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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Giving Thanks and Other Thoughts on a Cold November Evening

Happy late Thanksgiving (or like I said on Facebook – Happy Homesick Day).  Although I was kindly invited to a truly American Thanksgiving, I had to miss it because I was looking after the twins.

In the lead up to Thanksgiving, I wanted to share with the twins what it is all about.  I don’t think a lesson on being thankful hurts any child, and it was nice to share some traditions while we were learning.  We started out making pumpkin and chocolate muffins.  The twins love to help me cook – and I love to teach them to cook.  We worked on reading the recipe and measuring the ingredients.  The results were quite mouth-watering.  Over here in England they don’t really cook with pumpkin, so luckily I had a tin left over from last year and we used that.  It was their first taste of pumpkin and, they really loved it (when it was cooked as opposed to them trying it from the tin Smile)  When their parents had a muffin they said they tasted like Christmas, and I said for me it was Thanksgiving.

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While we were waiting for the muffins to cook we made handprint turkeys – “M” got more into it than “J” did – but I explained to them about the Pilgrims going to America and how they had a big feast and so we eat lots of turkey.  I showed them a picture of a turkey and “M” said, “Wow that is one strange looking bird!”  They then proceeded to ask me what that red thing was hanging from its beak to which I replied, “Its the gobbler!”  I have no idea… but they seemed to think it was a fitting name.

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We then proceeded to have some nice, warm, gooey muffins and reflect even more on the things we are thankful for.  It was hard for them to grasp as first, but I reminded them that we have a lot more than some others and so we need to think of all the things that make our lives happy.  It deeply touched my heart when “M” wrote this on her first leave without any prompting from me:

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“I have God”.  These children are not brought up in a religious house and although I don’t preach to them, I do answer their questions about life and a lot of times my beliefs cant help but seep into those answers.  The other nice thing is that over here there is no separation of church and state, in fact a lot of the primary schools are religiously affiliated.   The children are taught religion from the time they enter into school.  They ask me so much about heaven and God.  They know that I don’t work on Sunday and that I go to church.  They know that I work with the kids in church and that Chris and I both have “big bibles”.  We’ve driven past the church house and even spent some time with some members of the Ward.  It just warms my heart to see that they are learning that God is something to be thankful for.

Here are some other things they put on the wreaths:

*  For friends

*  We are not poor

*  We are good

*  We have Mum and Dad

*  We have a home

*  Our lives

*  Cats

*  Trees

*  Jesus and God

*  Beds (AMEN to that!!!!)

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What a simple list, but it taught me a very important lesson.  Sometimes we get so busy that we forget simplicity.  Those things that were the very most important things in 7 year olds lives, are the things that I am thankful for as well.  Simply put – the things that seem so basic are the things that are the most important.  I could elaborate and add in my beliefs but at the core – those are the things throughout life that we should be thankful for.

 

Life in England has been very good to Chris and me lately.  I feel more settled than I have ever before (hey, its only taken nearly 7 years!!).  That isn’t to say that I have gotten over being homesick and still miss my family and friends terribly.  The holiday season is ALWAYS difficult to be away from home.  This year, Chris and I are going it alone – we have no nieces and nephews that we can celebrate with and that makes my childlessness even more painful.  There are some days (or weeks or months) that I have come to terms with this trial – but there are things and times that no amount of contentment or happiness (or travel) can help.  Us not being able to see our nieces and nephews have left a gaping hole that we are trying to figure out what to do with – nothing can fill it – we just have to learn to live with it and appreciate what we do have.  We are trying to figure out a holiday season with just us two, just the two of us, only us, all on our own – can you people with families imagine your holidays without children?  While it may seem tempting at first, I am sure you’d miss it.  So, we are trying to figure out how to come to terms with missing something we never had (and may never have) and that makes the holidays even more tricky.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that as a childless couple we have a lot of opportunities we wouldn’t normally have – but sometimes I have to grieve… its just one of those times.  Luckily I have a small but strong support group of LDS women who know how it feels and I am thankful that I can turn to them.

