Sunday, 23 December 2012

After 440 days...

Photo courtesy of Danny Smith (friend and early riser) I will be home for the first time since I left England.


Saturday, 22 December 2012

Thursday, 20 December 2012


We arrived at LGW at around 7:00 AM local time. We've had the most wonderful first day here with my brother, Wren, and our friend Vicky. There has been much laughter, great food (including homemade breakfast pie!), and a general relief at finally coming back. I'll try to blog again later during our time here, but for now I'm just going to enjoy being home. 

Breakfast pie. No joke. Yay!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Yeah, but, no, but...

It's the evening before we fly home, and I couldn't be more elated or more scatterbrained. I'm packed. All the pets' stuff is prepared. Ben did an amazing job cleaning the whole house today. I squeezed in a quick holiday pedicure so I can wear some heels while we're away. We're about to spend a couple of hours cuddled up watching 'Love Actually' and eating home-made ice cream. I am back and forth about being ready and not being ready. I am. I'm not. But I am!

So... this is what an expat looks like right before her first ever trip home after over a year living Stateside. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Days of miracle and wonder

Baking for Thanksgiving - I made shortbread!
I started writing this post on the evening of Thanksgiving. That's now over three weeks ago, and I only got as far as this sentence. So, I guess this can now be about Thanksgiving and everything since, rather than just a quick update on my second Thanksgiving in NC, although there's not been a whole lot going on that I would say is blog-worthy, more just a few personal bits and pieces. Thanksgiving was a really lovely day spent with Ben's family, eating a helluva lot of turkey, congratulating Ben's cousin on her upcoming wedding, catching up with people we'd not seen in a while, and celebrating the fact that it was the penultimate day of Ben's old job, as he was to start his new one the following Monday. More on that later!

Digging for potatoes with Dad circa 1987

The other reason that Thanksgiving was more significant to me this year was because it fell on the same day as my Dad's 60th birthday. My Dad was 30 when he had me, so there was a special kind of symmetry in my head about this birthday, and I was really sad to miss the actual day itself so I could tell Dad in person how much I love him. However, he sent me a lovely video of him listening to my gift to him (the 25th Anniversary edition of Paul Simon's 'Graceland') and we managed to Skype briefly before Ben and I went to Thanksgiving dinner, which was wonderful!

B, after a walk, a run, and some play time in the yard!
In general, the menagerie is fine, but we've had a few dramas. Bertie has been diagnosed with anxiety, which sometimes manifests itself in stress colitis. She suffers from separation anxiety and winds herself up terribly when left alone. We have, in general, before we even knew this, always tried to keep time alone for the dogs to a minimum - why have a dog if you're just going to leave it all the time? But of course, there are times when I have to leave her alone (albeit with Satine), and even though she comes to work with me, I can only spend my lunch hour with her, and the rest of the time she and Satine have a run outside or a pen indoors in the warm.

So, she gets extremely hyper, paces, pants, yips, barks, cries, and sometimes even thrashes against whatever is between us and her to get to us. It's incredibly upsetting to see her so distressed. She cannot focus on anything else when she is like that, and so even if you go to get her once she has calmed down, she simply ramps right back up again.

Fortunately, we have the most wonderful vets, and Dr. Johnson has been helping us to manage Bertie's issues in order to help her keep calm and reduce the physiological effects of her nerves. She is now on a bland diet to try to calm her stomach; she has Benadryl when she needs it to allow her to focus and listen for greetings and departures, and metronidazole to help her stomach stay calm (explosive diarrhoea is not fun, let me assure you); and most importantly, she has a new exercise routine that will hopefully not only tire her out, but give her psychological peace too.

