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!)

Downgraded

2012.11.30.downgradedRemember when I told you that I moved into a lovely new flat? And how I went on about how massive the place is?

Well, massive is great in the summer, but in the cold of the winter it means heating a lot of space. Which on its own isn’t bad, but when you’re sleeping in a cavernous bedroom with high(ish) ceilings and loads of space, it means that it takes a bit to heat up.

And that got me thinking: Why do I need to spend all of that money heating up the largest bedroom in the flat when it’s just little ol’ me. Wouldn’t it make more sense to move into the small bedroom?

OK, the large bedroom has a double bed where the small one only has a twin but, again, it’s just little ol’ me and I tend not to toss and turn so a twin bed is plenty big enough.

With this in mind, last night I switched the radiator off in the large room and on in the small one, then snuggled into the twin bed and went to sleep.

And I was toasty warm the whole night through. No, I was a bit too warm. Which meant that I didn’t need to use the second duvet. It was so very nice!

So, I have downgraded my sleeping arrangements for the winter. Or maybe in a sense it’s an upgrade since it’s a warmer and more comfortable sleeping situation.

Oh! And that means that I now have a spare double bedroom for guests. So if any married (or otherwise coupled) friends want to visit, there’s loads of space! Don’t worry—I’ll turn the radiator back on for you!

New digs

Today is moving day! Which means I’m kind of busy. Which means just a short post to share a video tour of the new digs. I had meant to do that last night, since I did a walk through of the place after work yesterday, but video editing issues meant that I didn’t get around to it. Video editing issues also mean that you don’t get a tour of the master bedroom, but I figured that’s OK since that’s my personal space.

But, I have to go haul stuff down to the car now. Talk to you soon!

Packing up

I alluded to a big step toward a happier future the other day, but also said I wouldn’t share the big(ish) news just yet. Only I’ve changed my mind because I realised that the little steps needed for the big step are a bit more stressful than I thought, and writing about my stresses often helps to ease my mind.

So, I guess I’ll go ahead and tell you that I’m packing up my belongings so that I can move into a new flat this weekend. I am actually really excited about the new flat. It’s a fantastic place with loads of space for me (and guests!) and even has a private garden and off-street parking. It’s so much nicer (and bigger!) than where I am now and is really a place that I can turn into a home—even if only temporarily so.

But I’ve been really upset every time I start boxing things away. And since the majority of today has been spent packing—and making calls to transfer various utilities and such—I’ve been pretty much upset all day long.

I hate that I’m upset about packing because I should be happy since it’s such a positive step. But I suppose that it reminds me of the last time I packed up my home, and all of the tearful and painful feelings that came along with that move.

At the same time, I imagine that some of the stress about packing up is that I am not 100% certain what my visa status is—or how long I’ll be able to remain in the UK. I guess I’m kind of gambling with that stuff at the moment and am just hoping and wishing for the best! (Work visas are being applied for, it’s just a matter of hoping everything falls in place!)

Anyhow, I guess the good things about packing up is that I’m finally getting rid of some of the clothes I’ve had slated for the charity shops. And I’ve finally taken the old photos and other mementos of Paul’s down to my in-laws (not all of them—but I wanted to make sure I was sharing!). Oh, and I’ve finally gotten around to getting Paul’s old race t-shirts ready to have made into a quilt (more on that later).

So, there you have it. My big news a bit earlier than planned. And sometime after I get the keys to my new place, I’ll give you a tour just like I did when I moved into my current flat!

A door to nature

Over the past few months, I have realised just how much I miss having my very own front door; a door that I can open up to the great outdoors.

You see, for most of my life I’ve lived in detached, single-family homes. Homes where external doors opened to nature—not a stair case that led you down a flight (or more!) of stairs to yet another door. For most of my life, I’ve been able to walk out my front door and sit down on the porch or in the garden and soak in the sun. I could sit there sipping my coffee in the mornings—or my cocktail in the evenings—whilst surrounded by Mother Nature’s design.

But now, I only have windows to open to nature. If I want to sit outside and enjoy my morning coffee, I have to walk down several flights of stairs. And even then, I don’t have a private garden; I’d have to sit on the front steps of my building.

It is actually a hard adjustment to make. Much harder than I would have thought. In fact, I think that not having that easy access to nature has added to my feelings of gloom at times. I mean, there is something that lifts my spirits when I’m outside and when I’m feeling low and can’t find the energy to go into town, I miss out on the fresh air nature would provide. Certainly, I don’t think that a door to nature is the cure for all that ails me, but I do think that it would help. At least a little bit.

This realisation has led me to the decision that, if I find a job and get to stay on in Scotland, I will need to find a new place to live. Somewhere with a private garden. Somewhere with a door that takes me directly to nature. Somewhere that I can sit outside and relax after a hard day’s work—or cool down after a long run. Now, I just need to find a job so that I can start looking for a new flat!

Yes, a door to nature. That’s what I want. And a job.

Splashing out

Today I finally broke down and bought a new set of sauce pans. They are light-weight, cheap aluminium pans but, despite that, they are considerably better than the pans that my flat was furnished with. It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing since I first moved in, but I’ve been a bit uncomfortable with the idea of spending my limited budget on something that was more of a want than a need.

But the problem is that the pans I had were so cheap they didn’t work well. I know, I know: A bad cook always blames their tools. But sometimes, sub-standard tools do make a negative impact! And because the pans were such rubbish, I dared not cook certain foods.

So, the way I see it is that these pans are an investment in my future nutritional health. Yes, really. As strange as that sounds, these pans really will help me cook more!

In fact, one of the pans is in service now, cooking up a batch of basmati rice, to be served with baked salmon and peas.

Maybe this little splash out of cash will help me fix my poor diet!

And don’t forget to enter my anniversary competition. I’ve really enjoyed the entries so far and would love to be entertained with a few more! (Today’s your last chance, so don’t be shy!)

Making do

Tomorrow, I will be hosting Thanksgiving for the first time since Paul died*. It won’t be as big of a crowd as our last Thanksgiving together, but I find myself just as nervous about the preparations.

In fact, it’s even worse this time around because I’m finding it hard to not think about my last Thanksgiving with Paul. But also because this time around I’m not in a huge house with a massive collection of cooking implements and serving dishes! Oh, and I’m not in America so it’s been a bit difficult to get all of the stuff I need for a traditional American Thanksgiving.

But I’m making do with what I have—and with what I can borrow.

