Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Back on the Merry-go-Round

Did you miss me? 
It was a public holiday yesterday.  We spent three days doing nothing. 
OK, not nothing.  We slept a lot.  We ate like teenagers (and suffered like 30-somethings).  We did some light shopping.  We read.  Had really bad ‘Mexican’ food and then made ice cream sandwiches to console ourselves.  Pete went for a run.  We went to the movies and laughed pretty hard at really painfully embarrassing scenes while eating a large popcorn and sipping a large soda.  I was buzzing the rest of the night from the sugar (I haven’t had a soft drink in years). 
Like I said, nothing.  It was awesome. 

But now it’s time to get back to work.   Time to get back into the routine of work. 
Except I am still working on my routine.  I find that having a routine is a touchstone for me.  When the days start to blur together in a swirl of laundry, food prep, cleaning and personal projects, it is helpful to have a routine to click things back into perspective.  I know compartmentalizing can be dangerous, but it can also be helpful.  It can give you the freedom to get things done without feeling guilty that something else is moved to a different to-do list. 
I try not to be too rigid with my routine.  I want to be able to jump at opportunities, even if they are just getting coffee with another young housewife.  However, I need my routine and when it gets disrupted too frequently I feel a bit disconnected and lost and nothing gets done.  Like the routine is somehow still going without me and I can’t quite grasp it to get back on.  Like if I could just grab a hold of a particular moment, I could get it back.  I could get that control back. 
Because that is what my routine is to me right now.  It’s my way of feeling in control of my life when it feels very uncertain.  I swing between being Type-A and going with the flow.  Marriage has helped.  Being a housewife has helped.  When I was a student and in charge of house-stuff by default, I would cling to particular chores.  My research was always in a state of ordered chaos so being in charge of making the bed or particular meals gave me a bit of control.  This was mine.  Now that I am a full-time housewife I have let go of some of those chores.  Odd, I know.   And it is only recently that I have let go and let Pete help me. 
At first, when I was coming to terms with being a housewife, I had to do it all and do it well.  I had all the time in the world so I had no excuse to not me the best young housewife.  It gave me a purpose.  But then I would feel trapped by my own expectations.  I would irrationally be angry with Pete when he offered to wash dishes.  (It’s always the dishes, isn’t it.  I remember our ‘Marriage Prep’ course talking a lot about dishes.  There is something about doing the dishes that triggers exhaustion and frustration. Maybe it has to do with scrubbing stubborn foodstuffs and making huge leaps to links with one’s own metaphorical stubborn foodstuffs.) He was offering to do this chore I hate and I would be angry with him.  I had obviously gone a bit crazy.  But then, the stringy hair, slightly soiled robe and week old pajamas I was wondering around in probably signalled my mental state as did my irrationally crouching over dirty dishes muttering about 'my precccioussss' and snapping at Pete when he tried to share the workload. (Ok, I'll let the Tolkien references rest now).
But something about building our little team has let me let go of some of my housewife expectations and let me concentrate some of that energy on ‘personal projects.’  I am still hashing out those personal projects, but I can see some semblance of a general routine appearing.  Letting go of some of those expectations is helping our little team as well.  Being a bit selfish about my time and wellbeing has made our house a bit happier. 
It is a gentle balance, obviously.  Staying in bed all day reading is great for my personal wellbeing.  Very enjoyable.  But not so great for our joint wellbeing when there is no food for dinner or clean dishes on which to serve said invisible dinner.
Right now, that is my work.  Today, for me, getting back to work is getting back to crafting a routine.  First up, showering before or after breakfast?  Hmmm. 

Friday, 26 August 2011

Life as Ginger Chicken Salad

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

I have a lot of thoughts about house-wifing today.  I haven’t been able to put them in a sensible form, although I think this picture sums me up right now.

Maps, Laundry & Sparkle.
(please ignore the dingy bath towel)

And I’m kinda fine with that…for now.

