Saturday, July 31, 2010

Denis, Denis, Muchas Gracias!

Weeks ago at the beginning of our documenting our transition to Ecuador, we spoke of our "miss list". At the top of our list was Denis. Denis entered our lives last summer as "the housekeeper". Little did we know at the time that she would be so much more. She has become such an important part of our lives, enriching and teaching along the way.

Denis and her daughters, Stephanie and Miranda, were lovely. Denis is a very loving mother and is very proud of her beautiful girls. Ruben was absent from the affair because he was working late.

Denis's parents, Carmen and Samuel, were there.

Centhia and her daughter, Natasha, were there.

Natasha, 2, is a cutie.

Miranda is Denis's younger daughter. At 3 years of age, she is lovely and quite verbal. When we began discussing our task of learning Spanish, Mick said that his goal is to speak as well as a 5 year old after living in Cuenca for 5 years. After being with Miranda, he has changed that idea to the Spanish of a 3 year old.

Stephanie is beautiful 7 year old and quite a young lady, very poised. Her command of languages is unbelievable. She is able to switch back and forth from Spanish to English and is fluent in both. At Smith Language Academy, she is immersed in French and excels.

The dinner was delicious. Mick had carne asada with the trimmings.

This is the whole group, minus one.

Stephanie is especially sweet, she gave me her special sea shell as a gift.

We finished the meal with fried ice cream.

Some of us are especially enjoying the treat.

Miranda seemed to have enjoyed the evening, she wore it well!

It was a fun evening. We truly appreciated Denis allowing us into the family circle. Denis's parents are good people with strong values; they have instilled this integrity into Denis. Denis and Ruben are raising their children with those same values. Denis is a genuinely caring and hard working young woman that is striving for the best for her family. She faces everyday with a courage that many of us lack. Our lives have truly been enriched by knowing Denis. We will greatly miss the continuous presence of Denis in our home, but we're just an e-mail away. Denis you and your family are always welcome in Cuenca!
Until next time,
Mick and Kathy

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Best Laid Plans

"The best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry." Our day was all planned. Once again, Mick and I were going in different directions. He had to go to Lexington and Winston-Salem to deal with the estate matters and I was left to deal with packing. I know the original plan was to pack one day and take the next off. When it comes to packing, I've discovered that there is no equity, not every one gets a day off. My plan was to drop Nick off at daycare, run to Kohl's and then work on packing clothes with Denis.

Plans are subject to change. Nick went to daycare. I went to Kohl's. On our list of "things to get" was jeans. In that I'm a plus-size, rubinesque, pleasingly plump, whatever the politically correct terminology, Kohl's is a good place to buy "fat girl" jeans. So I got the jeans and another suitcase, we're currently planning on 7.

Plans are subject to change. Denis had called and said that her daughter was ill and that she was on her way to the doctor. I taped my carton and began folding clothes. I folded and folded and folded. When Mick returned around 2:30, I was just finishing my one carton. It's really amazing how many articles of clothing will fit into one of the cartons. The current count on the cartons is 13. We have a little more than a week to finish this task. We've moved the ship date up to August 9. I want it finished before next weekend. Mick still thinks that we'll have 2 lift vans; I'm hoping for 1. For all those who can move with only a couple of suitcases, God bless you; you are truly special people. In actuality, I think perhaps Mick could be one of you; however, he has me, so there is conflict.

Even though we plan, things don't always work out exactly the way we want, they work out the way they're suppose to. We're not fretting; we'll get everything done. We're retired and moving to Ecuador.

Until next time,

Mick and Kathy

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

When a Plan Comes Together

In the '80's TV program, "The A-Team," a repeating line of George Peppard's character, Hannibal Smith, was "I love it when a plan comes together". That line is ditto for Mick and me. It seems that our plan is coming together. Yesterday began with Steven from across the street arriving at 7AM to clean out the attics. I did not count how many loads of discard drove away. Steven helped Mick most of the morning and is a great worker. He is far more industrious than most of the young fellows that I have encountered.

After Steven left, Mick and I began packing, slowly drawing down our mountain of things. When we had finished, we had packed 7- 6.1 cu ft cartons. The crate will hold 24 with a little space left. Mick is concerned; he thinks we will fill 2 lift vans. We shall see. Denis was here in the afternoon and assisted with the pick up.

In the afternoon, our friend, Gilbert, was bumming and stopped by, having heard that we were moving. He had not believed it when he heard, but was shocked to see a primarily empty house. Gilbert is now a believer.

