You’ll come and visit, right?

Jeff says it’s stress and that I ran myself down. I don’t know if it’s that or what – but I have the flu again. Started yesterday and now I’m in the fever and chills phase. Cold then Hot then Cold again.

Maybe it’s that we went through three climate zones in 48 hours, each with differing humidity and 30 degree swings in temperature. But I’m down for the count, except when our translations show up in that overnight envelope I expect today from our translator. Then I’ll be walking a half mile to the UPS store to overnight them to the consulate. That should be fun. I’ll have to warn the UPS store personnel to fumigate their store after I leave.

Yes – we are down to one car. This means Jeff takes it to work and I’m home bound. It wouldn’t matter if I didn’t have to get this important last set of documents to the consulate by tomorrow, but suddenly I realize how much I miss my car. That zippy little thing that took me where I needed to go.

All this is just a reminder how much we’re giving up. It’s all going away. I woke up in the middle of the night and thought ‘Oh my God – in less than three weeks we’re homeless!’ But then I remembered that I have already rented an apartment in Spain. So we won’t actually be homeless. When we push off the dock on this side of the world, we’re rowing to a new dock on the other.

Sure, our stuff won’t get there for a couple of months, but we will have a place to lay our heads and shower, that isn’t a hotel. We will be fine. I know that. But I think it’s actually harder than I thought it would be. This letting go.

Sitting at the consulate on Monday, it hit me. We don’t know how to be anything other than tourists in another country. Suddenly we’re going to have to find out how to be locals. But we know nothing. And we will be at the mercy of new rules and customs, and my favorite boots will be on a boat going through the Panama Canal. If they lose those boots I’m gonna be pissed off.

OK, I’m free associating now, in a downward spiral. Deep breaths. I think Jeff is doing better now, than I am. He had to sell almost all his tools and he had his moment about 2 weeks ago. After spending nearly all his adult life putting together the shop of his dreams, it’s all gone now. I saw how hard it was for him and I’m there today.

Intellectually, we both know we’re going to have adventures, and that is exactly what we want, so that’s not the issue. It’s more the idea of losing control. We visited our friends over the last few months – in multiple states.

‘You’ll come visit us, right?’ I implore them in my most needy voice. I mean, we’re moving to Spain but I don’t want to lose my friends.

‘Well’ they say, ‘Sure, when the kids are out of school or maybe when such and such happens, we can come.’

Now I’m not stupid. My friend’s lives are full and they don’t revolve around us. But sometimes I wish they would just lie. We do have some friends who are already in Europe and we’ll see them right away. And our friends, Tom and Laurie are taking a Mediterranean cruise and will be in Valencia in October. She made me put it in my phone so I don’t forget the exact dates.

This is the intersection between dreaming and doing. We’re committed now but like any cross roads, it takes tremendous resolve and a lot of faith to take the leap at that last moment, believing you’ll be OK. Until that overnight envelope shows up today, I think I’ll take a nap and try to restore my energy for what’s coming.

 

The Slow Roll

The next 30 days – Please, Please, Please give us a visa – has become our linguistic transition period. I’m +Babbeling, and Rosetta Stoning. I’m watching strictly Spanish TV and even trying out some of my new language on Jeff.

‘Let’s Go’ he says, to move me along to the store.

‘You mean ‘Vamonos!’ I say, with a wave of my hand. I’ve begun gesturing with my arms a lot more – like my new favorite Spanish actresses.

He rolls his eyes, but I’ll be the one laughing when we land in Spain.

‘Como llegamos al metro, por favor?’ I’ll say at the airport, to the first official person I see – right out of the gate. Jeff will be confused but follow in my wake – as he’ll have no other choice, being that he hasn’t been studying up for hours a day with La Casa De Papel and Velvet.

