Friday, 30 September 2011

Housewife Scores!

It’s Friday!  Welcome to ‘The Chronicles of a Reluctant Housewife’ documenting my learning curve as a new, and unexpected, full-time homemaker.

Red wine & salt
While you wouldn’t know it from our current weather, last week was a bit chilly and I was feeling a bit snotty and the leaves were starting to turn so I decided to make my first cup of mulled wine.  I had a big mug and while I was sloppily taking the last gulp I dribbled.  A lot. 
By the time Pete poked his head out of the living room to see what the fuss was about, I had ripped off my shirt and pulled the salt out of the cupboard.  Everyone has their own remedy for the red wine spill.  Mine is salt.  Lots and lots of salt and let it sit.  The next morning, the stain was almost invisible, in the wash and now you would never know. 
Sadie 1, Red Wine 0

Clean floor-who knew?
This past weekend I woke up with a pounding headache (see above).  In my addled state I decided it would be the perfect time to wash the kitchen floor.  On my hands and knees. 
Now our kitchen isn’t very big, at all, but it took me at least 45 minutes.  I stood up and, I sh*t you not, the floor actually sparkled.  The sunshine streaming through the window was reflected off the floor!!  I was so shocked by the difference, I think I mentioned how clean the floor is at least five times.  I still can’t believe it. 
Sadie 1, Floor 0

Salt in the eye
This is an easy one.  I was sprinkling salt flakes over a dish.  I might have been a bit too theatrical in my sprinkling form because somehow I got salt in my eye. 
So much for my Top Chef flourish.
Sadie 0, Salt 1

Domino’s Dipping Sauce
We tend to get quite a collection of those green tubs of dipping sauce that come with Domino’s Pizza.  We stopped using the dip for the pizza awhile ago, but what do you do with it?  It just starts piling up?  It seems a shame to just pitch it.  In the last week, I used it to marinade chicken (which I then wrapped in streaky bacon and baked with tomatoes (YUM!!) and then a garnish on stuffed eggplant which I partially stuffed with breadcrumbs made from old croutons.  Am I crafty and resourceful, or what?  Don’t answer.  Let me live in my delusion for awhile. Still marking it as one for me.
Sadie 1,  Random Foodstuffs 0

Last week during the cold snap, I made potato leek soup.  There are many ways to make this soup.  Our recipe calls for sealing the pot with parchment paper while the taters and leeks cook down.  You are also meant to stir frequently.  Now, Pete usually handles this recipe but I was rocking it out this night.  I pulled the parchment off to stir and apparently didn’t notice where I placed the paper.  I go to seal the pot again and find the paper in flames. 
SH*T! SH*T! SH*T!  
 Again, by the time Pete poked his head out of the living room, it was under control. 
Those black flecks in the soup?  Freshly Ground Pepper. 
(We don’t have a working pepper grinder)
Sadie 1, Soup 1

So, on the homemaker front.  Not too shabby.  Sadie streaks ahead with a score of 4 to 2. 
The profanity front…. Looks like Sadie looses to SH*T!  4 to 1.

You win some, you lose some. 

Wednesday, 28 September 2011


I am feeling drained of words.  I am feeling drained of opinions. 
As an aspiring writer, this is not good.
For the last week or so, I have not seen the stories in the little things.  I have not been mindful of the days going on around me.  But I am also tired of the words and opinions I find around me on the interwebs.  Which is where I spend a lot of my time lately.  I miss my physical friends.  I miss real laughter.  I am beginning to hate interweb shorthand, but find myself continually drawn to the virtual looking glass.

For the last few weeks I have been participating in an online ‘PathFinder’ course.  Its purpose, as I saw it, was to detect your passions among all the things you actually do all day and find a way to pursue them more regularly, more mindfully, and in the process find a creative path for yourself.  A feel good course, as my mom calls it.  And it was working, I was writing everyday and becoming more and more convinced that I could be a writer and explorer in my own way. 

Then the words stopped.  I had no more words.  I had no more stories to tell. 
Maybe I should be more clear.  I have stories to tell.  I have stories I am contractually obligated to tell.  I have no words.  I have no ideas about how to gain words.  I do not see a place to start. 
This is not good. 

