The Scottish Saltire

The Scottish Saltire

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

German-American Freundschaft

This is my last night in my little "hobbitty" apartment in Mannheim. I was so lucky to find this cubby when I came to Germany. Not just because it is such a cute little apartment...perfect size, fully furnished, nice neighborhood...but because of the people who own the house and live in the apartment just below me.

Peter and Barbara have been absolutely wonderful to me in the time that I have been renting from them. They have done so many little things for me that go beyond just being good landlords. Peter helped Bert and me schlep my boxes up to the third floor when I moved in and tonight he has parked his car on the street so we could put all my boxes in their garage in preparation for the movers tomorrow. When I left to go to Berlin four days after moving in here they heard me bumping my suitcases down the stairs and insisted that Peter should help me get the bags to the tram stop. When Barbara realized that, because of my Berlin trip, I would only spend a total of 18 days in the apt. during Jan and Feb she insisted that I not pay rent for the month of Feb! She had no idea how short of money I was at that point and what a gift her gesture was.

My rent includes utilities and wireless internet. I've tried to be conscientious about energy comsumption (turning off lights and, in winter, putting on a sweater instead of cranking up the radiators), but when we had a bit of a cold spell this last spring Barbara made a point of telling me to turn the radiators back on if I needed them. She wanted to be sure that I stayed warm! And when I lost my internet connection in March Peter went out of his way to get me back online as soon as possible. His connection was fine but he replaced his modem to reestablish mine.

Barbara's daughter Miriam lives here in Mannheim and often spends Sunday afternoons with her mother and Peter. Barbara always cooks a big lunch when Miriam comes over and since I moved in they have invited me to join them on a regular basis. Barbara is a fabulous cook and I have enjoyed our long Sunday lunches tremendously. The conversation is always fun and interesting and I have especially enjoyed getting to know Miriam. She is delightful but I must say I've never seen such a tiny girl who could pack away so much food at one sitting! LOL! It has kind of become a running joke at amazement at Miriam's capacity.

I've spent several very enjoyable Saturday afternoons hiking with Barbara and Peter and the evening that they invited me to go to the ballet with them was great fun.
One of the sweetest things, though, has been something very simple. Barbara reads the paper on a daily basis and whenever she reads something that she thinks would be of interest to me, whether it's news of a change in the tram schedule or a community event or a sale on "American" items at the grocery store, she cuts out the article or notice or whatever it is and leaves it on the stairs for me. Just a little thing but so thoughtful.

What I have been most grateful for, though, was how understanding they were about Lucy. They didn't even ask for a "pet deposit" when I moved in. I knew that Lucy didn't always get her butt all the way in the litter box when she had to pee so, from the beginning, I laid heavy plastic under the "pee" pads in front of her box to make sure that the wood floor was extra protected.
Letting your renter have an indoor cat is one thing (most cats are very fastidious about using the litter box) but it wouldn't have been unreasonable in this situation for Peter or Barbara to voice concern. After all it was my cat and their floor! But they never did. When they asked about Lucy it was only to inquire about how she was getting along. They were both very sweet to her and Barbara was here to say goodbye on that last day.

Last Sunday, they had a going away BBQ for me. Miriam and Daniel (Barbara's son) both came and the next door neighbors were invited, as well as Nikki and Bert. As a going away gift they gave me a book about humor that I am looking forward to reading. It was a lovely afternoon and very much appreciated.

It has been such a pleasure to get to know Peter and Barbara. They have been much more than just my landlords. They are friends who I will miss. I know they like to travel and I'm hoping they will come to visit me in Scotland sometime so I can, in some small way, return their hospitality.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Step By Step

I feel like I'm so close I can taste the haggis! 10 days away from the big move. Everything is packed and the movers come on Thursday to take away my meager belongings. I'll do a bit of cleaning and then move with my suitcases over to Nikki and Bert's for the last week.

Today I'm going to Luisenpark. I haven't been in about a week and a half. What with losing Lucy, then going out of town for that weekend and then packing I just haven't had the time for my daily walking. But I looked around this morning and realized that everything is done so off to the park I go! Just me, my tennis shoes and my iPod.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Looking To The Future

I can't believe I'm finally counting days (15!) instead of weeks or months until my move to Scotland. I started packing today. The shipping company doesn't come until Thursday next week so there is no real rush about it. It's not like I have a lot to pack, anyway. Everything I own these days would fit into the back of a pickup truck! But it's still a pain in the ass to have to pack....again!

