Storm time. There’s a heavy mist settling in by the minute tonight, edging in alongside the cold air and the remnants of snow. England is all rain, but its also all vapours, clouds, and fog. Its two weeks home from our holiday now and anyone without thousands of miles of travel experience would think we should be well and done with the jet lag. But anyone else who has ever travelled with four children across eight time zones knows the struggle is real. So two weeks away from our point of arrival and I hope this upcoming week I can return to activities as usual and get on with things. Mostly that means I hope to start running again.
My running is careful. I make sure not to run too much so that I get too tired. I also rest sufficiently during the day if I feel over tired and do not run when I am sick or when the children are up in the night. Its all about balance for me- and moderation. When I was in high school, I was a cross country runner. It was in the days before running had quite caught on in the main stream. So I tried to learn and train on my own a bunch. And I was making good progress.
I hit the ground running
My senior year of high school I started running on the varsity team. I was so proud of being one of the top five runners on our team. I remember the cool crispness of the 18th September well that year. The cold air had the taste of leaves and running on it, and I wore the new team uniform for the first time (the last team uniforms were bought something in the seventies??). We drove to Murray Park for an invitational event. My cousin was running for his high school as well. The written promise of good things to come scrawled everywhere.
I began well and ran with the elation of a body enjoying the results from hard work. Up and down, through the park in a race three miles total, the terrain was varied and so was the elevation. As I ran down one hill side, my head started to fill with cotton. Heaviness spread through my upper body as I ran by a cold stream. And I began to pray that I would not pass out. All the while I pumped my running legs forward, thinking that perhaps I could outrun the flood of confusion in my body.
We rounded a corner and headed on to the blacktop asphalt, coming up on my coaches. And then I fainted.
Days, weeks, months and years passed since that pivotal autumn morning. I was wheelchair bound for a time, visiting the cardiologist with the octogenarians and threatened with a pacemaker. Then I walked again in graduation. After that I learned to govern the fainting disorder, instead of letting it govern me. And in the last two years, I am running again. One of the things that I am good at is getting back up after a fall. The other is pacing myself. I have no idea how many times I fainted over the last 17 years. But this much I do know- its left me with an insatiable desire to go and see and try new things.
Life is short. Do what matters most.
Which is a really long way of saying we did not do much this week. Oh, I guess I did post some cards, letters, and an air pump. The children slogged through their first full week of school. But I was still not sleeping well at night. Too many ideas swirled in my head so I started writing them down in a notebook by my bedside. I also planned project after project. We need bookcases and we love watching the Fixer Upper Season 1 DVD we brought home with us. So my ideas are pretty cool.
I also sanded our wood we brought home for the toilet paper roll holders. Yes, we bought toilet paper roll holders in the US and carefully packed them home with us. We even let Madi and Amia wrap the toilet paper roll holders in Christmas wrapping paper like presents. We have not found the practical double sided roll holders here in England that we prefer. In addition, the kids won’t leave the toilet roll on the current holders, or leave the roll holder attached to the wall. So we are making do. But the walls are plaster and we are renters, so we are making do by mounting them to some wood plaques we found at Hobby Lobby (before we ran out feeling overwhelmed by choices).
I will paint the wood white with 1-shot paint so it is very washable and durable. Then hopefully the command strip adhesives will do their job and hold the toilet roll holders safely to the walls. Fingers crossed.
Life is also about choices.
By mid-week, I had detailed plans in my head to build bookshelves down the middle of the lounge and in either nook on one end. Thank you insomnia. This would give us a most coveted family library room as well as a more logically shaped lounge. At some point of the remodel in our ex Council house, the wall between the two rooms was removed. The result is a rather long narrow space that really wants to be two small spaces. I also wanted Subway tile in the kitchen and a wood frame around my counter peninsula. That way I could put stools up to it without the kids destroying the wall with their feet. Because in England the walls are plaster and the paint wipes off the wall. I imagined arches built into it, like one of Joanna Gaines’ perfect islands. Dream big.
