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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Learned something new about ME and Fibro

Today I realized something new about ME and Fibromyalgia. That tight feeling that I get, like I can't stand the clothes I'm wearing or my skin is too tight, might be tied to the onset of rapid heart rate that I somtimes get. My new phone (Galaxy S5) has the ability to check my heart rate more easily than I used to do myself. This morning it went to 92 and then over 100 bpm. I was sitting still at the time with no stress at all. This isn't new--I've had it for over 11 years, though it hasn't been around much lately.

What is new is this rapid heart rate and that tight feeling at the same time. I never paid attention before to whether the two occurred together. I'm going to have to monitor that going forward. The good news is that I've had all the heart tests (stress, EKG, and some I can't spell) and all is normal--just fast.

I'm not sure what this can do to help things, but knowledge is supposed to be power-right?

Have a great day!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Those who have passed

This Christmas season I find myself thinking about my grandparents that have passed away. My step-grandfather, Jim, passed away last century. My maternal grandfather passed before I was born, so Jim was the only grandfather I knew in my mom's family. My maternal grandmother passed a few years ago. My paternal grandparents both passed this year. All of them were dear to me and made every visit feel like a special occasion for me.

I remember visiting Grandmommie (my mom's mom) and she always made these wonderful holiday meals that were very southern. Jim made the best pumpkin pies and also the BEST strawberry and rhubarb pies in the summer. We would beg him to make a pie when we visited! I still remember how he used to bend down and hug me every time I came, treating me like the most special girl. His hearing aid used to beep when he hugged me and he would tell me that it was an alert that a pretty girl was near. The house always smelled wonderful and they had a whole room dedicated to the Christmas tree. I suppose it was a living room. It had a baby grand piano, a beautiful sofa and chair, an old-timey music playing set up that could play vinyl records or the radio. And it always housed the Christmas tree in December. Even in summer we called it the Christmas room because that's about all we ever did in that room--open presents.

Grandma and Grandpa's house was entirely different, but just as welcoming. When I was little we went to Grandma's house every Sunday for "dinner." This was a big family meal every time. More serving dishes on the table than you could almost fit. Grandma made all kinds of chicken and roasts. She always had green beans. And she always had mashed potatoes. One sight you could count on always seeing was Grandpa mashing the potatoes in the mixing bowl. Grandma did the cooking, but Grandpa always mashed the potatoes while us kids ran all over the house whooping and hollering. Every meal was finished off with one of Grandma's cakes or pies. She had "the birthday cake" that was an amazing chocolate concoction with a perfect white icing. But my favorite came to be her Italian cream cake. It was almost as good as my mom's carrot cake.

As you can see, food is a bit of a central part of my holiday memories in my grandparents. There was much more to them, but food is always comforting. I'll try to include some more memories soon that aren't centered on food, but today I found myself thinking about Grandpa and potatoes, which inspired this memory.

How do you remember those who have left this life?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Day 6: Windsor Castle, Bath, and Stonehenge

By now you can tell that I am back from London and running way behind in posting about the trip. However, I still want to finish the write-ups. So today I'm going to write about our second bus trip out of town. We visited Windsor Castle, the Roman baths, and the well-known Stonehenge.
Outside view of one of the towers

Windsor Castle

The town of Windsor was quite beautiful. The old-timey look of the buildings was beautiful. The castle was beautiful too, of course. There was quite the line to see Queen Mary's dollhouse, though I didn't join it. I'm sure it's fascinating, but doll houses just are not my thing. Pictures inside Windsor Castle are forbidden, so I have mostly pictures of the outside (naturally). The rooms were immense, including the ball rooms the king's and the queen's), as well as the sitting rooms, presence rooms, dining rooms and the rest. There was one room that held what must have been the crests of every family in Britain there were so many. And incredible display. Upon talking to some of the staff, these rooms are all set up exactly as they are used when the royal family is there. It was great to see a part of that lifestyle. 

