Thursday, August 14, 2014

Analog

The other day I found my box of letters from high school and college. The pink and purple floral chest lives in our attic now, in a larger box full of framed pictures of people no longer in my day-to-day routine. I can't bear to take them from their frames, but they'd feel false in our house. Anachronistic, maybe. They're pictures from a time before I could sit down to my computer and see almost anyone in my life, past or present. I used to display those frames around my bedroom as a confirmation (to myself?) that that people liked me: my analog friends list.

Tonight I took that box of notes down. For some reason--avoidance of real work, I suppose--I thought it would be good to read them.

I unfolded familiar scraps of binder paper and tensed up. Because I didn't just save the positive things. Oh no. I saved notes that hurt me, too. I printed out emails that made my ears burn for who I was and how I acted when I didn't know any better. Added them to the box. I read them now and cringe for what that felt like to read them then. The words evoke muscle memory very quickly. I don't know why I'd keep letters cataloging my defects, notes that chastised me for being too much one thing or another. Teenage obsession with depth of feeling? (Have I outgrown this? My desire to take the box out tonight so I could feel in any direction says no.) I've always collected words, even the rough ones. So I could study them. And myself. Pair up the two for analysis. I've always been awed by the ability we have to make each other feel by marking things down. Maybe that was why I needed such truth in archiving.

I couldn't read for long, though. I was looking for a note from a particular time period, but those few minutes of reading curled my body into an uncomfortable posture on the couch. My shoulders crept up, I slid down into the cushion, and I wrapped into my own knees. Without thinking, I lapsed into the physicality of that high school girl who smiled and curtsied when she was supposed to, who deferred to anyone who criticized her, and who felt like a failure most of the time.

It's better, with them put away. The letters. I don't want to toss them, but I don't want to remind myself of how awkward I felt. Of how little I knew about how to approach the world, and how little I was able to do anything about it. That's the same reason I'm glad now that social media didn't exist when I was a teen. Not because I don't love it now for what it can do, but because having the record now would be too much. Too human. Beyond us humans.

Feelings are embarrassing.

In the attic, in the box next to mine are all the cards I wrote to Eric when he was 300 miles away for our freshman year of college. Three years before we got married. One of my most miserable years of life (in that way that teenage things feel miserable before life calibrates you), as I was painfully reminded in a recent conversation with K. I put my box back and glanced at the envelopes I'd carefully addressed to Eric, but didn't open any of them. If reading other people's words sent me back into myself, reading my own was out of the question.

I struggle with this, sometimes: how to reconcile the fact that writing, feeling, and creating are so messy and vulnerable. Imperfect and revealing. Beautiful, when they're done well, but scary too. Each sentence I put down on the page is potential embarrassment, a reminder of how fallible I was back when. We're too human, there on the page. Writing takes our feelings out of the safe container. I think most people would say they're thankful to forget.

Would you believe this was going to be a post about the first day of school? I'll save that, but I'll say that I had feelings today. Vulnerable, imperfect, high-potential-for-embarrassment feelings. Not just about starting my 13th year in the classroom (how, already?) but about having a daughter who is old enough to go to junior high. About my marriage, which keeps happening even when I need to do the Mrs. P Show, and which will never (it appears) be anything other than messy and necessitating late night strife.

I use that option on Facebook all the time: I don't want to see this. Abused dogs. Bleeding children. Mean things people say about others who don't share their beliefs. Hide, hide, hide. I hide more than I like. We all do, right?

I realized after I put the box back in the attic that I did it again. I don't want to see this. Even when I know we all carry that box around inside of us, too.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Things in jars.

No, not jam. Other things.

It's a weird summer this year. I mean, hooray, my big trip. But since I've been home I've been feeling very much like a hermit, like going out of my house to see anyone or do anything exceeds my energy level. Or maybe my emotional strength? I'm good hanging with my kids--I love that--but I've been laying pretty low. Working at home, being at home. Not leaving much or going far. I don't really know what it's about.

Change, maybe? Addie starts junior high in a few weeks and I have this feeling that once she does, she'll be heading off to college in five minutes. It pains me to think about how fast she's already grown. And I'm going part time at work this year. This is good. But I think maybe the idea of my kids being in two different schools and myself being in a new situation is just making me want to dig in my feet. To stand still, even if just for a second.

