What if we ever needed…3/4 of an Inch

Hell froze over today. Well, since it’s so bloody hot and humid I sort of wish it actually did, but our stuff ARRIVED at 1pm today. It actually came with a phone call and three guys who could not have been nicer. I paid for their lunch afterwards. I’m not a person who has ever held a grudge. Don’t have time for it so all that nonsense was in my rear view mirror 30 seconds after the first dolly load crossed our door step.

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They found parking and unloaded in record time. As planned, we had them bring all the boxes and bikes up to our apartment and we put the sofa in our parking space in the garage. We needed to measure it before I schedule the crane service. I was on cloud nine watching them go back and forth. Emilie stayed down by the truck to make sure no one made off with any boxes while the guys were filling the lobby.

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Seeing our things again was like reconnecting with old friends. And unpacking was so much fun!  All my kitchen stuff that was of such interest to US Customs and Border control made it with only one glass pot lid that was shattered.  All my Le Creuset – check. More of my Crate and Barrel dishes – yup. All our flatware and my box of odds and ends kitchen stuff. My beloved Vitamix made it. Jeff checked the amperage (I don’t even pretend to understand it) and it works on the electricity here. We just have to take it to a local place to get the plug/cord swapped out.

My pans are here too! And our golf clubs and bikes. Jeff’s computer stuff and his keyboard that he’s been waiting for. All the tools for his first love – the motorcycle. We spent the day unpacking boxes and washing things. Our bedding from home – sheets and towels that we could have bought locally but we loved them too much to leave behind. Then there were the more sentimental things. The things that, when you surround yourself with them, make you feel like you’re truly home.

Our refrigerator magnet collection from trips we took as a family. Jeff always hated how junky it made it look in an open plan kitchen. I loved the reminder of all the things we did together. Tonight, I put them all on the fridge and he came home and smiled. Emilie and I had fun reminiscing about each one and telling funny stories about where they were purchased and some crazy thing that happened.

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The pictures came. Our wedding photo and some of the art that we had on the walls. Emilie unpacked the boxes in her room and it’s just about like it was in the US – only 5 times smaller. Her books, photos and all the small things that mean so much to her.

I unpacked the vacuum packed bags of our clothes and it seems we brought more than I remembered. I appears my ‘What if we ever…?’ philosophy might have gone a little too far. OK, if we ever go to Iceland again I have my Canada Goose parka and Jeff’s Mountain Hardwear parka. But living here I don’t think there will be a day that we’ll need either of those.

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My most egregious and embarrassing miscalculation was my discovery that I had 5 full boxes of shoes that were just for me. Luckily, Jeff had run an errand when I pulled them out of the pile in the dining room. Yeah, I knew I had a problem anyway but today it was in my face and before Jeff got home I needed to find somewhere for 5 boxes of shoes in El Compartimiento. But where to put them? The only place I had to spare was in the kitchen Gabinete and I knew the minute he got hungry I’d be ratted out. Emilie just shook her head but she wasn’t one to talk. She had 2 boxes of shoes for herself – OK, I’m a baaad influence.

So I started pulling out drawers and cabinets. I was sweating and panicked. What the hell was I going to do? I looked around and then I remembered we have drawers under the bed we bought. And those drawers are mostly covered by the duvet. I knew Jeff was barely using his closet so he wouldn’t even think about the drawers under the bed. Sure enough, they were empty. But as I placed my shoes, boots and sandals lovingly into their new, hidden home, I started counting and, well, I’m just ridiculous. Who needs 5 pairs of high suede boots here? I brought 3 pairs of rubber boots!  What was I thinking?

But that isn’t the capper. Tonight we went down to the garage after I was done unpacking the rest of the stuff and putting it away. I was feeling pretty proud of myself and my ability to cram things in every nook and hidden crannies. Organizing things for easy access later. Winter closet, stored. Yup, I was at the top of my organizational game. I hadn’t over packed afterall. I was a ‘just enough’ goddess.

I got into the elevator with a confident smug swagger that only a truly organized person pull off. Then we measured.

My beloved couch is 43 3/4 inches deep. I don’t care about the height because it passed that test. Our living room window is broken up into sections that are 43 inches. Not 44 inches – 43. And they can’t get any bigger, even if you take the windows out, because of the custom shutters that come down in tracks. So my couch won’t fit. So we went down and took all the wrapping from the move off and I actually talked to the couch.

‘Please couch – I know you’ve been through alot in the last 5 months but I need 3/4 of an inch – that’s all. Please give me 3/4 of an inch.’ I begged and pleaded.

Jeff measured again. I don’t think the couch was very forgiving after spending months in a container ship. It didn’t give up a millimeter. There will be no couch (at least not one from the US) inside El Compartimiento. With every victory, there is also defeat. I had gotten a little cocky with the shoes.

Tonight, Jeff is sporting his Keens, he’s smiling in a fresh pair of shorts and a shirt he hasn’t worn since February. That’s good enough for me.

Camping in your own Backyard

When my kids were small, we would set up a tent in the backyard, or even the family room (if it was cold outside) and we would get out the sleeping bags and ‘camp’. They loved it – all cozy in the tent with just the things we needed to survive an overnight – complete with indoor plumbing and a refrigerator just steps away. Flash lights and snacks, a thin requirement. Those were good days.

