introductions…

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So, my daughter and I have been travelling since she was itty bitty, to use an expression that she thinks makes her feel too small for the grown-up 10 that she is now. But we have. I come from a long line of kin with what is commonly known amongst us as “wanderlust”. We get yearnings to be other than where we are – see the world. Enjoy another culture, explore another part of this amazing world.

I’ll start by back tracking and sharing thoughts from early adventures before posting about the tastes up-coming travel.

Hopefully this will be fun for all!

 

The matter’s in my head and in my heart

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(As You Like It, Act III Scene V)

Oh, my head! It’s been a long time since I was full of studying and learning. My days, for far too long, have been filled with things other than academia. I’ve made choices over the years that have kept me from ding what I know is in my heart, but life sometimes has to lived, not in a straight line, but in a scribble of swirls and cross-outs. And so now, at 50, I’m back at it. I feel old sometimes. My fellow students, for the most part, are right out of university and bursting with vim and vigor. But I am loving it.

I’m not loving being reminded of what I may have been in my own youth. Overbearing and opinionated. But surely that wasn’t me. I couldn’t have been one to take over a class from the professor by ending a conversation abruptly and moving to the next student. I couldn’t have been one that rambled on about my own experience taking up minutes before actually getting to my point which really has nothing to do with my point other than I just really want to shine a light on me and the wonderfulness thereof. Surely that wasn’t me. It gets exhausting. Listening to Me, Mine, My, and I with the start of every observation or every question put out there. I need more patience. In someways having to wear a mask in class is a good thing. At least my whole face doesn’t give my irritation and exasperation away.

But really, even with the exhaustion that is youth, I’ve missed this – the reading, the lectures, the discussions, the note taking, all of it. My modules are spaced so I have time to get it all done before the next class starts. I can walk the girl part of the way to school and get back to enjoy a second cup of tea while diving into part one of online lectures and reading…reading…reading.

Reading of how David Garrick created the first Jubilee in celebration of Shakespeare and started the snowball of Shakespeare kitsch/tat and why you now have to study Shakespeare as part of a national curricula. Reading how Shakespeare wrote about smell being important – that sight could be deceiving, but other senses could provide evidence. Joint lectures where we hear from a director or an author, get to engage in questioning and fuller discussions of works. Learning about the people’s library in Birmingham, The Shakespeare Memorial Library that was created for the people of Birmingham which is full of items from around the world. Understanding of stage technique, acting technique, what the five senses can tell us of early modern playhouse culture. I feel so tiny at times because I see the vastness of the ocean of Shakespeare Studies and I am but a drop of water in it seeking to add myself into it and have it become part of me. It’s wonderful. It’s bliss. My head and heart are full!

And while I dive deeper into studies and continue to annoy my girl with finding references of Shakespeare everywhere…everywhere! Do you know how often Shakespeare is referred to out there? On television, on radio, in your own conversations? Little snippets of phrasing, an expression, a re-wording of a line? Stop and listen and you may just be amazed. But while I dive deeper, AEB seems to be finding peace here. She likes the quiet of the streets and the walking everywhere. We’re still looking for the right full-time place to rent. We’re still in our temporary digs, but hopefully the right thing will come along shortly. In the meantime, she has started year 10 and is slowly making friends at school and feeling more settled into the routine. One of them facetimed her last night, so it’s getting better. But I know it’s lonely without the friends she’s had since grammar school. Some she’s known since she was nearly three. But she gets to text them, 5 hour time change is a bit rough when they want to chat in the evening and it’s midnight here. It’s not easy. She’s the only American. She gets questions. She gets sympathy. And sometimes she gets asked to just speak, say anything, so they can hear her ‘cute American accent’ which they seem to love.

We’ve started another nationwide lockdown as of today. Schools will still be open and operating until told differently. So classes will continue in person with a few more regulations and hand washing than before, but the protocols already in place are very strong. Sometimes it feels like life in lockdown, or life in a mask is going to be a never ending experience. But, for the most part, people are pulling together and helping each other get through all this. ‘Hands. Face. Space.’ is the NHS mantra and in advertising everywhere. Wash your hands to kill the virus. Wear a mask to protect others. Give two metres between yourself and others to protect yourselves from the virus. We’re in this together and we want and many of us to make it through without dying. It’s a different message than what is being given in much of America. I do worry about the girl and being in her year’s bubble, but I know that the protocols and the safety nets are in place and we hope all will be well. May it be so.

I like this place. I could see myself wasting time here.

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Okay, so I’m not here to waste my time and I haven’t run away from court Like Celia in ‘As You Like It’, but I am enjoying Stratford-upon-Avon.

