Separation

What is one’s body but a blank canvas
with which to explore art and self-expression?

My husband’s parents left this morning. They stayed with us for nearly three weeks. It was really sad to say goodbye. Matt said when he moved to the U.S. that, though he missed England, it wasn’t the familiarity of his homeland that made it so difficult to move away; it was being so far from his family. Now that I have come to know them and how kind and fun they are, I understand intimately the depth of his feelings. It’s really hard to say goodbye when it’s time to leave.

March 23rd, 2009 | England | 3 Comments -

The Judicious Use of Caffeine – or –
How the English Do It

Parents, in their omniscient wisdom, always insist
that children eat ice cream popsicles outside.
Here’s why (these are pictures of Clara, Damian,
and Logan eating popsicles with Nana on July 4th):

It’s so we can literally hose them down afterwards:

As someone who has not grown up in English culture but is constantly exposed to it in her adult life, I feel like an anthropologist studying the modern English social system — observing all the gentle lubricants the English apply in their daily life so the machine of society runs smoothly.

As any outsider will tell you, one of the first things we can’t help but notice is the use of tea.  It is ubiquitous, involves social rules, and is one of the main lubricants of English society.  I’ve truly enjoyed watching the rituals that revolve around tea, but on this last visit, I noticed how tea was used on a more mundane level for its caffeine.

In America, we have the most enormous mugs.  Sizes vary, but American mugs can hold from 10 ounces to 18 ounces of liquid.  I just bought a huge 18 ounce mug from Starbucks that has the picture of downtown Austin on it.  We fill our unusually large mugs with coffee and wake up our brains for work.

I think, like many things, we perhaps overdid it with the mugs and the coffee.  Tea has about half the caffeine as coffee and English mugs, as a general rule, tend to be smaller.  I always marvelled that the English would drink five cups of tea in a day until I realized that, by drinking tea in smaller cups, they were spreading their caffeine more evenly throughout the day instead of one giant jolt to the system in the morning and then another giant jolt in the afternoon.

As a firm believer in the use of caffeine as a motivational tool, I find the English system a little easier on the body and mind.  I don’t think Americans will be giving up their coffee or giant mugs anytime soon, but I thought I would just pass on what I had observed overseas. 🙂

July 24th, 2008 | England | No Comments -

Beauty

I’m overweight and old. In a society that values petite, young women, I am discarded… as many of us are.  And, when we become outcasts — trodden down by our society’s collective unconscious — we personally take part in the attack and erosion of our self-belief and self-esteem.  The mind churns out a repetitive tape of negative criticism regarding our looks.  We counter-attack our own thoughts as best we can, but as we step out of our doors completely aware of what strangers and friends alike will see when they look at us, the looped tape begins again.

And how does one get off this hellish circular ride?  By truly seeing beauty: the laughter, the love, the eternal potential that lies in all of us.  This is not an easy thing to do — to see past the apparent — and certainly not one that I have mastered.  But it’s a hope.  And a promise.

We really all are beautiful if you open your heart.  And that’s a true statement, not just a New Age, self-help Pollyanna platitude.  So look at those photos of yourself and see yourself again for the first time; see the laughter and love and finally  — finally — be free.

How did this philosophical introspection begin, you ask?  We just got back from England and I am in a lot of the photos with my round body and my red cherub face full of wrinkles.  I look like Mrs Clause in a short skirt.  Like many people, my immediate thought was, “I need to lose weight.  I look terrible.”  But instead of quickly skipping past the photos in shame, I decided to actually look at myself.  And in the end, I liked what I saw.  What matters in this life is our connection with people and our shared experiences, and that is what I saw underneath the extra weight and wrinkles.  For the first time, I saw me.


Lindsey and I in London
18 June 2008


Ben and Allison’s Wedding
21 June 2008


At Ben and Allison’s Wedding
21 June 2008


Eating ice cream at the wedding breakfast
21 June 2008


At the park
Wells-next-the-sea, England
22 June 2008


At the park
Wells-next-the-sea, England
22 June 2008


In the back garden
Wells-next-the-sea, England
22 June 2008


At Sandringham
24 June 2008


At Sandringham
24 June 2008


In the car driving back from Sandringham
24 June 2008

And that’s my challenge to the folks who read this blog entry.  Find your self in your photos.  You’re there, waiting to be seen.

