Friday, December 7, 2012

Beginning of Goodbye's

So technically, in London time, I come home tomorrow!
I never thought that word would make it to my countdown.
But now that it has I am happy and sad to welcome it. I am ecstatic to be home with my family and friends. I knew being away for nearly 3 months would be difficult, but you never know how hard it is to stand alone until you do. I came here with my best friend in the world, Hailey Helmerich, but we both had separate reasons of why the Lord brought us here. Thus we walked together and we walked alone - and in the end I think we received all that the Lord had for us here.
I am sad though, because tonight we said goodbye to our first flatmate to go and the next is in the morning. It's so funny to think back to our first day here in this teeny little flat & how awkward we all felt. It's especially funny to think back on our first family dinner: It was 3 days after we met each other and to say we bonded quick would be an understatement. Tina graced us all with her "gravy" (spaghetti to everyone else, she blames it on her Italian family. I just blame it on her.) And my other most fond memory is of Hailey doing Brittany's hair. Three days after meeting, we're fixin' weaves. The best of times.
Near the end I liked to think of us as a stone cold pack of weirdos. We spent most nights in the kitchen either dancing, singing, screaming or making potatoes. All great things. There are so many things I am going to miss about these girls. Just to name a few:

Pamela & Stephanie's legendary burnt rice pans soaking in the sink. For days.
Brittany's "it's a party!" answer to any situation.
Tina's owl hat and irish jigs.
Everyone's inability to take the trash out - I don't think they know I know about this one, but I do.

And a million more. These girls became our close friends in a matter of months and I am going to miss them terribly. It is seriously going to be weird to walk into my living room and not have any of them sprawled on the couch yelling at me to join. 
I will miss this crew way too much, know that I love you all vury much.

But there is one gal who has made this whole thing worth it, and that, my friends, is Miss Hailey Beth. This gem is one of a kind and hard to find. She's a rare species among humans these days, but when you find them you know you have to hold onto them. Luckily, I found her nearly 21 years ago to the day and my life would look very differently without her. Especially the beauty of my face. Her jokes have done wonders to the wrinkles surfaced from laughing for hours. She walked through all of London & Europe with me and back, and forth again, and back for good measure. She has loved me through all the homesickness and friendsickness and morning sickness. Wait.

She's got a heart of gold, and I know for a fact that my time here would look very different without this lady as my confidant, my encouragement and my adventure minion.

So here's to 21 more years and plenty of more traveling. Because it ain't over until the Zarkonians sing.


    I like to think nothing has changed.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Table

Happy Thanksgiving, my family.

What's fun is I'm texting mom right now & she is saying "Goodnight" as I am saying a slow "Goodmorning."
It's like that oreo commercial

Anyway, I just had a few thoughts I wanted to share with my family on this big family day - my favorite Holiday of all. 

It's not my favorite because I can stuff my belly 'till full and feal no shame about it, because Jessie is to my left & usually Maggie or Annie is to my right doing the same (never change, ladies). And it's not my favorite because of the pie, because pecan pie is simply my favorite for the morning after.
But this Holiday is my favorite because we are all together, under one roof, under one prayer - that we get to have another Thanksgiving next year & years to come. That we will love each other more, better. That we will give more than we take and that we won't look for recognition behind us. And that we will live everyday like it was our last.

This Thanksgiving is especially special, because we celebrate one of our empty chairs at the table as our Uncle Paul, spending Thanksgiving at the table of Heaven. We lost him to a battle that we were unable to defeat, but was defeated years ago by the true Warrior himself. It would be a lie to say that this Thanksgiving won't be different without his big hugs, sweet tears, kind words and incredible love filling the already warm room. But it would also be a lie to say we won't have that again. I can see him now with a plate solely dedicated to fruit jello and pumpkin pie, cheering us on in this worldly life. 

So as you sit around the table and take either hand at your side to pray, remember what brought you all, us all, to this place. To this house. To this family. Whether you are a cousin, a mom, an uncle or a teacher (Mr. Augenstein, I hope you have continued the tradition) you have found a seat at this table from your own journey and I, for one, am thankful you did. What a year we have had, and how different we look with additions to the family, and losses as well. But we are still a family, and that is something we will never lose.

