in my phone’s photo gallery. I think it fits here. Peace, love, sparkles, flowers, yeah.

Which voices are you listening to?

Not that kind of immigrant

“Oh, but you’re not that kind of immigrant.”

Someone said that to me once, years ago. They were going on, complaining, immigrants ruin everything and take government handouts and don’t try to get jobs and don’t try to learn the language and don’t care about integrating, and yeah, ruin everything! And so on. I listened a while, in disgust mostly, but not really shock, I mean, it’s a pretty typical line we’ve all heard before. But then I just couldn’t listen anymore.

“Um, hey, hi, you know I’m an immigrant, right?”

“Oh, yeah, haha, but you’re not THAT kind of immigrant.”

Hee hee, haha, wink wink.

I’m not? What kind of immigrant am I then?

Well, the clearest answer is that I’m white. And when you understand white privilege, you see that right away it won’t be assumed I’m THAT kind of immigrant.

I’m of Italian descent on my mom’s side, so I have a Mediterranean look to me. Mostly that falls into the white category. Although I’ve realized over the years, according to the subconscious (and sometimes conscious) attitudes of many Norwegians, Southern Europeans are not actually really completely white. I mean they live along the Mediterranean, and right across that water is Africa, you know? and they’re so loud and angry-sounding when they talk, and there is a lot of crime down there, I mean, the mafia!… Yeah, you can sense a definite element of otherhood about those people “down there” from the Norwegian standpoint at times.

But sensing a prejudice now and then is not the same as feeling the effects of actual racism. I understand that.

So yeah, it’s true, I’m not THAT kind of immigrant who is told to go back where they came from day in and day out.

I’m not THAT kind of immigrant whose job applications are thrown away without a second glance just because of their African or Asian name or picture.

I’m not THAT kind of immigrant who has to live with negative assumptions and judgments and discrimination based on their religion and culture on a daily basis.

I’m not THAT kind of immigrant who takes government handouts, doesn’t work outside the home, makes slow progress learning the language, associates to a large degree with other immigrants, and raises kids who know two cultures so they might one day end up challenging and changing Norwegian traditions and norms. Oh wait, yes, I am. THAT is in fact the kind of immigrant I am.

Every family in Norway gets basic welfare payments based on how many children they have. In addition, there’s state-sponsored daycare here (starting after the one year of state-sponsored maternity leave) and those who choose not to use it for whatever reason get extra child welfare payments (called kontantstøtte) until the child is two. This kontantstøtte is controversial, and widely criticized as “keeping immigrant women home” and ruining their integration because they choose to stay home instead of getting jobs and contributing to society. This argument doesn’t take into account the fact that 1. it’s not always automatic and easy to get a job in the first place, exactly when you want it and need it. Believe me, I’ve tried, and if it’s hard for me as a mostly-privileged mostly-white, university-educated woman, I know it must be exceedingly difficult for those with less privilege. 2. If all these immigrant women did get jobs as soon as their babies turned one, what kind of jobs is it likely they’ll get? Stocking grocery store shelves and washing bathrooms, that’s what. Great conversation opportunities there! Everyone knows real integration starts with getting to know a country’s canned food and toilet bowls. Right? and 3. there are cultural and social reasons that cause some mothers to choose to stay home with their children during the first formative years. Even though the mainstream of Norwegian society seems to have completely accepted the idea that daycare from one year is a super thing (and I’m not denying many have positive experiences with it, that’s great), there’s a blindness to seeing that it’s not the best solution for all families. I personally have this wacky idea that I want to be home with my children *at least* until they’re fully verbal and can communicate with me clearly about how they’re experiencing their time away from me. I’m on my 5th kid now, it works for me.

