hello, London!

Our journey from the airport to our first AirBnB in London was very long. A bus, 2 trains, and a bit of walking later, we arrived at the first place (we moved to a different one on Monday). After washing up a bit, we went to a local pub and had meat pies and beer (or in my case, cider). Y’all. Random pub on the edge of London and the food was SO GOOD!! Yes, we were super hungry, but I think it was also just really good food.

Our first experience of staying in an AirBnB that we booked has been…underwhelming. It is very inexpensive, and although it takes a while to get into the city it’s very doable. However, it’s also pretty grimy…and the bed is excruciating. We finally figured out that it’s actually broken (the bed) which explains the bizarre and epic dips in the mattress. At about 1 AM, early on Saturday, we figured out a solution. David slept atop the comforter, diagonally on the mattress (which is pretty comfortable actually, it avoids the dips) and I slept on the floor on the mattress topper. David used a towel as a “blanket” and I use a sheet.

You know what…it worked.

Our first full day in London was Saturday. And wow, what a day it was!! We had a slower morning than hoped, but eventually got on a bus to downtown London. Yes, it was a double-decker bus, and yes we rode on the top right up front. It was very fun and we could see where the inspiration for the Knight Bus, squeezing through tight spaces, came. From up top your perspective is wider and it seemed like we were constantly squeezing through tight spaces. At one point a bunch of tree branches smacked into the window right in front of my face, and I couldn’t stop giggling.

you can't just walk in there, you have to Make An Appointment
Where the Queen buys wine. Note the golden “Royal Warrant” above the door.

Once we got downtown, we boarded our hop-on, hop-off bus tour. We saw St.James’ Palace and some of the shops with which the Royal Family does business. The shoe shop where Prince Philip gets his shoes, for example, sells shoes for £2000. The place where the Queen buys her wine has an average bottle go for £24,000 (!!!).

After just a few stops, however, the tour guide mentioned that it was the observance of the Queen’s birthday that day, and that we should get off the bus if we wanted to see the festivities and have a chance at seeing the Royal Family. We got off a couple stops later (after frantically whispering, and being confused as to why no one else got off) and walked across Green Park, following the crowds, to the gate at Buckingham Palace.

And. Y’all. We saw the end of the Trooping of the Color, including seeing THE QUEEN and many other members of the Royal Family. I was most excited to see the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, and her children George and Charlotte. I adore Kate’s sense of style and her personality seems genuine and kind as well. (Fun fact : we are both 5’10”.) We also saw the Royal Air Force fly over the Palace which was really exciting and cool.

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We were so floored by this experience that we walked away saying to each other, “we just saw the Queen of England. THE QUEEN!” There were large crowds streaming out of Green Park along with us. We went to a Marks & Spencer store across the street (thanks Jenny for the recommendation!) and got sandwiches, water, & a Victoria sponge muffin to try. It was all very tasty and our experience was heightened by the group of women (we think it was a bachelorette party — or as they much more cutely call it here, a hen party) sitting nearby, screaming the words along to “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” by Shania Twain while drinking champagne. I was surprised (and pleased) that British women know all the words to that song, too. David commented, “see? This is why drinking in public is a good thing.”

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surprisingly good sandwiches

After lunch, we got back on the tour bus and finished the “circuit.” We saw many exciting sights, including the Victoria Tower (which CONTAINS a bell called Big Ben, but which is NOT Big Ben. okay folks. we got it.), Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and a peek down the long lane into Buckingham Palace.

The tour ended at The Tower of London, where we could board a River Cruise included in our bus tour ticket. Before doing that, we visited the London Wall, built in 200 AD by the Romans. It’s always so bizarre to see structures of that age just…sitting there, in the midst of people eating ice cream and talking on their cell phones.

We also visited All Hallows By The Tower church. It is the oldest church in the City of London (which is not the same thing as London, but a part of London) and I was pleased to see a notice in their entryway that they are an Inclusive Church. It was a peaceful and fascinating place to visit. We even went downstairs into a small “chapel” to St.Clare which was VERY small and a bit spooky — turns out it used to be a tomb.

We then went down to the docks by the Tower of London and went on our river cruise. We weren’t super impressed, but it was fun to be on the water and see many of the sights of London from Father Thames himself. I fell in love with Tower Bridge. What a gorgeous structure!

As we left the river cruise, we happened upon this awesome statue of Boudica. We learned about her in a documentary about the history of London that we watched a couple of months ago. Boudica was a Queen of the Celtic Iceni tribe, and she led an uprising against the Romans in 60 AD and died after it failed. She seems like a complete badass. If anyone knows of a good novelization of her story, let me know.

