So long, 2012!

2010.09.20.sometimesIf I am honest, I would have to say that 2012 has been a pretty unhappy year. I think it’s been even worse because I had such high hopes for it; I suppose that hoping for happiness only served to set me up for greater disappointments. And it really has been a disappointing year on so many levels.

But despite the disappointments I faced, there were good things, too. And those are the memories I will try to take away from 2012. So, here are a few of the year’s high notes:

I also have to give special acknowledgement to a group of women who became my virtual ears when I was really struggle a couple of months ago. And further acknowledgement to two amazing friends who’ve been working to bring Just Frances back up to speed so that we can scrap this temporary blog and move full-speed ahead into a bright 2013.

So, goodbye 2012. I will remember the good times. And for you, 2013, I hope you bring me the joy I so desperately want and need!

(Want more year-end reviews: Here’s 2010 and 2011!)

The master

The day you’ve all been waiting for has arrived! Today is the day that I completed one of my life goals. Yes, today is the day that I graduated—with distinction!—from the University of Stirling with a Master of Letters in Media and Culture.

It’s been a long journey with lots of twists and turns, and I am now officially ‘a master’. (You don’t have to bow, but you may if you’d like.)

I admit that I was sad because I couldn’t share the day with Paul, but I could feel his presence with me throughout the celebrations. And I know that he’s still in the wings supporting me and cheering me on as I consider continuing on to a PhD.

But despite having that little bit of sadness with me, I have been filled with giddy excitement all day long. From the moment I put on my gown to the moment I left the pub after celebrating with my friends, it’s been a day of joy and laughter.

So that’s it. I’m a master now. And that means that I need to find a new goal to focus on. I guess I should get busy with that …

Thanksgiving expertise

Today is Thanksgiving and, once again, I have so much to be thankful for. Of course, it’s always a little awkward being overseas on the holiday, since it’s not only not celebrated here, but it’s also not understood. So when my good friend, a primary school teacher, invited me into her classroom to talk with a group of 30+ eight year olds on the topic, I didn’t hesitate to say yes!

And so, I did what most Americans do for Thanksgiving, and took the day off from work. (And I’m taking tomorrow off for graduation, too!)

When I got to the classroom, I was introduced to the children as Mrs Ryan, and was soon swarmed with children wanting to tell me that they’ve been to America or that they know people who’ve been to America. So it was easy to see that I would have a fairly interested audience.

Anyhow, the day was spent reading the children a book about the first Thanksgiving and explaining to them who the Pilgrims were. Then we talked about the feast and how similar it is to a Christmas dinner. And then we talked about the important part of the holiday: Being thankful.

Soon, the children were back at their desks busily writing down a few sentences about what they were most thankful for.

As I watched them write, I knew that I was thankful for being there. I was thankful that I was able to share one of my favourite holidays with a group of eager children.

Of course, later I was thankful for my sister-in-law, Liz, and brother-in-law, John, who had travelled up from England to celebrate my graduation tomorrow. And for our Thanksgiving feast? A nice Indian curry at one of my favourite places in Stirling.

Yes, I have much to be thankful for.

(Want my Thankful stories from past years? Here are links for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2010 again, and 2011!)

New leaves

Graduation is on Friday and I’m really dreading looking forward to it.

Oops, did you catch that error?

Well, if I’m honest I’m not looking forward to it as much as I should. I suppose that it’s yet another reminder that Paul isn’t here to share in my joy. It’s even harder because when I think back to how I always imagined my graduation, Paul and the kids we were meant to adopt were always in the stands.

But life changes. Whether we like it or not, it changes.

So, instead of having Paul in the stands, my sister-in-law, Liz, and brother-in-law, John, are coming up from England to help me celebrate. And after the ceremony, I’ll meet some friends in the pub to celebrate some more.

Of course, all of this celebration means a new dress. Only I couldn’t find one I liked. And so I’m wearing the simple black dress that I wore for Paul’s funeral, with the hope that it will help to give the dress a happy memory.

And since I’m wearing an old dress, it’s only right that I wear a new necklace with it. And maybe it’s fitting that the one I found is a grouping of silver leaves. After all, after graduation I will be turning over a new leaf, re-starting my life as a master’s graduate.

October: The missing month

I’ve thought long and hard about how to handle the month of October for my blog. You know, since I only posted twice before the site went down for essential maintenance.

I thought about writing posts off-line, then adding them to the site when it was back up. But that would mean loads of back-reading for my (small) readership.

I thought about forgetting the month all-together. But that would mean not talking about a few things that happened that I want to include in my digital diary.

I even thought about writing one really, really long post that gave all the details of everything. But that would mean one really, really long post that no one would want to read.

So, instead, you get a bulleted list of some of the highlights from my October:

  • My Mum spent most of the month here on holiday. We toured all over the UK (with her having a week without me in England with my in-laws) and really did have an amazing time.
  • I ran the Beat Beethoven 5.5K race in Stirling with my friend, Joanne. We both beat the maestro, which was awesome, and it means that I got my October race out of the way for my 2012 Race a Month Challenge.
  • I received notification that I not only passed my dissertation with a distinction, but that I passed my entire master’s course with distinction—a rare honour and one that I will blog about separately very soon.
  • I managed to secure a two-month extension on my Tier 4 student visa, giving me a bit of breathing room whilst I sort out my Tier 2 work visa. (There is still stress around that topic.)
  • I made two major decisions about my future in Scotland: 1) I really do want to research PhD opportunities and 2) I really do want to get a car.

Lots more stuff happened throughout the month, but those are the ones that jump out at me. If I’m completely honest, most of the month was spent in tears though. It was a very stressful month that saw me fearing for my future because of visa issues and concern over how I did on my dissertation. I’m sure that the visa stresses will return with vigour, but at least I’ve learned that I’m a smart cookie.

But for now, here’s October in a nut shell. And as I’m nearly half-way through November, I’ll just concentrate on keeping up with that!

Boxes from home

I’ve written in the past about foods I miss from the Homeland, and I’ve shared tales of the amazing boxes I’ve received from family and friends back home. And, well, it’s time to tell those tales again! Only this time, the boxes have really stacked up! But I want to make sure that I’m sharing the joy because I want to make sure that everyone knows how very much I appreciate their kindness.

First up is a box from my baby sister, Royann. It’s not the first one she’s sent, and my guess is that it won’t be the last. I know that she doesn’t have a ridiculous amount of spare cash, and that makes me appreciate her generosity that much more.

Plus, it’s kind of cool that her boys always send little notes along in the parcels!

So, from Royann I got:

Next was a box from my parents. They are great at sending parcels out every-so-often and I’m always surprised at the extra little somethings that are included. From news clippings to old cocktail sticks, there is always an extra little something to make me smile!

The folks are also really good at including goodies for my amazingly-awesome friend, Rebecca.

The latest box from them included:

And lastly, a large box from my friends, Sarah and Martin. This one is extremely special to me because these are a couple of my ‘virtual’ friends and they were very insistent about sending me goodies from home and wouldn’t take no for an answer. It just warms my heart that people I’ve never met ‘in real life’ want to do nice things for me.

Even more is that they sent way, way, way more stuff than I expected. (Well, I didn’t expect anything, let alone as much as they sent!)

What did they send? Well:

And let’s not forget a box of goodies my Uncle Fred and Aunt Becky sent (with Root Beer lollies!) and a parcel sent by my friend, Ramona, a few months back. (No photos of those, sorry.)

Yes, I am loved. And, yes, I need to get to the post office at the weekend to send some love off to others!

A favoured snack

I have been a good girl all day. I had an oat bar and grapes for breakfast; leftover chicken and potatoes for lunch; and a big, healthy Caesar salad for dinner. Yes—loads of good-for-you foods. And I even had lots and lots of water (and only one cup of coffee) throughout the day.

But I’ve gone and ruined all of that healthiness by making one of my favourite snacks (and pouring a glass of wine). Worse, I’ve had more than my fair share of the snack. (But only one glass of wine.)

The snack is Chicken in a Biskit crackers smeared with cream cheese and topped with pimento-stuffed green olives. And they are delicious!*

The recipe (if you can call it that) was first introduced to our family by my second-eldest sister, Claudia, who learned of the snack from someone she used to babysit for. I was in my early teens, but it quickly became a favourite. I mean, it helped that I already liked all three ingredients separately, so putting them together seemed like a good idea to me!

Anyhow, it’s one of those snacks that I like to have from time-to-time. Sometimes when I’m sick and just want yummy snacks, and other times it’s just because I like them. But you can’t get Chicken in a Biskit crackers in the UK. So when my baby sister, Royann, asked what she could send me, they were on the list!**

So, now I get to have one of my favourite snacks. And I suppose I need to have them every evening until I’m out of crackers now, since they’ll go stale now that the box has been opened. (Oh, life is hard some days!)

I’ve also just realised that my snack doesn’t have a name. I just call them Chicken in a Biskit crackers with cream cheese and olives. And that means that I’m going to open up the topic for discussion and ask you what you think the snack should be called!

* I used to use a whole olive on each cracker (cut in half) but now I slice the olives into 3 (1 olive = 1.5 crackers) so that I have a little bit less sodium. One day, I may need to start cutting them into 4!

** I will re-visit the topic of stuff Royann sent me soon, so stay tuned to find out how awesome she is!

(K)impossible

This is Kim. Kim Possible, to use her full name. She began her life as a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy way back in 2003 and has been serving as my office power back-up since August 2004.

You see, in August 2004 I started working in a Downtown Seattle skyscraper—on the top floor. And my then-five-year-old nephew, Adrian, was concerned about my ability to get out of the building in the event of a power failure. Anyhow, he felt that Kim would be a useful tool for me because her jetpack lights up giving off a little red glow.

So, in his five-year-old wisdom, if the power went out and it was dark, I could use Kim’s glowing jetpack to find my way to the elevators to get downstairs. You know, because the elevators would still work in his mind. Yes, he was a very sweet kid to have given me his toy. Heck, eight years later and he’s still a very sweet kid!

Anyhow, since leaving my job in the States last year, Kim has hung out on a window sill at home, watching over me as I worked on my master’s degree. But today, she made her way to her new home on the desk at my new job. I’m sure she’ll like it there!

The bestest Daddy

I didn’t have the perfect childhood. I didn’t have perfect parents. I didn’t grow up with money or material possession that caused envy of those around me. But I did have a childhood filled with love and laughter. OK, there were tears and stress, too, but even during the bad times I always felt loved; if not slightly lost and forgotten in such a large family.

But even though life wasn’t perfect growing up, I honestly believe that I had (and still have!) the bestest Daddy in the whole wide world!

Growing up, he was a wealth of knowledge. As we’d drive along the highway for some fantastic road trip, he’d point out sites along the route and tell us about this, that, or the next amazing thing we were looking at. He just knew things. And not in a know-it-all kind of way—he really knew things. His mind was (is!) a sponge.

He was perfectly happy to make a fool of himself and play with us girls. I remember one family sing-song night when he got up and sang Rock Around the Clock—complete with dance moves! I can’t hear that song without thinking of my Daddy now.

As a child, he fixed my (many) cuts and scrapes—and encouraged me to go back out and collect a few more. After all, bruises heal and kids need to play! When I was a teenager, he taught me to drive—and didn’t get mad when I turned too wide and scraped the car on the guardrail. When I was in my mid-20s and decided to go to university, he supported my decision and cheered me on.

When I got married in my early-30s, he walked me down the aisle, and soon after acted as a reference for our adoption application. A couple of years later, he held my hand and comforted me as I planned my husband’s funeral.

When I became a foster mom, he happily became a grandpa—treating my little friend just as he would have if she was blood. When I was training for my marathon, he was there showing his support by riding along on my longer runs to supply me with water. (And waking up very early to do so!)

When I decided to return to Scotland, he was there supporting me all the way. And he’s still there with words of support and encouragement—and acts as my personal assistant, opening my US-based mail and sorting my banking needs as required.

Now, I know that these are just the things that Daddies are meant to do, but he’s managed to make me feel like his favourite and most important daughter in the whole wide world—even when there are six of us. And I would venture to guess, that he’s made all of my sisters feel as if they are the favourite and most important daughter. Because my Daddy has so much love to share that he’s never had to skimp on it with any of us girls. And that is what makes my Daddy the bestest in the world.

Happy Father’s Day!

Oh yeah, and it’s my sister Claudia’s 40th birthday today. Yay for her! I hope that she has a year filled with all of the joys and blessings that she deserves!

Seven years

I started a post yesterday, but couldn’t bring myself to finish it through the tears. You see, yesterday was my 7th wedding anniversary—and the 4th one I’ve spent as a widow. And it really hurts to realise that, which means that the past couple of days have been filled with tears and sorrow.

But I couldn’t let the fact that I had a wedding anniversary go un-acknowledged, so here I am acknowledging it.

May 21, 2005 was the happiest day of my life. I never would have imagined then the pain I’d be in now, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat. After all, you have to grab love and happiness when you can get it—and if you’re lucky, that love will be so strong that it carries on for eternity.

I love you, Paul.

A mini-reunion and a catch-up

Oh dear, it’s been more than a week since I last posted. Sorry about that. It’s not that I’ve been sitting at home sulking though. No, I’ve been sitting at home writing essays like a mad woman! So, let me get you up to speed!

School: The past week, as I mentioned, was spent working on final essays for this past semester. The last of them was finished yesterday and turned in—with a bit of time to spare. I’m not feeling too confident about a couple of them, but I’m sure I did OK. I am pleased to brag, however, that I have received a few marks over the past week—all distinctions! Yeah, that’s nice for the ego.

So, the semester is done and that means no more classes. But I do have that dissertation to work on, so this probably won’t be my last school update.

Whisky: On Saturday, I went to the Spirit of Stirling Whisky Festival with a friend, his friend, and his friend’s friend. (Did you catch that?) It was an absolutely fantastic day, and one that probably deserves a story of its own. But, it was a late night with too much whisky and I was in no condition to even think about whisky the next day, so the story has gotten downgraded to an update. (Which shouldn’t be taken as a negative commentary; it was a day of great fun, great whisky, and great company.)

Edinburgh (Or: The Mini Eberle Reunion): After turning in my essays yesterday, I hopped on a train to Edinburgh to meet up with my cousin Rita and her friend, who are in Scotland as part of an organised tour. They had the afternoon free to tour on their own, so I was invited through as a personal tour guide. And since they’d already done the castle thing with the group, I got to show them a few other highlights.

We met along Princes Street then grabbed a coffee (well, I had mint tea) to catch up and chat about what we wanted to do, then we went to see the city. Our first stop—The Scott Monument—was easy enough, especially since we opted to not walk to the top. Then we wandered back toward the Floral Clock. Which we kind of saw in that the workings were sticking out of the ground, but it was in the process of being planted so if you didn’t know it was meant to be a clock you’d have missed it.

Next, we wandered through Princes Street Gardens on our way to Moray Place so that Rita could get a photo of a friend’s first house (No 28, if you wondered) before heading up Heriot Row to see the childhood home of Robert Louis Stevenson. The Queen Street Gardens across from the house were later used as inspiration for Treasure Island. (Apparently.)

From there, we wandered through the New Town on our way back to Princes Street Gardens where we sat to visit whilst Rita enjoyed (or at least took a sip of) Scotland’s number-one selling beverage, Irn Bru. I pointed out buildings and landmarks, explained how The Mound was formed and the Nor Loch drained, and even got to bore my captives with the story of how Paul and I met—and (when we’d made our way to The Royal Mile) I got to point out where we met, too!

Up on The Royal Mile, we attempted to visit The Writers’ Museum (we were 15 minutes too late!) before going in to see St Giles’ Cathedral. Then, it was back to the train station for me.

Of course, since one of the things Rita had on her list was closed (The Poetry Library) I’ve promised to go back and see it (and report back) for her. I’ll even have to stop by the Floral Clock on her behalf.

It was an absolutely fantastic afternoon and I am so pleased that I was invited to be part of Rita’s holidays. We’ve decided we’re going to have to do it again—maybe Rome next time with a private audience with the Pope.

[Photo is of RLS’s house, No 17 Heriot Row. Yes, we’re that kind of tourist!]

Heirloom tear drops

Growing up, I always loved to borrow my Mom’s clothing and accessories—the old stuff. I loved her funky dresses and jewellery from the 1960s and 70s, and often dreamed of one day owning it all.

I was elated when, as a teenager, she finally gave me an old handbag of hers from when she was in high school. It was the first bag in my vintage collection and remains a favourite to this day. I wore her flowing gowns (more often than she may know!) and flashed my bedazzled fingers that were loaded with funky rings. And the bracelets and necklaces—oh my! I even wore her wedding dress when I got married!

Slowly but surely, I’ve become the owner of some of these bits and bobs. So today I thought I’d share one of my favourites with you! And it goes beyond Mom, too, which is cool.

So, here’s the story as told in the letter that I got when I received this amazing set:

Frances,

‘Tis the year for re-gifting! Actually, this is a piece of history. Your grandmother had this necklace and earring set in high school. She wore it several times as I was growing up. In 1970, I had a new lace outfit for the Marine Corps Ball and needed a blue necklace to compliment it. I requested to borrow this set and Mom sent it to me. She told me I could keep it because she didn’t use it anymore. I have now chosen to give it to you. I know you’ll use and cherish this set.

Enjoy!

Love,
Mom

I have worn the set on several occasions over the past few years. The last time I wore it was for the last professional portraits Paul and I had taken together. I love them so much and hope that I’m able to find an occasion to wear them again. (Anyone want to take me out for a nice dinner?)

Oh, and Mom, I can still fit into that lace outfit you wore in 1970. You and I both know that I will give it a good and loving home. You know my address when you’re ready to pass it along …

Swirls, old and new

Back in August I was finishing up a swirl drawing at my folks’ house. I had left my work-in-progress on the coffee table and whilst I was out, my 14-year-old niece, Ivanna, stopped by to visit her grandparents. When I returned my parents told me how Ivanna was mesmerised by the drawing, studying it intensely. She even mentioned that it would make a good tattoo.

I finished the drawing the day before I left for Scotland, and wrote a letter to Ivanna on the back. I asked Dad to scan it for me before passing it on, but he forgot. And that meant I didn’t have a copy of the finished piece, which was a bit of a bummer. But I knew that Ivanna was happy to own it (an excited email told me so!), so I decided that was more important than anything else.

But I asked Dad to scan some tax documents for me yesterday and he decided that since he was scanning, he may as well grab the drawing and scan that, too.

So, here it is for your enjoyment!

Oh! And here’s a new one I’m working on. It’s the butterfly swirl I mentioned before and is going to be the swirl I use for the winner from my anniversary contest. (More on that later!)

The other birthday girl

I share the title of Middle Sister with my younger sister, Celeste; there are two older than me and two younger than her. I also share my birth month with her. I’m nice like that.

Over the years, we’ve shared a bedroom; we’ve shared clothes; and we’ve shared meals. We’ve shared secrets and dreams; we’ve shared hopes and fears; and we’ve shared laughter and tears.

And since today is her day, I’m going to share some of my blog space with her, too!

So, happy birthday, Celeste. I hope you have a fabby-dabby day!

 

Random thoughts: Simple pleasures

Random thoughts—Week 3: List 31 simple pleasures; pick one and write about it.

Last year I was challenged to write a list of 30 things that made me smile and I imagine that this list may include a few duplicates, but I will try to keep those to a minimum.

  1. Finding coins as I’m walking down the road
  2. Unexpected postcards (heck, even expected postcards!)
  3. Lunch with friends
  4. Internet chats and phone calls with my nieces and nephews
  5. Dirty Martinis
  6. Seeing children skipping down the road
  7. Skipping down the road (yes, even as a full-grown woman, I do that sometimes!)
  8. Hearing a favourite song on the radio
  9. Watching a favourite movie on television
  10. Long soaks in a hot bath
  11. Finding my favourite [whatever] on sale
  12. Smells that rekindle a happy memory
  13. Running
  14. A well-cooked steak (that would be medium-rare, thank you!)
  15. Riding on carousels
  16. Playing on swing sets
  17. The feeling of the sun on my face
  18. Flirtatious encounters with cute boys (even when I know I’ll never see them again)
  19. A quiet night in with some jazz, red wine, candle light, and a good book
  20. Sleeping in on a Saturday morning after a long week at work (or school)
  21. Finding a ‘new’ vintage handbag that I love—and can afford!
  22. Watching (and listening to) a massive rain storm—complete with thunder and lightning
  23. Seeing my friends happy and giddy with excitement
  24. Waking up dreading going to work, only to realise it’s the weekend
  25. Walking barefoot in the grass or on a sandy beach
  26. Gravy style popcorn
  27. Picnics in the park
  28. Finishing a craft project
  29. Weekend city breaks to fantastic places
  30. Finding an out-of-the-way pub that sells great beer—but that no one knows about!
  31. Hugs and kisses from family and friends

Now, I know that I’m meant to write about just one of these things, but it would seem that I had a fantastic opportunity to combine a few in one. So, here’s a wee story about something that happened when I was in Cambridge this weekend:

I woke up early to go for a run on Saturday (No 13). And after the run, I had a bit of time to waste waiting for my running partner (who’d gone off for a longer trek!). So, as I waited, I found myself (literally) skipping (No 7) over to the playground where I plopped myself down on a swing (No 16). And as I swung, I noticed some shiny things on the ground below. Sure enough, those shiny things were coins—33 pence worth of them (No 1)!

Of course, the weekend also included Nos: 3, 12, 17, 23, 29, 30, and 31. And loads of other simple pleasures that didn’t make the list.

Oh! And be sure to check out Rebecca’s blog to see what she wrote for her topic this week!

Random thoughts: Top 50 no-gos

Random thoughts—Week 1: List 50 things I’ll never do.

  1. Climb Mount Everest
  2. Compete in a sport professionally
  3. Give birth (sadly…)
  4. Celebrate 50 years of marriage
  5. Eat monkey brains (but in general I’m up for trying new/different foods)
  6. Become a nun (but I wanted to at one point in my life)
  7. Go deep-water diving
  8. Have cosmetic surgery (unless, of course, I’m in some horrific accident and need to be repaired)
  9. Buy an iPhone or iPad
  10. Commit suicide (Don’t worry! It’s never been an option or thought!)
  11. Buy a brand new car
  12. Participate in an ultramarathon
  13. Have lasik surgery
  14. Drink tequila shots out of someone’s navel
  15. Be a space tourist
  16. Pierce my nose
  17. Sail the Seven Seas
  18. Join a nudist colony
  19. Ride a barrel over Niagara Falls
  20. Drive drunk
  21. Juggle knives
  22. Watch Battlestar Galactica by choice
  23. Drink Gin and Tonics
  24. Go on a shooting safari
  25. Run with the bulls
  26. Follow the ‘5 Second Rule’ outside of my own home
  27. Back down on a running disagreement regarding my pro-Oxford comma stance
  28. Have a pet monkey
  29. Play golf in a lightning storm
  30. Abandon my faith
  31. Ridicule someone for their faith (or non-belief)
  32. Declare the certain non-existence of extraterrestrial life or Bigfoot
  33. Participate in past-life regression
  34. Cheat on my taxes
  35. Wear an ‘I’m with stupid’ t-shirt
  36. Give up carbs
  37. Become a vegan
  38. Quit Facebook
  39. Cook (or eat) liver
  40. Not vote in an election I’m allowed to vote in
  41. Be ashamed of my nationality
  42. Rob a bank
  43. Drive a train
  44. Drive blindfolded
  45. Turn by back on my family
  46. Wish and hope for bad things to happen to other people
  47. Deny my small-town, redneck roots
  48. Pretend to be dumb
  49. Betray my friends
  50. Be normal (bore-ing!)

OK, wow! That was really hard. And I admit, I’ve really done some reaching on these. Further, I admit that I didn’t put loads of things up that I thought I might ‘be forced to do’ at some point in my life. That said, I can’t be 100% certain that the future won’t bring some strange reality that sees me being forced to rob a bank, drive a train, and betray my friends. But I imagine that if my life got to that point, we’d be facing some apocalyptic disaster or that my friends would be staging a massive intervention!

(Here’s hoping my next random topic is easier!)

Catching up

I can’t believe that it’s been more than a week since I last blogged. I’m not exactly off to the best start this year, am I? So, this post will serve as a quick catch up for everyone—including me!

As I mentioned in my last post, I made a trip down to England to visit my in-laws last week; though I actually made the trip a day later than planned because of heavy winds that closed the road. But I made it, and enjoyed two nights at my sister-in-law, Ann’s, house in Wakefield. In fact, my brother-in-law, John, made the trip up from Telford for the second night, which was a nice added bonus to family time!

On Friday, I made my way to Billingham to spend the weekend with my sister-in-law, Liz. That night I participated in her girls’ night out group (I’ve joined them before—what a great group of women!) then the following morning we went to Starbucks where I got to meet my newest great nephew, Salem. Oh—and later that day we made a trip to Seaton Carew for fish and chips. (I know, that’s not surprising.)

Sunday was ‘going home’ day, but not before a nice long lunch with another sister-in-law, Elizabeth, and her daughter, Jack. All the visiting made for a busy week, so by the time they took me to the train station I was ready to go home. But it also made me happy to know that I’m only ever a couple hours away from a wonderful family. (And there are already plans to see everyone in February for a reunion.)

Anyhow, Rebecca proved once again that she’s a fantastically amazing friend by picking me up at the train station and giving me a lift home that night. It was nice to sit and relax with a cup of tea and a chat before unpacking. (Which I did before I went to bed because I don’t like to leave it until the next day.)

So, yesterday I finally dragged myself out for a run. It was my first run of the year—and my first run in more than two months! But I feel good for having done it. Well, except for the slightly sore leg muscles today!

And that’s my week in review. I have to admit that it’s been a hard week. In fact, it’s been a hard start to the year. I’ve been feeling a bit blah and unmotivated and can’t seem to shake it. To be completely honest, I sometimes wonder if it’s some sort of mild depression, but I don’t feel hopeless or helpless—I just feel blah and unmotivated. And sometimes sad and lonely. However, I’m trying to convince myself that it’s because I’m bored and inactive. I’m on break from school and I don’t have a job which means I don’t have a schedule to keep me busy. I’ve also been sitting in the flat instead of going out running. In part because of the weather, but in part because of the lack of motivation that comes from no schedule.

But, as I like to end on a positive note, I am trying to get re-motivated. The weather is nice (or at least dry) which means I will be able to get a few training runs in this month and I’ve already committed to running a 10K in a week and a half. I also have a couple of small projects to work on for Boxed Cat Media and am already thinking excitedly about school starting back in February. And I’m doing more of my swirl drawings, too. So it’s not all doom and gloom. I will shift this sulky mood soon. I promise!

(Do you like how I snuck the sad bits in at the end, hoping that most people never read that far? But honestly, I am OK. Just a little crazy. But that’s normal for me.)

Another year passes

As 2011 winds to an end, I find myself reflecting on the year’s joys (and sorrows). It’s funny the way we do that—the way we compartmentalise our years as if the changing of the date will truly make an impact on our lives. But I suppose we need to have hope that ‘things will be better’ next year—just like we have hope that with each tomorrow life will improve.

It’s been a bitter-sweet year for me. Bitter because I said goodbye to my home—a place where dreams were dreamt and love was shared. Bitter because I found myself in created for myself a financial situation that leaves me pinching pennies once again. Bitter because I spent the entire year without my beloved Paul by my side.

But sweet because I returned to my beloved Scotland, where my heart sings with joy. Sweet because I’ve started working toward my master’s degree and other life goals. And sweet because I’ve found a true friend who is there to console me on the bitter days—and to help me celebrate on the sweet days.

2012 will be here before I know it, and I have such great hopes that with it will come great joy. I don’t expect the year to be nothing but sunshine and happiness, but I know that there will be laughter and love. There will be adventures and opportunities. And there will be family and friends to share it all with!

Home(ish) for Christmas

Well, I suppose now that Christmas is over, I should tell you a bit about my lovely Christmas weekend! And it really was a lovely weekend! I went through to Aberdour with my friend, Rebecca, to spend Christmas with her parents. And whilst I wasn’t with my own family, I was made to feel like family indeed!

It was a wonderful weekend with loads of laughter and new traditions. I enjoyed my first-ever Christmas goose (I hope it’s not my last) and managed lots of relaxation in between scrumptious meals prepared by Rebecca’s mum.

Oh! And I got gifts for Christmas, too! A lovely cashmere scarf, a French press, some home made jams, lots of candy and chocolates, fresh coffee, and even a worry stone. (And more!)

Yes, it was a wonderful Christmas! So wonderful, in fact, that I didn’t manage to take as many photos as I normally would have. But you can see the few I did manage!

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Oh! And you know those bugs from the photo gallery can be seen on the video below. My bug (yellow) won. But Rebecca will tell you that her sissy pink bug did.

Making do; Part 2

Back in November I talked about the practice of ‘making do’ in my efforts to host a Thanksgiving dinner for friends. I was really pleased that all of that making do worked out, especially since I’ve found myself needing to make do again. But this time, making do had nothing to do with food. Instead, I found myself having to make do with what I had to wrapping parcels.

For years, I collected used gift bags and tissue paper, bows and ribbons, and even wrapping paper and boxes. I had it all neatly organised so that I could easily wrap up gifts for family and friends. I had such a selection of stuff that I almost always found the right size bag, box, or used bit of paper for everything. But when I moved, I passed on my collection to my baby sister, Royann. And that means there isn’t an awe-inspiring collection of wrapping supplies tucked away in the hall closet. (I hope she appreciates the time it took me to amass such a collection, and I hope she’s using the supplies whilst continuing to replenish them with her own reclaimed materials!)

Then yesterday I found myself looking at purchasing wrapping paper, shipping boxes, and bubble wrap for sending parcels home for Christmas. And I have to admit that as I stood there looking at the available stock in the shops made me sad as I recalled (once again) all of the stuff (i.e.: clutter) I had to leave behind when I ventured out for this new future of mine.

So I went home empty-handed. No, really. I went home with nothing because the idea of having to buy those things broke my heart. When I got home, however, I started to look at what I had. I had printer paper and coloured pencils, so I would make wrapping paper. (I didn’t.) I had a few boxes from things I bought when I moved into my flat—but they were all either too big or too small. And I had some wrapping paper from a lovely housewarming gift that Rebecca gave me.

Ah! And I had scissors and a bag filled with plastic bags (from before I got my re-usable ones). And with that, I got to work.

It seems that the gifts I bought for my nieces and nephews were small enough to be placed in envelopes with their Christmas cards and there was just enough of that wrapping paper from Rebecca for the gifts I got for my folks and my lovely [former] foster daughter. Then, I found a used (but usable) padded envelope that was large enough for my foster daughter’s gift to fit in. But I was having trouble finding a box for the stuff for my nieces, nephews, and parents (it was all being shipped to the folks’ place to save on costs).

But wait! Who needs a box to be the ‘right’ size when you have scissors? It seemed to me that there was a box that could be the perfect size—if I cut it down a bit. And padding? Well, since the nieces and nephews’ gifts aren’t breakable, they got to help provide protection for the folks’ gifts, along with some crumpled plastic bags (which I know the folks will recycle on my behalf).

And that’s it. I had to buy some packing tape, but that’s something I can’t really re-use anyhow.