So finally, in honour of Thanksgiving, here are some of the things I am most thankful for:

Peterborough Cathedral

Bonfire Night 2012

Bonfire Night in the UK is a reason for celebration – fireworks, huge bonfires, and usually rain.  It is one of the tale-tale signs over here that Autumn is drawing to an end.  The sun starts to set around 4:30 PM and the air smells of bonfires.  It is quite a cosy time, if you can get used to the time change!  The last few years Chris and I went to a local Primary School – this year, our plans changed and we found it was just us.  I looked around to see if there was any bonfires and it seemed like we missed most of the local celebrations.  Then, I saw that Ely (about a 30 minute drive) was doing theirs this last Saturday – against the backdrop of the Ely Cathedral – I couldn’t resist. 

Chris and I bundled up and hoped that the rain would hold off.  We parked in Ely and went to the park.  There were a lot of people there.  They had food stalls and a fun fair.  They had a massive pile ready for the bonfire along with 5 “Guys” on top from local primary schools.  When they lit the bonfire, they had put fireworks in it and it popped and cracked (it was by far the best bonfire I’ve seen – the picture doesn’t do it justice!)

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Then the we waited for fireworks, while playing a musical chairs type game as we moved from place to place to get away from drunks, BAD parents, and people with no concept of personal space.  The fireworks were meant to start at 6:45 – but they said people were still queuing to get into the park so we waited and waited.  Finally about 25 minutes late, the fireworks (which the announcer told us cost £10,000 when people started to get a bit disgruntled at the late start) finally started.  They were really worth the wait.  It was an amazing display.  We were so close we could see the men lighting them on the hill.  It was so beautiful to see them in the shadow of the cathedral.  I was trying out new technics on my camera so I got quite a few pictures.  But, I will only post a few.

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You can see on the left is the far part of the cathedral. 

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Do you want to know why Bonfire Night is celebrated??  Click here for the history behind it.

Autumn Catch Up

I think maybe I just do this blog for my mom and Grandma – and I don’t even do that very faithfully.  I didn’t know how much time had passed since I last updated it….. oooopppppsssss!  While September was a very slow month filled of not much at all – October (upon looking at the pictures I have taken) has been quite busy.  Chris and I are continually blessed to be able to be a big part of our nieces lives. 

Georgia’s Birthday

Georgia turned 5 this year!  It is crazy and even crazier to think that if Chris and I hadn’t struggled with infertility we’d have a child nearly that old (although, I try not to think that TOO much).  She wanted to go to Pizza Hut with her family and me, Chris,  Nana.  These pictures were taken before dinner….

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I love the last 2 pictures… Sisters and then…. Reality (just look at their expressions!).

Halloween Birthday Party

Georgia had a friend who was having a Halloween themed birthday party and when Naomi and I were talking about it I offered to make the girls costumes. I asked the girls what they’d like to be (from a list I made) and they picked – Georgia: Fairy Princess, Madie: Ladybird (In England they are called Ladybirds – I don’t understand why, as I think Ladybug makes more sense), Lilly: Ghost.   I found some ideas (thanks Pinterest) and slowly put them together.  I really enjoyed it (of course I picked all NON-sewing costumes), but realized the stress my mom used to have when I couldn’t find any fairy wings for Georgia or shoes to match for any of them (I completely forgot).  The day before the party I drove to the costume shop and luckily found some wings.  The day of the party (the day I remembered the shoes) I have never felt so happy about finding red shoes in my life!  I think they turned out alright. 

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I have a million times more respect for my mom and all the other moms out there that put so much effort into even FINDING a costume.  Hey mom, remember when I was like, 22 and asked you to find and sew me an angel costume??  Did I ever say –  THANK YOU?