For our visa applications, we had to pay an official consulate-approved translator to translate our bank statements – and a host of other documents. So when we went to the bank to get them stamped and signed, the manager suggested that we switch our language preference to Spanish going forward. That way, next year when we want to renew our visas, we can just print them, get then stamped and we won’t be out the $400 to have someone certify that numbers in English are numbers in Spanish.

Seemed like a great idea until yesterday when we got a fraud alert via text on Jeff’s phone. And yes, now it’s in Spanish.

‘What the hell is this?’ asked Jeff, confused. ‘I think it’s telling me there has been some fraudulent activity on our account – but I can’t tell what it is.’ he groaned. ‘Shit! We had that guy at the bank change everything over to Spanish!’

I smiled. Seemed like a good idea at the time. So we logged into our account and Yup! its all in Spanish. Nothing like jumping into the deep end. So I called and got things straightened out, charges reversed and cards cancelled. They’re researching some of the stuff from a couple of days ago and today they sent me an email update – in Spanish. Jeff laughed.

‘See. Now YOU get to decipher what the hell this says.’

‘No problema!’ was my reply. And I sat down and figured it out. Sure, I had to look up a bunch of banking mumbo jumbo (Oh, how Google translate still owns me) – but I did pretty good before I broke down and used ‘the Google’, as my Mom calls it. And, if I’m honest, I’m a little proud of myself.

Not that I haven’t had my doubts about what we’re doing, the closer it gets. Serious doubts about how mad we must be to just up and move across the world. But I feel sure, when the days comes, I’ll do it with a hearty ‘Vamanos!’

 

 

 

Grateful for Letting Go

When our children were growing up, we tried to instill a sense of gratitude in their character. They had things I couldn’t dream of when I was a kid. So I’m not sure I was always successful in making sure they understood how hard we worked to provide for them.

Over the years, we’ve amassed a lot of stuff and while I’ve reveled in the feeling of being lighter in the last few months, I’ve struggled with the tension between being grateful for the life we’ve had – complete with all the trappings – and letting go of it all. ‘Am I grateful enoungh?’ I’ve asked myself.

Attachment isn’t something I’ve ever struggled with. I inherited this from my grandparents, who picked up and moved on a regular basis my Mother’s entire life. It’s why she has lived in the same house for over 50 years and is afraid of swapping out a table cloth, let alone moving to a new house.  Perhaps it skipped a generation and I have a little gypsy in me somewhere back there.

Wading through our stuff, putting price tags on things that cost 100 times more at retail, felt strange. They need to go, so were priced to sell. But even stranger, was when people looked at those things, with the prices I put on the little colored stickers, and tried to talk me down further. And with 25 cars in our cul-de-sac, it was like being attacked by a swarm of bees.

The first time, my jaw dropped.

‘Do you want me to tell you the story of this rugby ball? I bought it in London on a cold foggy day on Portobello Road. It’s from the 1920’s. You can’t get another one of these in this state.’

The guy shrugged – he was wearing a National Rifle Association ball cap , so I think Portobello Road isn’t a top destination for him. But still, he pressed his case. Finally, I gave in. I’m not taking that ball with us. And my kids don’t want it. But how do you sell things to strangers who will never appreciate the provenance?

They don’t know the story of the pitcher from France we got from a dear friend for our wedding. She hand carried it 18 hours and I’ve kept all my kitchen utensils in it ever since. Or the crystal Tiffany champagne bucket from our wedding we use when something really special happens in our lives.

Some times – I had to just say ‘No’ the price is the price. I’d rather donate it than sell it for $5 less, to a person who doesn’t understand the value. But I admit, towards the end, I let some things go for nearly nothing.  Time is running out and there is no more room in the boxes.

Walking through the kitchen I realized – No more toast, no more blending, no more air popped popcorn – because we no longer own the things that can make that stuff. No cakes or cookies or homemade bread. From now on,  I’ll be making coffee in the mornings on the stove in a Turkish coffee pot that will go in my suit case.

