Jun 23, 2017

Across the Atlantic Ocean.

I started planning for this trip I am on right now in August 2016. When I purchased those airplane tickets for June 19, 2017 I had no idea where my life would be at that time. Ten months seemed eons away. But before I knew it it was here. Apparently everything else that could possibly happen in my life did not want to miss out on the fun and it all decided to crash the last two months leading up to my trip. These last few months are months I am not going to tell you about just suffice it to say I have probably won a gold medal in surviving and do not be surprised if you see me posing in fetal position with my medal on a box of cereal in a grocery store near you. It would just be to painful for you to have to listen to me tell you about the emotions, decisions, and eternal packing in all forms that have gone into the last few months leading up to this trip.

But I am really blogging today to tell you about day three of my trip.

Day one was driving up to Seattle and staging ourselves to be ready.

Day two was driving to the parking lot where our car will sit for 18 days and going through numerous checkpoints at the airport to get into the waiting area for an international departure. The blessing in day two was a sweet British Airways employee who graciously offered to give us the 4th piece of luggage we had for free. So there we were barely an hour into our epic trip and you can already take $100 dollars off of our trip. Nice, right? The rest of this day consisted of an airplane ride from Seattle to London. Nine hours and 20 minutes on an airplane. I obsessively used the trip checker on the screen in front of my seat. I love that feature. It shows you when you are over the North Sea. When you are over Greenland. When you are over Manitoba, Canada. When you are finally over London. When I was not checking what we were currently flying over I watched way too many episodes of the British baking show.

We did not sleep on the airplane. We left at one o'clock Seattle time. So our bodies did not feel like sleeping during the flight, which was not so great. We arrived in London at 6:15 in the morning. Our bodies were a little confused and we were starting to feel it. At the airport in London they do not post the gate your flight is leaving from until about 40 minutes before it leaves so everyone in the entire world sits in this enormous holding area waiting for their flights to be posted. I spent some time finding a electronic device charging area for us. I was exceedingly proud of myself for having thought to have adapters in my backpack for those different shaped European electrical outlets.

Finally it was 8:25 am and we got to head to our gate. The last time I checked the departure board a sweet lady from Zambia approached me and asked me in broken English to help her. She showed me her ticket and very carefully explained that this was the first time that she was flying. What are the odds that she was on the same flight that we were? She had never flown before and was concerned about getting where she needed to get. We invited her to join us on our trek to the gate. The flight to Stockholm was a tad bumpy. We all slept like logs until the last 45 minutes and then all of us felt sick. Both the girls held the throw up bags in their hands, ready until we touched down.

It was around noon in Stockholm and the hard part of the trip was upon us. The logistics of this part of our trip had worried me for quite awhile. My son and his wife and I had spent a lot of time on the phone discussing the details of all that had to happen between noon and about 4:30 pm. I needed to get off the plane, onto a train, onto a subway, and then walk a mile to our ferry/cruise ship all in Swedish. Which I do not know. There were options to read English on the machine where you purchase train tickets. But it was still hard to know which tickets I needed to buy. Once I bought my tickets I had 75 minutes to get through a 40 minute train ride, walk to the subway, and ride three stops before our tickets expired. It should be plenty of time, But in the middle of all the figuring out of tickets, dragging 4 big, heavy suitcases and going through customs I am also in the middle of having a 14 year old who is still recovering from the flight and is randomly needing to throw up. We figured it out and the train ride was uneventful. It  even turned out that I got a refund on two of my tickets because the two girls did not need tickets since I had bought one.

We got off of the train in Central Station downtown Stockholm. The 14 year old is still randomly throwing up and I cannot figure out why. We still have 4 heavy, big suitcases and we have not slept or eaten a good meal. Things are starting to feel out of balance. It happens on trips. I want to take my time and adsorb what is happening around me but I have time and some unknowns pressing on me.

We now needed to figure out where the subway was. Everyone I asked kept giving directions in kilometers. My Tatiana mentioned she felt like we were in the Amazing Race. I felt that way as well. We had a certain amount of time to accomplish what we needed to accomplish and no matter how many times I had looked at this part of the trip on google maps nothing was the same as being there and seeing how it really works. We ended up dragging our suitcases down the tall, steep steps to the Subway train. The line for the one elevator was long, the aforementioned elevator was very small and different from our elevators in America....probably using the word sketchy would help to paint a picture for you. Remember, Natalie is still throwing up at random moments and I am not adoring the idea of her throwing up in the elevator. (Note to self bring throw up bucket on next trip. Why do they not sell throw up buckets next to the magazines in the stores in the airport?) Tatiana was in charge of the two little suitcases. I had the two 50 lb suitcases, and Natalie was in charge of stopping her throwing up. I cannot imagine what the people who saw us thought. Finally, two very nice fellows happened by and grabbed our suitcases and carried them to the bottom of the steps. This was my grateful moment in this day. We finally rode our three stops on the subway and found our way out of the Central Station maze. The last part was dragging our suitcases down a path for a mile to our ferry. By the time we got to the ferry terminal we were exhausted. We got our tickets found a place to sit and all stared into space assimilating what we had just been through.