Because B has some herding breed in her (most likely Collie), she needs a "job". So, Ben and I are taking it in turns each day to run 1-2 miles (more when he and I are fitter, but that will take a little while!), with Bertie running along with us wearing a dog backpack. No, we have not become those dog owners and started accessorising our pets - I promise this is veterinary advice! - but in actual fact the backpack is a symbol of it being "time to work" for Bertie, as well as providing some extra weight to ensure she burns more energy. Currently I just put a small bottle of water, my phone, some poop bags, and a house key in there, but as she gets fitter and more used to running, we can put bigger water bottles in there as weights. So far, it seems to be working, and I'm so very glad to see behavioural methods having such a positive effect after just a week of implementing the new routine. Long may it continue! She's an incredibly smart, special dog (I know, all owners say that!), and it's great to know we can help her to be a happier little lady.

Anyone with a cat needs to do this
Wash has also given us some cause for concern, but everything seems under control now. He was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (reasonably common for cats; his murmur is rated 4/6 on the scale) back in August, and has been on a beta blocker since then to reduce the likelihood of him having a heart attack. He's been generally great taking the medicine and has also become more affectionate and playful with us. That may of course be a function of time as well as feeling better, but either way, he seems happy.

Last week he was scheduled to have a dental clean, but Dr. Johnson heard something rattling on his lungs that she was not comfortable with. He'd had a cough for a couple of weeks but he'd been on antibiotics for that as it had sounded like a throat infection. So, some X-rays were done of his chest to investigate further. It turns out that he had some fluid on his lungs (another common issue for heart problem kitties) and so anaesthesia would not have been a good idea at all. He's now on another medication to help him get rid of the fluid, and will be having his teeth made all shiny come January, provided that his cough has gone.

The thing with cats is that they seem just fine right up until the point that they're definitely not fine. He's been just the same as always: playful, miaowing for food and treats; winding the dogs up; stealing water from our glasses; trying to pull cupboard doors open; rearranging DVDs; stealing receipts from Ben's in tray - all the usual fun Wash stuff. I am so very glad we have caught this now, and that he is being treated for it already, much as it's worrying in itself. I'd much rather know. He's a delightful cat - his morning cuddles are especially sweet! - and I want to make sure he gets the best care for all his poor heart ailments.

Satine matches the autumnal colours
Satine has recently mastered being able to "shake" with both paws. She also pooped out a piece of pink fleece last week, and has a new favourite stick that she keeps in the yard. With the other sticks.

This dog is the most wonderful derp in the universe. Everything about her has an element of silly, from her daft long legs to her wonky smile to her love affair with sleep. She's doing great and seems to know this is her home forever now.

Although I may not be mentally prepared,
Christmas jumpers have certainly
been purchased and packed.
So, it's no wonder I've not had much time to think about anything else leading up to us going home for Christmas! Aren't you glad we don't have children yet?! I can bore you enough just with fur-baby updates. Apologies for the length and detail there but, what with me being a new pet parent, generally an anxious person, and being totally immersed in the veterinary environment 4-5 days out of every week, I tend to be a little preoccupied with the canine and feline these days.

Seriously though, I actually think being so busy and having distractions like other creatures to care for has made me cope with facing the reality of being back home - or at least made me suspend belief that it's happening. I've purposefully made sure we've not made too many concrete plans in order that we can maximise on chilling out time as well, rather than rushing around trying to see every person we can possibly squeeze in. Other than that though, I haven't allowed myself to think much on the reality of being back when I have had time to do so, as I get so overwhelmed (with happiness!) that I just cry. To imagine actually seeing people like my brother and sister-in-law, my parents, my childhood friends, my old colleagues, my friend-families, all back in my home country... It's just a bit too much. I guess that might also be why I have put off writing a blog post for so long too, as well as being pretty tight for time, because putting it into words makes me have to process it, and I'm not sure how I feel about it just yet. That probably sounds far too dramatic, but other than already being really overjoyed at seeing people I treasure and excited at feeling the familiar ground of my little town beneath my feet again, I'm not entirely sure what to expect emotionally. I'll keep you posted.

So, back to US happenings. Ben is loving his new job at Old Navy, and the whole package is just kinder in general to him, us, and our life together. The work itself keeps him interested and meeting people. The hours are not killer (at least not every day -  the week leading up to Christmas is a little different!). The way the company takes care of its employees in terms of benefits and employee discount is incredible (we now have proper health insurance and all benefits offered apply to married and unmarried couples, including same-sex couples - the kind of company I wholeheartedly salute!), and they have a great salary, prospects, and holiday plan in place already. I'm very impressed, and so happy that Ben is happier. We both feel very fortunate.

