Sunday, March 30, 2008

Summer Time, Earth Hour, and Acupuncture

Today is Sunday and as usual it is thankfully a day of calm for both me and Brit Boy. We usually take a bit of time for ourselves on this day. For a couple of hours we split off and he goes to watch his football or something else sporty and I go online and read up on things and/or come to my blog here. Then we come together later and have something to eat and enjoy the view outside to our back garden. Then we may watch a DVD or whatever else we can find of tv and just slob out for the rest of our Sunday together. During these past winter months we have had only one complaint, the days are so short that by the time we finish “doing our own thing” it is dark outside and we both know that Monday is coming. Ugh! (smile) But still it is a good time with just us. Although today is that much better and gloriously uneventful, because today the weather is lovely outside right now. It is sunny here and there, so it has made me think that spring may finally be arriving. Also in the middle of the night/early this morning we turned our clocks over to British Summer Time here and so today is our first day of glorious longer daylight. (smile) And then to just make it even more brilliant, today the ice cream man came down our street a few moments ago with his happy tune playing to pull all of us kids of all ages out of our houses. Oh joy!! So I hope that all of this is a good omen to the great spring and summer times ahead.

I was going to post an entry yesterday, but I decided to do my part with the whole Earth Hour campaign and make it an all day thing as far as having my computer on. Next year I want to do more. Anyway, for those of you that missed it, Earth Hour was on yesterday, March 29th and it was an event to get people around the world to turn off their lights and conserve energy in a sort of rolling blackout across the planet at 8pm wherever you were. I know that can’t stop all of our energy issues that we now face, but I think that it is a great campaign of awareness. I also just think that it is cool that people on different continents were all working for a common cause despite borders to raise awareness and put practices into their own lives everyday to do better. They have already started a countdown on their website towards the Earth Hour 2009 event. If you want to have a look at their website, it is at http://www.earthhour.org. I have also placed a link to their site on the right side panel of this page. I am no environmental expert, but I hope to learn more. (smile)

I did have to go into town yesterday to have my acupuncture for my pesky back and hip. It was cool as usual. Karen the owner was there…smiling as always and there was a new acupuncturist there. She was filling in for the regular one. The substitute acupuncturist was very thorough and kind. She instructed me to lie down on my back instead of my customary face down so that she could do something about my sinuses. I came into the shop coughing a bit and she asked me what was going on. I told her that I am having a bit of a sinus flare up, so she said that she could help with that too. So I got my hip and back needles put in from the side and then my face turned into a pin cushion. She placed two needles in each eyebrow area and then placed a needle on either side of my nose. After she left me there, I wished that I had a compact mirror so I could see how freaky I must have looked with the needles protruding out of my face.(smile) I left as always feeling ten times better, so I think it has been a great help to me. When I first started going to get treatment, I shuffled in like an old lady because I was in so much pain. I can’t say for anyone else, but acupuncture seems to be the thing for me.

After Brit Boy and I left the acupuncturist,we were walking back to our car, and we were stopped by this guy dressed in jeans, a jacket, and cap…your average guy. He gave us this grand story about his girlfriend and how she had stolen his cell phone and had taken his wallet. He seemed desperate. He says she had left him stranded and he needed a few coins to put with what he had so that he could walk to the train station and get home to wherever he lived. He was very polite and I could write a page here just telling his story. Brit Boy and I both stood there and listened to his story. However, as I listened to him, I glanced at his hands to see if any funny business was happening. I didn’t want to be on the news with them saying that we got attacked over a few pounds. I guess you have to be careful and aware everywhere these days. (smile) So we played it safe. Anyway, Brit Boy and I looked at each other as he finished talking and I shrugged and handed him a couples of pounds. Then he thanked us and walked away and we walked the other way. Now, I know that he was a stranger to us and we all come across these situations from time to time. I like to think that he was telling me the truth, but then I am not naive and I know that he could have been not telling the truth, but that is not my thing to figure out. Maybe he was totally lying, or maybe he was sincere, who knows. The more jaded parts of us all, likes to imagine that this guy was a druggie or something else sinister, but I will never know. I just hope that the tiny bit of help that we offered this stranger helped.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Great Documentary

I forgot to mention in my Easter Monday entry that Brit Boy and I watched this intriguing documentary on that afternoon. There was a documentary that was shown on The History Channel called “Life After People”. It was fabulous. The program was about a look into the future of the planet after all the people are gone. It analyzed what the planet would look like and be like a year, five years, twenty years, and further so on, after there were no people left on the planet due to the humans dying out in one way or another. It examined how the landscape would change with no one here to maintain it and how animals would adapt. It also looked at how long different man-made structures would last over thousands of years. I thought it was very interesting that some of the oldest structures such as the pyramids and other stone structures from long times past would survive way longer than our more recent structures. It says something about quality I guess. And it is interesting that they say that our modern recordings of history may not outlast ancient recordings of history such as the hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt. The show was based on the speculations of what might happen, but it was still intriguing viewing.

