Tuesday, February 19, 2013

MacGinger: The Myth, The Legend, The Cookie

Last September, about 2 weeks after our wedding (2 weeks A.W. if you will), Fin and I hosted our first Alaskan guests! Mom & Jim.  Sometimes the family refers to them as the Gemini twins (I made that up). This is because it seems like every story my mom tells starts with "Jim and I blah blah blah." It's become a running joke, so much so that they have named their wine Jim'n'I (they bottle wine in Alaska and there is NEVER a shortage, which is wonderful!).  So the Jim'n'I twins came for a visit.

Jimmy MacGinger
Setting the stage: My mom is a lot of fun to travel with. She has a go-with-the-flow attitude so she never really gets stressed out. Simultaneously, she gets excited over just about anything classified as a "must see/must do/must buy." World's largest ball of yarn? Pull over! Floating bar? Let's have a drink! Three hour hike to see the world's smallest waterfall? Why not!?!? Fortunately my mom found a wonderful husband, Jim, who also loves to travel and finds great humor in my mom's willingness to try just about anything. Those two are hilarious! So Fin'n'I knew it would be a laugh with Jim'n'I. 

So off we went on a Scottish road trip to the west Highlands. Stunning. We listened to bagpipes as we crossed lochs, climbed bens, and weaved alongside the rivers.  Then we came to that fateful tourist shop on the Isle of Skye.  As I waited in the car, Fin went to find a map and the Jim'n'I twins went to find something Scottish to purchase and perhaps something ginger to ease my motion sickness.  I was sitting in the back seat to allow Jim the best view of Scotland. Unfortunately this meant I was most certainly going to get queasy. They returned to the car with a couple decks of tartan playing cards and a three pack of MacGingers. Cha Ching!

Yes, I'm a hypocrite
So the first MacGinger...we'll call him Jimmy, he went to that great gingerbread house in the skye (pun intended) pretty soon after purchase. Not bad considering it was a cookie packaged in bubble wrap. As I contemplated another snackaroo the pilot and navigator were making a plan. Turns out we were off to see Kilt Rock. After a brief inquiry, Mom and I learned that Kilt Rock is in fact meant to look like a kilt. As I looked down at my next delicious ginger treat, Scot MacGinger looked back at me with a cheeky grin. It was as if we'd both been struck with the same thought. Scot MacGinger was wearing a kilt too! We decided to save him to use as a comparison for Kilt Rock.

Kilt Rock meet Kilt Cookie
As I captured the glamorous MacGinger alongside Kilt Rock, Mom and I realized we had found our Scottish tour guide! And Fin decided it was going to be incredibly annoying to have me photobombing every breathtaking picture of Scottish countryside with a stale cookie. His irritation sealed the deal. Scot MacGinger was officially pardoned and would be occupying the last available seat in the Volvo. We were now a group of five. Welcome MacGinger!

This is when I began artfully placing little Mac in the heather. Jim giggled as Mom and I snapped photos. It was all coming together brilliantly! Fin huffed and puffed in the background. This childish idea was distracting from the raw splendor of rugged Scotland or maybe it was distracting attention from poor Finny. I'll never really understand the motivation, but one second Scot MacGinger was gracefully floating atop the heather and the next minute he was being carried away by the villainous Fintan! Dammit! I gave good chase as I tried to save that cheeky cookie...but alas, Scot was decapitated and then his head was eaten. Jealousy can do ugly things to a person. And I was pissed!

We all climbed back in the car and I began lecturing Fin on the difference between being a loving husband and an annoying little brother. Jerkface. Well there was one MacGinger left. Angus MacGinger. Yeah, if Fin thought MacGinger was irritating before, he had no idea what was in store for him. This had just turned into Saving Private MacGinger. The last brother would make it out of the Highlands dammit, and Fin was going to be photobombed like he'd never been before. We buckled MacGinger in nice and safe and went to find dinner as I plotted my revenge.

We ended up having dinner in a sleepy little town called Plockton. Plockton is back on the mainland and is beautiful. The drive over offered amazing sunset skies. We found a bustling little restaurant and happily ate our way through three delicious courses of Scottish seafood cuisine! Yum! As a bit of a peace-offering to the old ball-and-chain, Angus MacGinger stayed in the car.

We made it back to Fort Augustus pretty late, where we were staying in a converted monastery. I could write an entire blog about this monastery. Amazing place to take guests, move aside Inverness. It's not exactly budget friendly, but Fin and I surprised the Jim'n'I twins with a few nights there to show our appreciation for all the hard work they put into our wedding. Anyways, Fort Augustus is a little town set on the southern tip of Loch Ness.
So the next day dawned and old MacGinger was feeling the loss of his brothers. As he reached for the bottle to numb the memory it gave us an idea. Whisky Tour! After a dip in the monastery pool (where they used to baptize monks...just kidding, i made that up) we headed off to hit the sauce!

