Category Archives: Moving States

Thirteen Things That Tick Me Off About Montana

Not to be confused with last week’s post.

1. It’s bloody cold here in the winter. Friends pre-warned me of the Arctic temperatures that last for two weeks in January last year. I laughed. I’m not laughing now. I’m freezing my freakin’ she-nuts off.

2. Lack of Technology: Just as one example, Bryan walked into a print shop two days ago with a disc in-hand full of documents he wanted printed and spiral bound into fifteen booklets. They wanted/needed the paper copies. “Well, I have my laptop with me–” he offered. “I’ll print it off on mine”, the owner growled, snatching the disc. “He probably won’t charge you for the copies…” said the lady. He came out, 30 pages later (for one booklet) and said, “that’ll be $0.20 a copy.” “Fine.”

3. Mullets: Now, I’m no expert, but hair doesn’t grow that way naturally. I think there needs to be an amendment in the Constitution that bans them. There are five people in my congregation at church with a mullet. And. They’re. Women. One of them has a natural wave/perm too.

4. This one’s for Bryan. He calls them Horse Women. He knows one personally. They don’t have enough food to feed themselves and can barely make their mortgage payment, but they board, tend and take care of their horse–all for a hefty $1500/month price tag.

5. Commuting to Missoula. I’m totally used to it now, but sometimes it’s such a task. We have to pack provisions just to go shopping at the stores “in the big city”. We moved from a prime shopping area where Target, Michael’s, Toys R Us, Barnes & Noble, Old Navy, Pier 1 and restaurants galore graced our lives just a sweet 5-minute drive away. Now it’s all 45 miles from us.

6. That said, there are local stores, but if you stay, you pay. Usually. Sometimes they have amazing sales, but you can generally pay anywhere between $0.50-$1.50 more for any item. They encourage locals to shop local on adverts on t.v.–I will if I’m desperate. We bought frosting one time at Super 1, it expired 4 months previous. We have one Big Box store: K-Mart. Why does every K-Mart smell like an animal up and died in the premises? Sick. And other thing! You would think living in the midst of a meat and dairy euphoria that it would be reflected in the prices. No. I’d rather pump petrol and drink it, it’s cheaper than the milk here.

But I suppose that’s nothing compared to the housing market. Thankfully we made a 20% profit on our last out-of-state home. We paid almost $100,000 more here for a smaller home. Thanks to the influx of Californians (well, that’s who they’re blaming) over the past 5 years, the housing prices have shot through the roof. It’s pure nasty.

7. Road conditions. Thanks to the washboard Interstate road all the way to Missoula for my pre-natal doctor’s appointments, I enjoyed 50 minutes of contractions every trip, there and back. During nasty winter conditions, local roads and pavements (sidewalks) are covered in sand, not salt. It’s disgusting after the snow melts.

8. There was a time in Montana history not too long ago when you could drive any speed you cared to. Those days are well gone. I can’t help but wonder who posts the speed limit signs here. Obviously someone with a good sense of humour. The back country 2-lane – sometimes windy – highway speed is 65 mph. It changes to 35 mph with no warning and no gradual decline. What’s up with that?

9. I’d love to have a bike. I’d love to go rollerblading. I’d love to walk more places when the weather is nicer. I can’t, there’s a drastic shortage of pavements. That ticks me off.

10. You’re sick. Well, I mean hypothetically, not in the head. So you head to the local pharmacy in Albertson’s. “We don’t have that in stock, can you come back in 2 days?” No further comment.

11. I could have lumped this with No. 6, but quite frankly, this deserves a room all by itself. Okay, so I admit this should be something I am used to from the UK, but I’ve been here for eight years and I was converted pretty early on. I can’t stand it that businesses close and 5 and 5:30 p.m. Bryan gets off shift at 6 p.m. and sometimes needs things at the last minute. Tough luck, Jimmy. We’re closed.

12. Amenities, or lack there of. No zoo (it’s in Bozeman), museums, bowling alleys, kid-friendly pools, etc. We have an indoor pool 6 miles away, but they cater specifically for adults. I really don’t care to drive an hour just to entertain the kids. By the time we get there, they’ve been asleep for as long.

13. Environmentalists. I say conserve what we can, use the resources we have and recycle if possible when you can. They were against putting in a local Wal-Mart (not my fave, but I prefer the grocery prices) and had them do an environment impact study. They changed their minds because it would have set back everything another year. The thing that gets me is there are loads of log homes here (probably filled with environmentalists). Where’s the conservation there?


