Children, Accessibility, and being an entitled ass

This post was brought to you by my brother in law, so it might get ranty.

Let me preface this by saying that I absolutely support people being child free. Honestly, I don’t know anybody working in education and with families who isn’t a strong supporter of contraception, family planning and thinking long and hard about whether being a parent is something that you should do.

I’m also the first to admit that children are not smallish adults, but have certain characteristics beyond age and height that make them different from adults. It’s something that makes people who like working with children enjoy their company, it is something that makes parenting an amazing journey, and it’s something that makes others not enjoy either of these things.

Nevertheless, children are people, they are part of society, they should have their needs met and accommodated. There are very few spaces where children don’t belong, and those are for their own protection, say a Shisha bar. For the rest of spaces: think about how this space can be made child friendly. Many restaurants already do this: they have a children’s menu, they have play corners (one of our favourite Asian buffet places has a whole room), and if you think about it, it’s a smart move, because children will only grow up to value a sit down meal in a nice restaurant if they learn how to behave there while young.

But there’s another level of accessibility and that is for parents. We’ve talked about this before: If you organise something, say a sceptics’ conference or something like that, think about how you can provide childcare. Because if not, overwhelmingly women will be unable to attend your event. I mean, you can go full Sam Harris and blame your sciency manly vibes that scare off fragile little damsels, or you can ask yourselves: what can we do to make sure parents can attend?

Which gets me to a different level, which is private life. And of course you get to set all sorts of boundaries  here, but you also have to live with the consequences. There’s a plethora of “Am I The Asshole” posts on Reddit where somebody decides to have a child free wedding and is then super offended when the parents in their lives decline, especially when it’s their siblings. Sorry, but weddings are expensive, and getting childcare on top of it costs a lot of money, the people who are usually watching your children are probably at the wedding as well (Hey mum, could you watch our kids while we go to your daughter’s wedding?), not to mention trusting some babysitter enough to leave them for several days. And, yes, let’s face it, parents do take this shit personal. Their children are pretty important people in their lives and if you frame their existence as a complete nuisance and burden to everyone who is even just in the same room, they might decide that your friendship isn’t worth it.

Which gets me to my brother in law. He is and has always been super entitled. He’s 11 years younger than my husband and didn’t grow up so much with a sibling than with a third overindulgent parent and he’s used to the whole family catering to him. The last two times he moved, my husband of course helped him, which meant driving a few hundred kilometres each time. I can’t remember even being reimbursed for the fuel, and I especially can’t remember him lifting a single finger when we moved. Because those are services he thinks his family has to provide.

Now he has invited us to his birthday. Come on, Giliell, you say. You said he was super entitled, but now he’s inviting you, that’s nice! Only… Well, remember the couple of hundred kilometres? Going there means spending the night. Spending the night means getting hotel rooms. For the great honour of being invited to his birthday he already expects us to spend a few hundred €. He lives in the Black Forest. Hotels ain’t cheap there. And well, we would have coughed that up, if not for the original subject of this post. We’re still in a raging global pandemic, the little one isn’t vaccinated yet, and sleeping in a hotel with her is totally out of the question for us. So we asked him, could the children stay with him for the night? I mean, his flat is bigger than our house, he has a guest room where his parents are staying, and a living room, and a studio, and a fucking library, but he doesn’t have space for his nieces. He really doesn’t want them to be in his space, because you never know. It’s not like we asked them to watch two toddlers who would paint the walls with his acrylics, or tear the pages from his books. They’re two well behaved teens who basically just want the Wifi password and food. Also his parents, who are watching the kids regularly, are also there. But nooooo, he’s afraid for his precious belongings. Which is totally reasonable in his eyes. Yet our fear for our kid is totally irrational, you know? Guess who’s currently being made out to be unreasonable…

In Memoriam: Uli

 

Obvious content note

About 20 years ago, a friend hung up notes around uni: Lord of the Rings Trading Cards Game, players wanted. A young woman with a head full of curls showed up, and my (now) brother in law remarked afterwards: “Well never see her again.” Rarely in the history of humankind has somebody been that wrong, and I’m glad about it. The young woman returned. We became friends, we became close friends, we became the best of friends. Society doesn’t have a word for what we were. Somebody you love dearly, though there is neither family nor romance involved. A few weeks ago she signed the contract to buy a house just three houses up the street. We were planning to grow old together. In September she would move in, we’d plan and put up the kitchen together. New Year’s Eve we’d have our traditional party at her house this year.

