Tag: moving

Home in Georgia!

On the road to our new life!

We’ve finally made it to Georgia by way of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ireland, and Indiana! We went through Kentucky and Tennessee (Hello, Nashville!) to the Georgia state line… but we’d have several hours’ more driving left… including driving through Atlanta just after rush hour.

Signs I thought were worthy of a blog mention:

I don’t think they meant for those two signs to go together, but… interesting, huh? Trust Him from the mountaintop?

As you see, we’re coming into Atlanta now… I hope it’s not too crazy. Last time we were here it was a hideous din, like a million bees buzzing. The cars were swinging across several lanes of traffic from both sides, all at the same time… reminded me of motorcycles in a cage at a circus. This time, it was nothing like that. It was fairly easy. We stayed in the fabulous carpool “diamond” lane and sailed through!

Atlanta!

More Atlanta…

Here’s another billboard for you…

I thought that was a cool vintage looking sign

This amused me to see Trump on a tower

Ah, we’re almost in Macon, whew! We have hotel reservations there. We’re sick of being on the road. Everyone’s ready to get out of the van.

Our hotel is behind the Outback Steakhouse. Glad to be calling it a night.

Yea, it’s the morning of our move to the new house! We’ve left Macon for the Savannah area… Port Wentworth. I took this picture for Marie. Look, Marie, I’ve gone back to Ireland!

LOL, figured you’d get a kick out of seeing this. Well, no, I’m not back in Ireland, but I’m back at the coast, near an island and dolphins! Oh, and one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the world, huge love for the Irish in Savannah.

What would Georgia be without peaches?

Ooh, look, we’re getting close!

Not long now!

I’m getting nervous butterflies!

HOME!

 

 

Beautiful flowers by driveway, walkway

 

Look, sand! Sand in the backyard! (Hey do you like my cute sandals? Seriously cheap from Kmart!)

AND… wow, totally didn’t know about this! There’s a lagoon at the end of the property, just yards from our patio door! That’s a crane. I took many pictures of it. Figured you only needed to see one, LOL. There’s fish in the lagoon and we’re allowed to fish! There are turtles too. Savannah is on cloud 9. She spent hours out there… did not have sunscreen on. Yep. (Oh, if you are new to my blog, my youngest daughter is named Savannah… coincidence, nothing to do with GA. She was named after the adorable child character in Savannah Smiles, a movie. But… my Savannah LOVES that people don’t get her name wrong anymore, and she’s loving seeing her name on everything. Already bought a hat with Savannah on it.)

I’ll end our moving day with this closeup of the gorgeous flowers I showed you earlier. Welcome to the South. I hope you enjoy the journey with me.

Flowers in Port Wentworth GA

 

 

 

Tybee Island GA

Coastal Again!

I’m Coastal Again! WOOT!

I know, this blog post is coming to you out of nowhere, after a long absence. I couldn’t find the words to describe all of the miserable things that were happening to us. Besides, most of it isn’t wise to post on the Internet.

Evansville, Indiana didn’t like us. After that city was through chewing us up, the feeling was mutual.To say that things didn’t work out would be a vast understatement. But let’s just focus on what’s most important.

Teaching wasn’t the right career for Brent. I won’t get into the reasons why, but it was clear that this wasn’t the life that any of us wanted. So, even though he’d put years into going back to school for his masters degree, a semester of unpaid student teaching, and so much more… well, it was best to cut our losses and move on.

Meanwhile, Brent’s part time job at CVS led him to his new career. He had become a licensed Pharmacy Tech, and was recently offered a slightly better position as a Shift Supervisor Rx. We’d be moving again, but to somewhere special! Before I get to that: There’s a college nearby where he can go back to school—yes, again!—to become a PHARMACIST! This direction makes sense. Brent has always been a scientist type. I thought he’d be teaching middle school science, which seemed to fit, but one thing led to another and he ended up in primary school, hmmm. Anyway, life feels very much back on track now. WHEW! That was quite a detour! (and pharmacy pays much, much better than teaching, WOOT!)

The Pharmacist plan does mean more “starving student” years ahead as Brent goes to school for his Pharmacy D, and he’ll have to do an unpaid internship at the end (UGH!). Pressure is on to rev up my career as an artist and an author. Please share my work with your family and friends. Don’t be afraid to help me in any way that you can think of. If you have extra dollars, you can buy my books for your local library, school, dentist office, etc. Well, there’s that promo out of the way. Now… back to our big news:

WE’VE MOVED TO GEORGIA!

My father visited Savannah, GA on his assignments with the Air National Guard. He brought me a beautiful sand dollar. He had another one that he cracked open to show me the “doves” inside. He told me the story of the sand dollar and said that Savannah is a special place that I should go to one day. I never thought much of it. The ocean was something I’d only seen once, when I visited my aunt in North Carolina. It just wasn’t my world, although my heart longed for it to be.