Despite my muddled brain, I wanted to give you something today, so I am offering up my ginger chicken salad recipe.  This started as a recipe I tore out of a magazine and now I can’t even remember the original.  I pre-made this yesterday afternoon.  This is not a usual or necessary step, however, I had defrosted the chicken the day before and we ended up having pizza for dinner (I know, housewife fail) and yesterday we were both out doing our own thing and ate separately so it needed to be done.  Luckily, it is not a hard recipe, but the chicken does have to marinade, so allow time.
What you need:
-Enough chicken for however many people are eating.  I would say a breast each is fine.  Cut into whatever form you wish.  For salad I like strips, for pasta, maybe chunks. Your call.
-Stuff to make your favourite salad base. This time around I used Red Cos Lettuce, seedless cucumber, spring onions, red and orange peppers, strawberries, sliced almonds, feta, cran-raisins, avocado, Newman’s Own balsamic dressing
-olive oil
-runny honey
-garlic cloves crushed (or garlic powder if you’re feeling lazy)
-Chinese five spice (or black pepper, powdered cloves, powdered cinnamon, which does not make Chinese five spice, but is what we use and prefer)
-grated ginger root (or powdered ginger, which is what we usually use)
-griddle or grill pan
-baking sheet covered in foil

For the marinade:

This depends on the amount of chicken, and your personal tastes.  I no longer measure, but I will give it a shot. I marinade in a bowl but I am sure it works just as well, if not better, in a large freezer bag. All measurements are ‘-ish.’  Feel free to experiment.
-2 TBL olive oil
-1 TBL runny honey
-1 tsp Chinese five spice (or equivalent)
-2 tsp grated ginger (or equivalent)
-2-3 cloves crushed garlic

Pretty, No?

Mix it all up, throw in the chicken pieces, mix it up again making sure the pieces are equally covered.  Unlike most marinades, this isn’t really liquid-y.  When you first throw the chicken in, it may appear that you haven’t made enough. You have, just keep mixing, it will eventually coat all the pieces. 

Let the marinade sit, preferably in the fridge, for at least a half hour. 

While the chicken is relaxing in its spice rub, do a few pre-dishes* and prepare the baking sheet with foil.  Get out the grill pan, find some tongs or other implement to handle the chicken, and turn on the oven.  I think I pre-heat mine to about 180-200C, but I can’t be entirely sure. 

After 30 minutes:

-Turn up the heat on your grill pan/griddle.  NEVER oil the grill/griddle.  It will smoke you out.  ALWAYS oil the meat/veg.  Your chicken pieces are good to go due to the oil in the marinade.  Make sure the griddle is HOT!!  If not, you will lose most of your chicken to the grill.

-When hot, start laying the pieces of chicken onto the grill.  They seriously only need to be on there for a few seconds each side.  The object is to ‘mark’ or sear each piece, not cook it.  You are locking in the flavours and moisture (I think).  If you’re reading this while cooking, you probably have already left the chicken on too long! Go! Turn them or get them off the grill! Transfer the ‘marked’ pieces to the baking sheet.  Depending on how much chicken, you might have to do this in a few batches. 

I think the red salt-pig in the back makes the shot, yes?

-When all pieces are seared and on the baking sheet, take a brush and brush any remaining marinade onto the seared pieces.  There really shouldn’t be much left in the bowl, but you want to get the most out of those spices. 

-Then pour some boiling water into your grill pan (heat is obviously off at this point).  You have inevitably left a lot of chicken on the grill and this will enable you to wash it a bit easier. 

-Throw the baking sheet into the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes.  Check around 15. 

-During this time I like to make the salad bases and do some more pre-dishes.

After 15 minutes:

Check the chicken.  Depending on your taste, you may want to remove them.  We like ours a little bit crispy, so we go a bit longer.  However, we have a fan oven and the food at the front cooks faster if we don’t rotate (I rarely rotate) so we get a nice selection of juicy crispy pieces. 

When the chicken looks right to you, pull it out, turn off the oven (I do tend to forget this step) and divide between salad bases.  Add dressing.  Enjoy.

No, it's not a salad balancing on a fork.
Blogger flipped the photo and I can't be bothered to fix it.

This is a regular meal around here and if you have timed it right, you only have the dinner plates, cutlery and baking sheet to wash at the end.  Extra Bonus!!

A meal that is tasty, quick, and allows for housework multi-tasking.  It's the perfect recipe for the Reluctant Housewife.   

*pre-dishes are dishes washed during food preparation, before the meal is actually consumed.  I like to get as many done as possible during this time.  It isn't always doable, but with meals I know well, and a good soundtrack, I can manage it.  Sometimes.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

