Monday, 29 November 2010

4-3 Days of Thanks

4: Markets
We have been doing Christmas shopping for at least a month now, if not a bit longer.  In the last few years we have missed birthdays and major gift-giving holidays due to the postal service.  We have to be very forward thinking about gifts.  We have started to buy gifts whenever we see something someone would like and just put them away until it is time to go to the post office.  This has relieved gift-giving stress, particularly this year. 
We tend to like to buy gifts from our travels or local markets in London.  In the last two years all of our holidays have been wedding and family oriented so they haven’t offered up any gift opportunities.  So we have become regulars at our local market at Greenwich and have found some great gifts.  The fact that they come from artists nearby our home makes them even better, especially if we have already enjoyed products by these same artists. 
We are regulars at one shop in particular and because of that we were invited to an Open Studio day at a collective of artist studios.  Looks like Christmas shopping is one step closer to being done on time for the postal system. 

3: Harry Potter (or the inclusion of magic in life)
I was late to the Harry Potter bandwagon.  When it first came out I was all, ‘Tolkien is all the fantasy I need.  A boy wizard could never be better.’  I am now a full-fledged Potter fan and a bit of an encyclopedia of random Potter trivia.  I have read the books about five times each, the last three six times (one extra in time for the movies).  I first watched Harry Potter (the second movie) in Croatia when I went to visit Pete for the first time after Africa.  I still wasn’t sold.  I started reading the books the first time I went to New Zealand about a year and a half after that.  Pete had all the current books in his old room.  I was bored and had nothing to do.  I picked up the first one.  A week and a half later I was done with books 1-5.  Before we left to come home we bought ‘Half-blood Prince.’ I tried to read this one more slowly.  At the end I couldn’t put it down and stayed up until 4am the night before a supervision meeting reading the apparent betrayal of Snape.  I couldn’t believe it.
We pre-ordered the final book and took it in turns to read each chapter.  I was ahead of Pete and it was next to impossible to not tell him what was going to happen. 
On Sunday we went to the first half of the last movie.  We were very excited.  For the 2 hours of the movie we were excited.  And then it ended and I felt cheated.  I know they are just drawing out the profits by splitting the last movie, but don’t give me the line that there is just too much information to fit into one movie.  I sat through 4 hours of ‘Return of the King’ I can sit through four hours of ‘Deathly Hallows.’ Don’t give me the line that the movies are for young kids and therefore need to be average length.  The last few have been rated 12 and over.   The majority of the audience is adults that have left their kids home with babysitters. 
Despite the money-making motives of the films, what J.K.Rowling has done is incredible.  Not only has she reintroduced reading to at least two generations that were almost all but lost to TV and Video games, but she also introduced magic into the lives of adults that thought they were too old to believe anymore.  This is the greatest feat.  Adults should never lose the magic they believed in as children.  My parents never did and that is one of the best things they gave me as a child. 
Today I am thankful for Harry Potter and magic and adults that keep that magic and make-believe alive.

Friday, 26 November 2010

5 Days of Thanks

5:  A good clean-out
I have begun the process of cleaning out the house of extra stuff we just don’t need or use.  I want it done before we begin the Christmas process.  It is surprising how much junk we hold onto.  We don’t like throwing things in the bin when they could be recycled or used up later or whatever.  This means that we have about a million empty plastic bags, hotel toiletries, and I have amassed an impressive collection of potions and creams that I am convinced I will use at some point, but inevitably have forgotten about since the last clean-out.  Today I bit the bullet and just started throwing things away.  I found a total of five empty shoe boxes under our bed and in the closet under the stairs.  What were we keeping those for? 
I got about half-way through the house today.  The worst of it is going to be going through my clothes and being ruthless.  If it doesn’t fit and I haven’t even attempted to wear it in the past year, gone.  My goal is to be able to fit winter and summer clothes in the dresser and wardrobe with room to spare so that I can get rid of the two huge suitcases that are useless because they are too heavy.  In order to meet the airline luggage weight restrictions you basically have to leave the suitcase empty.  In the past five years we have only used them as storage for out of season clothing or backpacking gear.  Gone.
The other reason for doing this, besides starting the year out free of useless stuff, is in an effort to keep our house a little less damp.  We have discovered that our flat has minimal, if any, insulation.  Once cold weather sets in, our external walls need to be wiped down at least once a day to keep the condensation from puddling on the floor.  The less stuff we have stuffed under the couch, dresser, bed, etc.  The more air will circulate and hopefully the less dampness.  That’s the theory anyway.