The Covid restrictions were hard on her, being single she was the only one of us completely alone. But spring came, the vaccine came, things were looking better. We found that house. No pandemic would ever separate us like this again. Four weeks ago she had a belly bug. After her second jab she was pretty sick. Vaccine reaction, everybody said. She got better, then it got worse again. That was a pretty severe reaction and none I’d heard of before. This went on and off for some more time, with her doctor still claiming it was a vaccine reaction, but ordering blood tests for this week. I know I was getting angry with her doctor. Her cousin speculated she might have stomach ulcers. Thursday morning her brother in law called me to tell me that she’d died that night in a hospital in Milan, where she’d gone for a holiday with her cousin. She’d suffered from undetected fallopian tube cancer. The weight she’d put on was actually the tumours growing in her belly. The “vaccine reaction” was her body finally shutting down, and now we’re left to deal with the fact that she won’t come home again.

She was a kind person, and maybe that’s the best thing to say about a human being. Wherever she went, she left her mark. Not as a “leader”. She hated to be the centre of attention. Finding pics of her was a real challenge. She’d just always be there, part of whatever community she found herself in.

She enjoyed things, with all her heart and without any shame. “Dance like nobody’s watching” is a wall tattoo for most people, for her it was a motto of life. She loved ballet and went to whatever ballet class she could find. She didn’t give a fuck about what people thought of a small fat woman in her 40s doing ballet. We always crafted together. “She was bad at it, wasn’t she?”, asked her sister and yeah, she was about the clumsiest person you can imagine. But she didn’t care. If the seams of the dress were off, they were off, and she still wore it with pride. I always tried to be like her in that respect: Do what you enjoy, not what others think you should be doing.

I miss her, terribly. And I will miss her. And I want to give a big, fat middle finger to the heteronormative patriarchal kin system. I will be forever grateful to her sister for involving us, for allowing us to participate in her funeral, but I also know that the law says we’re strangers and she didn’t even have to give us a phone call.

Goodbye, Uli. Most of the world didn’t know that you existed. Because had they known, they would feel your loss now.

In which your protagonist discovers the end of her tether

I’m sorry for not having been very active, and please forgive me for not being very active during the next few days.

Last week we had to deal with the news that one of our bunnies, who lived with my parents was killed by a marten, today sweet Gracie died during our attempt to socialise them, apparently from a heart attack, and I just can’t anymore.

I hope you’re all having a better time, as much as it is possible right now.

Luv

Giliell.

Loser Should Not Be an Insult

This will be just a short contemplation about one word. But before you proceed with reading, I would recommend watching this video. It is only tangentially related, but it sparked a few months ago the train of thoughts leading here.

English is not my first language and I have always trouble to understand some things. And one of those things is the use of the word loser as an insult. But it got appropriated into the Czech language in the late decades, and given how it is used, I do consider its use as an insult to be a symptom of a toxic culture, even if not necessarily of toxic masculinity specifically. As a prime example of this, I would like to point out that it is one of the most favorite insults that Donald Trump likes to throw around at anyone he does not like – and now some people like to use that word as an insult against him. I do not.

Using the word loser as a derogatory term in this way signifies that losing at something (usually at finding a relationship and/or financial independence) is always a choice and personal failure as if we all have full control over everything. It also values zero-sum games over cooperation. It completely disregards the huge influence of chance in our lives. Plus we are often pressured by society to try to succeed at the arbitrary and sometimes downright daft things against our will – there are people who are happy to be single, women who do not want to have children, men who do not want a managerial career, etc. It divides people into winners and losers and only winners are worthy of consideration and empathy.

So before you, as an SJW, continue to use the word loser casually as an insult, perhaps consider why you are doing it and whether you are not inadvertently contributing to the things you intend to oppose. There are better insults for shitty people who chose to do shitty things.

 

If You Need a Gun, You Are Not Free

I peeked into the Trumpverse a bit and what I saw was unsurprising, but it surprised me anyway. I did not go to Breitbart or some similar far-right downright fascist propaganda sites. I just went to a YouTube channel that I had a reason to believe will have a high percentage of Trumpists in its following and I looked at comments under the only one video about recent politics the channel is hosting. I did not linger for too long, I did not even watch the whole video, just a few minutes and a few comments sufficed. This tiny window into the mind of a regular trumpist was informative, although I do not know what can be done with that information if anything.

