The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 22

Sunshine! There is actual sunshine. I’ve seen the sun every day this week. I wore shorts on Tuesday. I brought only a light jacket with me today. I might actually get to see summer. My legs might actually get a tan.

This has been a long week of avoiding work as much as possible. I’m in the middle of interview transcription, and I hate it. I hate listening to my own voice, and it will take me about 6 hours to transcribe a 1 hour interview (okay, a lot longer than 6 hours because I am slow, I get bored, and often can only work ten minutes at a time before I get frustrated).  I am trying to keep things with the PhD progressing, and for the moment, things are a bit slow, but still moving. I’ve got a meeting set up for the end of the month to officially grant me PhD status, so now the draft of the paper I am writing needs to really be completed, and I have to write up everything that I have done for the last year, and hope that the committee feels that it has been enough to demonstrate that I am capable of completing two more years of study. In 17 days I will celebrate one year of living in Scotland, and in a little less than two months, I will have officially completed my first year of study.

I’m not sure where the time has gone.

The challenge for this week is to write about the place I currently call home.

If only I hadn’t sat down to write this with only 20 minutes before a meeting on what it is like to be an international student at Edinburgh Napier. I could write pages and pages and pages about Edinburgh, and what it means to live here. I’ve said it many times, both when I lived here three years ago, when I went back to California for a bit, and now that I am here: Edinburgh is the first place I have ever felt at home. For someone who spend a lot of time with words, I’m not really sure there are words that really cover how much I love it here. Moving here has been the most selfish thing I have ever done, and it is a choice that I would make over and over again. This city saved my life.

I think one of my favourite things about living here is the people that I get to meet. This is such an international city. I’m constantly surrounded by accents….and not just Scottish ones. It seems like this city is a magnet for people from all over the world. Everyone sounds different, and I love meeting people who have been living here for many years and have started to develop a hybrid Scottish/home accent. I hope that I live here long enough for that to happen to me. Even in the last year I notice that I have picked up vocabulary and phrases that are only said here.

4 years ago I got off a plane with my mom for a four day adventure that would determine the rest of my life. I applied and said yes for a position at the University of Edinburgh (but waited until I got to Scotland to tell my mom that I accepted), and scheduled a campus tour. I knew when I stepped off the plane that I was going to move here and love it. We went to the zoo, navigated the bus system, and realized that it would be very easy (and very safe for me to live here on my own. I spent the next four months preparing for the move (and starting this blog). Once I was here I made friends, learned how to walk everywhere and anywhere, and explored every inch of this city.


PRC and I had a lot of good times here, and I wrote the best piece of academic work I have produced to date from the education that I got here. Anyone who has been a long time reader knows that returning to California was the hardest thing I have ever done, and that my transition back to American living did not go well at all. A lot of times the only thing that kept me going was the thought that I was getting the EdD with the soul intention of coming back here to live and work.

This time around I’m living in a great flat near the water, I’m dating a nice guy (although cultural communication brings its own fun challenges) and have made some lovely new friends to go along with the ones I have loved so dearly for the last four years. Many of the people that stay in contact with regularly are the ones that I have met here and have moved to other parts of the world.


This is my front yard as it were. I catch the bus from here, and it drops me off at night right in front of my building. While there are some days that I miss driving, I can walk or take the bus to everything that I need or want. I’m already planning some trips that will take me around Europe, and even on my worst days here, it is still happening in Scotland. I’m hoping that in 6 years when my student visa runs out I will be able to get a work visa, or at least apply to become a permanent resident. I’m not leaving unless the government forces me to.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 20

On this day three years ago I was greeted at the airport with a sign that said “Welcome Home Shithead”

I’d finished my coursework for my MSc, had three months to write my dissertation before starting the EdD programme, and had a lot of sunshine to catch up on. My dissertation became my full time job, with breaks for the pool and the gym. I was experiencing reverse culture shock in a major way, and coming off the terrible break-up with David, I was very unsure about my future.

Flash forward to today: I’m sitting on the window ledge in the flat of one of my best friends in Scotland. We have been doing buddy work from home Friday for the last few weeks. I’ve finished a second draft of a paper for my thesis, I have a therapy appointment in a couple of hours, and a study date with the boy this evening.  In 30 days I will celebrate my 1 year anniversary living in Scotland, and will be getting ready for my official transfer of title making me the very first PhD in education at Edinburgh Napier University.

