Don’t Look!

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 9.19.41 AMAlternate title: A Tetris Battle lesson

If you read my column “Lessons From Bubble Pop,” I know what you’re thinking: What, she’s writing about another computer game? She has a problem.

While it’s kind of cruel of you to be so judgmental, I can’t argue with you. I really am a game addict and Tetris has topped the list of my weaknesses since approximately 1988.

At various times in my life I’ve been on the wagon, the longest break being the years I no longer frequented Gus’s Arcade. Online Tetris versions were lame compared to the arcade game—or were until I joined Facebook and discovered—Oh, the joy, oh, the agony, oh, the huge time suckage but wonderful stress reliever—Tetris Battle.

(You said there was a lesson in this blather, I hear you mutter—and right you are. Patience, patience. All the little blocks will fall into place soon and you’ll soon see what I’m putting down. Heh heh. A Tetris joke. Get it?)

ANYWAY, I’ve been playing like a mad woman again because after a six-month hiatus, I logged in and discovered I’d lost my rank and had to restart from scratch. (I know. It’s an outrage.)

It’s been a rough month. February weather is hard on my spirits in general (although the respite provided by the crazy, glorious snowstorm was lovely!), plus some things in my personal life have been tough—and professionally I’ve been fraught with indecision and insecurity about the path I’ve chosen and the direction I’m going. . . . Sounds familiar, right? Yes, I think it’s called life, sometimes. . . .

But I’ve been kicking butt in Tetris at least.

The lesson I want to share comes—as so many lessons do—from a mistake I made. For an instant, while battling a User-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, I broke with my proven strategy and looked to see how my opponent was doing.

Gah! I recognized my error immediately. He was doing great. Had even dropped more lines than I had. (The horror, the horror!) Flustered, I made a rookie error, landed a Z shape at an awkward angle, leaving a gap exposed—then compounded the problem by dropping a square too close, so I couldn’t snug another piece under the jutting edge.

Even worse, I darted a sideways glance again to see how badly my screw-up had hurt my game. Bleeeep—KO’D. Even as the buzzer sounded, my brain screamed, “What were you doing? Don’t look. Don’t look!”

Wham! Crossover wisdom hit me and fleshed itself out. Don’t look at your neighbor or friend or peer. Keep focused on your plan, your goal, what works for you.

To win in Tetris, you can’t let yourself get distracted by someone else’s progress, concentrate too heavily on the way they play, or compare their results to your own. Doing so will immobilize you, fill you with doubt, and crush your game.

The same is true for other parts of life. I’m usually content with my home, relationships, accomplishments, work——until I fall into the comparison trap. I sometimes need to remind myself: Don’t look! Zeroing in on how someone else is doing doesn’t change my situation, skills, talents, or assets—but it does take my focus off what it should be on: what I do have, what I can do, what I should do.

Flipping that (because there’s always flipping in Tetris), all of life is not like the game. Sometimes contemplating what other people are doing encourages, challenges and spurs you on. . . .

The trick, I guess, is to know which to do and when. Thankfully, the answer’s fairly clear. If looking at others makes you dissatisfied or diminishes your ability to maneuver the pieces of your life with joy and ease, stop looking. If studying someone else fills you with a sense of possibility or lends you a strategy you hadn’t yet considered, gawk away.

And now I’m off to level up. :)

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“Don’t Look! A Tetris Battle lesson” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, February 25, 2015 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”

Uncomplicated Kindness

Photo Credit: Jennifer/Sweet on Veg on Flickr

Photo Credit: Jennifer/Sweet on Veg on Flickr

My thoughts are all over the place today, flitting here, darting there, from dark and muddy places as dreary as my sodden yard to joy-inducing, light-filled bright spots, as beautiful as sunshine through blue and amber glass.

I wanted to write an inspiring January note for you all, some wise words on motivation, an encouragement about how to stick to a plan, or how to set and achieve goals, but instead I find myself dwelling on a little thing that, the older I get, seems not so little after all: the power of a kind word.

I learned this lesson personally when I was fifteen or sixteen or so. Picasso has his blue period; I had my black stage. For a long time I dressed in black from head to toe, and wore heavy kohl eyeliner. “Goth” wasn’t really a thing yet, in Terrace, at least, but my clothing was dramatic enough to single me out sometimes. I’m still amazed at some of the responses I got to such an innocuous thing as wearing all black—but this is not about the rotten stuff people say and do. It’s about the shiny, lovely things.

