Post-referendum brain dump. Tl;dr: Ireland trusts women

When I went to San Francisco for my J1-visa summer in 1994, I would explain to people how backward Ireland was. “There’s no divorce, even, and certainly no abortion,” I would say.

The issue of gay rights wasn’t remotely on my radar, I confess, so I didn’t even know that gay sex had only been legalised in Ireland the year before, and nobody was thinking about gay marriage back then. It wasn’t relevant to me that contraception had been hard to come by before 1985, because by the time I wanted it, it was there, so I didn’t talk about that either.

Divorce was introduced after a 1995 referendum, gay marriage was legalised in 2015, the first country in the world to do so by national plebiscite, and as of yesterday, the Irish government is finally free to legislate for abortion, so that Irish women can have bodily autonomy even while pregnant. It doesn’t sound like a big thing to ask for. It has been so long coming, and so hard won.

It is such a big thing.

I could tell you about Ann Lovett, and the X case and the C case and the brain-dead pregnant woman and Savita, but you can Google them for yourselves. Those women paved the way, sometimes paying with their lives, for yesterday’s historic, overwhelming, patriarchy-smashing referendum result.

The women who campaigned, who canvassed, who (to quote my FB status, if you don’t mind the repetition) had difficult conversations, shared past experiences, put stickers on their houses and cars, wore badges and sweaters, contributed funds and time and emotional labour, had to endure the No campaign’s horrible posters and lies, wrote impassioned blog posts, and explained things to their small children in the right terms, so that the women and girls of Ireland can look forward to a brighter future where their bodies are more their own than ever before – this is thanks in no small part to their efforts. I am so proud of my friends who did all that and more.

I don’t have a vote in Ireland any more, because you have to be a resident as well as a citizen to vote in a referendum. Only diplomats get postal votes, unlike America. So many people are entitled to an Irish passport, but Irish laws only affect you if you live there, so it’s reasonable. But I’ve been thinking about this all week, I was on edge on Thursday, luckily distracted out of the house on Friday, and delighted with the time difference that let me see the exit polls before dinnertime yesterday.

The exit polls were good. Voting in Ireland is by paper ballot (yes, we are still backwards in some ways; also there’s a saga about voting machines and a lot of money wasted that you don’t want me to go into here) and the counting didn’t start till this (Saturday) morning, but the upside of such a small country is that the exit polls can cover every constituency and are expected to be accurate to within +/- 1.5%. The exit polls predicted a sweeping victory for the yes side – much more than would be affected by a piddling 1.5%. Some people still refused to believe it until everything was counted today.

This is how it looked when everything was counted:

Source: Irish Times online

That’s pretty decisive. It was the biggest voter turnout ever, and every constituency but one returned a yes result. Ireland has finally decided to trust women to make decisions regarding our own bodies. This is monumental. It’s tragic that it’s taken so long.

A special mention has to go to the In Her Shoes facebook page, which has been sharing the harrowing stories of Irish women who travelled for abortions over the past few months. I think those stories swayed a lot of voters – they showed that there but for the grace of accident go any of us who have a uterus. I personally have never been in the position of seeking an abortion, but not because I’m a better person than anyone else, or more careful or less promiscuous. I’m just luckier than women whose contraception failed, for whom the morning-after pill didn’t work, who were raped, molested, abused, who had pregnancies with fatal fetal anomalies, who were trapped in intolerable relationships, who were too young, who couldn’t tell, who couldn’t afford to travel to England, who couldn’t take the time off or find the childcare, whose pills were seized by customs, who bled in pain in taxis and aeroplanes and bathrooms and bedrooms because they were afraid to seek medical advice after a procedure that they weren’t allowed to talk about. Way luckier.

Finally, Ireland is going to stop making women with rotten luck suffer more for it.

Thank you, Ireland.

