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May 30, 2008

International Move Director

That title came into its own today.

Sometimes I describe my job with that name. I feel justified today.

Here are a few of the things I did since I got up this morning:

- showed the moving company rep around the house (what took 1.5 days to pack and load in France will take an unbelievable, ludicrous, amusing 5 days here due to a UK law limiting the volume each team can pack per day; it's so enlightening living in different countries. I am sure some people would find it very interesting that out of UK, France, and U.S., the French packers win the highest award for efficiency and hard-working character! But they are apparently not hampered by such restrictive laws - either that or they just ignored them; plus they didn't even do inventory stickers)

- learned what we can and can't bring in our shipment (except you can't really call it a shipment when it goes by road the whole way, can you?), and which insurance and inventory and customs forms I'll have to fill out (they want to know how many of every item we are bringing - how many pairs of shoes, how many shirts, how many pairs of trousers, how many ties, etc etc!!! Crazy. That's a new one on us)

- investigated the closing of a UK bank account (visited the bank, got a form, verified D has to sign too, checked up on stuff online)

- notified most utilities of our move date (water service, gas & electric, telephone, the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead - local government for taxes) and cancelled some "standing orders" and direct debits on our bank account so they won't keep going beyond our departure from the country

- confirmed with the car place the appointment next week for the last servicing of the car before sale (it is due for the 3-year MOT emissions testing & general check-up; they had us down for two different dates mistakenly)

- found the title to our car (how nice), and read up on what we need to do upon the sale (e.g. mail a certificate in to the DVLA - the U.K. equivalent of the DMV in the U.S.)

- let our current home's future tenants in to measure rooms

- confirmed with the kids' current school that they will be sending the kids' records to the new schools in Switzerland

- corrected the date for a proposed appointment at the U.S. Consulate in Zürich where we have to get an affidavit as to our clean criminal record for registering in our new village in Switzerland (the consulate mistakenly wrote about June instead of July in their prior email)

- talked with the car insurance company to see if they can insure us in our new country (not really), and let them know we'll be selling the car (I have to call them back when we've actually done it)

- conversed multiple times with our property management company about various end-of-tenancy issues

- booked a local hotel for the last few days of our English stay, when our house will be packed up

- asked the relocation company some questions

- topped up the credit on my prepaid mobile phone and Jason's at the cash machine (that's a common way to do it here in England)


And some more things I did that don't have to do with moving:

- read Proverbs chapter 1

- prayed with David and Jason for Steven Curtis Chapman's family who are going through a very difficult time

- went grocery shopping and planned a weekend meal

- ran the dishwasher, emptied the dish rack, vacuumed up the particularly dirty entrance area from the garage

- picked up Emily from her field trip when they arrived early, took a friend of hers home, then later picked up Jason, then later picked up Emily's forgotten medicine from the field trip (with the morning's school run, that makes 4 trips to the school and back today)

- helped call some of the other parents in Emily's class to let them know of the early return time of the field trip bus (the room mom did most of the calls)

- listened to Emily's impressions from her 3-night field trip and asked questions

- looked at Jason's newly distributed yearbook (and especially admired the double page about the play he was in in the fall; the yearbook editor emailed me a few months ago asking for photos from the play, so rather a lot of the featured photos feature Jason! :-)

- did all the laundry (including Emily's very wet & dirty clothes from her field trip: caving, walking up waterfalls, building shelters in the woods, pond-dipping, etc)


NO WONDER I'M TIRED and slightly headachy! My mother keeps telling me not to overdo. I think I'll take the weekend off (with a Motrin send-off).

Thank you, my God of Hope and Every Resource, for answering my prayers today to help me get things done! Wow.

May 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 29, 2008

Goodbyes & Move Appointments

QueeninresidenceThe goodbyes are starting.

This Tuesday was my last normal meeting with my wonderful Australian prayer partner (who's moving to Cairo at the same time I move to Zürich), and then there was a last little neighbourhood coffee for just a few of the (mostly) ex-pat internationals to see each other again. Two of us from our street are leaving (two Americans; a third already moved to another town nearby and she came back to see us).

Today was the last meeting of an international ladies' Bible study, with a culminating luncheon afterwards. I hadn't been for weeks due to all that has been going on. I was one of about 5 people there moving away (to Singapore, California, Washington DC, and another U.S. city I didn't quite catch). We were each given a little ceramic cross with "I am the Vine, John 15:5" painted on it - because the group is called "Grapevine." It's a great reminder of the rest of that verse, which says "you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." I so need to cling to Him and abide in Him through the next year (as always, but more so every day).

