Sunday, 2 September 2012

Getting Pumped up about a Holiday!

I've just recently put a deposit down on a narrowboat for a trip on the Leeds & Liverpool canal in mid-October. I simply cannot wait till we get the trip underway!

I've been doing the necessary research and feel a bit more confident but it's just like driving - you can read about it all you like, but you have to actually get behind the wheel to get any experience. So once I'm at the helm, I'll know whether or not I'll be okay with the operation or not.

I'm planning on writing a trip report (yup, good old fashioned trip report - good times, good times!) afterwards so I hope you stay tuned to read all about it. I promise to try not to make it too boring. My goal is to make you want to do a canal boat trip after reading my report!

If there's something you want to know about them, just ask - I'll answer when I can!

Until next time!


Saturday, 12 March 2011

Happy Birthday, Grandma

Today is my Grandmother's birthday. She'd have been 94 today. She grew up during the depression, lived through WWII, Vietnam, gave birth to three children - my Uncle Bob, my mother, and my Aunt Debra (who died 45 minutes after she was born). She took in more than 250 foster children as a result of Aunt Debra's death. I lived next door to her for as long as I can remember.

I can't think of what my earliest memories of Grandma are. I remember sitting with her on her bed in her room watching TV and watching her crochet. She used to make the most beautiful things. I always admired watching her shape a length of wool into something you could use.

She used to catch the ice cream truck every single time it would come into our neighborhood and get us something. She and my Grandfather weren't wealthy but she could always find change for our ice cream.

She could lay on a huge table of food even with nothing in the kitchen - I still don't know how she used to do it.

She was loving. Affectionate. Warm. Generous. And I admired her so much. She was brave and I can't remember hearing her complain about her lot. She accepted what life had handed her and she made the best of it.

When I was 16, she went into the hospital for some tests on her heart. While she was in having the tests, she had a major stroke. The kind of stroke that if she'd had at home, it would've killed her. She was in the hospital for weeks after and I would go with my Grandfather to see her. She was never the same after that.

I used to take care of my Grandmother after her stroke. I would wash her hair, cut her nails, make things for her to eat, get her audio books to listen to (she was an avid reader), and was her "remote control" for her to watch her favourite shows.

My Grandparents were responsible for me going to college. They took me and gave me cash to get me started and Grandpa would send me money in letters about once a month and they always had no less than $20 inside.

My Grandmother loved me and I never doubted that her love was real and honest. She taught me to respect others and myself. She showed me how to open my heart to people and to life. I will never forget her - not as long as I live.

I have thought about my Grandmother & Grandfather every day. I give them the credit for making me the person I am - they are the reason I work hard, do everything I can to make life better for my children, and the reason that I love with my whole heart. Heaven is a better place because they're there. And ones they left behind ... well, we'll miss you every minute until we're reunited with you someday.

Happy Birthday, Grandma. I love you.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Two birthdays in one day

Yesterday was the birthday of my twin sons. They are now officially, sixteen years old. Time passes so quickly as you get older. My Grandmother used to tell me that all the time but I never believed her. She was right.

I remember the day of their birth with such clarity - its hard to believe that it was sixteen years ago now.

We'd just gotten our first computer ever - paid $2300 for a very slow computer but at the time (1995) it was the top of the market. I'd been up most of the evening playing with it - getting it hooked up, setting it up, seeing what we could do with it, etc. About 1:30am, I decided it was time to go to bed.

When I say "bed," I mean "sofa" ... we only had a waterbed and I couldn't prop myself up enough to be able to breathe. Let me assure you that having two babies in your belly makes doing anything that much more difficult! I propped myself up and rested as much as I could with two babies moving around and with a big belly protruding in front. Every time I had to turn over, I woke up so at this point in my pregnancy, I wasn't getting much rest.

One time I turned over, I felt a "pop" ... then a warm rush of liquid. MY WATER BROKE! I looked at the clock - it was 4:30am. I got up to see what was going on. I called the doctor and they told me to get myself into the hospital. This was my third pregnancy, was a multiple birth, and both of those combined would mean a quick labor.

