Cruising the Norwegian Fjords

One country I needed to cross off my list was Norway.  I’d been to the other Scandinavian countries and this was the only one I was missing.  When Chris booked a Fjord cruise for us, well, it was perfect!  It was a cruise we’d both wanted to go on and with a good deal – he couldn’t resist.  Travelling with an ex, of course, has a set of unique circumstances but not only is Chris my ex, but one of my closest friends and so we still really enjoy spending time together and doing one of the things we both love – traveling.   Since the divorce I haven’t travelled as much (except a really AWFUL trip to Iceland – that we never mention) and so I was really looking forward to getting away. 

The night before we left we dropped Sugar off at the new (fabulous) boarders and settled in to watch the best TV of the year – Eurovision!  That’s a whole post on its own.  We leisurely headed to Southampton the next day in time to board the ship around 3:00.  Even though I’ve cruised twice before, I don’t think I ever get used to how big the ship is.  When we first saw it, it was pretty amazing.  Since it was run by Norwegian Cruise Lines, I took for granted it was a Norwegian Cruise Line (duh!??!).  I was pleasantly surprised to find it was an American cruise line which made the ship even better – a cruise and a taste of home – perfect!  Chris got an unlimited drinks package in the cruise deal so we indulged in Pina Colada’s (non-alcoholic of course) and sat on deck in the lovely sun waiting for us to head North.  It really was a beautifully sunny day.  Its always fun and exciting to explore the ship.  Its like a maze full of restaurants, shops, arcades, and bars.  I always think I’ll never find my way around when we first leave, and by the end of the cruise you know where everything is.   This ship, The Jade, was FAR larger than the other 2 ships we’ve cruised on before.  It always takes me a while to acclimate to the rocking of the ship but I was pleasantly surprised that my sea-sickness was at a minimum during this cruise (except through some particularly rough sea).

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Our first full day was a day at sea.  I was fully prepared with a good book (what I THOUGHT was a good book), textbooks and notebooks full of study material for my final essay for one of my University classes that was due a day after I got home, laptop, tablet full of games, podcasts, and music.  I learned my lesson from being bored on the Marco Polo Ship.  This ship was excellent and was full of activities for all ages and things to do, but I was content to sit in the sunshine and watch the world go by.

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Our first port was Stavanger.  To be honest I had no idea what to expect.  I didn’t do much research like I usually do before I travel and was just going to take things as they came.  We decided to do our old favourite – the hop on hop off bus.  They crammed us on like sardines for the first route of the day.  After a sunny day at sea the day before, it only took one look up to see that on this day we wouldn’t see a hint of the sun… and we didn’t.  We had LOADS of rain.  Off of the bus we took cover in an old church, which turned out to be a good choice.  It was ornate and the alter was unlike any I’d ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot of old church alters after 11 years in England!). 

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We could only sit in the church for so long with so many other things to see so we braved the rain and headed out.  The village centre was pretty small so we just walked.  We looked at the market (full of tourist bait) and saw a circular building on a hill so we headed towards it.  At one point as we were sitting down for a rest, fortune smiled on me when I decided to see if there was a Pandora shop and there was one literally 5 steps from where we were sitting.  So of course, I HAD to get a charm for my bracelet (thanks Chris) and we continued on to the building on the hill.  Chris braved the cobbled street, but with my ankle I kept it safe utilizing the steps.  We arrived at the top to find… well… a circular brink building of no particular interest.  There was a plaque on it but neither of us knew why it was important – but there was a good view from all the way up there.  We headed back down the back streets just taking everything in. 

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Chris found where the bus stop was (I still don’t completely trust his sense of direction even though I REALLY should, 99.9% of the time he is exactly right and I am waaaaaaaay off).  We got on the bus and went and saw some older buildings…

**** I REALIZE I AM COMPLETELY VAGUE WITH THE NAMES OF THE PLACES WE’VE VISITED – IF YOU’D LIKE TO KNOW THE NAMES AND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE PLACES WE SAW, CHRIS BLOG IS GREAT WITH THE DETAILS OF THE TRIP – CHECK IT OUT (I’M REFERENCING IT AS WE SPEAK, UH, TYPE). ****

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We got back to the ship with a little time to look around.  Chris looked for some souvenirs and I walked down the street to take some pictures of the houses along the waterfront.  The tour guide said that the houses on that stretch of road keep their curtains open and have a lot of traditional decoration for people to see how they live.  I didn’t get that far down the road – it started to pour with rain again.

