Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Catching Up

Today I organized our kitchen food cupboard so I could better see what is in it. It's not very big, and after a season of rushing around to get dinner on the table quite a lot, it was in a state of utter disarray. I kept buying tubes of tomato puree, only to unearth one when digging for pasta or rice. I bought herbs that we had multiple extra jars of. And then I couldn't fit in the things we actually needed that I bought. It was time. So I did it.

And with that, the organizing tasks I had set for myself were done. I'm not done so much as I'm at a place that it makes sense to pause. Further organizing must take place in the laundry room, where it is too cold to work comfortably right now. As those organizational tasks will take a good deal of time and effort, I'd rather wait until it is warm, when I am not holding my body curled in on itself for warmth as I try to work. It will be quicker to do it in the spring.

I don't think I've been this caught up on organizing since before I became a mother. The frenzied sorting and packing I did before we moved to London doesn't really count. I did put things away in a somewhat organized fashion once we arrived, but there were pockets of resistance from the beginning. Which isn't to say there aren't any now (there's always something), but they are either reserved for spring work or are no longer my responsibility. Amazing!

Next thing I know, I'll be able to have - dare I say it? - a hobby. I know. It's a big step, but I think I'm ready. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Kinds of Things I Keep

I'm pretty sure we still have that toddler hat that E is wearing in this picture. It's not something we've kept on purpose as much as it keeps escaping my child wardrobe culling by not being where we normally keep hats. But some things escape because of the memories I associate with them. I've squirreled away more clothing items than I'd like to admit to Marie Kondo. But she's not coming to my house, and I'll admit it to you.

I keep things that mean something to me. I keep clothes that may never be worn again. I have the shirt I was wearing when I met both of my children, which is now too threadbare to wear again, as well as the one that I wore when a judge declared I was their mother, which I still put on from time to time. I have clothes that each of my children wore when they were small, and I have some things that both of them wore, which no longer will fit either one of them. These clothes jog my memory, and they bring back the feelings I felt when they were being worn. They are precious to me.

This week I have been working on sorting through the photos on my computer, getting rid of the ones we really don't need in anticipation of transferring everything to a new machine. I had to pause when I found photos of medical procedures. For example, one of my children had a medical procedure for which a nurse came and did a dressing change every few days, and I was to take a photo of the wound to send to the doctor so he could see the changes. I've got photos that show medical equipment in use. It seems in some ways unnecessary to keep these, but I found I couldn't delete them. These photos tell the story of our lives just as much as the other ones do. So I'm keeping them.

This is what it boils down to, really, that I am telling a story. I am using these things, whether they be photos or clothes or other objects, to remember all the important parts of the story. So much happened in so little time that all four of us have forgotten parts of it. I know that many people would think I am foolish for the things I keep. That's okay. Let them think I'm a fool. There's a story that needs to be told, and with these things, I can keep telling it.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Sometimes the Hard Times Are the Best Times

My kids have been driving me crazy. I'm going to go ahead and blame the super blood wolf moon (not sure I got the order of the descriptors right, but let's go with it). We didn't get up to see it, because I was not interested in getting myself and my children up in the middle of the night after one had tested the limits of some very important boundaries at dinnertime and the other had shown up after midnight to sit on me and communicate with the man inside her finger. (If you've seen Muppet Treasure Island, that might make sense to you. If not, just suffice it to say that she was being super weird.)

Parenting is a joy and it is also stupid hard sometimes. Sometimes it's stupid hard at the same time that it's a joy. I mean, having my child keep me from sleeping in order to communicate with her finger is pretty hilarious as well as annoying. But beyond that, some of the hardest times that I've worked through with my children have led to some of the sweetest revelations. I wouldn't have one without the other. The hard and the good come together.

This is what I am making note of in this season of parenting. Yes, we have some times that are only wonderful. We have some times that are only terrible. But mostly, it's a mix, and I have a choice in how I respond. I can get annoyed and stay annoyed, or I can recognize that annoyance is part of the deal and move on. I can think of all the jokes we have that came out of poor choices that each of us has made and how my kids forgive me for the annoying things that I do, too.

I am doing my best to reframe things to recognize the good in every situation. For the situations that are only terrible, those are allowed to simply be terrible. I'm not going to try to get blood from a turnip. But in most cases, I can find something good, and that's what I'm aiming for.

Friday, January 18, 2019

What Feels Like Home

Once we lived on the top floor of a house in San Francisco where I could see the ocean from my bed. With the windows open, I could hear it at night. It was deeply soothing, and it was very much what I needed at that time in my life. We had moved across the country with Z, and six months later we'd bring E home with us, to a life full of medical appointments and hospital stays, which wouldn't end until shortly before we moved away two years later.

It was the perfect place for us. It was full of light, and the floor plan allowed us to be near to one another no matter what room we were in, which helped us immensely in attending to the needs of both of our children. I knew walking in to view it the first time that I loved the light, and I loved the ocean view, and I could see our family living there. It was in my favorite neighborhood in San Francisco, which at the time was considered utterly uncool.

