Thursday, August 30, 2007

New Experience

Chloe starts kindergarten next week.

"Hey, Oma, you could come for my first day!"

"No, I can't. But maybe you could send me some pictures. What are you wearing for your first day?"

"Hmmm. Well, I guess you'll just have to wait for the pictures."

First days of school, (kindergarten, 3rd Grade, or college), moms sending their little ones off (no matter how old they are): these have been topics of discussion the past few weeks. The world can seem so big and scary and mean.

I think about little kids getting their feelings hurt, or their self esteem stomped on, and it makes me sad. It's so poignant because I know what it feels like. I'm acquainted with the sting of being left out (my dress was babyish because it had puffy sleeves) and being told I was ugly (I wore red and white checked glasses.) I knew the popular kids, and they walked home without me the first day of kindergarten. When my teacher found me crying on the school steps, she scolded me, and said I needed to "grow up." I was five. She told my mom I wasn't mature enough for school. I don't remember life getting easier when I turned six.

Judy had a story published today on Time Goes By. She told about observing a girl's heart being broken. She finished with these profound words:
"At some future point you'll realize that this experience is part of who you have become, and without it, part of you would be missing."

I want to anticipate new experiences with the excitement of Chloe, and I want to reflect on past experiences with the wisdom of Judy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Spa Ah-h-h

A sorority of frazzled women, that's what we were. Toenails chipped, cuticles bitten, dead skin clinging like lint to our unexfoliated bodies, eyes puffed up like marshmallows--it wasn't pretty.

Our benefactress offered hope. A Spa Day.

All the women in my family were treated to this indulgence by my sister who is already radiant both inside and out. We were rubbed and scrubbed, wrapped and polished until our inner beauty started to shine through.

Sixteen of us awaited our various treatments in the Relaxation Sanctuary. Therapists called our names and whisked us individually to dimmed rooms, fragranced by eucalyptus and rosemary, where haunting Celtic melodies eased our frantic minds.

One by one we emerged, loosened and untightened so much we felt we would melt. Lunch and group therapy (the old fashioned kind provided by gossipy aunts) followed.

I could actually feel my wrinkles being smoothed away. My heels were soft and my cheeks were glowing. I don't think the valet parking guy even recognized me. The exfoliation process had eliminated layers of skin and I felt several pounds lighter. The Spa Day had done it's magic and I was a new woman...or at least a new version of an old one.
Thanks, Jo!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Sum-Sum Summertime"

Summer Days...

Lazy, hazy, crazy...

Hey, watch your aim!

Lunch bunching,

Cousins Clubbing,

A fire's flame.



Give me s'more.

Twins with twins,

Quiet reads,

Family rapport.

"Summer Days make me feel fine...."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Wallow In It

Got your attention, didn't I? If you're of a certain age, this was sitting on top of your hi-fi back in the day. The girl got the guy's attention, but it was Herb Alpert who got mine. Did you ever see him singing This Guy's in Love With You and then playing his trumpet? I mean....

Check out the Number One Songs for the year you were eighteen and wallow in memories. It will be like rolling around in whipped cream!

I'm listing five of my high school favorites:
  1. Love is Blue: Paul Mauriat (Doesn't that tune come right back??)
  2. Winchester Cathedral: The New Vaudeville Band ("Do-de-oh-do")
  3. Light My Fire: The Doors ("F-i-y-a!")
  4. These Boots Are Made For Walkin': Frank and Nancy Sinatra (white vinyl boots anyone?)
  5. I'm Henry the VIII: Herman's Hermits ("I'm 'er eighth old man, I'm 'enery...")
I remember cleaning up Christmas to Love is Blue, and being in the back seat of Natalie's yellow and black GTO singing "Come on baby, light my fire..." with a bunch of boy-crazy girls. Is there anything like music to take you back? C'mon, "Sing, Sing a Song!"
(Thanks Kris!)

Friday, August 24, 2007

May I Have a Word?