 

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A short history of me and the Internet, with digressions

In my postgrad year, when I did a fairly pointless business course mostly because my best friend suggested it, I got my first email account. My friend and I would sit two chairs apart in the library and send each other emails addressed to Gorilla Features and Borscht-for-Brains and giggle at our wit. I took an Information Studies elective in which I did a project on newspapers on the Internet. The papers were just starting to get an internet presence, generally by having a PDF of their pages online. It was all very basic, is what I’m saying. I think we used Word 2.0 back then.

About a year later I got my proper job, with computers and internet access. There was no such thing as a firewall, but then there was no such thing as Facebook either. You could still waste plenty of company time faffing about on the web. A helpful co-worker put together an intranet site for our department that contained a few fun outside links: one was to a thing called a forum. I took a look and was hooked by all these smart people talking about things I didn’t understand and/or was fascinated by, in ways that were witty and clever and new to me.

I lurked on forums and discussion boards with funny names that had nothing to do with their content. I read Wing Chun and Glark and Damn Hell Ass Kings and Tomato Nation. I watched Buffy and Angel and read the recaps the next day at Television Without Pity. I vaguely thought about starting a blog, because it sounded exciting, like a very small and private sort of exhibitionism, like when I’d do cartwheels in the deserted streets at night.

I learned how to be civil on the Internet from the older and wiser posters on those forums. I learned how to be a feminist and how to apologise and just listen when I’d said something stupid. I mostly just watched and learned. I discovered a whole new dialect of Internet-speak, full of memes before we knew what memes were, and running jokes and inside references and blah blah blah fishcakes.

I was reading when one of the people on the boards couldn’t find her boyfriend because he’d been in one of the twin towers on 9/11/2001. This was real life, real people, thousands of miles away, connecting to each other with words on all our screens, sending love, and tears, and an odd, new sort of truth.

I moved to America. The urge to write down all the strangeness of emigrating to a life that’s simultaneously like and not like my old life got the better of me and I started a blog at Diaryland. It had a green background and no photos. It was anonymous, of course.

I read fitness blogs, though I was not fit. I read weightloss blogs, though I wasn’t losing weight. I read baby blogs though I wasn’t pregnant. They all had a good story arc, they kept me coming back. I read Amy‘s blog and Linda‘s blog and Heather‘s blog and others that I haven’t kept up with. I came back again and again to the writers whose words drew me in, who made me laugh and cry with their honesty and their bravery and their lives full of drama. I found Jessica and Leah and Kristin and their lives and their loves and their pregnancies and their cute, cute babies kept me coming back for more because they put their words together so well.

I blogged, in fits and starts. I moved to Blogger and eventually to WordPress. I blogged about the strangeness of living somewhere new. I blogged about being pregnant, having a newborn, breastfeeding, sleepless nights, babies who don’t like food, getting pregnant again, all of it again and again and again. People read my words. I found a community. I even went to BlogHer one year and met a whole lot of people in real life. Facebook happened and the lines between friends I’ve met and friends I haven’t met yet became more blurred.

I found a community of bloggers at home in Ireland, where blogging seemed to be just taking off, though it was changing too, with sponsored posts and competitions and freebies and a whole industry. A few of us ran a site called Parent.ie for a while and I wrote furiously there until it came to an end. The Irish bloggers connected me to home in a new way – now I didn’t just have old friends in Ireland, I had new friends in Ireland too.

But my children persisted in growing. The sleepless nights and the breastfeeding posts went on for a long time, replaced eventually by posts about selective eaters, vision therapy, dyslexia, defiance, birthday cakes, muffins, snow days, homework, baseball, cats, the seasons one after another and over again … you name it, I’ve blogged it. More than once. I started writing other things, in other places, with my real name on them. I started looking beyond what was right in front of me.

I think it’s coming time to call a halt. I think the urge to overshare is finally leaving me. I don’t need to win another Finalist badge. I think I could mothball the blog without regret. I could bundle it up, like a debs dress I might take out and try on from time to time, not to get rid of it but just to put it away as part of my past, because it’s done its job and it’s time to move on. My children’s stories are not mine to tell any more, the Internet is a different place, a little less safe, a little darker now; and my own story… well, I’ll do something else with that, turn it into something more interesting instead. It’s still a work in progress.

