Category Archives: world

Hello, Mates! What Happened in England.

We landed in London after a 2-hour flight from Bilbao, Spain. A plane flight was just as cheap as the train and saved us a day of travel.

Cope, our great English history buff, could hardly tolerate our newly acquired English accents, and refused to speak to us if we spoke that way in public. This of course just made speaking in an English accent that much more fun!

It was a bit of a headache trying to figure out how to get around London. We eventually bought “Oyster Cards,” which you load money on and swipe every time you get on a bus or subway. We finally figured out where we were going (a travel lodge 30 minutes from the city). Of course it would have been more convenient to stay right in the center of London, but alas, that’s what budgets are for. And again, the GPS was essential!

If you’re ever in London, here are some highlights:

IMG_0324Ah, “The Prospect of Whitby” (said with an English accent!), the oldest riverside inn in London. Back in the 1500s it was a real pirates den. Very exciting.

IMG_0328Dominick and Danielle are great travel buffs and friends of my husband. It had been over 20 years since they had seen each other, when Dominick was a camp counselor with Gregor. At 19, Dominick dove off a New Hampshire pier and was paralyzed from the chest down. D&D are amazingly optimistic and even with Dominick in a wheelchair they travel everywhere! Dominick says Paris is terribly behind for disabled access and America is exceptional. IMG_0327Fish and Chips and “mushy peas.” Just as tasty as it sounds 🙂
DSC_0843Outside The Prospect of Whitby, is the Thames River (pronounced “Tems.”) The kids went outside with Danielle and another mate to hunt for treasure – because you never know when the crown jewels are going to wash ashore…DSC_0851 We brought home some beautiful sea glass from the banks of The Thames.DSC_0853 Paige and Brynne said this part of the trip “was the best part ever!”, which just goes to show, you don’t have to be fancy nancy to have fun!DSC_0836 The gallows still hangs outside the famous pub. IMG_0337 Look at that…the pub was built during the reign of King Henry VIII. Awesome sauce.IMG_0323 IMG_0429 In London, you best convert your dollars and euros into pounds. We also had to remember that paying by pounds meant almost double in American currency.

IMG_0315I wouldn’t want to give the impression that traveling is all fun and games. Oh no, this is just one of many moments of waiting for the bus. We also had a bit of a laundry issue as the travel lodge did not have machines and we were in desperate need of a real wash. We eventually found a laundromat owned by a muslim who did not speak English, but we communicated by nodding and pointing. While we waited, Nelson had a haircut next door in the fashion of Ronaldo.IMG_0322 IMG_0445Just a different take on “pole dancing.”
IMG_0310Ugh. Figuring the subway out…

We decided to see the city of London by river cruise, which lets you on and off to see the sites (travel tip: ask your friends for advice. There are so many ways to save money and see the world if you ask the right people.)

DSC_0704We started at the famed London Tower. We really wanted to go in, but had already been through a castle in Spain and getting all six of us into everything was expensive. Instead, we listened to Cope tell tales of torture, of the three queens who were beheaded at the tower (including Anne Bolyn), and how the two sons of Elizabeth and Edward were kept here and mysteriously disappeared – it remains a great mystery today. You may want to consider bringing Cope along as your English tour guide.

DSC_0701Zowie. London knows how to do a bridge. Sailing down the Thames.

DSC_0927 The Parliament building, where the architecture is exquisitely stunning.DSC_0745

DSC_0969 A WWII war shipDSC_0964 DSC_0960 DSC_0955Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre where live theatre is performed outdoors just as it was in Shakespeare’s day. Next time: see a play.DSC_0936 The great London “eye,” where you can see all of London.IMG_0488 The Thames at duskIMG_0466 A closer look at the Parliament buildingDSC_0899 IMG_0231 A panoramic view of London

IMG_0288Taxi!DSC_0777How Cheesy, can you get, right? I wish we’d tried a little harder for a Christmas card moment…IMG_0249Isn’t The Professor a good sport? I make him do these things and he loves me 🙂 DSC_0790 London’s upkeep and cleanliness of WWII memorials and monuments is so impressive, especially given the 8 million residents and millions of visitors every year.

