Thursday, February 28, 2008

Now That's a Flood Wall.

When we told James' aunt, who lives in London, that we visited the Thames Barrier and actually enjoyed it, she thought we were a little crazy. But really, this is an amazing piece of work!

View of the front:

From the back:

New Orleans, take notes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Richmond onThe James? Nope...This is Richmond on The Thames!

Richmond, a Borough of London, sits on the Thames River (in case you Americans are wondering, it's pronounced Temz). On our last day of sightseeing in London, James' aunt and uncle took us to Richmond for the sole purpose of seeing this spot that is the inspiration for the naming of our hometown of Richmond, Virginia.

Being there was one of the best moments of our trip. Standing in that park and understanding William Byrd's rationale for naming Richmond, and being able to feel as close to home as possible while standing in the UK, was priceless. I can't wait for the next time I'm able to stand where Byrd stood in Libby Hill Park in my old neighborhood of Church Hill, and look out at the bend in the James River where he was reminded of Richmond, London. It's going to be fabulous.

A view from the bike path.

This was written on a plaque in the park.

Another view.

Can you read this? It's some poetry written about Richmond, London.

Just in case you can't get enough (like I couldn't!) another view.

This totally describes how I feel about Richmond, Virginia.

See how fun it was to see this place?!

Welcome Dornoch Friends!

Just a note to say hello to all of you out there who live in Dornoch. I know you're out there, thanks for reading!

I also wanted to let you know that you don't have to be a lurker (check out that link for the definition). Leave me a comment, it's really easy, and I'd absolutely love to hear from you!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

I've yet to go through all the photos we took in London, so I'll begin with a story from the end of our trip: the journey home.

Have you ever seen this movie? While we didn't meet anyone like Steve Martin and John Candy's characters, it felt like we were living out that movie yesterday. It was quite an adventure.

The mix-up began a few weeks back when we were planning out our itinerary. I was going to go to this women's conference in Edinburgh, Scotland that began the day we were going to get back from London. We booked our return flight to arrive in Edinburgh, and then the conference filled up before I could reserve tickets for me and some other ladies. We were stuck with flying into Edinburgh instead of Inverness, Scotland, so we ended up being 3.5 hours from Dornoch, instead of an hour.

After researching all the options, we decided on taking the bus from Edinburgh to Inverness, it was way cheaper.

Here's a summary of our travels. For comparisons sake, I'll share the departure details:

Sunday, February 17th
2:00pm: drove to a friends home in Nairn. left our car at their house, they drove us to the Inverness airport.

5:00pm: boarded the plane and flew to London.

8:00pm: picked up by James' aunt and uncle, they drove us to our hotel. It was a simple and easy trip.

Friday, February 22nd

3:00am: woke up, met James' aunt and uncle in the hotel lobby who so kindly offered to make the hour trip to the airport at that ridiculous hour.

6:00am: boarded Easy Jet for a prompt 6:30 departure (we even had a row of three seats to ourselves!)

8:00am: arrived at the Edinburgh airport, settled into some comfy seats for a nap to wait for our bus departure at 10:20

10:05am: James saw a Megabus pull up outside. Made our way downstairs to get some good seats (good seats on a bus? definitely an oxymoron).

10:10am: arrived at the platform to realize the bus had already left (but our tickets listed a 10:20 departure)

10:15am: talked to an employee, found out Megabus doesn't depart from the Edinburgh airport, but we are supposed to take a shuttle bus appointed by Megabus to another stop on the other side of the Firth of Forth. From there we would take a second bus to the Megabus depot.

10:20am: called the help number that was displayed at the platform. the man said no buses were being allowed to travel over the Firth of Forth bridge for fear of accidents due to high winds. we realized traveling to Dornoch by bus wasn't going to happen any time that day. (we still don't know what the Megabus that pulled up at 10:05 was doing, and why it left so quickly)

10:40am: got on another bus that traveled into Edinburgh.

11:00am: got off at the stop past a train station. it was the stop past because the bus driver neglected to stop at the train station stop. walked/ran 5 blocks in the wind and rain to the train station.

11:20am: bought tickets for the train to Inverness

11:40am: boarded the train. read, took a nap, enjoyed the scenery. (it was pretty cool to ride over the Firth of Forth rail bridge)

3:18pm: arrived in Inverness. walked a couple of blocks to the bus depot.

3:44pm: got on the bus to Nairn to get our car.

4:20pm: got off the bus in Nairn. waited for our friend to pick us up. rode to their house 5 minutes down the road.

4:30pm: drove our car from Nairn to Dornoch.

5:45pm: arrived in Dornoch. grabbed some food.

6:00pm: headed to the church for Youth Clubs

10:00pm: home. to bed. glad the day was over.

Friday, February 22, 2008

We're Back

Vacation was awesome, I'm totally exhausted, I'll share some photos and stories later.


Saturday, February 16, 2008


We're leaving tomorrow for London for 5 nights! This will be the first real vacation we've had since our honeymoon in April of 2004. Even though we've done a bunch of traveling since then, and it's been great and we've loved having those opportunities, there've always been agendas that went along with those trips. Most of them had to do with prepping to come here, so there's been a large element of work to those trips.

