30 May 2008

That Ever-Changing Sky

(Here's to post #100!)

One thing that can be said of Aberdeen (and probably the whole of the UK) is that it has an ever-changing sky. Granted, it may be ever-changing in shades of grey, but due to large volumes of clouds that pass overhead each day and the amount of wind usually present, the sky is often changing.On top of clouds and wind, there is also the vast difference between length of days in winter and "summer" (I use this in the traditional term meaning June-ish to August-ish because I have already made up my mind it is a constant "Autumn" here)...as we've been finding out. Winter was rough with it getting dark at 3:30pm, but summer has it's challenges too. See what it looked like when we went to bed at 10pm last night.When is the last time you went to bed an hour before it was dark (civil twilight, see below)? I feel like a kid whose bedtime is before dark. It seems like it should be easy enough to be in bed before it's dark, but we both find that we are not quite as tired lately at night as usual (though we still try to get to bed around our usual time, otherwise when those alarms go off at 5:30-Mark and 6:30-me we won't make it out of bed!)

Here are the stats on tonight for those interested (like my Dad!)

May 30, 2008 Rise: Set:
Actual Time 4:24 AM BST 9:49 PM BST
Civil Twilight 3:22 AM BST 10:52 PM BST
Nautical Twilight

Astronomical Twilight

Moon 2:16 AM BST 3:58 PM BST
Length Of Visible Light: 19h 29m
Length of Day
17h 25m
Tomorrow will be 2m 43s longer.

We are just glad that we have finally gotten our room dark so we aren't waking up at 4 something any more. It's taken multiple layers of defense, but it works so we haven't touched it all week lest we are unable to recreate the perfect darkness. We are trying to treasure this light while we have it...we know another winter will be on its way too soon! (Sunset another night recently)

25 May 2008

Back By Popular Demand

Since I've had lots of positive feedback about previous posts with signs (esp. here in case you missed them) we've found while traveling through Scotland, I've been hard at work the past few months collecting more! I hope you enjoy them!In the western & northern parts of Scotland many signs include both Gaelic and English. It's a good thing they accommodate us English speakers!
This sign took some effort to get, but it was too good to pass up. I love how the wheelchair person is riding in the buggy, kinda like the Amish signs you see in the States.

In case you forget you are in the UK, a friendly reminder as found at the hostel we stayed at around Easter on Loch Ness.
Has to be one of my favorite signs around.
But I've never seen any zebras actually crossing....
So does trying to take a picture of signs (causes both frustrations and almost accidents!)
Umm...I think they mean helium :)You've heard us mention car parks and dog parks (where you "park" your dog while you go into a store, not where your dog runs and plays), now you know they also have trolley parks at the grocery store. Very cute, I think. (Oh, and I didn't even Photoshop that blue sky! See the sun really does shine here!)
You might have noticed in the other "disabled" sign above that they chair is facing "backwards." Many of them are like that here, though not all. In the US they tend to face right more consistently, but when we were back, I think I did see one like this one.
This sign found on campus always makes me feel slightly uneasy.
They spell it like I do! I knew I was a good speller. I was just in the wrong country!
Not pictured, it's counterpart "Way Out." Also known as "Entrance" and "Exit."
I found this on the front door of the bank on campus. At first I thought it was referring to hard hats, but have since realized it is actually a motorcycle helmet.
These signs are all over Heathrow. It means "Connection". Thus airplane, man, airplane. At first I liked it, but upon deeper inspection I became troubled because it looks like the man has antlers, especially on the bigger signs and from further distances. Go ahead, walk away from your computer and see for yourself....or maybe it was I was just delirious from lack of sleep.

To conclude (and to be fair) I have to say that there are some pretty funny signs in the US too. I am most disappointed that I was unable to post here the sign we saw near my parents house at the county fairgrounds that said "Lawnmower Racing Competition, May 4th, 2008." That cracked me up. Too bad the sign was gone before I could take a photo. But when Googling Lawnmower Racing, I've found it's a pretty big "sport" in NC. Nearly as big as that other "sport"....NASCAR :)

21 May 2008

Trouble....

This afternoon around 3pm I stepped out of our front room (the "lounge", i.e. living room) and headed down our short hall. I heard a peculiar sound. Kind of like a waterfall. "That's funny," I thought as I looked out the window, "it's still not raining, let alone pouring." But after some more thinking, I decided I better investigate. Opening the door from our flat to the hallway leading out of the building the sound increased. Down a flight of stairs and I knew we were in for trouble. Here's what I found....
video
My very own personal waterfall. Our downstairs neighbors weren't home, so I called our landlord right away and informed her of the situation. A couple hours later I heard from her husband. It sounds like whatever (like a hot water tank) is hiding behind door #1 is the culprit and sounds like this isn't the first time it's happened.
There's good and bad news. The good news--the water probably isn't from our flat so technically our landlords aren't responsible. And I got to meet our downstairs neighbors (those directly below us) just a few minutes ago! The bad news--those who are responsible live in the very bottom of our building and have a separate entrance (it's a strange set-up), so they won't necessarily be effected by the damage that has now been done (and therefore probably not too motivated to do anything about it). Our landlord is on his way to see it all for himself, and talk to the couple responsible. He told me they are an older couple and often not sober, therefore a bit difficult to handle at times. Mark's away at an event with his department for the day, tonight and tomorrow so I'm glad someone else is willing to go "get it sorted."

It had been about a month without any water issues. Glad we can keep our streak alive :)

20 May 2008

Growing Suspicions Now Confirmed

We were greeted safely home on Sunday morning about 11:15am by the newest member of our family -- washing machine #4 and have been using him ever since! We thankfully had a pretty uneventful trip back so thank you for all of your prayers on our behalf. We are settling back into life here, though neither of us slept well last night, so we'll chalk that up to jet lag. Let's hope tonight brings more sleep!

