All Else…

All else should stand aside
When gentle days of spring arrive
In the warmth of light remembered
There are weeds to pull
Seeds to plant
And sun in which to bask in joy

Tomorrow, stark fingers of winter
May yet reach out
To pull ragged, greying clouds
Across the sun
Plunging one and all behind
A veil of grim and mist

All else should stand aside
As spring days shine
Today is golden daffodils
Tulips newly budding
Purpose fresh and burgeoned
Hope and heart’s breath

Tomorrow is…. tomorrow

-kelley green

No Clever Title Available

Okay…I’m going to post just to whine again…so if you can’t stand it, stop reading now.

I’ve just spent the past six weeks either in doctors’ offices, hospitals, undergoing ‘procedures’, or contemplating (worrying) about one of those.  All for the almighty Medical to tell me that the mass they saw on the sono was just scar tissue from my c-sections and the bleeding/pain/general crap I’m experiencing is due to the medication I’m on that’s supposedly keeping my cancer from reasserting itself.  Arg.  What idiot came up with a cancer medication (for breast cancer) that can cause cancer (uterine and ovarian) as a side effect and thought that was a good idea?

I’m betting that the number of cancer patients that become alcoholics or rampant drug users is sky high, at least for those of us that are looking at this as a living for the next 20 years or so (if we’re lucky).  And what is the lovely, all-knowing, Medical going to tell me to do about it?  I’ve got 5 more months on this medication and they’re going to tell me that since it isn’t causing more cancer, I should just deal.

I’m going to have another cider.



Hearken Back….

to the good ole days.  When a woman went for a job and was told “Why’d you want to do that Ma’am?  You should be home tending to those children.”  This is how my afternoon went today.

I have been living here for the past couple of years and I have finally come to enough of an agreement with my life that I felt like I could apply for a part-time position.  Yes…an actual money job, rather than just the hugs and kisses payment arrangement I have with my family.  The local yarn store was hiring for a two day a week position that seemed ideal.

Most of you will know that I knit a bit. (Laugh long and loud.)  In fact, my daughter takes delight in showing her friends where all the yarn in the house lives.  In that big trunk…and that drawer…and that drawer, too…oh and those boxes over there, etc.  My husband and son just smile and nod.  They like the socks. I’ve been fibernetic for a while now and I’ve even done a bit of teaching and I’ve been seriously involved with my LYS (local yarn store) since it opened about a year ago.  So when the position was announced, I threw in my hat.  Of course, I spoke to Sam first as it would mean him picking up the kids two afternoons a week, but we do that anyway, so no problem.  The interview went well.  And then I got the call today…

Seems Ms.Proprietor decided that she wouldn’t feel right ‘taking me away from my children’ and was concerned that my having ‘young kids’ could cause conflicts.  I did tell her, when asked in the interview, that my husband works from home and has no problem getting the kids twice a week and that my in-laws live just half a mile from us so they could help out as well.  She then proceeded to spread around all sorts of platitudes about what a lovely person I am and how our ‘relationship’ was really important to her, etc.

I was offended. (How’s that for putting a thing mildly?)  For one thing, I’m a fairly tentative person socially, so when I put myself out in the world it’s a fairly large thing that I’ve thought out beforehand.  If I wasn’t prepared to cope with the job and fitting it into the rest of my world, I wouldn’t have applied.  For another, what she said and the way she said it actually constitute sexual discrimination in this country.  It’s illegal to deny a woman work because she has the primary care of children.  Being discriminated against is bad enough.  Being discriminated against by another woman is just really wrong.

And at the end of the day, I was completely in tears because it’s knit night and I didn’t feel like I could be there.  At the one place where I’ve actually managed to feel like I was fitting myself into the world in a positive way for me.  That just makes me angry all over.