In memoriam

One of my more superficial Life List items is to have an office filled with knick knacks from our life adventures.  We have quite a few of these kinds of knick knacks already.  With the recent riots in our corner of London, we got to thinking about what we would grab if we only had a few seconds to evacuate.  I know we have all played this game: ‘if you could save 10 things from the fire…’ 
Except a few weeks ago, it wasn’t a game.  People had seconds to leave as their houses went up in flames and none of them were jumping into the waiting arms of the fireman carrying 10 items on their back.  I know I appeared to ignore the riots in this space.  I didn’t.  I just didn’t know what to say.  My thoughts were with the people that lost everything because of some bored kids. 
As we watched Croydon go up in flames, we seriously thought about what we would save.  It was incredibly hard.  We realized so many of our memories are preserved in the materials of our lives.  How do you decided which material-based memories to save?  We ended up getting very practical: business paperwork, passports, family documents, the laptops/hard drive.  Then we moved on to Pete’s wedding suit, my Grandmother’s dress (both of which are hanging on the living room door so we don’t have to dig through the overstuffed wardrobe in those precious moments).  I realized I would have to leave behind Monk, who has been with me since before I was born, all my research, all the mementos of our travels and adventures and our life together. 
But I guess, the point is you still have your life.  The materials may be lost, some irreplaceable, but the memories will remain, despite the destruction, hopefully.  We all have moments that we would prefer to forget and we have moments that we have forgot.  Let’s be honest, University was an experiment in memory retention and erasure. Some of us have legitimately lost memories due to accidents or disease. 
I have been thinking about memories a lot lately.  Partly because I just finished writing a book chapter about the flexibility of circus memory, but also because I am experiencing (from afar) a loved one losing their memory.  It is incredibly painful and sad to watch someone’s life story disappear.  The stories of their life preserved in a few snippets they passed on over dinners or coffee or long drives to campsites. 
Part of me loves the ephemeral-ness of memory.  The way it can shift and twist and rewrite itself.  But I also mourn the complete loss.  I love how a seemlessly innocent item can spark a string of seemingly unrelated memories.  I think almost every item in our home has a story connected to it, even the IKEA furniture is full of assembly/relationship stories.  Our couch alone could tell a day long tale…

Happy Shower Scene

Each of these items has a story.  Just out of frame to the right, is an aloe plant Pete bought while I was away with the circus.  He spent those 5/6 months working double shifts and making jumbo size vats of jambalaya for dinner.  But he also took great care of our house plants.  Before I left, we had purchased a Yucca plant.  Somehow we managed to drown it a bit and allow it to get over-run with aphids.  Pete was determined to save it and started trapping spiders and relocating them to the Yucca.  A bit unconventional perhaps, but all those nature programs must have taught him something because it recovered and was with us until February of this year when someone stole it when we were away on holiday.  The aloe plant just keeps getting bigger and bigger.  Then there is the orchid.  This was a gift from our friends who gamely attended my first Thanksgiving Dinner.  It sat in the living room until the flowers fell off and I accidentally over-watered it.  I threw it in the shower for a little visual interest.  Then, a few months ago it started budding again.  Apparently, the shower is a great place for foliage.   The little blue bird is a ceramic Pukeko from New Zealand named Polly.   She used to sit outside on the deck.  Then one of the neighbourhood cats attacked her and we found her in pieces below the deck.  Now she peeps at us in the shower.  The pile of shells and rocks are collected from a variety of locations: Makarska, Rhodes, Kerikeri, San Fran, Fiji, River Thames.
These aren’t earth-shattering memories.  But every day when I step in the shower, no matter how crappy I feel, I smile a bit at this hodge-podge collection of memories.  I begin to think about when we collected that purple shell or the stories Pete would tell me about the aphid battle when I was lonely and shivering in a motorhome in the middle of nowhere, Arkansas. 
These are precious, simple memories but the loss of them would be heartbreaking.  My thoughts go out to all the precious, simple memories lost in the flames of the riots. 

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Running faces

It’s Tuesday Fit-Day.  An occasional  meditation on physical and mental fitness goals, successes and failures. 