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As we sailed away there were people putting their heads out of their windows waving and waving flags.  It was a lovely send off!  We were headed to the fjords next.  This was one of the nights we ran into some pretty rough sea and even Chris suffered with some sea-sickness.  With such a big boat you could really feel it listing back and forth – it was a bit unsettling, but I never felt unsafe or in danger, just not my favourite feeling. 

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Nothing could have prepared me for the view that we woke up to in Skjolden.  We had an inside room, which means we have no windows.  Our first view is when we walk out onto the deck.  This day we walked out to this….

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When you looked up all you could see were cliffs, clouds, and green and when you looked down you could see…

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It was Norway’s National Day and there was a band and the village all came out to greet us dressed in their traditional clothing, handing out flags as we got off the ship.  It was a quaint, charming welcome!  There was no hop on hop off bus here, so we did an excursion from the cruise line.  We got on a coach and started the climb up the mountain.  Some of the roads were narrow, and looking at the sheer drop out of the window I had to remind myself that they do this all the time – still scary though!

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The church was closed to visitors because they were having services for the National Day.  The people were so friendly and patient with people wanting to take pictures of them.  When we got back from the excursion we still had half a day left, so we walked along the edge of the water to the village centre.  Everything was closed because of the holiday, but we got to see some traditional homes and just take in the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen in a LONG time.  As we travelled, throughout the whole cruise, I can see why there are so many fairy-tales and folklore about trolls centred around this area – its magical!

It was so calming cruising through the fjords.  They are unlike anything I’ve ever seen and the water is like glass.  Waterfalls are every where you look.  There are little homes dotted along the coast line.  It makes me wonder how people live and thrive in such remote places, but part of me dreams of living a life like that.   The ship continued to impress with is great food and really entertaining shows. 

The next stop was Alesund.  This wasn’t a fjord, but a port town.  We got on the hop on hop off bus and headed up to the top of a very steep mountain.  We had clear skies and usually we’d do the whole route once and decide where to stop, but we didn’t know how long we’d have clear skies so we got off at this stop.  The view was breath-taking!  The top also had some old WWII bunkers, which seems like a pretty good place to have one, but it surprised me that even in this place there were effects of WWII.

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We got back on the bus and went and looked at an old church and the graveyard.  Even though it was a pretty big town, it still seemed pretty small and quaint. 

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We found our way back to the ship with only a minor disagreement (okay a bit of an argument) about directions and I only bring this up because although Chris STILL thinks he was right, well I think I am.  But, if the past is anything to go by Chris was probably right because it was all about how to get back to the ship. We went to a grocery shop to look at all the strange and usual food and to buy more chocolate than necessary.

When we leave the ports there are so many thing to see and beauty to take in.  You don’t know what way to look or what to focus on.

Next stop – Geiranger.  We had to amend the excursion because one of the roads that we were supposed to go on was still blocked with snow.  That didn’t matter, I knew the minute I took a step onto the deck we’d be spoiled with scenery no matter where we went.  We got on the coach and continued up another mountain with some of the most hairpin, sheer drop roads, I’ve ever experienced.  I just kept thinking – the driver knows what he’s doing.  And he really did.  We first stopped at a frozen lake.  The tour guide said, as we were getting out of the coach, “Don’t go far out its very deep and we don’t know how thick the ice is”.” Ummmmm, okay.  This Utah girl was pretty steady on her feet in the snow compared to some of the other people and the view was indescribable.  It was a frozen lake, but the sun was shining, and at the same time the fog was rolling in.  Beautiful.  The coach parked next to the snow bank so we could see how deep it still was.  One of the things that surprised me was that just when you think that there could be no more liveable areas, you’d stumble upon another house.  It is crazy some of the conditions the people live in.  I cant imagine it!

