New Year, New You? Nope.

So how many of you (admittedly, 5-6) Lettuce Readers have already given up on the New Year’s Resolutions that you made a few weeks ago? Yeah, me too. The difference is that my resolutions were actually achievable this time – set out your clothes for work the night before, make sure that the coffee pot is ready to go before you come stumbling in for some liquid courage at 6:55am (wow, that might have been a little more disclosure than I meant to have this early in a blog post), make time to write every day and the time in between lunch and class doesn’t count.
I’m writing this having just polished off two lovely vegetarian sliders with Palmetto Cheese on top, and I’ve come to work in a long sleeve t-shirt and jeans if that tells you anything.
Before the end of 2018, I started listening to a podcast by my sister-of-choice, Elizabeth Dunne. It’s called #FLAW3D and it is brilliant, insightful, and funny, just like she is in person. I swear. But as with everything that occurred after 12 April of 2018, I was going through the motions with her podcasts and other content under the #FLAW3D brand. In fact – I will admit this if you swear not to tell her I said so – I am embarrassed to say that while listening to her podcasts on the bus on the way to work, I fell asleep. Every time. That has more to do with my level of exhaustion and nothing to do with her content, I swear. My life for most of last year could be represented by the photo above – a long hard slog down a cobbled road devoid of all color.
I also listened to them out of order, because I had started doing that with another podcast I am addicted to listening to called And That’s Why We Drink, a Paranormal and True Crime Podcast. The personal information that MUST BE LISTENED TO IN THE ORDER IT WAS RELEASED SO THAT YOU CAN CREEP ON THE LIVES OF THE PODCASTERS is not the point of the podcast there. But with Elizabeth’s podcast, it is.
I mean not the creeping part. I would never. I’m having too much trouble remembering to call her Elizabeth rather than ‘liz, as I have known her since uni, so there’s no way I’ve got an ulterior motive here. Plus, she is the mother of my eldest niece, so I am versed in the real Elizabeth.
And y’all, if you will just listen to #FLAW3D you will hear the real Elizabeth. She is unabashedly open about everything that she chooses to share – and what she doesn’t.
Anyway! So I listened to the first episode of #FLAW3D today – the topic was becoming a digital nomad and working with your spouse – and it was terribly relevant to me not because Hubs is going to quit his job and we are going to open up THE NEXT BEST BIG THING anytime soon. It was terribly relevant because it was just the dose of, “You want to do that? Well, why not?” that I needed. Yesterday was a hard day in the universe of my day job – so bad, in fact, that I couldn’t even bring myself to escape to Orana like I normally do when the waters get rocky. I did manage to finish a chapter in the next Clobberpaws, but that was it. One chapter.
Did I mention that I started said chapter LAST NOVEMBER? Yeah. Not my best day as a writer.
But this morning’s listen left me with feelings. All the feelings. Why not give up my cushy 37.5 hr/week job where I know what I’m doing and how to do it…if others would just stay out of my lane and let me do it. Why not just keep writing as a hobby and sort-of side gig…even though seeing that three of my books sold all in one day makes me so happy that I literally cried for a few minutes. Why not do what I love, rather than working at a place that I don’t love as much as I used to do so that I can afford to do what I love? Things to ponder.
The best bit was probably when her guests, Erin Booth and Tannia Suarez (co-founders of efftheoffice.com) talked to Elizabeth about how for couples that both work jobs outside the home, they have only a few precious hours in the evening to spend time together. Then on weekends they are planning to spend time together but are either too exhausted or want to pursue things that make their individual souls happy – cue the entrance of guilt and resentment.
Hubs and I do that very thing. We get home late. We struggle over what to eat for our tea. We struggle over when to eat or to actually eat at all. We collapse on the sofas and watch an hour or two of television and then go to bed. That is not a life well lived.
So while I’m still processing episode one and moving on to episode two, let me again recommend that you go to FLAW3D.com and check out the podcast and Elizabeth. You won’t be sorry. Now if you will excuse me, I need to completely rethink my entire life. New Year, New Me? Nope. Just New Me – a work in forever ongoing progress.

