Friday, October 30, 2009

Sure Makes Me Wonder What's In Those Popcorn Balls

I've read many posts this week that relate to Halloween one way or another. Some families choose not to celebrate and some go all out on the day. Our children always enjoyed dressing up (on Halloween or any day for that matter) and trekking the neighborhood with Daddy to beg for candy trick or treat. It seems they went from this-


to this

to this
almost overnite.

One of our favorite Halloween memories and a story that is retold on a regular basis in our house is from the year we went camping with family friends the weekend before Halloween. We knew in advance the campground had some fun activities going on including trick or treating from campsite to campsite and a pumpkin carving contest which the dads kids were especially excited about. They (and when I say they I mean 'the dads') had gone to a pumpkin carving demo at a local garden center the week before so they came prepared with all sorts of vegetables and grasses to be sure they would win.

And of course they did because they're competitive like that and they do still like to talk about it every now and then but... what we really laugh about to this day involved Daughter2. If you've read here before then you may have a glimpse into her personality but this little story was just so Daughter2. The kids went trick or treating around the various campsites and returned to our site with big plastic bags of mostly candy and one ginormous popcorn ball. The dads proceeded to get dinner going on a grill grate set over the campfire and they had some steaks cooking when out of nowhere miss sweetness, who had been standing about 15 feet away just happily swinging her candy bag around and around, suddenly let it fly. Let me tell you the law of physics was something in that split second because it was like some kind of crazy vortex sucked that plastic bag filled with candy into the literally 1 inch space between grill and fire and whooosh-that bag of candy disintegrated in an instant. All but the popcorn ball which somehow remained completely intact. Hmmm. Anyway, we all stood frozen for about a minute with our jaws hanging open and then the dads sprang into action getting the food off the grill and away from the melting plastic poison and the moms just looked at each other and daughter2 didn't even cry because honestly no one could believe what had just happened. I'm certain this is one of those-you had to be there to appreciate it kind of stories-but I have to add that 1. you could never recreate this in a million trillion years and 2. this could only happen to daughter2.
She's the one in front of the axe but I'm thinking you figured that out on your own. The look on her face usually said I'm oh so cute but I'm trouble. The kids were full of sympathy and of course they all knew her well so while they were surprised at the actual incident they were not surprised that there was an incident. They happily divided their candy so she ended up with a fresh bag (and instructions NOT to swing it and to stay well clear of the fire). And for me, I guess my thoughts on Halloween are kind of encapsulated in that one weekend...cool crisp fall weather, an outdoor fire, pumpkins, good friends, and sweet children who grew up in the blink of an eye.

visit Kelly's Korner today for more Halloween Costume posts

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's That Time Again...Weekly Random #9

I normally wouldn’t do two memes in a row on my blog but yesterday’s was an award so participating was part of the deal. Today I’m back at Lindas for her weekly random which sounds light and breezy on the surface but she always throws in a question or three that make you dig deep for the answer. Very theraputic actually…come play! Answer the questions on your own blog and link your answers here….

1. Tell me something about your favorite teacher.

First grade…Mrs. Ousler…she loved me and I wanted to go home with her. I mean I loved my own home and family but this woman was the epitome of what a first grade teacher should be-warm, cheerful, kind, soft spoken…if you had a loose tooth and she pulled it she gave you a sour ball candy which was a big treat. She was good at the teaching part too…like I said…I loved her and I imagine she set the stage for me to love school always.

2. Tell me about one pivotal moment in your life.

I guess I’d say my father’s death…our family isn’t the same without him. I was 32 years old but I don’t care how old you are…you are never old enough. My children were young (2 and 4) and my dad was such a wonderful Poppie… I’m sad they didn’t get to have him in their lives longer. He was a Marine for most of his life… a man of real strength and integrity yet he had a tenderness underneath and you especially saw it around the granddaughters whom he loved so very much.

3. About favorite colors--a lot of people will ask you what it is, but I want to know why it is. What feeling or memory does it evoke? \

Yellow-it’s happy…it’s not a color I use in my home as I like warm rich colors for decorating and living but when I think of yellow I think sunshine and happiness so I always claim it as my favorite.

