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I’ve been home for just over a month now.

I flew out of Omaha on December 4, and was meant to arrive in Newquay on December 5.   But, this is me, and well… world’s worst luck, right? (Except where it comes to Alex, obviously.)   I was expecting to have a four hour layover in Chicago, before boarding a connecting flight to Dublin.  Unfortunately for me, though, there was quite a lot of fog in Chicago, and they wouldn’t let us take off from Omaha until it cleared.   This is the part, out of the entire fiasco, that really gets to me:  Before ever leaving Omaha – where 10 minutes away I had cheap food, a nice comfy bed, etc, I asked repeatedly if it was realistic to expect that I would make my connecting flight in Chicago. I was told it wasn’t realistic to think so, no, but to “just give it 20 more minutes” anyway.  You know, rather than letting me re-book the flight, or try the next day when I was 10 minutes from my house, instead they expected me to just wait, however delayed we might be.  So, eventually they did start letting us board, and if we had boarded, and not been left sitting on the plane for another hour or so, I might, if I’d run, have made that connection. 

It was not to be.

My connection took off about 15 minutes before we’d landed.

So, now, I am many hours from the nice comfy bed in Omaha, and I have missed a connection.   And a pretty important one, because the ticketing agent was completely unable to find a way to get me to Dublin to make a connection to Newquay, at all.  After telling her a couple of times that if she could get me to Heathrow, I’d be able to get a train, and being ignored… finally she says that she can not find any way to get me to Dublin to connect to Newquay. (This confuses me, to be honest, I guess that flight from Dublin to Newquay is like a once in a lifetime occurrence?  Two Aer Lingus flights leave Dublin every day for Newquay, I know, I checked! So she must have meant there was nothing in a reasonable time frame.)   So, I again tell her that if she can get me to Heathrow, I can get a train, and finally she listens.   The only problem with this is, I can’t get a flight to Heathrow until the following day, so wee, I get to spend the night in O’Hare International Airport.  She was nice enough to give me a little bag with… um, shaving cream, shoe polish, and razors.  Yeah, none of that was actually helpful, to be honest! You don’t really need shoe polish for knock-off Chucks!  And, what was I going to shave, exactly? My legs? In the toilets?

Traveling on December 4, 2016, via Chicago was a huge mistake.  Some 20,000 people were delayed that day.  Shocking news, I’m sure, but winter in Chicago sucks! :)  I should count my blessings that I landed when I did, and was directed straight to the ticketing agent, because when I approached the front of the line, and looked back, there was a line winding itself down the concourse and back full of people, waiting to make arrangements for connecting flights to wherever the hell they were going.   One poor guy had somehow managed to be delayed by TWO DAYS!

The plan had been for me to arrive in Newquay because that’s not nearly so far from St Ives as Heathrow is – but so much for planning!  To attempt to look on the bright side, though, at least the route by train from there was familiar to me.  I’d done that before, so I can honestly say that the second time around it was not nearly so intimidating.  And, for what it’s worth, customs was a breeze, too.  I had a moment, a tiny moment, where I thought “Well, it’s taking me longer than we’d planned, but this will all turn out fine, anyway” and I was perfectly happy as I made my way from Heathrow to Paddington.  Perfectly content as I got on the train to Penzance.  The cheerfulness was short-lived, though.

I was meant to get off the train at St Erth where Alex was going to be waiting for me.  Again, I emphasize meant to!  The train did make its scheduled stop at St Erth, but I’ll be damned if the window on the door didn’t refuse to open so I could let myself off of said train!  I even asked for help, and that window just refused to open.  So, of course, my luck being what it is – the train left St Erth for Penzance with me still on it.  And then I get sarcastic texts from Alex informing me that he guesses that I’m just not getting off the train.  Yes, helpful, when one is already nearly in tears from yet another thing going wrong! He says, in his defense, that he thought I’d just fallen asleep on the train and was trying to wake me up.  I say, I love him, and I forgive him his ill-timed sarcasm.  I had some ill-timed sarcasm of my own, after all. It just wasn’t directed at Alex.  Instead, it was directed at the poor conductor who made the mistake of telling me, as I was explaining what had happened regarding my missed stop, that she needed to go, as she needed to “open the doors”.  I informed her that I’d have appreciated it if that had been done for me AT ST ERTH.  (She meant that she needed to unlock doors, but  poor choice of words at the time.)

