small things…

Dear friends

Sometimes the smallest of things can make the biggest difference in our lives.  This last week has been full of that for me and our family.

Before that, after one of the big winter storms in the last few years, we noticed a leak on our bedroom ceiling, right in the corner above the bay window.  It really didn’t disrupt our daily lives and it was several months before we got a roofer out.  However the following winter, another big storm, same leaking, another small damp patch appears closer in, remote from the first leak.  After several attempts with the insurance company, they finally agreed to mend and repair, but not replace the valley flashing gutter (above bay window). 

Then several weeks back a roofer came out – did something from a ladder and despite rain we’ve had no further leaks. Yeah! – you may think.  So then the company turn to our bedroom interior.  The artex ceiling is tested for asbestos. It’s a positive result so they arrange for a specialist contractor to remove the ceiling.  This was scheduled for Monday morning.

Before that, a couple of weeks back, a friend spotted a piano being offered for free.  Dear husband and Daur2 looked it over – needs tuning and a couple of hammers fixing but would be good for practice – and we paid a man with a van to help bring it to our house.  It’s been left in the dining room, having come in through the garden, until we clear the front room (another one of those ongoing tasks!)

So, last Monday morning I wake early to start my usual routine of preparing packed lunches for the family – six of us.  As I start with mini baguettes in the oven I see a mouse come out and head back behind the fridge/freezer.  I shriek fairly quietly and gingerly continue, my feet shuffling on the kitchen floor – my theory was to make enough noise so it didn’t come out again.  That didn’t work and so when I saw it again I let out a mighty shriek.  Son1 was the first to reach me and as I stammer there’s a mouse behind the fridge, he says I thought you were being attacked by someone! And promptly turns and heads back to bed.  Daur1 reaches me and stays with me while we finish the lunches but then time has gone and she’s in danger of missing her train.  She begs me to drop her at the station.  

However, before that, over the weekend, my car had been very rumbly.  I knew my dear husband had put oil in (I had moaned to him the Sunday evening since the oil was in his car, rather than in the porch so I couldn’t add some earlier), so despite the strange burning rubber smell, I thought maybe I could make it to the station and back.  

As we sat in the car – me in my pyjamas and fleece – I mentioned maybe I should give you bus fare to get the fast bus to the station and not risk it.  But Daur1 gave her pleading eyes, I gave in and we headed out.  We reached station safely and Daur1 skipped to platforms!  I headed out the station and immediately the clutch pedal stuck – I was crossing the carriageway so was waiting.  I managed to kick it up, back in gear when I saw the traffic clear then as it stuck again at my gear change, I pulled the car over onto the pavement, so as not to block traffic, and stopped.  With the hazard lights on, I call the RAC (car recovery) – we’ll try and get someone out to you in the hour.  An hour! It’s 0730h, I’m in my pyjamas and fleece.  I call my dear husband but no answer… he’s clearly having to pick things up where I left things off… 

Two hours later, somewhat chilled on my part, my dear husband and I arrive back home, children all at school & college and I think, great, I’ll quickly shower, dress and get bus to work.  Don’t forget the asbestos guys are here, they arrived at 8h, when you were out; they’ve started taping things up.  Eeeeekk…. I head to our room to find our wardrobes fully taped up and plastic sheeting across the bedroom door.  All that was missing were the guys in white suits – I knew that was coming, they were in their van on break.  So, all I could do was work from home; take calls, write emails, give a truncated version of the morning’s events explaining my absence – clutch, pyjamas and asbestos.  I did feel quite ridiculous and humbled – if I had listened to the small voice and not taken our daughter to the station, the day would have been largely uneventful, except the mouse and the asbestos removal team.

Ohhhh, and the mouse.  In the 12 years we’ve lived here, we’ve never seen any mice – ants, mosquitoes and slugs but no mice (apart from a small family discovered in the lawn mower box in the garage one spring a long time ago).  So we were a little concerned – are there more?  Son1 admitted to seeing a ball of fluff scurry behind the piano late one night after it’s arrival but failed to mention it to anyone.  Dear husband bought fast action mouse killer traps – one went by the fridge and one in the kitchen.  We put a more traditional trap behind the piano, with peanut butter on cheese for bait!  We had no idea where mouse was.  We were on lockdown – all doors to be closed behind us on entering or exiting a room.  A few days later there was still no sign of mouse.  By now the family began teasing that maybe I imagined the whole thing!  But today, I entered the kitchen and there it was, lying, dead, between the washing machine and a cupboard.  All observed it – except Son1 who was out – before dear husband and Daur1 disposed of it.  Daur2 (& Daur1) seemed rather sad about the whole affair commenting it’s so small… It’s in heaven now… And similar as if I was being completely irrational about wanting to get rid of it!