Sunday was busy, too. We got up early and headed into the city to attend church at Westminster Abbey. It was an amazing experience and I’m SO glad we went. I expected it to be packed, but there really weren’t so many of us there. We were actually in the second row of seats (there were several seating sections, going out from the altar in three directions). Yes, the choir was there and sang. Yes, it was gorgeous. Yes, the boys really do wear those frilly collars. (And yes, they really are little kids. It was very cute to see how, although they were very focused during singing, they scratched their noses and stared at the ceiling during the sermon and prayers like any normal kid.) The sermon was given by Reverend Jane Sinclair, and dealt with how stories tell the truth more than history sometimes can. Receiving communion was, for me, a really wonderful spiritual experience. I always get a lot out of communion, but this was a pretty special one.

Sunday afternoon we went SHOPPING. Not exactly a complement to the morning, but fun nonetheless. I was very excited to go to a store called Long Tall Sally that specializes in clothes for women 5’8″ and up! I bought a lovely dress and tried on pajamas pants that were at least 6″ too long.

Today (Monday) we moved to our new AirBnB, which is SO MUCH NICER. Photos to come I am sure. We have an en suite bathroom, coffee and tea station in the room, and the location is way better. The bed is still not super comfortable (when will the world learn that spring mattresses are stupid and awful?? I will never understand) but given that I already fell asleep on it twice by accident, I think it will be fine.

After dropping off our bags, we went to take a ride on the London Eye! It was super fun.

Afterwards we got lunch by the river (hot dogs and frozen yogurt from fancy food carts) and then came back to the AirBnB, where we have been relaxing (and where I have been finishing this EPIC blog post) all afternoon. In a few minutes, we’re headed to the park across the street with sandwiches, and then we’re planning to go to bed at like literally 8:45 or 9 PM. We’ve been walking well over 10,000 steps per day (I can confirm this due to my FitBit’s enthusiastic buzzing) and getting usually a bit under six hours of sleep. 😀 This is obviously not sustainable!!

If you got through this huge blog post, kudos to you. We’re excited to spending the rest of the week continuing to explore lovely old London town!

departure

We were surprised to discover that our flight is the first international flight out of Stewart Airport! When we arrived, there were news crews and cameras all over. We were greeted at the door and given souvenir sunglasses. David, my mother, and I watched as a press conference was held, complete with ribbon-cutting ceremony and free cupcakes for all. Mom says this is an auspicious way to begin our trip. It was certainly a lot of fun! We’re having a bite to eat at the one little café here. Turns out it is the first day this café is open. Employees keep coming to ask if our meal is good and offer us ketchup packets and whatnot! 🙂 Fewer than two hours until we board our flight! 

 

nine weeks, one bag

David and I leave tomorrow night (!!!) for our nine-week adventure in the U.K. and Europe. We have a long itinerary involving lots of time in London and in Liguria, Italy, as well as trips to Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, The Netherlands, Ireland, and Cardiff. (Also one mystery location — I have planned a weekend trip for David’s 28th birthday, which is in 9 days — so I can’t tell you where we’re going yet in case he looks at my blog!) I have been planning my bag for this trip since we decided to travel in February. We got super cheap tickets ($100 per person!! to Edinburgh!! from New York!! no I am not joking and yes I am FAIRLY sure we’ll get to sit down!) which means that they are bare bones tickets. We get 22 lbs of hand baggage — nothing more. That includes carry-on and personal item. No checked bags. Etc. And not even just for this reason but just for general ease of travel, I really wanted to do this whole trip with one bag. I mean, I have smaller bags WITHIN my one bag…but on travel days it will be me + backpack. Super simple.

Today I thought I would take photos of my bag and its contents, and explain what all I am bringing! Luckily we’re going to parts of the world where we can easily buy anything we need, but I’m hopeful I won’t need to make many necessities purchases so I can save my pounds, euros, and Swiss francs for souvenirs. 😀

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ta-da!
The bag I purchased for the trip is the eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible JunioreBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Junior. I read lots of reviews and chose it for several reasons : the backpack straps are padded, it’s really very small and fits under the seat in front of you on a plane if needed, it has various organizer compartments, fun bright color (which it looks like they no longer make!), and a low price. I really liked the Tom Bihn bags I saw but they were WAY out of my price range. I got this bag for $88 (normal price $110) with a coupon. I took it on a shorter trip and March and really liked it. I also noticed that it fits in the tiny overhead compartment on a very small plane I rode on — it’s good for tight spaces. I love the bright orange lining too, just very cheerful! 🙂

There are three main front compartments — the small slash pocket (currently empty, but where my boarding passes and such will go), the front compartment, and the “brain” (the little pocket that sits on top of the bag — that’s what I was taught to call this when I went to backpacking school!).

