carolinainmymind

can't you see the sunshine….

First Round of Moving

The plan was the condo would be completed on 5/15.  When booking our temporary place I allowed a few days ‘just in case’.  Good thing I did.

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This is how it looked on 5/15.

I whined.  Everyone pulled together and on Thursday, May 18 our very kind friends Debby and Pat came over from Pittsboro to help us move out of the condo.  They came again on Friday with Pat’s very cool VW truck

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It was great for moving mattresses and the large trunks out of storage.

 

Ben was even put to work

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Pat and Debby helped us move, hang the TV, put together our table and organize things.  They were a big help.  We spent our first night there on the 19th and we woke up there on the 20th for my birthday.

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Jim and BK stopped by to help me celebrate but I think I was more than a little worn out from cleaning our temporary place and trying to get us unpacked enough to be able to live comfortably.

The next week with the help of our neighbor, Denis, we emptied our storage unit in Raleigh.  The week after that we rented a van and made a pass at the storage unit in Oxford.  It was great fun to open some of those boxes which have been packed for almost 10 years.

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In the next few weeks we will be going back to the building on Oxford and finally moving everything here.  This will be a lot to absorb in this small space.  I will need to channel my inner Marie Kondo.  And I know that we are so lucky to have all these resources and friends to help us get settled again.  Even though I don’t see the immigrant situation every night on TV I still think of it and realize how fortunate we are.

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Moving along

Now that the inspections are done, work is moving along at a rapid pace.

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Kitchen cabinets being delivered

Saturday, 4/22 there was a stack of sheetrock.  Sunday, 4/23 the sheetrock was up!  So last week they finished sheetrocking and installed the kitchen cabinets.

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This week the tile was laid which includes the floors.  Today 5/5, the carpenter is installing Ben’s bathroom vanity and trim.  Painting starts next week.  That leaves lights and appliances.  It will be close but we have to be out of our temporary place by 5/20.  So no time to fool around.

What won’t be done is my bathroom, the vanity is on back order and I don’t want to pick another one.  The stove will be in place but probably not hooked up to the gas.  It might take the gas company until June to get to it.  Wayyyyy back in 2016 I was told by someone from the home owners’ group that there was no gas in the building.  And since I was in Italy and had no way to check and no reason to doubt this person I planned for an electric stove.  Then in early April I discovered that the condos on either side of me had gas, so why couldn’t I have it?   Fortunately, this was before insulation or walls went in.  So the gas line was installed which meant more inspections and caused a bit of delay.  And we had to get on the gas company’s schedule. Who knew it took five to six weeks to set a gas meter?   And we went over budget because a gas stove costs more than an electric one.

We are also still waiting on Ben’s motorized wheel chair.  (That is a whole other post)  which means we are waiting to see where a curb cut needs to be cut in the sidewalk.  And waiting to buy a vehicle to accommodate the wheel chair.  In our current ‘big ride’ the power window on the driver’s side has stopped working.  Our friend, Cathy helped me get it up and so far it has stayed.  And the air conditioner is working, thank goodness, so I am not going to worry about that right now.

All this is to say that I’ll be really busy for a few weeks so maybe no posts for a while.  But I’ll be back.  I am sure there will be lots of fun happenings during the move.

 

 

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Ingaural Deck Event

Even though we are not living there yet, the deck is ready to use.  What a better first event than our friend BK’s birthday.

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We enjoyed drinks, Cheetos (of course) and nuts.  (canned fizzy rose from Trader Joes and a nice French rose)

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And then off.  (that is the problem with new construction, no bathrooms)  To Ni’s Asian Kitchen.  Not fancy but very good food.  Ni’s Asian Kitchen .  I think my neighbors have figured out that we are a fun group and that deck is going to get a lot of use.

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Queen Mary 2 (part 3) and Moving

There are two other parts previously posted if you want to see them.  This is about our crossing and move back to the US in December, 2016

The Queen Mary 2 was refurbished in 2016.  To be honest I don’t remember much from our crossing in 2007.  I do remember this

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And it is still there.

I was very interested in these large reverse glass paintings

 

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It appears that Ben did not share my enthusiasm.

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It is a very grand ship.  Very roomy.  Not over crowded.  A very enjoyable experience.