Dalwhinnie was our distillery of choice. I do not know a whole lot about whisky, but I do know this is one of the only whiskies Fin's dad enjoys. Yes, he's an Irishman who does not particularly like whisky. So off we went. Turns out I love the smell of distilleries! Mmmmm! After a nice hour long tour we had a little taste test with three different whiskies and chocolate pairings. Delicious! Poor Fin was the DD, so he just got a smackerel. Jim bought him a bottle as a token of his appreciation. And old MacGinger found a little bottle just his size. After we all had a little pick-me-up we headed off to do some SHOPPING!

 Now where is the best place to get quality, authentic, Scottish merchandise? Why, it had to be House of Bruar!  There is tartan and tweed as far as the eye can see! Oh and it's also a great place to stop off for lunch. Don't let the buffet style restaurant deter you, the food is rustic and full of authentic Scottish flavour. Oh and there is also a food shopping area where you can find all sorts of treats and goodies. That's where MacGinger found his favorite food...haggis! Look they're wearing the same tartan!

Well anyways, Fin and I quickly realized the mistake we'd made in letting the Jim'n'I twins loose in such a sprawling shopping center. Oh boy. Those two are marathon shoppers! I however, really really do not enjoy shopping. Its.....just.....so......boring.

We ended up finding quite a well-suited hat for Jim, and talking Fin out of quite an alarming hat. Oh and it turns out the Macster gets quite bored shopping too, so he opted for a game of hide and seek. Can you spot him? Fin scolded MacGinger for choosing such an expensive satchel to hide in, but I assured Fin that MacGinger showed the utmost discretion. tee hee hee.

Smallest Scotsman visits smallest distillery
After the shopping trip, where the 'rents showed considerable restraint in their shopping, we opted to find another distillery. Oh and the reason they were so well regulated had more to do with their luggage allowance and less to do with their self-control. Just sayin. So the next distillery was advertised as "The smallest distillery in Scotland." We thought this would be the perfect distillery for wee MacGinger. He posed for pics with Mom and Jim and we all developed quite a thirst. Unfortunately, we missed the last tour by a hair. Dang it! We ended up just buying a couple bottles and having our own little taste session later. Stupid little distillery. Oh and another thing! We all really had to use the loo, but apparently you can only use it if you're on a tour. And since we were two minutes late for the tour we were not allowed to use the restroom. Why I never!

Angus MacGinger's great-grandfathers provided nourishment to the troops. 
In their honor, he insisted on always going 'commando.'
The day was winding down as we drove the scenic route back to Fort Augustus. The sky was turning majestic colors as the sun was beginning to set. The day had a few near misses when Fin would start to get hungry and eye up Wee Mac Man, but overall he had given up his murderous pursuits. The car fell into a satisfied silence as we took in the Scottish countryside. Then we came upon the Commando Monument. It is dedicated to the British Commando Forces of World War II. It overlooks their original training grounds, which happens to be one of the most-breathtaking views in Scotland. From this vantage point you can take in Ben Nevis and Aonach Mòr. I could not think of a better view for such a memorial.  After taking a few noble shots of Angus MacGinger looking out alongside his brethren, I respectfully tucked him inside my pocket.  Fin had caught me giggling while I snuck the photos and I thought he might blow a gasket. Yeesh, mind your own beeswax Fin!

We wandered among a remembrance circle, which included the photos and stories of fallen soldiers throughout the years. Young bright faces smiled up at us and we offered our thoughts and respects to those lost in battle. It is a beautiful and touching stopover if you're ever in the Fort William area. Definitely worth a visit.

As we solemnly piled back into the car I reached into my pocket to retrieve the Macster. Oh dear...what have I done? The poor poor little biscuit had simply lost his head.  Fin let out an evil cackle and Mom began coming up with ways to reattach it. "No Mom, we have to let him go." Jim offered to eat him but I gave him one warning look and he backed off. The vultures! I slowly climbed back out and placed him at his final resting place as the rest of the family stayed in the car. I think they were giving me space to say my goodbyes. I noted the poetic symmetry of his demise at the memorial as I attempted to hum Highland Cathedral (which it turns out I'm not very good at). I left him there beneath the sign, took one last photo, postmortem, and walked away.

As we drove on, I realized with a panic, that someone might see Angus MacGinger and think we were taking the piss out of the memorial! Oh no!! I may be a bit silly at times, and some have accused me of being a liberal, but I have nothing but respect and admiration for the military. All three of my siblings served in the military, as did many of my extended family members. I frantically asked Fin if we should turn around but he assured me that it was fine, and "chances are some bird already ate MacGinger." This thought both horrified and comforted me. 