Of course, now I need to figure out how I will wrap the rest of my gifts. But since they didn’t need to go to the post office for international shipping, I can give myself a few days to scrounge around. And there is still that printer paper and coloured pencils if all else fails!

Countdown

As I write this post, people are counting down to Christmas. Really. I mean, it’s not even Thanksgiving and they’re already counting down to Christmas. And I have to say, it makes me a little sad.

I remember when I was a kid and the month of October was dedicated to Halloween. Then in November, we went full-on Thanksgiving. And then—the day after Thanksgiving—it would be time to think about Christmas. Back then (in my memories, at least) we didn’t get Christmas shoved down our throats in the lead-up to Halloween. Maybe—maybe—some places would start in on Christmas before Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t a given.

But now it seems that the Christmas season starts in October, and that just seems crazy to me.

Here’s what I would like to propose: At the start of October, you can start getting (publically) excited about Halloween. You can start decorating a week (maybe two weeks) before Halloween. Then, after you’ve cleared away your Halloween decorations, you can start to get ready for Thanksgiving. And then, after Thanksgiving is over, Christmas preparations can begin.

Now, I understand that people who need to travel great distances need to make plans and arrangements for the next holiday before the current one is over, and that’s OK. And it’s OK to do menu planning and even extend invitations early, if needed. But let’s keep it at that, shall we?

I just feel like we’re so busy thinking about the next big thing that we’re forgetting to take time to enjoy the current big thing.

So, I will not be planning for Christmas until after Thanksgiving is done—which for me is Saturday this year, since it’s not a Scottish holiday so I’ve had to plan dinner around the weekend so that my friends could attend. But come Sunday, I will be in full-on Christmas mode. Well, not too full-on since that is Paul’s birthday and he (not growing up with Thanksgiving) always felt that Christmas needed to wait until after his birthday.

And that means that I am counting down until Thanksgiving right now—not Christmas. After all, Thanksgiving in my favourite holiday of the year. It’s a time for people to reflect on the things they are thankful for in this world—family, friends, good health, and a plentiful harvest.

This year, I will celebrate Thanksgiving on Saturday with a small group of Scottish friends. It may not be a holiday of much meaning to them, and they may not be counting down with the same excitement as I am, but I’m so very thankful to have people to share my favourite holiday with. And hopefully, they’ll learn to like my favourite holiday, too. After all, who doesn’t enjoy an opportunity to be thankful?

And if you’re counting—it’s only three more sleeps until [my] Thanksgiving dinner!

Sugar and spice

OK, since it’s sort of my thing to tell you all about goodies that I get from home, I suppose I should tell you about yesterday’s parcel. (Yeah, I know you’re excited about this!)

It would seem that two of my nephews found themselves with extra Halloween candy—in addition to the extras their Mom had since they only got one (or was it two?) trick-or-treaters. So, the boys, Adrian and Brendan, offered some of their candy to me and my baby sister (their Mom), Royann, added a few other bits-and-bobs to round out the care package. And even though I was expecting the parcel, I beamed with joy and excitement when it arrived. And, true to form, I tore into it straight away!

Inside, I found loads of Now and Laters, a few Tootsie Pops, a couple Bit-o-Honeys, some Dots and JujyFruits, and a smattering of other candies. And, of course, a box of SweetTarts. Royann also included two of my go-to ingredients, Lowery’s Seasoning and Lemon Pepper, as well as a thimble and a vintage handkerchief. (Just in time for cold and flu season!)

But the best things in the parcel were the hand-made cards from the boys, each containing their most recent school photos—and each with jokes and I-love-yous.

Oh, yes, the candy and the seasonings are fantastic, but they’re nothing compared to cards from my nephews. Those were my favourite part. And they look very nice displayed in along with my collection of family photos.

Oh! And I also got a Thanksgiving card from my cousin, Helen, and her family this week. And an enjoyable letter from my friend, George, the week before—one that contained more than 30 questions about how I’m getting along in Scotland.

Yes, parcels and letters from home make the arrival of bills and junk mail seem less annoying!

And amazingly, I’ve not eaten all of the candy yet. But give me time…

Connect the dots

Confession: I have 292 Facebook friends. At least 46 of them are people I’ve never met. 25 or so are people I’ve only met once. 93 are former classmates. 64 are family of one description or another. And (not including family) I’ve only seen 18 of them in real life in the past 12 months.

Further confession: Two of those connections are animals (one cat; one dog).

Of course, I say that I have 292 Facebook friends, but most of them aren’t friends so much as they are a virtual network of acquaintances, former school mates, and family. This isn’t to say I don’t value my Facebook friends, because I do. I really, really do. But the truth is that I (like most adults) only have a handful of friends—you know, real friends as opposed to people I’m friendly with. Thought I must admit that Facebook was the tool that helped to create two of my closest real-life friendships.

The thing I like best about Facebook is the way everything connects. For me, Facebook began with me connecting with my virtual friends—people I ‘knew’ from online forums and newsgroups. Then I began to connect with my family and former school mates as they joined Facebook. And now, I’m connected with people who are connected with people who know me, even though I don’t know the person I’m connected to. (Does that make sense?)

It’s funny the way it works; it’s funny what prompts people to connect. I mean, before Paul died, I was only friends with one of his university friends—a woman I’d met in ‘real life’ years before. A day or two after he died, I received a friend request from another woman he went to uni with, but someone I’d only met once before. After his funeral, several more of his friends ‘friended’ me. Some I’d met, some I’d not met at the time. And still others whom I’ve still never met!

Even funnier still is how people I know from different parts of my life are now overlapping. It seems that as my ‘real life’ friends and ‘virtual’ friends have been connecting with me on my Facebook posts, those sets of people have found common ground and have friended each other. So now my sister is friends with some of my virtual friends. And even different groups of real life friends have found each other—either because they’ve connected virtually or because they’ve met in real life as my US and UK worlds have collided.

But the funniest of all is when I notice the ever-so-faint dots that connect two of my friends when they’re not connected to each other. Example 1: Last year a friend suggestion popped up noting that I had two friends in common with someone I’d never met. But those two friends (one real, one virtual) didn’t know each other, either. It just so happened that my real life friend was an old classmate of a virtual friend’s work colleague. Example 2: A virtual friend of mine is the real life friend of a couple of my husband’s university friends, even though he never met my husband. And it turns out that the same virtual friend is friends in real life and on Facebook with the friends of one of my classmates, who doesn’t know the guy but was very surprised to see that his real life friends had a friend in common with me. (Again, did you follow that?)

You could argue that these arbitrary connections to random strangers around the world are silly and pointless, but it entertains me. Plus that, many of those strangers have been a great social outlet for me when I needed it most. So when I start connecting the virtual dots, I can see a real life network of support.

I’m sure that over time my Facebook friend list will grow even more. And I’m sure that as the networking tool changes to adapt to society (or as society adapts to the tool?) we will change the way we define friends. But that’s OK, because you can never have too many friends. Right?

Social conscience

Social lives are interesting things—and hard to define at times. Everyone seems to have one or want one. Or they want a better one or a different one or a less chaotic one. Or they laugh about how their children have better social lives than they do!

Paul and I always talked about our lack of social lives and how, if it weren’t for each other, we’d be hermits. We even joked that we were looking forward to adopting our children because we’d be able to glom onto their social lives and—who knows—maybe even find a bit of socialisation through our kids’ friends’ parents.

Of course, when Paul died I was faced with the realisation that he really was my only true social life. When he died, I found myself in near-isolation and it was hard. It was lonely. It was so very lonely. I didn’t have any friends in the area and my parents (the nearest thing to a social life I had) were a four hour drive away. So I turned to my virtual friends for interaction and support. But I knew there was something missing. I knew that I wanted—that I needed—a friend in the real world to socialise with. Sure, there were a couple of women at work who I chatted with at the office, but it’s not the same.

In fact, when I created my four main life goals, one of the tasks for the happiness goal was to find or create a real-life social life because I knew that being happy (for me) was dependent on having people to interact with.

And I have finally found that social life.

As regular readers will know, I am happily settled in Stirling, Scotland. And as luck would have it, my friend Rebecca lives in Stirling, too. And she’s become the main player in my social life. (Though I honestly hope I’m not being overly clingy as I re-learn the rules of social play!)

Rebecca has been an amazing friend to me for more than two years now, but even more so now that we’re neighbours. I have someone to go to coffee with and to site-see with and to have cocktails with and to have dinner with and to do all sorts of fun things with.

But it’s not just Rebecca. No, there are several players in my social life these days. In fact, I’m heading to Edinburgh on Tuesday for dinner with Joanne and her family. And I have been asked to name a day to meet with Steve and his family and with Les and Yvonne. And I’m meant to meet up with Martin next week and I have to return a call to Lindsay about getting together. And I have to look into a trip to France for a girls’ weekend with Mila.

And then there’s the family side of my social life. Yes, I have to get myself on a train to England so that I can see Liz and Ann and Elizabeth and John and all the rest of them. And I have to get my Mom and Dad on a plane to visit me here. And my cousin Helen is planning a trip. And who knows who else!?

Oh, I could go on and on about how great it is to have a social life again, but I don’t have time. No, I need to get going now so that I can get ready to head into Edinburgh for dinner and a Billy Bragg concert with Rebecca. Oh, and tomorrow night, it’s off to a Milonga at The Junk Rooms. Then next Saturday I’m off to Glasgow for another concert.

So, um, basically my social life has exploded! (Yay!)

Times, they are a-changin’

Ah, yes. It’s that magical time of year when the clocks fall back an hour as you sleep. I always liked clock-changing times as a child, though I don’t really know why. Of course, as an adult it’s been a bit of a pain because it means remembering to run all over the house (and cars changing various clocks.

But this year is different. This year I don’t own any clocks (yet) and my computers and mobile phone are all super smart and have managed to update themselves without any assistance from me. And when I first moved into my flat on Monday the clock on the boiler (that’s like a furnace in American speak) was off by 20 minutes so I had to re-set it—and I set it to the soon-to-be correct time so that I didn’t need to remember it today.

Yep. I’ve had a super easy time this go around.

And do you want to know the best part? Of course you do! Well, the best part is that whilst the UK changes times today, the USA doesn’t change until next weekend. And that means that—for the next week—I am an hour closer to my family. (Aw, isn’t that sweet!)

So—Hello family! We’re only seven hours apart at the moment. Yay!!

A box of love

You don’t need words to know you’re loved. Not really. Sometimes, a box of stuff says it all. Take, for example, the box that came in the post for me today.

It was a simple box filled with simple things. No note to explain the occasion or the contents. Just a simple box filled with simple things. But I didn’t need a note to know that the box was sent because I’m loved.

You see, the box was sent by my Ant Elizabeth—all the way from America! And the contents were (I’m assuming) chosen because of my list of foods I would miss when I moved. You see, she reads my blog regularly so she knew just what to send. It’s just another example of how amazing she is. She is, after all, the woman who so kindly took in my cat when I left. And she is, after all, the woman who I used to want to be when I grew up. (It’s not that I don’t still look up to her, it’s just that I learned that I can’t be someone else, I have to be me.) And she is, after all, the woman I call my twin! (Really, we look quite a bit alike. Yes, she’s gorgeous just like me!)

Anyhow, since I told you what my parents sent last week, I’ll tell you what Ant Elizabeth sent this week!

  • Black olives (3 cans)
  • 1000 Island dressing (1 bottle)
  • Ranch mix (2 packs)
  • General Tso’s Chicken seasoning mix (2 packs)
  • A bag of ‘Fun Size’ Butterfingers
  • A bag filled with a variety of mini-sized candy bars

And this all means that I have olives not only for tacos, but for Thanksgiving—where I might have to teach my guests about the American tradition of putting olives on your fingers before eating them. And it means that I can have yummy Rueben sandwiches. And it means I can make Ranch dip to share with my friends on Halloween and Thanksgiving. And I can introduce my friends to the greatness of General Tso’s.

And, if I’m feeling generous, I can have my friends help with a comparison taste test to determine—once and for all—what the difference is between American and UK Milky Way bars. (If I’m feeling really generous, I might even share a Butterfinger or two. Maybe.)

Thank you, Ant Elizabeth. You have no idea how amazingly happy I was to receive goodies from home today. No, really, my face hurts from all the happy smiles. I love you!!

Cutting out the middles

So I’m working on a new design project for my parents. Just a little something that will make Mom smile—and me. (Likely others in the family, too, but I can’t be sure yet.)

Anyhow, part one is underway: Photoshopping a photo of me and my sister, Celeste. Together, we share the ‘middle child’ position in our family. We also share a birth month, but not a birthday, as I was born two years and six days before her. I know this is all more information than you needed, but I felt it was warranted to explain the silly title of this post. But I digress…

It’s a bit tedious because I have to cut out the two of us from a busy airport scene—and I have to do it without trimming too much off of our shoes and hair. It’s hard, especially since I’m self-taught on the software.

But this is where I am so far. Now I just need to clean up the edges a bit and figure out what the background will be. (No, it won’t be green.)

There is a lot more work to be done and I don’t know when it will get finished, but I’ll be sure to share the finished design when it’s complete!

Happy Friday!

Job done!

I am now officially a marathon finisher! Can you believe it? No, neither can I. Today’s feat went much, much better than I expected. And now you get to hear all about it!

The morning started about 5:30 with a bit of feeding and hydration, then we walked up to the finish line where busses were waiting to take the runners to the start line—an hour’s drive away. Sadly, the walk was across a soggy, grassy field, which meant wet shoes and socks before we even got to the busses. (More on soggy feet later.)

Once at the start line, we waited around for a short while for the race to begin. Sadly, the rain came as we were waiting, And we got drenched. But our spirits were high. In fact, the rain didn’t let up for the first 3+ miles of the race and by then my shoes, socks, and feet were sodden. (More on this later.) Of course, that wasn’t enough because at mile 4 we got a small hail storm. Really. Eventually, the skies stopped falling and the weather turned quite nice drying my jacket and my hair. (But not the shoes, socks, and feet—yet.)

For the first eight miles or so, Rebecca and I kept pace with each other, but then I managed to get ahead and stayed ahead for several miles. But as I pulled ahead, I noticed that my feet had become all wrinkly from the water and were quite sore because of it. I think that the sore feet changed by gait a bit because more sore bits were to come! (OK, that’s pretty much the soggy feet story.)

At mile 10, I forced myself to walk for five minutes because I told myself I would do that. But I was making very good time and was really enjoying myself. In fact, for a brief moment I thought I could totally do another marathon. But then I started to run again and shortly after mile 13 (half way—yay!) my knee began to ache terribly. I was actually in pain and each time my foot landed I winced. So I started to walk again thinking it just needed a break. But then when I’d run again it hurt again. Which meant that much of miles 17-22 were spent walking.

But wait! Around mile 21 Rebecca caught up with me again! I was so happy to see her! We spent the next mile or so walking together but then I just needed to run. Which I did for most of the remaining course with occasional walk breaks. But each time I ran I was in pain. Lots and lots of pain.

Of course, when I passed mile 26 and knew I had only a fraction of a mile to go, I was spurred on and my pace quickened. Then Emma and David Knox were there with their two children and a massive banner cheering me on so I kicked it up even more. And I’m pleased to say that I finished in under goal time! (Goal: 6 hours. Finish time: 5:37:42.)

So I felt good. I didn’t hit the wall, but I was in physical pain for the last half of the race. I felt happy and energised and cheered on the entire time. I really did. Though I was actually expecting to be quite emotional because of why I was running. But I like to think that Paul was there with me in spirit, and that his presence is what kept me going.

And, no, I will never do another marathon again. My body can’t take it. But a half marathon? You’re on! That’s a distance I enjoy and that I can do well.

Also at this point, it needs to be said that I couldn’t have done this without Rebecca. She got on board with the marathon idea early on and was a great motivator to me. Just having her there on the course with me was so wonderful because I know that she was supporting me all the way—as I was her—even when we weren’t running together. I am so lucky to have such a great friend, and am so pleased for her accomplishments today. An accomplishment that included raising more than £600 for charity!

And thanks to everyone else who supported me along the way. Dad and Haden were great running aids when I was in the homeland, riding bikes alongside me and cheering me on. My Mom was always there with encouragement and my sisters were full of inspiration, too. As were my various nieces, nephews, aunts, and uncles. And my friends around the world who cheered me from virtual worlds by Facebook, email, and this very blog. I felt your love today, really.

And Paul, I hope I made you proud. You would have loved the course and would have made my time look horrid. Thank you for being there with me in spirit. I love ya, luv! x

Not quite the answer

Today is my eldest sister’s birthday. Yep. The big something-or-other. I’ll give you a hint: She’s a year shy of being the answer to life, the universe, and everything. (More hints can be found here.)

I don’t know if it’s fair for me to post a happy birthday message to her since I’ve neglected to do so for three of the other four this year, but who said life was fair? Maybe next year I will succeed in public birthday greetings for all of my sisters. Stick around to find out.

Happy birthday, Veronica!

(And apologies for stealing this photo from your Facebook page, but it made me smile.)

Classy lady

It’s here! My first week of classes has finally happened! After a long journey of ups and downs and a false start or two, I am finally a postgraduate student. And here’s the promised update on that very topic!

First, the long journey condensed: I had planned to go on to my master’s degree and PhD after my undergraduate degree but then I met Paul and the decision was made to hold off on the postgraduate stuff for a couple of years. Then, with Paul as my strongest supporter, I planned to begin my master’s on a part time basis in the states—but Paul died a few months before I was meant to start and I didn’t have the energy to grieve and study. So it was put on hold again. Then, with family and friends around the world as my strongest supporters, I finally took my dream out of its holding pattern and put it into full gear.

Next, the degree: I am now working toward a Master of Letters in Media and Culture at the University of Stirling, Scotland. [As described on the course website: This degree explores such aspects of contemporary media culture, offering modules which explore areas such as digital cultures, creative industries, cultural theory, media economics, screen studies, and media rights and intellectual property.] The degree will be a lot of hard work and will require a 12,000 word dissertation at the end (expect more on that later, as I’m super excited about my possible topic!). Eventually, I hope to roll it into a PhD, though funding will determine if I need to take a break from studies before I do that.

And, finally, the fun stuff: Classes! I am taking four modules this semester: Two on Mondays and one each on Thursdays and Fridays. Which means I get Tuesdays and Wednesdays as an extra weekend. Er, I mean, as study days. So here’s a bit about the modules:

Media Economics: This isn’t the course I wanted, but since only two of us had signed up for that class (Interpreting News), I had to pick something different. I was afraid to choose this one because of the word ‘economics’ but the module description didn’t sound too scary so I’m going for it. We will spend the semester looking at the economic issues in the media industry and toward the end of the course I will have written an essay on a yet-to-be-assigned topic. (Oh! And there will be an exam at the end. This is my only class with an exam, and I hope it doesn’t get too economic-y or math-y for me.)

Research Methods: This is a core module taken by all postgrad students and is meant as a stepping stone to my dissertation. Throughout the course I will work on fine-tuning my topic which will lead to my dissertation proposal. I am feeling confident about the class and am excited to see my proposal come together. (OK, I’ll give you a teaser: It will relate to the relationships between social media and the news.)

The Practice of Cultural Theory: Wow. This is going to be an interesting class. In it, we will look at the works of ‘the great thinkers’ in the area of cultural theory. If I’m honest, much of it seems a bit too philosophical to me, but I am excited none-the-less because the readings are interesting and because the course assignments seem as if they will be great exercises for my dissertation writing. I am a little intimidated by the amount of reading that needs to be done each week, but I am also excited because many of the online resources are the sorts of things I’d read for pure entertainment!

The Media Environment: This is going to be a fun class and I’m going to enjoy writing the essay for it. We will spend the semester looking at the relationships between the media and society. The major assignment for the course is a 3,000 word essay and I was so excited to see one of my favourite subjects is one of the essay options. (Yes, more social media stuff!) In fact, because I’ve had the course information for nearly two weeks now, I’ve already been thinking about an angle for my paper!

So, there you have it. I’m a student again. Yay!!

Ripples for me

For the first time in my life, I am crocheting something for me. Yep, I’m making a pretty red ripple afghan throw for the couch in my new flat—with a goal to finish the throw before I move in toward the end of October.

OK, that first part isn’t 100% true because I was once working on a queen-sized ripple afghan for my bed, but later decided I would make it for my Mom. And that didn’t get finished before I left for Scotland so I left the project in the hands of my baby sister, Royann, who is only just learning to crochet and will be taking over my left-handed project with her right-handed stitches as her first-ever project. (Royann: Remember you can Skype me or go see ANT Elizabeth for help if you need it!)

But I digress…

When the throw is completed it will be the width of a twin blanket and about 4 feet long—or longer. But at the moment it’s about the size of a scarf. So, um, more hooking is needed!

I know that one little throw isn’t going to be enough to make my new flat feel as much like home as the home I left behind did, but it’s a start. And I like the idea of having something that I made in my new flat.

Note to self: Don’t become that crazy lady who spends every Saturday night at home crocheting lace doilies for every surface of the house and knitting tea cosies for everyone in her address book!

Honestly, I’ll keep blogging

It would seem that I’m not very good at this whole blogging thing of late, and I apologise for that. I suppose that it has a lot to do with the fact that I am no longer living in near isolation—meaning I have real life people to talk to—and that I have been running around quite a bit visiting family and friends and getting ready for the start of term. But I’ve been meaning to write, really.

In fact, on Saturday I had thought I might post about how I am re-learning the art of solo site seeing. It was something that I always did before I met Paul (and did with enjoyment at that time in my life) but it would seem that now that I’m seeing the sites on my own again—and not really by choice—that it can be a little sad. But then I got sidetracked after a rather upsetting conversation and thought I’d blog about that because I needed to vent, but really didn’t want to vent here. Then Rebecca came home (as a reminder, she’s the friend I’m staying with until I get my own flat) and instead of blogging my emotions, I vented to her. It was actually good to have a real-life person to vent to, but I felt bad about burdening her. (It really helped, too, but meant that I was so emotionally drained that it was all I could do to drink half a bottle of Champagne and watch Doctor Who before going to bed.)

So then I thought I might blog about Sunday. Rebecca and I took the train through to Glasgow to check out a craft fair and to do some vintage shopping (I had success at both activities!). We also took a side trip to find the house that a former work colleague’s grandmother lived in before moving to America. (Sadly, the house seems to have been torn down.) But by the time we got home it was time for me to Skype with one of my sisters and her kids and by the time we were done chatting I was beat and ready for an early night.

That brought me to Monday—the first day of the first semester for my postgraduate career. I had looked at a flat in the morning that I decided was perfect for me (I will update on the flat hunt later—maybe even today!) which meant that I was all smiles for my trek to campus. Once on campus I met with my programme director and was so excited to determine my modules—one of which felt as if it was designed especially for me! But when I got home, I was too busy sharing my exciting day with Rebecca whilst we pigged out on curry that I never got around to blogging.

And then yesterday I decided that I would share all the details about my degree and what I hoped to learn and study. I even started the post. But then I learned that the module I felt was designed for me was being cancelled because only two of us signed up for it. I have to say that I was completely gutted! So instead of telling you about my courses, I spent time thinking about what module to take instead. (It’s between two and I hope to know what to do by tomorrow.) I also spent the day getting books and reading materials for next week—and actually reading in preparation. And, again, I was too beat (and emotionally exhausted) to blog about it all.

Which brings us to this post: A post about the things I thought about posting about over the past few days but never did. (Really, it’s more to update my Mom and a few others who’ve indicated that they’d rather have boring ‘what I did today’ posts than no posts at all.)

Again, I’m going to get better at this; I think I just need to get a routine sorted out. After all, blogging really is a great outlet for me and I find my life is much calmer when I’m writing. So here are a few post topics you can look forward to over the next few weeks: My first Scottish race, my first marathon, my first day of classes, my new flat, Ian Rankin, and an anecdote or two about the differences between Scotland and my part of America. Yay!

[The image with this blog was created by me with the awesome Keepcalm-O-Matic. Yay, again!]

Boxed cat

OK folks, it’s pitch time! So sit back, relax, and get ready to hear all about my new freelance venture and how you can help!

Regular readers will recall that I’ve recently left my job in America, moved to Scotland, and will be attending university for a postgraduate degree (starting next week!). But what you may not know is that I am also attempting to fund my crazy adventure by doing some freelance communications work. And that’s where Boxed Cat Media comes in.

Boxed Cat Media is a freelance communications business offering services including writing and editing; social media support and consultation, including website and blog setup; layout and design for print and web; and brand and identity support. (See more details here.) I hope to work with small mom-and-pop shops, community organisations, and non profits. Additionally, I will work with individuals on small projects such as holiday cards, birth or adoption announcements, blog setup/design, and more.

Now for the pitch: In order for this venture to work, I need people to pay me money to do work for them. And that’s where you come in! Yes, I need you to help spread the word. Not in a pushy, call all your friends way, because that would be silly. Instead, I just hope that you’ll think of me when you or someone you know needs some design or communications work done.

To that, here’s the link one more time: http://www.boxedcatmedia.com. (That’s: Boxed Cat Media Dot Com, if you missed it!)

And now on to the thank yous:

First, to all of my friends who helped brainstorm a great name! Especially Mark G., who suggested ‘Schrodie Media Group’ which made me smile, but I feared the cat’s name might make a URL difficult. However, that got me to the track that lead to Boxed Cat Media, as Schrodie was named after the man behind the cat-in-a-box theory in the first place.

Next, to the folks who gave feedback on the logo: Thank you Mom, Dad, Rebecca, Amy, Celeste, Ellen, Patricia, Paula, and Martin. Extra
thanks to Dad and Martin who gave additional feedback on tweaks in fairly quick order.

Then to the folks who reviewed the site for me: Thanks, Nick, Royann, and Dad! And another thanks to Dad for his input on my business cards.

Have I missed anyone? I hope not! But if I have, please know I’m grateful to you, too!!

So there you have it. Boxed Cat Media is now up and running and ready for work. So please feel free to help make that happen!

(And I promise to start blogging more regularly as I get settled in a bit more. Really!)

Feeling fishy

Today I had a fish pedicure with my sister-in-law, Liz. I had heard about them but was never of the mindset to get one; however from the day I arrived more than two weeks ago, Liz was pretty sure I needed one. And as I’m a pretty curious person, I decided to give it a try—but I made her get one, too!

[See video below!]

According to the informational handout at the spa (Bam-Bou Fish Pedicure Spa):

‘…the fish suck and nibble the dry skin from your feet leaving you with healthy, rejuvenated skin. … These clever little fish can also stimulate acupuncture points, helping to regulate the nervous system, relax the body and release fatigue!

[It is a] totally natural and safe procedure whereby the Garra Rufa fish produce a specific enzyme whilst they suck and nibble away your dead and dry skin which then promotes the regrowth of the fresh, new skin below.’

You need only Google ‘fish pedicure’ to see that it’s a procedure banned in several US states and Canadian provinces, and that it’s a questionable practice in the UK at the moment. But at the same time, I did enough research to learn that it isn’t outright dangerous or unsanitary.

Anyhow, it was £10 for 15 minutes and we basically sat there and let these little fishies converge on our feet. It was very weird and I felt a bit squeamish at first, but once I got used to it I didn’t mind the tingly sensation. But, I don’t think it’s an experience I’ll repeat—I would much rather have a proper pedicure where the girl paints my toenails bright red at the end.

Do I recommend it? No, not really. But I wouldn’t try to dissuade you if you were curious. My only advice would be to make sure you find a place that takes hygiene seriously and that you take a friend so that you have someone to giggle with!

Bit of a wander

Yesterday was a completely new experience for me: Walking through the English countryside. The walk was suggested by Paul’s cousin, Olwen, and I happily accepted the offer. Though if I’m honest, I didn’t really know what to expect for it! And I wasn’t really prepared for a walk either, having only brought a pair of running shoes and casual clothes with me for my trip to England. Always the trooper, I was going to make do with the clothing I’d brought, but as luck would have it, Olwen had an old pair of boots that fit me as well as a spare rucksack.

Olwen is a regular walker and got in touch with her friends, Ernie and Dennis, to join us for the day. They picked a route that they’ve all done in the past, and we headed out in the car from Billingham through Whitby and into Robin Hood’s Bay where the walk began. It was then a nine-mile walk on a disused rail bed that took us up to Ravenscar then back down the way to Robin Hood’s Bay again. It’s meant to go along the beach, but a high tide meant that we walked along the tops of the cliffs instead. It was a very train-oriented journey (despite the fact that we were on foot) which made me happy because it meant loads of great photos for Mom!

After the walk, we drove into Whitby for some fish and chips. I’d only been there once before—on the last English holiday Paul and I took a few weeks before he died—so it was a bit of a happy-sad part to the day, but I’m glad we went. A bonus to the trip was seeing a steam train!

Now, I wanted to keep this post fairly short, but I have to talk about the steam train so that’s not going to happen! You see, when we pulled into Whitby everyone decided to take a detour to the old train viaduct, because of my excitement over the old rail line. As we walked out on the viaduct, Ernie thought he saw what looked like steam from an old train so we waited and waited to see it come by, only we decided it must be smoke from a bonfire.

Then we noticed smoke on the other side, right near Whitby, and thought maybe that was a train. And we waited and waited but no train came. But still I smiled because it reminded me of a friend’s trip to Wales where she sat and watched the dolphins play, only to later realise they were just waves. Of course, she’d already had the thrill of enjoying the dolphins, so decided not to let the reality get her down. And that’s what today’s non-trains were to me—a bit of a letdown because there wasn’t a train, but a lot of smiles whilst I waited for the trains that never showed.

Then we started to walk back to the car and I stopped and insisted that I heard a train. Really, I did! So we waited a bit longer and sure enough, an old steam train came chugging around the corner and under the viaduct! Yay!!

But I’ve gone on and on, so I’ll stop now. But because I know that Mom would have loved to see the old trails, I took a great amount of photos on the route. And now she (and you!) can see what the day was like for me. I know it’s not quite the same as being there, but it’ll have to do!

Oh, one last thing: I promised my former foster daughter occasional YouTube videos, so here’s a quick one of the sea coming in at Robin Hood’s Bay at the end of our walk.

Wakey culture

I made my way down to Wakefield, England, yesterday to visit with my sister-in-law, Ann, for a few days. I’ve made several trips here over the past eight+ years and have always enjoyed it. But today was a different sort of day out in Wakefield because I went to my first art museum here—the newly opened Hepworth Wakefield.

I generally love museums and such, but I think that I was more impressed with the architecture of this one than the stuff they had inside. As we approached the grey mass of concrete (the largest purpose built exhibition space in the UK outside of London) I was struck by the building’s stark and utilitarian design. The angled, multi-layered roof line seemed so oddly placed in juxtaposition to the Chantry Chapel across the way—the brutal architecture seemed more fitting in a dock yard than in the heart of a medieval town. But I think that David Chipperfield’s vision works. (I especially loved the look of it against the blue sky!)

Inside of the museum I enjoyed the variety of paintings and sculptures, but I don’t think I was in the right mindset for a museum trip because none of the works really called to me today. I did, however, find it fascinating to see some of the displays explaining the process behind making some of the massive outdoor public sculptures that I see all over the place.

Of course, after seeing the arty cultural stuff, it was time to spend some cash. So Ann took me to a couple of shops where I found myself a new dress and a pair of ballet slipper kind of shoes after we popped into the Wakefield Cathedral’s gift shop and a Costa Coffee.