Thirteen Things I Enjoy About Montana

It was a huge adjustment for Bryan and me after we moved here. We felt lost and misplaced for a long time. Now after 18 months, I have a list.

1. Tax-free living. For the first 9 months, especially when we’d make a big purchase I’d bellow, “and it’s tax FREE!” Don’t hate me for it.

2. Nightmare traffic is a 6-car line at the 4-way stop. No traffic lights, no roundabouts–nothing.

3. It’s quiet and peaceful, especially at night. At first I couldn’t get to sleep because it was too quiet here, now I can’t get to sleep in the metropolitan areas.

4. Genuinely nice people live here. There’s a lot of OLD people here, but they’re nice.

5. It’s brilliant to drive to Missoula and on the way spot bald eagles, hawks or falcons overhead on the way there. Watch out for the freakin deer a-go-go though.6. The local school district is in the Top 5 in America.

7. My husband’s total commute is just 12 miles both ways, compared to 1.5 hours before we moved here.

8. The opportunities for mountain climbing, biking and camping are endless. The mountain views are also breath-taking.

9. It’s virtually stress-free, living here.

10. We’re just a 4 hours’ drive from five of the best fishing places in America. Neither of us fish though.

11. I’m only 4 hours south of Canada. It’s calling my name. I want to go buy some British food so bad.

12. It’s safe. If I’ve accidentally left the front door unlocked overnight I don’t go throw up when I realise it. I still worry a little, but it’s not a huge issue now.

13. There are plenty of places locally to go float the river.

Ten Things I Never Thought I’d Hear Myself Say

 1.  “I think for our next house, we should build it out where there’s not so many other homes around us, secluded a bit more, you know?”
2.  “Ian, close the front door, birdie will fly out and the hawks’ll get him.”
3.  “When I was feeding Cameron this morning at 5 a.m., there was an owl on our roof hooting.”
4.  “I can’t believe those guys are poaching deer so close to our house.”
5.  “A bald eagle just flew over our car!”
6.  “It’s quiet and peaceful here, I’m actually starting to enjoy it, in spite of myself.”
7.  “It’s weird to see buffalo in a field next to I-93 on the way to Missoula.”
8.  “I never knew what dark was until I moved here.  Look at all those stars!  I think I can see every constellation.  If you relax your eyes you can see the Milky Way too.”
9.  “What’s the point of going camping?  We’re already there!”
10. “I can’t sleep, it’s too quiet here.”

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

We closed on our Utah home last Thursday, selling it to a young couple purchasing their first home together.  I know I’m supposed to be happy that we finally got the double mortgage headache off our minds (and wallets), but I can’t help but feel remorse knowing that it’s finally gone.  It still feels like my home; and although we’ve hung pictures and have everything settled here, I’ll always love our first home there.  Thankfully I’ve found solace in the arms of a tiny newborn who is willing to offer unconditional love and great bear hugs whenever I need them.  There’s nothing like that quiet serenity to bring peace and calmness to a emotional day (or two).
In spite of myself, I think I’m getting used to living here.  I still miss my previous neighbourhood, but I enjoy the peace and quiet here (overlooking Ian’s noises) and the less stressful traffic.  All we have is a 4-way stop, not much else.
The biggest help has been Bryan, who makes everything all worth it.  He is my advocate, even when I least expect it.
For Valentine’s Day, he ordered some British goods from an online vendor and paid extra to have it to me on time.  Sadly, it arrived very late (and with a packing slip, complete with pricing, which he asked to be excluded).  Anyway, he wrote them an e-mail and really touched me with his words:
I was quite disappointed when I found out that the gift I had sent included a print out of the pricing which I had left instructions to not include.

In fact, I have the print out that states, “Is this a Gift?: Yes– Do not include price on packing list.”

When my wife opened the package the first thing she found was this print out with all the pricing listed on it and the total including shipping.  Not only is this embarrassing to me, but it also took away from the surprise I was trying to send her.

My wife left her family over 5 (technically 7, but we married over 5 years ago – Siobhan) years ago to move to America with me and have our two children.  As you can imagine it has not always been easy for her and she gets homesick.  We do not have the funds to visit her family much and our only communication is via e-mail and telephone.  I wanted to give her something from home, something to help her find a little taste when she was feeling homesick.  Her grandmother has been sick as of late and she wishes she was there.

To add to this complication, we recently moved to a new home and a new state in efforts to better our situation financially.  I have been saving money on the side to buy her this gift.  This money could have been used for new clothes, or to pay bills, but I wanted to do something just for her, she deserved it.

