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!

Bloody Scotland; bloody fabulous

There is a fabulous literary festival in Stirling this weekend, and I’ve managed to catch a bit of it today. Bloody Scotland celebrates the amazing crime writers in Scotland and (for what little I’ve seen) it’s bloody fabulous!

It’s the kind of event that I’d love to spend an entire weekend enjoying, but between moving into my new flat today and a 10K road race tomorrow, I’ve only been able to manage one event—Deadlier than the Male. I wasn’t quite certain what to expect because—to be honest—I haven’t read any books by the panel. But after hearing Karin Fossum and Val McDermid speak, I have decided what my next Kindle purchases will be!

I think that my favourite part about the talk, however, was the motivation it’s given me to get back into my own writing. Hearing the authors speak with so much energy about the process was invigorating. Further, hearing them talk about the time and dedication you have to be willing to commit to the process made me realise that I’ve been a bit lazy at doing that. (Well, in fairness, I think much of that has been because I’ve been busy with my dissertation.)

Of course, because I was too chicken to go alone, I ended up tagging along with a woman I’ve met through another friend—and she invited me to go along to a wee reception as well (it’s nice to know people who rub elbows with people I want to rub elbows with!). Anyhow, the reception meant that I got to speak with a couple of people about the creation of the event, which was kind of cool.

I have a 10K race in the morning, but I am now thinking that I need to go back up to the festival when I’m done so that I can try to see another event or two—assuming there are tickets remaining. Of course, that’s also assuming I have the energy since I’m a bit exhausted from the weekend’s events already.

And, with that, I suppose I’ll head off to bed so that I can be up in time for tomorrow’s race.

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 year later

Today marks one year since I hit the reset button on my future. Yes, it’s been one year since I moved back to my beautiful, beloved Scotland.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that the road leading up to my flight across the pond was a troubled one and that the entire adventure was sparked by a personal tragedy. Or, rather, it was accelerated since our hope was to return to Scotland one day.

Regular readers may also be aware that life didn’t magically ‘get better’ with my move and that I have had a few emotional ups-and-downs over the past year. Most of which can be attributed to the stress and uncertainty I’ve faced with questions about what happens when my current visa expires, and other worries about the next steps for my new future. (I knew this move wouldn’t make life perfect and had expected the ups-and-downs; though I’d hoped for fewer downs than there were!)

But, as I write this, I can feel the road levelling out a bit. There are still a few questions and uncertainties (mostly with visas and jobs!), but things are starting to look a bit brighter at the moment. I admit that if things should fall apart, my mental and emotional health might fall along with everything else, but I’m trying to be hopeful and optimistic.

I don’t know where I will be in another year’s time and that’s a bit scary to me because it means I still don’t have the stability that my heart, mind, and soul so desperately crave. I’m afraid to make plans and I’m afraid of the ‘whatifs’ that haunt my thoughts.

However, I am here in Scotland for now and I’m going to hold onto that for as long as I can because life is happier here than it was the last two years I was in the States. This is home. I just hope that, one day, the Home Office lets me make that permanent!

Cheap [or free] booze

I used to buy expensive booze. I had a collection of fine wines and expensive whiskies. I had top-shelf Cognacs and the best small batch Bourbons. And I wouldn’t have thought twice about opening a $40 bottle of wine for no reason other than I wanted a glass of wine.

But I couldn’t take it all with me, so I slowly worked through my collection before I moved. And I gave the rest to my aunt and my neighbours. (And took a couple of bottles to my folks’ house too, I think.)

And now I find myself in a different booze situation all together.

First of all, I’m in a small apartment that doesn’t have the space for wine storage—not when you like to really collect fine wines at least! But more depressingly, I can’t afford it even if I could store it.

So, I’ve found myself drinking cheap booze again. I’ve found myself choosing wines based on price, not on label/vineyard. And I only buy wine that’s on sale. (I can normally get a ‘nice enough’ bottle on a half price sale, but even that’s not what I’d consider good wine.)

In fact, all but one bottle of wine are screw tops! I know that nice wines are using screw tops these days, but the majority of Washington State wines (which are top-class, premium wines that beat out any Old World wine you can imagine!) have corks.

Oh! And I’ve even stooped to purchasing store brand stuff! Which isn’t necessarily bad but Sainsbury’s vodka has nothing on Grey Goose!

But, thankfully, I’ve got some nice stuff that I’ve gotten for Christmas gifts. (Must send that thank you note to Canada soon!) And thanks to friends and family, I even have three (well, two and a bit) bottles of nice Scotch, too.

It’s not that I’m a raging alcoholic or anything, it’s just that I’ve realised recently that my snobbery when it comes to drink has gone to the wayside in favour of my frugal (and poor) ways.

But my birthday is coming up. And I like Remy Martin and Caol Ila. You know, if you wondered …

Cheers!

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!

Boxed in

When I moved to Scotland in August, I sent a couple of large boxes by sea—hoping they’d arrive before Thanksgiving. They didn’t. But they did arrive today. (Yay!)

I wanted them here before Thanksgiving because they had my aprons, my favourite cookbook, and my American measuring cups (yes, there is a difference). But I also wanted them to arrive in time for Thanksgiving so that I could share the photos with Paul’s friends who were joining me for the celebration. Of course, I know that I will have more opportunities to share the photos, so I’ll not fret over that too much!

So, what kind of goodies were so valuable to me that I went through the expense of international shipping? Oh, all sorts of things!

The main reason for the shipment was to bring Paul’s belongings over. All of his photos from childhood, college, university, and more. His diaries and mementos. His favourite books and the little trinkets he collected over the years. The boxes are full of his life’s memories. Mostly from times before we met. Mostly things that I want to give to his family and friends.

Of course, part of me wants to keep all of it for myself. I don’t want to share them. But they’re not my memories—they’re Paul’s memories that he shared with the people he grew up with. I just want to keep them because they’re part of him. But I also know that other people need them more than I do. After all, I have all of the mementos of our time together, so why shouldn’t others have the mementos from their time together?

Happily, I had the foresight to put some of my stuff in the boxes, too. And I’m glad I did because now instead of just feeling the sadness of having Paul’s memories with me, I also have the excitement of having some of my things with me.

Yep, I have my favourite cookbook and my left-handed spoons. I have my bathrobe and winter ski coat and three of my favourite winter sweaters (all green, you may not be surprised to know!). I also have some of my favourite stationery for writing letters home and I have my Godfather DVD collection. And a CWU alumni sweatshirt and some hats and gloves and scarves. And a couple of books for my master’s programme and a copy of the Constitution of the United States of America. You know, because every home should have one!

I’m pleased to have some of my home comforts again. And even though it’s not the same as having my lovely home that I shared with Paul filled with all of our beautiful things, it’s nice to have a few more things from that ‘old’ life to help me settle into this new one.

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!

Solo

I arrived in Scotland nearly two months ago, and am now on my own for the first time. In fact, I am on my own for the first time since July when I left the home I shared with Paul to stay with my parents for a few weeks before my move. I knew that I’d be on my own again at some point, so at least it’s not so unexpected!

My current solo-ness comes because the friend I’m staying with, Rebecca, left for her holiday to Italy this morning. (That’s a photo of her heading for her first leg of the journey.) But the solo-ness won’t end when she returns in two weeks, because the day after she gets home, I will be moving into my new flat. Which means that today is the beginning of solo-living for both of us!

I’ll be honest and say that I have mixed feelings about the solo-ness of it all! I mean, I am looking forward to living on my own again (not because I don’t like living with Rebecca, but rather because I like to have my own space—as does Rebecca, I’m sure!). But at the same time, I am dreading it. I am dreading living in silence. I am dreading the reminder that I am no longer a happily married woman. And I am dreading the loneliness that comes with that.

