Sunday, April 27, 2008

Will You Indulge Me Yet Another Post About the Weather?

(We’re all feeling much better now, I’m happy to say. It feels so good to feel good again, to get up in the morning and be productive again.)

Yesterday we had the most glorious weather. It was the first time this year we’ve all been outside in fewer than two layers. Not only was it sunny and a balmy 70 degrees, it was Saturday. A warm, sunny Saturday and all of us were healthy! So after breakfast we got dressed, packed a quick lunch and set out for some woods we’ve been hearing about.

I love the woods. I do; I do; I really, really do. I don’t know if I can adequately describe the tranquil feeling that comes over me when I’m walking through woods, but it’s like suddenly everything is right in the world. I’ve had a lot on my mind in these first months of 2008, but stepping into the woods yesterday -- watching a tiny stream trickle down a crease in the ground, listening to the gentle birdsong floating through the tops of tree branches just starting to turn green again, smelling the freshness of new life emerging from between last year’s fallen leaves and from within no-longer dormant branches -- I felt all my weighty concerns being lifted and carried away by the soft, warm breeze.

When I was growing up, between the ages of four and nineteen, our family lived in a house on the edge of a subdivision that backed up to some woods. I realize now what an incredible gift that was, to have nature so close at hand in a town where man-made things like bricks, cement, tarmac and steel covered most of the ground’s surface and where nearly everyone’s dad worked for the auto industry in one capacity or another.

My sister and I played in the woods nearly every day all summer long -- climbing trees, building forts and crossing the creek back and forth, balancing ourselves on rocks that peeked above the current and trying to keep our feet from slipping in. That was back in the day when we could disappear out of the gate in our backyard for hours and hours at a time, and Mom didn’t have to worry. And when -- without parental supervision, a first-aid course or a safety net -- we kids would climb 20 feet up a tree, hoisting ourselves up over steps made from bits of two-by-four that had been nailed there at some point by someone’s big brother, gaining confidence and independence with each rung until finally, reaching the remnants of a tree house, we'd sit there and look d-o-w-n at the world as we’d always known it and realize: Aha! there are more dimensions to life than we’d thought.

Now that I’m -- I was going to say too old for tree climbing, but I think I’d rather say I’m just 30 years out of practice -- one of my favorite, most relaxing things to do is lie down underneath a tree and look up at the branches waving above. In our back garden here we have an anemic, old apple tree that produces four or five sorry little apples each fall. I haven’t wanted to cut it down, though, because of this very thing. As much as I love summertime for sitting out on the patio -- for lunch with the kids, tea with friends or just to unwind after the day -- if I want to chill all the way out I lie beneath that crazy, gnarled apple tree and gaze up at the beauty in the movement of its branches.

Yesterday, wandering through the woods -- a National Nature Reserve, no less -- felt so lovely, so luxurious, even. After far too many months of being cooped up inside while it was cold, wet and gray outside, this weekend's weather was -- quite literally -- a breath of fresh air. And since the forecast for the next ten days is lots and lots of rain, it couldn't have come at a better time.

I just keep reminding myself: There's another dimension to this life, and whether I recognize it now or years down the road, one day I'll have a better appreciation for how "all things work together".

* * * * * * *
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

After weeks and weeks and weeks of one or more of us being sick with coughs, colds, stomach bugs, sore throats, sinus infections and even mother-daughter conjunctivitis, I think we're finally coming out the other side. And I do mean finally! It's not serious in the way that cancer is serious, but our little family has never gone through anything like this before. It makes me all the more grateful for the excellent health we normally enjoy.

It also makes me immensely grateful for the "little things" I normally take for granted but really do help all of us feel better when we're sick. My big five: a hot bath/shower, pain relievers, eucalyptus oil, Breathe Right strips and tissues with balsam. Millions of women and children around the world don't have access to any of those things...

Now that I'm getting a little more sleep at night and starting to get my energy back in the daytime, I hope to get back on-line, too.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

To the Kind Souls at Carnaby Burger Co.

Who warmly welcomed our family in from yesterday's rain and found a table for us immediately, although we had no reservations and the restaurant was otherwise packed...

Who acted like it was no big deal to store Sophie's stroller and Jack's scooter beside the bar in this swanky yet reasonably (for London!) priced establishment...

Who brought our yummy food within ten minutes of ordering, while customers at tables around us continued to wait for theirs...

Who smiled and waved bye-bye to Sophie, as she walked, wandered and waved to everyone along the aisle on our way to the front door...

Who remembered me when I showed up an hour later to claim Jack's forgotten scooter, having realized the mistake and turned back at Baker Street station, and had it waiting for me at the seating host's stand...

Who made our time downtown all the more enjoyable by such (culturally atypical) service-with-a-smile...

All blessings on you!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Mother-of-Two Meets Modern Technology

Today I joined the gym and "had a go" (as they say here) at the elliptical machine. I’ve heard about elliptical machines. I’ve seen people using them on tv and in the movies. But I’ve never used one myself. My previous gym experience was pretty basic -- three treadmills, a few machines, a coffee bar. I'm not complaining because I loved going to that gym. It had everything I needed (except air conditioning! in Cyprus!), and I was content. But here in England the gym is state-of-the-art -- high-tech with loads of machines upstairs and rows of treadmills, stationary bikes and elliptical trainers downstairs.

As you may well know, I am not high-tech. Don't get me wrong, I'm not exactly no-tech: I rely on e-mail and the internet for most of my communication and information, I've learned how to send text messages from my mobile phone and I can use our Tom-Tom sat nav to drive to any destination in this, The Country of No Straight Roads. But I still bake from scratch, I keep a simple schedule and I rarely turn on the tv, except to watch movies.

(In the winter of 2000, when Matt and I were first married and he was taking graduate photography classes at Ohio University, I worked for the local temp agency. We were so broke that I accepted the first job they offered, even though it required me to use the internet and I’d never been on-line before. I had a steep learning curve that week! It was a key part of my re-adjustment to living in the States after being in Kenya for six years.)

So today I wanted to get on an elliptical machine and see if I could move a step or two away from feeling like a Frumpy Mum to feeling... I don't know, somewhat cool (and fit) and not quite so behind-the-times as I usually am.

I might have pulled it off, too (if only in my own mind), except that about halfway through the workout program I'd chosen on the elliptical's computer, Matt came by to see how I was doing and pointed out (ever so gently) that my stride was pushing the pedals backwards. Ooops. No matter how fit and cool I may ever/never become, I guess I shouldn't overlook the general health benefits of humility.