Christmas 1942 – Somewhere In England

152nd Station Hospital -1942

I found this tiny program in some of my great-aunt Wylly’s things when I went to see my cousin, McKenzie last summer. I had a whirlwind trip where I scanned photos and documents for most the time I was there. It was a quick overnight visit with me quietly scanning through the night while the rest of the house snoozed. Aunt Wylly was my writer aunt that I’ve mentioned before and sweet to me like a dear old grandma. She was McKenzie’s great-grandma and after McKenzie’s mother died suddenly a few years ago, she’s been the one to keep the family history safe.

Going through things quickly, I learned a lot about my family I hadn’t known. This Christmas menu and program from 70 years ago was tucked in a box, no doubt saved by Aunt Wylly who left a serious paper trail. I knew my Uncle Tom had been in the army, practically everyone called him Sarge when I was growing up so it would have been hard to miss, but I did not know that he’d been in England during WWII. Finding this little treasure from 70 years ago left me with loads of questions with no answers. I gleaned a bit online, but I’m hoping a older relative or adult child of someone who might have served with my uncle will see this post and get touch with me.

Thanks to the internet I was able to learn where the 152nd Station Hospital was located, and found that my uncle was in Bristol, about a 14o miles from where I live now. Frenchay Hospital was much smaller before the Americans arrived in 1942 and they added more buildings to make a medical complex that is still in use today.

I wish I knew more about his life and his time in England during the war. My husband, John was less than three months old when Uncle Tom sat down to the Christmas dinner you see on the program below. Given the shortage of food and rationing going on in England at that time, Uncle Tom’s Christmas dinner was likely much better than what the English were having that year.

Christmas Menu 1942 152nd Station Hospital

Since I’m talking about food and family, I thought I’d share a bit of our Christmas day with you.

Christmas 2012

Our Christmas dinner, the American version … no roast potatoes, sprouts or parsnips. I like them, but I wanted a more familiar taste of Christmas and John was fine skipping them this year. He cooked the turkey and made the gravy, I made the rest from handed down family recipes. We did have the English version of pigs in a blanket which were wrapped in bacon versus biscuit dough.

Christmas 2012

That pink mass before you is a cranberry congealed salad. It stuck a bit in my jello mold so it’s not very pretty, but it was tasty. This traditional Christmas salad has been the subject of a great deal of ridicule from John. I get that congealed isn’t a very appetizing name for it, and that it tends to look like something that has already been eaten once, but it reminds me of my step-mom, Cullene and it’s very special to me. John thinks it is very similar to what they call a blancmange (sounds like bla-monge) which does sound a bit more grand. He had a decent sized portion with his dinner so I think he may be getting used to it.

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Here’s a shot of John waiting patiently for our present opening to begin. I’ll be back with another post on gift-giving as I received something very special from him.

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Since we’re talking about food in this post, here’s a shot of me with one of the carrots I took on our walk to the pub for our traditional Christmas drink. The couple that own our village pub offer everyone in the village a free drink on Christmas day if they come in on regular basis. I was carrying carrots hoping we might come across a moorland pony or two, but we stayed in the lanes on our walk making it less muddy and we bypassed the moor and the ponies. I did get lucky though as you can see below.

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This sweet horse was having a Christmas walk and had the benefit of the carrots in my pocket. Murphy munched them down pretty quickly and we went on to the pub.

Thomas Franklin St John

Thomas Franklin St John

I’ll leave you with this photo of my great-uncle Tom taken in uniform. I don’t share any of his DNA as he’s my uncle through marriage, but it’s kind of nice to feel a connection through both our military (Army) ties and our Christmas dinners in England.

If you’re visiting older relatives this Christmas … ask them about their life or you may be sorry later when they’re gone. 

A Big Serving Of Hate With A Side Order Of One Person’s Version Of Christian Love – No Friend Of Mine

Some people seem to have lost their minds over the election and not just people like Donald Trump.

My friends and family have remained civil over our political differences of opinion, as should be when people who care about each other disagree.

Some folks however, have gone into total meltdown mode and have been spewing some shocking rubbish.

And the really scary part is they actually believe what they’re saying. Heaven help us if these people have guns because they’ve been whipped up into such a frenzy who knows what they might do in the name of God.

