Friday, 19 September 2014

Scotland's Independence Referendum


I've sat at this computer many times over the last several months wanting to talk about Scotland's Independence Referendum. While I do have an opinion, I ultimately decided to keep quiet on this important issue for many reasons. I am not eligible to vote. Luis can vote (and he did!) but I wasn't eligible to cast a vote. I am not Scottish and I see things from the perspective of an outsider. I didn't want what I posted here to possibly influence voters (look at me talking like I make a difference! Ha!) who could actually vote and have a more personal bond with Scotland and their feelings on the matter.

Yesterday Scotland voted whether they wanted to become an Independent country or stay with The United Kingdom. This was probably the most important vote the Scottish people would make in their lifetime. For the past 2 yrs each side has been building their case. YES or NO?

What's been going on in Scotland?

"The Scottish government, led by First Minister Alex Salmond, says the 300-year-old Union is no longer fit for purpose and that an independent Scotland, aided by its oil wealth, would be one of the world's richest countries.

He says it's time for Scotland to take charge of its own destiny, free from what he describes as the "shackles" of a London-based UK parliament.

On the opposite side of the debate, the UK government, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, says Britain is one of the world's most successful social and political unions." -source

What are the main issues?

OIL
"North Sea oil and gas reserves (or more precisely the tax take from Scotland's share) are vital to the Scottish government's case for independence.

Mr Salmond says earmarking a tenth of revenues - about £1bn a year - could form an oil fund similar to the one operated in Norway, creating a £30bn sovereign wealth pot over a generation.

Mr Cameron says the North Sea has been a British success story - and now the oil and gas is getting harder to recover, it's more important than ever to back the industry with the "broad shoulders" of the UK.

The SNP's opponents also argue they're pinning future hopes on something that's eventually going to run out." -source

CURRENCY
"Currency has been the other big area of disagreement. Under independence, the Scottish government wants to keep the pound as part of a formal currency union with the rest of the UK. It argues this is in everyone's best interests, but the three main UK parties - the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats - won't go for it, and say that whoever's in power after the next UK election will not agree to such a move." -source

DO THE PEOPLE WANT INDEPENDENCE?

The country has been divided this whole time. It's been to close to call to actually know who would win. Half the country YES. The other half NO.

WHO GETS TO VOTE?

"People aged 16 and over who live in Scotland get a direct say on the nation's future - as long as they're registered to vote.

Eligible voters must be British, EU or Commonwealth citizens with permission to enter or stay in the UK. That means the 800,000 Scots who live in other parts of the UK don't get a vote, while the 400,000 people from elsewhere in Britain who live in Scotland do." -source

A HISTORY LESSON
"Thanks to the 1995 Hollywood blockbuster Braveheart, many people are familiar with the Scottish Wars of independence, fought between the late 13th and early 14th centuries.

A series of events saw England's King Edward overpower the Scottish kingdom in 1296, before Robert the Bruce inflicted some serious payback in the battle of Bannockburn in 1314 - an event which has just reached its 700th anniversary.

Other key moments through the ages included Bonnie Prince Charlie's ill-fated invasion of England in 1745, culminating in defeat at Culloden the following year.

Despite various challenges, Scotland is generally regarded to have asserted its independence from about 843, until the official unification with England took place in 1707.

At the time, the view was that Scotland was desperate for cash, but opponents of the move were outraged by claims that the Scots who put their names to the Act of Union and were bribed.

The episode moved Scotland's Bard, Robert Burns, to write: "We are bought and sold for English gold. Such a parcel of rogues in a nation." -source

SO, WHO WON?

With a vote 45% to 55%, The Scottish people ultimately voted to stay with The United Kingdom. While that's what I would have voted, if I could, it is more complicated than that. While speaking with many NO voters I learned that they aren't necessarily opposed to independence, they just didn't like the idea of not having a plan of action to how we would make it happen. There was too much uncertainty. It was like building a home (a life) and then shutting the door and throwing away the key-- walking into the unknown with no thought to how we would live as an independent country. We needed answers and the YES camp couldn't deliver.

I am personally happy for the result that we are staying with The United Kingdom. I feel that overall this is the best decision to help our country stay strong. But I can't help feeling a little sad for those YES voters.  They only wanted a chance to make decisions for themselves. One thing is for sure, Parliament has to listen to Scotland now. 


Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Road Trips Are Kind of Our Thing


For our first anniversary we went on a road trip through Scotland. All the way to the top. It was amazing. I didn't bring a camera. I often regret that. I have memories driving though the highlands and being stopped in a canyon by hundred's of majestic red deer. We were on a tiny one lane road for probably 300 miles. Then we came over the crest of a hill and there they all were. We eventually had to stop because they were blocking the road but we didn't mind. We just sat there and tried to count them. Then we looked for the deer with the most points on his antlers. The highest number we found was 18! Can you believe it?! We enjoyed the fog coming over the mountain and sat in awe of what we were witnessing. There was an actual reverence to the moment. It is something I will never forget.