So end result, I am that kind of immigrant, staying home with my children, receiving extra child welfare payments, and integrating just a bit more slowly into the mainstream Norwegian culture. Hey, maybe even causing a slight ripple of change in it now and then too. And hey, maybe if the reaction when I do it, with my well-reasoned-out, university-degree-writing-style justification, is that, well, yeah, it’s ok, you’re not THAT kind of immigrant anyway, well then maybe it’s ok for others with less privileged backgrounds to be this kind of immigrant too. Maybe, just maybe, they have good, well thought out, important reasons for being the kind of immigrant that they are. Whaddayathink?

But again, even though I can relate to many immigrant issues, there are differences.

I am NOT that kind of immigrant who is terrified to hear the decision about their application for residency status, because a rejected residency application is not just an inconvenience, but a death sentence.

I am NOT that kind of immigrant who lives with constant dread knowing they could be sent back to a country where they will be imprisoned or killed because they took the chance and left.

I am not that kind of immigrant who *must* use every ounce of strength they have to work on integrating into this often cold and uncaring culture, because the alternative, going back to their country of origin, is unthinkable. And I’m not that kind of immigrant who works so hard at integrating every day, no matter how slow or fast anyone thinks it goes, even while living with the constant uncertainty that a sudden policy change in the government can mean getting sent out of the country without warning and without any recourse to come back again.

So, I do know. I know I’m not that kind of immigrant. And it breaks my heart that anyone on this planet has to be that kind of immigrant at all. The kind who gets the blame for “ruining society” while they practically kill themselves trying to learn and adapt and understand their new society so they can give their family a better life. So their kids will maybe sort of kind of actually fit in and one day walk a slightly easier road than they themselves had to. But my broken heart and understanding doesn’t change it, the immigrants still get the blame. Here in Norway, over there in the US, and just about everywhere else on the planet as well.

Why is it so impossible to see that nationality means nothing, deep down? That some of us get plopped down in one place at birth and stay there all our lives while others’ stories take them on crisscross trajectories over oceans and borders, to a life where they’re suddenly to blame. Where they’re suddenly illegal. Unwanted. Unnecessary. Unhuman.

Somewhere in our background we’re all immigrants. Somewhere in our background none of these borders existed. While I won’t presume to represent groups I’m not part of, if forced I will choose their side. I’ll be THAT kind of immigrant. The kind who has the heart to see people before nationalities and the courage to hear stories before stereotypes.

 

 

Stay Awake

Stay Awake

What a week, huh? My head hurts, my heart is heavy. I want to write about something else than Trump, but it’s all I can think about when I sit down to type. The election is already being analyzed up and down, back and forth, and it wasn’t my intention to make this a political blog. But I didn’t know Trump would be elected either. And the personal is political. Sometimes you just have to change gears for a while.

People say that many who voted for Trump were just feeling angry and rebellious and wanted to get rid of the establishment, but that doesn’t negate the fact that all the racist, misogynistic rhetoric was there, loud and clear. They may not have voted for it, but they voted alongside it, they thought it was ok as background noise. That’s systemic racism for you, right there.

And people say there was low voter turnout so it’s actually only a small percentage of Americans who really support his ideas. Only 25%, or 18%, or some low percent, of the US population actually voted for Trump. That’s supposed to make us feel better since it means a huge majority didn’t. We have to work on all the reasons why voter turnout was low, getting more people to vote would be a good thing. But no matter how many, or how few, voted, now we have Trump as President, and that’s what we have to deal with first.

People say the Democrats should have gone with Bernie Sanders. The Republicans threw up a change candidate, the Democrats should have done the same. Then we’d be heading for some dynamically positive paradigm shifts. I believe that myself. But now, I don’t know what kind of change we’re heading for. It sends chills down my spine when I let myself imagine where this could be going.

I hear folks on all different sides saying let’s just wait and see, let’s see what actually happens. He might not do any of the things he said. He’ll be held in check by the real politicians around him. He might be impeached. And hey he’ll shake things up and when it all falls back into place who knows, thing might be even better.

Over here in Norway I hear that last one a lot. People have a different perspective, watching from the outside in. The US possibly retreating from its role as World Police is seen as a positive thing. Many people are critical of NATO and NAFTA and TPP and other global things with acronyms, and people think it will be “interesting” to see where the world goes from here. Many are saying the geopolitical shifts could have positive outcomes for various countries around the world.