But I am looking forward to having my own space, too. I am looking forward to making a new home for myself where my new future can thrive. And I’m looking forward to re-learning how to be happy with my own company.

Of course, I am lucky because for the next two weeks of solo life, I have plans to spent time with ‘real life’ people and I have the excitement of packing for my new flat to keep me occupied.

And in two weeks’ time when Rebecca’s home and I’m in my new flat, she’ll be just around the corner for visits! After all, I’ll need a social life and Rebecca is a blast to socialise with!

I imagine that the next two weeks will be filled with mixed emotions as I re-adjust to life on my own once again. And I imagine my posts may be a mixture of emotions because of it. So, I apologize in advance for any sadness (though I’m sure there’ll be happiness to share, too).

Oh! And if you’re looking for fun and adventure, be sure to check out Rebecca’s blog because she’s sure to be sharing her travel stories with the ethos! (Have I ever mentioned how much I admire her for taking these amazing solo holidays? No? Well, I do. A lot!)

So, here’s to solo-ness! And a reminder to me (and everyone else) that solo doesn’t have to mean lonely and sad. Solo can be happy and empowering, too!

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!

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]

Potentially home

Earlier today I mentioned that there was some good news in my search for a flat and I have been asked by a couple of friends over the past few days about my progress, so here’s the update: I think I’ve found a new flat!

I checked out a place Monday morning that is very near where I’m staying now and is only about a ten minutes’ walk to the city centre. It is £25 more per month and slightly smaller than my second choice flat, but choice #2 is five minutes further from the centre, is a bit rough around the edges, sits just off a main road, and has a very dingy, small kitchen that would be horrendous to cook in. Choice #1 is modern and clean with a very well-fitted (though still small) kitchen. There isn’t as much storage, but realistically I don’t need that much storage anyhow!

The flat is a fully furnished property (with very well maintained and nice furnishings) and has a double bedroom with wardrobe, living room, separate kitchen, and full bathroom—in addition to two small storage cupboards in the entry hall. (Is this sounding like a sales pitch yet?) It also has a reserved parking spot for me (despite my not having a car) and plenty of guest parking (despite the fact that I don’t plan to have many guests). And, carrying on with the pitch, it has a security entrance, gas central heating, and double glazing throughout.

The down side? Well, it’s small—at least when compared to the massive four bedroom family home I left behind in the states. And it’s at the top end of my budget which means I’ll have to be a bit more mindful of my pennies. Oh, and it’s on the top floor of a four storey building with no lift. Which isn’t a problem for me since I’m fairly fit, but I don’t think Mom is going to like it when she comes to visit!

Of course, it’s not mine yet. As of now, I’ve said I want it and the agent has sent me a letter outlining the next steps. So, the next step is for me to pay a deposit then they’ll issue the contracts. After that, I just have to wait until the end of October to move in. That’s going to be the hard part—waiting for more than a month to move in after having found something I love!

So there you have it—an update on my potential new home. I know that things can change in between now and my moving, but I do feel quite comfortable with the process so far. Oh! And my connections tell me that the letting agent for this property is probably one of the most reputable ones in town, which is encouraging! (I will give a full rave once I move in, of course!)

I wonder how soon I can start planning my flat warming party … ?

Re-searching

Well, I’ve done some more thinking on my flat search and have decided to increase my accommodation budget. The decision was made after looking at a flat on Tuesday that was on the upper end of my budget and realising that city centre places in that budget are not quite nice enough.

I had a viewing arranged for this afternoon at a place outside of the city centre that seemed much, much nicer—despite being the same price. Prior to viewing the flat, however, I looked at the transportation costs for getting to and from university. And, well, it would be a pretty penny. Still, I made my way to today’s flat viewing and was very pleased with what I saw. I was also pleased to find that it’s only a 15 minute walk to the city centre (at my pace; I timed it after the viewing). That means that if I took the flat I could walk into the centre to catch a bus to the university for cheaper than if I got the bus right outside.

But I decided to up my budget a bit to give myself more options within the city centre. Doing this means that I can get a nicer flat (a lot nicer from what I’ve seen) and my bus costs will be drastically lowered. Additionally, it means that I will be closer to restaurants, cafes, and grocery stores which means I’m saving money on late-night taxis and grocery deliveries.

And so I looked at a second flat today in my new price range. It was smack-dab in the middle of town and was considerably larger than the first city centre flat I looked at. I would be rather comfortable, though not as comfortable as the one I looked at earlier in the day. Oh, and the landlord doesn’t want to rent to students, but the agent is going to ask about making an exception for a mature postgraduate. We’ll see what happens there.

I have another flat to look at on Monday that’s about a 10 minute walk to the city centre—one I walked by early today, too. Based on what I’ve seen in real life and what I’ve seen in the online photos, it’s a top contender. Plus, they’ve said that I won’t need a guarantor if I’m willing to pay forward my rent a bit. (Which I am.)

So still no flat, but I’m feeling a bit more confident about my search now! I’m hoping to find a nice place by November so that I can have friends around for a nice Thanksgiving feast!

[The picture is of a little stone that sits outside the second flat I viewed today. It made me smile!]

The flat hunt begins

I’ve been looking at flats on line for several months and now that I’m in town, it’s time to start looking in real life! Of course, I’m starting to think it will be a long, hard, emotional process!

I’ve scrimped and saved for the past two years so that I could afford to return to Scotland for my post graduate degree, but despite my efforts I am still going to be cutting it tight on the financial side. I no longer have a comfortable income. I no longer have a car. I no longer have a great credit history. (Well, I have one in America but it doesn’t translate to Scotland so I’m credit-less here.)

All of this means that I need to find a place that I can afford on a tight budget and that it needs to be in the city centre so that I can walk everywhere—or take a bus trip when needed. Thankfully, most flats in my budget are furnished. Sadly, most of them are crappy little dives, barely big enough to swing a cat.

Yesterday was a bit of a blow when I learned that most of the reputable letting agents required you to be in (preferably full time)employment. My student status seems to be a negative one, despite the fact that I’ve spent the last several years as a working professional and that I am not a typical student (you know, being 37 years old and all!). My healthy(ish) bank balance doesn’t seem to matter nor does my offer to pay several months’ rent in advance. No, in order to rent with a reputable company, I will need a guarantor. (Which I know I can do if required.)

Regardless, I registered with a couple of the better agents yesterday and today.

Of course, I also realised that I need to check out the agents with a less-than-fantastic reputation, which is what I did today. It seems that they’re not as bothered with my student status, nor are they concerned about my unemployment—and they’ll happily let me pay in advance so that I don’t need a guarantor.

As luck would have it, one of today’s agents had a flat just across the road that was on the upper end of my budget so we walked across to have a look. It’s in a great location for town (two blocks from the coffee shop I’m sitting in whilst writing this post) and is a ‘good enough’ size. However, I noticed immediately that the entry stair (whilst clean-ish) was dingy and smelly. I also noticed that the flat is grimy and smelly—in fairness some of this could be from the student who is currently residing there, though some is certainly damp.

I have to say, I am sad that my upper limit budget will only get me that type of flat in the city centre. And I have to admit that it makes me cry a bit. I could manage living there for a year, but I fear that I would be sad doing so as it’s such a stark contrast to the lovely home I left behind in America.