The girl and I finally – FINALLY – made it over at the end of September. Let me just say that the visa process was not all that smooth and the coronavirus had little to do with the hiccups encountered along the way. We made it the Saturday before I was to begin my official MA studies at the Shakespeare Institute. We were met at a darling little cottage where we are still in residence. It is snug, but we settled in nicely. Due to the coronavirus we had to quarantine for two weeks. The UK has very strict requirements for those arriving from outside and in ‘hotspots’ regarding quarantine. We were not to go out unless absolutely necessary for essentials. Fortunately for us we have ‘family’ here in the UK that has a delivery of groceries to get us through our quarantine. I had been able to pick up a few things at a snack shop at the airport so with that and the delivery in the next day we made it until I was ‘allowed’ out and about.

settling into coursework

Quarantine was actually fairly pleasant. Sometimes it’s nice to be forced to be still and stay in. For us it was good for getting onto a new timezone and getting through jet-lag. I was able to go through the university’s welcome events online and started my modules (course/classes) online as well. I’ve been incredibly impressed with the way the university and the Institute have made participating in this incredible time accessible. In some ways the Institute was prepared already since they have been offering distance learning for some time, moving to an online platform was relatively smooth as they were already familiar with what it would take to make classes available for those full-time but stuck in another town or country. When the quarantine was over I made the transition to in-person and the safety measures there are very strict and well outlined ⏤ social distancing markers in common areas, tape marking the floor for seating, sanitizing stations throughout the building and cleaning protocols for the seating before and after sessions with the institute professors, and even a face mask with the university’s name printed on for every student participating in-person. I’ve felt very safe meeting in person.

It did feel rather odd to come out and start going to lectures in a room with others in person. But again, I’ve felt very safe. It’s wandering through Stratford that has made me feel unsure. Not everyone wears face masks when out and about. Currently you are only required to wear a face mask when entering a shop, you do not have to wear one when walking around outside. We live in a relatively quiet area so put on our masks when we start to come up to the more populated parts of town and leave them on until we get back to the cottage. It’s a bit unsettling but people don’t give you odd looks if you do have a mask on – it’s a personal choice.

near the Shakespeare Centre

AEB and I are enjoying the town. It’s beautiful as Fall is settling in. I haven’t dragged her around all the favourite haunts. I’ve tried to just introduce things as we pass them by and share past experiences of place. It’s nice to be a town that feels small but is actually quite large. We have a lot left to explore but we have time.

Getting AEB started has been a little more challenging. Things are a bit different in terms of getting enrolled. One does not go straight to the zoned school for the neighborhood one lives in. One must fill out an application form and send it into the County Council who then assigns the pupil to a school, hopefully one nearest and not one that requires a long bus ride. We had been in communication with the school since the early summer so they knew we were coming. There was some concern that the girl had missed the first year of the GCSE years of high school, but we are more interested in the cultural, social, and general ‘immersion’ experience of schooling that whether or not she is going to stay long enough to have to worry about passing her GCSEs and her A levels. We were able to get her into the high school for her intake assessment after our quarantine was over and then another week before she was actually able to start. However, before she actually was able to attend her year 10 leader and her pastoral care leader wanted to meet her online to get to know her for she started. I participated a bit, but it was very clear that they were more interested in chatting with her and understanding more about her as a person. I was so impressed with their conversation and glad that they were more interested in chatting with AEB than with me. They put her at ease about coming in year 10 and not year 9 as the GCSE stuff doesn’t really get started until this year, so not to worry about anything you might have missed in the previous year. Whew! What are your interests? What are your favourite subjects? Least favourite? What are you worried about getting started in the new school? What questions do you have for us? How can we help you feel welcomed and not just another person in a large school? When she got off the chat she was gobsmacked by the fact they wanted to know about her, were interested in her – as a human being and not just a warm body. “I never got that in middle school. No one treated me like I mattered. I was treated like a test score and a statistic. Here they want to know about me – ME! Can we stay?” And all this before she even stepped foot in the door as an actual student.

Schools are meeting in person in the UK. They have created small ‘bubble’ units of pupils so that if anyone in the bubble tests positive for Covid they can have the bubble quarantine, learn online while quarantining and not have to shut the entire school down. It’s very sensible as they try to keep a sense of normalcy in very un-normal times. Of course, the first day was a different story as her introverted self rose up to rebel against going and her anxiety levels rose with fear of the unknown. But she got through day one and then day two. On day two she introduced me to two new friends she’d made and walked home beaming and chattering away and loving life. They had even been approved by the year lead who had made sure to check in on her during lunch. “Oh good, I’m glad to see you’ve found these people.” What a relief to find potential friends and have them given the ‘thumbs up’ as well.

So, that’s sorted. Now to find a more permanent place to live. This has been the challenge for us. We still haven’t found the right place, but we have not given up hope. There’s a place for us out there that will allow us both to walk to our various places of learning over the course of our year here. But good thoughts, vibes, and prayers are always welcome. There’s a nice little neighborhood tucked away that feels perfect and we are hoping something is open there, but we shall see.

In the meantime, AEB had the week off due to half-term holiday and Mum is with us to help with the house hunting. We’re hoping she’ll be able to be with us more permanently with her own visa but for now she’s on a regular visitor visa which allows her to be here for a total of 6 months over the course of the year. I will have this coming week off from actual module meetings but I will be busy with course work as I start thinking ahead about what my term papers will focus on. I have booked a space in the library for Tuesday and look forward to the research aspect of paper writing.