Then the forecast looked dark and stormy.
Also around mid week, we received news that an actual snow storm was headed for England! We know this is a big deal for England and tends to shut things down. And there’s a run on food at the Co-op. And the schools close. You can imagine the picture. My only guess, coming from snow country myself and comfortable driving in snow, was that the roundabouts made it difficult for people to safely make turns. I resisted the urge to panic and buy all the foods. But I did have Tom stock up on wood for the fireplace. You know, just in case.
There were also threats of a severe storm urge combining with a high tide along the North Norfolk coast. Thousands of homes were evacuated. We all waited to see how the storm would break.
And another storm threatened.
As I was reading articles on Brexit, I happened upon an article that the effort to tax companies for employing EU citizens was being squashed even though there was already a levy of £1000 a year for non-EU employees. And I was like what? So I did the reasonable thing and forwarded the article to Tom. And he was equally stunned. He did some research and discovered that on his birthday last year, England quietly passed a law requiring its companies to pay a £1000 fee each year for each non-EU skilled employee. And it comes into play this April. Its called the Immigration Skills Charge and the purpose is to incentivise the training of British workers. In other words, its designed to drive skilled workers out and keep them out. Ouch, England.
This. was. disturbing. Would Tom’s employer baulk over the new fees, considering all the other fees and regulations they’ve already had to follow just to get us here? Would this new law send us packing before all of Brexit even fully unfolded? And why consider bespoke rental bookcases, family library, or kitchen peninsula board. Once again our temporary, tenuous situation shoved its way in our faces.
The storm breaks- and we are alright.
Tom told his employer and the HR about the new law and they were not even aware of it. HR didn’t even believe him- at first. But he also has reassurances from his boss that they are willing to pay the new levy to keep him here- for now. The plans in the works for the future kind of nullify any shelf building that’s semi-permanent. But have no fear! I already dreamed up some new shelves that I will be building with a little bit of an Ikea hack. After the next paycheck. Which comes once a month.
And it snowed in Norfolk Friday morning. Tom stayed home in the morning so we could have a date together. And after the school run we took a walk down a farm lane just before the snow became serious. One thing I like about Tom is that he puts up with me taking loads of photos. The other thing I like about him is just him- I could take long walks with him forever. Next time he’s remembering his wellies, though.
Then we cleaned up.
Saturday we gathered the kids together and assigned them chores. One thing that I feel we’ve fallen behind being in limbo as expats is teaching our kids to work hard. So I found this really helpful app called the Allowances and Chores Bot to help me keep track of the chores and money. I love that we could add in the kids’ money they received from family for Christmas and birthdays. There’s no way I can remember that in my head! I also love that I could write a personalised description of each chore- our favourite is the bedtime chore of getting on pyjamas. I programmed Maxwell’s to say at the end “Go the Heck to Sleep!” We all laughed at that one.
We spent the whole day digging out the kids’ bedrooms and restructuring our laundry system. The whole day was a chore! At the end of it, though, we went to bed with the house clean and a feeling of being (mostly) prepared for the Sabbath.
And we face a new week
We made it to church on time again, and this week we met our three new missionaries! Sister Spear is from Ireland, Elder Skinner is from Idaho, and Elder Sueta is from the Philippines. After church Amia met with the Bishop for her first interview and received her first temple recommend! She was amazed to see that her recommend came printed off a computer now! After church we enjoyed a google chat with Omi and Opa before feeding four missionaries some dinner and putting tired children to bed.
We hope you are all well and ready to face whatever storm may swing your way this week. We love you all dearly and think of you daily. Keep laughing and look with wonder at the world no matter the weather.
Amy and the intrepid storm loving Harpers
P.S. Many thanks to Chris Taylor for his amazing footage of the storm surge and his permission to embed the video here for non-commercial purposes.