Yesterday, Nick left for daycare at 7:30 and we did not pick him up until 4PM. It was a long day for him, but he did not need to participate in the activities. This morning before going to daycare he had his regular grooming. He is looking quite the handsome boy.

In strategizing the packing efforts, we decided that we would alternate with work and other things. Yesterday was a work day. Today was a fun day; after all, we are retired now. We went out shopping today from the list. After checking prices in Ecuador, we decided that we would ship a TV, even with the cost of shipping, the savings are remarkable. HHGregg gave us a good price on a 40" Samsung LED TV. We were very happy.

Mick and I are both Top-sider people. Lots of stores have sales on them now, with back to school and the like; therefore, we were out and about on Saturday, stocking up on Top-siders. For us, they're a necessity. While shopping, I spotted a Sperry duck shoe that seemed very practical for Cuenca. We will be living across the street from the river, which is a good place to walk Nick. My regular duck shoes are lace-up, these are more practical, since they are slide-on. Belk Northlake did not have my size. Today, it took 2 stores before I found them. They're not beautiful, but practical. My feet will stay dry and so will Nick's in his new Muttluks.
Our list is decreasing in length as is time. This is all just so exciting. At night, we both have difficulty sleeping because our minds are so active, waking in the middle of the night remembering something that needs to be taken care of. Things have a way of getting done and every day is ending with a feeling of accomplishment.

I love it when a plan comes together!

Until next time,
Mick and Kathy

Sunday, July 25, 2010

One Month and Counting

Sometimes it seems you wait your whole life for one event, it is finally within reach and then after waiting, there simply isn't enough time. Years ago "Dear Abby" printed a little tale in her column about the stages of life. The jist of it was that people have a tendency to overlook the present because they're so focused on the next major stage of their lives. For us, the present and the next stage of our lives has collided. One month from today we will embark on the greatest adventure we've ever encountered. Sometimes adventures are dumped into our laps and we take advantage. This one is planned, which lends to the excitement. In one month, we will be leaving life as we know it. We will be leaving our house of 23 years. We will be leaving our comfort zone. Most of our possessions have already been dispersed. Lists are important these days. A fleeting thought may end up being something crucial; therefore, it is imperative to jot it down. Not surprisingly, the lists have a reciprocal effect on our crate stuff. It's indirectly proportional; as the list decreases, the mountain increases. Mick is on the verge of panic because he's at the point that he is doubtful of 2 crates having enough space. The mountain below is just some of the items going. Somethings have not even arrived yet. The clothes still need to be boxed. We've got less than 3 weeks before the movers come. Nick peruses occasionally.

Again, a major task was accomplished today. We began packing the luggage, so at least a portion will be out of the way. Of the 6-70 pound pieces that we're allowed, 5 were done, with very little wiggle room. We have one more to pack plus the carry-on and that's what we'll live out of from August 12 until we get to Cuenca on August 26. There's quite a bit of clothing in the storage unit at the apartment.

Considering what we have already sold and given away, it seems that there is still a good bit in the house. People have already called “dibbs” on a number of the remaining things. I suggested another yard sale; Mick immediately negated that thought. He said that at this point, the piles are to “take”, give away”, or “throw away”; so be it.

Tomorrow, the boy across the street has been hired to empty the attics, we’re blessed with not one, but two. The temperature in Charlotte has been excruciating since our return. This afternoon, the temperature exceeded 100 in the shade in our backyard, and then a heat index is factored in. Young people are more durable to handle attics in the summer. Mick and I will be taking care of the stuff when it comes down.

Things are coming together, which is a very good thing since the day of our departure is getting closer. Amidst the bustle of discarding, packing, and list making, we are enjoying our last days in Charlotte. We’ve been meeting friends for lunch and dinner, enjoying their company and extending invitations to Cuenca.

We're one month and counting!

Until next time,

Mick and Kathy

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Everyday Life

When someone hears that we’re retiring to Ecuador, one of the first questions that we’re asked is what will you do all day? Won’t you get bored? Our reply is always multi-faceted. The plan is to enjoy ourselves and enjoy the company of each other. In the process of taking care of the first part of the plan, we will encounter new faces and develop new friendships. (We’ve already met some wonderful people during are brief time in Cuenca.) Also we are expecting further exploration of Ecuador and beyond. We also tell those who ask that we will continue with everyday life; that is essential in a normal existence.

