Wednesday, September 24, 2014

'Ello from London

I'm in the middle of writing #GirlArmy Part Two, but wanted to post a little bit of London here, separately, just because that's a pretty serious story and feels a bit unseemly to combine the two in the same post.

So! I've been here for four days, and have another three left in this wonderful city. 

I got to spend the first day and a half with my husband, who hasn't done any sightseeing in London at all. Since I've spent some time here and seen all the big tourist attractions already, he gets to pick which ones he wants to see in the brief time he has to see them. He has good taste: Tower of London, Globe Theatre, Westminster Abbey and Parliament.

He's had to work for the past three days (this has been a positively grueling trip for him, actually. He's been going back and forth between London and Tel Aviv, and working 12-16 hour days. I can't wait until he can put this behind him, and neither can he). But since his clients are Israeli and Rosh Hashanah begins tomorrow, he gets the next two days off to run around London with me.

We checked the Tower off our list on the first day, so tomorrow it's the Globe. We're also fitting in what we've heard are the best steamed BBQ pork buns in the entire world in the morning, and a super-posh traditional Afternoon Tea at Brown's Hotel, the oldest hotel in London and the place where Queen Victoria herself used to take her afternoon cuppa.

I mean, why not, right?

For the past few days, though, I've been wandering on my own, taking silly pictures to text to my girls, who are at home with my parents, and seeing a few sights on my own personal must-see list:
Highgate Cemetery. My teenage goth self has never outgrown the allure of a peaceful, overgrown pile of gravestones, and this Victorian delight did not disappoint.

I stopped by a little French patisserie on the way and bought a baguette with butter and camembert and an apple pastry to have for lunch somewhere in the depths of the cemetery. 

I found the perfect little bench under a shady tree. Heavenly.

I also went to the Temple Church, because I have a bit of a thing for the Knights Templar, although I usually avoid churches and cathedrals when I'm traveling because.. eh, you see one, you've seen them all. And I've seen a lot more than one.

But of course, the Temple Church has those cool effigies in the floor (you may have seen them in The daVinci Code), so there was that. But even better, it had about 100 silly faces beside the archways that surrounded the main, domed vestibule.

EXCELLENT fodder for the five-year olds at home!

(I apologize for the crazy formatting here. I tried. I failed. I give up.)


Face Face

Face Face Face

Face Face Face

Face Face Face Face Face Face

Face Face Face Face Face Face Face Face Face Face Face Face Face ...

And finally, because I couldn't leave London without making my Sherlockian pilgrimage, I went over to the place on Gower Street where they shoot the exteriors for Sherlock and had breakfast at Speedy's and took a few pictures like the fangirl that I am:

It should be noted that I also went to the Sherlock Holmes museum, but I found it to be rather ridiculous. It's a flat at 221b Baker Street, set up as if Sherlock Holmes and John Watson lived there, and the guides, dressed in Victorian garb, show you where "Sherlock's room" was, and where "Doctor Watson's study" was, as if they were real people.

As if there weren't PLENTY of things to put in a freaking Sherlock Holmes museum besides fake stage props. Some information and artifacts about the breadth and depth of the character's literary and cinematic presence, perhaps? The history of his creation by Arthur Conan Doyle? 


But alas, no, fake personal affects it is. Okay then. Off to Gower Street I went, because if I am going to be spending any time with fake Sherlocks, they are at the very least-- as god is my witness-- going to look like Benedict Cumberbatch.


But anyway, I just wanted to say hello from London and let you know that I am finishing up the rest of the #GirlArmy story as quickly as I can.

I will be coming home soon, although I wish I could stay. I love this city. I have always felt like I belonged here. 

I love riding the tube. I love wandering the streets. I love sitting in a cafe and hearing nine different languages being spoken within earshot. I love the ancient buildings nestled among the brand new uber-modern high-rises. I love the crowds outside the pubs every night. I love the black cabs and the theatres and the tea and the monuments and the graveyards and the people and the rain.

I can't wait to come back. I can't wait to bring my daughters. 

Next time, I hope we get to settle in and stay a while.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014



It's been quite the whirlwind around here these past couple of weeks, so you'll have to forgive my lack of posting.

My PTSD has been challenged in some interesting ways, and I (well, the Wise Adult part of me) has risen to the challenge in a way I wouldn't have thought myself capable.

We are definitely talking about new territory here, people.

But I get ahead of myself.