They call it a ferry and it does carry cars but it looks like a cruise ship. I had known all along that as soon as I got to this part of the trip I would be able to relax. There would be no more unknowns. Well you know at least traveling wise unknowns. We all know there are still the unknowns of what I am going to be when I grow up and who the lucky guy is who will decide he can love me forever. But that is another blog.

We explored our teeny, tiny, very clean, and well thought out berth, with beds that folded down from the wall. We reviewed our favorite parts in the movie Titanic and discussed being on the 8th floor. Natalie got her clothes changed (remember the throwing up part) and took a shower. Then I needed to see the rest of the ship. I did not encourage my children to embrace the hunker down and relax mode. When I am curious I cannot wait. We explored for about an hour and then found some seats by some windows where we could sit and we just zoned looking out the windows at the endless islands we were passing. Finally Natalie announced that she could not stay awake. Remember the no sleep thing? It finally really caught up with us. So by 7:30 pm somewhere on the Baltic Sea between Stockholm and Tallinn the three Baird girls crashed. We slept 12 hours straight. I do not think any of us moved in that 12 hours.

The next morning we could not wait to get up on deck and see where we were. There is nothing like coming out of a dark, windowless berth to a view of a deep blue endless sea in every direction. The sun was up. The sky was blue. It was an amazing feeling. One we all feel at many times in our lives when things just feel free and light. It made me get a little lump in my throat when I realized how much I had been missing moments like this in my life. When you have an endless view and things are light and clear. We did some snooping around and figured out how to get up on the very top deck of the ship by the disco. No one was there because they had partied at the disco and the casino into the early morning hours while we were snoozing away. So they were still sleeping. We bought a container of cheese cubes, a bag of carrots and one bottle of orange juice and sat on a bench on this top deck enjoying the sunshine, air and waves. The only thing that could have made the moment better would have been a whale sighting.

We finally arrived in Tallinn at about 10 am in the morning. I would do it all again and I will do it all again in July when I go home. Traveling never goes perfectly. Sigh, nothing ever does. There were a few moments that I was not sure I was going to be able to do what was required of me but we figured it out.

Jun 13, 2017

An IRS Story.

Once upon a time I was enrolled in online classes at BYU-Idaho. When I got accepted to attend BYU-Idaho's online college I decided to live large and also applied for financial aid. In due time I was approved for financial aid for my first year of college. The grass was green, the sky was blue with clouds in it, the birds were singing. Me? I was wearing a long flow-y dress while I rode horses across fields with handsome boys who adored answering my questions. Things were going so well in the kingdom of Jennifer that I applied for financial aid for the second year of school. I was so organized that I applied very early. I waited, and waited, and waited but no reply from BYU-Idaho.

Finally, one fair day in the beginning of May I get an email from the well meaning, yet evil, Financial Aid office at BYU-Idaho. They need copies of documents from me. Because I made money on some GE stock and some Merck stock in 2015 and filed an amendment to my tax return they have noticed me.I am not normal. They have questions.

I run around in my flow-y dress like a crazy lady, find the documents, quickly upload them, send them, and check all the appropriate boxes. I hear nothing. My Spring semester starts and my Financial aid is still sitting at the school. They cannot pay my tuition with it. They cannot pay for my books with it. They cannot give it to me. They have questions. I call. I wait on hold for an hour and 20 minutes one time and an hour and 17 minutes another time. I make appointments to have phone calls with them. I send desperate, dramatic emails that may or may not sound like decrees. I even think about riding my horse (I really do not have a horse just in case you did not know that) to the college campus. Once they see me face to face in my beautiful flow-y dress surely they will realize this is all a big mistake. But I refrain. I wait patiently, it is what girls in flow-y dresses do.

Every two or three weeks since the first week of May I have received another request for new documents. I run around like a crazy lady gathering what the Financial Aid office bids me to bring. I call my tech savvy children to make sure I am sending them properly. My days of meadows, green, flow-y dresses are long gone. I am sad. This has been the most in-efficient process I have ever been through in my life. The hardest part is knowing that the Financial Aid office needs my help. They need me to organize them. They need me to help them be efficient. This keeps happening to me I keep seeing how awesome I am and how people or places really need me but they never see it and miss out. I digress, that is another blog.

