Wide Eyed, Like, REALLY Wide

Did I ever tell y’all about my bestie’s wedding? I may have. After a while the days start to slide into weeks, and posts come and go. (Yes, I am still working on the big post I keep mentioning. You have no idea how much time and effort it takes to get all the info aligned and put together). In the meantime though, it’s often fun to look back and laugh at all the chaos that life throws at you. Today someone posted a video on FB from Cian Twomey. If you haven’t seen this guy, he’s usually hilarious. He usually performs as a character named Emily. You kind of have to see it to understand, because I’ll never do him justice describing it.

Anywho, the video appears, and Cian is doing his Emily persona, and is doing a makeup tutorial. Cian is in full beard, doing a purposefully terrible job doing the makeup, but talking himself through it. Now I know that made that sound horribly boring and uninteresting, but I promise you might get a chuckle if you go look him up. Anywho, I digress. Cian gets to a point where he attempts to apply false lashes, and it’s just a hot mess. There is glue where it shouldn’t be, the lashes aren’t where they should be, and the whole thing is utter chaos. I laughed way harder than I should have, because it’s a perfect representation of how things went at my friend’s wedding, only he did a better job than I did.

The wedding was a destination wedding, and we couldn’t afford for both my husband and I to go, so I went while he stayed with the kids. I flew down to Florida for Valentine’s weekend. I arrived at the rehearsal dinner immediately after checking into my room and racing to the location. After racing in, I plopped down and my friend came over to sit next to me. “I need a favor….I need you to iron my dress” she said. “You can’t iron a wedding dress!” I laughed. “I have faith in you” she said. She wasn’t joking. Now, I had gave her all the info…how to take the dress on the plane, how to contact the hotel concierge to get it looked after/steamed if necessary, and all the other travelling bride tips I had learned. She did not of it. Instead, she put her wedding dress in a suitcase.

Let me repeat that. She put her wedding dress….IN.A.SUITCASE.

The next day, I headed to the bridal suite. My friend, her sister, and her old best friend from when she was in elementary school were the bridal party. I asked where the dress was. It was an utter disaster. I was armed with a steamer I had purchased from Walgreens. The dress was hanging in a closet. I sat down on the floor and started steaming. I steamed, I steamed, and I steamed some more. The brides sister announced she didn’t want to do a speech. I saw my friend looked panicked. “I’ll do it if you want” I said, and kept working on the dress. My face was bright red, my hair frizzed, and I was sweating heavily, but by the time that dress was done, it was exquisite. Not a wrinkle in sight.

The 3 women were getting hair done and getting prepped. I headed back to my hotel room to get ready. I now had to get glammed up, plus write a speech. That’s when the cramps started, and I ran in the bathroom. Something set my stomach off, and there I was, having to write a speech while on the toilet. Classy lady, I tell ya.

I get myself together, and now feel a lot better, so I hop in the shower to start the process of turning my swamp creature self into something passable enough for a wedding. My makeup looked cute, my dress looked cute, and I had a few extra minutes.

That’s when I got cocky.

I should have known better.

I decided to put on false lashes. Now let me preface this by saying that I rarely wear lashes, and I don’t know how to put them on easily. Every time is difficult, and while I love the look of them, I hate how inept they make me feel. I was about to be a big ol’ hater, because the lashes and I went to war.

I trimmed them, added my glue, and went to apply gently. Something went wrong, and next thing I knew, my eyelash was stuck to my lower lashes, meaning I had effectively glued my eye shut. The glue went into the corner of my eye and then spread across my eyeball. The pain. OMG, the pain. Now I am left trying to pry my eye apart, but it keeps sticking back to itself. I decided to break from that side and try the other. I gently go to apply the last, and I wish I could explain what I did wrong, but all I can say is that the last somehow stuck to my lashes, and then stuck up by my eyebrow.

I now have one eye WIDE open, with the last connected almost to my brow, and one eye almost glued shut, with glue in it. I look like an old, creepy, broken doll. I pry my eyes apart, and somehow manage to get the lashes in the right place, however I still ave glue in my eye so it’s extremely red.

