31 January, 2014

The dilemma of No Kidding blogging

When I started this blog, I both wanted an outlet for my thoughts and feelings about navigating my way through life without kids.  I didn’t want it just to be about the tough bits of my life; I wanted it to reflect the good things about my life too, the things I can do and enjoy precisely because I don’t have children.  I wanted it to be honest.

I wanted to show others that the world doesn’t end when you can’t have children.  The world goes on, and our lives go on and become fuller, more meaningful.  There’s a lot of room to fill up when we say good-bye to infertility, and I think many of us fear we will never fill our lives.  But we do.  You can.  In my years of volunteering, I felt very valued and fulfilled.  I knew I’d already learned a lot, and by being honest about my own feelings and experiences, I knew that I was helping others.  And I hoped to continue that here.

But there’s a dilemma when blogging the No Kidding life  Because even though I’ve accepted my life, and love my life, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t still a few twinges of pain and loss.  And whilst it is cool to be the beacon of hope that life will be good, I think it is only right to be honest and acknowledge those ouch moments too.  Which is why I wrote my previous post. 

I don’t usually focus on the difficult parts of my life, the parts that remind me that I don’t have children, because ultimately that’s not the way I think or feel anymore.  I don't want to be pitied, I just want to be understood.  And I’ve posted before (here and here and many others besides) about the positives that come alongside those losses.  But there are times, when we hear things in the media or others say things to us, where I just roll my eyes or sigh in frustration, and respond. Sometimes, life, society, individuals give us no choice!

"People without children don't miss anything."

So I emailed in to the radio station after my previous post.  The host, to be fair, responded quickly to my email, qualifying his comment.  What he meant to say was that "people without children don't miss anything."  He removed the comment that our lives don't change.  I actually think that's worse.  Does he really believe that because people without children have never had children we don't miss anything?
  1. Those who have suffered loss mark the birthdays or due dates or EDDs of the children they lost, marking their lives that never were.  My first child, lost to ectopic pregnancy, would have been 11 by now.  My second pregnancy would have seen a 10 year old.  They would have played with their cousins this Christmas, the ones of a similar age.  
  2. Every Christmas, I decorate my tree on my own.  I buy a Christmas cake rather than make mine to give to the kids to decorate.  I gave away the knitted Christmas stockings I had bought in anticipation at a market in Thailand many years ago. Every Christmas, even if for just a minute or two, often when I put the special "ectopic" decorations on the tree, I miss my never-born children.
  3. Whenever there is a fireworks display, I feel silly going on our own.  
  4. I know I'll never go back to Disneyland.  I would, if I had children.
  5. I'll never teach a child how to bake, to knit or crochet or make their own clothes, how to high jump or long jump or play netball or tennis, or how to play the piano or flute, or to tap dance, or introduce them to the joys of lbooks and language and languages - Thai, French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese - or show them the world.
  6. I wrote here about some things I'd never do.  Still, every time I bake a cake, I think about how much I enjoy baking, and how I would be baking more if I had children.  
  7. My husband and I are about to celebrate a major wedding anniversary.  We will celebrate it alone, rather than with children and grandchildren around us.
  8. It's harder to make friends, new friends, without children, a connection to school or to sports teams or dance classes etc.  And often we lose our friends when they have children. 
  9. We see our partners interact with other children, and wonder what they would have been like as parents.
  10. The house can be deathly quiet.  And some times of the day, or week, or year, we can almost hear the sounds of the children we never had.
I'm going to stop there.  (Because this blog isn't about indulging the "what-might-have-beens" and this post will require a follow-up).  

But could he read this, could anyone, and still say that because we didn't have children, we don't miss anything?  Seriously?

27 January, 2014

Those throwaway comments

My habit in the afternoons is to listen to a National Radio programme as I work on my computer.  As I expected, having seen reportage of yet another article commenting on whether people with children are happier or not than people without children, this was inevitably raised in a panel discussion.  (And yes, I've blogged about it before.)