Beautiful rendition of Highland Cathedral! Give this video a little listen, in memory of Angus MacGinger. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Spousal Support: The Unsung Heroes

Before Picture
Last weekend Fin and I flew down to Brighton, where Fin was to run the half marathon with his big sister, Zoe.  It was Zoe's first half marathon, and Fin's first official event since running the Chicago marathon a year and a half ago (I think ??). Jackie (many will remember her and her lovely partner, Lia, from our wedding) was running the half marathon as well. This wasn't Jackie's first rodeo though. She ran this race last year, as well as the Brighton Marathon. Yeah, she's kind of a big deal. So moving forward...Fin decided that he would most enjoy running alongside Zoe, so he vowed to stick with her throughout the race and keep her on pace.  A few wondered whether he would eventually peal off, unable to fight the urge to beat his own personal best. If Fin says he is going to do something, he does it. Fin said he was going to run with his sister..dammit, he would run with her! But would he let her get a better time than him? Well that was yet to be determined.

2009 Brighton beach. See all the colored beach huts and such?
Brighton is unlike any other city in the UK. It is on the south shores of England and is the closest thing to a beach town you'll probably find. It has a long sprawling beach covered in smooth little rocks. A wide, paved promenade running the length of the beach, lined with brightly painted beach huts. On a sunny day the promenade is absolutely buzzing with runners, dogs, prams, children, friends, and at least one person doing something or wearing something entirely unexpected. You see, Brighton is a haven for creativity and self-expression. I think my favorite thing about Brighton is that it's a city that can laugh at itself. It does not take itself too seriously, which makes it a seriously fun place to visit.

So anyways, if ever considering someplace to get away for a bit of a change look no further! I've heard it compared to San Fransisco...but I can't confirm or deny the sentiment. I've only really been to San Francisco once and it was to celebrate Halloween on Cisco street at age eighteen. As you can imagine, my memory is not of sunny streets, and trolleys singing the Rice-A-Roni song. But the creativity of the costumes was unsurpassed. Anyways, I digress.

Sunday was bright, sunny, and absolutely heaving with people.  Fin's mom insisted on taking pics of her boy as we waited for the taxi to take us to the start. She was one proud Mom! Unfortunately she could not figure out the camera on her phone. Later she told us over dinner that she's like to learn more about physics, but her husband Denis said "How about you focus on learning to use your phone first." We all agreed it was a good burn. Anyways, back to race day.

Sindy and I found a place to cheer them on and realized quickly it was going to be difficult to spot them in the swarm of 7,500+ runners. Or so we thought. We scanned faces as they raced by, worried we would most definitely miss them.  I'll tell you what, my eyes were getting tired...it's like trying to speed read!

About 5 minutes of excited runners passed by before I saw Fin's goofy grin come bounding toward us. I'm telling you, my husband is adorable. He loves this stuff! Fin, Zoe, and Jackie were still giddy excitement as they left the chute. We cheered, snapped pictures, and videos and sent them on their merry way.

Sindy and I headed up to grab a coffee and meet Tim, whom was also running support for his wife Maggie. Tim informed us the runners would be passing the halfway point nearby and we rushed off to find them again, chugging the last of our lattes. No time to relax!  As we jammed our way into the optimal cheering position we commented on the unsung heroes of these types of events...us.

Clown Car
Back to the race; I thought the swarm of runners would have thinned out a bit by now, but I was wrong. How can they run like this? They were running like 8 abreast. hehe...abreast. We stood and waited about 10 minutes, during which time a clown in a cardboard car went zooming in front of us. I thought for sure we must have missed them, because there ain't no way a clown car was faster than the Lyons' . But it turns out a clown car is actually faster than the Lyons', as are three toilets, Ethel & Maud, and Super Mario.  Just as I was giving up hope here comes Fin's big goofy grin bouncing down the hill! Zoe was right next to him. By this time Zoe was in the zone. She had her eyes straight ahead, expression fierce. Fin was more like an excited Labrador, smiling and waving at the crowd.  I screamed "Hubba Hubba!" Sindy screamed for "Come on Zoe!" and Tim screamed "Get those knees up!" Tim most enjoyed heckling the runners. Not sure Zoe noticed us but Fin turned and waved, gave a little wag of his tail and continued onward.

We stayed in position until all spouses had been provided adequate support. No man or woman left behind. At one point I was running out of words of encouragement so I yelled "You're lapping everyone on the couch!" because I saw that on one of those cheesy Facebook posts and thought maybe runners liked those type of things. But I don't think it came out right. I tried saying it again later and decided that it sounded much more like a heckle than a cheer and ditched it.

