#MondayBlogs: Thoughts about our individual responsibility: of ducks and #Brexit #amwriting

#MondayBlogs: Thoughts about our individual responsibility: of ducks and #Brexit #amwriting

Individual responsibility: we may not even be aware how we influence others

It is of individual responsibility I wish to speak today. I know, as a liberal (in the classic sense of the word, not the crude American version thereof), I highly value individualism, and I’ve always fought for our right, as humans, as individuals, to assert ourselves, to live our lives any way we want (within the bounds of Kennedy’s famous boundary “the right to swing your fist ends where your neighbor’s nose begins”).

However, within the context of society, individualism doesn’t always work, or – at worst – has serious repercussions on others. Allow me two examples of this, from a broad societal point of view, the decision of the UK to leave the European Union, and from a very personal point of view, my son.

Responsibility on the state or government level

A Sykes-Picot map of the Middle East. One of the reasons we're in the mess we are. No, it's not all England's fault, but as the major global power of the era, England carries a big responsibility, and unlike Germany, refuse to axle it. Image: Mideast Cartoon History

A Sykes-Picot map of the Middle East. One of the reasons we’re in the mess we are. No, it’s not all England’s fault, but as the major global power of the era, England carries a big responsibility, and unlike Germany, refuse to axle it. Image: Mideast Cartoon History

I’ll begin with the UK. The decision, made by a rural majority in England has left the Scots reeling, it threatens to upend the very fragile peace in Northern Ireland (just imagine the Catholics in the North being cut off by a closed border from the Republic…), and – even more so, the havoc the decision’s been wreaking on Europe and the rest of the world. My son’s and our savings have lost in value due to the losses on the stock exchanges, my upcoming trip to the UK will be cheaper, but to offset that, my trips to Switzerland and the U.S. will be more expensive, as the Swedish Krona, fell almost as sharply as the Sterling. That’s just the beginning. Nobody knows what the long-term consequences of the so called Brexit will be, if it will happen at all (seems more than one politician is back-pedaling already).

So how could this happened? We could go back a long time, but allow me to just take a quick look at the imperial past of the English, and the meddling in the Middle East. Their very empire building, their very drawing up of maps that for one thing left the Kurds without a nation to call their own, and paid no attention to ancient tribal borders, created the very fertile ground on which dictators and crushed dreams grew for a century. That the same English now wish to leave the EU because they don’t wish to make space for the refugees they helped create a century ago is a prime example of how our actions, as individuals and states, sometimes doesn’t manifest itself until a long time after.

But the English (and I specifically don’t use the word “British”, as I don’t believe that term is applicable here, since the Irish and the Scots clearly feel differently about all this, not to mention the fact they were once conquered and forced into submission by the very English that drape themselves as British…) haven’t stopped to be different. How often – when we lived in England – did we hear them speak of “Europe” as if it were some foreign land, and have you forgotten Margaret Thatcher’s handbag thumping to get a one billion Euro discount in the eighties? Again and again have English politicians emphasized their “differentness”, sometimes more subtly, sometimes not so much. David Cameron’s recent “re-negotiation” is just another example of the English feeling they deserve to be treated differently. Imagine Germany trying to get a discount on their EU contributions… Yeah. See?

Irresponsible politicians

Why didn't Nigel Farage speak up when "others" spread the £350M lie? Was it because it suited him, secretly?

Why didn’t Nigel Farage speak up when “others” spread the £350M lie? Was it because it suited him, secretly? Or why didn’t he step down as UKIP chair as promised? Lying comes so easily to politicians, despite the huge consequences their words carry.

There are also individual contributions here, from the reactions of say Boris Johnson, who’s been hiding since the results were made public and who suddenly has no hurry whatsoever to implement §50. How come? Or Nigel Farage who know for weeks that the £350 M a week for the NHS was a lie, but never spoke up. Not until the day after! How convenient. Yes, politicians are all liars, and sadly they do not have our (i.e. the citizens) best interests at heart, no matter what they say. Mr. Johnson dreams of the keys to No 10 Downing Street, and Mr Farage, who once threatened to leave the helm of this fascistoid UKIP, well… We know since the last elections what his word is worth: nil. Yet people continue to fall for their sweet talk, their lies. I think the most stunning example of pulling wool over people’s eyes was the claim by some that the absence of European workers could be solved by bringing in Asians. Say again? How would that mitigate the migration problem if you replace one foreigner with another, particularly if the replacement has a drastically different cultural background?

In this instance, we see individual responsibilities abandoned, by politicians, business leaders, but also citizens. I’ve read about so many people who regret their decision. Yes, I agree, this is a difficult question to make up your mind on, but so far, less than a week after the vote, if you’re already having second guesses, while everything still is pretty much unchanged, how can you regret your vote? Did you really think a leave vote would change nothing? I’m not even going to start to discuss the fact that one of the most searched queries on Google from the UK (after the vote) was “what is the EU?” Huh? Now you’re wondering? It is ironic that the rural England, where few migrants live and where the EU has little influence in their daily lives, the majority was against. Reminds me of the recent Swiss vote on immigration. There, too, those who weren’t affected by migration voted against it. Individual responsibility on a larger scale, abandoned.

How we influence on an individual level

Sascha and the discoveries (a fraction) from his pappa's old bedroom

Sascha and the discoveries (a fraction) from his pappa’s old bedroom. Even in toys, societal norms are passed on. One female Lego figure for every seven or eight male.