We also got to see the changing of the guard at Windsor. I was unable to get much in the way of pictures. A tourist there had her selfie stick in my face for much of it and I wasn't in the mood to run people down for better position. My favorite part of it was St. George's Chapel on the castle grounds. It was another beautiful cathedral and houses the tomb of the only Tudor monarch that was not buried at Westminster Abbey--Henry VIII. His tomb is located under the floor of the choir chancel. 
That green stuff is the "healing" water

Bath

Our second stop was the town of Bath, location of the Roman baths that were found not too long ago. The legend says that the waters of the Roman baths held healing powers and people came from all over to find relief from their sicknesses and ailment. I'm not sure I'd trust that water myself, but then I wasn't around in the first millennium A.D. The staff warned us not to touch the water or try to drink it. No problem there! They did offer that there is a fountain later in the tour from which you can drink (it's been treated), but I declined. My classmate tried it and vindicated my choice, saying it was horrible. Having tried the waters of the supposed Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine, Florida, USA, I figured that would be the case.


The balcony above the bath.
Apparently the water is green largely due to the limestone that lines the pools and resides beneath the baths. These waters "bubble up" over time. There were tons of bath salts and bath items for sale at the gift shop and I had wanted to get some, but decided against it. It didn't seem like much of what was there came from the baths, so it seemed irrelevant. I'll stick to dead sea salts for now.
Here is a pic of the balcony overlooking the bath. The statues are those of Roman heroes and gods. We had to leave Bath far too soon. Most of us agreed that we could have enjoyed much more time seeing the town.

Stonehenge

Part of the circle
Our final stop for this day was Stonehenge. I have always wanted to see one of the stone circles and this one was incredible. The audio tour was quite informative, too. It informs that the circle is aligned such that on the solstices, the sun rises directly over a certain stone. We still have no idea what purpose the circles actually served, but it is possible that it was some kind calendar.
A more distant look that shows one of the berms.

In addition to the stones, the circle is surrounded by these "berms" as the tour calls them. Many bodies are buried in some of these berms. The way they are designed, like a henge, is what gives the circle its name.

There are a number of other features of the area, but mostly it was just amazing to see such beautiful land, green and peaceful.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Day 5: Warwick Castle, Stratford upon Avon, and Oxford

It's taken me a few days to get to posting about this trip and my apologies to my few loyal readers for that. We were taking these all-day tours that started at 6am and ended at 10, so finding time to do much else wasn't happening. So let me try to catch you up.

Warwick Castle

Proper apparent pronunciation: Warrick Castle
This is a medieval castle, architected by William the Conqueror circa 1068. It is located in the area of Warwickshire (shocking isn't it?). The castle has been added to, burned, rebuilt and otherwise altered in that time.

The bedrooms inside were interesting, though few. There are a number of drawing rooms, sitting rooms, receiving rooms, and other such rooms. In fact, Queen Anne's bed is supposed to be in here, too. What I honestly loved the most was the beautiful rose garden. This is only a small view of a few roses. The garden includes white and pink roses, among others, in a beautiful walking path.

Lest you think that this castle has nothing cool, let me share a bit more. The chapel is beautiful, though not original. Apparently, at one time the regional bishop decided that castles were evil and/or inappropriate places to have chapels, so he had it destroyed. But the owners rebuilt it. It's an intimate little chapel, but quite beautiful.

In addition, there was a medieval re-enactment group outside that ran some games, archery, and other events. A bit like the SCA, though not quite such a grand scale. All in all, it was a fun little trip. I would love to go back and see more. We only get a short time at each location on these tours. Just one caveat for those adventurous to check it out: avoid the latte at the lunch cart.

Stratford: The Birthplace of the Bard

Our second stop was Stratford upon Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. We got to see his house, including a window that many writers over the years have signed (with a diamond). Some actors took turns acting out short scenes outside. We also had an amazing lunch. Sadly, that's about all we had time for in this little town. 

Oxford

We started our tour of Oxford at Christ Church College. If you think the Research Triangle area of North Carolina has a lot of colleges, you haven't seen anything yet. This little town of Oxford (admittedly, bigger than Stratford but still not huge) has quite a few. You can stand on one campus and look across the street at another. Christ Church was quite beautiful, as is most of the town. Even more fun, some of the scenes of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone were filmed here. If this staircase to the right looks slightly familiar, it's because this is where Professor McGonagal met the first year students in the movie. Up there you can see the dining hall that inspired the Hogwarts dining hall. Sadly, it's under construction so we were not able to see it. 

The chapel at this college is also gorgeous. You'll note that I have a bit of an obsession with chapels, so well, deal with it. I love them and the architecture of chapels in England is just beautiful. I lit a candle for my grandfather here again. 

