Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Little Things. For example, laundry.

Wake up. Walk five feet to the toilet. Backtrack two feet to the kitchen doorway and take three steps in. Stand in one place and pivot back and forth between the sink, counter, and electric kettle to make hot water for the coffee. Step sideways two feet to the washing machine and remove the load of whites. Do a left face and walk ten paces to the first radiator in the flat and begin hanging clothes on every vertical surface available. The size of the laundry load is in direct proportion to how much space you have to lay out damp laundry. Forget about washing machine capacity. 

And so begins life in a 560 square foot London flat. It’s slightly larger than the apartment we had in NYC two summers ago. We had a washer and a dryer in NYC. We have a washer in London. No dryer. What is up with that? Something about nowhere to vent, but…I think it’s just weird.

We’re fortunate to have arrived before most other new teaching staff, as we got early picks on items donated by families and staff returning to America. So things like mixer, blender, juicer, mini-stereo, electric tea kettle, microwave…all obtained. Part two of being fortunate is that we found a flat just a seven minute walk away from the school so carrying all those things to the flat, over four trips, wasn’t so terrible. Not even in 85 degree sunshine. Sunny London!

The weather, by the way, has been lovely. It'll be a shock when the days go short (they are soooo long right now, still perfectly light almost until 9:30pm) and grey. I'm hoping it'll happen gradually. I'm told that the lovely cooling breeze will turn into a cold howling wind. I have just the running gear for that. 

Everyone who drives does so like a maniac. Mario cart. They honk at you before they attempt to run you down, though, so there’s that. 

The public transportation is both outstanding and frustrating. Everything is handled by the Oyster card, incredibly convenient. This is your "get everywhere tap in/tap out" card that you load. Like a Starbucks card but more confusing. A bus trip or a tube ride isn’t just £2.20. There’s some kind of daily-cap-logic-depending-on-where-you-start-and-end-at-the-end-of-a-24-hr-period algorithm that I think I won’t ever understand. We have an extra Oyster card for guests because you really can’t get anywhere meaningful without one - those days where you’ve walked your shoes off and just want to sit. It’s not difficult to spend £20 a week on this. 

In our effort to minimise expenses, we walk. We walk a great deal. Five or more miles a day. And we check our Oyster balance daily.  
Kent, at the Tate Modern

Tomorrow, our high speed internet connection is activated. Weeeeee! In the meantime, there are a ton of BT wifi hotspots that we’ve been able to attach to (because we signed up with BT) and conveniently a few near the flat. Not consistently, mind you - it doesn’t take the place of a good reliable router - but it gets us by. In four days our personal belongings will descend upon the flat and we’ll spend the next year figuring out Where To Put Stuff, and all those articles on Apartment Therapy will make more sense. This is good, too, because I need a drying rack or four, and two of them are in that shipment. See above issue with the lack of dryer.

We are five hours ahead of the US East Coast, eight hours ahead of the US West Coast, you can do the math for everything in between. And yes, they move the clock ahead for British Summer Time (BST). Oh the things we're learning. 

p.s. - the visa was finally approved and finally made it into my hands. yay! I can make money in the UK! If only I had a job... 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A New Chapter, Part 2: Departure

The last post was in February. It's June now, the house has been fixed up, put on the market, and there is lots of activity but no offer yet. We remain hopeful that we'll get an offer before the next mortgage payment. I really do not want to make that mortgage payment. 
Today the movers come. 

I write that sentence then find I have to take a big breath. It's been an incredibly busy and stressful four months. We have said goodbye to so many THINGS. Yes. Americans in particular are very attached to their Things,  but I think non-Americans experience that attachment too. I'm not a sociologist or anything but my guess is that it's strongly related to the commercialism that comes with being a first world country. Throughout our lives we're fed a steady stream of images equating objects, and the acquisition of objects, with self-worth, who we are, and how we exist. Two big yard sales put that into pinpoint perspective. It's hard to shed that and the objects that we've accumulated. At one point I complained that I didn't like putting a price on my life. And we've continued to get rid of things in the house because it becomes a problem compounded (and calculated) by shipping by weight. Thank goodness fiber doesn't weigh that much.

