Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Said by Kathryn whilst sitting upon the porcelain throne:

"I have invisible poo. Sometimes I go and it disappears. I have invisible poo."

Perhaps at a later date she will need therapy because I reveal such intimate details of her life to strangers, but it is a risk I am willing to take.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Finally! Another Entry! Friday, 07 Sept 2007

So, I just got one of those reports that shows who, if anyone, is reading your blog. That took me into reading a few entries and recognizing that it's been a really long time since I've written (like that's new?) and realizing that I still have this strange fear that someday the ability to write is going to go away. Random thoughts.

This week, little miss Kathryn started "real" school for the first time. She'll be 5 in a few weeks and started what is called Reception here. It's like kindergarten but they stay in school all day. I told her I was very excited for her but kind of sad too. She smiled up at me and said, "Because you'll miss me, won't you." And I do. This week she goes just half day to get used to it and then next week she gets to take lunches to school. Then she'll be gone all day long. Mixed feelings. I got 'em.

This coincides with me beginning a new "career" as early morning seminary teacher. Yes. Me. Teaching teenagers. Old Testament. Early in the morning. Should be quite an adventure. I think what I'm most anxious about is what to wear. I'm supposed to be in church-type clothes. I need to go shopping.

Which brings me to another topic of random tangenting. Shopping here. I'm still not really that sure what I'm doing. I've got the whole food thing down now with what to buy where, but buying basic things like rubbish bins or shelf liner sort of eludes me. I had an ace in the hole with my American friend Stephanie because she's a born shopper. I swear within three months of moving here she knew where to go for what and more importantly, how to get there. And, she too has a deep and abiding devotion to Costco. What could be better?

It could be better if she were staying.

Stephanie is leaving me. Well, not me personally, but England. Her husband is taking a job in Seattle and, like any good wife, she is going with him. They leave at the end of September. I feel like a gigantic piece of security has been ripped out of me. She knows my culture. She laughs at funny things I say. Having her here is like having one of my sisters here, and that's a huge compliment considering that my sisters are some of my very best friends. Having her leave is like losing family. I love my English friends but sometimes things get lost in translation. I will miss her terribly.

Speaking of family, my mom and nephew came to visit at the beginning of August. We had almost three weeks together. It was wonderful! It was so good to wake up every morning and talk to my mom, for her to be in my house and meet my friends and see some of England. After we took them to the airport I cried almost all of the way home. I was numb. I think I was in shock. I stared out the car window thinking, "What have I done?"

I am starting to understand what I left behind. Not that I wouldn't do it again of course, because there was no other choice I could make. I just really, really miss being around people who know me really well and who really, really like me and who I feel secure with. I want to have the same sense of connectedness and shared experience with my family here that I have with my family there.

One experience that made it very clear was when I walked into the boys' room one evening and my nephew and one of our sons were playing a video game. Without thinking, I threw my arms around my nephew and kissed the top of his head and told him I loved him. He hugged me back and said he loved me too and went on playing. I looked over at our son and realized that we weren't at the stage yet where I could do that with him and he wasn't to the stage where he could say he loved me, either. I felt sort of lonely and sad. I had to figure out that I've known my nephew his whole life--17 years--and that my son has only known me for about two. I think time is the only thing that will make this better and unfortunately, I haven't ever been a patient person.

I am fine. I feel better already. Life does go on and there are changes happening all the time. Life is good and I'm in the right place.

Now if only we could get the kitchen finished...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Monday, 16 July 2007

Kathryn: What is water for?
Me: What do you think water is for?
Kathryn: To stop you from coughing.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Saturday, 14 July 2007

A heartfelt compliment given by our 13 year old daughter a few weeks ago, "Well, you could be worse..."

