A Little Place Called London

I had the opportunity of a lifetime in October to spend 10 days in London. KUER has a "Citizens of the World" travel program. A portion of the cost of the travel is a donation for the station. We typically have 2 trips a year and send a different staff member to serve as the host. I don't know how the stars aligned so well for me, but I was fortunate enough to be selected for the London On-Stage Theatre tour. Not only has London been at the top of my bucket list for years now - but add in a theatre component and it officially became my dream vacation. Seth stayed home to take care of the girls (what a saint) and I convinced my friend Anne to join me. I'm so glad she came. We had a blast!
Whenever someone asks me how London was I have two responses.  First, "It was the best trip of my life." Second, "It was life-changing." I have been meaning to write this blog for quite some time now but I couldn't begin to wrap my head fully around what I had just experienced. I am not sure I can really articulate it in a way it deserves, but I am going to try. 

Go Learn is a relatively new travel program at the University of Utah. The goal is to combine educational with travel, in order to enrich the travel experience. They were the coordinators of this trip. Two U of U Theatre Department instructors (Tim Slover and Jane England) led the trip. I wasn't sure I would love traveling in such a large group (25 total). I certainly wasn't sure I wanted to go on a trip where the majority of the time was spelled out for you. Turns out I was wrong on both accounts. Visiting a massive city like London for the first time is overwhelming. Tim and Jane made it seamless. They arranged EVERYTHING. And I really do mean everything. I often think about all of the time I have wasted in other cities, trying to plan out my day, navigate the transportation system, find a place to eat, etc. Tim and Jane made it so easy. They booked a beautiful boutique hotel, made reservations at incredible restaurants throughout the 10 days (they could also have called this trip the London Foodie trip), we had tickets for 9 plays - and not just tickets but the best seats! When we had free time they were ready to give us suggestions of what to do. But, the best part of Tim and Jane was having their knowledge of London. Each tourist site was a university mini-lesson. We didn't just walk through Westminster Abbey, we engulfed it. We learned why it was first built, we not only saw the coronation chair but we learned the history of the chair. We even got special behind-the-scenes opportunities (we actually saw Edward the Confessors tomb - which the general public does not see). We went to a Sunday morning church service at the Tower of London. Seriously, in the same chapel that Anne Boleyn is buried! Who does that!? 
We walked through the British National Gallery where we didn't just look at art, we would stop at certain pieces and discuss the symbolism/background of those pieces for 10-15 minutes. One of the best parts of the trip was the passion and excitement that Jane and Tim radiated. The first evening we were there, we went on a walking tour. We took the tube and before we walked up the stairs to exit the station Time said, "Humor me. Keep your eyes down. We are going to walk up the subway stairs, turns to the left and gather as a group. Don't look up. Just keep your head down until I say so." We all chuckled but went along. When we finally got to look up - there was Big Ben towering over us in a breathtaking manner. 

We spent a day at Oxford, where we had "very high-tea."

We also had a private viewing of one of Shakespeare's first folios. Seriously. Again, who does that!? Every experience was perfectly thought-out, thought provoking and delightful. I found myself just giggling with excitement. 

We began each day by about 8 or 9am and wouldn't return to the hotel until nearly midnight. We walked an average of 3-7 miles a day. It was exhausting and exhilarating! Of course, because I was traveling with Anne, we spent the majority of our free time shopping. OMG. Carnaby Street, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street, Portabello Road, Fortnam & Mason, and my favorite Cath Kidston (spirit store). Oh I loved it all.

Now, this was a theatre tour and we did see a TON of plays. Each was wonderful and different. We saw a play called, "A Man of Good Hope" from a South African troupe. We spent all-day Saturday at the National Theatre seeing 3 (yes 3) Chekhov plays. That was an experience, a nearly 8-hour experience but the acting was unreal.While I would likely never choose to sit through 3 Chekhov plays again, it was an experience and I don't regret it one bit!
I saw Sir Patrick Stewart, and Sir Ian McKellen in "No Man's Land" and got their autographs after! Can you believe it? 4th row watching these two giants of acting! 
We also had the honor of seeing "The Merchant of Venice" at the Globe Theatre. This may have been my favorite day of the entire trip. There is something just so magical about seeing a Shakespeare play in that theatre. A large portion of the audience stands. The acting was perfection, Jonathan Pryce played Shylock! I just cried over the entire thing.

