August 2, 2016

When Things Go Quiet

"I said nothing for a time, just ran my fingertips along the edge of the human-shaped emptiness that had been left inside me."
- Haruki Murakami; Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman 

Things have been quiet on this blog of mine for quite some time.

My mentor-teacher-turned-good-friend Stephanie knows me extremely well; she knows exactly what my silence means. Actually, she taught me about what my silence means. Stephanie always says that she knows something's wrong - that things aren't quite okay - when I go quiet. I hadn't ever realized it until she brought it to my attention, but it has proven to be true time and time again. If you watch the patterns on my blog, or especially on my Instagram, you can generally tell how things are going with me.

But I've been relatively quiet (at least compared to normal) on Instagram lately. And I'd definitely call zero blog posts in over two months quiet on that front. So obviously things aren't okay. And when things aren't okay, I don't write. That's just the way it is with me. Even when I want to write about superficial things or trips we've taken, I can't.

We've been home for just over two months, and we'll head back to England exactly three weeks from now as long as things go according to plan - or according Plan A, at least; Plan B is a totally different story.

We didn't plan on coming home. We're exceedingly glad we could, of course; but if coming home meant things didn't turn out the way they did, I would have chosen not to come home at all. Our world has been rocked in a way I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, but there's no sense in calling the sky anything but blue. It is what it is, and all we can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other.

But I want to get back to writing. So this is me breaking that silence. Word by word. Line by line. Post by post.

If I'm being completely honest, I'm not sure that I'm entirely ready to really get back into writing on a consistent basis because that means processing some very difficult things that I've tried to keep hidden in the corner of the closet; but I've figured out that writing is a survival tactic for me, so write I must.

The silence must cease, and the only way to end it is to speak.

May 25, 2016

Stratford and Kenilworth: Revisited

February 17-18, 2016

Way back in February, my dear friend Hillary came to stay with us for a few days. She was my very best friend through those tumultuous years of middle school and early high school, but we hadn't seen each other in the 12 years since I moved to Oklahoma (she had moved to Australia with her wonderful family after graduating). However, she moved to London just a few months before we moved to Birmingham, and it has been such a wonderful blessing to be able to see her on multiple occasions! We originally met up (rather briefly) in Stratford back in December and then again in London a few weeks later when she showed us Notting Hill & the Portobello Market, but it was high time that we were able to spend some extended quality time with each other. Since our roommate who resided in the living room was out of town, Hillary was able to sleep there - thank goodness, for her sake... the only place to put her was the floor and it is not comfortable!

She arrived at New Street station on the 16th and left on the 19th of February, which gave us two solid days to adventure together. Hillary really wanted to see Kenilworth Castle (who can blame her?), and she wanted to visit Stratford again since her first trip was a whirlwind and there were several things she missed - she was on a bus tour which gave her just a couple of hours to both sight-see and find lunch.

Our first day of adventuring took us to Stratford-upon-Avon - the birthplace, home, and resting place of William Shakespeare; our second day of adventuring took us to Kenilworth Castle. Of course going to two of my favorite places in England with one of my dearest friends was a wonderful experience, but the best part was simply having her company. It's a great blessing to be able to sit and chat with an old friend whom you don't have to explain your past to, where you know so much about the foundations of each other's lives and are joined by your history of life lived together. I also thoroughly enjoyed talking to her about teaching, about moving abroad, about the struggles we've faced, about all sorts of things. Hillary's visit was so refreshing, and I was sad to see it end!

In case you missed it, I wrote a four-part series about our visits to Stratford: Anne Hathaway's Cottage, Shakespeare's Birthplace, Shakespeare's Grave, and Everything Else.
I also wrote a two-part series about Kenilworth: Exploring Kenilworth's Ruins, and A Walk in the English Countryside.

Oh yeah, that was also the time that I made my bomb-tastic chocolate cake for the first time. We devoured that thing. Yum!

I don't have a ton to say about the specific things we did or saw mostly because I had seen them a few times before - not that I minded doing it again! Like I said earlier, Stratford and Kenilworth are two of my very favorite places in England, so I loved getting to show Hillary around like a local.

The day we went to Stratford was rather damp... like, it rained a lot. Poor Hillz. Her jacked was soaked by the end of the day! We are both rather poor while living abroad, so we packed sandwiches for our lunch, but it was raining so heavily that we couldn't eat outside on a bench. To try to make the best of things, we went to a little cafe across the street from Anne Hathaway's cottage, ordered a couple of coffees, sat in the back of the back room and ate our sandwiches while our coffee cooled down. One of the workers came around, saw we were eating our own food, and gave us a proper English scolding - okay, maybe not scolding, but he had perfected the art of both appearing polite and allowing us to "finish" our food (we were nearly through) while also making us (or maybe just me) feel really guilty. I apologized and told him that we would have eaten outside but we couldn't because of the rain; what I wanted to tell him was that we were still paying customers, their customer service was crap, and their coffee was worse than crap... but I didn't. We were also the only customers in there. Alas.

All in all, though, it was a wonderful two days of exploration with my very dear friend.

Now I'll just let the pictures do most of the talking... aside from the odd caption, of course. Enjoy!


One of the adorable tea cups at the cafe. I have a weakness.

The room where Shakespeare's father made and sold gloves (out that window which faces the main street).
Those wooden boxes gave us a smell of what the workshop would have smelled like... leather, urine, and manure! Gross.
I smelled the first two, but I had a feeling what the third would be and decided against it... Hillary's face was priceless!

Classic, Hillz... haha.

This worker in Shakespeare's home/public house was adorable. She stitched her own bonnet!

Walking along the River Avon.

Kenilworth Castle

This has to be my favorite picture of us ever!!

As we sat here on a bench eating our lunches, a little boy bolted past us from around the corner to my right.
He cursed and practically jumped out of his skin because he didn't expect to see us there... haha!

One of the fireplaces in Queen Elizabeth I's chambers.

Hills got this picture for me at one of my favorite parts of the castle!
That big round area is where the cauldron used to be; they walked to the top of the steps to stir the meats.
It's just a tiny portion of one of the largest medieval kitchens in England and I love it!

In the cafe situated in the historic stables. I just loved this bread box!

THE best hot chocolate. It was so cold that day!