So two days ago I get yet another request from the powers that be at BYU-Idaho. I have paid my tuition out of my own money so that I can unfreeze my account and register for Fall semester. I have waited. I have begged. I have called. I am almost broken. This time they need me to please send the documents all together and they need me to procure some tax transcripts. WHAT? Now I have to play with the IRS? I need a new flow-y dress for this.

I get online and go to the formidable IRS website. I find the button that tells me I can request transcripts. They tell  me I can get them in a mere days if I can answer all the appropriate questions perfectly. Otherwise the transcripts will be sealed in a bottle and dropped over the Atlantic Ocean and get to me in 6-8 weeks. Am I up to the task? I get a package of fruit snacks and take a deep breath and hope I can pass this quest. I get past my birthday, my SS#, my current address. I get another package of fruit snacks. I tell them how much money I made in 2015. I tell them I filed as Head of Household and then everything crashes, they need my phone number. I give it to them. They say um, NO. I realize I changed my phone number in February and forgot to send the IRS an announcement. Geesh, I will never leave them out of the loop again. So because my new phone number did not match my old phone number I was kicked off and sent to option B. I do not have time for option B. I am moving. I am going to Europe. I paid for my own tuition. I have homework. I am packing. I am trying to find someone to love me. I felt despair trying to open the door into my life.

Luckily, my daughter Madeline called about now and I told her my woes and guess what she had the same woes about 5 months ago. Exact same woes. Minus the flow-y dress. And in Salt Lake City not in Oregon. She quickly finds out where the closest IRS office is to me and tells me to go there and to take everything I own with me.

The next morning I quickly wash buses and then head for Eugene to the IRS office. Something stops me and encourages me to call just to make sure I can truly walk in to the IRS office. I listen to that something and I pull over at the Saginaw exit and call the IRS. I am on hold for about 5 minutes and then someone in Iceland (Exaggeration) answers and confirms that I indeed need an appointment at the IRS office. I mention my flow-y dress but that will not get me in. She asks me to hold for 5-7 minutes while she calls the Eugene office to see when they can appointment with me. She gets back on the phone with me and says June 19th. I feel myself sinking into a deep hole as I explain to her I will be on an airplane to Europe at that time and when I get back from Europe I am moving to Idaho. She was very sweet and put me on hold again and came back and said tomorrow at 8:30 am. I did not tell her I was a bus driver. I did not tell her anything else about my life, I said I will take it. I figured out my route so that I could be in Eugene at 8:15 the next morning to get copies of my transcripts from the IRS.

This morning was crazy. I got up at 4:50 to register for my Fall semester since registration opened in Idaho at 6 am. Five my time :) I drove my route. Handed off my high school kids to another bus driver so I could get my bus back to transportation in time. I ran in. I ran out. I drove fast. I found a parking spot a block away from the Federal building. It was 8:17 when I parked. I grabbed my heavy back pack. I brought every document and every piece of evidence of who I am that I could find. Yes, even my first blanket came along. (exaggeration). I ran. I even did that weird thing runners do at stop lights and jogged in place. I ran all the way to the door of the federal building. Wrong door. Ran out ran to the other door. Oh no. I have to go through security. I am going to be late and the IRS is going to laugh me out of the building. I am not obeying rules. But I smile and small talk with security while they move like snails. I fast walk down the hall to the .....very, empty and quiet IRS office. There is literally no one there. I see a sign that says "take a number". I take one but I am wondering if you have an appointment do you need a number? Yes, folks I am an over thinker. I catch a glimpse of this guy behind a partition. I peek around and ask him if I need a number he does not answer he just motions to me to come in.

He is wearing a black t-shirt with skulls all over it. It surprised me. I thought IRS meant button down shirt, at least. He just says "What do you need?" I quickly identify that this is a short and sweet kind of guy so I spare him the details of the meadows, and the horse, and the flow-y dress, and I just blurt out I need a tax transcript....please. He asks for my ID. I lug my enormous back pack on my lap and dig past my computer, my passport, my past 3 years of journals, my blanket from childhood, elementary school pictures and hand him my drivers license. Whew, so glad I had what he needed. He asks which year I need and I decide to push it and ask for 2015 and 2016. He punches some keys on the computer and then without getting out of his chair he scoots backwards around a partition to the copier. I cannot see him but I can hear him scooting in his chair. Then I hear the copier and then he scoots back and staples my transcript #1 and hands it to me. Then he punches more buttons on the computer and scoots in his chair backwards around the partition to get my transcript #2 and scoots back. I am sitting there observing and loving every minute of this. I notice he has pictures of raccoons on his bulletin board. No family members. I read all the IRS warning signs about conversations are being recorded, do not use your cell phone etc. It all took 5 minutes of my life. It stressed me out to the max to imagine all the scenarios that could happen at this "appointment" but none of them came true I left with my tax transcripts.

