maarmie's musings

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

'Tis the season

C* and The Boy finished decorating the house for Christmas last weekend. They walked to the islands near our house and cut some holly branches from trees for the making of wreaths, C*'s first-ever attempt at wreath-making. The Boy and I both agree that C* definitely has what it takes to make money this way. The wreaths turned out better than I ever expected.

This one's on the outside of the front door:



And this one's on a wall in the living room:



The mantel of our (unfortunately) nonworking fireplace holds our Christmas cards:



And the artificial tree C* put up two weekends ago has piles of presents surrounding it:



Since The Boy doesn't read my blog, I can spill the beans about what Santa brought him this year: art supplies and board games. Since C* reads my blog, though, I can't say what he got. With a cap on spending set at £20, my choices were limited.

But Christmas isn't about what you give, I suppose. It's about the feelings behind the giving.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

RADIOHEAD!

Radiohead is playing a concert at Glasgow Green next June. If infants get in free, it will be Hunter's first concert and my first in a very long time.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I loves me some animules

Since the sun was out for the first time in more than a month Sunday, C*, The Boy and I went to the Black Isle Wildlife Park near Inverness for some animal fun. They had meercats, deer, wallabies, all kinds of ducks and birds - including owls, pigs, snakes, zebras, etc. Here are some photos, taken by my significant other.

Meercats:



A face only a mother could love:



The cutest rat I've ever seen:



His underdeveloped front legs are the cutest!



Deer are bigger than I thought:



Millions of ducks quacking for food around my legs:



Just chilling:



This big guy kept his distance:

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Don't they have enough money?



Stumbling upon this ad for watches featuring George Clooney pushed me to write this post letting Americans know that plenty of actors and actresses who are famous in the U.S. jump at the chance to be in advertisements on this side of the ocean.

A few notable examples include Antonio Banderas for Marks & Spencer department store, Uma Thurman for some Lancome perfume and Nicole Kidman pushing some kind of brain-boosting video game.

I don't recall big stars like these pedalling products in the U.S. What gives?

Proof that there can exist a whole nation of people...

who need to go out and get themselves a fucking life:



From The Guardian, Dec. 1, 2007

The British teacher was freed after spending several days in jail for allowing one of her students, a child named Muhammad, name a teddy bear Muhammad - a crime in Muslim countries.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Blech!

Snot is oozing from my left nostril as I type this post. I've had this nasty cold for a couple of weeks now. Sneezing, runny nose, coughing. A total pain in the ass combined with late pregnancy blahs (I'm 30 weeks pregnant on Monday) that involve lower back pain, a sharp pain in my abdomen, constant peeing (mostly in my underwear), constipation and the staving off of the growth of stretch marks on the underside of my large melonious belly.

Baby girl has been kicking up a storm, too, mostly while I'm TRYING to sleep at night. During the day, she's quiet as a church mouse except for a few kicks after I eat lunch.

But as soon as I settle into bed, roll onto my left side and manage to drift off - bam! - there she goes walloping the inside of my gut. The movements, aside from being more than a little weird, are hugely comforting for me, but, as time trickles on, I get more and more scared about the labor part of this whole scenario. It's gonna happen, and it's gonna soon. Nothing I can do about it. This kid has to come out, and there's only two ways she can make her appearance. Neither one of these ways appeals to me, but I prefer to give birth vaginally, if possible. And I'm going to try and do it without a spinal block, too.

I have an appointment with the diabetes lady next week and another scan in a few weeks. I have been assured the little one is of average size considering her gestational age, so I'm not worrying about the obstetrician having to induce labor early. Still, that leaves 10 weeks at most until my body is ripped in half.

When are men going to take over this gruesome task?

Christmas plans

C* and I decided to sit our happy asses home over Christmas this year. The Boy will be at his mother's house, and we aren't going to be making the trip to C*'s mom's house in south England. We agreed on a £20 cap on spending on each other as well. I thought about making an overwhelmingly thoughtful homemade gift, but then I remembered that I'm largely uncreative and unskilled in the way of crafts.

Any suggestions?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I got a Thanksgiving - and some snow - after all!

C* surprised me by doing a little shopping today so we could have a small, quiet Thanksgiving meal at home. On the menu is turkey, turkey gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, roasted potatoes, green vegetables and Yorkshire pudding. Those of you who don't know what Yorkshire pudding is should really read the Wikipedia link. It's not dessert. It's bread.

Today marks the first white Thanksgiving I've ever had. On the way home from work, tiny pellets of icy snow were bouncing off the windshield and onto the pavement. The show lasted only five minutes or so, but it counts. I walked to Tesco earlier to pick up stuff for gravy and for lunches this weekend, and it was coooooold. Made my eyes AND my nose run! It's nice experience a season other than the perpetual summer that Florida has to offer, but milder temperatures are definitely more to my liking.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No pumpkin pie for maarmie

Tomorrow is my first Thanksgiving away from the United States. I won't be having any turkey (except a turkey sandwich for lunch), no potatoes, no stuffing and no pumpkin pie. C* and I printed out a recipe for pumpkin pie earlier then set out to find the ingredients. It's not so easy to find canned pumpkin over here, it seems. And there's no Publix around to just buy a premade one.

I guess I'll just have to suffer.

On another subject: Just because I've written about a few things that go on in Scotland or in the United Kingdom that I view as negative, that doesn't mean that I, in any way, regret moving here. Not for an instant. I am infinitely glad I moved here, and I am even more happy than that that I am with my sweetie.

I'm really very happy. Shocking, isn't it?

Friday, November 16, 2007

First day of work

Today is my first day at work in Scotland. I go in for an unbelievably difficult two or three hours today to get the lowdown from the woman whose last day it is and to meet the woman who will be my supervisor for the next month.

I got the job courtesy of a temp agency I signed up with. Today's wages will go toward the payment of a £20 background check since the work I'll be doing is in the medical field. I guess it's required. I guess in the next month I'll get to find out about the wild world of being a secretary. I'm less than excited, but, hey, it's a paycheck, however small.

Update to come after today's shift.

Update:

The 2.5 hours went about as I thought they would: a brief introduction to my duties. The atmosphere in the cubicle-ridden office is about the same as in either the British or American versions of "The Office": everyone sitting there doing menial, mind-numbing tasks while waiting for the sandwich van to pull in at noon or for the day to mercifully end.

It turns out I'm not going to be a secretary. I'm going to be a secretary to a secretary to the boss of all the head nurses in the highlands. Secretaries of secretaries get to print out e-mails with attachments, make copies, arrange meetings, do filing, open mail and complete other soul-ripping tasks. I'm glad this post is for one month only. I just left one life-draining job, and I'm not about to take up another one so goddamn soon.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Guy Fawkes celebration

These photos are from the bonfire and fireworks display in Rosemarkie celebrating Guy Fawkes Night (Bonfire Night), November 5.

Guy Fawkes didn't like Protestants, so he devised a plot to blow up the House of Parliament, and, with it, Protestant rule under King James I of England.

I'm not sure if this night is meant to celebrate the plot (unlikely) or to celebrate Guy Fawkes' subsequent capture and hanging. All I know is that when we tried to leave early to avoid the rush of departing traffic, an angry mob of Scottish people cried, "Halt, ye unbelievers!" and chased us with torches and clubs all the way back to our car.