The documentary has me still thinking after a couple of days and has given me some personal perspective on things. It made me see that a lot of the day to day annoyances that I endure will not matter as time passes and they will pass on into my personal history and that will be that. I also was reminded of how fleeting life is. And that man’s time on Earth in comparison to the life of the planet, is tiny. So I just want to enjoy my life and at the end to know how amazing it is to have lived.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hotels for Good Times and Rights of Way

Yesterday was a good day again. Here in England they have an extra Easter holiday on the Monday after Easter, called appropriately, Easter Monday. How cool. As far as I am concerned, any extra day that I get to hang out with my Brit Boy is a good thing. Well he is a cutie so how can I resist. (wink) So anyway, we went into town and picked up a few things that we needed. We were mainly going into town to pick up a gift for our nephew, who is having his birthday this Friday. We got that and then we decided to go and browse in the music store, but didn’t buy anything. We passed by the shop where we got our wedding bands and we always do this thing where we look into the window to see if the guy that sold us our rings is still there. We call our little game…wait for it…”Spot the Ring Guy”. He was hilarious and kind and I told Brit Boy that he looked like he would be one of those guys in one of those hip 60's detective shows with the closely fitting swanky suit. He is a guy of a certain age so I figure he must have been pretty cool back in the swinging 60s because he still has that air about him now. Anyway, he was cool. So the week after we bought our wedding bands two years ago, he wasn’t there for about two weeks in a row and we joked that he must have retired to some tropical island with the proceeds from the sale of our rings. Yeah right. (laugh) Our ring commissions would have possibly got him a nice pub meal and a trip to the movies. So after those two weeks he was back and since then when we pass by we always look in to see if he is there. It’s just nice to know that he is there…continuity you know. And he was so nice to us that when he does retire, I hope he has the best of everything. (smile)

After hanging around town for a bit, we then went to have a bite to eat. A simple bit of fish and chips and we were set. And then we drove home and took the scenic route. As I have mentioned before, we live in a small village and drive into a bigger town to shop and things. So we get the great pleasure of going through some of the greenest lovely landscape that you could ever lay your eyes upon. Lots of rolling hills, sheep grazing, and little cottages and it makes my touristy radar soar. I have been here nearly two years and I am more used to things here. But sometimes I release that familiarity and just put on my non-native cap and take all the beauty and difference in. I keep telling Brit Boy that we shall have to take some long walks in the countryside when the weather finally turns a bit warmer. They have paths along a lot of the fields that are public right of ways, so you can walk along the hills and across some of the meadows and soak it all in. He is keen to do it too. So when we do get a chance to take some walks out there, I will certainly post the photos here on my blog. I can’t keep all that beauty to myself. (smile) So watch this space for my photo love letter to the Wiltshire countryside. It is truly gorgeous.

In other news…after Brit Boy and I got back home, we decided to go ahead and book our hotel for our trip to London in April. We have a lot of activity coming up in the next few months that I will share with you here. In April, we are going to London for a long weekend to hang out and sort out my new visa. We are also going to the theatre to see a play. I will definitely share here in this space how awesome it all was. I love going into London and I love taking photos there, so I will be posting some of those photos here also. Then the next day we are meeting a new friend of mine for lunch. And the next day, we are heading to the immigration office to get my new visa. I will write more and tell about all of that closer to time. So anyway, the Brit Boy and I went ahead and booked our hotel online and it looks great in the ad. But I tell you, I always have a great time when we get to go to London, so even if it was a tent, I would be grinning from ear to ear. So here’s to booking hotels for good times.

Brit Boy and I will also have to be booking a hotel soon for our next trip into London after that. We are going to be going to…wait for it again….we are going to Wimbledon in June and we were gobsmacked when we got that news! We had to enter into a public ballot back in December and to our great surprise we got tickets. And the really, really cool bit is that we got CENTRE COURT!!!! We do still not believe that bit of luck. So now we are both just praying furiously that there is no rain. (smile) I will certainly be sharing that in future entries and letting you all know how it all went. The Brit Boy and I are doing our best to make the times as good as they can be these days, because we have been through a lot of bad things over the past two years. So it is time to live, love, and let the good times roll!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Weather, My Brit Boy and the Chav-Bucks