I throw on my dress, my sky high heels, and teeter downstairs. I say teeter because as I said, I am but a jeans and t shirt swamp girl on the daily, and not the high heel wearing goddess I was hoping to be for just one night. I finally get the hang of the heels and I head to the wedding. Or, at least I tried.

The car never came to get me. The hotel called some guy who showed up in a very dirty minivan. I wasn’t sure if he was a serial killer, but I had a wedding to go to so I hoisted myself right in and off we went. The guy drove like a bat out of hell, which I appreciated. I arrived, flustered, red eyed, eyes sticky, but happy, and set out to find the wedding. That’s when I realized the wedding was on the far side of the hotel, and the hotel was HUGE. I slipped off my shoes and started running, not wanting to be late.

I arrive, winded. My chubby, mediocre bodied self huffing and puffing. I am starting to surmise I am not looking as cute as I had attempted to look.

I see a familiar face, and am promptly asked “oh my god, are you ok? why are your eyes so red?”. So there’s that.

The rest of the night? Pretty awesome. Lots of drinking, dancing, celebrating. There was a Cirque de Soleil performer. There was laughter. There was, however, the incident. You know, the one where we are all stumbly drunk and being silly. I am pushing my friend’s aunt in her walker that has a seat on it. She is laughing and yelling, and I am doing a fast walk, until I hit the lip of carpet, and we both toppled over, crashing to the ground. She gets a head wound, I almost broke my foot. The next morning, I awake still drunk, my foot black and blue, and one of my favorite shoes is cracked in half. I pack, sober up, and race off to the airport to fly home. Not my best choice of travel plans, but I digress.

Now, did I mention the part where I am a terrified flier? Ridiculous, I know, especially as I practically grew up on planes. Yet suddenly, I became a scaredy-pants and get very anxious on planes. I am sitting at the gate where I see a handicapped boy in a wheelchair being pushed to the gate. I noticed that periodically he makes a shriek. I suddenly realize that he will likely be sitting near me, which doesn’t bother me at all except I know if he shrieks and it catches me off guard, with me being so tense, I might shriek too, and then I’ll look like an asshole. I get on the plane, and frankly I may still be a little buzzed from the night before. The boy is a couple of rows up. I settle into my seat. I am trying to get my nerves fine before we take off. I look casually to my left and see an Asian woman with a mask on…the kind doctors wear. I glance around and suddenly notice I am surrounded by people with those masks on. I start to wonder why everyone has a mask on. I fall asleep and start to laugh that perhaps my friend is pranking me. I wake up as we are in mid air, and I awake to a shriek by the boy a few seats up. It was also at the exact moment we hit turbulence and the plane dropped a bit. I SCREAMED. Like, fear in all it’s glory scream. All I felt was my seat drop out below me and heard someone scream, so I screamed. Then I realized what happened. I peered around sheepishly and saw an endless sea of masked faces looking at me. Some looked concerned, some looked angry. I realize I now look like I was mocking a handicapped person. I slink down in my seat, cursing my stupid fear.

I arrived home, hobbled with bruises all over my foot and leg, still unable to apply lashes like a grown up, but having had a hell of a time.

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Happy Is As Happy Does

It’s funny, after weeks of not writing, I’m back with an awful lot to say, but don’t want to word vomit too many posts. I have a few posts in process (one is long, complicated and detailed) but while I’m working on the heavier posts, a little lightheartedness is in order. They say the key to happiness is someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to. I suppose that explains my mood lately…I’m giddy. I’ve currently got all three.

I came into 2019 with an itch for change. A change in look, a change in the daily, and a change in scenery. So far, all three have been in process. I cut off over a foot of my hair, there have been super positive changes at work, the school project, and now I have some things lined up in the future I am looking forward to.

