The Scamp Needs to Be Reminded

Storytime: In December I got my dream job at the University of Glasgow….literally, this job is perfect for me. It’s teaching, it’s research, it’s in Scotland. I told a joke in the interview and they never blinked at sponsoring a visa.

Basically, they are the opposite of the office that I currently work in.

I had to expedite the visa process so that I can start work in April. I’m transferring from a student visa to a general visa. The process was fairly straightforward, and the application didn’t as for a lot. Just my bank statements for the last 4 months, proof that I was in school, my first born child (especially if it is a male) and a blood oath to queen and country. When not doing the expedited process, you have to mail all your documents (passport, visa, and all the other requested paperwork) to the fancy office in London and you wait 2-3 months to get a reply. I got to make an appointment to go to a fancy office in Glasgow and do a face-to-face.

I paid extra for a Saturday appointment. I joked with some of my colleagues that I may not be able to fulfil my roles in the group because UKVI may make me disappear during the interview.

I get on a train on Saturday morning with two hours to get myself from Edinburgh to Glasgow. The journey takes about an hour. On the train for 30 min…and the train isn’t going anywhere. Then they announce that the train is busted and that we need to get on the train behind us that is also going to Glasgow. Not a problem. I have an hour and a half to get there. 15 minutes pass and the busted train is still on the track. All trains to Glasgow are cancelled. All trains out of the station are delayed. I panic, as I am known to do. I run to the bus station, which is only about a 6 min walk. Get there in time to see the bus leave. The next bus would put me in Glasgow at 12.30. I am now crying. I can’t find a number for the visa office. I just have a QR code for my appointment. I call my mother sobbing on the street. It is 2 am her time.

She tells me to get in a cab. I’ve cried off all my make-up that hide the bags under my eyes. I hail a cab and freak out the cab driver. He doesn’t really want to take me to Glasgow, and I have to show him the address for the visa office because I can’t speak coherent words. I call three numbers and finally get to the visa office and let them know that I may be late. By the time we get on the motorway, Google Maps tells me that I will be at the office by 11:58. I’m still sobbing. Halfway through the journey and the cab starts slowing down. He pulls to the side of the road, shuts off the engine and it starts smoking. Thank God I carry water with me all the time….too bad it didn’t keep the cab from catching fire. A busted hose caused the engine to overheat. I am back to sobbing. Send a sobbing video to my mom. Text everyone I know (including the nasty ex who has a car) because I just can’t handle my life. It is 11.30.

The cab driver calls his company and gets them to send them a new cab driver. He shows up at 11.50. I’m hiccuping. I am no longer producing tears. I don’t have any water because it was wasted on a dead cab. When we get into Glasgow there is so much road works and one-way streets that the Edinburgh cabbie has no idea how to get to the building. It is now 12.30. $115 later, I get him to drop me off in the middle of the street and curse the fact that I could have spent a tenner on the bus to be there at the same time. Run like the wind (or an out of shape Jew with a bag full of paperwork and a winter coat that weighs more than her). I show up the building and the security guard lets me in and walks me up….tells me that the office is empty and it is no problem.

I die a little on the inside.

The women in the office could not have been nicer. They let me cry and tell the whole tale before they tell me I have to have my photo taken for my new visa. The make-up is long gone. My eyes are red and swollen. My hair looks like it has gone through a wind tunnel. I’m sweaty. I’m still sorta crying (but no tears because there is no more water in my body). They have to take the photo twice because the computer couldn’t make out my eyes the first time.

I’m in the office a grand total of 15 minutes. It took 2 and half hours to get there. I leave the office and call a friend of mine who is in Glasgow and cancel plans. I walked to the train station….it’s the wrong one (think of the two stations there like an international airport and a domestic airport. I went international, I needed domestic). By the time I on a train I fear that I will literally go postal if something goes wrong….but I made it back to the city okay. I walked from the train station to my house and stopped for pizza and chocolate to make myself feel better (but it just made me feel sick).

Saturday I was a mess, but now I can laugh until I cry when I tell the story. I found out on Monday that the visa got approved. I’m no longer a student in Scotland. I am now a member of the full-time workforce.

But the lesson here: Do not make fun of the UKVI process before you’ve actually completed it. If you do though, ask your friends to send you photos to cheer you up. My friends and family came through in a major way and made me feel better.