The other day I went for a run.  In between gasping for air and forcing my legs to keep pumping, I noticed that I get a collection of responses from the passer-bys.  I run along a fairly popular path with a variety of users.  There are the business folk, taking the scenic way home, with their suit jackets slung over the shoulder.  There are the proper runners with lycra and spandex and water bottles.  There are miscellaneous couples in various relationship stages.  There are the groups of young moms and large strollers.  There are young ‘hipsters’ on break from the O2 or Ravensbourne.  There are students.  There are cyclists.  There are environmentalists.   There are construction workers.  There is a random scattering of lost tourists. 
As I weave between these groups I encounter particular facial expressions.  From some, it is a nod of acknowledgement.  This is usually from the other runners or cyclists.  This brief acknowledgement makes me feel like I am part of the cool kids.  I have no desire to run in any organized sort of race, but this a rare experience for me and I'll take it. 
Then there is the blatant stare.  This comes from a cross-section and I’m not sure what it means.  It is just a following stare that doesn’t register that I am returning the gaze.  Is it really that unbelievable that I am out running?  I mean, I know I am moving incredibly slowly so maybe it is astonishment that I am moving forward, or maybe I am foaming at the mouth.  Actually, that might be a viable option.
Then there is the encouragement.  At times this is a ‘you can do it’ kind of nod and smile, maybe even a little air punch.  In my oxygen-deprived state I might have hallucinated the air punch, but I don’t think so.  I have also received the verbal encouragement.  This is weather-specific.  When the weather is overly hot or torrential downpour I have been on the receiving end of ‘You go girl!’
Then there is the laugh.  Now, in all fairness, this is probably brought on by my running antics.  I have recently been forced to change my route due to a path closure (for some cable car/sky walk shenanigans) and it means I have to run along a boring stretch of road.  However, this piece of road has a line of blue poles running parallel along the sidewalk.  The colour is irrelevant, and I don’t know what the poles are actually for, but I have devised a way to make this section of the run a little less boring.  As I run this stretch I weave in and out of the poles.  I figure it counts as ‘changing up the routine’ and I have to admit I get a little vision of myself in a training montage of some sort.  The laugh comes from the guy that sits at a gate along this stretch of road.  I like to think it’s the highlight of his day.
Then there is the wistful smile/glance.  This is usually from the mums loaded down with a few kids and the related equipment.  I don’t know, but maybe they are thinking of the days when they used to have the free time to run.  Or maybe they are wishing they could follow me instead of removing their child from the fence for the tenth time in 3 minutes.  Obviously, I have no idea what their kid is actually doing since I am past in a flash, leaving them tumbling in my slip-stream.  OK, that was a bit of an exaggeration as my passing barely produces a breeze strong enough to knock one of those baby fine hairs out of place. 
Then there is the mocking, haughty, scorn.  I get a kick out of this one as I used to produce this same face at passing runners.  As I have previously covered, I used to be of the opinion that exercise was for the vain.  Moderation was all that was needed to keep us nicely in the ‘healthy’ range.  I was on board for regular exercise in the form of dance, yoga, circus skills, etc.  In short, anything that didn’t resemble actual exercise, or gym-class.  Of course, I then decided to become a professional student and my caboose began to expand in direct proportion to the amount of years spent ‘studying’ while my skin got progressively more and more pale and pasty.  And while all that makes for an even better mocking and scornful face (like something in a Tim Burton cartoon) it doesn’t lend itself to haughty.
I would like to take this moment to apologize to the many runners, cyclists, etc. that were subject to my mocking, haughty, scorn.  I now understand that you were on to something and I was a naïve, brooding, secretly jealous, voyeur.  As I get older, my body likes to remind me that it is calling the shots and the only way to keep a relative peace is to engage in regular exercise.  Phooey.

Then there is the stringy hair, soaking wet, blooming red and exhausted shake of the head.  Me, in the mirror, appalled at my physical state of dampness but pleased that it is all over and hoping the endorphins from all this running will kick in soon.  

Still waiting for those endorphins. 

Any moment now.

Monday, 22 August 2011

It is inevitable...

Date: 2000-ish
Scene: Cleveland’s west-side ‘ghetto’

In a slightly misguided, but ultimately successful, marital experiment my parents bought a ‘fixer-upper’ double in the Detroit-Shoreway area of Cleveland, blinded by the shorter commutes, low interest home improvement loans due to gentrification policies. The fantasy of moving back to the city was marred by the neighbours.  Close to 4 July, the neighbourhood turned into a warzone.  According to my folks, it was ground-zero for fireworks and the street was continuously littered with used fireworks, measuring a few inches thick blanket covering the road.  Turns out there were also at least two groups of kids regularly roaming the neighbourhood and generally being ‘loud.’  One group, made up of teen and pre-teen boys, started a regular basketball game outside my parents house around midnight, almost every night, during the decent weather.  As you can image, the language used during these games is not appropriate to repeat here, and was used at increasingly loud decibels. 

Before I continue, let me tell you a little bit more about my mother.  She is a kindergarten teacher at heart.  She teaches older children now, but she is, and forever will be, a kindergarten teacher; with the voice to match. 

Back to the midnight ball games.  Apparently, one night, my mother had had enough.  She went out to her front porch and scolded the boys.  That’s right, scolded them.  Most likely in her kindergarten teacher voice.  The response, according to my mother, was more profanity and a continued game.  At this point, Mom went to her front door to retreat and realized that she had locked herself out.  So there she stood, on her porch trying to hide in the shadow of the threshold and furiously ringing the door bell in the hope that Dad would wake up and open the door.  Can you see her?  My little, 5 foot 2 inch mother, in her nightgown, scolding urban youths in the middle of the night?  All she needs are rollers in her hair and broom to shake at the delinquents.