From where I stand, Trumpism is just a new flavor of fascism. It is about the government controlling people, dictating what they can and cannot do with their private lives, in their private homes, sometimes even with their own bodies.

From where at least some Trumpists stay, the opposite is superficially true. They think that Biden is a socialist and that he is going to try and control them and take their personal freedoms. Their position with regard to him is the same as the position of leftists is in regard to Trump. And they despair and fear for their future after Biden’s win just as leftists despaired and feared for their future four years ago.

The problem seems not to be whether one values freedom, but what one considers to be freedom. Due to the main focus of the site I was visiting, there was a strong bias towards one uniquely American thing – guns, guns, guns. They see the right to own guns as the most important freedom one of them all, and they think that by having guns they are safeguarding all their other freedoms against a potential governmental overreach.

Which is, of course, bullshit. In modern times any uprising in which the government’s armed forces do not join in with the people is doomed to fail. Rifles, handguns, and knives are no match for tanks, rockets, and drones. But they really, really believe their fantasy that the right to have guns keeps them free and that is why they are/were voting for Trump and Republicans. They fear Biden is going to confiscate their guns and thus, by proxy, take away all their freedoms.

I do not believe these people can be reasoned with, but it seems to me they are overlooking one important aspect. If they need a gun to feel safe from an imminent governmental overreach, then they already are not free. Not only are they shackled by an unreasonable fear of something they would be powerless to oppose if it happened anyway, but they also keep the whole society in shackles of another fear – of random mass shootings, of armed militias going berserk, of random gun accidents. And if their fear of governmental overreach necessitating armed opposition were justified, then the government is already completely dysfunctional.

I lived my whole life in a society without guns, and a third of that life in a totalitarian regime. Fear of random stranger shooting up a school or a workplace never was on my radar, indeed I did not even know such things exist on the scale they do in the USA well into my thirties. And when the totalitarian regime fell, it was not because people took arms and stormed the whatever, it fell because the armed forces refused to shoot unarmed citizens and/or the top brass were hesitant to give such orders (personal anecdotes and historian descriptions vary). Having more guns in that situation would not make a difference except turning the Velvet Revolution into a Scarlet Revolution. I am not saying that armed revolutions are not sometimes necessary, or that they neer worked, but I am saying they do not work as these people imagine them.

But as far as I could see, the gut-wrenching fear and despair at Biden win were genuine. They really think that socialism means the state is going to get them, shackle them, and ruin their country. They really, honestly believe that Republicans and Trump were and are doing a good job, for them personally and for the American people as a whole.

Guns and abortins, these two issues are the only ones that matter to them. And only Republicans give them what they want.

And I am at a loss how to mend divides soo deeply entrenched in society. How do you snap someone out of a whole life of propaganda?

Well, at Least Nobody Got Hurt.

One of the reasons why I spend less time making knives than I wanted to that I did not tell you about is my parents’ health. It started to get a lot worse in the last year and if I still did have a daily job, I do not know how we would manage – I spend two days on average every week driving them to and from various doctor appointments. I do not want to complain about it, because I love my parents, and the more than deserve all the help I can give them. But it is slowly getting too much for one person to bear alone.

Today I had to drive 150 km on short notice. At the destination, I got severely stressed out trying to offload my mother as close to the hospital pavillion she was supposed to visit as possible because she has limited mobility and has to use crutches – one of the reasons why using public transport is not an option for her.

And when leaving the hospital, I went to pay for my parking ticket and I completely fortgot to secure the handbrake. The car rolled forward a few meters and bent the front door of another vehicle, and only noticed it after I paid for the parking and turned around to return to the car. In hindsight, the unsecured car followed probably right behind me, and had I been just a bit slower, it would probably either go over me or press me against the other car.

Nobody got hurt, police did not need to be involved (I asked them), my car has no damage and the other car has probably only some minor sheet metal bending. The insurance should pay for the damages and the damaged party took it better than I deserved. So probably the worst damage is to fill out some paperwork, which I hate.

But it was a reminder that I am severely stressed out and it is starting to impact my ability to function properly. And there is not much that I can do about it.

Hater’s Obsession: I Feel Like a Fucking Celebrity

Not.

