Tag Archives: immigrant

I’ve Been Gone For A While But Wait Until You Hear Why…

Since my last blog I received my UK visa!

Wait.

Even with that exclamation mark this sentence doesn’t begin to reflect the monumental nature of the event: Receiving my UK visa …. And  I will not stoop to a double exclamation mark. I have way too many English Majors in my life, who keep tabs on me, for such faux pas….

Perhaps my blogs should come with a disclaimer; something along the lines of the one on my rearview mirror: Images in print appear much smaller than in my reality!

Okay let’s start over.

In April of this year, I received a UK visa after Egils and I worked towards that end for 3 1/2  long years of our lives.  UK law requires that anyone coming from beyond the European Union borders (that would be me) must have a sponsor (that would be Egils) who can adequately (financially) support him/herself as well as the person being sponsored. The UK government is unaware that people coming from the former Soviet countries (namely: Egils and I) can live on air, so the amount of financial stability that they required was um… ridiculous, by our standards.

Screen goes wavy then white and we fade into a backstory…. I’ve been dabbling in video recently.

It’s July, 2009, I’ve lived in Latvia for almost a decade with my Latvian partner, Egils. Both of us received slashes in our, already pathetic, salaries prior to all paychecks ending, a few months ago. We have gone through most of our savings. Every day one of our friends or associates leaves Latvia. The grocery stores’ supplies are dwindling. My close American friend of more than 40 years, Bette, says gently, during a Skype talk, “You have to leave. You don’t really have a choice. I’ll help you, but you must go. Now.”

I’ve been denying this obvious fact for almost a year. But within this moment, I know she’s right. We must leave.

I apply for a UK visa, based on what’s left of our paltry savings,  123 online job applications that Egils has submitted for jobs in UK, and a heartfelt plea to return to the land of my great-grandparents.

A week later I receive my visa application back with a “WTF Woman! You can’t seriously think we’re going to let you reenter the sacred land that your ancestors  abandoned 100 years ago, based on a few bucks in an Eastern European bank account and some auto-response replies to online job applications!”

The official wording is “Visa Denied” but in retrospect, I totally know what they wanted to say.

We spend less than a month packing our small car, renting our home, and finding keepers for our cats, before fleeing our home in Latvia, in August, and arriving in Scotland one week later.

Egils enters the UK workforce on the bottom rung of the ladder, trying to make enough money to sponsor me. His masters degree, rich work experience,  fluency in multiple languages, and strong work ethic are of almost no value. He has an accent. He’s unfamiliar with local culture and traditions. He’s come here, uninvited, from a poverty stricken country, at a time when local people are scrambling for the few remaining jobs in the midst of their own recession.

He takes any and every job that comes his way: he works with disabled people, hangs banners over kiosks, scrapes old signage off walls and applies new, drives people to and from the airports…. I help when I can but have no legal rights to work without a visa.

Our time together, in Scotland, is spent in a rented room with the Syme family in a small village in Stirlingshire—the gateway to The Highlands. The Symes become our Scottish family. On good days they are our safety net; on bad days, our guardian angels.

In spite of the Syme family’s boundless hospitality and our endless efforts to make money, I am forced to leave UK 6 months after we arrive because I am an American without a UK visa.

This  6-months-in-UK-6-months-in-USA  requirement continues for 3 1/2 years. Ultimately Egils and I live separately for more than 2  of those 3 1/2 years—him working odd jobs and looking for full-time employment in UK, while I live in the USA with my dear friend Bette ( yes, we are still best friends!) and her husband, Mike.

This gave me more than 2 years of time in the USA to visit with my adult children: Morgan, Debra, Jonathan and Jessica, as well as my grand-babies. I had months  with my brother Tim, his wife and my dear friend, Mia, and their clan—more time than we’ve ever shared in our adult incarnation; what a blessing! I had time with my dear sisters Jeannine and Heather and their clans. I traveled from Coudersport, PA—where I spent time time with my physically and mentally declining mother and her amazing, young-at-heart, sisters—to Cocoa Beach, Florida where I reunited with my dear friend and boarding school roommate, Brenda (and her man, Bert). Brenda and I also cruised to Alaska, walked the ship’s deck in the (nearly) midnight sun and witnessed the birth of an otter on an iceberg.