Closing up the garage, there are only a few things left to make decisions about. Donate or send to the landfill.  For a moment, just a moment, I wondered if we were crazy. How can we be grateful for the life we’ve had and yet, practically, give it all away? It goes against the American Way. Every commercial on TV and every show I watched growing up. More – More – More. Walking away from those messages, so deeply embedded, is  harder than you’d think.

I need to remind myself that swimming in the same direction as everyone else isn’t me.  It’s time to find a new stream and that means letting go and traveling light. But I will say, it would have been easier if just one of the vultures that descended on our house this weekend had once, just once, said something nice.

We sold everything left over after Jeff’s initial website back on November. And the proceeds will pay to ship the things that are left, and will make their way to Spain on a container ship. I guess that was the whole point. And, at the end of the day, I’m grateful for that.

 

The Cone of Uncertainty

Anyone who has every developed software knows about the ‘Cone of Uncertainty’. It’s basically a big funnel where the wide end is the beginning of the project. It’s the time when you think up everything you could possibly ever want the application or the software to do. Every crazy function. It’s the ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could…?’ moment. This flare of ideas should not come again until the 2.0 version of the software.

Then you take those things and you estimate the time, effort and cost it will take to develop them and you begin to edit. At the wide end of the cone, you have an accuracy of +/-  200%. As you move down the cone towards the narrow end – over time – your estimates, requirements, and costs become more refined and more real.

So we have run this ‘Project of Moving to Spain’ much like a software project, since both Jeff and I understand how that works. We’ve got spreadsheets, lists and timelines. We identified dependencies and risks and we’ve been ticking things off. The other night Jeff commented on where we are.

‘In the beginning it was exciting. So many unknowns. But now it’s like we’re just slogging through the list.’

‘Yeah.’ I said. ‘I hear you. It’s not sexy stuff. But if we want to get this across the finish line, we need to do the housekeeping. The fun stuff will start again when we show up in Spain with a couch and some cardboard boxes. Then 2.0 starts. But we gotta do the drudgery first.’

All our garage sale items in the house are tagged, and tonight Jeff will do what’s left in the garage. We’ll be ready and Open for Business on Saturday.

Our shipper gave us a final quote, after a video review, and we need to get the cost down, so I’m going through my hand bags and editing. In the process, I’m cleaning them out and I realize – again – that I’ll need that shredder. I don’t dare sell it in the sale!

These handbags are full of old .ppt presentations or budget spreadsheets from whatever business meeting I was in the last time I carried them. And receipts and more receipts and just STUFF! The pile was impressive as I turned each of them upside down and sifted through the mound.

I now have 7 – yes, 7 – small nail clippers. Piles of old cold and allergy meds (probably expired). Lots and Lots of small tissue packets – I guess my nose used to run a lot, perhaps from traveling so much. Rubber bands by the hand fulls (I don’t use rubber bands, so this is a mystery). Business cards that could reach the ceiling, And pens from every vendor, contractor, trade show, conference, and gas station I’ve ever been to. Buckets full.

But I also found some of my better jewelry – things I didn’t even remember I owned. Earrings Jeff gifted me, for one occasion or another that I had switched out. And necklaces, if I went to the Spa at a hotel I was staying in. So I’m glad I went through it all.

I know I could have probably sold some items on Bag, Borrow and Steal or one of the many resale sites, but I have no time for that. I feel like a mother handing her babies to strangers, but do hope whoever buys these bags in this garage sale – at bargain basement prices, I might add – will enjoy them and go on adventures with them.

In a week we will be preparing for our trip to LA, and ‘The Interview’ (cue the scary music) dun, dun, dun! In the famous words of Sally Field, when she won the Oscar for Norma Rae – I hope ‘they like me, they really like me’ and we don’t have any hiccups in getting our visas.

Our visa packets are 100% completed. All the copies are made, which doubled the size of them yesterday. So now we’ll look like earnest students handing in term papers at the end of a very long semester.  But it feels good to be at the narrow end of the Cone of Uncertainty.

 

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!