But, I have another flat to look at on Thursday. It’s the same price—again, at the upper end of my budget—but is a bit over a mile from the city centre which means it should be a bit nicer for the same money. In fact, the photos are lovely. Sadly, it means taking the bus more often, but if it’s as nice as it seems on line, then I think it will be a better choice for me emotionally. And of course, I would need a guarantor to secure the place, but if I must, I must.

To give a happy spin here: I have to remember how lucky I am that I have a good friend to stay with until I find a place. Rebecca has kindly opened her home to me and whilst I know we’d both rather our own space, I also know that she’s happy to house me in between now and then. (I promise not to stay so long that I wear out my welcome!) Of course, I guess the nice thing is that the longer I stay, the more money I have to spend on a flat—which would mean a nicer place all together!

Anyhow, I’ve only just begun and I’m not stressing out yet, but I’ll take all the luck you can send my way!

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!)

The feathers

A couple of nights before we had services for Paul in England*, a woman I know told me a story about feathers. She said when angels pass by sometimes their feathers fall to the ground. And that our loved ones become our own angels when they die.**

Anyhow, when we arrived at the cemetery after the Mass, there was a feather teetering on the edge of grave. When I noticed it, I think my heart skipped a beat from the surprise of it. It made me smile inside—even though I was sobbing outside—because I knew that Paul was with me that day. His eldest sister noticed it, too, and bent to pick it up then handed it to me. She was just as pleased to see it there as I was, as she’d been there when the story was told. After the services, I placed the feather in my journal.

When I returned to my hometown, I stopped off at the cemetery there. And inside of the little flower box my Dad had made as a temporary grave marker, there was another feather. Again, it made me smile because I knew Paul was there with me. That feather found its way to my journal, too.

Over the past two years, I’ve been very aware of feathers. When I’ve had a hard day and notice a feather in an unlikely place, it brings me a bit of joy because it’s another reminder that Paul is here with me—in my heart and soul and in my memories. Sometimes, I find myself talking to Paul and asking him if I’m doing the right thing or to show me the way, and then I’ll see another feather.

Now, I know that Paul isn’t speaking to me through feathers (nor do I save them all!), but I also know that seeing them reminds me that Paul wants me to be happy and if the choices I’m making in my life will help toward that, then he thinks it’s the right thing (even if it’s not what he would do). And because the last year has been especially busy with big decisions (applying to school, quitting my job, leaving our home, and moving to Scotland) I’ve been asking for Paul’s guidance and approval more than ever.

When I found myself at the SeaTac airport, past security and on my way to Terminal S, I was surprised and very pleased to find a feather laying there at the landing between escalators. It brought such joy to my heart because it reminded me that I was making the right decisions and that Paul would want this for me. So I picked up the feather and continued through the airport; knowing that Paul was there with me.

I’m still trying to find my bearings and I know that it’s still early days, but I know that this is going to be a good move for me. I need to re-learn much about living in Scotland, but I already feel a bit more at ease with my world.

(And I really do promise that I won’t become that mad woman with a collection of hundreds and hundreds of feathers. That would be just silly! But I’m sure I’ll end up with a small handful by the time my journey is done.)

* I chose to have Paul’s cremated remains buried in both my hometown, next to my grandparents, and in his hometown in with his parents. I realise it seems strange, but knowing that I can visit him no matter which country I chose to live has given me a great sense of peace. (Also, the Catholic Church does allow this practice, so long as all remains are buried in consecrated grounds. If you wondered; as some have.)

** I actually don’t believe that our souls become angels, but I do believe that Paul is up there somewhere and that he is watching over me.

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!]

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]

Bye bye, Schrodie

I said goodbye to Schrodie today and whilst it breaks my heart, I am certain that her new home will be a good place and that she’ll be well taken care of. She has gone to live with my ANT Elizabeth who will love her very much.

Yesterday was a tough day as we made the nearly-eight-hour drive from one end of the state to another. When we finally arrived at AE’s, her travel box was placed in a large crate that would allow her to acclimatise without fear of AE’s cat, Bug.

Before we left our home though, Schrodie gave me a bit of enjoyment by playing on her favourite chair. At this time, she was unaware that she was going in the box so she still liked me!

Once at AE’s, Schrodie didn’t want to come out of her travel box. Every so often, she’d peek out at me, but that was it. So, eventually, I pulled her out and let her explore the large cage. But instead, she hid out in the litter box at the back of the cage for a couple of hours!

Finally, after the house when dark and my cousins went to bed, Schrodie came out of the cage and was ready to explore the house. She snuggled with me a bit over night, but was mostly investigating—and avoiding Bug! By the next morning, she was feeling a bit more confident in her explorations.

And here’s what it was like when Paul and I first brought her home from the shelter a little over two years ago. Only that time, she went into hiding for a few days!

I cried lots and lots when I left Schrodie behind this morning, but I know that she’ll be well-loved and that I’ll see her again. And who knows, maybe one day she’ll even join me in Scotland!

Jobless

After five years at Washington State University, I am now officially unemployed. Funnily, my five-year service certificate arrived today, too!

I’m very sad about this step and don’t have the heart just now to talk about it, because as much as I’m happy about the next steps toward my future, I am also aware of the great sadness that brought about this next phase of my life.

I will miss my job. I will miss my co-workers. And I will miss my pay check. But I have a happy future waiting for me in Scotland and it’s just too far to commute!

The next step in this journey is saying goodbye to my cat. Then to my house. Then to my car. Then to my American family and friends. So please forgive me if I seem overly sad and melancholy for the next few weeks …

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.]

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!

Inspirations; Part 7

Life is very stressful for me right now and I am feeling the effects in the core of my being. I have a sneaking suspicion that it will get worse over the next week or two as I finish up my time at the office and leave my lovely home behind in the hopes of a brighter future. And I hope that once that part of this journey is done some of the stress will fade away.

To get me through to that, however, I am in need of inspiration. So I’m back to finding wise words to ponder.

Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.
~ Pamela Vaull Starr

Your current safe boundaries were once unknown frontiers.
~ Anonymous

If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to it.
~ Jonathan Winters

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
~ Winston Churchill

Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.
~ Joshua J. Marine

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…

Have visa; will travel

I got my UK visa today! Yay!! Actually, I got the email on Monday telling me I’d been approved, but wanted to wait until it was in my hands before telling you about it. It should have been delivered Tuesday, but a blunder at the consulate meant that I had to make the long drive to Spokane to pick it up in person.

I’ll spare you the carry-on that caused that action and will instead just give another Yay! to celebrate the fact that I now have the visa.

(Yay!)

Oh, and I had hoped that it would be good from August 1 and had planned to fly out on August 8, but they issued it as valid from August 12. Which means that my Mommy gets me for another 4 days which I bet will make her very, very happy.

And now I can book my flights. I hope the amazing Rebecca is ready for me, ‘cause now that the UK government says I can come, there’s nothing to keep me away!

Oh! And have I said Yay! yet? No? Well then…

Yay! Yay! and another Yay! for good measure!!

(And that photo on the visa? Well, I doctored that for the post because the official visa photo is horrid. But if you see me with my passport in hand, please feel free to ask for a peek at the real think. If you don’t scare easily that is…)

Subtracted

Last August I wrote a post titled Plus One, and for the months between then and now my life was thrown into this weird world of foster mommyhood, with a side of grief and widowhood for good measure. It was a time filled with so many mixed emotions. In the first few weeks I wondered if I’d made a mistake. I mean, it was really hard to have this little person in my home because it was a constant reminder that Paul wasn’t there—nor were the two little people we’d planned to adopt before he died.

But, somehow, we made it work. Her existence in my world meant that I needed to get up off the couch and cook healthy meals again. Her existence meant I couldn’t just sit around on the couch from the time I got home from work until I went to bed wallowing in self pity. No, with her around I needed to make it look like I was a productive, happy, healthy grownup.