Before we left we had suspicions that Aberdeen was becoming more and more like HOME. Arriving back brought confirmation that it indeed is :) It was sooo good to be away, but as is usually the case, it is always nice to be "home." It's nice that things here feel so familiar (even if they are still somewhat strange or unusual to our way of thinking at times). I concluded that leaving NC this time was much less traumatic and tearful because I knew what I was coming to, knew we had a place to live, knew I had a job, knew I had food to eat, etc, etc, etc. That was a very nice thing!

And yet despite now feeling like we have two homes, two countries (3 including Cayman!) that feel familiar, I was reminded yesterday as I read Hebrews 11 and studied about Abraham and others of faith to remember that neither the US (or Cayman) or Scotland is truly our home:

"And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country -- a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them." (Heb. 11:13-16)

May we always long for heaven and God more than we long to be in one home/country or another.

16 May 2008

Packing Up

The time has come for us to load the suitcases back up :( We've had a great time here visiting everyone, but we leave tomorrow from the Charlotte airport at 1:30pm. We'd ask for your prayers again as we venture back across the pond to Scotland. I am grateful I had a good flight over here and pray that tomorrow yields the same results. See you on the other side....

13 May 2008

Fun With Mom

About a year and a half ago my mom started learning to paint with watercolors. Many of you may not know that Mark has quite an artistic side to him, and he also took up watercolors after using my mom's paints and getting pointers from her. From time to time these two artistically talented family members will humor me by letting me join in the fun of creating a painting. (Well, to be fair, they would welcome me any time, I just don't like to be humbled in this manner too often!)
But since it was Mother's Day and Mark was visiting his mom (and so Mom didn't have a painting partner), I thought it would be fun to paint with my mom in his stead. We decided to work on the same painting based from a photograph I took of a swan a few months ago. It's a good thing I had Mom guiding me and helping me think before I painted (more so on the swan than the waves, as you will see!). While I think hers is still way better than mine, I was pleased that at least this time you could tell what I painted :) (Yes, the above one is mine...the poor swan must be sea sick since those are some crazy waves I painted!)
How blessed I am to have a mom who has guided me through my life to trust in the Lord and who lives as a daily example of a godly woman, wife and mother. I love you, Mom! Thanks for pointing me to Christ time and time again. It's the greatest gift you have given me!

10 May 2008

A Special Visit

You know you are getting old (or at least older) when someone you vaguely remember being born, then you carried around as a small toddler, then babysat, and then taught in the youth group graduates from college and is engaged to be married. It was a special treat to have Stephanie Bollman and her fiance, Brandon, visit us this afternoon on their way back to Ohio after a family vacation in South Carolina. I don't think I've seen Steph since her high school graduation party 4 years ago!

She's always been kind of like the little sister I never had just because our parents have been good friends for over 20 years and our families have spent a lot of time together through the years (especially when growing up). I was bummed last week when I heard Steph and her family were passing through and we were going to be in Raleigh, so I was surprised to hear that I was going to get to see her and Brandon after all! What a special treat!
In other news, Mark has made it safely to Cayman to see his Mom and family. He says it's HOT. Glad to hear nothing has changed in Cayman!
I spoke too soon about my environmental allergies. I woke up yesterday feeling like I remember feeling other springs in NC--pretty miserable. I still love it here, just wish I wasn't allergic to the grass/trees/weeds that grow here....

06 May 2008

Observations & Opportunities

I have missed blogging, so here's a quick attempt to condense our week+ of being back in the US. Here are things we've enjoyed, noticed, or been "shocked" by (in no particular order):

--The spaciousness of everything--roads, cars, houses, yards, stores, even just wide open land.
--"Drive on the right, drive on the right, drive on the right" -- Mark's mantra when starting the engine....except the one time he was with a friend and drove on the left...oops! Sorry Brian!
--Grilled food! (And not Scottish grilled food, we're talking real live outdoor BBQ grilling)
--Wal-Mart/Target/Kohl's/AC Moore/Michael's
--Being quickly rung out at the register and having your bags packed for you at the grocery store
--Drying my hair in the bathroom (remember, there are no plugs in the bathrooms in the UK)
--Getting to eat delicious hamburgers and steaks
--Trying to turn the light switch to the bathroom on outside the door to the bathroom (doesn't help my parents actually have a light switch outside the bathroom that turns on the hall light)
--Watching Survivor -- I'm still a fan and am looking forward to seeing tonight's episode with my parents
--Spring in NC -- forgot how stupendous it is!!!
--Perfect upper 70's & low 80's temps the whole time we've been here....and without any rain yet!
--Hardee's -- Those 1/3 Thickburgers are better than I remember!
--Seeing friends and family and sharing sweet fellowship with them.
--Commercials -- I still dislike them
--Playing with Yafi -- my parents "dawg" (that's "dog" with a North Carolinian accent)
--Meeting at least 4 new babies who have been born since we left, one adopted baby, and finding out another friend is pregnant
--Smithfield's Chicken & BBQ -- On Mark's list to eat at now checked off
--Taco Bell -- also now checked off the list
--Did I mentioned grilled food? :)
--NC Strawberries during prime strawberry season
--Being pleasantly surprised that my environmental allergies haven't been that bad so far since this time of year is sometimes rough :) (or my food allergies, for that matter)
--Sleeping in our old bed that Mom and Dad are using in their guest room -- Sure does make for some good sleeping because it is so comfortable.
--White egg shells -- they are all (or almost all?) brown in Scotland
--Being able to do a load of laundry in 2 hours!!! And related, being able to have clothes come out of the dryer soft, fluffy and smelling good!