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Tomodachi

HPIM2114Seeing England from a fresh perspective

I don’t think I am immune to the beauty that surrounds me here in England, but after living here for 20 months, I must admit I have started to take some of it for granted. The neat hedges, the fluffy sheep dotting green fields, the storybook stone cottages with their thatched roofs, wisteria climbing up walls and dripping over doorways–I’m so accustomed to seeing these things that I don’t always stop now to appreciate them for their individual merits. These characterful features of the country’s landscape were once the primary focus of my photographs, but now they are more often in the background of candid portraits and architectural close-ups.

Fortunately, a very dear friend (ともだち tomodachi) has just arrived from Japan for a visit. Having moved here from Japan myself, I understand how different the land, the vegetation, the roads, and the houses look to her. In fact, she is so in awe that, as we’ve been driving around the past two days, she keeps saying, “It looks so fake!” It took me a moment to understand she doesn’t mean that in a negative way…she only means that everything looks so perfect, like it’s been designed for a movie set (she even said this yesterday in the howling wind and sideways rain). Or, more accurately, in her words, “It looks like Disney!” So today we tuned out the siren song of the outlet mall long enough to pull off on the side of a single-track road bisecting a field of rapeseed flowers, gilded and glowing under a brilliant sun. Witnessing her utter joy as she snapped away with her iPhone, storing images to share with her friends and family when she returns to her home halfway around the world, I was reminded not to take England’s natural beauty for granted. With but three short months left to enjoy it, I should be pulling off the road to capture my own memories every chance I get. Because, frankly, I don’t think even Disney could recreate this magic.

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Posts I commented on today:
(In case you missed the reason for this, I participated in the A to Z Blogging Challenge in April, and though I posted every day, I was lousy at visiting and commenting on other participants’ blogs. So for each day in May, I’ve vowed to visit and comment on three posts from the various blogging communities whose members have supported my efforts. At least one post MUST be from a new blog I haven’t yet visited.)
Zoned Zebras (FlashTyme–The Blog by M.J. Joachim)  new blog of the day
My Top Three Terrible Traits? Is That Even Possible? (Janice Heck: My Time to Write)
W is for Welcome to Washington (Gwendolyn Rose: Living with a Corgi Princess)  another new blog!

 
5 Comments

Posted by on May 25, 2013 in How It Is, Observations, True Life

 

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Edumacation

Ahh, 50s pinkHonoring my commitment to lifelong learning

Long before I took my first education class and heard the formal term, I knew down deep that I was a “lifelong learner.” And I’m not just talking about book learning…I’m the type of person who is able to take away something new from almost any situation, be it a piece of “useless” trivia or a major life lesson. Not only do I enjoy discovering and storing away new information like a squirrel stockpiling acorns for winter, but I can muddle through most topics of conversation at social functions, and who knows when one of those little nuggets of knowledge might enable me to save the day? Maybe I’ll be the star player who knows the answer to that obscure trivia question and boosts my team to a win at the local pub’s quiz night or the only chick in the car who knows how to assemble the jack when our girls’ night out is interrupted by a flat tire.

This week, I’ve enrolled myself in three somewhat more structured opportunities for learning to take place next month. First of all, I signed up for an online linguistics course through University of Phoenix so I can complete the continuing education requirements needed to renew my teaching license. Although I’m hoping not to have to return to an elementary classroom when we get back to the States, I’d rather have a current license and not need it than need it and not have it.

Secondly, I signed up for a one-day ESL course through Oxford University’s continuing education department. I am hoping to transition from elementary education to adult education when I begin full-time teaching again, and I’ve so enjoyed the informal English classes I’ve taught overseas the past five years that I think adult ESL may be my niche. The Oxford class focuses on speaking activities to improve English learners’ fluency, which is an area where my lesson plans could use some improvement. The course has the added benefit of giving me a legitimate reason to purchase an Oxford sweatshirt (I’d somehow feel a fraud wearing one without actually having taken a class there, although I know people do it all the time).

Last, but not least, I secured a spot in a weekend spoon carving class. A local woodworker had posted his flyer in our village pub last year, and as soon as I laid eyes on it I knew spoon carving was something I wanted to try. I’ve never carved anything other than a popsicle stick, so I’m not sure how or why I’m so convinced this is a hobby for me, but I knew regret would haunt me if I left England without taking the course. Even if I suck at carving and can’t fill my family’s Christmas stockings with beautiful (or even “rustic,” which is the PC term for screwed-up) hand-carved spoons this year, I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I didn’t let an opportunity to learn something new pass me by.

Stay tuned next month to find out how each of these new learning opportunities pans out!

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Posts I commented on today:
7 Ways to motivate yourself to write (bekindrewrite)
Weekly Photo Challenge: Escape (Through My Lens)  new blog of the day
19 Hours and the Merit of Coal (rarasaur)

 
2 Comments

Posted by on May 18, 2013 in On Me, Six Word Saturday, True Life

 

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Weed?

