Stress Eating for One

I’m usually incredibly disciplined. I only eat protein in the morning. I do my yoga after lunch a high protein lunch, and I walk at least 6 miles every night – if not more, and other work outs. But these last few days here, I’ve thrown my entire routine out the window.

I’ve peaked too soon. There isn’t enough to do while waiting for our international shippers to pick up our stuff. I don’t have a car, so I’m house bound with all the bad influences – daytime TV.

My favorite gluten-free short bread cookies (I can’t get them in Spain) have been nearly my constant companion. They literally melt when they come in contact with your tongue. I’m drinking more wine, because, well I need to get rid of it – wink wink. And since there is no real food in our house, except microwave popcorn and jello? They’ve become part of the 3 food groups I’m sticking to. Carbs, Carbs, Carbs.

What is wrong with me? I’m never like this. But I can’t seems to stay away from this stuff. I did try to ‘work out’ by wrapping all our boxes in Saran wrap. Who knows if they’ll get wet on a boat. The chances of that seem higher than in our living room.

It’s Saturday and Jeff’s home today. Sadly, he’s seen my pitiful new routine and suggested we might walk to the store and purchase something that didn’t start it’s life as sugar cane or on a corn stalk. He actually walked me through the store by the elbow, suggesting healthy food!

‘Hey – that’s my job.’ I said with a frown and dragging my feet like a toddler.

He just shook his head and put my ‘usual’ sustenance in the the basket. Walking back, he teased out some of what’s been bothering me.

‘I’ve moved on from the worries about getting the visa. Now I’m worried we won’t be able to access our banking from there and then what will happen?’

‘So you’re substituting your fears for the overarching fear of the unknown.’ he said calmly.

I stopped in the desert on the way home and stared at him.

‘Who are you? Dr. Phil?’

‘No. But I’ve known you a long time. You’re good at worrying about things you can control. The other stuff, you sort of push off until they come around into your orbit again. That’s how going to Spain is for you. You have no idea what to be worried about so you’re choosing something tangible.’

My mouth hung open. ‘Am I that transparent?’

He smiled and hesitated. ‘Uh. Yes.’

Damn it! I hate it when he does that.

‘OK smart guy. Why am I eating only popcorn, cookies, jello and wine?’

He laughed. ‘The wine I don’t get, cause I’m not a big wine drinker. But who doesn’t like jello, cookies and popcorn?’

He’s right, of course. I am stressing over things I’ve checked and rechecked. Things I’ve created back doors for and contingency plans. It’s going to be OK, but because I’ve peaked too soon and I’m home bound, I only obsess about stuff all day.

Jeff had a remedy and today I rented a car for all next week until we leave. I’ll have wheels again. I can go out into the world and avoid looking the four walls that have been closing in on me. As of today, the stress eating is officially over. Yoga classes and the gym are back in my schedule until we leave. 8 days until we fly out and I’ll avoid gaining 5lbs. before that.

Visa Approved!!

Just heard – we are good to go. Its a little surreal. If we hadn’t had to provide one more month of financial statements, it would have taken only 3 days. I love the Spanish Consulate in Los Angeles. Crazy! After all that – it was quick and painless.

Crazy Ideas

It’s strange. Thinking back, when we started this whole crazy idea of doing this – we targeted February 28th as the day we would fly out to Spain. And now it’s going to happen. In the end, I fooled the Gods of Document Hades – I think I wore them out!

I just booked our flights. I’m not sure how it all dovetailed together, but it did and our project planning all worked out. In software parlance, we finished UAT in plenty of time.

I included a photo in this post. Its a book my husband bought for me. He had no idea how may crazy ideas I could really have when he gave it to me. But he soon learned that the sky is the limit as far as my imagination is concerned. So, here we go!

If you could see me right now, you’d see a HUGE smile, that will be celebrated later tonight with the last bottle of champagne I’ve been saving for this occasion. The sound of the cork popping will be like the sounds of the fireworks of Fallas, we will get to experience in a few weeks.

Here’s to dreaming and taking roads less traveled. Here’s to all the crazy ideas and believing that anything is possible. Here’s to living the life you’ve imagined. It can be done. Ask me. I know.

Day 8 – Visa Watch

We’re just waiting now. Checking email throughout the day to see if the ‘We like you, come to Spain’ email is waiting for us. Now I’m doing the housekeeping of sweeping up all the little things. Funny, I thought the list was almost done, but the closer we get I keep adding one thing here, another there. To Do’s I didn’t think about. Turning in cable boxes and routers, mailing important documents to my parents for safe keeping. Finding stray bins full of photos that I need to figure out what to do with them.