We celebrated our one year wedding anniversary at the beginning of the month. Mum and Dad were kind/living dangerously enough to send us an ice cream maker as a gift, and funnily enough it's been hard not to use it every day. It makes (or rather, Ben makes!) absolutely delicious, creamy, decadent ice cream, and it's a fun thing to do, too. So far we have tried chocolate with fresh strawberry chunks, and more recently Baileys chocolate ice cream. Come the summer time we can make sorbet and yoghurt-style treats too. Yum!

It's just amazing that we have been married a whole year. While it has flown by, it also feels like things have felt "right" for a good majority of that time, like we have established more than the average couple in our first year of marriage. Our house, our place here together already feels like home, even as an expat who is constantly experiencing new things or having to readjust (albeit only slightly for the most part). We work together wonderfully well, have jobs we both enjoy now, a beloved network of family and friends around Charlotte (and some further out across America), and of course our own critter crew in our own four walls. Along with the joy of normalcy and contentment is the magic of being in love, and being married to a man who I love and loves me in a way I only thought possible in fairy tales. I am grateful every day for the magic he brings to the world. (Feel free to vomit now!)

Only cool people allowed

Time for festivities!
Since our anniversary, we've been catching up with family and friends, trying to spend time together, and preparing ourselves and our house for our visit to England. We went to see 'The Hobbit' in 3D (an early Christmas present from me to Ben) on its opening night, which meant the midnight showing. It was an extra challenge for me as we got in at 3AM and I had to be up for work at 5AM. However, it was such a treat, both in terms of how happy it made Ben and because it was a really fantastic movie, that I didn't really notice how tired I was until late on Friday evening. That was also the evening that we had Ben's folks and siblings over to our house for a 'Christmas' dinner. Ben had the day off and prepared a fabulous feast of roast beef, mashed sweet potatoes, sprouts, cauliflower cheese, and I made Yorkshire Puddings when I got home from work. Everyone brought something to add to the meal, from cheese to veggie dishes, to pudding and cake. We had an absolutely delightful evening, chatting, laughing, and generally being festive; and it was an extra special treat because we won't be seeing that side of the family over the holiday period at all. I guess we'll always be missing someone.

That about sums it up. Congratulations if you made it this far; I apologise that this post has sounded somewhat like a five year old's diary ("...then this happened, then this, then this... and then THIS!") but I just haven't had much to blog about from an expat point of view and there's only been minor personal stuff going on, at least in the grand scheme of things. I suppose it's possible to see this as evidence of how far I've come in just over a year. I'm generally content, settled and very, very happy. Life is calm and beautiful; I feel like I fit into NC without compromising who I am and I take a great deal of joy from everyday experiences (although that was true before I moved, I think). I love living here, and I'm learning to both adapt to and challenge various aspects of American life as I immerse myself in it more and more. Naturally, I'm still as English as they come, but becoming somewhat binational seems to suit me too. There's exhilaration and sweet mundanity all at once.

I blame my parents.
And by "blame" I mean "thank". 
So all that remains for me to do is pack the last of my things, irritate our house-sitters for the bazillionth time checking that they have everything they need, cuddle my critters excessively the day before we go, and get my Oyster card ready for some serious swipe-age.

I can't wait to go home.

P.S. As if England couldn't get any more exciting, guess who I will be seeing there during the holidays?!

Le squee!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Water and butter

The equivalent of me trying to speak AmE 
It's been over a year since I moved to the US, and I have to say that I think I'm pretty well settled, and not just in the circumstantial sense (house, car job). I feel like I live here and, as I've mentioned before, leaving here makes me feel like I'm leaving "home", albeit not in quite the same way as leaving England did and does. I feel settled, and very fortunate to be in that state of mind this early in the game.