This, also: I felt really low this week for two days... sore all over, tired, cranky. And then I got a migraine that took two more days to go away. I should know better by now to read the signs, but I didn't see it coming. (I kept telling E I thought I was getting sick.) So I'm sure migraine-me contributed to Operation Hermit Crab a little bit.

So let's talk about putting things in jars. Because I've had too much time on my hands. There's really no good reason for this behavior. I mean, I could blame the fact that I've been watching a lot of Ina Garten lately, but Ina hasn't put anything into a mason jar that I've seen. I think her nervous laughter, the "how easy is that"-s, and the bright, shining kitchen are making me invent kitchen projects.

But no jam. Because it's hot as heck, and I'm not trying to sweat it out and make a big sticky mess (there's a great essay on the Paris Review Blog about making jam, though, and it makes me think that yes, I will go there again someday). Not now.

My culinary efforts lately have been other protective measures (imaginary, maybe?) against the imminent approach of the school year. Black feathers to my Dumbo anxiety. They feel like things I can do to get myself ready for Super Mom/Teacher Time. I went down the rabbit hole of Pinteresty ways to make lunches ahead (read: not every single morning when the kids go to school because that always ends in angry peanut butter messes). I started making sandwiches and freezing them. I made 48 granola bars, wrapped them, and froze those too.

And I started putting things in jars. Testing recipes. I am not going to torture you with a picture of the first thing I made, Overnight Oats. Because it looked as bad as it tasted. Who is eating this crap? It wasn't fit for human consumption. I love me some oatmeal, but I am 100% unconvinced why anyone in their right mind wants to eat that sick paste. Don't comment and try to change my mind, either. Overnight Oats are dead to me.

Anyway, the things that worked:

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Layered salads in jam jars.

Hey. I admit that I've been seeing this on Pinterest for a thousand years and I didn't get it. I thought people just did it because they thought it looked cute or something. (Aside: I'm cool with jars being functional to hold our foods, but let's stop fetishizing them, huh? You don't really have to drink your vodka out of a mason jar sippy cup.) But you can make salad in there and it will last five days. Here's a post that has more info, if you want it.

You basically go: dressing, hard veggies, softer veggies, cheese, greens, paper towel, lid.

Boom. And then you have a healthy lunch for five days. Put some protein on it. Or put it on the side of your dinner. It's your disco, Stu.

This other one is kind of silly. It's the laziest thing I've ever made.

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I saw this post on Smitten Kitchen about easy refrigerator pickles. And I made it even easier because I didn't really measure anything I put in the jar. Basically I just filled it up about halfway with some kind of vinegar (white or rice wine are favorites), add 1ish tsp of salt, a pinch of dill, and whatever else you feel like. What I feel like lately is a clove of garlic. Mmm, pungent. The liquid only fills the jar about halfway, but if you shake it and turn it upside down a few times over a day or so, eventually the water is drawn out of the cukes and into the brine.

I think any cucumbers would work (peppers, etc too), but so far I like Armenian cucumbers the best. (The ones in the picture are just regular ol' grocery store cukes... have to get the good ones at the farmers' market since my garden is terrible this year). I've made three different jars and they're all good eatin'. We all know that pickles are just a vinegar and salt delivery device.

So there you go. A post on how to keep yourself busy when you have lots of time but threemany feelings. And you don't want to leave your house.

Jars.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Summer BFB

BFB = Big F____ Book

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Fat. Fun. Famous. Ferocious?

Or, you know. The other thing.

For a few years I've been using my summer as a chance to tackle big books. Classic books. Books that people I admire have read. For me, beach reading is the kind of book that barely fits in your hands and takes many a lazy July afternoon to finish. And I allow myself to destroy them. I am not being figurative here. I get them wet at the pool, I cram them into my purse and they end up with gum between the pages. I get all up in these books.

These BFBs are not always great literature, but they can be. I try to find balance -- especially when I started BFBs and I made myself read one classic for every new book. (That part has since gotten a little messy, which is fine...) They almost always fall into the category of things that I would not have time to read when I am teaching/in school/reviewing.

Previous BFBs: Gone With the Wind, The Thorn Birds, East of Eden, Middlesex, and Anna Karenina.

