Monday, December 9, 2013

As 2013 Draws to a Close...

Dear Fellow Friends, Readers, Writers, all...

     My last post was over 6 months ago.  I am sorry.  I love writing my posts but life sometimes gets in the way of the best laid plains.
     April/May I found myself sticking to my resolve to get back some core strength and set myself a course of pilates.  I love pilates and yoga as I can sit on the floor and strengthen and elongate rather than bulk up.  However, a dear friend and neighbour came to visit and we watched in awe as her little 18-month-old Down's Syndrome child displayed his new skill of climbing onto my sofa.  Not so wonderful when he almost "face planted" as he tried to climb back down.  I scooped him mid-fall and felt a slight pop in my shoulder. Believing it was nothing and would just "go away," I continued my exercises, which rapidly devolved into efforts at endurance through the intense pain.  My Welsh doctor sent me home to discover what was wrong.  I had a right, full thickness rotator cuff tear!  My first response was relief, followed by "But I don't have time to do the surgery now, I'm nearly half-way through a degree and have commitments."

I left for Frankfurt, Germany, in August to witness the marriage of a dear friend, privileged to be her surrogate mom for a day, helped get the latest edition of American Athenaeum published, and aligned all the minutiae that forms my life at Aberystwyth University, including completion of the first draft of my historic/fiction/fantasy novel, "Standing Stone."  Life was good but for the daily pain of actually attempting use of my right arm.

Open air Market
November saw me recrossing the Atlantic toward home for the surgery that would return proper function of my arm.  Fortunately, I was six months ahead in my PhD work as November became pretty much of a wash.  I learned total dependance, acceptance that my husband can and will step up to the plate as I directed the how while he cooked our dinners (Brilliant), and his total long-suffering over my complaint, "It's been three weeks post-surgical, how come I can't use my arm yet?"  It's a 3 month process to regain use and a year to fully recover.  Sigh.  But all's well, each challenge has a purpose, and perseverance pays off.

Three and a half weeks post surgical, I can once again type and write then use ice packs to calm the overtaxed and already atrophied muscles. (Please insert Hallelujah Chorus - Handel would approve I'm sure!)

Aberystwyh Meat Market
 But during this 7-month odyssey, I've come to understand just how small the world really is. Yes, beside a 13 hour flight, there are the little connections that soon add up to another 8-10 hours, but wherever I go I find people who are interesting and interested, people who have "life" stories, people that want to help and who respond to a smile and a "Would you please help me?"  People are good at heart and need only be asked to jump into action and bless the lives of others around them. This was true on the plane, in Aberystwyth, and in Astoria and Portland, Oregon, where doors were opened as people shopped or hurried to complete their pre-Christmas tasks.  A smile always accompanied their deeds of kindness.

Yes, it's good to be alive, to see the world, to be safe at home, to watch the snow, to snuggle with your spouse under mounds of quilts and blankets, to hold a conversation with a precocious 19 month old, who speaks 'chipmunk' but does it so convincingly that one wants to answer their ernest, albeit unintelligible, questions and to hold up one's end of the conversation.  I'm on the mend and grateful for the technology that made this possible. Family is precious and time truly stops for no man or woman.

Aberystwyth, Wales, Sunset
May you all enjoy a wonderful holiday season and make memories that will last forever and keep you safe and warm during life's little and big challenges.

Friday, May 24, 2013

On Being a Mom/Mother/Mama/Nana/Grandma/Grandmother-The List Goes On

Billy and me in front of Old College, Aberystwyth

Recently the daughter of a friend blogged about being tired as a mother, sometimes filled with self-doubt, aggravation, and running from hugs one minute to time out the next with her small brood of four, not so small when one considers that for most of the waking day it's a four-to-one ratio.  She went on to add that it was a burden to young struggling moms to have older women return their complaints of exhaustion or frustration with the cherry and oft-spoken, "You'll miss this time when it'is gone."  Though well meaning, and I've said it myself, I could suddenly and totally see her point.  When one is battling for sanity in a sea that threatens to drown, one needs a life preserver and a word of encouragement not a reminder that it is an opportunity for a character building experience. It set me to thinking about my own child-rearing days.  I wrote her a response.

The not so great news is that you'll never stop being a mother, even after they're launched. You become cheerleader, sometimes confidant, therapist, and sometimes "mom-on-a-shelf," who is taken down when needed. But this confusing time is beautiful too. Just when you know how to be a mama, you have to learn how to be a mom/mother to adults that you can't scoop up and put in time out. The frustrations and feelings of inadequacy are equal but different and sometimes you want to scream into a pillow or put your head in an oven (not really, well kinda sorta), but you love over and above, in between, and forever. 

It's this love that is the constant through the confusing stages of life. So hang in there, lovely girl. Take naps with the kids when you can. Be kind to yourself because you are a brilliant mom and just exactly made to order for your little brood. Laugh out loud. Dance. Allow yourself to be human. Motherhood will drive you to your knees, to tears, and to the heights of testimony. It's all part of of an amazing journey. 

Blessings on you from a survivor!

Which then brought me to my time in Wales, away from hugs and kisses and relegated to Skype, email, Facebook, and the occasional letter.  There's nothing quite like a handwritten letter, but I digress...

Our oldest son, Billy. found himself in London recently and generously planned an extra day to visit his mom.  That's me smiling in the top photo.  "I've got a car," he emailed.  "Looks to be about 2 hours from London as the crow flies.  How far is it?"

Well, for one we have rooks in Wales.  They are noisy but had little if anything to do with road design.  The north/south roads were made by the Romans when they invaded Briton years ago.  They have multi-lanes and are fast.  Unfortunately the east/west roads were made by the early Druids, who were either following cattle or sheep, or were so deep in their own thoughts that they went round in the most imaginative curvilinear paths that it is nearly a seven hour drive from London to Aberystwyth, longer if you stop for a picture or a break.

After some checking, I found that there is a "fast" train from London to Birmingham that takes only an hour and another that travels from Birmingham to Aberystwyth that takes only three... so that's four hours each way.  (I didn't know that Euston Station was an hour away from his London based hotel. 

Billy's a good sport, a very good sport.  At 18 months old he gathered toys for the other children in nursery and passed them out.  He grew to be a great big brother... we talk a lot about his big-brotherhood over holiday tables... I now understand much better what all the upstairs noise was after I so lovingly and tenderly put them all to bed and collapsed in a wilted heap on the living room sofa near my husband.  In my case there was an 8:1 ratio for the bulk of our daylight hours.

But back to my post, these are not photoshopped pictures.  They are real.  Billy came to Aberystwyth in spite of the inconvenience and added travel time to his already busy schedule. We shared castle ruins, college campus, St. Michael's cathedral, Old College, a double ice-cream to celebrate his birthday that had just passed and the occasional sit-down to just talk.  We walked the Prom and viewed the Irish Sea from the end of the Royal Pier.  We ate at Wetherspoon's where he ate Dragon sagsage, visited the Ceredigion Museum, and, of course, stopped at the Sweetie's shop to send home British treats for the grands.

I guess what I'm saying is that there are joys and challenges that are part of each stage of motherhood.  Would I trade the downs if it meant I'd miss the ups?  Never.  How would I come to recognize the sweetness?   Would I trade the plethora of reasons that created sleepless nights?  No, because they brought me to my knees and taught me faith.  Families come in all shapes and sizes, each with an assortment of personalities, challenges, and enough"growing experiences" to fit all comers.  I love my family with all its good and not so good.  Why?  Because they are mine.

Thank you, son.  Your visit was just the best.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

April in Aberwystwyth 2013

No, I didn't fall off the planet but merely discovered the joy, frustration, self-doubt, euphoria and hard work that are the result of working on a PhD in a foreign country sans immediate family.