Ohhhh and the leak. Once the ceiling came down, we spied up into the loft and the underside of the rafters and the water damage was apparent.  And above the valley rafter, in the flashing we could spy a pinpoint of daylight in the lead valley flashing gutter.  The insurance company weren’t interested – it looked to me as if a slate had punctured the lead.  So we’ll have to get some flexible roof sealant and apply from within the loft to make sure we don’t get a random drip onto the new ceiling, which is now in place.  

And the moral of this tale… deal immediately with a problem and listen to the small voice… or squeak…. or leak!

piano, mouse killer, my sock
Part stripped ceiling
Rafters in our loft, above the ceiling
The pinpoint of light!!

Tender mercies

Dear friends
This past weekend has seen some miracles in my life, not large scale like parting the Red Sea but equally meaningful to me and I know the hand of the Lord was involved.  A prophet (Thomas S. Monson) has said:

The Lord is in the detail of our lives

I truly believe that and these are the details where I saw Him in my life the past few days.  I encourage you to look out for the Lord and the Holy Ghost at work in your life – Father is always there.

1. Finding matches: Some weeks ago we noticed the match box (we use them for lighting the gas cooker) was low. They were on the shopping list but last week when we went shopping we couldn’t find them in the household goods section. None. This wasn’t critical until this weekend but my dear husband still didn’t buy them.  Yesterday, Sunday we used the last few and I checked with dear husband that he still had a lighter (he’d bought them to light to cooker but I find them difficult to use without lighting my thumb!) So early this morning, resigned to using a lighter, I went to my husband’s desk to find one. As I dug around the top drawer, lo and behold!, I find a small box of safety matches!! 🙂

2. The conference talk: last Sunday, after sacrament meetwith as I was getting the classroom ready, for the youth Sunday School class that I teach, I was asked to give a 10-15 minute talk on the Saturday evening session of stake conference, in 6 days.  (For those of you who are not LDS, this is a large local area meeting for the church, the Saturday evening for all adults, so typically around 200 people in attendance).  The presiding area seventy had made some changes to the proposed programme and asked me to speak.  No topic – I was to be inspired, like general conference (from Salt Lake City, for everyone #LDSconf).  I looked at him and said “Me?” I was a little incredulous but was assured that this is what the Lord wants.  So last week I prepared a talk, completing it in the early hours of Saturday morning, the theme being who are we and what is our relationship with God and each other.  I timed it, 11m 30s, and practised reading it a few times.  When I was asked to sit on the stand, beside another speaker (who said she’d received her assignment some weeks ago, with a verse of scripture to base it on), I still has no idea when I was speaking or the other topics.  As the meeting began, I peered forward to check the programme held by the stake president.  I saw my name, after the intermediate hymn and right before the visiting seventy.  I was the penultimate speaker, eeekk!!  I did, however, feel a great calm as each speaker spoke. And by the time the stake president had finished, I knew that the talk I had prepared was in fact the perfect summary of the previous three – right down to the stake president using a phrase which I had written.  It was one of the most sublime experiences that I’ve had and I am humbled to know that the Lord knew that I had the personal views and experience that would meet the stake’s needs for that meeting. (I’ll post my talk separately).

3. My tablet – I have a Samsung 10.1inch Galaxy Tab 3 tablet and since a little after Easter it has not charged, at all.  I had bought some new cables, left it charging, returned from work, and nothing.  The children were interrogated. I’ve never understood the full story – “Son1 killed it” “Daur2 switched it off!” “I didn’t touch it!” You know how it goes!  I took the back off, back on, left it to rest, tried again but nothing. So, I reluctantly decided to take it to a fixer shop at the end of this month (payday!), dreading how much I’d be charged.  This morning, as I was about to go to work, I thought, let me try again, and I set it to charge.  I’ve already learnt to be patient with devices… seconds later, the screen lit up with the battery symbol, charging!!  Yeah!!! 🙂

PS – when I told our daughters about the tablet charging again, they gave each other a knowing glance and Daur2, we thought it might – maybe Heavenly Father took it away so it wasn’t a distraction while you were writing your talk!!

spring is back!