4. What's a sure sign that you're getting older?

Holy moly…where do I begin??? How about we start at the top of my head and work our way down? My roots, my memory, my eyesight, my neck, my tummy, my blood pressure, my sleeping on the couch at 9 PM-oh wait…I’ve always done that one...let’s just say that once 45 has come and gone the body goes just a teensy bit psycho. In re-reading this I feel like I should post a picture because when I look in the mirror I don’t look quite as scary as I just described…I guess it’s just a little change here and a little change there and when you put it all together you realize you are a long way from 25.

5. Please don't sermonize, but Halloween--is it a yes or no for you?

Well my kids are in college now so they’re not home to participate but as children, yes, we did the costume /trick or treat act.

6. What's your favorite musical?

Phantom of the Opera

7. Are you more of a city mouse or country mouse?

I am a country mouse (not talking farm here, just space, nature, woods, land) who needs easy and frequent access to the city.

8. Did you know that it is possible, for a small fee, to name a real star after someone? (It's true! Google it!) If someone were to name a star for you, would you appreciate it for its whimsy and romance, or would you say, "Are you kidding me? For $19.95 we could have gone to the movie and actually bought popcorn."

I suppose if someone thought this would be a thoughtful and meaningful gift for me I could appreciate it. We loved my daughter’s fifth grade teacher and her class went together and did this as one part of an end of year gift for her. She was hugely into science and participated in the NASA program for Teachers in Space so she really loved this and it felt personal.

9. This question comes from Paula at His Ways Are Not Our Ways)-What's the craziest thing you've ever been doing and texted during it? I only thought of this b/c I was about to try to text during my walking video but I didn't. Paula, you do know that this blog is rated G, right?

uh...driving?

10. "It's not a party unless _______."

Somethin’ gets broken…that’s the standard end of that saying at our house. We’re fun people here…what can I say?

11. When you're stuck in traffic or a waiting room, what do you do to pass the time? PS: There are no magazines available.

In a waiting room I try very hard not to touch anything…I people watch and sometimes write great blog posts in my head that I later cannot remember. In traffic, it’s all about the music isn’t it? I like mine loud and I like to sing along much to the dismay of my family.

12. If you weren't yourself, would you be friends with you?

I'd like to think so.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Public Service Announcement for the State of NJ plus an award

New Jersey gets a bad rap. When you think about NJ (which I kind of doubt you do because it's just one of those small sort of inconsequential states) you probably think traffic, chemical plants, toll roads and the highest property taxes in the US of A. You would be partially correct in your thinking and in the case of the property tax you would in fact be entirely correct. But there is another side to this place...a softer gentler side if you will...hence its nickname, The Garden State.



I think if the politicians used my part of the state as their backdrop when giving interviews as opposed to, oh say a rest stop on the NJ Turnpike, they'd have people begging to live here. I mean as long as they didn't find out about the property taxes. New Jersey really is a lovely little corner of the earth and I'm just doing my bit here to spread the word...NJ Department of Tourism you are most welcome.




We took these pictures on our hike stroll this past weekend. I guess I need to also add here that the NJ Dept. of Tourism does not read my blog nor are they paying me to promote the state although perhaps they should consider it.



While NJ may not be giving me any recognition Lisa, at Odom Party of 5, did present me with my very first blog award yesterday (thanks Lisa!)


Lisa and I both have two daughters in college and love great shoes...seriously, how much more of a connection can two people need? I'm supposed to answer these questions and then pass the award on to six Over the Top bloggers that I don't think have participated in this yet. If you'd like to play along too then feel free..if not, NO pressure. Just cut and paste these questions to your post (or facebook page if you read my blog there) and let me know you joined the fun...


1. Where is your cell phone? in my purse...which is in the other room which slightly annoys my hubs...he thinks I should be like the Secret Service and always have it on me so I'm never out of radio contact.

2. Your hair? not the color it was in my twenties...not naturally anyway
3. Your mother?
loved
4. Your father?
missed

5. Your favorite food?
thai green curry

6. Your dream last night?
None

7.Your favorite drink?
champagne

8. Your dream/goal?
to make a difference somewhere in this world

9. What room are you in?
office

10. Your hobby?
reading

11. Your fear?
not managing #8

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years?
savoring the water view from my back patio somewhere south of the Mason Dixon line

