Tag Archives: changes

New Beginnings

A year in time is both vast and tiny. I can’t say the past twelve months were entirely good, but neither were they fully bad.  No year is ever all one thing, so to try to sum one up with weak generalities is futile.  That doesn’t mean I won’t try, though.

Truth be told, I love any excuse to analyze what we’ve done and plan ahead for what we’ll do.  And there’s nothing quite as effective at making you reflect on the past than the future looming ahead with blinking neon lights to mark the passage of time. 

I’ve been angrier in 2017 than I remember being at any other time in my life.  I’ve been filled to the brim with rage at the state of the world and the state of my country and the willingness of everyday people to let bad things happen.  But I’ve also been engaged and excited and hopeful and it’s made me remember that it’s important to look at the world outside my own home and interact with it and that it’s my job as a human to be involved in humanity.  I’m grateful for the lesson even if I don’t love the way it was delivered.

It was a year in which I found an old version of myself buried inside and let her out.  She argues more and is less likely to be quiet just to keep the peace than the me that developed over the last decade of contentment and motherhood, but she’s more authentic. 

It was a year in which I remembered priorities I had forgotten.

I’ve watched my children grow and change too.  They also have a new perspective on the larger world and politics and their role in it all.  I don’t regret that for a minute. In fact, I’m grateful for it, because their future involvement in the world around them is being shaped right now and I doubt this is a lesson they’ll forget.  We’ll all move into 2018 with a newfound sense of the importance of being a participant. 

So, while in many ways 2017 was just an awful, terrible, horrible year (politically, globally), it was also a year with beauty and happiness and adventure and love (personally). 

We spent another year in England – our last full calendar year here.  We settled ever more into our lives here, but, strangely, always with an eye on the fact that it couldn’t be permanent.  As we’ve made more and more friends and connections within England, we’ve also said goodbye to American friends we made here who have gone back to different corners of the U.S., their own English adventures over.  Those goodbyes only served to highlight the truth that this is some sort of crazy three year vacation we’re on and that the end is, sadly, nigh.

As ever though, we’ve worked to ensure that our grand adventure is not wasted, although I think the pace of our travels has slowed as our involvement in our local life has increased.  We skied in the French Alps, trekked across Ireland with my parents and Austria & Germany with Matt’s, explored Normandy, and lounged on the beaches of Menorca.  We traveled back to the U.S. twice in six weeks in August/September and visited friends and family that we miss and saw my baby sister get married.

We’re looking ahead to a year of even bigger changes.  We’ll move back to America in the summer, but not to the house my kids all know as home.  Not even to the same state. Instead we’re heading to Massachusetts, to where I grew up.  We’re starting anew again as a family, but for me, I’m heading well and truly home.  No matter how sad I feel at the thought of saying goodbye to the adventures we had in England and to the life we built from scratch in Virginia, none of that overrides the joy I feel when I think about going home. 

My biggest challenge in 2018, I think will be to give the first six months it’s fair share of attention.  My tendency to live in the future is one I’m already trying to overcome; I want to be present and enjoy our last few months in England, but my brain keeps skipping ahead. The football and hockey and cricket matches and the school play and the day-to-day will help me, I’m sure.  The kids see six months as a lifetime away, so I’m trying to look at the days from their point of view.

My resolution then for 2018 is to try to enjoy each day and week as it comes instead of looking too far ahead. 

The new year is, as always, just a symbol – there’s no real difference in the turning over of the clock on December 31st than there is any other day of the year.  But symbolism is important.  I need that kick in the pants to wake me up, to force me to examine what is important and to help me determine where I should focus my attention.

I hope you’re saying goodbye to 2017 with some sense of peace and happiness and looking ahead to 2018 with more of the same.

Happy New Year!

The Last of Everything

We’re back to school here and settling in to the lovely routine of fall and sports and activities.  The lazy days of summer stretched out for what seemed like ages, and we soaked up the slow mornings and relaxed schedules and late bedtimes and weekend trips.  But by the end of August we were all ready for the hustle and bustle to return; even relaxation gets old if you do too much of it. 