I hope by giving you this information you will better understand how much this error on your part has affected us.  We are very hurt and upset.  I have found myself wishing I had made another choice in vendors.

Bryan W.

After all that, their only response was “Sorry.”  As you can imagine, this infuriated Bryan and he’s made formal complaints against

I’m starting to wish there was a British Imports store closeby.

Seventh Anniversary

It was still dark on the 8th December 1999 when I left my tearful Mum behind standing outside our house and climbed in to the waiting taxi; two suitcases and a fairly large carry on in toe.  Oh, and my ex-boyfriend.  He was ‘ex’ at the time too.  I had promised and reassured her that she would see me again in 3 months and not to worry about me.  Little did I know at the time it would be a whopping 3 years before I would get to see her again.
I was very discontented with some aspects of my life at the time.  I had had a failed relationship with a man trying to be a boy, and that, in essence affected how I viewed other areas of my life.  I felt like I needed a challenge, a change of scenery.  I was tired of the 8-5 routine with the mundane life fluff mingled in-between.
I landed in San Francisco airport thoroughly jet-lagged and hoped that I could make it through the checkpoint convincingly.  I had been there just 3 months previously on a 15-day trip and thought that might raise suspicion.  After I got through, I met my friend and we travelled north to Sacramento and there I remained for the ensuing 10 months.
I quickly found out I couldn’t work and spent my days talking to a grey and white male cat and a calico female, interspersed with doing the laundry and other things to pass the time, which then became expected (with the I’m-keeping-you lecture suspended over my head).  The more I did, the less I was appreciated for (follow the mantra: where much is given, much is required).
I had been in California for 3 months when I met Bryan on an online forum.  We became friends instantly and chatted for as long as time would permit.  Neither of us were looking for a relationship (are we ever?) and the truth be told, I was still being pestered by my ex-boyfriend (“I’ll talk to your step-dad to get your address, come get you and take you back to Scotland and marry you.”  So romantic and non-appealing).
One evening near to the end of April, Bryan sent me an e-mail surprising me with his flight itinerary. We had talked about him coming to visit at some point, but I had no idea that he had actually booked everything.  He was coming to meet me, and it was just weeks away.  By nature, he’s a very cautious person and so his actions pleasantly surprised me.  It surprised him too, as he had told me that he had never done anything spontaneous in his life.
We spent 3 great days together, our first date held at Six Flags.  This impressed me no end, and any ‘great’ dates I had chalked up in the past to memory were quickly forgotten.  He took me to dinner, bought me cheese (I was really liking him now), went to the Jelly Belly Factory and drove around U-turning more times than I cared to count.  I didn’t mind anyway, even the silences weren’t uncomfortable, and it was easy to like him and enjoy his company.
The time together was gone in a flash and I was quickly hurtled back into reality; only this time, it wasn’t much of a reality, but more of a nightmare.  I began noticing behaviours that I hadn’t seen before.  My friend was dressing like me, her hair styled in the same cut and she watched me like a hawk if I happened to strike up a conversation with anyone within her line of sight or grill me if I was giving her less attention than she felt she deserved.  It wasn’t long before I was uncomfortable with the arrangement, especially when she told me one evening that before she went to work she would open my bedroom door and watch me sleep.  (I have 8 pages of more venting – and worse stories – still stored on my hard drive.)
I left that situation behind on 27th September 2000, headed for Utah and never looked back.  If it hadn’t been for Bryan, I would have found the means to return home to Scotland.
Just over 4 months later, Bryan proposed to me in downtown Salt Lake and we were married 3 months later.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 7 years now, and what was probably a hasty decision to leave Scotland at the time has turned out to be the best thing that I’ve ever done.

If This Was Post Secret…

I blame the ‘no contingencies’ policy. By the 10th we’ll have 2 mortgages to pay.

