24 December 2016

December

So, it's been two plus months since I posted last, and I can hardly believe it has been that long... Time seems like it is being sucked into this vortex (along with everyone's ethics and morals, as evidenced by the demagogue about to take office back home). Seriously, what is happening??

It has been a whirlwind first term. I'm still up to my eyeballs with essay writing, but I'm giving myself a couple of Christmas days off to catch up on writing down memories.



One of our favourite people, Jonny Palmer (our cousin by marriage) came to visit us. We went to Speedy's cafe, which is the restaurant that Sherlock and Watson live above in the BBC Cumberbatch Sherlock show.
 

Jon is working fives days out of the week up in Sheffield. He is working with a portfolio company called Longden, which makes fancy-shmancy doors for places like Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street. He leaves on Monday and comes home Friday, so I only get him on the weekends. It has been easier than expected, probably because I've been pretty busy with school. However, I'm eager for when we get to be together full time again. When exactly that will be (and where it will be) is a bit undetermined right now. Fingers crossed for April.

I have been able to go up and visit him though. We spent a weekend exploring the city and the Peak District which is just outside the town. It is gorgeous! We got a little Airbnb up in the hilly countryside and spent our days running after sheep (because we could) and hiking around to find abandoned castles.



We've also made some new friends. Robyn is (are you ready for this?) Jon's uncle-by-marriage's cousin, and she is in the picture with our Auntie Claire below. She has been here in London going to culinary school and unfortunately has felt the brunt of international displeasure with Trump. Some of her extraordinarily petty classmates (grown women even!) would turn off her oven and even got physically violent toward her simply because Robyn told them they had no idea what they were talking about when they were bashing the American electorate. Pretty unbelievable, but evidence of the growing chasm between ideologies.


In other happier news, Jon's parents came to visit us! WHOO HOOOOO!



We spent our week together exploring London and Brentford (for some geneological research). We had an epic and wonderful time at Winter Wonderland while Daddy-o got his fill of cheese and deli meats at Harrods. The boys surprised us by planning a final concert at the Royal Albert Hall, which was a perfect ending to a brilliant week. I'm still really impressed they kept it quiet until the last minute. :)



In other news, it has been a tough semester, for different reasons than I had expected, but I feel like I've grown a lot. I'm feeling good about my papers, so I'm praying I do well. The full grade for each class is based entirely upon one paper, so it has to be incredible. It is a stressful way to spend your holidays, but I'm super grateful for the extra time.




And, as a little Christmas bonus (mostly for my nieces and nephews who have been asking for these), here are two new vlogs. One from Australia and one from my in-law's visit to London. Merry Christmas!!

14 October 2016

University

Hello world! I am officially a university student again. Whoo hoo!

I am still considered an international student, which means tuition is insanely expensive and just getting into classes means jumping through twenty bureaucratic hoops that are completely unnecessary. But, once you finally get in the program, it is pretty mind-blowing. 

Currently, my favourite class is at the National Gallery and focuses on art as a theological medium. The class is taught by Ben Quash who is also an Anglican priest, so every point of doctrine is treated as truth, which I love. However, sometimes it feels like mental gymnastics. 

I've never been surrounded by people outside my faith that were so well-versed in scripture. They know their Bible backwards, forwards, and understand all the deep, deep doctrine and implications behind it. The weird thing is that even though we are all reading from the same book, the interpretations are VASTLY different. As mind-bending as it can be sometimes, I'm really enjoying thinking about Mormonism from a new vantage point. 

I went in to talk to Ben about this, (I needed some doctrinal points clarified) and found out I'm the first Mormon they've ever had in the program.  Makes me feel pretty cool, and I'm hoping I am just the first of many.  


This has been my bedside table lately. Up until this morning, there were twice as many books all from the glorious Maughn library which I know have full access too. I am not exaggerating when I say the library itself might be worth the tuition. That place is insane (think I'll do a post on it soon). 

Every day I walk back and forth between the Maughn and campus I pass by the beautiful Courts of Justice buildings (below). 


One of the cool and unexpected perks of being in the program is that I get special access to certain museum collections. We were brought down to this one, in the belly of the National Gallery earlier this week. 

It genuinely feels like you've just walked into some cave of treasures. They unlock the doors and all this beautiful art, in jewel-tones and gilded in gold, is staring back at you and you think "AH AM I DREAMING THIS IS HEAVEN!" It gets even better as we stand around and discuss it. 


In other news, this past month or so has been very busy. I've had an aunt-in-law, brother-in-law, and a step-great-uncle and his two sisters (whom I didn't even know existed) all come out to visit. Jon is back in the UK and working up in Sheffield and I'm back nannying. I'm also back in charge of the nursery on Sundays, which I am genuinely happy about. 

Life is good. I'm enjoying living in the now. 