My mom and dad hated my “ghoulish” attire and makeup, thought it was at best inappropriate for a young girl (who should wear bright “happy” colors) and at worst “sluttish.”

I loved my black wardrobe for many reasons—and still gravitate to the shade—and I don’t think you have to be morbid, obsessed with death or depressed to revel in black . . . but I was depressed. Sad. Lonely. And I will admit that some days, maybe I was sort of saying, This is me. I don’t fit in. See?

(At this point, I have to stress, you cannot and should not assume anything about a person’s mood or morals or anything else by what they wear. Usually clothes are just clothes, fashion—and despite my confession above, the biggest reason behind my clothing choices was esthetic. I just loved black.)

Anyway, I’d had a bad weekend to top off a bad week that topped off a bad month that—okay, I guess I could just say I was feeling low. I was at church with my family, the service had ended, and I was being subjected to after church “fellowship” in the foyer. My mom, for reasons I now think I understand, yet still don’t make sense, decided to publicly nag me about my clothing again. Yes, it felt awesome, as humiliations and conflicts always do.

To this day, I remember my outfit with fondness. It was quintessential 80s Ev: Black spandex leggings. Black pointy-toed ankle boots. A black tank top with an off the shoulder, long black sweatshirt. A boxy black denim jacket. I’m sure my hair was a blow-dried mess, and may or may not have had some purple in it. My eyes were pointed like a cat’s.

I looked rad. But also out of place in the room of equally 80s fashionable—yet polar opposite of “alternative”—ice cream pink, mint and yellow sweaters and polo shirts.

Regardless of how much I liked what I was wearing and felt good in it, I was hurt and angered by my Mom’s vented disapproval and obvious embarrassment about me.

Suddenly, a twinkly-eyed woman with short gray curls piped up, “You don’t like Ev’s look? Really? Whenever I see her I always think, wow, she looks so flamboyant!” She proceeded to add that she’d read the newspaper and noticed I’d made the honor roll, adding a cheery, “Again. Good for you!”

Conversation rolled on and I escaped—and I’m sure she had no idea that her small comment turned on a comforting light that only grew brighter with the years: Someone will like you, whether you’re a bit different or not. You’re okay.

Twenty-five years later I still recall the power of that moment and the gratitude I felt for her kindness. She saw me, not just my exterior.

We all live with varying degrees of insecurity, doubt, worry, fear. . . . No one needs more criticism or condemnation. We all could use a quiet, I see you—the real you. I like you. I accept you.

And who knows? Maybe a casual, encouraging word we give off the cuff will end up being the light that gets someone else through some dark time.

Wishing you a year of kindness—to yourself and to others,
Ev

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“Uncomplicated Kindness” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, January 28, 2015 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”

Losing Me, Finding Me

Photo credit: DualD FlipFLop, Flickr

Photo credit: DualD FlipFLop, Flickr

A few days ago a kind reader contacted me about BIGGER THINGS, saying very complimentary things about it, including that it was “insightful” and made her think. She also asked, “Whatever compelled you to write about body image?”

I get asked that fairly frequently, and my short form answer is always something like, body issues and food issues are something I’ve dealt with in many incarnations, personally, and I still see, despite all our modern so-called enlightenment and equality, etc., a disgusting amount of value put on people’s bodies and looks (by individuals against themselves and others, but also within the workplace and society) over who they really are. And I still see a lot of us doing horrifying things to our physical and emotional heath—and to our children’s—in the name of “health” that’s really just fat-hating, something that I think has very little to do with a number on a scale, and way more do with . . . well, a lot of other things. I wrote BIGGER THINGS partly to exorcise my own ghosts, partly to explore what I think about things, and largely (pun intended, lol) because the main character Jen appeared in my head one day, yammering away.

Anyway, as I was thinking about my response to the reader, I remembered a column for the Terrace Standard that I wrote a few years before I started the novel’s first draft—and I’ve dug it out for your reading pleasure (or something that’s hopefully not displeasure, anyway ☺). It was published Wednesday, January 30, 2002—and I’m happily surprised, though a little weirded out, by how it’s still a good reflection on how I feel about a lot issues surrounding weight and weight loss, with the following few caveats:

My children are young adults now and while I hope I was the good role model I wanted to be, I’m sure there were (are!) failing moments. Also, I’d be lying if I said I followed my “never diet” again vow perfectly. I still get tempted. Having a bad day or week? My first thought is usually that I should definitely start a diet. I usually manage to resist. . . . And I’ve also noticed that the language surrounding extreme calorie cutting and purging has changed. Some people still use “diet,” but a lot of us have gotten sneakier. We don’t go on abusive, calorie restricted diets of cabbage soup. Don’t ridiculous. We go on raw food or broth only cleanses. ;) Don’t get me started! Grrrr! (By the way, I’m not saying you shouldn’t give your colon a break now and again—but we need to be honest with ourselves. Is it really about our health or are we weighing ourselves every day or so to make sure the cleanse is “working?”)