Art by Mary Engelbreit

I read my Thesaurus for fun, so I liked the little quiz I saw posted by Kris, which requires one word answers.
  1. Yourself: Approachable
  2. Spouse: Wise
  3. Hair: Short
  4. Mother: Hospitable
  5. Father: Fun
  6. Want to be: Genuine
  7. Favorite drink: Coke
  8. Dream car: Red
  9. Room you are in: Office
  10. Style: Chic
  11. Fear: Claustrophobia
  12. What you want to be in 10 years: Alert
  13. Who you hung out with last night: Frasier
  14. Muffins: Oatmeal
  15. Wish list item: Shoes
  16. Time: Midnight
  17. Last thing you did: Telephoned
  18. What you are wearing: Pajamas
  19. Favorite weather: Rain
  20. Favorite book: Mystery
  21. Last thing you ate: Cookie
  22. Your car: Equipped
  23. Your mood: Cheerful
  24. Your life: Blessed
  25. Your dream: Experience
You can have the last word.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Unlikely Heroes: York, England

Face Painting
Where were the superheroes? We needed saving. A year in England without income, not to mention root beer, heat, showers, Oreos, peanut was taking it's toll. We were basically running out of everything. Especially confidence.

Dee had finished his class work and was beginning his dissertation. He had to write a document of a few hundred pages, longhand, in our freezing cold bedroom, next to the drafty window in order to have a little light. Forty watts doesn't cut it during a drab and dreary Yorkshire winter, where it gets dark at 3:30 in the afternoon. He wore the requisite cardi (cardigan sweater) over his sweater vest, as well as fingerless gloves. It was a scene out of Dr. Zhivago.

The hot air was leaking out of our balloon and we were starting to feel adrift. Remember all those meddlesome folks who thought we were nuts? What if they were right? Was it just the weather that was giving us cold feet? It wasn't like we had a plan. Dee was now capable of restoring stained glass windows in medieval cathedrals, and replicating mortar from the 13th century, but there wasn't much call for that in SLC. What had we been thinking? Starting over in a different country and culture was bold and daring. Starting over again a year later in front of everyone we knew could be embarrassing and foolish.

The Mohawk
It was a little late to re-think it. I read my diary and we rehashed our old conversations, trying to recall the faith and hope and inspiration we had felt at the beginning. Dee started sending resumes, but doubt and worry crept in. We weren't finished being blessed, though. A couple of miracles buoyed us up.

I don't know about England, but here neighborhoods seem to have similar types of people. There's the organizer, the busybody, the bring-everybody-cookies lady, the know-it-all, the too-good-for-the-rest-of-you, and the helpful gardener with all the tools. Hermie (I've changed his name) was the odd-man-out. He was brilliant, which made him hard to relate to. His wife was nice, but she had some kookier elements about her, too. Hermie had come to blows with another guy on the block over which of their sons had won the Pinewood Derby. It was ridiculous and his reputation didn't have far to fall after that.

Anyway, one Sunday afternoon we were sitting on our bed in York, and the phone rang, which was extremely unusual. I answered and it was Hermie! He was wondering how we were doing, and wanted to tell us what great neighbors we had always been. (Luckily, we were hypocrites, so he didn't know what we really thought.) He was so friendly, and nice. We talked for a while and he said he had sent us something in the mail and wondered if we'd received it. We thought back, mentally thumbing through our Christmas cards from three months before and said we didn't think so. He told us to watch for it, and said goodbye. How thoughtful! That call was just the encouragement we needed, we told each other. What a nice guy. A few days later we got his envelope. Inside was a check for $1,000!!! He had written a lovely letter saying he hoped this would come in handy, and that he admired our nerve. Please spend it with the pleasure he got from sending it. Dee has a phrase for this kind of event: "How does your crow taste?"

A few weeks later, a good friend from home wrote to say she had always loved my diamond ring, and would I consider selling it to her. She had admired it before, but who asks a question like that? It was so unexpected, yet perfectly timed! We had mutual friends who were coming to visit us, and she sent a check with them. I packaged my ring carefully in a tube of Smarties (M & M's) so there wouldn't be a problem with customs, and they took it home to her. This infusion of cash was just what we needed.