Well, before the Ireland dream, we’d hoped to move to Savannah, but when we lost our health insurance and had a whole host of other miserable set backs, we chose Ireland instead. I worked for four years to raise the money to move to Ireland. And, if you’ve been following my story, you know that we could only stay for five months (visa issues). But… it was a life changing adventure and our family will never be the same. My dream of seeing a dolphin in the wild came true, and I have the beautiful dolphin figurine from Dingle to remind me of it. It’s sitting in my mom’s hutch right now.

Back to my story… here we are, about ten years after we first decided to make a big life change. After moving from Minnesota to Wisconsin, to Ireland and Indiana… we are now back to our original wish, the one that we thought we couldn’t have: a move to coastal Georgia, in the Savannah area.

After Ireland, big dreams were over. Indiana was back in the Midwest, we’d lived there while growing up, and we knew people. It made sense… until it all went wrong. There were times when I looked at my beautiful dolphin figurine and I’d struggle not to cry. I knew if I let one tear loose I’d sob for hours, days even. (a bit of an exaggeration there)

Well…. did you know that Savannah has easy access to places like Tybee Island and there are dolphins there? Did you further know that I already have good news to share about my new author/artist connections? And did you also know that I’m typing this from my new house right now?

Ireland proved anything was possible, and Indiana proved that failure isn’t the end of the world. Why fear it? It was time to dream again! I’d have a fabulous life as a coastal author and artist. I will! I am!

OK, OK, time for me to stop talking and show you the pictures!

 