To the credit of the conductor, and to Great Western Rail, despite my scathing sarcasm, she very kindly made sure I was sent back to St Erth at no charge.  There was also a very tall, lanky stranger who was kind enough to offer me the use of his mobile to reach Alex – although, that turned out to be unnecessary.  Suffice it to say that despite not being the conductor’s favorite person, she still made sure that not only did I get back to St Erth, but also that someone was contacted there to let Alex know what had happened.

A couple of things in my own defense, regarding the train fiasco, though.  1. I was not the only person to attempt to open that damned window.  Legitimately, it wouldn’t open! 2. Aside from the scathing sarcasm after the “I need to open the doors” comment, I wasn’t actually rude or anything to anyone!  But that part just could not be helped.  She deserved it for saying she needed to OPEN THE DOORS.  I realize that she didn’t know my circumstances but, after having spent the night sleeping on an airport bench, having an overnight trip turned into a two-day nightmare, being tired, hungry, and stressed, a little bit of grumpiness should be somewhat understandable.  I mean, she got grumpy over one bit of snark! (At least, that is according to Alex who overheard her shouting at the staff at St Erth.)  All right, I accept that she may very well have been having a shit day, too, but still… I slept on a bench at an airport! I was hauling this beast of a laptop around for two days, and it, by itself, is monstrously heavy! Then there’s the clothes, and everything else!  Hungry. Exhausted. Trapped on a train!

In the end, all of it was worth it. I’m home, now, with Alex, where I belong, and I’m happy.

It’s Been Awhile

There has been a lot going on in my life, and in Alex‘s, since  last I wrote. Some of the reason that I haven’t written is because a fair bit of the things that have happened haven’t been the most pleasant of subjects.

I’m not sure where, exactly, to start.

My heart’s been in pieces, it feels, ever since I came back.  Naturally I miss Alex, but aside from that there’s been the issues with my mom.  Her mental state is perplexing, to put it mildly.  She is agitated, unhappy all the time.  She can’t remember anything.  There are physical issues, as well. No balance or coordination.  It’s all just so confusing, and no doctor seems able to find a reason for it.

And then there’s the other thing. The one I don’t want to talk about so much, but that comes to mind every. single. day.  The one that hurts at least as much as being separated from Alex again.

When something tragic happens to you, the people who love you usually rally around you, and try to comfort you, try to find the right things to say or do to help you through it, make you feel better.   It’s just that sometimes there is nothing that will make you feel better, except perhaps, time.

And then of course there’s also the well-meaning things that people say that are meant to be helpful and comforting, but which only hurt more and make you sadder, or even angry.  There have been more than a few well-meaning things said to me that only served to hurt and anger me in the past months.

I need time.  I guess.

LDR: The Struggle Is Real

… and Netflix is making that struggle just a little more difficult.

Alex and I try to find as many things that we can do together in the time we get to share. We play games (World of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm, Mordheim: City of the Damned to name a few), we watch films and shows together.  Or at least, we have been.  And maybe, just maybe we’ve been circumventing some rules in order to do that.

There exist easy to use extensions and add-ons that will “trick” sites into thinking that you’re browsing from a location you’re not actually in.  So, I, for example, could use that to make it appear I’m browsing from the UK.  Or Alex could make it appear he was browsing from the US.  This has always allowed us to synchronise films and shows that we both enjoy and given us something to do together.

As of recently, though, Netflix has announced that they are cracking down on the types of add-ons and extensions that make appearing to be browsing from somewhere else simple.

As I mentioned already, Alex and I have been circumventing some rules, and I recognise that we don’t get to be righteously indignant about the forthcoming changes. It does make me a bit sad, though, that in a world where we could be so much more connected, where we could watch films and shows with loved ones far away it all boils down to greed and licensing fees.

It’s not limited to Netflix, either.  We used to watch old episodes of Ridiculousness together, also – they weren’t even the most current ones – but now MTV requires that you log in with your cable provider to do this.

Being in a long distance relationship is so very difficult, and to lose little things that made it a tiny bit more tolerable just sort of stinks.  That’s really all there is to it. It stinks.

I have never been much of a fan of television, though, and I own the films I love best, so I guess Netflix is saving me some money.

An English Thanksgiving

There is no “Thanksgiving Day” in England.

To be sure, there have traditionally been harvest festivals and celebrations there for thousands and thousands of years, and in saying that there’s no “Thanksgiving” in England, I assure you I’m not in any way trying to invalidate those observances.