They scare me.

The day after the election I was forced to ‘unfriend’ someone on Facebook. She’s the only person I’ve ever had to exclude from my Facebook life and ironically, for the second time. About a year ago, I don’t remember exactly when, I unfriended her the first time. We’d graduated from the same high school, although years apart and I never knew her. I had approved her request both times based on mutual friends I could see that we had in common. The first time I unfriended her had to do with what I considered to be aggressive over the top hate talk, but it was nothing like what she said on Wednesday after President Obama was re-elected.

I unfriended her quietly the first time and thought no more about her, but the problem was that she came back. After a some months I got a friend request from her and I must have not been paying attention because after seeing her connections to a lot of my high school friends, I accepted her friendship. This is a mistake that will not happen again!

I’ve omitted her name as I have no wish to shame this woman and she probably won’t even know this post has been written, but what would her Christian friends think about her hate filled rant … what about her adult children and her grandchildren?

It might be easy to just dismiss her as unhinged, hope she gets help, and move on, but she’s not alone and that’s the really scary piece to me.

Most of you who’ve read my blog for a while know I have many questions about faith and God and how I feel. I’ve touched on it here before and I’ve been open about my doubting Thomas thoughts about the power of prayer, but I have to admit that lately I find myself whispering a few words that begin with ‘God,’ and end with ‘please, keep him safe,’ because I think President Obama needs some extra protective energy around him, especially now.

I don’t know what you’ve heard, but here’s a look at one person who while no longer in my social circle, is still very much out in the world sharing her message of hate while calling herself a good Christian.

(Internet Image)

This was the comment on Facebook that cause me to unfriend her:
“Obamacare will be the death of America!!! WE see what it has done to other countries and we don’t like it. We like our freedom of choice in doctors. We work hard and we deserve what we want and can pay for. Those living on welfare need to get off their ass and go to work!!!! I’m tired of keeping them up and all the give me programs out there. The US economy did not grow, it’s terrible! The number of people laid off work, loosing their homes, cars etc. If it grew it was the RICH that got richer from it. The news media would like you to think that because they are all corrupt liars! Obama is an EVIL, communist muslim! I doubt very seriously that any of it was legal. Blank panther parties keeping out voteres, maching going down, Am. soldiers votes lost…..blah blah blah!!!!!!! I don’t know where your from Claire but if you live in the US your in for a rude awakening. Wait and see! America is a nation divided …and a nation divided will fall!!!!!! A nation without God is doomed and that is what America has become. America has a disease….That disease is socialism with unlimited federal power and it will take the entire strength and will of the people to overpower it.” SAD SAD day in America….. November 7, 2012 …. the day America died.”
Then she sent messaged me on Thursday with the two comments below that were sent a minute apart.
Elizabeth….. YOU know nothing about me and that is clear to see. You speak not with your lips! It is clear to see that you are the typical Liberal that thinks only his/her way is right. I have seen OBAMACARE first hand with my parents. I know what it exsists of and I have read most of the papers on it. As have my friends. All he wants is to help the elderly die…quick so he doesn’t have to pay for them. You have the right to post what you like but I also have that right as well. Being on FB and posting allows you to say what you please as most people do or defriend them, as I did you. It doesn’t mean I don’t like you or hate you, I choose not to be your friend any longer. It doesn’t matter if you agree with me or not, Obama is clearly NOT a Christian. ( that is NOT why I didn’t vote for him ) Nor was he born here in the USA. Time will reveal that, I only hope and pray that it isn’t to late. Whether he wants evil for us or someone has named him as the person to do the job, evil is upon us.
From what I’ve heard, and I have friends in the UK, the health care system there is a mess! WE don’t want your type of health care~!~~ Most americans, the ones that actually work for a living, do not want OBAMACARE! We want our country to stay the same with the freedom to choose our doctors and type of medical treatment. When you have spent your whole life working at a job and retire with benefits, the president should not be allowed to strip them from you. THAT IS COMMUNISM my friend! Most Americans don’t need welfare, food stamps or free health care. Only the sorry, lazy people need that!
NOT one single person can name anything that Obama has done good for the USA….NOT ONE! The people that voted for him or the ones that one FREE everything….they live in a give me, give me state of mind, constantly demanding freebies, they are lazy and worthless, white, black and any other color!
I personally do not care if the President is black, green, purple or orange or his religious beliefs ( as long as he keeps it to himself) …for without the help of congress and senate the president can’t do anything…but what I do care about is the fact that our President needs to be more concerened with our military, protecting our men in other countries, not vacationing in VEGAS and lieing to cover his ass from NOT being here when this country needs him and OBAMA has not been! He has also proven that in the latest storm on the east coast where he showed his face for TV, and they are still without power, food & water. NO help has been sent in. He is a coward and a lier!!!
Truthfully John I don’t care who is upset with my remark, what bothers me is that you ENGLISH think you know what is best for us in the USA!!! The USA was not founded on Communism or muslim beliefs and we don’t want it forced don’t our throats! If they try there will be another revolution like you have never seen! You need to listen to other news stations or media sources and get ALL the facts before voicing your childish remarks.
Unfortunately there are not a lot of educated people on politics in the USA, they just go vote based on one thing that bothers them like abortion or gay rights. Those are things that need to be addressed but not the sole reason ( which most have proven here on your page ) when voting for a President. They should be more concerened about the happenings of this country and where it is headed. I’m ashamed that Americans are that stupid and uneducated!
My feelings about your comments would be a waste of my breath. I feel you have NO say so in the events of this country since you are now a citizen of the Brits! I don’t count duel citizenship. You can not be loyal to two countries during a time of war, so I don’t understand why they even give that. Makes no sense at all to me.
I wish you nothing but happiness, because I am a good Christian person with a huge heart of gold and would never wish bad on anyone. Hope you new country gives you more happiness than the one you left🙂
I did not mean to offend you or John, I would never do that and for that I’m sorry. I just want you to know where I’m coming from with this letter.

