Tag Archives: re-patriation

For two

The kettle is whistling on the stove, making its plaintive cry of boiling-boiling-the-water-is-boiling, as the steam races from the spout. I love that sound. For me, it’s the reflective recall of dozens of lovely tea memories. As a child, in a non-tea drinking household, the whole concept of tea was a bit foreign, though I did my best alongside my sisters and friends to affect a proper tea party with our miniature dishes and stuffed animal party guests. I discovered tea as a drink proper when I reached my teen years and began sipping herbal concoctions and felt altogether sophisticated for doing so. In my early adult years I was lovingly chided about my lazy-tea preparations, and then instructed in the proper way to brew, prepare and enjoy a cuppa by a Londoner lost in the desert southwest. I do love tea, even when I’ve lapsed to the lazy microwave-warmed-water-teabag-in-a-cup preparations.
When we arrived here to this midwest home last summer and did our shopping for the essentials we needed whilst waiting for our shipment to arrive from The Netherlands, I bought a kettle. It is a cherry red, metal, stove-top kettle with a handle and spout. It’s my favorite kitchen appliance. As it whistles today, I watch the steam rise and listen to the song it sings, and I see the metaphor of my morning tea. As the water pours over the teabag today it occurs me that in order to make it work you have to jump right into the hot water. Jumping in headlong allows something to be released; then something wholly new  presents.

I’ve struggled lately with my feelings of displacement, homesickness, and the touch of lonely I feel here. I understand intellectually and conceptually just what it takes to move and settle into life in a new place. We’ve done this before, we’re simply doing it again. But as I watch the steam rise gently off my cup as I write it’s suddenly very clear to me:  the time has arrived. It’s time to jump in, release the fear, find the new and drink it in.

Time to share a cuppa with a local friend.

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Song in my heart

You may have heard me say it before: I walk to the beat of my own fully outfitted percussion section. I am rather proud of the fact that the rhythm in my head leads me in life. I feel I can trust the steady boom-boom-boom that echoes behind decisions for me.  Maybe that’s the beat of my heart which races with the thrill of new adventure or accompanies personal discovery. I wouldn’t know how to otherwise define it.

In recent months, there have been several of those decisions, thrills and discoveries. I don’t suppose any of that will be ending anytime soon. But for all the wild caucauphony that has been the orchestration of relocation for this family of five, we find ourselves now stepping to a steady, comfortable beat, in its own right the soothing sound of settling in.

Andrew is thriving in Kindergarten.

Emma dramatically steps into her place in Middle School.

Ian meets and beats the challenges of American High School curriculum.

Don holds his place and his prestige at this new position with grace and strength.

Me, I just keep making plans.

But the sound of this music can best be summed up with the lyric that follows.

The rhythm of my heart is beating like a drum
with the words  ‘I love you’  rolling off my tongue
Never will I roam for I know my place is home
where the ocean meets the sky
I’ll be sailing

Rhythm of My Heart, Rod Stewart 1991

MUSIC MONDAY 

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The Human Condition

There are moments in my days, not altogether common or often recurring, wherein I take myself a wee bit too seriously. Episodes where I am convinced that my demons, my baggage, my issues, my challenges are larger than any other has to bear. Bigger than even I can manage. These moments tend to dissipate quickly as I have established before that I am a glass-half-full kind of person.  And generally, I chase them away of my own accord, reminding my sad, sorry self that I am just really not all that special. My stuff is just stuff after all.  Everybody’s got stuff.

Every once in a while, I am blessed to be reminded that in reality my stuff is easy. 

A few weeks ago, I met a man who has lived here in St. Louis for most of  his life. Upon first glance, my assumption was that he was among the indigent here in the city. He was dressed casually in a track suit and his longish hair and gray beard were slightly unkempt. He walked with a strange gait and pulled along a small cart filled with papers and a backpack. He sat down near me in the fellowship hall after services at church (I’ve been skulking in and out of congregations since we moved here but that’s a story for a different day) and we began to talk over coffee and cake.  Well, I talked.  He gestured and spoke very little, grunting out small words in repeating phrases.  We communicated though, because really what is the definition of such a word if it’s not mutual understanding of a message?