June 27th, 2008 | England, General | No Comments -

Leaving for England soon


Wouldn’t you love to see the world
through a child’s eyes for just a few moments?
It seems to be all laughter and beauty sometimes.
Damian
08 June 2008

We leave for England on Friday.  Matt is not flying with us, and I refuse to travel internationally with two small children, so Lindsey is going with us to England to help me with the children on the journey.  Matt will be joining us next week.

I don’t handle stress well… I don’t handle it well at all.  So, as this large trip approaches, I am slowing down, freaking out, and becoming very irritable.  Hopefully myself and my family will come through the preparations for this trip emotionally unscarred, but I’m not making any promises.

June 10th, 2008 | England, The Life of a Suburban Mommy | No Comments -

Mom’s here!   ♥

Mom is visiting from Kentucky.  I’ve been spending all of my time with her.  Here’s a photo until we resume our regularly-scheduled blog:


Look at those rosy cheeks!
That child definitely has English in him.
14 April 2008

April 14th, 2008 | England, General | No Comments -

The Secret

These are the two rooms that were cleaned during this past month. I wish I had “before” pictures to show the heroic effort that was needed to clean and organize these two rooms. But, to give you an idea, it did take a week to do each room.


The playroom
25 February 2008


The computer room
25 February 2008

I forgot to share a secret I learned while we were in England over Christmas.  To set the stage of this universal truth, you must first understand that jetlag gives you an achey body and spirit.  You just feel… achey.  And, for some reason, I got a really bad case of jetlag during this past visit.  Maybe having two preschool children compounded the problem.

But, out of adversity comes knowledge and experience.  And this is what I learned:

There is nothing that paracetamol (Tylenol) and a cup of tea can’t fix.

I feel privileged that I could add to our cultural body of knowledge. 🙂

February 25th, 2008 | England, General | No Comments -

Only in…


I’ve been using the wide-angle lens.
Back in my university days, I used a wide-angle lens almost
exclusively, so I thought I would have no trouble with this lens.
I was wrong. It is more difficult to get visually interesting
photos with a wide-angle than a telephoto. A wide-angle will
photograph much more area, and more of it will be in focus,
so you often end up with cluttered pictures with no focal point.
But I’m learning. And it’s a fun lens.
08 January 2008

We got back into Austin Sunday night, but I have been go go go since we arrived home.  Even now I don’t have much time for an update, so I thought I would tell a couple of anecdotes that highlight the quirks of different places.  Or, in shorthand, “Only in…”

“Only in England…”

Matt’s great-aunt who is also one of Lily’s namesakes, Auntie Vera, is in the hospital at the moment and we went to visit her several times while in England.  She shares a room with three other female patients, and above each patient’s bed is a small whiteboard with medical information.  Also on each whiteboard, alongside all the medical information, is how the patient takes her tea. 🙂  Auntie Vera’s had written, “Vera takes a very small amount of milk in her tea.”

“Only in Austin…”

We had two legs to our journey: London Gatwick to Atlanta and then Atlanta to Austin.  By the time we boarded the plane to Austin, we were all dead tired, including the children.  Damian was very fussy, so I started nursing him on the plane and he fell straight asleep.  As I was nursing him, I thought to myself, “That’s how you know that you’re on a plane to Austin: you see a 40-year-old woman breast-feeding her baby.” 🙂

It’s good to be home.  Like my mom always says, “I love going to see my family and friends, and then I love coming home.”

January 9th, 2008 | Austin, England | No Comments -

An American goes to the Panto

I take a lot of pictures of the children sleeping with their father.
It’s not that I plan to take so many pictures of my family sleeping together;
it’s just that they are so cute when they are all snuggled together.

The family waking up.
Lily is still asleep, and that is a pacifier in Matt’s mouth.
30 December 2007


When the baby is restless and not sleeping well,
Matt puts him on his chest, and he falls fast asleep.
04 January 2008

There is a very common, yet very incorrect, assumption made between the American and English cultures: we share the English language, so therefore we must have similar cultures.  These two cultures are very different.  There are the immediate obvious differences such as the road system, the housing, and the food… very very different between the two countries.  Then there is the less obvious social differences.  For example, these days, most Americans send Christmas cards that include pictures of their family on the card, whereas sending a photo Christmas card in England is considered as “putting yourself forward;” it’s just not done.

This is my sixth visit to England, and I have become reasonably accustomed to both the obvious and subtle differences between mine and my husband’s cultures.  I enjoy the differences actually; they make the trip really enjoyable and sometimes I even long to live here because there are several things I like better about English culture.

