Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I Win

Today I am the official winner. Okay, I've been the winner for many years, but today it is official. My husband, Fen, had a relationship that lasted on and off for not quite ten years. When we got engaged I said, 'I have nine years to go until I will be your longest relationship!' It has been an ongoing joke between us ever since.

Ten years ago yesterday, I stood outside the Lincoln Plaza Theater waiting for the Kiwi guy from my Spanish language class to show up. We were going to see Italian for Beginners - an Italian movie made from a Maeve Binchy book - one I had read and loved. She's a great Irish writer - her most popular book was made into the movie Circle of Friends (another favourite).

I remember exactly what I was wearing: my good, tightish black pencil skirt that just skimmed my knee, a gorgeous blue Thomas Pink fitted shirt with cufflinks, tight-knit fish nets with my high black fancy boots with the pointy toes I bought in Paris along with a beautiful powder blue 3/4 length coat I also bought in Paris. I was freezing, but I looked good and I knew it. I was really, really excited to see him. I had no idea if it was a date or not. I saw him coming up Columbus Avenue and was thrilled that after a month we were finally going out - whether is was a date or not.

He smiled a hello and we went off to Rosa Mexicana for dinner. I insisted we try the guacamole which they make at the table and it's truly divine. He agreed. We had a nice dinner and the cheque arrived. I offered to pay half - wasn't sure if it was a date. Fen, being from New Zealand, thought that was fine so we split the bill. I paid up and excused myself to powder my nose.

Upstairs I called my friend Sarah to tell her I still wasn't sure if we were on a date or not. She immediately said, 'He didn't pay? Screw him. Get rid of him. He should pay.' Sarah, being high maintenance, would never have offered. I love her, still do, but I disagreed. I liked Fen and paying for my own meal on what may or may not be a date was not an issue for me. I wasn't looking for a free meal - I saw something in him that I was just drawn to - so this was not a deal breaker.

I'm glad I didn't listen to her. We went to our movie, enjoyed it and then when it came time for me to go home and Fen to go to work (he was a doing a midnight shift at  his journalism  job) we just said goodnight. Afterward I still didn't know if it was a date or not.

He called again the following week to ask me to another movie: The Panic Room. This time we skipped dinner and went right to the movie, we split some popcorn and then afterward went to play pool. I'm a decent player but I don't really care about it. I, once again, remember exactly what I was wearing - a nice fitted, black shirt dress with great white stitching down the front of it. Very flattering. I wore a different pair of knee high black books and patterned tights with a warmer, full length black wool coat this time so I wasn't freezing. But I still looked good and knew it! He still comments about that dress.

Again, no good night kiss, nothing. Still not sure if we were dating or not. But I had a plan. Of course, I had a plan! My sister Tracy was coming into town. I gathered my good friends including Sarah, as well and their husbands or boyfriends. It was time to trot Fen out and see what they thought. We went to the bar at the Washington Square Hotel.  When he got up to use the facilities I got a round of thumbs up - even from Sarah.

When he got back I leaned in close and asked, 'I just need to know, and your answer is fine, but I have to know. Are you interested in me or are we becoming just friends?'

He blushed and said, 'Yeah, I'm interested in you.'

'You're not good at this are you?' I asked. he shook his head. 'Not really,' he replied.

I smiled and said, 'Don't worry - I'll take it from here. We're dating now.' He just nodded and grinned.

That was it. We've been together ever since. And after ten years and one day - I'm his longest relationship. I win. But I already won. He married me, he fathered two children with me, we have a great life together. I've been the winner all along.

PS: I have not played pool since that day. And Fen recently rented Italian For Beginners for us to watch again. As you can see - he's getting really good at this!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A New Do

This week I finally went and got my hair not only cut but dyed back to it's 'natural' colour! I just haven't had time to go and get a proper haircut with a nice colour since I got here. I went when I was in New York a year and a half ago but since then I just get a quick cut and run out the door.

I was actually looking forward to getting the grey out and feeling just a little more pulled together. I've been feeling rather dowdy, frumpy and low about myself and needed a shot in the arm. A good friend of mine gave me a voucher for 50% off at a nice salon around the corner so I took this as a sign that it was time.