03 September 2016

Oxford and the Professor

I'm not sure if I've explicitly talked about it on my blog, so this may be a bit of an announcement, but I'll *FINALLY* be going back to get my master's degree this autumn.  WHOO HOO!I'll be studying 'Christianity and the Arts' which is a sort of dual art history/theology degree at King's College London. I'm so excited about it, it makes me giddy to just think about it. Many of the classes are given at the museums in London, so you are face to face with the original artwork. But what is actually the most exciting to me is that, at its core, the degree is in theology. An anglican priest is even the head of the programme. Over the past few months I've been working on my dissertation, gearing up for school to start. As part of my research, I reached out to the man that quite literally wrote the book on subject I'll be undertaking. By some miraculous twist of fate, he is actually at Oxford right now for a whole term. (BE STILL MY BEATING HEART!) As soon as I found out, we organised a meeting, and I took the train up to Oxford to say hello.I wasn't sure what to expect when I met him, as I've literally been book-crushing on his work for the last six months. He was so friendly as full of amazing information, even providing me with new ideas for leads. At one point, when I was going through some of the art I've found, he jumped and said, "I have to wake up my wife, she has to see this!" Apparently, I had uncovered a piece of artwork that shows a bit of theological doctrine his wife has been investigating for months. It was all very exciting.In the end, he was so encouraging of my research and told me several times how significant it could end up being (which made me want to run out of there screaming and dancing). It was my first time to Oxford and pretty much solidified my hope of getting my PhD there in a few years. GAH! A girl can dream... 

01 September 2016

The Database

To celebrate my birthday week, I have a gift for the world!

For the last couple of months I've been working to put together this database of funding for researchers of Mormon-centric studies. There are actually two databases-- one that is specifically research related to LDS topics (for which member and non-member could technically apply) and a second that relates to awards offered as scholarships to members of faith. 
Between our two databases, we have 51 awards, which I have to say I'm pretty jazzed about (I wasn't sure there would even be enough to consider creating a database). Phase two of the project will be to approach LDS family foundations and individual donors to consider setting money aside for individual research projects. If you'd like to help, please let me know!



In other news, as Jon is currently back in Australia (though he'll be coming home in only a couple of weeks-- not months! YAY!), I've been spending an awful lot of time at the British Library trying to get ahead on some research I'll being doing for school this autumn. This view (above) is pretty much the first sight you see when you come in the library. It is like a Disney-Beauty-and-the-Beast fantasy come to life, and genuinely made my heart skip a beat when I first went inside. 

This place is insanely exclusive. You can't even get near any of the books unless you have a card, which is a bit of a process to acquire (you even have to show a list of books you are planning on reading before they give it to you-- which I find ridiculous). It is a copyright library, so you can't check anything out and they only have one copy of every book. You sit in the beautiful reading rooms, and wait for an hour while your books get brought up from storage. As it is the largest library in the world, these things take there sweet time. 

I sort of have a love/hate relationship with the place. On the one hand, I think it is glorious. It is like a palace to literature and knowledge. On the other hand, it is a bit snobby. And by a bit, I mean a lot. This is an actual conversation I heard while I was waiting for my books: 

(Context: A man had just gone up to the front desk to collect his books. The librarian hands him what looks like a folded piece of paper)

Man: What is this? Where is the book?
Librarian: Oh, you only requested the dust jacket. 
Man: The dust jacket? Why would anyone request a dust jacket?
Librarian: I don't know. Perhaps for research. 
Man: I requested all that was available. Why would only the dust jacket arrive?
Librarian: Maybe it was mislabelled. 
Man: Well then you need to purchase a new book to replace it. 
Librarian: Um... I don't think so. 
Man: THIS IS A COPYRIGHT LIBRARY! IF A BOOK IS LOST THAN YOU ARE REQUIRED TO PROCURE A NEW ONE!
Librarian: (clearly annoyed) I'm sorry. I have other customers. (There is literally no one else anywhere near the front the desk. Librarian turns and walks away)
Man: Where am I meant to go to sort this out? Downstairs? Excuse me!
Librarian: (without turning around) Ask the front desk. 

Man walks off, equally dazed and infuriated. 

It was rather funny to watch as a spectator, but I would have been livid if I had been the guy. 

Anyway, as snotty as they are, they have the books. I'll probably be spending a lot more time there over the next few weeks. 

Enjoy the database!

10 August 2016

Two Percent

"So, really you only have about a two percent chance of conceiving a baby each month. And if we look here...."

I had already stopped listening. I was staring at the little "2%" she'd squiggled on the pamphlet in front of her; my mouth fell slightly open in horror and tears burned the back of my eyes.

Two percent.

I was at the doctor's office for a post-op checkin several weeks after my surgery. We were talking about next options when she slipped the statistic in, sandwiched between two completely innocuous sentences, like a misshelved library book.

She finally realised I was upset. "Now dear, what's wrong?" She reached out, stroked my hand and smiled.

"Two percent?" I whispered, "I only have a two percent chance of having a baby?"

"No, no... see here if you get IVF it goes up to 30% or even 40%!" She circled the IVF option on her paper with gusto, but I only saw the $7,000 price written right next to it.

I looked at her smiling face, then promptly burst into tears.