The writing challenge for this week is to think about the ways I have changed in the last year. To be honest, I am not sure I have enough time or space to write about how I have changed in the last year. This time last year I was getting ready to say goodbye to the US. I was packing for Spain and Portugal, I was shipping boxes to Scotland to be here when I arrived, and I was not feeling depressed at all. I thought that all of my problems were solved because I was moving back to the one place in this world that I ever felt like home. I thought I had worked through my issues with the EdD. program, thought I was done with therapy, and thought that I was ready to tackle the world on my own. I was cocky, and living in a bit of a fantasy land.

Today I know that moving doesn’t always solve all your problems, but that they are much easier to deal with when you are happy where you live. I’m not as cocky, and while I still think I can tackle the world, I’ve learned that it is a lot more fun to do with the help and support of others. I’m more open about my depression, and the work that I am doing to manage my symptoms. I’m more open about needing help. I’m learning that it is important not to stop therapy when you feel like you are feeling better, but rather keep going, and keep working on myself so that those good feelings last a lot longer than the bad ones. I learned how to play the political game, which is serving me well this time around.

I’ve changed physically as well. I’ve added 5 tattoos to my body, I’m whiter than I have ever been, and I weigh more now than I ever have. While those last two bother me a bit, I am hoping that with summer just around the corner I can add some color to my skin. The weight bothers me, but as the boy has pointed out, he clearly likes the way I look, and that means I am probably the healthiest I have ever been. While I am very much still a work in progress, I am definitely headed in the right direction. I’d say that have learned so much about myself and the world in the last year that I have undoubtedly become a better person.

I really like the idea that I become a better person with the passing of each new year. I can get behind an idea like that.

The Scamp’s Last Day of Her 28th Year

Tomorrow (Well, today in Scotland and Australia) I turn 29. The last year of my 20s. The year before I become a real adult. The year I finally get my shit together.

This time last year I had just found out that I had been awarded the position in Scotland, I was getting ready to jump out of an airplane, and I was finally starting to see some hope for my future. Let’s face it, 27 was a really shitty year. The upside of hitting rock bottom though is that you have nowhere to go but up.

28 was a pretty darn good year. I jumped out of a plane, I moved back home to Scotland, started my PhD, reconnected with some of my best friends, made some pretty incredible new friends, and spent more of the year than not really loving life. I got to visit Spain and Portugal, went to England, and got to return to Ireland. I laughed more than I cried, cooked my first Thanksgiving dinner, and finally moved into my own place after two years of living with my parents. I learned the delicate art of negotiating bus timetables, worked on improving my Spanish, and pushed forward as an academic.

Today I started the day with waffles and puppy love by the beach. I got to snark with truly one of the greatest women I know, and the walk along the beach was just long enough for my face to get sunburned. I then spent the rest of the day with my nephew. He’s perfect. I cannot gush enough about this little guy. He let me feed him without a fuss, he slept solidly for a few hours and let his parents get some sleep, and he went for a walk in the sunshine without much of a complaint. I left them before the next feeding and enjoyed a big piece of chocolate birthday cake (I am an adult after all).

I’m looking forward to all of the things that 29 has to offer. I’ve decided that I would like to do 30 new things before I turn 30. I want to make sure that I stay out of the dark and twisty as much as possible. I want to make great strides with my PhD. I want to be a better friend, and a better girlfriend. I want to see some more of the world. Luckily I have 365 days to make these things happen.



The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 8 and 9

I’m currently sitting in my sister and brother-in-law’s living room in California. It is warm. I’m in shorts and a tank top. I have a belly full of Mexican food.

I am now an aunt.

Since I am a bit behind on the writing challenge, I thought now would be the perfect time to catch up. Week 8 is dedicated to a person that I love.

Let me tell you about the new love of my life Brandon Davis Rodriguez. He made his debut on the 26th of February at 2:22pm. He was 7 lbs 7 oz, and absolutely perfect. He held my hand, and I am pretty sure I melted into a puddle of goo.

He is perfect. He looks like his daddy. Because he decided to cook an extra five days, he was born with some fluid in his lungs, so he is being monitored by the NICU just to make sure he didn’t contract an infection. I haven’t gotten to hold him yet, but him holding my hand for a bit is enough to get me through the 17 hours I waited for labour to work it’s magic, and for all the work that I have put off doing for the last week while I have been in California. I wish that I had more time to spend in California to be with him, but for now, I am going to wrap that baby up in a moby and carry him everywhere with me.

Ughhh. I’m hopelessly in love with this little Branmuffin.

Week 9 is dedicated to something that I would like to learn.

There are a lot of things that I would like to learn. I want to learn how to get past my PTSD. I want to learn how to be a master of SPSS and knock my data analysis out of the park. I want to learn how to be a good partner in romantic relationships, and a less selfish person in friendships. I want to learn how to speak Spanish fluently, and be able to use it in conversation comfortably.

