Handwriting and Fresh Horses

It almost feels like a dare. Like I’ve been dared to show my underpants.

Show us your handwriting.

Mine is hard to nail down, and always comes with memories of grade school. Years of teachers scolding me because it was messy, illegible. Years of painfully doing homework and trying so hard to control the pencil. Failing.

Sometimes it’s loopy and rather girly. Sometimes it’s slanty and has extra bits and tails hanging off. Usually it’s a weird mix of cursive and print. I prefer the look of my printing, but my laziness connects the letters and the cursive sneaks in.

Every time I pick up a pen I feel out of practice. Like I have to remember how to do it, which is why it feels important when I write something down.

It’s worth more than my digital notes typed in to my phone. Text messages, email, calendar entries. They’re all digital.

Hand written notes? Much more deliberate and personal. A tangible bit of my thoughts down on a piece of paper you can hold and carry with you.

I found this card on top of our fridge here in Brazil. I gave it to B three years ago. I remember writing it, and mailing it from the States with my fingers crossed that it would actually get to him all the way in Brazil. That it wouldn’t go missing in the tangle and mess of international mail.

Three years ago, before we talked of marriage, but were so madly in love with each other. So far away from each other. Thousands of miles apart, but always on each other’s minds. A bond out of nowhere that caught us both by surprise and was too strong to give up on, even from five thousand miles away.

He kept it.

He is not a romantic. Not overly sentimental. He doesn’t keep anything.

He kept the card.



Edenland's Fresh Horses Brigade

The Yin and Yang of Traveling

Sunset over Brazil

There is so much to write about from our road trip, so I’m editing photos and mentally writing blog posts but don’t have anything ready just yet. Instead, I’m enjoying my daughter’s last day in Brazil with me and dreading the buzz at the gate when the driver arrives to take us to the airport. She flies out tonight. Sigh.

It’s good to know I’ll be back there in the States with my kids in just a few short weeks. It’s nearly that time again for me to make my twice annual trip back there to spend time with them. The time when I am most happy and most sad. I love being with my kids, and spending time watching them do their thing in their own lives but I do it alone. I miss B so badly when I leave here, it always feels like I’ve left my right arm behind.

He’ll come up and join us for Christmas. Thankfully.

I know it’s the travelers dilemma, and a first world problem I’m lucky to have. Still, it’s hard to say goodbye and I’m always missing someone.

Biding my Time

Here I wait. Here in my house alone most of the time. I feel a bit like a hermit.

It felt good to get out yesterday with my camera and a group of friends from my photo club, which makes it a little harder to come home alone.  I see and hear from my kids far too seldom, which is a whole other issue. I can’t make plans more than a few days in advance because I don’t know when I’m flying out again. Could be Thursday, could be mid-March. I have an invitation I can’t RSVP to for an event I’d really like to attend next Monday, but I’d much prefer be on a plane out of here before then.

I thought I felt like I lived with one foot in each country before. This past two weeks have made me feel even more split. My head and heart are in alternate universes, the one where I thought I’d be and the one where I am. The light at the end of my tunnel is still around the curve and I can’t see it.

So I’ll go out today, take my Girl to the mall and have a coffee while she spends her Christmas gift cards. I’ll have her for a couple of hours during which we’ll have another conversation about homework and school and responsibility, then I’ll go home alone and wait some more. Later on I’ll see on Facebook how much fun my Boy had at the track.

Tomorrow is our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple. How sad is that?

On Hold and Banging My Head Against the Wall

Remember how I was all “Soon, soon, soon”?

Ya, I spoke too soon.

The Brazilian consulate has decided that the visa we thought B had renewed last May is not valid, and therefore they can’t give me a spouse visa attached to it.  Right now there are about five people scrambling to get proof of a valid visa for him but god knows how long that will take since it took months for them to “renew” it the last time. They also think a US government certified copy of our marriage certificate is not good enough and want the original, except that the USVI courts will not release the original as it’s their property.

And, get this, the consulate wants B to write them a letter explaining why he wants me to come to Brazil.

Are they kidding? Seriously?

Hmm… I wonder why a man would want his WIFE to come live with him? It’s such a puzzle, what could we possibly be thinking?

Should we tell them exactly what we plan to do together after being recently married and then separated for months, in all the naked details? I’m sure somebody there would really enjoy reading that letter.

Where we are now

Here we are three and a half weeks after we got married. B is back in Brazil, I’m here in Houston. Sucks.