Many friends helped us with our move.  I had this thing about our move and we needed to close ‘the circle’.  John and Richard jumped right in by allowing us to stay at their place for our last two weeks in Italy, the place where we first lived when we arrived in Tuscany.  Grace and GC helped us with the last of our packing and very graciously offered to feed us dinner our last night there, but as part of ‘closing the circle’ we needed to eat our last dinner in Tuscany where we had our first dinner, Il Cacciatore.

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We have watched Julia grow from being a shy young teenager into an outgoing, loving young woman.

All too soon our time on the Queen Mary 2 came to an end and look who was there to welcome us.

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Along with my wonderful cousin Bonnie and her ever patient husband Pete.  In September, 2007 they had driven us to the Queen Mary 2.  And now here they were to pick us up, care for us, and make our return as painless as possible.

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And so now we are back in the US.  It all seems like a dream…..

 

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On the Queen Mary 2 (Part 1)

Right up front, I’ll just apologize to my friend Jules who has been waiting to see this post.  There will not be near as many pictures as she would like.  I’ll explain why in part 2.

So we went to sleep in our Southampton Airbnb.  ( Click on link if you want to see it.  I totally recommend it.  Good for someone in a wheel chair. Good for catching the QM2   Southampton rental air bnb. )   And look what we saw early the next morning

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The amazing thing was that we knew people from Monte San Savino, (the town we just moved from in Italy) Mark and Molly, who were getting off the QM2 after sailing over from New York City.  We were not able to catch up with them and I hope they had a good visit.   We had one last, fun pub lunch with Enzo and then he took us off to the dock.

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I was pretty excited and happy that things were going smoothly  until we got just inside the door and they said “You can’t have that trolley of carry on luggage.  You have to be able to carry it.”  We, of course had a trolley full, because Ben can not be separated from his computer, his drugs, his sleep machine, his change of clothes, his snacks…..  So I did what I tried to avoid having to do, stood in the lobby and repacked.  I managed to get it down to 2 bags that Ben had to hold (His crap, his lap) and three bags that I had to schlep.  My computer, my jewelry, my change of clothes and other things, all those went off to be checked.  And we took a big risk and sent the snacks too.  Anyway, we finally got on board.

Now I planned and booked this trip one year in advance.  In every communication I was very clear that we were moving and would have a lot of luggage and that Ben was in a wheel chair.  I communicated this with the booking agents and the on board staff more than one time.  In 2007, when we boarded to sail over with our 21 suitcases we were met with total shock that we had so many suitcases.  I wanted to avoid this.  In the summer I called to chat with a booking agent again about the amount of luggage that we would have.  She listened, put me on hold and came back and said “There is a sale going on.  Since there are two of you sailing,  your husband can stay in the handicapped room and you can be booked in another room for only $300 more.  Now if you want to sleep in the same room as your husband and the luggage wants to stay in your room.  Well, we can’t do anything about that.”  I said BOOK IT!  So our luggage traveled in its own room.

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Jules, this is what a normal, window (not balcony) stateroom looks like.  The bathroom and closet are to the left of the chair.  Some of the luggage is lounging on a love seat.  It really is fairly roomy.

But of course our cabin steward was totally baffled by all this luggage in one room.  No one had told him.  But there is a message.  “You have to go back to security.  There is a problem with your luggage.”   So I have to get Ben in the room, get him organized, make sure I can leave him alone.  Try to find a plan of the ship and figure out where I need to go.  Our steward arranges for the head of security to meet me at the elevator at the lowest floor.  The head of security takes me OFF the SHIP and back to where the two pieces of our luggage that I have carefully marked SECURITY have been stopped.  Several months earlier, I wrote to ask how to handle bringing on board  my knives that I cook with, the tools that were my father’s, other prohibited items.  “Pack it, label it, turn it over to security.”  That was the instruction I received from the QM2 on board services staff.  And that the staff that we were sailing with would be informed.  Suddenly, I find myself off the ship, Ben is alone, a good 15 minutes walk from where I am with no way to get in touch with me, I am surround by  five people, four of whom are looking at me like I have made up everything that I just explained.  I consider bursting into tears.  Realize that I need to keep my composure.  And stand there while everyone debates what to do.  The offending items are pulled out and divided into two bundles, my cooking knives and my father’s tools.  It is decided that AT MY OWN EXPENSE I can have these items shipped.  Without knowing shipping costs,  I have to make a very quick decision.  The knives are worth shipping, the used, important only to me hammers, screw drivers and other things can stay behind.  Finally back on the ship, I have to immediately get Ben and roll him through the ship for the safety drill.  Explaining what I have been doing and that is when my composure goes.  So once again, in a room full of people I am standing there with tears streaming down my face.  I am so upset and so furious and so sad that I had to give up my father’s tools and that I have to pay the shipping on my knives.  And that no one seems to know anything about all the emails that I have sent explaining our situation.