I’m not saying this is the end. I’m just saying it might be on the way. A change might be coming.

Snapshot – a quick catch-up

Swear to god I’ve nearly forgotten how to log in here. Sorry and all that. Things are better, though, so it’s all good. I’ve just been busy. Maybe time for a quick listicle. Here’s what I’ve been up to.

Writing
Today I sent my newest book off to a real editor to read. Full disclosure: she’s a friend, and she’s not going to edit it as such, but to give me a “reader’s report” – an inkling of whether the whole thing hangs together as a cohesive story, with a plot and all that necessary stuff. I hope it does, at least a little. Having self-published my first three books I’d like to try to go the traditional publishing route with this one and its successors, if possible. We shall see.

Playing
I am somewhat addicted to a game called I Love Hue on my phone. You have to move squares around until the colours all flow into each other. It’s immensely satisfying and I’m about to get to the end and then I don’t know what I’ll do with my life, honestly. I never got into Candy Crush or any of those other games other people were playing, so this is a new experience for me.

Reading
Harry Potter on a loop, pretty much, aloud, to Miss Mabel, who does sometimes deign to read some herself and is well able to. She took book 6 to school with her today, which is quite a step forward. She gets hung up on the odd new word, but it’s not beyond her ability.
Also, this book, which was recommended by Jessica of VeryMom and really helped me get unstuck with the book. Maybe next time I’ll even plot first instead of at the end.

Eating
I made an apple pie for pi day (3/14 if you do your dates the American way), which is a date I’d much rather celebrate appropriately than St Patrick’s Day, when I plan to order pizza as my traditional protest against all things Irish-American. (The supermarket is stocked with corned beef and chrysanthemums dressed up in leprechaun hats.) Anyway, I didn’t have enough pastry so I gave my pie a lattice top and it turned out very nicely. Also, I think I’ve eaten most of it.

Lattice-topped homemade apple pie
With vanilla ice cream on the side.

Watching
The Crown is the only thing I’ve got going at the moment, and I suspect I’m liking it much more than the husband, who tolerates it. But I tolerate all his superhero nonsense, so here we are. We enjoyed The Good Place and the second season of Stranger Things and when does Doctor Who start again?

Talking about
The campaign to Repeal the 8th is nothing I have to explain to anyone Irish, but readers elsewhere might not know about it. I follow the Facebook page called In Her Shoes, where women who’ve been affected by the eighth amendment to the Irish Constitution can tell their own stories. In my mind it’s all anyone should need to convince them to vote for repeal. I also came across this excellent list yesterday, the contents of which shocked some of my American friends. If you’re in Ireland, please vote for repeal.

 

Friday night live

The nine-year-old glides past me on a unicycle, helmeted, demanding hot chocolate. The 11-year-old whisks into the house announcing the need for a band-aid, attending to it himself, and leaving again just as quickly. There’s a cat sitting on the chair in front of me, eyeing me up for some known-to-cats-only reason. It’s just a Friday night in my kitchen, I have a glass of red right here, I don’t really need to get up. I might, to orchestrate the hot chocolate, because I’m feeling magnanimous, but I don’t have to. Even the cat looks quite content, for now.

I’m busy firing witticisms around on Facebook, because that’s what passes for Friday night excitement when you’re old like us. My husband asks me excitedly if Ace Ventura Pet Detective is suitable for the kids, but luckily the 9yo is adamant that she wants Pocahontas or Tarzan 2. At least someone knows what’s what around here.

I’ve been working this week – actual billable hours on two separate projects, not just writing that might be for nobody. Mabel’s been at school, just like she’s supposed to be. My parents are finally together in the same nursing home, and I can pay their bills out of their bank account so my dad has less to worry about. The house in Dublin is nearly sold. Things are better. We can plan ahead instead of being stuck in one-day-at-a-time mode. Everyone complains about January being 278 weeks long but I sort of like it that way because in January I don’t have to think about anything but getting back to normal. Once it’s February I have to feel bad about all the summer planning I won’t actually do till March. Such is life. You’d think I’d be used to it by now.