Of course, my Englishness is still probably my most prominent feature when people first meet me, and this was never more obvious than today when, in Harris Teeter (like Tesco, but nowhere near as good in terms of range or price), I went to get a sandwich from the deli'. I asked for butter on my bread, rather than mayonnaise or mustard (the two things I was offered), and was met with a totally perplexed (although still friendly) look from the lady serving me. At first I thought it was because of the abomination of not selecting mayo - something that Ben finds hard to understand, too. It seems it's quite normal to use mayo in sandwiches in NC in the same way we use butter back home: to moisten the bread a little. However, I see butter as a bland spread (if it's the unsalted, lower fat variety) so it is a simply functional addition rather than really adding any flavour, whereas mayonnaise definitely has that vinegar tang to it, which changes the taste of the sandwich. Plus you can get egg or chicken mayo sandwich fillings, so then do you double up your mayonnaise, or simply put the filling between the bread and chow down?

But I digress. The lady at the counter was not balking at my choice of bread lubricant, but puzzled because she did not know what I had asked for. Because I cannot - and will not, because I sound ridiculous and a little bit like I'm taking the mickey - say "budder", many Americans don't know what I am asking for. The annunciation of the "t" has a habit of throwing people here, and the following conversation is not uncommon:

Me: Could I have it with butter, please.
Lady: With what, ma'am?
Me: Butter, please?
Lady: What?
Me: Butter. You know, like margarine, but not margarine? The good stuff?
Lady: Oh! Budder!

The same thing happens with "wadder", another word for which it seems impossible for me to soften or fake my accent. It's happened in restaurants more times than I can remember.

But we get there in the end. Once the lady knew I wanted butter, we laughed about whole thing. She then went in search of some, and quickly returned with it. In a bottle.

I've still got a way to go.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

For more years, please...

It's been quite a week!  We spent last weekend out with our beloved Cassie for her birthday (and I sadly lost a much-loved scarf from home during the night); we cooked pork belly at home for the first time (and by "we" I mean "Ben); Obama was re-elected; my Stroud scarf was found and returned to me by the lovely people at Hartigan's pub; I had a hair cut; Ben had an amazing job offer; I bought non-necessary clothes for the first time in a long time; we had a Saturday evening AND Sunday morning together consecutively; and today we saw a bird of prey just casually sat in our back garden. Let's hope this lovely trend of random and happy instances continues for as long as possible.

Without further ado, here's a collage of all the QE happenings in the last week...

Having just cleaned the house for the past 3.5 hours, I'm now exhausted, so that's all the writing I can manage! I'll attempt a proper post this week. Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Four More Years

BBC online coverage announcement at 23:25 EST

The Empire State Building is lit blue to signify a Democrat win

Obama 2012

Thank goodness.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Sunday, 4 November 2012

You may be certain...

Llama 2012

Right now, I cannot wait for the election to be over. Sure, I'm looking forward to the night itself: it'll be my first US election from this side of the pond, and I am eagerly anticipating watching the results come in, discussing it with Ben and our friends and family as the process goes on. It'll also be interesting to compare it to the way it's done in Britain.

Binders Full of Women
I have not enjoyed the vitriol that comes with the Presidential election. People are sensationalist; the bipartisan arguments go too far into irrelevant topics, and too often discussion deteriorates into name-calling and slander. While I am quite convinced that I fall to the extreme of one side in my views (I'm a Democrat because I feel that they are the only party treating people like human beings, when it comes down to it), that does not mean that a) the other party/independent candidates have nothing of value to contribute and b) that I somehow have the right to be rude about the other candidates on a personal level. I am able to say that Mitt Romney seems an inconsistent, disingenuous, and callous politician, but it doesn't follow that I have to express hatred towards the man himself. He may make a terrible President because of those things, but it doesn't mean that who he is as a person is inherently bad.