Thetford Forest

Last time we went to Thetford Forest it was so lovely we decided to take Madie this year and see the changing leaves.  We got there (FINALLY) after being lost 2 times and the sat nav taking us to places other than the park (Chris says user error – me – I say NO WAY – but really, yes).  We got there and the cafe had nothing on the menu for kids and didn’t have the things Chris and I wanted.  We made due, but waited for AGES to get the food.  Then after that we went outside where it had turned quite cold and cloudy.  Madie play for about 10 minutes on the toys and after all three of us getting frustrated with each other Chris and I decided it wasn’t worth it and headed for the hour journey back home.  But this time, the sat nav took us the back way so it took longer through tons of country roads.  That would be okay if it didn’t double the time it takes to get home and if we weren’t worried about the little girl in the back who we are finding gets car sick.  Needless to say we’ll think twice next year if we decide to make the trip out.

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Ferry Meadows

After the disaster that was Thetford Forest, Chris and I tried our luck again at a more local place, when everyone was feeling better and this time we got to take Georgia as well.  It was a lovely afternoon until the storm clouds started to roll in and forced us to end our day out sooner than we wanted to. 

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After the park, we went shopping, I got into a crash in the car park (both peoples fault after backing out of spaces into each other).  The guy in the other car was saying, “You should be careful!  You should look where you’re going!!”  Chris was dealing with him so I shut my door and as soon as I did Georgia said, “You should be careful!!”  He wanted our details but then Chris pointed out that we would need his as well, because our car was scratched too – and he decided just to leave it.  After dinner when we got in the car Madie said, “No more crashes!”

Halloween

This Halloween has felt so much more like Halloween than any other year that I have been here.  It has been so interesting to see England gradually pick up on the American traditions of Trick or Treat that, when I moved here, were pretty much non-existent.  They still don’t go as crazy as us Americans – but they are getting there.  Our ward had a Trunk-or-Treat, thanks in part to the many Americans who live on the military base nearby.  It was so fun and we took Georgia and Madie.  Before we went we carved pumpkins.

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Pancake Day!!

One holiday here in England I can really get behind and celebrate is… Pancake Day!  Here in England we always celebrate it on a Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday).  The pancakes here in England are like crepes – but I figure why celebrate Pancake Day in England with American Pancakes??  People over he put all kinds of things on their pancakes – sweet or savoury.  I went to the store and got some strawberry jam, chocolate spread, marshmallows, peanut butter, and pancake mix (I know, I cheated).  Chris got home from school and we made the pancakes together –here are some pictures:
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Pancake Day originated a long time ago when people would use up all their sugar and butter to begin Lent the following day.  Although I don’t do Lent, I thought this year I would try to give something up for the time of Lent, this year -chocolate (yeah…we’ll see how this goes!).

Mothers Day – Part 1

No, I don’t have enough things to write about to make 2 parts to my Mothers Day post, but I do have 2 Mothers Days (lucky me!). I think that if I had children, then the prospect of 2 Mothers Days would be quite good but I just dread them for now.

It is hard for people who haven’t gone through infertility or know someone who has, to know how to handle it. It is a tricky situation – especially on days like this. I know I may sound ungrateful, and I don’t mean to – but like I said I wont censor my thoughts, after all if I did what is the use of a place to share?

Luckily today only Sacrament meeting was themed on Motherhood. I understand that it would be silly to NOT honour mothers today, after all I have one of the very best and she deserves all that honour and more, and I realize that things shouldn’t be “toned down” for that one woman in the congregation who cant have kids.

Back in Utah, on Mothers Day they often gave out gifts for the mothers. The way that they handled it was saying, “Would all women 18 and older stand and be appreciated.” I felt awkward doing that when I was single, but at least there were other single women standing up and I knew I wasn’t the only one.

Today was different. They didn’t make any women stand up but they did have lovely flowers for the mothers. They said they’d like to give a flower to all the mothers. Where does that leave me? I know people don’t know what to do. Before going through all of this, I wouldn’t have even given it a second thought. But this wasn’t recognising WOMEN it was just MOTHERS. The 18+ girls didn’t get flowers, just the mothers… and me (I was the only one without children there – trust me, I looked).

To tell you the truth I didn’t want one, and it wasn’t so much rubbing salt in a gaping wound, it was more like me, being an impostor. I would have much rather been passed over, not recognized for what I lacked, but rather, not recognized at all. Does this sound horrible? Does it make sense?