*************

I did find the smiley face a bit much in light of what she said during her ‘letter’ to let me know where she was coming from.

According to CNN, a lot of unfriending is happening on Facebook post-election, and I wonder if any of you have had a similar experience.

Birthday Surprises!

John Winchurch (Painted by Lauren Finley)

John Winchurch (Painted by Lauren Finley)

You probably already know this about me, but if you don’t I’ll say it now.

Sentimental and Mushy

I am a seriously sentimental mush and my gift giving behavior usually reflects this. 

Knowing that John had a significant birthday this year, I wanted to be sure that I acknowledged it in a way that would be lasting and memorable. I try very hard to give thoughtful gifts that will be appreciated and I rarely give something that someone could buy on their own unless I know it’s something they want but wouldn’t splurge on for themselves.

A Constant In Our Relationship

One of the unexpected gifts of my life has been my time with John, a good bit of which has been spent walking. I know that may sound awful to those who don’t enjoy walks in the country or along the sea, but even when the trails have been tough, I’ve loved the experience and sharing it with him.

Long walks and mountain climbing have always been a part of his life, along with periods of dinghy building and sailing when living near the sea. While I’ve been an outdoorsy sort and have done a good bit of running over the years, I’d never considered doing something like our 105 mile hike through the Alps in 2008 or thought that my everyday life might include the coast path walks we do regularly in Cornwall.

We’re just a four months shy of the fifth anniversary of our first face to face meeting and I have thousands of photographs of John. I have always taken more photos than he necessarily liked, ten images where two would have been welcomed and I can often be heard saying, ‘Just one more shot, please?’  

It was one of my photographs that inspired my birthday gift to John. I took it during one of our coast path walks in Cornwall and it reflects his spirit in a near perfect way. Looking rugged and windblown, I can almost smell the sea behind him and I am reminded of the times I’ve tasted a faint bit salt on his lips when we’ve stopped on the path for a kiss.

My friend, Lauren Finley turned the photograph into the more lasting gift you see above. She is an accomplished artist who does lovely things with watercolor and I never considered anyone else once I decided to give John a portrait of himself for his birthday.

(A Side View To See What It’s Painted On)

Lauren and met for coffee last summer while I was in Atlanta to discuss the photo I’d chosen and when I returned to England a few weeks later, I brought the painting back with me. John never saw it until the day of his party and was very pleased with what he thought was a more handsome version of himself.