Leaving Ireland

Taking pictures was the last thing on my mind on May 11, the day we left our home in Ireland for the hotel at the Shannon airport. I only managed to take a few pictures here and there. But my son Nicholas put his photography class to good use and chronicled the whole journey. Thank you, Nicholas, for taking so many  fantastic shots! *Remember you can click on any photos that you’d like to see bigger
IMG_5773Goodbye, Rivendell House in Grenagh, Co. Cork, Ireland
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It took two trips to get our family of five and our large pieces of luggage to Shannon, which was an hour and forty-five minute drive each way (passing through Limerick, where Brent had threatened to tell limericks). On the first trip, Brent and I brought the luggage to the hotel. Next, Brent dropped me off in Charleville for a goodbye visit with Marie O’Halloran and sweet baby Lorcan (he returned to Grenagh to pick up the rest of our family; he picked me up when he drove through Charleville on the way back to Shannon).
My visit with Marie was bittersweet. I gave her some of my personal belongings that I wanted her to have. Of special interest are two pretty stepping stones that were the last gifts my mother gave me. She said they were for my flowers, as I loved my gardens. But we were moving from our hobby farm and the next eight years were in transition. Even so, I kept the stones. Both have beautiful sentiments and designs on them. They have picture hanging brackets on the backs, so they can be used indoors or out. I meant to at least hang them up, but something always kept me from following through. Instead, I kept them in new condition, boxed up.
I brought them from house to house, and even shipped them to Ireland, where I felt certain they were meant to stay. Once settled in the house in Grenagh, I finally took them out of their boxes and displayed them under a glass table in my art studio space. There they sat, untouched. When it was time to pack up for the United States, I hesitated when I saw the stepping stones. It struck me that the reason why these stones were kept new all these years is because I was saving them for someone else.
These stones belong in Marie’s butterfly garden, in memorial and celebration of the life of her beloved baby Cathal, Lorcan’s brother and twin. One of the stones even has a butterfly on it, which means something significant (personal and spiritual) to Marie and her husband Johnny. My mom would have liked this, as she probably would have thought of it herself and would have prompted me to give Marie the stones — even if they were already in my own garden! If these stepping stones help Marie follow through on her butterfly garden plans, I’m honored to have been a part of it. I know the garden will be healing for the whole family.
Marie had meaningful gifts waiting for me as well. She gave me a beautiful bookmark that has a real clover embedded in the charm and the word “Ireland” etched into the base. Marie didn’t realize this when she gave it to me, but the bookmark matches Savannah’s special necklace that she bought in Dingle, on the day that we saw the dolphin. I couldn’t believe it when I saw this – I wondered if she had done it on purpose — how did this happen? Of all the gifts she could have selected, Marie was drawn to the exact same company/brand and jewelry line as Savannah’s necklace! The thing is, I’d admired Savannah’s necklace but there was only one left in the store, so we couldn’t have matching ones. This bookmark is perfectly right. I will treasure it! I already do!
IMG_4082IMG_4083IMG_4084It’s hard to read the Ireland inscription… also, the handle is shiny and bright but it looks sort of splotchy in the photo. I think you can imagine how pretty this looks in person.
Marie also gave me a special candle from her son Cathal’s table. I’m no stranger to grief, but I’ve never lost a child. I cannot imagine the depths of her loss. I’m privileged to be allowed into her precious private world, in which the boundaries of the spiritual realm and the earthly realm blur. It is her private space where pain meets joy, where she sees her beautiful baby in her heart and dreams.
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 I’m impatient to receive our shipment from Ireland. I intend to place Cathal’s candle in my mom’s hutch. I believe that there is power in the belongings left behind by people we love, there is a special hold over things that we give symbolic meaning to, and there is a protection granted to those who believe. On that note, I believe in all sorts of mysterious phenomena – some of which I’ve experienced personally. I believe that God hasn’t limited our knowledge to only what religious scholars preach; there’s so much more to discover. I believe in science and that which transcends it. We’ll never comprehend it all; logic and love co-exist beyond our understanding. But we don’t need to understand it. Peace, healing, and power beyond our imagination is ours, when we are free to let go.
The day we left our home in Ireland was emotional, but there were plenty of distractions to keep our minds occupied. You’ll see for yourself from the pictures that we encountered a lot of construction on the route. I have to say, I don’t know how the Irish handle their workflow. During the nearly five months that we lived in Ireland, the road from Mallow to Charleville was under perpetual construction. It began before we arrived, and apparently it will continue long after we left. I’m reminded of the endless tea party that the Mad Hatter hosted.
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We were also kept occupied by random sightings of historic buildings, ruins, and even a castle. There were sheep and lambs along the way, bizarre road signs (is it really necessary to forbid horse and buggies on the highway? I haven’t seen a single one during our entire stay here!), and a tunnel.
IMG_5810IMG_5811IMG_5812IMG_5814IMG_5815IMG_5817IMG_5821IMG_5822IMG_5827IMG_5828This is the downtown Charleville library – an old church that was converted into a public library. My books are in this library. 🙂
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Also, see that bus sign? When we sold our car back to the dealer we went to Lucey Motors on Limerick Road in Charleville. Our wonderful salesperson Joey Shire gave us a lift to the bus stop here in front of the library (he was a big help to us when we bought the car and then again when we sold it – he had great patience waiting for our wire transfer from the States to get sorted out – highly recommend Lucey Motors in Charleville, Ireland!). We took the bus to the Shannon airport where we hired a car. We then returned the car when we settled into the airport hotel the following week.
IMG_5830IMG_5831IMG_5833IMG_5860IMG_5879IMG_5880IMG_5881There’s the “no horse and buggy” sign I was telling you about
IMG_5888IMG_5889IMG_5890IMG_5891IMG_5892IMG_5893IMG_5894IMG_5897IMG_5898IMG_5899IMG_5900IMG_5904IMG_5906IMG_5909IMG_5911IMG_5922
 This wasn’t the route we’d taken to the coast – if it was, I would’ve tried to capture the memorable road sign that warned of a dangerous bend… although it was too dangerous to stop there for a picture. What makes that bend so startling is that immediately after the “dangerous bend” warning, there is a second sign with a life-sized picture of Jesus on it – just Jesus’s face, with no explanation. The Jesus sign flashes before your eyes because the speed and angle on that sharp turn allows only a glimpse of anything other than the spiraling barely-one-lane road spinning ahead. Egads! Is Jesus the destination for drivers who don’t heed the dangerous bend warning?
IMG_5801This familiar sticker is a feature in Enterprise’s rental cars.
Brent doesn’t get easily rattled by driving, even when he was learning to drive on the left, but that hairpin turn on the steep narrow coastal road gave him white knuckles at the wheel.
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 Finally we were in Shannon, where we first stopped at Lidl (a German owned grocery store similar to Aldi) to buy our supper. We found packaged salads, lunch meat, bread, and single servings of juice that come with tiny plastic straws that are meant to puncture an impossibly slippery pouch. I’m sure you too are familiar with the torture of trying to get the straw into the pouch when someone is tired, crabby, and thirsty. The crabby ones used to be my young children, but that day the crabby one was me. My daughter Cassie opened my juice for me. Funny how it all goes full circle…
My family was disappointed that we’d forgotten the pie that Marie had boxed up for us to take back with us to the hotel. There was a bit of a blame-game about who was supposed to put it into the car. I’d already had my pie while visiting with Marie, so I kept my mouth shut.  The important thing is that we were at the airport – our hotel was just a few yards away from the departure gates.
IMG_5925IMG_5927IMG_5928IMG_5929IMG_5935IMG_5937IMG_5940Isn’t this a snazzy rental car? Nicholas was impressed by this one. But we’d arrived and it was time to return it.
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We didn’t have time to settle into the hotel. We were on to the next task: weighing our luggage to see if any of us had gone overweight. Bags weighing more than 50 pounds incur an overweight fee of $100. On the way to Ireland ALL of our luggage was overweight, all. And Nicholas’ bag was so heavy that it went into the NEXT weight tier, costing $200! We bailed out of one suitcase before checking the bags, which is how my small cast iron skillet got thrown away in the Minneapolis airport. But we just couldn’t reduce the rest. This was everything we’d have on us until our household shipment would arrive, including Nicholas’ entire desktop computer (albeit in pieces) and our laptops – mine didn’t make it. 🙁
Anyway, on the journey to Ireland, we swallowed the cost of our overweight luggage. On the way back, we couldn’t do that! These bags HAD to be under 50 pounds – ALL of them!
We spent a few Euros weighing our bags on the coin operated scale in the hotel lobby. We quickly ran out of coins. Since our bags were still overweight, we had to keep trying. We chucked a few things out, but most of our overflow landed in Savannah’s suitcase. Savannah is the heroine of this story. She had put all of her heaviest belongings in her personal bag that she bravely carried on her back! We didn’t know that she had weighed herself down with such a heavy burden until after one of the straps on her bag broke and she was struggling. Well, anyway, back to the luggage fiasco. Without the means to put more and more Euros into the hotel scale (which was listed as a service for this hotel so we thought it was complimentary, grr, as with many things in Europe -such as most parking- it was not free), we decided to haul our luggage across the parking lot to the airport. The airport was practically deserted and they didn’t mind us weighing our luggage at the counter, on our own.
Getting the luggage to the airport was a bit of an adventure. The parking lot was uneven. On the slopes it was hard not to lose control of the luggage cart (Brent and Nicholas had full luggage carts to push) or the luggage itself (we girls rolled luggage separately). We had to avoid hitting parked cars and other obstacles. But when we finally made it to the airport we could weigh our bags and re-pack them as many times as necessary to get the bags to fall under the 50 pound weight limit. We finally did it! And when we did, it felt like we should have won a trophy.
The airport was surreal, so quiet and empty. Few employees were there. The last flight out of Ireland had long gone, even though it was still fairly early in the evening. We anticipated a rather uneventful check-in experience in the morning. And we were right. It was subdued until we hit the TSA. We had to go through security twice, as this airport as a pre-flight customs arrangement with the United States.
The Irish part of it was simple. We didn’t have to remove our shoes. I misunderstood about taking my laptop out of my bag, but no one jumped down my throat. An employee simply asked me to remove it for a scan. The security line moved smoothly and quietly. And then we had to do the whole thing all over again in an isolated area on the top floor (the second story in a two-floor airport). This time it was for the Americans.
And no, they weren’t friendly. The treatment wasn’t as severe as what we went through in Minneapolis – that still makes my blood boil when I think about it! – but it wasn’t pleasant. Cassie got patted down again. WTH??? We had to remove our shoes of course. Everything had to come out. It was tedious, stressful, and oppressive. Welcome back to the United States… and we hadn’t even left Ireland yet. All of the old anger and resentment was starting to emerge (our lost medical insurance, Brent’s job of almost 20 years gone to Canada, and more), but I was homesick too.
Mixed feelings, bittersweet emotions, hotel-room sleeping, and a day of international travel is a cocktail destined for a nasty hangover. But it was time to get this over with. The sooner we were on the first flight, the sooner we’d be on the second one, and then the long car ride the next day headed to our new home.