I decided to try a different tack.  A different approach with different tools.  Usually, I write on the keyboard and pretty much free-flowing.  I type because I can type faster than I can write and I can proofread as I go.  But as anyone who writes knows, the blank open document is daunting.  There are of course tricks to diminish the daunting: copy and paste previous attempts to fool the brain into thinking you have already begun and just need to pick up a thread and keep weaving, type out the prompt/assignment/abstract/subject line in the blind hope it will trigger some pithy thought that can then be spun for a few lines until the juices start flowing, play with fonts and sizes and colours until the proposed title looks pretty and maybe the design element sparks the literary element, physically move yourself and your computer to a different setting (with no internet connection).  
I tried all these, it’s not working. 
Then I decided to sit down with paper and pen and see what happened.  Journaling is an integral part to this course and has always been part of my coping and ‘working through’ process, so why not try to journal the story and see what happens.  The journal atmosphere can be a bit more freeing than typing.  There can be arrows and side-notes and scribbles and cross outs.  It is more visual and more easily creative and flowing than left-clinking, track changing, shape inserting word processing.  At least for me.
I find it is also a way to slow down the thinking and allow for a little more composition rather than hit and run typing.  You can work on your penmanship.  The letters connecting become a bit of an art.  The words get messy when the ideas flow, when the idea is just forming the words are each a little piece of art, each a variation on a theme leading to the next idea.  Eventually they make a page of vacillating, oscillating prose.  The shadow of the pen and the words on the page simultaneously spill from the pen on a sunny day, so rare now.  Just like the writing.  So rare now. 

I still feel like I have no words.  No stories to tell.  No opinions to make.  But I am putting pen to paper and focusing on the process, looking for new inspiration, hoping a product comes eventually.  Leaving the house, engaging in the world.

It’s all I can do. 

**despite my writers' block, I recommend the Path Finder for a fun few weeks of introspection.  It won't necessarily change your life but it could highlight a way to change your life, if you so desire.  You also are given an excuse to break out the crayons and markers, as if you need an excuse.

Friday, 23 September 2011

To sleep...

It’s Friday!  Welcome to ‘The Chronicles of a Reluctant Housewife’ documenting my learning curve as a new, and unexpected, full-time homemaker.

This week has been interesting.  I have only just recovered.  Amazingly I have provided dinner every night despite not having gone to the grocery in two weeks.  It’s a combination of improvisation, take-away and numerous runs to the shop around the corner.  This is what happens when I don’t get sleep. 
That might not be completely accurate as I swing between being an insomniac and light sleeper on a regular basis, but this week I went three nights in a row with about four hours of sleep a night.  I know this doesn’t sound like it should be a problem as I stay home.  I could just sleep-in, right?  But then I’m not getting up until 10, which means I’m not showered and coffee-ed and ready to face the world until 1 and then it’s just all downhill from there. 
But why was I only sleeping four hour a night, you ask?  Was it my usual brain-racing insomnia? 
It was because Britain doesn’t believe in window screens and I can no longer stand the sound of rain.
This was the combination that threw me over the edge Tuesday night and had me outside, in the rain, in a flimsy robe, at 3am, inspecting the down pipes like a crazy woman.  
Let me back up. 
It began on Sunday night.  Around my routine 3am wake-up I was dive-bombed by a mosquito.  Repeatedly.  It wouldn’t just get it over with and bite, it decided to torture me first by hovering over my ear at intervals spaced just far enough for me to almost fall asleep.  After flaling at it a few times while grunting, I finally just pulled the sheet over my ear and tried not to move too much. 
The next morning, I had a bite on my arm.
Monday night. 3 am.  Dive-bombed again.  I didn’t realize they lived longer than a day, but I pulled the sheet up and again attempted not to move.  This didn’t work.  Every time I shifted, I also had to re-shift the sheet over my ear.  It became too much work.  I tried stuffing tissue in my ears but then all I could hear was the tissue ruffling in my ear.  Like someone crumpling paper.  All. Night. Long.
Another bite, on the other arm. 
Tuesday night.  3am.  Dive-bombed again.  Shifted the sheet again.  (Notice in all this time we haven’t thought to just close the damn window!  Except we have done that in the past and it gets too stuffy.  We have closed the window and turned on the fan, but the noise of the fan drives me to the brink of insanity and circulated stale air is still stale air.) Now I am awake I notice it is raining outside.  Great.  But it’s not raining very hard, just a steady drizzle.  Just enough to make the downpipes gurgle.  Gurgle.  Gurgle. 
So now I am sleep deprived, hiding from a mosquito and having leak flashbacks and really need to pee.  I silently scream into my pillow.  I decide I can’t take it anymore and get out of bed and grab a robe and head downstairs.  I am going to pee and then investigate.  The gurgling pipes just seem too loud to be right.  Something is leaking, I am sure of it. 
I get downstairs and realize I have grabbed the flimsiest robe we have and that it is actually raining harder than I thought.  I don’t care!  Something needs to be done! 
Outside I am crouching over drains, scrambling over the lumber pile that has been in our side-return since we moved in, and sticking my hand into the down pipes to figure out what is making that horrible noise!!  Of course, I didn’t grab my glasses or a flashlight so I can’t see a damn thing and I am out of my mind with no sleep and water torture.  I don’t’ find anything out of the ordinary (except of course, me, wandering around in my back garden in the middle of the night in a silk Chinese robe and clogs). 
If you’re wondering where Pete is during all this…He’s in bed.  Sleeping.  As you do.
I climb back into bed, slightly damp, and settle in.  I. Will. Sleep.
And then it starts.  The dripping.  Something is dripping with a regularity that can only be purposefully orchestrated.  I can’t tell where it is coming from.  It seems to be moving, but the rhythm never breaks. 

Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip.

I try the tissues again.  I can hear the dripping and gurgling through the tissues stuffed in my ear.


7am.  Wednesday Morning.
Pete finds me sleeping on the couch.  Or at least attempting to sleep.  The place that is perfect for an afternoon nap is not perfect for a night’s sleep. 
That evening I dig out the camping supplies and locate all our mosquito repellent.  I’m convinced the only thing between me and a good sleep is a healthy dose of DEET. 

Wednesday night.  Slept like a drugged insomniac. 

Thursday morning.  Pete finds a bite on his arm. 

*Cue a slow-mo montage of myself storming the bedroom draped in cans of DEET spraying anything that moves, mouth open in primal scream and Pete bolting out of bed ("What the ****!") completely unaware that his wife has been driven to yet another insectal genocide.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Admission is the first step

When Pete flipped the calendar a few weeks ago, he immediately said, “that’s you all over.”
And while I haven’t quite got to the point that we have had to resort to cheese and crackers for dinner, I do have a bit of a shoe problem.  We can no longer go to T.K. Maxx as I have to pass the shoe section to get to the homewares and I can’t help but have a glance.  When I finally meet up with Pete in homewares, I am inevitably carrying the shoes I came in and trying out a new contender.  If they are still comfortable by the time we head to the check out, I usually get them. 
To be fair, it is only recently that Pete voiced a concern about this practice.  Over dinner with friends on Friday, he was unusually vocal about our T.K. trips and my burgeoning tribute to Imelda Marcos.  Hmm.  What makes it a bit more embarrassing is that I ‘work’ from home so I very rarely have the need to put on actual shoes.  I spend the majority of my days in socks and slippers.  But a girl has needs. 
Unfortunately, my ‘needs’ are beginning to take over the house.  I currently have shoes stored in at least four different areas in the house.  Wait, five.  I don’t actually know how many pairs I have in each area and to be honest I am a bit scared to do a head count (foot count?).  I have a feeling I will find that I have enough pairs to wear a different pair every day of the month and still have some left over.  In my defence, some are very specialized.  I mean, hiking boots cannot be included in the count as they are necessary, but only used for very special occasions.  The same can be said of my wedding shoes and other related ‘dress’ shoes.  These are only brought out for cocktail parties or photo shoots, so those shouldn’t count either.  Then there are the seasonal pairs that really should only be counted when they are in season.  I can’t be expected to get rid of my flip flops and cute sandals just because I only wear them for three months out of the year.  Same goes for the tall boots.
So really……..If we continue this line of logic, it’s completely reasonable to have four, five, shoe zones.  One for each season and 'special use.' 

Hello, my name is Ariel and I am a shoe addict. 

Next week, handbags and totes.  

Oh my!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Whiny Wife

It’s Friday!  Welcome to ‘The Chronicles of a Reluctant Housewife’ documenting my learning curve as a new, and unexpected, full-time homemaker.