In the front pocket, I have my liquids bag, makeup bag, pajamas (capri pants and a soft t-shirt), glasses (sunglasses and regular), SPF-protection cardigan, journal, clutch (with passport, wallet, and phone), and waterproof phone bag. I ended up dumping out some toiletries between the bigger photo and the one of just my toiletries bag. My husband is carrying a razor handle that we’ll share, and packets of blades for each of us (we use Dollar Shave Club and he gets fancier blades because face > legs) In the “brain” compartment I have mostly “comfort items.” (I put them in the “brain” to make them easy to access, but also as a little joke. I have an anxiety disorder and my “brain” requires a lot of “comfort” sometimes.) My mini Hermione doll, eyemask for sleeping, and my little snail pouch that is literally always beside my bed — I’ll put lipbalm and eyedrops back into it once I get through security. It also has a mini flashlight, my headphones, and a calming cross (it’s a little wooden cross that fits perfectly in your hand — I hold onto it when I’m nervous or sad and it’s very comforting in a tactile way).

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the mesh, flat compartment
On one side of the main compartment, I have my Pardon My Trench rainjacket from Columbia Sportswear. I love the cute color and the chic look of the “trench” style. It’s also very lightweight and waterproof. I also have a little zip-top tote bag for longer days of sightseeing — big enough that we can carry sandwiches and water and a layer. Plus, my hairbrush and Kindle (which is loaded with new books).

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main compartment
On the other side of the main compartment is the largest section. I packed three packing cubes of clothes, plus my Teva sandals and little black purse. That little orange pouch comes with the bag and snaps onto the edge, which I love.

I probably tried on at least ten pairs of sandals in the process of choosing ones for this trip. It came down to these Tevas vs. Chacos. I ended up going with the Teva Terra Float Nova for a few reasons : they are super lightweight (helpful for packing and for less fatigue after long days of walking), have a softer footbed, and were less expensive. So far they’ve been good although there’s already a teeny bit of fraying on one strap (I’ve been breaking them in). I hope they prove to be the right choice.

I packed my clothes in three packing cubes : one big green on for “bottoms” and a dress, one half-size pink one for underwear and socks, and one small green cube for tops. I haven’t posted pictures of my underwear because…that felt odd. That said, I have about 5 pairs of underwear plus 2 pairs of little bike shorts to wear under the dress. I’m packing 2 bras (one tan, sports bra — I got a high-neck sports bra that will look cute peeking out from my black dress and v-neck shirt) and wearing one onto the plane. I also have about 5 pairs of socks! My swimsuit is in my husband’s bag because we packed the swimsuits together, figuring they’ll share a ziploc when wet.

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tops
For tops, I have one black tank top (“muscle tee” technically…for showing off…all my muscles?), one lime-yellow (? what is this color) t-shirt, one navy v-neck, and 2 striped tops (black and white and green and white). All are super lightweight and roll up teensy-tiny, plus they dry super fast. The navy one is from Victoria’s Secret and I’ve had it for probably about 3 or 4 years. All the other shirts are from Madewell.

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bottoms
For bottoms, I have UPF-blocking black pants (something between thin sweatpants and leggings), athletic shorts, 2 skorts, and a black maxi dress.

To my fellow one-bag travelers : yes I know that 2 skorts is silly. BUT I LOVE THESE SKORTS. HOLY WOW. SO MUCH. I’ve had the maroon one since February and wore it to work ALL THE TIME. Also to church. Also to the grocery store. Also on a hike. Also on dates. ETC ETC. It is stretchy, comfy material, it has a TON of pockets (including a hidden passport pocket!! and a hidden credit card pocket!! and 3 ZIPPER pockets!!), and built in shorts (with ANOTHER POCKET ON THEM! no joke!). They are fairly high-waisted (comfy and flattering) and are knee-length (hit at the knee on me, probably just past the knee on most women as I’m tall — I do wish they made these in a tall length!) so they’ll be appropriate for going into cathedrals and such. The blue one is new for the trip. They’re kinda pricey ($88) but I got the blue one for $58 with a promotion they’re doing.