UK v. US - round three

Banking. Why do the British have to make it such a fucking hassle?

From my limited experience, you go into a bank in the United States, wait to talk to an accounts person, fill out paperwork, hand over money, show ID, and, voila, you have just opened a checking or savings account.

Over here, they can't make things that simple.

This week, I've checked out four local banks having branches on the high street (the main street downtown). At the first bank I tried, the Royal Bank of Scotland (or RBS), the lady told me I needed a water bill with my name and current address as proof of my new address. Goodness knows I have tons of other kinds of mail to prove I live where I do, but that's not good enough. I need a utility bill. Bah! Even if I had one, the only account they'd let me open would be the most basic one - one that doesn't even come with a debit card! Can you believe that?

I worked my entire adult life to build up my credit score in the states (and can proudly boast a score of 826) and I move here only to be treated like a financial leper. What's worse is the banking people tell me they can't check my financial history in the United States. I have to start fresh.

The second bank I went to, Clydesdale Bank, told me I'd have to apply and, after my history is checked, they decide which account I can have. The third bank, Lloyds TSB, told me I could just come in and open an account. When I tried to do this, I was told I'd need an appointment, which I made for the next morning. When I showed up, I was told that I'd need employment (and a minimum of £500 being direct-deposited into my account each month) to qualify for even the most basic current account. Since I'm not yet gainfully employed (though I DO start a month-long temp job doing secretarial work for the National Health Service tomorrow), I would only qualify for some kind of what they call a "cash account." Again, no debit card. I can only deposit money and withdraw it from an ATM.

The fourth bank, and the one I have decided to go with, required me to fill out an application and mail it to some office in Leeds. Where the fuck is Leeds, anyway? I went into the branch to see if I could drop the application off there and was told I'd have to mail it. Even though that was my only question, the guy still felt the need to ask, "How long have you lived here?"

Jesus Christ, dude! None of your business how long I've lived here, how long I'm planning on living here (a favorite question) or why I live here! As long as I am legally allowed to be here and I want to put money in an account in your bank, what the fuck is your problem?

The downside at the bank I chose (and the downside at all the banks here considering my lowly status) is that I don't get any kind of overdraft services and I can't make deposits using a teller at a branch. Apparently, they have drop boxes and ATMs in which low-class people like me can make deposits. But at least, if I'm approved, I get a goddamn debit card.

These people are starting to piss me off.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

UK v. US - round two

Gas prices. They suck over here. People in the U.S. freak out when the price gets much more than $3 a gallon. Well, try $8 a gallon, folks. You heard me right. Eight dollars. A gallon.

It's not that a barrel of oil costs so much more over here. It's that the British government adores taxing the fuck out of its people. Cigarettes are $12 a pack. There's a monthly fee that has to be paid for the privilege of having a television in one's home that pays to keep the BBC on the air. Sales tax comes to just over 17 percent. I shudder to think what percentage is taken out of paychecks.

Where does all this money go?

Are the schools world class? NO!

Are the roads perfectly maintained? NOT ON YOUR LIFE!

Are there plenty of city amenities available to residents and the public? NOT!

People are disgruntled, to be sure, as evidenced by the many newspaper articles wondering where the price of a liter of gas will come to rest. But people aren't fighting it.

Do the British feel as powerless against their government as Americans feel against their own?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sick. Bleh!

I seem to be developing some sort of chest cold. My chest feels all raw and yucky. I hope I'm not in for a long winter of illness.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Guardian, Nov. 3



Click on the photo to read the caption. It's good to be surrounded by people who hate the president and vice-president as much as I do.

UK v. US - round one

In the United Kingdom, officials who have weapons can actually be found guilty when they slaughter innocent people. Take the case of the Brazilian man thought to be a terrorist who took part in the London subway bombings. This week, the cops were found guilty unlike those monsters who beat and suffocated a child at a Florida boot camp.

Unfortunately, the cops in the London case don't face any criminal charges or punishments on the job. Instead, the police force is facing a paltry $2.1 million fine for shooting an innocent man in the head seven times on a crowded subway and killing him.

Oops! "Sorry" should be good enough, right?

I call that "murder," however, and I call what the boot camp guards did "murder" as well. Only those creeps aren't likely ever going to be held liable for what they did in any way, shape or form.

It seems like a trend in the United States. Might makes right. Except when the person exercising his or her might isn't a cop and, especially, when that person is black.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Welcome home




I might not have a job anymore, but there are plenty of things for me to do right now.

The first thing I did was get a library card and put some books on hold at the library. Then I went to see about opening a bank account. I handed over my passport this morning to get a provisional driver's license and have an appointment in three weeks to see about getting a national insurance number so employers will easily know that I'm eligible to work.

The day I got here, I went to my new doctor's office, and I have an appointment Tuesday with a midwife. I've already applied for six jobs (most of them are retail or hotel work but one is in the local office of a member of parliament) and hope something comes through soon. Momma needs a paycheck!

C* has been lovely and welcoming. The day I got here, there were flowers and balloons with streamers in every room. The day after I got here, the card above arrived for me in the mail. How thoughtful can he be?

I already feel more at home here than I ever did in the United States. Is it something about the environment? The attitude? The people? I'm hoping to figure it out and to make some interesting observations and post them here along the way.

maarmie on location in Scotland

I'm here. I'm happy. I'm applying for jobs and getting my life together. This move just might be the best thing I've ever done.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

$75 worth of bad publicity

My blood sugar level rose to unprecedented levels the other day, and I speed-walked to the library in record time to burn off some of the anger brought on by the crappy sales ethic of Josh Redmond, the guy who sold me on SOUTHERN GROUP INC. in south Florida - for all my shipping needs.

Here's what happened: When Josh initially quoted me the $860 fee for shipping my 11 measly boxes door to door from Tallahassee to Inverness, it was the lowest rate I had gotten thus far - even though the rate was based on a 100-square-feet minimum and I was shipping a mere 30 square feet of cargo.

I jumped on the deal making sure to pay careful attention to the "exclusion list" in big print in the body of the quote document. Said "exclusion list" includes documentation fees, palletizing fees, extra fees for having to haul the boxes more than a certain amount from your door to the nearest location the truck can be parked, etc. About 10 exclusions in all.

Having read horror stories on the Internet about moving companies that quote one fee then tack on a myriad of additional charges after they've got their grubby hands on all your shit, I took special care to go over this "exclusion list" item by item with Josh. I didn't want this happening to me.

Josh assured me that none of the items - except possibly port security charges - would apply to my shipment. I was satisfied and filled out the credit card authorization form and the inventory list and sent them back to Josh in an e-mail reiterating what he had said about the quote being the exact rate I was to pay - except possibly port security charges. Though Josh had offered to put this in writing on his end, and though I said OK, I never got said e-mail, and I never got a reply to mine asking him to confirm this agreement.

Red flag, anyone?

That day, I received two quotes lower than what SOUTHERN GROUP INC. was offering, but I didn't cancel with them because they seemed to know what they were doing. Little did I know that was going to be the last I was going to hear from Josh except for when he tried to fuck me with the final bill.