Next week I will go for the last time to my other local British church Bible study to say goodbye, and it's also the final luncheon for my school prayer group.

Yesterday I had the amazing experience of putting our car up for sale on a UK national car sales website, and agreeing to sell it about 4 hours later to a nice-seeming family with four kids who drove an hour to see it. They won't pick it up until three weeks from now, but gave us a cash deposit for us to be able to take the ad off the website. The speed of this transaction was unprecedented. They will do an electronic bank transfer which will need to clear before we hand over the car. In France we sold our two cars the same way (with a national French website). Very handy. So anyway, goodbye soon to the lovely little Toyota Corolla Verso, so versatile as its name implies...the trunk can convert into two more seats (to make 7 total), and the rear 5 seats can also all lie flat to carry large items. I hope we can get something similar in Switzerland. It was our first time having a 7-seater.

And as for moving appointments, this week I got estimates from move-out cleaning companies, today a guy came round to do an electrical safety check of the house that was required before the new tenants move in, and tomorrow the moving company sends an estimator to find out whether it'll take them one day or two to pack us up.

We're waiting on the new rental house contract to come through, and making an appointment at the U.S. Consulate in Zürich for soon after we arrive to get an affidavit as to our clean criminal record, which some say we need for registering in our new town of residence there (some disagree, but we'd rather be safe and have too much documentation than be missing what we need). Still trying to learn a tiny bit more German daily...

P.S. Just so you know, the photo has nothing to do with this post. It's the Royal Standard flying over Windsor Castle, which indicates that the Queen is in residence - otherwise the Union Jack (the British flag) would be flying. I took this back when the grandparents were here visiting and we toured the castle. Just thought I'd throw in a nice cheery photo. I suppose you could say it's a "goodbye to England" shot, although we have probably exactly a month left here as of today.

May 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 28, 2008

Lineage of Grace Series: A Triumph

I just finished the the last two books in the Lineage of Grace five-novella series, by Francine Rivers (they are short - readable in a day each if you have some free time like a plane flight! Now you can buy them all in one tome, see above link). Emily also read them all and liked them. The boys may try them, but since the stories all have a woman as the central character, they may be less applicable to them. I think they may still find them interesting. But if you wouldn't want your kids reading these ladies' very difficult and sometimes scandalous stories in the Bible, you wouldn't want them to read these books (i.e. they deal with such traumatic real-life subjects as prostitution, adultery, death, wife abuse, widowhood, poverty, and injustice - it's all in the Bible...). The great part is seeing the faith of these women, and especially God's incomprehensible grace and mercy extended to them, which He also longs to extend to the rest of us as we turn our faces to Him. The personalities, thoughts and emotions of these five women who are mentioned by name in the lineage of Jesus come to life in these pages.

I read them in this order (only Ruth/Bathsheba were out of place, should have been swapped), and loved them all. You can see my brief silly comments to myself after reading each:

Unveiled: Tamar "Good – adult story, but touching, interesting" (130pp)

Unashamed: Rahab "Excellent" (129pp)

Unspoken: Bathsheba "Excellent, so interesting. Such grace, God!" (175pp)

Unshaken: Ruth "Excellent! Wonderful! Wow!"(145pp)

Unafraid: Mary "Even wower! ;-) Made me cry hard. So fascinating." (173pp)

May 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 27, 2008

3 Weeks Post Surgery - Feeling Good

It's been 3 1/2 weeks since my benign lump removal surgery now, and I'm feeling great. Maybe 95% back to normal. Can sleep in any position, don't feel vulnerable anymore, scar is healing very nicely (but definitely a scar).

Emily is off on a field trip this week near Bristol: caving, rock climbing, orienteering, building campfires, etc. Sounds like fun. I'm praying for her whenever I think of her. She sounded like she might miss us a little, but I'm sure she'll have a good time.

Getting things back in place after our trip to CH (you may see this abbreviation a lot in the next few years, so you may want to memorize it now: Confédération Helvétique, which is a formal French name for Switzerland, and CH is the country abbreviation, like D is Germany, for Deutschland).

Planning to make crêpes for dinner tonight, by Jason's request (with ham, cheese, potatoes, crème fraîche, tomatoes, and maybe asparagus or broccoli). Maybe strawberry-banana ones for dessert, hmmm, perhaps with a little nutella added...yum!

