Everyday in Atlanta G-A

Andy, Amy and Ainsley in Atlanta

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Location: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

We love our little girl and now have another one coming soon! Stay tuned...


Road Trip

Our friends Andy and Abbi were getting married down in England on August 5th so we decided to make a little extended trip out of it and left the 3rd to drive down that way. Since Michael and Julia moved back to the states we've had their car to use (which has totally spoiled us). They sold it to a couple who will be getting it from us at the end of September. So until then we're driving it all over the place.

First, we drove down to York but stopped in several towns along the way, one of which was Durham. We saw the Durham Cathedral and walked around the university. The cathedral was so big that we couldn't get it all into one picture very well. We went over and walked around the castle then down into town. After having a bite to eat we headed out towards York. Once we got to York we drove to our bed and breakfast to check in then quickly headed out to walk around the town. York was the most amazing place. First of all, it is an ancient city and the ancient city walls still surround the city (which you can walk on as the old city guards would have). We walked all the way around the city on the walls which was very cool to us. We couldn't believe that what we were walking on was ancient! The picture of Andy alone is when we were on the city wall by a guard tower. Also, the York Minster is there. Now that was a sight to see. York Minster is a huge cathedral that towers over the city and was built beginning in 1087 (that's right, almost 1000 years ago!). We took the guided tour of York Minster and learned about all the history and age of the buildings. We thought it was quite funny when we got to one of the rooms in the Minster and the guide started off by saying, "nothing in this room is old......there was a fire and it had to be reconstructed......in the 1800s". Now, the 1800s have always been considered old to us. Although since we get to see things from the 900s, 1000s, 1100s, etc. our perspectives have changed on what old is. Most of the stained glass in the Minster is original and we thought it was interesting that in order to save the original stained glass from being destroyed back during World War II they removed it all piece by piece and buried it underground. It was later put back into the window frames (Which was quite a task considering only one of the windows is the size of a tennis court). Directly across from York Minster is the church where Guy Fawkes was baptized. Guy Fawkes was the man who was killed back in the 1500s for almost blowing up parliament because Catholics (which he was) were being persecuted and the King had betrayed them (V for Vendetta...anyone?). Another fact for you...November 4th is Guy Fawkes or Bonfire night here (people make bonfires down at the beach and set off fireworks to remember that Guy Fawkes did not succeed. Some celebrate that we should always hold government to account). That night after we had been walking around for a few hours we decided to get something to eat but nothing we found was serving food anymore (this was about 9pm). We both started to get grumpy until we finally found an Italian restaurant where we filled ourselves up. The next morning after breakfast we walked around town some more just so we could take some more pictures and get a better look at everything. The town, as you can imagine, is simply filled with beauty and history. By the way, York is the town where Constantine the Great's British coronation was held. They just celebrated the 1700th anniversary.

