dancing on my own

Hello all!

It’s spring here in Edinburgh which means sun and light and seasonal allergies. I’ve once again been thwarted by pollen and it has been horrific.

But, I’ve been well this semester. Just carrying on with things. I’m writing this from a sunny bench in Greyfriars Kirkyard where I go to sip my ice coffee among the 18th century graves.

Among essay writing and reading, I have been keeping myself busy. Here are some things I’ve done in the past few weeks:

  • Cycled regularly to Portobello to stare at the ocean and eat cinnamon rolls
  • Listened to the ‘Anne of the Island’ audiobook like four times
  • Watched the second season of Bridgerton
  • Plotted my third novel with around 10,000 words drafted of lovely historical fantasy angst
  • Went to a book event for V.E. Schwab’s newest release and got my copy of ‘A Darker Shade of Magic’ signed. It was very emotional. Then I took myself out for ice cream and went on a nice evening stroll around Edinburgh.
  • Sophie and I went for a classy dinner at the Dome

The most tragical event, however, did occur when I lost my Glossier lipstick somewhere in the streets of Edinburgh. I can only deduce that it fell from my bag. Gone. Vanished to the wind. Deeply upsetting.

With around two weeks of lecture left in the year, I am finally coming to the end of formal teaching. It’s a bit strange to think about, but I am glad to be moving forward with research. I love university but after two degrees, I am tired of structured classes. Also something Sophie and I talked about over dinner was how coming to “professional working age” during the pandemic really did a number and sometimes we forget that almost three years have passed. You really do have a make an effort now instead of just running into folks after class. It’s not a bad thing – just different.

But! I’m so proud of everything my friends are doing but I can’t say I don’t miss living together in the same city. Those years between 2015 and 2019 were golden, but that doesn’t make the years from now any less adventure worthy.

Which brings me to my newest adventure! I have been awarded the 2022 Sally Kress Tompkins Fellowship through Society of Architectural Historians and Historic American Building Survey with the the US Department of the Interior and National Park Service. Over the summer, I will complete a building survey to be added to the HABS archives in the Library of Congress. The fellowship is awarded to one post-graduate student in an architectural discipline each year. I am so incredibly honored to be selected and cannot wait to start my research which ties directly into my masters dissertation! A dream job for me has always been the National Parks Service and I’m just so thrilled to have this opportunity to produce useable and relevant research.

I’ll be framing my research on Carnegie Libraries to demonstrate their social impact through the conservation of their built fabric. For both my dissertation and HABS report, I’ll be back in Lawrence surveying the 1904 Carnegie Building which was the Lawrence Public Library until 1970.

As a former “Lawrence Public Library Teen Zone Teen,” I cannot wait to combine my love of books with the built environment. Libraries are so incredibly special and there are not enough words for me to describe how much I love them.

I’ll update more as my Renaissance Girl™️ summer progresses, but I am in the final stages of my research framework for the University before then building my research framework for HABS.

So while sometimes it feels a bit like I’m dancing on my own, I always have to remind myself that I’m not really. There’s a lot of good to come this summer and beyond and I’m excited to see what happens.

lightbulb shopping

Hey friends on both sides of the Atlantic and shoutout to a special few in the Pacific! It’s been a hot minute since you last heard from me. Apologies. Times have been wild. Essays have been written. Holidays happened. I got in and out of America without getting Covid. Wild times indeed.

But, now it’s spring. I’m back in Scotland. The sun stays up longer and the flowers are starting to bloom.

Anyway here’s what you missed (on Glee!):

  • I moved back to Scotland and started my Masters. Balancing hybrid teaching was a lot at first. I spent a lot of my time in my hermitage cell instead of in the classroom. Not gonna lie, it was a little isolating and made it harder to connect with the usual networks I had before.
  • BUT! I went to Ikea and purchased a green chair which not only looks beautiful in my window but is an excellent space to work.

(This is a massive aside, but I have a list of things that I want to acquire I move into my elder years. One of which is a mid-century modern green velvet couch™️. I figured the chair is a good first step. And if you’re curious, the others are (in no particular order with achievements struck out): a really nice record player, two cats named Florence and Henry, a really nice bike, floor to ceiling bookshelves with a roller ladder, a copper kitchen with a green hexagonal tile backsplash, and a clawfoot soak tub.)