13. Where were you last night?
a lovely Italian restaurant in town

14. Something that you aren't?
a good singer

15. Muffins?
cranberry orange

16. Wish list item?
a beach/lake house

17. Where did you grow up?
mostly southern NJ

18. Last thing you did?
took the dog to the vet for a shot aka my aerobic workout for today

19. What are you wearing?
jeans and a long sleeved t-shirt

20. Your TV?
off

21. Your pet?
snoozing

22. Friends?
Away

23. Your life?
in transition

24. Your mood?
good

25. Missing someone?
always
26. Vehicle?
parked

27. Something you're not wearing?
shoes
28. Your favorite store?
Ann Taylor

29. Your favorite color?
yellow

30. When was the last time you laughed?
Recently

31. Last time you cried?
Recently
32. Your best friend?
my sisters

33. One place that I go to over and over?
library

34. One person who emails me regularly?
Vershonn

35. Favorite place to eat?
Italy : )


There you have it. I'm passing this on to some lovely ladies I've 'met' thru blogging plus one special blogger who just happens to take amazing photos and who just also happens to be my sister in law. You all are awesome...have fun with this.

Courtney at Tempo and Speed

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I Walked a Metaphor

After a day of gray skies and windy rain the sun finally made an appearance. Since the leaves were still looking fiery my husband and I headed out with the dog for a walk thru a nearby wilderness and recreation area. I’d glanced at a map prior to leaving the house and even printed something from the website that showed a few trails. For some reason though, once we got out of the car and put the leash on the dog we just jumped on the nearest path and unfortunately left those maps in the car. We came to a split in the trail and without a whole lot of thought went for the one marked yellow.

The woods were absolutely glorious, the light caught the tips of the leaves and reflected off the nearby water. The trail was wide and flat and beautiful. We stopped to admire the lake and listen to the geese...we watched some men racing model speedboats and we took a million pictures. The air was cool so we walked arm in arm wrapped in our warm coats and mufflers. We walked this way for a while until we came upon another fork in the trail and again, we didn’t really stop to think too hard, we just went with what was in front of us.

The trail veered away from the water and became rocky, the kind of rocky where you have to watch where you are putting your feet because the rocks stick up just high enough and just often enough so that you catch your toe and after a while you might also swear under your breath or possibly out loud because you get tired of almost tripping. Now you’re getting hot…and thirsty…and you regret leaving the water in the car with the map. In the back of your brain a little thought percolates…something you remember reading online about one of these trails being 12 miles long and you start praying a little that the 12 mile trail is not the one marked with a yellow diamond because you most certainly did not want to walk 12 miles of rocky trails today. You start really wishing you hadn’t left the map in the car…or the water.

The trail goes up so you follow, going deeper and deeper into the woods thinking that just maybe when you get to the top of this trail you’ll see something familiar but no, just more woods and you feel deflated…and maybe like crying just a little. Your husband asks if you are okay, if you need to rest and you kind of want to yell at him because you are hot and tired and feeling like you might never find the end of this trail and he’s an easy target for your frustration but you pull yourself together and keep going.

We’re bound to reach the end of the trail soon you would think except that 12 mile thing that was percolating in the back of your brain...well, it has now moved front and center. You come to a stream and it requires hopping from rock to rock to slippery fallen down tree trunk to get across and two hours ago you would have found a little joy in that small feat but now you are just irritated and hoping not to slip and fall. Your husband goes first and he makes it, even with the dog in tow and then he reaches out and offers you his hand and you don’t pout but you take it and get across too.

We keep walking and climbing and twisting ankles and stubbing toes and we’re not taking any pictures now. In fact the beauty of these woods has been marred a bit. Just a couple of hours ago every leaf and tree was worthy of comment but what was so gloriously golden a couple of hours ago is now just something to get through. It is right about then that your husband reminds you of how we used to take the kids out as a family and they would panic if they thought we’d missed a turn or were in any way lost. And he would reassure them (and me too) and say ‘Don’t worry… I’m here with you and I always know where I am’.

At some point along the way today I found myself thinking that this hike makes an interesting metaphor for life. What began as a simple walk turned into an honest to goodness hike... isn't that the way life goes too? I jump onto a path without taking enough time to be sure it’s the right one? I move along thru the days and weeks and moments, finding the going mostly easy and beautiful until suddenly a fork in the road appears. Don’t I often go for whatever is in front of me…the seemingly easy route? How many times has that seemingly easy route turned into a rocky road? Maybe it’s not full of big giant boulders to haul myself over although sometimes there is that too... most of the time it’s just annoying ‘rocks’ in my path. Rocks that trip me up, irritate me and make me impatient to the point that I cry quiet tears of frustration and lash out at people I love. Sometimes bigger obstacles require crossing a stream and sometimes it's easier to pout about my circumstances rather than reach for the hand offering help. How much of the beauty that is all around me do I miss because instead of looking for the blessing in the moment I just want to get through it…to move on to the next thing? Sometimes I even feel lost.

