Friday, 29 July 2011

Borders and Baths

It’s Friday!  Welcome to ‘The Chronicles of a Reluctant Housewife’ where I document my love/hate relationship with my current occupation.

Housewife is dealing with UK Border Authority this morning and was relaxing in Bath's Thermal Spa for two days.  She will be back next week.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


Yesterday was a momentous day.  Although you wouldn’t know it to see my to-do list:
Laundry (darks, sheets, delicates, hand washing)
Meal list/shopping list/grocery trip
Change sheets
Put away clothes from swap
Mend bathing suit/tunic
Make biometric appointment
Clean sink
General tidy

That’s just the Housewife side of the list.  I crashed at about 3pm.  I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but I tend to get distracted and extra chores got done as I was passing from one item to another. 

But back to the momentous day.  Yesterday marked the anniversary of my move to London.  Five years ago I boarded a plane high on love and convinced that everything was going to work out.  It did, of course.  However, looking back on it now I completely understand my parents distress.  A few weeks before I flew the coop my Dad issued Pete with an order.  The details are between the two of them, but the gist was this…when this goes sour, just put Ariel on a plane home.

At the time, I was incredibly offended.  Now, I realize they were completely justified.  Despite my 27 years of age, I was not quite a functioning adult.  Yes, I had lived on my own, held down four jobs at a time, travelled to Africa, finally finished that Master’s degree but I was still leaning fairly heavily on my parents for support.  I was at the end of a string of semi-screwups that always ended with me running back to my parents.  I can’t imagine their fear when I told them I was moving to another country to be with a guy I had only actually seen for about eight weeks.  Pete and I had been ‘together’ for a year, but we had only been in physical reach of each other for about two months after Africa. 

I didn’t understand the gravity of my decision at the time.  Five years later, I can’t believe I made such a leap with no safety net.  I had no job, no school placement, no place to live.  I was betting on getting into one of the best Geography programs in the world.  It would be an understatement to say that it was a leap of faith.  It was CRAZY!!!!

But I knew something my parents didn’t, yet.  Pete and I loved each other and we made each other the best versions of ourselves.  We blossom in each other’s presence and influence.  This leap never would have worked without our partnership. 

I look back on that girl from five years ago and I wonder at her.   Where did she get that confidence?  After a string of screw-ups, how could she still be so confident?  I am not that girl anymore, I don’t really want to be that girl anymore, but there is something about that foolish confidence that I would like a bit of again. 

That girl would have balked at the Housewife of today, but she didn’t understand herself yet.  I get huge satisfaction from keeping a (relatively) nice house and yummy dinner list.  You live, you learn.

That to-do list?  Sort of a celebration after all. 

Friday, 22 July 2011

Jazz Hands!!!

It’s Friday!  Welcome to ‘The Chronicles of a Reluctant Housewife’ where I document my love/hate relationship with my current occupation.

I have noticed a trend lately of wives offering advice about being a good wife.  This makes me uncomfortable.  Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing wifey/marriage stories.  I don’t always relate to them, but I do love reading them.  Where I get uncomfortable is when a story is prefaced (or concluded) with statements like, “…this/that is what makes me the best wife.”
I’m not denying that the writer probably is the best wife to her husband, but this kind of writing lends itself to a ‘I’m doing right, you’re doing it wrong’ type reading.  Maybe that’s just me.  It doesn’t help that many of these stories come from women married for less than five years.  I don’t know, I think you are still a bit of a newlywed at that point.  Maybe you have been together for the better part of a decade before you got married, but still. 
That being said, let me relate a story about what makes our marriage work.  This is in no way a prescription as I truly believe that no one knows what makes a marriage tick except the people in it.  Case in point, my parents.  I have a feeling that their marriage is very different from mine.  It kind of has to be as they have 29 years on us.  Regardless, I have no idea what goes on there but it seems to work.  However, that doesn’t mean I am taking notes.
Moving on.
A key characteristic in our marriage is silliness.  This may be because I have a very stubborn silliness streak, but nonetheless.  This is not scheduled silliness.  It just kind of happens.  As the best silliness does.  Again, case in point, our impromptu silent dance-off on public transportation last night.  I’m not sure how it all started, but the highlights were some serious strutting on an Underground platform.  I won’t lie, there was definitely some ‘step-ball-changes’ and maybe even a few ‘jazz hands’ and not a little hip shaking.  It continued onto the bus and the walk home from the bus stop. 
It abruptly stopped when I was almost run down by a scooter without its lights on.  ‘Run down’ might be a little dramatic.  It was a scooter after all. 
All this silliness can come at a cost.  It took extra long to get home with all the dance ‘break outs’ and not to mention the earlier after-work drinks.  The dinner I planned was not going to happen, but I magically procured some delicious Chinese from the take-away on the corner. 