102_1644Mystified by blooms in my garden

Shhh, don’t say anything out loud in case we jinx it, but it appears that spring might have finally sprung here in jolly old England! The April showers that started in 2012 and have pretty much continued unceasingly since, have finally cleared. This week has been a string of mostly sunny days, complete with temperatures in the 60s and bright blue skies, setting the stage for the legendary May flowers. This much anticipated meteorological blessing has caused an eruption of early (well that term is relative, since they are a full three weeks later than last year) bloomers in my garden (British English for flower beds), from daffodils (or are they narcissus–or is there even a difference?) to tulips to grape hyacinth. A couple shrubs have also begun to flower, including a sassy forsythia under the front window.

My trouble is, lots of weeds are also blooming. I can recognize the dandelions, whether in full yellow glory or just popping up, and the prickly sprouts of a new crop of thistles. The little daisies that are carpeting the back lawn are cute, but not supposed to be there. But what about the pretty pink flowering specimen in the picture above? It looks too fancy to be a weed, yet its position on the very edge of the flower border leads me to believe it was not planted intentionally by my landlords. Should it stay or should it go? There are many such mysteries in my garden, so I’ve adopted a very open-minded approach to weeding: One man’s weed is another man’s wildflower. If I like the looks of an unknown bloom and its accompanying leaves, it stays. If it looks, well, weedy, then it goes. I’m sure the passing neighbors alternate between, “Why is she digging that up?” and “Why on earth doesn’t she dig that up?” I figure if the landlords had been concerned with preserving their plantings during the lease period of the ignorant Americans, they should have either left me detailed sketches and instructions or a highly qualified gardener.

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Posts I commented on today (well, actually yesterday…this is a scheduled post while I’m antiquing in Wales):
A to Z is over. What next? 1, 2, 3…? (A few drops of ink)  new blog of the day
Friday Fiction–Star-Crossed (elmowrites)
Gramp’s Library (Embracing Life from a Writer’s Perch)

 

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Rarity

HPIM1850Yes, Virginia, England does have sunsets!

I’m no gardener, but I doubt this tulip is rare (although the fact that it bloomed before my daffodils does make me wonder). No, what is rare about this photo is that the tulip was captured at sunset. Yes, sunset. In England. I’d begun to think there was no such thing. I don’t know the last time I saw a sunset here, thanks to the nearly unbroken string of cloudy, rainy, or snowy days we’ve had since this time last year. (Just a note: I haven’t seen many sunrises either, and it’s not because I was sleeping the days away.) In the rarest of occurrences, the sun was out all day today, sunup to sundown, with not a cloud to be seen. I figure the meteorological good fortune is a direct consequence of my mom’s arrival from the States; there’ll be only bright blue skies while she’s here, and it’ll be impossible for her to believe that the past twelve months have been nothing but the stereotypical dismal British weather portrayed in every movie ever set in England. I’d forgotten just how good the sun feels and how energizing it can be, even if the temperatures are only in the 50s. I could get used to this. I could practically feel my body synthesizing vitamin D while I was pulling weeds around the tulips this evening. So if the sun shines for the next two weeks, and it looks like my mom is indeed the good luck charm that has brought sunshine to England, then I’ll be begging her to stay until August when we are due to move back to America!

 
 

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Liebster 2.0

liebster-award1I’d like to thank the academy…

Look at that, I have just been nominated for my second Liebster Blog Award in as many weeks, this time by Becs at Tales from Tedium, who is new to blogging and has really jumped into the April A to Z Challenge with both feet (please, go check out her gratitude-themed posts–great food for thought). I’m honored to get another opportunity to share more about myself and to bring to light some other blogs you might have missed (but really, really need to see).

To my Liebster Nominees, you are under no obligation to accept this award.  However, it is an awesome opportunity for me to get to know you and you me, and to increase your own readership while pointing your readers to other blogs worth visiting.  If you decide to accept the award in its current format, Blogging from A to Z Challenge, here’s what you need do:

  • Post the award on your blog
  • Thank the blogger who gave you the award and link back to his/her site
  • Post 11 random facts about yourself
  • Answer the 11 questions that the presenter of the award has asked
  • Nominate 11 new bloggers with fewer than 200 followers
  • Ask your nominees 11 questions

Eleven Random Facts About Me

  • I’d like to have a donkey, a duck, and a Herdwick sheep in my backyard.
  • I’ve been a veterinary assistant, a picture framer, and a teacher.
  • I am the spider-killer in my family.
  • My houseplants are as dear to me as my pets.
  • I have a recurring dream of witnessing a plane crash.
  • I make a mean crockpot BBQ.
  • In the past five years, I’ve travelled to 14 countries.
  • Don’t tell my mom, but I once knocked her iron off the ironing board onto my brother’s head.
  • I want to help build a house with Habitat for Humanity.
  • I can crochet, but I can’t knit.
  • I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up.

My Answers to Becs’ Eleven Questions
~If you had to pick your final meal what would you choose?
Filet mignon smothered in a wine and mushroom reduction, a baked potato with butter and sour cream, a tossed salad with fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes, steamed broccoli, and yeast rolls with tons of butter. For dessert, a big bowl of chocolate ice cream and hot-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies.