What's funny about looking back at those reviews is that my feelings about many of those books have changed over time. Some that I was not a fan the day after finishing have grown on me. And honestly, with things like Anna Karenina there's a nice confidence that comes later from being able to jump into a conversation about a big-ass classic and know what you're talking about. It makes me grow to love the book more than I did when I was like crap, I just read a thousand pages and I need a rest.

But the point of summer BFBs is not really enjoyment, per se. It is challenging myself in some tangible way to read more than I think I can read. It's the grownup equivalent of that Summer Reading Challenge at the library when I was 8 where I could earn points on the library wall and win at reading. The point is winning, basically.

There are no page requirements for a BFB. But it has to feel hefty. It has to be doorstop of a book. I have read all but one of my previous BFBs in actual book form. Even though I'm a fan of ebooks too, there's something about having a book that looks like nobody in their right mind would pick it up that appeals to me.

So, okay. This summer. I have actually read one BFB, and I am just over 10% through the other. The first was the first book in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, which is the basis for the HBO Game of Thrones show. It's not a literary classic (let's not argue, okay?), but it is over 800 pages. It qualifies on length alone. And in terms of how much goodwill it buys me with my fantasy book-loving husband. I just finished it this morning (I'll compose my thoughts on it soon) but I definitely have that glad I'm done feeling.

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My second BFB this summer (modeled for you on the couch next to me by Puppy) is Middlemarch. I bought Middlemarch as a joke to myself about three years ago after a conversation with my (then to be) program director, Tod Goldberg about how students in the UCR Palm Desert MFA program choose their own reading lists. "You can read whatever you're interested in," he said. "It's not like we're going to make you read Middlemarch. I mean, if you want to read Middlemarch you can, but we're not going to make you." That phone call changed my life--I found out I was accepted to my MFA program and immediately set off reading books that were not Middlemarch for the next three years. When I saw a brand new copy in a used bookstore soon after, I took it as a sign.

And I promised myself I'd read it once I was done with the program. I had absolutely no intentions of liking it, but since I know I can make myself read (and finish) anything, I didn't care about that too much.

But here's what I'm finding, and this means I am a hopeless nerd and I should just surrender any cool cred now. I am actually liking Middlemarch. Like, really, really liking it. I know you're not shocked because you already get what kind of grade A dork you're looking at, but I am pleasantly surprised. It's really good.

I decided to attack this particular BFB from all sides. I have the paper copy, and I had a copy on my Kindle from a long time ago. I bought the audio book from audible, so I am also listening to it when I walk my dog. I am never without Middlemarch, you guys. It's fabulous. I am really taking my time and trying not to rush this one, and so far it is the perfect summer book.

Any suggestions for BFBs?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

They should probably come home now.

I've been a mom for long enough that I'm often not entirely sure which parts of my identity are me and which parts are dictated by being around my kids. It's like when you've been dyeing your hair for so long and someone asks "what's your natural color?" and you press your lips together and raise your eyebrows and you're like "brown...ish?" because let's be clear: you really have no idea how much of your "natural brown" is blended for you in that little black tub of hair dye by your stylist. You can't remember what color grows out of your head, and you have a sneaking suspicion what grows out of your head looks more like those grey wires you try to tuck underneath a sly part so you don't get the urge to pluck them.

Or so I hear.

Anyway, my kids have been gone all week. They're up at their Mimi's house taking swim lessons and running all over the mountain. I miss them like crazy, but I'm not complaining. I have used this time. I'm still playing book review catch up from playing hooky in Europe for three weeks, so quiet time in my house has been a total luxury. I've tried to be good and work and also get some things done around the house, too. It's not just book time in the middle of a crazy pile.

I wonder a little if these rare times alone aren't some way to see what I'm really like, now. Like, maybe the reason I am not BeyoncĂ©-fabulous and Lizzy-Caplan-chic and Misty-Copeland-fit and Herman-Melville-published is that I have too much to do when we're four of usWhen there is nobody to ask for things or dictate a schedule or leave the bag of Lays potato chips on the carpet for the billionth time in a row, maybe it's super easy to be awesome. I can't go off of what I was like pre-kids, because at this point that already feels too long ago.

