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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

And just like that…

I just picked up our translations from the Post Office. Of course, I had to make two trips because I was so excited, I forgot my wallet and they wanted ID to pick up a signature required package. But that’s OK. I went back home and on my way back to the post office, I got the Money Orders for the visa application fees and the tax.


Just now, I sat here putting them all in order for each of our packets, according to the consulate check list.  I just need to make copies and it’s done. Finished! Just waiting to go to LA and apply for the visa at our appointment on Feb 5th.

Our original appointment was for a week from today – but I moved it out because I had no idea when our apostilles would come back from the State Dept. or if the government shut down would impact us. With my document karma, I felt sure we were in jeopardy. But we have crossed back over the River Styx. The ferry man in Document Hades is rid of me, at last. So long – suckers!

Here we are – a with a week to spare, but I’m not sorry I pushed it out. We have a bit more time to get things done. Like this morning when I signed the contract for our overseas shipper. They will pick up our stuff from the house the week of the February 19th. So that’s locked in.

My assistant in Valencia is shopping for internet service for us – so we’ll be ready to hop online when we get to our new home. She’s been at a squash tournament in Portugal for the last week or so, and is back and ready to make our transition go smoothly.

We’re living out of suitcases now – not as fun as you might think –  and I’m going to start shutting the house up, room by room. Just so we don’t miss anything and to make sure everything is ready for our garage sale this weekend. I posted pictures on some sale sites and I had people over the weekend leaving written notes on our front door, wanting to jump the queue to buy our stuff early. Crazy.

But right now – I’m going to celebrate this milestone. I’m making myself another cafe con leche, and I’m going to watch Episode 3 – Season 2 of Las Chicas del Cable. That Carlos – Grrr. And Marisol and naive Pablo? Don’t get me started.

Oh well. Guilty pleasures aside, I must admit, it feels a little strange to have it all completed. I wonder what I’ll do with myself now. Oh wait – I’ve got plenty to do. But no more Document Hades.

The Dump Run


These days, I am obsessed with Garbage. My happiest day is when the rubbish trucks come to our house and empties our recycling and garbage cans. Most of the time, they’re both completely full again, 5 minutes after they’re picked up. I stage the trash and recycling so that when I hear the trucks, I go out and get the cans and immediately fill them up with all the stuff I’ve not been able to fit into it from the previous week.

It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, but its a necessity. Every day, on top of the bags of shredding we’ve got this week, I’m going through cupboards in the garage and in tops of closets. I have all of Emilie’s room to deal with too.  If it can’t be donated, sold, given away to family or friends, or recycled, it is being rehomed at the local land fill. Don’t worry, I tend to be super green, so this is the absolute last resort.

Our garbage service only has ‘big item pickup’ once every two months. It’s a nice service and they’ll take a couch and crush it with a special truck and take it away. I know this because they took one of our couches that I tried to donate but it was rejected by the donation truck driver.

‘Well.’ he said after looking at the couch. ‘It has a couple of small snags.’

I looked at him, incredulous. I was donating a couch that had cost thousands at retail.

‘It’s chenille.’ I explained. ‘Its bound to have a couple of small snags, as you say.’

He rubbed his chin. ‘Yeah, we don’t take couches that aren’t pristine.’

My eyes rolled in my head like a slot machine. What?? The Salvation Army doesn’t take anything but perfect furniture for DONATION? I was giving it to them for free.

‘So you only pick up from the Crate and Barrel warehouse directly now – cut out the pesky retail customers?’

He was unmoved. So I had no choice. I put it out on the curb and watched as the big truck with the crusher came and took one half of it. There is a size limit to what they’ll take on ‘big item pick up days.’

So tonight, we loaded the other half of our couch into Mary Jane. Jeff will do a dump run on his way to work tomorrow, along with some old tires and a bunch of other miscellaneous crap. And today the garbage man comes to empty our cans. Its like waiting for Santa Claus, but in reverse. He takes away and leaves nothing behind. My new definition of Christmas!  I am over joyed that more stuff will be leaving our house.

And my car is full  up for donation too.  The guys at The Goodwill drop off location and I are buddies now. They come running our when I pull up.

‘Another load, eh?’

‘That’s right. And there’s some good stuff in here. You might want to take a look at a handbag for your wife.’

He winks at me and gives me the donation slip.

Tomorrow will by the best day of the week. And I’ll only have to wait 7 days to do it all over again.

Culinary Surprises

In an effort to waste as little as possible, I’ve been focusing on eating the food we have. It doesn’t mean we don’t ever go to the grocery store, but when we have food in the freezer and pantry – why not eat that first?