Beyond the Windswept Prairie

England.  Settled is far from the word of the day, but we’re here.  I  didn’t believe all the books, articles, people and sites that said it would take 12 weeks from offer to get into our new house.  It took longer.  Not only is there a lot more red tape (red rope, red blankets, red wall)  we had issue with the seller.  First, our seller was officially non-compos mentis.  An older gentlemen, who had just been moved to an assisted living facility, was far from able to oversee the dispersion of his estate.  Therefore, we ended up dealing with his sons. They were a bit…um..absent.  First, no one could remember where the deeds were located.  This is a wee problem.  A week goes by and finally they’re unearthed.  Then, Goddess bless him, the actual owner passed away. We were sad for him and for his family.  We understood that they would need extra time to handle details, mourn, and go through probate.  We really did understand.  Finally, there were the solicitors.  They had to talk.  They had to exchange. They had to agree.  All the time, I’m calling everyday and saying, “What’s the bleeding hold-up now?”  Finally, we’re down to the wire.  We’re supposed to exchange contracts on Friday the 19th of September and the sons say they want to wait another week because they might not have time to go and get all of the furniture out of the house.  This is the point at which I lost patience (imagine that).  I spoke to the solicitor.  I spoke to the selling agent.  She said, “They really can’t get over there this week to do it.”  I say, “That sounds like a personal problem.”  She says, “I’m really not sure there’s much I can do.” I say, “I’m really getting pissed off now.”  She says, “I’m sure I understand.” I assured her that she had no idea.  And, lo and behold, we closed on Friday the 19th of September.  Amazing what getting a bit ticked with people will do for you.

Then the fun began.  Try, I dare you, try to hire a builder on a budget and a schedule.  I swear by Almighty Bob, we could not get anyone to take our entire kitchen renovation as a serious job.  The builder we finally did hire  told us the Friday before he was supposed to start that he needed to put us off a week because he had gotten a bigger job.  No seriously.  He said that.  You can imagine that my demure southern manners suffered a bit.

Then the fun really began.  After two days of furious work; wall out, lintel in, chimney breast breached and mended, the builder says, “I’m done.”  What about the holes in the ceiling?  Oh, the plasterer can take care of that. What about the great gaping hole in the bay from the structural repair?  I’m due on another job tomorrow.

This became a consistent theme.  Everyone thought someone else was coming after them to clean up.  The builder left it for the plasterer. The plasterer left it for the decorator.  The decorator (me)  spit nails, gnashed teeth and screamed imprecations at the walls.  I finally said to our favorite (the electrician), “John, you don’t love me.”  He, looking rather shocked, exclaims, “But I do.”  “Then why,” says I “are you ripping up the lovely paint I just lovingly rolled onto my son’s new bedroom walls.”  He, at least, was more careful after that.

After removing the wall in the kitchen, we realized the concrete floor in the (former) kitchen was an inch higher than the wood floor in the rest of the house.  This wouldn’t do as I envisioned a seamless, new, laminate floor from the back of the kitchen to the front door.  So we hired a guy.  This guy assured us it would be good.  He would take out the first few inches of the old concrete and lay a nice new screed (thin concrete layer) on top to level it with the wood floor.  We proceed along these lines, happy with ourselves for doing it right instead of doing it fast.  Only as he is pouring the floor does he mention that you can’t lay laminate on new concrete for 12 week.  3 months. A quarter of a blessed year.  January.  I yelled…at Sam (DH)…that ought to tell those of you who know me something.  Deep breath…shift focus.  We can still install the kitchen and when the floor goes down run it up to the plinth and hid the fact that it doesn’t go under.  Brilliant.  (Thank you John, the electrician.)

In the mean time, we’re still on a barrel-rolling schedule to move into the house.  We’re telling the children it’s happening.  We’ve told the storage people to bring it on…move the stuff into the house on Thursday.  I’ve got the kitchen (via IKEA) on the way and I’m still completely sure I can pull it off.  No.  Not even close.

Anyone who has ever gotten anything from IKEA knows there’s always something.  As it turns out, despite all of my detailed lists and careful planning, the counters won’t be here until November 20th.  They have to be custom cut and delivered because of the particular configuration of our new layout.  Aaaack.  Deep breath….shift focus.  We’ll put in a temp counter with the sink and deal.  I’m not going to be kept out of the house for another week.  No…no way.