6 Days of Thanks

6: Thanksgiving
Today is our five month wedding anniversary and Thanksgiving (and my Aunt’s birthday and my the first day of my friend Hilary’s baby girl).  It’s just a wonderful day all around. 
There are a lot of things I don’t like about America.  But there are a lot of things I love and Thanksgiving is on the top of the list.  For all its faults, we have a national holiday set aside solely to say ‘Thanks.’  It causes stress, traffic jams, and kicks off one of the worst things about America (Black Friday), (in my opinion of course), but those hours with family saying what we are thankful for before enjoying a huge meal together not in front of the TV, but sitting together on tables pushed together in rooms too small.  We talk about our lives and our hopes and our plans. 
What a wonderful day.  It’s one of my favourites.  Here in the UK, I have to make Thanksgiving myself.  There is no build up, there are no paper turkeys, or harvest corn, no day off.  But this evening I hosted my first Thanksgiving dinner for my wonderful husband and our dearest friends here in the UK. 
Without the Macy’s Parade in the background it was hard to get into the mood.  So I found all the Thanksgiving episodes of ‘This American Life’ radio show and listened to those all day while I baked and prepped and cleaned.  If I hadn’t needed all the horizontal surfaces in our small kitchen I would have watched all the ‘Friends’ Thanksgiving episodes. 
It turned out great.  We had some cocktails and nibbles, a lovely dinner (with minimal left-overs packaged up for our guests), and three desserts. 
To make it even better, after dinner we skyped with my family just before their Thanksgiving feast. 
Today I give Thanks.

10-7 Days of Thanks

I am a bit behind.  I blame a hotel with limited internet and hotel limbo.

10: Holidays with the husband.  Even if it is only a day of wandering in a new neighbourhood. 
9: Trains and radio programs.  I long for a trip on one of those opulent long-distance trains with beautiful sleeping compartments and classy dining cars and smoky (in decor, not air) bar cars.  I spent my train journey listening to radio shows.  I love the radio medium.  It was such a comfort when I was on the circus.  My only connection to the word outside the lot. 
8: A great night of sleep. I might have already done this one, but it is so rare that when it happens I really am grateful and don’t want it to end. 
7: Family Tradition.  This is a big one to tack onto the end of a quick list, but on this day when I began the prep for my first Thanksgiving (beyond Pete and I) I am thinking of my family traditions and how I am adding them to our new family while changing them to fit our new life and new traditions.  I’m thinking of all those people travelling to distant families to say ‘Thanks’ and ‘I love you’ on this day, if not other day of the year.  It can be hard keeping up family traditions on our own, especially when we live in a country that isn’t our own.  But our adopted country (for now) is affecting our traditions in a way that will stay with our new family for years to come and be a continuing part of our family’s story.  I love this. 

Monday, 22 November 2010

11 Days of Thanks

11: crepes
When the sun is shining and you can sit in a little cafe on the square and people watch while munching on a crepe of Nutella and banana.  What a lovely lunch.  Surprisingly filling as well. 
Today we went out and explored a part of the city that we barely touched last time.  Montmartre.  We had a look around the ‘artists’ square and little shops.  We bought a quirky ceramic bowl at an artist’s shop down an alley. 
Then we decided to continue our failed search for the Rose Line.  Last time we were in Paris, I had just seen the DiVinci code and was obsessed with finding Paris’ version of the Prime Meridian.  We photographed many Copper lines in pavement and churches and once in a busy street.  None were the right one, but it just became a ‘thing’ to find every possible line.  On our return we read that the ‘real’ Rose Line was in the courtyard of the Palais Royal north of the Louvre.  We headed there this time determined to finish the search three years later.  No go.  The entire court yard was dug up and barricaded off.  Foiled again.
We decided to walk the distance through the park and Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe and then head back to the hotel.  However at that point I had to pee, yet again.  This is a forever problem for us when we head out for a day.  I always have to find some public toilet.  Usually terrifyingly filthy and requires quite a feat of balance to use without emerging with a cocktail of germs and wet pant legs.  The public toilet I found in the Jardin des Tulieries was the best public toilet I have ever used.  It didn’t cost anything, smelled of bleach, was clean and bright.  Just what I needed. 
I will probably won’t be so lucky again. 

12 Days of Thanks

12: room service
Not in this particular hotel, but in general I love, and am very thankful for, room service.  After a day of wandering a new, exciting city in the cold and rain.  It’s so great to be able to come back to the room, cuddle up in pajamas, put a movie on the lap top and order some comfort food to be eaten in bed. 
The food on offer here isn’t that appetising, but we have ordered enough room service that on Wednesday we were surprised by some gorgeous macaroons.  Lovely.
Some like to find an out of the way restaurant where all the ‘locals’ go for their evening meal and drink.  We do that frequently enough, but sometimes you just want to eat in your pajamas.  I feel like it adds to the luxury and decadence of staying in a hotel, even a mediocre business park hotel. 

13 Days of Thanks

13: ‘Stolen’ apples
After a night drinking with Pete’s bosses in the hotel bar and feeling rough this morning, I am incredibly thankful for the apples I have been systematically taking from the continental breakfast and fitness room.  I can’t face going down to breakfast.  I have a pounding headache (which probably won’t go away as I am going to miss my morning coffee and after 10am caffeine keeps me awake at night) and dodgy stomach and digestive system  (TMI, I know).  These 3 apples and the packet of crisps from yesterday will be perfect.   
I recall a plan to go to a club tonight at midnight.  That is definitely not happening.  I really do not enjoy drinking to excess anymore and my body takes it even harder.  I will eventually have to go and get some lunch.  Not looking forward to that.  The ladies at ‘Paul’ are not nice to non-French speakers regardless of my efforts.  Or at least they are not nice to me during the rush.  If I was asking for complicated service I could understand the frustration.  I’m just pointing to a pre-made sandwich or salad and handing over money.  Not even a coffee or drink.  Less time than the surrounding French business suits.  Oh well.  I still need my lunch. 
Here’s an unrelated tip: don’t have major life discussions while having cocktails.  At the end of the night, Pete and I began discussing when we were going to start having kids.  Not the right moment really.  And we didn’t cover any new ground either.  A waste of good drunken conversation which could have been spent making wildly optimistic travel plans.    