Mostly, though, the house just seemed like home. That's what I felt, more than anything, when I first walked up the stairs and into the sunlit rooms. Home. I am easily creeped out, and yet I never felt scared in that house; it reminded me an awful lot of the apartment I'd lived in when I was in Kansas City, which gifted me six and a half years of comfort as a single woman living alone. It was really nothing like the Kansas City place aside from that feeling. It felt right to me, like I belonged there, that was all.

Similarly, the house we find ourselves in now is nothing like my old place in Kansas City or the one in San Francisco. But it has that same feeling. It feels good to me, like home. And this makes me utterly delighted to be living here. The first house we were in here was a good house, but it didn't feel good to me the way this one does.

I am hoping that for the long term we will have a place of our own, a place that will feel like home that we won't have to leave after a few years. But for now, this place is good. I am grateful, every time I walk through our front door into the that feeling of belonging here, of home.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Focus, Please

Tonight I did something absolutely magical. It involved:

1. Eating free sandwiches and drinking free herbal tea.
2. Giving my opinions, of which I have a lot to give.
3. Being done with the whole thing in 90 minutes.
4. Receiving £40 before I walked out the door.

If you hadn't guessed by now (and I think you probably have), I participated in a focus group this evening. I've never been part of one, so I didn't know just what to expect, but this was a very good experience. I was told ahead of time that it would be regarding the local area and community, so that gave me a positive impression. (Though for the record, I would have a positive impression of giving my opinion about carpet lint if they were offering me free food and cash.)

I was in a group of nine people who are all residents of the borough we live in, and it was an excellent representation of the diversity of the population. We were asked questions about our community and how we feel about it, then about airports. The facilitator made a joke about making us work for our "pocket money," but it was honestly a very easy and gratifying experience.

I loved hearing everyone's responses and learning more about the different areas of our borough and the people who live here. I was pleased to hear that, like me, the others love living here, too. People used words like open and welcoming and kind to describe the people who live here. We all agreed that the diversity of race and culture is part of what makes us happy with where we live. I absolutely love this. I walked out of the room £40 richer, but also with a renewed sense of gratitude for my community and for the privilege of living where I do.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Solutions to My First World Problems

Some months ago, we had quite a crowd over for dinner. We couldn't all fit around our table, so a few people opted to wait and eat when everyone else was done. Meanwhile, everyone was having tea and coffee, and I ended up running out of good cups and having to serve someone coffee in a cup that was fairly badly stained. I know - the horror. I don't think the person minded, but I did, and so I started purchasing one nice mug per month, in order to have mugs suitable for guests. First world problem of potentially being embarrassed about a stained cup: SOLVED.

I do love those new mugs. They're Orla Kiely ones and very pretty. But were they actually necessary? Well, probably not. I could've picked up a few mugs at a charity shop and called it done. But I didn't. And I don't know how I feel about that, about so many things in my house which are nice to have, but which I could certainly do without. Sometimes I read the words of St Basil, and I think, oh dear. He says,
"The bread  which you hold back belongs to the hungry; the coat, which you guard in your locked storage-chests, belongs to the naked; the footwear moldering in your closet belongs to those without shoes. The silver that you keep hidden in a safe place belongs to the one in need. Thus, however many are those whom you could have provided for, so many are those whom you wrong."
And yet here I sit, still contemplating solutions to some of my very privileged problems. And I am not quite sure how to find the balance between making sure I do not hoard too much for myself and having things which are useful.

At the moment, I have it in my mind that it would be very helpful to have an upright freezer. I can cook more than I can store in my current freezer, and batch cooking is both more economical and more nourshing than what I resort to when I am too busy to make things homemade. I looked at a freezer last Saturday which I could easily fill with a few days of cooking and baking. Then, in a pinch, there would always be something for my family to eat, even if I didn't have the time to cook. But would it actually be a good idea to get a freezer? Where is the line between practicality for my own family and being able to give more? I don't know the answer to that. But I am going to keep asking this question of myself, until I do.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Hope Deferred

I've started thinking about this place again. Ethiopia. And of the city we were in when this photo was taken in particular. It's not been far from my mind since the last time we were there; I am always thinking of where my daughters come from and how and when we will manage to go back. Always. It is important; my children need to be in the place where they come from. They need to go home sometimes.

My goal has been to travel to Ethiopia every two years. This hasn't worked out, really. My goals don't always align with our financial realities, or with instances of civil unrest, or many other factors. In April, it will have been two years since we went, and we do not have another trip planned at this time. Neither of my kids had expressed a need to go, so I was relaxing a little about this reality. But that changed this week. One of my kids need to go home.

I have no idea how I will make this happen. Absolutely none. But one of my words for 2019 is optimism. So I'm going to trust that there's a way, and if there's not a way, that this hope deferred until later will not make us heartsick.

If you're the praying sort, pray for us.

(Or else tell us how to increase the odds that we'll win the lotto.)