Date: 2011
Scene: East Greenwich

In a slightly misguided move, we rented a flat based almost solely on its back garden.  It has a lovely deck with two lovely trees.  It wasn’t until the first nice evening that we realized the garden backed onto council housing.  It was around this time that we also realized one of the trees produced A LOT of berries. 

In the two years we have lived in this flat, we have had a continual, somewhat passive-aggressive, battle going on with the family living behind us.  They routinely kick soccer balls into our back garden and we routinely keep them.  This then led to them routinely jumping our fence (and breaking it in the process) to retrieve the rouge balls.  Then one day they cut branches off our tree.  We retaliated by throwing snails over the fence (we’ll show them!).  They crank their crap dance/club music, we crank Jack Johnson or classic rock.  They throw eggs at the house, we clean it up while loudly complaining and wondering aloud if we should call the ‘Community Support Officer.’ We are totally winning. 

Yesterday, we were having friends over for dinner/BBQ.  Pete had freshly swept the deck and cleaned up for our guests.  I had set out the tablecloth and lanterns and fairy lights.  Then, as I am finding candles for the lanterns, I see that the little s**ts young boys out back, have climbed up our fence and are pulling off the berries of our tree (and branches with them) showering our freshly laundered tablecloth and swept deck with juicy berries.  They also decided to start throwing the berries at each other, inevitably missing, and hitting our house/deck/windows. 

So, unconsciously channelling the woman standing on her porch in her nightgown, I go out on the deck and say, “Hey guys, would you mind not doing that, please? Thank you.”  and then stand there and watch them as they say “yeah, okay” and keep grabbing berries and throwing them.  “Guys, that’s not stopping.”  Eventually, they get bored and leave, after laughing at me and muttering something I can’t understand and am pretty sure I don’t want to translate.  Right around that time Pete comes out and starts yelling, “What the hell? Where did all these berries come from? I just f***ing swept!!”

Apparently scolding naughty youths, teacher voice and all, is in the blood.  Becoming Mama Ria looks inevitable. 

Friday, 19 August 2011

A blender, umbrella & ukulele walk into a bar...

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

I was going to thrill you with stories of my blender.
Then I realized the story boils down to this:  about every third time I use the blender I end up with pureed vegetables in my hair.  That’s the story.  I continually ‘forget’ that the cover is, in fact, necessary for use.  
So there it is, I still have trouble properly using a blender.  I will also admit that every time I get it down I have a fleeting thought about it being a scary gadget.  One time, it literally shot sparks at me.  I don’t know that was my fault, but it could have sensed my fear.  Like dogs. 
But this story does not a post make.

Then I thought I could tell you about how I reverted into my middle school self when Pete spritzed me with a wet umbrella after dinner.  But again, that’s just embarrassing.  You don’t really need to know that I am a baby when it comes to funny, minor pranks and put the kibosh on the silliness, which I usually advocate.  
Again, this does not a post make.

Then I noticed the Ukulele on our rug.  Yes, we are now the owners of a Ukulele.  We have wanted one for awhile now and on Wednesday I passed a music shop with Ukuleles in the window and decided to leap.  Why not?  So there it is.  On the rug, in its box.  We are not aiming to be professionals, but we thought it would be fun to learn to pick a tune.  Then I looked over the accompanying chord manual and all those Band Geek memories came flooding back.  Unfortunately, the ability to read the music did not come back as readily.  So we will be taking turns trying to learn Ukulele.  It may turn into a kind of competition.  That’s healthy, yes? 
This half story, all rising action and no climax or resolution, does not a post make.

Then I remembered we got good news yesterday.  We are officially welcome in the United Kingdom for another two years and two months.  Better than that, this also means we can officially start planning our holiday for next month.  YYEEEEAAAHHHH!!!!  We have decided on Morocco.  We have wanted to go for years, actual years, and kept going with another destination.  Not this time, it is time we experience Morocco.  We are going to do a mini-expedition and finish up with a few days in a ‘fancy’ hotel.  We have not ‘expedition-ed’ since we met in Africa.  We are excited.  I don’t know if I have mentioned this before, but Pete and I are our best version of ourselves when we travel.  The best versions individually and as a team.  Is this because we met while travelling?  Maybe.  I feel like you really know a person based on how they travel.  Perhaps I am justifying our relationship since instead of dating or dinner or work, we got to know each other over African camp-fires, tent building, limited bathing, lots of drinking (followed by puking) and long truck drives.  Anyway…….what I’m trying to say is that we travel well.  However, we lounge on the couch, clean the flat and make dinner well, too.  A good combo, if I do say so myself.  (We are still working on the minor, silly pranks and musical competitions.  There have to be some waves or it just gets boring, right?)