IMG_0222 DSC_0903The inside of Westminster is closed the first day we visit. Cope vows to get in – “it’s the one thing I have to see! Do you know how many queens and kings are buried there? ”
IMG_0471The outdoor gardens are spectacular.IMG_0352 DSC_0904 DSC_0765 IMG_0255A visit to “Number 10” (10 Downing Street) to visit the prime minister. The place is heavily guarded. And no, we don’t see the prime minister. We’ll have to reschedule.

DSC_0805Next, onward to Buckingham palace to get a look at the queen. We hope to run into Kate and William, too.DSC_0801 We don’t see them either, but we surely admire the taxi cabs in London – so cute!DSC_0802IMG_0938

A tribute to Princess Diana
IMG_0232London loves its Churchill

IMG_0462And we love our Jack Minister! Jack played basketball for The Professor once upon a time, went on to play college ball, and now plays professionally in England. He’s also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He has this great English accent and came down two hours from “Manchestuh” to see us. What a treat to see Jack again!

This is how we talk to Jack:

“It’s jolly good to see you, mate – have a great holiday!”

“Ah, rubbish!”

“I wouldn’t recommend it; it’s real dodgy.”

“Fancy that!”

Cope was merely tolerating us.

DSC_0887We went with Jack to Churchill’s War Rooms, a war time bunker that tells the story of Churchill and his legacy. This is the bunker from which Churchill ran the war.DSC_0884Churchill said of the British airmen: Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day, but we must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their targets in the darkness by the highest navigational skill, aim their attacks, often under the heaviest fire, often with serious loss, with deliberate, careful discrimination, and inflict shattering blows upon the whole of the technical and war-making structure of the Nazi power…”
IMG_0403An English garden  IMG_0385One afternoon we found ourselves in the middle of a giant parade and some street dance.IMG_0358When in London, you have to go to Hamley’s Toy Store, right? The kids overheard a frustrated father say: “Put it down, you silly sod!” and thought it was so hilarious they haven’t stopped saying it. Also, in London, people watch “the telly” and everything is “lovely” – unless it’s “rubbish” or “bloody awful.” I’ve really taken to the word, “bloody” and Paige tells me to stop swearing 🙂


On Sunday morning we attended an 11 a.m. Eucharist service at St. Paul’s cathedral. It was Anglican, very much like a Catholic mass. The boy’s choir was exceptional. The whole serve was absolutely beautiful. I definitely recommend it.


And it’s definitely in poor taste to take a photo…(we paparazzi have no shame.)

DSC_0869 IMG_0473

The Book of Mormon musical is huge in London. My brother described it as “crass, hysterical, irreverent, and surprisingly touching.” Someday I’ll have to see the show. Our last day we had only a few hours. Cope HAD to see the inside of Westminster, but the others HAD to see Harry Potter’s Platform 9 3/4. What to do?

We split up.

Cope hopped on the subway all by herself (with no working phone!) and found her buried queens in Westminster. In the mean time, we found Harry’s platform (and it was actually free.)


The gift shop was not free…but never mind, it was very fun! Paige desperately wanted a Hermione wand and was willing to spend her entire fortune ($33) on it. We made her wait until we arrived in the U.S. and could order from Amazon; this was not nearly as exciting as bringing home a Hermione wand from London.


From there we had to hustle (as in sprint with those backpacks on our back) to meet Cope at 11:45, hop on a subway, and get across town to our 12:30 bus. We couldn’t find Cope. After a closed subway train reroute, crowds galore, great stress and mayhem, we were finally reunited and made it to the bus stop at exactly 12:31. Whew. We sunk down in our seats with relief.

IMG_0510 IMG_0524

Good-bye, London! A 2-hour bus trip from London put us in a beautiful seacoast town called Portsmouth. We bought some groceries, ate pizza, ate a most delicious English scone, and visited the home of Charles Dickens:

IMG_0939 IMG_0689 At 10:45pm we loaded The Brittany, a giant boat, for an overnight excursion across the English Channel. How charming and exciting it seemed! Crossing the English Channel by boat also saved a hotel cost.