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The Scamp Remembers

Today is a hard day for my mom. Today is the day that she lost her mom to a horrific car accident. Today is a day that we usually eat a club sandwich from iHop, drink a diet coke and watch Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I wrote this last year for her birthday, and I don’t think I can write anything better to capture how I feel. So here goes:

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The woman in these photos is Frances Ann. Today is her 80th birthday.

Or, it would be if she believed in wearing her seatbelt. When I was in the third grade she died when she overcorrected her car on the highway. The car flipped and she went through the windshield. Her best friend was in the car with her and survived. Before the funeral, her friend insisted on telling the story of what happened. I remember the crazy curved couch that everyone was sitting on. She was sitting with her husband, my mom, aunt and grandpa sat and listened.

Sometimes I think it would be better for my mom if she hadn’t heard the story.

I can’t remember what her voice sounds like. I can’t remember the way she felt when I hugged her.

I can remember the way she smelled. Sometimes I go to the cosmetic counter at the shopping centre near my house and spray the sample of Red Door into the air just to trigger a memory.

I can remember where we stood when we spread her ashes in Indian Canyon. I’ve only been there one other time since then, and it was to spread my grandpa there after he died.

I can remember the horrible photo she drew of me when I had to go to the emergency room for an ear infection. The picture was me in a hospital gown with my butt exposed and a doctor with a very very large needle ready to give me a shot. In the butt. I have a few scarves that belonged to her with me now.

They smell like my mom.

When my mom smiles, she looks like my grandma….or at least how I remember my grandma in my head.

It is a smile that involves teeth. I know this because it is the same smile that I have (most people tell me they know I am American because of my smile…all those teeth).

This is a hard day for my mom. She can’t call her mom and wish her a happy birthday. She can’t call her when one of her children (cough the oldest one cough) drives her crazy. It is a hard time for me because I have to think about the day when I won’t have my mom.

and that terrifies me.

A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with my great uncle who was in town on holiday. We haven’t seen each other in 10 years or so, but he knew exactly who I was when I met him for brunch. He gave me the best compliment that anyone could ever give me: he told me I look and act exactly like my mother.

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 Since my mom sometimes looks and acts like my grammy, and I look and act a lot like my mommy, it must mean that I am a little like my grammy too.

I’d like to think that she would enjoy what I am doing with her smile.

The Scamp Persists

2018 was not my year. In fact, it was one of the worst years I’ve had in a long time. I stumbled a lot. I had some of my worst lows. I thought about quitting the PhD. I thought about quitting Scotland. I quit on my diet. I quit on some of my friends. I quit making emotionally healthy choices.

There were some days that I felt 2018 quit on me.

Nevertheless, I persisted.

After 25 failed job applications, 2018 did me a solid. I got a full-time job in Scotland. I think it was quite poetic that I got the news while I was in the lift at Napier. I told my supervisor first.

No, that’s not true. I did a happy dance and cried in the lift. Then I told my supervisor.

He actually hugged me! I think I wanted to tell him first because he has been so hard on me and we spent most of 2018 not seeing eye-to-eye on my work.

The best in-person reaction was from my mentor. She is the only reason I got the job. She has given me work, let me publish as lead author and sent me a million and one jobs postings. When I told her, she jumped up and gave me the best mom hug ever. It is exactly what my mom would have done. She also told everyone in the office, including the two women on the hiring committee for the post in the office. Those women refused to even look at my application. I spent a week feeling bad about the fact that the place I worked for the last three years wouldn’t even consider me for my own position. I met the person they did hire on the day I got my acceptance letter….and I have to tell you, I did not engage with the new person at all. Didn’t introduce myself, didn’t make conversation, and did not care one little bit that I was being rude.

I have spent three miserable years in that office. People who work there still have no idea what I do or how far along I am in the process. Not too long ago, one of them introduced themselves to me thinking I was new. I have been taken off projects, removed from the staff page, been moved to a closet, had my desk taken from me, and have my every move tracked for ‘audit purposes’.

Nevertheless, I persisted.

I am very very very behind on my thesis. I don’t care. I’m very very very behind on work for one of my jobs. I don’t care. It is not the way I want to start the new year. I’ve scheduled a meeting with my favourite supervisor to get the kick in the ass I need to get everything finished in time. I want to start 2019 on the right foot by putting Napier behind me. It saved my life by getting me out of California after CSUF, but that is just about the only good thing I can say.