Hello Friends.  A big thank you to those that stopped by on Wednesday to peruse these Chronicles.  I will also apologize.  I also perused the archive on Wednesday and realized it had become a repository for a bit of whining.  I am a ball of inconsistencies.  While claiming to embrace my home-maker-ness, I have also been whining.  To be honest, I was going for sarcasm, but it doesn’t always come across.  I once said my memoirs would be called, ‘Sarcasm doesn’t translate to print.’  Completely irrelevant to the issue at hand. 
The issue, as I see it, is that I have a constantly changing view of what it means to be a housewife and how I feel about the role.  I guess the straight-forward definition would be a wife that stays home and takes care of ‘the house,’ i.e. cleaning, cooking, ironing, schedule keeping, family finances, etc.  We won’t touch the child aspect.  I’m not going there, despite it being an assumed part of the gig.  However, I feel like ‘housewife’ must mean more than that these days.  In my small circle of friends there are quite a few women that are basically functioning as housewives on a daily basis, but are also studying for a degree, starting their own business, doing some light admin work for the family business or moving between freelance positions.  And I feel like this has always been the case with housewives.  They are always the engine behind the family machine. 
I am very aware that the ‘heyday’ of the housewife was coupled with an inevitability.  However, due to the tenacity of those housewives, and time just marching on, our generation* has, all things being equal (which is rare, I know, but go with it), the choice to chuck it all in and stay at home.  To be fair, I didn’t choose to stay home and I raged against it for a long time and that discomfort and inability to accept my position caused a lot of angst, as you all read.  Eventually, I got my head on straight and put my energy toward finding the positives in my position and I’m happy to say I am happy.  We are healthier, spending less money, less stressed and, I think, a better team.  Yes, being happy in my position includes my husband’s happiness.  If that isn’t important to me, then I shouldn’t be married.  But if I’m not happy, he isn’t happy so taking time to take care of me is also taking care of us.  For me, being a housewife isn’t about giving everything to my family or about being selfish with my time.  It is a happy balance that makes us all happy.  It’s about creating a support system that allows us to flourish, together. 
But our generation doesn’t want to claim the title of housewife with all its Donna Reed implications.  (Although, that reference has its own issues as it is a fictional character and she was the un-credited producer and writer.)  As a point of interest, I am the only one of my friends that refers to herself as a housewife.  Maybe I like the drama of the title.  It does elicit some interesting responses.  Maybe it’s the dormant non-conformist in me.  Maybe I’m retro.  Maybe both.  Who knows.
What I do know, is that I am happier than I have been for a long time.  It has taken me a long time to get here, but I know for certain I would not have got here without my husband.  I don’t know what my life would be like if I didn’t go to Africa and if my friend didn’t work her wily ways to push us toward each other in those few short weeks.  But I don’t want to know.  That isn’t what happened.  What happened was a dream come true, literally.  Forgetting that in order to mourn a hypothetical parallel life is a waste of time.   

I guess this is a long-winded way of  saying that I will be working toward making the Chronicles a bit more lively, less whiny. 

But thanks for sticking with me through the whiny.  Into every life a little whine must fall.  I prefer mine dry. 

*please accept that the generation I am referring to is a sweeping generalization including women in my ‘demographic’ group, which to be honest is relatively privileged its it ability to accumulate education and careers and its ability to walk away if it so chooses.   

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Map Edge

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

Yesterday I went for a morning run.   It was unseasonably sunny and warm.  It was a little windy. 
And by a little windy I mean I was almost lifted off my feet at one point, ran in place at numerous points, and had a mouthful of sand grit on my return.  Apparently a hurricane was heading for Ireland, and I decided it would be a good time to go for a run along the River Thames.  I think my self-imposed news ban might be getting a bit dangerous.
I imposed the ban a few month ago when I found that I got too worked up over stupid politicians and transport strikes.  It served me well over the weekend when the news was inundated with 9 Sept. ‘memories.’  I remember every time I watch a Friends or Sex and the City repeat.  I remember the terror, the disbelief, the sorrow at seeing the names of co-workers I left the week before on ever-growing lists.  I remember.  I don’t need a reminder.  Time stands still on 9 Sept. for me.  I don’t flip the calendar.  In our house we go directly from 10 Sept to 12 Sept.  On the morning of 11 Sept I got up early to watch the Eagles take on Ireland in the Rugby.  I missed the National Anthem.  Which turned out to be a good thing, because when Pete asked if I caught it, I started tearing up. 
Living in London with the love of my life is a dream come true.  But when Autumn starts to roll in I get a bit homesick for the MidWest.  Hearing the National Anthem on 9 Sept. may have driven me over the edge.    

But that isn’t what I wanted to write about today.  I wanted to write about running and direction. 
About half-way through my run yesterday I began thinking about pushing forward.  I admit this was at a point when my head was tucked to my chest and eyes squeezed shut as the wind kicked up a swirl of sand from the river banks.  Lately I have had to admit that I enjoy running, at least when it is a nice day.  Running in the sleet storm a few weeks back sucked hard core!!  I won’t be running a marathon anytime soon.  I have no desire to run a marathon.  No, I like running because it gives me time out and is a bit of a zen practice for me.  At numerous points in the run I realize that my mind and body are operating independently.  This is not the same as me approaching my body as a separate entity but about it giving in to a rhythm and my mind being free to wander.  My legs keep pumping and carrying me forward, navigating the rises and falls and bumps with minimal direction. 
A lot of the wandering has to do with being amazed that I am even running.  But that quickly turns to marvelling at the path my life is taking.  It wasn’t very long ago that I was mourning the direction I was heading.  It was heading away from a lot of external expectations that I had come to think of as my own and I was feeling lost.  I see now that it was heading in the ‘right’ direction, I just wasn’t looking at the map properly.  My life kept pumping, pushing where it knew I should go while my head tried to scream that it was missing the exit. 