As the dream team ran towards the next hydration stop, the spousal support team set out to find our own hydration stop. We acquired a little half pint of Jack Daniels (for the support) and two bottles of bubbly (for the racers). It was around this time Lia appeared with protein bars she would force upon each of the racers later.  We took a few swigs of the good stuff in an effort to rehydrate and went back to the grueling task of supporting our spouses.

beep beep!
We carved out a little cheering section just near the finish and waited for the dream team.  First came the fastest clown car on two legs. I screamed my support and Tim screamed "Nearly halfway there!" Sindy hollered and applauded runner after runner...with no spouse in sight. Eventually a toilet came into view and Tim screamed "Come on! You're looking flushed!"

I grabbed my camera as Super Mario came limping by...I bet he would have killed for one of the sparkly super-fast stars. Anyway, another toilet plunged towards the finish and we knew Zoe and Fin couldn't be far behind. Come on Zoe and Fin!! And then I saw them...Fin still had that shit-eating-grin on his face as he waved wildly! Zoe had also broken out of the zone and was beginning the celebration with 200 metres left to go!!! Woot woot!!!!

Those two crazy kids crossed the finish holding hands. Silly sods.  Zoe surpassed her goal and Fin was the proudest little brother you ever did see.  Jackie finished, managing to beat her original time despite battling a flu the week prior. And the lovely Maggie completed her first half marathon.  And I, well, I was so exhausted I had to take a nap.

Oh yeah, and the official results are in. Fin won by one second. Still an annoying little brother.

Fin & Zoe After

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Valentine for My Love: Ode to Dudley

Dudley Lyon's First Day
So when Fin went gallivanting off to Poland for the week (okay it was a business trip), I decided to slide into messy-artsy-whatever-mode. Turns out I missed him quite a bit, which was surprising because so much of our relationship has been long distance. Anyways...I decided to channel all my mushy lovey-dovey feelings into a painting for Valentine's Day! 

So I grabbed a canvas, created a makeshift easel, poured a glass of wine, and stared blankly at the empty space awaiting inspiration.  A few ideas fluttered around, but nothing that seemed worthy of the awesomeness I was already anticipating. And then it hit me. Dudley.

Fin and I often reminisce about our first furniture purchase.  We were trying to quickly furnish our condo and did not want to spend a lot of cash (knowing we would probably be moving abroad within a year). We scoured Craiglist, posted pleas for free furniture on Facebook, and perused thrift stores. It was at Salvation Army that Dudley found his salvation, so to speak. It was 50% off day at Sally Alley so we hurried in to find our new friend. After testing a few couches, and checking each other for lice, we found him. Sitting majestically askew. I plopped down first, pulled the foot rest, and melted into my first Dudley hug. So comfy cozy. Fin gave it a spin, and considering he's borderline obsessive about cleaning, I thought Dudley stood no chance. But lo and behold, Fin fell victim to Dud's charm too! Sold! For $20 Dudley was ours! As we loaded up our new buddy a sleepy employee seemed to have just realized what was happening, as he murmured, "Oh great, now where am I going to take my naps?"

When we introduced Dudley to our first condo guests my mom decided that someone had definitely taken his last breath while sitting in that chair. I thought, 'must of been a comfy cozy last breath.' And then she called him "Deadly" which quickly evolved into "Dudley". Okay so to cut a boring story short...Fin and I both love Dudley and often affectionately refer to him when discussing new furniture purchases. However, we grudgingly agreed Dudley would live forever in our hearts, but never again in our home....unless....I IMMORTALIZED HIM IN ACRYLIC!

Now I know many artists like to say the background should be painted first. But I'm not an actual artist, so rules don't actually apply to me. And I didn't know how I wanted to paint the background yet. I figured I'd do each step as it occurred to me...and if I got stumped I'd call my sister, the actual artist.

Next came the the walls and the floor. I decided to mix a metallic gold paint with white, to create a shimmery effect. Fin loves Friedensreich Hundertwasser. I noticed this artist often adds gold metallic to his paintings...just little bits here and there. So in a nod to him, I opted for gold. However, it ended up looking remarkably like the ugly paint in our condo pre-remodel. Ah well. Next the floor. I love it when artists mix the surreal with the real. Plus, I was viewing this painting as a love metaphor (yes, too much time alone with wine). I wanted to bring life and joy inside with Dudley. So I googled, mixed paint, and practiced practiced practiced...then gently placed Sir Dudley on a plush meadow.

Then I sat and stared some more. I wanted to have pictures hanging behind him, but wasn't sure exactly what I had in mind or how to do it. Then I remembered the photo transfer paper left-over from wedding welcome bags! I chose a few of our favorite pics from the last 6 years, converted them to B&W and went to work. It turns out it was a bit more difficult than I anticipated. I ended up ripping the pics, burning the canvas, and melting paint onto our only iron. All at about 3 am. It was quite discouraging. But alas, I repainted, reprinted, scraped, and ironed myself into something I could work with. It was a bit more 'distressed' looking than I had envisioned...but I decided the wispy nature lent itself to the representation of a memory. So there you have it, our memories hanging in the background.