Today, I’m putting our entire movie collection on an external hard drive so we can avoid taking the dvd’s with us. It’s tedious but we’ll have entertainment when we decide we can’t get through the day without watching Harry Potter or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Music CD’s will come after that.

Yesterday, I made the inventory of all our boxes and wrapped them in plastic wrap and labeled them for the shippers when they come next week. And speaking of international shippers. Are they all flakes? I signed the contract with ours and their dispatch still can’t tell me what day next week when they will come and pick up our stuff. And when Jeff dropped off his motorcycle with a different shipper in LA last week, they acted like it was the first time they had ever shipped a motorcycle and were making it up as they go along. A process ripe for disruption, if I was looking for a business opportunity or a Start-up to start up.

Only one more document and our accountant will have all the documents he needs to do our taxes. Every day, I do small things now. But most of them have to done on a specific day, so it’s slowed me down. I can’t batch it all up and just muscle through, so it’s good I have this movie converting to do.

Jeff is still working an hour away and he has the truck so I’m home bound, for the most part. It’s goes against my nature. Before my son, Nick was born I was put on bed rest for 6 weeks for high blood pressure. It drove me crazy, even though everyone said I should appreciate the rest before sleepless nights became my reality. But I didn’t. I hated the inaction.

So, I’m determined to appreciate this time. Our last 14 days in the US. I’ll watch some of my favorite shows. Enjoy some foods I can only get here. Call friends and family. Take more walks in the neighborhood. But that doesn’t mean I’m not hitting refresh on my email – hoping against hope that we’ll be the exception and get our visas in record time. The biggest lose end tied up, at last.

 

Check, Check, Check

Yesterday, I sat near our open front door and waited all day for the overnight package from our translator so I could turn around and send it to the Spanish Consulate. Our mail carrier is flakey – a looong history of creatively avoiding bringing packages to our door and just leaving the ‘Sorry we missed you’ slip on the door when I’ve been home. Never ringing the bell and forcing me to go to the post office to collect them.

This time, I was going to outwit him. I sat on our only piece of furniture facing the door with it open. He was not going to get by me. Like any flu sufferer, I hit refresh on my laptop as I watched it get ever closer to our house. And then it stalled. Where was he? It’s like he fell off the radar. Refresh, Refresh, Refresh – Nothing.

Where could my Oh So Valuable package be? Where could this man I had to battle through high package delivery seasons like Christmas and Valentines Day? My postal nemesis was outwitting me and it wasn’t just the cold meds. Finally, I decided to walk up to the mail box and there it was. He had avoided coming to our door again and hadn’t put in the delivery status and it had been there for hours!

I grabbed it and like a wide receiver in the Super Bowl, I headed straight for the goal line a half mile away at the UPS store. Sure, I was still in my PJ’s and my hair wasn’t combed so when the UPS guy saw me come in the door wild eyed, he just shook his head. He and I know each other well.

‘Where are we sending this today?’ he asked, fingers over his key board. ‘Spain? Colorado?’

‘No. To the Spanish Consulate in Los Angeles.’

He raised his eyebrows. ‘Weren’t you just there on Monday?’

Yes, the people at the UPS store have seen me so many times for copies, notarization, overnight parcels that they know my schedule and visa milestones.

‘We were, but they needed one more set of bank statements.’

‘Seriously? You gave them like 1000 pages already. I copied all of them.’

‘Yeah – but they wanted more. This is the more, and it’s all been translated.’

He shook his head and put together the label and the envelope. We worked together to put it in and seal it.

‘I hate to say this, but I hope we never see each other again.’ I said

He smiled and nodded. ‘I know what you mean. I’m too emotionally tied up in your visa process. I’m going to need a break.’

I paid him and waved goodbye, trying to smooth down my hair with some sort of dignity – wandering home in my PJ’s after the adrenaline let down. Happy I could finally shut the front door and take a nap.

Today, we delivered our Audi TT to the Dealer who purchased it.

‘We have no car now.’ I lamented to Jeff tonight.

‘Yes we do. The truck is still in the driveway.’

I pulled a face.

‘Like I said, we have no car.’

‘We have one, we’re just ashamed to go out and drive around in it.’ he conceded.

He’s not wrong. We will technically be able to convey ourselves around these final two weeks – before someone who actually wants Mary Jane (our old truck) comes to pick it up – but we will not enjoy it.

On Sunday we’re heading down to Tuscon and visiting Jeff’s Mom, for the last time before we leave. I want to see her face when we pull up in it. Its not lost on me that we gave away or sold nearly everything of value. And now, the final vehicle we own is something from 1985.  But the list is smaller. Only a couple more things to check off and we’re outta here.