Many aspects of these past 3 years were miraculous— rewarding in so many ways and on so many levels of my being…. But they were also years of separation from my beloved partner; they were years of incredible insecurity; they were times of learning the true meaning of faith. They were times that taught us the essence of what it means to be an immigrant: A person with many homes, while lacking a real home. They were times that challenged me—challenged us—to the core.

I have many  other visas and each picture tells a story: I’m over-the-moon to be going to Russia and experience a country I never thought I’d see, in early 1993…. I’m trying to smile, as I have finally succeeded in getting an Estonian visa, but my eyes are bloodshot. It is the week my father died … I have a lopsided smile in my next Estonian visa. I came straight from the dentist’s office with a numb, paralyzed jaw (but the appointment with the photographer had been hard to get)… I’m smiling like I have a secret in my first Latvian Visa. I am in those first days of new love with my partner….

My UK visa picture is quite different from any of the others. I am looking pleadingly, at the camera. I look exhausted and like I’ve been crying for years… I’ve been through heart failure. I’ve been away from my man for… it feels like forever. I’ve been living on the edge for way too long….

There were good times in these past 3 1/2 years. In fact there were great times that I wouldn’t exchange for anything. But there were some godawful, I-can’t-believe-I-lived-through-them times as well.

But now they live only as memories.

Because…

I got my UK visa!!

Now let me address the above statement: I’ve been dabbling in video recently…

After 1 & 1/2 years of working on a video, I’ve now completed it and posted it on YouTube! I am pleased and honored to share this with you.

In Search of Home: A photographic essay of our journey from Eastern Europe to Scotland. I really hope you’ll enjoy it and pass it along to others.

http://youtu.be/Ov8nyg8g8CY

I have also pretty much set up my online store where, should anyone desire to own prints of—or products containing—some of my best photos, just click below and voilà!

http://www.cafepress.com/BonnyScotland

So that’s what I’ve been up to since January and my last post (shame on me!). I hope to be blogging more regularly now that I have ended my regular commute between USA and UK.

For now, I’m nestled back in my wee village in the foothills (or hellfits as it sounds when the Scots refer to them) of the Ochils.

I will end this blog with a few pictures I took this week on the moor. Sheriffmuir, to be exact.

Gorse on the side of a hill

The gorse is blooming; the heather is next!

Cemetery

An amazingly colorful cemetery as I entered the road up to the moor …

Ewe and Lamb

Once on the moor, the ewes and lambs welcomed me!

Sheep scratching

Snow capped mountains, blue skies, sheep scratching their necks. Life is good on the moors

Advertisements

Magic, Miracles and Gifts From Those Who Came Before

A warning to all who know me or have read prior blogs: I’m going to break redundant for just a few sentences—until the end of the italicized writing— in order to bring any new readers up to snuff.

I was widowed in 1993.

Two years after my husband’s death I packed up my two youngest children and moved to Europe, where I raised them in the small countries of Estonia and Latvia. I was financially ruined, after my husband’s death, but was able to scrape enough money together to make a decent life for my daughters and myself in North Eastern Europe. I bought a small home for cash and we had affordable medical care. It was a safe, clean environment in which to raise my little girls. My older children remained in the USA.  In 1999 I met a wonderful man named Egils and we joined together to create a family and lived in Latvia.

Flash-forward: After the economic collapse of Latvia, in 2009, we moved to Scotland where we now live. Okay that’s it for the backstory of my blog today.

In 2006, while living in Latvia, I rented a fisherman’s cottage in Anstruther, Scotland, with friends. We spent two weeks living by the sea in The Kingdom of Fife, touring castles, walking along the rocky coast, eating fish and chips and sampling whiskey. In the evenings I watched, mesmerized, as the tide slipped into the village—seeping up the narrow cobbled alleyways that ran between old stone houses—on the sea side of the village. One night I sat up most of the night listening to the wind whistle and howl as it drove the beating rain against the old windowpanes of our cottage. I had been in love with Scotland, prior to that visit. From that time forward, however, I was consumed by a longing to return. Referring to my longing as homesickness sounded pretentious, even to me; but it was the only word I knew that came close to describing the aching I felt—when I thought of my time spent in the beautiful Kingdom of Fife—and my burning desire to return.