I was happy to finally round a bend today and see the car park in the distance. I’m especially glad my husband was with me...that he knew the way when I did not...that he was patient with me…that he knows me and yet he loves me. I am also thankful I’m not going it alone in the bigger picture that is life…that the very God who created the beauty of the woods we hiked today is patient with me...that He knows the way when I do not...that He holds me in the palm of His hand …He says ‘Don’t worry …I’m here… and I always know where I am.”

Thursday, October 22, 2009

48 Hours

Daughter2 arrived home last evening for two days...her university is on fall break because you know college kids have it oh so very rough and need a break in the fall before the break for Thanksgiving followed closely by the break for Christmas...oops...sidetrack.

Anyway I'm not complaining because I love having my girls home anytime. I cooked her favorite dinner last night (chicken divan) followed by a bowl of her favorite ice cream (Strawberry Cheesecake) and she wrapped up in her favorite furry pink blanket and miss sweetness laid on the couch with her head in my lap and mom, dad and daughter watched Miss Congeniality and all was right with the world.

This is how our morning has progressed...if you have babies who never sleep you might envy this....if you have college aged kids you might recognize this...

Me: Good morning Sunshine
(but what I'm really thinking is this...I've been up for hours, why is this child still asleep, apparently I did not make enough noise in the kitchen to roust her)

Daughter: hmmf
(but what she's really thinking is this...who is that talking so loudly and so much???)

Me: Are you getting up today?
(today??? as in day 1 of only 2 days you have to spend with me?? your mother who birthed you??)

Daughter: What are you doing?
(A-NNOY-ING...remind me why I wanted to come home for break again?)

Me: Just wondering if you're getting up
(ever?? at all?? are you going to sleep your whole visit away?? your whole entire two day visit??)

Daughter: I thought you were going to let me sleep in
(She's still talking...Why?)

Me: Well, it's 10:30, I thought that was sleeping in
(good grief...the day is practically half over, plus waking up is only step one in the process of getting out of the house...there's still the shower, the washing of the hair, the drying of the hair, the styling of the hair, dressing, checking your text/email/fb...it will be 2 o'clock before we're out of here)

Daughter: 10:30 isn't sleeping in plus I'm sick
(wow, was my mother always this annoying? and why is she STILL talking?)

Me: okay, a little bit longer
(blog post baby...oh yeah)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Crazy Eight...it's time for the Weekly Random

Welcome to Week 8 of the Random Dozen meme hosted by Linda at 2nd cup of Coffee. If you want to play along just answer the questions on your own blog and link your answers here for all the world to see. Well, all the blog world anyway. Well everyone who reads Linda's blog at least. Anyway...here are mine-

1.Candy corn: Your thoughts?

Here's the problem with candy corn...If I eat just one or two, fine. However I lack self discipline when it comes to a candy bowl sitting within arms reach so I end up eating far too many and then I feel sick. Yeah, I'm like a 5 year old that way. I've heard that if you dump a bowl of salted peanuts in with the candy corn and eat a handful it tastes just like a Payday. I'm afraid to try it...I don't need anything else to love. As an aside here-can you believe I just wrote 5 full sentences answering a question about candy corn? Yes...I imagine you can.

2. Briefly, what was the first conversation you ever had with your spouse? (or best friend, if you're not married.) (Or someone significant, like your librarian.)

"How did you get that black eye? And broken hand?" (and fyi-that convo was with the man I eventually married, not my librarian) We were college students-what more can I say?

3. Could you ever become a vegetarian?

no.

4. Have you ever dressed up your pet in a costume?

well, now that you mention it....this is our sweet pup ready to trick or treat in an old ballet tutu that belonged to one of my daughters. It is sparkly and has a Spanish dancer feel to it...

Dixie was initially less than thrilled and spent the first fifteen minutes running in a circle trying to remove it however that only made it look like she was dancing and really getting into the spirit of it all so we laughed and took pictures and she got over it. I have better pictures of the day but I discovered this morning that there is yet one more box of scrapbooking items to unpack somewhere in this house.

