Not the most interesting of topics but something I should probably write about for those folks out there who take a mild interest in the lives of team Smedes-Riga.
Jem and I have worked from home for the last six years. Computers side-by-side in our tiny cupboard of an office, I have laboured away at translating everything from work contracts, architectural reports, banks' annual reports and web pages, but mostly art and design related publications for a local art publishing house. It's certainly been a learning curve and improved my Latvian language immensley, but it's never really been "my thing" - not professionally, anyway - just something to help pay the bills. I have spent a lot of time waiting for the day when someone will 'unmask' me - read a translation and say: "this is crap! you don't really know anything about translating, do you??".
Jem, on the other hand, has spent the last six years doing freelance design and web building work. In that time he has churned out a lot of good stuff - beautiful websites and CD covers, for museums and musicians and other interesting institutions which has required a lot of creativity and devotion on his part. For the last little while, however, it's been obvious that Jem is suffering from a touch of burn out - the constant demands of clients to have work done yesterday, clients who want the impossible, and clients who don't know what they want but aren't happy with anything you give them.
Working from home has been great in many ways, because we have been able to spend a lot of time with the kids and each other - and what we may have lost in terms of wages or owning a "work wardrobe" we have gained in family life and the freedom to set your own work hours. The only problem with this set up is that the work hours tended to stretch long into the night, and the family time always seemed to start with "I'll come and play in a minute, mate, I've just got to check my email/finish this sentence/talk to this person first"... Working from our cluttered home with no way to block out the shrieks and laughter of the kids has, at times, been trying.
So lately we've had a change. Totally by chance, a couple of months ago, I bought the local daily paper (which I don't do often enough) and spotted an job ad (in the news section!) that read like it had been written for Jem - working as a regional web coordinator for a local British institution. We decided that Jem may as well apply, and as it would happen, he got the job, out of 55 applicants from 6 different countries! Jem"ummed" and "aaahed" for quite a while before accepting, because the job requires quite a bit of travel, doesn't pay quite as much as we'd hoped, and means working from an office, which will impede our 'freedom' quite considerably. But all things considered, we thought it would be an interesting change. Jem starts this coming Monday - and his first trip to Warsaw is already booked in for the following week - so we'll see how it all goes. One thing that is already becoming clear, is that this economic crisis was bound to affect our freelance work, and that accepting a job at the time that Jem did seems to have been a good move for us already.
As for me - I've been being on a museum board for a year or so - a new museum that is yet to be built in Latvia, about diaspora Latvian communities and emigration from Latvia. I was quite involved in funding applications etc. while being a voluntary board member - and so when the offer of taking up the first paid position for the museum came up, I didn't think hard before taking it. This job is more along my professional line, it's part-time, and I can decide when to work - so I work while the kids are at kindy. So I started in December, and although lonely at times, it's much more stimulating and creative then the translating gig - which I have given up completely. In the initial stages I have to work from home, but the lovely Mara F.'s family have vacated their beautifully white, minimally furnished apartment in Riga and I get to work from there - so that I can put a bit of space between work and home, and dodge the clutter for a few hours. It's working out well at this stage, and as the museum starts to expand (we just got our first biggish grant for 30,000 euro!) I am hoping my level of commitment to the project will able to increase, considering the boys are growing up and will soon be going to school.
So that's it - the end of an era. Although I can see that these work decisions have been the right thing at the right time, I admit I have moments of feeling sad that we are both again working for "the man". I suppose it will take some time to get used to the feeling again - but we are both hoping that the fact that we can actually come home from work (rather than constantly being torn between being at home/being at work in the same place) will make it all worth it.

Thanks to Mara & Joel for the new dolls and thanks to Mara Francis for the boxes. The doll family are now settling into their new home.

Was it really ten years ago? That day in our front yard up on the hill? If you were there, your first memory is probably of the heat - I think everyone secretly hated us for picking the hottest day of the year to get married. Or maybe you remember the view - the gum trees and the Ipswich pink and dusky in the evening light behind us. Maybe it's my vintage frock you remember - my mum's wedding dress which had been altered? I'll bet you can't forget the Pullenvale old-time dance hall where we had our reception, and the power black-out which left us with lots of candles for mood lighting and a cold dinner. Do you remember what we said in our vows? Of course you don't!
What I remember is feeling pretty emotional when I said my vows (I might even have had a little weep... oh I think I did! That's right). I remember Ilma's speech quite well - the only religious bit of the service -when she quoted 1 Corinthians 13:4. I have a lot of respect for that passage and I have only learned to understand it over the last ten years... I remember having lots of people I loved at the wedding, and who helped out, including Leis who "threw together" a perfect bouquet from the flowers in a bucket I thrust at her 1/2 and hour before the wedding, and Mel pinning some flowers in my hair 15 minutes before! My mum and Maria were missing right up until the wedding started - because they had went down to the hall to put flowers on the tables, and all of the candles had melted and wilted - and they spent the next half hour laughing and rolling candles and putting them in the fridge to harden up again!
After the ceremony, I was so happy that I couldn't wipe the smile off my face (and I had been worried about how I would keep smiling for the photos!). Confetti in my hair. The celebrant pointing to where I had to sign.
I had collected old fashioned wide-mouthed champagne glasses from garage sales and op-shops for months beforehand, because I wanted one of those champagne towers (you know, where they stack 'em up and pour champagne in the top glass, and it trickles down to fill the glasses in the tiers below - just like in a tacky Whitney Houston video). The sad thing is that I can't remember if anyone actually built the tower??!! Anyone, anyone....?
It was so hot and my groovy vintage gown was so tight that I couldn't breathe. Jeremy looked quite dashing in his three-piece suit, as I recall. Jude's old Morris with white ribbons ferried us to the hall, which smelled of eucalyptus because of the big green wreath my godfather and I had made as decoration. We danced the Latvian "mugurdancis" as our first waltz...(or was it the "plaukstiņu polka"?). The pavlova for dessert was fabulous. I was so nervous during the speeches! My dad had concocted something wonderful about the Latvians and the Dutch and their struggle over Tobago.
Gerry, as the perfect MC, had a joke for everything, including making the guests raise their hands for "many hands make light work" when the electricity went out. I remember Oom Ton, who had been an electrician, scratching his head when looking at the antiquated fuse box, and Suzanne ringing the SEQEB emergency line to get a crew of electricians out to fix the problem...
The rest is a bit of blur to be honest. Through a haze - I was "stolen" (not exactly kicking and screaming), and sat behind the hall drinking beers with my captor. Pretty soon the evening was over, and somehow we ended up outside the hall, holding hands in a circle, singing "Pūt Vējiņi" - how did that happen? Who thought of that?!! It was a nice end to the night though.
I remember that my brother, who had flown over from Latvia for the wedding, walked home after the reception that night. There was a full moon and walking past all the fields and horses and nighttime cicadas must have been beautiful. When we got in the car that took us into the city afterwards and being so relieved that it was all over! And overjoyed that we were married and that we were about to continue our lives together in this new way.
So there y' go, there are some, but definitely not all of my memories of the 27th December ten years ago. We didn't celebrate wildly on that exact date this year - because let's face it, the 27th December is a really bad date to have a wedding anniversary. Two days after Christmas, three days before New Year's... so we are going out tomorrow night to have a champagne or two. Happy anniversary to us! Now are we ready for the next ten years? You bet!

Ok - So you might be wondering what the heck is a Rube Goldberg Machine (see sidepanel under Matiss' favourite things)? Well here is an explanation and an example. Will it work?


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