Dee was contacted by a professor who needed some research done for a book. That became an insightful and amazing project, that ended up to be life changing. A couple of times a week throughout the spring and summer we followed old maps in search of 19th century mills, barns, churches, homes and other ruins. We explored parts of Wales, the Cotswolds, Worcestershire, and Cheshire and got familiar with back roads covered by hedgerows. Most of the time these were day trips while the kids were in school, and other times we took them along. We read local histories and journals written during the period, and followed the paths they described from the 1800's. The stories were fascinating and the people came alive to us. Slowly it dawned on Dee that this was what he wanted to do: chronicle the lives of everyday folks, document how they rose to the challenges they faced, and place these events in historic perspective. Coupled with his love for photography, it seemed like a plan! Our enthusiasm and anticipation came rushing back.

It was a "roof" (rough) neighborhood
During our year in York the cooperation from our kids was overwhelming. It was a family project. They did without all the usual props: no phones, malls, cars, proms, basketball games, cheerleaders, pep-rallies... they wore uniforms to school, and hung out with each other. We had lots of other years, before and after, filled with the paraphernalia of life in the USA, but this year set a new tone. Our family became it's own foundation. We protected, sustained, comforted and fortified each other. We all gave up everything, and we discovered what was really important. It was worth it.

Cute new school clothes
Dee always says that our year in England was when the kids earned their hero status. He relates it to an experience he had at summer camp when he was in the ROTC.

His platoon was running in formation when Dee had an asthma attack. Suddenly he couldn't catch his breath and he was starting to lag behind, slowing the whole group. His arms were bent and the two guys on either side of him (who were both taller than Dee) lifted him from under his elbows, and carried him the rest of the way. Dee compares the kids rallying around us and supporting our dream to those two soldiers. They ran in formation, lifted us up and made sure we finished the run.

The Heroes: Micah, Heidi, Amy, Gabi, Marta, Peter, Josh

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Speaking English

This is Mini at our market. The first time we went to the shops we took the bus. The trolley (grocery cart) was tiny and I wondered how anyone could fit all their purchases in it. We loaded up flour and sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon...all the things we needed to stock an empty kitchen, and ended up filling two carts.

When we got to the check out counter, the woman asked if I'd brought boxes. I didn't understand what she meant. It turned out we were supposed to bring our own boxes or carriers to take the groceries home. She rummaged around in the back and found us a few.

Self service had not arrived in our home town, and I was surprised to realize I needed to unload the trolley, and then bag the items myself. At the end of the process I expected the grocer to help me out to the car. Another surprise: no help, car!! How was I supposed to get all this home? I forgot I had taken the bus! We dragged our boxes several blocks before we ditched them behind some bushes, walked the rest of the way to fetch my strong young sons and went back to carry it all home. A little culture lesson.

Our favorite stop of the day was at the bakery. We bought a cute round loaf of bread which had a special name that I can't remember. A hob? Or was that the stove? (My Yorkshire is failing me.) I do remember that the ends of the loaf were called the doorstops. We bought custard tarts everyday as well.

On the way home from school we stopped at the sweet shop for a lollie. That's a Popsicle. Most of the candy was in big jars, but we became addicted to Crunchies, Flakes, Smarties and Curly Wurlies. We crossed the street and visited another shop to buy our newspaper. Everyone knew everyone and it was fun to be recognized as the American family.

The green grocer had the fruits and veg, and the butcher shop next door sold the meat. There was often a pig's head hanging in the window, and intestines and brains were highlighted in the displays. I wasn't very adventurous but some of the kids got hooked on steak and kidney pies.

Minced beef (hamburger) was our staple. Dee invented a way to barbecue. He found a wheel barrow in the back garden, which he balanced with a brick, and used the rack of the oven for a grill.

