Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pretty and Can Tell Time - Lara

I love to organize, sort, and clean an extent. A truly organized person probably would not have to do as much cleaning and sorting as I do, since I really only do in-depth cleaning when I get a prolonged amount of time off of work and plan on being home. I would say this happens about twice a year.

Now, in-depth cleaning is not just wiping the counters, vacuuming, and those daily chores. I am talking about pulling everything out of hiding and being up to your elbows in stuff that you haven't seen since the last time you did this activity. Now I don't really like that part as much as I like the results.

Even with my habit of sorting, you really don't truly know what you have until you are moving. Earlier, I wrote a blog about how we were selling tons of stuff at a garage sale. This did leave us with minimums. Kerry's new question has become, "Lara, have you seen..." and my response has been, "we sold it." But now I am boxing up what we have left to store or take with us. We have decided a second garage sale is not worth the time or money since we have no big items to sell. I am continuing with my pages of pictures that we pass around to friends who are interested in buying, but that is all.

So now we get to the core stuff, the things that define us and make us feel at home. For Kerry and me, the majority (90%) of this is books. We have 65 paper boxes (12x18x10) of books. The rest of our boxes are personal items (pictures, awards, wedding memorabilia, etc.). We relented on our "sell everything" mantra to store these things.

Then there came the other stuff: the stuff that you use, you don't think about, and toss it into a couple of boxes at the last minute when you move and never ever sort. This can be clothes, toiletries, knick-knacks, good watches with dead batteries, etc. It isn't like I never go through clothes, but there are certain items, such as the t-shirt from my youth group or the sweat shirt from my childhood that I never ever ask why did I keep it? This time I was ruthless. If I wasn't going to taking it in our limited luggage all the way to Scotland, it was going to Goodwill. It was so difficult of a task that I had to repeat the process until my wardrobe could perhaps fit in two large duffel bags. You may wonder why I don't just store the cloths I don't take. Well, I don't want three years worth of bugs, mold, mildew, change of fashion, or change of my weight to make these clothes that I will have paid monthly to store become obsolete. Better to be done with it and buy what I need when I need it.

In the end of all of this packing, sorting, and purging (all three are still going on), I have discovered the joys of simplicity. I didn't realize how much of my clothes I did not really like but felt compelled to wear it because either I spent money on it, someone gave it to me, or I have a fond memory of it from long ago. Before the purge, I often struggled with wearing things out of fashion, the wrong size, or just awkward. Now, I only have my favorite things (mostly winter things since I don't care for most summer fashions), and I feel like I went and bought all new clothes. Everything are my favorite pieces, so I no longer pair a favorite piece with an ugly piece. In fact, everything matches better, too. The new limited choices are advantageous in that I don't have to spend so much time in the morning trying to figure out what matches only to wear something dissatisfying in the end. I have to say that immediately after the first round of purges, I was dressing really great for work for a short while, but decided to tone it down so people didn't think I had wasted all the money they had given me (through buying more stuff). That might have been silly of me, but I don't want to seem wasteful since people would assume something without talking to me. I wonder if they would even believe me when I tell them that the black suit had been in my closet for over two years, and the scarf was my grandmother's, and the brooch had been buried under some funky beads in my jewelry box since I was in middle school. On the weekends, though, I dress how I like and feel fabulous!

After this discovery of freedom with clothes, I did the same with jewelry (though I will give those to family, or store them, or something) and watches. I emptied out my jewelry box and quickly realized that I often wore the same earrings because it was so much trouble to go through all the junk in my jewelry box, which contained priceless treasures like a pin that says "Birthday Girl", or random beads, or a fighter pilot pin that I loved when I was eight. In the midst of all of this, I discovered that I have nice necklaces twisted together in a knot and a mass of earrings that may or may not have a match. I ran to the kitchen and grabbed the box of baggies. Then I divided it all into "sets" of jewelry that I would wear. I placed a pearl necklace, bracelet, and earrings in one baggy, then a set of black beads and earrings in another. I continued this with only the "sets" that were fashionable and something I would like to wear. I finished with ten sets and tossed everything, except what needed to be thrown away or stored somewhere else, back into the jewelry box for family members to sort through. These ten baggies have enhanced my wardrobe incredibly. You may own far more or far less jewelry than I do, but this is a recommendation I have for everyone. When I put on an outfit now, I look in the mirror and decide that silver is what matches. Then I grab the silver baggy and everything is in there that I would want to wear without digging, sorting, or trying to match earrings. It is one set all picked out the way I like it. Three of the ten baggies are bead jewelry I just made. The problem with the bead jewelry is that it would get twisted around stuff very easily, but when I would leave it on the table so it wouldn't get twisted with the other necklaces, the cats would play with them and knock them to the ground, earrings and all (do you notice a consistent earrings problem?). This baggy idea has cured all these problems.