…and that’s what makes me a great wife!!! 


Monday, 18 July 2011

6 and 31

6.  Finish our wedding album
31.  Write about our wedding

These are two items on my Life List. Not the most earth-shattering or thought-provoking or exciting, but they did make it on the Life List and not the to-do list, so they must be significant. 
Today I am crossing them off.  I haven’t made a wedding album, beyond stuffing some proofs into a beautiful album given to us by my dear friend Vino Momma, but that wasn’t really what the list item was about.  It was about moving on from the expectations that the wedding day brings with it and that I wasn’t prepared to deal with after it was all over.  The album was suppose to be a celebration of the wedding.  But it was one day.  I can’t relive and celebrate and/or obsess about that one day over and over.  I have finally learned that putting so much emphasis on one day is unhealthy, for me.  I have the predisposition to dwell.  Dwelling on my failure and past successes keeps me from dwelling in my present life.  I am trying to learn the lessons from the past failures, enjoy the memory of the past successes, but accept that they are in the past and done. 
A few weeks ago I wrote about our anniversary photo shoot.  I wrote about how our anniversary was a turning point for me.  It marked a change in focus for me and it was incredibly freeing. 

Today, those photos and my words are over at Rock My Wedding.  Go take another look, I'll wait.

I didn’t write about our wedding in the way I thought I would, and I probably won’t ever make that wedding album, but I am ready to move on from these Life List items.  There are more important items to get started.  Those T-shirts won’t cut and sew themselves into a quilt.

Special thanks to Dasha for taking the beautiful photos and encouraging me to write about them and a big thanks to the crew at Rock My Wedding for including them in their beautiful and fun website.  And, as always, a ginormous thank you to my hubby, just in general.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Waking Nightmare

It’s Friday!  Welcome to ‘The Chronicles of a Reluctant Housewife’ where I document my love/hate relationship with my current occupation.

These past two weeks have been an exercise in balance.  I am basically ‘working’ full time.  However, I am working from home on a very loosely organized pilot research project with no real direction from the project leaders.  This combination is causing me stress.
I hear about people wanting to work from home and/or loving the fact that they can work from home.  I don’t understand these people.  I hate working from home.  I have been ‘working’ from home for about seven years and it sucks! It is my idea of a nightmare.  I am living in a nightmare. 
That might be a tad dramatic, but I really do dislike working from home. 
My ‘office’ is usually a corner of the open-plan living space, the kitchen table or the couch and on one occasion, when my shower was being ripped apart for the second time in as many months two days before my upgrade document (or comps for you in the US) was due, my bed.  These are not conducive areas for work if you have a slight OCD about organization and are the personification of procrastination.  Seriously, if you look up procrastination in my family’s dictionary you will find my name.  In Pen.  Written by my mother.
I have an aversion to cleaning the bathroom.  But I have been known to clean it from top to bottom to put off working.  My housemate knew I had a major project due when she came home from work and the entire house had been rearranged and she had new curtains (and curtain rods) in her room. 
Many of you may not consider academic work, work.  To you I say, “SHUT IT!”  It is the hardest work I have done for perhaps the least tangible reward.  It is all you, all the time, and it doesn’t go away at 6 o’clock. 
Which is another reason working at home stinks.  You never leave work.  It is always there staring at you, mocking you.  Perhaps with a home office it is easier. You can close the door and pretend it’s just a closet.  For the reluctant housewife in a one bedroom flat with no storage solutions and an aversion to housework the result is books, notepads, photocopies, laptop, etc.  piled in various configurations and continuously shuffled so that we can use the kitchen table and/or couch and/or living room floor.  Not so easy to ignore.  Of course, as deadlines approach, the use of kitchen table for anything other than work becomes a misty memory of golden times gone by. 