And so I found myself [finally] completing my applications to graduate school. And I found myself [finally] eating better and exercising more. And I found myself getting to the office early all of the sudden, since she needed to be at school 20 minutes before I was meant to be at my desk.

Of course, there were loads of hard things I had to deal with, too. I couldn’t just ignore the holidays—no matter how hard I tried. I couldn’t just shut out the world—no matter how much I wanted to.

And slowly, we became a family. A weird, slightly awkward family, but a family none the less.

And now she’s gone and I’m alone in my house once again; a house that was bought with the sole purpose of raising a family with my husband. And I’m lost all over again.

Of course, as I was preparing my foster daughter for her move with family back east, I was also preparing myself for my move to Scotland. So over the next few weeks I will be finishing up the task of packing up my home—closing the doors behind me as I leave knowing that some of my dreams will be staying behind.

Saying goodbye is never easy. And no matter how much you prepare yourself for the inevitable, the tears flow. But I know that as I type this, my lovely [former] foster daughter is in her new home some 3,000 miles away. I imagine she’s excited and nervous about these big life changes, but I know that she’s embarking on an adventure that will lead to an amazing future.

And I hope that, one day, we meet again…

Waiting

I’m waiting—we’re waiting that is—for a flight to take off in Denver so that we can head to the airport to pick up one of the flight’s passengers. You see, my time as a foster mom is quickly coming to an end as my lovely foster daughter prepares to move with family back east. And on that flight is her big sister, who is coming out to pick up the kid.

The kid was so excited when she woke up this morning and even had the hours down before we’d be picking up Big Sis. And when I dropped her off at day care she let everyone know just how many hours it would be until I was back to pick her up so that we could pick up Big Sis.

But sometime around noon I got word that the flight was delayed by an hour. So I didn’t rush to the day care because time was no longer tight. However, when I got there at 3:15, the kid instantly jumped up (she had her jacket on and belongings in her bag around her shoulder) and started heading to the door. I had to remind her that she needed to say goodbye because she wouldn’t be back on Monday. And she did—with smiles from ear-to-ear.

It broke my heart to tell her at that time that the flight was delayed an hour and that we’d be going home to relax for a bit before making the drive to the airport more than an hour north. But then I got another text from Big Sis—with news of further delays.

So now we’re at the house and I’m checking flight details to get the latest updates. The flight is now about 2½ hours delayed which means a later night than imagined. And a kid with anxiety issues wearing ruts in the floor with her back-and-forth pacing.

(There is a reason I will not fly into Denver for connecting flights, you know!)

Anyhow, we’re waiting for Big Sis. And I’m waiting for the tearful goodbyes. It’s such a happy-sad time for both of us right now, and I sometimes I can’t figure out which of us is doing the best job at pretending to be all cool and nonchalant about the whole thing.

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.

A happy-sad goodbye

One of my favourite bits of furniture was an old 1950s(ish) green padded sewing stool. I wish I didn’t have to do it, but I said goodbye to it today. Parting with my stuff is very hard, and I really thought that parting with this awesome little guy would be hard, too. But when I met its new owner in a parking lot this morning, I couldn’t help but smile.

I bought the stool about three years ago. It was on one of the many trips Paul and I took to ratty little antique shop on one of the winding Palouse back roads—and one of the many purchases we made there. The shop has a nice front room with everything nicely dusted and displayed, but they also have this back storage area that is more like the dumping ground for everything else. You have to climb over things and move things around to get to that one cool thing tucked in a corner. But it’s worth it!

One day we popped in on our way to Spokane and in the back room there was this awesome little green stool—without a price tag. I loved it and knew it would be great in my sewing room. We decided that we’d ask what the price was and we’d buy it if it was less than $25.

Well, it turns out that the shop’s owner had salvaged it the night before from the garbage heap in another small farming town a few miles away. He asked if we’d pay $5. And with that, this lovely new stool went from garbage heap to back room to a loving home.

It hurt to put the thing up on CraigsList, but I did so with a $20 price tag. A few hours later I got an excited email from a woman who was getting ready to move to the area to attend university, but she wanted to know if I’d hold it until August. I let her know I couldn’t so she made arrangements to make the six-hour drive to town this weekend to visit friends and look for an apartment.

I was a bit doubtful that someone would want this little stool so desperately, but after several emails I was convinced and we arranged to meet this morning. When I pulled the stool out from the trunk, the woman’s face lit up! She was so excited and couldn’t stop smiling. She seemed to love it at first sight the way I had loved it at first sight. She happily handed me the money and I smiled as she carted it away.

OK, I know it seems silly and all. But I feel better knowing that this stool that brought me so much joy is now bringing someone else joy. (Even if secretly her joy is that she knows it’s really worth $500 and is going to resell it!) Also, I was pleased to know that her move to the area is so that she can get her master’s degree—which is the same reason I’m moving away from the area.

I wish it were this easy to part with all of my stuff, but I know that there will be more tears than smiles for much of the process. I also wish I could make an awesome profit on everything like I did for this!

A nickel for my thoughts

As I walked to my car after work today, I noticed a nickel lying on the sidewalk and smiled as I swooped down to pick it up without missing a step. I mean, it’s only a nickel and most people wouldn’t have bothered, but as I’ve blogged before about my willingness to stop for coins, it shouldn’t be surprising to know that I’ve done it again.

Anyhow, it got me thinking about my future a bit—both the excitement and the insecurities! And since I’ve found it helps me to write about these things, you get to read a few of them! (But I’ll start with the bad and end with the good. Yay!)

The insecurities:

  • I’m [still] afraid about the financial side of my decisions. Going from middle class to starving student is going to be devastating!
  • I worry about what my social life will be like—and if the friendships I’ve forged with Paul’s friends since his death will survive once I’m there full time.
  • I wonder if I’m actually smart enough to do the whole postgraduate and doctoral studies thing.

I know that these things seem silly, but I live in near isolation and 95 percent of my non-work communications are electronic these days which just adds to my insanity which feeds my insecurities!

The excitement:

  • I am really looking forward to having a chance at a fresh start for this crummy little life I’m living. I’m convinced that it’s the step I need to find the joy I’ve lost.
  • I’m really excited about having a new partner in crime and am certain that (despite the doubts noted above) my social life will be better than it ever has been once I move.
  • I am very eager to begin my studies and am looking forward to being in a learning environment again. (That nickel from the intro paragraph has been added to my coin stash as part of my tuition fund.)

I wish I could say that the excitement always balances out the insecurities, but if I’m honest I’m getting more and more anxious, nervous, frightened, and insecure as I get closer to this great new adventure. I keep telling myself I’m being silly, but as you probably know fears and whatifs just take over sometimes!

But—Hey!—I am 5¢ closer to my £10,600 ($17,200) tuition bill now!

Three cheers for Monday!

To make up for my last few sad(ish) posts, here’s a happy one for you (times three)!

Happy #1: I sent off the forms and documents for my visa today. It’s scary to place my passports in an envelope, but it’s a necessary task to get the visa. Which I need if I’m going to move to Scotland. Which I need to do if I’m going to attend the University of Stirling. Which I need to do if I’m going to find a bit of joy in my life again. So: Hip Hip Hooray for posting visa stuff!

Happy #2: I sent off my application for a Saltire Scholarship today. It’s sponsored by the British government specifically for international students and will be a great little addition to my living and tuition expenses if I get it. I won’t find out if I’ve been chosen to get one of the £2,000 awards until July, but I feel happy just knowing I’ve applied. So: Hip Hip Hooray for scholarship applications!