I found that maxi dress on a clearance rack at an independent “adventure outfitters” store back in Indiana. It is actually long enough on me (never happens) and has pockets. Thank you, Mountain Hardware!

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little things
This tiny orange pouch has a lot of small, semi-random items that I wanted quick access to and which needed a home. This includes charger cables (iPhone, Kindle, and fitbit), tweezers, a few makeup wipes, a headband, laundry soap papers, floss, and menstrual supplies. I use a menstrual cup which I love and which makes traveling super easy. Obviously you can always buy supplies on a trip, but the convenience of always being prepared is great. I tried the Diva Cup in college and never found it comfortable to insert/remove, but I find the Lily Cup compact to be very comfortable, and it folds into that little pink case and can fit into a pocket (even a women’s jeans pocket).

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my travel outfit
As per usual, I’m wearing my heaviest stuff on the plane. Blue jeans, a pink t-shirt, a greige sweater (late Christmas gift from David — he’d hidden it so I wouldn’t see it before Christmas, which takes a lot of effort since we shared a very small apartment — and he found it again in May), Harry Potter themed scarf that was a going-away gift (I actually got two, from two amazing friends — the other is mostly white and I worried it might get dirty with travel, whereas this one is mostly black and will not show smudges as easily), watch/ring/earrings, compression socks, and my beloved Reebok Skyscape Runaround sneakers. The most comfortable sneakers ever made. Plus, a hankie for my pocket. 🙂

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travel binder!
And fiiiinally, my pride and joy : my travel binder! There’s a secret pocket on the back of the backpack which is meant for a laptop but where I am bringing my binder! I would be remiss to not mention how incredibly helpful I found Angela from the blog blue i style’s post on creating a travel binder! I used her printable itinerary pages, and incorporated many of her suggestions. In my binder, I have an itinerary (still finalizing it — it’s a nine week trip, y’all) as well as maps, flight/train/bus confirmations, walking directions, tickets for activities, AirBnB receipts and information, travel health insurance details, copies of important documents, and even some word search and sudoku pages for when we get bored. 🙂

Just a little more time to plan, load music onto my phone, triple-check that it’s a good pair of earbuds…and off we go!!

the world awaiting

We are in a strange phase, David and I. I have one week (one! week!) left at my job, and the apartment is becoming more and more a moving zone of cardboard boxes and plastic totes. We sold two bookshelves and they were picked up yesterday, leaving empty rectangular spots where they used to live. Early next week, David will drive the car, packed full of artwork and other fragile or precious belongings, to my mother’s house. He’ll fly back to Indiana to finish packing up our home, and then we will have one last weekend here. A last workday, a few farewell dinners, and we’ll be rolling out of town in a rented moving truck together, waving goodbye to our relationship’s “hometown.” I am zig-zagging between exhilaration at the future — like standing on a cliff at the ocean, feeling the breeze on my face — and grief at the ending of this special chapter. One moment I am imagining our travels, hardly able to wait until we leave, and the next I’m in tears, reminiscing about the wonderful friends we’ve made here and the many little places around town that have become our homes.


On the horizon waits a whirlwind gift of a trip. We’ve been writing our “top three” priorities for the many cities we’ll visit, trying to make sure we don’t over-pack our itinerary. We’re trying to make sure we don’t over-pack our bags, either : allowed just 22 pounds each on the airplane, we’ll be carrying everything we bring on our backs. (Look for an upcoming post where I show everything I’m bringing! It’s been fun to carefully plan this.) I don’t even know what we, or our lives, will look like in August. We have plans for a slow fall — David will have nothing to do but his dissertation, and I’m hoping to focus on a variety of projects, including taking a course in making organizational printables and starting a wee etsy shop for a little income. I’ll go help my best friend Lindsey get settle in her new home in Idaho, and we’ll make our way even further west for some time with David’s family.


The summer and fall seasons are going to be such opposites, and contain so much variety. In the last few years, our lives have felt very routine. David has continued to do all his “student things.” Teaching, writing, learning. Once I started working as an advocate at a rape crisis center/domestic violence shelter, things settled down into a rhythm. Given that my job doesn’t have any holidays or breaks (unlike school), we rarely traveled. I worked Monday through Friday, on Saturdays I ran and we did fun things, and on Sundays, we went to church. The rhythm became sweeter with time, and although we have loved it, I think it will be exciting to break completely out of that pattern and into something very, very different. A summer of constant change, motion, and new life. A fall of quiet, finishing up projects (in David’s case, his doctoral dissertation), and bedding down. These patterns match the seasons, and feel appropriate for that reason. When is summer not a season of frenetic energy, or change, of life? When is fall not a time for tying up loose ends, bedding down — preparing for winter?


