Monday, March 27, 2006

March 27, 2006

It's rainy and windy outside (or wind-ing as our youngest puts it) here. I just got home from walking her to school so I thought I'd take a few minutes to write.

Okay, well...I had my first driving lesson last week. I've been driving with Tim, but this was the first official lesson. I came home and thought I was going to ralph. I didn't stall and I didn't wreck and I wouldn't have been too embarrassed if anyone had caught it on tape, but I did feel like I was 16 again and stressed to the max!

Driving is so different here. Even the way you use the steering wheel. You cannot cross your hands over or let the steering wheel whiz through your hands when you've finished a turn. You have to feed the wheel from hand to hand and keep them at the 10 and 2 positions. Everything is so basic again, like starting all over driving for the first time. The instructor said that a new driver can take up to 6 months to be able to drive well. Yikes. That's not what I wanted to hear! Anyway, it's a new thing to learn but I hope I'll get it soon.

A new family from America moved in a few weeks ago. They were next door neighbors of my brother and sister-in-law, if you can believe that! And I'm totally jealous of the wife because she started driving the minute she got here. She has an automatic here and drove a stick all the time in the States, so she just tools around the city with no problem. I'm starting to weigh the benefits of begging for an automatic car versus the humiliation of having to admit that I need one...

Now I'll take you through a very basic thing: Grocery Shopping: First, like I mentioned before, it's called Food Shopping. If you were to go with me to Waitrose, our food store of choice, we would grab a trolley outside (not a cart) and enter the store through a slowly opening automatic door. The trolley is a wonder of movement, having four independently rotating wheels. That means you can move your trolley from side to side, forward and backward, and even kitty-corner if you so choose. It sort of threw me at first, like the trolley had a mind of its own and wouldn't go straight. Now I just let Tim drive. It solves everything.

Anyway, the produce is on display in sort of bin-like containers. There is a wide variety and the produce is good. We buy mostly organic veggies. I think I've already told you that zuccinnis are corgettes and aubergines are eggplants.

Then we pass what I affectionately call The Wall O' Cheese. Forget mild, medium and sharp cheddar. We've got regional cheeses, cheeses from specific farms, cheeses mixed with herbs and fruits, cheeses made from lots of different kinds of milk that came from different animals and lots and lots of variety.

I told Tim that I needed some Swiss cheese once. He asked, "What kind?" I stared at him with a blank look and fell into confusion. Was I supposed to know the answer to that? What kind?? "The kind with holes!" I replied. He showed me like 8 different types of Swiss cheese and said I needed to choose. And, to complicate cheese matters, just beyond the prepackaged section we were in, there's a deli counter that has wheels and wheels and blocks and chunks of even more cheeses.

More items of interest: Eggs are not refrigerated here. They wait in their nifty cartons for you to pluck them from the shelf. And, we don't refrigerate them at home either. It reminds me of Thailand sort of.

Marshmallows are white and pink. Don't know why. And they don't come in big jumbo packs or in the miniature size. They're actually better tasting than the ones in the US because they're not as airy.

Chocolate is better here. Sorry to have to break it to you. Yummy. And all kinds of variety.

Also, "chips" here are french fries. Chips are called "crisps". So there's an aisle of "crisps" with interesting flavors like Lamb & Mint Jelly and Chicken. I'm not kidding. I kinda want to try them, just to say I did. Of course, I want to try everything, if you must know. I walk down the aisles of Waitrose slowly, scanning the shelves. It really is fascinating. Tim's been really patient with my experimentation.

One of my latest quests is to find a suitable substitute for Crisco. They have "vegetable fat" and lard and margarine (pronounced marjareen, of course). I tried to make our family's never-fail choc chip oatmeal cookies and they just spread out all over the pan. I was disappointed but decided there just HAS to be a shortening that will work, and by heavens, I'll find it.

Oh! and I made a gingerbread cake last night. This is the thing. The recipe calls for molasses. Molasses here is much stronger than treacle so I used treacle. Well, treacle is much stronger than the American version of molasses, as evidenced by the almost chocolate color of the cake, and so, I find myself looking for something that will work that isn't molasses, but is.

There are loads of different kinds of sugar. In the States, ya got yer basic white, brown, dark brown and powdered. Here you have castor (very fine crystals for baking), granulated (larger crystals for drinks and cereal), demerara (even bigger crystals that are slighty brown like a very light brown sugar), light soft brown sugar, dark soft brown sugar, and I'm sure a few more that I haven't discovered yet.