Yet our actions, as individuals, and our individual responsibility, doesn’t just apply to matters of state, or politics. It is much more subtle than that. Allow me to exemplify: my son takes a weekly bath, to wash his hair (like millions of children around the world) As I was watching him play with his rubber ducks today, I noticed that he was calling them “mommy”, “daddy” and “baby duck” in his game. Apparently, my three year old, who has no mother, already knows the natural state of things. Whether it’s from the dreadful thing “Peppa Pig” he watches on YouTube, or the other parents at his day care, I don’t know, but somehow, he’s already internalized the most common form of family. I decided to test him, and asked him “who’s pappa?” and he immediately pointed to one of the two bigger ducks. He calls my husband “pappa”, Swedish for dad. I followed up with “who’s daddy?” and I saw that for a split-second he was confused, before he smiled and pointed to the other big duck and said “this is daddy”, then pointing to the smaller duck and said “that’s Sascha.” He really cracked me up when he also pointed at the little toy sea-plane and said “this is non.” Non is my dad, Sascha’s granddad.

With our actions, we influence the world, ever so subtly, and depending on our role. We may not even know how or even if. But somehow my son’s already picked up on society’s heteronormativity. His preferred pronoun is “he” (and he struggles with she, despite an all female staff at his preschool), he knows that kids have a mom and a dad, and he knows that pilots are men and that the women in planes “make the coffee”. I’m waiting for the day when he realizes that what comes natural to him, to see my husband and I as his parents, will be questioned, in light of what he sees around him. Sometimes it’s the most subtle influences, the most subtle of hints, or the words we choose, will have a profound influence on others. For better or worse. We all, each and every one of us, have an individual responsibility for how we act around us, from our roles as politicians, citizens, or – in my case – as a father and author. I try very hard not to forget that individual responsibility…

What about you?

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Hans M Hirschi
Former – disillusioned – politician, father and author

Choice words for the homophobes out there #OrlandoShooting #LGBT #Pride

Choice words for the homophobes out there #OrlandoShooting #LGBT #Pride

I’m done restricting my life to ease other people’s discomfort. Why care if you’re going to kill me anyway?

No, I’m not joking. No, I don’t care if you think that Orlando was all about ‘ISIL’ or ‘Islam’ or whatever it is some people would like us to believe. Why? Kevin Swanson (wants to kill all LGBT in the world) or Yishai Shlissel (killed and wounded several Pride marchers in Jerusalem minutes after having been release from prison for a similar crime), to just name one Christian and one Jew, and complete is the Abrahamic triad. Doesn’t make all christians homophobes, or all jews, does it? And I’m sure I could find similar examples from Buddhism, Hinduism etc. Orlando wasn’t about Islam, or any religion for that matter, because homophobia isn’t about religion. Never was. It’s about heteronormativity. It’s about marginalizing people who don’t fit in. Does organized religion make use of that? Of course, and homophobia is one of those rare instances where extremists from all (and none) religions walk hand in hand in harmony.

I have always been different. Ridiculed and bullied from the day I set foot in kindergarten.

I have always been different. Ridiculed and bullied from the day I set foot in kindergarten.

In the first days after the attack, some media outlets tried to suppress the fact that this was an attack on the gays (or – alternatively – that we got what we deserved), but an attack on all of America. But this was an attack on LGBT America, not straight America. It was after all at a gay club that all those innocent people were slaughtered. Had the attacker been after all of America, there would’ve been much (!) bigger and more ‘suitable’ targets in Orlando, e.g. the many amusement parks. If people think they make the LGBT community feel better by making this about ‘all of us’, if they want to partake in our pain, then please go ahead, but don’t fool yourself: this isn’t about everybody. Columbine, Denver or 9/11 were ‘all inclusive’ slaughter, indiscriminate shootings against all people, LGBT or otherwise. San Bernardino is another sad example, where muslims, Christians, gays and straight Californians were victims of a vicious attack.

Orlando was about us, my Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans and Queer siblings, the families, loved ones and friends of those we lost or who were wounded. This was a homophobic attack, for once not by WASPs killing a single gay man like Matthew Shepard (et al.), but at the hands of a man, for once a muslim, born and raised in the U.S. Does that make you feel uncomfortable? Imagine how all the innocent muslims feel at the misplaced rage aimed at them? We can’t let that happen. As minorities, we can’t afford to hate each other. Love must prevail.

And no, we don’t make this about us in some vain masochistic pursuit, because we ‘enjoy’ being victimized. We do so because we need people to understand, even our allies, friends and families, just how vulnerable we are, still, twelve months after Obergefell vs Hodges (aka marriage equality in the U.S.). Because although my American siblings can get married, they still face this, every day, across much of the country:

  • getting fired for being LGBT
  • being refused service (hotel, restaurants, shops etc.) for being LGBT
  • being refused medical care (!) for being LGBT
  • all those “bathroom laws” that deny our trans siblings to use the right bathroom
  • children can be forced to undergo bogus ‘conversion’ therapy
  • parents can toss their children on the street for being LGBT without repercussions
  • you can be discriminated against in many other shapes or forms (apartments, jobs etc) for being LGBT
  • and you risk your very life, as it seems, simply for being LGBT, every day, anywhere in the United States (and, sadly around the world)

Imagine all of this happening to you? How would you feel?