May 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 26, 2008

Zürich Housing: Well Provided For

WelcometolangnauamalbisUpshot for the time-conscious:

we are thankful to be waiting to sign a rental contract for a spacious home between Zürich and Zug, in the canton of Zürich. The kids fell in love with it right away and never really considered anywhere else, possibly because it would be a great place for hide and seek.

* * *

Details for the curious:

On our househunting trip for our move from France to England two years ago, we saw 11 houses for rent in one day, and determined our top 3 to revisit (still on the same day), chose one, made an offer at about 5pm, and found it had already been taken. But if you recall, a few days later, before we had signed a contract on our second choice, our first choice became available again and we got it. That was an amazing experience. I am sitting in that very house right now. But only for another month!

This time around, househunting has been very different. We went to Zürich, Switzerland, for four days and there were only four viewable properties that were even remotely in our desired area, size, and price range, even when both renting and buying were considered! Crazy! There's just nothing! Almost. Our relocation agent told us that only 90% of the time her company can get clients into one of their top three choices of home...because there is so much competition, and the landlords/sellers can pick and choose amongst the potential tenants/buyers. They peruse applications and decide whom they like best. One of her clients had to apply for 13 different properties before he was accepted for one (and not because he was undesirable, just "unlucky" she said). The market is that tight. It's unusual, she said, for people to find a home on a trip of a few days.

So, of the four places we saw:

- Two of the places were too small. The relocation agent was apologetic for showing both of these to us since they didn't fit our profile, but she took us because there was nothing more applicable to see!

- One place required a minimum AND maximum two-year rental, as they were waiting to knock it down as soon as they could get the permit (and thus were not making any repairs or renovations) and it wasn't in a good location for us - although it was exactly the right size and configuration for what we needed and had a nice kitchen and lake and mountain views. Not too comforting to move into a place the owners are just waiting to kick us out of as soon as they legally can move ahead with their plans.

- Ah, but now we come to the fourth place (which we actually saw first, on our own, as a result of a posting on an ex-pats-in-Zürich yahoo group). The place God seems to be providing for us (though the contract is not signed yet). Distinct benefits: Irish/English landlord couple, so we can communicate easily with them in our mother tongue rather than Swiss-German (and they are responsive to email), who seemed to like us and accepted our offer straight away, not leaving us wondering whether we'd be chosen or not. Very kind and forthright and flexible with us. Plenty of room in the house, pretty flowering plants in the garden, and some renovations/repairs being done before we move in. Less expensive than some smaller places - but because it is not on the lake and doesn't have mountain views and is a bit farther from the main commercial centres of Zürich and Zug. It's right between the two cities, so David will head one direction for work (Zürich), and the kids the opposite direction for school (Zug).

- On the last day, we were going to see another place, but that morning the showing was cancelled because they had already let it! This confirmed to us the blessing of a spacious place waiting for us to claim it.

So it is really quite remarkable how God provided for us, in that even the relocation agent did not know about this property yet (since it had not been put up yet on the main advertising website for the area), and we were accepted right off, before we had to leave to go back to England. The school commute will be the issue that we will have to sort out, with comparisons of car vs. school bus vs. public transportation by bus and/or train, for the two kids at two different schools, respectively 20 and 30 minutes from our new home. David's office will be about 15-30 minutes the other direction, depending how he gets there (car or bus/train).

The last day we were there, the clouds & fog finally dissipated enough for us to get beautiful glimpses of the snowy Alps in the distance. Gorgeous!
Cimg4569Cimg4572

May 26, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 21, 2008

Househunting in Zurich/Zug

Well, it's up to God to do a big miracle for us once again, out of His kindness, mercy, and great abundance of resources.

The housing market around Zurich and Zug (both rental and sale) is very, very tight. People told us this before we arrived last night, but I'm not sure I really believed them. The relocation agent told us today that if a property remains on the market for 2-3 weeks, there's something wrong with it. There are only 5 halfway reasonable properties to take a look at for rent in the whole area we are searching in. We looked at two today (along with Jason's new school for next year).

The trade-off is location for the commute to work and schools, vs. the kind of house and garden and neighborhood.