Examples of Mackenzie Thorpe (I DID NOT PAINT THOSE...THORPE DID)
On the other wall I decided to paint our future. But after attempting a few sketches of our future I accepted that I am decidedly not psychic. So I opted to paint a sunrise instead. Symbolic eh? You know...the dawn of a new day? Anyways, one of my beloved's other favorite artists is Mackenzie Thorpe. Thorpe is particularly well known for his skies and seascapes. Fin often says "It was a perfect Mackenzie Thorpe sky." Yep, it had to be a Mackenzie Thorpe inspired sunrise.

So after extensive study (okay an hour on google) and one Bob Ross YouTube on how to do "happy clouds" I decided Thorpe clouds are upside down and layered with a bit of an ombre effect. Again, I am not an artist and I hope I am not offending artists with my naive interpretations.  So there it is...a Lyons sky.

This is about the time I imagined myself wearing a black turtle neck and nasally answering questions about my body of work:
Lyons Sunrise

Interviewer: Pamela Lyons, I love the childlike joy and reckless abandonment you bring to your work...where DO you pull your inspiration?  (The interviewer leans forward in anticipation of my answer.)

Me:  Thorpe of course, but I like to imagine myself as Thorpe painting at age five. I call it regressive painting. (I shift into a more comfortable, relaxed position, showing that I am in control of this interview).

Anyways...the sky's done. Now for frames. Frames for the window, frames for the memories.  After messing them all up royally and giving up for a few days, I decided to mirror the colors of the sunrise in the frames of the memories.

BTW - During this entire process I periodically emailed my painting to my sister; this is why I have so many pics of the process. Sarah (the artist) happens to love me, so she gives me free tips. Turns out lighting is a big deal. She advised me on creating shadows and highlights and such. That's what Dudley was missing. So I went back and attempted to straighten those out a bit. Also...my meadow looked a lot like green carpet. I had contemplated adding flowers, but could not figure out how to do this without completing ruining the whole thing so left it alone, assuming I was being too critical.

Almost done...and I hate frames.
I was very tempted to add a little table next to him but my sister explained something about light outweighing dark and that it would weigh Dudley down. I would NEVER want to do that to Dudley. The thing about being a professional artist, I learned, was knowing when the painting is complete.

After giving Dudley a new meadow and some shading I put the brush down.  I slowly looked around with a horrible thought. What if Fin decided to come home early to surprise me? He may not understand the creative process. If this was going to be a surprise I had to clean up EVERY bit of evidence. Turns out it's incredibly easy to get acrylics off hardwood floors. Just saying.

So after restoring order, I sat and imagined Fin's gleeful and heartfelt reaction when I presented this amazing and symbolic gift of my love. My heart went pitter-patter as I imagined going over every detail while he gazed on in admiration. Yeah - I know, I tend to romanticize things a bit.

I found the perfect hiding place for it. The mantelpiece. As soon as Fin entered the house I became giddy with anticipation. I decided that I would let him get his suitcase upstairs before the big unveiling. Valentines Day was waaaay too far away, I didn't want to deprive him of the pleasure of the Dudster for a second longer than necessary.

I excitedly sat him down on the couch and told him to close his eyes. Then ran and grabbed Dudley from the mantelpiece (how his eyes didn't spot it immediately I'll never know). I proudly held it in front of me as I screamed "TA - DA!!!"

He looked absolutely stunned. I assumed it was my hidden talents coming to light. And then he let out a little giggle. Not exactly sure what was so funny. I pressed on nodding as if to say 'Yes, believe it. Your wife is an actual artist!'

Then he said one of the stupidest things he's ever said. "Ummm....why did you paint Dudley and why is he on green shag carpet?"

That's when I dropped it in his lap and snapped "IT'S A FUCKING MEADOW!" and stomped away. Turns out giddy anticipation can turn to rage quite quickly. Something about reality not meeting expectations mumbo-jumbo. Anyways, it was quite a roller-coaster for me, Fin, and Dudley.

'Yes, believe it. Your wife is a misunderstood, pissed-off artist.'

A Valentine for My Love: Ode to Dudley

Footnote: My husband is wonderful and after a cuppa he decided it was the best painting EVER and asked me to explain each and every detail until I actually became very very tired of discussing stupid pompous Dudley.

Monday, August 20, 2012

American Dreaming

Today I walked my little heart out.  Back in Aberdeen, back in the land of walking everywhere. I don't mind walking although when I was back in Alaska I realized what I miss most (my peeps excluded). I miss taking long drives, listening to my music and singing along. It was so nice to be able to get in the car and just drive for an hour. In Aberdeen I generally grab my headphones when I head out to hoof it somewhere...that way I get the music...just not the singing along bit.

