We’re all having to get creative here, and I’m honestly looking for ideas because – while I’m used to my best friends and family being scattered across continents, and the truth is that Jeff and I already tended to be homebodies at the weekend – I’m feeling the emotional pinch of our flat’s four walls. I enjoy my interactions with my coworkers, who are all lovely and interesting people, and I have a habit of striking up conversations with random people throughout my day. In a queue, at the shop, asking to pet people’s dogs in parks… While this is not terribly British, it is terribly American and I find the accent breaks down cultural barriers, especially when attempting to be friendly.
So, if you’re like me and happen to like people…how are your socializing? Facetime? Instagram? Skype calls? Have you set up any new ways to connect with your nearest and dearest? Got any good ideas?
“Siblings: children of the same parents, each of whom is perfectly normal until they get together.” ― Sam Levenson
One of the great things about my relationship with my siblings is how different we are. If you line us up we look nothing alike, we’re a perfect hodgepodge of kin features in that we all look like some member of our extended family, but nothing like one another. One brother and I both took degrees in history, but mine was in medieval Europe, his in 20th century America. Another brother is thinking about going into medicine, while the youngest sister is focused on art and languages. We have few overlapping interests or hobbies. One of the boys is a fairly proud dandy, the other a self-proclaimed man’s man. Some of us are religious, others aren’t. We also run the political gamut: the girls are liberal, though each of us have different pet policy concerns, one brother is libertarian, the other is very conservative.
And you know what? We get along.
Oh yes, we argue–it’s practically a requirement in our household–we debate, we disagree forcefully. But we also just talk, share ideas or interesting facts, set out our opinions, and back them up–also a requirement in our household. And we usually are able to say, “I disagree, but I see where you’re coming from,” and move on to the next conversation or activity with no acrimony.
Over the weekend I got a call from my sister at 2am (mild panic attack there) excitedly asking for feedback in crafting a sign she was carrying to DC to protest the Immigration Ban. Later that same day I felt the need to sense check myself about a piece of military policy news, specifically that the National Security Council had been restructured and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff effectively demoted in the council and chief strategist Mr. Bannon elevated over them. Bleeding heart liberal I may be, but I’m also a military brat whose father has served all over the world, including the Pentagon. I believe that this change is downright bad and the preference of a media strategist over a four star general in regularly discussing and determining military policy absurd. I knew right away what my opinion was, but I wanted to check in with my conservative brother, currently active duty in the Air Force and combat experienced, to see if his experience and perspective could add any nuance to my pretty instantaneous negative reaction. We ended up having a great chat about our opinions of the new administration and political trends.
That was my Sunday. Monday I attended a immigration ban protest myself outside of Downing Street after work. Put together, it was a good reminder that as I work to be more involved in the causes I care about, to signal boost what I think needs to be promoted and decry what I believe to be wrong, there are good and intelligent people doing the same across the aisle from me. And that, as different as we are, by communicating well and committing respect and debate, we often find surprising overlaps and common causes.
Unless we’re talking board games. Then it’s scorched earth war.
“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough” ― Walt Whitman
There was a loss in Jeff’s family so he’s back in the States this weekend attending the funeral with the tribe. It was his grandmother, a gentle woman with a spine of steel and greatly beloved. I keep saying it, but I keep meaning it: 2016 has been rough and needs to go.
Two of our nephews made a bargain to go a year without video games in exchange for a to be determined request, and to our collective surprise, they made it! They also gave Jeff and I a lesson in hypothetical parental bargaining because one of them asked for a motorcycle which my brother and sister-in-law are now contractually obligated to produce. But what the younger one really wanted…was a pet lizard.
Today Jeff and I learned what he called him: Harry.
Literally so he could say to it, “You’re a lizard, Harry!”
“Traveling in the company of those we love is home in motion.” ― Leigh Hunt
Another week, another Friday! There are a lot of great updates from various Friends of the Blog, Caitlin Kelly started teaching at the Pratt Institute, Katarina picked up a book agent (!!!) for her first novel, and a respected acquaintance found housing in Kenya where she just moved.