For example, I am borrowing a CrockPot from Rebecca for the stuffing. But since I don’t have a large enough mixing bowl for it, I’m using my new (never used so not cross-contaminated) dish washing basin to mix it all in. (After which the basin will be used as a basin.) I’m also borrowing extra dishes and cutlery, since it seems silly to buy more stuff for a one-off meal.

And since I’m on a budget and I don’t really know how long I’ll be here past this first year, I’ve opted to not buy an expensive rolling pin. Instead, I’ve re-purposed an empty (but clean) wine bottle to roll the pastry for my pumpkin pie. (It seemed to work just fine.) And since I couldn’t find a proper pie pan, I’m using a cake tin for it.

And since they don’t seem to get Washington State wines here, I’ve found an Australian Rosé to serve with the turkey.

Oh, and if any of my guests want a Martini tomorrow, I’ve got a mustard jar (a home warming gift from one of Rebecca’s co-workers) to use a cocktail shaker.

Yes, there are a lot of things I have to make do with right now. But what I don’t need to make do with is friends. No, I have proper ones of those, no making do necessary! And some of them will even be here tomorrow to see just how much food you can prepare when you just have to make do.

*I was in England visiting family and friends the first year after he died, and last year, if you remember, was a bit of an interesting turn of events!

Coming home

I got the keys to my new flat this morning and have spent the day traipsing up and down several flights of stairs to get my belongs moved in—and more trips up and down to get groceries and bedding and a few other bits-and-bobs in.

There’s still lots and lots of unpacking to do. And there is still lots and lots of stuff to buy to make this place a home. But I’m sure it will be fun getting it all put together.

It’s a bit strange being in my own place now, but I think it’s going to be OK. Of course, since Rebecca is just around the corner, it’s not like I’ll be living in isolation!

I am going to resist the urge to write a long and boring description of my new flat. Instead, I’m just going to let you see it for yourself! And whilst you’re doing that, I’m going to pour myself a glass of wine to celebrate coming home.

Re-packing

I’ve spent a bit of time packing today. Wow, it seems like I’m doing that a lot lately. But I hope it’s a while before I have to do it again.

I started packing about six months ago. First, it was my home—a long, emotional process that hurt in ways I never would have imagined. Then, a little over two months ago, I packed two large suitcases for my move to Scotland.

When I unpacked two months ago, I knew it was temporary, so I knew that the time would come to pack once again. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

You see, I move into my new flat on Monday. A place of my own. A new home. A new chance for a happy future. With all of that newness, you’d think I’d be happy about packing up. But it’s hard to be happy. It’s hard to be happy about moving into a home of my own when I always thought I’d have someone to share my home with into old age.

I think it’s a bit worse because I don’t know what happens next. I don’t know if I’ll be staying on in Stirling—or even Scotland—after graduate school. I don’t know if I’ll move again in six months or a year or ten years from now. And it’s hard to not know. It makes me feel so scared and unsettled. It makes me wonder if I will ever have a real home again.

I know I’m being silly and that I shouldn’t worry too much about the future, but I can’t help it. I do worry. I worry about floating between one thing and the next and never having a bit of permanency again. I worry about a million little things that I shouldn’t worry about.

I am still convinced that this entire crazy adventure is a good thing. I am still convinced that, despite the sadness that comes with it all, this is what I need to do to find some peace in my world again. I just need to stop thinking about the sad things and the worrisome things and start thinking about the happy things.

Like: I’m going to have a new home where I can decorate as I like without having to compromise on design and style. I’m going to have a warm place to live whilst I study for my master’s degree—a degree that has been part of my educational goals for more than a decade. I’m going to have a place to call my own and a place to cook meals and entertain friends. I’m going to have a new home where I can sit and dream new dreams. And dreams are like food for the soul.

Monday will be here before I know it.

Chalk it up to intelligence

Since the beginning of June, I’ve been a bit remiss about organising my digital files. I think I got a bit crazy with my foster daughter moving, followed by quitting my job, leaving my house, moving to Scotland, starting school, and well, just life in general!

But the point is this: Tonight I got around to looking at some of the photos that I’ve taken over the past few months* and I found one of the sidewalk chalk drawing my foster daughter made for me a couple of days before she left. She was so excited to drag me out of the house to see it and I was so excited to see her so excited about it!

Yes, the kid thought I was pretty awesome. When we’d go into town, she insisted on introducing me to everyone as her ‘awesome foster mom’. She failed to acknowledge, however, that I couldn’t have been an awesome foster mom without having such an awesome foster kid.

Anyhow, I just thought I’d share the kid’s artwork. I miss seeing her drawings every day (I miss seeing her every day!), but at least I know she’s still happily drawing away in her new home. In fact, when we spoke on the phone last week, I asked if she needed/wanted anything and her only request was a new sketch book with the Loch Ness Monster or a Scottish flag on it.

I wonder what I’ll find the next time I flip through my photos …

* Don’t worry! I’m not one of those people who keep photos on the camera for months and months at a time. I’ve been transferring to my computer and backup drive; I’ve just not filed all of them in their respective folders.

Budgeting

Before I graduated from university money was tight. My adult life, until shortly before I got married, was spent not spending money. No, really. Money was so tight that a $5 banking error could have meant complete destruction. I relied on the good will (and good cooking) of family and friends to pad out my grocery budget (I rarely turned down a free meal!). On more than one occasion, I had to call the power company to get my electricity turned back on. I had to cancel my phone. I didn’t have cable TV. I didn’t own a car for a while.

Or, to put it another way, I lived on such a meagre income that there wasn’t even enough money to make a budget, let alone live by one!

But the lessons I learned about pinching pennies and denying myself luxuries like haircuts, clothes, and shoes meant that when I finally had a healthy income, I had more money than I knew what to do with. And that meant that my savings account grew, and that my spending increased. Oh yes, I had disposable income. And I used it!

And when I decided to quit my job and return to Scotland for graduate school, I used those early penny pinching skills to pad out my savings account. Of course, now I’m back in scarily familiar territory again: I’m poor! I have no income and I have a limited budget. So, once again, I have to pinch pennies and deny myself luxuries.

Thankfully, I’m prepared. For nearly two years I’ve prepared myself emotionally and financially for this adventure. But I fear that no amount of preparation will stave off the fears I have about things not working out the way I want them to.