So we continue our journey of living life in the UK and in a time of pandemic. The PM announced last night that the country will be set for another countrywide lockdown but not as stringent as the one in March/April for a month. This will start on Thursday if all is passed by parliament when the debate this week. Schools and universities will still be allowed to meet in person. Life continues to try and move forward. We continue to be committed to getting through all this as family, supporting each other through the moments that feel too tough to speak.

you never know who you’ll pass along the way around town
Shakespeare Institute garden

rethinking…

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So, I’m still waiting at the starting gate to all that is about to begin in Stratford-upon-Avon. I’m waiting. I feel like I’ve been waiting a long time. We’re waiting on visas. We’re waiting on housing. We’re waiting.

While I wait I’ve been doing some reading, re-reading, and rethinking of what I’ve experienced up to this point in life. Do you do that? Probably you do. Maybe you are able to live in the here and now and not worry about past and future while you’re in the now. I have the tendency to perseverate. I’m not proud of it, I continue to try and work on this so that I can “let it go” but I find it difficult. Recently I was reading in preparation for classwork. I read a book that got me feeling all sorts of things. I finally started having an argument in the margins of the text with the author I was having so many visceral reactions to what was shared within the pages. I haven’t had a book do that to me in a long time. This one did. I’m not going to give the title as I don’t feel like it’s a book that deserves any more publicity than it already has. But what I did find, time and time again, is that the arguments were personal for the author and the justifications for life choices and literary interpretation we based on her own prejudices – are all of ours! But what I found most irritating was the lack of knowledge. Absolute assertions were made from her own ideas with no professional opinions to back them up. The certainty with which the ideas and declarations were written made me cringe and yell and write in all caps in the margins. “Me thinks s/he doth protest too much” to misquote the Bard (I do know that the actual quote from Gertrude is “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”). And as I continue to digest, or perhaps detox, the time with the book I have been thinking.

One of the big pieces for me was the journey of this author and the partner, eventual married partner. In the end, it seems, the author has had to change the partner in order to stay with said person so that the author can be fulfilled in the way that the writer wants (needs, according to the book). This has led me to Sonnet 116:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds 
Admit impediments. Love is not love 
Which alters when it alteration finds, 
Or bends with the remover to remove. 
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark 
That looks on tempests and is never shaken; 
It is the star to every wand’ring bark, 
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken. 
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks 
Within his bending sickle’s compass come; 
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, 
But bears it out even to the edge of doom. 
If this be error and upon me prov’d, 
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

I first encountered this poem in high school. I probably read it and felt much like Marianne Dashwood from “Sense and Sensibility” – romantic feelings of what love ought to be but no real clue as to what love actually is. Later at uni in a Shakespeare class I thought I understood a little better. In my 30s taking an acting class that focused on Shakespeare I read it as monologue. The instructor rakes me over the coals with my interpretation. Who was I to know what love was? How could I, at 30+, know anything about love. I was devastated. I was also in a relationship that had me doing a lot to alter myself to fit what I thought was wanted from me. It was love, but it was not a love that could be sustained longer than it did. I don’t regret the time. I can’t regret when there was so much good that sprang from it. Now I look at this sonnet at 50. Yes, 50. I’m not afraid of that number or my age. I look at it again having read this book and having lived a lot between high school and now and it gives me pause. Love is not “if you love me you’ll….” Love is not so much of what I have spent years in therapy unwrapping and untangling. Love is not something that ought to cause you PTSD. Love is something I am still leaning into. Something that I still remind myself is more of loving through it all and yet still rather abstract.

I’m not sure what the point of this post is. Maybe there are just posts that are rambles to eventually create clarity. That would be nice.

I will leave you with a link to Ben Crystal sharing Sonnet 116 in Received Pronunciation and then in Original Pronunciation. That’s a talk for another post – original vs received.

Ready, Steady…Wait!

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You’ve no doubt heard the saying “the best-laid plans of mice and men“. If not, we need to talk about your serious gap in western canonical literature. Anyway, the saying ends with “often go awry” which is how I have felt about the pre-planning and ideas of how this going off to study Shakespeare in another country has gone. My plans have not aligned with those of the powers that be in charge of the actual timeline that I should have been using to make plans. SOOO, my plans of having us head over in early August has had to seriously shift to “we’ll get there when we get there” which has not set well.

I get that countries set parameters around entry times, etc. It doesn’t mean that I have to agree with them, especially during a time of pandemic when timelines are all sorts of askew and there are closures and holdups within an already long process. I had hoped to get over in time to quarantine, find a full-time let, and get my daughter settled into school at the start of her first term. However, our timeline is my timeline, meaning that since my course work starts at the end of September the earliest we can enter is up to one month prior to the starting date of my course. This would be tight but doable. However, the fact that offices are closed or only taking one appointment per day makes the wait to get in time much longer than usual so now the timeline for us getting in puts us at mid-September rather than the end of August. Sigh. Disappointment. Frustration. And then eventually resignation that I am not in control and we just have to buckle up and just let the ride happens as it happens. It has felt like one of the amusement park roller coasters that has lots of twists, turns, loop-the-loops all of which I avoid with determination and steadfastness when it comes to park rides.

