Sunday, May 17, 2015

Countdown to Qatar: Letting Go of Place

For 13 Years, I've Called the Central Appalachian Mountains my Home

These lush mountains provide a home and identity for proud, resourceful, self-reliant Appalachians who express a hospitality that combines both mountain and southern values.  They emphasize family ties, community, and church. 
They use power washers like no other population I've ever met, probably because mold and coal dust tends to coat walls, porches, and other outside structures in this wet climate . . . and because, contrary to the stereotype, they are fastidious housekeepers and take great pride in their homes, yards, and gardens. 

These mountains 
shelter wildlife that includes black bears, panthers, coyotes, deer, timber rattlesnakes, migrating birds and butterflies, raptors, owls, mourning doves, ravens, groundhogs, spring peepers, cranes, and chipmunks.  I've also spotted blue-tailed lizards and voles in my own garden. My Facebook friends are familiar with my sightings.

Just about everyone has a dog.  Many folks have three, including me.  Never heard of Redbones until I got here.  And, Chihuahuas -- go figure -- are a popular breed amongst my neighbors.

Grundy itself is located on The Crooked Road, a tourist promotion tied to local bluegrass venues.  I've spent many summer hours enjoying music played by area artists at The Breaks Amphitheatre, The Carter Fold, Jonesborough's Music on the Square,  the Country Cabin, Ralph Stanley's Hills of Home festival, and other venues within a 2-hour radius.

I've hiked the Geologic Trail at The Breaks Interstate Park. That park is known as the Grand Canyon of the South and offers hiking, horseback riding, swimming, paddle boating, camping, and cabin lodging.  Throughout the summer, it hosts nature talks, a Civil War reenactment, a car show, a molasses cook off, and a crafts show. 

I've learned that the area is actually a river-cut plateau made of brown sandstone, coal, slate, and limestone -- the remnants of a great swamp, beach, and sea.  If you look again at the first photo in this posting, you will see that, in the distance, the tops of the mountains, despite all the deep hollers, are flat as pancakes.  That's ancient plateau.

I've stood under the tallest hemlock in the park -- a survivor of early loggers because of its inaccessible location.  It will die soon, with all its kin, because of an infestation of an invasive insect from Japan.

My house shows the hours I've spent in local antique shops, flea markets, and garden supply stores.

I've discovered that the most important gardening tool is a pickax because the ground is full of stones.

I've watched typically quiet Slate Creek swell with snow melt and spring rains and rush past my house at near flood stage.  I've seen it join the Levisa River as it flows northwest (!) to Pikesville, KY across the riverbed access point where Brenda and I collected hundreds of polished sandstones that we used to build my garden walk.

I've logged many hours driving along the Appalachian Mountains on my way to historic Abingdon, VA, Johnson City, TN, Charlottesville, VA, or D.C.

I've eaten local strawberries sold by a very sweet, very talkative, 77-year old guy, who told me recently he had had a hard childhood.  Later in the season, he sets up his roadside stand to sell sweet corn, tomatoes -- and later still -- apples.  These seasonal purchases represent my modest effort to support local agriculture.

I've drunk bootleg moonshine delivered in a mason jar and tested by igniting a spoonful over a match flame to see if it burns blue -- a sign that it carries no harmful impurities.

I've seen annual motorcycle rallies that included a blessing of the bikes, loud music, pork bar-b-que, and acknowledgment of the sacrifice of local veterans in foreign wars.  So many bikers have zipped past my front fence for so many years during the "poker rally" that the dogs long ago gave up barking at them.

I watched demolition crews take the face off a mountain to create a site for one of a few three-story WalMart located in the U.S.  The folks in Grundy, including myself, welcomed this retailer.  It saved us a 45-minute drive to Richlands or Pikeville to do shopping.

I've attended many funerals and watched my friend's loved ones buried in family cemeteries perched on mountain sides where the headstones are positioned so the rainwater pouring off the mountain won't topple them forward. 

I've learned that they still drape lace over the open casket, perhaps forgetting that in the past it was meant to keep flies off the dead.  I've learned that the closest relatives still keep an exhausting, but loving, overnight vigil with the deceased from the time he or she enters the casket to the time the body is laid to rest. I've heard mournful mountain hymns sung at these funerals by local preachers along with joyful ones expressing a deep belief in the safety and peace of Heaven.