MIGN7363When I spoke to a crowd at an LGBT writers convention in Berlin just last Saturday about the fact that LGBT lives are at risk, every day, everywhere, I earned some rather incredulous stares. Eighteen hours later I felt a lot like Cassandra. By trying to denounce the LGBT connection, homophobes belittle us, they try to make us invisible, just as the thousands and thousands of gay men (and others, e.g. Jehovas Witnesses) killed by the Nazis were made invisible for decades after the war, simply because the victors didn’t care about them any more than the Germans had. We don’t relish being in this situation. We hurt, our hearts are broken, and denying that this was a hate crime only makes the pain worse. However, we are all very grateful for all the sympathy and show of love we’ve received from our friends and allies, including President Obama. We greatly appreciate all of the sympathy from the straight community.

Why attack the gays?

We may never know the complete picture of what drove the attacker to do what he did. Pieces of the puzzle are emerging every day, and while they might seem to fit for a while, other pieces might be conflicting. In all honesty, we really don’t know. Was he secretly gay? Like Putin, all those Catholic priests or GOP politicians who can’t seem to stop lashing out at our community, afraid of being outed if they didn’t behave totally ‘straight’, until the day they’re caught with their pants down and their lips around a yummy cock, or better, one up their asses. Who knows, that might fit the picture. Most likely, we’ll never know for sure. Maybe he was bisexual. It’s all connected though. If the people above didn’t have to ‘hide’ who they were, they’d be able to live their lives to their full potential, without all the vile bile coming from their every word and without having to lash out at the people they’re so much alike it scares them so badly. People are discriminated against because of homophobes, and homophobes are, after all, the children of heteronormativity. It’s a vicious, self-replicating, circle.

I’ve had a miserable week. And the only comfort I’ve drawn is from the fact that all of a sudden, out of the blue, the GOP, the Christian right and other homophobes have found themselves on the same side as ISIL and other Islamists they so terribly hate. And maybe that is another piece to the puzzle? Maybe that is why the attacker chose an LGBT club instead of Disney World? The old adage “your enemy is my enemy” suddenly seems so warped. Which is maybe why some so desperately try to deny the ‘gay connection’… They’re obviously afraid that people start to connect the dots:

ISIL is bad. ISIL hates & kills gays. I hate gays. I am ….

Of course there was more than one politically incorrect tweet out of that corner thanking the ‘terrorist’ for finally having chosen a ‘proper’ target, i.e. people who deserved it, or in plain English the ‘fags’ and ‘dykes’ and ‘trannies’ (and their friends) who were shot or killed. What worries me more is the opposite, that the attack was purposely carried out against a minority, to sow dissent in our society, because you could also argue: I am good, I hate gays, ISIL kills gays, therefore ISIL can’t be that bad. That, in my view, is a much more dangerous development, and I’ve seen more than one tweet or comment to that effect. If this continues, it would certainly be problematic, and there are plenty of minorities to focus on: refugees, illegal immigrants, etc.

A comment on my post on Monday showed outrage at the shooter’s father explaining his son’s action with having witnessed ‘two men openly kissing in Miami in front of his 3-year old son’.

One gay kiss = 49 dead, dozens wounded. The price of homophobic discomfort. Ka-Ching!

At the age of twenty, doing my military service, I was out, at least to my parents. But I had to promise them not to tell my grandparents. Grandma knew anyway. And she was one of the first ones to accept me for who I 'really' was...

At the age of twenty, doing my military service, I was out, at least to my parents. But I had to promise them not to tell my grandparents. Grandma knew anyway. And she was one of the first ones to accept me for who I ‘really’ was…

Yes, to call that conclusion outrageous is right. But calling that father’s explanation ‘despicable and absurd’? It’s quite possibly pretty close to the truth, and no, if you think that just because you’re born in the U.S. you’re immune to homophobia, I have a few names for you to consider: aforementioned Kevin Swanson, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal and Mike Huckabee to name but a select few. Born in America, (all?) five would gladly see gays be put to death or at least rounded up in concentration camps. No, not a joke, unfortunately. We can’t deny that homophobia, very much like racism, still is an integral part of American (and foreign) society. Only by facing that uncomfortable truth will we be able to do something about it.

Internalizing other people’s homophobia

I’ll be fifty years old next year, and for all those years, I’ve been doing my utmost to make heteros around me feel comfortable, or at least to minimize the discomfort my sexuality causes them. When I came out, my parents implored me to ‘take it slow’, to ‘not provoke them’, to ‘give them time’ and e.g. not kiss my boyfriend in their house, all the while my brother and his girlfriend sucked on each others faces whenever, wherever, until the day they broke up. Did I mention that my parents paid for my brother’s wedding (and divorce) but barely even attended mine? I have completely and utterly internalized my fear to ostracize anyone. For as open as I may appear, there are so many aspects of me that are adjusted to make sure the homophobes out there don’t feel discomfort. Lucky for me, my parents have slowly adjusted to who I really am. It’s only taken them thirty years, and there are still things that make my dad uncomfortable (mom’s dead), and I’m not just talking about my writing… E.g. some of my friends, just for starters…

When I was young and finally came out, I wanted to kiss my boyfriend of course, just like my het friends kissed their loved ones. Holding his hand seemed such a sweet and – oh so – innocent gesture. I was SO very happy, every time. But (afraid of) being attacked, harassed and ridiculed, I boxed those emotions, hid them neatly, in the very back of my mind, and I convinced myself that I really, really, didn’t like public displays of affection, that holding hands made my own hands warm and clammy, not feeling safe and loved, and that a peck or kiss in public was disgusting, not a simple show of how much you love your better half or how happy you are.