 

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.

 

Just One More Thing…

After driving to Los Angeles and staying in a hotel overnight, we made it the the consulate a bit early for our appointment. Their website details EXACTLY how you’re supposed to do everything, down to printing two copies of the document check list and the order in which those documents must appear in the packet. It emphasizes how important this all is and I checked and double checked it all. I had Jeff go through the instructions on the website himself, in case I missed something. Here’s how it actually went.

We got there early – I’m never, ever late to anything. And this appointment is too important to be left to chance. There weren’t any other people there to get visas at the moment we arrived, so they took us early.  Good sign – I thought. And they’re really nice people. I know they want to help us get our visa.

‘Just pull the financial documents out and let’s go through them first. That will be the thing that will keep you from getting the visa so if they are good, then the rest is easy’

Seemed logical to me. So out I pulled the holy scriptures of our financial picture – thick dossiers of everything and several months worth of statements.

‘Yeah – we don’t need all this. Just the beginning and ending balances. And being that this is February 5th and your January statement looks like it would have ended on the 29th – we will need that too. Why don’t you have that?’

I was incredulous. I had everything – EVERYTHING – related to our financial picture. It had all been translated for hundreds of dollars. And it all came down to our last bank statement??

‘There was no time to send it to Boulder to the translator and get it back in time for this appointment – 6 days later with a weekend in there.’

‘Well, we’re going to need that since it’s past the 29th.’

You could visibly seem my mouth hanging open. But of course I said, ‘OK’. I would get it.

Then they wanted to know why my translations weren’t ‘stapled by the translator’. I said I didn’t know. They were very concerned unstapled translations might be rejected in Spain. Jeff and I looked at each other. We could staple them ourselves but we remained silent.

‘Please consult your translator and ask why she didn’t staple them.’

I said I would and reached out to her in email from the consulate. Oh, No You Didn’t! She came unglued! She told me in her official translation certification, they expressly said that official translations are never stapled, she never staples, and she thinks it renders the documents unofficial. I was beginning to feel like I was caught between Mom and Dad and they were in a fight.

Ugh. Then we were told we needed more copies of our 10lb packets, so we had to walk across the street and get some made and bring them back. Great! We were all set – the guy gave me back some copies and we went back to our hotel to pack up and get Jeff’s motorcycle to the port of Los Angeles to ship it out. Then my phone rang.

They were very sorry but they had given me the wrong papers and I needed to come back across town and give them back to them so they could give me the correct ones. I will admit to having a melt down in the hotel room. The Gods of Document Hades were having me on again! But what could I do?

I went back through LA traffic and they squeezed me in to sort it out. It only took an hour. I left there and drove down to the port to meet up with Jeff – more than an hour away. I had all his gear, that was shipping with his bike, in the trunk of my car so he couldn’t complete it without me. This delayed us getting out of LA. And I know from experience, you never, ever delay getting out of LA after noon. Or it will take you FOREVER!! You will age on the drive from San Pedro to San Bernadino. It’s like dog years.

So at midnight last night – we rolled into our driveway. Yes  – midnight. And this morning I’m going to our bank to explain to some nice person that I need to get those statements stamped again. And then I’m going to scan them and send them to our translator, who has promised to do them quickly and get them back to me via overnight post, so I can overnight them to the consulate. She’ll probably put 50 staples in them just for spite. But I’m tired thinking about it.

I know we aren’t alone. While I was sitting there in my second consulate visit yesterday morning – I noticed almost everyone had a ‘Just one more thing’ to go take care of. Three weeks – we need that visa in three weeks so we can get on a plane. Crossing my fingers that our ‘Just one more thing’ is really ‘The last thing.’

The Wind at our Backs

We’ve spent months and months getting everything ready and today, we drive towards LA. On the way, we’ll stop off in Palm Springs for an overnight with dear friends, and then it’s on to LaLa land to spend, probably a sleepless night in great anticipation. Monday morning we have 2 meetings at the Spanish consulate on Wiltshire Blvd. to turn in our applications and pay our visa fees and tasa.

Feels surreal, now that we are very nearly at the appointed hour. We’ll be dressed up like we’re heading to our college interviews – just hoping they’ll like the cut of our jib. It’s a test you can’t study for.