The cat just turned around a few times and settled down to make himself comfortable. He’s settling down for the long haul. Maybe I should pour myself some more wine. There’s some issue with the chromecast so the film hasn’t started but the 9yo has found herself a Harry Potter quiz on my phone instead. There might be snow on Saturday night, but that’s a great time for snow because nobody has school until Tuesday next week. We can take some real snow now. We’ll even enjoy it, because spring is around the corner.

Spring is around the corner. I think I can cope with that.

(The 11yo has just come in and is serenading the cat with Hey Jude. This is not at all relevant but it’s so delightfully random that I had to mention it. The cat’s trying hard to go back to sleep.)

Boy holding cat
Boy, cat, tolerant

Worth working through the don’t wannas

We went away, briefly, which is always a good thing.

Before we go anywhere I’m generally stuck in the I don’t wannas. I don’t wanna think ahead, I don’t wanna pack, I don’t wanna leave the cats, I don’t wanna take a child out of school an hour early, I don’t wanna drive for hours for something that may or may not be much fun and then require driving for more hours back again. It all seems far too much like hard work.

As soon as we’re on the road, all that falls away and I remember that it’s good for all of us to get some time together, even if most of it is time singing to Hamilton in the car; to get out of the regular and do something marginally, just a tiny bit, different. Just to be somewhere else for a while so that when we come back we appreciate how nice home is. And maybe to do something nice while we’re gone as well.

I had tried to plan a weekend that would make everyone happy. Of course, such a thing is possibly doomed to failure. In honesty, I wasn’t made entirely happy myself, except by the martyr-mommy happiness that comes of seeing everyone else happy. Which I suppose is another kind of satisfaction.

So we drove three hours west to Virginia and up a mountain where the boys could go skiing for the day and Mabel and I could go to the waterpark, because she didn’t want to ski. I would have quite liked to ski, but I’m terrible value skiing because I get too cold too fast and I don’t have a lot of stamina. If you could just ski for a couple of hours that’d suit me, but they don’t arrange it that way. The waterpark on site was the same one we’d been to a couple of summers ago, and Mabel was excited about that. I’m sure she’d have had more fun with a buddy, or even her brother instead of boring me, but we had a pretty good morning alternately whooshing down the slides and bobbing along the lazy river. We had all-day passes but once we’d got dressed and gone to meet the boys for lunch we didn’t feel like going back, so that was that. They got good value out of their ski passes and had a great time, and I was just slightly jealous watching them.

I wouldn’t want anyone to think this was a Facebook-perfect post about my perfect life with my perfect children. (My husband, of course, is perfect.) We had our usual difficulties finding food (fries and more fries, but only the ones that weren’t pre-dusted with a microscopic amount of paprika thank you) and even with a pull out sofa as well as two queen beds, I somehow ended up sleeping beside the human limpet both nights, which made me grumpy and ill-rested. There was a fight over who got the sofa bed the first night and almost another over who didn’t get it the second night, when it proved less than fun, actually. There was lots of Disney Channel (we don’t have cable at home so that’s always a draw when we’re away) and somehow the first disc of Hamilton wasn’t in the car so we listened to the second half straight through about five times.

Today we awoke to falling snow, so rather than find an activity to fill the morning we just headed straight home, with nowt but a stop at Waffle House for breakfast (where child A woudln’t even eat toast and just blew bubbles in a glass of chocolate milk for half an hour, but child B ate some bacon as well as a waffle, so that’s a win) and another at McDonald’s (because of course child A needed lunch well before anyone else did), and we had plenty of time to finish homework and snuggle the cats and get in some comestibles before the week starts again. But I think we’re just a little bit renewed and refreshed, so it was all worth it.

Seventeen from ’17

17 from 17 linky Oh thank goodness, a writing prompt to get things moving here. Sadhbh at Where Wishes Come From (who has had an amazing year with the publication of her first book, Bí ag Spraoi Liom, which was featured prominently on the Late Late Toy Show dontcha know, and if you don’t understand any of that don’t worry, you’re not in Ireland) has done her annual review post, and here’s my contribution.

