Thursday, October 25, 2018

It's been a while...

I've been meaning to write for absolutely ages. I mean that, too. As each milestone has been passed, I think to myself, "self, you need to write about this." And then I don`t, the milestone passes, and I feel like it`s too late.

So here`s the run-down:

We moved in to our own house on September 5th last year. It was hard, but we managed. The actual move was not too hard, as we didn't have much stuff and it was only in one place in mom and dad`s house. Living in a building site was hard. Our bedroom was floorless when we moved in, so we were sleeping in the living room. But we're comfortable now. In fact, we only have 1.5 rooms that need work. All of the rooms need little things doing to them, but its pretty much cosmetic. Martin built an amazing porch this year, and next year we are going to do our dining room and bedroom extensions. Or maybe just the dining room. Not sure yet. The current project is the "raccoon room."

Christmas was an adventure. Money was really tight, and Martin's dad came for a visit as well. The kids had a good Christmas, but Martin and I had to wait until after December to buy presents for each other. Laurence was good company, and we were thrilled to see him.

We got our own mortgage in January. It was amazing to be able to pay off the loan from my parents. We are independent again, and it feels amazing! We couldn't have bought the house without them, but I hated being beholden to them. It felt like they were constantly checking up on us and making sure their investment was going well. So January mortgage was amazing!

The kids are fully settled in to school here. They are also enjoying community sports and church. Edith does dancing, and she is on the competition team this year. Dylan is doing twice weekly crossfit classes to keep himself/get game fit for soccer. He's getting really good, and he wants to play at the high school when he's old enough. They continue to be a constant source of irritation and joy!

We hit our one year anniversary in March, and it was crazy! Then it was back for a visit to England in May, which was even crazier! It feels like we've been here forever. The visit was rushed, but incredible.

September saw the one year anniversary of us moving in to our own place. That also seems crazy. And the year saw a lot of changes, like a real bedroom for me and Martin, the remodel on the front room to get rid of the 60's wall panelling and avocado green carpet. We've reclaimed more of the garden, as well.

The best part of life right now is how it's settled back into a pattern of normalcy. Things were absolute chaos for a while, and it was a real struggle. Obviously, nothing's perfect. My relationship with my dad still isn't great, and I don't like to go to their house unless I have been explicitly invited. And we miss our friends and family in England a lot. But we fit in here now, and that's a real comfort.

I have to do this more often.

Monday, August 07, 2017

A family emergency of sorts...

Last Thursday, my Grandpa Cook took a tumble. It doesn't seem like such a big deal until you realize that he is nearly 90. And the way he fell was bad. He cut his arm open, and bashed his head against the kitchen counter. My dad and Jace got him up and bandaged his arm. Then he started complaining about pain in his neck. One trip to the emergency room later and the doctor discovered he had broken the top vertebrae of his spine. They thought he would be able to have surgery to fix the break, but it turns out that surgery won't work. His bones are too brittle. So he is in the hospital in Nephi, and going to have to learn to maneuver around with a neck brace. He's in a lot of pain, but he is doing ok. My parents are exhausted, as they have been running back and forth between Nephi and Salt Lake City since Thursday. Jace has been a trooper as well, spending nights with Grandpa in the hospital.

It's been a hard weekend for everyone, but there is a silver lining. I was able to spend some time with grandpa in the emergency room, while he waited to be transported to a hospital in SLC. And I will be able to visit him some more while he is in the hospital here in town.

As I sat next to grandpa and held his hand, I felt so grateful. For years, I have missed every major family event. The weddings were difficult to miss, but the funeral was the worst. Being so far away when my Nana was dying has always filled me with the deepest regret. Krystle skyped me for the funeral, but it wasn't the same. So being able to hold my grandpa's hand was like a gift. And I remembered why I wanted to move back here in the first place.

I also got to spend some quality time with my dad. I don't know how or why, but things seem better between us now. And that feels like a gift as well.

In other news, my super diligent mom found us some free mattresses on KSL classifieds. We are so close to being able to move in. Martin is leveling the floor in the kids' room as I type, and our bed is set up in the front room. Bathroom tile is arriving on Friday, and once the tile is laid, we will have a working bathroom. A working kitchen and bathroom, plus beds for us all. Those were my only stipulations for moving in. We are nearly there.

I'm pretty excited to be in our own home again. But I'm also nervous about moving into a building site. We'll see how it goes I guess. I mean, we have been practically living here for a while now. We do most of our cooking here, and spend most of our waking hours here as well. But it's another change. I don't really do change very well. And my parents' house is super nice. Ours, less so. Not right now, anyway. But we will get there, and it will be great to be the queen bee of my home again!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A long overdue update...