For me the real highlight of the plays was seeing "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child." 

I can't really put into words how remarkable this play was. First, to be thrown back into the world of Harry Potter, something I have missed terribly the last 5+ years, was like coming home. I loved being reunited with my old friends. Yet, the story was fresh and interesting. The effects were really the highlight for me. Polyjuice potion, duels, time-turners, transfiguration! My friend Tasha sat next to me and we kept gasping and clutching at each other through the entire play. We laughed, we sobbed, we awed. It was incredible. 

Finally we saw, "Father Comes Home from the Wars", a Civil War era play. Also amazing.

Honestly they were all incredible. So different and wonderful. But again, the thing that really added to the experience were the theater chats that we would have before each play. So when we sit through an existentialist play written by Harold Pinter we can say, "we aren't supposed to understand everything that is happening. Just listen in on their conversation, like you would listening in on the couple at the next table at a restaurant." Plus, after you see this level of art, you want to talk about it after. I didn't think I would love this part of the trip, but I did. I loved every stimulating conversation. 
Now I only want to travel with Go Learn! Honestly if I had more expendable income I would go somewhere once a year with them. It was truly a life-changing experience. I've thought a lot about why I felt it was so powerful to me. I think a large part of it was just completely immersing myself in the world of London for 10 days. For the first time in nearly 5-years I was able to let my hair down. I was able to sleep uninterrupted. For 10 days I didn't cook a meal, wash a dish, change a diaper, argue with Millie or hold a fussy Matilda. For 10 days I was swimming in history, art, shopping, food, adult conversations. I was so worried about leaving my girls for such a long time. I thought after 3-4 days that I would miss them painfully. But I didn't! I really feel like I found a lost piece of myself again. I am more than just a wife and mother. I'm passionate and curious. I am wild and unruly. 

I often joke with my mom that she would rather replace her carpet, or build a new deck and I would rather travel for that same cost. I feel like travel isn't just a 10-day experience. It shapes you. It changes you. It opens your eyes to other cultures and experiences. I would spend all of my money traveling if I could.
Samuel Johnson said, "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life." London is spectacular! I am counting the days to when I can go back, and take my husband and daughters with me. My heart belongs in this city. So rich in history, so vibrant with people. Just lovely. 

Til' we meet again. 

Welcome Home

It's an odd feeling saying goodbye to a home. For over 10 years the house on Evergreen was a part of my life. I feel as if I didn't have time to say a proper goodbye to the house. The day we moved, I left to take a load over and never returned. There was not a moment of wandering through the empty house, running my fingers slowly across the kitchen counter, gazing idly outside our bedroom window. I would have spoken to the house. I would have told the house how much I loved my time in it. I would have thanked the house for all it had offered me and my family. Instead I didn't have that chance. I was unpacked and settled in our new house, just 2 blocks away. I am so enamored by our new home that I haven't had much time to think about our old house. I haven't given it a proper goodbye and a proper thank you. So instead, I'll do it here.

Thank you Evergreen house. I have so many memories. I fell in love with Seth in this house. I remember one of the first times we hung out, I drove around and looked at properties with Seth. I wasn't that impressed with the house and it's all-pink tones. I tried to convince him to move to the house on Sunnyside instead. But he saw past the pink. And I am so glad he did. I fell in love with Seth in this house. I had a video of Seth playing his newly acquired baby grand piano in the sunroom. I kept that video on my flip phone and played it often, swooning each time. Many of my early memories of the house were spent helping Seth as he remodel. I helped paint, install the tile floor, I rallied the troops as Seth was heading to PA school so the kitchen would be completed before I moved in. I loved seeing Seth transform this house.

It was in the Evergreen house where I first started really drinking. In fact, it was the first (and only) time that I drank so much that I threw up. Poor Timms. I'll never forget her telling me, "Beck, I'm just going to go downstairs to get ready for bed." While I sat on the floor, slumped over the bathtub, absolutely sick as a dog. I replied, "Just come in here. I'm not going to see. I can't even lift up my head."

I broke up with Seth while living in this house. He was in Seattle for a PA school rotation. I was living there with my cousin Emily. I was at an U of U football game one afternoon. When I came home I found a huge bouquet of flowers with an engagement ring tied around them. I demanded a real proposal...which also happened in this house a few months later.