I am constantly fearful that I’ve done the maths wrong or that I’m kidding myself about how much things will cost. I am also aware that, with no income, the money I spend will not be replenished and I fear that watching my bank balance decrease over the next several months will cause me to be a little over cautious with my money. Yes, I fear that I will start denying myself too many things, in an effort to hold on to as much of my money as I can!

All of that said, I am not broke. I can afford this adventure. And if everything does go wrong, I have the option of moving back to my parents with my tail between my legs.

And so, I’ve managed to work out a new budget for the next year. And I’ve done it in part by looking at emotional triggers. Like I knew that living in a squalid rat trap would make me sad, so I’ve put a bit more money towards my housing budget than I originally planned. And I know that I like some of the finer foods, so I’ve increased my food budget so that I can have fresh salmon and quality steaks for dinner from time-to-time.

But those higher budgets mean that I have to sacrifice a bit elsewhere. I will have to scrimp on things like weekend city breaks. My clothing budget has been slashed (not that it was ever that high in the first place). My booze budget is almost gone—no more fine wines, premium beers, expensive Scotch (sorry, whisky), or fine Cognacs.

It’s not really a complaint. I mean, I’m the one who chose this path. I’m the one who made the decision to give up her middle class lifestyle. I’m the one who decided to take this adventure out of the dreaming stage and into reality. And I’m mostly excited about it. I just need to re-learn what it’s like to be on a strict budget. And I need to try not to let it make me sad!

As I said, I’m not really broke nor will I be forced to eat rotting food ‘salvaged’ from back-alley Dumpsters. It’s just that I can’t decide—on a whim—to buy the latest-and-greatest gadget or that really pretty green dress that’s not even on the sale rack.  And I will be looking for occasional work to help my budget—and to allow me splurges from time-to-time. [I’ll put in a quick plug for my freelance gig. You know, just in case you have someone to recommend me to!]

So, now that I’m just over a week away from moving into my new flat, I need to really remember to stick to that new budget! And that’s where you come in! I’d love to hear any great ideas for living on a budget—including ideas for entertainment and home decorating. And great ideas for recipes for cheap food that looks and tastes expensive!

Yeah, I’m looking forward to having a proper income again so that I can splurge on things like name brand shampoo!

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!

Sign here

Remember how I said that I think I found a new flat? Well, yesterday I paid the deposit and today I picked up the contracts, which means I’m one step closer to a home of my own again—even if only a temporary one.

I have to admit that yesterday was a bit of a hard day for me and I nearly didn’t go to pay the deposit. Several little things made me question myself and sent me into a bit of mild hysteria as I wondered if I had chosen the right flat and I even began to stress about the stress that might be waiting for me in a year’s time when I have to figure out the next steps for my future.

But I managed to calm myself down and I reminded myself how right this new place feels and how I can afford it and how I really believe I can be happy living there. It’s funny, because as soon as I paid the deposit I began to feel a bit better. (Yay!)

I now have the daunting task of reading through the contracts and trying to understand UK rental speak. Of course, I’m lucky to have friends who will read through them as well and will answer questions I may have about the wording.

The next step is to take in the signed contracts and wait. And wait. And wait. Because I don’t get the keys until October 24. That’s a lot of waiting for someone who hates waiting!

But to keep myself busy, I have a marathon to think about. Oh, and there’s always that master’s degree I’m meant to be doing to keep me busy, too.

And (I promise I’m nearly done) I have picked up my crochet hooks again so that I can make a pretty throw for the couch in my lovely new flat. Maybe I’ll share my progress with you on that soon.

Reflections

The home I had in America was my dream home. Paul and I spent more than two years searching for the perfect place to raise a family and I remember how we both just knew this little yellow house was the place from the moment we walked through the front door. A month or so later we were handed the keys and after that we started making the place our own.

We tore out the carpets to let the hardwood floors shine like they were meant to; we painted the walls; and we refinished an Art Deco table for the dining room. And we started to search for bits and bobs to make our house our home. One of the things we were searching for was a mirror—something large enough to fit over the seven-foot fireplace mantle.

As we began our search, we looked for something with a simple frame in a black or white finish. Like really, really simple. But we didn’t find what we wanted straight away so we began to look for something with a bit of flare to it. But not something gaudy or ostentatious—something simple and classy to compliment the Art Deco/Craftsman designs of the house.

Then it happened—we stopped into our favourite back road antique store (the one I talked about before) and we found the perfect mirror. It was tucked behind a pile of picture frames that were tossed haphazardly in a corner behind a broken down table. It wasn’t anywhere near what we were looking for, but we knew instantly that it was the one we wanted.

So we went from searching for a modern, simple wood framed mirror to falling in love with mirror framed with one of those gold-and-gaudy frames that you see in stuffy old art museums. But it worked. It really did. In fact, I think it worked better than anything else ever could have because it clashed in just the right way.

I remember when I first started thinking about leaving my home and my lovely treasures for my return to Scotland. I remember thinking that I would miss my table and my mirror so much, and I remember thinking that it would be so hard to part with them—and so many other pieces. I also remember thinking that I wanted them to go to people who would love them like I did, but I also knew that there was no way I could guarantee that would happen.

Then my friend, Amy, posted a picture of her mantle on her blog and asked others about how they decorated theirs. So I shared a picture of my mantle from my first Christmas in my home and Amy mentioned that she quite liked it—assuming it was either a family piece or an expensive piece. (It was neither.) But that made me realise that Amy would love the mirror as much as I did and that she would treasure it. So we met up for lunch just before I left the country so that I could pass on my treasured mirror to my treasured friend.

Anyhow, today Amy shared what she’s done with the mirror. She made it her own with a bit of spray paint and placed it in her newly redecorated bedroom where it looks incredible. It’s made me cry a bit to see my beloved mirror in someone else’s home, but it makes me happy at the same time because I always thought it would be happy in someone’s loving family home—and that’s where it is.

As for me, I’m planning to move into my new flat toward the end of October. And since the only mirror there is in the bathroom, maybe it’s time for me to find another perfect mirror for this new life of mine. I’m sure there will be plenty of funky little back road (or even main road?) antique stores to search in with friends on the weekends.

[Photo #1 is the photo of my mirror; Photo #2 is Amy’s mirror]

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.]

It was a home

Tonight is my last night in my house—the house I purchased with Paul a little over three years ago. This was our home; this was where we planned to start a family; this was where our dreams began to come to life.

