Thinking of Permanence

Today we began the day discussing (and discarding) yet another potential re-location destination…the whole year is gonna be like this I think, until we finally settle on where we will be in 2011.

My hope is that it will be a place we at least intend to stay in for more than a year or two. Although we will probably not be in a position to secure a permanent home, at least we can have a sense of permanence about the location.

So I have been thinking all day of what I would like to have in our next place.

Annoyingly, I would like all the things we have here now (which will involve a huge container if we do end up doing the trans-Atlantic move we are hoping for) AND the things we have lovingly stored away in Devon, plus a few added extras…

I’ve had a few attempts at gardening with differing rates of success. This was our last attempt – which did become more lush as the summer went on, but it was on a poor patch of ground at the boarding school in York:

I will try again in some way (pots probably) this summer, but I would dearly love space and good enough soil to provide more of our summer vege consumption.

Our friend Helen has an Eglu and I got inspired yesterday reading Design Sponge’s sneak peek at Alethea Morrison’s wonderful home – and I love the pic of her son out in the yard with the chickens… this is how I want Kazuo to grow up!

Finally, although it makes me a little wary, Akira has been hankering after bees…and so I hope we have the time and the place soon to begin the road to making our own honey:

Dreams are free… but one day soon I hope we are somewhere more permanent and can begin to foster our own little oasis.  Until then, I will keep reading Storey Publishing and dreaming of a slightly more rural urban existence.

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New Year

It seems a little silly to be recording my New Year’s Resolutions now, in February… But so far 2010 has kinda caught me by surprise and for a number of reasons, I have gotten off to a very slow start.  So here I am, bearing in mind that it is also the start of a decade, resolving afresh to do all the usual things (be better with money, eat well, exercise more blah blah blah) and also hoping to take a longer view of my aspirations.

I’ve also been reflecting on my thoughts at the start of last year, when I was heavily pregnant and everything seemed to be on ‘pause’ while we waited to see who would arrive and how he/she would impact on our lives.

This year we are in limbo again as we look ahead to the end of our time in the US and try and imagine where we will end up next.  Once again this is totally determined by Akira’s career choices, which is fair since that is why we made the big move to come here.  But I am hoping that this year might bring some clarity for me in terms of potential career-changing new directions.

So what am I resolving to be purposeful about as we enter 2010?

  1. I may need to change the title of the blog as this is the year for returning to the paid workforce in some manner.  Ideally I would like this to be ‘part-time’ so that I can still be primarily focused on caring for Kazuo.  But the increased costs of being resident aliens (we are now ‘substantially present’ here!) and childcare may impact on that decision.  With this in mind, I have applied for a work permit this week, so it will be a few months yet before I can seek out employment, but we are making progress on childcare options for Kazuo…so Not Working may take a change of direction…
  2. I did what I could to stay somewhat politically engaged over the past year and hope to at least maintain my regular attendance at Amnesty International meetings.  Whether I can sustain any more active involvement really hinges on the outcome of point 1.
  3. We need to totally trim down our food outgoings…at the same time that Kazuo is ramping up his solid food intake – sheesh!  So, more creative ideas need to kick in really soon (have been rather meticulous about this lately… doing OK so far) for healthy food that we all love, that is nutritious and appetising and that keeps down the costs.  Being a working mama may erode this resolution… and it seems like a tall order – but imperative nonetheless.
  4. The weather is really cramping my exercising style – last year it took until September to lose the baby weight, but it DID go…now I need to lose my winter layer!  I am keen to get Kazuo and I back on my bike in some fashion in the Spring.  Perhaps Akira and I both need to join a gym…
  5. I still wanna get crafty for cash…I have a few ideas but they do require capital and time, both of which are still a little scarce.  But after the Fall craft shows in STL last year, I felt newly energised.  So need to make this a priority I think.
  6. I would like to become a slightly more chilled out individual this year – I know that seems unlikely, but it might be good for all concerned.  So I guess I need to look out some me-time things that make me feel connected to others, and to myself…yoga? date nights? getting arty/crafty? more weekend girly time? naps?…ideas anyone?
  7. Time for doing the things I love…reading, watching films, listening to music, going to theatre…hmmmm I need to make these things somehow fit into family life.
  8. Kazuo is my number one priority these days…so it is only fair to say I am pretty much resolved to help him grow into a happy little guy.  Guess that goes without saying though…
  9. Become a little more other-centred again.  Life became very insular when adjusting to the newness of parenting, but we are getting a little into the swing of that now, and should have a bit of a hiatus before we consider whether we will go down that route again, so I think that in considering paid employment and any ‘spare’ time I may have, I am keen to think about how I might make my time count for those in less abundant circumstances.
  10. Cultivating wonder was a priority last year, and as I had imagined, Kazuo gave plenty of opportunity for that to happen. Getting outside into the natural world and continuing to foster that wonderment is also important for me right now.   I wish to combine that with an increased sense of gratitude this coming year…

