Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

It's been a fantastic year...heck a great four years. I'm tempted to wax sentimental, but to be honest, there's been more than enough of that around here lately!

So instead I'll show you our makeshift fridge from our hotel room in London. We have a couple of bottles of cider (one Bulmer's pear, one Kopparberg mixed fruit) hanging in a bag from our window on the second floor, ready for midnight consumption!


Except we probably won't make it that long. :)

If you've been tagging along my blogging adventures for the whole past four years (mom!) or if you're new to the party, thanks for reading and commenting and being a part of the fun!

Here's to a great 2011. Can't wait to see what it has in store!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ode to Lil

It goes without saying that the hardest part of moving is leaving good friends. Even when you know you'll see them again, losing them as a part of your regular life isn't easy.

This is Caleb's best bud Lily.


She's been his friend since he was 1 month old and she was 11 months old. They didn't know they were friends at the time, but they soon figured it out.

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For a while, they didn't really know how to play together, so mostly they just hung out and babbled at each other.

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Once they got a bit bigger, though, they liked to go on adventures together. Sometimes they were local adventures, like to the river in downtown Thetford on a sunny afternoon.

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Ely was another local favorite from the time they were babies until they became the big kids they are today.

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Other times, we'd go a bit father, like to a proper beach!

Hunstanton Beach June 10

Sometimes we'd go for a while without seeing Lily. But as soon as we did, Caleb was ready with a big hug for her.

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Or sometimes just a hand to hold.

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Caleb knows he's moving to South Carolina soon. And he knows that Lily is moving, too. But I'm sure he doesn't quite grasp that he's not going to be able to go over to Lily's house any time soon. I'm sure he isn't aware that she won't be in his classroom at his day care any more.

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His whole little world is about to shift and get toppled upside down.

He's young and resilient, and I know he'll recover. At the same time, my mom heart hurts for my little guy. To lose all that is familiar is hard. To lose the familiar comfort of regular contact with your best friend in the process is heart breaking.


All the same, I'm grateful for the three years of friendship he's banked with Lil. Fortunately she'll be moving close to some of my family in the not-so-distant future, so I know we'll see her and her family again.

And I'm glad for that. 'Cause she's a keeper. :)

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Mental Packing

As our final days in England draw closer, I find myself grasping at any tangible item I feel will give me a connection to our time here. It's strange to think soon England will be a memory and not my daily life. So as I pass something I want to remember, I pull out my camera or my debit card and make sure I have a piece of it to take with me. It's as if I'm desperately trying to stuff every last memento and memory into a mental suitcase so I can pull them out later when I'm homesick for England.

That was why purchasing this silver plated tea service from one of our local antique dealers felt terribly important. When else will I have a chance to purchase an authentic English tea service from the 1860s? I needed to have something physical, something I could reach out and grab to help me remember the importance of a nice cuppa tea.

Silver Tea Service

It's also why I purchased a silly little hair clip covered in feathers today while wandering through Bury St Edmunds in search of good Boxing Day sales. One of my English coworkers had a lovely little feathery hair clip during our Christmas party that I adored, and she advised me that I must not leave England without a bit a plumage! I'm not sure she would have envisioned this hot pink piece of fluff, but by golly I love it! I have no idea what I'll where it with or what occasion will justify a bit of plumage, but when duty calls, I'll be prepared!

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It's why I was thrilled when my friend Robin gave me this gorgeously tacky mug commemorating the engagement of Prince William to Kate Middleton. Are you kidding me?! This thing is beautifully ugly, and I can't wait to drink tea out of it and remember all the media hype from their engagement.

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It's also why I took this picture of a hedge in a little town called Flempton, which lies on the A1101 between RAF Mildenhall and Bury St Edmunds. A proud part of my military heritage comes from the fact that my mom and dad were actually stationed at RAF Lakenheath and lived in Mildenhall village when I was born. I had a blast taking mom and dad around when they came to visit to see what they would remember. And this hedge is something they remembered well because they flipped their VW bug (I beleive) into these hedges on a slippery day many years back (pre-Kelly.)

Flempton Golf Course

It's also why I took a picture of our bizarre laundry set up in our house. For some reason, even though it was a brand new house, the builders chose not to include a way to vent a dryer. Most of our neighbors opted to put their dryers out in the garages, and some of the locals bought condenser dryers, which are quite frankly hard to explain. We vented our dryer out the kitchen window every week. Beleive me, it's as big a pain in the butt as you'd think.

Laundry Day

It's also why I grabbed this picture advocating dualing the A-11. There is a stretch of the A-11 that's nearly ten miles long which is a single carriage way (one lane each direction.) It's a dual carriage way (two lanes in each direction) on every other part of the A-11, but for some reason it's taken ages to get this stretch taken care of, and the congestion it causes can be insane, particularly on a Friday night.

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On the one hand, I'm glad to be letting go of the laundry set up and traffic drama. On the other hand, they were instrumental in shaping our experiences here, so I don't want to forget them all together. As much as I want to hold on to the great memories, I also want to remember the things that made life in England a little challenging at times.

Because I hope in doing so, it will help to ground my memories of England. I want to hold on to them to remind myself life in England wasn't all tea and castles. As most people do, I have a tendency to reminisce on the past through rose colored glasses. As lovely as it will be to remember the great experiences I've had, it's as much a part of my history to remember the ways in which it was difficult to adjust to life in England--the things that reminded us that no matter how much we loved shopping off base or exploring the local area, we are still irrevocably and fundamentally American.