Speaking of sugar, I made the Clone of Cinnabon recipe a few weeks ago. I thought I was going to score big points with everyone, especially Hannah, our resident sweet tooth, but no. I picked her up from school that day and she asked what we were having for dinner. I told her and then added, "And guess what? I made cinnamon rolls!" to which she turned around and with a scowl on her face said, "Can't you ever make anything nice??" Evidently she hates cinnamon. I had to laugh. The surefire win wasn't surefire at all. Isn't that the way of things?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

12 Weeks!

So, WHEW!!! We made it!! 12 weeks and nary a scratch. I now officially exhale and feel a little more secure in making long term plans.

Speaking of which, I don't think I've ever made a plan in my life that was supposed to be a long-term plan. Everything I've done has been sort of on-the-fly or something that I was doing as a temporary plan that ended up being a little more than temporary. Like, I was just going to work for a year after I left college and then get back into it. Yeah, like that plan was ever gonna work, 18 years later. And I was just going to go to California for a weekend to be in my friend's wedding. It was a long weekend. 6 years to be exact. Then, I was going to live in Utah just long enough to finish my degree. 12 years later, closer to the degree, but no sheepskin in hand. So what did I think I was doing getting married?

The other night, KZ asked me when I'd like to go on a mission. I was stunned. I was lying there in bed sort of looking at him thinking, "Wait a second! He's serious. This is something he really thinks about. Stuff that's further in the future than next year! Yikes!" I think he thought the perplexed look on my face indicated some form of intellectual reasoning about the timing of said mission, but no. It was really all about feeling like a deer in headlights and realizing that for the first time in my life, I have made a commitment to something that I can't slip out of or quit or move away from. Not that I want to, mind you, but I don't know that my mind has ever been able to get around the idea of participating in something that will last longer than, say...18 months? That's about the extent of my tolerance for long-term planning.

When I went on my mission, I gave everything away. It didn't occur to me that I would be coming back and that I'd want all my stuff again. When I got married, I gave everything away again. This time, I really won't be coming back and I can't have my stuff again. I'm sort of surprised by that, in a way. I don't know what I expected. I think I just wanted this for so long that I think maybe in my mind it was temporary, that I don't really get to be married for longer than, say....18 months? Then KZ starts this mission talk and I'm projecting into my 50s and SHAZZAM! my life is starting to feel like something permanent is going on here. Holy cow! How did that happen??

I'm left wondering what it means to put down roots. What anchors a person to a life? What makes a life "real"? And what about my new life is going to make me believe it is for real? Is it when I finally get the guts to have someone here color and cut my hair? Is it when I finally put my stuff away in our cupboards and closets and drawers instead of leaving it in bins on the floor of my side of the bed? Is it when I go shopping for things I need and know where to get them? Is it when I stop being surprised when KZ introduces me as his wife or when I finally introduce myself with my new name without first thinking of my old name and correcting myself mentally before speaking? Or is it when I finally accept and embrace the role of wife and mother for real with all the vulnerability and lack of control that it entails?

I just turned to KZ and, feeling a little 12 asked, "Is this really my life?" and he said, "Yes. This is your life." And he kissed me and I cried.

So, this 12 week marker is just the beginning. Maybe I really do get to keep him and them and this and maybe it really will last for more than say...18 months?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

March 11, 2006

This morning I felt sort of rejected and said something to my husband like, "This may be old hat to you, but I'm still a newlywed and I still need to have fun with you. I have to be responsible all the time now and I just need to have some fun!" and some other things, that in retrospect, were not the end of the world or horrible or mean or things I can't take back, but at the time, felt like it. Then he apologized, I sat there sort of silent, then for the rest of the morning I cried off and on, felt bad because I made him feel bad and then worried that he wouldn't like me anymore. I kept thinking I'd done something irreparable and I kept trying to make sense of it with him, trying to talk about it with him and feeling like a fish out of water, mouth breathing and all. I had apocolyptic visions of distance and silence and the dead kind of marriage that haunts me and sends me nightmares when I see it in real life. None of this came true, of course. He still loves me. I had hope that he did when he reached up and gently stroked my face and looked into my eyes and said I could buy the dishes we were looking at if I wanted to and I knew it for sure when he kissed me right there, right in the middle of the John Lewis department store, in front of anyone who cared to be watching.

This doesn't mean that I still don't feel bad and it doesn't mean that I still don't feel confused about how to communicate my needs and my wants and to do it in a way that is adult and mature and honest. I think it just means that I'm human, that I'm insecure sometimes and that I'm not used to having a real, honest to goodness, man-woman relationship. I mean, really, my husband is my first real boyfriend. I think this kind of thing most girls learn before their first prom. I just happen to be a late bloomer. Really late. Really, really late...but let's not push the issue.

