On Motherhood & Sanity

Friday, September 30, 2011

on domestic bliss

little by little our hose is looking less like a war zone and more like a home. Normally I really love it when our stuff arrives. I love opening up the boxes and finding all the little things I forgot we owned but tell a story of a trip, a friend, a day.... 

This time it was different. I really didn't look forward to my stuff. When it did finally arrive, the movers threw everything around with absolute disregard for it, so the house was just piles and piles that we had to make our way through. Weekends were Ikea and target trips and then getting our construction degree. so the fact that this morning we could all sit down to breakfast on a clear table and empty chairs. that our fridge started having food in it, I'm just grateful to be getting back to what I call domestic bliss, and this little thing she did, finding her own way of reaching to get the eggs, making the house hers... I just had to snap it, it talks to me and tells me that maybe, just maybe, we've finally made it home.

Monday, September 26, 2011

On why Ikea furniture should be used for job interviews for anything from astronauts to taxi drivers,but specially for aid work

I moved recently, so have familiarised myself closely with the nearest Ikea. You know how it goes, a few weeks in and I’m on a first name basis with most of the shop keepers. 

Given my extensive experience on the moving business  I’ve been to many an Ikeas around the world. Like most people I know, I am both grateful humbled by Ikea,  and also hate it with a vengeance.  It doesn’t matter how many times you swear you will never step foot in an Ikea again, you will be back, because they have what you need, it’s right there, it’s cheap, and usually actually kind of pretty.

Only recently has it struck me that Ikea furniture could have an entirely different use in life and development: it should be used  for job interviews. You know all those sophisticated systems with questions, role playing etc… no need for that anymore.  Just take a group of potential hires, hand them a few ikea items in their box, and sit back to observe.

Ikea furniture requires absolute attention to detail. If you overlook the slightest detail, like assume that two parts that look the same can be interchanged, that a bolt can be facing in or out… if there is the smallest thing that you have overlooked you will find yourself in the biggest pickle down the road, and that is when it starts to get interesting. Something else will not be able to be clicked on or screwed in. It won’t be obvious, so you assume that you are doing something wrong at that stage, when in reality  you lost that battle long ago, before you hammered in those nails which are not actually intended to come back out, and you’ll need to work out how to do it without ruining the whole thing.

You can observe attention to detail, as well as how the potential hire handles stress and frustration. Soon each applicant’s character will begin to emerge: there will be one that sits  back in despair, another blames that blames it all on  the fact that his instructions were not followed earlier on, (and he may be right, still, do you want that guy on your team when something goes wrong in the field?). Another will talk and talk  but actually accomplish little and come up with no useful suggestions, (that guy might be good for fundraising, but keep him out of field work too please). There will a  strong willed and determined  one who will try to get the job done through sheer force, and might indeed be able to get that screw in, but will just regret it further down the line, when something else can’t fit and there is no way back. You will have the quiet one that observes in amazement, overwhelmed and might at some point run out of the room in tears.

A couple will look annoyed, frustrated, and quietly sit down to go through the steps.  They will work out how to take apart bits that were never intended to be separated again, or find creative ways to slid in something the team had forgotten to insert before. They will not be bothered by the fact that they have a couple of extra screws left over, as long as the piece feels solid, and depending on what the ultimate purpose is (hint: if it will be carrying china or a baby  the tolerance level should be lower).  This group will bond and laugh a little about the whole thing. They will make fun of the test and of you when they think you are not listening. There will be a leader who keeps and eye on the big picture and raises a flag when something doesn’t make sense, a handler that takes care of the logistics and one who can guide them through the intricate path, and they will naturally allow each other to reign where they have proven to be competent. They will even let the strong guy do the heavy lifting, the quiet guy hold the small parts, and the talkative guy go get coffee. These are the guys you want

See what I mean?

PS I very randomly came across this cartoon after I'd written the post and failed to find any documentation of my own process. It was in a russian blog (here) so have no idea who it is or what it is normally about. not even if the guy (girl) is the author or not.  So yeah, this is my attempt at giving credit

DISCLAIMER: all genders used are TOTALLY INTERCHANGEABLE, really, they are.

Friday, September 23, 2011

on silence

One of the things I miss most about my pre-kids days is silence. Not just the lack of actual noise, but the type of silence that lets the soul rest. I know it sounds strange, and I can’t really explain it.

Have you ever been to the desert? To the rift valley?

It’s like when the doctor tests your hearing with that metal thing that keeps vibrating. There is no sound yet you can hear something, and it’s coming from the vibration itself. I feel like somehow all movement creates a vibration that makes noise. Even if your ears can’t hear it, your body does.

When we lived in  Kenya we’d often go to the nature reserves for the weekend. Small resorts  in the middle of nowhere with no access to phone or internet. No electricity lines, no traffic, nothing but kilometres of earth, plants, animals and silence around you. The quality of rest  that you get in  a place like this is unbeatable. It was like removing a layer of dust and mud from your soul. 