I couldn't help but laugh.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

More Saturday, 16 June 2007

Today my husband spent the day in Tokyo by himself for his birthday. I spoke with him right after he woke up and he told me he would find some exciting things in his trusty touristy guide book to keep him busy. I was expecting a Skype call from him at the end of his adventures sometime around 2 or 3 pm UK time. As the small hand on my watch crept past the 3, then the 4 and then the 5, I experienced a low grade rumble of anxiety. I tried to send him some chat lines but he wasn't online and then I tried to call the hotel in Japan. I got the phone number from the hotel website, but apparently I'm incapable of making a telephone call to Japan as all seven attempts ended in abject failure.

I kept thinking of the fact that Tim was alone in that huge city, that he didn't speak a word of Japanese, that no one knew where he'd gone and that no one would know if he went missing. I have a very dear friend whose husband died shortly after they were married and going through that tragedy with her has left me with a shadowy fear that occasionally hisses in the back of my consciousness, "He is going to die. You won't have him for long." I can usually see right through these maudlin thoughts for the dramatic fiction that they are, but not this time.

Then I wised up to the fact that calling his cell phone might be a good idea. His groggy greeting on the other end made me feel all at once relieved, grateful, and--inexplicably--angry and withdrawn. When he called me back on Skype I couldn't speak to him properly. I couldn't respond to his happy recollection of the day or his sleep-tousled hair or his boyishly handsome smile. I didn't want to talk to him. And then I just started crying.

Eventually I could manage a smile and I faked being okay, but I'm still bothered by the whole thing. I'm mystified by my reaction. Maybe I was angry that we didn't have time to talk because I had to go make dinner. Or maybe I was withdrawn because he was sleeping rather than talking to me. Or maybe I miss him and that's all it is. Or maybe on some level I'm afraid that the misty whisperings aren't dramatic fiction and that maybe I'd just better get used to being without him for real.

Now that's maudlin...

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Happy Birthday to my dearest Tim! Of course, he's in Tokyo, but hey! I'm sure he can feel the love. He's also missing Father's Day which really bites because fathers don't have that many holidays honoring them and he deserves muy grande honor. We'll make up for it when he gets back. We've been using Skype to keep in touch. It's a good thing. And it's free. That's the best part. Oh, and we can see each other via webcam which is actually the best thing for real.

Conversation this morning which leads me to believe that our youngest will be a lawyer when she grows up (or a spoiled socialite):

Kathryn: Mommeeeee? I want a kitchen set for my bedroom and I need lots of toys.
Me: Hmmm. I think you already have a lot of toys and you should be thankful for what you have.
Kathryn: No I don't.
Me: You have toys from Christmas and from your birthday. You have lots of toys to play with.
Kathryn: Books aren't toys. I need more toys.
Me: I wasn't talking about books. I was talking about toys.
Kathryn: I don't have lots of toys.
Me: (Changing tactics) I think you're really lucky. There are lots of children who don't have any toys.
Kathryn: No there aren't.
Me: Yes there are.
Kathryn: No there aren't.
Me: Yes there are.
Kathryn: How do you know?
Me: Because I know some of them.
Kathryn: Who are they?
Me: Just some kids, okay?
Kathryn:What are their names?
Me: (Playing the desperation card) If you don't like the toys you have, I'd be happy to give them to charity.

Okay, so I haven't got the mom thing totally figured out yet.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Thursday, 14 June 2007

The long awaited day of the end of my six weeks of arm exile has ended! Technically, the six weeks was up yesterday, but in reality, it ended Saturday night. I had enough. ENOUGH. Now I get to go to a physiotherapy appt on Monday to see what they'll let me do...or what they won't let me do.

I probably shouldn't be writing this blog or doing half the stuff I'm doing, but it doesn't hurt and I haven't tried to lift it up yet, so I think I'm safe.

My husband gave me a blessing before I went in for the surgery and said that I should learn the lessons I needed to learn through this. I'm pretty sure he was meaning something spiritual and good. I'm pretty sure it'll come to me at some point.

