Like most good things, our summer passed far too quickly. It was one that was restful in some ways and busy in others. Steve was kept very busy, so our vacations were only short weekend jaunts.Kait landed her first job as a barista at Starbucks. I also had minor surgery, that ended up sucking up a lot of my valuable summer time. All in all, it was good to be home with my kids and be together. Here are some of our highlights.
*Maddy spent a lot of time on the field with her first year in select soccer.*Jacob backpacked a lot this season. He completed a 5 day trip on the Tahoe Rim Trail through a wilderness education program. *Steve worked a lot! *Kait got her first job and finished her first year of driving with no tickets or accidents 🙂 *Angela read a lot and prepped for a full fall semester. *Sophie swam and became a strong reader. *We celebrated my brother’s wedding in Fallon, NV. *Steve and I celebrated our 18th anniversary in Napa. *Our family camped, hung out with friends, gardened, enjoyed some beach days, and loved the strangely mild weather in Sacramento.
I love to travel. I do not get to do it as often as I like, but I love going to new places and experiencing new things. For me, travel is like education. You cannot put a price on something that will change you the way travel does. So it is something that I sacrifice for and go with less in my day to day living in order to gain this experience. What I love most about this investment, is that afterwards I have never regretted the money I have spent creating a memory.
I have just returned from one of my most memorable trips. This time I was able to experience it with my beautiful and (I say with a bit of pride) very well read 17 year old daughter, Kaitlyn. We have talked about a trip to Europe for at least 10 years. We had discussed different countries, but we finally settled on England. Kaitlyn has finished a four year study of the Great Books. For those not familiar with that term, Great Books are the canon of the major books that have stood the test of time and been an influence on literature in general. Many of the greatest authors the world has ever know happen to have come from the United Kingdom. So England was a natural choice for a literary vacation.
We have returned from England and I will try to briefly share some of our adventure here in this blog. I cannot believe we packed so much into 10 days, so I will try to stick with the highlights. Just blogging about the trip feels daunting as I am not sure where to start. I suppose I shall do it chronologically.
So Thursday night, I entered my last grade for the spring semester and went home to do some final packing. Needless to say, I did not sleep much and on Friday morning Steve drove Kait and I to the airport. He also packed bikes for the rest of the family because they would enjoy a day biking in Golden Gate Park. Everything went according to plan and it was an easy arrival at SFO. The lines were sparse and we checked in with no problem at all. Steve and the kids waited around for the next couple hours and I tried to enjoy them before we had to separate.
The trip over was great with only a brief layover in Ontario. We arrived at Heathrow at 8:30 am, grabbed our backpacks, and went underground to the tube station. We immediately purchased our “oyster” card, which would allow us to travel by tube and bus in London for the next week. Since there had just been the big wedding, the card was commerative of that event.
We got off the tube at Paddington Station and found our hotel right away. We left our stuff and were ready to get an overview of the city. One of my first surprises about London was the size. It is far bigger than I had imagined and yet with the tube with was remarakebly easy to navigate. It had a very international feel, like most of the major cities of the world. We went straight to Westminster and saw the icons that most associate with London. While I knew we would be Big Ben’s Tower and Westminster Abbey, there is nothing like seeing these landmarks first hand. The beauty of Big Ben’s tower with its ornate details and the intricacy of Westminster Abbey were both something that needed to be seen first hand.
I think perhaps what I loved about Westminster was the limitless details and angles. While, I have seen the building in pictures many times before, I loved being able to examine it in small pieces. As an American, especially a Californian, it was amazing to see a church that has been in existence for over 1,ooo years. In California, we get all excited when something hits the century mark. This church also has entombed the bodies of Charles Dickens, Samuel Johnson, Isaac Newton, George Handel, Robert Browning, Geoffrey Chaucer, Rupyard Kipling, Edmund Spenser and Alfred Lord Tennyson. There are more, but those are the ones that were pertinent to me and my interests.