***God, please give us wisdom to make the right choice, and please make the right place for us come up before we have to go back to England. Nothing is too difficult for You. You own the cattle on a thousand hills, and the earth is Your footstool. We trust You to provide for us. It looks bleak right now...but You are our Stronghold, and victory comes from You.***

Looking forward to reporting on God's lovingkindness, omnipotence, and gracious provision soon.

May 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 19, 2008

I love my mother

...for so many reasons. Here are a few of the most recent caring culinary contributions she has made to my life (while I was recovering from surgery and it was my birthday):

Breakfast in bed (carried by her very kind husband) and then later that same day a cake with the outline of Switzerland on it!
BdaybreakfastinbedSwissmapcake36thbdaydark
Another day, one of the delectable and colorful meals my talented chef mother provided for the whole family, and a fruit platter for breakfast another morning:ColorfuldinnerFruitplatter

Wonderful woman!

May 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

London By Night

When the grandparents were here, we took in a play in London's West End. Walking back to Waterloo train station afterwards in the dark, we we paused on a footbridge next to a railbridge, and looked across the Thames at the London Eye to the left, and Big Ben with the Houses of Parliament to the right:
LondoneyebigbennightLondoneyenight2
I had some fun jiggling my camera around at the city lights: Londoneyenight1Londonthamesshotnight

Here's the bridge we were standing on, with the London Eye (an enormous closed ferris wheel that holds up to twenty-five people per cabin) at the bottom of the photo - isn't it neat to see the shadow of the London Eye reaching all the way to our bridge?

View Larger Map

In finding this google satellite image, I also enjoyed looking at the satellite view of Westminster Abbey right near Big Ben:

View Larger Map

May 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 18, 2008

Pink & Purple: My Favorite Colors

I needed go no farther than my front garden to find these favorite colors near each other. The pink is actually peeking over the fence from my neighbour's garden:
PinkrhododendronPurpleirisfrontgarden

May 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 15, 2008

Healing

A great product for the week after surgery when you can't take proper showers and have bandages that must stay dry on the upper half of your body, but still want clean, fresh-smelling underarms: L'Oréal Renourish Cleaning Wipes for Dry/Sensitive Skin. That's my product plug from this breast lump removal surgery experience. It made me feel so much better and was so convenient, quick, fresh-smelling without being at all overpowering, safe for my wound dressing, and felt great on my skin during and after the cleansing.

I had my big dressing taken off safely last Friday after a week, and got the results from the biopsy of the removed lump: a clean bill of health (just benign fibroid adenoma, as expected and hoped). Thank You! Then I got a waterpoof bandaid over the incision, to wear for another week, replacing as necessary in case of wetness seeping through. But real showers again! Hurray hurrah!

Now it's been almost two weeks since surgery, and I am finding I have to be careful not to overdo and pretend I didn't have surgery, because yesterday I did a double dose of baking (pumpkin cookies and pumpkin bread) and, along with dinner prep and dishes, that ended up being 4 hours straight standing up in the kitchen. I was wiped out afterwards and still feel more tired today. Also, the side on which I had the surgery is still tender and a bit annoyingly noticeable and vulnerable.

The surgeon told me at the one-week check-up that it will take 3-6 months to have everything go back into a normal shape! This was news to me. I really was thinking this was a minor surgery and it was just one week of recovery before everything was as before! Silly me. According to The Free Dictionary, minor surgery does not include anaesthesia, therefore I did not have minor surgery (since I was under general). However, according to Merriam Webster's Dictionary (clearly more reputable), minor surgery is "surgery involving little risk to the life of the patient; specifically : an operation on the superficial structures of the body or a manipulative procedure that does not involve a serious risk" - in which case that is what I had. It certainly seems minor in the scheme of things. But not ignorable.

I am so pleased that all went so well, but I do need to take care to give myself enough rest and leeway in this continuing healing process. A kind friend who has been through this same surgery at least 4 times (!!!) pointed out the exact problem here: the patient does not look in any way ill or injured after the bandage is off, but yet has a semi-disability for a while. And needs to say no to lots of things. I have already made my excuses for most of my regular activities, just lying low and trying to get the house and my desk and email folder back to manageable levels after being out of it for so long with guests & surgery & birthday & the other illnesses we all had.

Yesterday brought a major milestone in our move process - we received David's signed new job contract by Fedex. Most excellent. This means we are really moving to Zürich at the end of next month! (Subject to God's good, all-knowing plans, of course, in providing the work visa, the home to live in, and a helpful moving company.)

May 15, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack