Why do I write this blog? It is eight months now since I first started writing this blog and I really had no idea then whether I would take to it, whether it was something I would enjoy doing and certainly whether anyone would read it. I did it for me because I was beginning a new phase in my life – emigrating from Scotland to America – that was full of steep learning curves, uncertainty and a fair bit of chaos. Typing it out was a way of processing my thoughts and feelings and imposing some sort of order. It was also a way of recording the experiences of my family for posterity, something that appealed to me because I am a family historian.
But is that now the only reason I blog? My primary reasons for blogging remain the same as my initial motivation. Recording the ups and downs of my experience of life as an immigrant in a country at once so familiar and so alien, of striving to be a successful parent when I have been rendered ignorant about facets of adult life myself, the opportunity for some textual primal screaming when something goes pear-shaped all have value to me as a way of processing what is going on in my life at that point. I find I am enjoying the journal aspect of blogging far more than I anticipated because I find it beneficial to edit and order the jumble of thoughts battering about in my head into something that has more shape. Essentially it’s good therapy. I have also found that I actually enjoy the act of sharing, however. As bemusing as it still is to me that other people would find the life of my family interesting, I enjoy the interaction I have with visitors to my blog – just as I thoroughly enjoy following other people’s blogs.
The remit of my blog has somewhat expanded over time. Initially I had assumed I would maintain focus on the elements of my life that were strictly related to my experience as an immigrant, the culture clashes and the fumbling steps of finding my feet. Gradually, however, I have found I am just blogging about things happening in my life generally and I have started to share some of my art too. So the blog is evolving I suppose just as my family is evolving in our new context.
I was stunned when I had a single follower so I was incredulous when I reached 100 followers. I am flattered and confounded that people find my musings and witterings and endless photos of my kids or my drawings interesting enough to follow but I am grateful to all who read my blog, whether following or just stopping by as a one-off. The interaction and the dialogue that sometimes emerges from such visits is also greatly appreciated. And then this morning I had a notification on my WordPress app on my phone that I had been nominated for the Liebster Award and I was struck dumb.
Probably because I am British and we are trained from the womb to be self-deprecating and never boastful, I have to admit that my first reaction was one of embarrassment. I also have a life-long aversion to accepting compliments, much to my husband’s annoyance. However, the Liebster Award, I have subsequently learned, is an award given by other bloggers and involves paying-it-forward to other bloggers in turn. As such, it is about community building and encouragement. I, therefore, humbly and graciously accept the nomination. Even though I still do not feel worthy of the recognition. Because I am British.
The person I have to thank for my nomination is New England Selkie whose blog you can read at http://newenglandselkie.wordpress.com/ In a moment of homesickness, I searched WordPress using the tag Scotland and that is how I stumbled upon her marvellous blog. Selkie adores my homeland and writes wistfully and longingly about Scotland in a way that echoes my moments of homesickness. She writes beautifully about nature, about the great outdoors and, of course, about Scotland. I thank Selkie for reading my blog, for finding a connection to her own yearning in it, as well as for the nomination. You should check out her blog.
The conditions of the Liebster Award are as follows:
- Post the award on your blog
- Thank the blogger who presented the award to you and link back to their blog (I should think so too!)
- Share 11 things about yourself
- Answer the 11 questions given to you by the person who nominated you
- Nominate 11 bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers (I may have to flout this rule a little since I cannot figure out how to learn how many followers a blog has)
- Create 11 questions for your nominees to answer
- Notify your nominees by posting your nomination on their blog
I have been trying to dust off the shelves of my brain’s library and come up with eleven things about me to share. That’s harder than you might think, you know. So I am going to just somewhat type off the top of my head I think and hope for the best.