This week amidst an array of lists, everyday life has continued. There have been appointments to keep. Nick has been to daycare, felt poorly yesterday, and returned to daycare today. Mick has already had to make two trips to Lexington. We’ve had every day, ordinary tasks and we expect ordinary tasks to be a part of our lives in Cuenca.

One of the appointments this week was for a haircut. It’s always a treat to go to the salon. I know it’s a woman thing, but there’s just something special about getting your hair done. I have known Dean Wike for probably 17 years. He has a top notch salon in Concord called “It’s All About You”. Dean and his partner usually travel to Europe, but we would not be surprised to see them visiting Cuenca in the future.

One of the items on our “to do list” for today was to pick up boxes. Denis and I are going to pack non-breakables to give more of a semblance of order. The shipping office is in Rock Hill, SC, we drove over and met with our shippers and received the revised quotes. Joan Dratch handles everything about setting up the shipment. Michael Wright is the representative who has been to our house revising this and that, making suggestions. They work as a team and we feel confident that our personal items will make it safely to Cuenca.

The boxes and packing material fit nicely in the back of the truck.

One of the major issues with disposing of our household has been the books. I began selling books on Amazon more than a year ago; however, they have a way of replenishing the supply. This week another load went to Goodwill. Included in the box that went were a couple of my old handbooks, Lange’s Handbook of Chemistry and the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, the Bibles of science. This is the first time in more than 35 years that I’ve been without a handbook. It may seem ridiculous, but it’s just something that you have. I will not relinquish my scientific calculator.

Today we had lunch with Dale and Joan Lance; that was delicious and fun. They’re good company; we’re still expecting them in February or March. Joan is having some fun at the dentist tomorrow and we wish her luck with that.

There is so much to do; however, even though we are not yet in Cuenca, we are taking care of the first part of our plan. We are enjoying just being with each other. Mick has always been my north star, giving me direction and keeping me focused. Without his direction, the move would not come together in the midst of everyday life.

Until next time,

Mick and Kathy

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Accomplishments, Thank You's, and Good-byes

Once again it has been a productive week, one of marking things off the "to do"list. Many things have been accomplished. We finally had to opportunity to sit down with a calendar and take a look at deadlines. All pending deadlines will be completed by August 23. We have booked passage for August 25 to Guayaquil; this includes Nikolas. Mick has made a reservation for that night at the Hilton and Carlos will pick us up on the morning of August 26 to take us to Cuenca. We're coming home!

After booking the tickets, arrangements had to be made to get the documentation for Nikolas. In order to import a pet into Ecuador, there is a 10 day window that must be adhered to. First, there is a physical, along with a health certificate that must be done by a USDA certified vet. The health certificate, along with shot records and a $35 fee, must be endorsed by the USDA. This must then be legalized by the Ecuadorian Embassy for a fee of $50. From the time the documentation is begun until Nick sets foot in Ecuador, it can be no more than 10 days.

After reviewing the required vaccines, there was one that was unfamiliar, the corona vaccine. I called Stoney Creek and was told that they no longer administer that because the disease had been irradicated. Because he MUST have this, they assured me that they would find the vaccine and have it by the next day.

Nick received his vaccination on Friday. On August 16, he has his exam and papers done first thing in the morning. Mick and I have an appointment that afternoon in Raleigh at the USDA. Previously we have dealt with the embassy in Washington, however, there is a consular office in Atlanta. Mick said that it would be better if I hand deliver the documents to the embassy. Once again, I spoke with Marco Farfan at the embassy in DC, who assured me that no appointment was necessary. I also had a call into Atlanta that was not returned. However, the consul did call this afternoon and said that she could take care of it and set up an appointment for August 18.

Nick's friend, Coco, came over on Thursday evening along with his Mom for a little romp. Nick was obviously unaffected by the stress his Mom had dealt with regarding him that afternoon.

Stoney Creek Animal Hospital has been such a part of our lives for a number of years; however, since adopting Nick, it has become more so. The staff are not only employees of the clinic, but we consider them our friends. An essential part of the clinic, Dennis Rapp, who has served as hospital manager for the past 7 1/2 years, resigned this week and his last day was yesterday. Anytime that we've been away, Dennis has graciously kept us up to date with Nick and even sent pictures. Dennis has done what ever has been needed of him in order for the clinic to run smoothly, from business affairs to spraying the trees for cankor worms. He will be greatly missed.

There was a send off for Dennis and his wife, Stacie, last night at Wild Wings Cafe-University. Most of the staff was present and Mick and I had been invited. Below is Sarah and her husband, Chris, as they were leaving.