  • My parent’s also shipped my bike to Scotland. I took it north back in December and cycled around Eilean Donan Castle. I also spent a weekend at the Bothy with Yummick pals.
  • I’ve completed two courses with the other four finishing this semester. There are some big (but cool!) projects upcoming. As always, March is going to be hell. It’s fine.
  • BUT! I’m doing what I can to get ahead and limit the hellfire.

I’m going to London soon to meet up with some dear friends. They all have big girl jobs now and I, the groveling student, want (and need) attention. It’s mostly going to be visiting bookstores and probably the Glossier shop because I am nothing if not a #materialgirl.

But, I guess the real reason for this post is to check back in and assure you all that I am surviving and might even be thriving again soon. Which I guess brings me to the next point. I’ve always been a private person. I really hate talking about myself, which is why most of my updates have been recounts of stuff I do. That being said, I think there’s a responsibility to acknowledge what is seen and read online (or heard in person) is the highlights reel. It’s the curated listing of COOL STUFF!

The story in-between the highlights has been a lot of lightbulb shopping.

I’m a writer. I speak in metaphors and here’s a long one.

The last three (?) years have been a lot. Duh. I moved back to the States and started into my professional life only to get curtailed by a global pandemic which saw me defer my Masters and do some good stuff™️ instead. And I loved it, but it was … a lot. I don’t think I need to rehash it all. Then I moved back to Scotland and tried to fit into the skin I left here… only to find that it doesn’t entirely fit anymore.

I’m a different person. Duh. It’s obvious, but part of me didn’t want to admit it. This city is a different landscape. It’s filled with memories and whispers, but the threads fade like shadows beyond my grasp.

I’m still understanding what this city means now. What I want from it and what I want from the world. If these past seven years of transitory, trans-Atlantic existence have taught me anything it’s that I just want to make the world better and I know sometimes I don’t always make that happen. But! I do believe everyone deserves the chance to chase their dreams until they tire of the road.

We’re all burned out. We’re all lightbulb shopping for the next big, bright thing and that’s okay. As my dear Anne Shirley would say, this is just another bend in the road. For as much as I love the mountains, I should be used to bends in the road. And, I know times are changing and things are so, so close. I just know there’s a glen ahead through this bend and I am doing everything to reach it.

I’m over half way through my Masters … three years after I thought. But that’s okay. It’s okay because there are so many opportunities on the horizon and because this is my blog and you’re willingly reading it, I’m allowed to brag about things. I was just awarded a pretty amazing academic Fellowship through the US Department of the Interior and National Parks Service. More on that later, but I am so, so excited to take on this opportunity and see my research get used for something good.

So yeah. That’s been me that last few months.

Thanks for coming to my TedTalk. ✌️

And so it goes…

On August 12, 2019 I left Scotland for a myriad of reasons.

Paramount of these was uncertainty. Uncertainty about the future. Jobs, immigration, where I saw myself in five years. At the time, I didn’t know and as an immigrant, I didn’t have the luxury of time to figure it out. So, returning to the United States was the sound, sensible decision. It wasn’t the wrong decision. But, it wasn’t the completely right one either.

It was a middle decision that made sense at the time with the information that I had. Still, I know that I had inadvertently left a part of myself buried in Edinburgh. I tried to find the person I’d left here on this side of the Atlantic, but found that her shadow no longer fit.

Then, when post-graduation immigration policies changed and the future I wanted in Scotland looked like something that I might actually be able to have, I figured out what I would need to do to get it. I was accepted to my Masters for September 2020 entry, took a break from academics, spent some time traveling, learned how to make stained glass, and finally decided to sit down and write my book.

Then March 2020.

I deferred my program and crossed my fingers. I made the hard choice to leave my job and my family sheltered in place to keep my grandmother safe. I spoke to my friends scattered across the globe and waited. Truthfully, I didn’t know when I would see them again. Most were still in the UK with some stuck in central London. While others made it back to Taiwan just in time or found themselves stranded in a Norwegian mountain hut with enough food and booze to rival Valhalla. With time zones all over the place, we Zoomed the best we could and I tried to keep track of messages.

I tried to not let it bog me down too much. I watched the news. I volunteered on campaigns, passed on election information, and phone banked for the Kansas Democrats. Saturday mornings were spent making upwards of 100 phone calls. I was cussed out, cried to, and listened as people asked what was going to happen next. I didn’t know either. I read a bunch of fantasy novels. I wrote a fantasy novel. I gardened with my mom and grandma. I made stained glass. My sister celebrated her 21st in July and we drank an entire bottle of whisky on the porch.