This couple, my bonus parents, opened their home and their hearts for me, when the mormons evicted me for being gay, and they simply shrugged. Unconditional love. I'll never forget that.

This couple, my bonus parents, opened their home and their hearts for me, when the Mormons evicted me for being gay, and they simply shrugged: unconditional love. I’ll never forget that.

I internalized all of this to the degree that I began to buy my own BS, hook, line and sinker. To this day, I have to push myself to give Alex (my husband!) the most innocent of pecks when one of us comes back from a trip and we pick each other up at the airport. He’s even more afraid than I am. I seriously doubt any straight person ever even ‘thinks’ about that when they kiss their partners.

I may be out and proud, but I’m also afraid, very much so. Every day, every time. Always a watchful eye, body on full alert, mindful of that one homophobe who feels threatened, who decides to lash out at you, with a sneer, verbally, or physically. Always a protective set of eyes on my son, afraid he may have to witness a comment about the absent mother or the two fathers. I’ve had bottles thrown at me, I’ve been beaten, I’ve been threatened to death on more than one occasion, just because of who I love. Picture yourself in that situation. Would that make you uncomfortable?

Every time I meet a straight person, and the need to ‘come out’ arises, I think twice: is it really worth telling this person that I’m gay? That I have a husband? A son? Or that I write ‘gay’ fiction? Or had I better avoid the subject to avoid that person discomfort? These situations come up almost every day, for over thirty years now. I’ve missed promotions, jobs and opportunities because of who I am, and I’m stared and frowned at more often than you care to imagine.

So here are a few choice words for you homophobes out there:

I’m done. For almost fifty years I’ve tried to please you, and you still come after me and shoot me and my kind. I’ve tried to hide in clubs where I thought I was safe, and you came after me and shot me, and now you tell me this isn’t about me? But about you? You know what? I’m done with this bull shit. And I won’t let you get away with it this time. Go ahead, elect the Trumps of this world to be your leaders, try to throw every last muslim out of the country, and the Latinos along with them (who btw. where the majority of the victims in Orlando, just FYI), but you don’t care, do you, because not only were they ‘fags’ and ‘dykes’, they were taking away your job and were probably illegal anyway. Go ahead, vote for Christian extremists to represent you in your councils, houses of representatives or senates, state or Federal, continue to deny us our civil rights and continue to kill us. There is little I can do about that. But there is one thing I CAN do, and that is to live my life to the fullest, to love whoever I choose to love, to love them to the full capacity of my heart and beyond. I will instill the values and virtues of unconditional love in my son. I will teach him to know right from wrong, to distinguish good from evil in people, not faiths, not cultures. I will love and love and love without apology. Until your guns and bullets silence me. I do not care any more. I’m done.

If my love is so terrifying that you must hate me, kill me, then so be it.

My family and I. I would've never expected this, but I feel proud of how far we've come.

The Hirschi family. I would’ve never expected this, but I feel proud of how far we’ve come. But our happiness isn’t guaranteed. Anywhere, not even here, in Sweden.

I read an article the other day from a Swedish pastor on the very Christian right (not all idiots are Americans, plenty of them elsewhere, too) who thinks that the LGBT community shouldn’t be so ‘visible’, so provocative, making hets feel uncomfortable. He said that we should be more demure, using the same shame tactics used on rape victims: ‘you brought this upon yourself’. Why not, victim-shaming has worked so well to oppress women for eons, why not use it on the LGBT community? But they won’t succeed with me. Not any more. I’m done limiting my life to keep others from feeling uncomfortable. Once and for all. No more apologies.

Hans M Hirschi
proud faggot

History, as important for me as a dad as it is as an author #MondayBlogs #amwriting #asmsg

History, as important for me as a dad as it is as an author #MondayBlogs #amwriting #asmsg

History, so much to learn from. Why don’t we embrace it sooner, ever?

I just came back from spending the weekend with my mother in law. It’s been “Mother’s Day” here in Sweden yesterday (why the world can’t unite around a single date for these things is above me…) and for the first time (long story), we decided to surprise her with a visit. Apart from the usual health and age related discussions, we had a really good weekend and my son loved to spend time at his grandma’s. More so, it was really interesting to see my husband and my son interact in the house where he’d grown up. On Saturday, they went downstairs to the old boy’s room to hunt for Legos, the famous brick that brings together generation after generation.

This, to me, is priceless! And important, one day, when I tell Sascha about this crib and its significance for our family history. And I wonder who the next Hirschi will be to sleep in it?

This, to me, is priceless! And important, one day, when I tell Sascha about this crib and its significance for our family history. And I wonder who the next Hirschi will be to sleep in it?

I remember traveling back to Switzerland with Sascha a few months after he’d been born, in July of 2013, after he’d gotten his real passport and we’d gotten custody and we could finally travel (long story, see Dads for details) together. My dad (the “granddad”) had prepared our old crib, the one that he’d built himself for me and my brother, and Sascha spent his first two visits to Switzerland sleeping in my old crib before moving over to the baby bed. These days he sleeps in a regular bed, just like at home. I remember the pride I felt at laying down that little baby into a piece of furniture that had once been my and my brother’s bed, too, built by my own father. It felt important to pass that on. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is that made it so important, but it was.