Of course, Renee and her husband, Larry were there.

At the end of the table are the guests of honor.

This is Dr. Rick Beldegreen, the owner of Stoney Creek. Rick is a talented surgeon, a member of World Vets and has conducted spay-neuter clinics in Central America. He has just returned from Ecuador and the Galapagos.

This is Linda, one of the vet techs that has been so dear to us in difficult times. Linda loves to travel also.

Robin, Cheryl, DJ, Angie, and Sandra, all of these have helped take care of Nick at sometime or other, as well as Jake.

This is Stacie and Dennis. Someone once said that home is in the heart,not a place on a map. Stacey's heart is in Pennsylvania, which is where her family is. They have purchased a 1909 farm house to rennovate. Surprisingly, they are actually moving next week. Mick and I wish them the very best. They have an open invitation to visit us in Cuenca. We're expecting them in the spring.

The affair took place on the terrace. The day had been typically sweltering. Mick looks a bit wilted.

The picture below is of Joanna Gelfman and Jill Pascarella, Nick's vet. Both are expecting. Good luck to both!

This is Sandra, Nicole, and Susan. Guess who are twins.

Sipping the soda is Amanda, who works in daycare. She is so kind and gentle.
Standing is Angie, a vet tech, who has always been there for our puppies' problems. We had been drinking Baby Guiness's. Sandra was finishing one.

The evening was fun and Mick and I were happy to have been included. These are people that we see every day that have become a part of our lives. All of them are invited to visit us in Cuenca. We will always have an open door because they all have very special jobs. They take care of those little guys who can't speak for themselves.
Throughout life, we encounter people that enter our lives for a short time. Sometime even though it is brief, it is deep. The staff of Stoney Creek will be missed by us, but we are focusing on all those new relationships that we will develop through the years in the next phase of our lives in Ecuador.
Until next time,
Mick and Kathy

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Achieving Equilibrium

Throughout life there is a continuous flow of high to low and back again in an attempt to achieve an equilibrium. It's that equilibrium, that stability, that we usually consider our everyday lives. Mick and I have had many highs and extreme lows during our blended lives; the highs you always relish and the trials are there to make us stronger. For now, and hopefully a long time to come, we are once again on the proverbial mountain top. There is so much excitement flowing through our veins that it is truly beyond description. It seems that every day there is something that must be accomplished in order to make our deadline for departure. Currently, the deadline, in itself, is somewhat of a moving target. Mick made the announcement this morning that he thinks we can be in Cuenca by the end of August! Moving targets are always difficult to hit but, perhaps this is feasible.

A few days ago we made a list of Cuenca things: things to take, things to ship, things for Nick, things to buy. Last night I began concentrating on the list of things to buy. Our "to buy list" included 2 Kindles, those should be here by the end of the week. The list for Nikolas is a bit more important. Nikolas demands very little of us in the way of things; however, he is enamoured by a special freeze dried beef liver treat. Yes, it smells as badly as it sounds; but to Nick, it is far superior to filet mignon. I've ordered four large tubs of the tidbits. His food can be purchased at the vet before leaving. We've picked up a collapsible house to use at restaurants, plus other items for our little one.

Another thing on the "to buy list" was a grill. Gas grills can be purchased in Cuenca; however, the quality did not seem to be quite that of a Weber. Mick decided to get one to go in the crate and we picked it up this afternoon. This crate may turn into a container.

Although we have only been documenting our little adventure for a brief period, we've surprisingly been contacted by quite a few interested souls; some have even been in our own area. Today we had lunch with a couple from Mooresville, NC that had contacted us while we were in Cuenca. We met at Azteca for a delightful lunch. The couple is Dale and Joan Lance. Both are on the verge of retiring and are extremely interested in Cuenca. They were really good company and we'll see them again before our departure. Then we'll see them in Cuenca in February, when they are planning to come down to peruse the area. Below is Dale, Joan, and Mick outside the restaurant.

In the past few days we have had many moments of reflection on the past year. The reflection included many things. Last July we were in Brasil, planning on making the permanent move there. Things happen. We don't always understand why or how, but there is a an unknown force driving the sequence of events. If there is interference at any step, the outcome would be different. Last July, Cuenca was not an option; but look where fate has directed us. As a result, our lives have been enriched by our many new friends and acquaintances. Our baseline for life has been raised and as a result, the peak is becoming the equilibrium.