That same year, after my time spent in Scotland, I began researching my ancestry on my father’s mother’s side. Rachel Scott, my father’s mother, had offered me unconditional love all of my life until her death in 1973, just three months before the birth of my first child. I adored my grandmother, as did my brother and sisters; we called her Noonie.

Noonie taught me how and where to plant pansies, how to grow hearty vegetables and how to knead and bake bread. She’d wiped my tears, rubbed my sore muscles with Black Salve (an herbal concoction her mother had taught her to make) and tucked my body into bed with satin comforters—which smelled like her old cedar chest—every night I slept under her roof.  She had endlessly tended, worried and fussed over me all of my childhood, but she seldom spoke of her parents. I knew that she was very close to both of them—especially her father— and that they’d come from Scotland; beyond that I knew nothing. I certainly didn’t know that my great grandfather—Noonie’s father—was raised in the small town of East Wemyss, only minutes from Anstruther, in The Kingdom of Fife, where I had fallen so deeply in love with Scotland. I’m not sure my grandmother even knew the name of this small village, since her father referred to his younger life as having been spent in Edinburgh—no doubt because it was the nearest large city.  When I found the exact farm where my ancestors had worked as laborers, I realized that I had driven within a mile of that farm and their cottages, several times while staying in Anstruther.

This synchronicity came at the beginning of my journey into my genealogy. There were more to follow.

Within a few months of researching, I learned that my great-great grandmother, Agnes Scott (Noonie’s grandmother), had been widowed at a young age and moved with two of her children to America—one of whom was John Scott, Noonie’s father—leaving the rest of her grown children in Scotland.  The fact that I had been widowed at a young age and had moved with my two younger children to Europe, leaving my adult children in USA, instantly created a bond between Agnes and me.

My nephew, David Cosentino, and I worked obsessively on this particular branch of our family tree, for several months in 2006.

Gradually my ancestors became more than names in an old bible in the attic. In particular my great-great grandmother: Agnes was a real woman who’d loved and lost her husband, William, as I had lost my husband, John. Her children had lost their father as had mine. Agnes left her homeland with little more than her clothes, two of her children and the wish to survive, exactly as I had. This small family left their homeland not knowing if or when they would see the rest of their family and loved ones again. In this sense our realities differed greatly; I knew I would frequently see my older children, family, and friends in my homeland. I could only imagine Agnes’s pain and insecurity with this additional burden. But in many of the fundamental ways Agnes and I were very similar. We buried a husband and father who was too young to die. We made the hard and drastic decision to leave our homeland, as widows, leaving our grown children and loved ones behind, to create a better life. We survived.

In 2009, when Latvia collapsed my partner, Egils, and I headed west landing in Scotland. I hadn’t thought much about my great-great grandmother Agnes—and our paralleling lives—for almost 3 years. David had been busy working and raising a young family; I’d been trying to survive financially… With neither of us nudging the other forward, the old stories lay silently tucked away in attics, drawers, and old archives.

I didn’t pursue researching my ancestry, here in Scotland, for the next two years. My life was busy with days crammed full of projects.

Then last year, while I was in the States, my mother broke her hip and was confined to a nursing home for what promised to be an indefinite period of time. My brother, Tim, and I began the laborious process of sorting through my mother’s home: The same homestead where my beloved grandmother had lived and raised her family; the home where my parents lived in their later life and where—after my father’s death in 1998—my mother had remained and grown old. This home has always been a reminder of the happiest memories of my childhood and my connection with those who have gone before me. It has always been magical…

As I sifted through mountains of paperwork including old photographs, documents, bills, and personal letters (my mom saved virtually everything she touched) my eyes fell upon something interesting: A document printed on cardstock, created near the end of the 19th century, somewhere in Scotland. I read it slowly:

“In Affectionate Remembrance

 of

Janet Scott,

Aged 21 Years,

Who departed this life, 1st of January, 1874.”