But I was in my 30’s back then. Sleeping on the ground or an air mattress wasn’t a big deal. I popped up in the morning, and rarely felt the effects. Today? Yeah – not so fast. What a difference more than 20 years makes. Yoga. Definitely a yoga day.

Yesterday, Jeff had a great idea. ‘Lets pack up everything we’ll need for the next 6 weeks, just like we’re getting on a plane tomorrow. We’ll live out of those suit cases and find out what we can’t live without, while we’re waiting for our stuff to arrive in Valencia. Since we have to get by without it all for as long as 16 weeks.’

I thought this was great idea. Our bed is already gone. The dishes we’re taking are in carry on suit cases. Our pots, pans, cooking utensils, etc. are in a checked bag. That just leaves our clothes, shoes toiletries to make sure will fit into our two bags each. So we got to work – seeing if it would all fit. And Surprise! For me it did. Turns out, I am evolving as a human being.

The garage/yard sale is scheduled on some garage sale apps and Craigslist for next weekend. The goal by sunset on Sunday of next week? We’ll just have the boxes & couch we’re shipping in the living room + a TV we will donate before we go (gotta have my new found Spanish shows), a few odds and ends dishes, mugs and cookware in the kitchen (again, we’ll donate when we leave), our bags that will go on the airplane with us – including the air mattresses we’re sleeping on now. And that’s it! We will be camping – just like the old days.

It’s good our kids aren’t here. I can hear the eye roll and head shakes at how crazy this all is. I mean – who spends a life time amassing ‘Stuff’ and then in the course of 6 months, gives it all away? Maybe we’re fools, but we’re happy fools. Yesterday, as we made decisions about a ton of stuff, we both felt lighter. I had my doubts at times too. How could we get it all done? But I think we’ll make it. Until then, we’re camping and enjoying every minute of it.

The Review

Today, I woke up bone tired. It could be the fact that we’re now sleeping on an air mattress, but we’ve been going for days, and I needed coffee. So I made a café con leche from the precious beans I have left, and I reviewed the list I made back in September of all the things we needed to do to move to Spain.

Back then, the list seemed like it was never ending. On a daily basis I was adding, rather than checking off. But the excitement was palpable. I was optimistic and, of course, we had 6 months to do it all. Plenty of time – Easy Peasy!Countdown

The review today revealed just how much we have gotten done since then. Something to celebrate! All the visa hoops, sure. But also, renting an apartment, getting a lawyer, etc. None of that was on the list when I started it – and all of it has been done. They’re painting our apartment in Valencia this week and the appliances are being ordered. Even our utilities are being hooked up in our name. Check, check, check.

And now the list has only 12 things left unchecked. Sure – they’re some big things, like our consulate appointment, doing our taxes and selling two cars. But 12 lines nonetheless. I added a calendar count down app to my phone and it’s just 42 days away. That’s 3.5 days per item. Of course, that means nothing. Things don’t get done that way, but it feels better reducing it all to math. I can touch and feel numbers, and the abstractions of ‘to-do’s’ starts to feel less nebulous.

This week, our international shipper will do a FaceTime inventory so we can get a realistic and final estimate. And I’ll try to work out how we’ll get rid of the odds and ends we have left in the house – maybe an old fashioned garage sale! Checking all my alerts, the cost of plane tickets for the 28th of February have plummeted, so I’m itching to book those after our consulate appointment February 5th. Today we paid our translator and by Monday of next week, all our translations will arrive. Then I’ll make photo copies of our packets and put them into snazzy folders. Tick tock.

I just sent the whittled down version of what we have left to do, to Jeff at work. I haven’t heard back from him yet, and I’m not sure he can see how far we’ve come in the last 6 months, but I thought it was important for him to have visibility into where we are. The final 42 days will not be a walk in the park, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I believe it’s not a freight train but will open up to a bright future!

And She’s Rounding the Corner

We have officially entered the home stretch for all this visa falderal. We flew back from my parents house just now, and what was in the mail box? Oh yeah. Our Apostillized FBI background checks, with the official stamps and all the whoozy-whatsits, was waiting for us in the mail box.

What? With a pending government shut down, our documents are actually in my hands?How is this possible that government documents that were mailed last Friday are actually here on a Tuesday – with the MLK holiday yesterday where they don’t deliver mail? I know how – we delivered all that stuff to my parent’s house this weekend, a drive of 1380 miles.

I have heard monks and others talk about how we carry too much stuff with us in our lives. Material things, emotional baggage, the garbage that plugs up and blocks our lives. But this weekend we gave away a bunch of stuff. This weekend, we made a huge effort to make the lives of others we love a little better. And the universe rewarded us with a simple yellow envelope and the key to crossing the finish line.

And sitting at the airport tonight, waiting for our Uber to come, I got an email from our translator. She has completed all our translations, except the Apostilled background checks – that came back in English. I just sent them to her via email and she’ll send them to me tomorrow – completed. We have rounded the corner and we’re heading for the wire – race horsing parlance.