14 Days of Thanks

14: High School French
This one is a double-sided thanks.  It is extremely helpful for little things like ordering coffee and exchanges with hotel staff.  But when the little things are successful it can balloon and I have to ask for English and on at least two occasions has caused people to become very frustrated and upset with me for wasting their time. 
This is a different experience from our last trip.  On that occasion our remedial attempts were appreciated and people were (or at least seemed) happy to excuse our broken French and indulged our request for English conversation. 
We are located in a different part of the city and one that is not frequented by tourists.  However, we have heard English around this business park just as frequently as French.  So English speakers are about, but with the reactions I have been getting, I can only assume that they also speak French beyond four sketchy years of French class at Brookside High. 
Regardless, I am impressed with how much I do remember from those years.  It is not much, let’s be honest, and before we arrived I could barely remember how to say hello.  Little by little basics have returned.  It’s nice to know that it wasn’t completely lost.  Although it does remind me that I always wanted to be able to speak another language.  It is almost unfortunate to be born an English speaker in an English-speaking country.  There is no real drive to learn another language or the opportunity to use it regularly. 
I am glad I remember a bit of my high school French, but I continually kick myself for not taking Spanish in high school.  It would have been very useful for those five months with the circus and the Mexican crew. 
Hindsight is always 20/20.

15 Days of Thanks

To be honest, I am not using this trip to its full advantage and so have little to be grateful for on this particular day besides the usual of good health, ability to travel, etc. 
But here’s what I have been thinking about today and maybe it will lead to a bit of thanks.
This has something to do with what I call Hotel Limbo.  With the exception of the French TV, this could be any hotel room in any city.  I always feel this way about hotels (especially business park or conference hotels) they have a way of stripping away the excitement of a new city.  They then produce a feeling of ‘time off’ from life, a limbo that isn’t enticed by the surrounding business park.  By enticed, I mean I’m not enticed to go out and explore.  Nevermind that the Champs-Elysees is less than 5 minutes away on the RER train.  You would never know it to sit here.  Although, if you wander through the empty skyscrapers at night you can see the Arc de Triomphe in the distance. 
But this caused me to think about the way we were the last time we were in Paris.  We could hardly wait to get out there and explore.  It didn’t hurt that we spotted the Eiffel Tower out of our hotel room the first night.  We passed it each night on the way home and have a million photos of it.  We ran out of money quite early which limited our meals to crepes and fresh bread and our activities to wandering the streets.  We continually got slightly lost and so wandered hand in hand until we happened upon a street that was major enough to be on our map.  It was wonderful.  And it’s part of the reason I don’t want to go and wander alone.  I have someone to wander and wonder with, why go it alone?
This got me to thinking about our new little family and the people we have become together.  We have changed a bit being so dependent on each other.  It made me wonder how much we have changed since we met each other on our fabulously romantic African Adventure.  In the midst of Pete’s growing career and my schooling and now flailing career, I wonder if we have lost our sense of adventure for being more sensible.  It is inevitable I suppose as we get older, but we should still be able to be adventurous while we have the time, or when we have the time. 
This little trip was suppose to be a bit of a break for us.  A change of scenery and maybe a kick in the pants for us to gain back some of our adventurous and wondrous spark.  Other than the hotel room, it is pretty par for the course.  Pete is still working 11 hour days, I’m still writing and watching TV.  It is a bit of a pisser to have to go out to get a cup of tea or coffee as well as lunch and dinner.  As much as our nightly routine of making dinner and clearing up can be a chore at the end of the day.  We are missing our time together in the kitchen and the freedom to eat what we want, the way we want. 
So maybe that’s it today.  I am thankful for our domestic routine.  It takes being out of it to really appreciate the work we do to make our meals each night and the time spent together enjoying it and even the annoyance of the clear-up. 
This is something that I have been fighting with for a long time.  I am continually conflicted about how much I enjoy making our home and taking care of meals, house, etc.  I guess enjoy isn’t exactly right word, maybe it is more pride and contentment.  My mom loathes these activities and it always felt anti-feminist to take care and pride in keeping house.  But then I had a mom was forced to do these domestic tasks and forced to go to typing school because her mom thought she shouldn’t do anything else as a woman.  She ran from it, I have run to it a bit. 