Dream a New Dream

I’d originally written the “Ireland Forever!” post a few weeks ago, but I postponed finishing it until our plans fell into place. I didn’t expect it to take so long – wow, we were running out of time! I’m relieved to share that we will have a house in the States to live in. WHEW!

Friends are helping us with the house. It’s been stressful and exciting, waiting for things to play out. Last night we received the happy e-mail, “You got it!” So, I can now announce that we are headed back to the States very soon.

Wouldn’t you know it? God’s timing and all… the same day as our third (and final) immigration appointment, we found out that we were getting enough money back in taxes to pay for a flight home for all five of us! So, the worry about “how will we get back?” was immediately resolved. Oh… and the tickets were mysteriously, coincidentally, VERY discounted in a temporary flash sale that would expire within 24 hours! We didn’t hesitate.

I also worried about how we’d ship our household goods back. We trimmed the shipment down, keeping even less stuff. The guys said that they’d like to rebuild the TARDIS. They kept only the panels. They were willing to let it go, but they are on a quest to rebuild it and do it even better. Anyway, with that sacrifice the load was significantly smaller. I also let go of things I used for business. I believe those things will be replaced by something better. In the end, our shipment cost is much more reasonable. On the down side, it all fit into one room. On a positive note, I can start over. A fresh start is a good idea.

My other fears were also resolved:

Our property manager here was very understanding about the lease. We handled it with plenty of advance notice and all is well. We were able to sell the car back to the dealer. He was fully awesome! He said he’d be as fair to us as possible and we were relieved by the offer. With the money from selling the car we have the funds for the shipment and money toward the house. I mentioned before that our friends are helping us with the rest of what we need for the house.

Here we were, about to sign on to a very bad situation (a house across the road from a grain elevator that had water damage, a recent history of a squatter with dogs living in it for several months, many things wrong with it, in a high crime rate area). I’d even considered camping in a tent for the summer. You think I’m joking? No, I’m not.

Landlords want people to have JOBS. It doesn’t matter that we have good credit (we do, and that took time to achieve), or that we have had several successful mortgages (most of them fixers that we put many hours of sweat into), or that we are awesome people (and we are!) – nothing matters but employment.  People weren’t even answering my e-mails.

But cash on hand does help, and it helps to have fabulous friends who are successful and generous. I know people in high places. 🙂 So, we’ve got the house, a house far better than what I expected. I can’t wait to live there! The house is so pretty and I know that we’ll win the fight to get our lives back. It’s my dream house – I’m absolutely giddy!