The daily balancing act these last two weeks results in me working at the kitchen table while loading clothes into the neighbouring washer every few hours.  My ‘work’ breaks consist of hanging out the laundry, doing dishes, prepping dinner or some light ‘dust-busting.’  It has gotten to the point that I can’t work unless the laundry is running. 

I prefer the sound of mechanized swirling, churning water to music or silence.  I find the sound of laundry soothing.

I might have to admit defeat and claim myself to be an actual housewife (that does a little 'work' on the side). 

These are strange times we live in, my friends.  Strange times indeed. 

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Love thy Neighbour

I have had worse neighbours for sure.  Midnight basketball games comes to mind.  But the last four nights have been tasking.
It all started on Wednesday night.  As I’ve outlined before, our bedroom window is about three feet from our neighbours’ kitchen and they seem to live in the kitchen.  Wednesday night, as we snuggled into bed and prepared for a few minutes of reading before the book clocks you in the head as you nod off and loose dexterity, we heard raised voices coming from next door.  This is normal.  But it kept going.  And then there was that high-pitched crying voice that we women try so desperately not to achieve but can’t help.  And it went on, and on, and on.  We started getting uncomfortable.  We don’t need to know this much about the dysfunction of next door.  The tid-bits we get through the wall are enough.    
Then on Thursday night we were woken at 1am by a new batch of screaming coming from next door.  This one wasn’t as drawn out, but explosive enough to wake us from a dead sleep.  As we drifted back off to sleep (or as I drifted, Pete most likely was asleep before he finished turning over) a cat started whining.  And whining.  At first I thought it was the black fluff ball from upstairs.  She tends to whine like this when she doesn’t have the confidence to jump to the window or down from the roof.  Then another feline voice chimed in.  OK, maybe it was a Romeo & Juliet type situation.  You know where this is going, right?  The screeching started and kept going.  I think I finally passed out when they reached a pitched that pierced my eardrum.
Friday night started off well but the colourful neighbours at the back decided it was their turn to get in on the fun.  This family frequently chase us from our back deck with their colourful and crude language and impromptu football games that use our back fence as a goal.  On this night, they decided to continue their run of living their life out of doors by starting up a raging screaming match at 3:30am. This one we could not follow, we never understand a word coming out of their mouths, and tonight was no different.  We are pretty sure it’s English, but it’s one of those London accents that is only intelligible after about 6 pints and a dodgy burger.  Eventually, it moved inside or at least to the other end of the council estate. 
Saturday brought a new annoyance.  This involved an unexpected houseguest.  Next door’s.  We endured the usual bedtime howls between kids and mom.  Emerging from underneath these howls was a new monotone.  It kept going and going and going, at a fairly loud decibel.  At first it was background noise, but it slowly became like the incessant buzzing of a fly.  It kept going even when the hosts tried to intervene and move the conversation elsewhere.  We slowly realized that it was a verbal slideshow of the guest’s recent trip to Australia…
“…to the east was, according to the guide, the last remaining rainforest..”
“…apparently there are all these introduced species, according to the guide, camels roam the interior…”
“…that morning, I was there with my video and mobile to catch the sunrise on the rocks…”
“…and then that afternoon we went…”   “…according to the guide…”
“…and then that evening we…”
“…the following morning we…”   “…according to the guide…”
“…on the plane we…”
This went on, non-stop, for 30 minutes.  I mean he didn't even stop for a sip of water and my mouth was getting dry just listening to him.  At that point Pete got out of bed and slammed our window shut in desperation (and a little passive-aggressiveness).  We could still hear the drone from next door but at least it was muffled a few decibels lower.  However, the window closed on a stuffy night did not make for easy sleeping. 

This morning we woke to find our front door had been open all night (with the keys hanging in the exterior lock). 
We weren’t murdered in our sleep so however annoying we find the neighbours, at least they’re safe. 

Friday, 8 July 2011

Reluctant Round-up

It’s Friday!  Welcome to ‘The Chronicles of a Reluctant Housewife’ where I document my love/hate relationship with my current occupation.

I seem to have broken my toe. 
Or at least seriously bruised my toe. 
I’m not sure when it happened, but the other night I realized the weight of the duvet on my toe was excruciating.  The next morning I noticed that it was significantly warmer to the touch than the other toes.  Oh, and the throbbing hadn’t stopped.  Yesterday I removed my toenail polish, gingerly, to check the colour underneath.  Purple.  Not good.  This means that I might very well loose the nail at some point this summer.  In the season of pretty toenails I will be slowly losing one. 
I guess the silver lining is that the British summer may be on the downward slope.  It’s a bittersweet silver lining. 
How did this happen without my knowledge?  How did I injury my toe without noticing? 