Other sketchy updates: the construction isn't over. I think it will be over fairly soon. Tim is shooting for my mother's visit in August. The kitchen cabinets are ordered now and should arrive in about two weeks. That feels like a major step. Tim has done a lot of things, like screed the floor, paint the walls, and he did an amazing job putting the floor tile into the utility room. He does good work. Wish I could say the same for the idiot contractor. He never showed up again. We have tools, we have levels, we have a grinder--all his. At some point he may want them back, but then again, at some point we may sell them on ebay and recoup the cost of having the roof done the right way. Who's to say?

I want to write more, but must go downstairs and assist in the total purging of the girls' bedroom. It's a complete tip. Fortunately Chris is a natural organizer. I'm paying him an exorbitant price to clean the room. It'll be worth it.

I've missed this writing thing. Maybe that's the lesson I was supposed to learn.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

1 May 2007

I'd like to start this new month with a new post. This one is good enough.

I'm having rotator cuff repair surgery tomorrow afternoon. I'm having it done in England. I never wanted to have anything remotely surgical perpetrated upon my person while living in England. I realize now that this is completely unrealistic, considering I'll be here the rest of my life, but I've heard the rumors. I've heard the stories. I've heard about National Health Care and I'm not impressed.

Fortunately for me and my lame shoulder, we have private insurance and I'm having it done at a private hospital. Also, the surgeon is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Surgeons or something equally as impressive sounding, which leads me to believe that I'm practically guaranteed a superb result. It sounds really cool anyway.

A side note. I'm a little skeptical about the practice here of calling doctors "Doctor" unless they're extra special and then if they're extra special then you call them "Mister". Like, my surgeon, or "specialist" is called Mr. Harry B. instead of Dr Harry B. (The B. guarantees his anonymity and also keeps this blog from popping up should anyone try to look him up on Google. That's my theory, at least.) It doesn't seem right. It lessens my confidence. Having a doctor do my surgery seems better than having a mister do my surgery. Whatever.

Back to the main topic. I'm not so much freaked out about the actual surgery as I am about the incapacitating result of the surgery that will last several months. I am required to have my arm (that's the right arm, of course) in a sling that is strapped to my body 24/7 for three weeks, then maybe I get to wear it over clothes for the next three weeks (and yes, I'm right handed) and gee, isn't that exciting. I can't drive for at least eight weeks, too. Yeah. Good luck with that.

I asked the physiotherapist (physical therapist for the American contingent) what the guidelines for recovery were in the US and she said they were probably more liberal. I say being liberal is good. Okay, I've never said that before in my life, but I'm saying it now as regards to surgical recovery. I don't want to be without my right arm for any length of time, but for this long? It was okay when I had my knee replaced. I was single. I just holed up in my condo, popped Percecet and saltine crackers all day long and slept in a big recliner for a few weeks. No one was inconvenienced. No one suffered. No one saw my greasy hair.

No can do this time around. No hiding out and then emerging when I'm better. I have people to feed, clothes to wash, children to take to school. I'm not so into the dependence thing, even if I try to dress it up nice and purty with the Covey-ish "interdependence" label. It still means other people have to do stuff for me. Even if they want to, it's not easy to allow. I don't think it's easy for anyone.

Well...I can think of a few people who would milk this.

But most people aren't comfortable with having to ask for basic things to be done for them. Luckily my husband has years of experience drying the girls' hair, so I think he'll do a good job with mine. Also, I didn't think about makeup until this morning. I may end up looking like a clown or like a scary witch if I'm not careful.

And let's not even talk about personal hygiene. Enough said.

I'm sure it will all be fine. I'll let you know. By typing with my one good hand. It may take me a week.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sunday, 25 March 2007

The other day Kathryn was absorbed in play in her bedroom and didn't realize I was at her door. When I said hi to her she was startled and jumped a little. She turned to me with a big smile on her face and said, "Mommy! You made me sizzle!"

