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.

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.

Dancing in the Rain

As humans, we’ve survived because we have been able to evolve and adapt. The people on this planet today – all of us – are a result of DNA that has been resilient enough to make small changes, allowing us to survive long enough to procreate or at least, not get eaten by a sabretooth tiger. We are all a testament to this process.

So I started looking at ways I might make small changes to my approach. ‘OK’ I said to myself. ‘So you can’t force that document to come back from the State Department fully apostillized tomorrow, or even next week. But what can you do?’

So I reached out to my translator and made a proposal. What if I sent her the copy I have of these FBI background checks? It’s not apostillized, but the words are the same. She could prepare the translation – one less thing for her to translate when they come back from Washington DC. She said that was a great idea so I sent them off to her.

She also told me something else that I read no where else, and wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t made my proposal. Sometimes, the State Department sends back the Apostle and it’s already in Spanish, French and English. This would mean I wouldn’t need the Apostle translated at all. She said not to count on this for sure – but that she’s seen that before.

And all of a sudden, it’s just one more reminder that where there is a will, there’s a way. That in the end, you gotta make your own weather. Forward motion needs to be maintained. So today is a good day. I have no idea if we’ll make our appointment on the 29th. But I will have done everything – absolutely everything – to make that happen.

Its raining outside, I have a full cup of Spanish coffee and I’m spending the day writing my book. Bliss. Sometimes, in the middle of the storm – you gotta go out and dance in the rain. And that’s what I intend to do.

Breaking News

Often, we watch the news, but we don’t see the connection to ourselves. Especially in today’s crazy political climate. The day’s headlines fly by and it sounds a lot the teacher from the Charlie Brown cartoons. ‘Mwha, Mwha, Mwha Mwha Mwha Mwha’. Nothing more. And then suddenly, it does effect you. Very personally.

On December 22nd, I overnighted our FBI background checks to the US State Department to gain the Apostle. I checked the FedEx website and they arrived on the 26th. I called them last Friday to check on the Status and they told me they had logged them on the 29th – 3 days later. I wasn’t happy but I wasn’t so concerned because they are supposed to ‘process’ the documents in 2-4 business days. I had included an overnight FedEx return envelope so I figured I would get them this week.

Today, I checked the FedEx website but they haven’t been shipped yet. So I called the State Department again. It seems with the ‘cyclone bomb’ we’ve all heard about that dumped feet of snow on the East Coast of the US last week – it’s going to be at least 12-15 business days for them to finally get them back to me.

But here’s the catch. Our wonderful Congress is threatening a government shut down and the timing of it, if they reach no agreement, means that next Thursday will be the first day where there isn’t an employee in the Dept. of Authentications at the US State Department. So if our background checks are not Apostillized and put in the FedEx envelope by Wednesday of next week, we will not be able to get them translated in time for our visa appointment at the Consulate on January 29th.

It seems unbelievable to me that our going to Spain hinges on the US Congress – so little confidence have I in that august body. And now their shenanigans have an immediate, direct impact on me and my life. But, after I took 10 deep breaths, I decided I’m not going to let it bother me. This final piece in the puzzle is so entirely out of my hands, I won’t let it drain my energy. I have other things to do.

I’ve found a few more boxes of old papers in the garage and I finished shredding them. Just when I thought it might be safe to let go of the industrial shredder. I’m considering these documents I’m cutting into tiny pieces, an offering to the gods that control Document Hades.

‘Oh controllers of all things certified and notarized. Please – I’m begging you. Just this one last thing.’ I said today as I fed paper into our shredder.

I’m thinking they heard me. Right at that moment, the shredder overheated and stopped working. A clear sign that someone is listening on the other side.

The Packet

Yesterday was a big day. We got all our financial records stamped and signed. This is something that has no legal value in the US. We don’t sign or stamp our bank statements or investment statements – but when we enter Spain, they apparently want to see this ink scribble and the stamp with the name and address of the institution. Our banker told us we could order one online for $30, but he went ahead and did it anyway. Seriously, Spain. You gotta find another way to feel good about bank issued financial documents.

But either way, we came home and I got out our packets. These are the individual collections of our documents that I’ve been assembling over the last 4 months. Included in that, is our declarations to support each other financially, and all other means, since some of our money is held separately. Jeff laughed when the person who notarized them was baffled at why we needed them.

‘Doesn’t the act of getting married cover this? I mean, do you have a prenup?’

‘No – we don’t. But in Spain, apparently getting married doesn’t really buy you anything financially.’

The person wrinkled their brow.

‘Huh.’

This brings me to the acquisition of our marriage certificate. I had one from when we were first married, so I had it Apostilled. Then I found out that I had to get a ‘fresh one’ because the consulate doesn’t like old versions ‘because you might have gotten a divorce since then.’

Well, I know a lot of people who have been divorced – myself included – and none of them want to move to another country with their ex-spouse. Not one.  And to go further, in the US, marriage certificates are just a record of the marriage taking place. They are not tied to a divorce decree. So I could get my previous marriage’s marriage certificate, and it would have no reference to our divorce. It’s useless.

But I got the newer version and got that Apostilled. BTW – it looks exactly like the first version – except the date of the stamp on the back. It’s now part of the packet that is about 2 inches thick for each of us. Then I called the State Department to check on the Apostles for our FBI background checks. Even with overnight delivery, both to them and the paid envelope to send it back, it won’t be here for another 10 days. Ugh. I’m not sure what we would have done if we didn’t use IDVetting to expedite our background checks.

So I reviewed the consulate check list, and sent off what I had to the ‘Sworn Translator’ from the list that the consulate publishes. This person lives in another state and will send me her translations via email, I will check them for accuracy (except I don’t speak or read Spanish), then I pay her and she overnights them to me. She’s feeling OK on the timing of the background checks, if I can get them to her right away when I get them. I’m less comfortable with things coming down to the wire – but I’ll take her word for it.

I’ve included other documents that others have mentioned they were asked for after the fact. Tax returns and birth certificates, even though we have passports and you can’t get a passport without a birth certificate. But it’s all in there.

I can almost see the finish line and as I went through our packets and touched and checked off each document, I felt a sense of pride. Not one of them was easy to get. Not one. And some cost a chunk of money to acquire. But here they are, sitting on my kitchen counter, just waiting to be judged for accuracy or relevance. I’ll hold my head high when we go for our appointment. If they give me credit for the sheer weight of it, I feel sure we’re in.