Most importantly, I want to be able to really get a handle on my depression and stop feeling like I live day to day not knowing when or if I am going to fall into a funk. People keep telling me that happiness is a choice, that I can just wake up every morning and choose not to be miserable. I wish it was that simple. I mean, duh, if I had the choice, I would much rather wake up happy and carefree. I like getting out of bed, being productive and enjoying life. I hate that not everyone understands the seriousness of my depression. The one thing I do know is that while I cannot necessarily erase my depression, I can learn how to keep the dark and twisty at bay, and learn to find more joy in the everyday. Therapy will be a big part in that, and daily photo updates of the new love of my life will also help. Once I get a handle on this nonsense, you can best believe I am going to tackle the rest of my list.

On the plus side, since I have been in California I have not felt the least bit out of place, the least bit lost, or the least bit upset. I’ve slept better than I have in months, am getting plenty of family time, and am avoiding people and things that might make me feel bad. I’ve also taken the last week off from anything academic related, so I am feeling pretty relaxed. I like the feeling of being here on vacation, but still feeling like I am part of the day to day happenings with my family. This trip definitely came at the perfect time, and will make me feel really really good when I get back to Scotland and can start kicking ass on my research and data collection.

The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 5

Week 5 was an interesting week. It was busy, and I had a scary doctor’s appointment and a blown fuse to fix (see previous post). While there were parts of the week that sucked, I survived, and am one week closer to going back to California to welcome my nephew into the world, and be a bridesmaid for a very good friend. I’m looking forward to sunshine, warm weather and no tutoring center.

I’m especially looking forward to that last one.

But I digress. Week five is dedicated to the best part of my week. That is an easy one. The best part of my week was spending Sunday evening/night with the manpanion. We watched a really great Indonesian action film

After the movie we laid in bed and talked about books and movies we wanted to read and see, and we watched a lot of trailers on Youtube. Every time I was about to fall asleep, he’d reach for his phone and show me something else. We’d laugh, I’d make fun of him for his excitement, we’d settle in to sleep and he then he would think of something else to show me.

For me, there are a lot of reasons this was my favorite part of the week. I love any time I get to spend with him, but it was also a break from everything. We didn’t talk about my health, or my PhD, or the tutoring center, or my depression. We just hung out together and laughed. My depression and stress often effects my mood, and therefore my relationships, and unfortunately in the last few months, he has gotten a tiny bit of it. We also have very different styles of communication, which sometimes leaves me frustrated, but after a couple of really good chats, we’ve settled back into a happy medium. It was nice to have something in the week not go completely tits up. It also means that I get to start the new week on a positive, which will hopefully carry over to everything I have to get done this week.

If not, I will just pout until he agrees to a cuddle, or takes my not so subtle hint that I would like a puppy for my birthday.

I think I almost have him convinced that that last one is a good idea.


The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 3

Week 3 and I have managed to get everything written on during the week it was meant to be written….there is hope for me yet. Week 3 is dedicated to the little things that make me happy.

Honestly, this list is endless. I really enjoy the little things.

I had a minor PhD setback last week, and it really threw me. I have been working really hard to try and get myself out of my dark and twisty, and thought I was making it work…kinda. I feel like the last two months have been consumed by my depression. I’ve been spiraling down into the dark and twisty, and because it is always a thing, I feel like it has dominated my life. It permeates everything  from my work, to my friendships and relationships, and even my sleep patterns. My work, while it has been getting done (Well, minus the two week break I took at Christmas) it has not been getting done very well.

Last week it all caught up to me. I applied for a research position on campus that would allow me to quit the tutoring center and pay off my loan faster. Because people in the office were so excited about it, I had gotten very excited by the idea of having the job. My supervisor pulled me into his office though and ripped the skin off my hide for not telling him that I had applied for the job, and for the fact that working part time would take away from my PhD and I would not become an expert in my field if I was not devoting 100% to my work. He questioned me about my financial situation, and I was forced to admit that I need the job to pay my loan payment. I do not like admitting that I am in debt.

I also hate the feeling of failure that I left that meeting with. I do not like to fail at anything….especially when I know that I have been putting in a lot of effort, and trying my damnedest to produce something that will make people proud. I’ve already been stressed about the work that I am doing, and already feeling down, so when I cried in the break room over a cup of tea last week, no one was surprised (okay, so my colleague who had to deliver the bad news that I wasn’t eligible for the job was surprised, but she was really really lovely about it).

I wanted to curl up in bed and just call it a day.

I wanted to sign up for and find some rich old man to pay my bills.

I wanted someone to give me a hug and tell me everything would be alright.

I wanted someone to make it alright.