Tomorrow will be a bit of a lazy day (after, that is, I get a quick training run in for that bloody marathon!) then we’re heading back to Billingham on Friday. I realised the other day that I’ve been living out of a suitcase for nearly two months now, and I have to admit that I am ready to get settled in up in Scotland! (Though I also don’t quite know where I’ll be staying long-term there, so it will be a while before I’m truly settled, so stay tuned!)

By the sea

Today has been a seaside day. But not just one seaside—three of them! Or, really, I suppose it was all the same sea, but just three different seaside towns.

It started with a trip to Saltburn with one of my sister-in-law’s and her daughter where we took in the fresh sea air, walked along the pier, and enjoyed (of course) fish and chips. Our conversations there revealed that I’d never been to any of the other local-to-Billingham seaside towns (other than Seaton, obviously) and that my niece wanted blue ice cream—a treat we were unable to source at Saltburn.

And so, after departing Saltburn we headed up the road to Redcar (in a silver car) in search of blue ice cream (which we didn’t find) and later in search of the car (which we lost after forgetting where we parked it). Of course, being as we had time to spare, we decided to head up the road again to Seaton Carew where we hoped that we’d find that blue ice cream. Sadly, we didn’t, but they did have other flavours (and colours) of ice cream and a blue cone, which seemed to suffice.

The day wasn’t meant to be a tour of the regional seaside, but it was and I enjoyed it very much. Better still, I enjoyed the company! Better even still is that I know that I will get to enjoy their company more often now that I’m so near. (The bitter-sweet side to that, of course, is that whilst I’m happy to be enjoying the company of my in-laws and Scottish friends, it comes at the price of missing my own family and American friends.)

Oh, and to fill you in since I’ve been a bit MIA these last few days:
Yesterday was spent meeting with several of my in-laws for coffee at Starbucks before heading off gadget phone shopping with one of my nephews—a shopping trip that was hugely successful and saw me purchasing my first-ever Android based phone. And I love it! (I’m sure I’ll be posting updates from it soon enough!)

Tomorrow I’m off running so that I can prepare for my marathon, then the following day I’m heading down to Wakefield to see another sister-in-law. And sometime next week, I’ll spend some time sorting the long to-do list I have that seems to be getting longer rather than shorter!

Right! That’s most everything caught up so I’m off to play with that new gadget a bit more.

Home away from home away from home

Today I left my new home in Stirling to take a train journey to Billingham, England—Paul’s hometown and home to some of my in-laws. My sister-in-law, Liz, and niece, Rachel, met me at the train station to bring me to my English ‘weekend’ home.

When I got to the house, I was escorted to my room, which has been all done up for my arrival. But not only that, the night stand drawer has been filled with goodies for me—including my very own coffee mug for keeping in the kitchen downstairs, which means I no longer have to use a guest mug. (Yay!) And then, of course, we loaded back into the car with the dogs to head to Seaton Carew so that I could have fish-n-chips for dinner. Because no trip to Billingham is complete without a stop off at The Almighty Cod!

After enjoying our fish on the bench, we wandered down to the beach where the dogs chased balls into the sea whilst I collected shells to write a message in the sand. The sun was shining and the light breeze was just as you’d expect it. Later, walking back up the beach to the car park, I found sea glass for the first time ever—lots and lots of it! (I think a return visit for the sole purpose of finding more glass is in order!)

And now I’m back at the house, all cosy in my very own room, and feeling very much like this is my home away from the home that I live in now that I’m no longer home. (Did you follow that?*)

I’m down here in England for the next two+ weeks, with plans to return to Scotland the first weekend of September. I hope to be able to visit with all (or at least most) of the in-laws as well as train for my marathon and relax.

* My first home [hometown] is Cle Elum, Washington; my current home [or home away from home, and where my heart sings the loudest] is Scotland [Stirling, to be exact]; my home away from home when I’m already home away from home is Billingham, Paul’s hometown. Is that clearer?

Got there

I suppose this is a good time to give an update on my travels, since I’ve arrived in Stirling, Scotland, and am now out and about enjoying the free WiFi access. So, here we go:

Firstly, the flights: I left my hometown about 10:30 a.m. Thursday (that’s 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Stirling time) to travel to the airport some two hours away. Because I was flying standby, I wasn’t certain if I’d have a seat on the 3:00 p.m. flight, but I got one, so that was cool. Of course, you may know that since I updated on the plane during that flight!

Once in Minneapolis, I went to the gate hoping that I’d manage a seat on the flight to London and was extremely pleased to not only have a seat, but to have one in business class! And let just say that business class travel is amazing! A glass of bubbles before takeoff; a proper blanket and pillow; a three-course, proper meal served with good wine; and a seat that reclined all the way into a bed. The best thing about it was that I managed a decent sleep! (Yay!)

Then—all of the sudden—I was in the UK. But because my standby ticket was only good to London, I had to make my way to Edinburgh on my own. In anticipation of this, I had my Dad book me a flight once I was confirmed on my London leg, but he could only get me a (decently priced) flight that took off eight hours later—which meant a long day at Heathrow! Worse, it meant transferring from Terminal 4 to Terminal 5 and since I wasn’t on a continuing flight, I had to take my baggage with me. It was not an easy task, but it didn’t kill me.

Oh, and to fill the time, my sister and her best friend had me do a photo scavenger hunt with items/situations they posted on my Facebook page. So that was fun!

By the time I got on the flight to Edinburgh, I was more than ready to be done travelling. And by the time I came through the gates there, I was a mix of emotions and couldn’t decide if that would mean tears or laughter but seeing my friend, Rebecca, standing there to greet me made it an easy decision—laughter and smiles! (Though with watery eyes and a lump in my throat, I’ll admit.)

Finally, I was in Stirling—my home for the next year+. I was so tired but so excited. I was also very hungry and in need of a shower. After all, it was after 10:00 p.m. by that time—more than 24 hours after my journey
began.

Amazingly, I managed to get a full night’s sleep instead of my normal 3:00 a.m. waking time on my first night. I give credit to the business class cabin’s sleeper chairs!!

And now, after a wee wander around the Stirling city centre with Rebecca, I’m enjoying a sandwich and tea at the local coffee shop.

I’m sure that my sleeping and eating patterns will be off for a few days, but I’m also sure that they will sort themselves out. In the mean time, I’m just going to enjoy the thrill of being back in Scotland and I’m going to try to remember that I’m not on holiday this time. No, this time I’m home!

In flight

Ah, the modern world. Don’t you love how it’s filled with gadgets and gizmos aplenty and whozits and whatzits galore? After all, it means that I can bring you this blog update from an airplane some 10,000 feet above the ground!

So, here I am somewhere in the air between my home state of Washington and the Minneapolis airport. I’m flying on a standby buddy pass (i.e.: dirt cheap!), so was pleased to have gotten a seat on my first leg without problems. The next leg is Minneapolis to London and I’m hoping for good luck once again. Once I get to London I’m on my own and am travelling full fare, but it’s still an amazing savings.

(A special shout out of thanks to a special friend who sorted my travel. I won’t name her because I don’t want to make her phone ring off the hook for others looking for cheap travel, but please know that she is an amazing woman and whilst I don’t know her well, I feel that she is a true friend and someone I hope to know for the rest of my life! Lots of love to you, my friend!!)

But I digress…

I guess the point of this post is to distract me a bit from this new reality that I’ve yet to admit. It just doesn’t seem possible that I’m finally on my way. I feel as if I’m in a dream world and that this is just a little jaunt to someplace. I’ve been shutting out my emotions so much these past few weeks and I know it!

Don’t get me wrong, I cried when I said goodbye to my folks today (and my sister, two nieces and a nephew who joined us at SeaTac). And I’ve cried a few times since getting through security. But it’s all still a dream.

But I think my meltdown moment will be either when I arrive in Heathrow or when I arrive in Edinburgh and am greeted by Rebecca. (Yes, Rebecca, please expect tears. But please know it’s not you!) Yep, I’m a step closer to the dream and it won’t be long until my future becomes my today!!

[That’s a photo of me with the folks just before I got in line for security. I miss them already… (and not just because of the cooking and laundry they’ve done in the past month I’ve been staying with them!)]

Caledonia, I’m going home!

Wow! Can you believe that I’m flying ‘home’ to Scotland tomorrow? Or should I say today, since it’s past midnight in the homeland (why am I still awake!?) and morning time in Scotland.

I have to be honest and admit that today sort of snuck up on me. The past two+ years have been so filled with grief and stress and worry that even though I’ve been looking forward to my return to my beloved adopted Caledonia (that means Scotland) I haven’t quite allowed myself to believe this is happening.

I’m happy. I’m sad. I’m excited. I’m frightened. And I’m everything else in between.

I can’t help but think that my goodbyes over the past few weeks might be my final goodbyes. I can’t help but think that I don’t know what my future will hold when I arrive—and I can’t help but worry that it will be a failure. I can’t help but think about how much I will miss my Mom and Dad and my nieces and nephews and my sisters. I will miss my friends and my home country very much.

But at the same time, I can’t help but think of the joyful song my heart has always sung when I’m in Scotland. I can’t help but think of the enjoyment I will find in studying  (no, really!). I can’t help but think about the joys of spending time with my new friends and my wonderful in-laws.

It’s been an agonizing journey, and I know that the pain isn’t over. I have no expectations of a perfect world waiting for me. I don’t think that my move will erase the pain or make my world instantly better. But I do know that I need to do this. And I do know that my heart and soul need this to help me ‘get better’.

I am leaving behind a world I’ve known for my entire life, and heading to the world where I feel I belong. And I’m so very ready for it!

Caledonia you’re calling me, and now I’m going home!

The Doctor is in

Today is the long-awaited Doctor Who Marathon with my 14-year-old niece, Flik; 13-year-old niece, Cassandra; and Flik’s best friend, Hattie.

We are kicking back eating loads and loads of junk food whilst watching The Doctor save the world over and over again. He’s kinda cool like that.

You can give credit to Flik for the party, as she’s recruited as many Doctor Who fans as she could since I first introduced her to the greatness of the BBC sci-fi series about three years ago.

I’m looking forward to returning home to Scotland where everyone I know are Who Fans, but for now, I’m enjoying my newly-recruited Who Fans. Oh yes, Anglophiles in the making!!

Two full days of American life and three sleeps in the homeland, then I head to the airport. Yay! (But I’ll miss hanging out with my nieces and their friends when I leave!)

[That’s a picture of a TARDIS flannel (wash cloth) that a friend insisted I buy as a souvenir when we went to the Doctor Who exhibit a couple of years ago. It’s sat unused until tonight, and now belongs to a very happy Flik!]

Running goodbyes

A few months ago, I decided that I wanted to run ‘one last race’ with my nephews before I left for Scotland, so I searched out the race that was closest to my departure date. And that race was today.

Because the race was ‘on the other side of the mountains’ I drove over last night with my 12-year-old nephew, Haden, and 14-year-old niece, Flik. We then stayed at my baby sister, Royann’s, house with her husband, Javier, and their boys, 12-year-old Adrian and 7-year-old Brendan. Then it was an early start for us all to get to Lacey in time for the race.

Flik, Haden, and Adrian ran the 5K route and I ran the 10K one, whilst the others cheered us on. And I’m extremely pleased to say that all of us improved our times over previous races, despite none of us winning our groups. (I ran mine in 59:27, which is a 9:35 minute mile, which is way awesome!!)

Oh, and at the race I saw an old friend from high school, Craig, who was there to cheer on his wife who was also running the 10K. He’s one of the few classmates I have on my Facebook page, which meant that I was happy to go say hi, instead of pretending to not notice him! We figured that the last time we saw each other was during the 4th of July parade sometime in between my first trip to Scotland 10 years ago and my wedding 6+ years ago. What a nice little addition to my day! (And good luck to Craig’s wife who is training for a half marathon!)

After the race was over and the winners were announced, it was time for the hard part—saying goodbye. And because Haden was staying behind with his cousins, it meant one more person to hug. My first hug came from Brendan. He gave me the best hug he’s ever given me and told me he loved me—and even let me kiss his cheek! Then it was Haden’s turn for a hug. And I made him use both arms and gave him a kiss, too. Next up was Adrian. Again, two arms, kisses, and ‘I love yous’ were exchanged. (Promises of post cards and candy from Scotland were made to all of the kids.) Finally, it was time to say goodbye to Royann and Javier. Again, good hugs and promises of Skype phone calls.

Thankfully, Flik was heading back to the homeland with me, which meant a bit of a distraction, which meant I wasn’t a sobbing pile of goo when I drove away!

And since we were near(ish) ANT Elizabeth’s house, we went to see Schrodie, too. I am pleased to report that my beloved cat is starting to settle in a bit more. Her and my ANT’s cat are starting to share window ledges (though with a bit of animosity) and are even hiding under beds together. It’s kind of cool. But, she’s still got a way to go in her bid for normalisation!

Of course, the down side of that side trip was saying goodbye to Schrodie all over again. And saying goodbye to my cousins, Carson and Dylan, as well as my ANT. But I know that we’ll all keep in touch and I know that I’ll see them all when I’m back for visits. So that’s cool.

I have three full days remaining now and way too much to do in those days! I have to pack; I have to get my hair cut; I have to finish getting computers fixed up for family members so that we can stay in touch; I have to visit with friends; and I have to spend quality time with family. And I still have so many people to say goodbye to, too.

It’s going to be hard, but I know that I’m doing what’s best for me. After all, Scotland is waiting!

[Note to self: Drink more water to make up for all the tears that will be flowing!]

Eggs benny

Last night I drove out to Vantage for Girls’ Weekend at The Beach House—my second ever girls’ weekend, though sadly I was only able to attend one evening.

I was late in arriving because I was so busy with a million ‘must do before I move’ chores, but got there in plenty of time to visit with my sister, Celeste, and her best friend (and our host), Jenna, as well as their friends Rachel, Heather, and Sarah. And whilst Rachel and Heather were both lovely women and I enjoyed talking with them, it was Sarah who stole my heart—or rather, my tummy!

Sarah, it seems, is hoping to open a food cart soon. But not just any food cart—one that serves Eggs Benedict and BACON cookies! (Yes, really!!)

Now, I don’t know if you know this, but I LOVE bacon. So I was very happy to taste-test last night’s chocolate chip, sea salt, and bacon cookies. And I LOVE Eggs Benedict. So I was very thrilled to learn that Sarah was making breakfast for us this morning. And breakfast was (you guessed it!) Eggs Benedict! And can I just say, it was YUM-ME!!

Several hours later and I am at my baby sister’s house, in preparation for a race I’m participating in with my niece, Flik, and two 12-year-old nephews, Haden and Adrian, tomorrow morning. (I’m doing the 10K; the kids are doing the 5K.) But even though I’m here, where I’m awaiting an amazing dinner of barbequed tacos, I’m still thinking about my breakfast. It really was that good!

(Thanks, Sarah! I’m certain that your business venture will be a great success!!)

Fun with maths

[Please note that the ‘S’ at the end of maths was intentional, and not an error. It’s part of my attempt to use that funny British English stuff, since that’s (almost) home. However, I’m not quite ready to add the ‘S’ to words such as toward, forward, and backward. One day, I will completely acclimatise myself to the extra and replacement ‘S’s though. I think. But now onto the story.]

Once again, I’ve had a couple of great, fun-filled days. And much of the fun has included numbers. Like:

3+9=Golftastic!
Three friends came to visit yesterday and we were given the opportunity to play nine holes of golf at Rope Rider. The course isn’t open to the public for another three weeks, so it was a rare treat. It was also quite interesting to play since the course isn’t marked so we didn’t know where the tee-boxes were or what par was on each hole. Additionally, we didn’t have a course map and the pins weren’t out on the greens so we didn’t actually know where to aim! But we all had a great time and the course was absolutely amazing!

12+1+3+1=Runtastic!
So this morning I woke up bright and early (like, 6 a.m.!) for a 12-mile training run (12+1). I’ve been feeling a bit lazy with my running the last few days, so wasn’t about to bail on it! Thankfully, my Dad woke up early, too, so that he could ride along with me on his trike (that’s the 3+1 part, if you wondered).

NieceX3+Yakima=Funtastic!
After cooling down from my run, I grabbed three of my nieces (Flik, 14; Cassandra, 13; and Ivanna, 13) for a quick trip to Yakima. We loaded into my car and turned up the tunes (500 Miles by The Proclaimers was the first song request) then just sang and laughed on our way to ‘the big city’ (population 91,000 that’s big to us!). Our first stop was Target for some new running tops, then it was on to Miner’s for burgers and fries. After an enjoyable lunch we stopped off at the art supply and book stores before making the return drive to the homeland. It was really fun to be out with the girls, and I especially loved chatting with Ivanna about her dreams of being a tattoo artist when she grows up. (I doubt her mom enjoys hearing that career choice!)

36+Colours+Tin Case=Drawtastic!
Of course, I also managed to invest in some future fun! Yep, when we went to the art supply store, I noticed that they had a 50 percent off sale on premium coloured pencil sets. And since I have been frustrated with my $5 cheap-and-cheerful set intended for elementary students, I broke down and purchased a set of Prismacolor pencils. There are just 36 in the set, compared to 72 in the cheap set, but they are meant to be much better and come in a handy tin for carrying with me. And since we all know that I find joy (and therapy) in drawing swirls, it just seemed like $30 well spent!

And since we’re talking about maths, here are some more figures for you:

  • 7: Number of sleeps left until my flight
  • 39: Number of sleeps left until the first day of classes
  • 59: Number of sleeps left until I run/walk the Loch Ness Marathon

(Not bad for a woman who hates maths, huh?)

[That’s a photo of today’s burgers. Yum, huh?]

An awesome Monday

I’ve had a pretty awesome Monday, if you wondered. It started when I woke up at 6 a.m. and checked my email. That’s when I learned that I’d been awarded a £2,000 Scotland Saltire Scholarship toward my tuition at the University of Stirling. Then I went for an eight-mile run, where I shaved two minutes off my time on the same route last week.

After cooling down with some refreshing mountain water and a cup of coffee, I decided to call HM Revenue and Customs to sort my UK tax refund. Only I read the wrong number from my list and called my sister-in-law in England instead which meant a nice, unexpected chat with Liz, after which I called the tax man. And the tax man agreed with me that there was an error on their end and is sorting out a cheque for me for nearly £700.

By this time, it’s only about 9 a.m. and I’ve already managed a successful training run and have increased my bank balance by £2,700! Then about 40 minutes later, my eldest sister showed up with her daughters so that we could all head up to Tumble Creek for a round of golf. It was potentially the longest game I’ve ever played—despite us playing a scramble format—but it was so great to play with the girls!

When I finally got home (around 5 p.m.?) I got the chance to relax for a bit before my friend, Marv, arrived for a trip up to Fifty6 Degrees for a wee dram of single malt. (We chose Talikers; yum!)

And now I’m home again and ready for bed. It’s been an active day, but an awesome one. Thankfully, tomorrow appears to be considerably less active, but also enjoyable since I have a lunch date with Jennifer!

At the beach: A holiday recap

I suppose it’s time for a holiday recap, since my Washington Coast holiday is over. So, here goes!

Day 1: I arrived at Copalis Beach, Washington, where I was attending a fun-filled family reunion, with more than enough time to eat food and visit with loads of awesome Eberles. Because I was playing in the family golf tournament the next morning, I stayed sober and went to bed early. Because I was staying in my sister Jessica’s tent and everyone else was staying up late drinking, I didn’t actually sleep. But I suppose that’s OK because everyone was having fun.

Day 2: Up bright and early, I loaded up my niece Cassandra (13) who decided to golf with us at the last minute, then stopped off to pick up Celeste’s kids, Flik (14) and Haden (12) who had also signed up to golf. Once we got to the course, I learned that Cassandra had only played miniature golf. I also learned that Haden and Cassandra would be on my team with Cousin Jack. Yeah, by the 9th hole it was just me and Jack. Haden called his mom for a lift and Cassandra went and read a book. It was also at the 9th hole that my completely rubbish game turned to just a half-way rubbish game. [Flik’s team, for the record, won the tourney. And Flik won the ladies’ long drive competition. Yay Flik!]

After golf it was off to the Ocean Shores senior centre for a BBQ potluck with 100+ cousins. At some point, Daddy and I went out to map out a 10-mile run for me to do in the morning. Of course, after not getting a good night’s sleep the night before, I opted to crash on the couch at the cabin my folks and sister, Celeste, had rented instead of back at the camp site with Jessica and the cousins. It was another early night, but what a great night’s sleep it was!

Day 3: Yes folks, it’s 10-Mile Run day! Daddy got up early with me to take me up to the start line for my run. The weather was nice and cool and there was a nice foggy mist for the first nine miles, which made for a cool and enjoyable run. Even better was that Dad showed up on his trike around mile 3.5 with a bottle of water then paced me until mile six when he rode back to meet me at the finish with his car. I had originally hoped for a two-hour finish, but was very pleased to have finished in 1:46:44—about a 10.36 minute mile, which is great for a training run!

After my run (and shower) it was back to the senior centre for more BBQ and potluck followed by a photo scavenger hunt that my team won. I’ll spare you some of the carry-on that ensued to make that happen, but I will share with you the names of Team Awesome: Me; my awesome baby sister, Royann; my awesome niece, Flik; and my awesome cousins, Carson and Dylan. Oh yeah, we had a blast! (And did I mention that our team won? Well, we did!)

And after that fun, it was back to the main camp ground for a dinner BBQ and potluck with more visiting with cousins. Only this time, I was drinking. And one of the cousins was making martinis, so you know I was happy! (Thank you, Flik, for your idea that we sleep in the car that night instead of in the cold tent. I was far too drink-filled to crawl into a tent anyhow!)

Day 4: Yeah, one too many drinks the night before, so I was a bit slow for day 4. Still, I managed to make it through. Most folks were heading home, but my folks and Celeste had their cabin for one more night, so Uncle Mike (who’d ridden over with me) and I decided to stay one more night, too, pitching our tents in a site just down from the cabin. Oh, and my baby sister’s kids (Adrian, 12, and Brendan, 7) were left off with my folks, too.

Once camp was set, we walked to the beach to fly kites. Only, Uncle Mike had these massive, fancy kites with loads of lines to operate and I just wanted a little pretty thing on the end of a single string. Thankfully, Brendan let me use the kite he was flying, so that made me happy. And after kite flying ended, it was back to the folks’ cabin for pizza before heading to the tents for some much-needed sleep.

Day 5: It’s leaving day, which means packing up the rigs. Only all of the sudden I had two more passengers (Adrian and Brendan) who needed a ride home to their mom. And that meant figuring out how to get all of mine and Uncle Mike’s gear back, since the back seat was no longer an option. Luckily, the kids’ legs were short enough to use some of their floor board space, and the folks had a bit of space in their rig, too. (My golf clubs appreciated the lift!)

Once on the road, the kids and Uncle Mike napped whilst I drove. Then it was a quick(ish) stop at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Tacoma before giving the boys back to their mom. Then it was on to Cle Elum to where Uncle Mike loaded his stuff into his rig and drove off whilst I warmed up LittleGreen. After all, I knew that you really wanted to know about my holidays. (Yay!)

[I’ll post loads of photos later. In the mean time, here’s what you’re looking at for this story:
Day 1: Camp fire at Echoes of the Sea, Copalis Beach, Washington.
Day 2: My golf team, Team Awesome, with members Cassandra, Jack, Haden, and me. [Photo by my niece, Flik.]
Day 3: Me, at the five-mile mark of my 10-mile run. (It was more fun than my face may let on!) [Photo by my Dad, Roy.]
Day 4: Brendan flying the fun kite.
Day 5: Me, Daddy, Mommy, and Celeste in the face-in-hole cut out at the camp grounds. [Photo by The Jeanne.]

On my holidays

So here I am at Copalis Beach with my pretty new gadget, LittleGreen. Yes, my holidays have officially begun. Well, that’s if you can have a holiday when you don’t have a job.

The reason for the holiday is a family reunion. The Eberle Family Reunion, to be exact. Oh yes, there are 100+ Eberles gathered at the ocean.

And because I’m in the midst of having fun, I’ll leave this as a short post. After all, I have to go back to having fun, then I need to get to bed to rest up for tomorrow’s 18 holes of golf. Yay!

[Oh, and since I’ve been enjoying myself so much, I only now got around to a photo, so this is some of us awesome Eberles around the camp fire. That deserves another Yay! so, Yay!]

Playing make believe

Avid readers of Just Frances will remember that I shared my thankfulness for ‘make believe friends’ this past Thanksgiving. Well, it seems that my sister, Celeste, shared that story with her make believe friends at the same time. And one of those friends became a regular reader of my blog after that. Dawn began offering support and friendship through my blog and even found me on Facebook.

Well, this week Dawn is in Seattle as a tag-along spouse whilst her husband attends a conference. So she’s meeting her make believe friends in real life—and Celeste and I were first!

It really was interesting to meet with someone I’d only known online—but it seemed easy and very comfortable. Of course, I felt at ease with Dawn before meeting her, so that probably helped!

Now, not only was this Dawn’s first trip to Seattle, but it seems that it was Celeste’s first for many things, too, because she’s never really been a Seattle girl. So I was in tour guide heaven!

Our first stop was Starbucks #1, then we wandered across to Pike Place Market where we enjoyed the various booths and free samples—and watched with big smiles as they threw fish. Then, of course, it was down to Post Alley to stick our used chewing gum on the gum wall. (Really.)

Next up, we wandered along the Waterfront where I purchased a loaf of double sourdough bread from the Alaska Sourdough Bakery before we popped in to Ye Olde Curiosity Shop to see the mummies and three-headed pigs. (Really.)

Of course, all this wandering around made us hungry, so I had to introduce the girls to Dick’s Drive-In on Broadway. We all enjoyed Dick’s Deluxes, fries, and root beer, and then we were off to Volunteer Park where we enjoyed a walk around the conservatory and were pleasantly surprised to see a fantasy medieval-y battle group playing. Even better was that some of the players took time to talk to us about their group. (Really.)

Anyhow, it was a good day out and I’m glad to have gotten the chance to meet Dawn in real life.

Check out photos from the day here.

And check out a video from the battle people here!!

An unemployed, homeless transient

Last summer I shared with you my rocky start in life as an illegitimate, homeless transient. Well, it would seem that I’m back to a less-than-ideal lifestyle again.

Yes, folks, I am officially an unemployed, homeless transient.

My last day of employment was July 8 and I said goodbye to my lovely home this morning. I am in transit now—literally—having stopped about half-way between the home I just left and the home I grew up in.

I will stay with my parents until I leave for Scotland, where I will essentially wave to my friends, drop off my bags, then head to England to stay with various in-laws for a couple of weeks before heading up to Scotland to settle in. Once back in Scotland, I will rely on the goodwill of good friends for a while as I try to find a job and a flat of my own.

I make light of the terminology, which isn’t fair since so many people are facing these terms against their will. This really is a hard time for me, despite my joking, but I am lucky in that my situation is [mostly] one of my own making. Yes, it began with the devastation of losing Paul and becoming a widow so unexpectedly at such a young age, but the rest was mostly driven by my path to find a bit of joy in my world.

I am looking forward to my arrival in Scotland, where I will try to make my home. I must admit that I worry about my future employment, and I worry about my future housing and transient status. But I don’t worry about being safe and secure because I am going home where I expect I’ll be welcomed with open arms.

As always, you can continue to expect a few sad and reflective posts on Just Frances as I continue to find my way to this new future. But you can also look forward to some fun and happy posts over the next few weeks as I have a busy social calendar for my final days in the homeland! Stay tuned to hear all about it!

[That’s a photo of what an unemployed, homeless transient looks like after a week of unemployment and three hours of homeless transient status, if you wondered.]

The table

Three weeks before we moved into our house, I found an Art Deco table on CraigsList for $20. I emailed the link to Paul then excitedly picked up the phone to talk to him about it. Looking at the photos, we both agreed that it was battered—after all, all of the four chairs were in pieces and the finish on the rest of the table was horrible at best! We also agreed that it would look fabulous in the Art-Deco-meets-Craftsman house we were in the process of buying.

With little effort, I convinced Paul that it would be a breeze to refinish, so we decided to get it, which meant transporting it to our temporary home in our Ford Focus and Honda CRX. I don’t know what a tighter fit was: Getting it into the two small cars or getting it into the hovel of an apartment we lived in for a month before moving into the house!

After we moved in to the house in mid-May we would sit out on the back patio in the evenings sanding away the old finish by hand. Each piece had to be taken apart and sanded separately, and then I carefully glued the chairs back together. The table legs were missing a couple of little fiddly bits, too, so my Daddy got to recreate them using the existing ones as a template.

Finally, in November, we began the process of staining the table. When, two weeks before Thanksgiving, it was done, we excitedly placed the table in the dining room. Then I stood back and commented about what a great job we’d done—especially since I’d never refinished anything before in my life!

At that moment, Paul looked at me in shock. He had assumed that since I insisted it would be an easy project that I’d actually done something like it before—and he remarked that had he known I’d not, he would have argued against getting the table. (I reminded him that I never said I’d done it before—I’d only said that it would be easy to do.) But I think that Paul was glad he didn’t have that bit of information because he loved the table and loved to tell the story about our amazing CraigsList find.

And a couple of weeks after it was done we had the table filled with family for Thanksgiving dinner—which fell on Paul’s birthday that year.

Yesterday, I sold that table (for more than $20, after all, it’s all pretty now!). It breaks my heart to say goodbye to the table where Paul and I sat to share meals and dreams together, but I am happy to know that someone new will get to enjoy it now. As for me, I don’t have the table any more, but I will always have the memories…

Boom! Bang!

Today is the 235th birthday of my beloved America. I always get a bit weepy on Independence Day because my patriotism always gets the better of me. Of course, today I realised that next year I won’t be in America for the big celebration, and whilst I’m happy that I’ll be in my adopted home of Scotland, I’m a bit sad knowing I won’t be here to celebrate my heritage. But don’t worry—I will always be proud to be an American!

But on to the rest of the story…

I decided to kidnap my 12-year-old nephew, Haden, for a few days. I figured that since I still had a couple of days left on my four-day weekend and since my folks would be arriving on Wednesday to help with packing, it would be nice to have the company and the extra set of hands.

Of course, once we got to my house I realised that I wasn’t prepared—I mean, there were no fireworks at the house! At first I wasn’t worried about it because I knew that we could watch the other fireworks going off, but I quickly noticed that Haden was looking a bit sad. So I went across to the neighbours’ to see if they had things to blow up. And it turns out that they had loads and loads and loads of firecrackers on hand.

When I returned to tell Haden that I had a plan, his face lit up! Once we arrived on the neighbours’ deck, his face lit up even more—I don’t know if he’s ever seen so many firecrackers in his life! So, with the supervision of four adults, Haden spent the evening throwing firecrackers off the deck whilst we all watched the most amazing small-town firework display I’ve ever seen!

I’m sad to know that I’ll never see another firework show on the Palouse, but I’m pleased that I had such a fun-filled 4th of July with my wonderful neighbours. I just wish Paul could have been here with us.