#tenyearsdunne

Like it was just yesterday. I still remember you on one knee at Manchester Airport (if you want me to say yes to something, asking when I’m jet-lagged and just getting off an 8 hr flight is a good time to ask), and I remember Louise looking concerned that I might have said no when we got to the car. I can still feel the loose buckle on my left shoe that made my leg wobble throughout the ceremony. I can still taste that first sip of Yorks Tea at the reception. 
How are we ten years older in the picture on the right than we were in the one on the left? How have we had ten Christmases and Easters and moved house twice and country twice? How has our house been home to seven dogs and a cat in that space of time? Didn’t I just arrive at Heathrow and have my visa stamped? Wasn’t it just a few minutes ago when we drove to Atlanta to get my biometrics done, or to Berea to sort out your social security? I’m certain it was only a week or so ago, maybe a month, that I picked you up at Hartsfield right after you collected me at Manchester when we were basically living at various airports and train stations. Wasn’t it?
I’m so grateful for the macaroni and cheese, the shared nerdiness, the willingness to put up with my shenanigans, the flashlights bought for me to take to faire, the resolve to get up when the girls are howling so that I can lie in, the whispered, “love you, bye” when I think I’ve managed to get out the door without waking you, the love of travel and history, the debates over whatever has just been said on telly, the ability not to laugh in my face when I think I’m speaking Yorkshire, the shared love of Greenville, the support and encouragement to be a writer, the shared – and different – expat experience, and all the other things that I have been given over the past ten years that I most certainly did not and do not deserve. 
Ten years done and dusted, and as many more as I can get to come. Love you to absolute bits, Simon.

Impostor Syndrome, la maladie du jour.

What?!?

So with my last post, I covered some pretty heavy topics and unpleasant truth, and this time is no different, really. Last time I still had faith in my country and my senators to do the right thing. No, I didn’t, that’s a lie. Last time I still thought that maybe enough of the people elected to represent us would want to represent us and listen to us. No, again, that is a lie.

Let me start again. This time I’m going to talk a little bit about something that I face on a regular basis, in all facets of my life – sometimes with a bit of help from colleagues and co-workers that I am positive are not doing it on purpose. I didn’t cross that out, but it’s still not 100% true.
I found an email today with an excellent article on impostor syndrome in academia from the Chronicle of Higher Education, linked here. While this article specifically speaks to academia and even more specifically to the faculty that work in this field, I found some points that were salient to my own life, both my professional life (as a nationally certified sign language interpreter) and my avocation (a novelist or an author or whatever you want to call me – well, not whatever you want, that could get a little ugly). 
You see, I am really good friends with Impostor Syndrome. I’m sitting here right now – having finished working hard to get my software ready to provide real-time captioning in a class on campus and arrived at said class to find no one there and nothing in my email about why – worried that because I decided to use the time I should be typing 

Female Student: [cannot hear him/her] 

into my software I am blogging, I will be seen as a fraud and fired. Rational Adult Nancy thinks that is ridiculous. But there is another me living in my mind that not only does not share that opinion but spends a great part of our conscious hours working on plans B-Q for what we will do when we are found out to be the fraud we are.
On any given day, I know that what I do for a living isn’t easy.  It doesn’t matter that I have been actively thinking in and about a visual and spatial language since I was about 12 years old. It doesn’t matter that I love languages so much that I fell in love with the process of working between two languages and can’t crawl back out. It doesn’t matter that I have a Bachelor’s degree in American Sign Language/English interpreting from a top university in that field of study – the first one to offer said degree, if I am not mistaken (Hello Maryville College! Go Scots!) – and I was nationally certified as a transliterator (spoken English to a signed form of English) and interpreter (spoken English to ASL) by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. in 1997 and 1999, respectively. It doesn’t matter that I have interpreted for celebrities, politicians, authors, Broadways shows, and for students attending Oxford and Cambridge Universities in the UK.
None of that seems to be enough to make me feel confident about who I am and what I do. Currently, I’m sure that the fact that I am the only one in my family of origin without an advanced degree (my father had two of them!) doesn’t help. When you’re surrounded by grad students and people with all sorts of alphabet soup following their names and all you have is BA, CI/CT to show for it, you can feel pretty less than. But the author of the article I linked above had a great bit of insight into that part of the syndrome:

Learn to see yourself in context. If you feel like an impostor because you don’t know or can’t do a particular thing, think about that thing. Is that skill or content crucial? If so, can you acquire it? Not because you want to belong but because it may make you more effective or productive. And if it doesn’t actually matter, think about why it is that others have it and you don’t (assuming you really don’t and aren’t just being hard on yourself or inflating other people’s capabilities). Maybe there are real and good reasons why that wasn’t part of your background or education.

I don’t want a master’s in interpreting. I don’t see the point in it, to be honest. I learn on the job, every day. I go to workshops. I study other signed languages. But then I see someone sign something so perfectly, so succinctly, with so much meaning packed into such an economy of movement and handshape and I just want to turn in my letter of resignation and go home.