But no, I’m not there yet. I can’t distance myself from this enough to see it from an academic intellectual standpoint. There are too many people on the ground who will suffer directly from the policies and decisions made by this administration. There are already people suffering every single day from the increase in racist, xenophobic, and homophobic attitudes and attacks.

And let’s talk about the buzzword of the day, anti-establishment. “Trump’s victory is a slap in the face to the establishment.” The working class felt ignored and forgotten and they’ve been suffering, so his promises to bring change spoke to them. It seems like, in their eyes, his slap in the face went to an establishment defined as “those who were currently in power”. I can understand that. Clinton was too much of a continuation of Obama’s presidency for them, and due to that strong desire for change, any change, we got Trump.

But as I watch what’s going on and read the facts and opinions being put out by both sides, I’m hearing something else. I’m hearing that, to him and his gang, “the establishment” means something quite different. Yeah sure he wanted the current adminstration (those currently in power) out, because he wanted to win the election. But his slap in the face isn’t going directly to the Democrats and “the swamp” in Washington. It’s going to women’s rights, racial equity, gay rights, the right to gather and protest, freedom of the press, and environmental protections, to name a few. Funny thing is, those are rights and protections we just spent decades, no, centuries, fighting for. A few years ago (or a few weeks ago) you might have said that a person who passionately advocated for those things was being, oh I don’t know, anti-establishment. Yet now a candidate won on an anti-establishment platform which is redefining The Establishment to mean people who want those rights and protections. And then slapping THAT “establishment” in the face.

Doublespeak is being used to erode and dismantle our rights and protections.

We have to stay awake and aware. We have to hear what’s actually being said and not be lulled into complacency by rationalizing it into what we wish to hear. I’ve learned more than ever that every voice counts. Even if we think it’s been said before, that others might be saying it better than us, we have to say it anyway. We have to stand up for the injustices around us, even, or maybe especially if, they don’t affect us directly.  We have to be allies. It can’t be said too many times. We have to stay awake.

 

 

 

Now

Now we grieve. We mourn the fact that almost half of America thinks racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia are ok. That reactionism won this election, and that we underestimated the amount of anger and fear in our midst.

Now we hold our children close. We raise them gently. We give them all the love and security we can at home, so they’ll be whole enough to offer love and security to the world around them as they grow. We help hold and protect those around us too. We extend our compassion outside our own walls and find ways to lift up and support those who are struggling.

We raise our children to see injustice. We raise them to see color and recognize the challenges and oppression minorities face every day. We raise them to see privilege and recognize its role in our society. We acknowledge it and take to heart the truth that if we aren’t part of the solution we’re part of the problem. We teach them to stand up against injustice, every single time it happens, Every Single Time.

Now we move forward. We work with this situation and keep the country going for the next 4 years. We hope that these checks and balances we keep hearing about actually check and balance things somewhat. We do what we can to mitigate the negative effects for those less privileged than us. But we don’t show understanding and acceptance for this ideology. We don’t become complacent, this is more than just a “different point of view”. Racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia are wrong, and their effects harm all of us, whether we realize it or not.

We let our children hear that we’re angry and scared. We let them know we deeply disagree with the man who has become President. If we don’t we’re condoning and accepting the values he’s promoted. I won’t do this, his voice is not mine.

People wanted change. This is the wrong change. This is a volatile selfish man in charge of the largest military complex in the world. This is a sexist bigot who’s bragged about committing sexual assault put into position as leader of a country. This is a real estate mogul thrown into complex diplomacy and foreign policy situations about which he’s hopelessly ignorant. This is frightening.

Now we hold out our hands and our hearts to all the people who are scared. We defend anyone who is put down or threatened because of the color of their skin, their disability, or their gender, and we show the world that This is not our voice. 