Living out this new rhythm will bring change — and that brings challenge (for me at least) — but I am hopeful that with constant reflection and plenty of self-care, I will be okay. Maybe even great. 🙂

these happy golden years

Two more weeks in the City of Bloomington, where David and I have shared the vast majority of our relationship. The city of our first date, our first kiss, our first shared home. The city where we got engaged, where we both earned master’s degrees, and where I had my first full-time job.

I am looking through hundreds of photos, trying to cobble together a photo album of our four years in Bloomington. And as I look through these photos, I’m reminded of one of the things I love most about David, one of his qualities that made me fall for him in the first place: his ability to find life and joy in anything, anywhere. Understand that this isn’t an intentional quality. This isn’t David thinking, “well this is pretty crummy, how can I make it special?” This is just David’s eyes, and how they see.

These are photos of us where we got a take-out pizza and sat on the hillside of a middle school, watching the sunset over budget apartment buildings and pawn shops and a run-down bowling alley. To a cynic, we were eating crappy food on a dirty, littered hill looking out at run-down buildings on an impoverished side of town. David didn’t see that. He saw a picnic on a grassy hillside, watching the sun set.

There we are that first summer, reading magazines in the library to enjoy the free air-conditioning. Cuddling with puppies at the smelly pet store in the mall. Splashing through a tunnel (overpass) in a (paved) creek. Day after day of beautiful moments that he created for us out of his grad student stipend, his creativity, and a good eye for beauty. The public pool became a private oasis, the back bedroom (with a laptop on a chair), a dinner theatre.

This ability of David’s, to see the world as beautiful and interesting and exciting in every situation, is one that has helped us through so many days. I know that wherever we end up settling next, I will be leaning in beside him to see our new home through his eyes.

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good eyes

(Where are we going? Well, here’s the answer!)

baby’s first french macarons

I often enjoy a baking project on a weekend afternoon. Last Saturday evening, I had a friend over and she baked cookies while I provided feedback and guidance (in January, she taught me some weightlifting, and the agreement was that in exchange I would teach her some baking tips). It was a fun evening and left me in a baking mood. So the next day I decided that after church, I would swing by the craft store to get the correct decorating tip for making French macarons. I’m not particularly enamored of them (although they are tasty, and beautiful) nor have I ever made them before…but they seemed like a challenging pastry to learn to make, and what better day to start my learning process than a sunny, warm, April Sunday?

After gathering the ingredients that I didn’t have lying around (almond flour and a #1A baking tip), I consulted about a dozen blogs for advice before beginning my macaron process. I used this recipe for the macarons but I have written out the steps I took, adding in the tips I learned from reading and from experience, below. This was only a first batch so mine were a bit uneven, but I am pretty excited to keep perfecting my skills and wanted to share!

Some initial tips : this recipe takes time, largely due to letting the egg whites come to room temperature and also letting the macarons “rest” before they go in the oven. Don’t start baking them after dinner unless you want to be up late. I also read that they don’t do well when there is a lot of moisture in the air, so don’t try them on a humid or rainy day (aka, where I live, don’t try them during summer at all). I read the recipe that I used, and the tips, about six times — and then I wrote my plan out by hand. I know that may sound like a lot of work, but it was worth it.