As for me, I'll be spending the day personally thanking everyone in England for their pilgrimage to America over a ready-made turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce - it ain't a bad life.

Know that I love you more than I will ever be able to express and I miss you more than I can say on here without jumping on the next flight home.
Eat a slice of pie for me in the morning, Pappy.
And Momba, have some stuffing for the two of us.

Happy Thanksgiving

Monday, October 29, 2012

Tree Huggers & Zombie Cutters

It has been far too long since my last post, but before I get mushy and post my every thought and emotion up here, I'll tell you a story about one of my favorite new things: adventure running.

Here's how it works - I google map the address of our lovely Holloway home, look at the surrounding area of the map, find a fun park/garden/destination a couple of miles away - and run. It has evolved from simply wanting to exercise to becoming some of the greatest adventures & joys. These are photos from the first couple of places:

On this run, I got super lost. It turned out to be pretty incredible. You see things in London that you never would have seen. These places aren't in some tourist guidebook somewhere; they don't have their own website or namesake. They are the secrets of London and exist for people to stumble into them, enjoy them, and leave them to maybe find again - but maybe not.
Most of the places that end up making the adventure runs a true adventure are the stumble-upons on the way to what was the final destination. My least favorite thing while being in London has been experiencing long periods of time feeling lost in the city. It's not a fun feeling and if anything it makes getting around stressful and overwhelming. But on the adventure runs, getting lost is the best part because you step out of the city and are lost in the places worth getting lost in. Below are pictures from my run yesterday and a little story that sadly, encompasses me as a person a little too much:

The destination was called King Henry's Garden, about 2.5 miles away. Sadly when I got there, it was closed until noon (why in the world would you close a garden) but on the way there I saw a walking path off the side of the road. It turned out to be one of the most beautiful places I've seen in London thus far: path to one side and a slim pond of water winding to it's right, leaves from turned trees covering the ground, willows hanging overhead and squirrels. SQUIRRELS! It was the first time I'd seen a squirrel since I had been here. It was enchanting and became my own personal jungle. Having said that, I took the idea to a whole new level. 
I'm not entirely sure what happened, but some inner Jane was tapped into and I created my own adventure...and my own path. 
Near the entrance, there was a tree whose branch was as thick as your average hug that climbed strait over the water walk. I tried to climb the tree & scooch my way over but it was covered in slippery moss (keep in mind, I'm in running clothes, I'm alone, & I'm jamming to Mumford - and I'm alone.) I walk another 15 minutes & find a little, baby bridge across the water! This has to mean that there is a path leading to my branch, and that this branch was meant to meet my tush. 
So I start treckin', right? I start treckin, I start walking, I start singing a little song because I'm on my way to completing The Mission. At this point, things start getting a little overgrown. Trees, bushes & vines start to weigh in on my like Snow White and that blasted forest - but I'm not stopping.
The story is almost over, don't bail on me now! The branch is in my sight and I can taste the victory when all of the sudden - dead end. Not only a dead end, but my body met a dead end when my excitement propelled me into an unseen thorn bush. Still working those thorns out two days later. 
And for the grand finally. Through the thick and thin of the brush I managed to avoid the cold creek beside me by the hair of my legs (it's winter, ok?). Until now. This rubbish blockade lead to my imminent surrender to the day's adventure. I took off my shoes, rolled up my pants and shamelessly cross that darned pond only to laugh at myself, by myself, on the other side.

Well, I can't say it was all for nothing because I did get that bottom right shot from the branch of dreams (I ended up making it, less gracefully than planned) and it was worth it. It's always worth it. Everyone of these runs is going to be worth it because there are things unseen in London calling my feet to take me there. And that's exciting.    

And a quick shout-out to my accomplice hipster zombie, Hailey, and our second place costumes at the Halloween boat cruise. First place was way too main stream.