Tomorrow Haden and I will go for a three-mile run before dying our hair green. Then we’ll be busy packing. Haden knows I’ll spend a bit of time crying but I think he’s OK with that. In a way, I think that Haden’s sad, too. He knows that this is [likely] his last trip to the Palouse and he knows that I’m leaving soon—and I think he’ll miss me, just as I’ll miss him.

But at least he’ll remember that his second (and hopefully not last) 4th of July at Aunt Frances’ was a banging good time!

Happy birthday, America!

[That’s a photo of Haden throwing a firecracker, if you wondered.]

The last long weekend

I’m in the homeland enjoying a four-day weekend before the start of my final (three-day) work week. And as it happens to be Pioneer Days Weekend (in celebration of Independence Day) there is lots going on!

Yesterday was an annual barbeque at my eldest sister, Veronica’s, house—made so much better because it was the day after my 15-year-old niece, Krystyne’s, last radiation treatment! I can’t tell you how happy I am that my favourite Bug is cancer-free!

Then today I ran the Runner Stumbles 10K with my 12-year-old nephew, Haden, whilst my sister, Celeste, and 14-year-old niece, Flik, did the 5K. It was a bit of a hard race for me since I’d not run at all (bad girl!) since the half-marathon distance I did just over a month ago, coupled with the fact that I’m not long out of a two-week battle with an upper respiratory infection—which meant I did a lot of coughing on the route!!

But still, Haden and I managed to run the entire race. And whilst I was disappointed with my slower-than-desired time, I was so proud of Haden for coming in first in his age group (under 14). He’s a bit bummed that he was the only person in his group, but I reminded him that whilst loads of kids his age did the 5K route, he was the only one who had the courage and determination to do the 10K. And he ran the whole thing. A feat to be proud of for sure!

[See more of my races here.]

Then this evening, I grabbed Flik and Haden to head out to the old South Cle Elum train depot where my 16-year-old nephew, Nick, was playing with his band, The Blast-Ended Skrewts. The band has been together for about eight years and really do rock! (The YouTube video below should serve as proof to that statement!)

I’ll head home tomorrow and will hopefully find some nice local fireworks to watch. Then on Tuesday I will head out of a quick training run on the last day of my four-day weekend. A day that I’m also realising will be my last day off work—since you can’t count it as a day off work when you’re unemployed. Which I will be as of 5:01 p.m. on Friday, July 8.

Wow! I’m beat just thinking about all the activity of the weekend and coming week!

Cleaning closets

Well, I’ve finally done it. I’ve finally cleaned out Paul’s side of the closet. It only took more than two years…

I don’t know what took me so long, other than denial and the inability to bring myself to complete the heart-wrenching task. There have been several times over the past two years that I’ve opened the closet and looked at his clothes—sometimes I’d even gather them in my arms and smell them. But I couldn’t bring myself to take things off the hangers or pack them in to boxes or bags.

Of course, now that I’m moving, I didn’t have a choice. So when my Aunt Elizabeth (which I pronounce ANT for her benefit despite my normal aunt-as-in-flaunt pronunciation) came over this evening I asked her to help. I was more than happy that she was willing!

We started in the hall closet with Paul’s coats and jackets—and laughed as I pulled used tissues and toothpicks out of every pocket. (I even found a key to our booze cupboard in a pair of his jeans.) We laughed even more when my cousin found even more tissues in the pocket of a jacket he tried on. I was happy when my cousin decided to take the down-filled winter jacket and a nice dressy black jacket. And my aunt is the proud new owner of Paul’s Levi jean jacket. It makes me feel good to know that people I love will be wearing Paul’s coats and jackets. (Is that weird?)

Then we moved to the bedroom closet. Having AE there to help (and distract) made it almost painless to bag up Paul’s old socks and underwear! When we got to the clothing, I decided that I’d save all of his old race t-shirts to have a quilt made with them. I also decided to save the ties (with the thought of offering them to nieces and nephews in the USA and UK) and that I’d keep a couple of tops for me to wear, as well as two of his ball caps. I also decided that some of Paul’s running gear would be offered to a couple of my young nephews.

Everything else got bagged up for Goodwill: Button-up shirts, sweaters, trousers, jeans, and shoes. I don’t know that I have the heart to take it all to Goodwill though, so AE has volunteered to drop them off for me—after allowing her sons to dig through.

I really hate that I’ve had to do this, but I am so happy to have had someone there to help. Tears were shed, but laughter was shared, too, as I told stories of the various pieces of clothing.

Of course, knowing that Paul would be more than happy for me to get rid of everything makes it easier, too. And knowing that I will have a nice quilt one day to remind me of all the races we ran together will help.

There’s still more sorting to do and I’m sure some things will be harder to sort than others. The next stage is to figure out what I’m taking back to the UK with me so that I can share them with his family. Photos and mementos from his entire life are certainly not things that are heading for the Goodwill bin!

Now, I know this is going to sound silly, but I think that the idea of throwing away those silly tissues and toothpicks will be more difficult that getting rid of his clothes!

On a positive note

Yesterday’s post was a bit sad and whilst I’d love to say that I’m over it and that the world is all unicorns and rainbows and shiny things now, it’s not. It’s going to take a while to get to that point because I have a lot of stuff to go through (mentally, emotionally, and physically) to prepare for my happy future. It’s stressful and overwhelming but I am trying to be positive, really.

One of the things that has me thinking positively is the realisation that once I’ve actually left my job and my house, I will be free to spend time relaxing and sorting things out in my head—something I’ve not really had a chance to do since Paul died more than two years ago. And all of the sudden I’m going to have three weeks or so with no responsibilities. So here’s how I imagine myself spending those three weeks:

First, I have to be realistic and acknowledge that my Dad probably has a list of projects for me to help with around the house. Mom probably has a list, too. But I also know that I enjoy helping the folks (delayed obedience I like to call it) so that’s OK. Plus that, Dad’s projects will probably be great for some cross training (i.e.: free weight lifting!). Of course, the folks aren’t going to keep me busy from dawn to dusk, so that’s where the rest of the plan comes in.

I’m planning to get some training runs in most days and maybe some bike riding for cross training. I’m planning to sit in the back garden with a book (or my Kindle) soaking up the sun. I’m planning on eating lots of good food that my folks cook for me (really, I’ll try to get out of as much cooking as possible!). I’m planning on meeting up with friends and siblings for lunch and coffee. I’m planning to head up to the lake with my book (or my Kindle) to soak up the sun. I’m planning to hang out with my nieces and nephews as much as possible.

Oh! And I’m planning to attend the Eberle Family Reunion at Ocean Shores—with a pre-reunion camping trip with Uncle Mike for good measure. And I’m planning to attend the multi-year Cle Elum Roslyn High School reunion. And I’m planning to sit in front of the local coffee shop with a book (or my Kindle) soaking up the sun, chatting with the other locals in the way that small town locals do. (Might as well enjoy these few weeks of ‘being a local’ once again.)

Of course I know that my emotions will get the better of me from time-to-time and that my relaxing time will also be emotional crying time. But I’m pretty sure that just having time to be with my thoughts—without the pressures of work—will help. I just have to remember not to get bored. Or if I do get bored, I can’t tell my folks because growing up, once you said ‘I’m bored’ they’d put you to work—and you couldn’t take those words back!

[Note to self: I won’t be bored, I’ll be relaxing.]

Schrodie lives!!

It was just before 4 a.m. when the screaming howls of cats outside my bedroom window woke me with a start. I ran toward the back door to rescue my cat, only on opening the door I heard the sounds of an animal running into the cedar trees. I called out for Schrodie, but she didn’t answer.

I panicked running back into the house to check for her. She wasn’t on the couch or on my bed. She didn’t come when I shook her food container.

I grabbed the flashlight and started walking toward the cedars—crying and shaking. As my light flashed on Schrodie’s collar and a trailing of fur along the edge of the trees, I broke down as I realised that my cat might just be gone.

My sister, Celeste, was with me for the weekend so I got her out of bed to assist in the search—she too had been awoken by the sounds of angry cats. And when we both realised that, yes, Schrodie was gone, I broke down on the pavement in a way that was oddly similar to my breakdown on hearing the news of Paul’s death.

Laying in bed, all I could think of was how horrible this place was and how awful the world would be without Schrodie. I was planning to one day bring her to Scotland with me and now I would never see her again. I kept thinking that maybe it wasn’t Schrodie—the fur seemed lighter than hers, but maybe it was just lighter because it was spread out on the dampened lawn.

Eventually, I started to think about how I would convince my sister that she needed to gather up the collar and the fur so that we could bury them with Paul. And I started to wonder how I would tell my foster daughter, who was at a friend’s house for the night. And I started to wonder how I would manage my last few weeks in this house without Schrodie.

Then—three hours later—a miracle happened. Schrodie came bounding into my room and pounced on my chest. She was alive! And was clever enough to know that if she bashed her head hard enough on the sensor-activated cat door (the activation unit is on her collar) she could gain entry into the house.

The house is filled with jubilation as we celebrate the fact that Schrodie, who is named for Erwin Schrodinger, was dead for three hours—but actually was alive. Alive!!!

Sadly, something died in the early hours this morning. But that something was trespassing so my cat had to defend our home. I just hope that something wasn’t a child’s beloved pet…

Oh! Another thought: Cat’s have nine lives, mine has eight left.

And just look at that cat! This photo was taken this morning. She’s loving the attention but I think she wonders what the big deal is…

The packing begins

Last weekend the world was really closing in on me. So much so that I had a bit of a breakdown at my folks’ place about the stresses of emptying my house. The process of trying to sell stuff, deciding what to keep, and figuring out how I would manage to get everything I was keeping from my rural home to the homeland more than 200 miles away was just too much.

Anyhow, my breakdown caused them to re-think their plans for this weekend. They had intended to spend the entire weekend with another sister (Jessica) and my niece (Cassandra), but instead opted to spend Friday night with them, then drive down to my place to help with the process of clearing out some of my treasured junk. At the same time, Jessica and Cassandra decided that they would also come down on Saturday to help—and for a final chance to see my foster daughter before she moves in a couple of weeks.

And so, last night I stood in my bedroom clearing out my antique dresser and vanity so that my folks could take them to my niece, Flik. The set had been my grandmother’s and I really wanted them to remain in the family—and Flik was more than happy to be the recipient of a bit of family furniture.

Of course, to get the stuff ready meant that I (finally) had to empty out Paul’s underwear drawer. And I (finally) had to put away the keys and coins and bits and bobs that he’d placed on top of the dresser the night he died. (Yes, these things really have sat right where he left them for more than two years.) Now, all of those things are in a couple of boxes on the bedroom floor. I haven’t quite gotten to the place where I’m ready to get rid of his clothes. (But I did throw away his used tooth ­­picks and tissues. That’s a step in the right direction…)

Because I wanted to take advantage of the exiting vehicles, I also managed to pack four boxes with stuff for storage: Some books and movies, a variety of vases and knick-knacks that I can’t yet part with, and the wedding cake topper that my dad hand-carved for us. I even filled up Jessica’s car with loads of things that would have ended up at Goodwill: Various wine and champagne glasses, candle holders, candles, hair clippers, and snow boots—plus some teas and chocolates that would never be consumed if left here.

It hurts so much to see these things gone from my home because it’s a sad reminder that soon this house that was once filled with love and hopes and dreams will be empty and lifeless. No matter how many times I tell myself that I’m doing the right thing—and that Paul would approve of everything I’m doing—it hurts. I try to put on a brave face, but inside I’m crying; inside my whole world is vanishing before my eyes.

There is so much more to do. So very, very, very much more. And I don’t know if my body can produce all the tears that are needed for the process. Then, once the house is empty, there’s the process of saying goodbye to my life in America.

Why do the right decision have to be so painful?

The counting begins

I am counting down the days until The Big Move takes place. Not in exact days mind you, because I won’t buy my ticket until I have my visa in hand. But in some form or another, I’ve been counting down since I got my acceptance email from the University of Stirling way back in November 2010. Of course, the first stage of my countdown was done in secrecy because I was counting down the weeks before I could give notice at work. Which I did about two months before I’d planned to because I just couldn’t handle the stress of the secret!

But now that work knows I’m outta here, I can count it all down out loud. And here’s the breakdown:

  • Days until I’m an unemployed bum: 37
  • Days left in the office: 25
  • Number of office Mondays remaining: 4
  • Days before classes start: 102
  • Days until I move home to Scotland: 70 (or thereabouts)

Of course, for excited as I am about these numbers, I also have to remember that it’s only 37 days until I am without an income—expendable or otherwise. And it’s only about 70 days until I have to say goodbye to my parents and nieces and nephews and siblings and my beloved Schrodie—and my friends and my life here in America.

I’m sure that once I arrive in Scotland I will start counting down the days until I can return to the homeland for a visit. Or maybe I’ll be counting down the days until my family come to visit me in Scotland. Or maybe I’ll be counting down the days until I have my PhD…

You know, for someone who hates maths, I sure do enjoy countdowns!

Who am I really talking to?

My lovely foster daughter is getting ready for a major life change and I’m amazed at how well she’s handling it. (Or how well she’s pretending to handle it?) After living with me since mid-August, she is now preparing to move on to her permanent home—far, far away from where she grew up. And I get to help her with this transition.

Part of the move means going through all of her worldly possessions and deciding what she wants to keep. And part of the move means saying goodbye to loved ones, friends, and a school that she’s known her entire life. All of her known world will soon be a reflection in the rear view mirror. (Well, since she’s flying there probably won’t be a rear view mirror, but you get the point.)

Of course, this is a positive transition; one that will see her happily settled with loving family members. She’s really looking forward to it. But at the same time, she has to leave loving family members behind.

We’ve talked about needing to downsize and part with loved possessions because of space limits—and the high cost of shipping or storing things. We’ve talked about what things are worth keeping at any cost versus what things can be given to friends, sold, or donated to charity. We’ve even taken photos of some of those items so that she can remember them.

We’ve talked about how this new world she’s moving to will have different cultural and social expectations—even though it’s still the same country. We’ve talked about how exciting it is to have a fresh start, but also about how sad it is to be leaving her old life behind. We’ve talked about how exciting it is to think of starting 7th grade as the new kid—and about how much of a letdown the reality of that situation might be.

We’ve talked about how happy she is about her bright new future, and about how much she has to give up in order for it to happen. We’ve talked about how sad it will be to leave her old world behind. And we’ve talked about how she’s allowed to be happy and sad all at once and how being happy about her future doesn’t mean that she has to be happy about saying goodbye to her life here.

We’ve talked about how many struggles she’s had here, and how a fresh start won’t mean an end to life’s struggles—it will just mean different struggles. And we’ve talked about how it’s OK for her to miss here when she’s there.

We’ve talked about how her fresh start doesn’t erase the sadness—or the happiness—of her past; it just gives her new opportunities for a bright future. A future that will always include elements from her past. Because, after all, just because she’s in foster care doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have wonderful memories of a wonderful life.

Oh, and we’ve talked about what it’s going to be like to fly, as this will be her first plane journey. And we’ve talked about how we’ll stay in touch and what sorts of cool things she wants me to send her when I move to Scotland. (Pencils and t-shirts: Yes. Candy and stuffed animals (not including Nessie, of course): No.)

It’s funny because these conversations aren’t all about her. When we talk, we talk about how we’re both on these major life-changing journeys and how we’ve both had a lot of sadness in our lives that have been the impetus for our new futures. It’s funny because it’s easier for her to part with her stuff when she sees me doing the same thing. It’s not just her getting rid of ill-fitting clothing in preparation for a move; I’m doing it, too. We’re both downsizing. We’re both filled with emotions of joy and sadness as we look toward our futures and behind to our pasts.

I’m often told what a blessing it is that I’m in the kid’s life, helping her through this time of transition. But you know what? She’s helping me just as much as I’m helping her. Some days I feel that taking on an 11-year-old foster kid whilst I was in the process of grieving for my husband was a bad idea. But most days, I realise that it was the best thing I could have done for both of us.

Anyhow, it just struck me today that all of the assurances I’m giving her to ease her fears and insecurities are the same assurances I need to be giving myself!

And I suppose that you may get to hear a bit more about her transition over the next couple of weeks because it really is a bit of a grieving process for both of us. Luckily, I can blog it out. Sadly, she’s taking it out like any nearly-12-year-old girl would do—lots of hysterical tears and fits over nothing. (Oh, wait! I do that on occasion, too.)

[Original artwork by my foster daughter, October 2010.]

The homeland half

Today was the Inaugural Homeland Memorial Weekend Half Marathon and I came in first place! No, really, I did!

OK, in fairness I was the event’s creator and the only [real] participant. But still, I ran (and walked) 13.1 miles today. Which is probably more than you ran today so please don’t judge me for bragging. And not only that, but I did it with a 6 a.m. start time. (Crazy lady!)

The course was pretty simple and was measured (and marked) by my dad, and we drove it last night so that I could see where each mile point was. It started from my sister’s house, went east out of town to Airport Road then cut to the left onto Masterson Road and left again at Red Bridge. The turn-around was about a mile past The Flying Horseshoe Ranch.

It was a straight out-and-back which meant that all of those blasted hills I had to run up on the first half of the course were hills to run down for the last half! (Which helped!) What helped more was that my dad was waiting at each mile marker to offer water and take photos. Talk about a support team!

And now for the boring mile-by-mile recount:

My 12-year-old nephew was going to do the race with me but I knew before Mile 1 he’d be bailing. Just past Mile 2 we were on a walk-and-water break. And by Mile 3 he joined my dad in his car. By Mile 3.5 Haden was ready to rejoin me.

At Mile 4, my sister, Celeste, had come out for a quick cheer and a photo op. At Mile 5, Haden hopped back in the rig with my dad—having decided he really, really was done. Mile 6 was a chance for a quick water break before I headed the additional .55 miles to the turn around.

At the turn-around (Mile 6.55! Yay!) my jacket came off and I was on the downhill end of the race. Just before Mile 7 my sister showed up again with water and the kids for a final cheering session before heading home to feed everyone breakfast. And just past Mile 8, as I turned back onto Masterson Road, the winds picked up. Cold, hard, miserable winds. And that’s also where my legs started to get mad at me.

By Mile 9 I was starting to wonder what I’d gotten myself into. Not so much with today’s race, but with the thought of my marathon in October. That was also when my mind started to mull over some unspoken words that need spoken to a friend, which started to make me a bit frustrated because I fear they’ll go unsaid forever. Which isn’t exactly motivating!

At Mile 10 I requested my jacket back. The winds were frigid and by this time my legs had given up on me to the point of no running—where for the two miles before I’d been on a walk-run routine. It was frustrating to know that I’d be walking the rest of the race, but I knew that I’d be able to walk fast—it’s just that my legs couldn’t do the running thing anymore. Or so I thought…

By the time I got to Airport Hill (a steep and long-ish hill that I’d run up at the start of the race) I was ready to run down the hill. I continued walking again at the base of the hill and was soon upon Mile 11—Just two miles to go now!! And that 12th mile was hard! I had the cold wind, the sore legs, a nagging question about if I could actually do a marathon, and the thoughts of unspoken words to keep me down.

But then, just before rounding the corner for Mile 12—The Final Mile—I saw my nephew riding his bike toward me. He decided to come out to cheer me on for a bit. It made my heart sing, and my smile came back to my face. At that point, dad headed back to the house and I started to feel a bit more confident—albeit with sore, un-running legs!

And, finally, about two blocks before the finish line, I managed to run again. The heavy winds were complicating that, but the final 100 yards or so was down an alley way where the wind was blocked—and at the finish line were my parents, my sister, my nephew and niece, and my foster daughter. They even had a ribbon for me to run through and a ‘1st Place’ ribbon for my efforts!

I’m tired now. Really, really tired. But I’m well-pleased with my efforts; especially since I didn’t actually train for this. (Oops!)

The Loch Ness Marathon is in just 18 weeks and I’m pretty sure my running partner for that race won’t bail on me (though she’s allowed to run on her own since she’ll be faster than me!). I don’t expect to run it all, but I do expect to finish. I guess I’d best get training!

[Photo credits to my dad, Roy Cook.]

Music lessons; take two

Back in April I took Paul’s record collection and a turntable to my niece, Flik. This was a much loved gift and she’s since purchased a few new (old) records to add to the collection. Unfortunately, this left her 12-year-old brother, Haden, feeling a bit left out.

But that changed today when I showed up with a dual-cassette ‘boom box’ and a bag of Uncle Paul and my old cassette tapes. I know it’s hard to believe, but the kid was so, so excited to get a stack of Van Morrison and Bob Dylan tapes. Maybe less excited about some of my tapes—Cyndi Lauper, Sylvia, and Belinda Carlisle.

I had to teach him how to use the cassette player and explain how the process works for finding a specific song and flipping the tape over when one side is done, but that quick lesson was enough to get him ready to play. I also explained the concept of mixed tapes and about the differences between 8-tracks and cassettes. He was further cheered when I told him that you can still find cassettes every-so-often. (He’s a yard sale maniac, so he’ll be finding new music all summer, I’m sure!)

Anyhow, we’re now sitting here watching Pete’s Dragon and I think it’s driving him crazy because what he wants to be doing is playing with his new toy.

Yep. I’m still Aunt Awesome!

From happy to crash

It’s been a bad day. It started good, but then something happened that caused me to come crashing down. I could tell you what that something was, but it’s so silly and makes me look completely and totally insane and unstable which hurts my ego which just makes the crash so much worse, so let’s just say it was something and leave it at that.

You see, I am so excited about my future. I’m [mostly] happy for the first time in two years. I have something to look forward to. I have plans that [I hope] will help me to be a strong, secure, and confident woman once again.

But somewhere in the back of my mind is this constant reminder that I had ‘It All’ before and that it was all taken away in the blink of an eye. And I’m constantly frightened that my world might crumble again and I don’t know that I can survive another re-build.

Yesterday, I was so excited to have looked over my finances again only to determine that I might actually have enough money to make the next year a success. Of course, I won’t be living the life style I’m used to now, but what I’ll be lacking in money I’m sure I’ll make up for in laughter and happiness. Today started out with more confidence-filled thoughts, too.

Then it dawned on me that part of my plan for the next year relies heavily on support from family and friends in the UK. And I started to worry that maybe I’ve played it all up a bit too much in my head; maybe I’ve convinced myself that my connections there are stronger than they are in reality.

What if I get to Scotland and find out that my friends don’t have time for me? What if I get there and we don’t have anything in common? What if they don’t like me? What if I’m too crazy for them in large doses when I’m actually there in person on the same continent all the time? What if… well, the list goes on.

Yes, I know how crazy this all sounds. I mean, I know that I will have loads of support when I arrive. I know that everyone wants to help. I know that people love me and care for me and blah blah blah. But sometimes, I just feel so alone and vulnerable and fragile and it doesn’t matter that I know I’m wrong. Sometimes, my mind just jumps to worst-case scenarios and when that happens, sometimes I can’t stop the spiral no matter how hard I try.

I feel better when I check out forums and blogs by other crazy widows because at least it seems that these insecurities and seemingly-unprovoked crying and sobbing fits are normal. And, I have to admit that my emotions may be a bit more tender than normal not only because I’m in the midst of preparing to leave the house I shared with Paul, but because tomorrow marks six years since we got married and there won’t be a card from him on the mantle place tomorrow morning to remind me of that fact…

I promise I will try to cheer up soon. After all, things are mostly happy these days and there really is a bright future waiting for me—I just can’t see it through the blur of the tears some days.

[To distract myself, I worked on one of my swirly drawings a bit. So at least my crash means I’ve broken out the drawing stuff again!]

Something-9

Today is my baby sister’s 29th birthday. And in about a month’s time my second-eldest sister will turn 39.

And it makes me realise that women (men, too?) work so hard to avoid their 30th and 40th birthdays—well, most decade birthdays past 20 I imagine. But if you think about it, being 29 or 39 or 49 (etc) really sucks because no one will believe you. People think you’re a liar when you say you are something-9 years old.

Here’s how it works:

Someone says: ‘Hey! Happy birthday, Royann! How old are you today?’

She says: ‘I’m 29!’

And they think: ‘Yeah, yeah. 29 and holding… I wonder how many years she’s been 29!?’

And it works like that because of people like our eldest sister (and others; please know this isn’t just a Cook Girl thing) claimed that she stopped aging at 29. Yep, Veronica denied (with pride) turning 30—and kept the 29 number going for a few years. Certainly she knew that everyone knew she was lying, but it’s a socially acceptable lie so she kept telling it. (To confirm: She turned 40 last year. I don’t know if she has admitted that publically or not, but it’s true.)

When I turned 29 I hated telling people how old I was. I hated it because I just know that people were thinking ‘Yeah, right!’. I was so relieved to be 30. (Which helped because I could have still passed as mid- to late-20s if I wanted to.)

So poor Royann (29) and Claudia (nearly 39) will for the next year be thought of as liars when they tell someone how old they are. Bummer.

Even worse is knowing that I’ll have that agony soon, too. But I think that in two years’ time, when I’m meant to be turning 39, I’ll just skip that year and go straight to 40. Much easier that way I think.

Oh! And if you wondered, Celeste is now 35 and Jessica is now 33. I figure if I’m going to be in trouble for telling you how old some sisters are, I may as well jump fully into the flames with all of their ages!

But here’s the thing: Us Cook Girls are so incredibly beautiful and youthful looking that if we admit our actual ages people will say: ‘Oh, my! You look so young! So beautiful. So youthful. I wish I could be as gorgeous as a Cook Girl!’ (Or something like that…)

(Happy birthday, Royann! I really will believe you when you say you’re 29. Well, for the next year anyhow.)

[Photo credits to Royann.]

Selling swords

I’ve sold all of Paul’s old swords—finally. I’d gone through them with a co-worker back in February but hadn’t gotten around to doing much more. I think I was worried that it would be a long and drawn out process, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. Especially when I figured I’d get less than $300 for the lot!

Anyhow, on Friday afternoon I was talking to that same co-worker who told me that she’d been to Clarkston the week before and noticed a sign for a pawn shop specialising in swords and knives. So I did a quick search and found a phone number for the shop—Sid’s Pawn. I called Sid and told him my situation. Then I sent my folks a quick email to see if they’d be heading my way in the next couple of weeks. And less than ten minutes later Dad responded that they could come out that day—a four hours’ drive at the start of Mother’s Day weekend.

All of the sudden I was excited because it seemed like I might actually be able to sell the swords, and had even started to believe in my mind that I might just be able to get my ‘hoped for’ amount of $300. Of course, I was also trying to be realistic and tried to convince myself that I’d happily take an offer of less than that. But I knew I’d be super-happy with an offer of $400.

Anyhow, less than 24 hours after I got the tip I found myself walking into a pawn shop with a stack of swords and walking out with $500!! That was even after taking the most valuable swords out of the collection for my co-worker and Dad, giving a couple to my cousin, and keeping a small one for me. (No clue why or what I’ll do with it, but I felt the need to keep one.)

I’m happy because I didn’t really expect to be able to sell them—let alone for as much as I did. I’m happy because that extra money will help my finances as I prepare to move my entire life 6,000 miles away. And I’m happy because I know that Paul would be pleased that I’m moving forward with this new future—despite it not being the life I’d signed up for!

Of course, I’m sad because it’s another realisation that my world is changing in ways that I never dreamt of. I’m sad because parting with Paul’s belongings—even ones without sentimental value—is a reminder that he will never come back to yell at me for getting rid of his stuff. And I’m sad because, eventually, I’m going to have to sort through the sentimental stuff.

Oh, but more happy stuff is that I am now thinking I may get a Kindle. I mean, I got $200 more than I ever dreamt I would for the swords, so why not? I’m not 100% certain that I’ll get one, but I might. Maybe? Stay tuned to find out if I’ve allowed myself the splurge!

For the last time

Well folks, the Bloomsday 12K results are in. But I’m going to get all melancholy for a bit before I get to that part.

You see, it dawned on me sometime last week that this may very well be the last time I run Bloomsday. It’s not my hometown race and once I leave the Palouse it won’t exactly be convenient to participate. Sure, about a dozen people travel from my hometown for the race each year, but I’m not returning to my hometown; I’m returning to my home county.

It also dawned on me that this was the first time I participated without Paul. We were registered for the race in 2009 but he died a week before the starters’ gun went off. Of course, knowing that it was a matter of ‘when not if’ Paul died, part of me is glad we didn’t run it. I mean, what if the ‘when’ was whilst he was running a race with 50,000 plus people? I don’t know how I could have coped with that. (I know: Whatifs are silly things. But the mind seems to go there from time to time!)

Anyhow, I am a bit sad about my time. I mean, I came in under my goal of 1:45 (just) but it was a whole 23 minutes slower than my last time. And we’ll not talk about what my time would have been in my teens and early-20s when I was at my top fitness!

I know I shouldn’t be upset. After all, my physical, mental, and emotional wellness really took a hit when Paul died and I’m not yet at my pre-widowed levels. (I might not ever be!) I also have to remember that I have had two severe platelet crashes since January—the last of which was just two weeks before the race when I sat in the doctor’s office discussing the possibility of a platelet transfusion. So, really, I probably shouldn’t have been running in the first place! But, I guess that my slow speed is just another indicator of how much life has changed for me in the last two years.

So, now that Bloomsday is done, I guess it’s time to start thinking about that marathon in October. And, of course, the hometown Runner Stumbles 10K over 4th of July weekend—my last American race for who-knows-how-long.

And, finally, here are the times for our group:

  • Nearly-12-year-old nephew, Haden: 1:41:39
  • Me: 1:44:22
  • Nearly-13-year-old niece, Flik: 2:10:14
  • My sister, Celeste: 2:11:31
  • Nearly-12-year-old foster daughter: 2:11:34
  • My neighbour (Kerry): 2:42:28
  • Kerry’s friend, Leslie: 2:42:28

Don’t forget to check out some of our photos, too!

A bloomin’ recap

Bloomsday 2011 is over and I’m alive to tell the story! And after little-to-no training, that is a success in itself. Yay!

I’ll not bore you with all of the details since you already know that I was in the green colour group and that I ran with my nephew, Haden, whilst the rest of our group walked. Instead, I’ll just get to the good stuff and that’s this:

Haden and I ran the entire race. All of it. We ran it all. I really thought that Haden would take a walk break at some point. But, no, he was good to run! And he ran up Doomsday Hill at a rather impressive rate. In fact, once we got to the top of the dreaded hill, Haden was set to finish at a great speed. So, he dashed off in front of me just shy of mile seven and I didn’t see him until I made it past the finish line. I was (and still am!) extremely pleased and impressed with his ability!

The other good stuff is that the rest of our group (the five walkers) all completed the course in one piece. Of course, the cool thing about that is that they’re not athletes and have never walked such a distance in their lives. A couple had recently done five miles, and the other three had walked (sometimes with a bit of jogging) 5Ks a couple of times. So this really was a challenge for them and they are all filled with joy and pride at their accomplishments—as they should be!

And for even more good stuff: New connections were made! My sister and my neighbour really hit it off and it seems everyone enjoyed each other’s company and everyone just had an all-around good time, which is always a treat!

Sadly, there was one instance of the race that upset me. As I was running (slowly) up Doomsday Hill, I was passed by a woman around my age who was probably carrying about 20 pounds more that her frame allowed—wearing spandex shorts and a rather small running top. She wasn’t going much faster than me, but she was making pretty good time. Well, just as I got up to a group of three extremely pretty ‘they’re probably in a sorority’ girls, I overheard them speaking rather disparagingly about the woman and all the jiggling extra bits of her. They were very vocal about how ‘people who look like that’ shouldn’t be allowed to dress like that.