February and March in Aberystwyth are cold.  Not cold like in Astoria, Oregon, with its Pacific winds.  Not even cold like in Astoria when the rare wind from Alaska blows through the Victorian homes and yards, freezing everything in it's path.  It's cold like being hit with liquid nitrogen.  The cold passes through coats, jumpers, scarves, sweaters, and pierces the muscle and bone.  It doesn't matter how warmly you dress, it finds you and freezes joints.  But Wales is not nearly as wet as the Pacific Northwest, which surprises most Aberystwythians (you should get a prize for being able to pronounce that!)  The Welsh take their rainfall very seriously and consider themselves the top of the food chain when it comes to rain.  Sorry but your beautiful, albeit cold, winter was mostly dry to this homesick coastal Oregonian.

When one is a working writer, editor, and student producing a new novel, the term isolation takes on new meaning.  One must enjoy one's own company and reach out to a larger community to maintain one's sanity and grip on reality.  I'll insert an apology to my characters here but the fact is you're just not real no matter how entertaining you may be.  

Yesterday, in spite of brilliant work in the current progress of my novel, I was remembering the loss of my brother in a tragic boating accident several years ago; while simultaneously being so homesick, it was visceral and spilled down my face in unstoppable tears.  At that dark moment, my phone rang.  It was a friend about forty years my junior wanting to know if I wanted to 'hang out.'

I am so glad I had the courage to see that I 'needed' to say yes.  I needed human interaction, to be more than a writer, to stop for a moment from being a human-doing and take a break to catch the sun, laugh with friends, exult in the joy that waits around the corner and to become fully invested as a human-being.  I spent the evening with two exuberant twenty-year-olds, who have problems and challenges of their own, but for two hours we raced down Welsh roads, walked along the South pier, felt the strength of the sea in its endless quest to climb the shore, and filled our lungs with air blessed by the Irish Sea.  I took pictures as they cartwheeled and did hand-stands.  We laughed at each other's antics until we released all the pent up angst of winter.  We became one with the golden glow of a setting sun, the joy of spring blooming daffodils, and regained hope that we could each face another day.  In short, we stopped the intrusive madness of the outside world, the shootings and bombings and hate and sorrow, and instead exulted in the joy of humanity and friendship.  And let's not discount silliness and laughter... I recommend them highly.  We didn't need a drink or drugs.  We needed each other and deep breaths, and the endorphins that are released when we stop and actually see the bounty that God has provided for all of us each and every day.  He's there in the sunset, the sunrise, and each new bloom that promises of spring.

Take a moment, go outside, fill your lungs, and laugh out loud!

Monday, February 4, 2013

February 2013 - Home to Home - Part 2

Stirling Castle, Scotland
I would like to know what happened to January.  It was always my mom's favorite month she once said, explaining that she got to write my name every day.  But this past January just vanished into the mist.

After enjoying December with family and friends, cuddles with grands, making and sending handmade ornaments and Christmas greetings across the United States and beyond, lunches with friends, and just being with my husband, it was bitter-sweet to return to my second home in Wales.  I was prepared for the journey but was not prepared for the ravages of jet-lag nor did I understand what jet-lag was beyond sleep deprivation.  Okay, so as a researcher I set out to discover what it really is.

It's different for each person but the overall response is 24 hours adjustment for every time zone travelled, a bit more if you're over fifty but who's counting! The UK is 8 time zones different than Oregon.  The adjustments to our circadian rhythms can result in inability to sleep as well as depression, anxiety, eating and elimination issues.  Makes sense when one considers all that is involved, as the body doesn't necessarily follow where the brain leads.  Case in point, I look at the gymnasts in the Olympics and say I can do that; and then I look in the mirror and realize that it's probably not going to happen soon.  So for those of you planning a trip from West to East (takes a longer adjustment) or East to West (takes less time to adjust for most), here are some tips.  Set your watch to the destination time zone when you get on the plane.  Bring Melatonin with you (natural sleep aid). When it's night, do NOT stare at the computer screen to go back to sleep.  It will actually do the reverse and tell your body it's morning and wake you up.  Drink plenty of fluids.  Exercise through the day and try to avoid late afternoon naps for a few weeks.  Above all, stay busily engaged in seeing and enjoying your trip or your home.  Understand that there is nothing wrong with you, your body is just trying to catch up to your adventurous travel plans.