Today is a quiet day here. This weather has been chameleon-like all weekend. We have had hail, snow, strong winds, and ominous clouds….and yes, we have had little sneak peeks of the sun. And you might say as a girl raised in the southern US that I wasn’t accustomed to such strange weather. Well actually, we have quite quickly changing and varied weather there too, with your odd tornado warning thrown in here and there. I have even been stranded during a snowstorm in 1993 in March. So the little spring-loving bunnies had to burrow right back into their holes, pull the covers around them and say to their other wilderness friends, “Hey, wake me up when it’s safe to poke my head out again.” Oh by the way, yeah, I got stuck in a snow drift back in 1993, but I rocked it and saved myself and got out of there. (smile) Girl Power! So the weather in England hasn’t been such a terrible shock all the time to me, but I have to admit there have been some days when I stepped outside and thought to say to the wind, “Whew, hold your horses Mr. Freeze, remember….southern girl here. I have to work up to taking this hit.” Right at this moment it looks kind of spring-like outside, the clouds have rolled away and we are having some nice sunshine. And for the sake of being fair, I will say that even though some people may think that it rains 24/7 in England, it’s not true, and I have been a witness to some truly gloriously sunny days here and those are the moments that awaken my memories of back home. My mom used to love to get outside when it was sunny and tend her plants in her garden. So it always makes me smile.

I was thinking. I have mentioned my cute husband in past entries and have just simply referred to him as my hubby or my husband. Those are correct titles and all, but both names also don’t convey my humor-loving soul mate, that is my husband and the way we lovingly refer to each other. As most couples do, we have various nicknames for each other. So in that same vein of fun and humor that me and my husband share, I am going to from now on in my blog refer to him by one of my nicknames for him. He is fine with this, so don’t worry, I am not trampling on anything here. (smile) So my cute hubby will forevermore be referred to in blog world as “My Brit Boy” or just “Brit Boy”. He calls me his “Americano Girl”, so we play with our transatlantic bond. Brit Boy and I are best friends, so he will definitely show up a lot in my entries here. Therefore, he just has to have a name. (smile)

In other news, well, I mentioned the other day about the older lady next door who never speaks to us, but she surprised the heck out of us and brought our wheelie bin (garbage can) back to our door for us. I was so touched and thought that maybe it was a bit of Easter kindness or something taking over, so I wanted to pounce on it and take the opportunity to extend an olive branch to her. I wrote her a short thank you note on a nice card that I had and wished her a happy Easter. So I thought that there might be a chance that she may show up again here in my blog if we get to be more neighborly with each other. I haven’t seen or heard from her since I put the card through her mail slot, but I try to hold out hope. I’m sure she is a lovely lady. Therefore, since I am in a naming mood, I decided that she deserved a name here too. Brit Boy and I don’t know her real name, but we have affectionately called her Mrs. Doodah, because it is sort of a humming sounding word, so it brings to mind a light and airy thought. And whenever we do find out her real name, we can discard it easier than if we had just called her a more ubiquitous surname like Smith. I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone else, but hey, it’s one theory. (smile) I’ll keep you posted if we become fast friends. I hope so. Until then, Mrs. Doodah it is.

On the other side of us we also have some interesting neighbors for other reasons. Let me explain. We live in a small village in Wiltshire which is within walking distance of meadows and things. A lot of the houses here and in other areas in England are what they call a terrace house. So we share one structure with five other houses. Each house is separate, but they are attached to each other. Back home we would call this a row house. So Mrs. Doodah is at the end of the terrace and then we are next and then on the other side of us are our less than cordial neighbors.

Well, Brit Boy and I have had a few run-ins with our other neighbors. I guess that our stories are like many people everywhere who have run-ins from time with their neighbors, so we are no exception. They always seem to be nailing something or drilling something and it is always into the wall that joins with our house. Of course. Their house is the same size as ours and that isn’t tremendously big, but they do enough DIY on that house that you would think that they have a five story house. And we understand that in living this close to others you are going to have to learn to be understanding of others. So we have learned to live with it even though they decide to do the work at night or early on Sunday morning. I’m not even exaggerating here. And they are fond of deciding to have spontaneous parties with their friends late at night every once in a while, but I will be fair and say that that is not everyday, but just enough to annoy when I tell you what they have done to us. But still we try to play it cool.

So about a year ago, we had a fierce storm here and we had gale force winds and it blew our shared fence down. Well, we are renting our house currently, so we have to let the letting agents know when things go wrong so that they can let the landlord know. Therefore, we are at the mercy of paperwork when things go wrong sometimes. So the day that it happened, we were planning to go over and speak with our “lovely” neighbors, but they beat us to it. The lady part of this “fun” couple comes over with her cigarette in hand, and asks when we are going to fix the fence and had this sour expression on her face. This was like twenty minutes after it happened. She actually exhaled smoke into our faces on purpose at our front door. I told Brit Boy that at that point, I was ready to “go country girl on her”….take off my earrings, step out of my shoes and challenge her to a good old fashioned butt kicking on our front lawn. (laugh) But it was only a fantasy. I haven’t done that kind of thing since I was thirteen.