He proposed to me the night before Christmas Eve. A trail of gifts, a fire roaring in the fireplace and the room magically aglow with the lights of the Christmas tree. The ring, hidden in plain sight, in an ornament on the tree. Britney and Sean taping the entire proposal from under the piano.

I found out I was pregnant, both times, in this home. The first pregnancy, I sat shaking on the bathroom tub when I shockingly discovered two very-special lines.

We we brought both of our babies home to this house. We experiences first steps, first words and sleepless nights in this home. We built our family here.


And of course, we put a lot of elbow grease into the house. Remodeled it nearly fully. We made it into "our home" and yet, it really just stopped suiting our needs. No matter how much we loved it, we realized it just wasn't what we wanted anymore. And so we sold it and watched as the new owner started transforming it into "her" home.

The morning of the move, I had about an hour at the house by myself. I walked into the baby's room and started sobbing. I was able to let go of the house for the most part. But this room held so many special memories.

Memories of nursing my babies in the quiet hours of night. Memories of lying on the floor and watching Millie crawl for the first time, and then walk for the first time. Memories of rocking Millie to sleep for the last time, the night before she would move into her "big-girl" room in the basement. Memories of Matilda laughing on her changing table.


I would never have that again and it broke my heart. I closed the door, wiped my tears and moved on.

And here we are a few weeks later, and I admit, I don't miss the house at all. The moment we first walked into our new house, we knew it was ours. The yard, the layout, the overall feeling of the house is perfect. It feels so quiet, secluded and peaceful. It's not on a busy street, it's not bright-yellow. It's private and wonderful. It's our new home.

The home that we will take into the next phase of our lives. The home where our girls will grow into teenagers. The home where we will spend hours on homework and school projects. The home where we will practice sports and have campouts in the back-yard. The home where the girls will have sleepovers and birthday parties. The home where we send them off to kindergarten, first dates and even away to college. And it's the perfect home for that. It's the perfect home for the next 20 years.

So thank you Evergreen. Thank you for the memories, the lessons and the love. We'll miss you.

Taking Stock Again

Thanks to TimeHop I realized that I wrote a simple "taking stock" blog 2 years ago this June.  Read it here.  I'm noticing that my depression peaks in June every year. Such an odd time. But I do think I'm coping better. I thought it would be fun to write this again.

Taking stock 2016

Making:  Preparations to move in one month. OMG. I can't wait and I'm terrified.

Cooking:  Constantly. Why do we have to feed our children!? Ha!

Drinking:  A glass of wine, or a beer, every night. And coffee. Lots of coffee.

Reading:   "The Shoemakers Wife" - again. It's so good. Read it.

Wanting:   To be back in shape. Peace. To get settled in my new house. Healing for those I love. A vacation with Seth. Fall! London. 

Looking:   At possible big changes in my life.

Playing:    Go Fish. Every day with Millie.

Wasting:   Energy on things I can't control.

Wishing:   That Matilda would stay this age. She's perfect right now. Just perfect.

Missing:    Romance.

Enjoying:  My amazing daughters and how delightful and unique they are.

Waiting:   For life to feel a bit easier again. But I keep waiting for this, maybe it's time to stop.

Liking:    Summer dresses, Louie, the feeling of butterflies I get when thinking about London this fall, sweet potatoes, Hamilton.

Wondering:  What other major changes could come this year?

Loving:  That Matilda is SUCH a momma's girl. She's clingy. She only wants me. But she snuggles and kisses me and I LOVE it.

Hoping:  I can get my act together and run the 1/2 marathon in September.

Marveling:  At the amount of love I can feel for my family. It's consuming and wonderful. 

Needing:   A night away with Seth. 

Smelling:  The stale smell of air-conditioned air.

Wearing:  Clothes that feel a bit too snug.

Following:  A lot less. No Facebook has done wonders for my mood.

Noticing:    That I control my happiness. It's all me.
Knowing:   Everything is going to be ok. 

Thinking:   Of all of the things I need to do. And wonderful how in the hell we are going to pull this off.

Giggling:   With my coworkers over our verbal abuse and Michael McDonald impressions.
Feeling:  Good, in spite of all of the shit that has been taking place around me.