So this is where the challenge comes in. The little things that make me happy.

Hot chocolate. Hot chocolate makes me happy. A little cup of hot chocolate makes me everything better. I had a small cup today while I had my PhD supervisory meeting, and even though I had to rehash the job situation again, I managed to do it without crying this time.

I like that my friends and family check up on me. I get texts and messages asking after me, or sending me funny pictures. I love that. It makes me feel appreciated, and it makes me laugh.

I like it when my favorite song comes on my ipod. In the same line, I love finding Spotify playlists  that have songs I loved when I was younger, or ones that relax me while I am trying to do yoga.

I love puppy and kitten videos. Seriously, that is the only reason that the internet was invented as far as I am concerned.

I like that I have moments when I forget to be sad. I’ll laugh at a joke, watch a dumb movie, or read a trashy romance novel and not get stuck in the dark and twisty.

I like dinners out with my friends. I may not want to share my tacos with you, but I want to share my bubble.

I like that when I do posts like this, I laugh a little, and remember that all in all, things in my life are pretty freaking fantastic.

That makes everything worth it.

The Scamp at 20 Years

20 years is a long time to miss someone. I can’t remember what her voice sounds like, but when I smell Red Door I instantly see my grandma’s face. I was only 8 when she died, but I remember the night we got the phone call, I remember bits and pieces of the funeral, and I remember her best friend, who was in the car with her when it wrecked, told my mom the story of what happened.

Francis Ann. Grandma Fran. Auntie Fran. Franie. Mom. Sister. She was a lot of things to a lot of people, and because she refused to wear a seat belt, the world has had to be without her for the last 20 years.

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She battled drug addiction. She battled her weight. She battled a shopping and gambling addiction. She was a complicated woman, sometimes almost impossible to be around. I didn’t know any of that. I only knew her as my grammy. She had zebra print carpet, took us for hamburgers and milkshakes whenever we went to visit her and my grandpa in Palm Springs, and never let her hummingbird feeders run out of food. I can remember being in Louie the Lebaron with my brother, sister, and our two cousins Jodi and Sivan when we were really young. I don’t remember where we were going, but while we were in the car, she started a sentence and we all took turns adding to the story. I can’t remember what the story was about, but I remember laughing and the story getting more and more ridiculous the longer we went around.

This is always a hard time for my mom. She has had 20 years of health issues, awards, major projects, and amazing life moments that she did not get to share with her mom. I can’t go more than six hours without talking to my mom, so I have no idea how I would survive 20 years. I’ve struggled a lot in the last two years, and my mom has tried her best to shoulder the burden so I didn’t have to.

The one comfort that I had when I lived in California was a hummingbird that comes to hang out at my parent’s house. There is no real reason for the hummingbird to hang out, but it comes every day, sometimes right to the door. My last night in California, it hung out for over two hours and got close enough for me to touch. I like to think that that little bird has the soul of my grandma and hangs out with us to see what kind of shenanigans we get up to. There are no hummingbirds in Scotland, but if I ever see one, I will know why it is there.


So, until I figure out what happens after you die, I like to think of her the way my aunt thinks of her:

I like to think of her winning at heavenly Mahj Jongg, Bridge, Canasta. She still is one of the smartest, funniest people I have ever known. Do they have Jeopardy in Heaven?

Those of you who see my mom, or know how to get a hold of her, be sure to send some love her way.

And go hug your mommys. Right now.

Mama Scamp’s Birthday

Today is Mama Scamp’s birthday!

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She started out as a curious little tyke with the crazy bowl cut.


She was a crazy dare devil growing up, having broken most of her bones at one point in time. She played baseball, basketball, and has had the same exact smile since she was a little kid. Everyone who knew my grandma will see a lot of her in my mom.




My mommy has always been a hottie. I’m not sure how she managed to skip over the awkward stage that most of us have (or in my case, am still having), but she did.

She is definitely my favorite person. No matter what I do, she supports me 100%. She paid for my first degree, has helped me move to and from countless apartments, and has done her best to help me whenever I ask. She has yet to complain that I am moving back to Scotland in 60 days.

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She really is the only one who gets me. We laugh at things no one thinks are funny, we can spend hours watching cat videos, and she supports all of my crazy ideas for back-up careers.


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She lost her mom  20 years ago and I think that made her work extra hard to make sure that all of us kids were taken care of. We know we can always come home, always call her for help, and count on her to do something to make us laugh. She spoils us rotten (but I am totally okay with that).

She is my best friend and favorite person. I pity people who do not have a mom as awesome as mine.

The Scamp and a Wedding

Yesterday I watched my college roommate get married.