He was shy to start and I felt slightly awkward, but when he opened his backpack and offered me his “scrapbook” of letters, photographs, and newspaper clippings, I lost track of myself in the attempt to track his story and hear him fully.  His name is Jim.  My best estimate puts him at  20 years my senior which makes him around 63 years old. As his story unfolded for me piece by piece I discovered that he once was a budding, bright light in his field of study. He holds 2 advanced degrees in the sciences and was clearly a rising star in the field. Then, one terrible day,  as he was cycling home from university classes, he was struck by a car and thrown from his bicycle straight into severe brain damage, months of coma, and years of recovery.  Clearly, I wouldn’t have been having this conversation with him at all if he hadn’t been one of those defeat-the-odds-miracle-man stories.  And so his story goes. After 4 years of helplessness, Jim taught himself to walk again. And then to talk.  And he regained his independence. His binder is filled with his memories, even the ones he can’t hold onto anymore. He carries copies of newspaper articles written about him through the accident and beyond. Tucked alongside are photographs of he and his wife and the family of his youth. “Dead. All dead now” he narrated as I turned the loose pages. There was his draft notice to the war in Vietnam. “Long time ago, long time ago”  he repeated as I read. There were the graduation notices for his “Cum Laude” degrees. “Me. Me. That’s me.” he shared over and again.  There were the newsletter mentions of his life now as the best volunteer the local hospital has ever had in its ranks. The mention of how he spends his time giving to a community, even though at first glance I didn’t assume he had anything to give, was altogether overwhelming to me and I had to wipe tears. Repeatedly.  I sat with Jim for an hour, maybe more, drinking in the richness of a man whose stuff is oh-so-much-bigger-than mine. And whose glass appears not to be just half full, but overflowing.  Point of personal reflection to be sure. 

As I drove away I couldn’t help but sing the refrain from a song I had only recently discovered because the sentiment is true. Everybody’s got a story. Heartbreaking or inspiring just might depend on perspective. But, everybody’s got a story.

I am so glad I got to hear his.
 

 

Music Monday

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Disambiguation

As a girl adjusts and adapts to her old home become new, specifically her repatriation to her homeland,  she spends time in her head.  Lots of time in her head, noting and notating what it means to come “home” and to be “back in the USA”.  Among these notations are the telling moments in her psyche where upon hearing phrases from those outside her head such as: “Welcome Home” and “It must be good to be back” there is a distinct non-recognition that those sentiments apply to her at all.   It’s not that she’s unhappy  in her new place.  On the contrary, she’s taking it in and taking it on as the days unfold, consciously creating “HOME” and building happiness for herself and her children.  But there is a small amount of disconnect as she transitions, a surreal quality to the whole of the movement, if you will.  Something like walking through a fog perhaps.  And like an early morning fog rolling off the water, it takes a bit of time for the sun to penetrate and open clear vision upon the day.

I know a girl like that.

She’s taking her time.

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As often happens with me when I sit down to write, I had a fully other notion of what I was sitting down to write about than what just now trickled  from my fingertips.  It’s taken some time for me but  I have learned to trust the process of letting my thoughts flow and allowing words to take shape as they will.   I tend to look at these moments, these times where my thoughts take charge and my fingers write what they please rather than what I planned, to be truth telling moments.  Possibly barrier-less glimpses into what I really need to say versus what I think I want to say or even should say.  At the end of the day, I suppose that’s what keeping a blog is all about for me, anyway. This is the place I declared I would let my creativity flow. This would be the place for me to express myself.  I am conscious, yes, that I am doing just that in a venue where others come to read and it wouldn’t be honest to say that doesn’t affect at least the way I edit a piece before I hit “publish”.  It does, however, cut me wide swath in what I can say or do here.  That’s a tremendous freedom feeling.

My lovely friends and my readers who are my friends, your support is appreciated in ways bigger than there are words to express.  (And trust me, I know some big words.)  I recognize that my presence at this page has been sketchy at best since I opened it. I would like to change that up just a bit.  I won’t promise you anything beyond what I believe I am capable of delivering upon,  so this is no declaration that I will see you here tomorrow, by any means.  Or, maybe it is.   What I can definitively say it is, is an invitation to stay with me while I find my way and my rhythm.  If you know me well, or know me at all, you’ll know I always have something to say. 

Sometimes that something surprises even me.

Talk soon.