So of course like any neurotic 35 year old woman, on Sunday I decide I am going to DO ALL THE THINGS during my week alone. The list:

I am going to floss like nobody has ever flossed before.
I am going to read three books, one of which is Middlemarch.
I am going to reorganize my kitchen (see also: be a better person.)
I am going to find the floor in my closet.
I am going to eat only fresh, fabulous and mysterious vegetables because
a) Gwenyth
and b) I'm sure it's not hard to give up Icees.
I am going to probably lose ten pounds. Or so.
I am going to write like five book reviews and maybe a novel.
I am going to plan my first semester of English 9 and AVID.
I am going to write some short pieces for essay contests.
I am going to get up and dawn and run every morning.
I am going to eat hella stuff out of Mason jars.
I am going to make like five kinds of jam.
I am going to meditate, and take long, thoughtful walks.
I am going to binge watch like three new shows.
I am going to keep my house spotless.

So yeah, all that happened. Because that's who I am. See you later.

HAHAHAHA NOT REALLY YOU GUYS

I mean. I guess what I learned that week is I am not the kind of person who can do all that in one week, even if my kids are not here.

Don't get me wrong. I did a lot of stuff. Just sometimes I was a total asshole about it. To myself. Take today for example. All I did was go for a walk finish reading a review book, and my internal dialogue was not a pleasant one. I won't tell you the words I said, but it felt like it took forever to finish reading 50 pages. Neat.

It's not like I didn't know this, but in my haste to be skinny and productive and published this week, I forgot to account for the two things I was going to spend the most time doing:

1. Naps
2. Being fascinated by my pets

There have been a lot of cat pictures up in here.

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And cat talking. And weird talk-to-dog voices. And you get it.

I did some good things. Sunday I got a desk. A real honest-to-God desk so I can type there and stop having couch related laptop neck pain. It's very simple and very small and very much better than the card table I've been using.

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Plus it has bookshelves, which my forays into critical work are quickly demanding we need more of. I filled the top with books on my to-read (not for reviews) list, and I filled the bottom with books by people who inspire me.

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Oh hey, professors.

So, listen. I did read. And I walked the dog a lot. And I ate a little bit better than normal. And I did cull about 20% of the crap out of my kitchen and haul it to Goodwill. And then I did the same for my closet. And I sent reviews to editors and I kept the place pretty clean and I tested some new recipes. But that's about it. There are probably 8 or so hours each day I can't account for, and I'm guessing only about two of those hours were spend Googling obscure facts about Nicole Richie's hair color.

I didn't become an entirely new person, no matter how many inspirational pins I found on Pinterest. I was productive, but I'm probably just about as productive when the monkeys are here.

More than anything, I missed 'em.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Yesterday

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Yesterday felt long. A side effect, I'm sure, of the early waking/still not sleeping right thing. I finished a review before 6, took the dog for a run before 7, and was done dragging the kids through Walmart and the pet supply store before lunch time. After lunch and unpacking all the snacky American processed goodness I purchased at the 'mart, we swam at my mom's for a while, and we hadn't even made it to the actual 4th of July party.

But after a short visit with E's parents--who stopped by to bring me a bookshelf for my classroom and a new quilt ladder that my father in law made for me (yay! more on that soon)--we were in the car and off to see the rest of the family.

Is it just me, or does it seem like we spend a lot of time in the car on holidays?

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We had a great BBQ with E's family, most of whom we haven't seen in quite some time. We reunited with our fellow travelers from the trip, though, so it was fun to catch up about life since we'd been back.

And of course, Henry made sure we had our s'mores. For the S'moreth. They were delicious, too.


I couldn't stay awake for the end of fireworks, though, and I was almost knocked out in the comfy chair inside by the time E came in to say we were all done. I crawled into bed when we got home and somehow Addie ended up asleep there next to me. I didn't realize until I woke up this morning to an elbow in my face--I assumed it was E, but it was Miss Roo.

And now I'm trying to drink a smoothie of last week's farmers' market leftovers. For two reasons: A) use up all of the produce that was left from last week's purchases and about to go bad or get tossed. B) to atone for all the Coke I drank and marshmallows (okay, and doughnuts) I consumed yesterday.

Happy Birthday, America.