And then we hug our kids again. You can never do that too many times.

now
The sunrise, the hope, this mourning

 

 

 

 

Election Eve 2016

I voted. By mail, a few weeks ago.

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And tomorrow the rest of the country votes. I, like many others out there, will be so happy when this election cycle is over and we can stop hearing and seeing Trump all over the news day in and day out. Because he’ll go away now, right? He won’t win, right? It’s terrifying. The opinion polls that show him neck and neck with Clinton. What? I knew there was a lot of asshattery in the US, but this much? This loud? This widespread? This unabashed? It’s disheartening. No, it’s more than that. It’s… I can’t think of any word that’s not an understatement.

So I’m predicting that Hillary Clinton will win. Because I can’t stand the thought of the other front-runner winning. (He’s a front-runner? What? Bizarro World.) I’m plugging my ears and yelling lalalalala and deciding that she’ll win.

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No matter how much I’ve heard about it in the media, seeing this list of names on the actual ballot is still Surreal. But there ARE three women running for President, see that, THREE!

I don’t like Clinton as a candidate. Not because she’s a woman and I’m playing to the sexist propaganda against her. No, because of her foreign policy and corporate backers. Supposedly Bernie Sanders’ campaign was going to pull her towards a more progressive platform, but I can’t see that effect in the things she says. She is business as usual, part of the same old gang we’ve always had in charge, and her warhawk stance on foreign policy scares me.

I mean, I know it’s a big deal that we’re getting our first female US President. I remember the way people said “Maybe one day a WOMAN will be President!” back when I was a kid. Sort of the way they said “Maybe one day we’ll have flying cars!”, like they didn’t actually believe it would happen in our lifetime and weren’t really sure it’d be a good idea if it did happen. Like how would that actually work? Levitating street signs? Flying cars zipping this way and that, willy nilly? It’d be chaos! Flying cars, a female President? Chaos and calamity!

So it’s cool, we’re getting our first female President (Because we are. Come on, please?). But did it have to be like this?

Against Trump? What kind of a triumph is that.
No matter what, if you like Hillary Clinton or not, the fact that she was elected with Trump as her opponent  takes the triumph down a notch.
When she’s praised we’ll hear, “Yeah of course she won. Trump was the other choice.”
And when she’s criticized it’ll be, “Yeah, but would you rather have Trump as President?” He’ll still be there, shadowing her throughout this Presidency and giving people the chance to always ask, “Would she have won against a normal candidate?”.

And isn’t it “funny” that when the US is finally getting a female president (Because we are. Please Bizarro People, Please), her opponent is the embodiment of male chauvinistic schoolyard bully fratboy rape culture behavior? They’re like perfect archetypes for these duelling paradigms in American culture. Almost like you couldn’t have set it up better if it were all scripted and staged. Huh. But I’m afraid it’s not. I’m afraid all the hate and anger that’s been unleashed during this election cycle is all too real.

Personally I’d love to see a third party get 5% this time and therefore be eligible for public funding in the next election cycle. To break the country out of the Democrat-Republican rut would be awesome. But first I want to see Trump not become President.

The ironic thing, for me personally, is that if I voted based on the main issue that impacts me directly* I’d vote for Trump. (*well, other than war. War impacts all of us on the planet, obviously) Not many people are aware of this, or even really care much when made aware of it, but the US is one of the only countries in the world with Citizenship Based Taxation. The other country that has it is Eritrea. And maybe North Korea according to some sources. All other countries in the world have Residence Based Taxation. This is a huge hassle to people living outside the US and has become even more horrendous due to the new reporting requirements called FBAR and FATCA. See, I can just feel people’s eyes glazing over and wandering around the screen as I type this. It’s boring stuff to read about, and even more boring to have to do it. Yet there are ridiculous fines threatened (10,000 US dollars per account reported incorrectly, ridiculous things like that!) and it’s an awful onus to live under. People (Americans living in certain countries like Germany and France) are getting kicked out of their banks, getting their mortgages cancelled, their retirement plans cancelled or taxed away to nothing. These reporting requirements were supposedly set up to catch tax evaders hiding money offshore but the result is that it’s making life miserable for a bunch of little fish like me living their lawful normal lives offshore. Uh, I mean, abroad. Oh wait, it’s the same thing. This has nothing to do with tax evasion, and everything to do with not wanting to live under threat of draconian fines and punishments because of an ever-increasingly complex tax system. So even if this isn’t a hot button issue it’s a big deal to those of us who live abroad, and Trump (or at least the Republican platform) is the only one who’s saying he’d make changes to these things.

