Friday, November 30, 2018

Numb and exhausted.

That's how I feel right now.

After spending a two-week vigil by my dad's hospital bed in Nebraska, he finally slipped away into the night on November 18th. Dad was 75 years old.

During dad’s second week at the hospital, I said goodbye a hundred times over and told him I loved him even though he could no longer respond to me. The nurses all said that patients in his condition could still hear. I told my dad that it was okay to go, okay to leave us. I didn't want him to suffer anymore. 

Earlier in November, my dad had suffered a massive stroke that paralyzed his left side. He could no longer walk or feed himself, but he still had coherent moments where he could talk to us – at least during the first week. I quickly left London on November 5th, flew to my homestate in the U.S. and was distraught to find my dad such a different person than the one I had just seen in July. Although he’s had many serious health issues the past few years, I still didn’t expect to see this faded man in front of me.

I slept eight restless nights in the hospital room with my dad. My little brother, who is almost a foot taller than me, shared the sleeper couch with me for several nights while our mother slept in the recliner. We didn’t want to miss a moment with him.
Nurses came in the room every hour or two to check on dad's vitals, re-administer pain meds, etc. The monitor registering dad's blood pressure, oxygen and pulse would sound a blaring alarm if his vitals dipped down too low. One of the last nights, his pulse dipped down to the 20s and 30s and set off the alarm at least eight times. It was the worse night of my life. Every time, my mother and I woke up out of a restless sleep, fearing the worst and rushed to dad's side. After that night, I couldn't sleep at the hospital anymore and went back to my parents' house, so I could at least seek some comfort in my husband's arms.

Watching a loved one slip away – slowly every day – is the worst thing I have experienced in my life so far. I sat by his bedside as he exhaled his last breath and he had no pulse. I couldn't believe it. I didn't want to believe that my dad was really gone.

My dad was my biggest cheerleader. He supported me in all my career changes, my crazy expat moves around the world and all my travels, often looking up the destination to remind himself where I was in the world or I would jokingly quiz him on the capital of the country I had recently visited. He loved me unconditionally. I was always daddy’s little girl.

I still feel numb. Does that feeling ever go away?

What fills the void of losing your biggest supporter?


Friday, November 23, 2018

I rarely visit a popular tourist destination more than once – except for cities such as New York City and Paris.

But while living in the U.K., I’ve visited the historic walled city of York, located in North Yorkshire, about a two-hour train ride north of London, twice. Last month, hubby had a work meeting in York, so I trailed along, got to play tourist for the day and enjoyed a nice dinner and free hotel stay. I can’t complain.

York is a gorgeous medieval city with the most complete example of medieval city walls still standing in ALL of England today. Beneath the medieval stones, you’ll find the remains of earlier walls dating as far back as the Roman period. The Romans called the city Eboracum. To the Saxons, it was Eoforwick. The Danish Vikings invaded York in 866 but stayed on in settlements and called it Jorvik. Whatever you call it, just visit York - like 7 million tourists do every year. Wow!

Visiting York during the autumn months is one of the best times to see the city in its full autumnal glory. The trees are brilliant with golden colours, the night skies burn with various shades of pink and tangerine and a misty, dark atmosphere fills the city amongst the Shambles at night.
Another highlight of York is visiting the Gothic-style York Minster, a 800-year-old-plus Catholic Church, which was first recognized by the Pope in 732. I didn’t pop in during this visit because I wanted to focus on taking photos of the outdoors, so that is what this post contains.
I even meant to write more about my overnight trip to York, but family obligations in the US have kept me too busy here for the past three weeks.

Enjoy a peak into the loveliness of mediaeval York!


Monday, November 5, 2018

Remember, remember the fifth of November is part of a saying that we’ve learned since living in London.

In the United Kingdom, people gather on November 5th to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Bonfire Night which marks the anniversary of the discovery of a plot organized by Catholic conspirators to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London in 1605. The group planning the attack included Guy Fawkes, originally from York. The explosives would have been set off when King James I of England (King James VI of Scotland) and many parliamentary members were in the Parliament building. Afterwards, the conspirators were arrested, tortured and executed; and the king declared the day as a holiday to remember the act and prevent any future attacks.
Since this is our third autumn living in London, we decided to take advantage of the (slightly bizarre) celebrations and attend our local Bonfire Night party at Battersea Park, which features one of the city’s best fireworks displays. Luckily, we secured tickets in advance and attended an amazing 20-minute fireworks show. I was very impressed as you can see from my photos below.