After Christ Church we saw a few other colleges in passing. Then my group made a trek over to a little eatery called The Eagle and Child. This is the place where C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien used to hang out, share notes, and read each other's stuff. It was well worth the visit. The back door of the place has a sign on it that says "Narnia." We didn't open it, but who knows? Maybe you should. 

With that we headed home--or back to Spurgeon's College, our home away from home. Long ride back, but again, not a bad one. At least if you can get past all the "to-ing and fro-ing" of the bus going back into London. 

I'll try to catch up on blogs tomorrow. It looks like we might get the time, considering the tube strike in London.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Day four: Palaces

Happy Fourth of July Independence Day to everyone! It's been quite strange over here. While my group hasn't done anything terribly outrageous, we did see some fun things today. We caught a group of Americans singing (in a beautiful a Capella harmony) the Star Spangled Banner right outside Buckingham Palace after the changing the guard. Gutsy and earned much applause.

The changing of the guard was fun to watch, though we missed the beginning due to a late start. We knew we were in the right place when we could hear the drumming, then the music, of the band (see them in red to the right). The ceremonial aspect of the pageantry is impossible to portray in pictures, but it was impressive. When the guards began to move you could see the entire crowd take off after them. Talk about a mob!

We followed at a distance and watched the guard march toward Buckingham Palace. All in all, this even took over an hour.

After that, we decided to head toward Kensington Palace. My young classmate told us it was "within walking distance," once again emphasizing the gap between 20 and 40 and the mentality we have at these different ages. That said, I'm glad we walk through some of it. We walked by St George's Hospital and then through Hyde Park. I have never seen a park so huge in all my life! This park was beautifully kept and filled with families just enjoying the day. And swans. And mallards. Tons and TONS of swans, mallards, and pigeons. These birds are no joke, let me tell you. The swans are almost as tall as my eight year old son!

We saw the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain and her Memorial Walk. There's a legend that says that she used to sneak out of Kensington Palace occasionally through these little manholes in the park. After her death in 1997, these covers were changed to gold and turned into a memorial walk in her honor.



Queen Victoria Outside Kensington
 After a quick lunch at the shop in the park, we finally reached Kensington Castle. King George II and Queen Caroline lived here. Queen Victoria grew up here until Buckingham was built. Princess Diana lived here from the day she married Charles until she died. There are pictures of Diana and William & Kate everywhere.

Scott, Courtney and I went through the first floor and then the top floor, which is the King 's personal apartments. Amazing! The first floor has a memorial wall to Diana that includes many various painted scenes of her--dressed to the nines, with the boys, alone and more. The kings apartments are quite impressive, too. You could hold a ball in just one of the rooms in his apartments, never mind the others--sitting room, privy room, Caroline's closet and more.

 Two of the rooms include examples of dresses and suits the royals wore. This one belonged to Princess Amelia, reminiscent of those very wide gowns that court women wore. They had a display that showed the hip holster the women had to wear to make their dresses sprawl like that. Never been so thankful to be common if you know what I mean.

All in all, it was a good day, if quite a bit longer than I intended. Tomorrow we go to Oxford for the day and need an early start, so Cheerio!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Friday: Three Blind Mice

Today our class went to see the Tower of London. I had hoped to get out to see the All Hallows Church at the Tower, but that didn't happen. My shins are screaming from all the walking we do here. :) The first thing we saw was the HMS Belfast, the only ship of its kind still in existence. It's quite impressive!

From there, we crossed could see the Tower of London. The Tower was an incredible experience. We saw it from across the Thames River and could clearly see the Traitor's Gate, as it was seen by the incoming prisoners. the Traitor's Gate was originally called the Water Gate because it's on the river. Henry wanted to avoid transporting prisoners via the streets. He eventually had to add a portcullis and receiving area to protect this entrance from marauding ships.

Another impressive part of this area is the Tower Bridge. This bridge is quite busy and quite long. Here you can see two views of the bridge. The first is from upriver (by the HMS Belfast). The second is from inside the Tower grounds.
The Tower Bridge

After we entered the Tower, we joined one of the Beefeater tours. These are the guys that do guided tours of the grounds, sharing the history and quite a bit of humor along the way. Our Beefeater was quite fun!

One of the first things I noticed was that the Tower of London is far more than a "tower." It started as the White Tower, the central tower. But Henry built an entire fortress around it. It's like its own mini-city. One thing he emphasized is that the royal prisoners here were treated very well. They brought their servants, sometimes their families. They sacrificed their freedom, but not their lifestyle.