So, the Vegas trip? I. CANNOT. WAIT. I am unable to hide the excitement of a new experience for a few days with my bestie. We have a few thrill seeking activities in the works, and maybe a show or two. Honestly, I am looking forward to hitting the pool and wandering the strip. I was in need of a new swimsuit, and happened to find a new one (with tags) on Poshmark that I fell in love with, except it wasn’t my size and the style is discontinued. After a long, arduous search, I found the same one on Ebay, new with tags, in my size, cheap! Thrilled to pieces I bought it. It’s the little things sometimes that bring a huge smile. Hopefully I don’t look like a sausage when it arrives, but even if it looks bad, I have time to resell it and call it a day. I am realizing more and more how much I really do want to travel. I saw a meme on facebook the other day that talks about how people spend 10 bucks a day on lunch, not realizing that it works out to close to 900 bucks in 3 months. Those little extras add up, and if we cut out a few things, travel is in our reach! My goal is to take the family on a vacation somewhere every year, or maybe even two trips. There’s nothing like a fresh location to put things in perspective.

Also on the list to look forward to is a big family vacation. This one is super important because I think we could all use some downtime before the hectic season begins. This year we decided to team up with some other family members and go for a week of relaxation a little closer to home than our England jaunt. I won’t lie, I definitely want to get us all back to England (my kids haven’t stopped raving about that trip, even saying they preferred it over Disney) but I think a change in scenery is in order. Maybe next year we’ll head back. This year we’re headed for a week on a ranch near a lake. A little bit of land activity, a little bit of water sports, and something for every one of us. I’m looking forward to having downtime with the husband. He busts his ass daily and I know some relaxation would do him good. He often doesn’t get the credit he deserves for all he does, and he works insanely long hours. Time off does him good.

I managed to book a late fall trip to see a favorite drag performer of mine, and splurged a little to get a meet and greet. I always said if this particular person comes around, I’d want to do the M&G, so I stuck true to that. I’m going with one of my favorite people, and I know it will be a great time. I love a good comedy show, and I love drag queens. This is the perfect combination of both.

The combinations of trips and a show has me excited for this year. I’m excited about how well the school project has come together. I’ve got a great tribe of easygoing, no bullshit people in my life. My husband and kids bring me joy. What more could a girl ask for? Of course, life isn’t perfect, but I choose to be happy, and I always keep something on the horizon to look forward to on those tougher days.

Viva Las Vegas!

The other day, I was chatting with my bestie of probably 30 years. We met in school and have been firm friends ever since, even buying a house together when we were younger and before we each got married. We’ve done many an adventure together over the years. She was the one that came down to make the drive with me once I moved up north. We got each other through bad dates, bad boys, good time, the best of times, and the worst of times. Through it all, we’ve rarely had falling outs, and the friendship is an easy one. While we’re both married, I have kids, and she doesn’t, but she loves my kids and understands that my first priority is being their mom. That sometimes makes getting time to go adulting a bit difficult.

She was asking about what I’m up to, which basically revolves around marriage, kids, the project with the Kindness Closet, and all the usual mom things. She was telling me she’s itching to go on a trip to Vegas (she loves gambling, and if I’m honest, I do too, I just don’t have the extra funds these days), and asked me if I want to go. After all, we’ve talked about going to Vegas together for probably 25 years now, but we’ve never managed to go. I told her that of course I would love to go, but I can’t swing it now. After all, we have a family trip coming up that I am saving for, as well as a ton of expenses for camp etc that were all hitting at once. There was just no way I could swing it. “Do you WANT to go?” she asked? “Of course!” I replied. “Is it just finances?” “Well, yes, and coordinating with the kids.” “Ok, you coordinate the kids, I’ll pick up the flights, hotels and excursions” she said.

I blinked. “WHAT?”

She explained that since she goes out there quite a bit, she has a ton of points that she can use for free items. Miles, points, and other offers that she can take advantage of. She then went on to explain how my parents had always helped her out when we were younger, that I was always there to help her out, make meals when she had surgery, color her hair for her, and other stuff, plus I always help people. She said this was a way to turn the tables and help me. I’m stunned, floored, and honored.