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On the way down from the lake, we stopped to take pictures of the Geiranger Fjord.  It was spectacular (I’m going to run out of adjectives, I’m going to need a thesaurus soon!).  We went to the other side of the fjord and went to a road with 10 hairpin turns.  It was hairy at points!  We stopped at another look out where you could see the whole fjord and the seven sisters waterfalls.  Back at the port we stopped at the shop and tried reindeer jerky, took pictures with a massive troll and headed back onto the ship.  I went to find a coveted seat on the deck with the best view.  I finally got 2 seats at a table right by the railing and then had to go inside because it was such a nice sunny day that I was getting sun burned!  We were lucky on the trip that we had pretty great weather.  Several tour guides said how lucky we were and that the groups the day before couldn’t see the view for the fog/rain. Chris stayed out on the deck and got some pretty amazing pictures – its hard to pick just a few!

Our last stop was Bergen.  We didn’t have a great time at this stop.  Once again they packed us on the coach and that started things off bad.  The weather was kind of blah (but no rain which is VERY rare), and we were both tired.  We did the hop on hop off bus stop but there wasn’t too much to see that was very different from our other non-fjord stops.  We went to the fish market and I was determined to have salmon right from the sea and I had been hearing about Norwegian strawberries off and on and when Rick Steves suggested them I was sold!  Luckily at the market they had some and they were some of the best I’ve ever had.  I also tried Cloudberry jam.  After struggling through the tourist shops we stopped for fish.  I got salmon and king crab and Chris got cod (he thought that was a safe choice, little did he know they barely cook it).  It was okay but, I didn’t quite know how to get into the crab very well and the salmon was lovely but garnished with some strange things.  Needless to say it wasn’t the best money spent on the trip (and it was VERY pricey!!!!).

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The next day was our last day and was a full day at sea.  It was really relaxing.  Chris spent a lot of time on the deck but it was too cold for me so I spent most of my time that day (and really, anytime on the ship – in the library.  It had big windows and classical music playing quietly and it was super quiet).  It was Sunday and I was falling asleep working on my school work and I looked on the book case for ‘take one, leave one’ and saw a Book of Mormon so I read, in a pretty nice setting!  Well done to the people who thought to leave it – missionary work done!

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We were in constant awe of how long it stayed light at night!

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The last night they had a Broadway show and I loved it!  We were given a beautiful sunset and I loaded up on the last of the American bacon, self serve all you can eat ice cream cones, and unlimited pina colada’s.

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A great summing up of our time together on this holiday!

We got home to several text messages about work and University essays due – that was reality with a hard landing!  It was a really nice holiday.  I would HIGHLY recommend Norwegian Cruise Lines, by far the best I’ve been on.  The fjords are something that you wont regret seeing and wont ever forget.  I’m so lucky to have been able to go.  Let me just get sappy for a minute – Chris and I didn’t have a perfect marriage and we both have many regrets about things that happened during that time.  But one thing that I don’t regret and will never be able to pay back is the fact that Chris, quite literally, gave me the world.  The things I’ve experienced and the places I’ve seen have been a gift, that I’m forever grateful for. 

Luckily one of the perks of staying friends is that we can continue to travel together  – we’ll see where the wind takes us next!  

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The only thing Constant in life is change

It might surprise many of my faithful readers that I am updating my blog again.  You’d given up on me hadn’t you?

Lately I’ve been itching to get back to writing about my life and connecting with my friends and family in a way that I have always loved.

But, things are different now that I’m back.  Some things I’m going to want to keep private.  Some things might only be for me.  That’s because my life is changed.

I’m not the married, childless, American living in England – biding her time until she could talk her spouse into getting a visa for the states.

Now (deep breath, Jamie) I’m the single (divorced *cringe*) American living in England because, well, because I want to.

Lets clear up a few things.

Chris and I are still very good friends.  The divorce was final in April, but it hasn’t been too difficult because we are still in each others lives.  We travel together, spend days out together, talk, text, and continue navigating our way through this uncharted experience.  The reasons for the divorce are ours, and ours alone.  Its our story and one that only we will tell, when and if we’re ready.  Have there been tears and heartbreak along the way?  Of course, probably more than I can count.  But, I’m thankful everyday (mostly everyday) that we settled things in a way that allow us to have a friendly relationship.  There will be no bashing of the ex on this blog – friends just don’t do that.