Road trips are kind of our thing. We love to hop in the car and just go. Wherever we want. This country has something just waiting to be found--no matter which way you go. On Sunday we needed to head over to Elgin, Scotland. It took us not quite 2 hrs to get there but this was a part of the country we hadn't been before. I brought a book to read but I couldn't read because I enjoyed looking out the window too much!

I wanted to share some photos of this little road trip with YOU. I hope you enjoy seeing more of Scotland with me.


Huntly Castle

Spey Bay



ps. One picture I wish I would have stopped to get was a fork in the road and a sign that pointed toward a different castle in each direction. All against the backdrop of the beautiful Scottish countryside. I should have screamed for Luis to "STOP THE CAR!" That would have made a great phot.

pps. We're going on a 3 day road trip to England starting Monday! I'll be on instagram sharing our trip in real time. I hope you'll join us!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Beginning of a New Era

Something big happened yesterday. My baby boy started Nursery School. I knew it was going to happen. We've been preparing all summer for it. Sebastian needed it. I needed it. But when the day finally arrived I was much different than I thought I would be.

I was a complete wreck. I had a million thoughts running through my mind. Would his teachers be nice? How is school actually done in Scotland? Am I going to be completely clueless? What if Sebastian hates it? What if his teachers leave him in the corner to play by himself instead of helping to foster his need for socialization? What if he throws a tantrum? What if the other mum's think I'm weird?

Those thoughts were just snowballing until I was almost out of control. Sebastian was feeding off my energy and I had to wrestle him into his clothes and shoes. Then he had a tantrum over the new shoes he didn't want to wear. I was sweating at this point.

I tried to get the obligatory first day of school photo but this was all I got...


I just hope this isn't an indication of how this term will go.

Luis met us at the school so we could all walk in together. Having him there really normed me out. Sebastian's teachers are great and he went right in to play. I still have all those new mum of a pre-schooler feelings but I'm feeling much better about it all. I can't believe I have a pre-schooler!

In case you wondered what Nursery School (pre-k) is like here in Scotland then let me tell you what I know. Sebastian will attend Monday-Friday for 3 hrs 10 min. His days will be full of playtime, snack, field trips, games and of course learning too.

We've entered a new era. I'm nervous but I think  it will be good for all of us.I hope...

Thursday, 21 August 2014

How to Deal with the Scottish Rain


Last year I came to terms with the rain in Scotland. I accepted it for what it is and my life has been completely different since. The rain is a part of Scotland. It isn't going anywhere. But, for a long time I let it dictate my feelings and how I spent my day.

We've been having a lot of rain here in Scotland as of late. It's kind of abrupt moving from summer to autumn here. One day it is sunny and the temps are good and you're spending every day at the park. Then without any warning the temps drop, the leaves start to change and the rain comes. Lots and lots of rain.

My first month in Scotland it rained every single day. I didn't go out and I just watched it rain and rain and rain. It was a complete shock and I didn't know how to live like that.  After years (years!) of practice I'm going to let you know how I do it and how I love it.

+ Check the forecast:: This one may seem like a no brainer but let me explain. I'm an obsessive weather app checker. I plan my week around what's going on with the weather. It helps to know that Tuesday and Wednesday will be clear but the weekend will be rainy. Even though the week will change from one day to the next, you can usually know what's going to happen at least one day in advance. Plan your week around the sunny days.

+ Be prepared. The weather app is never right. Make sure you have a rain coat, umbrella, something.

+ If it is sunny (or not raining) then you get yourself outside. Do not stay indoors. I don't care if you're just going for a walk around the park or to lunch at a cafe by yourself. You just get your butt outside. Have a mound of laundry and a dirty kitchen? I don't care. You get outside. I keep a  list of things I want to do/see when the weather is nice. Do not waste this precious time. Stay out all day! You'll thank me one day.

+ Just because it's grey and cloudy does not mean it isn't a nice day. You can still get outside in that and you will grab yourself some vitamin D while you're at it. It might seem gloomy in the beginning but you'll quickly realize that as long as it isn't pouring down the rain it's a great day!

+ When it is pouring the rain (for days on end) that's when I do my house cleaning and baking. Sebastian and I plan some activities to do indoors and it actually feels nice to be inside because we've spent so much time outdoors lately!

+ If it rains more than 2 days in a row, get outside. Get dressed and get out in the rain. Walk somewhere, anywhere. But do not stay home. When you spend more time inside it makes it harder to leave.  I never let myself have more than 2 days in a row inside. Just make it a rule. You might have to get wet once in awhile but it will be worth it. I promise. I never regret getting outside, even in the rain.

