Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I Heart Tesco

As foreign as the word "Tesco" sounds to most Americans, it's a household word here in the UK.

Tesco is a grocery store that we love and buy most of our groceries from. If I had to compare it to American stores, I'd say it's a mix between Wal-Mart, Ukrop's (for you Richmond readers), Kroger, and Target.

It's the closest thing the UK has to Wal-Mart, but a far cry from the real deal, since it only has one aisle each of auto parts, kitchen items, computer items, toys, office supplies, and sports equipment. Tesco has a nice bakery and some prepared food, but nothing like Ukrop's Chicken Salad, White House Rolls, or their Macaroni and Cheese. They sell clothes that are about the same quality as Target's, but unfortunately not as cheap since the dollar is so weak. The grocery section is closest to a Kroger in Richmond, but with larger all-natural, free range, and organic foods sections.

But, the absolute best quality of Tesco is...they deliver!

The closest Tesco is 45 minutes from us; there are a couple of little markets and one small grocery store in between here and there, but the prices, and quality of the produce, don't compare to Tesco.

With gas costing $12 a gallon (yeah you read that right, no typo, $12 a gallon. To us $3-4 per gallon gas is an awesome deal. all of our fellow Americans don't know how good they've got it in the States so if you complain to us, you won't find a sympathetic ear) we try to curb our driving as much as possible. Not to mention the amount of time it takes to drive to Inverness, (the city where a Tesco resides) pick out the groceries, put them in the cart, put them on the conveyor belt, put them in the bags, (because they keep prices down by having customers bag their own groceries) put them back in the cart, put them in the car, drive back to Dornoch, take them from the car to the house, and finally put them in their temporary resting place in the kitchen cabinets.

Sheesh, that's a lot of moving groceries.

So, we go to Tesco's website, pick out our groceries (they even save what we've bought before under "My Favorites" so it's easy to re-buy what we buy often), pick out a delivery slot on a specific day, and for a mere few pounds, Mr. Tesco delivery man brings our groceries straight to our front door. He'll even put them on the kitchen table if I ask.

Here's our delivery guy, he's so nice and pretty funny. And check out his Yankees hat! Not that we're Yankees fans (definitely not since James has us praying for his team), but how funny that he owns an MLB hat!?

If you come to visit us I have no doubt that you will get to have your own Tesco experience. Get excited!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

West Virginia, Mountain Momma

That John Denver song always conjures up a warm spot in my heart. It reminds me of the trip to little Fairmont, WV that I've been a part of for 7 of the past 9 years. My church in Richmond joins churches from around the country for a week of helping out widows and elderly by doing various construction jobs on their homes.

Fairmont is a poor, old coal mining town and lots of women have lost their husbands in mining accidents. Many of them don't have the physical or financial means to keep their homes from getting into the state of disrepair that most of them end up being in. The construction jobs are the vehicle that allow us to do what we feel is the most important work: loving these forgotten and sometimes lonely people.

Scotland is a long way from West Virginia, so we didn't think we'd be able to make the trip this year. But we talked up the trip to our friends here and they showed an interest in going, so miraculously, we went this year! We led a group of 7; 5 teenagers and 2 adults. July 16th was our departure date from Scotland, July 19th-26th were the dates we spent in Fairmont, and the July 27th-August 4th we spent in and around Richmond enjoying the sites and the fabulous weather.

Here's a taste of what traveling to America, and the week in Fairmont was like:

Waiting to leave Edinburgh, Scotland with our "Dornoch Crew"

Lounging in Paris on our layover

It's a long flight

The team (Richmond+Scotland), preparing to depart Richmond for Fairmont

This is part of the camp where we sleep and eat

We had 3 worksites, so our team of 50 was subdivided.
One of the jobs this team had was tearing down an already falling apart porch and rebuilding it

James led another team. They had lots of work to keep them busy
That's the homeowner in the middle

A before and after of a portion of the basement they made water tight and more usable

Do what James says...or else!

The porch roof: before

The porch roof: during

The porch roof: after

I was on the third team led by my dad. That's our hostess next to me

At her house we did some roofing, landscaping, painting and put in a handrail for her.

There was a fourth team who specialized in visiting with families who've hosted us and allowed us to work on their homes during the last 8 years. They also visited with some folks in local nursing homes

Mid-week we have a block party at the home of a previous hostess, Doris. Her neighbors are all invited. It's a good time, yummy food, lots of singing.

In past trips to Fairmont, we painted Doris' house for her

An example of some of the singing and silly dancing

Saying goodbye to some of our hostesses

One last group shot before the end of another week in Fairmont, WV.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Hello Again

Yikes, it's almost been a month. Though to be honest, I probably wouldn't be posting today if it weren't for the kind encouragement of a great friend expressing her "kilt withdrawal."

I've been avoiding posting because I knew I'd be sharing some sad news: James and I lost our first baby to a miscarriage. Not that it's news I want to keep hidden, quite the opposite, being able to openly grieve the loss of our precious child has helped the healing process, but it's not so much a fun event to write about.

Not many people knew I was pregnant, we were waiting for the first ultrasound to spread the word. But it was at the first ultrasound on July 16th that we got the news that every parent dreads the most: no heartbeat. Our little one died at 7 weeks, we found out at my tenth week of pregnancy.

I know that each of you who have experienced this understands the immense grief that accompanies it. I never could have even begun to grasp how much this loss would rock my world. I don't think I could accurately express the ways in which my heart has ached so I won't even try.

As with any death, there are various stages of the healing process. I'm very grateful to be able to say that I am actually in the healing process; it took a while to begin. At this point I'm still unable to concentrate on anything having to do with babies or pregnancy for any period of time. I just can't let my mind go there. Not yet.

The positives. Because even with difficulties such as these, there are positives.

1. I know we will see this baby one day in heaven. That is a hope I know I can hold onto because I believe in a God who provides that hope. He has also provided incredible peace and comfort during the last month.

2. My husband. Oh, my amazing husband. Seeing him grow into a father during those first few weeks was priceless. I've been blessed to see that, what I always knew I could expect, actually did happen: James will be a wonderful father to our children.
And then after we got that horrible news, he has been an unceasing source of comfort and encouragement. Even through his own grieving, he has helped to sustain me. This struggle has brought us even closer together and strengthened our marriage.

3. Our family and friends have been incredible. I didn't realize how helpful it would be to know that people are grieving with us, and that there are many who've experienced this loss and totally understand. Not that "misery loves company" but, realizing that there are many people who love us so much that they feel this pain along with us, helps us get through it.

4. Knowing the depths of this loss makes me so much more grateful for the miracle of babies. I know that if we are given the gift of another baby, I will be even more appreciative for the wonderful gift that they are than I was the first time around.

So that brings us up to speed. More to come on the tons of other things that have been going on over the past month...