Thursday, 26 April 2012

communications and role models

Every week, unless he's been traveling or we've recently chatted on video-phone, my dad sends me an email. For the last three years or so I have kept copies of each one, although he's been doing this since I moved away from home.

My dad's emails, and letters, are usually in point form. I think he's getting more and more comfortable with email sending, because over the past few years he is getting more and more jokey in them. He also emails my brother, so sometimes we compare notes on the funniest things he's emailed. He's got quite a sense of humour and over the past few years he has discovered that he can actually express it in email, although sometimes he is just inadvertently funny.

From 2001 until 2011, when he passed away, I kept up a somewhat regular correspondence with my dad's brother, Uncle Ike. For reasons no one knows, but which I often ponder (and sympathise with given my own reclusive personality), he had not really spoken to anyone for years and the letters he wrote to me were a rarity. I find it really interesting to compare his long, prosy, descriptive letters to the short ones my dad writes. Their handwriting is a little similar, and they often write about the same things (what they've read, what the weather is like etc) but their styles are completely different. Then again, perhaps that is the difference between writing someone every week and writing them once or twice a year.

My dad's emails are as regular as clockwork, aside from the aforementioned considerations. Without fail, whether or not I've had time to reply to the one from the previous week (or weeks!) I get a new email each Tuesday or Wednesday (I think he still relies on my mum to actually get them sent from the outbox). When I phone home I mostly talk to my mum, and dad is good at sitting in on a video call but not actually setting one up/answering it so were it not for these weekly emails we wouldn't talk as much.

For most of my life my dad has been my hero, or something like that (I'm not really the sort of person to have 'heros' or 'role models'). I'm fortunate that I married a man who loves and respects my father as much as I do, because it means I've never had to compromise on my opinion. Even now that I'm an adult and can see people's weaknesses as well as their strengths, the fact that my dad is human doesn't diminish who he is in my eyes. He's always been a great father--he taught me my first acts of defiance (learning to stick my tongue out), let me make meals of chocolate syrup when mum wasn't home to stop me, and played endless games with me when he was not at work (sleigh rides, wheelbarrow rides, catch, board games, magazine puzzles). We share a love of books, religion, and history which is great, especially when we're on a family vacation as it means no one has veto power on those things.

The Baby is set to make its appearance in about three months. I keep wondering, and occasionally worrying, of what sorts of parents David and I will be. Both of mine are awesome (and listening to others' stories, I'd wager they are better than most!). The one thing I really hope is that the baby grows up to love and respect David as much as I love and respect my dad.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

an organisational evening

There’s lots that I probably should write about, like Christmas, my trip to America, and Easter. But for the first time in over a week I have a clear head and a burst of energy, so I’ve been organising things against the day when I am back to living in a foggy daze of exhaustion and lethargy. Jetlag is never fun. Jetlag when pregnant, easily exhausted, and working full time is a particular type of hell. It greatly impedes my ability to focus on anything other than need for sleep.

Tonight, however, something is working again in my head. Maybe it was the giant iced coffee and cream egg I had for breakfast. Maybe it was the two mile walk. Maybe it was even a reward for choosing healthy[ish] Chinese food (no deep fried stuff!) over greasy pizza when given the option of ordering take-out for dinner. But whatever it is, I managed to finally have The Talk (about finances) with my husband, which was then followed by a second burst of energy used for Organising Baby’s Stuff Etc.

End result? Well, it is always nice to have a mature and calm discussion about money, especially after an expensive vacation in America. I console myself over the cost by reminding myself how much things *would* have cost if our interests lay outside tasty but affordable food, mostly-free museums, cheap opera seats, and used books. As a North American, it seems a bit silly to have spent my big vacation for the year (or at least the only one I have planned) seeing parts of America, but at least the Europeans I know are jealous. And although I’m really quite distraught that it is unlikely that I will make it to France, Italy, or Croatia before Everything Changes, this is less for financial reasons and more because soon I will not be allowed on airplanes.

Baby-wise I’ve been itemising the Stuff Baby Owns list, creating a Stuff Baby’s Been Given list (complete with notes of which people will require thank you cards), and a Who to Notify How list so that when I go insane from lack of sleep and post-partum depression either my husband or my mother will be able to see that at one point in time I was a logical, rational creature who knew which people to call, email, or send post to. One less thing to figure out once the brain fog descends.

I’m pleased with the gift list idea, which I realise is not rocket science and has been undertaken on the back of envelopes at many a shower. I was never one to worry, much, over receiving an actual thank you card. I realise that there are people who, through no malicious intent, even through no intent at all, will take years to send out thank you cards, people who may never actually ever send that card. I know firsthand how difficult it is to get all the official wedding thank you cards out in a timely manner, and how absolutely frustrating it is when people start chasing up their thank you card when two months haven’t even elapsed and you haven’t even received the photos, which were supposed to go with the cards, until a month or so after the day... I get that. But what does bother me is when nothing is said—no in person, no email, no text, not even a facebook message, by the time month four (or so) rolls around. And I do try to be reasonable. It’s redundant in many circumstances to give an in-person or email thank you and then send a card. I like post, so when I hear nothing for the first four-to-eight weeks, I’m willing to assume that there’s a card in the mail and that you also hate doing things twice. Which is cool, because waiting two months for a pretty card is totally worth it. When we hit three months, I remind myself that overseas mail can take awhile and a three-month delay is not unreasonable depending on the circumstance (see wedding example above). But when we reach four months, or when it is something that obviously wouldn’t require a card but would require some acknowledgement, I start getting edgy. I blame the postman, if I shipped it. I wonder if your friends or family are secret thieves, if I left it at your house/event. And when I’ve exhausted those lines of external blame, I have no one left to blame but YOU.

This has happened to me a few times in too-recent-memory. And I’m certainly not trying to lay the blame OR pretend that I’m perfect at sending out what etiquette demands. I’m sure there are some sarky blog entries about wedding gift-giving etiquette that could probably make me blush with shame (and if you think I deserve to blush with shame, let me assure you, dear reader, that I could probably write the same sarky blog entry because people’s best intentions often get sidetracked. No excuse, but I’m going for the judge-not-lest-ye thing here). But I found the lack of so much as a facebooked thank you annoyed me a lot in recent cases, particularly as some items had been posted and I therefore had no idea if they’d arrived. As some important documents had been posted in the same post trip, I was plagued with worry that nothing had arrived (which would have had serious financial repercussions), and therefore had to do a dreaded follow-up in one of the cases just to reassure myself. So I am hoping that, thanks to my gift list, created in excel (because that’s what winners use), I will avoid becoming a hypocrite and will actually get things out before three months, or so, elapse. If you’ve sent me something, and you’re reading this, you’ve entered into a contract to give me three months. I can’t always afford stamps (seriously) or get to the post office (and since ya’ll live overseas I actually need to weigh the post before I can buy a stamp so yes, this is a legitimate excuse), and then it takes 7-14 days for post to cross the sea & continent so I don’t think three months is too unreasonable. And if you’ve given me something in person, and we’re close friends or family, chances are I thanked you then and you’ve forgotten now that I’ve gotten your blood boiling, thinking about people who never, ever, say thank you.