After adjusting to the 8 hour time change and delivering my
scheduled presentation, I began to enjoy life again and journeyed with friends to Scotland where we stayed in Sterling and visited Edinborough.


Stirling Castle is being beautifully  renovated and the colors used were truly remarkable.  Opulent is the only word that quite covers the interior royal chambers.  One wishes to lie upon the floor and just observe the ceilings.

As I wandered through the castle and stared out across the fields toward the William Wallace monument, the gradual realization of where I was and what I was doing began to dawn... again! I was in Scotland... in a real castle... I was going to school... I was having an adventure... I was seeing a childhood dream fulfilled.  Looking out from the castle parapet at the lush green fields or glancing skyward at the architecture and gargoyles and even playing dress-up with medieval costumes, I paused to be grateful for the experience I was sharing with friends and how my life and understanding of humanity is broadening.  It felt more like I was visiting the home of a friend, walking on their cobbled courtyard, admiring their taste in decor.  There was a definite connection that time and space did not account for.  Perhaps it is the writer in me, the fact that I live within an imaginary world a good part of my day, but just as reading takes us on a journey through time or into the mind and heart of another person, this new adventure removed barriers as I lived "in" history and became a part of it.

January saw the completion of my doctoral in-class classes and the freedom to work intensely on my research and novel, which has passed 22K words.  I'm not sure what adventures February will offer but I do promise to keep you posted.  Until then learn to laugh while you live and don't forget to dance.

Monday, January 14, 2013

January 2013 - Home to Home - Part I

Clock Tower near Birmingham, England
 An epic journey home to the West Coast of America marked the beginning of my holiday hiatus.  Thinking to be quite clever, I spent a bit more on tickets, choosing to fly to Amsterdam and then take a direct 13 hour flight to Portland.  Alas, arriving at Birmingham hours early to accommodate international travel, I was greeted with the news that it was snowing in Amsterdam.  Lovely, I innocently thought.  Not only will I see the country of my forefather's origins but it will be very Christmassy!  This is, however, when I learned that planes do not fly in the snow if they can help it and that one of the things that the Brits do best is "queue."

Used to American efficiency and a certain amount of impatience in being thwarted by one's travel plans (did I say that nicely?), no one else in line seemed to be at all surprised when we had to wait for someone from KLM to show up to reroute us... all 200 plus of us.  I fortunately was in the beginning of the line (early arrival has its perks). The someone from KLM showed up and was just that... one...  someone.  There were actually two but one was shunted off to the side to handle elite ticket holders, class will out!

 I met the loveliest people in line: a young blond, blue-eyed student going home to Finland and three British South Africans journeying to visit family.  The nearly three hours in queue passed pleasantly.  I was rerouted to Dublin, a four hour layover, then Boston, and finally home.  Flight time was up 50%.  So much for expensive tickets.  But at least I was going home or so I thought.

Flight into the morning
Arriving in Boston, I was told to take the shuttle to the ticket counter.  Being inexperienced, I did.  "I'm sorry, madam, but your gate is closed."  "Yes," I replied hopefully.  "Call them and tell them I'm here and have them hold it please."  "That is not possible.  The gate is closed."  "My luggage is on that flight.  I've been in these clothes for 24 hours.  I have no American money with me. Can I speak with your supervisor?" My American impatience was beginning to crack. Failing to impact Boston, I began to cry (didn't work!).  "I don't even have a toothbrush," I exclaimed.  Boston mumbled something about not scheduling adequate time between international and domestic flights, arranged to put me in a hotel overnight, gave me a toothbrush and a small packet of sundries, and a $6 meal voucher for dinner and another for breakfast.  I walked to the hotel, dropped what little I had in my room and went downstairs to eat.  $6 voucher + Boston prices = a very nice dinner salad and since they didn't take pounds Sterling, I now have $1.42 on my American Express card.  The next day I was rerouted to Atlanta, Georgia, before being sent homeward.  Fourty-six hours all totaled!