I told the nurse I was going to take a shower first but I would be in as soon as I could. I wasn't feeling any contractions at all. After my shower and making sure I had everything together, I woke up their dad and told him my water had broken and we needed to go to the hospital. Luckily, the kids Grandparents were there and we didn't have to phone a sitter.

Off we went to the hospital. By the time we got there, it had been two hours since my water broke. Because I was pregnant with twins, it wasn't a huge gush of water, just a trickle. There is a test they do to find out if there is amniotic fluids present. At first, nothing showed up. I argued with the nurses - this wasn't my first rodeo - I knew what had happened! Finally, after nearly an hour of testing, they found amniotic fluid and confirmed, I was indeed in labor. Duh!

They monitored my contractions for a few more hours and I finally started having contractions at noon. Whoa! They were really strong. I knew it wouldn't be long, I could feel it was different than with Whitney and Travis. They both came in to see me while I was in labor and Travis (who was one month shy of two years old) patted my belly and shouted for the babies to hurry up and come out. Then giggled and hugged them through my tummy.

"Do you think I'll get a sister this time, Mommy?" Whitney really wanted a sister and after she didn't get one when Travis was born, she expected me to deliver - quite literally - a sister for her.

After only two hours of contractions, the doctor and nurses were making preparations for the first of two babies to arrive into the world. At 2:22pm on March 5, 1995 - Austin Lynn Simpson made an appearance. He was 6lb 5oz and was absolutely beautiful. I got to hold him for only a moment before they whisked him away, making preparations for baby number two. Eleven minutes later at 2:33pm - Casey Marshall Simpson was born. He was only 5lb 15oz and just as beautiful as his brother. I had my twins!

Whitney & Travis came back in and being held by his Granddad, Travis kissed each of them on top of their tiny heads and said, "I love you brothers!" Whitney gently touched their little fingers, smiling, and reached over to hug them, kissing their little foreheads. "Welcome to our family, little brothers."

I remember holding both of them, my heart racing as I wondered how I would cope with two newborns, a two year old, and a five year old at home. Sixteen years later, I look at them - all four of my beautiful children, and realize just how blessed I am. I have four beautiful, healthy, smart, talented, and big hearted children and I thank God for them each and every day. I'm so proud of them and how they've turned out. I know there's much more to come and I look forward to it every day!

Monday, 7 February 2011

Back home from home

This is a place where I bare my soul. I express feelings deep inside myself and sometimes that makes me feel a bit uneasy. Not sure how my readers will react sometimes. But nevertheless, I will continue to write from within my heart and hopefully won't ruffle too many feathers.

I have been back from Arkansas for just over a week now. The emotions that I've experienced, while there and since I got back, are varied and wild. It felt strange being back after being away for so long. Two years, seven months, and eight days had passed since I'd set foot in my home state. I was a little apprehensive about how much would have changed and also about how much wouldn't have changed.

I found not much had. What I did notice was so much of a difference between central Arkansas and where we live now - a stark contrast indeed.

When I drove the country roads between civilization and my daughter's college, I noticed straight away that the grass was dead ... brown ... lifeless. It certainly makes a difference to the landscape when there is green grass year-round. They say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence ... in my case, its true. Scotland boasts beautiful green grass, even peeping out from under the snow in the frozen winter months. I don't recall ever seeing brown grass in Scotland.

I also noticed a cluttering of signs, billboards, and notices along-side the freeway. Although the road was wider, I felt closed-in. It really disturbed me. All I could see, as far ahead as I could see, were the poles of hundreds of signs and billboards topped with brash, colourful signs - they all seemed to run together and cloud my mind as I drove along. I remember my friend Cathy said on our first trip (now nearly 13 years ago) over here that she noticed right away that there are no signs or billboards in the countryside here. But there are very few even in the cities. Its a smaller country but there are regulations that forbid the placing of so many signs that scar the beautiful landscape. A lesson could be learned here.