Until next time.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

My Heaven

I'm not even sure I can begin to tell the story of this door & bring it as much dignity as it deserves.
Let's start from the night:
Thursday night, Hailey & I hopped off a train in Windermere of the Lake District around 7:30pm to a drizzle covered town in the middle of nowhere. The first thing we heard was a bird singing - why did we care? because it was the first bird we've heard since being here. This weekend would be our city-escape, and it surely was. But I'm skipping ahead! Back to the night.
So, being the backpackers we are (we had backpacks on, thus, we were packin' professionals) we decided to walk to our hostel. The sweetest English family pointed us in the right direction, offered to drive us in the dark rain, but we were professionals, so we kindly declined. Thus, our trek began through the winding, single roads with no light to be found except that of the moon behind the clouded sky.
Note: Parents, do not fear, for we were in potentially the safest town in the UK, maybe the world. I feel they may even invite their field-mice in for dinner - that nice.
We finally make it to our hostel room where we share the night in some bunk beds with our now friend, an elderly lady whose name we never caught. She told us if we did the 4 mile hike to Ambleside we wouldn't regret it.
We didn't, and this photo is proof.
This post may be longer than the others, but it deserves recognition. This weekend I was shown my heaven. Now, you may say "Silly, Hunter, your heaven? Come down from your silly cloud." But I believe Heaven is made up of our own little heavens. The deepest desires of our hearts in which the Lord has been dying to show us all our lives. Well, dear readers, I believe I was given a taste these last couple of days.
It started as a walk up & down winding roads, hugged by moss covered stone walls & grass hills greener than envy & sprinkled with sheep. The road turned into rock and the rock turned into mud as we reached the true countryside - the middle of everywhere. No cars, no telephone poles, only green, water, turning leaves & a bitter wind on your nose. And it's not over yet, I haven't written the best part.
The grand finale led to a path through the forest of Alice's dreams. Huge, moss covered trees with invisible tops that disappeared into the clouds. Leaf covered ground, damp from the rain, and secret waterfalls hidden under old stumps & stones. The stroke that truly completed the masterpiece, was the light. The scattered sunlight through the leaves of the trees made for a dream. No camera could capture that light, the idea ruins every memory I have of it. It was yellow & streaming & constant & hidden - like a message written just for me from Him.
We were silent most of our hike, every once in a while we would giggle about something, but there was a moment where Hailey said something I will never forget: "Think of how many people will never see this place, never know it was even here."

Well, friends, this weekend I was given a glimpse into my heaven & I can't wait for you to see it.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Secret Garden

This door. This door, was enchanting. Today, Hailey & I day-tripped to Bath for a little inspiration and wow, did we find some. We woke up this morning & hopped on a train strait Harry Potter style. Even the station looked like platform nine & three-quarters - we cried a little. Then we traveled a bit of the countryside & I swear I saw Mr Darcy & Elizabeth Bennet roaming the hills & woods - I smiled a little. THEN, when we got there, we had High Tea at a darling little alley store strait out of Alice in Wonderland - we giggled, a lot. This door is one of many that I never want to forget because it perfectly photographs the city - lush, green & overgrown with character. It was our own secret garden for a day - what a dream. As we rode the train back to London, I couldn't help but think what a treasure this day will hold in my memory & how sweet it is that the Lord gives us days such as these. We don't deserve days full of secret gardens, but He helps us stumble upon them anyway. May your day be overgrown, just because it can be. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012


 Here is the first door of the Adventure. My flat door. It's name is B and it has two sets of neighbors - A to the right & C to the left. Hailey, my "partner in crime" as our new friends call us, lives in A and a new friend, Tina, lives in C. We have 3 other flat mates as well (Steph, Brittany & Pam) & together, we run this hood. And when I say hood, I mean it. Our doors are located in the quaint neighborhood of Islington, London where we are surrounded by trillions of mediterranean restaurants, dollar shops & 24hour taxi services. We walk a mile to our local Underground station on Holloway Road & are probably a mere 5-10 minutes from anywhere in London. Besides the Underground you walk everywhere in London. It's pretty incredible to look around & see men in their suits & ties speed-walking to work & then girls pounding the pavement in stilettos. Hailey & I wear flat boots everyday & come home crying to soak our feet. But, we are in London. Thus we admire our blisters after everyday's walk, we laugh past our rain soaked faces, & we flip aside our Tube blown hair. As for 302B, thanks for welcoming me to the Adventure.