Sunday, September 25, 2016


I had this desire when we were home to capture every little thing that stood out to me as being distinctly Alabama.  I wanted to photograph every cotton field, every hay bale and tractor, and all the forests and old downtown areas.  With KJ breaking his ankle and me having to do all the driving, the heat, the mosquitoes, and lots of engagements with other people, I didn't quite have the time to photograph all I wanted to, but I paid attention.  KJ and I both paid attention to every little detail.  It was a nice side effect of having been away for 21 months.  You notice things that escaped your notice and your gratitude and enjoyment in the day-to-day.  For instance, in North Yorkshire, we really love how far your eye can see.  The views are amazing without lots of trees.  This summer we really appreciated how forested Alabama is in contrast.

Trees, trees, trees, as far as the eye can see

I did walk around my parents' new little town with James.  He loved me for taking him out of the air-conditioned house into the burning sunshine, I can tell you.

I listened to a podcast recently where a lady visiting the south from Los Angeles kept seeing these Yeti signs everywhere, not to mention on bumper stickers and t-shirts.  She thought maybe she was missing out on a cool new band and was flabbergasted when she finally asked and learned it was the brand of a cooler/"premium ice chest."  That made me laugh because that tells you something about Alabama culture.

Note the American flag hanging from a crane in the back left corner of this picture.  That also tells you something.

I love small-town Alabama.  Every time I went out I overheard a conversation about going to church, whether they were going to the Wednesday service or not, how they knew they needed to get back in church.  

Alabama is a place of beautiful lakes.

It feels like there are a never-ending supply of sunny days, with quick thunderstorms that roll in and out, leaving the air sometimes more refreshing, sometimes just more damp with humidity, but always with a chance to splash in rain puddles.

The air is full of the loud songs of grasshoppers and crickets and air conditioning units laboring hard to keep up with the heat.  That's what I was hearing when I took this photo.

There are tall, thin pine trees sheltering swarms of mosquitoes ready to take all the blood I can spare.

There is good food:  fried chicken, butter beans, corn nuggets (!!), green beans, macaroni and cheese, and dinner rolls the size of your fist.

Fried Okra, be still my heart.

Summer squash, one of the few "real" foods I can't find in North Yorkshire

Barbecue and Mexican Food of course...of course.

Plastic cutlery and a slice of white bread, there's no need to be puttin' on airs here.

Alabama, we're really glad you're our sweet home.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Friday Recapitulation

Sitting here sipping a latte listening to the rain on the conservatory roof, it's hard to believe that one week ago we were experiencing a hot day in Orlando, Florida.  Maybe a good reminder that day happened is I'm enjoying the Starbucks Caramel Latte from a mix I bought last week.

Florida sunshine, cold brew coffee, and an Amazon package
Could life be better?

We had so much fun with KJ's cousin Jamie and his family.  Sometimes the most fun is the least documented, but we tried to snap pictures here and there.  Last Friday Ella had a birthday trip to the American Girl store in Orlando, and she brought home a new doll to join the family.  Amelia (Amy for short) made the trans-Atlantic flight with no trouble.

Last Friday we ate Chick-Fil-A in the car during a brief Florida rain shower, the boys went to the LEGO store at Disney Springs, and we had our first experience at Five Guys Burgers and Fries.  It was a delicious experience.

As we've been settling back in to life in North Yorkshire I remembered another reverse culture shock moment having to do with driving.  I've obviously become accustomed to narrow, winding roads hemmed in by hedges because the first day we were back in Alabama I felt really nervous and out of control driving to my parents' house with all the open expanse on either side of the road.  It felt like driving one of those arcade racing games where you go flying off the track when you take the curves. Thankfully I stayed on the road, but I didn't realize how safe and protected the hedges make me feel.

There are so many things to be thankful for this week:

  • safe travel for us and our 8 suitcases
  • a warm welcome from friends and church family
  • sunshine and warm temperatures easing us back into English weather
  • a house cleaned by a friend for us
  • sleep
  • good days going back to school for the kids

As for me, after a busy week getting settled and recovering from jet lag, I'm happy to be in my own home with the rain pouring down.  Just so long as it stops in time for school pick-up.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Reverse Culture Shocks

We've spent the past couple of years reading books and paying attention to articles about culture shock and learning how to live in a new and different culture.  We've also heard about reverse culture shock and how some say it can be harder.  I felt a little nervous about what it might feel like coming home, but thankfully, it did not feel very hard at all!  KJ says that instead of reverse culture shock, we experienced Reverse Culture Delight, by which he means, we just appreciate all the things that make up our home culture that we took for granted or never noticed before moving.  Noticing and appreciating is a by-product of moving to a new place where we noticed everything that was different and hopefully made good efforts at appreciating our new home.

