November 29, 2006
I discovered yesterday that an old friend from my Geneva, Switzerland days started blogging in October. He is an American still living in Switzerland, where he was one of my high school youth group leaders seventeen years ago. You can find Paul Luedtke's writings here.
But what stood out to me most beautifully was Paul's summary of himself at the top right of his blog homepage:
Following hard after God, my passion.
Helping others be found by God, my life's work.
Being a shameless experience seeker, my path in the world.
A husband to Becky and a father to Jennifer and Lexie, my delight.
The Rise of Toyota
This morning I had to take our "Ixion Blue" Toyota Corolla Verso (the color is always the most important thing about a car, right?) in for a recall repair. Something about the On/Off switch for the passenger airbag. I was perfectly happy to sit in the waiting area for an hour and a half while they carried out the free repairs (plenty to do, you know, like compose blog posts, for a random example, or write email to send later, or read my Bible).
But I was especially happy when:
1. They were actually done in exactly one hour and one half, as advertised.
2. They said Toyota wanted to wash and vacuum my car before giving it back (was that okay? Yes!).
3. They informed me they had also put £10 of fuel in the car on Toyota's behalf to recompense me for coming out.
4. They handed me a box of chocolates, compliments of Toyota (I kid you not, 38 gourmet chocolates wrapped with a copper ribbon & gauzy bow, the kind of box with two layers and an explanatory note telling you what's inside each item to avoid nasty surprises of alcohol, coffee or goopy fruit).
Wow! I sure went on my way with a smile. I already liked Toyota very much, but today it rises even farther in my esteem.
Now, what to sample first? I think I'll leave the ones with champagne, brandy, capuccino, and crème de cacao liqueur for my husband. Maybe I'll go for the Golden Roasted Hazelnut and Almond Praline dusted with Icing Sugar...or the Caramelized Mousse with Crisp Honeycomb Pieces over a Layer of Truffle...
Monday I spent the whole day grocery shopping, tidying, cleaning, laundering, ironing, baking, cooking, and getting the gutters cleaned, and Tuesday it was time to play!
I got in 9 hands of bridge with the American Women of Berkshire and Surrey, about 15 minutes each. I was declarer only once, dummy twice, and defense six times. In one round, I was dealt what's called a Yarborough: zero points and not even one ten: my four highest cards were two nines, an eight and a seven. Not too exciting to play! The odds of being dealt a Yarborough are apparently 1827 to 1. See this math page about the odds of getting really weird bridge hands. If you REALLY like bridge and logic (Mom), try these short Bridge puzzles.
Helene, the bridge teacher-type person in attendance, seemed to have X-ray vision...she always knew what cards everyone had. Very impressive, and a super-helpful tutor. After she had to leave early, the other learner ladies and I surreptitiously started playing O'Hell instead of bridge, and managed (I think) rounds from 10 cards down to 1 without the two other bridge tables noticing. Bridge is all-consuming, you know. To be safe, we called out "1 No Trump" every once in a while.
During the delicious lunch break, I heard the names of so many countries bandied about that I decided to take a survey of where all the ladies had lived. Combining the life experience of the 12 of us, we had lived in 19-22 countries, depending how you count them:
China (mainland and Hong Kong)
UK (England and Scotland)
United Arab Emirates (including Abu Dhabi and Dubai)
One woman had lived in 8 countries! Talk about moving around! I was happy to contribute two unique countries to the mix (France and Switzerland). What a fun place this is to live.
That stands for European Health Insurance Card.
We just got four of them in the mail. If you live in England, not only can you get free healthcare if you use the National Healthcare System (NHS), but you can also get reduced or free healthcare while travelling in other European countries if you have this special card. Interesting.
And this is the way our marriage partnership works for most nit-picky things: David has the good ideas (get an EHIC application please), and I execute them (go to the post office, pick up the form, fill it out, present it for signature, put the postage on, mail it). It's a great system. Both partners are absolutely essential. I'd never even heard of the EHIC until he mentioned it. I love working with my brilliant husband.
November 27, 2006
UK Weather Comes Into Its Own
As (approximately) heard on the radio today here in England:
In the South and East: Rain. Elsewhere, showers, and be aware of possible flooding.