Now, if that were me, I don’t think I’d have chosen that wardrobe. And if she were in the grocery store, I’d have probably been a little snarky (inwardly, mind you) about her choice of clothing. But she was running a 12K road race. Running it. And she was keeping a better pace than me or the silly commentary panel. If that’s the outfit she felt comfortable running in, I say wear it!

Anyhow, it just upset me. And I don’t know if I’m more upset at the offenders for their judgmental comments or at myself for not saying something. Maybe it’s a tie? But I digress…

Now, what you really want are photos and times. Sadly, at nearly 10 p.m. the times aren’t yet posted and I am too beat to wait for them. I will update you on those tomorrow. In the mean time, I guess the photos will have to suffice.

13295 + 48065 = Team Awesome

OK, I admit that I’m generally pretty rubbish at math[s], but I think I’ve done the calculations right this time!

You see, tomorrow morning is the 35th annual Bloomsday 12K in Spokane, Washington, and my nephew, Haden, and I will be running it together. My bib number is 13295; Haden’s is 48065. And together, we equal Team Awesome.

This is Haden’s first-ever 12K and it takes place just three days before his 12th birthday. He’s pretty excited about it, too!

We’ve had a big spaghetti dinner. We’ve hydrated with lots of water all day. We have our race gear set out and ready to go. We have yummy donuts and bananas for a fuelling breakfast tomorrow morning. Yes, we are ready to run!

Oh! And an added bonus is that my sister, niece, foster daughter, neighbour, and neighbour’s friend are all participating in the race, too. They’ll be walking the course. And I believe it will be the furthest any of them have ever walked. They’re all pretty excited about it!

Tune in tomorrow to see how we did!

(Yes, Haden’s number is upside down. He knew this at the time of the photo. He says that he thinks people should learn how to read upside down, apparently.)

Colour me green

The Bloomsday 12K race organisers tell me (via email this morning) that I’m go for green for this weekend’s race. This makes me so happy because I feared my two year hiatus from the event would relegate me to lilac once again.

I should note here that there are more than 50,000 race participants and they colour-code groups by estimated finish times, with the fastest people in the front. The first time Paul and I ran the race, we were lilac—way in the back where all the walkers are. But the next year saw Paul upgraded to yellow (the best non-elite group) and me to orange (the third non-elite group). Paul’s funeral was the day before the 2009 race, so there was no way I was going to participate, but I think he’d have been pleased to know that I was upgraded to green that year—the second non-elite group. (Paul was slated for the yellow group again.) But I digress…

Despite not participating for two years, the race organisers still felt I was worthy of being GREEN!

And, because he was listed as a runner instead of a walker, my soon-to-be-12-year-old nephew and running partner, Haden, has been seeded in the blue group. Which is the fifth back from the elite, but is still in front of the walkers.

Now, because you can start with a colour group behind yours but not in front of yours, I will be starting in the blue group. But I will be wearing my lovely green race bib. Yay! Haden and I are super-duper excited about the race and aim to run the whole thing. Yes, even Doomsday Hill!!

Oh, and it seems green is my theme this week. I’m working on an updated look for Just Frances and sent a test link to a couple of friends. And one wrote back saying all sorts of mean things that made me cry about how horrible he thinks my choice of greens is. So I sent him a set of four other greens and he replied with more harsh, cruel words, sending me into a spiral of despair and sorrow.

OK, I may be exaggerating a bit there. I think it would be fairer to say he questioned very nicely if the first shade was too dark (I agreed) then made a suggestion on a possible direction based on the next set of four. I hate to admit it, but his comments have actually given me a great idea for my green solution.

And one more thing on the topic of green: The thought of ‘green’ and ‘solution’ in a sentence made me think of the movie Soylent Green. It’s a great movie and if you’ve not yet seen it, you should!

Music lessons

It was about a year ago when I first loaded music onto my niece’s iPod. Her mom didn’t (and still doesn’t) have iTunes so her only music was from my collection; which meant her Uncle Paul’s collection, too. We randomly loaded as much music on as would fit and I told her to let me know what she liked and didn’t like and the next time she came to visit we could be pickier about how to use her 8GB of space.

Well, much to my surprise, it was Billy Bragg and Aztec Camera for the win! So at her next visit she got some Morrissey and Deacon Blue. OK, she pretty much wanted all of her Uncle Paul’s music.

Flik is now 13 years old and is very much a fan of 1980s British punk and rock—for better or worse. She also loves her Uncle Paul so very much—as evident by the fact that prior to his death, Paul was the only one allowed to call Felicity ‘Flik’ and since his funeral that is her preferred name. So that may have something to do with her love of the music.

Anyhow, this love for Paul and his music made it easy for me to know what to do with Paul’s old vinyl records. So this weekend I packed up the records and our record player and brought them to Flik. She seems pretty excited about Del Amitri and U2 and The Smiths and The Waterboys and, well, all of them, really. Her mom points out that the excitement is the main reason she cleaned her room today—otherwise there wouldn’t have been room for the new turn table and LPs.

One thing that really made her smile was that included in a box of 45s was a handful of hand-written play lists from back when Paul would DJ at University of Edinburgh discos. She’ll enjoy that, I think.

Of course, now the kid just has another reason to hide away in her room. Which may or may not be a good thing.

Sudoku and swords

People bond over the strangest things. Take, for example, my foster daughter and my ANT* Elizabeth (AE) who met for the first time on Sunday. The night AE arrived with my cousin, Carson, the two of them sat at the dining room table pouring over the kid’s artwork (which really is good). Then the next morning they discovered that they both enjoy Sudoku. After that number-arranging connection was made, the two of them spent time each day curled up on the love seat talking about the awesomeness of the puzzles whilst working on their own books.

Sadly, it all ended yesterday morning when the kid had to say goodbye to her new friend who would be leaving before she returned home from school. So, the kid handed AE her puzzle book and asked if she would do a couple of the puzzles for her so that she had a memory to keep forever—a request that AE was very happy to oblige.

And—oh!—the kid was so thrilled when we returned home and she saw that not only did AE complete two puzzles in her book (complete with a thoughtful inscription noting their eternal Sudoku bond) but she also left behind her own Sudoku book for the kid to complete. Let’s just say that AE has a new fan club!

Of course, other people bond over things that aren’t so strange. Take, for example, the enjoyment my cousin and I took in sharing our common interests. It was Braveheart this and BritLit that and UK-related reference the next thing, followed by pretentious references to one geeky thing or another, as you do.

But Carson didn’t leave me a puzzle book. Instead, I sent him home with a parting gift: Three of Paul’s reproduction swords—two of which were Hollywood versions of the Braveheart sword. Yes, Carson will be showing off to his Braveheart-loving friends for quite some time with those things!

I think it’s fair to say that the four of us had a lovely visit. Too bad it had to come to an end.

* Aunt Elizabeth prefers me to call her Ant Elizabeth. Apparently, she’s not a fan of the rhymes-with-flaunt pronunciation. And since I love my Ant Elizabeth, I am happy to oblige—right down to the spelling of her name, which she now uses in correspondence with me.

Growing up

Well, it’s been a week since my foster daughter planted her fairy garden and I have to say I was sceptical as to if anything would grow. But it’s looking pretty good I think.

Oh! And my aunt and cousin will be here in a short while to visit for a few days. It seems that my awesome cousin has been accepted to WSU (starts this autumn) and they’re coming out to visit campus. I’m telling you this now so that if I’m remiss in my blogging duties (haven’t missed a day since January 28) you know it’s a happy thing and not an April thing.

Bug gear

I had a post all ready about how beat tired I was and it was only Monday. But I’m not going to post it because my stress and exhaustion is nothing compared to what my niece is going through right now.

So instead, I’m going to give a plug for the new Team Buggie CafePress site so that you can go buy some Bug Gear if you want.

Bug heads to Seattle in the morning for her first week of chemotherapy. I’m sure she’d appreciate all the prayers and good thoughts you have to spare. Maybe some for her folks and sister who are all exhausted and stressed, too.

I love ya, Bug! xx

On beating children

I beat two children today. I didn’t plan to do it. I mean, I expected to beat one, but the other just happened. I also beat two adults. Sadly, I was beaten by a child, too.

Now, my guess is that you understand the joke. If the photo didn’t give it away, however, I’ll be a little clearer.

Today was the 3rd Annual Finaghty’s St. Patty’s 5K in Snoqualmie, Washington, and I participated with my two 11-year-old nephews, Adrian and Haden, my 11-year-old foster daughter, my sister, Celeste, and her friend David. My 13-year-old niece was going to join us but she was home sick. Oh, and my awesome parents came to show their support. As in: Daddy took photos whilst Mommy held handbags and jackets for the runners.

This was my foster daughter’s first-ever race so she held back with Celeste and David walking much of the course. The only runners in the group were me and the boys. And I was pretty confident that Haden would be in first, followed by Adrian, then me.

But I passed Adrian at the first mile marker and he wasn’t able to catch back up. (Please remember this was only his second race, and it was very hilly. This was probably the first and only time I’ll be beating him!)

Now, we’re all beat tired. But not so beat that we’re not already talking about our next race, the Bloomsday 12K in Spokane, Washington. In fact, we’re even talking about getting loads of folks to join us for a Team Buggie mojo-rally! (Stay tuned for confirmation and/or details of said rally.)

Mmm… a nice cold beer sounds good right about now.

Oh! You want times, too! So here goes:

Haden: 30:02
Just Frances: 32:16
Adrian: 36:15
My lovely foster daughter: 49:28
David: 49:34
Celeste: 49:44

Check out more race photos at Run Frances, Run!

Team Buggie

My awesome niece, Bug, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma the other day. She’s just days away from turning 15 and is an amazing kid. Really.

Bug is a golfer. She’s a softball player and a soccer player and a basketball player and an any-other-sport-you-can-think-of player. Well, maybe not a rugby or cricket player because we just don’t do that in our neck of the woods.

Bug likes math and she’s good at it. Heck—Bug just likes school in general, and is good at it.

She likes hiking and camping and fishing and hunting.

And she’s stubborn and bloody-minded. And she’s a fighter. And she fights like a girl. And girls fight to win. And when she says she’s gonna do something, she does it! And she says she’s gonna beat this. And I have no doubt in my mind that she will.

Go Team Buggie! We all love ya lots and lots. xx

Future plans and dreams of the past

I spent an hour or so transferring my old floppy disks onto my external hard drive today and was very pleased with myself for managing to only open six of the files: Three photos, two obituaries, and one assignment from my Sociology 101 course.

Whilst I probably won’t share most of my coursework here when I finally scour through the rest of the files, I felt that this one needed to be shared now.

The assignment was for a dyadic interview of myself—basically, I needed to write down my future plans and dreams. So, here’s where I was with myself way back in 1999! [My comments on these thoughts 12 years later are in brackets.]

Future Plans and Dreams

Desires
I desire to find true joy and happiness; to find a place within my soul and my mind where I can be free from stress and agony—a peace within.
[I found that peace about two years later when I moved to Scotland. Wow! I had no idea what it was like to feel so at peace!]

Hopes
I hope to see all of my nieces and nephews graduate from college, marry, and have children of their own. I also hope to one day adopt a child of my own, so that I may see them do the same.
[I suppose these hopes are still the same. When I wrote them, I had figured on adopting as a single mom—and whilst for a while my hope was to adopt as a married woman, I’m back to the original plan I guess. Like it or not!]

Fears
My biggest fear is losing my parents. Next is dying young, before I get the chance to fulfil all of my dreams and find that “one true love”.
[Well, I certainly still fear losing my parents—even more now that I already lost my husband! But at least I’ve yet to die young, and even if I do, at least I finally found true love!]

Hang-ups
I tend to put other people ahead of me when I make plans, which often causes disappointment on my part.
[Funny, this still seems to be a big problem for me. In fact, putting the needs (wants?) of others before mine used to get Paul so angry with me. He was convinced that people were just taking advantage of my willingness to help.]

What will make me happy
I am already happy with my life. I love the person I have become over the years, and I feel very good about myself. To maintain this happiness is as easy as listening to my heart. If my heart feels good about something, I do it. I’ve yet to be disappointed or unhappy with my life by following that rule.
[I think that being happy with my life, combined with being at peace with myself once I got to Scotland, is what made it possible for me to find love. Sadly, I am no longer happy with my life because that love is gone and it brought my world crashing down around me, but I am working on finding that happiness again—and I’m doing it by following my heart back to Scotland.]

Goodness… I wonder what other insights into my life I’ll find when I read through the rest of these files?

Swirly tree Ts

Right! Remember how I posted a couple of weeks ago about a project I was working on for His Majesty? Well, I can talk about it now. Yay!

Firstly, His Majesty is my Uncle King. (Uncle Joe to my sisters, but for some reason I started calling him Uncle King as a child and I am his Princess. But I digress.)

We’re having an awesome Eberle family reunion in July and one of the cousins posted something about shirts on Facebook so I offered my design services if they were needed/wanted. As I’m not one of the family elders, I’m not in on the planning, so hadn’t realised that Uncle King was already working on something. But, the cousins mentioned to him that I should be working on them so he asked me to design something.

Of course, by then he’d already come up with a design with the help of his friend. So he sent that to me as a starting place.

This was the starting place:

Now, it’s not that I’m a snob, but this is not a shirt that I would wear. So I tossed together two basic designs for Uncle King to see if he liked them—telling him that it was perfectly OK if he wanted to stick with the one he already had.

These were my first two designs for him:

I was a bit surprised when he seemed to like the tree, and was more than happy to re-do the tree with the family names. Please note that the tree is hand-drawn. (Yes, I have an ego and I’m very pleased with my swirly tree!)

So, this was the next design I sent:

A couple of tweaks later, and this was the final design:

I also created a couple of simple ones, just in case:

Oh, and I used green for the background on my designs because, well, I like green. But the actual shirts will be blue. I know you’re anxious to see photos of all of us Awesome Eberles wearing our shirts at the reunion, so I’ll share those later this summer. Yay!!

Thirty-seven birthday wishes

Today is my 37th birthday. And the birthday girl gets to make wishes. And I don’t believe in the whole “if you tell anyone your wish it won’t come true” malarkey, so I’m sharing my birthday wishes with you—all 37 of them.

I am truly blessed because I know that I have family and friends around the world who will help make so many of my birthday wishes come true. Thank you, everyone, for being part of my life!

I wish for:

  • A year where I am happy and carefree
  • Good health
  • Good health for my family and friends
  • My nieces and nephews to have all of their dreams come true
  • Schrodie to be happy with Flik, my amazing niece who will [hopefully] be taking over service to the cat when I leave for Scotland
  • The confidence to know that I’m making the right decisions in my life
  • The strength to carry on when things seem hopeless
  • The ability to forgive others graciously
  • Composure when I’m facing upsetting situations
  • Laughter when I can’t stop crying
  • Laughter for no reason at all
  • Friends who support me
  • Friends who allow me to support them
  • The ability to laugh at my mistakes
  • More empathy and sympathy when dealing with the struggles of others
  • My foster daughter to have a bright and happy future filled with love and security
  • Children around the world to be safe and secure, without fear of abandonment or starvation
  • The ability to be kind even to the cruelest of people
  • Patience and understanding in all situations
  • An end to wars and strife and struggles around the world
  • A world filled with love and acceptance
  • The courage to always do what is right, even when it’s not popular
  • The enthusiasm needed to succeed in school
  • The knowledge and intelligence needed to succeed in school
  • The humility to accept my faults
  • The esteem to love myself despite my faults
  • The acceptance to love others despite their faults
  • The health to complete my first [and last?] marathon in October
  • The good sense to not make myself ill by pushing myself too hard
  • The faith to remember that God is there beside me even when I feel abandoned
  • Good fortunes in love and happiness for my family and friends
  • Good fortunes in employment and wealth for my family and friends
  • My days to be filled with child-like wonderment and laughter
  • Days where I laugh so hard that my sides ache
  • Good friends to celebrate my joys with
  • Good friends to commiserate my sorrows with
  • And a windfall of money so that I don’t have to stress about my finances for the next year (Come on, you didn’t think all of my wishes were going to be for sunshine and happiness, did you?)

Passing the baton

I think that one of the saddest things about not having children is the knowledge that there’s no one to pass on your traditions to. Paul and I were so excited about adopting and that was one of the exciting things for us: Passing on our knowledge, love, and traditions to future generations.

Because we were both runners, and generally ran in a race about once a month, we spoke excitedly about the possibility that our future children would enjoy the sport along with us. We looked forward to the day when the four of us could go to races as a family. We even decided that we’d take turns running for time so that one of us could run or walk slowly with the kids whilst the other ran hard to make time.

When I ran my first race after Paul died, I was thrilled to be joined by my then 10-year-old nephew, Haden. I was even more thrilled to see how much he enjoyed the race. And even more thrilled when he became my new running partner and started to talk excitedly about the day he could join the school cross country team.

One year later, I was joined by the now 11-year-old Haden and my other 11-year-old nephew, Adrian, for a race. And by this time, my 11-year-old foster daughter was starting to regret her hatred for sports.

When I mentioned to my foster daughter that Haden, Adrian, and I were participating in a 5K in mid-March, she felt a bit left out and wanted to know if she could join us. Yes, this from a girl who throws a fit at the thought of walking from one end of the mall to another—a self-titled hater of exercise.

So, we made a deal. If she could run two miles—non-stop and without complaining—I would sign her up for the St. Paddy’s 5K, too.

Today, my foster daughter ran two miles in 21:30. And she did it without complaining. (Well, she’s been complaining about her legs being sore since the run, but she didn’t complain during the run!)

I’m really pleased that in the past 13 months I’ve managed to get three kids excited about my favourite sport.

And I’m really pleased that I will have three 11-year-old running partners for my next race.

And I’m really pleased that despite the fact that I may never have children of my own to pass on my knowledge and traditions to, I am still having a [hopefully positive] impact on the next generation.

(And I hope that when I’m a decrepit, childless, old lady with no one to care for me, that these children remember me and stop by the old folks’ home from time-to-time to wipe the drool off my chin!)

100 random things

My friend posted a list of 100 random things her daughter wrote about herself out of boredom and I thought I’d give it a shot and create my own list. So, if you’re not already bored, this should help…

100 Random Things about Just Frances

  1. I am the preantepenultimate Cook Girl.
  2. I enjoy showing off my vocabulary skills.
  3. I cringe when I see incorrect grammar, spelling, and punctuation. But I only correct errors when I’m being paid to do so. [To clarify: I generally correct the errors in my mind, but only tell people of the errors when I’m paid or otherwise requested to do so.]
  4. I think that demonstrating the ability to change a vehicle’s tires and oil should be a compulsory part of passing a drivers’ license test.
  5. I wear glasses and will never get eye surgery because I like that the glasses obscure the fact that I don’t wear makeup.
  6. I’m a distance runner. (Well, I dabble in the sport at least.)
  7. I am Catholic.
  8. I joined the school cross country team because the coach asked me after church in front of my dad and the priest. How could I say no?
  9. I have never felt at home in my hometown.
  10. I am proud of my small town red neck roots.
  11. I found my true place of belonging in Scotland nearly 10 years ago.
  12. I am returning to Scotland later this year!!
  13. I am rubbish at math[s] and I don’t care.
  14. I am correct handed (also known as left handed).
  15. I believe that there is a conspiracy in the works by right-handers who are jealous of us amazing lefties. Even pens are made with righties in mind! (But not all of them!)
  16. I have hazel eyes that are more on the green end of the spectrum, but wish that I had truly green eyes.
  17. I pretend to be happy even when I’m sad.
  18. I can’t fake tears; I’ve tried.
  19. I am dyslexic. (Yet I edit things for a living. Ironic!)
  20. I had speech therapy as a child.
  21. I am the co-inventor of the term SUBS Syndrome and hope that one day the term is widely used to describe the condition of sudden, uncontrollable bursts of sarcasm.
  22. I honestly believe that the media is helping to perpetuate ignorance in our society. The biggest culprit being the “news” media.
  23. My master’s degree will be in media and culture, so I’ll get to do a lot of research on this very issue!
  24. I once sang on stage with Pat Benatar who was opening at the Gorge Amphitheatre for the Steve Miller Band. Really. True story.
  25. I’m a little bit country and a little bit rock-n-roll all at once.
  26. I like candy, but I could live without chocolate.
  27. I love to fly!
  28. I prefer the aisle seat on airplanes.
  29. I say a prayer asking God to guide the hands of the crew and to keep us safe in our journey; and I ask that if His plans don’t include our survival that He comfort our loved ones. I do this for every take off and landing because something compels me to.
  30. I try to order low-sodium meals on the plane and drink lots of water so that I’m refreshed and non-puffy when I arrive. I even wash my face 2-3 times on long flights to/from the UK. I think it helps the jetlag. But that might not be true.
  31. I can’t decide which movies I like better: The Godfather series or the Monty Python movies.
  32. I have polycystic kidney disease. It’s a genetic condition with no cure. But some smart people are working to find a cure!
  33. I have a blood disease called idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura. Even the haematologists who study it don’t know much about it. Which sucks for me.
  34. Despite my medical maladies, I think I’m mostly healthy.
  35. I dream that my doctor will one day say “To live a long and healthy life you must eat lots of good steak and salty, deep-fried foods, drink lots of wine, and smoke.” Of course, if I hear those words I know it’s time to find a new doctor.
  36. I cry myself to sleep at least once a week.
  37. I recently ended a friendship that I didn’t want to end. I’m sure it will be one of the reasons I cry myself to sleep over the next few weeks.
  38. I haven’t slept through the night since Paul died.
  39. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever sleep well again.
  40. I thought that I was ugly growing up because one of my sisters told me over and over again that I was. (Funny, we all look alike!)
  41. I thought that I was stupid growing up because a couple of my teachers said I was.
  42. As an adult, I’ve learned to love myself and know that I’m good looking and intelligent.
  43. One of my Paul’s friends told me that I’m a great person and I’ll find someone new when I’m ready—but that I’d have better luck if I’d dumb it down a bit. (Said person has likely never been married for a reason.)
  44. Several of Paul’s friends have become my friends and I don’t think I could have survived the world without him without them.
  45. I didn’t go on my first date until I was 20 years old.
  46. I married my first true love.
  47. We were a month shy of our 4th anniversary when he died.
  48. I try to be happy and enjoy life because I know it’s what Paul wants for me.
  49. I sometimes think that I’ll meet someone new and fall in love and get married again and I know that Paul would be OK with that. But I can’t be bothered to date because no one is good enough for me.
  50. Thinking that no one was good enough for me is what gave me a reputation for being an overly-picky dater in my 20s.
  51. Being an overly-picky dater meant that when I did land a man, I got the best one on the market!
  52. A stupid woman once told me that the reason I can’t have kids is that God thinks I’d be a bad mom.
  53. I have been a foster mom for a little over six months now—so at least the State of Washington thinks I’d be a good mom!
  54. Paul and I planned to adopt two adorable children before he died.
  55. Sometimes I’m heartbroken that I may never get to be someone’s mom.
  56. I have 17 nieces and nephews and 2 great nephews.
  57. It irritates some of my sisters that their children want to be so much like me.
  58. I’ve had green hair. And pink, purple, blue, yellow, orange, jet-black, and bleach-blonde. Sometimes multiple colours all at once!
  59. My favourite colour is green.
  60. My first car was a 1978 Ford Granada.
  61. My friends and I sanded it down, primed it black, and then painted a big yellow smiley face on the hood and flowers and peace signs all over the body. It was awesome.
  62. I passed my driving test on the first try.
  63. I taught Paul how to drive.
  64. I’ve taught some of my nieces and nephews how to shift gears. (But please don’t tell their moms!)
  65. I have a fascination with butterflies and have since I was a young child.
  66. I have a butterfly tattoo.
  67. I played clarinet in the school band.
  68. I am training for the Loch Ness Marathon.
  69. I am a Pisces.
  70. I was born in the Year of the Tiger.
  71. I don’t believe in astrology stuff.
  72. I will be 37 years old on Monday.
  73. I don’t really like to make a fuss about my birthday.
  74. I have read dictionaries and encyclopaedias for entertainment since I was in junior high.
  75. I don’t like romance novels because they make me uncomfortable.
  76. My friends think I am a prude.
  77. I try never to use profanity because I think it’s vulgar and shows a lack of respect. (But sometimes it slips out in a heated moment of upset.)
  78. I taught myself how to knit and crochet but can only make basic things like scarves and afghans.
  79. I like root beer.
  80. I don’t really care for Coke or Pepsi.
  81. When I was in my late-teens and early-20s, I’d hang out at the local 24-hour diner with my friends drinking coffee and eating cheesy fries with ranch dressing. It was awesome!
  82. I am considered a computer and gadget geek by my family and friends.
  83. I love Doctor Who, but I hate SciFi.
  84. I define SciFi as anything I don’t like.
  85. I always like to have the best gadgets in the room. Sadly, some of my new friends are gadget geeks with better incomes so this is hard to do now.
  86. I love my family.
  87. I am going to miss my cat, Schrodie, so much when I move to Scotland.
  88. I am going to miss my family so much when I move to Scotland.
  89. I used to have Mork & Mindy suspenders (braces) when I was a kid and I wish I still had them now.
  90. I loved Weebles as a child. They were awesome they way they weebled and wobbled but didn’t fall down!
  91. I always wanted tassels on my handlebars when I was a kid. But not so much that I got them as an adult.
  92. My favourite toys growing up were a telescope, a microscope, a rocket kit, and an electric circuit board kit.
  93. I don’t like gold-coloured jewellery.
  94. I like dirty martinis with extra olives.
  95. I drink my coffee strong and black with no sugar.
  96. I am excited about starting grad school in September.
  97. I am afraid that I am ruining myself financially by going to grad school.
  98. I am convinced that going to grad school will fix me emotionally and mentally.
  99. I am excited about my future for the first time since Paul died.
  100. I feel guilty for being happy about this new life, even though I know Paul would be happy for me.

Wow! That was hard! Are you still reading? You deserve an award for that!!

Edited to add: Since folks have been asking where/what their award is, I feel it’s fair (OK, not fair but cheap) for me to say the award is knowing me that little bit better. Sorry it’s so lame! (But thanks for reading!)

A year of Just Frances

It’s been a year since I started Just Frances. Whilst it’s certainly not my first blog, it is unique in that I’ve actually put my name and face to it!*

In the past year, there have been: 5,897 unique visitors (based on IP addresses; not including bots and the like); 527 search terms used to find these pages; 806 approved comments; 1,092 comments caught by my awesome spam blocker; and a whopping 315 stories posted.

In the past year, I’ve shared some of my poetry and drawings with you; I’ve shared my happiness; and I’ve shared my sorrows. I’ve uploaded several YouTube videos to speak directly to my awesome readers and I’ve shared photos of my adventures.

This blog has been a tremendous help to me as I grieve for Paul and the future we once dreamt of, and as I contemplate a new future that is now in the works. If you don’t write for public consumption, you may not understand the therapeutic value that blogging brings, but I promise you it is a true therapy for me.

But whilst this blog serves as a form of therapy for me, I also want it to be something of value for my readers. To that, please feel free to participate! You are always welcome to comment on my posts, but you can also ask questions or suggest things you’d like me to write about. Want more video uploads? More photos? More drawings? Please feel free to let me know! I even have a handy-dandy comment form (look for the tab at the top of the page) if you want to contact me privately!

And there you have it. A year of Just Frances.

So thank you, Dear Reader, for your support and encouragement over the past year! Just knowing you’re out there reading the nonsense I’m posting makes me smile and gives me the strength to continue. You’re awesome!

* RyanCentric was the first website I put my name and face to, but it was more website than blog so I’m not counting it for the purpose of the aforesaid statement.

Pain-loving partners

My nephew, Haden, and I ran the Partners in Pain 5K in Spokane this morning. It was Haden’s second time running the race and my fourth last. The official race times aren’t in yet, but I’m pleased to say that we both beat last year’s time. So that’s pretty awesome.

I’ll admit that there is a bit of sadness knowing that I’m running out of time to run with my new partner, but we’ve got at least three races to do together before I return ‘home’ to Scotland and I’m sure we can find a race to run when I return to the homeland for visits. But I won’t get too sad just yet because we already have plans to run races together in March, May, and July!

Next race: The St. Paddy’s 5K in Snoqualmie, Washington. Yay!

Check out more of my race photos here!

Too much

Sometimes I try to do too much all at once. And sometimes, that means that my coffee table suffers and becomes covered in half-finished projects.

Currently, it is straining under the weight of my nail file kit (I love French Connection UK!); a stack of note cards that I’m sorting through; my drawing supplies; an on-going practice page for my swirl drawings; a couple of journals and notebooks; my embroidery floss case and partially-finished friendship bracelets; yarn and the half-finished afghan it goes to; and all sorts of other bits-and-bobs—only half of which actually belong on top of the coffee table.

Thankfully, my sister and nephew are coming over for the weekend so that my nephew and I can participate in the Partners in Pain 5K. Company means I will put stuff away, which is a good thing. Though if I wouldn’t try to do too much at once, it would never get this bad in the first place.

Survival kits

We have survival kits for camping trips and natural disasters. We have special kits for snake bites and cuts. We keep emergency kits in our cars and we even carry mini-sewing kits when we travel—just in case. But it seems that we don’t keep on hand the important supplies needed to survive the knocks and punches of everyday life.

If I could, I would gather all of the supplies needed to survive life’s journey, package them up, and send them to all of my family and friends, to all of my readers, and to all the people I share this Earth with.

But I can’t. So instead I’m going to share with you a supply list and urge you to gather the items and keep them nearby—and remember to help those around you who need the extra care by making an extra kit or two. (Just in case.)

A Survival Kit for Life’s Journey

  • A rubber band to help you be flexible, and not break
  • A cotton ball to cushion the rough times ahead
  • Hershey’s Hugs and Kisses as a reminder that we all need hugs and kisses
  • A golden ribbon to tie hearts together in friendship
  • Life Savers as a reminder of the times we need each other’s help and to keep you from drowning in everyday chores
  • A toothpick to pick out the good in everyone… including yourself!
  • An eraser because everyone makes mistakes; and that’s okay, we learn by our mistakes
  • A pencil to list your blessings every day
  • A tea bag to help you relax daily and go over your list of blessings
  • Marbles for when you lose yours
  • A candle to remind you to share your light
  • Jewels to remind you how valuable you are to me

Fannies and haggis

The second annual “Freeze Your Fanny and Burns’ Supper Extravaganza” weekend is officially over and I think it was a great success! There were 18 of us for dinner all together and everyone seemed to enjoy the haggis!

