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Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Cute Cotswolds

I'm not sure there is a more quintessentially English areas (at least what Americans think of when they think of England) than the Cotswolds. Rolling hills, tree canopied lanes, 
thatch roof cottages, adorable little villages more picturesque than a painting, this region is indeed gorgeous. Joy riding in a car is indeed the way to experience this area.
Armed with our trusty Rick Steve's guide to the area we took off towards towns with the sweetest names. Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold, Chipping Campden...what's there not to love?
Each little town was indeed a sight to behold. Sweet streams, beautiful exteriors, charming shops, ice cream shops, churches...Picturesque does not do this area, designated as an area of outstanding beauty in England, justice. Upper and Lower Slaughter, whilst beautiful, could benefit from a name change!See those baskets flanking the door? They were used for hay to feed the horses back in the day.Love the pub, flowers and kegs!
Driving a car in this area allows for stumbling on villages that you might've missed had you been on a train. This is perhaps my favorite view from the whole journey...a beautiful old church yard, with a modern, iconic red British phone booth in front of the property! The car allowed us to zig when we might've zagged and being treated to some wonderful sights.
In one of the villages, we spotted this gorgeous tree. Legend has it that this door and tree was Tolkien's inspiration for the entrance to Moira. Regardless, is is a stunning sight.
The thatch-roofed houses were absolutely gorgeous. The patterns of the thatch were so lovely and so unique. I was constantly telling Doug to stop and pull over so I could get a better look. At one point he just dropped me off and I thought I might be stuck there forever as he was quite disgusted with my constant demands!
Chipping Camden is a well preserved market town. In the center of the village sits the old market hall. Very cool to imagine people bringing their good to town for trading. Wonderful that the stall still stands in the center of the village.The Cotswolds are indeed an area of outstanding beauty and just cute and fun to wander through. If you get to the UK, grab a car, brave driving on the left and joy ride through this sweet area.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Windsor Castle: First Stop on our Anniversary Week-end (Back at the end of May)

I've had some time to go back through my photos and the good bit of doing that is that all of the wonderful memories that you have had whilst living somewhere come into full view and all of the stuff that you didn't like, and hence never photographed, disappears into the past!
We had a great time in our final weeks in England. We had scheduled a trip to the Cotswolds for our anniversary and it turned out to be a wonderful 2 day getaway. Part of what it made it so special was that we were able to meet old friends from Sweden who were now living in one of the places we stayed and a couple who were amongst our closest friends whilst living in London took the train up to Stratford-Upon-Avon Friday night and drove home with us on Saturday. The time spent with these friends reminded us of the rich tapestry of relationships we have forged through our living in Europe for almost 18 years and the warmth and ease with which these relationships are taken up is delightful.
We stopped at Windsor Castle on our way out to Cheltenham and really enjoyed touring those grounds. St. George's chapel is one of the most beautiful churches I've ever seen and that is saying something given how many churches we've seen. Being there sealed the deal for me. I would begin reading Pillars of Earth again once we returned and indeed, I began that book for a second time yesterday. It is one of my top 5 favorite books.
Windsor is very special. Great little town but the castle is worth touring. It's quite the mini-town inside the gates and represents all that one thinks of when one thinks of English royal residences. In fact, this very special place behind St. George's church is where the workers live. Quite a posh spot!
The changing of the guard was cancelled due to an event in London but we did get to see these guards walking around. Doug always wanted to wear one of those hats! 
We had a lovely day which was fortunate. I enjoyed seeing the miniatures display and was smitten with the teeny tiny tea sets on sale in the gift store. The history is so interesting and enjoyable to take in. I loved the fact that little crowns adorned the lampposts. Every look was spectacular. It was such a perfect way to start our anniversary weekend.
We continued onto Cheltenham where we had purchased a week-end special at a hotel there. We enjoyed afternoon massages and a relaxing afternoon. Then we met up with our dear friends. It was so lovely to connect with them after so many years. And it truly was like not a day had gone by. We enjoyed some really good food! I saw a dessert on the menu called the Eton mess and has to order it! Strawberries, cream, meringues! It was indeed a very delicious mess.
Our first full day was lovely and delightful. We looked forward to venturing further into the Cotswolds the next day. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Orlando and Beyond