So, in an effort to make up for a rotten year, and to live up to the promise of this year, I will persist.

The Scamp Fights the Winter Blues

Thanksgiving has passed, but the post turkey day depression has not. It doesn’t help that the sun sets here at 4pm and I have to wear extra layers when I leave the house.

I  used to love Thanksgiving. I’m a sucker for mashed potatoes and gravy, go crazy for stuffing, and love the fact that it was one day where all my family gets together and hangs out. After my MSc, Thanksgiving was a weeklong getaway for me. First it was graduation, then it was Estonia, and since I have been back in Edinburgh full-time, it was a chance to see my mom and dad. Last year we were in Switzerland. 

This year I was at my desk by myself.

I made up for it by eating my weight in what Tesco calls ‘Asian inspired snacks’. I haven’t seen my parents in over a year. I haven’t seen my brother, sister, brother-in-law and the babies in 2 years. I miss my family.

Thanksgiving now sucks.

When I am by myself and not on an adventure it also reminds me that 3 years ago on Thanksgiving my dad found my brother dead from alcohol-related complications.  I had just thrown my first (and only) Thanksgiving dinner at my flat for the people that I worked with (and the lying cheating scumbag Dan). I started getting my parents to go on adventures on Thanksgiving so my dad wouldn’t have to be at home. 

He had to be at home this year because I am not graduating on time. I haven’t seen my family because I am not graduating on time. I’m sad because I am not finished with my PhD yet which means that I am an undesirable candidate for jobs that I am completely qualified for (including a job in the office where I currently work). I’m burned out from the 6 jobs and I feel like the only thing I am doing well right now is procrastinating. 

Well, that and eating chocolate. I’m really good at that right now. 

I am about three weeks away from submitting a new draft of my thesis to my supervisors and about a 6 weeks away from sending a draft to committee to put me in position to my viva. I am looking forward to that. I cannot wait until that little monster is someone else’s headache. There is nothing I love more than giving someone else a headache. 

The Scamp and Confidence

I took an extended break from the Scamp Chronicles.  I didn’t mean to do it, but I have 6 jobs and very little free time so instead of writing for fun, I have been hiding under the covers binge watching bad TV and freaking out about the future.

I am 30 days from turning in another draft of my thesis. At this point, I have done no work on it. I keep putting it off to do other things. People keep coming to visit. I have too many projects on my plate. I cannot sustain this lifestyle, but for now, it is what I have to do to pay the bills (seriously, can someone just hire me already?). I am relieved to finally have a submission date, even if it means that I have to work through Christmas. I am so close to finally finishing my thesis that I should be happy, and writing away, but I am tired, and when I am tired, I doubt myself.

The writing challenge for this week (although, who am I kidding, I haven’t been following that at all) is to write about my confidence in my ability in the workplace. If you asked me two weeks ago I would have said that I have no confidence in the work that I do. I recently applied for a lecturer post in the office that I have been based in during my three years at Napier. The post advertised was an entry-level position doing all the work that I am currently doing. I felt like I had a really good chance, and felt like the office would be stupid not to hire me.

They didn’t even shortlist me for an interview.

It really sucks to be told that you are not good enough for the job that you are currently doing. I have a feeling I am also going to have to give up my desk when they hire someone, which leaves me out in the cold again. It was a tough blow. A really tough blow.

Move forward a week and I have snapped out of my stupidity. I have recently started a major project at the University of Stirling. I spent last week meeting with programme leads and discussing my ideas for improving feedback at the programme level. The work is based on my thesis and based on the last three years slogging through the mess that is Napier. The five people that I met with listened, and by the end of my pitch were more than willing to work with me and help me actually put my thesis into action.

It is more than Napier was ever willing to do.

The fact the Stirling is letting me run this project and giving me carte blanche to do as I please renews my egotistical thoughts that I am good at what I do and that I have chosen the right field. I am really good at developing curriculum for teachers, and really good at teaching new teachers. One day I will actually be known for it. People will follow the Wilder Way of feedback and curriculum design. I will have a single office (with a window that opens and a comfy chair) at a reputable university and co-workers I like. I’ll have a nice steady income and be able to start paying off my student loan.