Hey, look at that.   Together, a post they do make. 

Thursday, 18 August 2011

When I grow up...

I have been thinking a lot about ‘lingering identities.’*
Who we used to be, and may not be anymore, or ever were, but still include in visions of ourselves.
Single Lady
Future-Cat Lady
Future-Camp Owner

This are just a few of mine.  Some of these date back to High School. 

Now some may argue that these are, in fact, part of my identity.  They made me who I am today.  But sometimes I feel like these are anchors that don’t allow me to move forward.  In many of these identities I was confident and sure.  At least that is how I remember it now. 

If I look a little closer at these, I see many of them were not so confident and were also paired with massive self-consciousness and perhaps a little social exile.  For example, ‘Musician’ is code for Band Nerd, ‘Actress’ is code for Stage Filler, ‘Student’ is code for Nerd, ‘Activist’ code for Naïve, etc. 

What I want to concentrate on here is those ‘Future’ identities.  When I was younger (not that I am saying I’m old, but relatively speaking) what I wanted to be when I grew up was a part of my identity.  They determined course-choice in High School, then again at University, then again for summer internships/jobs, for extra-curriculars, when I went for that first ‘real’ job, etc. 

But it didn’t always work, did it?  Or at least not the way I thought it would work.  And instead of going with it, I constantly compared my present to my past identities and past future-identities.  I feel as though that is a bit limiting, but I also feel like it’s a bit boring.  If I am going to drag around these lingering identities, why can’t they be ridiculous ones?

Why do I only drag identities from High School, and after, around my present?  What was wrong with the identities and future-identities from before that time?    

Fairy Princess
Fabulous Host of Ariel’s Radio Show feat. Barbie and ‘Craig’
Apple Tree Trapeze Artist
Pirate Ship Captain
Super Girl Scout (cape included)
Fraggle Host
Future- Park Ranger

These are SO MUCH COOLER!!!!  I mean, who doesn’t want to be an Apple Tree Trapeze Artist!!!

I blame my High School Guidance Counsellors.  When a student shows a degree of aptitude in book-learning please do not assume they should be put on the University track.  If I had been allowed to choose my own courses, I would have switched out chemistry with Home Ec (that should be doable, yes? It’s still weights and measures and chemical reactions.)  I have yet to find a need for the ability to balance a chemical equation or create a thermal chemical reaction in a beaker.  But I have desperately needed the ability to properly read a recipe, hem a pair of trousers and/or cut a pattern.  All of which would have come in handy when pursing my Super Girl Scout (cape-included) identity.

But wait, here’s the real kicker.  If I look at who I am now, I feel like I might very well be closer to those pre-High School identities than the serious ones I have consciously been dragging around. 


I feel a change in the wind. Maybe it’s time to make loose the anchor.  Go where the wind blows.  Take opportunities as they come.  Take what I can, while I can.

I may be a Pirate Ship Captain, yet. 

So dear readers, what are your lingering identities? Are they anchors or the wind in your sails?  (that's the last one, promise)

*This is not my phrase.  It was coined by a friend during a similar discussion and I’m pilfering it for my own purposes.  See?  Pirate in the making.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Scrubbing too hard

It’s Tuesday Fit-Day.  An occasional  meditation on physical and mental fitness goals, successes and failures. 