But, the fourth Thursday in November in England is a Thursday much like any other Thursday.

Usually.

Realising that I was going to be far from my family on the fourth Thursday of November, Alex‘s mom, Kay, went to a great deal of trouble to surprise me with Thanksgiving dinner.   I probably should have been able to guess that something was up when Alex started dropping questions here and there about what Thanksgiving celebrations consisted of.   (A lot of food: turkey, potatoes, green bean casseroles, yams, stuffing, beets, pumpkin pies,  and of course the traditional Thanksgiving family brawl, the food coma, and [American] football.)

Dinner was lovely – I wish I had at least taken a picture of the pumpkin pie.  Kay really went all out on that pie – which, to be honest, is my favourite part of Thanksgiving.  We even had ham rather than the traditional turkey because, well, that’s the way we do it at my parents’ … none of us actually being big fans of turkey. There was no green bean casserole, and no stuffing, and no football on the television.   (But there was mead and four kinds of potatoes! I love potatoes.)

All of it was meant to make me feel less homesick, and like I wasn’t missing out on anything.

As much as I love my parents, and (most) of my extended family, not once did I ever feel homesick.  Not once did I feel like I was “missing out”.  Being with Alex is home, to me.  But now, I feel a little like some of his family has become my family, too.

Back In The US

First, let me state for the record that I owe the poor ticket agent for the Heathrow Express an apology.  Their fares changed between the last time Alex had used their services, so he in fact, did not overcharge me. 

Second, I wish I was still in Cornwall.  Obviously it’s primarily because I wish I was still with Alex, but there’s also the beauty and charm of the place itself that I miss. It might be easier to overlook those things when it’s your every day, but I think it’s something I’ll never take for granted.

The trip back, though. Oh, let me tell you about the trip back…

Alex saw me off at the St. Erth train station, where I caught the sleeper to Paddington.  It was the hardest thing to get on that train and watch Alex waving goodbye from the platform.  Thinking about it right now even makes me cry, but I had a face full of tears and snot as the train pulled away.  Not a pretty sight, I’m sure, and people who were already on the train gave me such looks.  Sympathetic looks, to be sure, but it’s still not particularly fun to be sort of just stared at.  The trip to Paddington was largely uneventful, though, aside from my heart breaking into millions of tiny pieces.

I was disappointed to know that I didn’t have to go through customs to exit, as I desperately wanted to encounter the same grumpy early-morning agent and be slightly smug about the fact that I had  not been a drain on England’s economy in any way, having not worked a bit and only spending money, and that I was leaving as promised. Of course, it might be a bit of a blessing, though, as I was still crying by that time (you’d think a person would run out of tears) and she’d probably have just asked me what that was all about.

I boarded the plane at Heathrow on time, where we then sat for two hours because the right engine wouldn’t start.  Yes, that’s such a reassuring thing to have happen when you get on a giant tube that’s going to shoot you 36,000 feet into the air and carry you over the Atlantic.  However, it turned out – after two hours of just sitting – that the engine would in fact start just fine, as long as it was started “manually”, and we were deemed safe to fly, as long as someone filled out some paperwork about it.

My connecting flight at Chicago was meant to be caught after a layover of only nearly three hours, though, so when you factor in the time for everyone to collect their bags, get off the plane, and the time it would take to get to another gate, I knew before take-off that I wasn’t going to catch my connection.  I wasn’t a happy camper.  I left St. Erth just before 10 pm, arrived at Heathrow just before 6 am, for a flight that was due to take off at just before 9 am (but didn’t).  You can imagine by this time I was tired and cranky.

You know what, though? For all the little complaints I have about the travel time, having the back of my seat kicked over and over by small children (on every single flight), and all of it, I had the best three months of my life. All I want now is to turn around and go right back.

… oh, there’s photos.  And many  more stories. Give me time.

Dear Shannon

Hello. It’s me. Or that is to say, it’s you. An older, hopefully slightly wiser you. Me.

I want to talk to you about a few things that, from this end, are still on the horizon for you.

You’ve just had your heart broken by someone that you had put all of your time, energy, faith, and hope into. He let you down, and left you when you needed someone the most.

Be patient. It’s true what they say about good things coming to those who wait.

It’s okay that you feel heartbroken.  You’re allowed. I promise you, though, that it won’t always be that way. Soon, very soon, someone is going to come along who will help you understand why the relationship you’re lamenting the end of just didn’t work out.