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So, I hear you ask, if you are divorced and he was a major reason you stayed in England – WHY ARE YOU STILL THERE?  That, my friend, is a great question and I still don’t even have an answer for myself, yet alone anyone else who might wonder and question it.  I do know one thing for absolute sure, England is my home.  I’ve been an adult longer here than in America.  Me and England?  We’ve been through a lot!  Just because I am now on my own, that doesn’t change much.  I am settled here, I love it here, and if it only had my friends and family I’d be completely happy (anyone want to move over?  Visit?  Anyone??).  I’ve searched, studied, prayed, asked nicely, and begged for an answer of what I need to do with my life.  I am still waiting, but in the meantime I am going to be taking advantage of some great opportunities for my future while I’m still here – however long that may be.

I am lucky that I still have the twins in my life as well.  They are going to a new school in the Autumn and I, luckily, get to look after them still.  They make me crazy and frustrated and happy and peaceful all at the same time. 

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Luckily, this change in my life hasn’t made me bitter and angry with the church.  I am so blessed that I still treasure my testimony and membership.  Don’t get me wrong there are times where I want to scream and shout, “ITS NOT FAIR! WHY??” but I am learning to lean on my Saviour even more to answer those tough questions.  My calling in our newly created ward as a member of the Primary Presidency has helped me to focus on the basics. 

I also have been on the “Divorce Diet” as my mom calls it.  I am finding joy in taking care of myself in every way including physically.  I am sure it is something I will mention in future posts, but I wont ever say how much I’ve lost, just that I’m focusing on me and you know what? It feels great when I get out there and do it!

In the future there will be some posts that will be private and unavailable to read.  But hopefully, I’ll keep having adventures and keeping a record of it right here on this blog!  Stay tuned!

Me, single again?  That’s bound to create some stories right there!

Fabulous Venice – 2014

Venice is a city I’ve always wanted to visit.  It’s always been on my travel bucket list, unfortunately it is one of the few places Chris had no interest in seeing.  So, I decided for my birthday I would visit Venice – even if that meant I had to do it by myself.  So I put it out there on Facebook that I was planning on going and did anyone want to join me – and luckily for me – a great friend called Susannah lived near(ish) and offered to let me stay at her house and said she would be happy to come with me into the city.  It had been a while since I had seen Susannah, we met at church and she moved away a few years ago.  I decided to take her up on her offer and planned the trip.

Because it is super cheap to fly on the low budget airlines I decided to use them to get to Venice.  Unfortunately, with those airlines it means flying at strange times – really early or really late.  My flight was early in the morning so I stayed at a hotel the night before so that I didn’t have to travel for an hour and half the next morning (or middle of the night for me).  I’ll put this out there – I was pretty nervous.  I hadn’t seen Susannah for a while and I worried if we’d have anything to talk about or if things would be awkward – but I needn’t have worried.  As soon as she saw me and hugged me it was like no time had passed and honestly, I don’t think we stopped talking during waking hours for most of the trip.

The day I arrived was my birthday but I didn’t tell anyone and Susannah didn’t know.  We went back to her charming Italian home and she made some salad for the Halloween party of some friends of hers.  When we arrived at her friends house I was instantly in love with the area and the scenery.

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We spent the day there just relaxing and chatting the women were very friendly and great hosts.  Its always interesting to me to see how people adapt and live in different parts of the world.  It is amazing to step into a home in Italy and feel like, despite the decor and architecture, you’re stepping into a home like back in Utah.  It was a lovely afternoon.

Once we got back to Susannah’s house we decided to order authentic pizza for dinner and go for gelato for dessert.  Still keeping my birthday under wraps. I did well until, for some reason, we got into a conversation with the kids about birthstones.  They were all surprised when I admitted it was my birthday.  Instead of cake we had yummy Gelato – perfect!  I have to say the pizza was some of the best I’d ever had (I was in Italy after all). I was a bit surprised at some of the toppings – we had a pizza with baked potato pieces (yummy) on it.  Here are some of the options (pay attention to the Chris option):

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At first I thought that the Coppa Spaghetti was actually spaghetti noodles topped with gelato.  Come to find out it is just spaghetti shaped gelato.  I was super impressed when the kids all ordered their treat in Italian.  I wasn’t brave enough to try it out myself, so luckily little “M” did it for me.  We went home and settled into sleep ready for a day full of Venice the next day.

We woke up early the next morning to catch the train into the city centre.  It would be a short train ride (about an hour – hour and a half) and we’d be dropped off right in Venice.  Luckily for me, again, Susannah knew how to get the tickets and get us there safe and sound. 