So I went in and met with the colourist - who was young enough to be my grandchild, she had rich auburn hair, a colour not found in the natural world, but it look great on her. And she was darling. Gave me exactly what I asked for and it turned out wonderfully. I was really pleased.

Then the stylist was turned loose on me. He was a hoot. 25, living at home with his dad, saving his money and now ready to do something  young, impulsive(ish) and just for him. He spent the entire 1 1/2 hours it took to cut my hair (seriously! Longest cut and style of my life) trying to get me to agree that leasing a BMW was a good idea. He came at me with all his arguments and I batted them right back to him. Finally I said, 'You're going to lease it - you're looking for permission. You don't need permission from anyone.' He smiled and agreed but then said, 'My mum passed away a few years ago and she was very sensible. You seem really practical too. You remind me of her.' 

Well, I told him to go lease the car then. He's young, he's allowed to buy things he can't really afford and regret it a little. Heaven knows I was chock full of dumb decisions when I was in my twenties and even into my thirties (even now in my forties!) However, I told him I was going to send him Suze Orman's thoughts on car leasing. They are harsh! Read it here.

I left loving my hair, feeling so much better about myself. I was absolutely amused by the stylist as well.

However, the next day I dropped off that article to the salon. He thanked me profusely and promised he'd read it. Today as Cate and I were walking by the salon he came running out and hailed me down.

'I like the Suze Orman,' he chuckled with his goofy grin. 'She's really rough. Very American. I like her though.'

'You leasing the car?' I asked.

'Monday!' he replied with an even wider grin. 'As you said, I'm young and should make mistakes. At least I'll look good doing it!'

Good for him!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Brain storm or Hare-brained Idea? You Be the Judge

As I was researching places for us to go over the Easter holidays I had an idea. I had just hung up with Fen - we had narrowed down our choices for Brussels and Bruges  or Amerstdam and were looking for final prices. Both sound great, but I realized a few things:

  • We still haven't been to a bunch of really local-ish places - day trip locations
  • Those kids curtains are not going to sew themselves
  • The kids room is not going to redecorate itself
  • Neither will the wretched bathroom I dislike so much

I sat. I thought. I called Fen back. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: Why don't we stay here and go to Windsor finally? And maybe an overnight trip to Brighton or the Isle of Wight? Perhaps Cantebury?

Fen: What happened to Amsterdam and Brussels?

Me: I want to paint the kids room and the bathroom. Let's finally get it done. I won't be happy until it's done.

Big, long, pregnant pause.

Fen: We'll see.

Oh, we'll see all right. I did all my research for the  day trips, priced out the materials for both rooms, including new bedding for the kids, and new rugs/blinds for each room. I also did a detailed itemized cost for week's stay in Amsterdam. I've shared it with Fen and we are now happily in agreement.

Guess what we're doing for Easter? That's right folks, roll up your sleeves 'Cross the Pond is getting busy redecorating. Finally. Anyone know where I can get some great, whimsical light fixtures for the kids room?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Glad That's Over!

Last week is a blur. I was barely able to keep my eyes open half the time. First, Fen took off on Tuesday for six days - to Birmingham to cover a sporting event. He's gearing up for the Olympics so he's working a lot these days.

The first night, I had a friend over for dinner - very laid back, lovely time. She's pregnant and I've given up alcohol for Lent so we just relaxed, ate and had a good conversation. She left and I tidied up and then went off to bed. After she left I received a call on our house phone (which we rarely use). I said hello three times before they hung up. Weird.

At 12 midnight X was up crying his head off. He's cutting not one, not two, but three teeth right now. Both were just under the gums and working their way up. I was up with him, rocking and soothing him, giving him bonejel and Calpol until he could fall asleep deeply. He did - at 2:30 am.

Then three and a half hours later - Cate was up. So was I. It was Wednesday so that meant homework to be handed in,  the nanny was coming at 2:30 so I didn't have to do pick up. I was so tired, but I had work to do. Had a meeting in the morning which was short and productive then a friend and I went to look at venues for our daughter's joint 5 birthday party. We found one! Hooray. After that I was tied to my desk until a play date/dinner that night.