I can’t go back until my passport and new visa are processed. Ask any newly married woman who takes on her husband’s name how she feels about the process of changing your name on every piece of ID, every bank account, every bill, every membership and every piece of paper that comes her way and I’m sure she’ll try really hard not to bite your head off. While it makes me smile every time I see that new name, I am getting a bit tired of standing in line, filling out forms, submitting online updates, lather rinse repeat.

Yesterday I sent in my passport name change form. When it comes back I will submit it to the company lawyers who will complete the application process for my Brazilian permanent visa. I am now an official trailing spouse. Right now I have a tourist visa which allows me 90 days at a time in the country, twice a year. While that schedule works for the moment because I need to be back here with my kids half the time, it will be nice to have some flexibility with the new visa. Not to mention my kids are growing up fast and it won’t be long before they don’t need me here as much. How much I need them is another story.

Right now we’re sort of guessing that I’ll be here for another three weeks or so. You better believe I’ve got all fingers and toes crossed that there will be no delays, but this is the Brazilian visa process and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about it.

So for now I wait. The kids will be here for the week starting tomorrow, and we’ll celebrate my girl’s 17th birthday while she’s here. I’m sure driving practice will be involved, just as I’m sure it’s a bigger deal to me than it is to her. My cool, mellow, easygoing girl takes it all in stride, but we moms get to freak out a bit when our kids grow up.

Getting Ready

Getting ready for Christmas.  The lights are up on the house.  The tree is decorated.   Most of the gifts are purchased or ordered, but I still have a few to go pick up.  The kids and I are going out next week to finish off the list.  The “Official family holiday schedule” is set, and fingers are crossed that the drama will be kept to a minimum.   The gifts I have picked up already are wrapped and under the tree, tucked in the back so a certain Tall Boy will not be peeking at them.

Getting ready for the kids to drive.  Next week we have intensive driving practice for my Girl during which she’ll need to get very comfortable with driving a stick shift.  She’s made a good start with it, and she drives her dad’s automatic with no problems, but she’ll have her driver’s license next month and she’ll have my Jeep to drive while I’m in Brazil.  My Boy and I are going to be studying his Driver’s Ed handbook while she’s practicing.  I’m taking him to get his permit on Thursday so wish him luck.  My insurance agent is listening to the festive bells of the cash register as we speak.

Getting ready for a 5k run on New Year’s Eve.  Because we’re weird.  Signing up for 5k runs keeps me motivated to run and go to the gym, and the only one we could find going on while B is here happens to start at midnight that night.  Why not start a new tradition?

Getting ready for a Caribbean vacation the day after Christmas.  Yes, our Christmas gift to each other is a tropical beach vacation and we’re flying out at 6am the morning after Christmas and headed to a tiny island in the Caribbean for six days.  Sun, sand, water, c hiking trails, boats, a treetop bed & breakfast and romantic sunsets.  Just the two of us.  <big, smiley sigh>

Getting ready to teach my first photography class.  It’s a beginner’s class for people who get new DSLR cameras for Christmas.  Very, very basic starting with “how to turn this beast on” and working up from there.  I’m co-teaching with a friend and I’m a little nervous because the RSVP’s are pouring in.  Wish me luck.

Getting ready to go back to Brazil for three more months.  Not. Soon. Enough.  I love being here with my kids, and it’s a life saver that B will be here for the holidays, but I’m really looking forward to going back home to Brazil.  I miss B every day in all ways, large and small.  Those little things that make a life are missing here.  I’m home alone half the time, and while I am so grateful for Skype so I can see his face when we talk every day, it’s just not the same as being together.  Duh.  I’m also looking forward to picking up life in Brazil itself.  Speaking Portuguese, walking to the grocery store, taking photos of all the great places around town (and maybe showing them in the local gallery if I can swing it), seeing our friends and hearing about their holidays, churrasco, heat, beijos and abracos, our friend’s baby girl who will have grown a ton.  I’m ready to go back to all of those things.

Getting ready for my heart to arrive one week from today.  That’s the one I’m most excited about.  I miss him, all day every day.  He’s my heart, my love, my companion, my best friend, my sounding board, my cheering squad, my comfy couch buddy, my debate partner, my hard headed man, my adventure partner, my biggest fan, and everything else I ever wanted.  We are so sappy and we know it, but I wouldn’t trade this for anything.  We are so lucky to have this, and we know what it’s worth so I’ll keep counting days until he arrives.