However, there’s some bad news from me. My grandfather’s health has taken a very bad turn with an infection that went to his heart. The family is taking the situation one step at a time, and my father and his sisters are with my grandparents, but any positive vibes, prayers, or supportive thoughts you could send their way would be very appreciated. Thank you, kittens.
Here are your links, just a few for your Friday, and tell me what you’re getting up to this weekend in the comments!
I had to chortle because Jeff definitely owns this shirt. And I may or may not have the lady version…
Romantic friendships, an interesting subject for those interested in gender dynamics and history. As I happen to be. The notion that they grew most during a time when men and women’s spheres were so cut off from one another is something I hadn’t properly considered before, but that makes a lot of sense. Obligatory pearl-clutchers warning, queer relationships are discussed and some sexuality.
I’m a big fan of Pop Culture Happy Hour on NPR, and Linda Holmes (editor of the Monkey See blog and panelist) compiled a pinterest board of every “What’s Making Us Happy This Week” ever mentioned on the show. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Have a listen and then browse, ducklings!
“But, soft! methinks I do digress too much,” ― William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus
Big week. I might have two personal pieces published here shortly, saying no more to avoid jinxing either, and freelancing projects have continued to be hectic. What sleep?! Plus we’ve been having adventures that you need to be caught up on, plus I need to do laundry and dry cleaning, plus we have some of Jeff’s family in town visiting, plus I’m pretty sure there is no food in the house. The life of the modern woman is a many splendid thing, kittens.
In the 19th century, the humble bicycle became a major tool and symbol of mobility and freedom, especially for women. They were discouraged from riding them for a number of reasons and in a variety of ways, but this article depicts what is my new favorite: “bicycle face.” Ladies, beware!
Darling buddy Caitlin has written a fascinating post about the time cost of living in China, which might inspire my own somewhere down the road because this is all truth.
If you’re new to SDS, religion and feminism are kind of a thing around here, so here’s an excellent piece from an orthodox Jewish woman’s perspective on engaging with her faith in ways considered traditionally male.
“I trust Christmas brings to you its traditional mix of good food and violent stomach cramps.” – Ebenezer Blackadder (‘Blackadder’s Christmas Carol,’ 1988)
I mentioned the importance of holiday traditions, and chief among them is food. I decided to attempt the entire Rodgers Clan Christmas Dinner by myself this year, in defiance of the fact that usually we have several cooks in the kitchen to help. And that in its usual form it can feed up to 15 people. But I was not to be dissuaded!
Jeff and I went to the butchers at Borough Market to pick out a roast, lots of produce, and a staggering amount of cured meats and cheeses. Because I knew once this meal, and Christmas morning breakfast was done, I wasn’t cooking again until January. Grazing and snacking would be the order of the day, intermingled with leftovers. Which, I’m happy to report, turned out to be the case.
You would not believe how nervous I felt about this sucker, it was in every way an experimental attempt.
“I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.” – Linus Van Pelt, A Charlie Brown Christmas
I’m officially done being a lazy, holiday enjoying, treat gobbling, hibernating slug. Back to work, back to job apps, back to responsibility! But I want to share a bit of our holiday fun, and hear about yours. So this week I’ll be covering our first proper expat Christmas, and hoping you’ll link to or comment about your own festivities – or alternate activities if you don’t celebrate.
Basically, what have I missed in the last week and a half?
Without further ado then, ladies and gentlemen, the first proper Christmas tree we’ve ever had.
I find it absurdly cute. Normally in my family we take down our tree on Epiphany/Three Kings Day, but this guy’s already moved to the balcony. I think I’ll try to keep it alive for next year. As Jeff so lovingly put it, “Well, it’s an evergreen so maybe it will survive you.” Hope and holiday spirit springs eternal kittens!