Screen Shot 2020-08-12 at 6.19.23 PMBut there has been movement. Mum left ahead of us to start quarantine and then go out and find us a full-time let for the year. She took off yesterday with masks, gloves, personal air purifier, and a great deal of fortitude. She said the hardest parts were the areas where people have traditionally pooled – other side of security where people have to gather their belongings have been scanned and at immigration where physical distancing was made difficult by impatient people in line wanting to get through. The flight, she said, was fine. The plane was not full and she was able to move so there was an empty row in front and behind her and she had a row of seats all to herself. Wonderful! She did warn me that the snack/lunch may be rough on me as it was a chicken slices on salad with lots of red bell peppers. I can’t eat bell peppers of any color, they won’t digest so I just say I have an allergy. However, with the pandemic there aren’t really food options like there have been in the past where I could say “no bell peppers” and be okay. So, I’ll hope that by the time we head over the menu has changed and I’ll be able to eat and not have to figure out how many snacks I can get into my onboard bags.

At any rate, she got there, got through immigration and finally ensconced in her air bnb in Stratford-upon-Avon. She has a nice little space and they have given her another adjoining room so she has some movement for her quarantine. She did find out that she can go out for a short walk daily but must be appropriately masked, which she would do anyway. There’s a Marks & Sparks (Marks & Spencer for those that don’t know and think Macy’s but with a grocery attached) close by where she can pick up a sandwich or sticky toffee pudding if she wants. I’m am grateful that she has a place where they are helping her in these first weeks. It’s very different experience than we could have imagined even at the start of February. But here we are – Pandemic 2020 – and living through it as best we can while trying to allow life to move forward, to move forward.

Now it’s on to the next step, biometrics for me and the girl. We’ll go into D.C. and do this. We might have had to go into Boston or NYC, though Boston is a bit far it would be do-able but NYC is currently not letting outsiders in so it was not an option. Having closures makes “normal” things more complicated but things are moving. When we were first looking into all of this only 15 locations were available in the entire USA and only dealing with 1 appointment per day! So we are lucky that there have been new openings and a few more appointments allowed in these days of slow and necessary precautions of the current days. All-in-all, life is actually good. I am learning to go with the process and not fight it. I’m not sure how much good it would do anyway. I mean, I can’t open things by getting loud about my frustrations. Everyone is doing the best they can, at least I am trying approach things as if people are, within the given set of circumstances. I am grateful that my program is still trying to make things work and we just have to go with what we have. In some regards it feels like that step of faith Indian Jones takes in “The Last Crusade” as he’s trying to save his dad by going after the holy grail. I just have to keep going and hope it all works out like I trust that it will. Otherwise, why have we made it to this point if it’s not all going to happen? Don’t answer that! I’m trusting that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing and I’m going with that.

I am grateful to know more than I did before. Who knows how I’ll be able to use what I’ve learn about the visa process in the future, but at least I am better equipped to be prepared for whatever may come next.

So now we wait. Fingers crossed I’ll know more after Monday about what happens next and when.

I have waited for the longest time…

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In my last post I mentioned the dream that waited and waited and waited. It feels as if I have wanted to do something with my enjoyment of Shakespeare for the longest time but I’ve been unsure of how that was going to unfold, when it was going to unfold. Often times life gets in the way as we defer things that would make us happy and feed the should because the right things has to happen for the betterment of the whole. In 2005 I became a mum, a single mum, and all of life stood still to care for and protect my girl. I’ve not stopped living, don’t get me wrong, but in many ways my desire to care for another put me on hold so that the future and care for another could be the focus.

There are those that would say by putting me on hold I gave my daughter a bad example and that by not pursuing my dreams I taught there that self-care is not important. On that I disagree. What I told her was that there would come a time when she wouldn’t need me as much and then I could go back to my dreams and dust them off, but until such time SHE was the important focus of my life. I took an evening acting class once a week when she was around 6 years old. It was tough not to be around to tuck her in but I wanted to see if I could do it and what I could learn. It was a challenge and people told me I should be dragging her along for my scene partner rehearsals, but the scenes I worked on were definitely 6 year old material – Angelina Ballerina and Postman Pat they were not. I couldn’t see myself dragging her along to suffer through several hours of rehearsal time because I needed her to “suck it up and deal”. So, I learned that I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my girl for my dream. I was, in the words of Aaron Burr in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton”, I was willing to “wait for it”.

Time went on and life started to feel like I might be able to start looking for possibilities and then my Dad’s health took a turn and the dream went back up on the shelf. I won’t go into details, it’s not important in the narrative here. Last year he died and it was a blow but a mercy as well. I miss him somethin’ fierce sometimes. When he died I wasn’t expecting a legacy. We spent so much on getting him into a retirement facility that could take care of him so I knew better than to expect anything from him. But oddly enough something did come. When it did it was a complete and utter shock. When I told my mum about it she told me that I wasn’t to put it away into savings.

Seriously?!? I should put it away and let it grow.

No. You must use it on yourself. It’s what your dad wants. Use it.

For what?

You know what you need to use it for.

??? … blink, blink.

Use it for study.

Study? What should I go study? Study?

Yes, study. And you know what to study.