So much has happened in the past three months. We made it through a difficult transition period from England to the U.S. There was paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork. There was getting the kids settled in to the new school. There were bureaucratic hoops to jump through. There was the dismay at discovering that our U.S. credit had reset to zero due to inactivity, and our British credit was useless. There was the discovery of a lonely little house that needed someone crazy enough to come along and love it enough to buy it and fix it instead of tearing it down. There was the loan from my parents to make that purchase possible, and the frustrations that entailed. There is the ongoing process of renovation, and the fact that my children and I are sleeping on the floor of our unfinished home tonight because of my inability to get along with my father.

This is not going to be a rant about my Cook dad. It never was. It is going to be me, finally being honest about my very complicated feelings.

My dad doesn't like me. Don't get me wrong here...he loves me like his own flesh and blood. But he hasn't LIKED me for a long time now. I know it's true, and I've felt it deeply since I was about 15. I don't know why he doesn't. Maybe it's because I am too much of a "bleeding heart liberal" for his conservative Republican ways. Maybe it's because I place very little value in the things he chooses to do for fun. Maybe it's because I am too outspoken in my opinions. Maybe it's because I am fundamentally unlovable. It could be anything. I am at a total loss here.

I wasn't an easy teenager to deal with. Something I will freely admit. If I hadn't grown up in an extremely religious household, I probably wouldn't have been such a "problem child". But religion was a big part or our lives (I wouldn't have it any other way) so even though I was a straight A student who was involved in theater, speech and debate, choir, drill team, and newspaper staff, my constant questioning of authority and my boyfriend made me...not good enough? My relationship with my dad, strained before, took a nose dive at age 17. I moved out of my parents' house five days after I graduated from high school, and aside from a brief two month period between years at college, have not been back.

One of the difficulties of moving back to the good ol' U.S. of A. has been leaving family and friends who knew and loved me and coming back to virtual strangers who felt obligated to love me, but don't know me. My dad is at the top of that list.

Since coming here (and staying in his home rent-free, because he is a very good man with a strong sense of familial obligation) we have fallen into our old, tired roles of disapproving father and rebellious teen. Ridiculous, as I am attending my 20th high school reunion later this month. I have felt myself slipping back into daughter mode instead of staying in mother mode. I hate it, and I am trying so hard not to do it. But I fail. Often.

I beat myself up over it constantly. I've tried so hard to be as unobtrusive as possible in his home, since he made it very clear that we were welcome to stay, but he didn't want it to look like we lived there. I've shouted at my kids and my husband because I didn't want my father to be inconvenienced and annoyed. I've offered to help. I've done what I can to be a help instead of a burden. But it's never good enough. I've been a bad wife and mother, in the hope of being a better daughter.

Full disclosure-I have lost my temper as well. Over something that I felt I was right about, and on behalf of my own children, but I still shouldn't have snapped the way I did.

Conversations have been difficult with him, because so many of the things I care about passionately are things he disagrees with me about. So we don't talk about things that matter, because I don't want to rock the boat. I thought I was doing ok at it, but apparently I'm not.

Tonight he went to Lamb Days in Fountain Green. He took a couple of my brothers-in-law and they got mutton dinners. The kids and I came back to their house after being out all day, and Dylan asked how the mutton was. My dad said it was ok. Then he said something about Fountain Green having the best lamb in the world. And I said, "Oh, I don't know..." and then the gloves came off. He yelled at me. A lot. He accused me of always contradicting him, no matter what he said. He said something about the 150 year lambing traditions of Fountain Green. He asked me why I am so argumentative. And I backed down, told him I guessed he was right. That all I had been going to say was that North Lincolnshire might give Fountain Green a run for their money. I apologized. And then I didn't want to be there any more. I didn't want to get bawled out over the stupid Lamb Days celebration. I didn't want to spend one more second under the roof of a man who feels that way about me.

I wish I was angry about this ridiculous fight. Anger would be more in my nature. Instead, I am so upset. I've tried so hard to be the kind of person he could be proud of. And in so many ways, I feel I have succeeded. But my success was 6,000 miles away. He never saw that success. He doesn't known that me. All he sees is that punk ass kid who punched him and screamed at him in a ShopKo parking lot over 20 years ago.