I’ll be living the dream….and then I will get a puppy….and a car.

But first, time to finish my thesis edits, book chapter, conceptual article, quick guide, project admin work, student meetings, GTA training and feedback initiative.

oh, and job applications. Lots of job applications.

The Scamp at a Loss

Today I woke up in a world without my Odie. He has been one of the only constants in my life for the last 15 years.

I hate the idea of being in a world where he no longer exists.

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I remember when my brother brought him home. Matt was a pain in the ass 18 year old who is the reason that my mom has grey hair. He left a note on the kitchen counter that just said “Mom don’t be mad”. When she raced up the stairs to his room and threw open the door, she was greeted with a tiny hiss from a little puff of fir in the middle of the bed. Matt had rescued a tiny kitten. He had a lot of names. My brother named him Odin. My sister and I called him Pepe because he was found in a dumpster outside a Mexican restaurant. I called him smooshy because he liked to be smooshed up against you when slept next to you.

He had a head like granite. He had no concept of personal space. He would steal your seat on the couch if you got up for any reason. He had awful kitty breath. He liked to drink from the toilet. He was obsessed with boobs and would often sit with his paws resting on them. He drooled. If you wanted him to come in for the night so you could go to bed, he would escape and evade you like a pro. He would leave out the front door and then magically appear at the top of the stairs. He liked to sleep on his back with his feet in the air.

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He was a pain in the ass. He was a great source of comfort. He was the only man in my life to never disappoint me. He slept on a special blanket on my bed when I moved back to California for a little while. He slept with me every day I was back for a visit.

He used each of his nine lives in the last 15 years. He survived being poisoned. He survived a bee sting.  He survived trying to hump a coyote. He survived me bathing him. The last few years were tough. He slowed down. He had to have his eye removed. Eventually, he developed cancer. Yesterday the vet said that it was better to gently end his life rather than put him through any more treatment.

I wasn’t there. I didn’t get to tell him I loved him one more time. I didn’t get that one final cuddle.  I did not have a chance to prepare myself for this moment that I knew was coming. I’m going to miss the cuddles, the headbutts, the curling up on my work so I had to pay attention to him.

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This little face offered me unconditional love, occasional love bites and constant reminders of how to enjoy the little things in life. I will miss him a little more now, but I know he is headbutting angels and that he is happy.

 

The Scamp Plays a Game

I’ve been tasked from a fellow blogger to play a ‘get-to-know-you’ game. I have to answer 31 questions (because I’m old as shit) from a list of 198. I usually hate these, but it has been a while since I wrote anything that wasn’t thesis related, and I think this might be more fun then another post about how miserable I am in the current thesis phase…because let’s face it, everyone is miserable at this stage.

1. IF SOMEONE NARRATED YOUR LIFE, WHO WOULD YOU WANT TO BE THE NARRATOR? I think it would have to be Anthony Bourdain. There is just something about the way he narrated his own life was quite brilliant. He’d say all the snarky things I was thinking as well which would be nice. 

2. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE BOOK YOU’VE EVER READ? God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant

God Went to Beauty School

He went there to learn how
to give a good perm
and ended up just crazy 
about nails
so He opened up His own shop.
“Nails by Jim” He called it.
He was afraid to call it
Nails by God.
He was sure people would
think He was being
disrespectful and using
His own name in vain
and nobody would tip.
He got into nails, of course,
because He’d always loved
hands--
hands were some of the best things
He’d ever done
and this way He could just
hold one in His
and admire those delicate
bones just above the knuckles,
delicate as birds’ wings, 
and after He’d done that
awhile,
He could paint all the nails 
any color He wanted,
then say,
“Beautiful,"
and mean it.

3. IF YOU RECEIVED A SALARY TO FOLLOW WHATEVER PASSION YOU WANTED TO, WHAT WOULD YOU DO? I would start my own literacy foundation and help people learn to read. I’d set it up all over the world. People would learn to read in their native language and depending on the location, another language that would be useful. For California, people would learn English and Spanish or English and Korean. I think raising the literacy rate of the world is important and that it can be done if people are willing to make it happen.

4. WHAT’S THE COOLEST THING YOU’RE WORKING ON RIGHT NOW? I am working on a project that would allow me to use the research from my PhD to actually help a university with their assessment and feedback procedures. I’m really buzzing about this one and hope that I can make it happen. 

5. WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING IF YOU WEREN’T AT YOUR CURRENT JOB? I want to be a travel writer for Lonely Planet. 

6. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SMELL IN THE WHOLE WORLD? Red Door by Elizabeth Arden 

7. NACHOS. WHAT WOULD YOU PUT ON YOURS? I’m a purist. I want a lot of cheese, really spicy salsa, guac, sour cream and jalapenos.  

8. WHAT IS THE SOUND YOU LOVE THE MOST? My nephews laughing 

9. IF YOU COULD GET AWAY WITH A CRIME, WOULD YOU? IF YES, WHAT WOULD IT BE? I would. I would evade paying my student loans

10. WHAT’S THE OLDEST THING YOU OWN? My very first stuffed rabbit called Bun

11. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE HOLIDAY AND WHY? Any holiday that brings my family all together. Usually, that is Christmas Eve, Passover, or if I make it to California to celebrate my birthday. 

12. WHAT’S THE BEST CONCERT YOU’VE EVER BEEN TO? The first time I saw the Mighty Mighty BossTones and getting to see JD McPherson in Glasgow.

13. IF YOU COULD PLAY ONE INSTRUMENT YOU AREN’T ABLE TO NOW, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY? I want to play the trumpet. I don’t know anyone who can play it, and I think that I would enjoy it.

14. WHO WAS YOUR FAVORITE CARTOON CHARACTER AS A CHILD? Velma from Scooby Doo.

15. WHICH FAMOUS PERSON WOULD YOU LIKE TO BEST FRIENDS WITH? Anthony Bourdain.

16. IF YOU COULD LIVE IN A BOOK, TV SHOW, OR MOVIE, WHAT WOULD IT BE? I’d live in the Dresden Files

17. IF YOU HAD TO CHOOSE TO LIVE WITHOUT ONE OF YOUR FIVE SENSES, WHICH ONE WOULD YOU GIVE UP? Smell. It would make public transportation more tolerable

18. IF YOU COULD HAVE DINNER WITH ANY ONE PERSON, LIVING OR DEAD, WHO WOULD THEY BE AND WHY? My mom. It has been almost a year since we have seen each other and I’m not enjoying it.

19. IF YOU COULD MASTER ONE SKILL YOU DON’T HAVE RIGHT NOW, WHAT WOULD IT BE? I want to have an easier time learning languages.

20. IF YOU COULD ASK THE PRESIDENT ONE QUESTION, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Who does your hair?

21. WHAT SINGLE MESSAGE WOULD YOU SEND TO AN ADVANCED ALIEN SPECIES? Don’t waste your time here.

22. WHAT ANIMAL WOULD BE CUTEST IF SCALED DOWN TO THE SIZE OF A CAT? A giraffe.

23. IF YOU COULD TRAVEL ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, WHERE WOULD IT BE? Brea, California

24. WHEN HAVE YOU FELT YOUR BIGGEST ADRENALINE RUSH? Jumping out of an aeroplane when I turned 28. It was such a rush that I almost puked when I landed. I had to lay on the ground for half an hour

25. WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE GOAL IN LIFE? I want to help people in some way.

26. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT THIS CITY? All of the people from all over the world who have chosen to settle here.

27. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND A BILLION DOLLARS? I’d take care of my family first. Pay off debts, set up college accounts for my nephews, get my sister a house. I would then invest a couple million in stocks and keep a couple million for myself. The rest of the money would be divided between charities that help with education, environmental conservation, and making the world a better place.

28. WHAT IS ONE THING YOU MISS ABOUT BEING A KID? Not worrying about money or paying bills.

29. WHERE IS THE MOST RELAXING PLACE YOU’VE EVER BEEN? Any place where there is a beach and a sunset.

30. DESCRIBE ONE EXPERIENCE YOU’VE HAD WHERE YOU TOOK A HUGE LEAP OF FAITH. I moved to Scotland on my own to pursue my PhD.

31. IF YOUR ENTIRE LIFE WAS A MOVIE, WHAT TITLE WOULD BEST FIT? A Series of Unfortunate Events…..wait, that’s already taken. hmmmm. Tales From the Little Black Rain Cloud