  1. Separate three eggs. Set the egg whites in a bowl under a dishtowel on the counter to come to room temperature. This took about two and a half hours in my case — I checked the temperature with an instant-read thermometer. (Room temperature should be around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.) While you wait, make the filling. I made this super-easy chocolate ganache.
  2. Meanwhile, sift together one cup of fine-ground almond flour with two cups of confectioner’s sugar. Discard any almond bits that don’t make it through the sifter.
  3. Once the egg whites are at room temperature, beat them in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment along with 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar and a pinch of salt, on high speed (I used level six) until foamy. (This happened quickly.)
  4. While the mixer is still running, slowly pour in 1/4 cup of granulated sugar. Stop a few times to carefully scrape the sides of the mixing bowl.
  5. When the mixture reaches soft peaks, add one teaspoon of vanilla and desired food coloring.*
  6. Continue whipping until the mixture forms stiff peaks, occasionally pausing mixer to scrape sides (remember, you are trying to trap air in the mixture, so scrape sides very gently).
  7. Gently pour confectioner’s sugar-almond flour mixture over the whipped whites. (I removed the bowl from the stand mixer first.) Fold in mixture. (There are lots of online guides to folding. What I did was, using a rubber spatula, basically a gentle scrape down one side of the bowl, carefully guiding the spatula across the bowl, and then lifting out and twisting my hand so that it rotated the spatula which then “folded” the batter down into itself. It took me about forty-one folds until it appeared to be well combined — I’ve read “no more than fifty” lest you over-fold it and deflate the batter.)
  8. Carefully transfer the batter to a confectioner bag. (I used a 16″ disposable bag with a #1A tip. I forgot that my fastener for tips wouldn’t fit a #1A so David taped it to the bag and that worked fine.)
  9. Pipe 1″ rounds onto parchment-paper** lined baking sheets, slightly more than 1″ apart.
  10. Tap the pans on the countertop, hard, four to five times to release air bubbles.
  11. Let the macarons sit 20 – 30 minutes at room temperature, until they form a skin and do not stick to your finger when gently touched.
  12. Bake 18 – 22 minutes in center of oven. Rotate midway through, and switch sheets if you have two in at once (I just did one sheet at a time). ***
  13. Cool completely on a rack before creating sandwiches with your filling!

 

* I have read that liquid food coloring (as opposed to gel) can harm the structure of the macaron by introducing too much liquid to the batter. To avoid this, I dropped four drops of food coloring into the teaspoon measure before adding the vanilla, and then filled the vanilla to the top. This way, I didn’t add any extra liquid (just a teeny bit less vanilla).

** PARCHMENT PAPER. Not silpat. I tried both. On silpat, my macarons needed to be removed via a metal spatula. On parchment paper, they skated around like happy children on a frozen pond.

*** How do you know when macarons are done? THE WOBBLE TEST. Place your finger gently atop a macaron in the oven and if it “wobbles” on its foot it is not yet done.

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the wide-open future

David has lived in Indiana for six years now, and I’ve been here with him for almost four. In that time we’ve found an apartment we love, a church community that is our heart in Indiana, and (in my case) a fantastic job with amazing coworkers. We’ve also made some great friends and had wonderful experiences — I mean, the majority of our relationship has taken place here in Indiana. It is pretty weird to think about leaving, even though we’ve known all along that we would.

And now, we are preparing for our next adventure. David will finish his teaching responsibilities in May. And in June, I will leave my (beloved) job and we will drive all of our possessions east to my mother’s house, where they will live in her basement until our next solid plan comes into existence.

In the meantime…we are traveling Europe for nine weeks from June until August!

!!!

We are so incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity. We have funds specifically set aside for traveling purposes from David’s family, and my family has a small house in a teeny town in Italy. We also have various contacts in different parts of Europe. There are even some opportunities for David to meet with some scholars who do work related to his dissertation work at Cambridge in England. We have a wide-open summer ahead of us with exciting travel but also many lazy days of reading (and in David’s case, dissertation-writing) in the little house in Italy. We are going to be visiting :
– The U.K.
– Italy (of course)
– Sweden
– Denmark
– Germany
– The Netherlands
– Belgium
– Switzerland

& possibly France, too, who knows? I’m so excited (and nervous), but determined that even though it is scary, we will not miss this amazing opportunity! We’re trying to travel carry-on only, as lightly as possible, and hoping to fill ourselves up with memories that will last a lifetime.

 

We will be using this blog to update as we plan our trip and as we are traveling (although I don’t know how consistently we will have internet access — but I intend to write blog posts while I am on the road and then upload whenever I can!). We still have 2 months living in the sweet city of Bloomington and spending time with our friends and church community here before we leave, and we’re working to balance our excitement and need to plan with the desire to live in the moment and enjoy our home here before we leave. 🙂

an overnight train

One of the most beautiful weekends of my entire life was in the spring of 2011. I was studying abroad in Germany and had met two amazing people — one of whom is my husband, David — and another my very dear friend, Jenny. Jenny and I went to Amsterdam for a weekend, taking overnight trains there are back. The journey there was beautiful. I slept in a tiny bunk on the train with my small backpack in the bed with me. I woke at 2 in the morning and watched the lights of Paris, the Eifel Tower, out the small window. (You were meant to sleep with your head away from the window, but I wanted to be able to peek in case I awoke, and I’m glad I did.) As we were rolling into the Netherlands, I was awake and reading — finishing The Diary of Anne Frank which I had somehow never read before and wanted to read before I visited the place where she had hidden. I lay flat in the bunk and read silently, every so often glancing at the glowing beauty of the green fields out the small window. Tears poured down my face as I finished the diary, trying to cry quietly to not wake the others in my compartment.