I don't really know what to say at this point. A friend posted on facebook that he was surprised that more people weren't commenting on the Orlando murders and my response was simply I have no more words. I've posted on Facebook and written on my blog about gun violence in the US. And those in agreement with me, chime in with the same impassioned desire to see gun control reform in the US and those opposed ramp up the rhetoric on arming everyone so the bad guys can be stopped. Sometimes I feel like the US is the wild west where human decency and common sense have run amok.
Of course, my thoughts and prayers are with those involved, but this tweet sums things up for me.
I can't really add to the conversation that is raging around us. You know how I feel. 1. Get rid of assault rifles. They are intended for one thing and one thing alone: Assaulting human life. There is no reason why this weapon needs to be available for purchase. 2. Close glaring loopholes that allow anyone and everyone to buy a gun, regardless of stability or background. 3. Address the US thirst for violence. It's there in our sports, our games, our media. We like violence and the fruit of our cavalier attitude toward violence is a lack of respect for humanity and a carelessness about killing and wounding others. And the list goes one.
I will repeat what I've said before: The most major shift for me in moving back to the US after living in Europe for 18 or so years is feeling and fearing that getting shot is a real possibility. I feel nervous about the gun violence and know that at anytime I could get caught up in the crossfires of a situation gone off the rails. I do not want to "get a gun in order to make myself feel safer." I have no interest in killing another human being, even one who is threatening my well being. I would rather be shot than shoot but that's because I've actually considered what it might be like to have to live with perpetuating violence rather than trying to end it. I'm not a hero. I just know that I have no desire to carry a weapon with me at all times and I know that using it would be nearly impossible. I hate feeling this way. I never once in all of the time I lived in Sweden and even the year in London felt nervous about getting shot. And now, it crosses my mind whenever I'm in a crowded place, when the heat starts to get on people's nerves, when I'm stopped buying gas, etc. Sad state of affairs.
Finally, on Orlando in particular and to make clear my support for the LGTBQ community, I am horrified that a gay nightclub is the latest target. Again, the dehumanizing rhetoric around people who find themselves part of this community is very disheartening to me. Someone I love posted on Facebook a comic that showed a Dr. holding a new born and the commentary was, "Parent: What is it, a boy or a girl? Dr.: We'll have to wait a few years to let them decide." I found it so offensive and lacking in compassion and understanding for the folks for whom this is real. We have to stop dehumanizing people in order to truly value and embrace all of God's beloved creation. The pro life movement needs to move beyond the womb and into the living and begin to cultivate a whole life movement.
So to end, I feel it's important for me to state my position. I stand in full support of the LGTBQ community.
I support gay marriage. I believe that transgender people are genuinely struggling to live into an identity that doesn't match their genitals. I know the pain that this community has suffered at the hands of a church that claims to love to God but can't love them. I have many gay friends and my heart is aching for them right now because Orlando is such a blatant attack on their personhood. I love them dearly and feel their pain deeply. And I will speak out against attitudes and commentary that dehumanize these dear folks because life is hard enough without having to face proving whether or not you are deserving of one's respect, dignity and care.
It's time to stop the rhetoric about gun violence, about gay rights, about what it means to create a more moral society and instead value human life, respect each person that inhabits the earth and make changes for the good of society instead of clinging to interpretations of laws that are no longer relevant for the society in which we live.
To my gay brothers and sisters...I love you dearly and am so sorry for the lack of safety, compassion, and care you are likely feeling in the aftermath of this violent incident.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Same Blog, New Look, New Perspective

I haven't done much blogging of late due to the craziness surrounding a big move. We did loads of fun stuff in our final days in London so I will do some retro-posting once the jet lag induced fog has cleared from my head. But we are home! 
We are excited to be here and there was much joy walking into a renovated house this time around!
Back yard view our first morning
The trip went well except that we had to get a bigger crate for Tanner. Thankfully KLM was awesome and supplied one free of charge. They really went above and beyond the call of duty and truth be told, we should've had this large one from the beginning. Can't believe it was approved twice before. Poor boy. He's doing well though and soaking up the sunshine and enjoying rides in the golf cart!
The house is great. Needs some cleaning and small bits of work and the yard needs a lot of work but it's fun to have the time and space to pursue this.
Our departure from England was sweetened by beautiful weather, wonderful gatherings with dear friends, and a final Sunday followed by a picnic that was truly a warm and embracing send off. We are hopeful for the future of AIC as their new pastor prepares to arrive mid-July.
We arrived on the day the first woman secured the nomination for US President, a Stanford rape case that has horribly missed the mark, the NBA finals in which two very talented teams are going head to head, and sadly, continued violence in the US. The Chicago Cubs are in first place and the Angels and Twins are not. I feel good about being here even if a bit confused at the start of every day! I had to rethink how to write the date. I'm trying to sort out our health insurance (HEADACHE after enjoying the ease of European systems for 18 years). I remembered my US debit card pin code after only 2 tries. I am happy to drive a car once in awhile. Tanner and I are both enjoying endless sunshine and really hot days. It's great having my cousins nearby. I can't wait to go to Trader Joe's. And most of all, I am really excited to be in my own home. There really is no place like home and for now, I'm pretty excited that home is here.