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Posts Tagged ‘England’

I’m not a huge fan of summer weather. While being cold isn’t great, I hate dripping with sweat just from standing outside. Breathing is too hot. Anything above 82° and I don’t get along, even lower temperatures if the humidity is rocking, which usually happens in Michigan. I grew up with no air conditioning and summer nights were brutal. I vividly remember being miserable unless I was in the lake or we begged the next-door-neighbor to let us swim in his pool.

That being said, I love the season of having a break, especially since I now have air conditioning and can escape the stickiness. I can get things done. I deep-cleaned our bedroom today! I never have energy for anything more than superficial dusting and Swiffering during the school year, so you know I’m relaxing.

I’m getting my soul back, too. I’ve been sleeping in way more than I thought I would; my body is apparently taking charge of recovering from the stress. It’s been almost a week and I feel a million times better already. I feel more like me. I haven’t been cussed out in a week.

For thousands of years, summer has been held in regard for more serious reasons than a break from school. While we have several examples of how our ancient ancestors welcomed this, Stonehenge in England really stands out to me.

Seven years ago today, my aunt and I visited said Stonehenge with a tour group. (Rob from Trafalgar, btw, made that an amazing trip. Just saying.) It was the day before the summer solstice and the field around the monument was already packed with people who wanted to celebrate the next morning. Stonehenge itself was crowded, but not enough to detract from its beautiful simplicity. I could feel the ancient vibrations, the thing that lingers after the people are long gone. It was that significant for me. As we watched the news the next morning, we learned that a few arrests had been made as some of the celebrations had gotten out of hand, something I think the ancients would have probably understood. At this moment, 11:30 EST, they’ve been partying all night at Stonehenge and the sun is about to rise, so it’s a very exciting time.

Those stones, arranged so carefully by people from so long ago, echoed deep inside me and still do today. The people who placed those stones welcomed the summer, more than I do. Summer was a reward for surviving the harsh winter, a time for tending crops and enjoying life. They worshiped the sun, the giver of life in their eyes, and felt the need to commemorate that particular spot as sacred. Somehow, they calculated the solstice, got those impossibly heavy stones to the sacred spot, and arranged them in the perfect way. Most of them still exist in perfect form, not bad for being around 5,000 years old.

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I have deep roots in England, going more than 1,000 years, and some from the town of Salisbury not far from Stonehenge. Did my many-great-grandparents dance around the stones? Did they dance the pagan dances, worship the sun, drink the mead? If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here. It’s very sobering to think that I could possibly have had people there at that crucial time.

So, in spite of my distaste for excessive heat, welcome, Summer. Welcome, ancient holiday that meant life and respite to our ancestors.

Respect.

Summer-Solstice

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I caught the travel bug when I was a kid. Not during family vacations, those were always filled with tension and fighting and I could never wait to get home. The first time I realized how beautiful travel could be was during my 7th grade trip to Washington D.C. As part of the National Junior Honor Society, we were given small freedoms and allowed to reasonably explore things on our own. The next year, it was Disney World and my first trip to Florida and my first time on an airplane. I was hooked.

When I was sixteen, I earned a place on the Michigan Lions All-State Band’s trip to the international conference in Brisbane, Australia. I convinced my mother to let me go and spent months fundraising. Enduring the world’s longest plane ride, we visited not only Brisbane, but also Sydney, and spent a lovely three days in Hawaii, all the while performing in parades and concerts over a two-and-a-half week period. Even after dealing with a vicious stomach bug shortly after arrival, staying in a dorm with mice and giant cockroaches, a haunted hotel room in the red-light district section of Sydney (complete with gunshots in the walls), and getting lost in the not-so-great section of Honolulu, I was in love with travel and learning about the world outside my own country. This is also when I learned that I don’t like Vegemite, but that’s an different story.

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In the years since, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, and Italy. (My layovers in New Zealand and Amsterdam technically do not count, but they did stamp my passport, so there’s that.) I don’t count Canada because it is literally (and I’m using that correctly) about twenty minutes away and I’ve been there frequently throughout my life, especially after I turned nineteen, which is the legal drinking age there. Don’t judge.

All of these places taught me lovely, wonderful things, not only about the places and people, but also about myself. I learned how to make myself understood in another language, not perfectly, not even remotely close, but enough to order at restaurants, find the restroom, and ask for towels at the hotel. I learned that I am perfectly capable of navigating through unfamiliar places and can sort out the London Tube map on my own. I’ve made amazing, life-long friends in other places, even though we keep in touch only online. (Sabrina, I SWEAR I will get back to Italy, no worries!)

One of the most important things I’ve learned, though, is the importance of other perspectives. The American viewpoint is not the only one, people see things differently in other places. There are different norms, different customs. Travel has made me much less arrogant and more tolerant of others, more open to listening and understanding, even if I don’t agree. Granted, the places I’ve visited aren’t as far removed from me as a remote village in Kenya might be, (another place I’d like to visit), but they’re definitely not the same as where I’m from. Different cultures, different histories, different mindsets. I find it all fascinating, learning that will never end.

