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In which I meet the Queen…

Ha!  I wish!

But, I did see her while experiencing something I’d consider quintessentially British, the Royal Ascot.  My friend Carrie and I joined in with a bus full of other ladies in large hats and fancy dresses and made the trek from Harrogate to London.  We spent several hours at the gorgeous Henley-on-Thames before getting a good night’s sleep and gearing up for the big day (incidentally, Ladies Day).  

It was such fun!  The hats were a massive highlight, in addition to the Royal Procession.  We watched each of the 6 races from a different vantage point, including the grandstand and as close to the track as we could get!  I called my dad and we picked a horse to bet on in the Gold Cup (note: we lost).  I drank (responsibly!).  I laughed and smiled and watched and listened.

And I’ll definitely go back!  

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In which I find my voice…

Clearly, this is not a typical problem for me.  I would probably (and I definitely have) talked to myself if a set of ears isn’t available.  But in this instance, I’m not referring to my talking voice.  I’m talking about my singing voice.

Yes.  That’s right.  I sing.

When I was a little girl I loved to sing.  I loved singing (loudly) in my elementary and middle school choruses.  I always sang in the school talent shows (solos or duets).  I vividly remember begging for singing lessons for Christmas and my birthdays. While I never actually thought I’d be the next Madonna, I was pretty sure I sounded exactly like her when I was singing in the shower. 

Sadly, my dreams of dancing and singing on stage with a funnel-shaped bra never panned out.  I left singing far behind when I hit high school and never looked back.

When I arrived in Harrogate last summer, my friend Anne introduced me to her choir, the Northern Songbirds.  “Do you sing?”  she said earnestly.  I hemmed and hawed, my singing days almost two decades behind me.  “No.  I don’t sing.”

But suddenly, I found myself at choir rehearsals and singing at a friend’s 40th birthday party and accompanying a massively popular Yorkshire-based band. 

And my life hasn’t been the same since.  Not only am I surrounded by these amazingly talented women with incredible personalities and these huge hearts, but I get to be one of them.  And among them, with them, I’ve found my voice. I may not always hit every note, and maybe I need to practice reading music a little bit more, but I think I bring something to our little choir and the first sopranos.  It’s phenomenal.

So, that’s all the waxing poetic.  I started this blog post with one (of many) incredible choir experiences to recount.  Before I joined the Northern Songbirds in September, I got to see them perform with Hope & Social (the aforementioned massively popular Yorkshire-based band) during Knaresborough’s feva festival.  Little did I know that that performance would be the beginning of a continuing friendship, both personal and professional, between the Songbirds and H&S, and that I would get to be a part of it.  Lucky me!

Fast-forward to yesterday, where the Yorkshire Festival, in association with the Grassington Festival, brought Hope & Social to Harrogate as part of the Tour of Infinite Possibility.  Of course, the Songbirds were thrilled to be a part of it!  We weren’t the only ones involved–dozens of others came out to sing or play an instrument with the Band Anyone Can Join.  There were roller girls and ukeleles and other choirs and workshops and drinks and laughs and mistakes and smiles and friendships and…magic.  There was magic.

Last night’s performance was amazing.  Sure, I definitely “Bop-bop-bop”-ed at the wrong point, prompting James to laugh at me.  And I *may* have been told off by Simon for chatting between songs (yes–I’m the American…and yes, I only had one pint pre-show!).  But it was incredible.  Singing.  With an amazing band.  In front of a spectacular audience.  Surrounded by my closest friends and choir-mates. 

What more is there?

Just the Opening Ceremonies for the Tour de France Grand Depart, that’s what. 

That’s right.  Hope & Social will be performing “The Big Wide,” the Yorkshire Festival’s theme song, live at the event in the Leeds Arena, and it will be broadcast to 3 million people.  And they asked us, as part of their Band Anyone Can Join, to join them.

After over twenty years, I’ve found my (singing) voice again.  And it feels pretty incredible. 

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In which we travel

We were off traveling this past weekend, and while our usual goal is to see something new and have some time to relax together as a family, this time we (well, I) had a completely different goal in mind.  

I ran a half marathon in one of our favourite cities in the world, Edinburgh.

ImageIt was an absolutely amazing and exhilarating experience, and I came right home intent on finding another race for the autumn.  

Of course, there were family adventures, too.  We hiked up Arthur’s Seat again, something the girls really enjoyed on our last trip to Scotland.  

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In addition, we took a detour on the way home, stopping at HOGWARTS (or Alnwick Castle for you Muggles).  It was such a beautiful castle and adorable town–we can’t wait to go back when we have more time to explore!

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Our next adventure is set for August…unless I can convince Marcus that we need a weekend getaway sometime sooner.  I’ll certainly try!  

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In which we run for fun!

I’ve become a bit of a running addict since I first set foot out the door just over a year ago.  My goal (to get fit and to run a 5K) was soon in the dust and I moved on to bigger and better goals.  More 5Ks, a 10K, fun runs, charity runs, and now, on next week’s agenda, my first half-marathon.  It’ll be fun (maybe?), but the run I did today can’t be topped!