At about 30, I realized that my body and I were one and the same.  This might be an odd statement, but let me try and explain.  I have always had a few issues with my body, but it wasn’t until I turned 30 that I realized that these issues are not divorced from me.  I have a hand in doing something about these issues. 
I had relatively bad acne until about that time as well.  I hated my acne.  I hated my face for having acne.  I would scrub my face raw, pick at these red, throbbing bumps until they bled and then scabbed and then would pick again, they would bleed again, etc.  I used the most caustic treatments I could find (and stained some towels and pillowcases in the process).  While I was in the circus, my face seemed to explode.  I was cold, sore and now my face was exploding.  Oh, and I was noticing my first ‘wrinkles.’  Party Time!
But it was also around this time that I began to realize that my face, and my body, were not entities unto themselves.  They did not operate according to some separate agenda than ‘me.’  I know I sound crazy, just hang in there. 
At some point in those circus days, I realized that I had a different water source everyday and it was affecting my skin.  This realization came on a day that I didn’t have water and had to break into my drinking water supply for bathing.  So I bought some spring water to wash my face and it made a difference.  A big difference.  Then I decided maybe I should just use an astringent to get rid of the traces of unknown water.  This worked as well.  Then I decided to try moisturizer.  That’s right, I didn’t use moisturizer (or sunscreen) until I was 30. 
It was like a miracle!  Instead of attacking my skin, I was caring for it and suddenly it was better.  Lightbulb!!
But it took awhile for the same thought process to work its way to my body at large.  Let me be clear, I have never been what some would call obese (although a scale in a Paris gym did) and I have never been deathly skinny.  But I have never been happy with my body, and for some reason, I never took responsibility for that disappointment. 
I lost weight for my wedding, but mostly through stress and for the wrong reasons and you shouldn’t be surprised that 6 months later, it all came back and then some.  I was at a pretty dark place at that point.  Not because of my weight, there were other life issues going on at that point, but the body discomfort didn’t help.  I needed to get control of something.
Just after my 32 birthday, I joined Weight Watchers.  It was a really hard decision but it has been a really interesting journey.  Yes, I have lost weight and can go shopping without crying (as long as it isn’t for jeans) but more importantly, I have finally realized that my body and I are connected. 
Just as it went with my face, when I care for my body, it feels better. 
Recently, I have forgotten this connection.  I got overly obsessed with the number on the scale and forgot to be mindful of my body.  I stopped paying attention to what I was putting in my body.  I went back to assuming my body would take care of itself.  I turned my attention to other things.  
A lot of women have been talking about body image lately.  I always feel a bit weird about these conversations because, as many of them have said, women take this conversation personally and approach everyone’s body journey through their own perspective.  It is a hard relationship to be honest about with yourself and faceless readers.
These past two weeks, my body is reminding me that we are attached at the hip and what I do, it does too.  I am pasty, bloated, sluggish, blocked up (TMI) and am now farther from my goal than I have been in awhile.
I got complacent and forgot to be mindful. 
And the thing is, it isn’t that hard to be mindful of that body/mind relationship.  That was the most surprising part of the WW journey.  It was such a simple concept, why was it so hard to finally embrace?  As hard as it is to accept sometimes, my body can very much tell the stories of my mind and priorities.  Taking care of myself wasn’t a priority and it was written all over my face.  Maybe it was because it sounds a bit indulgent to be so concerned with my physical being.  The same with my mental being.  Self-care can sound like an exercise in pure selfish indulgence.  Maybe it is, but I have come to believe it is a healthy indulgence.  It doesn’t take much time (as indulgence can sometimes imply) but it does take effort, although not as much as I expected. 
Through the last (almost) three years, I have come to the realization that I am fully responsible for the condition of my physical self.  I do not want to become obsessed with my physical appearance, there are too many other interesting things out there in the world, but I have realised that being mindful of that relationship is beneficial to both my body and mind. 

Monday, 15 August 2011

Time Marches On

Oh dear readers, where does the time go?
The weekend goes by so fast and then, before you know it, you’re walking along to the dry cleaner and post office and there, on the sidewalk, a redish-yellowish-orangish maple leaf.  It’s Autumn and the start of another year. 
For me the year starts in Autumn.  I have been in school too long.  I don’t know if this will change anytime soon.  Come to think of it, it is a weird time to think of a new year beginning when everything is slowly winding down for the long winter.  But it is around this time that I get a hankering for a new box of crayons.  You know the one.  That yellow and green box with 64 colours, most of which you have never imagined, and a sharpener in the back? 
When I was a kid I didn’t always get a new box of crayons for the school year.  I don’t think it was because we didn’t have the money, I think it was because a new box of crayons, when the old box was still perfectly usable, would be wasteful.  I get the lesson now.  Then, it was just another item on the ‘hey-look-at-me-I’m-not-like-you’ list.  Right up there with brown bread and tofu-spread sandwiches, carob ‘chocolate,’ and brown rice balls in the lunch box with a generic picture.  No My Pretty Pony or Jem lunch boxes for me.  Although, I believe I had a parent-approved Muppet Show lunch box for awhile, but it was metal and had sharp edges and somehow it turned into the storage container for clown make-up. 
As I say, I get the lesson now.  I will probably insist my children use their crayons until they can no longer be fished out of the crevices of that yellow and green box or get lost in the sharpener.  I will also insist on a ‘timeless’ lunch receptacle (minus the tofu spread, carob, and rice balls). 
You live, you learn.  However, while I never have a hankering for tofu spread, carob and rice balls, I do still yearn for a fresh box of crayons. 