And… Brent will have a job soon. He has already interviewed over the phone and he’ll meet in person shortly after he gets there. He’ll be fine. There are many openings in the area and he’s already been told he’s a strong candidate. Well, of course! He had an A average all through grad school, he’s a fantastic loyal worker, he has glowing references, and he’s a likeable guy. Sometimes he gets free stuff just for being Brent.

Money will be tight and our friends are going out on a limb for us, but I believe we can do it. We are bringing a part of Ireland back with us. We are strong. We are empowered. We can do anything that we set our minds to do. Of course if any of you want to help, I’m not too proud to reject your help. We’ll have no furniture to start with and plenty of bills to repay.  But of course I know that many of you have big needs of your own. That’s how it is with so many of us these days. With or without surprise generosity, we’ll make it. On that note, I have to say that we are blown away by our friends’ amazing offer to help us with the house. It’s not often I’m speechless… I literally couldn’t think of what to say. That’s a rare event for sure!

Other updates:

Nicholas has already been accepted into a tech school that offers the exact major he wanted. While UCC is a world class university, they didn’t offer the highly specific computer major he was hoping for. He has chosen to go into Systems Administration (Linux) – don’t ask me to explain it. After he finishes two years, he can apply his associates degree to a university transfer, where he would still like to add languages, especially Japanese.

It might be a tough road ahead for us as we adjust to our new lives, but I’m already looking for ways to have free adventures like we had in Ireland. I’ve found amazing natural parks and exciting places to explore, places I’ve never been and I’ve always wanted to go. We even have points to redeem for hotel stays or event tickets – our mileage from international travel counts for something!

I’m a different person going back to the States from the person I was when I left. I saw myself through my kids’ eyes and I liked the changes in me. They watch us more than we think they do. No matter what we say to them, they learn the most by watching how we LIVE. If I want them to be happy, fearless, faithful, and real, that’s who I have to be. Life is a whole lot easier when I let go.

These are some pictures that were on Savannah’s camera.

Natalie seeing Celtic Sea coast for first time

Me running ahead to see the Celtic Sea for the first timeNatalie Buske Thomas on coastal rockMe braving my fear of heights (not a phobia, just a fear of falling because my balance isn’t what it was when I was younger and in better fitness… but hey, look at me, getting back into shape!)Natalie Buske Thomas at Celtic Sea Coast

Me celebrating standing in the sea – I’m here in Ireland! I did it!Natalie at coast

Me looking back at Savannah – Let’s not wait for the guys, let’s GO on ahead!Natalie at coast 2I stopped only for the picture.

And… Cassie took these.

IMG_20160326_154358 IMG_20160326_154355 IMG_20160326_154343 IMG_20160326_154341 IMG_20160326_154339 IMG_20160326_154338 IMG_20160326_154336 IMG_20160326_154103 IMG_20160326_154054IMG_20160317_131255I’ve shown you this one just recently. I didn’t remember her taking this. It was at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Cork.

And Nicholas took these wonderful pictures – all of which I’ve shown you before.

IMG_5188IMG_3872IMG_3870IMG_3705IMG_3691IMG_3675IMG_3399IMG_3493 IMG_3491Natalie Buske Thomas with husband Brent Thomas 28th wedding anniversay in Ireland Feb 2016I want to be this happy person that my kids are watching. I want them to believe that their dreams will come true – they can make them happen! I want them to believe that when one dream ends, it’s time to dream a new dream.

There’s no excuse to fall into a dull and miserable life. The adventures of the Thomas family will continue! We’ll just be somewhere new.  Life has only just begun!

Hmm, I bet you’re curious now, aren’t you? Where are we going?

I’ll show you our pretty new house, but that’s all I’m saying. I’m leaving you with a cliffhanger so you’ll have to return to my blog to find out. And I blurred out the house number – no spoilers. HA! HA!

House 2Isn’t this a gorgeous house though? I love it!!! I’ve never had a house this pretty. I really really can’t wait to live in it!

Please keep us in your hearts and prayers for our upcoming travel back to the United States. We’re coming home! And I’m starting a new series of blogging adventures – are you in???

 

 

Our Stuff is on its Way to Ireland (photos)

Shipment to Ireland 001

The shippers have arrived! Here they are, unloading their cardboard boxes and packing supplies. It’s getting real!

Shipment to Ireland 002Isn’t that lift cool beans? The shippers have now officially landed.

Shipment to Ireland 003That’s my artist easel. The next time I use it I’ll be painting in IRELAND!

Shipment to Ireland 004Paintings (to exhibit in Ireland!), canvas, and instruments

Shipment to Ireland 006Can you guess what that is?

Shipment to Ireland 007My mom’s hutch ~ she’d be floored to know that it’s being shipped to Ireland! (but not surprised, she always expected me to do crazy things)

Shipment to Ireland 008Pieces of the TARDIS console are ready to go! This was displayed at the Doctor Who convention in Minneapolis this year. We plan to show it at events in Ireland, and possibly the UK!