I’m ready.

Photography Zen

Dahlonega Snowflake

As we dragged poor Michael around the cute little shops in the Dahlonega town square, we kept calling out to each other, “Hey, look at this!”.  There was so much to see, and so many cute little crafts and gifts everywhere.  All my photowalks are training me well to be ready with the camera, and to keep my eyes open for the good stuff the I might not normally pay attention to.

Dahlonega Preserves

Photography has always been something I wanted to do, and now that I’m really focusing on it I’m learning to look around me in ways I never used to do before.  As a way of life I’m always trying to live “in the moment”, but don’t always succeed.  Duh.  Actually I kind of suck at that part.  I’m way too impatient for future things to even realize where I am half the time.

Dahlonega Honey

So I practice, and I try, and I have little reminders around me to slow down and smell the flowers.  My camera has helped me do that.  When I have my camera and I’m actively using my eye balls to look for “the shot” it is nearly impossible to keep the calendar and the clock in the front of my mind.  It’s a welcome relief to the difficulty of waiting for all those things I’m always waiting for.  I can forget.  I can capture a moment.  I can stop time.

Dahlonega Marbles

It feels like getting lost in a game, just playing like we all used to do as kids.

Dahlonega Ornament

Finding the angle, finding the light, holding my breath for the shutter to click.  Smiling and laughing when I know I nailed one.

When the day is done and I put the camera down, that’s when I look at the clock and realize I’ve had a great time and I’m also that much closer to the things I wait for.  The watched pot never boils, and the watched clock never moves, but when I’ve taken my eyes away from the clock and lost myself, the clock jumps forward much faster and I’ve also done something I love doing during the jump.

Crazy Busy but Adjusting Back in the States

It feels like I’ve been back for two weeks and I’m exhausted. It’s been one task after another, running around, running errands, making phone calls, keeping appointments, figuring out school schedules, buying groceries for teenagers (three times already), unpacking little by little, turning stuff back on, replacing lost things, finding stuff I know I have around here somewhere, fighting roaches (ok, only one, but EWWWW), cleaning, driving, holidays, events and festivals.

It has been THREE AND A HALF DAYS. Where is my laid back Brazilian life? I need some of that right now.

To sum up, here  are some of the bigger things I’ve done:
Catching Air

The 2nd Annual Halloween Night Motocross Race at 3 Palms race track. My boy was supposed to race Saturday night but blew a tire Friday afternoon and didn’t have time to fix it.  We cheered for my nephew instead, who was awesome, and I worked. I shot photos for 5 hours and I’ve already sold some! You can see the gallery of my photos here. Let’s hope running 5 miles worth of laps around the track to get the right angle pays off!

Flaming Bull Whip

The Texas Renaissance Fair with my girl. We love us some Renfair! Where else can you see freaks dressed to the hilt, jousting, professional insulters and my favorite this year, the Flaming Bull Whip Guy. The whip was flaming, not the guy. Although that would have been fun too. I love that we can buy any size and shape of knife known to man, and watch babies dressed as fairies playing with pirate kids and underage barbarians who are gnawing on turkey legs that are bigger than they are.

It was Halloween, so the costumes were even more spectacular than ever and we had more fun just people watching than anything else.

But, because it was Halloween we had to hurry home before sunset so she could carve her pumpkin and apply her slash wounds and blood. I love that my girl is now the self-designated (bloody) supervisor to all her little cousins while they tour the neighborhood begging for candy.

Not Edward

This is one of those small cousins. He is NOT EDWARD. He is Count Dracula, the real one. Not that sparkly fake one. Don’t get it wrong or he might have to bite you just to prove it. You’ve been warned.

Three and a half days I’ve been back. I’m glad I’ve been busy, and I have had fun with the good stuff. I have LOVED spending these days with my kids. Just ask my 15 year old son who might just mutiny if I kiss him on the head one more time. I love to see how well he’s doing in high school, although it’s strange to be driving him to school for the first time since he finished 2nd grade. Homeschool was good to him for a long time, but now it’s time for this for him and it’s a really good fit. My girl is my sidekick and shadow again, just like she was in Brazil. She’s so cool to just hang out and talk with, I missed that.