It's becoming tiresome to me, this focus on these studies, as parents always react with a sense of indignation.  How dare anyone suggest they might have been happier without children?  Yet they seem perfectly happy to declare that their lives would have been more miserable without children.  And they seem incapable of looking at empirical research objectively, rather than deciding that if it disagrees with their own experience, then it must be wrong.

The announcer - a man who is usually sensitive to different people and lifestyles - then said, "people who don't have children don't miss anything.  Their lives don't change."

This is, I believe, a huge injustice to people without children.  It's not uncommon though, such a throwaway comment dismissing our lives. I know certainly that life at 50 without children is vastly different to life without children at 25 or 30.  So even if he and his guests knew what it was like not to have children earlier in their lives, they don't know what it would be like now.  They don't seem to realise that it is very different negotiating life in a pro-child pro-parent society through your 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond.

One man said "I would not be the man I am today if I didn't have children."  That's very fair.  Of course having children changed him.  But my point is that he doesn't know what kind of man he would be today if he didn't have children.  He only knows what kind of man he was before he had children.  

And they completely ignored the issue of those who might not have children, but had not intended that this was what their lives would be.  They ignore the fact that couples and individuals who go through infertility or pregnancy loss or stillbirth, or who never find the life partner they want to have children with, find that they have to adjust their beliefs and expectations for life.  And they do.  We do.  And in doing so, we often go on to live very happy and fulfilled and engaged lives.  Because we know we want to make the best of our lives, whatever they deliver.  So I ask people who are tempted to make throwaway comments about those without children, to please don't ever dismiss the loss and the heartache and the personal growth we have gone through to get here.

PS.  And as I write this, they've gone on to discuss the electioneering that has begun, focusing on families not individuals, and now they're talking about school requirements for tablets or laptops etc.  I wonder if they'll discuss anything (other than Lorde at the Grammy's) that is relevant to people without children?

25 January, 2014

Is society really baby-obsessed?

Mel asked the question: Is society really babyobsessed?  Initially I was surprised she asked this. Of course it is!  But then I thought (as she did), perhaps it’s just my perception?  After all, perception is everything.  If you asked someone (in NZ) if there was more crime today than ten or twenty years ago, then they’d say yes.  The media is obsessed with reporting crime and bad news stories, there have been well-publicised efforts to educate children about keeping themselves safe, and politicians frequently like to claim they're "tough on crime" in a hunt for more votes.  So we all have this feeling that there are more dangers than there were in the past.  Yet crime statistics show that crime is going down.  This is not our perception.  So which is real?  Statistics damn statistics?  (They can say anything we - or politicians - want them to say.)  Or perception based on our own experiences? 

Mel also used the comparison of discussion in the media about weddings vs marriage.  I can see her point - there are more magazines, features, etc about weddings than marriage.  Weddings are big money.  But how often do we hear about brides who are obsessed with their weddings, thinking more about them than about the marriage?  How often do we see people marry in a big, fancy wedding that they spent a year planning, then a year or two or three later quietly dissolve the marriage?  The obsession is with the wedding.  How many people put the same effort into preparing for and planning their marriage, as they do the wedding. Rational people put their energies and desires into the marriage long term.  But we're not obsessed with the marriage.  It's an ongoing state (we hope) for starters.  But we are obsessed with the wedding.

So is society really obsessed with babies and pregnancy?  And how can I answer that without doing some empirical research? (Which, by the way, I have no intention of doing right now.)  I can't really.  I can only look at my experience, and my observations of society, and try to be objective.

And with that introduction, I will still say that I certainly believe society is more baby-obsessed now than in the past.  Even twenty or thirty years ago, children and babies weren’t the centre of attention or focus or obsession.  Babies were accepted for what they were.  Tiny, noisy, uncontrollable little things who would grow into fascinating children and adults.  But in the meantime, there was still a belief that children (and babies) had their place.  Their needs, or their parents’ desires, didn’t dominate.  Parents wouldn’t dream of taking their babies (and children of a certain age), to fine dining restaurants or often even cafes, and never movies.  Consideration for others – other diners, movie-goers, etc – was paramount.

Having babies was considered a normal, unspectacular part of life.  Babies were something good, something assumed and expected (sigh), but completely ordinary.  It was taken for granted. And so having babies was celebrated on an intimate, personal level as appropriate.  Parents did not trumpet their achievements in having children.  In New Zealand at least, it would have seemed arrogant and inappropriate to talk about your children, or yourself (ie I’m blessed), in that way.  “Who do you think you are?” would have been the response.  And in the 80s there was much more focus on seeing what women could achieve, not only as mothers, but also in career, business, creative, and sporting terms.* 

Now though, it certainly seems as if society is more obsessed, and much more vocal about it.  And that creates a perception, and perception is after all reality.  The media – which both reflects societal norms, and creates them – is relentless in its adulation of mothers and babies.  With changes in technology, mothers now have outlets to talk about their lives, their children, their pregnancies and their babies that they wouldn’t have had in the past.  Looking for validation and support, mom blogging and other support websites have boomed.  Celebrity pregnancies and babies (the best of two obsessions – a pregnant celebrity) are big news, more so than a new movie or album or book or award win or gold medal.  Advertisers follow in their wake, both tapping into existing demand (ie the market they can reach), but also in setting expectations (and hence creating demand) as any good marketers would.  And in doing so, they begin creating a demand.  In feeding the obsession, it becomes more and more prominent.  Peer pressure has always been a powerful force, and is important in selling products, services, magazines, movies, etc.  (The obsession with “pink” for little girls’ toys is an example.)  So the more stories there are about celebrity babies, the more people decide they want to know about celebrity babies.  Politicians – who are after all just marketers really –jump on the bandwagon too, and focus on family-friendly policies, and always, always talk about the future in terms of “the future of your children.”  So a politician who might have a broader view finds themselves talking about “your children and your grandchildren” to tap into that market, and soon enough voters are going to reject a candidate who doesn’t cover this.

I think the perception is there, and it reflects reality.  It hasn’t always been like this.  And it might change in the future.  But I certainly believe that society, these days, does find itself obsessed over babies, for whatever reasons.  (I haven’t got time/space to talk about it here.)

It concerns me, this obsession over babies and women having babies, though not as you might think, not only as a childless woman.  I may not appreciate the child-obsessed society I live in, but I can handle it.  What worries me more is the way this obsession continues to stereotype women into one particular role, limiting choice or the acceptance of different choices, and does it in a more insidious way than the blatant sexism of the past.  And the place of women in society is an issue that has been central to my sense of who I am since I was a child. 

I hate seeing the increased sexism that goes alongside this society-led baby obsession.  I hate seeing women being once again reduced to simply being a body, or worse a uterus, when my generation and especially the generations before me fought so hard for women to be seen as more than their body.  I believe that women have taken a step backwards in many ways in the last 10-15 years.  Or at least, we haven't taken the steps forward we would have expected and hoped for.  And many younger women, being raised in the age of unrelenting pink, and obsession with body shape and looks and overt sexuality, and celebrity babies, don't realise that they're being brainwashed into behaving in particular ways, that they're being stereotyped into certain roles, as much as my older sister and cousins were back in the 70s.  My 22-year-old niece – who would profess herself as a strong, independent young woman – appears to me to be more bound by societal attitudes – and far less aware of feminist issues and arguments - than I was at the same age.

And so, at the same time that society is becoming more diversified, more open and accepting of varying lifestyles, the idea of choice (and the acceptance of different choices) for women seems to have suffered.  And that makes me sad.

Note:  You won’t believe how much I had to edit this.  So apologies if it sounds like a rant.

21 January, 2014

Places where we belong

Lisa, over at Life Without Baby, has just posted about losing an important little bistro near her.  It's not closing, it's going "family friendly."  And in a move designed to bring in more people, they're making her feel that she doesn't belong. 