Everything arrives.  Most of it fits (don’t ask).  The house is wall to wall to wall boxes and still, I’m pretty happy.  I have, however, acknowledged, that I’m not going to be able to put together the entire kitchen on my own.  Sam is now on a crushing deadline at work and I hire a guy. (You can feel it coming, can’t you.)  He says it will be good.  He says he can put all of the cabinets up in a day and plumb the sink.  Pbbllltttt.  He  picks up at 3:30pm and say’s, “I’m done.”  What about the rest of the cabinets.  Sorry the wife wants me home.  What about the sink and running water.  You’re plumber will take care of that.

You would think at this point, Friday, that I might give up the notion of moving in the next day. Ha ha ha.

We move in on Saturday.  I’m resigned to washing dishes in the bathroom sink upstairs.  Our plumber assures us he’ll come over Saturday afternoon to deal with the kitchen sink.  Since he lives behind us, I feel pretty good about this.  Suffice to say, the sink doesn’t get plumbed until Monday evening.  He didn’t realize we had actually moved into a house with no running water downstairs and two children.  He obviously doesn’t know the depth of my stupidity devotion.

We’re in…we’re rolling.  I’m unpacking everything in sight.  There have been other ‘oops’.  The dresser for the bedroom had broken parts (wait till Sunday).  The bed for the master bedroom didn’t  come with slats (go back next week).  We need way more bookshelves (IKEA again).  But we all have a place to sleep.  I’m cooking on my brand spanking new, fantastic cooker.  I have a desk and working wireless.

Great Glorious Bob…what a ride.


How Soon…

Move day is barreling down upon us now. The children have started a ‘days-until’ countdown. And almost everyone I meet has something to say like:

Oh my gosh, you’re going so soon. Are you ready?

Are you excited?

Do you think everything will get done before you go?

The answer to these questions has been somewhat varied, depending on my level of stress at that particular moment. I am, however, finding a tendency to roll my eyes at the least. I mean really, we’re stressed around here. There’s a lot to do. I have a list that I check and re-check every day at least 15 times. And every time someone reminds me how close this is getting, my stomach flips and I have trouble breathing. I’m not excited. I’m terrified. Because everything *has to * get done before we go and I’m the one doing most of it.

The children are also generally nearby when these exclamations of wonder are pronounced. They don’t need it. They also are stressed and handling it very well, but I’m expecting a melt down any minute now. Aidan almost lost it when we sold the car. They don’t need to hear, repeatedly, how soon we are departing the only home they’ve known.

England will be very exciting when we get there. Having Sam’s family around us will be lovely. There will be new places to explore and many, many wonderful surprises, I’m sure. But that’s then and this is now. Please…don’t ask, “How soon?”


Paint and Carpet or “why didn’t we do this years ago”

The house is redolent with the smells of industrious men with rollers and brushes. The painters have moved in to help our bedroom look more buyer neutral. Currently, it looks more like someone maniacal took after it with a sponge full of yellow. I don’t know what the fascination was about 10 years ago with yellow sponge painting, but the last two houses we’ve been in have had prominent rooms thusly decorated. Last time it was the kitchen and we, thankfully, had it painted before we arrived. This time it was the master bedroom and once your in, it’s very hard to move out, even for long enough to get a decent color on the walls.

Oddly, after a while you just start to ignore problems like this. Until someone points out that the playschool style mural on your son’s wall might not be the best thing to show to potential marks buyers, you don’t really think about it. We looked at it when we moved in and thought, “Okay, Aidan is a little old for that. Maybe we’ll paint over it after we get settled.” That was two years ago.

Monday the carpet guy arrives. Carpets are another one of those ‘yes, it really matters’ issues in moving. The carpets are definitely well-used and there are stains in places, but again, we didn’t really notice until someone said, “ewww”. So by Tuesday we’ll have a very tidy, attractive bedroom with new paint and carpet. If I didn’t know we were moving to Europe, I’d be moved to tears.

Don’t rain on my garage sale

Yesterday we had the first of (supposedly) two garage sales to try and shed some pounds before shipping out. It rained. It was cold. The misery of sitting in the garage, watching our stuff not sell, while running back and forth with tarps was heavy. We did sell some things. Sam let some of his tools go (the current/plug thing) and there was a bit of interest in books and electronics. But, all in all, we actually got rid of very little beyond the stuff we were giving away for free. We posted to austin.craigslist, saying we would be there again today.