Three and a half days I’ve been back and I’m glad I’ve been busy because whenever I slow down and have time to think, I miss him. I miss knowing he’ll come through the door after work. I miss looking at him. I miss leaning back against him when we watch TV. I miss holding his feet in my lap while we sit on the balcony and talk for a while during the sunset. I miss walking in the waves and laughing with him when we get soaked.

I have two really good lives. Somewhere in the balance is me smiling.

Winding Down and Winding Up

Here I am with two days left.

Here I am trying to hang on to every minute, memorize his face again, listen to everything around me and smell the morning air so I can print it all on my brain.

The last couple of days have seen me start back into the old habits of the long distance thing. I’m leaving again, catching that flight back to the states, back to my kids who I miss like mad, back to the house that will need to be dusted, back to dealing with the tricky electrical system in the Jeep, back to Texas weather, back to English, back to the land of convenience and familiarity, back to being alone and missing him every single hour, back to my photography walks and friends, back to the gym.

We’ve had three and a half months together and I feel spoiled by that. Does it make it harder to leave? I don’t know, it is always hard to leave. Poor Francisco, who always drives me to the airport, tries to cheer me up during the drive because I always cry. He’s so funny and friendly and those things help, but what actually shocks me out of my funk is his driving. OMG. Brazilian driving on any given day is insane, but with Francisco at the wheel? Just hang on and close your eyes.

So I’m in the middle of this weird mix of normal domestic stuff, and packing, and sadness for leaving, and happiness for seeing my kids again. I’ve already counted how many days until he comes for Christmas and started making plans (51 days, meu amor).

It’s hard to get motivated in the middle of this. I have made a habit of getting out of the apartment every day while I’m here. I go for a run, a walk, a trip to the library, the cultural center, the beach, friend’s houses, Portuguese class and any number of little stops in between. Now this week I’ve had to force myself, and not always been successful. Thank goodness for my friend and Portuguese teacher who won’t let me off the hook. I’ll be at her house in a few hours and it’s a beautiful walk on the way there and back. I’ll be  grateful for the drizzly beauty of the rainy beach while at the same time always aware that I won’t see it again for three months.

Gah! Snap out of it!

This is how it goes. This is what life is for us right now. It’s an exceptionally good life and I know that, but I guess I need to let myself have a few days of pity party once in a while because dammit, it’s hard.

There ya go. Sorry about that. End of whine.

Leaving for a While

Keeping myself busy with to-do lists.  Watching the days creep closer while trying not to watch the days creep closer.  Stocking up, stripping down, getting ready, getting packed, making arrangements for the house, the kids, the bills, the flights, the cars, the business, the cat.

Waiting, waiting, waiting for this last few days before he walks through this door to take me home.  Home to Scotland for a family visit for him, then home to Brazil.  Home together, wherever that may lead us.

Knowing, finally, that this time won’t just be for ten days.  This time won’t be just a vacation with three months of absence between this time and the next time I see him. Over the last two years I’ve spent a total of about two months with him.  Over the next nine months we get to have nearly seven.  This time won’t be a visit.  This time I get to be with him.  To start this life we’ve hoped for.  To travel, yes, and to stroll the beach, hold hands, have fun, find adventure.  Also to sort laundry, fight bugs and leaks and broken elevators, sweep endless sand out of the entry way, buy groceries, fight over who has to do the ironing, help kids with homework over Skype, and have boring nights in front of the TV.  Together.  We have learned well over the last couple of years not to take even those things for granted.

Together here again

And… I’m leaving the U.S.

I can’t tell you how long that’s also been a dream of mine, to live outside the U.S. for a while.  Another dream that was always just talk before.  I had lost hope years ago that this would ever be a life that was possible for me, and that the door for seeing the world was also closed to my kids.  How great is it that now the door is wide open for them?  I couldn’t give them a functioning life with two parents in the same house, but maybe the trade off that is swinging around is worth something valuable for them?  I want the world for them, and now, because of the love of this man for me and for them, they can have a piece of it.  Their world just got much, much bigger.

I plan on writing here, and showing photos as often as I can.  Not only for my Mom and kids to see, but for me to remember.  I’ll be able to look back and remember these days, when everything is so new and a little scary.  Days when my language skills abandon me at the wrong times, and when the washing machine breaks, when friends invite us for dinner and a beer, when we find a new little pousada in the mountains, when the kids come down to stay for a while.  And also when I come back here with new, Brazilian eyes to re-see life in the states.

So, come along with me and hang around for a while, and if there’s anything you want to know, just ask.