 I've included some pictures of the various buildings inside the fortress here. This can give you a small idea of how big it truly is. One of the tales that the Beefeater shares with us is that of the three protestant bishops that Mary I (Bloody Mary) imprisoned here. Bishops Ridley, Latimer, and Cranmer. Cranmer got to watch the other two burn at the stake. He actually recanted his Protestantism and became Roman Catholic again, thinking that would save his life. But no, he still got to burn. Legend says he burned his recantation with him.

The Beefeater also shared a nursery rhyme with us, along with its legendary meaning.

Three Blind Mice
This is how the Beefeater explained it to us:

Three blind mice, three blind mice,
(these are the three protestant bishops, Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer, that were blinded by their faith)

See how they run, see how they run,
(They were running around London drumming up support for Jane to overturn Mary)

They all ran after the farmer's wife
(That's Mary, who was married to Philip the Farmer King of Spain)

Who cut off their tails with a carving knife
(Well no she didn't, she had them burned at the stake but that doesn't rhyme)

Did you ever see such a sight in your life as three blind mice?

When we reached the chapel, he shared that it was built over the burial plot of so many unnamed prisoners. At one point it had to be rebuilt b/c the bodies all shifted over time and the ground was sinking. The bodies were then moved and walled up in the crypt instead. Kinda helps you see where the tales of ghosts come from in the Tower.

And that's most of the tour. We finished our day with a river cruise back to Westminster, lunch at London Bridge, and then back to the dorm. And now I'm off to bed. My legs are killing me! I will likely not blog tomorrow. It's a free day for us and I need to give me legs some recovery time.

Have a happy 4th USA! I'm still working on the best way to celebrate without getting our heads cut off.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

London First Day of "Class"

So today was our first full day of "class" here in London. I am studying Church History with classmates from Liberty University here in London. It's been great getting to know them all. out of 13 students, three of us are studying pastoral counseling, one or too more are studying chaplaincy. Others are fulfilling history requirements for various undergraduate degrees.

Outside of Westminster Abbey
Today's trip was to Westminster Abbey. It was incredible! The Gothic architecture is breathtaking. We saw the high altar where the coronations take place. We also saw the coronation chair, which is kept in St George's chapel when not in use. Saw the tombs of so many monarchs, though I found the one for Elizabeth I the most breathtaking. Right next to St George's chapel is a remembrance in honor of Franklin D Roosevelt. This is quite close to to the memorial for Winston Churchill and the tomb of the unknown soldier.
Sorry, inside photography not allowed.

In the abbey I lit a candle for my grandmothers, may they rest in the arms of my Lord always. I also lite a candle for my grandfather, may he find the peace of God as his days last on this earth and forever. We also saw the cloisters--so beautiful! It was raining as we went to the cloisters and the rain just looked so heavenly and beautiful in this Benedictine garden. I spent a good bit of time in the abbey in prayer today. I know I could do more to emulate Christ in my life and I need to do it.

View of Buckingham Palace from the bridge in St James Park
After the abbey, we took a walking tour to Buckingham Palace via St James Park. The park is beautiful and it was very nice to relax through that walk. Buckingham Palace was incredible, though not open for tours this month. There was some kind of security todo while we were there--not sure what, but didn't amount to much.
Buckingham Palace

I was impressed the vividness of the colors and the architecture. Sadly, the Queen is not currently in residence. In view of yesterday's crazy heat, I think she's smart to be in the North right now. The crests on the gates are impressive too. There's just something about the black and gold color scheme that looks striking.

The gates to Buckingham Palace
Me in front of the palace gates.
After Buckingham Palace, we went to Trafalgar Square. Sorry,  not pictures of that area. I was concentrating on not further aggravating my very sore feet. We went into the National Gallery then. I did get to view the artwork. It was fascinating to view it chronologically and watch the changes in technique, dimension, and style. From there we kinda scattered. Watched some very impressive street dancers. These guys were literally spinning on their heads, directly on the cobblestones! And doing lots of other great moves. They of course were hoping for donations. The front man at one point said if you gave them £50-100 they would "come to your home and cook you dinner and wash your dishes." I almost took them up on that!

We went into "M&M World" after that. I couldn't find anything the kids would like, but it was a cute and HUGE shop. Then dinner and back to the college.

Tomorrow we are going to the Tower of London. Better not upset the people while we're there. :)