And so, a girls’ trip has been planned, just the two of us. She handed me a list of things to do and said to pick a couple. When I squealed and said “They have DUNE BUGGIES?” she squealed “you’d do that? I’ve always wanted to and nobody would go with me!” Needless to say, we’re dune buggying it up! For her, this is a way for her to showcase a city she loves, and for me, it’s a chance to decompress and relax, while having some bestie time and seeing new things. I am GIDDY.

The other day, I was in the orthodontist office with the little and while trying to make an appointment, I started having chest pains. I won’t lie, it frightened me. A LOT. I made jokes about it, and the staff looked clearly panicked. I asked for some Tums, assuming it was just severe heartburn. Turns out that’s likely what it was because it eventually disappeared. When I recounted this to my husband he pointed out that I need to find ways to relax because I am always stressed and with a million things on my plate. I told him he was silly, and he just looked at me and started doing something he knows I do when I get very stressed. Ok, point taken.

I told my friend that while she goes gambling, there is a good chance I may wander around and people watch, or even better, park out by the pool for a while. I think the downtime is going to be amazing, but am excited to see all I can and do a few crazy things. Honestly, I have the best friends a girl could ask for. I simply cannot wait!

If you’ve been to Vegas, let me know your favorite things to do and see!

Flu-update. What’s been going on.

Sorry I’ve been MIA the past week. I haven’t posted and I know at least one person has been wondering where I’ve been. (the joys of being stalked). Well, the answer my friends, is that the flu took me down, and hard core. As I begun feeling ill, it suddenly occurred to me “oh NO, I didn’t get my flu shot, please don’t let this be the flu”. Welp, there it was. Dizzyness, body aches, headaches, respiratory problems, sore throat, cough, fever and the chills…all the nasty. Damned flu took me down for about a week! Never fear though, I’m back in the saddle again!

I’m surmising my hit with the flu might be chalked up to my multiple visits into the school to drop off coats, specifically many trips to the nurse’s office (for those not in the know, see my blog called https://themessyhousewife.com/2019/01/30/so-i-did-a-thing/). We all know schools are a petri dish of germs, and so it’s pretty likely that’s where it could have come from, but who knows? Anywho, those trips sure paid off because after collecting over 140 coats, over 80 (with more folks arranged to come in to collect) coats were picked up by families in need. Let that sink in for a moment. The need was far greater than I had ever imagined. Hats, Scarves, Gloves, LOADS of clothing, toiletries and feminine products were also collected as well. The whole project was such a positive one for me and it’s still going on. The flu put a hold on things but I’ll be back at it again soon. What I am doing is just the beginning of a long term project the school is setting up that will help the kids for years to come. I am excited to have been a part of it and will continue being a part for as long as possible. It’s definitely brought people together.

Coming off being ill also means my house looks messier than ever. Compiled with bags of donations, I also had to unload my desk at work of 7 years of accumulation, not to mention my computer, monitors and all the cabling for them. We’re renovating our offices, so everyone has been moved to work at home status for several weeks. It’s pretty eye opening how much one can accumulate in one’s home away from home over the course of 7 years. My husband went with me to help me load it all into the car (he’s the master car packer) and it’s now sitting in my living room. There is stuff EVERYWHERE. It’s overwhelming. How did we acquire so much STUFF? Thankfully many items are bagged for either the school or a local kids’ charity, but much of it has to be rearranged into different bags etc. Once done, it will all leave and free up space. My office stuff is a different matter. Much of it will head back in a couple of weeks, but not all. I wish I could snap my fingers and just have everything clean.

My birthday is around the corner and when people ask me what I want, I say “a tidy house”. They think I’m joking. I laugh along, until I stop because I’m not joking. Ah, what a girl wouldn’t do to walk in to a clean house without having to do it. I dream, I know, I dream. I can’t believe another birthday is coming up. As a kid, it felt like forever and ever between birthdays. Now they zip by in the blink of an eye. I see wrinkles coming, and I don’t like it. I feel like it’s a losing battle to fight them, but then I think of my losing my mom and I realize that wrinkles signify I am still here and enjoying myself. Maybe they aren’t too bad, I’m just not ready for them quite yet.