Shipment to Ireland 010One of the big pieces of the TARDIS console

Shipment to Ireland 014I bet they’ve never shipped a TARDIS before

Shipment to Ireland 017The TARDIS console “time rotor” is on the truck. Now we’re done!

Shipment to Ireland 019Rolling out…

Shipment to Ireland 020Next time we see our things, it will be in IRELAND!

 

 

 

Our Stuff is on its Way to IRELAND!

Let me begin by saying that this turn of events took me by surprise. I’d been having trouble finding a shipping company to send a small amount of household goods + our event props/supplies/instruments/paintings/etc. to Ireland. I was raising funds all summer, but our savings are earmarked for renting on a house in Ireland (hoping to find something soon!), immigration fees, etc. We couldn’t waste all of our  savings on shipping our stuff. I’ve read that other Americans who shipped too many things immediately regretted it. Their advice is to ship as little as possible and spend more on a house, car, utilities, etc.

In a horrible real-life version of the game “Would You Rather”, I asked the kids if they’d rather keep 100% of their possessions and stay here, or give up 80% of everything they own and move to Ireland. They chose Ireland without hesitation. So, with the clock ticking, I finally found a shipper I felt we could trust.

I contacted them, thinking that we couldn’t ship the goods until we were already living in Ireland – because that’s the information I found elsewhere on various sites. Well, that’s not exactly true! We have to be living there when the goods ARRIVE, but not when they ship. It takes months for the household goods to be shipped and if we want them to arrive shortly after we do, we should aim for January. I was thrilled at the idea that we wouldn’t have to pay to store our things and that we’d have them very soon after our arrival on December 30.

So I asked when we should ship them out if we wanted a January date. He said the last week in October should be good. Uh… I had to think twice. Wasn’t it October now? As in, today? Yes, indeedy. Egads! It was time to make a commitment or risk shipping our goods late, which would cost us money. The less we have to buy new, the better. I was cramming silverware, pots and pans, and all of the most necessary things into any leftover space I had in our bins. If the shipment was there fast enough, we’d save money. If not, we’d be stuck buying things that we shouldn’t have had to buy if I’d planned the move better. Well, you see where this is going. We had to act FAST!

We had only a few days from when I agreed to the contract, to when the goods would be shipped out. Fortunately I was on the ball and already had most of the pile gathered. Nicholas and I used tape and chalk to map out the cubic feet goal. We did a great job of containing our shipment to the goal box, until we added in the large TARDIS console pieces. That put us over. Oh dear.

We had a serious talk about whether or not to bring the TARDIS. Brent had sold his power tools and there was no realistic expectation that he and Nicholas would rebuild anything close to that, not in the near future anyway. Also, we’d promised many people at the Doctor Who convention that the console was headed to Ireland. And if we didn’t have it, we couldn’t do events in Ireland with it, where we know it will be popular. Sure seems a shame to that it was only used for one event. After much deliberation we decided to bring it. We couldn’t stop now! This had become a quest!

We took a few things out of the shipment to make up for some of the space that the TARDIS console was taking. In the end, we had everything we considered most important to us. It has been an interesting experiment, finding out what’s dear to our hearts. You know the party game that goes, “What would you save if there was a fire?” or some variation of that? We got to play the real version. We could only bring what could fit in the small rectangle on the garage floor.

This garage is only a single car garage and it’s so small that our minivan won’t fit in it! The ceiling is too short and the garage is narrow. To help you visualize the space, the rectangle we marked on the floor is about the size of a (generous) walk-in closet, or roughly 500 cubic feet.

Because we’ll rent a furnished house we didn’t have to take much furniture. That was a big help. It meant that there was more room for the little things that matter most: photographs and memories. There’s the box with my wedding dress in it — the girls want a piece of it to incorporate into their own dresses. There’s the box of the kids’ layette clothes and keepsakes. And the boxes of old toys to save for future grandkids. Stuff like that…

We kept some functional things that we use all the time, while letting go of most of it. I made sure that my cast iron skillet made it. I finally got it perfectly seasoned and I’d be heartbroken to give it up! I also kept my “gingerbread boys” pan because I don’t know if I can find one like that again and we love our family tradition (individual gingerbread cakes that I serve warm with whipped topping at Christmas). This whole experience is teaching us what is important to our family; the thought of letting go of the gingerbread boy pan did not go over well with the kids! And we had the opposite hold true for other things; things that I thought would be important really weren’t, when it came right down to it.

gingerbread boy cake pan
Cake pan, for making 6 individual gingerbread boy cakes
Gingerbread cake, served hot from oven
Gingerbread cake, served hot from oven

I didn’t bother to take any of our plates, glasses, etc. None of it is in good shape and all of it was either purchased cheaply or bought used. I sold the Christmas plates that are in the picture – we’d had our use out of them. Don’t worry, we’re adding a set of our flat Corningware indestructible plates to our luggage so we’ll have something to eat off of. Ditto for a couple of basic things to cook with (one small skillet, one small saucepan, and my mom’s spaghetti pot + strainer). With those I can cook just about anything. I’m not bringing cookie sheets or anything like that. Mine aren’t that great so it’s not worth the $ space.