My body went cold. Janet Scott was a daughter of Agnes and William. It wasn’t the fact that Janet had died that started my hands shaking; Janet would have died many years prior to 2012. It was the date on which Janet died that disturbed me. This document revealed something I had not known before that moment: Barely six months before, William, her husband died, Agnes had lost her daughter, Janet! Sitting in the living room of the house where my Noonie had kept me tightly tucked beneath her wing throughout my childhood, I thought of Agnes—Noonie’s grandmother—and she was once again close to me. Her story was unfolding: Now I knew that she had not only lost her husband, William, but also a daughter in that fateful year, shortly before deciding to migrate to America.

Found in my mother's home in summer of 2012: Janet's Death Notice

Janet’s Scott’s death notice: found among the piles of papers in my mother’s home last summer. The death was not shocking; the dates were.

When I returned to Scotland in July 2012, I was overwhelmed with projects: A new Internet store to organize and build, a new lifestyle to construct (after having CHF as a part of my life, I now swim 40 minutes a day, eat very differently and require more sleep). Consequently my genealogy was once again on a back burner.

But, even without any direct attention aimed at Agnes and the Scott branch of my family tree, they entered my consciousness from time to time—like each time I traveled up to Fife or baked bread or saw a movie set here in Scotland in the late 1800’s…

Then on September 3rd David sent me a picture of a middle aged man standing next to a monument.

Monument dedicated to William, Catherine, Janet, and Margaret Scott

This is my great grandfather, John Scott, standing next to a monument erected to his father William and three sisters: Catherine, Janet and Margaret.

The email read: Here’s one [a picture] of John Scott. The monument refers to William Scott who was his father. Janet is mentioned here (the one from the death notice [that I’d found last summer at my mother’s house]) – she would have been John’s sister. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could track this down and take a pic today? 😉

I loved the picture. I was, however, confused as to how Dave could think this picture was from Scotland. John Scott left Scotland with his mother, Agnes and his sister Rachel in 1874 when he was 19 years old. How could this monument to his father and sister, Janet, be in Scotland, with him standing next to it, as a middle aged man?

I wrote back to David:

Dave I’m 90 percent sure this [monument] is in USA. It was erected by Thomas and Rachel Scott Blythe in loving memory of their father… my guess is they erected this in the States in memory of their father William and sisters who had died here in the old country.

Holly 

But there was more to this monument than just the mystery of “where in the world was it?” This monument clearly stated that Agnes had lost three of her daughters. Catherine had died in 1870, Janet in 1874, and Margaret had passed in 1877; three years after Agnes had migrated to America. All of the girls were in their 20’s.  I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. The sorrow that I felt for my great-great grandmother was now physical—my stomach was in knots. After a bit of research I learned that there had been a massive epidemic of Scarlet Fever in Scotland, between 1874 and 1875 that had killed 11,000 Scots. This explained both William’s and Janet’s deaths; the other two sister’s deaths remained a mystery. I told myself that this had happened many years ago; it was not an uncommon scenario in the 19th century and my visceral emotional reaction was illogical if not ridiculous. But I couldn’t curb my feelings and I continued struggling with this overwhelming sense of grief.

Egils, sensing my sadness, and always up for an adventure, suddenly said, “I get off work at 5. Why don’t we head up to East Wemyss and see if there is a cemetery or church that might have a trace of the William Scotts?”

It was a brilliant plan. Getting out of the house and looking for some tangible evidence of my ancestors would occupy my mind with something other than the Scarlet Fever epidemic of the 1870’s and the pain and suffering of my people.

I shot off a message to David:

I just got a bee in my bonnet. Egils and I are driving up to East Wemyss after work and a quick swim and going to the cemetery. 

H

To which David—shocked and excited by the abruptly hatched plan—wrote back simply:

Well, [removed expletive]. You go! 🙂

I honestly feel that my ancestors—at this point, if not prior—actively stepped in and took the reins…

We left our village, intending to take a quick swim before starting the hour drive to East Wemyss. Swimming is a daily routine, conducted at specific times; we very seldom reschedule.