For 50p (about 80¢) the kids feasted on chips and scraps at the chippie shop. The hot, bubbling oil that fried the fish and chips (fries) had bits of batter floating in it. Those are the scraps. They were skimmed off and put in a paper cone along with a few chips, and that was lunch! Douse it all in vinegar and you automatically start speaking with a British accent.

It usually happened during our family prayer. Squeak! Plop! A quick amen, and all nine chairs were shoved back or tipped over as the family ran to the door to see what was in the mail. The post dropped through the slot and landed on the tile floor about 8:am, during breakfast. It was the highlight of every morning. Letters kept us going. I had our friends and neighbors save the letters we wrote and they are treasures. "I like you. Do you still like me? Do you remember me? I need letters!"

I met a woman just before we left and we became pen pals for the whole year I was gone. There was a high profile murder mystery going on at home, and she sent newspaper clippings every day. It was like a magazine serial in chapters. We didn't have much in common in real life, but she was such a support to me with her regular letter packages.

The pillar box across the street from our house became our friend. After all, it held all the love and new memories we were sending across the pond to our dear ones.

We were without a washer and dryer. At that time in York there were no laundromats, so every couple of days Dee dropped off two giant clothes hampers at a laundry service. At night he would pick them up again, and lug them into the house. I sat at the top of the first flight of stairs with all our clothes, while the kids perched on the stairs below. I tossed everybody their belongings, as I thought about the intimacy of strangers sorting through my underwear on a regular basis. Community washers leave a lot to be desired, and by the time we were going home there was a distinct dinginess to everything we owned. Luckily we hadn't brought much, so we didn't feel bad chucking it all when we left.

Different soon became routine. We rented a piano for $10 a month, so there were lessons and practicing. Josh found a gym to work out in, and finished his Eagle project. Walking and taking the bus or the train was convenient transport and I got comfortable with the kids venturing around town on their own. There were church discos (dances), and school carnivals, and new friends. Heidi was 7, and was picked up for a play date in a taxi by her friend and her mother. Apple cider was alcoholic and when tea was offered, it meant dinner. Pudding could be cake, pie or a fruit and cheese plate, but rarely pudding. A jumper is a sweater, and plimsolls and trainers are shoes for games (gym class.) We were loving every word of it! When ta (thanks), brilliant (awesome) and soz (sorry) became part of our vocabulary we felt we had truly become Yorkies.

(To be concluded...)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Left, Right, Left

I've been in a special club since I was a little girl. I'm a Lefty.

Righties (it just doesn't sound as cool) don't understand us. I actually think it's a prejudice kind of thing. I'm a member of a few minority groups, but this is the one I'd go to bat for, (left-handed, of course.) Only 12% of the population identifies with these complaints:
  1. Ink stains on your little finger because you always drag it over your writing.
  2. A stiff wrist from holding your hand above the coil on the notebook.
  3. Ladles that have the spout on the wrong side, can openers that turn from the wrong side, and lids that twist the wrong way.
  4. People always angle a receipt in the wrong direction when you have to sign it.
  5. Not being able to see the line when you're cutting.
  6. Numbers on the keyboard are on the wrong side.
  7. Desks with attached seats are on the wrong side.
  8. People regularly comment on how awkward you look doing everyday tasks: peeling carrots, slicing bread, chopping vegetables, tying's not a confidence builder!
  9. You usually have to learn skills like knitting, throwing, painting, etc. from a right-handed person. It makes everything harder.
  10. We are always told we do things backwards, everything from feeding a baby to cutting meat. (Why isn't their way backwards? It is to us!)
  11. It's more natural to flip through a book or read a magazine from back to front.
  12. Sitting next to people at a table is always uncomfortable, (like, say, having two left hands.)
  13. Right hands are associated with truth (raise your right hand, shake hands with the right hand, join your right hands, "the right hand of God,") while left hands are associated with wrong (left-handed compliment, left-wing, leftist.) Think about right on, and left out.
I assume if you're still reading this you're probably left-handed, or you love someone who is. I've noticed that right-handed people don't even care that they're not in the club. They assume they're, well, you know...right.