That weekend, Jenny and I saw so much of the beautiful city of Amsterdam. We had a walking tour, a ride on the canals, and fruity liqueurs at a tiny bar called Wynand Fockink. We got lost one afternoon looking for the Anne Frank House & Museum, and got directions (and a free map) from a friendly doorman at an apartment (the people of Amsterdam are incredibly welcoming and kind). The museum was incredible. It was heartbreaking and astonishingly moving.

Afterwards, we came outside and I sat down on the curb and wept.

In the United States many people read The Diary of Anne Frank earlier in their lives than I did. I was twenty-one when I read it, lying on that little train bunk. But many people in the US read it in middle or high school. They are taught about the Holocaust with the sweet, intelligent, and entirely familiar voice of Anne Frank. They cry, like I did, and say, never again and if I were alive then, I would have…

What? What would you have done?

Now is the time to decide, and I don’t know what to do. I tried to call my senators’ offices but of course it’s a Saturday. I tried to focus on things I can do right now (like cleaning my little apartment) but I can’t stop crying. I’ve donated again to the White Helmets, read articles, started brainstorming signs for the protest tomorrow. But what is any of this doing for anyone?

We had the opportunity to welcome refugees and we have lost it. Lives being lost because of the United States government is a constant fact, but this is another level. There are young girls, brilliant and beautiful as Anne Frank, who are being denied entry because of this racist, Islamaphobic order. There are families that were set to come into the US, that had finally found a chance of true survival, that have been turned away at the last minute. And we have had the nerve to say “never again.”

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“The question is very understandable, but no one has found a satisfactory answer to it so far. Yes, why do they make still more gigantic planes, still heavier bombs and, at the same time, prefabricated houses for reconstruction? Why should millions be spent daily on the war and yet there’s not a penny available for medical services, artists, or for poor people?

Why do some people have to starve, while there are surpluses rotting in other parts of the world? Oh, why are people so crazy?” – Anne Frank

 

a quiet evening

Today, I went to work early (7 am) to cover for a colleague while she took time off for Thanksgiving. I had a very busy workday — calls coming in, walk-in visitors needing to meet, updating files, meeting with clients. But the benefit of going in early was that I was done at 3 (well, 3:30…I almost never leave on time). David and I went to the library so I could check out a few fun novels, and I came home and have done almost nothing but read and prepare dinner (a simple roast chicken) for the past four hours. It has been glorious. The rain has been pouring down all day, and for the past hour as I’ve sipped a mug of peach tea, the only sounds have been the heavy rain, the sizzling of the chicken in the oven, and the gentle sounds of the keyboard keys as David practices a piano piece with his headphones on. In just a few minutes we’ll light the candle on our solstice/advent wreath and read a poem, and then sit down to enjoy dinner together. I love these quiet evenings.

twenty six point two miles

One week ago I ran my first marathon and it was an amazing experience! I have been training for this since late June. I have been a runner since I joined my school’s cross-country team in middle school, and have always had the idea that I’d love to run a marathon someday. However, I have had periods of not running on and off in the past several years, and it seemed like it would never happen. In October 2014, I flew out to Oregon for a whirlwind weekend to surprise one of my oldest and dearest friends, Ruth, at the halfway point of her first marathon. Ruth, who is in remission from lymphoma, was raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I wanted to run a marathon next for the same cause — but I didn’t know how to approach that goal, as I hadn’t been running for at least a year.

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Cheering for Ruth 

The only way to train for a marathon was slow and steady. I decided to create a series of smaller goals to build up to it, starting with a 5K, which I would tackle after I was done with wedding craziness (I got married only a couple of months after Ruth’s marathon).

In the spring of 2015, I did a Couch to 5K program that culminated in running the “Run Through the Jungle” 5K. It went through a big cat sanctuary — so I got to run past tigers and lions (oh, my!).

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Run Through the Jungle 5K

I spent the summer after that 5K training for my first half marathon, which was the same event that I ran for the full marathon. The half was so exciting, and I loved training for it too. The following winter I was doing a lot of dog-running for David’s side hustle, and then began running again in earnest to train for the Hoosier Half-Marathon down here in Bloomington.