The safety drill over, we make our way back to the room.  There is a bright spot.

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Because we are returning guests, there is a bottle of bubbly waiting for us.  I immediately open it  and have a glass.  I have a few minutes to unpack and then it is time to start to get Ben dressed for dinner.  (Fortunately all of our luggage is in one room or the other.  And our change of clothes made it too)  Ben dressed.  Me dressed.  We set off for the dining room.  This is when it dawns on me that even though we are inside on a flat surface, it isn’t really flat.  There is a gradual elevation and decline where each section of the ship is joined.  Someone walking would probably not notice it.  Someone pushing a 250+ pound man in a wheel chair notices it.  We were at one end of the ship.  The dining room was almost at the other end.

We arrive at the dining room, about 10 minutes late.  Goodness knows what I looked like.  I was just happy that I no longer felt like I was going to have a heart attack.  I gave our names.  The extra snooty maitre d’ took one look and said “No one told me he was in a wheelchair.”  I could have lost it, fortunately my earlier glass of wine just made me laugh about it.  Ahhhh, yes.  Our table was up 3 levels.  With a nice long ramp up to it.

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We entered on the level with the lights hanging on,  our table was at the very top level.   I just looked at Mr. Extra Snooty and said “there is no way I can push him up there.”  By this time, some of the staff, many of whom are from the Philippines had seen a fellow country man in need and were pushing Ben up the long, long ramp.  (I really thought that man might have a heart attack.)  Mr. Extra Snooty is lecturing me “that is the table that you requested Madam.”  Excuse me,  I asked for a table with 8 to 10 other people.  How am I supposed to know that it is up 3 levels and can only be accessed by this long, long ramp?  But I don’t say that.  I agree that I will come back the day and change our table.  We manage to have a fun dinner with two very enjoyable sisters.

The next day I am back to arrange to change tables.  I am assigned a new table number.  Several hours later after an hour spent dressing because it is ‘formal night’  we show up again at the dining room.  Late of course.  This time it is my clothes.  Evidently packing and moving 40 + suitcases and pushing a large man around in a wheel chair has caused me to lose weight.  My beautiful dressy pants won’t stay up and I am tripping on them.  So travel takes longer since I have to stop every 30 feet or so and pull my pants up.

Anyway, we are seated.  At a table for two.  A table that sits over the top of an engine or something and vibrates,  no SHAKES!  It is very noisy too.  I am so irritated.  I do manage to get a staff member to take a picture of us.

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Jules, this is the picture of me in my fancy outfit.

Next day I am back with Mr. Extra Snooty, explaining that I love my husband but we are together ALL THE TIME and part of the fun of being on a cruise is to meet other folks and maybe have a chance to talk with them.  Could we please sit at a table with other people?  He gives us a new table assignment.  This time a table for 10 people on the same level as a restaurant entrance.

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We are seated with Stan (from the Bronx) and his wife and a father and daughter from Maryland.  Stan is one of those people who you ask a question and it just opens the flood gates.  You could tell from his wife’s eye rolls that she had heard these stories sooooo many times.  He was pretty interesting.  And I said I wanted conversation.

To wrap this very long post up, we ate dinner with this group several nights, missing one when Ben was ill.  At other times during the day we had encountered the charming sisters that we had dinner with the first night.  On the last night they had decided to hell with Mr. Extra Snooty (They were the ones to give him that nick name.)  and were inviting guests to join them at ‘their’ table.  So we abandonded Stan from the Bronx and his long suffering wife to join them again.  We had a very enjoyable meal.

The head of security had been back in touch with me and agreed upon reading the email from the onboard service staff that I was mislead.  He started the wheels turning to have me reimbursed for the cost of shipping my knives.  He went above and beyond in customer service and could not have been more professional or nice.  He saved the trip.

More in another post about food, what to do on the QM2 and other pics for Jules.

 

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Returning to the move

Hard to believe that it has been since December that I wrote about our move.  Not because it was an awful experience but because I have not had time to write.  We have had a little cold spell here and sometimes I just  refuse to go out.  That makes time to write.