I've watched July 4th, Homecoming, and Christmas parades that halted ALL traffic through town and featured fire trucks and ambulances blaring their sirens, home made floats with their riders throwing hard candy to kids along the route, marching Boy Scouts, flag toting veterans, and beauty queens spanning the age of newborns to college-age sweethearts.

I've seen the peril to an economy that is reliant on the extractive industries of timber and coal.

I've heard the whistle of the train, loaded with coke, leaving the belching fires of the Jewel Smokeless coke plant.  

I've seen kudzu cover entire trees, houses, and a backhoe. I've watched -- in the bed of a truck parked on the main route through town -- a sapling grow into a 20-foot tree.  I've seen a poison ivy vine dominate the wall of neighbor's shuttered house.

I've eaten at a local diner that features traditional foods designed to feed large families on very limited incomes. Those local delicacies include chicken & dumplings, beans and cornbread (also known as soup beans), and sauerkraut and wienies. 

I've spent happy times with students, staff, and faculty at the Appalachian School of Law. This mission-driven school gives first generation college grads the opportunity to get a professional degree and then return to their rural communities to provide access to justice, leadership, and community service.

Something Different

I moved here to experience something different from the agricultural plains of the Midwest, where I grew up.

I moved from St. Louis to a town with 1,000 residents.  I moved from a diverse community -- measured by race, religion, and culture -- to a far more homogenous community, unless you count the confusing (to me) and numerous sects of Baptists -- Regular, Old Regular, Primitive, Evangelical, Southern, and Missionary. 

I moved from an overscheduled life to one centered on teaching, writing, students, friends, and hobbies.

And now, after this long respite, I am ready to try the big city again.  This time, in Doha with nearly 3 million people. No doubt, I'll adapt to that new place.  People will be there to help as people helped me here. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Countdown to Qatar: What to Sell?

The House, for sure.

Over the last few posts, I've been discussing my transition to a new job in Qatar beginning on August 15 (yes, I've got a firm date now).   That transition has forced me to consider what to sell.  This past week, I boxed up most of the family heirlooms and other items for storage.  I've also packed about ten boxes of clothes and other items I plan to ship.

I also spent several hours on the Qatar Ikea website adding furniture, dinnerware, cutlery, lamps, and other items to my shopping cart to decorate my anticipated four-room apartment in The Pearl District of Doha.  The list includes all sleek, modern items in white, light beige, and black.  Here is my new bed.

So most of my "country cottage" furnishings that I enjoy here will not fit this new experience I'm creating. 

Final Close Out Sale!

So, time to sell everything that's left in the house? 

This week, I was confronted with that possibility.  A potential buyer offered on Thursday to buy the house with all the furnishings.  (Still waiting on a contract, but expect that to come some time next week from her or another interested buyer.)  Over the next 24 hours, I considered what I would and would not sell under those terms.  I wandered through each room assessing the furniture, original artwork, and accessories. 

Turns out, I can sell it all except for a metal sculpture my Mom loved that descended through the Drinkwater side of her family. 

I also want to give to my nephew a sewing box my Grandfather Paul Young created for his mother during the Great Depression.  He carved the word "MOTHER" on the top of the box.  Can you imagine someone doing something quite this sweet today?


On the bottom of it, consistent with his love for accounting, he identified how many pieces of wood he had used (1193), the number of nails (2384), and the number of hours it took to construct (95).  It also mention the use of 5 "belt's,"  but I have no idea what that means.  On the sides, he has featured a Christian cross, a lighthouse, and a sunburst. 

It also refers to the NRA (National Recovery Act) and provides the year of its passage (1933).

I also want to pass on to my nephew two handmade duck decoys that Paul Young carved.  They are the survivors of a great flock he had that, when not being used on a lake during duck hunting season, sat on a ledge in his basement in his house located in Virginia, Illinois.  I recall examining many of them as a child.  
In short, this week represented a major step in the process of letting go of the stuff I've accumulated.  In later posts, I'll talk about letting go of "place" and of the friends and colleagues I've grown to love.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Countdown to Qatar: What to Ship?

Do I Love it Enough 
to Send it on an 
Extended Boat Ride?

During this transition, I am faced with the following decisions:

What do I take on the plane with me?
What do I store in the U.S.?
What do I ship to Qatar?
What do I sell or give away?