Again, X did not sleep. I was up with him from 11-2 soothing him as he wriggled and slept fitfully. This time I took him into my bed so I could at least lay down. Cate slept until 6:30 which was a blessing! But it was Thursday, PE day - the inevitable fight to get her to wear her PE sweat pants and to pull her hair back just about did me in. We tromped up the hill with X begging to be let down to walk the entire way. I had coffee with a few other mums and then dropped X at his nursery (that tale is coming soon). For the two glorious hours he was at nursery I shopped, had coffee on my own, read a manuscript and gaped out the window for some uninterrupted people watching on the Hamptead High Street. The week before I spied Ricky Gervais twice.

The nanny was out for the rest of the week so it was me and only me with the kids. I picked up Cate and we all walked down the hill with X leading the way. It took 40 minutes. It's a 12 minute walk if I do it on my own or if I'm pushing both kids in a pram. Then the real fun began. I had a conference call with a new client. With both kids at home and no help. I waited until 5 minutes before the call then gave them bowls of fruit, drinks and ice-lollies. I put The Princess and the Frog on the telly and bolted down the hall to my office, shutting the door. the call went well but I had to put the mute button on twice to break up arguments and once, I shut the office/bedroom door and went into our walk in closet, shut that door and sat in the window because the kids were making so much noise I didn't want them to be heard. It was nerve wracking!

That night I received another hang up mystery caller. Which irritated me. I had a meeting at a pub near my house followed by an all girls drinks night at another pub for International Women's Day. So I asked the sitter, the 17-year-old French kid from upstairs to answer if the phone rang. He has a relatively deep voice and I wanted a man to answer if the hang-up person called again. They did not. Had a great time out.

But that night X was up AGAIN only until 2 this time and Cate managed to sleep until 7 so I got a whole five hours sleep. But we were up, fighting over what to wear, wrangling X into the stroller, packing up reading books and deciding on show and tell items before we managed to make it out the door and stomp up the hill. After dropping Cate I piled in the car with PTA members and went shopping for supplies for the International Food Fair which was the next day. Then after the school run - I had yet another conference call, but a friend was over for a playdate/dinner and she wrangled the kids for half an hour as I sat in my walk in closet window conducting business.

Working from home is hard enough but when your nanny is out and your husband is away - it's virtually impossible. I got very little work done last week. But I did manage to close a deal Monday and go out with a project on Wednesday. Every time I'd sit at the computer one of the kids would be on me immediately. Right now X is pulling on my arm asking for another snack while Fen is in the lounge, snacks in hand. Maddening. (I should be working anyway)

That night after the playdate went home I got the kids ready for bed. Cate was jumping up and down on her toddler bed when we heard a loud crack. She broke two of the support beams so the bed was sagging. Armed with duct tape, I mended them well enough to last until Fen can get to Homebase and replace them. We've ordered bunk beds but they won't get here for another two weeks!

After that, I settled down to do some reading. First chance to sit alone and just relax. Got the mystery hang up call again. This time I googled how to get your last caller info (we don't have caller ID on the phone). It's 1471, by the way. I called back from my mobile and a man answered. I didn't say anything, and he said hello twice. Then I hung up. The caller hasn't called back since.

Anyway, that night I made a point of going to bed early but I could hear Cate starting to cough. X's three teeth managed to break through on Friday morning so he was finally well. He slept all night. But Cate was up coughing, hacking until 3am I had her in my bed with me as she coughed, snored, smacked her lips, rolled all over for hours. Her meds finally kicked in and she passed out cold. I put her back in her bed and did the same. Until X woke up at 6!

Ballet, playdate, lunch out with friends and then home to nap. I put on a movie for Cate and then took an hour nap on the sofa myself. When X got up we went to a park, did a few errands and came home. We missed the International Food Fair because I was too tired to think and Cate was still hacking and coughing terribly. I didn't want her running around with her friends since that just exacerbates her condition. I promised the kids they could 'camp' out that night. I pitched the small tent in their bedroom, put sleeping bags down, pillows, a small lantern, etc. After bathtime we sat in the tent reading stories until bed time. I let them stay up until 8:30 figuring they'd sleep until 7 at least. (they did not). At 9:30 I finally put both into their own beds, broke down the tent and put the sleeping bags away. Called my mom for a catch up chat and then thought I should tidy up.