And a note about the statistics I refer to below: the numbers are outdated now, obviously, but if you do some research, you’ll be shocked by how little progress we’ve made in this area. . . .

Anyway, enjoy my thoughts. I’d love to hear your reflections on the weighty topic too, so if so moved, please reply.

biggerthings_ThumbnailAnd if you’re interested in reading BIGGER THINGS, I’d be honored. It’s available in eBook form, pretty much everywhere, in paperback at Misty River Books, online (Chapters, Barnes & Noble, Amazon) or for order in at your favorite bricks and mortar bookseller.

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Losing me and finding me
By Ev Bishop

How many people made some sort of resolution to lose weight this year? It seems to be the most popular New Year’s goal.

Magazine companies know it. Almost every issue has some skinny, manically cheerful model assuring us that we can get thin. Pseudo-scientific facts are printed about how some latest discovery will miraculously help shed all unwanted pounds, without any effort, in just ten days!

I’m furious with articles that equate losing weight with changing who you are. “New Year, New You.” They may as well just come out and say, “You’re just a body.” “Change your body, change who you are.” And we fall for it! We believe that somehow changing our body weight will change our lives and eliminate the stuff of life that hurts. We think that shedding pounds will help us shed the parts of ourselves that we don’t like, don’t feel comfortable with.

Consider these statistics from the National Eating Disorders Association: Almost half of American women are on a diet on any given day, as are 1 in 4 men. Half of 9 and 10 year old girls feel better about themselves if they are on a diet.

Are you thinking, so what?

Think about this then: 35 percent of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting and of those, 1 in 4 will progress to a partial or full syndrome eating disorder; the kind that, without intervention, can kill you.

In It’s Not About Food, Carol Emery Normandi and Laurelee Roark say that while the symptoms are different, the roots of all eating disorders are similar and that most of the mindset behind dieting has nothing to do with weight at all.

It’s something less tangible than actual weight that’s bothering the individual, usually a feeling that, as a being, they’re unacceptable or out of control.

At age eight, I had my first binge and vomit session.

The summer after grade seven, I lived on a box of chips and a two-lire of diet Coke a day. I lost forty pounds and started a decade-long war, the battle of losing me.

For eight years I abused myself, equating every problem in my life with the number on a scale and attributing every success to the same thing. Now I am fat. Don’t worry. I’m not putting myself down. I don’t see the word as an insult, more like a fact of life, like saying, “I have ‘brown eyes.”

Strangely, I’m more at peace with my body than I’ve ever been. I have been every weight, every size and I know that my life stays the same, my battles are the same and my pleasures are the same.

In some ways getting big saved me. It made me aware that the reflection in the mirror has no bearing at all on who I am as a person.

Despite the added weight, I’m probably healthier than when I was a teen. I can bump my knee without it turning purple and green all the way down my shin. I don’t get paralysing charley horses running the entire length of my leg, toe to thigh. I don’t wake up suddenly in the middle of the night in front of the fridge, scarfing down leftovers.

Still it would be healthy for me to lose some weight—yet I will never diet again. Ever. I have good reasons. I just don’t hate myself enough anymore to endure the agony of self-induced starvation.

I have two wonderful kids who need to know that their value has nothing to do with externals. Society won’t teach them that. It may give the idea lip service but everything else in the media will contradict it. They need a strong, healthy, kind-to-herself-at-any-weight role model, me.

So what can I do? I can start to listen to myself. I can quit stifling my emotions with food, thinking I have no right to them, and acknowledge when I’m pissed off, when I’m sad, when I’m afraid. I can move because it feels good to move, I can stop eating when I’m full because I know I will let myself eat again. Most of all, when the mirror says, “You’re worthless.” I can remember; the mirror lies.

Maybe by not waiting till I arrive at some magic weight to participate in life, by eating when I’m hungry, by refusing to buy into society’s beauty ideals, I will sometime arrive at what, a long time ago, was my body’s natural weight. But I might not. In either event, I am not my body.