So, a couple of days after e-mailing back the required documents, I'm waiting for the bill of lading to come via fax to give to the driver who would be hauling my shit to Miami. The day before the driver was to come, I still hadn't gotten said bill of lading. After eight or so phone calls to SOUTHERN GROUP, INC., I finally got my bill of lading, a couple of hours after I was told it would be immediately sent. The word "immediately" doesn't mean jack shit to SOUTHERN GROUP, INC., as you will see shortly.

OK. The Federal Express freight guy is super nice. He takes the information off my bill of lading and puts my boxes on his truck. I learn all about his pregnant wife and his young daughter in the process. Hurdle one jumped. My stuff was on its way.

After that, I was waiting for information on the company overseas that would be receiving my stuff. Name? Phone number? Not too much to ask. I requested this information twice from SOUTHERN GROUP, INC. Twice, I was told by someone named Jay that this information would be e-mailed to me. It is now weeks later, and I have yet to receive this e-mail.

Of course I took it upon myself to call Omega Shipping in Miami, the company that actually owns the ships that will be carrying my cargo. The lovely woman who answered the phone there was prompt, kind and courteous, I might add. She confirmed they received my 11 boxes, that they were currently being loaded onto the ship and that Eurousa was the company handling my shipment in the UK. She even gave me their phone number. Now was that so hard?

So, all that was left was to wait for the final invoice to be e-mailed to me so I could authorize payment on my credit card, after which I would supposedly be receiving all the information about the ship (vessel number, docking day and time, etc.) The final invoice came on Friday, the only time since sending my credit card number that I have heard from Josh, and it was $170 more than what he had initially quoted.

Fury.

Instant fury.

This final invoice included two items from the "exclusion list" that I was told didn't apply to my shipment: a $95 documentation fee and a $75 palletizing fee. WHAT?!

I e-mailed Josh back immediately asking why these charges were added to my invoice considering he told me they wouldn't apply. I even forwarded him the e-mail I sent him on October 2, the one I sent trying to confirm everything we had discussed:

----------------------

Josh,

Good to hear that my shipment is on schedule. I had called Omega, and they verified that all 11 boxes were on board. Regarding the price, I was quoted $860.00 plus $120 for insurance and was told those would be the only charges. You told me that yourself on the phone. What are these documentation and pallet fees?

----------------------

AND:

---------------------

This was sent to you by me on October 2 to confirm what we talked about. You did not reply:

Josh,

Please confirm that the $860.00 USD quote includes all fees, charges for door-to-door service of my shipment except the port security charge you say could be added. Please also confirm that this rate includes $1,000 of insurance on my shipment. I have not added any additional insurance. Attached is the contact form and the CC authorization form. I will e-mail you a list of boxes/items/values first thing in the morning. Thank you so much for your help.

----------------------

I didn’t get a response that day. The next morning, I called SOUTHERN GROUP INC. to talk to the little weasel who chose to hide behind e-mail and seemed to be running when I dared to call him out. Josh was on another call, I was told, and, after waiting for about five minutes on hold, I talked at length to the guy who had answered the phone. I told him my problem, and he assured me that Josh would call me back.

"No he won't," I told him. "Josh never calls me back."

He swore, though, that he, personally, would see to it that Josh call me.

Three hours later, Josh still hadn't called. I called my husband to complain and to take him up on his offer to call the little scumbag.

C* called, and it was Josh who answered the phone. C* talked to him about my issues, and Josh denied ever telling me that items on the "exclusion list" wouldn't apply to my shipment. He said, however, that he would talk to his supervisor and take off the $95 documentation fee and would call me in the next few minutes. Those were his words. In a few minutes.

HA!

One hour later, I asked C* to call again. Josh answered again and said he would be calling me immediately. Tick tock.

Then, I get another fucking e-mail:

-----------------------

Dear Ms. Blakley,

I do apologize about the delay in getting back to you. Unfortunately I have been in and out of the office for the past week assisting on local shipment we have going out.

In regards to your concerns we do not include any documentation or pallet charges in our cost.

This was clearly mention in all of our exclusion and was not specified in the included items on your rate.

We have to pay these charges out to the steamship line therefore we have to bill the customer. There are many unforeseen issues with shipping overseas therefore we have to keep an exclusions list just like any other company.

The balance of $1150 will still stand at this time.

Please let us know if you have any further questions.

Thank you

---------------------------

By this time I was seeing red.

On the phone to C* again, reading the e-mail and asking him to talk to Josh's supervisor. While he was on the phone talking to a Mr. Levins and accusing Josh of saying what he had to say to get my business and then scamming me later, I got a wild hair up my ass to call the supervisor myself. He called me back when he was done talking to C*, and I let him have it. I told him the whole story, and all he could say was that Josh was one of his best employees and that the "exclusion list" is written in large print on the invoice. I told him I knew all about the damn list but that Josh had told me blah blah blah.

Long story somewhat shorter, he took the documentation fee off the cost, leaving me stuck with only $75 in extra charges. Since I knew my only other option was to pay the entire cost quoted (within three days or face additional "surcharges" - how convenient) I happily chose this option.

They better hope I don't stumble upon any message boards having to do with moving companies, though, because I have more than $75 worth of venom to spew about their shitty service.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The last supper

The family came up here this weekend to see me one last time before I fly off into the wild blue yonder. I was stressing about it Saturday to C*, worried that my dad would use this meeting as one last chance to get a few digs in before I leave.

The end of Saturday evening would have been easier for me had that been the case. But, yet again, the 'rents had to make things as hard as possible on me by being...nice.

They exclaimed over the wedding photo album and the photos of Scotland I brought along to share. They asked thoughtful questions about my near future. They all said how good I looked. It all left me wondering why things couldn't have been this way all along, why they waited until I was get ready to move to another country to finally treat me like a human being.

Following years of mental and physical inactivity following the death of my grandfather, my gradmother looks old, sad and frail. Her hair is grayer than ever, she seems shorter than ever and she looks sadder than ever. That's the last time I'll ever see her, I'm sure.

Though we were extremely close when I was a child, we have had a falling out in recent years, and I don't really have any feelings about this meeting being our last or about the reality that my daughter will never meet her great-grandmother.

My brother and sister-in-law were great. For once, my brother was the butt of all the jokes, and he took it quite well. After losing more than 200 pounds, he is obsessed with healthy weight maintenance, exercise, nutrition and body fat percentages. As my brother is wont to do, he talked on and on about the topic, and we took this as an opportunity to roll our eyes, point out his phychological weaknesses and laugh our stupid laughs. I joined in with glee, finally knowing how it felt to be on the other side of the punch lines. I'm not saying I'm proud of how I acted, but it was interesting all the same.

But bro knows we think he's the biggest genius we'll ever meet in our lifetimes, so at least he's got that to cling to even as we insinuate, with smiles on our faces, that he'll one day end up in a padded cell somewhere bound by a straightjacket.

Love you, bro!

I was hoping dad and stepmom would break open their wallets for more than dinner, but it wasn't destined to be. No cash for only daughter and soon-to-be granddaughter. maarmie sad.