* * *
Huge thanks to my mom, who sent me a pre-Christmas care package with two tubes my favorite American toothpaste, out of which I had run and which they don't sell here. Tom's of Maine, but not just any flavour: Wintermint (and not for sensitive teeth). Rarer for some reason (can't think why, since it's clearly the best flavour of them all)
* * *
The further one travels through life, the more opportunities one has to engage in different and new tasks. Today's first: calling a gutter cleaning service. This would be related to the above-mentioned weather, yes. Moss grows in the gutters here. Actually we had a whole flower plant growing in the gutter above our garage until David took it down the other week and we planted it in a flower pot by the front door! But most of our gutters are too high for us to do, since we don't have one of those mega-ladders. Oh, speaking of which, the guy is here. He says he thinks he'll be here "the rest of the day, looking at the state of 'em." Well, as tenants we are responsible for this, so pursuant to a kind letter from the property manager reminding us of our duties, here we go. I think it's a good thing we waited until a good portion of the gorgeous British autumn foliage had fallen. Now the workman is whistling and singing out there. Nothing like a cheerful gutter-cleaner.
* * *
I am gearing up to bake some Christmas goodies. Unfortunately, when I was shopping this morning at our local grocery store, I discovered to my dismay that they do not carry any:
- red and green sprinkles
- red sprinkles
- green sprinkles
- red and green M&Ms (though they have regular M&Ms with peanuts, no plain ones)
- red and green candies of any sort except candy canes
- chocolate kisses or hugs (though I wasn't expecting to find these anyway, but I do like placing them atop peanut butter cookies)
In fact, the only festive baking topping thing they seem to have is little silver balls. As I recall, those are quite hard and not my idea of a good eat. This puts a little damper in my plans for my regular Christmassy-looking cookies.
* * *
When I read Jn 13:14 recently ("Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet"), it made me think of the time my dear friend Jan F. in California came over to my house after I had had knee surgery. My knee was swollen, tender and bandaged, and I was in a leg brace. Jan asked me to make a list of what needing doing at house, and came and did it. She carried my laundry upstairs. She got down and wiped up the crumbs under our kitchen counter where our kids ate. She generally did all the humble tasks that go unnoticed until nobody does them, and showed the real love of Jesus to me. And it's not as if she had nothing else to do: she is a pastor's wife and homeschools. Unspeakable blessing and kindness. Thank you again, Jan.
* * *
You know how "pants" in the UK means "underwear" and they say "trousers" for pants? Well, living here has made certain things stand out to me when I read them. Did you know that "trousers" is mentioned a single time in the NIV Bible, in Daniel 3:21? Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were wearing them when they were thrown into the furnace. "Pants" is only used as a verb, as in "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God." (Psalm 42:1).
November 26, 2006
Finally Roast Bird
On Saturday, we finally had our proper Thanksgiving meal (see my last post for why): Roast poultry, mashed potatoes, gravy, mashed sweet potatoes, peas, carrot-Boursin purée, and fresh granary baguette (whole-grain). It was collaboratively-made and delicious. I say "poultry" because it was roast chicken, not the traditional turkey, since we are a small family.
After all tummies were pleasantly filled with good things, we held game negotiations. Have you heard of Pit and Compatibility? We did not play those... but as a means of deciding which game to play (we have tons), we played two games, homemade versions of the two aforementioned ones!
I cut up strips of paper with the names of 12 games written on them (a full set for each of us), and we scrambled them up and dealt them out, 12 strips per person. Then we had to trade semi-blindly until we all had a set of 12 unique strips. That was the Pit impersonation, except backwards (in Pit you're supposed to end up with your cards being all the same, not all different). Then we each proceeded to rank our strips in order from most desirable game to play to least. This was the Compatibility part. Unbelievably and potentially distressingly, the four of us weren't compatible enough to agree on a game to play (though we had several groups of two within everyone's top five, there was only one game with three votes, and not even one single choice that appeared in everyone's top five!).