If you are dieting, I hope you will remember that you are not a number on a scale. Your value is not in your waist size. Be kind to yourself and make sure that it’s weight that you’re trying to lose, not who you are.

Merry belated Christmas!

The following was originally published in the Terrace Standard, December 24, 2014 as my monthly column “Just a Thought,” and though Christmas day has passed, I hope you still find my words appropriate. After all, the good parts of the holiday season–and maybe some of the hard aspects too–remain, as a brand new year looms bright and close, shiny with potential!
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Christmas CatI’m supposed to be writing a Christmas column, and I have the room’s mood and atmosphere just right. The tree is aglow. Tea light candles light every dark corner and make the shadows cozy. A tiny Victorian village rests on a mantle beside me, while a lovely, ancient-looking nativity scene takes the place of honor on our buffet. I even have a festive beverage.

But words and ideas are slow to come. I just want to daydream or putter about my house—a sure sign I have a deadline looming! Practically the only time I want to do housework is when I’m supposed to be writing something.

It’s not that I’m not feeling merry; it’s just that my thoughts are a jumble this month. I’m feeling that weird Christmas mixture of mingled joy, gratitude and excitement and sorrow and longing that seems to be part and parcel of the season.

My dad’s passing feels official now, and in a lot of ways I miss him more now than when my grief was fresh. It’s like it has finally sunk in after two years. He’s really gone, not just on an extended holiday or work trip, gypsy-ing around like he loved to do.

The anniversary of his death and my mom’s and my mother-in-law’s hit bang, bang, bang this time of year. It’s a cliché that you miss people more during the holidays—a cliché, I guess, because it’s true. And in another cliché, I find myself wishing desperately that I could talk to him, to them, even one more time. I have so much I want to say, so much I want to ask. . . .

On the other hand, I’m struck by the wonderful juxtaposition and celebration of life—and all its loveliest elements—anew this time of year.

My youngest niece turned one. So fun! A nephew has learned to read fluently and loves it (so, of course, I’m over the moon, as reading well is one of the greatest joys, most valuable teachers, sweetest of comforts, and strongest creators of connection to other people, ideas, and cultures that we can possess). One of my siblings has a baby on the way!

Other young relatives are growing from childhood into young adulthood and while it’s challenging for them and their parents sometimes, I love catching glimpses of the grown-ups they’ll be.

My daughter and her husband are full of Christmas plans and festive surprises for each other. So cute to watch. I often laugh as I take in their interactions and silly banter and feel a sense of wonder. Were C and I ever so young? And, of course, we were. I mean, we are. Heh heh.

My son, always good for holiday cheer, had almost every game we own out on the table the other night. No truer sign exists that the holidays are upon us than that!

And I guess those details hint at how I’m feeling as Christmas 2014 approaches, fortunate and blessed that even while my thoughts are filled with people I miss, I am simultaneously surrounded by family and friends I love so much. We don’t know how long we get to keep and enjoy our loved ones, so amid the fun, games, food and noise—and inevitable moody times or stress, mine and theirs—I aim to appreciate and treasure every minute with them.

Whether this year finds you happy or sad, stressed out or excited, lonely or pressured, mourning or joyful, may good memories warm you, and may you feel God’s presence and peace in 2015.

Fluff and Jumble

Photo by betterpharm on Flickr

Photo by betterpharm on Flickr

Early winter was remarkably calm and mild this year, but February? It’s been anything but mellow—bouts of bitter cold, severe wind, surprise flurries and big snowfalls simultaneously awed and daunted me. (The snow is spectacularly pretty, but sometimes I just want my days to be easy, no jacket or boots required!). And my brain this month is similarly filled with heaps of stuff to wade through, shovel, and scrape. Some of it is work intensive and slightly tiresome, but other bits are beautiful.

I’m on the cusp of another big life change. (Wow, new phases just keep coming, don’t they? I’m starting to think that from our toddler years on, life is nothing but a constant flux of developmental stages!) And the trigger of this one? My daughter is getting married.

If you remember some of my earliest columns, like the one about a road trip to Vancouver with her and baby brother, or the one about her obsession with salsa cones (Yes, ice-cream cones filled with salsa. Yum, hey?), you know she was very, very young when I published my first column and now she is getting married. Bizarre!