But clearing out all the stuff and taking it to my parents isn’t quite as easy as it might seem. Sure the drive there was never ending. But getting there wasn’t the real work. Unloading boxes of photos and memories was hard enough. But leaving our cats, Lucy and Clubber would break my heart. I love both of those little gray fur balls.

After three days of driving, Jeff and I pulled into my parent’s driveway in our U-Haul truck on Sunday afternoon after speeding through deserts, old growth forests, and over the Cascade Mountains. At times, Jeff forgot we were driving an 18 foot truck and drove  the American bi-ways like we were in the Ultimate German Driving Machine. He took some of the corners right to the edge. I discovered there is no brake peddle on the floor of the passenger side. He encouraged me to stop trying to find it.

We unloaded the truck right away and the entire family came over to have dinner and wish us a bon voyage. And then it was time to go to bed in my childhood bedroom. This is the room where I dreamed the dreams that only children and teenagers can. It’s also the room that never had a boy cross the threshold in the entire time I was growing up. It still freaks me out a bit to sleep with Jeff in that room. It has hard wood floors and a floor vent that is above my parent’s bed.

But there was also the knowing we are leaving the country and my parent’s are getting older. In the past, when I’ve ‘gone home’ to visit, I always knew I would be back ‘Hasta Pronto’. But this time, it was different. I’m not exactly sure when I will be coming back. Sure, we are thinking October, but we have a lot of ground to cover before then.

I said ‘Goodbye’ to our cats. And then I went down stairs to say goodbye to my Dad. We both had tears in our eyes. He’s pretty much wheel chair bound now and he couldn’t rise to hug me so I went to him. At 89, he’s survived so many health scares, it’s hard to believe he won’t live forever. He looked great – having slept 12 hours last night in the new adjustable bed we gave them.

My Dad was one of the first people who told me we should go move to Spain when I broached the subject. ‘Go – Have adventures. Live your lives before you’re old and you can’t.’

I knew he was thinking of his own life when he said it. But I also know my Dad is incredibly practical and if I said I wasn’t going to go because of him, he would get very angry. He and my Mom love to hear about the things we do and the places we go. I know this moving to Spain will be no different.

Then my Mom loaded us in the car and drove us to the airport. She cried harder than I’ve ever seen her at the curbside. Sitting in the airport afterwards, I thought about our decision to move halfway across the world. Was it wise right now? If not now, when? And then I heard my Dad’s voice. ‘Go have adventures.’ And we will. Just because it’s hard on so many levels, doesn’t mean it isn’t the right thing to do.

Road Trippin’

Oh, how I love a road trip! It’s an American tradition. Since back in college, road trips represented freedom. You drive and you eat at random places. Seeing tourist signs for things like ‘The worlds largest ball of twine!’ or ‘The Corn Palace’. You stay at the closest hotel when you’re tired of driving. It’s awesome and unpredictable! And tonight, after Jeff gets home from work, we are heading to my parent’s with our UHaul truck full of things they can use, and boxes they’ve agreed to store for us. I feel like we’re in college again!

Last night, we loaded our king-sized adjustable bed into the truck – that was fun – and a couch for my son, and other boxes and treasures we are planning on storing there. Things I don’t want to go on a ship that could be lost forever.

This morning, I’m buzzing with excitement! We are driving to Portland in January. So the weather might present challenges. But Jeff will do all the driving, so he’ll swear and clutch the dashboard a lot less. And I get to look out the window at the scenery like a Golden Retriever! It’s going to be fun.

The last real road trip Jeff and I took together was when I took a job in Phoenix. But that trip was filled with nervous anticipation as we hadn’t yet found a place to live. Our SUV was full of all the stuff I thought I might need, until he moved down when the house was sold – with the rest of our stuff, the cats and the kids.

I had brought 9 large suit cases of clothes and a few other things. At one point, in Salt Lake, we were stopped by the police who were doing random searches for drug cars on the highway – seemed strange.

‘What’s in the back?’ asked the cop to my husband.

‘Those are her clothes.’ explained Jeff

‘That’s all your clothes?’ he asked – completely skeptical.

I leaned in to help smooth the way.

‘And shoes too.’ I clarified – just so he would understand. ‘I know. Just the essentials.’

My husband gave me serious side-eye. I wasn’t being helpful, apparently.

‘She has a new job in Phoenix, so we’re moving her down there to help set her up before we sell the house in Seattle.’

The cop looked at me like I was an alien.

‘Who are you working for in Phoenix?’ he asked me.

I told him, and then he asked who I worked for in Seattle and BINGO! the light went on.

‘Ah. OK I get it.’ he waved us away to head back to his car.

‘Wow! I never realized being in possession of too many clothes and shoes was a crime.’ I said to Jeff.

He looked at me in disbelief, and for a long moment he said nothing – then he sighed and shook his head before starting the car.

We won’t have that same problem this time. We’re just two people in a Uhaul – like probably hundreds of others on any given day across this country. Moving our stuff, complete with our cats – Clubber and Lucy. Heading off to new horizons. I’ve got the drinks in the cooler and the road food ready to go on the front seat. Now all I need is my driver!