But even in it’s welcome familiarity, this school year is different.  It’s our last here in England.  I feel it more deeply than the kids, I think, for whom the last two years seem to have been a lifetime.  I know how quickly the next months will go by.

I’ve already started my morbid tendency to memorialize the “last time” we’re about to do anything.  And this year makes it so easy.  This is my last September in England.  I’m strolling around my garden, saying goodbye to September roses and apples on trees and conkers – those most British of garden friends, little spiky balls that kids pelt one another with and which supposedly keep the spiders out of your house.  Every school event is our last: the last autumn cross-country season, the last back to school night with a wine and cheese bar, the last hurrah for all of it.  Events and traditions that were so foreign to us just two short years ago have so quickly become near and dear; my heart is already sad to let it all go.

We don’t have to leave, really.  Matt’s job will still be here, we could keep on with the grand adventure.  But all good things must come to an end, and we’re choosing a new adventure, albeit somewhat reluctantly.

There are things we miss about home that will make returning worth it.  But we’re new people now, we’ve changed in ways I never anticipated, and our lives are better for having lived somewhere new and different and foreign.  We won’t be satisfied going back to the same old thing we left behind.  And so the challenge will be to create a whole new life, with equal parts America and England, to find the balance between what we missed while we lived away and what we learned to love even more than anything we’d known before coming.

But first, this last year.  I’ll fight my natural inclination to live in the future and do my best to be present.  I don’t want to take away the joys of actually being here, not from me or Matt or the kids. 

And we’ve got big plans to finish — the ever-growing and changing list of places to see remains a work in progress, but with a much more limited time frame in which to accomplish it all.  Plans are constantly in the works, reservations being made, suggestions added and reality ignored for the most part.  There’s no way to do everything we want, to be honest.  And so, we say, we’ll have good reasons to come back and visit.

With the autumn well upon us here, and football for the boys and hockey for Bridget and turning leaves and holidays and half-term trips, this beginning of the end is upon us, and it’s just up to us to make the most of it.

Comfort Zone

latte artWhen you’re completely out of your element, you search for the familiar anywhere you can find it.  Even the smallest of daily tasks can be daunting — grocery shopping, putting gas in the car, driving.  I don’t know how it happened, but Starbucks became my comfort zone in the first few weeks here — at least I knew what I was ordering and how to ask for it there.  Starbucks, thank you for being the same in England and in America. 

Although it’s getting easier, just over a month in, food shopping is the most intimidating and mentally exhausting exercise in my week.  I don’t know where anything is, I don’t know what anything is, and sometimes I don’t know whether the things I’m looking for even exist in that store. 

Although there are more cream options in the dairy aisle at my grocery store than I’ve ever imagined, they apparently do not have half and half or sour cream in British grocery stores.  They DO, however, have single cream, double cream, and clotted cream.  When we arrived here, I did not know what any of those actually were.  (I’ve since learned, and clotted cream is an invention we really should bring to America.)

The first time I went to the grocery store without Matt (although I was accompanied by all four children, which does NOT make things easier), I came home with apples, salad, pasta, and bread.  It was all I could manage.  And we were in the store for over an hour.  At first, we couldn’t even figure out how to get a shopping cart (called a trolley here), because they were chained together.  A 1-pound coin finally solved that, but those few minutes of confusion were disconcerting.

It’s getting easier with time (doesn’t everything?), and we manage to get it all done.  I allow more time for everything — time to get lost at least once then figure out the right way, time to search every single solitary aisle in the grocery store because you can’t find sugar where you think it should be, time to stare at a row of chained-up grocery store carts until you see the tiny coin slot that will allow you to free one and enter the store. 

And time to stop at Starbucks so you can order a latte with confidence and have a moment of calm.

First and Last

The first day of school, 2014-15.

The first day of school, 2014-15.

We’ve successfully made it through another school year. B finished up 5th grade, G finished 2nd, O finished 1st grade, and Q completed his final year at our much-loved farm school.  It’s the end of an era.

Although this year was much the same as the one that preceded it — all the kids in the same schools they’d been in the year before, just a grade older — it truly is the last year of familiarity for us for a long while.

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