It wasn’t meant to be.

There is something, someone, so much better for you about to come along. I promise.

He won’t live anywhere near you. In fact, he’ll be 4,132 miles away, and there will be times that the distance is so hard. Don’t give up.

You will get scared. You will because you will love him so much. You will worry that he won’t be able to handle the miles that separate you. You will worry that he will find someone nearby to take your place in his heart. You will lie awake at night and obsess over all the things that might happen, all the ways in which you might not be enough for him.

I wish you wouldn’t. And he will wish you wouldn’t, too.

Be brave. Be confident. When he tells you that he loves you, take him at his word, because as you will eventually see, he will never give you reason to doubt.

Don’t let jealousy or fear get the better of you. Understand that in his eyes, there is nothing and no one who could ever take your place. Nothing and no one who is “better” than you.

Take notice of how much you love him and how happy he makes you, and never take those things for granted. Never take it for granted that he knows how you think or feel about him, either. It may not seem like it, but he gets scared, too. Take the time to remind him, often, how much you love and appreciate him.

You will argue sometimes. It happens to all couples. Understand that in the same way that you still love him when you are upset and frustrated, he loves you, too. Don’t assume that he is going to give up on you because of an argument. Or two. Or ten. Don’t hold him accountable for the way you’ve been treated by others.  Don’t think that he will be just the same, because he is not.

Cherish every bit of time that you get to spend together. The time zone difference between the two of you will be hell. Six hours difference means that you will only get a few hours in any given day, particularly weekdays. Make the most of your time together.

Mostly, though, be brave. This one,  he’s The One. The one that you’re going to spend forever with. The one who is going to work just as hard as you will, right by your side, to make it work.

Remember that love is not just a thing that you feel, but something that you do. Keep falling in love with him every day. You will see, by his words and his actions, that he does the same for you.

My Father, The Asshole

For a long time I avoided having to speak on the phone to my father very much by virtue of being unable to accept collect calls without paying a hefty deposit to my phone company. (Never mind the fact that I’ve had the same home phone number and account for fifteen years, or that we’ve always paid the bill, and that a huge deposit to allow us to accept collect calls seems unreasonable in these circumstances, it was convenient for me to just say that I couldn’t do it without paying the deposit). Since he, as an inmate of a correctional facility, didn’t exactly have a regular long distance plan of his own, phone calls were rare. By rare I actually mean they never happened.

And then my father discovered that he could pre-pay for his calls if he had money on his books.

I suppose that one positive thing that I can say about my father is that he has a great work ethic. He’ll work long hours without complaint, and he’ll even ask for overtime. Despite the low wages an inmate receives, he’s got plenty of money on his books to pre-pay for phone calls. Apparently so much that for the next week he intends to call me every single day.  Every day because I’m leaving on the first of next month and, pre-paid or not, he won’t be able to call while I’m abroad for the next three months.

Yesterday’s call is still fresh in my mind. Probably because it still has me seething just a little bit.

I suppose the call started pleasantly enough. Within two minutes, though, the tone went downhill entirely. “How’s the weather” turned into “I don’t watch the news any more, it’s too depressing” which turned into “this nation is more wicked than Sodom and Gomorrah before the Lord destroyed it” which then became “It’s not enough that we’ve got all these homos, but now they get to get married, too”.

My dad said the look on my face was enough to make him clear the room.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve known for a very long time that my father is a horrible bigot. I spent a fair few of my formative years in a household where religious, ethnic, and racial slurs were tossed around casually by one parent while the other tried to teach me how hurtful and wrong that behaviour was. I’m thankful that I had my mother to show me what kind of person I wanted to be.

There are a million things that I can think of now that I wish I had said to my father. I’ve had time. Whether I should have been surprised by what he said or not, though, I certainly was. Surprised and angry.

I suppose I should be thankful I have my father to show me what kind of person I don’t want to be.

Preparing To Travel

I’m just going to put it right out there and say that I’m a nervous, anxious sort of person.  At least about a fair few things.

I don’t like heights.  And by this I mean that I don’t even care to use step-stools or to stand on a chair to reach something on the upper shelves of my cabinets.

I’m no fan of small spaces. You’ll never find me hiding in a closet, even if it’s the last place to go in a zombie apocalypse. I’d just let the damn zombies have me for dinner, because I’m far less afraid of them than I am of being in a small space.

