Family Dynamics

For those who aren’t used to it, it’s kind of strange seeing your spouse interact with their whole family. With Jon’s granny dying, this means what limited family that exists out in the world is in the process of congregating in England. This lends itself to more familial interaction than I’ve seen in the nearly 4 years Jon and I have been together, basically, since our wedding day, which was the last time Jon’s immediate family was reunited. Jon’s brother lives nearby, and Jon’s sister flew over from Canada, so it’s been a full house these past 4 or so days! (Also, on a side note, Jon’s sister married a Canadian, Jon married an American….I think it’s fair to say the Norris children love North America. Can’t blame them, it is pretty awesome. Plus-we have seasons).

What has been brought to my attention is the sort of family dynamics that come to the surface when grown children are reunited, and how everyone seems to revert to…something. Obviously I wasn’t around when Jon and his siblings were young, but I can see whatever remnants remain when the three of them are together-the baby brother as the golden child who can do no wrong in the eyes of his parents, the oldest sister that loves to boss everyone around (sometimes nicely and sometimes not) and my dude, the perpetual middle child, fading into the background and taking the most flack, and responding to it all by either ignoring the whole spectacle, or coming back with a withering sarcastic comment in return.

It’s not exactly fun all the time, to be honest, because I’m an oldest child myself and I just end up sticking up for Jon in places where he either doesn’t give a shit anyway, or where he could defend himself better than I can due to his a) being related to those in question, and b) being more easily able to quell an emotional response (I am constantly a tightly-wound ball of emotion and rage, guyz). It’s just weird. And kind of stressful. Obviously I want to stand up for my partner, but it’s hard to do so and so fully insert oneself into someone else’s family dynamic. Especially when, let’s be honest, that family doesn’t all get together very often at all. And also, most of it isn’t worth arguing over. But that’s family, isn’t it?

Maybe it’s just because in my family we all either chill out or yell at each other. We’re equal opportunity fighters! There is no sulking or even any awkward silences. If you have something to say to someone, they will, no doubt, have something to say right back. No need to defend anyone because they are there, defending themselves, or at the very least spouting off their  (usually pretty strong) opinions. No wilting flowers from whence I came. And I think that making a new place in a different family brings all this to light, because everyone’s place is so easy to see. Another family’s dynamics, of which I am now a part. Hmm. Something to get used to.

 

And then there are times when everyone is around and we play scrabble together and enjoy each other’s company…..that’s pretty cool. So…family! In-laws!

the gymnast, high above the ground

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Today I am grateful. For family and for love, for food in my belly and a good book to read. Friends near and far and an amazing partner in life who makes me laugh and keeps me company and makes me feel wanted. Cute dogs. Good tunes. A roof over my head and some money in the bank.

This morning Jon’s grandma died. She was a sweet old lady of nearly 90 glorious years, and will be dearly missed, and her passing has brought up all these feelings and thoughts that I can’t find the energy to articulate at the moment. Thoughts of generations living together, and the things that we owe one another; what it means to be elderly today and what will happen when Jon and I’s parents grow old; what will happen to my family if I live overseas as  they get old (and heaven forbid, sick). What it means to be a family and how intrinsically, deeply connected we all are to one another, whether we always remember or not, whether we see each other consistently or not. Family ties, in all their glory and strife and sorrow. And it makes me think of my grandmothers, both long gone now, and how much I still wish they were here to talk to and guide me. Because I don’t know if there is a day when I won’t need their guidance. I miss them. But mostly my heart hurts for Jon’s family, and their loss of a really great lady who I never really knew at her best, and most of all for Jon’s granddad, who, after all those decades of marriage is now facing an incomprehensible loss.

Please love each other.

Thinking of…An American abroad at Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is that most gluttonous and delicious of American holidays….Thanksgiving. And while it won’t be my first one away from the family back in Ohio, that doesn’t necessarily make it easier. English folk (and non-Americans, in general) don’t seem to understand the reason behind this day, and it can be a little hard to give a good reason for it sometimes.

“So you just…eat? Is there anything else?”

Well, yes. And no.  You also spend time with your family, and talk about how you’d never shop on Black Friday/how you can’t wait to shop on Black Friday, and discuss the things you are grateful for, and what your plans are for the December holidays, and watch the Macy’s Parade and alllll the football. You don’t actually ever mention the historical parts of Thanksgiving (coughcough) and you spend most of the day in a food coma on your mom’s couch, drinking all the wine and waddling back to the table every few hours for another helping of leftover pie or stuffing. You may or may not have your first viewing of “A Christmas Story”-because after you eat, it’s officially Christmas time!

It is lovely. And I hate missing it.

This year is the first time since our Korea days that Jon and I will be together for Thanksgiving, and it is our first as a married couple (we were married before Thanksgiving last year, but we were not in the same country in November, so it doesn’t count). Somehow Jon got time off work for Thursday and Friday, but because my work has been so sporadic, I didn’t want to ask for it off. Therefore, I’ll be working away. However, Friday will find us at the home of some friends who are also half American-half English, and understand the importance of Thanksgiving, goshdarnit! So we’ll be eating and convalescing at theirs. I will bring the stuffing, the green bean casserole, and my special jalapeno-cranberry cream cheese dip (it is delicious).