I've covered a couple of those topics here and here.  Today, I am thinking about what to ship. Luckily, I've got new colleagues that have offered good advice.

Aaron, a U.S. expat, had this to say:
I actually put everything in the biggest boxes Qatar Airways would allow and shipped everything over with me on the plane (I think it was 9 boxes total). I paid for extra bags and for overweight charges. I had it when I touched down, which ended up being way more convenient than people who shipped. You'll get a housing allowance, and anything you think you will really need is likely something you can buy here. I brought over more random stuff than I needed and then found out I could have bought it here.
Then later:
Sorry, I won't be much help with actually shipping something. One of the reasons I brought everything over on the plane was to avoid the extra legwork. I'll ask around and see if anyone recommends a particular shipping company from the U.S. to Doha though. I do know that most people seem to ship everything over. I just wanted to have my stuff when I got here instead of waiting a week or two for it to catch up with me.

And I'd recommend double checking with Qatar Airways about exactly how many bags/boxes they will allow. When I called, one representative had told me as many as I want, and at the counter I had to cut open a bunch of boxes and jam pack them to consolidate 13 boxes down to (I think) 9 boxes. I paid the heavy baggage fee, which allows each box to be 75 lbs. Luckily, I brought a couple of rolls of tape with me in my carry-on for such an occasion.

Oh, and I recommend using lots and lots of tape, and using gallon Ziplocs to corral smaller things. I reinforced each box heavily and they pretty much came through fine, but I had a couple of splits at the seams. If I hadn't had everything secured in ziplocs, I probably would have lost some smaller stuff.
So, clearly Aaron recommends that I don't ship anything by ship.  Sounds like very good advice to

Rafael, now living in the Philippines gave this advice:
I decided not to ship anything, despite the generous shipping allowance. We will move with our clothes in about three suitcases, including the baby's toys and books.

Fortunately for me, my sister will move into our place in the Philippines and we will have no need to get rid of furnishings.

It would be nice to know if the shipping allowance had a grace period, so to say. Perhaps, we would want to ship some things later.

If I had to ship anything, though, cooking tools would probably make the top of the list. I would forgo the CDs. There are quite a few free and legal internet radio and music streams available nowadays that have all the songs you would ever need.
True.  I'm already a premium buyer of Pandora Radio. But, I also noticed last night that Amazon Prime is limited to people living in the U.S. and Puerto Rico under its licensing agreements. So, I guess I'll wait to see what I can do about music and movies when I get there.

International Shippers in the Central Appalachians?

I keep asking myself where I can find an international shipper in this area.  I found one in Knoxville, but they won't come to Grundy to give me any cost estimates.  I have to think that Eastman, in Kingsport, has executives living abroad.  Wonder whom they use?   Any suggestions, anyone?

What I Love Enough to Ship

About the only thing I want to ship right now is a very large framed piece of native American art called The Kingfisher.  I started my legal career in Tulsa, Oklahoma with it and would like to keep it with me. I've got some other original artwork I'd like to bring, again mostly Native American.  Taking it would involve building wooden crates for it.

Mason, one of the new professors at ASL, also suggests being very careful in the decision about what to ship. When they lived in Australia, he and his wife waited over nine months (I think he said) for the arrival of one box from the U.S.

80,000 Page Views for The Red Velvet Lawyer

Friends, family, and colleagues:

Another milestone reached! 80,000 page views!

My blogging experience started in March 2013. Like everything, success relates directly to the attention and energy invested in the project.

As I blogged more frequently, built my relationship with other bloggers, got more posts shared by my FB friends, and continued to create content I hoped you would like, page views grew exponentially.

Here is a summary of my experience:

5,000 page views on August 2013.
10,000 page views on November 7, 2013.
15,000 page views on November 27, 2013.
20,000 page views on December 9, 2013.
25,000 page views on January 1, 2014.
50,000 page views on July 17, 2014.
60,000 page views on Oct. 10, 2014.

80,000 page views on May 2, 2015.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Countdown to Qatar: Downsizing to Four Large Suitcases

What I Really Need or Love (Part 1)

My colleague, Henry, helped me get the new job.  One year ago, he finished a 3-year contract in the same job.  He's been a marvelous resource.  When I asked about the move, he said he moved in two suitcases.