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(Pic source: spv.no) The offshore bank where I hide all my money. Or, put another way, the local bank where I put my money so my family can use it. FATCA go away.

But that’s not happening. Voting for Trump I mean. Not for one iota of a second would I consider it seriously. Even if one thing he says makes sense, the rest makes none. Or some of it makes an awful kind of sense. A racist, misogynistic, xenophobic kind of sense. Which is not something one just ignores as background noise. No, one hears it and starts to MAKE some noise. Bring it, we’re not letting this become our voice. He is not our voice, America. Right? Come on!

So now we all hunker down and wait through tomorrow. And then hunker down and wait through whatever comes after that. I’ll be here, fingers crossed, rocking in the corner, humming a quiet hippy hymn under my breath. Peace, love, and light. Good luck America. Good luck World.

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Pic source: Brutally Honest Voting Stickers

 

Way too low

That didn’t take long.

I’ve only published five blog posts so far and already I got my first negative email about one of my pictures! I think that must be some kind of blogger milestone, right? So I feel honored!

 

It wasn’t a very harsh or abusive email, thankfully. More just condescending and critical. I’ve been active on internet discussion groups and forums long enough to know how nuts people can get. Over things nobody would normally use much energy on at all. I’ve learned a lot about what level I’m comfortable with sharing myself, although I can see that with a blog this comfort level might end up stretching and shifting and I’ll have a new learning curve to surmount as I deal with feedback (aka criticism) on more personal levels. But I like the discussions brought forth by sharing thoughts, for me  it’s part of the point of writing a blog. Putting thoughts out there and hearing what other people think about the subject. Dialogue. So it doesn’t shock me to get a negative email, I just wasn’t expecting it so soon. I’m not naive enough to think it will be the last, or the worst! Bring it on, I’m ready to hit delete! 😉 (Or maybe I’ll answer, if I think there’s something constructive and worthwhile about continuing the conversation.)

 

The negative email I got was because of this picture:

 

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In which, according to the email, my baby is too low, I’m wearing the baby carrier wrong, I’m promoting unsafe babywearing practices, and I should have just used a stroller instead! Ok, I added that last part. The whole email was just “educating” me on why I was wearing my baby wrong and why I should take more responsibility to show babywearing in a better way. Ok.

 

First point, my baby is too low. Her head should be “Close enough to kiss” which you can see it isn’t. Well, ahem, she’s being carried at this height for the simple reason that this is where my boobs are. My baby breastfeeds, on the beach, in the house, with a mouse, in the air, and everywhere. This is the beauty of babywearing for me. I can meet her needs with breastfeeding while exploring an awesome magical beach like this. Amazing. But it requires me to wear her “too low”, like this, so she’s where the boobs are. Yep.

 

Next point, I’m wearing the carrier wrong. The waist belt should be up around my waist, not resting on my hips. And the shoulder straps should be tightened more. This is of course related to the comment about wearing my baby too low. And my answer again is this carrier positioning is mostly about putting the baby at boob level. When I’m not breastfeeding and I’m walking around more actively I usually do tighten up the shoulder straps more and pull the baby in tighter to my body to prevent her from swinging back and forth which is uncomfortable for both me and her. But I don’t always bring the waist belt up higher and I don’t agree that wearing it down on my hips is Wrong. I like transferring some of the baby’s weight down to my hips and carrying it there. That’s comfortable to me. I see this a lot online, people critiquing other people’s baby carriers based on their own bodies and preferences and not being open for the fact that varying the carry position can be both more comfortable for some people. Not to mention the fact that if we use baby carriers a lot it can be a good idea to vary which type and how we wear them so we activate and use different muscles in different ways. Better for our bodies.

 

I’m all for babywearing safety. Unsafe things include anything where the baby’s airways can be compromised. A sloppy wrap job which lets the baby slump and curl down so their chin is down on their chest. Babies carried in “cradle position” where the chin again can get pressed down to the chest and block their airflow. Poorly designed “bag slings” where the baby can roll inwards so their face can be pressed in to the adults’s torso, leading to possible suffocation. Jackets and sweatshirts closed around and over the baby’s head, obstructing airflow.

 

A small baby slumping down in a front-pack carrier of this type can also be dangerous. And that’s what my emailer tried to teach me and said I shouldn’t “promote”. Because wearing the carrier this loose could lead to a small baby slumping down and not getting correct support for their body or airways. I must say my first (somewhat sarcastic I admit) reaction was to thank this person for giving me so much credit, to think I could actually be promoting anything and influencing anyone with this blog at this point, since I have about 10 regular readers (half of which are my family).

 

But anyway, I agree, if a very small baby is worn in a front-pack carrier like this, and the baby’s body isn’t fully supported with for example an infant insert or another solution, and especially if the carrier is worn loose and low, there is a risk that the baby will slide down, curl up, the airways can be compromised, it can be bad for their spine and hips, and they can even fall out the sides of the carrier if the positioning is really bad and the parents don’t pay enough attention. So yeah, scary.

 

*But that’s not what’s happening here.* In this picture my baby is a year old, with excellent control over her head, torso, and legs. I’m also an experienced babywearer, this being my fifth child and probably my 500th baby carrier. (Haha, yes, I’m serious. I ran a babywearing shop for 8 years, I’ve tried most of them.) I know when I need to tighten up the carrier because the situation demands better balance and control, and I know when I can loosen up and let her hang a bit (down where the boobs hang, I just like writing that). I agree that from this one picture you can’t tell anything about my experience level or other specifics of the situation, but I didn’t write that post to teach anyone babywearing skills or “promote” babywearing in any way. When I do teach babywearing I firmly believe in teaching people the Hows, and then the Whys, and then letting them tweak and adapt the skills so they work best for their lifestyle.  If someone looks at this picture of me wearing my one-year old “too low” and then says “hey! that means I can put my newborn in the same carrier and adjust it exactly like that and go stand on a beach!” I can’t personally take responsibility for that. There’s unfortunately a lot of stupid in the world, but we can only combat that with information. Getting good information out there so people can make decisions that are appropriate for their own circumstances. Babywearing can give people great freedom and let them include their babies in so many wonderful experiences. But as it becomes more popular it also develops more and more “rules” which can end up scaring people off from even trying. There has to be a middle ground of giving people the information they need to wear their baby safely while still being able to trust in common sense to adapt to their own specific needs and situation. Yeah, maybe I should write some blog posts on Hows and Whys of babywearing, I do have lots of thoughts and ideas about babywearing, as may be clear at this point. But there are already tons of resources for this information online. I hope anyone who feels the incredible influence and inspiration emanating from my amazing photo (haha) will google a bit and find those resources and that they won’t base their whole babywearing practice on one picture they saw on a blog. One can hope.

 

Those were my thoughts and reaction to the email I received. I’m gonna keep posting pictures of myself, probably babywearing pictures too, and I guarantee there will be many more imperfect situations involved. I’m generally quite imperfect. And dialogue is great, I look forward to it. But my answer in many cases will be this. I do the best I can with the information I have. I make things work for me and I take responsibility for my life and my children. And I trust that those around me do the same.

 

Bonus! I was looking for something else and found this picture. Bad (yet still safe) babywearing at its best! Hint: Boob location is involved in the positioning here too. 🙂

 

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