Our mantra has been that of Charlie Crews: "I am not my car." 

We've also sent our dogs, Tasha and Maggie, to live in Maine with our eldest son and his girlfriend. I know they'll like the cooler weather. Maggie will, anyway. These two dogs have lived with us for 14 years and it has been so difficult to watch them leave. I wasn't sure I could do it. We could have taken them with us, and were in the process of doing so (there's no longer an automatic quarantine rule). But as time ticked by we realized that there was travel we wanted to do and allowing the dogs to live in a steady stable environment was better for them than our need to have them with us. Our lives will be less complicated for it, and in some years when the urge to spontaneously run off to France or Scotland or Wales or Germany or the English countryside for the weekend abates we'll look at getting new dogs again. In the meantime, we need to find an outlet for our need to communicate with dogs. Dog sit for friends. Run with a neighbor's dog. I'll try not to let it feel like a betrayal!

It's been Christmas in June for a few friends - fancy vinegars and furniture to Linnea & Matt, small appliances to Nick & Heather, MANY workshop tools to the robotics team at Norview High School, furniture for Kerry, bartering deals with Cheryl. Kent has become the CL Whisperer. Whatever he puts on there sells fast. It's amazing. Neighbors scored well at our two yard sales. I'm happy all these things made it to good homes, and a few thrift stores have benefited from our remaining cast-offs. 

Tonight we'll drive up to DC and spend a couple days there, then it's on to Baltimore for another few days before we fly out. The Baltimore leg was an unexpected addition but it's been a long time since we've seen the Inner Harbor, so we'll enjoy it because we can. 

I'm feeling quiet and a little sad, but today is another day when I cannot let myself feel too emotional because: movers. Therefore, I must see to the business at hand and keep my head. Stiff upper lip, etc. Keep calm and carry on...after I have my coffee! 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A New Chapter

After 20 years in Norfolk, it is time for us to move on.

If not for recent events, we'd probably just stay put.

It really wasn't intentional. We're lazy, we hate moving. Loathe it, frankly. That's why we've been in Norfolk for twenty years. Well, one reason anyway. The boys have fled the nest and are happily living on their own, creating their own adult lives. That doesn't mean we don't love them like crazy. We do!! And with any luck and planning we'll be able to help them come visit us in our new adventure.


Over a mere three week period our lives were dramatically changed. One morning shortly after New Years Day, as he was heading out the door to work, he said  "there's this opening at the American School in London and it had my name all over it. I'm going to apply for it. Okay?" And I kissed him and said "Sure!" Because why not? Life can get a little boring if you always keep the door closed.

Three weeks and three interviews later we're staring down the barrel of an overseas move and ogling properties online in London. It's a little more expensive than Norfolk. After a few estimates we've contracted with an international moving company. I have the PETS Scheme list of bringing pets into the UK and the dogs have started their treatment procedures so they won't have to sit in quarantine in the UK. DH has renewed his passport, his new employer is arranging our work visas, and I have to find a new position with the bank or another company. Our first BIG porch/yard/estate sale is scheduled for the weekend of March 1 & 2. Nearly all the furniture and a great deal of our small appliances will be up for sale. A ton of books, some china, DVDs, a spinning wheel, looms (Bam Bam, the Tools of the Trade loom, and the table loom). I've arranged a trade for the Macomber loom for a smaller loom that I can ship with us. It's a good arrangement that me and the other party are very happy with. We'll be talking with a real estate agent tomorrow.