And the hours traveling faded like dew on a sunny morning when my little three-year-old grandson rounded the corner of the kitchen and saw his Nana sitting on the kitchen floor playing with his cousin.  He looked like a young fawn startled in a thicket.  I raised my arms.  He ran and buried himself in my lap.  The journey... what journey?  That moment filled my heart, healed my aching body, and brought me fully home.

Please join me next week for Part II of "Home to Home" or "What I Did On My Christmas Vacation."  See you then.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Week 9/10 - Pulling Out the Stops

Manor House, Godstone, England
Week Nine and part way through Week Ten.  Hectic, stress, frenetic, and overwhelm seem to be the uppermost words that spring to mind.

Although today is a glorious blue with a biting cold in Aber, I sit inside after a hasty bus trip into town to get more ink for the printer.  I've finally run out of ink!

As the semester slides toward the holiday break, I've just completed a 2497 word essay (Do NOT exceed 2500 or you will be marked down) for my PGM0120 module on Research.  Although only 15 workshops were necessary, I attended thirty and listened to another that was recorded earlier.  Still a glutton for punishment and over-achiever.

Stairway to the theatre in the School of Art
I also sent in my Abstract of 180 words (Not to exceed 200 word count) on my novel and planned analysis, which is part Critical Theory and part Self-Analysis of my writing process and will hopefully challenge how Classic is defined in literature.

Then there was PGM0410, Ways of Reading, a study in the various theories of deconstruction.  I chose to write on Narratology as it is theory of the narrative.  Relatively new as theories go, I completed 3497 words just three words short of the max thereby preventing me again from losing points.  The UK take their word counts very seriously.  As I compared Bleak House by Charles Dickens, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, and Sepulchre by Kate Mosse, I began to get the hang of foreshadowing and backshadowing, framing a story, genre, as well as verbal patterning and motifs used.

I eventually took the plunge and did an analysis of the opening paragraphs in my novel, Standing Stone.  I read the words as a reader coming fresh to the page rather than a writer, who has toiled with each word, trying to make sense of the story that likes to peek-a-boo around corners, show itself as I drift off to sleep, or present itself in the chance remark of another student, professor, or perfect stranger.  I was pleased for these few paragraphs, 215 words, passed the litmus test.  I could see motifs, a frame, foreshadowing of events... and, of course, knowing the end, I could see that I had backshadowed the eventual outcome.  Happy Dance!

Theatre or Classroom in School of Art.
(Rich and Ash in front row)
 Then, of course, was the fine tuning of just over 4000 words of the novel to hand in to my second-reader.  That will happen shortly, possibly tomorrow, just one more review.  The assignments (over 10,000 words) are ticked off my rather lengthy list and I can now hopefully settle into a daily writing pattern, getting to know my characters and telling their interwoven story as they whisper to me.  Another author, Pete Fromm, said once that he had the best job in the world because he got to go to the basement and play with his imaginary friends each day.  Lovely.  I so understand.

Maybe I can do this, I said to myself, referring to my great undertaking.  For cheek-by-jowl with the euphoria of handing in assignments early and tickets for home taped just above my computer, the PhD is a solitary process.  Incoming students are warned that this honing of skill, this laser focus on becoming an expert in one's chosen discipline, can consume both life and the art of living.  Choices must be made and consequences faced.

Thanksgiving this past week dawned without fanfare and sans turkey.  I had leftover stir fry before which I presented my Visa to the proper campus authority which will enable me to return home next month.  However, despite feeling sorry for myself that I was going to be alone, I was grateful for modern technology and the chance to see everyone via Skype.  My daughter held her iPhone with me on video chat from Wales, while my son-in-law held a second smart phone connecting my husband from Oregon so that we could join the sixty gathered in Utah.  After going round the room and giving each a chance to say what they were grateful for... a new baby coming, religious freedom, being together, "my smokin' hot wife," family, country, and, of course, the food, which threatened to collapse several tables, the two phones were held together for a Thanksgiving kiss across the miles.  It made me smile, lessened the ache caused by distance, and made me ever so much more grateful as I listened to and was included in our joint and heartfelt family prayer.  Thank you sweetheart, children, grandchildren, extended family, and friends for your love and support.  Families are truly forever.