The lifestyle is so much more relaxed here. Not necessarily in my particular job, but things are slower here. Much slower. I have time to read. I have time to go swimming on a Saturday morning. I have time to spend with my family enjoying this beautiful country. That time always escaped me in Arkansas.

My accent is changing. Everyone in Arkansas said I sounded Scottish. People here tell me I sound American. Where does my accent belong now? Everywhere and nowhere? Maybe one day it'll settle into something solid and people will know. Maybe.

I also noticed while I was driving along ... that although it was familiar, it wasn't home anymore. I was loving spending the time I had with my kids and my friends ... but at the same time, I was homesick for what is now my home. I've told people that since I've been back and they all seem pleased that I've acclimated well here. But part of me is sad that I don't feel at home in Arkansas anymore. I know I'll never call it home again.

I know its hard for people to believe, especially people that know me well ... but I don't like change. Moving here, bringing my boys with me here, settling here ... was a huge step in my life. One I don't regret. I know I've got a future here in Scotland, my new official home. One of my neighbors called me a local a day or two ago. I guess that means that I've now been accepted in my community. A community that makes me feel like a local, like I belong. I belong. For the first time in so very long, I really belong...

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

A trip home from home

I left home on Friday to come home again. I know that sounds weird. Because I live in Scotland and have been there for two and a half years now (without visiting), I was on my way home to visit my two oldest children who still live in Arkansas.

I requested a window seat for the flight from Edinburgh to Newark but none were available. I saw someone coming down the aisle towards me (in the back row!) and knew he was the Window Seat Guy. I got up and let him make his nest and we both hoped no one sat in the middle. We got lucky!

Once I realised I wasn't going to be squished on the ride, having the seat between me and Window Seat Guy, I relaxed. Parts of me were a bit anxious but I soon relaxed and the old "travelling" me came right back to life. Normally, whenever the plane would take off from Edinburgh, I would cry because my heart has always been in Scotland and I always felt like I was leaving home. But that day, as the plane gained speed on the runway and slowly lifted off the ground into the foggy sky ... then breaking through the other side to reveal blue skies and a sea of fluffy clouds below, the mist in my eyes was because I know this is now home.

The flight was pretty uneventful. I felt a little bit of turbulence when we got near Newark. I saw snow on the ground but the runways were clear. I had a very little layover in Newark and I was on my way to Houston pretty quickly. I was cold on that flight and they didn't have any blankets and a four-hour flight with no food unless you paid for it - and they don't take cash anymore! I broke down and bought a snack-pack and once I got to Houston, I started looking for food!

I had a three hour layover so I took my time walking to the terminal and my gate. One of the first things that caught my eye was a massage chair. I used a $5 bill and it is the absolute best $5 I have ever spent in my life! For fifteen minutes I relaxed while the chair did its job (give me a second, I'm reminiscing ...). *sigh* Okay, I'm back.

Once my layover was over, I walked to my gate - I was nearly in Arkansas. I knew my daughter would be on her way to the airport soon. Finally, finally, finally!! I was going to see my little girl and my son (I better not call him my little boy!).

My flight arrived in Little Rock and I couldn't possibly get downstairs too quickly to see them after I got off the plane. Travis wasn't feeling well so Whitney came with Shawn (her fiancĂ©) and Niki brought her girls. What a lovely welcome back to Arkansas!! We chatted for awhile and then we picked up my checked bag (which came out right away!) then I picked up my rental car.

That was a big mistake. I should've waited until the next day. You see ... I drive on the left in Scotland. I have driven on the left for the last two and a half years. I had been travelling for about 24 hours (14 on planes). I actually tried to drive on the left when we left Wal-Mart. Thank goodness, I haven't done that since!

Once I finally got to where I was going, I could feel the jet lag really setting in. I'm getting too old for this. I laid down on the bed and although it took me awhile to fall off to sleep (there really is something to this
'too tired to sleep' thing...), I did get some rest that night.