I wrote a whole post about this picture which you can read here. This is Dixie getting ready to spread some Christmas cheer in our little English village. We like to call her a party girl...she is one happy pup and if she were a person we know she would be on everybody's A list.

5. Name something about childhood that you miss (like Clark Bars, Teaberry Gum, Malibu Barbie, cracking fake eggs on people's heads with your fist and "It's the Great Pumpkin" airing only once a year).

Little Kiddles...my sister and I loved them...I can't believe they haven't brought those back...tiny little dolls and each came with some sort of accessory or fun add on...there was Babe who came with a little yellow sports car, Lola came with a mini sailboat, etc. I even had a little kiddle house-so much fun for little girls. And paperdolls...do little girls still play with paperdolls? We'd spend hours cutting out the clothes and dressing them and putting them into families.

6. Have you ever won a trophy? If not, what do you deserve a trophy for?

Nothing significant comes to mind but I'm pretty sure if they were handing out trophies for wordiest blog posts I'd get a blue ribbon.

7. When do you think is the appropriate time to begin playing Christmas music each year?

Once the weather gets cool I start thinking about Christmas and once I start thinking about Christmas bring on the music. But only at home...in a store I don't want to hear it until the day after Thanksgiving.

8. What's your favorite board game?

I like most games so this one is tough....backgammon, yahtzee, scattegories, dominoes (mexican train), rummikub...did I mention I like games?

9. How do you feel about surprises (receiving, not giving)?

We're talking good surprises here right, as in, "Surprise...Happy Birthday!" If that's the case I'm okay with it. I don't care for ugly surprises but then I suppose nobody does.

10. Is it easy for you to say, "I'm sorry?"

yes I think so

11. What is your favorite candle scent?

Cinnamon

12. October is traditionally "open house" time in public schools. If you had a literal open house in your home (like a reception) what light snacks would you serve visitors and what would you show them (as in art projects, graded papers) that would uniquely represent you?

I'm not sure I get this question...well, except for the food part which of course I always get.... As far as my 'stuff' goes...probably a scrapbook, some photographs of my family taken of our adventures living abroad. As far as the food goes, since it's an 'open house' I'd probably say...a nice glass of champagne, cheese and cracker tray (definitely a good Brie, a chunk of Parmesan and a blue cheese too) and then of course something wonderfully decadently chocolate.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Two Words

A blog carnival is happening today over on Bridget Chumley's blog. She selects a word and anyone who is interested is invited to write a post that relates in some way to the word she's selected. Click on the link if you'd like to add your own post or read more. Experts say one way to keep your brain young is to try something new and this is definitely new for me so here goes...today's word is trust.

Had I been writing this post six years ago I think it would look very different than the post I'll write today. Six years ago I had young teenagers living at home. Teenagers by their very nature bring the question of trust to the forefront on a regular basis. As a parent of young teens my thoughts generally ran along the lines of can I trust them? Can I trust them to do the right thing...to make good decisions...to stand firm in the face of peer pressure...to be honest...compassionate... responsible? The qualities you hope and pray you are cultivating in your children as they grow up are put to the test in the teenage years. I've poured so much love, discipline and prayer into these two little people... has it been enough? Can I trust them?

Today my daughters are in college and when I think of the word trust these days what comes to mind most of the time is not can I trust them but rather how much do I trust the One who made them? If you read here regularly you may have picked up on the fact that I am not really a fly by the seat of your pants kind of girl. I follow the rules and I like order and I especially like to think I have everything under control. Its fairly easy to tell ourselves when our children are young and living under our roof that we are in control but that isn't quite so convincing when they hit the young adult years. There is nothing like leaving a child at a university in one country while you get back on a plane and return to your home in another that lets you know you are so not in control. Thankfully, this is where I can look back and see just how God's hand has been in the details of my life. At the age of 43 He got my attention with two words- Trust Me.