Today was sunny and warm. So warm that I had to keep going indoors to shed layers and finally ended up in a t-shirt and jeans, barefoot. We put everything out, Sam went and replaced signs around the neighborhood, and we waited. And waited. And waited. Nothing. It seems that not being in the paper, especially as we live rather far North, is tantamount to not existing on the garage sale scene. We shed a few more freebies and about $.50 worth of toys. The rest we packed back into an admittedly cleaner garage. We’ll try again later.

In previous moves, we’ve done our best to organize and then said, “Screw it. We’ll sort it out when we get there.” However, moving across country is a bit more forgiving of this attitude than moving across an ocean. International movers figure your move by volume (how big a container you will need) *and* weight (how much time it will take to pack and how much space will be needed to truck it to port). Now, as it turns out, our move from Austin, TX to Leeds, UK will end up costing us a bit less than it cost us to move here from California. Yep, you read it right. It’s going to be cheaper to move overseas. And it’s not because we’re going to sell everything we own and eat off a card table when we get there. It’s because international shipping rates aren’t regulated the same way as domestic shipping rates. Therefore, it’s an extremely competitive market. This is very good for the family moving, as long as you follow some simple guidelines (and I’m not claiming to know all of them). One – Don’t deal with anyone not willing to do an in-home estimate. Two – Get at least three estimates and make sure and tell all of them who else you’ll be talking to. Three – Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Door-to-door service. Packing services. Port fees. Custom fees. Damage insurance. There are a lot of factors and everyone who you talk to should be willing to answer all of your questions and come up with a few for you as well. I went so far as to ask for each companies US shipping license number, references from previous international clients, and how long they had been handling international moves. If they balk at any of those, walk away.

The first man who came was extremely nice, very professional, had an extensive moving brochure for me with checklists, and was generally willing to talk to me for as long as I needed information. He went through each room of the house with me and asked what we would be taking and what was staying. He made suggestions as to how we could get more in a smaller packing space, etc. He also noted that he would return, closer to the move, to reassess the amount to be moved, as he knows we’re in the process of sort and sell.

There are two other companies coming to bid this week. Then I’ll email everyone with everyone else’s bids and see what happens. It should be interesting to watch.


A Pocket Full of Marbles

Yesterday, our real estate agent Brandon told me he would like to start showing the house, off-list, in a couple of weeks. This sent me into a frenzy of tidy up and toss. It’s stunning how many little piles or containers of ‘stuff’ there are around a house with a family of four who aren’t really very tidy to begin with…

At one point, I found myself wandering around the house with a pocket full of marbles and a hand full of lego bits, completely at a loss for where the containers were for either one. Having finally tracked those down, it occurred to me that by the time I have this place organized enough to show, I’m also going to have it pretty well organized to move. Two birds and all that. However, the getting there may tax my sanity.

Brandon tells me that you should only have one thing on each counter. Close your eyes and imagine your kitchen, your bathroom, your living room coffee table. Right. No real family ,who actually lives in their home, only has one thing on a counter. I worked it down in the kitchen to mostly one thing on every four feet of counter and called it a night. I was pooped.

The other thing that is happening in this process is that I’m deciding what is going to England and what is going elsewhere. Elsewhere will either be garage sales, friends, charity, trash. We’re having the first of (hopefully only) two garage sales this weekend. Electronics are somewhat useless in an oversees move, as the current and plugs are different. We can get transformers for some and swap power supplies for others, but mostly we’ll just be leaving a lot of the little things behind and some of the big ones for that matter. We won’t take the toaster oven, waffle maker, electric tea kettle, or the yogurt maker. Their too inexpensive to replace and carrying them over would be more trouble and money than they’re worth. We will take the stand mixer, food processor and blender. They cost more and I can probably get one transformer and a plug strip and keep them all on the same counter. This is how the reasoning goes.

Then there’s everything else. Do you really want to take that whatsit? How often do you use it? Will there be room for it in the new house? Do you have another that’s really a lot like it? How many sets of plates does a family need/want? How about tea mugs (many in our family)? What about mason jars? I do a lot of canning in the summers. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get them as readily over there. Priorities become a little round about and strange here. What about the cookie cutters?