Watching my husband and Sascha bond over his old Lego bricks was much the same, and seeing the look on his face as his son was playing with the same toys that he’d once played with some thirty plus years ago? Priceless! I never understood the value of roots, of history when I was younger. When your focus is so much forward facing, looking back seems irrelevant. I understand, and I can’t say I blame my younger self, as little as I can blame today’s youth for doing the same.

Yet at the same time, I see the risks of a history lost. I see how we today have no clue anymore as to what war means, and I don’t talk about the sort of war the U.S. have been waging constantly since pretty much World War II, somewhere, against someone. Yes, there are thousands of victims to deplore, American lives and families devastated. I don’t with to diminish that. But the “real” experience of war is when it’s fought in your back yard, on your front porch! When the bombs fall on your roof, the sirens wake you from your sleep, when you have to leave your home head over heels to survive. That is the real experience of war. The west has not suffered that in a very, very long time. I’m getting old, I know, because I remember my grandparent’s stories from their active duty in World War II, I remember them telling me about their parent’s suffering during the first one. I remember my parents telling me about the hardships of growing up during and after the war, the famines, the hard labor. How many of today Gen XYZ can say the same?

Sascha and the discoveries (a fraction) from his pappa's old bedroom

Sascha and the discoveries (a fraction) from his Pappa’s old bedroom

We see memories of the holocaust fading, we see those sites being desecrated, the facts questioned because there are not enough voices left to tell the stories. And the stories are being questioned, ridiculed, second-guessed: “was it really that bad?” “Six million people? Seems exaggerated.” “Gays slaughtered? Unimaginable, you have marriage equality…”

As a parent, I belong to the middle generation. I am the link between the history (my forbearers) and the future (my son). It is my duty to make sure that the history is passed on, and that my son learns, that he hears the stories I was told when I was little. We mustn’t forget, ever. And no, this isn’t about vendettas and revenge, about not forgiving or forgetting. Quite the contrary. History also teaches us that lesson. I’m proud to have my son being so close to both his surviving grandparents, and that both Alex and I believe in learning from the past and passing the torch forward.

In a way, as a writer I do much the same, albeit with the added perspective of fiction and entertainment. All the stories I tell grow on the fertile soil laid out by the generations before me, the people from whom I’ve learned everything I know, and everything I hold dear. That, too, deserves to be remembered on days like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day…

Have a wonderful week.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

PS: I’m beginning a new chapter in my life today, coming out of “corporate life retirement”, and starting to work from nine to five again, in an office. It’s a step I’ve been equally dreading and looking forward to, and now it’s finally here. It’s a smooth and casual start and I don’t know where it’ll take me, and I have no idea how long I’ll be able to keep up my “full time authoring” and the “full time job”, so I’m taking it one day at a time. Thank you for your understanding.

Kirsty Vizard, valiant mother of two, avid reader and blogger #amreading #lgbt #asmsg

Kirsty Vizard, valiant mother of two, avid reader and blogger #amreading #lgbt #asmsg

Kirsty Vizard is a courageous fighter in the true spirit of the word

Welcome Friday, welcome Kirsty Vizard to the “hot seat” and another reader interview. God I love doing these… And, as you’ll see, Kirsty isn’t just anyone. This is a woman I’ve come to admire and respect greatly, for her honesty, her openness and courage! So, without further a due, let’s meet this young lady from Torquay in England:

If to do this interview in the real world, where would we sit and talk?

Now which one is your house Kristy Vizard? I certainly wouldn't mind visiting Torquay... Photo: Powerek38 / Wikimedia Commons

Now which one is your house Kirsty Vizard? I certainly wouldn’t mind visiting Torquay… Photo: Powerek38 / Wikimedia Commons

My house ☺ My goodness that makes me sound really boring! I am just a real homebody and have learned, over the years, to embrace the fact that I’m an introvert. I love nothing more than sitting on my sofa with a cup of coffee and my kindle, or snuggling up to my two boys

Seems we’ve met, fleetingly, at last year’s UK LGBT Meet in Bristol, but I can’t remember much. Alcohol has that effect on me. Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I could say I’m the female equivalent of James Bond, just to make myself sound more interesting, but after my answer to question 1 I don’t think anyone would believe me anyway ☺

Meet Kristy Vizard, prior to being spit-roasted it seems... :)

Meet Kirsty Vizard, prior to being spit-roasted it seems… 🙂

I’m (nearly) 39 and a mum of two boys, one of whom is Autistic and the other a huge football fan. I have an English degree and an NVQ3 in Early Years Education. For the past year I have worked alongside a small number of authors as a PA and I’ve really enjoyed it. I also find time to blog and review for Joyfully Jay and GGR Review.

What is one thing you would like the world to remember you for?

Being a good mum. It isn’t easy and I struggle like anyone else but there is nothing more important in the world to me than my children. Having a child with special needs makes you a fighter, to ensure that they receive everything they are entitled to; educationally, medically, emotionally, socially and I have definitely learnt how to make myself heard. I would like people to remember me for always being there for my boys.

Given you attendance at a reader/writer convention, I understand you’re an avid reader. What got you into reading in the first place?

