Archive for June, 2010

Off we go!

It will be slow around her over the next 8 days, unless I can find a moment to post from Nova Scotia. We’ll basically be off the grid — or close to it — once we get to the cottage on Thursday. Can’t wait!

We leave the house at 5AM tomorrow morning. We are not early birds so hopefully our brains will be working well enough to drive to the airport. We’re going out of Dulles, so it’s a bit of a hike. But that way we can fly non-stop to Halifax. Since I’m not a great flyer, I like those non-stops!

And because I’m a fearful flyer, if you’re the praying kind, do lift one up for us… for safe, smooth travels.

Have a lovely rest of the week. We’re looking forward to getting out of this heat!


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Home on the horizon

This time next week, I’ll be sitting right about where this gang is, in front of our family cottage on the north shore of Nova Scotia. One of my brothers — Alex — is tying the knot Wednesday evening in Halifax (we’ll have our first sister-in-law!), and then we’re heading out to the cottage for some R&R.

Since I was a girl, we’ve had about 80 acres of land — woods, fields, streams, and oceanfront. In fact, we have our own private cove with a very safe beach for children. The water there happens to be the warmest stretch of ocean north of the Carolinas because the Gulf Stream swings in close to shore and brings warm temperatures. I spent all of my childhood summers at our cottage… swimming, sailing, hiking, eating… oh, lots of eating… especially from my mother’s incredible garden.

July 1st is Canada Day — the celebration of the birth of that big country upstairs that most Americans know very little about. The celebrations are similar to those of Independence Day — barbeques, parades, fireworks. Except that instead of the stars and stripes, everybody’s waving maple leaves.

I’m so excited to be home. It’s been two years. I try to go back every summer, but last year it didn’t work out. This time, Brian will be with me, which makes it even better. What’s especially fun about a family wedding is that everyone comes, which means it’s crazy! My poor introverted, only-child husband… it’s a stretch for him. But he fits in great. The only family members missing this time will be my sister Sarah and her family who are packing for their move to the mid-west. We’ll miss them terribly. Even though there are so many of us, when anyone’s missing, it’s noticeable.

As soon as the plane touches down in Nova Scotia, something deep inside of me exhales. No where else feels the same… or smells the same. It’s home.

I’m a rare bird for a Nova Scotian, though, because most people born and raised there leave for only a short time — for school or work — and then return. And when they can’t return, all they talk about is how much they miss it and want to go back. I know many talented people who could easily be famous or more successful if they moved to a place like Toronto or Los Angeles or New York, but they refuse to leave Nova Scotia.

I usually feel a mixture of emotions when I’m home… nostalgic and melancholy, happy and grateful, peaceful and anxious. Maybe because I tap into a conflict within me — the desire to live there again, to be close to my family there, and the desire to continue the life I’ve made for myself across the border. I’m now a woman with two home countries — by birth and by adoption — and I feel at home in both, yet not quite at home in either.

I wonder if this will help me relate more to our children. It’s a particular kind of experience to be born and raised in another country, another culture (Nova Scotia definitely has a unique culture), and then make your home in a new country. It gives you a different perspective on things — one that I think is very helpful. It also leaves you with tinges of homesickness and a sense that you never totally fit anywhere.

My real home is in God, and who I’m with, not where I am. But there’s something powerful about the place you were formed… about the soil and the colors of the landscape, the smells, and the climate. The way the sun sets and the kind of birds that chirp at dawn. The shades of green in Nova Scotia are different, and so is the sky and the ocean. The sounds and the shapes of the trees, too. And the people. It all resonates, and I know our children will probably have a similar experience, a strong connection in their bones to the place and people from where they’ve come. I understand the power of that.

I was hoping to have a fabulous new camera in hand to take pictures at home and post here on the blog. But that camera has to wait a little longer. Hopefully, however, my brother John will take plenty and let me share some of them with you.

While we’re gone, we’ll hit our 8 month waiting mark. It appears very unlikely at this point that we’ll have a referral in time to make the Ethiopian courts before they close. We’re quite relieved by this as a trip to Ethiopia in July would have been tough at this point. Although we’ve not been told for sure, we’re now banking on fall trips, hoping that two little people will be joining our big clan before Christmas.