I treated myself to a few things this year for my birthday. I’m taking off a few days here and there to enjoy myself. I have an appointment with a medium. She came super recommended and frankly….I’m curious. I’ve met with some before and mostly they are cold readers. I think they see what people want them too, or people dig to find what they want to see out of it. I’m curious about this one, however, so I made an appointment. I second guessed it because of the money, but I won the perfect amount on a little scratch off, so I took that as a sign I should go. I have low expectations, so I won’t be disappointed. I also booked a trip to visit some friends and my dad for a few days. It’s a quick trip, but one I’m looking forward to. A girl needs a change of scenery you know. The night before my birthday the husband and I are hitting up a comedy show. It’ll be so fun to relax and have a date night that I’m giddy already. We don’t get to see each other a lot, and when we do, it’s all about the kids and getting the family looked after, so a night alone is a special treat.

Lots of good stuff coming up, more to follow. For now, I’m just glad to be relatively better.

Creating Happiness

This year I started off super antsy. After coming out of a year where the family and I took an amazing trip back to England, I came eager to travel some more. I always come back from England, where I was born, feeling nostalgic, yearning for a simpler, more country based life, and feeling a strong pull to go back. January has felt like it’s been 85 days long already, and I found myself starting the month off NEEDING change in whatever form I can get. I need some change, and I need things to look forward to. It brings me happiness.

I’ve always been a firm believer that one CHOOSES to be happy. As someone who grew up struggling with depression and anxiety, I had to make some solid life changes. It had become so bad I was in a very dark, sad place. I woke up one day and realized just how bad it had gotten, and knew something had to change. Depression is much deeper than a simple attitude shift, trust me, I know. That being said, the first step for me in learning to manage and come out the other side of depression was to find ways of changing my mindset. The first thing I needed to realize was that I can’t always change a situation, but I can change my mindset about how to deal with it. I can choose how I look at things, or research things to learn to see things a different way. Once I started choosing and really trying to look at things from different perspectives, I noticed a break in the doom and gloom. It helped me to start the process of managing things much better.

My mom once told me…”no matter how bad things get, someone is always worse off than you”, which helps to keep things in perspective sometimes. I remember my dad recounting a story of when my parents when to a huge business dinner in NYC. The dinner was a big deal, and mother, despite being in terrible pain from a degenerating disc in her spine, was determined to go. She needed a cane, and was struggling to walk. My father looked at her, struggling, and said “maybe we should just go back to the room and forget the dinner….you don’t have to put yourself through this”. My mother turned and said “I’ve been looking forward to this dinner for ages, and remember, no matter how bad things get, there is always someone who has it harder, or worse off than me. I can do this!”. Just then the elevator door opened, and inside was a man who only had one leg. My mother glanced at my father and proceeded to head to dinner. She knew that happiness is realizing what you have, that things could always be worse, and being grateful that your struggles are your own. Someone once said if everyone threw their stuggles in a bowl, most of us would all grab our own back. Frankly, we don’t know what others are dealing with, and at the end of the day, struggles are often minimal when you see what others are struggling with. I am an oft repeater of “silver linings!” Even when things are bad, one can usually find a silver lining if they look harder enough. Even if it’s a small one.

But I digress.

Winter is a tough time for many, especially those with depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder. While I don’t struggle like I used to, I do make a conscious choice to plan things to look forward to. Why? Because on a bad day, I can look at my calendar and despite the busy chaos, I can see a vacation, a trip, or a school event I am happy about. This reminds me that happy days are ahead. I am excited to go visit my dad soon. This usually also entails not only a happy time with him and my step mom, but also a dinner out with my close friends I don’t get to see very often. Always fun. I am excited about a family vacation I have planned. While it won’t be cheap, it gives me a goal, something to work towards, and something exciting to share with the husband and kids. I have a few day trips planned, one just by myself, to spend a day wandering and sight seeing. There is a school field trip I am chaperoning, which made my daughter beam ear to ear when I told her.