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Monumental Half Marathon

This past summer I have learned so much about myself, my body, and running as I have trained for the full marathon. I joined Team in Training just like Ruth, but there isn’t a chapter in my town so I did all the training solo. I relied on books, websites, and my sister-in-law Mary and friend Maggie for most of my marathon-training information. David was (as always) hugely supportive, and my mom and friends texted and called with encouragement and questions throughout the training process.

Finally it was the marathon weekend! I took Friday off of work, and Friday morning as I packed, my legs hurt like crazy and my hands were shaking. I was so anxious. My friend Nia texted with me and tried to calm me down, and finally David was back from his classes and we headed up to get my mom from the airport. It started to feel fun once we were up in Indy and my mom had arrived. We went to the expo and got my race packet and met the Team in Training coordinator, who presented me with a bag of goodies as a prize for raising the most money (I hadn’t realized I had done that!).

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Posing at the expo

When we arrived at dinner, LINDSEY was there to surprise me! It was so incredibly exciting. After that we all hung out in the hotel watching funny videos online, talking, and preparing for the next day. I slept pretty well that night, although after waking up at 4 AM, I was pretty much done for the night. In the morning I met the rest of the Team in Training people (including the coaches), and lined up in the dark with thousands of other runners.

I wrote out a six page account of the marathon, but I won’t ask anyone to read that. Instead, here are some highlights:

  • I stopped to pee only once — at mile 1.5. It was slightly ridiculous but I’m glad I did because I didn’t have to stop again throughout the whole race!
  • Ruth surprised me at mile ten (ish) and it was the BEST THING EVER.
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    OH MY GOD RUTH IS HERE!

     

  • Not only did Ruth surprise me, but there was a never-ending rotation of exciting new signs because my AMAZING friends had sent signs with Ruth! After the marathon, Ruth shared photos of my friends holding their signs back in Portland.

     

  • I had a very dramatic experience at mile 15, where I pulled a muscle in my shoulder (stupidly, trying to hold my phone with my arm when I got it out to listen to music) and nearly panicked. But I am quite proud that I managed to use breathing, self-talk, and stretching to calm down and loosen the muscle, and I felt fine afterwards — actually quite high, and I ended up dramatically dancing and mouthing all the words to You Make My Dreams by Hall & Oates.
  • I got to see my people like five times. Every time it was amazing and I felt filled up with love and gratitude for how well my people love me!
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  • Mile 19 was my biggest “runner’s high” mile. I felt incredible. I had just seen my people at the art museum grounds, and then I’d seen a really enthusiastic high school cheer-er who had yelled, “You’re running a fucking marathon! That’s AMAZING!” when I ran by. I was running past the Free Basket sculpture, and I took a joyous selfie and then dramatically danced and mouthed all the words to Defying Gravity from Wicked. I almost sang aloud, but thought better of it.
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  • The other hardest mile was mile 23. It felt really contradictory. On the one hand I thought, three miles! That’s nothing! but at the same time, I could not imagine that I still had to run three miles. I felt like I could do it, but that it would be so miserable. I was trying to monitor my mental state throughout the marathon, and that was a time when I felt like I was having to constantly prevent myself from becoming demoralized. I wasn’t demoralized – I wasn’t having to pull myself out – but I was having to constantly prevent myself from falling in. That was really hard, and it wasn’t a very pretty or interesting part either.
  • The Team in Training coaches helped me so much at the end. They coached me through the last two miles, and when we got to mile 26, they yelled their heads off to encourage my sprint. I saw my mom, David, Lindsey, and Ruth cheering in the crowds, and the music was blasting, and all around me hundreds of people were cheering. It was definitely the best .2 miles of my entire life.564775_241628464_xlarge
  • After the marathon, there was a lot of relaxing, laughing, eating, and napping. We had an amazing dinner at the Weber Grill (less than a block from our hotel), and the next day we all enjoyed a hotel breakfast before Lindsey went home. Ruth, Mom, David and I visited Butler University, where I had done my main internship for graduate school, and then we sent them back to their opposite coasts and drove back down to Bloomington.

    I am such a lucky person to have amazing family and friends who care about me so much. I know I will remember this experience, and what it taught me, for the rest of my life. I know my dad would have been so proud. And I learned that I can do hard things — really hard things — with dedication and support. I learned that I can get myself through scary, panicky moments, all on my own. And I learned — yet again — that the people who love me will always show up, whether it is in person, via the mail or phone, or by sending along geeky signs to encourage me during a marathon.