After a 12 hour round trip drive, I am pretty much fried, so I will leave my corner of blogging heaven with these

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This girl mailed me baklava to Scotland when I was depressed about David, sent me puppy videos when Brian dumped me, and let me snark with her at her own wedding. Despite not having physically seen each other since I graduated in 2009, it was like no time passed at all. The hug I got, and the little bit of one on one time was great. Next time I am shooting for a less formal reunion though. I felt honored that she let me share her special day with her and her new husband. I knew 5 years ago that they were going to get married, and I know that they are going to have babies that love the Dodgers and hate football. I cannot wait to see what the future brings for them.


Mazel you two crazy lovebirds!


I’ll get back to the regularly scheduled blogging tomorrow.


The Scamp Unloads a Burden

I’ve been pretending I’m fine for months, thinking that if I pretended I wasn’t depressed again, it would go away. I said I was fine so many times that I created, and then destroyed a relationship I had no business being in. I said I fine so many times that I eventually was consumed by the word and didn’t know how to say I was unhappy, or that I needed help beyond what anyone I love could objectively give me.

I’m an avid freshly presser. I love reading what people have to say on subjects I am interested in (and one day secretly hope to grace the page). Today I came across a blog that perfectly captured how I feel (You can find the owner of the words that so perfectly capture what I am sure many people struggling with depression feel here:

BDR writes:

When you’re in the clutches of depression, it requires an enormous amount of energy. Many a day I’ve gone to work, said nothing except a couple of ‘fine thank yous’ , and come home utterly exhausted. Which has a knock-on effect on my ability to do it all over again the next day.

But there’s another problem – a more insidious problem – with lying. Every time you tell someone you are ‘fine’ – when you’re not – you buy into the belief that it’s not acceptable to be depressed. In other words, the act of concealing your true mood, sends a subconscious message that it needs concealing, that it’s something to be ashamed of.

I’m exhausted. I spent so much time anxiously worried about the state of my relationship, or how busy I was, or how behind I fell with school work, that I could literally crawl in bed and sleep for days. In fact, I would like nothing more than to pull the covers over my head and not resurface until all of these feelings have passed.

I saw a therapist on campus…..I didn’t like her (I have since made a new appointment with a different person in hopes of finding a better fit).

I have three jobs and no insurance, so I didn’t look for an affordable option.

I have phoned it in at work and school, and not many people would have ever known something was wrong until last week when I lost control of my tear ducts and cried in oddest of places.

My self-worth at this moment is severely lacking. It is the one thing that I need to work on figuring out. It is one of the reasons I jumped into a relationship, it is one of the reasons I hide behind school, and it is one of the things I am constantly reminded of, but am somehow unable to see.

Today was my lucky day in class though. I got two cards from two of my favorite cohort members. One was a great note thanking me for being me, and listing qualities that she enjoyed about me. She has been doing this every week for the different members of our group, and mine just so happened to come at a time when I needed a reminder to look at all the good about myself.

The second card came from a woman that I love. he is one of the bravest, warmest, and inspired people I have ever met. She has a passion for people that is beyond anything I can hope to have, and she constantly reminds me what it means to fully invest in your dreams. She was a strong comforting shoulder for me last week, and the card she gave me tonight will be one I keep close for a good long while.

It says:

It isn’t always easy to make changes, but there’s no better advice than this: just do your best. Make sure you stay strong enough to move ahead, because there are some wonderful rewards waiting for you.

It won’t all make sense right away, but I promise you; over the course of time, answers will come, decisions will prove to be the right ones, and the path will be easier to see. Here are some things you can do that will help see you through….

You can have hope. Because it works wonders for those who have it. You can be optimistic. Because people who expect things to turn out for the best often set the stage to receive a beautiful result. You can put things into perspective. Because some things are important and others are definitely not.

You can remember that beyond the clouds, the sun is still shining. You can meet each challenge and give it all you’ve got.

You can count your blessings. You can be inspired to climb your ladders and have some nice long conversations with your wishing stars. You can be strong and patient. You can be gentle and wise.

And you can believe in happy endings. Because you are the author if the story of your life.

                                                                                                Douglas Pagels

I’m going to look to the strong and patient, gentle and wise parts to get me through.

As per my usual, I have been way too emotionally open and honest about being a hot mess. This blog was supposed to be my adventures in Scotland, and then my adventures in the doctoral program. It has become my outlet for all of the thoughts and feelings that I can’t seem to voice in my everyday life. I don’t hide behind the anonymity that the blogosphere offers since I post the link to my Facebook, and I am sure one day I will cringe about all of the things I have put out into the world, but right now, in this moment, I feel a little bit better about getting this off my chest.