Well, that’s how the thought process went. What do we keep? What do we let go of? We had to repeat this process for each and every item we own! We’ve (by “we” I mean mostly me) gone through this during spring cleaning, our many previous moves, etc., but this is by far the most we’ve ever had to let go of.

The surprise? Letting go was easier than I thought it would be. I guess that means that we were ready.

We still managed to take a lot of things that we wanted. Brent added his toolbox and his hand weights (good thing the shipment is charged by space and not by weight!). We crammed my mom’s hutch with things that I didn’t want to pay extra to ship because they’re pretty much worthless–like well loved stuffed animals and Savannah’s creepy “lost four” clown dolls… one drawer is full of free candles that Brent got from his old job. “Free” candles would be very expensive if they were in their own box, but they hitched a ride in a hutch drawer so they’re still free! The bottom of the hutch is stuffed with old board games. Some of them we still play and some of them had too many memories to let go of. In the end, it was all about family memories and keeping a life that we want… like playing games and playing music.

Every family member was willing to let go of clothes, shoes, gadgets, knickknacks, and all sorts of things, but their instruments were first on the stack! Cassie’s pink electric guitar and her handcrafted ukulele that Brent made – both are in the shipment. Brent kept his mandolin, acoustic guitar, electric guitar and ukulele. Savannah kept two violins, her dulcimer, ukulele, and a guitar that she shares with Nicholas. Nicholas packed multiple guitars, his harmonica collection, banjolele, and probably something else I forgot about. I kept my mountain dulcimer but more importantly, my DRUMS! Woot! I was afraid I’d have to sell them, but the family wanted me to keep them (really, they did). Of course I wore my sad puppy eyes and said that I didn’t want to become a person who didn’t play the drums anymore, so maybe I influenced their opinion. These are electric (can connect via computer, no need to worry about differences in electricity) drums that break down and fit into a box, so don’t worry, I’m not totally nuts. But even so, if you saw how small the pile was, of everything in the world that we will own (except for what we cram into our luggage), you might shake your head that so much of that tiny space was taken up by instruments!

Our shipment might seem ridiculous (three bins of LEGOs!), but to us it is insurance that we will keep what we most treasure: who we are. We’ll have our family history, and we’ll have what we need to continue the way of life that makes us happy. We’ll have our home movies on all of their various original outdated formats (spanning over the lifetime of three or four generations of video cameras), plus saved copies on CD. We’ll have the nativity set my dad painted, and our most special Christmas decorations. We’ll have everything we need to start a new life, while keeping the best of the old.

Nativity set that my dad painted
Nativity set that my dad painted
Nativity set with lights on
Nativity set with lights on
Telling the Nativity story with my kids
Telling the Nativity story with my kids
My son's turn to read the Nativity story
My son’s turn to read the Nativity story

The shippers kept referring to ours as a “small” shipment and in the section for high end items, there were block letters that said NONE. Many of our things included the note “well worn”, “broken latch”, or something similar. This was not offensive, it was a simple recording of what we were shipping.

It’s the truth: our little shipment is a bit shabby, especially if you look at “Flag”, a raggedy Andy doll that Nicholas carried around with him until it practically fell apart. Or how about the tiny, scruffy, and threadbare Superman costume that Nicholas had worn daily? Or Savannah’s dolls with the balding heads and dirty cloth bodies are a sight to behold? Cassie’s book collection includes old paperbacks that would probably only fetch 50 cents at a garage sale. Brent included tiny treasures that the kids had made for him, and several hand written cards. I did the same. Probably half of my personal belongings are handmade gifts from the kids and Brent. And of course we kept my dad’s Bible. Where our hearts are, that’s where our treasure is.

Our shipment is special, and now it’s on it’s way to Ireland! (Actually it’s probably sitting in a warehouse in Hastings, Minnesota at the moment) I’ll keep you updated where our shipment – and the TARDIS console -are as the weeks go by… We can track our shipment. That will be exciting!

Well, there’s no turning back now. Our stuff is already on its way to Ireland! WE will be next! Just two more months left. Today is October 29 and we leave on December 29. Wow, it’s really hitting me.            —> Check out the photos of the big day!<—–

SOLD!

Home SOLDWOW! We have a pending sale on our house! It has only been on the market for a few weeks. This isn’t the end of the home-selling experience. We have a home inspection ahead of us and all of the typical hurdles to jump over. But we can celebrate that we’ve reached this point in the process: SOLD!

Assuming that everything goes smoothly and the transaction is routine, we’ll be out of our house at the end of September. That means we’ll be free from the confines of a mortgage. We can then accept any exciting offer that comes our way! And those of you who have been following us on our journey already know what we’re hoping for. Everything depends on getting a job offer, but we’ll take a leap of faith and fight for what we want. We won’t give up. We won’t! Hey, we’ve gotten this far, right? SOLD. Wow.

On the Market!

Home for sale icon

Our house has a new addition to the front yard, a “FOR SALE” sign. My feelings about this are all over the map. So much has happened over the past few weeks. Where do I begin?

