Saturday, December 15, 2018

Since my dad died last month, I have very little energy or motivation to do much else besides get through my work day. Some days, I even take a nap on the couch after working 9-10 hours before my husband gets home from work.

I don’t feel like cooking either, so we’ve done quite a bit of Deliveroo and take away lately.

I certainly don’t feel like being my normal happy self most of the time, so it’s difficult to get into the Christmas spirit here in London. When I’m surrounded by people at work, it’s easier to act happier and sing along to the Christmas songs playing on the radio in our kitchen. But at home, it’s a different story.

Until I finally decided that we should get a Christmas tree – a real Christmas tree.
Our tree dons a Santa hat this year because the star won't connect to the new British lights I had to buy since the tree is bigger than previous years. Expat problems! 
Hubby tried to argue that what was the point of spending 50 some pounds if I’m just going to kill it. Well, I responded, I will try to keep the tree alive in the garden until next December (thus saving us money next Christmas); and besides, I deserve a real tree after all I’ve been through, dammit.

On Sunday, we ventured back to our local greenhouse to see if there were any potted Christmas trees left. I had stopped here one day after work but couldn’t the lift the damned tree onto my bike. Hubby decided that he could carry the tree home a couple of blocks – thus saving us the £10 delivery fee.
How to buy a Christmas tree in the Battersea neighborhood of London -make your partner carry it home for you! :)
Unlike the trendy matchy-matchy Christmas trees at the shops, our tree is filled with ornaments from our travels or from loved ones. Nearly all of the ornaments have a story to tell.

The boxes of silver and red glass balls I bought when we first moved in together in Baltimore, Maryland.

A London tube ornament that I bought in 2016 when we first moved here.

A koala, kangaroo and cockatoo ornaments from our short expat stint living in Melbourne, Australia.
A kiwi bird made from a bottlebrush plant that I bought on our trip to New Zealand.
A wooden New Orleans sign given to me from my mother-in-law.
Homemade gingerbread ornaments called pierniki that I bought from the cutest and best smelling shop in Warsaw, Poland.
A ceramic Christmas village house bought on a trip to Budapest.
A handmade kaftan and several snowflake ornaments that my expat friends made in Istanbul.
A red flower ornament from my auntie in Hawaii.

Our Christmas tree is filled with memories. That’s what I need right now. 

My grief and sadness comes and goes, but I’ll always have all these lovely memories.

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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?

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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!

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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?

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