A relative of James' was incredibly generous in giving us the hotel stay he had booked for himself after finding out he couldn't use it or get a refund. We'll also get to see James' aunt who lives in London.

James recommended we not take our computer. OMG! I'm not sure how we're going to do it, there might be some slight withdrawal, but it probably is a good idea. I think it will help us totally disconnect from regular life and just relax.

I'm stoked.

Friday, February 15, 2008

One of My Most Favorite Animals Ever

These are Highland Cows. They're native to the Highlands of Scotland (that's where we live). Highland calves have got to be the one of the cutest baby animals. I've never seen one of those in person but here's a photo of one. They just look so snuggly.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

"Baby Bible Bashers"

We're watching this documentary on tv and I can hardly believe what I'm seeing. It's kind of nauseating.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Amazing Race: Dornoch Edition

The schools were closed for a 5 day weekend (have you ever heard of such a thing when it wasn't for a holiday?!) so we planned an event for them on Monday. We wanted to do something in Inverness since there are so many shiny, flashy things that kids love to do there. Transportation is an issue though since our American licenses don't let us drive anything other than our car. So an event in Dornoch is what we planned.

Kids got to our house around 11:00, we divided into two teams, and they were given their instructions. They had 2 hours, 35 clues, and a camera to prove the team had figured out each clue.

Both mine and James' teams started out in full-out sprints. The running gradually tapered down, but the energy level stayed pretty high. We all had a great time. James' team won by two, but by the time we started eating our hot dogs and fries, they were all happy.

The day ended with football on the beach, and then pool, ping pong, and basketball at the church hall. We were so exhausted. It was a great day.

Here are some photos of my team (James' team only had camera phones) as well as a mini tour of Dornoch for you.

The docotor's office. It was a beautiful SUNNY day!

This is called "Grants." It's the larger of the two markets in town.

Behind the kids is some of the newest construction in Dornoch, condos in the main town square.

Everybody calls this "little spar." It's the smaller of the two markets.

On the left is the Dornoch Free Chuch building (the church we mainly work with), to the right is the church hall where we have Youth Club on Fridays.

This is the war memorial, every town has one.

Mitchell's Chemist, aka CVS on a much smaller scale.

Another monument in Dornoch. You can barely make out the little gold baby; it's head had broken previously and been glued back on. These kids almost broke it off again. We quickly departed before there was an 'incident.'

They're pointing to the Dornoch Social Club up the hill. Not much socializing goes on there.

The Eagle hotel and pub. It has a real pub feel to it.

The Newsagent. Right next to it is the butcher's shop.

That's the Dornoch Hotel, it sits on the golf course. Now it's run by a company that specializes in tours for retired people. Our house is about two blocks to the right. (The kids are getting tired, can you tell?)

A post office box for outgoing mail. The mail people don't pick up mail from your house.

Can you read that sign? It says: "Donald Mackay hanged here on 26th May 1738 for murdering a witch, his was the last execution at Dornoch." Pretty crazy, huh? Our house is right behind that row of houses you can see.

American football on the beach.

Someone's camera shy.

Even though it was sunny, the sand was still really cold. These kids are crazy.

Monday, February 11, 2008

my little babies: the end of the story

I'll finally wrap up the story I began here, and continued here.

First, the conclusion of the scripture union wildness and broken pillow:
I spoke to the kids about being respectful and all that stuff, they were very receptive and understanding.

Now on to the conclusion of the Youth Club spear-throwing event. I gathered the huge sticks and walked into the church hall, gathering kids along the way. I announced that all the games were to stop and everyone gather around.

As I stood there with about 10 of those sticks, almost trembling from frustration, I just started talking. Not yelling, but talking, in the most stern voice I've ever heard come out of my mouth. I mentioned all the negative aspects of their actions, the worse things that could have happened, (injuring someone in the yard or house if they broke a window) and the legal trouble they could be in if someone pressed charges (I spoke of all the most horrible things that could have happened to get them shaking in their wellies). I finished up by talking about how disappointed I was and that I expected the guilty parties to apologize, and that they would be completely forgiven.

As I spoke, I looked out at their faces and realized they were seriously scared of me, in a good way. They were all standing, and I don't think I saw much movement at all, at times I wondered if they were still breathing.

I finished and told them Youth Club was ending early. After most people had left, one boy came up to me, confessed, and apologized. During the week, the three other boys apologized as well. I made sure they knew they were forgiven and discussed when we would go to the ladies house so they could apologize to her.

A few realizations came out of these happenings:

-It wasn't anger that was so overwhelming when I first found out about the spear-throwing, but disappointment. I was so disappointed because I care for them so much and want to see them grow and mature, especially in their understanding of who God is and what he desires for their lives; and I don't want to see them screw up. (I also realize how much like a parent I sound)

-When the boys apologized, and when I found out other kids were encouraging them to do so and expressing their concern for what happened, I found myself feeling a huge sense of pride. I was proud of the positive changes that we're witnessing in these kids lives; not as a result of anything we've done, but because of God's love working in their hearts.