I've written about this before, in a slightly different context.  I wish that everyone had a place where they felt they belonged, whether it is a family friendly cafe, a fine dining restaurant for adults only, a gay bay, a geeky store, or a shop for people with long feet!  When I was grieving my ectopic losses, I found it hard to find a cafe where I felt I belonged.  I had recently left my full-time job, so didn't feel comfortable in the CBD cafes full of people in suits having business meetings, but equally I felt miserable at the cafes clogged with mums, babies, strollers and toddlers, along with the brightly coloured playgrounds and heightened decibel levels and children who would come up to me at my table when I was trying to blank out the environment to take in some caffeine and a magazine.

But I am pleased to report that my husband and I have been lucky to find a place where we feel comfortable.  Our favourite brunch place is run by two guys, and it has a pleasant, relaxed, but sophisticated ambience, great food and an excellent wine list.  Clientele includes young adults  through to 90 year olds from the old people's home down the road.  And Saturdays, around 1 pm when we go, is the day and time for regulars.  There's the multi-racial gay couple, the middle-aged couple who always have a bottle of wine, the grandson with his grandparents doing a good turn, a few families with older children, two elderly women enjoying a special lunch out (I love that), and usually two or three younger women enjoying a Sunday catch up. And, of course, us. 

Gary and David who run the restaurant are consummate professionals, chatting to all the regulars, and making everyone feel comfortable.  Children and babies are welcome, but rarely seen.  Gary and David have just made a business decision not to make their restaurant specifically "family friendly."   There's no playground, and the menu doesn't cater to children either. Two cafes just fifty metres down the road fill this gap, as does another one about a mile away.  Everyone is catered for.  And so they fill a niche - suburban dining in a calm and elegant environment, one that is blissfully child free. 

This place has been our saviour over the last ten years or so.  It has been somewhere we could go and feel normal, accepted, and happy. We're not deafened by children or babies at the table next door.  We don't have to smile and be polite if a child decides to run around or come and play on the back of our chair.  That doesn't happen here.  Parents either don't bring their children, or keep them well-behaved while they're there.  In those days when we were raw and in pain after loss, we knew we wouldn't have awkward encounters or painful reminders there.  Even now, if we're having a bad day, it's generally a safe place.  Here, we're accepted for who we are. 

It's a place where we can relax and have a nice lunch, a good glass of wine, and a good conversation.  It's somewhere where we make decisions, discuss family troubles or travel plans, where we sum up the week, and make plans for the future.  It's somewhere where we can linger if we want, or dash off if we're in a hurry.  Where there's always extra bacon, where summer salads are delicious, and where the winter mushrooms are to die for.  And where the lemon tart "sweet treats" are so delicious, that I begged Gary for the recipe (and he gave it to me).  When we go, regardless of what we order, it is always a treat.  It cheers me up for the day.

I'm so glad we can go there (though we're having to cut back till we get more regular income).  And I would be devastated if they closed.  Do you have a special place like this?

17 January, 2014

Why we should support the childfree by choice

(I’ve had the following post drafted for months.  After my previous post, it seems the perfect time to finally put this one up for scrutiny.)

I’ve often been drawn to childfree* writers. After all, for about half of my adult life I wasn’t ready for children (despite having married young), and knew for certain I didn’t want them “yet.” I can therefore relate to the pressures and frustrations that childfree women have had to endure, the pressures and unsubtle hints and comments and judgements that many women have to endure at some stage, the pressures and unsubtle hints and comments that those of us who don’t go on to parent may never be free of.

But I also have spent about half of my adult life trying to have children, or mourning the fact I can’t, or coming to terms with my life without children. And so during that time my interest in childfree writers and their thoughts has felt traitorous, both to myself, and in ways to them.

But I shouldn’t feel like that. After all, we both share a distaste at society’s pressures to to be a parent, and its assumptions about parents, and about adults who are not parents; assumptions about our motivations and our values, our lifestyle, our maturity, our happiness, and much much more.  We – those who voluntarily and involuntarily find ourselves without children - both now share a lifestyle that might be either pitied, or envied, or both, by those who are parents. We, the people who are living life with no kids, have more in common now than what separates us.