Would you believe that was enough for us and we ended up playing "everyone put at least ten items in the dishwasher" (I did 25) and David went to take a nap? He was tired out after all that cooking (he was responsible for the roast chicken, the mashed potatoes and the gravy, while I did the vegetables). Then I played "scrub 21 items by hand" (partly since the dishwasher was full) while Emily played "get five more items dirty making freshly whipped cream" and we finished up with "eat some yummy homemade pumpkin pie while getting 11 more items dirty."
However, later on, my dear husband proposed a round of Boggle just to me, and I eagerly accepted. Before we knew it, we were all four playing it. For purposes of fairness, all four people got differing amounts of time to find words: 5 minutes, 4 minutes, 3 minutes, and 1 minute 20 seconds. Just about right! Just discovered one can play Boggle online live with other people. Fun!
I continue to love Saturdays.
November 23, 2006
To preface this story, you need to know that
1) We are Americans and we live in England at the moment.
2) I am not known for my eagerness to plan and cook dinner.
This morning before we left the house to take David to the train and the kids to school, I cheerfully and with a smile said to my husband, "For dinner tonight, how about chicken korma, rice, salad, and blackcurrant jello for dessert?" I thought I was doing well to have thought of something to eat that I could envisage being responsible for conjuring up.
He looked at me quizzically for a few moments. I couldn't figure out why he wasn't excited about my delicious menu proposal. He should have been happy there was meat in the main course (it's important to him but I could take it or leave it and don't like handling raw meat) and the dessert had no chocolate on the ingredient list (I am a cocoa maniac and he isn't).
He finally jokingly replied, "Sure, sounds like a great Thanksgiving dinner."
Oops. It's Thanksgiving?
It's not a holiday here in the UK, understandably. It's a normal school and work day. That means David won't get home until maybe 7:30pm, and an hour later the kids have to be in bed with their teeth brushed and pyjamas on, with backpacks prepared for the next school day tomorrow. Not much time for a feast.
How about rescheduling for Saturday when the guy who actually enjoys gourmet cooking is home for a few hours before showtime?
I did make pumpkin pie last week, and mashed potatoes and mashed sweet potatoes with our dinner on Tuesday night. Last night David and I were out late at a show in London with work colleagues, so we're also a little short on sleep.
But even if we don't have a traditional holiday meal, we can still give thanks to God for other things, right? In that sense it will still be a Thanksgiving Day.
Thank you, God, for:
our family unity
our kids who try hard
heat & electricity & indoor plumbing
food (of any kind)
a sunny day today (for the moment)
my computer, washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, garbage disposal and automated garage doors
Your unfailing love
second chances that keep renewing themselves
November 22, 2006
Making Progress Despite
I am slowly getting over my disappointment from yesterday's driving test failure. At least the first try is over with. I have more experience than I did before. And more compassion. And more knowledge about the validity of my U.S. license. After the examiner told me I that he found me a safe driver but unfortunately had to fail me for that one "serious" error, he proceeded to inform me that now my U.S. license was no longer valid. This caught me off-guard, as no one had ever hinted at this before. I asked him if he were sure about this startling revelation, and he adamantly insisted that a failure on the practical test invalidated my U.S. license in Britain. He said obviously I'd have to drive home on my own, but that in the future I'd need to be accompanied by another driver over 21 licensed in the UK for at least 3 years. Right. This thought was perhaps more upsetting than the failure of the test.
When I got home (after crying in the garage for a while), I looked the matter up on the internet. No conclusive evidence either way. So I called my driving instructor who specializes in expatriates. She told me what he said was rubbish. That's British for incorrect. I was happy to hear this, but did not feel this was enough proof to settle my soul. I then called the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) and they confirmed to me that my U.S. license is perfectly valid until either I've lived here one year or it expires. Phew. Very VERY happy to hear that. So now the pressure I felt upon leaving the test has dissipated somewhat, being replaced with a feeling of relief that I do indeed have until next August to pass the !@$%&^# thing. Excuse the language; I rarely swear, but I have to admit a couple of expletives did escape my mouth after I was safely away from the test center yesterday. That's how wound up I was (yes, I'm generally a pretty tame person).