A new Facebook friend, who moved to Dubai last August, said he moved with two suitcases, a carry-on bag, and his laptop case.

Lordy, lordy.  From the mouths of men . . . .

Employment Benefits

As I decide what to take, what to store, what to ship later, and what to give away beforehand, I am influenced by the following benefits offered by Qatar University College of Law.

  • $2,000 moving allowance.  I've checked.  I could carry 10 suitcases on the plane for $200 each for this international flight. I could also ship, by boat, additional items, but I don't have pricing on that yet. I do know it takes three months to cross the ocean and make it through customs. 
  • $10,000 allowance to buy furniture and other furnishings.   What a wonderful way to start over. I think I'll buy modern furniture in light colors. They do have an Ikea now.
  • $16,500 interest-free loan to buy a car. Or, $500/mo to hire a driver.
  • A housing allowance that should allow me to rent a one-bedroom apartment in the Qanat Quadriere in The Pearl District of Doha. 

Four Giant Suitcases

So, my goal is to take only four giant suitcases with me on the plane.  I will need three for clothing, jewelry, scarves, and shoes.  I can already tell. I'll need the fourth one for office related materials, including a few books, my Yeti mike that I use to record webinars, and some other electronic items that won't blow up on the new electrical voltage. I might take my unframed diplomas, court admissions, and my award plaques. 

I will also take my computer bag and my summer, white patent-leather Michael Kors purse.  It was road-tested last year during the Silver Jubilee vacation in California.

I bought three of the giant suitcases in April, on Tuesday, when I get my senior citizens discount at Peebles. They have a limited selection so I bought four of the five suitcases they had in that size.  None of them match.
The sale people were curious about the need for all those suitcases and excited once I told them of my plans.  Here they are helping me out to the car in typical fashion for folks in Grundy.

This week, on Tuesday, I went back for the fourth suitcase. They have one more left, in the event I need it.  Here is a salesperson helping me with that one. 

Brenda and I started packing one of the suitcases this week.  I gave away all the clothes stacked on the ironing board.  (P.S. This is the bedroom suite of furniture she is claiming.)

We are using a WalMart version of the Space Bags to compress the clothes so I can fit more in each bag.  

Storing Stuff

I am a little reluctant to put anything in to storage.  I may not be coming back to the U.S. any time soon.  So, I envision it moldering in some storage unit in humid Grundy or featured on some future episode of Storage Wars.

After some thought, I've decided to leave some stuff in storage for the next six to twelve months until I can get a feel for what I might need in Qatar or in a future life back in the U.S.

I've given away most of my winter clothes.  Won't need them EVER in Qatar. Already, the daytime temperature is 91 degrees. But, I thought I might need winter coats, some fleece, a few sweaters, and three beloved wool suit jackets for any Christmas visits back to the States. The wool has gone to the dry cleaners before I pack it up with moth balls. It will all fit in three boxes. I've got two of them packed.

I've got to make a decision about my CD collection. What is shown here does not include the CDs upstairs or at the office. 

Henry suggests I get it all in the Cloud. Any suggestions for the best way to do that? When I used my work computer to transfer CDs to my iPod, I was not happy with the sound quality. This might be a task I can delegate to a professional. He or she could do it even after I move to Qatar.  (Happy Buddha is going with me.)

I've got tons of paper.  I pitched tons of it, but I still have more. Mostly research for scholarly projects and my tax records.  Then I have all my ADR resource files at school that fill three file cabinets.  I also have two file drawers at home filled with materials from my three-year coaching programs with Christine Kane.   I can scan all of the most important material, but it is a daunting task that will take all summer.

And finally, all the old family photos.  Scan those, too?  Take a precious few with me and store the rest?  

Shipping Stuff

Which brings me to the decisions about what to ship and when. More about that in the next posting. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Countdown to Qatar: Letting Go

If I Don't Love it, 
It's Gone, Girl!

Since I got the job offer in mid-March, I have had to think deeply about what I really care about keeping.  I've settled on three sets of items:  my extensive CD collection, some of my original artwork, and my ADR book collection.  

The Crap I Don't Even Miss!

As I readied the house for sale, I made one purge. Brenda, my personal assistant on the home front, carted off trunk loads of clothing, purses, kitchen items, linens, and other things I don't even miss.   