-In hindsight, we're realizing we needed something like this to happen to secure an understanding of the role of authority we have to play in their lives. I think up until this, the kids were unclear on how to view us: equal? older friend? authority figure? Now they have a better understanding of our relationship with them: we are their friend, but we are also in a position of authority and we will enforce the rules and encourage them to do what is right.

-We had a great opportunity to display what forgiveness looks like in real life.

-I am so grateful to have an amazing husband who is a fabulous teammate. It was confirmed yet again that there's no way I could do this without him.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

my little babies, part II

Continued from here:

So that Friday at 1:00, James was on his way to England, and I headed to the Secondary school (ages 11-18) for the weekly scripture union. It's a period of 30 minutes during the kid's lunch break. We don't make it very structured, the kids just like having some time during the school day to hang out. We have a short lesson applicable to teenage life that relates to some Biblical truth.

This particular Friday, the school was doing some experimenting with lunch schedules. As a result, tons more kids were able to come; 25 in a tiny room when we typically have about 12. Since the schedule was different, the kids were able to stay longer than usual.

They were understandably rowdy since the weather was nasty and they didn't have the chance to be outside. The room we meet in is decorated nicely and has a bunch of fun pillows and nice couches. Well, during the course of the meeting, one of the pillows with styrofoam beads busted and they got all over the room. I won't go into the rest of the details, but they include the headmaster forwarding me an email the next day from a lady in the school who was not very pleased with the busted pillow or the noises of excited kids coming from the room. The headmaster was awesome and very understanding and supportive. Anyway, I knew I'd have to talk to the kids the next week about being respectful of other people's property.

On to the next story of the day:

Friday nights are the Youth Clubs that we hold at the church hall we're working with. From 6:30-7:45 the wee ones (ages 5-10) are there, and from 8:00-9:30 the older ones (ages 11-15) come. We have tons of games for them to play, a parking lot they use for dodgeball or football (soccer), and they love running around like crazy in the balcony of the sanctuary. We have food they can buy too, for super cheap. Tons to do, and the kids love it.

During the older youth club group, some kids went outside and no one was out there with them. We usually make sure there's at least one adult wherever there are kids, but they must have slipped outside without anyone noticing.

Suddenly someone comes running up to me speaking frantically about the neighbor lady, someone throwing sticks, and a ball getting kicked into her yard.

I walked outside, having no clue what I would find. The sweet lady who lives next door let me know that there were some kids who were removing portions of her fence and using them as spears, throwing them over the 10 foot hedge into her yard. I apologized profusely, and followed her into her yard, wondering what I would find. To my horror, these "sticks" ranged from 3-5 feet in height and were about 3 inches in diameter. Many of them were lying on the ground very close to her house and her beautiful antique windows.

I apologized over and over again and assured her that I would take care of it immediately. Her response, "Oh, I don't want to spoil their fun." This incredible woman had already forgiven them and was more concerned with the kids enjoying themselves than with making sure they got yelled at for being so disrespectful, rude, and careless.

Needless to say, I was incredibly disappointed.

This story is getting to be way too long for one post, so you'll have to check back for the third edition sometime tomorrow.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

my little babies

In conversation, James and I always find ourselves referring to "our" kids when speaking about the kids we know from any of the events we lead weekly. I didn't realize just how huge a part of our lives they are, and how invested I had become in their lives until a couple of weekends ago.

James was out of town for the weekend with a bunch of guys at a men's retreat; I realized again just how important it is to be a part of a team on this Scotland endeavor and the other half of my team was gone. Not super detrimental for one weekend, just took a little more planning and energy on my part.

Suddenly I'm super hungry and need something to eat, so I'll continue this story later...

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


I really don't talk a whole lot about what kinds of things take up our days, so here's one thing.

Every Wednesday morning we venture out to the local Elementary school to put on a short (15 minutes) assembly for the kids there. The kids love when we do short plays, (we can't call them a skit because they'll think we're talking about diarrhea, no joke) especially when James pretends to be a 5 year old.

This term we speak to the younger classes, ages 5-7. We'll switch next term and speak to the 8-11's. This week we were talking to them about what it means when something has value and how important our belongings are to us when we deem them as valuable. We had four items and we asked the kids to order them from most valuable to least. Here's what they decided:

Most Important: Video Games
Secondly: A huge bag of sweeties (candy)
Thirdly: A bunch of money
Least Important: A football (soccer ball) that represented all kinds of sports.

We ended by talking about how valuable we are to God. I told the Bible story of the lady losing her coin, searching until she found it and then having a huge party, and how God and his angels have a crazy party when one of his lost people come to him.

I could end with some cheesy life application point, but I'll just leave it at that.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Winter Wonderland!

It snowed, a bunch! There's maybe 2 inches or so on the ground, it's beautiful! It doesn't snow a whole lot here, the kids are super excited. At Youth Club tonight (the Friday night hang out/game time for kids in the community at the church) they had a huge snowball fight.

In other news, it's 11:57 here and I'll actually be getting in bed before midnight for the first time in as long as I can remember.