When brother and sister-in-law dropped me back at my place this morning after brunch, I couldn't help but cry. My brother is the only person in my family who has meant anything significant to me for such a long time, and it will be ages before I see him again. At least I leave seeing that he has become such a different and better person on so many levels and that he has (albeit obsessively) decided to take his good health into his own hands.

Food won't be killing him anytime soon, and that makes it so much easier for me to float away.

Friday, October 05, 2007

It's definitely a girl!



This photo of the baby is an update at 17 weeks. Hasn't she grown a lot? I am now at 21 weeks and counting, and I leave for Scotland on October 29.

My car is fixed. My visa is in hand. My furniture is sold. My resignation is tendered. My boxes are packed and ship out today. My diabetes is under control with diet and exercise. My credit cards are quickly getting paid. My remaining doctor appointments are made. My medication is filled. My suitcase is packed. I have checked out of my job even though my body is still, technically, here.

Even though the temperature is in the 30s during the day in Scotland right now, I cannot, cannot wait to leave.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Life sucks

To top off all my pains, I just found out this morning that I'm diabetic. I'm going to be paying a visit to a diabetes clinic here where, my OB says, they will likely put me on insulin shots. My glucose levels were high in a one-hour test AND a three-hour test, and I will likely have diabetes even after I give birth.

Something to look forward to...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Replivaland

Just what I needed. Yet ANOTHER horse pill to take each and every godforsaken morning. And I get to pay $40 a month for the honors! Lucky me...

Leaving on a jet plane

I got my visa.

Goodbye Tallahassee. Goodbye Florida. Goodbye USA. On October 29, I fly.

But first:

There are doctor appointments after doctor appointments.

I found out today not only am I anemic but my blood sugar is also high. So I have to take these prescription pills for the anemia and take some kind of THREE-HOUR test for the blood sugar. I already sat at the stupid blood people's office for almost two hours last week to take this first test! ARGH!

AND I HATE NEEDLES! DOUBLE ARGH!!!!!!!

AND: I have to get my car fixed.

A car accident last week resulted in $2,000 worth of damage to the front end of my car. I was going straight on a two-lane road, and the guy bolted out in front of me from a stop sign on my left. Smash!

So the guy, it turns out, is 32 years old, lives with his mom, is driving his mom's van on his mom's insurance and, you guessed it, doesn't have a job. The cop named him as the violator and said he could either issue a citation right then and go straight through insurance or we could self report giving him a chance to talk to mom and see about paying out of pocket instead of going through insurance.

I let him pick choice number two, to be nice.

Harumph!

Day of accident: I left work early to meet my insurance agent at a body shop and get damage estimates number one and two. Then, I went to see my OB to get an ultrasound and make sure the little one is OK. That's when I learned the baby is most likely a GIRL! Yippee! Everything checked out OK.

Day two: I left work early AGAIN to get damage estimate number three at a body shop of the guy's choosing.

Day three: I left work early YET AGAIN to meet the guy at a McDonald's to give him paper copies of the three estimates. I showed up on time and was sitting inside with said estimates in a folder. The guy showed up 20 minutes late, circled the restaurant twice...and left.

Day four: I arrived at work early to call the guy's insurance company and make a claim.

Day four afternoon: The guy called to see if we could meet later that day for me to give him the estimates. I told him no. He asked if we could meet the next day. I told him that I called his insurance company. He told me he showed up at the restaurant. I said, "I know you did. I watched you circle the building twice and leave."

Jesus. This is why I hate people so very much sometimes.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Our baby

On Monday, I will be 16 weeks pregnant. The night sweats stopped weeks ago, and the all-day nausea is a thing of the past. I still throw up first thing in the morning, but I'll take that any day over constant fatigue and waking up hot and drenched all night. Oh, wait. I wake up all night, now, anyway...to pee.

Here's a photo of our baby taken at 11 weeks. In 4 more weeks, I'll be having another scan and will likely post a photo update.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Test results are in

I anxiously returned the nurse's call Wednesday. She had the results from the blood test that would show if I have a genetic link to Downs. Negative. Bonus!

That result - combined with the result of an ultrasound that showed a normal amount of space at the back of the baby's neck/head - makes the chances that the baby will have Downs the same as any other woman, regardless of age, 1 in 10,000 said the nurse.

At 20 weeks, there will be a second ultrasound. At that time, the specialist will check all the baby's organs and brain and look for signs of spina bifida.

I continue to be nauseous and have been letting my friends in on the secret that pregnancy sucks. I am convinced that any woman who says she in any way enjoys pregnancy is a big, fat fucking liar who is saying what she thinks she needs to say to be a good pre-mom. But it's all bullshit. Pregnancy is a big ball of shit - especially when your husband is 5,000 miles away.

C* is compiling all the documents he needs to submit for the visa. Once I get them, I will apply. I'll probably know by the end of August if I'm going to be allowed to move to the UK or not. We haven't really talked about what we would do if I'm denied a visa. Yet another thing I don't even want to think about.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

You can start a new life, but you can't erase the old

I just awoke from what feels like a long dream where I'm working at Wendy's again. I'm there, toasting buns and cooking bacon before the doors are opened. The other two people who helped me with the opening have taken a break and are eating in the dining room. I haven't taken a break, because there's too much to be done. I'm standing next to a new employee. He's this 16-year-old who's working the grill. I'm asking him why the bacon pans he's made are filled with grease. I tell him the bacon is supposed to be drained. He apologizes. He calls me ma'am. He's kissing my ass.

I am panning some bacon that's piled up on the grill. The buns I'm putting in the toasting machine are getting stuck and burned. At a lull, I go out to the dining room and let the other two women know that I haven't had a break. They say that's not right and tell me to go on break. The dream shifts.

Now I'm sitting on the curb in the parking lot of a local mall. An old Tallahassee friend who drifted into the Land of Lost Friends is there. She's smoking, something she never did in my waking life. We're talking, but I don't remember what we're saying. Small talk, most likely. Then, one of her friends comes up, and they start talking. The dream shifts.

I'm at the home of Schmutzie and The Palinode. It's weird, because they look nothing like I ever thought they would look (and I know roughly what they look like). She has dark hair straight to her shoulders and choppy bangs. He has a full head of light brown hair. They are hipsters, to be sure. And they have two kids. I am amazed at this, because, in all the time I've read their blogs, they've never mentioned kids. And in two weeks of staying at their house, I've never seen said kids. Finally, I spot a couple of family photos. The girl child looks just like a younger version of mom. The boy child, a younger version of dad. It's all very strange.

I wake up, and here's C* next to me. He's still sound asleep, and he should be. At 2 a.m., I woke up with him wandering around the apartment. He couldn't sleep.

C* goes home today, and I will be left here alone and pregnant and wondering when the fuck I'll ever see him again. I'm hoping to apply for my visa in two weeks (to start at the end of October), and I'm terrified that I'll be rejected. Then what? I don't want to have a baby on my own, and I'm horrified at the prospect of not seeing my new husband for a much longer period of time than I'm already planning.

But I suppose there's no use worrying. I just have to wait and see.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Wedding

Day 5 of married life. I can't say things feel much different than they did before. It's still all kind of surreal.