I had my dress fitting this afternoon. It went very very well! They fixed what they botched last time and I'm so relieved! After dress fitting I went SHOPPING! The fall line up just hit the stores and I still need to get kitted out for the wedding week.
Feather earrings, plucked from an American bird
Boy was I in for a surprise. Guess what's hot this season? The old Stars and Stripes. Yep...it's cool to be American apparently. Okay, maybe not to be American but at least to sport our flag.  A lot of things come to mind when I see our flag. I think of my family, my heritage, Independence Day barbecues, the start of the Super Bowl, good old country music songs, and the general sentimental patriotism Americans are raised with. What I don't think is...that would make a super cute dress!

It wasn't just a fluke in one store either...nope Old Glory is EVERYWHERE!  Earrings, bags, leggings, shorts, hats, flags, flags, flags! Yeah, and it is not in old lady stores. Nope...my cashier at one store had purple and black dyed hair, black pleather leggings and the star spangled banner across her shirt.

If the current fashion trends are any indication of America's approval rating overseas then...hot damn, we're doing well! At least in the 13-17 age group. Although I will say it did puzzle me a bit. Is it kind of like the skull and crossbones that are popping up everywhere...the American flag is an extension of that...the grotesque becomes cool? Or is it like the little birds, kittens and puppies now printed on every other silk blouse...the ridiculous cutesy factor? I think it's more like unicorn shirts making a sudden comeback after Napoleon Dynamite. It's hip to be nerdy.

Fancy a flag to keep your neck warm?
Well whatever it is...I'm going to go ahead and attribute it to our current President. Yep, that's why every one's wearing the flag, they support a democratic executive branch. Risky move for the clothing lines I would say. One misstep by America and it will NOT be cool to wear Old Glory...all those clothes in the bin. Think about that before you vote in November.  I'm kidding, I'm kidding. I know teenagers don't pay attention to that sort of thing.  Actually, maybe the clothing lines are smart...they know nothing polarizing will occur this fall because it's an election year...safe bet. I'll tell you one thing though..I don't see the Canadian flag ANYWHERE. Sorry maple leaf, try again next year...sucker.

Well anyways, as a bona fide American I was not about to skip out on this little trend! I found myself the perfect little top to add to my 'Clothes for France' collection. Yeah, that's right, I'm not going to claim Canada just because I can and most people would buy it. Nope, I figure I would rather claim America and be an exception to the rule, than give the credit of my awesomeness (or accidental rudeness) to some other country!  American Dreaming...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Home sweet home

Yep, I've made it home to the 'Deen! Feels great!

I had a minor hiccough with my visa but all in all it went very smoothly. Virgin Atlantic threatened to not allow me to fly because I did not have a return ticket nor a visa. I showed them my paperwork but they were not impressed. Luckily after a manager huddle they allowed me to board the plane but know I have been 'advised'. Thanks guys. I was a bit annoyed by all this and was wondering if I really do heart Virgin Atlantic...but Fin told me it actually is the airlines responsibility to check. Apparently the monetary burden of returning the rejected immigrant to their home country falls on the airline that allowed them passage. I forgive you Virgin, you know not what you do.

UK immigration went swimmingly. Only about a five minute holdup to determine which stamp to use and I was home free!!

I finally landed in Aberdeen this afternoon where my betrothed was waiting. I have never before had to fight the urge to run to him as I did this afternoon. Finally time to exhale.

It is a beautiful day in Aberdeen, sun shining, flowers blooming, and granite sparkling. Instead of being treated like the perpetrator of a horrible crime, I was treated like a princess who'd just come through a harrowing ordeal. Fin made me delicious lamb chops, showed off all of his wedding planning accomplishments and then drew me a bubble bath.

Life is good. Tonight we relax and dream about honeymoons with valid visas and tomorrow we plan.

Speaking of which, tomorrow I have my final wedding dress fitting. Considering I was in tears during the last one (and not the good kind) I'm a bit nervous. Fingers crossed.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Who has two thumbs and a passport?

The building which housed my salvation...the Federal Building.
So Monday came and I received word from Fin's company immigration team. No, I do not need to reapply for a visa just yet. Yes, they have a copy of my original visa. Yes, I can get back into the country with a series of letters provided by them. Hallelujah!

Tuesday was my big trip into Chicago to plead my case to the powers that be. GIVE ME A PASSPORT! I gathered all the information required...plus a ton more paperwork not required but perhaps helpful in case I needed to really beg and cry and make a scene.
Christy, my MOH and best friend; not just a pretty face!