On our way out of York we saw a sign for an ancient church so we stopped to check it out. Part of the building was from 95o! Amazing...we love history! As we drove over to Austwick (that's the village the wedding was in which is in the Yorkshire Dales National Park) we stopped in a couple towns to see castles or anything that looked like it might be interesting. Once we got to Austwick we checked into our B&B then walked around the village. It really is a proper village, so quaint. The amount of stone fences in that area is unbelievable. It's so pretty. The picture of me alone is where I'm sitting on a stone bridge in the middle of the farmland. It was really peaceful there. That night we drove to Settle which is the neighboring town (6 miles away) for dinner. The menu said that they sold "milkshakes with real ice cream" which is a big deal because they don't sell proper American milkshakes over here. They're usually milk that's flavored and literally shaken. So we ordered a strawberry milkshake and it came out as strawberry flavored milk with 2 scoops of ice cream in it. We got a good laugh out of that...all hopes of a good milkshake shattered. On the way to Settle you have to drive through a town called Giggleswick which we just loved because the name is so funny. The next day was the wedding and Andy did a Scripture reading in the ceremony. It was a lovely ceremony full of big hats, feathers, kilts and hymns. We were the only Americans there and once Andy opened his mouth to do the reading he had won the hearts of all in attendance. They (by they, I mean pretty much everyone) LOVED his accent, thought it was "lovely," wanted to keep hearing him talk, etc. Right after the wedding we all walked out of the church to the tune of a bagpiper and were piped down the road as we all walked to the hotel where the reception was. First we were greeted on the front lawn with Pimms and lemonade (a popular summer drink here) where we stayed for about an hour just mingling then we made our way inside for the speeches. Speeches are given first by the groom where he has to say, "my wife and I" for the first time and everyone applauds, then by the Father of the Bride where he has to thank certain people and make a sentimental toast, finally by the Best Man where he has to thank the bridesmaids and come up with a funny, heartfelt toast to the new couple. After the speeches we mingled some more until dinner was ready. After dinner we mingled some more until finally they broke out the dance floor. Then we danced into the night (and morning), then eventually made our way back to the B&B to sleep. We both danced all night but Andy really was the life of the party. There was one boy there (about 11 years old) that followed Andy around all night and did every dance move exactly as Andy did it. Now, usually it's me pulling Andy out on the dance floor but not that night! At one point he said to me, "we're the only Americans here, we've got to represent".


Moray Coast

Our friends Andy (the Scotsman) and Abbi (the Englishwoman) thought they'd take us on a little day trip up north along the Moray coast and show us a bit of Scotland. We started off by stopping at a coffee shop for coffee and scones then heading on up once our bellies were full. The Moray coast is the farthest north you can go in Scotland along the east half of the country. The coast is lined with small fishing village after small fishing village. Some of the beaches are still lined with the anti-tank blockades and gun nests from World War II (Above). We stopped in a few of the villages to take in the views and quaint village culture. There's nothing quite like sitting on the coast of one of these villages and enjoying the sights of the North Sea. As evening came upon us we decided it was time for dinner. And what else could top off the day other than dropping into a "chippy" for some fish and chips to "take away" to the beach. It was another great day seeing and learning about this country we call home for this time in our lives.



I get 5 weeks of holiday (that's paid vacation time) every year and come June I was wanting to use a couple days of it. So, Andy and I took the train the morning of June 8th down to Edinburgh to be tourists for a day. We started out with a cup of coffee at the Starbucks on Princes Street which is the main street in Edinburgh. We love that store because it's up a level from the street and has an amazing view of the castle. After we were perked up a little bit we walked on up to the castle and paid to get in. Actually, we decided to become members of Historic Scotland. What we do is pay an annual fee and then we can get into any of the Historic Scotland castles for free as many times as we want. Basically, once we went to three castles it had already paid for itself so it was worth it for us since we plan on seeing as many castles as we can. So, once we were members then we entered into Edinburgh castle and took a guided tour. That is a big castle and it's so beautiful. Of course, we haven't seen a castle yet that we thought was ugly. Even so, it is a beautiful place. After our time at the castle we walked down the Royal Mile then over to a big park where we sat for a bit before heading to find somewhere for lunch. After lunch we wandered over to Greyfriar's Bobby's churchyard to see the grave of Greyfriar's Bobby. After that is when we began to feel real touristy because we paid for a "hop on hop off" pass for a sightseeing guided tour bus. It was great and we learned a lot about the city that we'll gladly share with anyone who comes over to visit us (hint hint). We took the train back to Aberdeen that night.