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Friday, July 04, 2014

Lumps and the S'moreth of July

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I've been home now for a week, and most of that has been spent asleep. Jet lag has been kicking my patoot, and as of last night I have yet to remain awake later than 9:30 PM. The flip side of this is that I have been awake by about 5:00 AM every day, so I've had the quiet hours I need to catch up on some book reviewing. Not a loss to sleep that much, really, and since I don't have to be anywhere right now, I can stay at home and nap myself back to normal.

Life always gets small in the summer, but this week my car died and needed to be at the dealership for a few days, so life shrunk to the size of a pinpoint. For most of the week I didn't go any farther than my parents' house so the kids could swim in the afternoons, and that's only about a half mile away.

I'm happy to be home. As awesome as it was to be away, I missed my bed and my pets and the simple joy of being home with the kiddos during the summer. We've had a great week even though Mom has been kind of a lump. The pets, of course, do not mind this lumpiness at all.

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I wasn't able to get myself into gear while I was traveling to do any reviews (or even to read for them), so I've been really busy on that front. Luckily, I scrambled to finish a bunch of them right before I left, so I think I'm okay. It just means I have to stay on my organizational game.

Will this summer seem too short? I keep wondering about that, like I'll have to pay for spending three weeks of my time traveling. I paid a little already with a stinging sunburn on Monday when I didn't think about the fact that my skin had been under cloudy European skies. It wasn't up to its ordinary June bronze. Oops.

We'll see about how long this summer feels. My garden is kind of a non-starter, since the sprinklers were unplugged for the three weeks I was gone. I might get a few tomatoes, but I don't expect anything else. And I know that there won't be any peach jam this year. The peaches ripened while I was gone and they all either got picked or fell on the ground before I came home. Sads. I'm sure I'll be making some strawberry, so it won't be a total jam fail. But it won't be like it usually is. (Strange that I measure my summers in jars of preserved fruit, no?)

I'm trying not to think too much about the end of summer, and to just be happy I'm not at work (that's not hard, by the way). Today we'll be with family for the 4th rather than all alone like last year, but Henry just asked if we can go get marshmallows to continue the S'moreth. Sounds good to me.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Paris

Paris was a whirlwind. Originally, we weren't going to see it at all. Our plan was to stay in Normandy for the entire last week. I was completely okay with this, especially before I knew that E was going to be joining me for that part of the trip. Normandy is beautiful and I knew we'd have plenty to do there. But when E decided he'd come, he said knew that being so close to Paris and not seeing it was going to be something I'd regret. So we decided we'd leave Normandy one day before the rest of our group (our train went through Paris, so the plan was to meet up at the train station the next afternoon to head back to England) and we'd try to see as much of a gigantic city as one can in 24 hours.

I was a bit nervous the morning we left Bayeux because I was still not certain the railroad strike was over. French newspapers still said things like "it is pretty much over, so 7 out of 10 trains are running." I was worried that our train would be canceled again, and worried that it would be harder to deal with logistics from a small train station like Bayeux, but our train was still listed online so we figured we'd go for it. We walked to the train station, and had a completely ordinary train ride to Paris. Just what I was hoping for.

Once in Paris we found our subway lines and transferred so we could get to the hotel. Once again I was happy we were not dragging bags behind us, and I was pleasantly surprised by how easy the Paris subway system is to navigate. We popped up at Saint-Michel, right next to the Seine, and I couldn't stop grinning.

Paris felt like a dream. I'm not sure if it's because we had such limited time there, or because I've never seen a city like it before. But I was happy to be the goofiest tourist, ever.  God, it was beautiful.

