Friday, 14 November 2008

The Stuff of Madness

I’m home! Hurray! With my love. It’s so good to be home. I’ve really been looking forward to it. Especially because all of our furniture and boxes arrived while we were away! The boys and I have been so excited to see it all. So pumped to lay eyes on this item or that after 13 long weeks. We’ve talked about it a ton for the last week and a half. Toys the boys couldn’t wait to play with. Pillows I couldn’t wait to lay my head on! A couch! A bed! Woo hoo!

Well, it’s all here. Want to know the overwhelming emotion? Distraction! Sheesh. I’ve only been home for about 4 hours, and already I see a huge difference. It was a lot simpler when there was no stuff. We made much less of a mess making dinner, and dinner was no less tasty! We didn’t have little boys crying because they couldn’t locate the one toy they want to play with amongst the millions of toys they don’t. It was easier to focus on the people in the house instead of the people focusing on the stuff in the house.

So…time to pare down.

It’s funny; I don’t actually know why we shipped most of this stuff. I mean come on! Fifteen boxes of Kleenex?!? Really? Eight rolls of toilet paper? It’s not Ukraine! They do have perfectly legitimate toilet paper in England! Last years half-burnt Christmas candles? Why? And for the love of all things culinary—how many black plastic spatulas does one girl need!?!? Sure, they’re safe on my non-stick pans, but for crying out loud there are only two pans—how does that justify not only OWNING but shipping SEVEN spatulas across the Atlantic! All wrapped individually in its own special piece of packing paper too I might add! Good night! The poor trees!

Sure, we’d never seen the house before we moved over here. We weren’t clear on what we’d need. Sure, we’d never lived in England before. Which helps explain why I thought it would be helpful to bring along 3 laundry baskets—none of which fit in the tiny English closets and none of which I want sitting on the floor cluttering up the space around the washer and dryer. Namely because if they did I wouldn’t be able to get into my fridge or my freezer. Washers primarily live in the kitchen in English houses.

I have decided I’m going to let myself off the hook. I didn’t know. As previously mentioned I wasn’t ready to let go of it all. Plus I’m getting a kick out of unpacking the boxes. So are my boys. They’re not currently upstairs playing with the dozens of toys that finally arrived. Nope! They’re in the living room playing with two empty boxes and a huge pile of packing paper.

Ah, the simple life. Let’s get back to that! Now…I wonder what one does with crap they don’t want if there’s no craigslist? Hmmmmm…

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Leaving on a jet plane...