Tonight, my house is nearly empty and an eerie silence has taken over where once there was laughter. Wood floors and the bare walls mean that each step echoes like I’m in a cavern. And each echo is like a memory of all the plans and dreams we had.

Over there is where we planned to build a window seat with storage for games and puzzles. And that’s where we were going to place a ledge for the cat to peer out the window. Those two bedrooms there were where our children would sleep. And that large bedroom upstairs was going to be a guest room and my sewing room where I planned to make curtains for the windows.

We had the plans drawn up for converting the shop into a family room and a mini-gym. There were plans for the laundry room and kitchen, and for the bathroom and our bedroom. And there was new furniture picked out for the living room. We even had the garden all planned out—complete with a private sitting area for reading and snuggling.

But when Paul died, all of those dreams and plans died with him.

I knew we’d leave together one day, as we always talked about returning to Scotland. But I never dreamt I’d be leaving alone. I think it’s harder to leave this place in the midst of shattered dreams than it would have been to leave it with Paul in pursuit of our joint future.

This was my home. And now I can only hope that the next occupants find joy here. I hope that it is one day filled with dreams and hopes and laughter and children, because that’s what this house needs.

As for me, I hope that one day I find a new home—a place where my heart is happy and dreams can be dreamt again…

So, I made you a mixed tape

About two months ago I wrote about how distraught and heartbroken I was over the apparent loss of my beloved first (and only) mixed tape (CD) that Paul made me shortly before we got married. I was really starting to lose all hope of ever finding it, but then it happened—I found it! Or rather, my father found it!

It seems that it got shuffled away into a bag filled with sympathy cards shortly after my return from my UK holidays a few months after Paul’s death. I vaguely remember the circumstances that lead me to tuck things away in the closet, but I guess I was too filled with grief to have fully remembered what I stashed. (I even found a few un-opened bills and letters, but nothing important as I pay my bills online!)

But anyhow, I am now in possession of the CD again and it makes me so very happy—a small bright spot in the otherwise sad and tearful process of packing up the last bits of my home in preparation for my move.

Now, I’m sure that if Paul was alive he’d not want me sharing the playlist and his notes on my blog. But since he’s not here to protest, and since I feel that I really want to share them, here they are for your enjoyment! I’ve included the song title and artist in brackets at the end of each song description so that you can check them out if you’d like!

The story of ‘So, I made you a mixed tape’

  1. First of a few melancholy tunes which kind of sum up our situation—the actual lyrics may not be particularly relevant but the ‘sadness’ aspect kind of sums up how it feels to be so far away from you. [Both Sides Now; Joni Mitchell]
  2. This is just a sharp reminder that we have it easy compared to some people. We know we will see each other again—the people Mary Black sings about are parting forever. [Ellis Island; Mary Black]
  3. All this being together and leaving each other nonsense that we have to endure seems to centre on airports—at least I know when I’ll be back again! [Leaving on a Jetplane; John Denver]
  4. The ultimate feeling miserable song! [This is How it Feels to be Lonely; Inspiral Carpets]
  5. And now a wee reminder of how insignificant it all is in the great scheme of things. Nothing like a bit of Python to lighten the mood. [Galaxy Song; Monty Python]
  6. Back to the airplane theme again. This song isn’t about airplanes actually, but it is a lovely love song and he does mention he is holding his ‘ticket tight’. Makes more sense with the next track. [Down the Dip; Aztec Camera]
  7. Ah! A ticket for an airplane ‘Lonely days are gone’. [Give Me a Ticket for an Aeroplane; Jefferson Airplane]
  8. OK, so I didn’t drive, but this song has that sense of ‘I just can’t wait to see you’ about it that I can relate to. [I Drove All Night; Cyndi Lauper]
  9. And just to shake off the sentimentality before it gets to overbearing, how about a little AC/DC? Also, just in case the nieces are listening, this track might help me in my bid for ‘Cool Uncle Paul’ status. [Let There Be Rock; AC/DC]
  10. Now, we are always using the analogy of a fairytale for our romance—and here’s a song about a guy who thought love was only true in fairytales. Well, like him, I guess I’m a believer now, too. (Awww, how sweet.) [I’m a Believer; The Monkees]
  11. This is just a neat little tune—I’m sure we had a conversation about it ages ago. [I Love You Period; Dan Baird]
  12. And I know this song was mentioned in dispatch recently. [Forever and Ever Amen; Randy Travis]
  13. Because I thought you were talking about this song! (I put this version on just to remind you what they sound like live. Especially as you had to miss their gig recently.) [Red Cortina (Live); The Saw Doctors]
  14. And how can I play the Saw Doctors and not think of this track and the fact that next time we hear it played live it will be for our first dance as husband and wife. [I Know I’ve Got Your Love; The Saw Doctors]
  15. Now the mood moves through melancholy and slushy sentimentality into slightly perky optimism because—not long from now—I’ll be on my way! [I’m On My Way; The Proclaimers]
  16. A statement of fact surely? [The Best is Yet to Come; Tony Bennett]
  17. Ah, the song I had to stop myself from humming out loud all the time we were in Venice! [Going to the Chapel; The Chiffons]
  18. And finally, returning to the air theme again—this time with a more cheerful outlook. [Come Fly With Me; Frank Sinatra]

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…

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.]

Stuff hurts

I’m really tired of getting rid of stuff. It really hurts to part with even the most simple of items. I struggle each time I post something on CraigsList or take another trip to GoodWill.

I want to keep all of it. I want to keep the little twisty-tie things from the junk drawer and the spare hair brush in the hall cupboard. I want to keep the canning jars and the tea pots and the Post-It notes and the screwdrivers. I want to keep the CDs and the FiestaWare and the lamps and the table.

I want to keep all of those silly little things that you collect over the years to fill up your house—you know, those things that make your house your home.

But I can’t keep it all. And each time something else leaves, it’s another reminder that most of my dreams never came true. Each time I part with something else, it’s another reminder that this house is no longer my home—that I won’t have a place to call my own for a very long time. If I ever do again, that is.

As I look around the house now, it looks so strange. The room that was meant to house the children we planned to adopt is bare—the twin beds sold last week, the book shelf and desk the week before that.

The small guest room is empty; the large one only holds a bed and a couple of half-filled boxes now. My room is filled with boxes of clothes instead of dressers—and will soon be empty, too.

The laundry room is nearly empty—just the cat’s belonging, some old Christmas decorations, and a shelving unit remain. The washer and dryer sold two weeks ago and the ‘booze cupboard’ left this evening.