At least, I hope that's what it is. Because if it's not, if he sees the adult me and still treats me with such disdain, then maybe it really is me. Maybe I really haven't done anything in my whole life to make him proud. So that even if he doesn't like me, he can at least have a little bit of begrudging respect for me. Maybe I haven't actually earned that at all?

I guess I wouldn't care so much what he thought of me if I didn't love the man, but I do. He's a good man, and there is so much that I admire about him. I WANT him to like me. I want him to be proud of me. I don't want him to speak to me like I'm a horrible person-especially not right in front of my children.

I was virtually abandoned by my Bowcutt dad as a baby, and that relationship has only existed through my own efforts. Right now, I feel like I am driving another father away. It sounds so disgustingly melodramatic, even to me, but I'm starting to wonder why my dads don't want me around. Because if it's just the one, it might be him. But when it's two, well, you have to look for the common denominator.

So there you have it. That is why I am sitting in an unfinished house at midnight, my children asleep on the living room floor, crying my eyes out while my husband sleeps at my parents' house. Because my dad actually likes him. And because his back isn't up to sleeping on the floor, and my poor husband shouldn't have to suffer because I can't get along with my father.

I really need to buy a mattress.

These eagles have landed!

We did it! After an extremely busy month of frantic preparations and a final three days of pure madness, then two days of hard traveling, we have arrived back in the good old' U.S. of A. It's very different this time around.

When we moved to England, we said tearful goodbyes to my family. There were not many super close friends that we cried over, though we had a select few that we were sad to leave behind, and we stayed in touch with them. It felt like I was leaving home, but not like I was leaving my whole life.

This time, that's exactly what it feels like. It isn't't just family we left behind. It is that close knit fabric of a life delicately woven of school friends, church friends, work friends, extended family, and those close few who are kindred spirits. This time is heartbreaking.

I never thought I would feel this way about leaving England. So much of my time right after the kids were born was spent hating it there, and I have longed for my family every time we missed a major event. But the bottom line is that I learned to love it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Just salute and call me Arnold...

Super obscure Red Dwarf reference there. I promise, if you get the reference it is hysterically funny. Though I did cry the first time Martin said it to me...

But basically, I now have an "H" shaped scar on my forehead.

I saw a dermatologist for a mole next to my nose right before Christmas. That one was fine, though the doctor referred me to have it removed. Then, on my way out the door, he asked me if I had any questions. So I asked him to take a quick look at what I thought was an age spot (because my papa D has loads of them). He looked at it, then grabbed a magnifying device for a closer look. Then put some lubrication on my skin for an even closer look. Then he measured it. And said, "Hmmmmm..." Then he referred me to the maxillo-facial surgery department at Scunthorpe hospital. Six weeks later (which, incidentally, is lightening quick for the NHS!) I was having the "lesion" removed for biopsy. They removed the entire lesion as well as a small margin all the way around it, which was approximately the size of my fingernail. And because the area was so large they had to do some creative cutting on my face to cover it. A graft wasn't necessary, but they had to release my skin from my fascia and create "advancement flaps" to stretch over the wound.

This is immediately after the procedure.

Obviously I was numb for the procedure. There were a lot of dissolvable stitches underneath the skin, and twelve of them to close the outside flaps. The nerves were cut, and could take up to 18 months to regenerate, so the stitched area doesn't hurt too much. But holy Hannah, my eye puffed out like a proud father's chest, and I had some deep bruising that came out yellow about 3 days after the procedure. Seriously, my eye was nearly swollen shut!

I basically hid in the house for a week because I felt like a hideous beast, leaving only when I HAD to. But then the stitches came out, and it looked a bit better. But my right eye and cheek were still swollen. It felt like a really bad allergic reaction, but without the itching.

After the stitches were removed, I accidentally rubbed the wound lightly with a washcloth. It opened up on the bottom again. Only a little bit, but it bled for about half an hour. I just read a book while I applied pressure until it stopped. That is still some delicate skin! But it occurred to me what a miracle the human body is. A week ago, my skin was in a different place. A doctor loosened it and moved it, then stitched it somewhere else. And my body changed. Just like that! In another week, I will be able to start massaging the area so the scar tissue doesn't become too bulky, and a year from now you probably won't even be able to tell I had it done. The surgeon moved stuff around, but my body is going to accept that movement and heal itself in the new place. Amazing!

And now, three weeks later, it looks, well, almost normal? The healing process is coming along nicely, and I don't cringe when I look in the mirror any more. At least, not over the facial scar :D

Oh, and that mole next to my nose? Still there!

Friday, March 03, 2017

So our moving sale happened...