I can see how the examiner could have misinterpreted the statement on the DVLA website, though. It says:
You can drive any category of small vehicle shown on your licence for up to 12 months from the time you became resident. To ensure continuous driving entitlement a provisional GB licence must have been obtained and a driving test(s) passed before the 12-month period elapses. If you obtain a provisional licence during this period, you are not subject to provisional licence conditions eg displaying 'L' plates or being supervised by a qualified driver or being precluded from motorways.
However, if you do not pass a test within the 12-month concessionary period you will not be allowed to drive as a full licence holder and provisional licence conditions will apply.
I imagine the examiner was confused by the unclear language, and found the last sentence equivalent to "If you
do not pass fail a test within during the 12-month concessionary period you will immediately not be allowed to drive as a full licence holder and provisional licence conditions will apply."
When really it means "If you
do not pass have not yet passed a test within by the end of the 12-month concessionary period you will not no longer be allowed to drive as a full licence holder after the 12 months have elapsed and provisional licence conditions will apply."
Nit-picky? It makes a very real difference in my life! I need to drive daily for my job!
On the progress front, David's passport was finally returned in the mail today; his provisional UK license arrived a few days ago, and he has booked his theory test for January. I sincerely hope he passes both this tests the first time and avoids the anguish!
As a side note, David's passport is really quite remarkable. It has the normal pages, 1-24, but then it has another insert, pages A-X in between pages 10 and 11. This is because it was getting too full, between the greedy full-page stickers (French visa, French residence permit, 3 Chinese visit visas, U.K. residence visa) and the sometimes sloppily placed quarter-page stamps from France (15), the U.K. (10), the U.S. (7), Germany (5), China (6), Japan (6), Hong Kong (4), Italy (2), and Ireland. This passport has to last him another 6 years. We'll see about that.
November 21, 2006
One Word Meme
Jeffy did a One Word Meme:
Y O U . . . C A N . . . O N L Y . . . T Y P E . . . O N E . . . W O R D !
N O . . . E X P L A N A T I O N S !
Not as easy as you might think. . .
Here's my version:
2. Your boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife?
3. Your hair?
4. Your mother?
5. Your father?
6. Your Favorite Item?
7. Your dream last night?
8. Your Favorite drink?
9. Your Dream Car/truck?
10. The Room You Are In?
11. Your Ex?
12. Your fear?
13. What you want to be in 10 years?
14. Who you hung out with last night?
15. What You're Not?
17. One of Your Wish List Items?
19. The Last Thing You Did?
20. What You Are Wearing?
21. Your Favorite Weather?
22. Your Favorite Book?
23. The Last Thing You Ate?
24. Your Life?
25. Your Mood?
26. Your body?
27. What are you thinking about right now?
28. Your truck/car:
29. What are you doing at the moment?
30. Your summer?
Tears of Frustration
Right after the "Tears of Joy" post, I have another kind of tears to report.
I failed my first UK practical driving test today. :-(
I did a perfectly good parallel park (perhaps my most feared maneuver), turn-in-the-road and hill start. Later, I was waiting for a while to turn right and then when I finally got to go, immediately there was a "KEEP CLEAR" marking on the street which I didn't see until too late, and the light had turned red ahead and I got stuck in the no waiting area. To make matters worse, a guy wanted to turn in to the place I was blocking. He managed to get in behind me, but there went my test. I am quite upset about it. I can't take the test again for two weeks. I almost wished I could have just done a second test back to back with first one, since I did everything else just fine -- 4 other minor flaws (you are allowed 15 minors, but only one "serious or dangerous").
Found this cheery account of another American who failed the first time and passed the second. My main driving instructor also confided in me that he failed his first test way back when. I suppose it isn't quite the end of the world (although today I am very annoyed and mad about it; why couldn't I have been more observant???).
Please pray I pass the next time (currently scheduled for Dec 7th). Maybe God has some purpose in this. Right now I can't help but feel like it is a royal waste of time (and embarrassing). So there you have the adjectives summing me up right now: upset, annoyed, mad, embarrassed, and frustrated.
I suppose in the next two weeks, God is giving me the gift of another 14 days of learning further how to be patient, humble, submissive, and at peace in Him, focusing on things of far more consequence. I've already waited two months in this licensing process. Obviously I haven't quite got the patience thing down...I want the license NOW! Blah!