Here is one of our first views of this famous Thames River. We were jet lagged and exhausted. We had spent 13 hours in planes and another 2 hours in public transit, but when Kait and I walked over the bridge and saw this view, we knew our trip would be wonderful. I think we both fell in love with London at this exact moment.
Here is Kaitlyn on the bridge.
One of our many attempts at a photo of both of us.
The next six days were spent covering, what felt like every inch, of this famous city. Kaitlyn quickly figured out the Tube and I relied on her for pointing us in the right direction. I was pretty impressed with her skills and her adaptability really shined on the trip. We saw so much, that I will hold back to the highlights. For me, the entire trip was amazing. As an English Literature major, it was mind blowing to know I was walking on the streets where Dicken’s Oliver Twist was written about, or seeing Cheapside where Shakespeare spent his career, or stopping at the Cheese Tavern which was a favorite of Dickens and even Mark Twain’s when he visited. It was just amazing. It was also great having a daughter who loved seeing it all as well. So the highlights of those days in London were:
The British Museum….Here we saw so many amazing Egyptian artifacts and Greek sculptures. I honestly had no idea that England had stripped the Greek ruins so much. As much as we enjoyed seeing it all, I did have a nagging feeling that they did not belong there. I know it was done in the age of “Empire”, but I kept thinking they should be returned to the country they belong to.
The National Gallery….Here was an amazing collection of art. Kaitlyn fell in love with an entire wing dedicated to Christian Icons. She especially loved an artist named Barnaba de Modena.
It was beautiful. I saw a gorgeous “cartoon” done by Leonardo da Vinci. I spent 15 minutes just enjoying the beauty of his work. I also loved an artist I was not familiar with before by the name of Pontormo and his paintings were done around 1515. He had a beautiful set of paintings depicting the story of Joseph from the Old Testament. The colors were unusual for the period. They were very bright. Unfortunately, the image below does not do justice to seeing the original.
Walking Tour through London….This tour led us through London and showed us parts of the city that had survived the great fire. We also were able to enjoy many of the churches that were designed by Christopher Wren. His architecture was amazing. In the tour, we made a stop at Twining Tea shop. The cute little shop has been selling tea since the 1600’s. I think the tea we bought here was our favorite souvenir.
The tour left us in front of the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. It was an amazing sight, although on a dark note, all I could not help remembering from history the two young princes who were locked in the tower and left to die some four hundred years ago.
The National Library…While we have no photos from this stop, it was one of our favorites. To be able to see words penned from the hand of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte was amazing. There was also original folios from Shakespeare, the Guttenberg Bible, the Magna Carta and even lyrics hand written from the Beatles. It was a treat to see them firsthand.
We also saw the usual sights, like the changing of the guard, we had a high tea at a very nice hotel on the Thames in Chelsea, and, of course, had to take a peak at Harrod’s. On a side note, I expected Harrod’s to be high class, but I was simply not prepared for that store. I told Kait, it made me feel like I was from a third world country. Wow. While in England, we bought souvenirs for the two little girls at home: a teddy bear with a pink hoody from Harrod’s and a jersey from Manchester United. Anyone who knows my girls can guess which gift went to who. Sophie would have adored Harrod’s and quickly realized she was born to the wrong family 🙂
During our stay, we spent a day in Oxford. For me, this was my favorite day. We did a walking tour and retraced CS Lewis’ life in the town. It was wonderful to read words he had written in different locations. We started the day off at the world famous Blackwell’s Bookstore. Kait and I could have spent the entire day there, but we dragged ourselves out of the store and started our tour. We saw Lewis first house where he stayed when he came to Oxford as a student, the graveyard where his fellow Inkling Charles Williams was buried, and we stood outside Magdalene College. His office was in the “New” building, dated 1735. Here was the place that Lewis converted to Christianity. He wrote, “You must picture me alone in that room on Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. In Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps that night the most dejected convert in all of England.”