I had a few days off after that so we just hung around town until the 12th of June when we borrowed a car and drove up into the Highlands and to Inverness. On the way up we stopped in Huntly to see the castle there and in Elgin to see the Elgin Cathedral (those are both part of Historic Scotland). Elgin Cathedral is the picture below. They were very beautiful (I think you'll find that I use beautiful to describe a lot of things over here...until I think of another word that is equally descriptive then it'll just have to do) :) If you look close at the picture above (that's Huntly castle) you'll see me standing and waving in the doorway. That should give you a better idea of how big it is. When we got up north we drove straight to Urquhart Castle (both pictures at the bottom left and right are of Urquhart Castle) which is right on Loch Ness. We tried to spot Nessie from the top of the castle but had no such luck. The monster is still out there apparently. We loved Urquhart Castle. It is, you guessed it, beautiful! After our day in Inverness we found a pub to eat dinner in and watch the USA v. Czech Republic World Cup match. USA was losing so terribly that we ended up leaving early to start driving back to Aberdeen. Oh well, it was a fun experience anyway!


Divinity Ball and Ceilidh

I forgot to mention that in between Andy's birthday and the time that we went home in April we attended the Divinity Ball. Every year the different schools at the University have a formal ball. You buy tickets because dinner and drinks are a part of the night. So, we dressed up and went with our friends Michael and Julia and Brian and Stephanie to the ball. After dinner some of the students give speeches which are quite creative and funny then there's a Ceilidh (pronounced Kayley) band that comes and sets up to start playing. A Ceilidh is a traditional Scottish folk dance and it is so much fun! We didn't get any action pictures but we did get a couple taken with our friends. During the middle of the night you can see that I took off my heels and danced the night away barefoot. We loved it.

Home Sweet Home

On April 6th we flew back to Indiana to visit family and friends. The first weekend we were there was our friends Jon and Amy McLaughlin's wedding. Andy helped perform part of the ceremony so we got to be at the rehearsal, dinner and of course the day of the wedding. It was great to be with such good friends but boy were we jet lagged! When we got back to Jack and Rebecca's (that's Andy's dad and stepmom) after the wedding we were quick to go to sleep. In total we were in Indiana for about 12 days which went by way too fast but was great fun because we got to spend every moment with friends and family. From Indy we flew to Seattle and were there about 5 days. We managed to drive up to Bellingham, down to see my Grandpa, back to Seattle then back north to my Aunt Nancy and Uncle John's for a family get together. My mom and dad were able to fly out from California to see us while we were there so it was a fun time. Those 5 days were busy and flew by way too fast as well. We miss our friends and family back home so we look forward to the next time we get to visit.


Surprise Andy!

On March 9th Andy turned 33. I thought it would be fun to throw him a little birthday party. Julia and I planned it and invited a few friends. I had to work all day so Julia kindly made the cake and bought the pizza for the evening. Andy and I went (I say went because they've since moved back to Seattle to look for a new job...which we are still sad about) to Michael and Julia's a few times a week so it was no surprise when they invited us over for dinner to celebrate Andy's birthday. What was a surprise though was when we walked through the door and there were six more people there than Andy expected blowing on their party horns and saying "surprise!". We had a fun night and Andy was very surprised (couldn't believe I kept it a secret).

"Look kids...Big Ben, Parliament"

On March 4th we flew to London with our friends Michael and Julia and their daughter Naomi for a few days of sightseeing. Michael had an interview scheduled in Cambridge on the 6th so we thought we'd all make a little trip out of it. Boy were we busy! We did pretty much every touristy thing you could do while walking through London in a day and a half. We saw Buckingham Palace (the Queen wasn't there or else I'm sure she would've invited us in for tea), Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, Tate Modern Museum, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Milennium Bridge, 10 Downing Street (that's where Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, lives in case you didn't know...it was highly guarded so we didn't bother him but I'm sure he would have been happy to have us in for tea as well), Trafalgar Square, St. Paul's Cathedral (where Prince Charles and Princess Diana were married in 1980), Kensington Palace, Shakespeare's Globe Theater and probably loads more that I'm forgetting. We absolutely loved London and plan on spending more than a day there another time so we can take it all in a bit better. After our time in London we took the train to Cambridge so Michael could have his interview. While he was interviewing Andy and I walked to all the different colleges that make up Cambridge University to look at them. Some of them had an entrance fee so we just took pictures of the outside of those. The ones that were free to see were so beautiful we didn't care about not being able to see all of them. The history there was great, some buildings dated back to the 1100s! The pictures above are Tower Bridge, Big Ben and Parliament and Buckingham Palace. The bottom two are St. John's College and Christ College at Cambridge University.