Our oldest son razzed me the other night and it was a moment of pure joy for me. He tends to be a little more reserved, but is getting less quiet and it's wonderful to watch the unfolding. We were in the Liliputian kitchen of ours and as I was pulling a pan out, several lids came clanging out onto the floor at the same time and I said, "How much noise can one person make??" to which he replied, "Well if it's you, quite a lot." I looked up at him and he suddenly had this look of panic, like he shouldn't have said that, but then I started laughing and told him to shut up, man and he relaxed and laughed and it was like the sun began to shine in his eyes.

Had another moment of pure joy a couple of evenings ago. It had been a trying night with number 5. She is 8 and has had a habit of breaking out into what I lovingly call Grand Mal Seisure tantrums (only to her father, not in front of her, of course) that are horrible to endure. Well, she was on about day 6 of no Grand Mals (and I was feeling quite self-satisfied, truth be known) when a Granddaddy tantrum hit like a typhoon. My over-confidence went out the window (which needed to happen) and I wondered if I'd done something wrong to cause it. Then dinnertime was tense because kids hadn't done some things they were supposed to and my husband was none too happy. I started worrying that I was a point of division instead of a source of cohesion and that I was bringing unrest to the household. I was on the couch with my now calm daughter number 5 who I should probably nickname Stands-With-Fist (an homage to a movie I really like, even though Kevin Costner was in it) when one of my best friends from the States called. I was telling her how things were and I was saying, "We're doing well. We're..." and I hestitated, at which point, No. 5 pipes up and finishes the sentence with, "Happy!" I was surprised and looked down at her, leaning on my chest, enfolded in one arm and asked, "Are we?" She smiled and said "Yes" and went on with her reading. I related it to my husband later in tears, telling him it was such a monumental moment for me. And it was.

I have said before that I had an idea of what I was missing out on, being a carefree single person, but I had absolutely no idea what depth and range and scope being married with children brings to a life. To my life. To a life that I am absolutely enamored of. To a life that, God willing, I get to keep... (10.5 weeks and counting)

I feel the need to tell you, my friends and family, that I appreciate you and love you and am, to the depths of my ever-expanding soul so deeply grateful for you and for your friendships and for your love and support. Each one of you. I think of each of you often, more often than you probably think and I literally thank God every night that you are in my life. I just think it's about time you planned a trip to England. Okay?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

March 7, 2006

It's raining today. It's been raining all day today. Now, some may be thinking, "So?? It's England! Doesn't it always rain?" and they would be wrong. In fact, I have only had to go get the girls from school in rain one day that I can remember. Well, today, my friends, will be day two. And it will be walking in rain. Not drizzle. Not mist. Rain. Lots of rain. It's a good thing I like rain, or I could feel a little put out.

I've been married 10 weeks and I have a quiet scared little confession to make. One of my dearest friends' husbands died only 11 weeks after they were married last year. They were deliriously happy. She's still in the depths of grief and hell. I can't blame her. I imagine losing my husband in a week and it makes me scared beyond belief. All this leads up to the confession: I will be really, really relieved when we've been married for 12 weeks. Not that something can't still happen, but it seems like something in me will finally exhale after we get past that mark. I realize that it's ridiculous. I realize that it's foolish even. I also realize that it's partly selfish and self-preservationist of me and I'm not so hip on that part of the confession.

It's not that I wished it on my friend--far, far from that. I can hardly bear the vicarious pain and loss I feel for her and can't imagine what it must feel like for her. It's just that I don't wish it on myself. I can't even comprehend it. I don't know how she takes in breath at times. And I don't want it to happen to me. It's not that I don't trust God. I do. If I didn't, I wouldn't be in England, believe me. I just want this to be for real. That I really did get to meet my husband. That we really did get to fall deeply in love. That I really did get to move to England and wake up each day with a husband and children and a home and a really great life and that I really, really do get to keep it. I know there are trials. I know everyone has hard times. I just don't want this particular hard time to be mine. I waited so long for him and them. I just want to keep them. Is that so wrong?

Now I've gone and done it. I've jinxed it by speaking it out loud. Gosh I hope that's not how it really works...

On a lighter note, adding to your English vocabulary knowledge...contrary to common belief, a rubber is an eraser. One of the kids asked me my first week here where their rubber was. I had to stiffle a very immature giggle and help them find it. So, the next time someone asks you for a rubber, hand them the pink rectangular thing. Wait. Is that an okay description?? You know what I mean, silly.

Gotta go. School run. In the rain. Luckily, they do have umbrellas here.