Maps are very powerful things.  They come in a variety of forms and I love all of them.  When I used to teach, I introduced maps to my students with a simple exercise. 
Draw a map of the campus.     
When they compared maps, they were amazed that everyone’s map was completely different.  Commuters centred their map on parking lots, resident students on their dorm.  Some buildings were missed out entirely and North was rarely at the ‘top.’  It is my favourite lesson.  Right up there with the orange peel globe.
Yesterday on my run I realized that I have been working off someone else’s map.  Many features are similar to mine, but key buildings and paths were left off.  I think I am back on track now. 
Or maybe I’m at the edge of the map.  That hazy bit where the lines and features turn into a blur and unknown.  Into the seemingly impossible or unimaginable.
‘Here there be monsters. 

I like it here.  I am an explorer after all.  The edge of the map is exactly where I am supposed to be. 

Enough with the cartography metaphors.  Here are some views from my running route.

'New Road Layout Ahead'

Holding back the floods

Crepuscular Rays

Yacht Club and Found Art

* all photos taken with iPhone on an evening walk.  I don't run and shoot.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Circus Trend Update

The circus trend continues!
Since I last updated you on the most recently rebirth of circus trends I spotted a few more examples.

Up first, Fashion.  Or majorly discounted fashion warehouses.

I took this photo in TK Maxx on one of our weekend visits.  I think we were looking for socks.  I left with two pairs of socks, a metal spoon, a linen top, a tablecloth, and probably a pair of shoes.  It’s a sickness, I know.  I blame the advertising.

These pamphlets were collected at the local library on my monthly rummage.  Sometimes I can’t wait to have kids so that I have an excuse to attend events like this.  Breathe, Mum, I said, sometimes.  I would go on my own if I knew how to juggle or make balloon animals.  I could pass myself off as the 'special guest.'

This is a shot from my scrapbook, but it is the logo of the Greenwich Comedy Festival.  They set up a Big (and small) Top every year down at the Royal Naval College.  Last Friday we were enjoying a drink at the neighbouring Old Brewery and thought we might be in for a treat.  The tent was partially erected and we thought we might be witness to one of the best shows of the circus, the tent raising.  Three hours later and the tent was still on the ground.  Shameful.  Any self-respecting tent crew would have had it up two and a half hours earlier and be sitting down for a drink after a well deserved shower and meal.  Shameful. 
Just goes to show, you can’t fake the circus.  Some things cannot be replicated.

Speaking of tents.  This next one came through our mail slot last week.  IKEA Kids is venturing into the circus, again.  They flirted with the circus a few years ago (and I may or may not have squirreled away a few items) but nothing on this scale.  You can see that I have already earmarked this item for Christmas.  I will have my own circus tent whether I fit in it or not!!!

In other tent news, Kelly Miller Circus has a new one.   You can head over to Mudshow Diaries to get a few sneak peeks at the new digs.  It’s very shiny and new.  They desperately needed a new tent.  I remember looking up every evening, considering the holes above and deciding whether a hood would be needed for the evening performance.  However, as one that no longer has to work under the dripping vinyl, I miss the red and blue stripes of the old one and the field of stars inside.  When I gazed at those holes and sunlight streamed through them into the dark interior, I always had the fleeting thought that these pin pricks looked like the real thing next to the faded painted stars.   

One of the old tents, circa 2008, in Southwood, NY.  This was one of those perfect circus days.  Not too hot, clear skies, light breeze and good pizza place in walking distance.

Another old tent, circa 2009, Kelleys Island, OH.  This was the season immediately following my brief tour. This tent wasn't nearly as pin pricked as the one I worked under, but just as pretty. 

Good-bye, old friends. 

*by the way, all photos taken by yours truly.  I'm not a photographer. 

Friday, 9 September 2011

Assignment: Laundry

It’s Friday!  Welcome to ‘The Chronicles of a Reluctant Housewife’ documenting my learning curve as a new, and unexpected, full-time homemaker.