Her fiancé, my son-in-law to be (How weird is that?) is wonderful and I already love him, but I’m still shocked and kind of terrified. Is she, is he, ready for marriage? But the worry—the question itself—makes me roll my eyes. Are any of us ever ready for it? No matter how fortunate you are in who you commit to for life, or how much you love him or her, marriage is constant adjustment, isn’t it?

I cannot not worry, of course, because I’m her mom and because I’m me, a worrier extraordinaire, but I’m also really excited about all the happy potential for her, for them, to experience so much joy, laughter, comfort, and companionship.

Another thing on my mind these days is the move of an old, close friend back to town. After graduation we were supposed to head for the city together, but I ended up falling in love and staying here instead. She adventured off alone. And now, after twenty-three years, she’s back. It’s as surreal as my daughter getting married, albeit it in an opposite way. The impending nuptials make me feel like two decades have zipped by, while my friend’s return makes me feel no years have passed at all. In my head we’re still eighteen, with all our lives before us. In reality we’ve said hello to forty-one, but something great’s still true: the rest of our lives lay before us!

I’m also very busy right now, as I’m sure you can relate. There’s a lot going on at work. I have some exciting, but also scary, writing plans that require strenuous effort and time. I’m trying to make healthy lifestyle changes. I also want to spend more time with some specific friends and family members.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed, the following quote shared on Facebook was a huge encouragement: You are going to want to give up. Don’t. I don’t know if the line resonates with you, but it was encouragement I really needed. I’m going to scribble the words somewhere to keep as a reminder for myself, or to share if anyone else needs them.

I realize this wasn’t my most organized “Just a Thought,” but sometimes that’s how thoughts are, cluttered and jumbled, or, like the February snow—plentiful, piling up, just waiting to be trekked through.
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“Fluff and Jumble” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, February 26, 2014 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”

What You Need

But the sun's been quite kind while I wrote this  . . . ~ Elton John. Photo by Ev Bishop, copyright 2014


“But the sun’s been quite kind . . .” ~ Elton John. Photo by Ev Bishop, copyright 2014

January can be pretty low for me—low energy, low funds, low light, low . . . And this year, a series of tough situations conspired to bring me lower—the rotten kind of events, where people I care about are being kicked in the face by life in ways I’m powerfulness to help in any practical, lasting way. You relate, perhaps?
 
Waging war with the gloom, however, I also experienced some intensely lovely moments this month—things that reminded me of all the good in life, and in people, that coexists with the . . . not so good.  
 
The incident with the most impact came totally out of the blue, and occurred, of all places, in the post office.
 
I had just received hard news and treated myself to a London Fog, while I wrote a note to my sister as a pick me up. Afterwards, I went to the post office to mail it, then checked out the lobby’s bulletin board. A unique poster grabbed my eye right away.
 
It was photocopied in black and white, but no less beautiful for the lack of colour. Funky block letters on a collaged-background made a strange but nice request: “Take what you need.”
 
Beneath the words and the artwork were tear-away tabs, but they didn’t hold contact numbers. They carried things the creator thought you might need:
 
Hope. Courage. Forgiveness. Love. Laughter. Peace of mind. Faith. Tenderness. Beauty. Strength. Rest. Passion.
 
Half the tabs were already missing. (In fact, I only know what each one said because tiny font on the poster’s edge gave copyright to Kelly Rae Roberts and I googled her name along with “Take what you need” until I found a copy of the same poster, intact.) I don’t know what I found more encouraging: that someone randomly posted it for no obvious reason other than to put some kindness and inspiration into the world—or that people were moved, like I was, to take something away with them.
 
I chose faith—something I’m in want of in multiple areas of my life right now. Which would you have taken? What do you particularly need?
 
I left the post office feeling a little lighter, a little stronger, a little more resilient.
 
And as so often happens, one positive moment opened my eyes to an abundance of other encouraging, buoying things.
 
I had wonderful coffee visits with friends who simultaneously challenged me and affirmed some of the ideas percolating in my head.  
 
An old acquaintance from the past reconnected via e-mail, triggering good memories and excitement about new inspirations.
 
A complete stranger offered, uninitiated by me, to advertise the launch of the first novel in a series I’m going to publish and to help with any questions I have along the way.
 
Someone gave us a beautiful new chicken—her “nicest, kindest” one—because she’d heard our solitary hen was lonely. Funny, but it really moved me.  
 