This too shall pass and we’ll be that much lighter before we go. I’ll try hard to be honest with myself while not being too sneaky with the children. Some of their stuff will go and they won’t miss it but I won’t tell them we’re selling it either.

Tomorrow…carpets and paint and ‘why didn’t we do this when we moved in?’.


In the beginning…

There was the blog. Okay, some folks have suggested that a chronicle of our international move might be insightful, hysterical, and possibly garner us some sympathy. I know, I know….a lot of you are thinking, “You decided to hop the pond, knowing full well that you have 14 animals and two small children, not to mention a house full (over-full) of stuff.” Yes, life does what it does and we’re trying to keep up.

In planning this move, there were a whole host of things to consider. As it turns out, it’s a darned good thing that we’ve been talking about this for a year, otherwise there’s just no way we’d be ready to go. There are things that absolutely have to be started 6 months out. I suppose when folks get an overseas job and have to move quickly, the husband goes first and wife-dear gets to stay behind and see to the household. As it stands, that’s almost what is going to happen here and now. Sam has just started a new job with the company that will be taking us over, so most of the onus for the move and all it’s little joys will fall to me.

The first major ‘uh-oh’ has already occurred. I, being the on-the-ball, ahead-of-the-game, super-conscientious person that I am had a list. On the top of that list was buying the tickets to get us to England. Early purchase means lower prices and as it turned out, I scored us a great deal for $531 per person, one-way. There’s nothing like one-way tickets to inspire you to get going and get organized. I was happy and checked the little box next to “tickets” on my list of things to do. Then came the ‘uh-oh’. I called the airlines (having booked through Travelocity) to make arrangements for the cats to fly to England with us. Back in November, I had started their pre-quarantine process here. You can have their shots, etc done ahead of time and documented by a vet and then they don’t have to quarantine in the UK. But it has to start 6 months out. I figured I had jumped the hurdle on that one. Whoops. Getting the flights organized was much more complicated that I’d imagined. Turns out we needed to be in Chicago before noon because the cargo group that will handle the cat’s immigration (emigration?) closes at 2pm. And it would be less expensive to fly Fri/Sat because the receiving office for animals isn’t open on Sunday, so we’d have to pay overtime to have someone there to hand us the cats off the plane. So, I changed the tickets to the tune of $180 per person (ouch), booked the cats in with the cargo company, and called to arrange to get them from Austin to Chicago. Next irritation. The woman on the phone tells me that that particular plane only allows for one animal in the hold per flight. Aaaaahhhhh…I’m trying to not scream while explaining to this woman that we have to find a way because these are our pets and we’re not coming back. She was rather unsympathetic. At some point I said, “Well if only one is allowed in the hold, can I carry the other on the plane with me?” Turns out that that is totally doable. Okay, jack-ass, why didn’t she mention that in the first place. Makes you want to scream and tear your hair. So, finally, the cats are on the flight from Austin to Chicago as well. All of this took around 6 hours on the phone. However, since I checked first with a local service that will take care of all of this for you for a mere $3800-$5000, I felt pretty good about saving over half that, even after changing the tickets.

Furnace Wars

Okay…the idea of a furnace war in Texas is a little absurd; however, when I went out this morning it was well below freezing and it’s only up to 30 degrees F right now and we still haven’t turned on the heater this winter. 🙂

When we moved into this house there was a lovely gas log set-up in the fireplace. Beautiful ceramic logs with very realistic coloring glowed whenever you lit the line of gas vents underneath. The heat was lovely, but, there was no smell, no sound and our gas bill for the one month we had it on was…wait for it…$150 higher than the month before when we didn’t use the fireplace at all. Aack.

This year we took out the lovely ceramic logs. Sam removed the gas burner and capped the line. We bought a 1/4 cord of oak and collected all the pecan from the yard (very self-pruning trees) and we’ve had a fire in the fireplace. Now, I know Mr Green would like us to have a stove or burn a cleaner fuel, but we’re working one step at a time. Right now, we’re not using fossil fuels and I count that as a bonus. If we make it to spring without the heater, I’ll be really excited. If we’re having a furnace war, I suppose it’s against ourselves. Hazzah!