Sunday, July 10, 2005

What I have now that I wish I had then...

In the comment section of my previous post, Aughra asked me "What do you have there that you love, and that you wish they had in the US." It's such an excellent question, that my response was getting a bit long for Haloscan, and it deserved a proper post of it's own.

A lot of the things I love here, are food. I'm an eater, I love food, I love the social part of eating with family, I like the chemistry of cooking and I love seeing my family enjoying a meal I've prepared. Some on the foods I've come to love are: scones, haggis, tablet
, Irn Bru, butcher's sausages where the recipe is displayed next to them.

But it's not just food. I'm grateful for the NHS. People give it such a hard time, but they've never had to worry about whether they'll be able to afford to have an emergency treatment done because your HMO may not cover it. They've never had to worry if their job will earn enough to cover insurance payments. That fear is gone, and replaced with a hefty tax that takes the money strait out your paycheck before you even see it. I definitely prefer it this way. I have an NHS dentist who is amazing, and my cleaning only costs £11 (around $20-$25), both my girls were born in NHS hospitals that had superb nurses and doctors. I know it has it's downside with waiting lists for procedures, some people can't get cancer treatment quickly enough and suffer, but there is alternative health insurance one can have as a supplement (which we do have for those types of emergencies should one arise) to the NHS. The only bummer is that it's taxed really heavy; why tax us when were investing in taking the cost away from the NHS for cure/treatment of a major illness? Stupid.

When I lived in the city convenience was a joy. I couldn't go to the grocery store and buy everything in one trip because it was a small shop. I had to get my fruit and vegetables at a different shop run by an Iranian who had anti-Iraq cartoons everywhere and pictures of Rambo with Clinton's head pasted on, and my meat from Butcher Joe where he actually met the animal he's offering up for your dinner (He loved to tell me he didn't have any Brazilian, hormone injected beef for me and he hoped Scottish beef was good enough. Not in a mean way, just a sassy Mo-Fo, which is why I called him Mo-Fo-Joe.)

Now I live in the country, and I only have a Tesco Superstore, and it's soulless in comparison. I know it would be same back in US, a superstore and no local fruit guy and no Butcher Joe. Occasionally we would see a guy selling sweetcorn on the rotary and it was good, but it was only in August. This kind of giving over to the Superstore, is sad. It breaks up the community, and impersonalises service. The eighteen year old behind the meat counter at Tesco's doesn't know my name, or even care so why should I give him any attention?

I moved to Scotland on 11-August-1995. I was twenty-three years old. The first five years I suffered unbearable home sickness. The first couple of years at least once a month I would be crying hysterically, unable to stop and just consumed with a hollow, disconnected feeling of having nothing I belonged to. My family's lives went on, cousins born, aunties died, brother got married, sister struggled post-divorce and it all happened without me (Actaully, I went to my Brother's wedding in San Francisco and it was great!). I came home yearly for vacations but I soon felt like a guest. My Mom and Dad sold our family home in '98 and I was really upset by it, although I completely understood why they did it. I felt uprooted, I'd lost my foothold to my old life knowing that some stranger was turning my old bedroom into a sauna and jacuzzi. My father died suddenly in December of 2000, and I didn't get go home; my Mom told me I didn't need to, there was no funeral or anything and she was okay on her own, she had my Brother to stay with for a while. (They made arrangements for Dad's cremation, we don't believe in wakes/funerals because let's be honest, they suck and are way too painful to endure. The same will happen when my Mom dies.) Having none of my family to share my grief with was incredibly painful, but my Husband did an amazing job.

We flew over in June 2001 to scatter my Dad's ashes into Cape Cod canal. Okay, it wasn't so much a "scattering" as a dumping. My Brother did the honors and I think we were all afraid that the wind would blow Dad's ashes into some folk fishing a few yards away, and can imagine that conversation:

"Hey, what the hell are you doing, you got stuff all over me and my kid."

"So Sorry, it's, just, we're...uhm..."


"Nevermind, sorry. We'll pay for any dry cleaning."

Really how do you tell someone they've got your Dad dusted on their clothes?

We stood there on the side of the canal for several long minutes, watching Dad's ashes just settle onto the seaweed covered rocks of the canal, I half expected a current to sweep them away, but it didn't. Dad just dissipated a bit getting used to his new home, who knows where he is now, he's probably seen all of the world by now.

With Dad gone, the family is starting to break apart. Mom has a new boyfriend now, who makes her very happy and takes up all of her attention. She's absorbed in falling in love. I know it must feel fantastic, I've been there. She's sold her home in Massachusetts and moved in with him in Tenn. I now have no home in Mass. at all to go to, talk about disconnection. I flux between being happy for her and feeling sad for me which makes me feel guilty so I try and feel happy for her again. We miss her. She didn't call for either of my girls' birthdays, and I'm wondering if she remembers us at all. I've found it very hard to find my own way here in Scotland, to scratch out a life for myself. I feel that, after all that's happened, what's there for me to come back to?