The kitchen cupboards are slowly emptying. The dining room table that we worked so hard to refinish should be gone this week. The CD case left yesterday.

I don’t know how many times this weekend I’ve just stopped in my tracks to cry. I know it’s just ‘stuff’ but it was all part of the home Paul and I built together and I don’t want that to end; even though I know it has to.

I keep telling myself that once I’m done clearing out the house it will get better but sometimes I don’t believe myself. I worry that once I go to stay with my folks it will be worse because I’ll be gone from the home Paul and I shared. And I worry that once I get to Scotland it will be worse because I’ll be there without him, when we were meant to be there together.

But I know that I have to do this. I know that I can’t stay here in this house surrounded by this stuff. I know that I have to keep moving forward toward this new life and this new plan. It just hurts so much some days because I still wish I had the old plan.

It’ll get better. It has to…

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…

Seller’s blues

For two weeks now, I’ve been selling loads of stuff on CraigsList and I can’t believe how mixed my emotions are at the process. The stuff I’m selling is just stuff; random, run-of-the-mill stuff. It’s not treasured items with high sentimental value. It’s not extremely valuable antiques or jewellery. It’s just stuff.

My first sale was an old clothes drying rack. Simple, boring, but useful. And only $10. The next day I sold an IKEA outdoor table set and a bookshelf that was actually rescued from the Dumpster. As the week went on I added a vintage handbag and an awesome sewing stool to the list of sold items.

This week I’ve already sold a set of drinking glasses, a large wall mirror, a chain saw, a Crock-Pot, a popcorn maker, placemats and napkins, and a variety of garden tools. Oh—and I sold the washer and dryer, too.

I’ve got $425 to add to my savings account now, which is like £265 in today’s money, which will really help once I get to Scotland. It may not sound like much, but every penny I gather now means less relying on friends and family once I arrive.*

So, if it’s just ‘stuff’ and I’m adding to my savings, why am I so sad?

Maybe it’s because if Paul was here I wouldn’t be parting with this stuff because we’d still need it as part of our happy family plans. Maybe it’s because as the house empties I’m reminded that my life and my entire world have changed so drastically—and devastatingly—over the past two years. Maybe it’s because I’m so afraid that I’m going to fail in Scotland and be forced back to America where I will have only the clothes on my back and my failure to keep me company and I’ll be forced to start over again and again and again.

I am really, really looking forward to getting to Scotland and starting over. I really, really do believe that it’s the path I need to follow to find some joy in my life. But I really, really hate that it’s an extremely bumpy and hilly and poorly lit path. And once I get to Scotland, the path will be a bit bumpy, too. But, as there doesn’t appear to be an alternative path, I’ve just gotta suck it up and keep going…

Happy. Sad. Happy. Sad. Happy. Sad. This back-and-forth is really hard on a girl’s emotional well-being!

* Yes, I know my friends and family want to help and are happy to do so, but I want to stand on my own two feet as much as I can. I hate that I’m going to be poor again and I really hate the idea of asking for (or needing) handouts. But, as some of my wise friends and family have pointed out, I may need to swallow my pride and take the help. Still… every penny counts.

Final blooms

We moved into our house on May 15, 2008. About a week later, all of the pink tulips planted along the front side began to bloom. They were truly lovely and we enjoyed bringing them in to adorn the mantle. That autumn, we planted loads of yellow and red tulips to go along with the rest. After all, I do love tulips! Then the following April, Paul and I watched excitedly as the tulips started to grow. In fact, the day before he died we remarked about how fun it would be to have tulips that we planted in the house.

It was about two weeks later when the first of the yellow tulips began to bloom, followed a couple of days later by the red. (The pink took another week or so.) And I cried and cried and cried because Paul never got to see our beautiful flowers bloom. Instead, they got to adorn his grave. Somehow, that just wasn’t the same.

When the flowers began to sprout through the melting snow last spring, my emotions got the better of me again. Only in addition to being sad that Paul couldn’t enjoy the flowers, I was sad that he wasn’t there to see the first sprouts, either.

And this year, it’s all happening again. Only this year, I’m also sad that I will never see them bloom again. I’m sad that I’m leaving behind not only these beautiful flowers we planted, but also the dreams and plans we had for the rest of the garden.

I can’t explain how hard it is to see the seasons changing without Paul here to enjoy it with me. I think there may be a little bit of guilt there though.

I know it sounds silly, but part of me is glad to be leaving this place because I think it will be easier to see the flowers bloom somewhere else—flowers that we didn’t plant together. But part of me will also be sad that Paul never did see our yellow and red tulips. The ones that will adorn his grave one last time this Memorial Day Weekend. I hope he likes them…

A hard day on the home front

It’s been a hard day since the realisation that I will be leaving my house in less than three months. It’s so sad to know that I’m leaving this place where dreams once grew and laughter was shared between a hopeful husband and wife.

But there is a new future out there waiting for me and I can’t reach for it if I don’t let go of the house. Everyone keeps telling me how strong I am; how brave I am. I never knew how much strength and bravery could hurt…

To help ease my pain, I searched out some inspirational quotes. I think I like this one best for today:

Home is where the heart is but happiness is where your friends are.
~ Unknown

Visa changes: A rambling rant

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned before what a massive gamble this new adventure of mine is. I’m leaving my job during one of the worst economic times in recent history; I’m saying goodbye to my house, my car, and most of my worldly possessions; and I’m destroying my finances and depleting my savings account all for the hope that I’m walking into a brighter, happier future.

If everything goes according to plan, my world will be pretty awesome for the first time in nearly two years. But, as I learned nearly two years ago, plans change—in the blink of an eye. I know that there’s a chance that things won’t go according to plan, but that they’ll still turn out just as good—or better—than planned. But I also know that there’s a chance that everything will fall apart and I’ll be left broken beyond repair.

As I creep closer and closer to saying goodbye to my house and my ‘stuff’ I’m finding myself very stressed and panicked. I’m going from a 4-bedroom house where I can have as much ‘stuff’ as I want and an income that [slightly] exceeds my monthly spending and bills to an unknown living situation where I expect to struggle to purchase groceries let alone drop $500 on a new mobile phone without thinking about it.

