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The Wandering Widow

Observations, Tips and Reckless Truth Telling on the Road Through Grief

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10 Things I Love About Scotland

A Wandering Widow Post

It may sound silly to say a country could sweep you off your feet, but that’s exactly what happened to me. When I first visited in the spring, it was enough to make me swoon and put Scotland at the top of my list for this adventure. I wasn’t sure if I’d fallen in love with Scotland itself or if it were because it was the first place I’d felt joy in a long time, but I knew I’d figure it out. I’m thrilled to report that it’s all Scotland, and I love it even more than before.

Here are the top 10 reasons I love this country. Believe me; it was a struggle to narrow it down to 10.

1. The Highlands. I’m afraid photos just don’t do it justice. The majesty and power and magic of the mountains and hills, the glens, and the rivers are enough to make me wish I was a poet or painter or that I had the resources just to get out and walk every last inch of it.

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2. The skyscape. If I take any more photos of clouds, my camera may quit on me. But it’s hard to stop myself from doing it. The clouds are ever changing, which alters the light and the colors of everything you see. Time-lapse photography was made just for this.

Outer Hebrides Clouds (3 of 1)

 

3. The beaches. Okay, so the beaches here are a little different than the ones I enjoyed growing up in the tropics, but that makes them no less beautiful. The white sand beaches up in the Orkney Isles are crystal blue. And despite the cold wind, I’m already dreaming about going back.

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4. The ocean. I’ve spent more time on boats and ferries in the last five weeks than I have in the last five years. Rough or smooth, always cold and windy, I couldn’t get enough of it. One of my favorite memories of this trip will be holding on for dear life (it was a titch rough that day) on the top deck of the ferry as I headed to the Orkney Isles, laughing like a maniac and keeping an eye out for the infamous whirlpools I’m told can appear.

It was hilarious. Maybe you had to have been there.

5. The history. Scotland’s history is deeply rooted in the culture and people. It oozes out of the very earth under your feet and the abundant water that runs through it. Researching my Scottish ancestry made it that much more powerful and personal. Recognizing clan names from both our family trees was like winning the long-lost relatives jackpot, even when I was advised not to tell anyone mine and to use Dan’s instead. (this is hilarious for a number of reasons). And no, it’s not Campbell.
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6. The casual vibe. I like getting dressed up as much as the next girl, but when you’re living out of a backpack, it’s convenient to be able to go pretty much anywhere you want in jeans and hiking boots. (The LBD remains packed in the bottom of the suitcase, just in case). No one ever seems to be in a hurry. Scotland may be the most chill place I’ve ever visited. And did I mention super dog-friendly? Dogs are welcome in most bars and cafes, so Fido doesn’t have to be left at home or in the car. Izzy-booboo would be in dog heaven here.

7. The people. And not just the rugged, handsome, kilt-wearing dudes. (Seriously ladies, you can stop messaging me pictures of rugged, handsome, kilt-wearing dudes). Every single person I met was kind, friendly and welcoming. In Hawaii, we call that the Aloha Spirit and the Scots are pros.  Maybe that’s why I felt so immediately at home here.  The only rude people I encountered were middle-aged American women, but that’s a post for another day. 

8. The ease of transportation. For those days foot power just isn’t enough, you can get almost anywhere by bus or train. For everything else, you can hop on a tour or find a hired driver or a new friend who wants to take you there. It made it really easy to travel solo, especially since I didn’t want to rent a car and drive.

9. The single malts. You had to have known whisky would make this list. I accepted the single malt challenge while I was there. It will probably take me two years but, by the time it’s over, I will have sampled at least one offering from each of the 130 distilleries on my list.

10. The Idaho-ness. I haven’t felt homesick at all for Boise, but since Scotland reminds me so much of Idaho, it’s like I never left. Just like Idaho, Scotland is full of mountains, rivers, and people with a great love of the outdoors, family and friends. So yeah, Scotland reminds me a lot of Idaho, only with better weather.

If you’ve been thinking about visiting Scotland, do it. Don’t wait. And take me with you.

XOXO,
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.

Bonus Reason:
11. Scotland’s national animal is a unicorn, officially making it the coolest country in the world.

The Only Place Left to Go is Up!

A Wandering Widow Post

 

Sometimes when you can’t see the answer, you need to change your perspective. That thought thundered through my brain this morning as I woke up at the butt crack of dawn to meet a friend to go on a hot air balloon ride.  (For some reason I’m determined to get over my fear of heights and can’t seem to keep my feet on the ground).

 

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Morning fog and the sun just starting to peek over the mountains. Sometimes it’s worth it to get up early and go outside.

 

I’d originally purchased this trip for Mom since a balloon ride was something she’d talked about wanting to do pretty much my whole life. As Dan and I rushed to check as many things off our bucket list while we could, it became important to me to help her Live Now with one of hers. As it turned out, she wasn’t able to make it, but I’m grateful that I got to.  I’d have never known what I was missing.