Shakespeare?

Shakespeare. Find a program and let’s make it happen.

So, I found a program. I knew exactly the program. I’ve been following the Shakespeare Institute for years. So I started there. Why? Well, besides the course of study they work extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). So, theatre and Shakespeare together developing into something I know not what but know I want to explore with guidance and support for those that can see where I might be headed before I even do and can help me focus my currently scattered thoughts and ideas. I took a deep breath and pulled out a couple of old essays on Shakespeare from university days and decided on a play, ordered a new version to read and annotate for myself, scoured JSTOR for articles on my thesis and characters, rolled up my preverbal sleeves and got to work. It felt wonderful to exercise the brain in this particular way once again. It felt so good to be thinking and writing, and exploring in a way I haven’t in too many years. In the meantime, I participated in online inquiry sessions about the program and figured out which program I wanted to apply for. The Institute has three different MA programs: Shakespeare and: Teaching, Creativity, or Theatre. As a teacher there was the thought to go in that direction. As someone interested in the theatre there was the thought of go in that direction. I chose creativity as I felt it would give me a broad brush to paint with and explore either of the other two within a space that might have me thinking in a different way than if I had been more specific.  Finally getting the essay into shape I sent in the application and then tried not to think on it too much. Waiting can be very nerve wracking.

And then COVID hit. A worldwide pandemic of proportions we haven’t seen since the Spanish Flu in 1918 to 1920 and effected 500 million people globally. And the world stood still – literally. The world went into lockdown. Well, not all of it but we watched as nations shutdown to keep their people alive, safe, and well. And we waited and watched and hoped.

Getting admitted was wonderful, a great feeling of achievement for me having been away from academia for mumble mumble years. But then the questions started….

Is this really going to happen? Will it be safe enough to go? Will this have to be online? Will I still have the chance to work with the RSC? How is this going to look? What about school for my girl? And on and on….

COVID is still very much a reality. Thinking otherwise is dangerous. Everything from now on has to be thought of with regard to this virus that has stolen so much from so many. Futures dreamed of are gone. Lives lived are gone. Jobs gone or taken online for the fortunate. Suddenly people were essential or not in ways they weren’t before. Privilege highlighted in new ways. Families separated by social distance or death. Weddings postponed. Funerals performed with no one there to mourn with the immediate family. It’s all still happening. And yet life goes one, but defined in new ways, sometimes unsatisfactory ways.

And then the RSC closed and cancelled the rest of the season to keep everyone safe. And the landscape of what I had thought would be happening changed. What it has changed into I do not know but we, my family and I, decided to do was go on. If the campus was going to open, then we’d go. If this, having to lockdown from time-to-time, wearing a face mask out, having limited access to people, is going to be the reality for who knows how long, then why not be part of the thinking? Why not go and be part of the creation of ideas on how to do whatever we can however we can until such time as we can gather as before and not as before. There will be so much to explore and work out — I want to be part of that. And so we go.

“And all the fair effects of future hopes.” -Two Gentlemen of Verona (I,i,47)

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It’s been a minute since I posted last. We’ve stayed closer to home the last couple of summers and I have been dealing with health issues which make keeping up a blog less inviting as this hasn’t been a personal blog in the sense that I’m not interested in airing “dirty laundry” or “spilling the tea” on my personal story. But now seems like a good time to rethink what this blog is and will be as I move forward. I originally set up the blog to share travel adventures of myself, single mum, and my daughter. Usually this also includes my mum, Grammy. We all three live together and manage to co-habit without too much trauma, tears, or therapy bills. Yes, that’s right, we all live together, by choice. And no, I don’t use my mother as free childcare and we share the bills. We happen to enjoy each other and know how to live together as adults. I may seem strange to some that I didn’t somehow fail at life and went cowering to my mum to lick my wounds and live with her. We decided that we didn’t want to live alone and that sharing a house might be a good thing for all concerned. But that is really an aside to get to the fact that things are changing and we are about to embark on a new journey in life and no one wishes to be left behind.

So, with that said this year’s posts, or at least this academic year’s posts, or starting now and the posts following will take a turn in what they convey within the confines of this blog.

There may be a bit of travel, but mostly I’m going to be chronicling something a bit different. I’ll create a news category and figure out if there are features I can include to make it clear that this is not the normal travelog of the past. Things are happening, have been happening to make a big change for me and my family.

Okay, enough of the suspense. Here it is, with drumroll, please…

We’re heading to the UK for a year!

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I have been accepted for a course of study in Shakespeare for the 2020/21 academic year at the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute. I will be participating in their MA course for Shakespeare and Creativity. Anyone that knows me even a little, knows I like ma bit of Shakespeare. Okay, it’s more than a little, but it doesn’t put me in the category of being like the neighborhood crazy cat lady, or the fella that collects Toby mugs, but Shakespeare stuff instead. I’ve enjoyed the works of Shakespeare since I was in grammar school and participated in an all school production of Twelfth Night. I was hooked. Mostly I worked on costumes as I played a lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth I and did a little dance during the interval so I had I lot of time on my hands. I was in 7th or 8th grade and  knew how to sew when the high school costume crew head did not. I spent my afternoons re-aligning eye hooks and reattaching zippers, and cinching in waistbands on Slops (Breeches). It was great fun and another point in Shakespeare’s favor as far as I was concerned. And so a love of words, poetry, and theatre was planted and nurtured along the way.