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Saturday, 24 March 2007

My first trip back to the US begins on Tuesday, 27 March. I am a bundle of mixed emotions. Gosh, what else is new?

On the one hand, I'm looking forward to floating again in the ocean of all-things-familiar. On the other hand, I'm not looking forward to stepping out of the wading pool of all-things-mostly-familiar. I'm surprised that today, re-entering the ocean feels a lot more like drowning than a nice dip in the waves and leaving the wading pool feels a lot like panic.

Sometimes I just wish I could react to a situation in a really normal way.

Hey, I'm going home! That sounds like joyful reunions and lots of fun! Yippee! Hey, I'm leaving a foreign country! That sounds like a relief! I'm going back to a place where my sense of humor is considered hilarious and people speak with the same accent as I do so I can understand most of what is said! Yea!

Instead of...

Hey! I'm going back to the States! It used to feel like home, and it still sort of does, but it sort of doesn't and it brings back a bit of that detached feeling of singleness and loneliness and what-do-I-do-with-myself-ness. Yippee. Hey! I'm leaving the foreign country of England...and my husband and my children and the home that is finally feeling a little bit like a real home to me. Yea.

I'm trying to work out a way to get back to California while I'm there. Because really, that's so much of what feels like home to me. I may only get three days there, but I need it. Bad. I just realized it this morning. A trip to the States would feel wrong without some time there. I need to see my brother and his family and my aunts and uncles and cousins and friends.

And I need to see my grandmother's grave for the first time. And her house without her in it. I need to see the video of her funeral so I can say goodbye to her for real.

This visit will be a lot of things. It will be about navigating changing nuances in relationships, about the reality of changed lives and lifestyles, about reconnecting, and about saying goodbye.

It would be a whole heck of a lot easier if this trip were about eating some really good Mexican food and buying clothes that fit and paying a lot less money for them, but meh! what would be the fun in that?

No angst, no fun. That's my motto.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Saturday, 10 March 2007

I dropped a frozen chicken on my toe today.

This is funny because:

a) It simply is. I mean, how often do you get to answer the question, "Why are you limping?" with, "I dropped a frozen chicken on my toe."?

b) The icy poultry carcass really did, miraculously, hit only one toe. Go figure. Of course it hit the second toe, which is slightly longer than the Big Toe, so that could explain it.

P. S. Big Toes are the head honchos of the foot, so they deserve the respect of capital letters indicating title or rank. (In case you were wondering.)

P. P. S. I hear that means I'm really intelligent or really beautiful or really charming or something like that. Having a second toe slightly longer than the Big Toe, that is--not that I dropped a chicken on it.

P. P. P. S. This is one of the lamest entries I've ever posted, but I'm supposed to be writing a Primary talk for Hannah who has long since hit the hay, and I'm also supposed to be putting the final touches on a Relief Society lesson I'm teaching tomorrow morning, so as Queen of Avoidance, as well as Unzipping of the Gut, I am blogging instead.

Okay! I'm going already. Sheesh. Quit your nagging.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Friday, 2 March 2007

I cut my own fringe today.
(Translation: I cut my own bangs.)

I think it looks edgy and hip.
(Translation: I did a really bad job of it.)

I think I'll let my hair grow out.
(Translation: It's only 3.5 weeks until my butt is safely planted in the security of my US hairstylist's chair. She'll make it all better.)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

A very close friend of mine who was also a very close friend of my husband's first wife wrote to me, "You will never have what (she) had; you have something different that is unique and privileged and wonderful, too. You must see what you have as complete in its way, regardless of how much seems to be missing."

This is profound. It has fundamentally changed my vision of my role and place. It never occured to me to think of our family that way, that it is complete and exactly the way it should be. I have never doubted that I am supposed to be here, that our meeting and marriage were meant to be. I just kind of thought that my role was sort of secondary, that I was just filling in, in a way. I never thought of this as complete. But it is.

