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Last Sunday Dave Tomlinson’s talk at St. Luke’s was about identity which, of course, got me thinking about how all the big changes in my life recently have affected my sense of identity.

For the last twelve years, so much of my identity was wrapped up in Calvin College: my job, my various roles, and who I was to the people there. Yesterday I was on the Admissions website checking out the new photos of the Admissions Counselors (most of whom used to be my Admissions Counselors), and it was so weird not to be part of that world anymore. It’s also really strange when Calvin events are posted on Facebook, and I know lots of people who will be going to them, but I’m not one of them.

So far my primary identity here in London/the UK is “James’ wife.” That’s not a bad thing, and I’ve formed some great friendships with people who originally met me as “James’ wife.” But there’s a whole lot more to me than that. I think that one of the reasons I so treasure my friendship here with Lisa is that not only is she a fellow American negotiating London, but she first met me and James at the same time and doesn’t have a history with James that goes back further than my history with him.

My musings about identity are nothing approaching “crisis” level. I’ve always had a pretty solid sense of self. (One of the glorious things about being a “thirtysomething” is that it doesn’t even matter so much as it once did.) I’m still a wife and a daughter and a sister and a granddaughter and a friend. I’m a lover of music, film, books, good food, good wine, etc. (Culture snob?) I’m a person of faith whose faith compels her to want to make the world a better place, especially for the marginalized and underprivileged. Those are a lot of good things to be. And as our life develops in London, I’m hoping to become a lot more things: neighbor, contributing church member, co-worker, regular patron, [hopefully someday] mother… and who knows what else. I’m looking forward to finding out.


In the past couple of weeks I have often been asked how I like living in London and if I’m homesick. My usual answer has been, yes, I really like living in London and no, I’m not really homesick. For one thing, I’ve just been too busy to even think about being homesick. And besides, I’m someone who usually likes change and newness. Last night, however, one song (“Laughing” by The Winterpills) sent waves of homesickness crashing over me. I desperately missed our wonderful, beautiful, character-filled, BIG house on Auburn NE. I missed our tree-lined neighborhood. I missed the Fulton Farmer’s Market. I missed living a block away from Kirstin & Rob and lingering over a bottle of wine on their front porch. I missed being in a very familiar setting where I knew where to get a good latte and a terrific sandwich. (We really miss Marie’s!!) I missed knowing exactly where things were located in the supermarket. (Shopping at Sainsbury’s down the street takes me a loooong time.) James was appropriately sympathetic and did manage to cheer me up after a while. He also pointed out that it’s probably good and right that occasionally I really miss the good things about our life in Grand Rapids.

So far, though, life in London is pretty good. There are a few lows: not having a job is starting to get a little frustrating as it causes the days and weeks to feel a bit shapeless. Sleeping until 9:30 or 10:00 every morning has it’s nice points, but it does make the days feel awfully short too. Nevertheless, there’s a lot to like and new things to discover everyday. We’ve been doing a lot of travel around the city by bus which is a great way to get to find out where things are located that aren’t within easy walking distance and how things fit together geographically. We’ve been going to church at St. Luke’s where a number of our friends are already members, and I think it will be a really good church home for us for now. We live about ten minutes walk from our friends Matt & Clare and have seen a good bit of them already. We’ve actually been able to see quite a bit of our London and Oxford friends which has certainly eased the transition. We’ve been to some good gigs and have quite a few more on the horizon. And we’ve been to one amazing exhibit at the Hayward Gallery.

Our flat is very nearly to the condition we want it, and even though it’s less than half the size of our Grand Rapids house, it’s sufficient for the time being. We’re learning a lot about what we want and don’t want in a place when we come to buy, something we hope to do within the next 6-9 months. I definitely need a place that has a garden or balcony. Our current flat doesn’t have any space where I can be outdoors at home, and I find I feel a bit claustrophobic at times even with all the windows thrown wide open. We live near several really lovely parks, but it’s not quite the same. We also need either a three-bedroom place or a two-bedroom place with a much larger second bedroom than we currently have, especially if James continues to work from home. I also need a gas hob/range in the kitchen. Our electric one is driving me crazy, and for someone who is as into cooking as I am, it simply will not do long term. When we were looking for a flat, I told James, “I can live just about anywhere for 6-12 months.” Knowing me as he does, he didn’t quite believe me (and he was right), but we’re both learning to make do and are working to shape our living environment to our needs and preferences where we can. It helps that the location is about as ideal as it could be for now.

I’ll close this post by noting for those who have been wondering, my first Greenbelt was all I had hoped and more. The festival was blessed with absolutely perfect weather – it was warm and sunny for most of the weekend and didn’t rain at all. I met so many delightful people – many of whom I had been hearing about from James for a long time. Singing backing vocals for Sarah was just a treat. There was so much good music (if you haven’t checked out Duke Special yet, you are missing something spectacular!) and many more interesting talks than I was able to get to. Camping with Team Fury (the Belfast-Nashville gang) was a rockin’ good time made even better by Padraig’s camp stove haute cuisine. All in all, it was a really terrific weekend, and I can’t wait until Greenbelt 2008! (For now, don’t miss James’ Greenbelt photos.)