Monday, 15 November 2010

16 Days of Thanks

16.  headtorch
I always bring the headtorch when travelling.  That and my Swiss Army knife.  Partly because I was a Girl Scout for 12 years and trained to be prepared and partly because I had a huge crush on MacGyver and his ability to fix anything with a Swiss Army knife and grey tape. 
Space was at a premium on this pack, so the headtorch was left out.  Seems ridiculous as it doesn’t take much room, but what’s done is done. 
I will never forget it again.  This morning the hotel lost power for about an hour.  With no lights in the hotel room, I was using the display on my phone to find my way to the toilet. 
Never again. 

17 Days of Thanks

17:  Pleasant Eurostar staff
This might be an odd one, but on this day (and my ridiculous stress levels lately) they were very helpful. 
As an update:  Pete was booked a seat by work.  At the time we purchased my ticket we didn’t know if he was in business class or steerage.  We guessed steerage based on teh price, so I booked a steerage seat, opting not to upgrade to business for an additional £15 (Hint: if the upgrade is £15, do it!!)  and was allocated a flip down seat as the train was over-full due to a French bank holiday. 
The next day we learned that Pete was in business class.  She we call and ask if I can upgrade my ticket.  “Only on the train, but shouldn’t be a problem as business class passengers routinely don’t show up.”  Excellent, however no word on the price.
We show up at St.Pancras and head to the ticket counter.  Still nothing available, prepare for the journey on a flip-down seat.  This is where the ridiculous stress level kicked in, I started crying.  I knew it was ridiculous, but I couldn’t stop it.  Again we were assured that business passengers won’t be showing up, it shouldn’t be a problem. 
At the carriage, it’s definitely a problem.  Nothing and “The upgrade cost is £150.”  This is something I never understand and why I have now vowed to upgrade at time of purchase whenever plausible.  Waiting until the day is not an option anymore.  (Plus I just never arrive at a travel terminal looking like someone that normally travels above steerage class).
 So Pete heads to his seat and I start the long walk to the end of the train and my flip down seat in the corridor. Crying starts again.  I stow my bag and take a seat that reminds me of being put out in the hall when you were naughty at school.  Something about the seat made me sit very primly waiting for a carriage manager to take pity and find me a seat.  I tried to look unbothered, but I don’t think I pulled it off. 
Eventually I was assigned a seat, heading backwards which means travel sickness, and surrounded by a family force-feeding their kids sugar (I assume as the five kids didn’t stop moving or yelling or play-fighting for the duration) and a trio of snorers. 
Then I get a text:  “I can’t come visit.  They are serving a meal and I can’t get out.”  Excellent.

In the end, the trip was fine.  Beautiful sunset as we pulled into Paris, actually.  I was in a funk the whole journey from Gare du Nord to the hotel.  But after some room service and a little BBC costume drama, I ended the day contently nested with Pete in a duvet and six pillows.  In Paris.  Lovely.

18 Days of Thanks

18.  Friday night dates
It doesn’t have to be legendary.  It can just be a nice walk with a cocktail and dessert at the other end.  But the Friday night date extends the weekend, especially when the two days are jam-packed with chores and errands. 
It also makes a good end to the week if it was hectic or hard or demoralizing.  Or a great celebration for a good week.  It’s only takes an hour or two to make the week disappear and get the weekend started 12 hours early.  It can make all the difference.
This weekend for us is a bit hectic.  We are headed to Paris on Sunday for a 10 day business trip.  Saturday is filled with packing, laundry, cleaning, a bit of shopping and hopefully a trip to the gym.  The last bit will probably be written off early. 
In the months since we got married, we have instituted a monthly date night on the anniversary of our wedding.  We try and schedule it for the Friday closest to the 25th.  This means not only a Friday night date but a seemingly long weekend.  These dates we try to make a bit more than just a wander and a dessert.  For the first, we went to an after-hours event at the Natural History Museum.  For the second, we hiked up to the Observatory and staged some photos at the Meridian for an upcoming Christmas card.  This month, we are having friends over for Thanksgiving Dinner.  This is one is a Thursday.  It’s my turn to plan, so I may add a Friday night date onto that one, if I have the energy after the dinner. 
Friday night date: £20
Time spent with spouse without TV, cleaning up, or chores: Priceless

19 Days of Thanks

19.  Gramma Rosa (gone but never forgotten)
She’s no longer with us, but she will never be gone.  She was a character so big and vibrant that no one playhouse or script or medical worker could contain her. 
She added so much colour to our family proceedings.  Bright, happy, golden colours and dark, tortured, shadowed colours.  I don’t know that anyone ever figured out what was going in Gramma’s head but I like to think of her as Mama Rose to the extreme.  She was an actress that never really made it beyond community theatre, but in her mind, she was a star and she had the stories to prove it.  She once told me she used to have cocktails with Danny Kaye.  At the time, I believed her.  And I still don’t know for sure if it was true or not, but it was in her mind and it proved, again in her mind, by association, that she had once been part of that glamorous golden age of stardom in either New York or Hollywood. 
I was lucky enough to have Gramma next door for a good part of my growing up.  She was a haven in a time of parental diet experimentation with Microbiotics and no TV to take your mind off the seaweed and bulgar wheat you had for dinner.  Gramma had chocolate donuts and cable TV. 
She would set her table three days before the party, Christmas gifts were out under the tree on the first of December which allowed for at least 24 days of shaking packages, much to her dismay and delight.  We danced to Rod Stewart in the kitchen and once caused Mom to race across the yard in panic when we performed the cymbal part of the Star-Spangled Banner with pot lids. 
Then there’s the time she convinced her church to go against building code and hold a candle-light midnight mass.  She made it on the local news.  Then there was the time she fingered a local disabled man as a murder suspect.  She made the local paper with the headline ‘Hooded Man Lurks.’ Then there was the time she used kitchen magnets to relieve pain after watching an infomercial.  She made it on the local news again. 
She may never had made it in New York or Hollywood, but she was a star in Lorain County.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