Long story short, we told her it was out of our hands but we would be reporting it. Finally, after a while, the fence was fixed. Thank God. But our lovely lady neighbor decided to call the letting agents and reported us for having a dog in our house because she thought she saw one in our garden when the fence was down. Get real. Talk about being nosy and a busybody. Our lease says we can’t have any pets and we definitely don’t have a dog, except a toy dog Brit Boy gave me when I arrived here in England. His name is Woody and Woody was definitely not cruising around the back garden hiding his bone. And the kicker was when the letting agents actually took her word for it and wanted to do an inspection. So we took things in hand at that moment and made sure we weren’t going to be bullied. We went to the letting agents in person and told them that we have a nosy neighbor who was fabricating stories. They saw reason and are now aware of our “concerned” neighbor and will ignore her in the future. I could tell you about more incidents involving them, but I won’t bore you.

So our trouble-making neighbors haven’t messed with us since and they had better not. Brit Boy and I don’t bother anyone and try to keep the peace, but we also aren’t suckers. Still, it is a little sad as a human being to try to be accommodating and overlook things in your neighbor and they won’t cut you any slack. I guess some people are just like that sometimes everywhere, whether it is here or back home. No country has a lock on all the good or not so nice people in the world.

If I ever have to mention these nosy neighbors next door, which I might, because even though they don’t bother us directly anymore, they are always there. So we call them the “Chav-Bucks”. Chavs are what they call people here who are what we would maybe back home call tacky people. They are loud and wear what they think are the latest fashions and way too much jewelry and act obnoxious. And we added the “Bucks” to the name because they wear all of their money around their necks in big gold jewelry, so they gotta have some money somewhere. (smile) Anyway, we don’t mean them any harm, but it just helps us laugh at all the past strife with them and we go on with our life.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Red Velvet and Good Fridays

Today is Good Friday and I remember what I was taught in Sunday school when I was a kid, about Good Friday. But whilst I still treat the day with well-placed respect, I just couldn’t help using a play on words here and say that it has indeed been a good Friday.

Me and my hubby have been lounging today for the most part. We did our venturing out into the town centre yesterday, so we stayed in today and listened to the wind whirling things around outside while we watched some movies. I always like days like this. Just me and my hubby sitting around not really “doing” anything, but just loving it.

We watched most things that we both wanted to watch and then this afternoon, my hubby fell asleep on the sofa next to me, so I grasped my chance to watch a nice melodramatic movie. The kind of movie that I would watch when I was a single girl, lying around on a Sunday, deciding to not get dressed, and surrounded by my potato chips and drinks. I love being married, but sometimes I miss being able to just slob out on Sunday and watch tv movies and graze on whatever is handy and not have to think about what I am going to cook for dinner. So I grabbed the remote and switch over just in time to see a good one. It was a romantic type movie starring Lindsay Wagner. I have always liked her since back in the day when she was the Bionic Woman. I was a little kid, but I used to run around outside acting like I was bionic too. I used to make the scraping sound that was the sound effect for the bionics in action when she ran. I was a full on Lindsay Wagner girl. So it got me feeling all nostalgic to see she was in this movie. I watched nearly all of it before my hubby woke up. I guess he was really tired. Anyway, he watched the last bits with me and even waxed nostalgic about our shared memories of those bionic days gone by. So he was cool with watching it. It proved to be a satisfying bit of nostalgia in many ways.

The weather was back and forth all day and couldn’t decide how it wanted to be. It was cloudy and then sunny and then at one point it even sleeted. It was very, very windy all day. Our wheelie bin or trash can, as we would call it back home, was moving back and forth, threatening to topple over. I have a bit to tell about our wheelie bin. Today was the day to have our garbage pickup and they came early today. Well, our neighbor, an older lady, did something great to start our good Friday. She actually brought our wheelie bin back down from the sidewalk for us when she brought hers down. And this was big, because she never speaks to us when we see her. We usually just shrugged our shoulders when she doesn't speak and go on with our lives. So we were truly shocked that she made such a gesture today. I am always a true believer in thanking people who are kind to me and I was truly touched by her out of character gesture. Despite some days that I have, I still believe that generally people are good inside. So I wrote her a note on a card I had and thanked her for her kindness and wished her a Happy Easter. I dropped it through the letter slot in her door. So that was yet another good thing about this good Friday. It really made up for Thursday that was not so great at all.