Here's where we got married:



It's the home of my friend, Michael, and it makes a wonderful setting for any party, especially one following a wedding. Outside, there are two acres of fruit trees. Inside, it's like a museum filled with Asian sculptures and furniture. All of my friends, co-workers and bosses were mightily impressed. My sister-in-law thought the house belonged in a magazine.

This was my bouquet:




It was pretty much wilted and destroyed not even two hours after the ceremony. I left it at Michael's house. It's in the garbage or maybe even the dump by now. I guess I'm supposed to save the bouquet, but I'm getting rid of just about everything I own for the move, and I don't need a bunch of dead flowers weighing me down. Does that make me unsentimental? A cur?



The above is a photo of the bride and the groom. I like this photo because half of my face and most of my body are concealed. I don't think I looked very good that day, and I always think I look fat now.

We had a potluck reception. It turned out great, too, because we ended up with a huge table full of delicious food without having to pay a huge catering bill or slave over an oven for days and days. The night before, C* and I cut up some veggies for a veggie tray. The day of, I whipped up an artichoke dip and something called cowboy caviar (a dip with black eyed peas, a variety of veggies, etc), put out some bread and chips and trays of olives, pickles and banana peppers and we were set. No one drank the cheap beer we bought, so we returned it to the store the next day and got our money back.



The following is a sweet photo of C* and I after the ceremony. We stood in front of everyone for what felt like forever so everyone could snap photos. It was quite embarrassing. I didn't quite know what to do with myself.


And here's a photo of the whole clan. My brother and sis-in-law are on the left, then my dad, then C*, then me, my stepmom and C*'s brother:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

First ultrasound

My first ultrasound was scheduled for Monday. Before the doctor's visit, I stood puking over my bathroom sink. I'm nauseous every day, but I hadn't vomited in days and I chalked this up to nerves. I'm already huge, and I was fearing twins or more. Plus, I hadn't yet seen what was actually inside there, and I was afraid it was some huge misshapen monster-like creature, already fully grown and sporting head-to-toe fur.

I was wrong.

There's a little baby in there. About 4 centimeters long, the ultrasound lady said. I saw them clearly: the head, the body, the two arms waving and the two legs kicking as if he or she were doing the backstroke. It was all at once amazing and terrifying. It's our baby. And we heard the heartbeat. Nice and strong. About 175 beats per minute. That's all we know about the health of it for now.

I have an appointment with a genetic specialist next Monday who will begin a round of bloodlettings to see if there's a high(er) risk for certain genetic diseases. This is another part of it all that terrifies me. I don't want to obsess, and for the most part I don't. But sometimes I have these strange doubts, these strange, horrible feelings that I could never produce anything healthy.

But I know I shouldn't think that way. It's just the negative part of my brain gaining the upper hand.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Yawn!

I'm tired, and I've just woken up from a nap. C* and I had breakfast with my brother and sister-in-law and are now getting ready to take his brother bowling. So I'll just give a tiny update from yesterday. I'm a married woman now, and here is a copy of The Big Words that were spoken at 7 p.m. yesterday as thunder and lightning and a dark sky threatened to cut our brief ceremony even shorter.

Glenna:

When two people are at one
in their innermost hearts
they shatter even the strength of iron or bronze
And when two people understand each other
in their innermost hearts
their words are sweet and strong
like the fragrance of orchids.

(pause)

C* and maarmie, you may now exchange vows.

C*:

I promise to give you, maarmie, the best of myself
and to ask of you no more than you can give.

I promise to respect you as your own person
and to realize that your interests, desires, and needs
are no less important than my own.

I promise to keep myself open to you,
to share with you my thoughts, my feelings, and my dreams.

And I promise to grow along with you,
to face, together, life's changes and to love you through good and bad.

I will laugh with you in times of joy and comfort you in times of sorrow
I will share in your triumphs and support you as you strive to achieve
I will listen to you with compassion and understanding
and speak to you with encouragement
To you, maarmie, I will forever remain faithful.

(C* puts ring on maarmie's finger.)

With this ring, I thee wed.

maarmie:

I promise to give you, C*, the best of myself
and to ask of you no more than you can give.

I promise to respect you as your own person
and to realize that your interests, desires, and needs
are no less important than my own.

I promise to keep myself open to you,
to share with you my thoughts, my feelings, and my dreams.

And I promise to grow along with you,
to face, together, life's changes and to love you through good and bad.

I will laugh with you in times of joy and comfort you in times of sorrow
I will share in your triumphs and support you as you strive to achieve
I will listen to you with compassion and understanding
and speak to you with encouragement
To you, C*, I will forever remain faithful.

(maarmie puts ring on C*'s finger.)

With this ring, I thee wed.

Glenna:

I, by virtue of authority vested under the laws of the State of Florida, now pronounce you husband and wife.

Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you.
May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years.
May happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth.

You may kiss.

I now present Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Wedding march

In about 21 hours, I will be a married woman.

The rings are bought, the vows are written, the veggies are chopped, the dress is pressed and the flowers and candles are picked out. All that's left is to make a couple of dips, pick up the cake and assemble some food trays. What a relief tomorrow night will be when the vows have been read, the people have all eaten and the hoopla will be over. I'm looking forward to just settling in at my apartment with C* and watching a movie or something.

It's like we've been a married couple for years already. And that's not a bad thing at all, I must say.

Monday, July 16, 2007

10 weeks and counting

I had my first prenatal appointment at my OB/GYN's office this morning, then I gave blood to see if I carry the cystic fibrosis gene.

Because I am so old and decrepit, I am also being referred to a genetic specialist who will scare me into doing all kinds of tests to see if my baby is at risk of spina bifida, Down Syndrome and other horrible genetic diseases that would make me run out and have an abortion if I thought there was a serious chance my baby would have them.

And because I am so hugely fat (I weight 201!), I will be tested for my susceptibility to gestational disbetes. Lucky for me, my blood sugar has always been on the low side.

Sigh!

I have my first exam and ultrasound a week from today. I'm excited, but nervous. I've been told that, considering my size at 10 weeks, twins are a possibility. I told C* about this and he was ecstatic. Get it all over with at once, he said. "What makes you think I want more than one child?" I asked him. Argh!

At this moment, C* is in a plane hurtling over over the Atlantic Ocean. I can't wait to see him.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Interesting observation

It's interesting how a wedding can bring out the worst in people you thought were your friends, how some kind of fucked up issue in their own heads can stop them from being happy for you for even a minute.

But like one of my coworkers says, most people don't give a damn about anyone. Just be glad for the people in your life who do.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Numb-ers

11 - I will be married in 11 days.
8 - I am eight weeks pregnant.
2 - This is the second day I have gone without a cigarette.
24 - The number of hours I have had a headache.
6 - C* will be here in six days.
14 - C* will be here for two weeks.
40 - The approximate number of guests attending the wedding.
2 - The number of out-of-town friends who are making the journey.
5 - The number of family members who are coming.
1 - The number of family members I actually WANT to be there.