+ What do you do when you are really depressed and you literally can't force yourself out of the house? This is where I would first suggest talking to your doctor. This weather is the pits and when you aren't used to grey skies all the time your body goes through a shock or sorts. You can become depressed and lethargic. First talk to your doctor. Then get outside. Sometimes I have such a hard time trying to just get out the door. I have to call someone (usually my mom) and ask her to stay on the phone with me until I get outside. I force myself. It can feel like pushing a brick wall some days but I put my shoes on, pack a little bag for Sebastian and get him dressed. Sometimes this takes a long time. But I just do it. My Mom is on the other line and we just do it. Even if I am just walking around the block a few times we do it. Staying in is not going to make you feel better. But getting outside for a little bit and smelling the fresh air and seeing a little bit if sunshine (ok, let's just call it light. sunny is too misleading) is going to help you. You're stronger than this.

+ Make plans. Is there someone you've been wanting to get to know? Then ask them to lunch. Is there a place you've been wanting to see? Then plan a time to go and see it. Want to know what is in your neighborhood? Then take a walk. Just do stuff. The more you get out the more you will realize that the weather isn't the problem. It is just another factor in your life here.

+ My best advice on this subject is just to get outside. Do it. Do not wait for the rain to stop and the sun to come out. It isn't going to. But you're going to get more depressed and feel more alone if you stay inside. Just get outside. Push yourself. It might take some time but I know you're going to love this rain as much as I do.

ps. If you ever want to chat about it or need someone to go walking with just let me know!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Moving to Scotland? What to bring and not to bring | vol 2

In case you missed it | vol. 1

What to Bring::

+ Something sentimental to get you through the rough patches. I brought a cozy blanket from home. I would wrap myself up in it when I was feeling lonely and cold. Your life in Scotland is going to be so new and everything is going to be different. Carefully choose items to bring that will make you feel more at home. It might be a homemade quilt, maybe your grandmother's serving tray, or it might just be a few pictures to hang on your walls. Whatever it is, pick something to bring that will make you feel at home.

+ If you need a new wardrobe or any clothes it is best to purchase them in your home country. I know there is a space issue in your suitcases but hear me out. The sizing is different in the UK, the styles are different and the cost is staggering with the conversion rate. If you need new suits to start your new job here in Scotland, it is best to purchase them before you leave from a trusted retailer. Go ahead and throw a few new pairs of your favourite jeans in there as well as some new sweaters. Trust me.

*I usually suggest purchasing your raincoat/winter coat here in Scotland. You will be able to get exactly what this weather demands here. 

+ An open mind- Things are going to be different in Scotland than what you're used to. You'll take longer in the grocery store and things like the washing machine will be different. Just keep an open mind and enjoy the experience. It's okay that things are done differently here.

What NOT to Bring::

+ Shorts or summer clothing- You can, but keep it to a minimum. We only have a few weeks in the summer where you can actually wear them. Don't feel like you need to bring a whole summer wardrobe. You won't need it. If you need more suitcase space, toss them.

+ Wellies- Seriously, you don't really need them. Sometimes they are nice to have but I hardly ever wear mine. I think people expect Scotland to have flash flood type of rains (are you used to going out in this type of weather?) but unless you live in the country, your rain boots aren't a huge necessity. If you need suitcase space then just don't worry about them. If you find that you need them once you get here then you can get a cheap pair for £10 that will do the trick.

+ Bedding/towels- Unless you're bringing that special sentimental quilt then don't bother. They are a huge waste of packing space and you can get anything you need here. Also, the bed sizing is just a tiny bit different. My queen size American sheets are just a tad bit too big for my bed here. Just plan to budget for new bedding and towels when you first arrive.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Sebastian Says | vol. 2


Sebastian's speech is improving every week. He is not currently receiving any speech and language therapy but we're doing our best here at home to help him. He's said some pretty funny things lately and I wanted to share them so I wouldn't forget.

+ This past week has been pretty cool and rainy. Sebastian and I stayed inside much more than we are used to. We had been trying to get out for a trip to the park in between downpours but hadn't been successful. Then on Friday the sun came out for just a little bit. Sebastian brought me his shoes and said, "Shoes on. Park. Go park." We rushed to get ready and then off we went.

As we were walking it started to sprinkle. I was trying to make a split second decision to keep going and hope it doesn't rain, or to go into the corner store for a few minutes and wait to see what the skies were going to do. When I turned into the shop Sebastian clearly didn't want to be deterred from his trip to the park and started yelling, "Help! Help! Help Me!" I was trying to pick him up but everyone was looking at me. I looked like a baby snatcher.

+ Early one morning Sebastian woke and came into our room. My back was towards him. He shook me and said, "Elsa! Elsa! Wake up!"

+ "You're crazy." He says this to me all day long.

+ Sebastian is pretty obsessed with the planets lately. We bought him a model of the solar system (okay, 2 models) and he was playing with them. When I called him in for dinner and he didn't come I went to go get him. He clearly didn't want to stop what he was doing and he threw a planet at me. I gasped in surprise and then he said, "No hitting Neptune."

+ Luis has spoken Spanish with Sebastian since his birth. Sebastian was splashing in the bath a little too much and Luis said, "No." Then Sebastian stopped and looked at him and said, "por que no?"