We are masters of adaptation. David Wolman wrote, "Lefties have to spend nanoseconds here and there, every day, stepping back and reconfiguring how to operate in the world. It isn't a conscious process, but it happens, and it's a lifetime of calculus that right-handers don't have to contend with. Lefties can never accept the world as it is presented to them."

Something very significant about members of my club is we recognize each other. I wonder if Righties have noticed that Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza are both lefties. What about Bobby Goren? If my waiter has a great backhand (scrawl, not serve) I comment. We like to bond with a fellow Southpaw. In fact, I married one. See? I'm not completely out in left field!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Book It

Reading a novel that takes place in some exotic locale, while traveling through that exact place is as good as it gets for me. Bibliotravel is a website where you type in a city, state, or country, and it then lists books (fiction and non-fiction) that take place in that area, as well as local authors. It's a great way to prepare for a trip, be on a trip, or daydream about being on a trip. You'll be fully booked for your next holiday!


"If you woke up in someone else's body, whose would it be?"

I thought about this for a while. I wonder if anyone would choose mine? I decided to list ten reasons why my body is great.
  1. My fingernails are very strong, and they grow fast.
  2. I have a fabulous sense of smell. It makes life sensual.
  3. I have 20/20 vision for distance.
  4. My eyebrows show up. I've never had to draw them on.
  5. I don't seem to wrinkle easily.
  6. My elbows aren't rough or scaly.
  7. I can walk.
  8. I don't have varicose veins.
  9. Advil is the strongest pain killer I need.
  10. I have an awesome memory.
All in all, I don't think I want anyone else's body, if it means giving up my own. I'm getting used to it.

Do you have anything to brag about?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I Think I Can...I Think I Can

Do you have a mountain to climb? I am so impressed by people who just keep on chugging. Kelly (who is too young to have such wisdom!) recently posted some advice that is worth repeating:

"Often times my happiness seems to get caught up in the whens and ifs of life. I will be happy when..., or my life will be complete if... On such occasions I like to remember the words of Gordon B. Hinckley:
Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he's been robbed. The fact is that most putts don't drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just ordinary people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise...

Life is like an old-time rail journey--delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust cinders, and jolts--interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Life Lessons, Continued

Life Lesson: Do not post blogs while under the influence of Ambien. I made the mistake last night of whiling away the last few minutes before i conked out, working on my blog. Unfortunately I pushed publish as I was drifting off to dream land, and the post Life Lessons From York hit the public before it was finished. So tonight I went back, added a bit, and subtracted a bit and did my usual tweaking. It's fit for a re-read now! Scroll on down...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Life Lessons From York

Everybody in the family went to school while we were in York except me. However, I got an education as well. Every time I stepped outside my house I encountered a situation that made me think. There were teachers around every corner. They seemed like just regular people but I learned a lot from observation. My bus didn't take me to a school, but it took me to some places of learning.

1. Yorkshire folks do everything in the rain. We flew kites, went to the beach, had picnics in the park...none of the locals batted an eye. Josh went spelunking with the scouts for a week with torrential rains the whole time. The boys did a 45-mile hike (that started at midnight) across the moors in muddy bogs filled with frogs. The weather report was always "bright at times, showery at intervals." Life Lesson: You'll miss a lot of fun if you wait for perfect conditions.
Lyke Wake Walk Marker

2. The beauty of a home has nothing to do with square footage or interior decorating. We had friends who lived in row houses, with tiny gardens on narrow streets. Pete played with his friend in a pub the father managed. The family lived upstairs. Our neighbors ran a hotel, and lived there. We lived in servant's quarters. Life Lesson: Don't confuse a house for a home.

Blossom Street across from our house

Dale Street next to the school

3. Parents come in many varieties. I waited for my kids everyday outside their school with people I was scared of at first. It was 1985 and punk had not arrived in my neighborhood at home. Tattoos, mohawks and piercings signaled danger to me. That was before I saw how they interacted with their kids, swooping them up and carrying them on their shoulders, examining spelling tests and essays. Before long I realized I was naive, arrogant and condescending. They, on the other hand, were friendly, interested and hospitable; in other words, nicer than I. Life Lesson: Don't judge a person by their hairstyle.