20 Days of Thanks (& Dad's birthday)

20.  my Dad
On today, my father’s 60th birthday, I want to write about why I am thankful for him.  As a person, as an artist, as a father. 
First, he is just plain awesome.  It may take a bit for you to realize this when you first meet him, he has no social filter when it comes to conversation (just another reason he is awesome), but once you are his friend and in his circle, that’s it.  You’re in. 
Unless you cause someone in the family harm, in any sense.  Then you’re out.  And that is another reason he is awesome.  To him family is everything.  He will move the earth for his family.  He will give up almost everything (and has) for his family. 
Let’s go back to that lack of filter.  It can be incredibly embarrassing (like when he met my future husband, a fairly serious catholic, for the first time and decided to relate a dream he had in which he systematically eliminated right-wing Christians in gruesome ways.  Pete isn’t a right-wing Christian by any means, but it rattled him and it took awhile for him to warm to Dad after that.) but it can also be hilarious and right on (like when he made a joke about ‘gestapo hostess’’ new husband during a rehearsal dinner that she didn’t catch).  Sometimes I envy this quality in my father.  I don’t always envy what  comes out of his mouth, but I envy his ability to just let it fly as soon as it comes into his head. 
Second, he is brilliant.  You wouldn’t know it to look at his working class, hard labour, slightly grizzled and dishevelled appearance (then again, maybe you would), but he is a quiet genius in writing social commentary in a very witty and entertaining and subtle ways.  He does this through scripts, screenplays and characters created for circus, theatre and radio.  But he also has the ability to write about the joys and magic of childhood in a very innocent and sweet way. 
I wish he would do this more often, but the arts didn’t pay the bills and it got too hard to raise a family (mom and I can be a handful) and produce scripts and shows on the side.  Perhaps now, as familial responsibilities lessen, he can go back to his filter-less creativity. 
Third, he is resourceful.  I once wrote a story about a family that built an entire house out of stuff the dad found on the side of the road.  This was completely inspired by my father and his habit of bringing home road detritus that might be useful in a set or around the house.  I distinctly remember a toilet sitting in our car port for over a year before it found itself in a set.  This wasn’t just dumpster diving, these were goods that had literally fallen off trucks.  He has tamed it down a bit, but he does have an array of bungee cords collecting on the framework of his work truck.  To be fair, he used every single thing he brought home. 
Fourth, he is thoughtful when it counts.  He can verbally battle and throw insults with the best of them but when it counts, he is incredible thoughtful and feels very deeply.  He lives in his head and his heart but hides it well. 
Fifth, he is fun.  My parents were fun parents.  They were my primary playmates and dad is always up for some fun.  Witness father’s day this past summer.  Pete’s family was in town the week before the wedding.  He created a regulation baseball field in the field behind our house complete with bases and foul lines and gathered bats and mitts from around the neighbourhood in order to give Pete’s family the opportunity to experience the great American past-time of baseball.  He didn’t stop there.  He got on the internet (very rare and usually painful for him) and ordered a cricket set as well so that he could try it out with someone that actually played. 
And finally Sixth, he’s my dad.  That is enough in itself.  Being the kid I was, I robbed him of a few key father-teen daughter moments that he had been patiently ready for but that never happened.  He never had to chase away a bad boyfriend or rescue me from a party gone wrong (although I think they might have picked me up from some sleepovers when I got too scared).  He did get to buy me my first car, an 84 blue chevette, and I’m pretty sure he drove from some distant corner of Ohio at top speed when it was totalled and I was in the hospital with a concussion and unable to walk.  He cheered me on through my entire ill-fated softball career, slowly dying each time I missed the ball (frequently).  He dressed in full wet-weather gear to watch me march in the band every Friday night and slowly died each time the Cardinals dropped the ball (frequently).  He moved me into and home from university for four years, into at least three apartments in three states and home again between at least two of those.  He even drove a futon to a friend’s house 120 miles away. 
Then there are the things that just we share.  We have political discussions, we both love Black Adder, we discuss books and movies, and then there was the moment that just we two shared.  The few moments before and during our walk down the aisle last June.  That was just for us and the moment he put my hand in Pete’s and shook Pete’s hand with joy, was second only to our vows as my favourite parts of the day. 
Dad, on your 60th birthday, I love you and am ever thankful for you. 