I have been a reader for as long as I can remember. I went from Roger Red Hat (from aged 4/5) to anything I could get my hands on; Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew, Judy Blume, CS Lewis. My bookshelves have always been full, even now with no room left on my kindle! I always loved the freedom of holding a book and knowing I could disappear and enter different worlds and pretend to be someone else. When I was 11 I had a serious accident and needed to be taught to read and write again. [I am so sorry to hear about that, but I’m glad you recovered!] Not being able to hold a book was painful so a member of my family would visit the hospital every evening to read to me.

Torquay, Kristy Vizard's home town is a beautiful place for sure. Photo: Ianmacm / Wikimedia Commons.

Torquay, Kirsty Vizard’s home town is a beautiful place for sure. Photo: Ianmacm / Wikimedia Commons.

You like to read gay fiction. As a woman, what attracts you in gay fiction?

What’s not to like about the idea of not just one man . . .but two (or even 3)?? I used to read a huge amount of New Adult M/F romances and became very jaded by the genre and the repetition. Gay fiction offered me something new and there really are some wonderful authors, who I feel a lot of readers are missing out on because they don’t like the idea. I think that is really narrow-minded, surely if you enjoy romances it doesn’t matter about the character’s sexuality??

Is there a (sub-)genre that makes your heart skip a beat?

I have to admit I’m a huge fan of paranormal fiction… vampires, shape-shifters, warlocks… I love it all!

For some odd reason you end up on a remote island, a modern day Robinson Crusoe, with only three books to bring along as company. Which ones would you bring along as your literary Fridays?

Venezia, the place that Kristy Vizard would love to revisit, truly is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Photo: Private

Venezia, the place that Kirsty Vizard would love to revisit, truly is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Photo: Private

That’s like asking me which of my children I would take! [That would be easy, since you only have two!] I really have to choose 3? The Hobbit has been one of my favourites since childhood so that would have to be one and there are so many elements to that story that I don’t think I would ever be bored. I first read To Kill a Mockingbird in my first year at secondary school (Year 7) and I was immediately touched by the story and the characters and I think I was irrevocably changed, so yes, that would be another.

 

The third is harder, there are so many classics that I still haven’t read, but really Jane Eyre would be my last choice. I studied the book during my first year at university and have probably read it 6/7 times, but Jane is such an inspiring character. I even have a tattoo which is a quote from the book “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me’”

If you could travel to any point in time, where would you go and what would you do?

I’d go back to any point in which both my grandparents were alive just to make sure I said “I love you” and give them a huge hug.

If, for some reason, you woke up in a world without books, what would you do to pass your free time?

Listen to music, watch Game of Thrones, Sons of Anarchy or Shadowhunters ☺

What is the worst advice you’ve ever been given?

To “get on with it”. Sometimes that just isn’t possible and I’ve learnt how important self-care is. There needs to be more education and understanding about invisible illnesses and how difficult life can truly be for those suffering.

Do you have a credo you live by? Something you try to follow without exception?

I can remember being at university and reading Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”. As someone who suffers from depression I have always struggled with my own self-worth and self-image and put pressure on myself to be someone other people will want to love. As soon as I read the poem I immediately connected with the words and Emerson’s honesty. I have the poem next to my desk at home and at dark times it really helps me through.

My life is not an apology, but a life.
It is for itself and not for a spectacle

To be great is to be misunderstood
I must be myself, I cannot break myself any longer for you
If you can love me for what I am we shall be the happier
Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

So, Kristy, what about an espresso on Piazza San Marco. Join me? Photo: private

So, Kirsty Vizard, what about an espresso on Piazza San Marco. Join me? Photo: private

What is the most beautiful place you’ve ever been to?

Venice. I didn’t look forward to going at all but was totally blown away by the architecture, art, scenery, food and people. I would love to go back one day.

Do you have any regrets in life?

I will always regret not doing my Masters degree in English . . . .but then I went into early years childcare and had some wonderful experiences so I count myself as being lucky.

Quick fire five: Answer only with one word/name OR a number.

  1. On average, how many books do you read per week? 5/6
  2. What’s your favorite film? Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet
  3. Your favorite food? Coffee. That’s a food right?
  4. Your favorite musical artist? 30 Seconds to Mars
  5. What would you never drink, not even try? My own wee. I’ve seen Bear Grylls do it but YUK!

Thank you so much for your honest and frank responses Kirsty. See, my dear readers out there, Kirsty is just like you, or you’re just like her, whether it’s parenting, or our struggles in life or what not. Kirsty Vizard is a very brave woman to be so open about herself, and I applaud her for it. We all need to be more open about mental health and out struggles. It helps beat the stigma still associated with e.g. depression, an illness that is so common among us. So thanks again for volunteering to share with us. As a thanks, the book you’ve chosen, Jonathan’s Hope, is on its way to you, and here is the question you wanted me to answer: “If you could have a dinner party with any three literary characters who would they be?”

More Venice for Kirsty. A  gondola ride on the Canale Grande maybe?

More Venice for Kirsty. A gondola ride on the Canale Grande maybe?

Now here’s a challenging one. Naturally, I’d love to have a party with any of my own characters, but sadly, I’d never be able to pick just three of them (why couldn’t they have asked this question after my first two novels.?) So I’ll have to go with other characters from other books, which doesn’t make this any easier. Not the least. But I think I’d have Frankenstein’s monster at that table. I’d like to hear more about what it must be like to cheat death.