I was talking to the older kids a week or so ago and told them that when I came along we didn't just add me to the mix. We actually formed a new family. I think it's an idea we're all adapting to. It really doesn't matter what the structure was before. This is what exists now. The amazing thing is, I am free to be the mother that I am, without second guessing everything I do, without being afraid I'm not doing it the way she would have done it, because my way is just fine. They'll have the benefit of two mothers, because when all is said and done, I really, truly do get to be that for them. I really do get to be their mom.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sunday, 18 February 2007

I remember at the beginning of our marriage being genuinely and gratefully able to say that I didn't feel any jealousy or negative feelings about my husband's first wife. I'd read a book written by a woman who married a widower and found that I was uncomfortable with some of the feelings she expressed. I couldn't imagine having similar feelings.

It has been a year and I have been naive. It's not an unusual thing for me, as anyone who knows me well will testify. I tend to approach things with a sunny outlook and an optimistic lean and am oblivious to the hard realities of most situations. I am generally caught completely off guard if things do not unfold as I expect them to. Then I go through the upheaval of a total reality reassessment as I try to put words to the unexpected sensations I'm feeling and tie them to the random thoughts that I'm thinking so I can figure it all out, understand if I'm being rational and connect the dots back to sanity, usually with the help of some close, intuitive friends.

I am jealous of my husband's first wife. I had a hint it might be lurking somewhere inside me when my husband showed me the oldest three children's baby books last year (because you know that the first three are the only ones that get anything written in them) and I started crying. I had strange feelings in my gut that threw me and I couldn't figure out what I was feeling for sure. I knew that it had something to do with the fact that she got to have them as babies and I didn't, but I sort of let it drop.

Today Tim was sorting through a bunch of old papers and I saw a family home evening program Hannah had written at a much younger age. She had all the members of the family written on it starting with Mum and Dad and the thought ran through my head that I'm not Mum and this is not my family. It's hers. She married my husband first and they bought this house together and had six babies together and they taught them to eat and walk and talk and they went on vacations and made friends and had church callings and wrote goals together and had rules and ways of doing things and they laughed together and got mad at each other and had plans drawn up for remodeling the house and formed this family and I didn't get to do any of that. I don't know what they were like with her but I see pictures of them all together and of her holding them as babies and the love she had for them and I feel a hollow place inside.

I am jealous of her. I am jealous that she knew these children as tiny babies and cuddly toddlers and precocious children. I am jealous that when they think of their mother, it isn't me they think of. I am jealous of the fact that I don't know them as well as I want to and that I may never know them that well. I am jealous that I may never feel completely secure in our bonds because there's no biology that connects us, that tells them that they have to like me at some level because we're tied genetically. I may never know how they really feel about me, if they're just tolerating me because I married their dad.

I'm also sad for her. I'm sad for her and for them that all the things they planned to do together and all the milestones they thought they'd celebrate together will not be with her, but will be with me and I'm sad for me that there will never be a milestone the children experience when they will not be wishing that she was with them instead of me.

That's a hard truth to swallow. It doesn't mean they won't love me or care for me or that we won't have good relationships, it just means that the things we celebrate or go through together will never be clean. They will never be unfettered by mixed and sad feelings. I'm not sure I'm prepared for that reality, but I think it's probably a good thing I didn't understand how daunting this would be at the onset.

I'm realizing that I'm far too simple in my understanding of the world and my relationships. I don't have very much experience dealing with death and separation and grief and parenting and bonding so I think I'm having to just feel my way through this, fumbling and stumbling but somehow managing to keep my footing through it all. I think I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and reveling in the good things that happen.