We went to the zoo on Sunday. 

I wore giraffe antlers all day. 
I got a lot of stares.  It was an interesting repeating series of events. 
They would spot me, smile, look around to identify the kids with this incredible interesting and fun mom, realize that I wasn’t with any kids, expression would then change to disgust and/or respect. 
But the kids loved it!  The best thing ever happened near the petting zoo.  Pete and I were walking through the attached playground quite close to a group of kids on some rope contraption.  This little girl stopped, mid-climb and with wide eyes whispered, in the cutest voice you ever heard, “Oh! Hello Mrs. Giraffe.” 


Fourth of July came and went.  Here’s some photographic evidence that we did attempt to celebrate. 

I made a really cheesy playlist entitled “America!!” and annoyed the neighbours for a good hour and a half.  Which I think is perfectly acceptable since I have to suffer through their daily domestic disputes, Wii marathons and trombone practice vs. Brittany mash-ups (When the ’Toxic’ Saints Come Marching In?). 


Finally, housewife left the house numerous times this week. 

Have you recovered? I know it’s a shock.  I’ll wait while you put your head between your knees.

Better?  I’ve been employed for the next 20 days and it requires me to run around the East End of London.  Excitement, right?  Broken toe aside.
However, effectively I am working from home and haven’t quite managed to run the smooth household we have become accustomed.  Ironing was accomplished, but dinners this week are a bit of a joke and we will probably be eating out tonight.  Perhaps a bit of a housewife fail, a reluctant one. Interesting, that. 

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Here, There and Everywhere

Remember about a week ago I briefly mentioned I had learned a lot about being a wife over the last year?  Most of those lessons I will keep between Pete and I, but one thing I will share with you. 
It took me a year to get over my wedding. 
My wedding was beautiful and romantic and involved an around-the-world-ticket and two receptions.  However, as those of you that have planned a wedding well know, much of the wedding is about your family and a little bit is about you.  This was true of our wedding, for a number of reasons (most of which are personal and will stay that way).  So when I look back on my wedding, I don’t get nostalgic and weepy.  I feel exhausted.  Much like I did during the four-week extravaganza that was our world-wedding-tour.    
Those feelings have followed me for the past year.  We didn’t immediately live ‘happy ever after.’  A job fell through and subsequent jobs kept falling through and, as my regular readers know, I fell into another bought of depression (which I was barely keeping at bay throughout the end of the doctorate and wedding). 
As our anniversary approached, I felt a bit deflated.  I didn’t want to revisit ‘that’ day.  To be honest, I remember very little of the day.  But I did want to celebrate the life Pete and I have started to build in our little corner of London.  When we were planning the wedding, we lived in a northern suburb in a basement flat with tiny windows and a mould problem.  We weren’t going to have the wedding in Britain because we didn’t plan on being there for long.  A few months before the wedding, we moved to beautiful Greenwich.  It is a place we love and feel very much at home.  It is the place we officially started our new family and we are slowly building a place for ourselves here.  It feels great.  And, we frequently wish we had got married here. 
Which brings me to why some of you might be here in the first place.  I arranged for us to re-do our ‘I do.’  Sorta.  We put on our favourite bits of wedding gear (minus my fabulous fascinator) and had a date in our favourite place to celebrate the end of a tough year and a shift in our family focus.  This was a celebration of our new family.  Just us and our favourite place.*
And we brought a photographer along with us. 

You can see the best of the day over at our photographer's blog.  Dasha was lovely and suffered through one of the hottest days of the year to give us these great shots.  The best part?  Greenwich was teeming with people for the Greenwich/Dockland International Festival.  You would never know.  She managed to make it look like we had the place entirely to ourselves**.  Just like we felt on the day. 

I feel a new lightness in my head. I feel possibility. I have moved on from my wedding day and, hopefully, my difficult year and I will remember this week on my next anniversary and leave the exhaustion and fogginess of the 'real wedding.'

*Obviously, Africa will always be one of our favourite places, as will Istanbul. But the travel involved was a bit too much for the last minute photo shoot.  And this is about our present and future.