- Since this blog is about my experience of living in America, I thought I might start with an anecdote from my first ever trip to the US which was in the summer of 1995 in Washington DC. I returned from a day of sight-seeing to discover a small squirrel lying on the pavement. The wee thing was still alive and appeared uninjured so I assumed it had plummeted from its tree den. Once it became obvious that a parent squirrel was not engineering a rescue rig or pulley, I decided to become the squirrel’s guardian and scooped it up into a linen napkin and into a box. Mr Pict phoned a local wildlife refuge and provided directions as to how to get to that particular street in the North-East sector of the city. We realised we had gone awry, however, when our scribbled directions terminated in the car park of a hospital’s emergency department just as a whole fleet of ambulances seemed to be disgorging gunshot victims on gurneys. We set off once more and pulled up to a red light as a car with its chassis riddled with bullet holes pulled up in front of us. I was getting the impression we were not driving through the nicest of neighbourhoods. And just as I was contemplating that, a man with wild hair and a mould green vest slammed his fists on the bonnet of our car. For a fraction of a second I thought I might just die while trying to rescue a squirrel. But it turned out the man in the mouldy vest was just trying to warn us that our headlights were not on, as dusk was setting in, so then I got to feel guilty about having labelled someone who was a good and helpful citizen as a potential car-jacker. Realising we were getting nowhere, Mr Pict pulled up outside a police station. While he was inside receiving directions, I sat in the car with the squirrel, holding it up to the window by way of explanation every time the occupants of a passing patrol car squinted at me. You can always rely on a police officer to provide you with very clear and explicit directions so, hours after we had set off on our rescue mission, now thoroughly bonded with the squirrel and with a renewed sense of how glad we were to be alive, we arrived at the wildlife refuge. The woman in charge assured me that the squirrel would be sent to a rehabilitation area in the Chesapeake Bay but I could not help but thinking that the night’s experience meant that this particular squirrel was hard-wired to become some sort of gangland hustler who ran protection rackets with payment in nuts.
- I love to draw. When I was little, I drew on anything I could get my hands on, from the backs of bills to old envelopes. Even now, I draw almost every day – even if it is just a doodle or a quick drawing for one of my kids. For ten years I attended a weekly life drawing class run by my art club and I loved the challenge of trying to draw something as complex as the human form, capturing the pose, the proportions, the positive and negative shapes, the sense of weight and posture in the body, the tones of light and dark. Even when the outcome was less than successful, I always enjoyed an evening of life drawing. It is one of the things I am really missing since moving. I also like to draw in a graphic, cartoonish style with bold colours and strong lines. In recent years I have tended to be inspired by whatever captures the imaginations of my children as they quite often suggest ideas for a drawing so film characters, ninjas and animals feature quite often. As do zombies. I love zombies and I love drawing zombies. A few years ago I decided to challenge myself to do a drawing each week and my kids immediately suggested a zombie theme so I drew 52 unique zombie drawings. It was so much fun.
- While my hobbies are fairly standard – watching movies, reading, art, family history, photography – a few of my interests might be considered a bit geeky. I have an interest in the history of sideshows and “freaks” and also in bubonic plague and other such epidemics.
- My favourite movie is ‘Jaws’. I first saw it when I was about 8 (thanks to permissive parents) and was a little scared but mostly fascinated and captivated by it. I have been left with an interest in sharks (my kids and I check on the Shark Tracker app on my phone every few days) and an enduring love of the film. When I was little, the appeal was in the blockbuster elements of the film – the anticipation, the shock moments, that music building to a crescendo – but as I got older I realised that the thing that pulled me back to the film time and time again were the quieter moments and the character studies of these three very different men who are forced to unite for a common purpose. It’s a wonderful film. (As an aside, my husband, even after more than two decades together, is still tickled by the fact I pronounce the word film with two syllables).
- I love shopping for second-hand things not only because I am frugal but also because I believe strongly in recycling and because I like the thrill of rummaging through lots of cluttered stuff in the hopes of finding a buried treasure.
- I love taking photographs and find it difficult to force myself to go anywhere without taking a camera – a conundrum I rarely face these days since I now have a smartphone. I have no aspirations to become a professional photographer but I want to be the best photographer I am capable of being within my own context. I almost obsessively document the life of my children through photographs. I hope one day they will appreciate it. A few years ago they briefly gave me the moniker Cyclops because, with the camera lens held up to my eye so frequently, I looked like I had just one large central eye. One of my Great-Great-Grandfathers was a Studio Photographer from the 1870s so I like to think that perhaps being click-happy is in the genes.
- I have been tracing my family history for almost twenty years now. It started out as a passing interest but soon became an obsession. I have traced several of my lines back to the 17th Century. It is hard to get further back without a notable or “gateway” ancestry. Mr Pict is descended from, among others, a Swiss Mennonite by the name of Conrad the Persecuted and John Alden and Priscilla Mullins of The Mayflower and has a gateway ancestor that connects him to a noble family. I, on the other hand, am descended from very many generations of poverty-struck people with grubby jobs, prone to miscreant behaviour and lots of loose knickers.
- As part of my record-keeping for family history, I maintain a spreadsheet that I refer to as my “Tally of Death” – I don’t know where my kids get their macabre ways from. It is a record of how many people have died from each cause of death. The top scorers are drowning, tuberculosis and being torpedoed. Any time a Doctor asks me about my medical family history, I have to remind myself that they probably don’t want or need to see this Excel file.