I realize that there is so much to say about such a fun-filled weekend, but rather than a big story, I’ll just give some of the highlights then you can check out the photo gallery and YouTube videos for more details. So, here’s how the weekend went:

  • Most everyone arrived Friday evening and we had a blast playing games and visiting.
  • My 11-year-old nephews, Haden and Adrian, and I ran the Freeze Your Fanny 5K on Saturday morning where Haden took 2nd place in his age group and Adrian took 3rd. This was Haden’s second time running the race and Adrian’s first-ever race. (Final times: Haden: 30:04; Adrian: 33:04; Me: 36:50, which isn’t bad since I’d just come off bed rest and took it easy.)
  • Flik and Dad had a Scrabble re-match where, though Daddy won, Flik showed a vast improvement to her skills. (Final score: 226 – 281)
  • Various sisters, uncles, and nieces hiked Kamiak Butte on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Celeste, believe it or not, hiked Kamiak twice in one day!
  • Jessica won the Hula Hoop competition.
  • With all of the food served throughout the weekend, I didn’t wash a single dish! (Thanks to my awesome sisters!)
  • I also didn’t peel any neeps or tatties!
  • Everyone tried the haggis and most had at least a second serving if not a third. In fact, many people even had fried haggis for breakfast on Sunday!
  • Saturday’s dinner ended with Flik playing Auld Lang Syne on her trumpet.
  • Sunday ended with my foster daughter very upset over saying goodbye to her new best friend, my niece Cassandra. (They’ll meet again, for sure!)
  • We laughed and laughed and laughed and had a lot and a lot and a lot of fun all weekend long! (Except for the goodbye tears.)

Check out photos from the weekend here!

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And check out some fun videos from the weekend below!

Insanity descends

Oh my, oh my, oh my! My normally quiet home has transcended into a mad house! But it’s a happy mad house.

Yep, the house is chock-a-block with parents and aunts and uncles and siblings and nieces and nephews and friends as we all gear up for the 2nd Annual Freeze Your Fanny and Burns’ Supper Extravaganza. (See the story and photos from the inaugural event here.)

The family began arriving around 2:00 this afternoon and it wasn’t long before the house was filled with laughter and chatter. In fact, the laughter and chatter was still going at nearly 1:00 a.m.—well past my normal bed time. But as my bedroom is the living room couch, I was forced to participate. (Happily so.)

Tomorrow will start bright-and-early for those of us travelling to Lewiston for the Freeze Your Fanny 5K. This will be my 11-year-old nephew, Haden’s, second time running the race (last year’s race was his first-ever race) and will be my 11-year-old nephew, Adrian’s, first-ever race of all time. Unbelievably, this will be my 4th entry in the race. Though, with the aforementioned illness, I’ll now be taking it slow.

Whilst we’re running, Dad and my niece, Flik, will meet in the living room for a Scrabble re-match as Flik tries to de-throne Daddy. There are loads of games and puzzles—and a few hula hoops—for everyone to play with, too.

Schrodie is not happy about the influx of people, but I think she’ll get over it.

Oh, and that photo, if you wondered, is a load of Scottish treats (Tunnock’s!!!) that my Uncle Fred brought with him from Portland, Oregon. If you look closely, you’ll notice the Scotch tape and the napkins—with an Argyle pattern, of course. (His socks were Argyle for the occasion, too, if you wondered.)

We forgot the camera

I almost never go into the upstairs of the house these days because the only things up there are two guest rooms and storage. But I’ve decided to bring the desk down from the small guest room for my foster daughter to use, so I went up this morning to measure it so that I know where to put it when it comes downstairs next weekend.

When I opened the top drawer I smiled as I saw a stack of drawings that my now 13-year-old niece has left behind. But when I un-folded one in particular, I laughed.

Here’s why:
A few months after Paul died, my niece and nephew came out to visit. It was my first time having company since his death and I knew it was going to be difficult. Thankfully, Flik and Haden understood how hard it would be for me and were not terribly uncomfortable when I was upset. I’m sure it was hard on them, too, since it was the first time they were in my home without their Uncle Paul around to tell them jokes and teach them to juggle.

One of the things we did was take a hike up Kamiak Butte. It was my first time tackling the hill without Paul. And once we got to the top, I took my first post-Paul ‘we forgot the tripod’ shot—something that was actually more difficult than I imagined it would be.

And I laughed at that specific picture because it was a ‘we forgot the camera’ drawing of the three of us at the top of the butte.

So now I have our tripod-less photo of the trip, a shot of the three of us that another hiker took, and a camera-less drawing that Flik did.

I’m [not] Scottish

I am American, born and bred to American parents. My ancestors are Germans from Russia. This means that I am not, contrary to the insistence of some, Scottish. (But I hope to be one day!)

But I have a great affinity for Scotland because it’s the one place in the entire world I’ve ever felt truly settled—the one place I’ve ever felt that I truly belong. Paul wasn’t Scottish, either. No, contrary to popular belief, he was English. (From the North East, if you wondered.) But Paul shared a passion for Scotland and when he moved there for university he stayed put until we settled in America. Because of our shared love for Scotland, we incorporated the traditions of our adopted home into our lives. After all, home is where the heart is.

But now I have a foster daughter who knows several things to be true: I speak with a funny accent; I lived in Scotland; I want to return to Scotland; I have lots of friends in Scotland (and family in England); and that I think Scotland is the greatest place in the world.

She also assumes several things and just won’t believe me when I tell her otherwise. Mainly that I am Scottish. I’m not; but she just shrugs her shoulders and says I seem Scottish to her.

Well, now that I’m in the midst of planning Burns’ Supper, my foster daughter is learning loads of great things about Scotland and Robert Burns. And she’s even more insistent that I am Scottish.

So today when she was in the computer lab at school, she saw a link on one of the school-sanctioned websites about Robert Burns. She clicked it and started reading everything about the man then recognized a link as a song we listened to on New Year’s Eve, so she printed out the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne. Then she had to explain to her teacher why she was wasting resources.

Apparently, the teacher is familiar with Burns’ Night and was very excited to hear about how the kid’s ‘Scottish foster mom’ is having a big Burns’ Supper complete with haggis, neeps, and tatties.

You know how they say if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em? Well, I can’t seem to beat this Scottish wrap, so I may as well just brogue up and break out my Harris Tweed and shortbread!

Reflections of 2010

As 2010 draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on the past year. And if I’m honest, I have to admit that it was a very difficult year and one that I am very glad to put behind me.

I think that one of the most difficult things was that it was an entire year without Paul. I spent the year in this strange holding pattern—in a weird Widow’s Limbo if you will. I feel that I haven’t accomplished anything with my life; I haven’t moved forward with some great plan for some great new future. I am pretty much where I was a year ago—only with a few less tears and better coping mechanisms for my grief.

That’s not to say that it’s been a completely miserable year. In fact, as part of my 2010 New Year’s resolution to find a bit of joy each day, I was forced to look at things in a positive light. And even without that resolution, there would have been joy.

In fact, there was a bit of joy every month!

January: I hosted a fun-filled Burns’ Supper weekend at my home and re-discovered a love for running.

February: I spent a relaxing day at the spa and took a trip to the UK with my Mom.

March: I spent a weekend wine tasting with my Aunt and Uncle in Walla Walla.

April: I re-discovered Kamiak Butte.

May: I watched my eldest niece play softball in the state championship play-offs and met some old friends at my hometown burger joint to re-visit our youth.

June: I started reading an excellent book series.

July: I enjoyed a week with my nephew and niece and attended my first-ever girls’ weekend.

August: I made pickles with my family and I became a foster mommy!

September: I went fishing and I was silly.

October: I did papier-mâché and played in a corn maze with my foster daughter.

November: I made blagenda with my family and realised how blessed I am to have such wonderful neighbours.

December: I started training for a marathon and I travelled to Canada to visit with friends.

But most importantly, in 2010 I began to find the focus needed to start working on a plan for the future. The plans are still in the works, but I am certain that 2011 will have good things in store for me. I am certain that I will find my way out of this frustrating limbo. And I am certain that I will begin to live my life with purpose and confidence once again.

I know there will be tears. I know there will be challenges and sad times as I work toward my future. I know that I will want to give up hope. And I know that I will wish I had my old life back. But I also know that I have an amazing support network of family and friends around the globe who will be there for me. I know that I am not facing these trials and tribulations alone. And I know that there will be joy and laughter and friendship throughout the year.

So, stay tuned for the excitement of 2011. And I promise, it will be full of excitement!

Christmas goodies

I’ve spent the day making Christmas goodies for family and friends. I thought it would put me in the Christmas mood, but it’s really just reminded me of the last time I spent the day making Christmas goodies—about two years ago.

I decided against making cookies and just stuck to truffles and fudge. And I ran out of sugar so only made one batch of fudge. But I managed lots and lots of truffles, so that will make up for it.

I haven’t made up pretty plates yet, but here’s a picture of the peanut butter and white chocolate truffles on the tray to make you wish you were here.

How hokey!

I think it was Celeste’s wedding when we started the tradition of doing the Hokey Pokey at Cook Girl weddings. I remember all of us girls standing in line together for a photo and one or two of us started goofing around. Which got a couple others goofing around; which meant most of us were in on it.

We laughed and giggled as we danced. Except for the eldest Cook Girl who was far too mature for such silliness.

And at the next few weddings we did it again. And at the last wedding (mine) we did it for a final time. Only this time, some of my friends joined in. But still, the eldest was a stick-in-the-mud and wouldn’t play. (She doesn’t know it yet, but when her daughters get married, I’m totally going to get them in on the tradition. And they’ll do it because they totally love their Awesome Aunt Frances.)

Here’s a fun video of us dancing around from Jessica’s wedding. Sadly, I don’t think I got video of us dancing at mine. Oh well, I have the memories …

2010 Christmas card and letter

I sent out my holiday Christmas cards on Monday and, as promised, am sharing the card and letter with all of you. After all, just because you’re not on my mailing list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get the fun of a Christmas card and letter. Right? So, without further ado …

Dear Family and Friends

As I sat to write my 2010 Christmas letter, I struggled with how to start it. It’s difficult to write a letter about all of the wonderful things I’ve experienced the past year when all of those wonderful things were shadowed with grief. But still, there were wonderful things to share.

The year got off to a slow start as I’d taken ill on Christmas and wasn’t feeling better until mid-way through January. But by the end of the month, I was running the “Freeze Your Fanny 5K” with my then 10-year-old nephew, Haden. It was my first race since Paul died and Haden’s presence made it much easier for me. (This was Haden’s first-ever race.) That same day, I hosted a Burns’ Supper at my house—complete with haggis, neeps, and tatties. And proper Scotch, of course.

In late-February and early-March, my Mom and I took a trip to the UK. Our first stop was England where we attended the Ryan Family Reunion. We then drove up to Scotland making several stops along the way. It was Mom’s first trip overseas and I was so pleased to be showing her around. I think the she understands a bit more why I feel so at home in Scotland now that she’s experienced it.

April and May, if I’m honest, were blurs as I marked the anniversary of Paul’s death as well as what would have been our 5th wedding anniversary. But, like the months before and after, I managed to make it through with the support and love of my family and friends.

Over the summer I spent time running and playing golf, reading and writing, and working—a lot. I also managed to attend my first-ever girls’ weekend at one point at The Beach House near Vantage, Washington, and ran in my hometown’s Runner Stumbles 5K over Fourth of July Weekend. (And whilst it wasn’t in the summer, my new running partner wouldn’t forgive me if I didn’t say it: Haden and I also ran in the Spokane, Washington, 10K on 10-10-10.)

Of course, one of the biggest changes in the last year is that I’ve become a foster mom to an 11-year-old girl. [The Kid] came to stay with me in mid-August and will be with me [until she’s not with me anymore]. She is a great kid; full of energy and very artistic. She is intelligent and funny and has this sceptical little look about her when I’m telling hilarious jokes. (She doesn’t think they’re as funny as I do.)

So there you have it: 2010 in a nutshell. If this little update wasn’t enough for you, please feel free to check out my awesome blog (www.JustFrances.com) for loads of up-to-date exciting happenings with my boring life!

I am looking forward to 2011 and am certain it will have great things in store for me. It won’t be the same without Paul to share it with, but I am blessed to have all of you to help celebrate life with me. Your support and love has been amazing. I hope that the past year has been good to you, and that the year to come brings you all of the joy and happiness you deserve.

Merry Christmas!
Just Frances

Tearful but thankful

Well, it would seem that I wasn’t meant to have a proper Thanksgiving this year. I wished for one, and even invited family and friends to join me, but no one was able to come. So instead, I decided that I would make the trip to my homeland to share a traditional turkey dinner with my parents and one of my sisters and her family. (Though between us we’d decided that our ‘traditional’ dinner would be eaten out at a nice restaurant in town followed by desserts at my sister’s.)

Whilst I’d really wanted to host dinner this year, I was happy with the plan because it would mean that I could run in a local 5K race with my nephew on Friday and, more importantly, that I would be able to visit Paul’s grave on Saturday for what would have been his birthday.

We tried to make it, but once I finally got to I-90, the roads were just too slick for safe travel. It’s funny that the rural farm roads I’d been on for nearly 60 miles—which were covered in drifting snow so bad that you couldn’t actually see the road—was a more pleasurable experience than the freeway! So I had to make the difficult call to turn around and return home. Back home where food would need to be scrounged because we’d eaten the fresh stuff in the days before; anticipating being away for a few days.

My foster daughter seemed to handle the disappointment OK. Maybe that’s because upon returning home she instantly went out sledding with her friend; which worked well for me because I needed to be a complete sobbing mess for a while and I couldn’t do it in front of her. And I sobbed a lot after she went out to play. But thankfully I regained my composure and came up with an alternative plan for us before she returned.

When the kid arrived back home we got into our jammies and I started to prepare a feast of grilled cheese sandwiches, saltines with peanut butter, oranges, microwave popcorn, and stale peanut butter cookies for dessert. All to be enjoyed whilst curled up in front of the fire place watching Stuart Little.

But just as the pans for grilling the sandwiches were ready, there was a knock at the door. It seems the neighbours noticed my car was home and knew that meant I didn’t make it to the homeland after all. So they brought loads of food for us—apologising for not noticing sooner or they’d have had us over for a proper meal! An invitation for a post-feeding visit was extended, which we happily accepted.

So, as we sat down to our lovely meal of ham and turkey—with a big plate of desserts tucked away in the kitchen—we sat to reflect on how our miserable Thanksgiving was a day to be thankful for, indeed!

And after partaking in delicious desserts that our wonderful neighbours brought, we wandered through the snow over to their house for a visit. The kid played with the kids; I sat and shared a bottle of wine with the Mrs.; and the Mr. kept the kids in line and the fire stoked.

I’m still very sad that I didn’t make it to the homeland and suppose that it’s partly because I can’t be there to take flowers to Paul on his birthday now. But still, I am thankful today.

I am thankful that despite the bad roads I made it safely home.

I am thankful that my neighbours, whom I barely know, were so kind and thoughtful and not only shared their food but opened their home to us to share in the evening.

I am thankful to be warm and toasty in my own home as the kid sleeps soundly in her bed.

I am thankful that even when everything seems so sad and low, things always seem to work out with the grace of God.

And I am thankful that today, all the way in England, my great-nephew, Travis, was born. A Thanksgiving baby is always something to be thankful for.

Happy 235th birthday, USMC!

Since 1775, the United States Marine Corps has been winning battles and defending our nation.

On what marks the 235th birthday of the Corps, I want to say that I am proud to be the daughter of two amazing Marines. I am proud of my amazing niece who is serving our country today. I am proud of all my family and friends who’ve served in the past and who will serve in the future.

Thank you for your service and thank you for protecting my freedoms.

Blagenda

WooHoo! I made a trip to the homeland this weekend to make blagenda with my folks and one of my sisters. Her kids and my foster daughter got in on the action, too.

We used an old family recipe that was brought over from Ukraine when my family emigrated/immigrated* a couple of generations ago. I don’t know just how old the recipe is, but it’s certainly a traditional dish for people of ‘Germans from Russia’ heritage.

If you’re wondering, blagenda is essentially a pumpkin turn-over or tart. It’s a basic short pastry filled with grated pumpkin then it’s baked for a bit. Growing up, we always had it as a savoury even though some families would add sugar and cinnamon to make it a sweet dish. This year, we gave the sweet-side a try and made a few with cinnamon and sugar ourselves.

We made more than 260 of the little guys in total. That’s a lot of pastry rolling and my arms are very, very sore now, having been the main pastry-roller-outer. In fact, I was so busy rolling pastry that I didn’t end up touching any of the pumpkin prior to it being placed in the pastry shells. (The task of peeling, chopping, and shredding pumpkin went to Mom, Celeste, and the kids.)

The recipe we followed is one that my Great Aunt Mary wrote down—but who knows how many times it was copied before then. If you care to give it a go, here’s a copy of the recipe for you, edited for grammar and clarity because it’s what I do!

Blagenda

Pumpkin mixture:

  • 6 cups grated pumpkin
  • ½ cup grated or chopped onion
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Mix all together and let set ½ hour. It makes its own juice [NOTE: Juices should be drained before placed in pastry but save them and use them as a great soup base. Yum!]. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Pastry:

  • 6 cups flour
  • 1½ cup shortening
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup sugar

Mix as you would a pie crust, adding milk as needed, and work well.  Roll out as you would pie crust and cut circles 3-6 inches wide. Place pumpkin mixture on half of pastry and flip the other half over to make a tart. [NOTE: For best results, use a bit of water to help seal the edges.] Bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes or until a nice golden brown. [NOTE: We baked for about 25 minutes – the size of your tarts will impact cooking time.]

[Side note: I was asked to give proper UK measurements, too, but haven’t got the math done yet. I will try to update later in the week but if you really can’t wait, US to UK measurements can be found here: US cups to UK weights (dry ingredients) and US to UK liquid conversions.]

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And—big surprise!—here are a couple of videos of the process for your enjoyment. (The second one is the best!)

[Another side note: After posting a story and video about making pickles, a friend gave me a bit of grief for not having demonstrated the proper technique for washing hands. I’m not going to do that now, either, but will say that you really must wash your hands before (and after) handling food. If you don’t know the proper technique, you can Google it.]

 

* Emigrate and immigrate have two different but similar meanings, if you didn’t know. Someone emigrates from a location and immigrates to a location. So, to use the terms in sentences: My maternal and paternal ancestors emigrated from Ukraine a couple of generations ago. And: My hope is to immigrate to Scotland in the next year.

Alarmed

I’m in the homeland this weekend, staying at my sister’s so that we can make blagenda. Sleeping arrangements are pretty simple when I’m here: Sis is in her room downstairs; my foster daughter bunks with my 13-year-old niece upstairs; my 11-year-old nephew is in his room upstairs; and I’m in the living room downstairs. This generally works just fine and I wake up with the sounds of children coming downstairs after the sun comes out.

That all changed last night, however.

You see, it seems that one of the upstairs occupants set an alarm for 5:00 a.m. for reasons they refuse to divulge. Which is cool. Only when it went off at 5 this morning they didn’t do anything about it. No one did anything about it. For several minutes.

Begrudgingly, I rose from my comfortable sleeping position and stumbled upstairs (without my glasses which was a bit dangerous) and felt around for the annoying object. Once found, I managed to shut the blasted thing off.

The owner of the alarm clock (who wishes to not be identified) then says sleepily: “Thank you, I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off.”

Well it would seem that all of the occupants of the upstairs heard it and none knew how to turn if off so planned to let it keep going.

My question was: “Why didn’t you just unplug it then?”

Apparently, that’s because it would be too much trouble to re-set the time. Which is a bit funny to me since the clocks go back tonight so it will have to get re-set anyhow!

Stupid alarm clock…

The alarm’s owner defended him-or-herself this morning by saying: “It was dark and I couldn’t find the button to shut it off.”

[Please note in the photo that the clock is still set for 5:00 a.m.!!]

Food foibles

So I think I’m a mild food hoarder. Or that I have some weird food obsessions. Or both. I’ve known it for years but mostly lived alone as an adult which made it easier to deal with.

When I [finally] settled down and got married, I found that I had to work to overcome some of my food foibles. Well, actually I didn’t have to overcome them—Paul accepted them and just played my little games.

(All the while, Paul would point out how crazy I was being and remind me that we can just buy/make more of whatever food I wanted.)

Basically, my deal is that I will panic if I think that I’m not getting my fair share—or more. A normal meal of normal food won’t trigger panic, nor will going out to a traditional restaurant where I order my own meal. No, panic situations for me are buffets, pot lucks, and parties with hors d’oeuvres; shared foods like pizza, chips, and buckets of popcorn; and divided foods like a slice of cake or pie.

I really do panic if I think there won’t be enough of something for me. To solve the problem of panic, Paul would always give me the bigger half of whatever we were splitting and we’d have separate containers of popcorn. Now, almost always I would eat what I wanted then give the rest to Paul—meaning he still got more—but if he got the bigger piece to start with I would have felt panicked.

I hoard food, too. Not proper food, but junk food. I have candy and junk food stashes everywhere: In the kitchen and living rooms at home; in my office; in my car; and even in my handbag. As long as my supplies are well-stocked, I’m OK. But when they start to dwindle I really do panic. I’m afraid that I’ll never get another Love Heart again. I worry that I may want pretzels and not have access to them. But if they are there and available to me, I won’t necessarily eat them. No, just the knowledge that they are there and that I can have them any time I want is enough to give me peace of mind.

I will fantasize for days if I know that there is a food event coming up. I salivate as I wonder what great nibbles will be at a holiday party. When going to the movies, I think for hours about my snack choices before the movie–and I’ve been known to watch a movie I’m not too keen on seeing just because I want the popcorn. I get really excited when I get to go for fish-n-chips–and even more excited when I know I’m going to a sweets shops. It’s bad. Really, really bad.

I realized that I had a problem when Paul and I went through our adoption training a few years ago. Apparently, food hoarding and other issues are very common in children in the foster care system and is often directly related to neglect and the instability of a food supply at some time in their lives.

I was never starved as a child—despite my insistence ½ hour before dinner that I was dying of hunger and really needed a snack. I was well-fed and never worried that a meal wouldn’t happen. BUT, there was a fight for food growing up in that the ‘best’ foods were gone fast. Everyone got a first helping of everything on the table, but with eight people around the dinner table, sometimes there wasn’t enough for a second helping of the favourite foods for everyone. Which to a kid is complete abuse!

Also, we rarely got desserts and snacks and candy. So when we did, we made the most of it. Looking back I know that we were raised with an extremely good, balanced, and nutritious menu. But I can also see how my food obsessions may have started.

I must have snacky foods available at all times now. When I fly to the UK I have a special check list of snack foods to take with me (sweet and savoury, chewy and crunchy) even though they’ll feed me on the plane. In fact—I almost never eat the food that I take with me, but the one time I didn’t take it I was a bit freaked out over it, so Paul insisted that I pack food no matter where we were going and how long we’d be gone.

A tip to friends and family: Always offer me the last chip. I will most likely decline, but being asked will make me feel secure. Also, be prepared to have separate buckets of popcorn if we go to the movies. And don’t ask for some of my candy, but don’t be surprised if I want some of yours. In fact, I will probably pick a candy that I know you hate just to be safe.

Yes, you knew I was weird and a little lot obsessive-compulsive, but I bet you didn’t know that I was completely off my rocker when it came to food!

On a happier note

To counter last night’s less-than-happy post, here’s something I’m super happy about!

First, the background:
Just as I was starting to remember how fun it was to draw, a friend in Scotland sent a note about participating in an online art course called The Art of Silliness2. So I signed up thinking it would be fun. And it was!

[Side note: The course finished last week, but I must admit I’ve fallen behind in my silliness because of my sadness. I am pleased to say that I am starting to be silly again, however, and will be posting the rest of my course work for you to mock very soon. Yay!]

Anyhow, at some point during the silly course, I noticed an advertisement for The Sketchbook Project and decided that it looked fun, too. So I signed up for the project with the theme of “make mine a double”. But I was a little sad because the tour didn’t include my neck of the woods.

But then, happily, today I got an email from the organizers announcing the addition of more stops on the tour and it includes Seattle! Yay!

So for my lovely friends and family in the lovely Pacific Northwest, you can head out to the Form/Space Atelier art gallery June 10-12 to check out my awesome sketchbook (and the awesome sketchbooks of many others who are likely more talented than I am!).

For my amazing friends who live elsewhere, you can check out the tour map to see if the show will be coming to you, too! And more dates and locations will be added, so keep checking!

Yay! I’m going to be part of a traveling art exhibition! This makes me super-duper happy!

Donald, where’s yer troosers?

I woke up yesterday morning with “Caledonia” going through my head so decided to grab my “The Best Scottish Album in the World…Ever” CD to listen to on the 30-minute drive to town. The kid wasn’t too keen on the departure from our normal car music—the local country western station—so I played a song I thought she’d like (after listening to Caledonia twice, of course).

In the rear view mirror I could see her struggling with the lyrics of the song I chose for her, so I turned off the music to explain that the girls were asking Donald where his trousers were because he was wearing, essentially, a skirt. Once she realized what the song was about, she asked me to please turn the music back on.

Last night when the kid asked if we could listen to “that Scottish CD” I didn’t think anything of it—but had to say no since it was in the car still. After all, it is a regular occurrence for her to ask me to play whatever the last music I had on was.

Then this morning I started the car and she instantly asked if we could listen to “song 16”. And we did. A few times. With her singing along and laughing.

On the drive home this evening it was more of the same.

She is now in her room singing it and came out a moment ago to ask if I thought she had a good Scottish accent (which she sings the song in). And, she is just two points away from earning enough for an MP3 player so she’s asked that “Donald, Where’s Yer Troosers” go on the device along with a handful of others from the CDs such as “500 Miles” and “Shang-a-Lang”.

Yes, folks, I am influencing the musical tastes of yet another child. Also on the list: I introduced my eldest sister’s daughters to disco (specifically the Village People) several years ago. Her husband is still mad at me for that. I’ve also introduced my 13-year-old niece to Billy Bragg and Aztec Camera. Her mom is OK with that, though I don’t think she’s happy that Morrissey has managed to make his way onto her iPod, too. (Oops!)

Hope you have a musical Friday!

10 on 10-10-10

WooHoo! Today is 10-10-10 and I’ve just run a 10K. Yay!

This makes me happy because:

I must admit that we were a bit slow because neither of us put in the training required for such a race. I could blame it on the fact that I can’t get out there and run because of my foster daughter, but that’s just an excuse. I could claim that I’ve been too stressed for training, but we all know that training would have brought about those lovely en‘Dolphins’ which would have helped to alleviate some of the stress, so that’s a rubbish excuse, too.

Still, I’ve managed a 10K on 10-10-10 which is more than most people I know have done today. So I’m going to take my accomplishment and be happy for it. And as I reminded Haden, no matter how slow we may have been, at least we did it!

Official times aren’t up yet, but we both finished in under 1:20 which was our goal. Haden was about 1:16:16 and I was about 1:16:21.

Yay! for me and Yay! for my nephew!

Check out more of my races here!

Ready to run (guest post)

Today’s post is brought to you by my totally awesome nephew, Haden. Please welcome my first-ever guest blogger. Yay!

I’m here in a motel room in Spokane with my aunt for a race tomorrow morning on 10-10-10. After we got to Spokane and got settled in our motel we walked down to the Hilton Courtyard by the Spokane Convention Center to get our running numbers (1172 ME! and 1295 Aunt Awesome!). We came back to the motel after stopping at a vintage clothes store (boring!!!) and ordered pizza!!! I’m really excited about my first ever 10K. Now I’m just chilling and watching TV, and writing this blog.

Aunt Frances says we only compete against ourselves in races. But in this race I’m going to beat her. Check back tomorrow on 10-10-10 for our race times and more pictures.

A note from Just Frances:
Thanks for guest blogging today, Haden. I’m way-excited about running the race with you in the morning! Yay! (And I’m planning to beat you so watch out, kiddo!)

The cure

As a kid, I remember Grandpa Eberle talking about the best way to get rid of a cold: A shot (or two?) of Brandy, a hot shower, and a warm bed. I think even then I realized that he was basically saying: “If you have a couple of drinks then take a hot shower, you’ll pass out. By the time you wake up, your body will have fought the cold.”

As a grown-up, I always relied on the family recipe for help because “cough syrup” really does help. Any time I was sick, Paul would hand me a small glass of the stuff. The heavy liquor would coat my throat, easing the pain, whilst the booze would help me sleep.

Sadly, today was a sick day for me. No work; just rest. (Well, I did check emails from time-to-time, but was really too tired to do much.) Of course, I didn’t have any cough syrup and with the kid around I didn’t think it was wise to medicate at noon anyhow!

But she’s in bed now. And as I was still in need of medicine, I’ve mixed a lovely dirty Martini. A strong one. So now I’m going to turn off the computer, drink my medicine, and read my trashy novel until the booze takes effect and I fall asleep snuggled under my lovely winter duvet (15 tog!) that I’ve just pulled out of storage.

Who needs a doctor when you’ve got such amazing home remedies?!

200

I can’t believe that I’ve had so much useless rubbish to share with the world since I started Just Frances!

I’ve found writing here to be relaxing, peaceful, and therapeutic. And whilst my writings may be sad at times, I think of this as my happy place; as a place where I can feel vulnerable and safe at the same time.

For me, Just Frances is a release of energy and ideas. It is a place where I can be me: The happy me; the sad me; the wacky and crazy me. It’s a place where my ego can frolic and play. It’s a place where my fears can be displayed. And it’s a place where I can share my joys and successes and happy moments.

For my 200th post, I want to thank you—because your support means the world to me. You may not know it, but just the act of checking in tells me that you care. (Or that you’re voyeuristic, but that’s OK, too.)

So, thank you, dear reader. From the bottom of my heart.

Bonus! My 200th post has been brought to you in just 200 words! And I made a picture for you, too!

Working weekend

Wow! What a great weekend! And you want to know why? Well, it’s because I spent most of it in the homeland working toward three of my goals.

And because I know you want to know, here’s what I accomplished!

Goal #1: To be blissfully happy

Toward this goal I:

  • Socialized with real people in the real world (What? Facebook isn’t the real world?!)
  • Did some drawing and writing and relaxing and stuff
  • Went on a 5-mile training run with my nephew

Goal #2: To earn my master’s degree

Toward this goal I:

  • Worked on my personal statements for my applications
  • Sent a current draft of my statement to new reviewers in the hopes of a fresh reference point
  • Visited with one of my undergraduate professors who will act as a reference for my applications (which is a double score because she’s also a friend and I got to have a lovely visit with her!)

Goal #3: To publish a book

Toward this goal I:

  • Gave some thought to a collaborative writing project I’m (meant to be) working on
  • Scribbled notes about characters for a potential book I want to take off the back burner
  • Had lunch with with my old (as in former, not elderly) high school English teacher who helped to further spark my desire to get back into writing (but she may not know she did that!)

So, Yay! for me! I feel as if I’ve accomplished so much which is great because I had a fun time doing it. But now I’m tired. Very, very tired.

Sometimes I want to…

Sometimes I want to scream at the top of my lungs. I want to yell. I want to shout. I want to wail about how unfair everything seems at times.

Sometimes I want to sob hysterically. I want to cry. I want to sulk. I want to curl up into a ball and never leave my bed and just think about how lovely the world used to be.

Sometimes I want to break something. I want to smash a plate. I want to slam a door. I want to punch a wall something soft just to release the energy that seems to build up.

Sometimes I want to flee. I want to run as fast as I can. I want to drive until I run out of gas. I want to catch a Greyhound going anywhere but here then I can pretend that I’m someone else; that my life is completely different than what it is.

Those sometimes seem to come less frequently these days, but they come so out of the blue when I thought that those sometimes were almost gone forever. Those sometimes catch me off guard when they come that way!