We have made many adjustments and grown used to different things living in North Yorkshire, so there are some things that have made me feel shocked during our time in Alabama:

  • Heat!  Oh, my goodness, each time I walked outside and the sun hit my skin it felt like such a novelty, a very pleasing novelty.  I haven't grown tired of it.  But I wouldn't want to experience it without air conditioning.
  • Free plastic bags for all  Even before the new law in England charging 5 pence a bag I had grown used to bringing reusable grocery bags with me most of the time, so every time I stepped out of the car at the store here I've thought, "Oh, no!  I forgot my bags!"  Then I realized that I didn't need them.
  • So many red lights  I like traffic lights for the straightforwardness they bring to driving.  Knowing when to stop and go is much easier.  But roundabouts do keep things moving, and you don't have to come to so many complete stops.  I definitely noticed the red lights.
  • Just how large is a large drink?  I went through a drive-thru at Arby's one Sunday after church, and they asked if I wanted to upgrade my meal to a medium or large.  I went ahead and said large because I planned to split the fries between the kids.  When she handed me my drink I was shocked at how big it was.  Like, it was 64 oz. big maybe?  It was so big.  My expectations for how big a drink will be have obviously been drastically affected.
The following aren't things that are really shocking, but they're just nice side effects of being home:

  • I can park the car!  I've been driving a quite wide and large vehicle, but the parking spaces are so generously wide here, even I--the worst of car parkers--can do it easily.  
  • I feel good at driving.  Never underestimate how much easier it is to drive in the context you learned to drive in and that is familiar.
  • Free refills and ice everywhere  Each time I realize I can refill my drink before leaving the restaurant I get a little bit excited.
It's interesting to me that the things jumping out to me as being different are the very basic things that I experience and do every day of the week:  the weather, the shopping, driving, and eating at restaurants.  It's always the small things, isn't it?

a picture I took one afternoon when I was feeling happy about how
easy it was to park at KJ's doctor's appointment

As an addendum, I thought I would ask myself:  What have you most missed about living in North Yorkshire?

The walking!  The answer would definitely have to be the walking.  One Sunday afternoon I really felt like going for a walk, but it was so incredibly hot it was just completely out of the question.  One morning KJ and I were going to visit some friends that live near his parents and my first thought was to push him in his wheelchair and get some fresh air and exercise, but there aren't any sidewalks in this area, and we would have definitely drawn all sorts of strange looks, not to mention run the risk of being hit by a car.  Also, there's the heat and the mosquitoes.  The mosquitoes have definitely not been missed.

Friday, September 2, 2016

August in Alabama

When it comes to our August in Alabama, the only thing to say is that it has been a complete joy.  Even with KJ's broken ankle the joy wasn't marred too much.  In fact, a couple of Sundays ago we were driving home from church and KJ said, "This trip has just been so great."  I agreed, then both of our eyes fell on his leg enclosed in its big black boot and the crutches leaning beside him in the car and laughed.

August 1 - Pugh Cousins on a Porch Swing

August 2 - Air Hockey with Isaac at the Movie Theater

August 3 - A Trip to our Home-town Library

August 4 - Driving to the Mountains

August 5 - Chasing Waterfalls with My Dad

August 6 - Two Kids who Love their Aunt Sandy

August 7 - Murphy Cousins

August 8 - Pumpkin Pie Yogurt (Fall is coming!)

August 9 - Quiet Morning with a mystery and coffee

August 10 - Family Doctor's Visit to have stitches removed (The kids didn't want to watch.)

August 11 - Humidity + My Mom's new favorite hair product = Curls

August 12 - Sewing Lessons

August 13 - Meeting 2nd Cousin Judah Sikes

August 14 - Reunited Friends

August 15 - James's First Dentist Appointment

August 16 - College Friend and meeting her 4th baby

August 17 - Fun Faux Movie Posters in the Kids Space at Alberta Baptist Church

August 18 - Watching Savage Sam with Aunt Sandy and Uncle Jesse

August 19 - It was so good to see these handsome cousins together again!

August 20 - Pugh Family Reunion

August 21 - James in church with his cousin and his grandfather

August 22 - Afternoon Movie with the Brother-in-law

August 23 - Aunt Katie and Eden

August 24 - Sweating at the Park

August 25 - Friends We Love

August 26 - Golfing with Big Daddy in Matching Minecraft t-shirts

August 27 - Dippin' Dots at the Waterpark

August 28 - Family Picture with Uncle Judson

August 29 - James got some Post-it Notes from Wal-Mart; I found this one stuck to my rear end.

August 30 - Getting a trim from Gramma

August 31 - Back to School Shopping at the Mall