These trips and events keep me looking forward in a positive manner. I LOVE my job and what I do, but I have stressful days like everyone else. On those stressful days, I remind myself those extra hours or that hard work is earning me money towards a vacation. When I am cleaning the house (which admittedly I’m not great at….have you seen the title of my blog?) and I find change people have left everywhere, I am at least excited to put it in the vacation fund. When January hit and stomach bugs and flu arrived at our house, I console myself that we’re getting it out of the way now and will be healthy again hopefully for the happy events planned. Having something to look forward to brings happiness.

Not only do I plan the event, I plan little, simple things about it that bring me joy. Some of these revolve around food. That probably explains why I am working on losing some weight….10 pounds down so far! For example, the trip to NYC I have in mind. I am already planning and excited to go to Tea and Sympathy for dessert. Why? Because they have one of my favorites there. It’s a British tea shop, and their rhubarb and custard reminds me of being a kid in England. When visiting my dad I always go for fajitas at my favorite place. It was a place I used to go to with my mom. While the food is delicious, the memories it conjures up are happy ones spent with my parents and friends. Happiness is a feeling, and being as sentimental as I am, I always lean towards it.

Looks like it’s going to be an exciting (and yummy!) year!

The Itch

It doesn’t take long for that itch to appear. You know the one, the travel bug bites and you get such an itch you just can’t wait to head somewhere different. Our trip to England in November was amazing. While I loved visiting family and being in the place that was my original home, I also got joy out of sharing that experience with my husband and kids. Seeing them have new experiences was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Aside from our visit to Chatsworth, the trip itself didn’t have any “outstanding” locations to visit. Instead, our trip was spent primarily with family members, visiting simple yet inspiring locations, and taking long treks through fields and trails. We spent more time in nature than usual, and the experience was relaxing and cathartic.

Coming home, heading back to the daily grind, has left me happy for the comfort of routine, yet desiring to recreate that feeling of more time in nature, less nonsense, and the urge to see new things.

I’m also itching to travel again.

I’ve always felt there is no better learning experience than to travel and be around folks different from yourself. Diversity, new viewpoints, new experiences make for a very different education, one you can’t learn in schools. I want my children to see new places, meet new people, and learn about viewpoints outside of what they see in their day to day. It will serve them well in the future.

While I always want to head back to England, as my family is there and I love the tightrope walk between the familiar and the different, I also want to see some new places. We’re kicking the idea around of spending time on a ranch this summer (new experience), seeing a football game (not new, but always fun) and maybe taking some local road trips for the occasional weekend away. Even a few towns over can be a new experience.

One of my goals this year was to keep moving. Not only in the exercise sense, mind you, but in the physical sense of traveling and soaking up whatever experiences I can. Time to keep that goal moving forward! The excitement is planning the new places we shall go.

Our UK Vaca!

Picture from the “Princess and the Pea” room at Chatsworth. Also how it felt crawling into bed upon our return. What a sleep!

Well, we made it back from England, safe and sound. Actually, we made it back sleepy, cranky, sweaty and breathless from running to catch a plane, but all in all, full of good memories. I am learning more and more about how our family likes to vacation, which will help me plan trips better in the future.  What I’ve learned is that we like a trip with some downtime, peppered with interesting things to do, and moments of making our own fun. It’s the people and places that make it special.