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

21 Days of Thanks

21. sleeping socks
I’m always chilly.  I used to make fun of my mom for always being cold.  Now I understand.  I’m always chilly. 
Ever since the circus I have kept thick socks by the bed for when my feet get too cold at night.  Sometimes they just won’t warm up.  Pete makes fun of my sleeping socks.  I don’t understand this.  If you have ever been in his parents’ house in winter, I can’t imagine he didn’t sleep in full-on snowboarding gear. 
I’m not big on wearing too many clothes to bed (don’t get too excited) I tend to get a bit tangled with too many layers.  However, my first few months on the circus, I was in full on mummy gear at bedtime.  A motorhome isn’t the warmest of places to live.  I did have central heating but I’m pretty sure most of it immediately moved outside despite the blankets hung over the windows (advice from circus veterans).  Also, while it was never necessary in my few months, there is always the chance that one might have to move one’s house in the middle of the night or be needed for some emergency.  Finally, 5:30 am is a cold time of day.  I was not willing to expose skin to the air in order to change into ‘day’ clothes.  On really cold mornings I drove in my PJs. 
On the coldest nights I wore PJ bottoms, thick socks, mukkulucks, tank top, long sleeve shirt, hoodie (with hood pulled up), and sometimes a wooly hat (with hood).  And of course, heavy duvet.  Nice and toasty. 
Pete has learned to love the sleeping socks, it could be worse. 

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

22 Days of Thanks

22. a great shower
Is there anything better than a good shower?  I don’t mean just the act of cleaning yourself under falling water.  I mean the actual space of the shower as well.  The water pressure, the tile, the layout, the temperature control. 
I had a friend in high school that rated places based on their ice.  That’s right, the quality of their ice.  I rate hotels, homes, etc. based on the quality of their shower.  The hotel we spent our first anniversary:  awesome.  Our upgraded suite in Greece:  would have been awesome if the controls weren’t so confusing and we didn’t have to stuff a towel under the glass door to avoid flooding the bathroom.  Shower in Fiji:  the space of the bathroom (partially outdoors, screened with foliage) made up for the low water pressure and fluctuating hot and cold water. 
Then there is the camp shower.  I don’t expect much from shower blocks while camping so an unexpectedly great shower at a campground in Africa might just be the best shower ever.  I do not, however, enjoy the camp shower when not camping.  This is necessary when living in a motorhome on the circus, but should never be necessary in a stationary home with running water and boiler.  I recently learned that my mother-in-law has been taking camp showers everyday (in her ensuite) for the past 20 years!!  She is a stronger woman than I. 
A good shower can make all the difference.  The cleaning act and the space.  Taking those few moments to yourself, thinking about the day to come or washing off the day that just past.  I find the shower a great place to think. About anything.
Some sing, I think.  Sometimes imagine.
On mornings I have somewhere to be, it’s a quick scrub while thinking about the day’s outfit, what to take out of the freezer for dinner, what to throw in the laundry, what is scheduled for the day.  On days when I’m self-directed (most days), it’s a longer exercise contemplating the future.  Immediate and long term.  Sometimes it’s positive and exciting thinking about possibilities, sometimes it starts a bit of a worry spiral. 
The space can direct the thinking as well.  Our last shower made me think of mould and the need to move.  Our current shower makes me think of travelling.  We have a shower curtain with a world map.  I think I convinced Pete this flat was our next home partially based on the shower/corner tub.  It makes a difference.  When we were searching for flats (both times) I check the water pressure in the bathroom and this time I insisted on a bathtub.  Pete doesn’t understand the enjoyment of a bath, and I don’t take them that often, but I need to have the option.  When we were living in Watford, in a flat with only a shower, whenever we stayed in a hotel I took a bath.  I missed having the option so I took advantage of every opportunity. 
When we finally get around to owning a bathroom, you can bet it will have the most awesome shower and be a space that invites imagination and directs positive and fun thinking while scrubbing. 

Monday, 8 November 2010

23 Days of Thanks

23.  A good night’s sleep
These are few and far between for me usually.  This past week I have had a few in a row.  It makes all the difference.  I am finally getting over this cold and have even made it to the gym a few times.  Regardless what happens the rest of the day, I slept through the night and that already starts the day on a high note.  Sometimes it is the highlight of the day, but at least it is a good start to the day. 
During the end stages of the thesis I wasn’t really sleeping at all.  I stopped all caffeine intake after 10am and was a regular gym-goer (the wedding was a big incentive) but Sleep still eluded me most nights.  I slept maybe two nights on our five week wedding tour (didn’t make for a happy camper on our last leg with Pete’s family.  Sorry about that.)
Sleep and I have a rocky relationship.  This past week has been a smooth ride.  Let’s see how long it lasts. 

Sunday, 7 November 2010

24 Days of Thanks

24.  15 Wellington Rd (Basement Flat)

This was our first home together.  We made an impromptu visit to Watford yesterday and took a stroll passed our old digs.  The flower box we installed on the gate is still in use and has been filled with new flowers.  The 'rock garden' in front is a bit weedy, but there is a suncatcher hanging on the brickwork arch by the door.  It appears the residents are enjoying and loving the little place.  It brought a few tears to my eyes.

We walked from the train station, passed our street, and down the High Street and Parade as if we had never left.  Not much has changed in the year we were gone.  The ducks are still in the pond and the pond looks a little clearer.  There are a few new shops, but only one or two empty storefronts. 