“I should be sorry if I only entertained them, I wish to make them better.” – attr. George Frederic Handel, on being complimented for Messiah
Holidays for me are entirely bound up in my family’s traditions. What we eat, when we decorate, even how the decor looks is deeply meaningful to me. It’s also an at-home holiday for us, we hang out together (friends are very welcome if not required!) but we’d rather stay in eating our sugar cookies, rib roast (Christmas Eve meal) or special baked french toast breakfast (Christmas morning). One year we varied it up and went skiing in the Tirol of Austria, which was a great holiday, but the consensus of all the family afterwards that even though it was amazing, it hadn’t felt at all like Christmas.
Jeff’s family has their own traditions as well, and it’s been really fun getting learn and incorporate a new set of them – particularly breakfast at a particularly wonderful diner and getting to enjoy the excitement of nieces and nephews of Christmas morning.
For the four years we’ve been married we’ve been able to alternate Thanksgiving and Christmas with either family and it’s been a great compromise but this year…well, Thanksgiving turned out a bit unexpected. And as for Christmas, the Atlantic Ocean is not small and plane fare beyond us currently, plus we really like being in London! So Jeff and I have had a few discussions about the new phase we’re finding ourselves in about having to rely on ourselves to either perpetuate the traditions we want to keep and forge new ones for ourselves. We’re going to have to tweak this a bit over the next few years. I have to admit, it always feels slightly less Christmas-y without my parents, siblings, and friends around to spend hours playing games with, dinner at the big table, and lots of time and good conversation.
But as for building new traditions for just the two of us, I wouldn’t mind an annual repeat of Saturday night! Feeling just a bit detached from Christmas this year, in spite of the gorgeousness of London in full holiday splendor, I booked us a couple of tickets for a performance of Handel’s Messiah at St. Martin-in-the-Fields church, which makes up a part of Trafalgar Square.
St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields is an old church, it’s been around for nearly a thousand years, even though the present incarnation has only been around since the early 18th century when the building was discovered to be in desperation need of renovation. Plenty of significant people are buried there, and it actually serves as the parish church for the Royal Family, and Downing Street.
It’s still very much in operation as a church, but in recent years it has cultivated a role for itself as a major hub of classical music support as well. It puts on regular concerts and performances throughout the year, including some free ones meant to be taken in during a lunch break or afternoon out and about.
Jeff and I got dressed up and bundled against the wet and cold and took in an evening of the entire Messiah by candlelight.
The setting was lovely (garlands and candles everywhere), the music was beautiful, and I for one came away feeling much more seasonal. Sometimes you just need to hear something unabashedly Baroque! It was a lovely way to gear myself up for this week – when we shall be attempting the formidable Rodgers family feast with just two people in the kitchen instead of the typical six minimum. Because new traditions are important, but some old ones are vital.
“The whole country was tied together by radio. We all experienced the same heroes and comedians and singers. They were giants.” – Woody Allen quotes
Having much younger siblings is really fun because our collective cultural consciousness spans a much longer time frame. I was born when the Berlin Wall was still a thing, they can’t remember a time before the internet. It’s fun! We’re constantly introducing one another to interesting stuff in the broader zeitgeist.
But occasionally we treat ourselves to a real throw back and everyone benefits.
Being about the same degree of nerdiness, I introduced them to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy original radio series, which I happen to have on MP3. We all love absurdity, particularly of the British science fiction variety. The other night they asked me to put on the next episode in the queue and the next thing we knew we’d listened to a couple of hours in a row and were laughing uproariously.
Sure we were sitting around my iPod plugged into Brig’s amp and not a huge box that took up half of the room, but if felt very old fashioned and fun to just sit back and let the story lead you away without visuals. I love the radio medium and even if I get my favorite shows via podcast, I think radio still is relevant and can tell stories in a unique way.
I’m pretty well versed on the NPR canon, but are there any other radio shows, programs, or podcasts out there I should be listening to? I’ve got to start filling up a queue for a seriously long flight here soon, so help a girl out!