Painted on a wall in NoDa, Charlotte, NC
Photo taken November 3rd 2012.
It's true that both Ben and I would be very concerned if Romney were to be elected. Not just because of the attributes listed above, but because of what it potentially means about what America values as a population, about what sort of behaviour and prejudices are apparently okay in the name of wealth, individualism, and control. Although people may elect Romney because of the slow progress made with the economy under the Obama administration and a belief that the Republican policies will improve the situation faster, to choose (potential and not clearly outlined) plans for increased affluence when simultaneously accompanied by such bigotry seems incredible to me. You may end up with more money, but women, homosexual people, poorer citizens, and anyone who can't afford $600 or so a month on health insurance will all be taking a huge step backwards. I know that I am speaking from a position of comfort, but I would not take any amount of money, tangible or promised, if it had those conditions attached. I'm not sure I want to live in a country where the majority of people voted that they would.

Overall, though, I'm fed up with the whole thing. I can't stand the bickering; the petty sniping from both sides; the demonstrable lack of awareness of the rest of the world highlighted by media coverage. I can't even vote to make myself feel better! So my go-to trick for dealing with sudden onset election negativity is to watch the Romney vs. Obama Epic Rap Battle video, which I think actually sums up the whole thing rather well, and makes me laugh a bit too much.

That pretty much concludes any Queen's English USA Presidential election coverage until after the 6th. I will probably tweet a little throughout the evening itself, as the states' responses come in, but until then, please enjoy two Presidential candidates getting verbally and physically bitch-slapped for disintegrating the 2012 electoral campaigns into variations of the same turd.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The saddest lines

Sweet Ender Dog - a little collage of the last year or so

There's a huge gap at home.
This time last week, we had to rush our older dog, Ender, into the vet for an early morning appointment. He'd been panting and drooling in the small hours, and unable to rest at all. It's a long story cut short, but despite having several other "old man" issues (he was 14, so he had problems with arthritis, his heart, and he was also getting senile, but his demeanour and quality of life were so good, especially for his age and in spite of these conditions), it was a totally new condition that our vet diagnosed: gastric torsion. This would not necessarily have been such bad news had he been younger and healthier in order to benefit from - and indeed survive - surgery, but because of his age and other afflictions, we came to the horrible, sad, and somehow shocking conclusion that we had to let him go.

Thank you, everyone at CCVH. 
I don't want to go into it any more than that, but we're still somewhat in shock a week later, so I don't quite know what else to say about anything else, either. I miss him very much, and my heart aches in his absence. I was only part of Ender's life for a year of his fourteen, whereas Ben has had him since he was a puppy. The gap for him is that much bigger, and connected to so much more. It also hits you at the strangest times, so we seem okay for portions of the day, and then we'll realise that we were looking for him, or expecting him to howl when we go to take out the rubbish, or think we hear him moving around upstairs.

Our vet and everyone there were just amazing. They have been so supportive and understanding, and today we received Ender's paw print cast and such a lovely card from them. We can't begin to thank them enough for how much we appreciate them.

"Love is so short, forgetting is so long." Not that we want to forget. We want to remember his good days; his silly way of walking around with a toy (not running off, just walking around happily with it in his mouth, whining); his habit of head-butting the leash in excitement when it was time for a walk; his expression after a full shave-down groom; how totally unbothered he was by most things; how much he liked cheese; his sweet way with people, and gentle manner around pretty much all creatures. I just mean that I think you do manage to convince yourself to forget how hard, how heavy, grief is. And how very long.

Sleep tight, Ender dog. We miss you, and we love you.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

If needed, I'll be there

The start of this post is infused by wine and thus is only going to be brief. I shall write the rest under conditions of strictest sobriety, in order that it is not overly sentimental, or more rambling than usual. But on the last night of my parents' visit, and with them asleep and my husband just gone to bed, I am sat listening to music and can't help but reflect on their stay and my feelings about them leaving.

Sorrow and pain are the two emotions I immediately associate with them returning to England. I can't help it, and I've tried so very hard to pretend it's not happening. In fact, it's actually been easier than I imagined, because we have now finalised our booking for coming to the UK for the Christmas break, so I know that I won't be apart from them for more than two months or so. Ten months, and an unspecified ten months, was pretty awful. I don't want to do that again. All the same, not having them within the immediate vicinity (be it neighbourhood or state) is going to take some adjustment. We've lapsed into our usual family routine with blessed ease and delight, so to have it removed is going to hurt. It's like they should always be here; they are such travellers and world citizens indeed that it feels like they already belong - part-time at least - in the Queen City.