I’m upset because I’ve realised that I probably can’t take my golf clubs or bike because I don’t know where I’ll store them—nor can I rationalise the additional costs for baggage. I can’t take my über-gadget scanner because I don’t know if there will be space in my flat [which may or may not be furnished and rat-free] and I can’t take all of my clothes and handbags for the same reason. I’m sad because I’m going to have to take public transportation everywhere because I won’t be able to afford a car—and as a proper redneck American, my car is part of my freedom.

But as much as those material things (and the loss of my comfortable income) upset me, they’re not what’s getting me down today because I know I can store my ‘things’ with family in America or replace them with new ‘things’. What’s upset me today is that I’ve just learned that the most recent changes at the UK’s border agency means the end of the post-study work visa—which played heavily into my future plans because I intended to apply for said visa upon completing my master’s degree so that I could stay on in Scotland if I so chose.

OK, there are still other options including a company-sponsored post-study work visa or going straight onto my Ph.D. studies (which is the ultimate goal anyhow) but one isn’t a ‘sure thing’ and the other is an expensive thing! And I know I shouldn’t think too far ahead and I know that I should be upbeat and positive and I know that things will happen the way they’re meant to happen and blah, blah, blah. But some days, it’s hard.

I want to be positive. I want to be that little Pollyanna person spewing gladness and faith at every junction. But some days I can’t even fake it. Some days, all of the fear and the worries and the grief just gang up on me and make the rainbows and unicorns go into hiding. Today is one of those days. And I really hate those days. And it seems like the closer I get to The Big Move, the more these fears and insecurities come out of the wood work.

To summarise: I’m stressed and unhappy. But I’m sure the Pollyanna attitude with return soon. (I hope?) And thanks for listening to my emotional rant…

A light bulb moment

One of the things on the ‘to-do list’ before Paul died was to purchase new bedroom furniture—including bedside tables and lamps. We had everything picked out; it was just a matter of going to get them. But all of the sudden, it didn’t seem important.

Later, I couldn’t see the point in getting new stuff because I wasn’t certain I wanted to stay here. Later still, I couldn’t see the point in getting new stuff because I was certain I was leaving.

So, I continued using only the overhead light and I continued keeping my eyeglasses on the floor by the bed as I slept. Only the set up wasn’t really great for bedtime reading.

But then something happened—I got a free lamp! A nice one that would work nicely for bedside reading, too. So I brought in an old, empty filing cabinet that I planned to take to Goodwill and I threw a pretty sarong on top of it.

And now I’m enjoying reading in bed for the first time in years. It’s actually quite relaxing and enjoyable. Which is awesome.

Oh! And I got a giggle as I started reading a new (to me) Ian Rankin book last night because I imagine that if I continue leaving books all over my make-shift night stand, I’ll soon be giving Inspector Rebus a run for his money on the trail of books laying around the place!

Wednesday’s child is full of woe

Oh Wednesday, Wednesday, Wednesday. Whatever will I do with you?

Wednesday, I want to love you because you symbolize the middle of the work week which means that it’s almost the weekend. I want to love you because your funny little nickname, Hump Day, makes me giggle. And I want to love you because you’re fun to pronounce. (Or maybe that’s just because my pronunciations are skewed thanks to years of speech therapy?)

But you know what, Wednesday? Sometimes you really are full of woe.

Case in point:
I stop by the post office each day on my way home from the office hoping to have a letter or a card or a parcel from a friend. Most days, I am disappointed and only get bills or name-addressed junk mail. But on Wednesdays, the box only ever contains a grocery store flyer from a town I never go to because it’s in a different direction than where I work, and therefore shop. But I get to be sad that there is a sale on blueberries that I can’t get because the added trip would cost more in fuel than the savings on the berries.

Case in point:
Wednesday is the day that the bill collectors call for the person who used to own my home telephone number; which means that I return home from work to a beeping answering machine and allow myself a moment’s excitement that someone has called for me. But instead I just have several machine-voiced auto messages for some guy I don’t even know.

But, I know this isn’t your fault. And I know that originally, you were not the day of woe but were rather the day of loving and giving. So I’m going to give you a break.

After all, Wednesday is also the day that the housekeeper comes.

And Wednesday is the half-way point in the week’s fresh grocery supply which means I can eat those last few strawberries without guilt because I know I’ll re-stock in two days’ time!

And this Wednesday was a day that I had a nice chat with a friend in Scotland who helped to remind me that I’m not totally screwing with my big life changes but am, in fact, doing the right thing. (Thanks for that! Having the reassurance of a friend always helps!)

[Oh, and if you wondered, I was born on a Thursday and as we know, Thursday’s child has far to go. I think what that means in my case is that I have to travel 6,000 miles to find home. Yep, that’s my interpretation at least.]

The big announcement

Today I gave my official notice at work and my last day will be July 8.

This is a celebratory moment because it means that I can now publicly share my happy, happy news.

So, here’s the BIG announcement:

I am moving back to Scotland to attend the University of Stirling for my postgraduate studies where I will earn my Master of Letters in Media and Culture. YAY!!

Wow! It feels great to say that so publicly. So great, in fact, that I’m going to say it again—only louder!

I am moving back to Scotland to attend the University of Stirling for my postgraduate studies where I will earn my Master of Letters in Media and Culture. YAY!!

OK, this isn’t news to everyone, I know. But it’s news to some people. And since I’ve officially told work, I can now talk about it. Which I guess is the real news.

The bummer for all of you reading is that now that I can talk about it, I will. So you can look forward to blog posts about the last few weeks at work, about selling up my belongings, about packing up my treasures, and about the stresses and worries I’m facing as I move on to the next phase of my life.

And now for a quick disclaimer about that first announcement: Please know that my excitement about giving notice at work isn’t meant as a negative statement about my job, my place of employment, or my co-workers. No, the excitement about giving notice isn’t about saying goodbye to a job, it’s about taking a giant leap toward my future—a future that I know will bring me some of the joy and happiness I lost when I lost Paul.

Oh, and did I also mention that I’m moving back to Scotland to attend the University of Stirling for my postgraduate studies where I will earn my Master of Letters in Media and Culture? YAY!!

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.

Tree time

With less than two weeks before Christmas, I am trying to get into the spirit. I’ll admit it’s difficult, but I am trying.

I had planned to bring out all of my decorations this morning but when it came right down to it, I guess I’m not ready to display those memories this year. So, this afternoon I loaded the kid up and we went to town to buy a new tree.

We decided that we would get a small tree that could go on the plant stand and were pleased to find one that had pinecones and fake berries already on the tree. That meant we just needed to get a small package of bobbles and some pretty garland to finish it off.

The kid made a lovely star to top the tree and did all the decorating herself. (After I tied string onto the bobbles.) She was extremely pleased with the tree—and even more pleased to know that it’s her tree that she can take with her when she decides she’s sick of living with me.

I know it’s not a big, traditional tree, but we decided it works for us. Plus, the kid liked the idea that because it’s her tree (and more importantly, doesn’t have my precious ornaments from my childhood) she can re-arrange it as often as she wants. She’s just not allowed to touch the presents under it!

Oh! And for those wondering, I have managed enough Christmas spirit to make cards and write my annual letter this year. (Can I call it an annual letter, having missed last year’s?) Anyhow, if you’re on my list, expect it in the post soon because I’m heading out to mail them tomorrow.

If you’re not on my list, please know that it’s nothing personal and I still think you’re awesome! (And it’s really just a re-hash of things you’ve read here, so you’re not missing anything!) BUT, I will post a picture of the card later for all of my curious readers!

So tree and cards are sorted. Now I suppose I’d best go buy some gifts, since I’ve yet to even think about that!

I have awesome neighbours!

I have awesome neighbours!

After last night’s blizzard I decided to work from home so that I didn’t have to deal with the roads.

But when things seemed to clear up by early afternoon, I decided I’d run into town with my foster daughter because she doesn’t have proper snow gear yet. (She had to wear my boots to shovel snow this morning.)

Only, the car wouldn’t start when I went out. And I live in a town of 650 people with no shops and no services. The neighbours across the way are gone for Thanksgiving. My dad is a four-hour drive away. And I neglected to renew my AAA membership after Paul died. (Opps!)

So I called Annie, our amazing town clerk. She promised a call back in five minutes. It wasn’t even that long until she called to say that Tim was on his way. Only, I don’t know Tim. But less than five minutes pass again and there’s Tim ready to fix my car.

It took about ½ an hour to get the car going. Tim worked with bare hands in the 10°F temperatures (that’s -11°C, if you wondered) then wouldn’t take anything for his trouble.

All the while, another neighbour was busy clearing snow from around my driveway with his tractor. After Tim left, that neighbour asked if he got everything cleared OK. And I, excitedly, said yes. After all, I’d not asked for this favour, he just came by to plough for me like he has for the past two winters.

And these are all different people than the ones who’ve watched my cat whilst I’m away or kept my lawn mowed since Paul died.

Yes, these things might happen in the big city, too, but I think they’re more common in a small town. These good people and their friendly “help your neighbour” attitude will be missed when I return to Scotland. But, then, I always found people to be kind and helpful there, too.

Yay! for awesome neighbours!!

Beaming with pride

Around 4:30 this morning Schrodie really started to get on my nerves. She was zipping around the house like crazy; pounding on the wood floors like mad. It wasn’t long before she was in my room scuffling around in my shoes under the vanity. (OK, shoes are meant to be stored in the closet, so now you know I’m a slob.) In a moment of sleepy frustration, I threw the cat out of the room and shut the door then tried to get back to sleep.

But the cat sat out there, pushing her paw under the door trying to get back in. And I ignored her – until I started to hear noises under the bed. Noises that sounded like the cat was playing under the bed (a regular habit). But I put her out… right?

So I think to myself: “Is it possible that there’s a mouse in the house?” Then I realize there can’t be. I’ve not seen any evidence of mice. But then I start to remember it’s harvest season and that’s when the little field mice start to take shelter from the evil combines.

Well, I’m up now. Those noises are not going away and the cat is still desperate to be allowed back in my room. I open the door and in she bolts. She’s reaching her paws under the dresser. She’s trying to get behind the clothes hamper. She’s sniffing around the shoes under the vanity.

And I’m watching her – curious as to what she’s found. Another grasshopper? Another spider? A cricket or a beetle?

Then in happens – the tiniest little grey field mouse sticks its head out from behind the vanity. And the cat goes crazy all over again.

OK, she’s not made the kill yet, but for those who are familiar with Schrodie’s very non-cat-like ways, you’ll know that just the act of stalking a mouse is an advancement in her membership to the Feline Academy.

Here’s hoping my lovely cat has a nice, dead present for me when I return from work.

Go Schrodie, go!

A lazy day

I started the day off thinking I’d do some weeding in the garden. Maybe work on my tan a bit. So, I broke out the gardening tools and poured a glass of cheap-and-cheerful white wine. Then Schrodie came by to visit and reminded me it was a Sunday. And as a good Catholic girl, I should know that Sunday is a rest day.

Then I remembered seeing a flyer in the post office for lawn service and I figured that if I’m willing to pay someone to clean my house, I should be willing to pay someone to weed the flower beds.

With that thought firmly planted in my mind, I broke out the patio table and chairs – carefully situating it so that I could sit in the sun whilst the laptop and phone sat in the shade.

And now, with a bottle of wine and a couple of good books waiting for me and The Divine Comedy providing the day’s musical enjoyment, I’m going to sit back and relax.

Ahhh….

Just two tasks

I met with my real estate agent the other day about the possibility of putting the house on the market. He gave me two tasks to get the house ready for selling: 1) Paint the new railing at the top of the stairs and 2) Clean out the shop/family room and give it a ‘purpose’.

I planned to do both this weekend.

But let’s be honest, that stack of cardboard boxes that are broken down for the recycle bin? Paul stacked those up a few days before he died and they’re still sitting where he left them. The treadmill hasn’t been touched since he last used it; and his jacket is still hanging by the laundry room door.

We’d planned to partition the room last summer. The back half was going to be work-out space; the front was going to be our old couches and TV (but we never got around to buying the new ones) and that was going to be the kids’ TV/play area.

The space looks horrid right now and I know that Paul would be disappointed. We had just straightened it up and mapped everything out for building the partition and now it’s become a storage area for junk that I don’t know what to do with. Or, more accurately, for stuff that I’m too lazy to put in proper storage under the eaves.

I don’t know when I’ll get around to completing my tasks but if I’m going to get the house on the market I’d best get to it. That said, I reserve the right to change my mind and not sell the house just now. Thankfully, my agent is understanding and knows just how difficult this is on me. After all, he spent so much time helping us find this lovely house!

A weekend at home

Weekends haven’t been the same since Paul died, but I’ve been determined to get back to spending them as normal as possible. Now that spring has finally sprung, I was thrilled to learn that I would have this weekend completely free. No work, no plans, no nothing. This is the sort of weekend that Paul and I liked best because we could spend it doing nothing – which basically meant doing all sorts of things!

