Friday, December 31, 2010


"An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.” (Bill Vaughn)

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” (Seneca)

2010 has been the most interesting year of my life. The first six months were spent chomping at the bit to get the hell out of Dodge and start my new life in Scotland. Then came visa woes, then a last minute arrival in Aberdeen, followed by culture shock, studying hard and learning plenty. In November I met someone special. For those of you who haven’t already heard me gush, his name is Paul and he’s lovely. (He also reads this blog so I can’t gossip too much!) I end the year surrounded by family and friends and with time for a bit of serious reflection. It’s time for that annual deep question: What am I resolved to accomplish in the new year?

My New Year’s Resolution is this: Be present. The Buddhists I know will recognize the difficulty in this. The rest of you are probably asking “how could you be anywhere else?” I say to you that we Americans excel at just that - constantly being somewhere else. If we’re in a meeting, we’re really making a grocery or to-do list. If we’re driving the car, we’re at home in our minds preparing dinner. If we’re at dinner with family or friends, even then we’re often thinking of everything undone that we still need to accomplish. So my goal is to be exactly where I am at least once a day. Right now I am sipping ice water and writing a blog. Later I’ll be drinking champagne and toasting 2011. I’m going to try to actually be there drinking the champagne and toasting 2011 instead of stressing out about my unfinished literature review due in 2 weeks. See the challenge?

Another resolution, one I share with Paul, is to see more of Scotland! “Finally!” you say, “I was wondering when she was going to post some pictures of Scotland in this blog about Scotland!” I hope to see a bit more of the countryside, castles, coastline and maybe a whiskey distillery. This is a resolution worth keeping!

What are your goals for 2011? I think the top of your list should be “visit Kimberly in Scotland!” I’d love to welcome any of you. Come on over any time!

The song of the day is “The old yeare now away is fled” a 16th century English tune, performed here by the Texas Early Music Project, a fantastic choir in Austin which performs old European music. I just picked up their holiday cd and I’m addicted.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Holidays!

For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Dear Family and Friends:

In the hurry to finish essays for school and fly to Texas I did not get a chance to send paper holiday cards this year. I ask your forgiveness and offer this holiday blog greeting instead!

Winter hit Aberdeen hard at the end of November and I have never in my life seen so much snow! Of course, considering it’s only snowed a handful of times during my life in Texas, that’s not saying much. Airports have been shut down and motorways are crawling. The first snowstorm saw roads full of abandoned cars and lorries (trucks), effectively crippling transportation in Scotland for a week. I’m blessed to say that I escaped before the second storm hit and I am now safely in Texas and enjoying the 70 degree sunshine.

School has been exciting but also more challenging than ever before. I’ve always managed good grades in the past with minimal effort but I’m actually having to work this time! I’m definitely learning more than ever. My term doesn’t end until January 17th so I am working on a major paper over the holiday break. It’s strange being back in Texas. I’m driving for the first time in 3 months and while the freedom of the open road has its allure, I’m finding the distances feel longer and the time spent driving tires me more than it did before. Now that I live a city-center walking lifestyle, all of this car travel seems exhausting. I’m also noticing how much space we have in the US. Roads have several lanes. Two people in a restaurant will be seated in a giant booth that would seat six in the UK. Elevators are extremely roomy. I suppose everything really is bigger in Texas.

I’m taking some time to reflect on the changes happening in my life and trying to enjoy every moment. This has been a year of tremendous ups and downs and at the end of it I feel exhausted, exhilarated, and grateful for all the love you’ve shared with me this year. I hope the New Year brings you blessings sought and a few good surprises. May you rise to any challenge and find joy in the small things.

All my love,


Photo: University of Aberdeen sports field in the snow

Song of the Day: Gabriel’s Message by Sting – a hauntingly beautiful tune I’ve just discovered on his holiday album

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Highs, Lows, Castles and Whiskey

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?”

Kahlil Gibran

The last couple of weeks have brought highs and lows. Caitlin and I had a wonderful time exploring Aberdeen. She got to know some of my university friends and gave me her official consent to go on living here. The day after she arrived, we went to my classmate Jan’s house for an English Sunday lunch. Jan, her husband Pete and daughter Jennie (who is my age and my fabulous new friend) fed us a huge lunch of roast pork and stuffing and more wine than I’ve ever consumed in one sitting.

My friend Laurie took us to a concert where her boyfriend was playing last Saturday night and we topped off the evening with a 2am trip to the famous pie shop. If you live in Aberdeen and you’ve had a “night out,” your presence is required at Thain’s pie shop in George Street, where they sell savory pies full of things like macaroni, lasagna, or pork. I had been a little skeptical about the notion of encasing pasta inside a pastry, but the lasagna pie did not disappoint. Perhaps it was the time of night or maybe I’m a real Aberdonian now!

We also visited Dunottar Castle in Stonehaven, a few miles south of Aberdeen. The castle is perhaps the most picturesque in Scotland, situated on a rocky cliff and complete with a soundscape of crashing waves and keening seagulls. Intermittent rain showers created dozens of rainbows and we could only stare in wonder as pictures do no justice to the scene. (Caitlin did take several photos and I’ve included them here.) After spending some cold, rainy hours on the cliff we came to understand why the people of Scotland refer to whiskey as “the water of life.” I’d never liked it until that day. When you are cold and wet and shivering, it warms you up better than an electric blanket. My parents used to say I would learn to like beer after spending several hours doing manual labor in 100 degree heat. The opposite is true for whiskey. Experience a winter here and you’ll be buying stock in Glenfiddich.

Caitlin left Monday and I immediately came down with the flu. This could be related to our hour-long trek through ankle-deep snow to get home on Saturday, or just because everyone here seems to be sick at the moment. This afternoon I dragged myself out of bed to go to the doctor and fainted 3 times while waiting for the bus. I kept finding myself on the ground in the snow without knowing how I got there. This was definitely my lowest point since moving here. I actually sat down and cried, not knowing what to do and feeling utterly miserable. I called Jan and she sent Pete to pick me up and get me some flu medicine. She has also offered to bring me to their house and look after me until I feel better. I opted for my own bed since it’s closer and there’s no one in my flat for me to infect with my germs. Asking for help has never been easy for me, and being sick and alone is no fun either. However, if I hadn’t had that low point today I wouldn’t have had the chance to lean on someone. Jan and Pete and Jennie have taken me into their family in such a short time. Laurie and some of my other classmates have been checking on me all week. It is abundantly clear in my present state of drugged-up stupor that I am not alone here. And that is the best feeling I’ve had since arriving. So the worst and best moments happened in the same day. On that note, I’m going back to bed.