As we headed out, however, Egils said, “We have plenty of time before the pool closes; let’s go to East Wemyss first.” This was the first touch of destiny: Had we gone swimming first, we would have gotten caught in a massive thunderstorm that was, unbeknownst to us, heading for East Wemyss. Heavy rains would have undoubtedly made walking the cemetery impossible.

We arrived in East Wemyss just after 6:00 to sunny skies, parked our car in front of the only church we could see, on Main Road. Apparently there is a small cemetery in the back of the church but for some reason we didn’t even look there. Instead, I asked a passerby if there was a main cemetery. (In hindsight, I realized how out of character this was for us. This church cemetery would have been the logical place to bury people in the 19th century. But again, if we’d spent any time looking through that cemetery, we’d have gotten caught in the coming storm.)

We were told that if we followed the same road a short while we would find a large cemetery on our right. We got back in the car and drove maybe a half-mile to the enormous MacDuff Cemetery, sandwiched between the Main Road and the Firth of Fourth (just this side of the North Sea). From the time we left our village our world seemed a bit surreal, but from this point on I recall feeling like a character in a play—going through the motions of a prewritten script.

We parked the car in a parking lot at the far end of the cemetery, not realizing that we could drive into the cemetery and began walking back towards town through thousands of stone markers and monuments. If we’d driven on the small roads that, we later realized, ran through the cemetery we’d never have ended up where we did. It’s hard to imagine that we didn’t notice the roads and drive them… It simply wasn’t part of the script, I suppose.

We arrived at MacDuff Cemetery and immediately felt slightly deflated. The size of the cemetery was daunting. The old and new stones and monuments stood side-by-side and the weather was looking dodgy. But something made us move forward…

As we walked slowly across the grounds, we searched for old stones or markers of the type that might have been placed by a poor family in the late 1800’s. We quickly realized, to our dismay that most of the older markers and stones had worn down too badly to read.

Initially I’d hoped that the cemetery might be divided into sections according to eras. It was quickly apparent, however, that the very old and fairly new (1850-1960’s) markers stood side by side.  Logically there was little room to hope we’d find anything, but for some inexplicable reason we continued walking forward through the center of the massive cemetery, slightly veering left, for no reason that we were aware of. We did not meander; we walked in only one direction, through the grass, making our own route towards something, or—more likely, it seemed—towards nothing at all.

We both quickly agreed that the calm walk along the seaside was probably more of a reason to be there than any realistic hope of finding anything.

After perhaps 10-15 minutes of wandering, we realized that a storm was coming in off the sea. Clearly understanding the improbability of ever finding evidence of William, Janet, Margaret and Catherine Scott in this beautiful, massive, maze of a cemetery, Egils (who was walking slightly ahead of me) turned around and said, “Maybe somewhere there’s a directory of names and where people are buried.” And then he reiterated what we’d already recognized, “Because even if there is a marker somewhere, most of the really old ones that are close to the ground are not readable…”

I knew, at this point, that he was tired after a long day’s work and the importance of our journey was probably just getting out of the house and spending some time together.

“Yeah, and there may not even be a marker if they were as poor as I think,” I added, as I prepared to turn around and return to the car.

Then suddenly I stopped in mid turn-around and said, “You know we had this exact same sense when we were looking for Stella. We knew there was a good chance that Stella was killed in the war or had died afterwards or had married and changed her name. We had every reason to doubt that we’d find her and then we did. Just like that: There she was!”

(Note: Stella was a Latvian woman who had disappeared pre WWII. Against insurmountable odds, after years of searching through old Soviet archives and just as we were about to give up the search we found her.)

It restored my faith a bit to remember how I felt when—against all probability, feeling deflated and helpless—Stella seemed to materialize in front of our eyes.

I began walking towards Egils, again, but after only two or three steps forward, I had to step around a monument just to my left. I looked at it and read “William Scott.”

I was mentally unable to process what I was seeing.

Monument at MacDuff Cemetery

This caught my eye but was too shocking to completely process, mentally.

When I continued reading, my first thought was, “Huh… this stone is full of names exactly like my family’s. Those Scotts really liked those particular names!”

Holly at monument in East Wemyss Cemetery

This is seconds after stumbling across the monument that I was “90 percent certain” was in the USA.