My Birthday Surprise – A Dream Of Things To Come

Some of you know the story of how I woke up dreaming of John on my birthday, in September of 2007, a few months before we met online. 

You read that right, I said before we met!

I’ve had some other dreams and waking experiences that were unusual, but even I thought it was strange to dream of having such an overwhelming feeling of love for a man who I identified in the dream as my husband even though I’d never met him and had no idea why I would dream such a thing.

It was very powerful and stayed with me for a few days, but as it didn’t fit the life I was leading in Atlanta and made no sense, I forgot about it until five months later when I made a trip to Cornwall to meet John.

We were out on the coast path and I was walking behind him pausing as I do to snap a photo and I looked up as he crested the hill in front of me and watched as he walked into the sun causing his body to appear mostly in shadow and backlit.

He was the lean image of the man I seen in my sleep and I was suddenly flooded with the memory of the feeling I’d experienced in my dream.

It was an ‘Ah hah’ moment of grand proportion. I got a bit teary as the awareness flooded over me, whispered a quiet thank you to the origin of the dream and hurried on to catch up. 

People often ask me how I could change my whole life as I did by following my heart to another country and the only answer that really makes sense is, how could I not? 

 

Kitchen Renovation x Three

When my husband John bought our home seven years ago, two years before meeting me, he chose it thinking he would do a bit of renovation and sell it as he had all the houses before. He enjoys remodeling homes and selling them on and has done quite a few since he finished working in television about fifteen years ago.

Built in 1997, it had spent its whole life as a rental before he saw its potential and made the local owner/builder/landlord an offer they both found acceptable. When you live in a house built by someone who still lives in the village who you see in the pub, you may find you are also surrounded by others who had a hand in the building process or who lived in the house before you. I won’t go into it now, but we’ve heard some interesting stories that could fill more than a few pages.

I’ve seen a lot of John’s before and after shots of his renovation work in earlier properties and I appreciate how he is able to see possibilities where someone else might walk away. The first three photographs will give you an idea of what the kitchen looked like when he first bought it. There was a great deal of reddish dark wood throughout the house like you see in the window of the first photo giving it a completely different look than it has now.  (All of the early photographs were taken by John)

I don’t know if this is the original kitchen from 1997, but having always been a rental before John bought it, I can’t imagine anyone investing money to leave behind. I know it’s done all the time in New York city apartments and I’ve known people who have spent $30,000 on a kitchen renovation in a place they did not actually own, but they’d lived in for twenty years or more.

While I never had to live with the linoleum tile pattern on the floor, until recently the brass switch plates that came with the house were still on the walls. I’m glad John agreed that it was time for them to go. The new lighter ones blend so much better and are easier to clean.

You can see the beginnings of the first of three big kitchen changes dating from when he bought it in 2005. Thank goodness he added more ceiling lights too. I can’t imagine working with only one or two lights in the kitchen as this one had.

Here you see the cabinets going in. John bought the cabinet doors from Ikea and built the rest of it from big sheets of furniture board because it was as he said, “less expensive than ready-made and more flexible.”  The countertops are the old ones from 1997 just before John tiled them black like you see in the photo below. He believes in reusing materials when possible.

The second kitchen redo was much smaller, taking place in 2009 when my things arrived from the US. John added more glass fronted cabinets for my china and other glassware along with another solid cabinet on the left side of the window over the sink.

The other side of the room where the table sits is shown during the first renovation in the third photo above. As you can see by the funny bit of wall sticking out in that picture and the one below it, our table placement choices were severely limited and it never felt as if the space was large enough to move comfortable in especially when family and friends joined us.

Here’s a last look before the wall came down. After John built the extension so I might have a room of my own to write, the configuration of the house changed making it unnecessary for the entry door you can see in the photo below. Before building what he jokingly refers to as the East Wing, that door opened into the master bedroom. After the addition of a hallway, my studio space, and two bathrooms, it became possible to take down the corner wall and open up the room a bit more.

The out-dated Artex ceiling went too, along with the door leading from the main hall into the East Wing hallway. Then he pulled up the small bit of dark wood that had been part of the hallway floor and took out the door you see on the right. He fixed the wall afterwards and then put a new door and partial wall in where the hallway begins. The ceiling is dark in this shot because the plaster was still drying.