Dear friends
This weekend is Easter #Hallelujah and the clocks spring forward so we are heading into long, long evenings.  We have virtually 7 months of British Summer Time… it’s almost ridiculous to me that Greenwich Meridian is based in the UK, given most of the year we spend in BST!  Anyway, spring it is – grog spawn has been seen in ponds, daffodils are blooming everywhere, pumps are replacing boots, and Son2 left (abandoned!) his jumper at school!  We’ve had the school Easter concert – a great, stirring rendition of Bring him home from Les Miserables by the school concert band (not featuring Daur1 on flute who has been committed to revision sessions) and the Glee (interesting!) version of Homeward bound by the student led A Capella choir, featuring Daur2 singing alto. 
And today is my last full day in the office until early April – I have to go in next week to get a new, long awaited, laptop, but that will be the morning only.  And I think tomorrow we have a cinema trip planned – Batman vs Superman and Kung Fu Panda 3!  And I really must do some Christmas preparations!!  🙂

International Women’s Day

Dear friends
So life keeps going with all that it brings. 

The funnies: –
Me: (on why there’s a mid season break for extended filming) I don’t think it worked like that in my day!
Daur2: What?  You twerked in your day!!??

The compliment: –
Local Heritage officer: (on looking at my latest project) A very well designed extension.
This is why I’m an architect,  I love creating spaces for all to appreciate 🙂

The surprising/ thought provoking: –
Female friend (mother of 2, same age as me and the LDS seminary teacher): It is cancer. Their going to operate next month,  remove it completely and I have to decide on whether to have reconstructive surgery later in the year.  It helps to talk about it.

And then Mothering Sunday: –
My mother: (after lovely dinner prepared by my dear husband and why it’s not Mother’s Day) It originally started so those downstairs [ie servants] could visit their homes/ mothers at least once in the year. 
My children and husband (expressions – similar – in a card): Thank you for being the best Mummy!!

Latest read: – I’m reading Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje – I’ve read it before; it’s one of my older books retrieved from the garage last spring; it’s a great,  poetic read. 

Latest on running: – I’ve been running a little bit during these wintry mornings – I need to improve my stamina!  but my latest running partner (another mum with dog during early morning seminary) will be teaching seminary (in the absence of the teacher for surgery),  so I’m not sure whether to go down to the park to run on my own… it’s quite light in the mornings now but it’s a big grass and woodland area.  There are other runners… I’ll think on that one.

image
View on my typical early morning run

Finally, to international women’s day, that this is, I can’t say I’ve done anything particular but I did decide (yesterday) to go to the LDS women’s conference on Saturday – I didn’t have much choice,  my mum declared she wasn’t going if I wasn’t!  I also thought on how if we don’t support such activities and conferences, they won’t be organised. It simply means a whole Saturday out… at least a friend is driving this year (it’s towards London).  The workshops do look quite interesting and despite my cynicism, I know I will enjoy the day, and probably meet some old friends.  

After all this,  I recognise that our family is greatly blessed by our Father in Heaven.  I am very grateful for where we live and the time we live in and the opportunities we have.  A different place,  a different generation,  and we would be living very different lives. That goes for all of us.  Take care. 

the small car, the smaller phone

Dear friends

So our small car broke down a couple of days ago.  It’s legally my car but my dear husband uses it to get to work – I use it when I’m chauffeur (for the children) and to get to/from church on Sundays (or another day if necessary).  Last weekend, when I noticed something electrical not quite work … maybe the interior lights – and I said to the children – I hope this doesn’t break down on my shift!  Fortunately it wasn’t.

My dear husband drove to work in small car, dropping off in town myself and our daughters for work and school respectively, and all seemed well.  The day before I had noticed the car not start first time when I was driving back from early morning seminary with Daur1 who mentioned, “sometimes it does that with Dad.” [Me] – ” Really?  He’s not said anything to me.”

However, after the design team meeting I returned to my desk and almost immediately my private mobile rang – it was my dear husband.  Since I was still speaking with a colleague I picked up the phone, ready to go out to call back, and he rang back again, and again.  Sensing some urgency, I headed out to the main stair and called back.  (I really need a new phone since the person at the end can’t hear me unless I put it on loud speaker and I’m not doing that in an open plan office!)

Did you get my messages?  The car won’t start – I’m getting a taxi to the [girls’] school, the girls [our daughters] are still there!

My response (as I notice 3 or 4 text message notifications…)

Oh, sorry, no.  I’ve been in a meeting all afternoon.  My phone was on my desk.