We only have a few more things on the list after this. And they are thus:

  1. Sell the Audi TT (lining up a buyer)
  2. Sell Mary Jane – our ancient Toyota truck (we have a buyer lined up and will deliver it the third week of Feb)
  3. Have the overseas stuff picked up – Already scheduled for third week in Feb
  4. Get Jeff’s beloved motorcycle to LA to be shipped out before Feb 25th – He will do this alone (I’m not riding to LA again).
  5. And finally – when they tell us our visas are ready – book our flights to Spain out of LA and pick up our visas at the consulate there, before heading the to airport – hopefully by Feb 28th. My searches and alerts on Kayak are making me antsy to pull the trigger on this!

That’s it. No more on the very long list that could have covered the refrigerator last September. I can see all the crossed off items in different ink – and remember how I celebrated each one. And how it happened? – I can hardly believe it, but it did.

We are 25 days away from lift off. I can hear the engines rev. We’re both anxious for it all to be over and to be sipping a drink on the plane. Human beings are powerful when their will is focused.  But first, you gotta believe you can do it, so you can. They say ‘Fortune favors the bold.’ Well, this is as bold as we get so I hope she’s smiling on us for the next few weeks, at least.

Down to the Dregs

We are down to just what we want to keep. The boxes and the couch. The two bikes. And our 5 checked bags and two carry-ons. The Garage Sale worked and the dump runs and donations to Habitat for Humanity are complete.

We were making food the other night  – I won’t call it dinner, because, well…my skills being what they are, it was just food. Jeff looked into a cupboard and then another cupboard. And then the dishwasher. He held up a plate.

‘Who gets the plate?’ he asked me.

‘What?’ I was confused.

‘We have just one plate left in this house. Which one of us gets it? Or do you eat, wash it, then I eat?’

Oops! I’ve already packed up the good dishes that are going with us. OK, so my timing on liquidation is a little off, but we can buy disposable plates at the grocery store. They’ll go well with the disposable forks and spoons we’re using now.

So, we’re down to the dregs. Like the bathroom drawers that just need to be gone through. And while I don’t need expired cold medicine or 5 – just started bottles of Advil, I am sitting here looking at my collection of airline toiletries and I’m having a bit of a hard time.

Growing up, we had no money. I mean, NONE. When I was small, I played on a rug that smelled like smoke – it had been purchased in a literal fire sale and was the color of vomit – I wish I was kidding. It wasn’t until my parents mortgaged everything and bought a grocery store, when I was 12, that we had two nickels to rub together by the time I graduated high school. So vacations in our family? Yeah, there was never a vacation. I’m not sure my Dad understood what leisure was.

The one time I flew on an airplane, before I turned 18 and purchased my own ticket to NYC, was from Portland to Los Angeles – one way on Western Airlines (out of business for 40 years now). My uncle died and left my Dad his car, so we had to fly down and drive it 1000 miles back home.  I remember boarding that plane at 10 years old, walking past the people in First Class and thinking ‘Someday I want to be rich so I can fly First Class!’.

When I grew up, I longed to travel to far away places. And I was lucky, my career paid for a lot of travel – domestically and internationally. Domestically, I had status on several airlines so I got bumped up about 50% of the time. And when ever I flew internationally, I flew business or first class. It didn’t suck! And every time, the carrier would give me a little ‘Travel Toiletry kit’ so I could be comfortable and stretch out, as the seat became my bed – waking refreshed on the other end of a 10 or 14 hour flight.

My favorite airline for travel kits is Emirates. They give you Bulgari lotion and a bunch of other stuff. I’m surprised its not crammed with money and diamonds, or something. But the award for Best Eye Mask goes to Iceland Air. I covet those eye masks. It’s worth paying for the upgrade to Saga Class – believe me. Delta gives you Tumi, and when you get the Tumi Hard cases. Well, those are collectors items.

So I have saved them. Each and Every One. And today, they’re all piled on the counter. They represent adventures (and some boring business meetings, I’ll admit). The 10 year old girl, boarding that plane in 1976 with her jar of half dollars to spend at Disneyland, really did make it out of those circumstances. When I would come home from business trips, my kids would rush me to get the gifts I always bought them – think rugby ball on Portobello road (don’t get me started). But they never got to have the travel bags – those were for me.

I sit here now, and open each one. Every airline has emphasized something different in their little pouches. Some partner with other luxury purveyors to upgrade the experience. Others are more generic. But each speaks to me. “Don’t throw me away! Remember when we went to Dubai together? ‘ or ‘I’m what you got when British Airways bumped you from Business to First – that was a fun trip with premium champagne, wasn’t it?’

I can’t take them all. It’s not practical and Jeff would kill me. And I know it’s ridiculous, but I think I’ll sneak my favorites into my checked luggage – how much can they weigh, really? And the Tumi hard cases are definitely making the cut!

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.

 

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.

documents

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.

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.