This evening, me and my hubby had our dinner, or “tea” as they call the meal here. We had a light dinner since we had pigged out on junk earlier in the day. We had a couple of potato skins with cheese, which got a bit extra brown, but they were still edible. And on the side we had a nice green salad. I also felt a creative rush and decided to top the salad with a tomato that I fashioned into a tomato flower of sorts. I will post a picture of it. Then for dessert we had some cupcakes that I made on Wednesday. I made really tasty chocolate cupcakes with chocolate sprinkles and red velvet cupcakes, which are my very favorite ones. Red velvet cakes and cupcakes are made a lot back where I come from, so making them here is my way of keeping a bit of back home alive in my new home here. You will see in one of the pictures that my Brit husband has come over to the red velvet side of things and adores red velvet cake too. He took a big bite out of one before I took the picture. Gotta love boys who like red velvet cakes on a good Friday.





Sunday, March 16, 2008

Atlanta Tornadoes and Rising Up

I just wanted to give a mention here about something that has been on my mind and is not technically about being an expat. This is more of an expat pausing to care, I guess. Well this past Friday night in Atlanta, Georgia they had a terrible tornado that whipped through downtown Atlanta and tore up my old stomping ground. I am originally from Georgia and was born and raised in the surrounding rural areas outside of Atlanta. I went to university and worked in Atlanta for a number of years, so I know Atlanta well. I have always had a love for the can-do spirit of Atlanta and the friendliness of the people there. Maybe it is some of that fabled southern hospitality, who knows. Anyhoo, Atlanta is a cool place. It has lots of cultural things to do and it has lots of funky little spots and areas with live music, art, shopping, and lots to check out. So it is a nice place to hang out. And I can't forget its rich civil rights legacy under the great Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. Therefore, it was so hard to see pictures online and on the news showing a part of what I knew in tatters. It seems that one of the major hits of the tornado was concentrated around the park and surrounding buildings where people were congregating that night. And it was so surreal to me because I used to work in one of those buildings surrounding the park. In the summer and spring especially, in order to get a break from the corporate air inside the building, I would go to the park or one of the other complexes across the way. It was just so strange to see where I spent most of my working life in recent years torn to shreds like that. There is a building right there that is a performance venue…an old converted church. That is where my husband and I had a date once before we were married. I am just glad that it wasn’t a worse storm. What this one did was bad enough. We are used to violent storms and tornadoes in Georgia, but you just don’t expect storms like that in a downtown area. I guess this is a lesson for me to expect the unexpected. :-)

A lot of people also either lost their homes or had their homes badly damaged in Cabbagetown which is an older area of Atlanta. So I just pray that people are able to reclaim their homes and be able to have a sanctuary again.

As an expat, I find that looking back sometimes helps with homesickness. However, when I look back I can’t help but see things through a different lens. It sort of feels cool though because I am into the experience of living in England, whilst looking back to home with a new perspective. I think that I appreciate the life in both places more. I can see them both clearly for what they are. It is cool to feel like you can call both places home. For me Georgia is my roots, my soul, my ancestors, my home…and England is the home that I share with my husband. And whether we stay here forever or for only a few more years, I will always feel this way. I don’t think that you can live a place for any amount of time and not have it leave a mark on you in some way.

I have great hope for Atlanta to rebuild as it always has. The symbol of the city, as seen on the city shield, is that of the phoenix and it is so appropriate. Atlanta came back in the past after being burned down in the 1800s and it will surely rise again after the winds of the tornado.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rural England and Ear Piercing

Yesterday was an interesting day for me on my continuing expat adventure. I had a bit of soaking up the English countryside here in Wiltshire. Wiltshire is the county in England where I live and it is fun when I am able, as an outsider of sorts, to look at the little things that are interesting about each village. The villages here have a way of reminding me of the little town that I come from back in the States.

I was out and about around Wiltshire yesterday with my husband. He had to see a client in Salisbury and I went along for the ride. I like going with him when I have the time or chance to go.

Along the way to Salisbury, we went through the village of Avebury which surrounds the World Heritage Site of stone circles there. It is a lovely quaint little place and it was one of the first places I ever visited when I first came to England. So it has a sentimental place in my heart. We passed by one of the shops and I saw in the window that they had a sign that said, “Save our Post Office”. This kind of sign is seen more and more around the villages lately.