In the beginning, back in 1995, I was a dog and cat groomer by trade and worked at that for a couple years. It's very lonely work, it's just you and the pets. Contact with people is fleeting and impersonal. I got it in my head finally that this was not going to help me establish here if I had no friends, and I was tired of seeing my Husband's guilt ridden face; he always felt it was his fault I was so depressed because I moved here and not to the States and financially we couldn't afford to move. I quit my grooming job without having another lined up, worked my four weeks' notice and then went home. I got off the bus near my house and stopped into the health food shop for a snack. I told my story of woe to the owner, a young red haired girl I'd chit-chatted with lots of times previously, and she offered me a job to startMonday. She said "If you can talk to my customers as easily as you can talk to me, you'll be great." That's my luck, I always find work that easy, that quick, and so started a career in customer service.

I made my first friends in that shop. I got to know my locals too. It was only a five minute walk from home and often I got to take home the sell-by date food home for dinner. I was making pennies (about £60/$100 a week) and often by Thursday I had no food in the house. There was one day, I remember, where I was really worried because we literally had no food to eat, and I was ashamed. I offered up a prayer (I'm not a religious person or a God botherer); with only a few pounds I could buy something for a meal or two before payday- veg is cheap I'll come up with some recipe, but I only need a few pounds. I got my coat, and walked up to work. On the way,I happened to look down and there was a five pound note on the sidewalk. I looked up and down the street to see if someone had dropped it, but I was completely alone save a few birds. I picked it up, said thanks to God, and walked on to work. I was able to buy enough pasta, veg and tinned chopped tomatoes to keep us fed until payday. (My Husband was working really hard trying to get a business off the ground with his Dad, so he was working from home and kept the roof over our heads)

This experience taught me many things:
1) If you pray, your prayers get answered, one way or the other and not always the way you want. 2) You can do plenty if you're prepared to lower your standards and accept things for the way they are; it's where you learn the most about yourself. 3) Sometimes, you just have to get over yourself to see what's really important in life. Take a job that you think is beneath you so you can make ends meet and never give up.

I worked in the health food shop for about a year and got my self-esteem up enough to be able to move on to another job, a job at the time I was extremely grateful for but have since realised they'd have hired me back on 11th of August 1995 because they love people with a gift of gab and who smile. I got a job at the Gap. I absolutely loved working at the Gap. I was part of the GapKids/Baby team and got to play all day. I made lots of new friends and within six months, I was in charge of the Baby dept. I wasn't a manager, I didn't want to go down that route, I didn't have the confidence, but Baby was showing a profit for the first time, and they just let me do what I wanted. I listened to every piece of advice that was slung my way, or I could eavesdrop.

I bought a notebook was working out statistical information to try and increase the daily profit by 10%. It gave me something else to do, it got my mind working. I organised an easy way to control the stockroom so you could ask me how many of a certain thing was available, I could tell you off the top my head. After one year, I'd managed to increase the profits of my dept. by 120%, and I had my book to prove it. That came in real handy when the president of the company came to visit to see what we were doing to have such a major turn around. My manager at the time tried to answer his questions, but didn't have the info. He was a glory hound who didn't want me around while the visit took place, but he had to call me over, and I brought my book with me and was able to answer everything.

I was able to negotiate a nice pay rise when I said I was thinking of going somewhere else. I was also made one of the new-staff trainers "Teach them to do what you do." I was never able to go much further than that though, because I didn't want to become a manager. At this time Sassy-Face was about 1 year old and my number one concern. If I became a manager, I'd never see her and I already felt guilty about having her in daycare for 28 hours a week.

After that, the confidence was there. It still is, maybe a bit humbled but I know what I can do when I put my mind to it. I left the Gap after three years and got my job at the bank. It's a similar story; starting out low and then became a staff training manager with a book of statistics to prove my way was working, only difference was the bank was much more supportive. It's a place where anyone's success was everyone's success so I didn't have as many egos to obstruct me, and a lot more help.

So, where does all of this history, and waffle, fit into Aughra's question of
"What do you have there that you love, and that you wish they had in the US." ? I guess the answer you were looking for were things, or traditions or something more tangible. I think what I have here that I love, is 10 years of history, personal growth and my adulthood. These life experiences would have happened wherever I'd settled, but they happened here. Every year we talk about moving back to the USA, but I've always said if it was going to happen it should be before Sassy-Face starts school. I don't want to uproot her from all her friends and family here, it'll crush her. Now there's Baby-Noggin to consider too.

I guess I just don't think about what we have here in Scotland that the USA could benefit from, because it's assumed the USA has everything bigger, better, cheaper and easier. Other than aNational Health Service, what does the USA need from us, that they don't already have themselves?

It's taken 10 years, but I've settled here. This is now my home. Everytime I say "Back home blah blah blah..." I'm working on 10 year old memories. I'm stuck in the 90's in the USA, and life has moved on away from me there. I find myself more often then not aswering questions about the USA with "I don't know, I'v been away for a while." It won't ever stop me saying that certain things are so much better in the USA (Cars are way cooler over there), but it's all becoming nostalgia for me.

I'm finding life to be a bit like a game of Pick-Up-Sticks. You pick one up, and watch how that affects your next move. Someone else has a turn, moves the sticks, and you have to change tactics again, pick up another stick. The game changes with every choice.

I can't predict what I'll do next. Right now, it's someone else's turn.

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