So as I drove down University today with a Grande-Decaf-Triple Shot-Soy-Pumpkin Spice Latte-no whip on my right, the mountains on my left, wearing a down vest with 3/4 length sweatshirt and alternating between country music and KBCO on the radio I felt...well...truthfully a little disoriented. It's like that feeling when you wake up in the middle of the night and cannot figure out for the life of you where you are. You flounder around a little. Take some deep breaths and ward off panic. It feels a little like that.
I barely payed attention as I drove to my dentist appointment. My body and mind on autopilot I shifted the gears of my dad's Jeep. I turned down this way and that, every once in a while noticing a new building is going up or one has been torn down. Other than that I noticed barely anything. I even spoke to Meggs on my cell phone on the way. While driving! It was that easy to just drive around.
People are nice at the stores. A few days ago, while having breakfast before leaving the Holiday Inn Express they must have asked me 10 times if I had everything I needed. I'm not going to lie to you. It kind of freaked me out.
I went to Target and could buy everything on my very diverse list. There were a dozen choices of booster seats alone. I ran to Park Meadows and there was every size and every flavor of every item I might ever need or want from hardware to fine wine to furniture to outdoor gear right there at my fingertips. For dinner I chose between 20 or some odd restaraunts within a one mile radius of the house. The seven burritos I ordered for my family at Chipotle were all customized down to the tiniest ingredient and no request was scoffed at or considered absurd. I didn't even attempt Costco. God help me.
Yeah, it's disorienting. It all feels familiar, but distant. Like it's on the other side of a veil. A veil I crossed over somewhere above Greenland on August 24th, 2008. Reverse culture shock is a bitch! Still, it seems somehow like more than just that.
I went by the house yesterday. The house that is 10 minutes from Target and Park Meadows and within a one mile radius of 20 some odd restaurants. It felt like I'd never left. Like I still lived there, but was just visiting somewhere else for a bit. I've driven by houses I lived in before. They always felt like 'places I'd lived before.' We'd drive by and there would be story telling and memories retrieved and told and shared again and again. That house didn't feel that way. It still felt like 'the house.' Bridger said, "It's good to be back!" I answered with a forced, "Yeah, but we don't really live here anymore. It's not really our house." "Oh yeah! It's Conrad's [our realtor] house now!" "Well no, B." I said. "We still own it, but we're trying to sell it. We live in England now." "Yeah, but it sure is good to see it again!"
He swung on the playset. He ran around the playroom with an exclamation of "look at our HUGE old playroom!" He thrilled at seeing his old bunk beds and his own room. He sat in the chair and read one of his old Pirate books and was so excited to see an "England flag! That ship must be from London!" I went up stairs at his request to "look at your room with me, Mom!" I found him snuggled up on the bed that's still there for staging. I could barely watch it. Talk about disorienting. As we went downstairs to leave he said, "see ya house!" But it was what he said as we pulled were pulling out of the driveway that really nailed me. "Well, bye house! Sorry we held on to you for so long! It's time for you to get new owners now!"
Out of the mouths of babes.
No wonder I feel disoriented. No wonder I wake up and can't figure out whre I am. I never left. Colorado, that house--they've been the ace up my sleeve. The safety net to fall back on. The somethin somethin to run to if England tanked. So there was no driving by an old place filled with old memories. It was a current place. A place I somehow still inhabited. Physically gone, but spiritually still present there. Sigh...and I can't figure out why I'm having trouble settling in England.
I get on a plane tomorrow. To go back home. To Scott. In England. I don't know that I will have sorted all of this out quite yet, and I'm going to be kind to myself about that. I do want to leave though. For real this time. I'd like to come back to Colorado as one of those 'favorite places.' Those places you visit. You drive by all the old haunts. You shop at your favorite old stores and eat at your favorite old restaurants. You drive by the old house and you tell stories about all the great memories you had there. But you don't live there anymore. You've left and moved on to new adventures and new dreams. New houses and new haunts and new stores and restaurants (even if there are fewer choices and the customer service sucks).
So..."Bye house! Bye Colorado! Sorry I held on to you for so long! It's time for you to find some new owners now!" I'm gone. I'm off to make my way in the big wide world. I'll be back to visit, but I don't live here anymore.

A Loss of Innocence

Yesterday was a rough day. Innocence lost. A little boy's heart broken. A dream shattered. Bridger grew up a little bit yesterday. He wasn't ready. It was devastating to watch. All I could do was hold him and love him and let him cry and cry. His favorite player, Matt Holiday was traded to the Oakland A's yesterday, Tuesday, November 11th, 2008.

Poor Bridger. We were in the middle of Target when we got the news. My mom came in and let us know. I was checking out Christmas ornaments when I realized my precious 5 year old was sobbing in the cart. "But Matty is my favorite! Now I won't have a favorite player." In my ignorance I say, "Well Matty can still be your favorite. You'll just have to watch him play for the A's." "But Mom," Bridger wails, "the ROCKIES are my team. They'll always be my favorite. And now I don't have a favorite player on the Rockies, and I'll never ... get ... to ... see ... Matty ... play ... for ... the ... Rockies ... AGAIN!"

By the time Dave came over last night he had begun to consider a replacement. "I'm thinking Brad" he told Dave. He didn't want to talk about it though. Wasn't ready. Poor guy. I think it'll take a while to work through this one. The big $$ of professional sports win again. A little boy's dream is shattered. And the green grass grows all around and around and the green grass grows all around...

Friday, 7 November 2008

True Confessions

I have a confession to make...I used to feel a little embarrassed at times to be an American. Let me explain: While waiting in line for lunch at the Musee d'Orsay last week a woman came around the corner, took one look at the line and exclaimed in her obnoxiously loud American accent, 'OH MY GOD! You have GOT to be kidding me! There are this many people in line and they have ONE checker? You'd think they could get another person up here to check people out!" Never mind that there was only one cash register. Never mind everyone else in the line was waiting patiently and calmly and didn't seem to be bothered. After about 2 minutes of waiting she slammed her full tray down on the closest clear space (right on top of the ice cream cooler so no one could now open said ice cream cooler) and stormed off making her exasperation widely known. A couple of minutes later the man in front of us said, "Are you Americans?" Oh no, I thought. Here it comes. I felt like a turtle wishing I could shrink back into my shell. "Yes," I hesitantly replied. Ended up he was an American as well. He shared the woman's sentiment, but was much quieter and more polite about it. I said, "You know. It's just not a value here. Speed, efficiency. It's not like they look at this line and think, 'Another cash register and cashier up here would really reduce the long lines and help move more people through here, but we just don't have the resources for that right now.' No, they don't mind the long lines. They don't even notice. Efficiency just isn't a value. Especially when it comes to dining." He nodded and chuckled. We had a nice chat. Still I left that experience feeling that I couldn't really blame Europeans who tend to think that we are loud, brash, selfish, and narrow minded in the sense we think it all ought to be done like it's done in America and everyone must hold the same cultural values that we do and are inferior if they don't. It embarrasses me.