Well, I guess it all goes back to about seven years ago, when the company that my husband Brent works for was laying people off. There were multiple buy-outs, pay-cuts, and of course the dreaded downsizing, downsizing, downsizing. The writing was on the wall. There was no future for Brent at that company. He had dodged several rounds of lay-offs, but pay cuts and salary freezes had squeezed us beyond return. We had to make tough decisions before things went from bad to worse.

We sold the hobby farm that we had worked so hard to build. We sold the animals, our personal property, and eventually the house. I especially mourned the loss of my beautiful downstairs studio space where I had taught not only my own children, but dozens of students as well. Brent had installed the flooring himself and had handcrafted the wooden dance barres. He’d put in cabinets and a sink. It was the perfect space for art, dance, theater, and more. We had done everything on a shoestring budget, but we still owed too much money.

I was never going to make enough income from teaching Ladybug Arts for the financial investment to pay off, but the investment I was making was in people, not money. There are more important things than money, right? I believed that everything would work out, right up until the day when I realized that it wouldn’t.

I ended Ladybug Arts prior to putting the house on the market, for many reasons. But the decision was quickly validated when my mom’s health took a sudden sharp decline. I became her caregiver, while also preparing to sell the hobby farm. My heart was numb. Everything was ending all at once.

Mom was dying. My job was gone. My firstborn was leaving for college. There was no time to process what was happening. From there, the hardships snowballed. Mom passed away in August. Our daughter started school in September. We sold our house in October. The smell of fall leaves and the hauntingly beautiful breeze that carries the colors away take me back to that time. Colors change, then fade, then die.

Never again would I see my kids bouncing down the halls, riding their bicycles on the long gravel driveway, or running with the miniature sheep in the pasture. All of it was gone, including the kids. They weren’t little anymore. None of them would “bounce” down a hall with their wispy hair flying in the breeze. Clomping, shuffling, or bounding–that they could do. No, we didn’t have Santa Claus believers or Tooth Fairy wishers in our family anymore. Life was changing, whether I liked it or not.

We moved into a small house in a town about an hour away from our hobby farm. Here, where we are now. The treeless leaves were soon snow-covered. And after a long winter, spring came. The trees were green and full of life again. Yes, they were different trees, in a different place, but life began again.

It’s pleasant here. The neighborhood is pretty and nearly perfect. It’s a nice place to live. But it’s not our place. Four years after moving in, the house is on the market.

During our four years here, Brent went back to school. He received his graduate degree in Education last month, May 2015. He has one final semester before getting his teaching certification, the student teaching semester. Teaching full time without pay, while also paying tuition? He has to quit his day job? Isn’t there some other way? No, there’s not. He worked too hard to get this far only to give up now. Things at his current job aren’t improving. He had no luck getting a new job in his field. It was definitely the smart play to go back to school and start a new career. But at least he still had his job…

And then we found out that after years of crying wolf, the wolf was finally actually undeniably at our door. Brent was told that his position will be eliminated in August. He is getting laid off. Well, there goes the safety net! This student teaching semester was going to happen, whether we had cold feet or not. At least he’ll be able to draw unemployment benefits, for a while anyway. Looking at the positive was what we tried to do, but nothing can take the fear away completely. Brent has had a job since he was a teenager. He had never been laid off. He had never been unemployed. He had always, always worked.

And I had always, always, been underemployed. My primary focus was on my family. I built my artistic career around our lifestyle. My husband’s job always came first, the kids next, and my job was dead last. Jump-starting my career was what I’d attempted to do ever since my oldest went off to college. I’ve made progress, but not enough progress. Here we are again, needing to sell our house.

We’ll rent something cheaper than our mortgage until Brent’s student teaching semester ends. Then, he’ll be certified to teach and our plans are to move to Ireland against all odds. We still have those nonrefundable plane tickets that we’d bought with money raised from my side job as a garage sale maven. Oh yes, we’re doing this thing.

So, the house is on the market. The pain and loss from selling our hobby farm, and everything that meant, is complicating my feelings toward selling our house in Pleasantville (not the real name of the town, I’m being facetious). I never wanted this pleasant house in this pleasant neighborhood. I wanted MY house, the one we raised our kids in. I wanted that life back, but the past isn’t mine to have, except in my memories.

The past is safer, because it is over. I know how the story ends. The future is scary. Who knows what hardships and disappointments lie ahead! What if there is grief lurking around the corner, a sorrow that runs deeper than losing my parents, a heartache more profound than I can imagine?

But what if there’s something wonderful ahead? What if the future sparkles brighter than I could ever imagine? And what if my hope in the future is a self fulfilling prophesy?

Some things in life are beyond my control, but I can always choose my attitude toward what is happening to me. I can choose to be grateful for the past, hopeful toward the the future, and content with the present.

Today, this moment, is all I’m guaranteed. And at this moment, I hear my children’s voices in the kitchen. They’re laughing. They’re  happy that it’s Friday and that there are molasses cookies on the counter. The house is on the market. But this moment,  spent in a pleasant house with my kids’ laughter in my ears, this moment is not for sale.