When we moved to England my oldest daughter was 15 years old. Europeans in general view their teens as adults at a much earlier age than we Americans do and we'd been in the country only a few short months when my daughter was invited to participate in an International Schools Theatre festival with a group from her highschool. My husband was traveling the night they were to leave so I had to make the drive to Heathrow to meet up with the group. I wasn't comfortable driving in England yet, especially at night and especially in a snowstorm. It very rarely snowed in our corner of the UK but for some reason this particular night it was snowing so hard they were threatening to close the airport and I was secretly happy. I prayed all the way there that the flight would be cancelled but on that strangely snowy evening in February of 2004 my 15 year old child and some classmates got the very last flight of the night out of Heathrow and flew to Warsaw Poland. My daughter spent four days living with a family of complete strangers and to say that I was out of my comfort zone would be an understatement of gigantic proportions (think Siberia). Of course in time we learned that this is the way school trips worked over there...kids traveled for sports or theatre or academic purposes to countries all over Europe and were housed by families whose children attended the International School there. When your child got on the plane/train/bus/ferry you most often didn't even have a host family name. If that wasn't enough to stress me out there was all that travel to worry about too...teenagers on planes, trains, buses, ferries...just the travel could make my heart pound in those early days. I haven't even mentioned the trips that didn't involve a host family at all but rather a few nights in a hostel or hotel. There would obviously be some structured time for the kids on these trips but they had free time to fill too which was typically spent exploring the city with a couple of their friends who were also traveling......no chaperone following you around...no group bus taking you out to sightsee...no head counting every half hour....none of what we were used to at home...just check in periodically with the teacher and be back in your host family home/hostel/hotel by something o'clock.

I think God knew that when it came to my children I might be a tough nut to crack in the area of trust and I'm not talking about me and them, I'm talking about me and Him. I can't say for sure how I would have handled the whole 'taking a child to college' event had I not lived overseas. I do know that before moving overseas I held tightly to my children in a way that might have become a cause for resentment in them had we stayed in our home town. As my husband pointed out the first time a 14 year old girl called and asked my daughter to go shopping in London, 'We barely allowed our kids to go to the mall on their own in a town we'd lived in for 9 years and now suddenly they're jumping on trains and subways and running all over one of the worlds biggest cities with just friends?' Strictly speaking they weren't 'running all over the city' but throughout our years living abroad they did navigate a whole lot on their own in many a foreign city.

Gradually in this environment it felt natural to allow my children to flex their muscle of independence....there were boundaries of course but they were wide...after all many English schoolchildren get themselves on and off the subway every day as a means of getting to school...if a ten year old can do it surely my 13 year old can too. The school itself had very high expectations when it came to safety and behavior and the teenagers, on the whole, lived up to that high standard. Every trip was a baby step for me and a rung in the ladder towards adulthood for them. Moving overseas removed my safety net...no more familiar places, friends whose parents had been our friends for years, whose beliefs/values/rules were pretty much like ours....all things I'd put my trust in to some degree when making decisions as a parent up to now. Suddenly everything was new, unfamiliar, and foreign in every sense of the word. I had to face my fears, live outside of my parental comfort zone and let go of the reigns, not to the point of risking their personal or emotional safety of course but in allowing them to move slowly into their adult selves with a mother who guides and assists instead of a mother who frets. Either God was in control or He wasn't...there would be no more sitting safely on the fence when it came to completely trusting Him with my children.

Today my girls are happily ensconced in university life. They are confident, independent compassionate souls who love the Lord and bring joy and happiness into my life in a way that defies description. Are they perfect? No. Are there lessons yet to be learned as they move through life? Of course. My hope is that they have seen in me, not a mother who was ruled by fear and worry but rather a mother who placed her trust in Christ and went where He led. A mother who heard God whisper two words- Trust Me...a mother who listened and got out of the way and saw God do amazingly more than anything she could have asked or imagined.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Raindrops on Roses

My husband said last night that he noticed I had a little breakdown on my blog yesterday. I disagreed but he said it read that way. I really just wanted to put some thoughts on paper, er, the screen. I'm certainly not feeling sorry for myself and I hope that's not how it came across...I'm just experiencing something and want to write about it. I thought I might balance out yesterdays post by participating in todays Friday Faves hosted by Susanne at Living to Tell the Story. You can link your own Friday Fave list here.

Okay, here we go...

1. The colors of autumn. I know I sound like a broken record but I honestly cannot remember a more beautiful fall. My back yard and the woods all around our little town are golden and fiery and, to steal the comment a friend left on my fb picture yesterday, (hi Molli!)...'Applause to the Creator!'


2. In a funny turn of events the weather went a little bit wacky yesterday and that too was beautiful. Yes I live in NJ and yes it is October and yes it did indeed snow yesterday. It is far, far, far (can I emphasize that enough?) too early for snow but there is nothing quite like seeing those first flakes fall.



3. My brother and sister in law are coming to visit this weekend. They only live about two hours south of here but looking at their calendar just might make your head explode. In the spirit of 'five faves' here are five of my favorite things about my brother....

