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!

And She’s Rounding the Corner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Road Trippin’

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Those are her clothes.’ explained Jeff

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

I leaned in to help smooth the way.

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

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

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

The cop looked at me like I was an alien.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.