So, that is enough I think.  The year ahead will be galvanising for me personally, for our family life and for Kazuo’s development.  I look forward to seeing how it will all pan out, and hope that having at least some sense of purpose will help when things seem a little murky.

Wish List

Well, I don’t consider myself unnaturally materialistic – but then, who does?  Nor have I really spent that much on myself this past year (certainly a lot less than usual) and I don’t actually subscribe to the idea of unncessary acquistion.  In fact, I rather think that the overt commercialisation of the winter holidays massively detracts from the spirit of goodwill, festive celebration and charity that I think they should really be all about.

Having said all that, this time of year is still often about giving AND receiving.  I really love a surprise, but I know some members of my extended family like to ask what to get everyone…so this year I put out a few pre-holiday suggestions into the ether.

Then I read a blogpost (which I would love to share with you – but alas, we have had MAJOR computer problems in the past 24hrs and all my links are gone – booo) on the subject of greed/wishlists etc and I thought… well, I don’t think that greed IS a good thing and I don’t need any of these things to turn up in my life in the near future.  In fact, I realised that after nearly a year with Kazuo my priorities have already shifted so considerably that when I think of having even a small amount of disposable cash, I think of things I could get for him, not me.  I am becoming that woman who eeks out her make up and perfumes for years (ugh, kinda unhygenic I know).  But if you pushed me, these are the things that would cause me great delight right now:

  • Some Fabric from Cushla’s (Preferably the Black Ponga and the Large Green Paua).
  • A nice soft white shirt like the longsleeved one in the Zara collections.
  • A sturdy, long shoulder bag, like this one though perhaps in leather if such a thing can be found.
  • A winter scarf in black or dark red, something long I can wrap around, or a pashmina type thing.
  • Some black photo frames for pics of our darling boy.
  • Some unusual cooking ingredients, like Kelp Salt, Sambal Oelek, Seaweeds, Dried Fruits (eg Apricots, Cranberries etc), Plain Organic Dark Chocolate, Kalamata Olives, Rosewater – things one would not ordinarily buy, but might make for some really tasty winter treats.

I guess it is really a reflection of what our lifestyle is like right now and the things that are influencing me.  I am grateful that when I reflected on this list again, I realised that I needed NONE of these things, that I was happy with things as they were…a contented and happy place to be.

Gratitude

I am inspired at the moment by the thoughts of the everyday wonder of ordinary life, and of trying to make a habit of being a little more thankful.  This was also brought home to me last night as we sat and discussed the Science on Tap event that Akira took our friend Christine to – on the Science of Happiness…  It seems that most people perceive themselves to be happy about 60% of the time – I am not sure really what that means, it seems a little inflated (if you consider that the rest of the time you are either unhappy or neutral… would have thought one would feel neutral a little more often…), but I do think we are lucky to feel so on top of things, and long may that continue.

And I am also very much inspired by the spirit of thanks in Amanda Soule’s recent blogs on the subject of gratitude.  As she says, a little gratitude goes a long way, especially when things are not going too well… though thankfully for us, things are in good shape just now.  Something I am grateful for… what else?

Today I am grateful for pretty robust health for all of us, for sunny Sunday afternoons with baking in the oven a baby sleeping in his bed and the prospect of maybe a little more kicking up the beautiful autumn leaves before the day is done.

Leaves to Kick

I’m also grateful for the kindness of friendship – those persistent friends who have stuck with us through the upheaval of making room in our lives for Kazuo this year and still invite us over/come for dinner/bring us a meal/meet for coffee or just make time to hang out with us and allow for the joyous shouty disruption of our little monkey.

Halloween

 

I am thankful to the god of small things for tiny incursions in my life – whether that be babies, butterflies, little tasty treats or ladybirds – small things have given me a lot of joy this year.