 

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This couple got married just before lift off. OMG the feels!

 

As I get ready to set sail on world adventures, having some in my own backyard seems like a good idea. And Boise pulled out all the stops this morning. After nine months of trying to get off the ground, this morning dawned still and beautiful for our early morning trip.  Our balloon was named the Phoenix, which couldn’t have been more perfect since the rising Phoenix has become the symbol of my survival and transformation. And it’s the heat of the fire that lifts the balloon to new heights, new views, and a new perspective.

 

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Phoenix Rising.

 

If you ever get the chance, do it.  Sometimes the only place left to go is up.

XOXO,

The Wandering Widow

The Info:

We booked with Boise Hot Air Balloon Company. They’ve been easy to work with despite the multiple rescheduling. Safety is a priority, so don’t give them a hard time if you get grounded at the last minute. I thought my nine months of rescheduling was long, but there was another passenger who’d waited two years. Boise weather this last year hasn’t been kind to balloon pilots.

We met early at the Albertson’s parking lot in Eagle and were shuttled to Eagle Island Park for launch.  TIP: if you are in a hurry to get back, you’ll want to schedule your own driver. We ended up having to wait for everything to be packed up before we got shuttled back, turning a 45 minute flight into a three hour excursion.

The weather in the air is about 10 degrees warmer than on the ground. Add to that the temperature inside the balloon itself can get close to 200 degrees, and you may not need a jacket. Long pants and closed toe shoes are required, and you will want to remember your sunglasses, since you’ll be staring into the sun for the better part of the ride. But what an amazing sunrise!

 

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You know which of your friends are fellow adventurers when they show up at 6 am after you give them less than 12 hours notice to get childcare arranged.
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Idaho has some of the most incredible sunrises I’ve ever seen. And I grew up in Hawaii so that is saying something
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One of the things I will miss about Idaho is being part of this close-knit ag community.
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Good morning, Beautiful.
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Evolution of wagon decomposition. You’d never see this from the road.
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Proof Scotland doesn’t have the monopoly on beautiful lake islands.

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In a few weeks you’ll able to smell the onion fields everywhere.
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Amber waves of grain.

 

✔️ His Bucket List Gift

A Grief Recovery Project Post.

Do you remember when my grief counselor told me that if I stopped going to our favorite places or doing the things we loved, it would actually make Dan disappear and not help me feel better? Well, Dan and I had been planning this Harry Potter bucket list trip to Europe for years. We never got farther than planning and dreaming, but we knew that SOMEDAY we were going to go. When Dan realized he wasn’t going to be able to make the trip, he made me promise to go anyway. That promise was one of the many gifts he gave me to help me get through my grief journey.

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It was a gorgeous morning at Stonehenge. 

 

So I booked the trip and headed out solo. I figured if I were having a bad day I wouldn’t have to mess up anyone else’s itinerary. If I were by myself I wouldn’t have to explain why I was crying or laughing as I thought about him and wished he was there with me. And I underestimated the amount of crying I would do: saying goodbye to my dog; in the airport bar; in the boarding area; on the plane…you get the idea. I lost track of how many times I broke down in tears, but crying myself to sleep alone on our dream vacation became the norm. It’s a good thing I got over crying in public a long time ago, because there was plenty of that too.

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Glastonbury Abbey in England, reported to be the burial place of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere.

 

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The beauty of getting lost is finding random art galleries down random alleys.

 

But I wasn’t really solo. Dan was there with me, watching out for me and pulling strings. I’m sure he intervened when I was able to get tickets for the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play, despite it being sold out for a year. And I give him full credit for the unseasonable picture perfect weather every single day that made Ireland look like the tropics! And he sent me little messages to remind me he was there and I was going to be okay.

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The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland.  I’ll be back to hike the cliffs.

 

And I met amazing people, did amazing things, saw amazing things, drank (a lot) of amazing whisk(e)y, and the night before I was supposed to go to Scotland I had a full meltdown and started packing to come home. I’m not sure why that was the trigger, other than visiting Scotland was what we’d talked about the most. We both have Scottish ancestry, and there was just something about Scotland that called to us.

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I’d dreamt about Loch Lomond several months before making the trip.

 

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Dan came through with perfect weather the day we visited Loch Lomond.

 

So there I was in my hotel room a blubbering mess trying to figure out what to do. My little sister convinced me to stay, and I’m so glad she did. Scotland was magic. Somehow just crossing the border changed everything. I let go. I felt like I’d come home. It was everything I’d expected…windy, rugged, and beautiful. I’d actually dreamed about Loch Lomond a few months before taking the trip. Imagine my surprise when I got there and recognized it as the place I’d been dreaming of. And as I was standing outside in the highlands, cold wind whipping my hair around, I was laughing like a crazy woman. At that moment, I remembered. I remembered what it felt like to feel joy-pure joy! And happy. And at peace. And with hope for the future. It was like those highland winds ripped off all the grief and survivor guilt baggage I’d been carrying around and I was suddenly weightless. Dramatic, I know, but I can’t think of any other way to describe it.