Here’s how it looked yesterday when I tried to catch a bit of light on a rainy day. I could have used my blogging friend Kerstin’s property photography skills as my pictures don’t do as good a job of giving you an accurate feel for the space. Notice we still have the leather chairs along with four more in the attic. John is okay with them, but I have a different vision in mind and I’ll update you later when we make a change. That lamp in the corner needs a bit of work or replacing. John enjoys a softer evening light so we’re likely to keep something there.

This cool piece is one of two that came out of an old smithy that was attached to another much older home that John owned years before meeting me. Both were stored in the garage and I’d imagined them inside the house from the first time I saw them. Renovating the kitchen created a place for this larger one and the smaller one found a home in the living room.

The little potty was one I used as a child on overnight visits with my great-grandparents who did not have indoor plumbing. I can see a few cobwebs in the slot where it’s sitting. (Note to self: dust more!) This piece was missing a drawer and I put the potty there as a funny reminder of a time when grand houses would have a screen off to the side during dinner parties so guests might relieve themselves without straying far from the table. Given that we are fortunate to have three bathrooms, this will never be necessary if you come for dinner.

John suggested this one might look better painted the color green you see in the kitchen, but that’s not happening! I love the primitive look of it and like seeing the dings and peeling paint from its use in blacksmith’s work space.

John built the new cabinets in the photo above using old materials to create units that were more shallow than the ones there before. He replaced the laminate floors with hardwood and I found a smaller entry rug for the door in the things I brought over in 2009. We think it’s a good match. Everything had a fresh coat of paint and the cooker hood or range hood as I’d call it is one that John found online. It works so much better than the old one making me especially happy when John cooks fish.

You may notice that we have not settled on a decision for the backsplash. John likes it as it is, but we tend to be messy and I think we’ll need at least a sheet of glass or acrylic to cover the green part up to the molding he installed. He also turned an unused space into a cookie sheet storage area by hinging the small wooden strip below the oven and adding a pull.

The lights in these cabinets are actually pale blue, but they’ve turned deep purple in this photo. You can see the new countertops John installed. He did a lot of work on them to help make them less prone to staining.

See the two raised boards he made from leftover counter-top wood … this works well to keep wet products off the wood so it doesn’t stain. You must be more careful with these, but I love the look of them and have not had to work that hard to get used to working with dry ingredients in one part and wet in another.

I moved some of the art that I brought from the US. These pieces had been in other parts of the house and added one (on the left) that I bought during a trip we made to Wales. I think it all came together fairly well.

You may have noticed that the art work on the sides of the window near the sink is in the spot where cabinets used to be. We had considered open shelving there for dishes and stuff, but I’m glad we found another way. I prefer the art and like how the space feels bigger and less cluttered.

John is already on to his next project, working on plans to change to the interior stairs and the entrance to the house. He never stops.

My friend Jean commented the other day on how lucky I was after seeing pictures of some of the renovations we’ve been making and “by we, I mean John.” That little saying about what we are doing has become a bit of humorous phrasing for me, but one meant to playfully acknowledge all the effort he puts into making our home so comfortable and appealing. He does such a nice job and I do feel lucky, but it’s his gentle spirit and kind heart rather than his construction skills that make me feel fortunate to share a life and space with him.

How about you … any projects on your list this summer? Share a link if you have one or leave me a link to your favorite home remodeling blog. I’m more than a little addicted to bloggers who are known for their DIY skills.

Where Do Broken Blogs Go … Can They Find Their Way Home?

If I said I had been kidnapped by a monster to explain my lack of posting here over the last two weeks, it would not be far off from the truth. I took this photo at Eden Project over four years ago when I was in the process of relocating my life to Cornwall from the US. The monster in the background is made up of old electronic equipment, broken bits of televisions, washing machines, out-dated computers and other kinds of gadgets that can improve our lives or sometimes imprison us.

Held Hostage By My Indecision

Computer changes are at the top of the long list of distractions that have kept me from writing lately.  I’ve been getting updates from Apple for months letting me know that I needed to move to iCloud as Mobile Me was ending. Don’t worry if none of the details make sense to you, just know that over the last year I’ve known this was coming and put it off making a decision until now.