**A huge thank you to Dasha and Exhibit Emotions for jumping on board with a last minute request and creating such great memories for us. 

Monday, 4 July 2011

the 4th

Being an American living outside America is, at times, difficult.  I probably don't need to tell a lot of you that Americans are not necessarily loved around the globe.  It is an interesting mix of being proud of your heritage and apologizing for decisions that you had no business in making.  Most of the time I try to keep my nationality to myself (I have been known to claim Canada as my homeland, I apologize).  However, I am in no danger of giving up the American passport.  If I end up in some bizarre hostage/kidnap/mistaken identity scenario, I want the Marines/S.E.A.Ls/Rangers swooping in to my rescue. 

Beyond that travel insurance, here are some things I miss, and love, about my America, especially today...

1) Seasons-I am desperate for a proper summer and winter.
2) Parades
3) Fireworks
4) Baseball games with proper hot dogs and stadium mustard
5) speaking of hot dogs, Mac n Cheese
6) Porches
7) Fireflies
8) Screens
9) BBQs with roasted corn on the cob and inappropriately competitive volleyball games
10) cold beer

circa 2006
4th of July and beating the Yankees. 

Tonight, in a mini celebration, we are dusting off the grill for some hamburgers and corn.  I have on my red, white & blue and Pete bought some Samuel Adams which has been in the fridge for two days (revisit #10).  We have an 'American' playlist in the works and I will hang some fairy lights along the clothes line to replicate fireflies. 

Not too shabby. 

Friday, 1 July 2011

A Typical Friday

It’s Friday!  You know what that means.  Another chapter in the Chronicles of the Reluctant Housewife.

I have to make this quick today.  There is a load of wet, recently finished laundry sitting in the machine waiting to be hung up.  In a wildly optimistic and, I thought, well-planned move, I started the laundry as soon as I got up.  My thinking was that in an hour, when the cycle finished, I would have had my cup of coffee, caught up on my emails, read my paper and blog and be ready to jump in the shower at the exact moment the washer stopped.  Ha!
The timing here is semi-crucial.  Okay, not really as I have all the time in the world, but let me have my fantasies.  The content of the machine is Pete’s work shirts.  Every Friday morning (casual day) I wash his shirts for the week and they hang in the bathroom from the shower curtain rail for a day (or two), then get ironed and are ready for Monday (or Tuesday).  The issue is space.  Because I have gone on a recent shopping binge due to an extended shopping strike when I wasn’t making money and couldn’t fit into anything (I’m still not making money, but I can now fit into some pretty cute items), our shared wardrobe is bursting and Pete can no longer fit his work shirts in the wardrobe without negating the hour I spend ironing them.  This means they stay on the curtain rail in the bathroom for almost the entire week and have to be shifted from the rail to the hook on the back of the door every time one wants to shower.  If they are shifted while still wet, they get weird stains from the untreated wood of the door and the process starts over again.  To make a long story short, I had to get into the shower just as the washer stopped so they could be hung relatively soon after washing (themselves and myself) which makes ironing a bit easier.  But they finished 20 minutes ago and I’m still here writing.  So it goes.
This is my life.  I know you are jealous.

In other household news, we seem to have a bit of a spider take-over.  In the last week, the spiders have become brazen in their web-weaving.  Just this morning Pete had to rescue his shorts from their sticky clutches (he only took them out last night) and over the course of my morning routine I have watching one make a fairly impressive net stretching from the arm of our couch to the floor, taking in the neighbouring door as well.  That’s not to mention the close call Pete had the other morning as we was leaving the house.  Luckily he notice the rather large spider hovering in the hallway before he walked face-first into her trap. 
I know what you’re thinking.  Just kill them and get it over with.  I hear you, but I grew up in a house that was honour-bound to respect spiders and their weaving ways.  Part of my double-barrel name is ‘Webb’ after all.  I’m hoping it’s just a phase and they will move on in a few days.  If I suddenly stop writing, you might want to send someone over as we may be swaddled and in danger of becoming dinner ala Mirkwood and The Hobbit, or Shelob and Frodo if you prefer the trilogy. 
This probably won’t happen, though.  Pete just cleaned out our bagless vacuum, The Goblin and it has sucking power to rival a Dyson. 
I’m guessing. 
I have not yet been blessed with a Dyson.