Recently post office closings have been in the news a lot here. Many small post offices in England are on the verge of being closed. Some of the reasons that I have heard are that: people send loads of emails now and don’t send letters so much anymore; and there is competition to compete with private delivery services, etc. It seems though that a very important thing is being missed here. Small village post offices are a lifeline for people and are a quintessential part of life out here in the countryside. The post offices usually stock other merchandise and are a place for people to pick up things they need. And also post offices here are places that bring villagers together to socialize. So the post offices are a meeting place and are the biggest part of the day for the elderly who hardly see anyone else if they didn’t go to the post office daily.

As I have written before, as an expat, I am clearly aware of the differences between English life and my life back in America. Sometimes the differences are big ones and sometimes they are just slight little things. And then sometimes I find that even in the subtle differences there are grains of similarity between both places. I am often quizzed by people here about the differences that I see and it is hard to explain to them, without sounding like I am copping out, that even though it is very different sometimes, it is rather similar too. So when I think of this situation with the post offices here it makes me think of our little post office back in the small town that I came from.

I find that just like the post offices in villages here in England are often a meeting place for people, it was the same way back where I come from. I come from a tiny, rural place in America and the post office is at the center of the town there too. Many times I have gone there and saw someone either coming in or going out of the door that I haven’t seen in a long time or someone I just wanted to say hello to. And I see many people, young and old, doing the same thing. So when I hear on the news that people want so much to save the post offices in their villages in England in order to preserve the life of the places, I can relate. Also here in England, a lot of the elderly rely on the post offices to pick up things they need and to pick up their pensions. It is too far for them to venture into the bigger towns. So even though, I am sure that those in charge of things think that they are simply doing what makes business sense to them, I think they are missing the point in some cases. They are taking away much of the village way of life and as an American who didn’t grow up here and who can see so much now that I only saw in movies before, it is a shame that things are changing. But I guess change is inevitable.

Another place that we went through, called Wilton, is also a nice place. It is small and very English. On the sign going into the village, it says that it is the ancient capital of Wessex. So you know right then that the history is long. Wilton is also where the county of Wiltshire that I live in derives its name from. A lot of the time when I go through these places I am reminded of how old they are when I look at the narrowness of the roads. When we went through there yesterday, we went down this street and I remember thinking that it was only barely one lane wide. Well right ahead of us a car was passing through the narrowest bit and a man was walking down the sidewalk. The car was so close that he had to lean his body into the building in order to let the car’s mirror pass him and not smack into him. Then he just kept walking like he had done this a million times. That is what I like about going through these little villages, you get to see something tiny, but intriguing every time. It was a good day out to see rural England.

Today is a personal anniversary of mine. This is the anniversary of the day that I got my ears pierced when I was a kid. I told my husband that I remember consciously looking at the calendar on the wall and saying to myself, “I’m going to remember this day.” I think that I was just always a kid that liked to remember stuff like that in case I became a famous actress one day and penned my autobiography. :-)) Well, I grew out of the actress thing, but all those dates that I committed to memory never left me. Can you imagine the snowstorm of dates that are always whirling around in my head? Oh well, so here’s to my ear piercing all those years ago.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Acupuncture

Today I went to my acupuncture appointment. I usually go to this appointment on Saturday, but I had something else to do this past Saturday. Anyway, I went today and it was good as it usually is. The acupuncture shop is a tiny little storefront of a place within an enclosed shopping centre. Before I went there to be treated, I had passed by the shop countless times and had barely noticed it. I would always see Karen, the lady who runs the shop, sitting on a stool at the counter and reading a book. Her many herbs and remedies surrounded her on the eight foot high shelves. There didn’t seem to be that much activity going on back then. Or maybe I was just not passing by at the right time.

Anyway, I have to rewind a bit here. I was in a car accident at the end of 2006 and my hip was injured. Since then I have been going back and forth everywhere getting treatments. So that has been my life for over a year now and finally I am doing a lot better. I had a check-up the other day and I have come along nearly back to where I was before the accident. Although sometimes I get so frustrated at the slow progress of things, I only have to really think back to how it was in the beginning when I could barely walk. It was hard to think that I was only in my late 30s and I was seemingly falling apart. Every part of me hurt. So I try to look at things with a bit better perspective now and I see how really far I have come.

Okay, so anyway, on to how I was brought into the world of acupuncture. I wasn’t seeking out acupuncture at the time as I was seeking more Western treatments at that point. My husband and I happened to be in town picking up a few things. We passed by the acupuncture shop for like the hundredth time and this time we stopped to look at the signs they had in the window. There were various signs listing different ailments and what different herbs could do for you. Karen, the owner, saw us reading at the window and she came outside to greet us with a few leaflets in her hands. She asked me what ailments I was suffering with and I said, “So how long do you have for me to list them?” We laughed. To make a long story a bit shorter, I ended up being assessed that day and had my first treatment.