It wasn't my finest moment, I'll say that. It was an overflowing slurry of emotion compounded by the fact that I had just realised that I will be facing many months alone, as Jon goes back to finish his assignment. He'll be in Australia, and I'll be in London for school. It feels like an never-ending dark tunnel.

That being said, I got my first spot of sunshine this morning as we landed back in the UK. Jon will be here with me for the next week or two while his new Australian visa gets sorted and it feels so good to be home again. It feels amazing to be in a physical space that feels emotionally secure.

I don't know how I'll get a baby. I don't know when. If it didn't cost a small fortune to adopt as expats, we'd have done it already. So, all that is left now is to save our pennies for IVF and pray that it works. It is massively discouraging, but I'm holding on to this little flicker inside that says it is going to happen. Two percent isn't zero. There is still hope.

16 July 2016

Surgery

So, I had my very first surgery yesterday. All went well, and despite being twice the expected price, the service and care were fantastic. 



That said, I basically cried the whole way home. 

As Jon and I have been trying to get pregnant for the past three years, we've spent an enormous amount of time and money on supplements, acupuncture and diagnostic testing. Finally, last month, the doctor said there wasn't anything else they could do without performing a laparoscopy, a surgery where they cut into your abdomen and stick a camera inside. 

The doctor was expecting to get in and find cysts, fibroids, or endometrial tissue, all of which would have to be removed. However, it would FINALLY provide the answers as to why we have remained infertile for so long. 

It isn't often where you hope the doctors find a problem, but this was one of them. 

Unfortunately, when the doctor came back after surgery she said, "We didn't find anything... everything is perfectly clean and healthy. In fact, your AMH levels [from a previous blood test] came back and they are quite high. That means you have lots of eggs!"

You'd think that was the kind of news that would make you jump for joy, but instead it just made me want to scream and weep and bury my face in a bowl of cream puffs. 

Right now we are back to zero. Everything is perfect, except it's not. We still have no baby, and still have to reason why... 

I know it is about timing, I get it, but it sucks. 

Boy, it really sucks. 


09 July 2016

Michael Brotato II - Byron Bay



Yesterday we just look this little nugget to the airport to send him back home. Missing the kid already, so I've been going through photos of his trip and finally have had a chance to get them up online. It was a fun-filled rest of his trip. With plenty of koala cuddling, kangaroo petting, and even an epic roadtrip down the coast.



First order of business: the koalas. We took the bus up to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and feasted on fish and chips before snuggling up to some koalas. We then went and fed some kangaroos, afterwhich Michael decided to try and dance with an Emu.






Michael is a big fan of Jazz, and we happen to live along a street with some great live music. We snuck the little booger in while the door bouncer was away, and got to see this really fun R&B/funk group. The bonus to the whole night was that the bartended gave us our (non-alcoholic) drinks for free!



Having Michael here also gave us an excuse to get out of town and go down the Gold Coast to Byron Bay. We meandered down, stopping in Coolangatta for lunch and walking along the beach.




While on this epic roadtrip, we we passed a giant avacado on the side of the road with a sign that said "Tropical Fruit World." Well, THAT seemed too magical to pass up, so, much to Michael's chagrin, we pulled off. Twenty minutes later, after several resounding editions of Jon's and my made-up fruit world song (and at least half a dozen broody sighs from the kid in the back seat), we finally made it.

Basically, it was a farm that cost $45 a person to get a golf cart tour. No thanks. However, the giftshop/cafe had a little treasure that made the whole trip worth it: a tropical ice cream custom flavor machine. Basically, you choose any tropical fruits you want, and they blend it into a bespoke icecream cone just for you! It was magical.

Jon chose a black sapote (which is a fruit that literally tastes like CHOCOLATE!) and banana, I chose a raspberry, passionfruit and macadamia nut blend, and Michael got something sad.... just what I can't remember, but it wasn't quite up to scratch. Still, Michael was a good sport, and I have to give him credit for that.





Adding to the randomness of the journey, we found a sofa sitting on the side of the road and a random vacuum cleaner. We took mandatory photos with both.




At long last we reached Byron Bay. We got an Airbnb place our on the coast which is about half way down the beach in this photo.



Check out this cool ceiling treatment!



After a failed attempt to meet up with some friends at an outdoor movie, we got dinner and then went to the beach. The tree of us layed out on the sand and look up to the most incredible sky I've ever seen in my life. I've NEVER seen the milky way so clealy before. It was also odd realising that, because we were in the southern hemisphere, I didn't recognise any of the constellations.

We had several deep, cosmic conversations, made wishes on a half dozen shooting starts, then went home and watched Interstellar.



The next morning we went out to spend the day on the beach and take Michael's senior portraits. Michael spent most of the day surfing, until a helicopter flew over and turned the siren for everyone to get out because they'd spotted sharks.

Afterwards we went into town (Byron Bay), which is this awesome hippy beach community and got burgers and went shopping. In the end we got icecream and listened to street performs by the beach.














It was a fantastic couple of weeks with this kid and I'm pretty sure he fell in love with the place. He had a ton of fun and made some great friendships, so I'm pretty sure he'll be back one day. Love you kiddo!