As a teacher I loved nothing more than to delve into the works of Shakespeare and help students navigate through the text and unpack the language and action of the work being studied. In grad school a took a Teaching Shakespeare course. It was a bit unsatisfying as there was so much reliance on the easy way through/around Shakespeare. Shakespeare has to be watched to be fully enjoyed of remotely understood. For awhile I bought into that. I passed out the Shakespearean Insults and had fun with those, I pulled out the VHS tapes of the play we were reading, and did all the “trick up your sleeve” things that I was taught, but…. But I also felt like they could handle the words, handle being meaning makers with the text.

My last year I taught full-time I had students choose one of four scenes from the play we had studied. They would take a scene and do all the things one would have to do if it were a full production. They would choose the director, choose someone to design costumes, someone for set, someone for stage manager, and so on and create a prompt book and film the scene. It was fantastic. Four groups, four totally different settings and approaches, and rationales that were thoughtful and well developed. I’ve worked with theatre groups with less of a rationale for their productions. Allowing creativity and allowing the words to become their own really helped them become meaning makers which gave them power – power from words of a writer in a different era and yet still speaks profoundly to a modern audience, a modern classroom of students. I love that.

So for years I’ve wanted to explore Shakespeare more deeply but haven’t been able to figure out how or when. It’s been a dream for so long it’s gathered so much dust its hardly felt like one that would ever come to be achieved. Sometimes in life a dream has to be put up high on a shelf out of reach. Okay, let’s face it, more likely than not dreams get lost on the shelf behind the demands of life and the need to pay bills. Sometimes the dream just sits there gathering dust until it disappears completely. Sometimes the dream sits back there looking for all the world as if it will never come to pass, but it still gets looked at from time-to-time and held dear in the secret heart. And then sometimes, for the dream set aside, the dream gets taken down off the shelf, dusted off, re-examined, and finally nurtured into reality. For me, that time is now for one particular dream.

I’m excited and terrified start this part of my journey. I’m not just out of college and I’ve been out of academic circles for more years than I care to name. But it’s time. And my daughter reminds me that it’s my turn to care for me and let her do this for me so we can go do this as a family, as hard as it will be to leave out support systems behind. And so we go. I am so grateful that that my daughter’s father sees value in her coming along for this and is helping to make it happen. I know the sacrifice it will be to only see her a few times during the school year before summer holidays. I know that it won’t be easy missing out on her first year of high school. But I am thankful. And, of course, mum won’t be left at home! So we all go. There will be much to share over the coming weeks. But for now, I hope you can share in our delight as we plan for a year away from our normal routines and lives to step out into the unknown. I hope you will join us in this vicarious manner.

 

 

On the Rails towards the Land of Disney

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This is an old trip, two summers ago, but since I never stopped to tell about it I figured taking care of some backbloging might be in order since I seem to be on a bit of a roll with the writing thing.

We’ve been on the train before for long haul trips. We took our first train from Washington, DC towards Portland in the summer of 2012 on the Empire Builder. It was a wonderful trip, even with derailment delays and rerouting and not fully getting to see what we had planned on seeing. So we were looking forward to the new trip. This time we were to take the Southwest Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles. We wanted this route as it would take us along the route that plays a prominent role in my mum’s Last Crystal trilogy. She wanted to make sure that what she remembered from her first trip was accurate so that the place setting would be true.  She was taking notes for the final book so we all went along on the train ride that took us to Los Angeles and then eventually to Anaheim and Disneyland! I won’t actually tell you about the traveling itself as some in our party did not pack things to keep “entertained” with so were rather grumpy along the 40+ hour journey. But there are interesting people to find a conversation with if you’re willing to start with a simple “hi” or “is this seat taken?” in the observation car.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Disney. I’ve gone through cycles of really loving the movies and the tv programs to really loathing them. I grew up with Sunday evenings being filled with supper in from the The Wonderful World of Disney and the movies/series they produced. And have hated some of the liberties taken with favorite fairy tales and legends. I never forced the movies onto my daughter, to some extent because they are rather terrifying and to another we don’t have cable so she wasn’t exposed to the channel of non-stop Disney stuff. I asked her once when she was in the second grade if she wanted to go to Disney World (lots of her friends were going with their families) and her response was, “Why would I want to do that?” So as we drew nearer to visiting Disneyland with my cousin and her husband who are true Disney fans she had one stipulation⎯KEEP ME AWAY FROM THE PRINCESSES. I did remind her that Disney was more than princesses, that they owned the Star Wars franchise so there would be plenty for her to enjoy other than running in the opposite direction should a Disney heroine other than Rey or Leia make eye contact.

I wasn’t expecting to fully enjoy Disneyland. I was expecting to enjoy the company of family, but not the park itself. However, being that my cousin and her husband and fans, go every opportunity that they can get away, are planning their retirement around joining the Disney family I had a blast!