The mall is just as crowded on a Saturday, but we enjoyed visiting our old favorites and even got some shopping done. 

At the time, many thought we were a bit crazy to move out to a London suburb for our first years in town, but that little basement flat was a great first home (despite the increasing water and mould issues that eventually drove us out and south to Greenwich).  We established a lot of family traditions and routines in that little space and we will always be thankful for its 'character.' 

Saturday, 6 November 2010

25 Days of Thanks

25. Our Chiminea

We skipped the fireworks tonight but we had our own little bonfire on the back patio. 

We snuggled under a blanket, drank hot spiced apple cider and even caught the grande finale of the Blackheath fireworks in the distance. 

Very satisfactory.

Friday, 5 November 2010

26 Days of Thanks

I was having a really hard time thinking of what I’m thankful for today.  Specifically today.  I have been wracking my brain all day.  How horrible that five days in I can’t find a simple thing to be thankful for.  I was trying to pick each item based on each day.  But as I am not feeling productive on any day, it’s hard to be grateful for a day that is so disappointing.  I know I have no one to blame but myself on that note, but that isn’t helpful either. 
So while it is a blessing and a curse, I guess I am thankful for Pete’s job which allows me the luxury of not having to take just any job anywhere.  I am acutely aware that I am wasting this gift by not being productive and it is a daily battle for me.  I am also acutely aware that this cannot continue.  I battle myself each day and each day I win a little more productivity. 
However, I’m not sure what I am producing or want to produce.  This is part of the battle.  This is what this time is suppose to help me figure out.  I’ve been obsessed with talk radio lately and have sent out letters asking to volunteer at local stations as well as production companies.  I have followed up these letters.  Radio silence.  I don’t want to go back to school for training.  I’m done with school. 
But I’m still applying for academic roles, positions in cultural institutions, and media industry.  Many are long shots, many are not.  Nothing.  For the entry roles, I am too qualified.  For the senior roles, I am too inexperienced.  This is the first time our family has felt the effects of the ‘economic crisis’ and it sucks.  I can’t imagine how much it sucks for people with less financial security. 
Part of this exercise of being thankful each day was to also act thankful.  I am not acting thankful for this gift of time.  I need to win this battle.  I don’t know if I can do it alone.  I need reinforcements. 

Thursday, 4 November 2010

27 Days of Thanks

27.  Good Friends

I know you were waiting for the deep ones.  Here comes the first (by the way, the one that everyone is waiting for is obviously first on the list, which means near the end).  Anyway, today it is good friends.  I can count them on two hands.  Apparently (according to scientific studies) that is all you need, a few close, good friends.  Except my close friends are an ocean, or watery channel, away (with the exception of the one ).  Because they are so far away I forget that I can still reach out to them and they will always be there. 
I got a reminder of that today. 
My dear friend Magen, who claims responsibility for Pete and I, sent me a graduation card today.  She just wanted to say ‘Congrats, Dr.!’  I haven’t spoken to her, actually spoken, in ages.  I leave phone messages (because she screens) and we exchange the rare email message to congrats on some life achievement, birthday, anniversary, etc.  Lately I have been feeling like we have been drifting as friends.  We are both married now and live miles apart and are moving in different directions.  And then this silly Graduation card comes in the mail today and I realize that she will always be a dear close friend.  We probably won’t live close to each other again, but I know I can count on her to be there when I really need her.  I know she will be there to listen and sort through my crazy to get to the real issue. 
So today I am thankful for good friends.  No matter how far away. 

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

28 Days of Thanks

28. My Clothesline

There is something so pleasing about a line of clean clothes blowing in the wind. 
It is such a simple thing, but it makes my life so much easier and I love the smell of clothes dried in the sun.  Today may be the last time I use the line before Spring comes around. 
I run a load of laundry almost daily.  With no dryer, all items have to air dry and that can take ages in a semi-damp terraced house.  We have limited square footage and the clothes airer takes up quite a bit of space.  The more I can hang outside, the better. 
Of course, there is also the occasional scramble to get the clothes off the line when the inevitable rain shower moves in unexpectedly.  I should know better in London, but I still try to steal every ray of sun, even if it’s weakened by the cloud cover. 
Sometimes it’s the simple things.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