I rushed back to cottage grove and scanned them and sent them on their way to the evil, wicked Financial aid office. everyone cross your fingers that they finally know everything about me that they need to know and will release my financial aid so that I can go back to my meadows, and horses and adoring boys.

Jun 4, 2017

Causing or Producing Motion.

The Little Mermaid moved out of the sea to land. Snow White "moved" from her castle to the dwarves house in the woods. The Mormon pioneers were forced to move from beautiful Nauvoo to the West (Utah). Laura Ingalls moved...a lot. I mean we are talking eight books worth of moving stories. Mowgli had to leave the jungle and go back to the man village. Each of these moves was different. The Little Mermaid gave up her voice to move she felt that sure of it. Snow White was "encouraged" by the evil queen's huntsman to not go back. Mormon pioneers were chased by mobs out of their town across the frozen Mississippi in February. Laura's pa went where there was work or promises of free land. And the man village was the best place for Mowgli, he just did not believe it.

I have moved a fair amount in my life:

Provo, Utah
Princeton, New Jersey
Huntington, Indiana
Lawrence, Kansas
Snohomish, Washington
Sedro Woolley, Washington
Seattle, Washington
Vista, California
Visalia, California
Del Mar, California
Westfield, Massachusetts
Cottage Grove, Oregon

At the end of the month of April I made the decision to move again. This time to Meridian, Idaho. Moving is not easy, we all can agree on that. So many emotions. So much work. So many logistics. I did not sign away my voice to make this move happen. No evil stepmother needs my heart delivered to her in a box. Mobs are not chasing me, yet. The reasons for this move that I am going to confess to probably come closest to Pa's reasons in The Little House on The Prairie books and Mowgli's reasons in Jungle Book. My opportunities will be better in the Boise area and it is probably the best place for me. Do I want to move? No. I do not.

I do not want to leave all the enormous trees. I do not want to leave the rain. I do not want to leave gray. I do not want to leave my hour and a half drive to the ocean. I do not want to leave every shade of green imaginable. Endless hikes. Endless waterfalls. The smell of the sun warmed wild blackberries growing along the side of the road in August. The ease of jumping in the car and being in Seattle in five hours. The Redwoods. My kids that I teach singing to every Sunday. Today was my last Sunday with them and it was so hard to imagine someone else teaching them the 8 songs they need to learn for their program in the Fall. I love singing with them.

Once you know you are leaving somewhere you start to gather memories. You start to look at things differently. You start to say to yourself, "this is the last time I will do this here with this person." This is the last time I will see this. My sweet little kids on my bus route are begging me to stay. It is nice to feel needed and loved. Is it weird that I will miss them as well? I know way too much about each of them and their lives.

Missing is normal. Every move I have made I have had to leave things I love and consequently miss them. You would think it would get easier. But my my heart still aches for the dear friends I have left scattered across the United States in the past 48 years. I miss the New England colors. I miss being close to New York City. I miss fields of sunflowers. I miss standing on my porch watching storms with lightening flashing every second. I miss the alive-ness of downtown Lawrence. I miss the traditions each different area had.

I am moving my 17 year old right before her senior year. Every person who realizes I am doing that looks at me with pity and I see them wondering how I missed the memo about that being a huge no no. How could I be handing out hard things to my child on top of everything else?

I am trying to keep up my homework, pack, work, make a gazillion decisions by myself, find a new job, find a new place to live, take a trip to Europe that I bought tickets for last August, just to name a few things. Sometimes I wonder if there is a limit to how much people are supposed to have pressing on their mind. You know how the airlines charge you extra if you want to take more weight on the plane than you are supposed to I wish that worked with life. I would be able to be collecting a ton of money from life because it is definitely exceeding the weight limit I have set. I keep telling life to back off a little but it seems to think it is good for me to be stretched and good for me to go through hard things so it is not showing me any mercy. Funny how I can know that but yet have multiple moments in a week that I find myself up in the night making lists and doing some good old fashioned sobbing.

So wish me luck. Send me a message if you know of anyone in the Boise area who needs a short, hard working, sassy girl named Jennifer to work for them. Send me a message if you want to go on a hike and help me take my mind off of my life.

Moving means causing or producing motion. It is instigating, impelling, or actuating. Things will stay the same if you do not move and sometimes you know things cannot stay the same even though you want them to so you take a really deep breath and you move. The antonyms of moving are fixed, permanent, stationary, unmoving. Someday I would love those words to be in my life but until then I am moving.