Only 11 days to go, and we still need to write our vows, finalize what we're going to wear, get the marriage license, buy some rings, finalize decorations (we still need flowers) and find out what everyone is planning on bringing for the potluck reception. We need to remember to pick up the cake, get some ice and make and bring some food. In the meantime, we need to entertain C*'s brother (coming in the day after C*) and make time for the beach. And not just any beach. Destin.

I won't let C* and his brother leave without a day-long trip to Destin, only the most beautiful beach in Florida. The water is clear as clear can be, and swimmers regularly spot dolphins and stingrays gliding through the surf. The sand is white and fine. And it's the perfect time to go, especially considering I own a big beach umbrella that will shade me from the misery that is a Florida summer.

Monday, July 02, 2007

This is the best I can do?

Mingle squared gave my blog an R rating.

Online Dating

Mingle2



I think I can do much better than that.

My pregnancy so far

Changes in my body abound in this 8th or 9th week of pregnancy, and most of it has been negative.

The pains in both sides of my abdomen have largely ceased (the doctor calls them "growing pains"), but my breasts are sore, my nipples are constantly hard, I often suffer night sweats and have trouble sleeping, I'm ALWAYS tired, I throw up about twice a day, I'm sometimes cranky and I'm incessently worried that I'm not eating healthy enough, that the cigarettes I've had have done irreparable harm, that I won't be a good enough mother, ad infinitum.

The up side is that the mood swings I have so far suffered haven't seemed to be any worse than my normal ups and downs. I stopped taking my anti-depressants, though, and, now that I've stopped smoking, it'll be interesting to see how my mood shifts from day to day, hour to hour and minute to minute. Already, C* has valiently withstood crying jags that have come from nowehere. I must say, he has handled me well so far. I hope the trend continues, and it's nice to know that I have an understanding partner to lean on when the hormones surge.

Baby names. We've had talks about them the last couple of days. Here's what we've come up with so far.

Girl names

Arley
Avery
Caitlan - means "pure"
Fallyn - means "in charge"
Hannah - means "grace"
Hunter - we've been thinking "Hunter Fallyn" for the first and middle names
Niamh (pronounced Nieve) - means "bright"
Nieve - means "snowy"

Boy names

Aeary - means "scholar"
Archer
Calder
Fallon - means "of a ruling family"
Flannery - means "descendant of the red warrior"
Fuller - means "cloth bleacher"
Harlow - means "from the mound of the people"
Nevan - means "holy"

I'm of a mind to find out if it's a boy or a girl well before it even thinks about being born. I want a girl, but, like I told the lady who had me fill out my paperwork at the eye doctor the other day, I won't put it up for adoption if it's a boy.

C* told The Boy about my pregnancy today. When he called me this morning, he said, "The Boy has something he wants to ask you."

"Okay," I replied suspiciously.

The Boy got on the phone. "Dad says you have a baby inside you. Do you?"

"Yes, I do," I replied.

The responding *gulp* was almost audible on the phone after which The Boy offered a hurried "OK" before practically throwing the phone back at his father.

"What did she say," I heard C* ask him in the background.

"She said, 'Yes, I do.' "

"He didn't believe me when I told him," C* revealed.

The Boy immediately asked if he could play video games on the computer. Were they his escape, or was he just not bothered? I'd be inclined to say he wasn't bothered, but you never know what's going through the mind of a young boy just after he finds out he's going to be a big brother.

C* will be here two weeks from tomorrow. The wedding is in just under three. I went dress hunting yesterday and was appalled at my dress size and the lack of anything tasteful-yet-fun-yet-not-too-revealing to wear for the wedding. The style of dress that I think would be most flattering is the babydoll style with wide sleeves, a high waistline and a full skirt that comes to the knee or just above. Kind of a modern hippie-style thing would suit me well. I found three of those at the mall yesterday that would have been good except for certain things wrong with each one.

One came in peacock colors that fit well in the tummy, arms and chest but needed to be about five inches longer. The thing barely came below my butt! Not good for a wedding.

Another one was dark in color with a nice pattern and length but fit poorly in the tummy and chest.

The third was just my style but not my size. They could order something closer to it from another store, but I'd have to pay for it up front and return it if it doesn't fit. Sounds like a hassle, but might be my only choice. I'm going to have a look around every day this week during lunch. I'm pretty flexible on what I'll wear. Could be a skirt and shirt, could be a dress. It just has to not make me look as fat as I am, and it has to be tasteful. Is that too much to ask?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

We need cash, alright? Get over it!

I'm finding that even a low-key wedding involves a dizzying amount of preparation. There are so many things to consider for even the simplest of affairs. Location, notary, dress, shoes, hair, rings, cake, flowers, food/drink, music, invitations.

Having never done this before (and never planning on doing this again), I think I'm doing pretty well. In the span of two days, I've secured a location for the wedding AND the reception (thank you Michael!), found a notary, ordered the cake, sent out half the invitations, researched rings at jewelry stores in Tallahassee and decided that, with the help of several gracious friends, the food will be prepared by C* and I.

The cake will feed 80, but I have no idea who is actually going to show up besides my dad and step-mom, my brother and sister-in-law, a couple of friends who live in Maryland and Tennessee, several coworkers and a handful of Tallahassee friends. C*'s mom and brothers might make the trip from England, but that's just a maybe. I'm hoping that, within a week, we will have a final tally.

The invitation situation would have been easier had we had the time to order personalized invitations like everyone else on the planet does. But with such short notice and such a skimpy budget, I was forced to buy some that I'm having to fill out by hand and assemble myself. That's taking a lot of time.

And another thing: I'm having a shitty time handling the whole wedding gift situation we are finding ourselves in. It boils down to the fact that I am honest and that this particular honesty can't be put in nicer terms: We need cash.

Don't give us blenders or dishes or flatware or bread machines or picture frames or anything else I'll have to sell or return while I'm busy getting rid of everything else I own for my upcoming move to Scotland. Cash, my friends, will more than do.

Against the warning (mandate) of my father, I have conveyed this information in the invitations. After consulting with several friends, I ended up writing this at the bottom of every one of them: "No gifts, please. Any monetary contributions will be greatly appreciated."

It's not like I'm telling people they HAVE to send something. I'm telling them that if they do, this is what we want. Cash is crass, I know. But there's no way around the truth. Not only do we not want anything from a department store, but a deluge of useless household items would hurt us. Tacky, right? I know, I know. But at least I'm honest.

I told my father about the wedding a little over 24 hours ago. I can't say I was thrilled with his what-do-you-want-now-how-are-you-going-to-inconvenience-me-this-time-why-can't-you-just-leave-me-alone-once-and-for-all attitude concerning the whole thing. He definitely didn't act like a father whose only daughter is finally getting married and starting a family. After asking if I was going to register at the Salvation Army Thrift Store (he's so fucking funny) and NOT asking if there's anything he do to financially lend a hand, he told me they'd just come up that day for the ceremony and leave the following morning. Don't you just feel the warmth?

I was recounting this story to one of my close coworkers who also had a shitty father. She said it's sad that some parents have every opportunity to have close, loving relationships with their children but seem to do everything they can to quash any hope of that and create ill feelings. That just about sums up my relationship with you-know-who. But I need to get off this topic, because it's only going to bring me down again. And anyone who brings me down needs to fuck off.