There was some discontented words about how I can never be reached via my MOBILE phone in an emergency.  I felt that was a little unfair since if I were a surgeon, in an operation, I would not be expected to pick up a call.  Also, what could I actually do, except maybe, go to the school now and pick up the girls.  My dear husband’s feeling of being unable to communicate with the women in his life at such a crucial moment was further compounded by the fact that Daur1 has mislaid her (well, my husband’s) old mobile phone.  So, they were also incontactable!!  (is that a word?)

“I’m sure they’ll wait for you,” was all I could say and he rung off.  I called Son1 at home to let him know why they all weren’t home, in case as a 17 year old boy he was concerned for the whereabouts of his sisters (!) – [Son1] “Oh yeah, Dad called.”  {As it was, a neighbour friend whose daughter attends the same school saw them waiting and brought them home – and contacted their Dad to let him know, that must have been after we spoke, but I didn’t know that until I reached home}.

You might be beginning to get the sense of how laid back the rest of us are, compared to my dear husband, about the need (or not) to have a mobile phone permanently fixed to our bodies so we can be contacted every minute of the day.  This is one of the areas of opinion that my dear husband and I do differ on – why not keep it in a pocket?  I don’t really have pockets in my skirts/ dresses/ trousers!  I thought it was a generational thing but we’re both of a generation to remember when mobile technology of any sort was not ubiquitous… after all, we both pay phones during our university days.  Maybe it’s actually a gender thing… mmm… in which case, there’s little hope for me!

The small car is still sat in a school car park on the other side of town. 😦  It’ll be safe, I’m sure.  Fortunately, I did renew the corporate car recovery service at the start of the year and I’ve emailed the number to my dear husband since he will take charge of its recovery!  I was told they tried to jump start the car, but nothing.  We’ll see if the school has activities on Saturday morning so we can call the RAC out – what fun! – that’s probably a new battery or some other part to be bought.

We’ve begun making contingency plans for Sunday – I should check the weather, maybe we can walk home from (my dear husband always has to stay later than us at church for commitments after the meetings and lessons finish), it’s less than an hour and downhill all the way – we’ve done it a few times before when we were not fortunate to have a car, let alone two cars – the children are much bigger and it’s not fast Sunday!  Time for me and the children to bond!

time for posts

Dear friends

This is a little unusual.  The house, apart from me, is empty.  My dear husband and dear children all have some activity at church this evening and since our small car broke down today (I’ll explain in another post but I don’t want to complain… let’s simply say, I’m glad it didn’t happen on my shift!), they’ve all headed out in the big 7-seater – and I’m home alone!  This is a rare thing.  I also, do not have any paid work to do – I worked a full day in the office (being dropped off by dear husband with our dear daughters at about 0815h – Son1 did the school run for Son2 today) and I finished assessing last Saturday all the log books which I’ve received to date (that’s my second home work job for a local university).

So, I can indulge myself in Wordpress, blogging, reading posts, you and me, at least for another hour or so until Son2 is dropped back home.  Rice is steaming, ready to accompany wonderful African sauces, including egusi prepared by my dear husband yesterday evening – yummy!  This moment is bliss.  I’m even on the laptop which means I can type faster than when I post from my tablet.  🙂  I’ve prepared a quick list of topics in my hard journal which have been mulling around my head the last few days – storm naming (Storm Imogen reached us Sunday night – what a noise!!), US presidential election (I’m fascinated with watching this from over here but I’m guessing for my US readers it’s either starting to get tiresome or interesting?), LDS women (there’s a few conferences and things that we’ve been invited to, I won’t go to all of them but I’ve some thoughts about being a (?an) LDS woman, a 2.3 mile run yesterday morning (yes, 2.3 miles, rather than 2.3km!), but I’m going to start with a work related topic, a design team meeting…

a thought on work

Dear friends

The scaffolding has been coming down on one of my projects, we’ve been on site about 18 months, with another 3 months or so left, and finally we can appreciate what legacy we will leave for the city. It’s quite exciting – I’ll post photos in a different post.

Leaving site last week I felt a renewed excitement, for my current job. And for projects I’m currently working on, at design stage.  I also began thinking on why I initially wanted to work on public sector projects, like schools.  Because with public projects, I feel a responsibility to design and deliver the best for the whole community. The challenge is its funded by the community, by government funding, from our taxes.