It was very Titanic-ish. We observed the life boats and made bets as to who would live longest if the boat capsized. The darlings said I would die first because of my great intolerance of cold water. I disagreed with that assessment 🙂

The idea of crossing at night only seems more romantic than the reality. At 11 pm the lights went out. Our beds were big movie-theatre-style chairs. So if you can sleep upright, listening to other people sleep and snore, no problem. Gregor plugged himself into iTunes, listening to “bi-neural brain waves.” I however, had to change my miserable and tired mindset to, “This is a great adventure!” It kindof worked.

At 5:30 am the lights came on and just like that we were in Cain, France. Cheerio!


Exercising our Kindness Muscles

This summer I was spying on this couple. I was so taken by them that I surreptitiously took their picture. This type of activity is how I live out my Sydney Bristow double-agent fantasy life.


We were at a wedding, where everyone was either very hopeful as they watched the beautiful bride and her groom, or painfully cynical that love stories don’t really exist after all. I saw mostly happy people though, raising their glasses of homemade fermented honey, getting happy drunk on bees and love.

But mostly I watched the couple, and the great care they took for one another. They were older, with white hair and sun spots. On their faces they wore experience and life wrinkles. But oh, they were beautiful. They glowed happyHe put his hand on the small of her back. She smiled. He watched her with care. Right in front of me was the couple we want to be in forty years.

They turned out to be incredibly friendly, too. The woman must have known I was taking secret pictures of her under the table because she started up a conversation. Turns out, we had connections of knowing someone who knew someone who knew someone.

She was very chatty and he was very hungry. He said she should get something to eat. She said, “It’s alright, honey, you go on along.” But he didn’t. He stalled, waiting, until finally she followed. And so I continued to watch them. I was so very struck and how very kind they were to each other. That’s all it was. It was kindness.

A few weeks later, Cassie sent me an Atlantic Monthly article entitled Masters of Love by .

Turns out “science says lasting relationships come down to…kindness and generosity.”

Did you know? In June, about 13,000 couples will say “I do.” I imagine all of those couple are looking forward to a long happy life together.

Sadly, only 3 in 10 will remain in healthy, happy marriages.

The rest? Divorce, bitterness, dysfunction.

The article goes on to talk about psychologist John Gottman, who made a critical discovery — one that gets at the heart of why some relationships thrive while others languish.

It has to do with the word “bid.” Throughout the day, we are all making requests for connection. For instance, if I look out the window and say, “Look at that beautiful chicken in the yard.” I’m inviting Husband to respond – not about the chicken but to what I said. That’s my “bid.” If Husband responds kindly, I will feel like being kind back. If he grunts at his phone, doesn’t look up, or says my love of chickens is stupid, well then, I’ll probably want to kick him 🙂

I think this is what is meant when they say, “the greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.” And vice versa. Because when we are kind to each other, the children get greater love from their parents.

If we wanted, we could become masters of kindness.

As I reflect on recent terrorist attacks, bullying, miserable marriages, and very sad children…I can think of very few others virtues we could “master” that would be of more worth to our world.

“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”

And did you know? Contempt is the NUMBER ONE factor that tears couples a part.

So, this is a marital post? Yes and No.

Today is Martin Luther King Day. I have always loved this day. I will never tire of watching his I Have A Dream speech or my favorite, I Have Been to the Mountaintop.

My kids will go to assemblies today and learn about equality and love. I hope it translates.

This video shows how kindness is easy to talk about, but hard to do. Especially in schools. “The Mean” just breaks my heart.


Wouldn’t this be a revolution? If we started being kind? Read Wonder and you’ll feel like starting your own revolution. Kindness glues couples together. I believe it can also glue our society together.

“My bounty is as boundless as the sea,” says Shakespeare’s Juliet. “My love as deep; the more I give to thee, / The more I have, for both are infinite.”

That’s how kindness works too: evidence shows that the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves. Imagine if children witness kindness in their home – how much more likely would they feel kindly towards themselves and to others?