Aberystwyth Bay/the Irish Sea.  View from the cafeteria.
Sunset over the campus on my walk home tonight.
Dear Readers:  I plan on a bit of a hiatus while I return home to enjoy the Christmas season with family.  See you in the New Year.  May your holidays be joyous and 2013 filled with blessings.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Week 7 & 8 - Remembering

November 4th - It snowed during our early afternoon visit to the Rollright Stones in Long Compton, which is about halfway between Stratford Upon Avon and Oxford.  When visiting here in 2008 with a college class, it was just a little side trip, a blip in a well-planned theatre tour itinerary, a gift from a bus driver who thought we ought to see standing stones.  Yet it sparked an idea for a novel, which formed part of my application to Aberystwyth and is currently being completed for my PhD Thesis.  Our journey through life form a complex tapestry.

As I walked around the stones and counted them - the legend states that they cannot be counted three times with the same number - I was drawn to the magic of being in Wales and in England.  The very ground of the United Kingdom breathes myth, mystery, and magic.  NOTE:  These are two separate countries that form part of the UK!  As well as Scotland and Northern Ireland and there IS a great deal of national pride.  Do not refer to Wales as part of England - It's like saying Oregon is part of Texas!)

King Stone
Whispering Knights
Greeted with snow, rain, sodden ground, and a cold that penetrated our winter jackets, we retreated to the Crown and Cushion in Long Compton for lunch by the fireside. Again I was struck by the very British tradition of visiting.  One eats and then one sits and shares their life, thoughts, dreams, news, family, and self.  A table near us was filled with a collection of locals, raising a pint as they laughed and talked.   We in America rush through life with instant this and that.  What shall we remember at journey's end?  I take more time now to see, to listen, and to enjoy.  

After lunch, a warm sit within the cozy atmosphere of C & C's pub, and clearing skies, we journeyed back and visited The King Stone and were delighted to find David Gosling’s newly placed art installation, the witch who tradition says turned the king and his men to stone.  Our photo fairy was working overtime as we got just the right angle to see the witch look eerily out of the branches that compose her body.  

The Whispering Knights are across the road from the King Stone and a field away from the King's Men stone circle.  It is said that you can hear your future if you listen quietly to the whispers of the Knights.  Evidently the legend holds, as the fallen stone in front was liberally peppered with coin of the realm from pence to pound.

Late that night, we watched the Cotswold Druids perform their Samhain Ceremony, circling the stone with drum and rattles.  Calling for the four portals to be opened, they honored their kindred dead, shared refreshment, and danced beneath the cloud covered sky.  Researching, I sat unobtrusively on a fallen stone and watched three female Druids dance with fairy lights to what sounded like a medieval rendition of "My Lady Sleeps."  Eerie, haunting and beautiful.

British Sky
Week 8 was taken up in intense classes back on campus, while I tried to unpack the impressions of the Druidic celebration and to convert emotion into text, imbuing words with the magical setting I had witnessed, and trying to remember, to capture, and to give form to the gift of this experience.

The colors are changing and this past week-end was spent just outside of London with new friends, a road trip of colors and comraderie.  I was introspective as I thought of the passing of life, remembering my loved ones who have passed the portals of mortality, combined with the joy of the present as I see my two newest grands learn to crawl and my first grandchild accept a mission call to Brazil... at 4 AM... on Skype.  Life is good.  

London LDS Temple Grounds
Remember to live, to love, to witness life.  One of my daughters gave me the gift of a song years ago.  It is by Leeann Womack, "I Hope You Dance."  I'd like to recommend the lyrics to you... "... and when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance."  See you on the dance floor.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Week 6 - In Being Different, We Are The Same

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by
demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die,
it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other,
we may even become friends.
Maya Angelou 

Mile Post
Aberystwyth Train Depot
Travel, it is said, expands one horizons.  It does.  The train station at Aberystwyth transports one not only to parts north and then across the UK but it also pleases the eye and enlivens the imagination.  Yet those who live here, just see it as Aber with the glass-sided building being merely a second hand shop or Charity Shop as it is called here, rather than a repository of human stories.  I feel I've stepped back in time and would be unsurprised by a horse and buggy clip-clopping down the street.  It is becoming more than quaint.  It is becoming comfortable.  The sign post above, I pass by on my way to classes.