I decided to wait til I get to Inverness to start looking for an apt. So I'm booked into a Bed and Breakfast for the first 2 weeks (the moving company will hold my stuff until I find a place). Nikki is flying with me to Inverness. We seem to have a pattern going. She and I took Shauna to Seattle for grad school. Shauna accompanied Nikki on her move to Germany and now Nikki is going with me to Scotland. We'll play for 3 days and then she'll fly back to Germany and I'll begin a serious search for a place to live. I thought about looking into a roommate situation. There are lots advertised online, but I've realized that I like living alone. I've gotten really used to the privacy and freedom of living by myself and unless it's for a tall good looking bug killing bed warming Scotsman, I don't think I want to give those things up.

Sara (from Nikki and Shauna's high school and college days) just moved to Germany with her Army husband Jared and their two little boys. They are stationed in Hohenfels which is down south from here in Bayern (Bavaria). Nikki and I were planning on going to see them just before I leave but I just couldn't spend those first couple of days at home after losing Lucy so we decided to go this last weekend instead. It was wonderful to see Sara again and meet Jared and the boys. And it was the perfect diversion to keep my mind occupied....most of the time. We spent Saturday and Sunday exploring the town of Regensburg, which sits along the Danube. Sara has the cutest kids! The funniest part of the visit was when 3 yr. old Julius looked up at the massive cathedral in Regensburg and said, "Oh my god! Who lives there?" I'm still laughing at that one.

The last several days at home have been very strange without Lucy. I keep expecting her to meet me at the door when I come home. The apt feels very empty without her but I'm trying to keep myself busy by packing and getting ready for the move.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My Heart Is Breaking

Almost 19 years....that's how long Lucy has been with me. Through all the changes in my life over the last two decades this furry little creature has been my constant companion. She has lived in 9 different homes with me and has traveled across the ocean from Germany to Arizona, across the U.S. from Arizona to Pennsylvania, and back across the ocean to within a couple of hours of where she was born. In preparation for our Journey to the Highlands Lucy has been vaccinated, microchipped and blood tested for entry to the UK. My motto has always been "Where I go, so goes the bitty."

But the time has come to say good-bye. Lucy is mostly deaf these days and her sight is also failing. She weighs next to nothing. It's hard to find a place to pet that isn't just skin and bones. She has lost a great deal of strength in her limbs and she hasn't been able to jump up on the couch for several months now. Often she'll be standing in one place and one, sometimes two, of her legs will just start sliding away from her. She has also stopped any kind of feline grooming. I have to wash her face for her after she eats. It's like she doesn't even realize that her nose, chin and whiskers are all covered with kitty food.
I've had to put puppy pee pads in front of her litter box for a long time now. She uses the box just fine when she has to poop but she can't seem to get her butt all the way in when she only needs to pee. So I change pee pads several times a day. Over the last week or so she doesn't even try to get in the box to pee. She just squats in the general vicinity. The area of pee pads has become about 3 feet by 3 feet with heavy plastic underneath. I could go on describing all the other signs of deterioration but you get the picture. I just don't think she has the strength or stamina for what is to come over the next couple of months and I don't think it would be fair to expect her to endure it all just because I can't bring myself to let go.

When Lucy was diagnosed with diabetes in 2000 I was sure that the diabetes would take her from me before she reached old age. I gave her her first insulin injection on my 43rd birthday (and her 10th birthday). My birthday wish that year and every year since then has been for her good health. Notwithstanding a few bumps along the way she has done very well. So her diabetes, in the end, is not the culprit. It is simply old age.

I have spent 19 years giving her the best care that I possibly can and she has given me that same number of years of unconditional love in return. A lot of people say that cats aren't as affectionate as dogs. Those of you who have known Lucy know that she somehow didn't get that memo. Her sole objective in life has always been, not just to be held, but to be snuggled. It has long been a family joke that " the bitty", as we call her, is downright demented when it comes to needing affection. Most cats don't like to be held tightly or feel like they are being restrained. Then there is Lucy! This is a kitty who was never happy to just sit on my lap. She wanted to be cuddled and would actually put her little 'arms' on either side of my neck and press her face to mine in an effort to get closer. She would let me kiss her eyes and her nose and her cheeks without pulling away. She even rubbed noses with me. I would touch my nose to hers and rub a little bit. Then she would start rubbing back and forth and up and down until I was giggling too much for her to continue. She spent her days in a constant effort to get me to pick her up. I've often joked that Lucy would be happiest if I just put her in a snuggly and carried her around all day.