Their struggles to legitimise their lifestyles without children are the same as our struggles to legitimise our lifestyles without children. To be seen as adults with a legitimate, worthwhile, valuable, if different, lifestyle. No better, no worse, just different. Yes, at times the childfree can seem scornful of our (once) desires to have children. But I’m sure that equally there are those in the “involuntarily not parents” group who are scornful and judgemental of the voluntarily childfree too. That doesn’t make it right.

The truth is that we have both been through very different battles, but have arrived at the same place. We both get lumped together in the same stereotypes, and we are both in a group that often feels marginalised by society. We should support each other. We are more the same than we are different.

No kidding.

*  Here I'm using childfree as shorthand for childfree-by-choice.

16 January, 2014

Tarred with the same brush

I wanted to add some clarification to my post yesterday.

We all know that people look at us, both within the ALI community and from outside it, and assume that because we didn’t adopt, or take other measures to ensure that we would have children, then we obviously chose not to.  (I’ve written about this before, here – and Justine just wrote a great post here too.)  So no kidding women (women without children), regardless of how we got here, are all tarred with the same brush.  And therefore I was not so concerned with the article’s focus on women who choose not to have children (after all, it is the author’s prerogative to focus where she chooses, and she clearly expressed this in the title).  But I was concerned with with the assumption that if women choose not to be mothers, then obviously they would not have been very good mothers. 

And it was that condescending "there, there, weren't you clever not to become a mother" attitude, with the hidden implication that "you" would have been awful at it, that disturbed me.  Because I think that women who think through their decisions* and weigh up what they want and don’t want, and are prepared to stand up for their beliefs when it is not easy or popular to do so, well, I think these women could be great mothers.  It’s just something they didn’t choose.

Choosing not to be a mother doesn’t mean a woman wouldn’t be great at it anyway, anymore than choosing to be a mother (or accidentally becoming one) means they would be great at it.  I mean, look around!  But the article didn’t recognise this.  In fact its entire premise was the opposite.  And that’s what disturbed me, and motivated me to write.

* kudos to my husband, who made this point on a morning walk yesterday.

14 January, 2014

Thanking No Kidding Women

Life without Baby posted an article thanking women who choose not to have children.  Kathleen noted that this was a refreshing change from all that pressure and accusation we often feel.  And I agree that it is nice to be appreciated for our lifestyles, not judged.  The writer acknowledges that most probably all we hear is an “array of pro-childbearing responses” to our situation.  She's right. And I appreciate her intentions.

But the article itself made me a little uncomfortable.  Mainly because the author's list of reasons why we should be thanked focused on the fact that we didn’t want to be mothers (it was directed at women who choose not to have children) - and the whole “choice” issue always irks me -  and then implies that we might not have been any good at it after all.  The article references women who should never have been mothers, or women who didn’t enjoy being mothers.  It then thanks us for not succumbing to societal pressure and becoming one of "those" mothers, making the assumption that, as mothers, they were simply not up to scratch.

So even whilst recognising that not all women can or want to be mothers, even whilst thanking these women for making courageous choices, it still felt as if there was some judgement going on.  I certainly felt a little condescension.

So I thought.  What would I have liked the article to say? I guess, first, the title would need to be changed.  Here’s the article I wish had been written.

“To Women Without Children”
 Thank you for your courage.  Your courage to live in a society that will judge you for your decisions and your lifestyle (whether or not you had a hand in those decisions), a society that will condescend and exclude, sometimes consciously, often ignorantly, a society that will never value you as highly.
Thank you for being positive role models, showing that there are many ways to live a good life, and that you don’t have to fit in to accepted norms to be accepted, happy, and indeed, normal. 
Thank you for loving our children, caring about them and for them, for being in their lives.  Thank you for showing them that there is good in the world, that they can rely on more people than their immediate family, that more people love them. 
Thank you for paying taxes that fund my children’s schools and cover their medical costs (including all my maternity costs), and the tax breaks given for families.   
Thank you for taking up the slack at work and in extended families, neighbourhoods and communities, when everyone else is focused on their nuclear families and schools. 
Thank you for being a good example of survival, of resilience, and of acceptance.  
Thank you.”

04 January, 2014

2013: A reckoning

Inspired by Loribeth, at The Road Less Travelled.

1. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I didn't really make New Year's resolutions last year, other than the usual suspects.  And I pretty much failed on all accounts.  A dramatic change in our lives, then 5 months overseas really threw everything up in the air.

Anyway, for 2014, my main resolution is to go to bed earlier, reset my body clock, and consequently be able to get up earlier.  That might then have a positive impact on all my other, unsaid, good intentions. 

2. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?

Climbed a sand dune.  (OK, I climbed half a sand dune!)

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?


4. Did anyone close to you die?

Nobody especially close.  But I was affected by the death of a friend and former colleague of my husband.  She was only a year or so older than me, and it reminded me we need to live our lives now, not put things off.

5. What countries did you visit?

Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Jordan, Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Slovenia, Poland, and the UK.  And I saw the Russian border (but did not cross).  

Officially I did enter the US too, but I was forced to go through immigration (and have the US collect fingerprints and other data about me), so I could go upstairs, back through security, and get back on the exact same plane (and seat) I'd flown in on from London, to continue my journey home.  (Argh!)

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

Energy, enthusiasm, and crucially, an income. 

7. What date(s) from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 

October 27th, when we arrived home from our adventure.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I don't feel this is really an achievement, but perhaps it was - the planning and execution of a major 4 1/2 month overseas trip. And managing to blog about it on Lemons to Limoncello here.

9. What was your biggest failure?

 Not losing enough weight, and not doing enough groundwork for future contracts/consulting work.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nothing serious.  TGN raised its ugly head again, making several days in Jordan extremely painful and difficult, but by and large I dealt with it.  And my toes and toenails were injured (also in Jordan, at Petra), and they're still recovering, but a travel injury like that is less an injury, and more a badge of effort and the wrong shoes.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Tickets to Europe.  Closely followed by some pumpkin gnocchi, and a seafood antipasto.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Loribeth named Malala Yousafzai. She's right.  

On a less serious note, John Oliver (on The Daily Show) was a tonic as we were travelling, and I could download episodes.  The only English language entertainment for five months.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Loribeth is right again.  Politicians.  Closely followed by members of the media.  Though I have to say that the NZ media isn't nearly as partisan as the US media.  But still, some of their obsessions and lack of understanding of certain issues is very frustrating, and hampers efforts to raise the level of political or social debate..

14. Where did most of your money go?

Travel and accommodation, food and wine, in the countries I mentioned above.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

My trip.  I was excited in anticipation about finally getting to Petra, the Matterhorn, Slovenia to meet lovely Klara, and afternoon tea with my husband at The Lanesborough in London.  And they all exceeded expectations.  And I was excited just being there in Puglia (Monopoli) and the Molise in Italy, Slovenia, and Poland.  Oh, and the singing sand dunes of Qatar.  I've always wanted to see sand dunes.  I was lucky, there was much to be really really really excited about in 2013.

16. What song will always remind you of 2013?

I'm not sure any song will.  Maybe "Blurred Lines."  But the years all blur together these days!

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?

(a) slightly less happy - worries about earning money are setting in
(b) maybe slightly thinner, but the fact I have to use the qualifier "slightly" is depressing (see above), and 
(c) probably about the same, though our earning potential has plummeted, as neither of us are earning at the moment.  So that means that we certainly feel poorer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? 

Writing (including but not only blogging).
Oh yeah, and earning money.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Eating.  But when you're in Italy, it seems silly not to, don't you think? 

20. How did you spend Christmas? 

Here at home.  The Husband's brothers (2 of the 3) came back from overseas with their families, and so we've had a couple of weeks of intense socialising, listening to one family criticise the other, worrying about the in-laws, and laughing a lot.  I hosted Christmas dinner, and we were lucky enough to have a wonderful fine day.  I also began a new Christmas dessert tradition, as the MIL stops making her Christmas pudding, and I made a show-stopper of a meringue Christmas tree,

21. Did you fall in love in 2013? 

Yes.  With two towns:
Vittorio Veneto, about an hour north of Venice.  
And Monopoli, in Puglia, southern Italy.