We also saw the College chapel were he worshipped during the week and also the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. It was here that he delivered his famous sermon, “The Weight of Glory”. What I found interesting about this church, was that it has two pulpits. Apparently, they liked to have debates on moral issues here. It was interesting. Our last stop, was one of Lewis’ favorite spots. We stopped at the Eagle and Child Pub. It was here that the Inklings, which included JRR Tolkien, met Tuesday mornings to discuss the books they were reading and writing. It was almost surreal to be sitting in a place where Lewis had processed over his Narnia and Tolkien and shared his concepts of Middle Earth. They had been so much greatness in a small, dark little room. I loved it.
Kaitlyn and I spent the last few nights of our trip in Stratford Upon Avon. For those who do not know, it is the hometown of William Shakespeare. We loved London, but it had a very international feel and this small village felt very English to us. We saw the Bard’s birthplace and his grave inside a church. It had the beautiful Avon river and we loved the change of pace. We had tickets to see MacBeth on Friday night. It was performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company and it was amazing. Kaitlyn and I had great seats and the theatre was perfect. Seeing Shakespeare performed in England was also a bucket list item for me, but the performance exceeded all my expectations. It was magnificent.
Saturday night, we stayed at a hotel in Heathrow because our flight the next day was early. We had loved every single minute of the trip, but we were ready to go home and see the rest of the family. I was grateful not only for the trip, but to have 10 days with my daughter. I know times are changing very quickly for her and she is getting ready to spread her wings.This trip was something for which I will always remember and be grateful.
Thomas Merton wrote, “Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.” Those words ring true and this year was a year with an interesting harvest. This week, I wrap up another year. While most of the world uses January as the beginning of the year, I use the end of August. Around here, the academic calendar is our master calendar. That being said, right about now is our year end. I am just getting ready to post the final grades for my last classes. In this year of meaningful moments, I began a new season of learning. This concluded my first full year of teaching college. While the last several years have been an education of theories and proposed praxis, this year has been an education of the practical with real students and very real situations. This is has been a year where I had to adjust my own learned pedagogy and in many ways adjust to situations that were never covered in graduate school. I am closing this year with some really new and valuable insights.Some of these gems I will list. Others, I will keep to myself. I have gained a new level of confidence with this first year completed, and yet I know next year I will learn even more. I am certain that I work in a field where experience continues to be a thorough educator. Here are a few of the gems I have gathered. I have learned to not be shocked by anything. Teaching is a vocation that is highly relational and extremely confrontational. I cannot expect students to share my values. Yes, I do have to repeat information more to my students than to my seven year old. The attitude of entitlement appears to be a generational issue. No one realizes how long grading takes composition teachers. (30 papers=15 hours minimum) A good department chair makes all the difference. I am blessed in this area.
Now I switch gears. Currently, Kaitlyn and I are packing for England. It has been a “bucket list” goal of mine for over 20 years. It is also a reward for my girl who completed four years of the Great Books program, as well as auditing a graduate level seminar on Jane Austen. Our trip will be a very literary look at England. To say we are excited, would be an understatement. I also look forward to being with just Kaitlyn for nine days. She enters her senior year in the fall and I am well aware of just how quickly next year will pass. So we are getting ready to embark on a chance to visit some grand museums and beautiful castles and cathedrals. We also plan to attend a couple of plays by the Royal Shakespeare company and, of course, spend some time in Oxford where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien penned some of my favorite books. I am grateful for a couple of gifts I received prior to my trip. My dear friend gave me with a beautiful leather journal, embossed with words from Hamlet. I cannot wait to document our journey with this gorgeous gift. In addition, a couple of my very thoughtful friends have gifted me with warm hats for the journey. While it has been a few weeks since I shaved my head for Emma Kait, London will be cool and my head is not used to having so little covering:) I am so thankful for thoughtful friends!
This week our hearts are aching for our dear friends. They were told that their beautiful 10 year old daughter, Emma Kait has stage 3 lymphoma. Emma began chemotherapy and is set on a course of treatment. They are putting their faith in action as they continuously trust Christ on this journey. We are praying very hard right now and are asking those of you, whether you know them or not, to do the same. Pray for Emma Kait’s health. Please pray for protection over her body and that it will be rid of this horrible disease. Pray for her family. Please pray that they will have strength for this battle, wisdom as they make decisions, and peace in the midst of it all.