~jenn

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The Road Totally Traveled

I’ve never had much of a musical style. To say eclectic would be the  closest thing to accurate in describing my tastes. And my collection? Across the spectrum. Don’t be sad, that even includes country tunes and artists. As a teenager I was a throwback in my musical choices, listening almost solely to the artists whose hits preceded my day by at least a decade if not two. Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Joan Baez, Chris Williamson. These are among those who shaped my thoughts and wooed my troubled teenage mind. I get funny looks from friends and others when they sing out the songs that everyone of my age group seems to know and have fond memories of (including knowing all the words) when I am stopped short of being able to name the artist, let alone the tune. But ask me to sing the entire flipside of the Tapestry album and I am totally there.

This is not to say I am a complete misfit to my generation. I can identify now with what plays on “classics” radio and am upping my game by keeping up with the taste and style of two in-house teenagers.  I am not wholly a lost cause but here it should be stated that the oldies are still my goodies. Even the forgotten oldies like this that I tripped across the other day (Yes, whilst googling myself). I giggled with happy memories of hanging with the boy that loved this band then looked up lyrics and giggled again. It’s a bit of an anthem for this return of ours, not entirely poetically accurate, but still worthy of relating and posting. And really, for the launch back to Music Monday hosted by Soccer Mom in Denial, could it get any better than having a song with the same title as my blog? I ask you.

And now I share.

 

I’ve been gone so long
I’ve lost count of the years
Well, I sang some sad songs,
Oh yes, and cried some bad tears

Look out! I’m comin’
Whoa, yeah

I’m runnin’,
Findin’ my way back home
I’m findin’ my way back home
Well, Ive had it for now,
Livin’ on the road
Ooh, yeah
Ooh, yeah
RUSH: Finding My Way

Words and music by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson 19freakin’75

More Music Monday posts can be played by clicking here.

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What’s your druthers?

When I was very young, on the occasion that our family  of eight would go to a restaurant to eat, I would sit and stare at the menu, overwhelmed by the offerings. I declared on more than one occasion “there are too many choices”, my brain unable to take in and compute all the options and render a reasonable decision. It’s still that way to this day. Restaurants that offer a 10 page menu tend to make me want to throw up in my mouth a little and my general M.O. is to fold it over politely, set it down on the table and ask my mates “what are you going to get” and make my decision based on the 2 or 3 choices narrowed down by their interests and taste.  This self -limiting selection thing has spilled into my parenting. I am a big fan of the “choices” technique in offering autonomy to my children.  As in:

“You could choose this or that” 

“You may eat this or that”

“You can watch that or this”

Which has served us all well over the years.  Here, I must admit that six-year old Andrew’s recent boisterous declaration that “THERE SHOULD BE SIX CHOICES BECAUSE I AM SIX” has thrown me for a loop.  Honestly, who can cope with that many choices, man?

Which brings me to this point. One of the recurring questions people pose to me as a repatriating citizen of the USA is something along the lines of  “what do you find most difficult about returning to the states?” And while I cannot claim this next bit to be MOST difficult in a list of difficult things, I can boldly declare it to be my personal most OVERWHELMING adjustment to stateside living.

In a word: CHOICES.

There are just too damn many.

In the early days and weeks of our return I managed to avoid any stops at shops bigger than the convenience mart at a gas station. But ultimately, I knew that for the good of me and the good of everyone I am supposed to feed in this family, I would have to break down and enter a supermarket.  I started with the local Trader Joe’s which is actually a breeze in shopping for me. I love the sights, sounds, smells and SIZE of TJ’s. As Goldilocks quips, this store is “just right”.  But not too long into our stay here there was need (now I cannot even remember what) for me to venture to the neighboring SUPERMARKET to get supplies.   It was late at night, I was alone (seriously, I made Don come with me for the original adventures in US shopping) and I was armed with my list. My approach through the produce section was thwarted by the slightly prodigious selection of pre-cut fruits–do you like your watermelon in wedges, spears or cubes?–and as my heart rate rocketed upward I cast my eyes at the empty cart and pushed ahead. I really did okay, looking up occasionally to  slide something into the trolley, and it wasn’t until rounding the corner on the salad dressing aisle that I felt I might altogether lose it. Rapid pulse, shallow breath, clammy palms, I literally sat and stared at the WALL of bottled dressings for maybe 15 minutes trying to take it all in. Were it possible to broadcast inner thought, the sound over the muzak would have been “woah, woah, woah, woah, woah, wah, wah, wha, wha, wha, WAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!”  which couldn’t have possibly made me any more of a spectacle than I already was standing stock still, eyes wide open, in front of Paul Newman and his cohorts on the shelf. In a lifetime of sampling, I wonder, can you actually taste all the varieties on offer?