When Ariel met Sadie: The Paris Decision

In another episode of what advice would 18 year-old Ariel would give 30-something Sadie...
When presented with an expenses-paid, 4-day trip to Paris.........GO!!! 
This sounds like a no-brainer, but yesterday when I had to decide whether I was going to accompany my lovely husband on his business trip to Paris, I wasn’t as sure.  Ridiculous, right?  But I had a list of reasons why it might be better for me to stay at home for those four days: an opportunity to really clean the house, get on to that clothes clean out, prep Thanksgiving Day dinner, maybe rearrange some furniture.  In terms of being in Paris, I would be spending the days by myself.  What if it’s crap weather? I would be stuck in a hotel room in a Parisian business park in the suburbs watching French daytime television.  Or if I wonder the city alone, what if I get lost?  I don’t speak French, I hate whipping out the map, especially if I get myself stuck in a weird neighbourhood.  Who would I point out interesting sites to?  Who would help me search out the Rose Line?  What would I wear in the most fashionable city in the world?  I haven’t been to the gym in weeks, nothing fits and I have no cute, sensible walking shoes.  If I am going to wander Paris myself I at least need to look fabulous, ala Carrie Bradshaw in series finale.  Although, if I’m honest, I always thought wondering rainy Paris in stilettos was a bit ridiculous. 
This all just illustrates that I have become way too comfortable sitting on the couch catching up on Forensic Crime Dramas and pretending to work on journal articles and book chapters. 
After crying over the decision for an hour (my husband is really a saint to restrain himself from telling me I was being ridiculous and instead doing his ‘Joey speaks French’ impression to make me laugh) I sat in the bathroom composing myself and thought again about what my younger self would have to say about my current ‘crisis.’  And the answer was ....
DUH!  Go to Paris!  Your dashing husband goes on business trips to fabulous cities and you have the freedom to go along.  You can clean the house any day during your CSI marathon.  Who cares what you wear!  Enjoy the opportunity to wander Paris (and maybe treat yourself to some cute sensible shoes).  Go to Paris!
So I’m going to Paris at the end of the month and hosting my first Thanksgiving Dinner with guests the day after I get back.  How wonderfully grown-up and jet-setting.  If nothing else, it’s something to force me back into the gym routine in an attempt to de-bloat.

**In more evidence that my younger self is on the right track...This morning a friend from the circus wrote to tell me that she will be in Paris all winter!!  Not only do I not have to wander the city alone, but I have a Parisian guide as well. 

29 Days of Thanks

29. The Couch Duvet

It’s like a lovely cloud of purple comfort.  It was a birthday present from Pete on my first birthday in the UK.  He knows me so well.  He loves making fun of me when I snuggle so deeply that only my nose and eyes are visible. 
The couch duvet has provided comfort in low and high moments.  I curl up in it when I am rewarding myself in celebration for reaching a goal (say finishing the PhD) but more frequently it provides a security nest when feeling less than celebratory (say this never-ending cold or when all career prospects seem to disappear).  What a versatile piece of house furnishing. 
There is a significance to why it is the couch duvet that makes the list and not the bed cover.   Lying in bed all day curled up in the duvet just feels lazy and self-indulgent.  Wrapped in the duvet on the couch is almost productive, multi-tasking.  On the couch I can watch TV, use the laptop to get work done, observe the neighbourhood comings and goings (the guy across the way insists on wearing only an athletic cup when opening the curtains each morning and the lady one house over seems to be running a half-way house) and balance a snack on the footstools.  I can pretend to be a mysterious recluse trapped inside by a debilitating phobia, my only connection to the outside world provided by my husband and the free paper he brings home each evening, which I devour hungrily for news and gossip.  This pretend is much harder to stage from the bedroom. 
This pretend has become a bit too real in the last few weeks and the couch duvet is working overtime providing comfort in low moments.  I think it would be thankful for some time off or at least some celebratory snuggling.  I’ll work on that. 
For now, I’m switching to the lighter fleece throw. 

Monday, 1 November 2010

30 Days of Thanks

My second favourite holiday is Thanksgiving.  Actually, it might be a tie between the two.  Regardless.
In honour of my co-favourite holiday, I will be posting everyday about being thankful. 

30.  My Grandfather’s typewriter. 
My Grampa Webb writes me letters every few months.  The letters are filled with descriptions of his and Gramma’s drives around various parks, their preparations of the gardens (even in the dead of winter), news of relatives that I have never met,  and gossip from their coffee club at McDonald’s (or Burger King when McD’s ups their senior price on coffee).  But there is also a story (in every letter) of how he managed to find the right ribbon for his typewriter.  It is getting so old that the last time he had to buy the wrong format and take it apart to roll the new ribbon on the old mechanism.  
I love these letters.  They always end with Gramma’s news in her spidery handwriting usually repeating what Grampa has already relayed with a bit about the cat’s antics as well.  (Why is it that Gramma’s always have spidery handwriting?)  These letters started in University and have followed me through every move.  They found me in D.C. for the few short months of my internship with National Geographic, my new apartment in Lakewood, my two apartments in Lexington, KY, our flat in Watford, and the most amazing, my Seamus on the circus.  They sent me more letters when I was on the circus than any other living situation.  These letters were filled with the usual news, but they also included their memories of my parents’ time on the circus, which were based on letters from my dad postmarked from all over the country. 
The letters have slowed.  In fact, they might have stopped, but I prefer to think that they have slowed.  Now that they are not coming through the door every few weeks, I miss them.  I’m so thankful for their time and their memories.  I think it’s my turn to start the letters up again.  They have such great stories to share and I want to catch them all.  I remember a particular night at their house when Grammpa pulled out their high school year book and began telling us all about their senior year hijinks.  This was quite a few years ago now.  They have begun to tell stories again, now to Pete.  As a new member to the family they are repeating the sagas of their nights at the Pavilion on Eucild Beach.  No time like the present.