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We stepped off the train and we were there – we were actually in Venice.  When I travel I often have moments where I think to myself, “I cant believe I am actually standing right here.  I’ve seen in on TV and books, but I am actually here!”  I felt this stronger here than anywhere I’ve ever visited.

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The view right out of the train station…. overwhelming.

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The view over the Grand Canal – GUYS I WAS STANDING ON THE GRAND CANAL –

IN VENICE!!!!

We got to Venice early and it was just me and Susannah.  We had a concert to get to at 8:00 that night so we had the whole day to explore.  Susannah was pretty excited to get to explore without children (I think all Mothers would be).  At first we thought we’d be struggling through crowds the whole day.  It was blindingly sunny and pleasantly warm so there were loads of people around.  We decided to just walk wherever the mood took us.  When we came to a crossroads we’d choose left or right (usually the less crowded) and got lost in Venice and, to be corny but completely honest, it seemed magical.  There were streets and alley’s that we went down that literally were deserted.  For as busy as it was when we first got there walking around, away from the tourist areas, you feel like you might be the only people there. 

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Surprisingly, to us, there were a lot of wide open spaces.  It was so strange – you’d be walking through a labyrinth of alleyways and all of the sudden you’d walk straight into a wide open square.  Complete with trees, churches, shops, and children playing football (and STILL not too crowded!).

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The best part of exploring was finding hidden places and charms. 

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I love that little cat in the window!

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Sitting on some steps leading to the canal.  Not another person in sight for at least 15 minutes.

There are just too many favourite pictures here is an album with all the pictures I love:

 

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We decided it was time to take a break and have some lunch.  We found a place with some really yummy food.  Restaurants are great in Italy because after they give you your food they just let you sit there as long as you want and don’t disturb you.  We spent more time talking and enjoying lunch and then decided to head back out and explore some more. 

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After a while of more walking and shopping and eating pastries and chocolate we decided that the trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to St. Mark’s Basilica and St. Marks Square.  In these pictures you can see how busy it was and how many people there really were.

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We decided that this was a great place to sit on the steps and people watch.  They are very strict about sitting on the steps and made us move (along with a lot of others).  We ended up sitting on the risers that they use when the tide is high and the square is flooded.  At one point (before we were told to move) we were sitting on the steps and this Asian man was taking me and Susannah’s picture.  I think he was trying to be discreet but it wasn’t working – we both noticed. I think he was just surprised to see two curly red-headed women (this isn’t the first time this kind of thing has happened to me).  It was starting to get colder so we went off in search of dinner and ended up at a pizza place having yummy pizza while waiting for our concert to start.

When I decided to go to Venice I knew I couldn’t go there and NOT see an opera – its Venice after all and I love opera!  I found a concert that was a taster opera program featuring performers in authentic period costumes and a mixture of well known opera songs and instrumental pieces.  It did not disappoint!  It was performed in a old concert hall and included some amazing singing, moving music, and temperamental singers (the audience never knew when to clap so when the usher directed us to clap in the wrong spot, after the song, the temperamental tenor stormed out and slammed the door).  It was long enough to enjoy but not so long that it got boring.  They were animated and entertaining and I would suggest anyone visiting Venice GO SEE THIS!  Even if you don’t like opera or classical music I’m pretty sure anyone would enjoy it! 

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We were planning on getting the last train of the night back to Susannah’s house.  So we thought we’d take a boat taxi to the station.  I am sure when those gondoliers saw two American women walking up to them they thought they would be making some easy money – they could say whatever price they wanted and we’d do it – WRONG!  After being quoted around 80 euro to get to the train station (the travel books I read said about 20) we decided to walk…. quickly.  We walked from one side of Venice to the other in time to get the train.  It wasn’t without its problems.  There were dodgy people hanging around in the alleys, rogue dogs, and we had to get out the phone to have the sat nav guide us out of the maze but we did it safely and with a few minutes to spare. 

Susannah and I were shattered once we got on the train (hoping it was the right one since we both didn’t know for sure).  As we were sitting there a young, dark, Italian man sat across from Susannah.  I will spare you (and her – for embarrassments sake) the details but the conversation ended abruptly with a flash of a wedding ring and awkward silence until it was his stop.  It kept us laughing for the rest of the train ride home. 