Happy #3: I have managed to sell my washer and dryer, a small student desk, a clothes drying rack, and an outdoor table and chair set today. OK, I haven’t seen any money yet, but I’ve made the deals and will be meeting with folks to sell stuff this week and next. Yes, there’s a little bit of counting chickens before they hatch, but I’m very confident with at least the washer and dryer sale—and they offered nearly double what I’d planned to sell them for, so that’s awesome! (That sale is thanks to a work colleague who knows I’m moving and had friends seeking just what I was selling!) So: Hip Hip Hooray for selling stuff that I never thought would sell!

Oh, come on! This deserves another shout so:

Three cheers for Monday!
Hip Hip Hooray! Hip Hip Hooray! Hip Hip Hooray!

And look! To celebrate the happiness, I’ve made a pretty blobby thingy for you to look at!

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?

Visa blues

I made my way up to Spokane today for my biometrics appointment as part of my visa application for The Big Move to Scotland. You would think that this news would have me extremely happy, but I just can’t find the joy today.

Maybe it’s because after the biometrics appointment I had a bone marrow aspiration. (Ouch!) Maybe it’s because on the drive to the appointment I realised that my last trip to the federal building was for Paul’s biometrics for his 10-year green card. Maybe it’s because once I walked into the building it dawned on me that Paul died right before we applied for his American citizenship. Or maybe it was because we were meant to be immigrating back to Scotland together.

Oh, I tried to celebrate this big step toward my big move. In fact, on my way home I stopped off at the post office and was momentarily joyed to find that my UK tax refund had finally arrived. But then I was sadden to find out that it was about £500 shy of what was expected.

Then, I had to pick up my foster daughter, take her shopping for a birthday gift, and drop her off at a friend’s for a birthday slumber party. ‘Yay!’ I thought to myself. ‘A relaxing Friday evening at home without the kid; I can have a martini and soak in the tub…’

And then I got home and there was more unhappy news waiting for me. (Nothing life threatening or unexpected, but sad none the less.)

Anyhow, I want to be happy today, but I can’t seem to get there. Instead, I can’t stop crying and stressing out about everything and nothing all at once.

But, in an attempt to leave on a high note: Now that my biometrics are done, I can send in the rest of my forms to the British Embassy. They say that most visas are approved within 10 days, so I’m holding out hope that I’m a ‘most visa’ case because I can’t buy my tickets until I have my visa. And once I buy my tickets, I’m sure I’ll be a bit more calm. (And probably a bit more stressed and emotional, too!)

The weekend will get better. It must get better…

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.]

Should be

Today should be my sixth wedding anniversary. It’s the ‘candy’ anniversary, so I should be on a sugar high by now. And Paul should be in a chocolate coma. We should be getting ready to go out for a fancy dinner, too.

Should be. But not.

I guess I have to console myself with the knowledge that the three anniversaries we got were wonderful. But some days it’s hard to do that because he should be here with me.

So, instead of spending the day celebrating my marriage, I’ve spent it preparing for my move. Specifically, I’ve been going through old paper files and shredding like a mad woman.

And nestled in a pile of Paul’s files I found a detailed receipt from the gift he got me for our first wedding anniversary. It was the ‘paper’ anniversary so his gift to me was an enlarged, stylised photo from our wedding day. We joked about putting it above the fireplace, but decided against furthering the belief that we were one of those sappy, happily married couples who hung over-sized wedding photos of themselves above the fireplace. So instead, we hung it in the hall. (After all, we were a sappy, happily married couple so it needed to go some place!)

His gift from me was a small file box labelled ‘important paperwork’ that contained 365 bits of paper with memories of our courtship, facts about love and marriage, and various other romantic notions and crap. And every day for the next year, Paul would read one out loud then we’d share a sappy hug and kiss. One day, I might read them again. But not today…

So, Paul, since I know you’re watching and listening every day:
Happy anniversary; I love ya, luv.

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!]

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…

I’ve been Kindled!

I did it! I purchased a Kindle today. The 3G one. Yay me!

I opted to purchase it from Staples in Moscow because I didn’t want to wait a week for it to arrive from Amazon and because it was $3.40 cheaper because of the sales tax savings. (Yes; I’m that cheap. I mean, I was going to drop of clothes at Goodwill across the parking lot, so it wasn’t out of my way or anything.)

I also purchased my first Kindle book—Ian Rankin’sStrip Jack” for £4.99. Ah! Did you notice that pound sign? Well that’s because the book I wanted isn’t available for customers in America so I had to switch my country of choice to the UK. Which is cool since that will be my country of residence in less than three months’ time.

Anyhow, I need to go read now but I wanted to leave you with a couple of questions:

  • Is there something ironic about naming a book-reading device after a fire-related word?
  • If you purchase a re-furbished Kindle (or re-gift one) then does the Kindle become a Rekindle?
  • If you’re reading something electronically, can it even be said that you’re reading a book?

So, book suggestions welcome. Gifts of Kindle books are also welcome. [Enter cheeky smile here.]

Happy reading!

The dressing room

The thing I hate most about buying clothes (second only to parting with money) is trying on clothes. I hate trying on clothes. I hate it so much that if I don’t have success with my first trip to the dressing room, I will often call off my shopping trip and leave. But if I manage the (rare) treat of loving the first thing I try on, I can be encouraged to try on more stuff.

This hatred of trying on clothes is why I own so much old stuff. It fits, I know it fits, it’s comfortable, so I keep wearing it—despite current trends and styles.

But (as is a common theme of this blog lately) I need to start getting rid of stuff. And that means going through all of my clothes and trying stuff on. All of it. After all, there’s no point in transporting something 6,000 miles only to find out it doesn’t fit quite right anymore.

Anyhow, I spent a few hours trying on clothes today. Lots and lots and lots of clothes. And what I’ve found is that I have a lot of clothes that I can ditch without concern. But there’s also a lot of clothes that I can’t seem to part with because I like them and I wear them—despite my owning them for more than a decade. But thanks to Facebook and a digital camera, I am able to get feedback on some things from my friends, which means that the ‘ditch’ pile has grown! (Which is OK.)

As an added bonus, I’ve made my foster daughter go through her clothes, too. I mean, she’s been growing like a weed since her arrival last August and she’ll be moving on to her permanent home soon. It would be unfair of me to send her there with ill-fitting rags. Right?

I made her get rid of jeans that were waaayyy too tight and ones with holes in the britches so she hates me now because she wanted to keep them. And I am evil for making her try on clothes. Bad foster mommy. Bad!

On the plus side, I’ve told her I’d take her shopping since her wardrobe has dwindled considerably because of the chore. She’s happy about that.

I suppose that I should confess at this point that I have yet to go through Paul’s clothes. I know it’s been more than two years, but I haven’t wanted to do it. A friend had [kind of] planned to come out and help, but it never happened so I have to do it alone. I’ve gotten as far as knowing that there are a couple of things I want to keep for myself and I’ve decided that I’ll offer up ties to nephews (and nieces) but I’m at a loss as to how to handle the rest of his clothes. But I’d best figure it out soon! Or maybe I just need to pack it away in storage bins. We’ll see…

Anyhow, it seems I have a lot of extra space in my closet now. And it seems that I’ll have a bit more space in my luggage for important things like gadgets and cough syrup. So that’s cool!

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!

What the hook?

Moving 6,000 miles away means finally clearing out drawers that have long been left cluttered. It also means finding things that you vaguely remember maybe once having for a specific purpose, but can’t quite remember what that purpose was.