I am not particularly brilliant at talking to strangers.  I wish that all I meant by this is that I’m not particularly good at making conversation, but no, I really mean that I get anxious and nervous at the thought of having to approach someone I don’t know and speak to them, at all.  Even to ask for directions.

I don’t like public restrooms. It’s not that I freak out about germs; I wash my hands and if there aren’t seat covers for the toilets, I will hover, but I don’t think this is particularly abnormal behaviour when it comes to public facilities. I just can’t proceed to do what you’re meant to do in a restroom where other people are already present or could enter the room at any moment.

So, why am I getting on a plane, allowing myself to be packed like a sardine in with a lot of strangers, and shot tens of thousands of feet into the air for many hours? (At least the airplane’s restroom isn’t a public restroom, even if it is ridiculously small).  Obviously I love my fiance significantly more than I fear any of those things.

Because of his work schedule, Alex is not going to be meeting me at the airport. So I get to try to figure out how to get myself from London to St. Erth all by my little lonesome. Alex assures me this is easy. In fact, here are Alex‘s directions:

Directions from Airport to St. Erth

I still think I may wind up lost. In a foreign country. 4,132 miles from home.

At least I (mostly?) speak the language.

It’s just a little over a week before I leave, and I’m still waiting on the suitcase I purchased to be delivered. After Alex‘s trip here, I realised that I definitely needed a little suitcase on little wheels so as not to have to haul anything particularly heavy through huge airports. And I’m way too nervous about lost luggage to check anything.   I think I might need some of those plastic bags you hook your vacuum up to to suck all the air out of them to manage to fit everything I’m going to need into the thing, though. I’m going to live for 3 months out of a suitcase designed to fit in the overhead compartment of an airplane.

But, I get to be with Alex.  Provided I don’t get lost. So I’m really not complaining. It’s completely worth it.

Seriously, I’m Not Dead

I swore when I started this blog that I was going to keep it going. Thankfully, it was a vow I was making to myself, so I don’t feel too terribly guilty about having been “missing in action”.

Okay, I feel a little bit guilty.

Life has been, to say the least, interesting and busy around these parts.

My cousin Dylan, who is very often left in my care, has broken bones. I’m pleased to say that these things didn’t happen on my watch, but… the poor kid. As if the first break wasn’t enough, he took a baseball to the face and now has his jaw wired shut.  He’s living on apple sauce, pudding, jello, mashed potatoes, and broth. Oh, and occasionally, ice cream.

And then there’s my father. My father whom I have very mixed feelings about. I love him, but I don’t like him very much. Contact is thankfully minimal, because he’s in prison in South Carolina, more than 1,000 miles away, but what contact there is is often unpleasant.

I’m not particularly religious, but every time my father lands in jail, he rediscovers G-d. When he does, he feels the need to “share the good news”.  What baffles me about this is that he knows full well how I feel about the subject of religion, he knows that I’ve heard “the good news”, and whatnot, and made an informed decision, and knows that the subject is a sore one with me, and yet still continues to push. He’s sent me a bible, a book by … Joseph Prince, I think it is? and plans on sending me another bible. Because apparently I need more than one. Let’s just ignore the fact that I have three or four of them already – the KJV which is neatly bound with the rest of the LDS scriptures, a women’s devotional one, and the NLV. There are several bibles in this house should I wish to read one.

Perhaps the most stressful thing to happen recently, though, is The Great Travel Agency Ordeal of 2015.

Yes, it is such a big deal that it’s a named event. A capitalised named event.

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Happy Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day – at least here in the U.S. – so I wanted to take a minute to acknowledge my dad, who, at least to me, is the best dad, even if he’s not my biological father.

We’ve had our rough patches, and neither of us are perfect people, but I wouldn’t trade him for all the world.

My biological father – well, I don’t wish him any ill, but that relationship is rocky, to put it very mildly. He’s been imprisoned twice in the years that I’ve been alive, and neither of them have been short stays. Factor in the time I’ve not spent with him, and the fact that he’s been abusive both towards myself and my mother, and it’s fair to say that we don’t actually have much of a relationship at all.

Nevertheless, I’m thankful for him. If nothing else, for being half responsible for my existence, and for showing me what a good dad isn’t.

One day I’m hoping I have good reason to wish Alex “Happy Father’s Day”. I think he’ll be a wonderful dad… but not trying to put the horse before the cart here. First, we’ve got to get that permanent residency thing sorted out.