Until next time,

Mick and Kathy

Sunday, July 11, 2010

If you have one, they will come!

"If you build it they will come." The classic line from "Field of Dreams" applies to an auction. If you have one, they will come. They came in droves. The estate/our personal auction was yesterday, a day long ordeal full of an array of emotions in the midst of 95 degree heat. It was a huge success! Our belongings decreased exponentially yesterday.

I had been given the task of selecting the realtor and auction company. If it was a failure, then, obviously I had selected the wrong company. After a number of interviews, Yokely's, from Lexington was chosen. One of the realtors who had been interivewed said, "Keith has a huge following." What did that mean? How does an auctioneer have "a huge following"? We're not sure exactly how it happens, but it does.
Mick and I arrived around 7:30 and Keith Yokely and his crew and already unloaded our things from Charlotte and were setting out estate items. Shortly after we arrived, the participants began to drive in. Mick had hired a deputy sheriff to be on the premises in case there were any issues, he can be seen behind the ladder.

Here's Mick sitting for the last time at our kitchen table, with his trusty Weber in the background.

There was a concession stand that included homemade ice cream.

Items were displayed at all the out buildings, inside, outside, in the basement, everywhere. It was going to be a long day.

As the 10th hour approached, the crowd increased. As people watchers, we observed what is apparently a subculture about which we were unaware. We have been to a couple of auctions through the years, but merely in passing. These were serious "auctionites". They came armed with chairs, coolers, and battery operated fans. They came by car, truck, and golf cart (which is a major mode of transportation in the area). They came from all over the Piedmont of North Carolina. Yes, Keith did have a following!
Above is Mick being obscure and blending into the crowd.
Below is Keith demonstrating the Massey-Ferguson that went for a very good price. It was a "man's auction" I was told.
We were quite flabbergasted at the price of things. Examples include a 410 over and under shotgun that Mick had paid $79, sold for $215. Bob had every kind of knife known to man, large pocket knives with gadgets, not a Leatherman, but just a knife were going for $20 each. His mom's upright piano sold for $5 and his blonde mahogany bedroom suite including a highboy from his youth, went for the grand total of $10. There was no rhyme or reason. A couple of women got in a bidding war over a pair of junk twin beds of Bob's and they were sold for $150. Yet this truly beautiful vintage, mint-condition, blonde mahogany bedroom suite sold for $10. I had previously tried to talk Mick into our keeping it for the guest bedroom in Cuenca, but that was when we were shipping a container.

Some of the items were emotional. Being carried off to its new home above is my Hull piggy bank that our neighbor gave to me as a baby present. When it was brought up, I said I was going to bid on it, Mick gave a brief lecture about "stuff" and "moving"; I let it go.

There were many people there. A total of 206 registered to bid; we were told that is a good crowd. A few months ago, an estate was sold on the same road and there were 52 bidders registered.
The property sold for more than Mick was expecting to get; the property is actually worth twice the value, but this is not a perfect world. It was a long day. The auction lasted, non stop, until almost 3:30. Everyone seemed to be a happy camper. The buyers had their bargains. the concession lady had charged premium prices and had made a killing. Keith was all smiles and so were we!
In the winter when we were planning how to liquidate, we had contacted an estate liquidator. She perused our belongings, said that she could sell it for 40% and we would end up with probably $1800. Although we were realistic, regarding our things being used and the economic situation, but we found that to be very insulting and disheartening. You like to think that what you have accumulated is worth just a bit more than that. A couple of things were sold on Craig's List and some china sold on e-bay. It was time consuming. With the few things that we did sell and yesterday's results, we've already quadrupled that initial figure. The auction worked for us. Perhaps it is not the answer for everyone that is leaving 99% of their possessions, but it was right for us.
The few remaining essentials that we have in the house already have buyers. A couple of things are being given to friends. The crate is scheduled to ship on August 12. Tomorrow, the Allied representative is returning for some last minute instructions.
Yesterday was exhausting. We were tired, but it was a happy tired. We were happy because the estate had been liquidated. We were happy because our things sold easily and we now have an almost empty house. We were happy because Ecuador gets closer every day. We were happy because the day was a tremendous success. Mick gave me a thumbs up for making the right decision on auction companies.
Not only were Mick and I tired, but Nikolas was with us and he was such a trooper. He was so calm in the midst of the crowd. We feel as if the hardest and most involved part of the move is behind us. If you have one, they will come.
Until next time,
Mick and Kathy