Seeing them has both invigorated and confirmed my choice and belief in my choice of moving here. I am happy, and the people who love me most outside of my marriage, my parents, know it. They can see it when they come to our house; they get it when they see Ben and I living, loving, being together; they enjoy our little furry family being part of our lives; and they've experienced our home and life here too. Reservations of course include the obvious limitations in health care, ridiculous political and religious extremism, terrible driving etiquette, and the massive bloody ocean between us all. But other than that, I get the impression that my parents see what a lovely life we're lucky enough to lead.

So, what is the point of this post? I guess that it's my apprehension that my stay in America isn't just an extended holiday. We knew this anyway; the intention was always to really live here, and to build a life here. We're not country-hoppers, and our relationship is the most permanent, beautiful thing in the world. But currently (and possibly election result/child bearing-willing), I guess we are contemplating a long-term lifetime here. We want to come back to England, for holidays, long stays, and also - in theory - to live, whether it be for a short period before returning to the US, or to make a commitment to living in the UK properly. It's my true home, and I know Ben is so very keen to make that move, too. But from where we currently stand, and without visiting England for a good 18 months, it's seeming like we might stay where we are.

It's not like this is news to me. I just haven't really contemplated it openly before now. I am very happy here. I like life in America - with Ben and in our house, our neighbourhood, our town, our state. There are definite drawbacks (expensive healthcare, excessive religious involvement, bipartisan politics, the war on women - see above), and cultural adaptations I have made without being aware of them, but I know I have definitely altered my expectations and behaviour to fit in a little more here. It's also not written in stone that we would stay forever and ever, either. It just feels more possible.

*end late night wine rambles*

0955 10/19/12: See what I mean?! I've even written the date in the American format. Bah. But today is the day my parents go home, so I'm going to have to continue this later today or over the weekend.

1042 10/20/12: I wrote the first part of this post thinking that I would be more likely to backtrack on what I said about staying here once my parents had returned home. I think that's why I persuaded myself to write it when I did, in order that I said it honestly, before I was influenced by the massive gap in my heart that my Mum and Dad not being here has left.

But I still feel the same way.

Walking around our house this morning was a quite sad, as it was so quiet after being filled with the bustle, laughter, and general lives of four people, three dogs, and a cat. With Mum and Dad back in England, Ben at work, the cat AWOL, and at least one dog asleep, it was a little too peaceful as I pottered around tidying and staring absent-mindedly at things earlier today. But in a way, I was still happy. Really quite happy.

This house, this place, feels like home. Walking through our neighbourhood at 8:45AM in my polka-dot pyjamas and hooded dressing gown (yes, I'm that classy chick you see from time to time) with the two puppies trotting merrily along with me, waving to the ladies who live across the street and getting nods from passers-by in cars, while the whole time enjoying the fresh air and autumn sunshine, reminded me what a home we've built here already. It's a wonderful place to live, both socially and meteorologically, and is filled with people I'm lucky enough to say I love and places that feel almost as familiar to me as those I've visited for 10+ years back in England.

So, what am I trying to say? I guess just that I'm at a point I didn't think I'd arrive at so soon: that I feel at home here, at least in our little microcosm of America. I can reel off a list of why the UK is a better place to live overall (from a dispassionate point of view), and I will always be hugely torn by being so far away from those who, apart from Ben, I love most in the world. The distance from my beloved parents, brother, sister-in-law, and several friends who I count amongst family in every way that matters is something that could be the deal-breaker. Coming to England for Christmas may turn this post around almost entirely too - I'm aware I'm speaking from a rather literally and metaphorically distanced perspective right now, so I could be totally missing half of the story, but nevertheless wanted to get it "on paper" for posterity.

We may still come back to England to live, and it's certainly not off the table in any significant way. It's a decision Ben and I will take together, and not for a few years yet I should think (which we have said from the beginning). But when and if we do, leaving Charlotte to move back to the UK won't be just coming home any more. It will be leaving another home behind too.