We might think that kindness is just something some people have naturally. “Or you could think of kindness as a muscle,” Smith writes. Some people may be naturally more sensitive and kind, but just like exercise, we can grow the kindness muscle. We can “MASTER” the muscle. Just like exercise, we have to exercise our kindness muscles to keep them in shape.

Good relationships require consistent hard work. No, this love stuff ain’t for wimps!

Read Masters of Love here. It’s worth the read. It’s geared toward marriage, but I think it holds huge lessons for family, especially parents, as we raise and teach children who observe and then mimic our every action.

Meryl Streep on: ‘Careful the things you say / Children will listen / Careful the things you do / Children will see,’

To paraphrase Carlos Slim: most of us think we need to build a better world for our children, but the reality is we need to make better children for our world.

I think it starts with kindness.


she’s a comin’

1. Hurricane Irene is about to hit North Carolina.  150,000 tourists are being asked to evacuate.  Aren’t we glad we didn’t reserve a house this week?  She’s moving her way up north and expected to hit the East Coast Sunday night and into Monday.  I can’t help feeling a bit giddy about this… My morning run this morning was dark, the air thick with foggy damp air.  You can feel Irene moving her way up.  It’s supposed to start raining tomorrow…

2.  School starts Monday.  Could be an interesting first day of school.  Oh Irene.

3.  Glenn and Kim upgraded to a fancy Nikon.  They passed their Fuji on to to me…big kisses to you!  Now I just need to upload to the program to G’s computer and start uploading pictures.  I’m excited.  Cope has taken over my last camera and is excited too.  Maybe I’ll start taking pictures of Irene.

4. Purge week is going well.  Bags are being moved to the garage and the house is starting to feel lighter.
5.  Watch Irene’s path HERE.  I just got an email that said not to “panic” but we are supposed to start getting prepared.  Water and food essential.  Move outdoor furniture to a safe place.  She’s a comin’.  I think we’re ready.  Are you?



Deliberate Living

As I blog about my happy life, I see pictures of other mothers.
Spending their days doing very different things than I.

(CNN) — The boy stood out because of the bright blue shirt he was wearing, not for his arms stretched toward the heavens or the look in his eyes that said: I am hungry.
All the other boys were desperate, too.
Photographer Paula Bronstein looked down at them from the Pakistani military helicopter about to drop food and water. She would never know their names but she would tell their story.
Click. click. click.
The boy in the blue shirt is one of 20 million Pakistanis suffering in a land washed away by massive monsoon flooding.

Full article at CNN

*The U.S. and other countries are helping but so much of the world is suffering.  Why did I get to be born in America?  Why did I have such great parents?

There is a responsibility from having so much.

*I read and listen to so many people deliberating living their lives to help others.  

My radio went off this morning and the BBC/NPR was on.  I found myself listening closely to a fascinating interview with Natasha Walter.  Just because we DO have choices, there are some choices that are still harmful.  It was good.

British feminist Natasha Walter thinks sexism is back in a new more pernicious form and is threatening women’s visions of sexual equality. Whipped up by internet porn and a resurgent sex industry she says it’s having an impact on how young girls and boys see themselves.

She tells Carrie Gracie how she deals with that for her own children and whether she manages to find equality in her own married life.”
To listen to her interview, click HERE

*Another example of people who inspire me?  My brother Peter is busting his tail as an oral surgeon intern.  He’s called in the middle of the night to sew people’s faces up.  Usually b/c they are doing really stupid things, stoned or drunk out of their minds.  He says, “but that’s also why I’m in NYC – not simply for the surgical experience, but for the spiritual experience with healthcare, social programs, culture, and policy.”

*I listened to this GREAT speech by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love.  Anyone read or seen it?  I haven’t, but it’s on my list.  Here’s the SPEECH.

I loved, loved it, loved it.  I was making pancakes for the kids while I listened. I was tired and sweaty from a run.  But I heard Elizabeth speaking and looked out my window where the kids were playing.  I thought, This is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. Raising good kids will help the world.  Pancakes, sweat, and all – Ole’.

Whether a mother in India, a writer in the U.K., a surgeon in NYC, or a mom in New Hampshire, our living should be deliberate.  It should mean something.