This weekend, I discovered there is also a time when you will unwittingly learn (and follow in) your mother’s fashion choices.  Choices you once mocked.  My time has come.  Take a look at these two photos.  (Ignore the facial expressions…I was more concerned with the fact I was standing on our sidebar trying to get a photo in the mirror above the mantle than smiling.)

What do you see? 
Let me tell you what you see.  An off-the-shoulder styling.  When I was a child, maybe still-I don’t know, my mother routinely cut the collars out of her shirts.  She said she did this because they were too tight around her neck.  This may be, but it also created an off-the-shoulder style that became her signature for awhile.  At least to me.  (If I had access to the Rubbermaid-box-o-photos in the parents’ basement, I would provide proof.  For now, you just have to trust me on this one.)
I remember a lot of comments/jokes about being a member of the Flashdance cast.  If I recall correctly, there may also have been a half mocking tutorial about how to properly cut a collar in the playground of the day-care center where she worked.  Maybe. 
I may be making this up.
Regardless, it appears I have come to that age where it feels like a good fashion moment to wear the ‘good’ bra because the strap will be on show.  Hmm….  This could go horribly wrong and the next thing you know I will be wearing patchouli, going without the bra altogether and attacking my t-shirt drawer with scissors. 

I’m not sure where I am going with this, but I will tell you that I love this new-to-me shirt (a swap piece) and was seriously considering getting some more.  After this realization, I may leave it at just the one. 
I'm not ready to become my mother, just yet.  

Friday, 12 August 2011

Mindful Mrs.

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

Have we all heard about ‘Mindfulness?’ 
It’s about being in each moment.  It’s suppose to keep you from dwelling in the past or agonizing about the future. 
It’s hard work.  Every thought and action needs to be recognized and acknowledged and then released.  Then you move on to the next moment and do it again.  And then do it again. 
It’s exhausting. 
But it’s not just recognize, acknowledge, release. 
Recognize, acknowledge, release.  Recognize, acknowledge, release.  Recognize, acknowledge, release.
You also have to decide whether these thoughts and actions are helpful to you.  Are you stuck in a routine that is unhelpful and perhaps even harmful to your wellbeing?  This is the hardest part.  This is where you have to suck it up and recognize, acknowledge and release routines that you may very well have spent months putting into place.
I mean, I have invested a lot of time in my morning coffee-TV-internet routine.  But it may very well be unhelpful.  Actually, that routine may not be unhelpful, but the one that follows could be the problem. 
After my coffee-TV-internet routine, I hit the shower and an hour later I am dressed and tressed.  This is where things start to go a bit pear-shaped. 
I gather the work together on the kitchen table and then I notice that the dishes need to be done, and then that the floor needs to be swept, and then I remember that Nigella is on, and then I notice that the living room is a bit cluttered and needs a spruce (a clean, not a large conifer).  It goes like this for a few hours, and then, before I know it, it’s 4 o’clock and getting close to traditional quitting time.  But of course, as I am a housebound housewife/freelance geographer I don’t actually have an official quitting time.  However, despite my somewhat untraditional upbringing, I do have a soft spot for tradition.  So, at 4 o’clock I begin putting away the piles of work I got out earlier and prepare for my evening routines, a run (if weather allows) and dinner fixings.   Then Pete is on his way home and its couple time. 
So If I am following the recognize, acknowledge, release prescription…
I recognize somewhere between the showering and the run, there may be a problem.  I acknowledge I am doing my housewife work and I am not doing my freelance geographer work.  I have yet to release the pattern. 
Or maybe it’s the guilt I have to release.  I read somewhere that guilt stifles creativity. 
I have been feeling guilty about enjoying Housewife Ariel more than Dr. Ariel.  This guilt keeps me from doing any work for Dr. Ariel.  Granted, some of the work I don’t want to do and am only doing because I feel guilty. 
I don’t like being a quitter.  I have quit quite a few things in my life, but there are other things that I should have quit but held on until the bitter end.  And that doesn’t go well. 
So instead of quitting, I am releasing.  That sounds better right?  I am releasing the patterns and activities that are unhelpful. 

Recognize, Acknowledge, Release. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I recognize a particular growling in the belly, I acknowledge that I am hungry and haven’t hit the breakfast part of my morning routine yet, and there is some leftover cake in the kitchen that is begging to be released from its Tupperware.