Thursday, 4 October 2012


I'm trying to stay so very calm about Mum and Dad arriving, but I just looked at the countdown on here, saw that it was 3 days and 18 hours, and promptly burst into happy tears. Oh dear! I do not know how I am going to hold it together at the airport. I'm already a (joyful) mess.

I've already written about how much I bloody love my parents. I'm in that lucky, socially awkward number that count their parents as people they adore hanging out with, who consider them to be a mandatory, doctor's orders, once-a-week-minimum social engagement. They're just brilliant people who I miss more than I can possibly write or verbalise (see the most recent QE v-log for evidence of this). AND THEY ARE HERE IN LESS THAN FOUR DAYS!


Today was spent doing a giant shop to get in loads of lovely things for them while they're here. I've also been preparing the spare room, making sure it's spick and span, cat-free (Dad is allergic), and full of useful things. Tomorrow I'll be at work at the vet and preparing for a shoot; Saturday will be at said shoot; Sunday will be spent editing photos from the shoot, and cleaning the house at the speed of light. Then it will be Monday, which is a half day at work for me and Ben, and then they will be here. Here. As in where I am.

I wish I could write something half decent to try to express how I feel. I haven't seen them for ten whole months, which is a big thing for any expat (if you ask me). Your family provides such a fundamental framework for who you are that, when displaced physically and emotionally, the idea of such an integral part of your existence coming into your new space makes you feel simultaneously relieved, excited, and unbearably elated.

It's not like they're going to fix anything (there's nothing to fix); it's not like they're staying for a prolonged period, so I can't get used to them being in Charlotte; and it's not like we've not been in touch (we have Skype, What'sApp, email, post etc.). But I haven't seen them. I haven't really heard them. I've not hugged them. I've not had a snorting girl giggle with Mum, haven't heard my Dad's booming laugh from three storeys above where he actually is seated, and not felt that literally innate sense of belonging.

I cannot wait for them to be here.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

I never lived a year better spent in love

A couple of nights ago, I was struck by a sudden urge to look back through our wedding photos. It was such a joyful, exhilarating, magical day, and I was amazed by how well the photographs captured that feeling. The warm, elevated buzz of being loved and surrounded by love is indescribable, but somehow the images had some sense of it, even though frozen in time.

Then it hit me: on October 11th, I will have lived in Charlotte for a year. A whole year! Where did that go?! Of course, I still feel like a total newbie. I'm constantly learning even now, and I think I will always feel a kind of displacement, however much the Queen City feels like a second home.

Just after landing at CLT
Rather than ramble on about what I think has changed and how I think I have adapted, I thought I'd do what I did just before I left: a v-log, answering questions (so still rambling, but just in video form!). I still plan on doing my accent comparison video too, as per the first one I did just after I emigrated, but I thought another Q&A might be fun right now.

So, if you would like to ask a question about life in America, life as an expat, life as an expat coming to the end of her freshman year, language, accent, lifestyle, food, driving, or anything else you can think of, please get in touch! You can leave a comment on this post, write to me via message or wall post on Facebook, text me, email me, Skype me, pigeon - whichever suits you! Everyone is welcome, whether an old friend, an internet friend, a stranger, an expat buddy, a blog lurker, a first-time visitor to QE, or A.N. other. More than one question is more than fine, too. I would love to have a great mix of questions like last time; they really made me consider things I probably hadn't overtly analysed before, or even that I hadn't previously even thought of. I should be able to have the v-log done by the end of the weekend. Hope to hear from you, and I look forward to your questions!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Dewclaw debacle

Doing well after surgery
This week has been something of an emotional rollercoaster, because I have been overtired, apparently was somewhat hormonal, felt really quite homesick (well, familysick), had some tough customers at work, have not been able to see Ben because of our clashing schedules, and because Satine went in for her spay and dewclaw surgery midweek, which I was more worried about than I realised.

So, when Saturday rolled around I felt almost palpable relief: a day with Ben, two days after Satine's surgery and no complications, getting things done around the house, and only just over two weeks until I see my parents.