August 12, 2020 came and went and I was still on the other side of the Atlantic. Still, I was one of the lucky ones. Here in Kansas, I had the luxury of space and sun. Maybe too much space and sun at times.

I poured out my frustrations and anxiety into something that became book shaped. I finished GALLOWGLASS in September of 2020. To help build back my writing confidence, I submitted it to Pitch Wars. I was shocked to receive a request out of the thousands of applications. Although, I wasn’t chosen, I gained some invaluable feedback and learned more about what it will take to see my book on shelves.

Then, I moved out to Colorado to work with AmeriCorps. On the day, I would have started my masters I was learning how to drive a fifteen passenger van. During what would have been my first semester, I was in the Missouri Ozarks working with the State Parks Department on firelines to develop two new state parks. We built roughly 10 mile of line through the forests and hills and burned 33 acres.

Christmas 2020 was a strange occasion and felt like those snowed in holidays I remember from when I was younger. I revised my book and submitted it to Author Mentor Match. This time around, I was chosen. My mentor and I have been busy working to prep the novel for the slog of querying.

In February and March, I returned to Colorado and worked to prep project reports and other logistical things. In April, I drove an eight hour round trip from Denver, CO to Colby, KS to get vaccinated and subsequently cried with joy in the Dillons pharmacy parking lot. Then I deployed alongside FEMA to work at a max vaccination site in Loveland, CO and saw 6,000 people get vaccinated in a week. With a quick turn around, I took up a new team and traveled to Houston, TX to assist with housing repair from Hurricane Harvey and Winter Storm Uri. I hung drywall, mucked out moldy flooring, painted, drove a fifteen passenger van through Houston Rush Hour Traffic, and spent my 24th birthday talking to the police. Nice.

However, by May, I returned to Kansas after making the incredibly hard decision to resign from my position. Without speaking long, I will say that I loved my job and didn’t even mind sleeping on a cot for months at a time. However, I found myself in a situation involving member safety and mental health and I could not fundamentally agree with how those important topics were not addressed within the administrative policy chain. And hey, if my retired Marine/Air Force general dad said that he would have done the same thing, there was probably some merit in my decision.

Nevertheless, by June, I was applying for my new visa and by July I had it in hand. I drove Crosby from Kansas to Orlando, FL and dropped her off at Disney World to start her new job. Crosby drove a record one hour out of three days and during that hour encountered both a police car chase and a flaming minivan. We love Florida !!!!1111!!!!

August was spent largely at home. Writing and working away on settling things up before I leave the country. Dad and I went for PSLs on 24 August and injected that sweet, sweet, pumpkin directly into our veins. Then I frantically panicked for 48 hours before deciding that ‘what happens – happens.’ We love anxiety !!!11!!!

Which leads us to now.

And so it goes…

Once again I find myself sitting with a gross five hour layover in Chicago. Once again, I’m doing the immigrant thing and maybe this time we can make it stick a little longer. I hear the islands are needing people…

But, arriving back in Edinburgh after over two years away is both exciting and terrifying. I know the version of me who left isn’t the same one coming back and while that can be scary – it is also so so so exciting. New chances and opportunities are just around the corner and I cannot wait to see where they lead.

I’ll continue to revise my book and write more stories. Gallowglass is really getting there and I’ve distracted myself pretty will with a YA fantasy too. I’ve somehow hit 40k in just a matter of weeks which is actually terrifying because I am the SLOWEST drafter ??? I don’t know. I’ll escape to the Highlands as soon as I can and probably be a terrible climber after living in Kansas. PSA I turned into a cyclist, alright. Ride or die gravel. Hi, Dad please ship my bike. I need it.

I’m probably going to be a gross sobbing mess when I arrive back at my flat with my !!actually condensed!! metric fuckton of baggage. Hello, I am a Taurus. We like our shit. But, then I’ll head off to get a cup of coffee and everything will be right in the world again while I cross off things from my To-Do List and see when I can do some excavating.

Anyway. Send good vibes that my bags don’t get left planeside in Chicago again or that British Airways remembers to feed me this time homies. I’ll catch you on the other side of the pond.