I know I speak a lot about laundry when describing my housewife status*.  I also know that laundry is not a housewife-exclusive task.  It is an inevitable chore for everyone that doesn’t wish to be the subject of the question, ‘What is that smell?’
However, I find that it is a task that is overwhelmingly present on my daily to-do lists.  Maybe it is because washing machines in Britain are so much smaller than the beasts I first learned to use in America.  Maybe it is because we have fewer clothes (due to a chronic lack of wardrobe space in London flats) that we wear repeatedly.  Maybe it is because we do not have a clothes drier and everything takes at least a day, or two, or three, to dry in the damp (which let's face it, is at least 9 months out of the year).  Or, maybe it is because I am pretty crap at actually getting clothes clean. 
I have an irrational fear of using really hot water when doing laundry.  I know it’s ridiculous, but it is because the majority of our loads are mixed colours.  I don’t have the square footage to air-dry numerous colour-coded loads.  Our flat already looks like a functioning laundry most of the time.  The shower curtain rail is occupied with drying shirt and trousers six days out of seven, the radiators are permanently draped in clothing regardless of the presence of heat, the drying rack is in a kind of perpetual motion between bathroom, kitchen and outside depending on weather conditions and my activities and there is forever a pile of clothes at the foot of the machine waiting its turn. (this becomes a tripping hazard as the machine is under the kitchen counter directly below the dish rack and adjacent to the sink.  it's like a chore obstacle course down there.) 
I was making lovely and efficient use of the clothes line, but the seasons have turned and the tree is producing berries.  Last weekend I went out to discover our fitted sheet covered in berry and bird-shit splatters.  So ends the season of a laundry-free(ish) flat. 
I tend to wash with luke warm or cold water.  To be fair, this isn’t usually too much of an issue, as we aren’t particularly messy people.  However, we are both sweat-ers and getting that activated-deodorant smell out of shirts requires hot water and strong biological powder.  This means carefully planning of loads and outfits.  The amount of brain power used up coordinating washing and drying is exhausting, I tell you.  Of course, this is then doubled when I have failed to get out a stain, which to be honest is about every three loads. 
It goes one of two ways with me and stains.  Either the stain fades but is still very present (usually in the chest area, so very noticeable), or the stain goes but the clothing is left with a faded spot where there is no longer a stain (again, in the chest area).  Then there is a third, less frequent, but common enough, scenario in which I get the double whamming of a noticeably faded fabric with a faded, yet still prominent stain. 

The horror.  I know.  It keeps me up nights.

But I plug on, experimenting with dial combinations, water temps and detergents.  I am determined to master this laundry thing. 
I have a handle on the cooking and generally keep a clean house.  I make a mean after-work cocktail.  I am shying away from minor repairs after rendering our sink drain completely blocked instead of just slow by not diluting the caustic soda enough.  This resulted in a complete dismantling of the sink plumbing and some minor chemical burns on Monday night.  Not so good there.
I will master my fear of hot water and laundry.  It is all that standing in the way of me becoming a competent housewife.  I will prevail.

*cue rousing, inspiring music as I gather another load in my arms and head toward the machine, a glint in my eye and determination in my heart*

*For those of you that might be new to the blog and this series in particular.  Please note that most of what is written here is done so with my tongue firmly in cheek.  I do not wish to offend or belittle the role of housewife/homemaker.  It is a role I am enjoying and one that I am very aware extends far beyond laundry, cleaning, cooking.  Activities which I am sure will become so very unimportant and uninteresting when our family expands beyond us two (or if I begin work outside the home) but which are of quite a bit of interest to me (and I think a lot of other 'overly-educated, un-employed' women) at the moment.  Hang in there. 

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Conversation Space

How do you visualize a conversation? 
A swirl of colours or words.  A geometric pattern of lines and shapes.  A space to be occupied.

I never really thought about this before, but something a friend said a few months ago got me thinking about the space we take up in a conversation and what that might look like.  How does a conversation develop and thrive if viewed this way?  Do you occupy or observe a conversation.
Confession: I am a conversation occupier.  Like a benevolent dictator occupier.  I direct and redirect to my interests and purposes but everyone is still relatively happy despite a slight bitter tasting cocktail.  Or at least I was. 
It took me a while to see this in myself.  I only started really noticing it in my 30s.  There’s something about being in that third decade where everything about yourself and life starts to make sense.  You suddenly begin to ‘get it.’  All that advice handed out and ignored in your 20s is suddenly priceless and totally appropriate.  What is that saying? “Enjoy yourself, that’s what your 20s are for.  Your 30s are to learn the lessons; your 40s are to pay for the drinks.” 
I am enjoying my 30s.  I didn’t really have a breakdown when I turned 30.  I had a stomach parasite on my actual birthday, so I was exploding at both ends, but that wasn’t really a breakdown.  I had numerous thesis breakdowns during my 30th year, but I don’t know how many of them were connected to turning 30.  32 has not been great.  I think it is my 30 breakdown delayed.  In their wedding toast my parents said something about me being a slow-starter.  I guess that applies here as well, it took a few years to have the 30 breakdown; questioning what I have done with my life so far, am I behind in life, what does the future look like, am I too old to play and wear stripey socks just for kicks? 
In order to try and get a hold of myself and make some sense of it all.  I created a Life List.  At first it was filled with things that I wanted to achieve in this life.  Literally, things.  Not experiences.  It didn’t have much joy.  It was about having a great wardrobe and a relaxing bathroom.  Not really ambitions or dreams.  It is still posted here, despite its joylessness.  Then I thought about what my life list would have looked like when I was a younger Ariel.  Before I became a ‘grown-up’ Sadie.   
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an explorer and writer, I wanted to be a showgirl on an elephant in the circus, I wanted to be a dancer.  As an older kid in high school, I wanted to work for National Geographic, I wanted to travel, I wanted to live in another country, I wanted to fall in love and have an impossibly romantic story. 
I have done every single one of these things.  What an eye-opener.  Without thinking too much about it, they are crossed off the list. With the exception of one: explorer and writer. 