Now I’d love to meet the ancient Greek characters from the Iliad or the Trojan War, but they are actually real live people, so that’s a no go. But why not an ancient Greek God? We all know they are all fiction. So I’d sit down with Apollo, and find out if Zeus was a grumpy a Dad and head honcho as everyone claims and what the postal service was like back then (given how badly it sucks these days). Finally, I’ll have Adonis at my table, the most beautiful of all creatures ever. We all need some beauty at a dinner table, and I won’t be able to contribute much (any more). Now this is a difficult question for sure and one i could answer in any number of varieties (lots of dinner parties). Thanks Kirsty for asking me. Interesting mind exercise. 🙂

I hope you had some fun answering my questions Kirsty Vizard. And I hope readers enjoy this, too! 🙂 If you’re interested in doing one of these, let me know. I’m always looking for interesting readers.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers. You’re more than welcome to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Have a great week,

Hans

And time kept flying… #MondayBlogs #amwriting #asmsg

And time kept flying… #MondayBlogs #amwriting #asmsg

Time is as elusive as ever

Let’s talk about time. I still remember some of my childhood days, this feeling of seemingly never-ending, dull, school days. We’d sit there, hour after hour, in our class room, the desks in a large u-shape along the walls. Back then, and even later, in high school, sometimes a day felt like a week.

A visit by Saint Nick has always been scary for kids. I shouldn't judge my son too harshly... I was scared to, as this image shows.

A visit by Saint Nick has always been scary for kids. I shouldn’t judge my son too harshly… I was scared to, as this image shows. Back then, Saint Nick was often dressed in black, not the bishop (white) but we were visited by one of his helpers… Didn’t help with the fear though. Photo: Private

I grew up in Switzerland, and we went home for lunch, every day. Often, our lessons would end at noon and (at least in high school) continue at one pm. Thankfully, my dad would pick us up and drive us home, or our lunch hour would’ve been a short one, as my walk home, crawling up the hill side where our house is, was taking longer than running back down again. But the 65′ afforded to lunch were still never enough. It was the fastest hour of my day.

These days, time seems to be lapsing faster, for every year. Is it really already December 7? Did we really just have St. Nikolaus last night? Two years ago, we had rushed to Switzerland, after my mom’s unexpected passing. I can’t believe it’s been two years already, yet sometimes, when I think back, it seems that memory is at least a decade old, but it can’t be, because Sascha was there, nine months old, rolling (he hadn’t learned how to crawl properly) around the benches in the restaurant where we had the get-together after the funeral.

This weekend was one of the many “super-busy” holiday weekends. My mother-in-law turned seventy last week, and we drove up to her to surprise her with the traditional Swedish Christmas smorgasbord. It’s a good three hour drive from here and yesterday we went to see her at her house, and helped her with some things around the house before heading home again, which turned into a four hour drive since hubby missed an exit somewhere. We got home at seven pm, just in time to whip up a super quick dinner, unpack, get laundry going and wait the arrival of Santa Claus (or St. Nikolaus to be exact.) Sascha got scared when he saw the red-dressed man at the door, with his white hair and big white beard. To the wind with all the promises of a song for Santa, he was super scared and crying in his pappa’s arms. Though not scared enough to accept the presents and the goodies that Santa had brought for him…

When the gifts were handed out, fear subsided.

When the gifts were handed out, fear subsided. Screenshot: from private video

After Santa’s visit (which I missed, of course, as always) it was time for Sascha’s bath and off to bed. Alex and I collapsed on the couch, winding down after this super busy weekend and wondered where time had gone. I once formulated a hero that mother nature knew how modern humans would organize elder care, so she made sure that time would pass faster and faster as we progress through life so that by the time we were old, those last years suffering in elderly homes would seem like a vacation.

I don’t know, but even though we have the same amount of hours, minutes and seconds in each day we greet in the morning, it just seems as if someone is withholding more and more of them, each passing day. Just last week I was telling Sascha about the countdown to the visit to his grandma, and now that’s in the past. Now we begin the countdown to our Christmas vacation which starts late on the 18th. I betcha, that time’s just going to fly by!

What’s up for me this week? Well, writing I hope. I’m about 25K into Jonathan’s Legacy, and I really would like to finish the rough draft before the holidays, i.e. before next Friday. Other than that, this week we have an interview scheduled with Debbie McGowan and tomorrow we visit a surprise destination (simply because I don’t know where to go yet, in all honesty), but don’t miss that… Hopefully I’ll be able to line up another reader interview by Friday, because I really enjoyed the one with Pam, but that you really never know… Readers are, if possible, even more shy than us authors.

Today, I will most likely not have time to write, because of all the chores around the house, but then again, never say never… Whatever is on your calendar today, have a great day and make it a good week!

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers. You’re more than welcome to interact with me on TwitterFacebookPinterestYouTubeGoogle+, and/or Instagram.

Hans

Learning: the question is never if, but what? #amwriting #amreading #asmsg

Learning: the question is never if, but what? #amwriting #amreading #asmsg

Learning: from birth to death, but what?

Sometimes, even authors are reminded of their previous lives… I had an interesting conversation with a museum director the other day, prompted by a call from a friend of mine. Apparently, this particular museum is looking for help in the pedagogical sector to improve their offering to the public, be it schools or adult visitors. I spent a pleasant half hour on the phone with this very nice lady, and at some point we got to talk about learning and how they work today, and what they plan on doing in the future. I won’t divulge any of that here, for confidentiality reasons.