But I will be missing my people. Believe you me.

mom, niece, sister, me: Thanksgiving 2011

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I know I complain sometimes, but I’ve got a lot to be thankful for-and I hope you do too.

Ohio flashback: Kingwood Center in Mansfield, Ohio

I can’t believe this was so long ago now, but looking back at these pictures of our visit to Kingwood Center in Ohio I’m reminded of a lovely day wandering amid late summer greenery with my husband and my mom, and that’s pretty cool. In comparison, today Brighton was blanketed in the thickest fog you’ve ever seen. It was eerie and seasonally appropriate and summer could not feel further away.

Jon made friends with all sorts of birds, strangely enough. Ducks and peacocks, and a goose or two. Even though he usually doesn’t have the best luck with birds…true story. He has multiple “attacked by avian beings” stories, and it’s weird. Apparently Ohio birds don’t hate him.

Ahhh romance…

Hi mom!

Nearly ten years ago I actually had some of my high school senior pictures taken here (non-American readers, those are pictures you take before graduating from high school. Everyone has them and they are cheesy yet awesome and soooo good to hold on to and show your incredulous future husband at some point). Another thing I can’t believe was as long ago as it was (whoa, that’s a messy sentence!)-high school, man. Ten years ago I finished it. What? Anyway, I had to recreate (sort of, ha) one of my senior pics in the actual spot it was taken. See?

Week 2 of CELTA is proving to be as exhausting as the first, with more and more piling on. One of the women in our class dropped out today. Gotta keep on powering through though….chug chug chug. And now, back to lesson planning…

Loved Ones

Oh, the fam. The thing about going to Ohio was that I saw more of my family in two weeks than I normally do in 6 months-wait, in this case 9 months. That’s kind of how we roll. But that also turned into everyone wanting lots of pictures, and what better place to put those pictures than this place of mine on the internet.

Look at how cute my niece is! And her hair is my color, which I love, and which my sister hates. I bought her a cool Viewfinder-type toy when we were in Paris in June. The pictures inside are all Parisian vignettes-the Eiffel Tower in the sun and at night, the Champs Elysee, Montmartre, stuff like that. I gave it to her while we were visiting and she kept pretending it was a camera and making us look in it. When we left, my sister told me that Ry continued to look into and exclaim “It’s Jon and Ashley!”. How adorable is that? Kids man…they’re funny. Double rainbow in Crestline! It seemed that the whole street ran out to see. I was disappointed to see that most just took a picture with their fancy phones, then ran back inside, undoubtedly to share their newly taken photo. I, on the other hand stood on the porch for a long time, until it went away. It was a nice moment. But then, I took a picture too so I guess I suck just as much as everyone else. 

Probably another contender for the Sheets-Norris holiday 2012 card:

The other funny thing about taking a trip like that is that so many of the pictures are ultra posed, to the point of ridiculousness. Like, a hundred of interchangeable pictures of me with my hand on my hip, cheesin’ like a fool next to someone I think is great. There is a particularly cheesy photo of Jon and I with my dad and stepmom in front of the piano, but I don’t know if they’d approve of it being put on the internet so I’ll refrain from posting it on here. Sorry dudes, it’s a total keeper.

And this, I love…

…Jon being weird while my niece forces my pregnant sister to play with her/pokes her in the eye. (And let it be known that I’m not posting pictures featuring my sister because she hates having her picture taken whilst pregnant so I’m sortakinda respecting that. There is, however, one phone picture of us that I posted over here).

Family, ya’ll.

Screw it, I’m posting the piano picture. Look at Jon!

Hahaha, it’s so great!

Ohio so far

Three days in and I am loving it.

Goodale Park Columbus Ohio

My phone says all these things have happened. I’ve drank beers and eaten delicious things, saw some bands and gone to two festivals. I’ve seen my mom, dad, stepmom, sister, niece, cousins. I’ve seen my friends. I’ve slept in a seedy hotel and driven on the highway and gone shopping at Target. It’s been three days. Ohio is the best. I love it here.

Easter lunch with the In-Laws

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Highlights: finding out that Jon’s grandpa shares a name with Don King. Seriously. I don’t know how I didn’t know that tidbit of awesome. Lime and mascarpone pie. Watching the old folks drift off to sleep intermittently post-meal, waking up to yell about young folks not being able to read because they have tv and computers (should I mention that the two of them are both nearly 90?). Yelling things repeatedly because Granny King is nearly deaf. Wiping Granny King’s lipstick off of Jon’s cheek, like it’s the 50s or something. Seeing Spud and Maxi again. I’ve missed those dogs since they left!

Non-highlight: the craptastic weather. Rain and wind. Lots of it. And then taking the cold train home to find our walk from the station to be even windier and rainier!

 

At last, we’re home now. I’ve already switched to the salmon colored sweatpants that Jon hates because my jeans we’re soaked. We’re camped out with our laptops and books and I’d say we’re in for the rest of the afternoon/evening. Tomorrow Jon’s back to work and I’m back to….stuff. Woo hoo bank holiday!