Keeping My Email

One of my chief concerns with not moving to iCloud had to do my email and I was only able to decide once I discovered I could leave it as it was and let some other significant parts of my online/connected life go. Even then, I waited until the last four days possible to do so and only after reading loads of confusing information. See what I mean about monsters and indecision.

No More iWeb

My first blog was through iWeb, which was a big part of the problem because it was affected by the discontinuation of Mobile Me and the required move to iCloud.  That blog became an archive for my earliest posts after I moved to WordPress in early 2009, a move necessitated by my lack of ability to moderate comments that were being left by a female stalker who did a variety of things to try to make my life miserable.

The early version of GOTJ no longer exists now. What you will see if you look for giftsofthejourney.com is this post as I mapped the domain name to my WordPress account knowing my iWeb version of the first GOTJ would disappear at the end of June.

I saved a copy of the first 80 or so posts and plan to move them over to this blog one post at a time, backdating them so they show up in the time period in which they were originally created. Even though it will take some work to republish them along with their comments, I think it will be worth the effort to have all of my posts since June 2008 finally in one place.

I’ve been wanting to use my domain name here without the addition of wordpress.com and hopefully this change to giftsofthejourney.com won’t create any problems for those of you who have subscribed to my blog. We’ll know after this post.

 

Waiting

It’s dark in the corners of our village church and the light sometimes struggles to find its way in especially when the days are hazy as they often are, but when it does, the contrast between the light and the darkness is so striking it can create a moment of introspective illumination … at least for me.

People don’t come here as often as they once did and while I think it very beautiful, I only feel the ghosts of self-recrimination and regret. I’m sure some housekeeping must be necessary to aid in sweeping these feelings away, but I’m not sure where to begin. The instruction manual no longer makes sense to me and the teachers who garner the most attention feel false.

I usually learn best by doing, but sometimes when I am unsure … I wait.

I tend to be fairly private about my questions of faith and thoughts on God. My experience with the Christian community in general tends to makes me think of the story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” where there are lots of extremes and a little girl who’s looking for “just right.”

Mother’s Day – Blooming Through The Bitter & The Sweet

Some celebrations are not always happy ones and Mother’s Day probably causes more angst than most for many people each year. If you’ve been reading GOTJ for long, you already know some what makes it both bitter and sweet for me.

The sweet is clearly visible in the image above. My daughter Miranda is only a few hours old in this photograph of my step-mom Cullene, holding her for the first time.

What I know best about ” mothering and being mothered ” I learned from these two precious people and it’s important for me to be sure they know it especially on days like today.

Cullene, like most mothers would tell me not to get her anything to mark this day, ” No gifts please, a card will be fine … ” and I understand exactly where that comes from especially with a child of my own, but while a card may be enough for her it isn’t enough for me.

Being so far away, I miss spending time sitting and talking with her in the chairs by the kitchen fireplace like we do when I’m there, making it more important for me to give her a little reminder of how much she means to me since I’m not close enough to show her in other ways.

A few years ago, I discovered that my favorite tree from my home in Georgia also grows here in Cornwall. Being in the southwest of England, we have just the right kind of environment Dogwood trees need to thrive and bloom.

When I first saw pictures of the jewelry my friend Leslye was making I fell in love with one piece in particular and it pleases me greatly to be able to give one of her dogwood flower necklaces to Cullene for Mother’s Day.

Leslye was the first blogging friend I met face to face as she lives in Atlanta and we’ve seen each other a few times since. Fittingly for today, her blog is a mother-daughter collaboration where she and her daughter share their photos and thoughts.

I like the idea of Cullene having a tangible reminder of what I am aware of everyday … that I am better able to bloom through the seasons of my life due in large part to her care and nurturing.

She won’t see this post until after she opens her present so I’m giving you a sneak peek at the lovely work Leslye does over at Autumn Sun Jewelry.

Autumn Sun Jewelry

Autumn Sun Jewelry

I’ve included two images so you can get a good look at the necklace before it’s boxed up by Leslye and sent, along with the bottom one so you can see it as Cullene will when she opens it.

Isn’t that the sweetest way to wrap a gift inspired by nature … I wish I could be there to see her face!