Punk Rocker Parents

4. Just because a school is older than your state, or your country, it isn't always old-fashioned. Our primary school was Scarcroft. It was built in about 1840, and looked like a haunted house. There were still gas masks on the shelf from World War I! We were warned it was in a "roof (rough) neighborhood." But the teachers were wonderful, the kids were taught Bible stories and they opened each day with prayer! The headmaster took our kids under his wing and made sure they were integrated into the school quickly. They were each inundated with friends and invitations.

Dee attended classes in the King's Manor, built in the 1600's, and his workshops were in the York Minster (built in about 1100) where they studied the restoration of stained glass, among other crafts. The older kids took unfamiliar subjects like Latin, and were placed in 4th year French classes (they'd never studied French) because they had no lower levels. They learned cricket in Games and now understand the British education system and terms like O Levels. Life Lesson: Modern doesn't mean better.

Scarcroft Primary School, York

Scarcroft Green

Kings Manor, Part of University of York

5. Never sell your kids short! In fact I learned to follow their lead. They jumped into experiences just because their friends were doing it. I'd always heard, "Well if your friends walked off a cliff, would you do it, too?" I'll let you judge for yourself:

Community Dance Festival (we're on the right)

Community Christmas Panto (Pantomime or Play w/ cross dressing leads--very traditional)

Life Lesson: It's OK to do things you've never done before, and might never do again. Don't compromise your standards, but jump in with both feet, and be a good sport.

Major Life Lesson: There is a world full of hard-working, God-fearing, family-loving people who are very different from me. They are trying to make the world better by living decent lives, that are different from mine. The world does not revolve around me, or the USA. I am not better. Differences make us interesting, and similarities make us strong. Other people don't want to be like me, any more than I want to be like them, so I won't presume to force my ideals on them. I will cram myself full of all the goodness they share with me, and I will be a better person. Now, I consider that understanding a good education.

To be continued....

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Oh Where or Where Does My Little Blog Go?

Mary Engelbreit Mother Goose illustration

I'm looking for TravelinOma's Library. Where would you suggest I look?

In the spirit of self-improvement, I've been reading a bunch of books, articles and blogs about how to make my blog more reader friendly and easier to find, for the lost masses looking for it. (I'm NOT looking to make money, or advertise at all, just discover stumbling readers.)

My guru suggesters suggest that I connect with the bloggers who are in my Niche. Do I have a niche? I can understand the crafting corners, the mommy blogs, the politicos....but do I fit in somewhere? You've read my stuff. I'm kind of eclectic, to use my favorite term. Is that a genre, or a niche? Eclectic seems too broad to attract interest. I want to be a boutique, not a WalMart.

There's a popular post with daily blog tips that has suggested you can tell what kind of blogger you are, by what your readers think you're wearing.

There's the pajama blogger, the suit and tie blogger, etc. and maybe this exercise helps you find your niche. I'm supposed to do blog niche exploration and tap into niche readership, to study how those blogs have succeeded in making their sites welcoming and readable, and then follow their lead.

I just need your input:
  1. What is my Niche??
  2. Do I fit in a genre?
  3. And as long as we're chatting: Are short posts better?
  4. Long posts?
  5. Serialized posts?
  6. Lots of photos?
  7. Some photos?
  8. None?
  9. Do I let it all hang out too much?
  10. Tell more than you need to know?
  11. Or do you want all the nitty gritty details, the "he-said", "she-said" accounts?
  12. Do you use Bloglines or other feeds, or just check your blogs when you're in the mood?
  13. Do you stop reading when there's a long time between posts? How often is too often to post?
  14. Do you read just the first few lines of a post, or do you usually read the whole thing?
  15. Do you favor blogs for their content (text), graphics, or links to other blogs?
  16. What catches your attention?
  17. What's your favorite kind of blog....(Niche, or Genre,) and give an example of one so we can go check it out. This is one you read every day because you love it. Your aunt's that you feel obligated to read doesn't count unless you truly love it for other reasons.
  18. Do you blog every day, or just a couple days a week, or less?
  19. Do you want blog friendships to extend beyond commenting on each other's blogs?
  20. Last, but not least, how much do other peoples' blog lists influence you to go exploring?
This is a true interactive post and I'm hoping to get a bunch of comments so I can find my little niche in the blog world.