This is a work in progress.  I think I have always been an explorer and writer.  When I was a kid I visualized myself dressed in khaki and discovering new places and people and telling the world.  Now when I look back, I think my decade long postgraduate career has been about training to be an explorer.  Learning the craft of ‘modern exploration’ if you will.  I’m not discovering new places and people, but I am definitely exploring and learning about life and the creation of places (my particular interest as a geographer) and writing about it along the way.  I have always been a writer.  I have always expressed myself on paper.  It may not be pretty or elegant, but I think through writing.  I don’t always know where my writing is going, but it always seems to come full circle and make some connection for me.  I seek out stories and love telling stories.  Of course, I tend to embellish a bit, but you would be surprised how little I actually have to improve the truth when it comes to my own antics.  I am a magnet for the ridiculous. Or at least I have an uncanny ability to recognize the ridiculous being the daughter of circus clowns. 
I think this explains my previous benevolent dictatorship approach to conversation.  I wanted to tell my stories.  I wanted to entertain.  Of course, as a postgraduate for a decade, I was living a very solitary life and part of my occupation was due to desperation for human contact and connection.  “You did that? I did that, too!! Here’s my version. I’m too excited to wait until you’re done. We’re the same, isn’t that awesome?!” 
In the last year, I have started to observe the conversation more.  The experience of being a researcher has taught me the art of observation.  And it is an art or at least a skill.  The space of a conversation is an art and I find the observation of it to be a fascinating experience.  I now see the colours and lines, the give and take of the space.  The observation of a conversation can be as telling as the words spoken. 
I will still participate in the swapping of stories.  Any good explorer worth their khaki participates in the place and events they observe, to some degree. 
 “Knowledge of such memories comes more readily to the observer-participant, who has danced the dance or joined the procession, than it does to the reader.”  -Joseph Roach

Is ‘explorer’ a viable career path?  Do people have business cards that say ‘Explorer?’ 
I read today that NASA is looking for astronauts.  If kids can still aspire to be an astronaut then I guess I can still aspire to be an explorer. 
My current subject:  the places and ways of the new breed of young, educated housewives. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Taking a compliment

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

A few weeks ago a friend and I were chatting about stretch marks.  I don’t know how we got onto the subject.  We were in a ‘lotion & potion’ shop so maybe we say something that claimed to minimise or maybe we were discussing our personal moisturizing regiments.  It doesn’t really matter how we got there.

ME: I don’t think my mum has stretch marks.
FRIEND: That’s good genes. Lucky you.
ME: Actually, I think it has more to do with a hippy potion of vitamin E, patchouli and sandalwood  (Actually, it is probably just the vitamin E, but I always assume that every hippy remedy has a base of patchouli and sandalwood) because my thighs are pockmarked with stretch marks. 
FRIEND: What!!?? I’ve seen your thighs! I don’t remember stretch marks.
ME: That’s because you have only seen them from a distance and in flattering low light.  You would change your tune if you were up close in scary florescent lights. 
FRIEND: Whatever. You’re ridiculous. Ooohhh, this smells nice.