C* will be here on July 16, and I can't wait. My days and nights and my bed are so lonely without him, and I am so very keen to show everyone just how I feel about him by making him my husband on July 21.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The skinny on my impending fatness

I know I haven't written much more than a few complete sentences ever since I've found out that I'm pregnant. The truth is, it's been such a shock - not in a bad way - and there's so much that needs to be done that I haven't been focusing on much more than reading up on nutrition and exercise (I am tracking my daily nutrition at babyfit.com) and the steps C* and I need to take to get my ass back over to the UK on a fiancee visa so we can get married and get on with our lives and our family.

On Father's Day, I told my dad that I was pregnant. Having never met or even heard of C* before (except the few facts he likely heard from my step-mom), I expected him to be full of questions about the father-to-be.

Nah.

His questions were of the more masculine (read practical) variety. How long does it take to get a visa? Was this planned? When are you going to tell your boss? Etc.

But he seemed happy for me and said I sounded really happy. When I told him, he was speechless. When he regained his voice, he said to my step-mom, "Honey, she's pregnant." My stepmonster never got on the phone or asked any questions or said congratulations or anything. I'm sure she was far too busy welling up with negativity and bitterness because she allowed her own uterus and eggs to dry up like so many dead flowers while actively wanting to have a child of her own. Seriously, show her a kid, and nothing else matters. She can't get enough. Chances are, she won't be getting enough of mine, either. I'm not too keen on my child ever even meeting her.

My boss got a full briefing this morning, and many of my coworkers were told the big news yesterday. Everyone seems overjoyed for me. Naturally, they are full of questions that I don't have the energy or knowledge to answer now. All I think about is debt and vitamins and bills and and sleep and money and first doctor appointment and baby and baby and baby. And I'm wanting to get rid of as much debt as possible before I no longer have an income, am officially C's dependent and am unable to work for god knows how long.

The longer I stay here, the more debts I can pay. But the longer I stay here, the closer it gets to the delivery date and the more I'll be showing when C* and I get married.

Expected due date

My new book says that an expected due date can be calculated as follows: Take the first day of your last period, subtract three months and add seven days.

May 7 minus three months is February 7. Add seven days, and you've got February 14, Valentine's Day. That would make the child the ever socially-conscious Aquarius. Just a few days later, and he or she would be a Pisces.

Either way, belated or not, I'm thinking this baby will be the best Valentine's Day gift I could ever give or receive.

Friday, June 08, 2007

H

He wanted me to try just a little so he cut some up and heated it over a flame. I sat there staring. I was afraid. I'd always heard just how bad this can be. How just one little taste can put you over the edge. But everyone does it here in Scotland. If I wanted to live here, he said, I'd have to give H a try. I did.

Chris bought a small haggis from the butcher shop a couple of days ago so I could get this thing over with. Ever since I've been here, I've been wanting to try it. How bad could it be?

Instead of boiling the haggis inside the bag it comes in, he cut the bag open and chopped up the meat in a pan for frying.



It looks like canned dog food and smells and tastes like liver and canned dog food. I guess that's good considering what's likely in there.



I took a baby carrot-sized chunk of haggis from the pan and put it on my plate. Not even one minute later, I knew haggis wasn't for me. At least I can say I've tried it. My issues with liver go way back.

I've tried marmite, too, while I've been here. I like it better than haggis, but it's too salty!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Recipe for (delicious) disaster

1 Mars candy bar + batter + deep frier = a deep-fried Mars bar mushifried mess + a stomachache

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Random crap/therapy session

Including today, I have only nine full days before I head back to Tallahassee. That place seems a million miles away, like it's not my life, like I don't belong there. I don't, and I never have. This place has always been home. I just didn't know it until now.

On Thursday, C* and I have an appointment with an advisor at the Citizen's Advice Bureau to talk about the steps I can/need to take to come here permanently. It's not going to be as easy as I once thought.

I looked at the web site of the immigration office for the United Kingdom the other night. I can apply to come here as a fiancee, but the application has to be accompanied by all kinds of documentation including C*'s passport, a copy of his lease, a statement of our intentions to marry, financial statements, proof of employability, etc., etc., etc. The fee is $1,050, and the money is nonrefundable even if my visa is denied. If it's accepted, I can live here for a maximum of six months before we have to be married, and I can't work until we tie the knot.

C* putting new front brakes on his car at his mum's house:



I've been applying for jobs this past week, and I think my chances of finding a job here are pretty good. I have a college degree and loads of professional work experience, and smart people tend to leave the Highlands for better jobs in bigger cities. I really like it here, though, which is good considering we'd be here for 5 years minimum. This place is really decent for a small city. It has a nice downtown with a city feel yet there are great country walks and drives not far away.

Boats on the Seine - photo taken by C*:



a-z of the 90s is on the TV right now, music videos of popular and not-so-popular songs from that decade. I'm starting to get sad knowing that I'm going to be leaving here and that I won't be with C* again for months and months. Worried that my visa will be denied. Worried that what I want rests in the hands of some fucking stranger in New York City. Perhaps I'm being too negative. Why should my application be denied?

Bridge in the woods, Cawdor Castle:



I talked to my brother the other day. He told me that my dad was rushed to the hospital the other day with weird heart problems. It turned out that one of his chambers was beating ultra fast, out of time with the others. The doctor said that in 95 percent of these types of cases, there is something else wrong with the heart, some kind of more serious problem. But, in his case, the doctor said, he should be fine. He didn't find any other problems.

My dad was put on medication and will be reevaluated in six months. Instead of being happy at hearing that my dad will be OK, I was disappointed. What a weird feeling. To be disappointed that my father isn't on his last legs. I'm not just being adolescently morbid here. I was actually disappointed. I still am. I think I need to go back into therapy.

The beach at Loch Ness:



Did ZZ Top really have a song, much less a video, in the 90s? Viva Las Vegas. God help us all.

A trunk in the woods, Cawdor Castle:



My dad and I haven't talked since last September. That's when he called to find out how I did on the LSAT and found it highly amusing that I spent $500 and studied my butt off only to do so poorly on the test. He. Was. Laughing. That's when I informed him that I didn't exist for his amusement and that I was really, really tired of him treating me like he does. That's the day he hung up on me (again) after informing me that he wasn't ever going to talk to me again (again). Since then, there's been a Thanksgiving, his birthday, a Christmas, a New Year's, my step-mom's birthday, my birthday, Mother's Day. Not a single phone call in either direction, though they still sent the yearly Christmas card and $200 check - the same thing I've gotten each year since I turned 18. We could have no communication for the entire year, and I'd still get the card, a corporate-type boxed card they send to everyone, and the check. There's no thought put into it on their end, and it has never meant anything to me.

Highland cow:



My step-mother had a birthday in March. My brother lives a 10-minute drive from our parents and had a birthday card to give to her. He called to find out when a good time would be to come over that day, and our father informed him that he should mail the card instead because they were hosting a birthday party for her at their house with all their friends. Mail the card. Because there was going to be a birthday party. For his mom. At his parents' house. He wasn't invited. Am I the only who thinks this is weird?

