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.

The Scamp and the Gratitude Challenge: Week 29 and 30

I am back to Scotland in three days.


I have my visa, some money to put into my bank account, and on Friday, I will ship some more of my boxes to my new address. The last two weeks have been a flurry of worry and trying to get everything squared away, packed, and ready for my return. I haven’t written anything, have barely looked at the work I need to do, and have skipped an awful lot of yoga.

That is why it is important to get back to the gratitude challenge and keep myself in positive thoughts. That way, when I make it home, I will get back to doing yoga, not eating cheese, and making headway with both my job and my dissertation.

Week 29 is all about my favorite memory. I have a lot of memories that qualify as favorites, but I think one that I really enjoy is one of my first trips to the hospital….at least that I remember. I was 7 or 8 and my mom, brother, sister, and I were in Palm Springs visiting my grandparents. When my parents got divorced, mom took us and my dad took the money, so my grandparents used to have us come down and they would treat us to a weekend of swimming and eating out and movies. On this trip, after a day of swimming, my ear hurt really bad. After a few hours I couldn’t take the pain anymore, so we went to the ER to try and figure out how to make the pain stop. While we were waiting to be seen by a doctor, I was worried about what was going to happen to me when they called me back. My  grandma assured me that everything would be fine. She said she would draw me a picture, and I was sure to love it. When she was done, she proudly held up the picture. It showed a very scared looking me bent over with my little butt in the air, and a doctor with a giant needle about to give me a shot. I cried when I saw it, and the first thing I asked the doctor when we went back was whether or not I was going to get a shot. The doctor did a lot of poking around in my ear, and after a little bit of digging, the doctor was able to get wax, and a lot of water out of my ear.

While this doesn’t seem like it should be a memory that I would love, it is one of the few that I can remember of my grandma. She was killed in a car crash a year later. It has been almost 20 years since that happened. I’ve spent more time without her than I did with her, so I hold dear any memory that involves her. When I tell that story to people who knew her, they always laugh and say “That sounds like Frannie alright. Always trying to make people laugh.”Although I wasn’t laughing then, I always laugh about it now. I know that if she was still alive, she would have drawn some possibly offensive pictures while I was getting expelled. It makes me smile to think about what she would have said during that time.

Week 30 is all about my favorite thing about my age. This is an easy one. I think 28 is a pretty great age. I’m old enough to be a proper adult, but young enough to still do crazy things like getting tattooed in Estonia and packing up and moving to Scotland to start my life as an official expat. I am really stoked about being 28 because it means I am that much closer to being 30. I’ve decided that by the time that I am 30 I am going to have my shit together. My best friend and I have a saying that I repeated over and over and over again in the last year: We just have to make it to 30.” My 30s are going to be the best years of my life, and I have still have two years to get everything in order and running smoothly. 28 is playing a big part in making that happen. I found out I got the job in Scotland on my 28th birthday, I jumped out of an airplane, had all kinds of adventures, and still have a lot of time left as a 28 year old. 28 will end with me being an aunt, so short of winning the lottery and being able to pay off all of my loans, I cannot see how it can get any better.

I know that it is technically almost the end of week 31, the week is not over so there is still time for me to stay up-to-date on the challenge. I’m also excited that I will finally be living up to the title of this blog and be writing abroad.

The Scamp and Her Favorite Toy

Today I finished my second week of teaching.

Good news! I still love it.

For the start of every class I teach, I have the student correct a sentence to practice their grammar and sentence writing, and then I have them answer a question or prompt. My goal with these exercises is to help my student keep their grammar skills in check, and to get themselves in a writing mindset. The journal questions range from “If you were stuck on an island with the Kardashians, who would you kill first and why?” to “Tell me about your favorite school experience to date.” The goal of the exercise is not to stump my students, but allow them ten or so minutes to write some pretty prose. This week I introduced them to the concept of writing from recall. To get class started, I asked my students what their favorite childhood toy was.

I got some very interesting answers. One student said they loved a battery operated red hen that laid eggs. The hen had been a 4th birthday gift. Another student mentioned how much they loved collecting and playing marbles. While I read their entries tonight, I thought about my favorite toy. I’ve had a lot of them. I used to love playing with my Barbies, and with my Polly Pockets. I loved Polly Pockets.


8399216917_0a1fbb8af9_zThere was one thing that I loved more than Barbies, Polly Pockets, and any other toy that I owned.

His name was Bun. The exact origin of Bun is unknown, but he was my best friend. He went everywhere with me. I was a really shy kid (I know, hard to believe), so more often than not, you could find me sitting alone sucking my thumb and rubbing Bun’s ear.


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Bun had his fair share of adventures. I remember one such outing to the local Price Club (now known as Costco). My brother, sister and I were sitting in the cart on our way to the car. My brother and I ended up in a tug-of-war over Bun. Before I knew it, I pulled Bun back to safety….or at least I thought I did. I had Bun in my hands, and my brother had Bun’d ear in the other. I screamed bloody murder. I cried until the next door neighbor sewed the ear back on and returned Bun safely to me. Before too long, Bun got old and warn out. He was replaced with Bun number 2. Bun 2.0  was just as special as Bun the original. He went everywhere with me. I quickly rubbed down all of the fir on his arm and ear with my worrying. I continued to suck my thumb.

My parents were really worried that I would walk down the aisle sucking my thumb, so they decided that the only way I was going to break the habit was if I no longer had bun. My mom had been reading me the Velveteen Rabbit for years, and it was one of my favorite stories.


Christmas of the year I turned five, my mom snuck Bun 2.0 from my bed. I woke up and was stressed that I couldn’t find my best friend. My mom told me to just come out to the living room to open presents and then she would help me find Bun. When I walked into the living room, I saw a pink cage with a small white rabbit in it. There was a note from Santa (that looked a lot like my mom’s handwriting now that I think about it) saying that since I loved Bun 2.0 so much, Santa was turning him into a real rabbit for me to love and take care of. I of course named him Bun.

He didn’t stay little for long. He was huge! I remember him sitting at the back door thumping his feet at coyotes and stray cats. I remember him chewing on everything. I  bought him a pink leash and used to take him on walks in the backyard.

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When my parents got divorced and we moved to a condo, Bun had free run of the house. He dug a hole in the small patio and found himself a cool place to lay. He ate the lining out of my mom’s golf bag and made himself a nest in the garage on really hot days. He spent a lot of time hiding in the garage. I used to go out and try to coax out of hiding. I remember holding him on my lap, and how annoyed Kelly got when I wanted him to sleep in our room (I guess 2 am calisthenics is not for everyone).

Bun lived a long time. When he was six years old, my mom found him in the garage. It might have been the heat, it might have been his age, but he went to the big alfalfa field in the sky. I wasn’t home when my mom found him, but I remember crying until I had the hiccups. I called my best friend Julia (Who is still a friend to this day) and left a sad message on her answering machine. A few years after my parents had replaced Bun 2.0, Socks, the family cat accidentally found his hiding place in my mom’s closet. I got to have Bun, and Bun 2.0. When Bun died, I pulled Bun 2.0 off the shelf and he slept in my bed for years after that.

When I moved to Merced to go to college, I left Bun at home. When my family came up to visit on parent’s weekend, my mom brought him with her and left him on my bed before they returned home. He moved with me to San Diego, and then back home before I went to Scotland. He stayed in the States, and now holds a place of honor on my dresser. Every now and then, when I am having a rough day, I pull him off the shelf and rub his ear and his arm to comfort myself.

27 years later, he is still my favorite toy.


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