Not much has turned out as I expected this year.
Three weeks after I returned home from Greece, Phil and I flew back to the US to briefly spend some time with family (and to make the most of some frequent flier miles). I didn't know it would turn into such a long trip. Or become such a good vacation.
And goodness knows, after the year I've had, I really needed a few of those!
As I said in my previous post, Phil's grandmother passed away on the morning of our trip back to Bristol. While we were on a layover in Chicago, Phil's dad was able to get a hold of him, and we were able to change our plans (thank you, American Airlines) to stay an extra nine days to be there for the funeral and to spend time with his family.
So instead of rushing home, back to work and meetings and doctor appointments and such, we were there to celebrate her life, and to discover how many other lives she had touched. For once this year, our timing was impeccable, and we were so blessed to spend it with Phil's family, and to really have the time to catch up with everyone.
But it did turn into a long vacation! I plowed my way through several young adult books (my two favorites: Samurai Shortstop by Alan Gratz and The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen). I watched a lot of baseball and hockey (two sports I love and can't get much of in the UK). I also saw some fun movies, went shopping, and ate a lot of good food.
I had a few of those "I've been living in the UK for almost four years" moments, like when I stepped in a small grocery store and was blown away by all the different types of Oreos alone.
There were some great memories, too.
I had said I was in one of the most beautiful places in the world when I was in Santorini, but the area around my parents' cottage in northern Michigan could give it a run for its money.
The weather was perfect, so after a beautiful first day out kayaking, I was determined to go out every day of my vacation. I love the peace and quiet of the exercise, seeing all the dragonflies around me, hearing the loons calling in the distance. I even went out on a day that was a little windy, rougher water than I had kayaked before. But I was so proud of myself for taking the risk, instead of sitting inside wishing I had done it. And discovering that I was perfectly capable of it, too. Then the next day the worst possible thing happened: my kayak flipped over. It worked just like it was supposed to. The whole boat tipped over, with me inside it, and I spun around, into the water. Except it wasn't scary. It was fun (it helped that I was in water only up to my mid-thighs). I came up wet and laughing (and somehow my dad managed to snap a picture of me at just this moment). It was a little thing, but it made me less afraid of that worst case scenario.
Then there was the evening I went out for dinner with Phil's family. We went to his grandmother's favorite Chinese restaurant. And the owner mourned for and remembered Grandma along with us. We laughed about how Grandma used to flip over her place mat, decorated with the Chinese Zodiac, so she didn't have to look at all those gross animals, the rats, and snakes and so on. So in a tribute to her, we all flipped over our place mats, and "toasted" her memory with a forkful of her favorite dish, Chicken Chow Mein with extra crispy rice noodles.
I'm happy to finally be back in Bristol. I'm brimming with new story ideas, and eager to dive back into Project Demo and start my revision. But sometimes life gets in the way. I've learned a lot more recently than I expected about life and death, family and risks. And I'm so thankful I could be there for it.