But I don’t do that. Of course I don’t. Not even when – on various occasions, from the beginning of my career to present – colleagues that either don’t sign at all or don’t sign well enough to interpret or aren’t really even sure what it is I do try to make decisions for me about my work. I should be incensed! I should be furious! I should stand up for me and what I know!

Instead, I scuttle back into my place in the universe and wait for the inevitable revealing of me as a fraud. Writing has done nothing to help this syndrome, either – if anything, it has made it so much worse. I give my manuscripts to my beta readers, breath held, heart rate on par with a disco beat – and I fully expect that they will look at what I have done and know that I am not a real author. My sentences are run-ons and full of too many ellipses and dashes. My characters are stock, storylines/plot so ridden with outdated tropes that you almost don’t have to read them to know where they are going. My dialogue swings madly from stilted to entirely too much in the vernacular of both South Carolina and West Yorkshire that it makes no sense to anyone.

And while we’re at it – international expat? Ha. You lived there two years, and you let the death of your pets in the first two months color the entirety of your life in the UK. You’re no expat. You’re just a frightened child. You’re a fraud.

WOW, who let her out? The author of the article goes on to mention a specific piece of advice that I am trying to follow in my daily life – something that would be hard even without the aforementioned voice screaming in the back of my head. (Interesting side note: to those that have read my fantasy series, this is where the idea for how Ben communicates with Gin came from: THIS RIGHT HERE.)

Stay concrete. Impostor syndrome feeds off vagaries and generalities. “I’m not good/smart/charismatic/funny/self-assured enough.” What’s enough? Who is all of those things? What is “good” anyway?

What happened politically in the US this weekend has cranked up the volume on the impostor syndrome, let me tell you. Remember the woman I mentioned last week? All of those feelings, all of those experiences – they not only lead to a strapping case of this syndrome but they help feed it and make it worse. Everything from why would you think anyone would listen to you to the ever present you must be remembering it wrong because why would anyone want to do that to YOU?

All this to say I don’t have an answer for this yet. I haven’t found a magic pill that will take these feelings away and silence that inner voice that delights in waiting until I’m about to fall asleep to remind me of all the reasons I’m going to be found out very soon. But I’m still looking, and in the mean time I’m trying to keep her as far as I can in the background.

FTH Oopsie Daisy, 14 August 2004 – 2 December 2016

She truly was transcontinental.

You know, I’m sitting here staring at the blank screen and can’t even bring myself to type the words that she’s gone…and she’s been gone for two months now.  I still expect to come home and hear her whistling from the bedroom, demanding that I hurry up and let her out. But the whistle has fallen silent.

I listen for her toenails on the hardwood floors and remember how, when we lived in the UK, she made no sound at all on the carpet and could sneak up on me, suddenly jamming that needle nose into my ear and exhaling. There’s nothing in my ear now, no cold nose or loud exhalation of warm doggie breath. It’s just silent.

I call the other two dogs by her name and they look at me, with a mixture (I think) of confusion and sadness, wondering simultaneously who I am talking to and where Daisy is. I wonder that too.  Is she with the Fab Five Plus Clowny? Are they now the Magnificent Seven? I don’t get answers, though. As always, my Bridge Pack is silent.

We see things that she would have loved, go to places that made her happy, and the memories are sometimes so strong that I can smell her Frito Feet and feel her nose pressed up against my neck, as she would do to make sure of me. I think for a moment that I can hear her Snappy Jaw that should have struck fear, but didn’t, not in me…but there is no snappy jaw, not anymore. Everything is silent.

She was a larger sized female for her breed, but she was Bryn’s Little Big sister.  She was a good foot taller than Willow, and lorded that size over her Little Little Sister. They still run and play and I can hear their tags jangling as they bound up and down the stairs. But Daisy’s tags, still on her purple dragonfly collar, remain silent.

I want a do-over.  I want more time. I want for her to not have suffered through the heart murmur and the heart disease and the Lasix. I want to take her to Ireland and to Canada. I want her to have the jacket with all the little patches from everywhere she was able to visit. All these things I want…and all she wanted was to be able to rest.  Rest well, my world traveler, my Psycho Puppy Girl, my Angel…my Mei Mei.  You earned it.  I just wish it wasn’t so silent around here.

Lost…but not in translation…

Hey Anne?  This is the purple sofa I wanted to
marry and bear children….

This is going to be a fairly personal episode of the Lettuce, so if that sort of thing makes you twitchy you might want to hit the back button on your browser.