Christy was a godsend for all of this! She organized all of my documents and arranged for my train from Milwaukee to Chicago. There's a reason she's my matron of honour...and it's not just so she can outshine me on my wedding day. ;-)

So Tuesday morning Christy and I set off with all of my paperwork in hand. I was dressed respectfully, but not too formally. I had to look like I was desperately living out of suitcases of course. As we neared our exit the sat-nav blew a gasket and advised us to continue onward...we missed it. No bother, we turned around and went for it again. Unfortunately there was construction...we got so backwards, upside down and hopelessly lost, it was extraordinary. As we neared the train station we saw the train pulling away. No way, we still have seven minutes! Christy assured me that trains NEVER leave early. Okay..as I jumped out of the car to run to the station another unlucky passenger was slumping his way back to his car. He barely looked up when he mumbled "Too late Miss, the train waits for no one." Oh. I see.

Christy and I started frantically checking our timetables. Yep, we misread them. Turns out we had been looking at the Chicago to Milwaukee schedule. Idiots.  I mean, my sister and I aren't stupid, but when it comes to being organizational skills...well you wouldn't see anyone asking Bearden for advice. One would think after all of this trouble I would be a bit more tuned in and careful. Sometimes I wonder how I've survived this long. One of my number one fears is dying. Not necessarily the act of dying, but I have a pretty strong feeling I will be one of the Darwin award winners. You know those people who die doing really stupid things? I mean, it will be so awkward for family members to relate the news, and people will be stifling inappropriate laughs. Oh the humiliation. Anyways, I digress.

On the train..hoping for good news...
So I missed the train. The next train would get me into Chicago at 12:35pm. My appointment was at 1:00pm. Not a lot of room for error, but we had no other choice.  Christy and I grabbed some delicious breakfast and agreed we would not be telling either of our significant others about this little mistake until I had my passport in hand. You see, Beardens always marry people more organized than we are. I'm not sure if it's possible to find someone less organized, or if we're just drawn to qualities we don't possess. Anyways we generally have husbands or wives that are prone to excessive frustration and worry when informed of our little mishaps. So we try to limit their involvement as much as possible...for their own sake of course. Anyways, after breakfast we arrived back at the station half an hour early.

I arrived in Chicago and immediately caught a cab. Things are looking good! Found the building, found the correct floor, found a number and sat down to wait to be called.

I was able to listen to all sorts of people pleading for emergency passports. They were just streaming into the office, all sorts of them! "My company is requiring me to be in London in three days and my passport is expired." "I lost my passport and have a hunting trip planned in Canada." "I didn't realize my passport was expired." On and on. At first it was reassuring. Yeah, I'm not the only one who does this! This is actually very common! I mean, I'd say about 70% of the people on this floor have lost their passport. Yes, it may be a skewed sample, but I'll take it. We were all in it together. I gave my neighbors knowing looks, sympathetic smiles that seemed to say 'I know how it feels, bummer right?' I had about fifty new friends.

But after waiting awhile I started to begrudge all of these irresponsible people. They should have kept track of when their passport was going to expire. And really, that trip isn't nearly as important as mine. In reality each of these people was increasing my wait time. Sometimes I am incredibly self-centered.

My hero's doppelgänger
Anyways, they called my name and I was introduced to my hero. My hero was a large, deep-voiced, grumpy-looking man. He actually reminded be of Stanley from The Office. Anyways, he told me of course I would be granted my emergency passport. I was to return Wednesday at 3pm to pick it up. Woah, woah, woah, not so fast Stanley! "I have to take another train into Chicago?!?!" "Calm down ma'am, there's no panicking at my window." After a few well-placed keystrokes he informed me "You can pick up your passport at 3pm today."

YES!!!!!  If I could have kissed Stanley I would have! That's probably why they're each behind a window...too many excited travelers trying to accost the workers. Anyways...he told me to go get a cup of coffee and wait. I offered to take a seat and just stare at his window until it was ready but he said he prefers not to be stared at. Ah well.

As I left the building I was on cloud nine...the sun was shining, Chicago was buzzing, and everything just seemed happy! I couldn't keep still so I opted to speed walk around Chicago with a huge grin on my face humming ridiculous 70s & 80s songs, just enjoying the moment. I returned at the designated time, collected my passport and caught the train back to Wisconsin. What a relief! Here's a little music video for Tuesday's theme song. 

Passport check! Now just waiting on the paperwork to come through for my reentry into the UK sans visa. The company has been in contact and I am confident it will all be sorted. Tomorrow evening I FINALLY leave the US to return to my home in Scotland.

Everything is not exactly sorted...I will need letters for my reentry into the UK after my wedding as well, and as for the honeymoon, we'll see if I am able to get my replacement visa in time. In the end it will just be an inconvenience...but not a tragedy.

Out of this whole situation there has been a silver lining or three.

Luke, Jos, and Tuck
Number one and most importantly, I was able to spend more quality time with my sister and her children. I miss them so much and feel like it's never enough time with them. Christy has helped me sort lots of wedding details while here and I was able to cash in on her matron of honour status. The last two are quite vain...but there you have it.

