How Was Your Summer?

I go back to work tomorrow and the first thing every teacher asks every other teacher is how was your summer? To be honest, I’ve had a pretty good summer. 

As some of you may remember, the school year ended and the thought of six weeks of summer without Terry seemed pretty awful. Luckily I had made plans to visit my family and friends in Nashville for five of my six weeks of summer break as staying in the UK without him just didn’t seem right. At the end of the British school year it is obligatory that you eat as many pieces of cake and/or chocolate as your body will allow and then have one more for luck and also that you discuss any and all summer plans with your colleagues. Five weeks in Nashville – and a week in Mexico – how lucky! You must be so excited! my colleagues chirped. The colleagues that know me best knew that I wasn’t actually looking forward to any part of my summer without Terry, but I smiled and said of course. 

The trip home was long and arduous, to say the least. I left the bangle with Terry’s handwriting engraved on it at security in Heathrow while having a mild panic attack which then burst into a meltdown when I realised it was missing once I was on the plane. They let me off the plane to speak to an agent, but I couldn’t get out of the gate as I had checked in already. Panicked, I used the emergency communication system to call an operator who checked with security: no silver bracelet had been handed in. Tens of passengers eyed the sobbing American woman screaming at the wall cautiously as they boarded the aircraft and when it was time to depart an airline employee asked me to get on the plane. When I attempted to explain that I didn’t want to get on the plane without my bracelet, I was literally pushed onto the plane and the door slammed behind me. In hindsight, being shoved onto a fully loaded plane as a grown-woman screaming and sobbing should have been a much more embarrassing experience, but  I was too devastated to notice or care. I took my seat and cried the entire flight to Dublin. 

When we landed, an airline employee told me that they had found the bracelet and would hold it at Heathrow where I could pick it up when I returned home. Big sigh of relief, but the trip home never really recovered from that horrific start. So I arrived in Nashville 22 hours after leaving my house in Northampton completely and utterly exhausted. 

The first few weeks at home were difficult for me. My family was amazing and surrounded me with love but I just wanted to be with Terry. Everything felt wrong without him. I had hated landing in Nashville and not being able to text him that I had made it in ok, so I checked in with my support group, who understood. 6 days after I landed in Nashville I was forced to turn 30, which I had no interest in doing as Terry died when he was 30. I was entering a new decade that Terry will never know me in, which reduced me to tears at the simple thought of it. My family tried their best and made plans for me on my birthday, forcing me out of bed and I survived the day, but I hated it. I’ve been referring to myself as 29 still as I don’t think my head will allow me to believe that that horrid day actually happened. 

Two weeks after flying home I flew to Cancun, Mexico to meet up with my two best friends from the Peace Corps and we were in the same country together and able to catch up face to face for the first time in six years. This trip was amazing. My friends stayed for 4 days and I booked an extra two alone at the resort, which proved to be much needed time for myself. I spent an entire day writing to Terry on the beach and felt a deep sense of peace afterwards which I believe enabled me to return to Nashville for the second time in a much better place than I had been three short weeks earlier. I began to phone old friends and ask them to hang out, I accepted more people’s offers to spend time together and as my vacation was drawing to a close I was able to enjoy every last blizzard second with each and every member of my family. 

I was sad when my five weeks at home ended and nervous about how it would feel to fly into London for the first time since Terry died. Terry wouldn’t be there to meet me, nor would he be at home waiting for me with a cheeky smile. I wouldn’t even be going home to our house in Bicester. I asked a friend from work to meet me at the airport and although I was a bit tense landing at Heathrow I knew I had made the right decision when there was a smiling, friendly face waiting for me. It made all the difference and somehow I feel I should have brought her more American chocolate than I did to even begin to repay her. Not only did she drive all the way to Heathrow to pick me up, this superstar walked from one end of Heathrow to the other (quite literally) as we were sent from one desk to another looking for my bracelet. In the end, having literally followed the supervisor around until he agreed to talk to us, it was found in the airline safe that some idiot had refused to even look in 30 minutes earlier because there was ‘no way it could have ended up there.’ 

I am now writing about these adventures from the comfort of my own bed (there’s something truly wonderful about sleeping in your own bed after coming home from vacation, isn’t there?) and wearing my beloved bracelet that I missed for five long weeks. Today is my very last day of summer before the new school year begins and I can honestly say that it’ been a good one, even if it wasn’t the one I wanted. When the summer began I had prepared for a horrid, miserable summer and I’m pleasantly surprised that it turned out any other way. 

Tomorrow I can make myself a cup of coffee and honestly say really good, thanks, how was your summer? to my colleagues and be telling the truth, 

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Star Letter

 I don’t know how to say this – oh wait, yes I do – I’m kind of a big deal. Yes, I survived my summer vacation in the States (to be blogged about once I’ve recovered from jetlag. Unless, of course, I forget).

Before I left for the States, I picked up the August issue of Women’s Running UK secretly hoping that there would be something in there about a crazy lady who had signed up for a half-marathon while out of shape and had successfully trained for it in 14 short weeks and created a training plan for me to do the same. No luck there, but there was an amazing article about a woman who had been born with a heart condition and had struggled with any form of exercise for her entire life. When her health took a turn for the worse in her early 30s she was placed on the heart transplant list and eventually received a donor heart. After healing from the surgery, this woman had begun to jog and then run for the first time in her entire life thanks to this new heart and had successfully completed her first race. As y’all know, Terry’s beautiful heart was successfully donated to a woman in her 30s and I found myself shaking as I read this woman’s article thinking ‘this woman has my husband’s heart.’ She doesn’t, come to find out, as her heart was donated while Terry was still alive, but someone like her has his heart. I wept as I thought for the first time about the recipients of each of Terry’s organs and the ways that their lives may have been changed by Terry’s gift. Weeping, I wrote an email to the magazine thanking them for sharing such a beautiful story. Then I hopped on a plane to visit my family for five weeks. 

When I arrived home on Friday there was a lot of mail waiting for me. After sleeping for 14 straight hours, I began to open some of it, including the first issue of my new Women’s Running UK subscription. I was shocked to open to the letters to the editor page and find this:

My letter, that I had completely forgotten about writing at this point, had not only been published in the October issue but had been made star letter! As if that wasn’t awesome enough, check out what the star letter wins:

  

That’s right, I won a new pair of shorts and got published in a magazine. How’s that for a welcome home gift? When I went to the grocery store later that day I checked just to make sure that my letter appeared in all of the copies, and sure enough it does!

I had some concerns about returning to the UK for the first time without Terry (I’ll be honest, this was the source of a lot of tears and anxiety ever since my ticket was booked) but I can safely say that coming home has been easier than anticipated. I’ve REALLY enjoyed running in the cooler temperatures that England has to offer (how does anyone survive running in the American South? This is a mystery to me), have enjoyed cuddling with Ninja as much as he’ll allow, then try to get in one more cuddle and get Ninja-smacked, caught up on television (Educating Cardiff!!!) unpacked, signed up for some Pilates classes through the local council and am now blissfully ignoring the fact that school starts on Tuesday and I haven’t done a thing to prepare. 

If I’m struggling for lesson plans, I could always bring in copies of my Star Letter and have the students discuss what makes it such a great letter. In Spanish.