The next day was Sunday so I went to church with Susannah and her family.  I got to see more of the countryside.  The chapel was unlike anything I’d seen.  The members were gracious and kind.  Visiting that ward gave me a deeper understanding of what an opportunity I have to attend my ward here in England.  I got to spend the last 2 hours in nursery and enjoyed every minute. 

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Once we got home from church we all settled in and ate Halloween candy and watched the movie Life in Beautiful.  It was a emotional and thought-provoking movie that I would recommend to anyone.  We had a yummy pancake dinner and then Susannah dropped me off at the airport and I had an uneventful fight (LATE NIGHT) and drive home.  It was sad to say goodbye to Susannah and her family but luckily I get to see them soon and hopefully we can have some more adventures!

This trip was short and sweet but quite amazing.  Being around a women with such a strong testimony of the gospel, who is positive and optimistic was food for my spirit.  That short trip changed my life and made me realize things and make choices that will echo for a long time to come.  Some of the  things I learned and felt have lead me to some changes in my life that were a long time coming but just needed that reassurance. 

So at the end of the post I’d say:  VISIT VENICE!  Surround yourself with good friends and appreciate your beautiful life – no matter where you are living it.

Happy Anniversary England!

Today is my anniversary.  Not with Chris, but with England.  Today 8 years ago I landed in England to live.

When we moved here I had a lot of ideas about how my life would be.  I thought that in 5 years we would be back home. When we moved back to Utah, Chris would have a degree, We’d have a few kids, and we’d have a substantial nest egg and a lot of life changing experiences under our belt.

Well…. God had other plans for us – boy, did he have other plans for us!  8 years on Chris finally has his degree and is finally starting a job where he is actually using it.  We have zero kids and are now living life as a family of two.  We, like so many others, live pay check to pay check but we absolutely do have a lot of life changing experiences under our belt!

I have been thinking of that day 8 years ago a lot this last week.  Maybe it is because the weather is almost exactly the same as when I first got here or maybe because I don’t know how many more anniversaries here I’ll have.

I will never forget the day we landed.  The night before I left was full of tears and doubts.  Chris very nearly went to England on his own with me staying back in Utah.  Chris and I didn’t fly to England together because we booked the flights at different times.  Chris was on one airline, and I was on Air India.  I got on the plane and put my ear plugs in and promptly feel asleep – FOR THE WHOLE FLIGHT – which never happens to me.  At one point in the morning the flight attendant woke me up to make sure I was okay and offer me some food and drink.  I was so sad leaving I didn’t care if I ate ever again!  We landed and I made my way to the meet up point Chris and I agreed on.  Chris was landing a bit later and we’d meet up there to take the tube to a tube station further outside of London to meet his dad who would be taking us to his house.  I waited and waited – I didn’t have a mobile phone to call Chris to find out where he was, so I just stayed put even though the time was passing and I wasn’t seeing him.  Finally I saw him coming towards me – sweat dripping down his face, luggage in hand, and a look of anger on his face I’d never seen!!  He had gone to the wrong terminal and had to travel around the airport looking for where I was waiting.  I didn’t know what to do, but I followed in silence.  We managed to get the luggage on the tube and make our way to Redbridge Station.  This was my first experience of England in the summer – the other times I had been here were Autumn and Christmastime.  It was an unusually hot summer (the start of many) and I learned very quickly that no where had air conditioning.  When we finally reached Chris’ dad’s car I was ready to turn right around and get back on another airplane.  I was hot, tired, sweaty, homesick, and wondering what I had gotten myself into.  As we drove to our new house, I remember Chris and John in the front of the car, and me laying in the back seat (black leather – very sticky in hot weather) and crying.

I don’t remember many details about the following weeks.  We moved into a caravan in the back garden of the in-laws house and I tried to cope.  It was hot and I was miserable.  I remember one night not long after I had gotten there, sitting on a lawn chair outside the caravan in the cooler evening weather.  There was a nice breeze and I was reading a book called, “Living in the United Kingdom” – it was supposed to give me all the answers I needed to live happily in England.  I remember looking up at the blue sky with the clouds that seem so much lower here and saying out loud, “How am I going to do this?” with tears streaming down my face.  I thought that the hole in my heart from the homesickness would swallow me whole.

So here I am 8 years later and it hasn’t been easy at all.  It seems like we’ve been tried in every single aspect of our lives here. We’ve been down as low as you can go financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally.