So I'm putting all my little bits and bobs into my mental suitcase. The good, the bad, and the ugly mug. The time for reminiscing is just about done. It's now time to look forward to the next big adventure and all the challenges and excitement that will bring. I need to put these things away to truly be able to focus on what's on the horizon and to enjoy becoming reaquainted with the things we've missed about living in the States.

But it's nice to know that when I need it, my little mental suitcase is ready to be unpacked and incorperated in small ways into the next chapter of our lives.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

From our room in billeting (military hotel) to your home, Merry Christmas.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Just north of the Suffolk/Norfolk border is a cute little town called Thetford.

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It is a quintessential English town with a busy high street, a weekly market, and a sweet little river running through it.


Evidence of Thetford's unique history are woven throughout the streets of the town. Just off of Rampart Way is Castle Hill, which proudly boasts being the largest medieval earthwork in Britian. Used in the Iron Age and during the Norman period, the man-made hill housed a timber fort or castle, and the ramparts around it served as protection.


Not far from Castle Hill are the ancient priory ruins. An important monastary in its time, it was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monastaries during Henry VIII's reign.

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Up the road is Kings House Gardens, where Caleb and I would take regular walks during the spring.


There are three medieval churches in town, as well.


And, of course, there is the Thetford Forest to explore.

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More imporantly, to us anyway, Thetford was our home for the past four years.

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It was along Tottington Close that we'd push Caleb along on his first tricycle. Many summer afternoons were spent blowing bubbles and drawing with sidewalk chalk along our road that wasn't really a road.


Friday nights were curry nights, and our favorite take out place was Red Pepper. Sadly, before we left, Red Pepper closed their doors. Rest in Peace, Red Pepper! Your emerald curry was amazing!


Of course, not all of my memories of Thetford are fond. We spent countless Friday nights stuck in traffic jams on the A-11 where it turns into a single carriage way through Elveden. Dual this road now!

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There were times I wished I lived closer to (or on) base. It certainly would have made life a lot easier and daily transit a lot quicker. It would have been nice to be centrally located to the hub of overseas military life in many ways.

By and large, though, I'm grateful for the experiences we had living off base. I wouldn't be so foolish as to claim that we were immersed in English culture. Sadly, our lives did still revolve around the base to some extent. But I'm thankful for what little immersion we were able to experience.

This week we handed over the keys to our house and said goodbye to our neighbors. Although I have been know to moan about the parking arrangements and laundry situation in our old house, I will miss it. It was the home where Tommy finished his bachelor's degree and I began and finished my master's degree. It was Caleb's first home. We celebrated Caleb's first of many things there...first birthday, first Christmas, first steps, first words.

It's hard to say good-bye to Thetford. I've really enjoyed our time there. I hope I'm able to find as many adventures in Columbia, albiet of a different nature.

The good news is, Thetford ain't going anywhere. It calls itself the Ancient Capitol of East Anglia. Who knows? Maybe we'll be back to visit again some day.

Until the, thanks for everything, Thetford!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Best of Times

I'm sleeping in my snowball.

Less than two weeks till we leave England, and this snowball keeps picking up momentum. It's not a bad thing. It's the natural way things go. And although it's been stressful, it hasn't been a bad move, so far. Not everything has lined up exactly the way I'd like, but then again, I'm a bit of a perfectionist sometimes. Enough things have lined up closely enough, that I'm pretty comfortable about this move.

And the snowball keeps picking up steam.

On this side of the ocean, we are winding down. Finishing up work, training our replacements, attending our own farewell lunches, hugging people when we run into them because we might not run into them again before we go. There are checklist items that still remain, but it's hard to slow down this kind of momentum. Things will get done.

On the other side of the ocean, things seem to be falling into place. I hesitate to stay that, because I know there are so many variables that can still complicate matters. But, so far, so good. The seeds we've been planting seem to be sprouting tiny, delicate buds. There's no promise in those buds, I am hopeful.

It's hard not to reflect on our arrival here in England four years ago as we wrap up our time. Somehow, the beginning and the end feel a lot a like, although they are so different.

One of our last nights in our house, I was staring up at the bare walls and ceilings as I tried to fall asleep, and I remember our first night in the house. I remembered laying on our mattress on the ground (because our box spring wouldn't fit up our narrow stairs) and thinking, "This doesn't feel like home." I remember an almost suffocating sense of homesickness pressing down on my chest, and wondering if I'd ever feel like this house was our home.

Last week, I looked up at the walls where there was once furniture and pictures and mementos from our life, and I thought, "This doesn't look like the home we spent four years building." Back to the basics. Back to essentials. The important things are here: my husband, my kid, my health, and the promise of a new adventure. But it's hard to lose your home, even when you've been preparing for it since Day One. Even when you've know all along it was just a temporary home.

The beginning and the end magnify the differences between English and American life. I was amazed at how slowly things seem to move over here. Setting up Internet took over three weeks. We couldn't establish our satellite TV until we had a land line, which also took a few weeks. And as we leave, I'm reminded again of how long it takes to get things done. Thirty days to cancel my phone line? How hard is it just to turn it off? Three weeks notice legitimately isn't enough?!

The past few weeks have been hectic with Christmas parties and major moving hurdles. These next two weeks are a little more calm, with more time to reflect and say good-bye. Tomorrow we hand over the keys to our little home on Tottington Close for the last time. We will be officially homeless for a short period.

It's hard to roll all these emotions into this big snowball I'm sleeping in. The excitement of new possibilities and the sadness of losing what's familiar. The appreciation for excessive American options and the loss of these unique travel opportunities. The anticipation of being closer to family and the despair of losing...well, losing England.

It's been the best of times.

And I am grateful.