From what I hear, that's pretty common for most parents. And regardless of how I got here, I am finally admitting that I am a parent. I am now the mother of this house. In the coming years we'll just have to figure out together what that means.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Saturday, 27 January 2007

I am studiously avoiding what I'm sitting on my bed supposedly doing. I have no idea if that was grammatically correct, but at this point, who cares. I am supposed to be writing or planning the 20 minute talk or presentation or whatever it's supposed to be that I have to give tomorrow evening to the 17-19 year old girls in our stake. It's for a Relief Society Transitions Fireside. My topic is careers. I have it mostly planned out in my head, so I know it will be okay but I still need to flesh it out on paper and have bullet points or something mapped out for myself. Instead, I've caught up on Ann Cannon's columns in the Deseret News, cuddled with Kathryn after helping her blow her nose, sent several WAY overdue emails, and obviously started to write this blog entry. How avoidant can I be? (Is that a word?)

And, on the topic of careers...HELLO?! Like I had a career?? Wasn't the last 20 years just a mishmash of jobs I stumbled into as I ping-ponged my way through a variety of locales and interests? Sure I accumulated a bunch of helpful management skills like how to barely stay awake in a really boring meeting and still come off looking like a contributor, and yes I can spout office-speak with the best of them and yet retain my reputation as a rule breaker and status quo thrasher, but does any of this qualify me to speak to impressionable quasi-teenagers about a serious thing like eking out a living in today's materialistic and competitive world? Oooooo. Maybe it does, now that I think about it.

Oh, and re: that gnarly driving test (reputed to be one of the strictest in the world, I might add) I PASSED!!!! I usually don't use more than two exclamation points at any given time, but this is a rare case of blunt-force euphoria mixed with unmitigated relief. I had no idea how much pressure I was feeling until I realized yesterday that I was still reciting rules of the road in my head as I drove to my friend's house.

"Feed the wheel! Feed the wheel!"
"Look over your shoulder before you pull out!" (FYI: I got two black marks on my test for missing that one. Twice.)
"Stay to the left! Stay to the left!"
"Oooo. Should have gone into second gear at that roundabout."
"Zebra crossing! Watch for pedestrians!"

Now that I don't have to feed the wheel anymore, I've forgotten how to drive normally. It's disconcerting. Someone said to me the other day that I'm half Brit now that I have a driver's licence. At least I don't have a fake accent.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Monday, 22 January 2007 (Technically)

Oh, and I failed to mention that I took the train into London Friday evening to meet a friend at the Royal National Theatre to watch a performance by Fiona Shaw (aka Mrs Dursley of the Harry Potter movies) in Samuel Beckett's Happy Days. She was amazing.

My, my, my. Don't I sound cultured?

Now, if only I knew what it all meant...

Sunday, 21 January 2007

Okay, granted...I haven't written in quite awhile. Granted, I didn't comment about Christmas or New Years or our First Anniversary. But let's put it all in perspective, folks. I've been getting ready for my United Kingdom driving test.

Sure I've been driving for 27 years. Sure I've mastered manual transmission while shifting with my left hand. Sure I can drive on the left side of some very narrow roads. Sure I can fling myself in and out of any roundabout they can throw at me. Sure I've managed it all without injuring myself or others. Sure I'm totally comfortable driving in England now, when I'm driving on my own.

But...this is the mother of all driving tests. I have to do all that (the driving on the left side of the road, stick shift with the left hand, narrow roads, etc.) while I am also: a) glancing at the rear view and wing mirrors every 5-10 seconds, b) keeping at least a two-second space between me and the driver ahead of me (four seconds in the all-too-frequent rain), c) keeping track of all the other odd little rules and regulations and d) obeying traffic signs that pop out of nowhere when you least expect it. And I have to do a three point turn where one must glance all around all the time and engage the handbrake at every point of the three point turn, all at a snail's pace, as well as other various and sundry acts of automotive dexterity.

If I pass, I have a license for life. If not, I'll have to do it all over again. I am a little stressed.

So I'll comment on all the happy, sparkly, fun stuff like Christmas once I get past Black Wednesday. That's this Wednesday at 2:05 p.m. Maybe then the stomach ache will end. Without turning into an ulcer.