After Christmas comes Hogmanay

New Year's Eve here is called Hogmanay and it's quite a party. They close down the main street in Aberdeen and set up a huge stage so they can have live music all night. The street is packed with people but we managed to push our way through to the front so we could be right by the stage. We were with our friend Andy who's from here so he led the way. There were a few bands but the headliner was The Proclaimers ("I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more...") so it was a fun place to be for the New Year's celebration. Pretty much everything is closed down on New Year's Day so we did some much needed sleeping in after our late night out. It was lots of fun though and we saw lots of men in kilts wandering the streets for Hogmanay!

About a week after the new year I flew to California to be a Matron of Honor in one of my best friend's wedding while Andy went to Oxford, England for an academic conference. I had a great time and not only got to be at my friend's wedding but got to see my parents, brother, sister-in-law, niece and other great friends from college as well. Andy raves about Oxford and hopes to take me there one day because it is such a beautiful place. He got to see the pub (The Eagle and Child, in the picture) where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien met every night and at the conference met and had dinner with one of his favorite theologians, Stanley Hauerwas. I'd say, although it would have been nice to be together, we both loved our time where we were for that week in January. Below are just a couple of the pictures Andy took while he was in Oxford. The first picture is of the college the conference was at, the second is of the Divinity library and the third is the entrance to Christ College. He said that every building was so beautiful that he could have taken a picture of everything.

St. Andrews, Scotland

During the month of December we had use of our friends Michael and Julia's car. They were away in the states and put me on their insurance so I could drive. One day we decided to drive down to St. Andrews which is about an hour and a half south of here. In case you don't know already, St. Andrews is the home of golf. So, we had to go see the Old Course where golf was invented and where Jack Nicklaus bid farewell to the British Open just a few months prior (the bridge in the picture is the one he was standing on when he waved to everyone...it's leading to the green on the 18th hole). Not to mention all the other sites in that town. We walked along the Old Course then up the road to the ruins of St. Andrew's castle (below) then along the cliffs to St. Andrew's Cathedral. After that we ventured through town to get some coffee at Starbucks then over to St. Andrew's University which is where Prince William went to college. That town is beautiful and it's got a bit of a village feel which we loved.

Found a church

Once we'd been here a couple of weeks we decided to start looking for a church to attend. It took us a few months and about 20 different churches before we found what we consider to be our church home now. We felt very welcomed at all the churches we attended and even still get together from time to time with a couple people from one church that we went to a few times. In fact, we spent Thanksgiving with one American family from the church around the corner from where we live and Christmas with a Scottish family from the same church. Although we missed our families during those holidays it was nice to be invited somewhere to spend time with people. The church we go to now is the Anglican Cathedral (Scottish Episcopal Church). Andy's Ph.D. advisor and his wife and kids go there which is nice because we look forward to seeing them every Sunday. Lately we've been going to lunch or to the beach with them afterwards so that's been fun. Especially because I love their kids and can't get enough hugs and kisses from them. Andy has gotten to know the Provost (Priest) at the Cathedral pretty well and will actually be starting to preach every once in a while. His first time preaching will be September 17th so we're excited about that. For any of you who have heard Andy preach before, you know how passionate he is and how excited he can get during his sermons. Well, this is a much more subdued setting, if you know what I mean, so I'm really looking forward to seeing how he adapts when it comes to the delivery of his sermon. I'm sure he'll be great like always but I'll let you know how it goes. He is also working on starting a street ministry here through the church. So far he's done research on some churches and organizations in Aberdeen that deal with the homeless population, talked with our church about some possibilities, met some of the guys on the street and met with a woman in town who wrote a book about homelessness in Aberdeen. All to get a better feel for how things in the UK are similar or different to homelessness in the US. So he's well on his way to getting a ministry started. A little bit at a time I guess. The picture above is of the Cathedral we go to.