  • 1. He is nice. Seriously. He is the easiest person in the world to get along with and I don't know a single person who doesn't like my brother.
  • 2. He is funny.
  • 3. He is five years older than I am so I always looked up to him as a little girl. He used to play ping pong with me after dinner and every now and then he'd let me win by playing with his right hand (he's a lefty).
  • 4. Once when he was babysitting my younger sister and I we might have started a fire in the kitchen (it was small, yet terrifying) and he might not have told our parents the whole story for a few years.
  • 5. He always got stuck sitting next to me on rides at the amusement park. No small thing as motion is not my friend. Like I said, he's nice.

4. Yesterday my friend booked me on the train from London to France with her for a weekend in December. I think that speaks for itself.

5. I've saved the best for last....on Wednesday this sweet thing will be stepping off the plane in NJ for two days at home with her mama.
Jumping for joy here...Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Art of Coming Home

Did you know it was an art? Do you even know what I’m talking about? Isn’t this home? Should returning to the country of your birth ever need to be anything more than a tiny blip on the radar that is life? Did you have any idea that people of all ages and nations and walks of life have been studied and whole books have been written in order to better understand the phenomenon known as reverse culture shock? I’ve been reading one such book, which is aptly entitled, The Art of Coming Home by Craig Storti (don't know him, not doing any kind of review, yadda yadda yadda...just reading a book).

This concept of reverse culture shock is something I've wanted to write about on my blog for a while now, mostly because it’s a topic that consumes much of my thinking. I’m more or less in the throes of it…I’m up, I’m down, I love it here, I miss it there, I wish I could see/do/be xyz here, I don’t miss that about there, I cry and wring my hands in frustration, won’t someone understand… I go hours or days without life there even entering my thoughts at all… but wait, that's no good…I want it to stay fresh in my head…no, it needs to fade…who am I now… how do I take what I learned about myself and people and differences and life and make it fit here…where do I belong and how do I balance memory and reality?

There is a problem though in writing about all of this in a forum such as blogland, or for that matter anywhere outside of the expatriate community, and that is this: at the very core of 'coming home' is the undeniable fact that people don't really care. I’m truly not being critical here, just keeping things real. It’s a bit of, "So what's the big deal? You were here, you moved overseas for a while, blah blah blah, and now you're back.... where you belong. Home.”

Do you know how many times I've heard those words...here... home... where you belong? The thing is we're not really feeling it. Not yet anyway. We will I’ve been told but at the moment not so much. I'm sure a few of you are rolling your eyes as you read this thinking, ‘My goodness, will she just get on with life already???” That's an honest reaction and I understand it. Recently the welcome wagon lady stopped by my house. She stayed for almost 2 hours and I’m pretty sure I mentioned we'd just moved back to the states after 6 years overseas but what she really wanted to talk about was...herself. Her reaction to me was pretty much the reaction I get from almost everybody when I mention that we're new... ‘Wow, London, that's nice...so anyway back to me’. A slight exaggeration but I think you know what I mean. We're all very much about our own stuff...our own little corner of the world, what's going on inside our own house and particularly what is going on inside our own head. Perhaps this reaction is a blessing in that it is what helps me move on, to look forward, to be in this moment and not moments past.

It’s a high wire act I find myself walking most days. I want to feel settled and at home here, in this place, this town, my country, but in doing so I don’t want to let go of a single thing that has been added to my life in the past six years. A friend who also lived in the UK for six years but has been back in the states for seven years now recently said to me, “Sometimes I forget I ever lived there. Like those years never happened.” Is that feeling inevitable? Oh I really hope not. How exactly do I embrace the new without letting go of the old?

I started my blog back in January. We’d been told since the previous June that we would be repatriating in the next few months and it was just after Christmas that the time frame seemed to come together. I knew then that I would be overwhelmed by my own thoughts and feelings and I started blogging to capture that in some way, to put some of those thoughts and feelings in writing so they wouldn’t keep me awake at night. I wrote about what I expected to feel as we made our way back across the pond. Now I’m feeling it and I want to write about that too. Perhaps this post reads like one great big giant whine but I assure you that is not the case at all. My heart is in fact feeling very full…full of gratitude and sweet memory and hope for the future. A future where memory and reality are blended in equal parts…where I smile at the old and welcome the new….where home is where I am and the rest is in my heart.