~If you  could only have one book of fiction to read forever, which would it be?
Message in a Bottle
by Nicholas Sparks. And a box of tissues, please.

~Where do you most want to visit and why?
Australia, because the scenery seems breathtaking, the people friendly, and the atmosphere relaxed. 

~What is the best thing about blogging?
It’s enabled me to find my voice again, and is challenging me to venture beyond just journaling and into dipping my toes back into fiction.

~Why did you choose to take part in the A to Z challenge?
Well, I love a challenge, and this was structured enough to allow for some pre-planning/writing, but also open for each blogger to interpret in his/her own style.

~Have you preplanned any posts, Q or X or Z perhaps?
I’ve thought about those “tough” ones, but haven’t gotten as far as scratching out any thoughts yet.

~When did you last enjoy live music, who played?
I went to a small (I guess “intimate” is more flattering) concert by up-and-coming country artist Ali Dee. She was touring American military bases in Europe during February as part of the Armed Forces Entertainment program.

~Who influences you?
Oh, lots of people. I’m influenced to be my best by all those I love and respect, and influenced to strive harder by strangers who’ve screwed up as well as those who’ve set an example to be proud of.

~Which three words best describe you?
Quiet, resourceful, loving

~What makes you happy?
Sunny days, warm hugs, funny jokes, animals, my family, good books, blogging, long walks, the beach…the list is endless.

~How long did you take to choose your 11 nominations?
Hours….

Eleven New Questions for My Nominees
~Who is the most famous person you’ve ever met?
~Why did you start blogging?
~What is your most likable quality?
~What is one item you should really throw away, but probably never will?
~If you could be anywhere in the world this New Year’s Eve, where would you choose and why?
~Summarize your outlook on life in six words.
~What event in the next few months are you most looking forward to?
~If you had a $100 gift card to spend in any store, where would you choose to spend it?
~What cheers you up when you are having a bad day?
~What one piece of advice would you give to a new blogger?
~If you could create a memorial to yourself in a city park, what and where would the memorial be?

And my nominees are…
(Note to nominees: If you’ve already been nominated for a Liebster in the past, I won’t be the least bit offended if you accept this nomination as an Honorary Liebster Award, with no strings attached!)

Breaking Cover (challenge theme Leicester–photos and history appreciated)

Ridges and Ripples (probably more than 200 followers, but love the food and book combo)

helenjameson | Scribble Girl (Dead Blogs hit close to home)

Duct Tape Holds My World Together (I know that world)

Nouveau Scarecrow (New to blogging? Really?)

Voices in My Head (You had me with Downton Abbey)

…So Help Me Cats (you GOTTA read the entry for F!)

The Squirrel Nutwork (heehee, a squirrel’s-eye view of the world!)

Underachievers Anonymous (a peek into a real person’s real life)

K’s (great photos)

The Letter Not Sent (letters to everyone, what a cool theme!)

 
4 Comments

Posted by on April 13, 2013 in Awards, Challenges

 

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Feel

101_3157Who am I to give advice?
Photo credit Jim Bayless

Feel big feel small
Feel joy in it all.
Feel meek feel bold
Feel you’ll never grow old.

Feel what you feel
for better or worse.
Feel nothing at all–
a terrible curse.

Today’s post does double duty as the sixth day’s offering in the April A to Z Challenge (letter F) as well as responding to Trifextra‘s request for 33 words of advice.

 
22 Comments

Posted by on April 6, 2013 in Challenges, Poetry

 

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Rebellion

101_2924Dammit, Winter, you can’t stop us!!!

This British winter, which from a Virginia girl’s perspective I would argue officially began in November 2011, has tried its best to break us. The frigid temperatures, the leaden skies, the incessant precipitation in all its liquid and frozen incarnations, the howling winds–they’ve all conspired to suck every last bit of enthusiasm out of our desire to travel and explore this country. But we have stood firm in our resolution to get out there and do as much as we can before we have to leave England. This weekend is no exception. We are exploring the Lake District, moving as nimbly as we can through towns and along footpaths in our numerous layers of clothing topped by multiple layers of outerwear. In intermittent snow flurries, we conquered Keswick today, roaming the Saturday market, browsing in numerous shops, wandering through the pencil museum, and completing a Top Secret Treasure Trails Spy Mission before embarking on a four-mile circular walk along the Greta River. By day’s end, we had racked up 11 frosty miles on the old pedometer, and had defiantly thumbed our noses at Old Man Winter once more (although I must admit by the end of the afternoon, my sole mission in life had been to return to the B&B for a hot shower, my flannel pjs, and a cup of tea). Rebels that we are, tomorrow we’ll bundle up again and explore the length of Windermere, the longest lake in the District at just over 11 miles, via a four-mile trail and a series of teeth-chattering boat hops between villages.

While we’ve obviously demonstrated that we are not afraid to go and do our thing even when the weather outside is frightful, we are vehemently lobbying for some warm and/or sunny spring weather when we explore Northern Wales over the upcoming Bank Holiday weekend in May!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 30, 2013 in How It Is, True Life

 

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