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First look at the Seine
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Our hotel (the three open windows on the right are our room)
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Lunch, and Notre Dame peeking through the trees behind E
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Another day, another metric ton of fromage
We arrived about noon -- the bells of Notre Dame were just starting to ring as we walked down the Left Bank. Our plan was to drop our bags at the hotel so we could explore, and we'd go back later once we could check in. Our room was ready, though, so we were able to check in. Of course by then we were starving, so we just found a little cafe and got to work on consuming more cheese.
Our post-lunch plan was to take one of those (completely nerdy--I know--but easy ways to see a bunch of things in a little bit of time) hop-on/hop-off bus tours. And it was great, especially because our time was so limited. We both got sunburned, though, because it was HOT.
At the Eiffel Tower, we got off the bus and proceeded to take our mandatory Eiffel Tower photo. Of course this means handing my camera to some random person who looks like they might not run off with it, so of course I have a bunch of really bad photos. The first girl I asked to take our picture took just our picture. I have a picture of our faces with some black bars behind us--we might as well be in Sacramento. We decided we'd walk to the other side of the Tower and try again. The second batch worked, at least.
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Paris wins. I couldn't get over it. I will try not to embarrass myself by gushing, but I was awestruck. I definitely had a moment. Well, I had a moment when I wasn't regretting my dark grey jeans. I was so, so, so sweaty.
After we got off the bus (even though I was a sweaty mess) I made E go with me to Shakespeare and Company. The original had such history for all the Americanexpat writers in Paris during the 1920s (i.e. where the Lost Generation found themselves). That one closed during WWII, but this current store (named in honor of the first) opened in the fifties and has also been an important literary site since. It felt like another necessary stop on the Heather Sees All the Literary Things Tour.
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Me. Paris. Books. Win. 
In what I am sure will be the story of my life, by about 5:00 I had overdone it, not had enough water to drink, and I felt like crap. Our plan had been to go back to the hotel to clean up and then to go to Notre Dame or maybe Sainte-Chappelle, but of course I was a giant turd who felt like I was going to get sick. I just couldn't keep going. So even though the bells of Notre Dame were ringing just outside our hotel room window, we decided we couldn't do it. It was closing at 6:00, and there was just no way.
Les sads.
But listen. When you're in Paris, you're not allowed to be sad for too long. Because you're in PARIS. So I rested a bit, showered, and by dinner time I was ready to hit the fromage streets again.

We wandered the narrow streets around our hotel and eventually settled in at a little bistro and enjoyed every touristy minute. Even the accordion player playing La Vie en Rose over and over again next to each restaurant. I was happy for another nice, slow dinner that ended in cheese.
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Notre Dame from our hotel room
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Sunset over the Seine from our hotel room
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...and Notre Dame from our hotel window, by night. All lit up. Quite a view.
After dinner I realized that my time in this country was limited; we wandered the streets and I continued to eat French pastries with an almost academic dedication. We were back to our room just as the sun was setting on Notre Dame.

Our plan the second day (or what we had of it--we had to be to Paris du Nord to meet the rest of our group by 1:30 PM) was pretty much the Louvre. We were packed up early so we could leave our bags at the front desk and walk to the Louvre before it opened. I am so glad we were there early. We were inside right at 9:00 and had about an hour and a half of seeing things almost completely by ourselves. The busiest pieces--the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, etc had a small crowd, each, but the majority of the museum was empty and we wandered alone in front of so many great works.

Favorites: Liberty Leading the People by Delacroix, Canova's sculpture of Cupid and Psyche, Jacques-Louis David's massive painting of Napoleon crowning Josephine, Hammurabi's Code, the Assyrian winged human-headed bulls, and Michelangelo's sculptures of slaves. But I think one of the best things about the Louvre was just being in the Louvre. Miles and miles of art and history. My one bummer at the Louvre: the one thing I really wanted to see, Winged Victory, was out for restoration.

Basically, I'm saying I need to go back.

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We walked until our feet wouldn't carry us anymore. Which was (I think?) about 11:30. Somehow we managed to see all of things we wanted to see. We had about a mile to walk back to our hotel and we needed to eat, so we ducked into a pizzeria just after hearing the the bells of Notre Dame ring for 12:00 again. Our time was up. It was back to the hotel to grab our backpacks, then onto the subway so we could get back to Paris du Nord.
It ended up being a long travel day. Our train back to England was delayed about an hour, and then once we were back at St. Pancras we had to take the subway another hour to get out to our hotel, which was by Heathrow, and even then it was quite a walk. My legs and feet were really aching by that night. we ate a hearty dinner at the hotel and collapsed.
Heathrow was a crowded, insane mess when we got there. British Airways' luggage system was down, so the line was wrapped around the building. Luckily, we found an agent who helped check us in and we were able to get to our gate early. We decided at some point that we wanted to go straight home, rather than spend the night in San Francisco as had been our original plan. Luckily, I have the best friend in the whole wide world in K, and she agreed to drive to San Francisco that night to get us. We couldn't wait to see our kids, and we surprised them that night at my parents'.
This trip was amazing and I still don't think I've processed all of it. I'm happy to be home, but I'm already thinking about the next trip.