These 10 “S” hooks are a perfect example of that. I can almost remember maybe having purchased them for something. But it’s like a ghosted memory of nothing. They’ve sat in top, right-hand drawer of my bedroom vanity for more years than I can remember. My guess is that they were in that drawer when I first left for Scotland 10 years ago!

So, why do I have them? What could they have been for? I don’t know!

But please tell me this: What would you do with them? If they were yours, how would you use them? Any suggestions of how I could use them? Because right now, I’m thinking they’ll just get tossed in the Goodwill pile.

Of course, I’m happy to pack them up and mail them to the person who gives me the most interesting or entertaining use for them, so please feel free to share your ideas!

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

Choices

I’m sure you’ve gleaned by now that I’m very anxious and frightened about my future. And I bet some people wonder why I’m putting myself through this major life change when I’m faced with so much uncertainty. You’d be forgiven for thinking that, especially if you don’t know the whole story.

You see, the truth is that my choices are not: A) Stay here on the Palouse with my lovely house and my great job and try to muddle my way through to a happy(ish) ending or B) Return to Scotland and hope that this great plan of mine works out and I’m able to be happy again.

No, the truth is that I am well and truly failing here on the Palouse. I am miserable and depressed and unhappy and stressed and lonely and isolated and I feel hopeless.

Our move to the Palouse was deliberate. I was offered a job where I would be able to work on my master’s degree part time (and for free). We planned to purchase a family home (which we succeeded in) and to adopt a couple of cute kids (which was in the works). And once my degree was done and the adoptions were finalised, we planned to return to Scotland. I can’t tell you a solid timeline because it would have depended on my coursework, but we were hoping for about five years—so 2014 or so.

When Paul died, all of those plans and dreams died along with him; which meant that the Palouse went from a place where dreams happen to a place of nightmares. The Palouse stopped being a happy place for me and became my very own personal hell.

To be honest, I believe that if I chose to stay on the Palouse I would continue to fail—if I didn’t have this new plan, I may have failed already. I feared from the start that staying here would eventually cause my complete and total collapse—mentally, emotionally, and physically—which would eventually mean I’d lose my job and my house and my ability to care for my basic needs.

You see the truth is that my choices are: A) Stay here on the Palouse until my mental, emotional, and physical health failed to the point of me being institutionalised (really) or B) Flee this place of shattered dreams in the hopes of fixing myself and reclaiming a bit of joy and happiness in my life.

OK, some of my posts may seem filled of doubt and uncertainty, but that doesn’t mean I think I’m making a mistake. I know I’ve made the right choice—I just know that the right choice is filled with a myriad of trials and tribulations of their own. And those things get to me from time to time and that makes me doubt myself even more.

Yes, I am frightened and uncertain about my future but at least I have a certain amount of control over my future at this point. If I had chosen to stay here, my choices would have [eventually] been limited to lime or cherry Jell-O at Western State.

And that means that despite the fact that sometimes I sound miserable—and sometimes I really am miserable—I am not as miserable as I would be if I wasn’t putting myself through this. I guess this is the lesser of two miseries for me!

So please bear with me whilst I’m going through these tremendous ups and downs. I’m confident that the ups will outnumber the downs in a few more months. (Though I can’t promise it will all be ups even after I move—that wouldn’t be realistic!)

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…

Paperwork

I’ve spent much of the weekend going through Paul’s old university newspapers and clippings. It’s strange because many of the stories feel like ghosted memories to me since Paul quite often shared tales of his days at the University of Edinburgh. And since I’ve gotten to know a few of his old school friends a bit more in the past [nearly] two years, it makes the stories seem even more like faded memories of my own. (Wow! How can it be almost two years already!?)

This isn’t the first time I’ve gone through these papers, and it won’t be the last time. But at least there will be less of them for me to sort in the future because I’m getting rid of the duplicates. After all, there is no reason for me to keep three copies of the same paper—not when someone else can benefit from the memories.

So, I’ve sorted through them. I’ve put all of the clipped articles aside to scan then read through the other papers. And what I found was that Paul kept 1-2 complete copies of the issues where he was mentioned, but also kept the cut-up copy from where he took the clippings.

It seems to me that I’m really only interested in the clippings that talk about Paul—despite the fact I know some of the people in the other stories. It also dawns on me that Paul’s siblings would probably be happy with just the Paul-centric bits. So I am scanning those articles and photos to share with the family. (I haven’t decided what I’ll do with the original clippings and am not ready or willing to make that decision just yet. After all, it’s only been two years. I’m not ready to deal with these things yet!)

Of course, this all means that I have stacks of memories that I can share with Paul’s old friends. I’ve already packaged up a few copies to send on to one of his friends (who I hope will forward some on to the person they’re intended for!) and I have another stack that I plan to offer to different people in the next couple of weeks.

All told, I’ve cut the stack by about two-thirds. I haven’t actually gotten around to scanning the clippings yet, but I will.

I know it seems silly, but this was no easy task. I mean, Paul saved all of these things for nearly 20 years before he died. He cared so much about them that he packaged them up and brought them half-way around the world with him. And I dismantled the collection in less than 48 hours. That’s so sad to me. But I find a bit of solace knowing that maybe the memories will bring a bit of joy to the friends he loved so much.

(For those wondering: No, I’ve yet to sort through anything else—including clothes and his bathroom drawer. Like I said, it’s only been two years!)

Taking stock

I have an alcohol problem. A big, big alcohol problem. But it’s not because I drink too much—it’s because I drink too little!

You see, Paul and I began this amazing booze collection when we got married with the idea that any time we had guests we could offer them a drink and we’d have what they wanted on hand. We had a well-stocked bar indeed! Ouzo, light rum, dark rum, a variety of schnapps, vodka, gin, bourbons, whiskeys, Scotch, mixers… And then there was the wine collection.

Sure, I’ve had a few drinks since Paul died, but I continued to save the ‘good wines’ for special occasions and have just bought mid-range ($25 or less) wines when I fancied a glass. And I’ve bought a bottle of vodka for my Martinis—but I don’t seem to be drinking mixed drinks now that I have a foster kid in the house. Which means that my fancy drinks are just sitting there waiting to be loved.

And now I have loads and loads of booze and there is no way I can drink it all in between now and my departure.

So I took a quick scan through the collection to determine what to do. And I’ve decided that I’m going to start enjoying my fancy wines a bit. I’m not saving that $80 bottle of awesome Washington State wine for a special occasion because I don’t plan to be here long enough for a special occasion. And I’m not going to save my collection of ‘favourite’ Washington reds for a friend’s visit, because I don’t expect any friends to visit.

Please don’t think this means that I’m going to become a raging alcoholic. No, I don’t plan to increase my consumption; I just plan to start consuming the good stuff. And I’m going to start with the best and work my way down the ladder. And how lucky am I that all of my booze and wine is good stuff because I’m a bit of a drinks snob?!

What does all of this mean to you? Well, it means if you want to drink some of my best booze and wine, you’d best come visit! And if you’re one of the people waiting for me to leave in the hopes of inheriting my stash, just know that you’ll be getting the bottom of my barrel.

Sláinte!

For the record

I picked up my medical records today so that I can give a copy of my medical history to my new GP when I arrive in Scotland. I’m a little nervous about passing them off, however, and have decided that I will scan them all before I leave so that they’re not lost in the system.

Now, I have to say this next part carefully, because one of Paul’s old school friends* works for the Scottish health system and knows something or other about how medical records are transferred and blah, blah, blah. We once had a broad conversation on the topic and I don’t think we agreed with each other’s views. Mostly because I was right and he wasn’t. [Enter cheeky grin here.]