I’m not writing this to complain and/or celebrate my thighs or my questionable stretch mark genes. (Although, I have noticed that while they are jiggling more than usual on my runs, they seem to be slightly smaller. SCORE!) I’m sharing this brief conversation because I have trouble taking a compliment.   I don’t think I am alone here.
Why do we throw compliments back in our friends’ faces?  I know we have all been on the receiving end of a ‘Jellyfish’ compliment;  one that stings.  One that you would rather pee on yourself than accept.  But we usually see these coming.  We know which ‘friends’ hand these out on a regular basis.  Laughing these compliments off is part of a defence mechanism.
But this compliment came from a friend I trust and I still threw it back.
This is something I do too often.  I deflect compliments on clothing/outfits by quoting prices and sources.  I deflect compliments on cooking by relating the hidden mistakes.  I deflect compliments on academic writing by saying it’s too different, too creative to be successful.  A compliment on my hair, deflected with ‘its too straight/greasy/scraggly.’
I always find the flaw in the success.  My parents’ call it the  “Yeah, but….” 
Look at the exchange above.  When will anyone see my thighs up close in florescent light?  Where would all those conditions collide anywhere other than your yearly Gyno appointment?  And at that point I would relish a close-up examination of my….thighs, I think you’ll agree.   I don’t even think my husband has seen my thighs close up in florescent light.  Not because he hasn’t been around, but because I think he is probably distracted by my other bare bits.  So why present an impossible scenario instead of accepting the compliment and reaping the rewards of months of healthy eating and exercise?
Is it false modesty? Do I really believe I play no part in these ‘successes?’ Do I believe that I don’t deserve these compliments? 
I don’t know.  What I do know, is that it is time to stop.  Accepting the compliment with grace will not make me look conceited.  Accepting a compliment with grace and accepting that it is given truly, is not selfish.  I think.
Maybe it’s about being mindful.  Being mindful not only of how I feel, but how my insecurity makes my friends’ feel as well.  It can’t be nice to have compliments thrown back in your face.  It’s almost like an insult to the friend that took the time to notice and comment.  Like telling them they are foolish to admire or compliment something about you.  Like they are foolish to be your friend.  Because isn’t that why we cherish our friends?  They support us, they tell it like it is, they celebrate our successes and hold our hands when we fall.
Maybe it’s about selling yourself, but not in an annoying job-interview-way, but in the I-believe-in-the-best-of-me way.  In the I-accept-I-am-not-perfect-but-I-rocked-this-way. 

What do you think?  Do you gracefully accept compliments or brush them aside?  Do you find it a hard balance? 

Monday, 5 September 2011

An Experiment

I would like to begin by asking for a moment of silence. 
For the last five years, every night at 8pm, we were treated to yet another rerun of Friends.  For the last five years, we could always count on a little ridiculous comedy over dinner.  For the last five years, we have watched the gags coming and laughed every. Single. Time.  For the last five years, Friends has been our comfort food and blanket.  But no longer.  It’s a sad day.  Join me in silence.

And now, onto even more superficial discussions. 
Last week, I was engaged in a very important experiment.  In preparation for our mini-expedition to Morocco I didn’t blow-dry my hair all week.  I know.  Earth-shattering.  Let me try and explain. 
I have stick-straight, fine, thick, frizzy, limp hair.  I know it seems like that combination is a bit contradictory, but it is the truth, and every hairdresser I have ever had has marvelled at the contradiction that is my hair.  It has taken me the better part of my lifetime, and more mind-power than I would like to admit, to figure out the whole situation.  I have finally come to the combination of short cut, Aveda ‘mousse,’ good round brush, decent blow-dryer, let air-dry for a few minutes before beginning ‘styling,’ maybe a spray of dry shampoo.  This routine has served me well for the last few months and has relieved a lot of undue stress. 
We travel fairly regularly and I refuse to pack a hair-dyer (the centrepiece of my styling routine).  Usually, this isn’t an issue as every half-decent hotel has a hair-dryer-like contraption and most friends/families houses also have one in a cupboard as well.  However, on our upcoming mini-expedition, I am not expecting to find such a contraption in any of the accommodation set up for those two+ weeks.  Thus begins the dilemma. 
I know.  It’s completely superficial.  When travelling, hair condition should not be one’s main concern, and to be fair, it usually isn’t one of mine.  However, after looking back on our photos from Africa and those infamous wedding photos, I am distracted from all the lovely memories by the scraggly, oily mess that is my hair/fringe situation.  It's completely self-indulgent and ridiculous.  I know.  I will not have this anymore. 
Hence, the experiment.  In truth, it began as an accident.  Last Saturday morning, I got distracted after my shower and by the time I became un-distracted, I realized that my hair, sans blow-dry, was not too shabby (or scraggly or oily).  Yes, it wasn’t sleek, shiny and nicely shaped, but it was very passable for errand-running and, I figure, that works for expedition-ing as well. 
At this point, I would like to thank my hair-dresser for her amazing skill.  I have to believe that the pass-ability of my non-blown-dried hair to her skill with the scissors and her determination to get every Single. Hair. In. Line. With. Every. Other. Single. Hair.  She’s a magician. 
So, for the last week I abstained from blow-drying (being sick really helped that situation actually) and overall, it was a success. 
Now I can really get excited about Morocco and move on to worrying about how to deal with the inevitable car-sickness from travelling in a van over less-than smooth roads, trails, tracks, etc.