Here is a link to Emma’s blog that is following her journey.
While New Year’s day has now passed, it is on this first Monday of the year that I am finally able to stop and think about this coming year. Like most, maybe even more than most, I love resolutions, goals, and just projecting and planning for a new year. This year, however, is one in which I will need to re-examine some goals. 2010 was a year of goal completion for me. Now I look around and realize I am able to actually even look at “bucket list” level goals. So here we go, my (Angela’s) personal goals for this year. I am optimistic that these all can be accomplished in the next 12 months, or at least most.
13. Add to my library
I want to add at least two more CS Lewis titles for my library (my goal is to own all of them, but that will take a while.)
12. Submit a piece of writing for publication
I am not sure where yet, but I will probably submit some articles to some of my favorite magazines.
11. Go backpacking with just my husband
I am finally going to give into my husband’s repeated requests.
10. Go on a long family road trip
I think as a family we need to have this experience before Kait leaves for college. We are thinking of doing at least 3-4 states.
9. Go to Europe
this one is actually a bucket list item. I still have high hopes this will happen. It may not be the original countries we had planned, but I know it will be great. I am especially looking forward to spending time with my oldest on this adventure.
8. Be more consistent with my accountability partners
I am going to make it a priority to meet once a month with my two friends for sharing, prayer, and confession. We have done it for over a year now, but this year I want to make it more regular.
7. Freezer Cooking
At least once a quarter I am going to cook in masses. I love the idea of one mess for 10 meals. I also gain a lot of time by doing it this way.
6. Read for pleasure
I am going to make time to read four books off my personal book list.
5. Write letters…Not E-mails
I want to write a handwritten letter at least once a week.
4. Catch up with the Bard
I love Shakespeare and the goal for me is to get out to at least two of his plays this year.
3. Engage in more one on one time with my kids
Steve has made a habit of going on a once a week date with each of our kids. I am usually with most of them and I am going to attempt to carve some one on one time out.
2. Be more active
In order to survive the load of being a mom, home educator, and graduate student something had to give and it ended up being my physical fitness. Now that I am in this new chapter in my life, I really want to get back to some healthy habits.
It is ironic that as someone who has spent so much of the last six years writing and who even teaches writing, does not make time to write herself. My goal this year is to set time aside each week to simply write. I am not sure what topics will arise and how it might evolve, but I want to make writing a priority.
We had a beautiful Christmas this year. On Christmas Eve we followed our usual traditions of exchanging gifts with some of Steve’s extended family and then going downtown to Trinity Cathedral for their Christmas Eve service. We love leaving late that night really celebrating the birth of Christ. We went home, opened the packages with new pajamas and went to bed. (although it did take some time getting Sophie to actually go to sleep) Christmas day was relaxing and wonderful. Our highlights this year were the traditional homemade cinnamon rolls, an Italian themed dinner, and simply being together with no real agenda. We all loved the day. Kait was a little sore and not quite feeling herself, but she still enjoyed the day. (Later we got blood results revealing that she actually had Mono)
It was a very good day. I love these people who I live with and loved just sitting back and watching how much they really do love one another as well. These are the days I try to commit to memory.
Kids are all different as are the dynamics between different siblings. When we had Kait and Jacob, there was never a whole lot of issues. Sure they argue from time to time but the intensity was simply nothing compared to our next two, Sophia and Madelyn. I am not sure if it is the gender issue or Madelyn’s over the top sense of competitiveness or Sophie’s sassy attitude or maybe the combined effect of all three, but life is certainly never dull between these girls. Today while at the store there was the usual jockeying for a position closest to me. Sophie quickly secured my hand on the left side and Madelyn took the right. It was only a second before Madelyn looked over at her sister and said, “Oh you are on the left and I am on the right side and just like Jesus puts the goats on the left and the sheep on the right.” Sophie did not quite comprehend the meaning, but she knew she needed to be upset.