I'm trying to see what others see. Do you see me in my nightgown, hoping my fairy godmother will magically type the first few sentences to get me going? Do you see me paging through every book of illustrations I own trying to match a thought with an image? Do you see my words pouring out of my fingertips faster than I can even think them, re-reading to see what I said? Is there a genre for that? Are any of you in my niche? What's it called?

Consider this your good deed for the day: Help TravelinOma find her niche!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Moving to York, England

York is up north

Our impulsive decision to move our family to England for a year was made while our 13-year-old son was at Scout Camp. The news had gotten around the neighborhood, and as each scout was dropped off, Josh heard more of our plans. He burst into our house yelling "I'M NOT GOING TO ENGLAND!!"

The other six kids had similar reactions. Heidi, who was seven, sat on our porch with her best friend for an hour, both of them sobbing out loud into their hands the whole time. Gabi was fifteen. She would miss her sophomore year, and driver's ed, postponing her driver's license. Amy, ten, suddenly started having bad dreams, and developed strange blinking, and coughing tics. Oh, yeah. This was a great idea.

My parents begged us not to do it. Mom took me to lunch and cried, declaring it the worst mistake we could make, while my dad was trying to convince Dee it would be disastrous and irresponsible to put our family through it. Who quits real life and drags their kids around the world on a whim without a job, a future or a plan?? Dee and I were resolved when we were together, but doubts would creep in during conversations with other people. We had to reassure each other on an hourly basis. As it happened, one of us was always up when the other was down. We never faltered at the same time.

Our house

Meanwhile things were falling into place. Luckily our house had almost tripled in value since we bought it 14 years before, and our payment was very low. We were able to rent it for a year at a fair price that covered both our mortgage payment and our rent in England, with a little left over. A neighbor leased one of our cars for the year, but paid us up front so we could use the money; we sold the other one. We had some antique furniture and some semi-valuable collections: stamps, coins, books, art...we basically sold everything to support ourselves for a year. It all happened very fast. Dee got accepted to his master's program on July 7 and we left on August 15, 1985.

The kids eventually got excited. One Sunday we had a special dinner, and explained why we had made this choice, and how we thought it would benefit our family. We presented it as a chance to do a Study Abroad together. (I was the only one who didn't go to school!) Dee told them that we had prayed about it, and felt confident it was right for us. Then he asked them to trust our decision. They weren't voting, they were sustaining and supporting us in this huge endeavor. They all raised their hands. After that if became a family project.
Imagine herding 7 kids & collecting 27 boxes at the baggage claim

The airline would allow each of us to take three pieces of luggage of a specific size. We got 27 moving boxes with those exact measurements. Each person got two boxes for their stuff, and the extra boxes were packed with household items, everything from scissors to band aids to towels to winter coats. Our renters agreed that we could use the bedrooms in the basement to store everything else. Tables, chairs, sofas, beds, china, linens, bikes and toys were stacked to the ceiling.

The day before we left was very traumatic. We couldn't take our dog, Peaches. Some friends volunteered to tend her for the year! (Peaches sent us regular letters, always signed with a paw print.) Josh took her over to their house. He came home in tears, saying Peaches had cried when he left. He'd had to push her inside the door and close it while she scratched and whimpered, surrounded by a strange new family.

All the other good-byes were just as heart wrenching. Vows of best-friends-forever, and "I'll write every day" were heard from every corner of our now empty house. I know families move all the time, but we hadn't, and none of us could imagine what was ahead.

To be continued...