Two and a half weeks ago:


My sweet monkeys.
We got them off to their first day of big-girl school without a hitch. They're in different classrooms, as I mentioned last time, which I thought might cause a bit of a fuss at some point, but apparently we'd built it into their expectations so seamlessly that they didn't even blink.

My husband was here to walk to school with us on the first day and share the whole experience, which was wonderful for him and I'm so grateful he was able to do it, because...


Later that evening, the girls had to say goodbye to their daddy as he left for London, duration To Be Determined.

He's still there, and has another month to go. He's terribly homesick, poor thing-- he hates to be away from the family and London is really, really far away. But, as you may recall, I leave next week for a week-long visit! **

Even better: my husband is such a world-class badass at his job that his company is paying for my trip to thank him for saving their project!

He's also going to be able to take a couple of days off while I'm there, so we'll get some extra time to hang out in London together.

I still intend to write you a post while I'm there. Watch for me!

So, husband gone, new schedule with kids, all of which tend to tax me quite a bit under normal circumstances with all the details to track and things to remember and nonstop action and little time to decompress.

The girls had shortened days for the first two weeks, so were only at school for 3 hours each morning, which is not enough time to get more than one significant thing done. I squeezed a couple of neuro appointments in, some grocery shopping, that sort of thing, and just tried to keep myself focused.

I don't think I've been able to express how difficult normal things like this can be for me, especially when it's all on my shoulders. I feel easily overwhelmed. The fear of losing the threads makes me so anxious that I actually begin to lose them. It's a struggle to feel like I know what I'm doing. Which is humiliating. Which causes more anxiety. Which makes it hard to sleep. Which makes me feel overwhelmed, and I lose threads. 

Vicious cycle.

So, there was that. When that happens, it can become a bit of a slog; just trying to make it through to the girls' bedtime, when I can finally take a moment to recharge. Survive another day. Survive another day.

But a few days after my husband left, something pretty profound and awful and strangely powerful happened that... well, that changed some things. Mostly all for the better, I'd say, although mostly in very difficult ways.

A very dear friend of mine-- I'll call her "Hope," which, although it's not her name, captures her tirelessly positive, tenacious, boundless spirit perfectly-- has been struggling with a crisis with her husband's mental illness for the past several months, and it has been very difficult for all of them, including their four daughters, aged 3 - 15.

They moved to the Bay Area about a year and a half ago, putting us in close proximity to each other for the first time in over 20 years, and we were thrilled to be back in each others' daily lives, especially now that we have our daughters (officially termed "The Girl Army") to raise together.

But since their arrival, Hope's husband began to spiral downward into his illness. I don't have his permission to write about his diagnoses, so I won't. I will say, however, that this crisis began with his attempted suicide last May.

Since then, their family has been through a firestorm of suffering. The girls are, variously, confused, angry, fearful, sad. Hope has been absolutely heroic in her efforts to keep things consistent for them, to support her husband in finding help-- although his illness prevents him from acknowledging that he needs it to the extent that he does-- and to keep the family afloat amid what has been nothing short of chaos.

Over the summer, tensions escalated. Hope's husband has never been physically violent, but the weekend my husband left for London, his moods escalated to the point that Hope felt unsafe in her home for the first time in her marriage, and she called me at 10 o'clock on a Saturday night and asked the question I'd already told her she never had to ask:

Can we come?

Come. I told her. Come now. Grab what you need for tonight and just come here. You will all be safe here.

And so, in the dark on a summer night, the Girl Army arrived at my house. 

It was a heartbreaking moment: the unspoken acknowledgement that whatever happened next, that night marked the end of something. Those girls and their mother were facing a new truth, and it was painful and frightening and sad.

It was so hard to know what to do. I blew up air mattresses and they squeezed them all into the guest room, covering every inch of the floor, and all five of them slept in there even though there was plenty of room for them elsewhere in the house, unable as they were to be out of arms' reach of each other.

Hope and I stayed up talking late into the night. In her astonishing, inspiring way, she shed a couple of tears, made a few plans, and then found a way to laugh, and found gratitude and... well... hope for the choice she'd made,  and went to bed prepared to be strong for her daughters in the morning.

We didn't know it then, but that night also marked the beginning of something. I've found a great deal of gratitude for it, myself.

I'll tell you about it in my next post... from London!

** This post was delayed. So I'm here now. IN LONDON. Another post to follow shortly!