But, it hasn’t been all bad!  We’ve travelled more than most people I know.  I have a great job.  I’ve started a website that has changed my life.  I have sweet bunny Sugar.  I’ve got to serve in the church in ways I probably couldn’t have in Utah.  I’ve made a few friends.  I can drive a stick on the wrong side of the road – I can pretty much drive anywhere.  I’ve gotten to be an influence in the lives of children.  I’ve learned a lot of new recipes and traditions.

Most importantly I have made it.  Chris and I have made it – together.

I can never be one of those people who say, when looking back, “I wouldn’t change a thing!” Because I would – oh I would change so much – the list is longer than anyone can probably imagine.  But, its made me the woman that I am.  I am a stronger person now, having lived away from friends and family, then I would have ever been in Utah.  I have learned so much about myself, about God’s plan for me, about my marriage, and about other cultures.  I’ve learned to budget money, travel alone, deal with difficult people, gain my own testimony, resolve conflict, and manage homesickness – among so many things.

I have also gained an appreciation for my friends and family that I never, never would have otherwise had.  I cherish phone calls home, I say – “I love you” to my family always (I never did before), I know what its like to loose a loved one and be so far away, I know how lucky I am to have true friends (a lot dropped off the face of the planet after a few years), and I know how much a letter, card, or package can mean to someone who is struggling to stay above water.

I am hoping this will be my last anniversary with England.  And, I will miss this place that has reluctantly become “home” (as much, if not more, than the place I came from).  But, I am lucky to have experienced life here for the last 8 years. So happy Anniversary England (I wont get too upset that you didn’t get me a gift)!

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The Countdown Begins

Hello Friends…

Well, even though it has only been since November that I had my last surgery, I had completely forgotten how nervous I got beforehand.  I will be having my surgery next Tuesday and I am starting to get pretty nervous!

Next Monday I have to suffer through the unpleasantness that is “Bowel Prep” (I wont be sharing too many details about that!)  I have to be at the hospital by 7:30 – that is, if they have a bed.  I have to call an hour before hand to make sure there is a bed for me.  Chris got the day off (thanks to a co-worker who is going to work his shift for him that day).  He has the next day off too – and hey, lucky me I have a ride to the hospital!!  I made it quite clear to the nurse at the pre-op appointment that I got really sick after I woke up last time, so she is going to make sure that I get the meds to help that BEFORE the surgery, not an hour or so after.  Also, I have asked for some fluids in my IV after the surgery so I don’t feel so dehydrated and get such a bad headache.  I am hoping these things coupled with prayers, blessings, good doctors, and SMALL incisions will have me sleeping safely in my own bed the night of my surgery.  Of course, I think I need to prepare that I  might have to stay the night – but I am trying to be positive! 

I am encouraged by the statistics I’ve found online for conceiving after the surgery.  Granted, they aren’t TOO high, but they are much more positive than I was thinking when we got the dreaded letter at Christmas.

Since May 6th, 2007 we have been working with various doctors to “fix” me.  Thinking back I was so desperate to have answers.  When I finally got those answers they were not at all what I thought they would be, and they stirred up emotions that I wasn’t prepared for. 

Some days I want to shout it out from the roof-tops, “I struggle with infertility!  Please be patient with me!!”  I want to explain to everyone why I avoid the “baby section” of the shops, why, at family parties, I “tune out” or walk away.  Why I cant watch a show with a baby born in it without shedding a few tears.  But, other times I just want to lay in bed and keep it to myself.  Often I have wondered what I did to deserve it?  Why things are so unfair!  But most days, I don’t do either – I get up in my one-bedroom apartment and cope.  You’d be surprised at how many things you have to “cope” with when you are struggling.   I get reminders constantly that I don’t have children, and at the end of the day it isn’t so much what I am missing out on – but what Chris is, what my parents are, what my family is missing out on – and that is when I break down.  But, I keep going, and have for 3 years with the hope of a solution.  I realize that this surgery may not provide my broken body with a way to carry a child, but if it doesn’t, then I continue to hope – and just keep going.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for your love, prayers, and support.  They buoy me up when I feel down and they help me realize that Chris and I aren’t alone.

Are We Not All Mothers?