But it must be said: I don’t have full faith the UK’s medical records system.

Mind you, it’s not because I don’t trust the system, but rather it’s because the system is too big and I have no control of my records once they are handed over. (Much like the military hospitals here, I imagine.) Once I hand over my records, they ‘belong to’ the government-run system. I don’t know if I have a problem with this because I have a healthy habit of questioning my government’s actions, or if it’s because I’m an American and my government has no right to own (or to know about) my medical history.

But you see, in Scotland (and the whole of the UK) health care is socialised** and I don’t get to pick-and-chose who my doctors are (unless I pay for private care). It also means that if I move three miles away, I may need to register with a new GP and my medical records will be automatically transferred. The good part of that is that I don’t need to do anything for that to happen. The bad part is that if I feel there are errors in my records, the new GP will have that (potentially) incorrect information. It also means that, when seeking second opinions, medical care providers will have access to records which could inhibit their ability to give a non-biased opinion.

So I don’t know; there’s just something wrong (in my opinion) about my medical records being part of the government’s database and therefore subject to the National Archive’s Data Protection Act. But, I want to move to Scotland and I may will need a doctor when I get there. So I guess that I need to play by their rules. And thankfully, Scotland is one of those counties where I’ll not be executed for having an opinion contrary to that of the government’s.

I wonder if other expats have these concerns, or if it’s just another case of me being a little off-kilter.

Anyhow, I guess that’s one more thing I can check off my to-do list. Sadly, I think I’ve added about a dozen things to that same list in the last week…

(And for those counting, there are only 104 days remaining until I’m an unemployed bum–and only 71 of those days are actually working days. Yay me!)

[Disclaimer: I realise that I do not have a full understanding of the health system in the UK and that my statements and opinions may be grossly unfair. I also realise that there are great differences between UK and US medical systems on many levels and that each have their pros and cons. This post is in no way meant as a political or social commentary on those systems, but rather a commentary on my own personal feelings and insecurities (rightly or wrongly) about handing off my medical history to a system that gives me less control and access to that information moving forward than what I am accustomed to currently.***]

* I say Paul’s friend, but in fairness he is also my friend. Though I bet sometimes he wishes that weren’t the case!
** Apologies again to UK family and friends; the term socialised health care is just what we use state-side to describe government-supplied care and in no way means I think you’re all socialists.
*** Gaining a full copy of my records was as easy as signing my name to a very easy-to-understand form then waiting two days for them to be ready. No fees, no additional red tape, no hassles.

Springy

Today is the first day of spring, but despite the cluster of purple crocus sprouting up just outside my kitchen door, it doesn’t feel like spring. Still, the calendar insists it is, so I suppose spring has now officially sprung.

I’m kind of anti-spring these days, likely due to the memories leading up to Paul’s spring-time death. But, I am trying to be upbeat and positive. I suppose the positive thing about spring is that it’s just one season away from summer.

And summer is when my new future kicks into high gear as I pack my bags and return to Scotland.

So roll on spring—but roll quickly so that summer can come out to play!

Struggling with apathy

I have these conversations in my head where I shout at myself for being so stressed and unhappy and apathetic, then I tell myself to just stick it out because I will snap out of it as soon as I’m done working and I’ve moved to Scotland. But as much as I want to believe that, I sometimes fear that I’m lying to myself.

There is no doubt in my mind that I am absolutely miserable right now. I can’t seem to function the way I did two years ago. I’ve lost all of my passion for life. I can’t bring myself to care about my diet the way I used to. I can’t bring myself to care about running the way I used to. I can’t bring myself to enjoy anything the way I used to.

I get through most days telling myself that it will get better as soon as I’m done working. I tell myself it will get better as soon as am away from these reminders of the hopes and dreams I had with Paul. And I tell myself that it will get better as soon as I can start concentrating on my new future in my new home.

I’m convinced that when I get to Scotland I will laugh again; when I get to Scotland life will be OK again. I will walk more; run more; eat better; sleep better.

But lately I’ve also started to worry that I will be just as miserable there as I am here. And I suppose that in some ways, it will be more stressful than the life I have now because there are so many unknowns.

There are certain things I know to be true: I am extremely unhappy where I am now and I don’t want to stay here—where I build dreams with Paul—without Paul. If I remain where I am now—living the life I’m living now—I will soon go into full-on depression and end up institutionalised. I feel at peace and at home in Scotland and have always been happy there. I have a passion for higher education and actually look forward to studying and being in the classroom again.

I think I’m doing the right thing. I really do. But I guess that I’m afraid that I’m totally screwing up. I wish I had a crystal ball so that I knew if it all worked out or not.

Oh well, I guess there’s only one way to find out.

And as your reward for reading my mindless ramble, here’s a pretty picture I made for you when fiddling around with Photoshop today. Yay!

If the dress fits

At some point I am going to need to go through all of my clothes and ditch the old stuff in preparation for my move. But today isn’t that day.

It is, however, the day that I happened across the dress that I wore for my high school graduation way back in 1992.

So I did what any 37-year-old woman would do 19 years after graduation—I tried on the dress. And it fit.

I have several dresses from high school and my 20s that I’ve saved. It may seem strange to have kept them—knowing full-well I’ll never wear them again—but I just know how upset I am that my mom get rid of her awesome clothes from the 60s and 70s. The few pieces that she kept I’ve managed to borrow on occasion (and I’ve been given a couple, too) but there are some dresses I’ve seen in old photos that I’m so distraught over not being able to steal borrow.

Which brings me to why I’ve saved my ‘best’ dresses from the past: So that I can one day pass them on to my daughter. Of course, as a childless widow, the chances of that happening are now slimmer than ever before. So instead, I hope to one day pass them on to my nieces. Only, I don’t know that they’ll want them.

Oh, what a dilemma!

But, all of that said, since the dresses seem to fit—and since the 90s seem to be coming back in style—maybe I should start wearing them again?

No, wait. I think I remember some rule that goes something like: ‘If you wore it when it was fashionable the first time around, you’re not allowed to wear it when it becomes retro-awesome.’

Oh well. Anyone want some awesome dresses from the 1990s for their daughters? …

The clutter shuffle

Today is a snow day on the Palouse and I am well and truly snowed in. School has been cancelled; the roads are unsafe; and the car has yet to be found—though I suspect it’s under that big pile of white fluff.

So I’m going through more clutter. Yay! Actually, I suppose that I’m just re-formatting clutter.

Yep, today’s project is to take all of my old 3.5” floppy disks and transfer them to my external hard drive. I suppose the mature thing to do would be to then throw out the disks. I admit that might be hard, but it must be done.

The real challenge, of course, will be to just transfer the files and not read through all of them. Which will be hard because they represent my entire undergraduate career. Yes, from Eng101 to ASL304 and Com207 to Com475 it’s all there. There are even disks from a few of my early freelance projects and my baby sister’s wedding invitations that I designed more than a decade ago—long before I even had a proper grown-up relationship!

Oh, and for some added fun, there are also a couple of disks with drafts of a book I wrote. One day, I’m going to have to see about getting it published!!

I suppose that when I’m done with this I should move on to transferring the work I have stored on CDs and DVDs. Then I should remember to make a backup of my backup drive! And don’t worry—I always keep that backup drive in a fireproof safe! (No, that’s a lie. I tell myself to do that but I’ve yet to actually go and buy a safe. Though doing so is on my to-do list before my move!)

[Note: I am also attempting to do so real work for my real job, which would be easier if my Internet connection wouldn’t keep going out on me causing me to have to log back in to everything. But I guess that just means tomorrow will be busier than expected. But that can be a good thing!]