In the grand and probably small scheme of things, I’m pretty much a nobody. I have no illusions about being a prolific writer, an inspiring activist or an amazing artist, despite doing all three of these. When everything is said and done I’m a middle aged woman with a nice family, an exhausting job, a couple of interesting hobbies and some really good friends with whom I hang out on a small blog.

Yet, over the years I seem to have picked up some amount of obsessive haters, with an interesting overlap between “gender critical feminists” and plain old slymepit misogynists, all seeming very obsessed about whatever stupid thing I write. Now, I’m the first to admit that I like a good verbal fight and can be 80 grit abrasive bordering on asshole (ok, maybe full asshole), but as a rule I generally don’t follow people I disagree with around. Like follow them on Twitter. Or keep reading their blogs and then comment on whatever they write in my own space. And to be honest, most of them and those arguments will drift from my mind. I will remember whether the interaction was positive or negative, but please don’t ask me who said what in the comments section on some blog or other in 2016.

But apparently I manage to inspire that kind of behaviour in others. After Marcus posted a note “On Trans Issues” on his blog, multi-nymed commenter [apparently not steersman, edited]/steppenwolf/RojBlake/DavidinOz used the occasion to complain loudly about how horrible I’ve been to him (without me having participated in that thread at that point), “kicking him from Affinity for a statement of truth elsewhere” when I don’t even have admin privileges, I did try to refresh my memory on what exactly happened, googled a few things and look and behold: Only the correctly spelled version of Giliell (did they all sleep through their Sindarin classes?) alone yields 9(!) pages of search hits on the apparently defunct slymepit, where people still think that calling me “fat” counts as some sort of argument when I would simply say “yes, I am”.

Yet Butterflies and Wheels isn’t much better (and if anybody needed confirmation that Roj Blake is steppenwolf, he made the almost same comment about me “trashing” Caine’s legacy there under Roj Blake verbatim). And now, since I know you’re reading, let me just say this: get a life. Seriously, you’re all grown people obsessed with whatever a nobody mummy blogger on an obscure blog who is happy about five nice comments on her bird pictures says. Oh, and to answer your question, Acolyte of Sagan: I am a fully licensed teacher for grades 5-13 and what I mostly teach my kids is basic maths, reading comprehension and writing skills, and that “retarded”, “gay”, and “girl” aren’t insults. I hope that satisfies all your questions, because I sure won’t answer any more of them.

Teacher’s Corner: She did what?

Many things happened since the last Teacher’s Corner. I don’t always have the time or energy or emotional strength to post about them, because mostly they involve vulnerable kids in difficult situations. Today’s story is a different one. It’s one about a good kid from a good family (whatever that means) and a serious WTF moment.

Some of the boys in grade seven told me today that their classmate J (home sick) has my WhatsApp number. I was like “yeah, you’re kidding”. I thought they tried to provoke me, with J being at home and not there to defend himself, but then they went on describing my profile image in detail, and while “you with your family” may still be part of cold reading, “with some blue box around you” really isn’t.

I went straight to the phone to call his parents because I had no clue where he could have gotten hold of my private mobile number. the father cleared up the matter: two years ago we had a charity run through the local woods and as part of our volunteer group, his mum had access to my phone number. She’d then passed it on to her darling teenage son “in case of an emergency”* and left it at that.

Now I can only hope that he just bragged about it without sharing it. I’d hate it if I’d have to get a new number. But I know why “dual sim” was another criterion for the new phone.

Just in case any parents ever wonder why teachers are sometimes “like that”. Even if you are the nicest, most trustworthy people, your fellow parents have ruined it for good.

In Need of Cute

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The bunnies, back in late summer. I think we can all do with some cute. You know your blogging team is all struggling with personal and health shit, so, sorry for neglecting you a tad. I had a busy week, because the world is a shitty place for kids and sometimes you can help, at other times you can’t and that’s the hardest part because all you can do then is keep your files up to date to prove you did everything you could. I’m taking that kind of shit hard. And because my mind is constantly working on 10 things at the same time while also forgetting some rather simple things I managed to damage both my front and my back bumper in two different but equally stupid events the same day after 20 years of driving without any accidents. Duh.