We always learn, the question is what, and how. What we learn from petting fish remains a mystery to me... Photo: DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

We always learn, the question is what, and how. What we learn from petting fish remains a mystery to me… Photo: DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

What I took away from the conversation though is this, and this isn’t a comment on this museum in particular, but for all learning, wherever it may be offered:

We always learn, from our conception to our death, all the time.

We can’t help it, it’s what we are, it’s how we survive, how we evolve. The question therefore is never if we learn, but what? And as a follow-up to that how? Pedagogy, as a science is very much interested in the how we learn, and there is plenty of research into that. More interesting is the question of what, and I’ve often found that it is left aside in research, simply because of a faulty premise: we learn what we are there to learn.

To exemplify, if you’re in a mathematics class, you learn mathematics. That may be true, but it doesn’t have to be. We may instead learn that the room where the lesson takes place is badly insulated against street noise, or that the teacher smells badly and has dandruff, a lesson I learnt in seventh grade and remember more vividly than anything else he ever taught us… having to do with the fact that our olfactory sense leads to very strong synaptic connections in our brains.

Another example I used in the call the other day were petting tanks in so many aquariums around the world, where kids can pet small ray-fish. I’ve yet to understand the purpose of such tanks, except for the “thrill” of the experience. But what are kids to learn?

  • To feel sorry for the fish in the tiny shallow tanks?
  • That the fish are rough/smooth to the touch (I’ve never done it myself)
  • Or do the owners of such aquariums hope to instill a sense of empathy in the children after having touched the animals?

I don’t know, but I’ve seen many museum exhibits where the “thrill” was more about effects than learning. And when I say learning I mean learning about the subject the museum is about.

It’s not a big secret that we learn differently, that different humans have various learning styles (watch, read, do, listen) and that we learn most efficiently when we are solving problems. Not just any problem of course, but problems that are relevant to our lives. Which is probably why we all remember the example from math class about the two trains departing two stations at the same time at different speeds. Right? Remember that? What did you learn from that example? Yeah, mathematics teachers fail miserably at making math relevant. Because unless you work for the railway authority, who gives a shit?

Naturally, there are many more, and highly complex issues to consider, things like the emotional impact etc. And we mustn’t forget that not all methods will work equally for everybody. I don’t work as a learning consultant very often any more. I’m busy enough writing my books, telling my stories. “Storytelling is an ancient craft”, I can literally hear my own voice from a promotional video I did a couple of years ago, and it still rings true, because it is one of the oldest teaching techniques out there. Kids learn long before they’re being taught, but once they are taught, stories were often used as a technique.

Here's my son, learning by doing. He wanted to get to a book he couldn't reach, so he had to solve that particular problem, which involved several smaller problems to solve along the way, including me "teaching" him how to drag the chair across the threshold to his room. He solved the problem, of course.

Here’s my son, learning by doing. He wanted to get to a book he couldn’t reach, so he had to solve that particular problem, which involved several smaller problems to solve along the way, including me “teaching” him how to drag the chair across the threshold to his room. He solved the problem, of course.

My son is a real doer, he will try many different approaches to solve the problems he’s faced with, often without fear (a lesson he’s yet to learn), leaving me sweating in fear for him… He’ll use different tools trying to achieve the goal, or, when he has no patience, ask us to do it (he’s smart, I’ll tell you. Letting an “expert” do the work for you is a lesson more of us should listen to…), and once he’s learned, he’ll repeat and repeat (which is why we get the honor of reading the same book, over and over.

He knows instinctively that this is good for him, that he’ll learn new words better if he hears them over and over again, in a setting that is relevant, and stories are usually using words in relevant settings. Right now he’s obsessed with a book about life at the airport, different vehicles, check-in, security, luggage handling, pilots, flight attendants, landing etc. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve read this book to him. My son thinks it’s highly relevant, as we often travel, and he realizes the need to know this, out of curiosity (a great motivator!) and maybe because he has this innate need to understand things around him, another motivating factor.

Children are highly motivated learners, at least until they reach school and quickly learn that sitting still is the most important lesson, or how they can get out of a boring lesson by being disruptive. We’ve all been there…

I learn a lot from watching my son learn, just observing his games. As an author, I love stories, and telling stories, but my audience aren’t children. They’re adults, and as a writer I’m walking a very fine line between teaching and entertaining, between telling and letting people learn on their own. Readers are a particular breed of learners, the smallest group, highly theoretical minds, and they want to do things their way. I get that, which is why I’m very careful in how I present my lessons.

Yes, I try to teach with my books, and only my readers will know if I’ve achieved my goal. I’m also a learner, learning by teaching, a method that’s always worked well for me, it’s how I digest difficult topics, letting them swivel around my mind, simmer and stew before I put the words down on paper. One could argue that I learn the most from the experience…

How do you like to learn? Are you usually aware when and what you learn?

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers. You’re more than welcome to interact with me on TwitterFacebookPinterestYouTubeGoogle+, and/or Instagram.

Have a great day. Hopefully I’ll have had a chance to read a book by next week! :)

Hans

PS: I have a new story coming out early next year: Ross Deere – Handy Man. Have a look here.