We stayed at the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa all the staff, or cast members, were lovely to interact with. Checking in was easy, getting to our rooms was simple, and the resort was well laid out. And best of all it had its own entrance to the park itself so no waiting in massive front gate lines, just the lines from one part of the park to the other but once the first rush got through there was really little waiting time and this was in July. AEB’s uncle (okay, so technically he’s a second cousin-in-law, but I decided a long time ago that children of my cousins’ should call me aunt as it was less confusing and didn’t leave me feeling like I needed to sit at the kids table because I was being called “cousin” by 3 year olds.) took us to the pool to relax and settle in before taking her to The VOID to immersed in Star Wars before hitting the actual parks the next day. AEB loved it! And begged to go back but uncle Richard only goes once because the story doesn’t change and he wants to keep it enjoyable. Bummer. But good on Richard for standing firm and not caving in to her puppy-so-sad eyes. He even bought the girl her first pair of mouse ears. They’re Star War themed and flash, very cool!

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poolside relaxation

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the VOID

 

One of the things that Disney does is try to help families by creating all inclusive packages. And I have to say that helps a lot. Many families have budgets that they absolutely can’t be flexible with and being able to plan a vacation that lets you know what you’re going to spend is so helpful. Of course, there are always the take homes that aren’t part of the package and you can get caught spending more on the credit card on a watch or the chance to have lunch at the Blue Bayou Restaurant with the Pirates of the Caribbean ride floating past you at regular intervals.

There were plenty of rides for those that aren’t into roller coasters or being turned upside down. So there really was something for everyone. Of course there were characters walking about the park and you could have dining with certain characters if you wanted, but we were there to enjoy and be led around by the professionals.

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nightly fireworks really does make for an incredible evening experience.

I’m sure I could say more, but since I was going with the flow and just enjoying myself and others did the planning. If I were to go again I’d probably do the same and find a time to join up with Shannon and Richard and just tag along for the ride. Being at Disneyland is a bit like being around bubbles. It’s hard to grumpy around bubbles, they just make people happy. And that, I suppose, is why they say it’s the happiest place on earth.

 

Taking a Moment for Ourselves

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So, this year has been bumpy. So bumpy that I’ve not stopped to work on updates here at all. But time moves on whether we are ready for it to or not and so I am now making time for some posts to catch up.

The year started out with my dad in and out of hospital. Eventually he died surrounded by friends and family. That blow, while not wholly unexpected, was a blow none-the-less. Then my health has been not that great over the last few years and finally came to a head at the end of June. I’m about to get a bit personal so if you’re at all “squeamish” Skip down to the next part. I’ll put ✤ at the start of the next bit so you know when you’re safe.

I have been deal with a rather large fibroid for some time which has made my menstruations something to fear. I had explored options other than a hysterectomy to deal with the issue and eventually had a fibroid embolization done to cut off the blood flow to the fibroid and get rid of it. Well, it worked so well I “gave birth” to the fibroid, but not all of it. I went in for surgery hoping that the rest of the fibroid could be removed, but knowing that it would not be so easy and I’d have to have the hysterectomy I’d been avoiding all along. I came out of surgery with one less organ than when I went it. Thus I spent most of my lovely summer on pain killers and just trying to recover from the surgery. Fortunately, it was done laparoscopically so it wasn’t the recovery of a full cutting, like for a caesarean birth.

✤ Okay, you’re safe now!

So, having had the surgery and recovering. It was time to give our family a little time away from it all and enjoy a bit of vacation time. AEB wanted to go to the beach, so I started hunting places to go. We’ve been to Delaware, Maryland, and North Carolina beaches so I thought I’d search for some new beach that sounded interesting. I settled on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. I’d heard of Hilton Head before, but knew very little about the island. When I’m going into a new place and planning for the family I feel pressure to plan something where no-one is going to be disappointed. My greatest fear is that I will have planned something and it will all fall to pieces at my feet like a washed out sandcastle. So, with fear in my heart, I started to look for places to stay.

I settled on the Sonesta Resort at Hilton Head. It had good reviews, though sometimes you have to take these with a grain of salt. And it seemed to be a good location on the island. There were some complaints that things were expensive, but being a resort I figured things would be more expensive. But my bigger criteria were that the rooms looked nice and spacious and it had beach access which I thought would mean it wouldn’t be as crowded as other areas of the beach. And the overall look of the place seemed inviting. I found a lovely reduced rate on TripAdvisor (I did look at Expedia and Travelocity for comparison and they seemed about the same so there really is no rhyme or reason as to my going through one over the other. I am, admittedly, a bit of a price whore and will go where I can find the best deal possible.) and so I held my breath and made the reservation. We were going in August so school was getting started in the southland so the place wasn’t as heaving as it might have been had we chosen to go in June or July.

We went the “long way” as as we were wanting to see friends along the way and breakup the driving time. We ended up stopping in Greenville, SC to see an old friend. In my youth, when we moved to New York City so my father could take on a pastorate there was a man who became known as the “pumpkin man” as he always brought me a pumpkin come Halloween. Mr. K eventually moved to the city and worked with my dad, but upon retiring he and his wife moved south to be nearer their grandchildren. We did drive further out of our way, but sometimes you do the right thing for the right reason, not because it’s convenient.