- For the entire decade in which I lived in Argyll and was a stay home parent, I worked in a voluntary capacity as a Children’s Panel Member as part of the Children’s Hearings system. The briefest definition I can provide is that – as part of Scotland’s system of youth justice – I made legally-binding decisions about the lives of children who were either offenders or, more usually, had been offended against. It involved intensive training – both initial training and ongoing – involved making incredibly difficult decisions, was sometimes very harrowing but was also one of the most rewarding and positive things I have done in my life. I miss contributing to society in that way.
- My friends – when bribed – tell me I am clever, creative, witty, wry and funny. That’s why I keep them as friends. I hope that if any of those adjectives are true, they are conveyed in my blog. I am also prone to ranting when irked and could carry a grudge for Olympic gold. I think that has definitely translated into my blog.
- I am terrible at small talk. I suffer from social anxiety to a degree anyway and my response to nervousness around new people is to over-talk, as if to over-compensate for actually feeling incredibly shy. At the same time, I get very bored asking the same dull questions over and over again. Therefore, between my speed talking and not sticking to safe topics of conversation, I have the unfortunate habit of deploying rather strange conversation starters. The most notorious incident was when I was at some sort of event with people Mr Pict knew and I happened to end up chatting with a coroner which led me to ask his views on why on earth anyone would be a necrophiliac. On the other hand, a conversation starter I once came up with which should have been terribly awkward but actually generated such a good conversation that I have since deployed it several times, was to ask a group of strangers which body part they would eat first if they really had to cannibalise someone. That’s got to be better than chatting about the weather over and over again, right? So….which body part would you eat first?
I want my nominees to feel free to share whatever they would like to and whatever they feel comfortable sharing. As such, I am not going to set eleven questions but ask that they participate by sharing eleven facts about themselves just as I was asked to do. I think I may end up flouting one of the rules since I am such a novice blogger still that I do not know how to discover how many followers another blogger has. Some state the number of followers they have in an obvious place on their home page and as such I eliminated some of my choices from contention as they already had “too many” followers and I am also secure in knowing that several of my nominees currently sit within the “under 200” rule but others I just don’t know about so I hope I am forgiven for any rule breaking. Ignorance is my defence. As always.
So here are my eleven nominees and I do encourage readers to go check out their blogs:
- Camilla Olsson Art (http://camillaolssonart.wordpress.com/) is a blog in which the artist shares her approach to creativity, her honing of her technique and refining of her style. What she conjures up from a limited palette of colours is most impressive. Her works have a great serenity to them precisely because all of the elements are so harmonious.
- Mara Eastern’s Personal Blog (http://maraeastern.com/blog/) is chock-full of witty and interesting observations about life. She is another blogger who has a yearning for Scotland and we also share a love of literature. The thing I enjoy most about her blog, however, is her sardonic voice and the way her eye sees things, whether in the written word or visually through her photographs.
- Jean Stevens Studio Diary (http://jeanstevensstudiodiary.wordpress.com/) is a blog that inspires me to push myself further with my block printing. Jean Stevens produces beautiful prints and shares her process in designing, cutting and layering the blocks to create wonderful works of art.
- Groovy Journal (http://groovyjournal.com/) is an Art Journaling blog that always provides a pop of colour and conveys an enthusiasm for creating.
- Mouchaak: The Hue Brewery (http://themouchaakbrewery.wordpress.com/) is a blog that I have only recently found but I am already captivated by the artist’s colourful and often wonderfully detailed art work.
- Debbie Osborn Art Studio (http://debbieosborn.wordpress.com/) is a blog showcasing the art and craft work of Debbie Osborn. I came to her blog because of my renewed interest in print-making and am always impressed by her use of shape, pattern, colour and texture not just in her print-making but across all of her creative endeavours.
- Dylanbug Designs (http://dylanbug.wordpress.com/) is another art blog I enjoy. Pamela Moore shares her mixed media work and, as someone who is completely new to Art Journaling, I am always interested to see her approach to creating.
- Melita Bloomer (http://melitabloomer.wordpress.com/) is another artist who shares her mixed media creativity on her blog.
- Hannah Klaus Hunter (http://hannahklaushunterarts.com/) is an artist working with a range of materials. I am especially drawn to her collage work which is full of wonderful patterns and colours and her prints which utilise organic materials and shapes.
- From Victory Road (http://fromvictoryroad.com/) is another Art Journaling blog I follow and which inspires me to keep beavering away at this mixed media thing that is still quite alien to me. I have found it to be full of encouragement and inspiration.
- Tangled Pen (http://tangledpen.wordpress.com/) is a blog by a fellow immigrant who shares her joy of creating and crafting on her blog.
I thank all of these bloggers and the authors of all the other blogs I follow too.
Finally, of course, thank you to my readers. I am always very appreciative of you stopping by my blog.