Every now and then though, I am still taken by surprise.  That happened at the Panto today.  Off we go for what is children’s Christmas entertainment.  Parents, grandparents, and loads of children stream into this lovely Victorian theatre in Lincoln.  We settle into our seats with the sound of children’s voices filling the theatre.  The lights go down, and the Panto version of Peter Pan begins.  It starts with a great song and dance number set in London in which we are introduced to the Darling family.

And then the high-kicking starts.  Beautiful ladies in their full skirts kick way into the sky… wearing nothing underneath but little white panties and sheer stockings over those.  The high-kicking and panty shots continue through the entire production of Peter Pan.  I haven’t seen so much fan service since I read the Video Girl Ai manga.

When we got home, Lily and I sat down for dinner with Matt’s mum and dad (Matt went to play badminton with his brother), and we began discussing the Panto.  I mentioned how surprised I was by the panty shots, and they didn’t even really notice!  Apparently the high kicking and twirling is a traditional part of that style of dancing and it is considered athletic.  Yet another interesting and entertaining difference between the cultures.

One more fun and trippy thing about the Panto:  I was starting to get the hang of the rhythm of the Panto.  It was a straight-forward musical version of Peter Pan except they would do silly, interactive things with the children in the audience during set changes.  The first scene after the intermission begins like all the others with Tigerlily telling Capt Hook that she has many friends to help her.  She has the children in the audience count down from ten to introduce her friends, and who should be her friends, entering from stage right and stage left, but Mr Man, Little Miss, a monkey, and a bear.  Then they all start singing and dancing.  That was the only truly surreal part of it.  Well, other than the constant panty shots.

I did really enjoy it, as did Lily and Damian.  And I have to say, the beautiful high-kicking ladies and their knickers actually added to overall enjoyment.  As a travelling connoisseur of cultures, I can tell you the differences are almost always trippy at first and then fun.

January 4th, 2008 | England | No Comments -

Happy New Year 2008

Grannie with her grandson, Christmas Holiday 2007


25 December 2007


30 December 2007

We’re knackered.  We’ve had a very busy, very enjoyable, very full holiday.  But now we’re knackered.  The thing is, we’re not done yet.  It’s only January 1st — Lily’s 3rd birthday, by the way.  We still have a visit to Auntie Lily and Auntie Vera, Damian’s 1st birthday party, going to the Pantomime, and we have to exchange a clock at Toys R Us because it has a broken second hand.  (Matt’s mum said that our clock from Toys R Us was a bit “naff.”  Turns out that means “without taste.”  It has a fluffy pink feather boa glued around the edge — perhaps a bit “naff,” but certainly with a bit of fun. 😉 )

Happy New Year.  It’s been great so far. 🙂

January 1st, 2008 | England, General | No Comments -

Visions of serendipity on Christmas Day

The children spent the first hour of Christmas morning snuggled on Daddy’s lap, waking up and opening the stockings that Santa brought in the night.

We’re having a very very nice Christmas holiday in England. To give you an example, I have been dealing with severe jetlag, sporadic sleep, and I got ill with a stomach virus and have been unable to eat. And yet, with all this, I’ve still had a great time with Matt’s family.

As an adult, and particularly as a parent, the joy of Christmas changes from receiving presents to watching the joy of other people receive your presents, and in particular watching your children receive your presents.

So, as we bought the gifts for the children through the first part of December, I was getting more and more excited about watching the joy on the children’s faces come Christmas morning.  I thought this would be the high point of my Christmas.

I was wrong.

The highest point of my Christmas has been watching my husband come alive.  He has been away from England and his family for three Christmases in a row.  Last Christmas, the third Christmas away from home, he was very melancholy the whole holiday.  We both agreed then, even if he had to thumb down a plane on the runway, he had to go home for Christmas.

And, though I knew he would be happy coming home, I didn’t expect to see the light glow inside of him like it has this Christmas.  He has lit up like a Christmas tree.  This trip home has rejuvenated his… his… well… everything inside him and outside him and his children and wife near him.  He did really need to come home for Christmas.

Also, my in-laws bought me a wide-angle lens for my Nikon D70s!  So the joy of Christmas this year was about receiving gifts as well. 😉  Expect to see wide-angle pictures uploaded soon.  Matt and I have both been playing with the lens a lot.

And then, of course, watching the joy on my children’s faces, as well as the faces of all of Matt’s family.

It’s been a really nice holiday.

December 28th, 2007 | England, The Life of a Suburban Mommy | No Comments -