In the beginning of this commitment, it was rather easy. I had frozen spaghetti sauce or lasagna to fall back on. Being that we had 3 kids, I only ever learned to cook in large portions, so we’ve always had left overs, even though they’re all off to school. Over time,  this decision has gotten more challenging.

I’ve made smoothies, from small remnants of frozen fruits, that even I had a hard time choking down. And Pasta ‘surprises’ that included some small portions of frozen vegetables and multiple types of pasta. I’ll concede it was a dish that was visually challenging. Then Pancakes for dinner – to use up some aging pancake mix. Jeff has eaten it all and rarely complained. Although, he’s cagey in his critiques.

‘Interesting pasta.’ he said, after one particularly creative dinner. ‘Are we having that tomorrow night too?’

‘Why? Did you like it?’

‘It was unusual.’

‘Unusual bad or unusual good?’

‘Neither – just different.’

”Different’ in Jeff speak is the kiss of death. If I bring home new shoes and he says ‘Hmmm. They’re different’ those shoes are going back to the store. Unfortunately, there is more ‘Different’ in Jeff’s near term culinary future – as we get down to the wire.

Tonight, he’s enjoying ‘Potato Surprise’, and later this week I’m making a multi-bean soup with mystery spices from packets, where I’m not quite sure of the contents. That should be fun!

In this process, I’ve discovered that we had stocked up on stupid things – things I don’t remember buying and never eat.  I’ve got so much chocolate pudding in the pantry, I’ve started freezing it in the Popsicle forms I had from my kids when they were little. Jeff has dubbed them ‘Poop Pops’ because he says they look like frozen poo. But he eats them for desert. What choice does he have, really?

By my calculations, we should be able to eat through our pantry, with very little left, by mid-January. Then we’ll only purchase food that we’ll immediately consume, but that’s a ways out. We did invite Jeff’s Mom over for Christmas dinner.

‘No ‘Surprise’ dinner that day, right?’ he asked. ‘I don’t think my Mom would care if you made lasagna or something like that – but don’t add in old random pasta or dried squash or something. Let’s just make it a regular food day, like normal people.’

I was a little offended that he would think I wouldn’t make our Christmas dinner special. I did have my eye on two old boxes of Rice-A-Roni and was wondering if I could conjure up something festive with the two cans Cream of Chicken soup I have left. But I’ll hold off on that. Rice-A-Roni Surprise will have to wait for another day.

Thank You for Your Service

On Friday it was clean up day. I had to wait until 5pm because in the midst of all the things I have to do – I’ve been summoned for jury duty at the US District Court for Monday. I’ve got nothing else going on.  I was terrified because every single time I’ve been called for jury duty – I get seated on a trial. I just have that kind of face, I guess. It just seems like something I would love to do right about now. NOT!

Moving on. We submitted our FBI background checks in way back in September. So I worked my list and after combing the FBI website and finding nothing useful, I pestered people in Washington DC until someone gave me the super secret phone number to check on the status of our background checks. It came with a warning ‘Don’t abuse this.’ What am I going to do, crank call them? Anyway, I’m sure I’m on the naughty list there.  But it’s getting down to the wire and I need to make sure we can get these babies Apostlized by the US Department of State and translated in time for our appointment at the Consulate in January.

Today I got the news – they haven’t even opened the envelope that contains our fingerprints, check and forms. The woman I spoke to told me that they might get to it in early January. I had a small coronary. Deep breathing helped but, yeah – that’s not gonna work.

So I found another service (authorized by the government) that became available since we submitted them before, and we’re getting new fingerprints tomorrow and overnighting it to them. We will get it back by the end of next week (fingers crossed) – assuming my finger prints can be captured in a way that the FBI finds suitable. Then I’ll send them off to the State Department – and finally the translator.

I also heard back from my 401(k) plan administrator. Just this week, in a side note in an email from the Consulate relating to something else, they reminded me that all my bank statements and 401(k), investment statements, etc. must be signed by a manager or higher at the bank or firm, with title, phone number, dated and stamped. Huh?

I had never heard of this before. I said as much to the person at the Consulate. She said that it just has to be at the bottom of the statement ‘anywhere’ but it ‘must be done or we can not accept your documents as certified proof that you have the funds.’ So, let me get this straight. My monthly bank statements, sent to me by my actual bank, investment firms, etc. are not considered certified, even though the bank, etc. is the one mailing them to me?

So I called and after being transferred, then transferred, then transferred and then put on hold for 30 minutes and heard the entire sound track for Downton Abbey – not unpleasant – while they called another company, I found out that my 401(k) administrator has been changed in the last 3 months and that they aren’t sure they a)get me 3 months worth of statements, and b)they don’t get what I’m even talking about with the signatures falderal, and why I need it. So I spoke slowly and deliberately. I sympathized with their confusion, I told them. ‘Spain? Ha! What are you gonna do? I don’t get it either but that doesn’t mean I don’t desperately need it. Pleeeeease HELP ME! I BEG YOU!!’ So they called me back today and they’re doing it. I could hear the guy on the phone shaking his head when he heard my small sobs of gratitude.