Now with my stuff sorted, I even took the time to repair things. The ink on Kerry's trench coat came off beautifully with nail polish remover. We got the batteries replaced in our favorite watches, and trimmed some loose threads off of a few garments. Now I feel pretty and can tell time. What a novelty!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Calling Scotland - Kerry

Tuesday, I had my first experience talking to real live Scottish people on the phone. That is, I have spoken with Scottish people in person, but these were Scottish people in Scotland. Does that actually make any difference? I don't know, but it seemed significant at the time.

I have assumed primary responsibility for the finding and procuring of housing in Edinburgh. I felt this was fair since I enjoy doing this and since Lara is doing everything else. You know, 50-50. I have discovered one thing about Scottish people: they do not easily return emails. Perhaps this is an example of sowing and reaping, as my friend JDD will likely comment below. Nevertheless, I am not made of money that I can buy phone cards every few minutes in order to make international phone calls. I also discovered that there is a particular type of phone number in the UK that is like an 800 number in the US, but actually charges me more than the standard call amount. This, I thought, was somewhat backward. I thought the idea of a business toll-free number was to encourage customers to call you, but instead, these phone numbers appear to charge me, the caller, more in order to pay for the business's internet and phone charges. Obviously, these people have not fully grasped the glories of capitalism.

But as I was saying, I have been attempting to make contact with Scottish property management companies via email in order to secure a place for Lara and me to live. However, until very recently, the longest email response I have received after I would send a query about properties was, “Sorry, this property has been let.” That was it. No alternate suggestions, no further commentary or questions. Come on, people, take some initiative! I am wanting to spend some money here! But I have grace on the proto-capitalists with a poor work ethic and send them another email declaring that I am not specifically attached to the particular property in question and would very much appreciate any assistance they might give me in securing a property with certain characteristics and am very open to whatever suggestions they may have and kind regards, yours truly, with all due respect, hugs and kisses, and so on and so forth. Thereafter there comes no reply. Period. This pattern has taken place at least half a dozen times.

Finally, I broke down and decided to call someone. This is a bit tricky, because I cannot do this in the evening, since that is the middle of the night in Edinburgh. I must call in the morning. So Tuesday morning, I targeted two specific companies that had promising properties. My first task was to figure out how to make the call. I found the phone numbers, which were 11 digit phone numbers made up of a group of four, a group of three, and a final group of four. The first group of four, I discovered, was called a city code, much like our area code, but it is not always the same length, and it is not always attached to a city, either. The last seven digits, like our last seven digits, are the prefix and number, though I don't think the prefixes are assigned to specific carriers, as in the United States, since I think the phone lines are government operated (I'm not sure about this; someone may feel free to correct me). But these seven digits are not always seven digits. That depends on what city you're calling. Sometimes it's eight. With my phone card, I had to dial the 800 number of the card, hit 1 or English, enter a 10 digit pin, hit *5, dial 011 for international, 44 (for UK), then, according to the phone card, the city code and local number. The city code, however, turned out not to be exactly the same as the city code I had learned about. It was a version truncated by one digit. That did not make sense to me. Perhaps it will in heaven. I'll ask Jesus about it.

Finally, I sorted it all out and “ring ring.” This was also new, since the “ring ring” was a short grouping of two polite “rings”, as opposed to the more grandiose and significant “rings” one hears when dialing American phones. When the woman answered, her greeting was so quickly spoken and quiet that I simply had to assume she said something like “Thank you for calling so and so, how can I help you?” She could have said, “Cursed are you above all callers for interrupting my tea time,” and I would not have been able to tell. I haltingly identified myself and my purpose for calling, suddenly aware of how completely American I sounded. All of a sudden, every single phrase coming from my lips sounded idiomatic. I found myself thinking, “What sort of second person plural pronoun do I use?” It's easy in the US. Even if someone is not from the south, you know they understand “Y'all.” She was gracious and polite, but no she did not have any properties at the moment that were suitable. I must say this about the Scottish: so far, when I can get them to communicate with me they are extremely polite. They might secretly hate my guts, but it certainly does not come across over the phone or email.

I had no problems with her accent, though I have to say I was not expecting to. I usually am pretty good at understanding accents foreign to my own. Being emboldened by this successful phone call, I called the second, expecting the same ease of communication. The man's greeting was most likely in English, I think.

Once again I identified myself and my situation. We managed to exchange a few sentences, though I was growing worried because this man's accent was the strongest I had ever encountered personally. Finally, he spurted out a long sentence so fast and so thick with his Gaelic ancestry that I was immediately lost. Then the sentence ended abruptly with an upturned tone of voice indicating he sought a response. Unfortunately, the two words I had recognized were not enough to help me establish the syntax of the whole sentence and I, humiliatingly, was forced to say (likely not for the last time), “I'm sorry, could you repeat that?” I, who have prided myself on a good ear and above average linguistic skills was struck down in my second ever phone conversation.

What he had said was that I should talk to his associate in Edinburgh (this company handles properties in many cities) because his associate has actually been to these properties and could tell me more. Unfortunately, this last phone call had depleted my phone card because it was one of those backwards toll-free numbers I mentioned before. So I asked him for his associate's email address. I haven't gotten a response, yet.