Thankfully, in between those sometimes I laugh and enjoy life.

In between those sometimes I can look at my past and smile at the memories.

In between those sometimes I can look toward the horizon and see a future that is bright and full of joy.

In between those sometimes I know how lucky I am to have my family and friends—no matter how far away they live.

In between those sometimes I have my faith to keep me strong.

And in between those sometimes I know that I will be mostly happy despite the days when sometimes creeps up on me so unexpectedly.

That’s me home [?]

Well, that’s me home again to the great US of A. But you know what? I don’t feel that I’ve come home. I feel like I’ve come back to where I live; to where I’m from.

My trip to the UK was a sad occasion. My brother-in-law, Michael, passed away so I booked a flight as soon as I could. But despite the sadness of my trip, I felt so good to be back there—back home. I really can’t explain why I feel at home here but I do. I am really looking forward to the day when I’m back living in Scotland and I can just pop down to visit my family in England at the weekend.

I’m always so torn on where my home really is. My heart is really truly in Edinburgh (Scotland) and I feel so at peace there; so at home there. It’s a feeling that I don’t know I’ve ever really felt in my home town—the place I was raised; the place my family lives. I feel as if I’m supposed to love my home town and that I’m supposed to dream of it with rose tinted glasses, but I don’t. Life was certainly good enough for me growing up there, but I never really fit in; never really belonged. (I don’t know that many people would argue with that comment.)

I know that if I return to the UK I will miss so much about America, including my family. But I also know that I didn’t miss America as much when I lived in Scotland as I miss Scotland now that I’m living back in the states. When Paul was alive, I missed Scotland but because we were missing it together—and planning to return together—it made it more bearable. Now I’m not only missing the culture and lifestyle that I so loved in Edinburgh, but I’m missing the dream of returning there with my husband.

If I were able to just pick up and move, I would. But I don’t qualify for settlement in the UK as a widow of a British citizen, which means I can’t go where I most want to go. It’s so very difficult to realize you can’t have what you want. And with an ego the size of mine, not getting what I want is even more difficult.

Anyhow, I’m still working on my applications for graduate school and hoping that I’ll get accepted and be able to afford to study in the UK. I hope that being back there long-term will help me to feel at peace with the world again—with myself again—as I did when living in Edinburgh. I hope that I will feel like I belong somewhere again because I really hate feeling like an outsider; feeling like I don’t belong.

Blah, blah, blah. Guess I’m just feeling a bit sad and missing my adopted home today. I promise to cheer up in time for my next post. Even if I have to fake it!

Hello from Seaton

I’m in England at the moment and that means a trip to Seaton Carew. Actually, it means as many trips there as possible. My lovely sister-in-law is seeing to it that I get my fill of fish-n-chips (and British bacon) before I have to return to the states.

I’ve not been posting much the last week, but don’t worry, Just Frances will be back in America soon. In the mean time, here’s another silly video for you to enjoy!

Gone fishin’

Back in July I was inspired by fish. It started as a general rambling, then turned to an actual plan for fishing on Labor Day Weekend. It was going to be great! Some friends from high school and I were all going to meet at our childhood fishin’ ponds and re-live our glory days. Soon, the fishing expedition grew as my friends planned to bring their kids. So I decided to bring my niece and nephew. And it was going to be fun.

Then I took a foster care placement and wondered if a fishing trip would still work. And I decided it would. So she was going to come, too. Then my friends all cancelled! So instead of being a fishing trip to remember my childhood, it became a fishing trip to build memories in the present-day childhoods of three amazing kids. (And memories for me and whilst I’m not a kid, I am pretty childish sometimes.)

Anyhow, we had a blast. Three fish were caught; none big enough for eating. One got tossed back; two became bait.

I forgot how fun fishing was. I may have to go again before all my new tackle rusts…

And look! Fun things for you!

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Oh, and be sure check out the little video my niece made below. I didn’t realize what she was doing at first, but it’s pretty good so I’m sharing it with you!

Hope you’ve all had a great Labor Day Weekend.

Just a quick trip

So there I was in line at the British Airways counter at SeaTac. With me were three of my five sisters and their kids and a wanna-be sister (that’s you, J.D.) and her kids. (For those counting, that’s 13 people.) I was the only one of the group with experience traveling overseas, so I was the spokeswoman for us. Or maybe that was because I’m bossy and controlling. Either way, I was the leader.

I start handing passports over to the nice woman behind the counter and all of the sudden I realize that mine is dog-eared. Now, this panicked me. I was very upset about having a not-pretty passport so asked her to begin processing the information for the other 12 people in my travel party whilst I popped over to the instant passport printing machine. I took all of three minutes to get my new passport and it was fab! I even managed to include my signature green on the information page. It was an extra $10 for the customized look, but well worth it!

Once back at the counter, we finished the check-in process and made our way through the security lines. In front of us was David Tennant. We struck up a conversation and he was pleased to learn that he was speaking to Just Frances of Internet fame. So pleased, in fact, that he asked for some pens. Left-handed ones to boot!

Before I knew it we were on a plane bound for Heathrow. It must have been the shortest flight in the world because within moments we’d landed and were heading through immigration before heading to the train station. I’d really wanted to fly up north, but the romantic notion of train travel carried by my travel companions meant that I was out-voted. So instead, we took a long and boring train journey to Scotland; my companions pointing out every old building and spray-paint-dotted sheep along the route. (I think I was smiling secretly as I recalled my first train journey in the UK.)

Finally, we arrived at Waverly Station in Edinburgh and made our way to my friend’s amazing country house – which was only about a two-minute walk from the station.

As the rest of the group got settled into their rooms for the night, I sat there visiting with my friend who was preparing to make me a cuppa tea. We were having a great little chat when all of the sudden the kettle started whistling.

At the same time, my alarm clock started to go off. Yep, it was time to re-enter reality and go to work. Oh well. Maybe I can return to my lovely conversation tonight. After all, it’s not fair that everyone else’s holiday was cut short when I awoke from my dream.

Great-grandma’s pickles

Yay! Pickle-making weekend has finally arrived. And just in time, as I was out of pickles.

My folks arrived Friday night with freshly-picked cucumbers from Imperial’s Garden outside of Wapato. They also brought with them my 13-year-old niece and 11-year-old nephew. (A couple of hours later, the kids’ mom arrived with beer for me from her man, JohnnyO, who knows I like good beer. That deserves an extra yay*!)

On Saturday, my nephew and I woke up early for go for a morning run through the wheat fields as part of our training for our 10k race that takes place on 10-10-10. We’d expected to come home to the smells of breakfast cooking, but the rest of the house was still sleeping! When they (finally) woke, we had a big breakfast to fuel us for a long day of pickle production.

My family’s dill pickles are the best! We use my (maternal) great-grandma’s recipe – with a couple of minor tweaks because of modern-day USDA guidelines. Despite the government’s intrusion**, they’re fantastic pickles!

My niece and foster daughter helped a bit with sorting cucumbers in the beginning, but spent most of the day hiding in the kid’s room playing. My nephew, however, spent the entire day helping make pickles with an amazing amount of enthusiasm! To reward him for his hard work, he will get to taste the first pickle when they’re ready. To remind the girls that today was a team effort, they did all the dishes whilst the rest of us relaxed in the living room. (This reminder didn’t sit well with the dish-doers!)

I know you wish you were here with us for this exciting pickle-making weekend, so I come bearing fun things for you! Yes! Another YouTube video, a photo gallery, and a recipe! Wow! Totally awesome!

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Want to make your own pickles? Here’s the recipe***:

Mom’s Dill Pickles
(But really, they’re my great-grandma’s)

Put 1 quart cider vinegar, 1 quart water, and ½ cup pickling salt together in a non-reactive**** saucepan and boil for a few minutes. Then pour the mixture over small cucumbers which are packed tightly into jars along with garlic, peppers, and fresh dill. (Ratios to your taste.) Process in water bath for 15 minutes.

Want to try one of the totally awesome pickles that I made? Well, unless you’re a close friend or family member with plans to visit me in the next wee while, you probably can’t. Sorry about that!

Oh! And how about a little lesson, too!?

* I haven’t decided if the extra yay was for the beer or my sister’s arrival.
** We are not bound by these guidelines, but if we want to enter things in the county fair, they must be made to USDA standards. Oh, and it’s meant to be safer.
*** Ratios of water/vinegar have been changed from the original to be in line with what we made. Dad also points out that some of the reasoning for this is that ‘in the olden days’ vinegar was more acidic that it is today.
**** Non-reactive saucepans are a stainless steel, chip-free enamelware pan, or glass pans.

Remember yesterday

Woke up to the sound of pouring rain; the wind would whisper and I’d think of you. And all the tears you cried, that called my name; and when you needed me I came through.

Oh yeah, I’m totally remembering yesterday* today. It started with a text message from my 13-year-old niece who has found that she loves my music collection. Her text was letting me know that one of her new-found songs from my past put her ‘in high spirits’. The song was Good Love by Poison.

Well, that text made me set my iPod to play Poison. But then I felt the need for a total Hair Band** Fest.

So, I set up my “Hair Band” play list (yes, I have one) and hit play. (What a way to spend a Friday at the office!) Then I let my Facebook public know about my celebration of Hair Band Friday. And they quickly made posts of their own about the new celebration. (Yay! I love being a trend-setter!)

And because I know you’re dying for this information, my Hair Band play list includes:

Yay for music! And yay for Friday Hair Band Fests everywhere!

* The title and opening quote are from Skid Row’s “I Remember You” – in case you didn’t get the reference.
** What I call Hair Band, Paul called Poodle Rock. The ever-knowing
Wikipedia calls it Glam Metal.

Having a Ball (and a Martini)

It’s pickle season. That means that when I come home from work tomorrow the house will be full of people and pickle making supplies.

Mmmm… Grandma’s pickles. It’s a little piece of sodium-laden heaven in every crunch bite!

I’ve washed my canning jars (wide-mouth Balls, because that’s the best for pickles) and more jars will be arriving tomorrow along with freshly-picked pickling cucumbers.

The kid is excited about making pickles. She’s also excited that my 11-year-old nephew and 13-year-old niece are joining in on the pickle preparations. She talks about the niece and nephew – whom she’s yet to meet – as if they are her best friends. Exciting!

So, pickle preparations are done for the evening; which means it’s time to take the advice of the best parenting author I’ve ever read: Christie Mellor. Yes, she’s all about parents being number one and, more importantly, parents taking time to enjoy the grown-up pleasures of a Martini. (Her “Three-Martini” look on parenting was one that Paul and I agreed with. Too bad we didn’t get the chance to put the theory into action!)

 

 

Plus one

I’ve been Just Frances + One for a couple of days. It’s scary. It’s weird. It’s scary. It’s fun. And did I mention it’s scary?

You may know that Paul and I were licenced foster care providers as part of our plan to adopt children from the foster care system, even though we didn’t take short-term foster care placements as a general rule. We were, in fact, looking forward to adopting a couple of kids just before he died. In my grief, however, I wasn’t emotionally prepared to take on single motherhood. And I didn’t think it would be fair for children hoping for (and in need of) an active and happy mom and dad to be thrust upon a grieving widow. No, that wouldn’t have been fair to any of us!

So I was left wondering what I would do. Would I abandon my foster care licence? Would I continue with plans to adopt down the road? Would I foster children short-term? I didn’t know. Sometimes I think I still don’t know!

Actually, I think I was on the road to knowing. You see, I always knew that my life would include children. I just didn’t know when or how. And whilst long before meeting Paul I thought about adopting and being a single mom, I never dreamed there would be a time that I was caring for children as a grieving widow! So, I’d decided a few weeks ago that I needed to think of me first. Of my desire for my master’s degree. I decided that I would continue with my application plans for fall 2011 admission and play the rest by ear. If I was accepted, then I would know that school was the right path for right now. If I was denied, I would take it as a sign that foster parenting was the right path for right now.

When I got to the office last Monday, I made a note to call my care licenser to let her know that I wanted to retain my license, but needed more time to figure out my path before I considered a placement. But before I could call her, a social worker called me to tell me about a young girl who needed a home for a while.

It seemed to me that I could actually help this child. And maybe, just maybe, she could help me, too. It’s turned my world sideways, which is an improvement on the upside-down orientation that it’s been for more than a year. The world looks a bit different from this angle, but as Paul always said: Different doesn’t always mean better or worse; sometimes different is just different.

I don’t know how long this amazing child will be with me, but I’m certain that we will make lasting impressions on each others lives in the time we’re together. We bonded over cake-baking yesterday and toe-nail painting today. She arrived with a couple of “Learn French” CDs, so I figured that I can help her learn and maybe it will help me remember the two years’ of French I took in high school.

I’m still planning to start my studies in the fall – assuming there’s a school that will have me – but in between now and then, I’m going to be the positive light in a child’s life. And she’ll be a positive light in mine.

And there you have it. I’m responsible for the life of a child for the next [who knows how long]. Scary. Exciting. Scary. Enriching. Scary…

(I know! Can you believe that someone gave me a kid to care for? I mean, I’m totally insane and I can barely take care of myself! But then, maybe it takes a bit of madness to deal with the ins-and-outs of the foster care system!)

Correct-handed

Today is International Left-Handers’ Day. Yay! A whole day set aside to celebrate the awesomeness of being a lefty!

So, for my part of the celebration, I’ve made another ridiculous YouTube video. It’s a bit long (nearly eight minutes), but check it out to learn all about my prized left-handed possessions!

Wasn’t that fun? But, moving on…

Some interesting things to ponder:

  • Estimates vary on the percentage of left-handers in the world from a low of 5 percent to a high of 15 percent
  • Left-handers are made with 100% pure awesomeness
  • Left-handers are thought to have a higher likelihood of being dyslexic or of stuttering
  • Most left-handers draw figures facing to the right
  • Twenty percent of all Mensa members are left-handed
  • Left-handers are 100% beautiful
  • As seen from the North Pole, the Earth rotates to the left, counterclockwise, and proceeds to the left around the sun
  • International Left Hander’s Day was first celebrated on August 13, 1976
  • Everyone is born right handed, and only the greatest overcome it
  • Left-handers are made with 100% pure awesomeness (that fact deserved repeating)

Wanna purchase left-handed things? Here are some great resources to check out*:

Oh, and since it’s my blog, I have to give a shout out to some of my favorite lefties!

  • My Daddy, who taught me how to use my correct hand;
  • My bestest friend, Rachel;
  • My really cool nephew, Adrian;
  • My really cool nephew, Stephen;
  • My maternal uncles Fred and Joe;
  • And my favorite lefty ever, my amazingly-awesome husband, Paul, who loved how excited I got about this day every year!
  • (Oh, and a special mention to Ned Flanders and Kermit, too!)

So, again, Happy International Left-Handers’ Day!!

* I am merely providing links and cannot offer an endorsement on any of these outlets. I’ve never used them; I don’t receive any benefits from you using them. These were all found my searching the terms “left-handed products” in Google.

An illegitimate, homeless transient

I was born as a homeless transient, living in hotel rooms on the road for the first couple weeks of my life. Added to that early start, in the 1980s it was discovered that I was actually an illegitimately-born child. In fact, most of my sisters were illegitimate, as well.

That is a completely factual statement, however misleading it may be.

My father’s new post in the United States Marine Corps saw the family leaving California for Texas. Between the time that the family’s home in California was vacated and I was born, my parents and my two older siblings (for obvious reasons, not my younger siblings) took up residence in a long-stay hotel. Shortly after my birth at Camp Pendleton,* we vacated the California hotel and hit the road for Texas.

That answers the homeless transient part of the statement. Now on to my illigitimate birth.

My parents were married at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Cle Elum, Washington, in June 1969 (the same church I was married in nearly 36 years later). Their wedding was performed by Mom’s cousin, a Catholic priest. Their first-born daughter entered the world about 15 months later. About every two years another daughter was born. But here’s the catch: Mom’s cousin didn’t actually file the paperwork with the county until the sometime in the late 1970s, after their fifth daughter was born.** Meaning that, technically, they weren’t married.

And there you have it. From an illegitimate, homeless transient to a successful, university-educated world-traveler. Who knew!?

(Did I mention that I work in the public relations industry? Yep, it’s all about the spin, babe!)

* It should be noted that shortly after my birth the hospital was demolished. I like to think that it’s because they realized that never again would the building see the birth of such an amazing individual. And being as the building would never be able to top such an event, they decided to build a new hospital. It was the right choice.

** The timing may be a little off so whilst it is known that their sixth (and final) daughter was legitimately born, there is still a question as to if their penultimate daughter was born before or after their marriage certificate was filed.

You just can’t beet this!

I don’t know if it’s because of my family’s peasant, Germans-from-Russia roots*, or because I’m weird (maybe both?) but I really like beets. I do. Honestly!

So when a friend in Scotland wrote a blog post about her ‘fridge surprise supper’ last month, my mind instantly thought that the photo was a big bowl of borscht. But instead, it was a big bowl of beet risotto – with a rough recipe for readers who wished to emulate. And I did. I really, really did.

After a trip to the Moscow Farmers’ Market yesterday (and a second trip to town for the forgotten onions today) I had everything I needed to make my first-ever risotto. (I know! Can you believe that I’ve never made risotto before? In fact, I had to call my mommy to help locate plain risotto in the store. Which is actually called Arborio rice. Who knew? Well, apparently mom did…)

The recipe called for ‘crumbled goat’s cheese’ and I wasn’t certain if that meant feta or chevre. By the time I started cooking I realized that it was well-past bedtime in Scotland, so thought I’d best not send a text. It seemed to me that the less ‘flavorful’ chevre made more sense in this dish, so that’s the type of goat’s cheese I used. (Is it strange that I had two types of goat’s cheese in my fridge?)

The recipe also called for red wine, so being clever I thought I would open a bottle of French wine because of the Auld Alliance with Scotland. Sadly, the bottle I opened had turned and was closer to rancid vinegar than anything else. So I had to open a new bottle, which was OK since the new bottle was a Washington State Merlot and you just can’t beat Washington State premium wines!

The meal was fab! I mean it. It was really good. I don’t know if it tasted like my friend’s version, but I liked it and will be cooking it again!

Oh, I also made a big pot of borscht. I mean, if you’re going to get your hands all stained red with beets, you may as well go whole-hog in the process. Which means that I now have several portions of yummy soup in the freezer. Yay!

I’m tellin’ ya, I’m in beet heaven today!

* The majority of my family emigrated from Ukraine and are sometimes referred to as Black Sea Germans. If you wondered.

And the winner is…

WooHoo! Thank you to everyone who entered* for a chance to win FREE COFFEE! For that matter, thank you to all of my readers. Your support of my ego-driven ramblings means more to me than you may know!

And congratulations to Mark, who has won a $25 gift card to Starbucks!

Here’s a ridiculously silly little video of me doing the drawing. Feel free to laugh at me. I did when I saw it. (Funny, in my mind I look and sound very different. I think there must be something wrong with my webcam…)

Well, I suppose I should answer my own questions now, so here goes: 

1) What’s your coffee order and why?
Tall drip – preferably French roast but any darker, full-bodied roast will do. Strong; no milk; no sugar. Why? There was a time when I drank lattes, but I think I did it out of social necessity – after all, my friends drank lattes so I should, too. I’d order a double tall, non-fat latte but then I wouldn’t drink the whole thing because it was too milky. I was essentially throwing my money away. It just made sense to switch to drip since I knew I’d actually drink it that way. 

2) What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever witnessed when at the coffee shop?
It was at a Costa Coffee when I was living in Scotland and everyone in the shop was snickering when we saw it. Two elderly ladies were walking toward the counter; a bit slowly, but it was obviously their turn to order next. This young man dressed in his best chavy Burberry get-up pushed past them and mumbled his order in a way that only a chav can do. The ladies were extremely unhappy to have been cut off so one whacked him on his shoulder with her handbag a couple of times whilst the other berated him for his poor behavior, wagging her finger the whole time. The kid looked shocked and embarrassed and swiftly left the shop. It was great! 

3) What’s your favorite ‘random acts of kindness’ story?
Years ago when I was first diagnosed with an auto-immune disease that meant a low platelet count, I was told that I could still donate blood if my platelet counts were in the ‘normal’ range for at least three months. So when the condition went into remission I excitedly went to the local blood drive – dragging a friend with me, even though she wasn’t going to donate as she was not too keen on needles. When I was told by the Red Cross nurse that, actually, I would never be able to donate blood again because I’m a ‘bleeder’, I was visibly upset. I think I may have even cried.

My friend, the one who was extremely dramatic about her dislike of needles, instantly said “I’ll give blood since you can’t.” She knew that taking over my dedication to blood donation was the best way to console me. It was an act of impulse, but also of kindness. And each time there was a blood drawing in town, she was there giving blood in my stead. And when she was asked if she was interested in being placed on the national bone marrow registry, she said yes without batting an eye. And, eventually, she became a living organ donor. Whilst the last part wasn’t so random, the blood donor part certainly was!

Thanks again for coming out to play! Have an awesome day!

* For reasons not-yet discovered, the back-end system used for Just Frances deleted rather than approved all comments made by first-time posters (on all stories) over a period of about 48 hours, though I did get the email notifications. This means that if you commented, I got it – I will work to manually enter them over the weekend so that everyone can see them. And I’ve emailed all of those people to let them know I know they’ve commented. The system is now up-and-running so any new comments WILL appear on the board. Technology, for all of it’s amazing awesomeness, sucks some times!

Girls’ weekend

At 36 years of age, I’ve finally attended my first girls’ weekend. And you know what? It was pretty fun! (Yay!)

I was never invited to girly get-togethers in high school – likely because I was a bit of a Tomboy and shunned girly stuff. Chatting about boys, hair, makeup, clothes, and ‘personal girly things’ was certainly not something I cared to do. But when I got my first-ever invite to my first-ever girls’ weekend this time, I was excited!

So, after work on Friday I made the drive to the Columbia River gorge near Vantage where my sister and her best friend were waiting for my arrival at the Beach House. The three of us had a fab evening visiting and chatting. Then Saturday morning we had a leisurely morning before heading to the river to float on the water and read books.

Not long after the rest of the ladies arrived, a rain storm set in so the six of us sat around inside chatting and visiting until the weather cleared.

On Sunday, another leisurely morning was enjoyed before I had to make the long drive home. Of course, the long drive was well worth it because it really was a fab weekend! Plus, on the way home I stopped at Starbucks and had an awesome coffee experience, which just added to the awesomeness of the weekend!

Thanks for inviting me, ladies!!

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Ode to the Beach House

An Ode to the Beach House
by Just Frances

Oh Beach House, Beach House
Your lovely views of the Columbia River gorge entice my senses

Oh Beach House, Beach House
The serenity you offer brings joy to my heart

Oh Beach House, Beach House …

Right, this is silly. Who has time to write silly poems and stuff when the river floats are inflated, the skies are blue, and the girls are ready to hit the water?

Yay for Girls’ Weekend at the Beach House.

The gift of life

My aunt received a new(ish) kidney today, courtesy of a very dear friend of the family. (We’ve always said that Jeanne was part of the family – and now she really and truly is!) My aunt was the third family member to receive a kidney transplant. The first was my uncle, who received a kidney from another uncle in March 2002. The second was my mom, who received a kidney from a ‘cadaver donor’ in September 2006. In all three cases, the new kidney means a new lease on life – a chance to live free of dialysis.

But why all the transplants? Because my family has been affected by Polycystic Kidney Disease – one of the most common life-threatening genetic diseases. It affects approximately 1 in every 500 people. It does not skip a generation and parents with the disease have a 50 percent chance of passing the disease on to each of their children.

Over time, the number and size of the cysts will increase, along with the size of the kidneys. Whilst a normal, healthy kidney is the size of a fist, a PKD-riddled kidney can grow to the size of a football, weighing several pounds.

There is no cure. But with proper diet, exercise, and care (including the ever-important issue of keeping blood pressure low) the progression of the disease can be slowed. Ultimately, someone with PKD will need dialysis and/or a transplant at some point.

Four of my parents’ six daughters have the condition – including me. And the next generation of my family is also affected by it. And the odds are that the one after that will be affected, too.

I won’t get on my soapbox about organ donation, because if you know me, you already know my views. But I encourage you to learn as much about organ, tissue, and blood donation as you can and make an informed decision as to if it is right for you. And be certain to let your next-of-kin know your wishes, because they will ultimately make the decision for you should you die.

For more information on becoming a donor please visit the Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation service in the USA or the NHS Blood and Transplant service in the UK.

But, back to my aunt and the amazing Jeanne. The entire family is so pleased that such a wonderful woman has done such a wonderful thing. I know that my teenaged cousins are pleased to know that their mom will be up and running around with the vigor and excitement she once had. I know my mom will be pleased to have her sister around for years to come. And I know that everyone will always know that a woman who didn’t have to sacrifice so much did – with nothing to gain other than the knowledge that she’s given the gift of life.

Thank you, Jeanne. We all love you more than you may ever know!

And a thank you to the transplant team at the University of Washington Medical Center. I know I’m a Coug fan, but today, I’m shouting GO DAWGS!

Cold theory

So I’m sitting here drinking a proper beer with my sister and brother-not-in-law, JohnnyO. (JohnnyO is drinking Bud Light, which is almost proper beer, so that’s OK.) A question of if my beer is ‘ice cold’ turns the conversation to the ridiculous ‘cold activation’ sensor-thingy on the side of a can of Coors Light. [I’m shuddering at the thought of drinking said beverage regardless of the temperature.]

Anyhow, being one of those people who must find an answer for anything, even if it’s made up, I had to answer JohnnyO when he asked “What’s up with that?” with complete disdain in his voice.

And here’s my theory:

You know those people who are really dumb and hold Roman Candles in their hands whilst the fiery balls of flaming sulfur fly into the sky? Or the ones who stop at the gas station because their car is a bit noisy then grab the muffler to see if it’s securely attached to the car? Or the woman (or man) who checks to see if the curling iron is hot enough by wrapping their hand around the barrel? You know, the people who end up at the Harborview Burn Center for skin grafts causing them to lose sensation in their hands?

Well, I think that those are the people Coors is marketing to. The people with no feeling in their hands. And who like cheap, crap lagers. And need a way to tell if it’s ice cold.

When I rule the world, I will make certain that my Drinks Tsar makes eliminating Coors and other icky lagers* a priority.

* Icky lagers are to be defined as those un-liked by me as well as the lucky person who gets to be Drinks Tsar.

The kid days of summer

My niece and nephew came out for a week of WSU summer camps. Flik to an over-night camp for smarty-pants kids and Haden to a day camp for kids who like to play hard!

We had a blast – and I took advantage of the free child labor. (Thanks, Haden!)

Check out the photos from our visit here!

Or check out the short video below for proof that kids will work hard – if it’s for someone other than their parents!

I SCREAM!

My nephew and I enjoyed a nice picnic dinner before spending two hours hiking Kamiak Butte last night. We’d decided before the trip that we would treat ourselves to ice cream after we were done. We’d also decided that licorice ice cream would play a role in our double-scooped treats. We were so excited about this that on the descent we kept repeating ‘black licorice’ in silly voices (pretending, of course, that it was the trees encouraging us to have licorice ice cream).

I can’t begin to explain how distraught we both were when we got back to town and saw that the shop had closed 20 minutes before. It was truly devastating. The kid tried his best to console me with the promise that “we can get ice cream tomorrow instead” but it just didn’t help fill the deep sadness I felt inside… (OK, I may be gilding the lily a bit there, but really I was bummed about this.)

So, to make up for yesterday’s let-down, we decided to have ice cream for dinner tonight. Two scoops, thank you very much.

I had licorice and cherry cordial for my two scoops. The boy, in his most boring-est way, had two scoops of licorice. I don’t know why he didn’t want two different flavors other than he’s weird. But that’s OK. So am I!

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

Chili cheese dogs

I love food. Expensive food, cheap food, homemade food, and overly-processed food-like substances. The last is a group that I don’t get to enjoy often, partly because having kidney disease means I need to watch my sodium intake and partly because I’m too cheap to buy a lot of processed food. (It really is cheaper, healthier, and quicker to cook from scratch!)

Sometimes I find myself thinking a particular “processed food meal” sounds good but then I realize that it’s not easy to justify when cooking for one. But when an old friend from high school posted on Facebook that he was making chili cheese dogs for dinner for his family, it got me thinking that I really, really wanted one, too.

Sadly, hotdogs are sold in packs of eight, as are hotdog buns. And I’m only going to eat one – maybe two – then I’m stuck with loads of extra dogs and buns. Oh, and the rest of a can of chili con carne, but at least that can be used for a lunch later in the week.

Because of my “eating for one” dilemma, I find myself taking advantage of times when there are people around to share food with. And since my 11-year-old nephew is here with me all week whilst attending a fun and adventuresome week of day camp at the university, I’m taking the opportunity to cook all of those wonderfully-delicious meals that I’ve longed for – and that every growing boy loves!

Tonight’s dinner? Those chili cheese dogs I’ve been thinking about for two weeks!

Tomorrow we’ll have a picnic dinner at the top of Kamiak Butte and Wednesday we’ll have tacos. We’ve not decided what to do for the rest of the week, but you can bet baked tofu, curried cous cous, and arugula with low-fat goats’ cheese won’t be on the menu!

It’s a good thing the kid’s only here for a week or I’d be running the risk of high blood pressure, kidney failure, and extreme weight gain!

Waning affections

My 13-year-old niece thinks I’m pretty cool. In fact, she’s gone as far as to give me the nick name “Aunt Awesome.” She looks up to me; she idolizes me; she wants to be like me when she grows up. It’s pretty cool, really.

But that reverence and affection can change in an instant.

You see, she’s come to my neck of the woods to attend a residential academic summer camp for “highly capable students” at the university where I work. For a week, she will live in a dorm and attend classes taught by the school’s research professors. This is the first time she’s attended an overnight camp without a companion. This is her first time really getting out on her own.

So, we arrive on campus and get the kid checked in. Then I take her to her room and her roommate is already there with her parents. (This is her roommate’s second year, so there’s someone to teach her to ropes.)

I asked if she wanted help unpacking. No.

I asked if she wanted me to stick around for the opening ceremonies. No.

I asked if she wanted me to leave. Yes. (Without a hug, please.)

I went from “Aunt Awesome” to “Aunt Please Don’t Address Me in Public” in less than five minutes. And now I know how my parents must have felt over and over and over again.

I’m sure the brat will love me again once I pick her up on Friday and we are an acceptable distance from her new friends’ view.

Thankfully, her 11-year-old brother, who is staying with me whilst attending a day camp this week, still thinks I’m cool. Of course, that may change when I drop him off at camp tomorrow morning…

Building my library

I posted a while back about my mission to expand my incredibly eclectic music collection, with the goal to fill my iPod Classic to its capacity of 40,000 songs. Since then, I’ve purchased a few CDs and have borrowed CDs from various family and friends.

I am pleased to say that I now have 4,499 songs!

I’m up to 26 genres (from 24) with the top three being rock (109 albums), alternative (80), and jazz/bluegrass (72). Country was third last time, but dropped to fourth with just 56 albums, up from 35.