When I got up to go do the dishes, the kitchen lights wouldn't turn on. Neither would the lounge. What? I called the neighbor upstairs, she came to take a look, we couldn't figure out what was going on. So I dragged a lamp into the kitchen, did the dishes, tidied and then picked up all the toys, dusted, wiped finger prints off the television before watching an hour of mindless television - American Idol and was annoyed they booted off Jeremy Rosado. I like him.

Of course Cate did not sleep. She was up until 3 coughing - in my bed again. X got up at 6. I had three hours sleep again. Keeping my eyes open was a mighty feat yesterday. Still, I took the kids to a park, out for lunch at McDonalds, bought them new art supplies for the afternoon, and new big boy forks and spoons for X (who refuses to use the plastic kids forks anymore), balloons, you name it. We came home around 12  - X went down for a three hour nap. Then I sat and waited for the repair guy to come and take a look at the fuse box. he showed up, changed the fuse (it's an antique this thing) and we had light in the lounge and kitchen again! Hooray.

Immediately, I put a Barbie DVD on for Cate, set the small table up in front of the TV with her paints and new books and passed out for an hour on the sofa. I could NOT stay awake.

When I woke, to Cate standing over me demanding I look at her painting which was dripping red paint on my chest, I had sore throat and a massive headache.

Still, I got up, took the kids for a run in the cemetery - sounds weird but it's huge and it's a big favorite for runners, dog walkers, people with kids - especially mums with buggies. People picnic there - that I won't do but the kids absolutely love it there so we go.

After bath and bed I called Fen to see if the final match was over. He had just sat down on the train back from Birmingham. Hooray. He'd be back in about two hours. I thought about doing work but my brain was on vacation. I turned on the TV.

When Fen walked in I was so happy I could have burst. And then I said, "Tag - you're it. I'm going to bed." That was at 10pm. Of course, both kids slept through the night until 6:30. Fen said, "I don't know why you complain - they're fine."


Tuesday, March 6, 2012


That is the sacred syllable Om. I need a little more om in my life! I said I'd slow down and yet I have not. Not even a little. Not even the tiniest bit. If anything, I've got more going on than ever. It wasn't on purpose, and it's mostly all good but still. I'd love a little downtime, or do I?

My trip to NY was too short and too rushed - I had a great time and would go back in a heartbeat, but what I want is a little downtime here. I did it to myself so I can't feel any pity - the thing is - how do I get OUT of this? Moving here was tough - so I decided I was not going to sit at home and rot, I got out there, met people, made friends, joined groups, signed up for PTA and still work full time. Now, I'm in a decent rhythm, but all my time is filled. All of it.

I cut back on PTA, women's group, put X in nursery for four hours a week and  yet, my time is still filled. I refuse to give up my friendships or work so what goes? Not the PTA - but I have decided to take a smaller role next year. Not my womens' group - but I have taken a less demanding role for next year.

For now I'll have to tough it out because I like everything I'm involved in - I just need things to slow down a little this summer and then start fresh in September. But can I hold on until then? I've cancelled on people a lot lately. I've missed out on outings due to work which is unfortunate, but it can't be helped.

The good news? My work is going gangbusters - doing really well so far this year and it's promising to be a banner year for me as well. I'm back full time for about six months now and it feels good.

You're probably wondering why I fill my dance card so much. The other day Fen took the kids out for an hour. In that hour I had nothing to do. It was Sunday - so there were no emails to return, no calls to make, no PTA, no women's club functions. It was just me. I was doing fine until I caught a glimpse of my sister's photo. Even though she died almost eight months ago - it does not get easier. It gets considerably harder and harder to think that she is gone. Forever. FOREVER. It is just too much to bear. I can't think about it so I walked down the hall and worked on a proposal. And then I was fine (ish) again. And I thank God for my busy life.