Lately though, I'm feeling a lot more proud to be an American. A lot less embarrassed about the 'way we are.' Not so afraid to admit I am one.

I've been thinking through, for example, the whole introductions/neighbors/friendliness issue. The boys have been in school for 9 weeks and I only know 2 mom's names. Scott has met ONE person at the office, and only because he made it a point to introduce himself. That guy being a pretty high-up executive it's unlikely he'll turn into a friend. So the search for colleagues continues. At first I was really confused. Then I learned a little more about the 'regular' way to do things in the English culture. I had a few conversations with English friends and a few other American expats. I tried doing it their way which feels really false. Then I began to consider why in the world I value making friends so quickly and introductions so quickly. I remembered what sort of people I'm from. I come from Pioneers. Frontiersmen. The sort of folks that built community or didn't survive. They needed barns built. They needed someone to help them have their babies. They braved the elements. Famine. Disease. Warfare. They left the comfort of their known worlds and ventured west. In search of land and a dream. They had only each other--their families and those in the general vicinity. I said this to an English friend and followed it with, "perhaps if I had been born and raised on the East Coast I might fit in here a little better." She disagreed. She reminded me that all Americans are descended in some way or another from folks who left the comfort of their known worlds and ventured to the unknown in search of a better life for themselves and their children.

Making friends is in my blood. My bones. My marrow! It's who I am. It's part of the American way of life. Block parties. PTAs. Babysitting co-ops and neighborhood associations. Happy hour after work with friends and co-workers. Meals brought to new neighbors or friends having new babies or when folks have died.

I'll figure out this new British culture. I'm making friends and there are some GREAT folks in my life here. But harboring embarrassment? Nah. Not anymore. Loud disrespectful folks do come from America sometimes. They aren't the definition of all it means to be an American though. So I'm not going to let them make me feel ashamed.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Jury's Still Out

Scott and I have this distinction we have made between ‘traveling’ and ‘vacationing.’ Both involve leaving home and going somewhere else. Both are fun. Both include yummy things to eat and getting away from it all. We have decided we quite like to do both, but have learned it’s more helpful for our relationship to have this distinction and make a calculated decision about which kind of trip we want to take during our time off.

‘Vacation’ time is usually spent in a cabin, tent, or on a beach. The less one does in a day, the better. The fewer decisions one has to make the better. It involves a lot of laying around and chilling out.

Traveling is a different animal. Traveling is an adventure. It’s full of discovery. One has to be brave. Follow one’s instincts. Be super flexible. Make TONS of decisions. Do things. See things. Try things. Learn things. Also, there’s always a ton of walking involved.

At first glance it seems obvious what which type of trip we would choose with a 4 and 5 year old in tow. They’re little. They do better with routine. They think several days in a row of playing and laying around and chilling out sounds like heaven. The thing is we moved to England partially with the lofty ideal of showing them the world. So when their first half-term break came up we were dying to take them to the continent and where better than our favorite city?

After our first real opportunity to travel with the boys the jury is still out. It was certainly an adventure. We learned and discovered a lot. Namely that our boys are amazing little travelers. Scott estimates those little troopers walked about 7 miles today. With nary a complaint. It was an awesome day. It’s been an awesome several days. Even with the sad news of my Granny’s passing. I don’t know whether we’ll decide that we love to travel with them or not. We may stick to vacationing until they’re a little older.

Tonight we posed the question to them. Caid said he’d rather be in Mexico or “at that mountain place where we spent my birthday.” Bridger emphatically agreed. Then he leaned back and frowned that classic Bridger thinking frown. He said, “I don’t know, actually. I like both. I don’t mind either. This was good.” Then he pulled another Bridger classic and made a game of having us all name our favorite painting, sculpture, and mask of the day from the Musee D’Orsay.

It has been very good. I’ll try to post some photos and highlights this week.