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Post-rant thoughts

Okay, it’s mid-week here, and it’s time to ease up on the rants about things that are truly not very significant in the long run.

Some of this complaining is simply pride, I think, underneath the frustration. As a certified life coach, I regularly help people get their lives on track. Therefore, I expect my own life to be somewhat together…to be the kind of person you look at and think, oh, she seems like someone I can fork over my hard-earned money to and get the help I need.

I realize coaching skills do not relate directly to pot racks, towel rods, or utility shelves. But having a somewhat orderly, attractive, functional home of my own does matter. Not just in my imagination about what others might think, but to my own well-being. I need a little order to my world, I need things to function, I don’t like stumbling over boxes, having crap everywhere, and not being able to use the small space we have in an efficient manner. My home environment affects my mood, energy levels, productivity.

Maybe the best kind of coach or therapist is the kind who doesn’t have it all together and can relate to your own messiness and failures. I actually believe this, but I don’t think I’m used to feeling like such a failure at something so basic.

I’ve decided this is a phase. That somehow things will come together. That I’m just being tempted by discouragement and triviality. I have also decided that for all my passion about homes with character and charm and history, our next house is going to be all about the NEW, about storage and efficiency and ease. But don’t hold me to that because I know what can happen… and I’ve learned to never say never because it’s like putting a curse on your head.

Today, the only home projects on the docket are a run to the local dump, and sorting through a few piles of paperwork. After all, I’ve got to leave room to prepare a talk for a bunch of women CEOs on Friday about how to not get bogged down in the details of life and work and find some balance.

I’m serious.

You can bet they won’t be finding out about this blog.

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There’s got to be something wrong with me. I can’t do home improvements to save my soul. I mean, I’m trying, I’m really trying.

I just don’t get it. I have performed to sold out theaters, I have organized galas for Washington glitterati, I have written for magazines, I have had Mel Gibson breathe down my neck by accident. But I can’t do the smallest, most simple home project.

And I thought I could be a mother and run a real house… what ever gave me that idea?

It’s been the damn pot racks for a while, as you know. I swear I’m going to stop talking about them soon. There’s also the second towel rack for the bathroom we had to return because we can’t get it on the wall. Unfortunately for all of us, today it’s about shelving…

Those pots and pans that aren’t on the wall yet are sitting in the living room on a three-tiered chrome shelf, which we bought last year for the kitchen. This is supposed to be the kind of unit you can attach to another one to expand its height.

So, off I went today with a brilliant idea — you know, something to put all those other failures behind me: Get an identical three-tiered shelf, put it upstairs where we now need a tall utility shelf for towels (currently stacked in our bedroom), and when my husband figures out what to do with the pots and pans, I’ll add the old shelf to the new one and we’ll be a happy little household forever.

But of course it turns out that these particular shelves do not attach to each other. Oh yes, they look like they should. And every other brand of chrome utility shelf performs this little trick, but not ours…Nooooo…

I try to squelch the habit of looking for meaning where there probably isn’t any… But am I supposed to be learning something in all this wasted time, money, and effort? Is patience something that should be on the upswing by now? Or perseverance? Or humility?

I don’t think something has frustrated me this much for a long time. I officially declare I hate home improvements, home renovations, home anything. It’s all very silly, in the scheme of things, I know. But even my friend, neighbor, and baking partner, Mags, wrote to me tonight saying:

“Yes, you have the worst remodeling luck in the history of ever.”

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Monday funk

I’m not really in a bad mood, but I could be if I thought about it harder…

Our air conditioner broke over the weekend and since it’s about 93 degrees with humidity around here (34 for you Canadians), we called a repair company. The short story is that we have a freon leak somewhere so there are two choices: replace our entire heating and cooling system for $6,000. Or get the freon replaced, and hope the leak is small and we’ll get another another year or two. We chose the latter for $400.