Sharpies and Bics and Uni-Balls—Oh my!

I promised myself that I would go through junk every week so that by the time I’m ready to start packing, I’ve rid myself of most of the un-needed clutter. A couple of weeks ago, I went through my card and stationery supplies, last weekend I began the process of sorting through some clutter stored under the eaves, and today it was the drawers on left-hand side of my desk.

I thought the biggest hurdle would be the bottom drawer because that’s where I’ve been shoving un-opened mail for the last year. So I emptied the contents onto the coffee table, grabbed my letter opener, and started sorting. And it was actually quite easy since most of the envelopes were just old bank statements and bills that I paid online. When I was done, I had a huge pile of rubbish to shred and a stack of envelopes for the recycle bin. The smallest pile was maybe ¼ inch thick and consisted of things that I needed to file away.

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!!

The middle drawer was up next. It was fairly simple in part because it contained the previously-sorted stationery and in part because it is only ½ as deep as the bottom drawer so there wasn’t too much clutter in there!

Finally, I opened the top drawer. This is the drawer where I store the majority of my pens as well as some Post-Its and note paper and random bits-and-bobs that I’ve shuffled away ‘for later’.

First, I shuffled the Post-Its to a new location (to be sorted later) then I sorted the random bits-and-bobs. That was the easy part.

Next, I sorted through the pens tossing out those that were dried up and passing on those that I never liked to my foster daughter (who actually did need pens). But I realised that even with that process done, I have way more pens that I can ever use between now and August when I head to Scotland.

Then the panicked insanity began.

The thoughts going through my head were things like:

  • Frances—you really need to keep all of these pens and markers and highlighters because you will be going to school in Scotland and you’ll need them.
  • But, Frances, remember that you have a limited amount of luggage space and you’ll want to bring your reference books and gadgets and maybe even some clothes with you.
  • And remember—you can buy new pens and stuff when you get to Scotland.
  • But, wait! You’ll have a very limited budget so should you really use it to buy things that you already have?
  • Besides, your folks and friends can bring more stuff for you when they come and visit.
  • So go ahead, Frances, keep those pens and markers and highlighters. It’s the right thing to do!

Honestly, the thought of parting with these silly things freaks me out. It’s not because I’m transposing my emotions onto them—it’s because I am an office supply junkie.

I am frightened at the prospect of sorting through my Post-Its and note pads. And the idea of parting with my paper clips and tape dispensers? Oh my! I may need to change my monthly grief counselling appointments to weekly packrat counselling sessions!!

It may never be done…

Shortly after moving into our new home, I started working on a queen-sized afghan using the bits and scraps of other projects. Paul and I were looking forward to having loads of handmade afghans and quilts to keep us warm. Then when Paul died I stopped stitching because I just didn’t have the heart for it.

But about nine months later, I picked up my hooks and started to work on the afghan once again. I even put out a call to friends for any left-over yarn they might have—and was pleased to have people respond with bags of the stuff!

Then summer hit. Then I took in a foster kid. Then life’s stresses hit. Then the holiday season’s depression hit. Then I needed to concentrate on finishing my foster daughter’s [now late, but finally finished] Christmas afghan.

Which meant this lovely queen-sized afghan was neglected and neglected and neglected. (Though there were periods between neglect where I’d hook a couple of rows.)

Anyhow, I guess it’s about half-way done now—nearly three years after it got started! But all of the sudden I’m moving back to Scotland. And it seems silly to take a half-finished project this size with me, but I can’t ditch it now because I’ve put in too much effort.

And so, I am now stitching for my mommy! Yep, I’ve decided that I will attempt at finishing this sucker before I fly out to Scotland this summer and I will give the finished afghan to my Mom. I think she’ll like this plan.

Of course, in taking a photo of the project so far, I spread the blanket out on the floor and quickly noticed that it’s getting wider as I go. I think it’s a combination of me loosening my stitches as I get faster and the different, softer yarns that I’m using right now. So Mom, I’m very sorry but you’ll be getting a crooked afghan.

Right. Time to stop blogging now and start hooking…

Sorting swords

I finally got around to sorting through some of Paul’s stuff. In this case, it was a pile of stock leftover from his eBay business. In total, there are about 50 swords in the pile—and I have no idea what to do with them!

How do you sell swords? I have no idea! I just know that I can’t keep them and that the money will be a nice (though small) addition to my tuition fund. I know that somewhere on the other laptop there is an inventory sheet that lists they’re wholesale and retail prices, I just haven’t looked at it yet. I also know that there is no way that I’ll get even the wholesale cost back for them if I take them to a pawn shop, but I have to do something with them.

And once that’s done, I have an entire house full of stuff that I have to sort through yet, and I’m not looking forward to it. I mean, these swords don’t carry any sentimental value because they were only ever stock—never ‘belongings’—and I know that Paul wanted to sell them just as much as I do.

Can you believe it? Here I am nearly two years after his death I’ve not even started the process of going through any of Paul’s stuff. I can’t bring myself to do it alone and really wanted to take on the task with someone who actually knew Paul, but they’re all 6,000 miles away. And I don’t really expect that anyone is going to travel all this way to help!

If I’m honest, I don’t want to sort through Paul’s stuff—at least not on my own—and would rather just ignore the task. Which was fine for a while, but now that I’m moving I have to actually start taking care of these things. I can’t take all of Paul’s t-shirt and underpants to Scotland with me, after all!

However, I’m not ready for the heartbreaking task of going through Paul’s actual stuff just yet so will keep my head buried in the sand a little bit longer.

At least I’m going through the things that have no sentimental value. That’s a start, right?

Next up: Paperback books. They are half-way between sentimental value and no sentimental value so might not be too difficult.

(And if you’re a sword collector or have always just fancied owning a replica of the ‘Braveheart’ sword—give me a shout!)

Pick a card

I’m in clutter-clearing mode and today’s task is my stationery drawer. The drawer is well-past its clear-out date, especially since it’s been difficult to close for nearly two years!

In the drawer are stacks and stacks of cards that I’ve owned for years and years but have no intention of ever using. There are also fantastic cards that I’ve acquired in recent years (and months and weeks) that get used quite quickly. And, of course, there is stationery—nice stuff that I use, as well as stuff I don’t use but I’ve had for years and just keep.

There are wax seals and golden sticker seals. There are wax sticks and matches. There are fun stickers and air mail stickers. And there are even stamps.

Of course, there is no point in packing these things up and taking them to Scotland with me if I won’t use them so I am getting ready to part with much of the stuff.

Of the 130+ cards, I am keeping about 30. And of those cards, I will probably use 10-15 before I move. (I’ll be buying more over the next few months for birthdays, too, but they get sent immediately.)

Of the stationery, I am keeping the parchment and cotton papers as well as my favourite hand-made papers. The stuff with embossed yellow roses and matching envelopes? Gone!

I’m keeping the wax and a couple of the wax seals as well as the gold seals, but will ditch most of the stickers. As for the stamps, well, I’ll be using most of them before I leave.

The rest of the stuff I’m giving to my foster daughter. I think she’ll like it and I know she’ll use it. Oh, and because I love to get mail, I will be giving her my UK address and a stack of international-use stamps so that she can write any time she wants!

The best part about this exercise in de-cluttering is that I’m now in letter-writing mode. As some of my friends may attest, I enjoy sending random cards and letters to the people I care about, because everyone likes to get mail that isn’t a bill.

And now a public service announcement: Write to your mother! Or your sister or father or brother or former teacher or even a long-lost friend you want to reconnect with. It will make you smile—and I bet it will make the recipient smile, too!