When I was about 20 and attending Young Adults in my home ward, we were asked to put together the yearly Mothers Day program for Sacrament Meeting. I was asked to do a talk about mothers. Simple enough right? But it wasn’t simple. During the weeks before my talk I couldn’t shake a conference talk from mind by Sheri Dew called: Are We Not All Mothers? I felt drawn to give that talk because I felt a certain empathy for those women in the ward who were not mothers. Not understanding completely why I was compelled to base my talk on that, I followed my feelings and did base my talk on every woman being a mother and being called to help the children that surround her, whether her own or others. Little did I know at that point in my life, that nearly 10 years later I would be one of those women I had such an affinity for.

And now, how I struggle to remember the message I wanted to give to those women!

Luckily, I am surrounded (not figuratively but emotionally) by supportive women who remind me that I can strive to possess those qualities that mothers have.

As I look back at my adult life I can see how special opportunities have been put in my way to work on those qualities and, I have had the unique opportunity to be as close to being a mother as possible, without giving birth. There was wisdom in Gods plan of having me support a friend through adoption. There was wisdom in having friends who had babies first and me being able to support them and be someone they called on when they needed help. There was absolute wisdom in the answer of many prayers (not just mine) of my greatest opportunity to be a nanny for 5 beautiful children whom I loved as much as I could, and subsequently found an amazing friend through that experience, along with a lot of other inspiring people during that time.

I felt that when I left my nanny job, my next step would be having children of my own. Of course, that was what I thought – newly married with an ideal life ahead of me. Little did I know that my “ideal life” was not to be had.

Years went by and no baby came – somehow in my grieving for that dream I had forgotten that I had the ability to love like a mother. Up until just a few days ago, I forgot about that talk that I had felt so prompted to share. I was as good of an auntie as I could be to my gorgeous nieces and nephews but there was a huge amount of detaching myself from them, because they represented my failings as a woman and mother.

But then God provided me with some tender mercies that have struck my heart.

Spending time with my newest niece, Madi (2 months old), and having her mom allow me to comfort her – and being able to sooth her, unlike some of the other mothers in the room.

Conference – and being told that if I was living a righteous life I had no reason to complain about trials.

An amazing email from a special friend that comforted me in ways nothing else could – and helped me remember how I used to feel about children.

And finally today, my sister in law asked me to go with her to get Madi her vaccinations. She doesn’t like to be in there when she gets the shots (usually her husband goes) and she asked me. Someone who has no children, and trusted me enough with the baby to be the one to take her.

As I sat there with the small child on my lap, and as she got her shots and cried, but quieted down as soon as I cuddled her and held her in my arms – all those feeling came shooting back to me – I may never have children of my own – but I have the unique opportunity of being a mother to several different children – of that I am grateful and I can never be thankful enough for a moment of inspiration nearly 10 years ago – of the opportunity of giving myself something I really needed now – hope.

Blessings

Sometimes in this situation it is hard to find, or recognise the blessings around – but Chris and I have some blessings, 5 little ones to be specific.

Chris and I have 5 lovely nieces and nephews and we are lucky enough that their parents trust us to let us take them for a day – not all at once though (I am not crazy!).

Yesterday we took Georgia (18 months) and CJ (7 months) out to the cafe, and petting zoo of sorts with our good friend Nettie and her darling daughter Maisie. We had a great time. It was fun to watch the kids with the animals. It was even funner to watch Chris put the car seat in the car wrong way round, get frustrated with Georgia for playing with the train track he built, and try to keep Georgia near by. It is great to see him be protective and so kind towards the kids. And they LOVE him. Whenever Chris isnt near, you can hear Georgia saying over and over, “Piss, Piss?” (translation: Chris, Chris).

After the day out we brought them back to our very unkidfriendly apartment. After a while I took Georgia into the front room and we cuddled while we watched all sorts of crap kids programing (she liked it, thats all that matters).

But the most heart-warming thing happened while we were watching tv. Chris took CJ into the room (Chris needed a nap from all the hard work of the day), and he layed CJ on the bed next to him. For a while I could hear CJ just laughing and laughing at Chris. The next minute it was silent. I went and checked on them and they had both fallen asleep. When I went in to wake them up I saw CJ laying on my side of the bed with his hads up over his head, looking soooo comfortable, his hand wrapped around Chris finger, who was laying right next to him asleep as well.

It was one of those moments you want to store in your memory forever.

We are so lucky to have these kids in our lives. Our lives are better and happier with them in it.