We arrived in England on Thanksgiving.  It was weird to leave a country so invested in the food and holiday of Thanksgiving and arrive to a place that didn’t acknowledge it at all.  Because we flew overnight, I found the rest of the week I stumbled through a sort of time warp, not knowing what day it was.  Our flights were uneventful.  The rental car situation, however, was not. I had purposefully rented the same type of car I drive in the US.  I knew it was big enough for us and our luggage, without being too big to park or tackle UK roads.  The area we were staying in was full of small, tight British roads, with a mix of one lane country roads and tiny villages.  I had figured tackling the above in a car I was familiar in was a good plan, especially as I was driving on the right side of the car, left side of the road.   When I arrived at Hertz, however, I was promptly told they didn’t have the car I’d reserved, nor anything similar. “You do,” I ignorantly replied “I’ve reserved one.”  Not so much.  My only options were a tiny car too small for our basic needs of people and bags, or a Mercedes. Sounds like a no brainer, right? Except the Mercedes was a 9 passenger van,  It was HUUUUUGE.  I was left with no choice.  I needed a car we could fit in.  The passenger van was the only option.

Y’all, when I tell you this thing was big by American standards, you can only imagine how big it was by English standards.  It was a bit of a gas hog, so a half a tank of diesel cost me over 50 pounds.  It was difficult to park in the tiny lots designed for tiny cars.  The struggle was real.  Honestly, I was glad we had it fully insured, because I was nervous through most of the trip.  We got lost a couple of times, and the GPS took us down one lane country roads through sheep fields, with a stone wall on each side and no space to pull over.  I’m not a religious person, but even I caught myself saying little prayers that no car would come from the other direction, because one of us would have to reverse, and I couldn’t see out the back window well of this monster. My husband grew tired of me giving myself props for navigating that beast as well as I did.  I was proud of myself.  50mph hairpin turns down tiny country roads?  Nailed it. Returning the car was a hot mess, however.  I pulled in and the attendant from Hertz pointed to a tiny parking spot.  No way could I have gotten the beast in there without risking the cars on either side.  I told him that wouldn’t work.  He pointed to another equally tiny spot with cars parked crookedly either side.  He got angry and said he’d park it.  He literally missed the car next to him by an inch, but gave himself almost no room to exit the car.  He squeezed out, and told me to get in.  I did, figuring he was processing the return.  He then shouted at me “will you please leave?!”  Needless to say, Hertz won’t be a company I’ll be using in the future.  I messaged them, got no response.  

During the trip, we stayed with my aunt and uncle, two of my favorite people.  They have a house in the countryside, and are antique dealers.  We spent our first day hanging at the house with them, having an easy day.  The following day, we hit the pub with them and my cousin for her birthday and had lunch.  It was delightful and laid back.  Saturday was spent preparing for my cousin’s birthday bash.  My daughter had begged for us to wear matching dresses, and I didn’t disappoint.  We had similar dresses, matching cardigans, and matching shoes.  The smile on her face made all the hard work and money spent getting her the right dress all worthwhile.  One of the best parts of the night was having such a large group of family all in one place. Normally there are folks I don’t get to see due to distance or time constraints, but we had a large group of us.  Many beers later, we were all singing Queen to finish out the night.  Perfection.

I got to visit my grandfather while I was there. He looked good.  Thinner, older, since my last visit.  Since that time, my grandmother had passed, he had been ill, taken a few falls, so all in all I thought he looked well.  An added bonus was that my dad flew over to meet up with us (he goes to look after my grandfather every other month) so 4 generations all sat in the living room catching up.  As members of my family have slowly died off, it doesn’t escape me how special that moment was to have all of us together.  My grandfather handed me a beautiful pearl necklace belonging to my grandmother, and asked my dad to take me to her grave, which he did.  

Another amazing aspect of the trip was our visit to Chatsworth.  If you’ve never heard of it, please take a peek here: https://www.chatsworth.org
because it’s simply an amazing place with a lot of history.  Each Christmas, they decorate the house in a theme.  This year’s theme was Once Upon a Time, focusing on fairy tales or children’s stories.  Everything was stunning.  After walking through the house in awe, we stepped outside where there was a beautiful Christmas market.  All the vendors had little wooden huts to sell their wares from.  You felt almost back in time.  I fell in love with a few things but knew I couldn’t tote them back in my suitcase, so I had to step away.  It kept raining while we strolled the market, until finally we got so wet we decided to call it a day.  In true “our luck” fashion, as soon as we pulled out to leave, the sky turned blue again.  Regardless, we had such a great time, and it was a perfect start to our day. 