I've decided what it is about a trans-Atlantic move that stresses me out so much. And it's not the moving bit!

When you move house, you take your belongings with you. Yes, you have to pack everything up and get it from point A to point B, and that is a major nuisance. But you get to the new house, and you settle in and make it your own. You hang pictures, figure out where to put the telly, plug in the refrigerator, cook your first meal there to get rid of the previous occupants' food smells, etc. And you are surrounded by familiar things. Things that are still yours, just in a new place. Not so with this move, or the one we did over 11 years ago.

What we are trying to do, essentially, is erase our existence on this island. We are shipping some things over, yes. But we almost have to make it like we never existed over here. Our belongings aren't moving to a new place with us. They are being scattered all over the place, either with friends or through charity shops. Our house will have to be cleaned out and stripped of our presence. Even our car, that ridiculous soccer mom Renault that I hated for the first month I drove it, will either be scrapped or sold to another family. It will be like we were never here.

This move would be so much easier if I could just pack a few suitcases and boxes, and then go. It would feel like an adventure then, instead of the slow and systematic dismantling of an entire life. Four of them, actually.

A funny thing happened on Saturday, as we tried to sell off our earthly possessions. I lost it over an antique white enamel bowl. Such a simple thing, but I loved it. Irrationally! Martin and I picked it up on an antiquing day, not long after the children both started going to school full time. We went to some random town near Harrogate that is famous for its' antique shops, and rummaged around this converted factory. It was such a lovely day, and this old bowl was the icing on the cake for me. It is HUGE! And really old, with chips in the enamel that have rusted. The age and the rust made it all the more beautiful to me. And when our friend Naomi asked if I was selling it, I almost cried. Over a rusty old bowl. Plenty of other things that I love have been sold and taken away, but that bowl nearly undid me. I don't care about the clothes and shoes that I'm giving away, or the furniture we are selling. I don't even miss the microwave and toaster, both of which have already gone! But the memories tied to that bowl are so lovely, and I wanted to clutch it to my chest and hold on to it forever. So silly! I'm normally not that sentimental. Or emotional.

It's been tough to start saying goodbye to friends as well. We've met so many wonderful people, who have enriched our lives in countless ways. Luckily, I have my family to look forward to. They are the best sort of friends--the ones who stick with you no matter what. And I know we will meet new people, and rekindle old friendships as well. I am excited about the prospect. And so happy to be able to participate in the family events that we have missed out on for the past decade! There's the sealing of the little Bassetts, the birth of my newest niece or nephew, their blessing, Edith's baptism and confirmation, where her many uncles and her grandpa will be able to participate in the ordinance, the family reunions, and so much more. It makes me unbelievably sad that I have missed two weddings, a funeral, and more baby blessings, birthdays, and baptisms than I can count.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that things are pretty bittersweet right now. So many different feelings, each one contradicting the next. The only thing I know for certain is that our little family will be together, and that's what matters the most. Home is where the heart is, and my heart resides in Martin, Dylan, and Edith.

Still, a large part of me doesn't want to leave my home here.

Friday, February 17, 2017


Looking at flights to the USA. Getting a little bit queasy/nervous. Not about moving though. About the flight. I hate flying!

Well, let me re-phrase that. I don't hate flying. I hate preparing to fly, checking in to fly, and dealing with customs and rechecking baggage. Ugh!

First of all, there is the stress of getting to the airport on time (a huge deal when you are married to a man named Martin John Gilbert). Then there is the pressure of getting everybody checked in for the flight, making sure all the documents and passports are in order, etc. Then there is the massive ball-ache of queueing for security. Then it's finding the gate. And after all the rushing around, it is the absolute boredom of waiting to board.

Take-off is fun. I love that moment when you feel the airplane lift off the ground. Exciting, and a little bit terrifying. Kind of like that first drop on a roller coaster, but in reverse. Unfortunately, the flight lasts a little bit longer than your average roller coaster ride. at least 5 hours (for my travelling purposes) of being confined to one spot, eating when told to, peeing at a massive inconvenience to anyone seated in your row, and breathing in other people's germs and flatulence. Man, I feel sick just writing about it.

And when you land, it doesn't get easier. For us, it is a trip to collect our bags, go through customs (and immigration, this time around. Eek!), re-check our bags, and find our next gate. After that stress, it is once again the boredom of waiting for the next flight. It is cranky kids who just want to get some dinner and go to bed. It is restless legs, and having to sit on the floor because your gate area seats are all taken. It's a huge building full of grumpy people who also hate travelling. And they hate you even more when they see that you are flying with children. Nobody likes to sit next to a family on a flight--not even me, and I HAVE children. With me!