Crazy highlands woman.
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I left my heart in the highlands.
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Clava Cairns, not far from Culloden Moor. No Outlander sightings that day, but you can go right up to the cairns and stone circle, unlike Stonehenge.

And here’s the big shocker.
I met someone!

Me. I met me without the weight of the world on my shoulders–the me that is going to not only survive but thrive in this new reality. I met the me that can cry and laugh at the same time and still enjoy life–the me that can look fear and loss in the eye and keep going. I met the me that was the wild crazy laughing woman in the highlands. And I think Dan somehow knew that would happen and that’s why he made me promise to go.

Taking this trip was terrifying, but I’m so glad I did it. And I can’t wait to go back.

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The River Spey, one of Scotland’s greatest natural assets.

 

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Edinburgh, Scotland. 

 

I’ll be back!

Bringing Sexy Back

Now that you’ve got JT singing in your head, I need to tell you this post has nothing to do with sex or being sexy. Not really anyway. Dan used to say that confidence was sexy, so I guess you could go that route if you wanted to. But I digress.

After surviving the depths of grief’s darkest days, you finally wake up one day and look in the mirror and see a dumpster fire staring back at you. Caregiving and grieving can destroy your identity. When you don’t remember who you were, or know who you are now, it’s almost impossible to rediscover your confidence. Or sexy. Or whatever. How do you remember that part of you that was strong, independent, beautiful and worthy? Can you remember the queen that first turned your husband’s eye? Or the woman that loved life? Your inner goddess? Me neither.

Before you were a Widow, you were a Wife. And before you were a Wife, you were a Woman. So how do you find her when you’re wearing this giant W around your neck? HOW do you rediscover the confidence you had before you joined this f@#$%d up W club? After surviving what seems like forever as a no-make-up-wearing-pajama-clad-crying-everyday-wreck-who-eats-cookies-in-bed-and-drinks-bourbon-from-the-bottle-mess, where do you even start to bring your sexy back? Aside from the obvious things like showering, getting dressed in something other than PJs, going to work and leaving your house to socialize with fellow humans, ask yourself what used to make you feel confident? What made you feel good about yourself? What used to make you feel like you OWNED this life?

I came across an idea that sounded both silly and fun, and scary as hell. My kind of adventure, and another check mark for The Grief Recovery Project list. The American Cancer Society adopted the phrase “Look Good, Feel Better,” and it’s true. Seeing is believing is also true. Enter the extreme makeover and photo shoot with technicolor proof that you are more than a widow, more than a train wreck of a broken human being. Sounds harmless enough, why would that be scary? I may have forgotten to mention it was a boudoir photo shoot. You can’t say I won’t try anything in the name of GRP research, but before you turn all creeper on me, it’s probably not what you think it is.

Photographing beauty and boudoir is so dear to my heart. I know what it’s like to look in the mirror and not like what I see. I know how hard women are on themselves. But I also know the POWER of a beautiful portrait and what it can do for a woman’s self-esteem. And THAT is why I do what I do!                

Erin Blackwell, Photographer

I found a local photographer who had, coincidentally, done sessions for widows for that very reason. I liked that it was an all-female team, which took a whopping almost half a percent off the vulnerability scale. Yikes! It’s not like you have had time to exercise or take care of yourself when you’re in caregiving/grief mode. Not to mention the fact that you’re a million years older than the last time you went on a date or that anyone other than your husband was looking at you that way. But Erin made me feel comfortable so, on yet another whim, I booked a session. Anything for research, right?

Instant regret took hold. Thought one: What in the flaming hell are you doing?!?! Thought two: There goes any chance of running for office someday. Thought three: That’s a lot of money for something no one else on the planet but me will ever see. Thought four: Maybe I should blog about it. Circle back to Thought one: What the hell are you doing?!?!

I told two of my closest W’s what I’d done. Their positive reactions made me feel better about my temporary insanity. Interestingly, I didn’t feel I could share this decision with anyone else in my circle. It IS true that there are some things only another W can understand.

So on a cloudy weekend, I woke up and suppressed my fear and anxiety, and headed to Erin’s studio. Faith made me feel like a movie star with the full hair and make up treatment. I’m pretty sure I said something like “holy f@#$” when I finally got to look in the mirror. Erin brought out my best, even though I was nervous and self-conscious. Once I got over the nerves I had a blast. And yeah, with a little help and a lot of champagne, I brought my sexy back. Sing it JT!

Photo credit to Erin Blackwell Studios. Hair and Make-up by Faith Garcia.

 

 

 

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