Of course, I’m also getting quite the collection of podcasts but have been neglecting listening to them all! I currently have 425 in my library including 234 English language ‘tips’ for good grammar and 128 Gaelic language lessons for when I (finally) start learning a funny foreign language.*

Most days, all of the music is set to random play/shuffle when I’m at the office. I figured that I must have listened to most of the songs at least once, but after a quick review, it seems that nearly half haven’t even gotten one play! I sometimes think I should do what a friend is doing and listen to everything in order from A-Z, but I’m just not that dedicated so each song will have to take its chance with the listening lottery.

*I did take two years’ of French in high school, but I didn’t retain any of it. I then took two years’ of American Sign Language at university and now enjoy eavesdropping on ASL users when I’m out-and-about. (Yes, I’m a little ashamed of this – but only a little.)

A sad goodbye

I’ve said goodbye to Frieda today and it makes me so sad. I know you’re probably thinking “It was just a car; what’s the big deal?” but she was a very special car to me and saying goodbye is just another reminder of how much my world has changed – for better and for worse – since she first came into my life more than a decade ago.

Our last drive saw me returning her to the homeland where we first met. I can’t believe how sad it was driving her back home after all of these years. But we listened to her favorite band, Styx, along the four-hour journey and reminisced about the good ol’ days and all the fun we had together. And I cried like a little baby.

I was nearly 25 when I decided it was time to go to university. I applied – and was accepted – to Central Washington University for winter 1999. Classes were to begin January 6 but I didn’t have a car to get me to campus nearly 30 miles away. On December 29, 1998, my brother-in-law, Mark, took me to Ellensburg to find a car. With my limited budget, I knew I would never find the car I really wanted, but I certainly didn’t expect to end up with a used blue Geo Metro. However, that was the car Mark felt was the best deal for the money. I was upset and couldn’t hide my disappointment. I said I needed a day to think about it and we decided we’d go back down the following day when I finished work.

The next day, just as I was getting ready to leave work, a regular customer came in to purchase a lottery ticket and asked why I looked so gloomy if I was just about to leave work for the day. I explained my Geo Metro-enhanced woes to him and he then asked what kind of car I really wanted. And I told him. Then he said he had one in his driveway that he was planning to sell in the spring. I asked how much and was sad to hear it was nearly double my budget. But he called his wife, explained the situation, and within the hour I was looking at the car.

I excitedly called Mark to tell him what happened. Much to his shock the car was in fantastic shape. So we made a deal that saw me getting the car I really wanted at nearly half of its value!

A second-generation 1987 Honda CRX-Si, my lovely little red two-seater friend had a five-speed transmission and a sunroof. She got 37 miles to the gallon and ran like a dream! My friend Roach (yes, really) installed a rockin’ stereo system with Pioneer speakers – perfect for listening to ’70s and ’80s rock-n-roll. I used her to commute to-and-from school and later for work, leaving her in my parents’ care when I was overseas.

Over the years and the thousands of miles we drove together, she became run down and worn out. I’d mentioned to Paul that maybe it was time I said goodbye, but he was adamant that I keep her and that we’d just spend the money to get her back in shape. He knew how much I loved Frieda and really was quite happy for me to keep her forever, even though that meant we’d need a third car so that we both had cars for transporting kids. (We were actively seeking a new(ish) Outback Sport for that purpose before he died.)

As hard as it is to say goodbye, especially knowing that Paul had wanted me to keep her, I know this is for the best. I think that under the circumstances Paul would understand.

Frieda is going to a wonderful home where she will be well cared for. Her new family will fix her up and give her the love and attention she deserves. The money from the sale will go into savings for my graduate school tuition (a very paltry addition, but those pennies will add up over time). I suppose it’s fitting that saying “hello” to Frieda helped me accomplish my goals of an undergraduate degree, and now saying “goodbye” is helping to get me a little closer to my postgraduate degree.

Goodbye, my friend. I will never forget you. And I promise to let your new owners know that you prefer classic rock-n-roll…

NOTE1: It was always said that when/if I ever did get rid of my little sports car, I could purchase a “grown up” sports car to make up for it (finances depending). My next sports car purchase (I hope) will be a red ’61 or ’63 Corvette if I’m living in America or a green ’61 MG if I’m back in the UK.

NOTE2: Shortly before publishing this story, I happened upon the blog of an old friend from high school (well, obviously not ‘old’ since we’re the same age) and noticed that she, too, recently said goodbye to a dear friend.

SUBS syndrome

This is something I posted on RyanCentric years ago, but as it’s been mentioned by a few “old” friends recently it made me realize that most of my “new” friends won’t know that I suffer from SUBS. Well, they may know, but they don’t realize there’s a name for it. So, I’m re-posting!
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I would like to introduce myself as one who suffers from SUBS syndrome. Well, I guess I don’t really suffer from it, but the people around me sure suffer from my affliction at times.

SUBS is a condition first named with the help of my friend more than a decade ago. We’ve had it all our lives; we just never knew what it was. Though our findings are not published, and would likely never be recognized by any professional journals, many people have been self-diagnosed since our first announcement of the condition.

But just what is SUBS?

SUBS: Sudden Uncontrollable Bursts of Sarcasm
SUBS is a generally genetic condition but is often highly contagious. Those who are not affected are often times left in a stunned condition, as they have no clue what is being said around them, nor do they understand the reason for laughter. At times, they may feel as if they are being teased or picked on by SUBS carriers, though that is rarely the case.

At the present time, there is no known cure for SUBS. Some people are able to control their outbreaks when the situation calls for it; some are able to go into remission for hours or even days at a time. But SUBS is one of those things that are simply ingrained in the inter-workings of the mind.

I am a member of the SUBS community with a genetic disposition to the condition. The genetic line runs heavily through my family on both my maternal and paternal sides. As with most cases, SUBS affects every member in my family. Even my young nieces and nephews are showing signs of the condition. There is no getting through a conversation without someone’s SUBS showing through.

Thankfully, most of the people I know suffer from SUBS, as well. In fact, SUBS is how I met Paul while I was living in Scotland. Him being British and all, he never expected that he would meet an American who could understand sarcasm and wit. If only he knew what he was getting himself into!

I am not ashamed of my condition. No, in fact, I am very proud of it. I get the jokes. I get the puns, and I totally get British sitcoms (well, almost). I love a funny little one-line zinger. Even more so when most people around don’t understand what was said.

Don’t be ashamed if you, too, are afflicted with SUBS. Share the laughter! Share the joy! Maybe your little bit of sarcasm will infect someone else. Oh what a happy day it will be when the whole world is dripping with satire, repartee, and irony!

Go Wine!

Uncle Mike finally found his way to the Palouse for a day of wine tasting! (Can you believe it!?) He showed up Saturday evening and on Sunday morning we went into town to taste some of the finest wines the Palouse has to offer.

Our first stop was Merry Cellars in Pullman where we had a private tasting with winemaker Patrick Merry. I’d had a couple of their wines before but had never been to their winery for a full tasting so it was a fantastic opportunity to try everything they had to offer. And I think I’ve found a new varietal to add to my “favorites” list: Carmenere. It’s normally used as a blending grape, but I really did like it as a standalone. Yay!

Next up, we crossed over into Idaho to visit Camas Prairie Winery, where winemaker Stu Scott gave us a private tasting followed by a tour of the facilities. I’d been tasting there before and have always like the wines, but after learning that they are a “Clean Green” winery, recognized as a “Pollution Prevention Champion”, I’m even more impressed! Plus, I’m a fan of solar power and enjoyed the opportunity to see the solar panels installed on the roof of the building. [Oh, and Stu is retiring and wants to sell the business. If you want to buy it, tell him I sent you so that I can get the finder’s fee!]

For a third stop, we popped into the tasting room at Wawawai Canyon Winery along the Moscow-Pullman highway. I’d never had any of their wines so it was a real treat for me. Uncle Mike and the winemaker had a nice little chat about vineyards and pruning methods whilst I enjoyed the jazz music they had playing in the background.

Of course, because Uncle Mike is “in the biz” he got an industry discount. I was very pleased to have been extended the same discount for my own purchases, which helped to pad out my dwindling wine collection.

When we finally returned home, I gave Uncle Mike a quick haircut then we enjoyed a nice meal on the back patio with a couple bottles of wine.

The best part of the weekend – other than spending time with Uncle Mike, of course – was that he gave me a bottle of his own wine made with grapes from his vineyard. It’s not ready for market nor does it have a brand and label yet, but it’s some mighty fine wine.

Guess it’s time I head to Walla Walla to visit him next…

I ran; I nearly stumbled

Photo credits to my dad, RoyI ran the Runner Stumbles 5K yesterday with my nephew. My cousin and her son joined us, too, which was a fun little treat. I have to say, I thought that my third race without Paul would have been easier, but for some reason I found it emotionally difficult to run this race without him. Maybe because it was my hometown race. Maybe because I was running the shorter course while Paul and I always ran the longer 10K course. Maybe because some days are harder than others without any reason. But I managed to make it.

Just as I thought I was going to start crying because I couldn’t stop thinking about Paul, Dignity by Deacon Blue* came on the iPod. I know that I’m the one who set the play list, so I shouldn’t be surprised it was there, but the gadget was playing all of the songs randomly so I didn’t know when (or if) that song would play. That song gave me the kick I needed though which made a difference to the entire race for me.

My time was slower than I really wanted – but faster than the time my doctor wanted to me run it in. But (shhh…) we won’t tell her.

In addition to the fun of running with the family, the enjoyable part of the race was that I passed two women who were on the high school cross country team with me (they finished about five minutes behind me) and one gal who is in high school now who informed me that she’d be beating me. Yeah, in the end she was about three minutes behind me. So there, you little brat.

This race really did kick my butt. I need to get in gear though because my nephew and I have a 10K race coming up and I can’t let him down!

Check out more of my race photos here!

*Dignity was Paul’s ‘victory song’ when he ran for student office at Edinburgh University.

Very fishy

I started this post thinking it would be about my love of (obsession for?) fish-n-chips but couldn’t stop myself from going on these little tangents about other fish-related thoughts and memories. So instead, I’m just going to share some random fishy tidbits with you.

  • I love fish-n-chips. I always liked it as a kid, but after moving to Scotland and having a ‘proper’ fish supper, I grew to love the stuff. (In Edinburgh, you get your chips with salt-n-sauce – yum!) It’s become somewhat of a joke with my in-laws and UK friends. And if you wondered, the best fish-n-chips in England come from Seaton Carew; in Scotland they come from this little chippy near Haymarket in Edinburgh.
  • During Lent, my mantra is “Fish on a Friday” because during Lent Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays. I think it used to be every Friday of the year, but it’s been changed in accordance with Canon Law 1253 or Vatican II or something. [Note to self: Research this issue a bit more so that you know what the heck you’re talking about.]
  • When I was a kid, grandpa would point out colorful fish to us – just as he did with my mom and her siblings. “Look! Over there! A purple one is over there on that rock smoking a pipe!” Or some other such silly thing. And I’d look. And I’d be frustrated that I couldn’t see the fish. But every once in a while, I’d say I could see it, too. Grandpa was a funny, funny man. I like to think I got some of his sense of humor. After all, my jokes are just as “baaadddd daaadddd….” (Yeah, it’s a real knee slapper if you knew Grandpa!)
  • Quite often when I think about fish, I find myself saying “Fishy, fishy, fishy…” in a funny voice. I blame the Python Boys and their Find the Fish sketch.
  • “Back in the day” I used to go fishin’ at Hanson Ponds. I remember grabbing my pole and tackle then walking up to Victory Sports for some bait before heading over to the ponds. I don’t remember catching many fish, but I still remember it being fun. I don’t think that I’ve gone fishing since I was in my late-teens or early-20s. I wonder if I would still enjoy it…
  • And, finally, I’m a fish! Well, I’m a Pisces anyhow. I don’t really pay attention to all that hooey, but I guess some people really do believe in it.

Yes, I am well-aware that this is an extremely pointless post. But it’s my blog and I rule the roost on my blog. Yay me!

I’m a runner (?)

I’m a runner. Or at least I used to be a runner. Now I sort of fake it. But I hope that eventually I’ll remember that I used to love running.

I ran on the cross country team when I was in school and I was really, really good at it. Team sports were never my thing (disliking people didn’t help) and with running I could push myself and not have to worry about what my team mates were up to. It felt so great to just hit the pavement and go!

After we got married, Paul got into running too. Really got into it! Soon, we were running races together – we got to the point where we ran a short race (mostly 5Ks) about once a month. Of course, that wasn’t enough for Paul so he kept training and training and training. In fact, his first marathon was just a month away when he died. (He’d run two half-marathons already.)

[Check out the Ryan Road Race Record to see shirts from the races we ran!]

I stopped running when Paul died. It was nine months before I ran again. My re-entry to the sport was the annual Freeze Your Fanny 5K in Lewiston, Idaho, with my then 10-year-old nephew. It was his first-ever race. And he loved it! Two weeks later, he came back to run the Partners in Pain 5K with me in Spokane. I didn’t train for either race, and my times showed it!

I made it back to the gym toward the end of April and have been trying to get in shape and back into running. The 31st Annual Runner Stumbles race is taking place in my hometown 4th of July weekend and my now 11-year-old nephew will be running it with me. Paul and I always ran the 10K, but as I’ve not trained enough, I’ll be doing the 5K this year. It’s my third race without Paul, but my nephew is turning out to be a fantastic race partner so that helps.

I don’t know what it’s going to take to get me back to the days where I yearned to lace up and run, but I’m trying to find that passion again. It doesn’t help that every time I start feeling like running, I get sick and my platelet counts seem to drop, but they’re going strong at the moment so I’m taking advantage of it. I’ve told myself that I’m going to run before work tomorrow morning. Stay tuned to see if I’ve lied to myself… again!

And check out my new running photo gallery, “Run, Frances, Run“, to see  photos and shirts from recent races!

Hello Kitty

When Mom and I went to the UK this winter, one of my sisters-in-law gave me a little Hello Kitty lunch box filled with Love Hearts, Refreshers, and other such wonderful goodies. The box has sat empty on the kitchen counter for a couple of weeks and I figured it was time to put it to use.

Sadly, it’s just too small for its intended purpose of carrying lunches. Or maybe I just take too much food to the office for lunch. But that didn’t discourage me! I wanted to use it, so just found another way to find some enjoyment from it.

So now, I have a lovely Hello Kitty handbag.

And for those who really know me, you’ll not be surprised to learn that the contents include a handkerchief, a couple of gadgets (iPod, gadget phone), and a couple packs of Love Hearts… of course.

That Cook Girl

I am a Cook Girl. The preantepenultimate Cook Girl, to be precise. Growing up in a small town with five sisters who could easily be identified as my siblings, “That Cook Girl” was a familiar term. Of course, I was also used to hearing things like “Oh yeah, you’re the weird one,” and “Um, didn’t you have blue hair yesterday?” after it being confirmed that I was, in fact, one of the Cook Girls.

So when the antepenultimate Cook Girl was hoping to register her first-ever web domain, I (also known as That Geeky Cook Girl) offered to host it on my account – after all, I have more than enough server space so I might as well share the joy.

But Celeste didn’t know what to use for a domain. She wanted something kitchen-y, as her existing blog was all about cooking and stuff. So we tried this and that and the next thing. On a whim, I checked out www.ThatCookGirl.com and it was available – to which Celeste was thrilled. Even though she didn’t get the “That Girl” connection. (I suppose that could be construed as one of my many failures as a big sister.)

I know what you’re thinking: “OK! OK! What is the point already?”

Well, the point is this:
Celeste launched her new site today, www.ThatCookGirl.com, and I want to make certain that I get the credit for coming up with such a cool domain. If I’m honest, I wish that I didn’t tell her about the find – then I could have registered it for myself and had the domain forward to Just Frances. Damn! Why did I have to be such a nice big sister?!

Anyhow, check out That Cook Girl’s website at (you’ll never guess this URL!) www.ThatCookGirl.com.

It’s a party for your head

In honor of the lovely Flik’s 13th birthday tomorrow, I am holding a party for my head* this evening. Oh yes, I am! And I dared – or rather,  DOUBLE-DOG dared – the young (er, I mean, nearly-adult) Flik to do the same.

Flik and her friends, being good sports and loving a good party, took the dare. (It should be noted that Flik doesn’t like to wear her hair any way other than down and in her face. Otherwise, the dare wouldn’t have been needed.)

Happy birthday, Flik! I love ya, luv!

*It is a well-known fact that pigtails are just about as much fun your hair can possibly have. So much fun, in fact, that it’s like a party for your head!

NOTE: After writing this piece I decided to check out one of my favorite word-geek sites and was humored by the last paragraph on the entry explaining the etymology behind double-dog dare.

Lady Warriors

I took the day off work yesterday to watch my niece and her high school softball team play in the first day of the state championship play-offs. After a bit of a rain delay, the Cle Elum Roslyn Warriors beat the Montesano Bulldogs 2 – 1.

They play again today in an effort to win the title.

Virginia asked that I also mention that Montesano was the defending state champions. And last year the Warriors lost to them 11 – 1.

As you can imagine, the Bulldogs were not as excited as the Warriors!


http://www.JustFrances.com

Child labor

I don’t know who decided that child labor was a bad thing. I mean, I had four children over for the weekend and I feel it would have been more abusive to not let them work! When they arrived Friday night, one of the first questions was what chores there were to be done. When they awoke Saturday morning, the boys asked eagerly for me to open the tool shed whilst the girls went straight for the weeding tools that I keep in the shop. It was fantastic to see how excited they all were to help me out in the yard all day! Then this morning, they nearly fought with each other over who was going to help make breakfast (yummy coffee cake).

Now, my flower beds are all weed-free and the yard has been nicely raked. They even put all the tools away when they were done with them!

I know that if I was their mom and this was their home, I probably wouldn’t get all the help, but I guess that it’s a fun treat to help someone else. And a really great treat to be called “Miss Frances” by two of the children. (The other two called me Aunt Frances, as to them, I am.)

The kids are all very excited about coming back to visit and help again, and it just makes me so happy to see how eager they are to be here. And I don’t think it’s just because they like playing with Schrodie or the fact that they always get to walk to town (on their own!) for ice cream when they’re here.

What a great weekend I’ve had!

Note: The adults were all very helpful and very wonderful, too. I was very lucky to have seven wonderful houseguests all weekend!

McKean’s

McKean’s Drive-In is the local burger joint in my hometown and is a true institution. When I was in school several of my friends worked there – as did I when they needed the extra hands and I wasn’t already working my waitressing job at the truck stop down the road.

In my 20s I would go down on a Friday night with my good friend and his daughter and the three of us would pig out on McGuire Specials, deep-fried mushrooms, onion rings, and milkshakes (make mine pineapple, please!). I’d pop in from time-to-time on my own, too, for a to-go order.

Because Paul was a vegetarian, we never went there – and I got to thinking about it a few weeks ago and realized that it had been 6 or 7 years since my last visit. Which got me thinking about the delicious goodness I was missing out on. So, I posted something on Facebook about it and before I knew it, old high school friends from around the state were on board for a McKean’s Meet-Up.

And so, yesterday I made the drive from the Palouse to the homeland to meet for McGuire Specials. Before lunch I went to cheer on two of my young nieces who had spent their Saturday at a math competition – and ended up kidnapping the 12-year-old afterward to take her for lunch with us.

All together there were eight of us there in the small dining room in the back. My favorite set of twins spent a bit of time reminiscing about their time working behind the counter for “Ammonia Amelia” before our conversations turned to very silly reminiscing about everything under the sun. After lunch, four of us planned to meet at the Brick in Roslyn for a quick beer. Dropping my niece off at home along the way, she remarked that she really enjoyed the whole group – but was certain to point out that we all acted like children!! (I think that this was a compliment though!)

Once at the Brick, my favorite twins, a good friend from high school, and I continued the visiting and laughter for a bit before everyone had to go their own way. (Which included me and one of the twins finding our way to a bar in Cle Elum for a few more beers…)

I think that we all were reminded that the homeland isn’t too far from where we all live now and that there is no reason that we can’t meet up for lunch a little more often. We’re thinking that our next gathering might just be that slumber party that was mentioned on Facebook. (Maybe the niece was right: We really do act like children!)

Back to the gym

I found my way back to the gym today. It’s been just over a year since I last went and it felt a bit weird to be honest. Paul and I were runners and I tried to hit the gym 2-3 times a week before work then we’d run the Bill Chipman Trail or participate in a road race together on the weekends. After he died, I didn’t have the inclination to run or work out – and I certainly didn’t have the calorie intake to support physical activity anyhow!

In late January and early February, I did two 5K road races with my 10-year-old nephew – without a bit of training. I must say, my times were shameful and my body was extremely sore for a few days after each race. Obviously, both things are signs that I need to get in gear! (Not to mention that if I go much longer without taking care of myself, people will think I’m a bingo player!)

So, with my hometown “Runner Stumbles” 10K race coming up on July 4, I figured I’d best get in gear and get training. My nephew, who will be 11 by the time of the race, is already looking forward to it and assures me that he is training for the race. Apparently, he’s caught the running bug! I sometimes wonder if it’s because Uncle Paul was a runner… but I don’t know if he’d admit it!

Anyhow, I’m trying to get back in the habit of taking regular exercise as part of my renewed get-fit regime. I’ve been neglecting my health for a year now, and it’s time to get my backside in gear! What does this mean to you? Probably not much – other than having to read about my gym and running activities from time to time.

Miss you much

It’s been a year since Paul died; a year since I became Just Frances again. I made the drive to his grave in Cle Elum today to bring him some tulips from our yard. He would have loved to see how bright they are in the flower beds and I wish that he was here to admire them on our mantle.

My sister took some tulips up for him yesterday – similar colors to those I brought – and Paul’s family took tulips up to his grave in England. Tulips are my favorite flowers, so that’s what he seems to get now. I hope he doesn’t mind…

Paul, you are always in my heart and on my mind. I miss you much, but I don’t regret an ounce of this pain because it means I loved deeply and truly. I love ya, luv. xx

 Miss You Much
The Clumsy Lovers

I miss you much, but I don’t regret
I sense your touch, that hasn’t left me yet
You know a mournful ending don’t ruin a precious start
A painful parting don’t mean a bitter heart
 

And gracious your beauty
Goodness your soul

Everything’s changed, and you’re not here
But you keep climbing into my dreams somehow
Your voice is strange, but the words are clear
You’re saying “Love me now, love me now, love me now, love me now”
and I do… I do love you.

Bit of Saturday shopping

The folks came to visit, so while Daddy went on a bike ride to Palouse and back, Mom and I headed to Moscow for some antique and book shopping. And I’ve totally scored!

I was actually looking for a “new” vintage handbag at the antique store but they didn’t have anything that I would actually use, and what’s the point in a cool, old handbag if it’s just going to sit in the closet? I did, however, manage to find a couple of new handkerchiefs – which is good because I am still suffering from a nasty cold. I also found a great ring. It’s a tiger’s eye set in silver and fits just right! I’d been looking for a tiger’s eye ring for a while, and since I wasn’t spending money on a handbag, I got something else for my hand instead!

When we finally made our way to the book store, Mom went in search of some cookbooks and I hit the discount CD racks. I used to love spending rainy Saturdays in Fopp looking through the racks and today reminded me of that. I really didn’t plan to buy anything, but Mom was taking her time so my hands slowly started to fill up. I got six CDs in total including Etta, Miles, Harry, and (because it was only 97¢) a Debbie Gibson CD (really!).

I know I should have stayed home to rest and recuperate a bit more, but I felt it would be unfair for Mom to have traveled all this way to just sit around… And I’m such a thoughtful daughter!

Walla Walla wines

I went to Walla Walla this weekend to visit with some family and friends and participate in a Saturday wine tour – a hobby I enjoy but don’t do often enough. A friend from high school works in the wine-biz in the Seattle area and I promised her a review of the wineries, so here you go!

The first stop was Bergevin Lane Vineyards. Most of their wines are priced in the $25 – $55 range but I felt it was fair pricing for what you get. I especially liked their 2008 Viognier (Columbia Valley; 90 Points; Wine Enthusiast); their 2005 Oui Deux Syrah (Wahluke Slope; “Best of Class”; S.F. Chronicle Wine Competition; January 2009); and their 2006 Intuition Reserve (92 Points; Wine Spectator).

Next up was Patit Creek Cellars. All but one of their wines were priced under $30 but, again, the prices were fair for the product. I was extremely impressed with their 2007 Zinfandel (Walla Walla Valley; 93 Points; Wine & Spirits). Their 2007 Roux Bordeaux Blend (Columbia Valley) and their 2008 Chardonnay (Red Mountain) were also excellent wines. I was also very impressed with their 2008 Semillon Ice Wine (Columbia Valley) but being cheap and not really being a fan of dessert wines, I couldn’t bring myself to spend $59.00 on it (though if you really like ice wine, this is an amazing price for the drink!)

Finally, we went to Waterbrook Winery where we took a full facility tour, including barrel tastings, before heading to the tasting room to try their current releases. Their wines are mass-produced in state-of-the-art facilities, which mean they have a lower price point than the first two wineries. With rare exception, their wines are all under $20, but are surprising good when compared to other wines in a similar range. I really liked their 2007 Pinot Gris, 2007 Sangiovese Rose, 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2005 Meritage (all Columbia Valley vineyards).

There were only two wines I didn’t care for throughout the day, and that was because they were too sweet for me. No one else agreed with that opinion, but that was OK with me!

(Note to self: Go to Walla Walla to visit Uncle Mike more often. The wine is fab and the company is OK, too!)

Going green

Across America, people are going green. Not in an effort to be more sensitive to the environment but rather in an effort to get in touch with their inner-Irish. Regardless of family ancestry (mine being Germans from Russia) every American is Irish today. Or is that Oirish?

Traditionally a Catholic holiday and feast day, St. Patrick’s Day, like many other holidays, has been overly commercialized and Americanized in recent years. Our “Irish” traditions are very different than those celebrated by natives of Ireland, living in Ireland, but they were probably loosely based on some village traditions brought over by Irish immigrants then morphed as other cultures began to participate in the hype.

From parades and municipality-sponsored events to pub crawls with green beer and Baileys there are events for everyone! School children wear green to protect themselves from being pinched; families feast on corned beef and cabbage.

Me? I totally get into it! I have special socks and a selection of fun and funky hats and headbands. I wear green clothes and green jewelry. I eat Irish-themed foods (or dye them green if I can’t spin it Irish any other way). This was all very much a culture shock to Paul – the son of an Irishman who grew up in England – but he went along with it because his kookie American wife was going to be Irish on March 17 whether he played along or not.

Of course, as it’s Just Frances now, I didn’t have anyone to buy a St. Patrick’s Day card for. And I didn’t feel like making a big corned beef. And, well, being alone on these holidays just reminds me that I’m alone every day, so this year I scaled back the celebration. I still wore the socks and green clothes of course; I just didn’t go all crazy in my normal style.

But I did need dinner. Potatoes are very Irish, so chips were on the menu. And beer. Green beer. It’s the Oirish in me that insisted on that one…

Aunt Frances

Sixteen years ago I became an aunt when my eldest sister had her first child. I can’t believe that my sister has a kid old enough to drive! Wow! I’m sure it’s more of a shock to that sister, especially as she is still convinced that she’s only 29. (But for those who enjoy a bit of math, I am 36; she’s four years older than me.)

Anyhow, since that first niece entered the world on March 16, 1994, I’ve added several more nieces and nephews to the ranks and am now a proud aunt to 17 nieces and nephews – and one great nephew! (In fairness, nearly half of those are related by marriage.)

This number doesn’t include my little niece who walks with Jesus nor does it include the many kids who call me Aunt Frances – that number would see a Woman Marine added to the ranks, as well as another great niece, and more! (And just because JohnnyO calls me Aunt Frannie doesn’t mean I count him in any of those numbers…)

One of the best things about being an aunt is that several of my nieces and nephews really look up to me and really want to grow up to be like me. (One of my nieces calls me Aunt Awesome! How cool is that?) But better than having those kids look at me as a role model is the knowledge that some of their parents HATE that fact.

I wonder if some of them want to be like me just because they know how much it makes their parents cringe…

Happy birthday to my lovely niece, Vg!

The North

After a lovely couple of days in Yorkshire, we made the trip to Teesside on Sunday by way of a few small, back-country roads where we were able to see a couple of twee villages and lovely little farm houses as well as the ruins of a fantastic abbey. It took us nearly four hours to make the trip to Billingham, one that would normally be about an hour’s drive. Our local guide, Paul’s cousin Olwyn, made the trip even more enjoyable. The SatNav on loan from my nephew, Stephen, means we didn’t get lost!

Once we finally arrived at my brother- and sister-in-law’s house, we were off again for Seaton Carew. A perfect start to any visit!

We’ve spent the day touring around Billingham and supporting the local economy at the shops. I found some lovely new wool so that I can start on another baby afghan for the flight home, and even found a bit of new clothes! Mom found some tea and a new mug – and a canvas bag to carry them in. Soon, it will be time to head out to the carvery for dinner.

We’ll load the car again in the morning to begin our drive further north toward Scotland. We have plans to stop along Hadrian’s Wall and Holy Island. We don’t know if we’ll hit the border tomorrow or the next day, but we’ll get there eventually!

Yorkshire

I’m well into my second full day in the UK now and while I know I’m just on holiday, I feel as if I’ve come home. I really like how at ease and at peace I feel when I’m here. It’s a feeling I first had a few weeks after moving to Edinburgh and it’s never gone away. I guess it’s true what they say: “Home is where the heart is” and my heart has been here for nearly 10 years now.

It’s been fun seeing it all through Mom’s eyes. She seems to be enjoying herself and is enjoying the company, too. She’s still a bit jetlagged, but she’ll soon get used to the new time zone. After all, a proper cuppa will fix whatever’s ailing you, right?

We spent yesterday playing around Wakefield before heading over to York where Mom got to enjoy her first pub lunch. And her first pub dinner. This morning, we woke up and enjoyed a proper English breakfast – complete with heavenly British bacon. (If you’ve not tried bacon on both sides of the pond, you may not know what I mean. If you have, you understand the love affair I have with the UK stuff!)

After breakfast we went into town to see the York Minster, enjoyed a nice tea at Betty’s (where else?), then toured around the medieval city center with a stop at St. Margaret Clitherow’s Chapel on The Shambles. Mom’s now resting while I play geeky-gadget girl (and check up on work emails) before we head out for the family dinner later this evening.

I’m enjoying showing Mom around my lovely British Isles, and I think she’s enjoying being a tourist – but with the added bonus of traveling with someone who has the inside knowledge!

Now, back to my lovely cup of tea…

Still stitching

I started crocheting this baby blanket last February. I’m still a beginner(ish) hooker and wanted something simple and small to work on while Paul and I traveled to England for a Ryan family reunion. A couple of days after we got home we adopted Schrodie so the project was put on hold because young cats and yarn aren’t the best mix. It was only a couple of months ago that I decided to pick up my hooks again, but have been working on a larger blanket, saving this one for my next flight.

Mom and I will be traveling to the UK in a few days for the Ryan family reunion and I’m planning to take this project with me to keep me occupied on the long flight. My excited hope is that I can finish it on the way there and start a new one on the return journey because it seems several people I know are due to have babies this spring and summer. Keeping that optimistic hope, I will pack a couple of extra skeins of yarn. However, I am a realist and think that I will be lucky to finish this a year after starting it!