But it is exciting to think that in just a month's time we will be winging our way across the Atlantic towards home. It's been too long. And once we get there, I am sure I'll be excited to be home. As Martin keeps reminding me, "Think about how much you hate coming back to England when we have been to see your family." He is right, of course. He quite often is. Right now it feels like too much of a wrench to be exciting though. I still have all these doubts about whether we are doing the right thing or not.

We are going through all of our possessions right now, and deciding what to keep, throw away, give away, or sell. It's super stressful and bloomin' hard work! But we are getting it done. Because we don't want another move like the one that brought us here. Remember that, mom and dad? All that stuff? All those panic attacks? That was a bad scene. I need to keep it together for the kids' sake, if nothing else.

Moving. A pain no matter what. A pain on steroids when crossing oceans and continents!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Our (hopefully) last trip to the US Embassy, London

First of all, let me say that even though I LOVE London I am always glad to get back to sleepy little North Lincolnshire. Cities are great, but I prefer a much slower pace now!

The trip down was pretty uneventful, which is what you want for a long journey. We left at 5:40am. Not nice! I drove 'til Peterborough. I refuse to drive south of there, and since Martin pretty much insists on taking the A1 instead of the M1, he gets to drive the last hour. Everyone else had a nap. Nice, quiet drive for me. We got to Cockfosters in good time, and onto the Picadilly with time to spare. We arrived at the embassy early, carrying all of our bags for the trip. Booked a flat through Air B&B and couldn't check in until after 2pm. We found out then that the kids and I couldn't go in with Martin, so we kissed him goodbye and I took the kids out on my own. We got some breakfast at a little café nearby...

This kid loves selfies almost as much as I do. If I ever want to cheer her up, I just whip out my phone and ask, "Do you wanna take a selfie?" Instant smiles!

After our meal, we decided to walk over to Buckingham Palace. We got most of the way there, too. But we stopped to look at bus routes and discovered that we were AT the bus stop for the Natural History Museum. Just then, the bus pulled up. Since it was raining, we decided to give Buckingham Palace a miss. So off to the museum we went!

At this point, I'd just like to point out that I successfully navigated us around London using the bus system. Super proud of myself, since I usually leave that bit up to Martin!

We ended up getting off at the Victoria and Albert museum and having a little wander through there first. I love the V&A. It's just so weird and quirky! The kids were a little bit less enthusiastic, but had a good time with the audio presentations in a few of the rooms. When they couldn't handle it any more, we moved on to the Natural History museum. They were better there, though it was absolutely heaving with school children.

While we were there, I got a call from Martin. He was done at the embassy. All is in order, but he was missing a few vital pieces of paperwork. They can all be e-mailed over, so we are good to book flights, etc. even though the greencard hasn't been officially approved yet. Hooray! He met us at the museum, then we headed to our rental.

The flat was ok. Nothing too special, but the price was good and it was on Edgware Road, near the embassy. Vital, as our appointment the next day for Dylan's passport renewal was at 9:30am! We chilled for a bit, then went for a wander to find a place to eat. Settled on a Lebanese restaurant called Fattoush. The food was incredible! I will definitely miss interesting and exotic food when we move back to rural Utah...

The next morning was an early one. We got a bus back to the embassy and sorted out Dylan's U.S. passport. It actually arrived at our house yesterday. The process was quick and painless, and the family are nearly ready to travel.

After the embassy, we gambled a little bit and took the kids to the Tate Modern. I say gamble, because past excursions to art galleries have been a bit hit and miss. Mostly, the kids end up getting bored. We thought the Tate Modern might be different, because modern art is so weird and wonderful. Turns out, we were right. We had a delightful 1.5 hour trip around the museum, saw some Monets, a few Picassos, and a couple of Dalis. Some interactive stuff as well, which was fun. These were my favourites:

It's some guy named Gerhard Richter. Weirdly, about a week after we saw his work, I heard him mentioned somewhere else. Love the style and the scale and the colours, and, well, everything about them. They feel so free and easy!

Just thought this stairway was super cool. The museum is in the old Battersea power station in the bank of the Thames, and the building seems like as much of a work of art as the stuff inside it. Such an amazing space!

Then it was a walk across the Thames to the Tube station, and a long train ride back to the car. And an even longer drive home. But it was a lovely trip all the same, and we are that much closer to our next big adventure!