When I had my first treatment, this was during those days when I was in pain most of the time. I figured that I didn’t have a thing to lose in trying it. So I struggled onto the table. I have ALWAYS hated needles, but I was as near to desperate at this point as I have ever been in life. I have to admit, I did feel the needle for a tiny millisecond. But then I just chilled out and it didn’t feel anything like there were in fact 50 needles all over my body. A piece of cake it was. They put a heat lamp over my back and then turned out the lights and left me in this tiny little room face down with my body, I am certain, looking like a pin cushion. And I will tell you, that was the most relaxed I had felt in a long, long time. I don’t know when I fell asleep, but all I remember is the acupuncturist and Karen coming back into the room and waking me up. I was kind of embarrassed at the time, but now I laugh about the fact that they caught me fast asleep and slobbering a tiny bit. :-)) It was hilarious. Anyway, I tried to play it off by acting like I had an itch and wiped it away.

So after that first session, I was hooked. I have been going to have the treatments when the budget allows here and there over the last few months. And I must say that it has helped me. I can’t say how this will work for anyone else, but I do believe that the treatments have definitely taken the edge off of my pains.

Another treat of having the acupuncture is the good vibe of the shop. Like I said before, it is a little shop with loads of herbs stacked on the shelves. And the two treatment rooms are tiny, but it has such a good feeling. Karen is the owner. Karen is not her given name though. She is originally from China, and has adopted this Westernized name since she has been in England. She says that it helps her feel like she can fit in more with a name like that. I however, think it is kind of sad that she feels the need to fit in by changing her name. But I always try to respect what others decide to do. I don’t know her whole story so who am I to judge. She is so sweet. She speaks very good English, but I am always enthralled when I hear her speak in her native language to the acupuncturist who doesn’t speak English so well yet. They are both very kind ladies and they have been a comfort to me in many ways. Karen loves to talk and I love asking her about where she comes from. I guess we connect as one expat to another. When I have come in sometimes feeling homesick, she has understood and can relate. I think sometimes that we find what we need just when we need it in life. When I first went there to get treatments, I really needed physical help, but also I think that it was good for both of us to connect with another person far away from her home too. So in the end we help each other.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Wind Chimes

Being here in England, as I mentioned in my first entry, has made me learn about a world of new things. America and England have many things in common in day to day life or there are things that are quite similar, and then there are those things that remind you of the cultural differences. So it is intriguing to me when I get to experience something different from my life back home. I do get homesick sometimes and I have had bad bouts of this before, but I try to think about it as if I were able to talk with my mother and what she would say. Her advice to me, as it was right before I left America, and right before she died, was to enjoy every minute and really soak in all that there is for me to see. She knew that I was off on a journey and unbeknownst to us, she was about to go elsewhere too. So even though sometimes I long for the comfort of familiarity of back home, I am trying to embrace things here more. I admit though, I am human, so I am sure there will be some days when I may vent or just downright whine about things. :-) I just hope that whoever reads this will indulge me.

So on to what I have been up to lately. Well, my husband and I had a “date” this past weekend. We went to have lunch at this garden centre in the Cotswolds. The Cotswolds is an area of England that is renowned for its natural beauty and its amazingly picturesque golden stone houses. It is a beautiful corner of the world. There is a slower pace of country life there and it is just nice to take a breather there. Much of the charm of the area is its connection to nature and natural beauty, so of course a garden centre is not at all out of place there.

The garden centre was lovely. I don’t know how they compare to those in the US, because I have only been into a couple back home and I was in and out in a flash. I have rediscovered my love of plants of late. When I was a kid, I used to follow behind my dad as he planted our big gardens and I would drop seeds into the earth. I remember loving the smell of the freshly turned earth and the feeling of the coolness of it between my toes. I was quite a nature girl when I was a kid. Then my dad died when I was twelve and I sort of dropped all of that stuff. My mom was a keen gardener and could nurse a twig into a huge vibrant plant. After she died, I did my best to water her plants and prayed that they wouldn’t die. They lived and now they are in the care of my sister.

So my husband and I went to this nice garden centre in the Cotswolds and had lunch. We each had a cheese sandwich and few french fries or “chips” as they say here. The lunch was nothing glamorous, but it was simple, fresh, and good. They have a conservatory or what we would call back in my neck of the woods back in the southern US…a sunroom, where you can sit and have your lunch. It is really nice and bright and airy. It is like having your food outside, but thankfully we were inside, because it was freezing outside. :-)

After we had our lunch, we strolled around and looked at everything. They of course have plants here, but they also have a deli-like food section and a gift section. I wanted to buy everything they had in the food section, just to try it out. It all looked so intriguing and tasty. We settled though on some cookies or “biscuits” as they say here. A lot of the foods that they stock are locally produced so it is very much in line with the green movement we all have to take notice of these days. It seems to me that our current environmental concerns are in some ways a wakeup call to get back to basics.