I’m also baffled that this little gem wasn’t in the instructions on their website under the heading ‘Proof of financial funds’. But it’s not the first time I’ve heard this concern that we might spend all this time, money and aggravation to move to Spain, so that when we get there, we can become indigent dead-beats. Even though I’ve assured them, I can stay home in the US and be a deadbeat, if I was so inclined. Eating Cheetos all day, watching Real Housewives of some Horrible City and drinking carb loaded sugary drinks and not showering. It would take zero effort. And I wouldn’t even have to consult the FBI to do it!

Our landlord in Valencia looked at me like I was insane when I explained it that way. Perhaps they don’t have the equivalent, like ‘Real Housewives of Barcelona’, although the word ‘real’ is actually a good thing in Spain. And involves a lot less fake, over dressed woman beating each other up over too much wine and silly misunderstandings. So that’s a good thing.

Anyway, after all that nonsense today, I phoned the jury summons number to check on my status for next week and…They said I’m off the hook. I have satisfied my jury service with just a phone call, because they have no trials for me to judge next week! Somebody up there took pity on me today. And they actually said ‘Thank you for your service.’


The Cloak of Righteous Indignation

ALL the shredding is done. At last. The boxes and boxes of paperwork we have dragged with us from house to house is no more. If you’ll recall – I bought an industrial shredder to do the job. A job that took me longer than I would have hoped. What’s left fits into a small fanning file folder than I can take on a plane.

These papers needed to be sifted through in detail to ensure that we didn’t need any of them or that titles to cars, birth certificates, etc. weren’t tucked between pages. I’m glad I did, because our son’s savings bonds, gifted to him from his grandparents were in those piles.

Some of what I discovered brought back painful memories. Court documents from my husband’s first marriage – long before I came along – and some from after we were married, that surround custody hearings and ugliness. Years of stomach churning ulcers wondering what was coming at us next. It was all there in black and white – depositions, email rants. I reread them and the pain came back. My hand hovered over the shredder asking myself, ‘Should I keep this stuff? Would we ever need it to defend ourselves about the craziness we went through?’ But it got me thinking.


There is an old story about a wealthy man who visits a Buddhist monastery to learn some wisdom. He is greeted by the head monk (I’m not sure what head monks are called) and the man is invited to join him at a low table.

The monk hands him a tea cup full of water. Then he asks the man if he would like some tea. The man responds that he would, but his cup is already filled with the water.

The monk smiles and tells him, ‘You are like your cup. It is filled with things you do not want. To have what you want, first you must empty it of what no longer serves you.’

I thought back. For years, we wrapped ourselves in in the cloak of righteous indignation. Hoping it would keep us warm, in what seemed like a never-ending nuclear winter. We were the victims of injustice or outright slander. We were ‘right’ and someone else was very ‘wrong’. It wasn’t fair. And these documents I held in my hand proved that. But proved it to whom?

We were no longer in that fight – these papers no longer served us in any way. ‘Being right’ didn’t matter. So, I fed them into the shredder and watched them become little, tiny pieces of nothing. They held no value or power over us any more. We would never show them to our children or anyone else. People don’t even want to look at your vacation photos, let alone old court papers over wine at a dinner party! In the immortal words of Ilsa, of Disney Princess fame – It was time to just ‘Let it go!’

For years, I have kept a small empty bowl near my sink in the bathroom. While brushing my teeth every morning, it’s something that helps me remember to start the day with an empty bowl (representing my life). To let go of negativity and past things and to be ready to receive – filling my bowl with all the things I want. Positive things that will benefit me and the world.

Today, seeing my bowl, I found that with all those old hurts in tiny pieces in the recycling bin, I feel lighter. My bowl is well and truly empty – no longer just a metaphor.

Moving to Spain has ensured that we will go only with what we truly need. The things we want to take up precious space in the cup that is our lives. It’s funny, I find that when I look at it that way, I’m very stingy about what makes the cut. And our cloak of righteous indignation has gone officially in the give-away bin.

It’s a Date!

This move is starting to require math. Soooo many calculations. How many more rolls of toilet paper will we need until March 1st? Laundry and dishwasher soap pods? Shampoo? Which means purchasing anything from Costco is pretty much out of the question. We have a new rule in our house – We only purchase what we can consume before we fly away. Seems straight forward, but it’s not.