Recovery: The Condition(ing) of Being a Woman

I’m making slow but real progress, but everybody and their dog keeps telling me to take it slow and I’m really trying to. But I also know that I’m far from “functioning normally”, not to mention that my current level of mobility is also due to generous amounts of anti-inflammatory drugs and painkiller. Anyway, one good aspect of German health insurance is that I’m entitled to a household aid  for as long as I’m recovering. And my most wonderful sister organised everything with her care service and this morning the wonderful S. showed up.

Everything about my working class woman upbringing was uncomfortable. First of all letting a stranger in when my house is a complete mess. I know, I know, the woman came because there’s a mess and I can’t clean, but try to tell that to your subconscious. The other one is to have somebody clean your shit while you’re mostly watching. (I did help as much as I could). I know that many working class men have absolutely no problem with watching women clean while they’re lying on the couch, but for a woman? I’ve been both raised with some traditional crap about cleaning and quite some deep seated hatred against people who watch women clean, since I’m just two generations removed from women who had to go out and work as maids, being abused by master and mistress alike.

Still, I’ll need a household help after recovery as well because I think my body just told me that it is done with playing nice and putting up with my psychological issues of having to do all my cleaning myself.

You’re Never Really Ready

I’ve known that my mother is dying for several months. She has end stage heart failure and has been deteriorating slowly since early spring. This week, though, she’s taken a sudden turn for the worse and now it’s only a matter of days until she’s gone. Mom lives in a nursing home and most of her caregivers are kind and good at their jobs, but they’re busy. Very busy. Many days they work short-staffed and the dozens of patients they care for need a lot of care. Nursing homes in Ontario admit only patients who need full-time care and most of the people on my mother’s ward need help with everything from getting dressed to toileting. Staff does the best they can, but it isn’t the standard of care that I would give to a palliative patient so I’m visiting several times a day to help her be comfortable. This is my comfort zone. It’s when my clinical brain clicks in and I can push the emotional shit to the edges and be a nurse. Being a nurse is easier than being a daughter about to lose her mom.

There’s a phenomenon in palliative care known as anticipatory grief. It sometimes happens when a loved when takes a long time to die. The bereaved starts to let go of the relationship while the person is still alive. It comes near the end when caregivers are tired and it dulls the emotions. It’s one method of coping and I’ve often heard caregivers say that they’re ready for their person to die. In some ways they are. They’ve started the process, but they’re tired and dull and anxious for the struggle to be over. The thing is, though, that even if it takes a person a long time to die the moment when death happens feels sudden and no-one is ever really ready for the vacuum that appears where care and concern and love lived only a moment ago.

I’m an only child and we have no other family here. My mother’s relatives are all far away in Germany and there’s only the two of us left here. We’ve had a complicated relationship, mom and I, and I’ve worked through a lot of issues over the course of my life. I’ve let go of a shit ton of anger and in these past months I’ve made sure to say all the things I wanted to and to listen to all the things she wanted to say. I’ve been surprised by how much love managed to survive underneath all those other complicated emotions and I’ve let that guide me in these past few months. I have no regrets, there’s nothing left unsaid and I’ve been telling myself that I’m ready. It’s my coping mechanism, too, it seems, but in these last few days I’ve been surprised by how tender I feel and the facade of being ready is fading fast. I’ve nursed so many dying patients and their families that I thought I had an edge, but not even a palliative care nurse is ever really ready.

The Woman with Lapislazuli in her Teeth

I’ve had this tab open for ages because I really wanted to share this story with you, which is cool and sad atb the same time, as it shows how modern notions of society have clouded the vision on the past.

What Anita Radini noticed under the microscope was the blue—a brilliant blue that seemed so unnatural, so out of place in the 1,000-year-old dental tartar she was gently dissolving in weak acid.

It was ultramarine, she would later learn, a pigment that a millennium ago could only have come from lapis lazuli originating in a single region of Afghanistan. This blue was once worth its weight in gold. It was used, most notably, to give the Virgin Mary’s robes their striking color in centuries of artwork. And the teeth that were embedded with this blue likely belonged to a scribe or painter of medieval manuscripts.

Who was that person? A woman, first of all. According to radiocarbon dating, she lived around 997 to 1162, and she was buried at a women’s monastery in Dalheim, Germany. And so these embedded blue particles in her teeth illuminate a forgotten history of medieval manuscripts: Not just monks made them. In the medieval ages, nuns also produced the famously laborious and beautiful books. And some of these women must have been very good, if they were using pigment as precious and rare as ultramarine.

Read the whole story here.