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Mr K with mum and AEB

We then made it Hilton Head Island and got ourselves settled into our room. We were greeted by very personable valets/bellhops who helped us figure out where to park, took our bags up, and gave wonderful information about the island with recommendations for food and explorations. The room we had enjoyed a view over the front of the resort, but the palms and the Spanish moss made the parking lots more bearable. But truly, we weren’t there for the view but the beach and the island to explore. The room, I will say, was wonderful. There was no smell – no must, no mildew, no overt fragrance from the cleaning products or washing powder. Since Hilton Head can be very humid it was wonderful to be a room that fought the humidity. I am sensitive to fragrance and do have asthma so it’s important to me to be in an environment that is comfortable for me. The room ticked all the boxes for me.

We decided to eat at one of the restaurants at the resort. It was pricey, but we were expecting it to be, but the food was very nicely done. Living in Maryland meant that we weren’t going to be doing crab, but trying any of the other seafood options. I had the shrimp and pasta and they did not skimp on the shrimp. I came to the end with shrimp for every bite. AEB had the salmon which is her go to choice and she complimented the chef. For dessert I was convinced to try the Key Lime Tart. I was disappointed. The crust was not very flavorful and the filling was rather grainy and not as lime-y as I felt like it ought to have been. It was beautifully presented, but ultimately dispiriting.

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points for presentation but negative points for flavor – disappointing

AEB wanted to swim before bed so we sat a let her enjoy the pool before heading down to the beach to see how close our room was to things. Our first night sunset was spectacular.

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I hardly read as I enjoyed napping and people watching far more than the book I brought.

We brought our own beach chairs and umbrella with us but the lifeguards will rent you chairs and an umbrella if you don’t have your own. We left our beach things in our car and then unloaded every morning. At the Sonesta they share the property with apartments and other living/rentals so the beach house for the community is open for folk to load and unload for easy beach accessibility. Most days we decided that we wanted to enjoy the beach in the morning, pack up in the afternoon, enjoy something on the island in the late afternoon and find some fun place to eat, come back to the room and then an evening stroll on the beach before just relaxing in our room with a movie or something else. We were there first and foremost to unwind, relax and enjoy the downtime at the beach and not really there to go to museums or other venues available for us to enjoy. Maybe next time.

Our first full day we enjoyed the beach and then went and had supper at Captain Woody’s which had been recommended by one of the helpers at the towel hut by the pool on our first evening. The food was fresh and really tasty. We had the place pretty much to ourselves as we were really eating a very late lunch and early supper. Then we just drove around to get a sense of the island’s size and finally a stop at the Piggly Wiggly to pickup some luck items so we could take a cooler down with us for the rest of the week. Though we didn’t have a kitchenette we did have a refrigerator in the room so we could prepare lunch to take with us.

Days 2 – 4 were filled with beach, more exploring, and good food. We enjoyed exploring the shops at The Sea Pines and specifically Harbor Town where the famous candy stripe lighthouse is located.

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Harbor Town Lighthouse 

 

The Sonesta has turtle feeding in the afternoons where guests can help feed the turtles in the large pond on the property. The turtles are so trained that even if you stand for some time at the edge they will all start making their way towards you in anticipation of a treat. One afternoon AEB and I were coming back to the beach and found a baby turtle trying to make its way across the path. I imagined it getting squashed by some unthinking child or adult and so I took my flipflop off and scooped it up and moved it across the way in hopes that it would find friends and not become a seagull or pelican’s next meal. I used my flipflop as I didn’t want to get my people smells on it in case that would mean its doom.

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We enjoyed ice cream at Hilton Head Ice Cream. They make their own and have interesting flavors like: Spumoni, Lemon Custard, and Kalua Chip. It was worth the stop after a day at the beach.

We also ate at the Quarterdeck Waterfront Dining one evening. We got in just before the rain of the evening arrived. The food was lovely and our view was made enjoyable as we watched boats coming and going and supper cruises getting ready to set out for the evening.

Our last evening we visited The Black Marlin for supper. So good! We ate outside and enjoyed the bayside view as well as the live music that started while we were there. It was a nice way to end our time at Hilton Head. We got back and decided to try a kite that we had brought. It was far too windy to get it airborne but it was fun trying.

Ultimately, we enjoyed just being together and having the downtime that we all felt that we needed more than anything. We all three highly recommend Hilton Head Island for the beach and the warm water. The rest of what the island has to offer: the shopping, the food, the museums, etc. we dipped our toes into but will have to wait for another visit another year. But don’t take our word for it ⎯go and find out for yourselves.

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The Journey Home

It’s been a long time since I wrote about our travels. We’ve been on a few more adventures since the road trip. But life has been happening around us and time to stop and reflect has been pushed aside for other things. I do stop now because the journey is changing and not everyone is coming along for the rest of the trip. I’m not ready to write about it, but I leave this here for those that know us and may not have heard the news.

We’re going to miss your presence, dad. 2 July 1940 – 7 February 2019

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