We then wandered over to the gift section and into the house wares section. The stock was really varied and there were many things I would have loved to take home with me. In the end, we walked out of there with a lovely wind chime. When I saw the wind chime, it reminded me of my mom. We both loved wind chimes and the sound makes me think of the air and life and the outdoors and of growing up back home. I grew up in the country and it was wonderful and now I am in the country in another country, so talk about coming full circle. :-) Since I see the sound of a wind chime as the sound of air, I move it around here and there, inside and outside to have all that good around me. Here is a picture of it. And since I am writing about gardens today, here is a picture of the first signs of spring in our garden…the daffodils are blooming. They have been frozen with each new frost each morning as we nudge slowly into spring, but they still keep lifting their heads. When I look out at them each day, it just reminds me of how we have to keep our heads up and keep going every day.




Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Beginning

Today is March 4th and I thought that this day would be as good as any to write my first entry to my blog. When I say the date to myself, March 4th, it makes me think of marching forth with things, so why not with creating a blog. So here it goes. I have wanted to start a blog for a while in order to document my time living abroad and also as just a way to gain some perspective on my experiences of adjusting to a new life in another country. While this is an interesting experience, it has also been a time of feeling like I have had to learn things all over again. I have spent months asking my husband to explain…”who is that?” or “where is that?” or “what does that mean?” I tell you, it has been like being a toddler sometimes. I am a reasonably intelligent woman, but being out of your comfort zone can be very humbling and it has made me feel plain stupid sometimes. I guess that as they say, sometimes being smart depends on where you are standing at the moment. :-) I laugh about it now, but it wasn’t always that way.

I laugh a lot more now than I did when I first arrived here nearly two years ago. I have had a hard time of it over the last couple of years. I lost my mother suddenly, a few weeks before my wedding and it devastated me with a capital “D”. I was crushed and I basically zombied my way through my wedding just to cope with missing her. My father died when I was a kid so I felt sort of lost and orphaned. It was a strange sensation. But the thing that made the day a joy as much as it could be was that my guy and I were getting married. We had waited a long time to be together so the calm of seeing my guy's face within the whole blur of things after my mom’s death, was peace to me. It was great that our family members were there,and I am thankful for that, but my mom and I were so tight that no one could have truly lifted my spirits that day, but her. She and I had been through so much together leading up to my getting married like you wouldn't believe, so she was the only one who could understand how I felt. :-) It had been a very long road for me and her. I was just wishing the whole day that she could be there with me and my husband to share in the beauty of it all after months of anguish. And the usual wedding anxiety had nothing on the stuff me and Mom were finding our way through. My only consolation that I can see now, nearly two years later, is that at least with all of that turmoil, and the waiting around we had to do, that I got to know more things about my mother and her life before she was married and right after she married my dad. We talked a lot. Even though it is still hard to think about things sometimes, bit by bit, I am just putting my focus on the bond that we shared in the last months of her life.
:-)

So on me and my guy's wedding day, the church was flooded with this golden light that streamed through the windows and it had never looked so luminous to me before. I took this as a sign from my mom and dad somehow, that things were going to be okay.

My life has been quite eventful lately, not in a fun way, since I have been here, but it has given me loads to write about. :-) I have broken my toes and then I was injured in a car accident four months later to round things off nicely. :-) I am still rehabilitating from that little beauty of a car accident. Still I am glad just to be alive. My husband and I are like a lot of other couples in that we give names to things. So when it seems that gremlins are plaguing us with bad luck, we say it is the dreaded “cuddle gremlins”. The cuddle gremlins to us are anything that comes in and tries to ruin our cuddly fun or horns in and makes a mess of things. I tell you, with grieving over my mother, homesickness, and injury to deal with, I was a mess for a long while. But somewhere in there, the old “me” was still alive and kicking. This whole time I kept telling my husband that I should write all of this down and thought about creating a blog. But I never got around to it. I couldn't concentrate. Most of the time when I have been going through a lot of these trials in my life, I have just wanted to do nothing. Plus, I figured I would bum everybody out with my tales of woe. But I thought that I would include them here to contrast with where I am now in my life as I go forward with this blog. As I said before, today is March 4th and that to me means a day to “march forth” and pick up my life fully and run with it. I know that my dear mother would want it that way. She was and always will be my inspiration and she was funny. I miss her laugh and her smile. I can just hear her saying, “Get on with things in your life, it’s time!” So that is why I decided to at long last start my blog and get on with things and march forth. :-)