Saying we're excited, anxious, and slightly overwhelmed is an understatement. The paring down process is especially hard. Letting go of things we've collected that we think, rightly or wrongly, define us. They don't, really, but represent moments in life, and we have to look at our things, our stuff, and pick the moments that are REALLY moments, and not just...stuff. That, and The Stash :)

A new chapter begins in London in late June. Yehaw!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Dental work meets Greek yogurt

Bone grafts. 

The words make me shiver for that is what I had done in my mouth a week ago yesterday. I am a big pain wimp, Dr K., so thank you for the vicodin. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have made it through the weekend without it. I only had enough for four days, but made a difference. 

Cold food was wonderful. Cold SOFT food even better because I don't have to chew it and drive my gums into pain. After all the protective clay came out, though, cold food is now evil unless I very carefully guide it away from the most sensitive spots. Hot liquids=good. Cold liquids=bad. This entire week has revolved around what I can and cannot eat and the progress between the two. It's still mostly soft foods, though.

Because my diet had to be so limited (e.g., boring) I decided that I would include some of Kent's Greek yogurt (we buy plain Fage Total) with the amazing unsweetened applesauce I found at one of our local grocers. It was risky because dairy is not my friend and I always steer clear of it. 

Guess what? No problems with the dairy! None!! No intestinal upset. know...runs. If I'm really sensitive to something it'll get right past the Imodium. This did not. Therefore, I have resolved to include strained yogurt back into my diet.

YAY! I love yogurt. I hated not having it. And this is a really lovely thing to have discovered in the midst of this pain in my face. For which I'm still taking massive quantities of Motrin because I'm a great big pain wimp. The dull thudding ache is as bad as the other post surgery pain. 

Thursday, January 02, 2014

NBG 2.014 Fun Run

It WAS fun! The lights at the botanical garden were lovely. My favorite was the moon and starts display. But holy crap there were a lot of people stopping to take pictures! I nearly ran into them. I'm not sure I'm such a fan of the stopping for pictures, but then maybe I'm too serious. Come on. I'm trying to RUN here. In the dark. With only the holiday lighting displays to guide me. 

(Erin. Lighten the f*** up)

Ya. I'm still slow. My pace was 13:40. My last 5k pace was 12:29 and it about killed me, as Les would say. It was tough, for sure. This 13:40 was a good pace, though. And it was only 2 miles. And I've been doing run-walk-run training, which feels weird, and I ran the NBG as straight running, no breaks. After my 6 mi run last weekend, 2 miles doesn't seem like much. At the finish line, while waiting for me, Kent heard some runners talking about potholes. I didn't encounter any, but early on I noticed there was some pavement heaving from past freezes (or something) so I was already on the lookout for things to NOT trip over. Because I'm a bit clumsy.

First "race" of the year. Check! Kent called it a run. I corrected him. If you have to pay and you get a t-shirt and you get a bib (even if EVERYONE had the same number, haha it was number 2014) it's a race, no matter whether you race the race or just run the race. Ya, there's a difference. I ran the race. The timing clock said 28:42 minutes. My running app said 28:12 minutes and I killed the app 10 seconds after I crossed the finish. That's not the first time my app has logged me 30 seconds faster than the timing clock. I'm not sure what's up with that. Bad app? I hope not. I love this app. Next year: wear 

Next race: Virginia Is For Lovers 14k, Feb 15. 8.7 miles-ish. Someone come run it with me!!!! I'm running to finish, not racing for a personal best. Personal bests can come later. 

Meanwhile...weave weave weave! Still finishing up a Christmas gift on MayMac. I'll be working on that today as my vacation grinds away to its end. I return to work Jan 6. Damn! I want another week off! Or how about a month? And still get paid, thanks. It's been a nice two weeks. One week at Nags Head, NC, this week here at home. This morning's conversation:
Kent: What are your plans for today?
Me: I have none! hahaha!

But I actually do because I need to visit the mall for leggings at WHBM (the BEST leggings, lemme tell you), go to the pharmacy and the grocery store. In other words...errands. And a run sometime today. Before the rain gets too icky.