Bonfire Night seems to be like a combination of our American Fourth of July and Thanksgiving rolled into one…or basically just another reason for Brits to drink, at least it was in our neighborhood. 😊

Cheers from London!

Have you experienced any different holidays/celebrations while living abroad?


Friday, October 26, 2018

Autumn in London means it’s barely sunrise when I head to work and quite dark by the time I head home.

The days are shorter, and the nights are longer; but sometimes you find a couple of crisp autumn days that truly show off London’s colorful splendor. I’ve taken the photos below the last few weeks, often when I’ve been cycling around or running around the city.

Here are my 10 Autumnal Views Around London:

Battersea Park
Luckily, we live close to a lovely park, Battersea Park, which I’ve come to call my Central Park after my years of living in New York City. No matter what the season, I’m happy to walk, run or cycle through this 200-acre (83-hectare) green space located on the southbank of the Thames River.

Richmond Park
Since we got mountain bikes this past spring, going to Richmond Park has become much easier. Now, I just wish that cars were banned traveling through the park or there were better designated cycle paths. If you visit this spatial park during October or November, you may see the local deer population during rutting season.

Richmond Hill overlooking Terrace Field and Gardens
After cycling through Richmond Park, you’ll probably find us at the local pub sitting on top of Richmond Hill overlooking the Thames River. Again, this is a lovely spot no matter the time of the year, especially at sunset.

St. James Park
The other Sunday we actually had a full day out in London. On the weekends, I’m often working and when I’m not working, we try to travel around the UK or in Europe. But on this particular day, we started out by watching a BFI film in Embankment Gardens, then we strolled through the city and ended up in St. James Park. Honestly, I tend to avoid this part of London because it’s filled with tourists, but I guess, now and then, it’s kinda fun to play tourist in your own city.

Hammersmith Bridge
Back down by the riverside, Hammersmith couldn’t feel more different than other parts of the city. Check out the old-fashioned pubs or enjoy a relaxing stroll by the Thames and the Grade II historical listing Hammersmith Bridge.

Bishops Park
I find that Fulham is a slightly bizarre area to reach by public transport, but much more accessible by bike. Bishops Park, formally opened in 1893, was originally part of the grounds of Fulham Palace. At the end of the nineteenth century the population of Fulham was increasing rapidly and there was a call for public spaces to be made available to improve public health and to provide an alternative to the pubs…funny enough. (Guess this would have been about the time of the Temperance Movement.) The park is a strange shape with a long area beside the river and a spur reaching up to the Fulham Palace Road, but it’s a decent green space to wander through. 

Wandsworth Park
Another large park that was created around the same time is Wandsworth Park, formally opened in 1903. At the end of the nineteenth century, Wandsworth was a heavily polluted suburb centered around the River Wandle with its iron mill, brass industry and brewery, and there was a public demand for green space. Today, Wandsworth Park is one of my favorite areas to cycle through because of its large plane trees lining the path.

Kynance Mews in Kensington
I had no idea that this SW7 location was so famous on Instagram. This Kensington archway, with its tumbling red leaves, has become one of London's most photographed autumn spots. We just happened to wander by, and I thought, ‘how pretty.’ I stopped to take a photo and had to wait for young gals to finish modelling in front of the red leaves!

Covent Garden
From now until Halloween, check out the humungous one-tonne pumpkin located inside Covent Garden. The pumpkin comes from a farm in Lymington, Hampshire, and took 110 days to grow to its current size. This is another London location where you must fight the queues to take a decent photo. Ugh!
Afterwards, get away from the crowds and find a peaceful autumn presence at St Paul's Church. 

Westminster Bridge
Though Big Ben is still under major renovations, it pays to stroll down the Thames near the Westminster Bridge. I’ve seen photos online showing the trees here with bright red leaves, which is clearly doctored. The oak trees here shed yellow, green and brown leaves and are just as lovely.

Where are you enjoying autumn right now?


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