It’s a nice opportunity to look back at the year, both things I blogged about and things I didn’t, and to take a moment to think about it all. Head on over to Sadhbh’s and check out everyone else’s – and if you’re a blogger, add your own!

  1. Most popular post
    My most popular post from this year is one I wrote in no time at all, with very little thought applied – just a quick Snapshot of what i was doing just then, to get me out of a writing rut. Someone suggested I make it a linky, and then the whole thing spiralled a bit (as much as anything spirals on my tiny blog) and apparently it was more read than anything else.
    (My other popular posts this year were written earlier but are perennial favourites – Harry Potter wands and the Yoda cake. Also the Weaning post that brings me a lot of traffic from the Aha! Parenting site.)

2. Favourite post
I think I’ll give you this one, because it was fun to put together, even if nobody else listened to all the songs: Playlist of my Life. It was another linky, actually, from Nicola at Simply Homemade because when bloggers have good ideas they don’t keep them to themselves.

3. Favourite photo
I didn’t take this photo, and I only know two of the people in it, but it’s got to be up there. I took all my dad’s old photo albums back to America with me after my visit to clean out the house in September, and I’ve been making collages and photo books and scanning things since then. This photo is the first one in the book that has both my parents in it. On a ski holiday somewhere in Austria, probably – they’re the two on the outside of the picture. Little did they know, at that point, what the future held for them together.
Black and white photo from the 60s showing two women and two men

4. Best adventure
This was definitely my trip to Italy in July, solo, for my best friend’s wedding. I wrote about it a bit for you. It was all gorgeous, and adventurous not so much because of how far I went or what I did but because I did it alone, not as anyone’s mom or wife but as just me, for me.

5. Favourite craft
Hmm. Crafting. Hmm. I haven’t really been knitting this year, so baking is about the height of it. Does writing count? I do that a lot. I think I’ll count Mabel’s crafts, because she won a blue ribbon for her pig at the Labor Day Festival and I think it’s the loveliest pig ever.

Black ceramic pig

 

6. Most common theme
I’ve been thinking about this, and I can’t really identify a theme but I do feel that this year’s blogging was in a minor key. The whole year was, really. We faced some challenges on the home front, and I had some major moments on the personal front as my parents moved out of the house I grew up in and we cleared it out to sell it.

7. Favourite comments
I’m sure I’ve said this before, but all of them. If you not only read but also take the time to comment, it means more than you could imagine.

8. Favourite celebration
Sorry to repeat myself, but it was the wedding in Italy. It had been a long time coming, it was an event I’d always promised I’d be at, and I was so happy to be able to make that happen. And as weddings go, it was utterly utterly lovely.

9. My best move
Definitely, getting the cats. Which was a family move, but I have to admit it was mostly orchestrated by me. And they are the best, smooshiest, snoofliest cats yes you are.
Two ginger and white cats snuggling

10. Most emotional blogpost
I just made this category because the original one didn’t fit me and I wanted somewhere to put this post: Notes from the Airport. It’s about my mother.

11. Best blog moment
Let’s say it was being a finalist again in the Blog Awards Ireland, because that’s directly blog related, and it’s always lovely to feel appreciated.

12. Worst blog moment
Therefore here I have to say “Not winning”, even though it wasn’t terribly devastating. Having voluteered as a judge myself for the first time this year, I saw exactly how arbitrary the process really is, how the result could hinge on just one or two marks from one or two people whose personal taste didn’t coincide with yours… maybe it’ll be my year some other time.

13. Favourite title
I think I’ll choose Casting Off, because it was such a perfectly apt one for the moment in question. (If only I could have worked some sailing in there too.)

14. Favourite [blog] series
I’m cheating on this one and removing the word “blog” because I finished my self-published trilogy this year, so that has to be my favourite series of the year. I’m very proud of myself for writing it, though I do fear that sales suffer from the law of diminishing returns and I see very clearly why publishers don’t like series (unless you’re JK Rowling).