Meanwhile, I submitted the planning application for a new school building on the east side of town.  This is a little controversial with locals since it’s proposed on a disused playing field used, by some locals, as a dog toilet and bus shortcut through the broken fence.  I feel we’ve given some valid reasons why it should be developed for the school, which is expanding.  We’ll see if the planning authority agrees in a few months. 

We’re having an architectural team management meeting in Starbucks or Costa, or similar!  Three of us 🙂  it’ll be a welcome respite with my two senior colleagues that I’ve been with for over 8 years…  (Later…) we had our meeting (Costa) and I felt decidedly guilty as our team leader said he saw the team moving forward with us three… that was not the time to reveal I’d updated my CV and am looking for a new job…

dressing

Dear friends
A conversation from earlier this week…
Me: (excitedly) I almost bought a new work dress today!
Daur1: Really? What was it like?
Me: Black; straight, sort of bodycon style, kind of thick fabric, but not tight, short sleeves, down to my knees, fit really well…
Daur1: So (raising eyebrows) like the other dresses you have?…
Me: No!! My other black dress swings, skater style!
Daur1: And the other one?
Me: (thinking) oh yeah, black, bodycon, but it’s longer…
Daur1: (walking away with a sigh) Same dress!!

So why is it that I almost bought a new dress that looks like two other dresses in my wardrobe?  I think it must be that I’ve reached that age when I know what looks good on me – black, slimming, dresses – and what doesn’t.  The reason I didn’t buy it?

Well, my problem with clothes shopping is that I need to know I have found the best buy – not necessarily cheapest – the best for me. I am not an impulsive shopper – unlike my dear husband – so I am happy to go to several shops before coming back to the first to make my purchase.  I’ve always been like this, I think it stems from growing up with little money… though even my dear mother is impulsive.  Back in the summer I took her grocery shopping and we left the shop with summer dresses for her granddaughters plus all the shoppings!

The dress was a lunch time trip, so I’ll take another look around another shop or two, do some more mulling over in my mind. And then make the buy.  Mmm… I think it came in pillar box red… do you think that would look good for work? 

PS – I’m going to try a few more photos with my posts… so here’s the dresses… with my blue Aztec skirt and green jumper – I do wear items of colour, and I think blue and green can go well!!

image

blogging… et al

Dear friends

I’ve been having a bit of a blog designing session – and it’s all left me feeling exhausted.  It began yesterday with Daur1 designing a blog logo/ banner and has ended with me trying on and off various themes to find one that I feel portrays me!  For a designer of buildings, I’ve found it difficult to get my head round why certain themes don’t do certain things and although there’s probably some add-on/ plug-in that can be done, I’m not into the technological aspects that badly.  I simply want it to be attractive, easy to read and navigate, and reflect a part of me. What do you think?

I return to work tomorrow after two weeks on leave so that is probably adding to the exhausted and stressed feelings.  Although, it is all change in a few weeks; the assistants will go back to university and we will have at least one new one.  And a couple of the projects were at feasibility and concept design stage so it will be good to work a little more conceptually while others are still on holiday.  Despite my moans about work, I do enjoy being an architect!

I’ve had quite a few thoughts about what I want to write about – there’s clearly the whole death of a lion issue versus death of a negro; I’ve been doing family history and have been thinking on how I bear the signs of yesteryear; a new shopping centre has received planning permission and it looks like another ship (I need to do a blog on how many buildings in our town look like ships).

I think I’ve shared this scripture before but it does seem very appropriate for all the eclectic thoughts going round my mind, from Mosiah chapter 4, verse 27, King Benjamin’s words:

And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

the pizza cutter lesson

Dear friends

I’m a fairly frugal person so I often feel I must justify a purchase, particularly for kitchen utensils. Why buy a specific tool when another tool will do the same thing, well, more or less?

But then, last week, in the supermarket I caught sight of the stainless steel shining in the light, the precision engineering of the blade and handle. It called to me, buy me, you know how the pizza edge crumbles under a knife and how hard it is to cut through the toppings…

So, we’re enjoying beautifully sliced pizzas and I regret not buying one a long time ago.  My own foolishness – thinking I was being smart but really living well below life’s great offering!  I’ve learnt my lesson 😉  This applies to everything – not just kitchen utensils!  Don’t do the same!!

ps – other recent utensil additions include stainless steel measuring cups & (separate buy) stainless steel measuring spoons 🙂 yes, I like stainless steel!! The ultimate kitchen utensil in my mind – which I might have to buy one day if I want to become more adventurous with food – a kitchen scale!!