As usual, I was wide awake about 8:30am, even though I'd gone more than 24 hours without sleep. I was ready to begin my first full day away from home ... at home.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011


Burns Night is coming nigh and I wanted to share a story with you about my first (and second) experience with haggis.

On my first trip over here, my friend Cathy and I decided we should try haggis. We'd heard about it and we wanted to give it a shot. We made it to Inverness and wanted to have our dinner so we walked to a restaurant on the river and sat down. Looking at the menu, we saw haggis as a starter. We ordered it and hesitantly tried it.

I don't know how to explain the taste. It was spicy. Chewy. Crumbly in the mouth. Overall, not something I enjoyed at all. So I concluded there and then - haggis was awful!

I wouldn't touch it after that and anyone that said that it was good, I would argue that it was not nice at all.

A few years later, there were four of us that went on a three week trip to Ireland, Scotland, and England. Once we arrived in Scotland, Cathy and I decided to play a little trick on our unsuspecting travel partners. We told them that they had to try haggis and that they wouldn't be allowed to leave the country if they didn't try it.

We were in Tyndrum at the whisky shop and the guy behind the counter recommended the Clachaig Inn in Glencoe (incidently, the movie Made of Honor was partly set there) for lunch. We wandered our way to the single track road that led us there. We felt like we had gone back in time. I think it must have been an old coaching in or something of that nature.

We ordered lunch and although I can't remember who noticed it, but one of us found haggis on the menu as a starter. It was decided that we'd order one between us so we could get it out of the way.

Out it came and with a bit of uncertainty, we all had a forkful. I was stunned! This was good stuff!! The flavour filled our mouths and we were all jockeying for the next bite - I was amazed that we didn't lick the plate!!

Well, that was it. I was hooked. It was amazing and from that moment on, I was a haggis lover. I eat it whenever I get a chance. However, I have never cooked it myself - I feel that I've not lived here long enough to do so! =)

Now I think I need to start a campaign to get people to at least try the stuff before they start to poo-poo it. So, how do I go about this? I must think about this and hire a marketing firm! =)

Sunday, 16 January 2011


As most of you know, I moved here at the beginning of June 2008 with my three boys, Travis, Austin, & Casey. Since Travis went home in June last year, its left me and the twins with Peter living in Fife. We do love it here. Generally, life is good.

We will celebrate three years of living here in June this year and will be eligible for citizenship, if we want it. However, it is very expensive. Since my daughter Whitney is getting married next year (two weeks after she graduates from college), we have to put off the citizenship until after the wedding, at least. But that's not what this post is about...

Since we've been here, none of us have gone back to Arkansas for a visit. Well, not if you don't count Travis because he went there to stay. Back at Christmas, we were going to fly the two of them over here for the holidays. But when we realized it was going to cost £1800 for the two of them, we had to make a very difficult decision and we decided that we just couldn't afford it. We looked into airfare in January for me to go see them and found that my ticket was about half of one of theirs - just because of the timing. We discussed it with the kids and they all agreed - the graduation and wedding were more important at the moment. The decision was made for me to fly to see them, taking their Christmas presents with me. I would be bringing the twins presents back with me when I came home.

The dates of the visit are 21 January - 29 January and I will arrive home on the 30th in the morning. I will be due back at work the next day (but that's another post all together!).

Obviously, my main reason for going is to see the kids. I miss them so much! But I'm also going to see friends that I've not laid eyes on in 25 years! I'm also a bit anxious about what's changed, what's not changed, and driving on the right-hand side of the road again for the first time in more than 2 1/2 years!

I'm "stealing" Peter's camera while I'm away (mine hasn't been replaced but we are working on it!) so there will be photos galore - mainly of me and my beautiful children and my lovely friends!

I leave Friday at 9:00am. I fly from Edinburgh to Newark then to Little Rock. I am a bit nervous about the flights because I haven't been on a plane since we moved here - if you don't count the 40 minutes I was on a plane to Dublin last month. =) I will catch up when I get back!