We also walked the Tissington Trail and meandered around Tissington Village.  This is a tiny place that will take you back in time and make you wonder what year it is.  The church has big arches and beautiful stained glass windows that bring the light in.  Some info on Tissington (click on take a photo tour) is here: http://www.picturesofengland.com/England/Derbyshire/Tissington

One of my favorite moments of the trip was our visit to Bakewell. The village of Bakewell is pretty and was quite busy.  As we parked at the Agricultural center (perfect place to mark the monster van) we strolled over the bridge crossing the little river to head into town.  The bridge was covered with “love locks”, which is where people take padlocks, write their initials or loved ones names on, and attach them to the bridge.  I’ve seen this done in Pittsburgh on my travels, and have always wanted to do one.  Silly, I suppose, but I love sentimental things like that.  As we strolled the village, I saw a sign in a shope window advertising they have and engrave love locks, so we went in and purchased one.  The thing was HUGE.  We had our family name, and hometown with USA engraved on it, and set off to find the perfect spot.  If you’re ever in Bakewell, as you cross to head into the town, on the right side, 3 sections from the end of the bridge, you’ll see a huge lock…that’s ours. 

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to spend as much time with my cousins as I would have liked.  Their work schedules didn’t allow them much free time or they had stuff going on.  It’s hard, because I miss them so much, but I get the life gets busy. One cousin, thought she was working long hours and had a ton of stuff going on, was a rockstar in her efforts to make our trip special.  She got us the tickets to Chatsworth and also made my daughter’s vacation bucket list complete.   She has two horses, and my daughter has been asking about those horses for well over a year.  My cousin took us up to the stable one night and let my little one pet, brush and feed the horses, as well as give them carrots and apples.  Whereas I was a bit nervous around such giant, majestic animals so much bigger than I, my daughter had no fear, introducing herself to all the horses in the stables, giving them a carrot, and gentle stroking their noses. She was a natural, clearly something that runs in my family but skipped me. The last full day of our trip, after we’d walked around Tissington, we planned to go to a pub at the end of the trail where we had parked.  The stables were within walking distance, so my cousin had us meet her there. Her big horse was saddled and ready to ride.  She put my daughter up on the horse and walked her to the pub where my dad met us for dinner.  My daughter beamed from ear to ear, absolutely thrilled to pieces.  My cousin walked, leading the horse, while my daughter sat on the horse, so proud and happy I almost cried a little with joy myself.  I knew a little girl’s vacation dreams had come true when she responded “I really think we should move to England….or at least, can we come back for my birthday?” Sorry kiddo, it’s a little out of my budget to just jet back and forth, but yes, we’ll be back. 

I stopped at my mother’s grave to say hello and goodbye.  I always do.  I also popped by my grandparents grave to do the same.  I mentioned I would love a sign.  On the way to the airport to come home, I noticed the car in front of us had a bee sticker on it that resembled my tattoo. Bees are a symbol I relate to my grandmother.  In fact, one of the things I learned during my trip was that my younger cousin also had a bee tattoo for her.  I felt like I got my sign.  

I didn’t realize how tired I was until I got on the plane.  I was so incredibly tired I went into the plane lavatory and had a quick cry, like a toddler does when they are overtired and cry about nothing.  I composed myself, went back to my seat, and watched a movie to stay awake so I could make sure my daughter ate.  If she doesn’t eat, and she’s tired, she gets beastly.  Afterwards, I was so tired I couldn’t even recall the movie I watched when my husband asked me.  I was in a fog. I got home, fell asleep at 7 PM and slept for 15 hours straight.  I hadn’t slept well much in England due to the sinus infection, so my sleep bank needed refilling in a big way.  I woke up feeling like a new person.

All in all, a fantastic trip.  I can’t wait to go back.  

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