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The point of all of this is to motivate. Don’t have a passport? Get one! Plan, save, do whatever you can to enable to you to get out and see the world, not just your own backyard. While there are many universal truths, seeing the world through someone else’s eyes will open your own. My own list keeps getting longer, to the point of I’m considering becoming a flight attendant when I’m done teaching just so I can travel the world over. Of course, if my Mega Millions ticket ever hits, I’ll be able to do it a lot sooner.

Even with all of its problems, our world is a beautiful place. Go see it.

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HEY! GUESS WHAT??? (You can tell I’m excited when I’m writing in all caps.)

Traveler is now a PAPERBACK!!! No longer relegated to simply ebook form, you can now get Traveler, a middle grade novel, on Amazon for $15.99. If you have Prime, then you pay NO SHIPPING!!! Which is awesome.

Simply follow this link and you can have Traveler in your hot little hands as early as THURSDAY!

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/198333166X/ref=abs_add_sc_?smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER

Aren’t you excited? I am!

Happy reading!Shameless Plug For My Book

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A dear friend of mine from my teenage/young adult years shared that he is going to be a grandfather later this year. It’s a wonderful thing, of course, but the thought of grandchildren provokes a sense of disbelief. Eeks! A grandfather??? Already? Then I began to think. Both my grandmother and mother were only two years older than I am now when they became grandmothers. (My mother still hasn’t forgiven me for that.)

I can’t imagine it, though, being a grandparent right now. In my mind, I’m still some awkward youngster who has her whole life ahead of her, but the years say otherwise. Forty is the new thirty, true, but time is gradually slipping away. There is only a matter of time before some cute little thing is calling me Nonna. (Not Grandma, not Granny, Nonna. I’m going all-Italian on this one.)

In the meantime, this passage of time makes me aware of things in my life that I want to accomplish but haven’t yet, otherwise known as a “Bucket List”. I don’t know if the movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman came up with the name or if it had previously existed, but I first became aware of it when the movie came out in 2007. The movie is about two terminally ill men who set out to do everything they want before, well, kicking the bucket. The idea of a bucket list took flight and now it’s a fairly common term. I’ve thought about it a lot, but haven’t really ever sat down to write one out. Part of the hesitation is that I don’t really want to think about dying just yet, but really, we don’t know how much time we have left. I could be lucky enough to live well into my nineties, or God forbid, I could meet with an accident tomorrow. However it turns out, I have been very fortunate to have done many things in my life that were incredible and that I’m so glad I got to experience: marrying the love of my life and becoming a mother tops the list. Traveling to other countries, graduating from college, performing on stage, and being a published author are all on that “Done” list, but there are many more things I want to do before I’m finished here.

1. Live in London at some point before I’m too old to enjoy it. I fell in love with that city even before I actually visited three yeas ago. Ancient Roman ruins, rich history, never having to drive, it lived up to and exceeded my expectations and I want to experience it more and more.

2. Learn to play the violin well. I have a violin, my brother gave it to me and during each summer, I make an effort to learn to play on my own, but life just keeps getting in the way. Baseball, running kids places, not wanting to subject my family to the squawkings of a beginner, these are all stumbling blocks. I adore the violin, though, and someday I’ll actually make it a priority.

3. Become a full-time writer. It’s no secret that writing is my passion and I would love to be able to do it for a living. This is one item that I am actively working on, with a children’s novel written and a historical fiction novel halfway complete. Now, all I need is an agent to take a chance on me. Getting there…

4. Travel to places that I’ve never been. I’ve been very lucky in my life. I’ve been to Australia, Hawaii, Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales, with Italy to be joining the list in couple more months. Canada doesn’t count, since I can be in Windsor in about 15-20 minutes and they don’t stamp my passport. When my children are grown, I hope to be able to travel even more, specifically Europe, to do more family research and to soak in history. Learning the stories and seeing the artifacts and legacies that people in the past have left behind is something that thrills me beyond belief.

5. Learn more languages. I am working very hard on Italian right now, with the help of a dear friend in Italy, and I can decipher some French and Spanish, but I would like to be fluent in some other languages, preferably by immersion, which leads to travel… I’m sensing a theme in my list.

6. Make a good change in the world. I don’t care if my name is remembered for anything in particular or not, but this world is so messed up in a lot of places that if I can just do something to make it better for others, than I will be happy.

This isn’t a complete list, by any means, but these six things remain constants in my mind. Will I complete them all? I don’t know. It would be satisfying, of course, but as those items are checked off, I have the feeling that more would take their place and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Staying active and curious is a great thing in life. I see people who take the attitude that life just sucks and there’s nothing they can do to fix it. They stay in a job that they hate and don’t try for something better. They don’t go anywhere, they don’t have hobbies that challenge them, and seem content to be miserable and let everyone else know that they are miserable. I don’t want to be that person. I think a Bucket List gives me something to strive for, something to challenge me in every way, something that will keep me contributing to society for a long time.

Now, it’s your turn. What’s something on your Bucket List and why is it there? Challenge yourself, set a goal, and try your best to get there. I’ll let you know how mine turns out.

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