Bad Chi

I’ve heard people say that when you attempt to sell your home, bad things will inevitably happen. And they do. A while ago, a neighbour told us how he’d managed to burn down his kitchen (perhaps a slight exaggeration on his part) right before they listed to sell. Being in that position myself, I soon learned that no-one is exempt from the bad chi.
Here’s the crap list:
1. The garage door failed to work the evening before the Realtor was coming to do a walk-through. Cost to repair: $35.95
2. We put Ian down to nap and an hour later, he’s still fighting it. Exasperated, I removed the child lock for the door knob and put it on the inside of the door. About 5 minutes later Bryan went in to check on him. We failed to remember we’d placed a paint roller in a plastic bag and wrapped it for later use and left it in his room. He re-did part of the wall in a contrasting colour, striped the carpet in two different areas and had covered his hands and feet. Knowing should have been in bed when he saw Daddy, he ran for it and got latex paint on his new bed-in-a-bag set. Cost to replace: $59.99
[We were in too much shock to scold him, and he ran into the other room chanting “Ian in tubble…” He fell asleep within minutes of being placed in his crib, the little snot. See pics.]
3. That evening, I went to retrieve towels from the washer, only to find them still sopping wet. I checked the dial, it said it was done. Weird, this has never happened. I ran the spin cycle again and watched it merely aggitate the towels. On remarking to Bryan he deduced the pump must be out and researched how to fix it. Thanks to the Yellow Pages we found a dealer nearby. Cost for new part: $83
4. After disconnecting the hose to the pump and catching all the water, a Matchbox-sized extendable fire truck ladders were found. Replaced everything and kept new part aside, just in case. It worked fine. Debated for 3 days whether to keep the part (store owner told us how the motorised pumps on front loaders last anywhere between 3-5 years. Our washer is 4½ years old.) We returned the part and got our money back.
5. While painting the ceiling in the hall, Bryan lost his footing and kicked the paint can, toppling it over and spilling a mid-size dog amount of paint on the cover we’d placed on the floor. It wasn’t waterproof, but I managed to leg it upstairs before it seeped through and assist Bryan in removing it carefully.
6. The evaporative cooler hadn’t been working properly for a few weeks and we brushed it off thinking it couldn’t keep up with the high temperatures. We should have realised it was a technical issue considering it was a balmy 86ºF in the hall where the cooler was. Even though the outside temperature was a paralysing 102ºF, Bryan went on the (very sloped) roof to check for pump failure or whatever the cause was. On opening the cooler he noticed a colony of wasps had built a hive around the water outtake that wets the pads and said pads were solid. Needless to say the wasps’ nest didn’t last long and a calming 69º returned to the house.
7. We’d been holding a couch for someone and had it in our basement for a while. Knowing we were leaving, it was time to remove the couch and return it to the owner. Getting the couch down there was relatively hassle-free, however, the laws of physics worked against us while retrieving it and everything went pear-shaped. Turning the couch around to the right just outside the top of the stairs was more difficult than anticipated. It refused to go anywhere. Anywhere but forward. Luckily the momentum was stopped before the damage was worse. In its wake was a hole the size of a healthy grapefruit, all the way through the drywall. Thankfully there are small inventions called ‘drywall patches’. Nothing a $1 double cheeseburger from McDonald’s couldn’t fix, either.
There were a lot of good things that happened too. We found out solvent removes Desitin from carpet. We found an abrasive chemical that finally removed exterior paint from the doorway steps that the previous owners left. Folex carpet stain remover works a charm. Spending $10 on ‘hammered effect’ spray paint for outdoor light fixtures and house numbers makes your real estate agent think you spent $200 buying new ones. A fresh coat of paint works wonders on a front door frame. Simple Green in spray form takes out stubborn surface stains from the carpet. Removing stenciled ivy from above the pantry door changes the ambiance of a room. And neither of us wanted to be blamed of stenciling it in the first place.
Keeping the home in a pristine form has been less hassle than I had anticipated. I was more concerned over the maintenance with a two-year-old.
Bryan said, “last time the house was this spotless was…”
“Before Ian was born”, I interjected.
Last week (when I wrote the previous entry) we were back in the Missoula, Montana area looking for a new home. We found a half-acre rambler, 3 bedrooms, 2 bath that suits our needs. The great thing is it’s a new build with great upgrades to the home: maple cabinets in the kitchen, a tiled master bath with a jacuzzi tub, a solid wood front door with a stained glass panel to the side and tiled entry, and underground sprinklers with sod as standard (complete with a few trees and bushes included).
I still feel apprehensive in moving and all the change that’s going to take place. I am more reluctant to leave family behind, but I am grateful that it’s within reasonable driving distance (7 hours non-stop). See what happens when you say, “Bryan, I’ll support you in whatever job you decide to take”? Now we’re off to Montana.
Bryan flies out on Monday evening to start work Tuesday. I feel a little reluctant to be left alone with a rambunctious two-year-old.  Oh, and by the way, did I mention I’m 21 weeks pregnant with another active boy?