15. What I learned in 2017
That when you ask for help you will get it in abundance. It’s ok to ask. People want to help. The friends (and relations) who came to help me empty out my parents’ house in three days were amazing – it was a mountain I couldn’t possibly have scaled alone, but I put out the word and people came, and together it was perfectly possible.

16. What my blog did for me in 2017
As always, my blog worked best when it was a place for me to work through my own feelings. I process my experiences by writing about them, and especially at moments when thinking about my parents and the sale of my childhood home, my blog was there as my own personal therapist. If you were there too, thanks for reading.

Dun Laoghaire seafront at dawn, looking towards Sandycove

17. The biggest surprise of 2017
I’m a bit stumped here. That he who shall not be named is still president? That I finished my trilogy? That we have pets now? That parenting doesn’t necessarily get easier as the children get older? That Dash is a star pitcher and catcher? (I haven’t mentioned baseball but there was plenty of it.) That I went to Ireland twice for little more than a weekend? That cats can be this smooshy? Ooh, I saw Paul Simon play live, that was exciting. Let’s say that.

 

I started writing this on Monday so there you go

So! Here we are! A week to Christmas! Isn’t it grand!

I hope you’re as excited as my kids about that. I am … not as excited as my kids. Many things conspire to make me particularly peeved today, though I did almost find myself getting a tiny whiff of a hint of the seasonal spirit over the weekend. Almost.

So, this is what’s been going on, briefly. One of my children – I won’t say which, in a pathetic attempt at shielding their anonymity – has been experiencing school refusal. Which means we have all, as a family, been experiencing it, because it has what people might call trickle-down effects. And in spite of the way I feel on x out of y number of mornings, said child is not just doing this to be bad, or difficult, or to make my life miserable. School refusal is a Real Thing that children suffer from, for one reason or another.

I’m not going to go into the whats and whys of it all because that part is not my story to tell. But how frustrated and blocked I feel on days when the child who should be in school is not in school – I think I’m allowed talk about that here. If I’m spending all morning trying to talk someone into getting dressed and leaving the house and maybe even getting out of the car once we get to the parking lot, I’m not getting in my tiny, paltry amount of exercise, or writing anything or feeling in any way useful. Instead I’m feeling more and more ineffectual, which is not good for anyone’s mental health.

We are dealing with it. No advice required thank you. It’s just that, as the kids get older we stop talking about them so much, here in blogland – but this is when we need the support of our mom-friends just as much as ever, maybe more. We need to know that these challenges (let’s call them) don’t mean we’re bad parents, they don’t mean we’ve failed, or broken our children. The job changes when it’s no longer about poop and boobs and sleepless nights, but it doesn’t always get easier.

On the flip side, the days when school attendance is achieved, on time even, I am delighted. I do a happy dance, I feel light and free and like a leaf on the wind. I feel that this is the beginning of a beautiful new era, and that anything is possible. In short, I feel the way I used to feel when the baby (either baby, whichever) slept all night, or something like all night. It’s a glorious day.

Apart from that, a couple of nice/silly things.

Thing one:

Finally, this year, when the kids are 9 and 11, we are at a point where I feel safe leaving the presents under the tree, because they can both handle the suspense and enjoy the anticipation. And they’re loving it so much – announcing to each other after school how many new presents have appeared, cataloguing them, showing their father, sneaking in parcels for each other.
So if you are wondering when or if this moment will ever come in your house, I offer you hope.
(Of course this year we have two cats, so we have to defend all the presents from them now…)

And thing two:

Dash says that when he was very small he thought that people were born whatever age they were. Evidently the whole growing part hadn’t yet sunk in. So when I told him people grew in their mummies’ tummies he thought that was going to be very awkward if the person in question was, like 40 or something.
Which just goes to show that no matter how clearly you think you have explained something to a small child, they will manage to get it arseways and make for themselves some totally bonkers explanation about it.

How’s the season going for you, then?

Bare trees reflected in the water, blue sky
Not very festive picture, but it is seasonal.