Paul used to tell me to sit down and relax, but I just can’t resist working in the yard on a nice day. And then there are all the kitchen chores. And, of course, laundry and grocery shopping and running and… Sadly, now that Paul is gone I have to do his share of the work, too.

Anyhow, I managed to pack quite a bit in to the weekend – even though I didn’t get out of bed until after 10:00 a.m. each day! I’m certain you don’t really care for the details of my weekend, but since this is my blog, I get to pick the topic. And get to talk (or type) as much as I want. To that, I’ve created a photo album so that you can see just how I spent my weekend.

I’ve spared you the little details like checking Facebook every-so-often and personal hygiene tasks because, well, I don’t want to share everything with my fans!

%%wppa%% %%slide=11%%

Solar-powered clothes dryer

Carrying on with the hippy-granola-freak of a homeowner theme, I’m pleased to announce that I got to use one of my favorite house-hold appliances today for the first time of the year. Yes, I’m talking about my way-awesome solar-powered clothes dryer!

I used it a couple of times last summer, but wasn’t too enthusiastic about anything last year so didn’t feel the same sense of pride and joy that I felt using it today. It’s one of those strange things: I hate doing laundry most of the year, but the moment I can hang clothes on the line to dry, all of the sudden I’m Dot Branning! In fact, Paul did the laundry in our home all year long – with the exception of nice weekends in the spring and summer because that’s when I would volunteer for the job. (He didn’t like to hang clothes out to dry, so if I wanted line-dried stuff, I had to do it.)

So, today I washed all of the bedding and towels from when I had company last weekend. Tomorrow I will wash clothes. One of the great things with this environmentally-friendly device is it means that I washed the bedding within a week – where I would normally wait until the day before new guests were to arrive; which in this case might not be until mid-July (not counting un-planned visits by the folks, which happily happens every few weeks or so).

Oh! But did I tell you the best thing about line-drying sheets? No wrinkles! When I use a tumble dryer it seems that they always come out a bit wrinkly, even when I remove them the moment the buzzer goes off. With the solar-powered device, I am meticulous about how I hang them (partially folded) so that when I remove them from the line they are crisp and wrinkle-free. Yay!! (And they smell lovely, too!)

Modern mowing

I’m not a patient person. When I know what I want, I want it now. So, after breaking out the vintage mower yesterday and deciding it was time for an upgrade, I couldn’t think of much more throughout the day. I wanted my new toy. I wanted it today. And I wanted it cheap.

So after work I took a trip to Moscow to pick up my new mower. It was about $10 more than what I’d found online, but once you add shipping costs, it was cheaper. Plus, I got it instantly and didn’t have to stalk the UPS man.

My awesome new Scott’s Classic push reel took about 15 minutes to set up and has several height settings (1-3″). I took her out for a spin once she was done and it was great! She’s lighter and quieter than the old one and because the blades are new she cuts the grass a lot easier.

I’m very excited about my new toy – partly because push reels are so much better for the lawn (and environment) but partly because it’s going to be a great workout for my entire body and I might have my athletic tone back by the end of summer if I keep the lawn trimmed.

Retro mowing

When Paul and I bought our house two years ago, we decided that we wanted to continue our “hippy-granola-freak” lifestyle in our yard care efforts. So, I picked up the old (and I mean old!) lawn mower from my folks’ house the weekend we moved. The next weekend we spent the whole day out in the yard – and met pretty much every neighbor because people kept stopping by to offer use of their gas-powered mowers. Some offered to have their kids come by on the riding mowers, too. It was difficult for people to believe that we really wanted to use the relic mower!

Paul would tell people: “I asked my wife for a multi-gym and this is what I got!”

Last year the old mower never got used. Instead, in the days after Paul died the neighbors all started to care for the lawn. Every week or so, someone would come around on their riding mower and just take care of it for me.

I decided that I really need (and sort of want) to take care of it on my own this year. Between being sick and the bad weather, however, it was difficult to get out and mow. Luckily, someone has come by three times in the past several weeks to mow for me.

The weather was nice today, however, so I took out my trusty mower and mowed a good-sized section of the front yard. And – wow! – it was hard work! I think that I’ll have to mow a little bit each evening to keep up on it – or buy a new mower that’s easier to use.

We’d spoke about purchasing a new push reel mower last spring, and I think that I certainly need to do it this year. So… I think I’m going to check out Tri-State (Idaho’s Most Interesting Store) this weekend and see about buying a new-fangled old fashion mower. It will still be environmentally friendly, but it will be a lot lighter and a lot easier to use.

Here’s a link to the sorts of things I’m looking at. I am, of course, happy to listen to recommendations for which push reel is best!

(And yes, I know I’m crazy. But then, so does everyone else!)

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!

Great neighbors

When we bought our house, Paul and I really looked forward to tending to the garden. With a lot of nearly 10,000 square feet, we knew it would be a lot of work, but we didn’t care. That first spring and summer we were out almost every weekend and really made it beautiful.

Last spring, we drew up plans for some major garden projects in the back yard and spent some time in the front yard once the snow melted away. The week before Paul died, we spent a long (and enjoyable) day raking and weeding and mowing before enjoying a well-deserved picnic lunch under the cedar trees. The next weekend we planned more work. But God had plans for Paul that we were unaware of.

All last year, various neighbors kept the yard mowed for me. A couple came by to trim some trees, another couple came by to help remove piles of leafs. And I was ever-so-grateful. This year, I know that it’s time I get back out into the yard and start taking care of it myself. And I’ve been planning to do that for the last two weeks, only I got sick.

As I drove home this evening, I dreaded the thought of having to mow the lawn. As I rounded the corner of my street, I decided that (despite doctor’s rest orders) I should just suck it up and mow at least part of the thing tonight. But as I pulled into my drive, I saw that someone else already came by on their riding mower. I don’t know which wonderful neighbor to thank, but I’ll tell you what, it’s totally made my day!

I am still dreading the day I finally make it out to do work in the garden because I know it will just remind me that Paul isn’t there to help, but I’m kind of looking forward to getting my hands dirty. Maybe I’ll start slow by weeding the flower beds later this week. Then at least I won’t feel too guilty for picking some of the flowers to bring into the house.

Right! The main point of this entry is to exclaim:
I have amazingly wonderful neighbors and am very lucky to have them!