In a coffee shop, a young woman out for coffee by herself, slipped out to the washroom, leaving her bag and laptop on the counter where she’d been sitting. Some people might say it was stupid or asking for trouble, but I thought it was a good lesson. Sometimes we have to stop thinking of—almost expecting—worst case scenarios. We need to remember that a lot of people are decent. Are trustworthy. Are kind.
 
If you’re a little—or a lot—low these days, or going through things you have no idea how to resolve, I pray you experience some high notes this week—that you, like me, get what you need and find encouragement in some small, unexpected way.  

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“What You Need” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, January 29, 2014 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”

Home again, home again, jiggety jig

This post was originally published in the Terrace Standard, November 27, 2013 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.” At the time of writing, I’d been home from my London trip a mere two weeks . . . now it’s been close to a month. The sentiments remain true, however. Enjoy!
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Me in London town, the Shard, and the Thames!

Me in London town, the Shard, and the Thames!

I can’t believe it’s only been sixteen days since I returned from London. Already my memories feel more like dreams. Crazy! I didn’t think I was going to regale you with tales from across the pond, but enough kind people asked me to write a follow up, that what can I do but spill some of the fun, fading-too-quickly, details?
 
The first surprise came before I left Canadian airspace. I used to think I didn’t like flying. It turns out I only dislike flying in small, cramped, bumpy, cold, loud planes. I adore lounging in huge, lush planes, with movies and blankets and flight attendants who bring wine. I’ve since been informed that it’s not usual, at all, to get three seats to yourself on an overseas flight, and I admit close seatmates wouldn’t have been cool, but hey, I didn’t have seatmates, so there!
 
Heathrow is a huge airport—and I was a little shocked by how serious the customs guy took my entry into the country. Maybe I was a little too wide-eyed and smiley, thus suspicious.
 
In no particular order, some of my first impressions: the train station, all those platforms, like something directly out of Harry Potter, and the tube! And people! So many, many, many people. Everywhere! The incredible age of buildings and homes. All the beautiful brick (house after house after house is brick): so lovely. A touch of disappointment at the accents—softer, less pronounced than I expected. (Later, when I travelled to Lancashire, I got my fix—some wonderful voices and words there! And speaking of accents, I apparently have a strong one and was frequently asked to repeat myself. Ha, who knew?) 
 
My friend and I (so much thanks to her for all the fun we had) visited every place on my itinerary, except for Stratford-upon-Avon, due to car issues (who knew cars in the UK can be just as temperamental as their Canadian cousins?), and I can’t pick favourites.
 
I was incredibly moved by Westminster Abbey (People have been worshipping and seeking God there for nearly 1000 years!), and equally as much by St Paul’s Cathedral.
 
The Tower of London was every bit as fascinating as I thought it would be, though much, much bigger, with many more towers and crooks and crannies than I was expecting. The graffiti etched into the stone, some of it dating back to the 1500s was, is . . . mind-blowing. Very sad some of it, and thought-provoking—and amazing that all those images and messages, pleas and testaments of beliefs and conviction, carved by hand, still survive today.
 
The dominant emotion of my trip? A sort of surreal joy, akin to surprise. I was constantly awed by the generations of stories attached to places, by the age and the ornate detail of the historic buildings, and by the juxtaposition of the ancient with the ultra modern. It’s one thing to know intellectually that something exists—and quite another to visit it yourself . . . to walk over the vaults of interred kings and queens and other folk . . . to see segments of roman walls . . . to view actual, original paintings by Monet . . . Mind blowing. 
 
As much fun as I had in London, it felt like a place to visit. I had no daydreams about living there—which was why a touch of wistfulness when I visited Oxford after touring Stonehenge (Stonehenge! Such a crazy, mysterious place!) startled me. I love the life my husband and kids and I have built and wouldn’t change it, but we all have those roads not taken in our past that sometimes, when thinking back, give us pause and make us wonder what if . . . I would have loved to read English at Oxford.
 
Another slightly strange moment of familiarity or kinship hit when I arrived in Adlington in Lancashire to meet extended family. I swear my grandpa chose to settle in Smithers, on Kidd Rd, because the landscape was so like that of his childhood’s—though with Cottonwood trees, not Beech. I had a bizarre sense of coming home. The Chorley/Rivington/Adlington area fit my imagination’s vision of “English countryside” perfectly—lovely, green and rolling, and covered with sheep!
 
It may sound cheesy, but it was a dream trip—though when I left, I was definitely ready to be home with my honey in our wildly beautiful, sparsely populated corner of the woods.
 
And do I already have future gallivants planned? Yes, I just might . . .