After the lovely talks about mothers were finished and church was over, the last thing I wanted to do was carry around the flower – I made Chris. I know most of this is in my head, people aren’t going to care if I get a flower or not – I get that. It doesn’t change how I feel.

I just think for someone trying to have a baby, someone who desperately longs for a baby, someone who cant wait to make her own mother a grandma – this day, that is supposed to be full of joy and appreciation becomes slow and horrible torture.

It has been a hard day. Full of attention on my biggest failing.

To make matters worse, I got the defective flower, the one with only half a petal and I found that quite ironic.

So, you may be thinking – we cant win! I don’t know what the solution is, maybe I would have felt just as bad had I not gotten a gift – but maybe, this next Mothers Day (for you Americans) look around – look for those women who are smiling but don’t have any children to care for, those women who put on a brave face, those women who have tears in their eyes – and give them a smile or a hug and let them know, that you know how hard the day might be for them – and that Mother or not, they are no less of a woman and are loved.

One Year Older

Hello Internet.  I hope you all had a very good Halloween. 
As for me, it was my birthday.  Now, I have not had too much good luck with birthdays so needless to say I didn’t hold out hope for this one.  I kept joking to Chris that I was just going to sleep until Saturday morning.  He didn’t let me – I awoke to a lovely breakfast in bed (made by Chris).  He seemed more excited about me opening my presents than I did.  When I did open them I was pleasantly surprised by a CD that I had really wanted, one CD that I already had (its okay, he didn’t know), and a lovely silver heart necklace.  He did very good.  I also got some clothes from my mom back at home.  I got a great phone call from my mom and dad, which topped of the great morning.   I was so glad that they called even though it is hard to be away from home for me, but it gets especially hard on birthdays and holidays.  I just relaxed before we were supposed to go out to dinner – I had a bit of a set back of fleeting depression – but after I read what Chris wrote about me on his blog, there was no way I could be depressed and we got ready and went to Chili’s.  This is a special treat because it tends to be kind of expensive and it is in Cambridge – but it was a special day so we went.  It was such good food!!  Then we came home and relaxed.  It was a low-key but absolutely lovely birthday.
The weekend was made even better by my Saturday.  Some Americans that I know had arranged to go to the base and they were kind enough to invite me to go along.  One of the girls is called Jenni.  She has a husband in the military and she was the one with access to the base.  She is such a fun person, not only does she have 6 kids, but, she is on her 3rd book.  She is re-writing all of Jane Austins books for teens.   The other girl is called Natalie and she is in a similar situation as me.  She married an Englishman and moved from California to be here.  She and I have a lot in common and it is very good to have someone who knows how I feel.  We went to the base and we were in HEAVEN!!  We got to eat at Taco Bell, went to a mall type place and got some holiday candles and then we went to the grocery store on base, at this point I thought I’d died and gone to heaven… isles and isles of American food.  If I tried really hard I could almost forget I was in England.  I was surrounded by American accents and using dollars!!   Jenni shared her groceries with us. I got things that I had been craving for a year.  She also was so kind to get me a Yankee Candle with an amazing top for Christmas, as a birthday present.  We shopped and shopped and looked and looked.  Not only was the experience so fun, but I made some great friendships with Jenni and Natalie.  When I was wavering if I should go or not, my wise mother said — you’ve been craving friends and Taco Bell, you never know what a blessing this might be.  And she was so right.  Now I have an invite to Bunco on the base every month were I get to meet more Americans, but more importantly friends.
This weekend has been unforgettable.  There are few times, especially as of late, that happiness has been a part of my life.  Chris makes me happy but that is the extent of it.  It just goes to show how the little things mean so much.  I am thankful for Chris for making such an effort this year for my birthday – he knows how difficult its been for me.
I have so many plans for this new year… I like to try to make Birthday Resolutions and I have lots of goals for the coming year – and hopefully most of them will take place in America.  I just have to keep telling myself — STAY POSITIVE – after all, I may be on the upper end of it, but I am still in my 20’s!!