Ever since I moved back to the US on 19 May, 2011, I have been lost.  At first I was lost because I was back in my foreign home.  Let me give you an example.  One of the first things I did was go to Walmart with my parents to pick up some things I needed.  After about ten minutes in the store, I had to go outside and ring My Mister (who was still in the UK and, sadly, didn’t get it) and take some deep breaths because it was just too much.  Too much choice.  Too much colour.  Too much light.  Too much.

I had come back here to stop being lost in the UK.  But what I’ve found is that I wasn’t lost when I was there at all.  I was me, the me that doesn’t have to be the best greyhound parent or the competent seamstress or the flawless interpreter.  I didn’t have a lot of the distractions or responsibilities there that I have here. There weren’t as many people there for me to disappoint.  My Mister and I spent a lot of time together because basically we had…each other.

Don’t get me wrong, he had friends and family there, but because I was not as outgoing as I could have been, I only had a few friends and my inlaws.  But My Mister and I are different in that way…he doesn’t depend on his friends to define him like I do.

I thought that the things that kept me from being lost were in the USA:  Greyhound Crossroads.  The Hounds of East Fairhaven.  Follow That Hound.  My Deaf and Interpreter friends.  Wrong.  Since I’ve been back, I’ve had to take a job that isn’t really what I wanted to do so that I could afford to bring My Mister and Daisy over from the UK and adopt Clowny.  I’m still in that job because there isn’t anything in my field that would offer a comparable salary.  I see things every day that make me regret the cowardice that led me back here two years ago.

I wish I could wind up this post with a happy and confident “but now I’m no longer lost” sentiment, but I can’t.  Maybe tomorrow.  Maybe Christmas if we make it over to visit my inlaws and my adopted home.  Maybe not.  I try to remember that “not all who wander are lost” and see myself as wandering instead…but that refrain is getting old.  Very, very old.  Is this the curse of the repatriate?

One of my expat/repat friends has a statement on one of her signature graphics that says something about coming home to find what has changed is you…maybe that is what’s going on after all.

Quickie…Cross your fingers, please?

Proud Racer: An American Greyhound
in Yorkshire, by Nancy E. Dunne

Just wanted to give you guys a little heads up that Daisy’s second book, An American Greyhound in Yorkshire, has been entered in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest for 2013.  I don’t expect that it will go anywhere but…you never know.  Three cheers for Daisy Mei Mei, international dog of mystery…and for her mommy for finally sprouting a pair and going for a contest.  Fingers and paws crossed!

One more…a sort of a flashback post…

Daisy's Eyes by Nancy Dunne
Daisy’s Eyes, a photo by Nancy Dunne on Flickr.

See that look there?  That one is how my Daisy says, “Seriously?” as in “Mommy, seriously, take the camera out of my face and give me the whateveritis that you’re holding over my head to make me look at you, already.”

That is how I felt when I posted this back in August of 2011:

Okay, for the last time… 

I was still fairly newly repatriated and I was still fairly raw about the entire experience, mostly due to the fact that the three most important souls in my universe (Hubs, Daisy, and Mills) were four thousand miles away from me.

I’m reminded of that post because now, a year and change later, Simon is here and I’ve been back from my expat adventure almost two years…and I still have moments where I’m not sure where I am or, even better, where I belong.  I still have moments where I struggle to make myself understood and have the urge to go all Tanzanian Chimp (see?  There is a Big Bang Theory reference for EVERYTHING) on someone that giggles if I say wheelie bin instead of trash can.

We have a new captionist on staff here who loves all things British and I have to say I’m probably rambling on and on to her more than I should, bless her, but she gets it and that’s cool.  Andrea, if you’re reading this, ta very much. I still say lift sometimes, I still say mobile, and I still ring people up if I absolutely have to do so, and I don’t imagine that will change much.

But last night there was a new experience to add to my list of “only other US/UK expats will get this” weirdness:  Last night we saw the Black Watch and Band of the Scots Guards at the BiLo Center and as any good British programme does, it included Jerusalem, the hymn that is the unofficial national anthem of England.

Y’all, I got teary listening to it.  I almost let out a choked sob.  The feeling of belonging but not belonging, of home and homesickness all happening at the same time was just overwhelming.  Hubs got a bit of a giggle out of it, not of my distress but of how surprised I was at said distress, I think.  These were “my people” due to my Scottish ancestry, but they were also “my people” because they were British and I feel like I was getting close to that, for a time anyway.

I said on Facebook: “Well, it happened. I teared up at ‘Jerusalem.'”  The only people who have liked the comment are expats or have them in their lives.

And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

I would like to say when, but for the time being I will say if…IF we make it back to live in the UK, they will have to burn me out to make me leave a second time.  It is my second home…and I can’t wait to go back for a visit, at least.