22. What was your favourite TV program?

I didn't see much TV this year.  Loved Breaking Bad (watched it all on DVD as soon as we got home).  The Daily Show, as mentioned above, sustained me through the summer in Italy.  Watched a number of Scandinavian box sets - The Killing (the original), and one another I can't remember now.  Luther, too.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you did not hate this time last year? 

No.  Not sure if I hate anyone.  

I was going to review that, given that in the last month or so, some creep at Comedy Central geoblocked The Daily Show and we can no longer download it in New Zealand, despite the fact that we can't actually watch it on TV (including Comedy Central NZ) here.  Except that, I discovered today, we can watch it again.  Yay!

24. What was the best book you read? 

I didn't read a lot this year.  I had great plans, targetting 50 books on Goodreads.  But I didn't even make 30.  My favourite was:

Songbook for Haunted Boys and Girls, by my friend, Wayne McNeill. 

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Along with the rest of the world, I discovered Lorde and her song, "Royals."  The fact she is a young woman from New Zealand has a little to do with that.   But so do the lyrics and the music.

26. What did you want and get?

An amazing trip and three months in Italy, with the opportunity to learn to speak some Italian.

27. What did you want and not get?

The Italy trip didn't turn out to be my "weight loss trip" after all.  And of course, neither my husband nor I won the lottery, or even have jobs or ongoing contracts. 

28. What was your favourite film of this year? 

Hardly saw any films this year.  Five months away meant we didn't get to the movies, or saw them on flights.  I can't name one that is memorable.  (I had to google 2013 movies even to recall a few names.)

29. What did you do on your birthday?

I was in London, so went to Covent Garden markets in the morning, sushi for lunch, explored Soho and Trafalgar Square on a beautiful autumn day, then a quiet dinner in a little French restaurant.  Just being in London was a treat.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Good health in my mother, and my in-laws.  
Security of income from at least one of us would have helped.  

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013? 

I was travelling, so of course it was a) comfort, b) easy to wash and no need to iron, and c) and keeping cool.  Not exactly a classy stylish wardrobe this year.  Oh yes, and cheap!  (And to think that ten years ago I used to buy from NZ's best designers.  Sigh.)

32. What kept you sane?

My husband.  Though he's also capable of sending me insane at times!  
Also, writing and being connected to people, even when I'm isolated by distance.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Does that mean "fancy?"  If so, there's the perenially fanciable George, of course.

I admired a number of public figures.  And I was very moved over the passing of Nelson Mandela, even though the world lost him a while ago.  His very presence made the world a better place, and taught us to be forgiving and inclusive and collaborative, instead of vengeful and petty.

I was disappointed though by many more so-called "celebrities.  And by the "Cult of Celebrity" most of all.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

During and after visiting the region, I rethought (once again, though not for the last time - International relations and development is my field of expertise and interest) the ongoing problems in Syria, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Gulf States and their wealth, and Saudi Arabia's conservatism.

35. Who did you miss?

I've become used to missing my Dad.  I still miss (from time to time), those babies that were never born.  But with the wonders of internet, I didn't have to miss anyone else.   

Though at Christmas, I missed my Californian nieces, who couldn't make the trip home to meet some of their aunts and uncles and cousins for the first time.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

Hmmmm.  Not sure.  Met an amazing young woman in late 2012.  And a fascinating man in Poland telling the story of the reconstruction of Warsaw.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

When life hands you lemons, you can indeed make lemonade.  (Or drink limoncello.)   
I just hope that this year I can continue to do that, as reality sets in.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

I'm not good on song lyrics.  But Lorde's lyrics make so much sense, referring to celebrity and riches:

"We don't care, we aren't caught up in your love affair
And we'll never be royals
It don't run in our blood
That kind of lux just ain't for us, we crave a different kind of buzz"

It applies to more than just that though.  I think of it in terms of those who judge you on your career and climbing the corporate ladder. (I crave a different kind of buzz).  

And also those of us living a No Kidding Life.  
"It don't run in our blood, that kind of lux just ain't for us."

So here's to a 2014 for all No Kidding Lifers that includes a "different kind of buzz."