My last bit about the move was on my previous blog, about the first part of our trip through France.  (click here if you want to read it  first part of trip )   We did make it to Calais.  Had a great hotel across from this HUGE shopping area.  I walked over and had to practice great restraint.  There was a CarreFour.  Ohhhh, it was hard.  I made a farewell tour of the rose wine aisle.  Picked up some croissants and cheese for our trip.  Walked back to the hotel.  That is when I decided to pull out the paperwork about how to use the Eurotunnel so that we could talk about it with Enzo at dinner.  That is when it all went downhill.  I realized that I had booked the wrong day!!!!!!  The Eurotunnel folks had expected us there that morning and now we were going to show up 24 hours late!  I immediately burst in to tears.  Nothing to do but get Ben organized, get him in to the restaurant, collect Enzo and while eating dinner, explain to him what I have done.  I can only imagine how this looked.  Two men and one woman in tears at a table in a restaurant. With the woman doing all the talking first in English, then Italian, then explaining the French menu in English and then in Italian, in between sobs.   I had some wine and calmed down a little.  We decided that after dinner Enzo and I would go to the Eurotunnel terminal and chat with them.

Well, the Eurotunnel folks could not have been nicer.  Maybe this happens to others.  For 40 Euros we were able to get re-booked.    The next morning everything went well.  We managed to get on an earlier train.  To cross the channel you board a train made up of modified  freight cars and passenger cars.  We were going in a vehicle so we went into the modified freight car.

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Just like the ambulance in front of us.  Having a wheel chair person in the vehicle allowed us to board first, in the first car.

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Driving to the front end of the train.  Keep in mind this is a modified freight car.  So no frills.  I never got back to the walk-on passenger section which is most likely very nice.  Anyway the train starts.

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There are only windows on the side of the train car that we were in so it was just like sitting in the back seat of a car when it goes through a tunnel.  You saw sky, then you saw artificial lights and then you saw sky again.   Didn’t take long.  Very efficient loading and unloading.  And then we were in England.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I owned stock in Eurotunnel.  Since then I have always wanted to go on it.  I was really tickled that I got to do it.

Without too much trouble we found our Air bnb rental in Southampton.  It was very well located near the dock where the Queen Mary 2 moors.  We had a lovely pub lunch

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Got settled in and watched the sun set.

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I had scheduled us to arrive two days before our sailing on the QM2.  Since we were traveling in December there could have been weather disruptions or vehicle problems.  The extra day allowed for that.  We had a quiet day and then we got to see our friends Howard and Margaret.  They drove quite a ways to visit with us.  We had a drink and dinner pulled together from the carry away options at Tesco.  So nice that we were staying in an apartment rather than a hotel.  We had glasses and china and were able to have a nice celebratory feast.

It was so thoughtful of them to come and that really meant a lot to both Ben and I.  They were off.  We all went to sleep.  Look for the next entry…..our trip on the Queen Mary 2.

 

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Our New Ride

As part of our move, we had to buy a car.  If we had more money than sense we would have moved our Fiat Multipla.  We loved that car.  It was very comfortable and ran well.

Anyway, we don’t have more money than sense.  So when we first arrived we rented a car for a month.  As that rental period came to an end we started thinking of buying a car.  But we hope that Ben will get a motorized wheel chair.  (He will be evaluated for one next week and told which type is best for him.)  It occurred to us that maybe we should wait on buying a ‘forever’ car until we have the wheelchair in place.  After all it is easier to get the car to fit the chair than to get the chair to fit the car.  So when our friend BK offered to sell us one of her cars, we snapped.   (This is the odd thing about our friend BK.  She has a thing about cars.  She is a PHD.  Was a university professor.  This sweet diminutive, little southern lady who has a thing about cars.  She once had a classic Mustang convertible.  She has had other cars that I would never had bought.  So when I write ‘one of her cars’, if you know her, you know that is not unusual)

And here it is….

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A 1998 limited edition (Cartier) Lincoln Continental, Champagne Color, of course.  The irony  is that for a period of time in the early 90s while still living here in Raleigh, I drove a baby blue Lincoln Town car.  So I seemed to have completely returned to my old life.

This land yacht has leather seats, easy for Ben to slide on.  Room behind the drivers seat for Ben’s collapsible wheel chair.  No lifting it up to get it in and out of a trunk.  Everything in it works including the AC which we used a good bit in February.  And now we have a trade in when we are finally ready to buy a ‘forever’ car.

Given the age of the car and our age I decided to embrace it.  This is the license plate

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Give us a wave if you see us cruising around Raleigh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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