No such luck.

New stitches in her leg
Satine, despite having an E-collar on and being on strict bed rest (and so mostly confined to her crate), managed to get her stitches out of her leg where her dewclaw was amputated. She opened it right up, in under ten minutes, to the point you could see down to the bone. She had her collar on, and she was in her crate at the time. It seems that the collar wasn't quite long enough for our ridiculously long, flexible puppy, and those stitches were just too itchy to resist.

One trip to the emergency vet later and a huge guilt trip for me, she was all fixed up. She needed a full wound flush (lovely bacteria in a dog's mouth transferring over to that open incision means a high chance of infection), sedation and reverse sedation, restitching, wider-ranging antibiotics, and a new, longer E-collar. Our poor baby.

Not happy about her crate and collar!
Of course, 'Tine is unaware of the whole thing, and seemed rather glad to be going on a car ride, if anything. She paid no mind to her leg the whole time, and was pretty much fine from when we brought her home, other than some post-anaesthesia moans and sways. Silly mite!

I was so worried; I know there is not much more I could have done having followed the doctor's instructions to the letter about her post-operative care, but I still feel horribly responsible. I also hate it that she is now going to have to have her collar on longer, and take a few more days off from being a puppy.  She's dealing well with the new collar though, and I'm home today so I can keep a constant eye on her without her having to be crated. Tomorrow I'm going to take her to work with me, as the massive benefit of working at an absolutely lovely vet is that the doctors want to see her to check she is okay!

Other than that, there's not a whole lot of updating to be done. I've got some fun things to write about the utterly ridiculous healthcare situation in the USA, but that will have to wait. For now I am just going to relax, wait for Ben to get home, and look after our little family.

Adapting to the cone - she got her chew in the end!

Monday, 17 September 2012

A more perfect union: the DNC from a UK perspective

My results

I planned on writing a second part to my previous "short" post about the DNC but I haven't really got too much more to say (unsurprisingly, given that last one!). So instead I will present a short summary, and then a link so all you non-US folk can see where your views fall in the politics of America.

While Clinton and Michelle Obama's speeches were rousing, touching, and inspiring, the President's speech was extremely calm, and far less of a show. He actually did what I would consider more of a party political broadcast, where specific policy details and eventual goals were covered. It still surprises me - and makes me feel a little bit uneasy - to see the political advertising on television here, as it's such a mud-slinging, fact-impoverished way of communicating with the voters. I don't think it does anyone any favours. I was glad that Obama dropped in a little joke about "approving this message" - I'm sick of hearing that daft phrase, and I hardly watch TV!

The President seemed quite sombre, although still hopeful, and focused more on what was still to be done rather than achievements so far. I guess asking people to stick with him to see initiatives like health reform and repatriation of industry is an even bigger ask right now, as so many are currently in dire financial straits and want to see change now (even if it is not lasting change, I think). The long game is a harder, but ultimately more rewarding one, hopefully with some permanent positive results. Overall, Obama came over as honest, determined, astute, and hopeful. Not flashy, but this is an election, not American Idol. I hope.

The impact on Charlotte was much talked about, and I know a lot of people were frustrated by the traffic restrictions and other safety precautions imposed uptown. I also heard a lot of excited chatter about the atmosphere up there, and people making plans to visit specifically because the DNC was in town. I didn't get a chance to travel that way, sadly, but it looked like a lot of fun!

Finally, as I mentioned before, politics here are extremely bipolar. The independent candidates, while they may have some sensible and worthwhile policies, get left by the wayside when it comes to the election. You're either red or blue. I used to see what my political allegiance is (although I was pretty sure I would come out Democrat!), and found that while I was definitely a lefty over here, I actually side more with Jill Stein than Barack Obama. I had hardly heard of the woman! Click on the link to see who you'd be most likely to vote for, to see how other states are currently aligned, to compare candidates, and even to look at how people who came from various sites are most likely to vote. Feel free to share your results in the comments if you would like!

Figures!  :)

Also figures...