Butterfly

I’m also grateful for time, afforded by not having to/being legally able to work right now, to enjoy learning to parent our wee lad and to get as creative as I can to make sense of my time-rich/cash-poor lifestyle as a result.  There is much more… but that is enough to be going along with today… perhaps I will manage to give thanks for something every day in this month of thankfulness… there’s a challenge!

Finally Settling on Some Kind of Resolutions…

Ok, so having mused over the mild achievements of 2008… I think I am ready to consider the year ahead… I am not keen on over-stating these goals… it usually results in failed resolutions… I am more inclined to express general intentions. So, that said, this year I hope to:

1. Learn some parenting skills… I think this will happen by default, but I do want to do my best by this new person. It will probably be a bit muddle-through though, I just hope that we can come to some good consensus on the important things.

2. Keep politically engaged and active as much as possible… try and make a difference… look out for oppotunities to use my time well to do this, and not just talk about it.

3. Eat well – be creative in the kitchen, keep the diet healthy and aim for good nutrition for all three of us.

4. Exercise daily – even for just 20 – 30mins (and lose that extra baby weight by the summer).

5. Maintain a conservative and responsible approach to finances. Save!!

6. Learn at least one new skill/craft and apply it practically.

7. Come up with some creative and rewarding ideas for working from home. Try them out! [And maybe formulate some kind of forward thinking about change of career prospects for the near future.]

8. Communicate more regularly, efficiently and effectively with friends and family – esp those abroad.

9. Cultivate a sense of wonder… I think a baby will help with this a lot!

10. Read more… and widely… and intelligently. Use the library. Keep up to date with Google Reader.

11. Find practical ways to give time and energy to others less fortunate than myself – be involved in my local community and in the global community.

12. Keep a calm head, don’t allow pressure to build up, communicate clearly and be kind to those around me.

Into the New Year

Well, I am hoping to make this year one of purposeful productivity, even if it is beginning in a sort of sluggish manner. Of course there is no real accounting for the impact of another person who needs all my attention on this goal… but I think it is time to consider just what I want from the year ahead.

I am one for resolutions… and so I have been searching in vain for my list from last year. Maybe it is a good idea, as one blogger I saw today has done, to make a list of what I have managed to achieve, or become grateful for over the past year, as that may just clarify where to go next…

1. Extracted myself from an overly-life-consuming job.
2. Moved to another new country and pretty much made ourselves at home… a slightly more complicated process than moving the UK in 2001, but done in quite a precipitous manner, so all-in-all, fairly successful.
3. Managed to keep to a budget much more successfully than ever before, owing to the necessity of not having an income, so having to be very careful.
4. Kitted out a new apartment and then latterly, a baby-friendly environment on very reduced finances, with the help of Craigslist and the wonders of thrift stores.
5. Revived my creative impulses by re-teaching myself to knit, and sewing as much as I could to make a cosy home and some lovely treats for the impending baby.
6. Kept in touch (albeit sporadically) with friends and family in the four corners of the world – would like to do a better job of that in future though.
7. Returned to my activist roots and got more politically active than I had been for years with Amnesty International and the Voter Protection Coalition.
8. Kept up regular exercise for as long as was practical with the increasing demands of pregnancy… remained healthy-ish throughout.
9. Made an effort… and have been very gratefully rewarded… to make some friends in my new home. Loving the joys of meeting new people.
10. Got a little more creative in the kitchen… the benefits of having days free to dream up new ways to cook potatoes!
11. Saw a lot of new music… and even a little dance and theatre, though do feel the lack of that part of my life, London and Yorkshire were amazing for the theatre, I was so spoiled.
12. Became a less-uptight person generally, that I think was good for married life, hoping that is not just a result of pregnancy hormones, but rather a new emotional maturity! (Or perhaps a result of not working… hmmmm…)
13. Engaged in more charity and voluntary activities than I had time to do in the UK – hope this can continue, though working unpaid work around an infant is going to be a challenge.
14. Figured out how to drive on the other side of the road – thought this might be beyond my geriatric brain, but it feels like I have been doing it all my life.
15. Made more use of digital technology – though not sure if that has been an entirely productive part of my life!

So… a few things to muse upon as I consider just where to now for 2009. I always think it is exciting to have the untapped possibility of a whole year ahead… there will be challenges and hurdles, but on the whole, I am looking forward to mapping out what I might like to do with more Not Working time…