I use the past tense to describe Lucy's personality because she doesn't do these things anymore. Now when I sit on the couch and hold her on my chest I have to help her position her legs. It's difficult for her to get comfortable. She doesn't tuck her face into mine anymore and she seems to have some tender spots when I stroke her. She hasn't even slept in the bed with me in about 6 months. We used to go to sleep together, with her under the covers and cuddled in my arms. Now she sleeps on the floor.

As is always the case with old age, all of this has crept up on us a little at a time, but the cumulative effect of all of these changes is that my sweet girl has gotten very old and is now just existing from day to day. So I have come, with great difficulty and much sadness, to the decision that it is time to let her go. I called her vet this morning and made an appointment for Friday afternoon. Nikki and Bert are going with us for morale support but in the end it will be just Lucy and me. I'll hold her and stay with her til the end.

I just can't imagine what next week and next month and next year will be like without the bitty. My heart is breaking..........

Friday, July 10, 2009

28 Days!

We bought plane tickets today! Nikki and I will fly to Edinburgh on the 7th of August....exactly 4 weeks from today.

Quit job....check
Sell everything....check
Apply to UHI....check
Leave Tucson....check
Sell house....check
Sell Dad's house....check
Settle the estate....check
Get British visa....check
Buy one way ticket to Scotland....CHECK!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Ms. Shauna Goes To India

Shauna had barely landed back in Seattle after her visit with us in Germany when she had to begin making plans to go to India. The "powers that be" at Google decided that she was needed at the office in Bangalore for a couple of months. She left Seattle last Friday and managed a weekend layover here before finishing her flight to the other side of the planet. We had an absolutely lovely weekend.

Nikki and I picked her up at the airport in Frankfurt and brought her back to my place in Mannheim so she could drop her stuff and take a shower. We then hopped the Strassenbahn for downtown to do some serious "appropriate Indiawear" shopping. It was a very successful excursion. She found just what she needed, light and airy but covering shoulders and upper arms. Around 8:30pm we decided to end our day with some Irish Stew at Murphy's Law Irish Pub. It was a beautiful evening so we were able to sit outside and enjoy the weather while we ate.

The next day we packed up the food that Nikki and I had prepared, collected Peter and Barbara from downstairs and headed to Luisenpark for our "5th" of July picnic. I was so glad that P&B were able to join us. I really wanted Shauna to meet them. They have been so wonderful to me while I've been here renting their little upstairs apartment.

We found our little patch of green and spread our blankets. We had chicken, potato salad, grapes, apple slices, carrots, little sausages, pepper slices, 2 kinds of cheese, 3 kinds of crackers, wine and a delicious sort of cherry bread pudding that Barbara had made. The five of us spent a lovely couple of hours, sitting in the shade nibbling our goodies. Barbara and Peter left us just before 4pm and the girls and I lounged around on the blankets for another couple of hours. It was just what we needed...time to just talk and laugh and enjoy one another's company with no distractions. The park is open until 9pm and it was another pretty evening so around 6:30pm we decided to just walk...and talk...and talk some more.

The next morning Nik and I took our little traveler back to the airport where we had to say goodbye to her for the second time in as many weeks. It's never easy to say goodbye. At the same time, though, we were very excited for her. She's wanted to see India for a very long time.
She has arrived safe and sound in Bangalore and has started a new blog to chronicle her India adventures (I've also added a link on the sidebar). I'm so glad because I want to know every little happening of her experience and hear her thoughts and impressions of it all.

The British Government Said YES!

My British visa arrived this morning!

It has been such a long process trying to get to this point that I can hardly believe it's actually finally happening. I feel as if I've been trying to run a marathon through a very large vat of molasses.
The last step in making this crazy dream of mine a reality was to get a visa for the UK. I was really nervous about being denied for some reason or another. There really was no good reason for the British gov't to deny me a visa but ALL my plans hinged on them approving my application so I have been really nervous about it.

The last three weeks have been excruciating! I have felt like I was going to explode from the tension of waiting. It's been difficult to concentrate on anything and occasionally I would panic and think, "OMG, what if they deny my application! What the hell will I do then?" Then I would have to calm myself and reassure me that I have everything they require of me and there is no reason to be denied. But this is still governmental bureaucracy we're talking about here. Anything could happen. So around and around I would go in my mind.

But my visa arrived this morning. They said YES! The last piece has finally fallen into place. So all systems are finally GO. I can pack my stuff, arrange for a temporary place to stay in Inverness - until I find an apt. - and buy a one-way plane ticket. Look out Scotland, here I come!