Paris - photo taken by C*:



Every time they shun him, which is often, his feelings are hurt. That makes me very, very mad. It also makes me mad that they are willing to fly to Virginia to stay with my dad's other son, the one he didn't raise, and his wife and their daughter. They do it several times a year and have photos of their grandchild all over the house. But my dad can be in Tallahassee and not even take 10 minutes out of his schedule to see me. It has happened. Oh, yes. It has.

An alley in Paris - photo taken by C*:



I can't stand him. Or her. I wish they'd fall in the water on one of the two cruises they take each year and never be heard from again.

Cawdor Castle:



Hm. I think I definitely need more counselling.

Oscar Wilde's grave, Paris - photo taken by C*:



In other news: my ex-boyfriend and now ex-friend
got married last month. Good for them. Seriously, I'm actually happy for them. Everyone has their match, and I'm glad they found each other. I didn't send a gift, but, then again, they didn't tell me about the wedding. I heard it from the father of ex-friend's kids. He gave them a dinner cruise as a gift.

Paris view - photo taken by C*:



Time to get moving for the day. Thank you for listening. : )

My love:

Monday, June 04, 2007

I loves me some tennis

There are some nice courts just a five-minute walk from C*'s front door. When the weather cooperates, which is hardly ever, we get on the courts for some exercise.

Here's C*, dejected after a good thrashing. : )

Camping on the Isle of torrential rain and gale force winds



C* and I and The Boy and his best mate and Woody attempted to go camping Saturday night on the Isle of Skye, a monstrous and magically beautiful island that sits off the northwest coast of Scotland where Gaelic is still spoken and sheep get a lot more than sheared by their shepherds.

What a fucking nightmare.

The previous Thursday and Friday had been sunny and warm, perfect for sitting on the back porch of C*'s friend Thursday night after a great Scottish meal that included this delectible little cheese made in these parts and a stew of fish and prawn and a dessert made from raspberries and homemade whipped cream dotted with oatmeal flakes. A bottle of homemade wine here, some undistilled whiskey there and a few thousand cigarettes over there, and we were having a mighty fine time. That's when the thought hit us. Great weather! An impending weekend! The Boy! His friend! An offer of a loan on some camping gear! The Isle of Skye!

The drive out there was fabulous. Clear skies, warm. Not a drop of sky water in sight. Once over the bridge, we stopped at the "beach" on the Skye side and let the boys out with their nets to see what they could find while we made lunch and fed and watered Woody. It was warm. Clear. Gorgeous. That's how I remember it, anyway.



But after looking at the few photos I snapped, anyone could have seen the downpour coming from a mile away. Perhaps I'm an optimist after all?

On Skye, there were huge mountains, old castles and quaint towns between us and the area we had picked for camping on the western side of the island. By the time we got there, however, it was pouring down rain. The sky opened up. The clouds were angry. There wasn't a sun in sight. Onward, we trudged. To a campside back toward the east. Still raining. Onward. To a campsite even further east, back toward the bridge. Rain. We decided to give it a go.

In the downpour, C* and I got the big tent out and attempted to erect it. Once it was halfway up, though, it acted as a net to catch the horrible wind. It took all my strength to keep it from flying away while C* worked on getting it pegged down. No luck. In our haste, we had done something wrong, and the tent, on one side, wasn't sitting properly on the ground. Soaking wet and cold, I gave up.

"Let's go home."

That turned out to be the best suggestion anyone had made all day. After all, the weather was crappy, the kids were acting like major brats (I'm hungry, etc., etc., nonstop) and I wanted to get rid of The Boy's friend because he's a fucking asshole who I'm sure will grow up to be a thuggish construction worker/thief/vandal who drinks way, way too much. I'm quite sure I shouldn't be an elementary school teacher after this weekend.

On the way back off the island, we stopped so I could nab a photo of this castle:



The rain continued for two days. The end.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Making a move?

Sent out a few job applications today...in Inverness. I'm 95 percent sure this is where I'm going to make a new life.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Boy, The Family and England, oh my!

The first time I met The Boy, I was sitting in C*'s lounge. The Boy and his mother arrived to drop him off for the weekend. He had seen me on the webcam and talked to me on the phone before, but that was through the safety of the 5,000 miles that separated us. Now I was in his father's living room, and he stood bashfully in the hallway just out of view.

"Go on in. Don't be shy," his father prodded.

Then, he was there, standing in front of me. The Boy who factored heavily into whether or not the relationship between C* and I could continue. We had already discussed it. If The Boy didn't like or accept me, C* and I would be through.

"Hi," he said.

Hi, indeed.

The Boy this past weekend in England with a bowl of ice cream and jelly at Granny Jill's house:



He's cute as a button, and he seems to be a genuinely nice and normal boy. I'm in a precarious position, though, as I continue to be my own worst enemy by automatically forecasting the situation through his eyes in the most negative way possible. Some examples of thoughts that I fear have run or are or will be running through his head at any possible moment:

"That's the bitch who's taking my daddy away from me."

"I want my daddy all to myself again."

"I wish she'd go away."

"I'll make it so that she goes away."

I'm not speaking entirely without experience. My dad had four wives by the time I was 7 years old. The last one stuck, but I couldn't stand her, and I couldn't stand the way the relationship between my father and I changed after she got her meaty hooks into him. I'm not saying that I would ever want the relationship between C* and The Boy to change on account of me, but you never know what The Boy is thinking.

That being said, I never wanted a son. I mean, what do I know about helping to raise a boy? A daughter would have been much more my speed.

Boys pick their boogers and eat them. They play too rough. They are always dirty and stinky. Their hands are always greasy, and they smear that grease on everything. And they talk with their mouths full. Oops. I do that, too.

As far as boys go, though, The Boy seems to be a good one. He can be sweet. He loves to read and draw. We like the same movies. He loves the Simpsons. He travels relatively well. He is mightily inquisitive. He likes to play tennis. And board games. That boy loves his board games.

So, if I were to become a part-time stepmum to The Boy, I think I could handle it. It would definitely always be a balancing act, keeping in mind that I will never be his mother. Where are the boundaries? What is acceptable behavior on both our parts? When will it be appropriate to lay down some rules of my own, especially if C* and I get our own apartment and the space stops being strictly "daddy's space"?

Already, my presence has caused at least one change. This being a one-bedroom apartment, The Boy had gotten used to sleeping in bed with daddy. When I came on the scene, The Boy was told to hit the couch. I told C* that I'd be willing to sleep on the couch on the weekends to avoid any kind of hard feelings. But C* is firm about The Boy sleeping on the couch. Now the wee one wants to know if I moved here would he have to sleep on the couch every weekend? No, we'd move into a bigger place so The Boy would have his own room. But he's a daddy's boy, and I think he liked his place snuggled next to daddy at night.

Things change. But how much change can go on before The Boy starts feeling resentment at what caused the change? Am I overthinking things?

In other news: C*, The Boy and I did the drive to Malvern in the Shire of Worcester (pronounced Wooster) for a visit with Mum, brothers and their family. Already, I'm a huge fan of Mum



and, even after just a long weekend, I like C*'s family and seem to get along with them far better than my own.