Number two, I was finally able to lose those last 2 pounds pre-wedding pounds. Turns out stress and anxiety make an amazing diet cocktail...although I wouldn't recommend it. Not at all healthy.
Number three, I have a much better passport photo! The first time I took my photo I knew it was bad but was afraid to appear vain, so I didn't ask for it to be retaken. For the past five years I've endured the startled looks on the Border Control agents as I hand it over. Then the quick glances to make sure it's me.  So bad it was awkward.  Not this time..no way! I was going to retake that picture fifty times if I had to! When getting my new passport 'Stanley' asked me "Do you swear this photo is a true and accurate likeness of you?"  I proudly lifted my hand to my heart and "I swear!" with a solemn face, only a hint of a smile. It wasn't actually required to place my hand on my heart...but I felt it appropriate.

Original Passport Photo

New Passport Photo!

Reunited and it feels so good...

Fin made contact at about 6pm Friday. He sent a text which read:

"I'm in a van right now I'll call later...how did you lose your passport? You need a visa etc too. All flights now lost to UK and France and Aberdeen."

Now this text seems pretty reasonable from the perspective of a well-rested, calm, rational human. These are just about the same questions and concerns I had upon first losing my passport. However, from the perspective of a underfed, sleep-deprived, stressed, and desperate soul, this was the coldest, most patronizing text ever sent in the history of man. Poor poor innocent Fin. Please think very carefully before your next text.

Me:  post-passport fiasco
At these times in our relationship I recognize that there is a specific response I am looking for from my beloved. Any, I mean ANY detour from this response will probably result in mutual dissatisfaction from the conversation. I also recognize that most people are not psychic, including Fin. In the interest of being fair and logical, I generally tell him the response I'm looking for or the type of support I am seeking for a particular situation. For example, when venting about a wedding task I tell him, "Just tell me I'm working hard and it must be so frustrating." Don't say "You're over thinking it. No one will notice." He  loves that I give him this advice up front and I love that he takes it. It's kind of like our own little "choose your own adventure" game.

Unfortunately, after almost 36 hours awake, I forgot to send him his script. So he was entering the situation blind. If I would have sent him the script it would have read "You've obviously tried everything. You must be exhausted. Take a break and we'll sort it out tomorrow in the morning. I love you my sweet princess of wonder and joy...everything will be fine" Okay, maybe not that sappy but something along the same lines.

Now, let's walk a minute in Fin's shoes. He just finished this amazing mountain biking week, where he was able to unwind, forget about work, forget about emails, forget about passports, and just be. As he reaches cell phone service his phone starts exploding with urgent texts and emails from me, his company, and the airlines. Vacation time is over. Welcome back sweet cheeks!

Fin: post-mountain biking week
When I finally get to talk to him he starts with the usual questions. "How did you lose it?" "did you look here, there, everywhere?" "what's your plan?" As I began to detail my options he interrupted with "Wait, what time is it?" Oh, okay...apparently Fin has taken to not wearing a watch. A few questions later "Wait, what day is it?" Yeah okay mountain man, I get it...you were out of touch. And then a few plans later "What month are we in?" Okay Sweet Pea, if you don't drop this Nature-Boy-Watchless-Wonder routine, I am going to verbally b*tch-slap you into next week. Or as the lovely bachelorette would say "Go West Virginia, hood rat, backwoods on his ass." Yep, time for us to take a break and regroup.

Now this is something I do love about Fin, he thinks about our conversations and doesn't pretend not to notice when the atmosphere is off.  I had asked him if he'd like to spend an extra day with me in Chicago instead of Portland on his way home, as I was flying through Portland in the morning and he could join me on my flight. That way we could spend a bit of time together. He was hesitant when I first asked and did not give me a proper response. However, after thinking it over My Love not only decided to join me, but he booked us to fly first class together from Portland to Chicago.  Yeah...he's some kind of wonderful. I decided that although I was still feeling defensive and exhausted I could make an effort for him too.

As I boarded my flight, a day late and a passport short, I was wearing a tighter than necessary dress, overly high heels, and a fresh face of makeup. I may have royally screwed the pooch, but I hadn't seen my fiance in almost two weeks...he may have been in need of a reminder as to why I am worth all the trouble. Plus, I was going to get a proper hug and kiss from him one way or another! Of course he didn't disappoint.

We made our way to Chicago together, rented a car and spent the evening with my sister and her three beautiful children in Wisconsin. As we basked in the novelty of being called Uncle Fin & Aunt Pam, I realized how wonderful it is to have my teammate back.  He made playful jabs about my absentmindedness and I feigned offense, but at the end of the day we're in love and we're in it together. He headed off to France the next morning, lugging a suitcase full of wedding supplies, and I stayed back in Wisconsin to sort this mess out. With our kiss goodbye I felt overwhelmed with missing him, and so grateful that this is the guy I get to have by my side. What a lucky girl. A still stranded but oh-so-lucky-girl.