I did the Color Run in the National Harbor last year and had a blast, so I decided to try Color Me Rad at nearby Harewood House in Leeds this year!  It didn’t disappoint.  Of course, I ran it about 20 minutes slower than last year…why you ask?  Because the girls joined me, and we had so much fun getting colourful on this hilly route around the grounds!

Running is awesome.  Sharing it with my girls is awesome.  Color is awesome.

life is good!

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In which I waste time…

My husband has been joking that since my iPhone broke, the house has gotten a lot cleaner.  It’s been worth at least one chuckle a day (sometimes more)…but there’s a lot of truth in what he’s saying.

It’s not just the house, either.  I’ve started the new pattern I’ve put off designing.  I’ve blogged (twice).  I’ve knit more.  I’m back into the three books I’m reading (yes, three at once).  I’ve been more present when I’m having coffee with friends, spending the evening with Marcus, having dinner with my family, and watching my kids at their after school activities.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but it’s clearly true–I’m addicted to my iPhone.  It’s instant gratification.  It’s constant connection.  It’s everything at my fingertips.  I can’t miss anything.

Don’t get me wrong–there are some things that I worry about missing.  What if the girls are sick at school or rushed to hospital with a broken arm and the school can’t reach me?  I know people weren’t reachable years ago, but now, that seems unnecessary.  For emergencies, I really do need (and want) my phone.

But do I need to worry about missing a text from a friend about a show I need to catch on telly tonight?  Or something funny a friend did?  Or what we’re all doing tonight?  So what if I miss a Facebook status update from a college friend who lives across a continent?  I don’t really need to instagram the pretty design the barista put on my coffee, do I?

There are problems with the age of constant connection.  Maybe not for everyone.  But for me.  I can’t separate it all out.  I’m all or nothing.

Or I was.

I’m glad I had this week without my iPhone.  It was revealing.  I felt like I was missing a limb.  A limb?  Without a phone?  How absurd do I sound? 

I waste time.  Some time is meant to be wasted in “worthless” pursuits–we can’t be all business, all the time.  But some time…some time is sacred.  And I don’t want to waste those precious minutes texting someone about a funny bumper sticker I saw.

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God Bless Erica!

I’ve become such an erratic, occasional blogger.  But just when I think I’ll delete my blog and be done with it, I feel so filled with words I want to share that I’m about to burst.  And so here I am.  Today’s prompt occurred because of my middle daughter Erica, who made her first Holy Communion yesterday.  There’s so much I want to say about it that I hardly know where to begin.

I felt filled with sadness as the day approached, knowing that despite my best efforts, there was going to be nothing I could do to give her a day like Samantha’s was last year.  There would be no cake pop cake meticulously fashioned by my sister and best friend Kiki.  There would be no house full of family and friends.  I wouldn’t have two dozen children running around in the back garden and laughing and playing with one another.  There wouldn’t be three generations, second and third cousins, classroom friends and neighbors.  There wouldn’t be a pile of cards and presents. 

I was so focused on what I couldn’t make the day.  I couldn’t give those things to her.  And I was devastated when she expressed those words out loud herself on the way to her retreat the day before the big day, saying, “I wish Aunt Kiki could be here for my first communion,” and turning her face to the window, teary-eyed. 

I cried to every friend I ran into for the next hour. 

So yesterday I was prepared to feel sad.  And I did…but I didn’t grieve the day I couldn’t give her like I thought I would.  Instead, I felt sad because I missed our family and friends back home.  But I didn’t have time to dwell on that.  Erica woke us up at 6, excited to go open the cards and presents we’d set out downstairs (many hadn’t arrived yet, and I’d done some extra shopping the night before).  She was giddy–it was like Christmas.  She opened a few books and a bracelet and her first watch, along with several cards and some spending money.  Then we were dressed and out the door in a flash.  Look how beautiful she was..

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And our church…I cannot say enough how special they made that day for Erica and our entire family.  Perhaps because we’re all in this together, perhaps because some of the parishioners who have been here for years and seen families come and go know just how hard it can be to celebrate these special moments without grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  Or maybe it’s just because we’ve found a truly phenomenal church family. They were so organized and giving, and coordinated a brunch afterwards to celebrate the first communicants.  It was truly amazing.

Not only that, but we did have family who sent gifts, videos, tried to call (though we didn’t catch them all!), and even new friends here in England who made time to share in this special day with us.  We can’t thank them, and all of you, enough for that. 

I didn’t have time to dwell on all the things I couldn’t give Erica on her special day.  Instead, there was so much that we were able to give her, with the help of friends and our parish. 

I feel incredibly blessed to have been able to give her this experience.  It might not have been the same as Samantha’s.  But it was still filled with love and with many, many blessings. 

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“Scattered” free on Kindle through 5 February!

I wrote a book…anyone remember?  :)

I’m trying my first promotion, and “Scattered” will be available for free for you kindle through Wednesday 5 February.  Please consider downloading, reading, and reviewing, the absolute best way to support a self-published offer.  And it’s free…so why not?

Scattered by Kelly Herdrich