As I realized what I was looking at, I almost fell over: I was standing in the exact same spot where my great grandfather stood, in Dave’s photo; I was looking at the same monument!

The ground beneath my feet felt sacred—not in the cemetery sense, but in the “Something really blessed is happening right here in this moment.

As dramatic as it sounds I was completely overwhelmed with a sense of my ancestors presence. I sat down on the ground and touched the base of the obelisk as I read the names: William. Catherine. Janet. Margaret.

I’m not sure why, but touching this stone, made it more real to me. It was actually unreal until the moment that I felt the stone beneath my fingers.

Agnes’s husband and three of her daughters. Gone.

What immediately struck me as odd (and continues to) is that I suddenly felt happy. Seeing this monument and reading these names didn’t sadden me more. I felt my people smiling down at me. I felt they had brought me to this point and were pleased that I now knew a bit more of their story. We were connected in that moment; they were once again engaged in life—my life and that of my children and living family.

By the time we walked back to our car it was raining and it rained all the way home…

This monument made a statement: How incredibly important family must have been to my ancestors. This pilgrimage back to the motherland, at the turn of the century, to erect this monument to William and the three girls—Janet, Catherine, and Margaret—took money, courage and a commitment that speaks volumes about the terrible sense of loss they felt but it also speaks of immense love, loyalty and bonds that lived within the family.

I emailed Dave as soon as I returned home:

The monument is here!!!! I found it!!!!!!

And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that our ancestors led me to it. It was bizarre beyond my wildest dreams.

Love you!

H

And Dave replied:

This ancestry stuff can take some weird twists and turns…

David is the master of understatement.

David and I agree that sometimes the magic and miracles that surround this genealogical research leaves us thinking the ancestors want to be heard. They want their stories to be discovered and shared. It’s important—perhaps only because it makes us stronger to know what our people went through in order to get us here. Today.

I thank them, today, for all of the pain, grief and sorrow they endured those years gone by, as well as for leading me to a monument in East Wemyss on September 3, 2012 so I could unravel a bit more of their story and share it.

And as I sit here, in my wee Scottish village, writing this blog in the 21st century, I feel the completion of a circle. Agnes left and I’ve returned.

A note to Agnes: I’m home, Agnes. My babies are all grown and some have babies of their own. I have cousins and second cousins with babies who have babies… Your line lives on… It’s not always an easy life here on planet earth but I think I can speak for all of us—your descendants—we are grateful for the opportunity to travel these roads. And we are here thanks to you, your perseverance and your strength. It was all worth it.

Well done!

The Accidental Immigrant

My life felt like cheap, poorly designed boots, back then. Not that it was a bad life; it was just an ill fit. I had a much higher opinion of myself than to think I would have created such a mundane life as mine was; surely this was all some cosmic accident. I should mention that I believed in accidents, back in the day…

I longed to travel from the time I read my first book about far off places; the first of which was a sci-fi book set on Mars. At the age of seven Mars seemed like an exciting holiday destination other than the lack of oxygen thing. Within my imaginary adventures I was already setting the bar for my future travels: heavy on the excitement, light on creature comforts. Reading about far away lands allowed me to create myself in a different life—a life that excited and engaged me. I studied both French and German when I was eight years old; by the age of ten I regularly dreamed of traveling abroad.

I married young, and started my family; a life choice that pretty much put traveling in an indefinite holding pattern. My husband John assured me that we would one-day travel and I knew that I would; I felt it in my bones. Meanwhile, I built homes and had babies; I baked bread and wrote songs; I started businesses and planted gardens.

And I continued dreaming of travel although I engaged in few activities to support my dream, other than reading.

When I was 26, I stepped into a plane—a tiny Cessna 152. I excitedly signed up for flying lessons that same day. Within my first month of flying, however, I had two realizations. First: I actually didn’t want to pilot my own plane; I simply wanted to experience a sense of travel and adventure—however brief and illusory. It was the second realization, however, that ended my career as a pilot before it began: My lack of any sense of direction would likely hurl me into a missing persons’ file if I attempted the solo flight required for a pilot’s license. Since going missing was more of an adventure than even I cared to experience, achieving a pilot’s license disappeared from my bucket list. Flying solo was not an option.