Language can be a bit of a barrier.  The neighbor referred the other day to a person being "turfed out."  Immediately golf course came to mind.  Must have been the look on my face as an explanation quickly followed that they had been evicted.  Teaching "your grannie to suck eggs" is to try to do the impossible.  I felt, however, that this expression translated pretty straight across when asked by a professor in class if I knew to what he was referring.  We all laughed.

What perhaps doesn't translate is distance.  In the US, at least in Oregon, we think nothing of visiting Portland and returning in the same day.  Approximately 90 miles away, it takes an hour fifty minutes to two hours each way.  This past Sunday found me on the way to Merthyr Tidfyl (Mur tha Tid vil), a journey of under 50 miles as the crow flies; however, crows did not design the roads.  Sheep did.  It was just over two hours when we arrived and it was said that we made excellent time.  There are A roads and B roads and motor ways.  It is difficult to upgrade to wider roads as porch steps often front the existing roads.  From Aber one must travel east for an hour so that one can travel north and south.  It is one of the prices for living in another place in time.  I for one enjoyed the ride and provided great entertainment to the others by exclaiming over hedgerows, sheep, and general terrain; and the fact that, when we arrived, there was actually a water cooler.  "Jan, you are hilarious."  "Well, it's the first one I've seen in Wales."  It was.  The Welsh do not have water coolers in their buildings.  The water comes in separate faucets sporting either frigid or scalding water (it actually steams coming out) and never the taps shall meet.  I can now wash my face but it is a process involving great timing.  When I asked about this, the estate keeper explained that having a joined faucet was a bit unsanitary; but that in the newer, posh homes, it appeared to be catching on.

 The first time I went to the market to get eggs, I couldn't find them.  When I asked, I was told to turn around for the eggs were right there on the shelf.  "Oh," I continued.  "I mean the real ones.  The refrigerated ones."  I consider myself moderately intelligent but that is not the look I received.  "Eggs are not refrigerated," I was told.  I wondered how all of the UK was not dead.  They don't refrigerate them when they get them home either.  They vaccinate their chickens against salmonella.  Clever.  After two weeks, the eggs were still quite good.  However, old habits won out and the new batch are now safely stored in the refrigerator.

Bacon is called rashers.  American bacon is called streaky bacon because it has so much fat in it.  The students, who have spent time in the US, love our crispy bacon and wish it was easier to purchase here.  I, however, love rashers.  Less fat and the flavor is amazing.  I've used it as a base for a bean stew as well as for potato soup and in a sudo-German potato salad.  Lovely.  Just lovely.

Tonight I try to make a lamb stew.  Wish me luck for I've never done it before.

Outside my window there is a cacophony of gwacks each morning.  I've been trying to figure out how to reproduce/spell the sound of these birds and that is the closest I've come so far.  I've been told that they are crows but they don't really look like and certainly don't sound like American crows.  Can crows have accents?

Further research reveals that they are actually Rooks, a member of the crow family.  Many have left the area but when I arrived there were swarms  which worked like a perfect alarm clock each morning.  I was sorry to see their numbers diminish with the departing leaves.

Fall color, drifting leaves, wind singing in the eaves comfort and lull me to sleep each night.  I do miss my laundry at home but, in spite, of sore muscles, I'm beginning to enjoy the pace, the walking to do laundry, check out a book at the library, learning to read a bus schedule; but mostly finding that people are kind.  They want your stay at Aber to be enjoyable and go out of their way to help a stranger.  The bus driver is Barry.  The librarian is Joy.  I'm beginning to fit, to breathe, and to mentally unpack... which is a good thing.
“Not all those who wander are lost.” — J. R. R. Tolkien