We are only 80 days from D-day (or maybe V-day in honor of Valencia). If I had been more proactive, I would have been charting our usage of consumables, in detail, for the last 80 days and then I wouldn’t be in this conundrum. Oh wait! Yeah, now I remember why I didn’t do that. Because it would be insane! But I sure would like that information now.

We went to the grocery store today and purchased food for the week, including cat food and milk. The milk had a date on it and I realized that Jeff has begun to adopt moving milestones as points of reference in our purchasing decisions.milk

‘That milk is going to go bad on February 2nd. That’s after our visa appointment. We might actually have our residence visa by the time this goes sour.’

I laughed. ‘Uh, no. This milk will be drunk before the end of next week.’

‘That’s not what I mean. Its just that soon we’ll be buying things that could conceivably have a date after we don’t live here anymore.’

He’s right, of course.

‘Well, I hope we’re not purchasing things like spoiled meat and cheese because we find the date less intimidating. But I understand what you’re saying. The time is coming up fast. We need to be smart about what we’re buying and why. We can’t take it with us.’

We came home and unpacked the groceries. As I was putting them away, I passed our wine rack. !t’s filled with wine and booze. We can’t move any of it in our luggage or on the container ship – they’re very strict. And unless I’m going to become an alcoholic in short order, we can’t drink all that. But then it hit me!

Right at the end. Right before we fly out, we’ll have a party for friends and neighbors. It will be a ‘Come and Get and Drink all you Want’ party. Kind of like Adult Halloween. They can bring a pillow case and take any left over rolls of toilet paper, or laundry pods (those are expensive). And they can drink all they want while picking through the dregs of what’s left of our lives.

Sure, they’ll have nothing to sit on, or even drink out of, but it’s free. And it will go fast. Whew! It makes the math more palatable as I stand in the aisle at Walmart counting sheets on paper towel rolls and tissues in Kleenex boxes for the next 2 months.

Ticket out of Limbo Land

Its easy to get caught up in the flurry of activity, as our focus shifts to wrapping up our life here in the US, and starting a new one in Spain. But in the months before we go, I need to remind myself to live TODAY. Sounds sort of elementary, but the things that matter usually are.

While getting stuff checked off the ‘moving to Spain’ list, I’m writing a second book and editing my first novel. Although, if I’m honest I’ve been neglecting both of these last few weeks. I brought my laptop with me to Valencia, thinking I would write in the airport, on planes or in the middle of the night when jetlag was at its worst. But I found I didn’t. I was too keyed up, and I know myself. My best writing doesn’t come when I’m distracted. It requires focus. My characters deserve better.

I’ve been edgy and nervous about everything coming together. But today, I’m sitting down in our house, and getting back to it. Sometimes, I think it’s easy to set aside the things we love to do, so that we can just get through things that make us uncomfortable. Muscle through it – it’s what I know how to do. But I realized, I can’t put my life on hold so that we can get ourselves to Spain.

Part of why I’ve been so out of sorts is that I’ve not been living in the now, but in limbo land. That ends today. Today, I’m dedicating myself to doing what I LOVE – my normal writing routine. A good cup of Spanish coffee, my favorite breakfast, and my fingers to the keyboard. It’s a bit of muscle memory and it feels good.

My Work is Done

Double checking the list – yup, yup, yup. I ticked all the boxes so I guess I get to go home now. Well, it already said that on my ticket, so I would have left anyway. But it does feel good to know that I came, I conquered, and I left. I’m no Alexander the Great, and I didn’t bring an army with me, but I assembled one when I got here and, together, we did it all!

Good by Valencia

On my final day, I popped into the bank where I opened my account last week. I needed some coaching on wiring money and how they do banking here – needing to pay my new Valencian Landlord and such. The woman who helped me open my account last Thursday was shocked to see me, and more than a little surprised to hear why I was there.

‘You’ve already rented an apartment?!”

‘Well, yes. That’s one of the main reasons I came here on this trip. And a few other things, as you know – like opening the bank account.’

She looked at me thoughtfully.

‘You are…I don’t know the word in English’ (she throws out a few Spanish words I don’t recognize).

My mind races. Thinking of a few things I’d been called in my life. They weren’t as flattering as one might think.

‘Organized?’ I offer with a smile, hoping she’s going to be charitable.

‘No.’ She types on the computer, frantically searching for the answer.

‘Determined! You are the most determined person I’ve seen.’

‘In a good way, right?’

She squints and then smiles.

‘Mmm. Sure.’

Perhaps she recognizes that my ‘bank door entering skills’ have much improved in 5 days! Anyway, this determined girl is going HOME. It will only take me 22 hours from now. Then I get to wake up and host Thanksgiving for our family! Yay! Lets just see how much determination I have left in the tank by then. Or how edible the dinner might be. Hasta Luego, Valencia!! We will meet again!