Tonight I was determined to finally get the IKEA rods on the kitchen wall to hang the pots and pans. If you recall, after umpteen hours in various hardware stores befriending many people, I had what I thought was finally a plan… only to have Brian pre-drill some holes tonight and inform me that my new genius plan wasn’t going to work. At all. I have now turned the project completely over to him. Not that he knows anything more than I do about this stuff, but his brain works differently than mine and he may just be able to come up with a solution. I’m hoping he can do this before, say, Christmas…

To add to the fun, the ink cartridges ran out on my printer just before I had to print an important letter tonight… And then, in between everything, a certain telemarketing company wouldn’t stop calling. Three times today. Three times yesterday. On and off for the past two weeks. Nothing will make them go away. I can’t tell when they’re calling. They simply don’t care. Won’t remove our number from their database. I’m trying to figure out how to report them. I hate being rude to people, but I really lost it on them today.

On the bright side, I spoke to two of my sisters today by phone and made a delicious summer drink my sister Kate told me about… I boiled some rhubarb, made a syrup with it, added it to some sparkling water over ice. Perfect for a day of aggravations without A/C.

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Dads are a bit under-appreciated these days if you ask me. Maybe because so many households are without one. Not to knock single moms in any way — I’m close to a few and have worked with many and they’re amazing — my hat is always off to them. I spent most of my teen years without a father in the house, however, and it was a deficit. I believe fathers and father-figures contribute essential elements to a child’s development and well-being, and to society at large, and it’s important that we don’t overlook the necessity of them in this world.

If all goes as planned, this is the last year Brian won’t be celebrating Father’s Day. Pretty wild. We’re used to popping cards and gifts in the mail and calling our Dads on the phone, but not giving much more thought to the day. The times they’ll be a changin’….

I don’t think my father reads this blog, and I can’t give him an adequate tribute anyway, except to say that I think he’s fantastic. I’ve leaned on him for many things over the years and been so grateful for his provision and help. He is endlessly interesting, easy-going, and fun. Eccentric, eclectic, a life-long learner, devoted medical doctor, lover of all things fish, tough as nails, doesn’t care what anybody thinks, passionate about living… these are all ways I’d describe my Dad. I appreciate him more with each passing year.

My father-in-law is pretty grand himself. A girl really couldn’t ask for a better one… caring, supportive, fun, and loving. Happy Father’s day to both of the Dads in my life!

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Sweet Sarah

This is my sister, Sarah — number seven in the clan. I put this photo up in a sepia tone to capture a tiny part of Sarah’s essence… I recently called her my “Amish sister” and she took it as a complement — which is how I meant it. Sarah is drawn to simplicity, quality, authenticity, and goodness. She’s a trained Montessori teacher, now full-time mom, with a huge heart for children and a profound respect for their needs and development. She is extremely patient, sensitive, and integrated.

Although Sarah is my “little sister,” she has the gift of counsel… People turn to her to share their troubles and be encouraged. She listens without judgement, and offers perspectives you may never have considered. She’s always been wise beyond her years. Sarah is also faithful and sincere. She’s a fantastic cook and received all the crafty jeans that skipped over me — she quilts by hand, and knits, and creates many lovely things.

My little sis is also tough. At almost nine months pregnant with her fifth child, she’ll be moving from the east coast to the mid-west where her husband has landed a better job. I’ll miss her and all of them terribly.

This is just a small and inadequate tribute to a woman I admire and love so much and want to pay tribute to since it was her birthday on Tuesday. Happy (belated) birthday, Sar!

Birthday tributes are not over, however, because another little sister of mine —  Lucy —  just celebrated her 18th birthday — Wednesday. (This is what happens when you have such a big family … try keeping up with all the cards and gifts…)

Lucy is lucky number ten, born when our mother was a mere 46. I was grown and out of the house by then and have always lived far away, so Lucy feels more like a niece to me in many ways. She was an adorable child, showered with lots of attention and love from everyone around her. Lucy has Down Syndrome and I’ve always loved her playfulness and fun. She has a great group of friends and loves Christmas and presents, ham, mustard, and hockey. I think she can name every player in the sport. (Her big sister, on the other hand, is an embarrassment to all Canadians everywhere in this regard.)

Even though Lucy loves tooling around Amazon and other web sites, I don’t think she reads my blog.For the first time ever, she got on the phone with me when I called Wednesday — usually she refuses to talk by phone so this was a treat. I can’t wait to see her and most of the clan in a couple weeks!

Lovely Lucy

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