(Brenda's friend, Jean, wants one of my Michael Kors purses, but she's not getting it.  My Kors purses are the only purses I'm taking with me, except for four evening bags.  Silly that I think I will need four evening bags, but they are small and won't take up much room in a suitcase.)

Jerry, my handyman, carted off several truckloads of stuff, including some furniture. He's putting an aquarium on this side board.  My mom would be horrified, but this, too, is part of the process of letting go. 

Family Heirlooms

I've mailed family heirlooms to members of my extended family and to family friends.  I've loved these items, but it is time to let go: 
  • Dad's handmade baby clothes; 
  • Photos from the 1800s; 
  • A quilt made about 1850; 
  • My childhood chair; 
  • A fox fur muff with satin trim that some Victorian ancestor used to keep her hands warm; 
  • My Grandma Louise's handkerchief collection; 
  • A cross-stitch sampler my mother, Jo Ann, created; 
  • My Grandma Babe's silver dinnerware (yes, they called her that instead of her given name, Alberta); 
  • My mom's set of china; 
  • My set of pink rosebud china and the matching stemware; and 
  • Two vases that sat on my Mom's mantle for two decades or more.  
As soon as the house sells, my second cousin, Cami, will get the ironstone collection three generations of Drinkwater women built, including me. I have loved having it, but now it's time to pass it along.  I am, however, keeping all the water pitchers (not the coffee pots).   

Books and DVDs

I have always collected books.  Even now, I prefer the hard copy to digital, although that may change once I get to Qatar.  When I moved from Columbia, Missouri to Grundy, the mover complained about all my heavy boxes of books. He snarkingly asked: "What are you?  A writer?"  I paused a moment and then said, "Yes." 

Every May, I do sort through books and get them on the ASL yard sale that benefits Relay for Life.  Even so, this time, I donated about nine boxes of books, mostly literary fiction, to the Grundy Library.  What they can't put in the collection, they will sell at an upcoming fundraising event.  I saw the Library Director recently, and she was effusive with thanks.  As I walked away from that encounter, it occurred to me that bits of me will be distributed throughout the community through my books.  I really like that. 

I started collecting DVDs when I decided to quit paying for satellite TV.  I could buy $70 of DVDs a month and be in about the same place in buying entertainment.  When we cleaned them all out (for a second time), I gave about seven boxes of DVDs to the local library.

From both collections, I saved just about a box of my favorite books and DVDs.  They will go in storage along with most of my cookbooks.  I've decided to take four cookbooks with me: my Bon Appetite cookbook, From Julia Child's Kitchen, a Mediterranean cookbook, and a Thai cookbook. 

The Furniture

Brenda wants my master bedroom furniture, my dining room table, and the rest of my living room. She already has most of my Christmas decorations and about half the living room furniture. 

Brenda will also hold for me an antique bedroom set.  The family myth holds that the chest of drawers came from east Kentucky to Illinois on a covered wagon.  I don't buy it, but it is a lovely set.  If I ever come home, I might want to claim it for my room in assisted living. 

My colleague, Prissy, has gotten a Christmas crèche, made of colored tinfoil, from Poland that caught her eye long ago, a porch swing, wicker porch furniture, three chafing dishes, and two double decker casserole carriers.

Colleagues, Pat or Henry (I am not involved in that negotiation) will claim my three oak glass-front bookcases. Local attorney, Stephen Gooch, got another set of three bookcases for his office. 

Colleague, Stewart, will get my practically new, real leather club chair.  It is going to very loving hands, but I will miss it. So will Boo Boo Abernathy.

The Dogs

And, the dogs.  Brenda will take ailing and aged, Maria Ouspanskya.

Boo Boo Abernathy will go to a "widow lady with two other little dogs" who lives down in Garden Creek.  Lily Golightly will escape the confines of a fenced yard and join Paul, a second-career law student, and his wife on a farm they call Dog Heaven. No joke!  

I am paying all food and vet bills.  

Giving up the dogs is a very big sacrifice, but they are not welcome in the Middle East, even if the domestic dog probably arose from the region.  Blogger Daniel Pipes has one theory about this dislike for dogs, but my research shows various explanations and not much agreement. It is clear that most people in the Arab countries do not keep dogs as inside pets. They do keep them outside as work or guard dogs.

Like Dying

This letting go.  I keep saying it's a bit like dying and still having control over who gets all your stuff.  

More about the process later as it continues to evolve