A married, homeowner, mother of four, living in rural Virginia, singer in a family band, owner of several small businesses over the years, I appeared more or less average in print, in spite of my burning desire for something else. Something more. Something different. But through it all, I had John: My husband, soul mate and for better or worse (and trust me there were plenty of both) the cornerstone of my life. We had a passionate, elaborately interwoven relationship that began when I was eighteen years old. Ours was not always an easy relationship, but it was always… perpetual… constant… predictably unpredictable…

In the summer of 1993, I was 41 years old. Our children were ages 20 (Morgan), 16 (Jonathan), 8 (Jessica) and 4 (Erin). Our family had outgrown our home the day Erin—our treasured surprise baby—was born; four years later it was bursting at the seams. Buying a new home, however, was out of the question as we robbed from Peter to pay Paul just to cover our basic bills that year. The recession of the late 80’s early 90’s had taken its toll; we had yet to bounce back although we knew we would, as we excitedly planned our next business venture. We were struggling on many levels when, out of the blue, John became ill and suddenly died. Within his long final breath my entire life turned inside out before plummeting into an abyss that took me two years to find my way out of.

With a life that revolved around my husband, I searched franticly for an identity beyond wife. I couldn’t imagine being anything besides the other half of We: We built our house. We had a family. We sang and played music together… I had no clue how to be an Ihow to fly solo with absolutely no sense of direction—but I had no choice but to do so.

I spent two years wandering around within the abyss; I longed for what I had once considered my ill-fitting life. It was near the end of this time that I truly connected with my—as of yet unexpressed—inner traveler. And she was one pushy, impulsive, little bitch! She was also a survivor who led me out of the abyss and into a life that ultimately fit me like a pair of custom-made Italian leather boots.

By 1995 Morgan was living on her own and Jonathan was enrolled in a school in Arizona. I was down to two children living at home, with no idea where we were going.

Initially I thought I’d take my two youngest daughters, Erin and Jessica, and visit Estonia for 6 months before returning to the USA and finding my niche within American society. I was enchanted with the idea of spending time in this newly independent state. Having become a part of the Soviet Union in the 1940’s, Estonia gained her independence in 1991. I liked the idea of visiting a brand new country before it became commercialized. Both Estonia and I were struggling to find ourselves; we were both creating a new identity, while in a healing process.

I packed up my daughters and headed east in 1995. We flew to Reykjavík, Iceland before traveling to Stockholm, Sweden. From Stockholm we took a Ferry to Helsinki, Finland and then a second ferry down to Tallinn, Estonia. After an exhausting 3-hour train ride from Tallinn to Tartu, Estonia we settled into a cozy two-bedroom rental flat.

Estonia was in the process of creating herself in front of our eyes—changing appreciably, every day. In spite of having no hot water for months on end, no clothes washer and no car, our life was exciting and fulfilling; heavy on excitement and light on creature comforts. It was a perfect fit.

When our flight back to the USA came around, 6 months later, we ritualistically destroyed our tickets after deciding we would buy a place of our own and remain in Europe “for a while longer.”

I am now entering my 18th year of living abroad—currently in Scotland. My youngest daughters are grown and living on their own: Jessica graduates from Temple University, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this spring, and Erin lives with her husband and baby girl in Nottingham, England. Morgan is a musician and mother living with her husband and daughter in Virginia and Jonathan, also in Virginia, owns his own business and lives with his wife on the side of a mountain.

I never consciously intended to immigrate; I wanted to travel and explore the world before returning “home”… But my choices led me down another path and I’ve come to realize that my “home” resides within me. I have lived a rich, although often solitary, life. I feel blessed that the Universe has supported me so well, allowing me, thus far, to avoid trips to Mars…

This blog is about raising my daughters in foreign lands, the people who have touched my life (including one special person who joined me on my journey), and my ever-changing worldviews. But it’s also about my inner-travels—those accidental revelations and realizations that accompany becoming an accidental immigrant.

A few of the more important realizations being: There are no accidents. No life is ever an ill fit. We are all travelers—whether or not we’ve ever stepped on a plane, ridden on a train or left our hometown—because life is the ultimate journey!