At this point, all I can offer is gratitude for oil and vinegar. And no, I still haven’t looked at the cereal selection.

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My Bad

I have a confession to make.
It’s not a bad, terrible, skeletons in the closet kind of confession. After all, this is not that kind of blog. But if you’re going to be reading here, this is something you should know about me.

I am directionally challenged.

This is not a well known  or well established mental disorder. In fact, I may be the only human to suffer from such a thing but suffer I do. As does anyone who is along for the ride.

Let me elaborate.

I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, where thanks to the resolute planning of the founders of that little town, everything streetwise is laid out in a very predictable, very organized grid.  The originating coordinates in the downtown streets   start at ‘0’ and count upwards and outwards from there. So, when you have a street address of  4646 South 3500 East, well, you can pinpoint on the grid exactly where that is and make logical sense of which way to drive to get there. Add to that the fact that surrounding the SLC valley there are mountain ranges, and any Salt Laker worth her salt knows that Mt. Olympus sits at the East of the valley offering a constant reference and resource for which way is what way.

This is not to say that I cannot get lost in Salt Lake City, because as I have previously divulged, I have a little directional problem. It’s a bit like dyslexia of roads. I have no sense of where I am going or where I have been when it comes to navigating streets. Seriously. There is no internal compass in my brain. I am always and forever lost whilst driving.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I can be taught and as we’ve traveled from city to city over the years, I have managed to ultimately triumph over the maze of streets and figure out how to get around. Not always well, mind you, but I can get it done.

The last 4 years of living in The Netherlands has helped me kind of forget this embarrassment. Relying chiefly on public transport or my bicycle (which means ALWAYS taking the scenic route) I haven’t had to opportunity to befuddle or confound myself in all that time.

But no more.

I am now doing my darnedest in the Midwest, where the town is NOT laid out in a predictable grid and there is no orienting mountain range to ground my equilibrium.  And by doing my darnedest I mean to say I am constantly lost.

To illustrate this point I give you a sampling of Andrewisms from the backseat as we  drive.

“Oh, Mom! What are you doing?”

“You goofed! You goofed! Oh, mom, you goofed”

“Are we turning around AGAIN?”

“Oh, man… this always happens”

At this point you are likely thinking, “why doesn’t the girl just get a GPS system for her navigational needs?”.  And I answer your internal query and tell you: “I have one”.  

Last week I was using said system to drive to a neighboring city to do a bit of shopping. I had an address and a general notion of how to follow the map on the screen. What I didn’t have was the ability to read the map, drive the roads and watch for speed traps. So, for all my effort to get to my destination without turning around a bazillion times, I got a ticket.  When the officer handed me my citation I thanked him graciously (that IS what you do, right?) and then told him “I’m not from here, you know… I’m just trying to find my way…”

He replied “It’s all good. Just slow down”.

Sage advice, really, for the girl who just doesn’t know where she’s going.

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Making it Home

The original plan for re-patriating included a stop in Arizona (the children’s home state), a visit to Utah (my home state) and then the arrival to Missouri (the new home state).  We departed The Netherlands on 15 June and scheduled the travel to land us at our new place 15 July.  As it is with all best laid plans, that’s just not how it happened.

Instead we scrapped plan A in lieu of plan B and after a week in Arizona, recovering from jet lag, getting acquainted with the sun and spending time with old friends, we boarded a plane for St. Louis. That’s where you’ll find me now. St. Louis, MO.

It all feels rather surreal still.

So, as a cat lands on her feet, I have been on mine for the better part of  this month taking on and making up projects to make this new house our home.

I’ll share some pictures if  you like:

I’ve had help. Lots of it. Some of it willing and able in the form of my Dad who drove up from Texas to act as foreman to all projects.  (My dad is an absolute star!).  My darling husband and his unsuspecting brother lay a new kitchen floor over the 4th of July weekend. And the kids, of course, have had their hands in plaster, their fingers in paint, and their toes doused in grout. 

As for me, I couldn’t be more pleased. Not just with the outcome but with the complex project as a whole. I am reminded of essays I’ve read and studies I have seen on the power of color. As a reflection or an indication of who we are and what we are made of, color has a tremendous impact on our psyche.  The palette of calm  and zest we are applying here to the places and spaces in our house makes me aware that this is where we will rest. This is where we will play. This is where we will work, where we will relax, where we will live and where we will love. 

Home.

Here.

Now.

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