Unlike the Masai Mara, my home is full of noise. From the moment the princess wakes up (sometime after 6am) there is singing, jumping, throwing, role playing, fighting, and all to the beat of the underlying parental tune

“don't do this, don't do that, keep it down, hurry up….”

Like a broken record I constantly contribute to the noise pollution by being always late, and stressing everyone up to get there on time. After everyone has gone to bed I stay up late into the night waiting for the vibrations to stop, for the silence to return, for my body to ease up. Which of course means the next morning I wake up tired and late, and begin the day stressing to get to somewhere on time.

Last Saturday the hubs wanted to go to ikea. I knew we desperately needed to go, (shelves, desks… all sorts of things that we need in order to be able to organise all the other things that we need)
It didn’t matter that I knew this, I couldn't go. I said no. I’ll do anything, I’ll do it on my own, any day but today. Any time but now. Saturday in ikea was more noise than my soul could take after the chaos that moving entails. I held my breath, stomped my feet and stayed in bed. 

So he got dressed, and then proceeded to do a very strange thing, he dressed the kids, and took off,  WITH THE KIDS.

I watched from the bed in disbelief.

And so I got my 3 hours of silence.

Bless that man

Monday, September 19, 2011

live, work, create

saw this on my morning run. what a great way to start the week

Friday, September 16, 2011

Buddhist monastery- photo post

I've been clearing out boxes and filing photos... and came across some oldies that I love. This is in Vietnam, on a trip we did before  knowing that we'd soon move to Cambodia, and still on the theme of zen and leaving clutter behind....

you can see more photos of Cambodia HERE, and from my  asian markets series HERE

Monday, September 12, 2011

September family (self) portrait

(click on image to enlarge) 

I know you were expecting a photo of the chaos and the boxes, but I just had to do this one... maybe because I knew the madness was headed our way and wanted to keep memory of the days when we lived with 3 blow  up mattresses, some pots and pans, and an Ikea work table for the kids. Somehow I miss those days, probably because I am submerged in all the crap that I consider necessary to survive in this world, and it is always overwhelming to see how much crap you cohabit with. It made me think of all those zen articles always banging on about living with less. Lets just say the Amish may be on to something.....

But in our house everything seems to have it's own story. There is the painting I bought from a massage parlour in Phnom Pehn.  Tim's photo. the pretty Lady that really represents one of the towers at the world trade center, which we bought in Chile while they were still standing, and after a lot of negotiating with the man so that he would sells us just one, because that was all we could afford. The Buddha head my grandmother has given Trouble as a heirloom...

There is also something to that emptiness around us in the photograph. I think it somehow reflects the vacuum you feel when you are in a new place. It's particularly strange here in NY where you are so surrounded by people, and at the same time so isolated.  You can envision the potential around you, you can see it like through a shop window, but cannot be a part of it  yet.

to see the other months click on the links below

Friday, September 2, 2011

August family (self) portrait

This was in our lovely, lovely landing pad, the day after hurricane Irene hit. I would have done it the day before but a) there was no light (it was weird that way) and b) there were tape crosses on all the windows....


to see the rest of the year so far click on the links below, (January explains a little the reason behind this project)

turns out they are New yorkers at heart

I’ve escaped! I’m in a cool Brooklyn bar listening to cool mellow music, sipping white wine and writing. Trust me, this in no way reflects the rest of my week. Before I started I had to check what the last post was about. That has never happened before. Irene seems like a distant memory.

So you get an idea, but a few hours ago I was sitting on a scaffolding about 13 feet up from the ground shitting myself. I was putting up frost on our windows to keep our new kitchen from looking like a shop window.

We moved out of our lovely, lovely landing pad last Wednesday, and into what will surely be a lovely apartment, but is currently echo central. Irene delayed our shipment, so we moved in with a few borrowed blow up mattresses, sheets, towels, pots and pans. I thought it would be thoroughly distressing for the kids but fortunately no, it’s just distressing for me. They seem to love whatever gets thrown their way. Me? Not so thrilled with the current state of affairs.

Never the less, and although our first ice cream outing entailed sitting next to a homeless woman, we have found some appealing things in our new hood. The kids love the public library down the block. There is a little park. Turns out our little yard has a sprinkler, and there is a place where we are hoping the princess will be doing her ballet lessons. I explained Halloween to them, they are thrilled and ask me every day when it will take place. We bumped into a construction site. Trouble was so in awe he dared not speak . Three years ago these kids were climbing trees in Cambodia. I couldn’t imagine them as city kids and did everything in my power to keep them in the field. Today the princess told me she wants to stay in NY forever. Turns out they are New Yorkers at heart.

PS trouble is wearing movie 3D glasses...