From the beginning...

October 1st, 2005 we stepped off the train in Aberdeen Scotland and rolled our suitcases on down the cobblestones to 65 Roslin Place where we were meeting Ivan the landlord. When we finally got there he let us into what we thought was going to be our flat for possibly the next 3 years. Then we did one turn around in the place and were glad that we hadn't actually signed a lease yet. "Sorry Ivan but it's just not what we expected and we'll be finding a new place to live..." are the words Andy told him over the phone when I made him call to break the news to the sweet man. That was just the beginning of our journey here.

Everyday for 2 weeks we looked for a new flat which was proving to be very difficult until we finally found a solicitor (that's what they call real estate agents over here) that had a flat we loved and was actually helpful. You see, customer service isn't always a strong point over here so we were very happy to find someone who wanted to help us. We needed all the help we could get too! Since we didn't have a bank account we couldn't get an address but we couldn't get a bank account without an address so it was a vicious cycle. Finally it worked out to get a flat because the landlord was willing to waive our credit check (they couldn't do a credit check on us since we had just moved here so the only way we could get a place to live was if they waived it for us). Never mind that we had to pay 6 months rent up front so that they would trust us! So, after we moved in Andy tried to set up our phone service (from the pay phone booth out on the street) and they said the next appointment was in 2 months. So, that pay phone and the one in the local grocery store became known as our offices until just before Christmas when we could finally make a call in the comfort and warmth of our own home. The story goes on and on but you probably get the picture by now. Everything seems to take longer in Scotland. Here are a few pictures of where we live now. We love it! Note there's no dishwasher in the kitchen(that's Andy these days) but a washing machine instead. Yes, that is a normal kitchen appliance over here.

After getting our flat settled Andy was ready to begin researching and writing for his Ph.D in Practical Theology and Ethics at the University of Aberdeen. He began by meeting with his supervisor, Dr. Brian Brock, to develop a plan and test some ideas. He then began the task of reading, reading and reading. Andy knew it would be tough but the amount of work, thinking and knowledge to be gained can sometimes seem overwhelming. He has now found a routine and the work is flowing smoothly . . . usually. Some of the greatest parts about studying at Aberdeen are the aesthetics and sense of history. It's not everyday (although it is now) that you get to study at an ancient university - 1495!

Of course while Andy is here studying I've got to do something and what's better to do than pay the bills! Thankfully I was able to transfer from the Starbucks I was working at in Indiana to a Starbucks here in Aberdeen. There are only two stores in town so I started out working as a supervisor at the one in St. Nicholas Centre shopping mall which is about a 12 minute walk. I worked there for about 9 months and recently moved to the store on Union Street (which is a stand alone store) because I became their new Assistant Manager. It takes me about 10 minutes longer to walk to work but that's okay. I'm really enjoying my new store. It's bigger and just got refurbished so it's really nice as well.

Explanation of our intended use of this site

We moved to Aberdeen in October 2005 so Andy could start his Ph.D. in Practical Theology and Ethics at the University of Aberdeen. It's been almost a year already since we moved here. I can't believe how fast the time goes. Although, having said that, sometimes it feels like we've been here forever because we miss our friends and family from home so much. When we first got here we thought we'd do the occasional mass email to everyone at home to update you all on our lives over here. That worked about 2 times I think. Then we waited so long in between emails that we forgot what we'd already told you and what was actually new. So, we thought this might be a better thing to try. We'll post things from time to time with pictures (perhaps) to let you know what we're up to and you can just check it when you feel like seeing how we're doing. So... the first bit of posts will be to catch you up on the last 10 months and then we'll keep it up to date after that. If you click directly on a picture it will enlarge so you can have a better look at it. Sound good? Here it goes...